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Outer Edge of the Lor-Van System

17 Hours After Destruction of Lor-Van


The previous solar cycle's worth of hours had been among the worst in the lives of either Seikahi’ino or Ana Plonsky. On shore leave from the Xeno, the human woman had chosen to spend it on the shining crown jewel of the Lor Republic with the more worldly Kahi'iru agreeing to tag along as a favour to their mutual acquaintance to make sure she didn't get herself into any trouble. There was no way either of them could have been prepared for the Communion's sudden, merciless attack on Lor-Van. There was no way anyone could have been prepared.


They'd been among the lucky ones, making it to a spaceport and squeezing their way onto a mid-sized cruiser just as the bay doors closed and it made for orbit. They'd sat on makeshift benches formed from empty cargo containers while a panicked young man had asked over and over if anyone had seen his sister among the crowd and a frail grandmother had been unable to stop an infants plaintive wailing for even a moment. They'd been in the windowless hold when word had filtered down that the Star Knights had arrived in force, a moment of sudden hope and relief before learning that the armor clad champions had sacrificed themselves to give them and the other fleeing vessels time to break orbit.


They'd been there when the air had begun to taste just slightly stale and those familiar with starships had begun muttering that the engines didn't sound quite right. There when a crewman had let slip that they'd fallen behind the rest of the extant fleet and wouldn't be able to jump to FTL until repairs had been effected. There when the panicked young man from before had to be restrained before he could hurt himself or anyone else. There when someone asked aloud what was stopping those terrible silver sliver ships from coming to finish them off.

On the ship's bridge, Samran-86 ran a hand through her tightly shorn red hair and reminded herself to keep her breathing calm and steady. The Lor officer had assumed command of the vessel from it grateful owner, a cargo hauler with no experience with emergency situations. The clone mentat known to her fellows as Eject was beginning to think he'd had the right idea. "Any friendly vessels, this is the freighter Either Ore. We are venting plasma and require immediate assistance. Repeat: we require immediate assistance. Is anyone out there listening?"

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Aboard the Praetorian Aquila Class Starship Devotion

Amara Val-Ren sat in the command seat of the spacecraft, somewhat lost in thought as she considered the difficult task ahead of her and her fellow Praetorians. The Communion had returned in far greater numbers than they had faced over two thousand years ago, with the Praetorians at full numbers, and the backing of the Delaztri Empire. Now she and a majority of the surviving members were traveling towards the Lor Republic to try to help reorganize the Lor for a counter-offensive. She had sent another group of Praetorians to investigate what was believed to be the next planet targeted by the Communion's wormhole weapon. Amara sincerely hoped that she had not sent her friends and teammates to their deaths.

Suddenly, she was pulled from her thoughts by one the others at the communications station. "Paradigm, we are picking up a distress signal." The Praetorian did not hesitate to play the message over the internal audio speakers.

"Any friendly vessels, this is the freighter Either Ore. We are venting plasma and require immediate assistance. Repeat: we require immediate assistance. Is anyone out there listening?"


"Open a channel." Amara stated after hearing the message. "Attention Either Ore, this is Paradigm of the Praetorians aboard the Devotion, we are in receipt of your distress call. Please send your coordinates and we will be there as soon as possible."

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"If I were you, I would be careful with that ship." said Kharag, with a somewhat disdainful tone as he sat on the bridge, busy applying war paint to himself, a practice no doubt long abandonned by his people by now. In this case, these were markings of grief and vengeance, the kind of marks signaling an oath to avenge's one family against a certain foe. "There it is, a civilian ship, damaged, alone and calling for help. If we stop to help them, understand there is a risk we might alert the Communion to our presence earlier than needed. Be wary of the wounded beast, Paradigm; often there is a lurking predator waiting in the darkness, ready to pounce at a bigger prey."


He turned and looked at her. "In this case, us. I'm all for engaging the Communion and taking the fight to them, but I would be damned if I fell into a trap as obvious as this. Still, we have a responsability to assist; just understand what this implies for us."

Edited by RobRX
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Was it demeaning to have a giant reptile archer woman assigned by your boss to be your babysitter? Absolutely! Did all that go out the window the minute the whole planet went insane and became a terrfiying hell-pit! Even more so!

"I refuse to die on a spaceship with a terrible pun for a name..." Ana muttered to herself; of course, that was about half of all spaceships... When the air started to get dodgy, she slung her gear bag up on her shouder and wormed her way through the packed bodies looking for someone remotely in charge; if someone didn't move, they felt an uncomfortable chill prompting them to let the small blonde Terran in the white armored spacesuit squeeze past. At last she made it to the bridge, where she politely cleared her throat.

"Judging by the smell, you could use a Lor-certified engineer on this ship; I offer my services pro bono."

Edited by Heritage
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"Sei should have stayed on Xeno." The reptilian archer groaned. She ran her hands through her quills before lowering them to her ears. She pressed her palms over them as a distressed purr rumbled in her throat. She was leaning forward, elbows on her knees and her eyes shut in an attempt to block it all out. The screaming infant had long since given her a headache. She was over it. "This is why Sei hate space. Crowded. Old air. Cold." It was like she could taste the air. She didn't like it.
She blinked her eyes open to see Ana moving away from her. "Oi! Do not leave Sei!" She scrambled to her feet, having to keep her rather large frame hunched down in the small space. She definitely didn't like this ship. Why did Oskar have to ask her to go? At least the Xeno was tall enough for her.
She followed Ana to the bridge, not missing every look and stare she earned along the way. Any seven and a half foot tall woman would probably garner those looks. Especially one covered in scales. Still, she found herself sticking her tongue out at a particularly little one. The small victory had helped lighten her mood some. "Ana why at bridge?" Seika asked, sticking her head in with very little concern for manners or rules.

Edited by GooseInduced
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Eject placed her hand over the microphone and cast a sidelong glance at the freighter's copilot. "What in the Pit is a 'Praetorian'?" The young man's hapless shrug lifted his weathered hide vest and the military mentat turned back to the communication equipment with a resigned roll of her eyes. "Devotion, we'll take any help we can get, thank you. Transmitting coordinates now." It wasn't the most tactically sound move by a long shot but they'd already been broadcasting for centicycles without any response. Part of Eject even thought that going down fighting pirates might be preferable to slow suffocation and freezing.

She wondered if it was her imagination making the air feel a few degrees cooler when the throat clearing behind her pulled her attention. "Eh? Ah, miss, I appreciate the offer but right now the best thing you can do is--" The appearance of Seikahi’ino's head in the already cramped confines of the cockpit startled her enough to derail her measured delivery. "What in-- who are you two?!" The copilot offered another silent shrug.

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Ana squeezed her eyes shut and took a breath of stale air. "I am the best chance you have of keeping all the innocent civilians you rescued from suffocating aboard this death trap; this ship was not designed to hold this many passengers, and the air scrubbers need to be adjusted. Plus word is you have no FTL." She opened her eyes again and leveled her ice-blue gaze at the mentat. "My name is Ana Plonsky of Terra, and I'm the best engineer you have on this boat; you just don't know it yet."

Finally she acknowledged the reptilian giant next to her with a jerk of her head and a faint smile. "This is Sei; she makes sure I'm not interrupted while I'm working."

Edited by Heritage
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"Coordinates received, we are in route."  Amara replied before shutting off the comm once more as the Praetorian piloting began altering the tear drop shaped spacecraft's course towards the Either Ore's location.  The Naram then looked back at Kharag where he was busy applying his war paint.


"Thank you for your wise counsel Kharag.  However, laying traps is not the Communion's normal means of operating.  It is also not unexpected there would be stragglers from the Lor's retreat from Lor-Van.  I would expect every spacecraft capable of leaving the planet was used, including ones that otherwise were in need of repairs."


"But, the Communion has not exactly been acting as they did when we last faced them.  And even if this is not a trap, you are correct in that Communion ships could still come upon us there in any event.  So, we will indeed proceed with caution.  Get a spacesuit on.  When we arrive, you and I will fly over so the Devotion does not have to dock and be left vulnerable.  Elite and the others can remain aboard to keep watch for any Communion forces."   

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"Indeed, as I was saying; it would be unwise to assume that the ennemy will always act upon patterns, even machines. You and I both know that they are not entirely mindless; there is an dark cunning and intellect to them. And ruthlessness." Kharag said, replying to the comment about how the Communion was acting and planning it's moves.

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The surprise of the pilot did not go unnoticed by Sei. She just blinked, confused and wondering what it was she did wrong now. She was just checking up on Ana. Wasn't it her job to keep the girl out of trouble? Or rather it had been back when they were on the planet. At that point she was just trying not to be too much in the way. She was rather useless at trying to keep things together. The only thing she could do was keep herself together and help where she could. "Sei keep Ana out of trouble. Or that what Oskar said to do. Ana, do know what happened to Oskar?"

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The Lor officer didn't even attempt to cover her exhausted groan. "Of course you're Terran. It's always a karking Terran. Ever since that mess on the ringworld. Clearly the universe hates me." She pressed her palms together in front of her face and with great effort composed herself. "Alright. Alright. Miss, it's great that you got off your isolate, learned to use real technology and got yourself certified, that's super. Genuinely impressive. And your friend is... practically intelligible. But right now what I need is for everyone to just stay put and not touch anything sensitive. Please."

With a light cough, the copilot called her attention. "Er. Ma'am? ...sir? I've got a ship registering as the Devotion on scanners, heading towards us. And, uh, also these little ones? Coming from behind us?"

Eject took one look at the monitor and whirled around to point emphatically out of the cockpit. "You two! Back to the cargo bay and out the way now!"

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Amara gave Kharag a small nod of agreement at his assessment of the Communion as she waited for the Devotion to arrive at the disabled vessel. Just as the Either Ore appeared on the sensors, the Praetorians picked up other, familiar craft, also approaching.

"It appears we do not have to wait long for the Communion to appear Kharag." The Naram stated as she stood up from the command chair on the bridge. "Hail the Lor vessel and tell them to have someone waiting at the airlock." She stated to one of the other Praetorians before looking back at Kharag. "I will fly you over there to go aboard to be ready if any Communion reach the vessel." She then turned and looked out at space beyond. "Meanwhile, I will try to stop those Communion ships."

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Kharag smirked smugly. "Were you so unwise as to dismiss my advice so easily? Of course the Communion is here. Did you truly have so little faith in my assertions as a hunter? The opportunity was, simply, too obvious, too tempting." That ship and their were simply too easy a prey to the communion, especially due to how ruthlessly they acted now, such as  their destruction of the Lor capital.


"Then there is no time to waste; to the ship I will go."

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"Attention Either Ore, this the Devotion, please stand by your airlock to receive one of our members." One of the other Praetorians transmitted the merchant vessel as Paradigm and Kharag headed towards the Devotion's airlock.

Paradigm let out a small sigh at Kharag's comments. "I did not actually disregard your counsel Kharag, but as you noted yourself, regardless of how likely it was that Communion forces would find this crippled vessel, we still needed to attempt to assist it."

The pair stepped into the airlock and Paradigm shut the door to the rest of the ship, sealing it. She then turned towards the outer door as she pressed the button to depressurize the small chamber. All the air was quickly sucked out of the room, as the cold chill of space filled the room as well. The Naram remained calm, almost welcoming the feel of the void as she opened the outer door and grabbed ahold of Kharag, flying out into the vast emptiness of space, and quickly making her way over toward the Either Ore to drop off Kharag.

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Ana's jaw dropped as the Lor in charge dismissed her outright. "But I can-" Then her mouth snapped as her eyes narrowed to slits. "Fine; we can just sit here and wait to die, then." She turned on her booted heel and marched away, brushing roughly past her reptilian 'escort'.

She made it halfway back to the cargo hold before she stopped and back over her shoulder towards the bridge. "You know what, screw her."

She took a sharp turn and began to head aft, which if memory served was where the engineering section was on this class of vessel.

"C'mon, Sei; we're going to save that bitch's life whether she wants me to or not."

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Ana and Seikahi’ino rounded the corridor corner to come face to face with a scene in chaos. The Either Ore's drive core looked surprisingly like an eight cylinder automobile engine stacked upward on one end and then mirrored in back so that a total of sixteen chambers pumped rhythmically at ninety degree angles. At least they should have; instead more than half of them were leaking something neon blue and foul smelling while another was quite simply on fire. A trio of crewmembers were racing about in a frenzy doing everything they could just to keep the situation from getting worse, a pair of Lor and one member of a tusked species neither of the passengers recognized off hand. One of the former, a weedy youth with a flaxen mop of hair turned to look at the unannounced arrivals. "Um. ...hello?"

On the bridge, Eject rubbed her face with both hands before replying to the transmission, "Acknowledged, Devotion. We'll leave a key card under the mat." She followed up by ordering a group from the handful of refugees with some basic military or security experience to take up positions by the airlock. No sense making things too easy if these Praetorians turned out to have less than honest intentions. Suppose 'refugees' includes me, too, the mentat realized dimly, pushing the wave of nausea and urge to scream away for the time being. "ETA?"

"Not... long," the copilot answered vaguely, catching himself before he could shrug again. "Maybe a dozen micro-cycles before the faster ships reach us. Another couple dozen for the big one?" His glum gulp was partly due to his inability to answer more specifically but mostly due to the picture painted by his own best guesses.

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Paradigm streaked quickly through the emptiness that separated the Either Ore from the Devotion, somewhat reveling in the chance to soar the spaceways once again. Of course, the feeling was very much muted by the rapid approach of Communion vessels. So the Naram remained focused on what she needed to do.

Swooping over near the merchant vessel and one of its airlocks that now had lights lit up and the outer door open, Paradigm released Kharag, a small push giving him all the momentum he needed to drift into the airlock as the outer door closed once more to start repressurizing the chamber.

Paradigm then turned out towards the direction the Communion ships were approaching from, flying out to take up a position a few thousand feet away from the Either Ore, awaiting the approach of the smaller, faster ships.

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Having reached the ship, Kharag went inside, but not before pausing for a brief moment, the thought of the approaching Communion ships weighting rather heavily on his mind. Briefly, he sent a mental message to Paradigm as she was still close to him, ever so briefly. 'Leave none standing.' was the message he sent to her. As the chamber repressurized, he wasted no time removing the helmet.

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"Holeeee s###..."

Yep, this was quality pandemonium right here! What was needed right now was a strong directing hand and no small amount on BS; Ana cleared her throat and spoke in what she hoped was a clear, authoritative voice. "Attention crew! My name is Ana Plonsky, and the acting captain has authorized me to take command of this team. We have two primary objectives: optimizing the atmospherics so we don't kill everyone on this tug, and getting that damn FTL back online! I need data, people, raw data on oxygen levels and our power capacity!"

She pointed at the crewmen trying to put out the fire. "You men stand back; I'll take care of the fire." She held out her hand and attempted to smother the blaze under a rock-hard coating of ice just long enough to deprive it of oxygen.

Edited by Heritage
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The Lor officer's comments did not go unnoticed by Sei. She may be simple, she may not understand technology, but there was nothing wrong with her understanding of Lor language. She didn't blame Ana for the way she turned away from the woman, storming out of the cockpit with irritation on her face. Sei did a bit of storming herself. She hated when people just brushed her off like that.


So when Ana seemed to perk up and declare that she didn't care what the woman said, Sei was more than ready to follow. "Agreed. When people no want help is when help needed. Ana and Sei will help." Seika followed Ana toward the core with a renewed sense of confidence.


One that flew right out the space window when she saw the fire. It wasn't that she was afraid of it, more so what it could do to the ship that protected her from the cold of space. "Should Sei put on suit?" Sei asked, pointing to the bundle on her back that held her EX.E Suit. If the fire burned through the hull....


Only Ana had already stepped toward taking command and the Terran didn't hear her. So Sei took the time to pull her environment suit over her clothes. It was white and red unlike what she wore underneath. On the suit were places for her quivers and bow and knife. A bump at her hip gave away where 'Baby' was inside the suit.


'Ana, Tell Sei what to do. Sei want to help."

Edited by GooseInduced
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Off the Either Ore's stern it wasn't long before the Communion fighters had closed enough of the distance for Paradigm to make them out with her own eyes. A trio of the silver, needle like drones in tight formation, they clearly saw her as well from the way they subtly adjusted the angle of their approach to aim for the woman moving through space under her own power. For the first time in thousands of years, Communion metal would be tested against Naram mettle!

The airlock door irised closed behind Kharag and after a hiss of pressurization the portal in front of him opened to welcome him into the freighter. Less welcoming were the expressions of the half dozen Lor standing in a loose semi circle around him as he stepped forward. The Praetorian recognized the look on their faces, the look of those who had just had everything taken from them, the look of proud individuals forced to flee for their survival. Their weapons were not pointed at the green skinned warrior but all were held at the ready. Kharag would only get one chance to make a good first impression on these tired, emotionally worn refugees.

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"That... doesn't really sound like Samran-86..." the blond technician pointed out in a hesitant objection, looking uncertainly between his colleagues and the confident woman who'd bustled into the room. "Maybe we should--" His thought was cut off as Ana generated a sheet of ice and he jumped back with a startled yelp. "Kark me! Uh... you know what, forget I said anything. You just do whatever." 'Whatever' seemed to be working out pretty well for the human engineer so far, as the fire was quickly smothered under the brief coating of frost.

The tusked crewmember gave Sei a strange look as she donned her environmental suit, eventually taking a few steps over to her while giving Ana a wide berth. "Hey, you're a Kahi'iru, aren't you?" He rubbed a hand along one of his pronounced teeth in a gesture of intrigued confusion. "How'd you learn to talk?" Glancing over his shoulder at the other two technicians, he explained, "These things don't even pass basic standard tests for sentience. Maybe this one's a mutation or something."

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"Look at yourselves; worn, battered and defeated." He said as he stood in the doorway, arms folded. "Spirit broken, your wills worn down to scraps. Is this how you'd wish to go down? Weak and waiting for your deaths to come?" The alien started walking, looking away from the crowd, not even bothered by them, not even bothering with eye contact to keep himself safe from the weapons.


Slowly, the alien warrior turned back to the refugee, looking at them with his yellow eyes. "No, I think not. I will not allow it. I cannot claim I know much about you people and your way, but I refuse to believe you'd all go down without a fight; as long as one warrior stand it isn't a defeat. Will you let these soulless machines consume you? OR WILL YOU NOT STAND?! RISE, I SAY! RISE ON YOUR FEET! IF YOU ARE GOING TO DIE, THEN WILL YOU NOT DIE ON YOUR FEET, STARING DOWN OBLIVION, LAUGHING AS YOU DEFIED IT TO YOUR LAST BREATH?!"

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The trio of needle ships spiraled around a shared axis as they bore down on Paradigm, a twisting silver claw reaching out to crush her. Whether the Communion recognized the Praetorian after so much time or whether the drones were simply identifying the higher priority target was uncertain and perhaps immaterial; either way the outcome was the same. Green energy rippled down the length of the fighters before launching from the tapered point in angry blasts. The three operated as parts of a whole, with two of them intentionally shooting wide to box in the space borne paragon's movements while the third's shot struck true, catching Paradigm right in the chest. The attack went straight for the heroine's nervous system, sending convulsions and shooting pain tearing through her mighty frame.

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Paradigm managed to fight back against the convulsions and pain caused by the blast from one of the Communion ships, having not done much to avoid that one given the other two that tried to constrict her.  Clearly the first thing to do was to try to break up the coordination between the ships.  The Naram flew quickly over to one of the three needle ships, positioning herself towards the far side away from the other two.  Pulling her right hand backward, she slammed it down onto the side of the needle ship with tremendous force, the blow causing the silver metal to buckle some as the ship was knocked inward several feet from the force of the impact.  While it was damaged, it did not appear to be so badly damaged that it was completely out of the fight.

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