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Toccata and Fugue


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Coalition Victory Station, Docking Bay 2

Late January

7:30 PM


For the past few months, Ori-Bath, scion of House Nos, Countess of Lugo, had been bandied about various Lor worlds, talking to countless faceless bureaucrats while being redirected at every turn. Though she had come to them for aid, the Lor and their pitiful Coalition had been reluctant to aid her. Nokton and its small demesne was outside both the Republic and the Khanate, a minor independent power, and thus it was not politically expedient to intervene in such a small matter. Especially since the Grand Duke of Nokton was similarly uninterested in doing anything about the problem, and had made as much clear to any who asked him.


However, after some mild intimidation of low-ranking pencil-pushers and a dedicated effort to being a thorn in the side of the bureaucracy, Ori-Bath had been directed to the Coalition Victory station, basely referred to as “CoVic” by the locals. There, she was told she might be able to make some allies who could prove useful to her in her dynastic struggle in the future.


Many had been warned in advance of her notoriously acidic temperament before her arrival, in order to ensure as few issues as possible. She had received some warnings in return about her own behaviour, but she had mostly tuned out. She was a countess, and conduct herself as such.




“This is Ori-Bath, Countess of Lugo, aboard the Pale Rider. I have forwarded you the requisite permits, and am looking to land. You shall furnish me with a docking bay. Is this clear?” Said Ori-Bath, speaking over her channel to the docking manager.


“...Alright, checks out, you’re cleared to land in Bay 2,” responded a monotone voice.


Before she could take issue with the blasé manner in which she was addressed, Ori-Bath’s attention was drawn by the landing lights guiding her towards Bay 2. She decided that she would merely complain later to their superior, and instead focus on claiming her spot before some other buffoon tried to. Flicking a few switches, Ori-Bath guided her ship into the bay, deploying her landing gear and feeling the familiar rocking of the landing process as her ship settled into position.


She waited for the bay doors to close behind her, and listened to the characteristic hiss as breathable air rapidly filled the room around her. After a few minutes, a green light flashed telling her that it was now safe to depart the Pale Rider and head into the bay itself.


With a loud hum, the walkway descended from the Pale Rider, and Ori-Bath descended. She was dressed in the Panoply of Nos, complete with sword. Her cape fluttered behind her as she walked down the steps, eyes searching for any procession to meet her. She wished to make an impression on this day, to make it known that she was not someone to be trifled with.


Behold!” She cried. “Starlok has arrived!”

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The Traveller

After her time out of the frontier Sitara felt the need for some normality, and she had to spend some time working for the Praetorian. She was after all officially serving so she should help out, so when news came down about a potential VIP arriving on the station, she sauntered on down to greet the newcomer.


Starloks arrival really didn’t fill her with confidence, she’d dealt with a wide range of people who acted much like herself or worse over the centuries.


“I’m Sitara, welcome to the station! I’m afraid we weren’t informed of your arrival, just who would you be?”

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Ori-Bath stared at the greeter, and folded her arms, shifting her weight to convey just how unimpressed she was with the news that none knew she was coming. Considering what she had done to come here, that seemed unlikely.


“I am Ori-Bath, Countess of Lugo, alias STARLOK! And I am certain I lodged several communiques with your group,” she said in perhaps the most posh and aristocratic register of the Lor language, before producing a data pad from a pocket within her cape. She moved through it quickly, before settling on a screen involving several messages back and forth between her and a functionary. CC’d were the Praetorians and other station officials.


“Do you see this here?” she asked, gesturing to the screen. “What this is here is a series of messages in which it is confirmed that I shall be visiting the station on this date, is it not? And you are telling me that you were not informed, yes?”


She frowned. “That is quite curious. Perhaps I should have a look at your data-pad and see if somehow it missed yours? Would you like to check?” It was clear by her tone that she was talking down to Sitara, being entirely certain she would find the same messages there.

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The Traveller

Oh, this was going to be fun! Sitara had always had a problem with pomposity, it was why she wasn’t often sent on diplomatic missions, give her a bar with half a dozen people trying to shank you. At least then you knew what you were getting into.


“I am Sitara Shanshikala, lowborn of the Indus valley, I’m and Engineer, Architect and Warrior. I’ve been Queens, Empresses, Prime Leaders and Revolutionaries now I’m a Praetorian between bouts of wandering. Is that good enough for a welcoming committee?”


She smiled and activated the comm unit on her arm.


“But if that’s not enough… Hey I Amara I’ve got some grand poobah down here that want’s the grand tour. You best send someone down before I get irked.”

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"Traveller, this is Elite." Came the response through Sitara's comm unit. "There was a bit of a mix up with station flight control. The countess was supposed to be routed to the Praetorians' docking bay. Paradigm should be there momentarily."


The Praetorians' tactical specialist was quickly proven correct, when a pair of flying figures appeared heading toward the docking bay from the outside of the station. The lead figure was dressed in a full length white bodysuit, with black diamond shapes with golden trim on the shoulders and upper chest. The black gloves and boot had similar trim and a long black cape trailed behind the figure as it flew through the atmospheric barrier field and moved quickly over towards Stalock and Taveller.


As the figure drew closer it became apparent that it was a female humanoid with orange skin and long hair which was dark purple and black.


"Greeting countess, I am Paradigm." The new arrival stated as she landed nearby. "My apologies for the misunderstanding with station flight control." The Praetorian leader’s tone was respectful and apologetic, but also confident and firm.

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The figure accompanying Paradigm did not appear at first to be flying under his own power. He stood upon a metal disc as it soared through the air. After it came to a stop, he jumped off while it hovered in place a few feet above the ground. Paradigm, The Traveller, and Starlok were all the same height, and when he touched down, he stood head and shoulders above all of them. He appeared to be a humanoid sheep, covered in blue fur and little else. He wore neither shirt nor shoes, simply a scarlet loin cloth which left very little to the imagination. His head was adorned with a massive rack of curved horns. His body was surrounded by a golden glow, which made it appear slightly blurry, as if he were being viewed through a soft-focus lens. When he touched down, he pressed what must have been a button on his belt obscured by the loin cloth, and the golden aura vanished with audible *POP* and *HISS* noises. He held out a meaty three-fingered hand. Tendrils of electricity writhed up and down his arm, and the air around his hand rippled with heat shimmer and refracted light. The hovering disc melted, re-solidified in the form of a coiled chain, and fell into the giant's hand. He heaved it up over his shoulder.


The blue-furred giant laughed and bellowed, as much at the ceiling above him as toward any one person. "THIS?! THIS is the one who DARED interrupt our summit?! This EMACIATED WAIF would not SURVIVE the full tour of THIS CITY OF GLORIOUS VICTORY! Take her directly to the SICK-BAY, for she is CLEARLY not long for this world! She HAS, at least, done us a SMALL COURTESY, for she has saved the UNDERTAKERS a great deal of time by arriving ALREADY CLAD in her FUNERAL DRESS! If THIS is the mightiest warrior her herd can muster, then that herd is likely BEYOND the help of even THE INDOMITABLE PRAETORIANS! Nevertheless, the more HOPELESS the cause, the more CERTAIN the DOOM, the GREATER the TALE! Whatever aid this SCRAWNY CASTAWAY requires may be a waste of time for your PRAETORIANS, but it will no doubt serve as yet another verse in THE EPIC DIRGE OF THE FRYXUS!"


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Ori-Bath glowered at Sitara throughout her rant, but smiled at the end. She was about to make a cutting remark about how she was none of those things anymore, and all the implications that had for her, but then Sitara placated her by summoning her superiors. The arrival of Paradigm cooled the fire in her belly, and she turned to the woman.


“A pleasure,” she said, her tone becoming much more pleasant. “I have flown for a long time an---”


Then, the blue furry thing opened its mouth, and Ori-Bath felt the bile rise in her throat. How dare this loathsome creature address her in such a wa She hissed at him, bearing her fangs, before beginning a rant of her own.


“Bold words for livestock! Verminous worm! I am Starlok, the greatest warrior of my bloodline for two thousand years! I know not what other pitiful slime your kind vomited forth into the galaxy, but if you are the best of them, then it is a sad species indeed!” As she bellowed, she threw her cape behind her in a sweeping gesture. “Think wisely before you run your mouth further, lest I be forced to correct you! I am no one to be trifled with, you cerulean stain!”


She took on an theatrical posture, curling her hand as though she ranted. Her voice projected across the whole docking bay, suggesting she was practiced in giving these sorts of little 'speeches'.

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"'LIVESTOCK?!' HA! So the half-dead waif has FIRE in her belly after all!"


As the blue-furred behemoth shouted and gesticulated, bolts of electricity danced along his body, which was once more surrounded by refracted light and heat ripples. Nearby metal objects such as benches and trash receptacles started randomly hovering in the air or sliding around on the floor. The great coiled chain resting over his shoulder floated as if in water.




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The Traveller

Whilst Sitara was expecting Amara she wasn’t expecting Dirge whilst she like the alien, she’d bought him here after all, he did have a habit of escalating a situation towards violence. And whilst she didn’t like Starlok she didn’t want to start the day trying to break up a fight. When the situation looked that it was about to escalate, she stepped up and put her power pike between the two, it crackling with energy.


“Well I’ve been a warrior for four thousand years and as much as I love a bar room brawl, the landing bay is not the place to start a fight. How about we give you the tour and if you want to pop into the combat room you can feel free.”

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Ori-Bath’s lip curled, and she prepared to enter another long-winded rant, but she was stopped by the interruption of Traveller. Her head snapped to face the woman, but rather than anything venomous, the pause allowed her to regain control of her senses. Loathe as she was to admit it, she was here to make allies and not to start fights. Rolling back her shoulders, Ori-Bath sighed and resumed a more regal posture.


“You are most correct. Starlok is above these petty squabbles,” she said decisively. She looked over at Paradigm, and smiled. “I apologize. I would be most honoured if you would lead me on your tour.”


Quickly, she went over a mental rolodex of the Praetorians, and one settled in her mind. They were all impressive in their own way, as the heroes of the Galaxy, but few could command her interest such as this one.


“It is known to me that one of your ranks is some sort of… master of cookery” she said, smiling. “An earthling. Those in Lor space seem particularly accommodating to denizens of that planet. I must confess that I have never really had a chance to talk to one. I learned the tongue of their ruling empire in order to seek allies there, but I have been advised it is a particularly… primitive planet and thus have avoided it until now.”


“Oh, but look at how I ramble. What I mean to say is that I would be my pleasure to meet all your members.”

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Paradigm wished she could have gotten Dirge to remain at the Praetorian headquarters where she had been speaking with him after Sitara had introduced the powerful and overly enthusiastic Fryxuian, but there was little she could truly do when he had indicated his desire to accompany her as she came out to assist Sitara with the visiting noble. To no real surprise, Dirge had again brought back tension to the exchange with Ori-Bath.


Thankfully, Sitara interjected just as it appeared the two guests appeared about to come to blows. Even as the visiting Countess of Lugo stood down, Paradigm gave a glance back at Dirge. "At peace Dirge." She stated simply before focusing back on Ori-Bath.


"And I again apologize for the various misunderstandings surrounding your arrival." Paradigm stated as she started to lead Ori-Bath away from the docking bay and into the station proper, fully expecting Sitara and Dirge to follow.


At the countess’ mention of one of the Praetorian's Terran members, Paradigm gave a small smile. "Yes, Queenie, she is an excellent cook. But you have actually already spoken with a Terran. Traveller hails from the world, although she left there several thousand years ago, and it has changed a considerable amount in that time."


"And I am not certain I would call the Terran's 'primitive,' To be certain the technology of the world as a whole is just getting to the stage of extra planetary exploration, but there is some more advanced technology in more limited use. And the world has produced a considerable number of exceptional individuals. Perhaps the main disadvantage holding it back from truly joining galactic society is the fact that it lacks a central governing body, instead there are numerous sovereign entities, often in some form of conflict with each other."

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"Hey do us a solid and take it out of the docking bay if you're going to get a thrashing from the Fryxian."  floated a suggestion from further in the terminal as Fa'Rua made her way toward the promenade access port they all gathered about.  As the Lor scout finished her approach she nodded greeting to Traveler and Dirge in turn.  "What she means is the galaxy isn't ready for the Terrans intensity."  she smirked slightly, "Well most of us."  


The scout stopped by the access point and palmed the sensor to get passage into the station as well following along like she belonged there on pure attitude alone.  Whatever dignitary warranted a personal tour from the head Praetorian seemed worth at least knowing about.


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Starlok stopped, and stared at the newcomers, giving them a look that could stop a charging army and send it back the other way. She worked her jaw, and then, after a moment, spoke.


"I do not know why this entire station seems so intent upon provoking me but I assure you, there are far less painful ways to attempt suicide out there. Now, if you should want to follow, that is your prerogative, but you shall find that my patience for insult and jibe has worn exceptionally thin," she said, her voice low, cold and containing barely restrained rage.


She took a second to stop, inhaling and closing her eyes. She reminded herself that she had made an oath to never be like her brother and thus to do the right thing and not act like some terrible engine of vengeance all the time. But so far, so many were making it so difficult. She walked out with Paradigm and the others, trying to think of a more peaceful way to carry on the conversation. She had to remind herself she was a guest here.


"I apologize, but I have had a very... Allow me to relay my story and why I have come to you in this hour of need. Perhaps then you shall understand why I am on edge. I am Ori-Bath of House Nos, Countess of Lugo on the Night Moon of Nokton. Not that long ago, I was to ascend to the position of countess in the wake of my father's retirement. But on the day of the confirmation of my rule, my young brother, the TRAITOR VEN-RUTH!" she cried, her voice suddenly raising a few decibels as she clenched her teeth and balled her hands into fists. "LAID SIEGE TO OUR ANCESTRAL HOME WITH HIS ARMY OF VULTURES AND SLEW BOTH OUR PARENTS BEFORE MY EYES, AND ATTEMPTED TO DO THE SAME TO ME!"


Suddenly, she got quiet again.


"And only by dint of my martial prowess was I able to survive that night, soaked in the blood of people who birthed and raised me from when I held their dying and trembling bodies and make it off planet while bearing the ancient and sacred Panoply of Nos, only to be informed by the Grand Duke that he had no intention of resolving the issue as it would not be politically expedient for him. And so now I am hunted by my own brother's agents as I still bear the Panoply of Nos, and without it, his rule is illegitimate. I am unable to return home lest an entire army descend upon me at once, and am thus forced to live like a vagabond! Yet even after I have explained my situation many times to the Lor government, the most they have offered me, until now, was asylum, and a very hesitant one at that. So I have come to you in the hopes of making future allies against my brother, who made himself a kinslayer and I an orphan." 


She smoothed back her hair, removing her helmet for a moment to sigh at the sky, and curse whomever might be watching up there in the infinite void.


"To put it in more vulgar terms, I have had a very difficult year and I am, I think, understandably a little sore right now."

Edited by Shofet
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"BAH, the Lor are USELESS! It was much the same with me. The Fryxus herds had not yet waged our WARS OF GLORIOUS CONQUEST beyond our native Harsaf system, so the Republic considered Ku'unum to be in 'NEUTRAL space', if they considered us AT ALL. When The Khan INVADED my system, SLAUGHTERED my people, and DESTROYED my planet, some of our vassals among the lesser races of the Harsaf managed to hijack a transport and slip his blockade, at least at first. I was BUT A LAMB then, yet NO LESS EAGER TO DIE IN GLORIOUS BATTLE. But my nursemaid was from one of the lesser races. She did not UNDERSTAND Fryxian honor. So she DENIED me, sedating me and secreting me aboard the ship. To her credit, her fellow refugees would have THROWN BOTH HER AND I OUT THE AIRLOCK if they'd known. When The Khan invaded, the lesser races of the Harsaf showed NO LOYALTY to their RIGHTFUL MASTERS. In her own way, she acted with GREAT COURAGE."


"The Lor offered those refugees their precious ASYLUM, but THE COWARDS would not commit their forces to RECLAIMING our lost worlds. And EVEN ASYLUM THEY WITHHELD until the ship reached Lor space ON ITS OWN, which IT WOULD NOT HAVE, not with the Khan's LACKEYS nipping at its heels, had it not been for ONE HERO, that RARE Lor with BLOOD in their veins instead of WATER, that one hero who led their forces into neutral space AGAINST ORDERS, REFUSING to ABANDON us, that one hero who FOUGHT OFF the pursuing Khanate forces, and was CENSURED AND DEMOTED for their trouble. I STILL do not even know that hero's NAME. TO THIS DAY, the Harsaf system remains part of the Stellar Khanate, and the Lor Republic STILL HAS NOT LIFTED A FINGER to oppose its annexation. It will be the same with your succession."


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Paradigm listened quietly as Ori-Bath described her reasons for coming to CoVic Station and seeking a meeting with the Praetorians and then Dirge spoke up to repeat the story of his people’s fate he had just been telling her when Ori-Bath had arrived. The Naram certainly felt sympathy for the two, but she was in something of a difficult position, given how the Praetorians had positioned themselves following the Incursion.


"You have my deepest condolences Countess Ori-Bath." The Praetorian stated, looking over toward the other woman. "And as I stated before, you do as well Dirge." She added, glancing up toward the towering Fryxuian before looking back to Ori-Bath.


She added apologetically. "Some two thousand cycles ago the situation would have been rather simpler. Where you able to have earned the support of the Empress Traveller and I once served, then we would have gone to aid you at her order. But the Delzatri Empire is long gone, and when we sought to find a new place in the galaxy as it is now we focused on our ancient oath to protect those in need. However, without any authority under which to operate, we only operate where our assistance has been requested. And even then, we have accepted certain limitations, similar to those under which the Star Knights operate. We normally do not get involved in situation that could be seen as purely an internal matter of the world, system or political entity requesting our assistance. There are some exceptions, generally involving hostile influence from some outside party."


"Given the ambivalence of the Grand Duke of your world, I am not certain our assistance would be welcomed to provide you aid for what appears to be an internal matter, terrible as it may be. Now, while you are here on CoVic Station or within the borders of any member of the Coallition, the Praetorians would gladly come to your aid should you need it." Paradigm stated, focusing squarely on Ori-Bath as she spoke. After a moment’s pause, she then added, "of course, where there to be any evidence that your brother was being influence or receiving assistance from some organization or power from beyond your world, then there might be a basis for our becoming involved to address that interference."

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"Well that does sound like the Republic."  Fa'Rua sardonically agreed, "If you had been satellite members perhaps, at least a special subcommittee for the consideration of planning a conference on potential action."  the Lor suggested in response to both tales of woe.


She raised a brow at Kanemu, "You might want to keep the whole 'Lesser Races' thing to a minimum, it almost makes the Khanate sound like the good guys."  She offered with a small shrug, "And that wouldn't do at all."  This was probably why she'd been assigned a special diplomatic liaison.  The scout was perhaps too open in sharing her thoughts, regardless of how impolitic they may be.  Taking a look back at the ship the woman who would be countess flew in on she smirked, "And in that thing hardly a vagabond, idle dilettante perhaps."


She offered a small shrug and looked out toward the milling crowds of the promenade, "CoVic is full of these stories, It's a big galaxy, waiting on the someone to fix you problems for you isn't going to get you far."

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Starlok could suddenly feel both pulses in her ears. She stared at Paradigm, not looking angry but despondent. Of course. Once again the Lor had sent her somewhere useless, just to keep her busy. Her eyes flicked to Dirge and to Fa'Rua. She'd essentially been mocked by those bureaucrats. 


A terrible giggle broke in her throat.


"Of course, of course, how foolish of me. The Lor, for all their pretensions of nobility and justice are a great confederation of peoples ruled by cynical cowards and bureaucrats. Of course they would hamstring any good willed organization like yours in their borders. For without misery, how would they gobble up more peoples to pay them their taxes."


She rubbed at her temples. "I had not come here looking for someone to do everythingt for me, I came looking for allies. An army awaits me at home, numbering in the tens, if not hundreds of thousands. Starlok is impressive, but even I cannot take on that many soldiers by myself. Not Noktoni soldiers," she said.


"They sent me here just to show how alone I am," she said to herself, before looking at them. "I do not blame any of you. I understand the situation you are in. And you..." she said, looking at Dirge. "It seems we have so much in common. I am deeply sorry for your loss."


Pinching her brow, she looked at Paradigm. "If it would be alright with you, I would like to continue the tour... And if we could place somewhere with alcohol in our path, it would be most appreciated."

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The Traveller

Trust me government bureaucracy doesn’t change over the centuries, it still grinds slowly on all but the greatest of crises. Sometimes its take a group like the Praetorians to short cut the process, and even we are bound by the will of the Lor – after all, we’re guests of them here on CoVic.


As she spoke she tapped out a message that appeared in Starlok’s AR feed.


I know some people that might be able to help, but you’ll need to provide more information first.


Smoothly she acted as if nothing was amiss smiling broadly when alcohol was mentioned.


Now that something I know a lot about, I know this dive in the lower levels that has some from your region of space and they’re still giving me a tab as well!”

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