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Kembel
Outer length of the Perseus Arm, former Khanate Space
Lor time mark 1482.4 [April 2, 2016 (Terran Calendar)] 

Kembel was a lush, mostly tropical world that rotated around a blue giant star.  With more than half its surface covered with relatively shallow seas, the continents that extended out from the planet's equator were covered with thick jungles. 

Despite the seemingly inhospitable terrain, Kembel had been colonized centuries ago, and quickly developed into a rather thriving world with dozens of species from around the sector within its small cities.  Its location along the outer edge of what had once been part of the Stellar Khanate meant that it had been fortunate enough to be bypassed during the Communion's initial advance.  The tide of refugees from many other Khanate worlds had only swelled the planet's population, a situation that had not changed much since the Communion’s defeat.   

With the chaos that had gripped the Khanate in the aftermath of the Incursion, Kembel had been one of the worlds that had taken the opportunity to establish its independence from the Khanate.   

It was here that a small group of Praetorians made their way through the crowded streets of one of Kembel's major cities.  Cavalier and Moon-Moth did not have to worry too much about being jostled by the crowds, as Seresk's massive presence just behind them tended to cause the crowd make a bit more space for them to pass. 

The old buildings of this part of the city were covered with trees, vines and other planets that had grown up along the walls over the centuries, making the city itself seem like just another part of the jungle that lay around it.  The three had been sent here to meet up with Traveller, who, since the incident involving the two Terrans that had been caught up with the Spectrum Knights and pursued by the Lor military, had officially been disavowed by the Praetorians, and had headed off into the border regions of Khanate space. 

Of course, this had been a planned by Paradigm and Traveller, to provide Traveller the appearance of being an independent, as she made her way out into Khanate space to see what sorts of information she might be able to gather about the state of things.    

 

 

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Sitara Shashikala, often better known as the Traveller, was waiting for her three "former" teammates in a cantina only a short distance from where they were currently weaving their way through the crowds.  The cantina was the type of place Sitara often liked to frequent when she could, where one could encounter a wide range of individuals at any given time and most of the patrons kept to their own business.   

Since the incident with Aquaria and Jessie, Sitara had made the most of the opportunity provided to spend some time travelling this part of space, gathering what information she could about the state of things.  In some cases it had been relatively easy, but in others so much more difficult that the amount of information she had been able to gather had been relatively small, and often based on rumors and other secondary sources. 

The region sized by Sovereign following the Incursion had been almost shockingly easy to slip into.  While the renegade Borun prince had been able to take control of the region with ruthless efficiency, he was far less adapt at controlling the territory he had.  While the systems were clearly afraid to defy him due to his current position of strength, many did what they could to undermine his authority or just flaunt it outright.  It would not take much for a number of worlds to outright revolt.  Even Sovereign's control of the motley collection of pirate fleets was far from absolute.  Many only followed the Borun due to a combination of fear and contentment with the spoils his campaign to establish and empire had provided.  Now that Sovereign's expansion had been significantly slowed, as a result of both efforts by the Praetorians and Star Knights, as well as resistance from other warlords in control of former Khanate territories, there were some grumblings within his forces. 

The regions controlled by some of the other warlords that had sought to seize power in the aftermath of the Incursion had varied in how difficult it had been, or not been, to get into.  For the most part, many of the warlords had been involved in ruling the Stellar Khanate under Star Khan, and thus tended to have a core group of forces that were much more loyal to them than most of Sovereign's.  They also, for the most part, had firmer control of the systems within the area they claimed, often in part because they were familiar with those worlds and governing them.  But there had been one factor that had arisen which even they were not able to fully control.

Under the Star Khan, the Stellar Khanate had always been a haven for criminal syndicates, so long as they did not cross the Khan and his lieutenants.  Following the Incursion, those criminal syndicates had been, for lack of a better term, let off the leash.  Many had thrived in the chaos that had come with the Incursion and the uncertainty that followed.  With Star Khan more or less out of the picture and his remaining lieutenants weakened and in some cases fighting among themselves, the syndicates had been able to greatly expand operations and openly flaunt the Khanate authority.  A few had even taken direct control of a few regions themselves.   

Most of the worlds which had declared their independence from the Khanate had been among those most recently conquered by Star Khan, with populations that still recalled what it had been like to be free of Khanate control.  Others, such as Kembel, had decided to try to forge their own paths.  All had similar difficulties, as they lacked much in the way of significant military forces or other means to defend themselves against Sovereign and the other warlords seeking to expand their power.  They primarily survived due to alliances among themselves, the Lor Republic and other governments willing to provide some assistance.  Many also relied on some measure of protection from the Star Knights and Praetorians. 

The only area that Sitara had not been able to venture far into was what remained of the Stellar Khanate.  Still proclaiming itself loyal to Star Khan, the exact fate of Kinan Khan was not entirely clear.  There were rumors that he had somehow managed to fully recover from the partial cybernation process the Communion had inflicted on him, other rumors stated he was dead and his former closest advisors were merely using his name to rule themselves.  But one thing was clear to Sitara, the remnants of the Khanate had dug in their heels and were tightening their grip on the area still under their control.  There was also indication that the Khanate was working to rebuild its forces, but whether this was simply to stop any further loss of territory or to try to reclaim that which had been lost was not clear.

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The Khanate made terrible shoes, that was the only thing she was worried about right now. When she “fled” Earth she’d not had chance to gather any of her belongings and her boots had been donated to a good cause. And she’d skirted Lor space on her way out this was as the Admiral had a pretty long reach within their territory. Still apart from poor shoes she’d enjoyed her time bumming around star systems, getting into one or two scrapes along the way.


Her bare feet up on the booths table showing off her polychromatic painted nails, one thing they did well was what the Terrans called “bling”, she waited for her colleges to arrives. As much as she enjoyed travelling on her own it was still good to meet up with, very, old friends and exchange tales over a drink or two.

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It reminded him of Bangkok.

 

Okay, Cavalier had never been to Bangkok, even with the flight suit. But being a young nerd who had come of age at the advent of Wikipedia, he saw elements of the city in this one. The blend of ancestral temples and modern architecture. The hustle and bustle of citizens from all over the place. And, of course, the humidity. 

 

The humidity made Cavalier's usual manner of dress rather impractical - the last thing he wanted to do was fail this assignment because he's been parboiled in his own leathers. Fortunately, there was a worker's outfit he'd picked up from the last planet, made a good light yet industrious canvas. He was blending in, looking like either a high-end transporter or a low-end mercenary, and trying very hard not to sweat to death. The drink in his hand - something he could lie about and say was remarkably like Vietnamese iced coffee - at least helped a little. 

 

He scanned the market for Sitara, preparing for the designation of a dead drop. He knew that the two of them knew their tradecraft... but the last time he'd been in Khanate space, he'd been wearing armor and blasting the crap out of the Communion. While he'd kept the visor up most of the time, that was not the kind of thing that made one low-profile. He didn't want to attract any undue attention.

 

Well. Any more than he likely already had. 

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It was a rather nice if hot and wet place, moon-moth thought to himself as he walked through the culturally rich, vine and creeper girdled streets curving his curiosity and eccentricities in the face of the temptations this new and exciting place seemed to brim with, having light, pointless convocations with Seresk and cavalier about the various oddities that truely drew his interest but otherwise being uncharacteristically quiet with his violet traveling scarf wrapped around his neck.

 

"Knowing our friendsie, we had best be looking for a locals waterings hole with lots of....hmm...character?" He asks looking to Seresk over his shoulder, the hulking reptillains grasp of spoken language and euphemisms far in excess of his own to see if he'd chosen the right word for it.

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Seresk looked down at Moon-Moth at his comments about where they were most likely to find Traveller.  The massive reptilian Praetorian, not appearing bothered at all by the humidity, gave a nod.  "Indeed, such an establishment is exactly the sort of place Traveller prefers."  He glanced around them a moment, then added, "and I believe there is no shortage of such establishments here." 

The trio continued moving steadily along the thoroughfare they were on, their passage eased by the general desire of the crowd to provide space to stay out of Seresk's way.  Eventually the came to a cantina that looked as if it had been there for at least a century, if not longer.  A short set of stairs led down to the entrance, which was just below the main street level.  The sound of multiple conversations could be heard coming from the doorway. 

"Shall we begin our search here?"  Seresk asked his two fellow Praetorians. 

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Moon-moth nods in response to seresk even as he sighs "Just like the goods old days eh, My old friend?" As he starts down the stairs, turning his head to one side to regard cavalier and seresk both with a large violet eye "Hopefully with less fire these times." Recalling with a shudder his first brush with the demon they call synthahol.

 

"You must tell me about your culture and customs some times, terrain friendsie, I'm most curiosity to learn more of your world and it's ways."

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Seresk gave a solemn nod in response to Moon-Moth's comment about the "good old days," recalling a time two millennium ago.  But the large Praetorian did not let thoughts of the past distract him from their current mission.  Following after Moon-Moth and Cavalier, Seresk only had to duck down slightly to pass through the large entrance to the cantina. 

Once inside the three Praetorians found a slightly dim, smoky establishment, filled with dozens of patrons from nearly as many races.  Those nearest the door turned slightly to regard the newcomers, some appearing somewhat nervous about Seresk, but eventually all turned back to their drinks or conversations, paying the newcomers no mind.

"Sitara is in a back corner."  Seresk stated, his height allowing him to see over much of the crowd.

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Tactical wisdom suggested that one should alway be able to watch the entrance in case the enemy tried a frontal assault, but of cause everyone knew that so bars that this was designed to conceal everyone from each other. Beside Sitara had learned, through years of hard earned experience, that you didn’t need to watch the door as the patrons of places like this judged everyone when the entered.


It helped that Seresk towered over almost everyone else. She raised her hand to help them find her little booth, she didn’t want her bare feet touch the floor.

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Moon-moth nods his head in acknowledgement "A whole in one it would seemings.." He says as he casually approaches Sittaras booth, occasionally stopping at an empty table and inspecting it momentarily as he makes his way through the crowds.

 

"Mindings if I am sitting here?" He asks sitara as inconspicuously as possible as he sits without waiting for a reply, taking a brief note of sitaras bare feet with concern and curiosity before turning his attention back to the matter at hand, shuffling over to make room for cavalier as he weaves a illusionary viel over the booth to keep out prying sensory organs.

 

"I believing that should cover us."

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"I'd be happy to," Cavalier said to Moon-Moth as he finished off the last of the sweetened drink. "I could tell you a lot of the places this reminds me of. But right now, I think we should focus on the universalities." He gestured to the cantina. "Like this. No matter where you go in the universe, there will always be some bar in a hot and crowded city that is set into the very bones of the earth, darkened and crowded. It may be the one safe respite in a war zone, or it may be the place where all the fun and dangerous stuff happens. But it's usually set aside for a reason." 

 

He started to walk down the steps. "Let's see what reason we're dealing with here."

 

Cavalier scanned the bar as he entered, looking around at all the patrons. "Huh. Guess it's set aside 'cause some people just want privacy. That's... understandable. Was maybe hoping for something more biting." He followed Seresk's instructions, keeping his eyes open for Sitara. 

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Seresk followed after Moon-Moth and Cavalier as they made their way over to Traveller's table.  While the others took seats across from her, the larger reptilian Praetorian took a seat on the ground at one end of the table.  He still rose above the table as far as any of the other three, perhaps even more so 

"It is good to see you Sitrara."  He stated as Moon-Moth cast his spell over their table.  "Paradigm wanted to be sure you got this."  Seresk then added, handing Sitara a small satchel, which contained some of her clothes, and her extra pair of boots.

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When you travelled as much as Sitara had you learned to appreciate the little details,especially when she ended up travelling light. She quickly took her second favourite,well favourite now she guessed, boots and enjoyed the feel for a moment.

 

“I knew there was some reason why she was in charge, she gets my vote anyhow.”

 

She carefully and with great ceremony started to pull on the boots.


“So has anything happened since I’ve become a wanted exile? Because my life has been one of seedy bars and bad footwear.” she gave a little wry smile.

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"Not much," said Cavalier. "The Grand Nauarchus is... well, let's say 'disappointed,' but that's nothing new. She hasn't come after any of us, which is nice, but denying her a clone army means we're likely not going to be on her Christmas card list. Or... reasonable equivalent thereof. The rest of the galaxy really has no more idea what's going on with the Star-Khan than this place seems to... but given that you've been here longer, I'm not going to presume to speak on what this place knows." 

 

He ordered a drink from the bar, relying on the translator in his armor to get by on the local dialect. "Which I guess brings us to the big question. What does this place know, and who here knows it the most?" 

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“Chaos, disorder and a empire disintegrating, as far I can tell the Khanate has always been a tenuous thing. The Incursion probably just speeded up the natural evolution of this region of space.”

 

She seen similar empire rise and fall many times in her very long lifespan, often something better came from the fall and unfortunately it could lead to something much worst.


She downed her drink and ordered up another round for everyone, whilst using the tables holotable she made a few subtle alteration to its code, making it much more secure and private to outside snoopers. Then she projected and quite detailed map of the region and it’s various petty kingdoms giving as full and detailed briefing as she manage. She had already prepared a data packet with all this information to be passed pack to Praetorians at CoVic Station.

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There was something troubling about that in itself, the khanate was full of ambitious, power hungry sentients held in line by nothing more than the personal power of the star khan, that its turbulant space had begun to calm without any decisive victory of one emergant warlord over the others was troubling, surely there was some mastermind or another waiting for an oppertunity such as this to sweep in and seize the throne all throughout the previous khans reign, for better or worse; this felt very much like the eye of the storm to the lanturnian.

 

"It is troublings that such frenzied spaceways are begining to quiet without a clear winner." he comments as he mulls over his sugar water "maybe the outward hostilities and aggressions have calmed in favors of subterfuge and political moves....it would be wise to try and monitor the subtler movements of these system khans." he offers "conquering is oftens the easiest parts of empire buildings, running proves to be the true test of metals."

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Cavalier had switched over to soda water, wanting to keep his wits about him just in case this actually did turn out to be one of those darkened bars. To hear Sitara discuss it, the popping up of fiefdoms was leading to strife all over, with everyone jockeying for their own form of control. Capos and governors and the occasional junta, all trying to grab a piece of the pie. And, if they grew big enough, one of them might actually try taking a swing at the heart of the Khanate in an attempt to place their ass on the empty throne. 

 

"So, stand at the back and wait to see who screws it up the least," he said. "It's not exactly my plan of choice. But it's a better idea than just barging in and trying to kneecap the first syndicate we find -- especially if toppling said syndicate leads to a big void in power, and suddenly, the whole underworld resembles a game of Jenga. With just as much shouting and debris." He realized a bit too late this was one of those metaphors, but still. "So. Who are the local candidates in the game?" 

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Sitara took a moment to wiggle her feet enjoying the feeling of these very old pair of boots, at her age you tended to enjoy the little things in life. That and challenges like this mission had been so far.

 

“Well this region it’s mostly criminal organisation running things, they’ve slotted themselves in almost flawlessly to running this and similar planets. If we can stop them from the more dubious activities then they might make an effective form of government.”  

 

The other part of living so long was that you could afford to take the long view on things, sometimes she had to remind herself to focus on the smaller picture.


“I’m more worried about this area.” she gestured to an area on the map “I can’t find out anything about the situation, it’s looking like I need to get into the region to check it out properly.”

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GM 

Seresk had been listening quietly as Sitara and the others spoke about what she had learned during her time in this region of space.  The large reptilian Praetorian was studying the holographic map as the other spoke, noting the various divisions of the area that had been created in the months following the Incursion.

When Sitara focused on the large central region of the sector, Seresk rubbed his scalled chin with thick fingers a moment before he spoke up.  "Unless I am mistaken, is that not the center of what had been the Khanate, the region still declaring its allegiance to Star Khan?"

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Well. That was interesting.

 

"That is not really standard operating procedure," said Cavalier, leaning over the map. "I mean, the Khanate's always had a policy of deliberate obfuscation that would make North Korea green with envy, but they also usually have a propaganda engine that would instill shame in the most graceful of liars. They don't usually hit 'we invented unicorns' level of self-aggrandizing BS, but they know how to sell 'the Khanate is strong; we have the greatest, most luxurious armies; the Khan is not flopping around like a hard drive with a magnet taken to it.'" 

 

He leaned back in his seat. "So, we have some options. The propaganda department was absolutely gutted during the Incursion; there's a bit of a rift between the executive branch and the 'hearts and minds' division; or there's not even the faintest bit of straw that can be spun into gold. Question is, what is the game here?" 

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"have we entertainings of the idea that mayhap they are massing for an attack of some description?" moon-moth adds in a hushed voice "Quiets before the storms...the receding of the water before a great wave..." he says, pondering the likelyhood of it all.

 

"It would explain the sudden ceasations of inward hostility as stockpiling, the battle of system lords has ended because there is a clear leader and in order to cement their power they must make a grand showing." he reasoned "Something to quiet all voices of dissent."

"

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Options swirled around and Sitara didn’t like the fact that they just didn’t know, she was equally frustrated and curious about the mystery that all this held.

 

“We know that the Khan was hit personally, there’s a good chance he’s licking his wound and planning to reconquer his territory.”

 

She leaned forward and point at the place on the map.

 

“All the answers are here and we need a way to go and have a look, either in the flesh or through some dubious means.” she wasn’t above skirting the law when the situation demanded.

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GM 

On the surface of Kembel 

Seresk looked back at Sanitra as she spoke.  "Do you have a plan for gaining access to this region?"  He asked, suspecting that the long lived Terran did indeed have something in mind. 

Outer space not far from Kembel 

A trio of older Khanate spacefighters flew through the void in the direction of the orbit of Kembel's primary moon.  The spacecraft were part of the forces that had aligned with the local government when it had declared independence from the Khanate.  Given the struggle for control that had erupted in the aftermath of the Incursion, the planet had needed all the defense forces it could collect and had even begun reproducing its on spacecraft to add to those.  Now its defense force was at least large enough that it gave its more aggressive neighbors at least some pause, together with the alliances it had managed to forge with other independent worlds and the Lor. 

The pilots of this flight were a mix of species, with one Zultasian, one Kembel native and the third a member of another world which had once been conquered by the Khanate decades ago.  For all three these regular patrols seemed to have become almost routine, with only occasional smugglers trying to make their way to the planet of late.  Today appeared as if it was going to be another no-contact patrols. 

But just as the trio of fighters were preparing to turn back around and begin the return trip, a small alarm began sounding in their cockpits as their long range sensors detected something out in the distance. 

"All ships come about and head towards sector Z15."  The flight leader stated over the comms, as he began to bring his fighter around and move in the direction of the contact.  The other two fighters quickly followed, resuming formation alongside the flight leader quickly. 

"What is it?"  Asked one of the other pilots.  "My sensors are picking up something large, or a cluster of smaller contacts."

The flight leader was unsure himself as he looked at the screen displaying the long range sensor readings.  "Move closer to attempt visual confirmation."  He stated, as he began to accelerate.   

A few moments later, something began to appear on the far edge of visual range.  The pilots all strained to make out what was there, but it only took seconds for the distance to shorten sufficiently to that the object was in view. 

The flight leader felt a bit of a chill as he banked his fighter off to one side, followed by the other members of his patrol.  "Home Station, this is Flight Epsilon.  We have encountered a rogue comet, and it is headed straight for Kembel!"

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“From what I understand the border was fairly porous even before the Khanate fell apart, now you have smugglers running between systems almost daily. We’ve got a few allies that might be willing to take use deeper into Khanate space.”

 

Sitara took a large gulp of her drink as she gestured vaguely around on the floating map.

 

“We’ve got to be a little careful, I’m sure that the our reputation has started to make it out even this far. And despite what we’ve done I don’t think we’ll be welcomed at all.”

 

She’d been in similar situations before, with various forces, and knew how these things tended to happen in the heat of things.

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"Some dubious means, huh?" Cavalier cracked his knuckles. "Man, it's been a while since I busted out the old troubleshooter skill set. May be a little rusty. Still, it's the same on every planet. Info brokers, secret keepers, leg breakers, dens of vice... where do we want to hit up first? Dens of vice are always the fun ones..."

 

He paused, thinking on it. "In fact, if we know of any dens of vice near the spaceport, that might be a good place to start. If you spend all that time hauling cargo from Khanate space to here, then suffer through the experience of praying the fake ID holds in the face of orbital security, you're gonna want to find somewhere to blow off steam. We could probably find a ride there."

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