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Lor Timemark 1329.7 - February 28, 2015

Repiuk System Asteroid Belt

 

When rich ore deposits had been discovered in the asteroid belt of a system with no habitable worlds nearly a hundred and fifty years prior it had drawn in a rush of prospectors, independent fortune seekers and small companies looking to stake a claim that would set them and their families up for generations. As the demands of the galactic economy shifted and the best veins had been tapped out, however, the cost of refinement had risen past the profitability of the belt and one by one facilities had been abandoned, subterranean ghost towns riddling the asteroids with tunnels and shafts. Decades later those abandoned mines would serve as a base of operations for a vicious pirate fleet, their leader cannily realizing that the remaining deposits of heavy metals would play havoc with snooping sensor sweeps. They'd been found out by the Star Knights nevertheless and soundly routed, leaving another layer of abandoned equipment in their wake.

 

It was Sri A'Lan Koor who had remembered those raids and suggested the belt, a remote location of no military significance or appeal to the Communion, as a staging area for the Coalition forces. For the past three months the secret had remained kept, long enough for the leaders of the Coalition to feel secure gathering together in one room as they planned out their last, best chance to drive out the invading menace. Standing at the war table the veteran Star Knight had to wonder if they weren't going to do the Communion's job for it.

 

"You need to pull your head out of whatever orifice you've shapeshifted for defecation purposes," Senator Diena Th'emme told the Grue Arcane across from her flatly, fingertips pressed firmly against the surface of the horizontal display between them. The tall, imperious woman managed to make even the utilitarian grey jumpsuit she was wearing come across as regalia, her honey blonde hair done up in a crisp bun. "We have a precise window of opportunity. What troops we can spare to assault the communication relay will have to be enough."

 

The short, stocky being to her made a fluting growl, waving fur covered hands for emphasis as his translator box did its work in an incongruously light soprano. "You would send them to their deaths and for what?" Minister Ch'rrr had rallied a number of worlds to the Coalition's banner in his home sector but was by nature disinclined toward risk taking. "The slim hope of a possible advantage for a doomed plan? Your ancestors' pardon, Citizen Tulink, but I cannot place so much faith in a single simulacrum. Surely you agree, Praetorian Val-Ren?"

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In the massive metal and stone shaft outside the overseer's office-turned-war room, sized to fit hulking mining vehicles and ore transports, a pile of rocks stood up from against the drill worn wall and stretched. Rock didn't actually have muscles or bones per se but that didn't stop the rough-hewn goliath from feeling significant satisfaction as he cracked his back with the scraping sound of stone against stone and idly scratched one thigh. There wasn't much to be done until the Coalition leaders came to an agreement but they'd already been locked away for long enough that even his glacially steady patience was starting to erode. It was tough for Rock to imagine anyone needing to do that much talking.

 

He waved to a group of troopers jogging past in formation, their mismatched fatigues suggesting that not so long ago they would have been more likely to be on opposite sides of a battlefield than keeping in fighting form side by side. Rock was old enough to take ideas like empires and federations with a grain of salt but he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen so much change over such a short period of time. There was a sense of a shared breath being held in silent anticipation among the soldiers, technicians and handful of civilians in the old mining facility and Rock had to resist the urge to go check for a third that the Horizon was repaired and ready to fly.

 

As he looked about one figure stood out even amongst the mosaic of species and uniforms, a dark blue Tempestian girl in a yellow-gold coat that reminded him a little of Eclipse's ostentatious sense of style. It wasn't her clothing that amused the living statue so much as her size: from boots to frizzy white hair she was barely half his height to say nothing of bulk. Interested piqued, he sauntered over with as much grace as a landslide could muster to say hello.

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"I come speaking for your military cyber-casters," said Sharl seriously. "And I have uncommon experience with the doings of galactic cyber-intelligences, sir." Citizen's voice was ice, his holographic body perfectly human if not for the tell-tale green glow that betrayed a Lor telepresence projector. With the exception, of course, that he wasn't actually teleprojecting - but residing comfortably in the outpost's computer systems. It had been Miss A who had suggested he bring along the data about his fatal struggle with the Curator - something which had opened enough doors to at least get him to this point.

 

He pointed at the holographic projection of the nearby stellar group at the center of the room. "I have personally been inside the programming architecture of the Communion, both during Lor-Van and the attack on Terra. Barring a select few intelligences with singular, specific uses, like those involved in the raid on Terra, the Communion is one mindone voice. Cut the link to the central intelligence and the vessels in the Fomalhaut sector are so much scrap. And if that trick can be done again..." He pointed to several more spots on the map. "Then the incursion into this whole region of space can wither like a plant deprived of its roots." 

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NPC

Sri A'Lan Koor stood among the gathered leaders of the Coalition, the representative from the Inner Circle of the Star Knights. The aged Lor was dressed in the light blue armor which had been his for more than forty cycles and had his white robes marking him as a member of the Inner Circle. The last several months had been difficult for Koor, as they had for all of the Star Knights. Beyond the losses at Lor-Van, the Order had continued to suffer losses as it worked to try to help hold the Communion’s advance and allow the Lor, Grue and other smaller space powers a chance to regroup and coordinate a response.

It had been costly, but had allowed the initial defeats from becoming all out routes, and had lasted long enough for other allies to arrive, such as the Praetorians, the survivors of an ancient group of guardians for an now long gone space empire. Even to Mentor they were something of legends. While they lacked numbers equal to the Star Knights, they certainly did not lack for power, or conviction. Add to that the fact they had actually managed to defeat the Communion some two thousand cycles ago and they had quickly proven capable as inspirations around which Coalition forces had rallied.

As Senator Th'emme had sharp words for one of the Grue Arcane on the council, Koor could only glance over at the senior Praetorian that was present in the room, giving her a knowing look. Centuries of animosity and conflict were not easily set aside, even in the face of the threat of total annihilation.

"Senator, I am sure Magistar Rull is willing to put the proposed operation to discussion and abide by the decision of the group." Koor stated to Senator Th'emme, seemingly able to resist the tall woman's domineering demeanor.

"As for the plan itself," the elder Star Knight continued, looking over toward Minister Ch'rrr and then over toward Citizen's holographic form, "it does carry considerable risk, but any course of action we take will have risk, even if it is just trying to stop the Communion's advance. And if you knew Terrans as I do Minister, you would know they would not suggest something that would needlessly put others at risk."

Edited by Thevshi

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Chlo'zel paced back and forwards restlessly, boots clumping on the hard floor. How long was this taking? People were out there fighting and dying, and all these supposed experts and tacticians and military leaders could surely come up with a plan in a shorter space of time so they could do something about it! Her fists were scrunched tight in frustration, sparks occasionally flickering in anger around them.

 

She turned to pace the other direction, to nearly collide with a giant rock person. "Oh. Apologysorry." She craned her neck to look up at his blocky head. "You're bigtall," she observed. The Tempestian hovered up in the air slightly, to be closer to the alien's eye level. 

 

Chlo'zel held out a hand, much less gingerly than someone of such a size difference. "Chlo'zel Elzak. Boredweary of this long wait for action, yes?" She smiled widely.

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Amara Val-Ren had to force herself to not let out a deep sigh as the bickering among the Coalition leaders had continued. For the Naram, the longstanding disputes and hatred that existed between some of the Coalition members had been difficult to fully account for in trying to help bring the groups together against the shared threat. Most of her experience had been as part of an organization that was part of an empire primarily under the direction of one ruler. While there certainly were times where there was disagreement among parts of the imperial government, or among members of the empire, the ability for a singular focus to prevail in times of need, such as when the Communion had threatened the empire.

But the Delzatri Empire was long gone, vanished while Amara and her fellow surviving Praetorians had lay in stasis on the Curator's ringworld. The young Naram had no desire, or even right, to want to try to reestablish that lost empire, even if she had not been thrown directly in to trying to stop the wave of Communion advance once again. As difficult as it was, the varied members of the Coalition was what she had to work with to try to stop the Communion.

As her opinion was sought by one of the more cautions members of the Coalition's leadership, Amara took a deep breath, allowing the senior Star Knight present to speak up first, before she added her thoughts. "Sometimes a slim hope is all that is obtainable Minister Ch'rrr." She began. "If we continue to only try and stop the advance of the Communion and turn it back in direct actions against its forces, we are unlike to have even that."

"Even I can only destroy so many Communion battle cruisers minister. To date, the Communion has held the initiative, choosing when and where to strike. It is time we took the initiative back and began making the Communion react to us."

"My tactical expert has reviewed the plan presented by Citizen Tulink and finds the risks acceptable, given the potential gains to be had in the Fomalhaut sector. But beyond that immediate advantage, and the possibility of duplicating this success, we have reason to believe that cutting off the Communion forces will require it to reposition other forces, which will potentially expose the Communion Mothership, once we are able to locate it."

Edited by Thevshi

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Rock tilted his head to one side as the petite girl floated up into the air apparently without the aid of any sort of repulsers or other tech. It was hardly the first time he'd met an individual with 'powers' outside the usual abilities of their species but they generally tended to be a little more imposing in appearance than Chlo'zel. "Rock," he emphatically agreed with her observation, engulfing her offered hand in his own stone digits and shaking it with enough enthusiasm to bob the Tempestian up and down in the air slightly before he belatedly compensated. Letting go, he placed one hand on his hip and pointed a thumb at his chest, his joints sounding like gravel in a tumbler as he moved. "Rock," he introduced himself with a broad grin that revealed some of the red tinted illumination provided by his inner magma. Looking around the shaft it seemed like the girl was there by herself. "Rock?"

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Chlo'zel wobbled a little. This big guy was strong. Even compared to her. Hand shaking over with, she lowered herself back down to the floor, big boots clomping as she landed. "Rock? Appropriate name." She shot him a wide grin. "Nice to meet you." She looked around behind her, curious as to what Rock'd been looking for in the tunnel. There wasn't much, just some boxes and occasionally soldiers going by. 

 

"Are you soldier, or volunteered? I came to helpaid, saw Communion firsthand." Her smile faded slightly. Some of the bruises from her encounter with that fleet had yet to fade entirely. Chlo'zel hadn't wanted to disturb any of the medics attending to those who'd been hurt more, but one of her ribs really hurt and she wasn't sure if it was serious or not. "Have to help stop them."

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"Rock," Rock shrugged in as easygoing a manner as a ton and a half of mountainside could manage. He was used to most sentients finding his name amusing or at least worthy of comment. By the same token he found most names more than a little nonsensical. What was a 'Chlo'zel Elzak' even supposed to be? At least Talisyn had the good sense to go by 'Eclipse', metaphorical bit of poetic license aside.
 
To answer her question he proudly explained, "Rock!" He followed up by placing a reassuring hand on the girl's shoulder, having to stoop slightly to do so easily. He remembered what the Communion had done to Tarza all too well. After the mission with the Terran Star Knight - now there was a name that actually made sense, 'Terra' - it had been clear that the invasion wasn't something the crew of the Horizon could simply ride out, waiting for someone else to deal with it. They'd seen plenty of action since then, making the lull now all the harder to take.
 
Recognizing that Chlo'zel hadn't entirely understood his earlier question, he pointed to the little Tempestian then raised the finger to indicate one before using the fingers on his other hand to suggest a larger group, starting with one finger and adding digits one at a time. "Rooock. Rock?"

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"Oh!" exclaimed Galvanic. He wasn't just saying his name, he was saying stuff! That just happened to sound exactly like saying his name. This was a weird language. Did they all say Rock, or was he named so because he said it a lot, or...? "Think I understand. Asking if here alone." The Tempestian shrugged her shoulders.

 

"Was with others. Left for other tasks. Stayed, hoping to helpaid." She exhaled deeply, and jerked her head towards the intelligence conference. "Don't know how to stopdefeat Communion yet." Chlo'zel looked earnestly up at Rock's craggy face. "Assume that's why you're here too?"

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"I'm not a Terran!" declared a scandalized Citizen, who looked to be having a fractious day. "I'm a citizen of the Lor Republic residing on Terra until a..." He'd been about to give his usual speech about how Tronik was on Terra until the Lor could properly build them a home, until it occurred to him that there was no way that was going to happen. Absurdly, he wished for Set, or at least someone adept at changing the subject. "I...anyway, like Paradigm said, if we can do this here, there's no reason we can't do it against the main body of the invasion." That left the heart of the Communion itself untouched, but for the moment this was the best chance of victory they seemed to have. 

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NPC

A'Lan Koor turned to regard Citizen for a brief moment before responding. "My apologies Citizen Tulink, I did not mean to imply that you were Terran. I am familiar with Tronik, Centurion once told me how he freed your home from the Curator. But my understanding was that you were not here only speaking on your own behalf, but also expressing the analysis of several of Earth’s greatest defenders."

The elder Lor then let a slight smile creep into his voice. "And I would not be so insulted to be labeled a Terran. I spent many cycles on Earth, and developed close friendships with many of my comrades in the Freedom League. I know my time there left an impression on me, as I am sure your time there has left one on you."

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"Indeed, they're a heroically inspiring little isolate," Th'emme sighed impatiently, folding her arms. She'd known this was going to be an issue. Terra and her people simply weren't terribly popular in the civilized galaxy and some of her fellow leaders were all to happy to use that as a talking point. Any goodwill Terrans had in the Republic had been largely squandered by the ravings of origin conspiracy theorists and most accounts from the Khanate painted them as dangerous savages. After numerous embarrassingly failed invasion attempts it was anyone's guess how the Grue felt about the planet. "I realize not all of us will recall Daedalus... fondly, but the fact remains that he and his people have delayed the world-killer at the edge of their system for months now, effectively taking a powerful piece off of the board."
 
"Pheh, my understanding was that the battle station's presence there was a mere diversionary tactic," Magistar Rull cut in, the Grue Arcane making a dismissive gesture that caused the fabric of his heavy robes to flap loudly. "A ruse which the Terran 'Freedom League' fell for easily."
 
The senator hadn't made any attempt to hide her dislike for the Grue in general and a personal distaste for Rull during the meeting but for now she held back another round of insults. "I'm glad to hear the Magister finally got around to reading that stale intelligence." More or less, anyway. "As Citizen Tulink alluded to, the earnest attack on Terra was summarily rebuffed and in the time since the world-killer has made the seriousness of its threat clear. We cannot afford to wait until that situation is resolved." She didn't have to say aloud what most of the room was thinking: Terra's champions might hold off the battle station for a time but ultimately it would destroy their world and move on to other targets unless the incursion could be stopped first. Th'emme paused to let that implication sink in for a moment before adding in a softer voice, "My own daughter was with Citizen Tulink on Lor-Van when he undid the Communion's sabotage of our automated traffic systems. Without his intervention neither she nor many more of our survivors would have made it off-world. Let me be clear: he has my unequivocal support in this."

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Rock nodded, pleased Chlo'zel had understood his meaning even if it had taken a few tries. It had been less work than he usually had to go through to communicate with the average, wordier sentient, really. "Rooock," he elaborated dryly, pointing a thumb over his shoulder toward the door to the war room and rolling the twin spots of red hot magma that served as his eyes. There wasn't much else for him to do but wait. He'd already checked to see if anyone had needed help moving cargo around but trust among the various elements of the Coalition wasn't at a point where anyone was eager to let a mercenary near anything valuable. Unlike most of the fighters present he didn't get any real benefit from physical conditioning and the meager training facilities set up closer to the asteroid's surface weren't set up to handle his particular mix of strength and bulk. Sticking around the war room had seemed like the best way to find out the moment anything was decided but so far the notion hadn't paid off.
 
Rummaging about in the drag green satchel hanging at his hip, the rocky giant produced a deck of Zultasian playing cards, somewhat comically undersized in his big hands, and held them up for Chlo'zel to see. "Rock?"

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Uncomfortable with the Senator's praise, Sharl thought of dead Star Knights, floating in space, who had sacrificed themselves for precious seconds above Lor-Van.

 

"Yessir," he finally said to the elder Star Knight, nodding his head in his direction. "In...any event, I need to get going. The neutrino window is going to close shortly and if I don't make it off the station now, I won't be able to leave for another rotation." Sharl hadn't spent the night in the same system twice since he'd gone out into space again. The Lor had learned, with dire consequences, that the Communion could intercept even coded messages and act on what it had learned. Fast ships and the scattered handful of interstellar teleporters (all of them Preserver artifacts or unreliable mutants) had been pressed into service, but they had only one being in the Republic that could be sent by hyperlight transmission with nothing more than a standard receiver needed on the other end to hold his program. (Assuming they didn't miss. He'd made sure to back himself up with Gina before he left, after a very uncomfortable conversation with his mentor about mortality.) 

At least they have a telepresence unit here - I've spent enough time riding around in cramped systems, talking to people from comm panels and loudspeakers, to last for the rest of my life. "I'll take the message to the fleet at Fomalhaut. Commander MKK'innies thinks we'll be able to hit the communications relay within two rotations." With its heavy debris field, Fomalhaut had been a natural setting for another portion of the Star Navy to take shelter from the ravening hordes of the Communion. Everyone had kept using rotations, he thought - even though that planet wasn't rotating anymore. "Anything else you need me to tell them?" 

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"Respected leaders and representatives," Amara began as Senator Th'emme finished, "I understand that there is a long history of distrust and animosity among many of us gathered in this room, and that past is not easily set aside. The fact that we are gathered here reflects that all have come to realize that this is a threat that cannot be overcome alone. While this group may never fully come to trust one another, that may not be necessary for us to prevail."

"Each of those green dots,"
the Naram pointed towards the various markings on the holodisplay that represented the scattered Coalition forces, "represents countless beings that have stepped forward to try and stop the Communion. They come from all the worlds and peoples each of you represent, and more. Each of them risks their lives to try to protect their families, worlds, and, knowingly or not, all sentient beings that are threatened by the Communion. We all need to respect their dedication and sacrifice and in doing so, trust that they will see this mission through."

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Rock nodded, pleased Chlo'zel had understood his meaning even if it had taken a few tries. It had been less work than he usually had to go through to communicate with the average, wordier sentient, really. "Rooock," he elaborated dryly, pointing a thumb over his shoulder toward the door to the war room and rolling the twin spots of red hot magma that served as his eyes. There wasn't much else for him to do but wait. He'd already checked to see if anyone had needed help moving cargo around but trust among the various elements of the Coalition wasn't at a point where anyone was eager to let a mercenary near anything valuable. Unlike most of the fighters present he didn't get any real benefit from physical conditioning and the meager training facilities set up closer to the asteroid's surface weren't set up to handle his particular mix of strength and bulk. Sticking around the war room had seemed like the best way to find out the moment anything was decided but so far the notion hadn't paid off.

 

Rummaging about in the drag green satchel hanging at his hip, the rocky giant produced a deck of Zultasian playing cards, somewhat comically undersized in his big hands, and held them up for Chlo'zel to see. "Rock?"

 

"Don't know much of war," admitted Chlo'zel. "Tempest very isolated. Planet very dangerous." She grimaced slightly. She truly didn't know much about the roles different people played in war. When the sky itself was incredibly destructive, even warring for resources made little sense when lightning strikes could destroy the resources used to make the tools for war. "Wrackbeasts most dangerous thing I have fought."

 

Her eyes lit up when Rock produced playing cards. "Of course! Boredweary waiting. Don't know game, could teachshow me?" she said hopefully. Chlo'zel quickly zipped to the side, dragging a crate over to serve as a table. 

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There were several beats of contemplative silence as the group let Praetorian Val-Ren's words sink in. There had been significant misgivings about the sudden arrival of the obviously formidable Praetorians and more than one of the Coalition leaders had argued against including Amara in their previous meetings but the viewpoint of someone with no previous loyalty to any faction from living memory had proven invaluable. "...it's a bold plan, anyway," Magistar Rull mused eventually, breaking the lull and folding his hands in front of him so that the folds of his robes met together. "No one can say it isn't bold."
 
"I don't like bold," Minister Ch'rrr argued with a trill of outright petulance that suggested he could see well enough that the group had arrived at a decision whether he liked it or not. Leathery nose flaps rippled as he let out a long breath, shifting from foot to foot and giving Sharl a sidelong look.
 
"Of course you don't," the Magistar and Senator Th'emme said in unison, exchanging a horrified look at having found themselves in agreement for once. The Grue made several throat clearing sounds which objectively could not have served any biological purpose before pushing forward. "Very well then, Citizen Tulink. Our faith and our fates lie with you, it seems."

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"Don't put your faith in me," Citizen reassured the Grue, amazed at how easily that thought came to him. "Put your faith in the science of Terra, Lor, and Gruen that got us this far. That's what'll save the day." It was a measure of the gravity of the moment that no one even chuckled at the thought of Terrans and science. With a quick nod to show his farewells, and hide the lump in his throat, Sharl 'vanished'. His telepresence drone settled back to the floor on its little wheels while his cybernetic consciousness flew through the station's systems to the transmitter - and before the organics inside could speak again, he was already being converted to tachyonic energy for the transmission to his next target!

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Amara was relieved that her words appeared to bring the heated disagreement to an end and move the group forward toward approving the plan, even it was not quite unanimous. "May luck smile upon you Citizen Tulink. And when you see them, please give Moon Moth and Mater Vrynda my best wishes as well." The Preatorian managed to say as a farewell before the Sharl's holographic form vanished and he prepared to transmit himself to the next location.

The Naram then looked back at the gathered Coalition leaders. "With our course of action decided, it is time I head back to the front myself."

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As Rock squinted down at a hand of cards held delicately between his over-sized thumb and forefinger, Chlo'zel began to realize that for a being who had so much difficulty communicating in the usual manner the stoney titan had a terrible poker face. The line of smaller rocks that made up his brow shot up as he looked at the card he'd just drawn from the deck lying on the floor between them, then back down as he overcompensated for the obvious tell. He looked sideways at the Tempestian then back down at his hand before casually asking, "Rock...?"

 

Chlo'zel's response was interrupted by a blaring horn that echoed down the massive hallway, bouncing off of metal bulkheads as its pitch wailed up and down. For several surprised beats the soldiers and support staff going about their business stopped dead in their tracks, exchanging looks and wondering if their peers knew what was going on before training kicked in and they began sprinting to their emergency stations. For his part Rock lumbered to his feet with the modicum of grace he could muster and squared his massive shoulders. "Rock!"

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Inside the war room the assembled leaders were taken equally off guard by the sudden alarm but with every ounce of tactical data streaming directly to the monitors and holo displays in the room they remained confused for a far shorter interval. "The proximity alerts!" Senator Th'emme said with a sharp intake of breath, her back instinctively straightening as she looked to the aide closest to readouts for the sensors seeded throughout the asteroid belt. Although the Coalition was only using a few of the mining facilities left behind nothing could get anywhere near their hidden base undetected. "A Communion fleet?"
 
"No, Dame Th'emme," the aide responded quickly, shaking his head and pursing his lips as he focused on the information in front of him. "We would have caught that sooner. Contact is small and approaching rapidly. A fighter--? No! Smaller, a single sentient, self propelled." The analysts slick yellow hide began to tint blue in alarm. "They're heading right for us!"

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Amara's plans to depart were suddenly cut short at the sound of the proximity alerts sounding. The Naram turned to regard the technician that was monitoring the sensors, a small frown coming to her face as she heard his report. "It appears my departure may have to wait." She stated as she moved slightly closer to regard the monitors that showed the location of the approaching individual.

She then turned back to the other Coalition leaders. "We have been compromised. The rest of you need to evacuate with the rest of the station personnel. I will delay whomever the Communion has sent here, and catch up when I can."

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Chlo'zel dropped the cards in her hand and turned quickly. Due to the disparate heights of her and Rock, she'd already been standing. Her fists clenched and her body tensed. They were here. Right where all the important tacticians and generals and politicians were. 

 

The Tempestian quickly turned her head to face Rock, loosening the top button on her coat as she did so. She had a feeling she'd need a bit of extra range of movement. "Need to helpaid." She waved one hand rapidly. "Where do we movego?"

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"They're not slowing d--!" the analyst began in an alarmed tone before being interrupted as the entire asteroid shook with an impact. Feed from comparatively primitive image recorders embedded into disguised emplacements on the exterior of the massive space borne rock flickered to life on the bank of monitors, triggered by movement as a humanoid figure rose from a three point landing from the bottom of a newly formed crater and behind a cloud of disturbed dust and rubble. Despite Paradigm's suggestion everyone in the war room seemed frozen in place, those biologically predisposed toward breath holding it as they strained to make out who had found their hidden parliament. The cloud dispersed into the vacuum and the silhouette resolved into an armored figure with long hair fluttering in low gravity, his grey-blue skin riddled with tubes of sloshing silver liquid and metal grafts. Diena Th'emme had seen that mutilated visage before, on the day her world was crushed to dust. In a whisper she pronounced the name everyone watching was already thinking with dread:
 
"Star-Khan."
 
The tense silence was broken almost immediately as the sound of rending metal came from behind them, the result of the door to the room being forcibly twisted off of its hinges, coming off entirely in the hands of a hulking mass of stone with embers for eyes and a floating Tempestian girl looking over his shoulder. The rough statue poked its head into the war room and looked back and forth quizzically. "Rock?"

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