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[Archive] With This Ring (Young Justice SI) (Story Only)

Discussion in 'Story Archive' started by Mr Zoat, Jan 30, 2019.

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  1. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    8th February
    13:37 GMT


    I float in space on the edge of the Liot'r system, watching the movements in near-Tamaran orbit. Hawk's Nest has been altered nearly beyond recognition since… Last July? The Thanagarian capital ships are floating in the void close to it, while what I assume is the new Tamaranian fleet is split between a defensive formation around the ex-Citadelian docking cradles and some.. sort of training exercise. I had been assuming that the Tamaranians would either use their own pre-conquest designs or just use the Citadel's designs for ease of logistics, but these are something different. It could be the Thanagarian influence, but without Nth Metal their designs wouldn't really work

    Tamaran itself has changed as well. I can see new roads connecting the major settlements, and a slight change in colour around farming areas indicating that they're cultivating a much larger area. Roads have an interesting place in Tamaranian society. As the people can fly- and generally do so faster than they can run- they don’t have the same utility for people-transportation that roads on Earth do. Historically, Tamaranians didn't really bother with them, and they existed for only a relatively brief period before they moved to repulsor-based flying transport vehicles which didn't have the same need for prepared surfaces. But now it looks like they've decided that simpler wheeled transport vehicles are the way to go rather than use what technological know-how they have left on civilian transportation, and wheeled vehicles are fulfilling the expanded need to move goods and materials around.

    Six months is nothing like enough time to undo the harm of forty years' malevolence, but I'm pleased with the start that they've made. I raise my-.

    Space in front of me bends, and a ship-. I feel a momentary intrusion in my mind which is swiftly recalled, though Xor visibly winces. As the ship comes alongside us I see its name written on the side: the Cometeer. Not exactly creative-.

    The man himself emerges from the rear of the craft, flying towards us wearing a refreshed version of his old uniform and covered by a golden halo. I wondered how a telekinetic could survive for an extended period in space. Sure, he could maintain a constant pressure on his own skin, but where was he getting his air from? According to Professor Zackro's notes, the concentration of various gasses in his bubble doesn't change, no matter how long he flies around for. Which suggests that he's telekinetically altering the composition of the air he breathes out, a feat which… I'm not aware of any other telekine who can do that.

    **Orange Lantern, welcome back.** He glances at Xor, who glowers at him. **I see you've been recruiting.**

    **Yes-. I'm sorry, do I call you 'Captain Comet', or is it alright to use your name?**

    He shakes his head. **I doubt there's any harm in it. The Tamaranians still don't understand the concept of 'secret identities'.**

    I frown. **Didn't you go public after the Astur attack?**

    **No, that was when 'Captain Comet' first started operating in public. May I say? Your mind is fascinating.**

    **Ah, thank you? What.. exactly is it about it that you find so interesting?**

    **I think… You're transcending your flesh. Not all of what you're thinking is present in your organic brain.** He brings his right hand to his chin. **I've seen things like that before, but never in another human. Oh.** He waves his right hand. **Pardon me. My curiosity got the better of me.**

    **Quite alright. I'd actually quite like you to give me a once-over. Not a lot of people have meaningful insight into what I am these days.** I turn to Xor. **This is Lantern Xalitan Xor of Sector One Five Eight Two. Lantern Xor, Adam Blake.**

    Blake nods. **Pleased to meet you. That feels like someone used psion imprinting technology on you.**

    "They did." Xor inclines his head slightly. "I do not want you touching my mind."

    Blake looks him over for a moment. "Alright. Is this acceptable?"

    "Yes." Xor breathes in slowly, then out slowly. "I was an orphan, taken in by the state. They gave me this body and shaped my mind with psion technology."

    "Is that why you're here?" Blake turns back slightly, gesturing towards distant Tamaran. "To see another world the psions created?"

    "They created that world?"

    He gestures to the surrounding stars with his right hand. "The psions created nearly everything around here. A few of the older species predate the time when the Guardians transported them to the Wombworld, but the Tamaranians have records of their entire people being transported to Tamaran. That's one of the reasons why I stopped here when I first came to Vega."

    "Did the psions program them?"

    "Maybe at first. None of the psions I've met knew."

    "The psions do not program them now."

    "No, no. The psions weren't interested in using the Tamaranians for social or psychological experiments. They just wanted to make certain that there would always be a population for them to experiment on. You're free to look through the archive while you're here." He glances back at the Cometeer. "Is Princess Koriand'r with you?"

    "No. Is she not here?"

    He makes a small shrug. "I assume that she's still on Tillettit, helping those poor women. Komand'r flew back once the Maltusians organised their relief mission." He smiles. "She can fly under her own power, now. She helped a lot of other Tamaranians by getting that cure rediscovered."

    "Oh, I hadn't checked whether that was successful. She's fully cured?"

    "No trouble at all."

    I smile. "That is good news."

    He nods. "So what brings you back to Tamaran?"

    "I thought I should check up on the place. I've also got-" Slightly out of date. "-messages from Queen Hyathis for the Blades of Alstair, along with personal messages."

    "I'm sure they'll be pleased to hear from the folks back home." He points at his ship. "Why don't you come aboard? Since I'm the only person around here who uses a telekinetic faster than light drive that's the only form we aren't interdicting. It will be a lot faster than flying at sublight speed."

    I nod. "Thank you."

    He flies back towards his ship's air lock and Xor and I follow him.

    "Mister Blake, do you..? Want to return to Earth? If you do, I'd be happy to sub in for you here for a few weeks."

    He turns, flying backwards into the air lock so that I can see him shaking his head. "My biggest problem has always been keeping my mind occupied. Myand'r put me in charge of-" Xor and I enter the air lock and Blake triggers it to cycle. "-rebuilding the planet, turning Tamaran back into a space age civilisation just as fast as I can. I've never done anything-. Well, there was one time when I tutored a few tribes in metallurgy so that I could get the parts to repair the Cometeer, but that wasn't on the same scale. I'm needed here and I-"

    The air lock interior opens and he leads the way inside.

    "-don't have anything to go back to. You thought about my sister's grave for a second when you saw me."

    I nod.

    "Her children-."

    "They never knew me. If they were like me, or if their kids were, I'd come back to give them the benefit of my experience. But as things stand I'm not sure that there's really anything to say. Tell you what: could you take them a letter for me?"

    "Of course."

    "Thank you." He looks out through the hull-. Oh, that was smooth. We've arrived in near-Tamaran space already. "Komand'r is in Tamarus at the moment, and she and the rest of the royal family are looking forward to talking to you again."

    Through the hull I see the glow of orange of the people of Tamaran grow closer as we descend through the atmosphere.

    "And I them."
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019
  2. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    8th February
    13:48 GMT


    "Illustres."

    Komand'r is smiling as Blake, Xor and I disembark, floating in the air with her inert ring on a chain around her neck. She still favours darker colours, but is showing a good deal more skin than she did when we last met. Probably a result of wanting to expose her newly restored skin to sunlight. Or perhaps an outward sign of her newly gained confidence in her position?

    "Lantern Komand'r. I'm afraid that Mister Blake-" I float off the ground towards her. "-spoiled the surprise, but congratulations on your recovery. How has the work here been going?"

    "Well.. enough. I believe that we would do better to expand our influence while Vega remains in disarray, though given the state of our navy that would most likely require the application of more Lanterns." She runs her eyes over Xor as she removes her necklace and returns the ring to her left ring finger. "Who is this?"

    Xor floats upwards while Blake goes to speak to the ground crew. "This is Lantern Xalitan Xor. He's being assigned to Sector One Five Eight Two to remove the corrupt elements of his home polity's ruling elite, and oversee a transition to an honest and honourable government."

    "Worthy work. Is he your new student?"

    "He was, but he now understands his own desires sufficiently that he no longer needs my oversight."

    "Oh?" She floats over to hover in front of him with their heads on a level with one another. "So, Orange Lantern Xalitan Xor: what is it that you want most in all the universe?"

    "To honourably serve a worthy master in the pursuit of a greater good."

    Komand'rs instinctive response is to narrow her eyes, but she catches herself and raises her eyebrows. "And with your new power, you have no desire to be the master yourself?"

    "Only if there are none better. I can lead soldiers in combat, but I… Am not.. comfortable, issuing broad commands where I cannot tell where my personal responsibility begins or ends."

    "And you are content with our Illustres as your master?"

    "Yes, for now. I hope that in time the government of the Alignment will produce one worthy of my service. For now, it is my duty to remove those who are not."

    "Are you killing them?"

    "No. Marooning them, with the materials they will need to set up a small farming community. I will leave the final judgement to another."

    "That seems… Weak to me."

    "You were raised from birth to lead-."

    "Hah! I was not."

    "You grew up in a palace, Lantern-Princess Komand'r."

    "I wasn't expected to lead or rule. At best, I would have been my sister's assistant."

    "I spent my early years in a barrack room with forty seven other War Hounds. I was educated only in what I needed in order to be a soldier, and psion machines were used to make sure that I thought as my masters wanted me to."

    "Psion?" Her environmental shield dims, but her natural flight keeps her in the air. "That explains why you are here."

    "I bear them no malice. They shaped me; they did not harm me. At most, I would like to know why they traded with my government."

    "They delight in any form of learning that involves someone being hurt. How old were you when they used their devices on you?"

    "I was not yet a year old."

    "Y-? You were an infant?"

    "We were taken when our minds were most malleable."

    "Yes. That would make sense to them."

    "It makes sense to me as well."

    Komand'r opens her mouth slightly, then closes it again. Then she turns to me. "Illustres, it has been some time and I was quite fraught at the time: did I thank you for rescuing me from Hny'xx?"

    "Not… Directly. But I rescued you because your captivity was an obscenity, not because I wanted you to thank me."

    Her face.. sort of.. relaxes, and she looks at me with a degree of openness I don't think I've seen from her before. She bows her head slightly. "Thank you for rescuing me."

    "You're welcome. Don’t mention it."

    She looks up, frowning. "Why not?"

    "Because while you're driven to command and inspire, while Xor is driven to live honourably, I am driven to better the universe around me. It was my nature to liberate you, and I could no more have ignored your plight than Xor could commit a murder or you could hold your tongue when insulted. No obligation arises from something that was as natural to me as breathing." I smile. "Cartoons intended for Earth-children are more subtle than psion neural programming devices, but they shape our thoughts just the same."

    "Perhaps we should import them."

    I wave my left hand, a Tamaran-format data drive appearing between my thumb and forefinger. I hold it out to her. "Feel free to review them at your leisure."

    She looks at it for a moment before taking it from me and sending it to subspace. "Thank you."

    Blake floats up towards us. "You kids ready to head to the palace now?"

    "Kids?"

    He nods as we turn in the direction of Tamarus and begin flying towards the palace. "Taking into account the time I spent on Citadel Complex, I must be at least eighty by now."

    "You don't look a day over fifty."

    "I could have looked younger, but thought that my appearance should reflect my actual age."



    "I wouldn't say that you look eighty."

    "I can't say I gained much useful experience while the Citadel had me hooked up as a generator. Besides, Tamaranians don't go grey. And with all of the differences between me and regular humans, I've never been sure exactly how long I've got to live."

    "I know a few experts in novel biology, if you want me to get someone to look into it."

    We begin passing over the suburbs, more than a few of the locals pointing upwards as we fly past. I can see their hopes flaring as they realise who I am. That's… Not why I do this, but it's still gratifying to feel. I can see the new building work that has happened since I last visited. It looks like the palace is entirely unaltered, but the areas that the Gordanians directly attacked are being nibbled away at the periphery as the locals build new housing to replace what was destroyed. The roads inside the city are also being repaired in many places.

    "Unless Professor Zackro is somehow still alive, it'll probably be easier for me to work it out myself."

    "Alright, but you aren't invulnerable. There are good reasons to make sure that other people know how your body works; you could be too badly injured or insensible to provide doctors with information."

    "I was always worried that someone would try and weaponize my abilities. The Cold War was just getting going when I left Earth, and both sides were just as interested in superhumans as fission bombs."

    "I don't think the fact that someone might misuse it is a good reason not to try and use a technology properly. Otherwise… We wouldn't have any technology."

    "I understand your point, but what I can do and what a slightly better bullet can do are in entirely different leagues."

    "Sure, but what you can do and what people with superspeed can do aren't, and both the United States and the Soviet Union could have made more of those for nearly the whole duration of the Cold War. They didn't, any more than they fired their nuclear weapons at one another. There are limits to human stupidity."

    He glances at me. "I wasn't aware of that. The Flash's formula?" I nod. "Alright, I suppose you taking a few scans won't hurt. Now, how about I brief you on the state of Tamaran before you meet King Myand'r?"
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019
  3. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    8th February
    13:55 GMT


    A crowd is gathering around the main entrance to the palace as King Myand'r and Queen Luand'r proceed out, looking up as-.

    The supplicant goes to the one in the position of power. They're about to fly up to me, and that won't do at all. Instead, I transition down onto the step a short distance in front of them and bow. Not a full ninety degree job, that would probably be a bit much. But fifty degrees is fine for a national hero and senior Lantern when faced with the local monarchs.

    "Your majesties."

    I can hear a murmur from the crowd as Luand'r puts her right hand on my right shoulder.

    "Orange Lantern, you have no need to abase yourself before us."

    I straighten, smiling. Since I'm a few steps down from them, my head is slightly below theirs. I'm not exactly sure how that looks to Tamaranians, but humanoids tend to think about body language in fairly similar ways.

    "Thank you, your majesty. As I approached the planet I was able to admire the work which the Tamaranian people have done since I left. I'm pleased that you've been able to take full advantage of the opportunity presented to you."

    "If not for you then we would still be under the Citadel's boot heel. All that we have been able to build, we owe to you."

    I shake my head. "Perhaps that you can build it now, but I do not believe for a moment that the people of Tamaran would have been in such a situation forever. You would have freed yourselves eventually. I just sped it up so that we could all get on with our lives." I look up and beckon Lantern Xor to join us. He floats down, stopping a pace back from me. Stopping in the air; his feet are far too large to fit on these steps. "This is Lantern Xor, my new ex-student. He's desperate to learn what an honourable ruler looks like. Would you mind him shadowing you for a few days so that he can find out?"

    Myand'r blinks, his head tilted slightly to the side. Then he nods definitively. "Yes, of course. We would be delighted to show him how Tamaran is governed."

    Glancing at me, Xor brings his fists together in front of his chest. "Thank you. I relish the opportunity."

    Luand'r steps aside and gestures to the doorway. "Please, come inside. We have a great deal to talk about."

    I walk up the steps separating us, Xor landing as I reach the top. "Thank you."

    The two of us follow them inside, Komand'r and Blake flying off to return to whatever they were doing before we arrived. Curious that Myand'r and Luand'r aren't flying. But I suppose that the ground level of the palace is designed for foot traffic more than the upper parts.

    "I appreciate your renewed efforts to boost our standing." Myand'r tilts his head towards me as he speaks. "But that was a bit much."

    "How so?"

    "You made it look like we were insulting you by demanding your deference, despite everything you've done for us. That might not be so bad were we in a stronger position, but as things stand it made us look undeservedly proud and arrogant."

    "Oh. Ah, sorry. I can publically hit you in the face with a custard pie later if that would make up for it."

    "What?"

    "It's a form of comedic humiliation from Earth. The target looks a little stupid, but it's generally considered to be a minor embarrassment that a reasonable person should laugh off and so demonstrate that they aren't hidebound."

    "Unfortunately, no such ritual exists on Tamaran. I would worry that people might think that you were genuinely attacking me."

    "Alright, what sort of things do Tamaranian aristocrats who are on good terms with one another do together?"

    "Trade on favourable terms with one another. Encourage their children to marry-. Though I do remember that you do not look kindly on that practice."

    "No. Also, it will be at least five years before I have children."

    "I hadn't realised that there were any humanoid species with so long a gestation period. Or are humans only infrequently fertile?"

    "My girlfriend and I are participating in NEMO's war with the Reach. Given our roles, it's not really going to be practical for us to have children for at least that long."

    Luand'r starts slightly. "Practical? I knew from Adam that humans are not as given to indulging their passions as we are, but really."

    "Jade needs an opportunity to establish a professional role for herself. Much as I'd like to spend more time with her, this is the best for our relationship in the long term."

    Myand'r shakes his head. "I'm sure you know more about human courtship than I do. Having other Orange Lanterns here would be a reasonable alternative; a sign of your personal investment in our freedom."

    "Lantern Mother of Mercy is available, but she's not exactly social."

    "If I invite her to spend some time in the palace, she can leave at the end of the span without either of us being embarrassed."

    "Lantern Mother of Mercy covers the entire surface of a planet. You'd have to expand the palace quite a bit for her to fit."

    "A planet?" I nod. "Could Lantern Xor stay?"

    "No." Xor shakes his head firmly. "It will take a few days for my comrades to fly back to Alignment space. It would be dishonourable for me to abandon the fight after taking it up."

    Hm. "What else does Tamaran need?"

    "Teachers and electronics engineers, those are the areas where we are most in need. We managed to maintain… Reasonable records of our medical advances, and the thanagarians have been happy to help us build examples of our more sophisticated equipment. But truly becoming as advanced as we were in our prime requires our knowledge to spread more rapidly than we can make happen with our limited pool of educated people."

    I can't think of anyone in DC who had that sort of passion for teaching.

    I nod. "I'll see what I can do."

    Myand'r sighs. "But giving us more things won't serve the same purpose as a proxy would. It simply makes us more obliged to you."

    Right. What has Tamaran got that people on Earth-

    We walk past a corridor. Glancing down it I see a group of athletic Tamaranians in the traditional clothing of underwear and tassels.

    -want-.

    In the privacy of my own head, I wince at the obvious association. Something else, something-.

    "There are a couple of projects you could help me with."

    "Oh?"

    "Last year I talked one of Earth's more isolationist communities into sending a theatre troupe outside their country on a tour. Aside from an unfortunate event during their first performance, it went rather well. I'd quite like to do an exhibition on Tamaranian culture and history, give the people of Earth a look at what's going on off their world. I'm afraid that it probably won't lead to any new trading opportunities; the distance is just too great."

    "I'm sure that we can put something together. Do you benefit in some way from such an exhibit?"

    "I own a company which is making a role play game based on recent Vega history. A group of aliens visiting would be an amazing piece of advertising."

    "Role play game? I understand the words, but I suspect that you are referring to a specific artefact."

    "Ah, how to explain it..?"
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019 at 1:12 PM
  4. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    8th February
    18:22 GMT


    Oh… Dear.

    Using the burned-out wreck of a gordanian battlecruiser for concealment, I have my ring give me a more detailed picture of near-Karna space than my own eyes could give me while simultaneously trying to piece together the contents of the ship's computer. Sadly, gordanians aren't big fans of automation or centralisation. The data I want is spread out across a dozen local data stores, at least some of which were critically damaged during the fighting which slew the ship. There aren't any backups onboard the ship and most gordanian clans don't do off-site backups either. They also don't seem to think that keeping a historical database onboard their ships is worthwhile…

    Extraction complete.

    Ah. Not unexpectedly, once word got out that the Tearing Bite clan had lost most of their warfleet, the Gizzard Spiker clan decided to finish the job. Rather than simply absorb their fellow Citadel allies, or support them for favours later, they decided to annihilate the competition. But that broke pax domum, which was all the other clans who wanted Gizzard Spiker taken down a peg or two needed to justify weighing in. And then some idiot blew up the Citadel, which threw every alliance into confusion... And then, just when things were starting to die down…

    My ring shows me a construct image of the Karnan fleet currently raining fire down in support of the slave uprising currently taking place on Karettah, Karna's northern continent. That part of the Gordanian fleet which survived the internecine conflict is staying quite firmly on the opposite side of the planet to defend their older holdings on Gordane. The Karnan fleet appears to consist largely of ships which fled the original Gizzard Spiker led take-over, but not exclusively. There are new builds there, based on the designs of the other ships. And clearly they've had access to raw materials. Most of the old fleet didn't leave without being severely damaged, and there's little sign of their old injuries now.

    How do I want to handle this?

    Honestly, I don't. Gizzard Spiker deserve pretty much everything they get, but a lot of the other clans aren't that bad. And the Karnans certainly aren't blameless for creating the situation which led to the original war. Yes, Karnans are formally enslaved to Gordanian clans in a way that the Gordanians were never slaves to the Karnans, but the difference between a well-treated slave and a poorly treated villein isn't particularly great. I don't know any of these people, and there's no obvious route that doesn't involve slaughtering one side or the other… Or at the very least forcibly relocating far more people than I could move. Best case scenario… Some sort of rerun of the partition of India, moving each people to their continent of origin when some of them have never lived there and don't actually want to move.

    But since I'm here, I should at least see if I can make the situation less bad.

    "Ring… Contact…"

    Who? Who? The only contacts I might have would be surviving members of Tearing Bite, and I doubt that they actually want to hear from me. I could ask Amalak to try taking the area, or… Providing a neutral force…

    "Contact the Karnans. Find me whoever's in charge."

    Compliance.

    "What?"

    "Orange Lantern here. Please put me through to whoever's in charge over there."

    "Orange-? Please hold."

    Not like I'm paying by the minute. He should be able to get hold of the Supreme Commander… Gaharrugh I think his name is, reasonably quickly. If they've got any sort of intelligence at all then they know what I'm capable of, and a Supreme Commander doesn't really need to do all that much when the attack is ongoing. There just aren't any strategic level decisions that need to be-.

    "Why are you here?"

    "Supreme Commander Gaharrugh?"

    "Mini-Beast the spider-fucker."

    "That's uncalled for."

    "Is it? When the Citadel Complex was destroyed, I held out a small hope that whoever did it would liberate my own home at the same time. And yet, here we are. You did nothing to help us, we begin the process of liberating ourselves-"

    "Blowing up the Citadel Complex was 'nothing to help you'?"

    "-and now here you are. Don't even think about-"

    I raise my right hand to my forehead.

    "-trying to intimidate us into leaving-"

    I appear in his ready room, and-.

    "-because you-."

    Queen Kalista and Sir Pren look up from their position to Gaharrugh's right. Sir Pren raises his hands from the table slightly, the air between myself and the three of them shimmering faintly as he generates a telekinetic shield. Good reflexes. An officer of the Crown Imperium was sitting on Gaharrugh's left but has now jumped to her feet and drawn her pistol. The soldiers behind me are a little slower on the uptake, but their… Crown Imperium-made grasers.

    "So you're sponsored by the Crown Imperium. Generous of them. Though I suppose that proxy-fighting is the only way to prevent Vega acting in concert against them."

    Kalista nods. "Until recently. Your actions have been both a help and a hindrance. By destroying the Citadel, you have created a situation in which this intervention could happen-."

    "Destroying the Tearing Bite war fleet probably helped as well."

    "That was-." Pren frowns. "Our reports say that the Beast destroyed it."

    "Yes, because I lured him in to attack it while I evacuated the slave workers at the facility it was guarding."

    "You also created an alliance between the worst of the pirates and slavers in Vega."

    "I felt it was better than your plan, as it was explained to me. The level of collateral damage that would have happened if the fighting on Raggashoon had continued in the way you hoped it might would have been appalling."

    Kalista glances at Pren for a moment. "What happened to Felicity?"

    "I took her on a brief sightseeing trip on Tamaran and then left her with a slave rehabilitation charity in the Crown Imperium. I don't know what she's done since then, but that was where I last saw her."

    There's a sort of rumble from Gaharrugh, and the navy officer next to him lowers her sidearm. "The alliance you created is the reason why the Karnan Fleet is trying to take back our homeworld without the Crown Imperium's overt aid. What do you plan to do to make up for all of the Karnans who died because our strongest ally is forced to keep their fleet back to guard against your pirate friends?!"

    Not a trace of red. His words are pure posturing.

    "Nothing, actually. If you ask nicely I might do something for you, but I don't consider myself even slightly obliged to you." I turn around and regard the soldiers with contempt. "Put those down before I insert them in you."

    Behind me, Gaharrugh nods. The guns are lowered and I return my attention to the table.

    "What exactly are you trying to achieve here?"

    "We're liberating our home, and destroying one of the remaining centres of the Citadel Alliance."

    "Exactly how many gordanian civilians are you planning on 'liberating'?"

    He glowers. "As many as it takes."

    "I prefer low body counts. With the clans most closely allied to the Citadel largely gone, I don't really bear any sort of grudge against those who remain. And from the sounds of things… Are you planning on going after Emana after this? And the Wombworld?"

    Nods.

    "I'm not exactly thrilled with-."

    Gaharrugh bears his teeth.

    "You allied yourself with pirates, slavers and cannibals. If you aren't going to help, then go! Before I kill you myself!"

    "Not just yet." I raise my right hand to my forehead once more. "See you shortly."
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019 at 1:08 PM
  5. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    8th February
    18:27 GMT


    Where is he?

    There's a sort of spatial hiccup combined with a short flash of light over to my right, then a blast as the air absorbs the energy and turns into plasma. The strongpoint the local gordanian militia were using to suppress the karnan infantry evaporates -along with most of the defenders- and the attackers storm forward. A few are proper soldiers and those with the best armour are taking point, but the majority appear to be newly liberated slave labourers. They are only carrying masers and are dressed in simply tunics and leggings. The shot came from… There's no artillery in evidence…

    I look up and… Ah. One of the Karnan ships is in low orbit. That sort of energy pulse plasma weapon is what people who want a dedicated planetary bombardment weapon but aren't evil enough for mass driver use. Since the karnan fleet has been planning to take back their world for some time, it makes perfect sense that they'd have all the gear that they need.

    Of course, with the militia's defence failing here…

    Karnan soldiers take up position in a partially ruined settlement and fire down towards a small flotilla of overloaded boats trying to escape along a river. There are some weapons on those boats, but the majority of those on board are unarmed civilians-. Alright, 'civilian' is a bit of an unreliable descriptor where gordanians are concerned. Yes, the larger clans have 'military' vessels separate from their other vessels, but that divide only separates purely combat ships from multi-role ships which are very much combat capable. No clans have the sort of unarmed merchantmen that you see in the more stable regions of space. They'd just be targets in Vega. And all gordanians are taught how to fight. But these gordanians clearly aren't interested in fighting.

    Of course, firing on a retreating enemy is perfectly acceptable even by the more exacting standards of the Geneva Conventions. If you want someone to stop shooting you, stop retreating and start surrendering. Vega… A fighting retreat is usually a far better idea around here. Or a non-fighting retreat, hoping that whoever is making you retreat has something better to do than chase you down. If you try surrendering the people attacking you might take you prisoner in order to sell you into slavery, but an instruction to 'cluster up a bit more' would be more likely.

    Still…

    I transition to the air just above the boats and generate a shield construct between them and their karnan attackers. A volley of weak maser shots fails to penetrate it, then the fire… Just sort of falls off as they try to work out what the heck they're looking at.

    "Orange Lantern Illustres to gordanian ships. I am not here to support you. All I'm doing is covering your retreat. Keep moving, do not stop."

    I spot one of the militia members on the rearmost ship take aim at the Karnans on the bank-.

    I send a large construct hand down and grab his gun hard enough to deform the barrel into uselessness. Then I have the hand construct toss it into the water.

    "Don't push me."

    Bodies of those killed by the karnans are floating in the water… That one's still alive. The hand grabs them and puts them back into the closest boat, where the other gordanians immediately begin checking them over.

    Okay, in a normal military operation, the officers in charge on the ground would be reporting my presence back to their commanders, who would most likely order them to back off unless I directly attacked them. But this isn't a normal military operation. The karnans flat out hate the gordanians, and most of the 'troops' over there are at best irregulars. I can't expect the same command and control. They're lucky if there are enough regular soldiers to maintain any sort of communication, let alone anything approaching good command and control. I'd assume that they'd take a few shots at me, realise that they can't hurt me and then go looking for another target…

    I look up again.

    No. The people on the ship must have been advised that I'm around by now. That weapon system-.

    I put up an overhead shield just in case.

    It wouldn't hurt me. My armour and environmental shield are entirely too resilient. But it could easily wreck the boats and kill all of those on board.

    Incoming communication.

    "Yes?"

    "Ryand'r to Orange Lantern. Please respond."

    "Answer."

    Compliance.

    "Prince Ryand'r. I'd like a word in person, if you-" The ship above me fires, the laser failing to penetrate my shield and the plasma washing harmlessly over the sides. "-don't mind."

    "Of course! You are the first person I have spoken to who has news of my home!"

    I think a positron beam will do it.

    I generate a construct and carefully aim it at the ship that just shot at me.

    "Happy to share it. How soon can you reach me?"

    "Ah… Perhaps a minute. I am on my way now."

    I take a look around, looking through the terrain, tree-analogues and ruins for the orange lights which mark… Ah, there he is.

    "See you when you get here."

    I fire, my beam striking the shielding protecting the ventral weapon hardpoint and punching through to the weapon itself. The weapon is armoured, but as G'kar pointed out, weapons are by necessity one of the more weakly armoured parts of a ship. I dismiss the positron ray construct as the weapon above me dies. Hopefully that will cause them to get a belated clue.

    Never actually read a comic with Ryand'r in it. I don't think that he shared his sisters' extra powers, though he's apparently confident to fly around over an active combat zone naked but for his pants and a hair tie. I suppose that speed and agility should help, and it's not as if most of the infantry on his side are much more resilient. He slows as he reaches by shield, frowning at is.

    "Why are you protecting them?"

    "The people in these boats are too close to my definition of 'civilian' for me to be happy letting them die."

    "Oh." He nods. "That is a righteous reason."

    A smattering of shots from the karnan-held bank impact against my shield. Ryand'r turns to face the people who shot them.

    "It's okay! You can stop now!"

    "Ryand'r, I think it will take a little more than that."

    "I could try and get Tigorr to tell them to go someplace else, but that could take a while? He doesn't really talk so well when he's in beast-mode."

    "Then don’t worry about it."

    "Ah, okay?" He smiles hopefully. "You've been to Tamaran? Are the gordanians really gone?"

    "Yes. The survivors of Tearing Bite are marooned on another planet and your people are rebuilding with the assistance of a thanagarian mercenary group and Adam Blake."

    His eyes widen. "Blake's alive? That's amazing! I grew up with stories of how he sacrificed himself to protect our fleet-."

    "Yes, and the Citadel neutralised him and used him as a battery. He's recovered, as far as I can tell."

    "And my sisters?"

    "Recovered. I gave them power rings, and they both took part in the attack on Citadel Complex. Then they did some other work for me. Komand'r can fly under her own power again. She's on Tamaran at the moment."

    "When are they coming here?"

    "They're not."

    He frowns. "What? Why not?"

    "Ryand'r, do you understand why the Citadel grabbed them?"

    He shrugs. "Because they're evil. They enslave countless.-"

    "No. They took your sisters because you publically joined the Omega Men."

    He frowns in revulsion. "What?"

    "Tamaran was a vassal state of the Tearing Bite clan. When you, a member of the royal family, openly sided with their enemies, they risked losing face if they didn't immediately strike back. And since they couldn't get you, they took them. If you'd just left Okaara and joined them it wouldn't have been a problem, but you slapped them in the face with it."

    "That…" His eyes dip and he shakes his head. "No." He shakes his head again as he raises his head to glare at me. "I am not responsible for the evils of the Citadel, or their allies."

    "No, but you are responsible for the reasonably predictable results of your own actions." I point down at the boats. "Free the karnans, watch them slaughter the gordanians. Take a stand against the Citadel, watch as they retaliate against those you love."

    He floats back through the air. "I…"

    "Get out of here, Ryand'r. Come back when you've thought about it a little."
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019 at 4:28 PM
  6. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    8th February
    19:14 GMT


    The gordanian militia on the ground keep nervously glancing up at me as they help the injured from the beached boats. They appear to be pulling out, an en-masse evacuation of the regions under the karnan fleet's guns. Which is sensible, but…

    Where are they going to go?

    The gordanian fleet -such as it is- could in theory send transports to ferry them over to Gordane, but that would put them within range of the karnan fleet's guns. And while the karnans might not want to risk leaving their positions to fire on a heat source they don't think is karnan, actual ships would be far more inviting targets. Gordanians have ocean-going ships, but most large-scale travel and trade was done by aircraft rather than sea vessels. And there's certainly no tunnels under the water or bridges across it. And… It's not as if the karnan fleet isn't going to go after the slave-operated fisheries and mines on that part of the coastline once they've finished with the interior.

    I could fly them over.

    I could

    There are karnans on Gordane, but many fewer of them than there are here. Gordanians as a whole stuck pretty much all their heavy industry on their own home continent, but there is still plenty of manual labour they wanted karnans for. The clans…

    I hadn't really thought about it, but clans like Gizzard Spiker and Tearing Bite didn't have much of a presence on Karettah. They just weren't that interested in agriculture or light industry. The clans who do-. Who did, are mostly clans who tend to avoid attacking anyone else. Yes, they owned karnan slaves, but that's more because karnans were the ones who were available rather than any sort of 'us versus them' mentality.

    I frown as I look down at the militia members below me. Who are they from? Clans usually have their own command structures, but in emergency situations like this irregulars tend to rally around whoever looks like they know what they're doing. That's… Stone Turner, Dirt Eater, Meat Barter, Blunt Claw… All the clans my most recent map say had a presence in this region. This evacuation must have started when the karnan ships first arrived, for some of them to get this far. Not completely sure who's in charge.

    One way to find out.

    I drift down, provoking some nervous backing up. The four closest militia members drift towards one another, though none of them go for their weapons.

    "Who is in charge here?"

    Three sets of eyes jerk towards the fourth member of the cluster, while he turns to look for someone he can offload me onto. I can see the same fears on his surface as I see in everyone else, but they're more… Bound up in the tasks he's performing right now. Gordanians don't have a standard uniform, but based on his equipment and decoration I'd guess that he's a non-commissioned officer. Or just a veteran.

    "Looks like you didn't step backwards fast enough."

    "Story of my life. What does the Orange Lantern want with us?"

    "I'd like to know where you're going?"

    "You and me both." He flicks his tail. "The rest of you, go find something to do."

    The three of them walk away to help offload the boats, and the non-com comes a little closer to me.

    "All the heavy forts on this continent came under bombardment as soon as the karnans secured their position in orbit. And even if we could get to them, they can't survive that forever. Can't hide in the mines, can't hide in the woods. The karnans might accept our surrender once they've got the bloodlust out of their systems but that doesn't do us any good right now. Best chance we've got is to head as far away from their ships as we can and hope that someone's feeling generous."

    "No one higher up in your clan-" Air hisses through his teeth. "-is organising things?"

    "How? What's left of the gordanian fleet's over the horizon." I shake my head. "We use our ships as communication relays. Karnans are disrupting everything else. Without the ships, we've got no way to talk to anyone."

    "Ocean ships?"

    "If the karnans haven't grabbed them or sunk them, there won't be enough and we'd be easy targets on the journey." He looks away, his eyes turning up-river towards the karnan-held area. "Never thought I'd see this."

    "Your reversal of fortunes?"

    "Yeah. Karnans doing to us what our great grandparents did to theirs. Always just thought that things would carry on like they had." He snorts. "You got any use for a few hundred gordanian slaves?"

    "Excuse me?"

    "If it was just me, I'd try fighting them guerrilla style. See how much time I could buy. But it's not. My clan mates, my family are-" He looks at the refugee… It's not precise enough to be a column, and the terrain is too broken anyway. Stream? Swarm? "-back there, and I'd rather they survive as slaves than get killed. The karnans gave up shooting once you showed up, so they don't want to fight you. How about it?"

    Hm. Tamaran could use additional agricultural workers, even with the thanagarian-Alstairian druids they've got helping them with that now. Not sure that they'd accept gordanians, even if they're not from clans that had any dealings with them before. This is… Far too many for the small colony Zaark has set up. Most other places I could send them are either too far away or not.. really appropriate.

    "Do you think that your clan superiors would agree to an exchange? Karnans in their territory for gordanians here?"

    "Ah. Some might. Mine would, but with this sort of war going on things are going to be getting run by a Grand Council, and… The Gizzard Spikers won't."

    "And if I present them with a fait accompli?"

    "What, you just show up with us and start making demands?" I nod. "Nothing helpful."

    "It's your peoples' lives. Any time you want to suggest something, go ahead."

    "There's nothing to say. No peace to be had. I guess you could trade us quietly, but you… Stand out."

    As I suspected, but it's useful to have confirmation.

    "No chance of a negotiated settlement?"

    "Not that I can see."

    Except… I'm an enlightened Lantern. Altering the desires of the people around me is simple. Doing it subtly is a little more difficult, but still well within my abilities.

    Ah.

    Prin's a telepath and Kalista is a magician. They've both got as yet unquantified ways to detect me trying something like that. Still, I'd rather this didn't turn into a slaughter and it's not as if trying risks anything significant.

    "I'd like to try persuading the grand council to be reasonable. Could you find me a couple of your people who could act as witnesses?"

    "Sure. May as well save two. Even if it's only for a few days."

    "Why would it only be a few days?"

    "There's no help coming. We killed ourselves, made the karnans' lives easier. No Citadel to back us up. Branx got their own problems, and we can't afford to hire anyone else. Any gordanian ship that isn't here has given up on keeping hold of this planet. Karnans are unified, full of hate, and their ships are all warships. Even if you did a swap, the karnans will go after Gordane before too long. They have to. And then, that's it."

    "You think they'll exterminate you?"

    "I think they'll kill enough that there won't be much difference. And if all of the karnans living in Gordane get evacuated, they'll have even less reason to try anything else."

    "That's not usual for Vega, is it? The Citadel didn't do that to the Tamaranians."

    "This fleet came from outside of Vega. Maybe they learned something new." He turns away from me. "Come with me. I'll find you some 'reliable witnesses'."
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019 at 1:20 PM
  7. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    8th February
    19:28 GMT


    As we finally fly over the horizon I dismiss the positron beam projector constructs I had been pointing at the orbiting Karnan fleet. I'll… Hold off pointing one at the gordanians for the moment. If they start shooting me I'm just going to wreck the whole miserable lot of them and claim Gordane for the Orange Lantern Corps. Or maybe for Tamaran? It would be a fig leaf either way, but it would put me in a position to negotiate.

    I wonder how many gordanians there are?

    "Do either of you know what the total gordanian population is?"

    The older female purses her lips. Puzzlement. "The total in our clan..?"

    "No, your species. How many in total?"

    "How would anyone know that? How many of your species are there?"

    "About six billion. Most advanced countries maintain accurate censuses, but some places can't or can't keep them accurate."

    Her lips smooth. "Oh. We.. don't keep that sort of record. There's probably someone in our clan who knows how many adults we have, but no one keeps records for all of the clans."

    Gordanians have never had a unified government, so… Yes, I suppose that it makes sense that centralised data-gathering never became a thing. Frustrating as that is for me.

    "Would anyone know how many karnans are on Gordane?"

    "I doubt it. I don't even think that the clans would know. Individual overseers will know how many work for them."

    "If in the years to come, any gordanians ask how you lost, consider your inability to answer those questions."

    "I'm a farm overseer. What could I have done with that information?"

    "Started improving your relations with members of other clans once Citadel Complex was destroyed, with a view to improving gordanian unity in the face of the loss of a major ally."

    "Why would knowing how many of us there are help with that?"

    "Being more aware of the state of the region and the gordanians' place in it would inform your decision making."

    The other gordanian -a young female- lashes her tail from side to side in frustration. "He's right. The strength of the clan is the strength of all of its members. How is anyone supposed to do what's best for everyone if they don't know what it is?"

    The older is from Stone Turner and the younger from Meat Barter. That might explain why she gets it: Meat Barter are so legitimate that they're allowed to trade in civilised places. She's probably had a good deal more exposure to alien ways of thinking than the miners and farmers of Stone Turner. I.. had thought that Meat Barter only maintained a token presence on Karna itself. Odd that she got caught up in this.

    "Did you know that the karnans still had a fleet?"

    "Yes." / "Yes."

    "In that case, why weren't clan elders making pacts with other Vega powers? They should have known that someone might take a swing at you with the Citadel gone. Amalak would have taken a defence contract. There are probably Branx consortia in the same position as you who would form mutual defence pacts. There-."

    No. They probably don't know that the Crown Imperium is sponsoring the karnans, and… It might make things more difficult if I shared that information.

    "Was plenty of time for the clans to agree to cooperate amongst themselves. Heck, if the anti-Citadel clans had ganged up on Gizzard Spiker before the Karnans arrived, they might have been prepared to negotiate from the start. Or I could have come to Karna after I blew up the Citadel Complex and browbeaten you people into reforming. There were all sorts of things that could have been done. This is the result of actions taken and not taken by a lot of people."

    And there's the coastline. And the anti-air emplacements, bunkers and soldiers…

    "Orange Lantern Illustres to Council of Clan Chiefs. I'm here to try and bring about a negotiated settlement between you and the karnans. If you're not interested in hearing me out, please start shooting now so that we don't waste one another's time."



    Well, no one's shooting yet. I suppose that getting in touch with the emergency government-. Ring, that message did go somewhere, right?

    Confirmed. Message played through the speakers in the Council's meeting room.

    And thus neatly bypassed whatever layers of bureaucracy the gordanians actually have. However, they've now got to argue amongst themselves, and I doubt that Gizzard Spiker are going to be eager to meet the man who blew up their strongest ally. Still, if they ordered anyone to shoot it was immediately countermanded.

    "Is there anyone either of you want to talk to before we meet the Council?"

    "No." The older tilts her head to the right for a moment. "Representatives of our clans will be there, or what happens to us won't really matter very much."

    "As you will."

    The guns don't track us as we pass over the beach and head inland. Gordane tends towards a few large cities and vast areas of scrubby wasteland, as opposed to Karettah's speckling of small villages and large swathes of cultivated land. Not too much in the way of roads again because everything flies, though I can see where there are old roads that have fallen into disuse and disrepair. The city where my ring is telling me the Council is meeting is a short distance inland, a little way back from the mouth of a large river. From here I can see the large factory complexes and… Chimneys? No, cooling towers, which reach up into the sky, as well as the slight distortion from the anti-orbital force field. And the shapes of many anti-ship weapon emplacements.

    There are some gordanian fighter craft around, but attack craft aren't a big part of gordanian fleet composition any more than they are Citadelian. No, that's-. Gordanians are perfectly intelligent. They can pilot that sort of ship, but they're just as bulky as Okaarans and Citadelians and are evolved from ground-dwelling reptiles. Or… Engineered from ground-dwelling reptiles by the psions. Even compared to humans they just don't have the instinct for it, and unlike with the karnans their computers are too primitive to make up for it.

    "Council Convenor Rowk to Orange Lantern Illustres. We will meet with you. Come at once."

    "On my way."

    I end the communication. Demanding that I do anything is a bit rich, but I'm not petty enough to call him out on it. Not when the future of his species' viability is at stake. Or… Maybe that's just how gordanians talk, or maybe he thinks clearing his schedule to meet me at once is doing me a favour? I don't know enough about gordanian culture to assume either way.

    The Council is meeting in a fortified bunker located on the landward side of the city, its force field gleaming in the light. It's clearly highly resilient and the soldiers guarding it are professionally comported and equipped. The partially disassembled wrecks of several star ships which litter the area around it rather undermine that, but there was a good deal of fighting around here recently so I shouldn't be too surprised.

    "There."

    The young gordanian I'm pulling along with me points to a small squad, the leader of which is waving me down.

    "Thank you. Down we go."

    "Thank Auron."

    We land, myself at the front and my passengers just behind me. The head of the escort detail trudges over. His armour is far heavier than that of the militia unit on Karettah and incorporates a winged flight pack.

    "Orange Lantern Illustres and witnesses, here to see the Council."

    "Yes." He looks us over, perhaps wondering if he could get away with asking us to disarm. "When you're in there, don’t make any sudden moves. We don’t plan on starting anything, but things are on edge right now."

    "Yes, I noticed. But don't worry. If I wanted to start anything then this place would already be a hole in the ground. Lead on, would you?"
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2019 at 1:20 PM
  8. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    8th February
    19:57 GMT


    The two gordanians I brought with me troop out through the doors to the Council chamber, their body language speaking of profound depression. The Council wanted to speak to me first, but I felt that it would underline their position better if they listened to the witness reports first. The head of the escort detail who brought me down here slaps his tail on the floor in the direction of the door, and I nod amiably.

    "My turn, then."

    I create two construct-ushers to hold the doors open and stroll unhurriedly through, arms hanging loosely at my sides. There are six occupied seats on the right, representing those clans with the greatest military strength. Another eleven on the left, representing those who have strength that is less but still significant. And a huddle at the back of the room for those clans whose military strength is nonexistent, trivial or just not around here.

    A gordanian with the three yellow line and a white blob emblem of Unending Conquest waves to me from her place near the front of the huddle. Her position makes sense; while Unending Conquest have plenty of military force it's all at the other end of the galaxy. She's essentially an ambassador from a foreign power at this point. Though… If the Council were willing, having the more militant clans head out that way might not be such a bad thing. I'd be happy for them to spend their military strength fighting the Reach with a view to colonising one of their worlds at the end of the campaign.

    "Ladies and gentlemen. Councillors,-" Right. "-representatives,-" Left. "-and emissaries." Forward. "As I'm sure that you know… You're in the shit."

    The representative of the Meat Barter clan snorts in agreement. If their ships are all in the vicinity of Karna right now then they might well be finished as a clan. At best, they're looking at losing all of their on-Karna holdings.

    "The karnans are out for blood and there's no help coming."

    The Councillor from Gizzard Spiker takes a second to glare at the emissary from Unending Conquest, who happily wiggles her tail in response.

    "You might be able to negotiate something -in theory- but no one's listening. The people on the ground have been raised hating you from birth and now that they're here they're not going to stop killing while there are gordanians in front of them. They will -however- listen to me."

    A few of the assembled gordanians freeze, or straighten up slightly.

    "That's not to say that they like me, but I'm happy to act as a go-between if you want to try-." 'Talking things out' doesn't seem appropriate. "A negotiated surrender. And since I don't like wasting my time, I'd like to outline the things you will have to agree to give up as a bare minimum. Obviously, any karnans still held as slave workers anywhere will have to be handed over. You will have to give up any claim to territory in Karettah. You will most likely have to disarm to a considerable degree and make some sort of payment to the new karnan government. And you will most likely have to allow the karnans to go wherever they want in your territory in order for them to confirm for themselves that you are complying with the terms."

    "If you can agree to all of that from the start, I'll go to the karnans and see if that's enough to convince them to suspend their attack." I look around. "Well?"

    The Councillor from Blood Flecks drags the talons on his right hand across the material of their desk, creating an audible screeching noise. "And what do we get?"

    "Don't know. Probably not a lot. What do you want?"

    "The members of our clans in their territory returned to us. Guarantees on our territory."

    "What territory in particular?"

    Which I do need to know. The karnans might well want the gordanian species off Karna in its entirety, but several clans own territory in other places in Vega. A few even own territory outside of it.

    "Everything we hold now."

    "I think that unlikely-."

    The Councillor from Gizzard Spiker bangs his fist on the desk. "Then they will come here and die."

    Hm. Assuming no psion surprises… Ring, probable outcome of a confrontation, the karnan fleet versus the gordanian fleet and planetary defences?

    Likely behaviour of vessel commanders unknown. Unable to accurately predict. A direct confrontation would result in a narrow karnan victory. The gordanian combined fleet would be entirely destroyed at substantial cost to the karnan navy. The remaining karnan naval units would be sufficient to perform a rotating bombardment of remaining ground targets.

    More or less what I was expecting. De-orbiting the gordanian wrecks would be more efficient than shooting until their shields start to weaken and then backing off, but it would also be a good deal less precise. Would the Crown Imperium care about something like that? They… Might, actually. They're fine with slaughtering pirates and slavers outright, but bombarding civilian areas never looks good. And it would increase the chance of the karnans in the areas being targeted getting killed.

    "A lot of them will die, yes. All of you will. May I take it that the gentleman from Gizzard Spiker intends to make their victory so costly that their will breaks while some of you survive?"

    He beats his chest armour with both fists. "Yes he does."

    The others generally look less certain. Oh, I'm sure that the gordanians will fight if it comes to it, but good luck maintaining any sort of organisation with morale like this.

    "I don't believe that will work on anything more than a local level. These aren't karnan merchants or outmatched irregulars. This is a war fleet full of people who hate you. And I think that the Omega Men are a little-" There's a slight stir at the name. "-annoyed about me kill-stealing Citadel Complex and have decided that you'll be a reasonable substitute. Still, if that's your intent I will mention it to them. Anything else?"

    The Councillor from Blood Flecks looks around and gets a series of slow blinks. Compliance. He then turns back my way. "No. Go. Return when you have terms."

    I bow mockingly and then straighten, raising my right hand to my forehead.

    "…progress on all fronts, aid.. ed…" Pren slows to a stop as he notices me. This time it's him, Kalista, Gaharrugh, the officer from the Crown Imperium, a few other karnan officers and a… Huh, a news crew, who step back a little awkwardly and point a camera my way.

    And… We're actually in the same room.

    "Are you still here? It's been an hour and a half."

    Gaharrugh rises to his feet. "What do you want?"

    "I've just come from speaking to the gordanian Grand Council. They would like to discuss terms for their surrender."

    Pren blinks, risking a small smile as he sits back. Kalista blinks, not meeting my eyes, presumably trying to work out how this affects their strategy. Gaharrugh's throat rumbles, and the general smoothing of fur from the karnans suggests that they find the idea extremely pleasing.

    "Not joining them, then?"

    "I'm enough of a realist to know that civilians die during wars. But I wasn't about to let it happen right in front of me. My only real objective here is to keep the casualties as low as possible."

    "The 'Grand' Council can surrender when they crawl up to me on their knees and kiss my boots!"

    I ignore the snorting from several karnan officers.

    "Alright. Over what sort of distance?"

    "What?"

    "Over what sort of distance do you want them to crawl? They'd have difficulty getting here from their bunker-."

    "It wasn't a serious suggestion!"

    I give him a condescending look. "Please try and take this seriously, Supreme Commander. Millions of karnan lives are at stake."

    He steps towards me, towering over me. As if such a basic intimidation technique would work on me any more.

    "I am aware of that. I will accept the Council's unconditional surrender."

    "I'm not sure they would be willing to risk that. Could you present a more concrete set of demands?"
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019 at 1:05 PM
  9. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    8th February
    20:35 GMT


    The Councillor from Gizzard Spiker floats in a ring-generated flight aura, a muzzle over his snout. The guards who headed towards us the moment he lunged at me slow to a stop, while the councillors, representatives and emissaries freeze.

    "Sir, please don't do that again. If you wish to register your displeasure, you may simply inform me of it."

    The Councillor from Long Striders cranes his neck slightly to see around his floating colleague. "In that case, let me register it. Disarming down to the level the Supreme Commander requires would leave us helpless against a great many of our neighbours. Our normal ships aren't well-armed enough to fight off dedicated attackers."

    "And how long do you think those raiders will exist for?"

    "What do you mean?"

    "The Beast -the one being whose presence kept the Green Lantern Corps from intervening in Vega- is now receiving psychiatric treatment on Maltus. Jarko gets his revenue from taxation rather than raiding, Amalak provides security services for pay, the Spider Guild are shipbuilders and the Citadel is gone. The sort of mass piracy Vega enabled was always a bubble economy and it just got popped. Karnans who've lived most of their lives in the Crown Imperium won't regard that as the cost of doing business; their fleet will be sent after anyone who tries that sort of thing just as soon as they've secured their home here. In addition, Tamaran is building a fleet. A few of the older delegates here might remember the way they used to use their fleet before their ill-fated attack on Citadel Complex."

    "Fewer raiders."

    "Fewer, if any. The price of them doing business will go up too much."

    "What about the branx, or the psions?"

    "I fully expect the branx to pivot, as you were doing before the karnans arrived. Those with close ties to the Citadel will lose out, while those with external contacts will gain. The psions have worked through proxies since they recovered from creating X'Hal. They're going to find themselves in an extremely hostile environment. They might leave, they might fortify. If they try raiding themselves then they're going to receive more attention than they can deal with."

    "Are you guaranteeing that yourself?"

    Am I?

    "I suppose that I am." I turn to the Councillor from the Gizzard Spikers. "Have you calmed down now?"

    He glowers, but doesn't strain against the muzzle. I float him back to his seat and then remove the flight aura. He makes a variety of small stretching motions, maintaining eye contact all the while.

    Then he sits.

    "Clan Gizzard Spiker will never disarm. There is no longer any purpose in you being here."

    The Councillor from Blood Flecks bears his teeth slightly. "Clan Gizzard Spiker would be well advised to make fewer definitive statements."

    The Gizzard Spiker councillor turns his way and snarls. "Clan Blood Flecks would be well advised to find its gizzard once more!"

    "If I may interject, gentlemen. The disarmament requirements would only apply to ships within Vega. If Clan Gizzard Spiker does not like the restrictions, they may wish to negotiate for passage out of Vega. Clan Unending Conquest have done rather well for themselves with only a token presence here."

    "Or we could just leave."

    "I imagine that you would die if you did. I doubt that your fellow gordanians would like you leaving them in the lurch like that. And even if you actually made it away, the Crown Imperium has 'Wanted: Dead' bounties on your entire clan for piracy. If you went anywhere near their space they would send their navy after you… In fact, there's a good chance they'd send naval vessels after you anyway."

    "Then by the First, what I am supposed to be negotiating for?!"

    "Safe passage. They might be prevailed upon to let you through their territory as long as you were definitely going somewhere else and staying there. I can provide you with a list of worlds you could colonise… Or you could carry on as you do here until someone important takes notice of you and kills you. Up to you."

    He takes a moment to glare at the other gordanians, but he knows full well that they'd happily hand his entire clan over if it guaranteed their survival. Heck, most of them were actively fighting Gizzard Spiker not too long ago.

    "Leaving… My clan will consider this. But what of the Green Lanterns? The karnans can't speak for them."

    "Ring, contact Green Lantern Green Man."

    "Compliance."

    "This might take a moment, depending on what he's doing."

    Blood Flecks looks at my rings with undisguised avarice. "What would we have to trade for your help? Or for one of those rings?"

    "You want a ring?" He tilts his head, eager but wary. "Here." I put a copy of my… Training guide, an editor-needed draft of my personal philosophy on orange light use, mixed in with practical lessons and reports from my own missions, on to the desk in front of him. "If you're interested, read that and reflect upon it. Master it, and you should be able to call a ring to you."

    He grabs it.

    "As for getting my help, you have nothing I want. The Gizzard Spikers have my enmity for working with the Citadel, and though I have revenged myself upon the Tearing Bite for doing the same-" I look over to the Representative of Tearing Bite. Mildly surprised that they've got enough force left for a place there. "-it is extremely unlikely that I could bring myself to help them. As for the rest of you, while I recognise that slavery does not automatically mean that the owned party is particularly mistreated, your karnan slaves appear to be used purely for manual labour and not kept as technically-owned helpmeets. I am not impressed. If it came to it I'd probably help the karnans, but I'd rather-."

    Green Man's image appears over my ring.

    "Illustres."

    "Lantern Green Man."

    "Given your company, I suspect that I will not enjoy this conversation."

    "Have you had any trouble from the mercenaries or the Spiders?"

    "Many minor complaints and many enraged messages from the government of the Crown Imperium."

    "But no acts of genocide or piracy."

    "None that have come to my attention. What do you want for the gordanian slavers?"

    "The karnans are on the verge of retaking Karna. I'm trying to negotiate a surrender. For obvious reasons the karnans want them to hand over or scuttle their war fleets. Some gordanian clans aren't prepared to do that and so will have to leave Vega."

    "How many?"

    I look around the room. "Anyone other than Gizzard Spiker seriously considering it?"

    Blood Fleck and Silent Stalking knock on their tables.

    "Three somewhat depleted clans."

    "And what do you want me to do?"

    "Let them go, and only pursue them for crimes they commit after they leave."

    "Let the most heavily armed gordanian clan, the clan most closely allied to the Citadel, leave the area and go anywhere they wish."

    "Yes. With my personal guarantee that -should they act out- I will respond as soon as I'm notified and exterminate them."

    "What?"

    "Exterminate?"

    "Yes. I'm only doing this to lower the death total on Karna on both sides. I'm not actually interested in helping them, just in getting a settlement."

    "I will.. consider the matter. Green Lantern Green Man out."

    "Right. I'll check back with the karnans."
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2019 at 6:54 AM
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