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Space rippled uncannily, and suddenly the Praetorian shuttle was hanging there. Aya K’zan smiled to herself as the ship reverted to realspace, her hands hovering over the Deltrazi controls. She had studied hard to learn how to pilot the Praetorian vessels, and while they didn’t trust her with the homeship she was able to fly the shuttles around. It was a small thing, but it meant a lot to her.

Her hands dropped and the sublight engines warmed up, moving the shuttle. She hadn’t quite mastered the technique of coming out of warp at speed, and given the circumstances she felt the need to keep the vessel moving. “We’re at the location of the distress signal,” she said, speaking to the other two women in the shuttle. “Are you picking it up?”

Edited by Raveled
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One of the passengers of the smaller Praetorian vessel was Paradigm, the current Imperatrix of the group.  The Naram had come along on the mission so she and Sitara could observe Aya K'zan during a hopefully lower key mission. 

So far the Lor officer had proven a valuable addition to the Praetorians, providing investigation skills that were rather lacking among the remaining Praetorian members.  The unique powers the Lor officer possessed allowed her to easily operate alongside against the other members against the threats they typically faced.  And of course she and the Star Knight Cavalier provided the team with valuable knowledge and perspectives of the current galaxy. 

As Aya brought the Kavaca out of warp, Amara focused on the controls before her, triggering the vessel's long range sensors and comm system.  It took only a few moments before the sensors located the signal they were responding to.  "Yes, I have it."  Amara replied.  "Transferring the coordinates."  She added, sending the telemetry to the helm station.

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Sitara, the Traveller as some called her, had an ulterior motive for coming along on this mission. As much as she was committed to helping the Praetorians rebuild for this new galaxy she still had her wanderlust, an itch she had to scratch now and again. She’d spent months working on their new headquarters getting things so they were to some extent self sufficient, which was great and all but for someone like her a little tiring. Luckily after a few millenia out of action everything in the galaxy were new again.

“Everything’s running to spec, above if I say so myself. All the systems are at your disposal.”

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Aya sped the shuttle through space, spinning it in a corkscrew. Part of it was showing off, part of it was defensive; the SOS was a pretty generic signal, without any of the details she would have expected. It might have been activated by accident -- or it might be that whatever was happening had already killed everyone on board the ship.

The coordinates lead them to an asteroid thicket. The metal-rich rocks bounced around the sensor returns and Aya had to concentrate on not getting smashed. She managed to avoid any damage, though, and as they rounded the largest rock in the thicket they abruptly come on the source of the distress call, and the Lor officer had to stop herself from screaming.

There were two spaceships there, locked together in a web of mining clamps and waldo arms and shining, creeping metallic fibers. One of the vessels seemed more or less normal, but the other was covered in growing patches of glowing, geometrical circuit board patterns. It was an affect the entire galaxy had learned to fear: a ship in the midst of being consumed by the Communion.

Aya's heart was pounding in a sudden rush of fear and anger, and she had to swallow to be able to speak. "How is a Communion ship out here," she demanded. "We destroyed the mothership, it should be inactive. How is there a newly-infected ship out here!?"

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Amara could not help but smile slightly as Sitara arrived on the bridge, announcing that all systems were fully functional.  Sitara was one of the more technically proficient members of the Praetorians, skills acquired through decades of travelling the galaxy before joining the Praetorians, and years spent as a member of the organization two thousand years ago.  It had not taken Sitara and Mater Vyrdna long to get up to speed on the changes in technology that had occurred while the surviving Praetorians had been in suspended animation, and were key to the construction of the Praetorians' new headquarters. 

But the Naram quickly focused back on the mission at hand, continuing to run sensor sweeps as Aya piloted the Kavaca toward the distress signal.  Like the Lor, Amara tensed slightly at the sight they found waiting for them at the source, but took a deep breath as she ran sensor scans over the two vessels. 

"The Communion was a integrated network." She responded as she performed the scans.  "The mothership was the primary processor in this sector.  Its destruction disrupted the network throughout the sector, and possibly beyond.  Given that the Communion was transforming the worlds it conquered into additional computing storage, it would not be surprising for there to be backups somewhere."

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Sitara’s fingers danced over one of the ship's controls looking at the data as it came in from the ship in front of her. It would be a comfort that the old enemy was still around, if not for devastation that they’d cause to this part of the galaxy.

“Any good computer system has a way for part of the network to take over if the rest is damaged, let’s just hope they didn’t get a take command order. The Communion remind me of these bug we had back on Earth, tailapa they were called, they were almost impossible to get rid off however hard you tried.”

She carried on manipulation the controls before adding.

“I assume we’re going over to take a look?”

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Aya pressed her mouth into a thin line, forcing her immediate feelings of fear and anger deep into her. "We're going in there," she said, piloting the shuttle closer, "and we're going to vaporize every last piece of Communion technology on either ship. I'm not going to give them a second chance." The shuttle orbited around to the far side of the scrum, giving the three women a good look at the whole situation; the Communion-infected ship was small, a raider or sprint trader, but the vessel under attack was a much larger class, likely a miner. The whole affair vaguely reminded Aya of images she'd seen of parasitic wasps injecting their eggs into larger, unsuspecting creatures. In any case, it didn't take the Lor long to find an open port; she maneuvered the shuttle in closer and prepared to make a seal.

She held off on doing that right away, though. The Lor stood and turned to the other two women. "Once we transfer over," she said, "I'm going to have the shuttle back off and take up station-keeping outside the asteroid cluster. At the very least we can keep the Communion from getting this ship. Are you both ready for this?"

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Amara did not comment as Aya decided they were going to intervene and destroy the Communion presence.  There was no question that this was something that required their attention, nor that they needed to ensure the Communion did not gain any additional foothold.  The only concern the Naram had, was trying to learn what they could about how this Communion ship came to be here and active in the process of destroying it. 

Turning her attention to studying the two grappled vessels as Aya took them in a small orbit around them, Amara stood up as they came to a halt. 

"I am ready."  She replied simply.  "Do not forget, we were destroying Communion two thousand years ago."

"But while we are dealing with this, we should endeavor to learn what we can about how this Communion vessel remained active, or came to be here."

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With a mere thought Sitara deployed her armour so it almost instantly covered her entire body, it shining white shell glinting in the ship's lighting. Standing she clipped together the two parts of her power pike that extended to it’s full length.

“If we getting into a... pike measuring contest I was doing this three thousands years before that.” she gave a broad smile her headpiece current being clear

“The suits fully space worth now and I’ve been looking for a chance to test the systems out. Shall we go?”

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Aya maneuvered the shuttle into position and finished locking the last pieces of her armor into place. She programmed a flight plan into the shuttle and set a timer, then went back to the airlock with the two Praetorians. They cycled through the airlock and made the crossing; hard vacuum didn't bother any of them, least of all for the few minutes it took to transfer from one ship to the next. As they finished entering the stricken mining vessel, the shuttle's engines lit up and it maneuvered away. Aya felt better by a bare degree, knowing that at least the Communion wouldn't be absorbing Delaztri tech.

Once through the airlock, the trio found themselves in a long, dark room filled with sealed canisters. Correction -- filled with floating, sealed canisters. Either this section was always intended to be in vacuum, or the crew had turned off life support to try and kill the Communion drones. It was immediately obvious that they weren't successful, as almost before they had found their feet the three women saw a drone scramble into the room. It looked Lor, though covered in the burning circuitry of the Communion's assimilation process. It obviously wasn't adapted to vacuum as all three of them could see its blown-out eyeballs, and the characteristic bleeding from the mouth that spoke of lung damage from decompression. That didn't seem to slow it down, though, as it flung itself at them!

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  • 3 months later...

Paradigm drifted out of the airlock and into the Communion infested spacecraft beyond.  The Naram looked about at the section of ship, noting that they were still in a vacuum, something that did not bother her or the two accompanying her. 

When the group of Communion drones appeared, the Praetorian wasted little time in turning to face them, bringing her hands together in front of her in a powerful clap which sent a shockwave out towards the rushing drones.  The shockwave knocked almost all of them off their feet, damaging them in the process, but not quite putting them down.

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