iOS Jailbreak (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV)
2009.09.29 02:30 Rick-Deckard iOS Jailbreak (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV)
iOS jailbreaking: tweaks, news, and more for jailbroken iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, and Apple TVs. Installed anything great recently? Got an idea for a tweak? Wrote a cool tutorial? Curious about how something works? Let us know!
2017.05.12 19:32 Jailbreak_
Welcome to /jailbreak_, home to all things jailbreak-related. We are much less strict than other similar subreddits; you can discuss anything related to jailbreaking, within reason. See the rules for more information.
2017.04.24 10:14 curavis Jailbreak
Welcome to Jailbreak! Live the life of a Police Officer or a Criminal. Stop crimes or cause them. Uphold the law or break the law. In this world, the choice is yours. Play now!
2023.06.10 10:57 Badgerbits Copy of Lokean and Loki worship resources and reading list
A short selection to get people started on their Lokean journey or to answer questions for non-Lokeans. Please submit
other resources to the subreddit so it can be included in this list Queer Loki reading list
Mod post: It’s not upg or controversial to call Loki queer or lgbtqa here](https://www.reddit.com/lokean/comments/rhsih7/mod_post_its_not_upg_or_controversial_to_call/
) mod post What is a Lokean and other FAQs or important articles Loki worship tips and advice Offerings, Altars, Crafts, Symbols, Herbs, Animals, Prayers Sacred Dates Communication, Discernment, Divination Oaths Rituals Lokean Myths, History, Lore and Theory. From blogs to academic journals Old Tales Blogs and Blogs with Citations Academia
Podcasts and Videos Community and general social resources
- Loki University
- The newest Loki papers on Academia.edu
- ”Loki, the Vätte, and the Ash Lad: A Study Combining Old Scandinavian and Late Material
- The Flying Noaidi of the North: Sámi Tradition Reflected in the Figure Loki Laufeyjarson in Old Norse Mythology page 59
- The Old Norse theonym Sígyn (*seikʷ-n̥-iéh₂- ‘she of the pouring’), Vedic Sanskrit °sécanī- ‘pouring’, the Celtic river-name and theonym Sēquana (present-day river Seine, France) and Proto-Indo-European *seikʷ- ‘pour’ [Loki and Fire, n.2]
- Lokrur, Lóðurr and Late Evidence
- A Little Bit of Lokrur: A Portion of an Old Icelandic Mythological Poem and a New English Translation
- The Old Norse dwarf-name Brokkr, Sanskrit Bhr̥gu- and Proto-Indo-European *(s)bʰr̥(h₂)g- 'crackle, roar' (Greek βαρυ-σφάραγος : Vedic giri-bhráj- ‘heavy-roaring’; ἀνεμο-σφάραγος : vā́ta-bhrajas- ‘with roaring of wind(s)’; σφαραγέομαι : sphūrjáya- : bhūrjáya- ‘crackle, sizzle’) Loki and Fire, n.1
- The Water Dragon and the Snake Witch. Two Vendel Period Picture Stones from Gotland, Sweden. Jormungandr
- Lokemasken - Var Loke en beskytter?
submitted by Badgerbits
to QueerLokeans [link] [comments]
2023.06.07 16:00 External_Fuel7086 Who is Michael Tisius? Wiki, Biography, Age, Executed for killing two in botched jailbreak Wikibious
2023.06.06 01:21 knot12624 [question] Does ldid fully allow patched binaries to run with AppSync Unified, or does more need to be done?
I am trying to write a replacement server for Touch Pets: Cats
, and I've reached a point where I need to be able to patch some strings main binary and run it. After looking around, I currenly believe that, on iOS 5:
- Code signature checks only occur when installing, and never at runtime (unless the app does its own somehow).
- AppSync Unified should bypass most signing, but that there are extra SHA1 hashes that must be generated for the binary to work.
- ldid should be able to generate these hashes automatically, specifically by running ldid -S . This should make the binary work (assmuing there is no piracy check).
But since there is not much information available, I don't know for sure if this should
Regardless of if it should, though, is that it doesn't seem to work: it crashes in the exact same way that I would expect an encrypted/unsigned binary to do at startup (e.g. by showing the splash screen for a second then closing), and I can't tell if it's becuase what I'm doing shouldn't work even though I think it will or if the game has some anti-piracy I don't know about.
EDIT: This might be the dumbest case of "solving a problem by asking about it" I've ever done. It turns out the binary I was uploading via iFile didn't have the exectue permission. So of couse it was crashing like it couldn't run the binary, becuase it couldn't!
- The game has strings alluding to the fact that it would let you play if it found a cracked version and would report that your vesion as pirated instead of crashing, but then again I've not looked at every place the game checks for cracks/jailbreaks/hacks and it only takes one to exit the game from this.
- Why exactly I'm asking, for those who want to know: I've gotten to the account registration screen, at which point the game requires an HTTPS connection rather than an HTTP one. (For HTTP connections before I've just been updating the hosts file.) I would like to patch it so it uses HTTP and not HTTPS (this is easiest and probably better in the long term) so it can connect and I can try to continue with making the server reimplementation.
submitted by knot12624
to LegacyJailbreak [link] [comments]
2023.06.02 06:54 Storms_Wrath The Human Artificial Hivemind Part 378: Equisa Makes A Deal
First Previous Wiki
Equisa frowned as she looked at her bosses again. The three Sprilnav Elders before her, not even Refined Elders, were simply staring at her disdainfully as if she'd asked if gravity was real. One of them wasn't even bothering to look at her and instead was scratching at his neck, likely a result of a bite.
A long time ago, there'd been someone who had released genetically modified Sprilnav into the air. They had been modified so heavily that it was definitely illegal, but the creatures were unusually hardy, bred fast enough to double their populations in a day, and constantly irritated most Sprilnav, even those who weren't Elders. And, of course, the products to prevent the bites were extra expensive, with planned obsolescence just another part of their hated design.
"But why can't I go back? There's no good reason for it. I want to see Joshua and Meihala again."She missed them greatly. Equisa had forgotten how lonely life was when there was no one you could call a friend. Even with all the wonderous tech of the Primary Galaxy, there was nothing that would fix that. Nothing real.
"Is fornicating with them your only reason for wishing to see them?"
"No," she replied. "But my relationship with them is a factor. I don't understand why you're constantly stonewalling me. It's unnecessary."
"You were trying to share technology with them."
"Then I won't do that anymore. Simple. Happy?"
"I can sign a binding non-disclosure agreement."
"You did last time, too."
"I would like to talk with Nova, then."
The looks of disdain became those of derision. One of them looked like she was about to laugh at her.
"Nova is a Progenitor. He does not have time for you, much less should his divinity be tarnished by our presence. No, you are going to remain here and wait. Go find something else to do than waste our time."
The Elder pulled a hood over his head, tightened the straps of his cloak, and made a sign with his claws for the other two to follow. Equisa knew she wasn't invited to whatever meeting they were about to have. She assumed that she was going to get fired now and would have to find another place to work. That would be both demeaning and difficult. Another reminder of what she'd lost by being forced to leave the Alliance behind.
Equisa turned around mournfully, gazing at the door which led to the main corridor and elevator to the ground floor of the building. With absent amusement, she noticed that the windows had extra bars on the sides to prevent people from jumping out. Though she could jump off the very highest building in the city and come out unscathed.
Clearly, this wasn't getting her anywhere useful. Equisa had to re-think her options and determine a path forward. She exited the building, weaving through the crowds of Sprilnav that were walking and flying through the streets between the massive skyscrapers. Some of them had bought personal flight devices, useful for those who didn't want to deal with pedestrians. But it often led to disaster when people got drunk. But there were always more Sprilnav, so the accidents weren't being dealt with anytime soon.
She could see the high arches overhead, supported by huge amounts of metal and a superstructure that went down to the very core of the planet-sized city. After grabbing a few pieces of food that looked particularly good, like some meat from a new cloning facility, she settled down on a patch of artificial grass. There were other Sprilnav there, mostly couples on quiet excursions or children playing on various different playsets. But Equisa was alone.
She'd never had any children and didn't intend to. None of her previous mates had lasted longer than a few hundred years at most, which hadn't ever been enough time to unravel the complicated mess of secrets and suspicions surrounding almost every Sprilnav Elder. And having relationships with the common Sprilnav would be seen as a black mark on her reputation, perhaps the equal of the one she'd apparently received for daring to love two humans instead of some dry Elder who only moved one day a year.
While her relationship with Meihala and Joshua had been sudden, it hadn't been bereft of real love. She really did love them and wanted to have friends again. For far too long, she'd been alone. She didn't like feeling that anymore because it was in times like this when depression could sink its claws into her without warning.
She'd been trying to get in touch with the Alliance again without success. Even the more secret emergency methods she'd established weren't working at all. No quantum connections were successfully linked with her implants. Errors and notifications about having no access plagued her vision as she tried in vain to even send out a single message.
There was no way for her to reestablish contact, which worried and angered her. Even her ship was being watched, not that she could actually get to the Alliance using it. Wormholes were far too expensive for people of her stratum to be able to afford.
And she didn't have sponsors that would be willing to pay, either. She needed information, friends, and actual help. Help that no one was giving her. Her bosses didn't even care. It saddened her greatly. Equisa didn't know where she could find Nova, either. It wasn't like he was easy to find unless one knew where to look. He could easily disguise himself as a normal-looking Sprilnav, after all. Many technologies existed to allow that, and Nova likely had the best of the best.
Of course, Equisa wasn't sure how one could hide a tail, but that was just her. Even being able to have seen him once in her life was already far more than most Sprilnav would ever know. In that way, she'd been exposed to a higher power. Within the Sprilnav, the Progenitors were gods. They had cults and religious followings in their names, political power so immense that not even the rest of the species together could pool their resources enough to resist.
It was said that no one disagreed with them. And they didn't. Not if they wanted to continue existing. Equisa had a feeling that if Nova wanted to help her, he would. Though it wasn't like someone of his stature would appear before her.
Equisa could feel the mindscape bend slightly and looked up to meet the eyes of a being that was far beyond her own abilities to comprehend. She didn't know what she felt at that moment.
Certainly surprised, for sure. A large amount of reverence for him and a growing disbelief that she wasn't dreaming. Perhaps she really was lying in bed with Meihala and Joshua again, and this irritating life would disappear when she awoke once more. But when she opened her eyes again, Nova still stood before her.
His small stature was quite distinctive. Despite her height advantage, there was no question as to the hierarchy of power here. Even the grass was bowing to him, bending low to the ground in a way she'd never known was possible.
And his voice held an aura of command so utterly intense that she only now noticed she was kneeling. She didn't bother trying to rise.
"What?" Equisa asked.
"Why wouldn't I appear before you?"
Of course he could read her mind. She expected nothing less. But it did feel a little violating. Okay, it felt very violating, but it wasn't like she could say that to his face. Oh.
She just had.
Nova's small form coiled around itself before bulging and changing color. Soon, a normal Sprilnav was standing before her, but that ethereal air was still there. It was like a smell in the air but beyond that. Something pleasant yet distinctive. It didn't seem like perfume, either. She knew that it was affecting her mind in some way, but she didn't really care. Perhaps that was part of the effect, too.
"You're way too high up. I'm a nobody compared to you. At most, I should be seeing a Refined Elder, not a whole Progenitor."
"Am I not what you expected, then?" Nova asked. His amusement was clear in his strangely commanding voice.
Equisa sighed. "I don't know whether you're real. I can't tell if you're mocking me. I... don't know how to feel about you being here."
"You don't want me here?"
"No, it's not that. I want you here, but also... sort of wonder. Why come to me now? Why me and not the countless other Elders? Am I special? Was I chosen as something greater? And why do my superiors refuse to let me return to Earth and Luna? I have a life there."
Equisa knew now, more than ever, that she didn't have a life here.
"You do not have a life there. The humans you care for will die in less than a millionth of the time you have lived. Elder Equisa, to put it simply, associating with them in such a way is not just immoral, but it is not possible in even the short term."
Nova's cold eyes made Equisa flinch back. "I... I want to live a life free of shackles. Is that so much to ask?"
"Yes. For a Sprilnav Elder from the Primary Galaxy, it is. As an Elder, you are an envoy to the species as a whole. You represent us. Know that your actions on Luna were so reviled by some that I have already dismissed motions to assassinate you."
"People came to you, a Progenitor, to ask permission to kill me?"
"Because if they did it without my permission, due to your very close
ties with Humanity, it could become problematic for them. I would not protect them from the consequences of their actions. And additionally, there are some Elders that have called for you to be sealed away for somatic realignments."
Equisa couldn't hide her fury.
"They want to alter my mind, because they couldn't handle the thought of a human sticking themselves in me? How insanely childish and petty. In fact, I'd think the reputation of always being down for it is far better than that of genocidal sadists, which is the reputation our species has among all the others. Progenitor, kill me if you must, but at least let me die free."
"You shall. However, I am not here to kill you. I am here to determine what to do with you. Sending you back to Humanity would prevent a rupture of relations, particularly the only positive relations that Elders have with them period, with the exception of Nilnacrawla in Penny's head. However, doing so would also anger a number of highly powerful conservative factions, particularly those based around supremacy and purity of our species. Granted, I would not have to worry about such an issue. But you, and your family, might be different. It is entirely possible they might wipe out all of your relatives, were you to leave for Luna to go back and soil yourself among the humans."
She frowned. "I did not soil myself, Progenitor. You don't understand what it's like. Even now, everyone I thought I knew ridicules me for daring to love who I love. Even you. You're the closest thing to a god this universe has ever seen. And yet, even you stand before me, heaping your disgust for me onto my already burdened shoulders. They're not animals, Progenitor."
"Your actions are casting the Alliance in a negative light as well, in the eyes of many Sprilnav who would not care otherwise."
"And so what? They don't matter."
"They do, you just do not want to admit it. If I wanted to stop you from loving them, I could, Equisa. Right here, right now, I could rearrange your brain, altering your memories like clay in my claws. I could make you forget what love even is. I could turn you into a slave, or into a living bioweapon. My disapproval of your decisions is mostly from the standpoint of someone who had to deal with the fallout. I care not for your decision to try and mate with humans."
"When you love someone, none of the other stuff matters. I want to go back, Progenitor Nova. Back to the Alliance. I don't know who decided that this punishment was necessary, but surely your word is above theirs."
"Yes, it is. That is not the only reason I have come to see you today. And I should note that you would do better to be more careful with your words around other Elders, or especially if you have the misfortune to meet any other Progenitors."
"I am... destabilized, Progenitor Nova. I apologize. The people I love are in another galaxy, and I am not able to reach them anymore. I'm not sure if you know how that feels."
"I did. I lived a life with my mate for eons. Before the Source war, I was the happiest Sprilnav there ever was. Now, she is long dead. The Source personally dug its claws into her chest, turning her bones to a constantly exploding supernova within her body, all while keeping her alive for a subjective time that is longer than your life has ever been. My grief after the war was great enough that I considered taking my own life. So yes, I know what it is like to love. But I am warning you about the cost of your actions."
Equisa could feel the venom in his voice. It triggered her instincts to run, but her muscles wouldn't move. Terror rang like a bell throughout her psyche as she was consumed by the hunger in Nova's eyes. And then, it all faded. The bone-curdling fear disappeared, and Nova tilted his head. She took it as a cue to speak again.
"You faced the Great Enemy alone?"
"Not alone, until she died. Yes, the Source killed her. Do I hate it? Not really. The deed is done, and the scar is cold. The real reason for the Source war was that during the glory days, we were sucking the very life force of the psychic realm away. The Source tried to open a dialogue to prevent it, and failed. When the last of its family died, leaving it as the sole inhabitant of the mindscape, the war began."
The scar wasn't cold, that was for sure. No matter how much he liked to pretend otherwise."I can still hear your thoughts, you know."
"It would be nice if you allowed me to live in my delusions for a while longer."
"Well, back to the conversation then. You claim that I have tarnished the reputation of the Sprilnav, and yet we continue to purge species in the Secondary Galaxy for the mere crime of making an AI. Even though you alone could easily reach across the galaxy to deal with it at that point.""Yes."
"But you're a god."
"Yes, I am. However, that does not mean that I wish to willingly fight another one. An AI that reaches technological singularity is also a god, as much as the concept can be constrained in reality."
"What do you mean?"
"When a being becomes immensely powerful, their conceptual weight also increases, assuming they increase their psychic energy footprint. That's why Penny was able to survive being disemboweled by Yasihaut several times in quick succession. It is part of why Elders can survive forces mundane Sprilnav cannot. It is why I could walk into a black hole and survive."
"What is it like?"
"There are no words."
"Describing something that does not exist is very difficult. How do you count in a universe where numbers do not exist? It is much the same for them. The mess inside the event horizon of a black hole is incredibly damaging, even for a being such as myself. Were I to remain in a singularity for long enough, though it would not kill me, it would begin to hurt."
"There seems to be a lot of extra importance with concepts, then," Equisa said.
"Elder Equisa, concepts run the universe. The Source's power is conceptual, just as mine is. Even the hivemind has some conceptual power, though it does not know it for sure yet. And you will not tell it, if you are to go back to Luna."
"Can you protect my family?"
"Of course," Nova replied. He clacked his jaws once, his nostrils flaring as he inhaled.
"Maybe. I will need a favor in return."
"Well, if I die completing your favor, don't hold it against me."
"Do not worry. That is not the type of favor that I require. Rather, I need you to monitor the progress of the Alliance. Particularly the powers of the hivemind, Penny, Gaia, and Brey. And the intelligence of their various AI citizens."
"Can't you do that?"
"Yes, and no. Remaining near the Source's bones for a long time is not preferred."
"Then I will try. But it may not be easy, and there is every possibility my information could be wrong."
"Yes. I am aware," Nova responded. "But I will see what you can do."
"So I can go back?"
"Yes, Equisa. Though again, do not share what you know anymore. You are allowed to provide context for situations. Sharing any technological knowledge will be looked upon negatively.""I understand. I just want to see them again."
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
"She did what?" Hive Emperor Calanii growled.
"The Alliance claims that Rank 10 Ambassador Liinara insulted them several times, and has provided a recording of what was said. It has been verified by VI analysis as authentic," his advisor said.
Calanii quickly put on his clothes, now finished with the deep massage he'd been waiting for all day. He stretched a bit, feeling the gaps in his chitin more than he used to. He was getting old, slowly. Not that he'd die of old age with the immortality treatments, but aging still was possible. And the growth hormones in it had resulted in him becoming larger than he'd once been.
"I'll come back to that later. Where is she now?"
"She has gone into hiding, likely presuming that you are going to kill her. We know where she is."
"I shall issue a formal apology, then. I will also give the Alliance any compensation they reasonably request. They are requesting compensation, yes?"
"Then deliver the contents of their list to my desk tomorrow."
"As you wish, Hive Emperor."
The advisor bowed and left. Calanii was glad that the pheromone blocker was active right now. His anger was barely contained, especially at the thought of such a stupid blunder. Reaching Rank 10 wasn't something just anyone could do, especially as an Ambassador. Liinara would die if the Alliance requested it. And if they did not, she might still die anyway.
He'd schedule a call with them and try to reestablish diplomatic ties. There was no way that their relationship would survive any longer by being left out to thaw with such a heinous breach of etiquette. He then received another call, this one directly to his office.
The banners overhead fluttered with a light breeze, obviously artificial but still pleasant on his chitin. He'd been very stressed that past few days, with Exii'darii's jailbreak looming over him. She'd try to kill him, that was for sure. The countermeasures were being put in place all around the palace, and most military sites and urban centers would receive special equipment deliveries soon. Logistics were a mess, but when the call went out, an executive order from the Hive Emperor was an easy way to speed things along.
Calanii sauntered over to his desk, realizing that he would need much more anti-stress ointment than he'd thought. It was so intense that his actual body was starting to feel it. When he answered, the screen showed the face of a Cawlarian.
"Who is this?"
"I am Truth Speaker Huatil."
"The Nest Overlord's mate?"
"What business do you have with me, that he does not?"
"The Sennes Hive Union has intelligence that the Sprilnav are operating several clandestine mind-control cells, intent on sowing discord and chaos amongst your populace. They have a particular focus on government officials, such as Ambassadors."
Calanii got what she was suggesting. He didn't question how she'd learned the information. No one that shacked up with the leader of an entire nation would be some pointless nobody with no connections.
"You mean Ambassador Liinara?"
"Her and others. Rich executives at companies, such as one under scrutiny for certain actions against the Alliance several years ago."
"How long has this been going on?"
"That is unknown," Hautil admitted. "What is known is that they will begin to cement their power soon. When they feel that the have enough, they will make their moves."
"Then we must move first."
"Yes, we shall. But that does not include us alone, but also the Alliance."
"What exactly are you suggesting?"
"Well, an agreement. A treaty organization, perhaps. Drafts of the documents will be given to you if you agree to inspect them. Note that this would likely be a full defensive alliance, with all that entails. There would be no room for half-measures."
"Then why the Alliance?"
"The Alliance will be a peer player in under three years," Hautil said. "By every metric, they have already reached the level of technology of our base militaries, though not specialized technology like stealth or shields yet. In particular, their ability to have an outsized impact despite their small population due to Phoebe and Edu'frec's control over vast drone and android forces is already becoming a potential concern."
Calanii knew that was true, at least. His own spies within the Alliance had noted the explosion in their fleet size with worry. Their encryption was already incredible, though that was because of their two AIs. Furthermore, they had a whole species that quite literally could not be infiltrated for spying. Perhaps that extended to mind control, as well.
"Estimates place the number of satellites in their stellar constellation within the Sol system at 330 billion. That is enough to power hundreds of times their current civilization's total power usage. Their Mercury-class guns have been confirmed capable of breaching Sprilnav ships, placing them on par with our own battlecruiser weaponry. In terms of fleet numbers itself, they have 11 dreadnaughts, with 13 more assumed under construction, 30,000 battlecruisers, 50,000 carriers, 120,000 cruisers, 500,000 destroyers, and 1.1 million frigates. In addition to that, nearly 2 million drone craft, capable of linking to direct battle networks, directed by Edu'frec and Phoebe. These numbers have not been publicized."
"Quite something, but nowhere near the billions we have," Calanii replied. Those numbers were similar to the reports he'd received. Supposedly, most of that expansion was possible due to Guulin and Acuarfar populations being so high and the wealth of the Alliance skyrocketing along with the average living standards. And most crews were small, with only a little above the number of people necessary to run a ship being placed on one, though all had overlapping specializations. This was most true for humans, which had the ability to take all the typical specializations and roll them into one.
Due to the hivemind, a human could be the best engineer ever seen at one moment and the best pilot ever the next. Its usefulness seemed to know no bounds.
"Yes. But they can put up a fight now, and most of our fleets would be tied up as defense forces in a war."
"And mind control?"
"We have confirmed that there isn't any of it within the highest members of their government. The number of surprise scans has increased considerably, and it seems that their leadership is in a contained panic over the possibility. They seem to be looking for a capability to block the abilities of mind control chips to work period," Hautil reported.
Calanii had a theory.
"You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"
"I would not."
So she was willing to lie to his face, then. His own intelligence agencies only had one single spy within the Blue Intelligence Agency. That was how they'd learned the method of placing chips within the brain to directly interfere with any attempts at establishing control. It was likely a stopgap measure since an Elder would likely find a way around it with enough motivation, resources, and time.
"Truth Speaker, yes?" Calanii asked, bemused.
"How interesting. I know who you are."
Calanii could almost smell it in her carefully controlled movements.
"Do you? Who do you think I am?"
"You are an Agent. Top 100, most likely. Your control is admirable."
"You have been taught about something?"
"Yes," Calanii replied. "My uncle was a highly connected individual, just as my parents were. We do have our equilavents, you know."
Hautil grinned. "I've run infiltration missions on your so-called 'Star Raiders' before. You don't exactly run it as cleanly as it could be. I could provide some pointers, for a price."
That wasn't exactly comforting. She wasn't just in the lower numbers, either. Maybe he was even talking with someone below the designation 010.
"And you are authorized to give me that information?"
"Yes. I could be said to be a little... high in the hierarchy. Know that this is not to leave the room either. React to me normally at a summit or meeting, and we will be able to establish a proper working relationship."
"I do not trust you."
"And when it comes to the Alliance, I will determine what actions to take."
"Don't wait too long, or they may just decide to seize control for themselves." Next
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to HFY [link] [comments]
2023.05.31 13:15 AlienNationSSB Alien-Nation Chapter 170: Scopes
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Chapter Summary: Scopes: Borzun sneaks a signature from her superior to pass on to the Fleet Admiral First Contact: Human Security Forces Patrol gets dispatched to investigate the radio signals, and are killed. They do not get a report off, but go missing
On Board Space Station 13 "-Got a signal," Chief Data Officer Remec's live audio feed cut out from the video she was richly enjoying, the interruption immediately spoiling her lovely, if otherwise lonely weekend night.
"What was that?" She choked out, lurching awkwardly in the low gravity. She may have been off her shift, but if she was being bothered now... It had better be important.
The Chief Data Officer muted herself on the new local call, a wave of the hand switching her mic back to what she had been watching. She whispered an apology to the cam-boy, and paused their private session, guilt wracking her, Some part of her mind liked to believe that he genuinely would miss her.
Using the fully immersive setup for this constituted a degree of misuse of her equipment, but she was far from alone in the practice.
Supposedly, low gravity enabled all kinds of exotic positions, and she intended to take full advantage of the noiseproof cabins each Data Officer was provided. Curiosity had given way to vague plans after enough sessions. First, she was thwarted from having alone time with the Asset. Now, she felt she was building trust with one who had caught her eye.
The special bodysuit may have kept her insulated against the faulty old air ducts' temperamental nature as she moved about the station from office to office, but it was restrictive and uncomfortable. More consequentially, taking it off and putting it on was noisy, if not easy to do quickly for the sake of any emergencies that might happen on-board a ship.
The bodysuit's crinkling finally tapered off after wrapping itself around her form with an almost vacuum seal firmness, and she switched on her camera, hoping she didn't appear flushed or sweaty. Borzun's gracile, almost-masculine face filled the main view screen.
"Sorry, I didn't catch what you said. I think the comms array on this old hulk's finally starting to give out," her junior officer apologized.
Great. If Borzun went ahead and filed a report, that would require an inspection. Remec silently mourned the waste of credits. Even if it wasn't her purse, Remec knew she had a limited number of credits she could skim for 'Cultural Research' before someone would take notice, especially if the allotment for maintenance didn't amount to enough to effect so simple a repair.
"Perhaps it was just a software bug. I can hear you just fine, you can hear me, right? I was just asking: 'What seems to be the issue?'" Remec fibbed and tried to change topics in the same breath.
"We've got a rogue signal, unencrypted. Apparently the emergency radio system has been hijacked, priority one ticket from the surface."
She lamented that with this potentially pending repair bill hanging over her head, she couldn't tap it for the bribes she'd need to sneak him, or someone like him up here like she'd hoped. What a waste.
"Ma'am, please, we have to hurry, it's an emergency," Borzun's shamelessly pleading voice was grating, and Chief Data Officer Remec forced herself to not grunt in annoyance at being addressed in that tone, and she shook her head free of the mental cobwebs and out of the pleasant, lingering tingles of the afterglow. What a terrible way to come down from such heights.
"Yes, I'm aware what a priority one is. I was just...settling another fight between The Decimals. Apparently their Data Teams are threatening to hurl themselves out their airlocks, just so that they can board the other's space stations and attack each other."
"Of course, ma'am. I did hear they'd recently been placed upon separate vessels. This isn't about that, though."
Remec almost felt insulted that Borzun sounded almost like she didn't believe her; The excuse was grounded in truth well enough. Her last meeting having been a debriefing of what went on at Space Station 92. It had been split into decimals, 92.2, 92.4, and '92.6', or 'Data Team Balkans,' as they were now known, with the probability they'd soon need a 92.8 just to cover the same geographic are of what had once been just 'Satellite 92.'
Apparently the posting had been an unending migraine for their poor Chief Data Officer, and equally as frustrating for the General on the ground who found her troops making a show of firing ineffectually at units from other postings to curry favor with the locals. Remec could still hear the seething tone of their Chief Data Officer, "I don't care how effective it is at ingratiating yourself with them, firing your weapon at other law-abiding Shil'vati without provocation is still a crime! It is considered what civilian governing authorities call a 'War Crime' on this planet! No, being a 'War Criminal' is not 'Based,' and their continued existence is not a provocation! It could potentially violate our treaty with Earth's government! Other factions could legally have grounds to jump in to conduct 'peacekeeping'!"
Borzun's expression seemed pensive- lost in thought despite the so-called emergency that had pulled Remec away from her fantasy.
The only consolidation she had was that as bad as things were for Space Station 13 presently, at least their problems were temporary, and confined to the planet's surface.
"What's the issue? I already read that the Public Address signal was hijacked. Just reset it." That didn't require bothering her.
"We did," the young svelte Data Officer offered apologetically, skin looking more blue than purple in the artificial light. "No effect. We need them turned off for now, and that requires your clearance. The message is instructing the insurgent humans how to resist, and is spreading disinformation that we are kidnapping everyone. That's greatly hampering the efforts of the Governess-General, so she really wants this done, fast."
"It's not 'everyone'," the commanding officer snorted in annoyance. "It's a...couple dozen thousand." The number was high, she had to admit, and still climbing. Quite an impressive percentage of the state's small population. She had a nagging sense that an even larger pile of work was about to be placed squarely on her desk for all this mess, and fought to resist dumping the resentment she felt at this near-certainty on her subordinate, when simply dumping the paperwork would be far more productive.
"It's certainly distressing the local population, causing a great deal of unrest. Even the reinforcements that were deployed to Delaware may find themselves embroiled in riot control," Borzun agreed readily enough, though she sounded somewhat distracted as she spoke, her eyes flicking to the side, likely as she prepared the form signature. "Since it's an emergency system, that requires an override, and since it's a communications signal, that's our domain."
"Done," she muttered, signing it without even reading and giving it a hand gesture. and felt grateful that at least Borzun was efficient in her interruptions. So much better than dealing with the Asset, who remained under the Marines' lock-and-key, but kept trying to lodge all kinds of complaints and empty threats. The file disappeared off her desk just as quickly as it had appeared, and Borzun seemed relieved to have gotten her permission.
Hope blossomed in the bosom of Remec that this would be over fast enough to rejoin the session.
"Was that all?"
"Sent," Borzun chirped, though her face was mirthless. "There's also the matter of local shortwave radio signals. We've been operating on orders to jam the channels, but they are operating on military bandwidths reserved for use of security forces and other agencies, but are clearly local individuals. This is in defiance of local and federal law. Again, that will require clearance to do so. Human authorities consider this quite a significant breach of law."
"You have my permission to shut those down, too, or otherwise jam them."
"Rather than shutting them down by jamming, since they seem to just jump channels and crowd the airwaves further, Lieutenant Goshen- sorry, Captain Goshen and Lieutenant Lesha believe that this presents an opportunity to steer us toward their points of origin, and to add them to any prosecutions we mount on the arrested, and to make up for the missing data we lost when the Data Center was destroyed. We can try mobilizing small task forces to isolate the busier signals and disrupt them. That won't drain womanpower too much, and might even bring peace to the state. Or, we may end up achieving Azraea's goal of flushing the rebels out, and finding others who are sympathetic to the insurgency and bringing them to justice. At the least, it might reclaim some equipment out of their hands, temporarily crippling their ability to continue coordinating before the 'primary' election."
"I see. So you're asking me to not shut the signal down, in case anyone else asks. Is that right?"
"Yes, ma'am. If the signal is jammed, they'll jump channels, and we may lose information we're gathering, too."
"Alright, sure. I'll refuse any requests to shut them down, make sure the officers are informed to not lodge such requests to us." Anything to get her moment alone back. "And Borzun? Just a reminder; You don't need my permission to cooperate with the Governess-General's forces or to comply with her orders," Remec added. She noted with mounting irritation she had enough time to restart the session, but that the timer was ticking down, while Borzun didn't hang up.
"These ones seem to be live signals, delivering instructions to teams and coordinating chaos. Can I be dedicated to that, and use your clearance to utilize visual scanning once the sun rises? I may be requested to guide patrols to investigate these."
Remec was almost ready to pull her hair out. Visual observation from the satellites was always fiercely resisted by noblewomen. She almost denied the permission, but knew Azraea's wrath would likely follow if the Data Teams were held back on her orders. Like she doesn't hate us enough.
"Are they evacuated?"
"Who do you think I mean, the Empress? I'm asking if the Noblewomen from Delaware are still there, of course!" Remec finally snapped, and the slender Data Officer recoiled as if she'd been slapped by the rebuke.
"As-a-aah...yes, ma'am?" Borzun tried. "The order was sent out, I believe all families are off-world, spare one. They're apparently looking for a girl, gathering the family before liftoff per the evacuation order, but I've got two files here? Must be a clerical error."
A judgment call, then, but a simple one.
"Fine. Permission granted. But keep your gaze confined to areas of operations, and only if you think it would help an already active operation. Don't let your curiosity get the better of you."
"Yes ma'am," Borzun reported, sounding overly-repentant. Naturally, fragile Borzun wished to dodge witnessing or working with the unpleasantness of rounding up terrorists. Likely she'd been hoping for a 'no.' "What if I find and intercept a signal? Should I trace it?"
The content of the signals they'd shut down and guided to the interior after intercept were likely disturbing, and Borzun was undeniably among the softest of those aboard the old relic that served as Space Station 13. Remec had hoped the girl would have gained some toughness in Earth's gravity, or at least a hardened heart from being in approximate proximity to a terrorist strike's explosion. Then she might have learned to understand what a terrorist riddled state truly meant, and the necessity of their duties, but instead the opposite had happened. She'd come back with an even softer spot for the humans.
Oh well, there was little point in having a potential sympathizer in such a position or subjecting her subordinates to it out of some vague, unhelpful cruelty. Maybe more exposure would finally do her good. Toughen her up, and get her to stop crying to her seniors whenever something went wrong. Remec, sign this. Remec, can I do that? Now that Remec thought about it, even the level of permission she'd been bothered for didn't require her signature- Borzun was senior enough to shut down signals on her own.
"Of course. Find the signals, the broadcasters, and shut them down locally, if you know what I mean."
They Say First Contact's the Hardest [Meanwhile, back at Camp Death...]
The staccato pops of gunpowder rifles sent me from 'fast asleep' to wide awake in a heartbeat.
I threw the blanket and sleeping bag off of me, boots flopping loosely after I'd left them undone to avoid cutting off my circulation as staggered to my feet, finding my way to standing tall but disoriented.
The muffled crack of energy weapons being discharged responded, and I ran to the light- finding myself staring out at the almost empty stream below. I doubled back just in time to hear deafening responses of rounds fired from railguns split the air.
I passed over the hard dirt floor, pushed my way past a sentry who had come to find me, and climbed up the trench ladder to watch, dozens of others pushing their way out from the claustrophobically packed bunkers and tunnels to see the commotion.
Blinking the sleep from my eyes and grateful for the rapidly adapting shaded lenses, I saw distant figures pushing their way through the tall grasses as ever more rounds began to fire at them, several charging down from Camp Death and running them down where they fell, chasing the path of beaten down grasses to finish the job.
Maybe they were true loyalists. Maybe they were just well-trained. Maybe they came from countries long locked in bitter civil wars, where surrenders led to fates worse than dying on one's feet. Whatever the reason, the last of them finally staggered and fell. None of them had even tried to surrender. I could respect that, even if I found myself on the other end of the conflict as them.
By the position of the sun and season, I guessed it might be around six in the morning, and we'd just had first hard contact- that I was aware of.
I looked over to Radio's pile of equipment, a masked insurgent with the golden stripe of yellow electrical tape wound around their mask to indicate their role flashed me a thumbs up. I approached the sentry after seeing no more movement, hearing the distant gunfire as insurgents fell upon the Security Forces soldiers with zeal. I didn't hear any more lasgun fire. "Please tell me that was turned on," I gestured to the jammer.
"They were spotted on approach from the field. I powered on the jammer in the way I was instructed. They promptly stopped advancing on us, likely having lost contact with their superiors, and began to turn back before coming up the hill. We decided it was better than letting them wander out of jammer range and summon reinforcements."
"Good," I muttered. I could see G-Man poking his head out of the Command Cabin. Had he and George put that idea in my head just to steal my bed off me? I shook my head. George wasn't that underhanded; Not that I minded. He'd had a rougher day than almost anyone.
"Haul them and their equipment in. Get any wounded of ours to the doc bot. We can interrogate them."
The sentry gave a hand on heart. "Sir."
And so the first blood had been drawn. The squad was only six soldiers, I learned. Half a squad, or two 'pods.'
In the time since last night, the slow trickle of ones-and-twos had turned into a steady stream pouring into Camp Death. Now that the morning shone through the thick trees ringing our little forest. I wondered idly if the trees had always been so- certainly it didn't seem to me Verns had ever mentioned such heavy machinery as to bring those trees, and my swing of a hatchet hadn't even caused the bark to split off from the trunks.
Knowing I was stalling, I paced the ramparts, delivering quick reminders, last second orders to the new arrivals, reminders to keep the two intact life sign monitors affixed to the arms of those who had volunteered. Eventually, it became clear even to me that I was being more of an annoyance than helpful leader; The sentries knew their duties well. So I resigned myself to dutifully patrolling the grounds, never far from either the radio tower or the ramparts, keeping my chest puffed out and a brave face again, occasionally striking a pose as I squinted through my mask, as if I could make the enemy materialize.
I dared not call it a facade, no matter how true it might've been.
[Author's Note: Almost did it again, had to delete the first attempt at a post because I left in too much.]
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2023.05.30 14:25 AlienNationSSB Alien-Nation Chapter 169: Jailbreak
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Chapter summary: Vaughn liberates a bunch of people. Elias can't sleep and makes some decisions and receives a weird offer. Chapter Art- Vaughn's Mask, a World War One Tanker Splatter Mask
Alien-Nation Chapter 169: Jailbreak A Leslie's Pool Supplies retail outlet made for a strange rally point for any group of people, even moreso now that the whole strip mall along what had been Concord Pike had long since closed. The stainless letters spelled the forgotten name of the shopping center, still proudly adorned the top of the diagram of blank signs ensured at least the brick obelisk was a conveniently obvious marker for the men to find and make preparations for assaulting the jail.
'Morningstar' squadron had swelled their cell's numbers to well over twenty by absorbing the miscellaneous fragments of other cells, whose skills were more generalized. The name carried over to the newly formed Strike Force by virtue of being both the largest and the lynchpin of the operation's success.
This was the largest force of the three organized groups they'd split into, each aiming to try and hit the larger jails along Route 202, the other two branches making a target list of their own. Vendetta had given them an extra half hour to at least get themselves close to in-position, but with only one shortwave had no way of knowing if they would coordinate their strike. He was a known element to everyone even if only by name. At least Elias's words stayed true; All seemed very familiar and well-practiced with their carried weaponry. More importantly, none contested his assigned leadership or questioned his orders.
Vaughn cradled the RPG he'd been given, eyeing the well-lit building just over the carefully landscaped hill. The last had been over a half hour ago. The box-mart across the old highway was the temporary headquarters of the repositioned Troop One, after the suburbs near Camp Death had been cleared, likely soon to be repositioned again. But the size of the old box-mart seemed to indicate several things, that it was largely indefensible, could contain a fair few prisoners, and by its proximity to Camp Death, could be useful to strike regardless.
The flow of traffic was unusually heavy for being well before the crack of dawn. Perhaps people were trying their luck getting up old 202 to try and reach the border that way, after having no luck along other closed border checkpoints. There was a feeling of self-consciousness in carrying heavy weapons out in the open along a suburban highway most had driven along during peacetime, the juxtaposition of old familiar environment and newly familiar activity showing just how much their lives had changed. Moreso as cars rolled along it like it was a Friday night of olde, the two lives- old and new, bumping shoulders for a moment.
"You ready?" He asked, snapping them back to the present.
Mutters of assent was good enough. Haltingly, everyone in the mishmashed strike team moved toward the precinct's bright lights, taking advantage of the long shadows and occasional noise of the passing cars.
It was an unassuming building, the repurposed garrison made out of some retail outlet built back in the turbulent seventies, all brick and little else but tiny glass doors, with not even windows for the occupants to know the impending violence had been approaching. What era will this be known as? Early Imperial? Resistance? Revolutionary? Wondered the teen, as he leveled it at the lobby. Good? Bad? Hell, I'm just the man with the gun.
Everyone levelled their weapons as once, and Vaughn held a hand high. "We're here to liberate the prison, not blow it sky high," he chuckled. It was hardly armored or reinforced- or at least, so it seemed to him. And if it was, then the Data Center had shown the virtue of striking the same spot with concentrated fire beat showering it with dispersed impacts.
At least the glass door looked normal enough. "Bump and grind, forward. Forward!" He hissed. "Aim at that- there- the front door." Easy enough for the homemade launcher to hit, and these were arguably of the lowest utility if things went sideways. Elias had taught him asset management well- it was a waste to throw your best equipment at a stationary target. While the design was tried-and-tested, Vaughn still took a few steps away.
The improvised launcher let out a metallic clunk, and with a surprisingly subdued noise and recoil the projectile was sent tumbling freely, end over end, the cap blown clean off the improvised launcher. A second later, the giant projectile more than made up for it as the round smashed through the glass door, taking the automatic door slightly off the rails and bowing slightly inward- before then blowing both them and a hail of glass fragments outward as the detonation went off inside the main lobby.
Someone in a security forces uniform staggered out.
"Infantrymen, Fire!" Vaughn roared to the infantrymen, most of Morningstar dutifully restraining themselves as a hail of bullets sprayed into the storefront and even stitched up the exterior brickwork. Clearly, some insurgents were better trained than others judging by the tracer rounds and slowly tapering off rounds.
"Advance and reload! Morningstar, spread out and cover!"
The smoke and dust was subdued, at least for now, and left them with a surprisingly clear view into the front entrance. Red streaks were painted up on the wall, black and grey of smoke-dusted debris mixed in like a spin-art collage.
The lobby's contents were an absolute shambles- everything set on a ledge had been knocked about, including the ledges and desks themselves. The security forces inside responded by charging out the main doors to follow just a second later.
A hail of gunfire met them, most of the armored troopers flinching reflexively, their armor plates overlapping and protecting their wearer. A few reflexively tried returning fire despite the harsh stings of rounds tugging on the mix of fabric, bulletproof weave, and shattering off the neosteel plate they wore. The gunfire never let up on those unfortunate few who had charged out from their cover, the complete lack of coordination, dissimilar reloading times from infantry with unequal amounts of time spent with their weapons. Effective equipment and enthusiasm was undercut by poor training, surprise, and total lack of a plan to counter being outnumbered. Morningstar, on the other hand, had the numbers, the angle, and the element of surprise.
One by one the Security Forces lay flat. Either they were dead, had the fight knocked out of them, or were trying to present as minimal target as they could while they lined up their own rifles to return fire. It was hard to say for certain what the intent was, but the outcome was little different. Round after round continued pouring into them from dozens of unevenly sized magazines, an RPG or two sending the bodies of any who tried opening fire tumbling, their limbs likely held on by the durable material underneath. When they landed, their bodies folded like misshapen laundry, pressed into unnatural shapes with the wearer still inside.
The whole front engagement was over in less than a minute. A pale, non-gauntleted hand waved frantically from behind a shattered brick front, red streaking down the fingers.
"Hold!" Vaughn shouted. "Identify!" The hand continued waving, and Vaughn shoved an unwitting volunteer forward to pull the man out from behind, to reveal a man in a stained tee shirt with a dazed expression and blood dripping from a series of scratches on his cheeks, cut in like a cat's claws had raked over them.
"Civilian!" Vaughn bellowed over his ringing ears. "Any others inside?"
The man shook his head and mouthed 'no,' his voice seemingly too hoarse- perhaps from having spent an untold amount of time screaming.
The man was wrong- there were, or at least 'had been' more security forces inside. A sudden blast and the tinkering of shrapnel caused Vaughn to duck, then charge forward, his improvised explosive launcher discarded, swinging his shotgun around from his back to rest in his hands. A Technical had tried to leave via a service bay exit, apparently not even managing to round the corner before an RPG wielded by a Morningstar veteran had upended the uparmored pickup as it pulled out.
A survivor crawled from the wreckage, and Vaughn sprinted forward, pressing the barrel against the shivering man's temple as he raised his empty hands. The wet splatter kicked high, and Vendetta checked for any other survivors, the smoking tip of his shotgun wafting grey in the fluorescent tubes of the old retail outlet.
The technicals were indeed tough, he noted, but the round seemed to have flown into a wheel well, bypassing the plating. No one else inside seemed to be moving- yet still, he made certain. There'd be no theatrics of announcing himself to an enemy who played dead by standing in the open and giving orders, letting them try and exact some measure of revenge, or gasping out some warning to the shil'vati. No, a strike was to be calculated, and that calculation was to be total.
Two minutes later and a clear picture of the aftermath had emerged. Over five hundred prisoners rescued from the cells, cramped together like sardines, hastily erected concrete laid in a grid backstopping a prefab prison. PVC pipes ran from room to room for toilets no less roughshod in their construction, set straight into the dirty linoleum. Quite a few of the prisoners were deafened somewhat. The skeleton crew of Security Forces personnel hadn't stood a chance- supposedly, most were out, working from some kind of list, or perhaps had finished their shift after a long day of throwing people into prison.
Vaughn gestured with the shotgun. "There's your exit, people. If you're still undecided about the Shil'vati, then this was your wake-up call. If you're still undecided about us, then I'm not sure what to tell you. We just risked our lives to save yours. You want to pay it back? You can either pay it forward by helping us with the next prison, or you can help the Emperor of Mankind. Blankets, food, water, soldiers, guns, ammo, whatever you've got that you think might help. He hasn't said it, but I reckon you all owe him, if you've got a decent bone in your body, you'll at least bring him something, offer to try and help. If you want, you can listen in on the radio for instructions, and if you haven't got a shortwave, I'll separate off a few from our strike squad who can fill you in and get you there, if you feel like chipping in on the war effort."
Vaughn lowered the shotgun, taking a shell off his bandoleer and loading it in to replace the one he'd fired.
"That went well," Parker remarked. "And not a bad speech. Short, to the point, and all that. Honestly, I wish I'd brought a whole crew. One for the close-up on that impact. But, uh, that execution..."
"Completely necessary," Vaughn snapped, irritatedly. "That guy was fatally wounded. Putting him out of his misery was an act of mercy. And you'll remember to narrate that, if you got that on film."
"Of course." Parker didn't deny where he'd been aiming the camera- saving Vaughn at least the headache of reviewing the footage, and then having to kill Parker, if it turned out he'd been lying.
"I'm starting to think of these jail cells as something more like a pinata full of prizes. Namely, insurgents and good PR," he muttered. Truth be told, he'd wanted more of a fight. Vaughn pulled the radio from his pocket, and sent out the broadcast. "Done here. 202 North has been cleared. About four fifty good to go in some sense of the word, though where's anyone's guess. Tried sending them your way, don't know if they'll take it. Another fifty will need medical treatment. No casualties on our end. Surprise was total. We've got pictures. No enemies taken prisoner."
Vendetta stared around the lobby, an idea slowly dawning on him.
"Hey! Hey hey hey! Snag armor off any of the ones that you can. Grab any goods that are stocked up, and arm up anyone who says they're headed to Camp Death with the weapons the guys had here. Come on, we can't stay too long here. You-" he pointed at a man who had held down the trigger on his rifle, spraying the building at full auto. "-You're fucking useless at fighting. Gather up the ones who are able and willing to fight, get them packed into a civilian-style police cruiser, and drive them on over to Camp Death. Everyone, help him load up. Get everything you can out of the Evidence lockers into the trunks- they can fit a lot, trust me, I'd know. Camp Death's going to need goodies. Come on, move, people, move!"
Morningstar Squadron had re-mustered on Vendetta.
"Alright, now what?" They almost seemed eager for more.
A smile crept across Vendetta's face, invisible to all as he pointed at the row of vehicle keys.
"I think it's time we hit 141 and a couple more," he muttered, pulling it off the hook. "Now...wheelman, shotgun, or turret?"
"Accidentally Cut Content" [Author's Note: Hey Everyone. I made a really dumb mistake and included part of the next chapter in the previous one's end in my rush to get it out the door. So the first couple paragraphs will be a repeat, but this IS a new chapter. I even updated those first four or five paragraphs slightly.]
I couldn't sleep well on the cot that night. Though I noticed hours ticked by, every moment seemed to be spent tossing and turning. I even tried resting with the mask off, held in my hands, but the risk to my identity being discovered if anyone barged in caused me enough stress to worsen the situation. Eventually, I gave up, kicked the covers off and donned the mask again, making my rounds around the camp, trying to calm myself down by taking a midnight stroll. Instead, I felt eyes countless following me, and I had to force myself to stand tall for them. For the thousandth time, I thought of this as my Valley Forge.
As I patrolled, I could hear whispered prayers, muttered plans of action, and mercifully, snores. At least some were getting some sleep. I could see orange lights reflecting off the clouds from where I knew Wilmington lay. It seemed Vaughn was keeping busy, if indeed it was his handiwork.
A few shipment inspections and a routine update from a sentry later, and I felt caught up to speed. I noticed Radio from the corner of my eye, seemingly also unable to sleep.
I almost jumped a foot in the air when I felt the tap on my shoulder, only to find G-Man's mask staring into mine. How strange that such a haunting visage was a comfort to me.
"Hey. Can't sleep?" He sounded surprisingly serene. Or maybe it was just tired resignation. His hands seemed stuck in a familiar claw-like shape after holding the soldering iron for so long, and my fingers ached in sympathy. My mask's filters took much of the scent of smoke I could smell from the distant fires, but I was sure that if I wasn't wearing my mask that G-Man would smell faintly of molten silver solder. I'd wondered how we'd repaired and updated so many railguns so quickly. Now I knew what he'd put himself through.
"I can't," I confessed. "G-Man, I'm sorry what happened with your father. Hell of a birthday." I hadn't even had a chance to give him the present I'd bought him- a couple new filters, and vintage craftsman toolkit, 'from before they sold out,' as Verns had phrased it. The memory of his voice already felt distant, somehow.
"Wasn't your fault. Even if Town Hall wasn't your big idea to get them to retaliate, you know? Then they'd still have done something. But, uh, thanks for saying that. And thanks for trying to get dad out. I'll remember that." George said quietly, then the conversation ended when he turned away and went to the edge of the embankment. Just like that.
I could never quite get a read on him, but I wanted to respect his distance. Whatever he was feeling, he seemed to want to feel it alone, and to keep his own counsel on the matter.
I continued course toward Radio.
"Any word from Miskatonic?" I asked hopefully.
Radio offered a noncommittal shrug, then dropped it in a hurry, raising one hand to massage his chest. "They say 'this is your war,' but did ship us a small container."
I hadn't exactly expected them to line up alongside us in the trenches in their white coats, but I'd hoped they'd have had some kind of wonder drug or noxious gas we might deploy. Something toxic to the Shil'vati but not us. The best they'd given us so far were experimental bullets and toxic-tipped arrows and knives, the former of which supposedly could potentially the armor, if fired with enough force and impacted with a good angle. If true, then I supposed they might be moderately useful in an ambush, and they had helpfully included a pair of compound bows. I had conducted a pretty decent survey of the defense, but I hadn't thought to ask if any were experienced archers. I also couldn't imagine taking someone off a railgun, large caliber rifle, or even an old cannon to hand them a bow and arrow without feeling like I was somehow offering them an insult without equipping it myself, and there was better I could think to do with the remaining minutes before the Shil'vati would inevitably come looking than to practice.
They'd fallen out of favor for a reason, and it wasn't that the earliest guns outperformed bows.
They had also supplied a small cache of rifles that were more likely to pulverize than penetrate unless the armor had been compromised already. These were still appreciated, but hardly the game changer I wanted in return for all we'd sent them.
Then Radio leaned in, voice kept conspiratorially low. "They did, however, mention an exfiltration for you."
Sam had been right, I wouldn't get back anything close to the value of what I'd sent out. At least, not unless I was willing to abandon everything and everyone, to cut and run for my life. Such a decision would be the inglorious end of the revolution, spelling doom for everyone in it, and all of humanity's culture. I'd forever be remembered as a coward, if I was so lucky to be remembered at all.
"Well, I'm not going."
"Okay, but here's a real head-scratcher. Did you show them where Camp Death is? I've been careful not to broadcast our coordinates, and my little helpers haven't been talking with Miskatonic. And the person on the shortwave mentioned that the border would free up tomorrow morning, then mentioned the interstate right up against the back of our base as a meeting point. They said Last Exit Before Pennsylvania. That's right there." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "And I didn't mention broadcasting without a cat's paw or relay. I mean there's a chance they triangulated, but throwing together a plan that fast? Nah, man, they knew."
I searched my memory. "I'm certain that I didn't mention it to them...did Hex? She did that internship. No, wait, she got picked up and dropped off at Warehouse Base. Unless she mentioned something on the drive past? She said they were somewhere North." Now that Radio had mentioned it, I was left with a bit of a puzzle. How did they know? How much did they know about us?
"They had to have known somehow. And if they didn't know before and just figured our location out, then I bet you it's not long before the Shil'vati figure it out themselves and come sniffing," Radio resignedly threw a hand up. "Should we update the signal? Start directing people straight here?"
We had numbers, yes, but we could still do to take more in, especially if the fighting dragged on or casualties mounted higher than I projected. "How long until they're sure we're here?"
Radio yawned under his mask, the animated glass-plated mask he wore misinterpreting it with an ASCII shocked ":O" face. "We've been broadcasting all night, so, who knows?"
"Well, if it was just a signal they picked up on any random given day, how long would it typically take for the Shil'vati to muster a response?"
"Depends on the day." At my silent stare, he objected further. "They sometimes respond pretty fast to that sort of thing, but these aren't normal times, E. They used to come to check out wherever I broadcast from within an hour or two or two, but remember, they've kind of got their hands full right now thanks to Vendetta's jailbreaks. Plus, there's so many more signals." He checked the screen of his shortwave and chuckled, then lightly massaged his chest again. "I'm sure we've already gone way past."
"Alright. If we see anyone snooping around us, add our location to the broadcast. That way, anyone in the resistance or is sympathetic but isn't sure where Camp Death is can find their way here. In the meantime, though, I still think we're best not leaking it. At least with the sentries having set in the final claymores and outer defenses, we should be well-situated to ward off anything they throw at us."
"Maybe. Maybe not," George said from behind me, and I froze.
He'd helped build this place. He'd know any weaknesses as well as his father.
"They might have cloaking tech, or some other means of infiltration," his voice was a dry rasp.
I shuddered thinking about it. "That's a good point," I muttered. "Assassination and recovery might be up their alley...except, I think they're terrified of what losing me might mean for their hostages."
"I'll be honest. I don't think she cares at this point," G-Man countered. I couldn't fault his gloomy disposition. I could just hope that he didn't want something bad to happen to us, to balance out that something bad had happened to him, from some weird sense of fairness.
"Think about it for a second. What happens if you die? Then what does that let her do if that happens?"
It was with a startle I realized he had a good point. Azraea had committed to a shocking all-in, something that would shake the political landscape and memories of countless denizens of the state. Months of carefully planned schemes involving carefully planned defensive patrols meant to reinforce one another, frustrate, and hinder our operations had culminated in us adapting, learning. We thought we had her beaten, especially when we destroyed her monitoring, data collection, and reporting asset in Something Else Square. Then she'd pulled something like this out of a hat, catching us totally flat-footed, rounding up who-knew how many of us before we could muster. What other assumptions had I made that were incorrect? Would she hold fire, if she knew where I was if it meant sparing the hostages? Or were they now just an 'acceptable, if regrettable' loss? When your opponent becomes unpredictable, issues arise, especially when you're counting on them to do certain things.
If it was, then I'd just done her work for her, and all of us would be dead the moment she figured out where we were, and at least the end would come faster than I knew it had arrived.
I realized I was staring up into the orange-lit cloudy night sky. I could voice none of this, not without undermining morale and potentially sparking a panic.
"If she was going to start bombarding the state, she'd have started already by now," I chuckled. "The borders are sealed, right? Why wait? Why bother trying to build some sense of dread? She's not a vampire who feeds on fear. I choose to not be afraid of what she may do. I instead intend to plan around it, to the extent that we can. Besides, if I die, what would the twins do to the hostages?"
George made a disappointed growl, his sore hands turning from awkward claws into shaking fists. "That may be the point. If the Twins do anything to the hostages in retaliation for your death, then maybe as long as she didn't pull the trigger, she thinks she'll be absolved of whatever damage their deaths mean to them."
I wasn't sure she thought that way. Heck, after months, the woman was still an absolute enigma to me. Governess Bal'shir, I understood- the flurry of speeches and photo-ops and handshakes at civic meetings with 'literally-who's-that' of 'what-community' had been carte blanche for us to grow. Ministriva was a lying snake, and once we pieced that together, I ripped her apart. But Azraea? What drove the Fleet Admiral to come down here? Duty. There wasn't any sort of hard policy she followed that I could tell, not that I knew Shil'vati military doctrine well, being an outsider such as I was. Perhaps it was the greater liberty afforded her of being both Governess and General that made it seem like her plans shifted and changed in ways that made it hard for me to keep up. Or maybe she was just at such a rank and in such a position of power to where she could make her judgment calls. If so, that begged the question: What was 'the line' for her? I had a feeling I'd somehow crossed it already. Probably Radio's tape of me fucking the Empress, if I was to be honest. Most unfair to be judged for something that hadn't been my decision, though I doubted an apology from either of us would amount to much.
I looked over to my Lieutenants. They'd helped carry me this far. I'd be foolish to ignore them now. What could I do to at least mitigate the risk that he was right, and there was someone looking to kill me, right here and now?
"Alright, fine, you've convinced me. Instruct the sentries to get the next dozen people who we intake to help patrol the inner perimeter, and to keep a watch for...well, I mean, a stealthy seven foot tall purple alien with giant tits?"
"Something invisible," George supplied.
"Alright, for anything shifting in the tall grasses that they can't immediately see- I can't really ask them to keep an eye out for something they can't see, can I?" I was suddenly too tired to think properly.
"I'll explain it," G-Man offered.
"And I'll get the sentries ready to take over the radio, explaining how it works, then I'll try heading to bed, too," Radio offered, and I realized that a yawn sounded very strange through a voice modulator- his ASCII helmet seemed to fritz out again for a second.
"I should change my sleeping quarters, too," I muttered. "They'll almost certainly check the command cabin for me, if they manage to enter. I'll pick a tunnel- uh...somewhere."
"Might be smart. Could be they'll try and take out the explosives shed, too. Make it look like an accident on our part, get rid of any hostages, and then get a free pass to exact vengeance on the state. Got anywhere in mind?"
I thought to myself. Where might be a good resting area? There were many tunnels that led to bunkers, firing outposts, and even to stowage areas. Any one of them might do in theory, but I knew of one that overlooked one of the two streams that ran along the side of Camp Death. I didn't want to situate myself either too low to where I was on the very front of the lines- why make an assassin's job even easier by putting myself on the perimeter, after all? But the creek should make a pleasant bit of white noise- and also get me away from the center shed. "Probably facing North, along Perkins run. G-Man, you look absolutely dead on your feet. Get some rest if you can, you've certainly done enough and gone through enough for today."
"There's...still things to do."
"There always will be. If the others are finished doing their repairs, lock the shed," I muttered. "I know the hostages are in there, so post a sentry or two there, too, to watch over the entrance. You're right that she may try some kind of underhanded tactic." It wouldn't do much if they decided to set charges against the side or something, and the subsequent explosion would be, in a word, 'cataclysmic'. "This was supposed to be a relaxing walk to help me rest..." I scratched at my chin under the mask, feeling the beginnings of the few scratchy hairs that had grown since I'd last shaved, and feeling the cool fresh air without the filter as the wind kicked up.
"Sorry," G-Man offered sheepishly. "I'll go tell 'em."
While he ambled off, I followed Radio back to his pile of equipment.
"Before we split then, one last thing."
"Yeah?" Radio asked.
"Have we recovered Verns?" I asked Radio. "Any word?"
"No, not that I've heard," Radio confessed. "Vendetta's been mostly quiet, I think to hide his heading from anyone who might be listening, but I know that he's struck at least three jails and counting. Some of the ones he's freed are trickling up to us here on foot, and it seems he and Morningstar are acting like a human wrecking ball. The troops are calling it Operation Smash-and-Grab."
"Smash-and-grab," I laughed, thinking of the pun. "I like it. Do we have a more recent headcount?"
"Sam said we've got enough to last about three days of continuous, round-the-clock fighting with the hundreds of people we have here. If we get a resupply run- well, I suppose it would depend upon how big a hole gets blasted in the encirclement. Or, well, something to that effect. Look, man, I'm 'Radio', not 'Telephone,' and I don't have the head for this logistics shit that you two do. You want to talk to Sam, you get the man on the radio yourself, or ask one of the Sentries I'm sticking here to manage the comms. Point being, you try and get hold of him. I'm done for the night."
I could have said something witty back, but it felt counterproductive, and would only delay the sleep I was now well overdue for.
"I've got an idea for an update. The ones Vendetta's letting loose? They can gather supplies and wait for the signal to reinforce, or to agitate, or can organize people into a more focused group, one that can punch through whatever blockade they try and form up. It'll also force the Shil'vati to not concentrate forces on our back door-" I pointed back at the interstate. "Even if they clear them out, the opportunity for us to encircle and destroy and then break out is too high for them to really try to do a mass deployment along our back." Sam was, I knew, something of a career criminal. Able to rub elbows with the worst elements of humanity. He was a facilitator, I knew, not really a leader. "Can you tell him-"
Radio was already fiddling with the dial. "Already on it," he muttered. "Lotta profit in looting, should be easy for him to steer people with that, or something. Get some sleep, E."
I went up to a sentry, requisitioned a sleeping bag someone had helpfully brought, went into a trench and told him where I'd be if I was needed. I waved to Radio, and crawled into the gunnery tunnel, almost stepping on another four people already laying in it. I loosened my laces, clutched my sheathed knife, and fell into a fitful sleep.
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2023.05.29 21:29 AlienNationSSB #Alien-Nation Chapter 168: Now or Never
Alien-Nation Chapter 168: Now or Never All Chapters First Chapter of Alien-Nation Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Chapter summary: Elias wanders the grounds inspecting everything he can, has a fatheson moment with Larry then sends Vaughn to go try and spring people from jail. Chapter Art It had been easy for me to see during the speech I'd given roughly how many had already arrived up the narrow pass, and as I stood from inspecting a firing port in a trench, testing whether the old cast iron cannon would roll back far enough on its rails after firing.
I gave it a pass after measuring against a rod. Certainly it was far from the highest of technologies at our disposal, but certainly it would be either lethal, injurious, or at the very least, extremely loud. The gathered mishmashed array of weaponry pointing outward was impressive enough, but the real piece de resistance was the sheer number of railguns we'd had returned to us, frequently carried by a two man team. I signed off on it for final inspection, noting the plug in place over the end, and went to the railgun positioned further down the trench near the intersection.
This was one I recognized. This shared at least something in common to the cannon, insofar as it was far from the latest model at our disposal. I spotted some of my own extremely crude handiwork, a far more rough set of welds performed along the plate's protective, unsanded metal edges. Mister Singer, if he were ever presented with it, may have recognized the shoddy, unstable hand that welded together some of the protective casing. The service flap told me the model without needing to even open it, the household door frame hinges pulled from Verns' stock of spare parts bin, before we implemented something even so basic as refined latches with catch points.
That had to make this a Mk. II. Sentimentality had no place on the front lines. I sucked in a breath at the sight of another old muzzle-loader being carried into the workshop for upgrades, already laid out on the timber worktable and ready for use.
I just hoped the earliest design of managing power flow wouldn't give out from the faster firing. Complex but beautifully arrayed piping had given way to simpler, more streamlined designs as we incorporated a greater number of readily available alien parts. Some of which we were supplied an initial batch of in the bag with the blueprints, and then we were told how to work free those same parts from various broken pieces of technology we'd reclaimed off the Shil'vati, or even the freely given away omni-pads. With every iteration we demonstrated a degree of adaptation to using the parts we had available, and each generation marked a leap forward in our own understanding of Shil'vati technology, courtesy of G-Man and his father's handiwork.
The final barrels of the extremely limited run of the second batch we'd paid handsomely for were marked 'present,' too. They had gone the least far afield, with one already slagging itself during the attack on the data center. I frowned at the spreadsheet, as if my impression of it might cause their fate to improve.
The latest blueprints could maintain a decent rate of fire without burning out its power management system located in the welded together case. Or, rather, the barrel gave out first. For the first time, perhaps as a result of being coupled with the magazines and a relatively rapid-fire exchange meant the neosteel barrels we received had finally become the weak point in the design.
It was only after we'd returned to Camp Death that I'd noticed the difference.
The new batch we'd paid dearly for seemed somewhat altered from the first batch we'd been building all the others out of, made from an alloyed material that shone somewhat dimmer under the sun as George and I worked in the shed elbow-to-elbow, though the contrast was not immediately obvious until one held the two against each other. It was slightly thicker, too, all of which to me indicated a change in supply in some manner, but our supplier had hardly announced themselves to Sam.
This was a troubling puzzle to me. I still couldn't be sure it was the new microbatch of barrels alloys being far from equal to the originals we'd finally finished building out? Or was it the expanded magazines and power couplings' ability to fire faster creating an overall volume of fire that overheated the barrel from overuse? Or was the power management design faulty, generating more heat per shot? Were we misusing them?
I measured the barrel of the Mk. II, just to be sure the shelf life of the barrel hadn't come due. So far, inspections of the original batch of barrels had mercifully indicated they'd all been brought back here were in comparatively great shape, with this one being no exception. That lent me some comfort that these new barrels were just not up to the task of heavy, sustained fire. I couldn't know that for certain, and an unreliable weapon was cause for anxiety.
Indeed, there was almost no wear on this version at all, disproving the worst case scenario that these were only good for a certain number of rounds before they'd be worn down to uselessness. Certainly, they'd eventually give out, but it seemed we were still far off from that point.
"Sir?" Asked the gunner, staring at me.
I stared at him, then down at the spreadsheet. "This thing fires three rounds a minute. Do you think that rate of fire is sufficient?"
I could tell he wasn't sure whether a 'no' would have him replaced with someone professing to be more accurate.
"Get it upgraded." I took the white gel pen and scribbled on it- make ready for an upgrade as soon as the final repaired railgun clears the shed. Assigned to casemate #4, Operator... "Call sign?"
"Brut," he answered.
"Brut...with the Umlaut?" He gave a thumbs up and I added them. Costing nothing but a drop of gel ink for a little personalization if it made for a happy gunner was a good investment. "Use it well. Get it upgraded if there's time, keep an eye on the work shed. Once the repairs stop, you can take this to the front of the line, Brüt."
There was no point dismantling all our old ones and creating a backlog while some still needed repairs. I wrote on the hatch Upgrade from Mk. II to Mk. IV. That would give it a magazine and more than triple its firing rate. Anything more than that, I quietly held my doubts for the feasibility of upgrading in a timely manner. The Mark V's took too much time and effort to build their complex power management systems for not enough gain, stuffed too tightly into the protective case to be completed quickly. The Mark VI's tended to overheat their crude fire control circuitry, the consequence of an overcorrection back to simplicity; they could maintain a high fire rate, but were too delicate. The VII's were the ones with the new barrel. Promising, but those barrel faults...I still worried it might have been the power management system.
We'd started considering adding water tanks to help maintain them, but it brought the weight higher than that of a Mk. I, and successfully swapping a boiling hot tank off a delicate, electronically-loaded railgun in combat seemed like a very questionable use of the time. We'd just have to ask the crews manning the railguns to be a bit judicious in our fire, and hope that the flaw was limited to the new little batch of barrels.
How many rounds, exactly, and exactly how fast was yet to be determined; we hadn't conducted the amount of testing a proper military might carry out, but while we had no shortage to man, we also did not have so many as to test dozens until their point of failure, weighing and comparing all their possible conditions.
All this uncertainty kept bouncing around my head. How many troops did we have here? How many rounds for every type of rifle, including the more exotic variants? How reliant on them were we to deal damage, and was it all stored somewhat safely? On the less direct side of things, how many tons of food did we have stored, and was it distributed well? How many thousands of gallons of water could we draw? How many pounds of soap to wash utensils, cups, wounds, and shower with? How many pounds of food over how many men, to last how many days? If it rained, some of these might be alleviated, and yet might kick off a whole host of other issues. There was no way of knowing, no way of taking a perfect stock. But I could estimate.
We had a lot of people. And a lot of guns. And a lot of defenses, and literally countless tons of high explosives, triggered by various means and methods. And we were mad as hell. While exactly how mad was less concrete a figure, I knew this many men away from home could end poorly.
Ultimately, whether it was the fault of the new barrel or the design had finally reached the limitations of its potential rate of fire without causing other issues, I couldn't say for certain. So I had to do my best.
I gave the railgun a clean bill of health to operate if needed, 'priority upgrade,' and noted the rate of fire for the defensive position at 'three a minute.' This one being one of our oldest models, I left it to the operator with my blessings, and made a mental note to add the next railgun we had to be stationed nearby, just so that we weren't under strength from that angle.
I craned my neck from the trench to behold even more insurgents trickling into the old clearing. The arrivals always came in ones-and-twos, their body language telling me the story of the journey it had taken to get here. They'd had to have abandoned their vehicles to the traffic-snarled roads almost certainly some miles away unless they knew the path George and I would occasionally take;.
Those who brought their own heavy weapons lay them down at their feet before collapsing. Water and food was distributed, though I couldn't speak to the quality, and a trash run would have to be made, tossing the empty tins into ammunition containers.
Of all the newcomers who had yet to be organized into place, I counted two mortars, several more volunteers grouping up to retrieve ammo after taking down descriptions of the vehicles from their exhausted owners and sprinting back out into the night to fetch whatever had been left behind.
The resourcefulness lifted my spirits. No one entertained the notion that these men were taking their leave to flee a certain doom. All present felt some degree of faith, understood who they were, why they were here, and what we were setting out to accomplish. Cells worked to find one another in the darkness, congealing themselves into a more coherent, practiced fighting force by virtue of familiarity with one another. Discipline was sharp and needed little enforcement past an initial reminder. No flashlights switched on inside the premises or campfires were lit despite the encroaching edges of the cold front. Insurgents were guided to whatever defensive positions, pillboxes, trenches, battlements, or bunkers still sat empty, depending somewhat on their expected role after detailing their skills to sentries or those otherwise familiar with the camp carefully explaining sight lines and our overall defensive strategy.
Whispered word overheard from those arrivals seemed to indicate a mixture of panic and outrage was fast spreading through the state's populace, carrying them on frightened wings as they took flight in the night, from here to the southernmost beaches and bays. It seemed word had gotten out successfully, then. That knocked down one more obstacle to our success, or at least set the pieces in place. Soon, all that would remain would be the ugly business of following through, and hoping, no praying that I hadn't massively miscalculated in my hubris.
I took the ramp out of the trench so they could pour some loose gravel into it, helping ensure that if those threatening looking storm clouds opened and if the drains clogged, we still would have some footing, and retired to the command cabin, eyeing how empty it felt with all the finished products being set into defensive arrangements; only the workshop still retained all its rather explosive concoctions.
The manpower situation was such that those familiar in reliably manufacturing complex bombs were spending their time setting up defenses in the fields beyond and settling in our new arrivals.
And then I had the couple hostages, weakened by months of captivity, restrained and kept under guard, but still sitting right on top of the half-done armaments.
I told myself that we had taken precautions- the most reactive sets separated by a thin membranous bag of water to prevent chain reactions from taking root and a few emergency containment systems, but they relied on someone present. I'd need all hands on deck- and what if a direct lance of energy landed from some heavy weapon hit the shed, perhaps to try and make a point? No mere bag of water would make a difference then.
Then again, if they brought that kind of weaponry to bear, then the outcome would be certain. The Shil'vati would still lose their hostages, and have tacitly admitted I'd forced their hand, and that they'd declared we were enough of a threat to sacrifice noblewomen just to put a stop to.
I hunched over a smaller map in the command cabin, pinning down the garrisons and jails Verns might be held in. Perhaps I'd been premature in my assessment in lacking a future need of a good map when I'd jumped atop the table for my little motivational speech. I'd gotten caught up in the moment; I hadn't foreseen the need for an offensive element.
I was sorely missing my Lieutenants. Vendetta wasn't here, which was one of the greater anxieties weighing on my shoulders.
The one word I'd whispered in his ear all that time ago to bring him around to believing I did, in fact, have a plan: Victory. He should be here already.
He'd sprinted off across the field in glee back when I told him of this plan's possibility, that "Plan C" might come about due to a few cells going dark and my suspicion that it wasn't moles. The null hypothesis, that there were in fact moles, had put him in direct danger by sending him to double-check.
I cursed my blindness. My eagerness to take a night off, to get him out of the way so he wouldn't clash with the others, so I could be a 'normal boy' for a night and attend a party- one I wouldn't be kicked out of, To find social acceptance.
All part of a 'coming of age,' even after I'd already spilt blood, led a war campaign effort, kissed, earned more money than most would see in a lifetime, and mentally cut ties with my family. By almost any account, I already was a man, yet I'd gotten obsessive in imitating the modern trappings of defining such things. I should have seen the cells reporting members' absences and even going dark as a whole for what it was. I could have called off Town Hall, started assembling even more people here.
Then again, if I had, then perhaps...the shil'vati might not have started grabbing everyone. I hated to think of Verns as 'sacrificial.' They likely didn't have much on him, just a neighbor's report. Then again, we'd had that meeting right after the bar fight at Lucky's, right? How thoroughly had George cleared out his house, if they went back to rummage around and investigate? How well could George cover his tracks? We'd left that ammo crate in the hallway, for starters- clumsy of us, yet we were in a panic. Like children. I tensed as I remembered so vividly the sudden sharp report of the gun, watched Patrick's empty eyes stare up. But not children.
There was nothing I could do for Vendetta. We'd sent the Bat Signal out. Either he'd be here, or he'd miss it.
I weighed the value of sending George away once he got here. The order would certainly annoy him after he'd just arrived, something of an arduous task given how far backed up the traffic had become. I also knew it meant I'd have one fewer lieutenant here, where I desperately needed him. I could hardly ask him to burn down the childhood home, and it would certainly reek of hiding evidence.
"Sir," A sentry stood in the door frame, and I stretched from where my muscles had tensed up, pulling my shoulders back and yawning silently beneath my mask, lumbering toward him.
I didn't realize how tall I'd gotten until I realized he was staring up at me and had taken a half-step backwards- not to make way so I could lead from the door, either, but almost defensively.
"Yes, what is it?" I asked, stopping in place.
"We've received a message for you, sir. Radio is reporting that a 'Hex' has checked in from her position. She and Binary report 'Green as Grass,' sir."
I wasn't used to being called 'sir,' and it caught me off guard. I realized he was standing there, waiting for a response from me of some sort, too.
What should I say for him to send back to Hex? I momentarily remembered the sensation of the kiss, the warm, slightly wet softness, the tenderness, and felt a bit of a blush under my mask. While every instinct screamed at me to not air even a hint of my romances or inner turmoil about a kiss over the unencrypted connection, there was a level of 'not talking about it' that I was unfamiliar with and hadn't planned for. Could my message back be coded into something subtle? Nothing came to mind.
"G-good," I finally stuttered a little awkwardly. "That's very good."
"What does it mean, sir?"
I pushed the distractions out of my head. This was no time to be thinking about girls- and my mind stubbornly disobeyed, wandering right back to Natalie. At first to the hug she'd offered me, when I was scared. Frightened of the mind-wiper device. That tenderness she'd offered- I pushed the memory from my mind, too. This wasn't the time to fantasize, either. I had to live in the world that was before me, here in the present. People were relying on me. I could figure out all that other stuff- girls, hope, my future- sometime later.
"It means the operation can proceed as planned."
If the Twins stopped reporting or got caught with the hostages, then we'd have a lot less leverage stopping Azraea from blowing us all sky high. A couple noblewomen- who I wasn't terribly familiar with and seemed to be somewhat less important, provided they were truthful to me of their station. This unfortunate pair had relied on connections to already-stationed family members to arrive, rather than on their raw political power to muscle their way to Earth's then-closely guarded secret coordinates, and were present only for evidence of said hostages' presence.
"Sir, beg your pardon," I could sense something bubbling under his words, against his better judgment, but some sense of desperation demanded he ask me this anyways. "But what is the operation? I've been manning the airwaves with Radio, helping spread word, but everyone I make contact with seems to want to know."
"I don't see the wisdom in broadcasting the finer details of our plan, I'm sure you understand."
I sensed the inner conflict by the way he froze up. He wanted to object, probably, to swear he wouldn't leak more than the minimum. The problem was, anyone listening for long might take a morsel here, a morsel there, and bring it all together and undo us.
"You have all you're meant to have at this point, frustrating though that must be to try and inform others of the going-ons. Our objective is right before us. When the time comes and the enemy appears, blast them." I didn't want to say there isn't much else to plan. At least, not for them to consider.
"And you, sir?"
"I'll be right here, alongside you," I promised. That seemed to ease some of his pressing curiosity, at least. "We'll be here together, to watch the birth of a miracle." That, or we'd die together. Those words didn't quite have the same catchy ring, though.
I looked over my shoulder back at the map. What more good could be wrought over pondering what jail he might be in, without more details?
"Another matter. Hex said G-Man should arrive in a few minutes."
"Thank you. Anything else to report?"
"No sir, the shortwave beckons." They gave a hand-on-heart and stepped out, leaving the doorframe empty.
I told myself I may as well follow. There was no good to come of disappearing into a tent, secluded for long periods, not when anxiety might run through the gathered troops. I had to make myself seen at least periodically. Besides, it was easier to get a more complete picture from out here than in there.
Radio looked like a one-man-band by the way he was surrounded by boxy electronics of varying sizes, their glows dimmed slightly by thin pieces of fabric taped over the tiny glowing screens, and the trap stretched over his head. Wires snaked their way along the ground, a trooper trying to lay the cable into a thin channel of dirt with a spade to reduce the tripping hazard.
Pierce crouched next to him with a laptop plugged into something wired together, the final outlet of which looked vaguely like an international travel inverter, her fingers flying across the trackpad.
"Radio, how are we?"
"We've made lots of contact, I think. So much traffic on the airwaves it's actually hard to find a clear channel to broadcast on."
"Do they have our encryption keys?" I asked, the question almost automatic.
"No, having one kind of defeats the purpose of being heard and getting the signal out. Besides, encrypting's probably easy for the Shil'vati to crack. Less easy for human intelligence agencies, but impossible for the people who we want to hear us."
I already knew most of this, but humoured him. Little entertained radio quite like his namesake.
"What's our chance of discovery, then? Rough time to them figuring out it's us here, and finding the signal's origin."
"At least with a somewhat uncountable number of HAM signals being thrown across the airwaves, we are a really big needle in a gigantic haystack. Besides, how many times have we actually been where we're broadcasting from?"
That was a point I hadn't considered.
The Shil'vati would likely regard our signal as just a relay point, rather than the source, let alone the destination.
Would they strike it just to silence the orders, once they figured out how many of them were originating from the same point?
I comforted myself by staring upstream of the creek that wandered to the south of Camp Death, following its course with my eyes to where it flowed under the concrete tunnels under the highway, under the train tracks, to where it ultimately ran back to where Radio and I had visited Saint Michael's. Then I turned my head back across the field, toward where the foundation of Mojo and Mister Pasta's had been, where Vaughn had called in the kill team on the Fed's sting operation,
We'd certainly set up plenty of remote broadcast towers before, to entice them into launching strikes on collaborationists. That Saint Michael's was still standing after we'd broadcast all kinds of propaganda from there meant they'd almost certainly learned to be a bit more cautious about lashing out blindly.
In the darkness I saw a familiar figure materialize, and with a bit of relief, I ran up to greet Larry. I wanted to give the old mechanic a hug, but knew that expressions of intimacy while standing near the middle of the camp's defensive perimeter in front of everyone was more than a bit inappropriate, and settled for a nod of acknowledgment.
"I cleaned up the mess at Jules place," he said, going back to referring to his friend by their code name, glancing at Pierce.
I felt a moment of shame. We'd panicked and grabbed everything. Perhaps we were like children after all, leaving our toys out and in the hall. "Thank you."
"Patrick saw," I said back. "Patrick- called."
Whatever Larry was about to say, that brought him up short. "Oh. Oh." The words seemed to leave him pained. He'd known Patrick, too, and I felt the weight of guilt. It seemed he moved on faster than I could, because he changed the topic quickly.
"What's up?" He gestured at the radio setup.
Pierce seemed to be quite engrossed in her work, trying to connect the laptop to a radio via a USB cable, fumbling with the port in the dark. The laptop's screen was showing a shaky handheld video of a mass arrest- and I thought I could hear my own voice echoing the words I'd spoken just a short while ago.
"Just uploading the speech. I've spliced it up to some footage that one of the newcomers brought. We'll also be exporting raw versions of both- just the audio, the video, make sure people have the record and can decide for themselves."
Sometimes the truth was the best propaganda.
"How are you getting video out? I thought the internet was down."
Radio held a hand up, and then put it down, as if I'd been a teacher asking a question and he'd been chasing extra credit. The next few sentences were practically a foreign language to me, uttering a series of numbers in rapid succession, followed by what sounded like a name. That may've been a model, an edition of a model, a make, a special form of broadcasting- all of it may well have been bounced off the ionosphere for how far it went over my head. I wasn't used to being so completely out of my depth, but everyone seems to have specialized in some skill or another. I'd preferred getting involved in all aspects of the revolution, but at a certain point delegation was a necessity, and I was watching not just the task's needs, but also the capabilities of my lieutenants grow well past my ability to offer useful insight and guidance.
"I...see." I didn't, but I wasn't sure what else to say. I wanted to express curiosity, but I felt like this new capability was something we'd discuss later, if there was a later. "And people can receive high definition video over shortwave? It just takes a long time?"
It seemed to me to be an apparently somewhat technical process to perform over shortwave, and only when finally pressed for details, Radio at last admitted something I did understand: "I am not sure most people know how to collect the signal, or have the right equipment to, but I'm sure someone will, Maybe that person will redistribute the videos."
There. Actionable, useful information.
"Then continue," I said. "At least unless anything more pressing jumps up to do."
"Let's hope it's good for more than the history books," Pierce commented mildly.
"The world has to know, and I am certain the shil'vati have no interest in putting such footage out there. That's reason enough for us, isn't it?" I watched Radio nod and then scurry about the camp, tracing one of the wires toward the antenna array nearest the highway. I turned to Larry, breaking off from the amusing spectacle. "Do you remember my promise?" My question was genuine, but he seemed to waver slightly, now that the possibility of actually delivering on it was here and present. Perhaps the aura of our inner circle's invincibility had been shattered with the loss of his neighbors, and it would be best to set his mind to something productive. "If you want it to come true, see to it that the mortar teams are trained. Get the cannons in position, and make sure we're good for more than just one wave."
Larry snapped a salute, fingers on brow, and I clumsily approximated one in return, though I had never done a salute before in my life. I could sense the slight smile from behind his mask, and with a quick check over his shoulder that no one was watching, he reached out, straightened my palm out slightly, then brought the edge of my palm higher until it was a bit more level. "That's better," he judged, then leaving me alone once I dropped the hand a few seconds later.
George showed up a few minutes earlier than Hex had predicted, out of breath and escorted by a sentry. "Ditched the truck," he wheezed. "The huge bags of claymores and equipment were really heavy. Had to haul it under the interstate." His shoes shone with creekwater; He'd almost certainly taken the path Larry had forbade us from trying, and I couldn't imagine doing it in the pitch black darkness at any speed.
I motioned to the sentry. "Help him get that bag into the workshop." He was the best bomb maker, but he also had helped build this place. I wanted to pick his brain, but I would give him time to rest, first.
"Hey, Radio. Radio!" I heard the shortwave radio he'd set at the top squawk to life with a familiar grumble on the other end, distorted somewhat by the tinny speaker. I scooped it up. Someone with a vocoder- Radio gave those out sparingly.
"'E' here," I answered for him, but didn't want to announce myself. Not right away.
A moment's pause.
"What are your orders?"
"Vendetta?" I wanted to confirm.
"I'm here with over fifty people waiting at Warehouse Base for something to do," I knew the transmission would likely be monitored, but the time for subtlety was over. "You're on speakerphone, by the way."
The line was likely tapped, or at least would be intercepted, its contents determining priority for being passed upward or presented to someone with authority, possibly even Azraea herself.
Whatever orders I gave, they'd have to be in code, or at least sound like something unimportant, low-priority so that we might give him as much opportunity to get the drop on the enemy as he could be afforded.
"Don't bother trying to come here yet," I quickly supplied. "By now, if you're not on your way here, you have your own party to go to." I took a moment to survey the grounds. "We've practically got a full house. See about getting a house party of your own, though you'll have to pull the guests out of their own company. Or something to flank."
"Any idea where to start?"
The map fresh in my mind, I found the answer sprang to me.
"There's a rest stop along Route One. If you've got any party poppers, you can get them to open up to you like a can opener. You know, it's all about introducing yourself well."
I heard him laugh mirthlessly, the sound coming through like a cheese grater run over the asphalt.
"That one's a big bite, maybe more than we can chew without choking. Why don't we start with something smaller?"
I wanted to protest, to direct him to the biggest ones first. Then again, how much did they have on Verns? How likely was he to be somewhere heavily defended?
"What do you have in mind?"
"Well, right across the river from where the naughty girls all get sent. Why don't we start there? Every party needs a few ladies, right?" I could hear a roar of assent from the background.
I wasn't quite sure what he meant by that- was he going to try and attack the Shil'vati base? Surely not those women? He wasn't that insane. Then it clicked- the Women's Correctional Facility in Wilmington, just upstream of the Christina River from where he was broadcasting from at the old Warehouse Base. Easy to get to, certainly, and right near the interstate with pedestrian bridges and neighborhoods to scatter in after the strike made it an excellent candidate. Almost certain to succeed.
The strike wouldn't yield us Verns, though forcing the Shil'vati to admit that they couldn't both take and hold their prisoners at the same time might force them to at least pause rounding up ever more people.
If I gave it my blessing, I would be sacrificing any chance of rescuing Verns for...for what? The tradeoff strained my soul to even consider.
"If you feel that's best, you know your crowd. That said, they got Jules- we want him back." He'd helped build Camp Death. He knew its ins and outs, though my real reasons were somewhat sentimental. "Keep an eye out for Morningstar and a few other cells. I've little doubt they can party with the best of them." They were one of my heaviest hitters, routinely bragging they could go clay pigeon hunting with an unguided RPG, yet I was pretty sure I'd never rallied them to Camp Death- if they were to rally, Warehouse Base was where they'd be.
There was a moment of silence, until Vaughn reported back- "Yeah, they're here. They were going to move up to you once they got everyone together. Should we leave instructions for where to find us, or to find you?"
"Do it- supplies are overall good here. Lots of...uh, balloons, confetti..." I felt like I was stretching the analogy too far, so I gave up trying to equate weaponry to party paraphranelia. "...you know, the works. Take Morningstar and use 'em as you see best fit. What've you got for your party? Any good party supplies?" We certainly could make a trash run and see if we could also deliver them some RPGs at the same time.
"Got some Bump-n-Grinds, and you know those are always good for an up-close-and-personal encounter."
I laughed. "From what I read about bumping and grinding? The closer, the better." Their accuracy left a fair bit to be desired. Still, it would be a good, even vital carry just in case those dreaded Security Forces Technicals made an appearance, and would probably be 'good enough' against a stationary target like a wall, especially in the hands of a capable squadron like Talonstar.
"What time are you thinking?"
"I'd say as soon as we're all ready. You really overestimated how many people know where Camp Death is. A fair number showed up here, and are still trickling in."
"Enough to throw several parties at once?" I asked, suddenly hopeful.
"Well, I suppose, maybe, but I'd be wary of partygoers without someone in charge to, uh..." the metaphor seemed to be breaking down, but I got what he was going for.
"Yeah, I see."
"Are you thinking if there are too many noise complaints at once, it'll keep the party going longer?"
"That's part of it, but I'm hoping we might find a particular person we're missing, lost him when we were playing unexpected host. Someone of G-Man's, you'd know him as Jules. A divide and conquer might maximize our odds of finding him."
"Plus, maximize the number of partygoers we pick up as we move. I like it. A few small house parties for every big house. Any special orders?"
"None. K.I.S.S. principle applies. Good, bad, I want it all out on the streets. 'KISS' 'em until they can't see straight." Keep It Simple, Stupid.
"You're certain?" I could hear the hesitancy in his voice. "This is going to be the greatest thing we've ever done, and I want to be by your side for it 'til the end. I don't want any last-minute cancellations, and I sure as hell don't wanna miss it. How long should I party?"
We'd be letting absolute chaos loose. Fire. Looting. The worst of humanity, turned loose, with Vaughn potentially at its head if he decided to recruit for some reason. Could I still claim to be the good guy if I turned those kinds of people free to wreak havoc on the state I claimed whose denizens I was protecting?
Blackstone's Ratio holds that it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer. It would still hold me no less accountable for whatever followed from this mass prison break, though.
I looked over to the recently arrived George, and hung my head.
So be it.
"Confirmed, Vendetta. I'll next talk to you when you're here in person- call it when you start either getting tired or if the hosts hire a doorman, a bouncer, or something you can't handle. Bring any good partygoers and favors you find, guide them here, O Pied Piper. Over and out." The signal went quiet again, and I turned off our radio, standing and yawning. The hour was late, and it would be my last opportunity for some shuteye.
I pulled aside a few sentries to my first order. I felt it was a strange one, and likely futile: I asked everyone to 'try and get some rest.'
The sentries were going to be exhausted, and I needed them to start working in shifts if we were to maintain our vigil and perimeter. Doubtless, more would be coming, and giving them at least some rest might be a difference-maker. G-Man helped lead the newcomers to the subterranean bunkers and tunnels, trying to make sure everyone had a place to stay the night and resources got split, even if it was throwing tarps and blankets on hard-packed dirt. I eyed the tunnels, knowing which one of them would spit me out near the stream, itself running so low I might as well refer to it as a ravine. Digging that had been cramped, paranoia-inducing, but we'd dug out so much of the hill and filled it with enough weapons to wage a full-scale war.
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Alien-Nation Discord Buy A Coffee for the Author
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2023.05.24 17:18 SEVASTIANISBACK Modding?
Could we possibly mod/jailbreak the TV or possibly block the domains of the tracking services with Pi-Hole to remove all the bullshit tracking and get ourselves an actually fully free TV;) Fuck selling our entire privacy for a shitty TV
, if you're smart and want to participate in this, use a fake name, fake birthday, fake/throwaway phone number (Maybe also a Google Voice number) and throwaway ProtonMail account and if it ever asks for your credit card try using some privacy card (privacy.com I suppose should suffice.). Ideally would also be to use a P.O. box or any alternate address, but if you haven't got those options, I suppose we suffice with only real info given being our real home address to receive it. Once it arrives at your home, if you're not knowledged to at least be smart enough to use Pi-Hole or blocking shit via your router, I'd suggest not even plugging it into a power outlet and join/search for modding/privacy communities on Reddit, XDA, Discord, Telegram or wherever online and wait/search for guides on how to mod the TV in one way or another to make it actually usable without your nudes being broadcasted to Telly's servers and FBI 🙏
Since we have barely any info on how the TV actually functions (hardware or especially software-wise), there is lots of uncertainty and we have no idea what would be our possible modding capabilities to make the TV tracking and bullshit-free, so for the time being, I recommend joining/looking into Privacy
(general privacy subreddit) and something like FREEMEDIAHECKYEAH
(Jack of all trades, has literally everything - guides to privacy, piracy and much much more, amazing wiki) and their Divolt server
for discussion/help with anything.
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2023.05.23 17:39 GroupEquivalent5537 Technological Guides Online Business
Imagine a place with the technicality of Github but the instructions and simplicity of something like wikiHow. I have been thinking about this for a while but was never sure if it was a good idea hence why I want opinions. I thought this application would be a website that specialized in detailed instructions and easy-access sources. Say for instance you would want a tutorial on how to jailbreak your 3ds you would get either video instructions or text-based instructions along with clear download options. I was also thinking that if the user ever wanted more detailed instructions they could talk to an expert or developer in either a text chat or in a call. Monetization can come in the form of said calls and text chats can be available to all users kinda like a premium service. Not to mention that more in-depth tutorials can be available to premium members only such as making an employee database or a python class. I don't have a final name for it yet but I was thinking of calling it something like "Pine" because I want the website to have a green interior.
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2023.05.20 06:44 dorkerthe [help](/r/jailbreak/wiki/approvedtags)HELP PLEASE! palera1n does nothing when booted into pongo os. any help?
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so im using palera1n to jailbreak my iphone 6s and when it boots into pongo os itll say found pongo usb and then all of sudden does nothing. any help with this? i added and -f and still does nothing.
- Details about device: phone: i phone 6s with 15.7.3 ad the software update. pc: manjaro linux,
- The problem: nothing when it says foudn pngo os usb.
- What I've tried so far: use -f. tried flashing panlen1x (but usb wont show up.)
- List of tweaks: nothing.
- Recently installed/updated package(s): none.
- Screenshot(s): cant really show my phone thing cus i dont have a camera or smth like that but i can screenshot the terminal.
2023.05.15 22:20 Embarrassed-Slice-11 [Discussion](r/jailbreak/wiki/approvedtags) Ipsw reruns disabled
2023.05.12 17:50 AlfaScarlate [question] is h3lix ipa compromised?
I've tried jailbreaking my device today, following all of the steps on the community's wiki and all, but windows defender accuses that the patched ipa has a "Trojan:Script/Sabsik.TE.A!ml" virus and the ipa is now missing from the folder and cannot find it on quarantine to delete it either.Normally i'd just delete it and it'd stop this crazyness that is Win-Defender (win10) but idk what to do? i've never had any problems with "trojan" beeing detected, just the normal "Exploit:iPhoneOS/Vortex.C" threat message.
what to do?
UPDATE: fixed it, it was just WD acting weird as usual, but still frightened me bc i the warning wouldnt go away. Thanks everybody.
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2023.05.08 14:28 AlienNationSSB Alien-Nation Chapter 164: Medley
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Signal Despite curfew, they encountered no shil’vati at the checkpoints, further confirming her suspicions that something was happening. Still, Hex argued, they should take to the backroads, but agreed there was no time for subtlety. And so, G-Man made the most of the clear tarmac, the old truck engine bellowing as they careened down the dark streets, following Hex’s directions. Binary forced herself to not whimper, even as her sister leaned out the boxy window, and let out a whoop of excitement as the truck engine roared, the loose hairs of braid whipping like tendrils from the warm glow of the driver cabin’s faded old indicator lights.
There, upon one of the few suburbs left, a white pickup truck pulled out into the main street, the make similar to their own. The driver’s voice crackled out on Loudspeakers mounted on the roof, conical shapes pointing on all sides toward the houses on the hill of the old farming town. There, they blasted out a familiar message- Binary recognized the bat signal’s words.
“Hold on,” Hex suddenly urged, despite the mission’s urgency. She needed to see- were people responding? “Stick to this one. Get behind him.”
Their old truck slammed its brakes, the front suspension taking a dive, and they watched events unfold before them.
The racket would rouse a man or woman from their old house; so many in this town were square-shaped, as if drawn by a child’s first fumbling attempts with a marker, only apeing a storybook’s farmhouse. There, the awoken came clumsily stumbling in the dark down the short lawn, up to the truck, and the broadcast would cut off for a few seconds, as the driver would press the brakes and hurriedly relay information. Then, whoever had approached would go running off, either back inside the house from which they’d came, or to a truck of their own, or even to another neighbor and to join those pounding on their neighbor’s doors, summoning them to repeat the process. Some of them instead sprinted down the road, already screaming the news to the near-empty night streets. Then, as the last at the door would depart, the driver picked up the microphone again, repeating the alert and rolling forward.
The whole scene reminded Binary of an atom, gaining and then sending little electrons off the nucleus into the dark night. The truck in front would become a mobile command center. All this made her feel like an incredibly vulnerable target.
Binary cradled the rifle in her lap. She wasn’t sure what she could accomplish with it. Those trucks the Security Forces were known to be heavily up-armored, and the armor of the soldiers themselves could shrug off most rifle fire, too. The Shil’vati- she hoped she didn’t see any, even as she thought she saw reflections off their hulls from the streetlights as they crisscrossed the sky. She squeezed the rifle tight to stop her quivering, the polymer and steel rattling against each other. All of this was insane. She’d liked Elias, sure, then watched idly as Hex had made her move. There were too many unknowns, lost chances in life. This wouldn’t be one more of them. There was something she had to do.
“We’re stopping here,” she decided. “I’ve got to hop out for a second.”
“What? Here?” G-Man asked, slamming the brakes and causing her sister to let out a startled yelp.
“Sorry.” Binary popped the door open and hopped out after a quick shimmy. She ran back to the tray, standing on her tiptoes to reach over the faded chrome railing, fishing blindly for the fabric. At last she had it. As soon as her fumbling hand reached inside, several electronic chimes sounded. At least she could see inside it now, instead of fumbling with the insufficient light of the moon’s waning crescent giving her only the faintest glimpse of rounded edges.
The teenaged insurgent ignored the dozens of messages and missed calls, withdrew the blue box’d cellphone they’d made, and held it high, hoping it would help find a signal. She felt her heart soar as it managed a faint, weak connection to a distant cell tower, situated somewhere over the border. It would have to do.
She pressed a few buttons, then hit ‘send.’ The confirmation came back.
“Second bat signal raised,” she called out to her sister and G-Man.
This was a signal far too dangerous to piggyback even the most securely designed blue box off of, something the Shil’vati would surely take notice of and try to track. Binary threw the cell phone back into the bag as if it were radioactive and tossed it into the tray without a care, then ran back to the cab and clambered back in, lacking her sister’s natural, athletic grace.
Hex cranked the old radio’s knob up, twisting the red slider over the old numbers. Binary closed her eyes and whispered a silent prayer.
An unpleasant, harsh buzzing noise made G-Man flinch. After three series of the buzzing-beeps, a very stern-sounding woman’s voice sounded, declaring an emergency announcement to follow. The process was familiar to anyone who had tuned in for government broadcasts throughout the invasion. Back before the country had issued their final surrender. Please. Please please please.
The recorded message began to play, proclaiming that Armageddon had all but begun, and then gave the resistance a place to rally- and if they knew not where, then to clump with their cells as best they were able, and to mobilize. That even if one was not in the resistance, that they were in danger, and that they were to grab their families and do their best to flee.
“It’s done. Let’s go.”
G-Man put the truck back in gear, then cranking the wheel hand-over-hand, switching the channel. Sure enough- every station was now playing the chosen alert.
“Let’s hope it’s enough.”
“It’ll have to be.”
[Meanwhile, at the Sampson household, just after the events of Town Hall…] “...I’m afraid the border is sealed,” Mr. Sampson said. “Quite securely, too. There was no way for me to get to work, even though I have a pass. I may have to create some alternative arrangements.”
Handmade walls and other such natural materials were an ostentatious display of the family’s wealth, and Natalie’s mother, Mrs. Rakten, fought the temptation to give the residence’s carefully grooved and textured imperfections along the walls a bit more imperfection in her frustration.
No wonder Elias had little difficulty in finding the guile to manipulate that Interior Agent. Here the boy’s father was, trying to press a noblewoman with a hint about his needs, subtle as a hammer. The request spoke of a certain boldness born of either bravery or ignorance to be so forthright.
“I’m afraid I have no influence over the Governess-General,” Nive Rakten hoped that would settle the matter. “You’ll have to take it up with her office.”
“Well, I tried that under Ministriva’s reign. She was a considerably more receptive administration. Back when we were a green zone. I got nowhere then, I’m not sure how I’d get any further, now.”
The boy’s father didn’t understand a dismissal when he heard one, or didn’t know when to quit a topic. Mrs. Rakten fought down her sense of disgust at knowing that this was one of the families being considered for being ennobled, for a poverty of any proper aristocracy in the country, or anyone with a spine who was also loyal.
“Whatever influence I might gain with the interior would be through cooperation,” she reminded him gently of the power structure. Perhaps the stress of the situation was causing her to be unduly negative in understanding what he was saying. The old patriarch might just need some coercion and guidance. That kind of headstrong mindset might be frustrating to work with, but if he could be made loyal like his son, then…well, the Matriarch of the family was already aboard. That much was a certainty by how quickly she’d bustled to the kitchen to prepare beverages- a quirk of humanity that women were expected to carry out such tasks. A distant clink of metal on some hard surface said she was almost done. “On that matter, where might your son be? I have a rather pressing, urgent matter to attend with him.”
At this, Mister Sampson’s eyes widened slightly. “I’d assumed he had slinked off after this afternoon’s absolute shitshow of a town meeting to spend some time with your daughter- perhaps they are off together somewhere?”
“No, I’m afraid my daughter is, as you say, ‘grounded.’”
“Oh? What for? Did you catch her and Elias?” The father almost seemed hopeful, rather than reproachful. Yet another quirk of the local culture that Nive forced herself to not wince at the faux pas. A son being so physically forward as Elias had been was cause for concern, not to be celebrated or hoped for. Was the father aiming for a social climb, to utilize his son’s relationship? If so, she might want to put a plug in that.
“Goddess, no,” Mrs. Rakten waved a hand.
There was a startling thump against her leg, and the cat she’d seen her last visit brushed himself against her, then looked up with wide, inquisitive yellow-green eyes caught in the interior lamp’s warm glow. With a scratchy, high pitched keening cry, he waited for Nive to react in some way. Remembering how her daughter had reacted, she cautiously settled into the couch, and ran one long-nailed hand through his fur.
The cat bustled against her, then detached a great mass of fur against her leg. Nive froze. She’d heard an animal endemic to this part of the country would do the same, and that the detached keratin might cause great pain to the offending party. Elias’s father didn’t seem concerned, and she didn’t feel any discomfort. So, cautiously, Nive repeated the scratching motion, and this time the cat turned his head at an almost impossible angle to meet her gaze, staring into her eyes and then squinting intentionally, likely meant as some kind of display of trust. The cat’s ears shifted back telescopically, his focus shifting elsewhere. He un-contorted his impressively flexible body, then paced out into the long hallway, gazing up at the mercifully tall ceilings as an insect buzzed about, every muscle under the dense layer of fur tensed. Nive watched, entertained. No wonder the humans enjoyed these as pets.
“Then…well, what’d she do?” He asked, with a surprisingly reserved expression.
“I’m not sure where she has gained the knack, but she has developed quite a penchant for backtalk.”
At this the father’s briefly held composure shattered as he erupted in a barking laugh, one that seized his whole considerable mass and made it roll in a rather strange, undulating way that was almost lewd in how unrestrained it was. The man may have had a layer of round fat over his midsection, but there was no hiding the thick ropes of muscle, not even under the ratty old cloth he seemed to favor. He was so unmasculine and uncouth it again forced her to question the wisdom of elevating this family. How would they ever make this work?
So much for social climbing, she immediately struck the theory from her mind. Humans were confusing to interact with. So shocked was she, that a moment’s lapse in judgment had her answer frankly. “Yes, she expressed some vaguely pro-insurgency viewpoints, if you can believe that.”
At this the father’s laughter died on his lips, though he maintained a bit of a smile. “You don’t say?” He asked, aghast.
“I do say?” Lady Rakten tried to understand his meaning. Even the highest-end translation software she’d been afforded as a diplomatic representative of the Empress struggled with some idioms. “Rather, that is what I said. I doubt these are deeply-held convictions.”
“I see. Now, my son may have slipped over to visit your daughter in a jailbreak, or he could be out right now with his friends. You know, doesn’t he in some ways now remind me of his sister, Jacqueline. He has really come out of his shell. But she’s never-”
“-Friends?” Mrs. Rakten hadn’t heard Elias talk of any friends, and Nataliska had described him as terribly lonely, alone, almost vulnerable as a consequence. Those facts had sparked an initial wave of worry in the family matriarch, that her daughter might be predating on his vulnerability, one she’d only gotten over once he’d gotten in a fight, and Nataliska protected him. Then again, individual men were far more approachable than when they were in packs or with protective siblings, mothers, or family bodyguards. Perhaps he was dealing with social climbers of his own, pro-Shil’vati sympathizers riding on his coattails.
Almost disappointed in failing to change the topic, he seemed to mentally require some time for the momentum he’d built in trying to move the topic there, to where Nive wanted it to go. “From school,” Elias’s father said at last. “Or from around the neighborhood. You know, he grew up with a few kids around here. When he changed schools, though, he had a hard time. It’s good to see he’s reconnected with some of them.”
“Oh, that is good to hear.” Her nerves settled down, and a hopeful vision of a whole pack of virile young men espousing the lines she had planned played in her mind’s eye. There might well be an underground pro-Shil’vati faction that Elias was clued into. One that hopefully hadn’t just perished in the bombings near the political leaderships’ houses. “You…are aware that there is some danger in the streets these days, yes? That the borders might be sealed in response to this? And your son is out there, alone?”
“I’m sure he’s fine,” the boy’s father said, relaxed, as his mother returned with tea, a fragile smile on her face as she set the tray down on the table that was only up to Nive’s shin, handing the matriarch a tiny porcelain cup of the hot leaf water, mercifully made with plenty of milk and honey. The dark brown liquid stood in stark contrast to the glazed blue and white surface it was served in. At least it tasted sweet.
“Elias?” The boy’s mother asked, and at last Nive felt she was getting a non-delusional opinion. “He’s out. He should check back in though, I’m getting worried.”
What to say? Responsible parents wouldn’t have let their child wander out into such precarious straits. Elias had come over without even consulting his parents- into a house of only women in preparation for his award. Were they utterly neglectful? Completely ignorant? How? In the wake of the kidnappings, the violent revolution in the streets in the city… Nive knew the violence wasn’t confined to the urban areas, too. Even if Nataliska hadn’t mouthed off, and if her daughter were local, she’d have only let her out under very special circumstances. Nive had taken considerable risk even flying here, and was being advised to prepare to make a break for orbit. Yet the family before her was acting completely calm. Even on Shil’, not knowing where one’s unescorted son was might’ve been cause for panic. What were they doing?
Nive forced her face to remain neutral. “Yes, well, I’m afraid we have a somewhat urgent need of him. The intention today was to prepare something of a public service announcement. The situation is becoming rather dire, there may even be an order to evacuate.” She owed them at least that much truth.
Elias’s mother almost dropped her cup, a look of dawning horror on her face. “Evacuate?” She asked. “Where?”
“And how?” The father followed up, giving a shrug of his broad shoulders, remaining far more composed. Nive conceded he had a point. Perhaps his insistence on allowing him over the border hadn’t been for work, but for his family’s safety, and Nive felt foolish for not understanding the masculine urge to protect one’s family. Perhaps humans weren’t so different, and she’d misjudged them. At this Nive shook her head. She owed them honesty, after that disservice.
“I’m afraid I’m unable to provide any promises. I’ve brought a script for him to recite and practice, and an outfit to try out. I was hoping to collect him and bring him to where we’ve been preparing a speech. I’d remain, but my bodyguard does have an appointment.” The last part was a lie- it was more that Nive didn’t trust leaving Nataliska home alone. She’d been locked out of the electronics, but children were ever so clever, and determined. Perhaps more interaction with men hadn’t been the complete net-positive for Nataliska that she and Brynmor had hoped for.
Lady Rakten stood, aware of how she towered over everyone in the house, but at least grateful that it was built to some old, different standard. Not for the first time, she entertained the idea that humanity had entertained previous visitors before, and thrown them off just as readily as it seemed they were gearing up to try against the Shil’vati.
“When he gets back,” his mother said, voice shaking. “We’ll let you know, right away. Can we have your contact details? Or can you put out a public announcement that if he’s seen, he’s to come home?”
“It might be best if you reached out to Lieutenant Colonel Amilita- or a liaison officer, as handling has likely been delegated to someone of Lieutenant-rank or an enlisted.” The noble matriarch stood. “I’m afraid if he’s not here, I do have some rather urgent business to attend to. Please make sure he receives these and practices his lines. We all have our part to play in returning peace to the state.” She wasn’t his mother, after all.
As she made her way down the mossy brick front walk, hemmed in by ferns and colorful bushes sustained through the drought by irrigation, she gave Morsh a wave and wondered to herself:
How did a race so careless of its offspring survive its stone age?
Desperation Natalie paced the front door hurriedly. The lockpicking videos she half-remembered was useless against the house’s front door. Nor did slotting a ‘credit card’ she’d picked up for a half-credit work the way she’d once seen in an old detective TV show. Even the coat hanger didn’t ‘slip the lock’. Their latches didn’t even work that way, but she’d still tried mastering it in desperation.
There was the spare car, of course, but the door to the garage had been locked down, too. “Nataliska Rakten,” she spoke her name again, and then was promptly denied access. She wanted to pound the screen. Would cutting the house’s power release the locks? Surely, it was a safety measure. But would she be electrocuted? How could she get to it?
The door swung open, and Nive opened the door, looking ashen-faced.
“Mom? What is it? Is Elias okay?”
Her mother put a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “We have to leave. Pack your things into the car- once you’re inside, we’ll be leaving for orbit.”
Brutus Amilita double-checked that her privacy screens were set for maximum. She’d had the sparsely decorated office combed for bugs twice, keeping clear sight lines to where any lurking surveillance equipment might be. Yet even with the lights dimmed still she felt like a specimen, under some unseen eye’s careful study. The Lieutenant Colonel refused the urge to glance around the room once more, and instead forced herself to press the button that would call Borzun on the private line. The Data Officer answered after a several rings, goggles slid over her face, and gave a very informal, tired-sounding: “Hey.”
“How are you, Borzun?” Amilita asked concernedly.
The Data Officer let out a frustrated groan. “I’ve been getting run ragged trying to coordinate everything across other teams. We’ve been asked to have the ISPs cut network traffic to the state.”
“ISPs?” The acronym eluded Amilita’s memory.
“The humans’ own datanet that works with the computers they built,” Borzun dutifully reminded her friend. “I’m sure some people have found workarounds for methods of communication, but it’s concerning we’re even being asked to do that. Azraea’s certainly up to something I’d call ‘nefarious.’”
“I’m just trying to sort out if this is leading to what we’ve been afraid of, or if we’re seeing shadows shift and conjuring a monster into our imaginations. If it’s the former, then we need to do something.”
“I’m still sorting that out. I agree that these are what we’d consider warning klaxons, but…” she paged through content only she could see. “Honestly, there’s suddenly this flurry of data and tasks, and the reality of what’s happening is buried in there, somewhere. But whatever’s going to happen, it’s going to happen when we’re also being asked to carry out even more than our usual duties, giving me little time to really piece it all together.”
“Then I won’t bother you with any additional requests,” Amilita muttered, paging through her personal message inbox, hoping for something from her husband or son. Something, anything to take away from the day’s stress. Instead, she found a message from Mrs. Rakten. Work never stops. A request to see if Elias had been remanded into protective custody ‘yet.’ A polite, if firm instruction to do just that, in other words. Presumably for the whole Sampson family. She glanced back up to see Borzun smiling ruefully.
“No, wait. Let me guess: ‘Except for this one’.” The Data Officer raised her goggles; The tired rings under the svelte woman’s eyes looked pitiable. “I’ve heard that line before from a certain now-Captain who doesn’t make good on her word, either. Don’t end up like her.”
“I wouldn’t if it wasn’t in the course of assisting a noblewoman in her own duties.”
Admonished, Borzun rocked back a bit. “I suppose that’s fine then. Sorry that I thought that of you. She’s just been so short with me, and that was before her big promotion. You’re one of the first people to really be nice to me. What is the request?”
“I don’t suppose we have somewhere we can temporarily sequester a certain award winner?” Amilita asked, skipping past the ‘nice’ part. The thought felt uncomfortable that Borzun’s words might even be true. She read the report with a growing sense of alarm. Surely, he’d just stepped out; When she’d first visited, Elias’s absence had almost sent her heart rate soaring until he’d unexpectedly popped up right behind her. Then again, that was long ago, back when the state had been a green zone.
“Not a chance,” Borzun answered. “Not unless you feel like sending him across the country,” she chortled.
Amilita’s frown deepened as she assessed the situation. Lady Raken never worried unnecessarily. “…Even if we could arrange the relevant passes, send him to some sort of speaking tour until this passes over, there’s the question of where we’d get good, trustworthy guards. One that’s in my chain of command, who can’t just get reassigned and leave him at the mercy of whatever governess or general is in the area…”
“Jesus Christ,” Borzun muttered the local expression.
“What’s wrong?” Amilita took in the woman’s face. “I take it we can’t work some magic and pry loose a Lieutenant?”
“Looks like you'll be hard pressed to find someone.” Borzun’s arm wafted the air and almost sent the waifish girl tumbling backwards in the low gravity of her office. “Check out the deployment schedule. Someone’s pulled some kind of administrative trickery to skip so many required fields for reserving this many resources. No, seriously. Look.”
Amilita’s Omni-pad switched to display the same chart that Borzun had been looking at, and the officer’s jaw dropped. Every holding cell in the state was marked ‘Reserved, At Capacity.’ Everyone in her entire Chain of Command was being scheduled to be ‘mobilized for action.’ Even the Interior, Security Forces, Militia, and trainees were facing requisition into frontline service. All leave was canceled.
Then she saw the ‘remote deployment’ option listed for material and troops she was sure the garrison didn’t have here, including Naval women-at-arms and anti-boarding teams. “Borzun, I’m seeing a picture getting painted here, and I’m not liking it at all. Today already had a very grim tone to our meeting, and this is not helping.”
“I don’t like what I’m seeing, either. Look at the holding facilities in particular. They’re overflowing, but look at what with.”
Amilita began combing through the report. “We’ve been rounding up suspects. Probably the first ones who got grabbed are the ones we’re sure are dangerous, and they’re being held in-state. At this rate we’ll be running out of spots soon. And what’s with all the mobilization? Are we grabbing even more?”
The marine let out an annoyed grunt of irritation. The Marines had to beg to be lent almost any resources, but it seemed this level of requisitioning ability was reserved for fleet officers.
Borzun jerked her head away from the camera to gaze at the same screen Amilita was looking at on her omni-pad, digging to bring up the report with her gloved hands, and then gaping. “Get this- there’s more prison spaces reserved for ‘General Azraea’ but the permission is stamped with her Admiral’s credentials. A lot of them aren’t even in-state.”
“Wait, this…is any of this legal?”
“I’m obligated to report this, you know, to the new Acting Fleet Admiral. This kind of behavior breaks several kinds of protocol. Do you want your name attached?”
Amilita bit her lip. “Give me a second, first. I bet she had to call in favors to store people elsewhere once the prisons here overflow.”
“It’s definitely not something you’re supposed to do on a grand scale, not without consulting the regional governess.”
“I’m not seeing anything in here- no agreements, nothing sealed,” the Data Officer muttered.
“It might be under the table. I arranged a lot of calls and meetings for her earlier-” Amilita’s fist shook. “The insurgents might spread their ideology through the prisons; I doubt the governesses are thrilled to be holding them for her. What are they getting back for their cooperation? I doubt it’s out of the goodness of their hearts.”
“Look at this- and she already brought reinforcements with her when she landed. This is an overwhelming infantry force. I haven’t even heard a whisper about this, but she’s planned it, if you look at the data,” Borzun muttered.
“She went right over my fucking head, cut me out of the loop on this completely. Why?”
“They’re being mobilized tonight, and you’re the last to be informed, so, she probably knows about us. What’ll it be, then? Do we submit the report?”
“She knows that we’d have raised a flag at least. All we can do by submitting a complaint now to the Fleet Admiral is stop her from calling in more favors, if this starts to go badly for her.”
“So, it’s pointless? Do you want me to submit a report, or not?”
Amilita bit her lip. Did she risk herself and fellow conspirators by going to the Fleet Admiral? Azraea and Ra’los didn’t see eye-to-eye, Amilita knew that much. “Do it. Get our names off this madness- she’s skipped notifying us. If this works, we get no credit, and if it doesn’t and we didn’t report it, then we’ll be drummed out of our jobs.” She tapped her chin. “We’ll still do our parts as requested, as if we knew nothing of what else she might be planning, but we have to get some more eyes on this so the Fleet Admiral and Captains aren’t cowed if she tries to force something rash through that she shouldn’t.”
“What if her operation fails because they start throwing red tape up at her, because they’re nervous of being associated too closely after we reported it? We’ll be responsible, Lieutenant Colonel.”
“I have a feeling if this plan starts going sideways, she’s going to try pulling the kinds of strings that will mar the Empire just to avoid losing. She’s becoming convinced it’s a worthy trade.”
Borzun was silent as she pressed a few buttons, gathering up the relevant data and contextualizing it for the recipient.
“I’ve got to go meet with her, to get some answers. It’s suspicious if I don’t respond.”
Then an alert went up on Borzun’s end, and she almost let out a whine of pain.
“What?” Amilita felt nervous, and her hand touched the unfamiliar replacement laser pistol at her thigh. Had something gone wrong with the report?
“We’ve got reports of rebel activity,” she announced. “All kinds of flags are going off.”
“What? How many?” She asked. “Where?”
Sour Grapes “How’s the new rank treating you?” Senior Sergeant T'New asked.
“How’s yours?” Goshen asked back, offering the cigarette pack. Gratefully, the gruff sergeant plucked one free. The tall officer leaned to light it with a special setting on her officer’s laspistol, grinning face casting long lines of shadows from the orange glow as the embers took.
“Checked for new orders before jumping off rotation?”
“Nah,” Goshen responded. “Honestly, it’s dull. An inspection there, signing off on bullshit. Being promoted…I don’t know, I wanted it for so long, and it’s like, there’s so many people promoted now, that it feels like there’s not enough for us to actually do real soldiering. Meanwhile, the state’s descending into the depths. I feel like I should be doing moreimpactful stuff, not less. Instead, I’m just ticking off a billion little bits and pieces. Being so buried by formality paperwork, I thought I’d died and joined the Alliance. Wasn’t the point of the Data Teams to sort this shit out for us?”
“I worked under the now-Major Tacs, who got bumped up after Amilita made Lieutenant Colonel. Pretty much the woman you replaced, as she got promoted. As for Commander Mi’kula…she’s been relieved for medical evaluation.”
“Oh. Wasn’t she…?”
“The one who got assigned to guard that data center, and then got kinda buried by rubble? You bet. More openings.” She let out a wistful note. “But, whatever her failings, she was a good woman. Big bra to stuff ‘til you grow into it. I’m sure Tacs will have it under control. And if she doesn’t, maybe it’ll be your turn to try.”
The thought threw Goshen off and her smirk vanished. “So soon?”
The sergeant nodded grimly. “Might be. Two other captains are senior to you, but you’ve had actual field experience. That counts for something under Azraea. Besides, if they don’t make the cut, you’ll be up.”
“I wanted more mobility in the ranks and promotions, but seeing now the cost it takes to make that happen…”
“It’s always that way. The ones clinging on don’t let go unless the position gets worse. There’s an old saying- everyone wants to be a general in peacetime.”
Captain Goshen swallowed dryly. What if she didn’t make the cut? The suddenly nervous, newly promoted officer checked her newly-supplied commander’s wrist mounted Omni-pad for a quick run-down, only for her eyes to bug out of her head. “There weren’t even a quarter of this many orders when I last checked,” she complained, pointing at it in an accusatory way, as if it had conspired with T'New against her. “Did you know about this? You asked!”
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,” T'New responded gruffly. Then, upon studying Goshen’s outstretched arm, she whistled admiringly at the lengthy list of deployments, debriefings, and special instructions. “Either someone realized you got promoted and figures you’re due for something to do and you got your wish, or you’re being as buried as Amilita typically is. My guess? Command’s up to something.”
“‘Up to something’,” Goshen snorted. “Goddess, I heard there was a big mess kicked off by the lower ranks. This must be their way of giving them something to do so they don’t get any bright ideas.” But the idea died in her head as she started scrolling. She didn’t recognize the names in these pods. There was new equipment, too. Some of it marked ‘Special Assignment.’
The sergeant tapped her cigarette ash into the empty beer can, staring at the dim sunset. “Yeah, didn’t go well, at all. Lots of dead. All human. Lots of young men. A waste.”
“A pity I wasn’t there. I’d have…”
“I’m sure you would’ve been a brave hero,” the Sergeant remarked with just light enough sarcasm that Galatea Goshen couldn’t either take offense or retaliate. An art doubtless perfected through years of practice.
“I just am saying, you know? I wish… I wish things weren’t like this, here. That we weren’t losing people, weren’t losing humans. Or losing to humans.”
“We all wish for that,” T'New was a poor recipient of gifts, it seemed. Or had decided that it had meant they were friends, and that she could be blunt with her new Pod Officer.
“I just don’t get why it’s like this. I ask myself every day: ‘How did we let the situation end up like this?’ And ‘How do they think they’re going to get anything done this way?’ Why are they bothering? Do they think it’ll make anything better? And then I look around…and I see the devastation. Impossible levels of destruction. It seems equally impossible they’ll achieve anything positive of note. Then I shudder, to think that something positive might actually come their way from all this death and bloodshed, after all. It was no less unthinkable a year ago that they’d even grow their revolution into this.”
T'New took a long, final drag of the cigarette before dropping it in the can and giving the container a shake to extinguish the tip with the dregs, exhaling smoke through her nose. Goshen watched it dissipate like mist on one of those horrible frosty days they were hurtling toward. “On Earth, the birds fly high, because the bees have deadly stingers. Once all this is over, no matter which way things go, the humans are in for a serious disillusionment.”
“Yeah, I hear you. There’s no hope for this situation. No matter what, this is going to end up ugly.” Goshen was aware of how she came across, and she was past caring. “It’s a predicament they have no one to blame for but themselves.”
“Oh, no, that’s not quite what I mean.” The sergeant seemed to finally have cracked open some of her inner thoughts, and Goshen remembered the best advice she’d ever gotten: listen to your NonComs. So she waited obediently, despite the gap in their relative ranks. “They think they’ll all get rich, and that they’ll be happy if they can buy ever more crap. Skiffs, spaceships, and all the other crap they aren’t allowed to have yet. Oh, and of course jobs building all this shit, too. One said they wanted a whole orbital shipworks. The last one I kind of get the ‘why’ of, because at least it’s jobs, but…there’s not really an educated workforce ready here, and those sorts of things don’t just get built out of nothing or nowhere. Lots of dreams and enthusiasm, but not a lot of planning going on to get them from where they are, to where they think they’ll end up. They keep insisting it’ll happen.”
Captain Goshen snapped her fingers, bobbing in excited agreement. She remembered an old conversation she’d had about how they’d sell their own sons to get ahead, and was pleased to find someone of a like mind. “There’s so much turoxshit floating around on the DataNet about how they’re culturally wiser than us, that they’re ‘so connected to nature’ just because they carve most of their stuff out of dirt or plants. Then you visit a bar, and you realize they’re just as shallow as us, if not worse.”
“It’s totally unrealistic of them to expect all that, isn’t it? Everyone getting a skiff? Even most people on a planet getting so much as a gravcar would be nuts, let alone something truly vacuum or phase-capable.”
Goshen jumped on with T’New’s train of thought. “It reminds me of how every girl back home thinks she’s going to get a human boyfriend. Not enough to go around, no matter how much stamina...at a certain point, it's not mathematically feasible.”
“They all seem to think they’re going to just somehow invent something new or bring their hobby to the stars, and strike it rich off that, even though they don’t even know how to bring something to market. Handcrafted goods isn’t going to plug the hole in a shil'vati's life any more than a boyfriend would.”
The officer’s lamenting turned gloomy. “You know, I said I was facing Alliance levels of bureaucracy. But maybe the Coalition’s mindset has been creeping into us, infecting our minds to the point where we don’t even see it in the humans. We shouldn’t be glamorizing their ignorance. It’s cute, to a point, but once that wears off, what are you left with? A bunch of violent, uneducated buffoons who’ll react badly when they don’t get what they want, no matter how unreasonable.”
T’New softened slightly. “You’re probably right.” She stretched, then at last something that had been at the back of her mind at last pushed its way past the sergeant’s thick dark lips. “Everything quiets down, the fleet leaves, they stop getting frantic developments put down for them by our administrative government composed out of hundreds of noblewomen, all eager, no, desperate to get their zones green in a big damn hurry so they can sell tickets to Earth. We’ve been responding like a mother with a spoiled brat, whenever it cries, we immediately hand it whatever they want. We’ll never appease the populace by giving them things.”
Goshen recited off the top of her head the tally she could remember. “New hospital technology, a shiny new datanet link that should become permanent and we’ll start integrating the humans into at some point in the next few years. New schools with curriculum. Infrastructure. Housing. Climate repairs. Economic assistance. Teachers. A police and peacekeeping force. The best administrators- depths, the most noblewomen in any system I’ve ever seen, bar those nearest Shil. Free omnipads- I mean, yeah, they’re ancient, but still.”
At this, T’New grit her teeth, tusks bared in frustration. “Did you know, they haven’t replaced the hospital in my sector, or updated the agriculture boosters, in over a century? The terraforming didn’t go perfectly, either, and what was supposed to happen in the atmosphere to make generous harvests, didn’t. We’ve got people scrounging to get enough and make productivity targets, let alone hitting projected growth figures for the sector. I barely made it through basic, and the system governess keeps swearing she’ll ‘get around to it.’ We kept hoping that if we made more, then we’d be deemed important enough to warrant basic necessities, more investment. I pushed myself so hard through basic and to claw up to this rank, because I don’t want to wash out and go home. There’s nothing much to go home to.”
“I bet that she’s skimming.” Goshen growled with her. “Where’s the damned Interior when you actually need them?”
“Hey, I am sure she doesn’t like breathing the same shitty air when she steps outside, or being known for governing some poor backwater.”
Goshen was about to try and bring the topic back to safer waters, when she saw a dropship touch down and begin disembarking Marines, who stood at the ready, rifles cradled, as an atmospheric and pressurized loader set down nearby.
“What in the…?” She asked, watching as prisoners- human men and women, stepped out into the cool night air, led cuffed and blindfolded to the transport.
“…sea of souls?” The sergeant finished for her- and at first the lanky officer assumed she was talking about the same thing, but when she glanced over, she realized the officer was staring skyward, eyes squinting against the dim sky. Goshen raised her wrist, and stared at the little display screen as it passed over the vessels.
Ships descended to the planet’s surface, a medley of IFFs, ranging from Noble Families’ Militias through to Naval and Marine vessels. Even as she spun, it began picking up watergoing vessels that had come close to the former Air Force base along the river, their bridges peeking up against the fading dim, orange and red horizon.
“You know, it seems that the lower ranks aren’t the only ones about to take initiative…”
submitted by AlienNationSSB
to HFY [link] [comments]
2023.05.07 19:59 vintagedave [Question] Resurrecting a bricked iPad 3
Hi everyone. This isn’t quite a legacy jailbreak question yet because I haven’t got to the jailbreak part, but this seems the best community on Reddit to ask.
I dug out my old iPad 3. While restoring it, I switched user accounts on my laptop to do some work — and I didn’t realize that would disconnect the USB, I thought it would just continue in the background. It’s effectively as though I pulled out the plug while restoring. Oops. Now when I power it on, it displays a Connect to iTunes message, and when I plug it in, Finder opens, displays it’s an iPad, but displays only “Software: Loading”, and never seems to load any further.
How can I reset the firmware, or re-restore it with iOS, or… something… to unbrick it?
(This situation isn’t covered by any of the error links in the sub’s wiki. And googling doesn’t show anything: a Time Machine to google in 2013 would be good!)
I tried putting it in DFU mode, following these instructions
. Holding the power and home buttons as instructed turns the device off. Letting it start up holding both turns it off again very quickly. Letting it start up holding the home button has no effect.
Thankyou very much for all suggestions! My plan is to put this on iOS 5 or 6, once it’s running again.
submitted by vintagedave
to LegacyJailbreak [link] [comments]
2023.05.03 20:03 kanjotribe [question] Attempting to downgrade to iOS 6.1.3 on iPhone 4 - currently unsuccessful, help needed.
So I am attempting to downgrade my iPhone 4 using iOS OTA Downgrader, but my issue is - i DON'T know how to put my iPhone in pwnDFU mode using linux, so I put it in pwnDFU using a Windows XP VM and redsn0w, then disconnected it from the VM and tried using the downgrader straight from windows 10 on my host. Using a Windows 7 VM is slow and basically impossible. So my question here is, am i doing something wrong or should i just go and get some hardware that will natively run windows 7, as it's the sweet spot for redsn0w and Msys2 (required for iOS-OTA-Downgrader). If anyone knows how to put my iPhone in pwnDFU using linux, that would also be helpful. Thanks in advance.
Log from iOS-OTA-Downgrader:
******* iOS-OTA-Downgrader *******
- Downgrader script by LukeZGD -
[WARNING] Using iOS-OTA-Downgrader on Windows is not recommended.
[Log] iTunes version: 18.104.22.168
[Log] Running on platform: windows (MSYS_NT-10.0-19045)
[Log] Checking Internet connection...
* Version: 2023-03-19-34d2e06
[Log] Checking for updates...
[WARNING] Failed to check for updates. GitHub may be down or blocked by your network.
[Log] Getting device info...
* Device: iPhone3,1 (n90ap) in DFU mode
* iOS Version: Unknown
* ECID: 389--------24
*** Main Menu ***
[Input] Select an option:
1) Downgrade Device 5) Disable/Enable Exploit 9) (Re-)Install Dependencies
2) Restore to Latest iOS 6) SSH Ramdisk 10) (Any other key to exit)
3) Send Pwned iBSS 7) Save Cydia Blobs
4) Save Onboard Blobs 8) Create Custom IPSW
[Input] Select iOS version:
1) 6.1.3 4) 4.3.5 7) (Any other key to exit)
2) 5.1.1 (9B208) 5) More versions
3) 5.1.1 (9B206) 6) Other (use SHSH blobs)
[Input] Jailbreak Option
* When this option is enabled, your device will be jailbroken on restore.
* I recommend to enable this for iOS 6.1.3, since it is hard to get p0sixspwn to work.
* This option is enabled by default (Y).
[Input] Enable this option? (Y/n): n
[Log] Jailbreak option disabled by user.
[Input] Verbose Boot Option
* When enabled, the device will have verbose boot on restore.
* This option is enabled by default (Y).
[Input] Enable this option? (Y/n): y
[Log] Verbose boot option enabled.
[Log] Found existing Custom IPSW. Skipping 6.1.3 IPSW verification.
[Log] Found existing Custom IPSW. Skipping IPSW creation.
[Log] Found existing saved 7.1.2 blobs: ../saved/shsh/3899--------24_iPhone3,1_n90ap_7.1.2-11D257_3a88b7c3802f2f0510abc432104a15ebd8bd7154.shsh2
* Note that kDFU mode will NOT work for iPhone4Down downgrades!
* Make sure that your device is in PWNED DFU or kDFU mode.
* For 32-bit devices, pwned iBSS/kDFU must be already booted.
* For A7 devices, signature checks must be already disabled.
[Input] Press EnteReturn to continue (or press Ctrl+C to cancel)
[Log] Manifest: ../saved/iPhone3,1/11D257.plist
[Log] Baseband: ../saved/baseband/ICE3_04.12.09_BOOT_02.13.Release.bbfw
[Log] Extracting IPSW: ../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV.ipsw
inflating: ../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV/Downgrade/[email protected]
inflating: ../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV/Firmware/all_flash/all_flash.n90ap.production/[email protected]
inflating: ../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV/Firmware/all_flash/all_flash.n90ap.production/[email protected]
inflating: ../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV/Firmware/all_flash/all_flash.n90ap.production/[email protected]
inflating: ../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV/Firmware/all_flash/all_flash.n90ap.production/[email protected]
inflating: ../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV/Firmware/all_flash/all_flash.n90ap.production/[email protected]
inflating: ../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV/Firmware/all_flash/all_flash.n90ap.production/[email protected]
inflating: ../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV/Firmware/all_flash/all_flash.n90ap.production/[email protected]
inflating: ../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV/Firmware/all_flash/all_flash.n90ap.production/[email protected]
inflating: ../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV/Firmware/all_flash/all_flash.n90ap.production/[email protected]
inflating: ../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV/Firmware/all_flash/all_flash.n90ap.production/[email protected]
inflating: ../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV/Firmware/all_flash/all_flash.n90ap.production/[email protected]
[Log] Running idevicerestore with command: ../bin/windows/idevicerestore -e -w "../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV.ipsw"
NOTE: Updated version data.
Found device in DFU mode
Identified device as n90ap, iPhone3,1
Extracting BuildManifest from IPSW
Product Version: 6.1.3
Product Build: 10B329 Major: 10
Device supports Image4: false
Variant: Customer Erase Install (IPSW)
This restore will erase your device data.
Found ECID 3899--------24
Getting ApNonce in dfu mode...
checking for local shsh
Using cached SHSH
Using cached filesystem from '../iPhone3,1_6.1.3_10B329_CustomV/048-2748-005.dmg'
Personalizing IMG3 component iBSS...
reconstructed size: 67853
Sending iBSS (67853 bytes)...
checking for local shsh
Using cached SHSH
Personalizing IMG3 component iBEC...
reconstructed size: 280845
Sending iBEC (280845 bytes)...
ERROR: Unable to send iBEC component: Unable to upload data to device
ERROR: Unable to send iBEC to device
ERROR: Unable to place device into recovery mode from DFU mode
[Log] Restoring done! Read the message below if any error has occurred:
* Windows users may encounter errors like "Unable to send APTicket" or "Unable to send iBEC" in the restore process.
* Follow the troubleshoting link for steps to attempt fixing this issue.
* Troubleshooting link: https://github.com/LukeZGD/iOS-OTA-Downgradewiki/Troubleshooting#windows
* Please read the "Troubleshooting" wiki page in GitHub before opening any issue!
* Your problem may have already been addressed within the wiki page.
* If opening an issue in GitHub, please provide a FULL log/output. Otherwise, your issue may be dismissed.
[Input] Press EnteReturn to exit.
submitted by kanjotribe
to LegacyJailbreak [link] [comments]
2023.04.28 22:01 Jswjsisixj [Question] Why hasn't anyone attempted to make a modern browser for older versions?
The whole deal here is that with every single browser on iOS using webkit, once Apple drops support for the newest version of webkit, you're fucked. It's not like Android or actual computers where you can use any browser engine. Like how Firefox supported OS X 10.9 up to 2019, while Safari dropped support years prior.
Safari is just going to gradually get worse on iOS 6 and below, as it has been. Hell, even on iOS 7 through iOS 10 safari isn't the greatest. It either can't render properly or won't render at all. And a big thing we all use is Youtube. Eventually, the Youtube webpage will just stop rendering right on these versions of Safari. So either we hacksaw the Youtube apps together, or someone should find a way to port the Gecko engine to older versions of iOS with a jailbreak...right? I mean, I haven't seen anyone do this and I don't understand why. I'm not a dev, but please enlighten me. I feel like this should be possible. It's not like Apple just made it impossible all these years. It's possible, but obviously Webkit has worked, and the payoff isn't worth it. (Plus time and effort, redistribution, etc) Well now with older devices being crippled by Safari, it IS worth it. So why hasn't anyone done it?
Edit: Did more research. A long time ago, some dudes at Mozilla actually DID get a build of the Gecko engine working on iOS but never released it as it didn't make sense even outside of the App Store. Also, some dude actually was working on an unofficial Gecko port to iOS back in 2015 here
(Maybe it's the same guy?) Anyway, this is obviously possible. We just need someone to get on it.
submitted by Jswjsisixj
to LegacyJailbreak [link] [comments]
2023.04.25 19:59 koinu-chan_love CFW noob looking to emulate - how do i change from dLDI7 to DLDI9?
I had some major nostalgia hit the other day and decided to jailbreak a DSi and a 3DS to emulate some games from my childhood. I followed a guide and have TWiLightMenu++ and GBARunner2 installed, and most things are working great!
A couple of the games I want have known issues with recommended fixes and I have not done any kind of programming or anything in about 18 years so I’m struggling to understand the instructions for the fixes. I promise I’m not hopeless, just new to this! One of the games, Hamtaro’s Ham-Ham Heartbreak, has the following information listed on the GBARunner2 compatibility wiki: Stuck at the Name entry screen. This is a regression. Use commit unspecified (2019/06/03) (sd save branch) arm9 version instead.
I figured out where to change the wram i-cache settings, which helped with some graphics glitches in other games. Is there a similar way I can make this game playable? Or is it just not functional and I should give up?
I’m also having trouble with Final Fantasy I & II Dawn of Souls. Pressing up moves your sprite down, pressing down moves you down more quickly, and some graphic issues scramble big parts of the screen. Maybe I need to find a different place to download files from?
Thanks so much in advance for any help! If there’s nothing I can do, that’s fine and I just won’t try to use the games that don’t work!
submitted by koinu-chan_love
to nds [link] [comments]
2023.04.09 03:12 voorloper978 [help](/r/jailbreak/wiki/help)iPhone12 mini iOS14.1 unc0ver8.0.2 installed using altstore"an error occurred while extracting resources"
"an error occurred while extracting resources" pops, and this is what the log has been looking like. Now I can neither restore rootFS nor jailbreak again. (other occurred errors: disabling codesigning/ preparing filesystem/finding offsets)I've been trying all those switches in the unc0ver setting and forced restarted like 50 times. Now considering backup and reset it...
submitted by voorloper978
to jailbreak [link] [comments]
2023.04.09 02:54 GeneralRocha [help](/r/jailbreak/wiki/approvedtags)Help me installing apps on my jailbroken iPad mini 2
I recently jailbroken my boyfriend's ipad mini 2 and now I don't know how to install the apps even though I already have Cydia downloaded
submitted by GeneralRocha
to jailbreak [link] [comments]
2023.04.08 07:19 UnhappyBusiness bgtools (Self Hosting) [instead of trying to find a link to ps3xploit, this does the exact same "thing"]
Download from the github: https://github.com/KingDoogan/bgtools
- Download & Install Xampp to C:/xampp
- Delete all files in C:/xampp/htdocs folder before placing the new ones.
- Create a new folder in C:/xampp/htdocs called: "bgtoolset" (no quotes)
- Extract all the files from bgtoolset-main.zip to C:/xampp/htdocs/bgtoolset (with winrar or winzip)
- Run XAMPP Control Panel.
- Apache > Actions > Click on Start button.
- Open web browser > type in 127.0.0.1/bgtoolset to see if bgtools show up.
- Open command prompt on windows, type in > ipconfig
- Write down IPv4 address. Should be something like 192.168.1.2 (don't use 192.168.1.1)
- Go to your (Insert Console Name Here), open web browser. Put in the IPv4 address: http://192.168.1.2/bgtoolset
- Back to the tutorial
Why do i have to use Xampp?: Xampp has the best universal PHP
support & is simple to use & has less issues then Windows IIS. (bgtools uses PHP 7) IIS doesn't have native PHP support.
Any risks?: The only risk is at your own disclosure. If you try to jailbreak a ps3 superslim, then you'll have some major issues. Other then that, you shouldn't have any issues unless you make a mistake.
Viruses: No this is not a virus. You can read the code yourself & scan once downloaded with anti-virus.
This is a permanent solution to the main problem > ps3xploit will forever get taken down since its creators & websites are slowly being wiped from history. The creators are not happy, ps3homebrew
is full of cucks for HEN. Sadly, they keep trying their best to stop CFW (custom firmware) from being able to run on the console... Even tho CFW offers so much more! from being able to deploy your own Unity games to running any PS2 game with full native support (instead of hens crappy way of doing it)
submitted by UnhappyBusiness
to CrashTheInternet [link] [comments]
2023.04.07 08:19 trackimein How to Perform Your iPhone IMEI Check and Serial Number: A Complete Guide
| || | submitted by trackimein to u/trackimein [link] [comments]
If you’re an iPhone owner, you may want to know your device’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number and serial number. These unique numbers can help you track your phone if it’s lost or stolen, check its warranty status, and determine if it’s blacklisted. In this article, we’ll discuss how to do iphone imei check
and serial number, as well as provide some tips on how to protect your device.
What is an IMEI and Serial Number?
The IMEI is a 15-digit number that’s assigned to every mobile phone, including iPhones. It’s used to identify your device on the network, and it can be used to unlock your phone, check its warranty status, and determine if it’s blacklisted. The serial number, on the other hand, is a unique 11- or 12-digit number that’s used to identify your iPhone. It’s used by Apple to track your device’s warranty and repair history.
How to Check Your iPhone’s IMEI and Serial Number
There are several ways for iphone serial number check
. Here are a few:
Dial *#06#: The easiest way to check your iPhone’s IMEI is by dialling *#06# on your phone. This will display the 15-digit number on your screen. To find your serial number, go to Settings > General > About and scroll down to where it says “Serial Number.”
Settings app: You can also find your iPhone’s IMEI and serial number
in the Settings app. Go to General > About and scroll down to where it says “IMEI” and “Serial Number.”
iTunes: If you have iTunes installed on your computer, you can connect your iPhone to it and go to the Summary tab. Your iPhone’s IMEI and serial number will be listed there.
Apple ID account page: If you sign in to your Apple ID account page, you’ll be able to see a list of all the devices associated with your account. Click on the iPhone you want to check and you’ll see its IMEI and serial number listed(check imei iphone
How to Check Your iPhone’s IMEI for Free Online
Enable Find My iPhone: This feature allows you to track your iPhone if it’s lost or stolen.
Use a passcode: A passcode can help prevent unauthorised access to your device.
Keep your software up to date: Updating your iPhone’s software can help protect it from security vulnerabilities(iphone imei check free online
Don’t jailbreak your iPhone: Jailbreaking your iPhone can make it more vulnerable to security threats.
In conclusion, knowing your iPhone’s IMEI and serial number can be helpful in a number of ways. Whether you need to track your phone, check its warranty status, or determine if it’s blacklisted, there are several ways to find this information. By taking steps to protect your iPhone, you can help ensure that it stays safe and secure.
2023.04.06 19:14 Few-True-Coyote All Humans Are Dead- pt. 30: Salvaging
first prev All Chapters
Retri hated being pampered, especially by hypocrites. The shinies and court functionaries treated her with the utmost respect. They bowed and scraped and tried to make her as comfortable as they could.
Her quarters reflected that. Everything was too frilly and plush. Fabrics so soft they looped right back to being uncomfortable to sleep on. She was "Chosen" whatever that meant, and the "Chosen" were to have polished stone floors and metal wardrobes. Only the best that the Queen could provide would do, her court would meet Retri's every need.
It was all fake, of course. The respect. They didn't care one way or the other who she was or what she wanted, but the Queen had ordered that she be cared for. The Queen's will was law, disobedience meant execution. Rule by fear was their daily life.
They were also ordered to keep her in her quarters. She was supposedly still "recovering". Any activity that would dare approach
exertion of any kind was to be removed from possibility. That included moving too much.
She had been abducted and imprisoned. More powerless than she had ever been in her entire life. There were shinies posted right outside her door that would drag her back if she attempted to leave. She had tried.
There was a conversation outside her door. Higgs. She recognized his voice by now. It always meant bad news. John told her stories of Higgs, back when he had been more stable. Even those were concerning.
Higgs walked in, "Good morning, Retri,"
It wasn't morning. The Shadelands didn't have a night-day cycle this far underneath the canopy. The Queen had placed lights throughout the palace and had them dimmed or brightened to suit Higgs' preferences, but that didn't make it morning.
She glared at him.
"Ha! The feeling is mutual. Have you heard from John at all, lately?" Higgs asked.
"No," she replied. She had, but Higgs knew that already.
"What'd he say?" Higgs fiddled with a device on his wrist.
"That you're most horrible person he's ever met," Retri told the truth.
Higgs' face remained calm, but she could tell that struck a nerve. He gave her a disdainful look. It only took a thought for him and every piece of her was in agony. It felt like insects squirming just underneath the edges of her body, piercing her and trying to dig deeper. She fell to the floor.
Higgs crouched next to her. "The truth, this time," he spoke dispassionately. He grabbed her non-face and stared at her as if he were studying a beetle, "Actually, when I think about it, he probably said exactly that,"
The pain was released. Higgs left the room.
Retri knew they wanted something from her. She imagined they wanted help conversing with John, but she knew that John was as willing to help these two as she was. They could torture her all they wanted, she wouldn't give them anything
The door opened a second time. The engraved shiny, Moro, strode through. He carried chains in one hand and a spear in the other. Behind him, the chain linked five other shades bound with manacles. Normally, shade manacles would have a Lightbearer quill or some other way of keeping the shade physical enough that the manacle actually did its job. With the lighting in the palace, it seemed that Moro thought that was unnecessary.
"What is this?" Retri asked.
"These will be the sacrifices this evening, chosen mistress," Moro went down on one knee.
She hated to admit it, but Moro was the only shade that treated her kindly, even if it was out of a misguided notion of divinity. He was just as crazy as the Queen and Higgs.
She glanced at the prisoners, "What do you mean by sacrifice?"
Moro didn't look up from where he knelt, "Chosen mistress, every evening a select portion of the populace are killed in a way that draws out the lesser gods within them. As all shades are inextricably linked to the gods, by sacrificing our lives we can draw them into this world,"
"I... see," Retri didn't know how to process that.
"Normally, these are brought straight to the Queen for approval, but I thought it best to seek your input, chosen mistress," he explained, motioning towards the prisoners to line up beside him and kneel as he had.
There was a sixth behind the others, she was small enough that Retri couldn't see her while they were standing in the doorway. She deliberately looked away from Retri every time she saw that she was looking, but Retri could tell that she was staring daggers at her anytime she felt she could get away with it.
Seeing her... she looked so much like...
"Leave us, Moro. I would like to speak to them alone," she waved him off.
The shiny shook his head, "Chosen mistress, I couldn't leave you so undefended around people who could turn violent,"
"They are shackled, there are guards right outside the door, and I am a trained combatant. Do you think so little of the chosen that you'd bar me even under these circumstances?" she chastised.
Moro grumbled, but relented, "You are right, of course, chosen mistress. Please forgive my offense,"
Once Moro left her room, Retri went straight to work. As quietly as she could manage she began creating branched tendrils off of her body. The wisps of shadow slipped into each of the manacles and manipulated the pins in each of the locks until she got them all to come off. She had to be careful not to disturb the chains and to gently lower each of the manacles to the ground so they didn't make too much noise.
The six sacrifices didn't speak a word. Some because they caught on, others because they were too flabbergasted to say anything. One of those others was the little girl.
She spoke once she realized what had happened, "Why? We're just going to end up dead anyways?"
"Noci, be quiet! Sorry, mistress. Thank you for your generosity," an older shade, probably her mother, apologized.
"But we are! It doesn't matter if she," the girl's angry facade broke down into sobbing, "If she... Mom, I don't wanna die,"
The girl nestled into her parent's arms. She cried heavily, gripping her mother tightly.
The mother caressed her child, "Forgive her, mistress. She's still young,"
Aaaand that was enough of that "mistress" nonsense, "Don't worry about it. And quit acting like you're going to die,"
The mother's posture stiffened, "You can't go against the Queen's orders, mistress. Even as a chosen. The guards will not listen to you,"
Retri snorted, "That's certain. I'll break you out. I have absolutely zero authority, but I wasn't kidding when I said I have been trained,"
Perhaps not trained as much as would be needed, but they needed confidence.
One of the other shades spoke up, "I don't think you can get us all out on your own,"
The shade had the bearing of someone who had seen conflict. Likely a hunter or soldier. He looked tough, like he was formed out of stone first and then evaporated into smoke.
She wanted to talk back to him, but he was probably right. She just couldn't figure out a way...
The door was the only exit. There were no windows, no ventilation, no other entrances, nothing. She couldn't scan without tipping off Moro, so she couldn't check for someplace to teleport them to or if she could punch a hole through any of the walls to get them out that way. She could
try to distract the guards. Perhaps with the lighting throughout the palace, she might even be enough of a threat for them to take her seriously. It wasn't a good plan.
There was one other option, "John? Could you help me out here?"
There was some rummaging over on his side, but eventually, John came through, "Absolutely, what do you need me for?"
"I need to jailbreak these people. The Queen will kill them if I don't," Retri said.
"Mmmm... Higgs put up any enchantments in the palace?"
"The man is extra enough to put up lights in every room, those are likely enchantments. There might be others. I can't scan for them like you can, and even if I could I wouldn't know what to do with them,"
"Just the lights should work. I can walk you through how to modify them," John replied.
"Excuse me, lady. Who are you talking to?" the little girl had calmed down by this point.
"John," Retri answered simply before remembering that was a poor explanation, "He's... a member of a dead species that fought in an ancient war before dying to the people the shades are at war with,"
"One of the gods!" her mother breathed in.
"The gods are what got us into this mess. They aren't going to help us escape, mistress," the earlier hard-looking shade spoke.
"Yeah, he's hardly a god, and just because Higgs is a psycho doesn't mean they're all like that," Retri responded, "Now, hush, we're trying to figure this out. Whatcha got planned, John?"
"I have a hunch. Higgs is clever, but he never liked messing with enchantments. Whenever he had to, he just cribbed my designs. I like interconnectivity in my stuff, so that should mean that if you hook yourself up to one of the lights you should gain access to the whole system," John answered.
She nodded and examined the glowing orb that had been placed midair within the room. It floated at a comfortable distance just above their heads.
"What do you need me to do?" she asked.
"Just try pulling it in, I want to try something," he responded.
Simple enough. She placed her hand on the orb. She had to create small branches of her body throughout her hand in order to keep it together, but she managed. She pulled the ether near her hand into herself, attempting to pull only the enchantment.
She had been working on that since it seemed a useful skill people wouldn't expect coming. She still needed more practice as she had pulled some of the ambient, unformed ether along with it. The light turned from a bright orb into a dull rock and dropped into her hand now that it no longer had anything keeping it afloat.
A tugging sensation came from her stomach. She could feel something trying to worm its way into her body, climbing up and in from some unseen dimension as if on a rope.
"Uh... John? That better be you," Retri was growing concerned.
"It is," his voice was pained, "This is a lot harder than I imagined it would be,"
There was a spike of pain and a feeling of needles searching through her body. She fell to the floor. John let out a scream as well, then went quiet.
"I don't know how much longer I can keep this up, so I'll try to make it quick," John sounded weak.
The needle sensation made its way to her hand and worked on the enchantment she had absorbed. The pain grew to a crescendo while the modifications were being made. She let out a yelp and curled inwards.
"Hurry. up." she let a little spite into her voice. He probably didn't deserve it, but this process hurt and she was upset.
Waves of pain radiated throughout her body for the entire duration. She lost track of how long it took. She lost track of almost everything, but it did
end. The sensation stopped hurting as much and retreated back down the way that it came.
Reality came back to focus once the pain subsided. She was lying on her bed staring at the ceiling. The sacrifices had gathered around her. The little girl was standing near her head. The others looked worried, but she looked curious.
"Why would you go through that much pain for us?" she asked.
Retri laughed, "One, because John didn't warn me it would suck that much. Two, because you... remind me of someone I lost,"
The girl didn't seem entirely convinced. Which was very similar to how Retri's sister would've reacted. Retri reached out and grabbed the little girl, she couldn't help herself.
She pulled her tight and whispered to her, "You'll be all right. I'll keep you safe. Nobody's going to hurt you. I'll bring the entire canopy down around us before I let anything
bad happen to you,"
Inwardly she added, "I won't let you die a second time. I'll keep my promise this time
It was silly. She knew this wasn't her sister. This was a stranger at best. Someone who hated her at worst. But there was a part of her that ached. That ate at her so badly. She wanted
to have something to cling to, someone to protect. This was that someone.
"Welcome back. Everything still functioning right on your end?" John asked.
"First thing's first. We are never
doing that again unless we absolutely have to," Retri wanted to make her stance clear.
"Agreed. I've never hurt that much before. And I died!" John replied.
"AND! Never spring stuff like that on me without telling me what the possible side-effects are,"
"Sounds agreeable. I'll try to do that. As for the enchantment, though?" he pressed.
She shook her head and located the object that had held the enchantment. As she put the enchantment back into place, she could feel a connection stay between her and the rock-thing that floated back into the air where it had been.
"Now what?" she questioned.
"If you focus, you should be able to feel the location of all the lights and other enchantments you are connected to throughout the building," John explained, "They should feel like little pinpricks just outside your normal senses, like an expansion of your sense of touch,"
She did as instructed. They didn't really feel like pinpricks. More like how the tip of a brush would feel against your forearm. Perhaps it was a difference in perception or biology across their species? Something to check once this was all over.
"So do I focus on one of these lights?"
"Yeah, and that should give you a sense of what's around the enchantment," John replied.
Retri flipped through the ones closest to her to get a feel for the process and to scout their immediate area, then began plotting a course to take them outside the building. As she searched, she noticed an interesting corner of the palace where a familiar quadruped lay chained in a cell.
"Found Ferris," she announced.
"Good, let's take him with us. Oh, and no teleports. Higgs has trackers on all of those enchantments and will be on you immediately if you try," John commented.
She was already planning on getting Ferris. It was a bit out of the way, but swinging by would still be very doable. No teleporting was a pain, but manageable. The plan was starting to form in her head. She motioned for the other shades to step back as she sent branches over to the wall opposite the door. She wouldn't be able to pierce through the stone like Mililim could, but she could cut through it given enough time.
She made serrated edges on her branches and spun them against the wall. It took a couple minutes, but the resulting hole was large enough for them to crawl through. She crossed first anticipating the others would follow, which they did.
"We need to be quiet from here on out. I'll lead, you all follow," she whispered. Most of them probably didn't need to be told that, but she couldn't be certain.
The section behind her room was an empty hall leading forward that split going to her left and to her right once it hit her room. Retri was getting tired of halls at this point. She ran to her right. The hall would be a dead end were it not for the stairs leading downward.
As she ran she could only one pair of footsteps behind her. She glanced back to see all six of them. The mother was carrying the child. The hard-looking shade had an awkward gait that seemed unpracticed but succeeded in making his footsteps quiet. The last three were extremely practiced, they ran with a sense of grace.
Retri had learned from Mililim how to run quietly, but those three were on another level. That'd be helpful.
"Could you three carry those two," she spoke softly to the quiet shades, gesturing to the mother-daughter pair.
They shared some looks before one of them grabbed the kid, then elbowed the hard-looking shade.
"What was that for!" he griped, still keeping his voice low.
One of the shades sighed and the other grabbed his head in exasperation.
"We... uh... think it would be best for you
to carry her," one of them answered.
"And why would that be?" he whispered.
The one that had elbowed him adjusted his grip on the girl. "None of us are as strong as you are," he answered, very smugly, "A shame for you really. Just think of it as extra training,"
The hard shade shook his head and pulled the mother up into his arms. She seemed more than flustered about the whole thing but notably didn't complain. Retri almost snickered aloud before catching herself. Seemed they had their own drama.
There were more important tasks, though. Retri focused on some of the nearby enchantments and checked to ensure there weren't any shinies between them and where Ferris was being kept. Thankfully there were none.
She ran ahead and down the stairs. The corridors snaked left and right. If it weren't for her ability to view every enchantment in the building, she had no doubt they would've been lost.
Ferris was alert and ready when they arrived. It was strange to see him captured like this. Ferris had always seemed to her like someone who could defeat any type of problem given enough time. But here he was being saved by her.
"Retri! You're alright!" Ferris was ecstatic.
"For now. I'm not sure how long Moro will wait outside my room before he figures out I'm not there so we have to be quick," Retri replied, branching some parts of her into the lock on the cell.
"Quick. All right. How quick are we talking? I saw where they put your rifle. It's not too far, we can probably grab it just in case," Ferris explained, shaking and stretching now that he was out of the cell.
That was thoughtful, but...
"I don't think it would help. I doubt I'm good enough to really help if we do get caught," she answered truthfully.
"...If you say so," Ferris gave her a look.
"Don't you sass me," she shot back.
"I'm with Ferris on this one," John added.
"We're not doing it. OK!?" Retri finalized, looking over to Ferris, "Now help me get us out of here,"
He gave his weird quadrupedal equivalent of a shrug, examining the other shades who had come with her. Retri sighed and ran another check of the surrounding area. Nothing threatening in their immediate vicinity, which was beginning to be a little disconcerting. She thought that with a palace as large as this there'd be a comparably large staff to handle it.
On a whim, she decided to check back on the room she had been stuck in. Sure enough, there was Moro. He was looking over the chains and the hole she had made. She didn't see Higgs, which was good, she had no doubt that Higgs would be able to destroy any hopes they had of escaping the instant he found out something was up.
The exit she had planned was still good. She motioned to the others and started running off. Ferris made a bit of noise as his feet pattered along the floor, but one of the shades that didn't have their hands full took the initiative and scooped him up. Ferris made a yelp of protest but quickly shut up once he figured out the purpose.
Just a few more turns and they'd be out. They'd come close to a number of shinies, but with how quiet they were there was no chance of getting caught. They rounded the corner and started running toward the darkness outside.
Higgs' voice echoed behind them, "That's enough of that,"
Retri didn't look back, she just kept running. Her legs gave out under her when Higgs used the same trick he used on her in her room. The horrible squirming pain came back and Retri screamed.
And then the pain stopped. Ferris was standing over her.
"I'll cancel whatever he throws out, you go on the offense," Ferris said, lifting her up via telekinesis.
She nodded at him and began growing branches toward Higgs. Higgs glanced at them before turning the nearest branches to dust.
"Thought you said you'd cancel them?" she commented to Ferris. She needed to reposition, a better angle that Higgs couldn't see from might be better to attack with.
"I am currently
canceling a lot of spells, but I'm not perfect and Higgs is a beast," Ferris defended.
Mmm... fair. Retri teleported behind Higgs with the idea of attacking him from that position before coming up with a better idea. She ran over to the nearest light and absorbed its enchantment. Higgs might have had some method of seeing in the darkness, but there was no way it was as complete as a shade's natural vision. He also didn't gain any benefits from the darkness like she did.
Meanwhile, every second they wasted was another second the sacrifices grew closer to escape. Retri grew out another round of branches, snaking them faster toward Higgs. He swiped at the ones headed towards his torso causing them to splinter as if struck by a massive, heavy object. One did pierce him through the foot, though.
Higgs grumbled and muttered something about cancellation. He reached a hand to the floor. It was a peculiar pose to put oneself in and Retri wanted to take advantage of it. She sent another volley of branches.
Stone shafts erupted from the ground, hitting Retri at such an angle that she was pinned to the wall. The tips of the shafts had a glow, allowing them to contact her more easily. It wouldn't pin her for long, she was able to teleport out.
It bought plenty of time for Higgs to focus on Ferris, who had taken a few hits while Retri was teleporting out of her pin. Retri could also see that the darkness was more of an impediment for him than it was for Higgs.
Retri was beginning to form another set of branches when a sudden force flattened her to the ground. Even with the darkness, the force was completely overwhelming. The Queen had come.
"Open defiance of not only your queen, but a god as well? I have been too lenient on you, chosen," the Queen's voice rang out. Retri couldn't move her head to see her.
Higgs chuckled. His chuckle was closer to a cackle, but it was clear that wasn't what he was going for.
"I must admit, I hadn't expected you to grab Ferris before leaving. You might've made it a little further if you hadn't," he said.
Retri growled. He needed some sort of response. Something that made him feel in control. It ate at her to feed his overblown ego, but if it meant that the sacrifices could escape it would be well worth it.
Moro's voice came from the exit, "I have caught the runaways, holy one,"
Retri's heart sank.
"Good. Everything should be ready for this evening then," Higgs sounded cheerful.
Retri didn't know what to do.
She couldn't keep her promise.
What had it all been for?
John's voice spoke in a comforting tone, "Don't worry. We have another shot. When they're sacrificed, they end up coming over to my side. I'll try to save them then,"
That... Maybe. It was something.
She could allow herself to hope.
Luna and Toloki were still alive. If Toloki was to be believed they'd washed up somewhere on the east coast of Florida. Luna was still down two limbs, but that could be fixed as soon as they left Earth.
An entire plane full of nothing meant very few opportunities to find a mechanic.
They had wandered away from the beach along any of the roads they could find. Toloki was unable to perform a solo planeshift, he had never learned how. They could only hope that between covering a lot of distance and the Piercing Eyes they'd be able to find an enchantment that had lasted this entire time that could fit the bill.
It was slow going, currently. The road ahead was surrounded on either side by dead grass. They had initially tried teleporting away but quickly stopped that habit once Union soldiers appeared right on top of where they had been. The spatial mage was taking his job very seriously.
They had been traveling for almost a day and a half at that point. Luna wasn't doing too well. She needed to recharge and needed more bullets. The two missing limbs weren't painful, but they came with their own mental barrage of messages. Her bio parts were thirsty, and she felt tired, which was something she hadn't felt in nearly a century.
Earlier that morning, Toloki had sent the Piercing Eyes out for reconnaissance. They were approaching a town, which meant supplies. Perhaps even a station that could output electricity if Toloki were to run it.
Toloki wasn't doing too well either. Poor guy needed to eat. She probably had to as well. The cybernetics messed with her sense of appetite, so it was harder for her to tell. They were both pushing themselves.
But they had to, so they kept plodding along, one step at a time.
But maybe they didn't have to? Maybe it was just wishful thinking, but there was a chance.
"Could we do another dive? Try and see if you ever knew how to planeshift?" she asked.
Toloki sighed as they stopped, "Do I even have a choice in the matter?"
Luna cocked her head. Now that he mentioned it, he was
in a bind. If he avoided her attempts to mind-dive, even if the reason was innocuous, it'd seem like he was being compelled by his illusions to do so.
Luna shrugged, it was sad for him, but it needed to be done, "Guess not,"
"Fine, let's get you comfortable then," Toloki walked her over to the grass and set her down before linking them.
"Why are we here again," Toloki asked. It wasn't actually a question. He was complaining. He hated this place and everything to do with it. The temperature was nice, but that was about it.
Echo glared at him, "You are not
going to complain about Disney World,"
"It's too damp. It's so... It just feels
nasty," he continued.
"Yeah, cuz you spend all your time in dry metal boxes. The war is over! Live a little," Echo pressured, harassing a nearby vendor and coming back with two ice-cream cones.
"No... I grew up in a desert. I don't like it when it's this humid. Plus, it's loud here," Toloki responded, reaching out for one of the cones. Echo swiped it back before he could grab it.
"What do you think you're doing?" she held the ice cream away from him.
"You got two, so I thought..." he felt very sheepish.
"Yeah, you thought. These are both mine. I really wanted to see your home plane, but somebody
was too lazy to learn how to planeshift. So we're stuck here for the rest of our leave," Echo took a full bite out of the ice-cream.
Toloki gave her a flat look, "You make it sound like it's easy,"
Echo fumbled over her ice-cream, trying not to spill it out of her mouth or off of the cone before speaking, "It is! I
learned it before I became a cyborg,"
She had a point, but he really
wanted that ice cream. She probably
wouldn't mind too much if he stole it from her while she was distracted.
"I don't think it's fair for you to hold that over my head indefinitely," he remarked, shaping an illusion in the hand Echo couldn't see since it was blocked by his body. He couldn't rely on her attention being entirely consumed by one or two things. She was part of yet another new cybernetics project and could keep track of a staggering amount of things at once as a result.
make her think that one illusion was the extent of his attempts. A replacement illusory ice-cream cone, a penny, and a teleport would be enough for the faux attempt.
"A month is not
indefinitely. And if you figure out planeshifting sometime during leave, I guess I'll forgive you," she smirked at him.
Toloki rolled his eyes and sent her a mental message, "Think fast
," while flicking out the penny. He used a teleport to switch the ice cream she'd already been eating with the fake ice-cream.
She didn't even flinch at the penny as it completely missed her. In fact, she was already diving for the hand he'd put her ice cream in, which was the one furthest from her. It was scary how quickly she could react. Thankfully though, that put her right in front of Toloki, which would obscure his other hand behind her back.
He bent light inside his hand so as to make any object he held invisible and teleported the other cone into it. He made sure to create another fake ice cream to replace it.
While her attention was difficult to divide, her focus was not.
She finished the rest of her motion and spun over to his other side, licking her trophy victoriously.
Toloki just smirked and did the same for his, "I'll stick to illusions, thanks,"
That dive was helpful. It didn't bring up any painful memories and it gave him some useful information. Overall, Toloki actually liked that dive.
Luna gave him a look, clearly unamused.
"What?" what'd he do this time?
She rolled her eyes at him, "You seriously didn't learn planeshifting just so you could focus more
"Apparently. And why's that such a bad thing, they're really good illusions!" he defended.
She shook her head, "Mm-hmm. Whatever. Let's focus on getting to this town,"
Toloki grabbed her hand and heaved her up with the help of some telekinesis. He got her back to how she was, one arm draped along his back, and they continued stumbling forwards.
"There is some
good news. I remember where we can find a place that can repair you," he mentioned.
"Huh. Thought I'd need a mechanic to get fixed," she responded.
"The place where they invented Artemis modifications is nearby. We could probably find a car somewhere in the town up ahead and go straight there," Toloki explained.
Luna bobbed her head in response, pursing her lips, "Let's do that, then,"
John was working hard. The six or so shades would be arriving soon and he had to keep the sky from eating them long enough that he could pull them to safety. He hadn't quite figured out a way to get them across faster, but he had thought up a method of stunning the sky-people.
The tests so far were promising. He'd place the enchantment down and all the sky-people in the area would be frozen. They'd start moving again once he removed the enchantment, but he didn't need them to be permanently stuck in place, just passive long enough for him to get the shades out.
There was a problem, though. He only had one of these enchantments. He had been prepping to save only one shade since the previous times he saw shades appear there had only been one at a time. Now he wondered if that was because he could only ever see one in the sky. Maybe there had been more in other parts of this world.
Not that he could've done anything about it.
But now he could! The other sacrifices all appeared in the same spot, so John was already set up in that location. He had a little platform of pressurized air underneath him. If the others appeared in other locations he'd have to improvise.
A rumble came from behind the sky-people as the shades dropped in. The horde that made up the sky knew that a meal had just arrived and they were hungry. Unfortunately, there was only one sacrifice at John's location. The others were nearby, but not near enough that he could stop the sky-people for them as well.
That didn't work for John. He wanted to save them all. John enacted the sky-people halting enchantment at his spot and began teleporting away the hardened air that made up his side of the barrier. Since the last time he had attempted a rescue, he created about seven more teleportation enchantments. He shoved one of the teleportation enchantments as hard as he could through the barrier on the other side.
The one that had dropped near him was the little girl. For now, she was safe, but in order to save the others he'd have to drop the enchantment that stopped the sky-people. John didn't like it, but he also didn't want the others to die, so he removed the enchantment and tried to teleport away quickly to the next one.
The girl was shrieking while he worked on saving the next one. It was one of the ones he didn't see much of. He had a very very
large build, shoulders broad enough that it felt he'd have trouble fitting himself through a door. He seemed relieved, as much as he could guess from their posture, but also guilty.
"I'll be alright. Focus on the next one so you can get back to the girl faster," he finally spoke as the screaming got to be too much for him.
The others were beginning to hurt as well. John dropped the enchantment on the one he had been working on and teleported. This one was the girl's mother. John didn't have time to think about that, though, he had to work quickly.
The barrier teleportation went by quickly enough, but trying to force the teleportation enchantment through to the other side was proving to be difficult. The shades were howling in pain. The girl especially.
At least, he had thought they were, until he paid attention to what the mother was screaming at him, "SAVE NOCI!! You bastard
. Don't save me, save Noci!
When he stopped to listen, they were all crying out the same thing. But... That was not right. John could save them all, he knew it. He wouldn't let them die, that was horrible.
He kept working. Or he would've.
Retri's voice was subdued and hushed, but it seemed louder than everything else to him at the time, "You don't have to hold up the entire world, John. You can't fix everything, so focus on what you can
John hesitated. His hand trembled a bit. He was being selfish.
He... also probably didn't have time to worry about that. Noci needed his help. He teleported back to her and flipped on the enchantment. He tried not to listen to the sounds of anguish coming from the other shades. The girl shuddered and cried. She squirmed a bit as she whimpered in his arms, which made holding her smoky form difficult. She was hurt pretty badly, but she was safe now.
The other screams stopped. It hurt him to know what that meant, but it was more bearable now. He got Noci out. He had some healing enchantments set up back at his base. They wouldn't heal everything, who knew what kind of trauma this would give her, but she'd live. That was the best he could give her at this point.
And that was the best he'd ever gotten.
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Real excited to finally have a backlog of chapters to release, you have no idea
it's funny, though, looking back on my writing even a few months ago. There are so many things I want to write differently. Keeping the editing to just editing was tricky
I have a chapter that I've been trying to avoid the past few days. I've rewritten the outline about... five times, I think? I think I finally have a good idea for it, though, so maybe I'll be able to add that to the backlog soon
Not a lot to say this time, but I do appreciate you all
hope this chapter was fun!
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