The Old Army Game.

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Xenonier
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Re: The Old Army Game.

Post by Xenonier »

The Zanekreigerlich of Zerstorendar certainly moved with a level of excitement now that the real events for the night were drawing to a close. In between speeding up to keep with his changes of pace, Tenghi allowed a few brief moments of floating slightly above the ground herself as opposed to just ‘walking’, something which brought about a combination of approval, interest and amusement from Helgrund himself. Noting the change of direction and being directed to enter Helgrund’s little guest abode, Tenghi only gave a passing moment of contact clearly aimed to the soldiers watching on, without speaking. Nevertheless, she gave a smile as she passed by, tapping a finger in the direction of her ear while Helgrund’s back was turned. She would be listening to everything they had to say, naturally, her ‘cryptic’ little message intended as a minor reminder to the Praetorians of this little eventuality . Oddly however, there was no arrogance in the smile, no sign of triumph or superiority. Tenghi was certain the longer the Praetorians reflected on the image, the more they would feel an eerie sense of understanding or familiarity with her own existance. It was merely a subtle combination of sympathy and respect, drawing from her innumerable experiences with ‘guard duty’, after all.

Following the Kaiserlich through what were presumably his somewhat more treasured moments, Tenghi took the time to observe each in turn and evaluate what could be understood from them. The Weightlifting comments had a curious lack of expected natural disappointment or anger at Helgrund’s admission he was not as ‘impressive’, which indicated a significant resolve of peace with the passing of his ability peak. The so called ‘microsiege’ and the recollection of his appointment were similarly fruitful in analysis and prior data collection indicated this ‘Siege’ seemed to have been highly significant in Helgrund’s development of his current military management policy and direction. The presence of a different Kaiserlich was of further interest to Tenghi – she immediately noted it was indeed who Christoph and Remilia had encountered. Christoph’s analysis was once again, perfect. The Zanekreigerlich had outlasted the man who placed him on this pedestal after all, which lead to two very interesting conclusions of note. Firstly, Helgrund would have surely been the primary father figure replacement in the developing Kytus’s life and that as well as this, Helgrund had seemingly sided with Son over Father. There was no hesitation indicated on Xenonian data files whatsoever, indicating loyalty to office and stability of Zerstorendar itself were primary concerns to this one Helgrund Klaitus.

“And so this is the man you call Traitor. Someone you once knew …� Tenghi made no mention of the Xenonian contact with either of the Rendari ‘fugitives’ on her part. That little piece of information would be kept under the belt for as long as was possible, ensuring that the Rendari had the illusion of complete control at all times. It would be essential if Xenonier was to create an acceptable solution to the Airavuni equation, after all.

Then, there was the business of consumption.

Tenghi took the offered seat as per Rendari customs and Helgrund’s reaction was enough to confirm Kata had proven as accurate as ever in her data collection on Rendari customs. With that small matter of protocol now bypassed, the (‘enjoyable’) process of eating could finally commence, Tenghi waiting as the avalanche of foodstuffs was brought out on Helgrund’s whim. Her senses were hardly surprised by the fact the majority of the meal smelt, looked and had the feel of meat, prior research indicating the Rendari palate had always had a heavy emphasis on this kind of foodstuffs with synthetic additions to compensate. Noting Helgrund’ complete lack of restraint whatsoever as he began to chew his way through the assembled goods, Tenghi chose to ‘eat’ at a far slower pacing, at first only consuming some of the salad and the soup. She stirred the soup with the leaves, making no real attempt to consume much more than the occasional grasping effort at a ‘side’ dish of Meaty goodness and these two staples for some time, alternating this with the occasional test of each alcohol in turn. It was when Helgrund turned for a second that she removed one of the steaks, leaving a noticeable gap on the plate when he focused once more. While there appeared to be no great hurry on Tenghi’s part, she nevertheless managed to steadily chew her way through a significant amount of consumables.

Following all this (with Helgrund alternating between stuffing his face and looking politely bemused at Tenghi’s attempts to keep up) came the real question. Tenghi supposed it had to happen sooner or later.

Upon viewing Helgrund’s drawing and his questions on the Xenonian condition at war, Tenghi gave no overt reaction. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence as she paused, seemingly calculating what course of action to take and then, clarity. She placed the paper to the side and finished the last ‘Chip� of food, before placing the utensils together on her plate and placing it slightly to the side. Helgrund would have seen her give a slightly grim smile before ripping the paper roughly in half and moving each half slightly in opposite directions before lifting the paper (now somehow whole once more, if in a different shape) to face him. As she performed this action, she leaned onto the table with an elbow, craned out her neck to stare Helgrund in his eyes and moved the paper so that it was at her eyes. That was not the only event unfolding however – the eyes themselves had turned colour once more, one Black and one red. The same symbol that Helgrund had printed appeared as a white marking in the Black eye, before it returned to a more circular form. Tenghi was secretly pleased that Helgrund’s mind had proven resilient enough to process this little piece of information, leading her to give her first genuine smile of the entire trip.

Helgrund looked as if grappling with any number of possible reactions for a moment, before settling on a measure of significant self control while still looking as if he yearned for many more details. She already saw comprehension drawing on the Rendari, and used that curiosity as a blank cheque to begin an explanation.

“Recognise it?

Xenonians have a great deal of names for this symbol. Some prefer the phrase ‘, Twisted unto form.’, others have named it the ‘Iris’. I am partial to the official designation of the flag symbol as ‘Committal’, however.� She paused, allowing a second's passing for Helgrund’s confusion to build and answers to generate so that she could continue onwards. It was at that point that she continued.

“There is a flower on Makudan IIZ, which was strongly associated with the propaganda of the pre-Irregularity Xenonian government. It is usually associated with two things. We call it the Kanako … but yes. Two things.. Dismay or sadness, perhaps better defined as the ephemeral nature of hope … and a sort of melancholy at the passing of time and the missed opportunities in brings. With that in mind, Xenonian language traditionally translates it as to be the hallmark of tragedy. Which I suppose says a great deal about how we think� Still smiling, Tenghi placed the paper on the table once more before pausing to breathe and carrying on.

“The completed symbol of that flower was imprinted on the first of the Cleaner’s eye, when he was first created and tested some indefinite time period ago. We believe it was roughly one thousand six hundred years, but they’ve run him through so many time distortion chambers in the early days that his physical age is closer to eleven thousand. He was proposed to be the instrument by the government at the time - we call them the Xenonian Protectorate, of perfect control. What was installed on his form bears some resemblance to the developments we have significantly improved upon today. He was programmed with the directive to protect Xenonier, simply put. It was there that the Protectorate made a mistake. The Cleaner took that order to mean the populace of Xenonier, not the government itself. With those directives in place, he pattern matched the Protectorate as the greatest threat to the Xenonian people. A civil war was launched eight hundred years after his creation, leaving the government reeling. Before they realised who was behind it, much of their military infrastructure had been taken apart with the targeted brilliance of someone who intimately understood their military architecture. When their armies marched out, he was marshalling allies and preparing for decisive strikes on their leadership.� Another Pause, Tenghi making no other actions this time.

“On the Flag however, the symbol is uncompleted. As a result of that Civil War, his side annihilated effectively their entire families that opposed them, destroyed the hallmarks of the government of the time and caused a galactic period of total order based collapse around the Protectorate itself which lead to many a powerbroker war as Xenonier rebuilt. I believe “State Treason� is the highest offense in Zerstorendarian Law – and this one Cleaner was successful at State Treason, along with those that marched alongside him. The entirety of the ruling caste that had not allied with him died in the fighting, allowing the creation of a new state. This Xenonier for the most part is an anarchistic democracy, with the passing on of means of production to every citizen allowing for competition without it being solely linked to material desire. As a result, traditional government has broken down, the Irregularity effectively ruling by consensus – a consensus of highly analytical people. Together, we find the solution and we administer it, free of any sort of logically unfounded ideology and with no belief nor acknowledgment of the belief of a higher order to the universe. Or essentially, for the majority of existence the circle is broken ‘recognisable government’, the Projected Irregularity only forms a complete ‘body’ when a war needs to be raged – when Sentients need to die.� Stretching her fingers out in front of her, Tenghi gave another grim smile at the implications of this.

“Xenonians don’t enjoy war, despite the fact we are consummate … I believe you call them ‘nihilists’. We simply cannot gain from it, since even the destruction of one who could have never functioned alongside us is the use of energy for a destructive purpose, not a constructive one. Every Xenonian on every battlefield in the universe since we have had the technology to do so marches out with that in their mind. War is not glorious, to us. When we complete that little Kanako, the projected Irregularity has formed to kill people once more and in that instant, we are applying our ruthlessness, our logical nature, our peerless efficiency to the opposite principle of what has allowed our society to function as a society most educated people thought was an impossibility. In that moment, we are become death, and that is not a position of sadistic power or inevitability, as some like to believe it is. It is a responsibility one undertakes for the preservation of the self – something we must do. Cause and Effect, as surely as there is no higher moral order to the world. But that cause and effect almost leads us to break from the ideal. Each Man kills the thing he loves, and all that.�

Having finally finished that little lecture, Tenghi allowed herself a slow retreat back to her demure position around the table, connecting her fingers together and stretching them out in front of her. Sighing somewhat, she met his gaze against and continued at which the point she had left.

“Xenonian Military Organisation, heh. Not nearly as comprehensive a overview needed. You have the Xenonian Defence Forces, or the XDF, of which people such as Kata like to pronounce Ecks-Dee-Eff. That’s my area of detachment, and is essentially configured to deal with virtually ever major combat situation Xenonier encounters, from Naval to Ground conflicts. We organise our soldiers along four divisions and each is of equal size, equipment, etc. There is no need for a conventional ranking system since Orders are understood as opposed to simply being given, but there are role designations within a unit – Sniper, Infantry, Combat Engineers and so on. Each Division also has the ranks of Second and Daejang or General, which are really only there so that other armed forces can equate to our own ranks. Nevertheless, the Daejang and Second are always the best of the soldiers. They’re overseen by the good Field Marshall Janis Scalzi, who is both a position for outsiders to understand and a bearer of a veritable ton of experimental weapons technology. She is a dangerous individual; the only person who can be truly said to surpass her in all aspects of combat skills is Christoph. A cleaner. The oldest of his kind still alive. That one. Certain Situations has four, but even Xenonians see Christoph as something of an enigma.�

“Which brings me to Certain Situations, of course. Kata has told me you consider them to be our Special Forces, which is … partially correct. Certain Situations is essentially the agency which handles all work that does not fall under the purview of the Xenonian Defence Forces. Diplomacy, Wetwork, infiltration and all the other missions. A Certain Situations member will be present at all of them, often working with Xenonian Defence Force detachments when necessary. Since they are not solely concerned with battlefield performance, Certain Situations are also responsible for testing of highly experimental technologies. Temporal, Dimensional, Quantum and many other technologies which have not yet been perfected and placed under a rigorous combat efficiency process to ensure their combat capabilities are handed to the CS fellows. I should add of course� – Tenghi drew a spinning circle in the air with her finger as she spoke – “That Certain Situations operatives chosen for Combat missions are just as skilled and tested to the same level as Xenonian Defence Force soldiers. They aren’t trained to a higher degree of course, simply because there is no higher degree than ‘my’ soldiers, but illustrating Xenonian training is not practicable here.�

Before Helgrund had the chance to ask her why, Tenghi absent mindedly pointed in the direction of the door.

“You’re about to have a visitor.�


________________________

It was a few minutes before Tyrella started to come back to a manageable level of anger, time which Karen occupied through a number of conversations and calculations, while keeping on eye on how Tyrella was taking things while sitting on a convenient ledge. After her cries had gone completely unnoticed, she had taken to pacing around her lair and placing each step with enough force to rattle all the objects in the room. Karen had already been forced to make a dash to save a falling computational device already, inciting a succession of stifled rages from Tyrella and moments later, the repositioning of her fist so that it had suddenly moved so as to be in the wall. The wall’s response was to expose a series of fissures not once, but twice – and to time it so that the second set started to appear at exactly the same time as Tyrella’s thought process shifted from “Rage-AbatedRage-….Realisation-WHERETHEHELLISTHATLACKEYILLTEARHISTHROATO�

Judging by the mounting look of complete anger on the Primus Architect’s face, some unfortunate hadn’t done a good enough job of reinforcing the wall last time. For a moment she seemed to be considering planting her foot into the wall and attempting to bring the whole structure down, but she relented. Karen doubted the Praetorians would have allowed it to happen, after all, which was the same thought that seemed to have dawned on Tyrella, who was looking at the Praetorian to see if he had anything to add.

Naturally, he did not. Karen had to smile at the temerity of it all, leaping off the ledge and launching herself into a rapid-fire conversation.

“This office has probably seen more combat than our Praetorian stranger-danger buddies here. Well, at least I can presume that the Kaiserlich hasn’t fistfucked you already, or you would be a great deal more concerned with the damage bills. Although Fettel has seemingly managed to get the upper hand In this latest exchange, which you aren’t too happy about. Nevertheless, I’ve seen enough of the designs you have cleared for a certain organisation to know Organic Architectural principles have been integrated into your work. After all, what use is a building which doesn’t incorporate the idea of matching the environment around it to an intelligence agency? Some of the more ego-environmental centric people might still like to hold onto the obsolete notion that Organic Architecture has to conform to strictly non-terraformed natural environments, but that just doesn’t hold true as a concept anymore, now does it?�. Karen stopped breathless, looking rather pleased with herself before staring to walk in a small circle while talking to herself.

“Guards for the Primus Architect, hm. Now Tyrella, I’m not about to speculate about personal details with you or Fettel, but all Xenonian experiences with him indicate he’s committed to his duty and that is the end of it, succinctly put. I’m sure the presence of these Praetorians has the much-appreciated secondary affect of ticking you off, but that’s only half of it. Fettel genuinely thinks you need protecting … hm. It is at moments like these I am always disappointed at the initial tight-fistedness of information between two cultures. Something’s in the skies ahead, and I fucking hate not knowing what. Turning towards the Primus architect and revealing she had a very large … pitcher in the grasp of both her hands, she started sipping from the liquid inside. In between gulps, Karen managed another moment of dialogue.

“Now see, if I was you … and I ain’t, I’d be thinking to myself how lucky it is that my fucking brilliant self isn’t as big a target as say, the Sternsieglich. Or Sindri. At least you get to return home …�

And at that, Karen looked strangely apologetic. The mild amount of curiosity on her face also seemed so as to imply the question of “What’s next?�.

____


Okay, so maybe there was problems ahead for the key Rendari powerbrokers. It was a distinct possibility and one couldn’t rule that out in the midst of an encroaching civil war. Nevertheless, that wasn’t Syu’Kein Terkata’s problem anyway. Karen was perfectly capable of handling herself, Kata was much the same and Tenghi – well. Tenghi was for now about as good a bodyguard as the Zanekreigerlich was going to get, and rightly stuffing bloody fucking so (as Kata Mused). Muttering to herself in her consciousness while Tenghi and Karen exchanged communication, she found herself spilling into analytical passage while both her bodies got in line with a very excited Kimura and awaited their entrance opportunity.

“I like tough men but for the love of … ugh. Stupid, stupid fucking bastard, it’s always the pretty ones thinking they can run around without a mobile meatshield saving the world. Still, we’ll cover that one if we have to. Damn civil wars. Anyway … Fettel and Tyrella. Heh. Cute. I suppose I need to credit ‘hospitality’ at some point. Heheh. Fettel fettel fettel, you’re going to be fucking battlefield traumatised by little girls at the end of this. And It’s not as if I can just be like Remilia and laze around in a bonnet and an Umbrella all day, or carry impractical weapons and pretend I’m the fucking death god like Janis, the useless git.“

The pile of twitching unfortunates outside attracted no attention from Kata’s older form, who strode over to the front and took a spot near the counter with Dietrich. Her younger form which was now left to her own devices waddled over to the pile and prodded one of the comatose bodies, eliciting a pain-stricken moan to which she responded by spinning to face her older self and giving a childish yelp of glee. The Controllers initially seemed taken aback from the motion, but their initial concern proved unfounded – all Kata’s attention seemed to be doing was making the pile of people even more miserable, if such a thing was possible. Kata was certain the controllers somehow approved of it all, to.

“Mosh Pit?�

“… Don’t we wish. No. Anyway, get in line.�

And so it was that Kata’s smaller form wandered back, walking over to stand beside her elder self and being hugged closer. The two shared a moment before looking at Dietrich, looking at the line and looking at the age restrictions which had been printed as advertisements above the entrance. It was Kata’s elder form who spoke this time, speaking in a tone of mild amusement.

“So … how is that going to work?�
;>
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Zerstorendar
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Re: The Old Army Game.

Post by Zerstorendar »

Klaitus listened intently as Tenghi explained the symbol on the Xenonian flag, finding it rather fascinating but a very alien concept. Symbolic references to a fallen regime in their national insignia? That was unheard of in Zerstorendar, where annihilating both the existence and memory of internal foes was common practice. While Xenonians took a rather grim if progressive view of the past, Zerstorendarians viewed the past as simply a series of unavoidably successes and errors that led to the state of modern affairs. The Rendari looked to the future and simply admired the past for what it was: the cornerstone of everything they have now become. It wasn’t something to fixate on, but to keep a healthy appreciation of in order to remember great happenings of the past was to reward or punish those who deserved it long after they had passed.

When Tenghi changed subject and shared their views of war, Helgrund decided he actually found it rather depressing. He decided to share:

“To remove the passion and glory as juxtaposition to the tragedy is anathema to the Ravager in me, and to embrace such efficiency on the battlefield is not a future I want to be a part of. The Zanekrieger are incredibly efficient soldiers, and while we are always evolving our war machine into something more potent, emotion has a strong place in our duties. While we are capable of suppressing emotions when necessary and all that, generally it is not necessary as long as we fight well, fight hard, and fulfill our objectives.�

“Naturally, there are a few little exceptions. Different branches of the military, with different objectives, naturally breed different fighters. For example, the naval personnel of the Sternsieg are far less emotional in carrying out their duties than those insane bastards in the Sternkrieger. For us Ravagers, however, war is as much about passion and anger as it is meticulousness and detailed planning.� Klaitus smiled as he remembered something.

“I remember watching a unit of Ravagers charge through a barrage of enemy fire on Reyessus during the Centisski Nullification, assaulting the enemy position in a veritable steamroller of overwhelming aggression. It was fucking beautiful, the enemy heavy weapons silhouetting my soldiers as they fought. There was some serious firepower being thrown around and some men obviously died. After the battle, I saw one of those same soldiers standing around unarmoured as a med gave him a look over. I walked over to congratulate the man, and began talking with him. At some point I asked him if he had suffered any injuries during the attack.� The Zanekriegerlich chuckled as if getting to the funny part of a joke.

“The Ravager grinned, and told me that the fusillade of enemy weaponry hadn’t scratched him, but when he saw one of his squadmates take a big hit he had bitten his lips hard enough to mutilate his mouth.� Helgrund started laughing uproariously. “His suit’s repair systems had kicked in to repair his mouth for the first and only time during the battle. Now THOSE are the sorts of soldiers I want, and those are the sorts of soldiers I think turn war into something more than the simple taking of sentient life: they turn it into something where a man can challenge himself, excel, and earn themselves some real pride or die trying. That’s the Zerstorendarian way.�

Helgrund did not expect any reaction from Tenghi, as he understood that they embraced matchless efficiency in warfare in order to increase the potential of victory to an almost-certainty whenever possible. Zerstorendar’s warfare was extremely efficient, but the sort of efficiency Xenonier engendered in all its pursuits was simply unattainable by beings such as Zerstorendarians. But that was the sacrifice they made: Tenghi had already made it clear that Xenonians did not derive any pleasure whatsoever from war. Many soldiers in the Zanekrieger thought differently.

Tenghi continued and described the surprisingly but sensibly simple Xenonian military organization, and Helgrund listened intently. He continued to eat, thoroughly enjoying learning about such a vastly different military culture to anything he had as of yet encountered.

Just as she mentioned it, one of the Praetorians outside the room alerted him via the miniature comlink Helgrund always carried in one ear:

“Sir, Comm Officer here to see you privately. Shall we escort him inside?�

Helgrund considered the options, but decided he would talk to the man out of the presence of the Xenonian. Whatever the Kaiserlich had sent the officer to tell him personally was probably very impor-

As Klaitus excused himself and rose from his chair, something thudded onto the door. The heavy boots of Praetorians could be heard as they responded to whatever had happened, and Klaitus’ enhanced hearing did manage to pick up parts of their chatter that Tenghi would have probably heard in detail:

“…dead?�
“How the fu-“
“…Zanekriegerlich in danger?�
“Fuck the Xenonian, I’m checking on-“

The sound of smashing glass alerted him, but he barely had time to turn as a muscular man in a black body glove launched into the room.

+++++

For Operative Sirius, everything moved in slow motion. He was thoroughly prepared for what was almost certainly a suicide mission, but Operation Rude Awakening had never had a precise protocol, only a precise result: the death of the Zanekriegerlich resulting in the destabilization of the loyalist war machine. Kaiserlich Marius had concluded that his son relied heavily upon the counsel of his mentor and right hand Helgrund, and the death of the latter would have serious repercussions on Zerstorendar: repercussions that Marius could take advantage of, and certainly would. With the intervention of the Xenonians, the slim possibility of a doppelganger assuming the Zanekriegerlich’s personality was gone and more direct methods were the only remaining option.

Time was against him, he had to move fast. The corpse-puppet outside the door had bought him a fraction of a second free of Praetorian intervention, and he had to use it.

Propelled by physical enhancements that rendered even the massively powerful, skilled and experienced Zanekriegerlich helpless, Sirius barely touched the floor with his foot before launching himself into a flying kick that easily crossed the distance between himself and Helgrund. The speed of the entry and execution was such that before Helgrund completely turned around or the glass from the smashed window hit the ground, Sirius’ foot was almost in contact with Helgrund’s neck.

Everything was still moving in slow motion. Sirius felt neither satisfaction nor regret as he saw Helgrund realize what was happening, and paid little heed to the massive armoured forms of the Praetorians who smashed through the door on the other side of the room. The Xenonian was moving, very quickly, but nowhere near quickly enough.

The spray of glass from the broken window was yet to hit the ground.

Nanoseconds before he struck, Sirius saw what was going to happen. He noticed that Klaitus’ slowly forming expression was not one of fear, but of triumph.

His kick connected with an incredibly powerful personal energy field that Sirius had not been informed of. Obviously it was new technology. His kick knocked Klaitus back with the sheer force of the impact and Sirius bounced off, landing on his back foot. Sirius took one look at the shield and knew he still had a number of options, but the probability of any sort of success was rapidly decreasing. Helgrund completed his grin:

“Who’s a man and a half? Who’s a shield-packing man and a half?�

Helgrund just hoped Sirius didn't have all the toys that Spectres usually had built into them.
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Re: The Old Army Game.

Post by Xenonier »

There was no overt reaction to the responses and explanations offered by Helgrund upon his analysis of Tenghi’s little story. While there was the 'advantages' of diplomatic protocol, her motivations were as much by analytical means as a desire to keep the conversation going 'well'. While Helgrund had not been informed of the conversation between Karen and Tyrella, the motivation behind Xenonian criticism was much the same - total efficiency could not be expected of a remarkably different society, and for now the level of efficiency put in place was acceptable. For the most part, she maintained an aura of mere calm, a presence neither unnerved nor overtly interested in the events ahead. It was just enough of a contrast to Helgrund's heady enthusiasm that Tenghi felt no need to change it. Likewise, when the Praetorians began to raise their voices in concern at events unfolding outside, Tenghi's only reaction was to down one of the herbal ethanols in a single shot and wipe her mouth in a rather masculine fashion. Helgrund was momentarily distracted, but in that time Tenghi maintained her placid approach.

It was only after the glass had hit the floor that she started to move. There was nowhere near enough haste to block off the newcomer's attack routes, but Tenghi had never planned to take action about that anyway - and the Praetorians had already lifted their arms to fire, anticipating his movement with all the efficiency of trained soldiers at war. The resultant fusillade reduced one of the figure's arms to a bloody ruin, but proved unable to stop him or to even to disable him entirely before he was the move again. With the only two obstacles towards a successful assassination now being the shield and Tenghi herself, the situation changed somewhat. Moments before the arm had been run through a blender of Praetorian fire support; the assailant had been able to fire a number of modified projectiles from the fingers, the nails themselves. The projectiles themselves were carefully placed, fired in angles which evidently sought to prevent Tenghi from intercepting them all. As it was, the Xenonian only caught the two which were headed directly for the Zanekreigerlich on the inside of her arm.

Behind her, the shield wavered and Tenghi found further cause for concern – and a concern none of the other occupants of the room could surmise, to boot. The shield was wavering, the projectiles evidently being designed as shield-crackers, or destabilisation weapons and quite powerful ones at that. Judging by the changing colour and energy buildup around the remaining fist, it was evident that of The Praetorians were quick to adapt and prepare another volley, but the speed of this attacker’s movement had thrown them off for enough time to close into personal combat, negating their guns as much due to a recognition of the speed the two combatants were moving as much as any ‘risk’ of friendly fire. Evidently, this sort of speed by any Rendari in a fight was alien even to them.

On the infinitesimally small chance it did work, damage could be partially mitigated. That damage could then be reconstituted - while the chance to capture this one alive, was significantly more tenous. Twisting her form, she momentarily diverted backwards and braced her own jump against the floor, leaping up to meet the newcomer's incoming fist and noting with a moment's curiosity the friction lattice surely bound around the fist before the two struck, as well as the angle of the attack itself. The Spectre (it had to be a Spectre, not even Indrick had shown this level of combat ability as per Kata's records and analysis) was aiming his fist so that the knuckles would not contact her own, leaving her fist capable of crushing his fingers and giving her the definite advantage in striking power. Nonetheless, the assailant made absolutely no attempt to divert from his course of action and held back nothing as their fists collided together with impressive speed even given the standard they had shown previously. As it was, all of their movements had occurred in under a second. While neither moved, the floor visibly cracked under Tenghi’s feet.

The Xenonian Agent’s arm went completely rigid under the impact, while the Bodyglove clad assailant’s fingertips were sent through his hand itself. Tenghi had undoubtedly had the better end of the encounter. Behind them, the shield on Helgrund’s person was collapsing further – a thumbnail had struck home this time, taxing the shield even further stresses and revealing the reason for the oddly positioned attack to Helgrund and the Praetorians in the first place. When their fists had collided, the thumb had been in the perfect position to fire another nail. It was becoming very clear that the would-be assassin would need a complete body-core failure to ensure he no longer remained a direct threat nearby to the Zanekreigerlich, and the Praetorians looked absolutely furious about it all. He attacked once more, striking at her face, the Xenonian weaving out of the strike with customary swiftness. With the advantage of surprise removed, the next attack might well have been the last opportunity afforded. As if in response to that consideration, the assailant launched another attack – with his fist glowing all the more fiercely this time. Evidently, Marius’s faction had a few technological developments of their own.

In Tenghi’s sight however, that couldn’t have been more wrong. From the moment this one had been blocked by the shield her senses had observed very worrying developments in the attacker himself … something she considered much more dangerous towards Helgrund’s person than any shield-breaking fingernail or KE-sinked fist. A massive increase in heat around the chest cavity, a number of chemical reactions occurring around a significant power build up in the chest consistent with Rendari explosives. She had already calculated enough to feel confident the shield would not withstand the next attack … and chose to bank on it. With the last strike upon her and the Praetorians having spent the second or so of time bought to recalibrate to fire once more, Tenghi simply vanished, leaving Helgrund to watch as the speed this Spectre bore down on him before he could blink. In her place was a single flat object, which momentarily erupted in a flash of searing heat. Helgrund would have noticed one of the Spectre’s eyes had been reduced to a charred ruin.

Before the figure had the chance to test Tenghi’s theories, she slammed into him from the side with her shoulder, conserving all of the momentum her little disappearing episode had ‘conjured’ and taking advantage of his now blinded side. The force evidently surprised both the Praetorians and Helgrund – it sent the Spectre into the wall with sufficient force for a very audible groan of protest from the wall itself. While not nearly enough to halt him (the Spectre promptly jumping to his feet and launching another attack), Tenghi was already moving, predicting when and where the Spectre would be able to struggle up to his feet again. That was all she needed to place a hand on the Spectre’s chest while she forced his arm aside with the other, taking advantage of both the small advantage she had in time and his already weakened body. The Spectre was thrown against the same spot in the wall with tremendous force again – and this time, it did not hold. Both Tenghi and the other combatant were thrown into freefall as a result. Eight Hundred Metres until ground, essentially – Tenghi’s had measured it upon arrival.

The entire episode could not have taken more than a few seconds.

Inwardly, Tenghi was still analysing the entire situation in depth as she watched the bodyglove-clad Spectre fell. There was now an increased chance someone of his abilities could evade immediate capture from the Praetorians (two of which had just leapt out of Helgrund’s residence with intentions to capture the fleeing Spectre lcear on their minds) and if the explosive end intended for him was reversible, then it should begin to subside. If the opposite was true however - and while such an outcome would prove useful in illustrating the determination of Marius’s side to victory, it would not be as useful as capturing one of these Spectres alive. Nevertheless, Walpurgisnacht was already on the way and beyond that there was little Tenghi could do. Given the charge and the activity she was witnessing, she estimated a reasonably rough expectation of the explosion occurring just a few millionths before Ten seconds.

He wouldn’t have that much time however. Bringing weapons into Vanderhelm was one thing Tenghi had never intended to attempt – but now they were outside … and Tenghi was nothing if not prepared.

On the literal cusp of the detonation time, an observer would have seen the blacksuited figure simply disappear, swathed by a greater shadow in the form of a large, ornate box some two metres high and a half a metre wide. The body fell, was engulfed and then the box closed, obscuring a flash of light as it did so. The entirety of the synthetic outside was ornately wrought and fashioned by the hands of a skilled artisan, with no other embellishments to distract from the workmanship, and tremendous chains of an unknown metal floated around the outside. Any observers watching through the eyes of the Spectre would have seen much the same; a moment’s pause in their timing mechanisms and then darkness, and the inevitable, expected façade of unresponsive life-signs. Meanwhile, the massive chains wound shut around the … coffin, enclosing it once more.

Tenghi closed her eyes for a second, as if locked in thought on the events that had unfolded. Within the boundaries of the Walpurgisnacht, the Spectre would essentially live by a day, metaphorically crossing the boundary between the living and the dead so as to exist outside the reach of conventional forces. The time-distortion on the last moments of his so called ‘life’ would be enough to convince them of the explosion itself, which left this one open to study. She paused for a moment to reflect on the possibility of if the Spectre had any real notion that right then and there was supposed to be the moment he died. Probably not, she mused.

“Not today Soldier. Not today.�

For the moment, she was trying really, really hard not to laugh at the two Ravager-sized potholes in the ground below, caused by the two Praetorians that had jumped after her own exit. Ignoring the fact they couldn’t float, or fly, or get air support.

Well, she couldn’t fault their enthusiasm.

When she poked her head just into the vision of she noted with a wry smile that the office was now full of Praetorians, roughly twenty five in all. More than a few of them seemed interested by the massive coffin-like box that she was standing on and every single one seemed to look at the binding chains and then at Tenghi, as if considering the possibility of using one against the other.

"Now Helgrund, how many of your forces have the 'duty' of carrying a suicide explosive triggered by a remote timer and set to a highly configured and modified charge burst so as to penetrate most Rendari shielding? Passion and feeling, yes? Just looking at the specimen I’ve got in here, I can say with absolute certainty the face of Rendari warfare will never again be quite the same.� Her tone was in no way condescending or admonishing and if anything, it sounded a little sad. The next stage of the war was something she had seen enough times to sympathise with.
Turning way for a moment to gaze upon the ground below, she addressed him once again.

“ Oh ... and you should think in more than two dimensons, Helgrund Klaitus. After all, to my sight you could well be known as a shield packing man of some eighty six point four nine " - She turned to the Praetorians and counted numbers on her fingers - "Five decimal units, yes. Seven five five .... well. You get the point. Also, I have every intention of getting out of this blasted piece of fabric and back into something I’ve blown, burned, beaten, cut up and generally abused a couple thousand times. Tradition, of course."

Helgrund’s reaction was pleasantly accommodating, given the circumstances.

___________

Even before all hell had broken loose with Tenghi, Karen was on her guard. The moment things officially went to hell she was instantly on her feet and looking very antsy about the business. Her facial expressions went from surprised to eager in a few moments, and she completely ignored the interest of Tyrella to start yabbering to herself.

“See that one everyone? Novino, Syoujuan, even Kata (you useless slag). This just got extremely fucking awesome.�

She spun on heel and turned towards Tyrella, her face breaking into a frown. There might well have been a moment of sadness in between the maddening faux-enthusiasm. The pitcher was already completely empty, and Karen certainly looked to be enjoying herself.

“Well. Looks like we’ve finally got a good reason to play hard ball. If you get paid extra commissions for difficult projects … and don’t tell me you don’t, you’re about hit a whole new vein of wealth. Not that you care, but hey. Ravagers are boors and like pretty monuments to how huge they are, right?�
___________

“…. RAVAGER POTHOLES?

IF THERE WERE POTHOLES RAVAGERS WOULD MAKE THEM THIS BIG.�

Kata’s smaller frame made absolutely no attempt to contain her desires to laugh at the hilarity, effectively falling over herself in her retelling of the events to one very agreeable Kimura Dietrich. While she had left out the combat details and all indications as to what exactly she got the line from (They would explain that one later), Dietrich seemed to think it was an exceptional drinking story, nevertheless.

Of course, if one takes into account that they still weren’t’ even out of the line, there was an absolute, objective certainty of mischief ahead.

Joking character aside, Kata was not too concerned about the ramnifications of what had just occurred. She was every bit as serious as other Xenonians in this situation, but that was tempered by her knowledge of Tenghi and Karen’s abilities. She worried not, for now all things would be well and unless they came after her or Dietrich, it was hardly as if she had a major part to play in the unfurling of events. Nevertheless, she was pleased to have both Eddie and Izzard about her, for even Syu’Kein Terkata was a practical girl. All Xenonians were.
;>
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Zerstorendar
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Re: The Old Army Game.

Post by Zerstorendar »

From amidst the formidable protective barrier of well over twenty newly arrived Praetorians, Helgrund wiped his brow as the shield deactivated completely. Very handy technology, hopefully the eggheads working on it will be able to get him another one. The Zanekriegerlich, proud as he was of his military achievements and personal capabilities, was realistic about comparing himself to a synthetic combat form like a Spectre. It was a good thing Tenghi had been around, but in hindsight it was a bad idea to dismiss his bodyguards to outside the room as a gesture of trust. The assassin had taken advantage of that, though he had not reckoned on some of the abilities of Xenonians.

By fucking Tereza, did she just eat him with a coffin?

In response to Tenghi’s request, the reasonably unshaken Klaitus grunted an affirmative:

“Under the circumstances, you may feel free to slip into something more comfortable.�

“My Lord, your orders?� said one of the Praetorians, obviously concerned with the Xenonian and her box-thing and feeling extremely guilty about leaving the protection of the Zanekriegerlich to an alien he did not trust nearly as far as he could (theoretically) throw her. That isn’t to say he didn’t trust her at all, however. The Praetorians could not help but be impressed by Tenghi’s abilities and thankful for her intervention: had Klaitus died, it would have been possibly the single greatest failure on the part of the Praetorians in ten millennia with far-reaching consequences.

Klaitus, for his part, would not be giving Marius another chance. While the Kaiserlich would no doubt order him to take a large escort even when in the bathroom from this point on, Helgrund would not yield to his inner scoundrel and try to give them the slip here and there as he had been known to do on occasion. He responded to the questioning Praetorian with all the gravity and authority of his station:

“Check the Xenonian for injuries.� Was what he said. What he meant was ‘have a good look at that box.’ Four Praetorians scanned it with the powerful sensors in their armour while they gave Tenghi the once-over. The lead Praetorian, one of Helgrund’s disgraced personal bodyguards, shook his head. Nothing. With no alternative, Helgrund broached the subject:

“Before I let you go Tenghi, you’re going to need to explain that bo-“ one of the Praetorians gestured towards Klaitus in Zanekrieger battle sign: ‘Important message’. Helgrund nodded, and the Praetorian saluted while delivering the message.

“The Kaiserlich is on the way here. Primus Praetorian Todou demands that the Xenonian be detained immediately.� Klaitus nodded:

“Never fear, Tenghi. When Todou says ‘detain’, I usually take it to mean ‘stand next to’.�
He waved towards the Xenonian, and a number of the elite gold-gilded Ravagers surrounded her as Helgrund moved to her side.

The twenty or so Praetorians in the damaged room, a massive hole torn through each of the room’s opposing walls, lined up at attention in anticipation of the Kaiserlich’s arrival. More Praetorians could be seen and heard taking up positions in the hallway, and it was almost certain that similar scenes were being played out around all the important figures of Zerstorendar. Praetorians would be conducting thorough searches of Vanderhelm and all of its personnel. While the assassination attempt lasted mere seconds, Vanderhelm would be locked up for hours in response.

The sound of the Kaiserlich’s approach echoed down the hallways for some time before he arrived. Even accompanied by nearly a hundred Praetorians marching in perfect lockstep, the lumbering gait of Todou could be picked out by anybody whose hearing was even remotely enhanced. With the efficiency of supersoldiers who knew nothing other than their duties, the Praetorians filed into the room and created a tunnel for the Kaiserlich and his bodyguard.

Klaitus shook his head as the two men entered through the massive tear in the wall made by Helgrund’s bodyguards as they responded to Sirius’ attack. He had known Primus Praetorian Radec Todou for decades, but his size never ceased to impress him. By the look on Tenghi’s face, he could see that even she had not anticipated such a huge figure to exist within Zerstorendar.

Kaiserlich Kytus Draigan entered first, his stride clipped and quick and his expression very serious. He took one look at the chaos of the room before approaching Klaitus, concern and annoyance etched on his face. His red cloak trailed behind him and the black, heavily decorated armour that every Kaiserlich wore was immaculate as usual. Bending over heavily to fit through the hole made by nine foot supersoldiers, the ground shook ever so slightly with every step Radec Todou made. He marched slightly behind and to the left of the Kaiserlich, taking one small step for every three steps his master took.

Helgrund saluted, fist to chest, and the numerous Praetorians followed suit. Tenghi, learning heavily on her coffin-device that had imprisoned the attacking Spectre, inclined her slightly in respect. Todou, fully-armoured from head to toe as usual, exhaled heavily in annoyance at her irreverent pose. Helgrund was certain that Todou would be full of outraged rhetoric the moment Lord Kytus gave him leave to talk.

The Supreme Ruler of the Mannlich Imperium of Zerstorendar smiled with genuine warmth and stepped forward to shake Helgrund’s hand.

“I am pleased you have emerged from this incident with no ill harm, Zanekriegerlich.� Helgrund accepted the comment with a nod, keenly aware that the Kaiserlich was genuinely pleased but did not expect him to say anything just yet. He continued:
“I am disappointed you saw fit to dismiss your guards when you know perhaps better than I the sort of tactics my father is predisposed to.� Helgrund nodded, suppressing any reaction to the rebuke as Kytus went on: “This changes things, as you are aware. Through no fault of your own, this incident will not go unnoticed by the Zerstorendarian people and I will now be forced to confirm the rumours of my father’s appearance. The people may be ready, but I did not want to leave this to chance.� The Kaiserlich began to turn as he talked, making the Praetorians feel as if they were privy to the Kaiserlich’s musings. It was a clever move, but did not reflect well on the current situation that he thought it was necessary. “I will need you by my side, Helgrund, to completely assure the loyalty of our soldiers when I do so. But that’s enough of this melodrama shit. I am pleased you are unharmed, though I did not expect any less from a soldier with a history such as yours.� Kytus smiled again, and Helgrund found himself admiring the qualities of leadership in the man who he himself had trained. Apparently, it was time for him to respond.

“I will need to discuss some aspects of the attack with you in private, Lord Kaiserlich. I also think you should have a look at the attacker himself�, Klaitus said while gesturing towards the box that Tenghi was leaning on. The Kaiserlich raised an eyebrow, but chose to address the alien instead of inquiring further.

“Ah, the Xenonian. It’s rather fucked up that we had to meet under such circumstances, Lady Tenghi, but here we are. I am the Kaiserlich of the Mannlich Imperium of Zerstorendar, and this-“ pointing over his shoulder at the massive Primus Praetorian, “-is my bodyguard, Primus Praetorian Radec Todou.�

“You just keep leaning on that box, puny girl. Threat.� The oversized soldier stated dangerously. At over eleven feet in height and approaching the Kaiserlich’s height in distance from shoulder to shoulder, his gruff, deep and mechanical voice was just the icing on a very, very intimidating cake. The Kaiserlich smiled knowingly while Klaitus looked sidelong at Todou as if to say “you’re an idiot.� Todou’s head turned slightly to look down at Klaitus, his armour hissing as he did so, but he said nothing.

“I daresay she could take you on, Radec.� said Helgrund.

“I welcome her to try. Disdain.� Todou replied, and the Kaiserlich intervened before the two soldiers began abusing each other.

“Shut it, both of you. You’re giving our guest the wrong idea of manners in Zerstorendar. First she gets forced to watch the Zanekriegerlich eat, then ends up fighting some super-assassin, and now she has to stand around while you two bicker like girls.� Todou shrugged his massive shoulders and grunted in amusement. The Kaiserlich smiled.

“Exactly. Now tell me, Lady Tenghi, exactly what your little box do-“

He then shook his head, having just realized something.

“…and what is in it.�

+++++

“What in Tereza’s name are you on about?� Tyrella asked. In an impressive display of (in?)opportune timing, her personal datapad received a message timestamped just as the attack occurred. The Primus Architect retrieved it from her greatcoat, her job taking precedence over entertaining her insane guest. It was a message with the Kaiserlich’s seal. It read:

To: Members of the Secundlich

From: Lord Kaiserlich Kytus Draigan of the Mannlich Imperium of Zerstorendar

Subject: Get to work


An assassination attempt on the Zanekriegerlich was narrowly averted. There are no casualties and the assassin has been nullified. Take measures to ensure your own safety.

Primus Informator: The Kaiserlich will personally handle the cover story.

Primus Ambassador: Keep your mouth shut or I’ll send a Spectre after you.

Algsternlich: Ensure public calm.

Primus Architect: The attack resulted in serious damage to a window, two walls, and some works of art. Enjoy.


Tyrella Hayste blanched, and slowly put the datapad back in her greatcoat. The serene moment then quickly passed, and she began screeching for her underlings to “GET THE FUCK IN HERE OR I’LL FEED YOUR YOUR FUCKING EYES YOU STUPID FUCKING-“ as she began frenziedly searching her computer system for relevant files, schematics, architectural and historic details. The two Praetorians remained still as high-ranking employees of the Planning Office poured into the room, not one of them looking happy about being there. Tyrella had stopped yelling and was thankfully ignoring them while she worked, but Karen would no doubt notice that several of her employees were becoming very nervous.

Suddenly, she stood, tore the datapad from her coat, and threw it full-force at the closest man’s head. He flinched and caught it against his face with one hand.

“READ IT!� the Primus Architect demanded, obviously unconcerned with the possibility that the message was meant only for her. The man read the contents of her last message aloud, and the Zerstorendarians betrayed a mixture of shock, anger, and interest in response. Tyrella marched around her desk and snapped her datapad out of the man’s hands:

“You five, you’re coming with me to that fucking room. The rest of you, keep what you just heard to yourselves. If you don’t, I’ll tear your Tereza-fucking arms off and then sell you to the Blitzmord with the blood of your friends and family, you disloyal fucking pieces of shit.� While the people in the room were far too intelligent to share state secrets that they learned in the workplace, they were aware it was simply Tyrella’s style to find an excuse to insult them. When she pushed through them with the five people she had pointed out, the Praetorians turned on their heels and followed, as did Karen. The rest of the Planning Office employees breathed a collective sigh of relief and went back to work, talking amongst them about what had happened in a very restrained manner: they knew the Blitzmord were watching and listening.

+++++

Primus Ambassador straightened his plumed drinking helmet and shifted in his massive power-armoured boots. None of the elements of his drinking costume were made to be used in such a casual manner, which was probably the reason he used them so. Syukata had finished telling him an outrageously amusing story, and he gathered from the context that something important had just happened and he should be doing his job, or something.

His datapad alerted him to a message, which he promptly checked just as a matter of interest. Syukata seemed interested, though she had probably already guessed what it was about. Dietrich laughed:

“It seems I have orders: I need to keep my mouth shut.� His laughter increased in pitch until it was rather maniacal, and he quieted himself by downing one of the many steel mugs of erap in front of him.

“Keep my mouth shut indeed, the Kaiserlich has such a sublime sense of humour! Anyway, where was I…�

While he tried to remember what he had been talking about, he admired his surroundings. The Man’s Lands was a gladiator tavern that he frequented: he simply loved the atmosphere.

A bleeding man went flying over the top of Dietrich and Kata’s heads, several droplets of his vital fluids landing in Kimura’s drink. He looked over to see what had caused it, and saw one of the massive, enhanced gladiators brawling with three (now two) equally enhanced patrons. The mess they were causing was incredible, but they weren’t breaking any rules in that they were keeping the fight to themselves, showing some restraint, and had not yet caused any serious damage to the tavern. Normally, brawls were not allowed. However, in a bar such as this (the reputation being built squarely on fighting) the Controllers did make rare exceptions and since one of them was betting on the outcome, they did not intervene.

Dietrich, on the other hand, had just had somebody else’s blood spilled into his five gelds worth of drink.

“Don’t make me fuck all of you up!�, declared the foremost ambassadorial person in the Mannlich Imperium as he threw the steel cup full force towards the gladiator’s head. Propelled by the arms of an ex-Ravager, it was enough to cause the otherwise occupied man to stagger. The two men he was fighting took advantage of the distraction and began dealing out some serious damage. The Controller who was betting on the brawl pulled his energy-stick from his belt, obviously intending to stop the brawl to avoid the gladiator being seriously injured. With a sudden sense of fairness overwhelming him, Dietrich leaped up from his chair and charged feet-first into one of the men attacking the gladiator. He then climbed to his feet, grabbed the second man, and threw him into a wall. Finally, he punched the gladiator in the face, knocking the man unconscious.

Tipping his plumed helmet to the still-armed Controller, Dietrich sat back down with the thoroughly amused Syukata and ordered several more drinks to accompany the ones he already had on the table.

“Enjoying yourself yet? In fact, don’t answer that, I have a fantastic idea…�

The now slightly inebriated Kimura leaped out of his chair again to approach the very confident and serious looking scantily-dressed man who ran the gladiator fights in the small arenas scattered throughout the tavern. Leaning in slightly so the man could hear him over all the yelling, fighting and the loud, heavy, vocal-driven music, Dietrich organized a fight:

“You know who I am, right?� The man nodded.

“A man with too much fucking money, yeah.� Kimura nodded jovially.

“Damn straight, and I’m about to offer you a triple fee. You just have to do something special for me.�

“What’s that?� asked the suspicious fightmaster.

“See that little girl over there?� he pointed to Syukata, “I want you to pit her against ‘Prince Skullfuck’.� The fightmaster looked at the Primus Ambassador as if he was a particularly stupid drunk.

“If he wins, I’ll fight ‘Big Z’ again.� Added Dietrich, and the fightmaster’s eyes suddenly lit up.

“You’ve got yourself a fucking deal. I’ll send the Prince right over. Just make sure that poor little bitch is in the ring before anything starts.�

Primus Ambassador Dietrich gave the man a hearty thumbs-up.

“You’re in for the performance of your life.�

He doubted the fightmaster took it how he meant it.
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Re: The Old Army Game.

Post by Xenonier »

At the Kaiserlich’s invitation to begin speaking, Tenghi continued to gaze on noncommittally, making no attempt to engage at all for some time.. Eventually she pushed herself off the box into a standing position, looking at the cracked ground before tilting her head to gaze straight through the Kaiserlich’s gaze. She made no attempt to tone down her intensity, and Todou clearly regarded her as the greatest threat in the room. Despite this only being their first meeting, there was more than enough data to guess his intent, judging by both his pose and his very deliberate growling. Technical details first, then what they meant. It was irrelevant as to if the Rendari understood the technicalities themselves, as opposed to the significance of imparting them. Waving her hand in a circle with delicate movements of the wrist before eventually pointing at the ‘box’ (and acting completely unaffected by the fact it was still hanging at an impossible angle), Tenghi answered.

“It would be accurate to term Waplurgisnacht an experiment, on loan from my ‘father’. It is not a weapon in the strictest sense, rather a miniaturized version of advanced temporal/dimensional/quantum technology used on Xenonian ships, running on an adapted phase-planar Casimir tap. All abilities of relevance are non-military in direct application and mostly refer both positioning and movement of scale, which can lend themselves to tactical application. Hence it is less of a Military weapon and more of an experiment, an expensive exercise in ever-expanding Xenonian technological boundaries. This probably sounds like a rather irrelevant introduction, so I’ll simplify.� She turned as if lost in thought for a moment, before adopting a smile she knew Helgrund would recognise. There was a great deal of information to impart, and the pieces had to be stacked in the right order to keep discussion moving along at the required pace. Enough to procure interest – and enough to make Tenghi seem indispensable, if her previous actions had not made that case strongly enough.

“Time fluctuation, dilation and manipulation occur at the Quantum level outside of any theory which acknowledges the existence of Time Travel. More importantly, it can be controlled. Walpurgisnacht is an experiment at combining Quantum manipulation of the absolute limits of our Dimensional and Temporal abilities with miniaturisation technology and power sources that required significant levels of control mechanisms not normally mounted on an object of this size. The exact capabilities can be discussed later, but the relevant one for now is anything inside it is effectively removed from ‘our’ physical universe, that it can expand that field to well outside the boundaries of the box itself, and that this is merely a passive ability, as opposed to the massive number of active abilities I can trigger it to process.� The Xenonian allowed herself a a moment’s as the ramifications of that sunk into the Rendari who were listening.

“The Spectre was a walking explosive, a shield-cracker charge which would have operated on just enough of an angle to cut the Zanekreigerlich in half and melt as opposed to cauterise, the disparate ends of the wound. It was chemically initiated and catalysed by the synthetic reconstructions of specific parts of his body. In particular, the movement of and reconstruction of key organs which scans confirm were essentially removed from his form, rebuilt synthetically and sealed off within his body. The only commiseration I could have given is that it would have been … comparatively quick, although I doubt that was ever intended as a feature of the design – more a technical limitation, if you will.� At this she shook her head somewhat dismissively, as if attempting to deal with distractions. The heavy calibre pistol remained clipped to a pouch at her hip attracted much of Todou’s attention for a moment, the massive bodyguard seemingly considering what level of threat to appropriate to the holstered weapon, as well as the rest of her person.

Evidently a lot, was Tenghi’s eventual conclusion.

“Not the worst of the information gathered from our little battle, however. This one is stronger than the last enhanced Spectre encountered by your own forces. I would go so far as to use the adjective significantly so. There are flaws in the sequencing process and the enhancements, but you will be able to go over that yourself in time … and before you ask, yes� – She gestured towards Todou and spoke again “while my calculations indicate it was impossible he’s as strong when compared to the good Todou here, the muscle fibres were more efficient in all aspects, between the realms of seventeen and twenty five percent, depending on the location of the tissue. This is also ignoring all of the advantages a suit gives to muscle-based tensile strength. Your masterminds behind this attack here have a technological lead over you in this aspect, evidently … and it is something they have accomplished outside the boundaries of current Rendari technological understanding�. While finishing, she noted the shared looks of concern on the part of the pair, interrupted only by Todou’s snarling upon mention of ‘Lead over you’. Evidently, the massive bodyguard found the notion rather insulting in all aspects, but he wasn’t about to ignore the warning either.

“While the bomb did not[ go off, whoever was controlling this one will consider him dead so long as the Nacht is able to keep the Spectre wrapped in a field, which opens up more than a few possibilities for your researchers to take all the time you wish, which might prove very useful for any other secret projects you may just have in mind. Now, where would like you like me to park your little ‘prize’?� Tenghi finished and slowly pointed behind with her thumb at Walpurgisnacht. It immediately returned to an upright posture and seconds later, began floating ominously, a few feet above the ground. Tenghi awaited a reply – but the body language of those around her indicated they all agreed with the implied suggestion. Further investigation of both ‘what’s in the box?!’ as well as any further planning would best be performed in some other location – preferably, a war room. That way at least, the gentlemen would not be fighting.

By the time one very angry Tyrella Haste, her own Entourage and one very pleased looking Xenonian came across the ruins of the room, all of the major players had already gone. This left her with only the immobile Ravager Praetorians to rage at, following her first initial series of deep breaths and muttered curses upon seeing the combat damage at the building itself.

And rage she did.

Kata would be telling that story to Dietrich, as well.

___________

By the looks of things, word was starting to get around to all the important people. A quick look through Tyrella confirmed the intent of the message sent, and Karen was certain of the timeline of information creep once more.

So it was that Tyrella knew in good time, and the planning office went through several stages of confusion, panic and concern at the implications of the read message. Karen was mildly amused at the myriad of reactions to the message present and while the Praetorians were frozen in the poses of Soldiers assigned to the job, the Xenonian appeared as the only sphere of calm in the room. Making a conscious choice to attract at least some element of wonder or surprise from the staff, her behaviour changed subtly, going so far as to even appear bored now that events were in full swing. When Tyrella marched off with a purpose, Karen took a moment to stare around the room and meet the eyes of every employee present. None of them could hold her gaze for long. Her expression shifted into a frown, as if to question “why let yourself be so affected? What for?�. Sighing momentarily, she started waddling onto her trail, following the Primus Architect with her senses certain of the possibility for far more interesting things ahead. Behind her, the planning office began to resound with rather subdued commentary, everyone wanting desperately to say something and yet, suppressing those desires due to an overhanging fear of what lay ahead, should they say the ‘wrong’ thing. The Blitzmord still had power here, as remote as they had ‘attempted to stay from the developing conflict thus far.

When the momentary period of Rage was over, Tyrella had settled into what evidently settled for a ‘working rhythm’, snapping out orders the moment she thought about them and slamming down every piece of monitoring equipment she carried while she evidently began to prepare a damage assessment. Some of her staff fanned out to inspect the site of battle immediately, Tyrella’s barking of orders and imminent rage being pre-empted by the efficiency of workers who evidently knew exactly what to expect had they done otherwise. Despite their efficiency, Karen noted more than a few furtive looks at her own person by several of the staff whom inspected the combat damage. At these questioning looks, Karen merely gave a slightly-unbalanced grin of her own and a small bow, making no attempt to hide that such power was within her capabilities. There was just enough madness in the smile to chill the architects, which Karen was all the more pleased about. It would be doubly amusing to see what Tyrella’s reaction would be to such a thing.

Deciding against an edifying little chat with the Praetorians, she wandered over to gaze through the wounded building at the surroundings outside, rubbing her cheeks as they flushed with red. While she was hardly affected by the damage inflicted on the room, the scarring was clearly having an affect on Tyrella’s assistants. The more they studied the damage the more fearful they became, evidently finding the notion that such power could be projected towards an attempt on the Kaiserlich that needed to be foiled in such a destructive fashion serving to remind them of how fragile the entire situation was. Those furtive looks had become a far more telltale mixture of professional curiosity and civilian fear, the two combining to spur their efforts on. At the continuation of their work, Karen offered sigh, a pirouette and then an intonation.

“Let us take everything from each other …? You wish to fight like this? Well. I am sure Sjou will be happy about it all�

And with that she glided over to Tyrella, intending to find something ‘useful’ to do. The Primus architect would never admit such a thing, yet she would be the most vulnerable ‘high profile’ target in Zerstorendar the moment she left the most … ‘defended’ areas of Vanderhelm. Not that she cared at all, right now.
___________

The tally now stood at three separate incidents for Dietrich, assuming that Kata was charitable enough to count the cup, the resultant brawl and the proposal as three incidents (and Kata was). While publically Kata seemed to be a little miffed about how things were proceedings, she privately thought the entire experience was rather grand … and of course, there was no problem as far as she was concerned, with letting Dietrich get a head start on things.

Despite the veritable din of noise occurring in the gladiator taven, Kata had heard every word and chanced upon every implication of Dietrich’s little ‘arrangement’ with the fightmaster, which left her with opportunity aplenty to consider the actions to be taken, and approaches to be made. Evidently, the Rendari ambassador was determined to create a real spectacle for the patrons, using her ‘skills’ as a means to accomplish such a goal. The appeal of getting into a stirring little scuffle with Rendari gladiator certainly held open opportunities for mischief and the general creation of Chaos, particularly with the reactions of the crowd to the aftermath. Nonetheless, the real question was would alternatives leave her open with more capacity for causing as much legal damage of possible. It took only a moment to come up with the conclusion that they could – and besides. The Fight master would prove to be an interesting toy, she was sure. The advantages posed by two bodies as always, was foremost in her mind.

Kata’s blonde extension had already ghosted behind him before he had thought to look for her, which made things all the more enjoyable. What this unfortunate Rendari would have heard was a voice that seemed to pierce through the enormous surrounding din and target his ears alone. For someone who neither knew nor believed of the capabilities of Xenonians, confusion was sure to momentarily reign over the consciousness.

“He really does have too much fucking money on his hands. Not enough sense, either. Nonetheless, the idiot who makes a proposal is not nearly as foolish as the one who accepts it.�

The moment the fightmaster turned, he would have noticed Kata leaning forward on the table and staring him in the face, elbows supporting her jaw. She made absolutely no attempt to hide the slightly smarmy brand of a victory smile on her face, nor her look of complete and absolute confidence about the entire situation. It was clear in her eyes at least that she was now a predator with prey, intending to drag out the moment. Her slightly dishevelled appearance might well have been called attracted, if there wasn’t the look of a lunatic about the entire pose.

“Tierdare states that the citizens of a nation when they think they have total power present one of the best faces of that nation’s diplomatic intent, to foreigners. Now, shall we take a gander at the night’s fight roster and make a few alterations on a benefit-ente-benefit basis, or will the process of “noitalucsame� and the introduction to “ecneibma� begin?�

While she could already guess the contents of his response, Syu’Kein Terkata had decided to make her move yet. It would be a whole lot more ‘fun’, this way.

Lord Skullfuck did not look amused about the whole development, in truth. If anything, he looked a combination of angry, offended, outfraged and violent about the suggestion he would be called upon to fight some (in his words) “verminous little slag�. He was also clearly trying to ignore the smaller Kata’s attempts to draw ever closer through the chaos of the tavern itself. She dodged punches by fragements of a second (responding with childish giggles as they hit home on their intended targets), shifted out of the way of kicks that might well have flattened her and more than once, took cover behind a conveniently overturned table against an incoming barrage of thrown cups. Some of the tavern’s occupants who still had enough of their wits might well have sworn that table was the right way up moments before … and it had been. Drawing her arms out in an exaggerated childish pose in front of her as she walked, Kata affixed a gigantic smile to her face and continued to weave in and out of obstacles before slowly pulling herself up the steps to the raised dining section upon which the massive Gladiator was currently reclining. Choosing to exaggerate her childishness, Kata scaled them one by one.

He was easily spotted, as much due to his tremendous size and demeanour as it was the simple fact he was the only Rendari standing on that raised section not using the height advantage as a means to better hurl projectiles and/or insults at patrons below. Upon reaching the crest of the stairs, the Xenonian waved in his direction , discarded the grin and shifted into an expression that looked something like the self-indulgent smile of a cat.

“Hi there! You’re my favourite gladiator … because …. Because.� – she paused, puffing up her cheeks with mock anger at her seeming inability to describe her feelings “Because! You look nice.� It was said without the slightest hint of sarcasm or any intent to mock – to anyone who looked on and did not know Kata very well, it truly seemed as if she meant the comment as a compliment. Wiping the dazed look from her eyes for a second, she followed up the absurdity with a comment she knew the Gladiator’s arrogance would respond far more positively to.

“You’re big. Really big. Big enough to have an awesome theme song. Why don’t you have a theme song? Does that fucking man-pansy in the bondage gear who tries to look like he’s worth something not let you have a theme song? I don’t like him. Not HUEG at all�.

Bouncing up and down on the spot she stood, Kata was pleased to note that for all the things she had said, Skullfuck did not appear to want to hit her yet. It was a start.

"Want to see something really cool?

She might well have been pushing the limits, but Kata hardly cared.
;>
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Zerstorendar
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Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2008 1:50 pm
Prefix: The Mannlich Imperium of
Name: Zerstorendar

Re: The Old Army Game.

Post by Zerstorendar »

The entourage, including the Kaiserlich Kytus, his bodyguard Todou, the Zanekriegerlich Helgrund and the Xenonian Tenghi moved quickly and in silence. Tenghi for some reason seemed reluctant to move at the same pace, and occasionally Helgrund would give her a polite tug to keep her at the right pace. When he noticed she had liberated a bottle of erap from dinner, his tuggng became somewhat more forceful and eventually he was half-dragging her along.

The constant synchronized booming of the hundred massive Praetorians surrounding them was the only noise that accompanied them as they made their way to a more secure room. The halls of Vanderhelm were one of the most secure places in the entire Mannlich Imperium, but that wasn’t good enough. A room secured with the devices of the Praetorians only, even shielded against the Blitzmord, was appropriate for what would be to come. Tenghi, as she was no doubt aware, by saving Helgrund’s life had earned a place of comparative confidence in the Kaiserlich’s eyes. She would also have been aware that Todou was displeased with her presence: his threatening visage towering behind her at all times hardly subtle in its intentions.

The Kaiserlich’s intention was obviously to leave the Blitzmordlich Sindri uninvolved in the whole matter. While it was inevitable that Sindri would know everything that was happening (almost) anywhere in Vanderhelm at any given time, it didn’t mean the Kaiserlich could not leave him out of the loop. The issue of the Blitzmordlich’s neutrality or traitorousness, depending on how one viewed the matter, was yet to be solved. In the meantime, Sindri no longer held any clout with the ruler of Zerstorendar. The Zanekriegerlich was now unarguably the right hand of the Mannlich Imperium, a matter Sindri was displeased with but powerless to do anything about. Assuming he kept his word to remain uninvolved in the brewing conflict between the two Kaiserlich’s, that is.

Sindri was on all of their minds in light of the revelation of the possibility of creating a ‘Superspectre’. As a rogue third party even inside Vanderhelm, there was no telling what experiments Sindri himself was running already in the secretive Spectre Enhancement Facility, nicknamed the ‘Haunt’ by those in the Zanekrieger. Of serious concern to the Kaiserlich and his confidantes were the Third Grade Spectres, over whom Sindri had complete control.

While Kytus had assumed that his father had created his own version of the Spectre program that Zerstorendar had been running for over a thousand years, hence his interest in Operative Indrick from the Airavuni Incident (who had disappeared since then) it was becoming increasingly apparent that ex-Kaiserlich Marius was attempting to improve upon the formula. If Operative Sirius had been potent enough to nearly kill the Zanekriegerlich even with Praetorians outside the room, it was obvious that he was a level above that of a ‘regular’ Spectre. These ‘Superspectres’, if there were more, would be a serious problem. Based on projections he was already running inside his own head, Kytus assumed that a single Praetorian would be no match for one of these Superspectres. Todou was a different matter, but he was a special case.

So the only other Zerstorendarian individuals capable of facing a ‘Superspectre’ would be the Third Grade Spectres.

The Blitzmord divided its operatives into three grades based on experience and capabilities, first grade making up the majority of their ranks. There were just under a hundred second grades, and nine third grades. The Third Grade Spectres were those who were exceptional among the exceptional, not due to their enhancements but due to their special minds. Quite simply, they were mentally the best of the best. The desired mental abilities were not excessive intelligence, but rather ‘powers’ as such that no other Spectre could demonstrate to such an extent. Kaiserlich Kytus constantly considered the threat of the Third Grades if Sindri ever decided to actively betray him: as the Supreme Overlord of Zerstorendar, he was the only one outside of the Blitzmord who had extensive knowledge of the Blitzmord’s inner workings. It would be an issue to bring up very soon.

As they rounded a corner the Praetorians at the front of the formation stopped moving, and the entire procession immediately halted.

Blitzmordlich Sindri, dressed in his ceremonial unadorned black robe, stood in their path. On either side of the Blitzmord commander was a fully armoured Spectre.

Kytus could not see what was happening through the massive forms of Praetorians who surrounded him, and ordered that they clear a view for him to see the impedence.

“Threat.�, growled the Kaiserlich’s bodyguard.

Todou moved to the position he calculated was where he could render the most protection from both Tenghi and the Blitzmordlich if necessary, and raised his weapons in Sindri’s direction. Neither the Blitzmordlich of the Spectres reacted as the Praetorians in view followed suit, unintimidated by the outnumbering and much larger soldiers now surrounding them. Todou had no doubt seen the small red markings on the featureless Spectre combat visors that identified them as Third Grades, and was taking no chances.

The Kaiserlich spoke first:

“Who are you to impede my movement through my own halls, Blitzmordlich? Explain yourself immediately.� Sindri remained unnaturally still as he replied: the Blitzmordlich only opened his mouth ever so slightly to speak, his built in voice processors simulating the gravelly voice he had when he was a biological being.

“What’s in the box?� He inquired.

“Nothing of your concern, Sindri.�

“It is my concern. The issue at hand is not the matter of my concern, but rather my clout. What’s in the box?� he repeated.

“Move out of the way.�

“Yes, my Lord Kaiserlich.� He bowed and left, the Spectres accompanying him. Todou ordered several Praetorians to follow them as the elite Ravagers regained their formation and continued moving.

“What do you make of that, Klaitus?� asked the Kaiserlich. “You know him better than I.� While their conversation would probably be heard by Sindri at some point, it was irrelevant.

The Zanekriegerlich and Sirius had been friends of a sort for decades, the Blitzmordlich having few genuine emotions but still possessing the capability to appreciate a kindred spirit. Klaitus in turn had respected one whose ability and efficiency exceeded his own, but their placement on opposite sides of an internal conflict had ruined the relationship. Helgrund had shattered a part of Sindri’s conditioning in order to remove Marius’ hold over him, granting Sindri increased individuality for no change to his concept of ‘loyalty’: Sindri was a proponent of natural selection, and would follow the man who proved himself most capable of leading Zerstorendar.

Klaitus considered carefully before replying:

“It was a rash move by him. He is obviously not attempting to ingratiate himself with you, which means being ‘left out of the loop’ is not his primary concern. In a sense his is playing his role: I think it’s his concept of keeping the war ‘fair’ that is at play here, in that he wants to know more about Marius’ Spectre program that we’re assuming he has. Unfortunately, neither side will be telling him much about that.� Klaitus looked up at to a part of the wall where he knew Blitzmord observation arrays were placed: “That’s the downside of being a tool with a brain.�

+++++

Once arrived at the briefing room designated for the meeting, half of the Praetorians took up positions in the adjoining hallway while the rest moved into room, lining the walls with their massive forms. Radec Todou entered first, ducking slightly under the door with the Kaiserlich just behind him. Kytus moved around to the head of the large table that dominated the room and remained standing, Todou slightly behind and to his left. Klaitus took a seat close to the Kaiserlich while Tenghi was directed to sit further down the table.

The Kaiserlich then took a seat, a sign of trust in his companions. When accepting supplicants in the Terezan Bastion where he held court every day, it was tradition for the Kaiserlich to stand. When in a less formal setting, the Kaiserlich would still stand as a message of superiority unless he firmly trusted those whose company he held. Todou obviously did not agree with the idea of Tenghi being remotely trustworthy and was still embittered towards Klaitus for invited her into Vanderhelm, and made his feelings plain with his trademark ambiguous growl.

The Kaiserlich sat on a chair with no back, designed to encourage a regal sitting position, correct posture and avoid discomfort from sitting while wearing his large ceremonial cloak.

“Alright, first matter: what are we doing with the Spectre.� Said Kytus, eyeing the box Tenghi was still accompanying. “I think it should be sent to my lab immediately, and that the Xenonian should accompany the study team so that they don’t fuck anything up.�

“I agree.� Nodded Klaitus. Todou, who did not have an opinion unless consulted, remained silent. The meeting was essentially a council of war between the Kaiserlich and Zanekriegerlich, currently the two most powerful men in the Mannlich Imperium.

“Alright, now let’s consider what the attack was about. It’s my theory that you were simply targeted because of your strategic importance, and the fact you are difficult to replace as a person.�

“Something like that. It’s the efficiency of our relationship he was attacking, not the Zanekrieger.� Kytus nodded.

“Do you think your death had any value to him from a military standpoint?� Helgrund shook his head.

“Not really, since my death won’t make the Zanekrieger any weaker and he does not have anything close to the forces to take advantage of any chaos resulting from my death. He was attacking you, my Lord. He was attacking me to get to you, since he knows an assassin will never get to your person.� Todou nodded brusquely, the mouthplate of his armour clanging against his breastplate.

“That brings us to another matter, but there are a few other things I want to bring up before I do.� The Kaiserlich looked to Todou and the two began talking on the private link reserved only for them. The system was implanted into Todou’s helmet and his words were directly received by the Kaiserlich’s mind through a small ear device, like a more subtle cochlear implant. The closed mental comm. system was a very powerful piece of Rendari technology used as much for protection as keeping secrets.

“The Xenonian should know a little of the Peacekeepers, she will better understand her place that way.�

“I don’t think she should know anything, Lord Kaiserlich. Untrustworthy.�

“I won’t give away details.�

“She’s very smart, she’ll figure things out. Perception. She’ll make assumptions and suddenly know fuckloads of things she shouldn’t. Danger.�

“She’ll figure things out on her own anyway. You’re aware of what I’m going to ask of her?�

“I don’t like it. Concern.�

“There is nothing giving her some basic hints can do to hurt us. Xenonians don’t sell information to the highest bidder and cannot be infiltrated or compromised like we can.�

“Your safety is guaranteed! Umbrage!�

“You know the honour I’ll be giving you once Father makes his move. Trust my instincts in the meantime.

“As you wish, Lord Kaiserlich. Compliance.�

The concealed exchange having ended, the Kaiserlich looked Klaitus, then Tenghi in the eyes as he continued carefully:

“What I am going to say now will not leave this room. Now, Zanekriegerlich, you are aware of my consideration in regards to the Blitzmord’s rogue status?� Helgrund nodded. “I am no longer considering annexing them using military force. Tereza knows that Sindri cannot be handled with a blunt instrument. What we need is to make it apparent that my Father has no intention of keeping the Blitzmord in their current form if he takes power.�

“My Lord, we cannot possibly subvert Sindri without solid evidence. We can’t trick him� replied Helgrund.

“Exactly. In regards to the Peacekeeper program, we know that Marius does not know of the program. We do assume that he assumes we have some sort of counter to his Superspectre program, which would mean he is trying to find out. The Blitzmord, our normal line of defence against this kind of thing, cannot be counted on. We may have the monopoly on conventional military force in this conflict, but I’m afraid my Father has all the infiltrators.�

“Indrick?� suggested the Zanekriegerlich.

“I imagine so, yes. I don’t think we can find him with a witch hunt, we just don’t have the subtlety to do it without setting him off. While Todou here has assured me Indrick can’t get near me, Todou can’t be everywhere at once. Assuming the Blitzmord have reached this same conclusion, they will have their own forces scouring Vanderhelm under the assumption that Indrick is here. Sindri still wants Indrick on his operating table: Indrick is evidence that even a Second Grade Spectre can ‘spontaneously’ develop superior abilities.� The Kaiserlich finished to allow the implications to set in. Helgrund did not take long to reply:

“So basically, you’re saying this is a three side shadow war. We’ve got us, we’ve got Indrick working for Marius, and we’ve got some nameless First Grade snooping around for Sindri.�

“Oh she isn’t nameless, we know the Operative.�
“And?�

“First Grade number three, Operative Kina.� Klaitus leaned back in his chair, as if thinking about something.

“If I may, Lord Kaiserlich, I suggest that this be kept from Primelich Fettel.� The Kaiserlich raised an eyebrow, then nodded. Fettel’s rationality could be trusted under most circumstances, but there were certain elements of his background that needed to be taken into consideration. Kytus then looked to Tenghi.

“Having seen your capabilities and having heard our dilemma in regards to...subtlety, I have a request of you. Know that if you accept, this is not any sort of alliance between our two nations. You will, however, be paving the way for something more. I will reward you with free access to much of Vanderhelm, and I will grant a single audience with yourself and your companions if you so wish it. That is, I am willing to give serious thought to a large favour that you may have to ask at a later date. I imagine you have an idea of what I am going to ask, but it’s a slight twist on that.

I want you to live within Vanderhelm under the pretence of a Xenonian attaché to the Zanekriegerlich Helgrund Klaitus. What I am asking you to do is keep an eye out for Operative Indrick, whom you are already thoroughly informed on after the Airavuni catastrophe. Keep an eye out for him, and report directly to the Zanekriegerlich.� The Kaiserlich stood and placed on hand on the table.

“What do you say to that, lady Tenghi?�

+++++

“Sometime tell me right the fuck now how somebody ‘jumped’ through this window. It’s supposed to stop fucking gunfire, so how in Tereza’s name did a PERSON FLY RIGHT THE FUCK THROUGH IT!?�

Tyrella wasn’t expecting an immediate answer because while she couldn’t answer her own question, she was sure that none of her underlings would have even the slightest clue. As a well-informed and high-ranking servant of a militaristic Empire, the Primus Architect was very knowledgeable about military matters. She knew the specifications of much of the standard weaponry in Zerstorendarian use, and she knew that the shields around Vanderhelm were all-but invulnerable to such weapons. Nothing penetrated the shield, instead something had exploded the window from inside the shield wall. Since the window was expected to be protected by shields, it was not capable of deflecting the sort of weaponry that would be a threat to Vanderhelm. But by that ancient dead whore Tereza, a man could not jump through the window.

Her mind was taking in a massive amount of information and processing a number of ideas at the same time. For a start, there was the matter of how a person could jump through a window that she knew for a fact she could not kick through (she had just tried smashing the remainder of it)? Also, why was the wall so badly damaged by the impact of gunfire and the attacker being thrown through the wall itself? Looking at the damage, she surmised that the attacker was hurled against the wall once before being knocked completely through it. Gunfire had also shredded the wall, and she could not help but wonder if the weapons used by the Praetorians were more powerful than those used by regular Ravagers.

Whatever had thrown a Spectre, who was the size of a regular man, through this wall must have had tremendous strength. It could have been a Praetorian, but it was probably one of those Xenonians. Tyrella Hayste snapped her head around to get a quick glance at Karen, who seemed to have disappeared. Whatever. The issue at hand was not really what destroyed the wall, but using its destruction to improve it. That was just a case of her lackeys analyzing the damage and giving her some numbers which she would convert into some relevant materials and blueprints. The mess should be fixed to her satisfaction in a few hours, and while her workers compiled her data she let her thoughts wander.

She understood the ramifications of an assassin capable of easily jumping through that sort of glass, surviving a burst of gunfire from those cannons the Praetorians had on each arm and being thrown through a decorative but resilient outer wall. The debris on the ground told her that somebody had been hurt, but they did not bleed. Therefore, they were not flesh and blood. The only being she could think of that was human yet not a biological being, other than the damned Xenonians, would be a Spectre. For a Spectre to have attempted to kill the Zanekriegerlich was a serious problem, and she swore she would get some answers. Asking the Kaiserlich would probably get her rebuffed, as the Primus Architect “has no need for certain military secrets�, but she made a mental note to look into it when she got some free time.

She snapped back into reality, and her demanding eye began following her subordinates once more. She noticed that with her sudden silence, they had slowed down in their duties somewhat.

“Do I need to treat you imbeciles like Tereza-damned Rapierfang cubs to get some fucking work done? You, you and you, get that wall analysed in two minutes or I’ll kick you out that window! You two get my numbers together and YOU- “she viciously pointed at the woman she had backhanded earlier in the day, “-scan the floor damage. I know I’m repeating myself, which is why I find it so fucking incredible that you shitheads haven’t gotten it DONE yet!� She stomped her booted foot on the floor for good measure, a sure sign to her underlings that somebody was about to receive a serious blow if they didn’t shape up.

“A woman shouldn’t speak like that.� Suggested a voice she recognized, and did not welcome, from immediately behind her. Unperturbed, turned to look up at the massive form of a helmetless but fully-armoured Primelich Dirk Fettel. She promptly turned back around.

“Why did you send me those two zombies.“ It was phrased as a statement, and she jerked her thumb toward where her two new bodyguards were watching carefully.

“Because you’re not safe, and you’re too stupid to take care of yourself.�

“Fuck yourself Dirk, I’m smarter than you’ll ever be. Go back to collecting bruises while I do my job.� Fettel absent mindedly rubbed a large welt on his cheek where a Praetorian had hit him during a sparring match, then walked around the Primus Architect to stand in front of her. She looked up at him, her eyes making her displeasure plain.

“You’re an architect, I’m a soldier. So I don’t give a fuck about what you think you know about war. I’m your new chief of security because you’re a high priority target and the Zanekriegerlich has no need for my services in that regard. I will be assigning further soldiers to keep you company at all times.�

“You’re a grunt, who the fuck are you to order around a member of the Secundlich?�

“This is Zerstorendar. Killing traitors wins you friends faster than pushing pencils does.�

“I don’t give half a fuck about your celebrity status getting you a free ride from the man in charge, you’re not above me and the Kaiserlich knows better than to give a permanent position next to me because he knows I would tear you apart. You’re a soldier, a killer. You wouldn’t know the first thing about life in a proper government position and you’re not even close to subtle enough-“ Dirk openly smirked at mention of the word ‘subtle’: it applied to neither of them. “-to serve as my ‘chief of security’ or whatever you think you are. You’re a brickhead and you’re getting in my fucking way. Get the fuck back down to the Barracks where you belong, because you’re impeding real work.�

“If you make me hit you in front of your employees, it will reduce the efficiency of their work.�

“You can’t hit me while you’re wearing that suit or you’ll kill me, so fuck your threats.�

“And whether or not I’m armoured, there is fuck all you can do to stop me from doing anything I want to do. As Primelich Dirk Fettel of the Zanekrieger and personal attaché to the Zanekriegerlich Helgrund Klaitus, I am hereby taking up a position as temporary head of security to yourself in response to overt assassination threats on important Zerstorendarian figures. You will be accompanied at all times by soldiers assigned to my task force, and I will accompany you at all public events.�

“...Accompany me at public events?� Tyrella smiled malevolently. “I know that wasn’t your idea. Perhaps I will attend some of the shitty functions I was planning to skip.� Dirk allowed a flash of annoyance to cross his already aggressive features and replaced the helmet he was holding under one arm as her smile widened at his discomfort. Once the combat visor was on, he answered in the mechanical growl that the combat visor created:

“The Kaiserlich has already told me what functions you will be attending.�

“He-what!?�

“Get back to work, Primus Architect.� replied Fettel, moving out of her way and revealing a unique fury to her employees, who tried to pretend they weren’t watching.

+++++

Having watched the girl approach, Skullfuck was unsure how to react. His reputation dictated that he should in fact destroy her, regardless of gender, age or size, and throw her down some stairs. A verminous little slag she may be, but in the Man’s Hands it was a challenge to approach a gladiator as such. Especially when the shithead fightmaster had just scheduled a match between the two of them.

Skullfuck was furious at the insult. He was an accomplished and famous gladiator who still liked to slum around in regards to his fighting. He had competed in top level gladiatorial competitions and came to the Man’s Lands mostly to relax. If somebody wanted to fight him, they had better be able to make a damn good game of it. He grew progressively more aggravated as he mulled over the depth of the insult the fightmaster had done him. He was a decorated soldier, ex-Hellbringer, he had killed and suffered grievous harm in service of Zerstorendar, he retired only to continue fighting and in that he had excelled. And now the fightmaster, who by gladiatorial law was his superior when he was inside the Man’s Lands, was setting him in a fight with a kid? If he was still in the Sternkrieger, he would break the fucker’s face off. Unfortunately, the Controllers would kick him off Vanderhelm for it.

As she approached, he sat up. While she sprouted a bunch of nonsense and made some insane attempt to be cute or something, he stood up and slowly crossed his arms. His impressive full height of about seven and half feet, combined with his almost overmuscled build, created quite an intimidating effect. However, while towering over the three foot Syukata it looked quite silly. His immediate companions, mostly women, took several seconds to make ‘sense’ of the bizarre sight and then decided to hang out somewhere else. Serious business was afoot.

“Girl.� Lord Skullfuck’s voice was a distorted, rasping growl. He had suffered serious damage to his throat during a botched boarding a few decades ago and after a hard fight with the Sternkrieger medical crews, he managed to have the damage fixed without returning his voice to normal. It just sounded so much tougher this way, and he wasn’t a chatty man anyway. “There are two reasons I’m not scraping you off my boot: one, because I have an image to uphold. And because if that overrated pussy Fettel hasn’t gotten rid of you then I’m up bitch river without a dick.

Now, I’m a popular guy. While I’m not quite on the level of that faggot Fettel, but I didn’t have the friends in high places nor the luck that he has. But who fucks a give, I’m talking to a little girl with red hair. When all the idiots figure out that you’re an alien, people are going to ask me questions. Want to know what I’ll tell them?� Skullfuck sniffed and scrunched up his face as if he was trying to scratch the scar over the left side of his face with his cheek.

“I’ll tell them you were helping me fix up the piece of shit theme song I’ve had for a while now. I don’t care what you’re doing in Zerstorendar, none of that is my problem anymore. But anybody willing to help me out for free is somebody worth not-killing. Don’t expect me to let you sit on my shoulder or any of that shit that bitch Fettel seems to put up with, though.

Now what in Tereza’s twat did you mean by ‘see something cool?’ I’m fucking sick of talking; entertain me you alien whore.�


Meanwhile, Primus Ambassador Kimura Dietrich had grown frustrated that Skullfuck did not seem willing to fight the little Syukata. If they weren’t going to play things his way, then perhaps he should pull rank on the fightmaster. Making friends wasn’t his jo-

Well, whatever. He smirked, taking a swig of his current drink as he approached the older Syukata and the fightmaster. He wasn’t on the job right now. If he had anything to do with it, fun *WOULD* be had.

The fightmaster himself had very little to say to the blonde girl who had snuck up behind him. He wasn't interested in anything but her gender, but as far as tonight went he was already spoken for. A man like him may have a different girl every night, but he would not relinquish his honour by reneging on the arrangement he had already made. That's how fornication worked in the Imperium.

"Look missy, I have no idea what leverage you think you have, but piss off. I'm not changing the fight roster for you unless you've got more money than that rich fuck Dietrich, and if you're offering me your down under then I'm not interested: you aggravate me already and that's not a good sign. Unless you want a taste of the back of mah hand, fuck off." The fightmaster gave that table she was sitting on a snap kick, hurling it up into the air. He then folded his arms and dared Syukata to complain.

"This is Zerstorendar. THAT'S how we handle a women round here."
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Xenonier
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Re: The Old Army Game.

Post by Xenonier »

One hand removed, one hand preserved. While Tenghi would have preferred to keep both Stable as far as the Rendari power structure went, it was a sufficiently internal matter so as to bar Xenonian involvement. Surrounded by Praetorians and being dragged about by the ZaneKreigerlich as she was, Tedee still had a number of options available to her to influence events and to avoid Toudou’s towering presence nearby, but she undertook no such procedures. Allowing her hand to give a slight (and unnoticed) tremor, she made no attempt to deviate from the established pattern of behaviour, allowing the Rendari to guide her wherever they wished and thus, partially sating Todou's desire to keep her in line. While Tenghi observed his looming presence was not always appreciated by certain members of the Rendari forces, she was unperturbed. It was clear the hulk's intellectual capacity was underestimated; his preference was a programming choice, not a weakness of ability. It mattered little that Xenonians could not be intimidated, what truly mattered was that certain symbols of Rendari society were seen to try and intimidate them anyway.

The circuitous route that her 'hosts' had chosen essentially confirmed a number of her analytical theories. While it could not yet be proven without a thorough analysis of the actual classified floor plans (as opposed to the falsified concept traps), the significant presence of guards and the complete lack of subtlety suggested a brute force denial tactic. They were headed to an area covered with euphemisms and essentially a blank on the implied structure of Vanderhelm, a location that would certainly be shielded from communication. The reason for such a decision was clear and prudent. An organisation was going to miss out on the conversations Tenghi would likely soon be a part of, and there was absolutely no point hiding that the conversations themselves were happening in lieu of a preference to protect the content of those conversations. Whoever the Kaiserlich wished to keep out of the information network, knew exactly when and where they were being denied information - as well as possessing more than sufficient intellectual capacity and data sources to make a solid inference as to why. Which made it easy to figure out exactly who ‘they’ were.

There was only one Organisation in Zerstorendar that had such capabilities.

If Sindri was even a tenth of the shadowy, Machiavellian figure he was imagined in Rendari folklore, he would not be the slightest bit pleased with this development, supplementing that ‘emotion’ with a desire and the resources to find out all the details possible. Tenghi carried no delusions as to the power of such an organisation; while the Blizmord were certainly feared, they were not all-pervasive. All nation-spanning intelligence organisations were far less potent than any around them realised, and the best could be sorted from less effective organisations by the strength of the myth of omnipotence, as well as how people reacted to their presence. Initial observations by Kata, Karen and Tenghi herself suggested that the Blitzmord were in this aspect, very potent. When added to the actual calculations of their true capabilities, all Xenonian calculations returned the same assessment of them as a key variable to the outcome of the conflict. Their ‘loyalties’ would certainly be enough to render them the power of a third party (and possibly, the deciding role) in this civil conflict, should it develop.

Unfortunately, there was precious little material as to evaluate the Blitzmord and Sindri’s typical operational paradigms, which had formed a significant portion of the reason Tenghi had attended the Zanekreigerlich’s invitation in the first place. Helgrund’s confirmation of the above could not have come too soon and could now form the basis for further investigation as to what role the shadowy intelligence agency would play in the conflict. For now, their attention was fixated on the centerpoint of Zerstorendar and that would come at a cost to other, further flung force multipliers. That of course, was something that the Irregularity had already anticipated, seeking to accomplish their own ends. Naturally, Kata would be at the very forefront.

As the group halted and Todou snarled his displeasure, Tenghi continued to maintain her fairly placid, low-key status. Their approach was not unnoticed on her part, but she made no overt reactions to the arrival of the Blitzmordlich. His query as to the contents of Walpurgisnacht itself earned one of her wan smiles, but there was no answer on her part to any of the posturing “Sindri� was offering. That he made no attempt to look her in the eyes was not lost to the Xenonian: for all the supposed neutrality of the Blitzmord in this war, no vulnerabilities would be exposed. The Spectres and/or informants were as perceptive as calculations indicated they would have to be and that, was always a useful piece of information to have. Evidently, Sindri and his merry band of Spectres would intervene when they chose to, quite possibly so as to limit damage to the existing Zerstorendarian Military-Industrial complex. Given that formed the real source of power for both sides, there was no other option than to consider the Blitzmordlich a priority target, unless it could be confirmed his loyalty lay with a ruler, not the system for force projection itself.

Tenghi had no particular reaction to the implication of any of these thoughts. While Kata was certainly capable of carrying out military objectives, it was almost entirely certain that the responsibility for any and all Xenonian military wetwork would fall to her person. It was certain that Sindri had intended to be seen here, the real question would be how many more times would they meet and in what circumstances. She had a moment to smirk at the comment about a “tool with a brain�. It was highly accurate.

Not only about Sindri, either.

_________

“Now, I wonder who in this room did not want me to know all the juicy details about this Peacekeeper program?�. Tenghi’s pose had changed significantly, the Xenonian woman adopting a fairly calm and nondescript tone she gestured in Todou’s direction. There was no attempt to be condescending in the address, although she was certain that some of the Rendari would be offended at the level of familiarity she displayed. Taking her chance to conclude her thought processes, she continued onwards.

“The Kaiserlich is by no means safe from any attack, and Marius could kill him at any stage if he so wished. This is the first rule of a bodyguard: that your target, is inherently squishy.� – Todou’s disapproving snarl was something she took as frustration and agreement simultaneously, before continuing “Bodyguard duty is not about invulnerability, but rather the illusion of it. Guards are really there for two reasons, those being distance and irritation. You fight to buy time and you fight to unnerve those going after their target so they fuck up. Todou over there is designed to absorb as much damage as he can and fight for as long as he can before expiring, so as to buy time for reinforcements to arrive. Kytus is ultimately, excessively expensive for the resources of your immediate adversaries to be spent in the process of killing him, as effective as the tradeoff may be. That reason alone, is why he is still alive today … and why they chose to go for other targets.� The lecture was delivered without the slightest hint of sarcasm, or humour. Swinging a hand up to point at the box and then to her own form, Tenghi coughed slightly before adopting a new tangent.

“Marius has inferior resources, and superior intelligence. It is likely that he intends to deal with Helgrund for a platter of reasons, as much due to the fact your death will introduce tunnel vision to the regular Ravagers as any other consideration. I’ll also go out on a limb and assume that wonderfully restrictive Rendari concept of ‘Honour’ might have other forces stepping in, should either Father or Son choose to kill the other with underhanded tactics� – Tenghi took a momentarily glance and a chanced a small wink at Helgrund, before carrying on – “. If you’re out of the way, Marius not only gains all the advantages of your direct passing, but he also opens up the possibility of resorting to tactics the military wing of Zerstorendar might not accept under your leadership. The disadvantage of being a patriarchal figure to military boys really, in that when you die there is just a brief moment of hesitation. You’ve replaced their father figures after all, and don’t tell me you haven’t. Psyche-conditioning of the Rendari kind has been well observed, and Kata is always good at writing these things down. That momentary country-base complex, in which the urge to avenge the father so as to better represent the mother country overwhelms the primary ties to the mother in the first place. Dirk Fettel calls it .. “rage�, I believe …. But it is irrelevant.

“ All that matters is your death causes enough paralysis in the minds of the Zanekrieger for Marius’s side to gain an advantage. Now. This superspectre program, it forms the reason I must reject your proposal on all grounds.� There was a long pause after that statement, and Helgrund raised an eyebrow. The Kaiserlich on the other hand, had a rather severe (and unquestionably annoyed) look about his face.

“As I have noted, Marius possesses inferior resources and superior intelligence. His interactions with our own agents, as well as our own investigations have confirmed he’ll be leaning on this; as well as the simple expectation he’ll be playing the best hand he possesses in the game. He’s playing an extremely specialised group of unbeatable operatives as his ace … but you aren’t. You don’t have a hundred elite super soldiers and call them peacekeepers. Peacekeepers need numbers, visibility, a tangible military presence in both the psyche and the calculations of those they oppose. Your side’s little stratagem is to spread your numbers a lot thinner, and impress the powers that be with your decentralisation of power across a body of newer, more intelligent soldiers, isn’t it? A newer version of the firmware, slightly twisted. You want a unit that’s capable of seeing Zerstorendar’s Military Ideology as a means to an end, not as invisible sinews that make sure they move as a mailed fist; something which undermines the Military Industrial Complex by virtue of simply existing. A unit that will if necessary castrate the entire nation’s military infrastructure at your command, or a predecessor’s … and to do so not because they are ordered to, but because they understand why it is necessary�. There was a moment of triumph on Tenghi’s face. The finger moved to point at Kytus, before carrying on.

“You’re a man of reforms. A progressive. By all Rendari standards, you … Kaiserlich Kytus Dragan, a freak. There would be no more significant movement in your career than to have undermined the war economy in this fashion … and given your cautious approach to changes in Zerstorendar that have got your critics calling you an “kcarab�, and you’re stuck in a situation where ... if your little conversation implies anything, bold actions will win the support of the Blitzmord. Marius will not expect it. Sindri will not anticipate it. Nobody outside this room will believe it until the situation has evolved beyond their capacity to stop, I presume. If this analysis is correct – and I believe it is, then there is an alternative open to ‘us’. I propose we keep that illusion a reality. Neither Marius nor Sindri understands the nature of Walpurgisnacht, nor the origin of my appearance beyond my arrival with the other Xenonians. With this in mind, It can be used against them.�

Allowing her lead question to replace annoyance with interest on the faces of both Helgrund and Kytus, Tenghi allowed the fruits of her manipulation to manifest with a proposal.

“The box is Xenonian, unquestionably. Anyone can tell the construction of the materials is beyond any design currently encountered by most members of he ESUS. However, Sindri and Marius will believe it not to be a dimensional manipulator, but rather a factory, custom ordered. It is a necessary purchase of technology from the Irregularity which provides you with the means to make soldiers as dangerous as Todou as unthreatening as I initially appeared. The resources used to construct the ‘Peacekeepers’ in pure monetary terms would be the ‘payment’ for services rendered by the Irregularity, covering with the necessary bookkeeping. One could even go so far as to suggest that I would be the first prototype. The logs can easily be doctored by your own forces, or I can instruct Karen to perform the necessary data manipulation to make the above scenario entirely believable. As a result, these so called ‘peacekeepers’ will march out the door on a schedule dictated by your machinations, not those of the other possible two forces in this battle.� The Xenonianpaused for a moment, looking around at everyone in the room before she finished.

“It also gives means Indrick can be easily removed. What only his own person and we will realise is the nascence of an event which will swing this war in your favour … will be viewed as just another combat test should any agent of your side hunt him down�.

___________

“… An impact potential increase of eighty nine percent?

Well … that’s a little more impressive than just diddling oneself for a minor technological achievement.�

Karen felt little to worry about in regards to the personal safety of any of the Rendari they might consider useful, but that was beside the point. This little faction had no means to manufacture machinery that was capable of such advances on any front, which naturally implied they had a benefactor, or had at least purchased their shiny somewhere. Given the techbase of the Airavunian people and a few central design markers highlighted on what technology they had analysed already, that would be a natural place to begin inquiries, particularly given the presence of operatives there once more. Even following the defeat (or victory) Of Marius’s considerable armed forces, the actual issue of confronting where these technologies were created and/or bought would be of concern to Certain Situations, as would the agenda of the ones giving out the technology. Christoph’s initial intervention had accessed everything available to the sector of one Senator Horne, yet that still left open the possibility of other systems which had been unconnected to information networks at the time. In the aftermath of that night many a controversy had been unearthed – and that left opportunities for investigation. After all, Xenonian concerns in that area had not already been resolved.

Taking out a dual screen device and placing it to the side as the readout screen changed to a data-distortion mode, the Xenonian senior looked out on the vambraces of Vanderhelm below, enjoying her position of observational supremacy above the Zanekreigerlich’s office. There was no better time to get Sjou into this, after all. Looking at the ‘time’ on a newly-formed watch on her left wrist, Karen found herself smiling inside. Their sense of timing had been impeccable, exactly as an observation of the situation with Zerstorendar had calculated it to be. The civil war was almost certainly to begin and end within established and expected operational parameters on both sides, leaving Xenonier with entrenched agents and the ability to manipulate the outcome. Besides; their mission had been of reasonable success so far after all. One or two here and there had been saved already and with swift action on part by the Xenonian operatives interspersed throughout both Zerstorendar and Airavuni, they could really get the ball rolling on this one.

“You better get it moving, Sjoujuan. Else I might have to end your worthless hide�.

Ding.

Karen turned her head for a moment, already fully aware that the data demanufacture was complete. She placed the dual screen device in a pocket in her “dress�, before calmly vaulting herself up and over the edge of the roof precipice. A moment’s flickering of action later and she stood back where she had previously, inside the Zanekreigerlich’s office – and awaiting the inevitable attention of one Primus Architect Tyrella Haste.


__________

“Who Fucks a Give? One of the best reversals of phrase I’ve heard from you Rendyaaaaaaaareeee!�. The smaller form of Kata gave no signs of being intimidated in the least, by either Skullfuck’s attention nor his slight disdain. Nodding at his grudging approval of her presence, she immediately ceased with her childish nuisance and sat down in a submissive position below the massive Gladiator’s stature. Raising a comparatively tiny arm and gesturing in the direction of where her Larger form was already beginning to rile up the Fightmaster, she only needed to mutter one more reply.

“I think you’re going to like this, Mister Skullfuck. I’mma charging mah eeeeeileeeeeeckstriiiiiciiiiiiitiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee�


Hardball it was.

Initially, Kata had virtually no reaction to the dismissal by this little Fight-organising nuisance. An astute observer might have noticed the smile on her lips curl ever so slightly and little more, for she took no overt reactions. The marginally uncomfortable void of communication was then broken by the Xenonian breaking into a joyous smile and taking a small step back, as if buoyed with excitement by the potential drama unfolding.

“Now why would I offer to sleep with someone I can tell from a cursory glance that they have absolutely no ability to satisfy me whatsoever? It would be accurate to state oneself has standards; even someone with your limited intellectual capacity should be able to come to the conclusion I have nothing to gain from a few hours with you. Although you could use a little relaxation around the … �

Kata was already in motion when the backhand brushed past her face, leaping backwards to avoid the leg sweep and landing deftly on a table. Moving off the furniture and brushing herself down, she took a moment to evaluate the FightMaster from a distance. There was no humour in her gaze this time, however. While the incoming table was hurling at her with significant speed (courtesy of a roundhouse kick), the Xenonian made no obvious movement, touching a finger to her head and simply waiting. When the table struck home, the object simply halted in midair, leaving an empty space where Kata had once been. Cracks began to show in the stone furniture, before it exploded into a shower of rubble and forcing the Fightmaster to look away for a moment. He regretted it immediately.

“Haaaai!?�

A crunching noise followed as the Fightmaster was promptly decked across the face, the impact of the blow sending his body careening into a wall with an audible thud and a visible impact. Syu’Kata was meanwhile in “business, all business� mode, adopting a defensive pose and calmly awaiting the next move by her prospective opponent. There was no indication of pain or trauma when the Rendari scrambled to his feet, took one look at the Xenonian woman in front of him and gave a tremendous roar, evidently enhanced by a speech modulator at the back of his throat. Tearing away many segments of his uniform and throwing them on the ground, he charged towards Kata and began to engage her in a completely unreserved close combat battle as the patrons watched on.

Dodging each neat series of attacks aimed at her head, ribs and waist in turn, Kata ducked and weaved away from each successive attack, moving with enough speed to offset each attack in turn and when necessary, using her speed as a means to gain the superior position … and each time, she would then attack. After every failed string of attacks from the Rendari, Kata would find a means to inflict some damage; a quick jab here and there, or a deft movement which forced the Fightmaster into an entirely different pattern of movement. With every strike the Xenonian amped up her abilities slightly, staying subtle enough that none would notice each gradual increase while ensuring nobody could miss the end result. Should the fight continue in this fashion, the eventual outcome was now a forgone conclusion in the eyes of anyone with a brain. Already certain of this, Kata decided to force an ending of sorts. She struck his right arm at the collarbone to leave it hanging useless for a hundredth of a second, before pinning the other arm against her own. With the ‘defences’ peeled away, Kata struck the FightMaster’s ribs with an open palm, resulting in a cacophony of noise and static which concluded with the Rendari being thrown several metres backwards, landing on his feet … and simply standing there, immobile. Kata’s hand wavered as electricity flowed between the tips of her fingers and she smiled.

Walking in a circular direction around the now immobile FightMaster, the Xenonian held out an arm to the crowed, clearly encouraging them to enjoy the former Tavern-Tyrant’s plight, if only for a moment. Kata’s voice was low in the din of replies from the patrons, but direct enough to be heard by the FightMaster nevertheless. “Finding it difficult to move? Well, you are not quite the perfect replacement for the table you broke, but if we stick you as an oiled statue in the corner …� – she ran a finger down his chest, looked the Rendari in the eyes meaningfully, then started walking away. When she was around half the distance to the bar Kata halted, spinning around to face the audience one more. Oddly enough, more than one Rendari might have found the voice carried a disturbing similarity to the criticising tone of an aggravated mother addressing her children.

“Nobody plans on coming over to teach the Alien Whore a lesson? Ah, irony. I wonder how many of you plan to walk out that door and take a shot at the FightMaster over there for wading into a combat with a Xenonian while pretending to ostensibly be his ‘friends’, while lacking too much of a fucking spine to do it yourselves? Because … let me tell you right now. If I show up next month and someone as brave – and as stupid as this one isn’t here to keep trolling me regardless of the fact I could smear his brains over the wall with a finger poke, I will be disappointed – and I’ll also be right. Because It’ll prove what a load of softcocks everyone who had a reason to start something right now really are!� A feral sort of a grin crossed over Kata’s face as she thought about the implications.

“And I don’t think Rendari like to be wrong. At all. By fuckin TEREZA.�

Turning her attention away from the chaos, Syukein Terkata headed over to fetch herself another drink. Watching from above with the ‘amiable’ Lord Skullfuck, the smaller Kata had halted. His imminent approval had removed the possibility of them sparring, even if it certainly looked like he wanted to take a crack at Kata’s elder form below.
;>
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Zerstorendar
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Re: The Old Army Game.

Post by Zerstorendar »

+++++

The people of Zerstorendar, not just on the homeworld itself but across the entire Mannlich Imperium, were gathering. The Blitzmord-monitored but now Zanekrieger-controlled public information network had informed the citizenry that the Kaiserlich was about to make a proclamation and that to hear it was their obligation. Sweating weightlifters toweled themselves down as they watched the holoscreens, soldiers paused training regimes to watch live feeds on their combat visors, and the general citizenry dropped whatever they were doing to watch or listen to what their ruler had to say. The mood was expectant and anxious: news of the attack on Vanderhelm had already spread, and rumours concerning the dead ex-Kaiserlich Marius and military unrest had been circulating for some time. Whatever the Lord Kaiserlich had to say, it would be of vast import.

The several government-approved Zerstorendarian News Channels were currently broadcasting fillers from older, relevant reports while they waited for the Kaiserlich to begin. The official news network of the Mannlich Imperium under the direct influence of the Primus Informator was excessively named the “Supreme Mannlich News Network� or simply The Network, and as always it was drawing in the most viewers. Currently, the First Presenter was keeping people fresh on all issues relevant to recent happenings:

“…Architect Hayste refused to comment on the damage to Vanderhelm’s structure after the supposed attack, but she did let slip a few details in her usual fashion.� The image then changed to a high quality video of Tyrella backhanding a resilient-looking reporter across the face. Her massive Ravager Praetorians, newly assigned bodyguards, were systematically destroying the film equipment of those who got too close and literally throwing both men and women into teeming masses. As they did so, they constantly chanted “Mind your proximity.� The only reason Tyrella was in backhand-range of the Network’s reporter was because she went on the attack, and the quote of interest was highlighted through the cacophony as “I have a LOT OF FUCKING WORK TO DO, THERE IS GLASS EVERYWHERE, AND THIS CITY OF FUCKING IDIOTS HAS NOT A SINGLE DECENT MOTHERFUCKING ARTISAN, GET OUT OF MY FUCKING WAY YOU…YOU DOUBLE FUCKWITS!� At this point a massive red and golden fist obscured the lens of the reporting holocam and the signal disappeared, returning the viewers to the bemused face of the First Presenter:

“Psychological analysts suggest that in line with Tyrella’s known rage-to-workload ratio, it is logical to assume that damage to the interior of Vanderhelm is not overly serious. The issue at hand is more *how* the damage was caused, and by relation how an infiltrator made it so far into the most secure place in-“ The Lead Presenter stopped for a moment as he was given a message through his earpiece from the Primus Informator himself, rolled his eyes, then continued:

“It has been brought to my attention that there was no infiltrator and that the security protocols of Vanderhelm are flawless as are the security capacities of the superior Mannlich Legion. Hail the Kaiserlich.� This sort of display was nothing new, as the Kaiserlich’s propaganda machine did nothing to disguise its intent from the citizens of Zerstorendar. The general point of view was that if the Kaiserlich and Primus Informator did not want people to know something, it wasn’t worth knowing. A popular saying went along the lines of “Thought Police aren’t so bad, because nobody likes their mind raped any more than their wife.� It was also a widespread and wildly overused joke named after the Primus Informator as the ‘Vanderhuge Maneuver� to reply “Hail the Kaiserlich� and walk away when anybody said anything even remotely negative about anything the listener did not want to hear about. The popularity of the joke reached the point where the Kaiserlich himself ruled that “an employee of any non-military related civilian industry cannot be let go for executing the ‘Vanderhuge Maneuver’ in specific. The right of any employer to terminate employees they deem as inefficient remains.�

“The Kaiserlich has made it known that his proclamation will begin in ten seconds.� , suddenly stated the Presenter mid-sentence. On every news channel in the Mannlich Imperium, the view was switched to that of the Kaiserlich’s ‘Public Relations Audience’ chamber where all of his news appearances were made from. The Kaiserlich was pictured from a low angle, standing on a tall dais, framed by a number of Zerstorendarian flags and coats of arms. The lighting was specifically manipulated so as to create a golden aura around him, and resplendent in his golden parade armour over the usual red and black dress uniform with shadow obscuring his facial features, the Kaiserlich did truly look magnificent, awe-inspiring and aloof. Opinion polls, both consensual and non-consensual, showed that the citizenry never failed to be impressed by this display. The massively oversized form of Primus Praetorian Radec Todou could also be partly spotted in the shadows, a constant reminder that the Kaiserlich was truly invulnerable to harm.

“Hail, citizens of the Mannlich Imperium. I am the Kaiserlich, Kytus Draigan.� His voice artificially boosted, it easily equaled the magnificence of his visual spectacle. The Kaiserlich never spoke to the general populace without this advanced voice-boosting though he did appear in public quite often: it was all a part of the Zerstorendarian Cult of Personality.

“I have much to share with you, citizens. Many things have happened recently, some of which you may have heard rumours about, both benign and malignant. Without fucking around, people of Zerstorendar, there is one thing you must know: Zerstorendar is once again at war.� Across the Mannlich Imperium, men and women responded with everything ranging from mild surprise to aggression towards their yet-to-be revealed foes. The members of the three combat branches the Kaiserlich still trusted were unpleasantly surprised, as they were yet to be informed that there was somebody they should be killing.

“Today, an attempt was made on the life of the great Zanekriegerlich Helgrund Klaitus himself, an attempt which did not succeed thanks to the efforts of our most excellent Praetorian guardians.� Public speaking in Zerstorendar did not utilize sweeping, long sentences or inspiring quotes written down on a piece of paper: whoever was doing the talking talked slowly and careful and told it how it is in a condensed manner, leaving gaps for the appropriate emotional reaction in between. In this case, the response was anger. Live opinion feeds, many of them gathering information directly from the minds of certain volunteers, made it plain that Zerstorendar was immediately incensed. This piece of information was sent straight for analysis to the government psychologists and Primus Informator, who quickly came to the conclusion that the people had strong positive feelings for Helgrund Klaitus. Controllers all around the Mannlich Imperium were hard pressed to restrain the enraged people, already willing to kill anything and everything if their Kaiserlich demanded it. Public approval of Kytus was analyzed as nearly 98% and stable.

“I know for a fact that this is not the last attack that will be made. I, Lord Kaiserlich Kytus Draigan, ask the people of Zerstorendar to trust that we will deal with those who are responsible. And we know who is responsible. The only question is, will you fight with the Mannlich Imperium, or will you betray it?� Viewer interest was rising exponentially, as was viewer nervousness. These were good signs, signs that the people still respected the power of their government.

“All of you remember the assassination of my predecessor, Marius Draigan. I have recently discovered that the Rebellion Of The Faint Smile was in fact planned by my late mother to destroy the Mannlich Imperium. Yes, people of Zerstorendar, it hurts me as much is it hurts you: my mother was a traitor, and may she find the forgiveness in death that he does not deserve in life.

My mother killed my father in order to take control of the Mannlich Imperium, and she put a copy, a non-human and a non-citizen in his place to function as a puppet master. My father is dead, but my mother is still very much alive, having survived her Rebellion despite its success in stopping her plans. She has returned with another clone, and is planning to steal your loyalties to her dead husband with trickery and betrayal. If you are the people I believe you to be, you will not let this stand. No, you will rally behind my banner to fight and utterly annihilate this whore who calls herself my mother, and the mother of Zerstorendar! I renounce her, as should you! I will overrun her rebel forces who even know muster within the Imperium’s borders, and I will bring her alive to you and crush her under my boot, for the benefit of Zerstorendar and all its people.� The Kaiserlich paused, and the camera zoomed in on his shadowy, light-framed face:

“Will you help me, people of Zerstorendar? Or will you be traitors too?�

Those whose charge it was to analyse the live opinion feeds would have seen that the people reacted overwhelming favourably. Public approval of Kytus soared to 100%, and ‘national outrage’ soared to unheard of levels. More detailed opinion polls showed that the citizenry was expecting an overwhelming desire to fight against their ex-Kessalich, and military approval figures were beginning to show a twofold increase in potential recruitment base, not that it would be needed. That is, almost every man and woman in Zerstorendar had been easily and completely won over the point that they would fight and die to kill those who had betrayed them.

Controller teams had already been dispatched to the residences of the very few who seemed unfavourable, and Ravagers were already enforcing martial law across Rend and all of the Mannlich Imperium’s greatest cities. The people had made their choice, and there would be no dissent.

The Kaiserlich was being informed of the public’s reaction in real time, and he was pleased. There were a few minor things for him to add, but the battle was already won.

“The Xenonian ambassadors have expressed support in my endeavour, and have shown a willingness to stand up for justice and power. They accept that the Mannlich Imperium of Zerstorendar is the law in our glorious slice of the galaxy, and they stand with us.

As many of you may have noticed, I some time ago gave the order to place the Mannlich Imperium under preliminary martial law. A curfew is not in place, and we are not on total war footing: recreation will proceed as normal, but Ravager units will be assisting Controllers in law enforcement. All crimes committed that are judged to impact upon the State will be dealt with by Ravagers, not Controllers. I want you all to refrain from public acts of protest of any kind if you value your lives. Until I deem necessary, this state of preliminary martial law will continue. On the other hand, full martial law may not be necessary and I ask you all not to abuse my leniency.

I must address one more issue: rumours have reached me in Vanderhelm that units of the Zerstorendarian Military are planning to defect to Deneve’s traitorous forces, and these are unfounded. The 19th Prymarch was a main instigator in these rumours, and in actual fact it was the work of a single man, the 19th’s commanding officer Genlich Vandren Bolt I, whose son was killed in the Rebellion fighting the same traitors we face today. Genlich Bolt will be executed by his successor, his more honourable brother and newly-promoted Genlich Hadrian Bolt at 0800 tomorrow morning to salvage the reputation of their illustrious family. Other executions of military traitors to be held tomorrow include that of the 19th’s Overlich Ket Knyssus and the once-esteemed Sternlich Haig Moran, neither of whom had the courage of character to fight against the traitors when ordered.�

The Kaiserlich paused for twenty seconds, allowing the people to properly understand all that he had said. Preliminary martial law was being viewed as both necessary and not inconvenient by most of the populace, and those who would normally be protest-inclined had gotten the message. All the people were waiting for now was an official declaration of war, and the Kaiserlich’s orders.

Kytus stepped out of the shadows, the light bathing him in glorious and overwhelming radiance as the dais rose and the camera rose with it. In an excessive-if-inspiring fashion, the Kaiserlich pulled his ceremonial sword from its scabbard, and pointed it towards the camera.

“I hereby declare the ex-Kessalich, Deneve Draigan, an ex-citizen, traitor and Enemy Of The Imperium. Deneve Draigain is now the Primus Traitor, and her rebellious forces will be assaulted with all necessary military force so that they are brought to justice. I hereby sentence the Primus Traitor and all of her supporters to extended interrogation and death, to be carried out immediately after the victory parade in Rend of those taken alive.

The Mannlich Imperium Of Zerstorendar is now at war with the Primus Traitor Deneve. Zanekrieger, Sternkrieger, Sternsieg and Blitzmord forces are being dispatched to Airavuni, where the entirety of the suspect Iruvii system will be taken under our control. Champion of Tereza and Guardian of the Imperium Dirk Fettel will accompany our vast invasion force, and his bravery and loyalty will serve as an example to all of us. The invasion will fall directly under the command of Zanekriegerlich Helgrund Klaitus and Sternsieglich Heinrich Nashar, whom I know will emerge victorious with all the courage and brilliance they are so known for.

The Second Fracture has begun. I want you, people of Zerstorendar, to support me with your every fibre and thought. Support me, and we will emerge victorious. Betray me, and all of us will perish." Kytus sheathed his sword.

"The Stars Belong To The Strong.�

Across the Mannlich Imperium, there was cheering.
Last edited by Zerstorendar on Thu Oct 14, 2010 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Xenonier
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Re: The Old Army Game.

Post by Xenonier »

While Xenonian weapons are generally not of the cartridge or magazine variety as a classical student of military warfare might understand it, Certain Situations always demanded unique applications of Xenonian military-industrial capacity. Certain Situations operative SjouJouan had always been one to appreciate the old-fashioned weaponry of yesteryears, and given her areas of employment for the Irregularity traditionally lay in the areas of wetwork combat, she always had a little room for her indulgences. In this case, she had been able to take a significant number of Xenonian manufactured magazine assault rifles, knowing she would be permitted to use them. Alongside her, another two people looked on - both staring above into the sky of a place which felt reassuringly familiar and explicitly threatening to the small party.

Security had been tightened down following the now legendary exploits of Kata and the Rendari wrecking crew months before, but Airavunian borders remained significantly more porous than otherwise. It merely took a little time and competence on part of the interested parties to bring about an acceptable outcome. Naturally Sjou would have claimed that the "time" was under her jurisdiction, that it was the responsibility of everyone else to provide the competence. The upbeat woman's claims aside, the Projected Irregularity had decided upon accompanying the agent with one of their own Cleaners, Novino Radovan. That he had even been considered told much of this operation's significance to all involved. With the Rendari Invasion fleet being prepared and many other plausible threats existing, the Irregularity intended to take as few risks as possible with their plans on Airavuni which necessitated further deployment of Xenonian personnel. So it was that Aimee found herself in the company of two Xenonians, one of whom carried the desire to enjoy herself while on this rock by sending poor Aimee up the wall.

That girl was just so adorable. She would have an influential future ahead of her, which served to make her efforts all the more endearing. There was temperment there, and maturity too.

Especially when she facepalmed.

Naturally, Sjou considered one of her primary objectives (well, alongside the duty of ensuring the girl stayed alive), to induce as many moments of complete and utter disappointment in her young ward as possible. Kata had requested the favour personally, and Sjou ... while holding a relationship with Kata that was about as antagonistic as Remilia generally was to everybody, was unlikely to let an old friend down. Despite feigning appearances to the contrary, Sjoujuan held her committed word to be of great value, and took pride in this. That would be unsporting, unprofessional, and unbearable ... along with lots of other adjectives that began with un, which Sjou neither had the patience nor the temperament to name (and she certainly could). As it was, the phrase "un�" was usually associated with a list of things she couldn't do, and Sjou did not like to be told there were things she would not be very wise to carry out. Not at all. Foreign diplomats only believed the line 'The Puppets made me to do it' followed by something of a catlike facial expression a few times.

"Fucking OLD-SCHOOL style?" Sjou kept the smile on her face growing as she loaded her latest instrument of affection with a fresh magazine, the entire action creating absolutely ... no noise at all. While her unkempt appearance did dull her looks, she was very attractive, a crop of long black hair falling over a body of a build and appearance very similar to that of one Syu'Kein Terkata, her body roughly splayed across the public seating. Her voice was less melodic than her fellow nuisance (Kata) and slightly more forceful, grating, disagreeable. It matched her physical appearance in a fitting manner. There was the same pseudo-childish glee, the upbeat nature of someone who provokes by simply hanging around, yet it possessed a manic edge over all the refinement. Kata carried herself with the grace of a master at the art of taunting, someone who lived to provoke. In contrast, it was a fairly regular joke amongst Xenonians that Sjoujuan (she had no other name), would be unable to live unless she was on her on terms 'A complete and total fucking prick, all the time.'� Wherever Sjou went, she was certain to go about her duties with a peculiar little lust for mayhem which lead almost every single non-Irregularity member to label her 'Crazy-fucking-insane' A handful for anyone assigned to work alongside her that was not a Xenonian themselves, but an infinitely capable one.

Novino made no obvious reply, his attention still lifted to observing the light-shows overhead. The trio had landed only a few hours before and transferred using public rail to Rabona immediately with a set of virgin travel documents, the details of which had vanished as quickly as Sjou had holstered all of her weaponry. Pretending to be a 'family unit', they had safely arrived in Rabona amidst a rapidly escalating military build-up that extended all around Airavuni itself. The government while partially still paralysed by secessionist struggles following the public scandal that had annihilated the previous coalition government, had displayed some common sense by mandating a higher level of military awareness. Orators from every party had appeared on the news in the weeks following the previous incident to boldly declare that they would never be caught off-guard by uninhibited actions of covert or otherwise aggression again; before falling back into partisan bickering instead of proposing actual measures to ensure this was a possible future outcome. There was a growing feeling of unease amongst the body politic and a desire for some kind of acceptable political leadership that might unite the warring faction. Sjou cackled at his silence, miming the playing of a piano as she watched the inaction. As always, she did not consider stupidity for longer than two minutes without giving into the urge to mock it relentlessly, a quality that kept reminding Aimee of Kata herself. It was something she found thoroughly disconcerting.

While Aimee made a conscious choice to keep a little distance between herself and Sjou whenever they wandered around, it was hardly effective. Consciously ignoring any pretense of social norms, Sjou would calmly alternate between crossing those boundaries and wrapping the girl in a hug akin to vice, or snuggling up to Novino and hiding under the cleaner's coat - he looked politely bemused about all. When Sjou finally opened her mouth to speak again, the voice was carrying a genuine edge, but expressed in a soft, patterned murmur. More than once she had mistaken it for leaves ... and that stirred memories all on it's own. The Xenonian had already stopped moving, reaching into her pocket and taking out a cigarette. Aimee found herself frowning with distaste for a moment, and before she had a chance to breathe there was a tearing noise, followed by a laugh. Sjou had already spun around to stare into her eyes (and in doing so, actually allowed her head to turn at an impossible angle), breaking into a grin as she wiped away strands of hair that obscured her face. Privately, the Tsukasa girl found herself reflecting on Kata's assessment of Sjoujuan “Crazy, and Beautiful. Maybe even Cute�. Always dangerous".

It just did not feel normal that Xenonians had three sixty vision.

"Damn, you've been wound up into a real tight little wonder, fucking aaaayee. Well, screw you. She is catching up to MY record. You are an example of everything that is nice and charitable about that woman, most of which has probably made a decent person out of me. She's a real goddamn bleeding heart, in between her moments of convincing everyone else otherwise. Even I put up with her jaggedness, once in a while. In small doses. No longer than fifteen seconds. That bitch."

At that jab, Aimee found herself brightening, returning a genuine, if slightly nervous smile. Sjou's methods were different to the prescence that had served as her own mentor and protector all of Aimee's short life, but the motivations seemed fairly similar. Sjou was significantly more rough along the edges, but just as dedicated and capable of providing her personal safety. Turning away from the Xenonian's genuinely and focusing her attention upon the surroundings, Aimee acknowledged the change in direction. Their generally aimless wandering through the slum districts of Rabona was starting to home in on a target; the past miles of expended energy being a course Aimee knew the Xenonians were plotting to appear fundamentally aimless in their wanderings. Noting the familiarity of landmarks increase, she realised that it would be less than five minutes before they chancedupon a shopkeeper that owed Kata favour and a concealed entrance to ... home. Home. Again, a number of memories were allowed to rise, to ebb and flow - she even gasped, t one point. Even now, they were entering one of the smaller, more specialised Market districts one that had been closed for hours and now long empty, following the rise of the night.

And then, what would follow? Even as the thought formed in her head, the Xenonian seemed to catch her inner thoughts and turned her attentions towards the ward. Sjoujuan seemed to ponder the nature of Aimee's silence, before pressing on finger to the girl's head and intoning her thoughts. Inside the confines of the deeply personal form of communication, the Xenonians tone (if it could be described as such) was warmer, more considerate.
'You might even get to be happy'. Their world froze, if only briefly, as Aimmee stood immobile, clearly rather moved. Her world was permeated by a burst of warmth - and she opened her eyes from a happy reprieve to notice Sjou had her locked in a warm embrace.

Still with one arm around Aimee's shoulder Juan reached for another cigarette, tilting her head to the side and performing a complex series of gestures with, the cigarillo burning almost as a beacon along the street. Aimee understood the warning of armed figures ahead immediately, her posture stiffening in response and her pulse quickening. Sjou seemed oddly amused at her momentary fear, but the smirk passed as they drew closer - Now the Xenonian carried a smile that seemed slightly bitter, iconoclast. Continuing to hold up pretence of normality, her hand clasped firmly onto the Tsukasa's shoulder and began guiding her ... only for the two of them to emerge from the other side of the market a second later. Any attention (and thus danger) represented by the aimed party was left floundering behind, completely unaware of what had literally walked straight by, their passing unnoticed.

'Silence.'

Upon finally reaching the ruined House which would give them access, the to the tunnel networks, it started to rain; a veritable downpour. Taking a moment to hold her hand out and feel the moisture, Aimee noted Sjou's wide eyes observing the clouds overhead with something approaching wonder. Wiping her brow, Sjou switched her gaze to Aimee for a moment, then the pathway behind them. Giving a moderately annoyed sigh, she attempted to ease the door open ... only for the door to resist. There was a brief moment of introspection on Sjoujuan's part, before she chanced a look at Aimee and then again at the offending security door.

"Hahaha oh wow. What an absolute CUNT of a door. Useless sadistic little LOUSE of a thing, refusing to open for me when it knows I’ll get around it anyway. Pointless. Fucking. Resistance. Makes. Me. Want. To. RAPE. SOMEONE. FORCIBLY. FUCKING HURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. Either it is angry its parents grew up Univarian and wants to rebel, or it's made in fucking Zerstorendar, I'm sure. Well then ..." Sjou motioned to Aimee, placed her hand through the door and pulled her arm back. "RAGEQUIT LIFE, SLAGJUICE"�.

As Sjou stood back to admire her handiwork, Aimee was able to peer at the door - noting immediately that the entire front of the door simply opened. There were no signs of violence or even force - and Sjou had something akin to an idiot's grin upon her face, in all it's sheepishness The Xenonian motioned Aimee to step through, following her and now wielding an over-large mallet. Upon stepping through the entrance the Xenonian swung a hand back, motioned the door shut and sealed the entire thing with a device slung under her arm.

"I wanted to play in the rain"

No mention was made of Novino's disappearance. That Sjou had not mentioned it already implied to Aimee that she was better off not knowing where the enigmatic operative had gone.

______________

Just remember, things can always get worse.

Lately, Vitaly Sidorchik possessed all the time in the world to consider that statement ... and it was one he had found to ring increasingly true as his time on Airavuni crept on. Yes, he had stepped into a high risk career - aware of that risk, and accepting it. He preferred to embrace risk anyway, since it was always a part of everyday existence. In many ways, his latest field of employment as an officer in military intelligence had provided more safety than past opportunities offered. Of course, the malestorm of events that happened in the past year gave him cause to doubt. As the assistant director of the Airavunian Federal Emergency Management Agency - he also had to consider the death of his boss, and whether that implied targets above his head as well. He should have had a guard detail, protection ... yet all of those "precautions" had been lost in a haze of government gridlock. One part of him was certain the lack of complaints about this gross breach of "security oversight" was a sign more than a few would love him to disappear and never be found again. The bastards.

Oh Sure, there was the endemic corruption amongst higher ranked services and officers and the terribly ineffective political system, but that was generally expected in a nation of which the national sport was essentially government-subsidised ennui. Nevertheless, those issues did not fall under the 'crippling danger' category, merely the slap a few zeroes on the end of of a pay check, or I take the next means out of here designation. There was also an undercurrent of meaning and regularity to those concerns - even if he was a fairly self-centred individual, even Vitaly would accept that these things had been improving, and his own actions might well have played a part in that. All of the many cultural and bureaucratic issues associated with working with the Airavunian systems had absolutely nothing on the clusterfuck that had unfolded in recent times. First Rendari and then Xenonians ... and now, a calcified political system with none of the leadership qualities necessary to pull the country or the military out of the mess.

... His current job was supposed to have been an escape from all this. And fuck. Xenonians!

It was one of those phrases any good intelligence officer believed they would never have to deal with and hoped for much the same, with good reason. Xenonians were supposed to be distant creatures who never got involved in armed affairs unless they had to, which confused Vitaly all the more. In weeks following the incident, he had pored over dozens of scattered intelligence reports from many friends he had collected over his Intelligence and Soldiering years, little of which was helpful. The reasons for Rendari movement were at least, understandable; even if he thought the logistical risks were too great given the information on their troop movements he had gathered. But the Xenonians ... fuck. Inscrutable as ever. Simple logic dictated the Xenonians had to have an interest in this turgid and confusing mess, but nothing Vitaly could do pinned it down. On one hand, there was a part of him - a prideful, demanding part that wanted to try and make some sense of it all. The re-compensation would be immense, the sense of personal achievement, even greater. Hed had half a mind to take his own, exclusive sources to the rest of the Airavunian intelligence services ... well, much more than half.

Whomever had sent him a summons for a meeting clearly knew him all too well. The message had arrived just as the possibility was going to win him over - and that in itself was terrifying! No intelligence officer could ever live with the knowledge they might be read so easily, and yet here he was, about to be the pawn of someone else. Certainly a day he regretted all of his present employment choices.

The contents of the message had a blunt efficiency that supported the reputation he hadknown of the strange, Alien species that might well have had a hand in this operation - and sent his blood to freezing. Wasting no time the message had identified his links with the now disgraced Morgon enterprises and the moderate wing of the Tsukasa family, all information that was likely to get him killed ... and had politely asked for an audience with him. Once again, he had to doubt why the fuck any remaining parties would care about him of all peoples, but the truth of the message remained, as well as the lack of any overt threats in the content. Xenonian tentacle rape-monster, Rendari agent or not, the sender of the message knew who he was - and since there no soldiers at his doorstep, they had not used it to have him garrotted so far. The person on the other end of the message was at least willing to talk before shooting in the current denial-climate was comforting ... somewhat.

The first step outside the front yard of his property was the only one which sent him towards his intended destination. Despite his own internal atmosphere of tension, the walk was marked by a complete lack of any obvious risks and beyond that, Vitaly was fairly certain he was not being tailed in any way. With these conditions in mind, it was of little surprise that his trip to the agreed meeting at a magrail station was fairly uneventful. Following the initial lack of danger he believed any moves made by those who had sent him the message would be carried out at the station and in this respect, he was correct.
In terms of physical appearance, there was nothing special about the messenger, which was unexpected. Their tone was as clipped as the message, their clothing and standing, almost forgettable -even when looking straight at them.

"You have two options. Agree to come with me and be incapacitated with paralytic gas for your journey to ensure operational security, or attempt to ride this series of current events out on your own"�. Sidor knew immediately that there was no way to get around the request or play for time, the tone demanded an answer immediately.

"I guess ..."

He was just there. No blackness, no unconsciousness, nothing to suggest a moment of time had passed. Somehow, he was in an abandoned warehouse, with a single figure watching on. There was what felt like an uncomfortable silence for fifteen seconds, Vitaly struggling to regain some sense of composure by observing his surroundings ... and then the figure spoke.

"Mister Sidorchik�. One of the last remaining people capable of resurrecting the Tsukasa political machine. A tool with no master and just enough survivor's guilt that your new prowess cannot wash all the blood away"

Vitlaly gave a resigned sigh - he clearly expected the business end of a round to follow. He had even closed one eye - but nothing followed.

"Rather archaic, the notion of men ... and masters. Not your type of ideology. But you can still be of use.". A piece of paper was pressed into the intelligence officer's hand. A rolling mass of text, organised and scripted in the messy handwriting ... of a child? Despite the presentation, it took only a second for his trained eye to realise the first term of importance. Executive Order 10991.

The man's eyes opened wide, a stammer soon following.

" ..... Seizure of all modes of transportation ..." was all Sidorchik could manage - and the watching figure seemed to find mirth in this.

Horne. Sanders. Michaels - all now dead, presumably killed by the people behind tihs "letter". They were leaders of the main political blocks in the Airavunian senate. The leaders who would nominally advocate a state of emergency - and Horne was the director of the Airavunian Federal Emergency Management Agency. Executive Order 10995. With the right manipulations, someone could can take over the media. Executive order 10996. The Military. Executive Order 10997. New elections, a bloodless government coup and a position of significant power on his part were all alluded to in the document, if he co-operated. If he issued the decrees. If he passed those orders in a state of emergency ... One candidate with significant grass-roots support and Airavuni would have a new government. A government that would be formed by his actions; one doubtless prepared to pardon anything "unacceptable" he might have done, perhaps to even let Sidorchik live in peace. Retirement would not be bloody.

There was a moment of pause, the figure seeming to have absolutely no desire to rush - despite the growing sense of unease about the discussion material.

"I am a representative of the Projected Irregularity of Xenonier. My name is Novino Radovan. We have the Candidate - and the emergency. It's time to play the endgame of your career. You have fifteen minutes to comply. Those fifteen minutes will be spent sending that document to all requisite parties involved."

The Xenonian walked over and gently removed the piece of paper before leaving. With a wry smile, Sidorchik noted that he had at least been kind enough to leave a beverage this time. Seated at a table, with form-fitting chairs - all conjured without the trained intelligence officer noticing it. While the last moments of his life had seen him confronted with a political animal, a construct way beyond almost anything he had seen before - it was the small details that made him feel so very insignificant. The Xenonians had made him their pliable instrument with ease, and he knew it.

Ironically, it gave him a clarity and peace of mind he had not possessed for months. He might well have in some way, been relieved.
;>
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Zerstorendar
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Prefix: The Mannlich Imperium of
Name: Zerstorendar

Re: The Old Army Game.

Post by Zerstorendar »

*Supreme Command Headquarters, Vanderhelm*

Zerstorendar’s military, like any good military, practised great synchronisation between their martial arms. The Zanekrieger, who held responsibility for all ground operations, always worked in close concert with the Sternsieg, who held responsibility for all space operations. The Zanekrieger possessed all the resources required to prosecute war at the planetary level, including armour, artillery, atmospheric air support, intelligence and logistics. The Sternsieg on the other hand possessed every capability required of a spaceborne navy, including small craft, marines and of course their own logistics vessels and crews. By definition, the Sternsieg’s ability to prosecute a war against a ground-based enemy was limited without suffering a serious loss to their capability against spaceborne foes whereas the Zanekrieger’s effectiveness against heavily fortified ground positions was greatly enhanced by surgical fire support from orbit. Neither of the two could operate without the other, and so planning for an operation such as annexing Airavuni and its tertiary planets would involve the supreme command for both navy and army working in unison.

As such, the Zanekriegerlich Helgrund Klaitus stood in the joint planning chamber surrounded by his general staff poring over holomaps, intelligence reports and unit dispositions. Accompanying them was the commander of the navy, Sternsieglich Heinrich Nashar and his chosen admirals, also busy digesting information and producing operational plans to present to their army counterparts. They had been at this for days, and though the groundwork for such an operation had been laid down ever since the reluctant hero Dirk Fettel had raised hell on Airavuni and brought a few Xenonians back with him, actually executing the campaign required serious analysis before they dared make their move. While the generals and admirals consulted with each other to confirm the plan for the annexation of Airavuni and the surrounding system, subordinate commanders ensured their forces would be prepared for a good old fashioned invasion when orders came down the chain.

Time was a factor, as the Kaiserlich expected his strategy to be converted into an operation by the time he announced the annexation of the Iruvii system to the Imperium.

Nonetheless, a couple more long days of the planning process; digesting information, drawing conclusions and incorporating them into a plan brought them to the confirmation stage of their planning before live rehearsals could be conducted: wargaming.

+++++

The sky was burning. The citizens of Airavuni looked up in horror as the remnants of their proud orbital defence fleet was slowly turned to a ripple of explosions that could be seen even from the ground, strange lights dancing in the skies overhead as debris crashed through the atmosphere. The lightshow was impressive, as the Sternsieg’s arrowhead assault into the defence grid over the capital city of Rabona was preceded by the deadly energy lances of the two ‘Archdemon’ Superdestroyers forming the core of a massive invasion fleet. Destroyer class vessels swarmed around their larger brethren and were in turn surrounded by frigate and corvette sizes vessels, who intercepted enemy munitions and provided point protection for the larger ships. The violence was terrible to behold, as the kinetic and energy weaponry of Zerstorendarian vessels tore a gaping hole in Airavuni’s spaceborne defences, each flickering red lance of energy and blinding flash of antimatter claiming the lives of hundreds.

Of course, such a rapid frontal assault did not go all the Rendari’s way, and those ships whose purpose in the line of battle was to draw fire from the capital ships suffered terribly. Airavuni’s defence grid and piquet ships put up a courageous fight, their nation’s lack of a proud military history meaning nothing when fighting for their lives. Casualties on both sides were in the tens of thousands in the first hour of the battle, however the commanders of the much larger and more powerful Rendari Armada had taken this all into account: before long, the navy of the beleaguered world could not stop the mass landing of ground troops into the capital city as the Sternsieg spearhead completed its penetration of the spaceborne defences, and began deploying to take complete orbital control of the planet.

The landing craft of the Zanekrieger, known as the ‘Huegathor’ was a massive brick-like troop carrier that plummeted from low orbit at incredible speeds and landed with a force that was dangerous even to the massively armoured and enhanced soldiers within. The crude design and function of the craft was the safest design the Zanekrieger had been able to develop, with the extremely thick armour and shielding, powerful antigrav boosters and outrageous terminal velocity serving to provide excellent protection from ground-based fire despite the guarantee of casualties upon landing. Each Huegathor carried approximately two hundred Ravagers, who would deploy within seconds from several massive exit hatches and firing in all directions as standard operating procedure. As part of the ‘shock and awe’ campaign to completely demoralise Airavuni’s resistance, a significant proportion of the Ravager landing army would be focused on demolishing the military, cultural and political heart of the planet and using it as a firm base for the planetary annexation of what Rendari commanders assumed would be a completely shattered foe. The plan was bold and arrogant, and relied heavily upon the assumption of Airavunian cowardice.

As it was, hundreds of Huegathor landing craft began screaming toward the fortified capital, well practised drills and Sternsieg targeting AIs allowing orbital covering fire to continue even as the landing craft entered the atmosphere. Few of the Huegathor’s suffered hull damage on the landing, though several were engulfed by redirected anti-orbital emplacements and consumed. Inbuilt ejection devices launched Ravagers from some critically damaged Huegathors and allowed them to freefall the final hundreds or thousands of metres to ground, a landing technique that would guarantee a medal for Ravagers that survived.

Such a display of violence and fearlessness as a massed Ravager orbital drop never failed to cow those on the receiving end; and while the more elite soldiers such as the special forces unit Fettel fought during the original Incident stuck to their orders, things unravelled quickly elsewhere. By the time thousands of eight foot human tanks were running amok throughout the city in small units with very loose rules of engagement, a combination of the fog of war and massive casualties in contact with Ravager digits served to destroy the morale and cohesion of the defenders. With the Ravagers taking key terrain by storm and rapidly establishing secure zones for the landing of heavier equipment, the longer the battle lasted the more organised the initial chaos of the Rendari forces became. While the initial insertion relied upon the initiative of small unit commanders to gain the advantage, once the higher commanders got a sense of things the situation unravelled exceedingly quickly for the by-now terrified Airavunians.

Several hours after planetfall, the only organised resistance in the entire city was the seat of government, defended by a government special forces unit. After a quick check with the higher-ups to ensure complete decapitation of the planet’s government was still desired, a mixture of orbital and ground-based heavy ordnance broke the back of the defenders and allowed a Ravager assault force to retire the survivors.

-2 weeks later-

Contrary to assumptions, focusing the vast majority of ground forces on the planetary capital instead of population centres did not completely collapse the planet’s morale. The people derided as ‘too liberal’ and ‘soft’ by Rendari military planners actually, when given time by the focus of military force on Rabona to think things through, surprisingly quickly converted their liberalism into a more powerful suicidal nationalism. With military units given time to throw away their uniforms, train terrorist cells and generally go underground, Ravager patrols found themselves routinely ambushed by low-tech insurgents and quickly resorted to overwhelming use of force against the civilian populace. Ravager kill-teams routinely swept through districts with high rebel activity and, often with no clear objective, conducted executions of men with military backgrounds. While this allowed the insurgent cells formed by now defunct Airavunian army to be killed one by one in their own homes while protesting innocence to the end, without Blitzmord operatives specifically stop insurgent activity, Ravagers had little option but to indiscriminately murder both innocents and insurgents alike in order to keep their stranglehold on the planet. Further alienating the populace, this approach served the dual purpose of driving desperate Airavunians to suicide attacks on the occupying forces and destroying the planet’s population centres, and the economy.

+++++

“Hold it right there�, stated an annoyed looking Zanekriegerlich. “That’s all I need to hear, this won’t work.� He sighed and stared sullenly at the team of generals and admirals who were wargaming the opposing force. The Sternsieglich, captain of the opposing force, interjected:

“If it were up to me, I would have stopped it before your troops even landed. I’m not happy with the clumsiness of the fleet’s assault plan, and it gives the enemy ships time to form a counterattack force.� Helgrund replied, still annoyed that his favoured plan had fallen flat:

“Even were that not the case, destruction of the planet’s infrastructure and the complete alienation of the populace isn’t good enough. We can’t afford to spend months throwing hundreds of thousands of Ravagers into the meatgrinder of a planetary rebellion when fighting could open up on another front at any moment.� The Sternsieglich nodded. Genlich Markus Scarus, veteran of fighting in the Milky Way galaxy, on the Zanekriegerlich’s side added:

“Nonetheless, keeping Blitzmord killteams out of the order of battle leaves a serious hole in our intelligence post-nullification. Some sort of insurgency is always a threat and I think we still need to plan for it, but we saw with the Centisski that Spectres operating under Blitzmord headquarters can reduce Ravager manpower requirements by 70%.�

“Agreed�, concurred the Zanekriegerlich while lifting himself out of a chair. “Anyway, move on to the second course of action, I want to start some live fire rehearsals in two days. I’ll be back in an hour, I have to update the Kaiserlich�. The Sternsieglich nodded, automatically taking charge of the two groups of theorycrafters and leading them into their next scenario as the generals and admirals started rearranging the vast collection of sheets and dataslates they had piled in front of them.

+++++

“Lord Kaiserlich, Zanekriegerlich Klaitus here to see you. Indifference.� Kytus Draigan nodded, not looking up from the glorious assortment of reports here had to rifle through today. While there were good people employed to deal with the paperwork, the Kaiserlich still had to get the gist of everything that was happening below him so he could make informed decisions when the time came. Generally the running of the nation was left to the Secundlich, but Kytus liked to know the details so he knew when he needed to step in.

The massive door to the cavernous office of the Kaiserlich, filled as it was with giant paintings of past leaders and well-worn dataslate collections, swung open as Helgrund meandered in flanked by several Praetorians. Walking as close to his master’s desk as he knew Todou would allow, he stood to attention then relaxed. The Kaiserlich, clearly busy, looked up and put on his listening face. Behind the Kaiserlich was a large Zerstorendarian coat of arms obscured by his larger bodyguard, standing quite still and silent as he often did. Helgrund spoke first, knowing he could get away with it:

“We’re still theorycrafting, Kytus. We’ll have a solid plan in two days, at which point I’ll invade the moon to make sure the troops are sharp.� Ravager exercises often took place on Zerstorendarian worlds, in this case Zerstorendar’s moon, Primar. Such live fire exercises would usually cause some damage, and mock cities were reserved on every world for these events; operations such as a planetary invasion had enough scope for disaster that it was important to narrow down the things that could go wrong through realistic training. The Kaiserlich nodded:

“I actually have something that might change things. I’m sorry you weren’t informed earlier, but I only just got it myself.� Kytus reached into one of the pockets of his robe of office, the black low profile powersuit that always protected him barely visible. He retrieved a crumpled piece of paper and gave it to Todou, who took one ponderous step towards the desk and extended his arm. Helgrund took the piece of paper, allowing Todou to return to his silent vigil.

Messy scrawl that could only belong to a child wandered over the page. As if he didn’t suspect already, Helgrund merely sighed when he saw it was drawn in crayon. Kytus clearly found it funny, but the Army Supreme Commander was visibly pissed when he realised how much work had been wasted in the absence of this information. Kytus spoke:

“I think the’ Tenghi’ one dropped that on me.� Todou’s head twitched, a sign that he was quite traumatised by the idea that an alien could put a piece of paper in the Kaiserlich’s pocket without him noticing. “On the bright side, this will make the invasion much easier.�

“No question about that�, Helgrund replied: “This being the case, the fleet can just enter Airavuni space in enough strength to cover the mass Ravager drop, and we can immediately deploy forces to secure the rest of the system. Naturally, I’ll still plan for the worst.� Kytus shrugged:

“Well, I leave all of that to you; you’re the expert my dear Helgrund. Just know that I still see the Iruvii system is nothing more than a sideshow at this point: I see no reason why the Sternsieglich should not have all the ships he wants, but I forsee new fronts opening up for the Zanekrieger any day now.�

“Uh, perhaps you could enlighten me then?�

“Wrathem is acting up again, for a start. Eggheads are telling me that the catacomb activity and Remnant attacks are actually some extra-dimensional ‘military escalation’, and things could explode soon.� Helgrund looked sceptical:

“*Ahem*, my Lord, there’s never been any evidence that all the scary lights and ghosts and Remnants infesting that shithole showed any intelligent direction, and the garrison is overstrength anyway. I think that will be sufficient.�

“I also have word from the Blitzmord-“

“They’re still reporting?�

“Of course, Sindri isn’t going to let the Imperium fall apart before my father gets to tear it to pieces. Anyway, they suspect something is brewing with the Centisski. I think my father might be talking to them, making promises, because there are some signs they are thinking about getting aggressive again.�

“Ha!? Those disgusting green intransigent fucks? I hope they do have a crack at us, Kytus, because they’ve been a drain on my troops ever since we beat them. Of course they’ve never given up, they’re at least as stubborn as we are. But honestly, their caste system forbids their drones from fighting, and we killed all their soldiers. As soon as they forsake four thousand years of tradition we might have something to worry about-“

“That’s exactly what the Blitzmord are telling me. Their drones are working, training, improving their bodies, more of them are turning up with illegal boosts. Apparently their drones are physically capable of being soldiers, the only barrier is cultural.� Helgrund chewed his lip for a moment, then replied:

“Well, that’s worth watching. But there’s what, three billion of them left? There’s no way they could mobilise any decent number of soldiers with Spectres breathing down their necks. I understand your point and I’ll hold more troops in reserve, but I don’t think it will be a problem. In fact, I don’t honestly see what Marius *can* do to hurt us while we keep a lid on the propaganda machine.�

“Which is exactly the problem. If we think my father doesn’t have any options, then there is something we’re not thinking of. Anyway, I’ll let you get back to preparing.� With that, Kytus buried himself once more in the reports. Dismissed, Helgrund came to attention once more and went back to work. Once he out was out of enhanced earshot, the silent colossus behind Zerstorendar’s leader spoke in his trademark booming metallic drone:

“Zanekrieger loyalty is not guaranteed when the truth gets out. Suspicion.� Kytus turned to look at his personal guard’s combat visor, displeased:

“Helgrund is as loyal as you are. You served my father too, remember.�

“I will tear him into a hundred bloody chunks! Outrage!�

“Only a hundred?� the Kaiserlich smiled, “I think Helgrund would too. You know what a woman can do to a man.� Todou cocked his head heavily, a sign to Kytus (being the only person that knew him) that he was thinking. The monster nodded, seemingly pacified for now.

“Remember Todou, that you are a killer and an advisor. But you are not a general. Consider that were Helgrund to be compromised, who he would be replaced with?� Todou growled, a common enough occurrence but still an unnaturally worrisome sound, even to Kytus:

“The rest of the Genlich’s...all weak. Distrust.� Kytus smiled.

“They’re not weak, I do wish you wouldn’t be so quick to judge. But there’s a reason Helgrund is in charge: he’s the best of them, the most experienced and most rational. And when you consider their history, you know that he hates my father more than any of us.� Kytus turned, for the umpteenth time, back to the pile of reports on his desk.

“Tereza-fucking paperwork.�

+++++

Marius reclined in a glorious black leather chair, a nip of his favourite Erap in hand. Around him sat a number of hangers-on, men who were not sycophants but political and military geniuses whom advised him on all matters. Chief among them, of course, was his woman. Deneve, his wife, sat with her long blue hair and ubiquitous trademark claymore across her lap. As usual, the hardened men and women in the room gave the small woman a wide berth considering her propensity for violence and heavily boosted body.

Deneve, however, was Marius’ wife. Not his ‘woman’.

The role of mistress went to Marius’ chief advisor, a naval commander named Selena Hoth. Beautiful in accordance with Marius’ tastes, she wore an immaculate black admiral’s greatcoat complete with honours on her left breast, of which there were many. For a nation that did not lightly award honours and achievements to its warriors, for a Zerstorendarian to have as colourful an assortment of shiny as she did was special indeed. Her hair was long and dark, and her face was sharp, angular, patrician and cold. Her proportions did not draw the stares and snide comments one might expect, as she had long ago demonstrated her willingness to charge such behaviour with insubordination and support it with a mean backhand.

She was an accomplished tactical commander in her day, but she demonstrated a poor understanding of office politics that ruined any chance she may have had of the highest posting. Still, her intransigence did little to diminish the reputation she had earned in the Sternsieg, and so she managed to secure a position in Marius’ administration as a top admiral. Sternlich (admiral) Hoth was a woman who had ordered genocide, seen friends die in disastrous ambush and held herself together in unimaginably stressful contacts. Indeed, if she held a soft spot for anything it was Marius. And pistols and alcohol.

Other than Sternlich Hoth and the simmering Deneve, Marius’ elite included Primelich Hadrian Bolt, line officer and commander of Deneve’s ex-Ravagers, who sat to Deneve’s right with the two of them essentially forming their own little group. Operative Indrick, contrary to the theories of the Kaiserlich and the Xenonians, was there too as he was a resource too great to send into the lion’s den. An assortment of handpicked people filled out the group to create a highly ideological intellectual powerhouse in order to plot the downfall of Kaiserlich Kytus Draigan’s government.

All eyes were on Marius, as he had called them there for a reason. He was taking his time, but everyone in the room knew he would speak when he was ready. As it was, a couple more minutes of waiting ensued, with Deneve and Primelich Bolt being the only ones impolite enough to look annoyed. Taking one more sip of his drink, ex-Kaiserlich Draigan finally spoke:

“It’s a good thing we cleaned house when we did, because I imagine the word has passed to most of you now that the Mannlich Imperium will be moving on the Iruvii system.� Those around the room nodded while Deneve tapped her foot impatiently. She hated these meetings. Marius looked at her with a wry smile before continuing:

“My dear, in fact I think you’ll find our son has chosen to write off my existence as a doppelganger. He claims that you are the traitor that must be hunted down-“ he laughed, “-and the people seem to think that I was a tragic hero that really did die back then..�, his sentence trailed off as he kept laughing, though Deneve looked less than impressed. After a moment Marius composed himself and continued:

“Anyway, Indrick’s compatriots are indicating that Kytus will be taking the opportunity to annex the entire system. Strategically this is a smooth move, as the people will be happy to pay for the creation of a new province with a good reason behind it. However, it means eyes will be elsewhere.� Marius looked to Indrick, and asked:

“What inroads are you having with the Centisski? Can we make a decent insurgency out of them?� Indrick twitched.

“Oh yes, many roads have been travelled and many gates have been opened. It’s a cultural upheaval even, so very fascinating to see. Drones become warriors, civilians become officers, so very exciting! The Blitzmord see it happening, so they’ll move to cut their head off quite soon I am sure. But I can stop that. Are you giving me the green?� Indrick leaned forward, his analytical mind highly stimulated at the thought of starting a fight that would kill billions. Marius nodded.

“Yes, I am.� Marius turned to one of his intelligence officers:

“What’s the situation on Wrathelm? I have heard interesting things about an increase in Remnant attacks.� The man nodded.

“Yes but whatever it is, as always, cannot be controlled. It looks as if something has happened that is causing paranormal events to increase, and I have indications that another expedition into the catacombs is planned.� Marius nodded, wondering how to make use of this information.

“Are there enough sympathetic units there to turn it into a mutiny? If things go crazy like again like they did during the 1164 Massacre, that place could be turned into a real conflagaration.� The question was directed towards no one in particular, and one of Marius’ generals responded:

“The 1014th and 203rd Prymarch both have significant sympathetic assets. I think if we wait for real chaos to erupt, it’s achievable.� Marius nodded once more.

“These sound like positive results, people. Now, Hoth.� The attentive woman perked up slightly more. “How’s work going on the ‘’War Criminal’’?� A spark of pleasure danced into the woman’s eyes as she replied:

“Oh yes, I’ve been in contact with him. He’s very sympathetic. In fact, give me the word and he’ll take care of things.�

The ZSVG War Criminal was the most recent addition to Zerstorendar’s Superdestroyer fleet, the seventeenth ‘Archdemon’ to be constructed. It’s AI had been subject to Marius’ tinkering during his reign and Hoth had been its first captain. While the ‘Archdemon’ AI’s were known to be particularly volatile, War Criminal had an unusually strong desire to live up to its name. It and Hoth were still on good working terms, and the War Criminal had been enamoured with Marius’ plan to plunge the Imperium into civil war. Hoth had convinced the patriotic War Criminal of the need to stress Zerstorendar into growth by testing it from within.

“Then get it done. What’s your plan for taking control?�

“Well, War Criminal is incapable of harming or disobeying its captain. He’ll need my help for that.� Marius nodded, concerned that his mistress would need to put herself so firmly in harm’s way.

“Do you have a plan for when the Sternsieg realise one of their ships has gone rogue? They’ll send a fleet after you, and don’t think for a second they won’t find you.� Hoth smiled.

“They’ve never considered this eventuality very carefully. War Criminal is docked at Sinistissia and will be deployed on a patrol of the Northern Rim quite soon. He will smuggle me on board with a few helpers. Once we’re in deep space, we can take care of business�. Marius let a look of concern cross his face for moment, increasing Deneve’s annoyance. Personally, she had her fingers crossed the annoying woman would be picked up by a Spectre on Sinistissia, but that wouldn’t be very good for the cause. Primelich Bolt looked thoroughly disinterested.

“Well then. An alien rebellion, a Ravager mutiny and a rogue Superdestroyer. This will spin poor Kytus out quite dearly, and give us the time we need.� He looked sidelong at his wife and her right-hand man, wishing he had something for them to do. He had one more question for Indrick before matters were resolved:

“Any word on Sirius?�

“We lost contact with him during the assassination attempt and all fingers point to the Zanekriegerlich still being alive.�

“A shame. Well, I suppose we can consider his field test a success nonetheless: his infiltration and attack was certainly impressive. We couldn’t have anticipated the Xenonian being there or that new shield of his. Is there anything we can do in regards to that?� Indrick shook his head.

“Not a lot. The best thing we can do is leave the Xenonians alone, and make sure they don’t know anything about us. What we can do is stir up a little feeling against ‘collaboration with meddling aliens’, so I’ll get on that while I’m raising hell. As for the shield, the next batch will have improved shieldbreakers. Of course, we won’t get another shot at Helgrund.� Marius shrugged and clapped his hands.

“Well, that concludes business then. Back to work ladies and gentlemen! Sternlich Hoth, on me.� The tall naval commander and Marius absconded, their black cloaks barely concealing that they were holding hands as their retired. Deneve shrugged, and meandered out of the room dragging her claymore along the floor. Bolt followed, and noticed she was smiling quite genuinely:

“The fuck are you smiling about, my lady?� he inquired with trademark subtlety. She turned to him, her blue hair swirling with her head and her face lit up quite charmingly:

“Oh, just pleased old Helgrund managed to survive. He always does!� She began whirling her claymore around wildly as she oft did in a good mood, and her adjutant dropped back to avoid being decapitated. She was such a silly girl.
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