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Chapter Five: A Show of Hands

Psychie

Princess Psychie
#51
Toph looks over at the insectiod alien and asks, "Unit One, what is the range of your Neural Network, and how is it implemented? Could it be used to get us in touch with Colonel Sharp without using the comms?"
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
#52
Toph looks over at the insectiod alien and asks, "Unit One, what is the range of your Neural Network, and how is it implemented? Could it be used to get us in touch with Colonel Sharp without using the comms?"
"Your curiosity of our culture honors us, Toph Kirin! You bring us joy!" Iris rubbed her great pincers together in delight toward Toph and continued.

"Between Scrath and non-Scrath, distance does not appear to be a factor. In order for a Binary or Polyphonic Nexus to come into being, a non-Scrath must be within unaugmented sight of the Scrath creating the nexus. As example, Self cannot create a nexus with any creature outside of this room. This includes Colonel Sharp.

"As for implementation, This One requires a living, conscious, mentally-capable, and willing subject to connect with. Preferably one with compassion, a strong will and mind, and a liberated imagination."

* * *​

"Cera, this is a kind of protein paste. Organic, you might say, or not as processed as you're used to, but it oughta fill your stomach just fine. Look at Toph -- she's half Meltrandi and she handles human food well enough!" Elinor pointed at Toph with her fork.
Cera glanced at all of the Wild Cards around the table and muttered. "Filling the body is not enough - proper nutrition must be maintained. Any Scrath could tell you that." She eyed the meatball on her fork again and sniffed it for the fifth time.

Iris crept up beside Cera with silence in her movements; it was disconcerting to watch a creature that large move so very softly as to hardly make any noise at all. Her great head loomed over Cera's, her antennae and mandibles twitching slightly. Then, with the "hand" on the elbow of her arm, Iris gently nudged Cera encouragingly. Cera looked up, irritated at first, but then a sigh of resignation left her lips. She inserted the meatball into her mouth and did nothing. Iris then prodded the back of Ura-Meltrandi's head as if to promote chewing. Cera's face went red as, like a stubborn teenager, she thrust her head forward out of Iris's reach and chewed on her own.

Then a look of surprise took her as her warrior features softened. She swallowed the meatball and looked up to Iris. "The taste! This is nothing like protein paste!"

Iris nodded, her armored eyelids closed up into a look of great pleasure - Cera had learned something new, thanks to the Wild Cards.

* * *​

That got Elinor's attention, too. "OK, now, since we've finally got the time for explanations -- just what is the Maelstrom? We've been runnin' around all day without proper info from much of anyone, and I think it's time someone told us what we're doin'. The more we know, the better we'll know how to hide it."
"Epic Space Music Mix" by various artists. I find it really adds to the scene as much as it helped me write and edit it.

Cera put her fork down and slowly stared at her human dentella. Her red-brown eyes did not blink but took on such a look of intense seriousness. "Finally," she looked to all of you. "Prepare your minds, Wild Cards, and I will tell you what the Ura-Meltrandi would have you know if you are to save Earth...

"The Maelstrom is both a prophecy and a war. A war across time.

"Long into your future, The Enemy shall come. They shall ravage this world of yours in ways the Dolza-Zentraedi never could. They will enslave all that they can and kill who they cannot. Humanity will serve The Enemy.

"The Ura-Meltrandi, we who defected from the Robotech Masters after The Enlightenment, and the foul Zeki-Zentraedi, who also defected after their own Evolution, know of a single starship, a wonderful and special starship, that turned the tide of the Maelstrom in favor of the humans. We have long searched for it. It is the SCL-107 Broadsword of the Robotech Expeditionary Force.

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(Image credit: Seesaa Wiki)

"This force, sent by your military leaders in an effort to meet and treat with the Robotech Masters, shall fail in its mission to intercept them. Instead, the Robotech Masters shall come here. The Enemy shall follow them. They shall come like nightmare shadows against the stars. They shall swarm your skies in numbers greater than humanity is prepared for.

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(Image credit: Robotech Wiki - Wikia )

"The Enemy will tear your world apart. Army by army, city by city, home by home. Your forces shall fight valiantly...

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(Image credit: The Audio of Amber - WordPress.com)

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(Image credit: Digitsweb.com )

"...and lose to the last.

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(Image credit: Fall of the Southern Cross at Robotech Visions Wiki - Wikia)

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(Image credit: www.spyderonlines.com)

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(Image credit: Vladimir Manyukhin at www.spyderonlines.com)

"Then this shattered Earth shall fall. The only remnants of humankind will be what remains of the Robotech Expeditionary Force... and they will lose the Maelstrom to The Enemy. The last Traverser shall die. The Enemy will conquer Earth and multiply. They will overcome the Zeki-Zentraedi. They shall succeed in slaying my mighty Empress and all Ura-Meltrandi. The Enemy will grow and dominate your solar system, this galaxy, and eventually, stars beyond. Only the Robotech Masters - the creators of Dolza-Zentraedi and Lisara-Meltrandi - escape, and then only in very, very small numbers. "

Cera took a deep breath. She placed her hands flat across the table and leaned toward you.

"My War-queen Taniya has taught me! The Broadsword is the key! Whomever holds the Broadsword wins the Maelstrom. In the future, the Broadsword is lost in space along with others of your Robotech Expeditionary Force. "But," Cera whirled suspiciously in her chair towards Spaceman Sam who did not move, "the Broadsword traveled back in time to here and now! Her final mission, her only mission, is to prepare humanity for the coming of The Enemy. To rebuild Earth! To prepare your homeworld! To protect it against the threat that will devour you all."

Cera faced you again, her arms folded, her eyes narrowed and mirthless. "All this I was taught while growing inside my body banks. This is much of what we, the Ura-Meltrandi, know. And as certainly as my mind is incomplete, so too are many details. But one thing holds true. Wild Cards...

"...you now sit on board the very salvation of humanity on Earth."
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
#53
"Between Scrath and non-Scrath, distance does not appear to be a factor. In order for a Binary or Polyphonic Nexus to come into being, a non-Scrath must be within unaugmented sight of the Scrath creating the nexus. As example, Self cannot create a nexus with any creature outside of this room. This includes Colonel Sharp.
Mario gives off a wry smile. "Too bad. That would have been a perfect way to communicate with the Colonel without having our signal tapped. We'll have to come up with some other way to give a true report to him."
Then a look of surprise took her as her warrior features softened. She swallowed the meatball and looked up to Iris. "The taste! This is nothing like protein paste!"
At this, Mario lets out a heartfelt laugh. "That is nothing. This MRE food is enough to sustain life, but if you want real Italian cooking, you should let me cook you some of my mama's special lasagna. Or pizza. You just can't go wrong with a good, genuine pizza made by a proud Italian-American." He then suddenly blushes a bit, realizing that his comments might be fodder for some misunderstandings. "Um, Lieutenants? You are, of course, invited over for dinner, too. I know how to make enough to feed all of us."
"The Maelstrom is both a prophecy and a war. A war across time.
Mario can feel his jaw hanging open, gaping like a fish for a moment until he can get himself under control once more. Time travel! I guess that after all that has happened to me in the past few days I shouldn't be surprised at this. But hot damn! That is just . . . amazing! He clears his throat. "Wow. Just - wow. I don't know what else to say to this besides that. How can we use this knowledge to help prepare for this upcoming invasion? Or is it two invasions? I don't want to make any mistakes that will cause the deaths of even more millions if we can avoid it."
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
#54
Then a look of surprise took her as her warrior features softened. She swallowed the meatball and looked up to Iris. "The taste! This is nothing like protein paste!"
Elinor grinned. "Any day you learn somethin' new is a good day, huh? And that's a good somethin' to learn -- food can be good as well as nutritious."
"Um, Lieutenants? You are, of course, invited over for dinner, too. I know how to make enough to feed all of us."
Elinor nodded emphatically at Mario's invitation. "I'd love to take you up on that! It sounds wonderful. Not a lot of Italian chefs where I grew up."


"...you now sit on board the very salvation of humanity on Earth."
Elinor listened to Cera's tale with varying degrees of surprise, horror, and resolve, but the one thing that remained constant was her fascination. This was not just something completely new, it was maybe the most important thing she'd ever hear, and she wanted to hear it all. When Cera was done, Elinor took several moments to let it all sink in -- and get over the sheer shock of what was basically an invite to a war spanning years --decades -- maybe hundreds or thousands of years. And they had a part to play too.

"But it's not just the Broadsword, is it?" she asked quietly. "You said, 'The last Traverser will die,' like they're a pretty important part of things too. But as far as I know, which granted ain't very far, we're just about the only Traversers that Earth has at the moment, us and Professor Stein and his people at the base. We're gonna need a lot more, aren't we? And we're gonna have to learn how to do what we do as good as we can so we can help teach all those others."
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
#55
Toph sits, stunned at the news of Earth's impending doom. "I wonder . . . Can Traversing be taught? And if so, what criteria is a person more or less able to learn how to do this? If it can be taught, Professor Stein is going to be a very busy man, since we just learned about this wonderful ability ourselves. I am hardly the best one to be teaching how to do this, since I have so many questions of my own about it!"
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
#56
"My War-queen Taniya has taught me! The Broadsword is the key! Whomever holds the Broadsword wins the Maelstrom. In the future, the Broadsword is lost in space along with others of your Robotech Expeditionary Force. "But," Cera whirled suspiciously in her chair towards Spaceman Sam who did not move, "the Broadsword traveled back in time to here and now! Her final mission, her only mission, is to prepare humanity for the coming of The Enemy. To rebuild Earth! To prepare your homeworld! To protect it against the threat that will devour you all."
Shirley held her head in confusion and waved her hands. "Whoa, whoa, whoa... The Broadsword is a human ship? Under the United Earth Government, maybe?" She turned to Spaceman Sam for answer.

In reply, Spaceman Sam glanced down at his tablet and then revealed the contents of its screen to all of you. It read, "THE SCL-107 BROADSWORD ANSWERS DIRECTLY AND ONLY TO ADMIRAL HUNTER AND VICE ADMIRAL HUNTER OF THE UNITED EARTH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE (UEEF) ROBOTECH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE. ALL OTHERS ARE CONSIDERED ADVISERS AT BEST."

"So what you're saying is, the Robotech Defense Force and the Army of Southern Cross have no authority over this vessel or its crew?"

"CORRECT, LT. MACKENZIE."

"So what's with all the big hubbub about General Steele not finding out about you?"

"WE STRONGLY BELIEVE GENERAL STEELE WOULD INTERFERE GREATLY WITH OUR MISSION, UP TO AND INCLUDING THE BOARDING AND CAPTURE OF THE BROADSWORD, PERHAPS FOR HIS OWN GLORY. THIS CANNOT TAKE PLACE. RECONSTRUCTION, PREPARATION, AND TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT IS OUR BEST MEANS TO ACHIEVE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF OUR MISSION. WHILE ELEMENTS OF OUR CREW MIGHT BE DISCOVERED WITHOUT MUCH THREAT, THE DISCOVERY OF THE BROADSWORD BY MILITARY FORCES OUR MISSION PARAMETERS TO CHANGE DRASTICALLY, AND PERHAPS, PERMANENTLY - TO THE DETRIMENT OF THE HUMAN RACE."

"Oh, is that all?" Shirley quipped as the seriousness of those statements sunk in.

* * *​

At this, Mario lets out a heartfelt laugh. "That is nothing. This MRE food is enough to sustain life, but if you want real Italian cooking, you should let me cook you some of my mama's special lasagna. Or pizza. You just can't go wrong with a good, genuine pizza made by a proud Italian-American." He then suddenly blushes a bit, realizing that his comments might be fodder for some misunderstandings. "Um, Lieutenants? You are, of course, invited over for dinner, too. I know how to make enough to feed all of us."
Elinor grinned. "Any day you learn somethin' new is a good day, huh? And that's a good somethin' to learn -- food can be good as well as nutritious."
"Cook?" Cera rubbed her neck. "What is 'cook'? You mean to manufacture the necessary components that allow us to continue to fight?"

Shirley heard Cera's question and chuckled. "Spoken like a true Meltrandi, chick. It's something like that. To 'cook' is to use fire and edible ingredients in order for proper nourishment. With us humans, it's considered an art form."

"'Art form'," Cera paused then nodded in understanding. "You speak of culture."

"You betcha." Shirley snapped her fingers to Mario. "Mario, let's find what you need for real Italian and make that happen! Consider it a priority. You get any leads, you let me know, 'cause last I heard it was either military or Southern cooking at Eglin base. I think ol' Herc might have been the first person to use the kitchen for any kind of European cuisine in a looong time."

* * *​

"Wow. Just - wow. I don't know what else to say to this besides that. How can we use this knowledge to help prepare for this upcoming invasion? Or is it two invasions? I don't want to make any mistakes that will cause the deaths of even more millions if we can avoid it."
"Two," Cera stated firmly.

The tablet in Spaceman Sam's hands changed wording. "PREPARATIONS, HOWEVER MINOR, ARE ALREADY IN PROGRESS. PROGRESS IS SLOW, BUT SUSTAINABLE. WE REQUIRE FURTHER RESOURCES TO CONTINUE."

* * *​

"But it's not just the Broadsword, is it?" she asked quietly. "You said, 'The last Traverser will die,' like they're a pretty important part of things too. But as far as I know, which granted ain't very far, we're just about the only Traversers that Earth has at the moment, us and Professor Stein and his people at the base. We're gonna need a lot more, aren't we? And we're gonna have to learn how to do what we do as good as we can so we can help teach all those others."
Spaceman Sam turned to Elinor. "His" tablet read, "TRAVERSERS ARE ALLIES OF THE BROADSWORD AND CREW. THE ZEKI-ZENTRAEDI POSSESS NO TRAVERSERS. NOR DO THE ROBOTECH MASTERS. NOR DO THE INVID, THE TRUE ENEMY. EDUCATION IS KEY, BUT NUMBERS ARE NOT. ONE FULLY-ENLIGHTENED AND SKILLED TRAVERSER CAN PERFORM GREAT FEATS IMPOSSIBLE FOR OTHER CREATURES."

"I wonder . . . Can Traversing be taught? And if so, what criteria is a person more or less able to learn how to do this? If it can be taught, Professor Stein is going to be a very busy man, since we just learned about this wonderful ability ourselves. I am hardly the best one to be teaching how to do this, since I have so many questions of my own about it!"
Spaceman Sam continued. "AS FAR AS HISTORY HAS SHOWN, TECHNOPATHY CANNOT BE TAUGHT. EITHER ONE POSSESSES THIS HIGHLY-UNUSUAL TRAIT OR ONE DOES NOT. TRAVERSERS WHO LACK ENLIGHTENMENT, MOTIVATION, OR SKILL ARE SIMPLY CREATURES WITH A SMALL GIFT. TRAVERSERS WHO FULLY UNDERSTAND THEIR ABILITIES ARE FORCES WITHIN THEMSELVES, NOT TO BE UNDERESTIMATED BY ANY ENEMY."

Cera nodded at this. "As many horrible gaps as there are in my mind, Spaceman Sam's words are true." She leaned toward Toph. "Toph Kirin, you must embrace Technopathy as I have and think beyond yourself. One day, you might be the only Traverser able to teach those with these powers. For if the day comes when there is no one to pass on such knowledge and wisdom, what then for your planet Earth when The Enemy arrives?"

Shirley Mack bit her lower lip in thought. "It's just one more tool we can use to fight off these... what'd you call 'em? 'Invid' bastards?"

Cera grinned. "'Invid bastards' is acceptable terminology, Leader Mack."

* * *​

Shirley wondered what, if anything, she had just done to Cera's grasp of English just now. But more pressing matters rose to her mind. "Look, with all this up in the air, I have to add the little important part about our A.S.C. post-mission debriefing. You know, that little discussion we all have to learn from our mistakes, cover all our information bases, and the like? I'll keep this one short and sweet."

She pointed her finger straight at Mario (and would have done the same to Herc and Booty had they been present). "That is the last freaking damned time I let you tanker-guys out of my sights without a mech around you, do you copy?! Giving you permission to try an infiltrate an enemy base in just your mega-suits was just stupid on my part! And why? Because you got bored in the back seats of our jets! Next time, too bad!

"I wanted to try things your way and since they didn't work, Booty is lost and I get to explain to Reggie why his dad is never coming home. This isn't happening twice, Wild Cards! You get me?" Mack was steamed and now glaring at everyone who had dog tags. She took a deep breath but it didn't seem to do much.

"Other than that, guys, we did the damned impossible! Medals or no medals, promotions or no promotions, when I finally take my leave of this beautiful, troubled world, I'm taking our accomplishments today with me. There is a new race of Zeki-Zentraedi that aren't going home either. If nothing else, I think Booty would be proud of us for that. So unless any of you have something to bring up about it, that is all.

She let out another deep breath. Her blue eyes seemed to calm a bit. "Right now, what we need a course of action. We have bugged mechs, bugged mega-suits, a pair of nuclear devices that blew up a totally new foe to Earth, and the prize they were hoping to get their hands on." Shirley gently slapped her hands on the table. "Put simply... what in the hell do we do now, Wild Cards? The floor is open for suggestions.

"What other questions do you have for Cera, Sam, or Iris about this mess we're in?"
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
#57
Toph looks at Cera and asks, "Cera, you keep telling us that we are in antiquated equipment, even though my Ajax is the latest aircraft out of the armory of the Army of the Southern Cross, along with the new Spartas Hover Tank. Hell, the Valkyrie is only a few years old, and as a fighting platform, it was invaluable in the defeat of Dolza's fleet. Now, I can understand that Sam and his 'people' would have access to newer technology since they are from a future time, but what do you expect us to operate besides these mecha?"

She then turns to Sam. "Speaking of better mecha, what kind of technology and intel can you provide us to aid in the upcoming battles? I'm not just talking about military technology; having advanced medical knowledge can save lives, too."
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
#58
Mario has the good sense to look properly chastised when Mack tears into him about going in on foot, especially since the wounds of losing Booty were still raw and bleeding in his mind. He nods, and simply says, "Yes, ma'am. I understand."

He is quiet for a bit, then asks one of the questions that has been percolating in his head for some time. "I have a question if I may? Cera, we have spent some little amount of time using our Traversing power to know all that can be done with it, but in the past, it has been a struggle trying to coerce the Zeki-Zentraedi equipment to do what we wanted. What about a piece of technology that would be more 'friendly' to us? Namely, our mecha. I have this mental image of us being able to get more maneuverability from our mecha being able to think about what we want to do, bypassing the physical controls completely. In a sense, becoming one with the machine. Is this possible? Or am I totally off base with this?"
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
#59
Elinor went back to eating, listening intently as the others continued the discussion. When she had something to say, she'd say it; she wasn't shy, after all, just real tired. And this might be MRE-quality Italian, but spaghetti and meatballs was spaghetti and meatballs in Elinor's book. She decided against saying so, however. Mario would probably be offended, and anyhow he was probably right about the difference between real Italian and this stuff -- seeing as he'd actually had real Italian, and she hadn't. She refocused her mind away from food in a hurry when Mack started her scold, but didn't have anything to add, nor could she come up with any questions at the moment. With a shrug she confessed as much, "I can't think of anything just now, but I'll keep thinkin'. Better to come up with it now than at two in the morning or something."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
#60
Toph looks at Cera and asks, "Cera, you keep telling us that we are in antiquated equipment, even though my Ajax is the latest aircraft out of the armory of the Army of the Southern Cross, along with the new Spartas Hover Tank. Hell, the Valkyrie is only a few years old, and as a fighting platform, it was invaluable in the defeat of Dolza's fleet. Now, I can understand that Sam and his 'people' would have access to newer technology since they are from a future time, but what do you expect us to operate besides these mecha?"
Cera stared back at Toph with an expression of hope and defiance. Her eyes were as steady as a laser sight on target. "Something that will be a match for the future, Toph Kirin. You see, the Broadsword is not the only craft or creature from beyond your time - we Ura-Meltrandi, the scrath, and the Zeki-Zentraedi are also from that time.

"You have heard me swear by the Black Binary? We all traveled through it to reach here. This world. This time. This place. The Broadsword was the first. The rest of us simply followed in pursuit. For even then, the prophecy of the Broadsword was known to us.

"I am an Auxiliary Specialist. Together with the Broadsword's help, I can produce the means for you to fight against the Zeki-Zentraedi and the Invid Bastards in ways that will lessen your casualties and bring great glories to our futures!"

* * *​

She then turns to Sam. "Speaking of better mecha, what kind of technology and intel can you provide us to aid in the upcoming battles? I'm not just talking about military technology; having advanced medical knowledge can save lives, too."
Spaceman Sam turned 'his' head from Cera to Toph. His head lowered momentarily in what appeared to be deep thought. Then he faced you with new words scrolled across his tablet. They read, "WE HAVE NOT CROSSED TIME AND SPACE TO ALLY WITH THE ARMY OF THE SOUTHERN CROSS. SUPREME COMMANDER OF MILITARY FORCES LEONARD IS NOT OUR ALLY. WE REMAIN UTTERLY CONVINCED THAT HE, LIKE GENERAL STEELE, WOULD ONLY CAPTURE AND USE US TO HIS OWN ENDS WERE HE TO DISCOVER US.

"AS SUCH, WE HAVE BEEN ORDERED ONLY TO MAKE CONTACT WITH A SMALL LIST OF FORCES AND FACTIONS. YOU, THE TRAVERSERS, ARE ON THIS LIST.

"BUT YOU HAVE LOYALTY TO THE ARMY OF THE SOUTHERN CROSS. THIS IS TO BE EXPECTED. UNTIL YOUR DECISION IS MADE ON WHICH PATH TO TAKE, WE CANNOT PROVIDE YOU WITH OUR RESOURCES. WE HOPE YOU FORGIVE US AND UNDERSTAND." With this, Spaceman Sam bowed in a very Asian manner, from the waist, hands at his sides, head low, to all of you.

"Just hold on a minute," Shirley said. "What path? What decision?" Her voice sounded groggy.

* * *​

He is quiet for a bit, then asks one of the questions that has been percolating in his head for some time. "I have a question if I may? Cera, we have spent some little amount of time using our Traversing power to know all that can be done with it, but in the past, it has been a struggle trying to coerce the Zeki-Zentraedi equipment to do what we wanted. What about a piece of technology that would be more 'friendly' to us? Namely, our mecha. I have this mental image of us being able to get more maneuverability from our mecha being able to think about what we want to do, bypassing the physical controls completely. In a sense, becoming one with the machine. Is this possible? Or am I totally off base with this?"
Cera stared at Mario out of the corner of her eye. It was a stare of utter distrust. But then Iris seemed to lean forward. Without touching Cera, they seemed to make some kind of contact, for the Ura-Meltrandi's bold features softened and turned toward Elinor, Toph, and Shirley. Her fists, unconsciously clenched, loosened. She turned to Mario, this time with a sense of calm.

"For 10 years, I was trained internally by War-queen Taniya and her many battle commanders, all non-Traversers, on the ways of technopathy. It was only when I was ready was my body generated in the body banks. All that knowledge, all that experience, is not going back with you for this General Steele to take." Cera's red-brown eyes locked on to Spaceman Sam. "Broadsword, you make a very strong point. The Army of the Southern Cross cannot be trusted. Not with me, Unit One, or you. Many of them trust only humans.

Cera folded her hands and faced you, especially Elinor. "In our future, the Army of the Southern Cross falls to the enemy. As I said, to the last. Your entire army is destroyed." Cera sighed, her features resolute. "I have answers to some of your questions, but perhaps the less you know, the better? I must agree - the Wild Cards have a decision to make."

All the while, MechaKitten sat curled and relaxed, his ears perked, his beautiful whiskers still, his tail down. He yawned, apparently oblivious to this drama.

Iris sent. "This One has reached consensus! Wild Cards? Once you have rested, your thoughts will be clearer. This One hopes the sustenance you have devoured will only aid in your recuperation!"

"Uh," Shirley scratched her head. "Thanks, Iris?" Shirley's tired blue eyes took on a look of concern.

"You are most welcome, Leader Mack!" Iris beamed.

* * *​

Elinor went back to eating, listening intently as the others continued the discussion. When she had something to say, she'd say it; she wasn't shy, after all, just real tired. And this might be MRE-quality Italian, but spaghetti and meatballs was spaghetti and meatballs in Elinor's book.
With a shrug she confessed as much, "I can't think of anything just now, but I'll keep thinkin'. Better to come up with it now than at two in the morning or something."
Elinor's body could not have agreed more. The fatigue was setting in like a nice, warm, cozy blanket. Not just upon the Southern test pilot, but upon all of the Wild Cards.
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
#61
Toph stares blankly for a moment, trying to process the news, but the idea of other time travelers is getting lost in her mind due to lack of sleep. "Um, yeah, before we get any farther into this, I need sleep." She yawns to punctuate her point. "Lets get a few hours of sleep time in, then we can return to the questions at hand."
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
#62
Mario nods, feeling somewhat troubled that General Steele of the ASC is someone not trusted by these 'people' from the future. What about the rest of the Southern Cross High Command? Can they be trusted? Where does my loyalty lie? Is it with the ASC military, or with Earth? How can they not be one and the same? We will have to sit down and have a serious conversation amongst the Wild Cards about where do we want to go with this.

"Yes, I agree with Lt. Kirin that sleep is in order right now. Once that is done, we'll be able to decide on our next course of action with clear heads and sharp minds." At least I hope so!
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
#63
Elinor smiled tiredly. "Thanks, Iris. Food and sleep will definitely get the ol' brains working more efficiently. Sam? Where's a good place to bunk?" Her words, voice, and expression were light enough, but her mind, despite its exhaustion, was considering weighty matters. All her life, as long as she could remember, she'd wanted to join the military as a pilot and defend Earth. Now it seemed that she had to choose which mattered more to her: helping the military defend Earth as a pilot and test pilot, improving the equipment her fellow soldiers relied on -- or using her newly discovered talents as a Traverser and defending Earth herself, without the knowledge and probably without the help of most of those soldiers. The others were right, this was too big to decide in the condition they were currently in.

Cera's comment about not trusting General Steele with herself, Iris, and Broadsword did make Elinor realize that some part of her mind was already partly down that decision-making road, though, which was ... well, she wasn't sure whether is was unnerving or not, but it was interesting. Apparently her subconscious had decided Cera rated as a younger sibling, and, well, if it came to a choice between the general and a little sister, this Georgian farm-girl wouldn't have to think twice. If nothing else, Professor Stein might be hiring.
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
#64
Game Master note: Get ready, Gang! The ride continues! Wheeeeee! Read this one carefully! =)

Elinor smiled tiredly. "Thanks, Iris. Food and sleep will definitely get the ol' brains working more efficiently. Sam? Where's a good place to bunk?"
Spaceman Sam's text-based reply was something close to enigmatic. "WE WILL TRANSPORT YOU TO QUARTERS SOON LEST YOU ENTER SLEEP/REST HERE. ETA 150 SECONDS UNTIL SHUTDOWN."

But all this went straight over Lt. Shirley Mackenzie's head. Instead, Shirley's heard Toph and Mario's statements and slowly nodded. Her eyelids appeared as heavy as mecha bay doors. Spaceman Sam and Iris shared a nod as MechaKitten kept curled up just inches away from Shirley. She absently reached out a hand and stroked the metallic cat behind his ears. Those ears responded accordingly. MechaKitten's whiskers and tail drifted in pleasure with a closing of his eyes and a pushing of his head against her weary hand.

Still something small in Shirley's spirit fought against the fatigue. "Look, Sam, Cera, I respect your reasoning but... Toph has a good point - what should we be fighting the Zeki in? And this Enemy? If our latest and greatest isn't enough, then..." she trailed off. A look of worry crossed her face. Earth's current best wasn't enough. So what was? Mack looked to Cera. Cera looked back, uncertain of something. Mack pressed on.

"Chick, do you have something that can give us hope?"

Cera's hands clasped. "You... you seriously desire to see something I have designed?"

"Sure, sure. Anything before we crash. Call it... something for us to dream about?"

Cera gulped. She was being called upon, not for her Ura-Meltrandi-given knowledge but for her very own opinion! She! The lowest of the low! "A-- Affirmative, Leader Mack! I-- I have a transformable ground-based vehicle design I would like to see pitted against the Zeki-Zentraedi."

"Something better than our Veritech Hover Tank you keep degrading?"

"Without doubt, ma'am."

That got Mack's attention. "Well, spill the beans already?" Mack yawned for the upteenth time.

Cera hesitated at the question, but only momentarily. "I have no computer to show you, so I will instead use technopathy."

"Fine, fine..."

Cera closed her eyes and focused herself on the little dreams of a would-be mecha designer. A massive metallic monster in vehicle form entered each of the Wild Cards's minds, as well as Iris's and MechaKitten's. "Since it is made for humans, I wanted to call it something singularly mighty, something calling forth undeniable strength and heroism from one of your past religious warriors. I have dubbed it... the Veritech Hover Main Battle Tank. But you may call it... the Mjolnir."

VHMBT1-A1 "Mjolnir" (pronounced "Mee-YOL-nir"). The legendary hammer of Thor, Norse god of thunder and foe of evil giants everywhere. =)
Atomic Annie by Kemp Remillard.jpg
(Image credit: The wonderfully-talented Kemp Remillard)

"This is it in vehicle form. The 120mm cannon can fire twice as often as... Mario! Mario, what is wrong, male?"

Cera seemed crestfallen for a moment, worried that she had lost even the tanker's interest, but his reaction was in no way Mario's fault or doing. For regardless of his level of interest, Mario was the only male human present and, being Italian, very likely the biggest eater. So how much of a surprise could it be that the sedatives laced inside the provided M.R.E.s took him down first? =)

The world was slowly going sideways for Mario. Cera turned her head to keep facing his as the Italian-American's head settled sideways against the table. Darkness closed in like an onrushing tide and he heard no more.

Spaceman Sam's tablet read. "THE TIME HAS ELAPSED. WE HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR REST."

"Haaay!" Mack struggled and slurred. "Whut's goin'.... on?!"

Toph, with her light body weight and despite her Lisara-Meltrandi blood, was the next to fall against the table. A shroud of utter midnight wrapped its arms about her as gently as a Big Bird. It was a gentle experience to fade away thusly.

Iris sent with pride. "Worry not, Leader Mack and Wild Cards! Spaceman Sam and Self discussed proper protocol! Here aboard the Broadsword, the living crew often requested sedatives after particularly trying and traumatic events. Sleep is precious. So This One and Sam prepared your meals with the proper instructions taken from the Broadsword's medical records and MedBay! You should sleep wonderfully!"

But Shirley was already fast asleep.

Elinor saw MechaKitten and Cera looking toward her. Cera had eaten but a couple of mouthfuls of the food and had not endured the day the Wild Cards had. She seemed wide awake and wondering. "Dentella?" Elinor saw Cera waving her hand and MechaKitten scampering over to provide his body as pillow for Elinor as she too fell to the sedatives' intoxicating effects.

"Did we err?" Iris queried.

"WE MAY HAVE ERRED." Spaceman Sam looked uncomfortable.

The last thing you saw for many hours were the doors in the briefing room opening and many Broadsword crew members entering to collect each of you. Empty mega-damage spacesuits acting as guardians and assistants for the living.

* * *​

For once, something happened in the Wild Cards brief history together that did not involve nuclear bombs, death, destruction, and psychic emotional roller coasters. Sleep was long, restorative, deep, and utterly peaceful. The whole world could have changed in its orbit and the Wild Cards, barely moving in their dreamless state of soundless black, would not have batted an eye. Toph, Elinor, Mario, Shirley. Each of you slept as though in hibernation.

Time passed as it always does, and as always, the world outside did not wait for you to rise, but kept on with its own business.

* * *​

Toph was the first to awaken. She was lying in clean, comfortable quarters that must have belonged to an officer, for she was in a double-room with its own computer area, a small living area, bed, small refrigerator, and wall-closet. No window looked out. Only one door offered exit or entrance. These military quarters lacked personal effects of any kind. This, she knew, was quite the luxury for a ship of any kind, whether it sailed seas or beyond the stars. Her clean flight suit was hung neatly on a nearby magnetic hanger. She was quite awake now. As rested as rested could be. As well she perhaps should be - for a nearby digital wall-clock told the time: 1602 hours.

She had been asleep without waking once for about 10 hours straight. What did she do?

* * *​

Elinor woke too in a nearly-identical situation to Toph's, though neither woman knew it. Elinor had dreamt of nothing at all. It was as if the briefing were but a short time ago. That was, until, like Toph, she read the wall-clock. How does Elinor react?

* * *​

But it was Mario's waking moment that was the most reality-tilting and emotion-jarring of all. The young corporal felt very warm, very cozy, and knowing a deep peace he had not known for quite some time. It was as if everything was as it should be. He saw the two flight suits hanging from their hangers. He saw the time from the large wall-clock and the personal shower stall beyond it and realized he was probably in some high-ranking officer's military starship quarters, except (like the others) there were no personal effects of any kind. But this was not the thing he would likely remember most.

For Mario felt his muscled arms curled affectionately around someone else. Her silken arms were entwined about him in the same manner, too. While he sensed they both wore underclothing, one peek down towards his chest revealed a lovely, nice-smelling mane of curly, night-black hair nestled ever-so-trustingly against him. Reality dawned on him.

He was sleeping in bed with Shirley Mackenzie.

She was still in the grip of deep slumber. When she would awaken, he could not tell. But awaken she would.

What would Mario be doing when she did?
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
#65
Mario lie still for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts despite the wonderful distraction of the soft body in his arms. Ok, I think we were drugged. We'll have to check with Toph, but I bet she'll confirm that. The question is, why did they do that? As he lies there, a sudden chill hits him. Oh, my God. I'm in bed with Mack! I'd best be very careful in the next few minutes or she'll kill me. At least we're not naked; while that would be nice to see, that would not end well for me.

Using his most gentle touch, the tanker tries to slip out of the arms of his commanding officer without waking her up. If he is successful, he quietly goes over to the pair of jumpsuits on the wall and slips into his own, all the while his mind is racing. One part is thinking about the image of that new Hover Tank, the Mjolnir. That part of his mind is desperate to get to see its blueprints and see what such a vehicle can do.

Another part is wondering, Are we going to get some kind of explanation of why they slipped us the meds? And why stick me and Shirley in the same bed? Don't they have enough rooms to split us up? Are they playing games with me, considering that I find her to be extremely desirable? Hell, its taking a lot of willpower to keep my mind on the fact that any relationship between us is completely against the regs.

Once he his dressed, if Mack is not awake yet, he will go over to her and place his hand on her shoulder and then he gives her a gentle shake, being ready to defend himself if she lashes out in surprise as she wakes. "Lieutenant? You need to wake up. I think we were drugged. We need to find the others and make sure that they are ok."
Do I need to make any rolls to try to get out of bed without waking up Shirley? Also, is my sidearm still with his gear?
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
#66
It takes Toph a moment to realize what is going on, but when it finally sinks in, her eyes open with a snap. Throwing the covers off of her, she jumps out of bed and looks around the room, trying to keep down her growing level of unease. Ok, I'm not hurt, and whatever it was that they slipped into our food is out of my system after sleeping for so long. What the hell?

She moves over to her clothes and quickly gets dressed, still taking in the situation. Dare I try the door? What do I do if its locked on me?
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
#67
A sudden thought comes to Toph. I wonder, is the mental linkup between us still active? Lets find out. Trying to send out a group message, she says, This is Toph. Is the Nexus still active? If so, is anyone awake out there?
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
#68
Elinor saw MechaKitten and Cera looking toward her. Cera had eaten but a couple of mouthfuls of the food and had not endured the day the Wild Cards had. She seemed wide awake and wondering. "Dentella?" Elinor saw Cera waving her hand and MechaKitten scampering over to provide his body as pillow for Elinor as she too fell to the sedatives' intoxicating effects.
Elinor smiled reassuringly as her head drifted irresistibly towards the table. " 'S all right, Cera... see ya in t' mornin'... be good..."

Elinor woke too in a nearly-identical situation to Toph's, though neither woman knew it. Elinor had dreamt of nothing at all. It was as if the briefing were but a short time ago. That was, until, like Toph, she read the wall-clock. How does Elinor react?
This One hopes the sustenance you have devoured will only aid in your recuperation!
ETA 150 SECONDS UNTIL SHUTDOWN.
This One and Sam prepared your meals with the proper instructions taken from the Broadsword's medical records and MedBay!

Echoes of the last words to pass through her mind before sleep were still reverberating gently when Elinor's eyes opened. The unfamiliar room, the unexpected time on the clock, the (comparative) largeness and privacy of it all, combined with her most recent waking memories to give her a pretty good idea of what had happened. Don't know whether to thank them or scold them, but at least I've got my sleep now, she thought. She got up and got dressed in her flight suit, smiling at the sheer pleasure of being clean, well-fed (although she hoped there was something resembling breakfast awaiting them somewhere), and well rested. Out of curiosity, she opened the refrigerator to see if that breakfast had been left for her. If so, she ate it and cleaned up after herself, then tried the door. If not, she went straight to the door. It was time to check in with the others and get some brainstorming done.
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
#69
*Meanwhile in Mario & Shirley's room...* =)

"California Dreamin' by the Mamas and the Papas

Once he his dressed, if Mack is not awake yet, he will go over to her and place his hand on her shoulder and then he gives her a gentle shake, being ready to defend himself if she lashes out in surprise as she wakes. "Lieutenant? You need to wake up. I think we were drugged. We need to find the others and make sure that they are ok."
Shirley came out of her daze reluctantly. Very reluctantly. Her first words were something like. "Mmm... g'way... get lost..." But then as Mario shook her, he was rewarded with those baby blue eyes looking right back into his. Baby blues filled with the stuff of dreams.

She saw his face, heard his words, and called his name. But it wasn't a name Mario had ever been called before. It was another name from another life. From before he was Mario.

They had felt this together when they first met. And Mario too with Colonel Sharp in a more distant, more professional manner. Here, with Shirley (which somehow Mario knew was not the name she went by then), it was more intimate. Whatever they were now, they were something far, far more before. Whenever that was. Whatever their present and future, the past could not be changed - nor, Mario felt, would she have wanted that past changed.

For anything in the universe.

"Whu?" Shirley moaned as her eyes focused more upon his face. Lt. Shirley Mackenzie was waking now. She woke with a blush and a quick pull of the covers up to her shoulders. "Mario!" she cried a sound half-outraged, half-embarrassed. "What in the heck are you doing..." Then she got a quick look around.

"... here?"

Shirley listened to him and calmed as best she could given the circumstances. The last thing she remembered was the briefing room.

"Drugged? Others? Fine! But first..."

With one hand over the bedsheet that covered her, she stood up and pushed him toward the door in such a way that dared him to resist her. "...get outta here so I can get dressed!"

The last thing Mario heard as the door hissed shut behind him was Shirley muttering, mostly to herself. "You could'a knocked on the door instead, sand-for-brains..."


* * *

*Meanwhile in Toph's room...* =)

"Trapped Under Ice" by Metallica

To trap a Meltrandi was a death sentence to the trapper. If this was indeed a fancy prison cell instead of some officer's quarters, then something inside Toph's Meltrandi blood surged as if to say "there would be Hell to pay!"

But as Toph dressed, she found the Broadsword-issued flight suit perfectly cleaned and pressed. Her sidearm was there to with its holster and ammunition.

A sudden thought comes to Toph. I wonder, is the mental linkup between us still active? Lets find out. Trying to send out a group message, she says, This is Toph. Is the Nexus still active? If so, is anyone awake out there?
Toph received no response whatsoever. She may as well have been daydreaming.

Her sidearm and ammunition now on her person, something inside her told her to try the door. And she did.


* * *​

*Meanwhile in Elinor's room...*

"Livin' on Love" by Alan Jackson

If there was one true God-given gem in the life of a country-born woman, it was the ever-reliable good ol' fashioned common sense taught by one's elders. Elinor had some wise elders and her readied ears and open mind had provided her the means to be as cool as ice given all the unknowns. It all came from love. Love of God. Love of your family. Love for strangers.

The bible-bred woman knew 1st Corinthians verse 34 read "Love never fails." With such things in deep in Elinor's heart, the devil could not even try for her and something in her sure knew it.

Her sidearm and ammunition too were placed in the open along with her borrowed flight suit. Perhaps it felt strange to be donning a space flight suit meant for some space pilot perhaps not yet born (if all this time-travel-talk was not just a bunch of hooey). Perhaps it didn't. Either way, sooner or later, it was just the front door and her.

Elinor's feet moseyed to that door and through it as if there were few worries in the world. Rested and recovered, she was clear-minded.

If only the rest of her crew were in the same condition... =)


* * *​

*Out in the hall*
Elinor was the first one out into the hallway, her door sheathing shut neatly behind her. There were three Broadsword crew mates standing there with strange-looking rifles at the ready, clearly performing guard duty. When Elinor appeared, the guards paused to salute her before immediately returning to a relaxed but ready position. Nothing was wrong, it seemed - this seemed to be the Broadsword's way of watching the Wild Cards's backs while they slept. What could be more neighborly, right?

So when the next door hissed open and there was Toph was there, even then things did not seem out of the ordinary. Toph, like Elinor, seemed wide awake, clearly rested, and perhaps relieved to see each other. Both were dressed. Both were armed.

The strange thing happened when the third door opened. Out came Mario wearing his flight suit and sidearm with a strong woman's naked hand thrust hard against his back.

This was immediately followed by Mack's surprised and irritated yell. "Get outta here so I can get dressed!"

The robotic guards saluted Toph and Mario and otherwise gave no indication that they had seen or heard anything out of the ordinary. They seemed to wait patiently for something.

How the Wild Cards' reacted, however, was probably anything but robotic. =)
 
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Psychie

Princess Psychie
#70
Toph feels a sense of relief when the door opens, showing her that she was not locked into her room. She wanted to think the best about the crew of the Broadsword, but what did they really know about their intentions? They have made it clear that they have no love for General Steele, after all.

Out in the hallway, she sees the guards outside the rooms, and is hopeful that the rest of the Wild Cards are there. Then, Elinor comes strolling out of her room. "Hey. How are you feeling? Our hosts seem to have drugged us, but I'm not feeling any residual effects." She was about to go on, but then Mario comes stumbling out of the third room, being propelled by Mackenzie's arm.

With a raised eyebrow, she asks, "Corporal? What's going on here?"
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
#71
Mario's face goes beat red as he is suddenly faced by Elinor and Toph. He begins to sputter, "Its not what you think! Its not my fault! They put me in there with Lt. Mackenzie I just woke up and found myself there and we were both in bed nothing happened oh dear Lord I'm rambling . . . ." He takes a deep breath, then looks up in horror. Oh, crap! I just told them we were in bed together! "Please don't tell her I just said all that."
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
#72
Elinor returned the guards' salute, as seemed only polite, and was about to ask where breakfast could be found when Toph's door opened and she came out. "Morning, Toph," Elinor greeted her cheerfully.

Mario's unexpected ejection from his own room prompted a raised eyebrow and a mostly-hidden grin. Elinor listened to his panicked explanation and shook her head, smiling. "I believe you, Mario," she said, using his name rather than his rank to hopefully put him more at ease. "You might have been the first asleep, but not by that much; I don't reckon you've been awake much longer'n we have. Surely not enough to get something going like that. Never you mind, I'm sure Sam or Iris have a proper explanation for it, and I'll just defend you from Shirley until we get it, OK?"
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
#73
Mario is visibly relieved at Elinor's statement. All he needed is to have his commanding officer out to get him, and if she thought he was in there, in bed with her on purpose, he's a dead man. "Thank you lieutenant." He glances over at Toph, hoping that she would not dime him out to Mack. With a sigh, he says, "Once Mack is dressed, I would suggest that we find a place to have a talk in private so we can go over our options for what to do next."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
#74
At that very moment, the door that Mario had just vacated slid open. Mack emerged from the officers quarters dressed and presentable, her blue eyes alert under her midnight-black mane. She glanced at each of you, apparently doing a quick head count. Her gaze lingered on the door to her quarters and then on Mario, but he could see there was no suspicion or anger there. Instead, there was a detective-like curiosity there as if the Californian singer was deciding something.

1st Lieutenant Shirley Sharon Mackenzie was the kind who wanted to trust her squadmates, and to be with squadmates who were themselves worthy of that trust. So she seemed to silently put the matter behind her. She simply raised her hand to return the salute your door guards gave her, then she waved you along as the Broadsword crew members marched along, escorting you along the starship deck's many corridors.

After a quiet elevator ride, you found yourselves returning to the same briefing room you had been in some 10 hours ago. As before, a wide and flat computerized table dominated the room. A dozen chairs, neatly arranged rounded the circular table while monitors blinked noiselessly from the starship walls. It was, as everything else so far on the Broadsword, militarily-clean and efficient, if a bit lacking in decor.

A bleary-eyed MechaKitten looked up from his nap, his gold eyes sparkling. He gave a meow of greeting and stretched, his back curled and tail high like a flagpole. Mack took a seat while your escort left the room to return to whatever duties awaited them.

The wide, broad door opposite the one you entered yawned open and in walked Spaceman Sam and Iris. Both waved. Cera was not present.

"Good afternoon, Traversers!" Iris's voice was warm and comforting voice in your minds. "This One hopes your personal energies are restored?"

Shirley grumbled and looked around the room. From the look on her face, the Drill Sergeant's Daughter was out and she was not pleased about having been drugged. Her eyes flicked from Wild Card to Wild Card, apparently in the hope that someone besides herself would answer Iris in a polite manner.

While this took place, MechaKitten looked around the room for any tireless fingers that wanted to pet him. Strange things were afoot, he knew, and when people talked, they often moved their limbs and digits. Why not do so in a manner that would bring a kitten to purring? As always, he listened without seeming to listen, to whatever anyone had to say.

If Elinor were going to open, she would have the opportunity to cover for Mario, but if it were Toph, she would clearly have the floor to speak her mind as well. As for Mario, Italian-blooded like him never needed a reason to talk, being gregarious as most were.

Who answers Iris?
 
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