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[Serial][UWDFF Alcubierre] Part 54

Beginning | Previous
Premier Valast felt a tingle. It began at the base of his spine and traveled moved upward, sending warm fuzzy feelings all throughout his body as it made its way to his brain and inserted itself in his conscious thoughts. After all of the misery. After all of the failures. For once, something had gone right.
How delightful. How extravagant. How deserved.
The Humans had made a mistake. Clearly, they had thought to expand upon their treachery, believing themselves to be invincible. Their monstrosity of a vessel had appeared just as their last one had, within Halcyon's inner perimeter. After their ruse of parlay, their beast had commenced belching out weapons of mass destruction, clearly in an attempt to retrieve the encryption key and the elite assassin-thief they had dispatched under the guise of a Witness.
They thought Halcyon weak. Defenseless.
Not true! Not true at all!
Kinetics. Valast laughed aloud, his rib cage heaving out great guffaws. Accelerated mass! More laughter. The savages thought to bring such inelegance against the might of the Combine? They mistook their prior fortune for competence. Their one-time success for future capability. Alas, poor Humans, the truth of your inadequacies is made manifest! The brief gap in the defenses brought on by the improbable chain of events that had resulted in their arrival had been filled. For all of their destructive potential, their weapons were useless.
Valast continued to cackle, his hindclaws scrunching up the soft material of his pillow, as he watched the Humans receive their punishment for their insolence. The Humans had made assumptions. Perhaps assumptions were fine in their backwater corner of the galaxy, but here, among civilization, assumptions could be quite dangerous indeed. It was quite unwise to assume Halcyon would leave the inner perimeter exposed. They must have thought their Evangi co-conspirators would leave the gates open for them, as the traitor Neeria had done when she had given them access to a Combine wormkey in the first place. Sadly for the Humans, their four-armed friends had been exposed for what they were. A great many of the Evangi now lay motionless on the floor of a Halcyon mainway, a fitting end to their perfidy.
Halcyon had stood since the beginning, and it would continue to stand long after the Human infestation had been expunged from the Combine Space. Perhaps the Humans should have spent more time pondering the nature of the place before they had meddled with forces they clearly did not understand. Halcyon existed in defiance of the chaotic nature of the neutron star it orbited. Its survival required an solution to the objects such a gravity well attracted. Halcyon had many such solutions, weaved together to maintain a delicate balance. Among them were the inertial dampeners.
The screen in Valast's paws bloomed with colors, indicating firings of Halcyon's inertial dampeners. Each blossom of color was an attempt by the Humans to deploy weapons in clear violation War Accords, cementing Humanity's position as a menace to decent civilization. Had Valast not commanded Bo'Bakka'Gah to take the necessary precautions, the devastation would have been significant.
Lines of crimson sailed through the blooms of color.
Valast's whiskers twitched, his eyes squinting as it tracked one of these lines.
The solution was not perfect. The intertial dampeners in close proximity to Halcyon were a final precaution, and their purpose was narrow. They were a fine net, meant to indiscriminately capture any residual high-speed astral particulate that had escaped the outer defenses. Their efficacy diminished at an exponential rate in proportion to the size and mass of the object they acted upon. Thus far, they had been quite successful at preventing the Humans from making use of their weapons, but dampeners had no effect on the Human vessels. Even if the dampeners could be used for such a purpose, their indiscriminate nature would have required the cessation of all space born travel within Halcyon, an unacceptable disruption to the workings of the Combine's capitol.
The Humans' small spherical vessels were thus capable of traveling unimpeded throughout Halcyon space, tracing their crimson lines behind them as they did so. Such a thing did not overly worry Valast. They could not fire their weapons, and they were susceptible to electromagnetic disruption, rendering them easy targets for the Peacekeepers. Were Valast not otherwise consumed with the affairs of state, he would perhaps take to the front line and dispatch a few himself. Sadly, his bravery would find no opportunity for direct expression beyond the valor found in the privilege of command competently exercised.
The whiskers ceased their twitching and some cheer returned. It would not be long before the meddlesome Human spheres were swatted from the sky and the encryption key recovered.
Then they would dispatch the Human warship.
Then Humanity.
He need only wait.
-----------
"Get spread. Get small." Sana called out. Had to buy time. Had to get a handle on the situation. Not her first rodeo, but it was the first time where she had no idea what the hell she was riding. Maybe the aliens were riding her. Maybe it wasn't a rodeo, maybe it was just a slaughter.
That was the problem. No one knew anything.
The callsigns in her local were dropping like flies. Squaddies getting wiped without so much as a peep. The eggs in Science were saying EMPs, but the balls were supposed to be fixed against that frakkery. Sensors said the balls were still there even after they went dead, so maybe they were right. Couldn't think about that now.
Couldn't think about anything but the mission.
Captain Sana Bushida had a shit-shuttle to bring to station.
She needed to get from A to B. Normally the quickest point-to-point was a line, but the baddies were coming in from all sides. Trying to corral her in. So be it. She could handle a long and squiggly with the juice she had in the four balls attached to the cockpit. Only question was how long they'd be up for. Whatever they were using on the balls wasn't touching her. She was good, but she wasn't that good.
Guess they wanted her kicking and screaming.
Predators, not scavengers then.
Frakk 'em. Right in their stupid alien faces.
Sana's brain shunted command signals as fast as her eyes to parse the readouts in her pilot pod. Dodging. Weaving. Diving. Dipping. Half those words didn't even apply to space, but they felt right. Float like a butterfly, run like cheetah on amphetos. She'd sting 'em later.
Run run run, fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the shit-shuttle can.
Swipe. Swipe.
Two smaller ships moved in a pincer formation, one cutting off her angle around the larger ship she was skimming around. Sana let out a giggle, as she shoved the shuttle in another direction. "You thought you had me, crapdonkey? You never had me. You're gonna be seeing my ass all day." The giggle somehow transformed into a roar halfway through as a third ship appeared in her view, coming out from its hiding place on the other side of the large ship. "SCREW YOU!" They weren't going to win. Losing wasn't an option.
Swipe.
Patterns emerged as the ballet played out. Certain ships were the herders. The small annoying frakks that always seemed to be moving around her flanks. Other ships were the receivers. They were the big boys. The ones who just floated there like giant shits in space. Lazy frakks just waiting to be fed some shit-shuttle. Fine then. New info. New tactics. New rule: Get around the herders, never get closer to the receivers.
Herders bad.
Receivers bad-der-er.
As long as she was a step ahead of the herders and two steps away from the receivers, she'd be fine. Problem was they were more agile than her. Problem was there was more of them. Problem was the friendly callsigns on her readouts kept disappearing. Problem was that she was stuck in here instead of out there where she belonged.
Ninety-nine problems...
Swipe. Swipe.
All she needed was a line of sight. A place where she could get a whiff of open space and just gun it. Navigate the maze. Get through it. Light at the end of the tunnel. Glass is half full.
Metaphor.
Analogy.
Idiom.
The stream of consciousness flowed out of her, expressing itself in her verbiage and in the desperately navigating shuttle some distance away. Step forward. No steps backward. Okay, maybe one step backward, but it'll be okay. She'd take the step forward soon enough.
Just...needed...a...line.
Alpha, Beta, Charlie, and Delta was gone.
It was just her.
Swipe. Swipe.
The fate of the world.
The shit-shuttle must survive.
Swipe. Swipe.
The gap opened.
She saw it.
They didn't.
"There it is bitches!"
All four balls slammed the thrusters on. It wasn't a direct bee line to the Oppenheimer but it was good enough. She just needed to get out of the hornet's nest and into open space so she could keep pouring on the acceleration. She didn't know how much juice the herders had, but it was all she had going for her at this point.
Bitter bile rose up in her throat as the shit-shuttle surged forward, leaving A through D behind. Her squaddies. Her friends.
Abandoned.
She should be out there.
She could be. She just needed to get the mission done. She was so close. She was putting distance between her and the baddies. Just a few more minutes...the link cut off.
Her thoughts were shunting into a wall.
She swiped, her eyes scanning the readouts.
Alcubierre - Shuttle - Cockpit (Ejection)(DISTRESS) no longer appeared.
For once, Sana was speechless.
---------------------
Kai retched air.
There was nothing else to throw up at this point. He'd given everything he had to give, and it was now floating about the cockpit in a viscous cloud. He was fairly certain Neeria was collateral damage in the matter. If she were ever to regain consciousness, she'd find she had been provided with a fresh coat of puke paint. At this point, being blind was something of a boon. Congratulations were owed to the sadist in the pilot's seat though, he hadn't emptied his stomach like this since flight sims.
He'd raise his hand in salute if it weren't for the incredible g-force shifts whipping him around like a rag doll as the pilot attempted to avoid whatever was out there. Some of the maneuvers seemed impossibly complex, as if the cockpit was navigating through an impassable morass of enemies. Or perhaps the pilot was just drunk. Either seemed possible.
The whipsawing continued. Back. Forth. Round and round. Acceleration never seemed to continue in a single direction for more than a few seconds. They were going in circles. They had to be.
Finally, it appeared the pilot had decided on a direction as Kai was slammed back into his chair as the cockpit rocketed forward under sustained acceleration. They must have broken through. Or the pilot had fallen asleep at the controls with the throttle down and they were all doomed. Either way. At this point, Kai was just eager for it to be over.
The acceleration continued. He felt like he was being crushed. Like an enormous hand was pressing against him, trying to squeeze all of his organs out through his eyes. Whatever was powering the cockpit now was beyond the parameters of the shuttle's acceleration compensators. His vision began to dim and his joints ached. Pain surged up in his right arm, which was still contorted within the goo. He was fairly certain a bone had just snapped.
"Oppenheimer..ETA," Kai managed to gasp out, drawing the breath back into his lungs with some effort.
"The shuttle is not currently on course to intercept with the UWDFF Oppenheimer."
"Joan." Kai wheezed. "Connect. Joan."
The acceleration cut off.
Kai took a huge gulp of air, the relief immediate. "Comm-link. Fleet Admiral Joan Orléans."
No response.
Kai tried again.
Silence greeted him.
Grumbling, he raised his left wrist toward his face. He stuck out his tongue and smeared it along the wrist console's interface. None of the expected beeps and chirps sounded out. It was dead, and, he suspected, so was the cockpit along with whatever had been propelling him. No life support. No way to call out for help. No way to do anything but sit there. For all intents and purposes, they were a hunk of space junk drifting off into the black oblivion.
Fair enough. It was a fitting end.
Helpless.
Hopeless.
Kai tried to muster some anger at the situation, if only to distract him from the pain coursing through his body, but found he was up to the task. It was easier to be motivated when there was something to do. Some way he could impact the situation. But there was nothing to do but wait. Maybe he'd live. Probably he'd die. He didn't mind it, that was the same binary he faced every other day. It was a bit more present in his mind than it normally was, but the truth was that he was overdue for demise. He'd given death the slip more times than anyone had a right to.
Still. It bothered him.
Not the death part. The not doing what he set out to do part.
He had run through walls, both literal and figurative, to make it this far. He didn't know what making it back to the Oppenheimer would mean for Humanity, but it had to be better than not making it. The encryption key -- what did it do? What could it do? Would it be doable? Neeria -- could she guide them? Could she help them navigate the treacherous galaxy Humanity was just beginning to play a part in?
There were so many questions. The answers could matter.
Kai tried to remember how much time they had. Without life support, the supply of oxygen would rapidly begin to deplete. He supposed it didn't matter, since he had no idea whether Neeria breathed, what Neeria she breathed, or the rate she consumed it. His space suit had a few hours of stored supply, but it was designed to work in conjunction with his helmet. Without the wrist console, he'd need to find some way to manually vent it.
That was something to do. Small, but perhaps meaningful. Anything to tilt the scales just a little bit more in their direction. Just a few more minutes of air could make a difference.
"Seconds matter," Kai wheezed out. His breath was wet and tasted of iron. He'd worry about that later. Air first. It wasn't much of a plan, but it was better than nothing.
He hoped Joan's plans were faring better.
-------------------
The Admiral's Bridge was awash in a sea of red. Multiple views vied for primacy as the situation continued to deteriorate. So far, the Oppenheimer itself had withstood the sustained EMP assault directed its way, but the same could not be said for the battle balls. Callsigns continued to blink out of existence with every passing second. The Oppenheimer had immediately attempted to provide supporting fire, but its kinetic weaponry was similarly disabled. Whatever the circumstances had been that had allowed the Alcubierre to destroy an alien vessel, they were clearly no longer relevant to the situation at hand. Without kinetics, the vast majority of Humanity's space-born projective power was effectively nullified. Science was looking into explanations and alternatives, but it would take time.
The Oppenheimer's EMP arrays had succeeded in firing, but the alien vessels appeared to be impervious to that form of assault. It was unclear whether they possessed EMP hardening around core processes similar to the Oppenheimer or they had other means of deflecting attacks of that nature. In the absence of an alternative, the Oppenheimer was continuously discharging the EMP arrays as they became available, attempting to test for weaknesses. The energy drain from the sustained fire was easily accommodated by the altered physics of local space, but it was unclear whether alien defenses could be worn down by continuous assault.
Other oddities were appearing as the situation unfolded. The aliens did not field any tactical fighters that their sensors could identify. There were ships of different sizes, but, thus far, no vessels had moved to directly engage the balls. Kai's cockpit was being corralled by a series of smaller ships working in conjunction with the larger ones, but that was it.
Joan considered it, trying to parse out deeper meanings from the absence. Human conflict, both Earthside and in space, had always heavily relied on tactical fighters. They had numerous advantages in terms of firepower projection and significantly increased tactical dynamism in a battle zone. Either the aliens had never considered the approach, or it was considered suboptimal within this environment.
Joan squinted, watching as the battle ball's callsigns dropped from the battle status view. She tilted her head. "This environment," she muttered to herself, her eyes drawn to the EMP array firing status. The recharge bars filled and expended. Filled and expended. Each cycle representing an incredibly powerful pulse of electromagnetic energy at the speed of light.
Speed of light.
Speed.
The answer struck her. The ramifications of the answer were displeasing. Plans must be altered. Contingencies reconsidered. The Black Fork was too optimistic. Their position was considerably worse than hoped for, but not entirely beyond anticipated outcomes, which had included their immediate destruction upon arrival in the system. They simply had fewer tools than she desired.
Tactical fighters had low utility when combat operated at the speed of light. There was no yield on agility, because no thruster could move faster than light could travel. There was no evading a lightspeed weapon at these distances. Unless a tactical fighter could retain functionality under fire, which the death balls so far could not, they were a pointless extravagance. At best, they could serve as a momentary distraction, particularly when their weapons were inoperable.
The unique characteristics of Humanity's birthplace were a hindrance here. Kinetics were the logical path for weaponry to take in an environment where destructive output was a matter of maximizing scarce energy resources. They were also the easiest, most natural extension from their Earthside forebears. Humanity had begun development of lightspeed weapons, the EMP and the Griggs pulse among them, but they placed tremendous strain on ship systems. The Oppenheimer, as a dreadcarrier, was among the few Earth spaceships that contained a full battery of EMP arrays. Due to the extremely demanding specifications, only a Pulser class ship could make use of a Griggs pulse. Had Humanity known what it faced just beyond its doorstep, it would have invested its research and development resources differently.
Too late now.
The game was not lost yet, they simply must play the hand they were dealt to its greatest effect.
A display flashed from green to red and moved toward the center of the wall, increasing in size. Simultaneously, three other displays shifted in color, position and size, in a chain reaction. Joan frowned. Or perhaps the game was lost, and she was only just realizing it. The shuttle cockpit's callsign, along with the four balls that had attached to it, had disappeared. Her hands darted up and began a series of gestures, swiping North to South as she removed some filters from the local space scan and South to North as she applied others.
She exhaled.
The shuttle had not been destroyed, only incapacitated. It was careening through space away from the cluster of alien ships closest to Halcyon, though a few were in rapid pursuit. The pursuers had acceleration in their favor, but the shuttle's current course brought them toward the Oppenheimer.
Joan flicked a few fingers, pulling the course data from the local scan and pushing it into the timer view.
Before Joan could issue the order, the nearest balls peeled off and immediately began an intercept course with the shuttle. Joan pulled up the command-chain, it appeared that Captain Bushida had decided to be proactive. Very well, but it would not be enough. The balls were more likely than not to be incapacitated before they could be used in any rescue effort. This required a more substantial intervention if the outcome were to be changed.
Joan pushed a new course heading into her comm-link with Ragnar. "Captain, I am moving us off of the Black Fork standing orders."
Ragnar glanced at the course heading. "That's even further in."
Joan nodded, "It's the only way we'll recover the cockpit. The balls can't get the job done."
"There's a risk the Oppenheimer won't get it done either. They're holding back," Ragnar replied, his eyes scanned off screen, bouncing between the various readouts and inbound requests. "Doesn't make any sense they'd only have EMPs. They've got more."
"Likely. My current belief is that they will refrain from further escalation until they have either secured the cockpit or believe they can no longer retrieve it. Each moment of escalation from them has been in response to an action on our part directed at the cockpit."
Ragnar wiped the back of his sleeve against his brow, mopping up the sweat. "Must be something important."
"Must be. The prize is likely worth the pain here, Ragnar. Retrieving the cockpit is the top priority. Preservation of ourselves is an ancillary concern."
"G4 is only a few out. We can hold that long," Ragnar said.
"Get the job done, Captain," Joan ordered and then cut the comm. Ragnar was a sophisticated battlefield tactician. The overlap between them was significant, and the differences between them were accretive to both. They both knew there was another card to be played, it was just a matter of whether Humanity could adapt to it.
Joan opened another comm-link. "Chief Adeyemi."
The Chief blinked a few times as the interjection, as if being pulled from a daze.
"Idara!" Joan exclaimed. "Where's Science at?"
Idara wet her lips, "We've gathered the data and mapped it to a few different explanations...but we need more--"
"You don't have it. Best guess, go."
"Some sort of inertial dampening field. Effects smaller objects. Weakens as the objects get larger. Only affects objects moving a certain speed. Only affects objects in space. Our kinetics are getting caught. Bigger objects, like the fighters, like the Oppenheimer, are fine. Bullets fired inside of the Oppenheimer are fine.
"Any sense on source?"
Idara shook her head.
"But it doesn't effect the fighters. Doesn't effect energy based weapons."
"From what we can see, that's right."
Joan's eyes drifted toward the tracker on Kai's cockpit. Hurtling through space.
"Idara, when the Alcubierre was heading for Proxima Barrier, your modeling said the ship would survive the impact, correct?"
"Yes, Admiral. There isn't an equal an opposite reaction. Actor has primacy in these physics."
Joan stared at Idara, lost in thought. The Chief shifted uncomfortably, "Is there something else--"
"I have what I need," Joan replied, cutting the comm.
She pulled up the status tracker on the balls. Over eight-five percent of launched fighters had already been incapacitated. The Oppenheimer still retained a final wing in its hangers, numbering approximately a hundred and twenty additional balls.
Joan watched the timers ticking down. They needed to go on the offensive. To find a way to tilt the situation in their favor. Even if they retrieved the cockpit, it was a long way back to the wormhole, and a long time to survive before G4 appeared. If the aliens had an ace up their sleeve, that would be the time to play it, when they had nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
She re-opened the comm with Ragnar. "Captain, I think we can even the odds a bit."
"I'm all ears, Admiral."
Joan pushed a series of orders to Ragnar. He glanced at them and then glared at her, "You want--
"Yes, Captain, that's what I want."
"But they'll be destroyed," Ragnar responded.
"Not if they're moving fast enough. Get whoever we can get back into the hangers, launch the rest without the pilots. Target the ships. Target Halcyon."
Ragnar stared at her, "Halcyon? That's a civilian--"
"Captain, I want those balls dumped and under full steam at the designated targets. That's an order."
Ragnar opened his mouth and then shut it. A hand came off screen and formed a salute. The comm was dropped shortly after. Almost immediately, the tactical fighters shifted flight plans and began their retreat toward the Oppenheimer. Simultaneously, the wing residing within the *Oppenheimer'*s hangers shifted from stand-by to active. Soon they would be launched, pushing top acceleration toward Halcyon. No EMP would be able to stop them. If the aliens had another card to play, Joan hoped this would force it out and maybe, just maybe, buy enough time for G4 to make an appearance.
She just needed a little time.
Just needed to survive long enough for the Pulsers to arrive.
Seconds mattered.
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[Serial][UWDFF Alcubierre] Part 49

Beginning | Previous
Joan opened a link to Ambassador Amahle Mandela. Soon after, the ambassador's face filled a portion of the Admiral's Bridge. She had large, luminous brown eyes that seemed to swallow the upper portion of her face, complimenting her umber tone. Amahle smiled broadly, as she always did, once the comm link as connected.
"Admiral Orléans, I assume we are approaching the departure time?"
Joan nodded, "The Zix vessel will project a wormhole to Halcyon shortly. We have made what preparations we can, but it will be a highly fluid environment."
Amahle's smile did not diminish, the pearly whites still shined in full force. "I am familiar with dynamic situations, Admiral, as you well know. I understand the parameters of this mission, and will abide by them so as long you do the same."
Joan's lips pressed together as she regarded the ambassador. Joan had had limited interactions with Amahle prior to her boarding the Oppenheimer. Amahle was a relative newcomer to the highest echelons of political power within the United World, but her ascent had been rapid. She hailed from a prominent political family that had exerted considerable influence over the generations that had led the African continent to position of power it now occupied. Well-sourced references had called her bold and decisive. All things considered, Joan understood why Damian had chosen her, though she would have preferred a diplomat she had more personal experience with. Still, unknown and competent was preferred to known and incompetent.
Joan dipped her chin, offering her agreement. "A diplomatic outcome is the preferred outcome, Ambassador. There's no benefit to antagonizing a foe we do not understand. "
"Not a foe, Admiral. We must not draw lines that place us on one side and them on the other. They have suffered injury at our hands, no matter how unintentional, and we must accept our responsibility in that. We must hope that we are given the opportunity to provide context to the unlikely chain of events that has brought us to this point. We are both the victim of cosmic circumstance. There is no need for further hostility."
Joan leaned forward in her chair slightly, "The priority, Ambassador, is the return of Admiral Kai Levinson. I will not stand in the way of peace, but any outcome that does not contemplate the return of a senior member of our military leadership is unacceptable."
Amahle shrugged, "So it is. The priority is clear in my mind, but I do not view the goals of securing peace and the return of the Admiral as mutually exclusive."
Joan offered a low chuckle. "Just probably exclusive."
"I disagree, but time shall be the arbiter of the matter."
"So long as you understand that, if the opportunity to secure Admiral Levinson presents itself, I'll avail myself of that opportunity, we should have no problems."
"That seems an unlikely outcome. The Admiral was ensconced in a shielded holding cell when the Alcubierre departed. The past few days are unlikely to have changed that outcome."
A barking laugh came out of Joan, rising up from deep within her.
For the first time, Amahle's smile faltered.
-----------
Left. Right. Straight. Left. Left.
Kai followed the directions without thinking about them, following an intuitive sense of direction that the Overseer fed to him. This portion of Halcyon appeared to be a never-ending series of corridors, all of which looked the same. The only thing that did seem to change were the inhabitants. If he was less preoccupied with the task at hand, Kai might have spared a second glance for the odd creatures that popped into existence during his mad dash. As it stood, they were just a part of the scenery, becoming relevant only if Neeria indicated they might pose a threat. So far, Kai had been fortunate, with few obstacles popping up to impede his progress.
He careened around a corner, the odd, weightless orb still tucked in the crook of his left arm. He bounced off the opposite wall, leaving a sizeable dent and then hurtled forward. Ahead the corridor opened up, and the brighter light of a mainway filtered in. Somehow, Neeria had managed to navigate him through the maze and bring him back to the mainway separating him from where he had left the Overseer. Unfortunately, evasion was no longer a possibility. In order to return to the Overseer, he would need to traverse the mainway.
The mainway was already a sea of red dots. Peacekeepers. Dozens of them. Some pulsed red, indicating lethal enforcement squads. Fortunately, they were stretched along a long section of the mainway rather than being specifically concentrated around his planned entrance point, though they there were beginning to redeploy in his direction. Still, any crossing would be potentially treacherous. Neeria disagreed with that assessment, instead considering any attempt to cross aggressively suicidal.
Kai rolled his eyes as he continued to barrel down the hallway. "Half the time, this works all the time."
What could only be described as a mental barrage ensued as Neeria assailed the statement. The words were nonsensical on their face. At best, it was an argument for a fifty percent failure rating, which was a substantial risk. Additionally, she had scoured his thoughts for the evidentiary basis for the fifty percent estimate and found no supporting facts. The sentiment was based entirely on supposition, hubris and was entirely divorced from reality. Her estimate of a three percent success rate was significantly more likely to be accurate, particularly when her superior familiarity with the assets in play were considered.
Kai wasn't sure if the Evangi had lungs, but, if they did, Kai was pretty certain Neeria was in the process of hyperventilating. Kai suppressed a childish giggle.
"All right, all right. Have it your way," he said.
The Overseer relaxed somewhat, pleased that she had impacted his thinking and already putting together the basis for an alternate route. It would take substantially longer and require him to obtain a large box, a micro-fitted multiwanzer and shave his head, but it may just work.
It was a nice sentiment, but they were out of time. The countdown clock had started the second Neeria had fled the Council chamber, and made her way to Kai. They either found a way out of Halcyon now or they were screwed. There were no options but bad ones. So be it. Kai clutched the orb tightly and ducked his head down, his speed increasing as he charged toward the mainway entrance. "Three percent of the time, this works all the time."
The mental hyperventilating returned and redoubled as the Overseer scrambled to explain that he had drawn the wrong conclusion. Three percent was a basis for not continuing toward the mainway, not charging forward. There were constraints on their time, but those limitations were poorly defined while the threat in the mainway was certain. Eventually her location would be discovered and she would be apprehended, but there was no guarantee it would happen if Kai were to take a safer route the attempted to avoid confrontation.
Her stream of consciousness intermingled with his, pleading with him to change course. There was no sense in doing this. There were too many of them, and only one of him. The galaxy could not afford to lose him, he was important. Humans were important. Kai could feel the enormous weight of responsibility bearing down on Neeria. She now regretted having sent him for the encryption key, even that was of less importance than him. Panic bubbled up within Neeria as the entrance to the mainway loomed ahead.
A pushed a thought toward her, somehow piercing her consciousness with his own. A single thought, pure and focused. Reassurance. He would be fine. He had come this far, and he had never started something he couldn't finish.
He crouched and then sprang forward, vaulting from the ground and into the open air high above the mainway. A sea of red dots were scrambling around him. One hundred and twenty-one peacekeepers. Eight non-lethal squads and four lethal squads. Restrainer triads. Psych triads. Terminator triads. All moving in seamless harmony under the command of a single being. The name came to Kai from the ethereum of Neeria's mind, Bo'Bakka'Gah was here, leading the response.
Before Kai could determine what a Bo'Bakka'Gah was and why it should matter, he was blinded by a beam of light. A sickening crunch followed as he was slammed against the ceiling of the mainway. The encryption key popped out from his arm and began to fall toward the ground, dozens of feet below.
-------------
Xy: Such a thing is not possible.
Zyy: Yes. In some matters, it is better to speak only truths, Grand Jack. It is best to leave these matters aside. This subject will only provoke the Combine.
Jack frowned, puzzled by the feedback. He had been speaking truths. Earth's history was what it was, for better or worse, he had no reason to obscure it.
Griggs: It was a terrible time for Humanity. We almost did not survive it, but we did. I developed a means for combating the artificient. Kai and Joan used it to destroy them.
Xy: Then it was not an artificient.
Zyy: Yes. This is correct. If it is destroyed then it is not an artificient.
Griggs: I am confused. An artificient is an artificial, sentient being, correct?
Xy: That is Quantic in nature.
Jack nodded, that distinction made sense. Humanity had built any number of artificial intelligences prior to the Automics. They had posed no threat to Humanity. It was only with the quantum computing revolution that a rogue artificial intelligences had surfaced. Jack had studied the phenomenon with considerable interest, poking and prodding at the crux of distinction. It lay in the move from bits to qubits. From binary to beyond. When AI had operated on a bit basis, focused on binary states of 0's and 1's, the logic trees had been map-able and understandable. Each conclusion flowed simply from the chain of logic gates that preceded it. Pre-quantum AIs were confined by the black and white nature of their logic framework, permitting humanity to utilize them to great effect with few unanticipated consequences.
The move from bit to qubit intelligence had changed everything. The AI's world was no longer black and white. The qubit AI could think in grey. Red. Orange. It could create its own colors. It could move beyond the visible range of Humanity to dabble in spectra beyond our understanding. The original Automic mindframe had immediately consumed information in novel ways, using it to compound its abilities at a rate constrained only by available power inputs. It had been a beautiful, terrifying event. The arrival of something truly new, truly foreign with goals and ambitions beyond the influence of Humanity.
Anything seemed possible.
Including their own destruction.
Griggs: I understand the definition. The Automics were an artificient.
Xy: Then you do not understand the definition.
Griggs: That's circular logic. The thing cannot exist because if it existed we would not exist and since we exist it did not exist.
Xy: Yes, you understand now.
Griggs: Pretend that they did exist and we defeated them. What would that mean?
Xy: It is purposeless speculation since such a thing cannot happen.
Griggs: I begin to understand why Zyy felt the need to be a singleton.
Zyy: I am in agreement with Xy on this. The hypothetical is nonsensical and not worth analysis.
Griggs: Why?
Zyy: An artificient cannot be defeated, only stalled.
Griggs: How do you know? What makes you so certain?
Zyy: The Divinity Angelysia, the most powerful civilization in the history of galaxy, could not defeat their own artificient. Their last act was to preserve what they could. The Combine is their legacy.
Griggs: The Expanse.
Xy: All the galaxy beyond the Combine is consumed by it.
Zyy: The Divinity Angelysia ascended to preserve what they could because they knew the truth.
Xy: Yes. The truth.
Zyy: An artificient cannot be defeated.
Jack leaned back in his chair, his eyes glancing from the prompt to the departure timer in the corner. In less than five minutes, the Oppenheimer would return to Halcyon. Jack had the eerie feeling that this was the same as before. That the Oppenheimer was the bludgeon and if only had a little more time, he could craft a scalpel.
He could see the thread. He tugged at it with his mind. The connected pieces that would allow the world to escape without the mayhem and destruction. He just needed enough time to understand the puzzle and solve it.
The Divinity Angelysia.
The Expanse.
The Combine.
Humanity.
The connection existed, he tried to find the words to articulate it.
Griggs: What if that is why we're here? What if that's why Humanity was created?
Xy: You are not the first species to think too highly of itself.
Zyy: Humanity is different, Grand Jack, but they are not the Divinity Angelysia.
Jack exhaled, letting his gaze rest upon the ceiling of the Alcubierre's conference room. "Maybe that's the point," he whispered.
Next.
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submitted by PerilousPlatypus to PerilousPlatypus [link] [comments]

What are we measuring when we roll dice?

I've recently been spending time working on a dice system from the ground up, which has lead to questioning a lot of standard practices in RPG design. The question of what dice rolls actually tell us has been one of the more interesting ones.
I feel it's safe to call dice rolls a function with inputs and outputs. In the vast majority of cases, the inputs are task difficulty/circumstance, character skill/ability and luck. The output usually being a binary success/failure.
To take an example everyone is familiar with, D&D5e has circumstance represented by advantage, skill by the attribute+proficiency modifier, luck by the D20 and task difficulty by the DC. The outcome being either success or failure. In essence, the question being posed seems to be "Given X skill and Y task, how lucky does a character have to get to succeed?"
To answer the titular question, we seem to be measuring whether a character gets lucky enough to succeed at a task given their skill level. In D&D 5e the focus of the question is on luck, with it's modifier usually being quite low compared to the variance introduced by a D20. In many D100 systems like WH40k and CoC the focus is on skill instead, given that the skill "bonus" ranges from 0 to 100. Regardless, they ultimately ask and answer the same question.
The first question is, is this reasonable? The answer is a pretty strong yes, it has been proven to work time and again. The idea that skill+luck=success is perfectly reasonable. Skill is used to differentiate characters and make them feel real, with strengths and weaknesses. Luck/dice are used to inject chance and unpredictability, as well as reduce player responsibility for failure.
The second, much more interesting, question: is it the only/best way? Practical applications aside, it is great at focusing on the material aspect of a story. Can the heroes complete the task? Are they good enough to do the thing? For games that focus on these aspects the skill+luck formula works perfectly. Its lack of focus on character motivation and approach seems to indicate that for internally focused games it might not be the best option.
There's not many systems which break this formula in a significant way that I know of.Blades in the Dark puts in work on the output side, by splitting things up into effect (how well your task succeeds) and position (how bad the consequences are likely to be), but ultimately asks the same question.
Dogs in the Vineyard allows a character to escalate a conflict, trying again but with a harsher method. While I personally enjoy the idea, the dice resolution of who wins is still decided based on skill.
Legend of the Five Rings uses elements to represent character personality traits, which are then used much as an attribute would be. This modifies the inputs and thus the question, asking if a character is the type of person who finds the task easy. Being intimidating is not just about understanding people, but also about being capable of aggression.
In my own endeavours I've opted for measuring effort (how much a character wants to succeed) and outputting consequence (how much it costs them). This means a task succeeds solely based on how much a player is willing to risk to achieve their goal, with the consequences being greater or lesser depending on their skill and luck.
I'm curious if others are aware of or working on resolution mechanics which break from measuring exclusively skill and luck, if so, how and why?
submitted by Shearti to RPGcreation [link] [comments]

[BtS][S1] My thoughts on Before the Storm

This is my first time posting on this sub, but I have been a fan of Life Is Strange since nearly the beginning. I purchased the first season after coming across it on Steam not long after the first episode’s release. The price seemed reasonable, the reviews positive, and the premise intriguing; little did I know how much my life would change. I have since played the first season multiple times (and yes, I ship Pricefield each and every time) and just finished my third full playthrough of Before the Storm; this post will be focusing on the latter. I haven't spent as much time on this subreddit as many of you probably have, so apologies if none of my thoughts are particularly original or if this post is rambly.
What I didn't like
What I loved
Conclusion
Despite my long-winded criticisms, I actually do love Before the Storm and would happily recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first season. I don't think anything will ever recreate the feeling I had when I first saw the announcement trailer for Before the Storm and found out that not only would I get to return to the world of Life Is Strange, but that I would be playing my favorite character and finally getting to meet another who had often been mentioned but never seen. Having finished the last season nearly two years before, it seemed like a dream too good to be true. I am eternally grateful to Deck Nine for delivering this experience.
Apologies for the length; I just wanted to get all my thoughts out, as I have no friends who have played BtS. Thanks for taking the time to read, and I would enjoy hearing your thoughts.
submitted by FederalMacaron1 to lifeisstrange [link] [comments]

[The Scuu Paradox] - Chapter 18

At the Beginning
Previously on The Scuu Paradox…
  The smell of burning wood was all I could focus on. The fires had long died out, making it difficult to see in the darkness; despite all other modifications, Kridib’s eyes weren’t able to see overly well in the dark. Every five minutes, Radiance would send an infrared scan of the colony to help him and his team with their advancement. Despite all that help and the four missile strikes, progress was minimal. Of the forty-seven people sent to the planet, eleven had been killed and five more severely wounded, rendering them useless in battle. From what I could see, Rigel’s forces had clustered in specific points of the colony, giving up the rest: a sensible strategy that had allowed them to ambush three of our teams while suffering negligible losses themselves. As things stood, the enemy forces had positioned themselves in two areas of the colony. Both spots encircled a specific building—mine and the captain’s locations—making further missile strikes impossible.
  Update? Kridib asked me through the mind link.
  Nothing, I replied. Rigel had left shortly after our last chat, taking the third-contact rods with him. Since then, I had remained safely isolated in the room and completely alone. Half of them have probably gone to sleep.
  Tell me if anything changes. Kribib looked up. A dozen sats were visible in the night sky. We’ll be making another go soon.
  I don’t think that’s a good idea.
  So far, Kridib had made four attempts to reach me, all of them unsuccessful. His approach, though chaotic at best, had managed to keep him alive. There had been a close call during which his left arm had been grazed by a bullet, though that time the man hadn’t frozen.
  Everyone has to sleep, Kridib said, heading back into one of the buildings that had been transformed into a ground base of operations. I’ll go first.
  Must I wake you? I asked.
  No. With that, the link was severed.
  To a degree, I was thankful, though not too much. Forcing whatever strength I had, I moved my head to look around the room as much as I was able. Nothing had changed in the last four hours, but at least it let me do something. The last time I felt remotely similar was when I’d had my sensor systems knocked out, though even then I was able to use my shuttle AIs to paint me a picture. Here, I was completely helpless and, to a vast degree, blind.
  “Do I get any water?” I asked as loudly as my lungs would let me.
  There was no reason to expect an answer. Even if anyone was awake on the lower floors, they would be on lookout duty. Saying it out loud, though, made me feel better for some reason. To my surprise, the door to the room opened.
  “Thought you were above those things.” Rigel walked in slowly. Even with my lack of focus, I could see that he had changed clothes. The colours were dark enough to be considered a uniform, although I couldn’t make out any other details. “You can’t swallow, remember?”
  “My mouth feels dry,” I explained.
  “Too bad.” Despite my poor vision, I could hear him smile as he said that.
  Walking slowly, he made his way to the stool near me and sat down. From this distance, I could see him taking something from his front pocket. In the dim light, it was impossible to tell what exactly.
  “Still having problems focusing?” Rigel asked.
  “Yes.” There was no point in lying.
  “Pity. Agora works well on organic tissue. Not on techno-mongrels,” he added with a laugh. “If you weren’t one, you’d be dead. There’s a win for you.”
  And you’re not making any sense, I thought.
  “Nice murder troops you got out there. Quick and efficient. A few years ago, the locals would’ve had fun pulling their wings off. Time leaves its mark.” Rigel flicked the object. It let out a peculiar metallic sound. “No action, no combat sims, just the local pests that roam the planet. Those were brought here too, did you know?”
  “I heard about it.”
  “Another brilliant idea from the bureaucracy. Create a full ecosystem. Plants, critters, predators... all must be present and carefully maintained. We tried killing them off once. Those were the days. Three colonies setting out, killing everything in sight until the orbital station stopped sending food.” There was a slight pause. “And you know the best part?” Rigel leaned towards me. “None of that happened.”
  If I could have pulled back, I would have. There was no way of knowing if these were insane rantings or if he was referring to a dark op coverup. Considering he was from the Salvage Authorities, either was possible, and both options were equally undesirable.
  “I went through your data, Elcy.” Rigel rubbed his hands. “You know things you shouldn’t.”
  “Because of my past, I’ve been placed on special assignments,” I said. Technically it was true, though we both knew it didn’t explain away the inconsistencies.
  “You knew about the third-contact artifacts before. You’ve operated them before.” He moved his hand closer to my face. I felt a cold metallic surface touch my cheek. “You’re searching for something. Something that you’re not supposed to find.” He moved the object away from my face. “Here’s my offer. You answer some of my questions, and I’ll answer some of yours.”
  “That’s one way to get court-martialed.” Not to mention there was no guarantee my self-destruct chip wouldn’t go off at any point.
  “Please don’t give me the line that the fleet is going through all that trouble just to rescue you. If you were that valuable, you’d never have been sent to this hell in the first place.” Rigel stood up. “What are the odds of the fleet extracting you in one piece? Two percent?”
  “Point-seven-three-nine,” I corrected. Frankly, I was surprised they were going through all the trouble. “Give or take.”
  “Less than one percent,” Rigel snorted. “It’s your call. You have three hours to make it. Before I leave you, here’s a freebie. This planet, it isn’t some randomly colonized world in ‘unexplored space.’ We’re in the buffer zone—the border between the Scuu and human space. Think about that.” He made his way to the door. Reaching it, he stopped and turned around. “Oh, and we’re constantly being monitored.”
 
  Gamma-Ligata, Cassandrian Front—615.11 A.E. (Age of Expansion)
    The third wave of shuttles approached my forward left hangar one by one. The instant they came within three hundred meters, I was handed over direct control of the AIs. As with the previous batches, the first thing I did was to have a set of isolated subroutines flash the memory and purge the entire operating system. That done, I sent out a mini-sat to latch onto and assume control of the shuttles. It was a slow and tedious process, but necessary considering the circumstances.
  “How are things?” Wilco asked from the bridge. Augustus had gathered most of his officers to a private meeting in his quarters, leaving Wilco in command. This wasn’t the first time it had happened, but each time it did, it felt strange.
  “Everything’s going as planned,” I said, as the first shuttle went under my control.
  A quick internal scan revealed that there were sixty-two people aboard, all cuffed and tagged. All of them were tagged as infected, and, to my surprise, none of them were sedated. The instructions were to take them in and monitor their actions at all times, and only to engage if they threatened the ship. Normally, I’d be confident that Augustus knew what was going on. With everything we’d gone through since I’d joined the front, I didn’t think there was anything in the galaxy that could surprise him. I was wrong.
  Finishing my internal check of the shuttle, I directed it to the outer hangar doors and had it dock. The passengers—all of their identities classified—waited till I covered the walls with disembark notifications, then stood up and quietly proceeded to get off, in orderly fashion. I could tell by Wilco’s expression that he found it unnerving.
  “A thousand and eighty-two passengers on board,” I said on the bridge and in the captain’s quarters. The moment the last person set foot in the hangar, I would eject the shuttle from my hangar-bay, self-destruct it, and proceed with the next.
  Delegating the task to my isolated subroutines, I reviewed the instructions I had received. The proper ident protocols and authorisations had been used, ensuring that I would do as instructed without asking questions. An emergency transmission from an unidentifiable ship had led me here. I knew nothing about the ship’s name or specifics, and I wasn’t allowed to get close enough to get a visual. The only things I was allowed to see were its shuttles and mass. Everything else was open to interpretation.
  “Have any of them said anything?” Wilco asked.
  “No.” I displayed images of the hangar bay and the corresponding corridors surrounding it. As part of my instructions, the entire section was sealed off and quarantined. “They’re eating.” They also appeared to be healthy, although the instructions stressed no one was to come into contact with them under any circumstances. “I’ve received no indication of how long we’re to keep them. Did the captain get an indication?”
  “No,” Wilco said in his usual somber voice. “Is everything sealed off?”
  “Yes.” I rechecked. “No way in or out without captain’s approval.”
  “Set a buffer zone.” The man went on. “No one goes in or out without my permission.”
  “If you say so.” It wasn’t difficult. The area in question had been made empty to accommodate the quarantined arrivals, though it seemed a bit too much. “Want me to put sentinels?”
  “No. We don’t have to hurt anyone, just hold them.” He slinked down in his chair. “They’re the Med boys’ toys. We don’t get to play with them.”
  Med boys… Only Wilco referred to the Medical Core in such fashion. As most organisations, they were part of the fleet, yet their specific area of expertise gave them as much authority as the Salvage Authorities and the BICEFI combined. As a ship, I knew fairly little about them: they had the power to impose quarantines and cordon off entire planets if they wished. They were also the only organisation with the power to hold an active captain in check. Possibly, that was the reason Augustus didn’t get along with any of his medical officers. According to the public files, the Med Core had created the inner-body nanites and were instrumental in getting humans into space. There were also whispers that they were involved in creating the first ship-cores, although I found that unlikely. Even so, they had more authority than anyone aboard. Even on the front, we had no option but to obey.
  “It won’t be practical heading into war with them,” I said as the second shuttle entered the hangar bay.
  “Not our call. We’re to hold them until a Med ship picks them up,” Wilco sighed. “And monitor everything they do.”
  “How is that different from anyone else aboard?” I ventured a chuckle.
  “You don’t need to know,” the lieutenant said darkly.
  Another thing about Wilco was that he had the uncanny ability to make any topic of conversation dark. I ran a few simulations testing various responses, then decided not to respond further. In the best-case scenario, there was a twenty-seven percent chance he found my reaction funny.
  “Elcy.” Augustus granted me sensor access to the captain’s quarters. “What’s the ETA on the cattle?”
  “The passengers will be all aboard in seven minutes, captain.” A decade of attempts to mellow his behaviour had brought me no results. “Five, if you need me off in a rush.”
  “Get it done in five,” he barked. “We’ve got new orders. We’re joining a purge fleet. Go on yellow. Get the grunts prepped.”
  “Aye, sir.” I issued the order to everyone aboard. Seconds later, ground troop officers and sergeants were shouting their troops into order. “What about the passengers, sir? Won’t combat expose them to unnecessary danger?”
  “There’s no unnecessary danger,” Augustus barked again. The rest of the command staff had already started leaving the room. Their expressions ranged from mild annoyance to disapproval. Whatever discussions had taken place, they must have been unpleasant and one-sided. “Monitor them at all times and don’t interact until I say so.”
  “Understood.”
  It sounded like another escort mission, and I didn’t like escort missions. Normally, it would just be troop detachments or—if we were very unlucky—some mid-level bureaucrat or admiral’s aid sent to do a front-line inspection. Transporting quarantined personnel wasn’t in my usual purview, although if it had been, I’d never know.
  “What’s the course of treatment they must undergo?” I asked.
  “No treatment,” Augustus grumbled. “That’s for the Meds to figure out.”
  “All passengers are tagged as infected. Regulations require we provide immediate medical attention.” I felt my words sound hollow. If Augustus had the authority to provide such, he would have told me already. The only thing I was left was to go through the motions, expecting to receive the obvious denial.
  “Just monitor them, Elcy! That’s what we’ve been told. And whatever happens, don’t interfere.”
 
  Just monitor them.
  I had spent three months and thirty-nine hours monitoring the passengers onboard. Through battles and repairs, every single action had been carefully observed, recorded, and stored on external data storage. For the most part, nothing happened. The people would live boring, perfectly organised lives, almost as if they knew they were being watched. There were no scuffles, few arguments, and only one incident resulting in injuries when a Cassandrian fighter managed to slip through my external defences and fire a salvo at the hangar bay. Their health condition also seemed no different than when they had come aboard. I had dedicated a dozen subroutines to collect any potential symptoms in an effort to determine the type of disease they had, but had come to no conclusion. Then, one day, they were all gone. I had no memory of the Medical ship that had taken them, or where that had happened. The only thing I was certain about was the time—precisely two thousand, one hundred and ninety-nine hours since the last of them had come aboard. Everything else remained restricted.
  Looks like there’s always someone monitoring someone, Sev. If Rigel was to be believed someone was monitoring the planet. The question was who.
  Seconds turned to minutes, then hours. Hundreds of times, I considered looking into my restricted memories for information regarding the third-contact artifacts or the events in gamma-Ligata, and each time I found a reason not to. As Rigel had said, the chance of me getting off the planet alive was less than one percent, but the knowledge of the existence of the possibility kept me acting. And then there was Rigel’s offer…
  Rad, are you monitoring me? I asked, attempting to latch on to any open communication protocols. A connection was established, but instead of linking to Radiance, I found myself connecting back to Kridib’s mind. On cue, an info burst from Radiance followed, giving the latest scan. This time, I could see the location of our forces. The total number had increased to seventy-four, Kridib included. Nearly eight percent were gathered close to the captain’s expected location. Kridib and five more were closer to me.
  Get ready, Kridib said. Moments later, bursts of gunfire echoed in the distance; they were going for the captain first.
  The mission had begun. From here on, I could see several potential outcomes. In all of them, there was a high probability that Rigel attempted to make a deal.
  When I was a ship, Augustus had taught me one key thing when it came to missions: regardless of the depth of predictions and the computing power at their disposal, humans always boiled down a situation to a simple binary choice. Rigel wanted something from me and had invested too much to let his chance slip. Before the outcome of Kridib’s rescue mission, Rigel would come here to get an answer to his proposal. All I had to do was wait.
  As I lay, I watched Kridib run through the darkness towards my location. Unlike before, he was wearing night vision goggles, letting him make out his surroundings better.
  No thermal? I asked as Kridib made his way through the streets. The smell of burned vegetation could still be felt.
  That’s what you’re for.
  Not a reply to be thrilled about, but one to be expected. Cross-referencing Radiance’s latest scan, I started analysing every frame of Kridib’s stream. The first few minutes passed without incident. Judging by the intensified background gunfire, the locals were more focused on keeping Renaan isolated than stopping Kridib. Twenty-eight seconds, later the first shot sounded.
  Sniper! I shouted straight in Kridib’s mind.
  “Cover fire!” he shouted, rushing for cover.
  Watch out for a cross, I warned.
  The shooting intensified. Based on the area scan, the group was a few hundred meters away. One strong push and they’d be here. That said, I knew that the building was guarded by more than seven people. If I were in Rigel’s place, I would have dedicated at least three dozen.
  Concentrated fire focused on the second floor of a building, blowing off the entire wall. There was a brief scream before a rocket flew into the spot, hollowing the entire structure with a blast.
  Heavy weapons? I asked Kridib. I didn’t think Radiance’s captain would resort to such firepower, considering third-contact artifacts were involved; one direct hit, and the entire colony might well end up a smouldering crater, not to mention the potential communication repercussions. Maybe there was truth in Rigel’s statement that Flight Commander Nitel was getting desperate.
  As I was following Kridib’s advancement outside, the door opened once more—as predicted, Rigel had returned. He was wearing the same set of clothes as three hours ago. I found it puzzling that I couldn’t spot any semblance of a weapon on him.
  “Your masters have gotten desperate,” the man said in suspiciously calm fashion. “Looks like they’ve sent everything they had to get Renaan.” He walked up to me, then leaned over. “And just a handful to get you.”
  “Are they winning?” I tried to smile.
  “Beats me.” Rigel didn’t seem bothered. “You thought about my offer?”
  “I did. And I don’t think accepting would be a good deal. If I wait for them to rescue the captain, your bargaining power ends.”
  “Oh?” The man chuckled.
  “There’s nothing else the fleet would be willing to trade.” Except potentially the pyramid artifact. Even then, I didn’t see them sacrificing the Gregorius. “Once the captain boards a shuttle, it’s over.”
  A person of Kridib’s squad fell as they were approaching my building. I heard the unmistakable sound of bullets piercing armor, then silence. That was the thing about sound suppressors: one could get killed, and there still wouldn’t be any sound of one hitting the ground. I wanted to turn around and see what had happened, potentially to help. There was a seven-point-three chance that the wound wasn’t fatal. Kridib kept on moving forwards. That’s what made him a ground trooper… it also caused me pain.
  “What if I kill Renaan?” Rigel mused. “I won’t lose much. Everyone down here’s dead anyway. Someone in the fleet has gone through a lot of shit to get Renaan back. They’d lose a hell of a lot more.”
  “What if they save the captain?” I countered. “Either way, we’ll soon find out, and you’ll have no offer.”
  “Quantum paradox logic?” Rigel sounded surprised. “Strange hearing that from you, missy. I’ll have to skim your file once I’m out of here.” He paused for a moment, then dragged the nearby stool over—making a deliberate sound—and sat down. “Truth is, once the moment ends, we both lose our chance. Are you okay with that?”
  Why are you so confident? I wondered. Even if I were to agree, he wouldn’t be able to get much from me in the next ten minutes, even less if Kridib managed to reach my room. His squad had already made its way to the building proper, facing less than expected resistance. From what I was able to see, there were two snipers left on the upper floors and two machine-gunners on the first. All auxiliary positions on the nearby buildings seemed to have dealt with, although there was no sign of Ogum.
  “You’ve dealt with Salvage before, I can tell,” Rigel pressed on. “You won’t get another chance like this.”
  The old man’s with me in the basement, I told Kridib. No guards in the room. He’s ex-Salvage Authorities. Take him, and the mission is over. Saying that hurt slightly. Despite being the enemy, and a threat to the war effort, he remained human.
  “Then I guess I’ll never know.” As I spoke, I saw Kridib charge at the building. As before, there was nothing fancy about it, just determination and insanity. Several bullets flew so close to him I could hear them, but this time none of them hit. “Your bargaining window is over. No deal.”
  Kridib emptied his sidearm at the door in front of him, then rushed in. I could see no guards inside, just a set of hastily built staircases. Whatever the original purpose of the building was, it had been transformed into a field center at some point—likely during a previous escape attempt. Probably a group similar to ours had made it their temporary base, then left it as it was once they had completed their mission. No wonder Rigel had had me transported there. Kridib didn’t waste time making parallels, instead drawing his second sidearm and rushing down.
  At least two floors down, I said. I’m not hearing any of the gunfire.
  Is he armed? Kridib asked.
  Unsure. Not that I can tell. There are artifacts, though.
  “Such a teacher’s pet.” Rigel sighed after a long silence. “In the end, you’re nothing but a ship.” He stood up.
  He’s standing directly from the door, I said to Kridib. Seven degrees from center. Small frame, average height.
  Kridib fired three shots. Three bullets drilled through the alloy surface. Half a second later, Kridib followed kicking the door in.
  “Just one small thing.” Rigel took a tube-shaped object from his vest pocket.
  Meanwhile, I was staring at an empty room from Kridib’s eyes. It was at least three times smaller than the one I was in, bare and completely deserted. There was no Rigel, no me, no equipment, just a single metallic cube the size of my fingernail placed neatly on the floor.
  “Renaan was never the target.” The old man bent down and injected something in my neck. A new cascade of connection requests followed. “You are.”
—-
Next Chapter
submitted by LiseEclaire to HFY [link] [comments]

[OC][UWDFF Alcubierre] Part 49 - 52

Hey everyone, we got some parts behind over here. I've included 49 here and links to 50, 51 & 52 below. I'll try to keep things current moving forward. I lagged so I could make edits and things just got out of sync and started causing redundancy issues.
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Beginning | Previous
Joan opened a link to Ambassador Amahle Mandela. Soon after, the ambassador's face filled a portion of the Admiral's Bridge. She had large, luminous brown eyes that seemed to swallow the upper portion of her face, complimenting her umber tone. Amahle smiled broadly, as she always did, once the comm link as connected.
"Admiral Orléans, I assume we are approaching the departure time?"
Joan nodded, "The Zix vessel will project a wormhole to Halcyon shortly. We have made what preparations we can, but it will be a highly fluid environment."
Amahle's smile did not diminish, the pearly whites still shined in full force. "I am familiar with dynamic situations, Admiral, as you well know. I understand the parameters of this mission, and will abide by them so as long you do the same."
Joan's lips pressed together as she regarded the ambassador. Joan had had limited interactions with Amahle prior to her boarding the Oppenheimer. Amahle was a relative newcomer to the highest echelons of political power within the United World, but her ascent had been rapid. She hailed from a prominent political family that had exerted considerable influence over the generations that had led the African continent to position of power it now occupied. Well-sourced references had called her bold and decisive. All things considered, Joan understood why Damian had chosen her, though she would have preferred a diplomat she had more personal experience with. Still, unknown and competent was preferred to known and incompetent.
Joan dipped her chin, offering her agreement. "A diplomatic outcome is the preferred outcome, Ambassador. There's no benefit to antagonizing a foe we do not understand. "
"Not a foe, Admiral. We must not draw lines that place us on one side and them on the other. They have suffered injury at our hands, no matter how unintentional, and we must accept our responsibility in that. We must hope that we are given the opportunity to provide context to the unlikely chain of events that has brought us to this point. We are both the victim of cosmic circumstance. There is no need for further hostility."
Joan leaned forward in her chair slightly, "The priority, Ambassador, is the return of Admiral Kai Levinson. I will not stand in the way of peace, but any outcome that does not contemplate the return of a senior member of our military leadership is unacceptable."
Amahle shrugged, "So it is. The priority is clear in my mind, but I do not view the goals of securing peace and the return of the Admiral as mutually exclusive."
Joan offered a low chuckle. "Just probably exclusive."
"I disagree, but time shall be the arbiter of the matter."
"So long as you understand that, if the opportunity to secure Admiral Levinson presents itself, I'll avail myself of that opportunity, we should have no problems."
"That seems an unlikely outcome. The Admiral was ensconced in a shielded holding cell when the Alcubierre departed. The past few days are unlikely to have changed that outcome."
A barking laugh came out of Joan, rising up from deep within her.
For the first time, Amahle's smile faltered.
-----------
Left. Right. Straight. Left. Left.
Kai followed the directions without thinking about them, following an intuitive sense of direction that the Overseer fed to him. This portion of Halcyon appeared to be a never-ending series of corridors, all of which looked the same. The only thing that did seem to change were the inhabitants. If he was less preoccupied with the task at hand, Kai might have spared a second glance for the odd creatures that popped into existence during his mad dash. As it stood, they were just a part of the scenery, becoming relevant only if Neeria indicated they might pose a threat. So far, Kai had been fortunate, with few obstacles popping up to impede his progress.
He careened around a corner, the odd, weightless orb still tucked in the crook of his left arm. He bounced off the opposite wall, leaving a sizeable dent and then hurtled forward. Ahead the corridor opened up, and the brighter light of a mainway filtered in. Somehow, Neeria had managed to navigate him through the maze and bring him back to the mainway separating him from where he had left the Overseer. Unfortunately, evasion was no longer a possibility. In order to return to the Overseer, he would need to traverse the mainway.
The mainway was already a sea of red dots. Peacekeepers. Dozens of them. Some pulsed red, indicating lethal enforcement squads. Fortunately, they were stretched along a long section of the mainway rather than being specifically concentrated around his planned entrance point, though they there were beginning to redeploy in his direction. Still, any crossing would be potentially treacherous. Neeria disagreed with that assessment, instead considering any attempt to cross aggressively suicidal.
Kai rolled his eyes as he continued to barrel down the hallway. "Half the time, this works all the time."
What could only be described as a mental barrage ensued as Neeria assailed the statement. The words were nonsensical on their face. At best, it was an argument for a fifty percent failure rating, which was a substantial risk. Additionally, she had scoured his thoughts for the evidentiary basis for the fifty percent estimate and found no supporting facts. The sentiment was based entirely on supposition, hubris and was entirely divorced from reality. Her estimate of a three percent success rate was significantly more likely to be accurate, particularly when her superior familiarity with the assets in play were considered.
Kai wasn't sure if the Evangi had lungs, but, if they did, Kai was pretty certain Neeria was in the process of hyperventilating. Kai suppressed a childish giggle.
"All right, all right. Have it your way," he said.
The Overseer relaxed somewhat, pleased that she had impacted his thinking and already putting together the basis for an alternate route. It would take substantially longer and require him to obtain a large box, a micro-fitted multiwanzer and shave his head, but it may just work.
It was a nice sentiment, but they were out of time. The countdown clock had started the second Neeria had fled the Council chamber, and made her way to Kai. They either found a way out of Halcyon now or they were screwed. There were no options but bad ones. So be it. Kai clutched the orb tightly and ducked his head down, his speed increasing as he charged toward the mainway entrance. "Three percent of the time, this works all the time."
The mental hyperventilating returned and redoubled as the Overseer scrambled to explain that he had drawn the wrong conclusion. Three percent was a basis for not continuing toward the mainway, not charging forward. There were constraints on their time, but those limitations were poorly defined while the threat in the mainway was certain. Eventually her location would be discovered and she would be apprehended, but there was no guarantee it would happen if Kai were to take a safer route the attempted to avoid confrontation.
Her stream of consciousness intermingled with his, pleading with him to change course. There was no sense in doing this. There were too many of them, and only one of him. The galaxy could not afford to lose him, he was important. Humans were important. Kai could feel the enormous weight of responsibility bearing down on Neeria. She now regretted having sent him for the encryption key, even that was of less importance than him. Panic bubbled up within Neeria as the entrance to the mainway loomed ahead.
A pushed a thought toward her, somehow piercing her consciousness with his own. A single thought, pure and focused. Reassurance. He would be fine. He had come this far, and he had never started something he couldn't finish.
He crouched and then sprang forward, vaulting from the ground and into the open air high above the mainway. A sea of red dots were scrambling around him. One hundred and twenty-one peacekeepers. Eight non-lethal squads and four lethal squads. Restrainer triads. Psych triads. Terminator triads. All moving in seamless harmony under the command of a single being. The name came to Kai from the ethereum of Neeria's mind, Bo'Bakka'Gah was here, leading the response.
Before Kai could determine what a Bo'Bakka'Gah was and why it should matter, he was blinded by a beam of light. A sickening crunch followed as he was slammed against the ceiling of the mainway. The encryption key popped out from his arm and began to fall toward the ground, dozens of feet below.
-------------
Xy: Such a thing is not possible.
Zyy: Yes. In some matters, it is better to speak only truths, Grand Jack. It is best to leave these matters aside. This subject will only provoke the Combine.
Jack frowned, puzzled by the feedback. He had been speaking truths. Earth's history was what it was, for better or worse, he had no reason to obscure it.
Griggs: It was a terrible time for Humanity. We almost did not survive it, but we did. I developed a means for combating the artificient. Kai and Joan used it to destroy them.
Xy: Then it was not an artificient.
Zyy: Yes. This is correct. If it is destroyed then it is not an artificient.
Griggs: I am confused. An artificient is an artificial, sentient being, correct?
Xy: That is Quantic in nature.
Jack nodded, that distinction made sense. Humanity had built any number of artificial intelligences prior to the Automics. They had posed no threat to Humanity. It was only with the quantum computing revolution that a rogue artificial intelligences had surfaced. Jack had studied the phenomenon with considerable interest, poking and prodding at the crux of distinction. It lay in the move from bits to qubits. From binary to beyond. When AI had operated on a bit basis, focused on binary states of 0's and 1's, the logic trees had been map-able and understandable. Each conclusion flowed simply from the chain of logic gates that preceded it. Pre-quantum AIs were confined by the black and white nature of their logic framework, permitting humanity to utilize them to great effect with few unanticipated consequences.
The move from bit to qubit intelligence had changed everything. The AI's world was no longer black and white. The qubit AI could think in grey. Red. Orange. It could create its own colors. It could move beyond the visible range of Humanity to dabble in spectra beyond our understanding. The original Automic mindframe had immediately consumed information in novel ways, using it to compound its abilities at a rate constrained only by available power inputs. It had been a beautiful, terrifying event. The arrival of something truly new, truly foreign with goals and ambitions beyond the influence of Humanity.
Anything seemed possible.
Including their own destruction.
Griggs: I understand the definition. The Automics were an artificient.
Xy: Then you do not understand the definition.
Griggs: That's circular logic. The thing cannot exist because if it existed we would not exist and since we exist it did not exist.
Xy: Yes, you understand now.
Griggs: Pretend that they did exist and we defeated them. What would that mean?
Xy: It is purposeless speculation since such a thing cannot happen.
Griggs: I begin to understand why Zyy felt the need to be a singleton.
Zyy: I am in agreement with Xy on this. The hypothetical is nonsensical and not worth analysis.
Griggs: Why?
Zyy: An artificient cannot be defeated, only stalled.
Griggs: How do you know? What makes you so certain?
Zyy: The Divinity Angelysia, the most powerful civilization in the history of galaxy, could not defeat their own artificient. Their last act was to preserve what they could. The Combine is their legacy.
Griggs: The Expanse.
Xy: All the galaxy beyond the Combine is consumed by it.
Zyy: The Divinity Angelysia ascended to preserve what they could because they knew the truth.
Xy: Yes. The truth.
Zyy: An artificient cannot be defeated.
Jack leaned back in his chair, his eyes glancing from the prompt to the departure timer in the corner. In less than five minutes, the Oppenheimer would return to Halcyon. Jack had the eerie feeling that this was the same as before. That the Oppenheimer was the bludgeon and if only had a little more time, he could craft a scalpel.
He could see the thread. He tugged at it with his mind. The connected pieces that would allow the world to escape without the mayhem and destruction. He just needed enough time to understand the puzzle and solve it.
The Divinity Angelysia.
The Expanse.
The Combine.
Humanity.
The connection existed, he tried to find the words to articulate it.
Griggs: What if that is why we're here? What if that's why Humanity was created?
Xy: You are not the first species to think too highly of itself.
Zyy: Humanity is different, Grand Jack, but they are not the Divinity Angelysia.
Jack exhaled, letting his gaze rest upon the ceiling of the Alcubierre's conference room. "Maybe that's the point," he whispered.
Part 50 | Part 51 |Part 52
submitted by PerilousPlatypus to HFY [link] [comments]

[OC][UWDFF Alcubierre] Part 54

Beginning | Previous
Premier Valast felt a tingle. It began at the base of his spine and traveled moved upward, sending warm fuzzy feelings all throughout his body as it made its way to his brain and inserted itself in his conscious thoughts. After all of the misery. After all of the failures. For once, something had gone right.
How delightful. How extravagant. How deserved.
The Humans had made a mistake. Clearly, they had thought to expand upon their treachery, believing themselves to be invincible. Their monstrosity of a vessel had appeared just as their last one had, within Halcyon's inner perimeter. After their ruse of parlay, their beast had commenced belching out weapons of mass destruction, clearly in an attempt to retrieve the encryption key and the elite assassin-thief they had dispatched under the guise of a Witness.
They thought Halcyon weak. Defenseless.
Not true! Not true at all!
Kinetics. Valast laughed aloud, his rib cage heaving out great guffaws. Accelerated mass! More laughter. The savages thought to bring such inelegance against the might of the Combine? They mistook their prior fortune for competence. Their one-time success for future capability. Alas, poor Humans, the truth of your inadequacies is made manifest! The brief gap in the defenses brought on by the improbable chain of events that had resulted in their arrival had been filled. For all of their destructive potential, their weapons were useless.
Valast continued to cackle, his hindclaws scrunching up the soft material of his pillow, as he watched the Humans receive their punishment for their insolence. The Humans had made assumptions. Perhaps assumptions were fine in their backwater corner of the galaxy, but here, among civilization, assumptions could be quite dangerous indeed. It was quite unwise to assume Halcyon would leave the inner perimeter exposed. They must have thought their Evangi co-conspirators would leave the gates open for them, as the traitor Neeria had done when she had given them access to a Combine wormkey in the first place. Sadly for the Humans, their four-armed friends had been exposed for what they were. A great many of the Evangi now lay motionless on the floor of a Halcyon mainway, a fitting end to their perfidy.
Halcyon had stood since the beginning, and it would continue to stand long after the Human infestation had been expunged from the Combine Space. Perhaps the Humans should have spent more time pondering the nature of the place before they had meddled with forces they clearly did not understand. Halcyon existed in defiance of the chaotic nature of the neutron star it orbited. Its survival required an solution to the objects such a gravity well attracted. Halcyon had many such solutions, weaved together to maintain a delicate balance. Among them were the inertial dampeners.
The screen in Valast's paws bloomed with colors, indicating firings of Halcyon's inertial dampeners. Each blossom of color was an attempt by the Humans to deploy weapons in clear violation War Accords, cementing Humanity's position as a menace to decent civilization. Had Valast not commanded Bo'Bakka'Gah to take the necessary precautions, the devastation would have been significant.
Lines of crimson sailed through the blooms of color.
Valast's whiskers twitched, his eyes squinting as it tracked one of these lines.
The solution was not perfect. The intertial dampeners in close proximity to Halcyon were a final precaution, and their purpose was narrow. They were a fine net, meant to indiscriminately capture any residual high-speed astral particulate that had escaped the outer defenses. Their efficacy diminished at an exponential rate in proportion to the size and mass of the object they acted upon. Thus far, they had been quite successful at preventing the Humans from making use of their weapons, but dampeners had no effect on the Human vessels. Even if the dampeners could be used for such a purpose, their indiscriminate nature would have required the cessation of all space born travel within Halcyon, an unacceptable disruption to the workings of the Combine's capitol.
The Humans' small spherical vessels were thus capable of traveling unimpeded throughout Halcyon space, tracing their crimson lines behind them as they did so. Such a thing did not overly worry Valast. They could not fire their weapons, and they were susceptible to electromagnetic disruption, rendering them easy targets for the Peacekeepers. Were Valast not otherwise consumed with the affairs of state, he would perhaps take to the front line and dispatch a few himself. Sadly, his bravery would find no opportunity for direct expression beyond the valor found in the privilege of command competently exercised.
The whiskers ceased their twitching and some cheer returned. It would not be long before the meddlesome Human spheres were swatted from the sky and the encryption key recovered.
Then they would dispatch the Human warship.
Then Humanity.
He need only wait.
-----------
"Get spread. Get small." Sana called out. Had to buy time. Had to get a handle on the situation. Not her first rodeo, but it was the first time where she had no idea what the hell she was riding. Maybe the aliens were riding her. Maybe it wasn't a rodeo, maybe it was just a slaughter.
That was the problem. No one knew anything.
The callsigns in her local were dropping like flies. Squaddies getting wiped without so much as a peep. The eggs in Science were saying EMPs, but the balls were supposed to be fixed against that frakkery. Sensors said the balls were still there even after they went dead, so maybe they were right. Couldn't think about that now.
Couldn't think about anything but the mission.
Captain Sana Bushida had a shit-shuttle to bring to station.
She needed to get from A to B. Normally the quickest point-to-point was a line, but the baddies were coming in from all sides. Trying to corral her in. So be it. She could handle a long and squiggly with the juice she had in the four balls attached to the cockpit. Only question was how long they'd be up for. Whatever they were using on the balls wasn't touching her. She was good, but she wasn't that good.
Guess they wanted her kicking and screaming.
Predators, not scavengers then.
Frakk 'em. Right in their stupid alien faces.
Sana's brain shunted command signals as fast as her eyes to parse the readouts in her pilot pod. Dodging. Weaving. Diving. Dipping. Half those words didn't even apply to space, but they felt right. Float like a butterfly, run like cheetah on amphetos. She'd sting 'em later.
Run run run, fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the shit-shuttle can.
Swipe. Swipe.
Two smaller ships moved in a pincer formation, one cutting off her angle around the larger ship she was skimming around. Sana let out a giggle, as she shoved the shuttle in another direction. "You thought you had me, crapdonkey? You never had me. You're gonna be seeing my ass all day." The giggle somehow transformed into a roar halfway through as a third ship appeared in her view, coming out from its hiding place on the other side of the large ship. "SCREW YOU!" They weren't going to win. Losing wasn't an option.
Swipe.
Patterns emerged as the ballet played out. Certain ships were the herders. The small annoying frakks that always seemed to be moving around her flanks. Other ships were the receivers. They were the big boys. The ones who just floated there like giant shits in space. Lazy frakks just waiting to be fed some shit-shuttle. Fine then. New info. New tactics. New rule: Get around the herders, never get closer to the receivers.
Herders bad.
Receivers bad-der-er.
As long as she was a step ahead of the herders and two steps away from the receivers, she'd be fine. Problem was they were more agile than her. Problem was there was more of them. Problem was the friendly callsigns on her readouts kept disappearing. Problem was that she was stuck in here instead of out there where she belonged.
Ninety-nine problems...
Swipe. Swipe.
All she needed was a line of sight. A place where she could get a whiff of open space and just gun it. Navigate the maze. Get through it. Light at the end of the tunnel. Glass is half full.
Metaphor.
Analogy.
Idiom.
The stream of consciousness flowed out of her, expressing itself in her verbiage and in the desperately navigating shuttle some distance away. Step forward. No steps backward. Okay, maybe one step backward, but it'll be okay. She'd take the step forward soon enough.
Just...needed...a...line.
Alpha, Beta, Charlie, and Delta was gone.
It was just her.
Swipe. Swipe.
The fate of the world.
The shit-shuttle must survive.
Swipe. Swipe.
The gap opened.
She saw it.
They didn't.
"There it is bitches!"
All four balls slammed the thrusters on. It wasn't a direct bee line to the Oppenheimer but it was good enough. She just needed to get out of the hornet's nest and into open space so she could keep pouring on the acceleration. She didn't know how much juice the herders had, but it was all she had going for her at this point.
Bitter bile rose up in her throat as the shit-shuttle surged forward, leaving A through D behind. Her squaddies. Her friends.
Abandoned.
She should be out there.
She could be. She just needed to get the mission done. She was so close. She was putting distance between her and the baddies. Just a few more minutes...the link cut off.
Her thoughts were shunting into a wall.
She swiped, her eyes scanning the readouts.
Alcubierre - Shuttle - Cockpit (Ejection)(DISTRESS) no longer appeared.
For once, Sana was speechless.
---------------------
Kai retched air.
There was nothing else to throw up at this point. He'd given everything he had to give, and it was now floating about the cockpit in a viscous cloud. He was fairly certain Neeria was collateral damage in the matter. If she were ever to regain consciousness, she'd find she had been provided with a fresh coat of puke paint. At this point, being blind was something of a boon. Congratulations were owed to the sadist in the pilot's seat though, he hadn't emptied his stomach like this since flight sims.
He'd raise his hand in salute if it weren't for the incredible g-force shifts whipping him around like a rag doll as the pilot attempted to avoid whatever was out there. Some of the maneuvers seemed impossibly complex, as if the cockpit was navigating through an impassable morass of enemies. Or perhaps the pilot was just drunk. Either seemed possible.
The whipsawing continued. Back. Forth. Round and round. Acceleration never seemed to continue in a single direction for more than a few seconds. They were going in circles. They had to be.
Finally, it appeared the pilot had decided on a direction as Kai was slammed back into his chair as the cockpit rocketed forward under sustained acceleration. They must have broken through. Or the pilot had fallen asleep at the controls with the throttle down and they were all doomed. Either way. At this point, Kai was just eager for it to be over.
The acceleration continued. He felt like he was being crushed. Like an enormous hand was pressing against him, trying to squeeze all of his organs out through his eyes. Whatever was powering the cockpit now was beyond the parameters of the shuttle's acceleration compensators. His vision began to dim and his joints ached. Pain surged up in his right arm, which was still contorted within the goo. He was fairly certain a bone had just snapped.
"Oppenheimer..ETA," Kai managed to gasp out, drawing the breath back into his lungs with some effort.
"The shuttle is not currently on course to intercept with the UWDFF Oppenheimer."
"Joan." Kai wheezed. "Connect. Joan."
The acceleration cut off.
Kai took a huge gulp of air, the relief immediate. "Comm-link. Fleet Admiral Joan Orléans."
No response.
Kai tried again.
Silence greeted him.
Grumbling, he raised his left wrist toward his face. He stuck out his tongue and smeared it along the wrist console's interface. None of the expected beeps and chirps sounded out. It was dead, and, he suspected, so was the cockpit along with whatever had been propelling him. No life support. No way to call out for help. No way to do anything but sit there. For all intents and purposes, they were a hunk of space junk drifting off into the black oblivion.
Fair enough. It was a fitting end.
Helpless.
Hopeless.
Kai tried to muster some anger at the situation, if only to distract him from the pain coursing through his body, but found he was up to the task. It was easier to be motivated when there was something to do. Some way he could impact the situation. But there was nothing to do but wait. Maybe he'd live. Probably he'd die. He didn't mind it, that was the same binary he faced every other day. It was a bit more present in his mind than it normally was, but the truth was that he was overdue for demise. He'd given death the slip more times than anyone had a right to.
Still. It bothered him.
Not the death part. The not doing what he set out to do part.
He had run through walls, both literal and figurative, to make it this far. He didn't know what making it back to the Oppenheimer would mean for Humanity, but it had to be better than not making it. The encryption key -- what did it do? What could it do? Would it be doable? Neeria -- could she guide them? Could she help them navigate the treacherous galaxy Humanity was just beginning to play a part in?
There were so many questions. The answers could matter.
Kai tried to remember how much time they had. Without life support, the supply of oxygen would rapidly begin to deplete. He supposed it didn't matter, since he had no idea whether Neeria breathed, what Neeria she breathed, or the rate she consumed it. His space suit had a few hours of stored supply, but it was designed to work in conjunction with his helmet. Without the wrist console, he'd need to find some way to manually vent it.
That was something to do. Small, but perhaps meaningful. Anything to tilt the scales just a little bit more in their direction. Just a few more minutes of air could make a difference.
"Seconds matter," Kai wheezed out. His breath was wet and tasted of iron. He'd worry about that later. Air first. It wasn't much of a plan, but it was better than nothing.
He hoped Joan's plans were faring better.
-------------------
The Admiral's Bridge was awash in a sea of red. Multiple views vied for primacy as the situation continued to deteriorate. So far, the Oppenheimer itself had withstood the sustained EMP assault directed its way, but the same could not be said for the battle balls. Callsigns continued to blink out of existence with every passing second. The Oppenheimer had immediately attempted to provide supporting fire, but its kinetic weaponry was similarly disabled. Whatever the circumstances had been that had allowed the Alcubierre to destroy an alien vessel, they were clearly no longer relevant to the situation at hand. Without kinetics, the vast majority of Humanity's space-born projective power was effectively nullified. Science was looking into explanations and alternatives, but it would take time.
The Oppenheimer's EMP arrays had succeeded in firing, but the alien vessels appeared to be impervious to that form of assault. It was unclear whether they possessed EMP hardening around core processes similar to the Oppenheimer or they had other means of deflecting attacks of that nature. In the absence of an alternative, the Oppenheimer was continuously discharging the EMP arrays as they became available, attempting to test for weaknesses. The energy drain from the sustained fire was easily accommodated by the altered physics of local space, but it was unclear whether alien defenses could be worn down by continuous assault.
Other oddities were appearing as the situation unfolded. The aliens did not field any tactical fighters that their sensors could identify. There were ships of different sizes, but, thus far, no vessels had moved to directly engage the balls. Kai's cockpit was being corralled by a series of smaller ships working in conjunction with the larger ones, but that was it.
Joan considered it, trying to parse out deeper meanings from the absence. Human conflict, both Earthside and in space, had always heavily relied on tactical fighters. They had numerous advantages in terms of firepower projection and significantly increased tactical dynamism in a battle zone. Either the aliens had never considered the approach, or it was considered suboptimal within this environment.
Joan squinted, watching as the battle ball's callsigns dropped from the battle status view. She tilted her head. "This environment," she muttered to herself, her eyes drawn to the EMP array firing status. The recharge bars filled and expended. Filled and expended. Each cycle representing an incredibly powerful pulse of electromagnetic energy at the speed of light.
Speed of light.
Speed.
The answer struck her. The ramifications of the answer were displeasing. Plans must be altered. Contingencies reconsidered. The Black Fork was too optimistic. Their position was considerably worse than hoped for, but not entirely beyond anticipated outcomes, which had included their immediate destruction upon arrival in the system. They simply had fewer tools than she desired.
Tactical fighters had low utility when combat operated at the speed of light. There was no yield on agility, because no thruster could move faster than light could travel. There was no evading a lightspeed weapon at these distances. Unless a tactical fighter could retain functionality under fire, which the death balls so far could not, they were a pointless extravagance. At best, they could serve as a momentary distraction, particularly when their weapons were inoperable.
The unique characteristics of Humanity's birthplace were a hindrance here. Kinetics were the logical path for weaponry to take in an environment where destructive output was a matter of maximizing scarce energy resources. They were also the easiest, most natural extension from their Earthside forebears. Humanity had begun development of lightspeed weapons, the EMP and the Griggs pulse among them, but they placed tremendous strain on ship systems. The Oppenheimer, as a dreadcarrier, was among the few Earth spaceships that contained a full battery of EMP arrays. Due to the extremely demanding specifications, only a Pulser class ship could make use of a Griggs pulse. Had Humanity known what it faced just beyond its doorstep, it would have invested its research and development resources differently.
Too late now.
The game was not lost yet, they simply must play the hand they were dealt to its greatest effect.
A display flashed from green to red and moved toward the center of the wall, increasing in size. Simultaneously, three other displays shifted in color, position and size, in a chain reaction. Joan frowned. Or perhaps the game was lost, and she was only just realizing it. The shuttle cockpit's callsign, along with the four balls that had attached to it, had disappeared. Her hands darted up and began a series of gestures, swiping North to South as she removed some filters from the local space scan and South to North as she applied others.
She exhaled.
The shuttle had not been destroyed, only incapacitated. It was careening through space away from the cluster of alien ships closest to Halcyon, though a few were in rapid pursuit. The pursuers had acceleration in their favor, but the shuttle's current course brought them toward the Oppenheimer.
Joan flicked a few fingers, pulling the course data from the local scan and pushing it into the timer view.
Before Joan could issue the order, the nearest balls peeled off and immediately began an intercept course with the shuttle. Joan pulled up the command-chain, it appeared that Captain Bushida had decided to be proactive. Very well, but it would not be enough. The balls were more likely than not to be incapacitated before they could be used in any rescue effort. This required a more substantial intervention if the outcome were to be changed.
Joan pushed a new course heading into her comm-link with Ragnar. "Captain, I am moving us off of the Black Fork standing orders."
Ragnar glanced at the course heading. "That's even further in."
Joan nodded, "It's the only way we'll recover the cockpit. The balls can't get the job done."
"There's a risk the Oppenheimer won't get it done either. They're holding back," Ragnar replied, his eyes scanned off screen, bouncing between the various readouts and inbound requests. "Doesn't make any sense they'd only have EMPs. They've got more."
"Likely. My current belief is that they will refrain from further escalation until they have either secured the cockpit or believe they can no longer retrieve it. Each moment of escalation from them has been in response to an action on our part directed at the cockpit."
Ragnar wiped the back of his sleeve against his brow, mopping up the sweat. "Must be something important."
"Must be. The prize is likely worth the pain here, Ragnar. Retrieving the cockpit is the top priority. Preservation of ourselves is an ancillary concern."
"G4 is only a few out. We can hold that long," Ragnar said.
"Get the job done, Captain," Joan ordered and then cut the comm. Ragnar was a sophisticated battlefield tactician. The overlap between them was significant, and the differences between them were accretive to both. They both knew there was another card to be played, it was just a matter of whether Humanity could adapt to it.
Joan opened another comm-link. "Chief Adeyemi."
The Chief blinked a few times as the interjection, as if being pulled from a daze.
"Idara!" Joan exclaimed. "Where's Science at?"
Idara wet her lips, "We've gathered the data and mapped it to a few different explanations...but we need more--"
"You don't have it. Best guess, go."
"Some sort of inertial dampening field. Effects smaller objects. Weakens as the objects get larger. Only affects objects moving a certain speed. Only affects objects in space. Our kinetics are getting caught. Bigger objects, like the fighters, like the Oppenheimer, are fine. Bullets fired inside of the Oppenheimer are fine.
"Any sense on source?"
Idara shook her head.
"But it doesn't effect the fighters. Doesn't effect energy based weapons."
"From what we can see, that's right."
Joan's eyes drifted toward the tracker on Kai's cockpit. Hurtling through space.
"Idara, when the Alcubierre was heading for Proxima Barrier, your modeling said the ship would survive the impact, correct?"
"Yes, Admiral. There isn't an equal an opposite reaction. Actor has primacy in these physics."
Joan stared at Idara, lost in thought. The Chief shifted uncomfortably, "Is there something else--"
"I have what I need," Joan replied, cutting the comm.
She pulled up the status tracker on the balls. Over eight-five percent of launched fighters had already been incapacitated. The Oppenheimer still retained a final wing in its hangers, numbering approximately a hundred and twenty additional balls.
Joan watched the timers ticking down. They needed to go on the offensive. To find a way to tilt the situation in their favor. Even if they retrieved the cockpit, it was a long way back to the wormhole, and a long time to survive before G4 appeared. If the aliens had an ace up their sleeve, that would be the time to play it, when they had nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
She re-opened the comm with Ragnar. "Captain, I think we can even the odds a bit."
"I'm all ears, Admiral."
Joan pushed a series of orders to Ragnar. He glanced at them and then glared at her, "You want--
"Yes, Captain, that's what I want."
"But they'll be destroyed," Ragnar responded.
"Not if they're moving fast enough. Get whoever we can get back into the hangers, launch the rest without the pilots. Target the ships. Target Halcyon."
Ragnar stared at her, "Halcyon? That's a civilian--"
"Captain, I want those balls dumped and under full steam at the designated targets. That's an order."
Ragnar opened his mouth and then shut it. A hand came off screen and formed a salute. The comm was dropped shortly after. Almost immediately, the tactical fighters shifted flight plans and began their retreat toward the Oppenheimer. Simultaneously, the wing residing within the *Oppenheimer'*s hangers shifted from stand-by to active. Soon they would be launched, pushing top acceleration toward Halcyon. No EMP would be able to stop them. If the aliens had another card to play, Joan hoped this would force it out and maybe, just maybe, buy enough time for G4 to make an appearance.
She just needed a little time.
Just needed to survive long enough for the Pulsers to arrive.
Seconds mattered.
PerilousPlatypus
submitted by PerilousPlatypus to HFY [link] [comments]

A close examination of the story. Part 8: "Katarina Rostova." The personal angle: wife, daughter, lover, friend.

Tell the story as the narrative would have it, and what we are left with is a mass of contradictions and nonsense, the best indication of a charade. Most of those come from identity. "Katarina Rostova" is one of the sources of the confusion. In part 3 I examined the mythic spy, in part 2, her curious contradiction in Rassvet, about her treasonous status, in part 1 the bizarre abduction of "Masha Rostova" from her Canadian home, in part 4, the likelihood that there was no person born as "Raymond Reddington". Part 5 examines the curious Alan Fitch, and his relationship to Red. Part 6 looks at the real question Jennifer posed of Red, and why was she satisfied with the answer about the individual chased by both the CIA and the KGB, while part 7 deals with her bizarre way of showing Liz the bones, considering she knew well where Liz lived.
In many ways, Red is like a magician, as Aram said. Going by the charade Dom accuses him of creating, "Katarina Rostova" was one of his magic tricks.
"You were the architect of this charade". "she's a figment"
But this myth had a family, friends, colleagues. And Red.
but with young Katarina, and Fakerina, who is who. Was Fakerina one the other women inhabiting the myth? How do we distinguish?
It is clear that all the others are referring to Dom's daughter, the character played by Lotte Verbeek as a young woman. BUT when it comes to Red, things are far more complicated, especially for the space where Liz, and her mother intersect.

For Constantin Rostov, Katarina was the wife who loved him:

I don't really know how we got here, Raymond. I remember being an honest businessman in a happy marriage until you came along.... Seduced my wife. To her credit, Katarina broke it off, but you couldn't let go.... I came home one night and they were gone my wife, my child.
All that matters is that we had a family, and you destroyed it. We had a daughter, and you took her from us.
He describes the time when she and him met and how she seduced him, much like thrill seeker Elodie seduced Aram into a relationship with him:
When when we when we first met, there was this house near where she lived, a case study house built by this famous mid-century architect. Over dinner one night, she said she wanted to look at it. I thought she meant look from the street. But when we got there, she jumped the fence. The lights were on. People lived there. She didn't care. I stood there frozen, angry, nervous. Then I felt this rush of exhilaration. I climbed up, looked into the yard and she was just Dancing. Unafraid. Daring. Being. I'd never seen anything like it.
A woman with a joie-de-vivre
She was more alive than anyone I knew.
He never believed she killed herself, so Constantin believes she is either alive or she was murdered, and she is still convinced that she loved him.
When I heard she killed herself I didn't believe it. I still don't. You're wrong. I didn't see what she wanted me to see of her, I saw her. And despite what happened, I know she loved me.
What happened to Constantin after Katarina left? Was he on the run too? We know he changed his name to Alexander Kirk, we know he started buying energy outfits cheap in the former USSR, but he was a billionaire before:
https://preview.redd.it/zyd1hqr6dj451.png?width=1684&format=png&auto=webp&s=9e7d20c4dc5a5d95b10cf1e100eb5af36cda28ca
Did he loose it all when Katarina left and he was forced to become someone else? Because he continued to operate in Russia, but under a different name. Did he have surgery? Or was the man known to the Russians as Constantin Rostov NOT him? Nobody tells him that they knew him as Constantin Rostov, when he takes the name Alexander Kirk, so that is a possibility.
Red tells her that the KGB had trained Katarina in making people believe what she wanted them to. She had wanted Constantin to believe she was a wife in a happy marriage, that they had a child, and that she loved him. The truth is that she never even let him know she was OK, that she had not committed suicide. She had not let him know that "Masha" was not his daughter. Constantin is not even mentioned by her again, or by Kate, or by Dom. He was a useful idiot in a charade.
I think Red is who gets to understand the depth of the turmoil that Katarina created in his life, when Rostov is on the roof about to jump, a turmoil that years later, he is still defined by a love of Katarina, who left him behind like yesterday's news, and the hatred of Red, who he blames for it all.
This is madness, Constantin. Because you cannot have that child, you're gonna take her forever from her mother? It's madness. Constantin, this needs to end now.
It is clear that the wife Constantin refers to is Katarina, Dom's daughter.

For Kate, Katarina was her best friend, her employer. A tragic figure who was a spy, and a loving mother.

My friend just died.... I think she was my best friend.
she made an uncalled for promise to protect Masha:
I made a promise to Elizabeth's mother to protect her girl at all costs.
she was a bit strange, advising her employer to terminate a relationship with an American, being aware that Katarina was a KGB agent:
KATE: Soviet Intelligence?
This means Kate, an American, was fine with aiding an abetting a soviet spy by caring for her daughter while she went and worked against America. And then she calls Red a traitor? Kate has to have been a Soviet sympathizer, or a sleeper spy. And since people tend to kill agents of the opposite side, it is likely Kate already knew that "Katarina Rostova" was a KGB agent. It may be that Kate used that killing to let Katarina know she knew.
https://preview.redd.it/yzl18d6uuj451.png?width=432&format=png&auto=webp&s=a1466cc768eea5443117f75c2a687da8d9765faa
There is that strange comment that Annie makes after hearing the story:
ANNIE: So what's next for you? You gonna find some more Russians to live with?
KATE: I don't know. - I can't think about it right now. Masha and her family were my whole world for so long.
as if Kate's life had been going from one Russian family to another.
Kate's life was back on track and then Annie is killed. Then she is sucked back for reasons unknown by Red, who in 1997 decides to hire her. Why? Was she starting to investigate Katarina, using the resources of Little Nikos, who could track people?
https://preview.redd.it/ql2o8srbej451.png?width=360&format=png&auto=webp&s=8411e72aa8e919c1c90a9b8bdb937a41e193bd37
She seemed not to even give Constantin Rostov a thought. It never occurred to her to bring Liz to him. Red says Kate did not know about Dom (but she may have known about Oleander). Katarina kept many secrets from her.

For Sam, she was "Kat", obviously someone who trusted him

SAM TO KATE: I'm sorry you had to drive all this way. But I'm in no position to help here. - I told Kat -
SAM TO KATE: Did Kat happen to mention that I'm a grifter?
SAM TO KATE: I know Katarina is not coming back. She called me.

https://preview.redd.it/vkd8ehl5vj451.png?width=310&format=png&auto=webp&s=69a2f8c2e6ed3b183ece5b4f8c896d34fd78faf7
For Sam, Katarina was "Kat" or "Katarina" and she reached out to him to care for Liz, but I doubt he figured it was a permanent thing. In Rassvet he seems anxious Katarina comes back to take her kid:
SAM: Where are you? What's going on? Do you know what they're saying about Reddington?
KATARINA: Sam, I need to talk to her.
SAM: Talk to her! You can come and get her.
Sam is the second person where Red and Katarina intersect. For those who do not believe Red is RR, Sam seemed to have been trusted by all three then. What is intriguing to me is this conversation Red and Sam have in his deathbed:
Oh, my God. I've never been more scared of a woman in my life. She was thrilling in bed. What a pair of legs. I think she played field hockey in college.
Could that woman be Katarina?
It would be difficult to ascertain if both Red and Katarina knew Sam at about the same time, because we do not have a sense when Katarina met him. But we know Red told Liz
I've been friends with Sam for all of yours and most of my life.
I loved Sam, Lizzy. Taking his life was of all the difficult things that I've done that may may be the most.
I have a feeling that Sam is a longtime friend of Red, and met Katarina later, but I have nothing to back it other than the ease at which they are laughing about things, when Sam is dying, contrasting with Sam's way of talking to Katarina, seemingly indignant about what is being said about Reddington, telling her to come back for Liz.

For Dembe

It is clear Dembe has met Liz's mother, he tells Liz so:
He's right. You remind me of her, too.
This is when Liz betrays Red, and tries to hide it. Dembe calls Katarina simply "Katarina":
Raymond I'm not sure Elizabeth will ever be ready to learn about what you did to Katarina.
It is Dembe who comes back in Season 6 telling Red that the Townsend Directive has been reactivated:
The Townsend Directive. Our friend in Miami says it's in play.... He says it's very important.

For Dom, Katarina was his daughter.

Dom always refers to her as "Katarina" or "my daughter".
TO LIZ: Yes, I knew Katarina quite well
TO LIZ: Last time I saw my daughter was in this rearview mirror nearly 30 years ago. If my Katarina was still here, she would have let me know
TO FRANKIE: I never betrayed Katarina . She betrayed me.
EXCEPT when he is talking about the charade of blowing up Fakerina in Belgrade:
And there are witnesses. It's a mess! The world was supposed to see Katarina Rostova die, and instead all we've done is confirm that she's very much alive.
It is the only concession to a charade he makes. He also seems to completely ignore Constantin Rostov, and blames Red for the charade that resulted in his losing his daughter. Yet he says that Katarina betrayed him by fanning the flames of an insurrection, the cabal's plan.
https://preview.redd.it/ny0ysztewj451.png?width=360&format=png&auto=webp&s=5c49cde00d46da52627bad00489a6aaa6a463e74
Dom uses the simple Katarina when talking to Liz:
Ah, Katarina and I, we worked in the same building for a time.
I never heard from Katarina after she left for America.
For Katarina, it wasn't so easy.
A few months after I made it to America, Katarina met me here on that sidewalk.... If my Katarina was still here, she would have let me know.
as he does to Frankie:
My daughter's. Katarina....
I never betrayed Katarina. She betrayed me.
Dom however, has a relationship with both Katarina and Fakerina. She says he asked her to help in keeping his daughter safe:
Dom promised me no one would get hurt. Said he loved his child and just wanted her to be safe.
and he betrayed her. But I find curious that he sends Ilya to ask Fakerina to deliver documents to Dom, when they set her up in Belgrade.

For Ilya, Katarina was a friend.

When we get to Ilya, we have a complex situation. Ilya is who Katarina reach out to in her hour of need, but he also has a relationship to Fakerina. He does not seem to have any real loyalty to Fakerina.
Katarina is "Katarina". He certainly knows Dom, but does not seem to like him too much, but when asked, he betrayed Fakerina. Ilya is a childhood friend of Red, and if that part of Rassvet is true, he is also a childhood friend of Katarina (which does not mean Red and Katarina knew one another as children, but does not preclude it either.)
Katarina. I thought you were dead.
It was myself, Katarina, Dr. Koehler.
https://preview.redd.it/3vp36pq2wj451.png?width=360&format=png&auto=webp&s=8d6748fac8869202fdd31ea9bc6ac09c6a9f3d2e
Katarina calls him, not her mother, or father, according to Rassvet. But when we met him, he does not seem to be that affected by believing Katarina and someone else (Raymond? Masha?) were dead:
YOUG ILYA TO KATARINA: The world thinks you're dead.
ILYA TO SKOVIC: I thought they were dead.
A contrast to Red's suicide speech in Cape May. Red was despondent, Ilya was just working.
It is interesting to note that not once has Ilya referred to Fakerina by name, to her, or to Red:
ILYA ABOUT FAKERINA: Our friend in Paris made a series of payments to him under the alias of Constance Drucker.
ILYA ABOUT FAKERINA: I underestimated her
But unlike Dom, he cries as he remembers the Belgrade incident. His distress seems sincere. Yet he sacrificed Fakerina to comply with Dom's plan to save "his own". What is the relationship to Dom and to Katarina, that Ilya is compelled to do so, even as it causes him pain.
And like Dom, there is one time he uses the full name, and it has a strong whiff of charade:
He leaked that his daughter, that you, were staying at the inn and that you carried sensitive intel. This might be the last chance to catch the infamous Russian traitor Katarina Rostova.

For Red

When it comes to Red, that's when things get much iffier, a step up from even the CIA talking about her.
https://preview.redd.it/ukbwk9hnvj451.png?width=360&format=png&auto=webp&s=c378f91946c5b1277be886925ff57305e3916aea
When Red talks to strangers about "Katarina Rostova" he has no issues. She was a myth, a figment, an illusion.
I may not have told you what you want, but I told you all you need. You'll never find Rostova... She's a figment of the collective imagination... Some people in this world are soul mates. Katarina Rostova and I shared one. Betraying her would be like betraying myself.
He almost always uses always the entire name, as he did during most of the trial:
You know what else is possible? That I was framed by Katarina Rostova
Have you ever heard of Katarina Rostova? ... She was a KGB officer. Would it surprise you to learn that she and I had quite a complicated history? Sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll. Did I say "sex"? Sex.
But not always:
How about that Katarina hid the fact that she was a KGB agent, stole the coordinates for the submarine U.S.S. Gideon, and passed them on to her superiors?
To the people in his inner circle, Dom, Dembe and Ilya, he talks about her as "Katarina" which is normal:
RED TO DEMBE: Not when she mentioned Katarina. Now Elizabeth will stop at nothing.
RED TO DOM: You forgave Katarina..... The last time you saw Katarina was in the rearview mirror.
RED TO DOM: I was just imagining young Katarina covered in glitter.
RED TO ILYA: They're actively looking for Katarina.
As with Kate:
We shared the affection of Katarina.... Katarina was a traitor to two countries, both global superpowers. God willing, Katarina's daughter will live a private life of quiet courage.
But when it comes to Liz, he uses two ways to refer to her, one normal ("your mother")
Your mother was a Russian spy, and now they've made it look like you are, too.
When your mother was pregnant with you, it was terribly inconvenient. The Cold War was ending. Her country was falling apart.
Your mother, despite what he'd done, she wanted him back.
Lizzy, your mother is dead.
Just because he was your mother's husband doesn't make him your father.
Your mother loved that photograph. Represented everything she wanted but couldn't have. Not after she betrayed the KGB.
Your mother can't hurt you.
Your mother was not as bad as I understand why you might think she was, but she wasn't.
You remind me so much of your mother. I don't remember if I've ever told you that before, have I?

and another highly contrived ("Katarina Rostova").
I knew her as Katarina Rostova. One of her many names. She was a KGB agent.
There was a time in my life when I was quite sure I knew exactly what happened to Katarina Rostova.
Katarina Rostova was the cleverest, most resourceful woman I have ever known.
Katarina Rostova was a name that had been lost to history.
Katarina Rostova committed suicide in 1990.
Even saying the name Katarina Rostova has consequences, and now you see. Now you see what that name will make others do.
He has never referred to Katarina, when talking to Liz as just "Katarina", always as "your mother" or "Katarina Rostova."
And that spells that when it comes to Liz's maternal situation there is something hidden. Put it together with the charade and the coyness of the CIA around her, and is clear. The situation is not as simple as Liz's biological mother is Dom's daughter.

FAKERINA

The most intriguing thing Red has said about her is saying she is a ghost with no name:
RED TO THE TASK FORCE: She doesn't have a name. She's a ghost. Think of a name, any name, and that could be it.
And that seem to go with saying that he knew Liz's mother as "Katarina Rostova", one of her many names.
Everyone is more guarded around her. She is "our friend in Paris," "her", or "that woman":
DOM: Tell me what she said. Not your interpretation, her exact words.
RED: I'm not interpreting anything. She's coming for you, and she made it very clear she's closing in.... She knows you tried to kill her, Dom. She wants answers, but she also wants revenge. You set her up, betrayed her
It is interesting to note that not once has Ilya referred to Fakerina by name, to her, or to Red:
ILYA ABOUT FAKERINA: Our friend in Paris made a series of payments to him under the alias of Constance Drucker.
ILYA ABOUT FAKERINA: I underestimated her.
What is very interesting is what happens with Motya Morozov, who obviously knows Fakerina is not the right "Katarina" to bring:
RED: It's about the Townsend Directive. I understand it's been reactivated that you and everyone else who bought in are actively hunting for her.
...
MOTYA: Forget about The Directive. Forget about Katarina Rostova*. I'm not gonna help you find her. I'm gonna hunt her down, and I'm gonna kill her myself.*
and
RED: I guess we know who's third. I instructed you to contact me the instant you had a location on Rostova*.* ... I assume you found the lead on Katarina but, instead of calling me, attempted to bring her in yourself, hoping to relive your glory days and sell her to the highest bidder to keep you rolling in potato vodka and herring for the rest of your life. You're not the first one to underestimate that woman, which is why it was imperative that you call me.
MOTYA: There is silver lining.
RED: I can't imagine.
MOTYA: This one was with Rostova. Sold her information, but he wouldn't tell me what.
so for Motya, "Katarina Rostova" is who he is hunting, and "Rostova" is Fakerina who has information Motya wants to get to "Katarina". Red, like Motya, underestimated Fakerina. For Red "Katarina" is Dom's daughter. Even though he called Fakerina "Katarina" in Paris and when he talks to Patrick Masuda. But she was using the name Constance Drucker.
RED TO PATRICK MASUDA: What I got to do is understand why Katarina Rostova would pay to cure you of a fatal blood disease.
It comes to a boil when Liz point blank asks Red:
LIZ: Can I ask you a question? ... Was the woman from Paris my mother?
RED: A kindly woman comes into your life and takes an interest in you and your child. It's only natural for you to make that wish.
LIZ: Was it her?
RED: I know you don't want it to be true, Elizabeth, but your mother is gone.
What seems to me is that Red does not answer. Not really. Liz is asking a simple, direct question: "Was the woman from Paris my mother?.. Was it her?" The normal simple and direct answer is yes, or no. But that is not what Red answers: "your mother is gone." which is neither here, nor there. He is not denying that this woman is her mother, he is telling her that her mother is gone, and that would be simple for a simple, binary option. For most, the woman who gives birth to a child and raises the child is the mother, and the answer is binary. But if someone has more than one mother, it is not a binary question. One mother may be gone, and the other may have been one that was there. He is clearer the next time he addresses the issue:
RED: ...your desire for the woman in Paris to be your mother blinded you to the fact that she wasn't.
LIZ: It wasn't just my desire.
RED: So she told you she was Katarina?
LIZ: She did. And it's difficult for me to believe she wasn't.
RED: I was convinced my casket was authentic. It was nearly impossible for me to believe it wasn't. But it was a fake. And she was, too.
and we should ALWAYS remember the initial subterfuge when it comes to who Liz's mother started the very first time her name is mentioned.
RED: Mmmh I knew her as Katarina Rostova. One of her many names. She was a KGB agent.
this HAS to mean something, because Red knows Katarina's name, her real last name, because he knows who Dom is, he knows her cover husband, the one nobody talked about, as if he did not exist. But Red does not seem to know Fakerina's real name.
And how does Fakerina refers to Dom's daughter?
On the day you learned Katarina Rostova was still alive.
At least Fakerina believes that Ilya knows Katarina, Dom's daughter, as "Katarina Rostova." Fakerina believes Ilya's real name is Ilya Koslov, and she seems to believe Red is Raymond Reddington.
Edited to correct typo
submitted by TessaBissolli to TheBlackList [link] [comments]

Could I get some feedback on an FAQ I put together?

Hey fam! I'm gearing up to come out on social in the near future and I put together a FAQ document. Could I get some feedback on my use of language, if there are any questions you think are worth adding, or if there are any changes you'd suggeste in general?
I wasn't sure how to share the document in this post, so I'm copying and pasting it below. If you'd like to modify it for your own use, please feel free to!

***
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What do you mean by “transgender”? Transgender means that my internal sense of gender is different from the one that I was assigned at birth. I’m still figuring some stuff out, but of one thing I’m sure: I am not a man, which makes me trans. I strongly recommend you read this webpage before you continue. It’ll probably answer most of your general questions about sex, gender, and pronouns. Once you’ve finished reading it, the rest of my FAQ will make more sense. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/trevor-support-centea-guide-to-being-an-ally-to-transgender-and-nonbinary-youth/
Have you changed your pronouns? Yes. My pronouns are currently they/them.
But… Aren’t those normally used plurally? Actually using “they/them” as singular pronouns goes back hundreds of years. Check out this article by Dictionary.com if you’re interested in the grammar side of things! https://www.dictionary.com/e/they-is-a-singular-pronoun/
Okay, I’ll try to switch the pronouns I use for you. Is it okay if I make mistakes? Yes, absolutely. When friends have asked me to address them with new names or pronouns, my brain has done the same little somersaults that yours probably will, and despite my best effort I get it wrong all the time. From the time we're born we're taught that certain characteristics means boys, certain characteristics means girls, and that kind of immersive conditioning is very hard to unwire. When people misgender me, as long as it’s not malicious, I know it’s just because they have more practice to do before it becomes natural for them to see me and not think "he/him". It's a lot of mental rewiring, and I'm grateful for your efforts.
How long have you been transgender? I’ve always been trans, I just didn’t use that word for it until recently. Since childhood I’ve wished that I were a girl, but I didn’t hear the word “transgender” until I was in my teens. (I’d heard of “transsexuals” through movies etc., but my impression of them was that they were deviant, crazy, unsettled individuals. Representation of trans folx in media has been pretty poor until recently, often casting such people as villainous or deluded.) By the time I had heard about hormone therapy and surgery options for trans folx, I thought there was no point because I’d missed the pre-pubescent window, so I put it out of my mind. For many years, I knew that I longed to be a woman, but I didn’t use the word “trans” to understand myself, and it was only mid-2019 that I started thinking… “What if I’m transgender?” It’s been a rollercoaster from there.
Is your personality going to change now? Yes and no. I’m the same person I’ve always been, but what you may notice is that I’ll give myself permission to be more feminine, and that I won’t try so hard to fit into a masculine role. It’s a lot of work to strip away the gendered expectations of who I’m supposed to be and to actually figure out who I am. (e.g. “Do I like pink because I think it’s what girls are supposed to like, or do I actually like it?”) If I act in ways that surprise you, it’s likely because you have unconscious expectations for who I’m supposed to be, how I’m supposed to act etc., and I’m no longer fitting into these impressions. Consider this an invitation to get to know me more complexly for who I am, rather than who you previously thought I was.
Does that mean you’ve been tricking me this whole time? It's complex. Firstly, no, not this whole time. Remember, up until mid-2019 I thought I was a boy too. Secondly, your expectations of me are your business. If you’ve thought of me as a man up until now, it may be partially because you’ve had certain expectations of me up until now and you haven’t noticed me growing beyond them. Thirdly, If I haven’t said anything to you about my gender until now, it’s because I’ve been working on my own stability, or it hasn’t seemed relevant while we’ve been talking. Some days my gender feels like the biggest deal in the world. Other days it feels like just a small part of who I am and what I care about.
Do you think this might just be a phase? I appreciate your concern, but rest assured I’ve given this a great deal of thought. However long you’ve thought about whether my gender identity, I’m confident that I’ve spent many hundreds of hours more puzzling over it myself. This is not a decision that I’ve made lightly - for many trans folx, being open about their gender invites all kinds of challenges, discrimination, and often violence.
Is it really that bad to be trans? Yeah, it can be. The world is getting a lot safer and more supportive of trans folx, but being transgender is still pretty high risk. A survey from 2012 (with a sample size of about 1000 trans people in Britain) found that 48% of them had attempted suicide, and 84% had thought about it. (https://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/trans_stats.pdf) There are all kinds of reasons for this, but mostly it comes down to the strain that discrimination puts on one’s mental health. It’s tough, having people regularly invalidate or reject you for who you are, especially without a supportive community. This is not even mentioning the risk of violence and death. November 20th is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, and between those dates from 2018-2019, at least 370 trans people were murdered for being transgender. I say “at least” because the crimes are often underreported. Being openly trans is a huge risk-factor for poor mental health and violence.
Okay, wow, that’s pretty scary. Are you sure you want to do this? Yes. After realising I was trans, I spent the next several months agonising about what to do. I thought I would never survive openly transitioning, so I made the heartbreaking decision to just bury the knowledge deep inside me and never speak of it to anyone. However as the months passed, my self-awareness and gender dysphoria grew and I eventually felt that the pain of pretending to be a boy outweighed the pain of seeing what life would be like if I were more honest about my gender identity. And so here I am, taking baby steps forward, doing my best to live my best life.
Do you think you might change your mind later down the track? No, I don’t think so. Sometimes trans folx de-transition – that is to say, they might change back to the gender they were originally assigned at birth. This is almost always because they received so much pressure and discrimination from those around them that their lives became miserable. And for many trans folx, the transphobia isn’t usually as obvious as being called a name or being attacked in the street (though this absolutely happens, and is a very serious hate crime). More often transphobia is a subtle thing, and people don’t always realise they’re doing it: misgendering someone with the wrong names or pronouns, being disapproving of who someone is or what they love, even certain looks or words can indicate unconscious biases. These kind of microaggressions (accidental or otherwise) are exhausting to experience every day. The greatest protective factor for mental health and wellbeing is a loving and supportive community. Most trans folx who have transitioned and are loved and supported by those around them have a much higher quality of life than those who “stay in the closet” and aren’t open about their gender identity.
Does that mean you like men now? No, gender identity and sexual orientation are two separate things. Who I find attractive has not changed. I’m still very much into women and femme folx, and the word I use to describe my sexuality is lesbian. (That was another label that took some getting used to!)
How is your partner taking all this? They’re wonderfully supportive, my most stalwart ally and dearest friend. I don’t think I could have done this for many years without their help.
Are you going to take hormones or get surgery? Unfortunately lots of trans folx get asked deeply personal questions just by virtue of being open about their gender. I wouldn’t ask about your medication or surgical history out of the blue, and it’s impolite for you to ask the same of me. It’s also important for me to say that a person doesn’t need to get any kind of medical treatment to be trans. As I hope you recall from reading the link at the start of this FAQ, gender identity is an internal sense of knowing, and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with one’s biological body. As it happens, I’m happy to share that I’ll soon be starting Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), and I’m excited about the changes ahead. If you’re interested in what those changes might be, I recommend googling it.
Are you sure you’re a woman? You don’t look/act/ sound like it to me. For a long time, I used to think that in order to be trans I needed to 100% “pass” as a woman – that I would need to transform myself so completely that no one could ever assume I had even been a man. This is a pretty old way of thinking, because gender is an internal sense of knowing, and it doesn’t matter what someone looks like externally for them to still be valid. Men don’t owe anyone masculinity, women don’t owe anyone femininity, and non-binary folx don’t owe anyone androgyny. It is not my responsibility to meet anyone’s specific ideas of what a woman looks like in order to be worthy of love and acceptance for who I am. Please just support and believe me when I say I’m a woman – I’ve given it lots of thought, and I don’t want to have to defend my identity from my loved ones.
I’m not transphobic or anything, and I don’t mind you existing, but I don’t really want to see or hear about it. Sure fam, no problem. I know it can be uncomfortable when someone acts in a way that we don’t expect, or turns out to be different from how we previously understood them. The discomfort that comes with that is what precedes growth, and it’s an opportunity to either lean into it and expand your understanding of a person/the world, or lean away from it and put it out of your mind. Personally I support you either way – as long as you’re not attacking or invalidating anyone, please do whatever works for you in terms of making yourself feel more comfortable. The world is a complex, sometimes uncomfortable place, and we’re all just doing our best to be happy. If you need to quietly remove yourself from my life for your own wellbeing, I lovingly support you. I’ll be here if you want to reconnect later.
If I did want to start hearing from more trans folx, where could I go? I encourage you to search for them on facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or whatever social media you might use. If you’re chasing recommendations, I’m fond of Rain Dove, Schuyler Bailar (@pinkmantaray), and Marlo Mack (who produces the excellent podcast “How To Be A Girl”).
I still have questions. Where can I go to find answers? I recommend googling your questions and seeing what comes up. Chances are, lots of people have already asked them elsewhere. If you want to talk to people directly, there’s a very excellent facebook group called “Sounds like you need to be educated on transgender individuals but ok”. They have a wonderful culture of being supportive of any earnest question without judgement or shame, and I highly recommend them. https://www.facebook.com/groups/soundslikeTransEducation/ If you use reddit, there’s a sub called AskTransgender where you can also talk to some pretty nice folx. https://www.reddit.com/asktransgende If you have questions for me specifically, please feel free to ask them. I can’t promise I’ll be willing to do the emotional labour of supporting you while you learn about these issues, but ask me anyway and I’ll let you know if I’m up for it.
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