Tag Archives: Galactix

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Torqol’s Ascent #storytelling #exploration

In orbit above Impiruil Baile, Galactix takes aboard the last load of supplies for his next journey to the stars beyond the known systems. His destination: Sirius. As he takes stock of his inventory, he prepares for the crew he has on board, as well as others that may decide to delve into the unknown.

Possibly excited for a jaunt into the uknown, the tiny Limping Moth isn’t doing its usual odd flight pattern. Really, it’s just landed in a quiet alcove at the moment, with some jaunty music playing from it. Maybe the pilot’s just asleep.

Galactix’ booming voice speaks to the tiny vessel. “We shall be departing soon, my little friend. Do you have all that you require on board?”

The jaunty music from the Limping Moth cuts out so Kilroy can be heard more easily. “Think so. Got a small lab full of possible explosives, half an aspirin, a fridge full of beer and a goodly supply of foodstuffs.”

“Very good. I suspect it shall take approximately three days to travel to the Sirius star system.” Galactix says. “I am hopeful that it will not prove to be as barren as the last. The Rigel system proved to be uninhabitable. A treasure trove of minerals to be sure, but the ambient radiation in the system would make any extraction operations an extremely risky venture.”

A somewhat vague ‘mmm’ comes from the Moth’s speaker. “I’d imagine there are safer places to get good volumes of those items elsewhere. Probably without much more travel.”

“Indeed. A definite case of the reward not worth the risk.” Galactix says. “I had to work with my companion to construct probes with very heavy shielding just to explore it.”

“Hrm,” Kilroy replies. “Well, the probe design may be useful for something else down the line anyway.”

“That is at least one consolation. As soon as I finish my system diagnostics, we shall depart.” Galactix says.

With only the slightest crackle from the Moth’s speaker mid-statement “Any idea what we expect to find?”

“From my long range observations, Sirius is a binary star system. The primary star is Class A, the companion star is a white dwarf. I suspect that it will not be as wild as the Rigel system.” Galactix says. “I am hopeful that we will perhaps find a planet in the habitable zone that could support life, or perhaps one that is already inhabited.”

Some suitable yet cheesy sci-fi soudtrack starts playing from the Moth’s speaker. “That has ended badly in so many movies.”

Long-range sensor reports come back to Galactix, revealing an abundance of gas giants, scatterings of asteroid fields, and two terrestrial worlds in the biozone. One of those planets is a hostile, uninhabitable world with a chlorine atmosphere. The other, however, appears to be an inhabited Earth-like world with a relatively thin oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere and a weak magnetic field.

“Ah, I’m getting more data from my sensor probes. Hmm.. very promising. At least one planet that may be supporting life, given its proximity to the star.” Galactix says. “My diagnostics are complete. My drive is charged and ready, so let our journey begin.” There is a low rumble as Galactix’ FTL drive engages.

Some suitable space faring orchestral music starts playing from The Moth’s speaker.

Galactix switches a nearby monitor to forward view, showing the swirling of his drive’s propulsion field in front of him. “I must admit a bit of excitement on my part. A planet with promising life bearing features could hold intelligent life. A first contact situation would be most extraordinary.”

“Indeed! Maybe we’ll find something smaller than me for a change.” Sayeth the Moth’s minuscule pilot.

“All of my systems are operating perfectly so I expect a smooth trip.” Galactix says. “I am keeping my sensors locked on the system so we may get more detailed information as we get closer.”

A dramatic sting comes forth from the Moth’s speaker. “What’s the general region like on the way over?”

“Very little that is too exciting based on preliminary scans.” Galactix says. “Perhaps a few minor stars. Nothing that should affect our course, at any rate.”

Phyrrian Tasker Unit EX-5234 makes its way through the area where the Moth is speaking with Galactix. Currently in humanoid mode, the mechanoid is vaguely shaped like a human, or at least a metal skeleton shaped like a human’s. “Greetings,” it says to the Moth and to the big ship itself. Its voice is a fairly well synthesized Earther-male. It makes no attempt at body language, and does not even have a moving mouth.

“Evening!” Comes the greeting from the tiny ship’s speaker. “Come to join in on the endless quest for new forms of combustion, concussion, and all things explosive?” (edited)

“Greetings” Galactix says. “Welcome to our expedition. I am hopeful this will be a fruitful venture.”

EX’s head apparently contains a holographic projector. It projects a male human face onto it’s metal “skull”. The image is somewhat transparent, but it moves in sync with the Phyrrian’s speech. “I have activated anticipation protocols. I am currently looking forward to discovery. The Overmind has tasked me with a general exploration protocol. I express gratitude for allowing me to take part in this expedition.”

“A venture is only a failure when nothing can explode.” Comes the sage voice from the Moth’s speaker.

After a couple of days of travel, Galactix drops back to sublight speed on the outskirts of the Sirius system. He begins to run scans of the system thoroughly before proceeding further.

Scans show that the one habitable world appears to have a single spaceport at the outskirts of a single sprawling city that’s arrayed around a central spire that climbs about 3,000 feet into the air.

Traffic from the spaceport appears to be local star system activity – small starships, generally, nothing bigger than a large freighter. No capital ships of note. Sensors detect sublight communications traffic on non-encrypted bands, in an alien language.

The Limping Moth emits a curious noise. Somewhere between a slide whistle descending, and a kazoo. “Huh. Not exactly sprawling. An outpost of some sort?”

“Possibly an outpost. Or possibly a single star civilization.” The Phyrrian pauses for a few seconds for processing, then says: “Galactix, does the spire appear to be a electromagnetic cannon to launch ships?”

Galactix focuses his scans on the ships themselves before moving to the spire. “We shall know shortly. I am checking to see if they possess faster than light travel. If they do not, then this is likely an isolated civilization. In either case, I wish to proceed slowly so as not to cause them fear.”

The civilization does not seem to have vessels traveling faster than the speed of light. The spire, upon closer examination, appears to be some sort of arcology inhabited by tens of thousands of denizens at any given time.

As Galactix trains his sensors on the building, it happens to be at a moment when three hundred multi-limbed humanoids are placidly stepping off a platform at the building’s summit and plunging to the streets far below.

“I am not detecting any FTL traffic… but the spire appears to actually be an arcology. It has been some time since I have seen one. Perhaps tens of thousands of inhabitants at any given time. Oh my…” Galactix says, pausing as he watches the jump. “It seems that three hundred of the inhabitants just… jumped off the highest platform and plunged to the street…” He continues scans to see if perhaps they survive. “They are multi-limbed creatures, as far as I can tell at this distance. I am proceeding further in system to get better resolution.” With that, his main engines engage and he begins to proceed at a steady, but not quick pace.

A quizzical noise comes from the Moth’s speaker. An ascending slide whistle, pretty much. “Drew the short straw in the Who Gets an Arcology Home sweepstakes?”

“Is the rest of the planet habitable? Perhaps living space is limited, and therefore individuals must commit suicide for the good of the society.”

One spacecraft is on a trajectory from the planet to an orbiting structure composed of dozens of metallic shafts projecting out of a central ring hub. The pilot’s left eye stalk is on the sensor display while the central and right stalks keep watch on vectors and status gauges.

The sensor pings as Galactix enters detection range. “An outsider?” the pilot muses through webbed mouth cartilage. He considers the outpost and his obligations, but… “Life is short,” he concludes. “Wisdom is required.” He adjusts the ship’s course to intercept the alien vessel.

“As far as I can tell, the world is habitable, but they have built this structure in the middle of a city. We can only guess at its purpose at this point in time.” Galactix says, just as his own sensors detect the change in course of the alien vessel. “Perhaps we will get the answer… one of their vessels has altered course and is headed this way. I can only hope my translation circuits are up to spec.” he says, as he engages his transmitter and sends a universal greeting in all the languages that he knows. “Greetings. I am Galactix, and I come in peaceful exploration.”

A switch inside the Moth is flipped, and some quiet theremin music plays from the speaker.

EX-5234’s body remains still as it awaits further data. “I possess the strongest translation subroutines the Overmind was able to compress into a Tasker processing unit. I assume your translation experience and computing power is vastly superior to that of this unit, but I am willing to assist.”

The alien pilot considers the imperfectly translated message. To him, it says: “Greeble. Hiyam Galactix. Antikum pass fool expiration.” That, of course, makes little sense. He runs it through secondary and tertiary decoding, but the best it manages is: “Hello. I’m Galactix. Peace.” But that’s promising, right? So the pilot replies: “I am Torqol of Anzaminas. It is so auspicious to meet you on the day of my descent!”

Galactix relays the untranslated message to his passengers as he attempts to translate it himself. After running it through every layer of translation he possesses, he ends up with “I Torqol, meet thee day of descent.” Relaying his translation protocols and syntax he has applied, he relays it to his passengers again in the hope that the addition of his translation protocols may achieve a closer match. “Their language is completely alien… but given the tone of the message, they do not appear hostile and are attempting to be friendly. What does your translation matrix add to the message, EX?”

Some light finger drumming on the console comes through the Moth’s speaker. “Very odd sounding… but unless there’s something tonal that I’m not noticing about the language, there’s not much my systems can do for it.”

More stillness from the Phyrrian. Just a few seconds. Then EX replies, “More data is necessary. But if Torqol is a proper noun as you have translated, I believe, thought with only 72% certainty, that Anzanimas is also a proper noun.” It turns to the Moth, “Your suggestion about tonal shifts is what gives it away. Notice the similar emphasis given to both terms. Also, if your translation of this term” it repeats the sound “as the possessive preposition ‘of’ is correct, then it is likely that Anzaminus is the name of the world.”

After a few moments of silence, Torqol continues: “What star system do you call home?” He checks the chronometer. He doesn’t want to rush the newcomer, but the descent cannot wait.

“I concur.” Galactix says, taking this additional data and plugging it into his translation matrix. Armed with this updated matrix, he attempts to replicate their language. “My original home is many, many light years away, but the world I departed from is approximately 20 lightyears from here.” Galactix replies, sending the message on speakers so his passenger can hear it, and hopefully the reply.

After some light drumming on the console inside the Moth gets picked up by the mics, some swelling orchestral music begins to swell from the speakers.

EX waits perfectly still, a slight hum given off by internal mechanisms. It continues to parse translation data with each new sample, sending update wirelessly to Galactix.

“I have never ventured beyond the home star,” Torqol transmits. “Although the Descent takes me to a greater beyond.”

“The Descent?” Galactix inquires. “Would that perhaps be the event I registered on my scanners where the beings jumped from the arcology?”

The Moth’s running soundtrack goes quiet for the moment. Probably things are too serious for that sort of thing.

“Possible religious ritual sacrifice with belief in an afterlife?” the Phyrrian muses.

A short while later, Torqol responds: “Has it already begun? I had hoped to have just a little more time. I suppose I should return planetside. I wouldn’t want to miss my opportunity.”

“I believe you may be correct, EX.” Galactix says. “This is perhaps some religious ritual.” Trying to learn more, he again contacts Torqol. “Indeed. I am moving further into orbit now. While you transit, what transformation does the Descent present your people? I am always interested in learning about the cultures of others.”

Another flip of a switch, and the Moth starts playing music that would be very suitable to a publicly available and highly cultural educational program.

While waiting for a response, the mechanoid turns to the Moth, watches it for a few moments, then says ‘Is music your main form of communication?”

As Torqol’s ship angles around to approach the planet ahead of Galactix, the pilot responds: “We are given the promise of transition to a greater essence, leaving behind the troubles and limitations of this world. Brought to us this year by Palla-palla, the preferred sweet wafer of yinzin players!”

“I see.” Galactix responds as he settles into orbit, and focuses his scanners more closely on the arcology and the people leaping from it. “What troubles do you speak of?” he inquires, before transitioning to internal to speak to his passengers. “It would appear to be less religious and more of a sponsored event… one that I would presume people would choose to undertake rather than be forced. Though the reasons for such an event I cannot fathom. Perhaps his reply will give us answers.”

The tiny ship’s tinier pilot pokes his head through the hatch up top “Course not! But it’d be a waste to not use this ship’s sound system when the world is just crying out for musical accompaniment…. Answers would be nice.”

“Ask if the transition is permanent,” the Phyrrian suggests. “Perhaps this transition is temporary.”

“The transition,” Torqol replies, “is permanent. It is for the best, though. Everyone has the right to live until the day of their Descent. Upon that day – this day, for people like me – that right is exchanged for the privilege of death.”

“Privilege of death?” Galactix inquires. “I am not sure I understand.”

Kilroy nods sagely from the hatch of the Moth “Well, it’s certainly a universal truth that nothing can live forever… more or less, anyway.”

EX nods its head. “Death is inevitable for biological lifeforms. It is likely that this unit will also stop functioning, though that is not equivalent.” It watches the screen with what seems to be curiosity.

The alien’s ship begins to descend through the planet’s atmosphere. Torqol continues to explain: “Of course, it is a privilege! Without it, we would never pass from this existence to the next, and why would it ever be necessary to perform maintenance on our city infrastructure without the guarantee that it suffers major damage at least once per year? Jobs depend on this!”

“If I may ask, does this mean that in your present form, if you did not Descend, you would never die?” Galactix inquires. “I see your point about the maintenance of the structure.” he states, before transitioning into his internal speakers to confer with his passengers. “If they are in essence immortal, or have extremely long life spans, then I would assume this arrangement was devised to keep their planet from over-populating. The incentive to do so is the belief in transcendence to a higher existence, which insures that they partake. It would also appear to have an economic benefit for those that remain. I must admit this is a fascinating social development. It is similar to the Centauran ritual, but the difference in reasoning behind it is striking.”

Kilroy scratches his temple for a moment “Hardly need to deliberately wreck up the place, though. Maintenance is going to be needed regardless. Stuff just breaks.”

EX-5234 processes all this information. “This particular social construct is no more or less logical than many biological societies.”

The response arrives from Torqol as his ship settles onto the landing pad at the central spaceport: “Indeed, we have outlasted all of our natural predators and, through scientific and medical exploration, unlocked the immortality code. I am six and a half centuries old – rather on the late end for receiving an invitation to Descend, really.”

“I see. The practical implications of such an event are clear to me now. Thank you for explaining.” Galactix says. “I have encountered creatures with similar life spans. In fact I do not know even the time of my own demise. My positronic brain is over 500,000 years old now, but the number of years ahead I cannot estimate. In a biological society, however, I can see how longevity would begin to present social and economic problems, as well as logistical.”

The tiny pilot nods.  “Well, I’d prefer going off to explore the galaxy myself, though I could see even that starting to get dull after a few centuries… One thing though. How do the corporate sponsors fall into this? And what’s yinzin?”

“Tasker units can easily function for many centuries,” the Phyrrian replies. “Resource allocation is strictly controlled, and units are built or recycled as needed.”

Torqol sits in the cockpit of his ship, looking toward the tower and the steady flow of plunging figures coming from the summit. “I should go,” he says wistfully. His wristband signals: “DESCENT QUEUE IMMINENT.” He frowns, looking toward the sky. “But in all this time, I never imagined life existed beyond this system. If THIS was all there was, then certainly one must look to the hereafter for a change of scenery. What you tell me, though, is that so much more exists beyond these stars. So much more I can see while I yet live.” He tilts his head, pondering. “I should tell people. This should be no secret.”

“Indeed… in fact I have encountered dozens of other species in my travels.” Galactix says. “Beings of all shapes and sizes.”

Kilroy tilts his head thoughtfully “We should see if we can get some recordings of yinzin to bring back. Might be popular somewhere.”

The Phyrrian says “We are capable of damaging your city in your place if you prefer to not descend. Infrastructure repair jobs do not need to suffer.”

“Citizens of Anzanimas,” Torqol begins to broadcast from his vessel on a general hailing frequency. “I have made first contact with inhabitants of a distant star system. We are not alone in the universe as the Scribings of Descenditure declare. For all these centuries, always have we looked inward, ignoring the awesome prospect of what awaits those who dare to explore beyond their home star. Today was to be my day of Descent. Instead, it is my day of awakening, and it is a glorious thing that I must share with all of you. I will not take my place in the queue. Instead, I will join the company of these strangers from another star and seek what knowledge I can with the years ahead of me.” He reignites the ship’s engines and launches from the pad, heading back toward orbit.

Galactix activates his internal speakers. “We seem to have inadvertently planted the seeds of a revolution.” he says. “However, I will not deny him to join us if he desires it.” He switches to his transmitter. “You are more than welcome to board and join us if you so desire.”

Kilroy quickly taps something by the hatch on his ship, and an amusingly old sounding fanfare plays.

“It is strange that a species is scientifically advanced enough to overcome natural death, and yet has no concept of life outside of their system.” The unit gives a mechanized shrug. “Would it be prudent to damage their city in place of Torqol’s descent to stimulate their economy? Perhaps then they will not be angry about you starting a revolution.”

In the observation deck of the central tower in the city, Descent Minder Designate Folras eyes the departing vessel on the monitor after hearing Torqol’s speech. He snarls into his subcutaneous cheek microphone node: “Destroy that ship. Quietly. And secure the rooftop platform and lock the exits from the lobby. If anyone tries to leave, shoot them.”

Anti-aircraft cannons on neighboring buildings swivel to take aim at Torqol’s ship. They open fire. He weaves to avoid one of the blasts, gasping over comms: “Oh, my.”

“It appears that this Descent is not as voluntary as it appears…” Galactix says. “I can not stand by while his life is taken for the simple desire of exploration and discovery.” His main cannons begin to charge up, but while they charge, he makes an effort to end the violence peacefully, but he does lock his cannons on the observation deck. “I am hereby granting the being known as Torqol asylum. Cease your attack, or I will have no choice but to open fire. Be warned; my cannons are capable of merely shaving the top off your tower, or destroying your entire arcology. Do not force me to have to use them.”

Kilroy dives back into the Moth, from which can be hard some hurried assorted clinking and ticking noises. A few bleeps, too.

EX watches the data streaming in. “This situation has escalated rapidly.”

Folras frowns at the threat coming over the channel and at the alert signal informing him of a weapons lock. Furthermore, other vessels are launching from the arcology landing pad to put themselves between the guns and Torqol’s ship – one Descent, it seems, isn’t so different from another. Several are blown from the sky before Folras orders the cannons to cease fire.

“Fine,” he mutters. Then, the order: “Let. Him. Go.”

“Torqol.. I am opening my hangar doors. You have clearance to land.” Galactix sends. “I suggest expedience… vacating this area may be a wise course of action.”

Kilroy pops his head back out “Oh good, more company on the way!”

“Is this normal exploration procedure?” the Phyrrian querries. “More formal first contact protocols may be useful in future situations to avoid these situations.”

Torqol breathes a sigh of relief as the anti-aircraft batteries cease fire and his ship breaks through the planet’s atmosphere once more and approaches the waiting Galactix. “Thank you for the assistance,” he says.

Meanwhile, citizens overrun guards in the lobby of the planetside arcology, seizing their weapons before subduing them.

On the observation deck, Folras transmits a message to government headquarters: “Societal Descent is imminent due to external interference. Recommend total lockdown, full curfew, and martial law. Hostages may be necessary to ensure cooperation.” He then contacts the orbital station and says: “I want full scans and imagery of the intruder vessel. Tracking and telemetry data, as well. Someone must answer for this.”

Galactix, it seems, isn’t quite done yet as he engages a broadcast. “This is Galactix, the cruiser which now orbits your world. The actions of your leaders have proven to me that your Descent is not of your own free will. Therefore I am opening my hangars to any who wish to join Torqol in asylum and see what is beyond your star.” He switches to internal speakers. “Given this societies demonstrated subterfuge and hostility, I doubt any formal procedures would have prevented this. Our mere presence was the catalyst.”

Kilroy nods from his tiny ship’s hatch “Yeah, it’s not easy to craft effective red tape against violent xenophobes.”

The Phyrrian says “Their society was functioning until our arrival was detected. Lack of detection would have prevented this situation.” The unit watches Torqol approach, then says “I do not possess the equivalent of your morality system. Tasker units value well functioning, efficient society. The introduction of your alternate morality on this society is an interesting experiment that I will continue to observe.”

“Thank you for this wonderful opportunity,” Torqol replies over comms to Galactix after landing aboard the sentient starship. He watches through the viewport as several other vessels from his homeworld ease into the docking bay. A thin smile traces across his lips as he unbuckles from his harness and then steps into the aft cabin, where he soon faces a hatch leading into a cramped storage compartment. He taps a passcode sequence into the keypad. The hatch thunks open. He pulls it open, then peers into the shadows at three figures, bound at wrists and ankles, their mouths gagged with dark cloths and eyes shrouded under blue plastic sacks. “You’ll survive a little longer, it seems. And soon, perhaps, have company.”

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] New Friends Come to Visit #storytelling #roleplaying #OtherSpace #impiruilbaile

Due to what is possibly a preferred spot in landing queues afforded to governmental folks, the DNC Amadaun is approaching one of the landing pads in the Impiruil Baile space port. The people on board any ships that accompanied him back would be able to look out the windows, or whatever viewing apparatus was popular with their ship’s designer, and see that many of the paths throughout the space port form a profile view of a raven wrapping one wing around a heart. The more astute viewers might also notice the port doesn’t seem to have the usual amount of metals, plastics, and the like.

Keth flips the comms to talk with the ships coming down with him “As we approach the planet, the council would like to remind you that attempting to abduct the local plants and animals is frowned upon. By the plants and animals. We also ask that you keep your arms and legs inside your vessels until you have come to a complete stop.”

Mikial follows Keth closely, not wanting to become lost in all the hub-bub around the space port. He looks around at the planet below, “Wow….. I only ever saw the X-47 colony, the trading station of our allies was out of their system, so very few that worked with them ever saw their planet…. Amazing!” Mikial is too busy following Keth and taking glances at the rest of the planet to notice the materials of the spaceport, though he does seem interested in the raven-heart design, Vachok chitters at it, perched on a bar coming off the side of Mikial’s captain’s chair.

Armored panels separate, pivot, and slide out  of the way as landing struts extent and thrusters actuate to Bring the Oskolok down gently before retracting into the body of the ship and their panels seal them inside when the ship comes to rest. Mikial pops open the cargo doors again, being the main exit when gravity is involved, and steps out, visible to something other than a living ship for the first time. He has an angular jaw with some stubble, short, dusty, sandy blond hair, green eyes, thick neck, broad shoulders, standing at around 5′ 11″ and it’s clear he’s probably an ‘old’ mercenary of 26. He has on coveralls that are a dark blue-grey with a slight camouflage pattern color variation. On these coveralls, a horizontal slash on his left thigh has reddened the front and side of that pant leg almost to the built in knee pads. He seems to have completely forgotten about it, as he hasn’t done anything to it, and it has mostly stopped bleeding. You can see the chain of his dog tags around his neck, though the tags are tucked under the coveralls, accompanied by a capsule with hearing protection and a pair push-daggers. He has left the carbine inside the ship this time, of course.

“Alice, lock everything down nice and tight.” Mikial calls into the ship as Vachok flies out to rest on his left shoulder, “Fine, fine, I’ll look after the ship… kind of hard not to when you’re part of it, y’know?” Mikial chuckles and closes the ramp before looking around where he’s landed now that he’s out of his ship.

Sophie is flying her Model 052 and makes a landing as well. Her landing isn’t particularly dramatic, demonstrating the skills of someone who knows how to pilot a ship without any special frills.

Once out, she’s followed by Orby, who now has extended a small hook from its side and is carrying a black bag that matches Sophie’s clothes. She’s still dressed exactly the way she was on the ship, including the dress with wings on her back. Notably, she’s quite small for a human, standing at only five feet tall. Her red irises now glow brighter. Then the woman looks around, waving enthusiastically to everyone.

There’s nothing particularly exciting about the Amadaun’s landing. It’s just a run of the mill small ship suitable for playing tourist in. Nothing terribly unusual about the guy who walks out of it, either. His darksih brown hair is kind of scruffy, and his eyes are a dark green. Reasonably fit. Just jeans and a t-shirt today. And a perfectly normal three foot penguin walks out beside him, looking cheerful as only a penguin can. The least normal thing here is the critter that looks like someone stuck a kitten’s head on a ferret. Very patchy black brown and white pattern to her. She darts around from one shoulder to the other to Keth’s head at random intervals, occasionally standing up on her hind legs to wave at the other landed folks.

“Welcome to Eriacre! Now if you’ll just follow me through customs, we’ll get you two a quick once over from the medical staff, and make sure your vaccinations are up to date… you’ll definitely want that if you’ve never been here before.”

It’s about this time that into orbit arrives a rather large vessel, practically a battlecruiser. Once it assumes standard orbit, a smaller dropship departs from within and heads to land at the spaceport pad. Once the gangplank lowers, a small gold faceted orb floats out. Spotting Kethren, it heads in his direction. “A good day to you once again. I see you have new arrivals?”

Mikial smiles and waves at Sophie, giving a curious but still warm and friendly look at her attire. He points at the Sophie’s orb, “That’s pretty nifty!” He says walking over, “Nice to meet you.” he puts out his hand for a handshake if it’ll be taken.

When Kethren and his own entourage come into view, the kitten-ferret catches Vachok’s gaze, and  he starts chattering, fluffing his feathers and fidgeting on Mikial’s shoulder, “Tssk!” he scolds Vachok a bit, “Not food.” He walks slowly toward Kethren, keeping a sideways eye on Vachok to make sure he doesn’t cause an incident. Once he’s close enough, the same handshake hand is held out to Kethren, “Thank you for taking on us two cast-aways”

The second orb comes floating into the group as Mikial starts looking at the penguin closely, “I’ll definitely have to get my ship compatible with the tech around here a.s.a.p. so I can experiment with new drone designs and ai types…” he turns toward the golden orb, “are these high grade utility drones? they look to be quite handy from the looks of things.”

“Oh, you like Orby?” Sophie asks excitedly as she shakes Mikial’s hand. “He’s a little quirky sometimes but he’s really good at filming things. Oh, and sorry for not figuring out the warning sooner, I got there just a moment too late to do anything, but it’s okay now so hopefully everything’s fine!” Then she smiles, “And nice to meet you too, I almost forgot that part!”

Sophie then begins walking towards Kethren, waving excitedly as she does so. “Okay!” she says agreeably to Kethren.

Then Sophie spots the large ship landing. This doesn’t alarm her as she continues her way towards Kethren. Then when the golden orb comes out she isn’t particularly bothered by that either. “Look, Orby, it’s someone like you!” Sophie seems happy about this. Orby is another story, taking up position directly behing Sophie. “What do you mean you’re scared. It’ll be fine, Orby.” Orby for its part only moves to keep up with Sophie walking.

Keth takes a moment to shake the offered hands just before catching a jacket tossed his way by a passing guard. Which he does put on, but not without some slight eye-rolling. Not that it’s a bad jacket. It’s a dark green, with a bit of a leafy pattern sewn in, and a lapel pin with the raven/heart pattern on it. “Sigh. Gotta look official now that I’m back in town. And good morning, Galactix! Yeah, found this guy drifting out in space, and he had the dubious fortune to meet up with a Kemetti. I thought here’d be a better place to come to grips with everything.”

The orb suddenly disappears behind a holographic projection of an elderly human male, dressed in khakis and a forest green polo shirt. “Ah, yes. He was fortunate to escape intact. Perhaps the creature was not hungry at the time.” he says. “I myself have returned from visiting the Rigel system. Rather rough place… the amount of hard radiation in that system will make colonization of any type extremely difficult, if not impossible.”

Mikial looks at Orby, “Filming, huh? What do you and orby film?” Mikial looks to Ila, “Wait, warning? What warning?” He looks at Galactix, “Intac-… Hungry?!……. Damn, I knew something felt really off about that creature!” Mikial shudders slightly thinking about how shafted he could have been if the creature had decided to have a snack.

Mikial introduces himself to Galactix, hesitant on the handshake as he isn’t sure if it would be rude to try to shake a holograms hand if it wasn’t tactile.

“Don’t worry, Orby and I talked to Kemetti and told him to let you go. I would have done more but he was busy calling me a lesser one and I had to correct him. I even offered him a Tarot reading but he wasn’t interested. Maybe I should have told you at the time but you were already leaving by the time I figured everything out and didn’t want to alarm you any more than necessary.” Sophie explains. Then she smiles brightly, “Oh, right, Orby! He films me and I post it for all my followers to see! We got some pretty good stuff from my ship but it needs editing. And maybe some effects. This is going to be the Demon Queen Ila’s most exciting review yet! I wonder what my fans will offer me next.”

Then she notices Kethren and the hologram talking. Orby is still behind Sophie, “Come out of hiding Orby, this one won’t hurt you.” she declares. Orby does indeed obey and takes up a position a couple feet away from Sophie’s right side. “I’m not interrupting anything important, am I?” she asks of Kethren and the hologram.

Due to being a government type, the usual customs process is somewhat streamlined for the group. Including some medics coming over to do a quick scan on any cooperative patients, updated vaccines included.

Ila gets a shake of the head “Oh, not at all. Meet Galactix, he’s an old acquaintance that drops by the planet for a visit now and then.” Wark!  “Pity about the lack of colonizing options out there… but eh, plenty of other planets out there. Space being quite large, after all.”

Galactix nods to Mikial. “Yes. That creature is known as a Yaralu. Most are benevolent, but this one has.. shall we say… a neutral personality. He recently attacked and consumed a passenger starliner, and destroyed a military vessel sent to deal with him.”

His attention turns to Ila. “Not at all my dear. I have simply been assisting in exploration efforts, but thus far found little that would be considered promising. I am fortunate that my positronic core was sufficiently shielded; the radiation in that system could have caused irreparable damage.”

Then, finally, to Kethren. “I do look forward to the reports of the other expeditions. I myself intend to depart once more after I have sufficiently restocked my fuel supplies.”

Mikial listens to Ila intently, but the expression on his face might show that she lost him somewhere between ‘post’ and ‘followers’ and again at ‘review’, but he listens nonetheless.

Mikial cooperates with the vaccines, “Don’t want to contract anything too funky, now do we?” and gets some minor treatment for the scalpel cut. “so, I just happened to catch an apathetic, starship eating, bio-ship called a Yaralu in a non- biting mood… and that’s why I’m still here?” Mikial gives a nervous laugh and contemplated thickening his already thickly armored hull. “So, umm…. I have a ship, and probably nothing currency that would be valid here… will Istill be able to outfit my ship with updated information for here? do you require licenses or anything? Because other than what you guys have given me already, I have nothing official here, other than the fact that I know I own everything in my ship…”

Sophie as well cooperates with the vaccines. Anyone paying attention to the medical scans would realize her eyes are cybernetic and she has a neural interface at the back of her neck, normally covered by her hair. She makes a point of being stoic about it but her face grimaces in such a way to show being vaccinated is an experience filed under the not fun category. Once that is done she smiles and says, “Hello Galactix!” her enthusiasm isn’t quite all the way back, but she’s at least making an effort to smile while she makes the greeting. “I’ve never been exploring, but it sounds kind of dangerous the way you explain it.”

Then as Mikial expresses his concern she frowns, “Well, I’m sure there’s something you have to be able to do! I mean, you can obviously fly a ship. That’s something.”

Keth chuckles a bit at Mikial’s concern.  “Well, thing is, for practical purposes, we’re just filing you in the paperwork as a rifter. Not strictly accurate far as I know… you didn’t just appear in a flash of blue light. Not that I saw, anyway. But the effect of suddenly finding yourself thoroughly displaced from home is much the same. And we’ve always has a policy in place to help new rifters get settled. You won’t be obligated to stay here of course, but we’ve got a room reserved above the tavern, meals included, so that you can focus your attentions to finding a good spot in what’s essentially a new universe. For now though, what say that we all head on over to the hotel, and get to know each other better over a nice meal. And it’ll give you a chance to see some of this city. I promise you won’t find another like it.”

“It can be dangerous, but then again, it can be rewarding, for every disappointment, there is discovery.” Galactix says, looking to Mikial. “Not to worry. As Mr. Kethren has mentioned, many worlds are accustomed to dealing with displaced individuals, regardless of the circumstances of displacement. I, myself, was displaced in time and space, shortly before I would have met my demise. I am in debt to Mr. Kethren, for he discovered my broken hull floating through space, and repaired me to perfect working order. Rest assured, you are in good hands.”

“Oh, of course I could use my ship for a number of things, I’m just concerned from what I remember the elders telling stories from the first generations stories of Earth, people taxed beyond belief, permits  that had to be paid to be renewed almost every month for just about everything but breathing, which was probably already taxed… and if you didn’t, you were either homeless or incarcerated…. Then again, who knows how long ago that was now.” Mikial responds to Ila. “But it sounds, from Keth and Galactix here, that I’m not the first oddball case they’ve had to deal with, So… it sounds like I might be able to dodge all the wadded, tangled ball of red tape, at least starting out, so that’s a big relief. ” he turns to Kethren, “I’ll probably take you up on that room and food offer, and *especially* a meal with friends! I assume our smaller companions won’t be minded in there?” He says, scritching Vachok under his neck feathers.

“It’s not like that where I’m from!” Sophie declares. Then after a few seconds she adds, “Okay, it sortof is like that. Well, not as bad as you make it sound!” she says as she tries to recover. Then as Kethren mentions a meal to Mikial she asks, “Are Orby and I invited too?” she asks. “I mean, I don’t want to intrude but I wouldn’t mind a meal. I’ll pay for my own?” she offers with an inflected tone.

“I don’t explore space like you do, Galactix.” Sophie admits next. “I mean, I tell people what things are good and what things are of poor quality.” Then her voice raises a little with mock indignation, “Like a certain Model 052.” Then her voice goes back to a quieter tone, “Maybe I should go exploring sometime! I am good with computers and can handle things like that. I’m sure that’s useful to explorers somewhere. Maybe they need algorithms or something!”

Keth starts walking towards the exit as he smirks slightly at Mikial “I’m pretty sure I’d be abusing my position by having Floriana with me all the time if they weren’t. You’ll find that, on this planet, long as folks behave, we’re not too concerned with how many legs they have. It helps that most of the life here is smart enough to understand the concept.” Ila gets a nod “Well, yes. I did say all of us. Besides, it’s a good chance for you to see some of the local decor.”

Galactix gets another smirk. “You make it sound like I did all the work.”

Galactix grins. “In the shape I was in, I would have remained that way for ages had you not intervened. Don’t sell yourself short.” he says, looking over to Ila. “There are many roles to discovery. With the exception of myself, a ship needs many crew to operate. It is a crew that discovers, be that a crew of one or a crew of a thousand.”

Mikial follows Kethren and the rest to the tavern mentioned, “Is there anything I should know about maybe _not_ eating, if that living ship ate an entire ship, I feel safe to assume there are other species with diets I might croak on if I ate them. In case I get a wild hair to try something exotic!” He laughs.

“Okay!” Sophie replies to Kethren. Orby still follows along. Then as Galactix makes the point about crew she smiles, “I’m sure I could do it sometime! I did have to study a little bit of navigation to get a pilot’s license after all. I don’t think I’d want to do it all the time but it might be interesting to do just once or twice!”

“I don’t know much about where you’re from, but even if you just stick to human food there’s plenty of stuff you’ve probably never heard of. Even if you just wanted to eat noodles there’s so many varieties!” Sophie adds for Mikial, particularly cheerful when it comes to food. “So just imagine what else is out there for you to try!”

Keth leads the way out of the spaceport, but slows down a bit as they come to what’s probably the center of town. The center of which is a large, ornate fountain. A fountain, that like the roads around it, is clearly made of wood. Countless roots and vines grow together to form a wide basin, at the center of which is a spiraled column spraying water. Spaced along the road that circles the fountain are a series of vines that stretch upwards, ending in large indigo blossoms.

“Couldn’t go to the tavern and not stop here for a moment. That fountain’s the oldest part of town.” The critter on his shoulder looks oddly pleased.

“My databanks contain records on cuisines from numerous cultures.” Galactix says. “I would be happy to take some scans and find some that would not adversely affect your digestive tract.” He then looks at the fountain. “I never get tired of looking at this myself.”

“Hmm, I come to think of it, from what I read in my history classes as a kid, earth was pretty diverse culturally, and a lot of the elders complained about the colony’s food being a bit monotonous for them.” Mikial smirks at Sophie, “One more thing to look forward to!” He turns to to hear Galactix, “That would be most appreciated! would hate to be clutching the hotel trashcan because I ate something poisionous by mistake! Or worse, not quite make it to the bin!” he chuckles.

They come to the fountain, and Mikial’s head is on swivel, a look of wonder on his face, “So much is wooden here…. is that… usual?” Mikial wonders aloud, “All the buildings back home were made almost entirely out of metal of some sort… it looks so-…. so flammable…”

“It’s pretty!” Sophie declares as she looks at the fountain. Orby for its part points its lens towards the fountain, likely recording it. “We have someone to help you make sure it’s fine!” Sophie adds, motioning towards Galactix. Then she continues, “Most colonies have shared ideals, it’s just how they were sent out, so it makes sense things would be a bit monocultured. Do you know which culture yours came from?” she asks Mikial.

Keth smirks slightly, still looking at the fountain. “Oh, we’re not too worried about fires. We treat the wood to prevent that, and anyway, living trees are less susceptible to spontaneous combustion.”

“I find the architecture fascinating, myself. Many cultures want to beat their environment into shapes and forms to suit their needs. Here, they live in harmony with it.” Galactix says.

“Wait, those are still alive?!” Mikial exclaims, astounded. “Uh, yeah, the colony was a separatist group from Earth, but much of the ideals were lost after they crash-landed the colony ship into the planet. The colony ship was still almost a geological feature still when I was a kid, too, used to explore around in it, pick scrap out, found a few neat things in there, too. Anyways, found out after one too many scouting parties went missing that some of the trees could kill most anything bigger than a rat and smaller than a ‘hippo’ I believe they’re called. But there were two main types we worried about, one used prehensile vines as snares, and the other used a sort of pressure trap, they were able to grow mineral spears depending on what was the most abundant and suitable where they grew, and they would impale anything they felt on their little ‘pressure plate’ they grow under the soil. As far as we were able to tell, it was for fertilizer for the plant.”

“It’s still alive.” Sophie observes. “Of course, I’ve seen many stranger things than a fountain that’s made of things still alive!” she adds quickly afterwards, trying her best to not look too interested in the fountain, though Orby is still recording it. Then as Mikial explains where he came from she adds, “Death world?” Sophie asks. “Well, it does make sense why you would have trouble if the flora could kill people. Thankfully I’ve never seen anything like that myself.”

Keth chuckles a bit as he leads the way around the fountain, somewhat leisurely. “Not just the fountain. We grew the entire city. Those indigo blossoms are the street lights when it gets dark out. Don’t worry too much though. While this planet has its share of… hungry creatures, the trees are not numbered among them.”

“I have encountered many worlds with similar lifeforms in my travels.” Galactix says. “Though they are many lightyears from here, on the other side of the galaxy, in fact.”

“Sort of,” Mikial responds to Ila, “It was a problem for everyone when they first landed, but by the time I was born, most colonists didn’t run into the trees unless they went outside of their town’s walls, but mercenary crews ran into them pretty regularly, so we would try to train recruits to identify the trees in boot camp, before they were sent on any missions or anything, but still squads of new guys would always have one incident, seen it more times than I care to, a squad of new guys put with us, walking along a path in the forest and getting rounds coming in from ahead, half of the new guys dash into the trees to one side or another, not realizing it’s a grove of reapertree or sycthtree, and that half of their squad is all dead, there was rarely a survivor. They’d learn real quick what the trees were then, but it always happen to a new group _once_, only once, but it would still happen once…. Though it wasn’t uncommon to be flung into a tree from an explosion or something of the likes, though that wasn’t too common, and usually involved a lot less numbers than half a squad rushing for what they think is cover.” Mikial shakes his head and sighs and listens to Kethren and chuckles, “Well, that’s good to know! I can trust the plants well enough here.”

Mikial rubs his chin, “I wonder if you ever came close to where our colony landed… our navigation wasn’t the most thorough there, and the only reason I ended up anywhere near here after the incident was because I had managed to find a half corrupted trip navigation file from earth to there when I was a kid exploring around the old beached ship, managed to clean it up and thought to put it into my ship for a good luck charm when I bought it.”

“I suddenly feel the urge to make a public service announcement about the potential dangers of life on other planets.” Sophie says, but instead of her enthusiasm, this is delivered more flatly. Then she smiles again, “But I’m glad you made it this far!” she says to Mikial, the cheerfulness coming back rather quickly. “I had to learn some star based navigation but I’m glad I have a fully working map of most of the settled areas around here.”

Keth looks at the fountain for just a bit longer “Alright, let’s keep going. Foodwise, I’d recommend the miniature leghorn. Quite popular around here. We can go see the flock first if you want. Either way though.”

“If I had the coordinates of your colony, it is possible I could determine if I was in the vicinity. I have explored this galaxy for over 500,000 years, and still, there is so much to find.” Galactix indicates. “Though it is possible that in the universe from which I hail, it was not the colony you knew, or if the colony was even established.”

“Right.” Mikial says about Galactix’s travels, “I wouldn’t doubt we landed there some time after you had cataloged it…. 500,000?! And I thought _my_ ship weathered time nicely! Lookat’cha’, all shiny!” Mikial grins.

“Me too, Ila, feel lucky as hell, that Yaralu makes the third hairy situation I’ve lucked my way out of, even if this time it was because trouble wasn’t hungry!”

Kethren gets a double take and an excited grin from Mikial when he mentions seeing a flock, “You mean we get to _hunt_ our dinner? Ahh, and I left my marksman in the ship.”

“That sounds delicious.” Sophie says agreeably to Kethren. “So you’ve met others like me, right Galactix? I’m not alone, am I?” she says next. Then as Mikial observes how lucky he was, “Being lucky isn’t a bad thing. I’m pretty sure I have terrible luck myself. I went to a casino once and lost all my money in fifteen minutes!”

He lets his eyes slip out of focus for a moment before chuckling at something. “I just checked, and the kitchens assure me that they have enough leghorn in stock already. You’ll get a good idea why pretty soon.”

“Yes… I have been operational for some time, but as I said, I hail from a different quantum universe. Things there may not be the same as they are here.” Galactix says, looking to Sophie. “I would have to check my records to be sure, but even after 500,000 years, I have not explored the entire galaxy. Even with an advanced drive system, it is a great deal to cover.”

“Of course!” says Mikial, raising his bionic left arm, “Otherwise, who knows, I might have lost a lot more than my arm when I ended up losing it.” he articulates it, it has more degrees movement than you usual human arm, joints that usually don’t bend both ways do on the artificial arm; fingers, the elbow, and the shoulder has a a lot more movement than the biological arm it has replaced, “Though I have to say, this thing makes for a real good quick-draw.”

“All right then, lead the way big kahuna.”

Mikial looks at Galactix, “…..I’m not even going to pretend to know what all being from a different quantum universe means and entails…”

“I’ll look forward to dinner.” Sophie begins to say to Kethren. “Oh, well, if you ever find others like me let me know, okay?” Sophie requests of Galactix. Then she watches Mikial’s arm, “It is a nice arm. A little bit strange but I’m glad wherever you’re from can appreciate good artificial replacements. I mean, I’m not an expert on that kind of thing but I know a bit of their potential!”

Keth nods a bit as he starts leading the way a little out of the more developed looking areas “Oh, yes. Good prosthetics like that can be hard to come by.  Hopefully it doesn’t come to it, but Aina’s good at that sort of thing. If not exactly her preference.” The critter that was resting on his shoulder’s just scurrying from one shoulder to the other, occasionally waving at folks.

“And, we’re walking, we’re walking… farmer’s market here. Bit late in the day for that though.” A bit more walking takes people past the vegetable fields and the orchards, and onto a fairly sizable chicken coup. Indeed, the things inside look a lot like chickens. If chickens were over three feet tall with stubby legs, mismatched eyes, iridescent feathers, and a very hawk-like beak. “I’m not sure about whoever named these things…”

“Someone with a sense of humor, no doubt.” Galactix says with a chuckle.

“Hmm? You mean that’s not a costume, Ila?” Mikial asks.

“Yup, the arm has served me well so far, feels just as natural as the original, and certainly has been great EVA, I get tactile feedback with it, I can feel with it, as much or as little as I want, and it helps immensely with anything outside the ship out in the black. I have my suit custom to where it seals just past the shoulder, so no bulkiness or touch numb through any glove… I freaking love it, if I wasn’t so partial to not blowing off my right arm I’d have done the same with my right.” Mikial jokes. “Aina? and by that you mean she _does_ like working with prostheses? Or that it’s not really what she prefers?”

As they pass the giant chickens, Vachok stares at the creatures, bewildered.

“Orby! Film the oversized chickens!” Sophie commands. Orby for its part complies, pointing its lens at the large creatures. “Oh, this is how I usually dress.” she explains to Mikial. “I started about six years ago and the people who saw me loved it so I kept up with it! The wings are my own flourish, I did those myself! It is fitting for a demon queen, naturally!” Sophie seems quite excited at the opportunity to talk about her clothes.

Keth smirks slightly as something resembling a furry snake with big mouse ears dashes through the coop, well clear of the leghorns. “Well, like I said. The miniature leghorns are quite popular. Though I wouldn’t recommend trying to eat four of them with a single carbonated beverage.”

“Would such a meal be considered an ‘explosive combination’?” Galactix inquires.

Mikial remains silent, but gives Sophie a quizzical look.

He shakes the look off his face, “Well, it’s a good thing I intend to be drink vodka, then!” He says with a grin.

“Four sounds like a lot.” Sophie observes. “Wait! Is it a pun? You know, where you write “Four” and “Death” the same way?” she asks, her voice becoming more animated and her eyes widening as she tries to guess this.

Keth just shakes his head slightly “Oh, nothing as profound as that. Just ran across an old movie awhile back, some guy in an eatery tries to order four fried chickens and a coke… and those were surely considerably smaller than our leghorns are.” Looking thoughtful for a moment, he reaches down to his penguin, and flips open the torso so he can reach in and grab a pen. Once his hand is free, the torso closes back up. “Dunno why I left that in there.”

Galactix nods. “Ahhh… human history. I admit that although I have studied it, I am not entirely up to speed on references and humor.”

“Oh.” Sophie says, sounding disappointed at Kethren’s answer. “Mechanical penguin?” she asks next as she looks down at the torso being opened. Then she looks up at Orby, “No, you don’t need to look like an animal, you’re just fine just the way you are.” Orby just bobs in place a couple of times.

Kethren nods “Yep. Kail’s a robot, and one of Aina’s finer works I think. She’s quite the artist. So you can probably imagine the quality of cybernetics she can do when she wants to… I just get the feeling she prefers robots. Good surgeon, too. Got her to put a neural interface in my head awhile back.”

“Well, if you will excuse me folks, I have to get to my resupply.” Galactix says. “A great pleasure to meet you all.”

“I suppose a lot of people are able to do things like that.” Sophie says to Kethren. Then as Galactix mentions leaving she smiles and offers a wave, “Nice to meet you as well!”

“Really? Well, I guess I’ll have to get a hold of you and Aina next time a chunk of me falls off.” Mikial considers before waving a short, two finger salute to Galactix, “A pleasure, for certain.”

Keth nods to Galactix.  “Safe travels. Never know what weird people will have to fix you up next time!”

With a bit of a stretch, he looks back to the leghorn coop. “Well, everyone had enough of the giant chickens? We can head on to the tavern as planned if folks have had enough of this.”

Sophie blinks suddenly, her eyes look like they’re staring off into the distance. Then she frowns, “It looks like we have to go, Orby.” Then she explains for the benefit of everyone else, “It looks like the rental time on my ship is almost up and I have to return it in a hurry. I’ll see everyone again!” she adds, sounding cheerful at the end.

Mikial turns, “Oh, you’re leaving, too? Well, Hope to see you again out there. If you need something, I’ll probably be for hire, or good for a favor.” He chuckles.

“Well, looks like it’s a few drinks and wings between gentlemen, huh?”

Keth nods slightly at the departing Sophie “Do be sure and visit when time is more generous.”  Mikial gets a bit of a smirk “Leghorn wings are a bit large for that sort of snacking, but I’m sure we can find something.” Kail gets a brief glance “Hey, why don’t you scurry on home, and get Nuala to meet us at the Tree.” Wark!

Mikial chuckles, “Sounds like I’ll have to get used to such new and strange creatures… and changes in meal proportions, too, from the looks of things.” He glances at the little robot as Kethren gives it commands, then looks back to his host, “Sending for some familiar company? Mmm, that reminds me, you said you worked in government, and to that you sem rather well known by those in the port when we landed, not to mention how busy it seemed while we were landing, and how easily we were let in. What is it that you do for the government here, then?”

Kethren smirks a bit as Kail starts to waddle off rather quickly, and he starts to lead the way back into the more  densely populated parts of town.  “These days? Mostly I deal with the government’s business interests, keep contracts kosher, that sort of thing. It was growing the city that got me shoved into the position though.”

Mikial turns slowly as he looks up and around at the trees, “By growing the city… in which sense do you mean that..?” he says as he faces back at Kethren with an eyebrow raised.

The government chap chuckles a bit as he continues to walk through the town “Same as the fountain. I think I mentioned it was the oldest part of the city. I grew that fountain as a proof of concept… we spent a long time in tents before that.”

“I can imagine… How fast does it grow? if it’s anything like what I’m used to it would have taken awhile.” Mikial says as he follows his way through the dense streets

Keth smiles some as he keeps on heading through town. “Oh, a few days for something the size of that fountain, week or two for a house or business, depending in its needs and complexity. Have to allow for things like electricity when you plan these matters…. Nearly there.”

Mikial ponders growing tree construction for a moment, ” Must have been a sight, watching you and your team twisting branches and vines into the shape you want them to grow, sometimes twisting in wires into the bundles of new growth and all that.”

Mikial nods, looking ahead, keeping an eye out for anything that looks like a tavern.

It doesn’t take long for the pair to come up to a particularly large tree. A large tree with an ordinary tree door. And signage. No point in having such a conspicuous stealth business.

“Was an interesting experience, certainly.” And with a bit of an odd smile, he leads the way to a table in the back. A table that’s got rather sturdy looking white tiger sitting up by one of the chairs. (edited)

As they approach the table, Mikial notices the white tiger, “Nuala, I presume?” He asks no one in particular.

Keth scratches the tiger’s head affectionately as he takes a seat next to it.”That’s her, yeah.”

Mikial gives a closed smile, and reaches out to also pet Nuala’s head if the tiger allows it. “So, has there been any changes to what humans drink for some fun in the stars since my group left some centuries or, hell, maybe even millennia ago?”

Keth settles back into his chair, while the tiger goes along with some petting. “Just don’t act too threatening, and you’ll be fine. And if you mean alcohol based drinks, yeah. They’re still fairly popular. A lot of what we have on hand is imported from Pyracan, though we do have a couple of local varieties.”

“Pyre-a-can? Can’t say I’ve heard it before. but as long as I can get my whiskey and vodka, I’m pretty happy.” Mikial admits, using his free hand to pull a flask out from one of the cargo pockets on the coveralls he’s wearing.

Kethren nods. “It’s where the pyracani come from. Basically humanoid, kinda doggish. Nice folks. It’s one of the better planets for folks who arrive suddenly like you did to visit.”

“So, dog-folk. Sounds fun!” Mikial chuckles. “um, they probably wouldn’t take too well with fake throws, would they?” Mikial thinks about what he just said, then says, “Maybe it’s best I don’t go there until I get used to all these new races…”

Keth chuckles as the kitten-ferret on his shoulder wakes back up and waves for some service. “Well, I’d imagine their military wouldn’t be too amused, at the least. That’s one of the reasons this is a good place to visit while adjusting, really. Mostly humans here… a few exceptions of course, and obviously the indigenous life.”

“Right, grenades probably wouldn’t be the best weapon for their military, anyways… So, what all is out there, So I don’t go flipping shit when I see them? and any taboo’s they may have?” Mikial says as he watches the wheaslecat thing wave for service. He turns to Vachock, “Why haven’t you learned that trick?…” whereupon Vachock pecks Mikial’s head once. “Gah! ok, ok.”

The government guy shrugs slightly “Military matters really aren’t my wheelhouse, though I’d imagine they use a few grenades. Something of a standard feature among such organizations. Probably not a good idea to antagonize your companion like that… and on a related note, most of the life on this planet’s smart enough to understand that sort of teasing. Which is a minor concern, given that it’s generally advised to not wander very far from town without both permission and an armed escort.”

Mikial thinks of the tragedies he could think of if the canine folk were anything like the dogs back home, and the tragedies involving chasing a ball shaped grenade. He tries to remain stone faced, _this_ time, when thinking this. It takes a good bit of willpower, too. Maybe some whisky will help calm him down… He also tries to catch the attention of any waiter or waitress, or hell, if the bartender has for some reason come out from behind the bar, Mikial needs his whiskey!

About then a waitress comes by with a bottle of whisky, a couple of suitable glasses, and a bowl of semi-frozen raspberries. Keth nods at the arrival of libations and without glancing at the menu, says to her “Thanks. I think I’ll just have the leghorn lunch plate today.”  Looking back to Mikial he opines “Well, there’s all sorts, really. A lot of humans, humanoid dogs, humanoid birds, there’s a race that sort of resemble crystalline jellyfish, another race is… essentially humanoid, but only so high.” So high would appear to be a slightly separated finger and thumb.

“I’ll try whatever he’s having.” Mikial says, reaching for the whiskey and a shot glass. “Crystal jellyfish? That sounds mesmerizing.”

Keth nods “Interesting people, certainly. Hover about through the air somehow.”

Mikial pours himself and Kethren both a shot, downs his, and refills it, “So, what are the raspberries for?”

Possibly Floriana was waiting for the question. Possibly not. Either way she takes that moment to dive off Keth’s shoulder into the raspberry bowl, and to start chewing rapidly from one end to the other. “You’d be amazed how much these little fellas can eat.”

Mikial laughs heartily, “Looks like! Small creatures do seem to tend to have high metabolisms… What is she called? Her species, that is.” he says as he pulls out his flask and a funnel hidden in the bottom of the flask, and begins refilling it.

Kethren takes a lingering sip of his drink “They call themselves ser.”

“Ser, huh?” he says, peering down at the fuzzy creature as the sound of the pitch shift in the sound from the flask indicates it’s filled, and Mikial sets the bottle next to the bowl of raspberries between them. He smiles, “Cute, don’t you think Vachok?” he reaches up to scratch the bird behind the neck feathers as Vachok make a soft noise.

Keth finishes his drink and nods “One of the many intelligent species native to this planet. Awhile back a bunch of them came on through, and a few decided to stick around. With specific people.”

“One of many? what else is out there? anything that finds us nutritious and delicious?” Mikial says as he closes the flask and stows the small funnel away as well

“Nnnrhaaaa!!!” Vachok vocalizes as he fidgets on Mikial’s shoulders, then looks at the small ser.

“Hush, food’s coming…. and no, you can’t eat her!”

Keth smirks a bit. “Well, there’s a race that… well, just picture wolves with wings. They’re friendly enough, though. That’s the thing, really. Most of the life on this planet is smart enough that if you don’t go trying to invade their territory or destroy their homes, they’ll leave you alone.”

Mikial takes a drink of his whiskey before speaking this time, “Would that include hiking out there? The territory invading part. I’m used to hiking- well, more patrolling- in the dense growth, and seeing all the new plants here with Vachok was something I was considering doing after I’ve gotten some rest, but I don’t want to piss anything that’s _too_ big off.”

Keth nods idly at the waitress as foods get delivered. “Well… what can you tell me of your background?”

A short, squat, humanoid creature stumps in from outside. He is wearing a heavy, fur-lined coat that extends down to his ankles. Silver hair and beard are long and frizzy, each tied off into a queue. Green eyes peer suspiciously from under heavy brows, on which rest a pair of thick goggles. The Halaghi looks about the room for a moment before he finds his way to a table near Kethren and Mikial. “I was hearin’ that you biggeruns have the bestest bakeraters in town,” he says to the waitress who steps over, “Can I get me some fruit piemajigger?”

It is not long after the Halaghi enters that another creature, appearing like a floating crystalline Jellyfish, floats in through the front door. This one appears rather small, and holds in each of its 8 tentacles a paddle ball that it is furiously working, keeping all 8 going in time. It floats up and down happily, a small machine clamped around the portion of its body where the tentacles attach, under the bell. Every so often, this machine lets out a loud hiss and then a soft sucking sound as if exchanging gases. /Hi!/ it sends telepathically to everyone around, before another follows in behind it, this one much larger, and instead of speaking through minds, it vocalizes from the machine it wears. “Mind your manners, little one. It is not polite to speak to the minds of others unless they have given their permission.” (edited)

“Ah, well, back home I was a mercenary in a Rapid Response and Deployment group, got tired of saying that after a while and shortened it to RRD, and then one guy came through who either talked a bit too fast or something and pronounced it as ‘RED’ and eventually that became the nickname of the type of group our unit was.” Mikial rattles off, slowing and trailing off when the Halaghi enters, “usually got hired for the corporate ‘wars’, if you want to call them that, of the mining cor…por…at-…” followed by the two crystal jellies, “Huh! Well, that didn’t take long.” he says to Kethren, “Get to see first hand!” he starts when the telepathy comes through; he’s not used to the experience quite yet, but he’s getting there.

Keth chuckles a bit as the paddle-balling space jellyfish comes floating in. “He’s doing pretty well with those things. Anyway, if you really want to go exploring, I’ll see if I can’t find a patrol you can tag along with. They’ll be in a good position to keep you apprised of what’s too dangerous.” Meanwhile, Floriana dashes back up Keth’s arm to the top of his head, dripping raspberry juice all the way, clearly eager to get a good look at the paddle ball action.

“Yeah,” the Halaghi grumbles at the juvenile Centauran, “Keep yer mindtalkery out of my thinkdome!” The waitress seems to have worked out what he wants and comes back with some sort of pie, which he begins to eat with gusto.

The little Centauran bobs sadly. “I’m sorry.” it vocalizes, the paddleballs stopping as it droops its tentacles. The elder Centauran floats up and puts a tentacle around it. “There is no need to be gruff. It is a child, after all.” it vocalizes.

Mikial nods unconsciously a bit, agreeing with the floating land jelly before wondering about its chances if the shorter one decides to start a bar brawl. “They don’t sting like jellyfish, do they?” he asks Kethren in a hushed voice.

Keth shrugs a bit. “I think the jellyfish resemblance is coincidental…”

“There be no reason for lotsa things,” the Halaghi replies with a snort as he gobbles up his pie.

“Pay him no mind, little one.” the elder Centauran vocalizes, and guides its child over towards Kethren and Mikial. “We have no ability to sting, so do not fear.” it vocalizes.

Mikial knocks down the last of the whiskey in his lowball glass, “Ah, well, I was actually thinking it would be interesting to see….eh, oh well” moving right along, “Ah, well then, in that case, I suppose a handshake is possible then? I’m Mikial Nachen.” He turns to the smaller Centaurian, “And hey kid, don’t let that ol’ brick over there get you too down, a’right?”

Keth chuckles good naturedly. “Well, long as we’re in no danger from accidental poisoning, come join us.”

“Wouldn’t be wantin’ the thing raised properlike,” the Halaghi snorts before gulping down a glass of milk.

“A handshake would not be a good idea. Our surface temperature in this environment is around -80 degrees, your hand would likely freeze in short order.” the elder Centauran says. “My name is Sanhitlontorpindonpekmarlismek, but you may call me Sanhitlon for short. My child here is Darsanhitlontorpindonpekmarlismek, but most call it Darsan.” (edited)

Mikial laughs, “I think I will use those name shortenings, thank you! And I guess a small salute will have to do then” He smiles and does just that, a short, two finger salute.

Mikial turns round in his seat, “Would it help if I bought your grumbly face a drink? I mean, it’s a kid who made one mistake and was corrected already, for….whoever’s sake!” He says as he suddenly realizes there are probably many more religions now than there ever were records of before or on his planet. Mikial turns to Kethren, “Um, so…. I’m probably going to regret asking this but…. how many religions are there now? And do I need to worry about any of them knocking on my airlock while I’m out there?”

Keth shrugs lightly “Can’t say as I’ve kept a count of galaxy wide religious observations. But if you figure at least one or two for every space faring race, you’d probably at least get something… somewhat accurate. Any rate, I haven’t heard a lot of stories about religious persecution… I’m sure some’s out there, but it’s hard to travel among the stars without accepting that other planets like some other system of pondering the imponderables.” The tiger at his side gets a friendly scratch on the head. “So how’s everyone doing today?”

The Halaghi eyes Mikial with some suspicion for a moment before his bearded face breaks into a broad smile. “That be the best thinkerin’ I earholed all day,” he says, “These folks sure know how to unmilkify a goat.” He holds up the empty glass.

“We are doing quite well.” Sanhitlon vocalizes. “I thought it would be good experience for my young one to visit other worlds and experience their cultures.”

Mikial pauses for a moment, as he remembers he doesn’t have any currency here, being a cast away, of sorts. He pulls his flask of freshly refilled whiskey back out, reaches over, and pours a hearty amount of whiskey out for the Halaghi, “Unmilkify a goat?…… Anyways, so, what race are you? I’m new to this area of the ‘verse.” When he’s done pouring the drink and straightens back up again, in a low tone he says to Kethren, “Remind me I owe you a good few drinks and such and their price when I’m sober and not broke…” He rubs his head, now acutely aware he is utterly broke and relying on others; a situation he’s never been comfortable in, even before, when he was just thinking about it.

Mikial pushes the thoughts back with another glass of whiskey, though, and smiles, “That’s a great idea, Sanhilton! That’s part of why I became a mercenary, wanted to get out and see the rest of the planet beyond the walls. Even if there wasn’t a whole lot of cultural or ethnic diversity. Most of the diversity was geological or geologically and environmentally driven. But it was still an experience to see it!”

Just then Vachok hops aggressively onto the table next to Mikial’s plate, glares up at Mikial, and screaches. “AH! Damnit, I forgot to give him a sliver of meat…” Mikial picks up a knife and fork and begins cutting a piece of leghorn meat off, “…And now he’s pissed.” Mikial brings the fork with the large sliver of poultry up to beak level for vachok, “Ahh…” He gives Vachok the signal to take the meat, which the bird does quickly, then hops back onto Mikial’s shoulder to put the meat in one of his talons and starts tearing pieces off of the chunk and gobbling them down.

Keth nods while the calico critter on his shoulder waves at the space jellies. “Yeah, travel’s a good thing. Was on my way to a thing on Earth when we ran into this guy adrift.”

The squat humanoid stares into his glass at the whiskey with less enthusiasm than one might expect. He sniffs at it with a bulbous nose. “Smells like a gasicator…” he mutters before looking back up at the mercenary. “‘M a Halaghi,” he says, “Name’s Hal’Qazam. Dirigible piloter.” He takes another sniff of the whiskey.

Darsan floats closer to look at Vachok as he gets his meaty treat. “Oooh. Pretty birdy!” it vocalizes, as Sanhitlon watches carefully to make sure it doesn’t try to touch it. “I am an engineer by trade myself. I offer my services where needed.” the elder Centauran vocalizes.

“Mikial Nachen, merce-…..ex-mercenary now, I suppose, or at least until I get a feel of this part of the galaxy.” Mikial introduces himself in turn.

Mikial smiles as the young Darsan peers at Vachok, “And a skilled tactician, too! More than once, he’s saved my skull from a snipers shot by dive-slamming into them right before the shot goes off, throwing their aim way off and giving away their position, too. Then he high-tails it out of there and out of the blast radius of either our grenades or mortar fire.” Mikial scrtiches under vachok’s chin, “Smart bird… and he’s little feathery my battle buddy.”

“Oh you do? well, I may take you up on those services then,  I don’t know what all people expect out of ships around here, but I suppose the authorities will want to do some sort of safety check before I go much of anywhere. Not to mention She’s been floating about for lord-only-knows.” Mikial says to Sanhilton.

Keth chuckles a bit, mirrored by the kittenferret on his shoulder. “On the bright side, even at this remote corner of civilization, it’s not hard to find people who can and are willing to look at and work on old vessels. Should’ve seen the shape Galactix was in when we found him.”

The Halaghi seems relatively unenamored of the whiskey, but finishes it before pulling some currency from his jacket to pay for his meal.

“I would be glad to look over your vessel.” Sanhitlon vocalizes. “If it is an older vessel, I would consider that a rare treat.” Darsan bobs up and down happily. “Oh boy, can I help?”

Mikial chuckles, “Well, I used a cryo-sleep chamber to get here,  and this guy and his friends seem to think of that as ancient, from their reactions. And you can come along as long as it’s ok with your dad.”

Mikial leans back in his seat, “So, I’ve been thinking, I could still offer my mercenary services that I have experience in. But looking around here, things in some places is less combative than my home world. So, I was thinking about using some of my old hobbies to get by, I’m guessing that there are still frontier planets and colonies around these days? Old battlefields full of scrap and twisted spacecrafts and debris fields? I could gather refine and sell scrap, repair frontier colonies as I hop about, and sell anything I manage to make out of the junk I find out there…..weather or not that turns out to be a metal sculpture or an explosive is up to what I come across.” Mikial ponders out loud.

Keth takes a good swig of his drink, while the kitten-ferret on his shoulder zips over to his other shoulder. For whatever reason possesses such critters. “Not sure there’s a lot of colonizing going on these days… probably more than I realize. More than a few places that could broadly be called frontier, though. This planet probably qualifies, city’s pretty young after all. There are definitely mercenary groups around… normally I’d recommend one, but I think the group I’d normally refer someone to isn’t hiring at the moment. Anyrate, plenty of governments who are willing to hire on people from the past. It still means shelling out for some educating on history and tech changes, but it’s often easier than dealing with someone entirely new to the work force. Well, apart from the ones who just snap when they wind up in a new time.”

“Plenty o’ scrapgatherin’ out in the Arm’s Fringe, I hear,” Hal’Qazam pipes up, “Some big boomstickfightery in the long times ago. Been out there me own self. Just navigationate clear ‘o the Line o’ Pain. Bad ‘nough them lizardy things crawlin’ all over there, what with that big monster space whale eatin’ ships an’ near startin’ some brand new boomstickfighterin’.”

“Entering cryostasis for a long journey is a rather outdated practice, they are correct. Which brings up a question. Do you recall the approximate Earth year it would have been when you entered stasis?” Sanhitlon inquires.

“Well, that’s good to hear, though I’m not too keen on joining another group or long term contract. If you hear of anyone needing a bodyguard or something needs escorting, and they’re contracting individuals to get from point a to point b, that’d be ideal. Just, I don’t know, anything over four months seems to drag on too long, get too repetitive for me any more… at least it seemed that way before I watched my homeworld splitting apart like a walnut being smashed by a hammer…..damn, I know it’s been awhile, but it’s still fresh in my head, try as I might….” Mikial admits. He listens intently to the Halaghi, trying to make sense out of his dialect that Mikial is totally unfamiliar with. Time to get with the times, kid!

“Yeah? I’ll have to find out where Arm’s Fringe is when I get a moment to sit with the starcharts. Don’t know about any lines of pain though, is that a particularly notorious debris field? Mmm, turns out, I toured said space whale. guess it either wasn’t hungery or I taste like garbage to it. ” Mikial shrugs.

“No, I don’t know the Earth years, we didn’t use them on the homeworld, either, at least not long. there are some carvings that some said were in earth years, but I never paid attention to them as a kid, and didn’t have the time as an adult, besides, the chronometer gives weird readings anyways… It’s something I’ve yet to get around to fixing…”

Keth idly scratches that tiger at his side “Line of Pain? Um… something of a political situation you might want to avoid. At least until you’ve had time to get caught up on the broad strokes of galactic history. Might help you get an idea of how displaced you are. Assuming it’s a topic you wish to pursue, at any rate.” That tiger is quite lifelike. Purrs at the scratching and everything.

The Halaghi thinks about something, then upends a bowl of complimentary mints on his table.

“This be us here,” he says, holding up a blue one. Placing it in one corner of the table, he takes up another and places it on the far corner, “The Orion Arm be way out over here. That be a star called Sol. Part of some big politickery called the Stellar Consortium.” He puts out a few more mints to represent the Consortium.

“The Fringe be out here. Quaquan, Ungstir where the rockhoppers are, and some hole called Tomin Kora. Tomin Kora’s full of baddies. Piratorers and slavemakerers all over. Here be the Line o’ Pain.”

He takes up the salt shaker and sprinkles out a line that cuts off the “map” he had been making.

“Line o’ Pain is the border of the Parallax. That be Nall country. Never been there, never goin’ there. Those murderatin’ lizards’ll kill anything that crosses that line.”

“With the current unrest at the Line of Pain due to the entity Kemetti it is even more dangerous than before. My colleagues here are quite correct; the Nall are not to be trifled with.” Sanhitlon says. “The Fringe, however, may be where you would be able to get a start on a salvage business. The market is more ‘free’ there compared to within the Consortium, and the denizens there are a bit less… constrained, by trade laws, as it were.”

Mikial listens intently to the three that are about the table. He starts nursing his whiskey now, and slices off another chunk of meat for Vachok, then himself, before speaking, “Well then, sounds like it’s the Fringe for me. Of course, not before a once over of my ship, and maybe a very quick biology lesson to get me up to speed here. I find it a little weird that you would find people as disorientated as you say. For those of us from my homeworld, it was just a given and a fact of life that you had to deal with, the fact that you’d wake up to a world that was at least a little different. I mean, sure, some things need clarification, but we were trained to expect things to change quite a bit on the news feed on the ship when we would wake up, any time we went into the pods.” Mikial rambles on for a short while.

Keth chuckles slightly, as does the kittenferret on his shoulder.  “Well, as our hovering friend mentioned, cryopods are somewhat out of fashion. They stopped being terribly practical when FTL drives came into being. The current Tillsworth-Cooke design has done a lot to make travel convenient.”

Hal’Qazam nods beardily at all this. “Took me a bit to assimiloratify to all the new gizmos and whatsits about my own self.”

“Yes. With the failure of the OtherSpace drive, there was little alternative. However, the TC drive is quite workable and a solid design, and completely independent of any entity to control it.” Sanhitlon says.

“AH, well that explains a lot. The one in my ship is temperamental, doesn’t like to go too very far in one go… something about a component or two becoming overheated with use and destabilizing….. alot of speedsters or fleeing pirates kept learning that one the hard way when those drives came to our planet from the space fairing race that we had found, shortly before the event that landed me here.” Mikial explains.

“Entity?” Mikial asks Sanhitlon quizzically.

Keth shrugs slightly “Afraid I never made much of a study of defunct propulsion methods. Much as I enjoyed engineering, that corner of the field wasn’t really a priority when we were still in those tents.” Wark?

“Was hard to rejiggerify my dirigible with one of them engines,” Hal’Qazam grumbles, “Needed to constructicate a brand-new power-makerajig and everything.” He stands to his feet, drops some currency on the table and gets ready to go. “Reminds me,” he says, “Should be all filled up on fuel by now.”

“Yes.” Sanhitlon vocalizes. “The OtherSpace drives required a trans-dimensional being known as a Hive Minder to operate. Little did we realize, it was a ruse to capture vessels to use in their wars against other races. They were defeated in due course, but the result was OtherSpace drives no longer function. Thus the TC drive was re-visited, and using modern technology, enhanced, though its basic principles of operation remain the same. It is perhaps not as expedient, but it is enough for our purposes and permits travel and commerce to flow through the galaxy once again.”

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Rigel #exploration #storytelling #amwriting

The Rigel system is a navigational nightmare, devoid of any obvious signs of life (intelligent or otherwise) but plenty of potential for mineral resources. The system consists of five stars, all orbiting each other to a certain extent, with ten major orbital paths that occasionally swap stars. Sometimes, Rigel I orbits Rigel A, but then A swaps places with B or Rigel I moves into the orbital circuit of Rigel Ba.

The first world, Rigel I, is a small hot rockball with low interior heat, rare volcanoes, and a weak magnetic field that leaves the surface exposed to fierce solar radiation. It has no atmosphere. The terrain is hilly and rough. Exceedingly hot climate due to proximity to the supergiant stars. Not much in the way of resources, except for scarce deposits of gold and platinum, as well as rare deposits of industrial metals such as iron, tin, and copper.

The second world, Rigel II, is a Venus-sized hot rockball world with no atmosphere. The terrain is mostly steppes and plains. Metals are rare and the weak magnetic field allows radiation to cook the planet. It has ample deposits of the rare earth known as scandium (useful in alloys that can make starship production and other forms of metallic construction more economical).

The third planet, Rigel III, is an Earth-sized hot rockball world with high background radiation, frequent volcanoes and earthquakes, and extra heat due to internal radioactivity. Strong magnetic field helps contain a thin nitrogen atmosphere and generates a colorful aurora. Abundant deposits of rare earth scandium. Ample deposits of industrial metals such as iron, tin, copper, and zinc (for local use – not enough abundance for surplus). Barren desert terrain.

The fourth planet, Rigel IV, is a small hostile greenhouse world with a silicate composition similar to Pluto. Metals are very rare, as are volcanoes and earthquakes. Almost no internal heat. A weak magnetic field allows harmful radiation to scourge the surface and only manages to keep a trace “reducing” atmosphere of methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen. No mineral resources. Barren desert terrain.

The fifth planet, Rigel V, is a volatile Earth-sized world of volcanoes, earthquakes, and lethal heat due to internal radioactivity. The strong magnetic field allows for a dense, corrosive ammonia atmosphere with a colorful aurora. The hilly/rough terrain conceals ample supplies of gemstones for local use, plentiful scandium, abundant supplies of uranium and other radioactives, and lots of industrial metals such as iron, tin, and copper.  

The sixth planet, Rigel VI, is a small hostile greenhouse world with a thin nitrogen atmosphere and widespread marshes of liquid nitrogen. Ample supplies of the rare earth resource scandium.

The seventh planet, Rigel VII, is an Earth-sized hostile greenhouse world with a very thin but toxic nitrogen atmosphere. Barren desert terrain. No mineral resources of significant quantities.

The eighth planet, Rigel VIII, is a Venus-sized hot rockball world with a weak magnetic field that leaves the planet exposed to harmful radiation. It has only a trace atmosphere, and that’s composed mostly of deadly methane. Plains/steppes are the primary terrain.

The ninth planet, Rigel IX, is an Earth-sized hot rockball world with a corrosive chlorine atmosphere and terrain that’s mostly plains and steppes. No significant mineral deposits.

The tenth planet, Rigel X, is Mars-sized hot rockball world with rare volcanoes and a weak magnetic field that exposes the planet to damaging radiation. It has a trace hydrogen atmosphere. Terrain is mostly hilly and rough. No significant mineral deposits.

An asteroid belt rings the outskirts of the chaotic stellar dance within the Rigel system. (edited)

As Galactix arrives in system, he slows to sublight and begins a thorough scan of the various systems. After a few minutes of scanning, he studies the preliminary results. “My my… if there were ever a manifestation of the human concept of ‘hell’, this comes pretty close.”

Vizgwyr watches the system information displayed on a holovid in one of the starship’s observation vestibules. He gapes in dismay as he sees solar storms churning from at least three stars at once. “Be careful, yezyez. Very careful!”

“Indeed. Radiation shields are at maximum.” Galactix says. “No signs of life but I am picking up large mineral deposits on some of the worlds.”

“Valuable, yezyez,” the Lotorian muses. “Hard to get, though. What you think we do?”

“Difficult… but with proper equipment, they could be extracted.” Galactix says. “At a minimum we should lay a claim to these resources. If a base is established in this area, then this could provide construction resources.”

Vizgwyr tilts his head, scratching his snout. “Yezyez.” His tail lashes about. “Maybe I help design base! Gonna be tricky. Dangerous place, this.”

“Yes… this might not be the ideal location for it, but if they want to establish an outpost in this sector, they’ll need materials.” Galactix says. “Perhaps we can use one of the probes to land on Rigel II and collect a scandium sample. That will help us to validate a claim.”

“Good plan,” Vizgwyr replies. “Hope it don’t break!”

“Indeed. I don’t have many to spare.” Galactix says. With that, one is loaded into Galactix’ launch tube and send speeding towards the planet. Its trajectory and telemetry display on the terminals through out him.

The probe approaches Rigel II and enters an orbital pattern prior to the final descent toward a suitable landing site. Unfortunately, its sensors are scrambled by a solar radiation burst. Effectively blinded, the probe AI opts against landing and instead struggles to return to the last coordinates of Galactix. That’s when another stormburst catches the probe and kills its propulsion management computer. Now inert, the probe drifts through the Rigellian hellscape.

“Well. I suppose that answers our question as to just how unstable this area is.” Galactix says. “Do you think you can increase the shielding in one of the probes against the solar radiation?”

Vizgwyr ponders. “Maybe, yezyez. Maybe! Gotta reroute power from something else.” He makes his way to one of the few remaining probes and examines the surface of it. “Could be we add extra plating to certain faces, then program good-timed twists and turns to deflect bursts. Always gotta keep sensor eyes covered, yezyez. Never facing bursts.”

“Indeed.. perhaps some sort of waveguide, polarized, so that the sensors can send and receive, but other forms of radiation are excluded.” Galactix says. “That, coupled with upgrades to navigation and the armor plating, could do the trick.”

The Lotorian bobs his snout. “All right! Yezyez! We do this!”

Some time later, Vizgwyr presents Galactix with the final design schematics of the improved probe. It is labeled: “STATICBREAKER.”

“Ahh, this should work nicely.” Galactix says.

“OK, OK, yezyez!” The Lotorian rubs his paws together. “Gonna get to work on the modifications. Won’t take long!”

The modified probe is loaded into Galactix’ launch system once again. A muffled ‘thwump’ and it heads out towards Rigel II. “Establishing telemetry link… let’s see what happens this time.”

The probe survives for longer this time and manages to begin a descent toward the surface of Rigel II. It’s able to gather data planetside for about six hours before the biggest Rigellian star rises above the horizon and pummels the sensors with brutal doses of radiation.

Vizgwyr checks the scan results. “Going to be tricky extracting resources, yezyez. Dangerous. Dangerous means expensive, yezyez.”

“Indeed. And expensive means there will be little interest in this area.” Galactix says with a hint of disappointment.

“Maybe not much legit commercial interest,” the Lotorian agrees. He taps a finger against the side of his snout. “Good place for dodgier elements to hole up, though.”

“My thoughts exactly.” Galactix says. “A potential area to avoid in the future if you want to keep your cargo intact.”

Vizgwyr sighs. “Can’t all be diamonds, can they, nonono?” He gives a shrug. “Well, guess we can at least warn other folks to steer clear. Rigel’s a nasty bit of work, yezyez.”

“Yes. I think we have learned all we can from this location. Perhaps it is time to move on to another system.” Galactix says.

“You want me to send a warning to the Consortium about this place, yezyez?” the Lotorian inquires. “Maybe they put big red letters on the map, say: VIZGWYR WAS HERE, YEZYEZ.”

Galactix chuckles. “Indeed, a warning is warranted. And if they don’t, at least in my star charts, it shall be so marked.”

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] #rp-exploration: Good Help

Following the announcement to begin exploration efforts, Galactix can’t resist the chance to flex his exploratory muscles once again and experience open space. Ensuring an adequate supply of fuel, he departs Sol, heading towards the galactic Southwest, and what lies beyond.

“Yezzyezz,” mutters the Lotorian known as Vizgwyr as he lopes down one of the long corridors aboard Galactix. He’s got a PDA in one hand and a battered satchel slung over his shoulder. “Excellent!”

“Welcome aboard.” Galactix voice says.

“Many thankzzz, big talky ship!” Vizgwyr replies, sliding to a stop outside his quarters. “Glad to be here, yezyez!”

“Glad to have you aboard.” Galactix says. “We are on our way, so if there is anything you might require, don’t hesitate to ask. We’re setting course for the Horsehead Nebula”

The Lotorian walks into his small bunk area, shoving his satchel below the cot where he’ll sleep. He ponders what Galactix said, then replies: “I’ve been wondering, yezzyezz. Why is it called Horsehead? I have seen images. What horse on Earth looks like that?”

“A very good question.” Galactix says. “Though from their history humans have a tendency to try to find images in almost anything. Though if I were to compare the shape to an actual creature, the “sea horse” seems to be more fitting.”

“Something tells me it won’t look much like any kind of horse, the closer we get, yezyez,” Vizgwyr muses. He settles onto his cot. Tugs the satchel out from below. Starts rummaging through his meager belongings. “If help you need, just shout, yezyez. Like to earn my keep.”

“Very true. It is, after all, simply a gas cloud in space.” Galactix says.

Vizgwyr finds something that looks like an ancient vacuum tube – the kind of gadget that might be found in one of the old cabinet-style televisions. He cradles it in his slender-fingered hands. “What you think we find out there?”

“A question with potentially infinite answers.” Galactix says. “At a minimum, we may find worlds suitable to colonize. We may meet races and civilizations as of yet unknown to us. Space phenomena that have never been observed before. And given that vile creature that eats ships, potentially hazards we have not even conceived of.”

“Oh, that big chew-chew thing. Very bad, yez-yez,” the Lotorian agrees. He turns the tube over in his hand. “So, what you need doing? Things broken need fixing?”

“At the moment my systems are fully operational, however before we departed I acquired several sensor probes and a used shuttlecraft in case they are needed once we reach our intended destinations.” Galactix says. “They are, however, notably second hand, and likely in need of repair. Would you be able to go over them and ensure they are in working order?”

“Yez-yez!” Vizgwyr tucks the tube back into the satchel and hops to his feet, tail sweeping back and forth. “I do this!”

“Very good. You should find all the materials and tools if you require them.” Galactix says. “They are in the hangar bay secured in berths one and two.”

The Lotorian capers down the corridor toward the hangar bay. “Must get to work, yez-yez!”

The transit to the nebula is long and tedious, at least from Galactix’ point of view. Hour upon hour of hurtling through space at relativistic speeds, sensors watching for errant space debris and other hazards. This monotony, however, is broken by a warning alarm flashing on Galactix’ bridge. In an instant, his consciousness focuses on the warning, and a sense of urgency overcomes him. His voice echoes from above where Vizgwyr is working. “Mr. Vizgwyr, a situation is arising in my engineering section that I will need assistance with. My sensors are indicating that a oscillation is beginning within my propulsion field that will soon lead to an imbalance. We must find the source soon or the drive will become unstable.”

The Lotorian gathers up his tools, stuffs them haphazardly into his satchel, and then scampers down the corridor. “On the way! On the way! Yezyezyez! On the…” His voice trails off as he reaches a junction of five corridors. “Which way?!”

“Turn left, take the turbolift down two decks, turn right,   turn left, and take the blast doors.” Galactix says.

Vizgwyr follows the given directions. Eventually he finds himself in the engineering section. “Ok! Where thing need fixing?”

The room pulses with power flowing from the central main reactor to the Spindrive propulsion units on either side. From these, conduits carry the field energy to the nacelles outside the ship. The starboard one pulses regularly, but the port side is pulsing irregularly. “The portside unit is showing an irregularity in the field coils. They may be out of adjustment.” Galactix says.

Vizgwyr hauls his tools to the portside unit and peruses the system, conducting his own analysis to confirm the findings of Galactix. Assuming the findings are confirmed, he’ll look for the best method of adjusting the field coils.

The analysis shows that several of the coils are out of adjustment by up to 12 microns. Not enough to cause collapse of the propulsion field as of yet, but there are indications others are continuing to slip out of adjustment. If they reach a misalignment of 20 microns, the field will become dangerously unstable.

“Oh, not good, not good, no-noz,” the Lotorian says, making a tsk sound as he rummages through the satchel in search of the proper tool. “Realignment not take long.”

“I have engaged the safety interlocks.” Galactix says.

Vizgwyr bobs his snout, then sets to work on the repair. “How often you get standard maintenance?” the Lotorian inquires while fiddling with the settings.

“Not as often as I would like.” Galactix replies. “My repair nanites can handle damage, but situations such as this still require a ‘personal touch’ so to speak.”

“Gonna be important, we out for long time,” the Lotorian chides. His work continues.

“Difficult without an active crew.” Galactix says. “Though I am most appreciative of your assistance.”

“Glad to help, yezyez,” Vizgwyr replies. “Gonna get you set straight! No time!”

“Very good. We are still steady on course, We should be arriving within the next two days.” Galactix says.

The Lotorian finishes his work on Galactix. “Ready to go, yezyez! Not too shabby. How you like? Feel good, yezyez?”

“Ahh.. much better. The field is back within operational limits.” Galactix says. “In fact there is an 8.9 percent increase in efficiency.”

“Excellent! Glad to help, yezyez,” Vizgwyr replies with a smile.
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