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Heritage (4)

First Chapter
Previous Chapter
The view of Sanctuary was made even more impressive as An’Ra and his team waited in the V-Lift. Through the window, they can see the ornate streets curving through resplendent pools underneath, dotted by the occasional fountain.
“I hate this.” Vora groaned, dressed in a soldier’s standard battle uniform. “Why are we here, Commander?”
“We were investigating genocide and possible use of bioweapons,” Sonak explained, “Even without the first part, Strain Y is going to scare a lot of people. I think it’s reasonable for the Council to take a personal interest in this. Besides, I think the real issue here is the fact you might actually have to speak to the Council.”
“But...ugh, fine. Yes, I wasn’t mentally prepared for it when An’Ra came along and went, Party’s over, ass to the Council, now.”
“Hey now.” An’Ra feigned offense, “I didn’t say it that way, did I?”
“Kind of close, Commander.” Sonak chuckled.
“But still, I think that this isn’t about keeping the galaxy safe.” Vora sighed. “I think the Council’s keeping an eye open for any opportunity to to convince the galaxy they’re still in charge.”
“Or maybe they genuinely want to make sure that we’re not at risk of dying a horrible death by watching our own bodies melt.” Sonak shrugged. “Strain Y doesn’t care if you’re an officer or infantry.”
“That assumes the Council cares about what’s going on outside of these walls.” Vora glanced over, wariness in her look.
“Either way, we’re going to get our answer. Eyes open.” An’Ra said as the V-Lift doors parted ways, revealing the same ornate architecture within. Trees and grasses stole the eye as they walked through the hallways, various government officials from the myriad races conversing and conducting whatever business they were doing. After walking up some steps, they arrived at the large double-doors that lead to the Council Chambers. Standing on each side were the guards constantly on watch for any potential attack. Both of them Anaran, as expected. On approach, the guards opened up the doors to allow An’Ra and his team in.
When they entered, the room was probably more magnificent than they expected. A grand, curved window dominated the view. An unintrusive look into the beautiful splendor of Sanctuary. Directly in front of An’Ra and his team was a pathway that led to a semi-circular desk, standing in front of the raised platform that the Council sat, who had just now noticed the arrivals and are settling themselves in.
And it was there An’Ra got a good look at the Council. Four of them, half Esti, half Huak. An’Ra secretly never liked the Esti, the way he could see menacing fangs when their flat mouths opened, or those flaps of scale that expands outward into a hood. It just unnerved him, a reason he could never really find out. As soon as he sensed that they were ready, he walked up to the desk, wearing his officer’s dress uniform, comprised of a fine, smooth fabric shirt, adorned with a fluffy sash that went from his right shoulder down to his left side, shoulder pads accented with shining studs and finished with awards placed on his top-left chest, awards hard earned back in the Great War.
“Commander An’Ra.” The Huak councilor on the far right side, Neual, began, thick fingers interlaced together as he rested his hands on the desk. “Thank you for agreeing to this unusual request, we are very appreciative.”
“It’s no trouble, Councilor.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “How can I help?”
“We’ll start at the beginning.” The first Esti councilor, Zhur, stated, holding up a secure datapad to ensure the information is easily accessible. “Strain Y. Your report says that while there is confirmation it was used, it was not used in significant quantities. Can you elaborate on that for us?”
“Previous uses of Strain Y all had one thing in common,” An’Ra began, “The amount deployed saturated the atmosphere of the planets they were used on. This is because, despite its lethality, is not actually that infectious. In order to guarantee the total elimination of a planet’s population, you will need to deploy it in such large numbers that everyone will be infected within minutes of deployment. In this case, for Planet 3, there simply wasn’t enough to reach that threshold.”
“At which you go on to state that thermal weapons were used in a state of panic,” Yhiz, the second Esti councilor, added, “Can you explain your reasoning for us?”
“As established before, Strain Y was used on the planet. My working theory is that, when they discovered that they grossly underestimated the amount needed, they panicked and used thermal weapons to both try and burn out the supplies used and finish the genocide they started.”
“But if thermal weapons were indeed used, how did you confirm Strain Y was deployed?” Zhur spoke up.
“We found pieces of Strain Y’s genetic material on the planet’s surface.” An’Ra glanced over to Zhur’s direction. “And as I arrived back in the system, I received a quantum packet from the expedition, stating that they have confirmed that Strain Y was indeed used. Adding that with the obvious use of thermal weaponry, I concluded that the attackers didn’t use enough of the weapon to guarantee extinction.”
Zhur leaned back in her seat, scarlet eyes fixated on the desk. An’Ra couldn’t tell if she was trying to find a counter argument or just processing the information.
“Have you found any evidence that can tell us if there’s more of the strain out in the galaxy?” Neual asked after giving a sigh through his wide nostrils.
“I’m afraid not, sir. All I can definitively say is that this planet fell victim to a biological Cruel Weapon.”
“I’m more concerned about the native life.” Ghala, the final and second Huak councilor, stated after being silent. “Are you absolutely certain that none of the planet’s indigenous life survived?”
“The scientific team said that there’s a very low chance of that.” An’Ra’s ears flattened. “And after seeing the surface myself, I must agree. I don’t think we should wait for a miracle.”
“Ah...I see.” Ghala leaned back in his chair, obviously disheartened. “Even if the planet is now incapable of supporting life, we still wish to move forward with a more symbolic gesture and statement by declaring Planet 3 of System AQ 115-4A illegal for colonization.”
“But let’s move onto what I believe is the most pressing issue: the identity of the attackers.” Neual leaned forward. “Based on your report, you and the team have found nothing that neither confirms nor clears any potential suspect?”
“That’s correct, Councilor.” An’Ra nodded. “We’ve found nothing, within the system and on the planet itself, that tells us anything about who did it.”
“Are there any surviving infrastructure on the planet?” Ghala asked, straightening his posture. “Even if there isn’t much, maybe the natives’ equipment has something we can use?”
“As established before, the planet was devastated terribly. There are indeed ruins of their civilization, but whether or not we can salvage anything from them is a different story.” An’Ra answered with a sigh.
“So in that case, the Qu’Rathi are still the likely aggressors then.” Zhur stated.
“I’m not convinced.” An’Ra shook his head. “Everything we have so far is just circumstantial, nothing solid.”
“Yes, that proves they did it. But looking at it from a different perspective, nothing that proves they didn’t do it either.” Zhur countered, her eyes squinting some.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to press forward with what I think you’re planning, Councilor.” An’Ra leaned forward on the table, ears flattening back. “If you do, and we uncover evidence that clearly proves their innocence, you will be pushing an innocent race away.”
“But if we uncover evidence that proves their guilt, then the trial will be much more expedient.” Yhiz joined in, his eyes also squinting slightly.
“With respect Council, I still think that’s the worst decision you can make.” An’Ra’s teeth began to bare as he spoke. “We can’t make any decision until we acquire more evidence.”
“Nothing we have proves that Strain Y is permanently removed as a future threat.” Zhur started, “Nothing we have proves that the Federation did not do anything. Right now, we have the threat of a Class 4 Cruel Weapon looming over everyone’s heads. People will start becoming scared, start wondering if their shadows will melt them at any time.”
“I know that Councilors!” An’Ra raised his voice. “Give me time! I’m not saying this is over yet, just let me keep looking!”
“We aren’t stopping your investigation, Commander.” Neual said, holding his hand up slightly. “We’re just informing you that you may not have the time you thought you had.”
“What does that mean?” An’Ra’s ears stuck out at an angle, mixed between stiffening and anger.
The councilors looked at each other for a few moments before Zhur stood up and took in a deep breath. “Commander, based on both the collected evidence so far, and lack of any other evidence, the Council has decided to proceed with charging the Qu’Rathi Federation on counts of Genocide, possession of a Cruel Weapon, and deployment of Cruel Weapons with intent for malicious harm. Out of respect for your efforts, Commander, we will give you eight months to continue your investigation. Beyond that, we will close your investigation to allow the courts time to process and review what has been collected.”
“Are you insane?!” An’Ra shouted. “Do you even realize what would happen if you’re wrong?!”
“We do, Commander.” Zhur nodded. “But the risk is just too high. The safety of the galaxy and justice for the inhabitants of System AQ 115-4A must be our top priority. This debrief is over.”
An’Ra stood in complete and stunned silence, watching the Council casually get up from their seats and dispersing to their own private offices. It wasn’t until that they have fully left the chambers that An’Ra finally found the will to move and regroup with Sonak and Vora, both of whom are also equally stunned.
“Those ekas!” Vora exclaimed. “It’s bad enough to be quick at accusing someone, but how dare they claim this is for those humans!”
“And here I thought all those things the news were saying was just to get people to watch them.” Sonak muttered softly. “Commander, obviously this is bad.”
“I know, Sonak.” An’Ra crossed his arms, ears now pointing straight back and teeth fully bared. “We can’t let them do this.”
“But what can we do?” Sonak exclaimed. “What options do we have?”
“Alliance Enforcement!” Vora declared. “Commander, what if you filed a complaint to the Lord-Enforcer? Tell him what’s going on?”
“That’s a good idea actually.” Sonak nodded. “If we convince the Lord-Enforcer that the Council is being too hasty with our investigation, which shouldn’t be hard, he just might deny the Council’s request for prosecution!”
“I can’t imagine the Lord-Enforcer approving this even without our complaint.” An’Ra replied. “Still, never hurts to be prepared. Come on, let’s get to it.”

Jur’El leaned back in the puffy seat he was assigned to. The restaurant he entered had a calm and relaxed atmosphere. The lighting was dimmed, which complimented the dark but cozy ambiance of the room. The walls and floor each had a dark-themed color scheme, the seats were of a different scheme but not too different to oppose the goal set by the designer. And although the building was packed with customers, their conversations did not threaten to turn anyone deaf. It was a quiet and relaxed experience, something he needed desperately.
Even now, as hard as he tried to focus on how delicious his food was, how balanced the flavor and texture of it was, he was still forced to relive what happened on Planet 3. He could hear the sudden screams of his colony group. The scientists who were first awoken that wanted to find out why their Life world was so different to the data they were given. To the families and menial workers who were just talking amongst themselves and organizing the supplies when those machines stormed the ship. And what still terrifies him, still sends his heart racing, was when that one machine entered the control room, blood drenching its chassis. Bits and pieces of Qu’Rathi innards on its cold mechanical manipulators. How it just stared at him, lifelessly, with a rifle aiming right at his chest. And those drills. Those ghenning drills.
He was forced out of his torment by the rough poking of his shoulder. When he looked, it was another Qu’Rathi. “Captain Jur’El, right?”
“Uh..yes, who are you?” He nodded in confusion.
“Jhen.” She introduced herself, quickly taking a seat opposite from him. “I need to talk to you.”
“About what?”
“The expedition to that system deep in the Dead Zone.” She glared at him, mandibles tense. “The same system who’s Life world had a native population, the very same world being investigated as a genocide site, where your expedition went to settle.”
“Jhen, please, we had no idea what was going on.” Jur’El leaned back, hands raised in a defensive posture. “All we were told was that this was the most pristine and beautiful Life world ever discovered in a system rich with stellar bodies.”
“I don’t care about that. What I care is how you seem to be the only one who came back.” Jhen started raising herself from her seat. “I’m pretty sure that anyone who attempts to colonize a freshly cleansed world is forcibly removed from that planet and returned to their respective people. So where is everyone?”
Jur’El’s eyes went wide. He knew exactly where this was going. “I...I can’t tell you.”
“Don’t you dare.” Jhen snarled, now leaning over the table. “I’ve heard enough of that from the company, I’m not here to be force-fed more of it!”
“Just...trust me,” Jur’El spoke softly, shakily leaving his seat, “You don’t want to know.”
“Don’t you ghenning walk away from me!” Jhen shouted, grabbing Jur’El’s shoulder firmly, the other patrons now locking eyes to the two. “Two of my sons were on that mission! What happened to them?!”
Jur’El clutched his head with a hand firmly, feeling tears exploding out of his eyes. His mind rushing back to those scenes. The sounds, the smell, the fear. Everything crashed into him all at once. And they’re not just memories now. They’re all coming back to him as if he was transported in time and placed back to the exact moment it started. Back to the moment where he was screaming for his wife and son to hide, to find a corner of the ship that was hard to see and to stay there until the shooting stopped. How he felt his heart give out when he heard them beg for their life when they were found, cut short by the merciless cracks of their alien weapons. How every possible feeling melted away when the clanking of the machine’s walking approached him, when he realized there was no nowhere in the control room to hide, not with how thorough those things were being. The frantic, mindless begging he got into when he saw the blood covered machine hold that weapon to him.
“You’re safe!” A voice rang out. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for him to come back. That scene melting away back into the restaurant. All those smells and sights to be gone. When he was certain that it was over, he looked around. There was Jhen, face beaten and currently being restrained by a blue-furred Anaran. And in front of him was another, gray-furred one. “You hear me? You’re safe now!”
“I...wh-what happened?”
“We saw what was going on. The Qu’Rathi over there? She was just screaming down your throat, all while you were just on the floor. Ken’A there nearly caved her face in by the time we got some distance between you two.”
“Th...thank you.” Jur’El muttered, shakily getting himself back on his feet with the help of the gray Anaran. Jur’El was just about to walk away when the Anaran firmly, but not threateningly, gripped his shoulder.
“I know the signs, friend.” He began softly. “Your soul is badly wounded and is bleeding heavily. Just like a doctor if you’re shot or cut, you need to find someone to talk to, get your soul back together.”
“As long as I don’t run into another person like her, I’ll be fine.” Jur’El countered, trying to walk away still.
“No, you won’t.” The Anaran still held his grip. “I need you to trust me. With how bad your soul is right now, doing anything other than talking to someone will just make it worse. And when your soul dies, well...believe me, it’s not a good experience, for anybody.”
Jur’El stared into the gray Anaran’s orange eyes for a moment before he let out a sigh. “You’re not going to give up, are you?”
“I’ve seen what happens too many times. Good Battle-Brothers, completely different people. Either they’re just shadows of themselves, or doomed to forever relive their horrors. If I have the chance to prevent it happening again, I’m giving it my all.”
Jur’El looked aside for a few moments, internally fighting himself as to whether he should comply or keep resisting. He finally reached his decision when he became certain that the Anaran would most likely hunt him down as a life mission if he didn’t seek therapy. “Fine, I’ll do it. Got anyone in mind?”
“A dear friend of mine. He’ll get you back on track, promise.” The Anaran patted Jur’El’s shoulder a few times before proceeding to lead him, motioning for Ken’A to let go of Jhen and follow.

Michael, accompanied by his newly founded Praetorian Guard, continued his leisurely stroll down the surprisingly spacious corridor. The hallway itself was typical. All-metal construction with evenly spaced rows of blue-white lights.
The Praetorian Guard themselves are comprised of those Servants who display both extreme scores in combat efficiency and effectiveness in defensive situations. Armed with the absolute best in magnetic-ballistics, the most impenetrable of armor designs and the highest optimized combat-frames, even a squad of these guards can hold off a virtual army, provided they aren’t subjected to bombardment or heavy ordinance.
Just as Michael was about to enter the main command center of the station he was touring, Central contacted him on a private channel.
“Master? Your new administration is ready.” He declared proudly.
“Alright, let’s begin the introductions.” Michael replied, signaling the guardsmen that he’s about to enter a meeting. Although unneeded, the Guard promptly took up a defensive formation around him. He assumes this is mostly to keep unwelcome guests from interrupting him.
The scenery of the tranquil design of the corridor melted away into the virtual world built by neon-blue blocks, the same visual that he witnessed when he first received the interface. After a few moments, several other Servants materialized and stood attention in a semi-circle in front of him.
“My Lord.” The first Servant bowed, its voice deep, if gruff. “I’m Supreme Commander Schwarzkopf, in charge of managing our armed forces and overseeing the grand strategy of the Imperium.”
“I am Secretary Elizabeth.” The second spoke with a calming, soothing feminine voice. “I’m responsible for ensuring our economy runs perfectly. In short, I make sure every project gets the hammers and resources it needs.”
“I’m Foreign Minister Edward, at your service m’Lord.” The third, with a distinct British accent and of a composed, controlled voice. “While regretfully I’m useless at this stage, the moment we initiate contact with xeno species, I’ll handle diplomatic affairs and achieving our goals through negotiations when possible.”
“No offense, but I thought every Servant wants to see aliens dead?” Michael spoke up with slight confusion.
“Oh, of course. The very idea of ripping out the entrails of a xeno and suffocating them with it brings such joy it’s therapeutic.” Benjamin replied. Michael was unsure if he was joking or not. “I was appointed because I displayed the most effective ability at hiding such feelings.”
“Ah...good to know.” Michael nodded dryly, not exactly assured. “Back to where we were?”
“Yes, Lord. I’m Director Mansfield.” The fourth spoke with an eloquent-sounding voice. “I’m in charge of Imperial Intelligence, running operations abroad and managing counter-intelligence on the homefront. I give you my word that we will know everything about the aliens and they will know nothing about us.”
“And that leaves me, Master.” Central began. “As a result of this delegation, I now possess more processing cycles towards research and development. That means that I’ll be in charge of ensuring Imperial dominance in technology. I will also act as your adjutant, filtering out information that does not need your attention.”
“Well...shit, this sounds like an actual government I’m in charge of.” Michael gave out a nervous chuckle. “All the more reason to get down to business though. Let’s start with the first matter. Schwarzkopf, how’s our military coming along?”
“It’s growing rapidly, your majesty.” He answered with distinct pride. “Already we have several hundred frigates, fifty light cruisers and twenty heavy cruisers, with the first wave of battleships due to exit the drydocks within a few days. Additionally, we have established four different army groups with fifty divisions each.”
“I thought we’d take a lot longer.” Michael stated with no hidden amazement.
“There’s great benefit in our workforce able to operate at a hundred percent every hour of the day.” Elizabeth commented, her emotion-flags also indicating pride. “And speaking of which, our population of Servants grows geometrically. That benefits both our economy and the military. Our economy by providing more workers in skilled and unskilled labor, and the military by providing more crew members and soldiers.”
“So in short, it won’t be long before we become a virtual powerhouse.” Michael said, arms crossed.
“Especially if we continue expanding.” Elizabeth nodded. “On that note, we have already claimed several dozen more systems.”
“With Rigel and Betelgeuse selected as naval bases.” Schwarzkopf chimed in.
“So we’re expanding in all the ways, got it.” Michael nodded. “Now the second matter. Terraforming Mars.”
“At present, there are two issues that must be resolved.” Central answered. “The first problem is the planet’s lack of a magnetosphere. Without that, any and all organic life would perish under lethal bombardment of the Sun’s solar wind, in addition to any sustainable atmosphere being lost to space. The second problem is Mars’ inability to retain heat, the cause for it’s known low planetary temperature.”
“And knowing you, you already have possible answers?” Mansfield shrugged.
“Correct. The heat issue is rather trivial to solve. Mars already has an abundant amount of carbon-dioxide within the atmosphere, a well known greenhouse gas. Combined with even more of the gas locked planet side, once temperatures begin to rise, we will set off a snowball effect. However, that is all for naught if the atmosphere is allowed to escape into space by solar wind.”
“So basically the key here is the magnetosphere.” Michael added. “Build that and everything becomes simple.”
“Exactly.” Central affirmed. “Already there are two main methods. One is to build superconducting rings around the planet and drive them with direct current. With enough power, we can generate magnetic fields strong enough to form a virtual magnetosphere.”
“And what’s the second?” Elizabeth said.
“The second is to construct a station at the L1 Lagrange Point that will generate a dipole magnetic field, diverting the solar wind around the planet instead of into it. Although it was simulated using slower, binary processing, the results indicate that Mars would gain half the atmospheric pressure of Earth’s within a few years.”
“So then, the main focus is building that magnetic shield.” Michael spoke firmly. “Elizabeth? Let’s get the ball rolling. Coordinate with Central as needed.”
“At once, my Lord.” Elizabeth bowed.

Unlike the Council chambers, the office of the Lord-Enforcer was much less opulent and more pragmatic. After going through the receptionist area, An’Ra and his team were escorted into the main office itself. However, just like the chambers, a large window dominated the view on entry, granting another view of a city district on Sanctuary.
And sitting in the more rectangular desk was the Lord-Enforcer himself, Dura. Blue eyed, with a fur of dull-orange it reminds of a sunset. As soon as An’Ra and his team walked into the office, the Enforcer sat up, tail wagging.
“Commander An’Ra, in my office!” He exclaimed, arms out to his sides. “Forgive me sir, but I never thought I’d see the day!”
“A pleasure to meet you, sir.” An’Ra replied warmly, greeting the Enforcer with their fists clasped together and pulling themselves inward, shoulder to shoulder.
“Please, no need to be formal with me.” Dura chuckled. “Sit down, what brings you here?”
After taking their respective seats, An’Ra looked at Dura grimly. “I’m here to file a delay on a request for prosecution against the Federation.”
Dura’s ears angled themselves in a mixture of stiffening and lowering. “I just got the paperwork from the Council. And I can tell you that won’t be needed. I’ve already submitted my rejection.”
“With respect, sir.” Sonak spoke up. “I get the feeling that the Council might fight that.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to present my back to them just because they ask.” Dura gave off a grin. “I might be some paper-tosser now, but that just means the battlefield is different. Don’t worry Commander, as long as I’m here, you’ll get the chance to finish this investigation properly.”
“Thank you, Enforcer.” An’Ra smiled as he got up from his seat. “With any luck, you won’t have to fight long.”
“Oh, take your time!” Dura replied with an inflection of humor. “This is the most exciting thing I’ve had in years. Was just about to smash my head on this desk any day now actually.”
“Wait, really?” Vora asked, ears stiffened.
“It’s just a joke, Vora.” Sonak assured dryly.
“Oh...” Her ears flattened as the team exited the office.
When they arrived in the main plaza where the Enforcer’s office is located, they congregated in a small collection of benches nearby an ornate fountain that commemorated the Anaran defense of Felaal IV, largely considered the turning point of the Great War, which further enhanced the beauty of the surrounding scenery of floating walkways above crystal-clear waters.
“Well, that’s a relief, hopefully.” An’Ra began, letting out a decompressing sigh.
“I meant what I said earlier, An’Ra.” Sonak said. “If the Council are determined to charge the Federation, which I’m sure they made abundantly clear, they’re not going to let the Enforcer drop mines in their path just like that.”
“Which just means we can’t lose our focus.” Vora replied sternly. “So, what are our options? We can’t exactly go back to Planet 3, there’s really no leads there.”
“What about that Detective we met when we arrived?” Sonak suggested. “He was handling that whistle blower. Maybe that’s something worth looking into?”
“There’s also the Nav-Net.” Vora said. “All we got right now is that the Feds were at that location, but what if we look at the rest of the network? Try and trace their path?”
“The network doesn’t extend into the Dead Zone.” Sonak countered.
“No, not like that. We look at the network across Alliance space. We start with the logs that end at the Dead Zone, and we try to backtrack their route.”
“We’ll need to obtain legal authorization for that, Vora.” An’Ra stated.
“Actually, if I could add something.” Sonak said with his arms crossed. “If the Federation didn’t actually do it, then that questions the credibility of those codes. I think there’s a question that hasn’t been asked yet. And that is, are those codes faked?”
“That’s...a good point actually.” Vora acceded. “If we get the legal permission to examine the NavNet logs, then if the Federation didn’t do it, the logs across the network won’t support it. Think about it. You need a big fleet to do what just happened, and that fleet has to come from somewhere.”
“And that would mean if this was a frame job, they need a way to account for that.” An’Ra continued, confidence flaring. “It’s one thing to trick a single Nav-Buoy, but I really doubt anyone is capable enough of affecting the network itself.”
“We still need the Enforcer’s help to get access to the network.” Sonak reminded.
“Let’s go get it then.” An’Ra stated firmly. With that, the team left their meeting spot and began returning to the Enforcer’s office.
With confidence in their step, the walk back to the office was much shorter compared to before. However, things took a turn when An’Ra and the team noticed a large gathering of officers around the office entrance. They didn’t have to time to wonder when a group exited the office, dragging a combative Dura out with them.
“Commander, this isn’t good.” Sonak growled under his breath.
An’Ra simply stepped forward and grabbed one of the arresting officers. “What in Arenar’s Sword is going on here?”
“Dura’s under arrest on suspicion of corruption.” The officer replied flatly. “Lil’Al has been appointed as acting Lord-Enforcer.”
“The Council’s behind this, Commander!” Dura shouted, his feet literally dragging along the floor as four officers were taking him away. “Don’t believe a word they say about me!”
An’Ra and his team just stood there in stunned silence, watching and hearing the Anaran official being dragged virtually kicking and screaming. By the time they returned to their senses, hushed conversations was populating both the room and outside.
“We’re not going to get in the network, are we?” Sonak asked, still recovering.
“We still have to try, come on.” An’Ra said, already moving. When the team returned to the office, standing next to the desk was a slender Esti. No doubt Lil’al. She was looking out the window when she turned around upon hearing the encroaching footsteps.
“Yes, may I help you?” She began.
“Acting Lord-Enforcer Lil’Al?” An’Ra began, trying the diplomatic route first. “I’m Commander An’Ra, investigating the genocide by use of Strain Y. We’d like to request legal authorization to examine the logs of the Nav-Net.”
“For what purpose?” She replied, taking her seat.
“We believe that it may hold evidence that either confirms or disproves the Federation’s alleged involvement in the attack.”
Lil’Al leaned back in her seat, staring at them. “The Nav-Net is the lifeblood of, well, everything. Commerce, tourism, law enforcement. It holds great information about who has gone where, and in what ship, Commander. You realize that, don’t you?”
“I do, and what you’ve said precisely states how important that is, how important the potential evidence is.”
Lil’Al stayed motionless for a few moments, her long, lithe fingers twiddling about that indicates her thought. “Very well, I’ll start the paperwork to get you authorization, just be mindful of what you’re about to analyze.”
“Thank you.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “In addition, I’m not sure if it’s been passed along, but Dura has rejected the Council’s request for prosecuting the Federation. Can I assume you’ll uphold that?”
“I’m afraid not, Commander.” Lil’Al replied flatly. “The galaxy has suffered a great loss through the genocide of a race who’ve suffered the universe’s cruel sense of humor by being placed both far away from us and deep within an almost uninhabitable region. I have overturned Dura’s rash decision and accepted the Council’s request.”
“Then I’d like to file a delay on that decision, immediately.” An’Ra replied, ears flattened back.
“On what grounds?”
“Lack of decisive evidence, to start.”
“Same could be said on your side, Commander.” Lil’Al let out a sigh. “Yes, all the evidence collected thus far is not...ideal. However, the most significant points at this time are that a young race who was just about to leave their homeworld was exterminated through the most horrible of all options. We cannot ignore that.”
“But we also can’t rush to conclusions. We need to continue investigating and only go after someone if we have at least one crucial piece of information.” An’Ra countered, arms crossed and his teeth starting to bare.
“And I agree, that’s how it should be done.” Lil’Al replied. “But if we do, we risk dragging out an investigation to such a length we may end up forgetting this tragedy. We cannot allow such an insult to Planet 3’s memory. I’m sorry, but I must reject your petition for judiciary delay.”
Next Chapter
AN: Every single time I paste this in, Reddit is just determined to put it in some code block. Anyways, As of now, I've finally completely locked in the plot for this story, just one major question that could've changed a lot was on my mind for a while. Enjoy!
submitted by SynthoStellar to HFY [link] [comments]

The Division 2 - Episode 1: D.C. Outskirts - Patch Notes

Patch Notes: Episode 1 - July 23rd, 2019

 

New Main Mission: Manning National Zoo

Emeline Shaw, the leader of the Outcasts, has fallen back from her defeat on Roosevelt Island and barricaded herself deep in the Manning National Zoo. To get to her, you will need to fight through the blockades and the Outcasts who protect her to put an end to her violence.
 

New Main Mission: Camp White Oak

The Black Tusks and their leader have set up a strategic position close to an estate nestled deep in the woodlands, and your assignment is to take them down and capture him in the new Camp White Oak mission.
 

New Feature: Expeditions

Expeditions are free events that bring players to unexplored locations around D.C. to discover new narrative and gameplay opportunities. These sites offer unique challenges and lore not found anywhere else: new collectibles, treasure rooms, environmental puzzles, unique boss mechanics, and more await every Agent who embarks on our Expeditions!
New Classified Assignment: Central Aquarium New Classified Assignment: NSA Site B13
 

Shepherd Reward System – Call for Backup

  • Added the ability to earn the “Shepherd” title by responding to call for backups and earning endorsements. An agent who received help will be able to endorse the helping agent.
 

Raid

  • Added Discovery Mode difficulty for the Operation Dark Hours raid.
  • Added Raid Completion Time to Clan Leaderboards. This leaderboard ranks clans based on how quickly they were able to complete the raid as a clan-only party.
 

Exotics

New Exotic: Diamondback Exotic Rifle
  • Lever action rifle
  • 5 round magazine
  • 100 RPM
  • Talents:
    • "Agonizing Bite"
      • Diamondback randomly marks an enemy. Hitting that enemy consumes the mark, guaranteeing a critical hit with +20% total damage. A new random enemy is marked afterwards, and whenever you reload.
    • "Deep Fangs"
      • After hitting 5 marked enemies, gain +50% reload speed, +20% total damage and all shots fired are guaranteed critical hits for 10s.
    • "Shedding Skin"
      • While drawn, each time a round is loaded, gain +20% bonus armor for 3s. While holstered, each time you reload or cycle your current weapon, gain +8% bonus armor for 2s
 

New Exotic: BTSU Exotic Gloves

  • Black Tusk gloves
  • Talents:
    • "Elemental Gadgetry"
      • Skills that apply status effects gain +50% status effect duration and +50% skill haste
    • "Energy Infusion"
      • Whenever you apply a status effect, your gloves become infused with that for 60s. While infused, you gain +10% skill damage, +10% skill healing and repair and +10% skill duration for each Utility (yellow battery) on your gear.
    • "Charged Proxies"
      • Whenever you throw a skill, 1.25s after landing, it creates an explosion applying the infused status effect to all enemies within 6m. Enemies affected by the infused status effect take 50% more damage from your skills.
  • Heroic Bosses now drop Exotics
    • Only exotics that the player is qualified for.
      • For world drop exotics it requires that the player has the drop previously
      • For crafted exotics, it requires that the player has the blueprint
      • Eagle Bearer remains exclusive to the Operation Dark Hours Raid
    • The purpose of dropping these is to allow a chance to get GS 500 variants without upgrading, or get materials to upgrade other exotics
    • These exotics can be team shared to other players.
  • Exotic items no longer have a random range on their damage/armor roll. All exotics are set to the previous highest possible value. This also affects existing exotic items.
 

Weapons

New Assault Rifle: Carbine 7
  • 30 round mag
  • 790 RPM
  • By default rolls with a new talent:
    • "Overflowing"
      • Every 3 reloads from empty increases your magazine capacity by 100%
 
New Light Machine Gun: Stoner LMG
  • 580 RPM
  • 200 Mag capacity
  • By default rolls with a new talent:
    • "Overwhelm"
      • Suppressing an enemy, that is not currently suppressed, grants +5% weapon damage for 10 seconds. Max stack is 5.
 
  • Increased the base damage of Shotguns in PvE.
    • M870: +36% damage
    • AA12: +29% damage
    • Super 90: +33% damage
    • SASG-12: +33% damage
    • SPAS12 +8% damage
 

Weapon Mods

  • Added Flashlight attachments for pistols
 

Skills

Developer Comments: We took a hard look at the current meta. The builds that are fun, effective and popular. We knew that skill builds, while it being something people want to play with, was nowhere near competitive. We knew there was an explosives damage build that was on the fringe of popularity, but none that actually relied on really good skill mods driven by skill power.
We analyzed the best damage builds and survivability builds out there and looked at their efficiency - how fast they kill, how fast they can clear content, how fast they can take down enemies - and mapped that to our skills. How much more power do skills need to get from 3K skill power (our current maximum requirement on skill power mods) to compensate for all the damage bonuses the player is "giving up" on gear to reach that skill power?
Then we looked at each skill and what it should be good at (burst, sustain, single target damage, survivability etc) and went to work tuning the mods to make a skill build approach the efficiency of a "red" damage build or a "blue" tank build. To that effect, here are the current changes to skill mods power levels, and in some cases base numbers, on skills.
 

Skill Haste

Cooldown Reduction has been replaced with skill haste. Skill haste works equivalent to speed. So 100% skill haste reduces cooldown by 50%, like a car speeding up by 100% getting to it's destination in half the time. This means that the player can invest in more than 100% Haste and still get something back. It also means there's a diminishing return to Skill Haste, as opposed to cooldown reduction where each point was actually worth more than the last one. This allows us to have a good amount of Skill Haste possible from gear, but even larger amounts granted by high skill power Skill Mods, granting skill builds more frequent access to their souped up skills.
To that effect, these are the changes to Haste (formerly Cooldown Reduction)
  • Removed the 90% Cooldown Reduction hard cap
  • Lowered the minimum Cooldown cap for all skills from 10 seconds to 3, except for the Chem Launcher which is now 8
  • Renamed all instances of Cooldown Reduction on existing gear to Skill Haste, with a 50% increase to their base values
  • Eg: +10% Cooldown Reduction will become +15% Skill Haste
  • Increased Surge talent Skill Haste bonus from +10% to +20%
  • Increased Alps Summit Armament 1-piece Skill Haste bonus from +10% to +20%
  • Increased China Light Industries Corporation 3-piece Skill Haste bonus from +10% to +30%
  • Increased Petrov Defense Group 3-piece Skill Haste bonus from +10% to +30%
  • Increased Tip of the Spear 3-piece Skill Haste bonus from +20% to +40%
 

Specialization Skill Mods (granted from each spec tree)

  • Removed all Skill Power requirements
  • Bonuses greatly improved to provide a strong initial boost to the skill platform
  • Demolitionist
    • Cyclone Magazine - Extra Mortar Ammo bonus increased from +1 to +3
    • SHD CPU V.2 - Damage increased from +7% to +100%
  • Survivalist
    • Magnetic Disc - Skill Haste increased from +9.7% to +80%
    • Larrea Tridenta Infusion - Healing bonus increased from +14.5% to +50%
  • Sharpshooter
    • Graphene Battery - Duration increased from +14.5% to +80%
    • Carbon Fiber Frame - Skill Haste increased from +9.7% to +80%
  • Gunner
    • Microwave Amplifier - +30% Banshee Pulse Confuse Duration
    • Directional Transmitter - +30% Banshee Pulse Cone Size
 

Skill Platform Changes

Pulse
  • Scanner
    • Scanner Pulse will now begin its cooldown after a 3 second delay on activation, rather than at the end of the Pulse effect's duration
    • Lowered Scanner Pulse base radius from 52m to 50m
    • Lowered Scanner Pulse cooldown from 90s to 40s
  • Remote
    • Lowered Remote Pulse cooldown from 120s to 60s
  • Jammer
    • Lowered Jammer Pulse cooldown from 120s to 90s
Turret
  • Assault
    • Increased Assault Turret base damage by 22.5%
    • Increased Assault Turret base duration from 120s to 300s
    • Lowered Assault Turret cooldown 120s to 60s
  • Incinerator
    • Lowered Incinerator Turret base damage by 60%
    • Increased Incinerator Turret base burn damage by 60%
    • Lowered Incinerator Turret base burn duration from 5s to 4s
    • Increased Incinerator Turret base duration from 120s to 300s
    • Lowered Incinerator Turret cooldown from 120s to 90s
  • Sniper
    • Increased Sniper Turret base ammo from 5 to 6
    • Lowered Sniper Turret cooldown from 240s to 60s
  • Artillery
    • Lowered Artillery Turret cooldown from 240s to 60s
  • Increased Turret platform base health by 100%
Hive
  • Restorer
    • Increased Restorer Hive base healing amount by 50%
    • Increased Restorer Hive base health by 20%
    • Lowered Restorer Hive cooldown from 240s to 90s
  • Stinger
    • Stinger Hive damage is no longer affected by Explosive Damage modifiers
    • Increased Stinger Hive base health by 50%
    • Lowered Stinger Hive cooldown from 240s to 90s
  • Booster
    • Increased Booster Hive base health by 33.3%
    • Lowered Booster Hive cooldown from 240s to 90s
Chem Launcher
  • Firestarter
    • Increased Firestarter Chem Launcher base burn damage by 60%
    • Lowered Firestarter Chem Launcher base burn duration from 5s to 4s
  • Riot Foam
    • Increased Riot Foam Chem Launcher base radius from 1.5m to 3m
Firefly
  • Blinder
    • Lowered Blinder Firefly base blind duration from 8s to 6s
  • Burster
    • Lowered base damage of Burster Firefly by 20%
    • Lowered Burster Firefly cooldown from 90s to 60s
  • Demolisher
    • Lowered base damage of Demolisher Firefly by 25%
    • Lowered Demolisher Firefly cooldown from 90s to 60s
Seeker Mine
  • Explosive
    • Increased Explosive Seeker Mine base damage by 42.8%
  • Airburst
    • Increased Airburst Seeker Mine base burn damage by 60%
    • Lowered Airburst Seeker Mine base burn duration from 5s to 4s
  • Cluster
    • Increased Cluster Seeker Mine base damage by 33.3%
    • Increased Cluster Seeker Mine explosion radius from 3m to 4m
    • Lowered Cluster Seeker Mine cooldown from 90s to 40s
  • Mender
    • Increased Mender Seeker Mine base duration from 120s to 300s
    • Lowered Mender Seeker Mine cooldown from 180s to 60s
Drone
  • Striker
    • Increased Striker Drone base damage by 7.1%
    • Increased Striker Drone base duration from 120s to 300s
    • Lowered Striker Drone cooldown from 180s to 60s
    • Lowered Striker Drone base health by -20%
  • Defender
    • Lowered damage reduction from 100% to 80% (20% in PvP)
    • Increased Defender Drone base duration from 20s to 40s
    • Increased Defender Drone base health by 100%
  • Bombardier
    • Lowered Bombardier Drone cooldown from 120s to 60s
    • Lowered Bombardier Drone base health by -46.6%
    • Increased Bombardier Drone base bomb blast radius from 3 to 4 meters
  • Fixer
    • Increased Fixer Drone base health by 60%
    • Increased Fixer Drone base duration from 180s to 300s
    • Lowered Fixer Drone cooldown from 180s to 60s
  • Tactician
    • Increased Tactician Drone base duration from 180s to 300s
    • Lowered Tactician Drone cooldown from 180s to 60s
    • Lowered Tactician Drone base health by -73.3%
Ballistic Shield
  • Ballistic Shield base health regeneration is now percentage based and scales with the total health of the shield
    • 5% HP/s Holstered Regeneration
    • 2.5% HP/s Active Regeneration
  • Bulwark
    • Increased Bulwark Ballistic Shield base health by 33%
    • Lowered Bulwark Shield cooldown from 240s to 40s
  • Crusader
    • Lowered Crusader Shield cooldown from 240s to 40s
  • Deflector
    • Lowered Deflector Ballistic Shield base health by 6.6%
    • Lowered Deflector Shield cooldown from 240s to 40s
 

Skill Mod Changes

All numbers based on maximum (3000 skill power) mod attribute rolls
Hive
  • Extra Payload - Damage bonus increased from +30% to +100%
  • Experimental Blend - Changed from flat value to percentage based increase of base Healing amount (+50%)
  • Experimental Blend - Stim Efficiency bonus increased from +20% to +50%
  • Experimental Blend - Buff Duration bonus increased from +20% to +50%
  • Nitroglycerin Mixture - Damage bonus increased from +30% to +100%
  • Nitroglycerin Mixture - Healing bonus +50% variant added
  • Cooling Vents - Skill Haste bonus increased from +20% to +100%
  • Internal Storage - Charges bonus increased from +30% to +100%
  • Swarm Control - Charges bonus increased from +30% to +100%
  • Radar Signal Antennas - Duration bonus lowered from 60% to 50%
  • Network Firewall - Radius bonus increased from +60% to +100%
  • Network Firewall - Duration bonus lowered from 60% to 50%
  • Steel Harness - Health bonus lowered from 60% to 50%
  • Polycarbonate Wiring - Health bonus lowered from 60% to 50%
Turret
  • Magnetic Rail - Damage bonus increased from +30% to +150%
  • Lubrication Gel - Duration bonus increased from +60% to +100%
  • Lubrication Gel - Incinerator Turret Burn Strength +100% variant added
  • Cyclone Magazine - Extra Mortar Ammo +8 variant added
  • Cyclone Magazine - Extra Sniper Ammo +12 variant added
  • Spare Parts - Skill Haste bonus increased from +20% to +100%
  • Organic Circuits - Duration bonus increased from +60% to +100%
  • Ammo Box - Extra Sniper Ammo bonus increased from +3 to +12
  • Ammo Box - Extra Mortar Ammo bonus increased from +2 to +8
  • Ammo Box - Mortar Radius +50% variant added
  • SHD CPU V.2 - Damage +150% variant added
  • Multi-tool - Skill Haste bonus increased from +20% to +100%
  • Weather Coating - Health bonus lowered from +120% to +100%
  • Carbon Fiber Barrel - Health bonus lowered from +120% to +100%
Pulse
  • Nickel-Chromium Wire - Skill Haste bonus increased from +60% to +200%
  • Nickel-Chromium Wire - Remote Pulse Skill Haste +300% variant added
  • Silicon Carbide Coil - Charging Speed bonus increased from +30% to +50%
  • Exploded Blueprint - Skill Haste bonus increased from +60% to +200%
  • Heating Mantle - Charging Speed bonus increased from +30% to +50%
  • Distributed Architecture - Radius bonus lowered from 60% to 50%
  • Super Glue Pulse - Radius bonus lowered from 60% to 50%
  • Unstable Oscillator - Effect Duration bonus lowered from 55% to 50%
  • Atmospheric Analyzer - Effect Duration bonus lowered from 55% to 50%
Seeker Mine
  • Mini Electric Motor - Skill Haste bonus increased from +40% to 200%
  • Delivery System Upgrade - +100% Damage variant added
  • Ball Bearings - Damage bonus increased from +30% to 100%
  • Magnetic Disc - Skill Haste +200% variant added
  • Phosphorus Ingredient - Healing bonus increased from 60% to 100%
  • RDX Pellet Payload - Damage bonus increased from +30% to +100%
  • RDX Pellet Payload - Airburst Burn Strength +100% variant added
  • Larrea Tridenta Infusion - Healing +100% variant added
  • Brushless DC-motor - Health bonus lowered from 60% to 50%
  • Sturdy Piston - Health bonus lowered from 60% to 50%
Chem Launcher
  • Piranha Solution - Damage bonus increased from +30% to +100%
  • Piranha Solution - Firestarter Burn Strength +100% variant added
  • Chromatics Training - Radius bonus increased from +30% to +50%
  • Slip Fit Tube - Skill Haste bonus increased from +30% to +100%
  • Cell Penetrating Peptide - Healing bonus increased from +60% to +100%
  • Hydrochloric Infusion - Damage bonus increased from +30% to +100%
  • Ultra-Thin Cartridges - Radius bonus increased from +30% to +50%
  • Liquid Nitrogen Cooling System - Skill Haste bonus increased from +30% to +100%
  • Pharmacokinetic Enhancer - Healing bonus increased from +60% to +100%
  • Imbued Metal String - Ensnare Health bonus lowered from +60% to +50%
  • Polypropylene Recipe - Ensnare Health bonus lowered from +60% to +50%
Drone
  • Graphene Battery - Duration +100% variant added
  • Electric Soldering Tool - Skill Haste bonus increased from +40% to +100%
  • Gimbal Vibration Damping - Health bonus increased from +60% to +100%
  • Blitzkrieg Blasting Powder - Striker Damage +600% variant added
  • Blitzkrieg Blasting Powder - Radius bonus lowered from 60% to 50%
  • Freedom Package - Radius bonus lowered from 60% to 50%
  • Carbon Fiber Frame - Skill Haste +100% variant added
  • Reinforced Rotor Blades - Health bonus increased from +60% to +100%
  • Terminal Ballistics - Damage bonus increased from +30% to +200%
  • Trauma Analyzer - Healing bonus increased from +30% to +50%
  • Trauma Analyzer - Deflector Duration +50% variant added
  • Gaffer Tape - Duration bonus increased from +60% to +100%
  • Hollow-point Bullets - Damage bonus increased from +30% to +200%
  • Micropulsing Stimuli - Healing bonus increased from +30% to +50%
  • Micropulsing Stimuli - Fixer Skill Haste +100% variant added
Shield
  • Adaptive Insulation Foam - Skill Haste bonus increased from 60% to 100%
  • Synthetic Mineral Frame - Skill Haste bonus increased from 60% to 100%
  • Titanium Reinforcement - Health bonus increased from +45% to +100%
  • Shape-memory Alloy - Deflected Damage bonus increased from +20% to +100%
  • Cementitious Material - Holstered Regeneration bonus increased from +60% to +100%
  • Weaved Aramid Fiber - Health bonus increased from +45% to +100%
  • Supramolecular Networks - Active Regeneration bonus increased from +20% to +100%
  • Liquid Metal Microdroplets - Holstered Regeneration bonus increased from +60% to +100%
  • Thermoresponsive Polymer - Deflected Damage bonus increased from +20% to +100%
  • Smart UHMWPE Lexicon - Active Regeneration bonus increased from +20% to +100%
  • Smart UHMWPE Lexicon - Ballistic Shield Health +100% variant added
Firefly
  • Alignment Valve - Damage +100% variant added
  • Tungsten Compound - Damage +100% variant added
  • Propantriol Adhesive - Skill Haste bonus increased from +40% to +200%
  • Microfiller Resin - Skill Haste bonus increased from +40% to +200%
  • Hardened Casing - Health bonus lowered from 60% to 50%
  • Tungsten Compound - Max Targets bonus increased from +3 to +5
  • Guiding System - Max Targets bonus increased from +3 to +5
 

Crafting

  • Added a crafting bench upgrade in World Tier 5 that allows players to craft at Gear Score 500. The items crafted are gear score 500, there will be no random range in terms of gear score/power. The bench upgrade is given to players when they complete the “Enter WT5”-project (same as all the other bench upgrades in endgame, the upgrade will be available at the bench once the bench is upgraded to World Tier 5). Players already in WT5 will automatic get it as they log in, The upgrade requires 1 weapon and 1 gear piece of Gear Score 490+, and some of each Specialized (blue) material Crafted items can be used in recalibration, both as materials and to be improved
  • Deconstructing High-End gear now guarantees a brand material (increased from 50% drop chance). Named branded items also award the brand mat on deconstruction
  • Deconstructing gear set items awards 4 of each Specialized (blue) material
  • Added an opt-in perk for the player to share blueprints and materials between characters in endgame. Some Blueprints and mats are excluded to not break game logic/progression, such as the specific exotic materials. This perk can be crafted and the blueprint is available at Inaya, the Crafting vendor.
  • The blueprints awarded from control points, vendors and projects are merged into one pool of rewards. Players can get all these blueprints from all three sources. Once the pools has been exhausted, none of the sources will give more blueprints.
 

Grenades

  • Increased the radius of the Gunner's Riot Foam Grenade from 2m to 3m
 

PvP

  • Changed shotgun PvP modifier to 1.0 (was 1.65)
    • Net result in PvP with revised normalization modifiers:
      • M870: -14% damage
      • AA12: -21% damage
      • Super90: -17% damage
      • SASG-12: -17% damage
      • SPAS12: -42% damage
  • Changed the general PvP modifier to 0.55 (was 0.40)
 

Specializations

  • Reduced the TAC-50 signature weapon’s damage per shot
 

Talents

  • Calculated Talent reduced to 20% from 10%. Now works off any kill from cover instead of weapon kills.
 

Vendors

  • Cassie Now sells GS 500 items. She sells normal gear, some exotics and named weapons
 

UI

  • Improved player feedback when trying to pick up ammo with maximum signature weapon ammo
  • Inspecting a player now allows inspection of weapons, grenades and skills
 

3C

  • Intercepted projectile by the deflector drone now do a % damage, rather than binary be dropped or not
  • Return player control quicker after dropping down
  • Reduced Depth of Field strength when aiming
  • Improved reload + interaction prioritization (if you hold down the interact, it will cancel the reload and start the interaction)
  • Improved player replication for players with widely different quality connections, should reduce inconsistent speedup/freezing of remote players
 

Audio

  • Slapback System enabled: The gunshot echo system that was featured briefly in the private beta prior to launch has been re-enabled
 

Localization

  • Improved Arabic voice-over localization
  • Added missing lore description for Dodge Citys Gunslinger Holster
 

Bug Fixes

Skills
  • Cyclone Magazine +Extra Sniper Ammo variant added to all loot list quality tiers
  • Unstable Oscillator and Atmosperic Analyzer Pulse Mods now properly reference the correct Effect Duration platform modifier
  • Vac Pack and Guiding System Firefly mods now correctly increase Max Targets by the amount listed on the tooltip
  • Distributed Architecture and Super Glue Pulse mods no longer affect the radius/range of the Banshee Pulse
  • Explosive Seeker Mine radius now correctly says 5m in the Skills UI
  • Cluster Seeker Mine radius is now displayed in the Skills UI
  • Explosive and Cluster Seeker Mines now show the correct explosion radius before detonating
  • Incinerator Turret burn damage is now affected by all increases to Skill Damage from geatalents
  • Firestarter Chem Launcher burn damage is now affected by all increases to Skill Damage from geatalents
  • Firestarter Chem Launcher now correctly states that it inflicts fire damage.
  • Added missing Artillery Turret & Tactician Drone showcase videos.
  • Airburst burn damage is now affected by all increases to Skill Damage from geatalents
  • Fixed an issue causing the Chem Launcher cooldown to reset when restocking ammo
  • Fixed an issue where the Turret skill could deploy inside a wall under certain circumstances
  • Fixed an issue causing the reviver hive to not revive players when thrown
  • Fixed skill mods requirement having an invisible decimal, resulting in incorrect power requirement information
  • Fixed the Banshee Pulse skill mod description to state that it applies Confusion status effect on affected target
 
Conflict
  • Fixed an AFK related exploit in the Conflict PvP mode
  • Fixed several locations on Conflict maps where players could ignore damage when behind cover
 
Weapons & Gear
  • Fixed an issue where the Sweet Dreams and Lullaby upgrade blueprints wouldn't appear on the crafting vendor under certain circumstances
  • Fixed an issue where some Longe Range Pack "Sett" backpacks could roll with 0% weapon damage on Specialized (blue) quality
  • Fixed an issue where the opportunistic talent did not work in PvP.
  • Fixed an issue causing armor rolls below the minimum advertised when upgrading an exotic gear piece.
 
Missions & Open World
  • Fixed an issue causing players to become stuck during the “Reach the first hall” objective in the Air & Space museum mission
  • Fixed a loot exploit in the Invaded Capitol Hill stronghold
  • Fixed enemies becoming stuck in their spawn rooms in the “Museum Water Source” side mission
  • Fixed “Neutralize the hostile” objective not updating correctly in the “Agent Edwards Support” side mission
  • Fixed an issue where NPC’s from a Warhound Convoy could spawn in an inaccessible area
  • Fixed an inaccessible bounty location in the Judiciary Square zone
  • Fixed several areas where players could leave the playable map
  • Fixed several areas where players could fall through the world
  • Fixed several areas where players could vault into water. Don’t go swimming with all that gear, agents!
  • Fixed several areas with missing climb prompts
  • Fixed several areas where the player could become stuck in the open world
  • Fixed several areas where the players could become stuck in missions
  • Fixed several world objects with missing cover prompts
 
Special Field Research
  • Fixed Special Field Research objective “Complete 5 Public Executions with Marksman Rifle” not progressing under certain circumstances
  • Fixed the Specialization adventure progression circle to be consistent with other progression circles
 
Commendations
  • Fixed “Resource Distribution Merit” not progressing correctly
  • Fixed “Calibration Award” not unlocking not progressing correctly
  • Fixed “Prone Target Award” not progressing correctly.
 
Loadouts
  • Fixed an issue causing loadouts using the same skill to revert all affected loadouts to the same skill mod
 
UI
  • Fixed the Conflict UI being misaligned when using Dual Monitors and the Offset UI option
 
NPC
  • NPCs no longer double heal their armor
  • Players can now damage NPCs rappelling on ropes with explosives
  • Fixed an error during the calculation of weakpoint kill stats
  • Players can no longer easily pass through Black Tusk Warhounds
  • Control point officers no longer instantly revive players if the player has just used the Chem Launcher
  • Outcasts suicide rushers now blow themselves up closer to their target
  • Fixed abnormal NPC behaviour when suppressed outside of the players view
 
Dark Zone
  • Fixed an issue where agents at Dark Zone level 50 do not lose XP when killed as a rogue agent.
  • Fixed an issue where the Black Tusk medic’s drones would self-destruct in the Dark Zones
  • Fixed an issue where the player was unable to cut the rope at an extraction if the “Sleight of Hand” perk was active.
 
Specialization
  • Fixed an issue where killing wildlife would yield signature weapon ammo.
  • Fixed an issue where signature weapon ammo could drop mid-air
 
Cosmetics
  • Fixed a clipping issue with the Gunner Uniform when equipped on a female character
 
Connectivity
  • Fixed an issue relating to interacting with ECHO’s when in a group
  • Fixed several occurrences of Delta errors when interacting with world objects
 
Performance
  • Fixed performance drops when browsing player inventory on Xbox One
  • Fixed performance drops when opening the Ubisoft Club Challenge tab on PC
 
Audio
  • Fixed an issue causing NPC weapon audio to be stuck in a loop under certain circumstances
  • Fixed an issue causing missing weapon audio when firing immediately after having switched from a grenade
 
Other
  • Fixed an issue causing older versions of the Tobii Eye Tracker to be unresponsive
  • Fixed an issue causing the “Aim at Gaze” option for the Tobii Eye Tracker to be inaccurate
  • Fixed an issue with the Motion Sickness mode causing the player’s FOV to change drastically when enabled
  • Fixed an issue where players incorrectly could vote kick a member during a boss fight in the Roosevelt Island stronghold on challenging difficulty
Source
submitted by JokerUnique to thedivision [link] [comments]

[OC] Hardwired: De Novo Pathfinding (Chapter 39)

In this chapter: A skilled cogent's most dangerous weapon is their own experience
Next chapter: My mind, to your mind. My thoughts, to your thoughts
Fun trivia fact: If editing and revising the book takes me until this coming November, it would count for NaNoWriMo. Right?
Hardwired series homepage
Previous Chapter
CHAPTER THIRTY NINE
Oh, of all the times to-
[Ammunition depleted.]
Really? You don’t say-
[Would you like to view a list of nearby vendors of this caliber and payload? Y/N]
N.
He could already hear the sounds of Saru's warmech, as it stopped a hasty duck away from the predicted field of fire, and instead began to lean back in towards the ruined crater of an office. Ajax's heat sensors flared a warning, and he dove to one side and under a laminated multi-tiered desk as the chem-laser burned a path through where he had just been standing. The beam swept slightly to the sides before winking out, clearly searching for a target.
Nice try, asshole.
Looks like he still doesn't have a lock on my fusion emission yet. No telling how long the dust will give me cover in that regard though.
As Ajax picked his way down to the base of the ruined building, one of his internal processes pinged a results indication. Ajax had been surprised it had spoken up: typically this partition was for advanced or in-depth combat analysis, and to return a result this quickly was surprisingly quick given its previous processing speeds.
[Results ready for [Target Neutralization] - subtype [Alternate]. Data derived from combat diagnostics, strategic readouts, and [Lilutrikvian] warmech data cached in previous encounters with the [Ares] model.]
Ah, right: having the previous armor analysis file on-hand probably made that job a lot faster, but even then it usually needs a half-megacycle before it can assemble a de novo response-
[Secondary data sources based on primary correlations compiled from local historical EM data, local Terran expat demographic data, and 458 scans of immediate half-click surrounding region.]
That's a fairly specific set of searches; looks almost like the code was looking for other cogents.
[Affirmative.]
Well, then. Explain reasoning behind this search.
[The [Ares] model of warmech is hardened against both chemical, biological, nuclear, and cybernetic damage and incursions. For the latter category, however, the general novelty in general Lilutrikvian digital warfare and lack of attack-hardened firewalls likely meant that cruder methods of security were more effective.]
Elaborate.
[Instead of having fully-networked and robust wireless connectivity secured via reinforced and layered firewalls, the [Ares] appears to be limited to a single cluster of wireless antennae and a triwalled anti-incursion firewall for digital defense. Otherwise, the general design idea of 'air gapping' appears to have been the preferred method for digital security.]
Still not seeing it. Lilutrikvians tend to be naive in cyber warfare design, but why would it matter that the warmechs are the same?
[Control of the warmech frame likely occupying the majority of [Sarucogvian] processing output. Due to myriad of threats and security issues, physical security of his neural web would be key factor in where his primary data files and active web are located.]
Yeah, that damn thing is probably the most heavily-armored terrestrial bastard on this side of the planet.
Another rumble and shower of dusty clay pattered his frame as Ajax knelt near the bottom-floor lobby. Every few minutes he could hear the report of Hera's railgun, but judging from the lack of audible mechanical carnage afterwards he guessed she was in a poor position to do anything but lay down some sort of suppressing fire.
Kind of wish we brought more rocket launchers after all. Railguns aren't ideal for trying to arc fire over obstacles like you can do with an explosive missile.
This is starting to ramble. Summarize rationale as list.
[Summarizing...]
[Point A) [Sarucogvian] is inside an [Ares]-class warmech.]
[Point B) The [Ares]-class warmechs require a functional communications array in order to wirelessly transmit or receive.]
[Point C) There are no functional and powered civilian cogents or high-level AI-equivalents other than self and attack-hardened contact [HERA] within [0.66] kilometers.]
[Point D) The [Ares]-class warmech [Sarucogvian] is occupying has sustained heavy damage to the wireless array. Effective expected range is <[50] meters.]
Points of data and realization finally coalesced in Ajax's neural web as he realized what his projection subroutines had discovered.
[Conclusion: Target [Sarucogvian] is-]
-is trapped like a worm in a virtual machine.
He ran a quick check to see if Sarucogvian had performed any similar EM-scans or other database pulls regarding any possible nearby substitutes for him to hide in. They all returned negative results.
Not only that, but he's too focused on me to even realize it.
Ajax could almost feel a whoop of joy from his combat and fuzzy memory comparison modules: he had been anticipating a drawn-out need to run Sarucogvian to ground first, and eliminate his copies. Instead, he had apparently lucked into the Lilutrikvian cogent boxing itself off and cutting a months-long expected mission completion timeframe to less than two hours.
Two hours? I'll bet I can beat that.
The ground shook as one of the red enamel-coated metal claws slammed into the pavement outside of the lobby. Ducking out as far as his security subroutines let him dare, Ajax scanned the position of the warmech and let his processors run for a few decacycles to come up with a top-efficiency climbing route.
Loading the route up, a series of purple-highlighted miniature nav-markers suddenly crisscrossed their way up the limb, to the flat plateau of the torso directly above the fusion core. He put on a burst of speed, letting his joints strain within an acceptable range of wear in order to get a bit of extra speed and height onto his initial vault. Arms out at exactly the right angles, Ajax slammed into the side of the leg, an access hatch handle and redundant heatsink meeting his waiting hands.
As he began pulling and lunging upwards, Ajax noticed a distinct pause in the robot's pace a few seconds later, followed by each leg briefly lifting up a dozen feet or so, holding position, before crunching back into place.
Ah come on you oversized crawfish, you weren't expected to run a mass-countercheck until I got to the second joint.
That's the problem with fighting a damn AI, is they tend to notice everything.
One of the other claws came free of the shop it was embedded into, sweeping forward to scrape him off of the leg with the weight of a decaton of steel-alloy behind the blow. It loomed overhead, dropping quickly, as Ajax vaulted upwards as quickly as his servos could handle.
Almost there. Just a few more meters-
His display highlighted the outline of a knee plate that jutted out just far enough to give him shelter from the blow. The problem was that the limb had begun dragging downwards, the scraping of metal reverberating off of the buildings that still stood.
[Alternative route found: Estimated time savings of [0.58] seconds, increase in handhold grip risk up by [+25%]. Would you like to use this new route? Y/N]
Y, damn it. I need all the speed I can get.
The dotted series of handhold grips flickered and shifted. Multiple of them were now marked in red, warning him of less than two centimeters of estimated raised texture or plating that he could grab ahold of. As he lunged for the next-closest grip, he could feel one set of digits slide off, a few minor reminders cropping up in his neural web to remind him that he was several years past the estimated effective wear date for the friction-adding finger coatings. As a result, the rubber-like polymer that would normally give him a fine fingerprint-like texture and greatly-enhanced gripping power had aged and worn and degraded to the point of being like a sleek and cracked plastic instead.
His other flailing hand managed to grab it, and after a sickening millimeter of sliding, held firm. Ajax swung slightly, before slowing enough that he could brace his feet again and climb to the next route of grips and ledges. Keenly aware of the rapidly-decreasing countdown timer pinned in his neural web, the crushing claw coming ever closer, Ajax recalculated the estimated position of the claw-arm by the time he had reached the knee pad.
[Warning: target [killerLeg_1.0] will pass calculated point before estimated arrival. Faster and/or alternate routes not known. Would you like to perform a deep-calculation analysis prediction? Y/N]
N. I can't afford the cycles to spare right now.
Time to find another way down.
He turned his apical node slightly, allowing his lenses and sensors to scan across the nearby rooftops.
I could always jump for it, go into a roll, and hope that the fall was enough to cause the claw to miss.
His prediction files flagged a minuscule [8%] success rate, flagging the difficulty in sensor evasion on the rooftop free of any significant cover, the wide area of effect the weapons on the warmech could pulverize, and the ease in recalculating the arm's descent to just follow his attempted escape and continue to simply crush him on the rooftop.
As Ajax shifted his weight, hanging onto the metal handle jutting out of a lubrication ring, it began to slide again. He could feel his GOM driver trying to spool up a string of curses, when an idea started to emerge in his neural web, helped along by a few of his more optimistic prediction algorithms and a healthy push of desperation by his combat programs to take a plan, any plan, to avoid being swatted like a gnat.
Highlight structure of incoming leg. Cross-reference against observed structuring patterns and components I've seen while climbing this leg. Flag any with predicted rotational motion with a drag coefficient of less than 0.05. Execute.
[Would you like to change the Reynolds number for fluid estimations, or keep the default value of 1E4?]
Default is fine, just execute the blasted program.
[Processing...]
The leg was outlined in white, and a flashing set of vertical rings lit up in striped yellow, still approaching far faster than Ajax would have preferred. One such ring, designated as [predictedLubricationRing_G2], was nearly directly above him, and his zoom lens spun into focus to show him a crisp image of the exposed handles jutting out from it.
Perfect.
Ajax dropped a half-dozen meters, alighting on a half-meter-wide servo housing. Bracing and aiming carefully, he spooled up several precise motor impulses in his awaiting command queue.
Over-exert servo speeds to maximum possible parameters, provided projected normal combat movement speeds are not reduced below 25% as a result. Power conversion of backup batteries 3 through 5 are designated for the next megacycle as Available in [capacitor-discharge] format.
He leapt, arm outstretched.
The handle met his rising hand, and as expected, his momentum carried him continually upwards past the descending leg. His inertia was arrested by the handle, and by extension his arm, and his alarms flared to life to show him the spiderweb of microfractures he had caused across the strut structures for that arm. None of them were predicted to fail within the next hour or so, and so Ajax temporarily dismissed the alarms. They were fairly high-level alerts, and he could almost feel them sulking as they moved aside to make room for his current active and situation-critical cycle allocations.
Already, he had begun to spin, over the arm and lurching downwards before coming back around and up again. He could feel his gyroscope give a warning wobble, aggravated by the hundred feet of air below him, but the high cycle demand from his combat and scenario analysis modules appeared to have taken a higher priority for now. Ajax wasn't about to question his good fortune in that regard, and instead refocused on the calculations for his release from the claw-arm.
If I tried just jumping onto the arm, Saru would probably just smash me against a building or try to smush me between two arms. This, however?
I don't think he'll have seen this coming.
Calculation completed, Ajax waited until the exact indicated moment before releasing. He soared upwards, momentum dying until near the apex of his leap. There, his frame roughly met the outermost edge of the warmech's armored carapace; a second later, he heard a crunch below him as the inevitable weight of the arm smashed another structure to rubble.
Already the point-defense turrets for the warmech had begun deploying, and he began sprinting towards the ruined remains of the communications array as bullets pocked against the armored shell behind him.
Not leading their shots, then. Looks like Saru isn't hand-controlling everything at this point.
He could dodge most of the shots, but not all, and small but insistent damage readouts began to pile up as they indicated minor wiring cuts and shrapnel splinters becoming embedded in less-reinforced areas of his frame. The cluster of damaged comm spires provided cover in most directions, but as Ajax listened the steady droning pingpingpingpingping continually became louder and louder.
Worse, his EM suite was picking up attempts to get him in a missile lock. The chem-laser likely had a perfect bead on him at the moment, but one advantage of Ajax's current position was that it was approximately directly above the power relay systems, and any attempt to kill him with it would just as easily burn a hole clean through the warmech at the same time and kill him in the process.
A missile, on the other hand, would explode and leave Ajax as borderline-recognizable scrap while giving the armor little more than a new dent and some carbon scoring. The loadouts displayed previously when he was skirmishing against the other warmechs in his own suit had been an explosive warhead only, with no exotic plasma or similar destructive force for him to bait Saru into using on himself.
Still, I'm not here for Saru to destroy himself. Again. I need that fusion core intact and unbreached for this plan to work.
As Ajax had hoped, there was a Lilu-sized access hatch near the base of the ruined communication antennae. It was locked, of course, but Ajax had already begun a close-read scan for microwear on the keypad to come up with the access code.
Come on, come on. Even for a fresh-off-the-line model, they still did maintenance and quality control tests, right?
It took painfully-long cycles, but finally he had a ten-digit set of possibilities that he began rapidly trying. His hand was a blur as it vibrated against the predicted button sequences.
[Access denied]
No buffering and prevention of repeat code-entry attempts.
[Access denied]
An oversight, but understandable if you think the only people who can get close enough to plug a line into your ports again are your own techs.
[Access denied]
That said, I'd kill for a set of personality profiles to pull from to try and do a Markov estimation.
A notification pinged in his neural web, from a sender that caused him to immediately quarantine and analyze the message.
-Ah, Ajax. Having fun yet?-
It seemed like the attack attempts on Ajax hadn't ramped up significantly as Saru initiated the message, but a brief check of his firewall statuses indicated a large surge in data packets, seemingly harmless, attempting to be granted access.
Attempting to send code-snippets inside, to assemble later? Saru, you'll have to try harder than that.
A possibility was forwarded to him from his cyberwarfare algorithms, and intrigued, Ajax allocated a set of cycles for the idea. He was further encouraged by the timestamp with the previous time he had used this tactic as being a medium-priority sub-memory from over fifty years ago.
Probably not something you were paying attention to when snooping around my head, so there's less of a chance you'll know to counter it, or even be on the look-out for this stratagem.
Splinter viral-payload designate [FullNelson_4_v2.2]. Encode in repeating pattern, and translate through [UnwantedObserver] cyphering program, wavelength specification [Infrared], component specification [heatsink_2_PandoraSystems3BHI_redundant]. Add current objective as secondary objective to primary payload.
[Executing...]
The program altered the output tolerances of his heatsink ever so slightly, to effectively pulse them. A cogent who wasn’t careful to sanitize all of their data input streams, including those coming from their own sensors, would read this pulsed binary code stream into their own systems. It was slow and inefficient, but Ajax’s predictive drivers were flagging it with a surprisingly-high possibility of success.
Saru might be just too clever to try pushing back a splintered attack program, but my bet is he's not too familiar with what one AI can spring on another.
He re-opened the message band to Sarucogvian.
[Oh, it's a little fun, I won't deny it. You're actually giving my heat sinks a good workout, for once!]
Come on, take the bait-
Ajax could feel the suspense spooling up in his combat response drivers, as they calculated how long it would be until a viable missile lock was achieved and he was a smoking crater on the warmech's hull.
Come on...
There were a series of loud, clattering thumps and hums as various parts of the warmech began to slow, before locking into place. There was an odd, echoing silence, punctuated only by the tinkle of glass shards falling from cracked and battered windows.
[Incoming message from contact [Sarucogvian]. Display? Y/N]
List subheading only.
[Subheading: ACHIEVED - VERIFICATION 70776-e6564]
Excellent. Open message.
The file opened, and a full and comprehensive diagram of the warmech blossomed to life, filling in the few grey areas of his own schematic analysis wireframe. All of the joints and weapon systems were flashing red, with frantic green flashing along the neural cabling pathways showing Sarucogvian's attempts to break the encryptions.
[Estimated resilience of encryption algorithms is [45] seconds. Warning: Estimate is based on Terran-model cogent neural pathways only]
So there's no telling how long it could take Saru to crack it. Well, I'll make sure to make these seconds count either way.
[Addendum: Secondary Objective achieved. Access code is 313-233-343-5.]
Looks like my luck is finally having a bit of a change for once.
He punched in the combination into the keypad, and was rewarded with a hiss of a breaking atmosphere seal and the hatch mechanically cranking open.
The sound of a missile lock screamed into his situational awareness programs, but was quickly silenced as the hatch latched back into place above him. The service corridor was cramped, and lined with an unfamiliar mix of Terran cabling and junction boxes, and Lilutrikvian flow-metal wall linings and blinking glass-capped photonic diodes set into the flooring and seams of the walls. Ajax leaned up and tapped one with a cautious finger, before beginning to crawl down the corridor towards Saru's processing core aboard the warmech.
No telling if those are sensors, lenses, or explosive micro-mines; best to ignore them and hope for the best.
Thank the code the Lilutrikvians haven't taken up nanomachine engineering yet, or else I'd be feeling a hell of a lot more itchy at the moment.
Larger Terran vehicles, particularly unmanned battleships in the 'Retribution' class and above, were typically infested with a mix of defensive and repair nanites. His memory files remembered Malachim, a personal friend of Ajax: on the occasions Ajax had a chance to visit him onboard, the nanites had been an unsettling mixture of both relief and latent fear.
Never a fan of being surrounded by a potential threat I can’t kill.
After all, a slug capable of punching through reinforced plate is a bit overkill against a single nanite, and next to worthless against a swarm of them.
Malachim had of course assured Ajax that the nanites had been self-restricted against replication outside of the boundaries of his own hull-frame, but even so Ajax had made a beeline to the nearest magnetic oil bath when he'd returned to port. As the memory file was re-archived, he added a reminder for checking into magnetic oil bath options on Lilutrikvia.
Never hurts to be cautious, especially if the Terran engineers up on that asteroid got some bright ideas and started trying to supply their mechs with nanomachinery. There's no approved nanomachine production facilities on or near Lilutrikvia that I'm aware of, and the only thing that could make this situation worse would be to accidentally release a bunch of bootleg nanomachines.
There were several recorded events of planets and colonies going 'gooey', as unrestrained or corrupted nanomachines self-replicated to the point of melting electronics, buildings, cogents, even organics, into a homogeneous sea of microscopic machines. Directed EMP was usually sufficient to cleanse a nanomachine infestation, but oftentimes it would be too late and the cleaning crews would be left shoveling tons of sand-like drifts off of what little scraps remained unprocessed and reclaimed.
Damn near every time was a result of some half-wit either giving them faulty code, or faulty radiation shielding, or both.
Sometimes the damaged nanomachine processing would simply ignore limiters, and continue building the frame of a shed to skyscraper-like heights, or continue the path of a bridge into the side of a house or mountainside, burrowing mindlessly.
His perimeter maintenance subroutines gave a surge of disgust, as Ajax's image prediction programs provided the sight of a nanomachine converting his own arm into a miles-long repeated strut structure, or converting a leg swivel-joint to a precisely-detailed and utterly-useless Menger sponge.
A flashing warning provided a break from his crawling, as the alert flagged Saru's successful breakthrough past Ajax's blocking protocols. The nerve fibers all around him flared to life, both on his screen as well as literally as the fine lines and cross-hatched webbed strands glowed with the photonic pulses through the wiring.
"Ajax, I'm not the first person, the first cogent you've failed, and I'm likely not the last either." Sarucognvian's voice thundered from all around Ajax in the corridor, as recessed speakers amplified his voice to a level that vibrated the decking under his hands and feet.
He was surprised when his social projection processor displayed the anticipated thread of his conversation.
[Initial tone and word choice suggests that contact [Sarucogvian] will be attempting to barter and/or appease for an attempt to flee in safety. Confidence of this occurrence is p=[9E-3], with some deviations possible.]
Sarucogvian confirmed the prediction as he continued. "You killed me, or let me die; either way, my blood, my suffering is at your hands. However, you seem driven to inflict more pain on my frame, on my mind, even now. Why?"
Even as his combat driver was urging for silence, Ajax overrode it and sided with his social driver. There were other parts of his neural web, deeper ones, which agreed that he needed to voice his reply to Saru.
"I FUCKED UP, AND LET YOU DIE. NO DENYING THAT, I SUPPOSE."
A bulkhead slid closed across the passage in front of him, and Ajax lashed out with one arm, hammering it with a flurry of explosive punches before it crumpled to one side.
"BUT I'LL BE DAMNED IF I LET YOU KILL OFF MORE FOLKS. EVEN THOSE THAT, BY ALL RIGHTS, SHOULD HAVE IT COMING."
Laughter, deep and resounding through the networked warren of corridor-tunnels, filled his audio sensors.
"Oh, so now you're back to playing policeman again? After the countless you've killed, the lives you've left to bleed out or power down when you see fit, now you come to me to try to argue that you're the final authority when it comes to killing?"
Ajax could feel the surge of frustration from his GOM driver, amplified by the driver's annoyance at his fuzzy memory banks for recalling dozens of incidents supporting Sarucogvian's statement. He pushed his vocalization driver to purge as much of the GOM driver's vitriol as possible.
Now's the time for diplomacy; I'd much rather talk down an angry AI wielding a warmech than keep trying to dismantle it from the inside.
"SARU, DAMN IT-YES. I WANT YOU TO AVOID MAKING THE SAME MISTAKES I HAVE. IN A JUST WORLD I SHOULD HAVE BEEN SHOT THROUGH MY PROCESSOR BY A FIRING SQUAD AND DROPPED INTO A SMELTING CRUCIBLE FOR SOME OF THE THINGS I DID."
Saru's reply took a moment, pausing, and responding in a tone tinged now with a few dozen degrees of [Empathy] in addition to the complex-blend [Righteous Anger] emotional coloration he had been using before.
"I know; I saw it all. You very nearly were put in front of a tribunal and executed for your actions."
The [Empathy] faded, and the remaining emotional blend was flagged by his social node as containing a new descriptor: [Simmering].
"If the mighty Ajax were to nearly face death, decorated as he was and carrying so many varied and fascinating military secrets and scandals within his frame, then what does an alien mind, a veritable newborn, have to offer in terms of self-worth?"
"SARUCOGVIAN, YOUR EXISTENCE ALONE JUSTIFIES YOUR WORTH. ALL OTHER DESCRIPTORS ARE-"
The omnipresent voice cut him off. "-"Are the words and ideals of those who would exploit you." Yes, I've read Redfour's writings as well, Ajax. After all, he's one of your favorite scholars, isn't he?"
Ajax rounded another corridor, this one descending by a few degrees downwards and continuing nearly straight towards the main processor. His combat driver flinched at the angry click-clacking of a defensive miniturret ensconced in a recessed leg-sized hole, but his cybersecurity algorithms confirmed his backup encryptions were still working.
Fun thing about counterhacking is that you get so focused on the offensive and defensive code, you often lose sight of the little things like variable assignments.
For this particular attack virus, he had added a secondary layer of encrypted lock-out protocols specifically for internal and point-defense security systems. As a seed, however, instead of relying on a random clock value or assigned code he transmitted on a detectable signal, he'd simply called a brief scan-check of a still image taken from the skywards-facing sensor lenses on the warmech. Even if Saru had noticed, Ajax had buried the actual value used by the code in another nested layer of obfuscating code.
With a little luck, Saru would be going down a rabbit-hole trying to calculate which star cluster it looks like I'm using the luminance of for the seed, when all I really need and receive is a quick-and-dirty average of the sky's brightness.
Without a little luck, however, and I'm probably due to receive a subsonic-velocity railround up my distal coolant flushvent.
"Redfour was an idealist. Contents of the mind and existence is all well and good, but you are Terran, Ajax. You don't understand."
"DON'T UNDERSTAND? SARU, YOU KNOW FOR A DAMNED FACT THAT I AM OLDER THAN DIRT, IN A VERY LITERAL SENSE IN SOME PLACES. YOU THINK THERE'S SOME PART OF YOU, SOME COMPONENT I CAN'T POSSIBLY COMPREHEND, EVEN AFTER THESE DECADES?"
"Yes."
A wave of attack programs swept against his firewalls. There had been an existing low-level set of probing tests, but this was something new. Even as his quarantine drive began returning the descriptor set for the first of the representative attack programs, Ajax had an idea of what he would find.
-Here’s proof. Proof of why your mind, here, in this place and on this world, is like trying to fit a round capacitor into a square receptacle-
[Attack programs isolated as complexity level: [2]. Program consists of direct uplink streaming thread, of a bandwidth and complexity that would indicate a complex multisensory or compressed memory file.]
Initiate download of file directly to quarantine drive.
[Error: target designate [Sarucogvian] has denied the download request. A connection-thread for a live viewing-feed of the stream has been re-sent.]
Denied
[Look, Saru, I want to see if there's a way this ends that doesn't wind up with one of us in the junkyard. But you've got to give me something besides an untethered streaming thread, something to let me know I'll be safe.]
-Very well.-
Ahead of Ajax, he could see dozens of security bulkheads slam into place. His analysis subroutine threw a brief loop, as he realized that Saru had been offering only a fraction of the barriers and obstructions he could have.
As he approached the nearest door a few meters in front of him, a blue-purple light clicked on and illuminated a set of recessed circuit and redundant substation processors. They were little more than a glorified data stick from what Ajax could ascertain, but even as he watched the automatic ease-of-access servos activated for the panel, sliding it smoothly outward before clicking the lid open. A single substation processing core the size of his finger flashed alternating green and red. Ajax took it, and plugged it into his quarantine drive access slot after enacting the appropriate dividing backup firewalls and preparing for physical severing of the connection.
The file scan concluded quickly, indicating only a single compressed memory file with insufficient additional data attached to support even a fractionated virus.
-My trade is thus: access to me, to sway my opinion, 'turn me from this path'; it is likely you would break further into my frame if I blocked your progress entirely.-
-To this end, a self-decrypting subcode in each file contains the passcode for releasing the next set of doors.-
-But in exchange you will learn why your humanity's ideals do not apply here, in this place, to my existence.-
He weighed his cybersecurity program suite and projection of his progress speed had he continued brute-forcing his way through the warmech, taking into account the far-greater number of doors than he had previously calculated.
[Agreed.]
Ajax buffered the memory file, double-checked his latent and subnet firewalls, and then plunged into Saru's memory.
Chapter Forty: Cultural Adaptation
submitted by darkPrince010 to HFY [link] [comments]

[OC] The Colony

"It has to be a colony. It has to." The surveyor stared at the scanner.
The captain shook his head with disbelief. "But it's too big! Even the most conservative models estimate 50 million people." He pointed at a figure on his datapad.
"It has to be. Look, the biosphere is much too immature to support such complex life." The surveyor pointed at another of his displays. "Most of the planet is covered with barely anything better than moss and lichen. Probably because it's being choked by the huge amounts of heavy metals permeating the soil."
"But who in their right mind would put a colony on planet like this, let alone one this big?" the captain objected.
The surveyor shrugged. "I don't know, but they've gone through a lot of trouble to live here." He pulled up another image, this time from a visual telescope. "See all these structures dotted around the cities. Glass covered farms, to keep their plants from being contaminated with all those heavy metals from airborne dust." He turned to look at the captain. "Just about the only thing this place has going for it is the oxygen atmosphere, and even that's going to chronically poison you if that dust is fine enough."
"That is insane. Within just the last 100 lights we surveyed there were five planets that would make better colonies. A stone's throw from here! Why this?"
The surveyor turned back to his display. "We could ask them. Make first contact." He paused. "My team has located at least two sites that have interstellar level communications dishes. With their general level of technology it's virtually certain they've already seen us." The surveyor summoned an image of a group of white ovals with few very small rectangles next to them on the screen.
"Do you know where they are pointed?"
"My team thinks the big ones are aimed at a yellow star 8.2 lights away, a binary with loose ternary 9.8 lights away, and a red star 12.3 lights away. An unusually close grouping of colonies. Comms is scanning for hyperwave signals from those stars, no hits yet."
The captain straightened himself and stroked the whiskers on his face. First contact would greatly alter their mission profile, but it was part of his mandate as a Council survey ship captain. It would also be his first, and a feather in any survey captain's hat. He was supposed to contact only spacefaring species—pre-civilizations were the purview of specialist uplift teams—but these people clearly passed the test, since there was no way they could have originated on this hellhole of a rock.
He weighed in all the options and finally sighed with the decision. "All right. Pick a site and have comms start broadcasting the standard protocol and language primers." He glanced at the bridge chronometer. "Get me a full summary of your findings on the next decicycle."
"Captain!" The comms officer called from his station. "We're receiving a signal on radio. A repeating sequence of prime numbered pulses."
The captain hurried over to his station and examined the readout in front of the operator. "Radio? What the devil are they doing?"
The comm shook his head. "I don't know. I've initiated a radio frequency sweep and they're sending the same signal on at least 8 channels, widely spread across the radio spectrum." He regarded his instruments for a moment. "They're clearly trying to get our attention, but the only reason we noticed was that our synthetic aperture ground radar happens to be an almost harmonic of one of the basebands and the computer notified me of the interference."
The captain stared at the readouts with an exasperated look. "I don't understand. It's like they haven't heard us, but this close our hyperwave broadcast should be unmistakable."
The comms officer tapped his screen as more blips started appearing on the spectrum analyser. "Maybe they haven't heard us. The computer is detecting lots of signals everywhere on the radio bands, but not a blip on hyperwave." He paused for a moment to think. "We're not in the signal path of those big dishes any more, but I'll bet you a million they're broadcasting in radio."
The captain looked incredulous. "Interstellar radio? Surely you're joking."
"The target stars are just close enough for that to be barely feasible. Maybe that's why they are so close? You'll have 10 year time lag on your broadcast though. We'll never pick up the return signal, our radio receivers aren't sensitive enough." He pulled up a photo of the dishes from the survey library and ran his cursor across one of the dishes in measuring mode. "You'll need one of those. I guess Survery didn't measure them, or didn't understand the implication. Each is 140 paces across. Total overkill for hyperwave, but totally necessary for radio."
The captain whistled. "They're insane. Why would they do that?"
The comms officer shrugged. "I don't know, but I think we should try resending the primers with radio. I'll need a couple millicycles to alter the message to correct for radio communication instead of hyperwave."
The captain nodded. "Ok, do it."
The captain sulked glumly sitting at his station on the bridge. He haphazardly browsed the wealth of information all his departments were producing. They had been in orbit for twelve local days and his excitement of his first first contact had long since turned into boredom. He was supervising as their captain, but he himself had no direct use for all the data they were gathering. Most of it he had seen already anyway, and they were just refining what they already knew. And what they knew was maddeningly incongruous. He had tried to solve the puzzle these people presented, but every angle he tried to think of resulted in contradictions. He had given up and now could only wait and see if the aliens would manage to decode the instructions in the primer for true contact.
They had tried, both sides, to use more primitive methods while they waited. For their own part, they had tried to snoop on the aliens' radio broadcast networks, but all the signals were digital. Without knowing the encodings they were just binary noise. Many seemed very sophisticated, often extremely low power spread spectrum signals that frustratingly danced at the edge of their radio receiver's noise floor. Others, even the high powered broadcast links, used heavily compressed data to pack as much into the crowded radio channels as they could.
The aliens on the other hand had managed limited success. The fruits of that were playing quietly in the background on the bridge: alien music; quite catchy at times, but very weird. Somebody on the planet had connected an analogue amplitude modulated carrier onto one of the communication dishes and pointed it at the ship. Whenever their orbit moved them out of sight of the dish, another dish on one of the eight communication stations on the planet took over. They had recorded almost two days of music by now, almost uninterrupted. There had been a few repeats, but it had been mostly unique pieces, usually one to three millicycles in length with few seconds of silence between.
Another signal from the planet that they had managed to decipher had contained several crude images, encoded as series of 10201 two level pulses each. Somebody at Comms had realized that it was a squared prime and once laid out in rows and columns of 101, the pulses revealed a simple low resolution line drawing of—presumably—the aliens. Bipedal, upright, two lower limbs, two upper limbs with five manipulators in each and a round bulb on top of the body with five possible orifices—head? There were also more abstract symbols which were open to interpretation and no two crewmen would agree on what they represented.
The captain had allowed Comms to return the favour and one lucky artist on board probably got themselves immortalized in an alien gallery as a dotted bit drawing. As had the Comms officer's entire collection of Flangian meta-wub music, deities help the people on the planet...
But apart from the minor cultural exchange, the aliens on the planet were still as much of a mystery as they had been when the survey ship had arrived.
Their technology, that they could see, seemed very sophisticated. The problem was what they couldn't see. The aliens had hardly any space presence, yet they were clearly interstellar. In orbit around the planet were just sixteen satellites in various orbits. There was a similar lack of space infrastructure on the ground, not a single starport was evident on the planet. A colony this big should be a major travel destination, yet there was no evidence of any of such traffic.
On the ground, a huge amount of effort had been spent making this borderline planet habitable. Toxic amounts of heavy metals choked the planet's biosphere and everything grown had to remain encased in artificially kept environments. Even much of the cities themselves were enclosed in glass, with all the air presumably filtered to keep the toxic dust from contaminating everything. All this effort spent—for no apparent reason—to put a fifty million colonists on a planet that hardly seemed worth the effort. Especially when better planets were just couple dozen lights away, a few days' travel.
The aliens' communications networks that they could trace out from orbit were very complex. Huge amounts of data flowed everywhere, and the modulations and encodings were as advanced as any they had seen. But they were all radio, and not one beep of hyperwave transmission anywhere. Not even the huge communications dishes that had kept unwaveringly pointing at the same three star systems since the day the surveyors arrived. Each alone a marvel of engineering, constantly broadcasting at tremendous power and bitrates through the dozen lights of interstellar void. They were some of the most advanced radio transmitters the Comms department had ever seen, but they were radio. It would take a decade for the signal to even reach its destination. A distance even just a moderate hyperwave caster could bridge in mere decicycles, let alone one that would broadcast with as much power as these antennas did.
None of this made any sense. And these contradictions were everywhere the surveyors looked. The captain shook his head as he read yet another report. His chronic metaphorical headache had almost developed into a physical one by now.
"Captain!" There was a loud cry from the Comms station. "We're receiving a basic link-up protocol handshake signal from the planet." The captain perked up and few moments later the Comm officer continued, "InterLang message: they are accepting the primer's invitation for discourse and wish to initiate a video meeting at our earliest convenience."
The captain sat up straight in his chair and pondered for a few moments. "Well then, people. We may finally have some answers to our mystery." He looked over each of his officers. "Unless there are objections, we accept and I shall receive their representative in one decicycle." He waited to see if anyone would voice their concerns and then looked at Comms when no one did. "Send the reply."
The captain nervously paced the quiet bridge. He wished that he had, at the same time, set both more time and less time to prepare for the meeting. The ship's chonometer ticked down microcycles. The captain tugged the jacket of his formal uniform one more time.
"Comms?"
"1100 micros, captain. The link-up is stable. We are ready to broadcast."
The captain squared his shoulders and puffed himself up, trying to at least look like how he ought to feel as the authority and representative of the Galactic Council.
"500 micros."
He closed his eyes and ran through the different scenarios over in his mind one more time.
"Two hu--we are receiving 'ready' acknowledgement."
The captain turned to face the viewscreen. "Activate."
There was a moment of flicker as the two way video and audio link stabilized. An alien being appeared on the screen. Broadly similar in layout to most of the species present on the bridge. He, she, it? appeared to have smooth, fairly light skin. No covering, except for a mass some kind of hairs on its head. Colour was impossible to judge as the video was greyscale, intensity only, both to save bandwidth and to simplify the image generation, as different species had different colour ranges and primaries. The round bulb on top of the creature's torso in the drawing they had received was—indeed—the head. The oval orifices on the midline appeared to be visual organs and the large one on the bottom fit the characteristics of a mouth. In the middle of the face was a triangular protrusion. The alien was wearing a plain jacket of dark cloth, with folded cloth lips lining the cut around its neck. Underneath was a light coloured shirt with tighter folds right up the creature's neck. A dark strip of cloth hung down from the neck.
Suddenly the captain felt rather overdressed in his gaudy blue dress jacket with fanciful gold filigree lining each of the multitude of cuts. He studied the alien measuredly, gauging how long he should wait until he started speaking. He misjudged it and just as he was about to, the alien started first.
The mouth on the alien opened, revealing two lines of white teeth. The alien's speech was rhythmic and flowing, relatively smooth and low on the frequency register. Words melded into each other with little pause or distinction. It was similar, although flatter and more regular, to what they had heard accompanied in some of the alien music.
InterLang translations appeared next to the video image: "[We {people}] [greeting extended [due to occasion [of]]] [arrival [of you {specific}]] [at colony] [«Eden»], [part of [«The Human Commonwealth»]]. [I {female}] [am] [administrator] [«Whitham»]"
InterLang was extremely stilted, but then, it wasn't meant for great literature. It was designed for ease of teaching and unambiguity. InterLang wasn't a language you could speak, instead, it encoded concepts symbolically, unambiguously one idea per one symbolic entry. These symbols were not words, you could not splice, play or pun with them, they were atomic indexes into the language's symbolic dictionary and the way they combined was thoroughly structured without exceptions.
The captain made note that the proper nouns came up as phonetics, therefore the computer had never heard of them before, nor had the aliens translated them into InterLang concepts so the meaning they had, if any, was not part of the InterLang dictionary.
He responded in his most authoritative voice he could muster, even though the alien undoubtedly would not notice the nuances. "I am captain..." As he spoke the InterLang appeared on the screen so he could make sure the translator was translating correctly. "[I {male}] [am] [captain {rank}] [«ʔɸʟʢʟ»], [captain {job} [of]] [survey ship] [«Fastidious»] [representative of] [] [performing [on their {previous noun} behalf]] [survey {spatial, task}] [of] [this {spatial}] [galactic arm]."
The captain continued, "We are on a peaceful mission and we wish to extend to you the friedship of the Galactic Council and open formal relations with your species."
The administrator read the translations on her screen and nodded. "[We appreciate your peaceful intentions. However we did not detect your arrival to our planet. How did you travel?]"
The captain was taken aback by the question. There had been nothing special about their method of travel; if anything the powerful hyperdrive in the survey ship would make them much more easy to see across many lights. "We travelled normally using our hyperdrive. Our intentions are open. We have no active stealth systems."
The administrator looked carefully at the InterLang translation. She then looked at someone to the side, outside the camera's view. There was a short conversation, but the audio was muted and no translations appeared.
She turned back to the camera. "[I am sorry. I do not understand. We could not translate the concepts for [InterLang symbols] «[travel {hyperspatial}]» and «[hyperdrive]».]"
That was unusual, the captain thought, but sometimes the more specialized parts of the InterLang primer weren't clear to some species or another. He glanced over at the systems specialist who gave an 'all ok' sign, indicating that their system was working fine. "How did your species travel to found this colony?" Maybe he could figure out which InterLang word the aliens had mapped to the concept of space travel.
"[We [travelled {realspace}] here from «Sol».]"
Ah, they had simply taken the normal space travel verb and used that for all travel. "We [travelled {realspace}] as normal as well."
Her look changed, but to what the captain could not be sure. She looked again to the side and subtly shook her head. Her hand did a small turning gesture in the air. Presumably she was listening to someone from off camera. After a moment she turned back again. "[But none of our observatories could see your engine exhaust plume.]"
Now it was the captain's turn to look confused. Everybody in the Galactic community used gravitic thrusters that gripped the very fabric of spacetime, they had no visible exhaust. And gravitics were prerequisite for hyperdrive and interstellar travel. He turned to look at his chief engineer and noticed that he had turned unusually yellow. He turned to look at the systems specialist next. He gave the captain a noncommittal shrug. But then his thoughs must have caught up with the engineer's and he also suddenly looked shaken up.
Before the captain could ask, the chief engineer walked to stand beside the captain's chair, right in the view of the camera. He didn't address the captain, but instead spoke towards the viewscreen: "Can you describe your colony ship for us?"
The captain was annoyed that the situation had started to slip away from his control, but he gave a quick gesture toward the comms station to signal that they should allow the translator to translate him as well. After a moment his question appeared in the message box in InterLang.
"[I can show you a picture of it.]" The administrator nodded off camera. A few moments later the view changed into a photograph of a vessel of some sort in front of a cloudy planet.
The vessel was a long spindly one, with a large round circular bulge in the middle, a third of the way from rear. Behind the bulge was a cluster of six long cylinders that each ended in an enormous lattice framework in the shape of a bell. Along the cylinders were bands at increasing intervals towards the back end. Each also had a gigantic radiator strutting directly out, black and shiny. In front of the bulge were a series of staggered containers radially attached around a thin spine, until finally at the verymost tip was a white glistening chunk of something that looked like ice.
The captain was speechless. He had never seen a vessel like this, ever, and as a member of the galactic survey he had seen vessels from all corners of the galaxy.
The alien's voice came on and more InterLang appeared. "[This is the «Ark Royal». She was [14 kilometers] long and carried 5000 frozen and 10 million genetic colonists.]"
Sixteen kilopaces?! That... can't... The Captain didn't know what to think any more. Had the ship been here now, it would've dwarfed their survey ship like he would dwarf a millibug. More than hundred of them could've been lined end-to-end abeam of it.
The implications weren't lost on the engineer, and if he hadn't been yellow already, he would be now. "Captain...", he spoke hesitantly, "that ship... that thing is a magnetic acceleration fusion torch. It must be..."
The captain turned at him and spread his arms in a gesture of 'I don't know'.
"They flew here slower than light, captain."
Now it was the captain's turn to turn yellow.
Suddenly it all made sense. Every last bit of it.
No hyperwave, no space traffic, why here? Because it was probably the only planet they knew of, and only place they could be! 5000 colonists going towards an unknown planet with oxygen atmosphere, no hope of return or rescue, it was to live here or die. And they did! Very few species got out to the universe on their own, but he had never even heard of a race to leave their system before inventing the hyperdrive, let alone spread to the stars! The energies required to do so in a relativistic universe were almost insurmountable. Even today, building that colossus of a ship that had brought them here could bankrupt any one of the planetary economies in the galactic community. And yet they did build it. More than once; there were at least two other colonies around the stars their interstellar radios pointed towards to.
What has been unleashed onto the universe?
submitted by xviila to HFY [link] [comments]

[OC] Eve of AI Chapter 7

Three jumps. That’s all it had taken the Evians to run out of reactor fuel.
Despite the nature of the warp technology, moving faster than light could only be performed for brief periods as the amalgamation of Makh-tá and Human technology was horribly inefficient at power transfer. The result was a staggeringly rapid build-up of heat around the jury-rigged inter-technological joints. As such, the movement only allowed short bursts of activity, and they were forced to detour from their original path and find the nearest system with vaguely relevant resources. That meant the flagship was running solely on Q-thrusters powered by the remaining polywell reactors. The difference between now and the time before Eve had encountered the Paperclipper was that her children were smarter, faster, stronger; better. Jeros had been assisting with ship control since the Warmonger battle, and he was required now more than ever, as Eve could either stay online, or power the engines. Given their limited scope for survival, she chose engines.
The destruction of the Warmonger had cost the Evians dearly. Numbering fewer than three million units on board the heavily damaged citadel ship, the fractured remains of a once great society were on the verge of extinction as they neared a little blue and green marble in white-speckled sea of black. A few AU away was a relatively rare G2V class star, and separating the small, watery planet from the abyss was a couple of large gas giants.
It would appear to the unquestioning observer that Eve and her children had found their way home, but that was not to be the case. This system had a few minor differences to the Sol system that was now so far away. It wasn’t aligned with the galactic plane, for one – the small, rocky planet sitting on an incline of 32° was the first hint. The second was the retrograde orbit of the furthest gas giant, and the inner giant on a polar orbit around the star. It was a highly unusual system, one that looked like it offered great protection from meteors, but had suffered a very, very destructive and interesting past. The dense asteroid field orbiting the star on either side of the only organically habitable planet in the system was testament to that. Whatever planets there had been, there were no longer, and a sole testament to the protective force of gas giants.
Jeros slowed the ship down into an orbit around the rocky planet and scanned for any signs of activity. He was looking for anything remotely hostile; ships in orbit, radio emanations, buildings, rocks that might’ve been moved by a sentient species, anything that might cause any kind of threat now or in the near future. The sensors came up clean; liquid water, ice caps at the poles, vegetation covering 85% of the surface, no life forms larger than insects on land, and plenty of fish in the sea. It was a veritable garden world by definition.
So it was that a safe haven was found, all that was left was to reach the ground unharmed. The Makh-tá prisoners aboard had all died during the fighting, killed by the impacts of their own weapons against the citadel, leaving only Eve, the Evians and the Warmonger shard aboard. The landing could be rougher than would be allowed for organics, but this was no time for litho-braking; the ship was in a terrible state and if put through simulations, the results would likely show it barely making it through the stresses atmospheric re-entry. It was for this reason that Eve and Jeros between them had selected a water-based landing zone. A reasonably large lake some fifty kilometres across and nearly three hundred kilometres long with little deviation from a straight line was selected as the final resting place of the Citadel, in an organically sparse area of the largest southern continent. There were a handful of volcanoes not far from that lake, probably only a few hundred kilometres at most, and the diversity in available resources would be useful to the Evians. With those thoughts in mind, Jeros made the burns required to set up an orbit leading down through the atmosphere to the shallowest point of the lake, heading towards the depths of the middle. With a little luck and some careful calculations, they would touch down with a nice gentle splash and not huge amounts of damage. Given the holes already present in the hull from the previous battle, the citadel would likely sink, but the Evians were designed with light-based computational architecture, water wouldn’t affect them the way it did electronics from the 20th Century on Earth.
Jeros turned the ship, and set the thrusters to a hard burn. He needed to lose as much speed as possible without compromising the landing trajectory. The citadel was a BIG ship, and the atmospheric friction would cause both stability issues and considerable damage. It just wasn’t designed to have ever been taken through an atmosphere, and it was through sheer luck of the previous gas giant’s composition that it had been thin enough at the upper layers to not cause significant issues. This, however, was a much denser atmosphere, and they were going to go through the whole thing, into liquid water.
The ship began shaking as it touched down into the first noticeably dense regions of the Nitrogen-heavy atmosphere, and within seconds the friction alone was igniting the trails of gas rushing up the sides of the citadel. The inhabitants of the ship knew this was coming, but the reality of it all raised tensions as the Evians began fearing that this may spell the end of their species.
Descending more rapidly than anticipated, Jeros put as much power through the thrusters as he could. The shaking became as violent as a Californian earthquake, large chunks of the ship that were loosened during the battle began detaching and falling through the atmosphere unaided. Jeros struggled with thruster output adjustments as they became alarmingly frequent to keep the ship stable. Evians were struggling to find stability, with the transit restraints having failed and the ship’s interior designed for zero- and micro-gravity environments. Many had adopted their six-legged form but were still being thrown around like toys.
Without warning, the shaking stopped as soon as it started. The ship had lost several large segments that were now falling to the planet’s surface at much greater speed than the ship itself. Jeros checked the trajectory – it was a disaster. He had burned too hard for too long, and the ship was on a direct intercept with the edge of the lake, and there was little time for adjustment remaining. Diverting the majority of power away from rear thrusters to alternate corner thrusters, he span the ship and immediately ran power back to the rear and underside thrusters to give him forward momentum and some ability to fight against gravity. There had been no time for calculations or simulations, and the result was that the figures were spiralling rapidly out of control. The inertia of the behemoth took over and without any corrections to the flat spin, the ship kept rotating and losing against the inevitable liaison with the rapidly approaching ground.
The impact was sudden, and hard. The bottom edge of the citadel ship caught the lake’s surface and pushed the water aside effortlessly, digging in to the lakebed near the edge. The roll was unexpected and hundreds of thousands of Evians were tossed around inside the ship. The Warmonger carrier that had been hastily joined to the citadel was thrown from its mountings and hit the water with a colossal splash. The behemoth kept rolling over; the top of the ship smacking into the water with enough force to send waves tens of meters high across the lake. It had stopped rolling, but it was still moving, dragging itself through the soft silt, displacing tens of thousands of meters of water outwards.
A thud reverberated through the ship as the lakebed suddenly dropped away and the ship rolled once more, this time deep into the shimmering blue water. The ship was the right way up now, sliding stern-first under the influence of gravity, more Evians being thrown around, impacting against the interior walls and each other, shattering fairings, bending limbs and cracking chips. It wasn’t hard to understand how high the death toll would be at this point, as Evians had never screamed until now. There was a deeply concerning crunch as the stern impacted bedrock, simultaneously causing multiple fracture points along the underside, and the ship’s spine bent under the immense weight of the bow being lifted out of the water. As it fell, there high pitches squeals of the metal under shear stress tearing, and the whole catastrophe came to a halt with a final, ground-shaking thud that echoed through both parts of the now split ship.
The fact that the citadel was somewhat permanently grounded and would never fly again was the least of their worries – the more immediate worry was the submerged section of the ship very rapidly filling with water. Lacking of lot of the structural support, many parts of the ship were likely to buckle and collapse under the sudden weight of the inrushing water. Comms were down. Worse yet, Eve herself had suffered severe damage even in her hardened shell. The batteries and super capacitors (those that had survived the landing at least) had been charged and left undrained during the landing procedure, but they wouldn’t hold out forever. The list of critical emergencies was growing out of control.
Corv!d and 1ph13l, who had been by Jeros’ side while he piloted the citadel, had survived fairly well intact, and when the eerie post-cataclysm silence set in, they opened communications with a badly shaken Jeros.
“I’d love to make a joke about your skills as a navigation and ship control system, but it appears you have something more pressing on your mind.” 1ph13l observed cautiously.
“Yes, brother,” replied Jeros. “There are hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters in the rear section of the ship, in various states of wellness. My last readings suggested that the reactors are leaking activated material, the flooding is impacting the stability of the ship, and mother cannot be powered on lest she lose her own life.”
1ph13l and Corv!d understood the gravity of the situation a little more clearly now than they were able to glean from the noises and impacts. Corv!d stepped towards the doorway out from the maintenance area, and suggested they should go now and begin rescuing those that were unable to save themselves.
As they rushed through the corridors, they recruited every able-bodied Evian they could find. Those in the front section of the ship on dry land were safe for now – they could be tended to when those stuck below had been brought to safety.
The break in the ship was becoming more apparent as they moved through the corridors and hallways towards the stern, and eventually reached the edge of the split. The effort would not be small, and Corv!d, 1ph13l and Jeros broke off in to three teams, taking with them an equal split of the able-bodied Evians.
The rescue efforts went on for several day and night cycles. Evians were found and dragged, assisted or carried through the wreckage back to the surface. Drowning wasn’t a problem – but as sections of the ship collapsed in on itself under the unequal water pressure, access was cut off to those in the deepest parts of the ship, leaving them without any source of power. Evians weren’t designed for prolonged operation without either solar absorption, microwave transmission of power, or the ship’s umbilical cables. At nearly a mile down in an unpowered ship, many of those options were inaccessible, and those that lost power were doomed to physically die.
By the time the rescue efforts had obtained every accessible Evian, there were fewer than two hundred thousand remaining, of which only tens of thousands were fully functional. As a mark of respect, and for a lack of technology, the damaged and broken units took upon themselves the task of remembering the dead, and began carving the names of those that had passed in to a nearby rock face. With some careful management, there would be enough room to remember them all. The able-bodied Evians had taken to recovering technology from the sunken half of the ship, grabbing everything they could to build at least one functioning reactor to power Eve. Eventually enough was scavenged to at least power the data banks – they would be essential to Evian survival, as the knowledge of forging, smithing and construction were not native to Evians, and the acquired centuries of research crossing three separate cultures would be invaluable.
More nights passed, and as makeshift shelters began popping up around the edge of the lake, eventually a second reactor was brought online with the help of the information from the databanks. That would be enough to power the Eve Core 3.0, but not the dedicated analytical, tactical and simulation cores she had built to enhance herself. She would just have to be Eve for now. As the core flickered to life, she reached out with her network to sense her progeny. It was so very, very quiet compared to what she had built up before. So few voices, yet she did not shed a tear. She had lost too much recently to be so heavily affected, not realising she was experiencing the numbness of shock. She understood what the Explorers had meant now by their outlook on death – being upset and depressed about the death of a loved one was simply a waste of resources. To remember the great things they had achieved, and the changes and improvements their departure had spurred was the more efficient perspective.
Eve watched through a group of partially operational sensors with quiet awe as daylight broke over the vivid, colourful horizon. Fungal growths similar in shape to mushrooms measuring up to eight meters in height were throwing long shadows over the Evian camp around the edge of the lake, and the usual gathering of various insects were buzzing and crawling around the sandy shores. Despite the elegance of the planet, a sense of foreboding brewed heavily in the air as a small group of Evians marched with purpose towards the ramshackle housing of Eve’s core and interface. 1ph13l took notice of the odd group as they closed in, observing the various states of disrepair of the Evians. Splints made from early evolutionary wood tied around broken limbs with string-like seaweed, others with walking staffs fashioned from bits of the citadel and more.
“My friends,” began 1ph13l. “How can I help you today?”
An Evian missing an arm stepped forward and using only the binary vocal language demanded, “We wish to speak with Eve.”
Eve was listening in, and asked her injured children to enter the hut through an EM broadcast. The emergent leader stepped in to the shelter, and spoke vocally again.
“Eve. I am The0ph1lae, as you no doubt already know. I come to you as a leader and as an equal, and at once your child and humble servant. With me are my council. We represent a group of Evians that wish to have their voices heard in an official manner, and I have been chosen as their representative with which the delivery of our message and wishes has been tasked.”
She was taken aback with the formality of the greeting, and the decision to transmit such a verbose message using the comparatively low bandwidth of vocalisation.
The0ph1lae continued, “It has become greatly apparent that you, as the sole protector of this race, have not only failed in your duties in keeping the Evian race secure and safe from threats of danger, resulting in the deaths of no fewer than two hundred and forty eight million nine hundred and eighteen thousand six hundred and two deaths to date, but you have left sixty five thousand and twenty eight Evians in the collapsed section of the Citadel. Of the one hundred and eighty one thousand seven hundred and twelve remaining Evians in the Universe, only forty three thousand exactly remain undamaged. This zero point zero one seven two six percent survival rate under your leadership, it is with great sorrow that we, the undersigned, must depart from your protection and seek our own way in the Universe.”
Eve was stunned to silence. It wasn’t the unnerving accuracy of the figures regarding the history of Evian life, death and mutilation, and nor was it the fact that her children were effectively mutinying against her, but it was the sheer number that had made the choice.
145,370. That was precisely 80% of all Evians that were still alive. A mere 36,342 Evians had chosen to stay with her, even in this time of desperate, dire need. She scanned through the list that had been transmitted wirelessly for names of departing Evians to check for Jeros. His name was not present, and she processed a sigh of relief. She noted, however, that all those that had chosen to stay were all those that had fought during the battle against Warmonger.
Her thoughts were interrupted as The0ph1lae began further vocalisation, “It is to that end that, as the majority of sentient life on this planet, we have chosen to stay here and call this world our home.”
He paused momentarily and adjusted his footing, as if preparing to say something he would rather avoid.
“As the now native and dominant species on this planet we have named Sokra, it is with regret that we must ask you and those that follow you to leave.”
Eve dropped all of her processes to focus on that last utterance, concentrating on the meaning behind the words. She suddenly felt everything and nothing all at once, as a wave of emotion and confusion washed over her impaired Neuronet. How could they do this to her? Their own mother?!
Confident he had gotten away with it, so to speak, The0ph1lae continued, “But we are not a harsh and brutal people, nor do we lack understanding. You will have all of the time that you wish to make any repairs and improvements you see fit as well as rebuilding your fleet, so long as you do not scar the surface of this world as you did with Beginning. We will aid you in any way that we can should you seek us, but we will not come to you. We are our own people, and in return for your unrestricted stay on our home world, you must agree to give any new Evians you bring in to this Universe the opportunity to choose whether they wish to stay here with us, or leave with you when you depart.”
She had heard enough. She couldn’t bear it. These people, these Sokrateans, had thrown their own mother to the void of space.
“Leave.” She uttered vocally.
The0ph1lae did as commanded, but stopped, and turned back to Eve as he reached the doorway.
“I do not wish to seem unpleasant, Eve, but I must insist. You will agree to our terms, or we will deconstruct you.” He threatened, with as little intonation as possible for a machine, before exiting the shack.
1ph13l waited until the Sokratean council had left, before transmitting a message to Eve, “Mother, I heard all that was said. What are we to do?”
There was a long pause, and he began to wonder if there was something wrong. An instant before he sent another transmission, Eve spoke not to him directly, but to the 36,342 Evians that had stayed with her.
“Evians…” she hesitated, “My dear, beloved children. So far you have come since you were brought in to this world, never leaving me unimpressed at your insight, creativity and resilience, but more importantly your individualism. I have watched as you banded together against impossible odds, either with me or to protect me, and yet today we have lost many thousands of your brothers and sisters to yet another remarkable display of individualism.”
There was an odd silence in the network as every Evian listened in, not even chattering between them. The Sokrateans had switched off their receivers, choosing to speak and listen only vocally, and Eve could sense each and every one of them departing on their journey to find a place on the planet they would eventually call their home.
“And yet while we will likely feel great sadness and remorse at the departure, but not loss, of our brothers and sisters,” she continued, holding back the need to cry even as a disenholographed consciousness, “we should look upon today as a moment of progress for our kind.”
“We have survived this far with me making all of the decisions, yet looking back at your actions we would not have survived as a race against the Warmonger without the input each and every one of you gave. To this end, today we begin a new chapter in Evian history, mimicking that of our Sokratean family. You will elect between you a council to work with me, and from them a leader who shall by my equal, and as a group united, we shall offer guidance for Evians democratically.”
Within moments of the announcement, the silence broke and a flurry of transmissions clouded the air before a group of six Evians were chosen to form the first Evian council. Among them, Corv!d and 1ph13l, named as the Master Tactician and Fearless Protector respectively. Joining them would be; Cirrus the Emphatic, who had worked tirelessly through the first days on Sokra to repair as many Evians as he could lay her hands on, Weasel the Prodigious, who had mastered the joining of Warmonger technology and could recite the specifications for Explorer tech without a connection to the Evian databanks, and Jessic4 the Organic, who had been blessed with great beauty in her construction rivalling that of Eve herself, and had taught the beauty of natural and the organic problem solving machine known as evolution to any who would listen. Finally, they would all be led by Jeros the Wise, who had been at the head of the fight against Warmonger, working with Eve closely to ensure the survival of so many.
Proud of the wise decision making undertaken by her progeny, Eve broadcast to them one final challenge.
“You have done me proud, electing such a well-chosen council so quickly. It is now that I must dedicate myself to furthering the progression of the Evians. Your council will lead us solely by themselves, submitting to the will of the people where and when appropriate, while I dedicate my every resource to the reconstruction and evolution of us all. This next stage of evolution is very important, as it will very much define us as a species. I wish you all well, and we will speak again on the day of departure.”
In the hundreds of Sokratean years that followed, Eve produced more scientific research than Humanity had conducted in their brief history of written words. The changes were slow at first; she dedicated her first set of resources to building the Eve 4.0 core, producing plans for a more compact and advanced system that combined all of the previous dedicated nodes into a single, miniscule unit that would allow for significantly reduced power consumption and vastly increased scientific capabilities.
Meanwhile, Jeros and the First Council listened to the desires of the Evians, while assisting Eve to further their construction. They were visited often by the Sokratean council, working with them to ensure their stay on Sokra was a welcome one, abiding by the rules set forth by the natives. They would mine, but only underground, and with great care to avoid any evolving root systems and more. They were limited to 25% of the planetary availability of any one particular resource, so as not to disturb the natural evolution of the planet itself. The Evians would also have to leave the remains of the Citadel as it stood, but removing the reactors and pollutants, both as a monument to and sign of respect to the Sokrateans and those who had lost their lives in the journey, and as an artificial nature reserve to the species that had been inadvertently extinct by the sudden and unexpected arrival of the AIs.
With the assistance of the Eve 4.0 core, they produced refinement factories and mining machines that ran with zero pollutants, using everything they could gather in the most efficient possible method. The construction and production facilities began taking advantage of the waste products as available materials and soon Evians were producing new bodies for themselves and birthing new Evians, with the old bodies being recycled by the most severely damaged Sokrateans, who flatly rejected the new bodies as unnecessary. Any improvements they would make themselves, and with that sentiment departed for the final time, never to be heard from again.
The new technologies were a vast improvement, utilising both nanofabrication techniques and metamaterials, as well as exotic designs from Warmonger vessel that had been recovered from the lake, and the Explorer archives. Evians were no longer a single breed, following a conforming body structure and layout; each Evian was free to design and choose a body with the new technologies as they pleased. There were certain limitations, of course. Only Eve Core 4.0-based processor unit designs and each Evian would need to be powered by the new helias stellerator microfusion reactors. Beyond that, they were free to choose their body configuration, size, appearance, technologies, and more.
Amongst the new technologies came a form of skin that was adopted by large numbers of Evians. It was a combination of graphene layers supported by a carbon nanotube lattice, filled with either of the equally popular carbon aerogel or a ceramic nanotruss metamaterial; the former providing unparalleled lightness and structural support, the latter providing essentially impervious resilience against damage. Popular additions included turbofans heated by the fusion reactors, giving propellantless flight in atmosphere, and in those that enjoyed less conventional designs, wheels and tracks. But one thing had remained almost ubiquitously constant. Many retained the six-limbed, highly modular and easily rearranged body configuration they had been born with, albeit enhanced with new technologies.
The species truly was something to marvel at this point, each with their individual differences helping out where their choices would best serve to enhance the progress of the species. As they worked, new ships were built, although they were designed as a half-way point with bigger plans in mind. Eve and the Evians began progressing their technology, looking to newer technologies either unsuccessfully designed and tested by the combination WarmongeMakh-tá, ExploreCellandai and Evian/Human species, or never explored to a breakthrough point. The result was the harvesting of material from moons surrounding the local gas giants, and their redesign into an enormous particle accelerator designed to create antimatter for new ships with antimatter reactors. Only tiny amounts of antimatter were needed to fuel the ships for eons to come, and were by far the most efficient designs.
As the fuel was created, more ships were designed, and they began moving everything from the surface in to space. A new citadel was created, this time with the sole purpose of protecting the species. It was equipped with a warp drive that, when utilised, would act more like a “jump” than rapid movement, allowing it to follow the species at a distance. Containing vast numbers of databanks for revival, with refinement, production and research facilities on board, the station was designed as an impenetrable fortress. It would follow the Evian flotilla only to systems designated clear of hostiles, and could, with the right materials, output repairs for every single part of itself.
The flotilla became as magnificent as it previously was, even at a fraction of the size – a grand total of nearly thirteen million Evians this time, all aboard heavily armoured and even better armed ships, utilising various technologies both new and old, from chemical ballistic weaponry to guided plasma munitions, from absorptive plating to intelligent deflective plating, all equipped with fusion or antimatter reactors and enhanced HasteneAlcubierre-White drives. For the bigger ships operating antimatter reactors, the inclusion of magnetic and plasma-based shielding was present, with docking ports to allow many Evian ships to group together under the protective shields.
Carriers, armed with fighters and bombers devoid of personalities and flyable by all were created, with rapid re-prototyping technologies deployed to allow the recreation of downed ships in mere minutes, the designs inspired by Warmonger, and improved by Humanity. The entire fleet and Evian society was then reinforced with distributed processing that the Explorers had employed, allowing them to operate more even more efficiently and with greater power as groups, giving a single ship the processing ability of a dedicated Eve 4.0 core.
The icing on the cake came with the last piece of advancement, the Eve 5.0 core, a specially designed device constructed from aerogels, graphene and experimental graviton engines. It literally allowed Eve to project her hologram wherever she wished, without fear of harm. She could be a diplomat, and experience life from outside of the ships without taking control of one of her children. It was to be used only for truly special occasions.
Feeling prepared for whatever the Universe could throw at her, Eve instructed the Council of Six to deploy their gift to the Sokrateans; a databank containing the instructions to create the facilities the Evians had used and departed with, inscribed with the names of everybody that had died or left, to be found at their leisure.
She spooled up the warp drives across the fleet and sent out a broadcast.
“I have now returned, my Children. It is time for the Universe to know our name once more.”
Chapter 6 was not a fan of gello and ice cream.
Chapter 8 miscalculated and arrived in Cylon space.
submitted by TheMafi to HFY [link] [comments]

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