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RP: SFS Chapter One Epilogue: Loose Ends


Ovine Member
NSS Nemesis, Hangar

With the transfer of the unit to their new home immediately after their sortie, the joint operations unit found themselves surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a busy flagship. Bunks were assigned, quickly taken away, and reassigned. Personal effects were sent for from the Ulfbert, prisoners set up in the brig, and intelligence proceedures put under way. Left hanging in the wind were the recovered slaves from the Ruby Rose's cargo hold. The troll found a place in the metal shop, apparently forging ancient weapons. The elf seemed to be finding every single man on the ship and trying (sometimes succeeding) to convince him that it was manly to lie with men instead of women. This left Ilsa, the Raltean Neko who'd been locked away in stasis for ten years. She wandered the halls of the Nemesis alone, occasionally turning back the cat-calls of marines who'd never seen a Neko before with a few well-placed threats in her overly formal style of speaking.

Eventually, she found herself standing in the hangar of the battlecruiser, at the foot of Phase's shuttle. The berthing was quiet, isolated. The back entrance embedded with a familiar machine. It was an island in the madhouse, and so it was here that Ilsa stood in absolute silence looking up at the craft with a hard face and one hand toying with the thick blonde braid hanging from the more-Valkyrja-than-Neko's head.

The Frame embedded into the back door of the shuttle lit up, the head in particular having the full cross-section of view blaze with red, with a circular "blank spot" appearing in the middle. The head tilted slightly, and the eye matched the movement to angle down at the not-so-centennial woman.

"SO, THE EVIL MACHINE COMES TO VISIT? IT IS RUDE TO STARE, I HAVE BEEN TOLD," The figure bellowed from its very stationary position. One of the "skirt" pieces of the figure unfolded into a hand, though all it did was flex.

Ilsa bowed deeply at the waist, her legs frozen in position on the cold metal floor. When she stood once more, cold blue eyes surveyed the Freespacer ensconced in its shuttle. "I have only now learned why you call me an evil machine." She explained with a softness reserved typically for children and the ill. "If my presence disturbs you, I will permit you to kill me."

"I HAVE BEEN WATCHING YOU TOO, SO I CONSIDER IT FAIR. IT IS NOT HARD TO KEEP AN EYE ON SOMEBODY WHO IS NOT HIDING," Phase remarked, the body in the door shifting its legs wider. The metal between them flipped down, extending as a ramp and a doorway into the confines of the small vessel. "BUT YOU ARE HERE FOR MORE THAN JUST STARING, ARE YOU NOT? IT IS AWKWARD TO BE HAVING A CONVERSATION LIKE THIS. COME."

Ilsa ascended into the mouth of the beast. It was very, very cramped. She politely slid her boots off and left them on the ramp before bowing deeply once more in the entry way. Shifting in her cloak, she took in the long and short (mostly short) of her surroundings before speaking once more. "Please forgive my ignorance in matters regarding your people. I..." There was a pause, "I don't know how guests are received."

The shuttle wasn't cluttered so much as very, very utilized. Every space either had an arm extending from it, or it served as a storage case, or a tool case, and so on and so forth. Of course, that led to a very straight shot from ramp entrance to the back of the pilot's area, where Phase's little body was esconsed. It sat in the seiza position, facing the doorway.


The little body pulled itself upright, the display lighting up with a neutral emoticon. "Now then~, I do not have much to offer to a fleshbag like yourself, but I can at least pro~vide~ a seat!"

Brass nails gestured to the wall, and a swarm of drones flew out and assimilated with one another until a reasonably safe (at least, from Ilsa's point of view) chair was formed. Removing her war axe, the Neko sat cross-legged upon the chair as if it were some sort of raised floor cushion and laid her weapon across her lap. Trying to look a little more comfortable, she produced a pipe. The thing itself had been among her effects, a relic of Old Ralt. This was, she reminded herself as she pressed tobacco into the bowl, probably the only opportunity she would have to smoke in her entire life. With a sigh, she spoke evenly to Phase. "I have taken in the history of the last twenty years in a way that only my kind--" She paused and fixed the machine in her gaze, "Only our kind, those with machine minds, can. But there is only so much that can be printed in textbooks."

"Things that can only be spoken about, yes?" Phase asked, a holographic display popping out of the wall and showing the viewpoint of a drone heading to the cafeteria on the ship. "I am not the font that you seek, of course~. I was. . . formed af~ter the genocide your successors performed. Tea?"

She gestured to the display, where the drone's camera had settled on a funky machine and a bunch of podlike vessels marked with various types of tea.

"Do Nepleslians drink mead?" Ilsa asked, trying to show interest in the vending machine. Eventually, she waved a dismissive hand and shook her head. "I'll have some water later."

"Fair e~nough. I just wanted to make sure you were com~fort~able!" Phase folded her hands over one another, her display turning to a smile. "We were afraid of your kind, you know. We wanted safety. But that plan is. . . what is the phrase? Ironically? It is what led to the mass murder. So many innocents slain that day~" Her giddy tone seemed to undercut her point, but maybe it was a programming error?

"The child refuses to speak to me, so it is up to my imagination to field the horrors." Ilsa admitted somewhat sourly.

"Of course she wouldn't. She is far older, and far wiser than I am~. So many secrets to uncover, so many~!"

"But I ask you...!" Ilsa took her hands off of the pipe and spread them wide in a pleading gesture, "Tell me, machine, did your people truly oppose the Empire? Were there foes amongst the innocent? Where--" This was the hardest question to ask, and its seeming irrelevance made it even harder, though to Ilsa it was part and parcel with the whole situation. "Where has my Emperor gone?"

Phase's display switched colours. A purple. Her tones shifted. Masculine. Deep.

"There were blades in the blood and wolves in the sheep but ultimately we were a vast and mostly uncentered group we had no consensus like your senate like the Nepleslians senate we had simply freedom but some wished to see what they could do while others wanted to assess your threat but the moment we began to see how dangerous you were we turned to your enemy to find safety but that was ultimately the worst decision and one that was repeated by the Lorath or perhaps they did it first either way innocent blood was spilt and Yamatai is to blame."

The display shifted back to its usual colours of shifting blue and teal.

"And your emperor fled. That history is not one I studied, because it was un~im~por~tant~!"

Ilsa took it all in slowly, returned in silence to her work with the pipe and finally put a lit match to the cavendish. She sat and pondered what she'd been given. In some places, the gaps were filled. In others, only shadows remained. Finally, she managed to inhale some smoke without coughing up a puddle of hemosynth and reported. "The Empire has demanded I return so that my body can be weakened. I do not have to serve them, and the modern arrangements give me free range over this galaxy..." Ilsa sighed. "Do you know where it is quiet in the galaxy?"

Phase was up in an instant, her staggered legs extending and compressing gently as she approached the neko and lowered her display to eye level.

"It all depends on what you mean by qui~et~! Free of Yamatai? Free of anybody? A quiet hole in the ground, six foot under? That last expression I just learned is a Nepleslian one for dead and buried, is it not clever?"

"It certainly sounds like a grave." Ilsa agreed nonchalantly, smoke pouring from her nostrils. "What would you do, in this position?"

"What would *I* do? Well. . . I have my talents. I would make more drones. And get more data. And use the two combined. I am getting so much data from just this ship alone. Nepleslians are a fascinating case study! But eventually the data I get won't be able to carry me anymore, so I expand operations and move out. If I am not getting new data, then my time is being wasted. Not having enough data is what killed my people, in the end. That, and brutal savages with big guns."

"Perhaps," Ilsa suggested slowly, pulling her braid over one shoulder and straightening it with closed eyes, "It would be wise to scan any NH-17 model Nekovalkyrja that wander into your presence."

"An opportunity I will never miss! On the other hand, you could do what your coward emperor did and flee at the first sign of trouble~!"

"Hmph." A smirk crossed the Raltean features for just a second, and the blonde Neko leaned forward to put a hand on Phase's chassis. "I know little of what happened, but the Uesu I served was no coward. The Empire that I will be returned to is not the Empire I lived with. And your people are not my enemy. I may be the last remaining member of the Skjoldsvulf clan, and only a machine made in their image-- but I will as one being to another offer you my assistance. Call upon me when you wish, not as an apology for the actions of my people but as a reminder that we are just that: people."

How disappointing. Phase thought.

"Oh? I will keep that in mind for future in~ter~ac~tions! This was a. . . productive conversation, I think! But do know that Yamatai does~not~like its things to go a-wandering too long~!"

The holographic display lit up with the image of a lilac nekovalkryja and a bounty under her head, posted recently by the Empire.

"I am to be converted," Ilsa explained, mentally noting the Neko she'd been shown. A potential contact? Prey? The Valkyrja set this aside and stood up, slipping her axe back into her belt. "They mean to remove my capabilities. I am told that we have some rights now, my sisters and I-- that we may keep our body if it is weakened? Perhaps it is a lie and I will be destroyed when I return to Geshrintal. But Nepleslians walk around in their fragile bodies, and they are able warriors-- so I think I will manage. And in the end I think I prefer to be out from beneath the yoke of the creature which wears the mask of my old master. Gods willing."

"Do it quick or don't do it at all, Nepleslia is allied with Yamatai now and there's only so long you can delay a transfer~!"

Phase's display lit up with another smiley.

"But, in the meantime, did you get the answers you wanted? Or the ones you needed? I like to make sure that everybody is sat~is~fied by my interactions~!"

"I don't think you can help me with what needs to be found next." Was the answer. The neko shook her head, her ears folding flat and her eyes taking on a look of resignation. "I had a, well, a woman was to be my wife and I must find her. Aside from that, there are secrets buried in this galaxy that I intend to uncover on my own. I suppose," That soft smile came back and Ilsa reached once more for Phase's chassis with delicate fingers, "Perhaps you could tell me your name?"

"Dollmaker Diharmonious Phase 46-9084-314. But you may call me Phase." She interlaced one silicon-and-metal coated hand with Ilsa's own synthetic flesh.

"Phase, I am Ilsa. I will send you a means of contacting me once I've gained freedom again." Ilsa assured her new robotic compatriot with a firm shake, fingers tight around the wrist of the offered hand. A Raltean handshake, for warriors. "Call upon me when you need me."

Phase's display turned purple again.

"I will certainly make sure to."
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The Gunman
NSS Nemesis, Crew Quarters

Twelve hours passed for Alistair Thorn. He'd watched the medical teams cart off Eir and Lang-- and been told in no uncertain terms that he was not to leave the tiny room they shoved him in when he'd been brought aboard the Nemesis. Dax was nowhere to be found in the clean-up, having been spirited away by Elway and Nelson in the commotion. It was clear they were protecting the young hacker from his former cobeligirant. Commandant Black wouldn't even look at him, Elway had to do everything. Nothing was said about the mission, or even the status of his team-mates. Alistair was simply escorted to a tiny room, and told to stay put-- and then made to stay put by a locked door.

When twelve grueling hours had passed, Elway returned. The door slid open to the spartan room and the Master Sergeant walked in back in uniform with his hands tucked behind his back, a stern look on his face.

"Thorn." He called into the room. "Come along."

After Alistair was brought to the small room, the man nearly lost it. He was escorted under guard to the quarters. He would have tried to get into the ships systems through his data jockey but it had been taken away from him. All he could do was stool in his hatred, sadness and disappointment. He sat against the far wall. Several bloody marks left against it after Alistair repeatedly punched the wall. His knuckles were bloody and bruised.

He looked up at Elway. His eyes had glazed over, losing all his emotion. He was too tired to care anymore. He stood up, as he was told and followed Elway.

They walked in the corridors for a few moments in silence. Alistair would notice that aside from the two armed MPs following behind them with Partizan carbines, the corridors were completely empty. It was late, and they must have been in the Intelligence area. After those agonizing moments of silence, Elway cleared his throat and spoke softly. "I know that the Commandant said he didn't care what happened one way or the other-- but he did mention that Command wanted the target taken alive. He will, of course, refuse to punish you for this and therefore everything must fall on my shoulders. Why were you so determined to kill Daxton?"

Alistair remained quiet as they walked and noticted the MPs. He knew he was in some serious shit. Finally Elway spoke. Alistair looked at the back of his head. "...Have you ever heard an old phrase that says 'Vengance is in my heart, death in my hands. Blood and Vengance hammers at my mind?'" Alistair asked. "He desreves every little thing I had planned to do to him..." He said returning to back to his stoicness.

"We are instruments of justice, Private Thorn." Elway explained, hands still crossed tensely behind his back. The rounded a corner and began approaching a door with two more armed MPs standing guard on either side. "And yet, instruments are meant to be precise. We extract useful information before we punish the wicked. Blood and vengeance may 'hammer' upon you, but a Marine must be more akin to..."

For the first time since they'd started walking, Elway turned as he entered the door and the grim look on his face was something like a smile, a mirthless, hollow smile. "A scalpel. Please, come in and sit down."

Alistair did as he was told and shuffled his way inside. He looked around at his surroundings as he took his seat. "I know that what I did was wrong sir. However, given the chance to do so, I would have ended his life just the same. You would have your intel and it would have been faster than what they could have done." he said motioning to the MPs. "We both would have gotten what we wanted."

The two of them settled in at a card table up against a wall. Once they were both seated, Elway held a communicator to his mouth and said, "Revive the subject."

Immediately, at the press of a button the wall in front of them took on the appearance of thin air. On the other side of the wall was Daxton, the clotted blood in the wounds on his forehead and the lengthy gashes on his forearms a sure sign of physical coersion. A syringe full of adrenaline appeared in the hands of an MP and the hacker was shuddering in his seat. He looked up and around, but seemed to look right through Elway and Daxton-- completely unable to see either of them.

"He says he will talk to you, and only you, Private." Elway informed Alistair, adding darkly, "And when we asked him why he said that it would destroy you-- what he said would crush your spirit. And that would give him pleasure. And then, we'd have our intel and he would be sequestered off to some comfy prison cell somewhere so he could spend a long time thinking about what he's done."

At the sight of Daxton, Alistair shot up to his feet. At Elway's revalation, a look of fear was shown across his face for only a brief instant. He composed himself and fixed Elway with a determined gaze. "I am at the ready sir..." He said with all the formality he could muster.

"It's good to see you're still a Marine, Private." And then a microphone was keyed. Alistair could hear Elway's voice echoing in the chamber beyond. Daxton could hear them. "Daxton, a guest has come to see you. You wanted to speak with Alistair Thorn?"

"Ah, Staircase." Dax's voice was taxed. Blood oozed from his wounds. He was in no shape to be an ass, but in true villain fashion he made it. "You came to see me, buddy? I'm real touched and shit."

Alistair took a deep breath. " Don't flatter yourself Dax. I am here because as soon as you get this of your chest they get their information..." Alistair paused. "Do your worst..."

"Ah, well--" Dax had to stop and cough a few times, leaving Alistair to wonder what wounds lie beneath his tattered clothes. "It's about our old gang, the Deckers. You were gonna hunt us down one-by-one and rid the galaxy of filth like us. At least, that's what I come to understand from the way you talked back on the Rose."

The hacker shook his head. "But here's the thing, Alistair. There aren't too many of us left. Remember how your sister got killed? Because you messed up a job. Well, she wasn't the only one they killed."

Alistair remained silent, but if Elway looked at the young man's face he would see that his strong facade was waning fast. Alistair clenched his fists. His nails bit into his skin so hard the blood was starting to pool in his hands at the metion of his sister.

"They got a lot of us, Staircase. I mean, a lot of us." Said Dax, smiling a bloody and macabre grin. "Every man for himself, y'know. And me, I'm basically The Deckers now. Not like I ever had a choice. They took me when I was a kid, just like you. 'cept I knew how to play ball. So, here I am, your revenge. Except you'll never, ever get me. They're gonna protect me from you. You get nothing. Dead sister, dead dreams, dead-- well, everything except me will be dead."

"So what Daxton? Congrats, you now get to go to jail and I never see you again. I don't have to worry about hunting you all down anymore. I can move on with my life. I think that is a win in my book." He said evenly.

"Nah, y-" Dax shook his head, "Nah, y- you're hurtin'. Gotta be. Fuck you, man."

"What is the orginizational structure of the organization you were working for, Daxton?" Elway interjected, resting a warning hand on Alistair's arm for the time being.

"Fuck you too, Mohawk." Dax spat.

"Where is their headquarters located? What is the encryption key used to unlock the freighter's navigation computer? This is your last chance, Daxton." Elway added again, eyes narrowing.

"Yo, Staircase, what was it we were always supposed to say when we blanked all the hard-drives and the cops were knockin' on the door?" Dax asked, laughter behind his words.

"I don't remember Dax. Why don't you refresh my memory?" He asked.

"Aw, man, c'mon." Dax shook his head again. "I can't believe you. After all the stuff they put us through, you can't remember a simple cool line. And it was so cool, too. Oh well, fuck you-- fuck the Mohawk guy, fuck all of you. I ain't talkin', throw me in the box or cut me some more-- whatever."

A sigh escaped from Elway's lips. He leaned back in his chair, turned to one of the guards at the door and mouthed 'do it' before patting Alistair on the arm one more time. They both watched the MP leave the room and reappear on the other side of the invisible wall. They watched him shoulder his Partizan, and they watched the expression of pure betrayal cross Dax's face just before the particle gun reduced said face to a pile of ragged skin and exposed bone.

Alistair watched as the last of the Deckers took his last breath. It was over, yet Alistair wasn't satisfied. He fell to his knees. His head dropped down. He felt a wave of emptyness washed over him. "...I am sorry sir. I should have just played along. Now..." He didn't finish, just letting the silence persist.

"Private Thorn." Elway spoke softly, cooly, lighting a cigarette and offering the pack to Alistair. "I hope you understand this is an intelligence matter. It is illegal to execute prisoners like this, and the methods we used to coerce him before hand are frowned upon on the international stage. You are never to speak of this to anyone, you are never to reveal any of the sensitive matters imparted to you during your service to the Imperium. We have the Empire looming nearby, the Matriarchy sniffing around down south, and scum like this crawling within our own borders. We need marines who have loyalty to their country, not their petty vengeance. Do you understand me, "hammer of vengeace"?"

He nodded solomly. "I understand sir. This goes to my grave." He looked at the Master Sergeant. "The Imperium saved me when I was in a dark place, and continued to even after I became disobident... I will be scaple that I am needed to be. A tool and nothing more." He said taking the lit cigarette. He took a long drag and held it. He looked up and let it all out slowly. "It is done..."

"One last thing..." Elway stood up and smoothed down his coat with a cold look. "You have seen what I can have done to people. It should be clear to you that I'm not just a regular non-comissioned officer. What exactly I am is not important. Just know that if you ever do something that you know you ought'n ever again-- the same things can be done to you, Private. Sleep well, Alistair."

And then, without waiting for any response, Thaddeus Elway left Alistair there with two really creeped out MPs.

Alistair stood and looked to the two MPs, his lit cigerete held between his lips. "Take me back to solitary. I should do as the man says." He said walking out the door. Leaving his old past behind him. The only Decker left was he, and Alistair knew that their terrible deeds would die with him. No one else would have to suffer what he and Daxton had to do. Not anymore.
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