Cleansing Prelude

Ash.png Walking through the corridors of Strength of Resolve was a very different experience than a similar trip through Clarity of Purpose. Subdued cyan lighting and pristine, seamless white walls were replaced with warmer hues and obvious functionality—terminals, access hatches, machinery tracks, etc… Normally those corridors were also home to a lot of foot traffic, but not today. Due to the secretive nature of what was occurring the metro-carrier has diverted most personnel along other routes. That meant that the three women and two men walking together were an island in a sea of calm.

“You’re a walking cliché, you know that, don’t you?” one of the women, the only one not dressed in a uniform, said to another. The recipient of the comment was a young woman with long, pale blonde hair and bright green eyes. She was also constantly rolling her shoulders and picking at her uniform.

“I can’t help it. I am an anarchist at heart and you made me the commander of the thrice-damned fleet.” For a moment Shi Tsu stopped fussing with her clothing; her attention focused on the other woman. “And what about you? Why don’t you have to wear a soul-sucking badge of conformity?”

The first woman, also blonde and with a third eye on her forehead, was wearing a blue bodysuit with subtle armor plating embedded within the weave. “Because it wouldn’t fit me.” she said with a slight smile.

Shi Tsu rolled her eyed. “There you go again, pleading practicality when it suits your purposes.”

“Lieutenant Commander Ash.” the low baritone of Strength of Resolve rolled through the corridor. “Fighter wings Alpha, Gamma and Xi are currently in rotation. They have been notified that they are to come under your command when you launch.”

“Thank you Sor.” the first woman replied. “Bastian, make sure to ping the wing commanders once we launch. I’ll leave the coordination of the support units to you.”

“Yes, sir.” Bastian Nael was a physically imposing figure, even for an earth-aspected dragonblooded.

“Oh, no. You’re not going to let official business get you off the hook this time.” Shi Tsu pressed. “Why do you get to go gallivanting off, discovering Jade-born caches and hollow worlds from a time before time and I’m stuck here being the responsible one?”

Ash was still smiling, but said nothing in response. Which only encouraged Shi Tsu to push harder. “You know, I outrank you now. I could just order you to take me with you.”

“Rank or not, I get to decide who is inside of me.” the mechanical woman stated.

“Oh?” Shi Tsu replied, her own grin rapidly growing. “Would it help if I made myself look like Leaunic? You let him inside of you on a regular basis if I remember right.”

Laughter filled the hallway, followed a moment later by one of the men adding, “I didn’t think robots could blush.”

“That’s enough out of you Anders.” Ash warned the man. “Keep it up and I will give her your spot.”

“As for you Shi Tsu,” the armored form began as a door in front of them opened up, revealing a spacious hangar bay, and a 10 meter alchemical that was turning to face the gathering. "don’t make me embarrass Sor by accidentally stepping on his bridge commander and turning her into charcoal paste.

The laughing continued for another moment before Shi Tsu spoke again. “Bring her back in one piece. Life would be far duller without an insecure giant robot to taunt when I get bored.”

“Will do, sir.” the third woman replied.

“Let’s get this started.” Ash added, desperately trying to regain control of the conversation.

After coming to a stop, the third eye on the automaton rose off of the artificial woman, spinning in the air a moment before flying towards the alchemical. Reaching it’s destination, the eye merged back into star-metal caste. Free of the alchemical’s control, the arete-series artificial infiltrator moved towards the rear of the hangar to wait for further instructions.

No longer splitting her attention, Ash turned back towards the large doors sealing the hangar bay and began to alter her form. Not a true transformation, it was more of a replacement, with each individual piece of herself slipping into elsewhere while a corresponding alternative component was drawn into reality and attached to her structural foundation. When the process was complete the humanoid form had been replaced with a space faring vessel just a little larger than the standard fleet fighter or interceptor. A moment later the cockpit hatch popped open and Argent Singularity Horizon’s crew began boarding.

First in was Bastian Nael. Integrating with Ash’s senses, he would serve as a second set of eyes, a communications officer of sorts and voice of the ship if Ash was indisposed. Second was Anders Jehiel. A water-aspected dragonblood, his focus would be on Ash’s weapon systems. The final piece of the team was Aleksandra Cait, a recently exalted eclipse caste solar. While they would certainly take any celestial exalted that could get, Alek’s exaltation was a direct result of casualties on the Gunstar, meaning her presence was a constant reminder of the loses already sustained.

Once aboard, Ash closed the canopy and began the flight start up sequence. As her plasma thruster assembly roared to life a rotating light seemed to spin in the depths of the two disk engines set on either side of the cockpit. Faster and faster the illumination spun until it became a solid cyan glow. A moment later, dozens of hexes popped into existence around the vessel, only to fade away just as quickly as the light-etched interceptor barrier came online. Finally, four separate essence pulse cannons unfolded from the fuselage, two on either side of the cockpit, while a massive concussive essence cannon dropped from the belly of the ship.

With a flare of light from within the depths of the disk engines, Ash shot out of Strength of Resolve to await the response of their prey once the infernal bitch knew she was cornered.

Investigation, and the Mission Revealed

2nd of the Spear, Second Age 5108

With 24 hours until cast-off, Megine, Aravia, Bob, and Ash investigated the system the Gunstar currently resided in.

They discovered the following:

  • The system was only 2-3 light-years from the nearest system, and the star cluster was unusually small
  • The system was trinary (had three stars)
  • There were originally nine planets – six around the primary star, two around the secondary star, and one around the tertiary star
  • System was stable and mature
  • What were once planets are now debris, apparently from being dismantled by Essence cutting technology (possibly a “cosmic slap chop”)
  • Planets were dismantled no more than 100 years ago
  • Debris reveals an almost complete absence of magical materials, and significant amounts of mass were unaccounted for.
  • Finally, they encountered an iron teapot, containing frozen water and a single gray hair.

Initial investigation of the teapot and water:

  • It was manufactured, most likely by being shaped by Essence (Factory-Cathedral style)
  • The water is oddly sterile, with very little biological matter and higher-than-normal mineral contents

Investigation ensued!

Necromantic Investigation
A Dragon-blooded Necromancer was obtained, who attempted a ghost-calling ritual. The ritual was unsuccessful. Possible explanations include the ghost being bound in some way (within soulsteel, perhaps), having been completely obliterated, a la Ghost-Eating Technique, having reincarnated, or not being dead.

Investigator-based Investigation
Yrani, Aravia’s Lunar Mate, knew a high E4 Night Caste investigator named Orubah the Keen Sight who could help. He was, surprisingly, not very full of himself.

He looked into the past of the person who had held the hair, and learned.

  • The people it belonged to were human-like, but not human, though there was a “resonance”
  • The society was industrial and focused, “like we aspire to”
  • There was desperation for resources more severe than the Gunstar’s involved

He asked to accompany the Exalts to the meeting with the Genesis scientist.

Genesis-based Investigation
Xefin, Megine’s Metropolis mentor, knew a Genesis scientist who could help make a Bio-Motonic Replicant of the person the hair belonged to – an E9 or E10 Twilight Caste scientist named Kharum. They found him in a Vats complex, with a similarly-high-Essence Solar woman named Zoranna. Zoranna is attractive, tall, exotically pink hair, and the foremost expert on Genesis science on the Gunstar. Kharum looks just old enough to appear distinguished, and, while he is not especially attractive, has a presence about him.

Kharum was rude, but agreed to help, and examined the hair. He (with some help from Orubah) found that the creature (or possibly just its species) had at some point in the past been touched by Autochthon.

Malki-based Investigation
Aravia went to Sova with the teapot to chat with the malki of her predecessor, Feanan Star-Stealer, who ranged far and wide looking for Luna and Gaia in her time.

Feanan indicated that she had seen similar craftsmanship once, some two thousand years ago. She had been exploring a planet the Deliberative was going to mine out (a distance very significantly separate from the Deliberative’s current location), and found thousand-year-old structures with a similar aesthetic sense. The builders of the structures had apparently come to the planet and mined a rare adamant-orichalcum alloy (described as “like a golden mirror”).

She also found a maker’s mark on the inside of the teapot, a row of dots. Aravia’s armor’s translation function revealed it to be a weird, specific dialect of Old Realm when spoken, and to be a three-part proper name that would be difficult to pronounce.

Cosmological Investigation
Ash, via astronomical observation, determined that whatever had done this had done so in a straight line, at least fifty light-years in either direction.

Eventually, the Exalts returned to Clarity to prepare for departure. At the moment of departure (more or less), Chancellor Gorol gave a speech to the entire Gunstar:

“Citizens of Autochthonia…
I come to you today bearing momentous news
After more than a thousand years of battle
Of toil and labor and blood and sweat and tears
Today we enter a new and glorious age!

Long has been our struggle…
In the wake of ruin we salvaged an entire world
We devised a plan, a means for our salvation
We sacrificed and struggled to make it real
And in our sacrifice we found hope!

And now that hope is realized…
For today we are citizens of the Realm no longer
Today we are all of us commissioned to a new office
Today we become the Crew of the Gunstar!
And today, our Reclamation begins!"

Admiral Kaneko, at that point, called the senior staff to the bridge. Upon their (very prompt) arrival, he revealed the Clarity’s mission. Clarity would perform a Nullspace jump to the outskirts of a planetary system containing the planet SK-011 B. She would then immediately shift into Nullspace, anchored to a piece of debris on a ballistic trajectory for the planet for an 18-month journey, then shift out of Nullspace. At that point, her and the crew’s mission is to pacify the planet and set up the infrastructure required to gate in the Gunstar and the rest of its fleet.

What we know about SK-011 B

  • The nearest time-scar is a week’s travel away by Daystar, months for more conventional fleets
  • There have been several colonization attempts by Primordial forces that didn’t really take – they don’t seem to care much about supporting the colonists there
  • It is just barely off of the line of travel Ash predicted the Cosmic Slap-Choppers took or came from.

What we know about the mission objectives

  • Provided all the Alchemicals, Clarity, and the crew are working, the construction should take just under a month
  • If just Clarity helps, it will take several months
  • If just the crew works, it will take decades

Experience earned: 8


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