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Praetorians: The Eden Program (IC)


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Signa System

Towards the inner edge of the Perseus Arm

Lor time mark 1752.9 [January 12, 2018 (Terran Calendar)]


The Signa system was located just out of the inner most edge of the Lor Republic.  Its location, along with that of its neighbors, had long afforded it protection from the threats of the Grue Unity and the Stellar Khanate.  This safety, and friendly relations with the Lor allowed those systems to flourish through peaceful cooperation and trade.  


When the Incursion had come and the Communion forces struck at the very center of Lor space, Signa and its neighbors found themselves suddenly on the forefront of the conflict.  Their limited defense forces, even combined, were little match for the Communion, and it was only timely assistance by the Lor and other Coalition forces that prevented the sector from being completely overrun.  As it was, several of Signa's neighboring systems were taken and cyberformed by the Communion, although large portions of their populations were evacuated to Signa and other neighboring systems.


Once the Incursion was over, Signa continued to welcome its displaced neighbors as work began to try to undo the damage the Communion had done. 


Recently the system had been experiencing a rash of crimes committed by beings using supertech equipment.  The local law enforcement had been unable to control the situation, so Signa’s representative to the Coalition Counsel had requested the assistance of the Praetorians.


So now Traveller, Barrier, Hyperslice and Queenie were making their way along a corridor inside one of the orbiting cities above Signa Prime, the fifth planet from the large blue star at the center of the system.  Large portions of the corridor were covered with translucent walls, which provided impressive views of the sprawling orbital city below, and the planet and star beyond. 


"I am so pleased for your assistance Praetorians."  Stated Counselor Farrin in Gal Standard, the Signaian ambassador that had requested their assistance.  Like all Signian natives, Counselor Farrin was a squat humanoid, covered with short dark brown fur.  "A most vexing problem for our local law enforcement, but one that you should be able to handle."

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Whilst Sitara could easily travel through space she always enjoyed being behind the controls of a starship, especially one that was as well maintained as the Praetorians craft. Which was of cause because Sitara always did it herself, spending hours keeping them in good working order. Even if she spent a lot of time as a glorified taxi service, still there was always much to do once they'd reached their destination.


"We're always happy to help wherever we can Counselor, the strange and unusual is our primary focus." she smiled as she spoke, she really did enjoy a real mystery it had kept her wandering the universe for so long.

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Queenie smiled in her friendly Southern fashion. “You know how it is. I hear folks need help, I come a-runnin’.” She didn’t technically need to travel in the ship to get places, but by thunder she like to sleep sometimes. Also, having Traveller handy to translate was the most useful thing. She’d have to figure out how the Ring could translate for her eventually, but for now it was all right. “Just point us in the direction of your bad guys and we’ll have them in jail before you can spit. Not that you would, of course.”

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If there was one thing that there was no shortage of at the moment, it was work. It seemed that Barrier spent more of her time working than not. Part of her appreciated it, it meant she was always busy, always doing something useful. Part of her hated it. She didn’t have time for her proper rituals, not to mention that by the time she’d recovered from an injury, there already was something new coming up. Still, it was her duty to be where she was needed.


Signa was different from where she’d spent time recently. More modern, with more infrastructure. It made life easier for her, even if the local resident’s size meant fitting through doorways was even more of a problem as usual.


“It is our duty to offer help where it is needed. So, tell us, what have you and your people managed to discover about the situation so far?”

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Hyperslice was a rippling silver shadow, darting along the walls, darting across the ceiling and plastering herself to the floor as she drunk in the view. It would have taken a moment to throw herself into the void and experience the eternal night unhindered, but in here the void became a dazzling wonder land of stars and great plumes or streaks of billowing cosmic dust. In those vast clouds the stars of tomorrow would be born, on their worlds the next generation of galactic life would be born, in their efforts would the next steps into eternity be taken.


But to Skirris the lights were a reminder of the delirious, indescribable freedom her powers gave her in space. The Incursion War had hit the Haasaan homeworld and its people only a glancing blow. They had their horror stories, but for the most part had escaped without permanent scars like those suffered by the Lor or the Khanate. Of them only Skirris, had gone far beyond their borders to help people escape the remorseless, unrelenting tide of mechanized transmutation. It had been a breathtaking, exhilarating time, filled with all the dangers, the narrow escapes, the impossible odds that she had always longed for on the homeworld of her birth.


And now she was, again, on a real mission with real stakes. People were counting on her, the towering Sri Melek and the strange, muddy-colored Terresi.


"We'll have your thievesss caught and thrassshed in no time, Sri Farrin!" The serpent woman's tongue flicked confidently, tasting the scents passing through the still orbiter air "Where have they ssstruck mossst?"  

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The Signian orbital city was very open in the floor plan of its common areas and walkways, making them large open spaces and avenues, much liked the Main Plaza and some of the other larger spaces on CoVic Station.  It certainly helped to make the enclosed structure feel less confining. 


The area around the Praetorians and their guide was filled with other beings, all going about their daily routines.  There were, of course, numerous Signians in the crowd, but there were also at least three other species that were present in large numbers as well.


"Well, I cannot say that I am acquainted with all of the particulars of the criminals’ activities, but once we reach Inspector T'r'ik he should be able to provide the specifics you seek."  Counselor Farrin replied.


The Praetorians only had a short distance further before they arrived at the headquarters from the city's law enforcement agency.  It was a large building along the main concourse, reaching up almost to the outer dome.  Several anti-gravity vehicles could be seen flying in and out of the upper levels of the building as the counselor led the group inside. 


A short while later they were up in the office of Inspector T'r'ik.  The inspector was an insectoid species, others of his kind being one of the common groups the Praetorians had seen about the city.  After the introductions, the inspector began giving a background on the situation.


"As you might *tik* expect, like many *tik* other systems, the Incursion *tik* caused a good deal of chaos *tik* for Signa.  In addition to *tik* local problems a number of *tik* outside criminal elements used the *tik* chaos to establish a foothold in *tik* the system."  T’r’ik explained.  "One such group was *tik* the Indigo Moon, a *tik* Khanate based syndicate."


"Until recently, much of *tik* the Indigo Moon’s activities were *tik* low key.  But now *tik* several of their operatives have somehow *tik* obtained highly sophisticated weapons.  They *tik* have become much more bold *tik* in their activities.  Among those have been a *tik* number of thefts, including *tik* from several of the leading *tik* high tech companies in the *tik* orbital cities."


"We have a great number of scientists working on processes to help restore those worlds that were cyberformed by the Communion."  Counselor Farrin added.   

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With her helmet folded down, Skirris' reptilian face was dominated by a great half-moon of tinted transparent metal covering her horned eyes. Slightering forward, she leaned one powerful arm on the desk, looming over the inspector. Her tongue flicked out for a moment, the young starcutter trying to remember what she had wanted to ask. Her slitted eyes ran hurriedly over the office, taking in the slow buildup of honour and prestige on evidence, respect accumulating around the office like sand around the great monuments of the long-gone Sun Empire. Then her eyes landed on a disassembled burster on one shelf, the remnant of some old case.


"What companiesss, what wasss ssstolen?" She couldn't raise or lower the horned brows over her eyes, but her pupils expanded meaningfully behind the sheet of visisteel. "Any ssusspectssss? Jusst tell usss that and we'll get your crooksss!" She jerked her tail at Queenie "Make sssure to sspell out the detailss for the rookie."

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The bit of sass didn’t go unnoticed, but Queenie only nodded. “I know Earth crime just fine, but it’s probably different out here in space.” Different was right. She’d never seen so many non humans in one place, obviously, but the scale of this place was also something else. She didn’t have enough of a tech background to be amazed there, but still…it was like being in a sci fi show. It was awesome. But…she wasn’t here to gawk like a newbie. There was heroing to be done. “Any help the rest of you all could give this poor country chef would be appreciated.” She grinned, and then grew thoughtful. “Still, though. Back on Earth this sounds like they’ve either found a stash of forgotten gear, or picked up somebody helpful on the tech front.” Maybelle McQueen may not have had an ego about her hero work, but she wasn’t about to let people think she was an idiot, either.

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For now, Barrier mainly listened. The Inspector’s briefing already offered a variety of options on how she and her allies could approach the situation. Covering all the angles would be difficult, but it meant that whatever was behind it all, it couldn’t hide forever.


When Hyperslice and Queenie spoke she nodded. “I don’t know much large their supply is, but I doubt they would just stumble across a cache of sophisticated weaponry. I suspect they are being supplied by another organization, one which likely has a use for their actions. It is not guaranteed, of course, but it is the option which is easiest to investigate. “


“We will need whatever data you have on all of these groups, we may be able to track down something useful. I also support my ally’s questions, the more we know about the stolen goods, the more we can limit our investigation. “

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Sitara stood back arms folded and watched the other go to work, a thin smile playing on her lips at their efforts. Right now she couldn't add anything, well almost nothing.


"We have methods of our own to analyse such things so if you can provide us with the raw data that would be a great help."


Whilst not always the most diplomatic, she often let others handle such things, she'd been around the universe long enough to learn a trick or two.


"Let me assure you we're here to help your investigation, not take over completely. We'll happily keep you updated at all times and if you wish someone to tag along that's perfectly acceptable."

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"We have *tik* never seen any weapons *tik* such as are being used."  Inspector T'r'ik replied to discussion about how the criminals might be getting their super-tech.  "If it was found *tik* then it is likely from *tik* somewhere else and not from *tik* any local system."


When Barrier and Traveller asked for the data on the thefts, the inspector gave a small nod.  "Of course *tik* Praetorians.  The data would *tik* be quite lengthy to *tik* recite.  I will have *tik* a dataslate with the *tik* information prepared and assign a *tik* officer to assist you as *tik* liaison."


The dataslate was quickly provided to Traveller, and Inspector T'r'ik introduced the Praetorians to Officer Dressa, a female Signaian law enforcement officer who would act at their guide and liaison.


"Well, it would appear everything has been arranged for your investigation."  Counselor Farrin stated as they were gathered down in the entrance hall of the law enforcement building.  "Unless you have something else you might need of me Praetorians, I should be getting back to my office.  I of course can be reached should you have need of anything."

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“I see a lot of potential avenues for an investigation. With the resources and manpower we have at hand, we may have to limit it to what strikes us as the most important. Even then we may have to split up in order to cover everything in a reasonable timeframe. “


Barrier nodded as the Counselor spoke, replying after he’d finished. “Thank you for your assistance. Unless any of my allies still have concerns right now, we will get in touch should we require anything else. “


Then she turned back towards the other Praetorians and the local law enforcement. “I suggest we analyse the data we have right now in order to pinpoint the most worthwhile targets for investigation. Some of them may be better suited to the local authorities than us. “

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After they'd taken possession of there home CoVic Sitara had been one of those that insisted that they invest in the best Computer systems they could buy and build. She'd even made sure both the ships had an AI fitted, Akasavani, to help out where they could. She was a fan of good old fashion footwork as well, it was amazing what you learn in a good old-fashioned local watering hole, but it never hurt to look for patterns.


"Let's feed the data to Akasavani and see if she can find a pattern. Whilst she does we should find a bar and get the feel of what is people feel about what happening here."

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"I'll go withh!" Skirris fell eagerly in line behind Sri Sitara, more than keeping up her end of a conversation that didn't seem to have had any beginning and wasn't planned to have an end, the muscular Haasaan darting here, there and everywhere as she took in the sight of a new and glorious orbital habitat. From the chatter it seemed she hadn't had much experience with complexes like this, mostly only planetside establishments and deep-space stations like CoVic.


When they arrived at the first stop on their pub crawl to victory, Hyperslice made sure to keep up the pace. In moments she was sliding casually into booths next to beings around half her size, draping inconspicuously across tables and collaring random patrons for rigorous interrogation.


Unfortunately, while she did great keeping most of the attention off of Sitara so the Traveler could approach some of the more knowledgeable people in the sink, she couldn't keep focused long enough to actually find out anything. The thirty minutes she spent trying to get the attention of a hulking tower of a Jerreid weren't much help either.

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Sending the data from Inspector T'r'ik off to Akasavani for analysis, the Praetorians then set off for a local bar to see what they could learn.


The orbital city was set up to be open and spacious, more akin to being on the surface of a world than actually out in space.  On CoVic Station, there were only a few parts of the station that currently were set up along such lines, the largest being the Main Plaza.  Between Barrier’s towering form and Hyperslice’s constant zipping about certainly attracted a bit of attention as they went.


The nearest bar looked to be a nice enough place, although it lacked the certain "character" (as Moon-Moth would say) of the paces Traveller tended to frequent. 


Inside, Officer Dressa did her best to try to contain Hyperslice somewhat, really only managing to get the Hassaan to stop detaining patrons and interrogating them. 


While Hyperslice was acting as an unintended distraction, Traveller managed to speak with a few locals.  Most expressed a growing concern about the brazen thefts and whether the local law enforcement would be able to do anything about them.  One of the individuals she spoke with told her that he had heard that the Indigo Moon based much of its operations out of a few locations in the lower levels of the orbital city.


Just as Traveller was done speaking with that patron, she and Barrier received a communication from Akasavani regarding the analysis of the robbery data.  A number of the thefts were similar only in that they were of rare and valuable materials that could be easily sold on the black market.  However, a large number of the thefts were much more unusual in that they were of high tech equipment parts and supplies.  While those could also likely be sold for a nice sum on a black market, the high tech components that had been stolen all had practical applications in nanotech development.

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Entering the bar, Barrier followed her standard protocol for info-based bar visits. She walked over to a corner close by the exit, and before even ordering, sized up the room. There was nothing that immediately stood out, which in bars like these meant that the only things she’d likely find were rumours and gossip. Which, when she had a whole bunch of official information to go off, didn’t seem nearly as useful as it did other times.


Still, perhaps there was something to be overheard. She casually (as casually as Barrier could, at least) walked to the bar, where she ordered whatever local flavour the bar had to offer, before just standing off to the bar’s side, listening into whatever conversations were happening. Once the analysis came in, she walked back over to her allies.


“It appears we’ve found a potential lead. Officer, what do you know about the local nanotech industry, off the top of your head?”

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Officer Dressa had just been trying to keep Hyperslice from bothering another of the patrons, pulling on the larger Praetorian's arm in the hopes of guiding Hyperslice away from the other Signian the Hassaan had focused on.  "Please Praetorian."  Dressa pleaded.  "Let these people enjoy their drinks in peace."


When Barrier asked her question, the Signian law enforcement officer looked up at the towering Praetorian.  "Well, I am not a scientist, so I am not familiar with all the particulars, but nanotech is central to many of our leading companies efforts to help restore the worlds cyberformed by the Communion."

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<"I want anssswersss, damnit!"> Shoving the beleaguered officer away with a lash of her powerful tail, Hyperslice slammed her fist onto the table, glaring down at the thoroughly confused Signaian. From the sweat beading on their rough skin, they hadn't expected a day involving a giant armored snake yelling at them. 


Nervously, they began <"B-but I don't know anything about-">


<"Wrong choisssce, bussster!"> hoisting them up with one hand, Hyperslice grabbed their drink and upended it down her throat with the other. <"We're here sssaving livesss, you think I'm going to let sssome pisssweed get in my way?! Thisss isss why you people are going misssing and losssing your crazy-asss tech! You're all fine with jussst waiting until sssomeone elssse fixesss it! Any other sssyssstem, people would care! They wouldn't wait for usss to do sssomething! Every ssscycle you wait, the bigger the chansssce  sssomeone you love getsss caught in the crosssfire!">


Dropping them unceremoniously back into their seat, Skirris rounded on Officer Dressa. <"And you! Keeping intelligensssce that could sssave livesss from the public! What if we fail? Thisss isssn't some techlesss backwater! You have millionsss on thisss ssstation alone!">



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Sitara wasn't in charge, she'd never wanted to be in charge, but after all her experience she'd achieved some respect among her fellow Praetorians. Normally she was fairly relaxed among her fellow Praetorians, but very occasionally she would use her influence.


"Simmer down Praetorian, this is a problem they want to solve as much as we do." she gently but firmly put her hand on Skirris's shoulder


"Let's hope that this isn't anything Communion related, that could quickly get very messy indeed! Even if it not things can go bad pretty quickly, we need to shut this down quickly if we can." she thought for a second before adding


"The assemblers will need some power to set the process in motion, we should be able to track a power use like that down pretty easily."

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Officer Dressa righted herself after being shoved aside, straightening out her uniform.  "Is this really you method of investigation Praetorian?"  She exclaimed, real anger in her voice now.  "Threatening our citizens who are peacefully going about their business?  Disparaging myself and other law enforcement officers?  If so, you are no better than those you are supposedly here to stop.  Perhaps I should just report this to Counelor Farrin’s office with the recommendation that we withdraw our request for assistance."


The squat Signaian then moved and placed herself between Hyperslice and any of the other bar patrons.

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Queenie had been simply listening and following along. Investigation wasn’t her strong suit at all. She was the head chef of a busy restaurant, and that left little time for picking up other skill sets. Her hero work was generally of the “rescue” and “punch out bad guys” varieties. She was a little bored, honestly. She was technically doing what Barrier was doing, but as she didn’t speak any of the languages it was much less helpful. But that was all right, she’d show her worth later on. Or, as Hyperslice was getting carried away, right now. A wall of silvery energy suddenly separated the aggressive Praetorian from the bar’s patrons, sliding between her and Officer Dressa. “It would be very nice if anyone who knew anything talked to us. I doubt I can keep my associate back for very long.”

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Barrier didn’t agree with Hyperslice’s … well, most things. She felt that this wasn’t the style of investigation required for the current mission, it was something more worthy of some of Barrier’s less lawful allies. Which had it’s own use, but having Praetorians on official assignments act like this, it didn’t sit right with her. And that didn’t even touch on what else she thought of the way too fast Haasaan.


“I doubt we will find much information here, at least not while acting in an official fashion. I would thus suggest we turn our attention to what Sitara has brought up, if they are using the technology for anything, it will likely be putting out some sort of signature we can trace. We should figure out where we can start. If we assume it is related to the restoration, is there any one company that seems the most suspicious? “


Then, she addressed Dressa. “Officer, can you inform your people of these recent developments and forward whatever data you may have or dig up to us? I believe a large group of people will be more efficient at figuring out what we’re looking at, but we have a certain wildcard factor that any criminal enterprise may not be able to deal with. “

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Skirris couldn't look ashamed, which was a blessing, but she also couldn't meet Officer Dressa's eyes after Sitara's reminder of the Imperial Legion's place on the station. Hyperslice wasn't called on for missions often and the secret plan to rescue the crew of a Lor experimental ship had been a joyride after a cycle crammed into CoVic Station. Sri Sitara had had even approved of her, treated her like an equal. But...



"Simmer down Praetorian, this is a problem they want to solve as much as we do." 


...she was still half a child to them, and the muted-gray forcefield springing up to assure people her handlers were on the case was a gust of sand into the wound. Turning awkwardly to the Signaian she'd manhandled, she mumbled "I'm...sssorry." To Dressa she added "I...I didn't mean any of...I'm sssorry."


The look she got in return can be easily imagined, but it wasn't half as cutting as what looked for sure to be Sri Melek giving her a withering glance. Her other comrade from the ship expedition, and she'd shamed her as well.


Thoroughly deflated, Hyperslice slithered out of the bar to wait outside. She coiled into a loose pile in a corner and stonily ignored the curious looks of passers-by as she gnawed at the faux-pas. 

For most of the Praetorians, this would have been a momentary setback, a slip-up to be quickly set aside and taken as a reminder of what not to do in stressful situations where lots of people were there to see.


'I've ruined it. They're going to finish this mission, and send me home. My first big shot and I wasted it' Then, of course, came what would happen when she got back to Nest. What would her mother say? What would Queen-Mother? Would they put the Dam back together? Get the mentats to staple her brain? Throw her into the sun?


Hyperslice brooded in the corner, waiting for the worst to happen.

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Queenie sighed. Someone should go after Hyperslice. She was clearly upset. And, as both Traveller and Barrier had actual detective skills, apparently, Maybelle McQueen was elected. The silver wall vanished as quickly as it showed up, and with a quick word to Sitara, she went to find the serpentine Praetorian. Not that Hyperslice was hard to find, however. Queenie stood there, thinking. Words were out. Wildly different languages. Kind words in Earth languages could sound threatening to human non-speakers. So instead, the ring slinging chef simply smiled reassuringly, had a seat next to the more impulsive heroine, and said nothing at all.

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The Praetorians were an official organisation and hence had to stay within the bounds of interstellar law, but sometimes you needed to get your hands dirty and dig in places where they didn't want you to go. Normally she liked to be the one doing the digging, but apparently, she was playing the part of the playing within the system. This must be how Amara feels all the time she mused as she switched to the Praetorians private channel.


"Skirris we need to work on your diplomacy, but we can use this to our advantage. Kresh go with her and poke around where they don't want us to go." she switched to English for the Terran benefit "Queenie you and me will play nice with the local authorities and use their resources."


A plan in place she turned her attention back to Officer Dressa, all smiles and charm


"My apologies for the ruckus, one of will escort her back to our craft for the duration of our visit." she nodded to Barrier "I'd like to look for the possibility of these rogue assemblers, can we use you official sensor suite?"

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