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Fleet Commander’s Tale

Static.

The sirens’ call which alerts us to the all-encompassing lesson. The signal by which the universe tells us; Yes, you do not control – you are suffered to exist. Remember.

We remember, though at times we wish not to. We remember, nonetheless. It’s instinctual, though our very ego betrays us. The crackle and hiss that mocks our supposed control. It mocks you now. Ceaselessly. You know it, in that still place deep inside which refuses to hear your feeble statements reassuring you of your importance. Your assured greatness of self. It knows you lie, if only to comfort your ego. Your ego lies. Remember that too.

Control. What a laughable concept in a universe as vast as the one we inhabit. A modicum of an ability to shape and mold the matter around us by the laws common to matter, but never control. That eludes us, regardless of the delusional “control” we fancy our crude manipulations of the cosmos to be. We exist, and affect. We warp and twist. We are where we are, when we are, how we are. But we merely are, simply because we are that which shapes us, as we shape, crudely, the matter surrounding us. The static mocks that poor ability to mimic the nature around us, which is, due to the finite capacity of a human, is simply an imitation of the grandeur which surrounds us in the form of the universe – whose own existence we take for granted, as we do the next breath we take.

Such is the nature of man, when faced with the stars. The pulsar’s stately rotation – static. The screaming energy consumed in the maw of the accretion disk of the naked singularity – static. The roaring blaze emitted by a supergiant – even a dying dwarf – static. Merely interference to our ever so important transmission – it must be, given man’s obvious importance in the cosmic scheme; we deserve it. So it is said; or thought, sub-consciously, by the humanist. Man’s true enemy – who thinks the will of man supreme in the galactic scale of importance. Such pride has been the downfall of many. Beware, lest it become the heritage of the Remnant which remain.

– Thoughts on The Great Collapse

Artiyur Relagten, Sorian Philosopher

The Age of The Other

Reconstruction. A word loaded with essences. The essence differed, of course, according to the perspective of the person contemplating the ideal behind the word. To some, it was a way to return to Utopia. Others, a rebuilding of the past. To a few, a studied path paralleling the acheivements of forbears – their societies, their goals, their needs, their cultural peak. Perhaps it was merely a way to avoid a repeat of the Great Collapse. It was uniquely individual, this response to The Reconstruction. Precisely the reason it was so dangerous while at the same time uplifting. An ideal is always dangerous.

The Phoenix slewed around, fighting it’s own vector. The pursuing eel began it’s predictable attack – a line of plasma across the unpredictable path of the fighter’s passage. The thrust of the fighter’s engine fought against the stored inertia of the previous flight path, but overcame it. The fighter picked up speed imperceptibly, while approaching just under the deadly line of plasma, just dancing inside of predictability. The fatal flaw of a drone. Predictability. Sameness. The pilot was almost bored, really. The same old thing. At a distance of 3000, he began firing himself – his own enigmatically glittering balls of plasma floated toward the Corvette class drone, now approaching quite fast indeed. Predictable, predictable, the same old trap. The eel jerked up as it was hit, over the approaching fighter, which kept it’s vector unswervingly. Efficiency. 8% shields on the eel now. I missed 3 shots. How unpredictable of me. The pilot thought, in mock horror. Whatever will the Flux Assassins think. He grinned, imagining. “How could you miss a target that big?” Practice. Ha! There went the two krakens, now. Passed. Ho hum. Ignore the pests. By now, that’s all they’ve become. Distance, straighten the vector. Ho hum. Get those ducks in a row. Ho hum. They’re committed. In other words, finished that stupid flip they ALWAYS do to follow. Ho hum. Shields back to 100? Ho hum. Time to flip myself. Ho hum. 180, smooth transition, line up, get up to speed, wait for the distance…. Ho hum. What a surprise! He has the exact shield percentage he’s supposed to have x_seconds after the last pass! Ho hum. Let’s see if my aim still sucks. Ho hum. 2800 this time, just for kicks. Ho hum. Who knew? My aim DOES work occasionally! He thought as he flew through the debris cloud generated by the plasma ripping through the eel as it exploded; only the slightest turbulence and the visual flash still hovering on his retinas to betray the recent existence of something in the space he was now occupying. Ho hum. Two krakens to go. Joy. Too bad the eel didn’t hit me. It’d be the same as the last time I let an eel hit me cause I was bored. That’s boring too. Oh well. Maybe there’ll be some sents around here somewhere.

He transmitted the necessary codes to the station as he appeared through the gate. Yet another almost reflexive action. The codes changed occasionally though. At least they weren’t ALWAYS the same. Not the idiotic drones. At least the Phocaenas were a bit tough. They were actually fun. Their flight characteristics are a lot better than those of the fighers we put against them. Thank Hamalzah for little blessings. Not that they didn’t die as regularly as anything else. Just made you work at it. A challenge was welcome in the same old-same old of a fluxhunter. Necessary? Oh, sure. Sorta. They were just replaced immediately. Over 7,000 later, and they still kept coming. Hell, Kelvar had over 20,000. New Dawn combined had almost 200,000. He sighed in resignation. It wasn’t the relative skill of the invaders. It was sheer numbers. Not that they hadn’t put a huge dent in the numbers. The dent was just swallowed up in the enormity of the forces sent. Then there was sentients, infestations, assimilated humans… and the reports every so often of the “bases” that spawned them all. Then the sympathizers among their own. Both overt, and covert. There was Cydrones, then there was the antipathists. “It doesn’t affect me.” “That’s not my problem.” “There’ll just be more anyway.” “TRI probably created them.” “Insert conspiracy theory here.” Fools. The invasion was coming. This was only a precursor to the real threat. Gauging the opposition. So be it. Maybe the apathy of the many would serve to cover the dedication of the few. He still didn’t like it. Sentients now. An interesting dilemna. Some returned after “destruction”. Some didn’t. They had assimilated Aelsolah, and had all the precursors of our current flux research. They assimilated the Thrice Seven, who probably knew as much as anyone about the totality of TRI space and it’s defenses. Good strategy by the Flux. He gave them that. The drones weren’t the real threat. The sentients, the assimilated, the overmind, overlords, whatever, that they reported to – that was the real problem. Would be REAL nice if some of that vaunted TRI budget went toward finding where the hell the damn things came from. More than nice. He shoved his compboard back at the crew chief, his postflight complete. Head in to debrief, and then to paperwork. Heh. Fun fun.

He reactivated his comms on his way to debrief. He tuned to channel :help. The usual arguments, the commentary, the mentoring, the debates. Complaints about such and such. Yadda yadda. A bit of actual help! Neato. He switched to :flux. A rookie about to go up in flames requested assistance in a panicky tone. He amusedly detailed a patrol to that sector, distrractedly, assuring the rookie that help was on the way. The relief was palpable. He stopped on a whim. “Have you ever fought a squid before?” He asked. The reply came back, guardedly. “My mentor had me fight one once.” “Tell ya what. I’ll walk you through, ok?” “I don’t know…” “Trust me.” He grinned, in the middle of the hallway, then slouched against the wall for a while, as he talked. “Where’s he at?” “Uhhh… 3k behind me. My shields are only at 32% though.” The rookie spoke slowly, but calmly, as if reassured by the voice talking to him now. “What are you flying?” The hunter asked. “An interceptor.” The pride was palpable. He smiled. “What guns do you have?” “Two hammers.” “Perfect. Here’s what you do….” It only took a few minutes to talk him through the destruction of the flux scout. “Wow, I didn’t know this ship could do that!” “Kid, you’d be surprised at what these ships are capable of, once you learn them inside out. Trust me on that one.” “I bet. I forgot to ask your name, sir.” “Call me Razor. RazorsKiss. I’m in New Dawn.” “You’re one of those “fluxhunters”, aren’t you?” He suppressed a smile as he returned the familiar mantra. “It’s what we do. Remember, it’s mostly concentration. Concentrate, and work on your aim. It’ll keep you in good stead, whatever you do.” “Yes sir.” “Take care. I gotta get to my debrief now.” “You mean you were…” “Yeah, I was in the hallway when I heard ya. Don’t worry, it was a good break – and like I said; it’s what we do. Razor out.” He shut off the comm with a smile. Always the same, always different. Bah, still a debrief, and paperwork to dig through.

He opened the blast door to the Command Center quickly, surprising a secretary and the pilot talking to her. He grinned inwardly, while keeping a straight face outwardly. “Hey Hav! Briefing the staff on a special project?” He almost looked abashed for a second, then played it off. “Uhhh, yeah, I was going over the projected funding for the reconnaissance program for Amananthii space, and ummm, the details were a little overwhelming at first.” “mmmhrmmm. Well, lets get this debrief over with, aight?” He slipped a wink at the secretary and she could read his lips as Havik turned his back. Don’t let him fool you! He’s terrible! Her mask almost slipped then, but she kept it up – barely. He grinned outwardly now, as he entered the room with Havik. Havik had his “business face” on now. “So, let’s get this done.” The cheshire cat across from him sobered up. Slowly.

Leadership. An elusive, quicksilver concept. “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him….But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did it ourselves’.” True, that maxim. So what is leadership, truly? Charisma? Administrative brilliance? Good stewardship? Unpredictability? Unusually advanced levels of preparedness? A bit of all of them, I’d venture to guess. If leadership could be defined, I do think we’d have more good leaders. Only a good leader can judge the abilities of other leaders, in my humble experience. Those qualities are epheremal, faint, and given to the vagaries of existence which affect us all. Hamalzah send us the men and women we require to enable our survival. Or else, I fear, we are lost.

– Queliar Neamru II

TriPoint Station governor, 102nd year of Reconstruction

Havik was amused, but concentrated on the task at hand. To some, he seemed impossibly young for the duties he carried out, but those who knew him well, knew better. One look at his eyes, and you saw a killer. His gaze was electric. There was steel in it – a cold grey that told you that there was iron in this young man’s backbone, belying his easy-going manner with people. You heard it on the comms too. He hated excuses, and expected everyone to meet the standards he set for himself. They were high, indeed. One of Martius Academy’s youngest graduates, he took to flying as if he were born to it. Not many knew the scores he posted on his exit exams, and others ignored them. With little opportunity to practice his skills against other pilots, he still boasted a 50% kill ratio in those infrequent battles New Dawn was involved in. A student of Falcon’s, he’d learned that aspect of the pilot’s trade well. He even enjoyed it, sometimes. Irreverent, self-deprecating, yet loved by the rank and file, he was acknowledged by many to be the premier Phocaena killer on TRI duty. He often tried to debate that claim, but the claim remained in circulation – for good reason. A consummate master of the fluxhunter’s trade, he took it a step beyond. He knew the enemy as well as anyone. He and ZeroZ95 were the architects of the famous “Conflux Guide”, and his groundbreaking efforts took the understanding of the enemy to a new plateau. TRI pilots now had the exact shield ratings, armor ratings, and dmg/sec figures on all known Conflux types, and his insights on Sentient tactics was unrivaled. Along with S_K, he was well-known as the premier Sentient killer. A quite formidable young man, despite his youth.

“So. Are we doing this debrief, or what?” Havik asked, with an eyebrow raised. Razor realized he’d been silent for 30 seconds, at least. “Hav, I’m in some deep shit.” Havik looked amused, briefly, then his “professional” face took over again. “What did you do now?” “Let me explain.”

Dr. Castillo paused in his perusal of the financial records. So many discrepancies. “I know Yrral” He said to himself. “I know Q’Son. This doesn’t sound like them. I have my suspicions, but… I wonder.” He tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together, again, and again to no avail. He continued muttering to himself. “New Dawn, New Dawn. They’re hiding something. RazorsKiss always has an explanation. He’s a glib one, there. Too glib. He’s protecting something, or someone. I know it. I can’t say for sure that it’s related to the main issue. I can’t put my finger on him. It’s something… else. Let’s see. He walks a fine line – willing to be suspected of being a participant in the coverups, so he can hide… what? Could it…. no. No way. It can’t be what… or who… I think it is. Maybe it’s Nevin.” A muted chime sounded. He got up, went to the message tube, and read what had arrived. His eyes widened as he read. There were maybe 5 other people that knew what this meant. Even as he read, he decided he’d be the only one who had these results. Too explosive. A little prestige never hurt anyone, anyway. “I see now.” He mouthed. “That’s a secret worth keeping. He didn’t give me much choice. He didn’t have a choice himself. Machavellian ‘lil bastard. I can’t fault him, though. Impeccable. He may be on to something with that other line of questioning he was on, too. Holly gets sick, and he… disappears. His whereabouts locked down tighter than anything I’ve ever seen in squad-level security. Where did he go?

His secretary double-chimed the door. “Sir? Dr. Q’Son is asking to speak to you, sir. She says it’s important.” Castillo looked up, distractedly. “Indeed, it is. I’ll be there shortly Alijay. She doing better after that last treatment battery?” “A bit, sir.” “Good, good. Cancel the rest of my appointments today, please.” “Uh, yes, sir.”

Razor slouched down in his chair. “Ok, you know that secret I let you guys in on a month or so back? A few others suspect it. I’ve thrown them off the trail as much as I can, I think. But I pissed someone off when I did it. Someone who officially doesn’t exist. A shadow of someone asking about me, some anonymous accounts within TRI trying to break our security protocols. They’ve tried to access a few things, but they haven’t got in. I’m not sure if they are TRI, really. If they are, that worries me. Remember that “cabal” I was getting hints of? Remember the researcher murders? The attempt on Holly? I think that was them. Someone is manipluating Versalus, a few people in Hyp space, Io, and Castillo like little marionettes. I don’t think any of the above are in this group, except maybe someone in Hyp. But they are sure getting info from them. I hear through the grapevine that someone wants me to talk to them. Or talk to me. Whatever. I can’t say I’m filled with relief either way. I need to get out of circulation for a while. Way out.

Havik watched, non-committal. “Hav, I need to disappear. Rain is looking after the Doc. I know he can do it. He has his own reasons. I think I found a way to get under the radar and still do something positive.” Havik shook his head, chuckling. “You have a real talent for getting into the middle of things. What the hell kind of crazy stunt did you plan? I know it’s crazy. You wouldn’t be telling me if it wasn’t. It’s prolly something I’d do.” Havik grinned. Razor grinned back. “Remember those DSS I “found” at SC? Well. There was something interesting on one of them. The last known coords of Thrice Seven.” “Yeah, you’re officially loony. When you leavin?” “Umm, in about 15 minutes.” “Ass.” “Yeah, you’re right.Someone has to check it out though, right?” “Ass.” “I’m taking Vengy on the first leg.” “I don’t think I want to know any more. Y’all do your cloak and dagger routine. I just kill stuff.” “Heh. Tell Falc I’m pulling a ShadowHawk.He’ll know what I’m up to. Also, tell him to pull up file #98731 in Section 4. Watch his face, then…” “I hate you.” “I know, Havvie. But you have that cute secretary to keep you comapny…” “Shut up.” “Heh. Watch your back. Don’t be shy if someone asks too many questions, either.” “Hey, it’s me..” ” I know. I feel sorry for ’em.” “Shut up and leave already.” “Ummm… k.”

File identifier 98731, Section 4, New Dawn. TOP SECRET, eyes only.

Access level: Alpha-2

File Type: Mission Brief

Mission Profile: Gamma-9. (Recon)

Codename: Ellipse

Mission Commander: Fleet Commander RazorsKiss, Team Leader, Section 4; Technology and Reasearch Division Head.

Support Personnel: Classified : Classified

Objectives – Primary: Ascertain last known position of Thricee Seven, and discover reason for mass assimilation. Recon Conflux forces in area, and find out the fate of the remainder of Thrice Seven, and support personnel. Investigate “cabal” actions.

Objective – Secondary:

1. Ascertain what discovery led to assimilation/destruction of Thrice Seven

2. Ascertain truth behind rumors of impending Conflux Invasion.

3. Remove Mission Commander from public view.

4. Allow other Section 4 operatives to discover more info about “cabal” operations.

5. Investigate Versalus, Castillo, HSS, and suspected “cabaL” operations.

Comments: Command of Section 4 is in the hands of Classified in my absence. He may report directly to Fleet Command. Range of authority in current inquiry: Alpha. Please support accordingly.

——————-

File identifier 00001, Section 4, New Dawn. TOP SECRET, eyes only.

Access level: Alpha-2

File Type: Departmental Memo

Subject: Re-establishment of Section 4.

Departmental Head: RazorsKiss

To: FC ; HM

CC: Classified ; Classified

Objectives – Primary: Internal Security, observation, advisiories on issues contrary to squadron mission goals and SOP, pilots causing internal difficulties.

Objectives – Secondary:

1. External Security. Identifying possible threats to squad goals/objectives, particular pilots who pose a heightened threat level, identifying means of nullifying said threats.

2. Assisting TRI, TRIR, and NDFC in identifying, classifying, and nullifying threats to TRIR, as well as identifying possible individuals who pose a clear and present danger to the stability of TRI space. Note: This applies only to TRI/Factional personnel. We have a “hands off” policy in regards to inter-squad politics in this area. That falls under Secondary Objective 2 which carries it’s own set of qualifiers.

Comment: We work in the shadows. We do not abuse our power, which is meant to free our hands to act, not to advance our own personal interests. Section 4 is our Intelligence Service. We advise and inform in order to keep us strong and united in our war against the Conflux aggressors. You have a great trust. Use it wisely.

———————

File identifier 98732, Section 4, New Dawn. TOP SECRET, eyes only.

Access Level: Alpha-2

File Type: Mission Update

Mission Profile: Gamma-9

Codename: Ellipse

Comments: Ship telemetry from Griffin class “Icarus”, Pilot RazorsKiss, has ceased. While garbled during trtavel in anomaly space, it was still readable. Last known position: Classified, while engaging one Sentient, and two Phocaena class. All Conflux were shown as “destroyed”, but heavy damage to Icarus as a result. Signal was lost when Icarus jumped into the next anomaly in an attempt to head back to TRI space, notably, Pulsar. Further updates will follow.

———————-

File identifier 98732, Section 4, New Dawn. TOP SECRET, eyes only.

Access Level: Alpha-2

File Type: Mission Update

Mission Profile: Gamma-9

Codename: Ellipse

Comments: Received communication from “Icarus” on non-encrypted, secure band frequency. Author claims to be “Aelagi”. Two more followed. Link: <a href=”http://forums.jossh.com/showthread.php?s=c14c148d7f012da14d03980e25c85ab7&threadid=10569″>Message</a>. Suggest search be conducted in Pulsar area, per part 3 of above message. On intercept course now, as I send this.

RazorsKiss Returns! 11.1
Posted on Saturday, November 02 @ 06:04:45 PST by ZeroZ95 <>

by LupinOne
Octavius Outpost (NDP) – While conducting routine flux combat patrols from the Lesser Arm Sector and GBS Station, I started to recieve a faint message that had a transponder code of RazorsKiss, but the voice associated with it said that it was not RK but an ancient Amananthii AI entity known as Aelagi. (See backstory here and then here to understand where RK was and who Aelagi is.)

Aelagi reported that “it” was unfamiliar with the ships controls and systems and that RK was in “stable but unconcious” condition. Life Support systems were reported as steady but in the caution (yellow) range. By this time, many members of the squad and numerous other pilots were reporting ready for the massive Search and Rescue operation being launched from the GBS station.

Aelagi could not fix the position of RK’s ship and was only able to inform us that it felt that it was in the Pulsar System. Pilot RainShadow of the White Star fleet was the first to spot the heavily damaged ship being controlled by Aelagi and radioed back the rotacol coordinates of the ship so that a more effective rescue operation could be accomplished. Pilot ZeroZ95 equipped me with an RB4 to assist in repairs to the armor of RK’s ship.

At any given time, there were in excess of 10 ships providing combat flight cover and escort of RK’s ship to the Octavious Outpost station. Medical Teams were flashed the vitals from RK’s emergency transponder while ZeroZ95 had the arduous task of teaching Aelagi the basic flight manuevers to safely get RK’s ship (and RK) to Outpost station.
Aelagi was very adept at piloting the ship after the expert instruction given by ZeroZ95. After successfully docking, Medical Teams extracted RazorsKiss from his cockpit and rushed him down to the medical bay. I tried to follow the MedTechs into the medical bay but they said I needed to be debriefed first.

NDCCC Transmission: Security Level – Alpha-4 (High)

Subject: Aelagi

To: {ND}Falcon; ZeroZ95; Havik; Kelvar; Classified

From: Classified

Message: I say we keep a close eye on her, no matter what Razor says. Seems too good to be true.

NDCCC Transmission: Security Level – Alpha-4 (High)

Subject: Aelagi

To: ZeroZ95; Havik; Kelvar; Classified;Classified

From: {ND}Falcon

Message: I concur. Keep us posted.

NDCCC Transmission: Security Level – Alpha-4 (High)

Subject: Aelagi

To: {ND}Falcon; Havik; Kelvar; Classified; Classified

From: ZeroZ95

Message: Agreed.

NDCCC Transmission: Security Level – Alpha-4 (High)

Subject: Aelagi

To: {ND}Falcon; ZeroZ95; Kelvar; Classified; Classified

From: Havik

Message: Relic AI? RK is off his rocker.

NDCCC Transmission: Security Level – Alpha-4 (High)

Subject: Aelagi

To: {ND}Falcon; ZeroZ95; Havik; Classified; Classified

From: Kelvar

Message: Well, RK does owe her for saving him, it seems. But yeah, watch her.

———————

RazorsKiss:<Aelagi> Excuse me. I think I found something interesting.

RazorsKiss: Damnit, why are you on f2? I *hate* it when you talk as me.

RazorsKiss:<Aelagi>How else am I supposed to “talk”.

RazorsKiss:*sighs* What did you find?

RazorsKiss:<Aelagi> I read one of those datadisks you found. One had a coded subset password into some TEC files.

RazorsKiss: Really? No way. How far did you get in?

RazorsKiss:<Aelagi>Far enough to find out that your “threat level” was downgraded to “3” this week. You haven’t been very visible lately. Havik and ZeroZ95 Were upgraded from level 4 to level 3. Falcon remains at 4. However… they know about your “Section 4” now. Their “threat level” is now at 1. Fortunately, however, they still don’t know who they are. There is a standing order to investigate their identities, but for now, they are designated S4-1 and S4-2. You aren’t mentioned with Section 4. WhiteStar is a level 1. I don’t think I tripped any flags. I need more practice with these systems before I try any harder, though.

RazorsKiss: Hrmm. Thanks. Sorry I snapped at you.

RazorsKiss:<Aelagi> It’s ok.

RazorsKiss: You need anything?

RazorsKiss:<Aelagi> No. The 800 Terabyte RAM upgrade hit the spot. I’m running at 1,900 THz with 2,400 TB of RAM, and 3 chained 1,500 TB storage units. I can limp by on that for a while. I can “ghost” whatever else I need from the main ‘net if I need it. When’s the station projected to come online?

RazorsKiss: Last projected date was Mid-January.

RazorsKiss:<Aelagi> You putting me on your station or NDHQ?

RazorsKiss: Probably mine. Hope said she’d install some backup space for you, too. You minding running the network for Harv, Gallie and Aris? You can train a copy of Aris if you need a vacation.

RazorsKiss:<Aelagi> I can do it. Did I mention I talked to Aman-202 the other day? It says I’m not Amananthii.

RazorsKiss: Really?

RazorsKiss:<Aelagi> Really. He copied over a bit of data about my old self. I was the leading Sorian researcher in computer system modeling and AI development. I downloaded a copy of “myself” into a generation ship headed to a newly discovered system. That copy, it seems, is… me.

RazorsKiss: Wow.

RazorsKiss:<Aelagi> My name was Aelagi Descartes Monyjoy. She… died… during the Great Collapse. I… died. It’s confusing. I’m still trying to sort it out.

RazorsKiss: I’d imagine. You take care of yourself.

RazorsKiss:<Aelagi> I will.

 

NDCCC Transmission: Security Level – Beta-1 (Medium)

Subject: Readiness Levels/Operations step-up (102.10.15)

To: FC ; HM

From: RazorsKiss

Message: With the <a href=”http://www.jossh.com/episode2/index.html”>messages</a> intercepted from Scout-015, as well as a general tendency toward a readiness drop across TRI as POS release is delayed, here is a modest proposal to bolster morale, enhancec squad unity, and increase individual pilot readiness.

A. Tactical Drills: 2 times (?) a week, a squad-wide tournament should be held. Rankings should be established, to ensure piltos have a reason to participate, and to reward participation.

B. Revival of “The Hunt”: In the past, Huntmasters got their rank for their ability to lead group actions against the conflux. 3 times a week (?), these incursions should be planned and maintained as regular occurrences. The emphasis in the Conflux War has gone too far toward the realm of personal accomplishment, and has moved away from group actions. Let’s reverse this tendency.

C. Races. The ability of some pilots to quickly navigate and gather at a predetermined assembly point has atrophied, along with readiness levels. Trophy races should be established weekly to revive these skills.

D. Convoys. In preparation for POS stocking and equipment maintenance levels, as well as maintenance of escort skills, regular convoys should be established. Perhaps, also, a logistics wing should be formed. We’ve discussed this in the past. What did we decide on it? I don’t remember off the top of my head.

NDCCC Transmission: Security Level – Beta-1(Medium)

Subject: Readiness Levels/Operations step-up (102.10.15)

To: FC ; HM

From: {ND}Falcon

Message: Gentlemen, Ladies. The war has progressed to a heightened state, effective immediately. I’ve just received word from a contact in TRID that TRI is accepting apps for test pilots on some new prototype chassis, and that POS are now officially in testing stages as well.

NDCCC Transmission: Security Level – Beta-1(Medium)

Subject: re:Readiness Levels/Operations step-up (102.10.15)

To:FC ; HM

From: Kelvar

Message: Yeah, I’m on that team, actually. Sorry to say it, but it got classified immediately thereafter. I can’t leak either. I’d get a block slapped on my pilot license so fast it’d make your head spin =)

NDCCC Transmission: Security Level – Beta-1(Medium)

Subject: Readiness Levels/Operations step-up (102.10.15)

To: FC ; HM

From: {ND}Falcon

Message: Copy that, Kelvar. I’m putting out a general order, though. Time to gear up.

NDCCC Transmission: Security Level – Beta-1(Medium)

Subject: Readiness Levels/Operations step-up (102.10.15)

To: FC ; HM

From: RazorsKiss

Message: I’ll handle the OPS side of it. Z told me he’d handle Logistics. We may overlap a little though.

File identifier 987348, Hunters, New Dawn. Access Level: Ceta-1 (Squad only)

File Type: General Order

Subject: Preparation for command transfer from GBS

Codename: N/A

Objectives – Primary: Decide on name(s) for Command Station(s)

Objectives – Primary: Decide on placement of Command Station(s)

Objectives – Secondary: Decide strategy for placement of secondary outposts and other member stations.

Objectives – Secondary: Decide policy on implementation of possible POS “network” system.

Comment: See above links for discussion.

Razor pulled off his flight helmet stiffly. Long flight that time. His chief was already on his way to start on the postflight. Master Chief Johns was a spit and polish fanatic. You could check your reflection in the (impeccable) polish of his boots. Even his coverall had creases in the right place. His bright rank insignia glinted momentarily on the collar of his uniform jacket from under the coverall. Triple crescents over top a star. His reputation for chewing out his pilots for being “reckless” was something of a legend around GBS station. Slightly less then the truth, Razor thought privately, but he did find the Master Chief a bit intimidating. Not that he’d ever admit it. He suspected that Johns knew this already, though. Lantern-jawed, with an almost overdone military posture, the Octavian Chief was nonetheless very good at his job. Disaffected with the typical Octavian disregard for their ships and equipment, he made the decision to get modified and move to unregulated space when the relic stations were discovered. From previous conversations with the garrulous crew chief, Raz gathered that he had a dislike of pirates, though rather deeply hidden. He didn’t let it show professionally.

“So, Commander, how was hunting today?” The Chief asked, still wearing a grin. “Eh, it was ok. Ended up down in Amananth space fighting sents and infests as I was about to head back after a patrol. Got a kill or two. So paint me two more s9’s and a ‘fest on the side, will ya?” “I would say ‘no prob’, but lemme see if there’s room… It true that Havik bagged 5 again?” He glanced across the hangar slyly. Raz caught the hint. “Yeah, that’s Ace number 8, now, the punk.” Raz stole a look in the same direction, now. Chief Spadger dropped a tool with a clatter. He lowered his voice. “Y’all had a wager going?” “Well… a bit of friendly competition, you could say.” Raz grinned and leaned in close in a whisper. “Betting on Havik is always a sure thing.” The Chief grinned knowingly. “Spadger over there bet me his boy could beat Havik’s kill count with one hand behind his back. His boy is a sol factionalist. Good fighter, but sents are a whole different kettle of fish.” They grinned conspiratorially.

“So, Chief… how’s that comm prob on Nix-2 coming along? Gali was bitchin’ at me on the way back about it.” The chief thought for a moment. “Don’t remember offhand. Lemme call Nate. He was buried up to his armpits in a panel on it earlier.” He toggled the comm. Hangar1 to Comm1. Update on X987-2-2 please?” A short pause. “Comm1 to Hangar1. Signed off, complete. Faulty AGT interface box.” Nate was a lanky Solrain Senior Crewman, with a veritable magic touch with the diagnosis and repair of every conceivable electronics type. Rumor had it that he could think in binary. He always seemed to manage to look disheveled and ghostly pale, and was well-known to spend the vast majority of his time and credits on TRINET or upgrading his truly impressive array of personal computer systems. He’d occasionally get commissions from pilots and crew, some of which involved some large sums. He deserved them, too. he was as good with computers as he was with comm equipment. Both skill sets were impressive. “Thanks Nate. Hangar1 out.”

Raz absently retrieved his own postflight checklist and began his walkaround. While inspecting the port sz3 weapons port, he nearly stepped on Gonzo, otherwise known as Crewman 1st Class Gonz’lez, the short, stocky, Quantar asst. Crew Chief. He did almost topple the inspection sled he was on by putting his foot beneath the antigrav emitter. The sled bucked for a sec, but Gonzo somehow stayed on. “Sorry Gonzo.” “No problem sir. I was just repairing these armor blisters on the belly. Shot came close, did it?” “Yeah, a bit. shields were down, but didn’t make a clean hit.” “Not bad then. Tough one?” “Average. Not too bad, but not too good either.” “Ah, well, a mission complete is still a complete.” “Roger that.” “Say, sir? While I got you here… When are you guys moving off-station? Scuttlebutt says a few months, but you know how reliable that is.” He grinned to make up for the feeble joke. “Don’t have a date yet, Gonz. Why? Thinking of hitchin a ride?” “I’m thinking about it, sir. Would you have me?” “We’re putting up the initial crew and staff requirements tomorrow. Take a look and see if you’re interested. I’d love to have my whole crew together after I move. I’d hate to be broken in again…” he cracked. He took the opportunity to look across the ship, and under the open engine cowling, to find C1C Gut’yer’at doing some spectroscopic inspections of the exhaust nozzle. “How ’bout you, Rogar?” The whip-thin Quantar replied slowly. “I was considering it. Question for you, though.” “Sure, shoot.” ” How big are you planning to build? And for the squad station, or your own?” Razor thought for a second, and replied. “Good questions. My station. It will probably be a hub station, though. Thinking about dropping an 8 pointer. Inclining towards 1 market, 1 storage, 2 hangar, rearm/refuel/repair, 1 production. We’ll see though. It’s still early. Squad access, of course. So, lemme think.” His flight crew had dropped all pretensions of the postflight by now. Which was fine by him.

“That gives me… 2-3 full flight crews, a couple tower crews, maintenance staff, admin staff, a bar, a restaurant, shopping… for starters. So, that’ll be a crew of roughly… 150, with a staff of 300 or so. Say, quarters for 550-600. I got my payscales and bonuses set up already. Should be posting it tomorrow morning.” A angry message buzzed into his wrist comm. He shut it off. “Preview, though. Bonuses: 300k for officers, 200k for chiefs, 100k for crew, 50k for staff positions. Way I figure it, I’m offering 21 mill just in bonuses. TRI ain’t bad sometimes….” He grinned unashamedly. “Tempting.” This from Johns. “I try. Think about it. I want a good crew there. I’m talking to a few other people to fill the other two crews, but I want you all as my personal flight crew. Others will be relief and for public traffic, mostly. If you’re thinking about it, keep your Sol and Quant ratings up, though, just in case.” A chorus of nods. Mission accomplished. He finished his checklist, signed it, and waved on his way out of the hangar. He headed to his ready room. Before he could get there, he was almost bowled over by a short, balding man in an executive’s jumpsuit. Start Kreling, the assistant Station Manager. A recent appointee from Sol space, he treated the station like a corporation on the verge of bankruptcy. He conveniently ignored the fact that the tenant squads paid the majority of the station’s expenses. He wasn’t well liked, as a result. “Your run up the corporate ladder leave you out of breath?” He couldn’t resist nettling the excitable Sol. “I heard your little speech down there, Kathtonar. I wasn’t amused. You think you can just hire whoever you want? There’s rules to hiring spacers, you know. Don’t think you can get away with gutting the station.” “Wouldn’t think of it! Just the good ones….” He smiled wolfishly. “We need a few good station managers…” I wouldn’t work for you, you, you…” “No, not you, I said the good ones!” The assistant station manager stormed away in a huff. He yelled after him. “Tell Reddick I said hi!” He then laughed all the way to his ready room.

File identifier 987412, Public Affairs Office, New Dawn. Access Level: Public

File Type: Notice

Subject: Job Openings

Message: Now Hiring! In search of the following, experience requested, but in some cases not required.

Pilots

Crew Chiefs

Ship System Specialists

Tower Control Officers

General Technicians

Station Maintenance Staff

Computer Specialists

Station Security

Services Staff

Administration Staff

Send your resume, references, contact information to personnel@confluxwar.net. You will be subjected to a background check. While we process your reply, feel free to read up on each opening, and peruse our history, mission statements, and credentials. Thank you for your interest, and for your support of the Conflux War.

Update! Signing bonuses for eligible applicants! Read more at…

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Razor massaged his temples. Finally, an end in sight to the paperwork mountain. He looked over the last few briefs.

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File identifier 987417, Logistics Office, New Dawn. Access Level: Beta-2 (Executive)

File Type: Update

Subject: Contractors

Message: Contractors from Tens and Piney, Dorator, Samsun Universal, and the independent contractors you had me look up; have been selected out of corporate bidding for the various POS construction areas. Employees are currently on leave in preparation for the breakneck construction pace they’re sure to set.

As for the other components you ordered: 48 of 75 CCC satellite nodes are complete and ready for delivery, as are 3 of the 10 hub nodes. We’re currently on the waiting list for all the new ship hulls (along with the rest of TRI, it seems), as requested, and we’ve begun placing quote requests at all major shipping squad offices, per your request.

From procurement: Requested upgrades of onboard access and reporting modules are on schedule, with production due to begin shortly.

Assessment of HQ offices: Complete. Estimate 5 days for transport and reinstall in new stations. Recommendation: Use Amananth secondary hub for operations during the switchover.

No estimate from TRI as yet for completion date of testing. But that’s as expected.

File identifier 987419, Research and Development, New Dawn. Access Level: Beta-1 (Medium)

File Type: Report

Subject: Nova Mk II?

Message: Here’s what we could put together in simulations.

TechLevel: 42?

Size(ucs): 3*

Mass(kg): 1,600 *

Velocity(m/s): 720

Delay(s): 0.6

Damage(u): 3,500.0 K*

Energy Use(nJ/f): 3,900.0 K*

*Size – we managed to squeeze it in, but just barely.

*Mass – with more space to use, maybe we could drop the mass to 1,550. Maybe.

* Damage/Energy ratio – See above – It affected energy use considerably. With a sz 4 mount, maybe we could get 3,600 K of damage and energy consumption just under 3,500 K nJ/f. Maybe. Want us to give PSI a heads-up on our research?

Also, here’s Alpha179’s conception. Don’t know if it’s any use to you. Did you see it? Comments below.

NOVA MK 1 changes
Size 3
Increase Nova speed to 1,800.* Fire rate remains at .5 sec. Tune to flux shield and biomass (Change damage to 1400k* per shot against flux, 700k per shot against all TRI ships). Decrease power consumption to 2100k*. Decrease life to 1.5 sec. Max range 2700.

Build Nova MK 2.
Size 2
Speed 1,800. Fire rate .5 sec. Tune to flux shield and biomass (Change damage to 700k* per shot against flux, 475k per shot against all TRI ships). Power consumption 690k. Life to 1.5 sec. Max range 2700* *Don’t know if that’s doable. Plasma’s a tricky substance.

* That looks like a hefty damage decrease for the speed increase/power decrease. Worth it? Quants may like it. Serializers would take the market share for strongest plasma weapon then, though.

* Kinda low for a plasma weapon. But the low power consumption would make it sexy…

I dunno. Tell me what you think about both, all, or either.

———————-

File identifier 987424, CRAID Office, New Dawn. Access Level: Alpha-3 (Medium-High)

File Type: Report

Subject: No Leaks, yet, but…

Message: We’ve heard scattered rumors concerning a “C-13” class flux simulated by the test pilots, ,and a “C-23”, but nothing more than that. Security’s pretty tight around testing areas. None of the test pilots are talking. The ones that do are instantly removed. However; there are definite reports from Defense and Security of anomalies alike to those which formed the last few gates. We can’t confirm anything yet, yet, but we’re trying. TRID is officially toeing the party line, of course. TRIR might know something, though. See what you can get from there. Best advice I can give you.

Razor slipped into his Dress uniform jacket. On it’s back, the hawk swooped in, as always, on it’s sunrise background. The New Dawn insignia glittered on his collar, as did the emblem of 3 inter-connected stars on the opposite side. His FC pin was still on the dresser. That showed a ‘Nix, ‘Phoon and ‘Tensy, connected as well, in a triangle. You wore your faction’s ship at the top. It felt weird not seeing it on his collar, still. He hadn’t worn CAG in a while, after all, so it still looked strange. He adjusted both his TRI and squad medal bars absently. He spun to check his sleeves. Rippling Oct banner down one arm, Optimus insignia on the other. He buttoned the double row of buttons up the front, taking care not to smudge the gleaming finish. His dress deck shoes shone almost preternaturally in the artificial lighting.

He checked the mirror one last time. Hazel eyes looked back at him from over an aquiline nose, with an only slightly muted intensity. Deep smile lines surrounded his eyes, contrasting with the current severity of his look. He usually wore a close-trimmed goatee, but it was on the long side tonight. He shrugged. Speaking of “on the long side”…. He decided against keeping his hair clipped back. It was straggling tonight, anyway. It fell forward past his shoulders; naturally curly, but not unmanageably so. He quickly brushed it out, and stuck the small golden loop back in his ear.

Hopes rushed in the door, red hair streaming behind. He smiled. “Ready to go?” “Yeah. I hate award dinners, though.” “Me too. Especially this one.” His eyes grew trtoubled. It was a Stellar Cartography dinner, as well as a celebration for the new Director, X’al-Zejar . His mother was a minor celebrity there at one time. Albeit posthumously. Hopes squeezed his arm sympathetically. “Your mom would be proud of you, though.” He didn’t reply.

He spent the bulk of the dinner brooding. He said little at the table, and hardly noticeed the majority of the speakers. He managed to pay attention during the remarks of a few old family friends, however, and joined in the applause. There wasn’t one other Optimus at the dinner, but it was just as well. He didn’t feel like talking anyway. Even some of the higher ranks were intimidated sometimes by an Optimus. Other Optimuses, however, treated the rank as a sort of exclusive club. Which it was. He shrugged mentally. New Dawn had almost 20 Optimus medals between them. It was less exclusive in his line of work.

He broke out of his reveries on the walk back. “You want to go to Hyp in a few weeks? I still have some family there. See if they want to shuttle up and meet us?” Hope looked at him for a moment. “I thought you hadn’t talked to them in a long time, though.” “You’re right, they haven’t.” “Why not? You never did tell me when I asked you that one time.” “They weren’t happy in my choice of squads. They’re scandalized that I don’t shoot Quantar on sight, let alone fly with them.” “People still think like that? Even after all this time?” “Oh, that particular bad blood has been around as close to forever as matters. It’s not that far under the surface, and it surfaces occasionally. My mom’s family is old-school traditionalist. Quantar almost wiped them out, at one time. Needless to say, the feeling’s mutual in some parts of Quantar. I don’t mention that I’m

half-Hyperion in that part of the galaxy much.” He smiled ruefully. “I still find myself wary around some of the zealots, though. Not that I particularly dislike them, understand. It’s healthy to keep an eye out, though. I talk to Grim, and Milkman, and RG guys all the time. And Holly. Not that she’s much of a ‘typical’ Quant.” “Holly, Holly. It always gets around to her eventually, doesn’t it?” “Jealous. She’s spoken for, by the way, you green eyed monster.” “Really? Who?” Hopes loved gossip. “I promised not to tell. But yeah, she is.” “Meanie.” Raz just grinned.

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File identifier 987483, Personnel Division, New Dawn. Access Level: Ceta-3

File Type: Report

Subject: Rank Matrix and Group Level restructuring

Message: As we get ready to expand the operational envelope, you asked us to take a look at our organizational structure, and personnel tree. Here are our suggestions.

file attachment: structure.doc

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File Identifier 987489, Personnel Division, New Dawn, Access Level Beta-3

File Type: Update

Subject: Candidates

From: Cpt.LaVetta

To: RazorsKiss

Message: We’ve narrowed down the crew applicants down a bit now. Done the background checks, and etc. We have six solid station management candidates, and looks like 7 full tower crews. We’ve picked out our suggestions for Command Stations 1-3. Looks like you can still get the crew you wanted for your station after that sort. Still interested in those specific crew members? The main flight crew requests got shuffled a bit though.

On to other news: Where do we want to shuffle the command, group, and divisional staffs to? Let me know your tentative locations, and we’ll start approving the initial postings.

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File Identifier 987491, Air Group, New Dawn, Access Level Beta-3

File Type: Update

Subject: re:Candidates

From: RazorsKiss

To: Cpt.LaVetta

Message: List looks good. Yes, very interested. Assign my requested personnel to temp ident AG1. I’ll go with your other suggestions for FltCrew1 as well. Distribute the personnel lists to the temp addys I just posted fos CS1-3, and get their stamps, if you would. Also, send this tentative package out for Cmdr’s approval. Put Squad ops at CS1, Support at CS2, and Logistics at CS-3. AG1 will be AG HQ, maybe, but we’ll see. CRAID gets it’s own facility, and so does CWCC. We may decide to parcel out CWCC among the stations, but as it’s under my direct supervision, it may get put close to AG1. Depends.

Back to my staff. I want to keep Lt. Deireis as Secretary. Col. Redros as Tower Ops commander, and Maj. Ded’raza as my own Tower1. Let him pick his own crew. I want Commander La’Maraka as Ops Commander. Can you finagle that? See if Col. Naz’hala will head up my Log. and Supp. If he agrees, he picks his crews as well. Promote MC. Johns to Sr. Chief, and let him pick his maintenance enlisted. We’ll leave maint. officer open for now. Oh, and CC:HK a good list for her station, too. I’ll love you forever, I promise. Oh, and please make sure Capt. Rez’dik’al gets Mission Planner. He rocks.

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File Identifier 987494, Personnel Division, New Dawn, Access Level Beta-3

File Type: Update

Subject: re:re:Candidates

From: Cpt.LaVetta

To: RazorsKiss

Message: Ok, I think it’s all straightened out now.

Cmdr’s Package – Awaiting sigs

Personnel – All affirmative, except Cmdr La’Maraka (on leave) and Capt. Rez’dik’al (on assignment). All requested personnel have put in their notices,and are awaiting orders. All eligible staff are receiving regular updates on personnel lists so they can start picking their crews. I’ll tell you though, sir. I hope you’re talking to Logistics. This will be a scheduling NIGHTMARE when it comes time. We just hired and/or asked for 5,000 personnel, give or take a few hundred.

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File Identifier 987497, Air Group, New Dawn, Access Level Beta-3

File Type: Query

Subject: Personnel and Equipment

From: RazorsKiss

To: Cmdr. Sarat

Message: Capt. LaVetta in Personnel reminded me of something a bit ago. What kind of carrier fleet can we manage, aside from Air Group? If you need us, let us know, but I was wondering if we had any other options to add to it. IS that within any quote specifications with any of those shipping squad contract queries we have out? If not, see which ones we could convince to help us out?

——————————-

File Identifier 987498,Logistics Group, New Dawn, Access Level Beta-3

Fille Type: Query

Subject: re:Personnel and Equipment

From: Cmdr. Sarat

To: RazorsKiss

Message: We have no carrier/bulk hauler fleet right now to speak of. We sold a good percentage of our private fleet to Octavia some time ago to help with their food supply efforts, and we sold two in-system hauler firms to liquidate assets for some of these bonuses and contracts. Now, for the other mess. I did some number-crunching. Even with only tows, all active tow pilots on your roster get the minimum necessary equipment in 10 runs, tops. If we can get contractor assistance, and if the freighters have the capacity they’re rumored to have, we may be able to fill all stations to optimum with 5 runs, escorted, full convoy. I’ll send the data to Rez’dik’al’s office. Maybe he’ll have a good mission profile together for you to look over.

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TRI & Economic News 102.12.29.17:3.38

Hiring Boom In The Works?

by Jezarat Nolyn
TRI-HQ (TRI-FP) – In a move calculated to express faith in the progrgess of TRI’s Test Pilot Program, as well as to add a sizable boost to the somewhat ailing galactic economy, Squad New Dawn has announced that they have hired over 2,000 employees from current station personnel and from other qualifying fields. We were also told they planned to hire over 3,000 additional personnel. Also hinted; more may be yet to come, if the aggression of the Conflux increases.

Announcements like this, coupled with the announcement of 4 new ship models in the last development stages, and average unemployment rates across TRI are projected to dip to the lowest rate in over 5 years. A question mark remains, however. The majority of the job openings required involve a similar type of genetic modification to those required of TRI pilots. Like the crews for the unregulated stations, all crewmembers for the long-planned “Pilot Owned Stations” will be required to have the genetic modifications to reach their destinations. Unless, of course, the stations are built in existing Factional station sectors. Predictions of such placings are exceedingly small, says our informal pilot poll. Will squads and pilots be able to sway that many volunteers? We’ll be watching the outcome carefully.

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File Identifier 987506, Public Affairs, New Dawn, Access Level – Public

File Type: Press Release

Subject: Hiring and Expansion

From: Capt. Suneyz

Message: We’re proud to finish off the year with an upbeat announcecment. But, we’re afraid we have to temper that excitement with a warning. We are expanding, yes. We are building, yes. We are hiring, yes. All the preceding is true. The reasons we are doing so, however, we feel we must make exceedingly clear. We are not expanding from Territorial concerns. We have made it a strict policy to stay well out of inter-factional, and inter-squad politics and actions. We are not “consilidating our power base”. True, we are among the largest squads in TRI – but power, to us, is not an issue. If we do indeed have power, in a sense, we will expend it in furtherance of our War on the Conflux. If worst comes to worst, we’d like to think we’ve built up a sufficient infrastructure to carry on the fight, regardless of the level of organization remaining anywhere else. That is our mission, our charter, and our very reason for existence as a squad. You may quote me as saying; “We have no interests that are not fully dedicated and devoted to both spearheading, and winning the Conflux War of Aggression.” Full Stop.

We are not in this for the money. We’re poised on the cusp of spending billions of credits to update, solidify, and extend our infrastructure and military supply lines. We’re in a war. Every day is wartime for us. If you join our squad, in any capacity, keep in mind that you’re joining TRI’s Elite squad in the front lines. The front lines of a constant, unwearying war of aggression with a mysterious and malevolent foe. You are joining a military unit with little regard for faction or creed when it comes to our mission. We destroy hostile forces – Conflux, or their sympathizers. As far as we’ve seen, there are no non-hostile Conflux. There’s a lot of Conflux, too.

We are about unity. We are a tight knit squad, regardless of size. We stick together, fight together, and we always, always, defend our squadmates. We expect a lot from each other. But it’s reciprocal. We’re here for the duration, and you can bet: We’ll be the last ones standing. That’s what we’re here to do.

<end message>

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File Identifier 987510, Command Officec, New Dawn, Access Level Ceta-1

File Type: General Order

Subject: re:Awards and Promotions Ceremony – 102.12.29

From: {ND}Falcon

Message: This is a proud, yet humbling day. I’ve seen this squad grow and mature, and it’s gratifying to see how far we’ve come. I’m of the firm opinion that we can, and will continue to, overcome anything the Conflux throw at us; and continue to strengthen the resolve of TRI to beat back this threat. It is my distinct honor to announce a squadron-wide ceremony to honor our pilots, officers, and enlisted members who have distinguished themselves. Promotions go into effect This evening at 6:00 EST, although medals will appear on your records slightly later. You are hereby ordered to attend this ceremony and the banquet to follow. Thank you, and my congratulations.

Commander, New Dawn

{ND}Falcon

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Razor let himself out of Falcon’s office with a sigh. He disagreed with a few small parts of his theory, but overall, it was probably sound. He agreed. The flux were coming in force – soon. His ill-fated mission was proof of that. The short glimpse he’d had… it still resurfaced in nightmares. He turned the corner, took 2 lefts, a right, and keyed open a non-descript door, here deep in Octavius Core Station. He logged on to TRINET, took a few winding turns down channel, and backdoored into CRAID. He cross-referenced most of the same reports Falcon had shown him, pilot accounts, some TRIR research, and filtered about 9 hours of data stream from the onboard units. Into this cocktail, he threw in a complex heuristic involving something akin to a guess. As the data flashed by, amplified by his still tenuous internal processor usage, he began to see a pattern.

Sentients…

They started out much akin to drones. Same weapons, a little better speed, but the tactics weren’t too much better then a newb appy pilot’s. Over time, they gravitated to fast, quick, lightly armed forces, with their initial probes at Amananth, then eventually toward factional space. When they returned to Amananth, we were waiting for them, and they took some heavy losses. They tried using mantas with heavier firepower, but slow, and kept their quick manta skirmishers. Even with the addition of the infestations to assist, the assimilation of Aelsolah, and some ingenious tactics with PWD-like weapons, they were nonetheless repulsed; albeit with greater effort. It takes a *lot* of torps to kill an infest. ZeroZ95, Havik, and S_K figured heavily in the victories there, and there were several incredible stories of heroism around that time. A never-again duplicated concerted effort by many, many pilots and squads was what it took to finally get them out of Amananth that time.

Then, they realized that we were using the unregulated stations for support. Along with Hyperial’s discovery of biomass and it’s usage in nukes, that caused a decided switch in tactics. They began isolating all of unregulated space, or isolating whole factions from TRI. Then came the SoulThieves. Finally destroyed the ST’s at Evening’s End, with Enforcer assistance, despite the impossibly strong infestation that was blocking it. They’ve always liked The Gurge. He wondered about that sometimes.

The effort took it’s toll. A dozen or more pilots went inactive for health or stress-related reasons. He didn’t blame them. The krakens returned, harassing at random, with large manta assaults, and huge infestation groups. That was when they came after us. Phocs. A whole crapload of them. They went after Hyperial, tried to cut off the bio supply – and GBS. They had their backs to the wall a few times. Finally got them out of GBS after a series of truly awesome battles. Then… TRI found out about Thrice Seven. They came home… with a vengeance – and his life got very, very complicated with a secret he stumbled onto while flying back from Hyperial. The T7 attacks kept coming. His life kept getting more complicated. The sents that used to be T7 came for Amananth. We drove them off. Finally. Life was now a bit too complicated. He went on a mission. The result was rather unexpected. So was the landscape when he returned. A lot of things had changed. The sents kept coming, but it was almost like they were just experimenting, now. Infests were used almost as a diversionary tactic. They were waiting. So was ND. Time to get prepared. More prepared. A lot more prepared. Hell if he knew what was coming next. Had a strange feeling it wasn’t going to be anything like he expected. It never was.

They were tying up resources, patrols, and time, while they marshaled their resources elsewhere – for something that was on the way. He, like Falcon, thought he knew what that was. Maybe they could surprise the flux too. He hoped everything was prepared in time. It could be a close call. He shook his head. He laboriously extricated himself from his backdoor,covered his tracks, and logged out. He got up, keyed the door once again, and headed for Planning. Maybe they had those missions cooked up for him already.