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Thevshi

Uncertain Liberty [IC]

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Kestevan 79
Coalition Victory Station
October 1, 2015 (Terran Calendar) 

Less than a year ago, most major space faring races gave little thought to Kestevan 79, a system generally avoided due to its nebula, neutron star and magentar companion causing problems with navigation systems.  But that had all changed with the conclusion of the Communion Incursion and the defeat of the Communion mothership in the system by Coalition forces. 

Now, Kestevan 79 was an important location within the neutral zone between the major space powers, with the derelict Communion mothership being renamed Coalition Victory Station and millions of sentients from hundreds of species from across the galaxy living aboard the repurposed vessel.  As a true neutral ground, the station provided an opportunity for the various space powers that had formed the Coalition against the Communion to try to form a lasting peace between them as they sought to rebuild in the aftermath of the Incursion.  

Large sections of the station had been rebuilt by the various Coalition members to provide housing, business, spaceports and other facilities for those relocated there.  But even with these city sized settlements in place, vast sections of the former Communion vessel stood empty and unexplored, often without life support systems in place.   

It was in one of the larger inhabited sectors of the station that the Praetorians had chosen to establish their new headquarters as they began to carry out their new role as galactic protectors.  The outsider status of the ancient protectors of a long gone empire provided the Praetorians something of a unique position between the governments that had formed the Coalition, even as the group formed close bonds with the Lor Republic and Star Knights.   

Over the past few months, Aya K'zan had become familiar with parts of the station, having joined the Praetorians as the official Lor representative and liaison for the organization.  Of course, given the current state of the galaxy, she and the other Praetorians were often away on some mission or another. 

Her current assignment had her down in a lower level of the section that held the Praetorian's headquarters, to a sector inhabited primarily by independent Grue. 

During the chaos of the Incursion, large numbers of Grue drones had been separate from the Unity hivemind of the Metamind, gaining independent sentience and leaving the Unity join Coalition forces fighting the Communion.  Given the callous disregard the Metamind had shown for drones and even Unity worlds during the Incursion, the vast majority of the independent Grue had chosen not to be reincorporated into the hivemind. 

But the shift from being independent of the Unity was not easy for many, and given the distrust many races felt for Grue, the majority of independent Grue had become roaming vagabonds, unable to find any place to make a new home and life.  One contingent of the independent Grue, referring to themselves as the Grue Individuality, had established a delegation on CoVic Station, and a number of other independent Grue eventually followed. 

While the communities of independent Grue were normally left to themselves, a recent string of murders in this sector had prompted the Grue Individuality to request the assistance of the Praetorians in investigating the matter. 

Stretched out before Aya was a larger cavernous space that descended downward hundreds of feet deeper into the station.  A maze of structures and passages snaked along the sides of the space down as far as the Lor officer could see through the misty haze filled the humid air.  Hundreds of red skinned humanoid figures could be seen moving about, mixed with the forms of other species, though whether the later were truly members of those species or independent Grue that had taken that form was impossible to tell for certain. 

"How do you suggest we proceed Officer K'zan?"  Asked the hulking figure that stood beside the Lor in accented GalStandard.  Seresk, an enormous reptilian humanoid over eight feet tall, was one of the original Praetorians that had been sent to assist Aya in the investigation. 

Edited by Thevshi

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Aya K'zan was on edge. She was in among Lor again, except not; she was walking in the bowels of a Communion ship, of the Communion ship, of the Communion mothership that had almost ended the galaxy. Scientists from all over the Coalition (and wasn't that an odd thought? Trusting Grue scientists!) regularly toured the vessel and repeatedly claimed it was safe, harmless and inert. That didn't stop her skin from crawling or her mind from imagining things in dark corners.

Now she was in among the Grue, and even if they were supposed to be free Grue she had a hard time telling them apart. A few had adopted radical bodyshapes, with lumbering shoulders or two heads or three arms or loping limbs, and she could only imagine that it was to look different from the masses, but the effect was somehow even more unsettling than a crowd of brick-red faces.

She shook herself out of her funk and consulted the dataslate she was carrying. "We have the location of the latest murder," she said. "A factory down in something called Bricktown. We should check that out, first."

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"That does sound like a reasonable course of action."  Seresk responded with a small nod.  "Of course we must first determine where this 'Bricktown' is located."  The large reptilian alien then added, glancing about for a moment before moving forward towards the nearest crowd of Grue. 

As Corona and her new teammate neared the crowded intersection, she was better able to make out the various Grue making their way along the street.  A good number retained the red skinned, androgynous humanoid form with pointed ears and a smooth expanse where most humanoid species would have some configuration of mouth and nose.  But Corona could see that there were some Grue, while keeping the red skin and pointed ears, had adopted a male or female form.   

"Excuse me fellow sentients," Seresk stated in GalStandard once he was near to some of the passing Grue, "my companion and I are looking for Bricktown, would any of you happen to know where it is located?" 

Several of the passing Grue only briefly turned their heads to consider Seresk's towering figure, giving Corona a quick glance as well before continuing on their way.  Others stopped to regard the large Praetorian and Lor officer, seemingly hesitant about whether they should respond or not.

Finally one Grue stepped forward and looked up at Seresk.  "It is four levels down, just follow this main passage and it will lead downward."  The Grue pointed off in one direction, down a main street that went through the center of the nearby buildings, curving slightly to the left as it went and sloping downward.

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Aya started moving through the crowds, feeling her skin crawl from having so many Grue nearby. She had left her armor behind, but now the Lor wished she had kept it; having a layer between her and the crowds would be very appreciated right now. She did her best to ignore the feelings and focus on the case at hand. A murder was a murder, after all, and she'd tracked down shapeshifters before. It was all about working the clues and building a case.

She didn't talk as the pair of them descended deeper into the Grue section, keeping to herself. Once they were on the appropriate deck, it didn't take them long to locate the factory as it was at the locus of a knot of on-lookers. Aya pushed through the crowd until she was face to face with a Coalition peacekeeper, a humanoid with silvery-metallic skin. She flashed her own credentials and glanced around. "Aya K'Zan, with the Praetorians," she said. "Can you show us the scene?"

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The streets of the Grue section of the station were crowded, but one of the advantages of having Seresk with along was his massive size caused the crowds to naturally to get out of his way, making it relatively easier for Aya to make her way.  The larger Praetorian did not seemed to be as bothered at being surrounded by so many Grue, but he remained quiet as well, respecting Aya's choice at silence.  

Once they reached the crowed near the factor, Seresk followed along behind Aya, allowing her to take the lead.  The Coalition peacekeepr the Lor approached took a moment to confirm her credentials, then gave a small nod.  "Of course, this way officer."  The humanoid replied in heavily accented GalStandard.  

Allowing the two Praetorians to move through the ring the handful of peacekeepers had formed near the factory, the silvery skinned peacekeeper then lead them toward an entrance to the building.  Seresk was just able to use the entry, having to duck down considerably to do so, but inside the ceiling rose high into the air allowing him to stand upright once more. 

Glancing around the large room, Aya saw several large conveyor belts that led to various smelting furnaces.  The air was hotter than it was outside, with a lingering smell of smoke and melted metal heavy around them.  Currently all the belts were stopped and the furnaces inactive.  A short walk around some of the furnaces and conveyers and the trio came upon the scene.  Back in one corner of the factory, behind a furnace was a small group of figures, two Coalition peacekeepers and two Grue, both having taken on forms that were more or less masculine.  Lying on the ground nearby was the body of another Grue, having the more standard Grue androgynous form, with a pair of energy burn marks on its torso.

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It probably said something about her that the Lor was more comfortable at a crime scene than walking through a marketplace, but at least here she didn't feel hemmed in by a sea of red bodies. She followed the silver humanoid through the foundry slowly, taking in the details, wanting to make sure she didn't miss a single detail -- you could never know what could be critical in cracking a case, after all. The local investigators probably hadn't missed anything, but then there had to be a reason that they had called her.

 

The crime scene was eerily reminiscent of thousands she had seen in her career, although the victim being a Grue was a new wrinkle to her. She kneeled next to the corpse, probing the scorch marks gently. The skin underneath was still soft and yielding, but not mushy; that suggested that the energy weapon hadn't killed by brute force, but that something weirder had happened to this person. After a minute she stood, dusting her hands off and glancing at the others gathered around the scene. She addressed the Coalition peacekeepers, avoiding the Grue as long as possible. "Do we have ID on it," she asked, gesturing to the body with her chin.

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