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1
Not looking too good for Florida. Vegas has been so disruptive.
2
Wow. This turned into a rout really fast.   :o

And damn do I miss NBC.
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Some mentions and parallels are allowable but I will repeat we're not bringing in any actual Ngos.
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I always thought the only thing letting Ideal War down was the Arthurian elements that felt a bit ham-fisted.
But otherwise - the first glimpse of the Word’s nature, a honest look at the dirty nature of insurgency and mercenary work and some cool world building.
I’ve also got the original illustrated edition, which is cool.

I read somewhere the author was a military chaplain in Vietnam. But I don’t know if that’s confirmed.
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Any idea how the sibko caretakers and cadets are/were called in the Clan Goliath Scorpion?

The trainers have a name, per OTP: Hanseatic Crusade, p.19.
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I'm most of the way through my first rewatch of Farscape since its original airing. My god, I love this show. While Enterprise was busy being boring, formulaic and safe, Farscape was out there with a better premise, infinitely better characters, and a shameless embrace of utter insanity. It's action packed, heartfelt, and absolutely hilarious. Farscape will give you all of the feels possible.
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some echos o the Ngo stories in that installment. sounds like Kowloon contributed to the Lyran part of the assault on Terra. and that one of Liz's people was up to the usual antics during the clan invasion.
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engine
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Fan Fiction / Re: Beating The Odds
« Last post by wolfgar on Today at 21:35:57 »
I think it's way too easy for a "deliberate" shoot down to go wrong, but that's just my opinion...  ^-^

I have to agree, just like it is too easy for these three to be a part of a conspiracy to kill him
am i the only one smelling a Liao in the mix?
10
Something getting in the way

The Transit into the Port Orphan…

…system was rough.  Rough enough to make the preceding time spent hopping from Jumpship to Jumpship from Terra to Johnson seem like the memory of a comfortable luxury cruise.

The view, though… well.  "Amazing…"  Devlin Stone stood at the observation window and looked down-and-aft toward the system's 'primary': a Black Hole gobbling a white dwarf star, reflecting upon an accretion disk.

It was awe inspiring.

"They chose an amazing place to put it.  Got to give them that," Victor noted. 

"Amazing is the word.  Other words like 'awe inspiring' and 'how did we not see this before' come to my mind," Stone confessed easily enough.  "This is just… fantastic."

"More to come," Victor commented.  "See the drive flares?"

It was a reminder that this system contained more than a wonder of nature and physics, it held a base.

A military base.

"Back to mortal concerns," Stone sighed, and turned from the view.  "What do we know about this place?"

"Not a lot.  Lear's people and my people dredged records for months before we came out here, not so much as a peep, really… Except for a set of redacted files relating to some project called 'Kolossus' being routed through Simon Cameron's personal accounts that tied to something being sponsored during Jocasta's regency through one of the thousands of alphabet bureaus of the old Star League.  The records led to a warehouse in the Nevada desert that was apparently burned down during the Coup."

"There had to be something.  That Lyran soul of yours found something or you wouldn't look so smug."

"One hundred seventy one trillion Star League Dollars and the name 'Kolossus'," Victor said.  "And nothing else."

"Black project," Stone realized.  "It was kept off the books."

"Trust the tax records.  There were payments to Nirasaki's Teletronics division, Blue Nose Clipperships, and a selection of Belter companies that don't exist anymore.  Dave Lear's people found a common thread with the Belters, to a militant group called 'Free Stars'.  Notably a group critical of the Camerons, to the point they were declared terrorists by both Richard Cameron, and Stefan Amaris in quick succession and outlawed.  Amaris had them hunted down and killed after the coup."

"Where have I heard that name before?"

"Remember that freight jockey that rammed one of the Word's Caspar stations?  It was during SCOUR, early hours…"

"Oh, right, the Lyran… um… what was her name… Cu'ong?  That one??"

"Yeah," Victor said.  "Her last transmission before plunging a crippled Triumph into their SDS station was 'This is for Kowloon, and Free Stars mother ******'."

"Something to look into when we get back.  I thought it was just…" Stone was pensive.  "So House Cameron sponsored something big out here, kept it off the books, hired dissidents to… what, man it?  Run it?  Build it?  And so the Outworlders FOUND it…"

"And now we're going to have a diplomatic summit on it," Victor completed for him.  "Talks with Sun Tzu's hellspawn son."

"Do you ever miss him, Vic?  Sun Tzu, I mean?"

Victor flinched.  "No, not really.  Sunny was a smart man, but he was a complete and utter bastard.  Worse than Dad, even.  I don't miss facing him as an opponent."

Tugs approached and the dance to the docks began.

*

"Republic One…

… this is OWS Tenebrous, Captain Seron in Command.  If you'll fall into formation, we are here to escort you to the station."

"Tenebrous, this is Republic One, we see you to Starboard, ready to enter escort profile."

Seron tried to look relaxed. "Welcome to the Port Orphan system.  Our route will be approximately ninety hours from the point to the station."
"Tenebrous, your hull planform suggests a Bonaventure class, but there are some interesting modifications, mind if my principals come over for a look?  The Exarch will understand if that's not possible…"

Seron glanced at Joanna and mouthed 'five escudos' before answering, "Republic One, our docking bay forward is standing by."

Joana smiled and nodded silently.

He watched as a K-1 shuttle detached and burned across.  "Just remember folks, these are the people paying the nation's bills right now.  Be Friendly enough to not be rude, but do not let things wander into classified topics."

“I best be on my way to receive our guests.”  Joana smiled.

"Take an honor guard, our Marines should have to do the dog and pony show too," Seron ordered.

“Of course.  It would be a terrible breach of protocol to not receive them with full honors.”

Seron stood up.  "Dammit, that means I have to go too."  He scowled.  "We'll swing by the sea cabin, I have to be dressed up for this... And so do you."

“I see what you mean, my uniform does seem to be a little worse for wear,” Joanna said, examining herself.

"CAG, make sure they know they need to wait the full five minutes while the bay repressurizes," Seron ordered.

"Sir, it only takes three-"

"Book says five, they wait five… I need to find my silly hat."  He glanced at Joanna, "Do we even have a band?"

"No. But we are allowed to make do with the PA system and recordings.”

"I trust your SLDF knowledge to pick appropriate… noise… but hey, bright side!  We don't have to listen to Roberts torture that fiddle."

“In this situation I believe the appropriate choice would be the anthem of the visiting dignitaries followed by the anthem of the host.”

He mock scowled.  "So… brass and drums then.  A little better."

“If all else fails we can always ask Olivia, she’s the music lover of the fleet but don’t buy her lie that she only collects up to 1815 for music.  I caught her listening to something decidedly more modern.”

"Tell me it wasn't that detestable bluegrass stuff Roberts likes," he grumped.

“Worse, some Capellan Electronic Rock Band.”

"Xin Chien?" he asked.  "Lots of synthesizers, four-four beat, crunchy drum machine?"

“That was it.  Made me glad I’m an AI and can actually purge that sort of stuff from my memory if I want to.”

"I would agree, except that was Billie Siegel's mixtape," Seron mentioned.  "She probably got it from Billie's other half."

“Shit.  Now I feel like a bit of a jerk.”

"Don't.  Star Colonel Siegel's taste in music was infamous."  He dug around, and found his 'shipboard dress cap', which was, at least, not the more ludicrous Tricorne he and every other officer above O-3 was authorized for wear while on Shore duty.

“Well, remind me some time to share the recordings of what the local emissions of the stellar bodies sound like shifted into audible range.  It’s actually quite fantastic.”  Joanna had no sense of privacy or shame as she changed in front of Seron.

He took a moment and helped her adjust her uniform to dress regulation, before slipping on the flat 'garrison' cap.  "I hate this hat.  Why couldn't we get them to authorize Berets??"

“It took me a rather long time to accept the concept of clothes at all.  Not much need when you’re a combat AI.  But uniform regulations exist for a reason.”

"Let's go wow the visitors." He smirked.

“Yes.”


**

First…

…impressions are so important.   The first impression Victor got, stepping out into the pressurized bay, was that they took their time bringing up the pressure.  Probably so they could set up the dog and pony show.  He observed the standard ritual in action, the rank of guards, and the red flooring-tape marking where a carpet would be on a surface base.

His next observation was that Captain Seron was an Elemental-and not a young one, either.  Nor a small one.  "Exarch Stone, General Steiner-Davion, welcome aboard OWS Tenebrous."

"Permission to come aboard, I believe is the ritual?" Stone said from the hatch of his shuttle.

"Granted, sir," Seron replied.

The ship wasn't under thrust, so they had to use the grip-tape to walk.  "Your grav-deck, it's just for quarters, isn't it?"  Victor asked.

"We're a small ship, sir.  Yes, it's just for quarters… and the gym.  Though my quarters have a small office with a table."

"Amazing shape for a ship this old," Stone mentioned.  "Amazing condition too."

"Well, she was in good shape when she was salvaged and the yard time was not too bad.  The updates took some doing," Seron replied easily enough.  "But for what a Corvette like this is designed for, I can not say I have a moment's disappointment in her.  This is my Executive Officer, Joana Vincente Johnston…"

Stone peered at her.  "Not a cyborg, are you?" he asked.  "The work would be too deep."

"You have a good eye, Exarch Stone."

"So, the rumours about Caspar cores then.  Part of your refit?" the Exarch asked.

"Part of it.  I understand if you feel uncomfortable, Sir."  Joana was careful to be polite.  "Given who your reputation was built fighting, and the times."

"The ones we were fighting weren't sapient," Stone observed.  "The only ones who could say 'I' or 'we' and put meaning in it were men with implanted cybernetics and involved fanaticism."

“I’m glad, Exarch.  We weren’t exactly fans of theirs either, after what came to light about them.”

"Will Erinyes also be here then?" Victor asked.

"She’s present in the system, mostly acting as a coordination hub for traffic and maintenance," Joana answered.  "If you wish, we can ask if she'll permit a tour and interviews, but she's a bit hesitant to meet new people."

"Given what my former representative to the Outworlds tried to do, I don't blame her," Stone almost growled.  "I reviewed the case after-the-fact, and had the man transferred to the Free Worlds League remnant at Andurien."

“As I understand my duties as XO of the vessel, I’m to be your point of contact for anything you may need while aboard.  So please, if there’s anything you need or any requests, do let me know.”  Joana smiled.

"I half expected they'd send Roberts," Exarch Stone mentioned.

"She's station-side, her vessel took a beating the last six months," Joana stated.  "We have her on 'light duty' until she's confirmed fully recovered."

"It was bad?"  Victor was suddenly more interested in the conversation.

"Very," Joana said.  "She went deep into the home territory of the Sons of Plunder, and conducted a textbook commerce raiding campaign, which left her… in an emotionally fragile state."

Victor nodded sagely.  "The wounds you don't see," he said softly.

"Yes sir.  Estimate is three million tons of enemy shipping, but it wasn't like liberating worlds for her.  She has difficulty mentally separating 'civilian' from 'merchant marine'.  We have counselors helping her with that."

"I would have thought she'd be better prepared," Victor noted.  "She's, what, twenty-one now?"

"About that… the plan is to keep her more or less in place so she can get the education she did not get before she kicked the football on all of this," Seron interjected.  "Amanda's moral ideas are… awkward at times, but she is gifted."

“True.  Her lack of proper military academy time and the training that goes with it to help provide the strategic context to face the horrors of war is unfortunate.  But we also know even the best of us would have been fazed by such conditions.”

"I imagine so. Three million tons!"

"Estimated.  She probably exceeded that," Seron noted.  "But it was sinking JumpShips and destroying DropShips, so the body count was… high."

"And not much room for prisoners.  I think I see where this goes.  Like the U-boat campaigns of the twentieth century," Victor nodded.  "I remember someone proposing such a campaign against the Clans, only they didn't get the chance to try it."

“Yes.  And Even the American submarine campaigns of the Pacific theater of that conflict.  It’s a necessary component of the war, but one that can weigh heavily on those who conduct it.”

They reached CIC, and Victor got a good look around.  "You moved the bridge deep," he approved.

"We find windows are an invitation for someone to park a missile or a fighter on your command deck," Joana said dryly.  "Thus, for the refits like Tenebrous we pulled all command functions deeper, nearer the core of the hull."

"So not all of them?"

"Evanescent is as close to a 'stock build' as you will find currently in active service.  She's not owned by the Service, she's owned by Captain Roberts, and Amanda refuses to permit the necessary modifications.  And some functions do require placement nearer the outer hull for best effect."

"She owns it, Privately?" Stone asked.

"She salvaged it, legally she's hers."  Seron lapsed into contractions.  "She even has title and papers, and more hassle with her budget than I have to deal with… But, until the courts say otherwise or she sells her back to the Service, she's hers."

"So… no AI?"

"No AI. There were volunteers," Joana said.  "But Roberts insists on not accepting applications.  Something about being unwilling to engage in the ownership of a sentient being.  But there are those who would be quite happy to join as part of her crew and nothing more."

"She won't give up the ship, so she won't have an AI installed," Stone approved.  "What about you, Joana?  I assume you're also the ship…"

"I own myself.  The Service pays me, and the crew, and of course, Captain Seron.  Once the war is over, I'll be drawing a paycheck, instead of a budget.  And her Ladyship is discussing the particulars of my integration with the ship’s systems, and what will happen in that regard upon the conclusion of the war."

"So… hypothetically, you could go mercenary?" Stone continued.  "Just hypothetically."

“Unlikely but yes.  I know what I am and what I prefer to be, but the reality is this is an Outworlds vessel.  As such, there is a real possibility I will have to go back to being just a core without a ship when this is over.”

"So the ship's a loaner," Victor observed.  "You're not property then, and if you left the Outworlds service for the private sector, you'd need another one."

“I would never consent to being property again.  And yes.  Sure I can run my remote with just my core and do a lot of things that way without too much burden, but I’m meant to be a WarShip core.”

Victor prodded Stone, "That kicks Dave Lear's prediction in the teeth."

"I'll pay when we get back, Victor."

"David Lear's prediction?  The Scientist and social theorist?" Seron prodded.

"Yeah, he predicted the AIs would be owned property based on the ships, or they'd own the ships," Victor said easily.  "I don't think he considered the possibility that these cores would have their own ideas."

"But you did?"

"I actually read the reports," Victor preened slightly.  "And considering what I know about the Outworlders from when I was… younger."

“The tabloid rags from then were fun reading,” Joana chuckled.  “About the only great houses you are missing are Cameron and Liao now for your little black book.”

"She's got your number, Vic," Stone said.

"I'm happy with Isis, Devlin.  Besides, I'm getting too old to randomly chase tail."  He straightened his jacket.  "Respectable even.  I'm going to be a grandfather."


***


"Wow, that's expensive…

…looking."  The captain's bars didn't quite feel right on her shoulders.  Goldsmith looked tiny in her dress uniform coat.

Jonah looked up from reviewing sensors.  "Yeah, it is.  That's a rarity there.  The Chancellor didn't scrimp on the Cappie pride."

"I could pop it like a soap bubble from here, you know," Cossack mused.

"Let's not do that, okay? The odds of a diplomatic incident are already right into the 'scary' side of the ledger," Goldsmith peeped.

“Just saying I could.  I suppose we need to say hello now.”

"I seem to recall we're under orders to be 'hospitable' and 'good hosts' for the Chancellor, Cossack.  So if you can, can you dial down the creepy factor a few notches?"

“I am Cossack.  I can do anything I set my mind to!”

“Then set your mind to being a good host,” Jonah prodded.

“Fine.  Y’all are no fun.”

"Fun later," Jonah suggested.  "Right now, we're just going to try not to embarrass Admiral Foster, Director General Helena, or President Avellar."

“For them I will do my Lucy Heerman impression.  I will be by the book, which includes being hospitable.  I may be me but I do know my debts as well.”

Goldsmith winced.  "Not the one from last Saturday's open mic night?  Please?"

“You have to admit I at least got the voice perfect,” Cossack smirked.

Jonah was fighting the urge to chuckle, and losing.

"She gets what you mean, Goldie," he managed.

“I do.  And you two have earned my respect.  But don’t take that to mean I will stop being demanding.  Just means I’ll stop with the attempts at psychological warfare.  Still deciding about the CAG.  They seem a little afraid of me still.”

"Vinnie will adapt as soon as he finds his balls," Hungerford at the Helm commented.  The Northsunner had been almost the definition of 'dead inside' in terms of his reactions when he first arrived.  And that continued until Cossack found out the ex-DropShip pilot had survived seven crashes over his career, six of them due to someone else's fighter wing.

The seventh was unavoidable-the landing pad's collapse was ruled 'not the pilot's fault'.

“I hope he’ll find them soon.  I can’t have a CAG who shrinks under pressure and I’m nothing compared to a real live fight where hell finds all new ways to test people.”

"Aw, but he screams like a girl!" Goldsmith interjected.  "And his expression!"

"That wasn't nice, Goldie, putting those in his bunk like that, just because they LOOK like crana…"

"It was funny!"

“Hmmm, how is he with spiders?”  Cossack smirked.

"Confirm, he hates them."  Goldsmith's eyes glittered with gleeful malice.

"Not this trip, Ladies," Jonah asserted.  "We can't afford to do 'funny' things this time around."

“Now you sound like Lucy Heerman,” Cossack frowned.

"So I got the inflection right?" he asked semi-innocently.  "Truth is we're probably going to need to replace Mister Vincent if he doesn't develop a thicker skin.  Which is a surprise, because the guy's from a Clan Sibko."

“I had high hopes for him too.  He did well in my interview.  Not perfect, but enough I thought he’d make it.  Maybe he can be salvaged yet.”

"People-reading," Jonah said.  "Which can be tough with Aeropilot phenotypes straight out of training.  Sibko teaches us to hide our… issues.  I did not clock him as being an arachnophobe, or having a sensitive disposition either."

“We will just have to see what can be done with him before deciding something drastic.”

"I could trade him to one of the shore units, once we're back.  Though I hear Illusive is recruiting…" Jonah mentioned.  "Of course, Luther will want to find out what you already put him through, Goldie.  He doesn't like copying other people's pranks."

"You're going to deprive me of my chew-toy?"

"It will be for the best," Jonah decided.  "AFTER we meet the high-grand-poobah of the Capellans and see him safely into hands that aren't ours."

"Coming up on contact range."

“Game faces everybody.  Time to get serious.”  Cossack took on a more rigid posture and expression.

***

Bored… bored…

Amanda sat in the station's Astronomy Lounge, having lunch and watching the traffic at long range.  'Light duty' meant spending days on end with Foster or Helena, or both, working up the next phase of operations planning.

Then, between sessions, visiting the Chapel and the Counselor's office.  And if she got a free moment longer than five minutes, the yard where Evanescent was getting a full-blown decade-deep overhaul.

It wasn't really light duty, it was harrying and frustrating and she knew she didn't have the education she needed to actually do more than Carry the Admiral's briefcase and listen quietly until called upon.

Which, on days like today, was boring instead of exciting or fun.

"Seat taken?" Lori asked.

"Seat's open.  They let you out early?"

"The Admiral and the Director General felt no further progress could be made today, so they let me out early."  Lori, unlike Amanda, actually HAD the education, and could (and did), contribute to the sessions while she had to be patiently quiet.

"I feel so stupid," Amanda complained.  "I don't know anything useful in there."

"You're there to learn Amanda.  It's why you're in there while Seron's escorting the Exarch and Jonah's meeting the Chancellor's ship for their week-long burn to the station."

"I… I don't know if I'm picking it up!" Amanda clarified.  "Sometimes it just… no matter how hard I try, it turns into a drone and I feel lost."

"It'll click.  You're trying to connect it together too hard," Lori told her.  "Has Desmond helped?"

"Desmond thinks I need to learn this on my own, he's refused to clue me in."

"Huh. Strange… not unexpected, but seems like an odd time."

Amanda huffed, and toyed with her meal.

"Holoshow on deck fifteen tonight?  Saya says she's got dates for us," Lori suggested.

"I don't know," Amanda shook her head.  "I'm-"

"Celibate for the last eighteen months.  You can stop it.  You need to loosen up girl, or you'll end up spindled around yourself!"

"Is it that bad?"

"Your imaginary friend is refusing to talk to you, what do YOU think?" Lori half-scolded.  "We'll meet Saya and her boys.  We'll have some fun in the O-club, watch a holoshow, maybe have fun after.  All-work-and-no-play makes Amanda a boring, frustrating, spindle-wrapped mess."

"I'm… sorry?"

"No, you're coming with," Lori asserted.  "And that's final."


To Be Continued
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