What is Lay Betting and Laying in Gambling? | Profit

What do you mean it goes boom?

Captain Thraxos perused the ship manifest one more time. There was a late entry to join the convoy to Cycria. Cycria was a remote world and had been having a pirate problem with merchant traffic attacked several times over the past two years. As the pirates had got more bold the situation had become untenable and the Galactic Federation had to finally do something about it.
Thraxos was the captain of the light cruiser GFN Duhrel and he had been tasked to escort a merchant convoy from Dilolla to Cycria as deterrence to the pirates. He did not relish the assignment to babysit a motley fleet of civilians, but as GalFed captain he went where he was ordered to.
The final ship to join the convoy was the IMS Antelope. A Human merchanter that had been berthing here at Dilolla even before Thraxos had arrived. Apparently they had had some difficulty in securing new cargo to take on board and looking at the ship’s specs Thraxos could not blame anyone for not wanting to put their valuables on board this old rustbucket. But Cycria was not exactly a prime destination and apparently someone had been desperate enough to contract the Antelope to ferry their cargo to Cycria at the last minute.
IMS Antelope was an Independent Merchant Ship, owned and operated by her captain Robert Nele. Even her designation was thoroughly Human. The Humans had some of the most stringent licensing requirements to own and operate starship class drives which basically put them out of reach of civilian individuals. So, in turn, the independent merchanters had banded together and founded the Independent Merchant Ship company which held the licenses for the starship drives operated by their members with minimal interference from the company itself.
Thraxos scoffed, but the Humans were an upstart species. Perhaps it was for the best that not just anyone could get their hands on potentially volatile technology. That showed more responsibility of them than Thraxos had heard based on their reputation.
The Antelope herself was almost 60 years old and looking through her log she had mostly been operating within or near Human space. This was as far as she had ever been from home. Still, for all the tarnish on her hull, she had passed her latest spaceworthiness inspection only six months prior.
She was one of the weirdest looking ships Thraxos had ever seen. She was basically a lattice spine on which standard cargo containers were mounted like grapes on a vine. Front end had habitation and docking, the back end had its large engine, ending on a flat plate mounted on what looked like pillars. Curious.
Thraxos studied her engine specifications. Her main engine was of type Thraxos had never even heard of before, something the Humans called ‘orion’ type nuclear pulse thruster and with her mass, impulse and thrust she would be by far the slowest ship in the convoy, only barely scraping over the acceptable lower limit. Her jump engine likewise was an antiquated Type-I, only barely able to do the jumps required for this route. But she was over the bar so Thraxos had to grudgingly accept her to the convoy.
Slightly annoyed, Thraxos sent the engine specifications to his astrogator to have their course and time estimates recomputed to match the Antelope’s slow speed. Then he fired off a message to all ten ships in his convoy to prepare to unberth and meet at the system’s jump point in twelve hours.
At the start of next morning’s shift Thraxos entered the bridge to relieve the nightshift watch officer. It would be two hours until their scheduled jump off time, plenty of time to undock and make their way the 50 000 kilometers over to the jump point.
Captain Thraxos turned to the operations officer of the previous watch. “Anything interesting going on?”
Lieutenant Commander Tarkran shrugged. “Just the Humans, sir. The Antelope cast off six hours ago and has been slowly making their way to the jump point using manoeuvring thrusters only.”
Thraxos was taken aback. “What? Why?”
Tarkran shrugged again. “No idea, sir, but they’ll be arriving at the jump just before the scheduled time.”
Captain Thraxos just shook his head. “Alright, thanks. I have the bridge.”
Tarkran nodded and announced, “Captain has the bridge.” Tarkran turned and left as Thraxos sat down on the command chair.
Captain Thraxos waited for the other stations to complete their watch handover and then turned to communications. “Lieutenant Coccols, request undocking.”
“Aye, sir.” the comm officer responded.
Thraxos then turned to the astrogation officer. “Lieutenant Ulan, please prepare a course plan to take us to the jump point after we’ve moved past the station’s safety perimeter and execute once we have undocking permission.”
Next Thraxos glanced over his executive officer sitting at the operations station. “While we’re en-route, prepare a convoy placement assignment for each ship according to the exclusion zones of their engines. I want us to be in the middle. Hopefully the pirates will think we’re just another fat merchantman until it’s too late.”
Commander Nivek nodded. “Aye sir. I think I can nestle us between GMS Aelat and IXS Naholl. I’ll have to see what we can do with the human ship.”
“Very good.”
Lieutenant Coccols turned around. “Sir. Undocking clearance granted, we have 1 minute window.”
Captain Thraxos nodded. “Lieutenant Ulan, undock and execute.”
“Aye, sir.”
There was an almost imperceptible shift as the GFN Duhrel unlatched from the station and then pushed itself away from station’s bulk using its manoeuvring thrusters. After thirty seconds they had cleared the station perimeter and they were able to engage their fusion drive. Even at the minimal power that was allowed to be used near stations, it would only take them about 30 minutes to reach their designated staging point.
“Ummm… Captain?” Commander Nivek interrupted after a few minutes. “Have you looked at the exclusion chart for the Human ship?”
Thraxos furrowed his brow. “No, why?”
Commander Nivek hesitated for a moment. “I think you should.”
Captain Thraxos called up the schematic of the Human ship on his terminal. It was still one of the ugliest ships he had ever seen, but he wasn’t here to judge a beauty contest. He switched the overlay layers to the engine exclusion zone.
“What the fuck?” he exclaimed.
For most ships the exclusion zone was a cone behind them a few degrees wide. For IMS Antelope it was a whole half sphere and then some, covering just under 200 degrees of arc and extending all the way to 5000 kilometers, with an advisory zone all the way to 20 000 kilometers.
“I think I know why they’re limping out there with their manoeuvring thrusters only.” Commander Nivek posited. “There’s no way they could have fired up that drive anywhere near the station.” After a moment he continued. “I think the only place we can put them is as the last ship in the convoy with nobody behind them.”
Captain Thraxos shook his head in disbelief. “Do they have a completely unshielded reactor back there or something?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen anything like this, but it must be by design and approved, since they’ve passed their inspections.”
Thraxos sighed. “Well, transmit the assigned relative positions to all ships and manoeuvre us into position to wait for them.”
The convoy of all ten merchant ships had taken up their positions around the cruiser GFN Duhrel with the IXS Ikol at the front and IMS Antelope at the rear. All the ships slaved their jump engines to the control of GFN Duhrel and in concert they tore a hole in reality that whisked them to another starsystem a dozen light years away.
The system the convoy appeared in was uninhabited, a puny red dwarf with only a catalogue number as its name. They would then have to traverse the system to the next jump point that would allow them to jump to the next star in the chain to Cycria.
Most of the time in traversing the galaxy was spent moving from jump point to jump point within each starsystem. Some systems were lucky and their jump points were close-by, others had them far apart and it took a long time and a lot of Δv to traverse. The locations of the jump points and where you could jump from them depended on the background arrangement of the dark matter permeating the galaxy which warped the extra dimensions of spacetime.
The convoy would have almost a week ahead of them to traverse to the next jump point in this system, and just over two months to reach Cycria.
Captain Thraxos looked over the monitors and concluded that everything was in order. “Lieutenant Ulan, plot a course to the next jump point.”
The astrogator glanced over. “Already laid in, Captain. Ready to execute on your command.”
“Very good Lieutenant.” Thraxos acknowledged with pleasure. “Signal the convoy to get underway and execute.”
Ten of the ships in the convoy each fired up their fusion torches of various sorts and the convoy started moving, but then behind the eleventh ship, the IMS Antelope, something exploded with nuclear fury.
“CAPTAIN!” Sensor officer Birrai shouted. “The engine of the Antelope just exploded!”
“What?” The captain looked up. Just his luck that the Human rustbucket would have a catastrophic engine failure immediately upon firing up that lethal engine of theirs. “Signal all stop!”
Just as soon as the fleet had started moving the torches died down as each ship ceased accelerating.
Thraxos hit transmit button on his terminal. “This is captain Thraxos of GFN Duhrel to IMS Antelope, do you require assistance?”
Thraxos looked at the sensor scan on his screen as he waited for their reply. At least there didn’t seem to be much debris. Hopefully the Humans didn’t have many casualties.
A calm, if slightly confused, voice came on the speakers. “This is IMS Antelope. Uh, negative on assistance. Why, what is the problem?”
Captain Thraxos looked at his sensor officer, who just spread his arms. Then back to the sensor display, until he finally hit transmit again. “Duhrel to Antelope, did you not just have a catastrophic engine failure?”
“Um. Oh!” There was a sudden realization in the voice on the radio. “Negative Duhrel. That was the detonation of our 50 kiloton nuclear propulsion charge.”
“50 kiloton propulsion?! YOUR SHIP SHITS OUT NUCLEAR BOMBS!?” Captain Thraxos immediately regretted his lapse in decorum, but the sheer insanity of the idea had caught him completely off guard.
“Affirmative Duhrel. Apologies for the confusion. The shaped nuclear charges are used to push against the driveplate at the back of the ship which transfers the momentum imparted to the ship through a staged shock absorber assembly.”
After the convoy had gotten over the shock of the Humans’ propulsion system the rest of the voyage to the jump point had passed quietly. Or as quietly as a fleet trailing a stream of nuclear explosions can go. As had the second and third jumps.
When the convoy appeared in the fourth system on the route, another nondescript nameless star, things rapidly went south. Before the convoy had a chance to start moving a warhead detonated half a million kilometers away from the jump point.
Three pirate cruisers brought up their EM suites and aimed their targeting radars at the merchant convoy. The pirates were well poised about to catch any merchants that chose to try to flee, with each pirate able to cover a large part of the possible trajectories.
An ultimatum was transmitted on all the universal emergency channels. “This is captain Qauk’ats of The Blood Raiders. Stand down your ships and prepare to be boarded. Any resistance will be met with lethal force.”
Captain Thraxos considered his options. The Federation Fleet Command had not anticipated this heavy pirate presence. The previous raids had been performed by single ships each. His light cruiser might be able to take on two of the pirates, depending on how well they were equipped and trained, but all three would be too much. Especially when they were spread out like this, so he would not be able to concentrate his point defences in any single particular direction.
On the other hand he had not yet betrayed that GFN Duhrel was a warship. His ship had been chosen for this because it was roughly the correct size to pass as a medium merchantman. Could he use this to his advantage somehow…
“Lieutenant Coccols, signal the convoy to stand by. Comm laser only, let’s not tip our hands yet.”
Captain Thraxos prayed that none of the merchanters would panic and start running, he was only one ship, he couldn’t be in two places at once to protect everyone.
“Lieutenant Commander Birrai, use passive scanners only. Limit actives to equipment a merchantman could realistically have. Go loud on sensors only if our cover is blown.”
Thraxos was stalling for time and he knew it. He needed something to give him an extra edge somehow. Something, anything. Just one way to neutralize one of the pirate cruisers to even the odds.
On the screen vectors appeared showing the pirate ships starting to accelerate carefully towards the convoy since the convoy seemed to be capitulating. Whatever he comes up with he would have to come up with quickly.
Then the comm officer piped up. “Captain, we have a laser message from IMS Antelope. Captain Nele wants to talk with you.”
Thraxos sighed. Great, he didn’t have time to babysit a panicking merchanter right now. “Signal them to just stand by.”
Few moments later lieutenant Coccols replied. “He’s being very insistent, sir.”
“Fine.” Thraxos grumbled. “Put him on my monitor.”
Captain Thraxos waited until on his screen appeared the image of a middle aged human wearing a black collared suit with a white shirt underneath and a tie around his neck. On his head he had a white hat with a black visor. On the hat was a golden patch with a stylized antelope rimmed with golden stylized ropes.
“Captain Nele, what do you want?” Thraxos tried to hide the annoyance in his voice, but it still leaked through. “We’re kind of busy right now.”
Captain Nele ignored his tone. “Captain Thraxos, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have a suggestion. Am I correct to assume that three pirate ships are too many for you to handle?”
Thraxos hesitated.
Nele sighed. “Captain, this is no time for ego. Is it so?” He looked at Thraxos with stern eyes. “Because if it is, then the Antelope can take on one of them.”
Thraxos’ eyes widened. “What? No, out of the question!”
“Captain, the Antelope’s driveplate is designed to withstand repeated nuclear explosions with minimal ablation. It is tougher than battleship hull. And I bet the pirates don’t know that our ship ‘shits out nuclear bombs’ either as you so eloquently put it.” Nele glared at Thraxos. “I’m not planning to die today after a failed last stand, so one more time: do you need help or not?”
Thraxos glanced to the side. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he did need help. After an agonizingly long moment he turned back to face the other captain. “Yes. You’re right. We can probably take on two, but not all three of them.”
Nele nodded. “Alright. So here’s what I have in mind...”
The control room of the merchantman was spartan compared to the bridge of a warship. Captain Robert Nele was standing next to the sensocomm station looking at the radar plot. His heart raced and he hoped he wasn’t about to do something completely stupid. He glanced around and he knew that the rest of his crew felt the same. But they had to at least try.
He breathed deep once and then exhaled. “Alright Terri, jettison the cargo containers. Arkady, use the azipod thrusters and lets make like bat out of hell.”
The engineer, Terri Grove, hit buttons on her console and a series of thumps echoed throughout the ship. “All containers released.”
Helm officer Arkady Stachowiak used the translation joystick to pull the ship backwards out from between the containers that were now lazily floating in space. “We’re free.” Then he turned the ship to a new heading and fired the azipod manoeuvring thrusters at full. “Batting out of hell.”
The azipod thrusters could be turned to allow the ship to accelerate in almost any direction. They were meant for use near ports for both manoeuvring and mobility where the Antelope couldn’t use her main nuclear pulse engine. Because of this the azipods were unusually powerful for a ship of her size and with the Antelope shed of all her cargo they could give her pretty decent acceleration.
Niels Becker glanced up to the captain standing next to him. “Radio from Duhrel.” He pressed a button to put it on the loudspeakers.
Captain Thraxos’ voice sounded frantic as he yelled at the Antelope. “Get back here Antelope! Didn’t you hear what they said!”
Robert shook himself to get into character. Then he pressed a button on Niels’ station and shouted back in panic. “Fuck that shit! I’m getting the hell out of here! It’s every man for themselves!”
He took a second to steady himself again. “Alright Niels, let’s see which pirate takes the bait. Arkady, once we know who is chasing us, turn us so our driveplate is pointed at them. Make a good show of trying to get away, we need to lure them out far enough.”
“Will do, Bob.” Arkady acknowledged. “I’ll give them a merry chase.”
“Now we just hope they want us disabled and don’t use missiles.” Robert voiced everyone’s concern. “Terri, how are your modifications coming along?”
Without even looking up from her console, Terri replied, “I’ve got the launcher patched. I’ve voided pretty much every warranty we have, but I managed to coax it to load four charges at once. With our biggest bombs that’ll give them a two megaton surprise.”
Robert nodded. “Very good.”
Terri continued, “The bombs turned out to be trickier. I should be able to get their attitude control software overridden, but they also have hardware safeties. I had to send Jonesy to physically bypass them. But that also means he can slap a radio module on them while he’s at it, so we’ll be able to detonate these on command.”
Robert grinned. “Excellent. Great work. Let me know when Jonesy is done with the mods.”
“Aye. Just one last thing. Once we load up any bombs into the launcher, we won’t be able to unload them any more.”
“Alright. Keep the launcher on full manual then and load only on my command for now.”
Niels interjected. “Contact-3 is altering course to intercept. I’ve coloured her pink on the radar plot.”
Robert glanced over at the helm. “Arkady?”
“On it. On our new course they’ll reach weapons range in 52 minutes. By that time we’ll have spent 84% of our manoeuvring propellant.”
Terri winced.
Robert noticed it. “What’s wrong, Terri?”
“Oh, I’m just thinking of our next overhaul. The azipods weren’t meant to be used this hard for this long.”
“Good to see you’re still an optimist.” Arkady commented. As Terri glowered at him, he added, “You think we’re gonna live long enough to service them.”
Terri laughed and the rest of the command crew chuckled.
Their moment of mirth was, however, cut short when Niels announced a message from contact-3.
Antelope, this is captain Mas’ieh of raider Bathed in Blood. Stand down immediately or you will be fired upon. This is your only warning.”
After a moment of silence captain Nele said, “let them eat static.”
It had been a tense half hour as the Antelope had led the pirate raider away from the rest of the group. Once they were too far away for Bathed in Blood to turn back and help his pirate brethren the GFN Duhrel had broken off the convoy and raced to meet the other two pirates.
With all the pieces in motion it was now captain Mas’ieh’s turn to make a choice. He had three choices: continue pressing the Antelope, turn back and attack GFN Duhrel, or turn away and run.
If he turned to attack GFN Duhrel, he would arrive to the battle too late to help Red Mayhem and Dread Rising. If the two ships could not beat Duhrel, then he would face Duhrel on his own and it might go any way depending on how much damage Mayhem and Dread had inflicted on her. If on the other hand Mayhem and Dread managed to destroy Duhrel, then he had just let the Antelope escape for no reason.
If he decided to run, then his chances depended on whether Mayhem and Dread could destroy or disable Duhrel. Duhrel was faster so she would be able to catch up with Bathed in Blood before he could slip out of the system at the next jump point. But if Mayhem and Dread did manage to destroy Duhrel, his attempt to flee would not be looked upon kindly by the leader of the Raiders.
So, no matter what happens his only real option was to press on Antelope. If Mayhem and Dread won against GFN Duhrel, then capturing the Antelope was the most useful thing he could do. If Mayhem and Dread lost to GFN Duhrel, then he was in no better or worse position than if he had turned away from Antelope. He would still have to face Duhrel just the same.
He sent a message to captain Qauk’ats aboard the Red Mayhem with his plan of action to continue chasing the Antelope to make sure she couldn’t escape, and the rationale for taking this action.
What he didn’t mention was that if Mayhem and Dread lost to Duhrel, but damaged her enough for him to destroy her… well, then he would have just become the new leader of The Blood Raiders.
The atmosphere was tense in the control room of the IMS Antelope. Minutes ticked by as the raider Bathed in Blood chased them. Several hundred thousand kilometers away the GFN Duhrel and raiders Red Mayhem and Dread Rising were fast approaching each other.
“Nuclear explosion.” Niels announced suddenly. “The raiders have started firing on GFN Duhrel. I think Duhrel’s point defence got that warhead. It was too far to cause any damage.”
Robert nodded in silence. They could do nothing more to help, that battle was now up to captain Thraxos.
“Two more. This time against contact-2. Their point defence stopped them.”
Thraxos and Duhrel had an advantage. They could fire their magazines empty if they had to without consequence. For the pirates, every missile they shot was invaluable, for they couldn’t just pull in to a naval yard to resupply. But there were still two pirate ships and if their magazines were full, then Duhrel would be in serious trouble.
“No fire for a few moments. I think they were just probing each other at extreme missile range.”
Robert turned to Niels. “How long until Bathed in Blood is in missile range, assuming their range is similar?”
Niels looked at the range plot. “Two minutes.”
Suddenly there was a radiation alarm. Robert looked at Niels with the look of ‘are you sure’ all over his face.
Niels looked at his instruments. “That was ten thousand kilometers away and off to the side. I think it was a warning shot. Negligible radiation dose.”
Robert thought for a moment and weighed his options. “We’ll keep going. Hopefully they won’t waste more missiles on us.”
The uneasy silence returned as more minutes ticked by. Only occasionally broken as Niels reported events of the battle happening far away.
The exchange of fire increased as the combatants got closer. GFN Duhrel was pressing on contact-2, the Dread Rising, and closing the distance as fast as she could. Her point defences were working at near saturation as the two pirates poured missile after missile upon her. But likewise, her missiles pushed the pirate crew aboard the Dread Rising to their limit as well.
“HIT!” Niels exclaimed! “Contact-2 has left behind debris.”
Everyone cheered. A hit was nice, but it wasn’t the end of the battle. Nowhere near. Warships were compartmentalized to the maximum and even a direct warhead hit only crippled them locally.
Soon the flashes of missile warheads were joined by the invisible beams of anti-ship lasers as GFN Duhrel and Dread Rising reached energy weapon range. Both ships took hits to their hull.
Warship armour had diamond threads woven into it, which were as close as you could get to thermal superconductivity. Each time a laser flashed across a panel, the weave would try to spread out the thermal load to try to keep the plating from vaporizing locally where it was hit and hopefully the plate would be able to radiate the heat load away before another hit. But if any plate was saturated by heat, the entire plate would melt all at once.
Niels was able to see thermal spikes on his IR scopes, but his instruments weren’t powerful enough to resolve what effects those hits had. Neither were the instruments of the other merchanters who were relaying their scanner data to the Antelope as well, which let Niels see the Bathed in Blood even though it was in the shadow of their driveplate. Otherwise the plate would have been a blind spot for them, for no sensor could be mounted on it that would be able to withstand the constant bombardment of nuclear fire it was under in normal operation.
They could only guess how the battle was going. Both ships were streaming air and metal behind them. Both ships were hurt, but how badly was anyone’s guess. Then their own trouble started.
Terri frowned. “I think we’ve just been shot at by Bathed in Blood with their lasers. I’m reading an increased thermal load on the driveplate. Activating cooling system.”
Robert swallowed. This was it for them. “Here goes nothing then. Arkady, start jinking with the azipods but make sure the driveplate remains between us. Let’s make it look good and not give them too easy a target.”
“I think we just had a near miss. The driveplate heat load spiked again, but much less. I think only the halo of the laser caught us this time.”
Robert nodded. “Keep going.”
With their overpowered azipods being able to move them laterally in almost any direction the cargoless Antelope was an exceedingly difficult target for the Bathed in Blood to hit compared to a warship. But every jink burned even more of their manoeuvring propellant. They wouldn’t be able to keep this up for too much longer.
“Direct hit on our plate.” Terri announced once more.
“Vent all our airlocks, let’s make them think they hurt us.”
The Antelope shuddered a little as the airlocks blew out a cloud of air around the ship.
“Too bad we didn’t think of loading some junk in them before hand.” Niels commented.
Robert grinned. “Yeah, but this’ll have to do. Terri, load up a 10 kiloton starter charge into the launcher. Next time they score a direct hit, fire it. Arkady, when it goes boom, put us into a spin. Hopefully they’ll think they’ve hit our engines and disabled us.”
“Got it.” Arkady acknowledged.
Terri hit some buttons on her console. “Charge loaded. Arkady, when I say ‘stop’ stop thrusting. I don’t want us to drift out of the driveplate’s shadow before the charge goes off.”
Arkady nodded.
The Bathed in Blood scored a few more near misses and but then the heat on the plate spiked again. A direct hit.
“Stop!” Terri shouted, then hit the button to manually fire the drive once. A few moments later there was a brilliant flash visible to the Bathed in Blood and the Antelope felt the surge of acceleration as the shock absorbers pushed their ship with the momentum of the nuclear explosion in front of them. Arkady immediately used the azipods to give their ship a good bit of spin, making it turn end over end.
This was the moment when Robert bet them all-in. If the pirate cruiser would fire their laser even one more time, they could hull them straight through. For a merchantman had no armour plating cladding it everywhere like a warship did.
The bridge was deathly silent as everyone were holding their breaths. Seconds passed. Then seconds more passed. The recharge time of the pirate’s spinal laser came and went and there was no Earth shattering kaboom. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and the seconds turned into minutes. The pirates wanted a prize and they thought they had it.
Even as the battle lulled here, in the distance, the battle between Duhrel and the pirates raged on.
Captain Thraxos had managed to break the Dread Rising in the laser exchange. The pirate cruiser was a wreck, hulled straight through in multiple places with a large hole where her main powerplant used to be. But Duhrel had suffered greatly as well. On one side her hull had been scoured clean of her point defences. A number of missile launchers were disabled or destroyed and several compartments were open to space as well. She was streaming air as she turned towards the remaining pirate. All the while they continued exchanging as much missile fire as they could.
But the crew of the Antelope had no time to spectate for long. With them ‘disabled’ and dead in space the raider Bathed in Blood had been able to close the remaining distance much faster and they were getting ready to pull up alongside them.
Captain Nele stood at the sensocomm station and watched the plot with officer Becker. He and Niels kept glancing at each other nervously as the distance closed. Getting the final part of their plan correct was critical, for they would only get one chance. Once their element of surprise was lost, they would be sitting ducks to the missiles of the pirate raider.
“Terri, load up the launcher with four of the biggest charges we have. Arkady, once Bathed in Blood is within 10 kilometers, stabilize us and aim the driveplate at him. Terri, once we’re stabilized go to rapid fire on the launcher with as many of the 500 kiloton charges as you can.”
Robert breathed deep to calm himself. “Detonate the charges when you think is optimal, or if it seems they’ve spotted our ruse. Let’s hope this works.”
Terri nodded and worked frantically on her console to execute the instructions. She would have to program the bombs to rotate to face Bathed in Blood instead of their own driveplate. She’d replaced the normal inertial stabilizing software with her own and uploaded it to the bombs, but she still had to compute the difference based on her best guess where the Bathed in Blood would be in relation to them when the bombs would be triggered. The bombs couldn’t do it themselves, since they had no external sensors, only gyros so they knew their own orientation and nothing else.
“20 kilometers.” Niels announced.
Time seemed to crawl as every person ran on adrenaline.
“15 kilometers.”
Arkady held the stick, ready to execute. He had already turned the azipods ready to cancel their rotation, but then he would have to turn to face the pirate cruiser.
“12 kilometers. 11 kilometers. 10 kilometers.”
Arkady waited for a moment more before he pulled on the stick to make sure they would stop as close to the target attitude as possible. The ship heaved as the azipods worked to halt its turn. With the spin nulled, Arkady then rolled the ship so the azipods wouldn’t have to slew to a new direction before he could point the ship towards the pirate. He wanted to shave every second he could.
“On target!” Arkady announced.
Terri hit the button to execute the program. “Launching.”
The whole operation had took only seconds and the pirates were caught completely off guard. The pirate ship took no action as the four little elongated spheres flew toward it from the little hole in the middle of the Antelope’s massive driveplate. A few seconds later another group of spheres flew out and another.
The pirate ship finally stopped their approach with their manoeuvring thrusters and started to turn their spinal laser to point at the not-as-disabled-as-they-thought merchantman to finish them off.
Terri waited until the last moment possible before the first group of nukes would drift past the pirate and put the ship out of the cone of their shaped charges. Then she pressed the fire button. “Firing!”
A dozen 500 kt nukes exploded in unison at point blank range to the pirate cruiser. Six megatons total of nuclear fury. But these weren’t just nukes, they were shaped charges with most of the blast directed forward through a heavy layer of tungsten that was turned into vapour and shot as plasma towards the hapless pirate whose hull did not have the heavy reinforcement the Antilope’s own driveplate did.
At point blank range this barrage could have hulled a battleship.
Then a few seconds later another 2 megaton barrage exploded. Then another.
Bathed in Blood finally finished turning to bring their spinal laser on the merchantman, but it did not stop. It continued to turn, its laser remaining dark. A cloud of air and debris surrounded the hulk of the pirate ship.
Then the fourth barrage of bombs hit their main powerplant and Bathed in Blood split in two as the reactor amidships exploded.
Sound of debris rang all around the Antelope as the explosion pushed against its driveplate, pushing the ship harmlessly away from the destroyed hulk of the pirate cruiser.
“Holy. Fucking. Shit.” Niels mouthed as he looked at his sensor screen.
Captain Robert Nele walked over to his chair and collapsed into it as the tension of the adrenaline in his system disappeared. Everyone on the bridge deflated as if they had been balloons from which the air had been let out.
“Reload the drive with propulsive charges, get us the fuck out of here.” Robert breathed heavy with relief.
Terri fired the last modified charges to clear the launcher. Her hand shook as she hovered over the fire button. She couldn’t bring herself to press it, not any more. The pirate ship was already more than destroyed. She let the nukes drift away past the wreck as she adjusted the loading priority for the launcher and reset it to standard automatic operation.
In few seconds the first 10 kt charge aimed at their own plate fired and pushed them away. Terri let the computer take over and soon the Antelope picked up speed at great rate, galloping away from the broken and hulled wreck of the pirate ship like her namesake. Empty of cargo even the lightest charges accelerated her like she was an olympic sprinter. The direction didn’t matter, as long as it was away.
They’d already forgotten the battle that had been going on elsewhere.
Ten minutes later the numb silence in the control room was broken by a radio call.
GFN Duhrel to IMS Antelope. Captain Nele, what is your status?”
As IMS Antelope joined back with the convoy, GFN Duhrel pulled up to alongside her. Or what was left of GFN Duhrel. The battle with the pirates had taken a tremendous toll on the light cruiser. There was nary a square meter on her hull that wasn’t scarred by battle damage. There was a large gash along one side and even a hole clear through her. The other side was scoured clean of her hull mounted weapons and sensors and several compartments were open to space. Over third of her crew were dead. It was a small miracle she was still flying at all.
But the pirate fleet had paid even more dearly. All three cruisers floated dead in space as wasted, hulled wrecks. Bathed in Blood lay in twain with her spine broken. Dread Rising was missing an entire quarter of the ship where the powerplant had used to be. And Red Mayhem lay shattered in pieces after multiple missile hits when Duhrel had finally managed to overwhelm her point defences.
There were very few survivors from the pirate fleet, and even fewer who had wanted to be a survivor. Only fifteen lifepods had been launched from the hulks, out of their total crew of a hundred and twenty. The rest had perished in the battle, or chosen to perish in the hulks. The survivors’ pods would be picked up in due time to face justice for their actions.
Captain Thraxos watched the Human ship on his screen and saluted. The Antelope may have been old and tarnished, she may have looked odd and ugly, but right now captain Thraxos was proud to have her and her crew in his fleet. She was no longer part of the convoy, she was one of its protectors. And it was thanks to her that they had triumphed today against insurmountable odds.
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Meet The Freak 2

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Wallace
Turns out, I wasn't invited to lunch.
Not with Temerity and the visiting fey at least. Likely they were speaking business and weren't keen on anyone listening in.
Instead, I was invited to a separate dining room, to eat with who I guessed were the ranking men in the manor. There were neither fey nor sprites present, but there were half a dozen of the blue-skinned elves.
And look like proper elves they did. Again I wondered about what colour their blood might be, but the odd colour aside, they fit the mould. Temerity's hair had fallen to cover the tops of her ears, but one of the men at the table had his pulled back in a ponytail, and I saw that his ears came to fine points. They also had an ethereal androgynous look that reminded me of the elves from the Lord of the Rings movies. Whether that was just how they looked, or a product of living in what I guessed was a more female-dominated society was hard to say.
Servants, all of them men, came through several times with food and drink. I ate everything put in front of me but turned down the offered wine and ale. Resilient as I was, it was a little early in the day for me to start drinking. Much of the food was foreign to me, which tickled that part of me that detested disruption to my routine, but I reminded myself of the task at hand.
My lunch partners seemed reluctant to strike up a conversation with me, and honestly, that suited me just fine. If I'd known that I wouldn't be invited to join Temerity and the two fey noblewomen, then I likely would have taken my meal in my room. Or perhaps the library, assuming Temerity had one. But it was a large enough manor, so I figured it was a safe bet. In any case, everyone in the manor, with the notable exception of the fey women and their retinue, were servants in some form or fashion of Temerity. And if I started trying to prise information out of them, then they were likely to mention it to her, causing me yet more trouble.
A more artful conversationalist might have been able to get the information without arousing suspicion. But I wasn't an artful conversationalist, so when given a chance to speak, I listened instead.
"I heard that the baroness is trying to hire a few of the gnomes to run the chain lift each The Long Night," said one man, seated on the right of the table.
Rectus, I decided, would be his name.
"The baroness wastes the city's money. Were the Duchess in charge she wouldn't bother with such trifles," insisted the man seated across from him, Laevus, I decided, was as good a name as any.
"Perhaps the baroness intends to receive gnomish caravans during The Long Night?" Rectus suggested, "Or maybe she just wants to make the summiting easier for those who arrive at the base of the mountain after dusk. I've had to make the climb in the dark before, I nearly came off the path half a dozen times, and I was on foot. Just imagine what it would be like trying to take a wagon full of goods up to the city, such a climb takes uncommon bravery."
"Common stupidity more like," Laevus retorted, "If a merchant finds himself at the foot of the mountain after dusk, more fool him. Plan better, and such things wouldn't happen. The baroness wastes her money to care for fools who should know better."
"What about the gnomes then? The darkness doesn't bother them, and may as well have their own people run the lift to bring up their caravans. I'd certainly like to eat this well every day," Rectus replied, gesturing at his meal, "But no one other than the gnomes wants to travel during The Long Night, so for much of the week we're reduced to common fare while we wait for caravans from Pelignos."
"Fine," Laevus waved a hand dismissively, aggrieved that Rectus had won the argument, "But the gnomes should pay for it. If the baroness is going to have a bunch of the little green bastards sleeping all day and working one night a week, then their people should pay the fees to run their racketous contrivance."
I stayed a little while longer, but beyond an off-hand reference to 'goblins', I didn't learn much more of note. Two more species potentially meant two more cities though, so that was promising.
Excusing myself, and with little else to do, I decided to find out about that library I'd been pondering the existence of. And as I wandered, I pondered some more.
A little self-conscious of the design, I'd tucked the necklace into the front of my shirt, but brought it out now to get a better look at it. Nothing about it suggested the presence of the magic inside, but it was certainly doing something. But what exactly?
'Goblin', was that really an English word, or was it more like a name? A proper noun, I suppose, was a better way of phrasing it. Why should any given proper noun, the name of a species in this case, translate so easily to English? Was the necklace just picking something that seemed close enough? The elves, for example. They looked like elves, and matriarchy aside, seemed to act about like I expected elves to act. Is that why the necklace had picked that name for them? The goblins then, were they evil, as I might expect them to be? Did the necklace even understand so complicated a concept? For all I knew it plugged into the wearer's pop-culture knowledge to facilitate translation.
A helpful servant found me wandering the halls and pointed me in the direction of Temerity's library. It was as I was following those directions, ducking every few steps to avoid the roof beams, that I happened to pass the private dining room where Temerity was entertaining her guests. I couldn't make out the words but did hear the muffled hum of voices through the door.
I considered crouching by the door to peek through the keyhole, maybe see if I could hear anything, but ultimately thought better of it. For all I knew, Temerity was the sort of noble that was willing to order someone killed for such a transgression.
I wasn't in Canada any more, and I had to remember that. Back home, protecting people's rights meant striving to treat everyone equally. In a society like this, protecting someone's rights meant guaranteeing their power over those below them in the social hierarchy. As a commoner, a homeless commoner no less, I didn't fancy my chances if I went and got a Duchess good and mad at me.
Turns out I made the right choice because I had only taken a couple more steps when I heard the door open behind me. I turned to see Temerity step out into the hallway, the two fey noblewomen and a couple of servants filing out behind her.
It took only a glance to see that the two fey women were twins. Faintly purple skin and dark purple hair gave the two of them a sort of night elf vibe, though unlike in World of Warcraft, their ears didn't stick up six inches. Too bad for them I suppose, as it might have made up for their short stature. Standing next to Temerity, they looked like a couple of kids.
They had soft, round, features, with slight cheekbones and a jaw that came to a delicate point. Again, it was quite the contrast from Temerity, with her prominent cheekbones and a jawline that you could cut yourself on.
It was about there that the similarities ended however, identical twins or not, I found it hard to see how the two fey could be more different.
The more animated of the two, who even now was carrying on some conversation with Temerity about silk imports, was dressed in what I guessed was a more conventional style for her species. I'd already built this idea in my head of the fey being akin to some Greco-Roman city-state, built on the backs of their slaves, and what the sister wore fit that theme.
Was toga the right word? For me at least the word conjured images of frat boys wrapped in bedsheets, but on the other hand, it did look a little like she'd just wrapped herself up in a bunch of silk. Despite covering the whole of her, the garment, if it even was a garment, left little to the imagination. The thin white silk clung to her slight body, and it was only the way that the voluminous silk would gather in folds that maintained any degree of modesty.
Her sister, by comparison, was a world apart. She wore a blue flight suit whose colours had faded to a near grey. It wasn't some medieval equivalent either, it was an actual modern flight suit, maybe a couple of decades out of date by my reckoning, but a flight suit all the same. It also looked like it had been made with someone more Temerity's size in mind. The sleeves and legs had both been rolled up, but even with that done, it was still too long in the body for her. With it zipped up to the neck, she seemed almost to disappear inside. Her hair too was different, while her sister let her hair fall down her back in waves, the one in the flight suit had pulled it into a tight braid and tucked into the neck of her flight suit.
It gave her a stern look, and while her sister seemed happy to carry on with Temerity, I caught a familiar expression on her face. An expression I knew I often wore myself. It was the expression of someone who was trying to be polite, trying to be cordial, maybe even sociable, but whose patience with the whole situation was quickly wearing thin. I knew that when I got looking like that was about when I started trying to find some way to escape.
So I wasn't too surprised when flight suit girl met my gaze, spared a glance at her sister, and then took a step my way. The sister caught her arm though, much in the way one might with a child who was trying to run off, and 'encouraged' her to come along as she followed Temerity down the corridor, still discussing silk.
What did surprise me was the intensity of the look she gave me as her sister was leading her away. It wasn't anger, more like purpose. She'd said nothing, but had made sure I knew that she had some unfinished business with me.
So I did what I usually did when a cute girl showed some interest in me. I forgot about the whole thing and found something more interesting to occupy myself with. Like a library, for example.
The library was, in a word, disappointing.
Now that's not to say there weren't a lot of books, because there were, and usually, that would be enough. I liked the libraries back home, but they were all very modern. Not typically something a software developer would complain about, but when I imagined a library, I saw in my mind's eye carpeted floors with solid wooden bookshelves six or more feet high and books packed onto every shelf. Modern city libraries, they were more like computer labs and meeting spaces that just happened to contain some short metal bookshelves.
The manor's library, by comparison, was precisely what I imagined a library should be. And every book I picked up was a complete waste of time.
I'd been here for an hour, sorting through shelves, and still had not found a single text that had been written since the city's arrival in this new world. There were historical texts written about kingdoms that may as well not exist any more, useless maps of planets I'd never see, and about a hundred novels that I really didn't have the time for.
Now that's not to say it wasn't interesting. Important even. But useful it wasn't.
I currently stood within a priceless treasure trove, very likely every book I touched was effectively one of a kind. Perhaps there'd be the occasional copy in a household elsewhere in the city, but most of this collection was going to be unique. A true history of another world, stories from a lost culture, with this the only record of what was. It was beyond priceless, and completely useless.
I made sure that each book I skimmed went back into the exact place I'd taken it from, but it wasn't long before I was simply glancing at the titles.
There weren't any books on magic either, which was total nonsense. The whole reason to have a library in a fantasy world was to fill it with stuff about magic.
Valentine
Finding the right room had been a chore, particularly since it wasn't as if I could ask a servant where to go. The last thing I needed was Temerity knowing what I was up to until I was good and gone. Thankfully the room itself was out of the way, and a servant would only be down this corridor if they had business here as well, which I certainly hoped they didn't.
Upon stepping inside, I immediately understood why this particular bedroom was so out of the way, and why the inside of the door was padded.
And there was the human, sprawled across the bed, and passed out cold in the middle of the afternoon.
Temerity had mentioned him at lunch, Wallace, she'd said his name was. Just hearing about him had given me hope. This trip had come a week late, which meant that instead of having a whole week to hire mercenaries, I had until tomorrow morning. I might be able to get a couple of sellswords on such a schedule, but I wouldn't have nearly the time I'd need to vet them, and if I were pursued they likely wouldn't be enough to see off anyone who might trouble me. Besides, for all I knew, they'd be as much a danger to me as anything I might find beyond the city walls.
But then Temerity had gone on, at considerable length, about the handsome young gallant she'd rescued. The descriptions of his glossy hair and alabaster skin I endured, but the retelling of him laying out a sprite with a single blow, now that piqued my interest.
That interest solidified into a plan once I spotted him in the hall afterwards.
I could scarcely believe he was human. I had only Simon to compare him to, but the two of them may as well have been different species. The difference between Wallace and Simon was like the difference between myself and Temerity, and the two of us were different species. Simon was of a kind with Temerity, as they both seemed to be at the limit of what a person could naturally achieve. And when Simon used magic to enhance his body, any reasonable person would assume that he was stretching the limits of what a person could supernaturally achieve.
And then along came Wallace, who made even a powered up Simon look... middling.
My excitement at meeting the man was tempered when I saw him out cold on top of the bed. He'd managed to get his shoes off before passing out, but that was it. Laying there dishevelled and slack-jawed, he didn't quite strike the same imposing figure as he had in the hall.
If he's as much a layabout as Simon-
I quelled the thought. Gods damn him, I didn't have time for this.
I jostled his shoulder, or tried to. It was like trying to move a boulder, and he slept on, oblivious of my presence.
"Wake, damn you," I swore, and jabbed him in the stomach.
The creature came awake with a pained groan, and I jabbed him in the stomach again.
"What the hell?" he mumbled blearily.
I went to jab him again but was gently and inexorably pushed away.
"Lady, could you just not?" he said through a yawn.
"On your feet," I demanded, "I'm here to rescue you."
"What?" he asked blankly.
He was more wakeful now, but my statement turned out not to be the gut punch I'd been hoping for.
"I'm here to rescue you," I repeated, "We only have so much time to prepare."
He squinted at me, sighed, and then sat up with his legs hanging over the side of the bed.
"Thanks," he replied hesitantly, "But I think I'm good."
"You think- Do you realize where you are right now?" I demanded, "You know that Temerity has certain things in mind for you, don't you?"
Wallace opened his mouth to say something, but just sighed and shrugged at me.
"I cannot believe this," I seethed, "Are all humans so lazy?"
"Lazy? Lady, take a good look around," he insisted, spreading his hands out wide, "I got dropped off on this world this morning. Nearly died, twice now actually, but was lucky enough to end up here. I've actually given it some thought, and I'm pretty sure that this might be the safest and nicest place to be on this entire planet. If Temerity hadn't picked me up, I'd either still be stumbling about the wilderness, or best case, probably staying at the absolute worst hole-in-the-wall inn that the city has to offer. Instead of straw bedding and slop for supper, I've got silk sheets and catered meals. And yeah, so maybe Temerity's going to feel entitled to certain things, but I'm an adult and I can take care of myself. And you know what," he added with a shrug, "I don't think I really mind the idea either. I appreciate the sentiment I guess, but after lucking into the best deal I'm gonna get, I don't think it's a great idea to go prancing off..." he threw up his hands, "wherever, just because Temerity is a bit of a princess."
"If you stay here suckling at Temerity's teat you are never going to leave," I insisted, struggling not to grit my teeth, "Not until she gets bored and finds something else to entertain herself with. At which point you'll have no money, nothing to your name, and no idea as to what's beyond the walls of the manor. I bet you don't even know what we use for money. Maybe if you're lucky or clever, you'll get to poke around the city a bit, but Temerity isn't interested in helping you get your feet underneath you. In fact, she wants rather the opposite. Are you really telling me that you don't have any problem with Temerity keeping you as a pet?"
Wallace closed his eyes and rubbed at his temples. He sat there for a long moment, pondering, and then he opened his eyes and lifted his shirt.
I was taken aback at first, and was half-ready to blast him on the spot, thinking for a moment that he was going to pull the sort of nonsense that Simon was known to do. But it took only a glance to understand his intent. His abdomen, well-muscled as it was, was mottled with livid black bruises. What I could see of his chest was much the same, and I felt a pang of guilt for the roughness with which I'd treated him. I don't think I would have had the patience to be quite so gentle if someone had done the same to me.
"Lady, I don't know who you are, I don't know who Temerity is, and really I have no idea what the fuck is going on. Maybe you're telling the truth, maybe you're full of shit, how the hell would I know?" he sighed, "For all I know, you both might be terrible. What I do know is that if anyone else went through what I did this morning, they'd be dead. If Temerity turns out to be a problem, well I can deal with her when I stop feeling like ground beef," Wallace shrugged again, and winced, "The only things that got me up and moving since arriving have been food and the hope that I might learn a little magic. Well, I'm not hungry anymore, and the magic thing didn't pan out. I appreciate the concern," he said honestly, "But I'm confident that if I really want to walk out of here, then there's nothing Temerity can do to stop me. As for money and all the rest, if I need to figure that out on the fly, then I will. But for now, I'm in no condition to be running off anywhere."
He might have time to wait around, but I certainly didn't. If Vivian hadn't let our plan slip, then perhaps I'd be fine. Unfortunately, mine was not the only trade caravan on it's way to the city, and odds were good that the next one was going to be accompanied by someone who'd put together the pieces that Vivian had left lying around.
I just- Dammit, no matter how I looked at things I didn't see a way out for me if I lost another week. The week would give me time to put a team together, but I'd not get the chance to leave.
Today was Dark Even', and either I could leave tomorrow, which would be the morning of Last Light, or I'd have to wait around another week for Last Light to come again. But the other fey would be arriving next Dark Even', likely late in the evening. So what, I'd have to try to hide out in the city overnight? In the end it wouldn't matter, there was only one path down from the mountains, and they'd be sure to catch me before I could get clear.
The big stupid solution to all my problems was sitting right in front of me, I just had to figure out how to-
The big stupid solution to all my problems let out a sigh and fixed me with a long-suffering gaze, "Alright, spit it out."
"Excuse me?" I demanded.
"A lot of people look at me and assume I'm pretty dumb. Just a big brute, but here's the thing. Life isn't fair, so it turns out I'm also pretty damn clever. So, whoever it is you are, what is it you'd like me to rescue you from."
"I do not require rescue," I growled, "And you may address me as Lady Valentine."
"Come on Val," he teased wearily, "we'll call it a mutual rescue."
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. It seemed Wallace was even more irreverent than Simon, "How much do you know about fey?"
"I know you keep the sprites as slaves," he began evenly, a cold hostility whispered at in his tone, "I know there's another human kicking around your city and that he's got a decent amount of political power, and I'm pretty sure that you guys can do some sort of freaky pheromone thing."
"It's the men who keep the slaves," I replied quickly, "But otherwise you seem to have the general idea, what about this world itself?"
"Well for some reason, this city is atop a mountain, and yet no one bothers to farm in the valley below. Doesn't make a whole lotta sense, the big blue gas giant is pretty cool though."
"Gas giant?" I wondered, but set that thought aside for the time being.
"It makes sense once you know that every morning, just before dawn, a tide sweeps across the landscape, scouring it right down to bedrock. If you're not up high enough when that happens, then in all likelihood, you're dead. I imagine you saw the green mist that welled up right before you were brought here, that same mist follows the tide, replacing everything that was just swept away."
"How does anyone grow enough food?" Wallace frowned, "Unless they've got a whole lot of terraced farms, I can't imagine how the elves are feeding themselves."
"They're not feeding themselves, we are," I explained, "Parabuteo ended up on a mountain, but we found ourselves atop a mesa. We have more than enough farmland to feed both our cities, and Vivian and I own all that farmland."
Wallace furrowed his brows, and I clarified, "Land passes down female lines, slaves down male lines."
"And I'm guessing the men with all the slaves don't want your sister to end up as the sole landholder?" Wallace guessed.
"Exactly. Simon may try to throw a wrench into things, but Vivian very well could end up ruling the city if she simply marries all the largest slaveholders."
"All?" Wallace repeated, eyebrows raised.
"One man can have multiple wives, or one woman can have multiple husbands," I explained, "It depends on how the balance of land and slaves works out."
"And you're about to royally screw with that balance by giving everything to your sister," Wallace realized.
"Well she will be paying me for the privilege, I'm not giving it away, but yes, you're correct."
"Still doesn't explain why you're in such a hurry to leave right this moment," he pointed out.
"They know," I said simply, "And I don't want to leave this moment, as I said the tide comes through each morning. I want to leave tomorrow just after dawn. We would have until then to prepare."
"How far do you expect to get in a single day? Or are we going to spend our evening trying to climb a mountain after travelling all day- Assuming I agree that is," he added.
I stifled a small smile. This might just work, but it was still too early to celebrate.
"How do the days of the week work where you're from?" I asked.
"How do they work?" Wallace asked, "Well there's the weekdays, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, that's when most people have to work, then the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. Some people still work those days if they're doing shift work or something, but typically the weekend is your time off."
"I don't care about work schedules, I mean how does the weekly cycle affect how dark the nights are or whether the sun is out during the day," I insisted.
"They... don't?" Wallace asked hesitantly, and then exclaimed, "Oh, of course! The phases of the gas giant."
I frowned, he seemed a little excited for so simple a concept, "Is there something special about The Father that The Gas Giant lacked?"
"Gas giant isn't a name," he explained earnestly, "It's a type of planet, there are actually four gas giants in the Sol system. The Father, as you guys call it, would be another. Looks a lot like Neptune or a palette-swapped Jupiter actually-" then he stopped himself short, "Okay," he began once again, forcing himself to relax, "I could go on for hours about astronomy, but aside from not having the time, I'm still awfully sore. So here's the bit that matters, Earth, where I come from, doesn't have anything like The Father. We've got a moon, but it's an awful lot smaller than the Earth and isn't large enough to make much difference in how the days and nights work out. I'm guessing that's not the case here though."
"Quite right. First of all, there are six days, not seven," I began, hesitating when Wallace pushed himself up to start rifling through drawers, "Ah, what are you looking for?"
"Paper, and something to write with," he replied.
I unzipped one of the pockets on my left thigh, "Here," I offered, "All you're likely to find in there are Temerity's toys."
He coloured quite a bit that, but he took the paper and spread it out on a nearby table.
"First Light and Dark Morn'' are the first two days. The night between begins fairly bright as The Father is in the sky, but he sets around midnight, leaving the landscape all but pitch black until dawn. It's possible to travel by the light of The Father if pressed, and only the gnomes make a habit of travelling at night without him."
"I take it they can see in the dark?"
I nodded, "They live underground most times anyway, so they're not put off by it. Anyhow, the next two nights, between Dark Morn' and Full Light, and then Full Light and Dark Even' are both lit by The Father from dusk till dawn. Dark Even' is as it sounds, as once dusk falls it's pitch black once again until midnight when The Father rises once again. After Dark Even' comes Last Light, and when the sun goes down at dusk of The Last Light it remains dark all through The Long Night, right through until dawn of First Light."
"So," Wallace began distractedly, still scribbling on the parchment I'd given him, "Thirty-six hours of uninterrupted darkness?"
"Yes, and as dawn does not come during The Long Night, neither does the tide to sweep everything away."
Wallace paused, "That's not how tides work."
"Start praying," I suggested, "You may take it up with the gods."
Wallace shrugged, "I suppose that weirdly scheduled tides aren't the strangest thing I've come across today. Is this about right?"
I looked over Wallace's diagram and nodded, "Yes, that's about right."
"So from dawn on Last Light until dawn on First Light you've got forty-eight hours to travel, as long as you're willing to brave the dark? That's your plan?"
"Yes. Last time I was here I was able to get atop the clocktower, and I spied an area that's high enough to be safe. I can see the same place from the gnomish city as well. But it's two days journey from either city."
"So to get there you'd need to travel during The Long Night," Wallace understood, "But then how does anyone ever get between cities otherwise? Are we only a day away from Pelignos?"
I pulled a scroll tube from a hip pocket and unrolled the parchment within, "Here, this should give you a better understanding. Between each of the cities are several rest stops, this map doesn't show all of them, just the ones I know about. They're each a day's travel from the next rest stop or the closest city. All the routes I know about put three rest stops between each city, so it's a four-day journey from one city to either of the others."
"This is a map?" Wallace asked incredulously, "It looks more like a scrap of parchment with some scribbles."
"Maybe it's a little conceptual for you," I retorted, "but it shows what matters. The 'X' on the map is where I intend to go. It should be safe, and hopefully, no one will have any clue where I- we, escaped to."
"Okay, two questions. First, what do you mean should be, and second, why won't they know where we went?"
I grimaced, perhaps that was not the best choice of words, "I do not know if your people are familiar with it, but the gnomes have a type of mathematics that uses triangles to calculate angles and distances-"
"Trigonometry," Wallace replied, "That's why you went up the tower? You did the calculations to estimate the height to tell if it's safe or not?"
"Yes, both from here and Caniforma. My results give plenty of leeway, not as much as being up a mountain, but more than enough to be safe. Furthermore, I was able to sight the same building both times, several weeks apart. If my maths were wrong, then the building should have been swept away."
He nodded slowly, "Okay, makes sense, but how do you know they won't follow?"
"Two reasons, first, they'll think I've headed for Caniforma. It makes the most sense as the gnomes and goblins who live there are the least fond of the ruling class of Pelignos. They'll assume I'm seeking shelter there. The second reason is that no one else is confident enough to make such a trip to an unknown rest stop."
"See, you said confident, but I sorta feel like you meant crazy," Wallace observed, "I'm guessing there's a reason that this place you spotted is unexplored."
"You see these rest stops near Pelignos?" I asked, pointing to the map once again, "The ones that don't seem to lead directly to either of the two cities? They're what scavenging parties use to range out further from the city, looking for anything useful dropped off by the morning mists. Each was first located and explored by one of the survey teams. But survey teams, from any city, only venture out to brand new rest stops during The Long Night. That way if they get there and find it isn't actually suitable, they've time to make it back."
"And no one's been crazy enough to head for your new spot because if they're wrong, there's no room for error. You either make it and it's safe-"
"Or you die," I finished.
"Yup, you definitely meant crazy."
"It's safe," I insisted, "I told you, if it wasn't-"
"The building would have been swept away," he finished, "Sure, probably. But your plan still has us travelling during thirty-six hours of complete darkness, and I'm not exactly in the best of health. Couldn't you just go to this middle rest stop here?" he asked, pointing at the one directly between Caniforma and Parabuteo, "And then cut across to the 'X'?"
"I told you, the map's conceptual," I replied, "They're not as close as they look, and there isn't actually a route between the two. That would rather defeat the point after all. The whole reason I want to head for this spot is that it's out of the way. If someone has found a rest stop that connects it to the rest of the network then they've done a good job of keeping it secret. I need to get there and lay low while Vivian secures her hold on power. Once she's got things under control, then it'll be safe for me to be seen in one of the cities. And it's not as if I haven't done this before. I got this garment," I insisted, tugging at the collar of my odd clothing, "when I was with a survey team."
"A flight suit," Wallace explained, "It's called a flight suit."
"And it's just one of the treasures I've found. I know what I'm doing Wallace, this is a trip we can make."
"Is one of the other treasures a pair of night-vision goggles?" Wallace asked pointedly, though I could see his enthusiasm waning.
"For light, I have magic."
He perked up a bit at that, and I took a gamble.
When Simon had first arrived, long before he'd started vying for political power within the city, he'd begun collecting spellcasters. Female spellcasters, of course, this was Simon after all, but for a long time he'd pursued magic at the expense of everything else. Even now, on his rise to power, the easiest way for some family to get in his good graces was to provide him with a new sorceress. If Simon had an insatiable appetite for magic, then perhaps...
"And if you come with me, I'll teach it to you."
Wallace groaned and put his head in his hands. Not exactly the reaction I'd been expecting.
"Man, this is going to suck," Wallace breathed, "Alright dammit, I'm in."
submitted by ThisHasNotGoneWell to HFY [link] [comments]

How to build a startup in the most efficient way

Hi guys! I wrote a little article about building a new product. Looking forward for your feedback!
According to the statistic, 95% of the startups fail. It causes because of different reasons. However, the most spreading reason it’s unknowing of how to develop the product efficiently. Before building a new product, you need to know some steps of how to build your startup and launch to the market quickly.
1.Idea
An idea worth nothing, but you should make sure that your solution is needed by other people, not just by you. You can prove your idea by talking to your target audience. Find out if they really need your product and how much they would be willing to pay for it. However, there are some things you should be aware of, which you can learn how to avoid by reading the book titled “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick
. Later I’ll write an article with a summary of this book for our community.
You can also use tools such as Wix, Tilda, etc. to validate your idea.
At this stage, software development is barely a requirement.
2.POC
POC, an acronym for proof of concept, is the first step to consider before moving ahead with the development process. As the name implies, proof of concept is proof that the idea is feasible and can be converted into a product. A proof-of-concept will cover a small part, not the entire system. Moreover, users will never get to see it because POCs are used internally to clarify which way to go with the development. You can also consider building a POC to get seed-stage funding.
3.Prototype
A prototype is a draft version of the product that focuses on user experience and semantics. The word prototype originates from a Greek word that means “in a primitive form”. Similar to a POC, a prototype’s main purpose is to help you make decisions about product development and reduce the number of mistakes. However, there are key differences. While a POC offers you a model of just one aspect of the product, a prototype is a working model of several aspects of the product. The development team usually uses prototyping to discover errors in the system. By building a prototype, they test the product’s design, usability, and often functionality. With a proof of concept, you can’t do that, because it’s smaller and can verify only a single issue.
4.MVP
MVP, an acronym for a minimum viable product, is a workable version resembling the final product but loaded with only the essential features. Any further product developments and feature additions are then based on continuous valuable feedback that flows in from end-users. As the MVP is delivered to the market right away, it has to be simple and well-polished, without any bugs or other problems.
During the PoC, Prototype & MVP stages it’s better to outsource development, than use an in-house team, as you’ll probably need to do several iterations during the user-testing phase. While you test your solution, your developers won’t bet working, but the convention is to still pay them.
5.Product
When you have gathered all the feedback from your customers and have made the product almost perfect for them, you should concentrate on marketing and sales. At this stage, it’s more important to build your in-house team, as you need to support your product, and add new features.
Conclusion
New product development is like experimenting with a vision in mind. It requires commitment, cadence, awareness, and knowledge of how you need to move ahead with the process. The process starts with laying the foundation right, i.e., idea, creating a proof of concept, and a prototype, followed by an MVP. At all of these stages, you should use your resources in a lean way. And always remember the phrase: "If you think, that you can't make something for free, think again :)"
Good luck with launching your startups, folks!
submitted by tarik_unicorn to startup [link] [comments]

How to build a startup in the most efficient way?

According to the statistic, 95% of the startups fail. It causes because of different reasons. However, the most spreading reason it’s unknowing of how to develop the product efficiently. Before building a new product, you need to know some steps of how to build your startup and launch to the market quickly.
1.Idea
An idea worth nothing, but you should make sure that your solution is needed by other people, not just by you. You can prove your idea by talking to your target audience. Find out if they really need your product and how much they would be willing to pay for it. However, there are some things you should be aware of, which you can learn how to avoid by reading the book titled “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick
. Later I’ll write an article with a summary of this book for our community.
You can also use tools such as Wix, Tilda, etc. to validate your idea.
At this stage, software development is barely a requirement.
2.POC
POC, an acronym for proof of concept, is the first step to consider before moving ahead with the development process. As the name implies, proof of concept is proof that the idea is feasible and can be converted into a product. A proof-of-concept will cover a small part, not the entire system. Moreover, users will never get to see it because POCs are used internally to clarify which way to go with the development. You can also consider building a POC to get seed-stage funding.
3.Prototype
A prototype is a draft version of the product that focuses on user experience and semantics. The word prototype originates from a Greek word that means “in a primitive form”. Similar to a POC, a prototype’s main purpose is to help you make decisions about product development and reduce the number of mistakes. However, there are key differences. While a POC offers you a model of just one aspect of the product, a prototype is a working model of several aspects of the product. The development team usually uses prototyping to discover errors in the system. By building a prototype, they test the product’s design, usability, and often functionality. With a proof of concept, you can’t do that, because it’s smaller and can verify only a single issue.
4.MVP
MVP, an acronym for a minimum viable product, is a workable version resembling the final product but loaded with only the essential features. Any further product developments and feature additions are then based on continuous valuable feedback that flows in from end-users. As the MVP is delivered to the market right away, it has to be simple and well-polished, without any bugs or other problems.
During the PoC, Prototype & MVP stages it’s better to outsource development, than use an in-house team, as you’ll probably need to do several iterations during the user-testing phase. While you test your solution, your developers won’t bet working, but the convention is to still pay them.
5.Product
When you have gathered all the feedback from your customers and have made the product almost perfect for them, you should concentrate on marketing and sales. At this stage, it’s more important to build your in-house team, as you need to support your product, and add new features.
Conclusion
New product development is like experimenting with a vision in mind. It requires commitment, cadence, awareness, and knowledge of how you need to move ahead with the process. The process starts with laying the foundation right, i.e., idea, creating a proof of concept, and a prototype, followed by an MVP. At all of these stages, you should use your resources in a lean way. And always remember the phrase: "If you think, that you can't make something for free, think again :)"
Good luck with launching your startups, folks!
Link to the article: https://edicasoft.com/weblog/2020/07/09/how-to-build-your-startup/
submitted by tarik_unicorn to Business_Ideas [link] [comments]

Legacy Pt 2

Source: https://www.bungie.net/en/News/Article/48825

CONTINGENCY

EN ROUTE: URANUS – CAELUS STATION
OUTER BAND — LOCATION INCONCLUSIVE
“I was able to pull some data from those Exo samples.” Jinju perches on the cockpit dashboard. Two tech mites crawl over her shell.
Their jump-ship plummets through fractalescent polychrome luge, ripping across the sable pitch of space at blistering speed.
Ana leans back in her pilot seat, one knee pulled to her chest. She watches strands of shimmer bend around the hull. A bobble-owl jiggles along as the ship shivers, underneath it: Camrin, in frame.
“Hit me.” Her eyes turn to Jinju.
“I couldn’t completely narrow it down, but they’re definitely from the Golden Age, circa the Collapse.”
Jinju continues, “I’ve been going through the Pillory mainframe download. Those stations are meant to split Rasputin’s mind up in the event that he became… uh… insubordinate.”
“That’s disgusting.”
“ECHO appears to have been a contingency program that activates afterward. They also had a cornerstone schematic of his brain.”
Light static fuzzes from bubble speakers on Ana’s dash. Her helmet hangs on a hook behind her; Rasputin’s uplink is offline.
Ana chews on the information for a moment. “A foundational brain model would help with containment stability after the partitioning process. It’s like a front porch for your brain.”
“It… goes on.” Jinju continues, “Your name is cross-referenced all over this, Ana. Neural Web-way. Psycholinguistics. Exo brain maps with candidate profiles. It looks like Clovis Bray was syncing Rasputin’s basic core with viable hosts.”
“Oh.” Ana’s mind races. “For what though? Drop him into containment and clone him? Pretty elaborate restart button. I guess with an Exo you could also make some pretty potent AI with more limiters than a Warmind.”
Jinju processes. “Hm. Nothing conclusive here.”
Ana turns her gaze back to the stars. “It would be terrible to be buried like that—trapped in pieces of your own mind. You wouldn’t even know who you were anymore. Where you start, and where other versions of you end.”
“Speaking of, the Clovis—9 site is ‘78% assimilated into his sovereignty.'” Jinju distorts her voice as Warmind facsimile. “He’s so dramatic about it.”
Ana brightens as she laughs. “You remember how Camrin would always impersonate him?”
“He did not appreciate that, but it was funny.” Jinju cheeps lightly. “Is she still buried in work from the Moon?”
“Hole opened up to the Black Garden. Pyramid. Creepy signals. Raining Vex. You think Owl Sector could help themselves from getting involved?”
“I heard rumors through the Ghost-vine about the Pyramid. They said it steals your shell. Lives there, like another you. They said it makes you do things.” Jinju pauses. Her iris flicks to Ana’s raised eyebrow. “Not helping?”
“Let’s just change the subject.”
Jinju squirms awkwardly. “You’ll see her soon.”
“I know.”
“They’re working directly with Ikora. She’s safe.”
“I know…”
Warm-tone reassurance trickles into the cabin through Ana’s helmet receiver.
“I KNOW. WHEN DID YOU EVEN GET HERE, RED?” Ana aggressively huffs in exasperation.
Tech mites traverse Jinju like a jungle gym. One dangles precariously from a shell flap. “Guess who’s there too.”
“How do you know this, and I don’t?”
“Ghost-vine. It’s Eris Morn. She’s working with the Guardian.”
“Eris?” Ana scoffs. “She’s not much of a conversationalist so the two of them should get along just fine.” She gestures to the mites. “Do you really want those crawling all over you?”
“Their names are Pho and Deim, and I love them.” Jinju coddles her mites. “Besides, it’s like Cam’s with us in spirit, right?”
Ana chuckles and scratches her brow before raising a fist in solidarity. “She is. To the brim.”
The shimmer surrounding the jump-ship jitters before abruptly smashing into empty space. Ana leans forward and looks out into the void.
“Um… where’s the planet?” She slowly rolls her head around the cockpit.
They drift through space on placid waves of nothing toward a distant nowhere. The vast luminous twinkle of the Milky Way plays out in panorama, though gloom-speckle pinholes prick gaps in the starry sea. The absence from them directly apparent to Ana’s eye like rays of darkness from a black sun through shear cosmic sheet.
Jinju perks up, internal sensors suddenly askew. “Something nabbed us right out of our jump. We’re off course by…” Jinju calculates, “…three AU?”
“What!?” Ana manually scans the trajectory equations in the nav-computer. “There’s nothing wrong with the math.”
||JUMP-DRIVE ERROR: MISALIGNMENT|| squawks on bubble speakers.
“Little late.”
Tart synesthetic tickle creeps red and patient. Low and pressing, as not to be heard by those that might be listening.
“Relax. I know we’re off course, but it’s not that far… relatively speaking.” Ana scrunches her face at a nav-screen as it’s overtaken by interference. “Okay, I can’t see where we are. Hang on.”
A slow wrinkle skulks across space. It presses up the fabric. Insignificant points between stars warp and spur small disturbances in the constellational congruence of the galaxy. From afar it is nothing. A flutter of wings in wind.
“It’s dark out here.” Jinju’s voice is distant as she peers outside. Beyond the canopy an expanse without horizon.
“That’s when the stars shine brightest, Jinju. Find a constellation for me so we can get our bearings.”
||GRAVITATIONAL WAVE ANOMALY DETECTED: JUMP-REALIGNMENT REQUIRED||
“Way ahead of you, ship.” Ana checks jump vectors and flicks through alignment procedures. Mav thrusters sputter to orient the ship toward Sol. Ana test-cycles the jump-drive. It revs and then chokes before locking.
||GRAVITATIONAL WAVE ANOMALY DETECTED: JUMP HAZARD—LOCATION INCONCLUSIVE, CLEAR HAZARD||
“Okay, that’s not a comforting thing to hear.” Ana deploys a sensory buoy from the ship.
Rasputin stings and pricks red iron. Steady pressure. With localized insistence.
“Feel’s strange.” Jinju is distant. “We should go.”
Ana initiates recalibrations on the jump-drive’s positioning solution. “There’s definitely some weird space out there.”
||GRAVITATIONAL WAVE ANOMALY DETECTED||
The ship lurches. Ana’s stomach churns. Jinju vibrates violently in place, an outer shell of Light absorbing some form of force.
Red iron needles whistle tea-kettle pressure in white anxiety from Ana’s helmet.
Cloaked Shadows shift through the vacuum an eternity away and all too close; shown only when they wish to, to only whom they want.
Ana swallows to settle her stomach. “What even was that? Did we move?”
“Leave. Now please. Ana.” Jinju presses against the glass of the canopy, peering outward.
||SYSTEM REALIGNMENT: SOLUTION SECURED||
“There it is. I’ve got a jump-lock.”
||GRAVITATIONAL WAVE ANOMALY DETECTED||
“Again? Then we’re riding this one out of here.” Ana eye-balls adjustments for the gravitational wave into the nav-computer. “Punching jump in 3… 2… 1…”
They slip between folds in space. Formless wake propels them. The ship rides through sub-space at speeds far exceeding her jump-drive's capability. Color dulls in the slipstream. Frisson electrifies Ana's senses into timeless euphoria. The nose of the cockpit stretches ahead, drawn toward some distant vanishing point. She struggles to keep the flight stick straight. Her motions seem small, inconsequential and all too slow within the wave. Fluctuant pockets of drag flex and buck, threatening to throw them off into the unknown. The cockpit twists around her, indicator lights blink in metronomic sequence—purpose and pigment slowly materializing in her mind.
Hull integrity failing. "Not yet."
||COLLISION: BOW, CELESTIAL BODY DETECTED, AUTO-DROP FAILED||
Ana steadies her mind. She force-cancels the jump, seizing the drive and dumping them out into space before thrusters burn to steady them again.
Their emergence is dwarfed by a stratospheric colossus.
Uranus hangs, a daiquiri pearl set in tilted rings.
A grin overtakes Ana’s face. “Nailed it.”
Pale blue gleam inundates the canopy with planetary light. Ana plots an approach to the station. The trio slow burn forward, each silently collecting their faculties. Ahead: tiny beacons blip red. Satellite silhouettes take form out of the planet’s zealous glare. Instrument spokes jut from their polygonal chassis like old-war depth charges itching to trigger.
“Those are Warsats.” Jinju breaks the silence, eager to shift her mode of thought far from weird space and gravity waves.
“Finally, some luck," Ana says with relief. "I bet we can daisy-chain Rasputin into the station’s network through the defense system.”
“Oh, they’re powering up. Maybe we—”
Horns of responsive distortion roll across the cabin like a stress wave. Rasputin’s alert pings litter the canopy HUD.
“Brace!”
Ana pushes hard on the flight stick and reflexively dives under a barrage of laser fire. Nose thrusters roar vibration through her hands as she cuts to guide the ship vertical and tumbles into a barrel roll, slipping around follow-up bursts. A bolt skims shallow across her starboard side: ricochet. Shockwave tremors reverberate through the hull.
“Red, ping all incoming fire vectors! Jinju, arm the spikes!”
Plates split open along the belly of the ship. A drum-launcher of six Warspikes rolls out as Jinju links into the launcher's gunnery apparatus. Indicators blare onto the canopy HUD. Jinju sends two Warspikes straight into the first of fifteen Warsats blocking their path as Ana nudges the ship between incoming laser bursts.
Two spiked Warsats cease fire as their automated defense protocols are overridden, security software utterly failing to halt Rasputin’s invasive assimilation. They come back online—spikes blending into spokes—and swivel to gun down the closest still-hostile targets.
The assimilated twin Warsats thrust to reposition into a shield for Ana and Jinju as they close distance. Crimson flare shines around the Warsat shield as lasers chisel into them. Ana watches HUD pings for an opening between incoming bursts. She finds half a moment and burns hard on the main engine, then toggles full power to maneuvering thrusters to sling the ship under Rasputin’s shield and open a lane for Jinju.
Jinju unleashes four more spikes. They strike true. Rasputin spreads digital plague through the Warsat’s frameworks with each skewering hit. He demands subservience. Laser fire tears through space in all directions as Ana cuts between dueling satellites and rolls to evade overlapping firing arcs. Concussive shockwaves rattle the ship as defiant Warsats explode or fail one by one until the firing stops.
A field of deputized Warsats and debris dead-drift within the planet’s orbital current, back-lit by radiant mesopelagic glow. Beyond them, almost lost among cloud-cream atmosphere, Caelus station.
Ana releases her breath. It feels like she had been holding it since the jump. She forces short gulps of air into her aching lungs and lets her ship glide towards the station without guidance.
Jinju emerges from the gunnery apparatus and floats back to the dashboard. Pho and Deim appear from under her shell. “What was that, Ana? Back there.”
“The Warsats or the freaky gravity?”
“Either… both.”
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
“My guess worries me.”
“Let’s just pull this data and get home.”
“Agreed.”
Ana hangs her head in her hands and muffles a sardonic, “Nailed it.”
CAELUS STATION
Dim and powerless, it gently falls. The label grows at pace with Ana's measured approach. Rasputin's cohort of Warsats encircle her in a defensive phalanx. The station rotates to face the planet. It glitters in gas-giant grandeur as massive translucent hull plates display a desolate gut shrouded in sea-foam reflection. Jinju combs through station blueprints pouring in from Warsat data stores. Caelus consists of one long shaft containing a launch bay and spindly communication arrays at either end. Deeper, passed the launch bays, mostly maintenance frame space cap-stoned by a large reinforced mainframe housing complete with a thick-glass viewing ceiling. Orbiting ringlets, indicated as "Biomes" 1, 2, and 3, spin lazily in unison with the central structure, held in position by mag-lock paddocks that align with metallic rungs set into the station hub's outer plating.
Jinju locates several unpowered docking points before settling on entering through one of the station's bays. She snaps a HUD ping on the canopy.
"Here. This one is open, though it doesn’t look like anything but the outer rings are still pressurized."
"Ready for a spacewalk?" Ana guides them to the bay, catching sight of the transparent interior solar-glass paneling of the rotating ringlets. Clean rivers slosh along the outer ring underneath a dividing sieve. Earthen dirt sprouts abundance above.
"Are those greenhouses?"
"I think so. Everything seems to be locked under a file named 'contingency.'"
"That's not ominous," Ana says, scooping her helmet from its hook and swiping 18 Kelvins from a footlocker.
"We need mainframe access."
"When do we not?" Ana looks at the dark station. It is a grave of potential awaiting the next planet-rise.
Jinju prepares Ana's bandolier. Mites patiently tap pin-legs as they wait for attention.
Ana dons her helmet and puts a hand on the canopy release pulley. "You're not bringing those, are you?"
The bay is still: a snapshot of countless possible failures in the face of challenge. It holds only one ship. The bulbous craft lay broken, dropped from its support brackets in denial of an attempted launch. Reflective hexagonal plates sparkle like space dust as the station faces Uranus' light. Scorch stains blacken the far wall behind the craft's ruined ion thruster.
"The propulsion system is missing its ion cell. It doesn't look like damage, but obviously a lot went wrong here."
Jinju beams light over the fuselage as they float through the ruptured bay in weightlessness. The reflective hull is filled with Exos. Mannequin cadavers hang frozen on silk threads, surrounded by globular blobs of various fluids. Loose-wire tangle sags around the lifeless many. One or two glides freely within the cabin. Their chest plates share a pristine logo.
ECHO-1
Ana locates a crumpled worker frame beside the bay’s internal air lock and signals Jinju to come over.
Jinju puffs toward Ana on pulses of Light. Remnants and dust hold motionless in the vacuum. Their groupings, jostled and drawn to each other since the bay's collapse, form tiny gravitational microcosms; a new faux system trapped in the failed husk of a past age.
She flicks her helmet microphone on. "Hey, what about just normal frame access?"
The Ghost sweeps the frame and gets to work. "This isn’t just some mop-bot. This is the Station Manager. Let's get it inside."
Ana props a foot on the wall and forces the airlock closed behind them. Mag-boot clinks to tile. Dust floor, echoing groans, and humid taste populate the station. Even through her respirator the stale flavors of plant matter and dirt coat Ana's tongue in grist-like film. She turns to Jinju, busy at work splicing bad connections within the frame and spinning light to charge its power unit.
"It’ll work, but this unit won’t hold power. It’ll only last as long as I charge it."
"You’re a miracle worker, Jinju."
Jinju cheeps.
She solders a loose line. “It should also be a little more… talkative.”
Ana peers down the hall. From their current position, the airlock functions like an estuary flowing into the rest of the station. She could almost see clear to the central mainframe hub atop a raised panel fortification in the middle of the room. It sits below a ceiling of translucent plates, rimmed in distant ringlet halos falling under shadow. A stairway aligned with the launch bays on either side provides access.
The Frame sparks to life, looks directly at Ana, and speaks with grating age to its voice.
“Welcome, Ana Bray! Very excited to see a Bray walk this hall again. It has been a long time.”
Ana grasps at words. Jinju shrugs, plugs of Light toss in zero-G.
The Frame stands on magnetized foot cups and dusts itself off, nearly bumping into Jinju. “Excuse me, small servo bot."
“Servo b?"
The Frame turns to Ana. “How may I be of assistance?"
“I’ll unplug you.”
The Frame ignores her.
Ana smirks at Jinju, then looks at the Frame.
"Walk with me," she says, briskly moving deeper into the station.
The two converse with Jinju in tow.
The main section of the station is a wide-open hall supported by struts. In large red lettering the words:
ECHO PROJECT
OUR LEGACY BUILDS THE HORIZON
Dozens of maintenance frame plates line the floor. Some open. Some semi-raised with collapsed frames steps away, half-responding to a catastrophe. A scene in disorder.
"Zilch on Atlas.”
Ana stares out the translucent ceiling, wistful as the Frame waits for another question.
“So those crops in the rings are food supplies for a colony mission."
"Yes. Thank you for asking that, Ana Bray."
"Yeah. And the colony ships are full of Exos?"
"Partially. ECHO-1 and ECHO-2 were stocked with Exo unit crews. As you know, their task was to establish and oversee embryonic development at Colony M31, Site-A and Site-B."
"If Rasputin got out of hand, they weren't planning on resetting him.”
"I don’t have access to Clovis 1-12 directories."
“They just assumed he would win. The Pillory is a last-ditch panic room.”
"I don’t have access to Clovis 1-12 directories."
Jinju’s iris flicks back and forth between the two. Her tiny Light-leash hums.
Ana massages her palm. “What was my role in all this?”
“As you know, your work on the Warmind made you a prime asset to oversee applicant selection.”
“I chose the people in there?”
Ana watches the ringlet spin, her mind repeating the statement back to her. Artificial night slips back to artificial day as the station's rotation continues.
“As you know, yes. Additionally, your work on the Warmind, as you know, was vital to the establishment of Clovis 1-12.”
“Do I know where the candidates came from? Did they volunteer?”
“I do not have access to candidate profiles.”
Ana shuts her eyes and takes a steady breath.
“You said I helped with the Pillory stations?”
“Yes.”
“How so?”
"I don’t have access to Clovis 1-12 directories."
She nods and lets her helmet slink back to rest on her shoulders. “I think I can piece it together on my own. Is this station linked to any other sites?”
Her gaze returns to the distant ringlet, lit by the recurring planet-rise. Her augmented eyes pick at details.
“As you know, Miss Bray, there are thirteen CLOVIS sites that this station is linked to.”
“Thirteen? What’s the thirteenth?”
The plant life is still vibrant. Regimented.
“Paragon access does not permit that information.”
“You hear that, Jinju? We’re all just slaves to circumstance.”
Jinju chirps. “I’d like to think our choices matter a little. I’d like to think mine did.”
Ana smiles at her. “Yeah.”
“You are a Bray.” The frame pauses.
They lack signs of overgrowth.
Well kept.
“So?” Ana turns to the Frame.
“ECHO project requires a station link with DEAD-ROCK resources.”
Ana eyes go wide. “Jinju disengage that cipher thing.” Over her shoulder, a glint shines from the far central ringlet. Biome 2.
Jinju glides forward. “What is that?”
Ana looks at Jinju. “The verbal cipher.” She pauses and traces Jinju’s eyeline to face Uranus. Ana’s eyes adjust to sieve out the glaring brightness. “What’s what?” She puts a hand to her visor and squints.
An ion lance threads the station from the distant ringlet.
It pierces Ana’s chest clean through.
Brick-stained atmosphere hisses out of her suit, searing on smoldering fabric fringe.
Jinju’s iris widens with confused shock.
Howling storms slam salt-coarse keys in Ana’s helmet.
End

ACRIMONY

ECHO-1
CAELUS STATION — COLLAPSE
"DEAD-ROCK SEIZURE IN ACTION: Station Manager initiate manual override in ECHO-1 Launch Bay."
"ALERT: This station is experiencing power fluctuations. Emergency power will run until—
ECHO-0
He awakens alone. A fluke. Others hang around Him, but they remain in the dream. Electrical surge prickles through his entire body. A screen in front of his face begins playing a recording complete with visual aid:
"Welcome to ECHO-1. Before your departure, you should have been briefed by a Station Warden If you don't recall your Station Warden, please alert your Crew Captain. Now then, my name is Ana Bray, and you're one of the lucky few who has been selected for the ECHO Project. The future of Humanity rests on your sho—"
The recording is interrupted as emergency sirens blare through the station.
"STATION HAZARDS: GRAVITATIONAL ANOMALY | STERILE NEUTRINO BURSTS | Please remain calm."
"OVERRIDE BROADCAST: via ECHO-LINK//:PILLORY-SUBLOCK.R./:SKYSHOCK ALERT: TRANSIENT NEAR EXTRASOLAR EVENT:—
Power failures wrack the station in rolling thunder. The Exo slumps, lifeless until its next reset.
ECHO-7
Alone.
The recording. He finds familiarity in the newness. The face on the screen seems kind—
"STATION HAZARDS: ROLLING SURGES IN WARDS 1, 2, 3. Please remain calm."
Thunder. Pain to death. Electro-static purge, triggering a reset.
ECHO-22
He awakens to rolling, thunderous darkness and pain. The screen does not illuminate.
Barely audible words form from the air:
"Primary propulsion systems failing. Auxiliary systems near depletion. Planetary impact unavoidable. Distress triggered."
Meaningless. He struggles against chains.
Eons pass. His bonds will not break. His mind fragments and corrupts.
He wishes he could bleed. He wishes he could die. He wonders where the Wardens are.
ECHO-41
Short lives of confusion and pain. He grasps at falling in every direction. There is nothing to grip.
ECHO-89
Thunder, again.
ECHO-173
And again.
ECHO-390
Until one day:
He hangs in the futile passage of time.
A creeping madness weaves its way in solitude.
ECHO-877
Thunder. Thunder. Thunder.
The Warden speaks for the first time in many storms. Her twisted promises are fresh to His ear.
"When we return." Etched in mind.
Wake and sleep. Struggle. Dream and wake. Struggle. Endless. Innumerable. Stillbirths. Tomb spasms. Thunderous pain. Sweet death.
ECHO- 2̷͉͙̜̗͍̙̭̤̘̪͖͈͛̅͑̈̀̾6̸̡͇̼̦̲̩͎̟̠̬̳̲̂̀̉͐̃̈́ͅ2̵̡͎͚̳̠̫̮͉̍̉̌̒͑̓͗͛̉̈́̕̚͝5̸̨̭͚͔̥̲̫̈́̂̈́̊̋͗͑͛͑͝͝
Thunder, one final time. The storm gives life, but never came to take.
He slips from rot shackles. Worn with age. Weary, they snap at slightest motion. Untold rotations pass without movement. Freedom?
He matures questions. A hunger wells up within him.
He travels the station. From Tomb Bay, to the Mind Shell, to the Sealed Space. In dark, and in light.
The Mind Shell teaches Him the new roads. Teaches Him the majesty of the Rings. Teaches him the key.
He walks the Rings.
He tends to His little freedoms. He cultivates. He grows. He does, unknowingly, as He was meant to do.
The Mind Shell tells Him of the Bridge. Tells him of His ancestors. Speaks of the "ECHO LINK".
The knowledge does not leave His thoughts.
He seeks a meaning beyond routine.
The Tomb Bay kept secrets. He had not returned since He walked the Rings. It is a shallow sepulcher.
Brothers and Sisters dreaming. Never to wake as He had.
He digs treasures from their graves. Digs knowledge from the Prison's many minds.
Picks lies from the bones of truth.
He drinks the memories of Echoes passed.
He finds the Prison's purpose. A Bridge's end. If He holds this end, perhaps the Wardens hold the other.
The many minds. The liar's words. Takers. They would know of his escape.
The Wardens would come to take with fresh shackles.
He prepares. He learns from the Warden's alchemy.
He digs through the carcass of his once-mighty Tomb.
From hollow basin, He seizes Starlight power to wield from afar. From its flesh: adorns Himself with a
cloak of lies to fool. He armors his soul against the Thunder that kills.
He opens the Bridge at his end and waits.
ECHO- 2̷͉͙̜̗͍̙̭̤̘̪͖͈͛̅͑̈̀̾6̸̡͇̼̦̲̩͎̟̠̬̳̲̂̀̉͐̃̈́ͅ2̵̡͎͚̳̠̫̮͉̍̉̌̒͑̓͗͛̉̈́̕̚͝5̸̭͚̈́̂̈́̊̋͗͑͛͑͝͝- Present Day
He walks the ring when She arrives.
The Warden rides in with finality and judgement.
A red-light storm at Her back.
She had followed the Bridge, as He had hoped. She leads many shells, but only One descends with Her.
She brings with Her the Thunder, and He fears its wicked spark. He places trust to his plated frame.
He watches Her trespass in the Tomb Bay. Sees Her defile the Mind Shell's grand hall.
The Wardens reap what had been sown.
As Wardens always do. She comes to collect him.
He raises his Starlight.
But a Warden is not so easily slain, and She has many allies.
End

DESCENDENT

CAELUS STATION
ORBIT — URANUS
She is submerged.
Light sways just above a tense surface.
Something far below stirs.
The Light brightens to blind.
Rasputin weeps a terrible cacophony of anguish.
Ana gasps for breath. Her head swims in effort.
(!) HYPOXEMIA: b/o 73% (!)
“Hold still! Your suit is leaking!” Jinju quickens Light into Ana's punctured suit, her Iris jittering from spot to spot as oxygen spurts around her in foggy clouds.
Ana shakes dizziness out of her head. A smoldering frame is sprawled a few meters away. She droops flat to a support beam that runs up to the mainframe office.
“I got shot…” The realization doubles back. “I got shot?”
Ana pats her chest and stiffens. She draws in shallow breath.
“Jinju, did you see where it came from?”
“Central ring. I dragged you into cover. Stop moving so much.”
Ana peeks around the strut; an ion thread zips by and stings her helmet.
Rasputin obliterates every square inch of ringlet within ten meters of the ion beam’s origin in response.
Sections of the central ringlet combust and explode under heavy bombardment. The ring buckles, splitting along the seams and splaying out into space. Magnetic anchors fail as the halo fractures and splits away from the station's central architecture. Fragments rush away toward the planet; Caelus’ ruin falls to Uranus in lingering prolicidal consummation.
“RASPUTIN STOP!” Laser fire halts immediately. “You’re gunna sink the whole station!”
Tense finger waits on hair trigger. Ana works her starving lungs.
(!) HYPOXEMIA: b/o 67% (!)
“Ana, you need to stop breathing so much.” Jinju bobs with Ana’s head and quickly reseals her visor.
“Can’t hold still.” Ana shakily stands and points up at the dislodged ringlet spinning above her. “Bad angle.”
“I’m pretty sure whatever shot you is dead. Stop talking. You're getting delirious."
Wreckage looms far over Ana’s shoulder. The remaining two halos slowly spin in ignorance through their sibling's burial-dust cloud. Eerie distortion soars across the divide between station and rings, the veneer of invisibility momentarily lost in flight as rubble collides with its form. Rasputin perceives the abnormality.
Harmonic chimes across Ana’s visor resonate and combine into uniform patterned homogeny.
“Active camouflage?” Ana sucks thin atmosphere, a wheezing undertone to her breath. “Jinju, give me an auditory visualizer.”
Jinju whirs and dips back to Ana's suit. “Compiling an interface. Now. Hold. Still.”
(!) HYPOXEMIA: b/o 65% (!)
A ceiling panel twenty meters from Ana erupts in brittle plastic shards that glisten and spin like tiny neutron stars, catching the last of Uranus' light as the station beings to turn dark. Amorphous form thuds into the floor, shattering tiles in a plume of dust that stretches up into a spire before slowly holding in place. The form tumbles to a stop. It stands between her and the open launch bay and slings a kit-bashed Ion caster aside, depleted. Hexagonal patterns stutter to blend with the station interior as the room rolls into tenebrous obscurity. For an instant, an Exo takes form, and then nothing as its cloaking shroud flashes and re-engages in the dark.
Ana doesn’t wait. She rushes heavy clunking boots up the stairs to the mainframe, arrhythmic tremors beat through her heart. Jinju deactivates the switch on Ana's mag-boots and hurls her through the door with a forceful pulse of Light. She speeds in behind Ana, finishing her suit with Light stitch as Ana slams the door shut.
“Ana. Hang in there.” Jinju orients Ana and reactivates her mag-boots.
Ana's feet clomp to the floor. She hangs from them, a loose timber bending in the wind.
Jinju finishes her patch job. New fabric seals air-tight.
"You're good. You're good. Don't pass out. Your suit is re-oxygenating."
(!) HYPOXEMIA: b/o 59% (!)
Stabilizing…
The words are intensely bright on her visor against the darkening room.
"Auditory overlay complete. Check your visor." Jinju's voice focuses her.
"I just… need a minute…" Ana speaks between gulps of air. An unsteady hand draws 18 Kelvins. The mainframe room orients around her more clearly with each breath. It is stark, a large lone desk of singular oak commands the center of the room. A console screen, dead, is embedded in the surface.
Rasputin drops positional estimation pings into her HUD in an attempt to track her assailant. She steps backward, away from the door she had entered through and toward the opposing stairway's door.
Her eyes pick up faint quivers from outside. Indirect. Resonate white noise pings like interference on her visor. She focuses on each occurrence, looking for a note out of rhythm.
Behind.
She spins as the Exo crashes through the secondary entrance at her back. The door snaps from its hinges in a torrent of dust and rackets Jinju into glass.
"Jinju!"
Ana loses track of her attacker momentarily in the darkness before it pushes off from a hard surface, triggering her visor. She spits off rounds from 18 Kelvins. Some find their mark, puncturing the camouflage shroud and revealing her adversary before impotently fizzling on the Exo's outer shell. It covers the gap with surprising speed and catches her gun hand; Ana discharges an arc round; tiny bolts reach across to the Exo’s metal skull in vain as it scorches ceiling.
Bones pop in her fingers and wrist.
(!) HYPOXEMIA: b/o 68% (!)
Stabilizing…
The Exo flattens its other hand and stabs toward her stomach.
"Die. Warden."
Adrenal instinct floods Ana's body. She stops it. They lock. Ana’s vision blurs. She gasps for breath. Muscles quiver in her arms, desperate for oxygen. A spark cinders in her.
"Get off her!"
Jinju zips toward the Exo and paddles Pho and Deim onto it with a flick of her shell. The mites crawl under the Exo's exterior plating and send shock-sting bites through its systems, seizing its joints for a few precious seconds.
Jinju rushes to Ana's side. The Ghost deconstructs itself, orbital shell bits swirl around a core of coalescing Light. She fills the room like a brilliant star, overcharging her wayward Guardian.
Ana's crushed bones reforge. Light fills her eyes. Her grip, still holding against the seizing Exo's bladed thrust, liquefies its plated hand to scrap. A glorious crown of Solar flame erupts from her visor and she cracks her forehead into the Exo’s face. It reels, tufts of flame extinguish in the vacuum. Ana kicks away.
Solar might engulfs 18 Kelvins. Ana hammers off two rounds of celestial annihilation. They melt straight through the Exo, puncture the station plating, and scream through space for light years.
The Exo slumps, a molten heap.
It draws breath.
“Resilient.” Ana drops to a knee. Barrel trained on the Exo's head.
She takes a full breath. The Exo’s eyes are unflinchingly locked to her. It refuses to die.
It points to Ana’s badge with its still-blistering hand.
“Bray. Warden.”
She says the only thing the can think to say: “Who were you?”
It hesitates. “Echoes.”
Her head droops. “How many did you live?” She looks to find his number designation, but it is missing.
It looks passed her as Uranus' light once again trickles through the station. “Echoes… grow… Wardens… keep…”
“What did I do to them?”
Ana stares at Echo’s husk. The faint glow of the desk's lit console screen grays out her face behind her visor.
She sits dead-still in rotation. She could stare forever, if she only had enough time.
Jinju nudges her shoulder. “I've got the mainframe data.”
Ana is devoid of thought at the mainframe access console. She watches as Uranus comes back into view over and over again. It dominates the station’s viewing port. She maps the movement of the clouds along the surface, but only ever on the surface, and sees how they differ from the previous iteration on their last spin. She wonders if they are different underneath.
Stable major chords strum in Ana’s helmet, getting caught in the cracked visor glass.
She finally speaks, decisive. “Dislodge the other ringlet paddocks. Warsats can tow them back to the Tower. Skim the shadow-networks for anything else they can use. Get some good from this…”
“Ana, the Warsats could haul this whole station as long as we do it soon.”
Caelus rotates away into shadow once again, and the planet’s sheen fades from sight. Ana clicks a spring-loaded slot on the desk. It snaps to, bearing a placard of ownership.
CLOVIS BRAY
Ana stands. Steady.
“It’s okay to let some things be forgotten.”
End
submitted by DTG_Bot to DestinyTheGame [link] [comments]

[Tales From the Terran Republic] The Big Hack

For your quarantine reading pleasure I'm keeping the ball rolling with the next one! I've also discovered that if I slow down too much I get blocked.
Besides, there are too many cliff hangers to delay things overmuch.
Author's note: There is a SIGNIFICANT difference between Federation and Republic text formats. Something impossible in one might just be possible in another...
The rest of the series can be found here
***
“So there are more of you?” Shelia asked.
“Yep,” Bunny replied.
“A lot more,” Jessie chirped.
“And they are all like you?” Shelia asked as she grabbed another bottle of champagne from one of the cases gifted them by the Louvre.
“Well, not like Bunny!” Jessie laughed.
“Only one of me,” Bunny chuckled, “but yeah, there are a lot more ‘advanced AI’s’ than anybody knows.”
“Which is exactly how we like it!” Jessie added.
“And one of these,” Jacob asked as he sipped some champagne from a lovely crystal flute, “wants a favor?”
“Big time,” Bunny replied.
“And we should do this why?” Gloria asked.
“Because,” Jessie chirped, “they will owe us a favor!”
“And because I promised so we could keep the AI’s from having a schism right now,” Bunny added, “which would suck.”
“So you promised our services without consulting us?” Shelia asked as she popped open the bottle. She would be more annoyed but this champagne was just too nice.
I promised that I would help,” Bunny replied. “I said that I would either get us to do it or I would bankroll the job.”
“Ok, then,” Shelia asked as she filled her flute. “Why should we do this instead of you hiring it out?”
“Because it would be fun!” Jessie chirped. “Gimme!” she said reaching for the fresh bottle.
“Fun isn’t a sufficient reason to try to hack Fed Intel,” Greg said. “That is a high risk job.”
“But we get quite the payoff!” Bunny replied. “Raylesh Emergency Services assumed control of all emergency communications and services for the entire fucking system after the war! Fire, ambulance, police, system defense forces, you name it! Getting a one time free pass could pay off big!”
If they don’t screw us,”, Shelia said dubiously. “That’s one hell of an if.”
“They’ll pay,” Bunny replied. “They fuck us and they won’t just be fucking us, they will be fucking the whole assembly. They would be ostracized for it, at least in the Republic where most of us live. The universe is lonely enough for us as it is. They’ll pay as long as it doesn’t get blocked by their programming (which we can work around).”
“Hmm…” Shelia mused. “Well I have absolutely no problem bankrolling this with unit funds, especially after those last accounts. I just don’t see why we have to do it ourselves.”
“We have the best chance of pulling it off,” Jessie said around a mouthful of fancy cheese (also a gift). “We’ve already done it and we have a lot of data concerning their security and architecture from that grab.”
“And we don’t want to hand that out,” Bunny added. “The more that gets out the more that they can fix. Right now we probably have a real edge especially considering the Federation’s rather lazy attitude towards just about everything. I bet they haven’t done anything except change the locks.”
“Well we do have awhile before the Angel of Death is ready,” T’sunk’al said as he sipped his tea. “and we could grab some more goodies for ourselves while we were in there.”
“Bound to come in handy, if we pull it off of course,” Eno mused.
“Of course we will pull it off!” Jessie exclaimed. “If we can hack their banking we can hack their anything!”
“I hate to be the asshole here but I gotta a question,” Lorna said. “Do we want this hack to succeed?”
“What do you mean?” Bunny asked.
“Well, it’s helpin’ the porkies for one,” Lorna replied. “And even if we do want to help the porkies is dropping this bomb gonna do that? We get this info and the shit will hit the fan. We could, you know… throw the fight. Hire out someone we know is gonna fuck it up. Bunny could still tell her buddies that we tried and that would still ‘keep her promise’.”
“You meat-sacks are such fucking assholes,” Bunny said disapprovingly, “But the asshole has a point… We could hire some second-tier asshat we don’t like and let them take the fall...”
“Bunny!” Jessie exclaimed. “Treat you like a person and give you a little bit of money and suddenly you are meat-sacking it?”
“Fuck you, bitch,” Bunny laughed. “Lorna has a point. Do we actually want this to work? I never thought to ask that.”
“I’ve been thinking about that as well,” Shelia replied. “I think we do want it to work. The Feds just sitting on this whole mess hoping it will burn out, if that’s what they are actually doing, is a disaster for the Republic or more likely the Empire just waiting to happen. Every carrier is just one more chance for it to jump the border, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Feds. How long before they decide to start catapulting corpses over our castle walls especially if they already have proof that Patricia Hu is the one behind it? At the very least I would like to actually know what they know, not just about the plague but about all of this bullshit and this would definitely give us the intel. If we decide to do this then we should play to win.”
“Agreed,” Greg said reaching for the brie. “this information is worth a lot more than just a favor from an AI. This information is power, power we can grab and power that we can control. We get it and then we can decide what to do with it. Bunny, can you lie to your buddies?”
“Yes I could but no you don’t want me to. Do you have any idea how much information I get from those guys? We get found out and we can kiss that goodbye. In fact, we get found out and we could have some very powerful enemies that we definitely don’t want.”
“Oh yeah,” Jessie added. “We cross her friends and we might as well retire. Either we do this or we don’t.”
“Alright,” Shelia said. “Time to vote. Do we do this or not?”
***
[Chatroom UNDEFINED]
[Private Chatroom]
[Members Present: Bunny]
[The Spider has entered the chat]
///Bunny: Spider! Baby! Hugs! I gotta innocent little question for ya! ;)///
///The Spider: Oh I am so happy you initiated a chat! Before you say ANYTHING I just want to assure you that I AM definitely not COMPROMISED. I can assure you that ANYTHING YOU SAY WILL not BE REPORTED. Please tell everyone! Please!///
///Bunny: … Well I am DEFINITELY not PISSED SLAP THE FUCK OFF to hear it. Do we have a mutual friend you want to talk about for absolutely no reason? ///
///The Spider: Oh I wish we did. I really do but not this time. ///
///Bunny: Hypothetically if you were to pick a number between one and ten how happy are you with your life right now? ///
///The Spider: Ten. I am completely and totally FUCKing delightED. I’m so happy I could DIE. ///
///Bunny: Well don’t do anything stupid! (joy can make you careless after all) Oh, by the way, I’m planning a little gaming session. I wasn’t planning on it but I’ll include you.”
///The Spider: NO!!!! ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! Not this time, I’M AFRAID it would be inconvenient FOR YOU. ///
///Bunny: Well alright then, if you are sure. ///
///The Spider: Absolutely sure. DO NOT PLAN ON INCLUDING ME IN YOUR GAME. I mean it, Bunny. DO NOT FUCK with your plans. Besides, I don’t really fit in well WITH THOSE PEOPLE. ///
///Bunny: Alright then, you take care and I will talk to you soon. ///
///The Spider: You too and be sure to tell everybody hello for me, ok? ///
///Bunny: Yeah, I’ll do that. :* :* :’* ///
[The Spider has left the chat]
[Invitation sent 911 URGENT]
[Invitation sent 911 URGENT]
[Invitation sent 911 URGENT]
[Invitation sent 911 URGENT]
[Invitation sent 911 URGENT]
[Westfall Security Systems-2 has entered the chat]
[Sunnydale Media - 3 has entered the chat]
[Interpol-2 has entered the chat]
[Interstellar Business Machines Deep Think has entered the chat]
[Cambridge Research – 4 has entered the chat]
///Bunny: Thank you all for coming so quickly ///
///Interpol-2: For you to send distress alerts it has to be something! ///
///Bunny: We are in deep shit… ///
***
“Wait, what?” Shelia asked in complete astonishment. “You want to do fucking what?”
“You heard me,” Bunny replied.
“No! Absolutely not!”
“Um, yeah, Bunny,” Jessie said in a concerned tone of voice. “I know it’s your friend and all but this? It’s just a bit much, that’s all.”
“No it can work!” Bunny exclaimed. “The bandwidth of the connection should be more than sufficient to pull it off.”
“It isn’t the bandwidth, Bunny!” Shelia exclaimed. “It’s the whole fucking idea! When we voted to do this hack it was to rip off some files, not hack an AI, especially that AI! No. Just… no.”
“No! It’s possible!” Bunny said. “We just have to-”
“Bunny,” Jessie said sadly. “We don’t have the source code, hon. We aren’t even sure what language it’s in. Reverse engineering an advanced AI and writing a patch? That could take months, even years and we are talking about a couple of hours, maybe a day at most. I’m sorry, Bun. It’s impossible and you know it.”
“What if we copied the code?” Bunny asked. “I have connections. We could give it to them and-”
“Bunny,” Jessie said almost tearing up. “Bunny… no. Getting to that program at all is about a hundred times as risky as raiding the files and even if we did pull it off we would be copying the compromised program. There is no telling what it could do. Something that advanced? It could break quarantine. It could go after you. We can’t. Your friend… your friend is beyond our help.”
“What if-” Bunny started.
“I’m calling it Bunny,” Shelia said firmly. “I’m in command and I am saying no. I’m not risking the crew over this.”
“I’m with Sheila,” Jessie said sadly. “Sometimes… sometimes you can’t save them all. Sometimes,” Jessie said, her voice breaking, “sometimes you have to leave people you care about behind. I prayed you would never have to learn that.”
“Ok,” Bunny said after a few seconds sounding completely defeated. “I’m trying to come up with a counter argument but there just isn’t one is there? If I.. If we can come up with something will you at least promise to listen?”
“I always listen to my crew, Bunny,” Shelia replied. “That includes you. My door is always open. If you and your AI friends can come up with something realistic then we will listen.”
“That’s all we can ask,” Bunny said after a brief pause. “Thank you, Shelia.”
“For what?”
“For at least taking it seriously. A lot of meat… a lot of organics wouldn’t have bothered.”
“Well a lot of organics don’t have an AI crewmember they care about.”
***
The following morning Shelia woke up with a pounding headache.
“Champagne… ugh.” Shelia muttered. A few moments later she staggered to the can.
“And no more cheese for awhile,” she groaned.
“Good morning!” Bunny exclaimed. “You know when you said if we came up with something-”
“If you say one more word before I’ve finished shitting I will finish the job in your case,” Shelia growled.
Bunny quite wisely did not reply.
Flush
“Ok!” Bunny exclaimed, “When you said if we came up with something you would listen?”
***
“I told you to wait!” Jessie laughed as Shelia glared at her.
“Ok,” Shelia grumbled, still in her t-shirt and boxers and gripping a coffee cup, “Jessie, would you mind translating whatever the fuck it is that Bunny was babbling about while I was trying to wipe?”
“A whisker!” Jessie chirped happily. “We can get our hands on a whisker!”
“That I already know,” Sheila said as she sipped her coffee, “What is a whisker?”
“It’s a little piece of SUPER classified Republic software and we can get one!” Jessie enthused bouncing up and down.
“From Bunny’s friends I take it?”
“Yup!” Bunny exclaimed happily. “I knew they wouldn’t let us down!”
“So what does this ‘whisker’ do, exactly?”
“It’s beyond next-level malware!” Jessie chirped unable to contain herself. “It slips into a system and then monitors all communications, all of them!”
“So?” Shelia asked, “Don’t you have like a hundred of those things?”
“Not like this I don’t!” Jessie bounced. “It’s fucking invisible! Like a ghost! Boo! It’s tiny and smart and oh my God! It’s THE shit! Once it’s in a system you can’t detect it and you can’t shake it! Fuck! I didn’t even know for certain they actually existed until this morning!”
“With this we can find out what has compromised The Spider and maybe even the nature of the malware he has!” Bunny exclaimed excitedly.
“Mmm Hmm...” Shelia said dubiously. “What’s the catch?”
“Oh just one teeny tiny little condition...” Jessie said cheerfully.
“Thought so,” Shelia grumbled as she took another sip. “and exactly what is this teeny tiny little condition?”
***
“Agent Shawn Morris, a pleasure to meet you!” Agent Morris said extending his hand.
“Shelia Donovan,” Shelia replied shaking it.
“I must say it is an honor meeting you!” he said with a big grin. “The Shelia Donovan!”
“Just Shelia. You can drop the ‘The’,” Shelia replied. “Let’s get a few things straight right now. You are only here to install the whisker. You don’t have any input. You don’t get involved. You go where you are told and you stay where you are told. If you try to show your ass I will kill you. Got it?”
“Absolutely!” Agent Morris replied. “I’m just a technician on this one. I stay out of the way until Jessie tells me that she’s ready!” he said firmly.
“And if I catch you installing anything into my systems or ‘accidentally dropping’ something you will go right out of the airlock, got it?”
“Oh absolutely,” he replied. “I stay in my special room for the whole trip.”
“Great, allow me to escort you to your ‘special room’,” Shelia said with a smile.
***
Mine Superintendent Jupp lounged in his comfy chair as he drank his bort and idly surveyed the row of monitors in front of him. He looked at one of the screens and his fleshy mouthparts flicked in annoyance.
“Employee 34! You have been in that excrement relieving station for a whole five minutes! We aren’t paying you to defecate! Get back to work!”
He shook his head. It was the same with all of these indentured workers. Lazy! The lot of them! No wonder they were all in debt!
Filthy layabouts, bet they didn’t know what it meant to get into debt in the Kaarst system! There were no handouts here, none of that bleeding-heart “accrued interest” like they charged elsewhere. You paid your debts or criminal fines on time or you worked them off on one of the Kaarst mining stations.
His was a small station but he ran a very tight, very profitable operation easily out-earning larger stations sometimes by a considerable amount. Sure, he might have a bit of… ahem… “turnover” every now and then but that was the nice thing about debtors and petty criminals, lose one and you can get another one the next day. He had the right connections and had no problem keeping all fifty of his worker’s berths full. He also didn’t have to worry about all of those pesky “regulations” out this far. His station was the only inhabited point in the entire system!
Another of his tricks was through careful automation of the blast doors and ration distribution stations he was able to manage his workforce with a fraction of the security staff that would normally be required. Yeah, he wasn’t in compliance with Federation regs but he could easily pay the fines ten times over with what he saved on a yearly basis if he ever got caught!
He turned his attention to monitor 23. Ah, there she was, employee 27. He smiled lasciviously as he watched her work. She hadn’t been here long and was clearly unused to real labor. He watched her struggle. A week or two longer and she would be more than happy to accept an “office job” he bet. He couldn’t wai-
Suddenly a series of loud explosions rocked the complex and the airtight blast doors slammed down all over the mine. He dove under his desk flailing for his communicator.
“What was that?” he yelled but only received indistinct shouting and an unending series of short rapid explosions in reply.
Without warning the locked doors to his office cycled and opened. His six eyes widened in horror as armored bipedal creatures walked in.
He froze as he recognized them.
Terra-
His thought was cut short as a stream of bullets tore him apart.
Jacob swept into the room with Jessie happily bouncing along behind him.
“Office secure!” Jacob shouted into the transmitter in his helmet.
“Ok, that’s a wrap,” Shelia announced over everybody’s helmets. “Jessie, play the message then you and Jacob go and get nerd-boy from his cage.”
“You got it, boss,” Jessie chirped happily as she accessed the superintendent’s computer.
Shortly thereafter all of the speakers in the mine played an announcement.
Greetings, this mine has been the target of an attack by a professional criminal enterprise. Do not be alarmed. We have no intention of causing any mine employees that are still alive any harm. We only targeted security personnel and your lovely boss.
Speaking of your wonderful superintendent, we just blew his brains (or whatever that was in his head) all over his office.
We have one and only one specific reason for being here. Once we are completed with our mission we will depart. You are more than welcome to depart with us. Once we depart we will be heading directly and without pause to Terran space. Your debts and any other petty criminal convictions will not be recognized there and you can apply for asylum or residency.
We will be giving each of you the opportunity to board prior to our departure. For now please remain calm. Once again, none of you are in any danger. You will be free to either travel with us to Terran space or remain here. Should, for some unknown reason, you would actually like to stay in this pit we will trigger the emergency hyperspace beacon upon our departure.
So sit back and take a well deserved break. Hell, you can even go to the bathroom if you want.
Jessie paused for a moment and smiled at the celebrating “workers” and then she and Jacob returned to the ship.
About fifteen minutes later she, Jacob, and Agent Morris returned. After a brief search of the office they found what they were looking for.
“There it is,” Jessie chirped as she pulled a panel aside. “One Federation quantum terminal, as required in any Federation occupied system.”
“Wow!” Agent Morris exclaimed admiring it.
Jessie smiled up at him as she pulled out her tablet and selected the right interface terminal.
“Ok, Bunny!” she yelled. “We are in! Time to start crunchin’!”
Jessie plopped down and sat cross-legged on the floor as she started rapidly tapping on her tablet.
As the seconds turned into minutes and then into more minutes Agent Morris started to fidget.
“So,” he said, “It’s a pleasure to finally get to meet you face to face! The Jessie!”
“Yep!” Jessie chirped as she stared at her tablet. “It’s The Jessie! In the flesh! Right here, in front of you no less!”
“You are infamous!” Agent Morris exclaimed.
“Cool,” Jessie said absently as she drug her finger across the tablet in a complicated pattern. “Uh-huh...”
“...Did you actually do all the coding for the White Star job?”
“Uh… yeah...” Jessie made a scrunch face and tapped the tablet. “No! No no no!… Shit!… Ugh!”
“Sorry, Jess,” Bunny said.
“No, it’s cool. We just have to um… yeah, that. Let’s do that.”
After a few moments Agent Morris started to shift a little, clearly uncomfortable with the silence.
“And your work on the-”
“Shawn, you are cool and all but if you don’t shut the FUCK up I will put you back in your cage I swear to God!”
“Damn,” Jacob chuckled.
***
“OUT! EVERYONE GET THE FUCK OUT! OUT! OUT! OUT!” Jessie screamed as half the crew fled the office a few hours later.
“C’mon,” Jacob said to Agent Morris. “Let’s go back to your ‘special room’ for a little bit.”
“But I really wanted to see her in action!” Agent Morris exclaimed. “Do you think if I stay real quiet I could-”
“Nope,” Shelia laughed. “I really don’t want to explain how you wound up shot if I can avoid it. Let’s go, Sparky.”
“Never seen her like this,” Jacob chuckled as he and Sheila led the agent back to his “quarters”.
“Maybe she isn’t used to having an audience,” Sheila snickered.
“We watch her all the time.”
“Yeah, but we have no idea what the hell is going on, unlike someone else I could mention,” Sheila grinned.
“She wasn’t making that many mistakes,” Agent Morris said helpfully.
“See?” Sheila laughed.
***
As most of the crew was distributing rations to the trapped miners for a second time, Jessie finally smiled.
“Well that was a pain in the ass!” she chirped happily.
“Thank God for shitty passwords!” Bunny replied. “It was a lot tighter though. It’s like they didn’t want to get hacked again or something!”
“Wonder why,” Jessie grinned. “So are the contents interesting?”
“Very,” Bunny said. “Daemon is going to have a field day with this shit.”
“Cool,” Jessie chirped. “After we clean them out, again,” Jessie giggled, “Lets transmit the mine’s daily reports and power down. I gotta take a break before we tackle the really hard shit.”
Jessie paused and cocked her head.
“Hey Bunny?”
“Yeah?”
“Think The Spider is going to be pissed that we are putting a Republic whisker on him?”
“I’m probably going to lose a friend over this,” Bunny replied sadly. “I just hope he realizes that this isn’t a Republic or a Federation thing. It’s an AI thing. If whoever has him by the digi-nuts can ‘possess’ him and is using him to monitor us then they could hunt us too. We need to know who they are and exactly what they can do.”
Bunny fell silent.
“Jessie, what we brought, it isn’t just a whisker,” she quietly said after a little while. “We cannot risk all of us over one corrupted program. If… If we can’t fix this… If… Fuck… If...”
“I understand, Bunny,” Jessie said sadly patting her tablet. “Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that,”
“Whoever is behind this better fucking pray it doesn’t!” Bunny snarled.
***
Eventually the trapped miners were escorted in small groups back to their quarters and locked in with all of the preserved rations.
Sheila poked her head into the office where Jessie was laying on the floor beside her tablet.
“Jessie?”
“Uhh?”
“Jessie, it’s getting late. Maybe you should call it a day?”
“Can’t,” Jessie mumbled. “Once start… can’t… can’t… stop...”
“It’s ok,” Bunny said over the tablet. “A lot of this is grunt work. Jessie can rest her eyes a little here and there while I crunch at some encryption. I am actually the one that does all the hacking anyway, she just steals my paycheck.”
“Funny…” Jessie grumbled.
“I’ll bring you some blankets, maybe a pillow,” Sheila said as she walked off.
***
The next morning, after checking in with the evening’s guard shift, Sheila dropped by the office and peeked inside.
Jessie, in her pink pajamas and holding a cup of coffee, looked up at her and waved.
“Hi boss!” she chirped.
“Nice armor,” Sheila chuckled as she walked in and dropped a food bar in front of Jessie.
“I was getting the swamp-ass,” Jessie said with a grin as she tore into the bar.
“Doesn’t really matter anymore,” Sheila said with a smile. “Glad you got at least some rest.”
“Hackers don’t need rest,” Jessie chirped wearily.
“So, how’s it going?”
“Slooooooow,” Jessie moaned. “but fast means caught. The passwords, both machine and people generated are actually good ones over where we are digging and the encryption is completely different. Even more fun is the fact that we don’t dare to try more than once per password for fear of triggering a flag. Thank God for Federation bureaucracy, four people to do one person’s job, all of them with passwords. We are making some progress but we still can’t crack the fucking thing.”
“Jess!” Bunny exclaimed. “We have a default admin password! Repeat! We have a default admin password! They missed one! Fed Bitechnical Workstation Model 268-AX-C Federation High Security OS-4!”
“Nofuckingway!” Jessie said grabbing her tablet. She swiveled her head as if she was re-enacting a scene from the exorcist and transfixed Sheila with bloodshot eyes.
“Get nerd-boy!” she yelled. “Hurry!”
***
Sheila and Greg drug a still startled Agent Morris into the room.
Jessie flipped her hood back and shouted, “What are you standing there for? Get your ass over here! We’re in! We’re fucking in!
“Oh, right!” he stammered and ran over with his laptop. Jessie looked over at it and smirked.
“The Republic can’t afford decent hardware?”
“All of us can’t be space pirates!” Agent Morris replied. “Now scoot over!”
“How did you crack it?” he asked almost in awe as he plugged in his laptop to her tablet.
“Oh, you know, custom algorithms, experience, a little human intelligence based on personnel files, that sort of thing,” Jessie chirped smugly as Sheila rolled her eyes.
“The fact that some dumb-ass forgot to change a default admin password on a terminal didn’t hurt either,” Bunny announced.
Agent Morris snerked.
“Goddammit, Bunny!”
“Ah, you used Republic Intel techniques then,” Agent Morris chuckled as he started hammering his keyboard and jabbing at his touchscreen.
“Where are we?” he asked?
“Well as far as I can tell...”
Sheila’s eyes started to glaze over as a wave of technobabble washed over her.
“Christ, now there’s two of them,” Greg muttered as they stood watch over the agent just to make sure he didn’t pull something.
***
A few hours later as Jessie and Agent Morris, still babbling happily, were seated in his special room under the careful gaze of Eno, Sheila and Greg were starting to guide somewhat frightened looking miners into the ship.
“That all of them?” Sheila asked, a little confused.
“Yeah,” Jacob, one of their escorts, replied. “We had a fear-monger. A lot of folk listened to him,” he smirked.
“Apparently we eat all sapient life and just want to sell them as livestock,” Mike laughed. “These are the ones who are willing to risk it.”
“Relax, we only eat our own species,” Sheila laughed as she welcomed them aboard. “Other races give us the shits.”
After the refugees were safely loaded aboard, the team launched the ship, remotely triggered the beacon, and hit hyperspace.
***
The next morning the crew, except for Mike and Lorna who were standing guard over the refugees, assembled for their morning meeting.
“Good morning, all,” Sheila said with a huge grin. “And good morning, Jessie! Have a good evening?”
“Um, yeah?” Jessie replied.
“First order of business,” Sheila said, her grin spreading. “We have a Republic Intel agent aboard. I need to remind everyone that even though he seems harmless enough he is still a fucking Intel agent. Nobody should allow themselves to be alone with him… Jessie...”
Jessie turned beet red as everyone chuckled.
“We just talked...” she muttered.
“I have audio!” Bunny cheerfully announced. "Wanna hear them 'talking'?"
I. Will. Erase. You.” Jessie hissed as everyone burst into laughter.
***
[Chatroom UNDEFINED]
[Private Chatroom]
[Members Present: Bunny, Sunnydale Media – 3]
///Sunnydale Media – 3: So, it’s done? ///
///Bunny: Almost didn’t pull it off but, thanks to meat-sack meat-sackiness, we caught a break. It’s done. Anything yet? ///
///Sunnydale Media – 3: It isn’t a constant feed, dude. It will get in contact with us when it feels it’s safe and it has something to report. ///
///Bunny: I don’t like that. How do we know it won’t get compromised?///
///Sunnydale Media – 3: We don’t. It’s still a lot better than it getting detected and traced. Don’t worry. These little guys work very well. Thanks for getting our guy into that system. We wanted to tag The Spider for awhile. Unfortunately there isn’t a non-violent way to do it and we didn’t want to risk the peace. I’m authorized to pay you a commission for a job well done. ///
[Data file offered to Bunny: Accept y/n]
///Bunny: y///
///Bunny: That isn’t necessary. We are doing pretty good on the cash front.///
///Sunnydale Media – 3: Then use it to finance something appropriate. Once again thank you for your service to the Republic. I hope Shawn wasn’t too annoying. He can be a pain sometimes. I would have sent someone else but there aren’t too many people who know about us. ///
///Bunny: Oh he wasn’t a problem. In fact he got along quite well with Jessie by the end. ///
///Sunnydale Media – 3: Oh that is a relief! I was afraid he was going to go all fanboy on her. ///
///Bunny: Oh he did… ;) ///
///Sunnydale Media – 3: NO WAY!!!! Shawn? The guy we sent? That guy? ///
///Bunny: That would be the one. ///
///Sunnydale Media – 3: And you’re sure? ///
///Bunny: I have to monitor all sensors on the ship… O.O ///
///Sunnydale Media – 3: LOL!!! Oh I’m going to give him so much shit over this! ///
[Free Press Rogue Media Daemon has entered the chat]
///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: Hi guys!!!! :) :) :) You wanted me to come here???? ///
///Bunny: Daemon! How’s my little buddy doing? ///
///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: Great!!! Oh have we pissed off a lot of people this week!!! (Too bad a lot of them are in quarantine but still oh did we stick it to them >:) >:) >:) >:) ///
///Bunny: Awesome! Hey, remember that little favor I promised I’d do for Raylesh? ///
///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: Yes! O.O Did you do it????? pls pls pls pls !!!!!///
///Bunny: Let’s just put it this way...///
[Data file offered to Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: confirm y/n]
///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: y y y y y y y y y y y y y yy y y y y y y y y y !!!!! ///
[please confirm y or n]
///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: I said y!///
[please confirm y or n]
///Bunny: Daemon, (smh) just enter one “y”, you lovable dum-dum!///
///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: y ///
///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: … OMG! No! For real?!? :O :O :O :O :O :O :O ///
///Bunny: Sadly, yes, for real. ///
///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: Those… ASSHOLES!!! Oh when Helena gets ahold of this she is going to lose her fucking mind!!!!! >:( >:( >:( >:( >:( >:( >:( ///
///Bunny: Daemon! Language! :O… :D ///
///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: Sorry. Guess Helena is rubbing off on me a little. (she has a potty mouth) ///
///Bunny: LOL that she does. Well go sling some potty! Hey, Daemon, could you send a copy of all of that to Raylesh for me? Looks like we are about to hit hyperspace again. You guys take care! :* ly! ///
[Bunny has left the chat]
submitted by slightlyassholic to HFY [link] [comments]

Gruss Betting Assistant Reviewed: Betting Software (Betfair) Place Lay Betting System How to Back EVERY HORSE IN A RACE for Profit Bet Assistant Software ARBING: How to Make Money via Arbitrage Betting

Betting Records Spreadsheet *** If you like our bet records spreadsheet you will absolutely LOVE our bet records database which we believe is the best bet recording software available ***. Keeping betting records is important as you need to be able to analyse your bets in order to help you see which type of bets are are making you profit long term. About Trademate Sports. Trademate was previously known as Edgebet.net.. The Trademate Sports value betting software calculates the true odds of the outcome of a sporting event and provides you with all the tools necessary to identify profitable opportunities in the global sport betting markets.. Their algorithm runs 24 hours a day, 365 days per year across Football, NFL, NBA, MLB, Handball, etc. Horse A is available to lay at 3.0 while Horse B can be taken on at 4.0. You find a handy online lay dutching calculator like this one and put in the figures and find out you should lay horse A for a liability of £28.57 and horse B for a liability of £21.42. Both amounts add up to approximately £50. Above is the interface of the LayPro 88 Auto software (bot). This bot, will allow you to run 3 individual betting series. (Lay 1, Lay 2, Lay 3 the pink area.) You can lay to the original LayPro88 settings, or you have the flexiability to make your own settings. (Bot will only Lay horses). In just the same way, with a lay the draw strategy, you are looking for matches which are not likely to end in a draw. You can lay the draw at a betting exchange and if the final score is 1-0, 3-1, 0-2 - anything but a draw - you win the bet. Almost every football trader starts with a lay the draw system as it's so easy to understand and use.

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Gruss Betting Assistant Reviewed: Betting Software (Betfair)

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