RP The Neutron Star (VoF)


Operator 21O
Staff member
Part Two

Nick punched his fork into a pile of lettuce, bringing the leafy vegetable into his mouth as the teen enjoyed a lunch silently in the staff lounge. Today, it was tuna mixed in with his salad. It was weird. Nick was never a big fan of seafood. When he was younger, he hated all fish with a passion but nowadays he seemed to start enjoying it. He didn’t question it much, it was just a weird thought that popped into his head.

After a while, Nick found a familiar face among the crowd, and raised an eyebrow at what he saw. Getting up, Nick went over to the man and sat down slowly. “Hey… Mark. You look… down.”

The scientist/engineer looked up from his sandwich and his face turned to an instant frown. “Mr. Cauthon… Now… Is not the time to be bothering me.”

“I’m not… bothering, just want to know what has you looking so… Down?” The younger engineer asked, pushing up his glasses. “Because you look really, really… Well… Down.”

Mark narrowed his eyes. “My personal business is none of your business.”

“Why’s that?” The teen asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Because it is my business and I would prefer to be alone.” The Exalt explained slowly with a hint of annoyance to his tone, looking down while pretending the boy in front of him did not exist.

Nick stayed silent for a long while, seeming to just mind his own business until he spoke up again. “You should talk about it.”

“What?” Mark asked, looking up again, this time clearly showing his annoyance.

“Whatever is going on with you… you should talk.” Nick pushed, trying to get through to the older man.

“If I wish to talk to you, I will do so, but these are matters I would best keep between myself and my sister, now if you excuse me, please.” The scientist said, trying to remain pleasant.

“Are you sure?” Nick asked.

Mark threw his sandwich onto his plate and he readjusted himself in his seat, sitting straight. “In the name of common human sense, why can you not take the hint to just leave me alone!?”

Nick shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve been told I am tenacious.”

“Good for you…” Mark stated sarcastically, rolling his eyes, though Cauthon still was not getting the hint. “...now go away.”

“Are you sure?” Nick asked.

Mark threw up his hands. “For all things decent and holy, yes… Mr. Cauthon I am quite sure! What will it take to get you to just… Leave!?”

“Tell me what is wrong.” Nick spoke plainly.

“Is that what you want? Is that really what you want?” When the teen nodded his head the Exalt grumbled. “Fine, I will tell you. My girlfriend recently broke up with me and I am heartbroken, are you happy?”

Nick shook his head. “No, of course not. What… happened between you?”

Mark shook his head, not from the question or from annoyance but because he didn’t know himself. “I thought things were fine, but after a while we were seeing less and less of one another, one thing led to another and we both thought it better to preserve what friendship we had by ending the relationship. Figures that the first woman I truly open my heart up to, the one I thought was right, is not the one.”

Nick nodded his head, looking down as he played with his hands. “I… Actually do know what you mean. I have… A similar situation.”

Mark sat back, looking down at his sandwich as he leaned forward and grabbed it, taking a huge bite. “Go on…” Mark told the engineer with a full mouth.

“Well… There is this doctor. Her name is Irina Beaumont. I… I thought I loved her and… no, that isn’t right. I did love her, just… not as seriously as I first thought. I told my feelings to her, and she said she would give it thought as she might have had the same. But another girl… Alice, I… She is the one who stole my heart in the end, not Irina. I still want me and her to be close friends… I am so grateful to her. Without her to show me what a crush was like, I may have never have found out my true feelings for Alice. Not to mention the countless times she had been there for me… I could never just walk away from her. I see her as a dear friend now, but I feel conflicted a bit…” Nick spoke, pushing over a glob of tuna with his fork.

Mark took in the story, the name Irina ringing a bell. “I’ve actually heard of her. Not just from how well liked she is among the medical staff, but she was taught by my aunt, Lily. I think I only ever met her once, and it must have been only for a brief minute while I was visiting my dearest aunt. Vee and Emma were awesome too, but Lily was always the best with me despite having no kids of her own. I guess me and Vinny sort of were like her kids in a way. Anyways… I am sure Irina will understand, if not be understandably mad at first. But I speak from experience when I say… It is better to find these things out early.”

Nick nodded his head, continuing to look down. “Should I feel guilty though?”

Mark rubbed his chin in thought. “A bit at first, but if you end up with someone you truly love, does it matter?” Mark thought about what he said. “Well… Of course it matters, but… well, you get the point. Be sure to let Irina know how grateful you are, and how much of an impact she had on you. I am sure she will appreciate the honesty.”

Nick thought on the words, and after a bit nodded in agreement. “You’re right…”

“Of course I’m right. Now leave me alone, I am trying to enjoy my lunch break.” Mark told Nick irritably.

Nick nodded his head and stood up with his food, going to walk away but suddenly he stopped. “You know… you aren’t so bad Mark. You should try talking to people more. You are surprisingly good at it.”

For some reason, Mark smiled and he nodded his head. “I will take it under consideration. Now go away before I really get annoyed.”

Nick chuckled and walked away, trying to formulate the best way to say ‘Thank you’ and ‘I'm sorry’ and not make a fool of himself.

Mark found his smile persisted as he sat back, biting into his sandwich again as he let his mind wander a bit, thinking out loud. “Maybe I will pay Ms. Beaumont a visit. It would be amusing to see if she actually remembers who I am… and I must say… Cauthon has peaked my interest in meeting this well known doctor. Wonder if she picked up any of Aunt Lily’s tendencies. Now that would be interesting.” Mark continued with his lunch, seeming to be uplifted from his downed mood.


Well-Known Member
MarineAvenger and DarkGemini24601: “Starting Over not from Scratch, Part 1"

High Orbit over Forseti (Prior to Transfer)
The Einherjar (1632 Hours, A.S.T.)
Floor 6: Staff Lounge

Irina sat on a couch in the staff lounge, several thoughts preoccupying her as she drank a cup of green tea absently. There was the deaths of the White Wolves - most of them that weren’t transferred now being in a grave - that troubled the doctor greatly, making her again fear for the future of the XSDF and her friends. And there was also the matter of completing the procedure notes for Lanore. Irina worried that she would be less trusting of other doctors that would be needed for the operation, but for that reason she was going to show the procedure details to the other Frenchwoman as soon as she completed them.

And there was also the slightly harrowing thought that on the Einherjar, the room mirroring this one was still undergoing a final patch-up, having been blown open and leading to the death of an unfortunate mechanic. Irina shuddered at the thought, tightening her fuzzy black jacket slightly and refocusing on the task that was the most pressing. It took another ten minutes, but by the time her tea was nearly dried up from methodical sipping the readout was ready to be sent.

“Are you Ms. Beaumont?” A calm voice asked from behind the doctor, a man stepping into view wearing a long lab coat, usual dress shirt/vest combo underneath it. His orange eyes were staring at her, his hair being tied back in a ponytail so he did not have to brush the annoyance out of his way constantly. His badge marked him both scientist, and an engineer.

“I am,” Irina replied. “You’re… the liaison between the two cybernetics teams, I believe?” Irina assumed.

“That is a more simplified way of saying it other than cyberbiologist, yes. I don’t think you would ever remember me, but my name is Mark. Mark Exalt.” He held out a hand to Irina. “We may have met briefly here and there when I visited my Aunt Lily. You were training under her, correct?”

Irina blinked. “Oh. I remember you,” she insisted. “You were the only male member of the family to have enhanced sight.”

“Yes, that is really something that stands out, huh?” Mark looked to the vacant portion of the couch. “Would you mind if I joined you on your break I am assuming?” Mark asked politely.

The black-haired doctor shook her head. “That would be fine,” she responded with a faint smile. “How have you been since we last met? I believe you were planning on going to college like me.”

“Uh… yes…” Mark let a sigh, looking down to the side still trying to overcome this particular hurdle. “Unfortunately, my ventures were in vain and I failed the courses I attended and moved back home. I learned my sister, Vindicta, would be joining the XSDF and I did so to both be with her and make something of myself where schooling failed.” The scientist rubbed his palms against his lab coat. Maybe I am getting better at this… that is a good thing, right? The Exalt thought to himself.

“I know your sister. We took different courses, but she went to the same school I did on Luna,” Irina noted. “For our fields degrees are something of a requirement… but you seem to have succeeded without one. You helped create Autonetics, correct? That occurred on the Einherjar just before everyone was shuffled around.”

“Yes, that was me, and the work of my team. I am… glad the extra time I put in was not wasted.” Mark put on a smile but his sad tone held more.

“You’re… not happy with the accomplishment?” Irina questioned.

“No… that isn’t it. I am glad I accomplished so much, but it took a toll on a… on someone close to me.” Mark rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry, I probably should not bother you with problems that are best kept private I suppose.”

“If it is a medical issue then perhaps I can help,” the Frenchwoman offered with an unrelenting look in her hazel eyes.

The Exalt blinked and he shook his head. “I do not believe a broken heart is to be taken too literally Ms. Beaumont.”

“...I see.” Irina rubbed the back of her neck, seeming unsure of what to say. “I-I wish I could help with that… I’m… n-not too experienced in such things. In that field. In…” She seemed defeated as to how to phrase ‘romance’ in a way that sounded fitting.

“To be honest… Irina,” Mark said as a change, hoping she wouldn’t take it as him being rude. “Neither am I. It was my first real feelings for someone but unfortunately it was not meant to work out I suppose. It was a combination of things but I cannot help but think my overworking nature was partly to blame.” he explained.

“I… encountered a similar situation recently with a friend of mine…” Irina confessed quietly. “There was someone he preferred more than I, and my inability to return his feelings as quickly as she did is likely to blame for my failure.”

“Do you mean Mr. Nicholas Cauthon?” Mark asked, hoping he was not crossing a line now. “Of course, it is your business alone, I just… well he was the one who actually got me interested in meeting you. Given our past acquaintance, and all the good things he spoke of you, I thought I should.” Mark added quickly before he put her off.

“That’s kind of him,” Irina said quietly.

“Excuse me?” Mark asked, not hearing her.

“That was kind of him,” she repeated without a change in inflection from a neutral tone, but a slightly louder volume.

Mark merely nodded, and for some reason, he began idly tapping his foot. “So… where should we catch up first? Hobbies nowadays? Family? Annoying coworkers who you need to complain about?”

“I don’t really have much interesting in any of those categories… though it sounds like you have a story behind the last one,” Irina guessed.

“To be honest… I hate having to work with others in my department, especially when I have to walk them through simple processes, and not only do I have one team I must work with, I have two. There are bright ones, but most I feel aren’t fit to scrub rust off a metal pipe.” Mark complained with a small grin, leaning forward and put his chin in his hand.

“The only issue I’ve had with my co-workers really is that my partner is a bit odd… but her issues are foibles, not fatal flaws,” Irina explained.

The man nodded his head, looking down. “I don’t know… Many times I’ve been called cold or jaded. Do I… come off like that to you?”

“No,” Irina stated. “You seem irritable perhaps, but not jaded. Jaded people don’t typically smile.”

“Well… irritability is something that sort of runs in the family.” Mark attempted as a joke, but frowned with a sigh at how bad he was probably doing.

“Is something wrong?”

“I just feel like I am making a fool of myself. I am not… much… of a people person if you were able to discern that. I try and be better but I feel like I am failing. Usually I am more straightforward.” Mark sat back, a bit taken aback at how easily he could come out and be honest with Irina. She is a lot less intimidating then sister… She almost reminds me of Tabitha in that regard.

“You can be more straightforward with me… I don’t usually take offense to what people are saying unless it’s meant to be cruel to a friend,” Irina offered. “And I doubt you’d say anything like that from what I can tell so far.”

“First I would really need a good friend. Unfortunately, mostly all I have is family. Cauthon may be considered a friend, seeing as despite how annoyingly persistent he may be, I do not particularly hate his company. He is a bright mind as well, which helps with conversing.” Mark dared a glance at Irina when he said, “You share that quality.”

“Thank you,” Irina replied. “I assume that’s high praise from you if you consider most of your coworkers incompetent,” she said with a neutrality that made it hard to tell if she was simply stating facts or in fact joking.

“Anyone tell you that you are a very hard person to read?” The man deadpanned.

“Several people have mentioned that on occasion.”

The scientist rubbed his chin in thought, wondering how he should respond. “Some might see it as a flaw, but I… find it to be a good quality about you. Too many people get caught up too emotionally or in the case of my unfortunate relative, Ezra… Outright obnoxious. It is a welcome change.”

Irina smiled slightly. “I’m glad to hear that. I… don’t really make friends that easily.” She tapped her foot in thought. “If we are going to be friends though, you wouldn’t mind meeting one of mine later, would you?”

“No, I suppose I wouldn’t. Unfortunately, I must start my shift soon down in the labs so if I may take you advice and be so bold… How about we meet up over dinner?” Mark asked with a steady look to show that he was serious, and most likely didn’t mean much about it outwardly.

Irina shrugged. “That would be acceptable. Did you want to go to the staff bar or the mess hall?”

“Do you drink?” Mark asked her in response.

Irina shook her head. “Not really. But if you do it wouldn’t really affect what I was going to have, so it remains up to you.”

“There is no real reason to go to the mess I guess, and it is not exactly the most appealing option when it comes to a decent night. How about we meet tomorrow after both of us are out of work?”

“Would six work, then?”

“Six would be perfect.” Mark affirmed, standing up. Before he left, he asked, “Do you prefer casual or formal?”

Irina looked down at her current clothing. “I… I don’t think I have much in the way of formal aside from my uniform…”

Mark’s mouth twisted a bit. “Casual it is…” Mark muttered, speaking up and saying, “I extremely look forward to spending time with you Irina. And I… mean that.” He forced out, trying to be courteous.

Irina tilted her head every so slightly to the right. “I didn’t think you were lying,” she stated.


Operator 21O
Staff member
MarineAvenger and DarkGemini24601: “Starting Over not from Scratch, Part 2”

High Orbit over Forseti (Prior to Transfer)
The Einherjar (2014 Hours, A.S.T.)
Floor 6: Staff Bar

Mark strode into the staff bar with a sort of embarrassed look that made him look halfway between antsy and deflated. The clothes he were wearing was a set he had borrowed from his cousin, Leo. The two were around the same body wise so he had chosen a regular gray t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Both were a far cry from his normal attire, and he felt rather light without everything on him. He sat down at a table, not sure if he should be glad he got there first.

A few minutes later Irina arrived, clad in her typical long-sleeved woolen black shirt, long gray cotton pants, and fuzzy dark gray coat. She sat down across from Mark at the booth he had chosen, asking, “Did I arrive late? My apologies, I was finalizing some notes for Lanore that I started earlier.”

“Not late at all Irina. You look lovely.” He told her, rubbing his hands together as he looked over the room, mostly for any staring eyes. He did hate the feeling someone may be eyeing them as they talked. It was one of the reasons Mark hated crowds.

Irina raised an eyebrow slightly. “Is something wrong?” she questioned, noticing his discomfort.

“Crowds… was never really a fan of them. However… company helps, and I could think of no better company at this moment.” He answered, trying to keep his gaze to her and not to scan the room.

Irina shook her head. “Neither am I… but I find that if I don’t stand out then no one pays me any attention. I am just another normal crewmember, not one that someone would stop to think about if they walked by them in the hallway. Those that dress garishly aren’t so lucky.”

“I beg to differ.” He spoke, putting his elbows on the table as he put his chin on his hands. “If I was to pass you in the hallway my attention would be immediately grabbed. You have a certain aura about you that I find pleasing. I tend to be drawn to people like that. That is a compliment.”

“I am aware,” Irina said, perhaps being terse in a negative fashion, but it was always hard to tell with her. “I am… confused as to your motives in asking me here, though. Did you just want to speak with me about something, or… ‘hang out’, as Sasha puts it?”

“To hang out, mostly. I have scarce amount of people I enjoy being with. You are someone I enjoy being with immensely. More so than most.” He told her with a look that hid most emotions,

“And why is that? Because you like my appearance?” Irina questioned.

“I like your appearance, your personality, I like… you, in general.” He answered with a noticeable genuineness to his eyes.

“Most people find me odd… the closest friend I have is friends with me because I support her,” Irina explained. “So you’re unusual in that regard.”

“Do I look like someone who should judge another on being odd? Some would not even glance in my direction for my last name alone. My frosty personality does not add anything good to that fact.” Mark told her as he now looked around, mostly for someone to serve them.

“I suppose I could understand why people are intimidated by you… but I know your family, so that doesn’t affect me.”

“I am glad about that. Another reason I like about you. My sister is another hurdle most would face but I figure you could get past easily. Add another to the ever growing list.”

“You make me out to be someone who things come to easily,” Irina noted.

“I make you out to be what I see you as. A kind, compassionate, and smart woman. Someone I have been only feeling more strongly about then one other woman. To make such an impression takes someone special. I can assure you that.” Mark spoke with a hint of fire.

Irina stared at him a bit blankly. Several months ago she probably would have just continued to do so without comprehension, but instead she cautiously inquired, “A-Are you… trying to tell me something?”

“I’m trying to tell you that you are slowly making me come to like you. Given some more time, I can without a doubt say… maybe even love.” Mark spoke biting the inside of his cheek. “I have no reason to hold back that information since you asked. I have nothing really to lose from doing so other then really my own dignity, and that is something I can get over quickly, is a hurt ego. I am not Ezra.”

Irina gave him a pained look, an expression that looked unusual on her features, as if it was seldom shown despite anything that went on inside. “I… wouldn’t know how to respond to that. It’s the reason I lost Nick… my lack of comprehension.”

“Nick also had another. I do not. I am also willing to be patient, and to help you. Of course, the choice is yours whether or not you want to take my help… to take a chance with me.” Mark fiddled with the Avanix symbol around his neck.

“I… guess I would. We are alike, c-correct? That is a start… right?” Irina weakly supposed.

“Correct.” He responded with a smile. “If you are scared, don’t be. There is not much difference than just being friends. Over time, I will teach you some things a couple would do. However, that is stuff that comes later, not now unless asked.” After a bit of idle small talk, mostly made by Mark, he stood up. “What would you like to eat?”

Irina seemed to calm down at his words enough to answer, “Just something light, like chicken,” the thin doctor answered.

He nodded and walked off. After about 15 minutes, the cyberbiologist returned, boneless chicken and vegetables in one hand, a plate of fish in the other. Instead of taking his spot on the other side of the table, he sat next to her, and placed the chicken down, as well as some silverwear. “Enjoy. I heard the Star’s chefs are even slightly better the the Einherjar’s. Do you… mind if I am next to you?”

Irina shook her head, and began digging it - though that phrase was perhaps not accurate for someone as reserved as she. “Thank you,” she spoke after eating a little.

He cut into the fish like it was butter and put a large piece in his mouth, smirking a bit. “You know… all fish tastes the same to me… except when my father made it. He always found a way to make it taste special. On the few times we sat down as a family with a home cooked meal. Those Sundays were always my favorite. It was the one day we all set aside to come together.” Mark explained with a small, hopeful smile. “I wish to have those moments again when I go back home. I’ve been bitter for too long. I hate to admit it, but I miss mother and father.”

“Why did you avoid them for so long?” Irina questioned. “Were they too detached?”

“We as a family were detached more then we should have been with how busy everyone was. Me and my sister have made amends and are growing closer. I look forward to the day I can say the same about my parents. Hopefully… with maybe one more added to that family if we can get her there.” He attempted to tease her with a laugh.

“I-I-I-Isn’t it a little too early to be thinking about things like that?” Irina protested.

“It is. However, you are cute when you stammer like that.” Mark went back to his food with a smile, getting up once more only to bring her tea, and one for himself as well. “For you.” He said, placing down the mug.

“What kind is it?” she asked even as she looked into the cup.

“Green. You… like that kind, correct?”

Irina expressed surprise. “How did you…?”

“When you were staying with us… I remember that I had once brought you a cup when Lily asked me to after you two were working a long night. I just… happened to remember.” Mark responded with a plain expression.

“You have a very impressive memory if I stuck out in your mind that much,” Irina pointed out.

“One of my better qualities.” Mark brought his cup of tea to his mouth and took a small sip, placing down the cup after he nearly scalded his throat. “I always had a good memory.”

“Not of how warm that tea is… so longterm only?” Irina spoke evenly, but that was likely a joke.

“Making fun of me? I didn’t think you had it in you.” He spoke honestly, nudging her side slightly.

“I-I didn’t mean to… I’m sorry,” Irina apologized.

“No, no. Please, I insist you do it more.” Mark encouraged her with a smile. “Though before you do that, I have to ask… are you ticklish?”

“Please don’t,” Irina replied solemnly. “You might accidentally poke yourself on a syringe I might have irresponsibly forgotten to throw away.”

“What is life without a bit of risk involved? After all, no great things were ever accomplished by those who claimed to be sane!” He said quickly, reaching round her and he began to tickle her. Irina’s face twisted up uncontrollably and she laughed helplessly, trying to escape him but failing. Unfortunately for her, she did not in fact have a syringe with her, and wasn’t exactly strong enough to resist. After a bit of the torture, he stopped to allow her breath, and he scooted to the side a bit in case she retaliated. “Just to hear that laugh was completely worth it.”

Irina, completely red in the face, mumbled, “That was cruel regardless…”

“Oh you are just a treat. You look adorable all red like that.” I have some Ezra in me after all.


Operator 21O
Staff member
MarineAvenger and DarkGemini24601: “Intro for Two, Part 1”

High Orbit over Forseti (June 15th, 2044)
The Neutron Star (0542 Hours, A.M., A.S.T.)
Floor 13: Quarters of Conscripted Convicts

The room door slowly cracked open, the soft fragrance of lemon cleaner rolling out to blast the newcomer in the face, who let out a small sigh as he walked in, throwing his duffel onto the other bed that paralleled his across the room. It was a small comfort knowing that he wasn’t sharing a room without anyone other than the man’s closest, most loyal companion every.

“Meow!” A soft cry came, the man chuckling as he took a small, black kitten off the top of his head, the small pet all but clawing into his beanie.

“Well Varric… welcome to home.” Derric Romland Glasieren was the newest addition to the crew of the Star, the Sergeant being newly shipped out from New Alcatraz to help guide the misguided souls of society’s worst- “Damn Broker and that stupid way he makes all assignments seem like they should come on a bright pink pamphlet. His enthusiasm about all of this worries me slightly. Can never tell if he is yanking me or being sincere.”

“Meow.” Was the only response he got from the other occupant of the room, Derric chuckling as he scratched behind Varric’s ears, earning soft purrs.

“Yeah, you're right buddy. Thinking too hard’ll give me a nosebleed.”


Putting a hand on his sore arm, Derric rolled his shoulder as he looked down at the prisoner name list, crossing off four more names. “Big man also forgot to mention all the boring shit. This all seems so mundane. Who cares if they try and escape, we are in the middle of space! It is like being trapped on an isolated island.” He complained out loud, shaking his head, knowing it was just the boredom set in.

Coming to next room, Derric knocked on the door. Looking down at the list again, a name caught his eye. “Burrick… oh, right. She is the one Kyle told me to be wary of. Have no idea why, don’t we need to be wary of everyone?”

The door slid open, and the cyborg Domineer stood in it’s place with her arms crossed. “Something I can help you with?”

“House keeping.” Derric replied tastelessly, his look and tone both flashing boredom. “Your roommate here too?”

“Present,” Juba growled, pulling her sheets over her head in irritation.

“Thank you.” He called into the room plainly. Derric looked back to Marianela, and added, “She is a ray of sunshine in the morning.”

“Pretty much… so you just checking in on us? Seems kinda unnecessary,” Marianela said boredly.

“If you knew how much truth was in your statement I would hand over the clipboard and pen and let you do it for me.” The officer spoke.

“Meow.” A tiny sound came, Derric looking down to see his black cat brush against his leg. He stared down with disbelief taking the place of the boredom. “How did you escape? I shut the door.”

“Meow!” Was the only response.

“You will drive me mad cat…” Derric hung his head and sighed.

Marianela leaned against the doorway. Well, this guy’s incompetent… or trying to make me think he is…

Derric looked up ever so slowly and straightened himself. “What’s with the smug look?”

“You an officer?” she asked, not answering his question.

“On the Star, yes. Was for a few years in the Psionic Ward in New Alcatraz and brought here at around three this morning. I am extremely tired and have not eaten in a span of two days. So if the miserable look on my face was not a good indicator along with the patches on my jacket… unfortunately, yes.” Derric answered long windedly, crossing his own arms.

“You certainly seem dedicated, then.” Definitely an idiot.

“What can I say, it is better than cutting trees or being a mayor…” Derric responded neutrally. “Now any complaints other then ‘Fuck you.’ or ‘I want off this damn ship.’ because I’ve had my fill thank you.”

“Haven’t been here long enough to really give a shit, though I certainly hope the whole “keeping us in our rooms” thing is just a temporary requirement. Not gonna work otherwise.”

“It is temporary. Once you guys are situated and the proper routines set up you will be able to be escorted around.” Derric answered, scratching his head. As he answered the question, something soft, small and fuzzy was brushing up against Marianela’s leg.

Marianela just glanced at the cat briefly before looking back up at Derric. “Good to hear.”

“Happy to assist.” His tone said otherwise and he himself looked down. “Sorry. He seems to be in a habit of brushing against anything not wet lately. Almost wonder if I should have just gotten a grown cat.”


“I’d say he thinks I’m another fucking cat, but they operate off of smell first, not looks,” Manilla responded, swishing her mechanized tail idly.

The motion caught Varric’s bright green eyes and he lowered a bit, his own tail slowly moving side to side as he jumped up, trying to grab at the tail, failed, and landed on his side with a soft thump, quickly scrambling back to his paws as he sat down, following the motion of the tail with his head.

“He certainly is energetic.” Derric noted. “You ever own a cat?”

“Nope,” Marianela replied. “Had a German Shepard though, once.”

“Never had a dog. Reminded me too much of wolves.” The officer reached into his pocket, taking out a small fish scented treat and the cat immediately came back to him. He proceeded to give it the treat and then picked him up.

“And we don’t?” Manilla asked rather bluntly.

“No, you remind me of humans, not animals you idiot.” Derric answered calmly. “Unless you a secretly a poodle.”

“Hell no… those are the worst kind of dog.”

“Then we share something in common.” Derric sighed and said, “Have a decent morning.” Before walking off to go to the next room.

High Orbit over Forseti (June 17th, 2044)
The Neutron Star (0731 Hours, A.S.T.)
Floor 13: Quarters of Conscripted Convicts

Once again, Derric found himself outside of room 27-C, this being the convicts first day being allowed out among the rest of the ship. The officer let out a sigh, knocking on the door, his escorts for the day being- “Marianela, Juba, wake up. Come on, you wanted the day out so you have to get up early for it.” He called out, using their first names since he didn’t bother to learn the other’s last name and thought it would have been rude to call one girl by the last name and the other by the first. And the only reason I care… because reasons. Derric thought to himself as he waited for any kind of response.

“I’d almost rather stay,” Juba groaned, but the thud of feet on the ground indicated she was getting up anyway. A few minutes later, Marianela and the Nigerian stepped out of the room, wearing dark blue and black uniforms with orange bandages with the symbol of New Alactraz - a heater shield with a lock design on it - indicating them as conscript soldiers to any other crew members.

“You’re welcome to.” Derric told the Nigerian woman. “Makes my job easier. Now… hungry? Need a workout? What, where you want to go?”

“Not much of a breakfast person,” Manilla informed him. “I’d prefer to get something quick and then move on with the day. Wouldn't mind getting some exercise after being in near-solitary for the past few days…” That was completely unnecessary, for fuck’s sake.

“Whatever.” Derric stated, beginning to walk in the direction of the mess. Without having to look back, Derric kept on the ready if he needed, wanting to be able to use his powers at a moment’s notice. “Oh yeah, uh… Burrick, you already got a package in the mail for you. Didn’t get a name from who it was though, I don’t read other people’s shit.” He reached into a messenger bag he had across his shoulder, containing several items both his own and for defense reasons, and he handed the very light weight wrapped box to Marianela.

“Did I, now…” the convict said apprehensively, looking over the box to see if there was a name on it or not. There was the normal shipping slip on the side, but it was a name the woman would have never seen before. As she tore the brown paper covering the box off, and flipped the lids open, there was a nice yellow box inside, the massive words, ‘Vanilla Wafers’ across the front with a note taped on saying, “If I hear good things, there is more where this came from.” Signed with only the letter ‘P’. You again, huh? Manilla shook her head, placing the box inside one of the larger pockets of her uniform, and continuing to walk after Derric.

He walked in silence most of the way, the trio grabbing their food and eating on the way to the gym, which this early in the morning was blissfully empty. He stopped at the door, crossing his arms as he said, “Go nuts. And if you guys try and steal anything… I’ll know.” He warned, going over to lean against one wall in a spot that he could see the entire gym.

Marianela raised an eyebrow intensely. That fucker read my file, didn't he?! Growling derisively, Marianela approached one of the punching bags, testing the reinforced material with a frustrated punch. Her metallic hand stung with a sensation similar to - but not quite mimicking - pain, but she didn't activate the inhibitors. More than anything else about her prosthetic arms she had hated the lack of feeling, and got plenty of use out of the Autonetic replacements for that reason.


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DarkGemini24601 and MarineAvenger: "Intro for Two, Part 2"

As Derric watched the women get to work with their routines, he quickly found the boredom quickly start to set in, until finally, he pushed himself off the wall and went to the punching bag besides the one Marianela was using, rolling up his sleeves as he began punching the bag. "So... What made you want to conscript?" He asked with a grunt as he punched the bag.

"I hated confinement," Marianela said tersely, making sure to not use her full stength lest she break the bag.

"Understandable. No one wants to live in a box their entire life." He spoke, giving her a sideways glance. "You don't look like a criminal. When I was working in the Psionic Ward everyone looked like they belonged there. You don't."

"Well, looks can be deceiving," Manilla replied, giving him a sideways glance. "If you're wanting to hear my story forget it. I've got nothing to say."

"I already know your story. I know everyone's story." Derric told her, taking a step back as he kicked the bag. "Sort of have to in order to know what we are dealing with. You killed an XSDF soldier after a bank heist gone wrong after all your friends were killed. You're a small time pirate. And now, you are a cyborg fighting for your freedom. Sounds like a pretty stupid book premise." The man noted.

So you did read my file. "Glad you think so," Manilla muttered. "I don't really care what you think of me though either way."

Derric merely shrugged as he continued beating on the bag, and after a good half an hour he stepped back sweating and a bit sore. "They don't look that bad." He said out of the blue.

"What are you talking about...?" Manilla questioned dryly.

"Your cybernetics. I would hazard to say I think they suit you. Make you look more badass then I'm guessing you did." He responded neutrally.

"Didn't exactly pick them out at a shopping mall, so I'm not in it for fashion," Marianela replied.

"Whether you wanted them or not I am saying you still look good with them despite that fact. Whether you take the compliment or not is your own prerogative." Derric stepped away from the bag to lean against the wall, looking over to make sure Juba wasn't doing anything bad.

After their workout was done, Derric led the girl's back to their room, and when the Nigerian woman entered, Derric stopped Marianella. "Hey, I just got a message." He was looking down at a small phone, one that merely flipped up. It looked like a really old model. "You have to report to the Head of Robotics."


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"Is that really necessary Glitch?" The blue haired engineer asked his friend as the android looked over a taser he had gotten from security for the person they would be talking to.

"Of course it is Nick. This person is a hardened murderer." Glitch told him, putting the taser to his side.

"Yeah but... you know, I don't want her thinking I don't trust her." The engineer responded uneasily, even though he had his crowbar nearby, but that was nothing out of the ordinary.

"By the way, did you read over her file?" Glitch asked as he sat down on a stool.

"Not really. I was passed out last night after I spent those all nighters up and forgot. All I know is she looks half-hispanic." Nick said as there was a knock on the door. "Come in!"

In walked the woman in question. Her opposable autonetic tail waved subtlety and idly behind her, an irritating habit she couldn't seem to get rid of without concentrating on it. She sized up Nick with her odd orange-brown eyes, and Glitch with the trivision ocular receptors attached to either side of her head. "Nice robo-guard," she muttered, pointing a clawlike metallic finger at Glitch.

Moving it to Nick, she added, "Uh... are you Nicholas Cauthon?" she questioned incredulously. "Seem a bit short for an engineer..."

"An... android?" Nick asked with slight confusion. "I didn't think the XSDF was working on artificial Domineers... I thought they all needed to be human for the connection to work."

Marianela's expression twisted in anger. "Oh, real fucking hilarious," she hissed, taking a step forward and only stopping due to Glitch matching her offensive posture with a defensive one. "Say that again without your buckethead here and see what happens, punk..."

Nick's eyes slowly widened, and he shot up. "B-But I thought you were a prisoner! And um... well... I didn't... why do you look so... what happened to you?"

"I was a prisoner!" Marianela snapped, and spat, "I'm sure they wanted to shelter a snobbish kid like you, but guess what? We had to sell our humanity to even get a chance at freedom!" Quieter, but no less intensely, she added, "I doubt most of the people that worked with the Convict Corps even saw us as human. You don't seem much different."

Slowly, Nick looked down. "My... my designs were... they were... supposed to help people win this war... not have it forced on them. If I had known... I'm sorry... I'm sorry that... my implants were forced on you... I never... I never would have wanted that for someone."

"You designed this stuff?" the cyborg echoed. "Guess they didn't feel the need to tell you what they planned to do with it." Marianela sat down on a bench almost buried in random machinery. "Older people are shitty like that."

"Can you... ever forgive me?" Nick asked sadly. "That this happened to you... I would have never allowed it had I known..."

"You're not the one that cut open my back or however the hell they put this stuff in," Marianela said with a shudder. "That'd be like hunting down whoever invented the plasma grenade that blew off my hands. Stupid and meaningless."

Nick stood up and walked up to her. "I still feel guilty though!" He looked over her. "To know... that this is what happens to people like you... you are a murderer... a criminal who was locked up but... I still feel bad for you. No one deserves... this." He said, touching her arm. "Androids are one thing, but forced cybernetics is another."

"What are you going to do, claim a felon was mistreated?" Manilla scoffed. "Slap a scary-sounding label onto someone, and people will act as if they're demonspawn. Most people wouldn't give a shit. It's 'an acceptable sacrifice that dangerous criminals must make for their freedom'."

"Well you’re human to me!" Nick argued. "Cybernetics or not! The machine doesn't make the person!"

"Never said it did, jeez..." Manilla shook her head, sighing deeply. "What did you want from me anyway?"

"I needed to make sure your implants are in working order. After I get all the Domineers checked out I was going to head down and make sure all the drones were in proper order. I am Head of Robotics despite my age."

"Head of Robotics... Damn, and here I was thinking I was an okay tinkerer." Manilla shook her head. "Good on you," she said, moving to slap him on the back but being stopped by a stare from Glitch. "You think it'd actually be possible for an android to be a Domineer? Wouldn't exactly be a bionic link anymore."

"No, but I am sure I could do it. Wouldn't be much different from putting it on a human. Might even be easier." He noted, rubbing his chin. "Thank you for the compliment by the way."

"No problem." Marianela shook her head. "Oh, the things I could do to Ezzy... Shackle him to some annoying cleaning bot..."

"Who is Ezzy?" Nick asked with a smirk as he moved behind her to start tinkering with her implant.

Manilla blinked, shuddering a bit as if a chill had run down her spine, and from a tiny whisper of another sensation. "My cousin, Ezra. He's a pain in the ass... which is why he's just about the only person in my family I got along with."

"Huh... I know an Ezra on the ship. He is a rocketeer. Except he is an android, so he couldn't be him. It is funny because the fee times I meet him he always makes fun of my blue hair but I turn around to make fun of that black and red hair of his."

"Shit, he's on the Neutron Star?" Marianela's grin faded. "Not sure I want to actually say hi again... Haven't exactly spoken to him since the whole 'fill an XSDF operative with lead' thing..."

"Well he is family, right? That has to count for something." Nick told her, tinkering a bit with a loose chip.

"Yeah, no, I think I'm worse than a black sheep. You ever ask Ezra his last name? It's Exalt. Exalts don't wanna talk about the fact that a member of the prestigous family was enduring a stint in prison," Marianela explained irritably.

Nick chuckled. "Well Mark might think like that but from the little I have talked to Ezra, I don't think he cares much about that stuff."

"Yeah, but I killed someone," Marianela insisted. "I don't think he'd let me off easy for that."

"Well can't pass judgement on that till you talk to him, now can't you?" He asked, closing her implants back up after fixing them.

Manilla shivered again. "I don't really want to... But I'm probably going to run into him sooner or later, huh?"

"Probably." The teen told her, moving out from behind Marianella. "Your lucky though... That you have family here. My parents are all the way on Megha, and... And they aren't even my real ones, and all I really have here are my girlfriend, her sister, my best friend Glitch, and my other friends. In a way... They are my new family."

"Well, I don't have any illusions about making friends here. You may not be bothered by who and what I am, but most people will be," Manilla noted. "Especially the soldiers."

"Well in that case..." Nick held out his hand. "I will be sure to be the only friend you ever need! If you ever get lonely, come see me and we can hang out anytime. I don't care when or why. " The engineer explained with a genuine look.

The convict raised an eyebrow. "You really are strange..." She mumbled, cautiously shaking his hand.

"Hey, if I wasn't strange, why would I ever be here? I am a 17 year old teen running the most advanced robotics division humans have, dating an android who is probably twice my age dare I never ask wearing one of the most advanced hardware I have ever invented... None of this makes sense." Nick said with a laugh.


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Taxor_the_First and DarkGemini24601: “Mental Wounds Not Healing, Part 1”

High Orbit over Forseti (June 20th, 2044)
The Neutron Star (2132 Hours, A.S.T.)
Floor 13: Room C-5 (Mirror)

The room was silent, neither of the two current occupants saying a word. Sarah was laying back on her bed, going over personnel files to make sure everyone that was called to the Neutron Star had made it. Hermes merely stared at the bunk bed beneath her. Although empty, it was the same spot that - on the Einherjar - Kallpa Vizcarra had slept. His equipment had been transferred to the Einherjar, but thus far no one had the heart to go through his personal effects.

The door slid open to reveal one of the room’s other occupants, a forced smile on her lips. With a nod to her roommates, Samantha beelined for her own bunk, opening up her bags and going through them to make sure all her belongings were there. She glanced once at the conspicuously empty bunk, but for now remained silent, continuing the rummage through her belongings.

Sarah glanced over at the two for a moment, and then sighed. “What is this accomplishing? I hear Devolina is getting her shit together. Why aren’t we?”

Samantha’s response was to growl, turning her head and glaring at the Chinese sniper. “I know you like to distance yourself,” she said, almost spitting, “but we don’t. I like to rely on the people I’m fighting with, so I get to know them. And if they get killed, it hurts. That’s unavoidable.” She turned back to her stuff. “Besides, it’s not like it’s going to affect how I fight.” She lowered her head. “Just need to… give it time.”

“We all cope in different ways,” Hermes spoke up quietly to Samantha. “Though that does mean we should respect that fact,” he added in regards to Sarah. The sniper merely shook her head, looking back down at a book she had been reading.

Samantha eyed Sarah out of the corner of her eyes, then lowered her gaze again when she appeared to be engrossed in her book. “It’s not the first time I’ve lost someone I consider to be in my squad,” the Huntress said quietly, mostly to herself. “There was the attack on XCOM, the Temple Ship, the Vault… and now this. An entire group of soldiers silenced, and yet I only care about one of them.”

“Vizcarra wasn’t exactly a run-of-the-mill person, though,” Hermes noted. “He was… the sort of hero you’d expect to read about, not actually meet.”

“Takes a storybook villain to kill a storybook hero,” Samantha muttered. “Or a bunch of them.”

“We have learned something about the enemy at the very least… and taken one of their best down,” Sarah offered, not looking up.

“That’s… something at least,” the Huntress admitted. “I don’t like the idea of someone dying for nothing. If we can use what we’ve learned about our enemy, I’ll feel a lot better about the whole thing.” She glanced at the empty bunk again, and sighed. “Still won’t be great though.”

“I have a feeling that is the last time we will underestimate them, in any case,” Sarah added. “It sounds like Commander Mason isn’t in the mood to send anything but the strongest and most prepared forces he can to a given mission. We thought that outpost was minor, but we won’t make that mistake again… not twice…” she muttered as an afterthought, Layrinxa 2 coming to mind.

Samantha chuckled bitterly. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…” She glanced up at the sniper. “So we’ll be seeing a bit more action then, you think?”

The Chinese soldier nodded. “I imagine so. Are you aware of the… new member of our team?”

A frown. “We’re replacing Kallpa already?”

“Not a roommate. An additional member to the special forces,” Sarah clarified. “One of those three cryo-frozen abuctees... well, the one that wasn’t an abductee, but rather an android.”

“Oh, really?” Samantha rubbed the back of her neck. “I… don’t really know much about those three. I guess so long as they’re skilled, there shouldn’t be a problem.” And so long as it isn’t the spider one. Yech.

“I’m not so certain about skill, but they are programmed with how to fight, and they have unique abilities that will be useful to us,” Sarah replied. “I just hope we can keep a handle on them… heard bad things about a bad habit of threatening people…”

Samantha shrugged. “If they can’t work with us, they’ll be left in bad situations. Not trying to boast or anything, but we’re supposed to be the elite forces. You don’t get this far without understanding teamwork.” Again her gaze returned to the empty bunk. “Mind you, teamwork is hardly sufficient by itself.”

Looking over there over and over isn’t going to bring him back, Sarah thought but did not convey to the woman across from her. “We both survived a war against an opponent with superior technology and abilities. We have nearly caught up on the technology front, so I’m not worried about the ultimate outcome of the war. We may lose battles, but in the end Trismegistus is a fool that underestimates us like Phobos did, and that will be her undoing,” she proclaimed calmly.

“Is that some kind of prerequisite for trying to exterminate a civilisation?” the Huntress asked. “Underestimate your foes?”

“They aren’t trying to exterminate us per say… it’s like fighting a precocious child that is given a majong set,” Sarah explained. “They learn it, get bored, and start messing with the rules trying to make it engaging again. They may be a genius but they’re still immature.”

That brought a raised eyebrow. “Experience with such children, Sarah?” Samantha asked.

“If you count other AIs, yes… though Alice actually grew up, whereas our opponent is merely a child that doesn’t understand the value of life… whether they’ve existed for centuries or for months,” Sarah said nonchalantly.

“Maybe that’s the problem,” the Huntress offered. “She’s got access to a lot of destructive power and no restraint other than her own desire to draw things out. What would happen if you gave a child a big red button labeled ‘press me’ that detonated a nuke under their feet?”

Sarah raised an eyebrow. “Surely you’ve heard of experiments where children are given an empty gun and told not to point it at each other and pull the trigger? They’re left alone and they do it nearly every time.”

The pessimism here is astounding… Hermes lamented silently.


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Taxor_the_First and DarkGemini24601: “Mental Wounds Not Healing, Part 2

“Because they think it’s a game-” Samantha started, before halting herself and considering. “Hang on, isn’t that what she called it? A game?” She planted her chin onto her hand. “Bloody hell,” she said quietly.

“As fatalistic as you two sound that does add up rather well,” Hermes spoke up. “I doubt we can convince a being like that the error of its ways though. In a way, it is childlike but beyond our understanding or persuasion… androids behave like humans because we are shackled to a body and intelligence not far from yours, but remove those bindings… and I can see why people fear synthetics in general.”

“People fear anything with a significant amount of power over them,” Samantha said almost dismissively. “You yourself have a significant amount of potential. The reason you’re still here and not in prison? You don’t use it. You have a concept of the value of life.”

“Considering my past, it is lucky that I... seemed to have that despite having my memory wiped more than once,” the android noted solemnly.

“Any progress on that by the way?” the Huntress asked. “Any hints as to your evil twin brother?”

Hermes shook his head. “I haven’t pried that far yet… I might be able to, but honestly… I’m afraid of what I’ll find. Both for my sake… and knowing whatever happened to him. If I was based off him… like he was a template, so to speak… then his personality should be similar to mine. Yet I can’t see myself behaving like Geralt did. Not without extensive trauma.”

“I wouldn’t be too concerned about that,” Samantha said. “Your experiences make you who you are. Knowing what he’s like isn’t going to change what you’re like.”

“I don’t think it will. I guess I’m just afraid knowing will make me falter if I have to face him. The idea of killing a brother - even if I am little more than a robotic clone - does not sit well with me,” Hermes clarified.

Samantha hesitated. “Unless he decides to swap sides, you will likely have to face him, or at least some of us will,” she said slowly. “If you want to keep whatever knowledge of him you have behind those mental bars, then I won’t blame you. But maybe there’s something in there that could convince him to stand down…?” She shook her head. “It’s… not my decision, in the end.”

“Perhaps you’re right about that… and I do have an obligation to face my own heritage anyway,” Hermes stated, standing up. “I’ve only been postponing it… I can’t hide forever. Just as we can’t refuse to heal forever,” he added quietly, walking over to Kallpa’s bunk.

“Are you sure?” Samantha asked. “Then again, I’m not the best person to talk to about letting things go.”

“I do desire to learn more about myself. To deny it is to deny part of who I am,” Hermes replied more confidently. “Just as we cannot deny that even though we only knew Kallpa for a few months, he did have his influence on us. I believe he amused Sarah, even if she would refuse to admit such…”

“I would, and that isn’t a confirmation either way,” the sniper mumbled.

Hermes opened up a slightly-dusty suitcase, and pulled out a brown cowboy hat, placing it on the bed. “We must move forward, and fight to preserve what he was trying to preserve. A profitable frontier that offers humanity a chance at greatness.” He entered a code mentally, and with a pneumatic hiss his helmet detached. He placed it on the bed momentarily, and put on the hat on his hairless cranium. “It wouldn’t do to forget what he did for us and everyone else.” I promise you, my friend… I’ll keep Korra safe, as I’m sure you would have requested.

Samantha was quiet for a moment. “You get that hat shot up, and I will kill you,” she said at last.

“I don’t plan on wearing it into battle!” Hermes defended himself. He glanced back at the bag, and his eyes widened. Cautiously, he brought a hand in, and pulled out a disc-shaped object - a holorecorder. A simple note to it was addressed ‘To Korra, if the worst has happened’. “I’m… surprised he prepared for an eventuality like this.”

The Huntress grimaced. “Well, it is a war.”

Hermes nodded. “I should probably deliver this to her. I… assume it would be appropriate to do so now if she has started to recover.”

“Finally living up to your name, huh?” Samantha quipped, a half smile on her face.

“I’ll take that as a yes, then,” Hermes replied, responding with a similar expression of his own.


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The Piano has been Drinking, Part 1
6:42 PM, June 22nd, 2044
Forseti, City of Ailey

Samantha was surprised to see the Volomi sitting at the bar, especially one down on the surface of Forseti. Judging from the battle-scarred back carapace, it was Kearichi, which only made the situation even stranger. She stood there looking at him for a moment before shrugging and making her way to a nearby stool. If he was capable of drowning his sorrows, then he was more than welcome to it. Right now she was too irritated to think much of it.

She sat down and ordered a beer, a beverage that she’d grown surprisingly fond of during her time in Australia. She smirked to herself at the thought. Maybe there was some truth to that stereotype.

“That worried about the future, are you?” Kearichi muttered, provoking a raised eyebrow from Samantha.

“Excuse me?”

“You’re a leader,” he explained, moving his glass in a circle and swishing the brownish liquid inside around. “A good one, at that. Your missions have all run relatively smoothly. Everyone’s had. Then we lose one, and suddenly there’s that reminder of mortality.”

Samantha hesitated. “I won’t deny that’s part of it,” she admitted. “A lot of implications came from… that mission. Very few of them good.” The side of her mouth curved upward. “If he could still walk, Isaac’d probably be up the walls about it. He doesn’t like things not going to plan.”

“Probably?” the Volomi prodded.

“I barely see him anymore” she explained. “He’s being kept too busy in the Intelligence sector. There was talk of them moving to the Arkbird. The cynic in me would call it abandoning us to our fate, but I know Isaac wouldn’t do that to me. Mason wouldn’t do that to us.”

“Mmm.” Kearichi continued gazing into the maelstrom he was creating. “You have a lot of faith in your leaders,” he commented. “More so than I would expect from a species without the link my people have. You have all seemed so… independent. Like wild animals that coexist, but not happily.”

“That’s only mildly insulting.”

“With humanity, I notice it more than with, say, Tamearins or even the Humilitia,” he continued. “You seem so prone to conflict from within that it’s surprising you ever defeated the Humilitia.”

Samantha’s eyes narrowed as she accepted her beverage from the female bartender. “Still insulting,” she said.

“That’s what I thought until a few days ago, at least,” the Volomi said. “Then I realized that this inner conflict, this ability of yours to question each other, to distrust each other, that was your strength. Your people spent millennia, if my studies of your history are accurate, in conflict between your various families, tribes, races, religions, nations. When an enemy came from the heavens, you were so used to dealing with enemies within that you were able to adapt to the circumstances and emerge victorious.”

The Huntress smirked. “As much as I’d like for us to claim all the credit for victory, we were still very lucky. If the Humilitia had deployed their full force at the start of the war-“

“You would have failed,” Kearichi said bluntly. “Taken by surprise and grossly underprepared. You would have been ambushed from above, your governments would have fallen, and the Ethereals would still be crusading amongst the stars.” His mandibles twisted oddly. “And yet they underestimated you. They were crippled by their own pride, their inflated perception of their military prowess. They played with their food for too long, and then the food started playing back. The perfect combination of a peoples used to conflict and another confident of victory.” He looked at her, for the first time in their discussion. “And the galaxy is a lighter place for it,” he added, almost ruefully.

Samantha grimaced. “Yeah,” she said, sipping from her bottle. “If you don’t count the army of pirates poised to wipe us out.”

“Trismegistus is making the same fatal error Phobos did,” the guard captain said, returning his gaze to his own glass. “Whatever her motives for this conflict are, she is pursuing it as if she could destroy us as easily as she would swat one of your insectoid pests. Suppose in my case, that’s probably true.”

“She probably could,” the Huntress said, her tone downcast. “Twice now she’s proven they have better tech than us. Who’s to say there isn’t more where that came from?”

Kearichi actually chuckled, surprising her. “What’s that human saying?”

“Ignorance is bliss?”

“Never say never,” he corrected.

Samantha waved her hand dismissively. “Bah. We’ve got a lot of sayings,” she said, taking another swig.

“But I find that one appropriate,” Kearichi said. “There is no point in giving up. So long as there is a chance at victory, we must pursue it. Planning for defeat will get us nowhere, and you would be dishonoring the memories of everyone that has died in this war thus far if you were to give up.”

She sighed. She’s heard the same thing from Sarah only a few days ago. They were right, of course. Accepting defeat as inevitable wouldn’t be any help.

Even so…

“Enough about that,” she said, attempting to steer her mind away. “What are you doing down here? Do you even get shore leave?”

Kearichi barked a laugh. “I cannot protect her for a few days,” he said in answer. “Our people lack psi-testing equipment, you see – any of our people that are psionic are what you would call ‘natural’ psions, ones that were awoken of their own accord. So Slora thought… while we’re here…”

Samantha filled in the gaps. “She’s being psi tested?” she asked.

“Correct,” the guard captain replied. “Of course, we never expected our species’ inter-connected nature to be of any consequence. She’s in a deep sleep, and someone as close in the mental network as her to our queen…” He shook his head. “You may have noticed I’m a little tired,” he finished lamely.

Samantha cracked a smile. “I thought you’d just had one too many already,” she joked.

The Volomi glanced at the glass before him. “Your alcoholic beverages are very much the same as ours, actually,” he noted. “I had to request sodium chloride in order to obtain a similar taste, but other than that…” He shrugged and took a swig, though he clearly had difficulty dealing with the glass’s shape. “Much easier to get food when our biological systems are compatible.”


Well-Known Member
The Piano has been Drinking, Part 2

A question sprang to Samantha’s mind, but what felt like a tap on her other shoulder made her turn. Oddly, no one was there. At least, no one within arm’s length. A tall hooded figure, probably Humilitia by their stature, was taking their own seat at the bar, a couple of stools away. Kearichi, also noticing the figure, snarled slightly under his breath. Clearly there was still some tension between the two races. Finishing his glass, the Volomi stood, and nodded to Samantha.

“I should return to the ship,” he said by way of farewell. He then departed, leaving her seated at the bar. She sighed to herself, and turned forward again. Without Isaac around, there was definitely an element of loneliness to her life now. She eyed the hooded figure, and watched as they reached out a withered hand towards the bartender.

“Aethereum blend,” they rasped. “Only one shot of cocoa this time, please.” The bartender raised an eyebrow, but complied, setting about preparing the drink for her new customer.

“Chocolate beer?” Samantha asked, noting that the Humilitia had chosen to speak via their mouth rather than through telepathy like most would.

“A similar beverage to your hot chocolates,” the figure responded, turning their head slightly to indicate they knew who had asked the question. They avoided direct eye contact, however. “My people find your chocolates to have the same effect as if a human had eaten a bar of solidified alcohol.” They shrugged. “Complicates Humilitia-human romantic relationships considering your people generally give chocolates to their significant others, but provided one is careful about what one ingests, it can provide a good release from stress.”

Samantha chuckled. “Might explain why I saw a few of your people in the sweet shop a few streets over. Be like an alcohol distributor for you, wouldn’t it?”

“Indeed.” The bartender extended a glass of something that looked like a chocolate milkshake, which the hooded figure thanked her for.

Samantha indicated the hood. “What’s with the getup, if you don’t mind me asking? Normally I see Humilitia walking around with masks on, but never hoods.”

The figure paused briefly. “Our masks are our faces,” they explained. “To anyone capable of reading our language, they describe who we are. And the subtleties of shape, design… they are similar to the defining characteristics that allow organisms to recognize individuals of their race from a host of others.”

“So you’re trying to avoid being recognized?”


“And that’d be why you’re using your voice instead of telepathy?”

The Humilitia chuckled. “You are sharp, human. With the uncertainty of these times, I find it comforting to know that people like yourself are protecting us.”

Samantha raised an eyebrow. “How’d you know I was a soldier?”

The figure pointed at her attire. “Uniform,” they said.


“Less comforted now,” they said, taking a swig of their beverage.

“I’ve been drinking,” Samantha responded mock-haughtily, finishing off her own and rising. “And I’ve got souvenirs to buy before I get back to the ship. Nice meeting you, though.” She frowned. “Did you ever give me your name?”

“No,” the Humilitia said. “And nor will I.”

The Huntress smirked. “Suit yourself. Don’t get into any crossfires.” And with that she left, thanking the bartender as she walked away.

The Humilitia remained seated, staring into the space behind the counter absently. When she got a spare moment, the bartender walked over to them, crossing her arms and leaning on the counter. “Things looking that good?” she asked.

“I’m worried,” the figure admitted. “There’s too many things the Pirate Queen is slipping beneath my radar. You hear anything?”

“Nothing of note.”

The Humilitia muttered a curse, before taking another sip. “How’s Jack?”

The bartender shrugged. “He’s at home. Ever since you told us she might be a synthetic being, he’s been obsessed with finding a chemical compound able to corrode through Titan armor.”


“None so far.” She eyed the rest of the customers. “You sure you want to be talking out here? We could go out back. These drunkards can look after themselves for a bit.”

The Humilitia waved a hand dismissively. “Trismegistus already knows who I am,” he said. “I’ll be lucky if she doesn’t know I’m on Forseti at all.” He reached up a hand and touched the bartender’s relatively short hair. “Your disguise clearly works,” he noted. “Samantha didn’t recognize you.”

“Or you.”

He lowered his hand again. “Probably for the best,” he said. “I don’t want her worrying about you, Jack and myself getting involved in this conflict. She has enough on her plate as it is.”

“Hmm.” The bartender rose, noting the extra customers that had just entered. “I’ll just go serve these people.” She turned to go and began making her way down the bar, but was stopped by what felt like a hand on her shoulder. Turning around, she noticed the figure lowering his hand, the shadow of which retreated back behind the bar in response.

“I’ll be gone by the time you return,” he said. “This might not be the last time you see me, but it is the last time I can guarantee it.”

The bartender hesitated, then walked back over to him, arm outstretched for a handshake. “See you after the war then?”

The figure reached out his withered hand once again, clasping hers and shaking it. His face was visible now beneath the hood, half shadowed. Though she had only seen it rarely, she could easily make out the concerned expression on it. His grasp tightened for a moment. Don’t challenge anyone that comes in here, he conveyed. The pirates are dangerous. Never let your guard down, and watch everybody.

I always do, she responded, before smiling. “Thanks for coming,” she said out loud, as if to a normal customer.

The Humilitia nodded, before rising and departing without a word, the breeze causing his robes to ruffle as he exited, his shadow lingering within the bar for a moment before following its master into the setting sunlight.