Blocked

YC122-10-29-04:23
Avalon Warclone Shipyard, Skarkon

Cameras aboard the shipyard do not cease operating, even at these early hours. The orbital shipyard is cloaked in darkness, though the lights outline it well enough in the darkened system. Distantly, approximately 120.21 kilometers away from the structure is a Bowhead, marked as the UNFS Barker on sensors and multiple camera confirmation of the hull’s markings, having just arrived. Accompanying it are no fewer than twenty or so mixed interceptors and force recon vessels, among which is a Lachesis, just undocking from the large craft. The escorts orbit the freighter placidly, having reached their destination, and holding position.

The bow of the Barker lowers its forward ramp as the undocked Lachesis and a few interceptors position to the forward section to cover the opening. A glider, registering on scans as 576.5 meters in length, 220 meters across the beam, a depth of 48 meters, and a gross estimate displacement in excess of 32,000 tonnes. The last measurement is unconfirmed, as the number shifts repeatedly when being scanned by the station, though it never strays below that number. The craft is wider than the average beam at its rear, as the wings across its back unfold and give it a far larger appearance. It is convex across its bottom, coated in black ablative scales over every surface nearing to the top, which is only slightly convex, and is not coated similarly. From this distance, the top of the craft is white, with a ruby coloured stripe diagonally across from port stern to starboard bow, and on both sides the word “Block” is barely visible, printed in black.

The Barker remains open as several smaller objects shoot out, parasite craft, each carrying a smaller payload. They look to be small satellites, low power, lower still with the output of the star, and small profile, though not as small as the cigar-shaped parasite craft. They remain attached as they shoot ahead of the formation, the Block glider now followed by the Lachesis and interceptors, pulling away as the glider pitched down with its stub-nose to the ground, and its thrusters to the sky. There is no flare from the rear section as the glider accelerates away from the formation, leaving the force recons and interceptors to form back up with the Barker and prepare to jump away.

The glider is followed on camera on its descent to the west for several more minutes, the profile of the craft disappearing after two minutes of visible atmospheric reentry.

YC122-10-29-04:42
Sahendaruman Fortress, Huomaeli Belt, Ternate Mountains, Skarkon II

The cameras of the mountain fortresses are similarly operating at all times. Since their inception from the dark ages, the fortresses received many upgrades and traded hands a few times in recent memory. Streams of refugees in convoys disembark vehicles almost every hour on the hour, and as the hour comes to a close, the last group to arrive had not finished passing through the checkpoint, held up by multiple quarantine calls of suspicious or otherwise unwell visitors. At this time the few staff outside were aware of the approach, and the defenses stood down, though the refugees were not made aware of the reason some looked to the sky.

The cameras and singular sensor post mounted to the peak of the centerline of the range captures the moment a large glider passes over Sa’Kak to the east, and passes over the peaks of the range just shy of a thousand meters, roaring across the sky like an infernal fireball, a thunderclap in its wake, causing several refugees to scatter and take cover, and several smaller avalanches be caused by the passing. The post observes the glider begin to slow its descent, performing lazy S patterns to bleed off its remaining speed as the sensor mast pinpoints the landing site, at the southern sand sea south of Iddiserigard.

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YC122-10-29-05:11
Southern Sand Sea, outside of Iddiserigard, Skarkon II

A camera drone activates, and a familiar masked visage is seen sitting in a command chair. At first he - going off of the body shape - appears to be Perun, but he does not look as human as most would. His forearms are covered in feathery bracers, and the hood and cowl behind the mask have four strange rabbit ear shaped points behind their head, giving them an aerodynamic appearance. The colours of the suit itself are somewhat Perun, but on closer examination their placement is wrong, or inverted. The jacket is more orange than blue, and there is no familiar triangular badge across their arm, instead replaced with a holographic sigil, two hands in opposition grasping a bi-coloured blade, an orange hand grasping the cyan pommel, handle, and crossguard, and a cyan hand grabbing the orange blade, both feathered like small wings with alternating colors of the opposing hand. The jacket extends further downward into a dovetail, only stopping at the thighs where more feathers are visible around his hips.

But almost stranger than any of that would be the mask. It is still angular, like any Triglavian mask, but the design is not like any seen before. It points out further around the nose and jaw, like a rounded snout of a rabbit. There are two large black eyes painted into the mask that from the front are angular but not unwelcoming.

His posture is one of greeting, both palms together as if to greet like a more traditional member of the State, and he bows slightly before returning his hands to the arms of the command seat, upon which he begins inputting innumerable commands at a rapid pace.

“Greetings, Summit. Some of you may be familiar with my mask, rather the one I wore before. Some of you may even know my name. But I do not bear either. I am Mahazkei, capsuleer of the UNF. But you’ve heard my story more times than you care to remember, so I’ll cut to the chase.”

The command seat rotates to the right, leaving the left side more visible. From here, the mask’s eyes are much larger, and rounded, like that of a friendly pet. But the left arm of the jacket is more detailed, having a pattern done into the sleeve from shoulder to elbow, though in the current light it looks little more than a tattoo that had been sewn into the sleeve itself.

“I’ve chosen to involve myself in the affairs of the people of Skarkon II, as my chosen, Lauralite Brezia, was involved before me. The extent of my involvement is not yet written, but it is my intent to assist with the evacuation of the civilian population. Ambitious?”

The chair turns again at an angle to the camera, the eye visible on the mask sharpening.

“Maybe. But I’ve learned a few things since getting out of the suit. And you might question my motives, as Skarkon is notorious for complex issues, let me make this much clear: my priority is people.”

He gesticulates towards the camera, a single finger, joined by more as he listed off groups.

“People who do not want to fight, or be involved in fighting. People who are too injured or ill to last long in these conditions. And people who cannot survive this transformed world for long without becoming irreversibly changed. I understand people would want to stay, and to those who have found peace, I should think to leave them. But if life can be preserved, I should hope to preserve it.”

He took one hand off the armrest and held it up, a question unanswered.

“And how would I complete such a task? You’re looking at her.”

He put both hands out as if to theatrically behold a stage to its audience. The room around him changed its lights to a dark red, like being onboard a submarine. There were deep noises, clanks of hundreds of tonnes of metal and the whine of a machine being flooded with power.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go greet the locals. I believe I crash landed in their backyard unannounced, despite my efforts to inform them beforehand. I must apologise to them for the scare, though I won’t lie, the expressions were priceless. Just wait though…”

His hands returned to their rest as he gave a two-fingered salute to the camera.

“This is Commander Mahazkei, Block out.”

The camera’s feed ends abruptly, and the recorded stream comes to an end.

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Anyone wearing that attire cannot be trusted, and should be shot on sight, or made to suffer for a thousand years.

1 Like

He’s an idiot, but he’s my idiot. Perehana Avali he is, he actually does mean what he says.

3 Likes

Indeed.

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YC122-11-02-10:33
Iddiserigard, Skarkon II

A camera drone activates, and a familiar masked visage is seen sitting in a command chair. Mahazkei hasn’t changed his position much at all, only having leaned back and turned with the command chair compensating, so that it now resembles more of a crash couch. The construction of the chair is now more visible from this angle, revealing that it has a modular and adaptive design. He seems to be fiddling with invisible commands as his hands move, his eyes are totally focused on some task he has set before himself and the mask’s broadside seems more tame, almost welcoming with its big eye. He doesn’t look up as the camera drone registers itself as online, he begins to speak as he continues to work.

“Morning, Summit. Sorry it took a while. I had to explain a lot to Mx. Riordan and her people, I gave them all quite the scare. Had to talk her down from shooting at me once Lauralite called and cleared me as above board. Then I got two earfuls of how I needed to do my research, and look more friendly in a piece of hardware as mean as this.”

He thumped the left side of his chair, and then held up his arm as he showed off the sleeve. The design is intricate, and looks of Minmatar origin, almost certainly a tattoo of some kind as a part of the suit’s design. Though he doesn’t hold up the arm long to identify it without reviewing the footage.

“Which is fair, I should have done my research a bit better. But being pressed for time, I don’t know what I have or don’t have, so I got off my backside and decided I’d wing it and build a rapport over time. Saede was kind enough to give me and Block a paint job while out there in the sands before we got to work. Now we’re underway and I like what she’s done for our livery.”

He flips his hand off the rest and flicks over a holographic screen suddenly made visible from this angle, straight against the screen. It’s of the armored hull of a vehicle of unclear make and lineage, seeming to bear a mix of technologies: Gallente curves, Caldari hard surfaces, one thing is clear is from the visible parts of the design is that first and foremost it speaks the language of war. The lighting has been modified to compensate for the darkened skies and the hull has been tinged with rust-colored dust which is almost magnetised to the surface giving it a similar appearance to that of a Minmatar starship and muddying the identification further. The one thing that stands out is a series of blocky symbols forming two distinct words based on the spacing of the two blocks. Words sprout up in every known language branching from the text, but the most readable is “Steel Coyote”.

“After watching Saede’s broadcast of my landing I thought this was the best thing to put on the plates. Made the most sense to both her and I once she understood what I was trying to do. So she gave me a once-over and now I’m a big moving target that says “I’m friendly” to the locals. Still gives people the spooks though, and I can’t blame them. Block here is a big girl, aren’t you?”

The surrounding lights change their intensity and the background noise of a low rumble and power flow are drowned out by a few chirps and cheeps borrowed from inputs on his holo consoles.

“Ah, right, that’s another thing. Block here is also AI mounted. Nothing too fancy, she’s like Aura, just enough to keep me on my toes, and give me a little company out here in the scarlet dark. I have to admit, the skies being this dark I probably look and sound like a monster in the dark. Like a thing I’ve been told is around here, somewhere.” He shrugs. “Not sure what to make of that part, but apparently if I avoid an area of the city, I won’t have any problems. Fine with me. Out that way is a mutaplasmid mass I want no part of. This suit might save me from the mutations the people here are dealing with but I’m not about to push my luck on that front, and besides I have no idea how they’d interact with Block.”

The crash couch turns around to the other side now, Mahazkei looking at the camera for a few seconds before looking back to his consoles, still invisible from this angle.

“That reminds me. I got a few “questions” regarding my outfit choice. Yes, since I was bonded to one for a time, I am technically Trig, so I won’t be affected, but I’ve told them off so I’m not recognised as one. I changed the appearance so much that it’d be a harder sell that I was related, so I’m hoping I don’t get shot at. Kind of a “middle of the road, accepted by none” case I’m hoping to fix with time. That one gets asked enough I should really attach it to my bio so people stop looking at me like I’m a Kybernaut.”

A head shake. “Another would probably be why I have feathers and weird ears and more than two and yada yada. The future is here, people. I can make clones look like whatever I want and I picked something cute and deadly. And yes, I said it.” More shakes. “It’s like some of you people have never gone to Luminaire and walked more than five feet. Body modders want to feel more at home in their own skins, and this is my choice of expression.”

He swipes one hand repeatedly as if dismissing many messages. “I’ll make this the last answer, since I’ve gotten preachy enough to last a month. Uh, I’m a lot like Saede, here on Skarkon. I’m a Multiple but I’m a limited run, one of a kind. No way to hide it since old Sakabkei, the one you all know as the original, still has something to say back in k-space. If he hasn’t told you himself yet it probably won’t be long before he breaks the news. I’m certainly not going to spoil the surprise.

“Yeah. I know, the whole thing’s illegal and all that. But there’s people here who aren’t getting any better by the day. He wanted to act, but he’s got duties at home that if any of you asked him to leave he’d shoot you, no compunctions.” A short pause. “Hell, I’d shoot you. But anyway. I’m not expected to last forever out here. If I’m compromised, I know damn well that I’m not coming back, so I’ll do a bunch of damage and have my blaze of glory and all that good stuff. If I do manage to make it out of this in one piece, I’m getting reintegrated, go home. And no, I’m not double-body training. No time for that out here, takes too much focus. I’m an old Alpha clone anyway, so that kind of crap’s beyond me.”

The lights change back to a dim red, and he swivels to forward, facing the camera, his consoles barely visible. “That’s my cue to shut up and knuckle down. I’ll be making a few more calls out like this in the next few weeks, might be through Saede on my progress. Anyway, stay safe out there people. Keep up the good fight. This is Commander Mahazkei, Block out.”

The camera’s feed ends abruptly, and the recorded stream comes to an end.

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YC122-11-29-23:59
Wastelands, Grid Ref ██.█████, ██.█████

A camera drone activates, and a familiar visage is seen sitting in a command chair. Unlike the previous settings Mahazkei is not wearing his mask on his face, or the gloves on his hands, the left being flesh and the right being an augment. Beneath is just a human, and a rare face uncommonly seen, discounting the modifications beneath the suit’s cowl to which the mask attaches. Two things stand out from the norm, however. The first is Mahazkei’s skin, alight like a warm flame shining through the tissues just skin deep. It does not appear to be biological in origin resulting from mutadaptation, and is instead reminiscent of a capsuleer’s active connection to any given vessel from cybernetics and is sustained with little fluctuation.

The second difference is his eyes. While his eyes might seem normal — if a bit bright — in stock lighting, the darker environment, red lighting and closer look through the camera’s lens highlights their anomalous nature. His pupils are the eye of the storm with the irises spinning steadily around them, rotating towards his nose in a maddening green spiral. The exact nature of this aberration is not immediately clear, as they rarely change rotational velocity save when his eyes narrow, picking up speed before settling when his focus relaxes. Were he twitching and jerking he would be considered estranged, instead he remained still as his eyes moved carefully between invisible inputs. His hands remained at their rests, buttons and sticks being shifted with practice and almost unreal speed.

Suddenly the silence is broken. He doesn’t look at the camera while he speaks, but his tone does change as if he were holding the conversation normally. “Morning, Summit. I realise that I’ve been out of contact for a bit, that it’s early at the time this is going out, and that this isn’t the most optimal setting for me to be recording.” He waves off with a look of disdain, an almost unparalleled scowl. “■■■■ it. This was always supposed to be about the people. You know, we’re human. We’re not faceless or unfeeling. We gotta eat and rest when the outside gets nasty.”

A beeping rings out in the darkened interior, not harsh enough to be a klaxon. His eyes and skin lose their unearthly glow and he almost seems to relax. His face is riddled with lines, and he almost seems pale.

“And speaking of which.” He sits up from the crash couch and moves, the camera shaking slightly before rising to follow, keeping his back centered the whole time. “Sorry I can’t show you anything substantial today, still going over security protocol, but I think the mess hall should be fine. I shouldn’t need to explain what a mess hall is. As for why I need one I’m not the only person on board.” There is a little light over one of his shoulders, the edge of a holo screen. It isn’t visible, but a similar feed appears in the corner of the camera’s lens, showing a number of warclones or similar elements embarking into a larger bay. They’re all dark colored, but they bear some similar livery to Mahazkei himself, notably the arm band, some orange highlights, and a bright orange handprint cradling the cheek of the helmet. There are minor differences between each of them, with some bearing other markings too small to make out. One helmet sticks itself in the view of the bay camera, sandblasted and worn so its original colors are faded.

“It’s hairy out there, boss. Visibility is shot and if you weren’t darker than the rest of the sky we wouldn’t know where you were.” The voice is filtered through the helmet, obscured, but there is some interference making the words a little more difficult to parse, possibly damage from the rapidly deteriorating environment.

“Are the tethers still connected to the convoy?” His voice is drenched with concern, and by the sounds of it he would be leaping outside were he not exhausted.

“Yes sir. I asked a few volunteers to stay behind for another hour into the next cycle just to do a recount. We’ve not lost anyone yet, sir.” The reply is subdued by the end, as if to be reassuring. And it seems the intent worked. Some of the lines across his face fade.

“Thanks. Tell the volunteers out there that when they trade off I’m going to crack out the beef curry. I’m cooking.”

The helmet cants and moves back a bit, the bay door behind them closing and the room being bathed in a red light. “I’ll be sure to let them know.”

Mahazkei rounds a corner, and raises a hand. “And I’m not about to leave you out for the time. You’re going to get something else for your trouble, and I’m not taking no for an answer.”

“I know that, sir.” They step back more, a little easier to see now. “I know better than to turn down a meal as opposed to those processed bricks you had stacked.”

“Not my idea, may I remind you.” Mahazkei tisked. “Block’s. You can take it up with her.”

“I might just. See you in a minute.”

The camera drone moves from behind him and Mahazkei is now in a mess hall, far more than would be needed for himself alone. “This is the mess hall! The safest thing I can show off to the Summit right now.” He moves behind a counter and into a kitchen, and begins to work. The feed is intermittently cut between bursts of movement, primarily capturing his bare hands being scrubbed and his sleeves rolled, revealing on the left arm a marking similar to his sleeve, the preparation of several pans, and eggs being cracked and scrambled. By the time he seems to be done and plating several large and garnished omelettes with sides of rice there are two dozen people in battle dress patterned in metamateria, sans the gold. Their faces are not obscured, and many of them seem young, or exceptionally experienced in their age. As they stand at attention he waves them off and gestures to the plates he’s set out. “Have at them, people.”

Their expressions break and they relax, looking thankful to the cook and sitting at tables. Mahazkei prepares his own plate, and sits down with the others. The camera stays nestled between two shoulders and captures Mahazkei, the two next to him, and the table behind him. He makes a small wave to the camera before cutting off a piece of his omelette and some rice and eating it. He finishes the bite and speaks. “I forgot, we’re doing a bit today. Today’s stars are the members of Block 1, the boots of this outfit, and my first contact crew for when we roll in. With me is Major Devanti Agamond,” a brunette with almond eyes, “and Staff Sergeant Ruraneh Nauriava.” The second is a bald woman with steely eyes, but both women are in light spirits. They wave to the drone while some around his table and the one behind him start jeering playfully. Mahazkei turns around and projects, “I’ll get around to the rest of you, don’t worry.”

The din settles and returns to light conversation with the clicking of cutlery on plates. Mahazkei turns back around and takes a few more bites before looking back up. “Oh, right. So I want to recap the last few days, with a few perspective notes from my officers here. We start off with an overview of what Mahonisgard is like. So. Mahonisgard is a port city with close to a dozen naval facilities, and at least one of them was a major base. Since it is surrounded by water with a land bridge going south, it made for a favorable fish farm and trade hub between the southern sea and the northern sea. As a coastal city almost entirely surrounded by water every part of the city’s infrastructure in the early days after 'forming was geared towards ports and trade, but when the crisis hit warehouses staged for the shipping of goods were retooled into fisheries, and the remaining ports shipped only fish across the continent, since there wasn’t anything else worth shipping for some time after. So on the north western, south, and south eastern sides the city had ports and more than a few were military, almost a hundred years old, and some of them had been converted to Angel ports after the worst of the skyhook disaster. We roll across the land bridge with room to spare and we’re hit by the eastern winds. Since the sea is flat and one of the few heat sinks in the region with as little heat as we get these days the winds here were particularly severe.”

He takes a moment to take a bite, and gather himself to continue jabbering. “Glaciers have started growing off of the coast breaking up some of the gales, but until you hit the city proper where the ‘scrapers start doing the work it’s really too gusty for infantry work. So anyone who would be outside the limits had to be attached to a vehicle crew, and physically tethered to each other and a few redundancies to keep moving forward. When we passed the ports and yards we didn’t find anything, at all. And I mean in any of them. Clean, parts even too big for standard transport were well and gone, and I doubt the nomads made off with them. Shame since we could have used some of that for fabbing the sleds. Especially Angel gear.” He shakes his head ruefully.

“When Blocks 1 and 2 made the path clear I rolled through into the proper, and by now we had made our presence known. Major Agamond then led Block 1 into the city to establish contact with the inhabitants, and here I pass the mic to her.”

The camera turns to center the Major in frame with Mahazkei’s gesture, and she straightens somewhat as she makes direct contact with the lens. “The inhabitants of the Mahonisgard ruins were not the native inhabitants, but were instead various nomadic factions of mixed Thukker and Sebeistor heritage, almost all of whom had only recently taken residence in the city since the original inhabitants were said to have left some time ago aboard a craft that was docked in the largest of the city’s dockyard. What kind of craft we weren’t told, but it’s safe to assume that if the original peoples of Mahonisgard are still alive that they are well beyond our reach, as the drones Block can deploy cannot survive the debris gales of the southern sea.”

She clears her throat and covers her mouth with a fist before continuing. “When we made contact it was clear that there wasn’t any centralised power between the factions, and the majority of which were nuclear families or larger all with different goals or intentions that mutually agreed to respect claimed territory, since there was plenty to go around. Most of them were mutadapted, and at least half of the total population decided they were going to ride out the storm and stay, try and survive under Svarog rule. Of the other half, it was a roughly even split of people wanting to resist in some fashion, like the Tribal Resistance to the north of the Proving Grounds, and people who simply wanted an out. Most of them had found ways to revitalise the utilities in the city borders, since there was never an invasion force present and most of the original population up and left without taking everything outside of the ports, so the people who wanted to stay could for a while. We chose to make our intentions known to all the factions, anyone who wanted to leave could come with us, and we would leave it to their discretion of whether or not they would come with us. Anyone who didn’t want to go got their utilities touched up to last a little while longer with what we could find on site, so as not to leave the impression that we were going to take their manpower and go without offering work hours in exchange.”

She breathes a small sigh. “Thankfully there was little internal dispute between families about individuals that wanted to stay or go, so getting head counts for the sled fabrication wasn’t too difficult. With the Commander’s direction we asked the people to assist us in breaking down local infrastructure that didn’t see any use or of any metals we could get our hands on within reason. We threw it all into our forge so we wouldn’t so heavily deplete our material stocks, and spent the next week getting everything ready.”

“Can I just interject here?” Mahazkei pipes up, and the camera turns to look at him for a moment. “I got a few pictures of what the city looks like here, on one of the less windy days, so you have some idea of what we were dealing with.” He flicks a finger and the camera feed is replaced with a series of still images of a city consumed by mutadaptive glaciers. The ports are anchors for the base of glaciers that stretch at a 45 degree angle away from the wind and into many buildings. Some of the tallest are fallen over onto each other, only to sprout more crystals as opposed to falling over, creating a criss-crossing lattice of crystal overhangs that connect nearly every building in the city together. Some appear to be horizontal from building to building, and thick enough to walk across, while others stretch from the sea at an angle and skewer building upon building in a slow but gradual growth curve.

“Try imagining finding any serious metal deposits or such salvage without causing entire blocks to collapse because the only metal we can find are part of the supports. We ended up unearthing nearly a hundred buried ground cars, siphoning the fuel, and then scrapping them because using them as part of the exodus would have been more trouble than it’s worth. None of the vehicles we found are capable of traversing the terrain that stretches between Mahonisgard and the Ternate Mountains since the last time I was in town.” The stills fade out back to the standard feed once Mahazkei is done talking. He looks over to the Major and gives an apologetic look before the feed returns back to her, as she begins anew.

“The final products are designed to follow in the wake of Block’s movement, which does limit movement options, but frankly anything else out here would have to be crazier than we are to brave these conditions. Still, the vehicles are tethered to Block as to maintain a powered connection, and allows us to maintain watch over the various sled cars, and also provides a solid communications network, since radio frequencies are harder to upkeep in the storms. If there’s anything someone needs, Block controls an APC with the requested supplies to the car and performs a transfer with limited ability utility drones, they look like spiders, that will offload the supplies onto the car and remove any waste products onboard before returning to Block for decontamination and waste disposal. Gross as it is, any waste produced can be thrown into the reactor for a little reaction mass. Isn’t much, sure as hell isn’t your standard fissionable material, and we have to scrub it sometimes with nanites, but we’re not sure throwing that stuff we find outside into the cores would be safe so we’ll take what we can get.”

“Thank you, Major.” The Major nods, and the lens zooms back out and centers back on Mahazkei. “Discussing the logistics of our journey across the wastelands is Staff Sergeant Nauriava, also our quartermaster for the trip, collaborating with Block on the total count of available supplies, and how we’re making them last.”

The camera turns to face the bald-headed woman, who despite seeming intense before seems much more upbeat, and it’s almost uncharacteristic of her appearance. She seems less formal than her superior, but she straightens all the same with a smile. “Thank you, sir. The trip was planned far in advance of our arrival here, so we have ample stored supplies taking up most of the hold space onboard Block, supplemented with what the Huomaeli Belt could supply us with before we left. We accounted for a much higher population density than we’ve encountered so far, but despite our overestimations we have more than enough to last us the four-thousand-four-hundred-and-fifty-plus klick journey. This includes food and water, clothing, repairs, and any medical concerns we were expected to encounter. While I can’t be any more specific than that, I am able to say we could last a month out here before we needed to worry.”

She’s almost done with her plate, and finishes it rather quickly between her first extended explanation and the next. As she starts again, however, she develops the hiccups.

Hic! Damn. Anyway. Since our intended target wasn’t available and had been such for months, we found that the people who were here were actually around our lower estimates of survivors, and thus we were comfortably prepared to bring them with us over the longest journey so far. Since we had some surplus, and I thought that a little goodwill would go a long way, hic!, I had a request put in to the Commander to use some of it to improve the condition of the lives of the stubborn. He approved, and we fixed any trouble spots and offered tools and a few pointers on how to use them, so while we wouldn’t be in further touch they’d have an easier time keeping themselves in good shape. “Teach a man to fish,” I said. Hic!

She takes a drink of water before putting it down and waiting. With no hiccup forthcoming, she continues. “I then had to figure the best size and necessary accommodations for the sled cars for the number of people we were bringing back. The trouble was we’ve got enough supplies, but the groups are tightly knit, and we have a lot of them. Sure we could ask some of them to stick together, and I know a few of the family units were probably already familiar and wouldn’t mind bunking for a time, but we planned for the worst case scenario where people would be stuck together for extended periods without being able to move much because the exo conditions are in the extreme, and would cause injury before long. So I pulled some heads together and we came up with this!”

She flicks her finger much like Mahazkei did, and the feed is replaced with a schematic of a kind of train car, but at the front and back of each section is a kind of screw ring that goes around the car, and if rotated in a specific direction would pull the car forward. At the bottom is a sled that goes around between the two screw rings, with a gyroscopic cabin in the center. Each car would be tethered to Block or have a flexible connector that allows the cars to make relatively tight turns. They are fairly complex, and beyond simple sleds or anything that could have been cobbled together with standard tools.

“Bear in mind that we had this design finished months ago before we hit the ground, but we only had a few already fabricated and stored, and in pieces at that. The rest came from materials we packed with us or whatever we could scrounge up. We’re expecting problems, but so far nothing we haven’t been able to patch and have last to the end of the trip. We have many challenges before us, but our big Block-y style cannot be defeated!”

There are some cries of agreement and chants shared for a moment before things settle again, and as the camera turns back to Mahazkei he is seen glowing once again, fading slowly. His plate is clear of food, and he is dabbing at his lips with a napkin. “Thank you, Staff Sergeant. These are the people who make the impossible happen. It’s not just me, oh no. It’s them and everyone back at the mountain range. It’s them and the people in orbit of Skarkon II. It’s them and Laura, and my corpmates who escorted us out here and saw me off. They’re all the real heroes.” He gestures to them all as he leans back to get his arm out to gesture to the table behind him. He stands up, and starts collecting empty or completed plates. “But I know our job is far from done. Miles to go, people.”

And those around him repeat the last words, quietly. “Miles to go.” They begin cleaning up, and at least one other member of staff joins him back in the kitchen to help with dishes while the others walk off down a hall marked “Quarters”. The camera stays in the mess, looking at the kitchen from a distance.

The camera’s feed ends abruptly, and the recorded stream comes to an end.

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YC122-12-27-7:35
Sahendaruman Fortress, Huomaeli Belt, Ternate Mountains, Skarkon II

A camera drone activates, though this one is outside. It is dark, the sun rising over the horizon and peaks of the range, but the sun doesn’t light up the sky or ground by much. Most of the light is cast by the fortress range itself, stretching far and away, and from a large construct shadowed in the darkness and light dust clouds crawling across the ground or walls of various surfaces.

Figures move in the darkness with illuminated heads, and the shuffling heard over the winds is ripe with the sound of hollow clacking and clattering, like charcoal being kicked or stepped on. From behind the camera steps Mahazkei, fully dressed as he was during his first appearance, and not a hint of skin visible, with the fleshed hand gloved. The mask is illuminated by lights at the corners around the seal, acting as a light to the ground and a means by which to see any equivalent face. His back is turned to the camera for a short time, before he twists his torso and neck to look at it, roughly at shoulder level, gesturing to the surrounding darkness.

“Still two weeks and some odd days that the place got nuked, and we don’t have full casualties. Or, they won’t tell me, worried that I’ll go rogue and execute frontier justice on whomever I find.” He’s quiet for a moment as he turns back to the front. “They’re right to be worried, but since it’s been that long and nobody who could have done it has owned up to it, I don’t have anyone to direct my fury to. Too many unknowns and worries that despite the good I might do, I’d be doing more harm than would offset the immediate reward. With this I agree, but I’ve made it clear I’m not to be idle during this investigation.”

The camera follows to one side as he shuffles along, and a wheeled vehicle, tall and only lit at the corners and front, rumbles past with the ground making a series of crumbling crunches like being driven on gravel. Hanging on the side are a few large individuals, lit enough to see an orange handprint on their left cheek. One hops off their foothold and loosens their grip on a handlebar near the roof, dropping next to him. They are taller than him by half a head, and broader, but they carry no immediate weapon besides a holstered sidearm, being imposing, but not threatening.

“We’ve assessed the damage they can’t repair with spares, and it’s not pretty. Would be superficial, but the nuke ■■■■■■ up the AA and anti-munitions systems, and they don’t have enough parts to get back to full strength, though if there’s another risk of a nuke I don’t know what good it would do them anyway.” The voice is distorted, through the filters and speakers around the helmet and collarbone, identical to the sound from the log on the twenty-ninth of the last month.

“Noted. Do we have enough to account for that?”

“Yes sir.” They begin walking towards the large shadow that looms ahead and overhead of them, with some spots illuminated, and one large rectangular space being revealed as a loading bay door. “We’re still within the green on resources, but this one is the biggest expenditure so far. And like I said, we won’t be doing much by restoring systems that didn’t intercept the missiles fast enough the first time.”

“I know, but I’ve asked some of the command staff on the Bosena side if I could be granted authorisation to link with the systems and provide fire support if and when they launch the nukes again. Their own warclones should be sufficient in infomorph state, but I’ve got just a few kicks above what they have. It’s not as much as having more of them, and I can’t issue you to stay here and stand 24/7 conscious watch for the next month or more. But they’ve agreed Block has enough range and between two points of fire we should have a higher rate of success. So we don’t need to stay here to keep them from taking another hit like that.”

“I’ll get to work on shoring up the last of the armaments.”

“Do it. Miles to go.”

“Miles to go.”

By now the warclone peeled off and away from the entrance, and Mahazkei was left to enter by himself. The door behind him closed and was sealed, by the sounds coming from behind the feed source, and he undergoes a scrubbing and decontamination procedure that lasts a few minutes.

When done, he takes off the mask and clips it to the rear of his hip, and lowers the hood and cowl, inhaling the sterile air. The doors before him open and he strides through and into familiar hallways.

“There are some concerns that what happened was blue-on-blue, and that whoever did that simply hasn’t seen a warclone until recently, and thought they were a Trig. I know that infantry can be given man-portable nuclear armaments, but I still think that’s a ■■■■■■■■ excuse. Would have had to have been a company of people no more than a few miles out to do the damage out there, and since nobody’s seen hide nor hair of them, I’m just thinking that if they did exist they’ve either killed themselves in a panic to eliminate a non-existent threat by firing that close, what with the difference in elevation and requirements to shorten their distance to get a better shot, or they never existed to begin with, and Bosena’s command is just trying to slow me down from going after the only real threat I see that could have been responsible.”

He pauses a moment before raising his voice, turning corners and picking up speed. “And before someone says the Trigs did it, I highly doubt it. They’ve got gravity weapons and crap that I don’t even want to think about, and they’re nothing like nuclear devices. Svarog’s got a twisted sense of honorable combat and rules of engagement, but they didn’t shoot at command.”

He enters his command room after a time and sits down as he has been seen time and time again. “I don’t like being kept in the dark, but I’ve been promised if it happens again I won’t have permissions revoked in the command structure, and I’ll be free to go after the sub as I see fit, with the support of the entire fortress at my back. I think some word got out about what I intend to do with the sub, but this would be my first official word on the matter. I’m tired, so I’ll make this brief.” A beat. “Briefer than you all know me for.”

He locks his fingers together as holo feeds, harder to see at this angle as the camera sits in its normal perch in front of him, appear and disappear, and his eyes look around them for some information unseen. “I want to pull the legs off the spider. Not to turn them all to ash, there’s people who don’t know better or don’t deserve that fury. No, I’ve got enough fine control between myself, my people, and my Block, to show the enemy that their wanton destruction and lust for death will give them little edge in the face of determined resolution.”

He unlocked his hands, and rested a fist on the armrest, and the other hand in his lap. “Won’t be easy, and I expect losses to mount, but they won’t be irreplaceable. The ones who are irreplaceable, especially for the enemy, they are people I intend to save. I expect most of them won’t know I don’t intend them any harm, but I hope to make that clear with action. That the enemy uses conscripts who would die final deaths makes them barbaric, and I don’t care what anyone thinks or says about their legality or their employment, I won’t tolerate what they’ve done.”

There is another, longer pause. “I don’t care what people think about my thoughts on the subject, I’ve come this far and I’m not about to take ■■■■ from a bunch of augmented bullies and murderers.”

A shorter pause. “I’ve got work to do, and if I go on any longer I’m going to accomplish nothing but piss myself off. Mahazkei out.”

The camera’s feed ends abruptly, and the recorded stream comes to an end.

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YC123-1-19-7:11
███████, Skarkon II

A camera drone activates. Leaning over it is a dressed-down Mahazkei, having just turned it on. He’s garbed in a “Hephaestus” set of grey and orange, but the right sleeve is cut out at the shoulder, leaving the cybernetic on full display. It’s a “Crusher” in green camouflage, with another pattern superimposed on top of the existing one.

He’s standing in the middle of an active machine shop, and from the increasing distance as he backs away the second pattern over the arm is impossible to see. Gone is the Triglavian jacket and suit, though his chest seems oddly built under the shirt. He walks to and from various machines, each producing one part or another before spitting it out and letting another machine take it to use it in their own production. No two machines are alike beyond taking up much of the wall space, and being built into it, and though they seem to be automated there are signs that suggest they can be operated manually. Mahazkei examines every other part that passes through the cycle before passing it back and moving up and down the line. He speaks, and any noise from the machine shop is dampened by an on-person microphone, and some post-recording edits, as noted by the date.

“Good morning, Summit! Or whenever this gets to you. Having to space recordings again, gaps getting bigger all the time. Figured I’d do something a little less sensitive than wander around outside- no, not that one, clock it back a bit, it’s too fast.” He interrupts himself pointing at a machine and the sensors posted on the wall above it. The machine in the line responds to the command, and he moves on once he sees the results he requested.

"So here we are in the small line. Basic stuff, plates, screws, pipes, the works. Room before this one, other side of the far wall, that’s the salvage and refinement room. It’s pretty boring there, we just pick up stuff and chuck it in the mouth and the line picks it apart and sorts out all the materials.

“If it’s already good and meets universal then it gets sorted to mass storage. If not, or it’s too damaged to be of use then it gets reprocessed and sent down one of a few lines, depending on the composition. Then it goes here, where all the fun begins!” He seems enthused about the process, almost prideful, though it would be no surprise with the supervision and micromanagement of the line being his present task.

“Sure, some people don’t think milling and machining a bunch of metal rods into screws and pipes is interesting, and there’s only so much you can do with such parts, but we must never forget that some of the most advanced machines in this grand cluster of ours start out with such simple pieces. All grades of tech have to start somewhere, and this is it.”

He stops and almost turns back on the drone following him. “Oversimplification or not. Don’t always look at the problem on the whole. Gives you a headache and causes existentialism. Or migraines, whichever comes first. You ask me, I want none of the above. Start with one part. Figure out where it goes with another. Math it out, bits at a time. And so on. Sooner rather than later you’ll realise you can do much bigger math than you thought, and you’re halfway to building a thirty-two metric tonne fortress on tracks and contra-gravs.”

A dismissive wave of his right hand. “Or a big art sculpture, if that’s what you were thinking about when you were doing the math. Done that a few times, believe me. Alright, looks good, keep this rate for another hour, then shut it down and run diag with the lathes.”

With the room examined, he exits into the hallways, no different in structure than before. “Got some news from outside the Dark. Family’s been fine. Babies are still little gremlins on their feeding timers. Glad that’s not my job, for now. Going to want that turn, even if it costs me some sleep down the line.” He stops in the middle of the hallway, reflecting. “Still amazes me that after all of this,” gesturing to the hallways and beyond, “the best creation I ever shared a part in is only a few jumps past the Trigs, and a few bounds through low and high.”

He shakes his head and the footage fades out and back to a different, but almost identical hallway, opening up back to the command chair. There’s no active feed on, and sitting down doesn’t trigger anything to pop up. He props up his chin with one hand, elbow on the armrest, and then gets restless and sits back up, looking into the lens of the drone. “I mean, it’s not that crazy, right? It’s just, somewhere out there I and someone else made tiny little humans. And they’re all so stinkin’- bah, nobody cares.”

But he doesn’t go a full minute into checking feeds before they shut off and he continues. “Babies! I’m a dad! Extraordinary! Hah!”

He continues like this, ecstatic, for another minute, his eyes illuminating an emerald green, his skin a dim red, and the strange pattern over his right arm a kind of magenta. “Old news to most of you, maybe. And I was there the day they were born, I wasn’t split that early, but it just stops me in my tracks every time I see evidence that I’m not a complete loon, and that all those little faces in my head are real. I know that. Everybody on board knows that, they all got to see them since I, we, made a fuss over it. But it’s…”

He slows down, and the glows in his eyes, skin and arm fade. “It’s the little things. I don’t remember who said that, but someone did. Took it to heart with everything here. Done me some good out of all of this.” He is quiet for the longest time to date on a recording or stream. His eyes do not move, he does not shift, and his chest heaves only slightly, giving the unobservant user the impression of the feed having frozen or been paused. Then he breathes deep and keeps going.

“I don’t know what this one’s going to be about. Doesn’t matter, I know some people like knowing I’m not just sitting in the Dark doing nothing on the off-time. Like some kind of… I dunno. I don’t know. These last few months, hell, the last year sum total was pretty bad. Little things made it better, sure, but that’s a net loss. I’m going to fix that. We’re going to fix that. Not the whole thing, but a little. That’s where it all starts.”

The camera’s feed ends abruptly, and the recorded stream comes to an end.

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███████, Skarkon II

A camera drone activates. It’s in the mess hall, and Mahazkei is sitting by himself with only a glass filled with a translucent cherry-colored liquid. He’s dressed down as he was in the last message, with the brighter ambient lighting better illuminating the second pattern over his “Crusher” arm. It looks like a leopard print mottle, but the prints are not parallel, being rotated and placed at random all over the arm. He sets it down, having looked at it for under a minute, and then picks up the glass with the liquid, and makes it circle in the glass.

“Just had a few thoughts, symptoms of a larger problem from being stuck out here. Just felt like jawing a while about stuff. Better for me, that way. Also keeps the post from sinking because I got busy contemplating infinity and death in ways I didn’t when I was a kid.”

He swirls the glass a little more before holding it up to the light. “Cherry-flavored electrolite supplement. Used to- no, still is one of my favorite drinks. Couldn’t get enough as a kid. Literally.” He sets it down. “Few months after I was born, not much older than a year, I had a seizure.”

He sits still, oddly subdued. “No spasms, thrashes, nothing like that. Just stopped breathing. Like I died on the spot.” He brightens, a little. “Then I woke up. Scared the hell out of my parents. Took me to see a neurologist, told them the news. Perscribed this really horrible medicine that I rarely took unless they made me. Didn’t know how bad it was until I was old enough to speak. I was eight when the next one hit. I was standing up, reciting something when I fell unconcious and hit my head on the back of a shelf on the way down.”

He chuckles, remembering something. “Woke up with a headache and a bunch of suction cups wired across my newly shaved head and my chest. I was recessitated on the spot, and unconcious all the way to the emergency room. They monitored me for a week, with nothing to do but sit quietly in a dark room and obey directions from the doctors who were monitoring me. Answer questions about what I was thinking. They learned I had epilepsy brought on by a sodium deficiency, so their solution was to give me stuff with salt. Anything. This drink, pretzels, you name it. I even learned my grandfather lightly salted fruit slices before eating them, so I adopted the behavior.”

He shakes his head with a fond smile. “Got a craving for the stuff to this day. Limited the attacks to once a year or every two years. Last one I remember was when my mother was trying to give me a haircut and… ah, nah.”

His expression quiets again. “But all those times I could remember. The ones I probably could, anyway. Each time, it started like a numbness. Started at the fingertips, my toes. Crawled up, under my skin. Made me feel weak. My vision clouded like I was being gassed, rolled over everything I could see but the only one it took out was me. Then. Nothing. By this time my brain had lost connection, any kind of sensory input or feedback, and I was entirely senseless and rendered unconcious, my autonomic functions having temporarily shut off entirely without any passive feedback from the CNS. But I wasn’t asleep. Felt like it, when you wake from a deep sleep, and you don’t want to move because you can’t much anyway. I was awake. I could see. Feel phantom sensations of my eyes moving in their sockets, looking upon an endless shroud of… nothing, really. I can’t sense anything. But it “looked” like a cloud of smoke, churning and roiling with stuff I couldn’t sense.”

His eyes stare out, without focus. “When I was ten they told me that when it happens it stops my heart. Stopped. A few years on and I concluded that every time that happens- happened, I died. And saw what comes after.”

He snaps out of his dour mood, and waves his hands. “Now you can argue that maybe since I hadn’t completely died, kicked the bucket, that it’s more of a “waiting room”, or that you need to be dead for a day or something, longer than I was out, or that because I don’t believe in one faith or another, or I believe in something or nothing that that’s all I see, or that because I don’t have an active imagination that I saw ■■■■ all when my time would have come but ultimately didn’t- nah.” He is gesticulating the whole time, dismissing the thoughts as he names them. “To that last one, I have to say you’d be wrong since here I am in the belly of a vehicle the size of a firebase. It takes imagination to conceive of it, and more to make it work. And as to the others, I’m not going to argue what you should or shouldn’t believe based on the oxygen deprivated halucinations of a thirty-something year old capsuleer from when he was a child. That, that’s stupid.”

He lifts the glass and drinks from it, setting it down with a solid thunk. “But what isn’t, least not to me, I don’t care how crap the crew calls this drink. I think it’s wonderful.”

He finishes the drink, and then reaches over to turn the camera off.

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This topic was automatically closed 90 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

Thread reopened due to polite request by thread originator.

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A camera drone activates. Mahazkei is sitting at his chair, without any active input in.

“Hello Summit. It’s been a minute. Things heated up a while back and we had to quiet down.”

He wrings his hands and rests them back at the chair’s rest. "Still stuck here. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m continually surprised by the people here. The men and women who go out there every day to hold the line. The people we came here for. Sure we’re all stressing, and we’d love to be anywhere else. But the longer we stay, the more it seems like we’re digging in to stay. And oddly fine with that.

“I’m still going to get them out when and where I can, the ones that haven’t changed their minds. Took the time while we’re still down here to explain in detail what may or may not happen should they come with us. Lots of worries that they’re contagious or something, when we’re pretty certain it isn’t. Some worries that they’ll be considered exiles, the ones that want to go back to the Republic. More that as soon as we get out of this sunken hole, that CONCORD or someone else’s going to pull something and try to take them off our hands, and take them away to who knows where.”

He takes a pause. "I told them I honestly don’t know. We’re putting a lot of resources into determining just how many mutadaptive strains there are now, what they do, how long it takes for them to do it, are they contagious, is it hazardous… it’s not easy. And we want to get as many heads in on this as we think will give us as comprehensive a case as we can make, without having it be completely one-sided in development, but it’s hard to find others to get involved.

"But I have not and will not lie to a single one of them. I keep them all informed to the hour when I’ve got something new. It’s not easy for them all to sit in one place, but I’m thankful for our logistics above that keep us supplied.

"I can’t speak for every last one of them, but they’re putting up with my nonsense. Even gave me an idea that I ran around the bunks until it became something new.

“I keep looking at the sky, it’s so dark. Like a vast cavern with a roof covered in glowing fog and bioluminescent bugs. Makes me itch to see the true sky again, show them all that sky for the first time all over again. So when I asked around, an idea bounced around, punching through that ceiling to the sky, until something came of it…”

He fiddles with his console until his feed shows a picture of a stylised coyote with a conical drill bit in its mouth. “A symbol to give to Block as the Steel Coyote. We got lots of things ahead. Can’t talk on them, but know that no matter how quiet we seem, we’re not silent down here. Mahazkei out.”

The camera drone turns off.

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A camera drone activates. He’s sitting outside, the wind gusting and light particulate blasting him and the structure he’s sitting on. He’s fully kitted, and his suit, while still Triglavian base technology, looks deviant from the original design. He has his hood up, mask on, but the ear structures in the hood, and the relatively new orange right hand-print across the side made him distinct enough from Svarog. Blue and orange made a helixical band around his upper left arm, and despite the gales whipping his hood and coat about in the scarlet dark he seems content.

“Got some good news. We’ve- no, they’ve made breakthroughs in identifying and categorising the mutadaptations into something publishable. So far the identified strains are mostly benign or beneficial, but the dangerous ones aren’t nearly as dangerous on a larger scale than we thought.”

He picks up quickly. "Still dangerous, they’re dangerous on an individual level and demand immediate care on a level above most affordable medical packages, but the fact remains they’re treatable. Mostly. I’m still expecting to find one or two strains out there that do more than that, but we’re lucky so far that this world of ours has not yet graced us with the horrors of the deep and dark.

“Which means that if we can get others to discuss, confirm, dispute, and correct our findings to the satisfaction of an international board, we can easily get these people off of Skarkon in their lifetimes, and see them home, as if it never happened.”

The structure beneath him shakes, Mahazkei lurching as if stopped in momentum. He peers over the side, looking at something the drone cannot view from this angle. He sits back and goes back to staring over the camera. “I’ve offered to foot the bill for most of the care that needs to be done for the extreme cases, as I’m not sure the benign and beneficial cases need any more work than observation to go back to living as they did before.”

He shrugs visibly. “As for what I get out of it, the data. It’s no secret the reason that Trigs scare so many is the fact they pushed into tech and biotech domains that the four and others didn’t consider as seriously when their progenitors were first under study. The Collective has a head start on tech that no one else comes close to, like the meeting of the empires for the first time, but on a far larger scale and impact. Like the expeditions of the desert, we’re rewriting the books as discoveries are made, and are already seeing the benefits.”

He uncrosses one leg and rests an arm on the knee. "I can see why the Collective values its metaphorical sword to push improvement. War has always been some of the best motivators of progress in our time, and with everyone having a common enemy we’re pushing existing tech to new heights, and combining strengths to cover weaknesses that only Capsuleers and the like discovered when making mixed composition fleets in the early days and out in Null.

“Not saying I approve of the execution, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about the fruits of our labors.”

There’s a long pause. “I won’t be making larger recordings like before, too much going on. But I got to keep up with records.”

There’s a longer pause before he motions for the drone to come over to be shut off. As it does so, it pans to face away, showing a large operation in the dark, with many vehicles lit moving about. It’s not possible to see what they are doing. The camera’s feed ends abruptly, and the recorded stream comes to an end.

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