Part 23: Vell-os - Part 04 - December 18th, 1177NC: DiplomacyDecember 18th, 1177NC: Diplomacy
We start off with a very nice message from the Bureau telling us to go kill someone. This is an optional repeating mission that gains you absolutely no benefit beyond a clean legal record - which you should already have. I switch from the Worthless Piece of Shit back into a Dart while planetside, because you can't activate the next mission without flying one.
From: Bureau HQ
To: Vell-os #4123207-G
A known traitor to the Federation has stolen a ship and is attempting to escape the Bureau by passing through this area of space. Nobody escapes from the Bureau.
"May try to interfere" is code for "we couldn't program them to leave you alone for this mission so good luck." What follows is probably the most pathetic battle I've ever fought in EVN, even including Shuttle Deathmatch. I jump into the system with almost no energy left, and the traitor appears. Since the Flower of Spring uses so much energy, I can't do more than a few points of damage every few seconds. The traitor is a stock Valkyrie and, due to having the Trader AI personality, is incapable of keeping enough distance to attack. I fly circles around it for about 3 minutes until the shields sandpaper away, while the traitor turns around in circles, trying to bring its guns to bear. It's like maintaining unbroken eye contact as you slowly ram someone to death with a Rascal wheelchair.
This is a covert mission, so the Federation Navy may well try to interfere with your efforts. Try to avoid outright confrontation, but do not waver from the primary objective. The ship in question has been seen in and around this system and has been given the IFF code of 'traitor' on your scanner. Find it, destroy it and then make your way to New England in the Wolf 359 system for debriefing.
Eventually I manage to finish it off, and head to the Bureau offices to claim the prize.
Krane's also waiting for us.
You play back the recording of the traitor's destruction for the mid-level Bureau official who meets you in the docking bay.
"Good work," he says, handing you a datapad showing your newly-clean Federation record on it. "That should cover any damage done to your record. We will contact you again when we require your services."
You wonder again how you got yourself mixed up in this business. It seems that just yesterday you were a simple trader, and now you are an indentured assassin.
You sense that the Federation soldier who is your normal contact to Krane is waiting for you to arrive. He points towards the rear door, telling you to go straight through. You nod and head down the long gray corridor to Krane's new office.
"Things are moving along nicely," she informs you with her breathy voice when youo walk in. "The Federation forces are basically in complete control of Moash space. We are ready to begin the next phase of the operation.
"You see," she explains quietly, "we want to subvert the entire Auroran Empire so that we can make use of its enormous resources. But we could never do it by force alone. We need help from within Empire so that we can at least have a little control over the events we want to instigate. And now that we have control of Moash space and have taken the Moash elders prisoner, we are now in a position of power to bargain with the First Family in order to get them on side.
"It's time for you to start playing diplomat."
We head to Moash. I accidentally land on Stlap instead.
Talk to Moash Elders posted:
"The elders are under house arrest on Moash in the Moash system," she explains seriously. "You are to go down there and tell them that we are prepared make them an offer.
"And our offer is this," Krane ticks off a finger; "firstly, we are prepared to let them return to their former pre-eminence. Secondly, we are prepared to help them eliminate the four other houses, leaving them in complete control of Auroran Space.
"However, there is a catch," she continues with a sneaky grin. "In return we ask that they become a vassal nation, not to the Federation, which they would never tolerate, but to the Bureau. Tell them that we are willing to negotiate around the edges of these points, but if they aren't prepared to come to the table, then we are prepared to destroy them utterly and to reveal their severely weakened state to all of their rivals, who will pick over them when we are finished.
"Any questions?" she asks quietly. "No? Good. When you are finished, return here for further orders."
Stlap is the reason for the Moash Family's affluence. It is perhaps the most fertile world in the Empire, and produces enough food to feed more than any two houses. It is also one of the most stable food supplies; its crops have never suffered a complete failure, and the last partial failure of any significant size was more than seventy years ago. The Moash House sell the enormous surplus to the other four houses and make an enormous amount of money doing so. This planet is one of the most important resources the Moash House have, and it is protected by the fleets attached to the battle-station in orbit.
We reach Moash proper. Nobody is out to kill us this time.
Stlap's Bar posted:
This room is filled with tired farm-hands from the countless nearby farming concerns. Unlike other members of the Auroran working class on other planets these men seem to be well-fed and clothed, and they seem to have a little more self-esteem.
As soon as you land you are escorted by Bureau soldiers to the meet the Moash House elders. You do not have to use your telepathic abilities to see that they are unhappy to be surrounded by heavily armed guards.
You sit down at the head of the table and quickly outline the terms of Krane's proposal. When you finish they stir, looking a little excited. You allow them to confer amongst themselves quietly for a few minutes until they turn back to you.
"How can we trust you and your masters?" asks the eldest-looking warrior of the group.
You shake your head and say that they can either have faith or be destroyed. But you go on to say that the Bureau will only betray organizations that are no longer useful to them and you explain that the Bureau has no wish to be tied down by the duties of direct rule, it prefers to operate behind the scenes.
Finally you explain that, in general, Bureau policy is deliberately designed to keep the status quo by keeping the masses happy and by keeping its own involvement completely secret.
The elders confer amongst themselves for some time before your patience begins to run out. You can sense that they are deliberately stalling to see if you will give them any more information that they might use to their advantage. In disgust you stand up and inform them that they have two hours to reach a decision, and that you will await their response in the bar.
You walk out with several Bureau negotiators in tow all trying to talk to you at once. And since none of them seem to be giving you direct orders, you decide to get away from them the easiest way you know how. With a moment of concentration, you simply wrap yourself in your Vell-os Dart and pretend for a short while that the outside world does not exist.
Right, back to New England! Believe it or not, we're about half-done with the Vell-os.
After no more than about ten minutes of waiting in the somewhat stiff and unfriendly company of a few Federation soldiers based here, you sense one of the Moash House Elders walking towards you in between two heavily armed and alert soldiers. They quickly spot you when they finally enter the spaceport, and then make their way over.
"We have talked it over," the old Moash warrior informs you, "and the Moash House has accepted the Bureau's proposal."
You nod and thank him for his time, and you tell him that you will relay that information back to your superiors. You tell him that you will return with further instructions.
You nod to the soldiers around you and begin mentally preparing yourself for your journey back to New England to report to the terrible Commander Krane.
She finds us at Spacedock III.
Return with Response posted:
You are slightly surprised to sense the deceitful weavings of Commander Krane's mind awaiting you as you pilot your way down through New England's atmosphere. After dissolving your protective Dart-shaped shield you are greeted by the sight of her blonde hair and athletic figure.
"So what did they say?" she asks quietly as she takes your arm and draws you out of earshot of the dock workers busily moving around the area. You give her a quick summary of the events of your trip and she looks pleased.
"Good work!" her cheeks dimpling as she smiles at you. "Our plans are proceeding nicely. I have a few things I have to take care of, so I will probably be a little out of contact for a while, but it shouldn't be too long before I need your services again. Keep an eye out in bars anywhere in the Federation. When I need you again, I'll find you."
I bet she really loves her job.
You can sense Commander Krane waiting for you just around the corner, and you cannot help but smile when you notice that nearly every male head in the bar keeps turning surreptitiously in her direction. Chuckling to yourself at their naivete, you make your way over to her.
"How are things?" she asks with a radiant smile when you sit down opposite her. You shrug your shoulders nonplussed. "Well, I'm glad I managed to catch up with you, as I have another mission that needs your skills.
"I need someone to take an encrypted message pod down to the Moash elders containing instructions on what they should be doing in the coming months," she tells you in a lowered voice as she leans forward, "and right now my resources are spread a little thin throughout the galaxy, so you're it."
We head back once more. Nothing too interesting about the trip besides a carrier battle between houses. The Moash win.
Delivery Message posted:
"The message details how we want them to organize several Auroran military expeditions into Federation space," she informs you quietly. "At first this will be to supposedly 'gauge our strength', but following missions will supposedly be diversions to a main attack elsewhere.
"In reality," she explains quietly, "these raids will be made up of warriors not of the Moash House, and we will be informed ahead of time of their arrival and will be able to move entire fleets to meet them. The end result will be four severely weakened houses which will be advantageous to both the Moash House and ourselves.
"The only reason I am telling you this," she warns meaningfully, "is because the Moash elders might not open the message pod correctly. And if they don't its contents will be vaporized.
"Once you've delivered the message," she tells you standing up, obviously preparing to leave, "return to New England and I will make sure that further instructions are left for you there."
Yeah, don't bring a fist to a mind-laser fight. The Summer Bloom, despite us supposedly learning it, is unavailable until we return to New England.
As soon as you land you are greeted by a savagely tattooed Moash warrior who leaps at you in an effort to rip your throat out. You react by weaving the pattern of a Spring Flower as Llyrell taught you, but you mistakenly force too much energy into it in your excitement. In an effort to keep the energy under control you are forced to weave in a calming effect. You notice as you do that it almost resembles the warmth of the sun on your spring flower.
You step over the remains of the warrior and quickly head up to the Moash council chambers and hand over the message pod to the old warrior at the head of the table and step back. He manages to fumble his way through opening it without making any major mistakes and begins to scan the contents. After a few minutes he looks up and thanks you for your delivery.
As you walk back to the spacedock you continually go over the fight in your mind, memorizing your actions. With a little practice, you think that you should be able to duplicate the effect at any time.
Spacedock V is where she finds us.
You are met by the soldier who is normally your contact in the bar who draws you aside.
"Commander Krane is currently detained doing other things at the moment," he explains seriously, and you sense that he has no idea as to her current whereabouts. "She wanted me to tell you that she will need your talents again in the near future when the plans you just delivered to the Moash start coming to fruition. So keep an eye out in bars. If we need your help again, that's where we will make contact."
The soldier claps his hand on your shoulder, nods and walks away, quickly disappearing into the crowd. You notice after the fact that he seems to have the ability to blend into the crowd and be completely inconspicuous, even though he wears the very distinctive uniform of a Federation naval officer. You sense that he is simply doing something he was taught many years ago and has done many times since.
Spacedock V posted:
SD5's primary task is to supply and maintain a large Federation armada under the command of Admiral Raczak. Surviving a tour of duty in Raczak's Roughnecks almost always ensures an operational command posting elsewhere. The Roughnecks have a long and proud tradition of producing the hardest and most capable veterans of any combat unit, due to the near-continuous action that the armada sees. It is hardly worthy of note that the Roughnecks have the greatest attrition rate of any operational Federation unit. There seems to be a bone of contention between Admiral Raczak and the Wild Geese stationed on SD6, but only the closest associates of the Admiral seem to ken the reason why. However, historians have noted that Raczak's report following the Battle of Kerella doesn't paint the mercenaries in a good light.
Spacedock V's Bar posted:
Pictures are plastered on every wall of 'The Roughrider,' depicting successful engagements for the Roughnecks. An arcade game entitled 'Gun A Goose' sits in the corner. It seems overly violent.
Deliver Message posted:
As soon as you walk in you spot the blonde-haired Commander Krane sitting at a table trying to fend off an unwanted male suitor. You make your way over quickly in the hope that you can discourage him enough so that Krane will forget the incident and let him live.
"There you are!" she exclaims smiling before turning back to the man. "I'm sorry, but my business associate has arrived, and we must speak in private. Could you excuse us for a moment?"
The man takes one long look at you before nodding slightly sullenly and heading back to the bar to buy a drink. Your hopes sink when you sense Krane filing the incident away to be dealt with after you leave.
"He's lucky you turned up when you did," she informs you icily and you laugh. She shakes off her bad mood. "I have another message that needs to get to the Moash. That means you get to play courier again."
And off to Moash!
"This message inside the pod contains details on the next stage of our operation," she explains quietly. "We want the Moash House to step up the raids into our space and begin amassing an armada of their own. At a pre-ordained time detailed in the message you will be carrying, a Federation force will be attacked by the Moash and destroyed. Public opinion will be inflamed and war will be declared. An enormous Federation fleet will head down into Auroran space in response and will begin running amok, but only selectively so. The end result will be the destruction of the other four major houses. Then the remaining survivor, being the Moash House, will sue for peace, and we will grant it.
"Again, I am only telling you this," she reminds you seriously, "in case the Moash elders do not open the message pod correctly.
"Return to New England when you're done," she tells you dismissively. You look over at the would-be suitor. "Don't worry about him," she continues quietly. "He will be taken care of."
Just perform some autoneurosurgery and you'll be fine. The Moash chase us out, but the Dart is agile enough to dodge almost all weapons fire. We return to New England.
As you pilot your way to your destination, you find yourself exploring the nature of the device attached to the nape of your neck. After several days you learn that it works by influencing the part of your brain that controls repetitive actions or actions that have become second-nature. The end result is that you realize that if you become skilled enough, you could simply bypass this portion of your brain, and you would be free to remove the device. You find yourself wondering how the device works on T1's like Llyrell who are more than skilled enough to do exactly this.
Upon landing, you hand over the message pod to the same old warrior as last time and watch him open it. After taking a few minutes to scan the contents he turns to you and thanks you for your services.
After returning back to the landing pad, you quickly reform your protective shell and launch yourself into space. You find yourself becoming excited at the thought that one day you might be free.
If you're a guy, the warm hug changes to "The soldier jovially claps his hand on your shoulder and shakes his finger at you with a smile before ruffling your hair and moving saying that he will see you later tonight." Why even bother gendering the narration in this case?
Upon landing on New England you are again met by the soldier who is normally your contact in the bar. He quickly draws you aside.
"A new situation has arisen," he explains urgently, "and Commander Krane is currently looking into it. She wants you to keep an eye out in bars around the place, as that is where she will make contact with you when she needs you."
The soldier steps forward and gives you a warm hug before stepping away and smiling. He moves away saying that he will see you later tonight. Anyone watching would have thought the exchange was between two old friends meeting for the first time in a long while. You smile at his disappearing back and shake your head in keeping with the charade, while letting your mind slip into thoughts of freedom.
We head to New England, because that's where the missions are.
Hi Llyrell posted:
You sense Llyrell observing you as you glide your way in to dock, and you send out a small weave to acknowledge his presence.
<i see you have learned to create the summer bloom it took the vell-os nearly seven centuries to learn that you have done well perhaps it is time you learned how to better protect yourself against the hostile [elements/intelligences] of the universe come watch>
You follow his intelligence as it dances out into the surrounding space and begins weaving a shell which you quickly recognize as being a Vell-os Arrow, and within moments you grasp the basics of it. When he sees that you have understood the lesson he returns to his body.
<you have definitely proved yourself to be a t2 i think that it will not be long before you reach t1 as i have your strength and skill is growing and it will not be long before you rival even me>
You shake your head as you finally dissolve the protective barriers around you and make your way over to where Llyrell is standing, but you realize that you have picked up everything he has taught you in a matter of moments, and that the new weaves he has just shown you were not that difficult to follow nor was the energy required difficult for you to create.
<you may yet prove to be the one that will lead us to our freedom do not worry you are not far from your own freedom but our freedom will require more effort on your part>
He stands and nods his head in recognition of your prowess before moving off into the crowds milling in the spacedock.
<commander krane is waiting for you in the kane band bar as we speak i suggest you meet with her>
You walk straight past the soldier who is the normal contact and down the passageway at the rear of the bar because you can sense Krane waiting for you and you simply cannot be bothered dealing with the middle man.
"Getting a little cocky are we?" asks Krane icily when you enter. "You will observe proper procedure every time you wish to see me, understood?"
You nod without thinking.
"Good, now down to business," she continues in a more moderate tone. "We have recently discovered that the Polaris have an intelligence organization that has managed to infiltrate into the Federation, and possibly the Bureau for the past few years without our knowledge. We want you to find their headquarters before returning here."
Welcome to T2-hood! Just two more ranks to go before we're on top of the leaderboards. Next time: We revisit some old friends.
"Alright," she continues quietly. "What we know about the Polaris isn't much, so you'll be going into this without much forewarning. However if anyone is capable of making their way through the Polaris defense grid, it would be one of you Vell-os.
"Besides which," she points out seriously, "the Polaris feel that they owe you people a debt for what you did when you sided with them against the Colonial Council centuries ago."
You refrain from pointing out that you are just a telepath, not a Vell-os, because the information you are getting could well save your life, and mentioning it to her might well endanger it.
"We have no idea where the Mu'hari have their headquarters located," she concludes dismissively. "But once you have found it, you are to return here for a debrief."