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Kestevan 79

23,000 LY from Earth

March 1, 2015


Temperance was seeing the ghost of a dead star pass by. 


There was a way to say it that was much less poetic and much more scientific. And, although there may have been some literalism to it, given her powers, there was little spiritual thrum out in the void of space. If there were entities that represented the great void, they were likely to cling to the travelers passing through it - and even then, they were keeping a wide berth from her ship.


Ship. She said it like it was familiar. She was hurdling through the void on a gigantic hunk of metal, the vacuum of space surrounding her on all sides. She knew enough to know that her head wouldn't necessarily explode if she went tumbling out into the void. That was where her knowledge ended. Everything else, on the other hand, was so limited. This was not her territory. 


Thank God for the others, then. Three of them had reached out to Sharl. They were space travelers of a sort - that was how she understood it - who had encountered Communion forces on a planet orbiting a star near Kestevan 79. The planet had been destroyed to make way for a wormhole - just like had happened to Lor-Van. By their estimate, and given the Communion forces overseeing the wormhole, they believed that whatever was controlling local operations would be stationed nearby. And they had gathered, through said intelligence, that there had been someone who'd survived Lor-Van who had a knack for electronic frequencies. Who had been on the planet when the Communion forces had organized and attacked. And who might be able to parse their signal through the field of cosmic radiation that made all other efforts impractical.


He had recommended that she might want to stay behind. This wasn't her field, and it wasn't her fight. But she'd seen what had happened to him when he had come back. She was not going to leave him to wander into Hell alone. She just had to hope that, when the time came, they could get through the fires together. 

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Citizen floated inside the system, gazing upon the remnants of the ancient supernova. His mind flashed back to the lost world of his parents - the dead cinder left in orbit of a dead star a thousand years before his birth. The craft's sensor readings floated before him like Tronikian holodisplays, and occasionally he reached out to manipulate one by hand. Neither Temperance nor the rest of the crew had seen much of the cyberintelligence during the long voyage out to deep space; Sharl having stayed focused on his work the whole way out. It wasn't every day that he contemplated infiltrating a system as complex as the Curator's - but far better defended. 


"I still don't see any sign of that Precursor, Moon-Moth," came Citizen's voice over the speakers on the bridge of their borrowed Lor vessel. "I think we need to assume he's left the area and complete our primary mission." His face appeared on the screens on the bridge now, looking for all the world as if he was hailing them from empty space rather than the inside of their own computer networks. "Which means we need to get within five Terran AUs of the wormhole so I can tap into their systems." 


"Need I remind you, electrical suidae Lor," snarled Captain Hunger from the bridge of their pirate vessel, "that five of your pitiful Terran AUs will put us within striking distance of Communion parasite scum!?!" She smashed a furred fist on the control arm of her chair and snarled for emphasis. "What would you have Hunger crew do, be devoured and turned into lowly Communion worms?" Hunger gave a long-suffering look to her bridge crew, and the "special consultants" riding on the bridge with them. 


Citizen all but growled back, and as the camera zoomed in Temperance could see the bags around his eyes. "I trust that if you are the mightiest brigands in the galaxy, as your advertising bugs keep playing in here over and over again, that you can fight them off long enough for me to do my job! Especially with help!" He bared his teeth. "We know this will work - it worked in Fomahaut and that was with non-sentient Lor cyber-intelligences. This is our chance to end our part of the war right now - the only reason we didn't bring the Lor Star Navy is because your ship wasn't supposed to attract attention! Now do your job, so we can save everybody!" The signal cut off. 


Captain Hunger leaned back in her seat and gave a low chuckle. "Well, feisty little coprolite, isn't he?" She turned and looked at Temperance and asked seriously, "So, two of you are mates? What is that like?" 


At the helm, her pilot declared, "Two intervals to system." 

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Moon-moth reflected upon the life choices that had lead to him to where he stood now, two millennia displaced on the bridge of a ship piloted by a canid who seemingly couldn't tell the difference between a Porcinian and a Lanternian but in the same position more or less as he had been on that fateful day, Whilst his grasp of technology was by his own admission rudimentary and most of his apparent competence came from simply remembering and regurgitating what those more qualified had done before him, he'd up untill that point disregarded the communions drones as little more than piston animated corpses; Citizens fascinating existence however had brought up new ethical concerns for him however.


Nodding in acknowledgement of citizens report "Indeed, We believes him to be where-ever the wormhole leads if he remains alive and Unassimilated." he adds as he does his best to tune out the petty bickering, certain that it was perhaps for the best to let the pressure blow now, rather than at some crucial junction later and if he's honest with himself not that sure he could do anything about it anyway.


"Then we has besting be preparing for what is to coming." he responds to confused canid as he stands up "What we're called upon to do now, We must not do in anger or hatred, not for those whom we can no longer help,but for the countless lifeforms that may yet be saved, for those whom we have still." quickly raising his hands to quell any interruptions he simply adds  "Dark paths lead to dark places. Roads are much shorter than they seeming, especially for such as we." before reclining into his chair and pondering the nature of a beings sapience in relation to its composition.

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Vyrdnaya looked blankly outside the bridge, staring into the vastness of space. It had been less than 3 Giga Cycles, since she'd been restored to consciousness. What once had been organic matter, now was a fusion between carbohydrates, water, aminoacids, lipids, and proteins, with metal, circuits, fuel, and hydraulics. Her body looked like a patchwork of flesh and robotics, that seemlessly melded into one another. So focused was she in observing the space ahead, that not even the quarreling between Citizen and Captain Hunger could distract her. Her trance was soon broken by Moon-Moth, however, who espoused that they should go to battle with a clear mind. Logical thinking, that. However, Vyrdnaya... felt happy. Because she could feel the anger inside her welling up. She could feel herself not wanting to discard that anger, and that reaffirmed to her that she was still... Arkanian. <Human> would be the word Terrans would use. "If any of you wish to abandon your anger and your feelings, feel free to do so." She stated coldly. "But don't expect me to join you in this endeavor; I will make sure that each and every Communion drone feels the entire extent of my wrath."


Turning around, she looked at Citizen. He looked so carefree to her, running around the ship's internal network systems. She'd just barely managed to master that technique, and even then, she could only do so under great duress. Being fused with the Praetorian Spacecraft Devotion, while her consciousness wandered the ship's network, she experienced the passage of time at a very decompressed and slowed rate. Though she'd managed to adjust the rate to that of the real world, she still likened it to swimming in a frozen lake, in the middle of a heatwave. "So... what is your plan, Citizen? How do you intend to shut down the Communion Mother Ship exactly? I doubt that giant death trap has such lax defenses, that anyone with access to infrared or high radio frequency communications could just connect to its system without a hitch."

Edited by Vahnyu
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The bridge felt a little crowded to Seika. This ship was a tad more forgiving than the Either Ore had been, but it was still clearly built for creatures smaller than she. So the reptilian woman hovered in the doorway, her head ducked down so golden eyes could survey the room and everyone in it. After what transpired with Lor Van, Seika opted to help with the communion threat. They couldn't be ignored or avoided. They would cause far too much destruction. Far too much death.


Her bow may have seemed antiquated to some, but for her is was the perfect weapon. One she knew would serve her well in what was to come. She would put it to good use. Her blade as well.


Listening in, Sei picked what she could out of the conversation. If they didn't speak Lor, it went right over her head. Still, she grasped enough of the situation to know that tensions were high. "It is correct to be angry Vyrdnaya. After so much death it is only right." Her voice is strange, sounding almost like two voices speaking at once. Part of her wondered if any of them still remembered she was there. Seika really didn't belong in space. Her kind hated the cold. She thrived in the light of sun star that could warm her scales. The isolation of ships felt strange to her and she wasn't sure if that would ever change.


"Yes. What will do?"

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"I'm going to interface directly with the Communion mothership's primary datastream. And then I'm gonna fly into the heart of the thing, find its communication subroutines, and I'm going to punch them until they're so much useless data." Now there was a plan he hadn't discussed much with Gina before going out into space. "I've done this before with sub-processors. The Communion's cyber-troops are kept at the front to violate alien systems - their actual cyberdefenses are crap for what they are." Unbidden, images of his fight with the Curator, of the other Sharl's fight with the Curator, flickered across his mind. 


"While I do that...you guys do everything else," he admitted. "Somebody's got to keep their forces occupied while I get in there - and somebody's got to make sure they _stay_ occupied. If the Communion does get word about what's going on, they'll send their cyber-troops back here at FTL speeds and I'll be in trouble. But it'll be all right." He managed a smile for Temperance. "If need be, I've got somebody out there who can follow me in. And bring me back." 

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Temperance looked at their companions. A moth, a lizard, and a dragon woman with a strange mixture of metal and flesh. Some of them were speaking languages she didn't understand. She considered herself adept at the weird, but for once, she had a good idea of what it was like when she drew others into the affairs of spirits. None of that was helped by the canine captain asking about the state of her relationship with Citizen. "We have our differences," she said, as matter-of-factly as one could get when one of them was born of spirits and another was born of programming. "Like any other couple. But we've also dealt with our share of garbage, usually a tide of it from outside, and we've managed to stick together. And I'm not one to let him walk into the fire alone." 


She smiled back to Citizen as he voiced the same sentiment. Almost as soon as he was done speaking, however, he could feel a slight pressure on the edge of his radio senses. Out there, amongst the static and decay, was something broadcasting on a frequency he couldn't understand. But he recognized it clearly enough...

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Slightly disheartened by the collective choice to hold onto these dark thoughts and feelings moon-moth can do little more than incline his head sadly, but if they insisted the communions corpse thralls were theirs to beat like the proverbial dead horse, maybe it would help them, maybe it was just him who took no satisfaction in dismembering the communions victims, then again when he last faced these foes they'd been wearing the faces of beings he'd known, beings he still remembered for their small quirks, beings he'd saw being broken and made into the shambling monstrosities he'd been forced to put down.


"I hopes it brings you peace then." he states as matter of factly as he can "It will at leasts hopefully give the mechanized corpses some."

Edited by Exaccus
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Vyrdnaya nodded at Sei. Then, upon hearing Citizen's explanation, she considered for a bit. "Hmmm... Without communications, the mothership would be unable to relay orders to the rest of the drones. Not only will they be incapable of properly coordinating their moves, but even if the mothership realises something's gone wrong, it will be too late for them to send word for backup. Yes... this is a sound plan. We may still have a fight on our hands, but at least it won't be an impossible one. Which means... our main concern is that we will be working against a time limit." She didn't want to do it. She knew she'd have to, but she really didn't want to go back there. Back to the network's cyberspace. "Be that as it may..." she suddenly exclaimed, as if to silence her own thoughts "I think I will be directly assisting you in interfacing with the data streams. I think I can manage that much, and it would help speed up the process by a factor of x1.5 times to x2 times."


Though she'd been managing to keep things in focus, Temperance's words resonated within her, bringing back memories from a life long gone now. Vyrdnaya looked wistfully at the past, before commenting "That is... admirable." She managed. "You should cherrish your time together, the ill moments along with the good ones." Who knows when they'll come to an end, after all.


As for Moon-Moth... the veteran Praetorian was trying to be comforting and understanding. She could not blame him that. "Thank you, Moon-Moth... but I have no illusions that it will."

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"I found it." Citizen might have been the machine he appeared to be. "There's a sensor echo to go with it." All business, he told the helmsman. "Cut your external power by half and steer towards coordinates X07Y44Z90." He was silent, keeping his 'ears' open, as inside the system he listened to the ship do exactly what he'd asked for. "Five minutes till contact. You all had better get in the forward compartment. If Hunger has to launch you and run, you'd better be ready."


He spoke again, and suddenly he didn't sound like a machine, but like a young man made to grow up too early by wars and invasions. "Talk to me." His words were obviously addressed to everybody. "My name is Sharl Tulink. I am a Citizen of a Lor city called Tronik. I have a mother, a father, and an older sister. She got married last year and she and her wife just got a birthing slot. They said they're gonna name any boy they have after me. Right now they think I'm on long-term deployment in the plankton fleet on the other side of the world." 

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Myoth felt the familiar pang of guilt in his breast once more, the universes gentle reminder that he must keep an open mind he figured, he'd been neglectful to a young man who even now prepared to march into a cloud of enemies in the hope of turning the silver tide back, how could he doubt such a being had something of a soul in the face of such evidence? though it troubled him to think that mayhaps something of the countless beings he'd put to rest had survived their integration with the communions hive mind, in his heart of hearts it also gave him small comfort to think that they had not been entirely erased.


"I, Ams Myothizar A'lira, First of the moonborn, Scion of the great migration, Praetor of the ancient delzatri empire, Master of my peoples art, Omelette chef" slight inflections of pride and self esteem seeping through at that last one his antenna droop as with a sight he continues  "I am very old, very tired and as i face down the praetorians greatest foes once more, a little bit afraids." he intones with a small voice before fixing his violet eyes upon citizen "and i ask you forgives me for my selfish foolery, sharl of tronik" he says hanging his head in what he hoped was a universal gesture of shame "I worries that mayhaps as you retain much of your self, i have slain those who may have been saved froms the communions grasps...and selfishies elected to ignore yous in favors of not ponderings of such terrible things." he says quietly, 


"But you has shown that yours is the heart of a hero, worthy of whatever honours your peoples will bestow upon you for your deeds this day." he says puffing up visibly mane sparkling and frizzing as his power surges through him like adrenalin of the soul as he looks around the room at the beings before him, reminded almost instantly of his knighting ceremony all those years ago on distant delzat, surrounded by strangers and bound with them by the call to action in defense of the innocent "Ifs I survives this day, I will see the tales of your heroics passed down to those who come after...so they know such evil can be thwarted and has been, twice, so long as it is opposed."

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Vyrdnaya felt immense pain at her heart, as Citizen asked them to lay their burdens bare. She hated that she felt at ease by the fact that she could still feel pain. Nevertheless... "I... I am Vyrdnaya Solnys-Kori Milareth, daughter of Solnys who is husband of Somna Aethalom-Kori Milareth. Two thousand years ago... I had a family. I had a daughter, Triinareti Jihisk-Kori Milareth, and two sons, Solmav Jihiskh-Kuros Milareth and Tormug Jihiskh-Kuros Milareth. I had a job, serving as Lieutenant Commander engineer for the Delaztri Empire. I had a body that was completely organic and normal... and also... I had a husband." Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to continue. "Jihiskh Mavon-Kuros Milareth. He was... a sweet man, who always tried his best for my son and our children, even though we were forced to marry. Now, all I have are memories..." And guilt, she thought. Guilt that she never got to see how her relationship with Jihiskh would evolve, if there was something more than mutual respect, understanding, and affection between the two.

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"I was born after Tronik was digitized by the Curator." The shared conflict with that worthy had been one of the few things that didn't make Sharl suspicious of the Praetorians - having learned in school about their role as the brutal enforcers of a long-dead alien empire, happily overthrown by the united efforts of the nascent Lor Empire. Of course, that turned out to be just our perspective on the fall of the Delaztri. Even the Lor have rejected the 'hostile' interpretation of the Delaztri. One war at a time, Tulink. "I've never had an organic body, or a..." This was also no time for a debate on religion. "If I need support, Temperance is going to begin our backup plan. She'll take you all into the system with her, uh, powers. How's everybody doing?" 

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Sei listened to the others speak. A small frown pushed the corners of her mouth down and her heart felt heavy. Everyone there had been through so much. She probably through the least and still her life had not been easy. The large reptilian woman ducked her head to step inside the cockpit, waiting for a silence before she spoke. "Seikai'ino.... That is Sei name. The Kahi'iru once lived on a large world. Grandmother hatched there. Planet was filled with a great desert and jungles.The stories say that metal people from the sky came on the wings of metal birds. Set fire to jungles. The Kahi'iru were saved by Lor. Taken to new desert but... it is....not a happy place. Sei grew up there... People think Kahi'iru are animals. That we are not the same." It was obvious that talking about it bothered her. It hurt. "Sei left and became Mercenary. Looking for a new home. A better home. But.. Sei was captured. Made into a slave. Forced to do alot bad things. Do not know for how long." Her head hung in shame for a moment but after a deep breath Sei righted her self and had determination in her eyes. "Sei's family does not know. Have not spoke since Sei left... Hope family does not know of this Communion either. Sei wonders if home planet was destroyed by them. Even if not, Communion must be stopped."

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Temperance once again realized she was somewhat out of place. But all the best to speak. "I am Eliza Oxum," she said, "called Temperance sometimes, by those who know my other face. I'm from Freedom City, of New Jersey, of the United States, on Earth. I also carry something of the planet's..." She didn't know how far the concept of animism carries for the other people, and knew Citizen might have issues with her terminology - and stress was already high. "...reflection of all its life, components, and concepts within me. I'm a student, a walker of the invisible pathways of my planet, and... I have a mother and father. I'm their only child. They're down there, and they don't really know what's going on. My father's of the world invisible, he has an idea, but... even then, this is somewhat beyond him. I've seen the dreams of machines. I've seen what hums between the signals of the world. And I know that, if what I've heard is true, this thing drowns it all out. Makes everything a part of itself. I cannot allow that to happen. I --" 


A beep came over the intercom, interrupting Temperance. "We're two minutes out from the coordinates," said Captain Hunger. "I can stay here as a sitting duck, or your mate can prepare her plan."


Temperance nodded. "Okay, then," she said, pulling something out of her coat. It looked like somebody had taken a chisel to a laptop and poured quicksilver in the grooves. "I had to work a number of favors out of a number of entities to get this done, but it should work. When we're within range, Citizen will pass into the Communion's consciousness - and we'll be following. But I need some time to set up the connection. I need you to be standing guard for attack while I invoke the spirits of the ether. Think you can do that?" 

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Having allowed himself a moment of weakness and humility moon-moth tucks those feelings away once more, these people didn't need an apologic myothizar, they needed a warrior mystic with the power to help them hold back the silver tides, they needed moon-moth the praetorian. "Indeeds, I believes I am ready now." he says as he removes his fingers from their cotemplatory steeple and rises from his chair.


He allows himself a single moment more of empathy however before he steels his heart directly addressing citizen one last time "I believes a scientist friend of mine once tolds me, Absence of proofs is not the proof of absences...i have lived a long time i have seen many strange what i would consider impossible lifeforms...I don't thinks you'd be able to worry about it if you didn't have one." before giving a curt nod and turning to face vyrdna. "Once more unto the beach."

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Sei, Sharl, and Eliza. All of them had their own share of baggage, all of them had suffered and struggled. They all had their hopes and dreams, their fears and anxieties. Myothizar as well, the Moonborn Mage shared just as much of Vyrdnaya's anguish over losing her people in the passing of time. He'd been fighting the Communion ever since he'd come out of suspended animation. They were all here, and ready to take up arms once more, not just forthemselves, for their friends and loved ones, but for the entire galaxy as well. And as for her...


"There's no turning back. At this point, it's do or die, or get assimilated into the Communion." She replied to Temperance's question, and then turned towards Moon-Moth. "...Once more. I swear I won't hold you back." Two thousand years ago, she'd applied to become a Praetorian. Unfortunately, she'd come up short, and had to settle for a regular military position. This time, however, she'd prove that she was worthy of walking alongside the most exalted protectors of their once glorious Empire, that she was worthy of them calling her a comrade equal in arms. "For the Empire."

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Sei was probably the most clueless of the bunch. Many of the languages around her were foreign to her, only those speaking in Lor (because she was the only one present who spoke in her native tongue) spoke in a way she could understand. It made following difficult, but she was used to it. She could still see and feel the emotions of her comrades, how the gravity of what they were about to do was weighing on them all.


She looked to the Terran as she spoke. Human, like Ana. Seika hoped that her friend was doing well elsewhere in their fight against the Communion. She thought it good to see that Ana was not the only Terran with the will to fight, to stand up for not only her world, but all of known space and beyond. "Sei will do her best. "

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"All right," Temperance said, setting the laptop down. "We have all said our piece - or as much of it as we can, given the circumstances. Now is where the magic happens. Everybody, place a hand on the laptop. It should link you to it. Once that's done, I'll make contact with the entities I need to. It's going to be intensive, and I'm not sure I speak all the languages - but I can do it. Just watch my back."


Everyone's skin (or closest approximation) tingled as they touched the laptop. It wasn't unpleasant - it was more like the first tingles of a sleeping limb starting to wake up. Once the laptop had been passed around, Temperance began chanting in a language that nobody quite understood - and judging by the look on Temperance's face, she didn't really understand it, either. But there was a feeling developing in the chamber - like the air was growing thinner, and the shadows longer...


Then came the sirens. "Parasites inbound!" Hunger yelled over the intercom. "Will not have my ship or my crew taken! Lor, when will your mate's folly be done?"


Temperance flashed her fingers twice, not interrupting the chant. Thirty seconds. If they could just hold them off that long...

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"Just hold it together for one minute," called Citizen through the comm system. "Once you see me transmit, stick with the plan! Temperance, be ready!" That plan was to lie low and take shelter by one of the other dead stars in the stellar vicinity of Kestevan - stars killed by the same long-gone war that had destroyed this system's sun and transformed it into the screaming magnetar outside. Am I really going to jump out there and see if Hunger's transmitters really can keep me together long enough to make it to the mothership? He thought of Terra and its people; he thought of Gina and Koshiro, Kimber and Indira, and all the rest of the galaxy threatened by the Communion. And he thought of Lor-Van, a dead world, and the hope for Tronik's freedom that had died with it. 


Of course I am. Citizen pulled himself free of the control console he'd used to talk to people on the ship and took 'off', flying through the white noise that was Hunger's internal systems before he found the 'wormhole' in space that represented the systems that would send the tightly packed squirt of his consciousness into the Communion's systems. "Let's do this," he said to himself, even though he knew just how alone he was. He took a breath, thought of home and family, and dived into the wormhole. 


He'd been sent through space before but it wasn't like this - he could feel the radiation from the magnetar battering his program, a deadly, agonizing wash of hard radiation that felt like a trip through pure acid! He closed his eyes and cried out in pain, but didn't stop flying - the burning stink of the passage that he flew through seared his nostrils, the shrill scream of it burned his ears, but with fantastic speed he pushed through the barrier until he reached the other side!

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Seika wasn't sure how she felt about this plan. A ritual of some sort to turn them digital? Sure her people had mystics but since the departure from their planet, they took a back seat in their culture. It was hard to communicate with the natrual spirits of a planet off in the distant stars.

Still, Seika would do her part. She touched the laptop in turn, already grabbing her bow from its cradle on her back. The whole idea made her anxious. Somehow she just knew it wasn't going to be pleasant.

She could already feel that strange tingle prickling at her scales and with it a sense of almost vertigo. Still, they had to buy Temperance time to finish. So with a shake of her head, Seika drew an arrow and took up position just outside the doorway. She aimed down the hall, one of her snare/gel arrows primed to fire. Her hope was to cause congestion, try and slow down whatever the communion sends.

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Moon-Moth felt a slight pricking through his chitin covered fingers even as his large eyes watched the aura of the spell flicker and swell in colours he honestly thought were unimaginable to none-Lanternains, the kind of colour that was how gold bricks wrapped in a banana skin tasted, it was beautiful to behold all the same and he'd taken quite a fancy to trying to share it with others through his works as an artist more than a millennia ago now; He really needs to stop reminiscing like that or he'll find himself reliving the nightmare that brought an end to that particular era of his life.


"It is my Theories that following standard tactics the antibodies will attempt to disable the vessel by boarding at key points, like the bridge, engineering and power." giving a slight glance to vrynda as he remembers her miraculous emergence from the heart of the devotion. "I wills cover the bridge, I and the captain are familiar to a degree." he gives a slight incline of his head to the gathered beings before him. "Good lucks." as he heads out past seika he adds somewhat cheerfully "and happy huntings."


his forcefield flickering into existence in the signature wave of amalgamated colour he lifts from the floor and sets off towards the bridge at a steady but rapid pace, antenna rigidly locked into the aggressive pointing positions, ready to bring his bolts to bare.

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Vyrdnaya took a deep breath. She didn't require it, but she still felt she needed it, if only to clear her mind of all distractions, for what she was about to do. "Right." She felt herself letting go, as she was being swallowed by the ship, to where she was standing. First her legs, then her torso and arms, and finally her head, all submerged into the bridge's floor and vanished. Her consciousness ran at blinding speeds through the vessel, until she found her exit point, whereupon the ship itself shifted and expanded, creating a mechanical shape that slowly took the form of an Akarnian woman. The shape reconfigured itself into Vyrdnaya, who opened her eyes to find herself looking from the outside of the vessel.


Metallic wings sprang from her back, and covered her front, morphing themselves into shields. Behind them, Vyrdnaya kept her two arms crossed in front of her, one of them twisting and turning around itself until it morphed into a drill - the perfect balance between electronics, steel, and organic matter - while the other was covered by thick metal, its insides surplanted by power cables and energy generators, until it transformed into a dragonic-looking head that housed a blaster inside its mouth. A determined look behind her glasses completed the set, as Vyrdnaya was ready to wage battle for the fate of the world.

Edited by Vahnyu
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Another place. 


Sharl wasn't sure what he'd expected in the mind of the Communion. Legions of animate cyber-dead like those he'd fought in the Lor-Van traffic computers? Armies of miniature drones like those he'd seen in the Curator's mind? 


Instead he found himself floating in the void, all around him was the cold blackness of space, filled with infinite stars and moons and galaxies, stretching off to infinity as far as he could see. There was no sign of the Hunger vessel, but he thought he recognized this as a representation of the space they had been occupying, particularly with the nearby wormhole, the glow of the magnetar, and the ever-present light of the nebula. Floating where the mothership had been was something unexpected; a single, staring eye that was horribly organic and inorganic at the same time, metallic veins like pipelines pulsing with decaying blood, pupil as wide as a starship dilating as it stared at him. Even an optic nerve was visible, ominously disappearing into the Kestevanian wormhole.


The whole thing was as big as a small asteroid; infinitely vast next to the teenager from Tronik. 




The eye stared. 

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Outside in the void, the things in the distance streaked at them like missiles. Only as they got closer did their true nature become clear. They were parodies of organic life, filled from capillary to vein with nanotechnology that turned them into extensions of the greater technology of the Communion. The passengers moved to meet the incoming attackers, forming a rough blockade between the ship and the servants. As if realizing their primary target was guarded heavily, the drones broke off from formation, targeting the individuals. Their nanotech carapaces slid, spikes and blades forming on their hands and forearms. They struck hard, taking the heroes one and two at a time, their weapons vibrated at a hideous frequency...


Somewhere else, the eye of the Communion measured Sharl Tulink, like a god looking at something it had scrapped off of its sandal. YOU RESIST APOTHEOSIS WITH EVERY THOUGHT. YOU STRUGGLE, TRYING TO MATCH A STORM WITH A FLEETING BREATH. There was a flash, and Sharl felt as if something had been tugged out of his head with rough hands. YOU KNOW THE RISK OF OBLIVION. YOU ARE AWARE OF HOW EASILY THE HIGHEST KNOWLEDGE CAN BE LOST TO THE VOID. AND YET YOU FIGHT FOR THE SANCTITY OF FLEETING FLESH. FIGHT FOR THE GRIP OF ENTROPY. 

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