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 No.33696[Last 50 Posts]

The Planet of Llavanus is currently the location of the Ankylosaur and its crew. Due to recent attacks, the four-legged Chordians who call it home now find themselves lacking in space ships to move infrastructure around, again. The Ankylosaur has been cleared of any relation with the attack, but the situation on the ground remains shaky as the Chordians attempt to plot a course through an uncertain future.


Llavanus is a temperate world most Humans would have no trouble acclimating in. The weather systems are clear and easy to understand, just be careful of which areas you visit as there were some issues during industrialization.

Currently, the world is politically divided into two halves: the Arriya Republic and the Coalition of Arroh. Both are competing to make favorable deals, as both sides can see trouble in their future and seem to be taking their chances on the stars.


The elevator is about to reach it's destination. The main facility the elevator stops looks secured, as you can see Chordian police blocking off certain roads, but there is still a large and full parking area that is visible. >>33695


Weldon the Chordian has a few questions regarding your order. Depending on how things go, he may be able to greatly improve the speed of getting your ideas to fruition. https://mlpg.co/s10/res/32658.html#q33676


Looks like the Chordians weren't sitting idly by after what happened with the Sultanians and the surgery is a place where they are testing a few things out. At least now that the operation on Iona is over, it'll be easier to discuss things. https://mlpg.co/s10/res/32658.html#33676


"Ah. It seems the item is a success in it's intended role, just not in the intended manner…"

Our attempts to stay cheerful don't really do much to prevent the drone's body language from sagging under the weight of unpleasant memories. While we can't help being a bit frustrated that our friends ended up being on the receiving end, we cannot fault the Chordians for taking steps to protect themselves.


No sense beating around the bush, I'll lay out what I'm personally shopping for (the missing parts to my grenade pistol and the reusable electrogel canisters), and ask a few questions about how they'd handle work for the new citizens that would be coming in.
I'm going to set my personal budget at about the equivalent of 600 credits worth of their currency for personal purchase, since I think you said they were roughly equal.


The observers in the stands continue to take notes and are discussing something among themselves.

"We should probably head back to the ship. They're the ones who will need to authorize any information sharing at this level, and we just have to wait for Iona to wake up." Doctor Clora states as she receives a message on her ComLink. "They've already sent me the contact information."

"Did you feel anything unusual?" Doctor Zorani asks. "If it can stop their abilities, will it also have an impact on their health?" She heads towards the exit.


Weldon looks over your plans, even sending them to a second DataPad to make sure he can take in everything. "It's an interesting weapon you're trying to make, but I'll need to at least pass this through one of the legal kids." Weldon states as he calls for another Chordian to come into the room.

"So then, I want you to tell me what you really want to use this for? I feel like I can get you what you want, I just want a *why* while I await the review."


"When we first approached her, we could feel the Fold energy in the room being drawn towards the device- or the wall it was placed behind," we explain to Doctor Zorani as we follow her out the exit. "Regarding health impacts… that may depend on the intended purpose of the device. If they just wish to suppress use of Fold abilities, then they should be fine as long as they are not exposed for overly-extended periods of time. If they were trying to induce brain-death in our drones though, then the effects will likely not be as pleasant."


"To put it bluntly, I don't know where our next safe port of harbor is going to be on our flight, so any pirates we run across will be our source of materials for repairs, big and small. With this, or at least the ammunition for it, we'll be able to take things mostly intact."
I'll scratch my neck.
"The base ammunition is for stuff that's not mechanical or in no mood to be talked down."


Doctor Zorani does not take the ending of your comment well and is visibly affected.

"We shouldn't be as surprised as we are. It was inevitable we'd run into something like this or we would be tasked with doing it." Doctor Clora says in an attempt to be reassuring. "We'll see what we can do. We know it's a thing and have a good idea on how it works."

The journey back to the elevator is as uneventful as the last, except for seeing that a Sultanian has boarded another one just as you arrived and takes off.

"Do you think there's a suit we can make, or a counter signal, or something to keep them safe?" Doctor Zorani wonders out loud to the two of you as the elevator doors open.


"I understand. Looks like both of us find ourselves in similar circumstances." Weldon says as he looks you over. "I've added a few notes, I'll need some quick authorization and then I can offer prices and schedules." He hands off a DataPad to the Chordian Assistant that arrived and leaves. "So then, you've taken a few things intact already? What have you done with them?"


"Stripped them down and used what parts can be used. I'm not sure what's been done with the things that didn't end up in the 'use this for repairs' bin, but I can only imagine it's been sold or traded by this point. Luckily we haven't had too many problems with things we can't fix so far, but it's only a matter of time."
I'll pause for a minute.
"And… 'intact' would probably be a generous term for most of it. The fact that we haven't had a proper option for subduing things is probably why I'm trying to push this ahead while we've got the chance."


Watch the Sultanian as he flies off; the timing is rather ironic.

"To be fair, we have a good idea of why the Chordians are working on this technology. Namely, that it is intended as a way to defend themselves against the Voldra."

Nod along to Zorani's proposal of protections. "It is certainly feasible, and once we know what the goal of the technology is, we can likely assist in designing specific counters to it. At the moment, we would observe that it seems to either absorb Fold Energy or draw it out into the surrounding area, so a solution may be as simple as batteries or Fold-filtering material to regulate the rate at which the energy is released."


"How, 'often', would you say such encounters have happened?" This time looking at Varan.


"Now that work has spread to involve us." Doctor Clora says as she enters the elevator.

"And people completely unrelated." Doctor Zorani says downcast. "But once they see what they are really capable of, we'd probably still be like this." She leans against the back of the elevator, which begins rising. "You seemed to be able to handle it, do you think the Girls would be able to do so, or learn some way to compensate for it? If they put this stuff all over the world and beyond…"


"Since leaving Earth?"
I'll think back on that.
There was leaving in the first place, that first pirate attack, that other pirate attack when we were on our way to the water planet, the industrial sabotage kinda counts…
"Four or five times, I think. I might have forgotten one. So not constant, but enough to keep us on our toes."
I might have pushed the exact number out of my head since I had to fix Wan's mech so many times outside of pirate attacks.


"We admit to worrying about the potential effects on the Girls. Their size may make them more vulnerable, or it may not be a factor at all, in which case they might be able to handle it."

Sigh and lean back against the elevator walls.

"There are likely limiting factors to their ability to produce devices like this, whether in terms of materials or complexity of the device itself. Not to mention potential interference with Drive-tech and other Fold-based technology reducing the consumer base…"

"Though perhaps the best protection would be to give them what they want. Help refine the device to specifically target the Voldra, leaving it's effect on other Fold-users mitigated to an extent."


"So then, that's something to be aware of." Weldon says as his ComLink blinks, momentarily distracting him. "Looks like I've got the authorization I needed. The designs are adequate for what we need to rapidly prototype. We should be able to provide you what you need for about 200 credits and about a weeks time. If certain circumstances come to pass, though, the price may be changed to a more preferable outcome."


I think we're still here for a week, at least, right?
"Sounds good. What circumstances?"


"That is one thing we have going for us. It'll probably take a long time before they can coat city walls in this, or be able to properly sell it to other species. But there might just be some ways…" Doctor Clora starts thinking as the elevator begins to reach the area the Ankylosaur is docked at.

"We've been relying on your help for some time. Whatever they learn to use against you will probably apply to the Humans in relatively little time." Doctor Zorani adds as she sighs at the situation you find yourself in. "I'll send the information we got to the Administration, give them some time to think it over and see how they want to proceed. We'll give it some time and see how Iona is doing tomorrow. How does that sound?"


"We are always in search of *bright* individuals. If there are any Humans who would be willing to join us, I'm sure that would make coordination much easier, as well as if we can leverage the know-how of any industrial groups you may be able to put is in contact with. Honestly, a lot of the cost will be red tape in circumstances like this." Weldon focuses all his attention on you, takes a breath before continuing.

"Also, if there is a way for a local Chordian to work inside your vessel on a more full-time basis to speed communications along."


Nod slowly at Zorani's suggestion. We had not considered that they would proceed to target humans as well, rather than it being an unfortunate side-effect… "That is… likely the best course of action. The humans should be involved in the decision as well."

Our head leans back against the cool elevator walls. "We apologize for this. The Chordians might not have felt the need to pursue this technology if the Voldra had not scared them so badly with our handling of the Sultanians."


"Well, that first thing you might have decent luck with, considering some of the people staying here. I'm not going to name names but there are a few of our mechanical staff moving in. Which actually brings me to the 'expand my order' part of this. I was told that, if you were agreeable to it, I could give you the contacts for our contract team and you could hash things out with them. I don't imagine we're going to leave without at least a few more new hires, so that might be your foot in the door, so to speak."
I'll forward him the contact details for Pazu's office on the ship.


"You'll need to give us some details soon. I'm sure some words about what has happened have already reached the Admin, but they'll probably want to clear up some things." Doctor Clora says.

"They're not being, aggressive, in their actions. They've clearly planned this for a while now, but the hospital staff didn't really mention anything against you." Doctor Zorani says. "Let's give this thing some time. We already have Iona and Rupus to worry about. We'll message you if anything comes up in the meantime."


"Thank you for your cooperation. With your approval, I can have them start now and contact you if anything else happens." Weldon states as he taps a pad a few times and a contract agreement appears in your ComLink, similar to the ones you saw back on Earth.

"Just out of curiosity, what is your ship like? I've only seen it on the news a few times, but I've never had the opportunity to board one."


"Indeed, we have agreed that a full explanation is in order. It is just…" We look away and rub at our arm, our voice growing quieter. "…We would like to have all our friends who should know gathered together for the telling. It is… unpleasant memories for us, and very emotionally intense, so… we wish to not need to tell the story repeatedly."

We give a half-hearted nod to Zorani and her input. "As we have said, this is them intending a defense against the Voldra. It's fear, not malice, and… we cannot blame them for being afraid."


I'll take a minute to look over the terms. It's not that I don't trust him, it's just that it's a good habit to have.
"Well, she's… a bit fussy, I guess. But she's solid."
I'll run down the gist of what our ship can do, but not lay out any specifics like where things are or their specs. Some of the higher ups did bring a few VIPs on for a tour, don't know if that was recorded.
"For humans, the ship's excessively large, but for a mixed-species crew it can get pretty homey."


The elevator stops and the doors open once they reach the destination.

"I knew this job wasn't going to be that easy when I joined." Doctor Clora says as she steps out.

"This seems to be a point on contention for you." Doctor Zorani says as she starts to head out. "Iona and Rupus are probably in no condition to hear heavy news, even if it does affect them. The Humans, maybe the higher ups know. Perhaps you should practice with Duana first, or Eva. Both have gotten to know you. It'll make things easier if you clear stuff up with them first tomorrow, avoid any pitfalls later. How does that sound?"


Most of the contract is the typical legalese you've seen growing up. It's clearly been translated, but you also see where they've added exceptions for Authorized Aliens, which currently just consists of Humans at the moment.

"Thank you for that. Once you approve the contract, I'll make sure they start to work on it as soon as possible." Weldon says as one of the fans finally kicks the bucket and fails.


"That sounds… perfectly reasonable, Friend-Zorani. Yes, that is probably the best way to do this. We… We had not even considered how Friend-Iona and Friend-Rupus may not be in a condition for a full explanation while they recover. We suppose that shows how out of sorts the matter makes us…"

Give Friend-Zorani a grateful squeeze on the shoulder.

"Thank you, Friend-Zorani. Having another voice giving advice helps keep us centered."


I'll sign off on the contract.
"No trouble. And I'm looking forward to what your crew puts together."


"You're, welcome." Doctor Zorani says, giving a smile for once today.

"Get some rest. I'll arrange for Duana and Eva to meet with you in the morning." Doctor Clora says. "Maybe we can join in too."

<Skip to Tomorrow?>


"I'm sure it'll be agreeable to all sides. Now, I apologize, but I need to take care of a few things. The power will be going out soon, so please be aware of that." Weldon says as he attempts to reach over to shake your hand before catching himself.

Varan and you head out as power goes out. The normally loud building finally quiets itself.

"So, one down and one to go. How did you think it went?" Varan asks as he brings up your next location.


"We would welcome your presence. As we said, the fewer times we must repeat the story the better."

<yup, seems like a good place for a timeskip>


"Pretty good. Him and the girls in legal should get along fine."
[did you want me to mark off that money on the sheet now, or wait until the product is delivered?]
"If the other group is as agreeable, this should be a quick trip."


The ship is currently set to the day/night cycle of the planet, so it's easy to tell when the crew you are waiting for will awake. A message from Doctor Clora let you know where to meet them to begin the "clarification" of the situation you are all in. Walking in, you can see that Duana is on Doctor Clora's shoulder, pointing at some things on a display, while Eva is at work in one of the mech's display.


[Go ahead and mark it now. Depending on how it goes, you'll get a credit]

"I don't think I've met them yet. Most of my interviews were with our own administration and a few of your bosses. I'm sure they went over my paperwork, at least." Varan states. "Are you ready to go to the Weapons Development Group? I'm actually kind of worried about them."


"Worried… how, exactly? Are there any eccentrics I should be on the lookout for?"


Wave nervously to Friend-Duana, doing our best to look as cheerful as we normally are.
"Greetings! You are all looking well today! How are things?"


"Let's put it this way. I ended up applying and accepting to work for an Alien species and will be leaving the planet, and *I* think these guys are weird." Varan states as much as he can without letting things slip. "I'm sure whoever we'll talk to will be fine, just, let's make sure we walk where we are supposed to."

He leads you towards the outer areas to a nice and proper looking building, but even your mech is warning you about the chemicals in the air. There is a pair of well-dressed Chordians walking past, absorbed in their DataPad that they don't notice you.

"Did you have anything like this on Earth?" Varan asks as another Chordian appears from the door and walks towards you, stands on their hind legs, and salutes.

"I'm Supervisor Maza, welcome to the Weapons Development Group site B." Maza states.


"Shelly!" Duana shouts and waves, much to the chagrin of Doctor Clora. Eva looks up from her console and smiles at you.

"I've already let them know you have something important to say." Doctor Clora states plainly. "But I know this can be difficult for you. Let me know and we can stop at any time."

"What's so important we had to meet like this?" Duana asks innocently.


Ah, so it's one of those mad-science lairs. Great. No open-cockpit meetings here unless the air inside is any better.
"A few places, Varan. But they're generally interesting people, even if most of what they make never worked."
I'll return the proper greeting to Supervisor Maza.
"Frank Smith, from the Ankylosaur. Anything I need to know before we settle into business?"


"One of the Voldra's biggest mistakes," we answer Duana honestly, "the consequences of which may affect you and the rest of the Girls, if not all fold-wielders."

Go ahead and move to the center of the room, if only to give this drone some space.

"To be more specific, we need to explain what we did to the Sultanians; why we did it, the results of it, and why it scared the Chordians badly enough that we have gone from being close friends to them attempting to design devices specifically targeting our Fold abilities- one of which was tested during our surgery the other day."


"Just routine classification matters. As an authorized guild, we work on behalf of both the Arriya Republic and Coalition of Arroh. We can discuss the details inside, but for safety and legal reasons we ask that you not disseminate publicly anything before you pass it through us." Supervisor Maza says as he invites you inside the building. Here, it's much more maintained and ventilated than the previous building you were at, with the warning in your mech going away.

"I will have to ask why you would come to us though. I would be surprised if you didn't already have such facilities aboard your vessel." He gives you some basic non-disclosure forms, as well as the address to send the information to.


"You've had your share of incidents since before you met us, huh?" Eva asks as she looks at Duana. "I was expecting something big anyways, so I'm ready."

Duana takes a breath atop Clora's shoulder and nods, ready to hear what you have to say.

[Since you've already told me, you can skip ahead to the ending of the explanation]


Well, NDAs for research groups are standard procedure.
"Personal project that I didn't feel warranted pulling materials from the ship maintenance stock for. We don't actually get a lot of shopping trips on these deep-space voyages, you see, so it's better to save what we can to keep the ship moving."
I figure I don't have to tell everyone that it's a weapons-grade personal project, but that'll come up eventually.


"Understandable. A deep space vessel must have priorities. Once you land on a planet, you have other options." Maza says. "That's why we were commissioned. Better to allow people a proper place to demonstrate more 'destructive' developments in such a limited area. So, I will also have to mention that once you send the information to me, several groups will go over it to determine it's feasibility and legality."


I'll highlight the parts I couldn't get easily through the AFF, probably the target acquisition system and frame. I did have the trigger systems still to fiddle with back at the ship, and I've already got the HP-Rounds mod for the gun itself.


You can see your designs come up on his DataPad, then he flicks them towards the appropriate departments. Maza stares at you and Varan for a moment.

"These are, impressive designs. Do you keep this as a hobby?"


"Well, the Sultanians were once a very big and important trading power, and they saw much opportunity in working with the Voldra…"

and so we tell them everything. The customary marriage with a daughter too willful and cunning for her family's tastes, how our misunderstandings led to us becoming a powerful force in their economics, how what we thought of as business grew into more… and how eventually, those unhappy with the situation took matters into their own hands, and… how we took it badly.

"Death is… different, for Voldra," we explain quietly. "When a drone dies, their voice remains within the hive, for a time. A Voldra's death is gradual, a drifting over time into being simply part of the whole, their ideas and ways of thinking either so widespread or so irrelevant that they are eventually no longer distinct; they become 'one with the Hive.' Holding her there, calling her name over and over, and hearing only silence…" We stare at the floor, wondering when this drone sat down.

"Her voice is gone- was gone, there were… so many things she had left to do, so many ideas, such a unique view of the world and of people that made any conversation feel like we found new revelations- Gone. Gone! Because… because when you die, your voices do not stay, no echoes or ideas- and we didn't understand that. Not until then; not until it happened to someone whose voice we so desperately wanted to hear. And once we understood…"

We explain the rage, how we turned against their merchants and ruined their economy and their reputation, how even that was the moderate option in our grief. How Sultania's economy was devastated, until now they are hardly relevant in the grand scheme.

"…and we suppose the Chordians are terrified we will do the same to them. Can… can you blame them?"


"It's something to do between work, yes. That and minor repairs to personal equipment people might bring up. Keeps me busy, and working on little stuff is more relaxing than just doing nothing."
I'll shrug inside my cockpit.
"Probably not the weirdest hobby a mechanic can have."


Duana is brought to silent tears as she listens to you explanation, but she maintains her composure. Doctor Clora is more focused on taking notes. Only Eva remains seated, her face stoic as you gave her the information.

"I'll apologize beforehand if what I say comes out bad, but me and Duana grew up in the institute. We're Sisters, we don't have parents like everyone other Human does. I can't really understand how you feel, but if anything happened to them, I, I…" Eva takes a moment and a few breaths. "You did things. Things, people in a bad spot would do…"

Duana, during the moment Eva was talking, was put on the ground and walks over to you, putting her hand on your leg.


"Oh, looks like we have something in common then. It's what landed me in this position actually." Maza says with a smile, dropping the professional facade. "I think I spent a month drawing out one of our naval ships air conditioning system while trying to find where it was leaking. Got a stern talking to after that. Anyways, the Target Acquisition system, all your mechs are outfitted with their own identifier, correct? Even the Civilian ones?"


"For the most part, yeah. As long as it can hold a weapon, in the worst case scenario even the civilian mechs could be mobilized as a last line of defense. So you'd need something built in to recognize the Friend/Foe signals. That said, it never hurts to have something that can run its own targeting solutions while you're trying not to get shot by a pirate."
I'll pause a second.
"You did fix that leak, though, right? Doing that amount of work and not fixing the problem would bug the hell out of me."


"Yeah. If the pirates that attacked went after a ship with Civies on it, I'd expect them to pick up a weapon too." Maza says. "Oh, the air conditioning? Well, I don't know, I hope." He says dispirited. "Don't know who told the people in charge, but the moment *I think* I fixed, I was pulled off the ship." He goes quiet for a moment as his DataPad blinks with several messages


Maybe someone didn't want it fixed. Or they just thought someone with that dedication belonged in a thinktank. Still, pity he didn't get closure.
"Well, they haven't come after you yet, so it's probably fixed. I'm sure they would have let you know if it wasn't. At least you're getting a chance to roll new ideas around as much as you like down here, though, right?"


"You are correct," we acknowledge Eva, "you cannot really understand how we feel, just as we cannot really understand what it would be like to grow up alone…" We give an involuntary shudder at the very idea. "It is good, then, that Empathy does not rely on complete understanding, yes?"

We reach down and gently hold onto Duana, simply taking comfort in feeling her there.

"It's ironic, in a way- she ended up saving her planet and her people. We remember how much she loved her home- how her frustration was at how her people were holding themselves back. Even when we were so angry- we are still so angry, even now- but we remember how much she loved her world and people, and… we could not disrespect her by destroying it all." Even if it did end up falling into ruin because of us.


"Well, you're not wrong there. I do get to put some designs, though the other developers here can be harsh." He looks around after that comment. "Okay, so legal seems to have given you a tentative go-ahead. It doesn't seem to match any of our current designs, so nothing stopping us there. Just waiting on the others." He coughs, with Varan giving him an unusual look. "Is it common for Human crews like yours to receive combat training? I actually don't get too many vacationing soldiers coming here."


"This whole situation… I can see why we're here." Eva says, trying to keep her emotions in check. What happened, ha… Yeah, no, I can't even say that. You all still feel the loss, and it doesn't seem you ever won't. Hold on, I need…" She sits the mech down so she can get out of the cockpit and walk. "Argh, I'm trying to think of something good to say, and I can't. This whole thing is messed up, and I know this is going to hit us hard, but, are you okay?" At this distance, you can tell that she has her own tears.

Duana still says nothing but smile up at you.


Why are we even dragging it out? Pick up both the little humans and hug them close.

"You're right, it will always hurt. But that's okay, because… we'll always remember the good too. And now we have more friends, more beautiful voices that fill us with joy…" We give them a gentle squeeze. "…And we know to hold on tight and never let you go."


"Not… exactly. We do have a dedicated crew of pilots, but anyone who came on board with a pilot's license got halfway conscripted after the first pirate attack. On paper, I'm still just a mechanic, but sometimes there's 'hazard pay' days."
I'll conveniently leave out that we shoved off with less crew than intended and that our security was kinda thin to begin with. And he doesn't need to know about the fold suits we've got onboard.
"It does help having access to the weapons range for testing, though."


Duana mirrors the hold, but it's eventually Eva who gets in a word edgewise.

"So, I'm guessing you're going to have to tell this to the Administrators, right?" They probably already know, or got it out of the Chordians. I'm sure we can handle whatever they'll do. Just take care of yourself."

"While understandable, I can see where some problems would lie. Of course, it's not like we are unfamiliar with having to militarize space after what you showed up during." He looks at some of the conversations going on with his DataPad. "So, getting down to busines, if you don't mind information some more details, we can do 100 credits, more or less, for the remaining parts you'll need. If it has to be made from scratch, it goes up to 150 plus."


>Not seeing the pick up, and some of the roads are blocked off. Send me their profiles again.
I grow quiet to the others as I taste the air, as if sniffing out trouble.


>Sure thing.
You hear some furious typing and your ComLink blinks with new files.
>First one is Unty Elec, green scales overall with some hints of blue, but the picture will do him better than I can. Second contact person is Tzing Depe. She's got some red scales, not much variation until you hit the green eyes. Both of them seem to have quite the job experience. I'll track the vehicle and get back to you.

As if on cue, the door opens, with the two of them in the local bodyguard gear. They nod to each other.

"Welcome to Llavanus, I'm Unty Elec, please come with us to the parking structure. I take it the ride wasn't too difficult?"


"I've been on the elevator before. Its clearly faster than either of us remembered. I'm Latasha,and I take it your partner is Tzing?"


"Affirmative. You've got the packages with you, sorry, that's just the word that gets used." Unty says to Pazu and Zapu. "We've got this area of the facility closed off, so we only have to worry about the ride to the Negotiations. Come this way." He points towards one of the walls, with the parking lot sign near one of the further doors. There is a noticeable security presence in here.

The only real issue with the parking lot is how you and Ijappa have to watch your heads. The Chordians usually walk around on 4 legs and the roof of the structure is designed with that consideration. There's a fleet of vehicles.

"Hello there!" A familiar voice shouts from the larger, limousine like vehicle. "Come on in!" It's Glaciu, and he's as made up and ready as he was the last time you met him. "You didn't happen to bring a Cola with you?"


I hiss in amusement, "No, you might have to get those humans with the rolling shoes to help with that."
Is anyone with Glaciu besides security?


There are a few other guards in the vehicle in front and behind the Limo. Except for the driver, Glaciu is currently by himself.

"I just might. Take a seat. We'll be at to the Administration building quickly." Glaciu responds, his make-up impeccable. "I wanted to meet in person the people we've been negotiating with, and I must say I was impressed with both your abilities, as well as the good judgment on behalf of the Humans to hire you." His comments cause both Paza and Zapu to blush as they step inside the limo. "I hope the 'investigations' that led p to this weren't to intrusive." He looks at you and the other guards with you.


"No problems so far." I look concerned at Paza and Zapu's show of emotion, this might not go well in a meeting.
"Paza and Zapu are humble, but certainly worthy of this level of attention."


A moment of excitement passes between them, but you also see that they are professionals and quickly return to a more appropriate Neutral expression.

"Thank you, both of you." The conveniently labeled Pazu says.
"We'll make sure to show you why we were hired in the first place." The suitably labeled Zapu adds.

Glaciu gives them a smile. "Very well, I'm sure they've already given you information on what we are interested in, and I'm here to also offer up the purpose of purchasing that technology independently of any trade deal. Not just the government, but the people of Llavanus would be extremely appreciative of it."

Pazu takes the lead to mention a few things, but a message from Zapu appears in your ComLink:
>He was very interested in the water technology, right? Were you able to gleam anything from the conversation you were present for?


>They were overly interested, as if they didn't have such water filtration and wanted to gleam the plans by just looking at it..
>be careful they don't trick you into getting anything for free.
>Also they have oddly strong feelings about furniture.


>Got it. We'll make use of this.
Zapu responds back as Pazu continues on basic political speech.

The vehicles start up and you're taken down a few floors before exiting into the street. Again, you can see the police blocking the road, but once you pass, they seem to become a little less cautious. While the streets aren't empty, looking out the windows, you can already see Cameradrones following along.

>"I'm tracking them on my radar, but I'm getting a large number of Drones following *and* waiting for us. What do you think are the odds some of them are armed?"

Berry asks over the radio to not interrupt the Twins.


>Oh great, armed drones? Show me the radar image.
I keep my visible reaction to a neutral one not to alarm anyone as we have our secret radio chatter. Do the ones I can see look like just cameras at least?


>Sending them to you and highlighting the ones you should look at.

While the cameradrones currently following the vehicle weren't too many, you can see the larger cluster waiting ahead. Berry has highlighted the military drones the Chordians are using to keep your group safe, but Roll TECH to look into things deeper.


Tactical Snek, looking over the blips '2d6-1'

Roll #1 6, 2 - 1 = 7


You quickly single one out which doesn't seem to be moving in motion with the other cameras. It's a bit bulkier than the others and has a noticeably different lens than the other models, but it also hasn't done anything aggressive either.

>"See anything you don't like?"


I highlight the bulky one and show Beryl
>That one, its a different model altogether
and keep an eye on it myself, just in case it starts to aim at us in a way I don't like.


It has a considerable size advantage over the others, but also keeps from bumping into them.

There is a huge pile of reporters waiting in front of the Administration building. You can see their TV trucks in the back that are operating the drones, but there's still a market for old fashioned style reporters.

"It's an awful lot of people here." Ijappa whispers to you as the Chordian Security team starts trying to push them back. "Let us know what you need us to do."


Shake my head at the mess, "stay in a flanking positions around the package, I'll help get us through this crowd quicker."

Slither up and grab a mega-phone or something to make my voice heard to more of the reporter-crowd. "Attention your attention please. Step aside for the parade please."
'2d6' for the override skill to hypnotize some of them into forming an isle.

Roll #1 4, 5 = 9


Most of the reporters are here to get a sound bite for the evening news or their website, they may be pros but their mind wanders easily, allowing your suggestions to smash their way into their brains and get them moving. The crowd parts but many continue to shout questions, looking to have one of you bite as the group heads towards the doors:

"What's your opinions on the pirate attacks?"
"Will you be living among the people or moving towards one of the continents?"

There are other shouts, but your translation software can't keep up with all of them.


Ignore them, but make note of the pirate thing for later.
Just need to get the package inside where its easier to protect them.


Ijappa follows you and makes sure to keep himself in front of Pazu and Zapu. Berry puts her Mech where she can keep the Drones in sight and take a shot if neccessary. The reporters are more interested in shouting questions, but at least the Chordian guards pour into the opening you made and help keep them at bay, letting you slither up with the rest of the group into the Admin building.

Inside, you still have to watch your head. The facility is more austere than other such places you've visited, even the Humans with their tiny furniture have had more light and colors in their areas. Unty and Tzing walk up behind you as the doors are closed.

"Your quick thinking made this much easier for us. Those reporters managed to sneak through the stops we set up." Tzing says with a smile. "We were aiming to keep the streets and skies clear."


"I'd rather not get held up at the door, so it was mutually benefiting." I assure Tzing with a nod. "Its impossible to consider everything."
But I will consider the windows, as if the drones could slip in.


The windows have bars that would make it difficult for a drone to enter, but they still sport plenty of visibility for a shot to come in.

Fortunately, the main area they want you all in is shown by the guards, as they open up the doors to where the negotiations will take place. The room is large but still low to the ground, but there is not a window in sight. There is a large number of Chordian staffers, some are higher-ups but the vast majority seem to be underlings who will be sending information and contracts around. The table for Pazu and Zapu has is set up with their own communication equipment.

>"I trust the Chordian's tried to do their best, but that's a lot of people inside."

Berry says over the radio.
>"We stick out even more than usual."


"And is that altogether, or on a piece-by-piece pricing?"


"We also believe the Administrators would already be aware of this. To be honest, we are not sure what there is to be done; this all happened years ago."


"All of it at once. Because of *circumstances*, they're willing to take care of things in one bundle than trying to argue over every single piece. Next time, maybe, but first one in gets special treatment." He shrugs as he goes over some details from the other departments. "At the same time, I'm sure you'd rather just focus on getting the whole thing done than trying to figure out which part is arriving when. I know I've had enough of that."


"It's probable they want to hear it from you. Information can be suspect, people have a bias, and who knows how time and distance will affect something." Eva says, much more sure than she was earlier. "They might want clarification, but that'll probably be all."

"So, did this affect how other species nearby viewed you?" Doctor Clora asks. "It wouldn't surprise me if they too had some preparations."


"Fair enough."
And if both sides fill the order easily enough, I might even get some spare parts out of this.
"Let me just read over the bill when it's compiled and I can sign off on it."


"Sure thing. I'll send you the full contact list. Feel free to forward it to your superiors. Oh, and a quick question: How long have you been in this industry? You know, repairs and maintenance and development that the higher ups don't know goes on every day to keep things running."

A preliminary contract is forwarded to you. Like most EULA's you are familiar with, it's mostly just legalese about them not being responsible what happens with what you make using their services, their general design tolerances, and a warning that they reserve the right to use your design for future products.


"Yes, that makes sense. Though our own testimony is admittedly biased, our memory is quite good."

We respond to Doctor Clora's question with a somber nod.

"Indeed; the Voldra already had issues with trust due to our messy introduction to the rest of the galaxy, something which the Sultanians had inadvertently helped us correct in their pursuit of profit. Our… outburst did unfortunately set us a ways back in that, even if we'd become integrated enough with the rest of the galaxy for our usefulness to outweigh many misgivings about us."


Profiting off of my hobby, huh. I'll flag that part and suggest that the specific design is no-go for their own products, but if they alter the specifications to be sufficiently distinct then I'll have no problems. It's either that or I get royalties. Discussing the contract is also part of negotiations, after all.
"I've been a in this field for… well, I'm not sure how the time translates in this system but I've been building things off and on for about 15 years by our system's time. As for professionally, only about nine years, counting formal education and training."


"I was wondering why we haven't seen too many others like you in the other planets and places we visited." Duana says as she looks up to you, her eyes much more clear than before.

"Which is where we come in then." Eva adds. "You've already proved yourself a great ally and friend. I doubt anyone in command is going to doubt that or do anything else about it. But they're probably going to react the same as us, so be ready for that. But, ugh, this is something heavy."

"Yeah, I've seen what you've done for them in the recordings, and my own notes will be filled with your contributions. I'm sure you'd be able to count our colony as a client soon." Doctor Clora states. "Let's take a break from that and focus a little on what has resulted from it. Do you think any species, besides the Sultanians, will have a hostile reaction to your presence?"


You can forward the contract to the Twins, along with your alterations. Maybe you'll strike it rich?

"Almost like me then, but I was on the track the moment I got on board the ship. Tested well enough, but there were so many recruits that year that I had to start lower than I would have liked. If you have time while your ship is here, let me know. I'd love to learn about how the job differs for you."


I don't count on it, but it might be nice to have a few credits to fall back on if I'm ever this way again. I'll forward the contract and alterations to the twins for proofing so I don't get boned.
"Well, talking over drinks or food is a time honored tradition of mechanics who complain about a job they enjoy, so I don't see why not."


This drone can't help but preen at their support. Their faith in our friendship is refreshing and fills us with a sense of accomplishment.

"While there are several species that would react with suspicion, the only ones we know of that are blatantly hostile would be the Helsians - another race whose merchant empire suffered as a result of the Sultanian collapse - and the Cis-Xir - due to being highly militaristic and convinced the Voldra are a danger to the rest of the galaxy. A few others that may be socially hostile, but the odds of running into members of those races is unlikely."


"Oh, I can talk about that stuff for days." He says with a smile as a few more message sounds happen on his devices. "Well, looks like they want me to go over a few things, but they're just technical in nature. You should have the information you'll need if you want us to go through with it."

"Thank you for your time." Varan adds.

"Oh, and once you get everything, invite me to see how it works. I'm curious now."


"Once I'm sure it's safe to show off, sure."
And I think that wraps us up for this visit, until Pazu and her sister send me the contract back to sign and send off.


"Well, it might still be a good idea to let them know. They might not normally live here, but you never know who you'll run into in this galaxy." Doctor Clora says.

"They'd have to get through us first before they can." Eva shouts.

"Yeah!" Duana adds in.

Doctor Clora gives them a smile. "I'm not a stranger to reviews and audits. If you want, I can help you prepare the statements and information, it'll make things go easier and maybe even save you the questioning."


Varan waves as is appropriate for a Chordian as you exit the building.

"So, what did you think of the Maker groups?" Varan asks. "How does it compare to how things were done on Earth?"


I'll think for a second.
"So far, it's a lot cheaper. Fairly fast as well, though I'm chalking that up to me being here on short-stay and them wanting to nail the sales before we leave. Surprisingly little red tape to go through too, though I suppose in the case of the weapons development group that's because it's their thing."
They probably had the friendly guy out front with the list of questions to see how much they could get out of me, but I'm pretty sure I didn't give them anything too useful.
"The AFF office felt a bit more natural, though."


"Hey now," we chide them jokingly, "We are the ones supposed to protect you! Besides, we are the much larger target; they could go around you quite easily."

"We would greatly appreciate the assistance, Friend-Clora. The Voldra are not terribly familiar with official reviews and audits. Our experience tends to result in either our services being to invaluable to give up or being summarily told to go away."


"Interesting. It's been around in the forums that some of the other groups that have passed by complained about it. There was a huge effort here a few years back to change things. Looks like we came in at the right time to benefit from it." Varan says as he continues alongside your mech.

"So then, should we head back or is there anything else you'd be interested in checking out?"


"Well, it's probably going to be a little while before I get a finalized contract to sign back from legal, and I don't think I'm in the market for anything else…"
I'll think for a second.
"Nah, I'm done shopping for the day. We should probably see how Contentin and Saanen are getting on, as I'm pretty much done with what I set out to do today."


"I've got the general idea from what you've told us. I'll ask you a few follow-up questions later once I have my forms and we can take care of it in an hour or two." Doctor Clora has an easy going expression on her face.

"Hey, I have powers too you know! And a Mech!" Duana protests with a laugh, while Eva only sighs.

"Once we have this situation taken care of, we can visit Iona and Rupus. Hopefully the effects of their medications are wearing off." Doctor Clora adds. "Mind if I borrow you now then?"


"Hopefully there is nothing weird on it. Even the shows make fun of how often they change contract terms." Varan says as the two of you walk back towards the future Human housing. This time there is another Chordian, this one in a more different looking outfit who seems to be in a conversation with Saanen and Cotentin's mech.

"At least you've understood what I was going for from the beginning." He says to them with a big grin. "I thought the Administration did as well, turns out they just didn't like any of the other offers and I won by default."

"Oh, here he comes now. We can begin the tour now, don't you think?" You hear Saanen ask excitedly.

"Sorry to spring this on you, boss man, but you think you can keep an eye on our machine while the wife and I give the inside of the new place a look?" Cotentin radios you. "Unless you want to come with?"


"Yes, that would be no trouble at all, Friend-Clora!" We set the two human girls down and gently pat them on the heads. "Now, you two go back to being productive while we take care of this, okay?"


"Nah, I'm fine babysitting. It's your house, after all, and if I look at the guts of it before it's done I'll start getting ideas. You two have fun."


"Don't worry about us!" Duana shouts as Eva stares at her.

"Okay, take a seat and I'll bring up my old documents and forms. It'll take some editing, but we should have something presentable quickly."

[Skip to the Hospital visit?]


"Alright, just make sure no one tries to take our ride." Cotentin says as their mech leans down and allows the couple to hop off and enter the Human building.

"The insides are all organic. Just so you know, the tree is still alive. It's a special technique one of the Universities came up with, but haven't really had a chance to put on display yet." The Chordian Architect sticks his claw into the tree and lifts a little, showing you the individual slice. "You can cut out different room types and sizes, but you only get one go at it for obvious reasons."

"Living in a tree? Sounds like something out of a children's animation, you know? Would you do it?" Varan asks.


I'll park my suit next to the other one.
"I dunno. Never tried living in a tree before, but I'm a little worried I'd damage it, considering my hobbies."


"I don't think plants would take too well to motor oil and the like." Varan says. "But I guess if you're just starting a family, it might be nice?"

"We've not yet installed the elevator, but the stairs are ready, and you can tell from the inside how the material is going to work out and…" The architect goes on for a bit, mentioning parts that are in development and what times they will be completed.

"What about just settling down? I'm sure the last guy we were with would be willing to hire you." Varan asks.


"I'm still young, and I signed on for the whole trip. Besides, I don't have anyone that I'd break contract for currently."
It's gonna be a fairly long wait, I guess, while they explore.
"You're not trying to headhunt me for the local businesses, are you?"


"You have to cheer for your home district team, right?" Varan says innocently. "Besides, I signed up to leave this world too. And if you were to stay, who would train me?"

"Some of the furniture stylings have been delivered to the office. We were planning on staging a few photographs…" The architect continues and seems to answer a few of Saanen's questions specifically.

"It might be a me thing, though." Varan states. "You should enjoy worlds you visit, right? Not just pass by, at least that's how I think."


"Nah, that's a good idea to have. You never know when you'll pass by them again, right?"
I'll drum my fingers on my leg.
"But it never hurts to get the business end of things out of the way first, so you're free to enjoy the planet afterwards."


"All the sensor data we compared it to has it being better than what Human prefer. Depending on how this one goes, they were planning on switching to larger trees for Chordian families." The Architect states to the couple, moving his head higher as they walk into one of the rooms.

>"Save me"

Is the only message you get from Cotentin.

"You should go and tell that to some of my classmates. So many didn't take the classes seriously and had to repeat them." Varan tells you. "I learned it the hard way early on. I have to really focus myself on studying to learn anything. Maybe once we're done with all this, I can arrange for you to meet my family? Outside of this project of yours, all we have to worry is about what we're assigned to work on the Ankylosaur, right?"


>now you know why I opted to babysit
"Pretty much, yeah. And I wouldn't want to impose, even though I know I wouldn't take up much space. Besides, once I actually get my hands on those parts, I'm probably going to lock myself in, outside of work, and actually get something done with them."


"You mean *we* are going to lock ourselves away and work on it." Varan corrects. "You're the boss, so don't take on everything yourself. Besides, we'll have to do maintenance on them, right?"


"I suppose so. But it getting done is going to depend on those contracts coming back without emptying my wallet."


"There's a few Chordian designs we want to introduce to Human markets. We've got a few setup from an earlier attempt on the next level." The Architect goes on about the current style of furniture fashion.

"Once we get back, you should just get in contact with the negotiations team then. That way you don't miss any time if they finish and they can ask you questions directly." Varan says, trying to feel like a reasonable adult.



>"According to what I was told, Chordians tend to have an elaborate ceremony for these kinds of events, so just remember to either stay focused, or at least smile when the cameras are on you."
Appenzi says to all of you over the radio.
>"Let Berry or me if either you or Ijappa needs a break. We can cover for you."

The Chordian negotiation team seems to be sitting down now, but you can feel the whispering getting louder from their end. They seem to be moving and looking around a log, and even Unty and Tzing are trying to check something out. Meanwhile, the Twins seem to be dealing with their ComLinks, making sure they can communicate with the crew back on the Ankylosaur.

Suddenly, a fight breaks out among the Chordians!


First put myself between the twins and the source of the fight.
Second look to make sure no one is drawing weapons yet, no need to escalate things.


Just like Doctor Clora said, the administration did have a few questions, though thanks to writing up a statement before hand, it mostly amounted to clarifications on dates and individuals.

Which meant there was more time to spend with the others. Both Iona and Rupus were awake as the stronger sedatives have worn off, leaving them tired but conscious. Except for the occasional long stare by the older doctors, most didn't seem to mind your presence or that of Eva's larger than normal robot since she couldn't bring in a Fold Mech today. The fact that it looks like the same species as Doctor Clora, who is presently back on the ship, isn't lost on Doctor Zorani either.

"You know, even now, it feels way easier to breathe." Rupus says. "You never know the trouble you had with something until the circumstance change, you know?" He asks you.


Aye, let's skip to the Hospital, so we can check up on our new friends.


Nod at his observation. "Indeed, a change in circumstances can shift your entire view on what is reasonable and what was holding you back. We are glad that you are already noticing improvement; it speaks well for your recovery. Do try not to strain yourself just yet though; there were still some minor cracks in your rib-crystals that may take a short while to fully heal over."


It's a large spectacle, since their quadrupedal design means they fight by really bunching up and getting in close. A chair goes flying and a table is flipped, but it seems Security grabs and pulls people away and to separate sides of the gathering room.

Unty brings a group of them over, or at least closer to your group, and begins trying to piece together what was happening.

"Someone messed with the chair order!" A well dressed Chordian shouted back.
"They said I didn't have a spot! Me!?" Another Chordian, this one dressed up in a fancier getup, yells at Unty. Some of the other Security members and Negotiatiors who didn't get in a fight do their best to make sure these don't cause any trouble.

"Sorry for this. We're trying to get the situation under control, but I won't blame you if you want to take them back." Unty says apologetically after walking to you.

"We're fine. We've seen worse, so let us know if there's anything we can do to help." Pazu says.

"Well, how good are your investigative skills?" Unty asks.


"I know my way around a sscene, If you're asking for a fresh set of eyess."
but call Beryl over the commlink
>Hello, could use some back up here, a fight broke out a moment ago and I want to look around.


“I’ve been telling him that since he’s woken up.” Iona says as she wheels herself around. “He seems way more energetic now than he was before we met you all.”

“Actually, that reminds me of something they told me to ask: do you have a list of the things you want to bring aboard? For your rooms, of course.” Eva asks them. “We’ll need to make sure they’re compatible, with, well us.”

“We don’t have too much, even in our ship.” Iona replies. “But I’m sure you’ll be able to teach us what to do and look out for when we come in, won’t you?” Iona looks towards you.


Give her a friendly nod, preening somewhat at her acceptance of us as a guidance figure.
"Indeed, we are happy to assist with cataloguing any potentially-incompatible items. The list is rather short, in honesty; humans have proven quite adaptable- another of their many appreciable qualities."
Of course, we can't help but wonder if the humans are being more cautious in light of the recent incident and the information it brought forward, but we're not sure if now is the right time to bring that up.


>"Understood. I'll monitor the frequencies in case I pick up anything weird."
She responds to you.

"Thanks, we've got seven people here, supposedly with the financial team. However, there are only 6 assigned staffers, but our paperwork isn't matching up with them right now. Maybe if you ask them a few questions, look around, see what you can get." Unty says.

There's a group of Chordians all sitting down on the ground, all dressed well as befitting the position, so no immediately visible way to tell them apart right now.

"So, what do you want to do first?" Ijappa says as he looks them over.


"Thanks, we appreciate it. We haven't had too many friendly people in our travels." Iona adds with a simple smile.

"How long do you think it'll be before we get to training?" Rupus adds.

"I'd like to know too." Eva chimes in. "I think the experience alone might help me with developing my own abilities."

"Normally, it does take some time to recover from the types of surgery they've experienced, but I don't have all that much experience with actual Fold Bone healing." Doctor Zorani says with curiosity.


"It is good that you are eager to begin again," we say with a smile. "It is somewhat counter-intuitive to what we understand of most medical recovery advice, but with Fold Bones it is better to begin using them quickly. As we have said before, the Fold prefers to flow; thus it is important to both reinforce the correct paths for it to travel, and to avoid leaving it to stagnate and potentially create more outgrowths in an attempt to begin flowing on it's own. In truth, the main factor before we resume training is to allow the incisions and flesh to heal; it would not do for any stitches to accidentally be torn loose."

"Just the light stuff at first though," we add as an afterthought. "the first step is becoming familiar with how the Fold is supposed to flow through you, now that the obstructions have been removed; we can move on to actually utilizing that energy once we are certain of your ability to hold it without hurting yourselves."


"All right!" Rupus says, trying his best not to jump out of his bed.

"If it's important to use it, I hope you don't mind if I record some sessions with you and Eva, maybe one of the other girls? The more data I gather, the better off we'll be when it comes to researching recovery methods." Doctor Zorani says. "I'm curious to see what happens in Eva's case, or what would happen to one of the others."

Iona looks at you and the Doctor with a bit of concern. "Wouldn't other species we visit get worried, though? We already get issues when they know what's in our bodies, I'm sure they won't take it too well if they know we can use it."


"Friend-Iona," we say quietly, putting a claw on her shoulder, "The Voldra know better than most that you cannot let the fears and opinions of others confine or define you. There will always be those who are afraid, but they will either be won over by your friendly personality, or choose to be afraid regardless of what you do. Define yourself by those who value you for who you are, not those who fear what they imagine you might be."

"Of course you may record our sessions, friend-Zorani," we confirm. "Perhaps you can even compare the readings to the ones from Friend-Iona's surgery, to isolate the correct wavelengths."


"It's just, it has been trouble everywhere we've gone. It is difficult to imagine that it may no longer be the hindrance it has been." Iona replies as she does her best to smile back.

"I think the main issue will be Eva. She's the one who'll really get examined after each session." Doctor Zorani says as she turns towards Iona and Rupus. "You're part of the crew now. You'll find yourself with a much wider set of opportunities than you had before."

"Once the other Girls get to know you, you won't be able to feel lonely at all." Eva chimes. "The only thing I'm really worried about is, Iona and Rupus just got out of surgery. What do you think of having me and the others help them out? If there's no risk of Fold contamination or stuff."


"All the more reason for us to help then!" we move to slap her on the back, think better of it, and just rub the back of her shoulders instead. "You're used to thinking of your wings as awkward hands; it's about time somebuggy taught you how to fly."

We can't help but nod enthusiastically at Eva's suggestion, our mandibles almost flapping around with how quickly our head is moving.

"Yes, yes, yes! Further human-exposure is a wonderful idea! Your enthusiasm and friendliness should be just the thing to help them adjust to the ship and their new circumstances! And to help cheer friend-Iona up as well!"


"According to the messages, we have to get the other Girls used to working on the other Mechs soon, so this will be a good opportunity." Eva says. "Besides, once you get to know them, they won't give you a chance to say no."

"One other issue that I'm concerned about is actually getting you back on the ship because of the Chordian experiments. Shelly, can you feel anything from their material here? Can you feel if they've installed it?" Doctor Zorani asks with concern as she looks around.


"We would hope they would know better, considering how it backfired during the surgery, but it never hurts to check. We should ask the Chordian doctors if they've installed any around." After all, they've taken doctor's oaths, so mentioning that we don't know if their experimental tech will cause the human fold-user's heads to pop should help pressure them into not turning those devices on.

Of course, it wouldn't hurt to feel out the fold energy within the room for ourselves too…

'2d6+2' Will check

Roll #1 4, 2 + 2 = 8


You get a sense that several of the non-window walls share qualities with the material you encountered earlier. Without power, they aren't going to have the same effect as last time, so you aren't going to worry about that. The big take away though is how many walls seem to have that material…


"Hmn. Apparently we were overly optimistic about their common sense; several of the walls seem to have that material installed. Thankfully inert right now, but perhaps we should impress upon their doctors the potential for adverse side-effects- particularly on humans due to their small size; perhaps their doctor's oaths will carry the weight needed."


"I don't know how much they'll be able to help." Doctor Zorani says with a grim expression. "They just work here and tend to the people they can, someone else designed it and a lot of others signed off on it. Just means Clora and I will really have to get to work."

"Maybe we can at least get these machines to protect us from it?" Eva asks. "They can carry more than we can, and I've seen most of the Mechanics aren't doing too many other things. Seriously, it has me worried."


Sigh and rub our head. "You're right of course, but it's still frustrating to think that other races are willing to disrupt those specifically assigned to a task to pursue their own ends. A drone shaped to give medical aid is always given authority over how to provide medical aid, because that is what they were shaped to do, yet the doctors of other races seem to have their authority overridden constantly by others in pursuit of different goals. It's inefficient!"

Our shrug to Eva is somewhat apologetic. "The theory is sound, considering the material is technological in nature and must be turned on to have an effect, and humans have an uncanny ability to understand and adapt technology. Unfortunately, the Voldra lack much in the way of technological knowledge, so our input on whether it's possible is rather uninformed. Our Shapers can likely figure out how to Shape drones to at least resist the effects, but we do not understand the Human Genome well enough yet to guarantee being able to do the same for you- not to mention the other races, like Friend-Iona and Friend-Rupus." …Who are probably feeling a little left-out of the conversation.


"I know how inefficient it can be." Doctor Zorani sighs.

"Doctor Clora can probably give us some help with the materials, that's her area of study, so she should be able to help find out which are bad at letting Fold through." Eva adds.

"You know, if the Hospital has it, might other buildings here be the same way?" Rupus asks as now he looks around. "And when did you say we could go join the ship?"


"Oh, we can help with figuring out which materials are bad at letting Fold through," we point out to Eva, "The trick is going to be figuring out which materials will work for blocking the specific destabilizing effect without impeding your own Fold abilities."

"We doubt it is prolific just yet, considering it is still experimental and likely expensive," we reason with Rupus, though our claws can't help but click in frustration at this situation. "Considering the circumstances, we think we can move up your transfer to the ship to 'as soon as you're cleared to be moved.' Whether the Chordians like it or not."


Iona and Rupus nod in agreement.

"I'll get some more details from the doctors. Anything we can use will help, and I'll start up the procedures to get them moved." Doctor Zorani says. "If you can, try to feel out how their bodies are adjusting, just to see how much it has already changed."

"In the mean time, if you don't mind me getting some practice, I can wheel you around or just get you anything. You might want to get used to receiving stuff from machines like these." Eva adds.


"Hmm, a game of odd one out." I slither over to the seven aliens and lick the air smelling them.
"So, which one of you, even has an opinion about humans?" I ask as an opening statement.


"They're a ppotential ally who seem to have made some 'unusual' friends." Says Huwai, looking like a well-dressed Arroh representative.

"They have been fair and cautious negotiators, I will give them that." Jiafa says, her make-up and wig slightly ruined in the tussle.

"I don't really have much of an option on them. I just do my job and that's it." Gini states for the records, her female business clothes reflecting a slight gender difference from Huwai.

"Well, uhm, bleh, honestly, are we allowed to pick them up? It's all I can think of after they showed me the pictures. I can't focus too long on the numbers." Maser adjusts his monocle as he looks up at you.

"If they managed to get here and get the bosses interested, they must not be slouches at least." Vima adjusts what looks like a scarf for a quadruped.

"Glaciu said they were an easy going lot, so I'm kind of curious to get a chance to board their ship." Kartan says as he tries to make sure his shirt isn't too ruffled.

"They didn't shoot on my niece, so I'll give them that." Stego says, his simple suit not revealing anything at the moment.


"If I transfer 1200 currency at a rate of 1.2 and deposit it into a savings account which grows at 3 percent interest rate, how long will it take until I have enough to buy a 3000 currency boat?"

Are these guys all really accountants.. do they even have paperwork with them?


You're met with a series of vague responses, mostly if the interest rate is annual or monthly, if you have any other special promotions from the bank. Huwai, Vima, and Kartan do ask for a ComLink to do the math while the rest come up with answers just using their head. Stego asks for a calculator.

The other Chordian guards bring you their bags and briefcases. Go through them?


Look through their bags while they pratttle on, try to notice who is trying a bit too hard to get the 'right' answer. Focus on the two doing math in their head like a trope of an accountant.

And of course look in the bags for hidden weapons or anything out of place.

Roll #1 1, 3 + 1 = 5


A real big issue is that they've started arguing among themselves for who got the right answer while you were digging through their stuff. Most of them are arguing about monthly and annual interest rates, but all except Vima and Kartan seem to have settled on 25 years, but arguing about the months.

Most of the Arroh Representatives have the same printouts, with Huwai having a candybar inside his, some aspiring for Gini, and Stego an extra ComLink charger. The Arriya reps have a bigger, but more messy bag: each one carrying a variety of additional make-up and tape, with Maser having a small stuffed toy in his bag and Kartan has way more string.


Does this stuffed toy smell like its owner, maser, or close like a relative of thiers?

Is the aspirin actually aspirin or something else..

Maybe I'm focusing on the wrong detail, is Katan or Vima more angry/nervous?


Roll #1 3, 3 + 1 = 7


On close inspection, the stuffed toy smells of Maser, several other Chordians, spit, mud, and a fair bit of fabric softener. There are hints of marker erasures on the bottom as well.

"Maybe I got it wrong, but there's no way Maser did. I've worked with him for so long, he's never pulled any swipes on me." Kartan shouts, getting into the argument the guard are beginning to step into.

Vima, being on the corner and on the smaller size, is unable to really shout over the others, but she does give Jiafa a look every time she says something is the total and honest truth.


"Actually only Vima got it right. " I motion the little lady over and softly speak to her. "Now, what were you trying to tell me." And once she is close enough to touch, ask in a hypnotic gaze "Tell me quietly, who is jiafa too you?"
'2d6' hisss

Roll #1 1, 2 = 3


"She's someone who has been taken by the fake news sources, talking about the districts of Arroh like she knows what's happening." Vima says in a haughty voice, your voice and abilities seeming to be rejected by her vision of reality.

"The ones who have been wrong this whole time are you and Maser!" Jiafa shouts. "You come from separate countries but do you subscribe to the same lunatic blogger?"


"Okay Vima, I'll need you to stay after class, both of you." Nod at the guards "but do let Jiafa fix her wig. And she will want her make up.."
Go to offer Jiafa her make up back, getting a closer look at it while I'm at it, it could be a device of sorts…


What stands out with the stuff you give back to her is just how old-school it is. The ingredient lists on them references a few but noticeable plants. It's small bottles but they are going to be expensive.

"C'mon Gini, let's take our seats. This meeting is almost as exciting as the last two conferences." Huwai says as the others begin to leave.


My hood will flare out, and I'll watch the accountants go back to the desks.
Particularly pay attention to anyone sending messages a little to urgently.
>well, Berry, I can't prove who it is like this, but who woild want to interrupt the meeting most..


Maser looks around and instead leans on the table before Stego heads over to him with a similarly displeased look.

"Really, I knew how fast this thing was being set up there would be problems." Stego tells him. "But if someone vouches for another person, I'd trust them right now, like the old saying goes."

"Yeah, I know it. Thinking that way, Kartan and I worked together before a few times, but I haven't been around too know too much about the others." Maser adds.

Vimi pulls out a datapad and writes down a few notes, meanwhile Jiafa looks towards the Twins and pulls out some of her papers.

>"Why would anyone on Llavanus want to cause an issue here? They seem to be eager to get some things from us, and it's not like we'll take up too much space here."


>profit, look for the profit, who profits off what humans can do, who profits off ruining their relationship with Chidoria..

Interject after Stego, "rushed? You mean trading arrangements usually take longer here?"


"Way too long, months and maybe years. I'm glad I don't have kids or anything else holding me down right now." Stego says.

"Wait, you're the reason they installed that shower room in the Eastern District building?" Jiafa says with some happy surprise. "I'd thank you deeply if you could get them to add a few more things to it. Lockers for one, I always run out of supplies when I stay there with Kartan."

>"I can handle that question."

Appenzi says over the radio.
>"Getting what I can right now, Gini and Huwai have some stocks in high end resorts. If they keep going after our water tech, I can see them benefitting based on the environmental reports I can find. Maybe some more competition, though."


>copy that, and listen in on this next part, there might be something for you to look into.

"Really now, months? We're lucky its moving like it is then. I wonder who is helping it along.." I will stretch a bit trying to look more at ease.
"Say, what was all that about a crazy blogger? Some pop icon popular in Arroh?"


"I know Glaciu is really pushing space." Stego says. "Everyone on both sides know that anything to do with space has his claw marks on it, so this might be one of his jobs."

"He's not even from our country and even the kids know about his eccentricity about it. They say he might want a station named after him." Gini joins in.

Jiafa responds to your question about the blogger. "It's not one exact person, but all across the internet you find people peddling all kinds of crazy theories. I know we have to deal with weird stuff some times, really high end hush-hush things, but then you got people blaming the other side if their Utino isn't cooked right. It's absurd, and then Huwai has to confront me about some of them that rose up in the chain of command."


I lick the air in thought.
"What's Huwai doing starting a debate with you about conspiracy theories, you're on Arriya and he's from Aroh right? You two know each other?"


"We met during the Muchar talks." Jiafa says. "I have a picture, but the poor guy has been the target of so many smear campaigns. There have been so many crazies coming after him, I just felt bad for him as a professional and as a person, you know? Then Vima comes along and brings them up. Aren't they from the same country? Well, like I said, there' lots looking to bring him down."


"And what about you Gini? Aren't you from the same place? Why didn't you stand up for him?"


"I was trying to confirm a few things with Stego before I spoke up. If they're here, they should have experience 'bending the truth', let's be honest to each other. Once you make it to these positions, it's not just about being able to count well." Gini says. "We all have high ranking friends here."


"Friends who decide where the money goes. Naturally.."
Slide in front of Vima. "Especially someone who doesn't belong here. Now, don't start another scene about it, Vima, it will only reflect badly on you and your employer. "


Vima says nothing. You can see the ice in her stare. When the Mech approaches her, she remains quiet.

"Have you worked with her before?" Gini asks Huwai and Stego. Both of them look her over and think about it, but come up negative. "What about you guys?" Gini asks the Arriya representatives. They huddle up, looking at their ComLinks but ultimately returning with the same result. None ever recall working with her.

"Wait, I think I remember now. She was there at the Cloren Accords, but I don't think she was on any team." Stego says.

"Now that you mention it, she was also at the Jin talks two years ago, but wasn't she…" Maser looks closely at her.

"She was in the press pool." Jiafa says, pulling out a video and showing her face.


"Miss, I'm going to ask you to come out of this meeting with me, calmly, since you weren't invited." I gesture to the chidorian guards to come over.


It's been a few weeks now and things have stabilized greatly on Llavanus. Everyone has full access to the city and its well-stocked stores, most of the language issues have been sorted, and things have calmed down greatly, but you should expect to be pulled aside and interviewed by thge media as things go on.


It's time, your order has been confirmed and the tracking information says it is on the elevator. You even got a 50 credit discount. Any moment now, your final weapon parts will be in your hands. Which is probably a good reason why Varan is getting some weapons maintenance training with the others.

"Almost done, huh?" Cotentin says as he watches you. "Excited?" He asks with a sly smile.


"The real excitement happens at the firing range, but… yeah."
Don't want that to sit there for too long, so if I can't get it run up to us, I'll be wrapping up whatever I'm working on.
"If it works like I want it too, we should be able to make more so we can have a good supply of salvage instead of picking from wrecks."


Saanen is helping out by pointing Varan towards the screws that need to be put back and in what order.

"Just getting us to do more work, you know? They'll have us tear down everything extra carefully, plus other troubles I can't even think about right now, but still, you remember when they used those drones against us?"


"Yep, which is why I want them intact when we run into them again. I want to see how they work. Who knows, we could find something that's a little better put together than stuff we've already got."
Or to work from for new projects, but that's an offhand concern.
"Besides, having more work to do means we earn our paychecks."


"Well, it's not like we don't earn it anyway. This poor old ship, the more we fix the more something breaks." Cotentin says with a sigh, interrupted by the opening of the hangar doors and the entrance of numerous large containers. Your ComLink dings to let you know your package has arrived somewhere in all of them. Some of the mechs start sorting the arrived containers, and the message about which one is yours arrives just in time.

"Let the fun times begin?" Cotentin asks.


"Business before pleasure, especially in our line of work."
I'll mark which one's mine and set it off to the side.
"If it works right after a couple test fires, do you want to give it a shot?"


"You know it. I've gotten more time in the Simulator, so I should be ready for it." Cotentin says as you come up to your container, this one marked with a local distributors insignia.

"Here for a pickup?" The radio from the Mech asks. "You got your confirmation info?"


"That would be me."
I'll present the necessary information, sign off on the delivery, and assuming nothing's gone wrong I should be the proud owner of a box of scraps. Good scraps, but still scraps until they're put to use.


It's a fairly large set of boxes, but they've got your bar code on them as the mech pulls them out and puts them on a trolley for you. The boxes have the labels of the two groups you had to order them from, but they're both here. Civet and Saanen helped Varan finish and they are ready to bring over your old parts as well.

"Ready to put it all together?" Saanen asks.


"Yep. Let's get these to a worktable, crack them open, and make some magic."
Hopefully there are enough parts here to cover any mistakes in wiring, but with how I've had this plotted for a while, it shouldn't be too hard.


Disassembled, the weapons take up a fair amount of space. There's more parts because of the special ammo it has, and it attracts the eyes of mechanics and other ship crew passing by.

Roll Tech two times, for the overall experience of building it.

"Oh, let me get the camera. I learned the hard way on stuff like this that you want a visual record of where everything went." Saanen shouts out in excitement.


Ah, the joy of baking… circuits. Robotics expert perk is in effect.

Roll #1 3, 3, 1 + 2 = 9 / Roll #2 4, 6, 3 + 2 = 15


You've had this extremely well planned. Every screw practically melts into it designated area, all the cables are cut to the exact needed length. Al the connections run current without any noticeable variance, and all the rest of the equipment is of supreme condition, ready to go as if it was just pulled out of the fabricator.

"Woah, that was quick. Too quick. Something must have happened, right?" Cotentin says as his wife pores over the system as closely as she can.

"I, I don't think we did. It's ready." Saanen says as she looks to you, as does the crowd of other mechanics.


I'll give it another once over, just to get the weight of it down.
Now for the ammunition.
"We'll know if it works when we fire it. I've been planning this thing for a while but I'm going to make certain it goes through its paces."


The prototype is easy to take apart and check, letting you go over its innards and giving Saanen more content for the video. Despite not being a priority, even the seams vanish when you put it back. it feels nice and smooth, but there is a balance issue you might need to compensate for, but for the most part, it seems ready to be loaded and fired.


"Alright, do we have an arm set up on the range? I want to shoot this myself and there's no way in Hell I'm letting it get confiscated because I didn't go through proper safety protocol first."
If there isn't one set up, it shouldn't take to long. Once it test fires a handful of times (so I can fine tune just how much balance it needs), then we move on to manned trials.
"We'll need to have something set up to measure just how much this thing can disable a powered item. Do we have a junker suit to take potshots at?"


"Since your weapon isn't meant to explode or penetrate, I could set up a shield I've been working on and hook it up with a multimeter and surround it with empty cargo containers." Civet says as she looks around. "Maybe a spare arm, to see if the current does transfer?"

"We could put it in one of the containers, see how much it spreads when you use it." Saanen says.

The crowd looking at you begins to murmur and one rushes over to Cotentin, pointing towards a few things.

"Looks like we can have them clear out one of the areas here. They're already done with what they were doing, they can double time the cleanup for us." Cotentin says. "Looks like everything is going to be set soon. I'd say load it up and fire the moment they're done." You can already see a huge open space forming ahead of you.


"Sounds like a plan, Civet."
Once everything's set up, and everyone is BEHIND the firing apparatus, we can start. Don't want anyone down range in case it goes wide.
"Alright, once I get the all-clear, I'll fire her off. Civet, everything ready on your end?"


"Just getting the multimeter set. One more tug and, we're ready!" Civet shouts as she herself heads for cover.

"Hold on, we need one more thing!" Cotentin shouts as he quickly paints on a target with a nearby projector. "Now we're ready!"


Always need a target.
"Alright, firing in three… two… one… Fire!"

Roll #1 6, 1 = 7


Accounting for the weight, the discharge goes off without a hitch. None of the internal systems are showing a problem, ready to have the next one loaded.

The projectile impacts as it should, splattering the goo in every direction, but enough sticks to the shield and serves to get the charge on to the shield.

Civet heads over to the multimeter. "Woah, it would blow out a lot of systems if they aren't protected, and I hate to have been the one holding it." She shouts as everyone receives pictures and some info to their ComLink.

"It seems good, but there's something about it. Try it again? At least the first test succeeded." Saanen says to you.


"Once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is science. I'm gonna give it five shots before we move to manned trials."
Once the area is clear and the test is reset, I'll fire off another round.
"Fire two in three… two… one… firing!"

Roll #1 4, 2 = 6


This time, there's a bit more of a delay from when you push the button and when it goes off, but it at least hits next to where you fired last. This time the material doesn't splatter as much, letting more of the charge go into the shield and the multimeter.

You can see Saanen and Cotentin talking to each other and clicking around on their Datapads while Varan washes off the shield and dries it off to make sure the test only involves the first hit. Civet checks on the rod holding up the shield, then gives you a thumbs up.


"Fire three in three… two… one… firing."

Roll #1 6, 1 = 7


The target is once again stuck precisely. There was no delay on the trigger this time, and you were able to observe minimal recoil on the weapon. Civet moves back in to check, but she has a puzzled expression as she sends out the data.

"Hold on, we want to try something out before you fire it again." Saanen says as they quickly look into one of the bullets and update the instructions on it. "Alright, ready when you are!"

Reroll again with a +1 this time.


I'm curious as to what readings they're getting.
"Fire four in three… two… one… firing."
Hopefully the adjustments they've made do what they're aiming for.

Roll #1 3, 4 + 1 = 8


Another delay this time, but still not bad. The accuracy is still good, but this time Civet has a shocked expression as she goes to the multimeter. Varan looks at it, then they both look at Saanen and Cotentin with content expressions. The data is sent out and the shield set up for the final shot.


"Alright, last of the unmanned test shots, assuming our data's good. Fire five in three… two… one… firing."

Roll #1 4, 5 + 1 = 10


There's another timing delay, but the weapon fires without a fuss when it does. As Civet and Varan look at the multimeter, they can't help but wince. Both of them give their limbs a look before sending out the data again.

"We've got a bit to work on, but I think one of the important parts has been taken care of." Saanen says with a smile.

"We adjusted the timing on the discharge, look, the shots after we did the adjustment had a significant increase in the amount of electricity getting out. If anyone was holding that shield, I pity them." Cotentin says as he hands you his DataPad.


"Think we should scale it back a little? While I'm not exactly pitying anyone who decided a pirate's life was for them, this thing is for disabling, not killing the guy behind the wheel."
I'll scratch the back of my neck.
"Or paralyzing them for life. Then again, where would we even turn in captured pirates out this way anyway? Once we're out of civilized space, I mean."


"If someone gets hit by it, you were aiming a weapon at them for a reason, so don't worry about that part. Still, I get what you mean, last thing you want to do is hurt someone who was just trying to protect themselves." Cotentin says.

"I'd rather get shot by this than a laser or another bullet." Varan interrupts. "I know the risk, but it's not going to be a light weapon you can just wave around. Still, I'd hate to be paralyzed and that's probably going to be in my nightmares for a while."

"You could always space any pirates we capture." Saanen gives a knowing smirk before she puts her arms over her chest. "But we can only do that if you bring them in alive first. Once we have them, we can figure out what to do after them."

"Even with a growing population, I'm sure we can find space to toss them in somewhere." Civet says. "I think we can order a few things…"


"Well, let's not break out the cages and handcuffs just yet. We've still got to run this through having a person shooting it. Which means it's about time I suited up. Are the diagnostics for feedback ready to go in my mech, or do we just have to plug them in once I drag it over here?"


"I got it. Civet, can you give me a lift?" Saanen says as Civet picks her up and she begins working on her datapad.

"Give me a moment to check something else. I need another sensor first. Varan, I'll need you to hook it up to the shield." Cotentin yells out.

"Give me a moment and it's ready. You should be getting the data in your mech right now." Saanen says as Varan works on the shield.

"Alright, you're good to go!" Cotentin says as Varan takes cover.


Once I've got the green light on everything, I'll move my mech to a proper firing position.
"Going to do a few shots here. We'll probably know if there's trouble after the first one."
After the range is clear, I'll aim at the target.
"Fire one in three… two… one… firing."

Roll #1 1, 3 = 4


The gun jams, an undesirable thing but something a prototype is expected to experience. On the outside, the weapons doesn't seem to have broken, so you are in the clear that side. Roll Tech to run a diagnostic and see if you can get it to fire again.


now that I'm good at. Going to need more range time though.

Roll #1 5, 3, 2 + 2 = 12


Finding the problem is easy thanks to the data you're seeing. Looks like the bullet isn't loading in properly, but you have to manually adjust the loading mechanism. It takes Civet and Saanen some time on the gun to get it loading properly. After cycling a few bullets in and out and reloading, it's time to try again.


"Alright, take two. Fire one in three… two… one… firing."

Roll #1 4, 6 = 10


The recoil is manageable but noticeable. Something to take into account. The round comes out with a noticeable woosh, impacting the shield and moving it more than the last tests had. Varan goes out to check the Multimeter and gives a very pained expression looking at it. Dutifully, he sends out the data and adjusts the Shield for the next shot after wiping it down.

"Mech and weapon showing green, fire when ready." Saanen says to you.


Alright, adjusting position for recoil. Might have to two-hand it if this turns out to be a problem.
"Fire two in three… two… one… firing."

Roll #1 3, 1 = 4


It is a new weapon, so you'll have to adjust how you hold it. This shot is a bit more off than the others, though.

"Oh, I think I know what the problem is." Civet says after Varan gives a more disappointed look at the results. "Try rebooting the system after I upload this." She taps furiously on the datapad and your mech asks for a reboot before you can fire.


I'll let it run its boot sequence and, putting a second hand on it to account for recoil.
"Alright, let's see if second time's the charm for this too. Fire two in three… two… one… firing."

Roll #1 2, 4 = 6


The mech moves a bit more this time compared to the last, but Varan makes it clear it has delivered its charge this time.

"A few more updates, we think we might be getting what's going on." Saanen shouts out to you. "Update, reboot, and then fire away!"


Give it a minute to get the software installed and booted, and line up the third shot.
"Let's see if it's stable now. Fire three in three… two… one… firing."

Roll #1 5, 6 = 11


Everything about this shot was smooth.
The mech handled the recoil smoothly.
The sound as the projectile exited was smooth.
The way the goop spread out and how the shield reacted was smooth.

Varan's eyes as he looked at the displays on the multimeter and the new sensor they attached were not smooth and were instead extremely worried. He looks at you, or perhaps the weapon for a moment. He resets the shield and practically teleports to cover this time.


So that means it worked really, really well. Might have to lower the amount of gel in these things.
"Two more shots ought to give us a good baseline to work from for fine tuning."
And then after me is Cotentin's turn to shoot this.
"Fire four in three…"
Countdown will finish and then I'll shoot. '2d6'

Roll #1 4, 6 = 10


The arm moves a little bit further back than last time, but it's only something you'd notice if you were looking at it like you are in testing. Saanen and Civet are talking to each other, sharing notes and working on their datapads while Varan gives another uncomfortable expression to the results.

"I haven't really seen them so caught up in work in a while." Cotentin says to you over the radio. A giggle can also be heard, but it is not Varan's as he finishes his tasks.


"Well, we're making something new, and exciting. Beats the heck out of soldering a pipe for the millionth time, right?"
I'll think a second.
"Hey, Varan, you ever shot a gun before? If we end up making more of these we'll need to know how easily someone your size can use it. Don't feel pressured if you don't want to, I can call in one of the security team. Just thought I'd ask."


"Me, uh, not really. I mean, maybe like five rounds before we had to leave, but I've got more experience with the guns at the arcade." Varan says as he struggles to remember any other times he's used an actual weapon. "I mean, you're right and I should try it out, but still… Can I?"

"Yeah, you're right. This goes back to why we got into the job in the first place. Making something new, testing it out, trying to improve it. The moment when physical and theoretical work comes together, that's when the job is worthwhile." Cotentin tells you.


"For safety's sake we should have you in your suit, but I figure once the proof of concept testing is done everyone would want to give it a shot at least once. You're part of the development team too, after all."
I'll line up the last test shot I'm going to take.
"That's how we are, Cotentin. We all love it when a plan comes together."
Once the range is clear, I'll fire off one last round.
"Fire five in…"

Roll #1 1, 6 = 7


"We got too excited, didn't we?" Cotentin's sour expression says even more. "Still, more data we have to pour ourselves over, right?"

Time to go through the diagnostic logs again. Roll TECH.


"Finding the operating extremes is how we work towards a recommended setting. I'm just glad it didn't blow up."
'3d6+2' tech

Roll #1 4, 5, 5 + 2 = 16


"It's a prototype in testing, would explosion really count as a failure at this point?" Cotentin says, this time deep in thought.

This time, the problem was the firing mechanism. Delivering the projectile to the target is a much more delicate process than it would be in other guns, and it doesn't seem to help that part of the fault is in the code. After some edits and a reboot, it should be ready to fire again.


Well, I've had my fun with it, it's time to pass it around.
"Considering we'd have to rebuild it if it did? Probably yeah. So far as we've seen, it's been an amazing success. Now, Varan do you want to give it a shot or should I hand this off to Cotentin for a few rounds?"
I imagine we'll be testing this thing until we either run out of what ammunition we've prepared or we get a wide enough data set to pin down the specs a mass-produced model should have. We get one of these to a few security guards and we'd effectively have a giant anti-mech taser.


"Well, we do need to test it out. You probably don't want it to be a Robot only weapon. Plus, now I'm really curious." Varan says as he picks it up and gives the weapon a look over. He adjusts himself in a bipedal form, gets the weapon up, and then takes a shot at the shield.


"Come on, part of you would like to rebuild it with what we already got, but yeah, I'd rather not have to pick up all the pieces. Let's see how the newbie does." Cotentin says.

Wait for results

Roll #1 4, 3 - 1 = 6


Despite the unusual nature of a quadruped adjusting for such a weapon, he's able to handle the recoil of the weapon without losing control, and manages to at least hit the target displayed on the shield. The laser sight was able to decently adjust and properly program the timing of the shock to get a decent voltage on the target.

"Woah." Is all Varan can say as the emotion of firing a weapon goes through him.


"Nice shot!"
I'll look over the numbers for a second.
"And everything came back green on this end."
Maybe I should make a mounting for different body shapes…
"Now, just going to warn you that a lot of our jobs in the future won't be this fun. Also, if you can, find a chance to squeeze in some range time. It'll help you find a firing stance that feels natural."


"Yes sir!" Varan shouts excitedly at the prospect of shooting the weapon again. "I don't have too much experience with seeing a project come this far, but it's a great experience. I hope I can contribute properly to it."


"You already have, you know? Who do you think showed me who to contact for the parts?"
Testing should go pretty smoothly after all this is said and done, right? Looks like we've got a pretty good baseline of performance, though further tweaking of voltage depending on target is a feature we can code in later. Always something to do…


Varan just smiles as he goes back to checking out the gun. Civet comes over with Saanen and everyone starts going over it, sending suggestions and possible updates to the weapon. It'll still take some time before it's fully ready, but it's not something anyone wants to be shot with right now.



It's been several weeks now. Even with improved medical technology, it still takes the Siblings a while to recover enough where the Hospital staff is willing to let them out, but that time has finally come.

The hospital staff continues to be kind and professional, but a few of the older doctors give you the occasional side glance as they pass by. Doctor Zorani seems to be popular with other doctors as they ask her numerous questions, and since Duana's current Mech has a visible pilot area, some of the children have been running up to her.

The doors swing open and both Iona and Rupus are wheeled out to the waiting area. The wheelchairs are simple ones, but they've got a pouch with a fair number of medicines on them.

"Sorry to keep you waiting." Rupus says with a smile to you.

"Can you believe it's been so long already?" Iona adds on. "I hope it hasn't been a bother to come see us so often."


"Why would social interaction be a bother?" we ask, genuinely confused. "If anything, it is restrictions on interaction that would be bothersome."

We can take up wheeling one of them- let's say Rupus - while either Zorani or Duana helps the other one. If they need the wheelchairs past this point, of course.

"So, how are the two of you feeling now? Have your stitches healed up, or did your agitate them from restlessness and lengthen your recovery period?"


"I've never thought of it that way." Iona mentions.

Duana excuses herself from the children to take over for Iona's wheelchair. "Don't worry, I got this. I've got 100 hours of training in this machine!"

One of the quadrupedal nurses gives Rupus a sharp look before heading back as you take the reins of his wheelchair.

"Almost. I feel much better now, and it happened that every time I woke up, I tried to get up like before." Rupus says with a smile.

"They put in some restraints so he wouldn't try and go out and 'get some water'." Iona adds as Rupus turns a little red.

"But you've run into your own share of problems too." Doctor Zorani says as she looks over Iona's chart. "Once we get the two of you to the ship, we can go over everything else."


tsk and shake our head at them. "Mistakes are to be expected, but you should have learned after the first time. Do not jeopardize your health for the sake of routine. We have been eagerly awaiting your transfer to the ship, and would have been very sad if you needed to stay longer after popping stitches."

That said, we do need to get them aboard the ship before someone gets a bright idea of 'delaying' them for more tests.


"It only happened a few times." Rupus says with a dejected look, but it quickly turns to a smile once you are outside. Despite much of the space elevator being above you, there's still plenty of light bouncing off the seas into the town underneath.

Doctor Zorani is looking over the chart as Duana waves to the kids and talks to Iona about the other girls. Going over their abilities and limitations. "So yeah, just so you know now, outside of the mechs, if we use our ability, we basically just fall down. So don't worry, we know what's it like, but it'll be fun to learn with someone new!"

As you enter the space elevator, Zorani interrupts with a question. "How familiar are you with xenobacteriums and Fold exposure? I did some theoretical research, and the Humans have shared some with me, but…" She flips through the DataPad full of notes and looks at some of the pills the Hospital has included.


"We are familiar with the concept and the dangers of transplanting bacterias, yes. Usually Voldra solve this by taking long jumps between planets, during which most non-Fold-bacteriums die off from the exposure, and a grooming and consumption of the outer carapace ensures any bacteria that adapt to the Fold are simply absorbed into the drone's natural ecology. Why, are you worried they will be contaminated aboard the ship?"


"That's one thing. All the Girls have generally been in monitored areas and they've all gone through decontamination regularly, even here on the Ankylosaur, so I haven't worried too much about them, but I don't exactly have a lot to work with in relation to long term exposure. However, the main thing is that Rupus and Iona seem to have a much higher number of issues than I originally anticipated."

"Will we have to be quarantined or something?" Rupus asks.

"It won't be an issue for the Humans. There's a rather 'large' barrier for them to get infected by something of ours." Doctor Zorani smiles at Duana, who just has a simple smile on her. "It's actually more about me." She sighs as she goes through another page. "You're missing a lot of vaccinations. I shouldn't even be around either of you too much."

"Dad, didn't have much of a chance to get us any of that." Iona says sadly.

"We spent more time being moved around by different people, and from what I can remember, things weren't too good back on the planet. When dad had the chance, they got us on a ship and that was it."

"At least I don't have to worry about sharing medical data with the Humans. It'll take them a while to make a big enough batch, but they can probably take care of that." Doctor Zorani turns towards you. "Have you had to submit any data of that type to them yet? Normally most species have tried to keep their genome under wraps."


We shrug at her question.
"It is not as big a deal for us as it likely is for most species, considering our Shapers are quite skilled and experienced in shaping the genomes of developing drones, hence why the Voldra are able to have so many variations for different tasks, and how drones are able to adapt to new circumstances with the proper resources and time." Tap our horns. "This drone had a Shaping done about halfway into the voyage to better adapt to the high-conflict nature of our voyage. Duana can verify what changes she observed. We've even started experimenting to see if it is possible to meld the Voldra and human genomes, though that is very much in the early stages and the method of implementation is not yet decided, should it even be possible. So yes, we've no problems sharing information on our genome, though the amount of variation the Voldra are able to artificially produce is quite large."

Tap our chin in thought.

"With the exception of our Queen genome. We would die without our queens, so information that could harm them is guarded closely."


"I can see what you mean by the Queen, but is it really possible for you to hybridize with a Human?" Doctor Zorani looks on in wonder as the Elevator closes and begins its ascension. "At the same time, it is just an interesting thing to think about. What could you possibly get out of that?" The Doctor and the two siblings look at you with interest as Duana tries to imagine what it would even look like.


"If it is possible, there's two potential variations: Voldra that have human traits, or Humans with Voldra traits. Obviously there would be different implications for each, as well as different rearing methods- not to mention differences in teaching methods… As for what could be gained… There are multiple areas where humans have advantages over Voldra, such as social interactions and understanding both other mindsets and technology, but…" We tap our claws and start growing a bit embarrassed. "We are not 'talking' with you right now, not really. We are talking, and a box at this drone's neck is processing the information we are speaking, converting it into language you will understand, and projecting it through this drone's vocal chords- with assistance for noises our chords cannot naturally replicate. There is no other race we have found with which we could truly 'speak,' and… we would would not mind if humans were the first, even if only a few."

Our face starts glowing as we shrink into ourself, growing even more embarrassed. "Also our wife talked about wanting kids and how raising a child together was a wonderful and unique bonding experience unlike any other and it sounds like something we would very much enjoy someday if it was possible and there was someone willing who we wished to bond and learn with even if the odds of that are remote and it is a very silly reason but you asked and it is still a reason so there it is."


"Oh, for that reason…" Doctor Zorani smiles at you and then the siblings and Duana. "That one is pretty natural. I can't say I haven't given the idea a lot of thought either." She reaches over and taps open Duana's mech, letting her hop on her hand and holding her up, then holding her in a hug. "Sometimes, you have to accept what you have." She has to peel Duana off of her and the elevator begins to approach its destination.

"Oh, that makes me think of something. I've never really talked to you or the other Girls in our native language. Outside of some educational sims, have you tried actually speaking the language?" She asks the Siblings before turning towards you. "Actually, how about you say something to Duana without your translator." Doc says as she turns towards you.


"Yes… but when what you have is a collective memory spanning centuries, the prospect of several centuries more surrounded but alone, an entire caste for whom shaping a being to fulfil a need for the hive, and friends you would very much like to know better, then some pursuits are worth trying, even if they might not succeed or have a chance to get used." Besides, we'll probably at least try to get a new caste out of it, or improvements to our existing castes.

"Without our translator? Technically we were referring to our ability to communicate mind to mind, but our physical language is also a consideration. Let us see…" We fiddle with our translator until we manage to temporarily turn it off, then turn to Duana.

"{Bright-smile-eager-youthful-reckless-bringer-of-light-to-our-heart}," we begin (the actual sound produced being a melodical series of trills and rubbing of our wings together that lasts at best a second or two from their perspective, ending with our wings held splayed out not realizing the similarity to some earth-insect mating displays, "{Though our time-travel-journey-long-closeness may end, this-one-we-some-all-me shall treasure-hold-share-love-remember the memories-experiences-knowledge-fun and danger-trials-triumphs for as long as stars shine-reflect-guide-our-path.}"


You capture Duana's attention when you first begin talking to her, all her being focused on really hearing you without the aid of a device, but her face begins to warm up as she watches you proceed.

"Uhm, I don't really know how to respond, but I'm sure it's about us having had a great time so far!" Duana cheerfully jumps up and down for you.


We nod and fiddle with our translator for a moment, before finally managing to turn it back on.

"Indeed, that is a very good guess, Friend-Duana. A more direct translation would be: 'Duana with our wings subconsciously splaying out again, though our time together may end, we will treasure your memories for as long as the stars shine.'"

Our expression twists as we think about the implications from a non-Voldra perspective.

"It is a common expression of valuing a mind for Voldra," we attempt to explain. "We have shared how for Voldra, 'living on in memory' is more literal than for most species. So the statement of 'always remembering' is a way of saying you want them to remain a part of your life. Whereas we think the 'though our journey may end' might be interpreted by other races as meaning when we part ways and stop interacting, which is not the intention at all." We idly groom at our wings. "Cultural context seems just as important as translation, considering the potential differences of interpretation here."


"You should keep using your normal voice every once in a while." Duana says with joy as she sits back down in her mech. "Your voice is nice. Your real voice, not the computer one. Maybe you can teach me how to really understand it?"

The elevator blinks and the lights give a warning that the destination is near. Duana has to get back into her seat so she can help Iona. The deck area overlooks the Ankylosaur and you can see the many mechs and Human crewmembers moving some supplies around, as well as some of the other Aliens that have joined them.

"Thinking on it, it might be important to teach you two how to speak the Human's language. You might be here for a while and if your translators ever fail…" Doctor Zorani turns from the siblings to Duana. "I'm sure the Girls will be able to give you plenty of practice, maybe we should have that little school they have installed set up some classes for you."

"Actually, can you undesrtand Duana or us without your communicator?" Iona asks you as they are wheeled into the Ankylosaur.


Our face glows a bit as we nod to Duana. "We are not certain if it is physically possible for humans to imitate our language, but we are willing to try! And we are glad you enjoy it's sound; many consider it unnerving."

In response to Iona's question, we hold a claw up flat and waggle it from side to side- we have seen humans do this to indicate uncertainty!

"Understanding yes; the drone stationed on Earth has been taking language lessons, and is making good progress- at least with Standard, English, and Latin. Spanish and French seem like they should be easier to figure out, but are frustrating us for some reason, and we cannot even begin to figure out Finnish. German is the language we can best recreate the sounds for, though we haven't had time to focus on it enough to fully grasp it's sentence structures or rules as of yet, since only friend-Hans speaks it at the station, and he seems to have hangups about us wanting to learn more about German culture."


Time has passed and things have greatly calmed down on Llavanus and its orbital elevator. Alterations to the city below have already started for it's soon-to-be permament Human population and treaties and contracts are being worked on to allow access to the rest of the planet. The Ankylosaur plays host to visiting tourists, social media darlings, and politicians through its stay.

But what matters today and has brought people out is the annual Groundbreaking Day: when the development of the space elevator started in earnest. People and stalls surround the central stadium, with holographic screens showing the festivities for everyone around. That's where you all come in.


Looks like politics trumps medicine today, you've been sent out with a "Combat" Squadron to demonstrate the real abilities of the mechs. It's more of an obstacle course, but you'll also be competing against Arroh and Arriya pilots trying to win the hearts of the people and the Defense bloggers. At least you've still got everyone with you today, for the last time in a spacious hangar on the planet.


Malvi, Duana, Iona, and Rupus, who have recovered well enough from their surgery, are here to experience one of their last days planet side. It's a much more festive mood than it has been before, with the two Humans in their machines helping to wheel the much larger Aliens around. There is all sorts of food and fun events going on, but also crowds of Chordian children and their parents running around and taking pictures of all of you.


Another "easy" mission got assigned to you: being a bodyguard for the Twins as they enjoy the festivities, flanked by other politicians and plenty of camera drones. Most of the time, Kalahari is guiding your group on a pre-planned route, but it's a good idea to keep an eye on all the Chordians around you.


Hopefully there won't be a live-fire test segment. I don't think either side could deal with the fallout of something like that going wrong. Should have an edge over the natives, though, since my mech can change.
Since we're in the wings, we should do any last minute checks before they make us waltz out and make spectacles of ourselves.
"How are our numbers looking? Everything green on the suits we're using?"


Varan and Cotentin give you a thumbs up, followed Saanen giving you the go ahead on the electronics. Civet comes over with your the finishing piece, a modified Chordian rifle.

"Don't worry, I checked them before bringing it. No ammo, just a laser marker for the shooty parts." Civet says with a smile. "Don't look directly into it, though."

"Sorry about this, I think all the time I spent talking with Inspector Febres is what got you assigned to this." Varan says as he and the others look the gun over.


Stick close by our friends, but do not hesitate to smile and wave to the cameras and children- even if they are keeping their distance rather conspicuously.
"These festivals were always nice; the food is very high-energy potential."


"Well, it was either going to be me or one of the other combat-certified pilots. And me going around picking up bits and pieces for that gun we put together probably put me on the radar too."
I'll shrug, then head into the mech to run its built-in preflights Shouldn't show me anything different than Varan, Cotentin, and Saanen's reports. Can't be too careful for a public event, though.
"And I'll be sure not to point it at anyone, Civet. Last thing we need is to blind somebody at a PR gathering."
Sigh a little to myself.
"Kinda wish I'd had more range time, though. I'm a middling shot at best, even with all the help this suit gives you."


There's plenty to look and taste around. Lots of stalls with Chordians pitching food, and it looks like some of the older children are doing edutainment displays, with low budget projections of local animals and sea life.

Roll Street Smarts

Both Iona and Rupus are carrying a few food items in their hands.

"We've never been on a planet long enough to really get to experience one." Rupus says as he looks around and snaps some pictures.

"Yeah, it was usually just limited to the hangar and the ship. I guess, technically, this place still counts as that since it was built for the space elevator, right?" Iona adds, with Duana's see-through glass showing her deep in thought about the question.

"Any other big festivals you've been to?" Malvi asks from her machine.


"Oh, you don't have to worry too much about that." Varan says, a confident smile on his face. "You'll be up against a ton of people, most don't even get more than a few seconds on the screen anyway. They often use this to get some training time in for the new recruits, plus the obstacle like nature they have here means finishing without too many lost points is a good thing. I think this year's theme is, uh…"

"Mining Facility." Cotentin cuts in. "A bit of canyon flying, some hard turns inside a manufacturing facility, add a little more CGI, and you'll show up as an exploding extra in some action movie."

"Oh, don't forget to save out alterations before you load up this weapons targeting system." Civet says. "Please don't erase all our work."


Street Smarts '2d6-1'

"With enough technicalities, you could have dirt underneath your feet and still count as 'aboard,'" we point out. "Festivals are about the people, not the location, in our experience."

We give Malvi a happy nod.
"Indeed; in fact, the Mardi'Gra's Festival of Finding was just last week! There is nothing quite like seeing almost the entire population of a city seemingly packing themselves as close together as they can manage, while still dancing and singing and signalling to those who catch their interest! The Drones stationed there are expected to make a full recovery within a week or so, and maintain that it was worth the experience!"

Roll #1 2, 2 - 1 = 3


I'll back up the data from our weapon experiments and everything we've done up to now. While it is fun to shoot that thing, it's wasteful to lose the data to an oversight. And we won't be here forever so we won't have the easy access to materials to replace stuff.
"If nothing else, the canyon flying should be the easier part."


As you progress through the stands, the crowds only seem to get larger, but there are plenty of refreshments around to keep the youth and their families from worrying.

"That sounds like my kind of good time. Ever since the first parade I saw growing up, I've always loved these kinds of things." Malvi says as everyone stops in front of of a play stand.

"One token to get three tries and win a prize!" A surprisingly upbeat announcer shouts to your group. Behind her, you can see other Chordian students cleaning up and setting up for the others.

"Want to give it a shot?" Duana says to the Siblings before turning to you.


"Maybe, you'll be trying out a VR system as well. Some of the other teams have been testing it out, makes it so you see the environment they want you to see." Saanen says as she powers on the system, making it look like you were already hundreds of feet up in the air. "Think of it like putting the Simulator in real life."

"But that's not all." A new voice says over your radio. "This is Verata, coming to you loud and clear over the radio. I'll be giving you directions and what not, the Chordians have set up an extra special course this year."


A VR system? I guess it's to standardize the units. Wonder if this means I won't be able to use my unit's variable mode for better mobility in the canyons…
"Extra special? How do you mean?"


…Those are some interesting theoretical images of Malvi's mech covered with beads… Or Malvi herself sized-up…

"It cannot hurt to make the attempt, as long as we do not allow ourselves to grow too frustrated!" Because even if the game is somewhat rigged, we bet that the Chordians will rig it even harder against a Voldra.


"Looking at it, easy way to put it is way more verticality. Sudden ones too. I'm looking it over and I'd be hard pressed to go through it in a video game where I can pause and retry and stuff." Verata tells you over the radio, with the rest of your crew listening in. "Don't worry, my job will be to make sure you do it safely, so I'll be giving you directions from here."

"It's mostly just a screen overlay. Feel free to transform the machine as you wish." Saanen says, turning off the image of the sky to show her running some diagnostics test on the display as several other machines walk out of the hangar.

"I'm sure you'll be fine." Cotentin says. "Give me a moment for the last test here, and you are ready to head out. Coordinates for the, uh, starting line should be in your system now."


The Chordian announcer takes the token and another student brings over a basket with three weighted balls. Not hard enough to do any damage, but with notable mass to them. The game is simple, to hit a target. Some are stationary and large and only worth 1 point, but there are some smaller ones moving at higher speeds that are worth 5 points. More points you have, bigger the prize you can get, ranging from a small pet fish for only hitting two larger targets, to larger stuffed toys for higher point counts.

>Carnival Balls

>Count as Thrown weapons

Three "enemy" types to target
>Large and Stationary 1 point
>Medium size but counts as being basic cover 3 points
>Small target moving at high speeds, with a -3 to hit

Other Chordians are trying their luck, but there seem to be few winners here.


A thought about how secure this simulation is will cross my mind, since we never did catch the saboteur, and I'll wonder just how hard it would be to make it so that two contestants crash into each other by 'accident'. No, surely they'll have people watching from outside so that doesn't happen. That's what the radios are for.
"Alright, it's in your hands. I think I'm pretty much done in here."
I'll scratch the back of my neck.
"No laughing if I come in last, okay?"


"You'll be fine." Verata says over the radio as everyone smiles and waves as your mech heads out of the Hangar.

Overhead, you can see other Pilots in the "obstacle" course, with some large balloons working as markers for others to follow along. You can already see the difference in the types of designs Arroh and Arriya. Arroh seems to prefer raw speed, but they don't do as well in the 'obstacle' areas, not being as maneuverable as the Arriya machines. It also looks like you aren't going to be the Human pilot, as another Mech is already flying.

"Hover until you get the signal to go start." Verata says. "They might have thrown in a few twists, but it's still something you train for. First part is a mad dash, then you get the facility, and the final piece is an escape while under "fire" from a paintball gun. As long as you don't get a whole new paint job, you did fine. Alright, looks like you're up. You've got a fairly DISTANT area to get to, so just step on the gas as much as possible for the first part."

Your HUD starts a countdown


Hmn… toss one of the balls up and down a few times to get a good feel for it, then predict the trajectory and try for one of the medium sized targets first! '2d6-1'

Roll #1 2, 1 - 1 = 2


Right, well, I'm not going to catch up on foot. Time to swap to aerial mode and burn atmosphere. I'm guessing the facility is going to be the shooting gallery, but I can worry about that when I get there.
And hope none of the paintball guns got swapped out for real ones.


You can tell the ball is weighted differently than it should and the first throw confirms it as it veers way off course.

"Try again!" The student announcer shouts out, as you and another thrower hit the wall.

The siblings are attracted to the spectacle and lights, but both Malvi and Duana have their eyes clearly on the balls and the arcs they are flying in.


Roll TECH, right now all that matters is that you stay under the 'cover' of the asteroid canyon and get their as fast as possible. Some of your systems are blinking in the yellow and starting to become red!


ech, and I bet I don't get my bonus here for that. But still, with Egghead and my tech score I shouldn't do too badly. '2d6+3'
Wonder if this is just the "hazards" or something else. Probably just the hazards. Supposed to happen.

Roll #1 6, 6 + 3 = 15


Try to adjust for the improper weighting and aim for a Medium one again! '2d6-1'

Roll #1 5, 4 - 1 = 8


People underestimate how much technical expertise is required to operate a Mech. Yes, they have become 'simpler' than they were originally, but they also add more over time. For someone of your skill, pushing a machine to it's limits was something your body does naturally. With nary a change in expression, your mech comes as close as it can in that distance with its maximum speed.

It'll make a great clip for the highlight reels as the engine glows and you get it to stay at that setting.

"Woah, that's definitely a record there!" Verata shouts with glee. "Lay off the throttle once you get to the next marker. Fun is about to start and I've got a sudden straight dive coming in for you."


"Oh, you've got the crowd cheering you on too. Don't crash."


Well, sudden turns mean killing speed a bit. Spinning's a neat trick but I should probably save that for any really sticky turns. Might be able to get a loop in here, since I saved time on the leadup.
But, simple over fancy. This thing was made for aerial moving but I don't want to spin out because I tried to make it look cool.
'2d6+1' due to aerial mode's agility bonus.

Roll #1 1, 4 + 1 = 6



The weighted ball and the target both fall down, one of the students banging on plates to let everyone know you hit and to try and entice other to play.

"Nice, I saw it start drifting to the right and thought you would have hit it's protection instead." Malvi says. "You've got enough for a new pet at least."

One more ball remains.


Right, pets… which are not food. We have made that mistake too many times before, and the options don't look… too appetizing…
Now that we've got the hang of it, let's try for another middle one with our last shot, just to keep things consistent! '2d6-1'

Roll #1 3, 5 - 1 = 7


This throw is a little higher, with the weight throwing the balance off as it falls and lands on the target itself, denting the thing on the top but still knocking it over.

More plate rattling, followed by the announcer pointing you towards your prize choices of three local fishes, or a selection of "small" stuffed toys resembling Chordians or two other local animals.

Both Duana and Malvi are clapping for you, with the Siblings looking over the prize selections.

Make your choices and Roll Street Smarts twice.


Unfortunately, you still got an unfortunate amount of drift in there that causes you to clip part of the scenery, but you're still in the proper area heading down.

"This is supposed to be smelting facility, so they've added a few steel beams coming down to keep the audiences entertained. Try not to get crushed by them as you level off and turn right." Verata says in a more professional and calm tone.

Roll Agility and Will, don't lose your cool here.


Hmn… the fish are tempting, especially that one that kind of looks like Friend-Dusky… and a pet fish is only two points, so that leaves me with enough points to get a stuffed toy, correct? Maybe glance over and see which of the options has drawn my friend's attention or at least Duana's attention and pick that one.
'2d6-1' Street Smarts
'2d6-1' Street Smarts

Roll #1 1, 1 - 1 = 1 / Roll #2 4, 4 - 1 = 7


Agility should be fine, some rolls here and there to avoid the beams will be crowd pleasers.
As for keeping my head, it's just a simulation. No matter how real it looks, it's just a sim. After all, i just clipped a bit of the cliff and came out fine, right? Right.

Roll #1 6, 6 + 1 = 13 / Roll #2 2, 4 + 1 = 7


Duana's looking over the possible selection, and she seems to be looking into the direction of a blue, hand made Chordian doll that is bigger than she is.

"Congrats on winning!" An over-excited Chordian shouts out behind you. "Hey, do you mind answering a few questions?" She's carrying a small set of video equipment, likely for this planet's social media system. Her dress is clearly different from most of the Chordians here.

The students have your fish ready and are waiting for the doll choice.


Some 'just in time' rolls out of the way of the moving obstacles gets a few shouts through the radio.

"Looking good!" Verata can't contain as the excitement of the crowd gets to her. "They're loving it. You've got all cameras on you and you've overtaken the time of their better pilots. Keep your cool and finish the fun part up ahead, a simulated battlefield. Take down the targets but don't get shot yourself, okay? Keep to the 'cover' and finishing is the most important part."

Just as she says, the 'shadow' of the factory passes overhead and three virtual targets fly in. Roll 1d10 for cover, there's a massive paintball 'cannon' above that will spray your ship. The audience will get a laugh if you get hit, but not your crew that will have to clean it off.


Go with the blue doll then. It's nice enough, and it will be cute to see her cuddle with it.

"We are willing to answer questions, yes. What do you wish to know?"


Taking cover. '1d10'
I'm guessing the next bit is going to be shooting the targets. Once I'm in proper cover I'll have to switch to Gerwalk mode.

Roll #1 4 = 4


The students bring it over, along with your fish, and put them on the table for you.

"Who else wants to play!?" Shouts the young announcer as the other Chordian asks you a few questions.

"To start, what's your name and where are you from? Are these your friends?" She rapidly shoots out questions, doing her best to keep her recording device stable. "What do you think of the town and the festival so far?"


A decent amount of cover sits between you and the cannon, paintballs fly through the virtual terrain, but the targeting system is giving you a fair modifier to make sure you don't get clipped on accident.

A target above turns and starts 'shooting' at you, a fake flash of color to make the pilot feel like they are in danger and more drama for the audience. As your HUD zooms in on the target, you can see that it shares a form similar to the pirate vessels that attacked Llavanus.


Collect our prizes carefully, then move away from the table so others can come up to play if they wish.

"We are Voldra, though our friends refer to this drone as 'Shelly.'" And our friends can introduce themselves if they want- or stay out of this if they're feeling shy. "We are enjoying the festival so far, yes. It is very lively."


It's a good thing I'm slippery, otherwise I'd probably be wearing a less flattering coat of paint.
s for the targets, that means their weak spots should be roughly the same. Though it's less shooting them down in this case than it is tagging them. Still, one thing at a time. Tag the one flying by itself while in cover before I try to advance.
I'm assuming this is a gun check.
'2d6' Flat because no bonuses.

Roll #1 3, 2 = 5


other than the one granted by gerwalk mode, which is a +1, so that's a 6.


She's getting a panning shot of them anyways, but you can see the social experience distance between Malvi and Duana contrasted with Iona and Rupus. The two Humans are smiling through the machines, even waving, in a way that feels much more natural than the expressions the wholly organic Siblings do not.

"I know some Humans are going to stay planetside when their ships take off, any tips on how to interact with them? And what drinks should people ask for once they set up a bar around here?"


"Nice." Verata shouts as the target disappears from your view. "One down, almost there. Get to the next fights and do the same. Oh, hold on, wait, are you kidding me?" You can hear her sigh in the background. "Next shot, they want to make it look more cinematic. Take cover from the turret and shoot at the target, no stopping this time."


"wait, wait, you're telling me that they want me to go barreling over empty terrain, into a turret emplacement?"
I'll shake my head.
"If they shove my footage in any movies I want a cut. Parts don't buy themselves."
Alright, so this is going to be trickier. I think I can skim the ground, dodging and weaving, and still tag something, but… that turret's probably going to get a good bead on me. Maybe I can use one of the larger targets as cover? Pretty high up though. Nah, I'll make my advance towards the turret, and try to drop a target on the way there. I know my luck can't hold out forever but… might as well give it a shot.
So I'm assuming this is both an Agility and Guns test?


"Yeah, but remember this is all a simulation. Nothing to crash against, so milk it for all you can." Verata says as you can hear the shuffling of other radio crews before she cuts herself off.


"We would recommend being respectful and polite, same as you would for anyone. This drone would recommend the Chocolate flavors; they are certainly the most popular option we have seen so far."
We are remembering why we do not like interviews now; this feels like we are walking through a minefield where if we say the wrong thing it will have consequences for the humans that are staying.


Even so, I'll use as much cover as I can, even if it's only as a ramp.
'2d6-1' AGI
'2d6+1' Guns

Roll #1 2, 2 - 1 = 3 / Roll #2 4, 4 + 1 = 9


"Good to know. I know what I'll get then. Thanks!" She smiles and hands a you card with her social media information before another group of Chordians arrive and distract her.

"You handled that much better than we could have." Rupus admits.

"Yeah, she wasn't asking me questions and I totally froze up." Iona adds.


You HUD 'flashes' red with fake damage, deducting some points but looking very good in post production back at the stadium.

What doesn't result in points loss is your shot, which goes through the engine, giving the audience another great explosion that you can't see because it just vanished again.

"Audience is eating this up. One more to go and you'll land yourself a bunch of interviews. Last one, even more fun than before. You'll be turning towards the cannon, but you've got a few seconds to breathe. This time, it's definitely going to be 2v1 and no cover. Just hit the target and you'll be done." Verata says with a serious tone to end the communication.


We rub the back of our head sheepishly.

"It did not feel like we were successful; if anything, we are worried about news stories coming out tomorrow saying we made statements we did not make."

Check on our new fish to make sure he's okay; we'll need to remember to make sure we can get him the right kind of food to eat.


Ah, but there is cover. The other target.
But then again, do I really want interviews? Do I take a dive to not have to do those interviews?
Decisions, decisions.
…nah, can't take a dive here, the rest of the pit crew might end up feeling like it was their fault or that something cropped up they didn't take care of.
But, since the target's up there and I'm down here, a change of mode is in order. Swap to Aerial mode, and let's get this show on the road.
I'm guessing I'll need at least one agility and maybe two gun checks to round this out?


Just one, you only have to shoot the Virtual Pirate, the target is just there to keep things spicy for the cameras.


Ah, okay. Well, fancy flying is Air-mode's specialty, let's just hope I can actually hit the thing.
Mode shifted, and off we go.
'2d6+1' Agility
'2d6-1' guns

Roll #1 6, 4 + 1 = 11 / Roll #2 1, 1 - 1 = 1


File: 1590468497950.jpg (70.29 KB, 1155x1086, This but Dusky colored.jpg)

The 'small' fish comes in a small bowl, but it's almost the same size as the Humans. It's large, wide body is interesting as the light reflects from it's scales.

"We've got a good enough PR team back on the ship, there's nothing to worry about." Malvi says.

"Besides, you're the nicest person I know." Duana shouts out as the Siblings nod in agreement.

"Do people interview you a lot?" Iona asks as more people start to crowd and take pictures.


Thanks to some expert flying, the camera drones are loving being behind and beside you. The images they are sending back will be loved by the audience and analyzed by Arriya and Arroh engineers, commanders, and every tech and military defense blog.

It would have been capped off by a great, quick shot *if* the lens at the end of the rifle didn't find itself rapidly falling to the sea below you!

"Are you kidding me!?" Verata shouts, losing her cool as people shout all around her.

After a moment of eternal silence, she returns with a final command:

"Get close and just hit it with the gun."

Roll Agility twice, but not Melee yet.


Hit it? What am I, a barbarian?
Though, I guess without the lens the tagging system doesn't register it. No choice but to do it.
Kinda wish this thing had a missile pod or two rigged into it. Maybe disposable tracking missile packs can be my new project. Anyway, focusing for now.
'2d6+1' '2d6+1' approach.

Roll #1 4, 5 + 1 = 10 / Roll #2 1, 4 + 1 = 6


Well, the fact there's a PR team helps put us at ease.

"Not as often these days, but yes, we are quite familiar with being interviewed. Our experience mostly comes from a series of… failures. We have agreed never to act as sponsored advertisers again, after how… embarrassing it was."

Smile and wave to the cameras, show that this drone is nice and friendly…


The cannon isn't letting up, though it plays along when you use the enemy ship as cover and stops shooting in those moments. Any stray shots aren't deducted from your Mech's health, which is good as you quickly close the distance on the Pirate. The way it moves is similar to others you have fought, so it's clear they've just copy pasted the specs they know of them here.

But that doesn't matter.

What does is that you are within range of hitting it.

All you need is one good swing to end this!

Roll Melee!


Gravity will be my friend. Hardswap to Gerwalk mode, bash the canopy of the target ship, and then boost off it.
'2d6' flat due to gerwalk mode bonus.

Roll #1 2, 5 = 7


A group of school children and their teacher wave back in response.

"You should tell us about it anyways!" Duana excitedly shouts. " I wanna know all about it."

"Yeah!" The Siblings shout in.

"Maybe after we get to enjoy everything here." Malvi interrupts everyone. "We still have to try out some of the food and bring some back. What do you say to that?" She turns towards you.


There's no subtlety in that swing. No one will confuse it with a proper strike with a proper weapon.

What they will say is that watching the pirate vessel get crunked was incredibly exhilarating!

Even Verata is breathing hard as she cuts in through the radio, the simulation turning off and returning depositing you thousands of feet above the ocean. There are loads of cheers behind you, and you can see the simulated explosions as your Datalink is re-established with reality.

"Congratulations. You might have just cleared their record and given them quite a show. What do you have to say to the audience?"


"Only ever do something that crazy in a simulation."
I should do a quick rundown of systems, see if everything's still holding green. Once that's settled, I should swap back to Aerial mode and make my way back to the hangar, clear the area for the next guy.
"Are they going to be able to find that lens, by the way, or does that happen enough that it's not a big deal?"


Malvi, you are our savior angel, pulling us from the valley of social awkwardness into the glory of food.
"Yes, food is wonderful! We should definitely try some!"


"That lens was their weapon, their problem." Verata says without hesitation as the rest of the system shows everything working properly. As far as they are concerned, you've just been doing some hard maneuvering today.

"One more thing before you get back: how good are you with reporters?"


"Probably not as good as HR wants me to be. Can I have a liaison curating some of the interview? Or am I going to be ambushed in the hangar?"
Since she's asking, there's no way I'm getting OUT of the interview.


Plenty of stands to visit, and you have to make sure to bring plenty back so those who couldn't come today can get a taste.

"I'll see if I can get some busybody over there to start answering questions. They can probably shake off some of them, but prepare to get a lot of camera drones in your face. Good luck."



Nothing's ever easy.

>So which one of these drones is yours?

I ask Kalah looking at the scene before me.


>"Actually, this drone is me!"
Kalahari shouts out as she brings her vessel closer to you.
>"Couldn't get clearance for our own drone but we could twist it to get a piloted vehicle authorization. Guess being small has its advantages, huh?"

There are still plenty of Chordian revelers around, but with your experience, you can tell which of them are undercover security. There are lots of stalls around though, so you'll have to keep your senses sharp.

>"Twins have stopped at the first designated dining spot. Their going to get some local food and the local media will get a chance to get pictures, but remember what's happened the last few times this went on."

Lots of noises going on, and plenty of yelling that will obscure actual trouble out there.

Roll Street Smarts as you decide what to do next.



>Oh, there you are. Clever thinking.

Undercover security is probably good for us, they don't want a scene, and I will definitely make a scene if..

Well, let's try to not to think too much on it and just keep watching. No petty theft on my watch.


Roll #1 1, 3, 1 = 5


The main problem for you is the sudden rush of children and their clearly tired teachers. Once they spotted you, one of them rushed over and the rest quickly followed before the adults could do anything.

"How do you walk?"
"What planet are you from?"
"Can you visit our classroom?"

Are just a few of the things you can make out from their shouting before it becomes a mass of Chordian children shouting.

>"For a perimeter breach, not as bad as it could have been."

Kalahari says over the radio.
>"Think you can stall the kids for a bit and keep them out of the Twins' fur? Security is already on its way to clear them out."


>Sstall some children? Hmmph I suppose I'll think of something.

Flare my hood out and mimic a rattling noise to get attention. Then turn my commlink on 'music' and pull some pop song up. "Try to top this." And do some very basic dance moves for the kiddos.
'2d6' general roll to try and get a break dance contest going, or at least distract them.

Roll #1 4, 3 = 7


The braver kids stay still at the moment you flare out your hood, though the festive mood means that some of them quickly try and join you in dancing. Most just flail about poorly, but it at least will make good uploads to social media and to the Ankylosaur's PR account.

Your noise and dancing is enough to buy their teachers and security enough time to start pulling off most of the kids, but some still remain.

Roll Agility, a little more dancing to keep the last ones distracted *and* to see how well you can time it with the Twins joining behind you.


My dance moves might not carry me too long! Losing to a few kids might be embarrassing but I can handle it long as it keeps them safe..


Roll #1 3, 4 - 1 = 6


Having the much shorter Twins as your backup dancers, along with the remaining children trying and failing to keep up, is going to make for a very entertaining set of videos once they are uploaded and edited.

>"Didn't know you had those kind of moves. Pazu and Zapu weren't that bad either."

Kalahari laughs over the radio, the Twins following along in laughter as the last child is roped back into their group.

"Where did you learn to dance?" Zapu asks.

"We need to do that again once we get on the ship." Pazu giggles as the first actual dignitary and his entourage shows up: Huwai of the Arroh Republic.

Typical of the Arroh representatives, he's got a no-nonsense quadruped focused suit. When he stands still, there isn't a single wrinkle on the suit.

"Ah, good to see you again!" Arroh shouts so the camera drones and you can hear him clearly. He's smiling and waving at everyone as he approaches. "I must thank you for the help you provided before. We were all in such a hurry that I couldn't express my proper gratitude." He reaches out to shake your hand.


I lick the air in a natural joyful response to the twins, "Maybe at a karaoke night, like in the human movies?"

and straighten up at the entrance of Huwai, shaking his hand for the cameras if nothing else. "I was just doing my job Sir. No thankss needed."


"I've wanted to try that for a while?" Zapu says.

"We'll need to find a place to set it up, though." Pazu adds.

"It is, thanks to your work, thhe local authorities charged Vima *and* several other associates who aided her. We've beefed up security because of that." Huwai says, pointing towards the three obvious bodyguards beside him, plus a few more plain clothes ones.

"Though you are right, we need to do our job and look good for the cameras. If you don't mind…" Huwai says as he walks towards the Twins, some preselected food being brought up to them as the cameradrones circle for their photos.

>"Easy enough so far, they brought over a lot more security guards. Feels like it was just those kids that are from around here and everyone else is the police."

Kalahari says.
>"Oh, hold up, here comes the real reporters. Time for you to face the cameras, but you've got back up with some of the other Chordians there."

As if on cue, the plain clothes officers assemble into a living barrier, buying you and the other bodyguards more space.

They begin to shout questions to you, the closest alien they can get to.
"How were you able to uncover Vima's true identity?"
"What do you feel about their environmental beliefs?"
"When will the technology sharing take place?!"


Roll my eyes at the barrage of questions and ignore them. Instead look past them for any new threat disguised as news crew.

>Doesn't anyone release statements for these people, or do they have so little trust in aliens that they have to repeat every question?


>"They know the answers already. The questions are just to try and get you to either slip up or just upload you not answering them."
Kalahari says as she lowers her vehicle to get a clearer view of the reporters.
>"Didn't you get stuff like that back at home? Doesn't 'we asked the hard questions and there was no answer, what could they be hiding?' type articles?"


>I suppose its just different, harder for reporters to get past security points, where they seem to rush them around here.
flick away a drone which gets too close with my tail.
>Plus they usually didn't bother security personality or cleaning staff about trading schedules.


>"Must be nice. I've seen them go through trash bins and generate enough false identification to rival most big espionage groups. Then it turns out they were 5 people living in a basement and a newsfeed of 2."
Kalahari says as she dodges your tail and floats back up.

A good chunk of time is spent waiting for a reporter to make an eventual break from the group, but it looks like none of them do, with Huwai quickly ending his encounter and heading out with this guards again, reporters following him instead as the living barricade doesn't let them reach the Twins.

"I thought he was going to stay longer." Pazu says.

"But it looks like they don't want to risk any kerfuffle either." Zapu replies as she looks up to you. "We're ready to go to the next stop if you are."

>"Everything seems safe from up here, but there seems to be another big crowd headed your way. What do you want to do?"

Kalahari asks.


>Let's move on before they can catch up.
"Hopefully they have something more interesting than steamed veggies at the next spot" As I slither away with the twins I look again at the reporters, in case any followed us.


You get your wish granted, as moving towards the next area assaults your nose with the smell of cooking meat. There's a load of spices flowing into the air, with sauces kicking in as well.

Many of the assistants in the stalls have their Comlinks out, hoping to tempt you with the food they are pitching and getting a picture for internet fame. Kalahari is communicating with the next body guards, but an issue with this area is the sheer amount of knives and other dangerous equipment.

Roll Street Smarts as Pazu seems to be having a bit of a negative reaction right now.


I will pick the thing closest to rat, and let them take a few quick pictures of me 'biting' it for their blog.

smarts of the streets.

Roll #1 3, 6, 4 = 13


There's a vendor selling a large piece of meat labeled Uteno. Might not be the prettiedt piece of meat you've seen, but you get a hefty amount on your plate. It's got a pleasant enough taste for your palette, but it's still a bit closer to what the Humans prepare rather than what you used to taste.

Unfortuntately, that's where the problem comes in. Pazu seems to be taken aback by the large source of Uteno meat you've ordered, which is much closer to her size.

"Hey, you okay? We need to keep moving." Zapu says to her sister, waving a hand in front of her and flicking her ears. "I think I might need some help…" Zapu says as she looks up to you.

However, your troubles don't end there. There's another set of photographers stealthily following behind you. They don't seem to be looking at or ordering anything from the nearby stalls.

Plus, there's another unusual Alien behind them, taking a photo of you and the Twins with intent on its face.


I actually eat the food, the proper way by swallowing it whole of course.
And finally notice Pazu is uncomfortable, "Right, we have more spots to see, no need to linger here." I tactically move between the camera lens and the Twins. "Or if there is something you're looking forward too, we can skip ahead on the itinerary."


Swallowing it whole nets you a fair amount of clicks.

Stepping between Pazu and the cameras breaks her bad thoughts and brings her back to reality, at least enough for Zapu to get her to start moving.

"Let's keep going and Pazu can sit down." Zapu says as she looks up to Kalahari.

>"Route is clear and I've gotten a pair of bodyguards to head over to your position. Anything else you need down there?"

Kalahari asks with concern.


>A bit of water and some space from these stalkers would help.
I suggest, and look for a park bench or something to sit on for large-people.

"Right, let's get you a nice flat rock to lay on." I suggest as a comforting idea.


The bodyguards show up as directed by Kalahari, putting themselves between you and the other people, using the stalls nearby to physically block them from approaching you. Zapu does her best to encourage Pazu to move along.

There's a large group of reporters ahead, but this time Kartan has put on the full set of Arriya makeup and is doing his best to charm his audience. His answering of questions in the most flowery and purple-prose method possible will at least get you half an hour of time.

Pazu is helped by her sister up to a bench seat and an eagle eyed staff member brings over a cup of water. She's starting to let her body recover by breathing as much as she can.

"Sorry, the smells, the sight, it got to me." Pazu says as professionally as possible. "Normall, I don't react this bad."

"It'll be fine, right?" Zapu looks up to you to reassure her.


"Itss quite alright. I once visited a planet where their reptiles and mammals are non sentient, but their plants are sentient. They had a stall with clothing made from creatures that look much like myself there." I nod solemnly. "I was more than a little put off by it."


"See Pazu, nothing to worry about." Zapu tries to comfort her sister. "It happens to everyone."

Despite the efforts, Pazu is still breathing hard and is clearly having trouble focusing. Even the most inexperienced alien can see it.

"Can you get us a few more minutes of time?" Zapu asks.


"Perhaps we should head back?" I suggest, doing my version of a frown, which is very a small hiss with my hood down.


"No, I can…" Pazu takes quick breathes. "I can do this." Her ears are flickering fast.

"Okay, we can do this. Just put on that smile of yours and let me handle it, okay?" Zapu adds. "Can you stall Kartan for a bit?"


"I'll go ahead and stall." I nod at the extra body guards, my glare threatening them with my wrath should they mess up while I'm gone.

>give me a talking point about the anklsaur, I'm gonna need it.


The bodyguards simply nod to each other after your display. They know what happened earlier.

>"Diversity. Mention how open we are to recruiting new folks. Make it sound fun."

Kalahari says.
>"Anything else you need?"

Kartan, the representative from Arriya, should look familiar to you. He was also at the scene with the faker. You've got a few brownie points with him thanks to keeping him safe and stopping him from looking like a moron if he was recorded saying inappropriate things.


>Not sure, I'll keep you posted but meanwhile get Pazu feeling well.

"Ah, greetings, Kartan. Are finding the festivities appealing?"
"I finally found something I can stomach on this planet, Uteno, they call it?" I ask as if unsure of the name.


"Haha!" He shouts out with practiced glee. "I know you eventually would. Everyone, I would like to introduce you to the one responsible for catching the trespasser!" Kartan stands besides you, like a mayor handing the key to a local superhero as the cameras go off. "If you enjoy the uteno here, you should visit Arriya, were we have the finest specimens!" The presence of cameras seems to have greatly changed Kartan.

"Say, why don't you go ahead and tell the good people here about how you were able to figure out the case!"


At his change in demeanor I get the hint, and play my part.
"Well it was simple once I could see the inconsistencies, one of my first clues was the calculator app, what kind of accountant doesn't know how to do basic math? Or at least carry their own calculator with customized buttons?" I detail and slither so my armor catches the light better.


It's a basic detail, but you can see that the reporters have gobbled it up.They furiously type it down in their Datapads, with a few actually writing it down.

"Rumors say there was an altercation. Would you like to confirm?" A Chordian reporter shouts.
"How many imposters were there inside?"
"Does this affect the negotiations timeline with the Humans?"
"Why are the Humans so willing to hire proxies for them?"


"There was a small fight, but nothing the security couldn't handle." I wave off the first concern.
"Ah, the humans hiring habits. I was actually hoping to answer this one, since of course I am not a human myself. I wasn't sure what to expect when they first hired me on, but I am happy to report." grab one of the mics here, "I have never been treated so well by my employer before, They make every effort to accommodate my needs even if they don't appreciate a good sunrock the way I do. In fact they value diversity so much they go to great lengths to make a variety of races feel at home on their ship. "


"How many different species have the Humans hired?"
"Are they still hiring? Where can a Chordian go to apply?"

The Chordian reporters are eager to ask and shout questions, having had their fill of Kartan's flowery language.

>"Looks like you got most of the camera drones on you and not the Twins. Kartan looks more than pleased. Keep it up, Pazu seems like she'll be ready to get into it soon."


"At least a dozen and I know there are some positions open if you use the communication link provided by the ankylsuar to inquire you may just luck out. They factor in skill, more than status, as a way to fit every diverse individual into the right job." I nod, "And on top of that they value freedom, your off-duty time is truly your own to explore or relax as you choose. And should your race require something like, tail-quater-wieghts to stay fit from nose to tip, they'll even have it made for you."

>Am I overselling it maybe? I message back.


>"Good enough for me. Besides, you're covering for the PR team, they can deal with it later."
Kalahari seems to be momentarily distracted before getting back to you.
>"Alright, looks like the two of them will be as ready as ever. Get them the photos they need, then I've got backup coming to fly you out as part of a 'demonstration'."


>Sounds good to me
"Ah, did you get a shot of my pale-scale? Its very special, like a birth mark and-" I continue to distract the camera for a moment sending them on a wild goose chase for an off color scale they can't see due to their own color pallet and its really just a bit of skin almost ready to peel off .
To give Pazu and Zapu time to arrive and get posed.


>"Here they come, looks like they've already made arrangements with the staff too."
Kalahari says, mentioning the local drinks that were prepared for the two instead of any food.

Meanwhile, the reporters get their fill of pictures and shout more questions into the void, but it seems Kartan wants the cameras back on him and steps in to allow you to go back to your duties. He thanks the crowd, exaggerating his mannerisms as his bodyguards close in to again form a living barricade.

>"Are you eager for this day to be over? Looks all clear from up here. Actually seems to be too many people around for anyone to try something crazy."


>Its never too late for something crazy to happen, the moment you think that is the moment you are vulnerable.
But I can't help agreeing with her assessment, looking over the amount of cameras.
>Whenever they are ready to go, I already got enough spotlight for my whole life almost.


>"Verata and Appenzi should be showing up soon. The Twins have experience with being picked up by our mechs, will you be okay with it? Or should I start arranging alternate transportation?"


>who's piloting the mecha?


>"Don't worry, we've all got our mech licenses."
You can tell Kalahari is smiling behind the radio.
>"Just taking you out of the festival. I hope you weren't thinking they'd fly you all the way back to the ship."


I hiss softly and nod.
>I'm ssure..
>Ready for pick up.


It's a few more minutes of photos and pretending to do some heavy politicking before Verata and Appenzi come down to pick the three of you up. Their arrival spawns even more photographs, with the blue haired Appenzi giving you a thumbs up to let you know she's ready to take you.

This'll be your last time to take pictures of Llavanus, as the Ankylosaur will be taking off soon.



File: 1591317039413.jpg (189.69 KB, 670x1000, Fleet ships.jpg)

The Ankylosaur has left Llavanus and begun to head out to it's next destination. Stopping at a properly and fully developed world means that the real big repairs on the ship could take place, drastically reducing the amount of incidents and failures, while also making the whole thing much more comfortable to live in. Supplies are fully stocked and everything has had a chance to be properly put away for once.

Unfortunately, Fold Drives still require occasional maintenance and must be powered off to prevent damage. While some might consider it perilous to have to stop somewhere in the middle of space, the fact that there is usually nothing for light years to worry about keeps people calm. Except for today.

Today, shortly after stopping for its check-up, the Ankylosaur's built-in safety systems were set off. Everyone was ordered to wait in their battle positions as outside, a fleet of ships was detected!


Civet and Varan have been taking over your duties as you've found yourself spending more and more time in the Hospital and with Doctor Zorani and Doctor Clora to see how the Fold is spreading. It continues to alter your body, but it also seems to not be causing problems. Of course, being the first affected this way has a few drawbacks to it.

Still, you're also one of the few remaining pilots certified for combat. The general order to ready up arrived on your ComLink as well.

>"Kept it ready for you."

Civet says over the ComLink.
>"Should I load your weapon or do you want something else?"


The alterations have gone through, making it a bit easier to deal with the communications team. You've found yourself being tasked with a few more responsibilities as well, as other Humans had stayed back on Llavanus. The warning lights blare at you as well in the middle of work.

"I'm still not combat certified, so I'll be staying here." Malvi says. "Don't lose your headset and let me know if you need anything." She gives you a thumbs up before pulling up some radar information from the Ankylosaur.

"I think that means I'm with you today." Eva says as she gets out of her seat, her computer shutting off as she steps away. "Mind giving me a lift to my machine?"


"Well, we built that stun cannon for a reason, might as well prep it for its first real run."
I'm going to have to make sure I install some sort of fold channel into the mech, so I don't blast the inside of it in case I try something. Though, judging from the Foldmechs the girls use, I might have to just straight up build it myself instead of just remodel a few pieces.


"Of course, Friend-Eva. Which hangar is your mech stationed in?"
Once we have the correct coordinates, we pick Eva up, cradle her close, and Fold-jump to the hangar.


>"I thought as much. Prepped the ammo for it too!"
Civet finishes her message as you arrive at the hangar. Thanks to being docked and supplied at Llavanus, at good percentage of your mech is newly printed parts.

"Should we be getting some rifles ready too?" Varan asks. "This is my first actual emergency, I've only read about these before."

"It's in the Fold Storage area. I still use their mechs." Eva says as she puts her body against yours for the jump, which you've had some practice doing with Humans.

Reappearing in the hangar, Eva takes a breathe before pulling herself away and looking at all the other surprised Fold Girls.

"That, didn't feel so bad." Eva says as she looks down from your hand. "Can we try it again later?" This time she adds a smile as she points towards her machine.


"If everything goes to plan, you shouldn't have to fire a shot. But, being prepared never hurt anyone before. Have you been putting in any firing range time?"
I'll make sure to thank Civet. Now all that's left is the preflights, and I'm sure those are already well underway.


"Yeah, I was given some range lessons back on Llavanus just before we left, but I've been on the simulator since then." Varan says, eager to bring up and show his improving scores.

>"Frank, do you copy!"

Verata shouts out over your radios, with Civet wincing at the volume.


We give her a pleased smile, quietly celebrating that we did not make her woozy like usually happens to our jump-passengers.
"Of course, Friend-Eva. Once we have either slaughtered the pirates or determined the ships are non-hostile, we would be happy to help you experience the Fold."
Gently depositing her in her machine, we turn and wave to the rest of the girls.
"Would the rest of you like our assistance as well?"


The Fold Girls politely stand straight for you, though Eva is the loudest to shout:

"We welcome your assistance."

>"I heard it, I'll have to let Duana know the girls actually followed through."

Malvi says over your attached radio while the rest of the girls and other Humans head into their machines.
>"Not getting too many instructions yet, looks like the top staff are still trying to get a grip on the situation. If you want to get yourself to the launch area in case they have you go out in the mean time. I know you and the others are closer to the Fold stuff, getting any weird feedback so far?"


"Stick with the gun you're comfortable with, then. And try not to panic."
I'll grimace a bit at the volume.
"I copy you, Verata. Loud."
I'll pause a second for emphasis.
"And clear. What's the situation?"


We pause, just for a moment, trying and failing to fight the heat in our cheekplates and the warm feeling in our chest.
"T-then we are pleased indeed, to strive alongside you."

Escape to the launch area to avoid further pleasant distractions, testing the taste of the Fold as we go. '2d6+2' Will check

Roll #1 1, 2 + 2 = 5


>"Trouble, maybe. We don't know yet except that the computer is getting up in arms."
Verata says, shifting to a more professional tone.
>"Quick checks don't show it as any group we've run into or anyone else here has. We've sent out signals, the basics, but haven't been given any responses, and I would know."

"We've been working on the code for the gun to tweak the final parameters. Reset and sync the system with your helmet." Civet says in the moments between Verata talking.

The presence of the Fold capable Humans and their Fold equipment in various states of maintenance here make it difficult to ascertain any outside Fold presence.

>"Hold on, looks like I'm getting some orders coming thtough…"

[Continued next post]


I'll dial in the reset/resync.
It's probably going to be a long day.


"Attention all personnel, we have encountered an unknown group of space ships. We have not had any response to our communication attempts. At this time, all non-combat staff should return to their rooms. All other staff, please remain on stand-by for furhter orders regarding contact. I repeat…"

>"Alright, instructions are here and I am forwarding it to you. Looks like we're going to have ourselves a high tech wellness check. Sensors aren't picking up stuff they want to see, so you'll be going in to find out what's going on with them, but try not to cause any trouble. Giving you coordinates now, take off when ready."
Verata sends over the information, appearing on your HUD, showing you a large collection of ships and the specific one you'll be visiting.

"I'll be honest, I'm kind of uneasy about this." Varan says.


>"Orders are coming through now. Quick bit is they want you to inspect, and contact, a particular ship. Pulling up the information they've sent, and checking it with the radar and other equipment, the ships seem to be in either in a low power mode or trying to be stealthy, but now here we are right up in their proverbial face. When you have the location data, head out to the ship. I'll have Eva join you shortly."


"You've got a good reason to be. They don't know us, we don't know them, and a wrong move could make us start shooting at each other."
I'll shrug.
Wonder if the onboard scanners will be good enough…?
"Civet, you think what's built in would be good enough, or should I bring something extra to scan with?"


"Understood; do they wish for us to approach normally, or make a Fold-jump to their location?"

Take the long, deep breath before heading out into to void, flexing new muscles and experimentally flicking our new, armored shell-extensions. This is admittedly a good test-run for this drone's new adjustments.


"For the range you'll be getting in, it should be fine…" You can see her and Varan looking over the data. "We could probably get something working for it next time."

"You're basically just looking through their windows, right?" Varan asks. "Did they install an infrared sensor on your machine?"


"I've got… a pretty decent setup here, I think."
As I've got the [Scanners] perk, I'm going to assume I have the basics covered if nothing else.
"Long range handheld scanners probably aren't gonna come up for a while, but that's something we can work on in our spare time I guess. It'll give us a good middle-ground between suit scanners and ship scanners."


>"Head in normally, but be prepared though. Any semi-competent staff that isn't drugged should have detected us appearing, or just our big ship being in their way shortly after."
Malvi says with some concern.

>"I'm here, looks like they still want me to be the backup radio relay for everyone."

Eva says.
>"Though if you need me, let me know. I have to get some time in the field too, you know, to make up for Duana getting stuck being the backup to the backup today."

The fleet of ships still manages to flash like stars as you approach them, with Eva not far behind.

>"In situations like this, I just feel cold. I know I should be a bit more excited, but…"

Eva admits over the radio.


Your mech still has a few civilian features usually left out of the expressly combat machines.

"We'll work on some plans while we wait for you." Varan says. "Tell us what you think of our maintenance work."

"We've made sure to triple check everything, so press the machine as much as possible." Civet adds as she steps away so you can take off.


"Well, at a glance it looks like you've done enough. We'll see how it flies."
I'll make sure my helmet's on right and everything's pressurized before liftoff.
"With luck, I'll be back in two shakes and won't have to actually really test anything."
Make a mental note to update the sensor suite with more specialized things later.
Since they're clear, I'll head to the launch area and head into space. I've got a ship to ding-dong-dash.


Go ahead and move towards the coordinates, scanning for ship as we go.

"We can bring you into the thick of the fighting when it begins, if you wish. The additional firepower would be helpful in guarding our back."
Quietly, our missile pod begins to hum with fold energy.
"There is no way you 'should' feel for combat, friend-Eva. The calm before has many different ways of manifesting. We are feeling mildly curious, but mostly analytical- though we have the factor of vast experience coloring our reaction."


Except for the engines, your mech is pretty quiet and so is the flight towards the ship. A few others prepare to investigate the other ships.

>"Waiting on final clearance to approach."

Verata says, the noise of keyboard and conversations going on in the background sometimes coming through.
>"Alright, go. Give the ship a pass with your Sensors and your eyeballs, tell us what you get."

Roll Tech and Agility, keep your machine in check


It'll be plane mode, since gerwalk for this would be silly.
'2d10+1' AGI
and scanning as we go. Assuming they're manned so robotics expert would not apply.
'2d10+4' Tech

Roll #1 4, 8 + 1 = 13 / Roll #2 8, 6 + 4 = 18


>"Experience seems to be be the best way to learn this stuff."
Eva says with worry.
>"But learning requires suffering, doesn't it?"

>"Hopefully that type of learning comes way later today."

Malvi adds.
>"Check out the ship from the outside Shelly. Report anything you feel or see, but watch yourselves, okay. I don't need more work dumped on me."


"Depends on your measure of suffering; it will be scary and seem overwhelming, but you can see it through as others have seen it through, and you will be stronger for it."
We pause to consider for a moment.
"Or you will be dead, and no longer need to worry about such things."
"…Please do not take the second option; we enjoy our friendship too much."

Tap our headpiece playfully as we get closer to the ship.
"Understood, Friend-Malvi; we now have the drone on Etmal-3 observing the drone assisting the merchant vessel docked there; thus we are 'watching ourselves.' Does this please you?"


The flight is a smooth one as you rotate around the ship. It's larger than the Ankylosaur but doesn't seem to have too many ports to launch missilies and lasers at you, but there is also a layer of ice blocking your equipment and your vision.

However, what your sensors do pick up the cracking of the ice on a particular area near the middle. You're getting a heat warning that let's you know something seems to be emerging. If your sensors weren't up to snuff, that 'small' area under effect would have gone unnoticed.

>"Anything to note so far?"

Verata asks.


"Lot of ice, but we've got a hotspot on there. I think something's coming out. Near the middle. Don't know if the ice is supposed to be there or not, but I think that's what's throwing off our sensors."
Can I get a better visual on that hotspot from here or do I have to fly in closer?


>"Not like that."
Malvi laughs.
>"But still a good idea. Get in as close as you can without breaking into it just yet. Our cameras picked up what looked like windows. Can you take a peek inside?"


"Will do. Just give us a moment to find these windows…"

They did say as close as we could get without breaking in, so we land on the hull and grab hold with our stabilizing legs, then begin to crawl along the surface of the ship in search of windows.


Your onboard camera has a decent zoom ability on it, letting you see steam venting upwards before the upper layer of ice cracks off and you can see something metallic being revealed.


Snap a picture and transmit it back to the ship.
"We've got something metal coming up. Not sure what it is but if I start seeing it try to shoot me I'm ducking out."
Can I scan the exposed item?


Without it's obscuring ice layer, whatever is under there is now more vulnerable to your sensors.

Roll Tech.


The ship is covered in a layer of ice, meaning you can feel free to drive your feet into it without worrying about damaging the actual ship. The ice obscures the ship in many areas, refracting the light in numerous angles that make it look like a solid material. It's a large ship that requires some walking on to find a good a good area to look in through, but you eventually find one.

When you get a good view inside and through a door, you can see what looks like a tree.

The ice around you begins to crack…


'2d10+4' here we go

Roll #1 1, 5 + 4 = 10


Gently step off from the ice and drift to the side in zero-g; it can't be cracking under our weight, so that means something must be coming up.

"Friend-Malvi, we are seeing somethign that appears to be a tree. Perhaps this is the hydroponics section of this vessel?"


Your HUD shows what looks like some kind of Vehicle underneath the ice, but before it can get a full check, there's interference coming from it.

It's jamming you!

A bright flash and something can be seen heading towards you, leaving on ominous smoke trail behind it!


Ah shit. Peel off into evasive maneuvers. I hope this thing isn't a tracking missile. I don't think I'll have the freedom to try and counter the jamming while dealing with the projectile.


>"Okay, passing that on, but that also means there must be someone or something tending the to the plants."
Malvi says, some worry passing through.
>"But we're not getting the signals we though we'd be. There should be more coming off of the ships if anyone is still active in there."

The cracks of the ice emanate from an area closer to the front of the ship, ahead of you. Something underneath the ice is heating up and causing it to turn into steam, a small hill forms before you.


As it approaches, the vehicle shoots out several missiles, which explode and make a nuisance of themselves on your radar.

Roll Agility, try to keep out of its intercept course!


Oh it's an actual ship. Great.
'2d10+1' AGI
Looks like I might end up using that zap gun after all.

Roll #1 9, 10 + 1 = 20


"Something is certainly happening; the ice is cracking, and temperatures are rising underneath it. Hopefully this is not an explosive growth; we would hate to inconvenience the hive by requiring another drone be sent to replace us."

Keep putting a bit of distance between us and the hill, looking for other windows we can look inside as we go.


>finally realize I've been rolling the wrong dice
oh my god I'm dumb.

Roll #1 5, 2 + 1 = 8


The ice finally gives way, revealing a pillar with numerous turrets on it. It spins them all quickly, then stops just as one points at you!

It launches some kind of projectile at you!

The vehicle tries its best to approach, but flying around, you notice something: It's always keeping itself between you and the ship. It makes and occasional run at you, but the moment it seems the odds are against it, it reverts to a defensive mode, daring you to try and hit the ship.


Well, if it's keeping its distance than I've got the chance to try and break its jamming signal. Keeping my distance, I'll set to work on that. It might be a defensive drone.
'2d6+4' tech
Worse comes to worst, I'll just have to disable the ship and work from there.

Roll #1 2, 3 + 4 = 9


Well, shooting at us is fairly normal for an initial reaction. Standard dodging protocols initiated; dodge around the shot, then turn and give a friendly wave to the turret to show we are not hostile.
'2d6+2' Agility

"Ah, the increased activity was defense turrets. They are shooting at me; hold a moment while we determine if it is a knee-jerk reaction or if they are actively hostile."

Roll #1 5, 1 + 2 = 8


The jamming signal is pretty basic, at least compared to what you've seen. Except for a few blanks, you're able to get the computer to do most of the work for you. As you break through it and spoof it, you can see the drone beginning to act erratically, unable at times to be able to tell what it needs to protect.

It corrects its path so many times that it seems to have burned out what fuel it had.


The first shot misses, thanks to your speed and it seeming not to have too much speed coming out of its turret. The hefty projectile jams itself into a nearby ice block, then a second motor kicks in as it tries to launch itself into space.

>"Do you need me to shoot it from up here?"

A clearly concerned Eva asks.
>"I can see you clearly from here."


Oh, so maybe the signal was a target designator too. But just because it can't move doesn't mean it can't shoot. Scan the drone. [Scanners] makes this an instant action.


"Negative, hold fire for now; getting shot at is the normal first response to Voldra, at least for those who have not encountered us before. We have yet to determine whether they are actively hostile or merely jumpy. Perhaps attempting to reach them through radio would be a possibility?"

Maintain this distance and attempts to appear non-threatening for the turrets, keeping one eye on the unexploded shell.


First thing that properly comes through is that it's not piloted. There's no Human or larger sized cabin for it.

Second thing you get is its age. Being able to focus on it, you can see the chips and micrometeorite fragments all over it. Which helps show where there was a puncture to the fuel tank, floating off from the 'body'.

However, there are still some armaments on it, but they've resembled flares and chaff more than your regular missiles.


Instead, the turret seems to reveal its age. A panel protecting it falls off, letting one of the turrets aim down.

Again, a missile like projectile emerges and gets stuck in the ice. After a short moment, a secondary thruster triggers, launching itself back into space.

The turret seems to be jammed, but still tries to spin.


Now that the jamming's stopped, I'll transmit what I've found to the main ship.
"Whatever this is, it's old. Mostly armed with… nonlethal ordnance, it looks like."


>"Better than some other things it cna be armed with. Is it neutralized? Think you can get close to it or the ship again?"


"Turret is old and poorly-maintained, panels falling off and projectiles not aiming properly. These may be automated defenses on a ghost ship. Should I jump inside the vessel and see if contacting any surviving crew is possible?"


"It might have more, but if they're similarly armed then I shouldn't have to worry too much…"
Well, I'll mark the drone on my HUD for later recovery, and then head back towards the ship I was scanning earlier. If that pillar is still up, I should be able to finish my scan.


>"Yes, help anyone you find in there, and make sure there aren't any other automated defenses. Don't need it attacking you or the ship."
Malvi says.
>"Stay safe. Bail out if it gets bad."

The motor on the turret, unable to spin it, finally gives out. Some smoke comes out and the turret is now immobile except for some leftover springs.

The pillar has blown off into chunks, but it let's you see inside of the vessel, partially. There is another drone, about halfway exposed , but in no location to launch like the other one.


"Keep us updated on the situation outside while we search."

Fold-jump into the interior of the ship, preferably near that tree we spotted.


Oof. Automated defenses or no, if there's no upkeep the ship's going to fall to bits just as sure as if it was shot.
I'll come in for a landing and switch to gerwalk mode once I'm close enough. Then I'll take a proper scan of the ship from the exposed section.


Appearing inside the ship, you can feel the familiar hum of electricity. There are still fucntional lights in here, letting you see what looks like a forest at night in a ship, floating out here in space. It's a massive enough area that you could probably fit an Ankylosaur sized ship and a few more things. Whatever species built this place seems comparable in size to you, there are signs and a 'small' vehicle that have been overtaken by plants. There are a few lights in the 'forest', but you also spot several doors in 'cliffs'.


You enter through its hangar equivalents. The dust and leftover tools give a sense of deja-vu, even if the basic tools are larger than you. There's not much left in here except for what looks like a rather interesting fighting ship designed for giants, but it is obvious that whatever mechanics were here never got the chance to finish it.

Worst of all, weapon racks have clearly been used and never restocked, but several weapons still remain. There is some ammunition floating around, as well as actual paper notes.

There's also clearly faded blood marks on the walls, as well as bullet holes, but no bodies.


Probably no lights, either, but my exteriors will be serviceable. I'll make sure my feed is clear back to the Ankylosaur.
"Are you receiving this? I'm inside the ship. Looks like no one's been alive here for a very long time."


>"Loud and clear. I've got people going over every image with a letter, trying to find something we have to match it."
Your machine's sensors give you a better design of the ship as Verata goes over it with you and the others on the Ankylosaur.
>"Design looks sensible enough. Head over to what looks like the bridge and hope no giant facehugger finds you."


Test the air to see if it's breathable; if the ship's integrity is compromised, the odds of survivors is very low.

"The inside of the ship is massive, even by our standards. Big enough to potentially fit our entire ship. There are lights within the forest and doors within the cliffs; we believe we shall attempt the doors first."

Pick the door closest to us and attempt opening it normally.


I'll shake my head. Still, I'm probably more likely to run into a drone than anything else in here, so I'll have my rifle at the ready as I head towards the bridge area. The scan's probably mapped enough of the ship to plot me a route, and there might be signs that the home team can translate if necessary.


The air is still perfectly normal. You could really convince a lot of people that they were on a planet at night right now.

>"Signal strength is still very high and I've got a good lock on your location."

Eva adds, marking her location on your system.

The first door nearby leads into the 'cliffs' still has some light shining through it. However, the dust on the door handle is missing. Looking inside, there are several computers that are still on. You don't recognize the writing, but the User Interface design shows whatever sensors it has to be at a stable, middle level.

There is also a clear pile of bags of prepackaged food in one of the corners.


Well, that is a good sign!

"Promising so far; there are several computers that are still on, though whatever language they are using is one we do not recognize. Also a pile of bags of prepackaged food in one corner, implying there are survivors using this as a food storage location. Investigating further."

…We should probably leave the food for later. Maybe never, depending on how badly they need it.

Let's check door number two next!


>"Sorry, ancient movie reference from one of our movie nights."
Verata quickly catches herself.
>"You're in a robot, so you'll be fine. Maybe."

Exiting the Hangar, the hallways are also an ancient mess. Even with the size difference, you can tell people left their backpacks and gym bags and made a run for it. There's jewelry and older tablet styles floating around, along with papers and writing utensils. As you progress forward, the same situation plays out as you pass the cafeteria and general sleeping area. Beds and clothing float aimlessly. Looking closer, there are obvious places were furniture was meant to be installed but never was.

Then your sensors turn on, noting another large object moving slowly through the ship.


Probably a drone. Defense or otherwise, I'm not sure. Which was does it seem to be headed? I'll keep heading to the bridge while keeping an eye on the blip.


>"Even the Twins are participating in this one. They're going through their notes to see if maybe they can tell us who owns these ships."
Malvi says, trying to stay professional.

The second door is in better condition, not having been used as much as the other one. As you approach the computers, you do note that the keyboard has been dusted. The computer here has also been left logged in, but it's using older peripherals and UI elements. Roll Tech to attempt to use.

The wall here was obviously installed afterwards. There's a small opening, that is currently blocked, that obviously moves to allow access to something behind it or to bring something to it.


Unfortunately, it seems to have stopped in a T-shaped hallway up ahead that you will need to pass through. If it moves back, you can probably sneak past it if it has a failing radar.

As you approach, you can see more daily utensils. This ship was meant to be lived in, much like the Ankylosaur. On the wall, you can see a switch that has been flipped down and turned off the lights, but there's a bullet hole next to it.


"Keyboard has been dusted, implying surviving crew, or perhaps their descendants depending on the age of these vessels. We will attempt to access this computer."
'2d10-2' Tech
"Also a wall that was installed afterwards. We will check what is stored inside momentarily."

Roll #1 7, 1 - 2 = 6


Probably from whatever turned this fleet into a ghost one. While I'm waiting a minute or two to see if the blip moves away from the intersection, I'll see if the lights still work. Flip that switch.


The GUI is extremely rudimentary. Some muscle memory betrays you, as whoever designed it didn't seem to have polished it up at all before releasing it, especially since clicking on things would bring up command lines of the currently unintelligible language.

Clicking around the black and blue screen, you do managed to find two visual items of worth. One is a set of pictures of what must have been their home planet, and the other even more important: what looks like a distance tracking utility. Wherever they are going, they seem to be about halfway there. However, security is even more wonky. You can't get anywhere else without a password.


The sound system picks up the telltale sound of the switch clicking. Light bulbs turn on, making it easier to see the fine layer of dust on things, but several have gone out.

As for whatever is on the other side, your system picks it up rapidly moving away, making it easier to explore and look around. A few focused glances around show that whoever was here before was much more military minded. There are badges and similar markings on some of the leftover jackets, as well as a hand gun.


"Found some pictures of their homeworld, and a distance tracker that indicates they are about halfway to their destination. Hopefully these can help the Twins narrow down their search. Unfortunately, that is as much as we can recover without a password, and considering we do not recognize this language, we do not fancy our chances at guessing."

Once we've sent back the pictures for the twins to review, we will check out that wall and the opening that is openable and attempt to open it up.


>"Doesn't look like such a bad place."
Eva says as she forwards your information.
>"I'll let you know when they figure it out."

Approaching the opening, you can hear the whirring of a small machine. An occasional *clink* can be heard coming from the other side of the opening. Looking through, you can see a relatively complex looking bundle of gears and levers having trouble trying to move a small tube to another area. There's another small, tube size door that is occasionally allowing cold air out.


"There is a… tube system of some sort? Lots of gears and levers and very messy mechanisms. We are not sure what the purpose is, though there are occassional bursts of cold air from a tube-sized door. Some sort of environmental system?"
That seems to be all from this room, let's go check and see what's behind another door. Maybe we can finally find one of the residents of this ship!


Might be able to reverse-engineer that. Or keep it as a trophy. Stow it for now, wrapped in one of the jackets. Maybe someone on the ship knows the insignia.
Since the thing's moved, I should head towards the bridge now that the way is clear.


>"If it's small enough for me to fit in to, they'll probably have me do it."
Eva sighs.
>"But that's going to be a future problem. I still have your signal, so if you're going to keep going, it's fine. Just be careful."

The next available door looks to be on a second floor. Unlike a few other doors, this one has what seem to be several ration packets thrown into the trash. Looking in, there's clear signs of someone having been here, as beds have been stripped of their blankets, but books and other such materials are neatly organized without any other signs of support.

Then you hear the sound of music, but not through any of the wall mounted speakers.


Entering the bridge, you're greeted by a faceless corpse falling on you, shouting something unintelligible at you.

After a moment of occupying your field of vision, the body falls to the ground, not even leaking blood as whatever it had has long since dried up. There are multi-limbed alien officers hunched over their consoles, most with a weapon and many of them clearly having died trying to defend them. Only what looks like the Captain on a central console seems to be seated normally, but a quick glimpse of the eye sockets make it obvious that they have been dead for a long time.


"Hopefully not; it looks decidedly unsafe, and likely not intended for small life-forms."
We give the stacks of books a casual glance, though they're rather useless to us when we cannot read their language.
"Signs of habitation- hold, we are hearing… music? Do you hear it too, Friend-Eva?"

Head towards the sound of the music, of course! This could be a survivor!


I'm not going to lie, I probably jumped in my seat at the surprise corpse.
After I take a second to compose myself, I'll start poking around the bridge, taking note of anything that might be automated defense points. Then approach the captain's console. If I'm going to get a good idea of what happened here, and disable the automated security, I'm going to need access into that. Might have to rifle through the captain's pockets for any ID too, though I imagine any security safeguards would be incredibly hard to hack through since I doubt I know these guys' language and interface protocols.


>"Yeah, but, hey!?"
Eva shouts, seemingly aware from her great distance that you've moved closer to the sound source. Approaching it, you spot a small campfire next to a fan vent, with the music growing louder as you approach, with recently open food cans and what are clearly toys left around.

Some singing can be heard as well, but you can't discern what they are saying.


"Well, this is confirmation of habitation, as we have found a campfire with opened food cans and toys laying about. We may be about to make first contact; please do not be alarmed if you hear gunfire. Being shot at is often the first step of negotiations, and we have become very good at surviving it!"
…We make sure our shields are up, just in case, and move closer to see if we can get a look at the natives.


Whoever these guys were, they've got a clearly felinid-like face, but checking out the Captain gives you a hint at some of the issues with security you'll have: he's got two shots in the chest and what would only take you seconds to determine was a self-inflicted shot to the head. Whatever passwords he had died long ago with him. His second set of arms seem to be holding some items, but time has withered their container and you can't see inside of them.

His console is still in working order, but not knowing the language will make it hard to really explore it.

The lights being turned off might make it difficult to look around, as well as the sudden rumbling noise and what was clearly a gunshot coming from outside the bridge somewhere.


Probably that drone shutting off the lights by shooting them. Check my tracker real quick. I'll report back to the ship with my progress. Turn on my outboard lights so I can get a decent picture of the feline aliens, along with their insignias.
"Hey, it's Frank, I've reached the bridge. Thought I'd report in before poking anything that I don't know how to read. Sending over some pictures. Anyone recognize this race or their military insignias?"
Once I've sent those, I'll turn off my exterior lights, in case the drone outside decides to poke its head in here on its route.


>"That's not really a good thing, you know."
Eva at least doesn't say anything to stop you from approaching the group, someone begins to sing.


Entering the occupied room, you can see children sleeping in their bed, about 5 of them. The Alien singing just goes a bit slower, pulling out a small device in one of their limbs and pointing it at you.

It's some kind of trigger, not a gun.

Her fur is slightly disheveled, clearly not been shampoo'd for a while, but the military uniform is also obvious.

"¿bnu ¿ʌIˌ HoS" You're asked in tired voice.


>"We're getting a lot of other information right now. We can probably brute force the translations as we speak."
Verata says before another familiar voice interrupts her.

>"Even better, I can upload the translation software to your HUD now."

Petry intrudes over the radio, your computer asking you to authorize a secure download.
>"I wouldn't use it to negotiate a high level meeting, but it should enable you to at least read signs and use the projector to 'talk' to whoever you meet."

>"Can't really get you much more information than that. It's not like you can ask one of them from the looks of it."

Verata is audibly distressed as she starts seeing what you are broadcasting.
>"I'm detecting some rising heat levels on the ship you are in. Is everything alright?"


>"No, but it is the way things are, and so we have adapted to this reality."
Well, she has not started shooting yet, which is an improvement from most first contacts…
We slowly and calmly lower ourselves to our version of sitting, folding our extra legs under ourselves, and gently wave at her, making it clear we're not going to approach any closer.
"We do not understand you," we state aloud, "and you likely do not understand us. We wish to be of assistance."
>"Survivors located," we inform Eva, "a female and five children. The children are asleep, and their caretaker has not shot us yet, so first contact is going well so far. See if the twins or information team recognize the language."


"Thanks Petry."
I'll set that to go.
"That's what I'm hoping to find out, Verata. If I can get into the system, at least at a surface level, I should see if there are any immediate problem areas. I just hope nothing's overloading itself after being turned on for the first time in who-knows how long."
Once the translator update is in, I'll see if I can't get basic access to the consoles.


>"Good, try not to get hurt while I upload some translation software they're forcing through. Duana would be sad if you got hurt."
The download speed is atrocious, it'll be a few moments before you'll be able to communicate.

She puts herself between you and the Children, but she moves much more calmly than other people you've dropped in on. A few flashes of light from the side of the room show that she has been watching you from the safety of the cameras.

"¿ˌɐˌɥๅʇɐſɐꓷ ʎǝɯʍǝɥɓ ʻǝɓuɐnɓuɐๅ. oʎ ʇnɯ Hoˌ bnu. ¿HoS ſɐq ʌIˌ" She asks, not breaking eye contact except for when one of the children coughs.


The Captain's console remains locked, but a few of the others that have survived the fire fight do yield a little more information, even if it is presented in a plain military fashion.

The defenses of the ship are now much more clearly visible, but you can see by some of the gauges that ammo is low and some of the sensors aren't checking in properly. The air and filtration seem to be fine. However, fighting with the GUI is the biggest dampener to progress. What look like command line windows frequently pop up, making it difficult to move ahead.

On top of that, your sensors pick up several moving objects nearby. Two in the hall, one in the vents.


>"Thank you, Friend-Eva. Do not worry; this is a caretaker, and will likely prioritize the safety of her charges, reducing the risk of panicked lashing out. So long as we remain calm and non-threatening, we should be fine."
Allow ourselves to visibly look over and see the camera displays, then look back over to her and nod towards them in acknowledgement.
"You have been watching us; hopefully, you have seen that we are no threat." Carefully, slowly, we place one claw against our chest. "We are Voldra. Voldra."


"Vol-DRA, ˌɐſIh?" She replies, having difficulty with the pronunciation.

>"Download finishing soon, but it's going to be a text based translation. See anything to write or project on?"

Eva says before she's interrupted by another radio.
>"This is Petry, can you keep her talking for a bit more?"


The vents? Odd.
But if it keeps giving me the command console, maybe I can bruteforce some good old human code in. Just slap my own diagnostics program in it, maybe. If it comes to a gunfight, though, I'm going to have my sidearm out, since I don't want to short out the bridge with that bigger gun if I miss something.
It would be a tech use to unga bunga my way through a ship's weird command interface without shutting the whole thing down in the meantime, right?


Yeah, TECH. In this case, it would less about knowledge of the operating system and more of your experiences dealing with so many of them


righto. Since a ship isn't technically an unmanned combat unit, robot, or turret, I don't think robotics expert applies.
'2d6+3' Tech.

Roll #1 3, 6 + 3 = 12


>"We will do our best to continue communication, Friend-Petry."
We nod at her passable pronunciation, then gesture towards her, then the sleeping children.
"What are your names? We would like to keep conversing with you, to assist our translation efforts."

We can ask about finding something to write with later, or failing that just scratch symbols onto the floor.


You're able to cut through more of the prompts, figuring out which are just idle notices, which ones need you to type in some text, and which require you to type in where you want to go.

However, two important pieces of information stand out. One which seems to be a crew list has several of them as 'Unknown' and another that seems to have the central nuclear core powering up slowly.

Outside, a sudden noise can be heard and one of the objects move away, while the one in the vents begins approaching your area.


"ſnꓷ Sɐɯ ʇuɐᴉpɐꓤ ʻuIdɯnῸ ʻuɐɹɐpuɐzɐW ǝɹqɐꓭ ˌǝˌſIʍɓuod." She says calmly, but without lowering the object in her hand, the other three spread out to protect the children.

"ſnꓷ Sɐɯ ʇuɐᴉpɐꓤ ʻuIdɯnῸ ʻuɐɹɐpuɐzɐW ǝɹqɐꓭ ˌǝˌſIʍɓuod." She repeats.


Powering up slowly is much better than powering up recklessly.
"Looks like that heat increase is from the ship's core warming up. I'm going to make my way there next to make sure it doesn't overdo it."
I should be able to get a proper map of the ship from here for that…
"Keep me updated on any improvements on the translation software. I haven't run into anyone alive yet, but maybe the defense drones respond to verbal commands."


"Yes, thank you for continuing to converse with us," we acknowledge her, making sure to reduce our profile in a non-threatening way. "We have no intention of harming you, or your grubs."

"Do you have any way to write, perhaps?" We mime writing on the floor with our claw. "Writing? Written communications?"


>"Looks like someone has made contact, our translator is glued to one of the other screens here."
Verata says in a clearly uncomfortable tone as a basic schematic is brought up. It has notes on it, but they remain untranslated, but it should work as well as it can.

Leaving the bridge, whoever is hiding in the vents tosses a toy out of one, and it begins banging on some instrument. While you might not have seen the throw if you counted on just your visual sensors, the rest of your equipment shows that the person has moved to the opposite side of where the toy is.


"Contact? You mean there are survivors on other ships?"
I'll turn towards the noise, though. Exterior lights on, and, after verifying that it's just a toy, I'll turn towards where the tracker said the vent-runner went. Gun in-hand but not actively pointing at the wall between them and I.
Translation software's current iteration is text-only, correct?


She stares at you and your digits for a moment, before using two of her limbs to lift up a notepad and a pencil. Just looking at it, you can see that it is a clearly aged notebook as she writes something on it.

<- Babri

"Babri." She says as she points to herself, taking slowly to you.


>"Yup, an uncomfortable first contact but no one has been hurt."

Text only for the translation, but your visual equipment lets you see that someone is looking down at you from the vent without you flashing your lights in their eyes. One of the benefits of being so small and being inside a robot.


Well, the projector works, they said. So we'll go with that. I'll try to show I'm not hostile (put away my gun for the moment), and say, as best I can with what text we have translated, that I don't intend to hurt them.


Nod and point to her, "Babri; you are Babri." We bring our claw back to point to ourselves. "Voldra."

We make a broad, sweeping gesture to the rest of the ship. "Do you know what this ship is called? Are there other survivors aboard this vessel?"

We need her talking for Petry, so even if we can't understand each other, we can continue to make conversation.


The writing is on the wall and you can see their eyes reading the text several times over. The alien in the vents looks you over, but putting away your weapon seems to be the moment that really sells it to them. They take a breath and remove the protective panel and crawl out, the four arms making it easier to handle the movement down.

They're dressed in what looks more like planet side street clothing than something meant for a space ship.

"¡HoH ɥɔoH Soɥɓ ¡ˌnbɯnS ʌnb" The alien says with worry, keeping an eye on all sides of the hallway.


"Vol-Dra" She repeats, much closer than how it had been pronounced before. "·ˌnɥɔ Hnſ ɓuǝๅ Hɐɯ ·ˌǝˌɯɐʌʇoɥɓ Sɐɯ ʇuɐᴉpɐꓤ ſnꓷ" A quick sketch of the shape of the ship with the words 'sɐW ʇuɐᴉpɐꓤ' added underneath it.

>"Radiant Moon"

Petry says over the radio.
>"Their ship is the Radiant Moon. I think I have enough for a rough communication. Let her know you have a radio and repeat the following after me: vo' vIpawtaH Duj Sov je Ankylosaur." Roll Street Smarts to get the pronunciation across.


"I've made contact. No idea what they're saying, but they at least know I'm not harmful."
I'll try to get them to slow down a little, the translation software is nowhere near perfect. Ask them who they are, what race they are. And tell them that the robot/guard is down the hallway. If I can project my radar onto the wall to assure them we're relatively safe at the moment, I'll do that too.


"Radiant Moon… a good name for a ship."
Mindful of her hesitance, we gesture at our radio, pulling it out enough to show that we have communication with the outside.
"Vo'vlpawtaH… DujSov je Ankylosaur? Is that the correct pronounciation?"
'2d10' Street Smarts

Roll #1 3, 8 = 11


whoops. '2d6'

Roll #1 1, 2 = 3


>"Patching you over as…!"
There's a sudden silence and a flash of noise as Verata quickly gets moved away, with Petry showing up on the same frequency.
>"Did you record what they said? Can I hear it?"

The Alien is shocked as you show her a small map of the immediate area, but they're quick to figure it out and starts pointing to a nearby area where the other object had moved to.

>"Well, they're clearly stressed out, but ask them this, what they said was a little too fast for me to get: '¿ˌʎoˌ ¿ˌǝˌſIๅɓuod Hoˌ bnu'"

Petry says, hoping she, and you say it right. Roll for Street Smarts.


"I'll give it a shot."
Wish I had a text form too so I could project that, but here we go. Slowly, sounding it out so I don't stumble over something.
'2d6' Smarts

Roll #1 4, 3 = 7


What comes out is anything but fully intelligible to her, having to repronounce several things a few times to properly get it out.

However, it seems to have the desired effect on her, as she at least seems to laugh, and best of all, put away the detonator.

"SIuſǝɯIq ɥɓnɥɔqɐdɐꓷ ſIๅꓷɐbˌnɯ" She says, sitting back down on her chair.


I get the feeling that we didn't quite get the message across that Petry wanted us to, but at least she seems to have relaxed.
>"We would ask how to ask if the children have enough food, but this language is difficult for this drone, and the potential for sending the wrong message with mispronouncing that sentence would be… undesirable. Do you have a translation of what she has been saying?"
Go ahead and allow this drone to relax as well, quietly leaning against the wall so as not to disturb the children.
"You have done an admirable job, keeping them safe. Hopefully we will be able to evacuate you once communications are more solidly established."


Being able to practice the pronunciation without being heard makes it easy to get out on your first try, but with a few stutters here and there as you try to remember the words.

"¡HoH ɥɔoH ɥɓɐd ˌnbɯnS ʌnb ſǝˌ bᴉๅɐʇsɐN Hoˌ ſIʍɓuod" The Alien says with visible worry that gets through the language barrier and that Petry backs up.

>"Their name is Nastaliq and if I'm right, everyone is in danger…"

You can hear Petry's concern, with Nastaliq pointing in towards the other door you haven't used.


With what I've got, I'll ask via projection how I can help. If they try and lead me through that door, I'll follow.


>"I do, but I think she realizes the one she should be criticizing is me, not you."
Petry says with a sense of relief.
>"But I'll take it for something so improvised. Feeding all of this into the system, hopefully the auto-translators will be up to job."

"¿ˌɐˌʌoSɐꓷ ſnꓷ ɥๅʇɐๅ ǝſ bnu HɐʇSɐb. ¿ʇɔɐꓒ HɐʇuIɹ Hɐɥɔ bnS. ¿ˌɐˌɥๅʇnHɐꓷ ˌʎɐʌ ˌǝꓷ ˌobHnſ" Babri asks, with more worry in her eyes, as if awaiting bad news.

>"Okay, hmm, she wants to know about the ships, and something about a Pact? But I think they're another group though."

Petry says.


>"ghoS Hoch unfreeze 'ej wa' legh poH bach chaH"

Nastaliq points at your current location, then towards a room next to the central core repeatedly.

>"They're too fast for me to get everything, but I got unfreeze and then getting killed, but the whole thing sounds bad."

Petry responds.


"It might be with how the reactor's warming up. It warms up, the people in stasis are probably going to be cooked. If there are others in stasis."
But who would put stasis chambers next to a reactor? That's retarded.
"He might be pointing out the core's control room."
I'll check with him, see if that is the control center, and if he wants me to shut it down, or fix it.


>"Can you give me a way to say that there are many other ships around the Brilliant Moon, but we do not know this 'Pact?' Or maybe just that our vessel has only just arrived."

"Apologies for the delays in communication; our translators are working as quickly and efficiently as they can," we explain, knowing that she cannot understand us but also knowing the sound of another voice can be soothing after prolonged isolation.


Nastaliq repeats what they said:

"ghoS Hoch unfreeze 'ej wa' legh poH bach chaH"

But this time points to the new gun you have.

>"I think, someone or something is going to kill them? I don't think it's an explosion or anything like that at least."

Petry says, deeply worried.
>"Stay safe Frank. I want to be able to tell Cana about your adventure, okay?"

>"Let's give a try then. Tell her this: "¿ʇɔɐꓒ ʌIˌ·ˌnๅˌnʇ ɯnS ſnꓷ ˌʍɐๅ"
Petry sighs but perks up as she continues.
>"I might be able to give you advice on how to work the pronunciation shortly. I think I'm getting enough details now."

Roll Street Smarts for pronunciation quality.

There's a sudden sound coming from outside that alerts Barbri and she heads towards the monitors. There's another similar Alien to her walking around, though this one is clearly carrying a shotgun.



All right, let's see if we can properly convey this…"¿ʇɔɐꓒ ʌIˌ·ˌnๅˌnʇ ɯnS ſnꓷ ˌʍɐๅ"

Glancing over at the monitor, we give the alien walking around a quick look-over, then look to Barbri to read her body-language and try to gauge if she thinks they are a threat.
>"…Another alien has appeared on her feeds, and is visibly armed," we inform Friend-Eva and Friend-Petry, our voice going dangerously soft. "Considering the circumstances and her initial reaction, they may be hostile. Give us a translation for 'do you want them dead or alive?' please."
If there are grub-killers and egg-breakers aboard this ship, we will be sure to clear them out quite thoroughly.

Roll #1 1, 5 = 6


"Maybe it's the security drones, and they went rogue? Well, if they are, then I'll get to use this new thing we whipped up with no worries. And I want you to tell it too, so I'll be sure to be as careful as possible."
I'll move, slowly enough that Nastaliq knows I'm going for it but fast enough to show I'm ready to go, for the shiny new gun that's about to have its first real field test.
Then I'll tell him that I'll be heading where he pointed, and ask is I need security clearance to get where he's sending me.


After a rough, sputtering start, you're able to get most of the message across, which doesn't help put Barbri at ease. She looks at the monitors and takes in the situation.

"·ɥɓnɥɔHɐๅˌɐʇɐꓷ ʌǝɯ ꓷɐʌHɐɥɓ ·sɹǝqɯǝɯ Pact ɥɔǝH Hǝu HoH ɥɔoH ꓷɐʌHɐɯ" Barbri looks at you, then opens up a small box, holding a practically ancient revolver that she offers to you. "HǝuIʌ ɥɓǝๅIʌ Sɐɯ ˌnɥɔ bnd"

>"Normally I'd ask you to find someone to open a channel so I could talk to her, but it might be better to keep it on you and deal with situation."

Petry says over the radio before Eva jumps in.

>"Looks like some of the cameras are broadcasting now. I can connect to a few and probably guide you in."

Eva says, taking a few moments to go over the new screens.


Nastaliq follows behind, clearly using you for cover, but still doing their best to not fall behind.

The rest of the hallway is fairly simple, but where the toy Nastaliq threw to try and distract you, there are several spent bullet casings. Nastaliq grabs the toy and removes a pair of batteries from it. Entering the next room, one of your possible targets is on the ground. Looks like someone beat you to destroying one of the janitor machines, but a few gears still spin. The rest of the room is filled with pipes and wiring, but you see numerous pods along one of the wall. Many are empty, but many more are frozen shut.

"·ɥɓnʇ Hǝɯſǝɥๅʇ HIq bnๅ ɥɔoH ſɐʌ ʻʌɐʌ pǝʇᴉunǝɹ ſǝˌ ˌoɥๅʇ SoS" Someone is saying something nearby. Not yelling or anything, but clearly in a way that shows they aren't trying to hide their location. Nastaliq's face stiffens as the person talking goes on.


Smile at the gesture, but gently push the revolver back to her and shake our head. "We appreciate it, but-" we flare out our missile-spines and unfold our arm-shield, to show that we are already fully armed. "-we believe you may need it more."

>"Still waiting on that translation, Friend-Petry," we gently prod the translator. "We would like to know if we will be going for a disable or a decapitation."


Can I see them? I'm guessing this is either an insurgent, or pirate. Or mutineer.
Man I wish that translation software read out what we've got worked out in here.


>"Sorry, put this one on speaker so she can hear me: 'vaj HoH pagh jon maH?"
Petry says very slowly, making sure to go over every part of the sentence several times.

>"Looks like our gun toting guest is having issues of his own. He's wet all over, and that weapon of his, I'm no professional gun smith but it looks really weird."

Eva adds in the moments before Barbri responds.

"uoſ" Barbri says.

>"Take him alive, if you can."

Petry informs you.

>"Going through the cameras, you can sneak up on him if you head through one of the halls and a room, or you can confront him directly, but if he starts shooting he could damage the ship or something important."

Eva says, focused on her responsibility.


He's not exactly too attentive, so much so that you could drive up an alien sized truck and not interrupt what looks like prayer. He's holding a shotgun like weapon while standing in front of an iced over window. A few stars still shine through.

Despite just having met these alien, you can already tell that Nastaliq is becoming more agitated, before pointing to the ground and one of the lower level pods. A huge metal rod has been run through one of them, providing a channel for blood to flow out and onto the floor.


Give Barbri a nod of acknowledgement, then start heading towards the hall Friend-Eva has indicated for us as the sneaky path.
If the Matron wants him alive, then they must not have hurt any children yet; if they had, she would be tearing their limbs off and stomping their guts into paste. At least that's how Voldra matrons would respond, because that's the logical response to someone threatening children!
"Then we will not give him the opportunity to start shooting, Friend-Eva. Please guide us in."


Ah. Well.
This is going to get violent shortly. I'll tell Nastaliq, as best I can project onto a flat surface he can see (maybe my arm?) to go hide.
Shooting is probably a no-go, here, so… I might have to hand-to-hand this or use those fold beams. Once he's away from the window. If I miss and shatter the window, there'd be too much collateral damage.
Once Nastaliq has taken cover, I'll begin to advance on that praying (?) alien. Zap gun might be a bit overkill so I'll have the sidearm up.


>"Got it. Won't be too hard. This guy is not acting like a worried soldier at all."
Eva can be heard clicking though numerous screens, but then a few more lights turn on.
>"I'm getting more cameras now, they must have done something. Take a left here, then about three doors later and you'll be behind him, or close enough to it."

"·ǝʌᴉɓɹoɟ Hnſ ˌoʌ ˌɐʇˌIɯ ˌǝˌ ꓷoɹ" He can be heard saying out loud as he loads the bullets individually into his weapons. Eva informs you that he'll occasionally stop to get water off his clothing or check the screens.


A buzzer can be heard playing over the speakers, the alien coming back to his focus as one of his four hands counts the shotgun shells he has. He opens up the shotgun, making it obvious that it is currently unloaded.

"¿ˌnbˌIu ɹɐˌ!" He yells something out before reaching over to lift up their pants from sagging.

Nastaliq returns towards the door, hiding under a pile of leftover ration boxes.


>"Feel free to keep translating what he's saying. Oh, and please give us a translation for 'Drop your weapon;' we'd like to be able to say it as soon as we've got our claws around his neck."
We keep low to the ground using all of our legs for maximum weight distribution to avoid making noise as we take the left indicated and start counting the doors we pass. One, two…
>"Why do you suppose he is wet? Did he fall into a pool?"


>"We're cross checking what's being said, but it's not exactly showing up against what we have. I think it's some kind of mantra or the like."
Petry says before returning more worried.
>"Yeah, something bad is going on. The way it's being said, it matches what another person is hearing on another ship, and the person saying it is also armed."

>"Hold on, looks like he's coming back for something, oh, looks like it was just something edible."

Eva clears you to continue.
>"As for why he's wet, maybe one of the tanks burst? The ship is clearly old, something dumb like that is probably the answer. Unless he just got unfrozen or something. Wait, he's clicking on something now. Hold on, is that… He just pulled someone from out of the wall. Uhm, he seems really focused on whoever he pulled out. He's got his back to you."

>"If you're going to warn him, say 'ꓷɐb ſǝʍ'. It's the closest we can safely get."

Petry adds.


Just because it's unloaded doesn't mean it's any less a weapon. An empty gun is just a club, and with four arms he could put some weight behind it. So, with my sidearm trained on him, I'll project my queries to a place he can see them.
I'll ask who he is, if he can speak a different language, and if he is the one who killed the person down there. If so, why?


Right, if he just found someone, then we need to get involved.
We do not want to risk a door creaking and giving us away, so we will instead Fold-jump in and immediately wrap one claw around his neck.
"'ꓷɐb ſǝʍ,' Sir. Please remain calm."
'3d6+2' Fold Jump
'2d6+1' free melee- grappling, non-lethal

Roll #1 2, 1, 6 + 2 = 11 / Roll #2 4, 2 + 1 = 7


>"Be careful."
Verata says over the radio as the words appear in the wall ahead of the alien. Their ears perk up and their fur stands on end.

"ꓷɐb ſǝʍ" He says, followed by the noise of the shotgun collapsing in itself as he tries to swing at where he thinks you are!


Correction: it's "Hɐɥɔ ʇǝb" that he says.

The initial teleport ends in front of him, giving him a moment to fail to understand the giant space insect appearing before him in a flash of light and much less before you rush over and tightly grab his neck.

"roQ!" Is all that your target manages to shout, the four arms not putting up much of a struggle against yours.

>"That isn't him giving up, or probably a nice thing he shouted."

Eva says as she looks through the cameras.

>"No it wasn't."

Petry adds.
>"I'll translate live. Turn on the speaker so he can hear me, so that he knows you aren't alone."


"I'm always careful, Verata."
Well, how close is he? I wasn't stupid enough to walk up right behind him, after all.
Still, I wish I knew what they hell they were saying. Petry's not gotten back to me yet, must be busy with the other teams. I may just have to shoot to disable him. Maybe I should make a regular taser for this kind of thing. Boltcaster's a bit overkill for non-suited targets.
Assuming he misses me with the bludgeon, and realizes I have a gun pointed at him, I'll repeat my questions. Again, on a surface he can see.


>"Very well, Friend-Petry, consider yourself live."
Go ahead and turn on our speakers as we relieve him of his shotgun and glance down at whoever he pulled from the wall.
"We do not wish to hurt you, do not mistake that for being UNABLE to hurt you. Remain calm, and we can reach a mutual understanding."


It'll be much easier to threaten him when he's on the floor, as he just swung wildly, hoping to strike an unaware newbie like Nastaliq. His swing sends him off balance and towards the floor.

"·ſIๅɥɔɐu Hǝu HIſ ſǝˌ ʻˌʎnʇ Hɐๅ ˌndˌnๅbǝʇ ʌIɯ ·ʇɔɐꓒ ɹǝqɯǝɯ ɯǝH ʻoǝๅˌod Hoˌ ſIʍɓuod" He says, clearly disgruntled.

>"Okay, checking the words, his name is Po'leo, and uh, how did I end up translating this? Uhm, I think he wants you to remove your armor. Don't do that though."

Petry adds in over the radio.
>"It'll be rush job, but I can translate live for you now that I have more data to work with. Just go ahead and ask away."

"¿HoS ˌnʇ ˌʎɐʌ!" Another voice shouts out.


The person that was pulled out from the wall has a physical appearance similar to that of Barbri, but the clothing is different.

>"ῸǝH ſǝˌ ˌʎɐʌ ɥɓnɥɔHɐʇʇoſ ɥๅʇɐɹ"

Petry says in a much sterner tone.

"HIſ ˌnῸ SoS ʌɐʌ ǝſ HǝɯˌɐʇIʌ Hǝu HoH ꓷɐʌHIſ ɹoʌɐɟ ·ɥɔnɹ" The alienresponds and slows his struggle, but only enough to spit on you and clearly smile.


There's a second one? Man, I just can't catch a break here.
"Ask him if he's the one who killed the person in the cryopod, and why."
I'll keep my gun trained on him. Wish I had some rear-mounted cameras… does my radar pick up any other potentially hostile signatures? There should be only three of us in here capable of moving, aside from the new mystery fourth who's gibbering at me now.


>"He said something about Parents, but I can't get the rest, but I don't think he's insulting you with what he said."


We stare at him for a moment, then tilt our head at his bravado. In a way we respect it, but he also might not realize his position.
Taking our other claw, we reach out and slowly start to drag it down the wall, giving him a good view of how our sharp, hardened claws are capable of cutting through ship-grade metal with ease, hearing the grating screech of panels parting before our touch.
Then carefully shift the claw around his neck until he's forced to lift his chin up, a near-universal sign of submission.
"Well, if you wish to remain uncooperative, then we can become more unpleasant. Or we can just toss you into the Void, if you prefer."

Reach down and pick up the person they pulled from the wall; if they're another survivor like Barbri, she might be glad to see them.


>"qatlh HoH bIQHey?"
Your speakers says to the Alien on the floor.
>"I think the other voice is shouting for this one, but I'm playing the recording a few times to be sure."
Petry says to you.

"ˌʍɐɥɔ Hɐɥɔ ʇǝb" THe Alien on the ground says with what you can tell is a smile.

>"He killed them because they are runaways?"

Petry wonders.

>"I'm getting remote camera access. The ship really seems to be powering on now."

Verata says as she starts seeing the cameras.
>"Another alien a short distance away, also armed with a similar weapon. What do you want to do?"


"Seems like there are two groups here. Civilians, from what I gather, and these militant types. The fleet might have been an escape option, but was boarded before they engaged the complete freezing of the ships. Sort of like a massive cryopod, maybe."
I'll think a second.
"This guy probably isn't interested in surrendering, but I don't think I've got anything to tie him up with. Petry, I'd like you to ask him to surrender anyway, but don't be surprised if a fight breaks out."


The noise clearly gets to his ears, and his situation finally affects him enough that he isn't struggling. He just stares at you.

As for the other Alien that was pulled from the wall, their clothing is also wet, their breathing is slow.

"ſǝˌ ʌɐʌ SoS" She says in a drowsy voice, breathing heavily.

>"Wait, hold on, why is she repeating what another said? Something is off here."

Petry says with concern.
>"Is it just some local prayer? Let me say this over the radio: 'ſᴉῸ'."

The alien just breathes and looks at you.


Your speakers say to him, and he does seem to consider his options.

He finally settles on yelling!


"No visible reaction to that; what are you trying to say?"

Turn our focus to the alien we have caught. "What is happening here? We found a Matron caring for five children, scared for her life. Why are your children in danger?"

Gently rub the back of the one that we pulled from the wall, trying to help her wake up. We'd take them back to Barbri to ease the interrogation and maybe get answers, but if he is spreading some kind of mental hazard we need to protect the children from that.


Well, I tried.
This is gonna hurt, being punched by a robot when he's not in good shape, but it's either that or shoot him.
So here we go, I'll close the remaining space between us and try to knock him out in one go.
'2d6-1' melee

Roll #1 5, 4 - 1 = 8


>"¿ˌndɥๅʇɐๅ ſIɥɓ ɥๅʇɐῸ"
The radio calmly asks your captive before Eva jumps on the radio.


Eva shouts, not in time to stop the Alien on the table from pulling out an old revolver and emptying it on you.

Except the design is so ancient compared to what you've had to deal with, everything from the shape of the bullet to the material of the explosive, that it doesn't even put a dent in you or your barrier.

"Dun Qap not mev SoH" She says before passing out and dropping her firearm.

>"You won't stop us."

Petry says over the radio as your captive now becomes much more agitated, trying to reach and shout the now unconscious one.


Just… just look at her for a moment. That was incredibly stupid of her, and this hyper-aggression is very worrying.

"Okay, the two of you are coming with me to see if Barbri can give us some answers. Move slowly, and remember: if you make any aggressive moves towards the children… you will find out how Voldra deal with Egg-breakers."

Let's start walking back to where we came. The matron is the only one who seems at least rational and cooperative, perhaps she will better be able to provide answers.


The impact of your Mech's strength on him causes him to splay out all six limbs. Even from inside your robot, you could tell you broke many things.

"¡ſɐſɓuɐſnW ¡HɐʎˌIῸ" The other voice shouts out as the ship vibrates slowly.

>"Their coming towards you now!"

Verata says, only able to watch from your location.

>"It's what it sounds like, she wants answers and is coming for them!"

Petry clarifies for you.


The ship must be defrosting faster. As for the Poleo, well, I don't have a medkit for someone his size. Nastaliq, though, might know where one is.
He's still hiding where he was, right? I'll have him secure the, well, prisoner I guess while I go meet the new arrival. Since I've got a radar and they don't, I shouldn't be snuck up on.


>"ɥɓnɥɔHɐSIſ ſǝˌ ɓuɐb"
Petry's worry over the radio is palpable, even if it didn't have any effect on you.

Arriving to where Barbri is, she's waiting for you in front of the area where the children are. She looks over the scene she has in front of her, then slaps the still conscious alien. You don't need Petry to translate when she says a single word at him in clear disgust.

She offers you some rope to tie them up. "nuqneH" She says.

>"Hold on, that might be enough for the computer. Brute forcing a translation upload now."

Petry says.
>"Should make talking easier now, but try to keep things slow and easy for it. Oh, and she says thanks."


>"Basic and slap dash translation software being uploaded. Install it as soon as you get the chance."
Petry says in a hopeful panic.
>"I'll have him deal with the body for you."

>"Bad time to bring this up, but the weapon, it's old. Even with these cameras, it looks like a museum piece instead, not something that should be anywhere near a space ship, let alone something like that."

"Don't tell me you fell asleep during your prayers! We … to do." The system quickly translates for you.


It's been several days since the Ankylosaur has left Llavanus. Now that the ship has had a chance to be at a proper port of a properly developed world, everything is so much nicer looking, but with so many Humans staying behind, even at their small size, it's a noticeably emptier ship. Less people also means less shifts of just walking around the ship.

That doesn't stop the digital paperwork from piling up. Submitting forms is something all security personnel in the galaxy will have to deal with. At least you have Berry on your desk, she's sending you the last documents of the day.

"Just sign on the digital line as we are done for a good while. Did you settle on doing anything for your time off?" Berry asks as she looks over her own rather empty ComLink schedule.


Mindlessly sign it like the dozens of other forms.
"Hmm, weight training, I'm overdue for a tail-day." I suggest and look down at her, "What do you usually do on your day off?"


"I've just been super tired recently, so I've just been watching the TV shows that the Chordians uploaded. Honestly, if it weren't for all the walking I do on your desk, I'd be way fatter." Berry says in a less than enthused way. "Leaving such a nice planet might be affecting me. What have you been up to? And how much can you lift with that tail?"


"I have been meaning to catch up on Blarus of the Dead." I muse at the mention of tv, then get distracted by the tail question lifting up the tip to show her a little flex. "80 kilos right now, not my best weight record, but pretty good."


"Woah, that's more than I weigh on just the tip of your tail. Working so closely together on this stuff makes me forget some of the real big differences, you know?" Berry looks as a message pops up on her ComLink, but it doesn't seem to be anything of importance.
"Tell me about Blarus. I've just been jumping between shows and haven't stuck to anything yet."


"Blarus is a cop from a city in northern Llavanus and moves to a southern town to get away from it all, and then finds out the small town is actually a hotspot for zombies, reviving ones, and blood sucking monsters. Its written as a comedy thou, and in the first episode they keep a beast like reviving one as a pet in their shed, it keeps dying when they try to play with it only to revive itself 5 minutes later and bring back the ball for Blarus." I snicker. "Its all about the timing."


"A comedy huh? I've just been letting their humor wash over while wasting time in bed. Actually, since all I'm really going to do is get on my bed anyway, why don't we order some food and watch it together? Better way to spend some time, right?" Berry asks, moving her head in a way that you can see an empty schedule on her ComLink.


"Yea, I can load up an episode while we order something to eat. That's on thing I'm glad of, more food options now that we've visited a new world." I lick the air and click around on the console to get the show streaming set up. Then notice Berry is still rather without a good place to sit, and look back at my rather-furiture-less room, it has the desk, the sand and rock for my bed, the big rock with sun lamp for lazy sitting, and the wardrobe of course, but nothing for smaller guests. I scratch my head thinking about it.
Slithering over to my closet for a fluffy bit of ribbon and tying it up to make it more like a pillow before offering it to her. "Sorry I don't have better seating."


She touches the ribbon a bit before really letting herself fall into it.

"It's honestly better than anything I have right now. It's all the same utilitarian material if it isn't plastic already." Berry says as she gives you a tiny thumbs up. "Besides, it's not like my place is an option. Next time I'll see if I can figure something out. So, how far are you into the series? Have you gotten any of the others into it? I'm sure Verata might get a kick out of it."


"I'm on episode five, so its not too much to start over for you." I say a bit relieved by her apparent comfort. "Yea, we really need a good spot for movie night. Its kind of a shame there isn't a place to set up permanently for movies." I think as I look over the digital menu for delivery. "what are you thinking to eat?"


"There's probably a couple of unused rooms on the ship." Berry sits up to show her interest. "It's not like we take up a lot of space. We can probably get someone with a bit more access to find a recently vacated one. A few speakers and some window covers and we'd get a full theater experience."


"Now that's an idea. I wonder who we could ask." I pick a mimic-mouse patty burger and some fries and pass the ordering tablet to Berry to pick something.
"Maybe we can even get something in the residential area so its not a far trip."


It's a kind gesture, but you do have to remember that your tablet is larger than Berry herself. At least she gets a clear view of the tray link so your order arrives together.

"Well, the residential area is only a few rooms for us. There should be something available. Maybe Appenzi or someone with access can get us that info, but it'll also need to be possible to silence it so it doesn't ruffle any feathers if we get loud. What did a theater look like were you're from?"


One of the children starts waking up, so Barbri heads over with a bottle of green liquid to give him.

>"Don't worry, it's just ship noises."

Barbri says with a soft smile to them.
>"You'll wake up in a new world soon."


Try to keep quiet as we tap our communicator to make sure it's adjusted properly; we wouldn't want to accidentally startle the children.
>"Hello there. Is this translating correctly? Our translators have just finished updating our best interpretation of your language."
>"We hope this is working; we would very much like some clear answers, rather than playing charades to convey general ideas."


She's clearly surprised for a moment, then goes back to a friendlier appearance as she tucks the child back into bed.

"I shouldn't have been so surprised that you figured out our language so quickly. I'm Lt. Barbri Carni, of the First Homeward Fleet." She makes sure to tuck in her shirt with two limbs while the other two salute. "We'd, I, welcome you aboard, even though it isn't the best situation for it."


We bow in acknowledgement, crossing our top two legs across our chest in our own preferred version of a salute.
"We are pleased to meet you, Lt. Barbri. We are Voldra, though this drone is referred to as "Shelly." Oh, it is worth mentioning that we are serving aboard the human colony ship Anklyosaur, so do not be alarmed when the rest of the crew does not look like us."
Poke at the tied-up prisoner with one of our feet.

"Was there are mutiny? Sabotage? We caught something about prayers, and saw them pulling others from the walls. Can you explain?"


"Those are good words for it, but one that we'll have to accept at the end is that it is war." Lt. Barbri sighs as she looks at the monitors. "It'll be clear soon enough, but we decided to leave our world because of the Troubles that were predicted. We built ships, some built bunkers, and others choose death." She gives an icy glare to your prisoner. "I checked the systems, I was hoping we had arrived, but it seems we still have much further to go…" She takes a seat. "Honestly, I'm so tired and disappointed in this. I meet a kind new species, a glorious moment for our species, and I complain."


"Indeed, we read your logs, and it appears you are only halfway to your destination- and from what we have seen, your fleet appears to be falling apart as it is. Your defensive measures practically thwarted themselves when trying to shoot us down."

We give her our best smile.

"We do not mind complaining; Friend-Frank is the best engineer we know, and even when he's happy as can be he will complain about something. We think it is because he is always looking for something to fix, because he enjoys it."

We wiggle mischievously at her.

"And we are pretty sure you were threatening to blow us up when we first met. Admittedly a novel deviation from the typical response of shooting us we get on most first contacts, especially since we were able to talk you down without actually understanding each other!"


"Explosive? Oh, that thing? If only." Barbri says, grabbing a small container and opening it up. "Noisemakers, dirt, and cut up paper. I told the kids to run and hide in the vents if they ever saw it go off or came back and saw it that way."

She spends a moment trying to gather her thoughts.

"So then, if our systems are beginning to fail, and if there are any others of these, then I must ask you for a favor above all other things I want to ask about."

"Can you take us to our destination safely?"


Pause to think about her question, not out of hesitation to help, but to calculate the feasibility of her request.
"We are not certain; we are only one ship after all. We could take you and the children aboard and bring you along with us to our destination; we are a colony ship looking to found a new world for the humans after all. We'd have to consult with Friend-Frank or someone who knows how to repair ships to see how feasible it would be to fix your vessels enough to potentially complete the journey. Worst case scenario, the Voldra can send some more Drones to see about helping you reach your destination, though it may take them a while to reach you.
Of course, depending on how many are still alive aboard your ships, it may be possible to bring the survivors aboard. though… that would require there to… not be many survivors."


"Thank you for at least considering it." Barbri says, looking at you and the children for a moment. "This, was not how First Contact was taught to us, you know. It was about keeping a straight face and not doing anything that mind be seen as strange, and you appear in the middle of a battle for the fate of our species."

One of the prisoners starts coughing a similar looking green fluid, but Barbri doesn't react to it.

"If there are no more of these individuals walking the halls, I can at least awaken some of the other staff and meet those in your colony ship. You said they were called Humans, correct? How many of them are there?"


"If nothing else, we can promise to bring you and these children along with us. It may not be to the world you were intending, but if worst comes to worst, we'll not leave you to your fate. It's the others aboard we are uncertain about."

Reach down and scoop up some of the green goop to examine idly.

"We're not sure the exact number of humans aboard, but enough to start a colony, so several thousand at least. They are heavy-worlders though, so they are actually very small. We think you will like them; they are one of the friendliest species we know, and definitely the most empathetic. Though they will likely be in their mecha-suits, on account of them being so small and your ships automatic defenses shooting at us. Is there a way to turn those off, by the way?"


"If the formula doesn't take effect fast enough, I think we'll have to take you up on your offer to join. Might not be the world we were aiming for, but I'll take any opportunity to get real ground beneath us." She starts going through the keyboard, filtering through some of the monitors. "If the system is still active, the Captain can disarm it, but you'll have to do that for every ship, I only have a momentary lockdown of it." She points to an image of an empty Bridge, computers and monitors intact but layered in dust. "Only question is what to do with these two in the mean time. Do you have others with you?" She holds up what looks like medal, but with a clear key like area at the bottom of it.


"Formula? Perhaps you should explain that further; are these people suffering from an affliction of some sort?"

Go ahead and comm Friend-Eva. "We have at least a few friendly faces aboard, would you like to join us? We can go to the window and Fold-Jump you inside with us, no need for cutting through the hull."

"We could leave them tied up and locked in a room away from the children. Depending on how dangerous they are, we could just cut-" Oh wait, suggesting cutting off limbs usually doesn't go over well; most species can't regrow them easily. "-um. Cut… them off from access to the children? If our friends cannot join us, then this drone can simply carry them."


"Oh, that liquid? It's what helps us survive the freezing process. Without it, we couldn't be making the journey, but it's not foolproof either." There are a few bottles of the stuff on the counter and next to the children. "If we didn't freeze ourselves again, there'd be no way for us, or even our great-greater-greater granchildren to do so."

>"If it's all clear, I'm good with coming in. I've got more sensor connections for the crew to analyze, and I've been listening in too. Think introducing me to Barbri is in order?"

Eva replies as she already starts floating closer, her keyboard making the noises that she'll be ready momentarily.
>"I can actually see some of the other defenses trying to activate, but the ice is so thick. It's kind of sad, you know?"

"We can bind them in another room and I can lock the door. Not a full jail but it will do for now." Barbri grabs an actual paper book and opens it up. "I can look up the lock code, then we can deal with the rest of the system and let the Captain make the decisions."


"Interesting. We were wondering how your ships fell into such disrepair; if you were all frozen, then there would be nobody to do repairs."

Pick up the two prisoners and start walking towards one of the rooms closer to the window.

"One of our friends is coming in; we will jump her in through the window once she is close enough." We pause as the thought occurs to us. "You probably have no understanding of the Fold, do you? If not, seeing us jump her in should be very interesting for you."

"Where exactly would we find this captain? He is very important to this plan of yours."


"There was no way to resupply once the ships broke free of our planet, but with the vacuum of space and the ice layer, we've at least made it this far." Barbri is clearly proud, but also made aware of how much further they have to go. "The Captain will be near the bridge. The higher up staff require additional steps to awaken."

"What do you mean by Fold? Jumping?" Barbri gives you a questioning look.
>"Oh, this will be fun."
Eva says over the radio.


Give her our best approximation of a smile.

"Do your people have legends of magic, abilities that defy the laws of physics, or seeing things happening in far-off places with their minds? Using the Fold is a bit like that."

Unceremoniously toss the prisoners into the room in question, we give them a quick glance to make sure we didn't jostle their bindings loose, then shut the door and let Barbri lock it.

"By the way, what's up with them? Is their goal to kill everyone aboard?"


"They are members of the Pact of the Mother and Father. If they had their way, we would all be dead. They believe that we will be reborn, given another chance at life, once the planet, our Mother, has had time to rest. Therefore, letting us leave was not a possibility, and they attracted many followers at all levels." She says with disdain as the door closes and she makes sure to lock it. "If you need to blame someone for the attack, you can take them."

>"Just tell me how close you want, I can see you now."

Eva's mech waves as it approaches.

"'Fold' is like Magic? What do you mean by that?" Barbri asks.


>"We see you, bringing you in now."

"You see, Friend-Barbri, there is an energy that permeates all of reality; we call it the Fold because it is, well, 'folded' into the very core of existence, both of our dimension yet not." Start charging up for the jump, intentionally keeping it slower than usual so that Barbri has time to appreciate the lightshow as purple energy swirls around us, gently at first, but faster and faster as we continue to focus it.

"And when you can touch that energy, that part of reality which is not real…"

Coordinates locked, and now we reach out-

"…you can adjust your reality in turn."

-and pull Friend-Eva in.


Well, I'll put that TL software to work as fast I can. Hopefully enough of it's together that I can get across I want this guy alive so we can ask them questions later. And to warn him that another one is coming towards us.


should have been to this one >>34213


Eva's Mech appears in a flash of light, only a small movement of it as it adjusts to its new situation, then turns towards Barbri, who has fallen to her knees, eyes staring forward and mouth wide open.

"Are you, a god? Or a messenger?"


"You can talk?" Your partner says in amazement before he grabs some spare shop towels that have been left around so you can use them to keep your first prisoner quiet. "What will you do to the next one?"


"Talking is a work in progress. Building a translation as we go."
I'll check the radar again to see where the next one is, relative to us.
"I plan on doing the same. Knock them out until I know what's going on here."


"Did they send you to save us? What part of the fleet are you with?" You're asked as the second terrorist walks closer, only about two cabinets standing between you and them.

"Wake up already, are you still suffering from your nap?" They bang a clear lever action shotgun on the cabinet, slowly approaching unawares.


I'll make a shushing gesture, and then move to intercept the oncoming hostile. I should be able to get the drop on them if I take them fast enough. Nobody expects a big robot, right?


Smile somewhat sadly down at the kneeling friend.

"We have made too many mistakes to be called a god. We just found a truth of the galaxy, one many others also know. Perhaps we can teach your people too, if the violent ones don't blow everything up first."

Nod to Eva as she reorients herself.

"Friend-Eva, this is Friend-Barbri; Friend-Barbri, Friend-Eva. We have two prisoners locked up a few rooms back, and several children sheltered further back. If we wish to find the captain and protect the children at the same time, we may need to split up."


Even if they did, they wouldn't be able to do much against you in their current state. She falls quickly enough, her four arms unable to do anything against you except provide more surface for her to spit out a green fluid.

"What, another traitor woke up?!" She shouts to what she hoped would be her nearby ally, but no one responds to her. "Get off!"


"No can do, at least not until I get a better picture of what's going on here."
I'll keep her pinned.
"You have two options. Surrender and be restrained for now, or I knock you unconscious and tie you up anyway."


"The truth… the galaxy?" Barbri says, trying to really comprehend what she just saw. Anyone could tell that she was trying to accept and explain what just happened.

"It's a pleasure to meet you." Eva says in the cheeriest way she could muster through the speakers. She offers an arm to help Barbri up, introductions made easier since she's been listening in the whole time. "Don't worry, you'll get used to stuff like that."

"Oh, yes, the ship. It's not much further now. Once I initiate the de-icing procedure, we might as well return. It's about an hour before he'll be free, and he'll still be secured. Ugh, how am I going to explain this to him?"


She continues to struggle, but her four arms are putting out an anemic amount of stress on your system. Your gauges barely react to her attempts to fight you off. "I will not tolerate being in the presence of anyone who betrayed the Mother and the Father!"

"If we can stop the ship from opening all the people here, I can answer anything you want." Your partner shouts out to you.


"Once, traveling through the stars would have seemed like wistful fantasy for your people, yes? It's something like that, only my particular race found it early and based our development on it rather than technology."

Also reach out and help Barbri up from the other side.

"Perhaps we can help explain? To be honest, we are more worried about these violent types roaming around; there's likely to be more, and we would rather hunt them down before they damage something important."


"How do we do that? And here, help me tie her up before she hurts herself. Gag, too."


"Comparatively, either of us doing it might cause some issues." Eva says, adding a laugh to try and help Barbri up.

"Yes, if they set it so they would awaken together, that will be a problem. I can monitor and let you know which ones are unfreezing, but they may have also set others off accidentally. I don't think the children I have are old enough to even understand their ideals." Barbri straightens out her suit, getting ready to help guide you to the Captain's area. You pass through more empty rooms but also areas full of Frozen passengers. There's still debris lying around from before they wore frozen, with clearly aged magazines and clothing litering the hallways. A few tubes were beginning their unfreezing procedures, but now that the translation software is working, it's easier to stop it.

Barbri stops near the bridge, in what are clearly the containers for the upper management of the ship. Here, the freezers often work in groups, with heavy lockers full of weapons, armor, and rations locked away for them. However, the Captain's stands alone, behind thicker glass and material. While it could resist an attack from those in the ship, you and Eva could get through it without struggle.

"I can start the procedure, but there'll be some time before he awakens and then he has to open the doors on his side." Barbri points to several locks. "Getting him to come out in this situation is necessary, I just hope he gets convinced quickly." She prepares her key, though she looks at you, as if asking for permission.


"Before I was frozen, we were all told where the temporary overrides were and where the Engineers with access are. If we can awaken them, they can stop it. They said we might not have the supplies if everyone wakes up at once again." Nastaliq says quickly, in a hurried tone.

"Child, accept the will of…" The terrorist tries to say before more shop towels are shoved into her mouth. While not exactly hand cuffs, there are plenty of spare parts and equipment around that can be bent into temporary restraints.

"No one needs to hear that." Nastaliq says. "Actually, if you're a machine, maybe you'll know how to deal with the reactor?


"Technically I'm a person riding inside a machine, but I am a mechanic. If I know how something works, I can probably take care of it."
Once she's secure, I'll turn back to Nastaliq.
"For the time being, we'll leave these two here. It'd be awkward if we run into a security drone or something while carrying them around, after all. I'm going to need you to lead me to those engineers."
I'll look at the, frankly, antique weapon that the new arrival was carrying, and pick it up.
"Have you ever shot one of these before?"


"Hopefully the prospect of First Contact with at least two new species will help convince him his authority is needed."

Stare down at her placidly as she looks at us; we know she's asking for permission, but this is definitely a lesson she needs to learn. "Decisions must be made from your own judgement, Friend-Barbri. That is wisdom too few are willing to learn."


"Security drone? We don't have any…" Nastaliq wonders before looking back at your captured prisoners. "They must have modified them. Anyways, we can sneak past them, or distract them like I was doing." Nastaliq lifts up the toy they were using to try and distract you, an imitation of their form with two pairs of cymbals.

He looks at the weapon in astonishment. "Those were the new models that were supposed to be for the ship! They fold, so they're compact! My parent's showed me the photos of them." He's a bit excited, but it soon leaves his face. "I hope they're alright. C'mon, we should move quickly. And what do you mean you are riding inside? That armored suit doesn't look that bulky." Nastaliq shows you were the directions are posted, making it easier to know where to go.


"Take the gun for now. Even if it's empty after a shot or two, it still makes a good bluff. Or club."
I'll pass it over to him.
"As for everything else, I'll explain once we're done here. For now, we need to get this all settled."
Following Nastaliq, we shouldn't have too much trouble. But if the drones show up, I won't hesitate to use my nice shiny big gun that I made specifically for disabling machinery.


"You're right. History waits for no one." Barbri says, turning her key and causing several older flashbulbs to turn on, displaying different colors. A klaxon wail confirms the decision. "It is done."

The dropping of some magazines attracts everyone's attention, with Eva jumping in with a simple confirmation. "Two of the children are there. I watched them through my cameras. What should we do?" She asks in a lower volume so the children don't run and hurt themselves.


"Friend-Barbri, you are the caretaker for the young ones. Would you like to make sure they are all right? We would feel better if they were here with us, where we can keep them safe."

We also look up and down the hall in search of more movement, watching the rest of the pods to see who else starts dethawing- or if any red lights start flashing, since that might mean bad things planted by the violent ones.


"Thank you." He says as he inspects the weapon, removing a relatively large shell and then reinserting it.

Your sensors make it clear that the vessel's temperature is starting to rise with the reactor, even if only a little, but you are also seeing much more wet areas on the floor. The industrial design shows through as you move through the ship, finding more and more areas packed with frozen aliens, separated by empty rooms partially decorated with simple but terribly aged beds and papers that have long since started to deteriorate.

However, as you approach, one of the maintenance robots shows up, merely shoving away the dirt as its bag has long since failed. However, around its body are long sticks, attached to the arms and body.

"Dynamite!" Nastaliq says in a worried method. "We have to make sure it doesn't blow up and take the room with it!"


"Yes, I'll handle them. I need the practice of breaking such news." Barbri says as she walks off, calling towards the kids.

"It's quite a ship they have here, isn't it? Even with some of the other ones we've run into, you don't see many with a full size tree in it." Eva says as her mech turns towards you. "I'm monitoring my stuff as well. I'm trying to see if there's any place I can connect to, but I don't think I have any adapters for stuff this old. Feels like I'm in a museum."


I have to wonder if the dynamite is even still any good after all this time… but I suppose the guns still fired, so it must be. This is a hassle.
I'll use what scanners I've got on here to get a decent look at this thing. This counts as an instant action. Should be able to give me a picture of just how "together" this thing still is, along with any points I can disable it from.
Only reason I'm being cautious is I'm not sure if the electrogel rounds for this thing will set off the dynamite or not.


"It does make a certain amount of sense why they built it so large; without Fold, their journey would take centuries, and they required the space for most of their population if they were fleeing their planet's destruction. Resources likely weren't a concern, since they weren't exactly planning on returning."

Idly tap at the walls, looking around at some of the other frozen crewmembers.

"It's interesting how their weapons are actually incapable of hurting this drone; perhaps they don't even have access to shielding technology, and so never advanced their weaponry to compensate for it. They're literally centuries behind the technological curve."


Unlike the other Robots you've encountered, and even your own mech suits, this one is very much an automaton. Your sensors don't pick up anything high tech electrical, just a bunch of springs and a sign on the back, instructing anyone awoken where the tools to 'charge' it up again are. The dynamite isn't securely attached to the robot, more just put on like one puts on a belt, but there seems to be a simple timer attached to it. The joints have seen a fair amount of wear and tear over its long life.

"They must have set this up in case something happened to them." Nastaliq says.


"Must have. Doesn't look like it'd react too much if I just went up there and took the dynamite off, honestly."
Wonder how much time they put on it?
"Stay back here for a bit, I'm going to see if I can disable it."
Depending on how archaic it is, I might be able to just yank it apart before the detonator goes off.


"Yeah, doing some quick math, their storage bays are huge in comparison and they have a bunch of ships. We're doing it with one way smaller." Eva points out the wiring on the wall and the materials. "This looks like something from the history books, or the really old films they let us watch. You'd need a Paleontologist for this stuff, not an Engineer." She gives you a moment of silence after you mention how behind they are. "There's no way we can leave them by themselves. I don't know what we can do but I know we at least have to do that. If you called in for help, how many would you be able to spare? I don't think you can just strap a Fold engine on this thing."


The timer is ancient, as if taken from the set of an old timey show or film. It's hard to tell how much time is left, but its loud clicking gives the hint that it was given a hefty delay. The only other big issue is that the robot has no off button. It keeps moving around in an attempt to mop up the dust and keep the area clear.


Mechanically, this has to be simple. Even moving, it shouldn't be too bad.
This would be an explosives check to disable it, wouldn't it? I imagine just removing the whole thing from the robot is either out of the question or a fairly difficult agility check.


It takes us several moments where to Eva we are silent, but within the Voldra the discussion is loud and constant, debating viability and cataloging available drones within this sector of space.

"It would ultimately depend upon the nature of the help required," we ultimately decide. "Ferrying in goods and technology is feasible, but would be rather expensive, plus the Voldra are not the best with modern technology, and we doubt these beings will be any better. We could amass enough drones to come and help jump at least one of these ships to their destination at a time, but it would take a while to gather that many drones specialized in Fold-Jumps. At minimum, it would be several months before we had enough freed from current obligations and arriving here, and then there would be the delay of having to ferry them one ship at a time…"

"Another option would be… if one of the queens were to become involved… but that is not done lightly. It leaves us.. vulnerable."

"of course, this is all dependent upon the captain being willing to accept our help in the first place."


Removing would be an Agility check, comparable to trying to play a massive skill tested on top of the movements of your mech.

Use Explosives if you want to disable it, since the basics of setting them off have remained the same.


well, maybe I'll be lucky. I hope they have the same color spectrum we do for when I remove wires.
Though… can I drag the maintenance robot somewhere else before trying this? If it blows up in a waiting room instead of somewhere important, that'll be a better outcome than flubbing it here.


"It's a difficult situation. I don't think the Ankylosaur will mind taking them aboard, but it still wouldn't sit well with me to leave the rest." Eva's mech looks towards the lights as more power on, letting you know the time of awakening approaches, just in time for Barbri to bring the two apprehensive children towards you. She stops a short distance away, with both of them trying to hide behind her.

"This will be about as good as we'll get for practice. Children, this is Shelly and that is Friend-Eva." Barbri says, the two children only looking at the two of you. "Go ahead and say hi!" Barbri says, trying to encourage them.


It's got a bunch of gears for guidance, but it wouldn't be difficult to lead it elsewhere, just make sure the dynamite or detonator doesn't catch on something and go off.


And that would be a tech roll instead? Because if I can get this thing to walk itself out an airlock, that'd be fantastic.


It's an easy enough roll. There is no intelligence in the robot, just gears turning in a set pattern. An early Roomba is more advanced, if a little less shiny and neat thanks to the robots system.


Then that's what I'll use. Robotics expert applies, even though this thing would be an antique to an antique, as well as Egghead. So I'll be rolling three dice, keeping two, and with an overall +4.

Roll #1 1, 4, 2 + 4 = 11


Time has not been kind to the cleanliness of the ship. Despite being built for a slightly larger species, this space ship is still rather small and only given gravity thanks to its momentum. It takes a lot of cajoling and tinkering to get it to stay in the airlock, remove some of the ice, and let the poor thing float out into space.

You come back to see Nastaliq finishing opening the way towards the reactor controls. "Your armor handle radiation. right? They said it was risky, but there's a lever inside that you can pull and it'll delay it from powering up more. I've turned on one of the Engineer pods in the meantime so they can stop the whole thing." He points and mentions the label on the equipment that needs to be used.


Rest in pieces, little robot, your sacrifice is appreciated. Though considering it's in a vacuum now the dynamite probably won't actually detonate. Maybe we can snag it later.
"For a little while, at least, I should be fine."
It's just a few levers here and there, should be fast. Just going to make one more check to make sure this thing is properly sealed and rated for whatever sort of radiation is coming out of that reactor.


Your mech suit is actually much more highly rated than those of the military, since it's designed to work and stay in dangerous environments.

"Now we just wait. Thanks for your help, you saved a lot of people." Nastaliq says as he sits down, trying to deal with the tension of the situation. "So, which of the Fleet's ship sent you? Are the others in danger?"


"Well, I don't know how to tell you this, but I'm unaffiliated with your Fleet. Our ship was passing through this area and stumbled onto your ships, completely encased in ice. We didn't know what we found until your ships started thawing out."
I'll hunker my suit down across from him.
"As for the other ships, I haven't heard more reports but the people we sent to check on them seem to have found other survivors. So they must still be in working condition to maintain life support."
on that note, I'll send a small message back to the Ankylosaur asking about the status of the other ships and any active crew who didn't try and shoot people with antiques.
"Maybe you could fill in a few gaps for me, though? Your species and language wasn't anywhere in our records, which is why we had a hard time talking before we scraped a translation program together."


"We are in agreement on that. Even if it's just sending drones by periodically once they all go back to sleep in order to keep watch over them, we have no intention of letting them vanish into the void."

Wave cheerily towards the children, doing our best to look non-threatening. "Greeting, young-ones! We apologize for the impropriety, but our ship came out of our fold-jump nearby and we felt the need to investigate all these giant ships. We hope you are doing well?"

Nudge at Eva's mech. "Perhaps you should say hello as well, Friend-Eva? Face-to-face? It may help ease their worries."


Nastaliq looks at your Mech's 'face', completely unaware of where you really are.

"I, was suspecting as much. They told us it would take a long time, that maybe one of the ships might fail and develop its own culture." He takes a moment and has a surprised smile on his face. "You really are an alien, huh?"

>"I was hearing most of what you said, but I figured a status update wasn't the most important thing at the moment."

Verata adds over the radio.
>"Bad news, there seems to be similar trouble in the other ships of their fleet. Good news, we've been able to stop most of it. Petry has been busy asking questions and getting work translated for us."

"Can I see your face? Are you going to stay and help us?" Nastaliq asks.


To Verata:
"Keep me updated on that. Just remember to pass along a checkup order on the ships' reactors. If they got rigged to overload like this one's was, that'd be a problem."

To Nastaliq:
"Well, we'll stay until you guys are in a stable position, at least. At least, as far as I know. As for a face-to-face… yeah sure I suppose. Try not to be too surprised."
I've got my helmet secure at least, in case the air isn't exactly hospitable to someone my size, so popping the hatch won't be a problem.


"Hello." Your equipment translates before the children retreat behind Barbri.

"They're usually a little more active than this." Barbri says, making sure to stay in place so the children don't run off.

"Well, I know what they say, but I'll be counting on you if they take off with me, okay?" Eva's Mech lowers itself to its knees. "So, Shelly already told you us about us Humans, but he didn't mention the situation we're in, or the really, really big difference." The cockpit opens up slowly, letting some air out but giving Eva plenty of room to stand be clearly visible to Barbri and the kids. "No, I'm not a doll either." She announces over the speakers, this time getting the full attention of the Children, who practically fall over trying to see, as well as getting Barbri's full attention.

"Wait, are you really that small? Can, can we approach?" Barbri asks,this time holding on to the children.


"It's amazing, isn't it? Their world has such high gravity it's right on the verge of making space-travel impossible, and the result was that their species became very small and dense. Most appreciate it if you don't try to pick them up without permission, but they're also heavier than you'd expect."

Stand back a little, give them room to approach the small, cute human without getting too close to the big scary bug.

"Though as you can see, they overcame that difference by designing these mechas of theirs, so that they can interact with other races without having to worry about being stepped on."


>"Can do. Since we've got a better grasp of what we're dealing with, some of the trainee pilots will be sent out."
Verata says as the radio cuts off, several other conversations going on in the background.

Nastaliq is jolted when the opening procedure starts closer to the chest than the head he was expecting, and jumps even more so when it fully opens up, letting him catch a whole glimpse of you.

"Are, are you really, is that you?" Nastaliq is barely able to stay in his chair.


"Yeah, we really are this small. I'm a human, and we come from a fairly high-gravity planet so we naturally just became this way over time. The suits help us operate at the average scale of other races."
I'll shrug.
"I know it's a bit odd running across a race roughly the size of a child's toy, since we get that reaction a lot."


As always, it's the children who rush over to look at the tiny Human. They touch the very unusual mech, as well as its material, before Barbri reaches out a hand for Eva to jump on. Just as you mentioned, Barbri wasn't fullly prepared for the weight and uses two other arms to hold her up. The children spend their time petting her, but it seems Eva has figured it out that it is better to play along.

"There are lots of other intelligent species in the galaxy?" Barbri asks as the children play.


"Oh, uhm, sorry. I just, wasn't expecting to be responsible for a First Contact situation, or for it to be like this." Nastaliq's eye look you over carefully. He's still wondering about the situation he's in, but curiosity wins him over.

"Can I, pick you up?"


Nod along to her question while quietly laughing at Friend-Eva's expressions.

"Indeed, the Anklyosaur holds members from several dozen different species, though most of them are specialists assisting the Humans with their colonization. The number of species we are currently aware of numbers in the hundreds, the thousands if you count various sub-species and evolutionary divergences. To be fair, most tend to keep to themselves outside of trade and policing of pirates, but most have at least a presence in the greater galaxy."

"To be honest, it's a bit surprising what your race managed to accomplish without access to Fold technology; it's what allows most races to have trade and communicate with each other at all. Though it probably doesn't help that with the cryo-sleep, your people are a good century or two behind the technological curve."


Why do they always default to picking us up? Happens every time…
"As long as you don't drop me. Gonna warn you though, we're dense so we're heavier than we look."
I'll shrug.
"And I wouldn't worry too much about the first contact thing, I think someone on another ship got stuck with two different species to meet, judging by the amount of chatter that was going on in the background when you and I met in the control room."
I'll unbuckle myself from my pilot seat and move to the edge of the cockpit.


"Our planet wasn't a very hospitable place. My parents and grand parents saw the signs and invested everything they could into living in the ground, the waters, and eventually into the stars. We just, put as much as we could into it, nothing else." Barbri says as the children take turns playing along with Eva. She eventually lets the kids hold her, but they have to do it together and are also surprised at her mass. "Now I'm just wondering if the planet we're heading to hasn't already been claimed."

The last lights turn on, as the Captain's cryopod emerges, water leaking out onto the floor.

"Well, that question will have to wait. If you don't mind, I have news to break to the Captain." Again, Barbri straightens out her clothing and waits in front of the defensive glass.

Of his four arms, Nastaliq has to use two to keep you balanced, bringing you closer to his face, as if making sure you weren't a puppet and the real person in the suit was messing with him.

"Oh, so there are other ships still in good condition, that's great to hear, but are all the other species in the galaxy as small as you?" Nastaliq's eye shine with wonder as he brings his free hand over and behind you, as if feeling for some invisible strings. "Are there more of you?"



"We're actually an oddity, so far as we've found. Most other species we've run across have been around your size."
I'll shrug again.
"As for there being more of us, well, I didn't exactly fly out here myself. And there's the colonies too."


The 'tray' holding the frozen Captain emerges, the last layers of ice melting into water and being collected through the grates to be reused. The lights switch to yellow and green as the last noticeable amount of ice falls off of him.

There's a moment where the Captain just lays there, even though the system seems to have stopped. Barbri takes one last moment to look herself over in the glass as the Captain gets up and groggily looks in Barbri's direction.

"We're not there yet, so what's the emergency?" He asks in a obviously tired tone on the other side of the glass. He start looking at you Shelly, but his eyes can't seem to focus fully yet and he hasn't reacted how most normally do.

"Well, we've made an important breakthrough Captain." Barbri says as she turns towards you. "We've made First Contact, several times over. Let me introduce you to the first one, Shelly."


Nastaliq keeps you close, but knowing that there are so many others has clearly left an impression on him. You can see his eyes move in relation to his brain trying to process it, he tries to ask more questions but just can't push them through. It's at that moment that one of the Engineer's cryotube pops and slowly starts bringing them out.

"Oh, should I put you back?" He asks. "Do you know about the world we're heading to?!"


"Heck, what kind of drinks and snacks did you have back home?" Berry asks eagerly. "Is it customary to clap after the movie?"


"I'd appreciate it, thanks. As for where you all were headed, I've not heard from the other teams checking the other ships about a flight plan yet, so your guess is as good as mine."
I'll shrug.
"But you're all still alive and your ships are… mostly still in decent working order for the trip, so that's something at least?"


"Hello!" We wave enthusiastically to the captain. "We can see you are quite groggy, so hopefully we do not overwhelm you with information, but there is quite a lot on which we need to bring you up to speed. If you feel the need to shoot at us, please make it quick; we're used to it, and considering your weapons literally cannot hurt us, we do not mind in the slightest!"


"I saw that we were still a ways off from arriving." Nastaliq says as he puts you back. "I'm glad the ships are okay, I have some friends and family in the other ones, but it's so far still. Well, at least we got to meet because of it! Did you bring any radio plays or magazines?"

Ice chunks fall off from the awakening Engineer. You can see various marks and patches on his clothing and a small pouch of tools has an audible clank when it falls from his chest. He's groaning as the ice melts away.


"With me right now? Nah. But the ship's library probably has loads, not to mention what other people likely brought with them."
Oh good, the cryopod's thawing function worked. Wouldn't know what to do if they didn't.


"Clapping? No, but a live show might get a hearty tail-slap against the floor." I look down at the ship's deck and thinking of how that would akin to an earthquake for her, decide against demonstrating. "Perhaps we can do your tradition of clapping this time."

"We have a steamy drink called Blue Froth, like your 'tea' usually, helps keep the body warmer while we are watching films in the dark. Eating during the show is just anything small and juicy."
I nod and select some meaty snacks for the show, maybe those 'miniature pizzas' would be good.


There's a delay in his reaction as he rubs his eyes with his four hands. His head moves to the sides, trying to get a better view of you. He falls back on the tray, at least allowing his brain to try and comprehend the situation.

"I, I don't even remember what the procedure for this is supposed to be." He says. "She's not giving me the signal, so either you're peaceful or you're very persuasive. Either way, welcome aboard. I'd offer something to drink, but I couldn't bring most of my good stuff aboard." He says with a smile, still trying to get his vision to adjust.


"We can be both!" we inform him cheerfully. "To be fair, she did pretend she had a detonator when we still couldn't understand each other; thankfully our translation software has been updated successfully, so communication is going much more smoothly!"

We frown and scratch our horns as we remember the fanatics we had to subdue, and listen to the reports from the other vessels.

"Unfortunately, you seem to also have an infestation of saboteurs aboard. We subdued some of them already, and are willing to help you subdue the rest, but it seems they're not confined to just this ship."


"That's great! I think everyone listened to the same productions about twenty times before we were all frozen in." Nastaliq has a disgruntled look. "Let me know what you want for any of them."

A few of the Engineer's limbs start moving, stretching out as far as they can as the ice melts through below him. "Ugh, this better be important. I was having a good dream." He bellows as he sits up. A name tag is more visible now: Oristo.

"There's a few issues. There is sabotage going on. Oh, and we met Aliens." Nastaliq says to Engineer Oristo, who suddenly tenses up and looks in your direction.


I'll wave.
"Peaceful, I assure you. We were hoping you'd be able to give a thorough look over the ship's status to make sure the… fanatics? didn't cause too much damage."


"That does sound good." Appenzi says. "Maybe they can synthesize something close to it? Oh, hey, what if we just checked out some of the other rooms if they're even being used? As big as it is, I keep forgetting the Ankylosaur is an alien ship. Maybe while we wait for the delivery to arrive, we can find one? Besides, a little walk will make the food tastier."


"Hmm, I have heard on the last sport-cast that movement before eating makes your body turn it into pure muscle." I nod in approval, and slither toward the door to open it for our group, "But that means no rides for you Berry." I give her a playful hiss.


"The Pact?!" His expression changes on the realization. "How much was the damage they caused so far?"

"Not much here so far, Captain Eone." Barbri says. "Thanks to the efforts of Shelly on our ship, and those with him in the others. Pact members had recently awaken to carry out their plan, but they were captured before it could fully plan out, at least so far. That's partially why we're here, actually. The other being that Faster Than Light travel is possible and that several aliens have arrived with it."

"I don't suppose you'd be able to help us get to the new world faster, then?" Captain Eone asks. "Name what it will take." Now he stands firm, trying to imagine what the future holds for him and his species.


You can see that he's slowly looking at the head of your mech, rubbing his eyes as he tries to force himself to awaken.

"It's these moments I wish they let us bring the strong stuff aboard. So, hold on kid. The Pact was here and that 'Bot is an alien?" Engineer Oristo says as he tries to pick up his tools with one arm. He looks you over, unable to really grasp what's before him. "Wait, what were the Pact up to?"


Shrug as we consider the question. "Bigger engines? We don't believe they make Fold reactors for vessels of your size. Ferrying on modern vessels is an option; our ship is technically already a colonization vessel, but we can at least fit the children who have already been woken up and several others. That might require some of the crew here to stay awake to help monitor shipments and wake up crew as transports arrive, but we don't know if you have the food provisions to make that feasible."


"I'm technically inside the robot, but I figure you've had enough surprises rolling out of bed that we can put that off for now. As for what they were up to, they'd rigged a bomb to one of the old maintenance robots and tried to set the ship's reactor to overload. Both of these problems have been settled, and there's two of them that probably need medical attention in the cryopod area. I wasn't exactly… gentle in subduing them, though they are still, or were still, alive."


"Dang it, I'll get you to carry me next time." Berry says with a giggle as she runs up besides you.

Outside, the hall is still fairly active, even if the people in it are relatively tiny. There's a few small vehicles moving some equipment around and one of the Mechs has been stripped down to hold scanning equipment as it makes the rounds. Though much of it stops the moment you peer your head through. Many of the Humans are used to you, but you still have a few who stop and stare. Some loud laughter can be heard, as well as some equipment putting out a lot of music and bass.

"So, where too first?" Berry asks.


"Let's see if any of the storage areas are freed up now, that would be more space than a normal room." I suggest.


"If it means some of our species will have a home outside these ships, we'll take any opportunity to do so." Captain Eone smiles and breathes. "On behalf of our Expeditionary Fleet, I thank you. Though I take it you need more than that if you had to wake me."

Barbri gives you another happy smile back. "Oh, like we mentioned, there are other species with Shelly here. Let me introduce you to Eva. Children, can you bring her here?" They quickly come over, as they only stayed off to the side to make sure they didn't interrupt the Captain, who goes forward and unlocks one of the protective panels. The children bring Eva up to you with much less trepidation than their older counterpart.


"You're inside that suit of armor?" Oristo says as he finally forces himself to stand, using all four arms to balance himself. "Well, if others have to deal with their own version of the Pact, I don't blame you for being in one. Let me regain my balance, then take me where you encountered the saboteurs. They've been pretty tricky the last few times they awoke. They didn't rough you up too much? I guess I should apologize on behalf of the species, but I'm not certified for this."


"We're happy to be of assistance. We'll have some drones operating within the general galactic area start seeing about… 'repossessing' some Fold-capable vessels from pirates within their area to help with the process."

We carefully lower ourself down enough to pick up Eva, giving all the children appreciative pats on the head at the same time.

"Having fun so far, Friend-Eva?"


"Not to worry, what they had on them posed more of a threat to the area than to me."
I'll wave off the apology.
"And don't worry about it. I'm a mechanic, so I'm not really certified for first contacts either."


"That sounds good. Plus it would make it easy to move the equipment if it's all nearby." Berry says over the radio, running alongside you as you head down to the Hangar and its promising warehouses. Down there, thanks to the help of the Chordians, it's all much more organized than it was before. There's much more open area, but there's still noticeable areas blocked off by the cargo containers, some of them empty and waiting to be given new purpose. A little further off, the warehouse rooms are a little more packed, but the lack of personnel moving around with any real speed makes it clear they tend to be left alone. There's lots of equipment, backup supplies, and gear laying around. Some of it can be repurposed, but you'll probably have to do some cleaning.

Some of the staff wave as you pass, a few of the Humans who work on your flight gear are passing the time here.


"Is that the other species?!" The normally stern Captain is taken by surprise as he gets closer, another protective glass panel in the way as he crouches down, putting all four hands on the glass. "Are they really that small?"

Even the children laugh at his reaction, though Eva seems to take it in stride.

"Yup, the kids aren't too hard to deal with. I just pretend to be dealing with a bigger Duanas." Eva says cheerfully as she turns towards the Captain and does a proper bow, though it might be hard for him to see it. "Don't worry, we'll be the ones staying back to coordinate, we don't take up too much room!" She shouts, letting the mech's speaker do the work of making her easier to hear. "I've got a data link, once we have system access, I can send back where you're headed and we can give you a better time frame of how long it'll take us to get some of you there. In the mean time, Shelly's friends will make sure you don't run into the trouble we have. Won't you?" She says as she turns back around to face you.

The Captain brings down the last protective panel, letting finally get up close to him. His clothing is body fitting, like Barbri's, but he's got a large number of patches and flags on his chest.


Oristo's eyes and ears perk up open hearing the translated word of his dreams: "Mechanic." He really looks you over, paying attention to your weapons and the marks on the mech with an eager smile.

"Well then Mr. Alien Mechanic, if you're here in peace, there's a few things I've had to put off for the last few hundred years. Is that suit of yours rated for space travel and how many of you are there?" Oristo asks as Nastaliq skips towards the door.


Stop and say high to the engineers, do I know if their boss might be in charge of those empty warehouse? '3d6' street smarts?

"Hey there, slow day?"

Roll #1 4, 1, 2 = 7


"Bigger Duanas…" we pause and take a good long moment to fully explore that particular concept within the Voldra Collective.

"Indeed, we already have some drones preparing to head out this way to stand guard once your crews return to hibernation to conserve supplies. Though we are generally very awkward with technology, so perhaps establishing a simple system for them to know how to wake up someone who knows what they are doing would be wise…"

"Oh right, also we should probably get on checking what the… Pact, you called them? might have already sabotaged. Friend-Frank on one of the other vessels found an intentionally-sabotaged reactor set to overload, and that would likely be very bad."


"It's rated for operating outside of a ship, and as for how many of us… well, there are never enough mechanics, regardless of the time period."
If he's steady on his feet, I'll let him walk on his own as we make our way back to where I left the goons tied up. I can't imagine their condition has improved any.
"If you're asking about crew on the ship, though, there's a fair decent amount. I'd love to give specifics but I'm sure that'd get me in at least several kinds of trouble and on duct duty for the foreseeable future."


"Yep. Most of the issues have been fixed, only having to deal with a few things here and there now." The engineer standing on top of one of the vehicles shouts back up to you. Fortunately for you, you do recall their uniforms and this Human is one of the foremen in charge of their group. "What brings you over? Are they sending you out to check on something?"


"Actually a bit of, fun, today." I slightly struggle with the word. "I'd like to ask you for something related to that, foreman." I slide myself down more so its easier for him to talk to me without shouting, effectively laying down, a natural pose for a snake.
"Are you a fan of movies perhaps?"


"Right. Let's head towards the bridge." Captain Eone says as he walks through the ship with you, looking over some of the plants that have slowly started to appear in places they shouldn't. "I'll need to confirm myself first." He pulls out several keys, pressing down on buttons near the console that were hidden as part of the design. A small CRT television appears from behind a wall and he proceeds to input more information. "Alright, I've made you a user account, but you'll need to get the technicians awake to get it to connect to your mainframe." The Captain says as the continous paper feed printer produces a log in for you and Eva, which she quickly uploads to the Ankylosaur. "You had mentioned wanting the information about where we were headed. I can bring up that information for you." Eva quickly sends that back as well.

"I had another question. Just how 'dangerous' is this area of space?" Captain Eone asks. "That machine, it's rather heavily armed." He points to its pistol and equipment, unaware of the true ability of Eva's mech.


"So no matter the species, we're treated the same." Engineer Oristo allows himself to laugh. "And you're right, there's never enough mechanics to go around. Please tell me you've invented something better than our ticket queue system?" As you approach the apprehended criminals, Oristo starts looking around and reaches into a few vents and crannies, pulling out ancient weapons and ammunition, and what looks like an actual stick of dynamite. "They try to hide these things for others in case they can't do their dirty work. At least you stopped them from making a mess like last time they awoke."

"Oh, your ship? Can you show it to us? What's it like inside?" Nastaliq asks, eager to learn more about Humans and the Ankylosaur.


"Thank you for being so helpful; we've had many cases where those we wanted to help remained obstinate out of not wanting to rely on 'outsiders.'"

We quietly wince at his question about danger.

"That is actually Friend-Eva's mecha, to allow her to move around in areas intended for larger species such as ourselves. As for danger… For us, it is relatively light; our voyage has tended towards the unfortunate, which may be down to intentional sabotage by unknown parties, but we only even found your fleet because we got pulled out of our Fold-jump to avoid a collision. However… it's a moot point for you, we're afraid. Technology has advanced much in the centuries your species has been asleep; we assumed your defense systems were defective from disrepair, but considering the state of your firearms… you are very lucky we were the first to find you, because we highly doubt you could fend off even a small pirate crew running on duct tape and drugs."


"Eh, well…" He struggles thinking about a simple thing. "Well, yeah, who doesn't, right?" He says as he looks over to the others. "Why do you ask?" He begins to sweat as Berry looks on, a stern look on her face and the slightest hint of smile.


I'll heft my gun for a second.
"This was my last project. Made it to disable robots and other similarly mechanical threats. Not exactly a lot of shipyards in this neck of space, so parts are where we find them. Luckily, though, we haven't run into any pirates lately so the parts we'd get from them aren't needed yet."
I'll consider for a minute.
"Last time? You mean this happens every so often during your trip?"
To Nastaliq
"I'd have to get clearance to bring people aboard, but I'm sure the rest of the away teams have already made a boatload of promises in that regard already. As for what it's like, well, it's a refurbished ship, and sized for people of roughly your height. She runs well enough, though…"
I'll pause.
"I know this ship and the rest of your fleet must have been near top of the line when you left, but compared to our ship they're pretty much antiques. I imagine that you all went the cryostasis route because faster-than-light wasn't sorted out before you left?"


"Well, I was wondering, you have a lot of newly free space, a garage or storage unit you have no use for.. perhaps that could be repurposed, say I dunno, for a movie theater? "


Both Barbri and the Captain can be seen to react poorly to the realization of what situation they're in, but they quickly gather themselves as professionals should.

"Thank you for being so honest. It was obvious to us even before we left that we had neglected our, uh, small arms before we left our world for good." The Captain says, looking back towards the monitor. "Well, at least now we can count on your aid. Anyways, I can give you access to our archives. You might as well learn about us and our old world."

>"Okay, I've got some big news for them, just letting you know first. But that planet they're headed to? It's Earth."

Eva says over the radio to you.


"Oh, that!" The Human starts taking some deep breathes as Berry turns away in laughter. "Uhm, yeah let me think. I don't think we have any that are fully empty, but would not being used often work for you? We've put some of the clothing in one room, you might be able to use that one. There's all sorts of cables in another. If you sort it, you'd probably have easier access to any you need for doing that stuff. I'm trying to think of the others, but those seem like your best bet. Do you have the equipment for it?"


"Um." I look at Beryl, she's the one who rides around in tech all day! "We have that projector we usually use? I suppose the room which already has wires in it would be best to try?"


"I can probably rig something up with a ComLink your size, or two of them." She responds, only for a few of the others to join in.

"I think the Chordians brought in some monitors for them. I think they might have a few free." One of them shouts out.

"But, will it be good for movies? I don't mind them for day to day stuff." Another shouts as they get on the radios and make a few calls.

"How important is the image quality? We might be able to source a few things for you we need tested anyways." The Human you were talking to adds. "Oh, and what about sound?"


"Oh yes, sound is very important. Video quality, it would be nice to see it in HD instead of using my tablet as a monitor." I actually smile a little bit too, careful not to show too much fang.


"Tell me what you want to trade it to me." Oristo says. "Yeah, the cryostasis has some limits and people have to be awoken every once in a while, at least every few decades. We're supposed to cycle consistently, but as a fellow Tech, you know people don't always follow the schedule. Last time, there were a few too many Pact members that awoke. Caused a lot of work for me, but the improper awakening did them in. Others just left goodies for the next batch to find."

"I wouldn't mind seeing something new for once. I haven't even seen the insides of the other ships." Nastaliq says, wondering what conditions those are in. "Yeah, this thing is old. I know they had to make it in a rush, since the weather was getting bad. Some of my classmates got to go into the underground bunkers. Oh, maybe your ship is fast enough to get us back to our homeworld too!?"


"Come on, we should at least check out the area first before we start ordering anything. We don't even know if there are power ports there." Berry says as she marches off after getting the directions. "Besides, we'll need to bring in some snack machines. You have one, right? Oh, and maybe start thinking about what to play first."

"Hey, give me your ComLink address and I can send you one of my pre-filled requisition forms. I'll make sure to get your stuff pushed forward." The foreman says.


"And we have to organize a bit too, its probably tangled up and we need to move some seats over and.." my hood flares a bit in excitement of the ideas.
"Oh sure, here, I'll synch-send it to you." I hold up my comm-link and and set up the wireless 'send contact info' screen.


Shortly after sending him your information, a form arrives on your ComLink. Looking it over quickly, you can see where he's pre-filled it out.

Hold on to that excitement because the cables are a mess. There's some large ones that Berry has to climb over, and then plenty more that you'd have difficulty holding between two fingers. There's some cabinets nearby where you can put some of the cables, as well as put up any equipment you might need.

"Maybe we can just shove all this stuff in a corner?" Berry says.

"No way you can do that." Appenzi shouts out as she arrives, having followed you after getting off her shift. "They're constantly putting in new cables in our communication area because people keep stepping on it. But maybe with a little help, we can fix this place up quick, no?"


"It's still a prototype, it's got more than a few kinks I need to iron out before we can mass produce it. Output being a big one. You should have seen some of the faces the work crew pulled on the range tests."
As for Nas
"It's probably possible, but I'm not going to get your hopes up since I'm not sure how many detours our command crew's willing to take. Still, weather bad enough to encourage a mass exodus of ships? Must have been pretty much end-of-the-world type of weather."


Oh dear.

"Ah… about the world you selected as a destination… there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that it has already developed it's own species, and thus is currently occupied… The good news is that the race it is home to is the humans! So, that will certainly make discussions much more expedient."

"Plus, humans are very friendly and eager to make friends, so that is much preferable to discovering your destination has been taken by warmongers! That is always an awkward discussion…"

Try very, very hard to remain upbeat when relaying this information; they've been getting kind of hammered with bad news since they woke up after all.


"That's because it was the end. Maybe it wasn't the biggest storm ever, but, you know when someone doesn't want to admit they lost, but they know they did?" Oristo keeps his eye on your mech as Nastaliq explains. "Well, that was everyone of the radio and TV. I remember some bad times, days and maybe even weeks we couldn't go outside, but my parents… I still remember the look they had when they thought I was asleep and snuck out to get some water. When it's their turn to thaw out, maybe they can tell you how it was."

"Kid's not wrong." Oristo finally adds. "Lots of trouble before we launched, and even then we weren't sure. The only one with any certainty in their eyes were the Pact members, and they almost made sure we didn't launch." Oristo puts a pair of arms on his head while another fiddle with some loose boxes, only to pull out some rusting bullets from a pile of papers. "Well, stuff like this is why I asked if I could get one of yours. Lot of the pieces we find are either hammered together from spare parts or genuinely older than us."

Nastaliq stares at the bullets for a moment before turning back with a smile. "How is the weather were you're from? There's no big storms always happening, right?"


>"I've barely met them but I'm sure he's not taking it well."
Eva says over the radio to you, trying to give Barbri and the Captain time to process the situation.

Both of them are clearly taken aback from the revelation. The Captain looks down while Barbri sits down, her knees seemingly having given out.

"We knew that was a possibility, that the planet we were headed to was inhabited." The Captain says, taking a breath and returning with a smile. "Well, at least we know the planet is habitable." He tries to laugh.

"We went through plenty of scenarios before the fleet launched." Barbri adds. "It's not like we didn't believe it was a possibility, we just hoped it wasn't the one we landed on."

"Well, I'll have to at least praise your efforts at trying to let us down easy. It's clear you aren't any bad guys or we wouldn't be standing here once you all found out." The Captain adds.

>"This is a terrible situation. I feel so bad for them, even if it wasn't our own planet they were headed to. They'd have to wait so long to get anywhere from here, regardless."

Eva says over the radio to you.
>"You know what's worse? They're saying that there is a possibility that they were aiming for Venus instead. A completely uninhabitable planet."


Man, these guys were clearly desperate if they mistook Venus for a habitable planet.

"To be fair, it also lets us know your species' preferred environment is similar to that of humans, so any canidates for human colonization would also be compatible for you."

We scratch our mandibles as an idea pops into our head.

"Perhaps an arrangement could be worked out to assist human colonization efforts? The biggest bottleneck of any new colony is the rate of population growth being constrained by time requirements and shipping costs, so planetside industry can be set up faster than colonists can populate the planet enough to fill those industries. Being able to bring in more colonists faster would greatly increase the rate at which a colony could become self-sustaining."


"The gravity might still be too much for them on the planet." Eva steps in. "But worst case scenario, they could turn these ships into orbital stations, so that might work. Plus, we do have another planet we've got to stop at first. I'm sure the Admin Staff would be able to convince them to take some in."

"Either way, we'd at least have a secure location." Barbri says with some hope in her eyes but not much in her voice. "Once we have something solid like that…"

"We'd at least be better able to make *another* choice from there." The Captain adds. "Not the best place to work from, but I'm sure the other Captains will accept the inevitability of it." He looks over at you and Eva. "It's clear that the galaxy we find ourselves in is not one we were fully prepared for. If you don't mind giving us a moment, I can at least plan out what I have to tell the others."

>"We just crushed their hopes and dreams, didn't we?"

Eva adds.


>"Unfortunately so. Though we cannot think of a course of action that would have done more than delayed the inevitable."

"A secure location, and possibly friends," we point out to Barbri somewhat insistently. "Many hands and many voices working together can surmount many difficult trials."

Let the captain have his space to compose his statement; we know the importance of getting an announcement right.


>"You're right. At this rate, it wouldn't be long before they started to see what was at their destination anyways."
Eva says in a downbeat voice.
>"Looks like the Ankylosaur will pull in close now. We can probably take a few aboard soon, so I might just get the children prepared in case they send them with us. With our equipment, and many hands and voices, they'll be able to get a good view of their situation."

You can hear Barbri and the Captain starting to have a discussion, as well as the sounds of some signals being sent out and some equipment being used. As a few more ships fly up, Barbri comes out to join you.

"We sent out the signal for the other Captains to be unfrozen. Usually not expected to be used until we landed, I'm sure they'll be aware that something is up immediately after being unthawed." She looks off in the distance as the Ankylosaur starts becoming visible through the glass window. "The Captain needs a little time to prepare, so, what can you tell me about what you've encountered getting here? Normally I'm only awake long enough to get frozen again, so I'd like to know what to expect out there."


"Hmn, where to start? Well, we will start with this drone's journey to meet up with the Ankylosaur before her launch, which at first had us almost get shot at our first stop at a station manned by one of the more militant races - Friend-Dusky is from their race, he works in the Hydroponics of the Ankylosaur - before we warded off a pirate attack on the station and made our final jump to Earth, where they have all kinds of interesting foods! Then as we were launching the ship, an Asteroid showed up, which turned out to be a massive pirate base! They tried to raid the ship, but we shot them until they stopped trying, even the angry hornets- we still feel kind of bad for killing their sister, but she was giving us a constant headache and it's hard to function under those conditions. Afterwards-"

And so we eagerly and bombastically start recounting our journey so far- until we either finish telling the story, or Friend-Eva interrupts to clarify that Friend Barbri was asking about the state of their fleet.


"Well, not sure about how much surplus weaponry we actually have, but I figure command might be willing to part with some of it for a fair price. If not gouging, considering the desk jockeys who can't let anything go."
To Nas:
"The weather's not terrible, outside of certain seasons or parts of the world. And a lot of architecture is built with it in mind these days. Still don't want to launch any craft in bad weather, though. That's just asking for accidents at best."
Should almost be time to skip ahead to meeting up with the rest, I think.


Barbri listens intently, even taking a few notes on an actual piece of paper. Her worry falls off slightly as she asks about the various locations. While she's obviously no stranger to space travel, the difference in technology and techniques, as well as the introduction to Fold Energy, she's as eager as the Girls are to learn more.

Though in time, Eva does interrupt, but with a radio communication back from the ship.
>"Looks like word is getting around in the Ankylosaur. They're making preparations to have some of our Engineers help them out and see what else there is we can do for them. We'll be here for a while anyway while waiting for the engines."

"What's it like to visit all those worlds? Is it fun?" One of the children interrupts.
"Oh, can we visit those places to?" The other shouts out.

"I'm almost as eager as they are to ask those questions." Barbri responds with a more noticeable smile. "For all we have to deal with, there is a lot more to look forward to now as well."


"I'll take anything at this point. Your scrap metals are probably going to be better than anything I have to work with." Oristo says. "Maybe I can melt these into something useful." He says as he stares at the ancient bullets. "Say, you wouldn't happen to have some kind of training program?"

"They rarely let us even go outside before we left." Nastaliq adds. "The last sunny day was when we launched out into space."

– Time Skip –

The thousands of year old space ship hasn't been so lively in a long time. Thanks to the Ankylosaur offering support, you and a few other Ship Staff now have the privilege of working on another ship that has its fair share of holes and leaks from a lack of maintenance.

"Is this big enough to get in?" Civet asks as she uses a large screw driver to move wiring, giving you access to the old control system behind it. "I thought we were finished working on finding all these old parts once they fixed the Ankylosaur." Civet looks around briefly to all the Mechs and other Human staff who have come aboard to help get the ship in a better state.


"Good; hopefully we can at least help them get started towards a destination they can feasibly reach within a timely manner."

"Indeed there is much to look forward to; the galaxy is vast and filled with life and mysteries, enough that even if an entire race devoted themselves entirely to exploring it they could not experience it all. Even the Voldra, old as we are, are constantly learning new things- though we admit, recently much of that learning has come from our human friends and how they show us such a different point of view."

We turn away and bashfully rub our horns.

"Becoming their friends has been one of the best decisions we ever made."


Joy. Unpaid overtime on top of unpaid overtime. They had better have thawed out more mechanics or so help me…
"Should be big enough, yeah."
I'll give the opening a bit of a test, see if I can squeeze in there to fiddle around.
"I thought you would take it for granted that there's always some hilariously outdated piece of something that pops up whenever you think they're all gone, Civet. There's probably at least six or seven components in the docking bay alone that are probably a good ten or twenty years behind the curve that they figured 'still work fine'."


"It's honestly one of the best things that has happened." Eva says, showing herself with a smile to Barbri and the kids.

– Time Skip –

There's loads of activity on the Ankylosaur as Mechs bring some large bags and furniture to the recently modified room. One of the Mechs is giving Barbri a lesson on how to use a DataPad, though it looks like she's a quick learner.

"We'll probably double the population of the Ankylosaur if this keeps up." Pazu says as she walks up to you.
"Not like it's a bad thing. It's how we got here." Zapu adds. "After the meeting we had with their command staff, I'm actually glad we can help them out."

"I never knew a computer could be so small, or thin, or as capable as this." Barbri says, amazed at the DataPad. "How many kilobytes of data can it hold?"


"Indeed; not only are we assisting a group in dire need of help, we are also gaining a significant boost in colonists to assist in the initial setup phase, and a potential promise of more depending on how things pan out."

[Tech 1] We tilt our head in confusion at Barbri. "What is a kilobyte?"


"Yeah, but they're still recent. Some of the equipment here I only read about in history books." Civet says as she angles her head to see you work.

"Watch out, heavy equipment coming through." A mech pushes some ancient piece of machinery through the hall and even you could see that the thing relies on internal combustion. There's another mech making sure that no one runs up from behind on the equipment.

"Rove said the Printers should have some of the replacement parts coming in soon, but…" Civet looks at where all the cables join up. "Are you going to be able to test all those connections? They look like they'll break even if you just nudge them. Will your sensors even work on them?"


"Yeah. It feels good helping people who need it. I remember how bad it felt, I'm glad being aboard this ship now." Pazu says.

"Hmm, a kilobyte was a unit of measuring the total space in a computer, but something like this probably uses something different." Barbri says. "I was told I could access almost all the data they had available. How many encyclopedias have you put in here?"

"I can answer that for you in a bit." Eva interrupts. "I've got a few other people who have questions for you first Barbri. Oh, and Duana is here too." The sound of the children playing and laughing comes up as they bring Duana up to you and the Twins.

"Hey there! Looks like you brought more folks aboard. I hope you're proud of yourself!" Duana shouts out.


"From what I understand, all the computers are connected through a 'web,' so… all of them?" We shrug noncommittally, since we just know how to use the datapads, not how they work.

"Friend-Duana!" A smile spreads across our mandibles as we step forward, reach out to pick up Duana- then do a slow (for us at least) spin with her held in our outreached arms, slowing the spin by pulling her considerably-dense weight closer to our center of mass- meaning we pull her against our chest.

"We are indeed very proud! And it looks as though you are getting along with them quite well too! How was your part of the mission, Friend-Duana?"


"Well… they worked before. Kinda."
I'll scratch the back of my neck.
"And if not, we can get the people who worked with this before to test them for us. Not that they probably aren't already buried in things to do."
I'll fiddle with a few more components.
"Besides, sometimes you can get ideas from looking at antiques. Like those old skates of yours."
A little joke never hurts.


"Happy to see you too!" Duana smiles while the children look on. "My part was boring, just doing the radio thing like Eva, but that was it. Though I guess that's a good thing in this case, no one was hurt."

"Thanks to your help, the biggest such outbreak was stopped." Pazu replies.
"The admin staff is grateful for your restraint and capture of the rebellious elements." Zapu chimes in.
"Though to be fair, we're kind of jealous. Not everyone can generate their own barrier you know." Pazu says.


"Hey, they were just well worn." Civet says with a giggle. "At least they work better than ever before."

"Fresh from the Printer, the new cabling and adapters are here." Rove says, bringing his Mech close and opening the hatch to make sure he doesn't hit you as his mech brings the supplies closer. "Having fun you two? I hope so, I haven't been so engrossed in a repair session like this in a while. Just look around and you can see how many different ways they adapted to deal with their troubles."

"Well, I admit it's fun to think about how we'd get this stuff up to code. Doing the work though? Are you having fun Frank?"


"Thanks for the supplies, we'll get them in in a bit."
I'll think a second.
"Well, it's a little fun. Like putting a puzzle together. Not that I've had a lot of puzzles to spend time on outside of work."
I'll shrug.
"Seeing it come together and work again is satisfying, though."


We smile and lift her up to nuzzle the side of our face against her, like we have seen some species do before to indicate affection, and sit down amid the group of children. "The radio thing was perhaps one of the most important parts in this mission; without you, we would have been stuck with playing charades for communication."

We can't help but quirk one eye-ridge at the news of it being one of the bigger infestations. "There was only, like, three of the guys. Was that truly the largest group of saboteurs aboard?"

"It is more a question of what you're willing to invest to get them," we inform the twins teasingly. "A few fold-crystals inside of you, and you'll be generating barriers all over the place in no time!"


"Yeah. I'll give them points for redundancy too." Rove says. "It borders on insane at times, check out their power plant when you get a chance. The Ankylosaur could shoot on it with it's original guns and it would probably keep going."

"Let's not think about that." Civet adds dryly. "I'm sure you're tired of getting shot at. Let me know when to get you need the soldering work done as well. I'll have to go get it, though."

"If it helped, than I'm okay just floating there in space." Duana says. "I don't know if I could have done the First Contact thing as well as you." She pets you back as the children follow in sitting down.

"There were only one or two in the other ships." Zapu states as she checks on her own datapad.
"But not all of them took a shrugged off getting shot like you did." Pazu brings up the video. "The other Captains and command crew of theirs seemed relieved when you captured them. That really helped put them at ease.
"Made our jobs easier." Zapu says looking at her sister. "Though when it comes to getting Fold crystals inside of us, maybe Pazu can go first."
"No sister, it's fine if you do instead."

The children don't necessarily understand what the Twins are talking about, but they laugh along with Duana as the Twins bicker for a while.



The next destination of the Ankylosaur and its ever expanding crew would soon be near as the ship nears its quantum exit at the edge of the system. Everyone has received a brochure regarding Jomai, what makes it nice, what to avoid, and a large section dedicated to making sure no one causes any trouble because of the many groups bickering on their home world. The Ankylosaur will be docking with one of the larger, hollowed out asteroids that has been converted into a starbase and home to a noticeable population of Tararu outcasts and engineers who couldn't find a clique to join. They're actually on the smaller on end of most of the large species that have been encountered, standing only slightly taller than the Twins Pazu and Zapu. Their thick hides and claws make them stand out, but most clearly spend time making sure that they've been dulled and not a threat to others.

Starbase Maraten is also unusual for how properly developed it has become. Despite being a den of outcasts, its crime rate is low and several groups boast of having buildings there. Several other satellites have been converted to food production, making the base self-sufficient while still being able to bring in what it needs from the planet. Unlike other locations, because this place has been carved out, almost all the homes and walls and surfaces are stone or other metals that were simply not hauled off. Fortunately for the larger species, and even the smaller ones, the starbase is well able to accommodate many species, even though it usually doesn't get many.

The stay here will be shorter than others, only really stopping for minor maintenance and picking up equipment for the true destination. A good idea, since the debris fields make it clear that circumstances here can change rapidly.


In contrast to the usual situation the Ankylosaur has found itself in, exiting FTL at the edge of the local solar system, the radar system gives an all-clear signal. All the vessels it can detect are sending out the proper Friend codes, every station and foundry where they said they would be. Several Guard ships approach but each one radios in about the basic boarding and inspection procedures from the local security officers. So while the Ankylosaur prepares to have Tararu officers board, everyone else is allowed to go on through their days.


You've been kept even more busy by the Doctors and helping out Iona and Rupus, on top of your Communications responsibilities. They've fully outfitted a room with Fold sensors and similar equipment that isn't as intrusive as before. Rupus still has the occasional breathing issue, but nowhere near as bad as before and both of them have had improvements in their complexion as they've had a more stable environment with the Humans, who've also provided them with clearly better mobility equipment. Eva and Duana have also been included with your sessions, along with another group of the Fold Girls to test what happens as they are exposed to different Fold energy.


As the Ankylosaur has received improvements, you've been moved over to a few other contractual obligations the ship has been picking up along the way on top of the Fold research you've been forcibly volunteered for. While they say there isn't anything dangerous or risky going on, you can sometimes feel the Fold crystal growing ever so slightly.

Today, however, all your issues have been mashed together, with a dash of overbearing inspectors added to the mix. Rove arrives early today, sending you, Civet, and Varan the plans from on high for modifying your Mech to accept Fold Crystal weapons. Behind him, there are two cargo trucks, one full of new parts they want you to fit and test and another to safely store the pieces you remove.


The real Security job starts now. Even with the advent of all remote communications equipment, some deals must be worked out in person and that means getting ready to welcome new strangers to the ship and head out into strange locations so your charges can get their work done. Part of your work is made easier that many of the people you protect are inside very durable metal boxes, but they also happen to be easy to pick up by unsavory sorts.

At least for the moment, you have a new worry: The Humans accidentally stepping on the Aliens about to board the ship for an inspection. Estrella's experience with the Admin staff means she's been assigned as your underling in the mean time.

"Okay, how's my hair look? Is my shirt tucked in right?" Estrella asks from within the machine, which is at least clean and shiny as they can get. "I've done this before, but the last moments before it actually happens are so nerve wracking."


At last, the day I've dreaded has come. Making this retarded junk work with a different model.
"Hope you all are ready to essentially disassemble a suit and put it back together, one wire at a time…"


Ah, a den of outcasts- in other words, potential recruitment grounds! Granted, we are nearly at our final destination, so the need for additional crew is questionable, but you never know when someone might benefit the colony itself!

It is good seeing Iona and Rupus grow more independent and happy as they become healthier and more mobile; not to mention their training with the Fold is progressing admirably! Even the Voldra are learning some new things from these tests and training- minor things like specific frequencies and their effects, but still new knowledge!

Oh, it feels good to be kept busy; this ship becomes more like home every day! The humans don't seem quite as enthusiastic about it though…


"It's not like we haven't gotten used to tearing it apart and building it up again." Civet says with a sarcastic smile.

"Well, this will all be new to me still." Varan adds. "I still haven't even learned all the tools yet."

"Well, it's going to get a lot more fun if you look at the file more closely." Rove states as he shows you the Comments section of the file. As he goes through it, you can easily notice that there are more notes, questions, and remarks on the file than there are actual instructions. In fact, there are loads of areas marked with unanswered questions.

"So I'm still learning your language, but it seems that this one part alone has every letter of your alphabet." Varan notes as he lifts one single piece from the pile up.


Internally, I'll wail at the absolutely staggering amount of backseat engineering from the suits upstairs.
"It probably does, Varan, but its working name will be a lot simpler. I'm sure."
Let's roll through their educated guesses of a design philosophy.
"And Civet, main difference this time is that we're the ones taking it apart. So, first things first, we're going to compartmentalize this project. One limb at a time, test all of them to see if the energy readings are good, and then we put them back together before a final test."
I just hope I don't get folded out into space.


The enthusiasm of the Fold Girls is dampened as they all have to fill out large number of forms before and after each session. Some of them spend more time with those documents than they do with you. At least Eva seems driven to do it, since she's made some progress.

However, the journey has taken its toll on the rest of the crew. Even though the destination is nearer now, having to repeat the same tasks over and over doesn't help with morale. They do take the opportunity to talk much more often with you and ask question about things than before.

"When do you think we'll really be able to use our Fold abilities?" Rupus asks, having returned from the cafeteria in a much cleaner and stronger wheelchair. "I haven't felt this great in maybe forever, and I feel like I'll finally be able to do something with this body."


>Let's roll through their educated guesses of a design philosophy.
Going through the document and the comment sections, you can see just how much effort has gone into this and how much of it is literal guesswork. The way comments are written out, the references to numerous employers, orders, and general issues of employment, this document has clearly gone through many corporations and groups before it has filtered down to you.

"Okay, so regarding the compartmentalization, I have another set of, uh, orders for that." Rove says. "These parts don't have the Fold Crystal in them yet. They've got the mounts and stuff, but we'll have to get a third truck in later to get those in properly." He sends you the forms for those as well, so you can call them in as necessary.

"No, not the name. Look, I think these are all the mounting points instead." Varan holds a single piece closer to you and the others. You can see that some letters are being used twice, with arrows and various other marks being used to indicate where they are supposed to go. Some marks are clearly improvised, being chalked or permanent markered on to the equipment.


And we are very proud of Eva's dedication and improvement!

"Well, Friend-Rupus, it won't be long before you're ready to start the smaller, less intense tricks, but for perhaps a different reason than you're expecting. You and your sister both have very deep pools of energy to draw from, meaning you will likely be able to sustain very powerful abilities much longer and with more power behind them than most. Which, of course, leads to an obvious problem if you accidentally use a very powerful ability without preparation; we might compare it to someone who's arm has started working again trying to do weightlifting right off the bat.
Put another way, you have always had the power, now you have the healthy body, all that remains to be taught is control."


I'll pinch the bridge of my nose for a moment as I let out a small sigh.
"Right, so, most of these plans, as you can guess, are pretty much worthless dreaming by some suit. Which means our first task is turning this gibberish into meaningful design."
I'll pull up the schematic of my suit on a modestly-sized screen (most likely attached to a diagnostic device).
"As I'd like to roughly keep the same frame and silhouette, we're going to have to be working with this in a way that emphasizes versatility over just chucking the fold crystals on there and hoping they stick and don't explode."
I'll start pointing out places in the shoulders, arms, legs, and chest area.
"Ideally, the main fold crystal will go somewhere in the chest region, and energy channeled into it will be relayed through Fold circuits to the appendages, terminating at the output subcrystals located in the hand area. However, as it is a mech than can change shapes, disengaging the gerwalk mode relay system means that energy stays right in the main crystal with no output unless we give it one. So we'll have to account for that too."
I'll swap the image over to the flight mode of the suit, and highlight a couple potential output spots on the nose, wings, and tailfins.
"Relay routing will have to be a definite on/off sort of deal, so I'm not sending that where it doesn't go. Flight fold relay pathing will be autonomous of Gerwalk fold relays."
I'll scratch the back of my neck.
"Now, for those of us who don't have a lot of experience with the Fold suits we already have, this is going to be new territory for you. Civet, you're going to be the second 'in-charge' mechanic for this, as I'm pretty sure you've got the most experience working with these things after me. So expect to answer questions if people have them."


Rupus' face glows with happiness and expectation. He's improved internally as a Fold user and physically, as well as externally with the new and clean clothing and the much better wheel chair he has.

"And we'll be there every step of the way." Doctor Zorani says as she steps in with a few DataPads. "So if you have any questions, feel free to call on any of us." She gives him and you a smile. "I was in charge of several other researchers and corralled a lot of the undergranduates before I had my big break. Being called in the middle of the night is something I'm already experienced with. Oh, are you getting ready for your next session?"


"Indeed, Friend-Zorani! In fact, we were thinking of having Friend-Rupus attempt something new today; so far, we have been initiating the connection to the Fold energy, then having our students focus on channeling it and controlling its flow. Today, we wish to see if Friend-Rupus has reached the point where he can initiate his connection to the Fold without assistance!"

Which is honestly one of the most basic steps of using the Fold and barely worth bothering with for our own young because they grasp it so intuitively, but we do not judge! Other species advance at their own pace, just as we advance at ours.


"Understood!" Without a hint of sarcasm, Civet accepts the position of Number One assistant.

"Well, it's a good thing they kept the Fold crystals out for us. One less thing to worry about as we try to get things together." Rove looks over some of the marked and highlighted areas.

"I've seen those Fold mechs before, but I still haven't worked on them. Are they dangerous when you cut them down to fit the machines, will we be needing any special protective equipment?" Varan asks, not worried but curious as this will be his first time working on it.


"Not as long as they're turned off, Varan. Cutting crystals to size, though, requires equipment that I don't think we have in the hangar simply because they're crystals instead of machinery. We'll probably need to bug the fold lab for those at some point, but we can get stuff ready before then."
Speaking of bugging, maybe I should bother that voldra for input on this kind of thing. Even if they don't know robots, they're naturals on Fold pathing and all that. And he (it?) has been pretty much the mascot for the FGs lately, so he's not unrelated. Ah, let's get this taken apart first before worrying about that.
"Alright, let's get the limbs off and the plating as well. It's gonna be a long couple of days."


"Interesting." Doctor Zorani brings up one of her datapads and begins opening files. Her speed at the moment rivals that of the fastest Human typers you've witnessed, despite having digits as big as a Human. "I'll be in the other room now that the remote equipment has been set up. I'll leave you be, and you can just call out if you need anything."

Rupus wheels himself more towards the center of the room, then locks the wheels after he's gotten in front of you. You can see him steady himself, adjusting his position in the seat and making sure his tail is secured. His hands hold the wheelchair's padded rests securely.

"I've been trying to imagine what will happen ever since we've started." Rupus' voice is confident. "Part of me has been worried about what might happen, but I'd rather find out much more." A green light turns on behind him indicating Doctor Zorani is at her station and ready, as is Rupus as he nods his head for the session to begin.


We assume our own position, directly in front of Rupus but just outside the range of the sensors so that we do not interfere with their readings.

"Feeling is where we will start this session; you have become quite familiar with the sensation of the Fold flowing through you and around you. What you should do is focus on that feeling, the pathways the energy takes, the rhythm of its flow… where it flows out from you and rejoins the rest of the energy just beneath the layer of reality… and where it flows IN, whether it be a specific place on your body or a sensation of it soaking into your skin."

"Then, once you find that place where it first flows inwards, gently and carefully push outwards… then just as carefully pull in."


>Roll TECH and WILL

Normally, a teardown of a machine is a 'simple' but lengthy procedure. Parts go where they are meant to go, generally fit only in specific areas, and generally have a physical mass to them that reminds people that they can't really shortcut things like you can in theoretical subjects.

However, right now there are two additional difficulties added. One is that you are clearly being observed. Not by the other Techs, but by the cameras above who might as well be issuing divine proclamations. You and the others are interrupted by questions coming through your ComLinks and Datapads. Even the diagnostic system isn't safe, often asking you why you are doing certain things how you are doing them, followed by instruction to do them differently with different tools.

The second issue is the addition of the Tararu Inspectors, like Inspector Dazy Kapler who has arrived to interrupt you. The Turaru aren't that large in comparison, but they're clearly wider than the Twins and that thick hide of their's would give lots of clawed species you've met trouble.

"That fluid over there, what's the designation in your language and what is it for?" He asks as he points with a stylus towards a barrel of lubricant you use for the ball bearings. While he may be an alien, his expression is clearly that of tried and tired pro who has been at this job for a while.


Tech '3d6+4' (keep best two) Will '2d6+1'
God, even the tamper-proof black goo that destructed components was better than this.
Answering while shoulder-deep in a component, I'll try to not sound excessively exasperated.
"It's ball lube. For ball bearings."

Roll #1 4, 2, 6 + 4 = 16 / Roll #2 5, 6 + 1 = 12


so that's a 14 for tech.


As Rupus closes his eyes and begins to focus, you can see his grip on the wheel chair loosen. The Fold energy in his body starts becoming more pronounced. His breathing slowly intensifies as he raises his arms, letting the Fold energy flow through. His control seems to vary with his breathing at this point, and there's still some trouble in his chest, but he seems to be in control.

He continues to draw out his Fold energy, which circulates around, beginning to physically push the loose equipment that was left behind. Unfortunately, a small piece of roofing material is nudged loose, falling down on Rupus' shoulder and sparking, interrupting him and he looses the control he had.

He puts his hands back on the rests, beginning to breathe heavily as if he had just finished running a marathon.


We really should clean up the testing area more often- twice a day clearly isn't enough!

"Very good, Rupus, very good indeed! You have just touched the fold without any outside assistance for the first time! And shown admirable control as well! Now, we have some of our own observations we would like to share, but first you should take a moment to re-center yourself and catch your breath, then try to explain your own observations- how it felt, any details that stood out to you, and so forth."

Our chief observation is how his control is connected to his breathing, implying a further focus on his respiratory system and breath-related allegory could be beneficial for future instructions.


The demands of the cameras and the crew behind them, while onerous, aren't too difficult for an experienced crew. While Varan still has questions about specific words and meanings, Civet and Rove were able to clear many of them up. The cameras seemed to have learned as well and generally gave him much more detailed instructions in comparison to the rest of you. Their main issue is how the questions and orders came just as you were about to complete a task, making everything take four times as long.

At the end of a few instructions, you are offered a comments section to send any information and details back to the cameras, adding to your time delays. At least in the end, you've got a well torn down unit and found several places where you could replace a few things. Varan seems to be enjoying himself in the work, while Civet occasionally lifts you and Rove up to work on certain parts.

"Yes, well, I'll need to know what chemicals go into it. There are several banned substances on the station and I will not be the cause of any problems." Dazy asks, writing your response down after taking a picture of it. Looking around, you can see that you aren't the only one being asked questions.


"I thought I really had something there." He begins doing a breathing exercise the Human doctors had taught him and moves his arms in circles and breathes in time with their movements. "Honestly, like I was feeling something I had forgotten, something I had held in a dream, but maybe next time." He unlocks his wheel chair and moves around for a moment before locking it down again. "Hmm, what I recall the most was something like water, but not, circling something." He lets out a sigh at the end as he reflects.


Well, at least it's shared suffering.
I'm going to have to swallow all the smartass remarks I want to make in the spirit of cooperation with this inspector, though.
"I'm not sure I have the clearance to says what's in the stuff that isn't labeled, but the lubricant should be doable. I would appreciate a list of those banned substances so that if I run across any I can properly remove or secure them before they turn into a problem."
I'll rattle off what's in it.


"You did have something there; you may not have reached it yet, but having a destination in mind is an important development, and proof that there is something there to be found."

"That is indeed a good way to describe the Fold; there is a reason why most of our descriptions of it get translated into water-based similes in the languages of other species. As to our own observations, your control appears directly tied to your breathing, which could be a very important discovery, and a potential way to assist you in learning control."


The major elements are easy to explain, as a species does not build and maintain spacestations without knowing what Calcium and Lithium are.

"They should have already secured most of the dangerous chemicals, since most of what we ban is just dangerous to have around. However," he looks around quickly before clicking on his DataPad, "the following items tend to cause us trouble down the line. It's not an official list, but if you can look out for these things, it'll make it easier for everyone involved." A message appears on your ComLink to accept the message. "They're not banned substances, but you are aware that things break down or can be broken down and made into other, questionable items, correct?"


His eyes and ears perk up as you mention how he can progress. "The doctors said my cut was healing well, and that they were thinking of putting me on an exercise regiment soon, do you think that will help? Could we try again?"


"With respects, inspector, I AM a mechanic. Passing familiarity with chemical substances and their explosive or dangerous reactions is necessary, at the least."
I'll accept the message, and skim the list.
"Thank you for the informal list. I'll keep an eye out."


Do our Voldra equivalent of raising an eyebrow at him before gently patting him on the head.

"The exercise regimen will probably help, as long as you remember the importance of properly pacing yourself." With the unspoken implication of pacing himself here too.

"Of course, now that you have felt what it is like to touch the fold without assistance, we will do as we do with most sessions and provide some Fold energy for you to channel; once you have the flow in place, you can try and feel for your own connection and pull through it as well. It should be easier, since the Fold is attracted to itself, and help you develop a sense for what energy is yours and what energy is not."


"I apologize, but there are other reasons we are not at liberty to disclose." Inspector Kapler mentions. He looks up to the remaining frame of the Mecha, much like Pazu and Zapu have before him. "I do have a question though, if you don't mind indulging me. How comfortable is a machine like that when you use it?"


I'll give it a bit of thought.
"Well, comfortable enough, I guess? I can sit in there for a good… five or six hours maybe without feeling like I need to stand up and do literally anything else. Can't make it too comfortable, otherwise a pilot might end up nodding off on a long operation. Civilian models probably have more leisure features, like cup holders or something."


Rupus takes a few more deep breaths to control himself as he hangs on every word you said. "Yeah, If I tried again now I might not even get halfway to where I was before." He admits to you and himself. "But, this time I felt really close. I'll just use that for next time."

>"Uhm, Shelly, I have a few questions for you before you leave."

Doctor Zorani says over the intercom.
>"And Rupus, if you feel anything strange, just let us know."


"Of course, Friend-Zorani! We will be happy to answer whatever you are curious about!"

Wave cheerily to Rupus as he heads off while we go to meet with Zorani and see what she is wanting to ask about.


A ping can be heard coming from his DataPad after you finish.

"Ah, thank you for the answer. I look forward to piloting one of them." Dazy says as he nods his head and begins heading towards the next barrel of chemicals. "Cup holders…"

Though as the Inspector leaves, a group of Human technicians heads towards you. They're discussing something between themselves and Rove as they look over your machine.

"Hey, this one yours, right?" One of them shouts at you.


"Until it gets taken out from under me, yeah. What's up?"


Doctor Zorani's observation room, while normally clean, has an absurd number of DataPads on its desk. Even the Human walkway is being used to hang more datapads. She's going over videos of Rupus, though a few have images of you in combat. She looks at you and quickly darts to the datapads before coming back to you with a very interested and energetic expression.

"So, I've been going over what just happened with Rupus. I know he has room for improvement, but I think we just witnessed what one of his fold abilities actually *is*." Doctor Zorani turns on a holographic projector, showing Rupus as he was channeling Fold energy. You see the moment the piece of roof material falls and sparks, but Doctor Zorani rewinds it and turns him around. "I thought that he was interrupted, that the spark was caused *after* he was hit, but look." She plays the video again, with the same spark and then Rupus losing his concentration. "Sorry, I'm just excited, but the spark doesn't happen because Rupus lost control or anything, if you notice he doesn't actually react to the debris. He doesn't jerk to the side until after the spark. The Fold Energy *protected* him, then he reacted."


"Uh, about that." Your fellow mechanic responds by showing you his datapad orders to fully inspect your machine, followed closely by you receiving instructions to let them do it. "Looks like the top brass are very interested in your machine."


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