The following footage was captured from onboard dropsuit bodycameras. For internal review only.
Eugales, Placid

“How many times have you cycled out? Doc told me I’m on like fifteen. At most, anyway, rogue-like protocol makes it hard to know all the time. I’m sure you get it, line goes down we cut the signal and roll out the next blank for the next sortie.”

"Hmm? Oh uhh. Yeah I’m not sure. Why, something on your mind?”

“Yeah, I… I don’t like it. I don’t like thinking about all the times I went out. Feels. I don’t know, feels more permanent to die that way. But I don’t know man, I hope they really made sure I was dead each time before pulling the plug. If I ran into my doppelganger out there I’d put a bullet in his head then mine.”

[long pause]

“What? What? What do you know that I don’t?”

“I just wouldn’t worry about it. Last Palatine team we got back from the field after their sortie decided they’d take the buckshot express home instead of wait for the dropship back. Said it would be better that way, less baggage. Less. Less to get all ■■■■■■ up about later. It’s a… common response I’ve heard so I wouldn’t worry about too many multiples just hanging around after Glitter gets their hooks in them.”

“Wow. Really kinda wish you didn’t tell me that before sortie. This Task Force Palatine ■■■■, is it another pseudonym while acting as Strategic Narodnya, or this the real deal?”

“Real deal. Service contracts means I’m only acting sobornost commander. Glitt—gods I need a drink—Glitter commands the high-threat response teams so that means Glitter outranks me this job in the field.”

“Anyone who came back say what its like once you’re locked in?”

“Ever had to reset your nose after breaking it? You never wanna ask how bad it’s gonna hurt, just do it and get it over with. I found a little sticky note last time on my tube specifically telling me not to ask about it. But because of the damn sticky note then all I knew is that it really is that bad so all I did was stress out about it. It’s like waiting to get into a damn haunted house, I hate this ■■■■. So I ate the sticky note. Literally ate it. ■■■■ that note I wish I forgot how to read when I got up. Better for me to be blissfully unaware and just hope I forget to ask next time around.”

“Well ■■■■ now I’m just worried about it.”

“What did you want me to lie to you?”

“Yes. You should have lied. And by the way what was the first thing you thought of when you got out of the tube? Was it ‘wow I wonder if its going to be as bad as I thought letting it swim around in my head?’”

“Well yea—”

“Sorry. Jackass. It’s a flash image that picks up where you left off, right. It will always be the first thing you think of when you get up.”

“Oh, good, great to know. Well I only need to worry about it til I die anyway. This has me tweaking like a bastard. Like an absolute bastard. I’m doubled up on C3 right now, it keeps my head on the mission normally but downtime like this just waiting I start fixating and doom spiraling.”

“Ever since the Artificial Troika I’ve gotten, like, second hand addiction from you. I’ve been itching for it and nerve sticks but managed to fight it off, too much bad history. My quarters though? Littered with Quafe Hyper, thanks to you. Its unfair man, we’re turning into each other like an old married couple. Did you at least pick up something from me?”

“I recently found out I can have sex with the lights on now without feeling weird. And I can play the drums. I dunno was that your contribution?”

[silence, awkward drumming on table]

“Right. Hey ugh you’re in luck anyway, it’s rogue-like! Closed casket! We can relapse, who gives a ■■■■? I got everyone enough C3 to keep their mind on the mission and plenty of nerve sticks. Helps with the ugh. The spiraling. Not just that either but a king’s ransom of whatever floats everyone’s boat, along with some top notch new gear. Serpentis’ve been cooking up their own warclone gear, no doubt selling it to the Deathless but you know what they say. No ethical consumption, and all that.”

“Where’d you get all that?”

“Aliastra catalog, I used to steal it from my dad’s mail so I can look at the underwear section later in our shitty two bedroom apartment in Waschi.”

“I always like the models in FedMart better—”

Where do you think I got it numb nuts? It’s come in from the Serpent’s Coil through the shipyard, enough to help Salvador keep en Diabel in pearls for months. Wouldn’t be surprised if we helped top their quarterly earnings with this. If we’re going full Kairiola out there lets at least try to have fun with it. I’m genuinely curious to see what it actually does across our whole team.”

“This is all just an experiment?”

“Lean in a moment, kirjuun, get real close. Yes! Gods and spirits you think I planned on this? If anything Glitter, that absolute mechanical minx, she knew just when we arrive what role we’d play. It probably knew we’d get here and that all this was going to fall on UNF’s head. I can’t prove it, maybe the warmind has predictive programing. Maybe one of the lesser ones has it and Glitter is acting as its alpha. I don’t know. I don’t know what sort of black sky thinking cartoon villain projects they’ve been working on here but it all worked out for Glitter Edifice. Think about it, remember what they said, it wanted to talk with me for a while before we showed up. Now DERAIL is a foreign body threatening it and we’re part of its immune response. I can’t disprove it so I have to assume it as true—I think none of this is surprising to it.”

“Hey, you’re up there on the world tree again brother. Come on back to me, down on my level. If you’re right, if we’re just playing in to its own interests why are we still here? Why all the nerve sticks, why all the risk?”

“It’s synchronicity Rot. Warminds are arch-materialists, they can resolve dialectical contradictions on the fly, see the curve of history, and plan for each event. We can’t. Too much data to chew. It’s like swallowing stones. So what did we develop as shorthand, a way to eyeball it when we don’t have the time to sit and crunch the numbers instead of getting eaten by some predator out in the bush? Intuition, friend. We can do the same thing as the warminds even if we don’t know it as long as we don’t overthink it and just follow our instincts. Trust your impulses when they say jump, and the net will appear.”

“Man you really are hopped up on C3.”

“Look why did we come here? We needed information on Automata Vila, arcology, and how they operate integrated with Veles. So I went over here when I didn’t really have a plan on a hunch to shake some trees and see what falls out. And what should float down into our lap? A direct interface with an automata warmind managing arcology megastructure data. What did I always say, stick to the Red Knight and everything will be okay. Its like you said about Quafe Hyper and th-- the ■■■■■■■ with the lights on thing. Our TACNET replacement, its not a prefect Troika. It’s the best thing we can make based on the idea of a troika to build team effectiveness and morale. Its not a hivelink like the Toasters but it is a direct line to convey battlefield information and share a squad zeitgeist intuitively from a central koschoi stand-in through our approximation of a navka construct.”

“Ayda, and Avalon, respectively.”

“Exactly. We don’t have either out here in the field to manage our resources if we go closed-casket leaving this big empty space open for a warmind to fill. Its like a cat and a perfectly sized cardboard box. How could it resist sliding into the catbird seat, using us like soldier ants to protect the queen if it had the opportunity? So yeah I’m gonna let the bastard crawl all over my cortex. Because unlike the Toasters, it’s a two way street. You’re as plugged into her as she is to you. When we and Glitter smash together, we trade paint. Some of it stays with you even after the troika disconnects. That’s why everyone’s been taking the buckshot express. But not me. Someone has to hold onto all this so we can get it back. We know how it thinks, how it fights, how storm world arcology works. It’ll help in the war that’s coming. This interclade ■■■■ isn’t going to calm down any time soon. Oh, and to do it I really do need to be really, absurdly hopped up on C3 and nerve sticks so I focus on anything but thinking about this plan when I’m actually plugged into Glitter so they don’t figure out what I’m doing.”

“You said you recloned though, you’d just lose all the data.”

“I did, four sorties ago. I don’t intend on doing it again if I don’t have to. No buckshot express for me. I just got unlucky, set the experiment back a bit. It was probably Red Troop, though I don’t know for sure. Apparently the press have been reporting some bioadapted Caldari in a downed transport ship so maybe we didn’t even get to the insertion point. I imagine that’s us anyway, we’ve been doing what we can to go covert or blend in with the militia war raining tungsten rods up there. We know SDII is out there too, maybe they got a tip off from their spies in Vale somehow. Or the State Peacekeepers suddenly got very brave experimenting with technology they got from Athanoun. Or. UNF put out a research request months ago to a Perun subclade, Rinvit. A very small one that might as well have been a friendship delegation but regardless that’s one avenue Perun may have heard about some Svarog-affiliated freeblade organization involving themselves in a regional conflict that would give them access to rogue drone and storm world arcology semiotic data. Maybe they sent out some auxiliaries from occupied worlds. Like I said this whole interclade thing is going to boil over any minute. I can’t be sure which it is, and I’m caught between having to assume its all true or separating the signal from the noise—filtering out the static and focusing on the task in front of me. Like getting another drink.”

“Well. Damn, now you’ve told me all this. So I guess I’m getting hopped up on C3 and nerve sticks too if we don’t want Glitter to read my intentions. I never was good a bluffing, and its purposed designed to tell when someone’s nervous even without the troika."

“Nope, no you don’t. All this is for everyone else, to see if we can limit the amount of Glitter leaking into Varyazi. But you aren’t going back out there yet. That’s what I wanted to tell you. I can’t be in three places at once, at least I don’t think I can get away with that while actively fending off DERAIL with a stick. Toasters landed in Floseswin, followed by a high energy burst.”

“What are we on barrier troops for Kresnik again?”

“Not this time. You were in Skarkon, before we even got there. You saw what it was like there, why we got involved… Did you know the RSS—I’m sorry the ’Krullefor’ signed a treaty with the Cartel to carve up smuggling in Molden Heath? All that work we did, all those sacrifices for that. Poof.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“Nope. And now Floseswin is Toaster-ridden. That whole invasion between the Republic and Sarum, didn’t that happen right around the time the Krullefor started making a mess of everything? We even almost got Kanth Filmir to bite on the inquest report proving what RSS was doing but right when the Republic Justice Department was bout to look into it, they made him Hetman General and pointed him at Floseswin to get his nose out of things. That’s why we are where we are today. It’ll be poetic. Cathartic, even, seeing the anti-matter clacker go off on that bombed-out shithole. If I can’t be there it should be you. Take a small team as auxiliaries and get me a souvenir while you’re there.”

“Thanks. You. You should take care of yourself. You look like ■■■■, I wasn’t going to say anything but the team looks up to you and I won’t be around to spot check you and keep you presentable if you let yourself go. I can tell Glitter, whatever its been doing, has been messing you up. Drink some water or something, comrade, and eat something other than MRE chili-mac, cheese crackers, and biofoam gel.”

“I’ll try, thanks… Not gonna lie, you dodged a bullet going out there again. And on second thought take some Quafe Hyper, C3, and a duffle full of smokes with you after all. I really do think I bought too much even for us.


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