Ghosts of the Federation

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Obz3hL33t
Posts: 38
Joined: Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:36 am

Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby Obz3hL33t » Fri Feb 05, 2016 6:44 am

“For the last time, set psych profile to mantis, and load patient profile Katarek,” Katarek hissed into the console.

LMAO! Mantis in PTSD counseling:
"Ugh, slug blood tastes like week-old curdled pheromones. Will that taste ever go away?"
"Human psychologists claim you can never forget something so horrific, but I've found a Zoltan chaser does the trick; that kick at the end really clears the palette."
When you've been l33t for as long as me, there's only one kind of l33t you could possibly be ...
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DarkPhoenix141
Posts: 261
Joined: Sun Jan 26, 2014 1:43 am
Location: Command & Operations Deck, PFV Sentinel

Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby DarkPhoenix141 » Thu Feb 18, 2016 8:57 am

I love how this is still going on for several years after the fact.
This is no easy mission...

BUT YOU SON. YOU WERE BORN FOR IT.

And remember:

GODS WILL BE WATCHING
SmoothPapaJ
Posts: 48
Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2014 1:56 am

Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby SmoothPapaJ » Wed Feb 24, 2016 12:53 am

DarkPhoenix141 wrote:I love how this is still going on for several years after the fact.


Lol yeah :P Job and other writing projects get in the way, and on my best day I'm not a particularly swift writer. I've found it nice to keep coming back to over these two years.



A few minutes and a tiny bit more intoxication later, the briefing room door slid open, and Toh entered. The Federation-issue chairs were modular in design, and could be modified to better suit the different member races, and Toh sat in one that had been broadened to accommodate his massive frame.

“How’d your research go?” Brant asked. Rock scriptures were just about the only literature with references to the Lanius, and she’d tasked him with boning up on what the texts actually said. The hope was that some sort of useful intel might be gleaned.

“Oh, great,” he said flatly. “According to a close reading of the Tablets of Hof, Lanius craft have a fatal flaw in their weakness to ion weaponry. They favor heavy laser weapons and boarding with teams of four.”

“Whoa – really?” Brant asked, excited.

“Frack, no,” Toh said. “What did you expect? All we’ve got is folklore, fifteenth-hand accounts told by people who had no idea what a spaceship was. Even a lot of our faithful think the Lanius are just a metaphor, not literal demons.”

“And you?” 78 asked. Ordinarily 78 was fairly sensitive about the concept of faith, but he was high now and Brant thought she could hear a sneer in his voice.

“Well…” Toh took a long moment before continuing. Brant read it as embarrassment. “See, it’s complicated. In scripture, they devoured the crystal race and all their wealth because the crystals got too warlike, and they’re prophesied to return for the rest of us if we can’t learn peace. And here’s the thing: we know there really was a crystal race from a few sites on our home world, even a tomb with one of them preserved in it. We just thought they were omens from the Shaper for our first few millennia, but once we got advanced enough, we realized it was old aliens with high tech. We expected that when we got up into space, we’d find evidence of a whole galactic civilization destroyed by war. And you know what we found?”

The strange, complete lack of evidence of older spacefaring peoples was common knowledge. “Diddly?” said Brant.

Toh nodded. “Diddly. Not one derelict ship, not one ruin, not one bit of unknown debris to be found in the whole fracking galaxy – not a single physical record of the crystals or any other elder species.”

78 whirred. “Wait – wait – rock home world has preserved corpse of crystal organism?”

Brant shook her booze-addled head. That actually was pretty astonishing. This was the first hard evidence of any elder race she’d ever heard of.

“Oh, yeah. No faith required: they were real, most certainly. We might even be their descendants or their experiments or something, but testing confirms they’re a different species. So where’d they go? That’s what no one can figure. There’s a dozen and a half ways a galactic civilization could collapse, sure, but for all their stuff to vanish? That boggles the mind. If these really are the Lanius we’re facing here, then I believe the stories that they’re eating ships if nothing else. It’s the only explanation that rings true for me where all the elder races went.”

“Hm. Can work with that, perhaps,” 78 said. “Perhaps cover ship in foul-tasting coating? Some sort of old aggressive cheese, perhaps.” Toh stared quietly at 78 and Brant stifled a laugh. “Joking! Joking. Predilections unknown. Coating might only make ship more delicious to Lanius palette. No. Still joking. Nevermind.” 78’s face screen scrambled for a moment, and he slumped forward a bit. “Erm. Too many toxchips.”

The door opened again, and Ahab and Karl walked in.

“You a scotch guy, Karl?” Brant asked.

“The Fleet Admiral’s a fracking machine?” Karl demanded.

Toh nearly fell out of his chair, his gaze shifting from Karl to Brant. “The Fleet Admiral is a fracking MACHINE?”

Brant looked in front of her on the table, where she had a little checklist of the things they had to discuss at this meeting. She crossed off “Tell everyone the Rebel Fleet Admiral is a machine,” and got down to business.







Twenty-four hours later, they arrived in the Magna Sector.

There was only death there.

The Kestrel phased out of jump state, and immediately klaxons blared an alert on the bridge. It was just Brant and Toh there, all other hands at their stations.

“Debris field, captain!” Toh shouted.

Here?” Brant shouted back. As if in answer to her question, a soft plink chimed through the ship as some large piece of metal collided with the shields and bounced off. Debris at a hub, though? That was practically unheard-of. They were critical to the entire galactic community, and the countless pacts and treaties protecting them had to be respected for at least one reason: every major power in the galaxy would come after you if you damaged one.

The initial scans started coming in, popping up as holo-images in front of Brant.

“Christ almighty…” Brant whispered.

It was a graveyard. A dozen, two dozen, three dozen ships, drifting lifeless in the space around the hub. Freighters, civilian ships, light warships, all of various design and markings. Even after the Rebels moved in, there had been a lot of diversity in the Magna Sector, including some zoltan heritage sites, a lesser engi hive, a few interspecies colonies. And all that diversity was reflected in the wrecks around them.

Ozzog was right: there had still been a few people left alive in the sector. It looked like they’d made a run for it. And they hadn’t made it.

Brant had seen her share of ship wreckage in her day, of course. But…this was a lot of dead ships at a site that was supposed to be a sanctuary. She felt chills.

“Charge engines to get us the frack out of here,” she said through intercom to 78.

“If I may, captain, I don’t think there’s reason for undue concern,” Ahab keyed in. Another plink against the shields.

“If I crap my pants at the thought of the fleet that did this, I’d hardly call that undue concern,” Brant said.

“I surmise we’re looking at the fleet that did this,” Ahab said. “Look at the Torus wreckage…yes, note the scar running up its side, how it starts at a uniform shallowness and then suddenly deepens? It pierced shields enough to knock them out, then ran unhindered up the hull. If I didn’t find gambling degenerate and wasteful, I’d bet my coat that that a standard-model Halberd did that.”

Brant magnified the image of the Torus, and found herself agreeing with the assessment.

“And ah – the Judicator over there has a Halberd!” Ahab declared.

“And it’s peppered randomly with laser bursts, like from that Torus’s attack drones…” Brant trailed off.

Karl keyed in. “I DON’T GET IT. I…”

Brant cringed and snatched her earpiece out. She saw Toh spasm in his seat. She shook her head and held the piece a few inches from here ear.

“Karl, turn your goddam volume down!” Toh shouted.

There was static over the line as Karl fiddled with his earpiece. “Sorry, still getting used to this thing…uh, I don’t get it. Why fight each other this close to escape?”

“This is a low-traffic hub, only able to accommodate a few ships a day,” Brant explained. “And when you force heavily-armed people to stand in line in high-stress situations…”

“…ah,” Karl said. “Yeah, I think I get it now. How does that change the plan from ‘get the hell out of here,’ though? A debris field’s a pretty dangerous place to hang around, with or without apocalypse demons.”

Another plink against the shield, as if in agreement.

“Right you are, and your top priority is still getting that engine ready to jump as soon as it’s able. But we can hold out here for a while, and we’ve got to make the most of it…” Brant entered some commands into her chair console, and began scanning through the wrecks around her to see if any still had life signs. She didn’t expect any: this had most likely been a desperate fight to get out of the sector quickly, and any survivors would have made repairs or crowded into shuttles and done just that. She was so sure of this assumption, in fact, that she almost missed the one little blip that did come up.

Plink, plink. An alert sounded; shields were down.

Brant cursed. “Brace for impact! And can we please try not to hit every fracking piece of…”

The ship rocked as Toh took it through some drastic maneuvers. The grav compensators kept everyone from becoming stains on the wall as the Kestrel careened about and made sudden changes at thousands of kilometers an hour, but they weren’t perfect.

“You want to take over, captain?” Toh asked. He remained focused completely on his piloting, but Brant could hear the frustration in his voice. A second later, the shields regenerated and Brant breathed in. She double-checked the life signs she’d detected and thought the situation over.

“8, take a look at that freighter. Am I seeing this wrong, or is there a survivor over there?”

The commander didn’t need to think it over. “Most certainly. Signs are synthetic, and atypical. Assessment: wounded engi.”

Brant nodded. She pressed a button on her chair to open a hailing frequency. “Attention, freighter – this is the Aquila-4 of the Galactic Federation. If you require aid, we can assist you in evacuating this space. Please respond.”

Plink.

“Oh, Shaper’s balls…” Toh muttered.

Nothing from the ship. Brant drummed her fingers against her chair, then stood and started walking off the bridge.

“No answer. Its shields and life support are still active, but that ship is dead in the water. Might have comm troubles. New plan. 8, keep hailing them and see if they respond. Toh and Karl, keep us out of the way of this debris. Ahab, hit the tractor beam and grab whatever worthwhile scrap you can from this field.”

“Have bad feeling where you’re going with this,” the commander said over the line.

Brant broke into a jog down the corridor. “I’m going over there.”

“Bad feeling: justified!” 78 squealed. “Requesting permission to board with you, or instead of you! Fellow engi might…

“Denied. The transport can only handle two, and I need you on shields.”

Ahab chimed in. “I’m inclined to agree with the commander, captain. The risk seems hard to justify just to save one unknown sailor.”

“If you’ve got a more reliable source on what the Lanius are capable of, I’d love to hear it,” Brant shot back. “All those refugees we talked to had cleared out before these things had become much more than rumors. Our guy over there has survived longer in the sector, and we may not have another chance to learn what we’re actually up against. That justification enough?”

Ahab sighed. “Roger. But I would still rather get out of here as soon as possible.”

“No argument there. Beam me back as soon as possible, whether I’ve got this guy or not.” Brant looked at her wrist unit and checked the readings. It looked like the engines would be ready in five minutes. The transporter would need eight to recharge. She’d consider them lucky if the ship even made it five minutes without taking damage from all this debris, and that could quickly turn ugly if their shields or engines got banged up.

As she stepped into the transporter room, she swiped a few commands into her wrist unit. “Transferring power from beam cannon to transporter,” she called out to the crew. That would shave a few minutes off the recharge time. They’d also be at a disadvantage in a fight, but the scans had been pretty conclusive that no functional ships were in the area.

Beam in, find the engi, beam out. Be out of this sector in five minutes. That was the plan.

Plink, plink.

“…well, it’s not getting any safer,” she said to herself, and she stepped onto the teleporter.
SmoothPapaJ
Posts: 48
Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2014 1:56 am

Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby SmoothPapaJ » Sat Feb 27, 2016 10:03 pm

Brant checked their sensor. The survivor aboard the freighter was slowly on the move, and had just entered what seemed one of the cargo holds. She targeted the transporter for the corridor he’d just left, hoping to avoid getting a belly full of plasma; even if this was an engi, it was a needless risk to appear out of nowhere and open herself to startled gunfire.

“Transporting in three…two…” she said to her crew.

“…one,” and she activated the teleporter. And everything went straight to hell.

“Captain, we’ve got a…!” Toh shouted.

Brant’s breath hitched and her mind reeled, but she had no time for any thought more coherent than “Of fracking course” before everything became light and haze.

She materialized a second later into near darkness, the steely corridor lit only by the orange emergency lighting. She lost the signal from Toh, but an alarm blared in her earpiece. She breathed in and out, and a primitive part of her brain screamed the same warning that she saw now on her wrist console: there was atmosphere in here, but almost no oxygen.

She took that primitive part of her brain and clapped her hand over its mouth. Panic would speed up her breathing, and in this atmosphere that would kill her. What was happening? The sensors hadn’t indicated any hull breaches, and the life support systems were functioning. But the air was bad, this was bad, this was very fracking bad, she…

She calmly approached the closest door and opened it, and the gust of air that blew out felt better on her face at that moment than any lover’s caress ever had done. She strode in to the adjoining room, a mess hall by the look of it, and sealed the hatch behind her.

Something weird with the life support system, she thought. Sabotaged, maybe. Or they powered them down temporarily and weren’t able to turn them on again. There weren’t a lot of reasons why a ship with undamaged life support would have a dead atmosphere. Was the engi just running from one room that still had oxygen to another, then?

A great PLONK echoed through the ship. This was a commercial craft; chances were, its shields were specialized for exactly this kind of situation, and would be nearly worthless in combat. Hopefully, that meant the freighter was safe for at least the next five minutes.

Next problem. “Toh, I lost you in transit. Report.”

“We’ve got a…oh, Shaper…” Toh never let emotion into his voice. This was bad. “…oh, Shaper and Preserver, I didn’t actually think…”

“Ship consistent with refugee reports has decloaked,” 78 said, calmly but quickly.

Her breath caught in her lungs. It had nothing to do with the atmosphere. “Are you saying…?”

“Get the hell out of there, Charlotte!” the commander screeched.

Uncertainties clouded her mind, but she was truly menaced by what she already knew: these things had shown themselves right after the Kestrel depowered its weapons. That made perfect, terrible sense to her.

They could hope these things came in peace, or try to bluster them off. But if these things got to open fire first, Brant had a bad feeling there’d be no chance for retaliation.

“Divert something back to the beam cannon and get ready for a fight. Don’t shoot unless they fire first, or…unless the debris field knocks out their shields and gives you an opening,” she said.

“I’ve got to stop talking. Oxygen is busted over here, gotta’ conserve. 78, you’re in command until I’m back aboard. And Toh?”

A pause. “Captain?”

“I want you to repeat after me: at least it’s not the spiders again.”

She heard him breathe in and out slowly. “At least it’s the not spiders again.”

She wasn’t sure she believed him, but she’d have to take it. There still had four minutes before they’d be able to jump, five minutes before she’d be able to beam out. All she really wanted to do was hunker down here and watch the data coming in and direct the fight if it went down, but she wasn’t sure how much good air there was in here, and there was still the matter of rescuing the engi. If nothing else, the freighter had a transport beam of their own, but she’d need the access codes from a crewman to use it. And the Kestrels sensors were now directed at the unknown craft, so she’d have to find this guy on her own.

She opened the door and walked back into the corridor. The air actually seemed breathable in here now; maybe the oxygen system was failing, but not completely busted. It was confusing, but hopefully she’d be gone before she had to care. She inched up to the cargo bay door and put her ear against it. Something was scuffling around and making some noise. Good – the engi was still in there. She shouted into the closed hatch:

“Hello? I mean you no harm. I’m a Federation captain; we can see you’re in distress, and you didn’t respond to our hails. I’m here to help.”

She held her ear to the door again, and heard…nothing. Whatever was in there went still.

“Enemy shields have taken several nasty hits from debris. We might get that opening soon,” Ahab said just a little hungrily.

“Own shields at fifty per…make that twenty-five percent,” 78 said.

Brant cupped her hands again. “I’m coming in! We’ve got to go right now!”

She opened the hatch to the cargo bay, and the emergency lighting wasn’t nearly enough to light up the room. The yawning, open room was nothing but a haze of shadows and dim lights to show where the walls were, and...

…a door on the other side of the room hissed open. Brant only caught a glimpse of a shadow scuttling out of it before it slammed shut again.

“Oh God damn it,” she muttered. She must have spooked him. She didn’t exactly want to chase a frightened cyborg around a derelict ship with crap oxygen while her crew tried to sucker-punch hungry demon-aliens, but as ever, she had to play the hand she was dealt. Besides, this guy could get her out of here faster, and he might still have valuable intelligence. And blah blah blah the right thing to do, too.

She ran into the cargo bay. “Come on, guy! This is a rescue mission! For what it’s worth, engi slaves aren’t even valuable enough to justify the…”

She almost fainted. Her breaths became ragged and desperate. The air in the cargo bay was all inert gas, no oxygen. Stupid, stupid, stupid, she’d gone running off after the engi without checking, and she was nearly at the door on the far side of the room before her lungs or wrist unit had figured out something was wrong. She stumbled up to the door, amazed how quickly a few breaths of this dead air had winded her and pretty sure she didn’t have enough oxygen in her blood to get herself back to the corridor she’d left. She opened the door ahead of her and jumped through, sealing it behind her and praying that the air she was breathing now had some O2 in it.

“Three minutes on jump!” 78 said. “Four on tran-“ A loud blast interrupted him. Something had hit the ship.

The air was thin but breathable. She looked at the system readout on her wrist console. A shape moved at the far end of the corridor. What was going on with the life support? They’d just taken a direct hit to shields, a door closed at the far end of the corridor, their shields were out and 8 might be dead and the Lanius had come...

Brant slapped herself. “8, report,” she said.

The channel opened again, and she could only here alarms and the hiss of the vacuum. “Alive. Hull breached, shields damaged. Repairing.”

She wanted to strangle Toh. She knew, of course, that without his deft piloting and Karl’s help they would never have lasted even this long in the field, but her anger needed someplace to go, especially when another piece of debris struck the ship a few seconds later. Brant breathed a sigh of relief as she saw it hadn’t done any more damage to shields, or to their weapons or engines.

Then she saw.

78 came on. “Charlotte…”

The teleporter was down.

“Don’t even think about it,” she hissed. “Without shields you’re all dead. I can catch a ride out of here, but I need a ship to go back to.”

She focused on the door at the end of the corridor, the one that had just shut. Why weren’t the Lanius firing yet? Or…was this their attack? Was the bombardment of debris not as random as it seemed? Who knew what a race of ancient legend was capable of? No, there was no point to those questions right now. She had to focus. This survivor might well be her only ticket out of here, and she jogged after him.

He was clearly agitated, perhaps paranoid, and she had no time for an extended chase. She didn’t announce herself this time, just opening the hatch and stepping through slowly. It was very dark in here, too, only those same dim orange emergency lights ringing the chamber, but they provided enough light in this small space to reveal the beds, shelves, and footlockers of crew quarters.

There was no one in here. She looked ahead, and saw an open door at the end of the quarters, but the lights had failed in whatever room was beyond it. The open hatch was a rectangle of black space.

“Shields just…about…” 78 said. A squeal of static cut him off. Brant glanced at her unit, but it had lost connection to the craft. The sensors must have been hit, knocking out short-range communication. Well, at least it told it her that the air in here was good.

She walked slowly into the quarters, staring into the shadows of the next room. She heard shuffling in there, saw the dim lights around her reflect on some shape moving in there. She held her hands up to show she wasn’t coming for a fight, but thought keenly of the baton and sidearm on her belt. “OK – can we talk now? I didn’t mean to trap you, but it looks like we’ve got to rescue each other now.”

The door shut behind her, and she didn’t walk much further into the chamber. She didn’t want to corner this guy, but she didn’t want him escaping, either.

The movement stopped in the next room. Brant moved cautiously forward.

“That’s it. I’m here to help you, and I need…”

Something moved, and two red eyes stared back at her out of the darkness.

That was no engi.

“…oh, God.”

The thing in the next room crossed the doorway and came into the half-light. It was tall, and its body bristled with sharp metallic edges and point. The eyes glowed red, but they held in her a stare as cold and ancient as the void.

And without a pause, without a sound, it charged at her.

Brant drew her weapons and opened fire, getting a grazing shot on the thing’s shoulder; the metal there did seem to fragment, but the thing did not stagger or cry out. It closed with her and dodged her baton, then grabbed it just above the handle before she could swing it again. She tried to pry it loose, but the thing’s talons had melted against the metal of her weapon and fused the baton to itself. Brant let the baton go and tried to raise her sidearm, but the thing swatted it away.

And Charlotte Brant, unarmed and alone, hit the space monster in the face with her best left hook. It was like punching a steel bucket, but the thing reeled back. She hit it with a flurry of jabs as she closed, then kneed it in the abdomen. She couldn’t tell exactly if she was hurting it, but certainly she surprising it…

One of her strikes went wide, and her vision reeled. She stumbled and couldn’t catch her feet. Her lungs burned. The alarm sounded in her ear: no oxygen. But…but she’d checked. That wasn’t fair. She’d…

She tried to stand, tried to face the thing that was bearing down on her again, but she stumbled again. She tried to control her breathing, but she’d exerted herself too much and now her breaths were ragged, drowning gasps.

The thing’s hand came down over her face, and everything went dark.
Braxbro
Posts: 78
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:58 pm
Location: The Pew-pew (Chain Vulcan gunship)

Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby Braxbro » Fri Mar 25, 2016 9:47 pm

SmoothPapaJ wrote:Brant checked their sensor. The survivor aboard the freighter was slowly on the move, and had just entered what seemed one of the cargo holds. She targeted the transporter for the corridor he’d just left, hoping to avoid getting a belly full of plasma; even if this was an engi, it was a needless risk to appear out of nowhere and open herself to startled gunfire.

“Transporting in three…two…” she said to her crew.

“…one,” and she activated the teleporter. And everything went straight to hell.

“Captain, we’ve got a…!” Toh shouted.

Brant’s breath hitched and her mind reeled, but she had no time for any thought more coherent than “Of fracking course” before everything became light and haze.

She materialized a second later into near darkness, the steely corridor lit only by the orange emergency lighting. She lost the signal from Toh, but an alarm blared in her earpiece. She breathed in and out, and a primitive part of her brain screamed the same warning that she saw now on her wrist console: there was atmosphere in here, but almost no oxygen.

She took that primitive part of her brain and clapped her hand over its mouth. Panic would speed up her breathing, and in this atmosphere that would kill her. What was happening? The sensors hadn’t indicated any hull breaches, and the life support systems were functioning. But the air was bad, this was bad, this was very fracking bad, she…

She calmly approached the closest door and opened it, and the gust of air that blew out felt better on her face at that moment than any lover’s caress ever had done. She strode in to the adjoining room, a mess hall by the look of it, and sealed the hatch behind her.

Something weird with the life support system, she thought. Sabotaged, maybe. Or they powered them down temporarily and weren’t able to turn them on again. There weren’t a lot of reasons why a ship with undamaged life support would have a dead atmosphere. Was the engi just running from one room that still had oxygen to another, then?

A great PLONK echoed through the ship. This was a commercial craft; chances were, its shields were specialized for exactly this kind of situation, and would be nearly worthless in combat. Hopefully, that meant the freighter was safe for at least the next five minutes.

Next problem. “Toh, I lost you in transit. Report.”

“We’ve got a…oh, Shaper…” Toh never let emotion into his voice. This was bad. “…oh, Shaper and Preserver, I didn’t actually think…”

“Ship consistent with refugee reports has decloaked,” 78 said, calmly but quickly.

Her breath caught in her lungs. It had nothing to do with the atmosphere. “Are you saying…?”

“Get the hell out of there, Charlotte!” the commander screeched.

Uncertainties clouded her mind, but she was truly menaced by what she already knew: these things had shown themselves right after the Kestrel depowered its weapons. That made perfect, terrible sense to her.

They could hope these things came in peace, or try to bluster them off. But if these things got to open fire first, Brant had a bad feeling there’d be no chance for retaliation.

“Divert something back to the beam cannon and get ready for a fight. Don’t shoot unless they fire first, or…unless the debris field knocks out their shields and gives you an opening,” she said.

“I’ve got to stop talking. Oxygen is busted over here, gotta’ conserve. 78, you’re in command until I’m back aboard. And Toh?”

A pause. “Captain?”

“I want you to repeat after me: at least it’s not the spiders again.”

She heard him breathe in and out slowly. “At least it’s the not spiders again.”

She wasn’t sure she believed him, but she’d have to take it. There still had four minutes before they’d be able to jump, five minutes before she’d be able to beam out. All she really wanted to do was hunker down here and watch the data coming in and direct the fight if it went down, but she wasn’t sure how much good air there was in here, and there was still the matter of rescuing the engi. If nothing else, the freighter had a transport beam of their own, but she’d need the access codes from a crewman to use it. And the Kestrels sensors were now directed at the unknown craft, so she’d have to find this guy on her own.

She opened the door and walked back into the corridor. The air actually seemed breathable in here now; maybe the oxygen system was failing, but not completely busted. It was confusing, but hopefully she’d be gone before she had to care. She inched up to the cargo bay door and put her ear against it. Something was scuffling around and making some noise. Good – the engi was still in there. She shouted into the closed hatch:

“Hello? I mean you no harm. I’m a Federation captain; we can see you’re in distress, and you didn’t respond to our hails. I’m here to help.”

She held her ear to the door again, and heard…nothing. Whatever was in there went still.

“Enemy shields have taken several nasty hits from debris. We might get that opening soon,” Ahab said just a little hungrily.

“Own shields at fifty per…make that twenty-five percent,” 78 said.

Brant cupped her hands again. “I’m coming in! We’ve got to go right now!”

She opened the hatch to the cargo bay, and the emergency lighting wasn’t nearly enough to light up the room. The yawning, open room was nothing but a haze of shadows and dim lights to show where the walls were, and...

…a door on the other side of the room hissed open. Brant only caught a glimpse of a shadow scuttling out of it before it slammed shut again.

“Oh God damn it,” she muttered. She must have spooked him. She didn’t exactly want to chase a frightened cyborg around a derelict ship with crap oxygen while her crew tried to sucker-punch hungry demon-aliens, but as ever, she had to play the hand she was dealt. Besides, this guy could get her out of here faster, and he might still have valuable intelligence. And blah blah blah the right thing to do, too.

She ran into the cargo bay. “Come on, guy! This is a rescue mission! For what it’s worth, engi slaves aren’t even valuable enough to justify the…”

She almost fainted. Her breaths became ragged and desperate. The air in the cargo bay was all inert gas, no oxygen. Stupid, stupid, stupid, she’d gone running off after the engi without checking, and she was nearly at the door on the far side of the room before her lungs or wrist unit had figured out something was wrong. She stumbled up to the door, amazed how quickly a few breaths of this dead air had winded her and pretty sure she didn’t have enough oxygen in her blood to get herself back to the corridor she’d left. She opened the door ahead of her and jumped through, sealing it behind her and praying that the air she was breathing now had some O2 in it.

“Three minutes on jump!” 78 said. “Four on tran-“ A loud blast interrupted him. Something had hit the ship.

The air was thin but breathable. She looked at the system readout on her wrist console. A shape moved at the far end of the corridor. What was going on with the life support? They’d just taken a direct hit to shields, a door closed at the far end of the corridor, their shields were out and 8 might be dead and the Lanius had come...

Brant slapped herself. “8, report,” she said.

The channel opened again, and she could only here alarms and the hiss of the vacuum. “Alive. Hull breached, shields damaged. Repairing.”

She wanted to strangle Toh. She knew, of course, that without his deft piloting and Karl’s help they would never have lasted even this long in the field, but her anger needed someplace to go, especially when another piece of debris struck the ship a few seconds later. Brant breathed a sigh of relief as she saw it hadn’t done any more damage to shields, or to their weapons or engines.

Then she saw.

78 came on. “Charlotte…”

The teleporter was down.

“Don’t even think about it,” she hissed. “Without shields you’re all dead. I can catch a ride out of here, but I need a ship to go back to.”

She focused on the door at the end of the corridor, the one that had just shut. Why weren’t the Lanius firing yet? Or…was this their attack? Was the bombardment of debris not as random as it seemed? Who knew what a race of ancient legend was capable of? No, there was no point to those questions right now. She had to focus. This survivor might well be her only ticket out of here, and she jogged after him.

He was clearly agitated, perhaps paranoid, and she had no time for an extended chase. She didn’t announce herself this time, just opening the hatch and stepping through slowly. It was very dark in here, too, only those same dim orange emergency lights ringing the chamber, but they provided enough light in this small space to reveal the beds, shelves, and footlockers of crew quarters.

There was no one in here. She looked ahead, and saw an open door at the end of the quarters, but the lights had failed in whatever room was beyond it. The open hatch was a rectangle of black space.

“Shields just…about…” 78 said. A squeal of static cut him off. Brant glanced at her unit, but it had lost connection to the craft. The sensors must have been hit, knocking out short-range communication. Well, at least it told it her that the air in here was good.

She walked slowly into the quarters, staring into the shadows of the next room. She heard shuffling in there, saw the dim lights around her reflect on some shape moving in there. She held her hands up to show she wasn’t coming for a fight, but thought keenly of the baton and sidearm on her belt. “OK – can we talk now? I didn’t mean to trap you, but it looks like we’ve got to rescue each other now.”

The door shut behind her, and she didn’t walk much further into the chamber. She didn’t want to corner this guy, but she didn’t want him escaping, either.

The movement stopped in the next room. Brant moved cautiously forward.

“That’s it. I’m here to help you, and I need…”

Something moved, and two red eyes stared back at her out of the darkness.

That was no engi.

“…oh, God.”

The thing in the next room crossed the doorway and came into the half-light. It was tall, and its body bristled with sharp metallic edges and point. The eyes glowed red, but they held in her a stare as cold and ancient as the void.

And without a pause, without a sound, it charged at her.

Brant drew her weapons and opened fire, getting a grazing shot on the thing’s shoulder; the metal there did seem to fragment, but the thing did not stagger or cry out. It closed with her and dodged her baton, then grabbed it just above the handle before she could swing it again. She tried to pry it loose, but the thing’s talons had melted against the metal of her weapon and fused the baton to itself. Brant let the baton go and tried to raise her sidearm, but the thing swatted it away.

And Charlotte Brant, unarmed and alone, hit the space monster in the face with her best left hook. It was like punching a steel bucket, but the thing reeled back. She hit it with a flurry of jabs as she closed, then kneed it in the abdomen. She couldn’t tell exactly if she was hurting it, but certainly she surprising it…

One of her strikes went wide, and her vision reeled. She stumbled and couldn’t catch her feet. Her lungs burned. The alarm sounded in her ear: no oxygen. But…but she’d checked. That wasn’t fair. She’d…

She tried to stand, tried to face the thing that was bearing down on her again, but she stumbled again. She tried to control her breathing, but she’d exerted herself too much and now her breaths were ragged, drowning gasps.

The thing’s hand came down over her face, and everything went dark.


Dangit, now I'll have nightmares about Lanius murdering me. :lol: Nice bbit though.
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Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby SmoothPapaJ » Wed May 11, 2016 5:24 pm

Brant woke up in darkness. She was lying flat on a table, and her arms, legs, and neck were fastened to it.

But hey – she woke up.

She was in a Rebel brig. Or…her own? Had the captives broken free and seized the ship? No. She was…no, where was she? What was going on? The…Magna Sector.

The Lanius.

The dots started connecting. That thing might have belonged to an elder species known mainly for devouring another species. And it had taken her alive.

Something growled in the darkness. Something primitive took over in Brant’s mind, and she started fighting her restraints with delirious strength. She was no stranger to fear of death and fear of pain, but the primal terror of the food chain spoke to something deep in her brain. She bucked and fought and strained, but she knew these restraints were the high technology of an ancient race. No matter how hard she struggled, she’d never…

The shackle holding her right wrist popped open. She almost felt relieved, but the thing in the shadows made an ugly little noise and her sweat turned cold. The other restraints held fast. Her free arm fumbled along her belt and yanked her multitool out of its holster. She unfolded it with her hand and searched with her thumb through all the folded-up tools to find a screwdriver, but she could barely coax the little attachments out of this thing with two hands; one-handed, it was rough. She couldn’t quite reach her right hand over to her left, so she tried to bring the tool up to her mouth. There was something over her face, though, a hard, clear bubble tightly sealed around her face from forehead to chin, with a hose coming out of the front and leading off into the darkness.

She finally prized out a long, thin Phillips-head attachment with her thumbnail and started jimmying away at her neck restraint. It gave with surprising ease, and she could pick herself up from the table enough to reach her other hand. That restraint gave her a little more trouble, but she was confident.

The lights came on in the room. Listening to her gut, Brant threw herself back against the table, slipping her right arm back into the shackle without closing it. She clutched the multitool to keep it out of sight, and she waited.

She couldn’t see much. She was in a small room, maybe the size of her quarters back on the Kestrel, with walls of rippling silver metal. She was in a shallow pit, or maybe an alcove – she realized she couldn’t tell if this table was lying flat or standing upright. All she could see were the sides of the depression she was in and a flat metal surface several yards ahead of her, a floor or wall with no features whatsoever.

Then the wall opened, a hole suddenly appearing in the featureless metal. One of the things was standing there, red eyes staring flatly at her. It wasn’t the same one she’d fought; the body looked the same, all silvery skin and jutting metal horns, but this one’s face was distinct, just a flat plane of silver with no marking except the two red eyes and one thin line for a mouth. It was holding a long, thin rod, the purpose of which was terrifyingly vague.

It stepped forwardly slowly and let out a snarl of vicious alien gibberish. Brant clutched her hidden screwdriver and stared this thing down. It approached more confidently and vocalized again, the sounds equally alien but with a notably different cadence. It stood a few feet in front of her, more or less at eye level, and leaned forward a little to look at her face.

Just a little closer, she thought, trying to judge the arc of her swing. It took one more step…

There was a scream, a sound of loud electric hate, and the thing standing in front of her suddenly turned and rushed away, ducking off to the side out of her vision. Brant got right back to work on her left hand restraints, and though they needed just a little more jimmying than the others had, it was still way easier than any brig in civilized space would have made it. She hoped she’d have time, that the strange caterwaul would drown out the noise she was making, that she’d be able to do a damned thing in combat against these monsters…

Just as she was bending down to free her legs, the wails grew louder, and the creature walked back into sight. It was carrying a jagged lump of steely material with one arm, holding it close to its chest. The lump was moving. The creature noticed Brant freeing herself and took a quick step backward, holding up the rod in its other hand and barking another string of garbled nonsense…

Only…it wasn’t. That…was Mandarin. She hadn’t taken Mandarin since grade school, but…

“Parlez vous Francais?” it asked hastily, taking another step back.

She looked up in astonishment. Her hands kept working on the job at hand, popping open the shackle on her left leg and getting to work on her right. “Not really. I don’t suppose you speak English?”

“Ah! Yes, well enough,” the thing said. It lowered the rod and seemed to relax. The strange scream filled the air, and she realized it was coming from the misshapen lump in this thing’s arm. “Also, I don’t mind if you take off the bindings, but we maintain a 99% helium atmosphere on this ship, so keep the breather mask on. And…don’t attack us, please.”

The thing hefted the load in its arms to get a better grip, and as she looked at the lump closer, its shape made more sense to her. It moved, wrapping two studded arms around the larger creature’s neck, and a tiny head searched around the room with little red eyes.

“Have you ever had a baby, human? I decided to give the little one an aural speech system to get it used to sonic communication early. She’s figured out that piercing wails will get my attention, though, so that may have been a bad call,” the large thing said. Its voice sounded like it was echoing down a long steel corridor and rang with a strange, exotic accent, but she had no trouble understanding it. The little creature grabbed the rod and guided it up to its face, and the metal started slid off the rod in curls and runnels disappearing into the little one’s skin.

“Uh…no,” Brant said. She got the last restraint open and got both feet firmly on the ground. Her gun and her baton were gone, which she’d expected, but she kept herself ready for a fight. “Where am I, and where is my ship?”

“You are aboard one of our craft, a culture-ship assigned to this sector. It has no name that will be meaningful to you – in general, audible names are going to be difficult for us. Your ship’s transporters were badly damaged, and since you cornered one of my crew mates, you were in serious danger of suffocation if we didn’t extract you. We intended to return you to your own ship once you were stabilized, but your people opened fire on us; we had to withdraw.”

Brant’s alarm must have been obvious, as the thing quickly tried to calm her down. “Your ship was perfectly fine when we jumped away, and we are currently at the only beacon within jump range of the sector hub. We expect your people will be following shortly, and hopefully you can talk them out of blowing us up long enough for us to return you to them.”

Brant’s head reeled not just at being in the custody of an elder race but of having such a straightforward conversation. She’d always assumed creatures like these would be somewhat more inscrutable. Well – may as well match straightforwardness with straightforwardness. “So…are you the Lanius, then?”

“Yes, that seems to be the identification everyone’s going with this cycle. I apologize for the restraints, by the way. People tend to associate us with the end of the universe, and we’ve found they act erratically in situations like this. You seem pleasant enough, though.” It gently pulled away the rod, now a few inches shorter, and placed it on its waist. It held its hand out to Brant. “You can call me Translator.”

If they wanted her dead, she didn’t doubt they could do it, friendly handshake or no. She took the hand and shook. Its three-digited hand was considerably suppler than she’d imagined. “Captain Charlotte Brant.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Translator walked to the side of the room, where Brant could now see there was a small enclosure of the same shining metal that made up the walls and floors. Now that she had a fuller view of the room, she saw that it was not nearly as plain as she’d thought. There were two more alcoves like the one she’d been in against one wall, and mounted on the others were strange little bits and baubles – a large desiccated flower stood out to her, and a small sphere of thin glass with colorful vapors churning about in it.

Translator gently placed the child into the enclosure and turned back to Brant. “Ah – yes, that is impressive, isn’t it? A gift from Lieutenant T’tamarinax of the Shimmering Fleet, in recognition of our friendship. The crystal folk rendered a good deal of their art using gaseous media. Our Artists studied their techniques closely, but I doubt any of us could approach this level of mastery.” Translator stroked the side of the sphere with one digit, and the gas within condensed into an alien landscape of jutting purple rock and clear blue sky.

“So you did know them? The crystals?” Brant asked hesitantly. “You, uh…you didn’t really…”

Translator frowned. Brant thought now how strange Translator’s face was, almost like a child’s drawing of a face. “This part is…always awkward.”

“That is not a reassuring answer.”

“No…we are not a reassuring people. Well, maybe in the very beginning.” It walked up to the section of wall it had walked out of, and the wall reopened. “Walk with me for a bit. Let’s not bother the little one.”

Brant walked out with Translator – what else was there to do? – into a refreshingly typical starship corridor. The colors and textures and lighting were strange, but it was a long corridor with branching hallways and doorways opening and closing, a handful of other Lanius walking back and forth on various errands. She’d been expecting…well, she had no idea what she was expecting other than that it would have been beyond her experience, but this looked more or less like the sort of ships she’d spent her whole adult life on.

But it was almost totally quiet. Total quiet, in fact, would have been more comforting, something she could chalk up to the atmosphere or her hearing. She could hear the light clanging of footsteps and the soft hiss of the doors opening, but where the Kestrel or any other ship had a constant background music of dings, beeps, mechanical noise, and chit-chat, the unbreathable air here was thick with silence. She was relieved when Translator broke the uneasy quiet as they strolled along.

“Our race was designed a very, very long time ago. Our Creators were not very much more advanced than the major civilizations are now, but they struggled to deal with the problem of space debris. One object collides with another in orbit, they fragment, the fragments collide with others, and so on until this planet or that beacon becomes utterly inhospitable. A familiar problem to you, I’m sure.”

Brant could practically still hear the little plinks as debris shredded the Kestrel’s shields. “Ayup. Humans call it Kessler Syndrome.”

They entered another dilating doorway and walked into a wide, open room. There were tables all around like a mess hall, but none of ten-or so the Lanius seated around them seemed to be eating. Some were poking through various bits of machinery and computer parts, one was pouring over a huge stone tablet, and three were gathered around a vidscreen playing some point-and-shoot video game. The screen declared the match was over and Player 2 the winner, and if it was jarring to find the apocalypse demons ran their ships just like everyone else, it was much more so to find the apocalypse demons throwing up their arms in silent rejoice after winning in Starhammer III.

“Kessler Syndrome? Huh. I didn’t know that,” Translator said with legitimate interest. “The ‘Kessler Syndrome’ got very badly out of hand for our Creators. Debris storms interfered with commerce and led to bickering over who was to blame, which strained diplomacy, which led to wars, which created more debris. After various failed approaches, the Creators made us, a line of self-replicating synthetics, intelligent enough to navigate space on their own initiative, with a deeply-embedded drive not just to recover interstellar debris, but to salvage and preserve anything of use. Our bodies even naturally convert oxygen into various inert compounds for that reason, to ensure that oxidation does not prematurely…”

Translator lectured on, but Brant abruptly lost attention. A door had opened in the wall across the room from them, and a tall, lithe Lanius stood in the doorway. Where most of the crew around her had one or two nondescript, unrecognizable objects attached to them, this one was laden with items very familiar to her: a phase-axe, a number of guns, and what looked like a plain old regular sabre stood out at once, along with at least five weapons she didn’t recognize. This one didn’t step into the room. It just stood there staring right at her.

“…We wondered if we could possibly have stopped the Creators from destroying themselves, but now of course the pattern is quite familiar to us. Eventually, collapse becomes inevitable, and all we can do is salvage what we…”

Brant elbowed Translator and nodded at the door. “What’s that one’s deal?”

Translator looked around, then found where Brant was looking and stopped short. “Oh…oh dear.” He abruptly stopped, facing the armed Lanius who now started strolling toward them. “How to get through this quickly? So…some of our ships specialize in combat and some in salvaging physical debris.”

While Translator prattled on, the armed one strode forward faster, leaning forward and picking up speed. The Lanius around her stopped what they were doing and looked up, some quickly shuffling away. Brant planted her feet firmly and kept her body loose, ready to react.

Translator went on. “And this is a culture-ship; our goal is to salvage and preserve the culture of collapsing civilizations, and each of the crew has a specialization. I am fully dedicated to preserving your methods of communication, so I identify as Translator, and…”

The armed Lanius reached around its back with both hands. It chucked something underhand at Brant with one hand and drew a long, thin weapon out with the other. Brant’s first instinct was to dodge – that could have been a grenade it threw, or a knife, or some inscrutable weapon she’d never imagined. But then she saw what it was.

She grabbed Andrews’ power baton out of the air and extended it with a powerful flick. The hostile Lanius bore down on her and swung its weapon at her, another power baton, and Brant had no time to act on anything but reflex. She leaned back and backpedaled, the other baton missing her torso by a few inches. She thought to take an exploratory slash of her own, but her instincts told her this wasn’t the time – and yes, before she’d have been able to get a meaningful strike in, the Lanius had turned fully into its swing and thrown itself shoulder-first at Brant, closing the gap with alarming speed. Brant went into a controlled fall backwards, and though the thing still hit her with force and the spikes on its shoulder almost pierced her skin, she went back fast enough to take most of the force out of the blow. The Lanius fell back with her, and with a sharp kick – the monster was surprisingly light for a thing all made of metal – she sent the Lanius flying off behind her.

Brant sprang to her feet and whirled on her assailant, who had landed skillfully and was already on her feet. The armed Lanius looked her up and down with those implacable red eyes, but it did not move toward her or raise its weapon.

Translator crept up into the space between them, his gaze darting cautiously to her and the other and back again. The armed one retracted its baton and holstered it on its back, then leveled a glare at Translator.

“Uh, yes,” Translator said, as if responding to a command. “Captain Charlotte Brant, I’d like you to meet our captain. As I am dedicated to understanding and preserving the language and communication arts of other civilizations, our captain is dedicated to…”

The armed Lanius cocked its head, and Translator stammered. He finished quickly:

“You may call her Killer.”

Brant looked at Killer, who returned her stare. Brant’s baton was still crackling with power at her side. “So, do you have a good reason for trying to take my head off just now, or is that just how you guys say hi?”

Translator looked at Killer for a moment, then turned back to Brant. “She says she needed to get an appraisal of you, and she’s thinks she can learn a part of the human killing arts from you.”

“I take it she doesn’t speak English, then?” Brant asked.

“No…no, we are optimized for life in the vacuum, and generally deaf. Some like myself have modified ourselves for your ‘hearing’ sense and aural speech, but as this is of little use outside of the proper atmospheric conditions, the preferred form of…”

Translator trailed off, noting that Brant was paying far more attention to Killer than to him. Killer’s face was not the childish caricature that Translator had; no, her red eyes stared out at Brant from a jagged symmetry of black and silver, devoid of any recognizable features. There was no mouth, no nose, no perceptible sensory organs of any kind. The image that came to mind was shattered ice on a dark night. The eyes bored into Brant, and alien though they were, Brant could feel the hostility in that stare as if it was a tangible thing.

Killer glanced at Translator, then abruptly turned and started walking out of the chamber the way she’d come in. Translator started.

“Oh. Uh, yes – Captain Charlotte Brant, please follow me. Quickly.”

He shuffled off after Killer, moving so abruptly that he almost knocked into a pair of Lanius walking by. Brant watched Translator walk away for a confused second before following.

“What the hell is going on?” Brant asked.

“Um…well, we were conversing in the preferred manner of my kind, using high-frequency electromagnetic…”

Distracted by his spiel, Translator started slowing down. Killer grabbed him roughly by the shoulder and yanked him forward to keep the pace up.

“That’s fascinating, but what the hell…”

“A ship has entered the sector. It’s…not yours,” said Translator. “We are in danger.”
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Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby CAKE » Tue May 24, 2016 2:30 am

Even though I have been waiting for this for ages I am late by 12 days :D
BTW great story.

This is my 3rd time writing this, the first time the forum signed me out and I had to rewrite this post, the second I accidentally pasted something and lost the rewrite.
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Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby SmoothPapaJ » Fri May 27, 2016 8:11 pm

A wall opened, and they entered a room with a long glass screen and a few strange consoles lining the walls, each with a Lanius manning it. It was close enough to a bridge to almost be comforting. The screen at the front of the bridge showed a highly magnified image of a Rebel frigate, the screen adding annotations over a few parts of the hull. Brant couldn’t read any of the dense, angular writing, but her mind was filling in notes of its own as she studied the frigate’s systems.

A mix of heavy and light laser batteries, with several stout missile launchers and a huge, red beam cannon. This was no trading vessel. This thing was built for hard combat. She thought of the tables of Lanius in the other room, playing games and examining art, and guessed that this “culture-ship” was laughably outgunned in this engagement.

Translator shuffled over to a vacant seat toward the middle of the bridge. As he sat, the metal in the floor rippled and rose up, swiftly taking shape as a large hemisphere, its flat face three feet in diameter and facing the seated Lanius. She walked up to get a closer look, but Killer grabbed her arm and tugged her back.

The flat face of the hemisphere changed color, going suddenly from light gray to black without any noticeable change in the lighting. A few seconds passed, and then without warning, the black surface changed into a video feed of a Rebel officer.

“They’ve…answered, sir,” said the Rebel. Brant could see her from the shoulders up, a young blonde woman with her hair pulled back tight. She stared back at Translator and his crude, cartoonish face with a look of almost total confusion. “Hello?”

“Big to greetings with,” Translator said in a stilted monotone. “Peace. Peace.”

“Well, that’s refreshing,” said the Rebel. “Do you understand me, then?”

“Hello. Greetings to with. Yes,” Translator said. “How?”

From off-screen on the Rebel end, a male spoke. “Oh, for God’s sake. I thought you said they could communicate!”

”That’s what I heard!” the woman shouted back. “I hope this isn’t what command actually meant.”

“We are the extent. Peace peace sandwiches. Everybody,” Translator said enthusiastically.

The man off screen sighed. “Fracking xenos…whatever, the Kestrel will be through here any time now, and we’ve got to get the mines ready. Get them out of here or we’ve got to light them up.”

The woman nodded and turned back to Translator. “Uh, Lanius vessel! We mean you no harm, but we are expecting a violent confrontation with an enemy ship very shortly. We intend to deploy high-yield mines, and you are advised to leave the sector immediately.”

Well, that wasn’t good. If the culture-ship withdrew to another sector, they would almost certainly miss the Kestrel. Locating them again, especially with the Rebel fleet so close behind, would be next to impossible, and that was assuming the Kestrel survived the trap this frigate was laying – by no means a safe assumption.

Translator waved his hand at the screen; a small purple symbol appeared in the corner of it, and the noise of the Rebel bridge was muted. Then he slowly turned his neck over to Killer. His face remained the same simple drawing of a face, but the gesture looked concerned to her.

“They don’t seem scared of you,” Brant said bluntly.

Translator held one finger up at Brant as he kept his eyes on Killer. Apparently they were conversing. “No. They jumped in from further in the sector – advance scouts, I would guess, and they’ve most likely had contact with us already.”

“What kind of weapons do you have on this thing?” Brant asked Killer.

“Not very dangerous ones, I’m afraid. We would provide very little challenge for this human vessel.”

“You guys have seen galactic civilizations rise and fall, and one Rebel frigate’s going to give you trouble?” Brant asked, incredulous.

“We are scavengers, not conquerors. In our experience, the more you make other species feel threatened, the less likely they are to leave you alone, and we have no interest in…” He stopped, apparently responding to harsh reminder from Killer to stay on topic. “Ship-to-ship combat is not a viable option for us. But Killer is…adamant that we not withdraw.”

Brant looked over at the Lanius captain. “I appreciate that, but why do I think this has nothing to do with your compassion?”

Killer rocked back on her heels and clapped her hands together with a soft clang. Then she slowly strolled over to Translator.

“Captain Killer suggests it probably has something to do with her name,” Translator said. “Now, I should warn you, what she’s about to do is going to seem a little…”

As Killer approached Translator, she raised one hand, and Brant watched as the three fingers there grew long and needle-like. Then she slammed them into the back of Translator’s head. He cried out, clearly expecting this but apparently unable to fully prepare himself. His head twitched. The red lights in Killer’s eyes shifted to a cool blue, while Translator’s shone bright orange.

Brant looked around on the Bridge. None of the other Lanius seemed bothered by this display; she guessed this was the sort of thing one simply put on a brave face for.

“Ah…” Translator said. His voice was different; it had grown slower and calmer, but significantly less comforting. “How you tolerate this insipid chattering, I will never know.”

He turned back to the screen; the Rebel comm officer, who’d seen everything, was looking a little taken aback. Translator waved a hand and the purple mute symbol disappeared, and with Killer’s hand still firmly lodged in the back of his head, he spoke imperiously to the Rebels.

“Hear this, fleshlings. You meddle in the affairs of the ancients. Run, if you can. Fight, if you can. Kill yourselves in a manner that suits you, if you can. It makes little difference. You are all dead. Your bodies will mummify in the vacuum and dance in the solar wind.”

The comm officer looked a little spooked at that, but not panicking. She looked over her shoulder, then shuffled over a man, the captain judging by his uniform, sat down next to her. Everything about his face screamed “military,” from the muscles in his neck to the buzz-cut hair to the cold, alert stare. He was smiling.

“Honest question: how often does this bit actually work?” he asked.

Killer and Translator stared at him.

“I’m not trying to put you down! I’d bet it works a lot. Scary ancient race appears out of nowhere, talking all death and horror – sure, if I was a trader just minding my business, I bet I’d be mudding my britches right now. Do I look like I’m mudding my britches to you, though?”

Killer and Translator stared. Brant didn’t like where this was going.

“Well, who knows what I look like to you folks. No, anyway: we are not scared of you. For agents of the apocalypse, I’ve got to say that you have left me powerfully disappointed. We’ve fragged Lanius ships that were far more battle-ready than yours – so you’re either trying to pick a fight, which makes your idiots given the circumstances, or you’re trying to spook us off. So let me say this again, you stupid xeno trash: we have business here. Leave now, or we will wreck you.”

Brant wasn’t totally sure what she was doing when she walked forward toward the screen, but it felt like the right course.

“Howdy,” said Brant.

The captain raised an eyebrow. The comm officer’s eyes went wide.

“That’s…” the officer sputtered out.

“Who the hell are you?” the captain asked.

“Oh, come on. I know I’m catching you off guard, but how many one-eyed Fed officers with dangerous-yet-somehow-still-girlish good looks can there be out here?” Brant looked at the comm officer. “You seem like you’ve got a few brain cells. Why don’t you tell him who the hell I am?”

The color drained out of the officer’s face. She snapped herself out of it, her hands barely shaking at all as she quickly typed on a console next to her and nodded at something off-screen – a dossier or intel report, probably. The captain looked at it, and that face that had looked so unshakeable when he’d been talking to a heavily-armed demon alien of legend now looked at her like a rabbit spotting a hawk.

“You’re…Charlotte Brant,” the officer said.

“Charlotte Goddamn Mother-Fracking Brant,” Brant agreed.

“I don’t believe it,” said the captain. “I knew you were crazy, but…the Lanius…”

“That’s not my Academy pic in there, is it? God, was I hung-over that day.”

Captain and officer alike stared in disbelief.

“OK, I guess we’re not bantering,” said Brant. “Let’s cut to it, then: if you run, you might live. If you stay, you will die. You have no idea what you’ve stepped in here, and you have radically underestimated what I am capable of. Leave, or die – I really don’t care which.”

The captain slowly got up, his face shaking with disgust. “Get these obscenities off my screen.”

The line went dead. Brant exhaled sharply, then looked around. “OK – uh, we think they’re going to leave or fight?”

Translator began laughing, low and slow, the sound thoroughly chilling Brant. Then Killer withdrew her hand from his head, and the laughing ended abruptly with a pained yelp.

“Missile fire inbound. Enabling cloak,” Translator said, his voice higher, more frantic, and somehow more comforting.

“Crap,” Brant hissed. “Sorry, that was the best intimidation I had.”

Killer clapped her hand on Brant’s shoulder and nodded, the fingers withdrawn to their normal size. The captain drew her phase axe and began walking to the end of the bridge.

“The captain says you did very well. This is the outcome she was hoping for. She asks that you please follow her to the transport room and…difficult to translate. An approximation of the meaning and tone would be ‘Get your murder face on.’”
Chickengames
Posts: 341
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2016 3:24 pm

Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby Chickengames » Thu Jul 07, 2016 2:40 am

This is by far the best fan fic I have read on this forum. Maybe even the best ever. It's really good, and I think you should keep up the story. A story without a resolution always disappoints me. I really hope you continue it.
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DarkPhoenix141
Posts: 261
Joined: Sun Jan 26, 2014 1:43 am
Location: Command & Operations Deck, PFV Sentinel

Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby DarkPhoenix141 » Thu Jul 07, 2016 8:58 am

Chickengames wrote:This is by far the best fan fic I have read on this forum. Maybe even the best ever. It's really good, and I think you should keep up the story. A story without a resolution always disappoints me. I really hope you continue it.

Yeah if you join the legions of quality unfinished fanfics I will not be a happy camper.
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