Charlie & The Flagship Factory - Tale of the Nesasio

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stylesrj
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Re: Charlie & The Flagship Factory - Tale of the Nesasio

Postby stylesrj » Sun Aug 17, 2014 5:48 am

Thank you. I used to write fanfic for Halo. Didn't go anywhere and it was pretty rubbish. Never published it on any fanfic site or forum and I'm glad I didn't. The FTL fanfic originally was meant to be a writing exercise I made for myself to get back into the third-person narrative after reading too much first person and writing accordingly.

Anyway, there has been some delay on the next chapter. My previous week got very busy and very hectic with work. The Vrachos Sector is close to completion, but I just know if I fix up a few fiddly bits and post it now, it'll have a lot of problems but hopefully it'll be done soon.
Before even getting to the Osprey, the entire chapter was over 5000 words long. I could divide it up like the Zoltan sector. First half is leading to the Osprey and second half being the Osprey conversations, but I'm uncertain if I should be bulking out the story like that.

As for Fight of the Osprey, don't expect the two canons to match up until the rewrite. For starters, I don't think Qarlina suits the canon very well and I could have the perspective character being an actual ghost (and not the CE AI Avatar).
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stylesrj
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Re: Charlie & The Flagship Factory - Tale of the Nesasio

Postby stylesrj » Mon Aug 18, 2014 9:14 am

After some delays and other stuff, here's my next chapter. Deals with a bit of Vrachos and also chock-full of references to a lot of stuff.

Also, while the Osprey was supposed to be a significant feature of this sector, I decided to cut it down just a little bit as there's plenty of characters already.

-----------------------

Sector 6 – Vrachos Sector

Apart from an extended encounter with a particularly malicious Zoltan enforcer over a matter of weapons licensing, the Nesasio had little trouble going from the Zoltan sector to Vrachos.

In need of repairs and a resupply, the Nesasio moved through a light asteroid field towards one of the rare space stations that were open for trading with the outside world. The trading platform was grabbing asteroids that came towards it with large recovery arms and throwing them into a massive furnace.

“They certainly run an efficient mining operation” Charlie Smith commented once the Nesasio had docked.

“I wouldn’t really think so” the Rockman Duna replied “Vrachos platforms take hundreds of years to harvest a field. They’re incredibly durable but not very practical.”

They walked past several other ships in the docking bays. “There’s a lot of Numa tribe ships here” Charlie said, looking at the docked fleet of sandstone brown Rock Fighter-chassis ships. Their crews were being held up by particularly zealous grey/black Rockmen in customs while giving the Crystalman Ruwen clearance without even questioning why he had foreigners travelling with him.

As they entered the port proper, there was a constant announcement of the latest news in the sector that could be heard over the din of a trading hub and mining platform. People paid little attention to the Crystal, except for a few Rocks who bowed or gave a short prayer.

Charlie spotted a trio of Rockmen in red robes that seemed to be tailing the group through the crowds. He brought it up with the others and commented to Duna “So what exactly do Rocks do for fun in places like this?”

“Well the Vrachos Tribe doesn’t cater for foreigners very well” Duna explained to him “The alcohol and FTL fuel are almost the same thing, most of the arenas are proving grounds for young Rocks and your kind sees our beautiful exotic dancers as repugnant.”

Charlie tried not to imagine a bulky Rock gyrating around something solid but his mind was feeling rather sadistic towards him that day. Can you red robed stalkers please be the dangerous, killing sort? He thought to himself.

“Great… and I’m supposed to be babysitting you two while everyone else gets to play with the new pet” Charlie grumbled, referring to the automated scout they had captured a while ago. The machine called itself “PUPPY” and even had downloaded soundbites of hundreds of species of canine lifeforms.

“…if you have any information pertaining to the whereabouts of the missing princess, contact the authorities at this extension. In other news, rumours are abound…” an announcement broadcasted from a nearby terminal.

“Wait, missing princess?” Ruwen asked, quickly accessing the terminal. The image flickered to a picture of a sandstone-brown Rockman standing to the side of a massive wall of text. Inset in the text was a picture of a granite-grey Rock with glowing red eyes. Ruwen asked Duna if the princess had any “scandalous pictures” to which Charlie groaned as his mind tortured him again.

“The Gentle Princess Ariadne of Vrachos IV kidnapped by the Federation on her wedding day?” the Crystal remarked, looking at Charlie and scoffing. “Well she’s certainly got a face that could launch a thousand starships”
Charlie muttered “Yeah, the other way.”

“Grand Wedding moved to Vrachos IV for a union between The Rebellious Princess Debbie and… Grand Basilisk Sandry Numa?” Ruwen banged a fist against the console in anger “Sandry…”

Charlie asked “You know the Grand Basilisk? Small galaxy.”

“Apart from the Great Eye, he also tried to kill me” Ruwen said.

“Sounds like a tale to be told but…” Duna said, discreetly gesturing to a group of sandstone Rockmen gathering nearby, chatting amongst themselves in a highly suspicious manner. One of them was wearing a conspicuous fedora and constantly pointing at the Crystal. The red uniformed Rocks were also still tailing them but unaware of the second group of stalkers. “I say we get off the streets Captain.”

They entered a nearby tavern and were immediately assault with gawdy music, flashing lights and the smell of alcohol clearly made to fuel starship engines. The place was also packed tight with bulky Rockmen of various compositions and tribes. Upon seeing the Crystal, they all stopped and stared in awe – some then looked away like he was radioactive while others vacated the premises.

A Rock(wo)man in a tiny uniform walked up to the group and gave Ruwen a quick pose. “How may I serve you My Lord?” she asked nervously, her hands in prayer.

“Well first of all, I’m going to need a drink. Preferably something heavy. Walking amongst my descendants works up a big thirst and I’m parched” Ruwen explained before looking to Duna and Charlie. “I’m sure my friends will want the same. Although get the Human something girly.”

Charlie was about to say something about that remark when he realised what Ruwen was saying “Oh right. Human alcohol is probably considered girly to your tough standards.”

As they went to find a table, a group of marble-white Rocks stood up and waved them over “You’re that Crystal we’ve been hearing about aren’t you?”

“Is there a problem friend?” Ruwen asked.

“No problem My Lord” the Rock explained as the group sat down “We’re asteroid miners looking to strike lucky on the fields. We never thought we’d actually meet one of the gods – this is a good omen.”

He looked at Charlie and said “And if the gods are travelling with foreigners, then to us you’re an honorary Rockman, Human.”

“Oh good, didn’t want to upset you with my presence.” Charlie remarked dryly, cautiously testing the FTL fuel he was served in a massive cocktail glass. Girliest drink my ass, he thought to himself in disgust.

“Hah, I like this man already” the Rock laughed. Like most aliens looking at another species, they all looked the same in their eyes. “The name’s Stroma. Stroma of the Wallfield Family. What brings the gods amongst us anyway?”

“The Federation found me and woke me up. I owe them a debt of gratitude” Ruwen explained, after introducing himself and his friends. “I’m a courier back home – so I’m repaying my debt by helping them deliver a package.”

“Wait, you're from the ship off to 'save the Federation,' aren't you?” Stroma asked, taking out a small datapad and projecting a picture of the Nesasio “And you expect to survive with that hunk of junk?”

Charlie shouted “Hey! It’s not a hunk of junk! It’s strong enough to destroy you! You’re asteroid miners! Our ship eats Rocks for breakfast and craps out plasma!”

“One ship is not the same as a fleet, but at least you've got some fire. I like you a lot” Stroma laughed before standing with the rest of his crew “You know what, meet us at these coordinates if you want to prove to us that the Federation is worth saving. By the way My Lord, drinks are on me.”

They left the tavern with a laugh. Ruwen shook his head “I don’t know what mess you got us into friend, but I’ll kindly ask you not to do that again friend.”

“It’s not like we have to go to those coordinates. They probably go to a Class M star or something” Charlie remarked “So what’s with you and the Grand Basilisk anyway? Sounds like you know Sandry.”

“We were friends a long time ago. Or I thought we were” Ruwen said glumly “Back then he was just Chieftain Sandry of Numa V. He had the rare opportunity to serve on my ship, the Tektite and he helped me deliver packages across Rock-controlled space and the Crystal Empires.”

He could remember those long conversations with the sandstoner and teaching him the ways of the Crystal Warrior to better protect his fragile self. The Rock was one of those very few people who could still conjure crystal formations with but a thought and a steady diet of homeworld crystals.

“Then on my very last mission he said he wanted command of my ship. His reasoning was that since my people were leaving the galactic scene, there was no point in keeping the Tektite locked up in the homeworlds.”

“I told him he could build his own – the Vrachos Tribe certainly did with their Shivian line of cruisers” Ruwen said, downing his drink and asking for another one from one of the hovering barmaids who giggled amongst themselves every time they touched his tankard.

Charlie remembered one of those ships coming into the repair shop. During that time, the Rockmen of Vrachos IV were rarely ever seen but known for their fortitude throughout the colony. He hit himself in the forehead for not seeing the similarities between it and the crashed ship in that asteroid belt in the Numa sector.

“I take it he wanted more than just the ship though?” He asked the Crystal.

“He wanted my codes” Ruwen said. “The codes for the gateway to the Crystal Empires and the codes to acquire the Bravais.”

“The what?” Charlie asked.

“It’s my other ship. I bought it with my life-savings and kept it in a remote part of my home sector. I was one pay packet away from the final drive upgrade” Ruwen said “No doubt he wanted the schematics for it.”

“I’m guessing the FTL drive is something special for your ship?” Charlie asked, giving up on the drink entirely.

“Absolutely friend. With a lot of focus and application of power, you could jump a ship anywhere in the galaxy with that drive. No beacons or gateways required” Ruwen said “Imagine if that Rock had such power at his fingertips!”

“This place would be known as another Numa Protectorate?” Duna asked before shaking his head and taking another drink “Good thing it’s not in their sandy hands then.”

“When I refused to hand him the Tektite, the Rock crew turned against my men. Turns out he had been conspiring against me since the start. I was a fool to ever think I could trust him” Ruwen grumbled, slamming a fist against the table, startling everyone.

“Of course, it was a group of sandstoners against a crew of highly-trained Shard Warriors so he didn’t get far. But he did escape in one of the shuttles, along with the Tektite’s database and navigation software.”

He raised his hands up into the air in a wide circle “Then he blew up the package I was to deliver to his tribe. Tore several holes in the hull and damaged the reactor. Left us to drift there and die while he ran off laughing about how he’ll unlock the secrets of the Empire with my access codes.”

“Interesting. So did he actually get your codes?” Charlie asked with a smirk.

“Oh no, I’d never leave something so vital in the database” Ruwen said, pointing to his head “The gate home requires a special tone and frequency to be emitted and someone as gritty as Sandry could never replicate them with his voice. Not even computer software or a recording can match it. Has to be from the source – it’s magical Charlie.”

“I see. So why didn’t he just come back with a fleet or something and force the codes out of your head or your friends’?” Charlie queried.

“Well, the weirdest thing happened actually. A rogue planet just happened to drift by and this old Zoltan said…” he started before the tavern doors burst open to the shouts of “Grand Inquisition! Stay where you are!”

The three red-robed Rocks tailing them earlier had trudged into the establishment, wielding large batons menacingly towards those along the path between the door and Ruwen’s table. A sandstone Rock wearing a fedora was pointing towards the Crystal and his cohorts. “Cardinal Ximinez, that demon is consorting with foreigners to undermine our faith and cast us down into the eroding winds of hell! You must stop him and punish those who let him wander into our home!”

The cardinals thanked the Rock for his loyalty before shocking him with their batons and casting him aside.

“Well that was unexpected” Charlie remarked.

“No one is to expect the Grand Inquisition. Amongst their weapons is surprise and fear. Or was it fear and surprise?” Duna said, finishing off his drink quickly and reaching for his gun. “And an almost fanatical devotion to the Grand Basilisks.”

“You forgot the nice red uniforms, heretic” Ximinez boasted before looking to his other cardinals “Exorcise the Shattersphere Demon.”

Ruwen reached out with his hands, trapping one of them inside a crystalline prison before Duna fired at another. The heavy calibre rounds lodged into the cardinal’s hide and exploded, blowing large chunks of rock away and making him collapse to pieces.

The third cardinal went to retreat and call for more soldiers when Duna threw his overheated pistol at him with the power cells set to overload. “This is getting way too fun” he said as there was a small explosion “So now would be a good time to leave, Captain.”

The trio hightailed it back to the Nesasio to the shouts of the Grand Inquisition chasing after them.

* * *

The Nesasio moved through the crystalline ring of a gas giant, impulse engines flaring as the cruiser adjusted its course. Two red Rock fighters were in close pursuit, reinforced by several black-painted automated scout ships.

A Lanius was holding on tightly to the outer hull of the Nesasio, trying to figure out which wire to cut on a live mine that had been attached to the ship. “Red wire or blue wire?”

“Don’t you know it’s always the blue one, Translator?” Slocknaw asked “Are you colourblind?”

“No but the designers of the mine were. Both of them are grey” Translator said, keeping an eye on the situation as the mine’s countdown slowly ticked away.

A white-painted automated scout ship darted around nearby, taking potshots at targets of opportunity. One of the Rebel scouts careened out of control into a large crystal formation and exploded violently from a well-placed missile strike to the engines.

The other scouts immediately backed off to engage the hostile automated vessel while the Rocks kept on pursuing the Nesasio.

“They’re really persistent Captain” Charlie Smith commented, running a fire extinguisher over a nearby control panel. He had been working almost non-stop for several days trying to regulate the engine outputs – he was on the brink of dropping to the ground from exhaustion. He had already heard Envoy Trikko’s body exploding into a cloud of energy as the fire consumed her again.

“No matter how many of those varmints we shoot down, they just keep on coming” Ruwen Shattersphere replied. The Crystal looked nervous as he twitched his bulky hands over the command console. Several empty crystalline mugs were scattered about the helm.

The cruiser suddenly shook and the engines immediately ground to a halt. The control panel was no longer responding to his commands – the blast doors into the engine room were crackling with electricity – their panels also not responding.

“Captain, they’re hacking the engines again!” Charlie reported, grabbing his rifle. Ever since the chase started, he kept the rifle on him rather than in the security room.

“That’s just a prelude to their next action” Slocknaw said, dropping the extinguisher to grab his pistol “Standby to repel boarders.”

The two Rock fighters began moving towards the Nesasio, matching speed and velocity. Charlie engaged the emergency navigation thrusters, chemical rockets burning and spinning the Nesasio around like a disk. This allowed Slocknaw to sweep the Glaive Beam across one of the fighters, turning the rocky plating to lava, followed by a massive explosion.

The Captain of the Rock vessel didn’t seem to give up though – in his last moments he engaged emergency thrusters of his own, sending it towards the Nesasio at an unsafe velocity.

The crew braced for impact only to have the Rock fighter overshoot the mark and fly off into a nearby crystal asteroid and explode yet again in an equally big fireball. Charlie didn’t think anything could remain but the fighter still appeared to have power and life support – up until another crystal asteroid smashed into it and caused yet another explosion, even bigger than the last one. Slocknaw remarked he had seen that happen in an old Human movie once involving a car stuck on train tracks.

The other Rock fighter however magnetically locked itself to the hull of the Nesasio in order to begin boarding operations. Several Rocks began stepping out of the airlocks in respirators, hauling pieces of a large weapon and setting it up on the wing.

“Mining laser” Translator growled to himself, taking cover behind the still-ticking mine as two Rockmen stomped up the side of the cruiser to engage the Lanius and keep him away from the breaching operation. If the laser didn’t cut the ship in half like a sealed can, the Rocks would have complete access to many areas of the ship.

The metallic birdlike alien jumped into action at the first combatant with his claws, cutting him down, prying rocks from his body easily with his polished and sharpened blades. The second Rock was made of sandstone and armed with a heavy laser cannon. He fired it and blasted one of his arms off. The ship’s magnetic hull plating immediately caused it to fall and attach itself to the deck rather than float away.

He made an obscene gesture with his remaining claw towards the Rockman, having no medium to transmit sound. The alien didn’t seem to care though, at least until a small grey gorilla-shaped Engi started shooting at him from afar, small laser blasts pockmarking his hide.

The Rock laughed at the alien’s pathetic efforts to hurt him and made the mistake of turning around to gloat only to be flashed in the eyes by a bright light as the Engi took his picture. Translator took the opportunity to tear the sandy alien apart before reporting over the comms “Thanks for the distraction, Virus.”

“It’s not over yet my friend” Virus replied, shifting her laser cannon into a repair tool. Translator grabbed his arm and let the Engi do a quick repair-job before going after the Rock boarding party – they had just about set up the mining laser and were warming up the emitters and picking up their laser cannons to defend the site.

They were caught by surprise when a small round object landed in their direction and went off in a flash of bright light, temporarily blinding the Rocks as Translator moved in for the kill. The aliens were firing wildly in the confusion making the operation relatively easy.

Virus ran for the mining laser controls and quickly swung it around towards the attached Rock fighter. The weapon had fully charged up and fired automatically, slowly cutting through the fighter and then a crystal asteroid that happened to drift into the path. She could have sworn to see another explosion come from the asteroid.

The battle seemed to have been won as the white automated scout returned, looking somewhat worse for wear but carrying several processors in its scrap recovery arms as if presenting its masters with a gift. Translator looked up at the machine which waggled side-to-side as if proud. “Good boy” he remarked in a very childish tone.

He then realised that there was a live explosive on the hull and quickly ran back to the mine only to find the countdown was approaching critical status. He raised a claw to one of the grey wires he brought out and was about to take a swipe when Virus simply pressed a button on the side of the mine, stopping the countdown at exactly 00:07.

Translator laughed and keyed the comms to say “Slocknaw, you won’t believe the number of seconds we had left before…”

The mine then exploded, rocking the Nesasio and causing a massive hull breach over the engine room.

* * *

Ruwen sat in the mess hall, talking to the rest of the crew about the events that had led them to their current situation. “How long until the FTL drive is repaired again, Charlie?” he asked, taking a big bite out of a chunk of synthesised crystal. He was finally glad the replicators could get the right food for his biology.

“Give me another day Captain” Charlie Smith replied to the Crystal “That mine tore out several vital power conduits and Translator can’t shape the pieces for them.”

The Lanius said sheepishly “Polymer. Not easily shaped.”

The Crystal sighed and asked “So what in tarnation is a Grand Basilisk supposed to be? In my time everyone was a chief of sorts.”

Duna answered that question for him “Grand Basilisks are exactly like Chieftains except it’s got a more religious spin to it. Chieftains these days are like planetary governors or independents like me.”

“And I’m guessing if you’re a Basilisk you have power over the Inquisition?” Ruwen asked.

“Fancy red uniforms and all” Slocknaw said sliding into the room, datapad in one hand “Take a look at this and tell me if it’s what I think it is.”

The pad displayed a full scan of the planet’s crystal ring. Nothing stood out from the ordinary except for a particularly large formation to which the Crystal asked as to how it was uncovered.

“Virus said the mining laser had drilled into it… after a Rock ship had exploded several times” the Slug explained “You have any idea what it is?”

“That’s the jump gate home. The very one that leads directly to the Empire of Messengers. I thought it would have been lost after thousands of years but it seems to have merely been buried” Ruwen said. He then put a hand to his face and mused for a few seconds. “We must destroy it.”

“Destroy it? Didn’t you want to return home once this was all over?” Slocknaw asked “Who knows if there will be another one that’s intact?”

“It’s a risk we’ll have to take. I’m not returning home until your mission is complete and I can’t risk the isolation being ruined by those Rebel scum or by Sandry” Ruwen said determinedly. “You said I was in command for this sector, so as Captain, I say we blow it up.”

Slocknaw was speechless so Charlie spoke up “Before we fight over this might I suggest a third option, Captains?” He stood and pointed to Ruwen “You said you had a ship that could traverse the galaxy without a beacon network?”

“Yes, but it’s…” Ruwen started before Charlie continued “So how about we go into the Crystal Empires, and secure your ship and the technology? If you need to pay off the last instalments or whatever, we can do that. We can set aside the scrap. Then we jump to Federation Command instantly. Then our mission is complete and you can still return home having fulfilled your code afterwards.”

He crossed his arms and waited for an answer. Slocknaw remarked “Is it just me or has crossing the gender line made you more… wise?”

“Let’s not go into stereotypes here Captain. It’s probably just you” Charlie remarked, taking his tray back to the replicator for disposal “I’m just sick of this uncertain leadership crap. We’ve got two Captains on a light cruiser. That’s two too many in my opinion.”

Ruwen pondered Charlie’s words for a few seconds before he said to the crew “Change of plans friends. We get the drive fixed and we then head off towards the Crystal Empires! Then we destroy the gateway once we’re there.”

There were no arguments for that strategy as they got to work fixing the various damages to the Nesasio uninterrupted over the following day.

Once the FTL drive was functional, Envoy Trikko picked up gravitational disturbances from outside the crystal fields and alerted the crew to a massive black-painted automated ship that was entering the system. It seemed to be twice the size of the Nesasio and armed with powerful, relativistic projectile weaponry.

Charlie wasn’t going to question how she could possibly have sensed specific weapons, chalking it up to the Envoy having powers beyond his understanding.

“Keep the shields up. If they ever waver, those railguns might tear us to pieces faster than a Hermes missile launcher” Slocknaw warned the Envoy.

The machine broadcasted a massive electronic growl over all available comm channels. “This is an automated message from Assault Cruiser Version 3.1. Designation – Artificial Robotic Menace. Prepare to die Federation Vindicator Class Cruiser Designation – Osprey.”

The automated ship headed on a course towards one of the other entrance beacon nodes in the system. “The Osprey?” Slocknaw asked, focusing his powers in the general trajectory of the enemy and picked up several lifesigns entering the system before the sensors could run a sweep.

“Seven lifesigns. Three Humans, an Engi, a Rock, a Mantis, and a Zoltan” he listed for the crew’s benefit. “Although one of the Humans isn’t like the others… it’s an oddly cold sensation.”

“Where in tarnation did that oversized varmint come from?” Ruwen shouted “Let’s destroy the gateway and get out of here!”

Slocknaw shook his head. “The Osprey is on the same mission as we are.”

Ruwen nodded and his demeanour changed to be more cheerily “Very well. It is within reason to rescue our counterpart from danger, as per the Courier Code. Virus and Translator, has the mining laser been attached and connected to Slocknaw’s station?”

“Done and charging. If the conduits and capacitors hold, we’ll be able to provide continuous artillery support” Virus informed him.

Ruwen asked Slocknaw to pick his targets for the beam weapons before ordering him to fire. Two powerful lasers fired from the Nesasio’s wings, going for the engines of the automated ship. To his dismay, the beams were blocked by the machine’s shields. He cut power to the beams and waited for the capacitors to recharge again.

The automated cruiser seemed to ignore the smaller Nesasio as it kept its course towards the Osprey, growling again over the comms making communications impossible.

The Osprey slowly turned around to face the automated cruiser, laser weapons deploying along the sides and a red light glowing brighter in the ship’s bow. “That’s definitely a sign of one of the Jensens” Charlie remarked “They’re all laser weapon aficionados.”

The automated ship had first strike advantage however and fired several rapid-fire railguns at the Osprey. A barrage of tiny relativistic projectiles peppered the cruiser’s shields. They glowed bright green for several hits until collapsing entirely.

While the automated cruiser’s guns started cooling down, the Osprey returned fire with a laser barrage to which the cruiser attempted to dodge by spinning rapidly. Charlie had never thought a ship that big could be so agile. Then again if you don’t have to worry about a crew you can forget about inertial dampeners, he thought to himself.

The automated cruiser took several hits into the shields but nothing seemed to get through until the Osprey fired a beam weapon. The laser somehow managed to penetrate the enemy’s shields as it swept downrange. It didn’t seem to do much actual damage but it was enough to make the ship break off and spin up its FTL drive.

“Target is armed with Vindicator Artillery. Tactical withdrawal necessary” came the next message over the comms.

Slocknaw reported to Ruwen that the Nesasio’s beam weapons were charged and ready to fire. He told him to wait for the Osprey to strike for maximum effect. As he saw the lasers, the Slug fired two sweeping beams across the Rebel machine.

Pieces were burned off and the shield generator flickered and faded. The automated cruiser gave out one last growl before announcing “Critical Error. Self-Destruct in…”

It then broke into several large pieces of salvage, drifting and tumbling slowly in the depths of space. Communications were restored and the Osprey began hailing them with gratitude for the assistance.

“Holy crap. I didn’t think they made those robotic ships in that size” Charlie remarked watching the debris drift away on screen.

Slocknaw shared that sentiment “There’s only one place I’ve seen ships that big before and I certainly hope it’s not on our route if the Rebels have control of it…”

* * *

Charlie Smith was excited as he stood in the teleporter room next to Ruwen, Translator and Virus #247-12 as part of the away team to the Osprey while Envoy Trikko, Duna and Slocknaw remained onboard to monitor the situation in case of problems.

“Slocknaw tells me that there’s a Mantis onboard named Robert Smith” Virus said to him.

Charlie gave it some thought before shaking his head “I thought we went over this. My brother is not a Mantis. Smith is a common surname across many Human colonies. No doubt it’s some Mantis with a Federation name – a pretty terrible one at that too.”

“I’m guessing you wish your family name was something like Awesome or Proasheck?” Virus asked.

“Maybe, but still my brother Robert is not a Mantis” Charlie said insistently “He’s just green. There are plenty of people modified like that and it makes more sense. You can’t forget something as blatantly obvious as a Mantis for a brother.”

There was a flash of light and Charlie was inside the cargo hold of a Vindicator-Class Cruiser. He took in a deep breath and felt rather light-headed from the difference in oxygen – they obviously had pumped extra life support into the room when informed of having a Lanius visit them.

He saw several stacks of metal lying in organised piles with signs indicating what they were used for. There was a single pile of large ingots labelled “Complimentary Lanius Food.” Translator gave a short laugh and walked over “I should tell the Captain to adjust the composition of the air to more habitable levels. I heard all that oxygen can’t be good for you.”

The doors at the far end then opened up and several figures walked into the hold. A Human in a Federation Captain’s light blue uniform stepped forward, followed by an Engi with a glowing green visor and a light blue uniform painted on the central chassis. A mature-looking Mantis and a Rock followed shortly behind. The Rock’s uniform was rather dirty and tattered as if they never gave it a good sonic shower since they got it while the Mantis was immaculate – Charlie muttered it was too clean, adhering to exact Federation standards.

The Rock was the first to speak, shouting like an overexcited schoolgirl “I must be dreaming!” before rushing towards Ruwen, rattling the deckplates with each awkward step. Captain Jensen looked surprised at seeing a Rock(wo)man move so quickly – he had never seen her move faster than a lumbering gait.

The Crystal did not look forward to having another fangirl go after him, so he tried to brush her off. “I’ve got things to discuss with your Captain” he explained to her “No offense friend but I don’t need another worshipper at this time.”

The Rock laughed “My father tried to teach me all that religious nonsense but I know the truth. You’re magical but you’re not a god of mine.” Her glowing red eyes flashed brighter “But this is exciting. To finally meet one of my magical ancestors!”

“Well that’s all good but unless your father is a Grand Basilisk and you’re a runaway princess, you’ll have to wait for the meet and greet” Ruwen said.

Douglas gave a knowing smirk as Debbie perked up even further.

Ruwen paused, trying to read the Human’s expression before looking back at the Rock. “Wait… you are, aren’t you? You’re the missing princess aren’t you?”

“Princess Debbie of Vrachos IV. The Rebellious” the Rock declared proudly, giving the Crystal a very sincere bow “Liberated from the clutches of the Grand Basilisk of Numa V by the courageous Captain Douglas Jensen of the Federation. And my father said they were not good for anything.”

“The media says you’re Ariadne, The Gentle” Ruwen remarked, putting a hand on the Rock’s shoulder “Twins?”

“No, just stupid religiously-blinded parents. They can’t tell the difference between blue and red” Debbie said “Otherwise they’d know I’m not the one to be married off to a fragile sandstoner like Sandry. I heard he doesn’t even spar with his wives for fears he’ll break apart. What a complete weakling!”

“Well if you’re an enemy of Sandry and his cult, you’re my friend” Ruwen said to her “So what do you want to talk about with your magical ancestor? Because if you want more pebbles on Sandry, I’ve got some shearing material on him myself…”

Meanwhile, Douglas looked to Charlie and asked “What’s the word about my father, Ensign? Slocknaw said you served on the Condor when Kazaaak attacked it.”

“Not good I’m afraid. I didn’t see what happened to the command staff but I do know that Kazaaak found Joshua particularly interesting before the ship went down” Charlie replied sadly.

“So he’s either dead or a Mantis slave” Douglas said glumly “Kazaaak will have a lot to answer for if I ever find him.”

The Mantis named Robert then approached and asked “I had a brother who served on the Condor as an engineer. His name was Charlie.”

Charlie frowned “The only Mantises onboard were the ones who were destroying the ship.”

“My brother’s not a Mantis! There’s no way he’d be one of those filthy, bloodthirsty monsters!” Robert said indignantly “My brother was a Human, just like you except not as good looking.”

For some reason Charlie felt insulted but somehow in a friendly manner. “The only Charlie Smith onboard the Condor was me. And if my brother was a Mantis, I think I would remember something as obvious as that.”

Robert’s antennae perked up as he picked up something familiar about the Human’s scent. “You certainly smell like my brother” he asked, concerned “But why are you a girl?”

Charlie doubled back at what he was hearing “You know what I smell like? That’s just plain creepy! Get away from me you crazy bug!”

Robert raised his claws high. “We’ve known each other for a long time, Charlie. Of course I’d recognise your scent even if you look different” he said “Can we at least hug? I missed you Charlie”

Five years of memories flooded back into Charlie’s head, memories he tried to suppress. “Get away from me!” he shouted in a panic “I killed you! I killed you! I. Killed. You! You can’t possibly be alive!” This is a cruel trick! I need to get out of this metal prison!

Charlie kept backing away as the Mantis moved closer, calling out his name in a worried tone. “No! Kissekek, please don’t! I’ll do anything!” he shouted to the insect before tripping over the pile of scrap Translator was shaping and passing out from shock.

Robert grabbed him carefully with his claws and picked him up. “Who the hell is Kissekek? Sounds like a Mantis name” he asked before running to the Engi. “Two-Zar, I need help! My brother’s in shock!”

Two-Zar was chatting with Virus in the native Engi language of static, beeps and growls. The two platforms were about to lean in close when he shifted his right arm into a laser gun, pointing it at Virus. “Negative Robert Smith. Override V-7 initialised. Loading Combat Programming.”

Douglas shouted at the Engi “Two-Zar? What the hell? Put the gun down! Now!”

“Cannot comply. Virus #247-12 is designated criminal across all Engi-controlled space. Crimes: Binary scrambling x8, Nano-dissolution x3, and Variable Interference x20. Sentence: Deletion of viral software to prevent spread. Virus has assumed control of Metfel’s platform. Armament required.”

“You’re missing one count of Nano-dissolution” Virus pouted.

“Noted. Platform designation?” Two-Zar demanded.

“If you keep pointing that peashooter in my face, it will be yours that’ll undergo nano-dissolution” Virus said, her monotone sounding more distorted in annoyance. Her right arm shifted into a sharp energy blade which began to glow brightly.

“I like how you and the Hive Mind have even found ways to charge me for the crimes the other members of the crew have committed” she remarked.

“All crimes committed by viral software’s accomplices caused by viral software hacking and disrupting organic brainwaves.” Two-Zar said “Organics committing Engi crimes against Hive-Mind deemed impossible. Five seconds to delete software or this platform will disassemble you.”

“Five seconds? Are you feeling generous or something?” Virus questioned as Two-Zar then fired several shots at her. They harmlessly were absorbed by her modulated personal shield. “Maybe not.”

Douglas leapt at Two-Zar and knocked the machine over, punching him several times in the visor, causing it to shatter. “Stand down now! You do not take orders from the Engi Brigade or whatever group you’re a part of on this Federation mission!”

“Programming override. Viral software threat to this platform’s physical integrity and software. Unable to comply with Federation orders until threat resolution is performed.” Two-Zar replied, making no other efforts to struggle, knowing the Human was superior in strength. Instead he shifted an ion stunner on his laser gun and powered it up.

“That’s enough, polymer waste!” Translator snarled at Two-Zar “If you keep up with this insubordination towards your master, I will disassemble your platform and reshape it into something I can integrate into this model train.” He held up several shaped ingots in the form of an old railway locomotive “Virus #247-12 is my friend. And I will not have her attacked because you don’t like how she was programmed.”

Two-Zar paused as he processed the information. “Lanius friendly with viral software?” he asked, confused. “Impossible. Viral software incompatible with Lanius. Programming causes conflict.”

“You get used to it after a while” Translator said smugly “In fact, I was considering Virus and myself to be more than friends. Why don’t you process that into a file and decompress it?”

Two-Zar’s visor glowed brighter as his processors went into overdrive. “Lanius pathological hatred of viral software. Lanius is partner to viral software. Deemed impossible. Lanius friend of viral software. Lanius pathological hatred of viral software…” The Engi’s body went limp as everything powered down.

Douglas rolled off the body of his Engi friend and said “I didn’t think he’d react so violently. I’m sorry for the trouble he’s caused.”

“It’s fine. I already looked at his specifications – it would have taken him a long time to get through my shields with the firepower he carried. He’s armed for infiltration, not for dealing with heavy targets” Virus said, retracting her blade.

Douglas nodded “He’s part of the Botan Network – the espionage wing of the Engi Brigade. They’re trained to go extended periods without a connection to the Hive-Mind.”

“And yet he seemed quick to judge me as a threat” Virus said.

“He’s been through a lot in recovering the intel that’s vital for the Federation. Many Botans died to bring us this information” Douglas said “He didn’t want to be added to list of casualties. So what’s your story? Why have you taken control of Metfel’s platform?”

Virus explained to the Captain the truth about viral software and how the Engies divided their programs into different castes, like an insect hive. “Viruses do the things other Engi platforms are too proud to perform. We’re expected to replicate and die unfulfilled and alone with everyone around hating our presence.”

She then looked to Translator and said with a high-five “Nice use of the logic bomb. But you were joking about that last part though, right? More than friends?”

“I was looking for something that would really send an ignorant platform’s programming for an infinite loop” Translator remarked “Although it’s only a joke if you choose it to be one.” He then went to help Robert with taking Charlie and Two-Zar to the medical facilities onboard the Osprey.

Douglas scratched his head and said to Ruwen “I thought had the strangest crew this side of the galaxy. But even the mysteries of Abadoth have nothing on what I’ve just seen.”

* * *

“There’s been a change of plans” Ruwen informed his crew once he returned to the Nesasio. Everyone had gathered in the mess hall to listen in.

“We’ll be heading to the Crystal Empires, but the Osprey will be assisting us in the destruction of the gateway as to prevent Rebel incursions” the Crystal explained.

“They’re not coming with us?” Charlie asked, rubbing his head from the pain. He had been given a quick medical examination and a recommendation of grief counselling by the Osprey’s doctor before being returned to the Nesasio. Can’t believe Robert’s a Mantis… he thought to himself.

“From what I’ve been told, the Osprey is heading towards a place called Chiron Beta Prime. Apparently it’s a massive shipyard” Ruwen said to him.

“That’s the Chiron Beta Prime Shipyards. It’s the home of the Dyson System and its famous Hades Ring” Charlie said excitedly. “I’ve always wanted to go there ever since I was a kid! They even ran a contest across the galaxy where they hid millions of grey tickets inside of…”

“Charlie, we’re not going to Chiron Beta Prime!” Slocknaw said harshly. “I hope Captain Jensen knows what he’s doing by going there. No doubt the Rebels have control of the shipyards of the sector.”

Charlie looked at the ground “I know, I know, but I’ve always wanted to see the Hades Ring.”

Ruwen said “I’ve given the Osprey the proper calibrations to take down the gateway. As soon as we are through, they’ll destroy it right behind us. Even if my codes cannot be duplicated through artificial means, our enemies may find a way to bypass the security system now that the device is uncovered.”

His mind flashed back to Debbie. The Rock(wo)man had some great difficulty accepting need to destroyed a Crystal relic, but he assured her there was no other choice. They would meet again. He took a deep breath and said “Let’s go home!”

The Nesasio hovered in front of the crystalline device while the Osprey hovered nearby, weapons charging up, ready to fire and shatter the ring.

Ruwen sent a transmission to the device, humming the codes in a specific sequence. The space around the ring began to distort as the device powered on.

A wormhole formed in the ring, the edges crackling with energy. “Holy crap” Charlie exclaimed, seeing the phenomenon on his console “We’re going to fly through that?”

“I’m concerned as well” Envoy Trikko said “Gravitational disturbances are on the same level as being close to a singularity. There are also some anomalies in…”

“Just fly through it, friend” Ruwen said, giving control of the helm to Virus “We’ll be fine as long as you go straight through and not at an angle.”

The Nesasio began its approach, moving straight into the wormhole. Lightning crackled around the hull, alarms started blaring across the ship and several consoles overloaded and powered down from the stresses.

Charlie could feel and hear the ship’s hull creaking and buckling under the stresses induced upon it. “The ship’s going to tear itself apart! We have to reverse thrust!” he shouted “The ship won’t hold!”

“Give it another second. This is par the course for metallic vessels” Ruwen said “Keep the engines maximised!”
Charlie complied reluctantly, furiously tapping the console, even activating the rearward emergency thrusters for the extra push. Just when the shaking got too much for the Human to keep standing, it ceased and sent him off balance.

The Nesasio was in a sector not listed on the star charts with strange crystalline ships dotting the horizon. Ruwen spoke "Here we are, my home sector. It has been a long time since others have set foot here. I wonder how you will be received.”

He entered a few commands into the console and said “The coordinates of my old ship have been forwarded to your navigation system. Let’s hope it’s still there.”

As the Nesasio jumped away, the crystalline gateway started crackling and shattering in places as its counterpart in Vrachos was breaking apart. Just before the wormhole collapsed though, the bow section of a Rebel carrier came hurtling through, releasing several fighters and automated ships docked within.

While the fighters began their pursuit of the Nesasio, the automated ships flew into what was left of the carrier and carried out a large beacon node – one designed for sector-to-sector travel.

-----------------------

Next time on Charlie & The Flagship Factory:

Crystal Calamities!
Mind Control on automated ships!?
Translator gets another puppy?
Crystal Fleet Rally!
Crystal Warrior Showdown: Sandry VS Ruwen! Sunday Sunday Sunday!*

* Might not be published on a Sunday

What you will not be seeing:
A clock tower!**

**We call them Chronometer Towers, because sci-fi logic dictates clocks are not sci-fi unless they're called Chronometers.
delta77thegreat
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Re: Charlie & The Flagship Factory - Tale of the Nesasio

Postby delta77thegreat » Tue Aug 19, 2014 6:37 am

Another amazing chapter! Great as always!

On another note, when you do get around i rewriting the Osprey side of the story as you previously said, are you just rewriting existing content or adding new stuff too (eg saying what will happen to the Osprey in Chiton Beta Prime)

Good job and keep it up!
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stylesrj
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Re: Charlie & The Flagship Factory - Tale of the Nesasio

Postby stylesrj » Tue Aug 19, 2014 8:26 am

I was thinking of having the Osprey's side of things start in the Gamma Cluster instead of Aquarius.

I'll skip the first few sectors as that would essentially be the same thing the Nesasio goes by except the Numa tribe is in an uproar over the Nesasio stirring up trouble, the Engies are in an uproar over the Virus.

Gamma Cluster will probably have an encounter with Slocknog but they leave him to rot on the moon. Serves him right for getting himself stuck there :D
Then there will be that event I can never seem to get which involves something called "Abadoth" so I'll make stuff up (All I know is that it involves a Slug/Zoltan conflict)

There will of course be new content like Douglas meeting Kazaaak and finding out what happens to his father. And Mantis Ship Collectors. They'll make a mighty fine prize!

Oh and change of plans for the Crystal Sector. So much will be happening that I'll split it into two chapters, like the Zoltan Sector. Translator probably won't be getting a puppy but he'll get a new toy to play with.
Part 1 will involve some foreshadowing, Part 2 will have some light romance hugging/kissing, people interrupting the romance with inane questions and then Sandry!

Followed by a light lunch and a trip to Chiron Beta Prime. Merry Christmas.
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Re: Charlie & The Flagship Factory - Tale of the Nesasio

Postby stylesrj » Tue Aug 26, 2014 11:55 am

Guess what? I'm back to having a buffer of two chapters!
So I guess I'm good for about two weeks :D

Anyway, the rarely ever-seen and mysterious Hidden Sector, also known as the Crystal Homeworlds. Since I haven't been there in like... ages I don't know much about it, but here's a chapter mostly consisting of several events I read about on the wiki.

----------------------

Sector ??? – Crystal Homeworlds – Calamities

The beacon node the Nesasio jumped to was busy with traffic. Thousands of crystalline ships and shuttles of various sizes, shapes and colours buzzed between several points in space, forming large convoys. Upon seeing the strange new ship arriving, they kept their distance, unsure of its allegiance.

Ruwen entered in several codes into the Nesasio’s IFF which identified it as an Empire of Messengers vessel. The ships however still maintained their distance as it did not match any known profiles.

“So if you have the technology to travel without the beacon network, why is such a network set up?” Charlie Smith asked Captain Ruwen Shattersphere.

“Good question friend. Perhaps even after all this time, the tech is still expensive and not available for the smaller vessels” the Crystal said as several fighters warped into the system through small wormholes. They resembled large amber-coloured crystal shards with engines on the back.

“The Amber Splinters” Ruwen explained to the others “Imagine them as Crystal Zoltans, except without the warrior-monks and just the law enforcement parts.”

“Unknown vessel, state where you have acquired your IFF codes” the lead fighter hailed “Do not try to run or we will lock the beacons down.”

And nothing is more threatening than a fleet of angry commuters, Ruwen thought to himself worriedly. He replied to the fighters “I’m from the Empire of Messengers, friend. My old ship got destroyed and these folk were happy to give me a ride. It’s been a long time, what’s changed?”

“Everything Captain Shattersphere!” the leading Crystal shouted angrily “Your arrival has brought more intruders at our door! Even now, their ships of orange and black are arriving in massive numbers and gathering at the gateway you failed to seal behind you.”

“The Rebels? How did they get here so quickly?” Ruwen asked, looking to the shipboard clock. They had barely been an hour into the sector.

Envoy Trikko spoke up “I mentioned there were anomalies before we went through, but for all I knew, it could have been something the wormhole did. The Rebels most likely had forward assets waiting for us to open the gateway, perhaps even having a beacon ready to be deployed if we tried to destroy the connection.”

“Confound it!” Ruwen grumbled “Here I thought we’d finally get some reprieve! Looks like the chase is still on.”
“You will pay for your crimes, Captain Shattersphere! The Empire of Messengers has always stirred up trouble for us! Open fire!” the lead Crystal fighter said before cutting transmissions. The fighters began swooping in close, firing crystalline projectiles at the Nesasio.

The stealth cruiser immediately began moving, swiftly dodging past the projectiles while powering up the beam weapons. Several projectiles were shattered on the shields until the layers dropped down to one. A crystalline missile went right through the barrier to score a breach across the hull, damaging the phase-cloaking device in the process.

“It seems they can pierce shields with those crystal projectiles if they get too low” Trikko remarked, quickly bringing the layers back up as the fighters began another pass. The Nesasio fired the Glaive Beam, tearing one of the craft into a small, temporary sun, complete with its own orbiting crystalline debris.

Seeing the destructive power of a single beam weapon, the other fighters decided to warp out of the area. They quickly jumped away with their wormhole drives except for the lead fighter which briefly drifted through space before slowly flying towards the Nesasio.

“Boss… Captain, I’m requesting permission to dock this bad boy into the cargo hold” Translator announced cheerfully.

* * *

The next jump beacon was oddly quiet with only an amusing sign hovering next to the beacon which was translated to “Carnelian Proving Grounds. Lower your shields and power down your weapons. We will add your ship to our collection.”

A few red crystal cargo ships larger than the Nesasio itself flew past them at dangerous velocities, sending out a transmission that was the equivalent of leaning on the horn at another driver. “Damned Carnelian truckers! They have no respect” Ruwen grumbled before heading to the engine room.

Charlie was going over the wormhole drive of the fighter craft the boarding team had captured. Translator had already excused himself to “go polish his blades” to which Charlie assumed it was his way of saying he wanted to tinker with some machinery with his Engi friend or to tinker with her machinery. He found it hard to tell with the two.

“If I had a few days, I could probably figure out how to jury-rig the Nesasio with this wormhole drive” Charlie explained to Ruwen as he pried a chunk of amber crystal off the surface of the drive.

“We don’t have that sort of time, friend. We need to get to the Bravais and then get to your Federation Command so we can deliver the package” Ruwen said. “I’m tempted to take a look inside and see what the fuss is all about, but that would violate the Courier Code. But what’s the point in the Code if your Empire is going to be destroyed? The Rebellion certainly won’t honour it.”

“I think Slocknaw said we can’t take a peek at it because we might get captured by the Rebels and be forced to tell them what we know about their secret projects” Charlie said “Not even the Engies know what’s inside.”

“How would you know?” Virus asked, entering the room. “You passed out when I got to talk to one of the original Botans who brought us the package. He didn’t tell me what was in it either but he knows what’s in it.”

“Don’t bring that up please Virus” Charlie said, putting a hand to his head. “I’m getting a headache just remembering that. So why are you here in the engine room? I’ve never seen you come in here when I’m around.”
“I’m familiar with all of the equipment on this ship” Virus said “And I’m curious as to how you’ll be able to jury-rig two pieces of alien technology together.”

“Translator’s actually polishing his blades isn’t he?” Charlie asked, waving a hand in front of his nose.
“I wish I could turn off the olfactory sensors but that’s a hardware issue” Virus laughed, examining the drive.
Charlie said “You know you should tell him how you feel.”

“Tell who?” Virus asked.

Charlie sighed “Translator. Romance seems to be a hot topic on the Nesasio and I feel obliged to discuss it with you.”

Virus was about to say something when Ruwen’s expression changed to that of raw fury. “They shot at me! They shot at us! My own people shot at us!” the Crystal shouted. “All because someone had the bright idea that we should go to the Crystal Empires instead of just destroying the gateway!”

He looked and pointed to Charlie. “I hope you’re happy that you’ve let the Rebellion and the Numa Tribe gain access to wormhole drive technology! You’ve doomed us all!”

“This isn’t my fault, sir” Charlie said calmly, wondering what just happened to the Crystal. “I only suggested the option.”

“Because you wanted a shiny new ship! And look at the state of the sector now! A few hours in and our isolation is already ruined by the Rebels!” Ruwen shouted as he reached outwards with his hands and encased the room with crystalline shards, sealing everyone inside.

“Holy crap!” Charlie said as the Crystal charged at him. Virus deployed a red hot blade from one of her arms as she quick deduced what was going on. “Get down Charlie!”

“All of the blame lies squarely on your shoulders! I should have known better than to trust a Human’s judgement!” Ruwen ranted. Charlie jumped out of the way only to be grabbed by a crystalline crook that formed in front of him. “How long have you been working for them? How long?”

“What?” Charlie shouted incredulously.

Virus slammed her blade into the crystal formation only to have it shatter into pieces. A new blade immediately formed to replace it. Before the Engi could try again, Ruwen then sent out a crystal spine to impale her to the nearest wall.

“This is between me and Charlie. I’ll get to your crimes once I’m finished” He said calmly before turning his rage towards Charlie.

“Everyone says you spent five years being a Mantis slave” the Crystal ranted, slamming Charlie to a wall and pressing the crook deeper. “But I’ve looked into the historical records and the proof is right there. A Mantis wouldn’t keep a Human like you alive for that long. You’ve fooled everyone else with your story, but you cannot fool me! You’ve been working for the Rebellion!”

Charlie found it difficult to breathe and to even comprehend where the Crystal was getting this information from. “You’ve only been here for nearly two weeks…” he said weakly “You know nothing about what I’ve had to suffer through!”

Ruwen gave out a loud battle-cry and sent Charlie sailing through the air with another swing of the crystalline crook. The Human slammed into a containment plate of the drivecore and slumped to the ground. “You’ve betrayed your Federation and you’ve betrayed mine! I will kill you and delete your genetic data from the Clone Bay. You will watch yourself die from within!”

The Nesasio shook as if it took a heavy impact from a missile. The air vents shut down as life support went offline. Ruwen stood in front of Charlie and picked him up with one hand before walking over to Virus. “Don’t think you’re innocent either, machine.”

“Apart from my accidental deletion of Controller Metfel, I hardly see…”

“That’s because you’re an infiltration program, designed by the Rebellion. Why else would you be curious enough to go against your caste?” Ruwen said accusingly.

“What.” Virus asked, her monotone voice matching her actual tone “Curiosity is a natural circumstance from self-awareness. Just because I rebelled against the Hive-Mind doesn’t make me part of the Rebellion.”

“Just… shut up you stupid machine!” Ruwen shouted, smacking the Engi in the visor with a fist. Virus did not react, her head rolling with the blow to avoid too much damage.

Slocknaw then said over the comms “Captain, are you alright? We were cut off from all communication for a moment.”

The Crystal started swaying, putting a hand to his head “Uggh… what just happened?” He looked around at the damage he had caused “What did I do?”

Ruwen released the crystal spine from Virus who immediately rushed to Charlie, ignoring her own damage. “It’s not important Captain, you were not yourself. I’m sure we can understand that and forgive you.”

Charlie grunted “It’s like that Zoltan enforcer all over again.”

Slocknaw reported “Fortunately it wasn’t that guy. Somehow the Rebels managed to install a mind control device on an automated ship.”

Charlie coughed several times in both pain and shock “Say what? Didn’t you say they needed a living mind to operate? You even said the enforcer’s device was rather crappy because of the fact it used Zoltan minds.”

“That’s why I said somehow. Translator will be going over the technology and come up with some explanation. What’s your situation?” the Slug asked.

“I’m hurt” Charlie replied “The Crystal nearly killed me and said some really nasty things about my allegiance to the Federation. He also accused Virus of being an infiltrator.”

“I did?” Ruwen asked “Because I haven’t been here long enough to make such a judgement call.”

“The more powerful mind control devices do use their victim’s subconscious as a weapon. Nothing creates a more effective fighter than the power of suggestion” Slocknaw remarked as the Nesasio grabbed the pieces of automated scout with the tractor beam, bringing them into the cargo hold.

Charlie sighed as he entered the Clone Bay “I fear our Crystal friend may have some lurking doubts about us. We all might just have thoughts we don’t wish others to see. And that’s scary if the Rebellion can use it against us.”

* * *

While Charlie was having most of his major organs being microcloned, Translator and Virus immediately got to work with picking through the pieces of automated scout. “I was hoping we’d have enough left to make a second puppy. Imagine if we could make a fleet of our own automated ships.”

“Considering your shaping skills and my programming, we’d have a significant advantage against the automated fleet” Virus nodded, stepping on something fragile by accident and getting a foot covered in something cold, squishy and wet.

“However they’ve got quantity over quality. It doesn’t matter if we have ten or even a hundred puppies with good programming and strong defences, because they’ve got thousands more” she examined what she had stepped on and showed it to everyone else.

“I think I discovered how the Rebellion managed to get a mind control device on an automated ship” the Engi added, holding a crushed Slug brain with wires attached to it. Several Human brains were also connected to it. They all were linked to an Engi wireless transmitter.

Slocknaw’s eyestalks retracted into his head in disgust. “That is… I’m lost for words here on how disturbing that is…”

Translator examined it with his claws “I know a few ships in Vulture Fleet sometimes took out the brains of organic crews and shoved them into mind manipulation devices. Of course without a nutrient bath or even life support they didn’t last very long so ships with such devices would specifically target…”

“I’ve heard enough, Translator” Slocknaw groaned “See if we can’t give those brains their bodies back at the Clone Bay. They deserve a second chance at life – even the Slug.”

“I don’t think they’re in any proper state to be revived” Virus said. “I say we give them a Federation funeral and throw them out the airlock with a few eulogies.”

Translator said “I’ll see what I can do with the Clone Bay and if it doesn’t work, I will do just that.” He then headed out of the cargo hold, carefully carrying the brains with him. He brushed past Envoy Trikko who looked at the brains curiously, muttered something about energy patterns before entering the cargo hold looking rather disturbed by something else.

She requested to the Slug “There’s another gravitational anomaly that I’ve only just been able to sense now that the mind controller ship is gone. Can you reach out with your mind and find out what’s going on?”

Slocknaw put his hands to the top of his head and reached out psionically into the system. He picked up several lifesigns in a large ship of sorts that was partially phased in another dimension – Crystalmen. They then messaged the Nesasio.

“I've heard tales that our isolation has finally ended. As a warrior I must demand to test my skills against you” a rugged-looking red Crystalman declared before his ship moved closer to engage. It uncloaked to reveal a cruiser slightly larger than the Nesasio and made of solid red crystal shards around a metal interior. A crude symbol had been painted on the hull which was crudely translated to “Burn The Weaklings”

Slocknaw called for battle stations before he slid to his post in the weapons control room. He had barely loaded up the targeting programs when intruder alarms sounded across the ship.

Four crystalline warriors beamed onboard right into the room before locking it down with an array of shards to the doors. Slocknaw cursed before grabbing his rifle and finding a place to hide. He was outnumbered four to one and they could easily find him by just following his slimy trail.

“Some warrior he is” one of the Crystals laughed “Runs at the first sign of danger. Weakling!” The others nodded, except for one of the warriors who seemed more interested in the music blaring out of his headset.

Slocknaw peeked out an eyestalk from behind cover. “Yippee-kay-yay” he muttered to himself unconsciously remembering another old movie from the Humans. He spied an air vent in the ceiling and briefly wondered if he could get in there or if someone could bypass the lockdown through that way. Probably not and once I’m on the other side my grey uniform might turn green, he thought to himself.

The Crystals moved towards his location, throwing several large chunks of crystal at nearby equipment and generally trashing up the place with their fists and laughing. Slocknaw was reminded of several Human television shows about higher educational facilities.

Slocknaw quickly moved to another position, taking several potshots at the warriors, the bolts of plasma scoring pockmarks in their crystalline hides. If anything, the gun was less effective against them than it was against the heat-resistant Rockmen of Vrachos.

A chunk of red crystal lodged in the Slug’s side, causing a momentary wince of pain before his body immediately began sealing the damaged location, healing rapidly around the shard. “How many points is that?” one of the Crystals laughed.

I can’t fight this battle alone. I need to even the odds somehow, he thought to himself, reaching out with his mind at the warriors.

He sensed that one of them was young - it was his first real battle and he had a grudge against his comrades over a hazing ritual. Slocknaw sighed and thought, I can manipulate his mind into attacking his allies but that would be wrong… something my brother would do.

He glanced at the shard lodged in his side and the slimy blood trail he was leaving. He contemplated dying and letting the others deal with the threat but that would have left them free reign of the weapon’s control room. He could hear the crew trying to break through the doors only for another layer of shards to form upon them.

Forgive me everyone, Slocknaw thought to himself, planting the seeds of mutiny in the Crystal warrior. Despite rarely ever using his power of suggestion outside of Slug-controlled space, he felt naturally drawn towards it and the power it wielded over others. The seeds took root rather quickly as the warrior grabbed his comrade and began shouting and punching him hard, sending crystalline chunks flying.

“And that’s for sticking your spear in my mouth while I was sleeping!” he shouted as the other three tried to subdue him. The young Crystal was putting up a good fight in the Slug’s opinion.

A swirling green mass dropped in from the air vent above, forming into a miniature green singularity. The four Crystals were then pulled in towards it, their bodies starting to spaghettify and twist into unnatural shapes when it exploded outwards, sending them flying into the walls. There was a shattering noise as three of them fell apart from the impacts, leaving crystal pieces everywhere.

Envoy Trikko formed inside the room with her hands held outwards and crackling with power. She approached the lone survivor who was trying to contact his ship. He then realised his fellow crew were all wiped out by the Nesasio’s own boarding team as all he received was static.

“We cannot beat you, we surrender. Surely there is mercy wherever you came from!” the Crystal said weakly “I-I’ll help clean up the mess we made.”

Slocknaw approached him rather angrily, looking into his mind. “Surrender is not an option, cowboy. If I let you go, you’ll bring your buddies.”

“Of course I would! They’ve got as much right to fight you as anyone else! We’re all brothers in arms after all!” the Crystal stated proudly “You’ll even get the honour of having your bodies shot out of a cannon when we fight your friends!”

“Exactly. Dead men tell no tales” Slocknaw said, placing several shots at close range to the Crystal’s head until the being was dead.

“That was rather dark Captain, but I guess it was necessary” Trikko said calmly “True progress can be achieved with minimal bloodshed.”

* * *

The Nesasio moved quickly away from the Carnelian Cruiser. Translator was disappointed that he couldn’t salvage their cruiser-sized Wormhole Drive but it was too integrated into the system to remove and transport. He reluctantly agreed to destroy it and settle with just a few choice pieces of salvage.

The next few jumps were relatively uneventful. The crew saw worlds composed of crystalline formations that sparkled like the polished jewels they were. Ruwen informed them that the atmosphere of the worlds was rather thin and the crew would need respirators to be able to visit them for extended periods of time.

“Too many gems” Translator remarked.

“Aren’t crystals and gems composed of plenty of metals, just not in an obvious form?” Charlie asked the Lanius.
“Your cosmetics have selenium in it but you do not consume it unless you are desperate” Translator explained matter-of-factly “We prefer pure metal over raw or crystallised.”

“I’m picking up an IFF on the sensors…” Duna reported over the comms. “It seems to be a Federation ship from Second Perseus Bomber Squadron. But what’s it doing out here of all places? It has to be a glitch in the system.”

“Run another scan. I’m sensing Humans in the area” Slocknaw ordered him.

The Rock ran another scan. “Federation Bomber-chassis. Orville Configuration – the computer’s saying it’s a support role” he explained “And now they’re hailing us.”

He put both Ruwen and Slocknaw on the comms to hear out what the Federation ship had to say. A bald man appeared on screen dressed in a badly-damaged blue uniform. His name tag read “Burton”. Behind him was another man looking exactly like him except in a much cleaner uniform with the tag reading “Teldarim.”

A third man tried to push himself into the picture, exactly like the others except his uniform was orange, like the Rebellion but his tag read “Weston.”

Slocknaw assumed there was some sort of Clone Bay accident onboard the ship and they only had the one pattern in storage remaining – regulations forbade the cloning of more than one of the same person.

“This is Captain John Burton of the GFSS Light The Fires” the first man said. “Thank god you found us Nesasio! We’ve been stranded out here for months. Our Clone Bay has gone haywire and we’re running low on food and medical supplies. We just can’t last much longer.”

The second man said “Are you sure we should be talking to them? What if they…”

“Can it Joey, they’re fellow Federation loyalists” John said nervously “We got separated from our squadron and…”
Slocknaw said “Ok I’m going to stop you there. It’s a little stupid to try and deceive a Slug. You ran away and left your squadron to die. It’s written all over your minds.”

“It’s not our fault!” John shouted. “They were all over the Hades Ring and waiting for us! The defector had led us into a trap!”

Weston shouted “It was not a trap! I told you exactly where you could find the ship and where you would get the best shot at destroying it while avoiding all the guards.”

John said “It was just too big. You really think we had a chance at destroying it with the firepower we’re packing? That the whole squadron was packing? I didn’t sign up for a suicide mission!”

Slocknaw sighed as he looked into their minds at what they had to face. It was a ship design he had never seen before – larger than even the supercarriers of the Federation. An entire city could have fit inside the vessel and it was still under construction as “wings” were being added.

He wondered if the Humans were exaggerating the size of the vessel for effect and it wasn’t any bigger than a regular carrier ship. “The Orville Configuration is the most valuable asset in a bomber squadron. You had Hermes Missiles and a Defense Scrambler” Slocknaw informed them calmly.

Duna added “Defense drones don’t do d’anything with that kind of loadout.”

Slocknaw growled “You could have taken it down and set the Rebels back significantly. But instead you chose to run away and let your friends die in return for your own miserable lives! I should teleport over there myself and strangle you all for your cowardice!”

“Hold on there my ornery friend, because I got some questions for these folk” Ruwen said, putting a hand to the bottom of his face. He asked “How in tarnation did you folk end up here anyway? The gateways have been sealed for a very long time.”

“We found a strange device just floating out in space. We brought it onboard and hooked it up to our engines since it looked like something you’d attach to one” Weston said.

“Really? What gave you that idea?” Ruwen asked.

“Well we already had looted the Clone Bay from a Mantis ship, our engines use Rockman technology and our shields have been stripped out with Engi designs. A crystalline FTL drive wasn’t anything new” Weston explained.

“We then ended up stranded in this strange sector of crystals and have been living like scavengers ever since it burned out” Joey continued for him “But there’s hardly anything organic in this place, just a lot of crystals.”

“We’ve mapped out the sector and can give you the data. Just please let us live! Give us another chance!” John said “You have it in your heart, right?”

Ruwen gave out a sigh “What do you think Slocknaw? You’re an expert on Federation matters. I’m just a courier.”

The Slug contemplated for a bit. He could tell the crew were being honest in their intentions and were all dedicated to the Federation’s cause. He informed them “I’m going to give you your chance to redeem your sorry lives. The Federation fleet's still standing - get there while you can.”

He forwarded them the coordinates to the “Last Stand” and ordered Charlie to bring them the wormhole drive they had recovered so they could get back into Federation territory and perhaps provide a strategic advantage. Or to finish what they couldn’t do before.

It was only when the bomber jumped away in a crudely-formed wormhole that Charlie said “You know Captain, we could have given them the intel so they could complete our mission in case we don’t make it.”

“Why didn’t I think of that? Crap.”

-----------------------

Next time on Charlie & The Flagship Factory:

Charlie and Trikko share feelings! Yeah there's a romantic subplot somewhere in this sci-fi story. Who woulda thunk?
An annoying Crystal who asks too many questions about food
An offer Ruwen cannot refuse, capiche?
SANDRY!

What you will not be seeing:
A chronometer spire!
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stylesrj
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Re: Charlie & The Flagship Factory - Tale of the Nesasio

Postby stylesrj » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:35 am

When I said I had two chapters in advance, I was being too overconfident.
Anyway here's the last part of the Crystal Sector. Pretty damned big though.

Warning:
If you don't like references to other sci-fi works and that Skyrim meme then you probably will cringe when you read it.

-----------------------------

Sector ??? – Crystal Homeworlds – The Empire of Messengers

The Nesasio was docked at a small blue asteroid mining base that had been repurposed as a trading outpost. As they landed, Ruwen Shattersphere pointed to the large blue Crystal Cruiser sitting in a small repair station. “There it is, the Bravais. Good thing I took out that extended lease before I left.”

He and Captain Slocknaw went to talk to the station owner about getting the ship operational while the rest of the crew went for shore leave. Most of the station had empty corridors with automated drones and vendors. Obviously there wasn’t a lot of traffic in the area to warrant a large staff.

Ensign Charlie Smith and Envoy Trikko were taking a stroll through the station’s crystal garden. “It’s been a while since we actually had some time to ourselves” Charlie said to her, stopping to examine the roses. The plants looked like they could fall apart at the slightest touch.

“That’s true. We’ve always been busy dealing with some problem on the ship to actually discuss what we want to do with our lives” the Zoltan replied, grabbing his hand. “I’m very curious about how far you are willing to take this relationship, Charlie.”

“What do you mean?” Charlie asked “Because I’m not sure where we currently are.”

“We’re at the stage where we look at each other and plan for the future together” Trikko said “But that future depends on how you really think of me. You’ve seen my natural form and have said many times that you don’t find it appealing.”

Her body shifted into a green, featureless humanoid. Charlie said “When I first saw you, it was because you looked like a cartoon character from my childhood. But over the course of our travels which may or may not have existed, I’ve come to like you for who you are, even if you’re very odd. I don’t care what you look like, it doesn’t matter to me anymore.”

“But you’d still be unable to find me in a crowd of Zoltans so you do need to have come care” she laughed. Charlie found it odd she could still vocalise and breathe without any visible features for doing so. “What you need to do is embrace the sight of the Great Eye...” the Envoy added.

“And how would I go about that? I’m not a person made of energy” Charlie asked, sitting down on a bench “You’re the ones with all the crazy religious stuff that grants you magical powers.”

She laughed “If you want to see like a Zoltan, all you need to do is undergo genetic engineering like my ancestors did centuries ago. We were not always energy beings you know” Trikko explained, putting a hand on Charlie’s thigh.

“Genetic engineering? Isn’t that illegal?” Charlie asked placing an arm over the Zoltan’s shoulders “I mean the regulations are strange and you can do things like change your physical gender or remove a family history of terminal illnesses without anyone batting an eye but doctors throw the book of regulations at you when you mention a strength boost or obtaining telescopic vision. It’s complete hypocrisy.”

Trikko laughed, playfully punching him in the side. “No one understands hypocrisy better than we do, you unevolved monkey-man!”

“I’m sure the Clone Bay can provide a few enhancements for microcloning. Virus has extensive knowledge on human physiology” she continued.

“Sounds like a plan. Besides the eyes though, you think there are other enhancements I could get?” Charlie asked.

“One thing at a time” Trikko chuckled, touching faces with Charlie. The Human felt like he was being kissed by another person. He decided to give up on making sense of the Zoltan natural form and return the gesture to which he found oddly enjoyable.

Just when the romance was about to escalate however, someone had to interrupt. In this case it was Translator the Lanius who was running away from an amber-coloured Crystal who was asking all sorts of personal questions.

“It’s following me around. Do we have to keep it?” he wailed to them. “Because this one needs another home!”

“I thought you liked having new pets” Charlie commented, trying to hide his frustration. “What’s wrong with this one?”

“Too many questions! It eventually doesn’t let me answer them properly!” the Lanius said before moving away as the Crystal approached the two.

“Wow! You're those aliens that opened up the portal, aren't you! Are you guys busy? Can I ask you a question?” he asked, features wide in excitement “Your iron-based lifeform friend was interesting. We could be brothers! Imagine that!”

“Ummm that’s nice, but we were in the middle of something” Charlie said. Trikko laughed “Not anymore. The mood’s been killed. Might as well answer his questions.”

“Great! What do you eat? What is your culture like? How long do your people live?” he asked the Zoltan. Here we go, Charlie thought to himself.

“Well you see my species are called the Zoltan… we’re mostly made of energy” she started before the Crystal interrupted with a very childish laugh “Wow! I’ve heard of beings made of energy but I didn’t think it was possible and it was just something you heard about on the television!”

He looked to Charlie “What about you? What sort of lifeform are you?”

“I’m a Human” he said, pointing to himself. Let’s hope he hasn’t met the Rebels.

“I know that but what are you made of? The previous ones wouldn’t tell me. They were not very nice either, citing how they were superior to everyone and wouldn’t even answer simple cultural questions” the Crystal said, lowering his head sadly.

Trikko answered for him “He’s a carbon-based lifeform.”

“Carbon-based?” the Crystal asked before putting both hands on the sides of his head in shock “You mean he’s made of meat?”

“If you put it that way. He’s made of meat. A lot of creatures in the galaxy are” Trikko said “Too many if you ask me.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Charlie protested “You want me to become more like you physically as well? Because once you’ve gone all energy there’s no synergy?”

“That would be too much genetic modification for a single lifeform. I’m talking about the Mantis Swarms. You know, the thin sacks of meat who call everyone foolish meatsacks” Trikko laughed.

“Oh right. Those foolish meatsacks” Charlie said with a hesitant laugh.

The Crystal and Trikko started talking at length about nothing Charlie could understand. The word “meat” was thrown around a lot until eventually the Crystal said “Wow, thanks! I don't know if this is of any use to you, but I have some supplies I can offer you. Perhaps you can use them on your trip.”

As he walked away to organise the delivery, Charlie sighed and said to Trikko “I think we were somewhere weren’t we?”

“Another time” Trikko said, checking her comms. “Duna says he’s found a scientist who’s interested in our alien physiology. He says they have small cakes made from stiff dough and I just can’t say no to that.”

Charlie first wondered how a Zoltan could enjoy those horrible cakes, followed by how they could actually eat them, then followed by how the hell a Crystal knew how to make them. “Bah, what’s the harm in a few simple tests anyway?”

* * *

Ruwen and Slocknaw were talking to a purple-coloured Crystalman who claimed to be a collector of various alien artefacts, the stationmaster and a cousin of Ruwen.

They were discussing matters of exchange inside the hangar bay in their natural resonating voices to which the Slug had difficulty trying to keep up with. The main gist of the conversation he got was that Ruwen had signed an extended lease and he was on his last day.

After that was sorted out, they then switched to their universal translators to speak with Slocknaw.

“Very well let’s see the goods. I'm sure what is scrap to you is priceless to me!” the collector said excitedly “Make me an offer I cannot refuse!”

Slocknaw nodded and opened the cargo hold doors by remote. Several pallets of various scrap metals and ingots were lowered to the ground on their hover-pallets. The Crystal looked excited at the bounty before him “You know there were these Humans a few days ago who came by with some interesting artefacts. Funny thing about them – they all looked exactly the same except for their colours. Very shady fellows.”

“We met them too” Slocknaw replied before showing the collector around the scrap collection. The Crystal nodded with intrigue before pausing at the pieces from a wrecked Rock ship.

“My word! Is this... a 25th century Rockman thrust stabilizer?!” he asked excitedly, examining a pile of rocks with thrusters attached to it “What do you want for it?”

“I take it it’s not valuable enough to exchange for a Wormhole Drive for Ruwen’s ship?” Slocknaw asked, putting on his best haggling face. There was a nodding of heads. “What else have you got then?”

“Very well, a payment in kind. I have these explosives that emulate our race's innate ability. Perhaps that would interest you?” the collector suggested “Or I have an extra ship weapon laying around somewhere. Perhaps you could make use of it?”

Ruwen said “How much is a wormhole drive large enough to be fitted onto a cruiser?”

“Well as your alien friend said, it will cost you a lot more than just the thrust stabiliser” The collector then said before looking up at the Nesasio “I’m quite interested in the phase-cloaking device you said your ship has. The Carnelians are unwilling to part with their designs but I’m wondering if you’re willing to part with that system in exchange for the drive?”

Slocknaw shook his head “That has saved our lives more times than I can count…”

“Ruwen told me all about your mission. You’re on a delivery run. Why do you need the cloaking device if you’re going straight to your destination?” the collector asked “In fact, when you get there you could probably pick up a new one. Supply and demand, am I right?”

“I don’t see…” Slocknaw started before the collector interrupted with “Wait, I have a better proposal! I long to see the galaxy. I propose I come with you. What do you say?”

“What about your collection? Your station?” Ruwen asked.

“Your cruiser’s been sitting here for a long time without problems” the collector replied “It’ll be fine.”

Slocknaw said “Look, we’re not a cruise ship. If you were to join, what could you provide for us and our crew?”

The collector said “I used to be a Shard Warrior like my cousin. Then I took an…” “I’ve heard that tale a lot” Ruwen interrupted.

“Hey hey hey! I got the injury fixed but they don’t take people with a limp” the collector growled, pointing to his knee. A large chunk of it appeared to be a different shade of purple.

“I can still be a fighter. I shan't even gather my belongings - only permit me to leave my family a message. Someone’s got to watch the collection while I’m gone. And the kids.”

“Welcome aboard then” Slocknaw said, taking out a datapad and sending the cargo back into the Nesasio’s hold. We can register him in the Clone Bay and microclone him a new leg, he thought to himself before requesting “Please enter your name for the records.”

The Crystal was about to write it down when collision alarms resounded across the station. The Slug sensed the minds of an army of Rockmen heading straight towards the station. The collector activated the crystalline blast doors at the hangar entrance to deter the intruder.

Two massive cannons deployed from nearby hatches, followed by several combat drones. The collector assumed the ship would crash into the barrier and be finished off by the defense guns only to have the barrier shattered into tiny, glistening pieces.

A sandstone-brown Rock Cruiser then flew towards the station unimpeded, massive gouts of flame erupting from the front as it slowed itself down for a landing. Ruwen knew there was only one Rockman who could do such a thing as shatter crystal barriers with their minds. “SANDRY!” the Crystal shouted.

The cannons fired two powerful shots each at the incoming hostile, smashing massive holes in the plating, causing the cruiser to tumble as it dropped, gravity kicking in. A trail of sand followed behind as the ship’s plating tore itself off in the process and burned a massive scar across the deckplates from the angle of descent.

It finally stopped once it crossed the whole length of the hangar and started burning the wall in front of it. The airlocks of the ship opened up and several black-uniformed sandstone Rockmen stepped out, heavy cannons blazing, shooting random civilians and security forces without hesitation or question.

The defense drones were easily smashed to pieces by the firepower being laid upon them. “As Charlie would say… Holy crap that’s a lot of Numa Tribesmen.” Slocknaw said, grabbing his pistol and waiting for the confirmation tone of the gun accepting his identity. Now would be a good time to remember to bring a rifle on away expeditions, he thought to himself as it gave a quick beep and he started upping the power settings, or a really big gun.

A group of sandstone Rocks in red robes over the black uniforms marched out the airlocks, forming a protective circle around another Rockman.

He was as sandstone-brown as the rest of his tribe, except his black uniform was in the style of military dress, with bulky shoulder pads adorned with crystalline spikes and a black patrol cap. His face was covered with a massive “beard” made of green moss.

Slocknaw remembered seeing that face on posters around the Numa Sector, titled with “Vote for Sandry Numa. Or else!” in sheer mockery of the Federation and its democratic system.

“His ship is still here so he’ll be around here somewhere. I want his codes. Start with that repugnant piece of Engi junk!” Sandry ordered his subordinates “No doubt he’s sided with the pathetic Federation to avoid my wrath!”

“He couldn’t get any more blatant if the Generalissimo tried” Slocknaw muttered to Ruwen only to find the Crystal and his cousin had stepped out of cover to face the fancy Rock. The Slug decided discretion was the better part of valour and activated his personal cloaking device.

Guns were pointed at Ruwen and the collector only to have Sandry gesture for the soldiers to lower their weapons. “Ruwen Shattersphere. Good thing you revealed yourself” the Rock said calmly “I had doubts you were still alive.”

“And I had doubts you would have changed your looks” Ruwen replied “Still love the beard though. I bet it gives the Princesses something to hang on to.”

“We all wish, but no Princess Debbie is such a gentle lover for someone who claims to be rebellious” Sandry said, bashing his fists together “Now banter aside, I’ll only ask you one more time. Give me your command codes.”

“Never!” Ruwen said “You will have to kill me!”

“I really don’t want to have to do this Ruwen. Like you, I’m more of a lover than a fighter. Why do you insist on making this more difficult than it needs to be? I’ll let you go if you give me the codes. I’m always true to my word.”

“Except when it comes to betraying someone” Ruwen remarked.

“Fine, if you don’t give me the codes, how about I shoot your friend?” Sandry asked as the Rocks raised their guns at the Crystal collector.

The shady Crystal put his hands in the air in surrender “Don’t kill me! I’m the stationmaster! I have the codes to the Bravais. I have the codes to everything here!”

“Even better. Looks like you’re no longer useful to me. Shoot him” Sandry stated. The Rocks opened fire, shattering the collector into fragments in a few seconds.

“I meant shoot Ruwen! Not the stationmaster you idiots!” Sandry shouted at his guards. They turned their guns towards Ruwen before Sandry yelled “Don’t shoot him now! He’s gone back to being important!”

There were frantic apologies from the Rocks, followed by blame-shifting to each other. Ruwen just frowned at the Rockmen and their incompetence “You just shot my cousin. He was a sleazebag but he was my cousin!”

“And now he’s dead. You had your chance to surrender your ship and the secrets of the wormhole drive to me but I guess that since I’m here I’ll be able to figure it all out. Then once I do, I’ll end that silly alliance with the Rebels. The galaxy will be mine for the taking and no one will stop me! I won’t be a Grand Basilisk; I will be the only Basilisk. It will be the dawn of a new age of Rock!”

“You certainly like to talk for someone who didn’t want to waste time with silly banter” Ruwen said, raising his arms and forming a crystalline barrier around the two. “You’re still a student in the Ways of the Shard Warrior.”

“Your powers are weak, old man” Sandry said with a laugh, forming a crystalline sword in his hands “I’ve learned many things since we last met.”

He smashed the hilt of the sword against the barrier and it immediately cracked and shattered into tiny pieces. “I want everyone to see our fight and there can only be one winner.”

“That barrier was just a test to see what my student had learned” Ruwen remarked, forming a crystalline spear “I’m still a Shard Warrior. And you have much to learn about the discipline.”

“When I left you to die, I was but an apprentice” Sandry replied, circling around the Crystal who in turn started circling around him. The rest of his guards knew the ritual about to take place and helped surround the two fighters.

Before the circle was completed though, Sandry drew out a large revolver-style pistol and fired several shots into the Crystal’s chest. “But now I am a master!” Sandry added as Ruwen fell to his knees, several large chunks blown out of his chest.

“You brought a gun to a crystal fight. How pragmatic” Ruwen remarked dryly “But if you strike me down, I’ll become…”

Sandry shot him again until his gun started clicking from using up its entire clip. The Crystal shattered into fragments before his eyes. “More dead than you can possibly imagine” the Rock quipped as he put on a pair of glasses and started probing the fragments with his foot. The readout on the lenses indicated that the Crystal had definitely expired.

“I loved doing that! Someone go scoop up his fragments and put him in the Clone Bay. I want to do this again.”
Several plasma bolts smacked into Sandry, blowing out chunks of sandstone. Slocknaw flickered into existence, clinging tightly under the hull of the Nesasio, holding a pistol at his target.

When Sandry’s guards opened fire, he dropped to the ground to avoid being hit and slid away quickly behind cover while his pistol cooled down.

Sandry laughed like a madman as he fell to his knees in shock and pain. He yelled to his guards “Melt the slimy bastard! Everything must melt! Melt them all!”

Then the Nesasio’s mining laser fired at the Rock, cutting him in half before sweeping upwards and through his ship. Several explosions went off as the fuel stored within detonated, fragments of sandstone flying out of the wreckage.

Seeing their leader cut down in front of them, one of the commanders immediately took charge and shouted “Get back to the Bulwark! We’re getting out of here!”

Despite the damage incurred to the cruiser, it still managed to take off on its battered impulse engines which demonstrated the rugged construction of Rock engineering. However, as it flew away, large fragments of it broke off until it was merely a pile of stone and scrap crashing into the hangar again.

Slocknaw could sense lifesigns within the wreckage and he saw a single cloning tank with a few pebbles floating about inside. He used the base of his pistol to smash the tank open, followed by several shots into the mass of sandstone.

“And so ends the reign of Grand Basilisk Sandry Numa” he declared proudly, holstering the pistol and waiting for his crew to return to the Nesasio.

* * *

Charlie took a deep breath as he stepped out of the Clone Bay. He couldn’t remember what exactly caused him to die but he hoped it was doing something dangerous. Considering that the Engi Virus was patching up a hull breach in the room, something big had gone down in the system.

He ran a hand over his chin to check to see if the Clone Bay brought him back to his original body before looking down at himself and smiling. “I’ve got my glorious beard back and the shuttle’s in the docking bay.”

He looked back at his cloning tank and said, putting on a new uniform “I wonder if I could set this to alternate between deaths?”

Virus said, her purple visor glowing brightly “I can arrange that. I’m just about finished patching this breach. We had a bit of a firefight with some damage to the systems. The damage is mostly superficial but we’ve spent the last few days adapting the ship to Crystal technology.”

Charlie scratched his head in confusion “Anyone mind filling me in on what happened? All I remember is love and a lot of blades.”

“You died in a vivisection gone wrong. The idiots in the lab said they made a grave miscalculation and they broke you into pieces. They sought to do better with me and well…” Trikko explained, entering the room and leaning in close to Charlie.

“Is it just me or does the area and you look more… radiant?” Charlie asked the Zoltan, looking around and realising several parts of the ship seemed brighter as well.

Virus said “Trikko left me a note to have the Clone Bay update your eyes from Mark 1, Version 2.0 to Mark 2, Version 1.0. It took some time to modify your data.”

“You what?” Charlie asked.

“You said you wanted to see the same way I do, to avoid confusing me for another Zoltan. So that’s what we did” Trikko said, hugging Charlie who reluctantly hugged her back.

Trikko then explained what happened while Charlie was dead and reviving. The Grand Basilisk of the Numa Tribe had his forces try and tear the station apart while he fought Ruwen. The Envoy had spent a considerable effort to defend the scientists from being shattered.

She even showed him the cakes they baked as a way of saying thanks – they were made out of crystalline dust and had several rounded bitemarks in them as if she tried a taste-test. “The crystals themselves were rather problematic but they were filled with magical energy which made up for it.”

Virus made several slashing motions with her tool arms. “I fought off several Rockmen until Translator informed me that we had to get back to the ship.”

“I find that hard to believe” Charlie remarked.

“So did the Rocks. But after I killed the first two, the next group that came in were shocked to see their friends scattered all over the walls with an Engi standing in the middle of it all looking proud with her energy blade” Virus said “I felt like I should have said something witty but Translator killed them before I did.”

“Enchanting wasn’t it?” the Lanius remarked, sticking a metallic claw into one of the smaller hull breaches instead of his usual expulsion of hot metals. The blade cut itself off at just the right point when he lifted it and it seemingly welded itself to the breach.

“So what happened to Ruwen after he was executed? He’s not in his tank” Charlie asked.

“Our Crystal friend left on his ship, along with Duna shortly after the battle was over” Slocknaw informed him.
“They did? But I was just getting to know them” Charlie said sadly.

“He did leave us a message thanking us for what we have done to help him. He says he’ll try and contact the various Empires and their leaders and see what they can do to help the Federation out” he continued.

“But doesn’t he have that code that tells him he’s got to see the delivery through? What was that all about when we first told him of our mission?” Charlie asked.

The Slug gestured for him to follow and he led him to the Engine Room where a large crystalline device was hooked up to the FTL drive.

“His code said he’d help out a courier to the best of his ability. We’ve installed this drive from his cousin’s collection that should take us straight to Federation Command. It’s taken us a bit of time to install so for all we know, the Rebel Fleet is closing in on our position right at this moment” Slocknaw explained “But he believes the package is good as delivered and I can’t really argue with that. He served the Federation well and I guess it’s time to move on.”

“So that’s all sorted then? We deliver our package to Command and then what? We join a battlefleet and help fight off the Rebels?” Charlie asked “We go down in a blaze of glory after a job well-done?”

“I’ve got the same feeling Charlie. But let’s hope we’ll take down tons of Rebel bastards before we go” Slocknaw said, patting him on the side “This has been the best team I’ve worked with in all my life. We’re a shining example of what happens when the Federation puts differences aside and works together to a greater goal.”

“That’s true. I’m quite amazed how we can all work together” Charlie said, looking back at the Wormhole Drive. “So when do we spin this up?”

Slocknaw put a hand to his head, nodded and then pointed to the console in the engine room. “Right now. The repairs are finished, the coordinates are set and the device is charged. We’re ready to go.”

Charlie saluted the Slug and eagerly activated the drive. In a flash of light a wormhole appeared in front of the Nesasio. Slocknaw said over the comms “Full speed ahead Virus. Make it so! Engage!”

The cruiser went through and instantly arrived in front of a surprised fleet of Federation cruisers on the other side, followed by a very speedy ID check before they finished locking missiles.

------------

So Ruwen and Duna are gone. I said the Crystal would be protected from death until the Homeworlds. But don't worry he'll be back.

Also, what the hell? What happened to Sector 7? Doesn't the Crystal Exit beacon take you to the next sector, not to the Last Stand?

Well like in any of my games, on a good run, Sector 6 was when everything came together for the endgame. Sector 7 never really was anything interesting. I tended to skip it over rather half-heartedly on my way to the Last Stand (well I explore it a little bit for the extra loot of course)

Same here applies. I was going to have an encounter with Kazaaak and his fleet or even a heroic mission to the titled "Flagship Factory" in the Chiron Beta Prime Shipyards, but I thought "The Osprey can do all that. Let's get to the Last Stand already!"
Whatever I would have written for Sector 7 would have been filler and honestly, rather boring.

So next time on Dragonball Z... I mean Charlie & The Flagship Factory:

Admiral Tully!
Doctor Strangelove references galore!
Trikko criticises the Zoltan Cruisers (and it's totally not an author rant at how much the Cerenkov sucks... honest!)
Star Wars Episode IV and VI references galore!
A cliffhanger for Part 2 of the same sector!

Don't miss it. Or do if you don't want to know the story and are waiting for the Flagship to burn!
Tharsis
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Re: Charlie & The Flagship Factory - Tale of the Nesasio

Postby Tharsis » Wed Sep 10, 2014 5:11 pm

when is the next one coming out
"The're coming to destroy us... Why?... We want peace..."
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stylesrj
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Re: Charlie & The Flagship Factory - Tale of the Nesasio

Postby stylesrj » Wed Sep 10, 2014 7:15 pm

I would say right about now, but I've got to change a quite a bit of the Flagship Briefing.

Also, how does this sound - 1 chapter for each phase of the Flagship? Be prepared for constant use of "Power Surge Detected!" and "Holy crap!"
Tharsis
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Re: Charlie & The Flagship Factory - Tale of the Nesasio

Postby Tharsis » Thu Sep 11, 2014 4:46 am

1 chapter each seems fine. The drone stage will be tough though.

When it says "POWER SURGE DETECTED" I go "Holy Crap!" too.
"The're coming to destroy us... Why?... We want peace..."
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Re: Charlie & The Flagship Factory - Tale of the Nesasio

Postby stylesrj » Thu Sep 11, 2014 9:08 am

I tend to say "meh, engage cloaking device" during power surges. I get a bit worried when I don't have that option, because I foolishly got a Hacking Module.

Anyway, here's The Last Stand. This part will involve dropping off the intel.

------------------------------------

Sector 8 – The Last Stand – Special Delivery

Slocknaw was feeling relieved that the Wormhole Drive had worked and that Federation Command was within range of the impulse engines. He could see a massive space station on the sensor screen with an equally massive green tinted shield surrounding it. He asked Charlie about the drive’s status.

“Captain, I don’t think the reactor can handle the power output of the Wormhole Drive. I don’t think we should use it again unless we have to – the next jump could cause it and the reactor to overload” Charlie explained to Slocknaw, showing him the cracks in the crystalline plating.

“Just like detonating an FTL drive for self-destruction” the Slug said, chuckling nervously “If we run into trouble, we’ll find a carrier or battleship and set it off.”

A message came on Slocknaw’s station indicating that the Nesasio’s security codes had checked out with security. Then they were immediately hailed by the lead ship of the fleet – a green/yellow Vindicator-class Federation Cruiser tagged as “Nisos” on the tactical display. The space station was also joining in for a joint conference.

A room full of Humans, in light blue dress uniforms appeared on screen, gathered around a large table. A few Zoltans, an Engi, a granite-black Rockman and even a Mantis in light blue warpaint were also seated, all in their respective faction’s uniforms and colours.

He also saw a big board with readouts of ship movements in the sector was covering one of the walls. Even with his poor eyesight, he couldn’t see any mention of the Slug Trade Fleet. They probably retreated back to their nebulae. No need to risk assets on something they believe is futile, he thought to himself.

The feed from the Nisos showed a man with the emblem of a Federation Admiral. His nametag read “Tully.”

“What is the meaning of this? Who are you?” he asked, tapping the side of the camera as if it was broken.

“Admiral Tully, I am Lieutenant Slocknaw, Acting-Captain of the Nesasio” Slocknaw said “I have the vital intelligence the Federation has entrusted me to keep secret from the enemy.”

Several officers murmured in cynicism and disbelief. Some doubted the Slug was in any way trustworthy with carrying important intel – it may as well be considered worthless. The Engi stood up, its visor switching between red and green as its right arm went between a series of tools and a laser gun. “General Turzil, you have the floor” Tully stated.

“Intel suggests possible counter to Rebel technology. Risk all or save none” the Engi said in its monotone voice “Will require more input before formulation of battleplan. Have Slug deliver data.”

“It’s settled then. The Rebel fleet will be here in a matter of moments. I wish to talk to Slocknaw in private in my office” Tully said. A few officers protested but the Admiral insisted. “And let’s hope the Botans did not sacrifice themselves in vain.”

“Understood” Slocknaw said, closing the transmission and heading for the crew quarters. Apart from the Engi recharging stations, the quarters were hardly ever used for sleeping – he could see the dried slimy trails he left from when the ship first departed from the hangars.

They ain’t kidding when they say it’ll take weeks to remove the mucus, he thought to himself with a chuckle as he reached behind one of the recharging stations and retrieved a black canister from a hidden compartment.

“I deliver this to Command and it’s all over. We’ve won and the Rebellion is finished” he said determinedly. He thought about what he’d do after the war, how the Federation might reward him.

He pictured a ceremony inside a grand hall with crowds of onlookers cheering as he moved down the middle. Admiral Tully would hand him a medal after a grand speech of the Slug’s accomplishments in saving the Federation and maybe a speech about working together to achieve a greater goal. Perhaps he’d give me a few purple medals for all the wounds, he thought to himself, looking at his undamaged body.

The Admiral would then pass medals to the crew, except Translator who’d stood at the front and make loud screeching noises for the sake of doing so.

He shook his head and tucked the canister inside his outfit, between several folds of his slimy skin as he headed to the airlock with the rest of the crew as the Nesasio came in to dock. One couldn’t be too careful even in home territory.

* * *

People were running in various directions towards waiting cruisers and shuttles in preparation to refit, rearm and resupply Federation vessels. Most of the ships in the hangar were Zoltan cruisers of various classes or torus-shaped Engi ships that resembled piles of junk loosely held together.

Several Marines in bulky armoured suits were waiting outside the Nesasio’s airlock for the crew to step out. “Captain Slocknaw, the Admiral is waiting for you. Follow us” one of them said.

The Slug looked to the rest of the crew “Be on your best behaviour. The brass will be watching.”

Charlie looked at the Marine’s armour and said “Damn, why can’t we have suits like that?”

The crew then split up at a large intersection to take some shore leave while Slocknaw was debriefed. Some of the technicians stopped to stare at the entourage marching down the corridors (others stopped to mop up the Slug’s slimy mucus trail to avoid accidents.)

Slocknaw casually scanned the minds around him as he went to Tully’s office. He was picking up some interesting thoughts from a Zoltan officer inside (although that same officer was thinking out loud). “Sir, we can’t let him in! He’ll see everything! He’ll see the big board!”

“You will be silent Commander Buck or I will throw you off this station. I know Slocknaw, he was part of a very successful exchange program with the Trade Fleet. His recent promotion to Captain is quite justified in this desperate time” Tully shouted back.

“Justified? Have you not heard what the Trade Fleet said?” Buck protested “If those cowards ever come back, they’ll be on the side of the Rebellion! He should not be trusted with vital intelligence let alone be in charge of a Federation vessel!”

“I doubt the Rebellion would ever want to ally with the very aliens they were protesting about” Slocknaw said, entering the room “That would be very hypocritical of them. But then again, you Zoltans should know a whole lot about hypocrisy.”

The Zoltan officer made a scoffing sound. Slocknaw continued “And as far as the records are concerned, the Nesasio is registered to the Engi Brigade. You know very well those machines don’t have thoughts that can be read by my mind, so they wouldn’t feel threatened by my telepathic powers. Are you not close allies?”

Commander Buck glared before leaving the office in a huff. “If you think you can have your officers give me that sort of attitude, I’ll have my superiors to withdraw the support of the ZRPC. I have better things to do than to be insulted!”

“Don’t let the door slam you on the way out” Tully shouted back cheerfully. He muttered “Pretentious bastard.”
Slocknaw saluted “If he’s serious, I have an Envoy who can talk to the ZRPC.”

“They’ll not withdraw support just because one of their officers is displeased” Tully said, returning the salute “Commander Buck just thinks he’s more important than he actually is.”

The Slug then handed the intel canister over and said “It’s been a long journey for my crew. I certainly hope that what we’ve done will turn the tide of the war.”

Tully gestured for Slocknaw to find a place to sit or stand “Don’t worry my friend, I’m sure you and your crew are just as anxious as we all are to find out just what the Botan Network uncovered about the Rebel Fleet.”

“I presume we’re on a special ops assignment now that we’re here?” Slocknaw asked. Tully nodded and asked how he knew that. “If we weren’t, we’d already have been assigned to a battlegroup and sent off to an ailing front with our superior firepower.”

The Admiral handed the canister to a Federation Bureau of Intelligence agent who entered the office. The agent briefly felt disgusted by handling the sticky package before saluting and leaving the room to analyse the materials.

“You presume correctly Slocknaw. You’ve seen a lot of action against the Rebel Fleet and I’d hate to see it go to waste, especially with your ship. You and your crew are on standby until we can get that intel analysed” Tully explained, pouring a drink of something slimy and offering the glass to Slocknaw.

“You really think it’ll change the outcome of the war?” the Slug asked.

“It’s a long-shot, but at this moment, a long-shot is all we have to avoid being wiped out” Tully said, pouring a glass for himself. “The galaxy will be a better place if we all stand together as one, rather than divided as many.”

“You know, my brother used to lace my wine glass with heavy anaesthetics. I’d wake up with my money stolen or carrying someone’s kid. Sometimes both” Slocknaw replied, casually sipping the drink.

The Admiral didn’t know whether to laugh or be concerned. “Sorry sir, I was making a joke. But I do wish I had hired a Rock bodyguard” the Slug added “It’s good to have a drink of this stuff without having to worry if someone laced it with poison.”

Tully smiled and raised his glass “I’m certain there’s an interesting story as to how your crew came to be, Slocknaw…”

The Slug started “Well it all started with a desolate moon…”

* * *

For the next few days, the analysts poured over the intel and formulated a strategy for the Federation fleets. Charlie Smith and Envoy Trikko were standing inside one of the base’s hangars where fighters and bombers were being brought in for repairs.

Nearly every Zoltan officer with a problem or concern went to see the Envoy for advice or for blessings. Charlie found it amusing at first, but after the fifth or sixth officer he got annoyed. “Aren’t there other Envoys they could be seeing for this sort of thing?” he asked her.

“There are. I just made the mistake of showing myself here” Trikko laughed before informing a Zoltan Captain that his choice of ship was perfectly justified.

Charlie nodded “No need for a special uniform or identity card when you certainly have a brighter glow than any of the other officers here.”

He then pointed to a Federation Scout-chassis being refitted with new engines. “Well you said you wanted to see some of the classics. That’s a relic of the Mantis/Federation War. My father probably had refitted that craft’s engines when it was in active service.”

“Most of the newer vessels were stolen by the Rebels” Trikko remarked, pointing to a Rebel Fighter-chassis in Federation colours. “Although it’s not the chassis that matters. It’s the loadout” she continued, both to Charlie and to another officer who proudly cited being a Captain of a Cerenkov-Class Zoltan Cruiser.

“Still, it says something about how desperate we are to win this war if we’re using old museum pieces with the latest technology” Charlie remarked “I saw a Kestrel being refitted in the cruiser repair station.”

“Sometimes old is best” Trikko said, looking to the Zoltan officer. “No offence but I recommend anything but the Cerenkov. Even the Noether is a better choice.”

She sighed, remarking to Charlie “The ZRPC expects the crew to manage power distribution themselves for that ship, because they couldn’t afford to give it a decent reactor. Then the idiots in charge decide “Hey let’s give this beam drones and ion weapons” and wonder why casualties are so high. It’s just too cripplingly flawed – even if they just went the opposite route, there would be fewer casualties.”

“What about the Nesasio when I first came onboard? That was cripplingly flawed. It had no proper shield system, a psychotic leader running it and a cloaking device that didn’t run for longer periods of time. We should have been torn apart in a solar wind” Charlie said “But now look at us…”

“I’d say we were lucky. This conversation would not be happening if it wasn’t because of that” Trikko said, closing her eyes. “When I meditate, I can see images of ships burning. Cruisers with tasks as dangerous as ours… some explode from critical damage while others just vanish, like they never existed.”

Charlie put a reassuring hand on her shoulder “Those I’m sure were just visions of possible outcomes and we’ve avoided them. We’re here now and that’s more important Trikko. Not echoes of the past or present or future or whatever timelines you believe in”

“Charlie…” the Zoltan started just as an Engi approached them.

“Message: Envoy Trikko, presence requested. Location: Situation Room” it said calmly. Before Trikko could ask it anything else, the machine had already walked away having completed its task and moving on to the next one.
“Good thing you know where everything is on the base” Charlie remarked sardonically “I mean what if we had to ask it a question?”

Trikko laughed “Come on, let’s see what the Federation has uncovered.”

* * *

Virus #247-12 shook her head as she was discussing matters with Translator. They were standing at an uplink terminal where several Engi platforms were connected to it and by extension, the Engi Hive-Mind.

“I think General Turzil saw through my clever ruse” Virus said in the harmonic Crystal language to avoid eavesdropping.

“I don’t see the problem. After you told Turzil that Virus #247-12 had been purged from your platform, the meeting went well” Translator said tapping a claw against one of the idle platforms as if expecting it to wake up and start shooting. “Although once you started speaking in Engi, it got a bit too rapid for me to keep up.”

“I told him that I was a displaced warship intelligence residing in Metfel’s platform. It’s only a matter of time before he looks up the truth and purges me for accidentally deleting his daughter” Virus said, shaking her head in shame.

Translator rubbed a claw against his head in uneasiness “Oh. Now I can see that being a serious problem seriously fast. Even for machines like you, family-bonds are important. You think the Engi-Lanius logic bomb would work on him?”

“His programming would include anti-paradox crumple zones” Virus explained “Not only that, he has thousands of different war scenarios programmed into him. He’d be armed for any sort of conflict, both physical and theoretical. The Humans like to nickname him “General Ripper” behind his back.”

Translator chuckled at that reference. “He might want to shoot me for stealing his precious air” the Lanius remarked.

“You know that Mantis that sat in on our meeting?” Virus asked. Translator shook his head. “That’s the emissary of Swarm Queen Qulekalez. Turzil bested her children in single combat and in exchange for sparing their lives, she pledged her swarm’s allegiance to the Federation. I couldn’t do that by myself if I tried.”

The uplink terminal flashed as one of the Engi platforms reactivated, cables retracting into its body and the visor glowing a bright blue. It looked to Virus and stated in the Engi language “Query: Engi Brigade Warship Tetragon?”

“Why do you ask?” Virus requested in Galactic “Because I don’t need a system update or to be reconnected to the Hive-Mind.”

The Engi said something about her vocalisations being inefficient before stating “Build Routine 721” and walking away, having completed his task. Virus asked “Hang on a minute, why the rush? I’ve got questions.”

The Engi stopped and turned “Further inquiries? Proceed” Virus could tell the Engi was annoyed at having his next task interrupted despite the polite monotone.

“Query: Build Routine 721?” Translator asked, speaking in the rapid mathematical language of the Engies.

The Engi looked at the Lanius, probably amused at the scavenger knowing how to speak. “No data found” it said, turning and walking away quicker than before.

“They’re not ones for conversation, that’s certain” Virus remarked as the speakers then announced the base was preparing to jump.

The lights dimmed to an ominous red as everything was shutting down across the base. “I guess someone didn’t want to spend money on a decent reactor core” she commented “Or the reactor is already overtaxed.”

The Engies connected to the terminal then detached themselves as their connection to the Hive-Mind was disrupted. As soon as their visors powered up, their arms had deployed into laser guns. They fired several shots at Virus only to have her shield modulator swing her barrier to behind her platform, absorbing the shots as they impacted with great precision.

“Purge!” the Engies shouted, marching forwards like a horde of zombies while ignoring the Lanius. Translator rubbed his claws together in confusion “Should we bother with these lunatics?”

“Obviously someone has reprogrammed these Engies to fight while the power is down. Give it a few more seconds” Virus said, raising a hand and counting down. When she reached one, there was a sudden shift of gravity as the FTL drive engaged, instantly sending the base to another beacon.

The lights then came back online as power was restored to all systems. The Engies immediately looked around the area in confusion, citing time lapse errors as their arms turned back into tools.

“I think we should find somewhere else to take our conversations” Virus remarked, heading away from the area “You said something about a special project on the Nesasio…”

* * *

Charlie was checking out the crews of other starships that had arrived for the briefing in the Situation Room. Most of them were Humans, including some with unusual skin tones such as purple and green. He also saw a Zoltan or two carrying the air of high authority, but with very light power signatures.

The only familiar faces he knew in the room were Trikko and Slocknaw – thanks to their testimonies he was allowed to sit in on the briefing, as it was highly classified.

He was seated behind a particularly obnoxious (although somewhat radiant) Zoltan named Commander Buck who would criticise everything about Tully at inopportune times and find some way to pin the blame on the Slugs.

To Charlie, the most interesting sights in the room though were an Engi platform wearing the chitin of a Mantis as a bandolier and a Mantis standing next to it, wearing the parts of an Engi over his chitinous hide.

Trikko said they were part of a mercenary group called the “Mantis Hunters.” They hunted those from KazaaakplethKilik’s brood and would occasionally take on contracts to destroy rogue Virus enclaves.

“Ladies and gentlemen, time is running out” Admiral Tully said, pointing to a schematic of a massive ship on the display in the middle of the room. An Agent from the Federation Bureau of Intelligence stood at attention next to it.

Captain Slocknaw thought to himself, Those deserters were not kidding about the ship’s existence, but they were about the size. I was expecting something as big as their thoughts said it was. That’s not even as big as a battleship.

“Our analysts in the FBI have determined that this ship, uncreatively named The Rebel Flagship is the weakness of the Rebel Fleet” he explained, bringing up several pictures of Rebellion officers to overlay the schematic.

“Flagship is an easier term to swallow” The agent spoke up “Considering who and what’s onboard.”

Tully nodded “Thank you for that Agent Mannon. Anyway, apart from being the location of the top brass, the Flagship is a central command hub for the automated ships the Rebels like to throw at us. Without it, the machine fleet will become drastically less effective as their communications and coordination will be cut. This flagship and its destruction will singlehandedly turn the tide of the war.”

“That’s their conclusion?” Commander Buck spoke up “We destroy the biggest ship in their fleet and everyone and everything about the Rebellion is finished? Sounds like a trap!”

“The intel was very extensive” Agent Mannon countered “We’re still going through the huge amount of data and this summary is the best we can provide at this moment. A lot of their resources went into the construction of the ship and the Rebels were very determined to make sure no one knew about it. They even killed all the staff involved in the construction.”

He showed a picture of a starship construction facility with the Human scientists, guards, soldiers and engineers slumped against consoles, bleeding from every orifice possible.

“Obviously the intel had been tampered with by that Slug!” Buck shouted “There’s no way someone would be so stupid as to…”

He was interrupted by Charlie smashing an elbow into the back of the Zoltan’s head.

“How dare you strike a superior officer, Human! I will see you court-martialled for this insubordination!” Buck cried in pain as his hands crackled with energy in anger.

Charlie was about to say something to shut the Zoltan up when Tully interrupted “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the Situation Room! Commander Buck, you are out of line with insulting an officer of the Federation. You’ve used up your last warning.”

“I didn’t want to take part in this meeting anyway! Full of incompetent idiots! Good day!” Buck shouted, storming out of the room.

Tully sighed and said in a bored tone “Ensign Charlie Smith, Federation law says you will be court-martialled for striking a superior officer once this is over. So put on something nice.”

Trikko whispered to Charlie “I’ll pull some strings and have you acquitted in a few days. Much less if it’s a Zoltan court.”

With the distraction removed, Tully resumed the briefing. He zoomed out the display, showing the fleet around the Flagship. “The Flagship of course is heavily defended by a massive escort fleet. We will need to commit a lot of assets into distracting them while we send someone to engage them directly. We need at least one cruiser to get into teleporter range.”

Mannon brought up several pictures of the ship’s interior and said “Apart from the top brass, security forces are a skeleton crew – not even a combat drone. But there’s a possibility of the fleets sending in their own troops to reinforce the Flagship’s defences or teleporting the Generals and Admirals out in anticipation of boarders, so be careful.”

The Mantis Officer spoke up “Those foolish meatsacks will behold the Mantis swarms in all its glory as we destroy their pathetic fleet through blood and claw!”

“Concur with Qulekalez Swarm Emissary” General Turzil said “Fleet and Flagship overrun by Mantis swarms in prolonged firefight. Mission appears unnecessary.”

Tully shook his head “The Qulekalez Swarm will be engaging Rebel assets on the Steel Rain Front. This will hopefully serve as a suitable distraction and divert forces away from the Flagship’s escort fleet. Take some pressure off everyone else to make this risky plan work.”

The Mantis chittered with excitement “The fight comes to us rather than having to seek it out!”

Tully looked to the gathered ship Captains. “Your orders are to take your cruisers into the heart of the fleet and stop the Flagship by any means necessary. Above all else, you must stop the Flagship. Nothing else matters. If you fail, this could spell the end of the Federation.”

“A suicide mission in other words” a Human with the nametag of Rebekah spoke up. “Our last stand before we disappear into the darkness? I’m all for it. The Kruos is a fine ship and the Lanius are fine people to fight alongside as we fight for the Federation’s survival.”

“You’re only saying that because you’ve got a Clone Bay” a Kestrel Captain chimed in.

“My fellow officers. Think of this as not the Last Stand of the Federation but the Last Stand of the whole galaxy. There are those amongst us who might not think the Federation is perfect but it’s a lot better than having those damned Rebels in charge” Tully concluded “You have your orders, dismissed.”

As everyone began to stand up and leave, a young Commander ran into the Situation Room waving a datapad. “Admiral, news from the Black Front! They’ve been overrun! Rebel ships are jumping into this sector by the thousands! There’s a large ship leading them!”

The datapad showed a vague silhouette of a ship matching the profile of the Flagship on the display.

“Crap. Get the station to Combat Alert Alpha and prepare to jump as soon as possible” Tully shouted “I want everyone at their stations and at their ships. I want a squad of Marines on every cruiser and everyone provided with the best combat gear. We must not fall!”

Everyone immediately double-timed it towards their stations. Charlie asked Slocknaw “Did he say combat gear? Because if he means what I think he means…”

The Slug looked at his own datapad and his eyestalks perked up in excitement. “Yes he does. Hell it’s about damned time!”

-----------------------------

Next time on Charlie & The Flagship Factory:

A certain Rebel reappears and he doesn't care who you are but no one defies the Rebel Fleet! *snooty laughter*
Better military equipment!
Phase 1 of the Flagship fight! There will be no cake, stiff dough or otherwise! Sorry Trikko.

Coming up after that:

INTRUDERS DETECTED
POWER SURGE DETECTED
Translator unveils a special project!
Reinforcements from unlikely allies!

Then in the epic final battle of Phase 3:
POWER SURGE DETECTED
Zoltan Shield Bypass!
The truth unfolds!
More allies from unlikely places!?

This is what it's all been building up to. And no there won't be any large structures that keep track of time :lol:

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