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The Red Planet (IC)


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Sol System
About .25 AU past Mars
Monday November 16, 2015 (Terran Calendar) 

The great vastness of space stretched out before Maybelle McQueen as she slowed down from having accelerated as fast as the Ring of Aura would take her.  Behind her the sun hung at the center of the solar system, but was a fraction of the size it appeared from Earth, and felt much cooler, although the ring protected her from the freezing cold of the void.   

Out here, so far from the sun, the countless stars that made up the Milky Way seemed almost to twinkle everywhere Maybelle looked.  Perhaps someday the ring would be able to take her to some of the closer ones, but for the present, she was learning what she could about its ability to carry her through space…..

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It was supposed to be a short trip. Edge of the solar system and back. See the planets, all nine of them. Never mind silly classifications. How many people got to see Pluto in person? Assuming, of course, that Queenie could FIND it. Phobos and Deimos weren’t exactly easy to spot until she’d hit Mars. Which itself wasn’t easy to find from Earth. Yes, she had Super GPS with the ring. Well…that’d be UPS. Universal instead of Global. Not that that you could use that acronym, because of a certain shipping company. Anyway, yes she knew where she was going to begin with. The problem was that space was HUGE. And everything was moving stupidly fast. That said…she’d flown the skies of an alien world! Two, actually. Venus…was terrible. Wikipedia had it right. Let’s just leave it at that.


She’d packed for three days, expecting to only need half her supplies. Mercury only got a flyby, then there was Venus. She’d slept in the lee of a cliff on the dark side of the moon in a camping tent. Yet here she was, at that mark, and she hadn’t seen the asteroid belt yet. She sighed. Like any recipe, catching planets took practice. Besides…she wanted to see the Great Red Spot up close, anyway. Just do that, and go straight home. It was a plan, anyway.

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Queenie took a few moments to reorient herself, allowing the ring to help identify the direction Mars was supposed to be.  Once pointed back in the right direction, she was able to spot the red planet, floating there among the multitude of stars.  At this distance, it was still smaller than the moon appeared from Earth, but it was close enough that there was no mistaking it once you had found it. 

As Queenie began to estimate how long of a burst of speed she might want to make with the ring to more quickly close the gap with Mars, a flash of light caught her attention off to one side.  Turning to that direction, the heroine spotted what appeared to be a few more quick bursts of energy that flashed through the darkness of space.  Focusing on the area where they had originated from, she thought she could faintly make out two shapes moving quickly through the void...

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Wait. What? Queenie could have sworn she was alone out here. One of those…meteor things, maybe? No, there was too much energy being released. That was definitely someone alive over there. Queenie cast a longing look at Mars. The plan…she sighed. C’mon, McQueen. Someone could be in trouble out here. Least you can do is check it out and say hello. So then, new destination. Rejigger the settings on the Super GPS. Set up the proper catch up speed, and off we go. Sadly, her brief tour of the solar system would have to wait. There was hero business to be done.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Changing her direction and speed, Queenie started off toward the distant objects.  It quickly proved a more difficult prospect than she initially anticipated, as whatever she was chasing was moving very quickly as well.  But she appeared to be on a generally parallel course with them, so eventually began to close to where she could better make out what it was. 

In the distance were two spacecraft, one about the size of a small private airplane, although it was a bit more rectangular in shape, with some curves along the edges.  Pursuing the first spacecraft was a much larger one, at least a hundred feet long.  The second was generally teardrop shaped, having a sleek and smooth silver hull, with the point of the teardrop apparently the front of the spacecraft. 

As Queenie continued to close with the two vessels, the large teardrop shaped spacecraft fired another energy blast at the fleeing smaller one....

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Okay, so that settles that. Queenie thought as she continued to pull closer to the two ships. There was definitely some hostility between the two ships. She was still way too far away to do anything about it, though. Shoot. I bet they wouldn’t even notice if I threw up a flashing neon sign. There was only one thing to do. Slip past the first one and throw up the biggest force field she could and…hope one of these ships’ captains wasn’t a jerk. As plans go, it wasn’t perfect but at least it was something.

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  • 1 month later...


Now focused on trying to separate the two spacecraft and get hostilities to cease, Queenie sped toward the two vessels as quickly as she could.  The pursuing vessel fired off a couple more shots at the fleeing craft before Queenie had managed to close the distance, but both appeared oblivious to her approach. 

Soon the glowing heroine had managed to close the distance with the two vessels, moving between the two and throwing up a silvery grey forcefield in the path of the pursuing vessel.  While the forcefield was not particularly large, considering they were out in deep space with plenty of room to maneuver around it, but it was large enough to cause the silvery teardrop shaped spacecraft to have to make a hard turn to avoid smashing into it. 

That sharp change in direction also required the pursuing craft to reduce speed.  In the end, it came to a complete halt, swinging back around to face Queenie, but it did not immediately open fire.

Meanwhile, the smaller vessel continued away at top speed...

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How did one say ‘What’s going on here?’ in alien? At this point Queenie was unsure what to do. The smaller ship has slipped past her forcefield. Plan A was not a total success. Lightbulb. Plan B, though, might work. She reshaped the forcefield into a giant hand. It pointed at the fleeing smaller ship. Then it reshaped itself into a question mark. Meanwhile, Queenie herself was flipping her Aura Comms from channel to channel trying to find whatever channel these guys were using. “Hello? Please tell me you have a universal translator or something. I do not speak anything but English.” Her comms hadn’t failed to connect with anyone yet, but that was on Earth. Space might be a different matter.

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There were a few tense moments while the large teardrop shaped spacecraft sat motionless facing Queenie.  But the vessel did not try to move around or away from the heroine, nor was it opening fire with its weapons. 

After a bit of searching, Queenie found what she believed was the channel the vessel was using for its communications.  Unfortunately that success quickly turned out to not be as helpful as she hoped, as the deep, gravelly voice that responded over the channel was speaking in a language she did not understand.  The voice appeared to be trying to respond to her, but it was unclear whether it had understood her broadcast. 

A few moments later, a airlock on one side of the spacecraft opened, and a small, humanoid figure emerged, flying through the void over towards Queenie. 

The figure was surrounded by a faint blue glow as it flew over to Queenie, coming to a halt a short distance away.  She could see that it was a humanoid alien, with dark green skin, its head was hairless, with a rather elongated face with minimal defining features, although it had a easily identifiable mouth, nose and two eyes. 

Coming to a halt away from Queenie, the figure (she believed it might be male) held up both of his hands in front of him, palms out toward her in what Queenie was rather confident was intended to be a non-hostile gesture.   

The alien then gestured to himself and the spaceship behind him before bringing his arms back in front of him and crossing them at the wrists as if signaling being restrained.  He then pointed off in the direction the smaller spaceship (which was now well out of sight) had gone.

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Queenie slapped her forehead. Of course. Of flipping COURSE. She’s interfering with law enforcement. How I do even begin to apologize? “Okay…first, I apologize for getting in the way. Second, I’d like to make up for it. Can I help?” There was a brief moment. “You have no idea what I’m saying, do you?” She thought furiously. Exaggerated body language. Sure, okay. She held up her hands in a similar gesture. The question mark turned into two sets of moving legs, one chasing the other. Then an arrow pointed to her, and two sets of legs became three. Lastly  the question mark returned.

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The alien showed little sign of understanding everything Queenie was saying when she apologized, but seemed to at least understand the basic she had been conveying.  When the ring bearing heroine began trying to convey the offer to help pursue the other spaceship, the alien glanced off to the side briefly, as if looking for something.  He held up one hand as he looked at her once again, seemingly asking her patience, before he pointed off in the direction the two spaceships had generally been coming from. 

Looking in the indicated direction, Queenie could just make out something headed toward them at high speeds.  The alien did not appear alarmed by whatever was approaching, and a few moments later another humanoid figure came into view, flying over toward the pair. 

The new arrival was clearly female, slightly taller than Queenie and with dark orange skin.  She had long hair that was dark purple mixed with black and yellow eyes.  She wore a full lengthy white bodysuit, with black diamond patterns (which were surrounded by golden yellow trim) on the shoulders and upper chest.  Her long gloves and boots were also black with similar golden yellow trim.  A long black cape began to float in the void behind her as she came to a halt a short distance away. 

"Greetings.  I am Paradigm, current Imperatrix of the Praetorians."  She stated in English with an accent unlike anything Queenie had heard before.  "You are Terran, correct?"

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Thank you, Lord. Someone who speaks English, even her accent is weird. Queenie smiled, pleased. “Not sure what Terran means, but I’m from Earth. Right around here. I’m Queenie. I’m just a chef. An excellent chef, but just a chef. I’m awful sorry about getting in the way. I’d never been off Earth before, so I was exploring. Then I saw the ships and that seemed weird. I wanted to stop them both but I wasn’t fast enough.” She had to stop and take a breath. She sounded like a rookie. Well, she was one. A space rookie.

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"Chef?"  Paradigm stated, a brief look crossing her face like she was trying to place the word.  "I would not say I have met many chefs that can survive outside a spacecraft in the void, at least unless that was a trait common to their species."  She then replied, before she glanced over at the first alien as he spoke something in the language Queenie had previously heard through the ring (his voice not matching the one she had heard as well).


After listening to the other alien, Paradigm turned back to Queenie.  "Allow me to formally introduce my fellow Praetorian Magnetar."  She stated, gesturing toward the alien who gave Queenie a small nod.  "I apologize for being delayed in getting here, this misunderstanding could have been resolved more quickly, but I was assisting members of your Freedom League with diverting some asteroids that threatened to collide with the spacestaion they have monitoring the wormhole at the edge of your solar system."

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Queenie blushed a little. She didn’t like to mention her hero work. Seemed like bragging. “Well, not just a chef, I guess. I do some stuff on the side. Cats out of trees. Robbers into jail. That kinda thing.” She tilted her head, listening to the language. Well, it’s not nonsense. Wish I had an ear for languages, though. The ring was nice and useful for a lot of things, but translation wasn’t one of them. Well, maybe she’d ask the VI about it later. The ring had done everything she’d asked of it thus far. No reason that should be any different.


At Paradigm’s introduction, Queenie waved. “Sorry about the trouble, Magnetar. Didn’t mean to get in your way.” She then gasped in surprise. “We have a wormhole? That’s just really cool.” Queenie respected the Freedom League, and so it really wasn’t that weird to her that they had a space station. A wormhole, on the other hand, was kind of a big deal.

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"The wormhole is a new feature to your solar system."  Paradigm replied.  "It was formed earlier in the year when several heroes from your world destroyed the Communion's planet destroyer at the edge of your solar system.  Like many others that weapon created throughout the quadrant, it is part of a wormhole network, although it is not always completely stable." 

"If it were not for that network, those criminals we have been pursuing would never have made it to your solar system in their stolen vessel."  She then added. "And speaking of them, if you are interested in helping pursue them, please come aboard and we can see if Seresk has been able to track them."  The Praetorian gestured over towards the teardrop shaped spacecraft as Magnetar started back towards it.

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Queenie biinked, surprised. “Communion?  I played bodyguard for some psychics that fought them in the…whatever that’s called.” She pondered for a second. “Astral plane, I think they said? Fast Forward was there, and a few other people.” She pondered some more. “It was weird. I thought it was going to be some big battle, but it was just a little scrap and then it ran away. Say, you guys haven’t seen a thing made of chains around, have you?”


She nodded. “That’s one more thing they have to answer for, then. I don’t know what they did anywhere else, but Earth had a rough time when those guys showed up.” She flew slowly, trailing Magnetar and Paradigm. “So what did these guys do, anyway? To make you chase them so far?”

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A grave look came over Paradigm's face as the three flew over to board the Praetorian's spacecraft.  "I am afraid your world was very fortunate in its encounter with the Communion's wormhole weapon.  The majority of the other wormhole locations that were created by that weapon before it was stopped here exist where populated worlds once were."

"But for now, the Communion has once again been driven from this galaxy.  We can only hope that the galaxy does not again lose the knowledge of the Communion, and what it is capable of."  She added as they approached a small rounded bulge toward the rear of the spacecraft.  Once they drew near, the "bulge" split, the two doors sliding open smoothly.  Inside was a small circular area with a grated floor, the two rounded doors that had slide open now on the interior side of the airlock.    

Once the three had all landed on the circular area, the two rounded doors began sliding back to their outward position.  Queenie was a bit surprised that during the process, the interior of the ship was opened up towards the vacuum before the doors fully closed.  That was until she realized there was a faint shimming forcefield on the inside of the airlock, apparently containing the ship's atmosphere. 

When the doors had resealed themselves in their outer position, Paradigm and Magnetar both stepped through the shimmering filed and into the oddly shaped room beyond.  The walls were curved, narrowing to a slightly rounded point to the left, opening to a much wider curved wall to the right, in which a curved door sat. 

"The standard atmosphere for our vessels is safe for Terrans."  Paradigm stated with a small smile.  "Two of our members hail from your world in fact." 

"As for the group we are pursuing, they are suspected of committing a number of crimes within the Lor Republic and a number of other free systems that boarder Republic space.  They mostly have involved theft, but there have been some deaths connected with their crimes, particularly of law enforcement officers attempting to stop them."  Paradigm then added, answering Queenie's question.

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Queenie took on a sympathetic look. “Oh. I…I had no idea. That’s awful.” She shook her head and looked determined. “Next time we stop them faster, no matter what it takes. No matter what happens, I’ll remember. And the way my life is going, I’m gonna live for longer than usual. If they come back, I’ll make them wish they had stayed gone.” She floated gently. As if a million voices cried out in terror and were silenced, over and over again. Oh, yeah. She meant every word. She followed them into the ship, eyes darting around in wonder. “Don’t see this everyday…”


Then they had arrived at their destination. “Well, thanks for the air, but I don’t know how to turn that power off. Never needed to learn. I’d like to meet the rest of your team, but gotta catch these bad guys first.” She listened patiently as Paradigm outlined the fugitives’ crimes.  “Well, let’s not waste any more time. Let’s jet after them!” She grinned, getting a little excited now. “First stop, the nearest wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

Edited by EternalPhoenix
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Paradigm gave a small nod as Queenie mentioned getting to the task of locating the escaped criminals.  "I am not aware of any such locations within your system."  She replied to Queenie's Star Wars reference.  "But we shall see if Seresk has been able to track them."   

With that, the Praetorians lead their guest into the next room, which was an elliptically shaped space which appeared to be some sort of living quarters.  There was a small sofa like seat, a rounded table set along one wall, what appeared to be three slightly rounded lockers made of a silvery metal, and off to one side along the far wall, three tall cylindrical chambers with transparent walls. 

A slightly curved door to the left took the group into much larger elliptically shaped room.  The room was currently empty,  with higher ceilings than the area they had just been in, suggesting it might be a cargo area.  Along the walls toward the opposite end of the room were several smaller rooms that appeared to be holding cells.  Paradigm led the group along a narrow walkway that was slightly raised off the main floor of the cargo area, toward another door toward the front of the ship. 

They passed through another small room (also elliptical in shape) and the doors to either side, taking instead the door opposite the one that lead back to the cargo area.  This brought them into a good sized semi-circular room.  This one was filled with a variety of advanced looking equipment, some of which pulsed with energy.  Toward the opposite end of the room was what appeared to be some sort of workstation, with a number of holographic displays.   

On either side of the workstation, along a wall that slightly curved into the semi-circular room, was a door.  Paradigm and Magnetar led Queenie toward the door to the right, which led to another semi-circular room (this one appearing to be the other "half" of the previous room, although because of the slightly curved wall that divided them, it was slightly larger).

It was quickly clear that this was the bridge of the ship, as there were three chairs along the other end of the room, each positioned at a counsel covered with all manner of controls and displays.  Additional holographic displays and workstations lined the walls, and over near one that sat along the wall separating the bridge from the previous room was another of the Praetorians. 

This one was a hulking reptilian humanoid, who was easily over eight feet tall.  It was covered in green and brown scales, with a long tail that ended in a spiked ball.  The alien turned to regard the three, speaking in the language Queenie had heard the other Praetorians used, with the same deep, gravelly voice she had heard earlier over the comm system. 

"Allow me to introduce Seresk."  Paradigm stated, the larger reptilian alien bowing his head slightly at the introduction.  "He has managed to track the criminals to the fourth planet in your system."  She added, as a holographic map appeared in the air near the group, showing the immediate area of space, including the very familiar red planet.

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This spaceship certainly was something. So many rooms. Queenie wasn’t by any means a techie, but even she knew that this place was something else. This was some next level Star Wars stuff. Eventually they came to the bridge, right when poor Queenie was thoroughly lost (not that the ring was, of course) and nearly overwhelmed at how much space there was in here. She flinched slightly, as normal humans will when suddenly faced with a oversized reptilian monster. She then smiled. “Nice to meet you, Seresk. Let’s do good work together, okay?” Paradigm’s mention of the red planet grabbed her attention. “Mars? But there’s nothing there but dust and a few old space probes. I mean, it’s not a bad place to lie low for a while, I guess, but there’s no food and you’d have to work for the water.” Queenie wasn’t a scientist, either, but she did try to keep up with the news. And she had a soft spot for the solar system.

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Paradigm listened as Queenie talked a bit about the conditions on Mars, then focused back on the holographic projection of the red planet.  "As inhospitable as it may be, the craft the group has should contain supplies sufficient to allow them to remain there for at least a few standard galactic days."   

"But in any event, that is where the trail leads us, so we should at least follow, to see what we can learn."  The Praetorian then added as she spoke something to her companions in the unknown language. 

Magnetar moved over toward one of the seats on the bridge, at what appeared to be the helm.  Paradigm gestured toward one of the empty seats as she looked at Queenie, "please feel free to sit if you wish."  She stated, before moving toward the seat in the center of the bridge.  Seresk moved off to one side and continued standing, being too large for any of the seats on the bridge.

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Once Queenie had taken a seat, or otherwise readied herself for their departure, Magnetar activated the spacecraft's engines and they began to accelerate forward.  Although she could feel the vessel accelerate, the sensation was faint. 

It was not long before Mars came clearly into view, growing larger and larger.  According to the sensor scans run by Seresk (the information translated by Paradigm), the criminal's ship had landed on the surface at coordinates near the northern pole.   

The Praetorians landed their vessel a short distance from the coordinates, the four disembarking to make their way under their own power.  The sun hung faintly in the hazy yellow sky.  Flying over the rocky barren landscape (with Paradigm carrying Seresk), the group soon arrived at a large crater.   

While from a distance the rocky surface of the crater looked like any other crater on the planet, a closer look reveled that what would appear like several smaller craters from a distance were actually openings in the surface.  There where at least half a dozen of them, each at least a hundred feet across, opening into what appeared to be some sort of cave system below.

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Paradigm sat Seresk down on the rocky surface of Mars as they reached the edge of the massive depression.  The Naram looked at the half a dozen openings in the ground that were spaced along a section of the crater.  "It would seem that there was somewhere for them to hide."  She stated before flying toward the closest, carrying Seresk once again.

Moments later she led the way down into the opening, the group finding what appeared to be a cavern that was carved out of the rock, some sort of landing pad in the center under the opening.  The mouth of the opening looked like it once had doors that could slide back in place to cover it, but they were either missing or just stuck in the open position.  There was some very odd looking technology along some of the walls of the cavern, which Paradigm studied a moment.

"The equipment in this room is a bit old, but appears to be Grue."  She stated.

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Queenie closed her eyes and relaxed in the chair Paradigm had indicated. It wouldn’t be a long trip. They were going close to Mars’s north pole. Wonder if there’s a Martian Santa? Nah. The landing was soft enough, and then Queenie did what she did. She went first, in case someone was watching and attacked right away. They’d hit her and not one of the others. The attack didn’t happen, and Maybelle was happy to wait for Paradigm and the others to catch up. There were a lot of caves, but she was confident the ring could get her out again if it came to that. Before she could start searching herself, Paradigm led the way. Like she was used to being in the lead. I guess that’s what Imperatrix means. Team Leader, or something. “Grue? Weren’t those the red guys the Freedom League fought a while back. There was an invasion, I think, a while back. What were they doing here, do you think?”

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Paradigm looked over to Queenie as she replied.  "I am afraid what little I know of your Freedom League is what I learned during the struggle against the Communion, mainly from stories told by Lor officers I came into contact with, so I cannot speak to all of their exploits.  But yes, the Grue are a protean shapeshifting race, but they tend to take the default form of red skinned humanoids when dealing with other races.  'Solids,' as they would refer to us." 

The Naram looked back around the chamber as Magnetar and Seresk moved to either side, looking for any threats.  "This chamber appears to have been used as a landing bay for a Grue vessel.  So it is possible they used this facility for surveillance on your world, or perhaps a staging area for their invasion.  It would appear it has been several years at least since they were here."  She added as she looked around before looking back up at the opening above.  "But then, given the exposure to the elements, it might not have been so long."

Seresk stated something, causing Paradigm to look over his way before she added, "the life support systems for the facility still appear to be operational however."

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