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Insatiable Curiosity (The Reboot)

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    Zeeke considered this for a minute, his little face turned downward with a look of feline pondering upon it. Finally, he looked up again. When he did, he shrugged up at Haheen.

    "Dunno," he said. "Suppose it's for you to decide. For me?" Another shrug. "It's one of the reasons I use the insides of the walls and I get around up in the ceilings and under the floors. I mitigate the risks that way. The less people see of me, the less opportunity there is for people to get up to shenanigans with me."

    That was followed by yet another shrug, but then that was followed by another look of pondering.

    "Keep Yanker with you as much as you can," he advised. "Ol' Yanker might seem like a bit of a dullard, but I've seen that bison fight. There was this time, about a year ago, a pair of rhinos decided they wanted to get rowdy. They roughed up the bar's bouncer pretty bad, and had almost beat another patron to death. Right butt-munches, that pair, and dangerous. Drunk up to their gills and daring anybody to do anything to them. Yanktee was the first person to get there. I saw the whole thing on video. I can even show you a copy of it, if you want. Either way, when ol' Yanker saw the state that that patron was in, and the bouncer, he lit right into that pair of rhinos."

    Zeeke enjoyed a nasty grin.

    "Yanktee got his right arm and his jaw broke for his efforts, but those two rhinos? Both of them, in medical, one of them with a severe concussion and the other with his right leg broke and his left arm broke, too, in two places. So yeah, ol' Yanker might seem a bit slow, but he knows what needs doing when it needs doing. He was so outmatched by those two brutes it wasn't even funny. So yeah, maybe not so smart, but brave? But afraid of a fight?" Zeeke shook his head. "You could do a lot worse than having Mister Griffin Yanktee casting you in his shadow twenty-four-seven, you could."

    Just about then, Yanktee came back into the room. When he did, he came in bearing a tray. It had a pitcher on it with three glasses, one an extra small one that was obviously for Zeeke. The pitcher had condensation on it.

    "Sorry it took so long," Yanktee said, setting the pitcher on the table. Straightening, he smiled. "But I thought I'd make us some iced tea."

    *****

    Rick was indeed looking reluctant. It was clear he could also see Garran's point, too. Finally, if still looking pensive, he nodded.

    "Very well."

    He turned to Leon.

    "Major," he ordered. "Please return to your quarters and collect your combat gear. I am assigning you to lend assistance to this mission." Rick nodded then at Ranger. "You're in command of my guard until Major Stormstrider returns."

    Rick still wasn't happy about it, frowning as he gave the orders, but it was clear he could see the sense in it, too. He nodded at Leon and then turned back to Garran. Nodding at the lion's next suggestion, Rick dug into his pockets and produced a few of coins. Everyone recognized what they were at once.

    LUTC Universal credit coins. Depending upon their types, they could have upwards of a hundred-thousand LUTC loaded onto them. A lot of people carried them in lieu of cash. In fact, most members of the Insatiable Curiosity's crew had them, their payrolls loaded onto them from week to week. They worked everywhere League wide. Every merchant accepted them. They could be used for wire-transfers, anything.

    Rick handed them over to Garran.

    "One of these has about eighty grand on it, the other two somewhere around twenty grand between them."

    Rick then turned back to Daryn.

    He had blinked at his friend when he had made the revelation he had. But the blink was one of realization, not one of surprise. Rick knew that the Abraxian had been on his ship for a reason.

    Rick gave Daryn a slow nod.

    "I see," he said slowly. His brows drew down, he thinking this development over for a few seconds. Finally, looking at Daryn, and for that matter, everyone else, he said, "I had a similar visitation from the Abraxian. I think I know what it was about." He looked at Daryn again. "For you, it was seeing representations of things, of how people might respond, and perhaps how things might unfold for them in the future. For me..."

    Rick fell silent for a moment. He glanced at Leon's men. The raptor himself was already gone - having left in haste to collect his gear.

    "For me," he said thoughtfully. "I think it is people's intentions change around me. Ill intentions," he clarified, his brows drawn together in thought. "M'nonk. I think he meant to kill me. At the last moment though, he cursed and ran. He had a full three or four seconds during which he could have drawn, shot all of you, Major Stormstrider, and then me. M'nonk is a combat veteran of no small skill. Had he wanted to, he could have done it. At the critical moment though, he changed his mind."

    Then he turned back to Daryn and gave him another nod.

    "But what the Commander says is correct. The Abraxians, and almost certainly, the faction of which Cortez is a part, for some reason want to see the League survive. I haven't ever had opportunity to have lengthy conversation with Congressman Cortez, but I think we are among the first people ever, to come this close to breaking through what we call the 'Fermi Paradox'*. I think their faction wants to try to help foster us past it if they can."

    Rick was looking a little overwhelmed, but in the end, he drew his brows together and gave a small shrug.

    "Regardless, there will be time enough for talk about it later. For now, you have a mission to carry out."

    With that, Rick turned to Salvatore.

    "We are going to be emerging from the gas giant's atmosphere in ten minutes. We are going to be launching a series of probes. You will launch when they do. You are to immediately plot a course through Slip-Space to emerge mid-system. This will be to obfuscate your point of entry into the system. From there, you make your way directly to Treffpunkt. You know what to do from there."

    Salvatore nodded at Rick. "I understand, Captain."

    Rick returned the nod. Then he took a step back and saluted everyone in the room.

    "I wish you all speed and success. We look forward to your return."

    With that, and after accepting everyone's return salutes, Rick turned to his guard, gave them the order to lead him out, and then he was gone.

    *****

    The Stromboli emerged at the pre-determined coordinates, immediately after which, it was hailed by the station.

    Salvatore was smooth, giving the pre-arranged story without so much as flickering an eyelid. The person at the station's comms, looking bored, gave them approach clearance.

    Curio's ship emerged much as Salvatore's had, except it did so from within an inordinately lurid burst of Cherenkov radiation. Which of course, drew the station's attention immediately.

    "State your business, traveler!" the same person at the comms demanded. "And just what the hell is wrong with your ship?!"

    Curio had been briefed about this, though. He had a faulty Slip-Space translator and was just glad that he was able to get here! But that's what you get for buying basement-bargain stuff! But could he please be permitted landing clearance? Because he was just trying to make a new start, and station Treffpunkt was as good a place as any!

    "Aye, fall into outer-ring holding pattern. Yer ship ain't got no registry. I gotta clear you through upper management. But scans shows you as loaded. State your cargo." A sneer. "Especially if you got anything good to sell."

    Which let Curio know, that at least they weren't able to scan what the cargo actually was, only that he was loaded with something. A relief there, at least!

    *****

    "Both ships are away and we're back under the atmosphere," Starkle reported to Rick.

    "Very well. Miss Lyran?"

    "Aye, Sir," the lynx reported. "We're receiving telemetry from the relay five by five. All probes are transmitting tight beam to it without any hitches."

    "Very good," Rick replied. He leaned forward on the handrail, tense. And then, closing his eyes, he said a silent prayer to Epona, asking her to please bring his people back to him alive.

    * The Fermi Paradox can be Goggled up. I just used the name for it for lack of trying to come up with a new name for it, which just might have made things confusing. But please look it up. The context of it is of no small importance to the roleplay's story.
    Rick Canaan's Signature
    Captain Richard S. Canaan
    _________________________________
    Insatiable Curiosity Roleplay Information:
    Glossary of Terms
    Important NPCs
    Ranks Aboard Ship
    _________________________________
    Courage is rightly esteemed the first of all qualities - it is the quality which guarantees all others. Winston Churchill

    Comment


      “Aye, sir,” Leon replied after a moment of confusion, before giving Ranger a nod, and catching Rick’s eye for a moment.

      He accelerated into a jog as he stepped out of the room, giving the men just outside the ship a nod, and heading for the nearest bullet train terminal.

      When he reached his quarters, he immediately made a beeline for his equipment, changing as quickly as he could into his full combat gear.

      It had been a while since he’d last worn this gear, but the hardsuit, designed to provide protection from most potential damage sources (but in particular ion discharges) still fit like a glove.

      :::

      Ranger frowned in consternation at what Rick was saying. That M’nonk had nearly managed to pull off the attack was disquieting.

      He also didn’t believe that the Captain’s assessment was completely accurate… though he did believe that they would have taken casualties; either some of them, or Leon and the Captain.

      Either way, they needed to run drills. They’d been complacent, despite the betrayals from other crewmembers (Varan, Knife...), and if it hadn’t been for Leon’s sharp senses and quick reflexes, and M’nonk changing his mind, it could have ended very badly.

      “Sir,” he responded to the order to move out, signalling the others to move into formation (making sure to compensate for the absence of his superior), before leaving with the Captain.

      :::

      Leon stepped back into the Stromboli a short while later, clad in full combat gear, checking over his service weapon.

      “All right,” he said, giving them all a nod, “Good to go.”
      Arratra's Signature
      Fanfiction
      https://www.fanfiction.net/u/3129425/Arratra

      Deviantart
      http://arratra.deviantart.com/

      Insatiable Curiosity

      Major Leon Stormstrider

      Varatyr Scorchtalon

      Comment


        “Step one complete, only a dozen more to go,” Garran murmured to no one in particular. He along with the rest of the team besides Salvatore stood in the cargo hold, waiting for docking to complete. He had taken the brief gap of time between the briefing and the mission to attach the applique slates of metal to his armor. The effect made him look even bulkier then normal as gun metal grey slates augmented the already conspicuous points of armor on his body. They were magnetically attached and would fall off the moment he wished them too, but for now they were better camouflage then his active imaging would be. Between the extra armor, the garish splash of red that ran across his back and chest plates, and the frankly ludicrous blade he had slung over his back, he looked every bit the part of a mercenary who had gotten too big of a paycheck too close to the bazaar.

        Garran looked around the room again, taking in the team. With their new addition, he could feasibly call this the deadliest group of people he had ever shared a room with. A nanite enhanced super soldier, a tech genius in Nano-armor, a former special forces operator and claw-fighting master, and a marine with a chip on her shoulder, all together they should make anyone think twice before crossing them. Yet the point of the mission was that no one knew who they really were.


        As he looked around the room his gaze fell on Major Stormstrider. The Akalian walked over to the armored raptor. “I apologize again for ‘volunteering’ you for this mission. If it smooths things over, I think Victorious wants to kick my ass when we get back home and I suppose you can watch,” he said with an amical smile that seemed out of place amongst the armor and weaponry.
        Dusty's Signature
        IC Character Sheet

        Comment


          After all their preparations, they were en-route to the station. Daryn was still thinking of that last look that Rick gave him. His friend was worried about him, about them all, really. Most people didn’t know that underneath the horse’s hard exterior, was a truly good-hearted man. Daryn knew that it wasn’t an easy decision for Rick to send them out, but it was what needed doing. He’d just have to make sure that he held up his part of the mission.

          As they approached the station, Daryn nodded to everyone. Having Leon along would certainly improve their chances of success. Especially given that Odolana didn’t know about the addition. “It’s good to have you along, Major,” he said to Leon, extending his hand to the raptor to shake. Are you clear on the mission details?” he asked. “If not, Lt. Commander Ventarus will fill you in. I’ll be back in a moment, I’ve got to get out of this uniform.”

          With that, he left the common room and went into the bathroom to change. He had brought along attire that would fit the fairly average accountant. His ensemble consisted of Gray slacks, a crisp white dress shirt, black socks, and black shoes. He wore a one generation old smartwatch on his left arm, as well as a silver chain with a silver Sylph medallion on it. With his natural white colouring, it gave him a decidedly grayscale look, which one had to admit, he made work. The outfit was completed with a pair of avian sunglasses.

          He looked himself over in the mirror and took several long, deep breaths. He was nervous, scared, and in uncharted territory. It was time to get to work, and he needed to be at the top of his game. He calmed himself and then looked into the mirror once more. He was surprised to see a young, capable computer expert looking back at him. He didn’t know what he would face on the station, but he did know he wasn’t going to face it alone. That one thought helped bolster him. He could do this, and he would.

          Daryn made his way back to the common room where everyone else was still gathered as they made their approach. He had to make the last of his preparations. He sat down and picked up the large leather briefcase. He opened it on his lap and began to pour through its contents, to make sure everything was there. He clipped a clean mobile pad he had prepared for the mission to his belt. It was an ordinary pad in every way and would pass inspection, even close inspection. However there was a second OS loaded on it, it took a special series of gestures to reboot into it. Without that series of gestures, it was just a normal pad, nothing anyone hadn’t seen on a daily basis. His exploit kit was loaded on this pad, and on a second one that was in the case. He also had the memory chip with it in a pocket inside his shirt. Everything was ready. He closed the lid, latched and locked the case and set it down next to him.

          He looked over at Garran before speaking. “I don’t think going in with my suit is a good idea. As much as I’d like to be armoured going into this, the sort of person I’m supposed to be wouldn’t have that kind of gear. Plus, it’s going to make it hard to crawl through ducting in it, too.” he paused, looking around to everyone, “So, how do I look?”
          Daryn's Signature




          Commander Daryn SkyStrike
          Ascenseon - The Avian Planet

          “Just when you think humanity has found the limits of stupid, they go and ratchet up the standard by another notch.” - Bob

          Comment


            Salvatore stepped back into the common area.

            "I've set the ship to auto-dock," he informed everyone. He paused to grin, looking at everybody. "Unless they do something completely stupid, we'll be fine. They've got an auto-dock auto-controller, and they've engaged it. It is better to just let the Stromboli do the talking, instead of trying to make their system adjust to a live pilot. Now let's see..."

            He took a moment to take in everyone's armor or attire. He nodded with approval at Garran's choices, thinking he would blend in just fine, and mentioning it to him. Victorious was given a like nod, but a pensive tap on Salvaore's lips with a finger, also.

            "You need a cape," he decided all at once. "Dark crimson with some kind of emblem on it. It'll complete your look fantastically. I'll have my systems run you one up. It'll take about five minutes."

            Salvatore then paused upon Leon.

            "Now you look way too neat." He shook his head. "That riot gear will never do. Take it off. You're a Tinkeno Master anyway, as I seem to have heard, and such armor will just get in the way. But never fear, I have a force field skeleton you can put on under your clothes. Also, the uniform tunic is going to have to go. The pants are fine - they're pretty much standard. For you then, I think a bright white, edge-cut shirt will do nicely. I'll have one run up your size in just a few minutes, too."

            He smiled.

            "We're playing up on stereotypes here," the fox explained. "In case you haven't noticed. We need for these people to see the roles we want them to see us in. If we are trying to hide who we are, we will look like we are trying to hide what we are. Think ultra-machismo culture, and you'll have got it. These people see posturing and strutting first, then who you really are, last of all."

            Salvatore then turned to Daryn.

            "My, don't we look dapper."

            He snorted, amused. "The impression we're hoping to give them about you, is you're an unsure-of-yourself personal assistant." He snapped his fingers. "I have just the thing."

            Then Salvatore was off, leaving everyone to talk amongst themselves for a few minutes. When he returned, he was carrying a few articles of clothing folded over an arm. The cape was on top, and this he handed to Victorious. On its back was a pair of antlers, one in mid break. To Leon, Salvatore handed the white tunic he'd described. When Leon held it up, he knew at once it would make him look like a claw-fighting master who was spoiling for a fight.

            Then at last came Daryn. For him, Salvatore had brought a light gray twill dinner coat. It was completely unremarkable. He held it up in front of Daryn. "Perfect," he said, and handed it over.

            "Now the coat and the tunic have low power force field skeletons woven into them. They're completely undetectable. Woven from nylon and lithium filaments, they'll appear as just part of the attire. Their power sources are just a few low-grade batteries. But not to worry. Most garments that space travelers wear have such batteries in them. They're to keep the wearer warm. They won't even draw a cursory glance."

            Salvatore held up a finger.

            "However! They're one-time use only. They'll come on automatically, or if you activate them yourself. The switch for them is just under your right ribs. The automatic part isn't as good as activating it yourself. Automatic means it's detected an energy bolt impact, but that is limited by how fast its switch can close. It will protect you from a deadly shot, but don't expect to escape without a few burns, maybe even some serious ones. So if you think trouble might be coming your way, turn them on. They'll stop an ion discharge from up to something the size and power of a 909."

            He held up the finger again.

            "Once." He nodded. "They're made to give you time to get to proper cover if you're caught in a firefight. Try to depend on their protection more than once, and you're swimming in a school of ravenous piranha in your undies. Any questions?"

            Which is about when Salvatore's 'Baglio' came into the common area. It wheeled its way silently through the room and came to a stop in front of Argril. The moment it stopped, its front opened and it disgorged a heavy parsel.

            The dog stooped to pick it up. Opening it, he revealed that it contained a leather jump suit. Moreover, the leather of the thing was irregular, it looking like it had been made from patchwork pieces of the tough material. In addition, it was colored dark brown, tan and dark crimson.

            The dog grinned, holding it up. He turned with it to Garran. "Can have, yes? Can wear, too, yes?"
            Rick Canaan's Signature
            Captain Richard S. Canaan
            _________________________________
            Insatiable Curiosity Roleplay Information:
            Glossary of Terms
            Important NPCs
            Ranks Aboard Ship
            _________________________________
            Courage is rightly esteemed the first of all qualities - it is the quality which guarantees all others. Winston Churchill

            Comment


              “I’d have preferred some prior notice, but I’ve had deployment orders like this before,” Leon replied, “I just would have expected you to pick someone aside from the Captain’s head bodyguard.”

              Leon looked down at his armour in consternation when he was informed it was too neat. His time in the Marines had made him rather fastidious about his gear, so the hardsuit was in extremely good condition.

              Too good for a covert op, it seemed. He probably should have added that worn old hunting cloak he had in his closet.

              “I am a Tinkeno clawfighter, yes,” Leon replied, “And you’d be surprised; a well-designed hardsuit will barely restrict range of motion at all, even the heaviest. Still, you’re right. Mine will stand out for being so well-maintained.”

              He started stripping out of the armour, putting it off to one side. He was soon down to his basic uniform.

              When the new tunic arrived, he gave it an appraising look. It projected the wrong image for his particular style (Tinkeno emphasising control and the use of lethal force only when necessary), but it did match the garb often worn by fighters of the less controlled styles. The “Flashing Claw” sport style in particular (which was spectacular, and entirely non-lethal of the right precautions were taken, but tended to be fairly wild).

              Stripping off his uniform tunic, he replaced it with the new one. He shifted for a moment to get a feel for how it moved, before nodding.

              “Just one shot, huh?” he hummed, giving it a tug, “We’ll need to be careful, then.”
              Arratra's Signature
              Fanfiction
              https://www.fanfiction.net/u/3129425/Arratra

              Deviantart
              http://arratra.deviantart.com/

              Insatiable Curiosity

              Major Leon Stormstrider

              Varatyr Scorchtalon

              Comment


                Mission? With the Captain? Fordis was a bit thrown off by everything happening all at once. He didn’t expect to be in a combat situation, thankfully, but he was going to be sure that the Captain was well; A stressful task to partake in, itself. The squirrel would watch from behind the lines or men who’d come in at once, keeping himself away from the prying eyes of those in charge. He was noticeably fidgeting to those who saw, but it was most certainly that of a man who’d not seen combat in a good while. When not looking like he was hiding, however, he kept a close eye on the captain, his holographic readout keeping an eye on the heat in the Captain’s body, namely making sure blood flow was constant.


                And just like that, they were leaving. Fordis foresaw he’d be busy soon, though he’d hoped for something a bit more positive of an outlook. In the case of Fordis, though, his times as a medic tended to make him a bit of pessimist.


                “Are you feeling alright, Captain? This can’t be easy…” He muttered out, his voice almost cracking from nerves.

                (little short, just getting back to it!)

                Comment


                  Nia came forward. Leaning over the back of Curio's chair, she peered out the cockpit's windscreens.

                  "Think they're buying it?" she asked.

                  One of the hardest parts of any combat deployment, was the 'Ride in the Goose'. It was when you were the most vulnerable. The craft you were deploying in got shot down, all you could do was ride it down and hope you survived. If you were that lucky, and the craft you were in wasn't just destroyed outright.

                  "Ugly station," Nia then remarked, looking out the windscreens at it. "Reminds me of nest of termites."

                  To them, at the moment, the station appeared as an office building as seen on a distant horizon - just a shape, no details visible due to how far they were from it. Even so, it was easy to see that the station's exterior hadn't been very well maintained. It bore no obvious scarring, but it was clear that its exterior hadn't been painted in ages, either. It had once been a uniform white, apparently, but now great patches of gray showed through. And around it, it fitting the 'termite nest' analogy the Second Lieutenant gave it, there were several points of light flying to or from the station. One of those points of light was near enough to be just made out. It was an ore-carrying bucket-cruiser. It was on its way out to the belt, its thruster plumes glowing an iridescent light blue behind it.

                  Just then, Nia gave Curio a gentle pat on his shoulder. "Either way, little fox, I hope you live up to that 'Voider' reputation. We'll be needing it if caca hits the turbine blades."

                  *****

                  Salvatore just shrugged and gave Leon a smile.

                  "Life's just full of surprises, Major," he said congenially. The smile grew. "Besides, I just thought of it."

                  Just then, the proximity indicator sounded a chime in the common room. "Anyway, time for docking. Just remember, we aren't deploying. We're disembarking. Walk into the station calm, cool and collected. Strut a bit, as if you own the place, but whatever you do, don't enter it like you're a combat unit expecting trouble. Commander, you stay close by my side. You're playing the part of the toady."

                  He smiled again.

                  "Everyone knows you aren't, but we need to set that impression right away."

                  With that, the fox was gone, he going forward and up to the bridge.

                  Not quite five minutes after that, the shudders and sucking sounds of docking were taking place. Despite the sounds, the docking was accomplished smoothly and without incident.

                  Salvatore was back in the common area.

                  "Center stage, everyone."

                  The fox had changed into his own attire, he apparently having done it during the docking. He wore a custom tailored business suit, now, the fabric slightly a'shimmer. Dark blue with subtle pinstriping, he wore the suit of a billionaire businessman.

                  "Before we disembark, let's go over how we're going to go in one more time. Daryn, you're with me. I think we've all decided that Argril is going to stay with the lot of you. Have you decided who is going to be coming with Daryn and me?"
                  Rick Canaan's Signature
                  Captain Richard S. Canaan
                  _________________________________
                  Insatiable Curiosity Roleplay Information:
                  Glossary of Terms
                  Important NPCs
                  Ranks Aboard Ship
                  _________________________________
                  Courage is rightly esteemed the first of all qualities - it is the quality which guarantees all others. Winston Churchill

                  Comment


                    “A big hauler with a potential treasure on-board? They'll buy it.”

                    Curio had on purpose left off his AC in the cockpit so he'd be a bit hot and bothered which came over in his voice when talking to the station. He claimed that his back was full of everything he could carry with him from his previous job, a salvaging job of a broken down ore collector and his personal belongings. This kept it vague but gave ideas of ore, materials and high end tools which suited a Xerian pilot that had left home.

                    He agreed it did look like a nest but perhaps not one of termites, more a den of vermin all clawing at each other. At least that's what he thought the inside was going to look like.
                    “They are probably going to make us sweat it out a bit in the holding ring to make us more pliable for docking fees. Captain Canaan gave me enough to cover it with ease but I'll have to play a part of course so feel free to get comfortable. As comfortable as my hold can get anyway.” Curio said and after looking for where the radio button was on this new console brought up his list of rock and easy listening classics and let it play on random before twisting his foot onto the pedals and started the approach to the indicated position.

                    Smooth. That was the ride now that the team of the IC wrangled her old and battered self back into peak performance and smooth was the ride that the voider was giving no matter what direction they were going.
                    Without the psychological need to determine up or down Curio flew without making corrections to keep the ship steady and instead the ship seemed to gently tumble through space and end up perfectly parked in line, his hands barely moving as a gentle but constant touch was applied to the controls. He didn't end up upside down or facing the wrong way however and slipped nicely between the rest of the waiting haulers.

                    “And now we wait for the grunt at the gate to demand payment. You may wanna stay to the side as they may wanna see my face through the cam. And... keep them away from my canopy... If that breaks, no escape.” He gave Nia a grin.
                    Miqu's Signature
                    Curio Valence Character Sheet

                    Curio Valance Backstory

                    Orbona, Doomed Orbital FAQ

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                      The docking complex smelled bad. Very bad. Not with anything like dung or putrefaction, though, but sulfur fumes. Garran's smartware told him that the fumes were nearing toxic levels, but were not concentrated enough to present danger of explosion. The sources of the fumes were immediately identifiable; there were six fork-trucks parked at intervals along the outer wall of the docking complex near where Garran and party were. They were plugged in to charging stations. Garran's smartware identified the fork-trucks as the source, the likely causes of the fumes being lead-acid batteries, which the fork-trucks used for power.

                      The complex also looked as bad as it smelled. There were beverage cans strewn along the curves of the walls, along with bits of trash like discarded food wrappers, crushed-out tyback sticks (cigarettes) and plastic shopping bags. Also, it looked as if the floors hadn't been washed in months, the walls, either. Dirt clung to every surface like grease to a mechanic's hands. It felt like one could get dirty from just looking at the inside of the docking complex for too long!

                      Abruptly, they were being approached by a pair of what could only be station employees. Not just any employees, though, but likely guards.

                      One was a stocky warthog, the other a mangy looking cougar. The warthog looked as if he would do himself a service by pushing away from the dinner table slightly more often, while the cougar just looked like he could use a bath. Badly.

                      Both wore riot armor though, if without helmets, and they both carried some variant of ion carbines. The carbines didn't look as expensive or as well made as Dados, but didn't look any less deadly for not being so. Both guards carried the weapons with confidence. Lazy confidence, but it was clear both knew how to use them, and were not in the least afraid to, either.

                      "You do be Salvatore then, you do?"

                      The guard who spoke, was the warthog. His companion, the cougar, while looking mangy and dirty, looked like he was strong to his toenails, and augmented with obvious muscle-enhancer implants. The latter had a small sneer, especially for Garran - that lion in all that pumped-up armor he was wearing.

                      Salvatore confirmed that he was, polite as always, as was Salvatore's usual way. Everyone was probably getting the impression that the billionaire fox was polite to everyone, regardless of the circumstances, or with whom he was speaking or by whom, or what in this case, he was being addressed.

                      "I am," he said. "I'm here to see a Mister Cumberyent. My contact was supposed to be a Mister Hartweller. I am afraid I don't see him here."

                      The mangy cougar grunted. He shifted his eyeing from Garran to Victorious. That glance was just as appraising, if not for the same reasons it was for Garran.

                      "Quit yer ogling, you dull-clawed fish-snatcher and go and get the jaguar."

                      It was the warthog who spoke again. The demand earned him a disdainful glance from the cougar, but the cougar did depart, if after lingering another long up-and-down glance on Victorious.

                      The warthog cleared his throat, scowling after the cougar.

                      "Good help is hard to find these days, it do be. I'll be apologizing for my colleague."

                      'Colleague' sounded like a word the warthog had only recently learned, and wasn't quite used to using it yet.

                      His beady eyes swept over Garran, Victorious, Leon, Argril and finally over Daryn. They were cursory glances only, the warthog only identifying their presence.

                      "These do be yer bodyguards, then," the warthog then stated, bringing his eyes back to Salvatore.

                      "Indeed," Salvatore answered. He hadn't missed a beat. "But this is my personal assistant, Mister Rogodeter Vice, certified accountant." Salvatore swept a hand toward Daryn with the introduction.

                      The warthog's eyes lingered on Daryn for a few beats, but he nodded.

                      "I will also be wanting to bring one bodyguard with me and my assistant," Salvatore continued, again not missing any beats. "I am afraid they are yet to decide who is to come. You know bodyguards - none of them ever wanting to be left out of the action."

                      The warthog grunted.

                      "One," he said. "Can come. The rest stay in the Supermarket's reception area. They can do some shopping if they want, but their weapons, they need to be disarmed and their power packs surrendered. Whoever comes with you to the admin level, their weapon will need to be left with your other guards. The rest will get their power packs back when you're ready to leave."

                      He shook his head.

                      "No exceptions," he added

                      Just then, a handsome looking jaguar came around the curve of the docking ring complex. He was trailed by the same mangy cougar from before.

                      "I see you've met our head of dock security, Mister Grunthing."

                      The jaguar nodded at the warthog, who nodded back.

                      "So you's expectin' this bunch then, Mister Treelazer?"

                      The jaguar nodded. He had the three scars Odolana had described. They were deep and pink, the scar obviously a grievous injury when it happened. He was however, dressed in a fine suit, a pair of expensive shoes and even a gold smartwatch.

                      "They are expected, yes, Mister Grunthing. Thank you for your attention to duty, as always, but I can take it from here."

                      The warthog grunted again, but nodded.

                      "Come on, kittycat. What's is above our pay grade do say we no be needed anymore. What's say me and you go find something to eat, then we get you a bath!"

                      That was followed by laughter from the warthog, and a scowl from the cougar. They both departed - if the cougar only did, after lingering one more insulting glance upon Victorious.

                      "I do believe I am going to need to beg your pardon." the jaguar interjected once the pair were gone.

                      Suddenly, though, he drew near to Salvatore. He also glanced at Daryn.

                      "Cumberyent is waiting," he whispered. "We haven't much time. The code for the door to the computer complex is only good for fourty more minutes."

                      Daryn, for his part, saw a fleeting image next to the jaguar's head. It was of an hourglass, its sand pouring through it about twice as fast as it should. The image flickered and vanished. It was just as immediately replaced by an image of the jaguar's face. For the brief instant it was there, Daryn saw it as a face of sincerity. The jaguar believed they were on borrowed time and was nervous, but believed he was telling the truth.

                      *****

                      "Well, alright then."

                      It was the same voice from the earlier comm conversation Curio had had with the station.

                      Nia had just moments ago slipped back into the cargo hold of the ship. A good thing, because now the comms officer was apparently wanting a face-to-face. It had only been voice-over before. He turned out to be a beady-eyed ferret.

                      "Yeh can dock. But it'll be one-fifty lutucs."

                      Curio had been right. The figure the comms officer had just stated, was ten times the usual rate.

                      "Paid in advance. If yeh can't pay, you blow your cargo where you are, and you can hightail it out of here."

                      Just then, Curio's instruments informed him with an alarm, that weapons lock had just been directed at his ship.

                      "If yeh can do neither, we just blow you up where yeh are and come salvage what's left."

                      The figure sneered.

                      "What say yeh then, traveler? Yeh pay and come dock, or do we comes and mops yeh up?"
                      Rick Canaan's Signature
                      Captain Richard S. Canaan
                      _________________________________
                      Insatiable Curiosity Roleplay Information:
                      Glossary of Terms
                      Important NPCs
                      Ranks Aboard Ship
                      _________________________________
                      Courage is rightly esteemed the first of all qualities - it is the quality which guarantees all others. Winston Churchill

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                        “And I just happened to be in the room,” Leon added for him, before shrugging, “Well, I’ll do everything I can to bring us all back alive.”

                        “Not sure,” Leon said in response to the question as to who would accompany Salvatore and Daryn, rubbing his chin, “They’ll likely want us to surrender our weapons on the administrative level, so I might be the most effective… if they’ll allow a clawfighter.”

                        :::

                        Leon recoiled when the sulfuric stench of badly-sealed lead-acid batteries that were badly in need of replacement hit his nostrils, the smell nearly overwhelming to his sense of smell, honed as it was by his time hunting.

                        He recovered quickly, however, and strode down the ramp near Daryn, seeming as if he were slightly out of position.

                        He watched the exchange in silence, giving off an air of boredom, his scythe claws tapping a soft rhythm on the deck plating.

                        When Treelazer arrived, he perked up as if pleased something was happening.

                        (OOC: It's a bit short, I know, but the situation isn't quire ready for Varatyr to make his appearance. I do have his introduction pretty much ready, though.)
                        Arratra's Signature
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                        https://www.fanfiction.net/u/3129425/Arratra

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                        Insatiable Curiosity

                        Major Leon Stormstrider

                        Varatyr Scorchtalon

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                          Haheen nodded as Zeeke explained about Yanktee’s fighting prowess. The rat didn’t doubt it at all. Yanktee seemed as loyal as loyal could be, and he was still feeling close to him after the strange emotions that had swept him up shortly before the interview with Rian. Indeed, Haheen was relieved to see the bison return, and he smiled up at the big lug.

                          “That’s perfect, Griffin, thank you,” said the rat, taking one of the glasses of iced tea, “just what I needed.”

                          He started to drink it, finding it quenching his thirst and refreshing him quite admirably. After a few pondered moments, he turned to the others.

                          “So, what are the next steps? Are there any updates regarding our friends the Templars?”

                          -

                          Victorious snorted a laugh as Daryn emerged in his accountant attire.

                          “Sorry,” she said through a chuckle, “It’s just… you look like you belong in a sleazy holo-ad for asteroid insurance! Which I guess means you’re pulling off exactly the look you need.”

                          Her mirth was cut short by Salvatore’s proposal of a cape.

                          “You’ve got to be kidding me?”

                          As it turns out, he wasn’t. He returned a few minutes later with a fancy-looking cape embroidered with what Victorious could only presume was an entirely personalised design. The caribou sneered as she was handed the thing, and with no little reluctance attached it to her shoulders. She found a reflective surface and gave a begrudging spin. She looked…

                          Fabulous.

                          Victorious caught herself by surprise in how much she adored her appearance in the thing. It gave her a regal quality without detracting from the roguish villain chic she more naturally embodied. It was only when she became conscious of others being around and seeing her enjoying it that she wiped the smile off her face, and tore her eyes from the reflection.
                          After that, it was an anxious wait for the mission to start. But there was also an exhilaration. The normal thrill of impending battle, yes, but additionally a self-confidence that wasn’t as natural to Victorious. It was, as absurd as it sounded, down to the cape. It worked for her like a mask, like a role that she would perform. Salvatore suggested they strut as they got on board – that wasn’t going to be a problem for her.

                          The old business-fox returned in his own attire, and asked who was to accompany him and Daryn. Victorious stepped forwards.

                          “I’ll go. It’s what Odolana suggested, and we don’t want to tip her off. We’re already taking an extra person on this mission than she knows about, and some of you apparently have these… abilities that she isn’t aware of. Even we weren’t, until an hour ago. That gives us the upper hand. The more she suspects we’re trying to outmanoeuvre her, the more she’ll react. So let’s follow her suggestions to the letter. On the surface, at least.”

                          With that agreed, Victorious set her mind on the task at hand, steadying herself during docking. She stepped out with a sly grin on her face, embracing the terrible smells and run-down appearance of the complex. This was the kind of place she had been trained to handle. This was somewhere she was confident with.

                          Her smile dropped as she saw the warthog and cougar approaching them. These didn’t appear to be the kind of gentlemen who would appreciate an extended hand of friendship. They’d be liable to chop it off. When the cougar’s gaze eventually landed on her, she returned the glare unflinchingly. If he was wanting to cause trouble, he should know she wouldn’t back down from it. Victorious had a number of friendships which started off as bar brawl opponents. Perhaps he’d end up as one of those. Though more than likely he’d end up just regretting the trouble…

                          Their contact was soon brought to approach them, and Victorious took the opportunity to look around and take stock of their surroundings. She looked back in time to see the cougar dismissed, and the man shot her an angry look. She returned it with a deadpan air kiss, hoping to infuriate him more. Angry fighters made mistakes. She knew that as well as any, and not just from observing her opponents.
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                          My Insatiable Curiosity RP character - Haheen Jaquoi

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                            Daryn took the garment from Salvatore and held it at arm’s length, examining it while the fox explained its mechanisms. He turned it around, noting where the batteries were, then shrugged into it. As he did, he felt around with his right hand to find the switch for the force-field. He made sure he knew exactly where it was and could turn it on without thinking of it. For that, he had to raise and lower his arm until it instinctively knew where to find itself. This was something that could save his life. He didn’t want to have to fumble around for it.

                            Daryn turned to a reflective surface, in this case, the tabletop and peered at himself. He looked positively dull. There was really nothing remarkable about him. That is, except for the glasses he wore. They were more like an aviator’s goggles. If there were other birds on the station, then he likely wouldn’t be the only one to wear such goggles, but he decided that they would better fit the outfit if he didn’t have them on. He pulled them off of his head and put them into the front pocket of the coat. Perfect. Now he really did look like the nerdy accountant.

                            He glanced over to Victorious who had donned her cape. He was about to make a friendly quip about a certain Woman of Wonder but decided against it. Instead, he simply cocked his head to the right and widened his eyes in mirth. “I think we’re as ready as we’re going to be,” he said as they made their final approach. “Game faces on. It’s time to go to work.”

                            For Daryn’s part, that was accomplished by adopting a somewhat slouched posture, as if he was uncomfortable to be where he was. Part of that wasn’t feigned, which lent the facade some validity. As they approached, he remembered one thing he should have done to make his disguise better, but there was no sense in dwelling on that now. With the clothes he had and the company he was keeping, he’d be the one to draw the least attention.

                            He disembarked with the others, staying behind as Salvatore addressed the two guards. His first impression of the station was unpleasant. The smell was one thing, but the filth was another. Daryn couldn’t stand dirty, grungy places. Birds tended to like neat things. His quarters were a good representation of that. This place though, it made his skin crawl. The sooner he could be out of here, the better.

                            Daryn did his best to look as unremarkable as he could, and given the cursory glances he got, he seemed to have been successful. When he was introduced to the jaguar, he stepped forward so he could hear what Treelazer had to say. Otherwise, he simply remained behind Salvatore, letting the fox lead, as the businessman was no doubt accustomed to doing.

                            He pondered the brief flickering vision he saw next to the jaguar’s head. Treelazer believed that they were running out of time. Daryn also sensed sincerity from him, so if there was deception coming, it was likely not going to come from him. He briefly asked himself whether he really trusted the visions. How could he be sure something wasn’t altering them? He was about to shake his head to banish the thought, then decided that the motion might look out of place given he wasn’t being directly addressed. He instead brushed the thoughts away mentally. This ability came from Cortez. If there was one person he could trust implicitly, it was the Abraxian. Besides, other than his small group, no one even knew he even had the ability.

                            The two groups split then, with Treelazer, Salvatore, Victorious, and himself headed off in one direction while the others stayed behind. Daryn followed along behind Salvatore, with Victorious bringing up the rear. He glanced around furtively, taking in his surroundings and the people in it. It might prove useful to put his new ability to work and see what he could see. Perhaps there would be unexpected allies nearby. A bird could hope, at least.

                            Things were moving now, and he had to be ready to do his part. The meeting with Cumberyent would be happening in just a few minutes, which meant he’d have to be excusing himself not long afterwards. Fortunately, all that coffee he had drunk earlier was just about to give him the excuse he’d need to make that happen.
                            Daryn's Signature




                            Commander Daryn SkyStrike
                            Ascenseon - The Avian Planet

                            “Just when you think humanity has found the limits of stupid, they go and ratchet up the standard by another notch.” - Bob

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                              "Updates? Not right now, or as of yet. But speculation?"

                              Zeeke grunted and held up his pad. It would have been the size of a of an old flip-comm's screen in Haheen's hand. Not the whole comm, just its screen.

                              "Oh there's loads of that."

                              Yanktee busied himself with pouring a glass of tea for himself, and then filled the small glass for Zeeke, listening interestedly as he did so.

                              Zeeke thanked him and took the glass, drinking a few gulps of the tea down, then setting the small glass aside. He held up the pad again.

                              "I started doing some reading on them about a year ago." He shrugged. "I've always had an interest in that kind of thing." Another shrug. "And while I was in I.T., I usually had a lot of time on my hands."

                              "You had some kind of run-in with them, didn't you, Zeeke?" Yanktee interjected.

                              Zeeke shrugged again. "You could call it that, I guess, though it was no biggy. I had one of their members start doing some preaching at me about their faith. When I tried to shrug him off, he got a little upset. Was the rat fellow who works down in the foundry. You've met him. Hineen somethingorother."

                              Yanktee nodded. "Jacom," he filled in.

                              Zeeke nodded. "That's him. Anyway, I was down there updating their computer systems. When I got done, this Jacom character walks up and asks me if I follow any faiths. When I told him no, he started in on me about the Light, and how everyone would do so much better if they followed the faith. I was able to get out of there. Guy freaked me out some. Then, over the next few days, he started sending me all these messages. I finally had to report him to security to make him stop."

                              "Yeah. I was the one who took your complaint," Yanktee said.

                              Yanktee looked up at Haheen.

                              "He was an okay guy, I guess, just a little too caught up in that religion of his. He stopped bothering people after I talked with him about it."

                              Zeeke nodded. "Anyway, the encounter got me kind of curious about them - the Templars of the Light. Turns out they're a real bunch of nutters. Maybe even some dangerous nutters. I don't mean the ones on the ship, necessarily, but their organization as a whole. I found out that there's some serious speculation going on about the Templars maybe getting support from some well placed but very secretive organizations."

                              He held up his hand, rubbing his finger and thumb together. "Big-money type of support. There's never been anything proved, but a few people did some following of the money trail, and a few of them started to become pretty certain that the Templars were getting support in the neighborhood of several hundred mill a year, maybe even more. One guy even found a shell corporation. As soon as he did, though, the corporation went up in smoke. Literally. The corp was housed in an old office complex on Augusta. The day after that guy found them, the whole complex caught fire and burned to the ground."

                              The little cat gave Haheen and Yanktee sage nods.

                              "Suspect circs to the max for sure, right? Well, get this. That started off an investigation. The investigator in charge of the investigation vanished. His body turned up three weeks later. It was floating in orbit around Craig's World. One of the planet's weather satellites picked it up. And as you can imagine, that started another investigation. Just as soon as that investigation got started, though, the whole Templar movement up and vanished."

                              Zeeke snapped his fingers. "Just like that. They just up and disappeared."

                              Zeeke looked up at both Haheen and Yanktee again. "Then, the whole investigation, both of them, got called off. The guy floating in orbit was called an accident." Zeeke shrugged. "It happens. People just get blown out of airlocks sometimes. They said that the investigator had bought a ticket for a ferry to Augusta and something must have gone wrong on the ferry. When the news asked about it, they were told that the matter was under investigation, but there were no hard facts available."

                              Zeeke raised his brow up at his two companions. "I don't know about the two of you, but that sounds like government-level coverup to me." Another shrug. "Maybe somebody from the Templars was highly placed in the government, or maybe they paid bribes to the right people to get the whole thing buried, or..."

                              Zeeke held up a finger and grinned conspiratorially up at Yanktee and Haheen. "Or the most popular theory, is that the government is secretly supporting the Templars in order to use them to create some kind of security crisis." Zeeke gave a significant nod. "Some real '1984' type of stuff - the government uses, or more like dupes the Templars into doing something really stupid, like blockade a world or destroy a colony or something, so the League can step in and declare an emergency. Take over then, start putting on jackboots, doing high-kick marching, driving tanks up people's streets, the whole shebang. Turn the League into a real police state."

                              Zeeke held up the finger again. "And it may not be as far-fetched as that sounds. Several people have looked into it. Nobody's ever been able to dig up any real proof, but everybody who has ever dug deep enough, all say that billions, maybe even several hundreds of billions have been funneled to these guys over the last twenty-odd years. I don't know about you guys, but that sounds like government-level kind of money to me. Like seriously," he said, spreading his hands. "Maybe there's a few rich philanthropists out there who get hard in their undies for the Light and its Templars, but hard enough to secretly funnel upwards to maybe a trillion lutucs their way?"

                              The little cat shook his head, snorting.

                              "Maybe if you live down the rabbit hole, you'll believe something like that. Guys, that is starship-buying money. Big starships. And we ain't talking yachts here, either. We're talking big ships. Military stuff. Right?"

                              "Why starships, Zeeke?" Yanktee asked, confused.

                              "Where else would they spend that kind of money?" the cat countered. "They haven't been spending it anywhere, so far as any conspiracy theorists have been able to uncover. Sure, probably not the most reliable lot to be doing an investigation like this, but some of those theorists are public accountants and retired naval officers. Solid people who have gotten worried about these mysterious Templars, and the even more mysterious vanishing money. One guy said, if they were spending even one-percent of it, it would be showing up somehow, and somewhere. But it's not, not any of it. Or not enough of it to be detected. That is unless..."

                              Zeeke held up the finger again.

                              "They're spending it through back channels and buying things which can be bought only through the government."

                              Yanktee scratched at the side of his head. He looked at Haheen, then back down at Zeeke. "Does that mean that maybe our Templars are buying ships?" he asked.

                              Zeeke gave a snort, waving dismissively at the suggestion. "Our Templars?" Another snort. "They're harmless. Just a bunch of church-nutters who go around looking for ears to chew off."

                              But then, falling silent, he looked up at Yanktee and Haheen.

                              "That is unless their church makes a sudden emergence from where ever they're hiding. These Templars of the Light, they're real 'God-told-me-to-do-it' types. Total nutbag fanatics. Real 'pick-up-your-pitchforks-and-show-them-the-way' types. Want my advice? We need to do something about the ones we have on our ship. What is anybody's guess. But I'm not the political or social genius here."

                              Both he and Yanktee looked at Haheen.

                              Zeeke shrugged. "Just sayin'. I ain't trying to say they might turn into a 'Be-saved-by-the-Light-or-else' march of madness tomorrow, but if these theorists are right, and aren't just nutjobs themselves, then these Templars we got on board bear watching. At least watching. You know?"
                              Rick Canaan's Signature
                              Captain Richard S. Canaan
                              _________________________________
                              Insatiable Curiosity Roleplay Information:
                              Glossary of Terms
                              Important NPCs
                              Ranks Aboard Ship
                              _________________________________
                              Courage is rightly esteemed the first of all qualities - it is the quality which guarantees all others. Winston Churchill

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                                Garran took a deep breath as he slid his helmet on. A familiar cool sensation rushed through his head as he is implants interfaced with the helmet’s psionic receptors. He exhaled slowly as he let his consciousness expand. The time between his glasses being shattered and now had been one of his longer stints without access to his abilities. His brow furrowed as he pieced together the deluge of information his mind was now perceiving.

                                And overwhelming aura of anxiety hung around them like a stink. The station was teeming with life, but also fear, misery, and dejection. To the point it made differentiating the myriad of souls he was touching more difficult than it should have been. On the flip side however, it made the people they were worried about burn all the brighter. As the group descended the ramp, Garran felt the guards before they arrived. Tiny orbs of boredom and complacence bobbing through the air lock to greet them.

                                As introductions were made, Garran reduced the polarization on his visor by fifty percent, letting the Cougar get a good look at his face. Garran responded was a confident and lazy sneer to fit the part. He noted Victorious also seemed to be fitting in just fine, maybe they would make it through this after all. With a thought he activated his helmet microphone. No one outside his suit would hear him as he spoke, and thanks to the low power local connection, it was unlikely unwanted eves droppers would hear him either.

                                Garran tried to catch Victorious’s eyes to give her a reaffirming nod, but things were moving quickly. From the morass of anxiety, a particular shape emerged. The Jaguar named Treelazer, approached the group. It didn’t take psionics to see that the Jaguar was nervous. Playing the part of the bodyguard, Garran stepped towards Daryn and Salvatore as Treelazer moved close to the two, ready to put himself in between the Jaguar and Garran’s alleged employer the second something looked amiss. The move also made it easier to hear to what was being said.

                                His brow scrunched again. They were on such a tight schedule, it would make everyone twitchy and give urgency to any commands or orders Odolona’s contacts gave them. At the same time, they didn’t have much choice. Still, forty minutes could be a long time. As the group began to move he slid towards the rear with the Major and Argril, letting Victorious take her station amongst the lead group. As they walked he focused on his senses, reaching out to find those who didn’t quite belong.
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