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 Second Contact

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MissingAxis



Posts : 24
Join date : 2014-09-03

PostSubject: Second Contact   Wed Oct 29, 2014 10:02 am

Torches flared here and there in the darkness below, pushing slivers of light across the pale blue surface of the moon and into the void surrounding it. They had been dancing there for some time, their paths crossing and splitting for the better part of a megasecond. From several hundred kilometers up, a carrier watched as Ranifani's tawny atmosphere began to encroach upon the scene, as it did every dozen kiloseconds. Soon, it would be largely eclipsed by the moon, only to sidle out from behind it and slip around the carrier to begin again.

Amdi made up half of the carrier's crew, sitting in the command capsule as Officer of the Second Watch. The Officer of the First Watch would be finishing a maintenance check in the engineering compartment any second now, and from there, heading to sleep. For the next forty-nine kiloseconds, the only company or entertainment Amdi would have was the skyscape he would see with his cams and out the window.

There was a brief flash of an engine burn and a glint of metal as an attack-craft cut across the moon's surface. Just to the side of it, another sliver maneuvered, belching fire behind it. For a few seconds, there was nothing more, the attitude control jets of the crafts invisible at this distance. Then, two great flashes of light, one following the other just a quarter second later.

"I've finished. The drones are just fine. Still." The voice came slightly static-y through the shipboard comms.

Amdi keyed the microphone on his console. "You missed some action. Mutual hit."

"Ah... One more dealt with, at least. The Commonwealth remembers."

"The Commonwealth rem--" Amdi's words caught in his throat. Near the site of the clash, a torch flared retrograde. A ship had survived, and was dropping itself out of orbit. "We have a survivor. Comm reads... our ship was hit, so it must be one of those damn loners."

First Watch sighed. "I'm strapping into my bunk. You qualified for this position, didn't you?"

Amdi nodded to himself, and began to punch keys on his console.


Last edited by MissingAxis on Mon Mar 02, 2015 7:08 pm; edited 1 time in total
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REDSHEILD



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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Tue Nov 18, 2014 5:03 pm

"Overseer, how far from midpoint are we?"

Exactly two years, ten days, three hours, Dictat.

"If you would, schedule a diagnostic for time minus twenty days from midpoint. We will need you in top form when the drop comes."

Affirmative, Dictat. My records show you are almost a season past the hand-off. Would you like me to awake one of Overwatch, so you may retire for the duration?

"No need, Overseer. Overwatch will need their youth in the times to come. Mine is long behind me. Another two years will little to brittle my being than the decades already have, and the sleep will make the futile attempt to preserve that which refuses to maintain itself."

Do you wish any company, Dictat?

"You will leave me, Overseer. I've had far too much contact with my own kind for my liking, and while you are but a simulacrum, you are accurate enough. Rest, machine, I will summon you in the rare case I need a mind outside of my own."

~*~

T-30

"Watcher Lenns, yes? Please, make yourself comfortable; as much as you can in null-g. This meeting won't be long."

"Why was I awoken, Dictat?"

"Oh, nothing really. A mere matter of correctness in politics, I suppose. Do you recognize this text, on the main display?"

"As much as the other banned materials. I've little fluency in the scripts of antiquity."

"How strange then, Watcher, that the Overseer found this among your personal files."

"I-"

"No need to justify this. I'm not one of the Elected back on Kirnond. A little reading never harmed a soul, even of works such as this. I'll be fair with you, Lenns, I've always trusted my intuition. And right now, I'm of the feeling that you just fancy to know your enemy, no? An academic curiosity?"

"Yes, Dictat, purely academic."

"Good lad. Zasala needs more like you, for without such wise minds, we'd have fallen behind Quazark long ago. You may return to your rest, and make sure you do. We'll be at midpoint not too long from now, perhaps thirty days, and Overwatch will have its hands full I'm sure."

"Thank you, Dictat."

~*~

T-8

Diagnostic is successful. Engaging reboot. I will see you in twenty minutes, Dictat

Dictat Kouls felt the static of the room die, as one by one the great brains of the Overseer snapped their relays closed. In just over a minute, the analog machines had discharged, now all that remained of the Overseer was the central hub, its digital circuits guarded by lead and steel, safe, yet blind without its analog limbs.

As was protocol, Kouls went to each tower, using his clasps to pull open banks of tubes and relays, give them a look over for damage or error, and gently replace them inside the machines. At one, though, he spent a bit of extra effort fully removing a memory bank, which required his claws to achieve. Carefully, he slipped his dexterous manipulators into the module, feeling for and flipping memory relays. Then, as with the others, he sealed the module back into its parent core.

As promised, Overseer came back to life, the tubes and relays crackling with energy. The intercom awoke, and broadcast to the sleeping ship:

Be advised, drop burn scheduled in four hours. All active crew must be in acceleration-rated furnishings for their safety.

~*~

Repeat, drop burn initiating within fifty minutes. All active crew must be in acceleration-rated furnishings for their safety.

Kouls engaged the restraints on his seat, the cold metal resting flush on his shell.

"Overseer, active crew reports successful restraint."

Affirmative. Beginning pre-burn diagnostic.

Diagnostic is complete. Stale coolant build-ups detected in bell two, propellant tanks three and five. Permission to purge?

"Granted, Overseer. Proceed."

Flush initiated. Bell two flush successful. Tank three flush successful. Tank five flush successful. Engaging line purge. Bell two purge successful. Tank three purge failure. Tank five purge successful. Re-attempting tank three purge at twenty percent greater pressure. Tank three purge successful. Coolant flush complete. Refill initiated. Bell two refill successful. Tank three refill successful. Tank five refill successful. Refill successful. Initiating acceleration sequence.

Pre-burn propellant cycle initiated.
Propellant cycle successful
Commence ignition start
Ignition of bells one, two, three successful; Total engine ignition successful
Commence burn


Kouls felt the floor push against him, as the phantom known as gravity emerged from the acceleration. After only a few moments, it faded, and a yellow-red strobe filled the room.

Burn sequence halted, explosion in coolant lines of tank three, propellant leaks in tanks three, five, six. Auto-seal successful in tank six. Leaks ongoing in tanks three, five.

"Are the leaks maintainable by EVA, Overseer?"

Unknown.

"Is there sufficient delta v to commence the burn?"

Current rate of leakage would allow only partial burn. Engine three gimbal is not responsive. Engine one bell is damaged. Resultant thrust insufficient to burn for drop at projected midpoint. Course of action?

"Are the cores stable?"

Fission cores stable, radiation levels nominal. Course of action?

"Drain the drive charge."

I am required to inform you that this will result in a three month minimum recharge cycle, assuming proper infrastructure for drive charge can be constructed using on-ship supplies. Course of action?

"Drain the drive, Overseer."

Protocol forbids a drain except in cases of emergency. Course of action?

"Drain the fall-damned drive, Overseer! Midpoint system indicates a high probability of a gas giant, and is known from Kir charts to have been a potential fuel source for generation ships. If we do not drop at this system, it could be years before we encounter another along our trajectory. To say nothing of the missed transmissions! I am issuing a unilateral override. Following protocol's letter rather than intent will cause the death of this ship. Drain the drive, machine."

Affirmative. Drive charge will decrease at the rate of approximately thirteen percent per day.

~*~

System E-1-C, Projected Expedition Midpoint
T-0


With a gentle ripple in space, a crescent appeared, behind it a spindly structure made of countless modules, the trailing end dominated by a large sphere, flanked by six cylindrical tanks themselves piped to three massive engines.

The wounded giant rolled in its slumber, and with a crimson light, set off limping towards a distant Jovian world.
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MissingAxis



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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Tue Nov 25, 2014 6:31 pm

Target is going for a splashdown in Eastlake... Low or no delta-V remaining... Shouldn't need a nuke for this one... There. Amdi pressed a key and waited. It took a few hundred seconds to see the result. A small flash -- no bigger than the flare of engine -- erupted from the attack-craft. Anything that might have survived would have too small of a silhouette to make out, even with Amdi's enhanced cams.

As he relaxed in his harness, Amdi was suddenly very aware of himself. Over the last megasecond, he'd managed to shoot down three enemy attack-craft. Few attempts had been made against the carrier, as it was far enough away from the action to be difficult to hit with the computers available to the ragtag fleets on either side. Amdi was lucky to have hit the first, let alone the second or third.

He supposed he should feel pride or remorse, or maybe a little emptiness.

Something else took the place of those emotions. His breathing became ragged, and the capsule began to wobble around him. Amdi closed his eyes and tried to get his breathing under control, but found himself lacking air to breathe instead. He tore at his harness and began to pull himself along a ladder toward the engineering compartment.

Amdi, after killing another one or two of his own, had suddenly become very aware that he was sitting in a tin can, surrounded by vacuum.

And he was getting claustrophobic.

---

Officer Trem of the First Watch woke early. He'd needed little sleep since he was a child, and though it wreaked havoc on his daily schedule, he found it hard to complain about. undoing his bunk-straps and pushing aside his privacy curtain, Trem made his way toward the command capsule.

"Any more action in the last twenty ksecs, Amdi?" Trem pulled himself through the iris valve. The capsule was empty. He must be in the lavatory. Trem strapped himself down in front of the secondary console and looked over his screens. Short-range radar wasn't picking up any incoming contacts, long-range radar was only booted up every ten kiloseconds, and none of the drones had been deployed. Trem sighed and wriggled in his harness, glancing toward the valve. Amdi still hadn't returned.

"Amdi, hurry up! I'm bored!" Trem directed his voice at the valve, expecting Amdi to be coming up the hall. Another moment passed, and Trem began to undo his harness when the long-range radar came on as scheduled. He settled in and watched the displays update. First ping, nothing unusual. Second, nothing. Third, nothing, and so on. Trem turned it off, and began to fiddle with his personal music player. He was a few chapters into an audiobook when the console beeped.. The First Watchman froze. Another beep. The passive sensors were picking up radar pings. It took him another moment to realize they were the pings he sent out earlier, bounced back. In that same moment, he realized that the craft his radar had picked up was very big, and very alien.

"Amdi!" Trem undid his harness and pulled himself to the main command seat. Object's flight path intercepts with quickest route to gate... If I throw in some jinks... I hope they don't have better point-defense than us...

Trem was ready to launch the carrier's drones as emergency couriers, but as he was confirming the launch sequence, the computer blurted a warning.

ENGINEERING BAY PRESSURIZED. DRONE LAUNCH WILL VENT ATMOSPHERE. PROCEED: Y/N?

First Watchman Trem keyed the shipboard comm. "Amdi! Report position!"

"I'm clear! I'm clear!"

The ship shuddered as several drones were launched with mass drivers. After a moment, their chemical engines flared to life and spread out.

Here's to hoping at least one gets through. Or they hit hard enough to mission-kill that thing.


Last edited by MissingAxis on Mon Mar 02, 2015 8:39 pm; edited 2 times in total
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REDSHEILD



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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Wed Nov 26, 2014 2:20 am

Everything was cold. The glass, the metal. Her shell, clasps, manipulators, claws. Even time was cold.
Then, two knocks on the glass. Her claws made three back.
The glass opened, the sludge poured out, with her buried in it, like a brick in mud.
Cold flush commencing; mocked the machine voice, though at least it cared enough to warn her.
First came the airfluid, cool but not by too much, gently evaporating, melting the nitrogen slush and displacing it from the room.
Next, the salinated water was well past the point of freezing, only liquid by virtue of being brine. It was hot enough to sting from the presence, as yet more nitrogen wafted from the remaining slush, free of its semi-solid state.
Eventually, after some seemingly agonizing minutes, it reach cold-shower level. She stopped it there. Couldn't get a cool shower in the stark desert during the Equatorial Wars, wouldn't need one on a starship. Besides, she had a reputation to uphold.

~*~



Papers, please.
She dropped a booklet on the machine's table, the pages stiff from the cold.
Scanning...
Identity?
"Decat Yddra Calset. Quazark Military."
Purpose of stay?
"Travel, foreign destination"
Method of transit?
"Radial lift three, spinal lift seven."
Duration of stay?
"No longer than three hours"
Permit for entry?
"Diplomatic override"
...Accepted. Enjoy your stay in Zasala, Decat.
"One down, two to go..."

~*~



Papers, please
Yddra waved an ID card at the machine.
Identification accepted. Welcome home to Quazark, Decat Calset. I am required to inform you that hangar six is requesting your presence within the next decimal day.
"Can you tell me why?"
This information is unavailable to my memory. Please proceed through the checkpoint so I can return to my duties. Have a wonderful decimal day!

~*~

Overwatch

Various voices filled the chamber, distorted and similar. Per protocol, the twelve Watchers were forbidden from knowing each other as speakers during a session. Who said an idea did not matter, only that it was heard. While Overwatch was in session, voice distortion enforced this rule. Outside of it, the Dictat kept the Watchers in line, with the assistance of Overseer. With a ship so large and politically disparate, this was the only way to keep order.

"We cannot be too rash. No assumptions can be made. This event may not have happened for any reason at all."

"What has been suggested is not rash; it is reasonable. The chances of impactors so far from any debris cloud, especially with our varied trajectory, is at the extreme low. In itself this is significant. This attack must be intentional."

"It would be illogical to presume that the Kir would be behind this, there is little evidence that the Kir ever exploited this system."

"The Kir were but one possibility. Our current data proves that whatever has exploited this system, it has capabilities at least the magnitude of our own. The analysis of the brew* shows that much. Our best course of order is to return these actions in kind."

"Counterattack would result in disaster. We should continue our original course; this may have been an accident."

"An accident? It has cost the lives of dozens of our own! Damage, costs in the billions! There must be repercussions!"

Silence fell in the chamber, as Overseer cut the feeds. It gave the Watchers a moment to collect, then spoke.

The results from debris analysis have returned. The paint and material spectography matches our telescopic observation of the installations in orbit of the gas giant. Furthermore, they do not match any known Kir material and pigment compositions. More data as it becomes available.

The feeds went back on. This time, the silence was truly deafening.

"This confirms our suspicions."

"Nonsense, it only confirms what we could already assume with good confidence. It means nothing."

The debate raged, as it had. Heated, but impersonal. At last, the limit was reached. The Dictat called for a vote.

Kouls looked over the tally. With his frustration obvious in his voice, he spoke. "Overseer, what do you suggest? How will we decide this tie?"

Per the Second Treaty, Quzark law takes precedent. In the event of a tie during government debate to question the course of order or to make a change to it, the current course will be preserved until the matter can be researched further and more evidence brought to light.

"Can we amend our actions?"

Only as outlined in the rules of defense, given that a damage has occurred. This will be noted in the decision, Dictat.

"Thank you, Overseer." Though the machine could not know it, Kouls accepted this grudgingly. A part of him wished to speak his mind to the machine, but this was a fantasy. For it to become reality would be suicide.

In time they would reach the gas world, and perhaps then he could break his silence.

~*~

Quazark Sector Hangar

Dominating the airless hangar were the great large doors. The room was massive enough that one easily saw the curve of the ring, the pair of doors built into the side, forming an entire wall. Smaller hatches lined up with rails, as most craft were small and nimble. On a regular vessel, the large craft would be mounted to the exterior. With this ship, however, the size of its drive made this a risky plan, so the great hangars were made instead.

Yddra felt a bit uneasy as she crossed the hangar deck, the usual clatter of her claws dampened by the hardsuit's false footpads. A necessary feature, though, else she would slide across the smooth metal.

She approached her superior, Centant Altze, his hardsuit clearly marked with a red rank stripe that matched her own blue. As she got within arm's length, her suit radio crackled.
"Decat, good to see you. Frost well?"
"As well as it ever goes. Still have a bit of ice on the shell. What's our situation?"
"Something hit us. Entire ship is entering emergency state as we speak, civilian travel has been restricted. We've moved some vehicles out onto the hull, bolted them in place to use as improv weapons. Foreign contact protocols dictate a neutral posture, though. Civies are getting a contact team ready. Your people are escort. ETA to the gas giant is three days. In that time, get your ten associated with the shuttle, and with your package. Only three foreign contacts in Quzark history were entirely peaceful. Let's try and make this the fourth, all right?"

Yddra cut the radio and saluted. These three days would be the longest days of her life, for sure.
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MissingAxis



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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Mon Mar 02, 2015 9:06 pm

The loners had won, just barely. Consumables were running low. One of Trem's couriers had survived and was nearing the gate, but reinforcements wouldn't arrive before he and Amdi starved.

Trem felt partially to blame for the Commonwealth defeat around the blue moon of Gharm. Having dispatched half the carrier's drones as couriers, his craft was severely underequipped and couldn't effectively support the straggling remains of the Commonwealth loyalist fleet, even with Amdi's skills as a weapons officer. That was if Amdi's skills were still at the top of their game, too. As they began firing their final rounds, Amdi's aim got worse and worse. Now they had a few nuclear-enhanced rounds and a guided missile or two left, and Trem was hesitant to let Amdi handle the firing solutions.

"We can stretch the consumables out another quarter Msec, I think."

"How?" Trem glanced over to Amdi and saw the Second Watchman's face. "No. Stop suggesting it."

"That alien vessel is getting close."

"It is close."

"Are we going to let the loners contact them first?"

"They'd sooner greet the vessel with nukes."

Amdi took a bite of his nutrition bar. A big bite. The bar that was supposed to last him a quarter Msec would now last an eighth. "Then they associate all Gyraci with the loners. That isn't a Vathari ship. At least, I don't think so."

As Amdi finished off the nutrition bar, Trem realized the Commonwealth could be on the brink of an interstellar war with an unknown enemy. He didn't think too much into the message he broadcast from there.

"This is the CSS Rainbows End. Beaming confirmation code. Disregard all communications from all other vessels unless authorized by the CSS Rainbows End using that confirmation code. You have entered Commonwealth space. We request that you enter a stable orbit and perform no other acceleration. We also request open communications with command structure of your vessel, so that we may better understand the nature of your presence here and arrange a diplomatic meeting if necessary. Do you copy?"

"I don't think the aliens speak the same language as us."

"That'll change, and at least we'll have it on record that we went by the book first."
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Sun Mar 08, 2015 8:55 pm

The shuttle raced through the void, still and tranquil both inside and out, betraying its speed. In the distance, a gas giant grew larger, as the parent ship grew smaller. Seated in its bay were thirteen, ten soldiers and three specialists. They talked freely among themselves, mostly idle chatter, though it was two of the specialist that caught Yddra's attention.

"Bit unnerving, eh Zilit?  Going so fast, and not even a bit of turbulence."

"No, well, yes. It's not that, though."

"Is something wrong?"

"No Diia, it's just, I'm nervous, is all."

"About contact?"

"Yes."

Those last words had an effect on the bay, the silence rolling through. It remained unbroken for some minutes until Yddra spoke.

"Though I am no academic, I've spent a good part of my life reading others. Sopht Gnei, we're all nervous; I've got the feeling that it's not just your nerves bothering you. Are you afraid?"

Zilit visibly shrank, allowing Diia to answer in his place.

"Decat, you need not doubt my colleague's resolve. This is new territory for each of us, even you. We're all just a bit... on edge."

"If our own experts feel under prepared, Sopht Hyrm, it does not bode well. Do not take my words the wrong way, I am confident in you. It is my duty to ensure our success, however."

"Of course, Decat. With just one signal to work from, we've done our best to work out what these aliens are like, as little as it is. We just wish we had more to work with."

"It's not that, Diia. That's not why I dread this contact." Zilit finally spoke, his voice grim.

"Oh?"

"Decat, we are archaeologists. We study the dead, not the living. When this mission was planned, we expected to find Kir ruins. Instead we find an enigma."

"Is it not better to have a subject to question, Sopht? I can hardly imagine dead ships and old stones would give us many clues in comparison."

"It is hard to learn from the dead, yes. But the living? The living kill. The living destroy. Until we know these, these aliens I'm afraid I cannot feel safe."

~*~

Yddra peered out the forward viewport, a small white dot straight ahead.

"Is that it?"

"Sure is. Not much larger than us, really. Well, it's probably bulkier, but the scopes peg it just about twice our length. Can't be much room inside, from the looks of it. Though, it's hard to say from out here."

"Just bring us in gently, alright Orist?"

"Sure, sure. We're mostly matched as it is, nice, friendly rendezvous. Per standard procedure I've got some constants on a binary loop broadcast in the radio bands, along with an equation of our entire approach vector, present and planned, transmitting in the same encoding on the higher frequencies."

"Good. I'll make sure my people and our specialists are ready. Notify via intercom when we're matched with them, and call home to let them know we're still alive."
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