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  • 📅 December 2022 is YE 44.9 in the RP.

RP: 188604 Free Station Doomstar

D

Dumont

>Online, post Star Wasp 9

So you wanna tell me why Skimmer's Gulch is now home to a bunch of dudes with snakes around their neck shouting about how they're raising the dead?

-A23

I would love too, because I imagine it's a pretty entertaining story, but I'm at a loss. Maybe Uso kidnapped a bunch of actors to make a zombie movie?

-Jason A.

Not sure she did, since you sent them here. I gave them housing like we agreed.

-A23

The homeless dudes? Listen, they weren't doing any of that when I found them. I'm pretty sure if they could raise the dead, which I'm also pretty sure is still impossible without stuff that was invented well after the first settlers came, they wouldn't be living in a rundown building.

How big a problem are they making for you down there?

- Jason A.

Not huge, but they're a potential problem. I'm more curious why you're sending me snake resurrectionists.

-A23.

It's related to the stuff I've been doing in the city I told you about. Do you want to have this conversation in person? Thier's been some stuff going down down there that I wanted to talk with you about anyway.

-Jason A

If you board the firefly on the north side of the city, by the big pyramids it'll take you up to the station. You can fly in your machine, but it's not as fast. Bring something which helps you breathe in space.

-A23

I'll be right there, just let me snatch some native wine as a "Sorry I may have sent you a zombie apocalypse." gift.

-Jason A


>Some time later, SPACE.

It proved to be accurate that taking the firefly was the superior option. While Jace's mech could have made it, when Arccos said 'take you up' it wasn't orbit over 188604. It was a trip across the system to a location above a frozen world on the other side of the sun that warmed the deserts of the planet Jason might possibly call home.

The Freespacers had apparently grown in number, and the Lament now had a berth aside from the dusty planet the USO had called home. While it was ramshackle, the Freespacers had taken up housing in a haphazard interlocking of what looked like a few dozen ships docked together. Connected with metal scaffolding in some places, and swarming with drones of innumerable makes.

When the Firefly's airlock opened up, a little mechanical voice chimed 'Welcome to Station Doomstar, atmosphere conditions stable on this deck. Please check virtual maps before leaving the area.'

Outside the airlock, Arccos stood waiting. Clad in a skintight black Moondyne's Graft with few frills, underneath a thick bomber-jacket alike that went down to just below her backside, and seemed to be trimmed in the fur of an Osmani drop bear. Tapping idly away at a datapad, she looked up to her visitor.

"We're going to need to run you through decontamination before you're allowed on the station proper." She said, "But welcome to base camp."

Jason had been somewhat aware that Arccos had been some sort of build up in space, especially given the state of the White Lament, but he had assumed that it was limited to her Mothership.

Standing before her in a similar suit that was just as tight as his old piloting suit, glass of win in hand, a tan Duster drapped over it, his expression was nothing less then astonished.

"Arccos, this is...I mean...when did...This is a fleet!" He said the obvious. "What...I mean I knew you were trying to bring people on board the Lament, but." He threw his hands up. "How many people are here? How long has this been out here?"

"Technically it's about three fleets." Arccos said, indicating Jason should follow and starting to head down one of the halls in the station. The whole thing creaked haphazardly as various elements of the station shifted. Every surface was a mess of open wiring panels, and covered in graffiti indicating stomping ground of one group or another which was part maintenance crew, and part gang.

"After we took the lighthouse from Freehold, I took a couple of days and rallied willing workers on Null and Void. While I was there I stole the fleet used by the original Freespacers in their rebellion agains the Black Laws... Only narrowly avoided a firefight in the process."

Stopping just outside a heavy bulkhead, turning a heavy wheel to unlock the thing and opening it with an ominous creak. Arccos then reached out and indicated Jason should hand over the glass of wine. "We also have some traders coming in, and I called in my own home fleet to arrange ice mining operations on the planet below us... You'll need to stand in there. It'll probably mildly burn."

"You stole a fleet?!" It seemed that, not satisfied with merely stating the obvious, he had begun to stoop to repitition. They seemed disconnected to their current suroundings, similar to someone immersed in the ploysentience while their body was on autopilot, as she told a tale of grand theft cultural artifacts, narrow escapes, exploiting planets and rallying people to this new....he wasn't even sue what to call this.

Handing the glass of wine to her and stepping into the decontamination chamber, he carried on thei conversation via mindware as he expected her to shut the bulkhead momentarily.

"Bringing all these people here...aren't you worried about our location getting leaked? Couldn't some Free Staters decide they want this stuff back? Like the...Viridian Smiths? Astal Array?" Whether he was getting the names wrong on purpose or was merely too shocked to call up the knowledge first was a mystery. "Hell, would the DIoN get involved?"

"I have pretty tight control of the Polysentience access, and a couple of advocates for keeping this secret using just that as justification. At the same time, 188604's location's been known to the Polysentience since Uso first traded algaeia for cement mixers." Arccos gave a response through the little microphone on the other side of the bulkhead, as Jason was sprayed down by a few nozzles on mechanically articulated hoses. Some sort of purplish misty haze filling the room and making it smell like stale air and bleach.

"And Nepleslia can't interfere with internal issues of the Free State. And if it helps you blow this out of proportion further, I stole the fleet from a black hole."

"I...I'm not even going to ask what it was doing there. This shit is way above my paygrade anyway." Appaently some sort of filter on the Moondyne's graft allowing him to still smell whatever the High Sheriff was pumping into the room, causing the pilot to crinkle his nose. He'd think that between surviving sungularities and manipulating probability, someone would have invented a way to kill bacteria that didn't smell like shit. "I'm sure you have all this under control. So...Congratulations, I guess? Your own fleets, your own planet. It's going to be a long way getting a point to where I'm useful to you if you keep moving up at this rate."

"Anyway," He cracked his neck whilst the haze washed over him, concealing everything from view. "So whats all this about snake people ressurecting people? Have you seen it, any idea how it's happening? Are they 'dead dead, or. Well. I mean, it's not like they could get their hands on ST Tech.'"

"I really have no idea, they just like to talk about their leader's 'miracles'. Haven't really looked in to it, I just wondered why it is that you sent me those sort of people." Arccos said as a few panels slid open, revealing glowing panels which seemed to flush Jason with a burst of what was likely radiation. A few blasts for a few seconds leaving him with the general feeling of having a mild sunburn, and the doors slid open again.

"I guess if some ranking suckers got in to it they might know something..." Arccos said in person as Jason was allowed to leave the decontamination chamber.

"I swear, they were perfectly normal people who just happened to all wear matching cloaks when I found them! I thought they were beggars." He did his best to hide whatever discomfort he felt as quickly left the chamber, turning his head sideways while he winced.

"I just did it because I wanted some information on what was going on in the city, and they wouldn't talk because they were worried one of the gangs would send someone to kill them. I could look into if you want. I might even be able to take them back now since...well, I have some good news about Lahiri."

"Well, I'm listening." Arccos said, once more taking the lead and walking up a dangerous seeming hallway to another bulkhead messily painted with the words 'To Lament Deck 3'. This one sliding open to reveal the more sterile seeming hallways of the Mothership. Once more dingy and quiet, at least on the maintenance levels.

Perfectly black, with no windows and only a narrow light strip above visitors above Arccos and Jace. As they moved, one would switch off and another would turn on ahead to light their way. But somewhere in the distance there was music being played. It didn't seem entirely dead.

"Well, the good news is that I have succeeded in taking over the place, and I didn't even have to fire a single shot. Hooked up with this rich dude, goes by Cordlowe, with his own private army who's now policing the streets, probably with some drones in two soon. All I had to do was convert the biggest foundry, up to modern standards which is what I was going to do anyway. Hopefully I can find some buyers for the stuff where you guys are dumping the Algaeia."

Walking alongside the taller woman, he took a few moments to hum along with the beat, apparently unpeturbed by the spookiness of his surroundings. Or trying very hard to make it seem like he wasn't.

"Then their's the bad news. It's probably nothing, but...do you know if the locals know we can make ourselves invisible? Has someone been doing that openly before I came here?"

"You're the first one I've given a Moondyne to with that capability." Arccos said thoughtfully, moving on past a hallway where the music was loudest and passing on to another portion of the ship. Deep in the underbelly which had originally been shorn off when the ship hit Osman city.

"But I think Uso was seen doing it at the second palace massacre."

"Their was a SECOND palace massacere? How many times did you have to slaughter these people before they figured out resisting was pointless?" Jason let out a uneasy sigh, recalling something Daniels said. "Anyway, I don't know. Even if they had heard about it happening, something felt off. I figured I'd sneak into his place cloaked, appear out of thin air, unbalance the guy. But it didn't even phase him. His staff seemed in on it too, soon as I flipped some pages, pulled some alarm. It was weird."

"Well a good chunk of the Brigade found it odd I could control mechanical spiders with my mind. But only a few of them freaked out about it. When I asked, they said 'you have a flying arrowhead that decimates armies, of course you can control machines with your mind'." Arccos said almost boredly, leading Jason into a semi-circular room dotted with black server stacks that looked almost like tombstones.

A few chunks of cargo netting were slung about here and there in the room, along with a few chunks of Arccos' sheriff uniform indicating that this was likely what amounted to her personal quarters on the Lament. Or at least her workspace.

"Some people just assume that anything amazing is possible now. Maybe they just sounded the alarm whenever anything odd happened?"

"I guess thats one way to think about it. See a few 'impossible' things," Jason made physical air qoutes as he said the word. "And suddenly you''ll believe these people can do anything. And if your paranoid, you'll be prepared for anything."

Eyes searching the room, he seemed a bit dissapointed with how sparse what seemed to be her quarters was, especially the lack of furniture. "Anything you don't mind if I take a seat on?"

"I can just suspend gravity and let you float if you want." Arccos said, turning and sitting down on a server stack. "Might be worth asking him how he prepared for that, but I doubt you'll get anything."

"Think it might make enjoying the wine a little harder." He laughed, waving her suggestion off before taking a seat on one across from her. "But yeah, probably. Would be easier if I was a Minkan and could just read people's minds."

"You've been playing cop for a while down there, right? I was kind of wondering if you could give me a few pointers dealing with this stuff."

"Don't let people know you're the one making and breaking the rules, assume your men are abusing their power, hold your finger to a bigger trigger than everyone else." Arccos counted off on her fingers, stopping on her pinkie for a second in thought.

"...And... I guess make it so that wherever you go make sure things are better off for the majority of people. I'm still working this stuff out myself."

"Don't make myself a target, don't trust any of my people, always have the mech on body to waste them. I can do that." He tilted his down and sideways while shrugging his shoulders in a way that seemed he was taking the advice to heart. "I had a few ideas for that sort of thing. If i'm already bringing real factories and brining money in, I might as well use some of it to spruce the city up. Running water, power, that sort of thing."

"You're going to have difficulty making an economy. You'll need to pay people in something which is worth a damn in space, which means you're going to need to drop big bank on either reinventing their entire way of life, or to modernise stuff enough to give people worthwhile jobs." Arccos said, leaning back on her server, placing her hands behind her on the edge of the stack.

"It was hard enough doing that with a small population. And not working very well in Tyben. You're working with an entire city..."

"Yeah, it's definitely going to take a lot of investment. So far I've settled for having most of the people working at the factories some do nothing job. They don't really know it's all automated. Hopefully the factories will start turning a profit, and it's on the coast so I can probably start building stuff to Siphon Algaeia. Water. Though you might be oversaturating that market with a ice planet."

Jason shot the bottle he'd brought a glance cursing for not bringin any glasses. "But your right, it's a tall order. And it's not like I can get a loan for this stuff..."

Leaning forward and raised the bottle, Arccos neatly opened it with her teeth, taking a swig before handing it over to Jason.

"We're in a... Place too far away for it to comfortably be put into a service based economy, but without resources to make it commodity based." Arccos said, sounding bitter. She was almost certainly quoting someone. "Basically the locals are fucked unless they get into making something valuable which requires minimal effort, or we bring a lot of other people to the planet for them to serve..."

He took it the wine with one hand, taking off the helmet with the other before bringing it to his lip. It was red, aged well, and was sweet to the toungue. Among a world engulfed by sand, it was probably worth a fortune.

"I don't know. Their's a few things I can of. ADNR, Durandium. Their's some stuff we could POSSIBLY make that most civilised places regulate like Aether, but that opens up its own can of worms. See if we can get more people like Van Banning intrested as a tax haven, maybe. I'm not exactly a expert on this stuff." He let out a loud sigh, sounded a bit defeated himself. "It's a crapshoot. Maybe if we can keep this going long enough, their grand-children won't be as fucked. Who knows."

"Well, I'm a Freespacer. We don't do money normally, so you're probably asking someone blinder than you to lead you here. Up here you just do a job you know and enjoy, and you get what you need to live. Anything else you want is downloadable." Arccos grumbled, reaching out for the wine bottle as if asking for permission.

"Sadly we're all just stumbling about trying to work things out without ever learning what we're doing."

"If only we could all live like that. Be better." He handed it off to her, running a hand though his hair as he usually did when he's stressed. "I dunno. I like to think Uso has some idea, she just doesn't care about any of the complicated shit. Wants money, wants people to lord over. Rest are probably the same."

"What I wanna know is why you do." He made a sweep gesture across the room, but was probably refering to the entire structure. "You got this fleet, you got a lot of cash, the people down there are just a money sink. Why does it matter to you so much what happens to some primitives on Tyben?"

"Because money is fake, for a start." Arccos said casually, taking up the wine bottle and taking one or two long gulps, then resting it on a server top. "Because... Mhh... Because for any given freespacer, we can have and experience whatever it is we want, for however long we want, for very little."

She started to tap a finger on the edge of the server stack she sat on. As if trying to put wrangle words in the right order.

"The only thing we can't truly emulate is other people to share that with. And for all those people down there, if they could have that, then they'd have everything they'd been denied... And I guess everyone else would have them?"

"So that's your endgame? That's why you stick with this stuff?" He looked away from her, hiding his expression. "You want to take all those people, people who the rest of them only came here to exploit, who hate us and make some sort of...big happy family. Let them do what they like, live well, screw around in the poly."

"That dumb. It'd never work out that way. Even if you could give it to them, everyone else would stop you, say the people would rebel, pose a threat or...or find someone to help them if they were connected like this. They'd probably be right." He snatched the bottle from it's perch and reversed, tilting his head back. He had take a deep breath after he pulled it away, setting it down beside him. "It'd easier though, I guess. Better."

Arccos sat with a rather stern look on her face for a moment, listening intently to Jason's response before giving a little noise halfway between a laugh and a sigh. Slowly she stood up, and moved until she stood a single pace away from Jason.

"Stand up for a second?" She asked, like it was a personal favor.

From the look on his face, it definitely wasn't the reaction that he was expecting. He seemed apprehensive, not quite sure where this was going, but never the less drew himself up to his full height, though one where she still loomed over him.

"All right, sure."

As Jason stood, Arccos gave an odd look. One which seemed like someone who had closed their eyes and taken a deep sighing breath, like she was preparing for something. No noise came out of her, she didn't actually breathe like that. Instead she just moved like a machine mimicing some lost memory of flesh before holding out a hand and placing it on Jason's shoulder.

"I don't pretend to know what you've gone through in life, okay? I get the idea. I know what you are, where you came from, and what people wanted you to be. And I can understand how in a lot of ways when presented with a step forward you could instantly look back to where you've gone with such clarity... Hindsight becomes sharper the more practice you've had looking over your shoulder and all that."

"This... What I've got, and what I'm fighting for. It isn't anything like a grand scheme that I know for a fact will save everything. I don't know where I'm stepping from, and going to. This is me acting in faith. Knowing that everything we fight for isn't something we might one day know or see, but it's something we have to work towards if it's to ever one day even be seen as possible. So... What I fight for isn't some grand plan where everyone loves each other and embraces you as family. What I intend to fight for, this fleet, every action is... Well, it's for you, okay?'

"You're a clone of a child soldier trained on pain and fear, in the hopes that one day you might be sold to kill for someone who sees you as a weapon at best... And I don't know how you feel, but knowing all that I can only really tell you that to me you're someone who deserved a lot fucking better in life. And if it takes a fleet to crack open some deep earth bunker with a thousand fuckers wearing your face trapped inside? I have that fleet. And I will do that because I just want to give you that chance to be something you want to be rather than what someone else tells you to be."

"It's not just you, of course... But it's... It's a start. One action will lead to another, and the more this stuff is seen as possible, the more people will be inspired to follow suit. I don't do this sort of thing in the hope that everyone will be better off by the time I'm done. I want... I want to know that by the time I can't go on anymore there'll be someone else willing to take up the next fight. And the one after that, until one terrible fucking day when every last living soul flitting from one star to the next is scoured from the face of the 'verse."

"And when that last asshole looks back, he'll at least know for good or ill that we never stopped."
Well, it's for you, okay? Throughout the entire speech Jason had stayed silent, not daring to interrupt the woman who had freed him. At first their was a look of confusion, that settled into something jaded,like he was steeling himself for something terrible. Dissapointment. The Angle. The Catch.
Their was something behind it all though, a twinkle in his eyes that betrayed some hint of emotion. Well, it's for you, okay? Those words we're the last one's that he had been expecting. He expected some pitch, something behind all these honeyed words that would try to convince him that everything would be better off if he threw in his lot with her. For the other shoe to drop, the stuff that he'd been dreading since the day since she turned off his obedience protocols and told him to demand what he wanted from Uso.
But it didn't, and suprise gave way too...fear, in his eyes? He held her gaze for a long time, still not saying a word, looking as if he was struggling to find something. Some way to put his feelings into words.
"It's still dumb Arccos.'
Jason arms reached around her suddenly, pulling her as tightly against him as he could, bury his face into her. She was warmer then he had expected
"It doesn't matter. I want to help you with it anyway."
Hugging Arccos was usually a dangerous move at best, unless you happened to be a particularly large wasp. But in this one instance, she took a second or two to weigh up a few choices, before wrapping a singular arm around Jason. Her height meaning he was embraced about the shoulders.

"It's kinda dumb, but if we were to do smart things all day we'd be filling out tax forms or something like that... I appreciate you casting your vote of confidence on my idiocy, though..."

"Hey, your back my stupid ideas. 'Least I could do it return the favor." His voice sounded ragged, and the attempt to inject some levity into it seemed forced, but it was more genuine then it seemed. "If I was smart, I would have taken off as soon my mindware was cleaed."

He kept in that position for a while, but eventually drew his head up, locking eyes with her again. She could easily see that they had begun to water. "So...whatever you need me to do, i'll do it. Till it all goes belly up, okay?"

"Right now?" Arccos asked haltingly, almost hesitating. "Right now I'd like to see you okay, for a start. At least. I can spin you a pretty story, and tell you all about what we're going to do, but there's going to be a time when we'll bend a cold metal hook out of the real stuff we have to deal with to hang ourselves on... But that story isn't just something I'd like to use to explain myself and win folks over or whatever."

Moving her hand up and fondly mussing up the hair on the back of Jason's head, Arccos cocked a little smile.

"If you're gonna get worked up like this when I say it's for you, and you're feeling it? You don't gotta be practical or anything. Stories can drag us back from catastrophe and I know you've probably got a lot more to be pulled back from... So just, if you ever wanna talk you can say whatever you like and I'll listen. If you ever want to offer to help, I'll accept. But you've gotta be alright with it all."

Jason pulled back a little at the mention of him being worked, using one hand to scratch the back of his head, casting his eyes towards some random corner sheepishly. "Yeah, I uh...I'm sorry, I'm just, I'm not really used to this sort of thing, you know.?"

His smile seemed to return as she ruffled his ear, though it was smaller then the one he almost chronically sported. Less broad, less toothy. More real.

His eyes seemed to settle on the bottle they had been sharing not too long ago. "Maybe we could just shoot the shit for a while, finish the wine?"

"Well, whatever works for you." Arccos nodded, abruptly plopping down to the deck and leaning back against one of the server stacks.

"There's a bunch of polysentience realms if you want to take it virtual after the wine. Or we can go up a few decks and you can meet whatever crew's about..."

Jason sat down next to her, reaching for the plum colored bottle and taking a sip, before he offered it back to her.

"That's a tough choice. The server you had set up was a pretty great trip." He shook his head, laughing. "But I think i'd rather see who else is hanging around here. We can party in cyberspace anytime, but I'm not sure how often I'll be around here between everything I'm working on."

"Alright, well. We'll finish the drink, then head up." Arccos indicated the wine bottle, "If you bring that up there you're likely not getting more than a couple drops of it after it's shared around."
 
D

Dumont

>Station Doomstar, one bottle of wine later.

Being led through a Freespacer station was something that at times was aggravating, other times just strange. From the Lament's sterile and haunted feeling, to the junk-filled decks of the makeshift space station. A series of warnings had to be immediately adapted to if Jason were to survive just moving around in it, without close attention paid it was difficult to work out exactly where gravity or functioning atmosphere was and was not.

About half of the station was just decks of various vessels nested in to one another, and a majority of those were unpowered empty husks at best.

But one hazardous spacewalk later, Arccos led her guest into what seemed to be the closest thing to a common area on the station. A two-tiered box of metal with a functioning atmosphere. A generator in the corner noisily powering the place where some few dozen Freespacers of various types, makes and models lounging about on makeshift or outright stolen furniture. A real den full of what was probably real thieves.

Entering the crowd was somewhat odd, at least if Jason was used to speaking normally. Many just sat in silence, others having half-complete conversations where each sentence trailed off to be completed mentally via mindware. Arccos was treated with something between familiarity, distance and... Maybe reverence?

All at once, Jason was bombarded with a list of mental handshakes, digital invitation requests, and open signals... Even when most people here didn't seem to be paying him any mind at all. Arccos herself just pulled him along through the crowd, occasionally muttering for him to watch his step before roughly pushing him into a folded up beach chair beside a heating unit which glowed an eye-stabbing red as it filled the chill of space.

As the tall chalk-white spacer sat down on a crate beside him, those she chose to sit with all slowly turned to look at him with physical eyes. A spindly cyborg wearing a straightjacket like a cloak, another with a blank bone-white faceplate instead of a face with a single eye peering over him, a short woman with neon purple hair leaning on what seemed to be a giant saw, and a venerable biological type that stared into space with cloudy eyes and didn't seem to recognise anyone around him.

"Jason, crew, crew, Jason. I'm sure you'll be able to get along one way or another..." Arccos said, reaching into a cooler that lacked ice and removing a bottle of green glass. Opening the cap with a little pop.

Most people might have felt disconcerted by the labyrinthine nature of the structure he was being guided through, but Jason had for better or ill spent more then little time being dragged through confusing layouts with no sense of where he was heading. If anything had bothered him on their journey to what passed for a rec room on the doomstar, it was the haphazard ramshackle design that the station boasted. Like with all freespacers, their was no sense of unifomity or any thing to detect a hint of long term planning on the part of whoever had built it. Every corridor could feel like you were like stepping into a entire different world.

Of course, one thing that he wasn't used too despite having mindware for the entirety of his existence was how despite everyone being in such proximity they preferred to communicate on the digital plain, something he usually reserved for combat or long distance communications. Taken off guard by the the sudden influx of greetings being fed into his head, he found himself being pushed into a seat before he could react, enjoying the sensesation of heat in the normally cool interior of a space station.

Unsure of what whether it would be polite to communicate via his implants or the tools nature had given, he settled for following Arccos's lead and replied verbally. "Nice to meet you." Taking a moment to think of a ice breaker. "I work with Arccos planetside, leading the mecha forces and handling one of the cities. You guys?"

As Jason mentioned his role, the others showed a rather odd range of reactions. The spindly one gave a little scoffing laugh, the woman with the saw reached over and snatched Arccos' bottle away while the elderly spacer uneasily shifted before arthritically reaching over and pushing Arccos off her crate causing her to hit the metallic flooring with a clang.

"Innerduce him properly y' ingrate." The old spacer shouted at the downed Arccos. "Chapper niney sev."

For her part, Arccos just looked up a little boredly and did... Something with her mindware. The group then collectively nodding as if they'd recieved something.

"You doing okay now, Jay?" The woman with the purple hair asked him, a bit more familiarly than would be expected.

The pilot was a tad taken aback by the mix of responses that his introduction and subsequent question had apparently garnered, wondering if he had said something particularly dumb. At least he did before he saw the sheriff shoved onto the ground and beated, befoe she had apparently done SOMETHING that they all agreed too. Probably some sort of information on him given the wording.

"Okay? Uh, yeah, sure I guess. Bit less sober, at least." He gave the woman a bit of a odd look before contining, shifting uncomfortably in the seat. "Thanks for asking."

Flat on her back, Arccos gave a sigh. She didn't need to breathe, so the sigh was probably a deliberate expression of annoyance. Her hand raised to point at each of her companions in turn. She didn't bother to get up.

"Jason, meet Warmonger Ducktalker, former hijack expert of the IWL." Her finger moved, tracing one to the next "Mindtwister Sham, neurologist and information specialist. The old man who just knocked me over is Codeweaver Zesty, who I apprenticed under as a child... And that's... uh..."

Arccos sat up, looking to the purple haired woman as if weighing up a very measured response.

"That's Codebreaker Param... We're... Well, war buddies?"

Jason raised a eyebrow at the woman's deliberate pause before offering her hand to pull her up on the off chance she might grow tired of floor. "Like I said, nice to meet you all."

Taking a glance on Param, he seemed to take a moment of thought before questioning. "So, we're you two in the IWL as well or fought the squids after neplesia starting recruiting spacers or something?"

Arccos wordlessly took Jason's hand, letting him pull her back up to her position on the crate where she snatched back her drink.

"IWL." Param said, her voice carrying a sarcastic lilt to it, "We spent about three years floating around in a tiny ship bombarding Nepleslian data networks with information about Yamatai's actions to try and get a bunch of drunken gun nuts to actually shoot something."

"I'd taken offense at the drunken gun nut line if I wasn't poor position to argue with it at the moment." He told, all though his amused tone hopefully made it clear he wasn't serious. "Or you know, I ever spent more then a few hours in Nepleslian space."

Starting to relax a little after the odd start, he settled back into the chair. "How are you guys liking it out here? Middle of nowhere isn't so bad a place to stay, I hope."

At Jason's question, the elderly spacer cracked out a laugh somewhere between a hacking death rattle and a deep chuckle. Ducktalker leaned up and reached out an arm that seemed to extend outward with some sort of cybernetic telescoping mechanism to seat their elder down gently.

"Space is big, and space is cold. Trick is to graduate from where you're going to where you've gone." Zesty explained. Rasping phlegm in their lungs "Everywhere's fine... Same amount of nothin' where you go."

Jace looked a bit worried with the man's condition, but decided not to say anything after Ducktalker's help, even cracking a smile at the line the old man gave. "Guess that's one way to look at it. System's kind of grown on me the past few weeks, though. Not that I have a lot to compare it too."

"You should fly around with us some, then." Param said in a pleasant tone, "See some space, get a good look at things."

"'e'd have to pull his weight." Ducktalker said severely, with a digitised voicebox "No room for time wasters an' moochers."

His eyes widened at the suggestion, and he seemed to speak up a little too quickly at suggestion. "Sure, sure, I'd love too. See what's out there to take in. Farthest away i've ever been from here that I can point to at a map has been I'ee space, and that was just to get shot at."

At Ducktalker's chastising, a bit of the enthusiasm dropped from his voice. "Well, uh...hmm. I don't know if you need a frame pilot, but I can fly a shuttle too. I make a decent mechanic. Okay shot in a pinch."

"Frames need piloting now?" Ducktalker chuckled, maybe missing the point of what was meant by the word 'frame'.

"Warmongers are in low demand outside the Protectorate these days." Arccos said at last, as she looked glumly at the heating unit. She seemed a bit down. "It's how I managed to get a whole bunch of them..."

"They're uh...they're kind of the more offical name for mecha. You know, giant robots." The frame runner seemed as if this wasn't the first time he had to explain the terminology. "All though if they ever decide to throw out the cockpit and just have these AIs coming standard in them do everything I might be in low demand soon enough too."

"Guess I should start studying how to repair spacer tech, then." Jason shot a sympathetic look at his friend, but perhaps misunderstood the nature of her sadness given where she was looking. "I can, uh. switch seats if you want?"

Arccos shook her head, taking up her bottle again and taking a long drink from it.

"We call them Largegears." Ducktalker said boisterously, punctuating with a quack-like laugh. "They already move on their own... And fixing our stuff is a lot easier than fixing your finnicky nepleslian slabs."

For a few moments he seemed as if he was about to ask her something, before thinking better of it. If she wanted to talk about it, she would say something...right?

"Finicky? Are you sure your not thinking of Yammie tech? Maybe Lorath?" The blonde had a veritable encylopedia of technical specifications in his head, and if he could say anything about designs popular in the DIoN they were rugged. Then again, if the stories about freespacer ships multiplying by cutting one in half had any truth to them, maybe they were comparitively a bit high maitenance.

"I think I know what your talking about. Mushroom heads, right? Saw one at the briefing." He seemed a bit annoyed at the comparison. "But Frames are different. Good deal larger, faster, space capable. Enough firepower to lay waste to the City. Atleast my Seraphim does. But their war machines, through and through."

The elderly spacer scoffed at the explanation of what a frame was. "What would someone like him even be called? Half baked puppetmaster?"

"Don't got nothing like that. A machine needs new parts, a person you gotta feed." Ducktalker added "Sounds like the worst of both worlds."

"Nepleslian stuff usually needs a lot of extra maintenance, and is quite wasteful in terms of how it's run." Param chimed in "One ship could need huge facilities to resupply it, or keep it fuelled. Finnicky needs a nursemaid."

"Half bak-" Jason cut himself off, letting out a deep sigh in order to help allieviate any annoyance at having his occupation slandered. "Well, usually I just call myself pilot, though I know how to use a fighter too. I've heard Iroma like to use frame runner, but this sort of stuff is a lot more popular where they live. Or so i'm told."

"Well, I suppose if that easy to look after, it can't be that hard to learn how too since I already had a head start." He answered Peram. "But if you don't need mechanics either...geeze. I like to think i'm pretty good working with sensors, comms. The project had me learn how to ECM systems too. I don't suppose that's all done by SI, is it?"

"Once we build more ships we'll need all sorts of things." Arccos added in to the conversation, having drained her bottle in one long drink. "Main thing is that mechas or... I don't know. Automationists I guess we'd call you? You'd need a lot of adapting your methods and machinery before you can really be sustained by our fleets."

"Eh. Automationist doesn't sound so bad. Nice ring to it." He nodded along, apparently unaware of the derogatory nature of the term.

"Automationist": One who does what is already automatic, see: useless.

The Art of Never Again: How We See Ourselves
 
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