Eclipse Phase - The Babylon Initiative (GameThread)

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Eclipse Phase: The Babylon Initiative

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Chapter 1: Gilgamesh

Somewhere outside the Sol System

"...In other news, the Planetary Consortium confirmed rumors today that they will be hosting an international summit. Information remains scarce, though inside sources tell us that invitations are being sent to several major political players in the system - including President Hursey of the Republic and Minister Dubois of the Commonwealth. The exact subject of the meeting has not yet been released bur rumors suggest it's to discuss plans for a mutual defense pact against the TITANs. The Consortium has remained tight lipped on where the summit is to take place, but has promised to make its decision public as the date approaches. For more on the Consortium Summit, follow us here, or on the Mesh; tag PCNNow. This is Malinda Gates with Planetary Consortium News, signing off.
Thanks Malinda. Now, on to the world of entertainment with Meg-" the new said before being cut off. Iapetus had little need to listen or watch the news himself - he had many Transhumans to do that for him - but he liked to hear the important parts himself; free of the analysis the experts would inevitably have. Sometimes, seeing things from the perspective of a normal person helped to clarify the situation.

Personally, he was surprised at the Consortium's initiative. Most times, they were content to sit in their seats of power, expanding into the Outer Rim economically or through black ops, and leave the other powers to their own devices. That the other powers - the Titanians, the Jovians, the Autonomists - all seemed to be in agreement over the little get together was even stranger. His experience told him something had to be going on he couldn't see, but none of his intelligence returned anything more than the rumors of defensive pacts and talk of cooperation. Maybe it was true; certainly the TITANs weren't going to show Transhumanity any special treatment based on their political affiliation. Maybe it was just a move to keep the political factions of the Consortium appeased - the HyperCorps might be all powerful in their stations, but even they had to throw a bone to the people now and then. Or maybe, it was something so big, so important, and so secret that the Consortium was filling the Mesh with false information just to hide the truth in opinions.

Either way, it was a problem for another day.

Reaching out with his hand, he activated his Mesh connection; answering the call. "Iapetus;-" the voice said; feminine and serious like she always was. "-we've finished gathering the dossiers for the Babylon Project. Analysis indicates a 98% chance of success within .01 statistical variation based on current data." she said, bottom-lining the report. It was unnecessary; he'd already downloaded the information directly into his cortex, but then most Transhumans still liked to talk about what they'd done. It was something in the culture he suspected, but couldn't be sure. He glanced through the long list of chosen agents, assessing the information for himself. He couldn't disagree.

With a wave of his hand, the project was approved. "Make the call" he said, smiling. Even he fell for the "talking" culture apparently.

Demetrius

"... and congratulations on your new film; I heard its great and can't wait to see it!" the recording of Gabriella said before the message finished. It was hardly the first time she'd contacted him after he'd completed a movie, but it was a fairly rare event in the grand scheme of things; particularly since she'd moved to Paradise Station. Still, it was nice to hear her voice - recording or otherwise.

He briefly considered calling her back, but the sound of his transport landing crushed the prospect - he was there. In short order, the door beside him opened, spilling forth a flurry of bright lights and sounds. It took a few minutes before the shell-shock of the media blitz wore off and he was able to escape the vehicle. Around him, dozens of people had their cameras trained upon him or were asking questions about the upcoming film. It seemed almost impossible how many people were there to the cast and crew of the film - how could they be so obsessed with a film that hadn't even been released? Sure it was normal for a film to receive some attention just before it arrived, but the crowds this time were ten-fold that of every other film he'd been in. Something must have happened.

Demetrius made his way through the crowds, shaking hands, waving, smiling, and signing things as he went until he was finally inside the building where the mood changed dramatically. Gone were the bright lights and screaming fans, replaced with the worried glances of his co-stars. A quick inquiry of his muse later, and he knew why; the film had been leaked; courtesy of the Autonomist Alliance or one of their affiliated groups. It was hard to tell exactly what effect this would have - some movies did better after a leak while others barely lasted an hour; a distinction that depended solely on the final product and the media spin. If anything didn't live up to expectation, the lines at the theaters would be tragically short. This was particularly bad for the actors; if their acting was criticized, they were as good as dead. On the other hand, the crowds outside suggested a good reception, so maybe the fears were unwarranted... maybe. In any event, the distinction was now up to the winds of fate.

Demetrius wandered through the film team, allying fears to each other with positive comments of the film they'd made - true or otherwise - and reassuring themselves with comments about the crowd outside. Demetrius didn't get much of a chance to join them however when the blinking red exclamation point that symbolized an urgent communique. Few messages had that particular designation; Family, Gabriella, his agent and,

Firewall. Apparently it was time for his other job.

Invidia

Redacted

Shanoa

The small explosion rocked her lab, much to her annoyance. What was it about fusion rockets that disliked her so much? Was it because she used Anti-mater more often? Was it something she'd done in a former life? Did she kick a fusion powered robot-puppy when she was a child? Personally, she guessed it was the first, but then science couldn't refute the others so she left them on the list. In any event, it was another failure. One might think that after a few hundred hours of study, research, math, and labor, the the ability to contain a mirco-fusion event would have improved at least enough to allow her a bit more flight speed in air. That was the disadvantage of Anti-matter. Even if you could control the power of Anti-matter, it still wanted to react with everything - like air - to make more power then you expected. Fusion was supposed to be a safer alternative, but so far it seemed to be the opposite.

As Shanoa threw down her welding tool in annoyance, forced to go back to the drawing board, a blinking light appeared in her field of vision, indicating someone wanted to speak with her. There weren't a lot of people with her address out there, and few of them would send it in a textual form. Activating the message service, the words manifested before her eyes. The first thing she noticed was Firewall. The second was Fissure Gate. Shanoa put down her tool; she had something more important to do.

Ryle

Ryle listened with some concern to the sounds of the rocky asteroids smashing into the top of the colonial sphere of Markov. Built by the Argonauts on a rock somewhere past Neptune, Ryle didn't know where exactly he was. It had taken him a great deal of effort (and no small number of favors) to get him to the distant station, and even then the Egocasting had been bounced through no less then six relays before he'd arrived at a station willing and able to shuttle him. Based on the sound, he had to be somewhere in the Kuiper Belt, but then he couldn'tsee the rocky debris and no one else seemed to take note of it. For all he knew, he was on earth in some secret dome. Such was Markov - the secret city of Argonauts.

Why was he hear you might ask, to which there is but one answer: xenotech. A contact had told him that somewhere out here on the secret station wanted a trade; a piece of Iktomi tech that would "change everything we know" about them in exchange for a piece of a Bluewood tree. While the piece was useful to a number of people, and only gained through significant loss of life, it had little value to Ryle; what could he do with a hunk of wood - even if it was from outside the solar system? The only reason he even had the piece was thanks to a covert Firewall mission to the alien world to determine if the trees proved an X-risk. Firewall loved those kinds of missions - they didn't have to wait until something bad happened and then react; it was a proactive assessment. That said, trying to cut down a bluewood tree was like trying to pull teeth from a crocodile - possible, but hard to do and not without great risk. That they'd only lost sixteen morphs and a few million credits worth of equipment was blind luck. He'd heard the Consortium had tried the same, losing an entire outpost of one hundred and thirty as a result.

As Ryle rounded the a corner of the massive beehive, he came face to face with his Argonaut supplier; sitting in a small - and very empty - food court. The Argonaut - using a genderless biomorph - looked at him for a long second then placed a package on the table he was sitting at before standing up and walking his way. As Ryle walked toward him, he held out his own package. A few seconds later,the bluewood was gone, and in his hands was the small package from the table. Unable to resist the temptation of seeing what it was, Ryle started to open it...

Only to be rudely interrupted by a small drone landing in front of him. Ryle was about to swat the bot away, when it began to privately speak with him via short range mesh connection. It was Firewall and they had a mission for him. Apparently he had real work to do.

Hugo/The Replicator

Hugo sat in his transport, surrounded by a dozen refuges. Getting a quick flight to Pluto was a difficult task, but at least it was quick. It was a mild annoyance to be surrounded by Transhumans so down on their luck that they needed to move to Pluto who were therefore in awe of the sleek metallic frame of the assassin. They'd spoken to him a few times, trying to find out why he was traveling, but he'd thus far mostly ignored him. If it wasn't for the magnetic storm shaking the shuttle and the need for audio communication in the event of an emergency, he'd have shut them out entirely, but such was life. As a result of the aforementioned storm, the refugees had mostly quieted; only asking questions about if he or the others thought the ship was going to crash; a very real concern for some.

And understandable. this far out in the solar system, the radiation of the Oort cloud provided a very real threat to the vessels of all sorts. Small shuttles like this one were the most vulnerable. That said, Hugo wasn't concerned. They were still in the shallow end of the Oort cloud radiation field and the the storm was a small one - barely the equivalent of spring shower. Combined with the fact the captain was an experienced one, there was little reason fro concern.

What did concern him took place a few minutes later. The shaking shuttle turned quiet and the engines powered down. While most of the others - not realizing the danger - took breaths of relief, Hugo was quickly taking stock of the situation. The storm shouldn't have ended that quickly and Pluto was still a few hours out at best. The only reasons they could be stopped and the storm stopped were if they had taken cover to outlast the storm or they had been stopped by another ship - most likely pirates. Neither were good options.

In truth, he was closer to the second option than the first. A few minutes after the stop, the captain entered the passenger bay and walked over to him. Behind him, a pair of soldiers - who'd not been on the ship at takeoff - walked, carrying no weapons but in full, confidant stride. For a moment, he wasn't sure what to make of it, but that changed when he caught sight of their uniform logos; wolf heads on a black print with "A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi" written below. Wolf Enterprises enforcers. That meant Firewall.

The captain pointed in Hugo out, but it proved unnecessary; they were already walking over. "Please follow me." one said, before giving hugo a data pack. Apparently there was a mission. One that required an assassin. As Hugo read the message, they lead him back to their ship - a massive and fast frigate. As Hugo caught sight of the ship through a viewport, he amended his thoughts. There was an important mission that required an assassin.

Archivist/Sheryl Stark

Sheryl wandered through the streets of the small, glacial station - occasionally glancing out into the deep black waters around them. The station was deep and well lit enough that if you watched carefully, you could make out some of the coral-like organisms Europa was famous for. Even as she watched, she could make out them sway with the water currents and more obviously when an aquatic morph brushed past them on some research expedition. Europa was like that - always busy exploring the depths of the frozen water-world, hoping to find some new life form or organic compound. That's why the Jovians kept the station funded - new biomatter was key to their survival. Even without a Pandora Gate, they had access to alien life.

Sheryl wasn't looking outward however. Instead, she was pensive; staring inward. Though apparently deep in thought, that wasn't quite the case. She was currently having a conversation with her "roommate" - Archivist over a change in events. Firewall had contacted them. It had come suddenly, through secure channels, and required movement outside Jovian space. such movement was difficult for everyone given the Jovian's feelings about the other powers. It was especially hard for them however, given what Archivist was - an A.G.I. If the Jovians discovered her... well, there wouldn't be much of a chance to escape again. It was only fortunate however that Europa had fairly liberal access to transports and visas for research purposes and that the Jovians were currently "making nice" with the Consortium. Sheryl wondered if that's why Firewall asked them to come for this mission or if it was just coincidence. The Archivist had no doubt "coincidence" had nothing to do with it, and was only debating whether Firewall had arranged for the peace talks to give them the opportunity to escape without much fanfare.

In any event, the truth was simple - Firewall needed them on Oberon so that was where they were going.

Kenneth

Message

>INVIDIA<

The old, abandoned city on Earth was covered in a curtain of rain as various soldiers ran through the rundown buildings, searching for one another. As one was found out, gunshots rang out, followed by the thud of a bullet-ridden body. Blood pooled beneath, only to be trampled over by the next uniformed man, looking for a target of his own.

Invidia, in her full combat gear, gripped her Shredder and looked around from her hidey-hole underneath a destroyed bridge. Her current target, a tall male in light body armor wielding a Rail Sub-Machine Gun, was unaware of her position, even though she was but ten feet away, and three feet below. When he turned, she took her chance.

She vaulted up and out of her cover, and quickly closed the distance between them before he could finish turning to face her. Holding the Shredder in her right hand, she used her left to push the SMG aside, just before taking his barely concealed face in an iron grip. The Shock Glove that she activated moments before did its work, dropping her target with a frenzied twitching.

Once she knew he was disabled, she aimed her Shredder at his head and promptly fired twice. "Hostile, terminated.", she murmured quietly to herself, her voice flat and cold.

Then she hunched forward and broke into a low run, looking for the nearest hiding spot to take out the last two targets in the city.

But she would never get the chance as a voice seemed to speak from out of nowhere.

"Ma'am, there is an incoming priority message for you. It appears to be from Firewall. Do you wish for me to bring it up later?", her muse asked.

She frowned behind her helmet, before looking at the small kill-feed at the lower left-hand corner of her Heads Up Display. The last two players had killed each other as she was distracted, making her the winner of the match by default. Morons.

"I'll see it now, Conquest. Exit Hunter//Killer Sim.", she commanded.

When her eyes opened, she was no longer wearing her helmet, or any of her combat gear. Instead, she was unarmed and wearing a simple shirt along with shorts, sitting at the crescent shaped desk in her tiny, meager apartment. "Bring up the priority message, screen one.", she ordered, facing the trio of computer screens in front of her.

She supposed that it was inefficient, and old fashioned to work on the mesh using an actual screen, and a retro keyboard. But she found she simply preferred it that way when she had the luxury of choice.

When it finally came up, her face registered the slightest of frowns as she read it over. There was barely anything in the message itself, simply a destination to report to, and the budget amount. Everything else was classified, making her very circumspect about the assignment itself.

Shaking her head once, she leaned back and read it over again. Gatecrashing, now that was something new. Her hacking skills were unlikely something that would be on call for something like that, but then again, you never really knew for certain until you were there. But why was she being activated for this?

As she contemplated the exact meaning behind the mission itself, she stood and gathered what she needed, placing everything she wasn't going to wear on her person into a relatively large, metal cylinder. Once her things were gathered, she finished her preparations, which included updating the her local Ego backup, as well as the one that Firewall kept themselves.

As soon as she was dressed and ready and had both locked down her computer and Mesh systems and secured both her Ego backup and her TITAN research data, she slung the canister over her shoulder by its strap, and strode out the door.

Shanoa read the text message and sighed, Working for Firewall now and again had it's advantages, though there timing seemed to be rather terrible. "Always when I'm working with something highly volatile" she muttered and began with the safety protocols for securing the Anti-mater she had out, she'd like a lad to come back to after all.

Once the materials where secured and automated clean up and recycling or 'critically damaged' prototypes was under way, she download her self from the lab equipment into her 'morph', Arablest. Though the MK 1 had been designed hastily in anger, the MK 24, was the current pinnacle of her ability as a designer. Standing 9'9", and having a single red optic that moved from side to side on a track, and just 'big' over all it was imposing, with the 3 claw like digits that passed for fingers not helping to make it more 'friendly' looking, although to those unfamiliar with the 'morph' it looked very odd, with what looked like wings folded on its back and feet and a few other parts, like the chest area, that just screamed 'I'm part of a plane', it looked more like a cluster fuck then a coherent design

She made one final check on her labs functions before departing for the Fissure gate. Once she was in an open enough space the reason for the 'air craft' bits came into play. A booster on its back and in it's feet whirred to life and lifted the massive frame off the floor, and hovered forward while parts unfolded, collapsed on them selves and twisted into place, in less then 5 seconds time she was cursing through the 'skys' toward the gate in her Morphs alt jet form.

The gate security provided no resistance, they let her right on through and as she came out the other side hit fully throttle to ward the rondevu point. Part of her wondered what Firewall wanted her for this mission for, but part of her didn't care, the missions she got now and then where good 'proving grounds' for some of her untested devices, lab testing could only yield so much in the way of results after all.

As she closed in on the rondevu point she came in low and slowed her speed to come in for a landing, reverting to her 'robot form' and landing with a heavy 'thud' and scrape of metal on the truff. She took a look around as she righted her self, the last few plates sliding into place.

Europa. Research Station Sigma-12.

Yeah yeah, I know you like your little conspiracy theories, Arya, but loving a theory doesn't make it true.

Come on Sansa, you have to admit that the timing is a bit convenient.

We don't have proof either way, so the most we can say is that...

Firewall is at least using this as an opportunity. Hmm... I believe we've had some vacation time coming anyway...

That should cover us for about two weeks, but if the mission goes on longer than that...

Then depending on just how long we're gone... we'll have to either come up with a larger, harder-to-confirm excuse... or...

Never return, write my own obituary, and assume another identity elsewhere.

Sansa! You can't be -

Sansa didn't answer, instead, she refocused her attention on the real world. Arya, once again, simply watched.

First order of business was to get to the hidden secure comm relay in their apartment. Sheryl went about her daily routine, being careful to deviate at the right times so as not to appear to be sticking to a schedule. When she got home, she packed everything one might expect someone to take with them on vacation; clothes, toiletries, portable library of books, blanket, plush goat (well, maybe not that last one), etc. Sheryl remembered the photo of Arya's 'mother', and tucked it into her wallet, careful not to damage it in any way. Once that was settled, she turned on her apartment's tv and set it to channel 1447, which was normally a blank channel, but thanks to some ingenuity on Arya and Sansa's part... well, now it was a one-way short message transmitter.

She used the tv's keyboard to type in her standard requisition and send it directly to Firewall. Once that was over with, Sheryl turned the channel at random, and then she opened up her personal minicomputer and ordered them a ticket for the next reasonably priced transport to Mars, and once there, she'd book passage to Oberon. Lastly, Sheryl spent the next hour channel surfing. After a while...

Is this really necessary? We're not exactly under observation here.[/Color=green]

Just a healthy bit of caution. Don't want to take any risks with you around...

Sorry... I never meant to...

Oh don't worry about it, Arya, you sexy beast!

[Color=green] Heh.

With that, Sheryl let out a loud yawn, turned off the TV, set an alarm for herself, and took a long nap. During which time, Sansa had an... intimate dream about Arya. Which Arya could only watch, unsure what to make of it.

The alarm sounded, and it was time to get to the transport and get this started. First a shower and then...

Demetrius excused himself and stepped away from the crowd. He read the message carefully with a stoic expression on his face.

"Another possibly deadly mission, these guys really love me!" he lamentably said to himself.

"I could die in this mission, should I take the chance and spill out my most inner regrets to Gaby?" he pondered.

"Nah...all the better reason to use it as motivation to get back alive, right?" he said in his mind with a quirk of a smile on his face

He tapped his earpiece and whispered "I need my personal frigate sent to my destination...family matters"

And so he disappeared into the mayhem outside awaiting his transportation.

Europa. Research Station Sigma-12. A few hours later.

Sheryl relaxed as she made her way through security, and thankfully none of the scanners had yet picked up the chain-pistol parts hidden in her luggage. It probably helped that Sheryl had helped develop the latest updates in the station's security measures. She'd left a few very well-hidden back doors for her to bypass every level of security without anything untoward being noticed. The only real concern going through port security and customs was anyone noticing that there was something... off about Sheryl. Which was made both easier and harder by her fun little roomie. Who spent half of the time helping the shy girl pick up on social cues, and the other half cracking jokes at everyone's expense except for Sansa's.

"Business of trip?" an official asked her when she hit the front of the line at yet another checkpoint.

Ask him if he's read Dickens.

"Umm..."Sheryl paused a moment, building up the confidence needed to pull it off, "Humanity IS my business!"

The guard stared at her as if she'd been speaking in tongues.

"Charles Dickens," she answered, slightly embarrassed, "A Christmas Carol?"

"Purpose of trip?" the officious berk repeated.

"Vacation," Sheryl droned in an almost perfect imitation of the guy behind the desk.

"Move along," he said, with all the inflection and intelligence of a stormtrooper.

Glad to see that they're carrying on the fine tradition of hiring from the shallow end of the gene pool.

Sheryl stifled a giggle, then made her face take on a generically cheerful appearance.

You need to stop doing that, Arya. It's going to get us noticed!

You need to be more confident. Confidence isn't suspicious. Shying away and avoiding people is. I don't know why, given the track record of what every serial killer ever has been like, but I guess people never really learn.

Fair enough.

Sheryl waited in line for less than 10 minutes at the departure gate, walked through a small set of corridors, sat down in her assigned seat in the transport, and set her carry-on into the pocket on the seat in front of her. She pulled out a set of headphones from the bag, put them on, turned on her playlist, and started to take a nap while the transport took off.

Ryle looked inside the package and sealed it up again, it was a kind of thing that he hadn't seen since... it didn't matter, he was apparently needed on an exoplanet. He thanked the dealer and began walking back to the transport hub.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He'd shed the shell he was using here...
He'd have the stack shipped to Eris to be dissected while he was in the field, perhaps something could be ripped from it
What's closer this time of year? Eris.
He'd bounce back to Eris, back up, gear up, have a courier and lander prepped, send firewall a shopping list of anything else.
He'd take the courier to Uranus, firewall would take the hit for the casting, if they knew he was here they'd expect to.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A few hours and more favours later and he was on a courier bound for Uranus, back in his proper morph, he felt comfortable again. But there must be a good reason for activating him, giving him 10k, and presumably shoving him through a gate. They of course withheld details, standard operating protocols, but it would be nice if they gave him a clue before they asked him to send them a shopping list.

He'd be Hazmat ready either way by the time he got there, why people expect something so advanced and touched by the titans to keep playing nice was beyond him. Then there was the vague warnings by the amoebas, probably something to that, unless the theory about them considering us a disease turns out to be right and they're just trying to stop us from spreading. It would be nice if they'd actually tell us something useful for once.

He forced himself into a sleep cycle in the meantime to slow the rate at which he was spewing his unoccupied thoughts.

Hugo withed the two soldiers that had grabbed him from his transport to Pluto. There he was supposed to follow through on a mission to track down a data thief but he guessed that would have to wait for now. Firewall was now at the top of his list and when he read in the message about a Gate crashing, his metaphorical hairs stood.

This will certainly be an interesting endeavor... Hugo thought, not realizing the danger that could come with going into a gate and arriving at somewhere possibly never seen before but why would he?

The soldiers lead him to a room to wait in the massive frigate. Inside he saw the crew mates hard at work maintaining, correcting, navigating, and guarding the ship as these two soldiers were guarding him. They informed him of what he could and couldn't do while they were in transit to the Fissure Gate Facility which he decided to follow for the most part. He took Firewall and the TITANS very seriously but not serious enough for him to push the boundaries a bit.

"Timber-6 in transit... Please secure yourself." The pleasant artificial voice said through the speakers. In a second the ship was pulled by its Anti-matter drive and towards to their destination which he guessed was a heavily guarded Firewall facility with all the bells and whistles of a government facility.

A pretty tough nut to crack but possible to infiltrate... Hugo thought to himself as within a few seconds of the ship entering travel it arrived. A knock was heard on his door and Hugo obliged them by opening it although they probably several sensors and a camera for the sake of it. He was escorted out by the same two soldiers from before and on the way out he saw the ship had docked to the large facility.

"Right through here." The soldier to the left of him said, pointing to the exit dock.

"See you around." Hugo said, his artificial voice something sounding both silvery and flat despite being from a manufactured voice box.

As the crowd amassed around him, Adelin stood silently and waited for his transportation. Soon, a streamlined frigate appeared from the sky. It was painted in a dark red chrome and bore the Demetrios logo in silver on the sides. Up at the front tip, you could see the ship's name also written in silver, "Astartes".

"Where to, Adelin?!?" inquired quickly one of the reporters.

"Well I'm off to have a toast with my family, they have been very supportive of me during these past few months, it's the least I could do really." he said. "Mind you, if you're still recording, isn't she a beauty? Beats what the competition has and no, this is definitely not shameless self-advertising" he ended with a smile and a quick laugh.

He quickly boarded the ship and made his way to the command deck. Although having posts throughout the deck, they were unmanned as the entire vessel was operated by its personal computer.

"Astartes, proceed to Station 7-2-A2, Chat Noir, Oberon in the Uranus System" said Adelin in a commanding tone.

"Right away, commander" the ship's voice responded in a monotonous tone.

Soon enough the ship took off and away it was, making its way to the facility. Adelin opened a locker containing his equipment and began preparing for the mission.

"10 000 credits they give me? I'm sure one of the charity organizations will love this donation" he thought to himself.

His preparations were interrupted by a voice over the comm.

"This is Fissure Gate Facility, please state your purpose, Astartes"

"This is Demetrius Adelin, requesting permission to dock"

"Heh, yeah right... if you're Adelin then I'm Ghoul from White Ops 3. Surely you can't be serious?" said the voice in a joking manner.

"Oh for the love of...well in this case, Ghoul, would you mind letting in your ol' pal here because I'm the real deal and I'm not joking or in the mood for jokes...I am serious... and don't call me Shirley" implied Adelin very seriously.

"Oh..my..well...eh...I apologize..permission granted" the voice mumbled when it realized it was no joke.

"Roger that, over and out. Astartes, proceed with landing. If I had a credit for every time that happened..." mumbled Adelin under his voice while continuing his preparations.

Soon enough, the ship docked and Demetrius stepped outside into the facility.

Mars. Teltan Spaceport.

Sheryl followed the directions to the drop point that Firewall had given her, and followed them to what looked like a wall of water constantly circulating in every direction on the wall's surface. To a casual observer, it looked like Sheryl was leaning against the wall; to an especially trained and astute observer, one could just make out that Sheryl was tapping different sections of the wall in a clear pattern. As if entering a code, or searching for something.

Nice trick. Hide the hangar in plain site. Security isn't exactly alert today.

Well, we ARE finally out of Junta space.

True. So, let's get going. I don't see anyone looking too closely at us.

With that, Sheryl tapped a hidden button, which did two things. First: it opened the section of wall behind Sheryl, and as she backed into it and turned around to enter the hidden Firewall hangar, a holographic projection of Sheryl took her former spot on the wall. Once inside, Sheryl activated a nearby console to 1) get the cameras into a loop for the next hour, showing the hologram standing there, apparently playing a game; and 2) start prepping the small ship for launch. And closing and locking the hidden door to the hangar, of course.

Then she got in the ship, punched in the coordinates Firewall had given her in their last message, and set the ship for auto-pilot, making sure to turn the ship's cloak on just before it left the hangar. With that, Sheryl started changing into the flight suit that the ship provided, then hit up the armory.

One thing I'll give Firewall, they really can get you a girl's best friend.

Heh. And what's that?

A high-powered EM sniper rifle with telescopic scope with a high caliber barrel.

I thought I was your best friend.

You know full well you're a lot more than that to me.

I know.

Sheryl started changing into her stealth suit and assembling her chain-pistol as the ship covertly entered the nearest Gate and headed on its course for Oberon.

>INVIDIA<

The trip to the secure Firewall facility at the Fissure Gate didn't take very long, thanks to the public transport that she had hacked into. While she supposed that it was blatant misuse of her skillset, possibly illegal even in Autonomist space, and almost definitely unethical, it was good practice as well as expedient. It also helped that she was one of, if not the best at what she did, meaning that she covered her tracks very well.

It also guaranteed her privacy on the way there, giving her the opportunity to change into her combat gear, as well as review the priority message one last time. When the transport reached the facility, she stepped out, clad in her full combat gear: A black Armor Vest over military fatigues in dark green multicam, and her shining black helmet with its lightly glowing orange optical sensors. The Survival Canister that she had packed earlier and taken with her from the apartment was now firmly secured in the small of her back, while her Heavy Rail Pistol was holstered at her right hip and her Shredder hung at her front by its harness.

As she was processed through the facility's security, she had to nod in approval even as she was tempted to try and infiltrate it like she had the automated systems of the transport. Then again, she felt that way with all security that was used against her. As transhumans said, they were 'begging' to be hacked into.

That would both be against protocol, but it would only serve to damage what little trust Firewall officials have in you ma'am. I would recommend against it.

Stand down, Conquest. The only reasons I would purposefully infiltrate Firewall systems would be as a last resort for my own survival or information gathering. I have no plans to do either, she replied to her Muse via the private Mesh link between them.

It was after a short pause before Conquest replied. Purposefully, ma'am?

Of course. Even I am fallible, Conquest, and I am not so deluded to think that becoming a Seed A.I. would make me otherwise. If I'm unaware that the security is Firewalls, I could very well hack into it without knowing until after.

After a few moments of silence from her Muse, she assumed he was satisfied with that, so she promptly strode up to the head Security Officer. "Sentinel Invidia reporting. Where am I to await my orders?", she asked him flatly, her voice lacking any inflection at all.

"One hour until approach." rang through Ryle's head, pulling his mind out of its slumber.

He opened his eyes and looked around his cabin, his gear was packed and his supplies were loaded onto the shuttle. He hadn't had much left to do before he boarded the shuttle that would be sent to Oberon. He adjusted his tie and walked over to a diagnostic station that he had prepared a month earlier. He sat down in the chair and set it up to do a deep scan. The results would be simplifies for him, not that it was needed.

He realized he hadn't loaded a fork into the ghost rider module yet, and felt his other half itching for its separateness, its light freedoms.

He stood up from the station before pulling two small rectangular devices from a nearby drawer, a laptop sized computer from another, and ten fiber optic cables from a compartment at the diagnostic station.

As he assembled the device and attached it to himself, he spoke instructive rotes to himself softly, a carryover from his humanity.

"Two from the brain to the buffer, two from the buffer to the cogitator, one from the cogitator to the brain, one from the cogitator to the rider, two from the cogitator to the buffer, two from the buffer to the rider, mesh with the cogitator, feel the bleed, disconnect, repeat."

He activated the device and felt a burning sensation for the moments it was active. He activated it again and felt the same sensation again before it shut off. He activated it a third time and felt like screaming as his beta was uploaded into his ghost rider module. The beta readjusted to the active senses before settling again, no words being needed between them.

Ryle disconnected himself from the device and packed it up again. He opened a closeted room attached to his cabin and looked through it. He opened a drawer and pulled his mobility frame out of it, he moved that into his cabin and went back into the room. He searched around for a few moments before pulling a crasher suit out of a dresser, he thought it looked quite similar to a pre-fall NBC suit he had owned.

He closed anything he opened and walked back into the cabin, he began putting on the mobility frame, this model was built well enough to fit under the suit, thus limiting its exposure to the elements. He locked the frame onto himself and began putting on the crasher suit. The hood would pull itself up and he wouldn't need the mask yet so he attached the mask to a hook on his belt. He ran one last diagnostic on his gear and walked out of the cabin.

He walked to the shuttle area, and into his shuttle. He pulled on his pack and checked his weapons. He made sure all the cargo was there and secure. He waited until the ship was within range of Uranus and Oberon for the shuttle before setting his Courier the Retribution and its AI to return after the shuttle left.

The shuttle ejected from the ship and docked rapidly with the station on Oberon. He walked towards the check in area, already feeling the security systems of the shuttle priming themselves against unauthorized access. Nobody stopped him on his way through thankfully.

image

The Fissure Gate Facility was alive with activity. Hundreds of egos and morphs buzzed about preparing for the many departures and arrivals. Well, many arrivals, one departure. Dozens of vehicles, hundreds of Transhumans, and thousands of metric tonnes of material moved about in preparation for the upcoming mission. Food, water, power packs and generators, three guns to every person, and enough bullets to bring down a Jovian cruiser - all loaded on the back of massive, cargo-ship sized haulers; protected by tanks with railguns to spare. In the center of the convoy however was the most incredible part - the disassembled pieces of a small rocket - powerful enough to break free of any moon's gravity well. The room had Firewall front company logos left and right with the multitudes of equipment.

Whatever Firewall was planning, it was big and required liftoff.

It wasn't long before the newly arrived sentinels were noticed however - likely due to their lack of movement watching the action. A woman walked up - or in the case of Invidia, was directed to - to the agents; a comfortable smile on her face. The Morph was obviously a flat or a splicer - likely only on loan to the user given the confidence and posture in her walk. She looked like the type used to high end biomorphs; not flats.

image
OOC: minus the gun

She quickly did her best to gather the many sentinels together - hoping to only explain the mission once. "Thank you for coming, and welcome to Fissure Gate. You may call me Proxie." she said. Glancing up and to the left, she triggered her mesh connection and sent the more classified details of the mission to those agents present.

She waited a few moments for the group to read the report, then asked. "Before we continue; are there any questions?"

>INVIDIA<

As soon as she was directed to where she needed to go by the Security Officer, she made her way to to where a surprisingly sizable group of other Sentinels had gathered, including one Flexbot Morph which looked unfamiliar to her. When she joined the group, so did a woman: A Flat Biomorph, well dressed, and unarmed compared to the rest of them.

It didn't take long for her to realize that this Flat was the one who was going to be giving them their orders.

"Thank you for coming, and welcome to Fissure Gate. You may call me Proxie.".

She nodded curtly in reply, before receiving the mission data over the secure Firewall Mesh link. She looked over the data in silence, and behind her helmet her brows winged up in interest. She promptly saved the data and shunted it to Conquest for safekeeping and future reference.

"Before we continue; are there any questions?".

Invidia nodded again. "Yes, several: The Consortium only temporarily retreated, are we certain that they don't have a significant presence there, particularly a military presence? If they do, are we authorized to engage them, should they become a problem?", she asked carefully, folding her hands behind her back.

"Are we going to be the only ones sent through? Is there any chance of reinforcements of any kind, should the worst come to pass? And lastly, do we require any kind of mission-critical equipment for this assignment?".

"Yes, several..." Invidia said, asking her questions. Proxie listened to each one, then responded at the end.

"We can confirm the Consortium retreated with all forces approximately 7 days ago, but we cannot confirm the current state of Babylon. The Consortium has undoubtedly declared Babylon as major a priority as we have and they maintain a sizable military detachment at each of their Pandora Gates. We cannot be certain until we send people through the gate if they have returned, nor can we determine when they will return. Security around the Consortium controlled gates is, regrettably, more than Firewall can deal with without drawing their direct attention." she said, explaining the situation to Invidia truthfully, if not the answer she hoped to hear.

"As for how you deal with them; that is up to you and your team's discretion. If you determine direct military engagement is the best solution, than by all means do so and Firewall will clean up the mess. Consider that authorization to engage them." she continued, smiling slightly' she liked the direct sort - they always made some of the best agents despite being somewhat more predictable than the others.

"You will be sent through along with the rest of the forces you see here." she said, pointing at the convoy of supplies, weapons, vehicles, and troops. "They will provide technical and military support as needed, though the people in this room - and two others not yet confirmed here - are the only proper sentinels who know what you need to do. They only know you need to get into orbit above Babylon - not why. As far as they are concerned, this is a joint mission between Wolf Enterprises and Exosolar Limited to achieve joint company goals." she continued, letting them know the details.

"As for reinforcements, Firewall is sending you in force; there won't be any timely reinforcements to aid you until Firewall can get a full team in to secure the moon for it's interests. Those forces won't be ready for another 2 weeks. Besides that; once you're through the gate, you won't be able to return or send signals through until after the gate shuts down and you reconnect with Fissure Gate from that side. If you have time to do that, I doubt you need reinforcements." she continued matter-of-factly. It was all true; if inconvenient.

"The only mission-critical equipment you need is the rocket. The device has already been proven to respond to normally configured Mesh signals, so the only equipment you need is the rocket. The rocket is designed to handle the extreme gravity, magnetic disruptions, and temperatures of the inner corona. Not many other devices can survive the extremes of a star for longer then a few minutes." she finished.

"Any other questions?" she asked, maintaining her comfortable smile.

Shanoa nodded to 'Proxie' as she introduced her self and went over the mission data as she answered this other persons questions. Every thing sounded pretty cut and dry, though she did mutter 'I should really build a tank for these kinds of missions' in a tone that denoted less annoyance and more matter of fact, like her current Morph wasn't optimal for the mission, despite standing head and shoulders over every one else.

"None that haven't been asked already"

>INVIDIA<

When Proxie answered her questions, Invidia listened intently and made sure to log the salient details as an addendum to the mission data she had already sent to Conquest using her Multi-Task Augmentation:

After updating the mission objectives as well, with the personal notes in the addendum, she shook her head whenever Proxie asked if there were any other questions. She was satisfied with the answers they were given.

"None. Ready to execute operation at any time.", she said, inclining her head respectively before standing straight as before.

Sheryl listened intently to the Q and A session that had been going on. Then she, or rather, they, decided to add another one into the mix.

"If we encounter live Xenos," she asked, "Do we have reason to assume hostility? Or should we begin with Picard Protocols?"

Sheryl sent a quick, ready-made text to everyone in on the briefing explaining her little jargon.

Sheryl suppressed an embarassed blush at realizing that she'd just used some of their personal jargon with complete strangers.

Could be worse. They could all be Junta-heads. Though... that's unlikely.

Let's hope anyway.

A Heavily Augmented Woman, an Interesting Flexbot, a Possibly Augmented Woman, a Sylph, an unrecognized synthmorph, and two no shows.

Interesting choices for this mission.

Ryle listened to the questions and the answers. He couldn't think of any questions yet, he knew the majority of what he had to know.
Travel through the gate, secure the locality, set up the rocket, board it, hijack a UFO sitting in the sun, salvage anything of use, destroy anything else, go back through the gate.

"Has my equipment been added to the convoy yet?" he thought he'd ask on the off chance it hadn't been.

Hugo read over the details of their exact mission as he also looked over his fellow operatives chosen for this particular task, one of them being a Flexbot. One of the operatives already sent him a message which was interesting to say the least. Hugo isn't used to working in a group but he is eager to find out what will happen. He listened closely to the questions they asked as well with a few of them dealing with the notion that Consortium might be involved with the object they want.

From what Hugo gathered, they could deal with them if needed to but only if absolutely needed of which he secretly hoped. One of the operatives brought up the topic of equipment of which Hugo deemed himself good in. Everything he needs is on him at the moment but regardless a few souvenirs couldn't hurt.

"If we see anything we like, can we bring it home?" Hugo joked.

"If we see anything we like, can we bring it home?" she heard one operative say

"Dibs on the power supply schematics" Shanoa quickly retorted, figuring what ever was powering the ship would be of great benefit to her experiments, future builds and what ever else she could dream up. She would need to devote time to building a smaller 'transformer', as one firewall tech called her morph in passing, for these kinds of missions, something like a motorcycle, and had to stop her self from blueprinting a design on the spot, as that would take a lot of time she didn't have to spend yet, but maybe the ride on the rocket would give her time to least draw up a rough design.

"If we encounter live Xenos, do we have reason to assume hostility? Or should we begin with Picard Protocols?" The Archivist asked, sending a small data packet in explanation

Proxie quickly read the jargon translation, maintaining her smile. "That is based on the X-risk assessment. If you determine that any extraterrestrial presence is an immediate threat to Sol or her planets then you have the jurisdiction to destroy them as you see fit. If they prove or appear a non-threat, than... Picard Protocols seem particularly wise."

"That said; we don't anticipate any Xeno presence. The moon shows no signs of habitation, nor do any of the other planets in the system. Only the object has been seen and it appears to be acting reactivity - as though in autopilot." she said; taking the question in stride.

"Has my equipment been added to the convoy yet?" Ryle asked simply.

Proxie nodded slightly, saying "All requisitioned equipment has been placed with the convoy; I saw it to myself. I put all said gear in Transport 3 for your inspection should you like to see or take any of it."

"If we see anything we like, can we bring it home?" Hugo asked jokingly. Proxie would have ignored it, save that Shanoa added "Dibs on the power supply schematics" more seriously.

"All xeno-tech and scans there of are to be returned to Firewall for detailed analysis - to confirm no X-Risk agents are present. The last thing Transhumanity needs is another strain of the Exsurgent Virus." Proxie said, her smile gone for the duration of the speech - returning only after she was done.

"Now; if there are no other questions..." she said, leaving the statement open for any other comments.

"All xeno-tech and scans there of are to be returned to Firewall for detailed analysis"

'That's disappointing' Shanoa thought, she understood the 'why of the reasoning, but still was a shame for this tech to be locked away for who knows how long before some one starts delving into it. "Then lets be about this, the mission isn't going to complete it self"

"Yeahhhh, about taking the Consortium head on...." said Adelin on a friendly tone

"...I'd really advise against that. I mean, not that I'm blowing my own horn but they've got some pretty powerful gear and it would also be a...personal...desire if we were to avoid any conflict. I could pull a few strings and try to find out if they still have military presence there, wouldn't that be best?"

"I could pull a few strings and try to find out if they still have military presence there, wouldn't that be best?"

Hugo turned his head to see a relatively interesting operative on board, a Slyph of all choices. He looked familiar but then again it had been awhile since Hugo had the time or the patience to go entertain himself with the latest the entertainment industry had to offer. Still it was an interesting choice of operative.

"Sounds like a good idea..." Hugo added. "Just don't leave them wondering why you're asking for the information in the first place."

>INVIDIA<

As the others brought up their concerns and questions, Invidia simply reviewed the mission data one last time, before glancing up at something that caught her attention.

"Yeahhhh, about taking the Consortium head on... I'd really advise against that. I mean, not that I'm blowing my own horn but they've got some pretty powerful gear and it would also be a...personal...desire if we were to avoid any conflict. I could pull a few strings and try to find out if they still have military presence there, wouldn't that be best?"

Her gaze was immediately locked onto the Slyph and she crossed her arms as she turned to face him properly. "Will it prove to be a problem if we do engage the Consortium, due to this 'personal desire to avoid conflict'?", she asked flatly.

Though her voice usually carried little in terms of emotional inflection besides snark and sarcasm, this time there was mild suspicion in her tone, and though her helmet hid it, her expression was similar. If one of them was invested in preventing hostilities with Consortium Forces, she wasn't sure they could be trusted, should hostilities occur. And she was near certain that hostilities were going to be inevitable.

Arya and Sansa debated internally for a few moments before posing another question.

"Do we know anything about the object's chemical composition?" Sheryl asked, finally, trying not to let any emotion escape, "Or its structural integrity? Or the exo-world's structural integrity for that matter?"

What's on your side of the mind?

I'm not sure... we'll probably need to analyze on site but... those temperature readings seem... a little off, somehow. I'm not sure yet...

"Do we know anything about the object's chemical composition?" Sheryl asked, finally, trying not to let any emotion escape, "Or its structural integrity? Or the exo-world's structural integrity for that matter?"

Proxie shook her head. "I'm afraid we don't know much about the object itself. We know it must be ship or space station of some kind given it's ability to move, but little else. The moon itself is very small - less than a third the size of Luna by diameter - and doesn't have much gravity. Preliminary investigation suggests it started as an S-type or X-type asteroid before it was caught in Agade's gravity well a few hundred million years ago. Of course, there's a lot we still don't know about astrophysics and whoever built the Pandora Gate in the system must have done so for a reason." Proxie said, voluntarily giving what information she had.

"The most notable feature of the moon itself are the uniform crater marks across the surface. They are all approximately the same size and have a distinct pattern to them. The Sirius Survey showed that the craters are of different ages; suggesting that there is some kind of occasional event that happens on the moon in some kind of consistent cycle." she continued, trying to give as much information on the planetoid as she could.

"The moon seems to be geologically stable - it has a surprisingly strong magnetic field for a moon, but shows no sign of tectonic activity - suggesting it's a mostly solid object with a very rich iron core spinning quickly in the center. It's surface is heavy carbon-based rocks, though the inner parts of the moon remain unknown - no deep digging equipment has been brought in as of yet." she said, nearing the end.

"All in all; high integrity and radiation protection. If it wasn't for the low gravity, the lack of atmosphere, and the unnatural cratering it might make a good summer home." she finished with a smile.

"Sounds like a good idea...Just don't leave them wondering why you're asking for the information in the first place." heard Adelin from one of the other agents present there.

Adelin looked casually at the agent "Relax, they won't suspect a thing. I mean what? The movie star, a real secret agent? Pff...as if anyone would ever conceive such a thought. Besides, I've got a pretty convincing piece of dialogue I'll share with them." he said with a small smile on his face.

He then proceeded to analyze the agent from head to toe after which he stared at the agent and with a subtle grin he implied "Nice morph by the way, looks highly deadly. Seems to also come with one hell of a poker face, remind me to never play against you" he ended with a smile.

Looking the other way, Adelin heard another agent, this one female in appearance

"Will it prove to be a problem if we do engage the Consortium, due to this 'personal desire to avoid conflict'?"

Adelin turned to face this other agent. "Not at all, actually. They knew what the risks are when they signed up, as we did, and more to the point, if anything, it would benefit me. The more damage we do to them, the more repairs and new equipment they'll need." he replied equally flat. "And that mostly puts the food on my table..well..that and mesh-movies" he ended on a friendly tone.

>INVIDIA<

The Sylph's reply was anything but reassuring, and if nothing else, it only served to cause a rare spark of irritation in her, though she kept it in check. After all, she would have to work with him for the duration of the assignment.

"Not at all, actually. They knew what the risks were when they signed up, as we did, and more to the point, if anything, it would benefit me. The more damage we do to them, the more repairs and new equipment they'll need. And that mostly puts the food on my table... well... that and mesh-movies.".

She was tempted to remind him that this was no game, and he wasn't playing in a movie. The fact of it was however, if he didn't realize that already, he would only serve to get himself, and possibly others, killed on this mission. She was determined not to be a casualty.

"Very well.", she replied simply after a moment, turning to face Proxie once again.

You do not trust him. Why keep silent about it?

I do not know him. My suspicions could very well be wrong, and unfounded. Voicing what I suspect would only serve to draw more attention to myself, attention I would rather not have. We will have to see as things progress.

Shanoa would have rolled her eyes if she installed the kinda that allowed that "If we have time for such idle chat we should be getting under way, we're wasting time other wise." She said, getting annoyed at the useless chatter 'And people wonder why I prefer solitude...'

Before another question could be asked; Proxie turned her head to look up - distracted by some invisible, inaudible message. She stopped smiling. She paused for a few seconds, taking the unknown information in, she began to smile again.

"The expedition reports all vehicles, personnel, and systems are ready." She said, before making her way toward the door. She opened the doorway into the massive hanger around the gate; uttering "Shall we?"
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

image

The gate facility consisted primarily of open space in a massive manmade cavern of plastics, steel, and rock. Were it not for the dozen or so APCs, transports, people, and the mighty glowing wormhole generator - it would be entirely unremarkable.

As the gate shifted, the security personnel shifted - both into their ideal positions. No one knew what exactly to expect; so everyone expected the worst. After much twisting and turning, the gate roared to life in a flash of green and black lightning as unnatural in look as in feel. Gate travel it seemed was not for the faint of heart.

Proxie turned the the team of Firewall specialists after a few moments and said "they're under your command now; good luck and Godspeed."

Well... here we go... first big Firewall mission...

Yep.

Let's... go then. In the name of... SCIENCE!

Sheryl giggled to herself momentarily, which she hoped the others would write off to nerves. She checked her armor one more time, confirmed structural integrity, built-in air supply, and briefly tested the cloak again. Everything seemed to be working. She checked her weapons; both fully loaded and primed.

Sheryl started walking towards the Gate, and readied her chain-pistol. For the moment, she held it in both hands, aimed at the ground in front of her, but she kept herself alert in case it needed to be snapped up to aim properly. When she got closer to the gate, she held a hand outstretched towards it for a moment, then readied her weapon again, and stepped through.

Time to go? Good.

Ryle pushed the mask onto his face and his suit began to close on itself fusing and incorporating the systems into eachother. It was vacsealed now, his enhancements were analyzing the gate fruitlessly, they were impossible in reality. He flicked on the Faraday systems to further protect himself, readied his pistol and marched through the gate.

COLD
SYSTEM ALERT - UNKNOWN - UNKNOWN
Transition was always a weird feeling.

"Right, the final frontier. Time to boldly go where no man has gone before" said Adelin jokingly and excited.

He took a few steps back, doing a last minute check on his suit.

"See you on the other side!" He said as he began sprinting towards the gate

"Woo-hoo-hoo!!!!" yelled out Adelin right before diving into the gate.

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