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Ready for anything, the heroes erupted from the pyramid ship, weapons raised as they prepared to do battle with unending robot hordes! But instead they found...stillness. The lights were bright, just as VINCE had suggested, the sharp white glow of the central spine overhead casting harsh shadows everywhere. There was a scent in the air vaguely like the stuff added to natural gas back on Earth, and everywhere there were robots! Eerie humanoid skeletons with three eyes and clawed limbs, ferocious-looking guardians of the Curator that were doing absolutely nothing. For a long time, Harrier eyed the robots, his armor having chunked open over his skin, before he spoke in a voice loud enough for them all to hear. "Look at them. They are not arranged. They are not armed. They are...immobile." And sure enough, the robots were silent and still, caught in the middle of walking, pressing buttons, circulating around the hangar bay, but not a single one moved a metal muscle. Harrier walked over to one, still wrapped in armor. "It does not react."

"So what does that mean?" asked Quickstep, scrubbing her hands along her arms as she leaned out of the ship. "Is he waiting for something? Is this really his base? Are we were we're supposed to be?" She wrinkled her nose against the smell. "What do we do now?"

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The Bee-Keeper wasn't far behind as Wander and the others lead the charge, taking up a loftier position so as to provide the air support he'd been assigned. Ready to blast first and ask questions later, Baxter was just as surprised as Harrier and Quickstep as it became increasingly apparent that for all the trouble the Curator had gone through to snag them, there wasn't much resistance waiting for them in his stronghold. In fact, it seemed as though there wasn't any resistance whatsoever! The Hero of the Hive hovered above the scene for a moment as Harrier took in his own analysis, then gently returned to the ground; both relieved and perplexed.

"I... I don't know," murmured the still frightened-yet-adrenaline-pumped teen hero back to Dorothy as he looked on at the vaguely humanoid, stationary robots. "Maybee he wazzn't exxpecting uzz? Or maybee you're right, 'Zztep; are you zzure VINZZE brought uzz to the right plazze?" he inquired, panning back to Jill O'Cure and the others. He looked around again, becoming increasingly unnerved by the eerie stillness of the Curator's domicile and its unaware hosts that littered the hangar. Where was the awaiting ambush? The attempted recapture? Something wasn't quite right here; Baxter could feel it in his gut.

"Thizz feelzz weird. Zzeriouzzly, izz anyone elzze weirded out by how off thizz plazze izz?" he whispered, relaxing his stance only slightly as the droids just stood still; frozen in whatever their business had been and keenly unaware of the groups presence. "It'zz like we juzzt don't exizzt."

With that, the Bee-Keeper fluttered up cautiously towards one of the immobile robots nearest to the group, giving it a slight and subtle poke with his finger before recoiling in anticipation of some sort of alarm or countermeasure. Just as Harrier said, nothing happened - not even a twitch!

"Okay. Kind of creepy," he whispered again, pausing a moment to collect himself as he re-entered the fold of his comrades. "I guezz... I guezz we juzzt look for a zzhip to get uzz back home. Doezzn't look like thezze robotzz are going to do anything to zztop uzz. What do you guyzz think?"

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Blue Jay had her bow out and extended, an arrow tipped with Curator-metal nocked and pulled to full draw. One of the advantages of a compound bow was that once the arrow was drawn, it only required minimal effort to keep it ready to fire. So she was able to keep it pointed at the Curator's army of drones and pick her shot.

Except there was no shot to take. None of them were moving. Not a single one appeared to be animate or aware of their presence in any way. Jay kept turning, trying to keep the entire bay in view at once, waiting for one or all of the robots to rush as them with murderous intent. The tension was wearing on her, though, and they couldn't linger in this landing bay forever. "It's an opportunity," she said. "We shouldn't miss it." She hurried towards the exit, hoping the proper way forward would be obvious. "I'm the quietest, so I'll scout ahead. Stay a hundred feet back; if I run into trouble we can regroup quickly enough."

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Wander rubbed the back of her neck and stared around at the giant bay. "It could be a trap," she mused, "get us in here, activate the robots and cut us off from behind, but we've been basically already trapped this whole time. If he wanted us up here, he'd have brought us here in the first place." She walked up to one of the robots, stared at its lifeless face. "We still don't know why that ship crashed the way it did, and Vince said all communications were dead. Could something have happened to the Curator? Something that hurt or distracted him enough that he stopped automating his drones and drone ships?"

Keeping her bat at the ready, she turned to follow Blue Jay down the hall. "If that's true, we might have just a little time before he comes back. We'd better put it to work." She didn't look entirely happy about the stealthy but somewhat fragile Blue Jay taking the lead, but didn't say anything against it either. "Harrier, you stay to the back and watch for trouble. Quickstep, you stay right here by me and don't go anywhere, okay?" She gave the teenager a stern look. "And if I say run, you run like hell, teleport back to the ship if you have to." Still frowning, Erin hefted her knapsack and moved out after the archer.

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Jill let Wander and Harrier take point, but shimmering blue crescents floated ahead of them and at shifting intervals around the rest of the group as they stepped out of the drone ship. While one glowing hand maintained the force fields, the other adjusting the strap of the shoulder-slung bag she'd picked up on the surface and used to carry VINCE's hard drive. "Eugh, robots..." she muttered uncomfortably under her breath, glancing at the still but menacing inorganic figures with trepidation. Hazarding a guess in a field well outside her area of expertise she agreed with Erin, "Makes sense? Like he's got somewhere better to be, or to at least pay attention to for now?" As the group shifted formation and began to move out, her face fell with a creeping feeling of dread. Not wanting to shake up the younger abductees, she stepped a little closer to Wander and lowered her voice. "Aw nertz, what if he's ignoring us 'cause he's too busy controlling the things that replaced us back home? The sick freak could be pulling his big play right now."

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Jill's question had Wander pursing her lips into a tight frown before she replied in an equally soft voice, "If that's what's going on, we can't do much about it from here. Mara and Trevor are both smart, observant people, they've got to know something is wrong. They'll be fighting back, and they'll have plenty of help, I'm sure. What we can do is to take advantage of the distraction to maybe get ourselves free. Maybe we'll even be able to screw with him from this side, divide his attention even more." She let out a breath that was not quite a sigh. "Either way, it's better to try not to think about what we can't change right now."

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The heroes walked the halls of the Curator's stronghold for hours, passing down long, long triangular corridors and even climbing up long, long access chutes with the metal cold against their hands, perhaps from the depths of space outside. The silent halls seemed to stretch out forever, as did the vast rooms full of stilled machinery they occasionally explored. The lights were still on and there was the occasional deep bass rumble of whatever machinery was keeping the power and life support systems running, but for the most part the vast complex was nothing but a tomb - a tomb for thousands of skeletal robot drones everywhere, some fallen over, others frozen in place, each looking as if they'd simply turned off as they went about whatever tasks made up the day-to-day life of the Curator's robotic servants. Some of the rooms they explored held artifacts from alien worlds, as silent as the rest of the complex, but none of them were technical experts, though Steve did go white along his scars and quickly walk past one particular structure that looked like an old-fashioned dentist's chair strapped to the middle of a geometry-defying forest of blades.

For his part, it was tough for Steve not to feel on edge - a gigantic fortress owned by a cosmic threat stirred up bad memories indeed, and though this was far too bright, quiet, and clean-smelling for one of the fortresses of his youth, it was still a grim place indeed. He kept his armor on after they left the doomforge behind, walking a little behind the others. (Given his lack of stealth, it was the best place for him) He was about to suggest they turn around and begin making plans to bed down for the night by VINCE's ship when suddenly he cocked his head and said, "VINCE is messaging us. There is a vessel outside the hangar, attempting to cut through the doors."

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Hours of fluttering at the back of the pack had left the corridors filled with the low buzz of the Bee-Keeper's mechanical wings, whilst Baxter himself endeavoring as best as he could muster to keep an eye out for whatever dangers might yet lurk within the Curators' eerily quiet fortress. Yet nothing came up. Hours upon hours of trekking through the brightly lit home of their captor revealed nothing but more robots and relics from another time or another place; but there was little time for amazement or horror, as was appropriate. They were on a mission - and right now, all Baxter wanted was to find that ship and get home.

When Harrier next spoke, however, that uncomfortable sensation amidst the silence of the unflinching robots was quickly replaced as Baxter's blood ran cold.

"What do you mean zzomeone'zz trying to cut their way through the doorzz?" the Bee-Keeper interjected, voice riddled with as much with frantic disbelief as undiluted shock.

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Blue Jay froze when Harrier's announcement came over the comm channel. Hours of crawling through the shining metal corridors had her on edge; if they had been trekking through fields and forests it might be different, but the Curator's base reminded her too much of the horrors of her homeworld. "Do we really want to worry about this," she asked, her voice tense. "If it's one of the Curator's robots, then it's the only one moving. If it catches up with us, we can deal with it then." She glanced around, starting to regret her decision to wander so far ahead of the group. "We should keep moving and find a ship to take us home."

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"It is not a Curator robot," replied Harrier through the commlink with an urgent shake of his head. "He cannot access the sensors aboard the ship by remote, but he was able to tell that the ship was sending radio hails, then attempting to open the door by remote, before they began cutting their way through the hull with a laser weapon, it..." Harrier shook his head. "He has lost the signal. We must move," he called as he turned and began heading towards their rear. "All the Curator's ships we have seen have no will but his, as are his robots. If there is another vessel there, even if it is piloted by humanoid slaves or creatures from his Ringworld, it provides us the most efficacious way of returning home. I for one tire of roaming the corridors of his dead hearthworld."

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"Who would be stupid enough to try breaking in here? Besides us, obviously," Jill asked rhetorically, one eyebrow lowering while the other lifted toward her bangs. They been away from Earth long enough that her natural dusty brown roots were starting to show at the base of her dyed black hair. "Do you think they might be other escapees? Or... space pirates? Are those a thing? They seem like they'd be a thing." Rubbing her temple with one hand, the medic sighed, turning to jog after Harrier. "Guess there's only one way to find out. Everybody try to stay close; if they breach the hull I should be able to get an airtight bubble around us. Probably." She gave the others a shrug as they moved, retracing their steps. "Not like I've tried before. Or is this place big enough to have an atmosphere? ...space is stupid and I think I hate it."

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"Space pretty much sucks if you can't breathe in it," Erin agreed. "Though zero-g has its good moments." She ahemmed and turned to Quickstep. "I don't want to wear you out, but we're hours' walk away from the ship. I can carry Jill and Blue Jay and run back, with Jill's forcefield to protect us from walls. If you can take Harrier and Beekeeper, we'll all be there within a couple of minutes." She took off her backpack and handed it to Harrier, the better to carry human cargo. "But nobody fight until we're all back together again. Strength in numbers, even when we're outnumbered ten-thousand to one."

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How Erin and Jill could crack wise at how sucktacular space was, Baxter couldn't comprehend; nor did he feel particularly inclined to care. All he was interested in was Wander's plan to get back to the ship before these new interlopers finally cut their way in. If they happened to be friendly, then hey, bonus points for being lucky! If they weren't... well, the whole 'ten-thousand-to-one' thing wasn't sitting too well in the Bee-Keeper's mind, his face already devolving into a fervent grimace at the prospect of having to fight their way aboard a foreign vessel that might or might not get them back home where they belonged.

It also seemed like he didn't have a choice in the matter. It was fight or flight, and Baxter? Baxter was going to get home, a discernible degree of confidence returning to the armored teenager's voice as he slammed a gauntlet-clad fist into an awaiting palm, shoulders rising from their slumped position as his still sore muscles tensed at the fortuitous prospect.

"Zzpazze piratezz, zzpazze alienzz, giant zzpazze hamzzterzz... whatever, man! Ten-thouzzand or ten-million -- I'm ready. Whoever thezze people are or whatever they're doing here, I'm not going to pazz up a chanzze for a free ride back home!"

Turning to Dorothy, the Bee-Keeper gave the equally young teleporter as much of a reassuring nod as he could muster in a vain attempt to mimic Jill's impromptu pep-talk hours earlier, sans smacking Quickstep right upside her noggin.

"C'mon. It'zz time for uzz get outta here."

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They made their way back just in time to see the circular 'door' fall away as the cutting team on the other side finally made contact. From their position just inside the door, not trusting VINCE's remote link for something like this, the heroes watched as the trio of armored, helmeted humanoids stepped out through the doorway. In their green armor and golden helmets, they looked like any other members of a successful space-going civilization, albeit perhaps more high-budget than the ones Jill had encountered earlier in her career, and in far better condition than the ones Harrier was familiar with. They were all clearly armed, with rifles slung over their backs, and when one pulled a square box from a shoulder holster for a moment Steve was convinced it was a grenade. Instead the unknown soldier waved the box in the air amid beeping lights and said something over a helmet loudspeaker.

"They're speaking the standard Lor military dialect," Steve murmured to the others, invisible to the light where he crouched behind his pike's chameleon field. "I don't...speak it," he admitted as the leader of the trio opposite the bay stepped away from the others and removed her helmet. With her short red hair and bronze skin, she vaguely resembled Vrix Dopple, the Claremont RA Blue Jay had met a few times on campus. The woman called something out loud, then again, in what was evidently another language, raising her hands and baring her teeth as she looked around the shuttlebay, peering around the room cluttered with immobile drones.

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Having beaten these Lor militants to the punch, the Bee-Keeper remained hunkered down behind the much more physically imposing form of Harrier and his impromptu camouflage, doing his best not to squirm too much lest he give himself away. Whoever these Lor people were, Harrier didn't seem to know whether they were friend or foe by their foreign dialogue -- but for Baxter, the sight of the blaster rifles slung over their shoulders certainly gave the armored teen due pause. At least they didn't seem to know where the odd gaggle of displaced superheroes were; huddled in and around the docking bay they'd arrived in like frightened field mice hiding from some potential predator.

The problem for the Bee-Keeper wasn't hiding, so much as it was being so close -- so very, very close! -- to what might be their best escape route away from the Curator's ringworld. There he sat, crouched behind the former Omegadrone for cover as he watched the space-suit wearing soldiers, biting his lip impatiently until the faint taste of blood touched upon the tip of his tongue. They weren't getting anywhere just sitting here, looking on like cheap voyeurs. They needed to find out where these Lor guys stood; and it didn't seem likely that they'd be doing much sneaking around between two heavily-armored heroes anyway.

Looks like it was the direct approach or bust.

"Alright. Alright... uh..." the Bee-Keeper whispered through the commlink, collecting himself as he looked on through the illusion of terrain Steve's pike was casting towards the armed space-troopers. "You guyzz juzzt zzit tight. I'm gonna do zzomething really, really zztupid."

Taking a deep breath, Baxter rose up to his full if not modest height as he stepped out from behind Harrier, his stomach a mess of tensed muscles and uneasy queasiness even as he strode out into the openness of the Curator's hangar bay. This was probably a terrible idea, and Baxter almost immediately regretted stepping out into the line of sight of the figures whom had breached the sanctity of the Curator's inner sanctum. But, hey, at least this way the rest of the ragtag bunch of would-be heroes remained safely concealed -- besides, someone was going to have to say something eventually. Might as well be him, what with his tin can suit of armor, to go out and gamble on whether or not these intergalactic interlopers spoke English.

"Yo!" he greeted the entourage of Lor, modulated voice weary from hours of trekking through the massive base as he waved with a lone hand towards the heavily armed soldiers whilst still trying to remain a seemingly nonthreatening target, silently praying they understood not only his words but his nonviolent intentions. The last thing he needed today was to get shot full of holes over some stupid miscommunication! "I... uh... I don't zzuppozze you guyzz would happen to have a zzhip that can get back to Earth, wouldja?"

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"Baxter!" Erin hissed, though not quite quickly enough to stop the battlesuited teen from breaking cover and stepping out to meet the new arrivals. The kid had guts, she had to give him that much. And at least enough brains not to start a fight intentionally. Unfortunately, with that battlesuit on, he could've been anyone or anything, including another of the thousands of robots littlering the bay. She didn't even know if the Lor planets had bees, but the striped and streamlined battlesuit didn't exactly scream peaceful intentions. Keeping her bat in its holster, she scrambled out after him, putting her own hands up to match the nonthreatening posture of the Lor leader. Unarmored and unarmed, she hoped she didn't look like someone out to pick a fight.

"Hello," she called to them, stepping up next to Baxter. "Do you speak any English? We're from Earth, we were kidnapped by the Curator. My name is Wander, and this is Beekeeper III. "

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The trio looked at each other for a moment before the leader pressed a button on her armored spacesuit's wrist and began speaking slowly and clearly, her English resounding not out loud but in everyone's minds. "Greetings, citizens of Terra. I am Samran-86, and these are my subordinates, Vrix-117 and Shepard-07. You were taken by the Curator?" The officer looked curious, and not a little concerned. "We had no idea he had begun kidnapping protected species again, much less from a planet as heavily-guarded as Earth. How long have you been held here? Do you know anything about his current condition?"

"We have been cognizant for some days now," replied Harrier, breaking cover now that these aliens no longer seemed a threat, trusting that the stealthy Blue Jay could maintain her disguise in the event a crisis did develop. "But we cannot say how long he held us. We captured a vessel on the surface and piloted it here using our own technology. What _is_ the Curator's condition?"

Shepard spoke, the soldier's armored voder making it impossible to determine race, species, or gender. "The Curator continually broadcasts "Stay away or be destroyed" on all communications channels, and in all known languages, simultaneously - it's the closest thing he comes to have a conscience. 77 hours ago, that broadcast _stopped_ for the first time in a century."

"Our ship, the Quantum Singularity, was on patrol in the Zenas system when the broadcast stopped. That made us the nearest militia unit, and so we went in," added Samran. "As far as we can tell, all systems at this node, and all the others, are inactive, even the emergency defenses. It's as if someone came in and just turned the Curator...off."

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Jill winced as Beekeeper announced his presence and Wander scrambled after him, but had to admit that 'stupid' had an uncanny was of expediting these things for better or worse in her experience. Holding her breath, she prepared to lower a force field between the pair of humans and the alien newcomers, tensing a bit when she felt the brush of the translator against her mind. Ultimately, though, the trio seemed friendly enough that she stepped forward herself, though she kept her metamagi energies at the metaphorical tip of her tongue. It would be a heck of a lot easier to shield Baxter and Erin if she were closer to them anyway.

"Uh, hey. Jill," she introduced herself with a cough and a small wave. "You guys are Lor, yeah? I think mi hermano actually helped out one of your princesses a while back? Like a high caste royalty or however you do it? Ion, Aya, Iana? Something like that?" For the first time she wished she'd actually paid more attention to her elder sibling's tall tales. "Er, anyway. This guy's kidnapped people before? The details have been pretty sparse out here."

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The three Lor soldiers looked at each other again, and Harrier realized that they had to be communicating with each other telepathically. "Yes, we're familiar with that incident," replied Samran with a nod. She smiled thinly, then added, "And given the family in question and their relationship with the military, I know that's not the kind of story you'd make up to try and win our favor, so that's a point for you." Shaking her head, she added, "As far as the replicants, yes, it's a trick the Curator has pulled before. Take someone from a populated world; Lor, independent, Khanate, even Grue, and replace them with a robot double. Sometimes duplicates have gone years, even decades, without being detected. I don't know anything about Earth," she admitted, "so I don't know what would make him want to target you. What matters now," she added, "is that we have to get all of you out of here. Every ship in the parsec is going to be here once they realize the Curator's not guarding his treasures anymore, and that's no place for you people."

"It's such a tragedy," added Shepard with a murmur. "If the systems don't reboot themselves, there won't be anything powering the attitude control machinery of the ringworld. This isn't a dynamically stable system," the soldier added, "which means that in just a few dozen rotations of the ring, it's going to start falling out of alignment, and in just a few more, it'll fall out of the habitable zone. Trillions of people gone, just like that."

"Won't your government take action to prevent that?" asked Steve curiously, given pause by the words of their erstwhile rescuers. "I know of the Lor, they do value life even when it is hostile to them."

"The wheels of government grind slow," replied Samran. "The Curator's been a threat to this part of space for a long time, and any activity here runs the risk of waking him up all over again. But that's not really in my parsec, you know? Let's get out of here."

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"Whoa, whoa, WHOA!" shouted the Bee-Keeper suddenly, palms upraised defiantly towards the Lor unwilling to do something about these trillions of lives at stake. Whatever flicker of confidence Baxter had been sporting a few moments ago seemingly erupted into a full-on inferno, eyes narrowing against the intergalactic mentalists. He'd already potentially doomed the captured Doctor Stratos as the Freedom City he'd been stationed on was ripped away, but this was a whole other kettle of fish plus a large side of drama-fries.

"We can't juzzt leave them here!" demanded the armored angsty teenager turned peoples' advocate. The placid face etched into the Bee-Keeper's helmet might have been an unflinching epitome of insectile indifference, but it didn't take any sort of imagination to envision the look the dark-skinned boy had ingrained on his face; teeth barred and brow furled, looking more akin to a wild animal backed into a corner. "If you can't do zzomething, then let uzz! We're not part of your parzzect-whateverzz! There hazz to be zzome way we can take control of the Curator'zz zztuff and zzave thezze people, right? Zzome kind of way to reboot the Curator'zz zzyzztemzz?"

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"Woah, woah, easy there Black-and-Yellow," Jill cut in with a soothing tone and a hand on Baxter's shoulder. "I'm sure these guys aren't going to throw their careers in the trash compactor, right?" The medic looked to each of the three Lor in turn, her face the very picture of surprise that they hadn't worked something out for themselves already. "Well, I mean, c'mon. You guys do have media and public opinion back home, right? The first chance in a century to rescue trillions - trillions! - of people, prove the Republic can stand up to one of the cosmic big bads and you don't even try because, what, you're not getting paid enough?" She pursed her lips and raised both palms as though warding off the mere thought of it. "You think the military's got political problems now, Dios, watch out. Who do you think the brass is going to throw under the space bus first chance once things go pear shaped? Pear's an Earth fruit," she explained conversationally, "means a real mess. Anyway, either that or return the conquering heroes, leading a rag tag group of hard working soldiers and backwater aliens to strike a blow for intergalactic justice? Make four-star whatever overnight? Kind of a no-brainer, if you ask me."

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"We need to find the control center," Erin put in. "We've walked for hours looking for it, but this place is massive. Can you help us get there?" she asked the crew. "We appreciate your offer to take us home, but we can't go. I don't know if you're familiar with Earth, but we're what they call superheroes, we have unusual powers and we use them to help people. It's basically our job, and we can't ignore the fact that people here are in danger." Privately, she wasn't entirely sure what any of them could do to correct the spin on a ringworld the size of a thousand Earths. It seemed like every minute she missed having Trevor around more, to say nothing of the support of computer geniuses like Mara. But they did have one ace in the hole. "Hey Vince," she asked the commlink, "you ever wanted to try your hand at some real piloting?"

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"Hey, no promises, but if you stick me somewhere, I'll see what I can do with it."

"...all right," said Samran after a moment's thought, and a quick glance at both her subordinates. "Our last proximity check put the Grue fleet at least six hours out of this system. We can be in the control center, and gone, by then. It's not about cowardice," she added to Jill as her helmet came back on. "There's an entire Grue battlegroup heading for the Curator's construct, fast enough they must have started coming over as soon as the signal from the ringworld died. Our ship can't fight an entire fleet. But I'd rather try and fail here than say we never tried at all. We can load you onboard and take you to the command center at the pole directly. Let's go."

The interior of the Quantum Singularity turned out to be smooth and polished, all white panels and screens with grey and red displays that seemed to glow in the comparatively dim light of the small starship - they had all been inside the overly-bright command center for quite a long time. "If you've been in our ships before, the Singularity may need some getting used to," said Samran as the crew took up standing positions in the small command center, white panels flashing red text before them. "We're a high-speed courier vessel most of the time. We don't have the kind of luxuries that a typical starship does, but we can make our own fun."

Outside, the ship cut itself loose from the hull of the command center and began a trip that took only seconds, whipping by an perilous few meters from the perfectly smooth, glossy surface of the Curator's command center, the moon-shaped construct somehow all the more alien for that. Peering overhead, the heroes could easily make out the curving blue-white ribbon of the ringworld itself, and the vast, starry landscape beyond it, just before the ship settled back down atop the bare smooth hull. "All right, time to start cutting again."

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Blue Jay had kept back when the other heroes were talking to the Lor. She knew vaguely that these were the good aliens, the ones that tried to help Earth; but these ones didn't seem to want to do anything but run away after looking around. However the other heroes were able to talk these three around, and they all piled into the Lors' spaceship.

Which was far and away from anything the archer could have expected. Everything was so white and bright and clean. It made Jay acutely aware that she had been wearing the same clothes for three days. She brushed herself down, and immediately wished she hadn't moved as dust and dirt fell onto the gleaming floor. She hugged herself and stood very still as the ship lifted away from the landing bay and shot up the side. It was almost impossible to believe that they were moving, except for the view outside the front window. It was somehow easier to accept moving with the sensation of moving, than it was to accept the rushing, swaying movement of a ride in Mali's car.

Quickly they reached a higher part of the Curator's complex, which seemed pretty much the same to Jay. "Are you sure this is the right place?" She bit her lip almost as soon as the words were out of her mouth. "I mean... where should I go? To get into the structure as fast as possible once the hole is cut?"

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The problem with accessing the Curator's command center from the ship was easy enough to see as the featureless black surface of the command center's 'north pole' came into view. "The problem is," said Shepard, the officer's mechanized voice sounding a little humorous, "is that the Curator doesn't have a humanoid need for a visual interface. We're lucky there's a command hall at all, really, it must be a leftover of the original builders when they needed to do maintenance...anyway, the Curator's command center is right below us, about five hundred miles through compacted neutrons and computronium. There's an oxygen atmosphere, though, which tells me the Preservers must have been oxygen breathers..."

"Normally we wouldn't transmit through that in a million years," commented Samran as she worked at what was evidently a sensor station. "But the internal energy sources are in standby mode, so there's much less risk of interference. All we need to do is go down with an emergency transmitter system, and we can make a one-time transmit out even if the systems start coming back online..." She walked to a small group of white square built into the floor of the little ship, then slid open a panel on the wall, taking out several small black spheres, one of which she attached to her shoulder like a sticky ball. "So, who wants to go with me?" she asked the heroes conversationally, a half-smile on her face. "If you people are special as I've heard, we could use all the help we can get."

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