Chapter 00: The Murray Sequence

With one disaster after another, the crew of the Edward Deming are stretched thin after another incident places their friends and family in danger...Some will go to great lengths to achieve their goals, though others may not be so eager to make a Faustian bargain.
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Chapter 00: The Murray Sequence

Post by uso » Sun Feb 03, 2019 11:57 pm

Prologue

The Alliance Starship 'Edward Deming' had begun its long journey towards the Dyson Swarm that was discovered in deep space. It would take nearly two months to get there, and while most of the crew would sleep for the duration of the trip, some members of the science team had chosen to get a head-start by looking over the data coming in from the drones that were sent ahead.

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Day -58, 11:00 Ship Time

The science room, or at least what passed for a room of science, was one of the few large rooms onboard the Edward Deming. The round room had a single table in the center and a hemi-spherical ceiling that had been converted into an astrometrics display. Display boards were situated around the main table with pictures attached by magnets, and further screens on the table itself were displaying images of a large stone tablet.

There were two members of the science team working at the moment. Both with longer brown hair pulled back into ponytails and Grey eyes. One was Heram, he had the leaner body of a runner and his focus was entirely on the displays in front of them. The other was Quarum, she had a bit more of a curve to her thanks to a more sedentary lifestyle and a fondness for ice cream... currently being expressed as a slow spoonful from a small lid-capable bowl.

"It is clearly ancient, but at the same time I do not understand why there is a stone engraving here... the technology required for the rest of the swarm appears to be of a different type entirely...."

Both of them had the last name Wazu. The family was the closest thing to actual royalty the Alliance had. Its members often found themselves as heads of state, leaders of industry, or warriors of renown. Though not much of their personal lives was available to the average citizen of the Alliance, it was clear that there was always a strong drive to succeed. A drive which seemed to inspire mixed reactions from others.

"This does appear to be the only... you know, planet-planet... Perhaps this planet was incorporated into the swarm after it was built? Or the swarm was built with this planet in mind?"

They had chosen to come to this Swam to satisfy their curiosity. Each of them had quite a bit of expertise in numerous fields, but neither was a master of the magical. They had talked some of their associates into joining them, as well as put forward the money to help bring onboard experts in the fields that they weren't. Despite the massive upheavals in science and reality over the last few decades, a fully functional Dyson Swarm was still an impressive feat. An ABANDONED swarm also raised many questions.

"...Are you sure it is not simply some type of home object? It may have had sentimental value." A new voice chimed in, though their form was silhouetted by the light from the open door behind them, eyes mere glowing circles of light reflected from the astrometric displays on the interior. Doris Müller always moved a little too silently, though they could smell her coming today thanks to the strong coffee steaming in their right hand. "Wazu and Wazu, aren't you?... Hum, yes..."

"May I... Join you?" A stilted voice. The woman wasn't exactly used to barging in like this, but it was hardly like she could avoid the others for much longer on a voyage like this. Impossible not to hear them talking away, either, not with enhanced hearing like hers. "I feel you may find my expertise on these matters advantageous."

"Of course," Wazu said. His voice was strong and to the point. His eyes were focused on the various displays. He was someone who had already assessed Doris and the capabilities they brought to the table, wasting no time in continuing their line of thought, "I thought that may be the case, however I do not know who's home it may be. So far our drones have only found grass and other early plant life consistent with a young world that has yet to have sentient creatures develop."

"We would need to consider why someone MAY!" Doris finally entered Quarum's line of sight, the woman finding herself suddenly startled at Doris' form. She nearly dropped her ice-cream... the Edward Deming didn't have artificial gravity, though while the ship was in transit the FTL and STL engines together did create nearly 1g worth of acceleration towards the floor. "...Ah.. why someone may have an affinity for this place. It could be the home of something not-life-like. There are magical creatures that do not evolve like carbon-based life. Or perhaps their is religious significance to this place?

OH. Sorry, I'm Quarum Wazu. This is my little-brother Harem Wazu. I think the two of you may have met but this is my first time meeting you..."

"Doris Müller. My pleasure." The blonde-haired woman curtsyed in response, apparently bearing enough mass to stick to the floor quite rigidly. They were wearing a plain white lab coat, and they way they swished it about said something about them actively enjoying the civility, rather than simply acting on nerves. Several paces later, they took up a seat, then fixed their glasses with one black-clad hand in order to take all the new information in.

Internal situational diagnosis; The air conditioning in this room was too loud. Induction coil inside the power block seventeen meters behind her sounded annoyingly out of alignment, too. Quarum was eating whilst examining the evidence, which could result in contamination. Was her attractiveness the cause of a society-ordained absent minded behaviour?... She also incorrectly designated her brother's name. Humour?... Heram, on the other hand, apparently had admirable focus for someone so unaugmented.

Observations catalogued and stored away. Doris swooped a hand over her left antenna-horn, acting as if they were still getting comfortable.

"It could be some kind of religious message to do with returning to the earth, yes..." The information was certainly thorough. The drones did an impressive job. "Especially in magical matters, however, I would not rule out an error in design... Think of it like how a fellow programmer might avoid removing some line breaks, because the code simply doesn't work without them, and they don't know why..."

"Hurm, yes... Have there been any other abnormalities to suggest this planet is artificial in composition?"

"Yes," Heram's response came quickly, an eager excitement on his tongue as he raced to get out the scenarios that were in his head, "The planet is the same size as the other planets in the same orbit. Though the other planets appear to be artificial it could be that this one planet needed to be natural and of this size, or that the artificial planets were constructed because they needed to be of the same mass as this one. I can not imagine why the code-idea would hold true but this is only because I lack an understanding of the magical aspects. I have never seen an effort to combine magic and technology on this scale before. I do think some of the star-shaped objects in the swarm are collectors as well as reflectors... the curve heading out to the pointed ends implies an optimal focusing distance of 'inside of the swarm somewhere."

If Wazu was aware of the inefficiencies of the ship, he did not show it. His focus was entirely on the work infront of him, and everything around him seemed to support that. The displays moved as he did... as he was the only one of the Wazus here using automation to keep up with his workload. His compression-shirt was the kind designed to optimize body-functions, and the electronics hub built into the small module just to the right of his heart was the kind pro-athletes used to monitor their bodies, receive tailored nutrion, or be checked out by doctors remotely. The fast pace of his words also conveyed an urgency as he worked through his reasonings and understandings of just what made up this small part of the swarm.

"This one world, and the carved-stone-tablet on it, appear to be the only magical aspects... but we could scout the swarm for years and not find everything. If this planet is not part of the swarm... then what would the swarm be used for? It does not appear to be sending energy anywhere but itself... perhaps it is a factory? Or farm?"

Quarum was in no rush with her thoughts. She had on a lab-coat much like Doris. That lab coat had clearly been patched up a few times, and had an extra set of pockets sewn in on the insides. Much like the Edward Deming itself, it had been around for a while and constantly modified to suit someone's needs. The shirt she had on under it was professional-enough, some kind of soft-grey T-shirt, though instead of pants and a belt like her brother she simply had on black pajama pants that were designed to kinda look like suit-pants... no doubt as part of some attempt to sneak comfort in where such things were frowned upon.

"Perhaps the exact composition didn't matter, only the mass? Like a shepherd moon in a planetary ring system..." Doris answered Heram directly, though she was staring into his chest whilst saying it. She could now hear the rythmic pulsing of that tiny electronic device, as much as one could 'hear' minute radio waves. The antlers were not just for show. "Yes, gravity is not very particular about the objects projecting it. Even black holes do not particularly care what kind of mass they compress into their center... It could just be a tooth in a cog, that they simply had time to embellish, yes... Of course, if they were going to leave behind some kind of landmark to memorialise their species, basic plant life and few-if-any ground structures seems like a rather poor one."

A pause, taking a sip from their chromed travel mug, and then placing a rubberized finger to their lips. If only they were closer, they could truly establish what life was down there for sure.

Another thought. She observed Quarum's clothes achieving this aesthetic they called 'combfertable', and it reminded her of what the woman had said earlier.

"If these are indeed creatures that do not meet normal living specifications, they still need a medium to exist within, in my experience. Much like an electrical current, or stored magnetic data... Some psionic data even suggests minds can transmit between sources, but that still requires storage..." Crew. Operators. Doris was talking about where the things that work the damn thing were supposed to exist within. "Perhaps if we can rule out any other consistent bodies in the system, we could find out weither this planet was the actual passenger seat of sorts, whilst the rest of the mechanism was operated by remote?.. Unless of course these creatures are a sort radio wave. But I've never encountered evidence for that."

There was a slightly annoyed sigh from Quarum as Heram started to respond, "There are limits to the amount of protection we can take against self-propogating memetics..." Heram said, only to be cut off by his sister.

"The Alliance has a unit devoted to just about every possible threat you can think of. The Anti-memetics unit is pretty much the worst of them... we have yet to even really see a self-propogating memetic attack of that kind, I get that they worry about things like information or data being dangerous... but to try and isolate yourself from all inputs with those silly suits just so you can avoid something like 'radiowave' monsters.... Plus they are rude."

"You think they would just give up being meat already." Doris actually agreed quite warmly with the remark, cracking a smile out of the blue, though her narrow eyes made it kind of scary. "Professionally tackling something is not the same thing as professionally hiding from it. Useless."

Heram would wait for her to finish, deciding not to dive into that right now.

"There may be a storage medium inside of the planet, or among the rest of the swarm, however we will not know until we have had the opportunity to check all of the objects in the swarm. It will be some time before we have enough drones in the area to complete that check over a reasonable timeframe."

There would be a slight pause, before Heram latched on to something else Doris said,

"What if it is not abandoned? But there is also no one here? Transmission between sources something we can do now, perhaps the operators or passengers of this swarm choose not to inhabit it until.... " He paused for a moment, lacking an understanding of just what the swarm was doing. "... Perhaps there is a trigger? Or it is waiting for something before bringing its creators back? I do not know how I would test for such an event."

"Hurm... Well, an object with this much structural mass could certainly open a dimensional rift. Hell, they could theoretically time travel themselves into the present." Doris became calmer and more reserved again. Speculating on a system of a higher tech level was always going to be difficult using their comparatively primitive understanding of the universe. Not to mention their lack of understanding for these specific alien's intentions. "Is the planet's atmosphere compatible with human life? If they have been gone for a long time, that might be suspicious in itself. There is no reason why it would be self-sustaining, surely... Unless they want other species to specifically venture there. It does seem logical that the planet is likely to be the trigger point you are talking about."

"There are enough primitive plants on the surface to create an oxygen atmosphere. Though carbon-sources are being depleted quickly. I am not certain how long the current biosphere will last... maybe there are bacteria adding more CO2 into the atmosphere?... However right now it does look to be human-breathable and of a comfortable temperature and pressure range for our kind." Wazu stated, "We should have the biologists conduct a full survey of the planet's bacteria."

"... is it more spooky that they abandoned this place? Or is it more spooky that someone would build this place in order to escape from some other place?" Quarum asked, "... There were plenty who did not want to send anyone out to this swarm. I do not think the Edward Deming is really a warship."

"If they can build a Dyson swarm like this, somehow I don't think even our largest battleships would really matter in a straight shoot-out." Doris was making another ill-placed smile. Did they find something that Quarum said cute? "Similarly, I would prefer to have evidence of their enemies, too, if such a thing does exist."

Another sip of the coffee. She couldn't tell if the freeze-dried grounds had been robbed of their flavour, or if her tongue was just working incorrectly with the modified air pressure. It was disconcerting.

"Hurm, specifically human, yes... That should really be disturbing in itself, but the correlation of alien humanoid anatomies has never really made sense. Somehow I was expecting something from beyond our local area to possess a different kind of life support, but there it is..." Cup down, fingers folding together upon the bridge of her nose. The woman looked at both Wazu family members in turn. "...Are either of you willing to discuss who exactly did decide to fund this operation, then? I've been told this is all just out of scientific curiosity, but if either of you have been told to bring back anything in specific, well... It would be nice to know."

Doris wasn't just going to blurt something like this out, but it did seem strange to her that these all-powerful creatures hadn't already contacted their governments somehow. It sounded like a conspiracy theory, but was there really anything ruling out alien involvement in the planning of this operation so far?... If Heram was right and this was intended to set off some kind of trigger, then who knew just how far back this mechanism of sorts ran?...

"I sold several of my patents for power systems and superconductors. I also leveraged my connections with the Foreign Legion to secure this ship and the manpower required for the security group. This allows us about 5 months of operating expenses, though two of those are burned on the trip there and two more on the trip back. I am hoping we can discover something useful that can open up new funding for the operation before our time is up." Wazu explained, his attention still on the stone tablet that they had located, as if reading every little mark over and over would reveal something.

"That is a very casual attitude towards could-be eldritch horrors..." Quarum added, "... not like being further away would help if they show up. I suppose we might as well dive right in... just what might their enemies look like? If you were going to fight something like this you would probably have to build one of your own right?"

"Probably. But, fortunately, knowledge is power." Doris looked into their cup again disapprovingly, before finally realising that they were accusing Quarum of bringing in contaminants whilst also doing it themselves. "I don't agree with scary novels. If fear of the unknown is all eldritch powers have to go on, then it is only logical to make those unknowns known."

Their thoughts milled about in their head over the second level of conversation. If Heram had really organised the funding for this, then he was either extremely resourceful, or an alien agent himself.

Did Doris actually care? Wouldn't she chose to serve the aliens, if it met her own ends?... The answer was, she'd at least like to see the contract first. And regardless of the overall operation's goals, it served her own for the time being, too.

"...If we run out of time... What do you think about dismantling part of it?" Yet another weirdly timed smile. This question was partially to gauge the reaction of her colleges more than anything. "Even if it causes the whole system to collapse, we could observe a lot about it's intended operation from that kind of malfunction..."

"...Also, do one of you want to accompany me to the kitchen? I think this coffee needs sugar."

"I agree, nothing is beyond our understanding... and this ship carries over two hundred planet-killer-grade missiles. While not enough to destroy a Dyson Sphere, we can certainly trigger a kessler-event and leave the place to destroy itself. I will remain here." Heram said, still focused on the displays as Quarum moved towards Doris,

"The kitchen is this way, I could use more sugar myself," Quarm added.

"Well, that is certainly a very human answer." Doris remarked simply, giving Heram's physical form one last looking over. Still hadn't decided which outcome would be better, but she liked the train of thought. "You really thought of everything..."

After that, she stood up once more and maneuvered back towards the open doorway, standing rigidly with one hand behind her back, as might an attentive maid. Quarum didn't really have to go first, but somehow it just felt right in terms of decorum. Their family owned the ship, after all.

It was on the walk to the kitchen were they disclosed more of their actual thought patterns, loging more visual information about the rather attractive woman whilst they did so.

"So, is he always this intense?" Patterned as an off-handed remark, though Doris was poor at it. "And you, was it purely your scientific curiousity that brought you along? I can't tell you what me and my siblings would do to each other, confined long-term like this..."

"Our family is very functional," Quarum said, her voice hinting that she found that quite an amusing statement as they exited into the hallways. The ship was a bit older, but it was still from the alliance's fleet. The walls having some older-style panels concealing additional storage space, recessed lighting, and sometimes the guts of the ship itself, "More functional than most..."

Quarum did have a set of glasses, though it looked like they were concealed in a case in one of her pockets. Similarly the continued observation of Quarum from behind would start to uncover the increasing amount of 'stuff' she had in her coat. There was a display pad, pen and paper, a few candies, all stuff that seemed vital to the mission at hand.

"But he's afraid if he slows down the world will end. Like it is on him to fix everything."

It would take a while for Quarum to get back towards the kitchen area. The ship did not appear to have a straight-forward layout. Some hallways ended abruptly, some just opened out into rooms. The ship had been around for decades, and the layout had been changed quite extensiveley. It was rare to see a straight hallway that would lead you all the way across the ship.

"I mean, I'm curious too... this creation is amazing and I want to find out more about it. I also happen to be a Wazu AND I am the best Xeno-anthropologist my brother knows."

It wasn't hard to tell Quarum was reaching for the pen and paper in her pocket, one hand holding onto it as if primed to take notes,

"I take it your family doesn't work together so well?"

"...They're... military." Doris hid her contempt poorly. But it really was an understatement of her history with them. "It's funny, you know. Those kind of 'powerful' people hide their weapons and tools like they are afraid of loosing them, yet the people who invent such things, those with the actual power, generally wear it on their sleeve... That was one of the elements that made me respect the operation you had going on here, actually."

The cyber-enhanced woman looked liked they were wincing in pain when passing one of the exposed conduits, and made a point of moving the panel to cover up the offending electronics. They still attentively mulled over what Quarum said whilst doing so, rather amused at the concept that they were thinking about possible alien infiltrators whilst his sister was apparently the expert on such subjects aboard.

"But... Well, fixing things? Is that his only goal? Forgive me, but it seems a little odd that he could fail to see how insignificant humans are in our current state." The implied message being, of course, that humans surviving was technically breaking the supposed natural order of things. Doris' mechanical body kind of made her political stance on that subject rather obvious. "Simply wanting data is a line of thought I can admire, though. This could be a real game changer for all of us, if we play our cards right..."

Checking back to her own little silver PDA. The map seemed to be wrong. Doris shrugged. Maintaining this meat vehicle her conciousness was attached to was such a pain...

"Maybe... I'm accounting-averse. My brother probably has some accounting trick or legal loophole up his sleeve to keep the money well handled. I just... it feels like once you start thinking of things in that way, everything becomes a transaction.

What do you want from the kitchen?"

Quarum abruptly changed the topic, choosing to swing over to what was filling this kitchen area... meant for a large crew of a ship full of marines, technitions, and operations officers that was now serving only a small group of pilots and the science-staff.

"I kinda... feel that I do not understand my family. Not as well as some people... certainly not as well as those I have studies. It seems like they all want to help people... our mom is a part of the department of education. My father is in medicine... but it all comes back to 'doing the right thing' as if it is a holy order."

"Are you saying that you disagree? That you find that too subjective?" Doris took about four sachets of sugar from the compartment, and then leaned into Quarum's personal space with a hushed tone. They were stiring the condiments into the coffee with their bare finger. "It's okay, you can trust me... But i'm a woman of truth only!"

Quarum couldn't look away from those fingers, "I prefer Objectivity, saftey, cartoons, I think all of this isn't for me. I like what I do, and so does my brother, but he is not satisfied with just... being a scientist. There always has to be something next.... doesn't that hurt? That coffee is still steaming..."

"I suppose, but if we do not suffer for progress, then- Oh!..." The woman's sharp eyes looked like their train of thought was struggling to change tracks, at first misunderstanding that what Quarum was saying about the pain being litteral. Taking a moment to blow on her glossy black digits, Doris just made a quick apologetic smile before daubing the coffee away with her lips. "It could, but I just don't have those senses turned on right now... Did you want to see?"

As if courting the more human woman for a dance, the shady scientist offered one of her rubberized gauntlets forward from a rolled up sleeve. The wrist was a ball-joint, and from there on up, a solid cylinder of metal strewn with input sockets, panel lines and tiny infographics.

Far from being traditionally Alliance-minded, they clearly didn't regard the replacements as a curse. Or even this interaction as akin to flirting. The complex circuitry of their body had long since become one of the most focused applications of their art, and Doris would always leap at the chance to show it off, regardless of pseudo-vanity...

"Heram's pragmatism is admirable. One can certainly appreciate that." An added tone. Her voice was soothing, but almost always seemed double-sided and unpredictible in tempo, as if constantly supressing a laugh from some unheard humour. "What are your goals then?... Do you not fear being overshadowed by those in your family with such qualities?"

"Yeah... it certainly is..." Quarum stated, it wasn't hard to tell just how little she listened to that last question with the hand presented to her in such a way. "I didn't get a good look at this earlier... why did you go for a ball joint? And are the info-graphics functional or do they have some other signifigance?

The hand looks, or at least moves in a very real way but you could have hidden the joint better if you wanted to pass as human. Up close this is a very different prosthetic than what I would have expected to see from someone. Was its addition an elective proceedure? And is there a material reason for choosing this design or are the design choices more of an intentional expression transhumanism?"

The more she looked at the hand, the more she wanted to look at the hand, starting to look over the infographics printed on it as well as the layout and intentional departures from the 'normal' human look.

"I consider that the purpose of all machines, down to their very root, is self-actualisation." A certain inner pride shone through, perhaps speaking of Doris leaping at the chance to make her inner monologue an outer one. "So to compromise for aesthetics, that is to limit oneself without any real reason."

Of course, one could well point out that making them look like that was still an artistic choice, a statement. But it was in situations like these that the blonde woman's expression became a little distant, blinded by imagined future glories.

"Infographics are reminders for exact compatabilities and tollerances for modular parts. If I ever got caught up in the moment, it is still important not to do myself a mischief." They were making a completely full and earnest smile now, narrow eyes regarding Quarum's own body with quite a bit of flattery, yet probably not an absence of dreams involving a conversion of those fleshy parts. "... So.... Yes!... Long story short, yes, it was elective! I could not think of any truer way to self-actualize!"

"I made a few assumptions... just how much of a machine are you?" Quarum asked, slowly starting to investigate more of Doris, slowly moving her gaze up the arm presented to her as she kept her face close enough to investigate the smaller details. "Did you start as a human? Do you have a peer group that shares your aspirations or is this a personal endevor?"

Quarum seemed entirely engrossed in this, unaware of Doris' eyes narrowing on her as she continued her considerations, "And your mind... are you using digital storage for memories? I would think you would have this information saved there. That is unless you also intend to leave these infographics as a sorta... like those tags soldiers wear to indicate their medical history. Are you expecting to get shot or injured?"

"Just the arms and legs, plus a few extras. But I'm still human of course!" Another slightly offbeat smile. "Used to have some comrades, but perhaps their more religious stint was never perticularly compatable..."

"No, like I said, I seek truth. These horns are electromagnetic sensors." Since Quarum was still keeping their distance, Doris took the initiative and placed a hand on each one of their shoulders. The grip was a little firm, but completely within control. "Any modifications to my eyes and brain is unfortunately beyond me, currently. Unless it can be automated or done somehow instantaneously through the use of magic, it's somewhat of a bottleneck, it turns out... But I'd like to be the first."

"Would... Would you be interested, Miss Wazu?" Both hands moved, making an odd pose with one finger to each of their lips. "This technology is of course a work in progress, of course. But with an extra mind, and an extra set of hands, it could reach new heights..."

It was almost startling, like Doris had snuck up on her. She was suddenly quite aware of how there Doris was.

"I'm uh.... um...."

It did feel a little weird having Doris's finger on her lips like that. She was a bit of a loss at what to say. It had been quite a long time since someone had touched her lips.

"Hi."

... She clearly wasn't the best at talk when it came right down to it...

"I am very interested." She said, much more quietly than before like she was being shushed, "What are we talking about exactly?"

"What new senses would you like? That's really the question." Doris made a small laugh, apparently invigorated by Quarum's reluctance and expression of mystery. "What would you like your body to do, that it does not do now? What makes you feel limited?"

"Maybe you are talking to the wrong Wazu about that." Quarum said, looking away slightly, "If my family made me feel self-conscious about anything, it would be my motivation. I just don't feel the need to push myself like some people. I kinda enjoy sleeping in... but I am not sure I want to change myself just to be better?"

"...Well, if that's the way you prefer to be, then I guess I don't see a problem with that." A sigh, with Doris now putting her hands on her hips, almost regarding Quarum like a missed opertunity. "There is nothing wrong with being a pure spring flower, after all."

A prolonged sip of that coffee. The blonde woman gave one last look towards the more human of the two, and then began making their way back to the operations room.

"Not that I don't find you interesting..." She said, feeling embarassed as Doris went off, "It just... may not be for me. Though I...."

Quarum would hussle to catch up with Doris.

"Though I would like to be a part of your endevor. Learn from and document it...."

----

Day -58, 13:00 Ship Time:


The door opened, Azazel stepped through. This man was covered in a Carbyn combat flight suit, with a helmet that covered his entire head. The navy blue visor completely hiding his face. He stood at 5’11”, his IRG on his back and IGP at his hip. Not looking like a scientist, however very much so was an inventor and researcher. He went by an alias, Morgan, as to keep his true identity hidden to the others.

Azazel turned to the group of scientist, his voice was augmented to sound as if he was a young child. “Ah, hello. Apologies for appearing later than I hoped to, but I was held up by some debriefing back with my colleagues.” Then stepping forward to join the group.

“It is good that you can join us.” Heram stated flatly. “I take it you are interested in the expedition? We could use someone with your skill set. With a travel time of two months, we will not have a lot of time for investigation once we actually arrive so moving quickly will be important.”

Quarum was a bit more reserved, looking at the flight-suited Azazel as he entered. “... uh, what are you an expert in? You look like a soldier dressed like that.”

Azazel turned to Quarum, “Morgan, I am an inventor in aerospace, biology, engineering, robotics, and kinetics.” He stated quickly after his short introduction. “I wear this to hide my severely disfigured facial features that I rather not reveal.”

“....oh… can I see it sometime? I mean, maybe not here…”

Wazu would clear his throat to try and put the conversation back on the right track. “Engineering will likely be the primary focus. The materials and construction techniques used to build the swarm should be of interest to us. There is also a biosphere around one of the planets in the swarm and much of our initial exploration is fully automated meaning we will need more robotics experts than we currently have just to keep our probes running.

I take it you are interested in joining the expedition? In addition to base pay a share of the discoveries will also be awarded.”

“I have been sent here from the interest of Azazel. He wishes to not only gain the economic gains, but to test out a few experiments of his own. These experiments I cannot disclose. However, I can assure to you that they will not interfere.” Slowly turning his gaze to Quarum, the intent to kill was sensible even below the visor, “I stated I would prefer not to share.”

Azazel then pulled out his Supernova Tablet and called forth his two prototype Model F.2 Unix. After a moment, they stepped through the doorway, falling in line behind Azazel. These were security robots, their faces hidden behind mask, only purple eyes showing. Their armor was a thick metal allow from Void Star Titanium-Chromium Alloy called TitaChrome. Standing with GARs in their hands, an on the market gauss rifle that Void Star produces and sells.

“These will be my added security. Please do not pay much attention, as they’re simply here to make sure nothing harms or kills us.” Azazel assured them.

“I… will keep my distance,” Quarum added, leaning back against a countertop as Wazu briefly turned his attention to the machines. He would give them a quick look over before returning to his study of the images from the swarm.

“We have a full unit from the Foreign Legion to provide security. It should calm any fears you may have. If there is anything they can’t handle… I am not sure anything short of the entire Alliance Fleet would stop it.”

‘Alliance my ass.’ Azazel thought to himself. “Well if you will require me, I shall be standing here.” He stated as he was new to the situation, though wasn't very much interested in their mission. More of his own goals and a suitable testing field that wasn’t the lab.

“Very well… we can go over what we have about the place so far. The rest will have to wait until we arrive on site…” Wazu said.

Azazel simply nodded, knowing the situation would be valuable.

“The drones we sent on ahead have built a small dome-base around this.” Wazu said, enlarging the image of the large stone circle they found on the planet. In the sky, the numerous black diamonds making up the swarm around the star could be seen There was a small stone ‘desk’ looking thing in the center of the circle but that appeared to be about it. The rest of the planet was covered with either grass or water.

Azazel had begun recording this all with his helmet. Remaining silent as he observed the information. ‘Hm, boring information to say the least. At least I’ll know what the hell is going on at least.’ He thought as he listened.

“Everything else in the star system appears to be one of those diamond shapes… or a more spherical shape. Either way: I suspect this planet and stone tablet are the control mechanism. The amount of energy passing through this swarm is immense, and I would prefer to study it up close before trying to change anything.”

“You mean to say that this could be possibly magic in nature?” Azazel asked as he grew more concerned, “I sign-, I was assigned for science. Not magic.” He caught himself on almost making a mistake and giving himself away.

“We do have an expert in magic onboard to make up for our deficiencies. There is enough here to press the boundaries in numerous fields, not just materials science, energy transmission, astrophysics… I do agree that I am apprehensive about dealing with the magical nature of this but it is something we will have to face.” Heram replied.

“I think you will do fine,” Quarum added, trying to be as reassuring as possible…


Chapter 1: Technical Problems



The job was a simple one. The Alliance Starship 'Edward Deming' would be making the two week long journey to a newly discovered Dyson Swarm: A massive cluster of platforms and planets orbiting a star, collecting nearly all of the solar energy it released. There were many people recruited into the expedition that was intended to last at least 2 months, scientists, support staff, and a number of soldiers from the Alliance's Foreign Legion. The ship had already pulled into a high orbit near their destination: A prefabricated base that had been set up by drones that were launched ahead of the expedition.

Eager to get started, the first team had already departed for the surface...

----


Day 1, 10:00 Ship Time

Outside the Dome

The planet was covered in a mix of shallow oceans and lush green grass. Not a single plant seemed to grow above knee-high. It was a welcome change for many compared to the minimal space onboard the ship that had brought them here, and the even less space in the shuttle that provided the ride down to the surface.

Here the only thing to block out the Horizon was a geodesic dome: A research base that had been built by drones prior to the arrival of the research team itself.

From down here, it looked harmless enough. Though one only had to look up to see the reason why this research team had been assembled. The system's star was just above the horizon, but even so it was possible to see plenty with the naked eye. A ring of smaller planets had been stationed around this star forming a precise chain. Many of those worlds could be seen stretching off into the distance in a straight line. Ontop of that, there were large six-pointed platforms orbiting the star that seemed to number in the trillions. This Dyson Swarm seemed to catch a majority of the light radiating out of the star, with rings of platforms positioned in orbits both closer and further away than the ring of planets. There seemed to be so many platforms floating about that the ship which had dropped them off was already moving itself to a different orbit.

"Lets get started right away," said Heram Wazu, leader of the scientific team. Like seemingly every member of the Wazu family he was self-made: an expert in numerous fields, contributor to numerous sucsessful products and projects with a long history that was well known in certain circles. His brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail and his grey eyes were trained on the dome ahead of them. Much like the rest of the group he was wearing a bulky green coat and was weighed down with backpacks and duffelbags full of equipment.

"We just got here, I will be having a show and a nap." Quarum Wazu, older sister of the leader, capable scientist and strong supporter of getting enough sleep. She shared the brown hair, fair skin and grey eyes of her brother though she made use of a bun to hold her hair and glasses to aid with her eyesight.

"We are here for a task, not for naps. Let me put away my stuff and have a smoke. Then I'll come join you, " added the mocha-skinned linguist as she followed the rest out of the shuttle. Unlike the leaner scientists, she didn't seem to struggle with the heavy equipment. Under her clothing was much more toned form than the lean Heram or the rounder Quarum. Her brown eyes matching her skin, mid-length black hair framing her face nicely as she made her way towards the dome with the others.

There was another major member of the group, though he was fairly silent. Unlike the others, WarPig was wearing power armor. He easily stood 7 feet tall, the heavy armor equipped with a large backpack, bulky helmet, and large extended arms with the majority of its shape hidden under a fine black mesh that drapped down from the top. He did not speak with the rest of the team, and instead slowly stomped down the shuttle ramp before starting a patrol of the exterior. The armor starting to jettison small cylendrical scout drones that rolled off in all directions.

"You know..." a voice started up from just a short distance behind the team as a tanned man with brown hair as dark as the tone of his eyes marched up to meet them, the last few artifacts of drowsiness from his recent awakening finally managing to push from his mind - David may not have looked in underneath his layers of uniform and equipment but the man with a pistol at his side was a lot more physically able than he let on - though he was here primarily as a technician for now.

"That'll kill you one day..." he finished speaking, in reference to the aforementioned smokebreak.

"The last three weeks of my life were in a flying no-smoking-area," She said, slowing down to a slow walk so that David could catch up with her... letting the Wazu siblings go on ahead, "I can feel that craving... right now I'm a bigger danger than the long-term effects of smoking."

She would shuffle over one of her bags, bringing her backpack around to her front and unzipping one of the pouches to produce a small container of cigarettes.

"I'm Britney by the way, I don't think I caught your name in their rush to get down here... of course you're welcome to join me for a smoke."

"Needs hey...?" the tanned man replied with a chuckle as he moved up to make pace with this Britney lass, giving a shake of his head before continuing. "I jest and I'll say no to that offer, I'm David - pleasure to meet you."

"Your loss... these may be the only cigs around for light-years. Maybe the other science types can get by without their vices but I think most will be having a hard time in a few months. I mean... the Soldiers from the legion are drilled to enjoy bordem... but the others.. OH!" She suddenly realized she didn't know which camp be was a part of, "I am a linguist. Which group are you with?"

The other two had already gone inside of the dome, leaving Britney and David standing right at the entrance. The walls of the dome were quite thick, large enough to house numerous bedrooms, offices, supply rooms, and everything the expidition would need to stay at least somewhat comfortable for the next few months. In the center of the dome was a large open space with no floor. It seemed to be centered around what looked like a large stone altar... table like, that came up about waist high with a flat surface on top and what looked like etching on the sides. Similarly, there was no floor in this area, instead it was exposed to the ground which seemed to be a large stone circle with various etching all over.

"I'm with the Legion, though I cross camps a bit to work with you fine folks too," David happily replied as he eyed their surroundings, taking in the dome with a scratch of his rough beard as the man continued. "Long story short I like computers and they gave me a gun, so I'll fix your machines when they break down but enough about that - how do you feel about all this?"

"About what exactly? The abbandoned Dyson Swarm? The Expedition? The our two scientist friends? The art project here?" Britney asked, tapping the bottom of her pack of cigarettes a few times before tearing open the top and pulling one out, "Any one artifact here would make someone's career. This is an incredible opportunity but at the same time if you aren't uneasy about all this then something is wrong with you."

Britney just frowned as she saw Heram already in the center of the stone circle, having set his bags down nearby so he could start examining the table. He just couldn't take his eyes off the thing.

"... But hey. We're all getting rich off this right? They find something worthwhile and everyone gets a cut. Plus I bet you Legion guys are happy about getting paid to take a 3 week nap?"

"The Expedition as a whole I suppose, helps encapsulate everything but I guess you've pretty much answered that already..." David thought aloud, snickering slightly at his train of thought as he eyed the cigarettes one final time.

"Fuck it - what holiday wouldn't be complete without tasting a little death, does your offer still stand? I'll tell you something dumb as a trade if I need to."

She would partially cover the top of the cigarette package and give it a quick shake, letting one of the cigarettes partally fly out before holding it out for him to take. Her other hand would place her cigarette between her lips then return to her bag for the lighter.

"So are you just here for the paycheck? Or do you have some lust you're fufilling?"

With a thankful nod he leant forward to take the toxin-filled recreational stimulant as it was offered to him and held it while leaching back for his own lighter - more of a momento than something used reguarly David flicked a flame to life and held it near Britney's own cigarette as he spoke.

"Ah well the paycheck is enticing but my lusts are only for simpler things, sorry to dissapoint you - admittedly making sure my hands are busied without worrying about a rocket coming through the wall is a welcome change so I guess a little peace of mind helped convince me to come along," he admitted before moving to light his own.

Britney would take a long drag, nearly finishing it off on the first pull, holding the smoke inside of her for a few moments before finally letting it out in a heavy cloud.

"MMMNnnnnn..... That is so much better."

She closed her eyes, enjoying the first rush of nicotine in weeks. A smile would come to her lips and once that first rush passed she would turn her attention back to David, "But I do have a job to do..." She would finish off her cig, and then look around for a place to throw it out... though there wasn't exactly a place to do so out here. She'd end up holding it in her hand with the intent of throwing it away later. "... Feel free to stop by my room some time if you want to get dinner together."

"I can already tell you are going to get me into trouble..." he replied after taking a deep breath from his own, the smoke wrapped around David's internals like an old friend who'd lost their touch though despite not enjoying it as much as he once had David had a rather fond look - glad he could still resist their urge as the smouldering end was quickly pinched out by the tanned man's rough, calloused fingers of his left hand.

"I might take you up on that, linguist Britney - take care and let me know when you break something."

She seemed to get a small laugh out of that as she heading down the hallway to drop her bags off in her room.

David found a trash can to dump his own death-stick in before one hand reached into his pocket to quickly glance over a note on his communicator, right - so he was remembering the room number correctly. Soon enough he began making his way to the room they had assigned David, he certainly wasn't expecting anything fancy but fancy was overrated anyway.

-----

Day 1, 14:00 Ship Time

Kitchen

The kitchen area of the dome was a lot less cramped than the mechanical crawl spaces that David had been checking up on over the last few hours. Quarum was already there, checking the freezers behind the serving counter one at a time while David was just arriving.

The woman had finished that nap and shower she had wanted. Her hair was still just a bit wet and hung freely down below her shoulders. Her glasses fogging up a bit with frost from the freezer, her body now covered in a rather loose fitting pair of skull and crossbone pajama pants and what looked to be a far softer and far comfier grey hoodie.

After tapping away at his datapad a few more times David looked up from and had a small, rather amused look on his face as he eyed up the rather casually-dressed figure - it was barely past midday and she looked about ready to dive into a bed. Regardless of states of dress the tanned man slung his datapad away for now and skulked into the kitched rather quietly, moving to get enough food to scrounge up a sandwich decent enough to fuel his aggressive metabolism while speaking.

"You didn't break anything did you?" he queried, rather obviously just joking to break the ice between himself and the stranger.

"Break... no," She said, closing the waist-high freezer she was looking in before moving onto the next one. Her voice seemed just as soft as those Pajamas, and was in no hurry to get to the end of her sentences. The kitchen area was designed to feed the whole expidition... and enough food for ~50 people for three months resulted in a large number of freezers, and she had only managed to go through a small number of them "However.... if you happen to know which of these has the ice cream I would be really greatful... so far all I have found are fish-sticks.... or at least what looks like fish sticks... "

She would finally turn her full attention towards David, her grey eyes taking in just how 'worked' he looked.

"You know, I don't think they expect you to work hard day one. We just got here... get settled in..."

"They're probably fish sticks," the tanned technician shot back before quickly licking a small dollop of mustard off of one finger, picking up a knife to continued assembling his magnum opus before speaking further. "I'd hardly call it hard work, I'll relax when I'm forced into bed or willingly collapse into it... have you checked that one?" David happily answered as the knife was pointed toward one of the freezers he'd assumed she hadn't checked yet - going purely off of gut instinct as ham was chopped.

"No.. is that the one?" She asked, heading over to the freezer and opening it up, leaning in and getting a great view of the fish-sticks inside, ".... I suppose not......" Disapointed, she would return to her methodical search of the room, "That is ok though, I have months to find it... and I will find it." She laughed.

"So you are like my brother, sworn enemy of sleep and relaxation?"

"Depends, did your brother just wake up from a stint of cryosleep lasting however long it look to get us here?" he replied with a friendly smirk as a few things were half-packed away on the bench. "Gimme a day or two to get all this pent up time out of my system, hopefully I'll be plenty more laid back then."

"We were spending our time during the trip with the drone footage of the findings here. It was all study, paperwork, and project-planning. I need some time off before getting started here, otherwise I am going to be useless." She said, checking another freezer... then another...

"Sorry.... Quarum Wazu." She said, pointing to herself. That last name did have some weight, there wasn't royalty in the alliance... but the Wazu family may have been the closest to it. They seemed to have a number of politians and leaders of industry among their number, "...I didn't catch your name..."

"Shit, sorry about that - David, David Maverock, I guess meeting face to face with a Wazu caught me off guard," the technician spoke before taking another bite from the pile of sandwich in his hands.

"Not too sure if I'm still allowed to say this, but you look rather cute all rugged up like that right now - just thought you should know," David mused with a kind smile before going back to his food, god it felt good to have something in his gut.

She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it, practically glowing at the compliment, "Sometimes I forget I'm not invisible, consider who I work with.... Ha! Icecream!" Quarum seemed excited as she opened freezer F-12-93, bending over the lip to reach in and finally get her hands on a pint of chocolate ice cream. It wouldn't be long before she had found a spoon and a seat across from David,

"If it makes you feel any better I'm not one of the famous ones. It seems most of us are all... duty and requirements. I don't have a taste for that kind of thing, or for politics. I kinda... went to school then stayed in school because I was comfortable there..."

He held that smile, she was energetic, almost sporadic - it was a rather amusing sight to the tanned technician. "I kinda get what you mean, the thought of being in a spotlight isn't exactly something the Maverocks are known for - not that we have a reputation or anything, just a surname people often mishear or misspell," David spoke in kind, admitting his family's mediocrity rather casually.

"Everyone seems to have some stick they want to measure their lives by," She stated, finally taking that first bite of her ice cream, closing her eyes and enjoying the taste for a good, long, moment.

"I just want some interesting stuff to do... eat ice cream, maybe occasionally get laid." She laughed.

That laugh was returned with a chuckle from David as he eyed up the pajama-clad icecream fiend. "Commendable goals, certainly achievable..." he replied with a wink before continuing, "got your eye on anyone yet?"

"Should I? This place will be full of people soon. Lots to choose from but very little privacy." She certainly seemed to be enjoying herself... though her smile may have been from the sweets she got ahold of.

*BLAM!*

The noise was painfully loud and sudden, over so fast that they weren't even sure they heard it... though the look of surprise on Quarum's face was harder to ignore.

There was a similar look of shock at the unknown sound plastered across David's face as he dropped the sandwich on the counter in favour of the pistol from his hip that was racked back, "Stay here, or if you are stubborn then at least stay behind me," he offered before moving to carefully investigate what had made such a noise.

------

Day 1, 14:15 ship time

The noise had come from the very center of the dome. The altar seemed to be humming, but the most noticeable feature of the room appeared to be Heram Wazu's body. Much of it seemed to have been turned to paste.

The Culprit was still in the room, slowly turning to face where David was. The massive form of WarPig's power armor still had a smoking barrel under the fine mesh netting on the exterior that had been covered in local grass and dirt to mae the armor look like a huge swamp-like thing. Wordlessly it would raise its arm towards David and Quarum.

David didn't want to hurt her, he kind of liked Quarum, but for her own safety the technician gave the pajama-clad woman a rough shove with his body as he too moved into cover out of caution - things were looking like this WarPig fellow was at fault but considering the guy was bulked out by power armour and David had but a pistol... he'd rather make sure first.

"The fuck happened in there?" the technician called out from behind a stone wall.

*BLAM*

Warpig would start stomping forward to go after Quarum, his first shot having removed a large portion of David's internal organs, sending his body to the floor. As the massive power-armor passed by there would be a second shot without even breaking stride, turning David's head into a fine powder.

Luckily, 'The fuck happened in there?' wouldn't be David's last words....

------

Day 1, 10:00 Ship Time

Outside the Dome

"Lets get started right away," said Heram Wazu, doing his best to support the weight of the bags he was carrying. Quarum was right behind him, though she seemed far less interested in getting right to work.

"We just got here, I will be having a show and a nap..."

In addition to a serious feeling of virtigo, David would also be experiacning quite a strong sense of Deja-Vu.

"We are here for a task, not for naps. Let me put away my stuff and have a smoke. Then I'll come join you, " Britney added, not having any problem carrying her gear in to the dome, exiting the shuttle right infront of WarPig's massive power armor which began deploying small drones, small spheres that fell out of the back of his power armor and then fanned out to check their surroundings.

The technician couldn't help but grip the side of his head amidst the wave of confusion that rolled over his senses, hadn't he just... and then the gun... what?

It made no sense, hadn't he been through all this? it was a sensation easily likened to what he assumed it felt like for a flashbang to go off in a toilet cubicle - up might as well have been down as the tanned man took a few half-stumbled steps forward, almost on autopilot, the pigment in his face draining to a paler tone as David remained wordless and tried to get a grip on it all.

While the two Wazu siblings would head into the dome, Britney would pause right by the door, moving her backpack around to her front so she could fish out a pack of cigarettes inside. She seemed completely oblivious to David's problems until she got that first cigarette in her mouth, nearly finishing it off on the first pull and then letting out a big cloud of smoke a few moments later. Her eyes settling on him for a few moments before her mouth landed on a question,

"I take it you aren't good with flying?" She asked, "Lucky for you, we will be planetside for a while."

"I..." David spoke with a dismissive shake of his head, surely it was just the lingering aftereffects of having been a vegetable for so long - he'd had dreams that felt real before and there was no reason this should be different... that being said it was hard to deny that sense of Deja-vu.

"I think I was just day dreaming... Britney - right? I think we met before the voyage or something..."

"It must have been brief, I do not remember being told your name." She stated, finishing off her cigarette and then looking around for a place to drop it... only to realize this facility wasn't built for that kind of thing, leaving her to hold onto the filter in her fingers until she could go inside. "And speaking of brief, we do have a job to do. If you are not feeling up to complete your tasks then you may have to wait a few hours for the next transport. I am not sure which one the doctor will be on but I imagine medical is a priority. No telling what we will find here."

"I'm sure I just need a moment... but thank you - take care now," David spoke as the sense of vertigo hit his gut suddenly, causing the technician to claw at it before running off to up-chuck his guts into a toilet bowl - maybe he was a little under the weather, maybe something had gone wrong with the thawing process...




Day 1, 10:15 Ship Time

The virtigo would start to pass, though the Deja-vu would not. Despite not having been in this facility before, David was able to go right to the restrooms and find a stall that he could hide in while purging.

Though soon after locking himself away in the stall, he would hear someone else enter. Quarum had dropped off her 'stuff' in one of the rooms, and was now heading to one of the shower stalls to clean off. The woman carrying with her a small basket of shower-stuff along with a towel and a change of clothes that included a skull and crossbones set of Pajama pants.

Once he was sure nothing else was going to or could come up his throat, David wiped the back of his hand against his mouth - getting most of the sick out of his beard and off his lips before he opened the stall and began splashing water from the handbasin onto his face.

"Sorry about that... I'm having a bit of an off-" the technician cut himself off as he got a glimpse of those familiar pajamas in the bathroom mirror.

"...day..."

"Not a problem, we did just get here... get settled in and sleep off your motion-sickness. I'm looking forward to a shower and a nap... maybe raid the fridge a bit later before this place starts to fill up." Quarum said, going into one of the shower stalls and closing the door behind her, hanging her pajamas over the top of the door as she got ready to shower off.

"You're right, I think I might just go sleep it off... thanks for the idea," the technician spoke with a weak smile, it felt like his head was all over the place today and there wasn't any real reason why it should be.

"I'm David by the way."

"Quarum," She said, raising her voice so he could hear it over the sound of her turning on the shower. "What group are you with? Soldier? Science? Technical Support?"

"Soldier - well I'm a sapper but you can just think of me as a technician with a gun as far as my role here is concerned, what about you?" David replied in kind, showing some level of decency as he began to turn away from the shower to put it out of his field of view.

"Science." She responded. The shower stall did have a bit of a door, though if one really wanted too they could find a crack to peek inside. "...never had the disposition for soldiering... though it does seem my family gravitates towards those who take orders. I just want to be comfortable..."

He wanted to peek, it would have been so easy and on any other day then David might've taken the step but his mind was focused on other matters - like why the name 'Wazu' was coming to mind right now, honestly she did have that kind of look going for her...

"You... wouldn't happen to be a Wazu by any chance, would you?" he asked, almost unsure of his own words.

"....mnnmm..." the grunt was one of dissatisfaction, much like that feeling of being issued homework before leaving school on a friday. There did seemt o be much baggage associated with that last name. To think it would be so obvious just to someone looking at her... "What gave it away?"

"A few features on your pretty face..." David began as his words trailed off into uncertainty, giving a few hard blinks of disorientation and a rather audible gulp before continuing. "...maybe, might've been the way you spoke or carried yourself, I don't know - though your secret is safe with me, miss."

"Oh!" An 'oh' of the unexpected surprise kind, rather than an Oh indicating that something was wrong. Quarum seemed quite happy with the compliment. Her voice had a bit more warmth to it this time around, "It isn't a secret, I just don't like being famous for things my family have done."

In that moment the man forgot how off he was feeling for but a fleeing moment, it was similar to the kind of pleasant unknowingness you feel most days immediately after waking up - no worries and nothing on your mind but the memory of rest.

"You probably don't want me to hang around while you shower, but it has been good talking to you, Quarum..." then he said her name and all that feeling of unease seeped back from the furthest recesses of David's mind, like ink spilt on a page the deja-vu wormed back in and made the technician shudder slightly as a chill ran up his spine.



Day 1, 14:10 Ship Time

Her hair was still just a bit wet and hung freely down below her shoulders. Her glasses fogging up a bit with frost from the freezer, her body now covered in a rather loose fitting pair of skull and crossbone pajama pants and what looked to be a far softer and far comfier grey hoodie... after David's nap he had gone to the kitchen, only to find Quarum in a very familiar position: Checking the kitchen area for ice cream.

"I think you have the right idea, nap... then food. Decompress a bit before the work really starts," Quarum said upon catching sight of David's arrival.

David decided he'd try ignoring that pang of deja-vu that seemed to haunt his person, a hand moving to rub the sleep from his eyes before drifting down and making a rough sound against the coarse hairs of his beard. So what if things that shouldn't seem familiar seemed too familiar, it hadn't caused any harm besides making him lose his stomach.

"Yeah maybe, I'm still not all there but... it is better, what are you looking for?" he asked Quarum with each step carrying him closer to her.

Quarum fround as she closed the last freezer she just opened, slowly turning around and leaning back against the chest-high box of cold, "if you happen to know which of these has the ice cream I would be really greatful... so far all I have found are fish-sticks.... or at least what looks like fish sticks... "

That pang of Deja-vu certainly wasn't going away anytime soon...

She would give him a slight smile before continuing, "You're welcome to some if you help me find it!"

"F-twelve-ninety thre-" David had begun speaking, reflexively sharing more information he seemed to know for whatever reason though with a frown across his tanned features, he really didn't like this feeling but it continued to sneak back in with every second that passed.

"Do you ever feel like... like you've done this all before?" the technician began asking, bracing himself against a nearby counter as if it would help him get a grip on whatever was happening.

"...and I don't mean in some metaphorical way, I mean - well, this exact thing..."

"I get Deja-vu sometimes... though I think I am just forgetful. I certainly haven't done this before," Quarum sounded completely confident. She didn't have any memories from the first time around. "... I prefer to stay home where it is comfortable. My brother really had to beg to get me to tag along on this one...."

She would head to F-twelve-ninety-three... opening it up and pulling out two cups of ice cream.

"You've clearly got some experience! How did you know? Did you sneak down here earlier? Or maybe you're just used to some of these pre-fab modules. The Alliance has plenty of bases built off the same blueprint."

David prodded the chilled contents of his bowl a few times as Quarum spoke, he really didn't have the words to explain why he knew nor why he had a sense of dread gnawing at the back of his mind but he had to say something.

"Call it... a technician's intuition, but thanks, I needed this," he spoke, greedily begining to eat the ice cream with large spoonfuls, a hum of appreciation rumbling out his maw.

"That hard of a first day?" Quarum asked, holding onto her ice cream as she watched David eat, "... if it is getting in trouble you're worried about... well I'm not anyone's boss here." She laughed.

"No just, something's a bit off," David admitted between mouthfuls as he tried to make sense of what he could, deciding to shake his head and continue speaking to this intriguing woman.

"Why? is there something I should worry about getting into trouble for?" he asked somewhat playfully, giving a warm smile to try and offset this unease that came with the Deja-vu.

"Maybe. Most of the expidition's members were in stasis during the trip just like you. The rest of us were getting a little stir-crazy. I know it wasn't just the girls on the flight crew who were eager to stretch their leg..."

*BLAM!*

The noise was painfully loud and sudden, over so fast that Quarum weren't even sure she heard it... though the look of surprise on her face was harder to ignore.

That loud noise kicked David's brain into gear, suddenly things started falling into place - everything that he had been supressing suddenly rushed back in and it all made sense, almost too much sense.

He had done today before, albeit in a slightly different fashion but... if his memory was telling the truth then, this was where he dies. The technician couldn't help but gulp at the prospect, it was crazy and he knew it but as far as he was concerned it was as real as the beauty who'd just served him ice cream.

"Can you get your hands on a gun?" David asked, whipping his head around from the source of the noise back to Quarum with a determined look as he drew his own pistol and racked the slide back. "Scratch that, just grab as many security personnel as you can and then head to the middle of the dome - I'm asking you to trust me Miss Wazu."

Sudden worry was the best way to describe Quarum's face,

"It is just WarPig. James wanted to come down here right away... we left the rest of the marines on the ship and I don't use guns. The most dangerous thing I brought with me are candy-bars."

It took her a focused effort to think, pushing through an awkward pause in the conversation as she tried to reach a rational thought,

"We can call for more marines to be sent down. I am sure the others will know to hide..."

She did not appear to have the same memories of last time that he did, choosing to stand there as WarPig finished his task in the main room. James was dead, his head and chest turned to pulp, the lumbering power armored soldier continuing on with his work.

David stood there for a moment, analyzing what he knew as the tanned man wracked his brain for some solution to whatever mess he was caught up in, quite frankly he didn't want to find out whether this... thing that happened to him was a one time trick or not.

He nodded, having decided at least on something to do as the technician turned back toward Quarum, "You're headed to the comms room then, I'll buy you some time and don't open the door for anybody else."

Reaching over toward a nearby wall david palmed a red panel before bringing his fist down on it, breaking the emergency glass and slamming down on a large button to trigger the facility's fire alarm system. Hopefully, people would see the alarms and leave... he just hoped the emergency routes wouldn't become an abattoir.

Quarum nodded, covering her face as best she could while the fire supression system doused the area with foam. The woman heading out into the hallway as WarPig's armor headed back into the facility.

David was a mechanical tech, but even so he was only cleared to work on part of WarPig's power armor. The machine had the best technology the Interstellar alliance could employ, including a set of small drones that could be dispersed from its back. These small cylinders would roll about along the floor, barely making more than quiet humm... no doubt there was at least one in the room with him moving about, but the thick foam that had just filled the area would block its line of sight.

Alright, that should serve as at least a distraction if nothing else David thought as he took a brief second to look out the door Quarum fled through, looking down both ends of the hallway before the man's brown eyes widened in realisation - something just bumped into one of his boots.

Whipping around to the foam-filled kitchen David began to aim his pistol toward the ground - not moving and instead looking for any kind of movement in the fire-redardant layer.

*CLICK-BONK*

He could hear the small drone trying to jump out out of the foam, only to hit up against a wall and fall back in... followed shortly by another...

*CLICK!*

The small cylinder jumped up out of the foam and landed on a table, quickly starting to spin in place to get some of the smothering foam off of itself.

The little drone was a familiar sight to David, even if he didn't know the ins and outs of the ankle biter the man at least knew it belonged to that armoured abomination who was no doubt responsible for all this - the technician raised his pistol toward the drone, his brain made an odd connection between the tubular machination and a puppy, but squeezed down the trigger regardless as it kicked back into his hand.

He aimed not at the center of the thing but rather to hopefully land a glancing blow - if the drone was injured then instinct told him it would retreat back to whatever warpig was and even act as an improvised tracking device of sorts.

*BLAM*

The round would dig into the table and send the small robot flying off into the wall... then down into the foam with a soft 'Sploosh'

There was clearly some damage to the drone. David could hear it moving under the foam with a high-pitched whine coming from its damaged servos as it tried to limp back down the hallway. It clearly had yet to see him... but the facility ultimately wasn't that big. It would round the corner in the hallway and head right back to WarPig. The bulky power-armor barely fit through the doorway, and was only a few meters away now.

"Crap~" David muttered under his breath as he heard footsteps begin approaching his current position, his idea had worked sure but it also backfired - now that thing knew where he was, the technician mentally kicked himself for not counting on the armoured figure being closer but now he just had to play with the hand he'd been dealt and come up with some plan.

The man moved over to behind where the door would swing to, making sure to stand back a tiny bit incase warpig kicked the thing open but he should be hidden behind it when it opened, feeling the familiar grip of his sidearm a million different questions soared through David's mind but one stood out the most.

Why was he here? he had died, no doubt about it but for some reason he got a second chance - it made the man understandably question his own mortality but that was pushed aside for now, he needed to be ready when warpig entered.

*THUNK*

*THUNK*

*THUNK*

The heavily armored man came up closer until he was just outside of the room. It was clear someone had fired a gun in here, but what wasn't clear was where that person had gone. He would deploy another pair of drones, letting them drop to the floor and begin scouting the room as he stood in the doorway. The massive armored suit blocking any hope of getting around him. The marine's power armor would be nearly invulnerable to David's sidearm... nearly. A well placed shot at close range may pierce the visor or the joints.

The thumping in David's chest increased as he heard the familiar whirs and clicks of mechanised scouts beginning to patrol the foam-filled room, it might buy him some time but the technician assumed soon enough that they'd jump up and try to clear away the white debris much like the drone he gave a limp earlier had.

Fuck it, he had to do something.

So he did something, bracing himself momentarily before David threw all the momentum he could into a shoulder charge as he tried to transition the momentum into the door to hopefully knock the armour over - it was well built sure but all that armour had to be heavy and hopefully he could catch the man off guard.

For just a fraction of a second, the armor would tilt back. His weight overwhelming the stabalizers for just long enough to make it tilt... before the small thrusters on the back fired to keep the armor upright.

The suit's arm would then reach for him, grabbing him from the side. The weapon system inset into the arm going off with a

*BLAM*

-----

Day 1, 10:00 Ship Time

Outside the Dome

"Lets get started right away," said Heram Wazu, doing his best to support the weight of the bags he was carrying. Quarum was right behind him, though she seemed far less interested in getting right to work.

"We just got here, I will be having a show and a nap..."

From his perspective, David had just lost most of his chest only moments ago... but once again he was back to where he started: Getting off the shuttle with the rest of the few individuals who came down to the surface early.

"We are here for a task, not for naps. Let me put away my stuff and have a smoke. Then I'll come join you, " Britney added...

Once the initial shock of dying... again, worked its way out of his system David ran a hand down the side of his face - so there was something at play, though the technician didn't have any idea in the slightest what it might be.

The other hand moved down to undo the clasp on his pistol's holster as the weapon was brought up, out of curiosity the tanned man quickly shoved the barrel into his mouth - ignoring any cries of protest those around him gave as the trigger was pulled.

-----

Day 1, 10:00 Ship Time

Outside the Dome

"Lets get started right away..."

The conversation continued as before, just like David remembered it. It appeared that death wasn't a release... at least not here, certainly not at this point in time. The three scientists still talking among themselves as the armored soldier stomped off on his patrol.

Well that was quite the experience, but it was not a fruitless endeavour because at least he now knew it wasn't just WarPig killing him that caused the technician to jump back - which was a relief because David had just put everything on the line for a 50/50 chance.

But with that out of the way he had to get to the bottom of all this, hefting the bag on his back David tried to follow the armoured soon-to-be traitor - putting another person or two between himself and his killer as they moved toward the building.

That was an odd thought, to be following the man that had killed you twice...

"We are here for a task, not for naps. Let me put away my stuff and have a smoke. Then I'll come join you, " added the mocha-skinned linguist as Quarum and Heram headed into the dome. Unlike the leaner scientists, she didn't seem to struggle with the heavy equipment. Under her clothing was much more toned form than the lean Heram or the rounder Quarum. Her brown eyes matching her skin, mid-length black hair framing her face nicely as she made her way towards the dome with the others.

"Are you looking to have one of the only cigarettes within several light-years?" She asked, staying just outside the door to the facility as WarPig started his patrol.

The heavy power armor would drop several of the drones from his backpack, letting them roll off around the facility itself as he started to walk a slow circle around the dome to check for anything suspicious.

Something occured to David, as far as he knew the armoured brute just rushed the room when whatever happened happened - it didn't seem to have much finesse or planning having gone into it so the tanned technician changed his intended target to Heram... who, if he remembered correctly, was the first one to be killed.

"I'll pass on that for now, lots of things to get ready... I appreciate the offer though," he spoke to Britney, the linguist who hadn't introduced herself to him yet... this was going to get confusing quick if he didn't start methodically compiling everything in his mind.

"Uh hu..." She said, pulling out a cigarette from her pack and lighting it up. "Go be a hard worker Mr..."

She didn't have his name yet, and was quite happy to let him fill in the blanks for her.

Heram himself had already gone inside. Unlike his sister, he didn't bother trying to find a room for himself first. He left his duffle bags full of stuff on the floor, immidiately heading intot he large stone tablet in the center of the dome, eager to start pouring over it by hand.

"Mr Maverock, though that was my father's name so just call me David," he introduced himself before the technician's brown eyes were cast back over to where Heram had run off to. "I don't mean to cut things short, I always enjoy a talk with a pretty woman - but I've got a three-week long holiday to prepare for if you don't mind."

She would just nod, and watch as the tech did... whatever it was he was doing.

Heram himself seemed like a kid in a candy store, nearly overwhelmed by all the new inputs, making a slow circle around the table looking bit of stone in the center of the room before starting to slowly spiral outward, datapad out, recording ever inch of the place in as fine a detail as he could manage.

David moved closer to the table carved from stone, seeking to also study the thing that seemed to be where everything would kick off shortly before his warm eyes drifted up towards Heram.

"I'm guessing it hasn't spontaneously decided to reveal some eldritch information to you yet?" he asked with a hint of playfulness, it may have been his fourth life but he'd be damned if a Maverock could be broken by something as simple as the day being reset

Heram didn't take his eyes off what he was doing. His focus nearly absolute as he weighed his options. He checked his datapad... the tech talking to him was David. Part of the security detatchment, not the science team. He did not have the scientific skills needed for this part of the operation, he was there to maintain the facility. He probably shouldn't be talking to David. All things considered operation security was more important than getting this off his chest... but at the same time he couldn't quite help himself.

"I think it is a time machine,"

He stated it as if it were fact, rather than just his opinion.

"And I may have already turned it on. The parts of the tablet that I wanted to test appear to already be activated. The only thing here before us were the drones sent to build this done. Recordings show no one else has entered. I think we are also slightly further around the star than expected... it implies that there are maybe 16 or so hours unaccounted for."

The technician's eyes widened a little, well... that was surprisingly easy at least - of course it was still shocking to learn something that just appeared to be a fancy hunk of granite had caused him to restart the day instead of dying as he should have but... well at least he now knew.

"So, you're saying... the planet has kept moving, but things on the planet have been... I guess shunted through time?" David queried, not quite playing all his cards just yet.

"I do not have enough information to make that conclusion. It would appear there is a period of time unaccounted for. Also the changes I would have made to this tablet once I finished studying it have already been made.

There are a number of possible explanations. Personally, I hope it is time travel."

"What would be some of the other explanations for this then?" David asked, trying to gleam as much as he could from the man who was so interested in the tablet.

"Mind control or thought alteration, flaws in our sensor and recording equipment, maybe some automatic interface system that pulled my intentions out without requiring me to directly interface. There could also be other factors at play that I do not yet understand." He explained, "I am trying not to jump to unsuported conclusions, but I do have more questions now than I did when I started."

"Mhm," David let out with a few nods as he listened to Heram's thoughts and ideas, he wanted to warn the man in some way but - without having a definitive answer to the conundrum before him there was no real point, that and it could dramatically alter the outcome of events that the technician didn't fully understand yet.

"It all sounds rather intriguing, though if is the equipment then you don't mind me poking around this room a bit to make sure everything is in order - do you?"

"Your initial task would be to check the facility itself to confirm that everything is as the sensors report. Deviation from this implies that you feel the need to check this room before checking the others. I would ask why that is." Heram said.

The technician's previously warm and inviting eyes narrowed somewhat toward Heram before going back to their usual state, David rested one hand on his hip and moved the other about expressively as he answered the man's question. "If this really is a time machine, like you think it may be, then I'd like to prioritize making sure everything in this room is functioning as intended before checking other things out - do you have a problem with this?"

"I am not certain I believe your explanation. However I have no cause to stop you. You may proceed." He stated, continuing about his research as Britney entered the room, having just finished her cigarette.

"The markings on the tablet have changed from the original photos. I would like to have you start there," Heram stated before Britney could get a word in.

"Right then," She would also drop her bags by the edge of room before pulling out a rugged datapad so she could start examining the area indicated. She certainly seemed more personable than he did. Though that may be why she was only a linguist while Heram was leading the expidition.

Strange, it may have been his memories acting up but David didn't remember seeing her in the room once everything had kicked off - though he'd take note now. "I'm not asking you to believe me, just to let me do my job," the technician reassured Heram as he shrugged off his own bag and began to gather a few tools of his trade, mainly the rugged laptop and a few cables for interfacing - deciding to store the cables by running them through a belt loop for storage and quick access.

He'd begin checking the room's equipment as non-intrusively as possible for the two other people, deciding to start up some small talk. "Britney was it? sorry to leave so abruptly before - I can assure you it wasn't me trying to be rude."

Once the military-grade piece of equipment booted up he began to pull up diagnostics and system logs on one side as David scrolled through what spare components were lying around in storage - looking for a spool of copper wire and either a high-capacity capacitor or the means to make a capacitor bank among other things.

Heram certainly had reason to be suspicious... but the ancient stone infront of him was intoxicating. He couldn't tear himself away from his study of it long enough to continue exploring that line of thought with David.

Britney, on the other hand, seemed to have plenty of attention to spare for David.

"We all have jobs to do," She said in awknoledgement.

As the systems logs started to read out on David's machine he would see that the electronic security of the facility wasn't that great... the whole place was built by drones using a standard template to all of the admin passwords were still set to their defaults. The cameras in this room monitoring the area were backing up to storage onsite, but it looked like only moments ago another set of recordings had been setup to somewhere that was far more encrypted but still within range of the facility's wireless.

He would also get to see the inventory of the facility. There was a high grade 3d printer in a lower room, as well as the copper wire and capacitor he was looking for. The facility itself only had what the drones could produce ahead of time on site... which meant there was a little bit of everything, but only the essentals were in large supply. Everything else that anyone could need was onboard their ship in orbit.

That was a good sign though he'd have to wait a bit in order to pull his plan together, plus David had only seen a tiny cut of the mysterious goings on that would be hitting this room - that extra offsite backup had the technician's attention though as he pretended to keep checking the readings, in reality David was looking to see if he could see what part of the complex's communications system had been used to send this mysterious stray signal.

"That we do, so Heram has given me his play by play of what he thinks is going on - but what do you think miss, any leads or suspicions rattling your brain?" he asked, multi tasking by continuing the conversation to try and draw attention away from what the tanned man was doing - it didn't matter if there was evidence left behind that could be investigated later because with his knowledge of what would be going down...

There wouldn't be a later, not yet.

"This whole thing is suspicious if you ask me," Britney said, putting her datapad down for a moment so she could look at him directly as if this was more important than anything, "A construction this massive? Why would someone abandon it? It has to be dangerous... we don't abandon facilities without good reason. I imagine other species are the same."

As David worked, he'd start to narrow down just where the files were being backed up to... though the more he dug the harder it was to narrow down exactly what was going on. It looked like traffic was being sent to the ship, then back down to the facility, and then broadcast out over the local network to... somewhere. Quite a few steps had been taken to conseal just where the data was going... though it was pretty clear that someone with an intelligence background had to be behind this level of obfuscation. It was also clear that the backup had to be located nearby as there wasn't anywhere else the signal could really travel to.

"Yeah I don't get it either, something important enough to warrant an entire expedition was this easy to access? something's off," David spoke, both to his own findings about somebody having bounced the signal and to Britney's own musings.

He had to go investigate further though, of course - and there was no point trying to convince the others he knew what was going on just yet when so many pieces of the puzzle were missing. "Well everything looks to be in working order here, is there anything you need while I'm here?" the technician queried as he remained crouched with that laptop in hand.

"I think we both have our own jobs to do," Britney replied, "Good luck with yours."

It certainly sounded like she meant it, but at the same time it certainly sounded like she knew he'd need it, her attention turning back to her study of the stone with Heram.

He squinted slightly at the woman, wondering if maybe she was in the same predicament he was - but deciding the chance was too slim, maybe he'd investigate that thread a little later though.

"You too, best of luck to you both," David replied with a warm smile as he began leaving the room, moving to head up to the antenna that had been erected atop the facility to see if he could spy wherever that signal was headed to.

Ontop of the dome was a small area around the main communications dishes for the site. Currently, the only signals being sent out was a long range signal to the ship in orbit, and a general short range wireless communication signal that was meant for personal devices. Despite dismantling and reassembling the gear there, he could find no other transmitters. This meant that the backup could only be in one of two places: The ship, or in the facility with them.

Shit, it was wishful thinking but he expected to find nothing - whoever was doing this really wanted to cover up their tracks and understandably so, it was just a shame that they were hiding it from David. He moved back down into the facility, pondering the next course of action - he felt it was unlikely anybody would let the technician hitch a ride back up to their ship that was currently in orbit, sure the man might be able to back up to it himself if he was quick enough but that'd also end no doubt in death.

He thought harder, the first... cycle? sure, cycle was a good enough way to explain it - during the first cycle David had already gone through and done his maintenance run, but were there any places he might have not looked before that might be worth a visit with his current knowledge? He had checked the facility quite completely... There were only a few things he had not checked... the shuttle itself, and the equipment brought in by the science team. The shuttle itself had very little, just enough to get down from orbit and back. It was unlikely anything was hidden there.

That left three people's duffle bag's worth of stuff. The backup he was looking for could easily be small enough to fit there.

He thought a little more, Warpig's pack had been rather hefty-looking and he knew for a fact that the armoured bastard was in on this so that's where he'd look first.

Warpig's backpack was built into his armor, which made the search easier... his armor was entirely sealed, that soldier could sleep inside the armor, waste and cleaning was handled internally... he'd spend the entire expidition without every getting out. If he had the backup with him then it would have to be inside of the armor itself as everything he brought would stay with him.

The soldier was still performing his sweep of the outside, this took him near the outside of the base's wireless network. It would be simple to decrease the range of the network to exclude Warpig entirely.

David was also able to determine that the backup he was looking for wasn't communicating back... meaning if the backup was outside of range of the network it wouldn't be able to record what was going on. If he decreased the range of the network and Warpig came running back, it would be a clear indication that the backup he was looking for was onboard that armored suit.

It seemed like a good enough idea to him, and one way to rule out whether or not this brute had help on the ground with them - so David went to go reduce the network's range, making sure to follow WarPig on one of the many camera-fed monitors in this room. Another detail hugged David's thoughts though, currently the armour had mesh on it sure but he vivildy remembered it being covered in dirt and plant life the first time he had been killed.

It wasn't like WarPig had been subtle during his assault, so it was something he'd think on for a little bit...

As Warpig moved around, it looked like he was adding dirt and grass to the exterior of his armor... disguising it bit by bit with practical fieldcraft... however he didn't seem to notice the change in network range. Signals were still being sent to the backup as far as David could tell, but either the backup wasn't with Warpig or Warpig was far better an actor than he was a bodyguard.

David returned the range to what it had been prior and watched for any changes in the armoured thing's demeanour, but at this point it was enough evidence for a conclusion to be drawn - whoever had set this up was taking precautons to not be found out afterall, so he doubted they'd stand for lost footage.

He huffed a little, now knowing there must be someone inside the facility who'd be against him and so the man decided to not rule anybody out. David had his doubts about it being Quarum, he had most of her routine mapped out by now and there wasn't much about her overall being that'd tip him off though she wasn't ruled out just yet.

Britney was one of the more suspicious ones to him, her pack had been just as full as anybody else's yet the way she carried it spoke of a more intense physique - combined with the somewhat hardy personality and slightly suspicious behaviour led to David seeing her as potentially someone that would be sought out to help with this kind of thing.

Heram was a little cold and abrasive but hadn't done much else besides his job as far as the technician was concerned - again nobody was off the table but... he had to start somewhere and Quarum had the least opportunity to hide alternate motives so he'd start there, where would she be at this moment...


-----

Day 1, 11:20 Ship Time

Quarum's Room

Quarum had finished her shower, wrapped her head in a towel, and had started on her nap. She'd picked out one of the officer's rooms as her own and left her bags out on the floor. The doors weren't locked, and this was an easy opportunity for David to snoop around...

Wanting to make sure she was asleep first lead to David gently gripping the handle to her door, easing it open a crack to see if he could hear the sounds of her sleeping or even just see her asleep - she'd been pretty adamant on wanting that nap after all.

He could see her asleep, and it seemed she didn't snore. Her bags were even left out on the floor just in the middle of the room. They were closer to him than she was, making them quite easy to get to.

They were easy to get to, easy to open up. She had brought plenty of clothing, several datapads... all of which he could verify were off and not receiving traffic. Her second bag had some research notes and what looked to be several bags full of various candy.

He could rule out Quarum as having the additional backup.

After having put everything back in place, David cast a warm smile over to the brown haired, porcelain-skinned girl's sleeping form, he was glad that finally his instincts had been on point - and David would be lying if he said she wasn't an easily likable person but for now he left her to sleep, quietly leaving the room.

From memory Britney dumped her pack in the same room as the tablet, as did Heram - he wondered if they would still be there and moved to check.

It did look like both of them were still in the same room, still studying the tablet. Their bags were scattered about the room, and it would be hard to get to them without them noticing...

He made note of where their bags were and thought back to the fuse box he had passed a few meters back, cutting power to the room seemed like a good enough idea to the technician and there were more than one doors leading to the room so he liked this plan. Which is why David found himself opening up the metal cover and making sure nobody was watching before he unseated one of the fuses that a drone had put in - luckily they already appeared to be neatly labeled... an advantage of robots building off a template.

"Brittney, would you mind finding David and having him check the lighting," Heram asked, turning on the flash light of his datapad and holding it up so he could continue his examination in the low light as Brittney excused herself from the room, typing up a message for the combat tech

'Lights in the main room are out'

He stuffed the fuse into one pocket and replaced it with his communicator, being the techie he was it wasn't an odd thing for David to be carrying around as many devices as he did - he was confident with the plan so far though and quickly shot a message back.

'I'll come check it out, cheers'

Though he did wait for a moment or two to pass before making his presence known, using the screen's light to illuminate his face as David stepped into the room and spoke, "Go take a break or something, I'll check everything over again and it should be no more than a minute or two."

"I'm fine here," Heram stated, ever dedicated to the work he was doing while Britney seemed happy to wait outside, grabbing another cigarette from her bag before heading out the door to light up.

"Suit yourself~" David shot back, well at least the one without tunnel vision had left the room so that was good enough for him as the technician began poking around the room here and there - searching bags when he felt it was safe to do so.

The first bag he came across was Britney's. Her first duffle bag seemed to be filled with clothing and a lp2966 pistol wrapped up inside.Her second bag seemed filled with tools, datapads, and a tablet-sized portable storage device. The black slate appeared to be on... a likely match for the backup that David was looking for.

"Uh, guys? Looks like we have another shuttle coming down..." Britney called out from the outside…

He had been hoping that hunch was wrong, but after having connected all the evidence it was hard to deny that the linguist with a hard attitude, a hard body, a gun and an unlisted, no doubt heavily encrypted portable backup in her bag was the culprit.

It was a shame~ wait was that a ship? That hadn’t happened before.

The technician grabbed the energy pistol and stuffed it into his waistband, under his jacket before he grabbed the backup too and covered up the snooping as best he could before moving out to investigate the ship - though David did make sure to replace that fuse on the way out, backup now stowed in his own bag.




Chapter 2: Meanwhile, on the ship...


Day 1 - 13:00 Ship Time

"WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP!"

The hands of a green haired woman pleasantly drummed along on the sleep chambers as three more members of the expedition were woken up from their long sleep. When they originally went to sleep, their destination was supposed to be two weeks out but there was no telling how long they had actually been asleep for.

No doubt the girl waking them would have some answers.

The girl herself had long green hair that had been pulled back into a tight bun. She was human, and certainly looked no older than 21-22. Her slim, toned, form was a product of the continuous physical fitness programs of the Foreign Legion but her lack of sidearm or vest hinted that she wasn't employed as a soldier. Her body was hidden inside a tight fitting black and blue bodysuit that came up to her neck. This sleepsuit was standard issue for anyone who was going into stasis, and had the same built in medical monitoring equipment that watched over everyone else.

As she tapped away on the clear cover of the stasis pods, they would slowly finish their unlocking process. Three more individuals would be brought awake with a sudden rush of invigorating oxygen. The covers sliding open, and the monitoring cables disconnecting.

"Come on! The first group has already gone down to the surface. We're gonna head down there soon. Your gear and stuff is in the ready room so grab what you need for the first day or two. Later groups will finish bringing down all of the supplies."

The 'ready room' that she mentioned was just outside of the stasis-bay where hundreds of others were similarly asleep inside of stasis pods racked side by side, leaving only a small hallway for travel. There was no artificial gravity here, so it was a simple matter for the woman to push away from the pods and float over to the ready room: A large hexagonal room with lockers setup on all sides, the floor, and ceiling.

The redhead let out a wet thick cough as she blinked open her eyes blearily. She forced herself to move, grunting with the exertion of shacking off her cryosleep heavy limbs. She hated that original feeling when she had fallen asleep, it felt wrong as she drifted off as she had a small panic attack about actually going under.

Green eyes eventually fought to focus on the world around her as she tried to brush the hair out of her face, yet forgot her arms weren't there. Grumbling about bullshit regulations and her bullshit cybernetics, she struggled even further to get herself up and moving with the lack of her arms as she eventually got the door all the way open and stumbled her way out of the tank. She was small by all accounts, smaller even now with a lack of arms as she shimmed the last bits of melting residual ice off of her, but eventually she stumbled her way over to the small special container where her arms were.

"Yo! Who's around I need fuckin help!" Tecuma called out, starting to get rather upset over the fact that she was currently armless.

Esscast sat up in the cryo bed and rolled his shoulders and neck giving a few pops "never going to get used to that." He said in a tired voice as he gets up his auburn hair having streaks of grey in it and the scar over his right eye kept him from opening it .

Rubbing his good eye she stands up on shaking legs using the bed as support till he got feeling back in them "I'm with tin arms were are we and how long has it been?"

"Come on... Boss-Lady's gonna be mad at me if we can't keep up the pace!" The green-haired woman just watched the two of them for a moment, seeing a distinct lack of movement from the pair. "... OK Fine... I'm Tiff btw, though the call-sign is Greenhorn. The only other person awake right now is the Boss-Lady and she's running things from the CIC right now... it has been about 3 weeks since you guys went to sleep and I'm seriously on a time table here so lets GOOoooooo....."

Green horn would scoop up Tecuma from her sleep pod, and then push off from the wall using her feet, sending the two flying at an angle towards the door, turning Tecoma towards the wall with the full expectation that she'd use her feet to bounce them through to the ready room and Tecuma's waiting arms...

"Esscast! Stop laying about and help me find those arms. They should be in the locker with Tecuma's name on it..."

Esscast nodded and joged over to the ready room, using his magnetic field augs to help his feet cling to the floor. It only took him a moment to find her locker using his magnetic field augs and grabs the arms, tossing them out into the middle of the room before going to get his own gear.

"Yiu coulda gotten me my fuckin arms instead of carrying me around like a god damn doll!" Tecuma shouted at green horn as she flailed her legs pathetically. The collision course panicked the girl even further but she seemed to manage, pushing off with her legs.

"GET ME MY FUCKING ARMS!" She shouted as she struggled in the grasp rather angrily.

"OK! WOW! FINE!" Green-horn said, releasing Tecuma and letting her float towards Esscast now that the two were already on a trajectory for the ready-room. She would cross her arms and just watch as the two of them floated towards Tecuma's arms...

Meanwhile Esscast was stripping down, getting out of the monitoring bodysuit and putting on his own combat recon power suit, sliding it out of his locker-area and climbing in. As soon as the rear clicked closed, the blue lights on the full face helmet would flash on.

"Hey! Fuck face! Catch me!" Tecuma shouted at Esscast.

Esscast stepped to the side not catching as he grabbed his gun and walked away using his magnet powers.

Sarah stirred as the stasis wore off, the sleep suit accentuating the figure of the shapely woman. She climbed out of the pod, used to the effects of such methods of enduring long trips. Using the bed as a launch pad, Sarah angled herself towards the equipment lockers before kicking off.

With a light thump, she landed feet first after kicking forward to rotate and reorient her body before making contact with the new surface. Using every edges, she worked her way to the floor before stripping down, not caring much for modesty. Opening the locker, the woman quickly got into her own bodysuit.

Without saying a word she put on the full suit that covered from chin to toes. With a hiss it sealed before she attached on the armor pieces. The last piece was the helmet which went on with a click.

"Ha! Winning teamwork there," Green-horn said, slowly turning to watch Esscast move away, "Maybe you need a...." Green-horn would pause for dramatic effect...but she would keep pausing because she stopped watching where she was going and ended up smacking up against the back wall of the room, "OHF!"

".... need a hand...." She finished, reaching to grab ahold of one of the locker handles to steady herself, before pushing off towards her own locker for her equipment.

"You fuckin sunuvabi-umph" Tecuma crashed into the lockers with a thud and a rattling of the doors as she flailed around a bit. "Oh fuckin hell I'm gonna kick your ass when I get my arms!"

Esscast chuckled finishing putting on his gear "oh hush, I'll make it up to you with a new gun."

"She'd need to operate that gun with her feet... or maybe her mouth?" Green-Horn teased, still floating about the cabin as she pulled on her flight suit over her sleep-suit, adding a layer of green compression fabric and a small life support system attached to her chest.

Sarah only chuckled softly as she retrieved her weapons from the locker. The black and red armor had it's own maneuvering capabilities, something that made moving around now that much easier.

The armored woman cruised over towards where it was she would be needed next.

"You can all eat a bag of dicks..." Tecuma growled as she fumbled with her locker using her toes. It was comical for a few minutes as she struggled until she was able to finally open the locker. Slipping a foot under one of the metallic arms, she pulled up on it and let it float toward her before turning her shoulder to it.

There was a soft hum for a second before the arm started to drift toward the large metal socket in her shoulder before it was suddenly sucked in and clicked. The diminutive girl yelped out loud and kicked the locker in pain.

Eventually, the arm went through a bootup sequence as each finger flexed and clenched individually before together and she gained full control of her arm. Sucking in a breath, the took the other arm and shoved the arm into her shoulder socket quickly and groaned in pain. Eventually, she stood and shook out her arms, dressed and went to find the others. Upon spotting Esscast, she would punch him in the kidney

Esscast would grunt and push his side into the punch to lessen the damage done "you should try that again I may like it next time" he said gruffly as he looks to everyone after putting his lmg and sniper rifle on his back his magnetic powers holding them in place as he held his pdw in his gahan "so what's the sitrep?"

"Probably going to be boring as fuck for you grunts, WarPig is already down there with the heavy armor. It'll just be babysitting the science-types and unloading cargo once we get down there." Green-Horn would take her face-mask and hold it up to her mouth for a moment, checking to make sure oxygen was flowing like it was supposed to before setting the whole thing to standby. "We have an hour before the shuttle is scheduled to leave, that is just enough time for Tecuma to go finish off all those dicks she's fond of having for breakfast!"

"I got several for snacks, wouldn't want you all to miss out on the feast" Tecuma said as she lifted a shiny middle finger towards Green Horn.

"I'll pass. I'm on a strict, no dick diet. Besides, I doubt those little ones you probably like would do much.", Sarah's voice said as it came through her helmet's audio.

Turning to green horn she gave a thumbs up, "Understood, I'll handle overwatch then."

"Just overwatch yourself over to the shuttle when you're done. You guys know the way right?" Green-Horn asked, "I'm not going to leave you guys here, have you get lost, and then get myself chewed out because I lost the people I was supposed to bring to the surface."

Esscast chuckled "don't tempt me with those snacks," esscast said as he made his way to the shuttles.

---

Day 1 - 14:10 Ship Time

Green-Horn was seated in the front of the shuttle. The small dart-like transport had one seat all the way at the front, with a long, skinny, cargo bay behind it. There was just enough room for the seats along the wall and some small cargo pallets in the center of the shuttle itself.

~~Green-Horn, you're clear for departure.~~

"Right-O boss!" Green-Horn replied, practically shouting back at the radio as she manually toggled some safety switches along the center console. "Going through final checks on our side now. Have switched to internal power. Life support and propulsion look good. I'll be out of your hair in 5."

She would look back over her shoulder, "ARE ALL OF YOU STRAPPED IN BACK THERE?! I SWEAR IF YOU SMASH YOUR FACE AGAINST A WALL AND DIE I'LL.... uh.... I'LL FIND A WAY TO MAKE THINGS WORSE THAN THAT!"

Without waiting for a response she'd turn her attention back towards the cockpit window, turning off the sunscreen and showing a view of the exterior of the ship. From their position on the hull they could see nearly half a kilometer of the Edward Deming's hull, long, flat, panels covering the ship's internals with various hatches, ports, sensors, and antenna sticking out including one port that probably should have been closed.

"Uh, Boss... looks like missile silo door 34 is open. Are we expecting trouble?"

"It will take far more than that, armor has medical!", Sarah called from her seat towards the back. It was true, the Revenant power armor, albeit light, was built for survivability. The defib unit in the chest plate attested to that fact.

Tecuma was strapped in tightly, seemingly a bit concerned about the mad pilot up front. She had her safety belts in a death grip, even armored as she was.

" I swear to all that is holy if you crash this fucking thing I will make your afterlife a miserable shitshow!"

Esscast chuckled as he used his magnetic powers to insure he doesn't Move a inch while the birds in motion "aww worried about all the side dick you could have twcuma?"

~~Stand by...~~

Green-horn did not look happy when she heard that come over the radio. She'd turn her head just enough to shout "SIT DOWN," in the kind of tone that left no room for interpretation.

An overwhelming brightness shined through the forward screen, flash-frying the forward sections of the shuttle. The light was so bright that just the reflections off of the interior of the ship was enough to blind someone, the intense heat and radiation only lasting for a moment, followed by a blast that turned the Edward Deming along with the attached shuttle into a burning ball of flame.

There were no survivors, and the crew would die without knowing what had happened on the surface of the planet, or why the ship had exploded.

Though other events were already in motion...

----

Day 1 - 13:00 Ship Time

"WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP!

Come on! The first group has already gone down to the surface. We're gonna head down there soon. Your gear and stuff is in the ready room so grab what you need for the first day or two. Later groups will finish bringing down all of the supplies."

The crew being woken up from their pods would certainly feel Deja-vu. They were once again in their monitoring bodysuits for stasis and the ship they were in certainly looked intact. Green-Horn was even still there, cheerfully waiting for them to awake and get their gear together.

Esscast groggily sat up placing his head in his hands "wait weren't we just here?"

Sarah climbed out of her pod with an odd sensation. It was if she'd awakened from a nightmare that left a feeling of unease that lingered. Something felt off, but she quickly headed to her locker and suited up.

"Ffffuuuucccckkkkk you!" Tecuma growled aloud as she winced and tried to rub her eyes as she struggled to sit up. The day was already cold and she hated it, but as she sent the mental command to rub her eyes... Nothing.

"Which one of you fuck sticks stole my arms?!" She shouted out as she eventually opened her eyes. She was back in the cryochamber... Didn't she already get out of here? With a growl she shouted out again.

"My arms! I need my goddamn arms someone!"

Green-horn frowned, from her perspective she got some defective-soldier-types out of storage.

"Of course you were just here, you have been here for months, In Stasis, Because we don't need you for the trip here... just for the walking around and soldiering planetside. Your arms, just like the rest of your gear, is in the ready-room so grab what you need for the first day or two. Later groups will finish bringing down all of the supplies.

Now come on!... Boss-Lady's gonna be mad at me if we can't keep up the pace! Also, I'm Tiff, but my call-sign is Green-Horn!"

Green-Horn didn't seem to remember that they had just gone through this only an hour ago... though everyone else seemed to have a pretty good memory of getting exploded.

Esscast shook his head and backed up "no offense green horn but let's wait and take a look at the planet now you read my file to know I'm not scared of a lot of things but this is different we were just here and then after a bright light were back at square one?!?" Esscast sounded panicked "if we go through with this we are dead were all dead!!" Esscast said panicked and sounding crazyer by the minute.

Sarah shook her head before putting her helmet on and grabbing her rifle. The ravenette then moved over to Tecuma's marked locker before removing the prosthesis. With a weak burst the armored woman glided over to the disarmed woman. "Here.", she said simply as she helped attach them.

"It's called a nightmare dumbass, get over it." Tecuma said before the first arm was shoved into her shoulder socket with little ceremony. The tiny girl let out a clipped grunt of pain and gritted her teeth against the second one as he arms went through slightly staggered boot up sequences. After a few moments metal hands gripped the edges of the cryo pod and the redhead pulled herself out of the pod.

"Fuckin shit everything hurts." Tecuma said as she rolled her shoulders and shook out her legs before she pushed off to her locker. Unlike in her dream, she had her arms which made manuevering much simpler. A few minutes and she was suited up and ready to go.

"Yeah, you lot aren't some all-powerful magic users who can see in the future... Now go get gear'd up. We have an hour before the shuttle is scheduled to leave, and I'm not going to get chew'd out by the Boss-Lady because you grunts got scared during nap-time." Green-Horn said, "I know you're all super tough, but seriously..."

"Hey don't lump me in with pussy cat over there." Tecuma said as she tested her fingers out one more time before she went to get everything together that she needed and headed to the shuttle, smirking at Esscast.

Esscast sighed "I guess your right, I'd rather be a pussy then look ma no hands" esscast grunted before gerrget his gear and moving to the hanger area.

Sarah kept her opinions to herself, and her thoughts on these so called nightmares as well. Something was very off, and force it scared her. Normally she was dead to such things, a stigma of doing assassinations for 20 years. She gave a lower burst as she glided towards the hangar as well.

"Hey, I got two nice metallic hands that I can use to shove up your ass and work you like a puppet if need be, and these are easier to clean then your meatbag arms." Tecuma told Esscast as she touched down in the hangar eventually and headed toward the ship.

---

Day 1 - 14:10 Ship Time

Green-Horn was seated in the front of the shuttle. The small dart-like transport had one seat all the way at the front, with a long, skinny, cargo bay behind it. There was just enough room for the seats along the wall and some small cargo pallets in the center of the shuttle itself.

~~Green-Horn, you're clear for departure.~~

"Right-O boss!" Green-Horn replied, practically shouting back at the radio as she manually toggled some saftey switches along the center console. "Going through final checks on our side now....

The whole scene was all to familiar for the soldiers that were waiting in the back of the shuttle. It was all nearly a word-for-word recreation of what they had experienced earlier... or at least earlier from their perspective.


"....Uh, Boss... looks like missile silo door 34 is open. Are we expecting trouble? ..."

There wasn't much for them to say or do at this point. All that was left would be the increasingly familiar sensation of what it was like to be flash-fried. The inevitable blastwave that followed bringing a quick end to those in the shuttle.


----

Day 1 - 13:00 Ship Time

"WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP!

Come on! The first group has already gone down to the surface. We're gonna head down there soon. Your gear and stuff is in the ready room so grab what you need for the first day or two. Later groups will finish bringing down all of the supplies."

The feeling of Deja-vu certainly didn't go away upon waking for the third time. While Green-Horn clearly didn't seem to share the memory of what had just transpired.

Esscast woke up looking around "yah nope going back to sleep fuck that s noise." Esscast exlaimed

Tecuma groaned as she sat up in her tank, confused as she shook her head.

"Fuckin aaaarrrrrmmmmmmmssssss" She shouted out as she tried to piece together the memories in her head. She was a lot less rowdy but no less foul mouthed.

Sarah sat up quickly, bolting up like from a nightmare. She quickly looked around the sleep chamber for the third time. Something is very wrong, very very wrong.

Sarah slipped out of her pod and immediately walked over to Esscast's pod. "Please tell me you remember what happened too.", she said quietly with an intense stare from blue eyes as he raven hair floated in low G.

Esscast sat up noticably pissed "Yes, I remember quite vividly but try telling anyone that I tried to warn you last death? But you all thought I was crazy."

"Aaaaarrrrrrmmmmmmmmssssssssss," Tecuma shouted aloud yet again as she fumbled her way out of the tank as best she could, floating in the zero-g environment.

Esscast walked over to tecumas locker and returned with tecumas arms "so want to shove these up my ass and work me like a puppet like you said?"

Green-horn just watched the group for a few moments, trying to put together exactly how to respond. "You are all being weird. Is this some kinda marine thing I don't know about?.. I mean, so whatever you want so long as you're ready to go in an hour."

While it seemed that Esscast, Tecuma, and Sarah remembered what had happened before... Green-Horn showed no signs of remembering what had happened.

Tecuma blinked for a moment and started to say something, but shut her mouth and stared at Esscast. "How'd you know I said that? That was a dream..."

Esscast shakes his head "nope this is just the third time we have all died right as we take off from a missile malfunction" esscast said as he offered to help attach the arms "shame it took everyone dying twice to realize this"

"I put your arms on last time, before we blew up....again.", Sarah said joining Esscast at Tecuma's pod, before speaking much quieter to the both of them. "We need to drop the payload somehow, purge it from the ship's magazine. Otherwise we're going to be stuck doing this, over and over. So plan time."

"Well obviously don't get on the ship dumbasses.." Tecuma said as she grunted through the pain of reconnecting her arms, eyes watering.

"Maybe take a different ship, or get the missiles removed? Or somethin I don't fuckin know!"

"I feel like the only guy at a lesbian orgy... WHAT ARE YOU GRUNTS TALKING ABOUT?" Green-Horn practically yelled, "You make it sound like it is our missiles that are the problem!"

"YOUR MISSLES BLOW US UP! Aren't you listening or did all the dicks finally get to you?!" Tecuma shouted at Green-Horn, arms thrown out wide as she stared at the woman.

"A missile fires at us, we blow up, die, and wind up back here! Let's take a different ship or wait or somethin I don't fuckin know!"

Esscast thinks for a moment "before we take off have someone preferably a medic because I'm going to put a magnet field around the detonation primer on the missiles I'll probably pass out do to making them duds and you can take it out of my paycheck deal?!"

"YOU'RE DAD'S DICK AIN'T SO GOOD IT'LL FUCK UP MY HEARING!" Green-horn yelled back at Tecuma as she slowly floated away from where she had been standing now that her hands were on her hips rather than holding onto the edge of one of the stasis tubes.

But by this point, the situation was out of Green-Horn's hands.

Green-Thumb was listening in over the ship's communication systems.

The amazonian woman was going through her option. It did look like she had a bunch of marines that had gone a little nuts while in stasis. She certainly couldn't send them down to the surface like this, and couldn't trust them if left on their own. She also couldn't ignore their statements about the ship's missiles. It was unlikely, but not following up on even an unlikely response would be irresponsible.

She also remembered the briefing for this mission... to expect 'some weirdness'.

This certainly qualified.

"Green-Horn. Marines. I have decided to postpone your departure. Head to the missile-bay and manually disable the missiles. We will wake up the weapons-techs next and have them run a full diagnostic. When you are done there report to the med-bay." She said, over the PA.

Green-Horn frowned, "Shit... you guys got me in trouble..."

Esscast lookes at greenhorn, "yay!" He quietly cheered.

A figure immediately appeared in the doorway upon this announcement, someone bespectaled with blonde hair and a blue-grey space suit. Angular eyes shot each one of them a look of extreme agitation, before they rose up a quad-barrelled laser pistol attached to their wrist. It wasn't even the only gun. Even beyond Tecuma's modifications, this shady person was cyborged to the hilt...

"I knew it! Conspiracy! They are telling you to mess with the missiles! The Greenshift is!" Strangely calm and calculating, serious as stone. "But you can't hide it from me any longer. I seen it happen. I heard you talking over the security feeds... It's over! It's O-V-E-R! I know everything! EVERYTHING!~"

"The fuck is he on about? At least we aren't going to die in a fiery ball of plasma this time.", Sarah said with a shrug, "So what do we do now?"

"YEA WELL MY DAD'S DICK IS BETTER THEN YOUR DAD's DICK.... WAIT THAT CAME OUT WRONG!" Tecuma shouted back at Green-Horn before she slapped herself in the head and grumbled. She gritted her teeth and stared at the weird Cyborg and rubbed her temples.

"Now what the fuck are you going on about? We know shit is fucked already!"

"You're not going anywhere near those missiles, not this ti-!" The cyborg paused, froze up with their guns for a moment, and then swapped arms. They were genuinely confused by the statement. "Hold on, what do you mean 'this time'?... I'll sizzle some holes in y'all if this is some kind of mind game!"

Esscast headed in the area of the missle bay "this is going to hurt so fucking much" he said making his way to the missle area "I hope I can do this"
Esscast sighed as he concentrated on his magnetic augs as he began to feel lightheaded turn to raging migraine as the magnetic field started to turn off the missles trigger effectively however braking it in the process before falling face first on the deck blood trickling out his nose and ears. But still alive.

"YEAH I BET YOUR DAD'S DICK WENT IN WRONG TOO!" Green-Horn shouted back as Esscast ran off on his own... heading towards the missile bay to fry the electronics there... "I can't watch all of you if you split up! Lets go get whatshisface... YOU COME TOO SCIENCE PERSON! I think our marines got freezer burn while in stasis... so don't you too start with the 'this time' stuff. I'm supposed to be a pilot not a babysitter! AND STOP POINTING YOUR GUNS AT PEOPLE!"

Green horn would open the door, motioning for everyone to leave and head after their recently departed friend.

Green-Thumb would queue up the PA,

"Doris, this may be better suited for your talents. The Wazus asked us to keep watch for something weird and this certainly qualifies." Back in the ship's command room, Green-Thumb was practically holding her breath. There were a bunch of people now waving guns around and zapping stuff on the ship she was supposed to keep intact. Hopefully their trust in Doris was not misplaced.

"You don't understand Green-Thumb." Doris responded, their glasses reflecting a perticularly sinister glare of white, whilst their brow furrowed. "These miscreants are the recipients of coded messages! They are acting confused to disguise the fact that they are clearly alien spies! Or shapeshifters of some sort! Or worse!"

Their head angled strangely after this rant, as if deafened by some etheral sound beyond human hearing... It certainly looked like madness, but was actually the result of the scientist's cyborg ears 'hearing' the calamity that Esscast fellow was setting off in the rooms adjacent.

Without loosing another second, Doris Muller ran off to chase him, slamming open doors and knocking over a maintenance trolley.

But the guy was already on the floor when she got there.

Ended up pointing her gun at him anyway.

"Oi, alien degenerate!" A stern growl. "I can tell you ain't dead! Tell me what you just did!"

"Five minutes after our third thaw and everything has gone to madness. Go figure. Hopefully the hulk actually got it done. Let's go see if fourth times the charm i guess.", Sarah said with a sigh before suiting up. Once she was geared and ready to go, the woman boarded the
shuttle, and waited to see if this was jus another death.

Esscast grumbled "what I did was nearly kill myself killing the detonation switches to all the onboard missles in the ship, now either get the gun out of my face or I'll break that too." Esscast watched as Sarah left to get in the dropship as others showed up "hey tacuma can you do me a favor and help me here I might need help to the dropship while I wait for my augs to do their thing and the trigger Happy, thing isn't helping much"

"I am not a 'thing'!... And my application of firearms is perfectly appropriate!" Doris scowled, before taking a backstep to examine one of the data terminals linked up to the launch system. It did indeed look like the man was telling the truth... But why? How? What was really going on here? "...Well... If things are as you say they are... I guess I'm coming with you."

The gun was lowered, but the brain remained primed. The woman was a scientist, and they knew what they saw. The spectrum of the light from that star had shifted. Just for a milisecond, but... Too strange to put down to coincidence, not when all of these other crew members were also acting quite irate.

"The fuck reason should I help you for? You didn't catch me the first thaw!" Tecuma said with a glare at the man on the floor as she walked over. With her augmented strength between the armor and the prostetic limbs, Tecuma simply dragged Esscast along behind her and as they got to the shuttle, chucked him into the seat.

Esscast sighed "probably because I may have just saved us from going threw another thaw" esscast turns to Doris "as for your question of how I did it my Body is heavily augmented with a magnet feild allowing me to affect both my body and singular objects at once so I messed with the detination switch on all the missles not breaking the missles but reversing the magnetic pull that setting off the trigger would make the missle explode so it's a dud now"

Green-Thumb covered her eyes as she watched the whole thing unfold. The marines had fried the missiles of the ship rather than just disabling them. The marines were then heading to the shuttle as if it was safe to send these freezer-burned individuals were still fit to be a part of a security detail. She was just about to say something when the ship received a missile launch request... one that would trigger the missiles to explode in their silos.

'Be prepared for anything weird...' she told herself, recounting what James had told her earlier when he was getting this expedition ready.

Maybe the marines were lucky? Maybe they could see the future? There were certainly more questions than answers at this point... but before Green-Thumb could take another action the ship would receive another request.

"FUCK!" The shout came over the PA so everyone could hear Green-Thumb, "Someone tried to blow up the ship remotely. The missiles are disabled, but they did turn on the drones. Grab some wea,..."

A four leg'd tank crawled its way out of one of the storage bays, and immediately strafed the command area with cannon fire before turning its attention towards the shuttle, making its way over the exterior of the hull.


EsscaaE siggs rather loudly "I'll see you all next thaw" he said before pulling out his sidearm and shooting himself in the head knowing he's pretty useless to everyone currently.

Doris was sitting cross-legged in one of the shuttle seats, defensively primed to react to whatever violent dillusion was developing in the mind of these individuals. What they did not expect was to simply be splattered in gore from one of them choosing to suddenly end themselves.

There was a severe lack of data. Had something gone wrong in cryosleep? But how could that be affecting what was still happening on the ship?... No. This was a red herring. Another side effect of a true fault... Maybe even a diversion?...

Data. Doris needed data. Blind speculation was a gibbering animal's domain. Humans knew facts.

Closing her eyes without even bothering to wipe the blood from her glasses, the woman opened her third eye. The antenna attached to her cranium fed her a constant stream of radio waves, microwave emissions, magnetic feild data. There had to be a clue in there somewhere.

There. THAT. The one signal that was increasing in signal strength as they approached the planet, instead of dying away like all the others from the ship.

A full analysis. She set about defining the exact contents of the signal, the intention, the exact kind of device it was sent from.

Maybe a return address or modem ID code. That would be nice...


Day 1 - 12:00 Ship Time

Doris would receive a signal.

Sure, the star was acting weird. The occasional flicker and redshift of its light was certainly something that a star shouldn't be doing. But the message would be the weirder thing of the two, demanding Doris' attention.

The message itself was from Doris, and was addressed to Doris, with the timestamp originating a few hours in the future. The security keys on the message matched, indicating it was authentic.

Doris would be fairly certain that she didn't send this particular message though.

The message itself included a saved copy of the signal that future-doris had been monitoring shortly before future-ship rapidly disassembled itself thanks to that future-signal as well as a hastily created message.

The coffee was cold, and her eyes were tired. Damn full spectral analysis of the star would still take another hour to complete at this rate anyway, probably the only reason they had the focus to acknowledge that strange message...

Still, it seemed like a waking dream.

"The sleepers remember?..." She mouthed the words out loud, whilst a confused look reflected back at them from the black metal work surface. The small string of messages made no sense, but... Her transmission security was perfect. If this was a hacker, they were damn good. "Star is reading a temporary slowing of light. Act quickly?..."

Black-gloved hands slammed into the desk. Freaking aliens. It had to be. Those little green fucks were at it again.

Lobbing her lab coat onto the adjacent table, and methodically tapping her legs into the armoured voidsuit lying just beyond, Doris Muller immediately made their way to the cryogenics suite. Picked up a medical kit along the way. She'd start with the team that was supposed to wake up in an hour, and work her way through any others as needed.

Got there, and started defrosting the occupants right away by triggering the emergency release.

Probably not the safest way of doing things medically speaking, but... Sod it. She was a doctor, right? And there was something else, far bigger and more sinister, going on here...

Tecuma coughed up whatever was in her throat as she came to slowly in her cryopod. Kicking the pod casing with the ball of one of her feet, she was angry at just everything in general, angry at the fact they had died again, that she was waking up in this fucking pod again.

Angry...

ANGRY...

ANGRY!

As the door popped open, Tecuma sat up and maneuvered so she could get out of the pod, ice still on her sides and shoulders and even along the metallic inserts into her flesh where her arms went. She huffed a few times and shook her head, unknowing of the changed that had happened to her. Doris would be the first to see it if she looked Tecuma over. Her hair was her normal length, and red still... well mostly. The top eighth of her hair was a stark white now, and her face had some differences too, mostly in the stylized pointed lines that seemed to wrap around her lips, like the start of a tattoo that looked almost like teeth.

Her artificial arms would look different too. Where once was smooth metal, faint lines would be carved into the metal now. Ancient runes with stylized knots and twisting lines that connected containment circles around each one ran from the back of the hands all the way up to where the shoulder would connect to her socket. The lines were faint, but could be felt by anyone that was actually touching them.

"FUCK THIS SHIT I AM SO DONE WITH IT! GET MY FUCKING ARMS IMMA GO RIP THAT BOT APART RIGHT NOW! FUCK!"

Esscast gets out of his pod not even saying anything as he gets tecumas arms for her. Esscast dispite his apparent age his body Wich houses several augs including one heavily biotic arm with a purplish fluid inside it. His body remaining rather toned as he helps tecumas put her arms on.

Chest still heaving with her anger, Tecuma pushes Esscast away with a grumbled thanks as the pain oddly this time barely even registers where as before she had been visibly pained. Instead she was walking, moving to go get her weaponry and forgetting to even dress.

"Where the fuck is that thing at?!?"

"What 'thing' is it that you seek?" Doris made a tremendous squint, desperate for more information. They didn't register any change in the timeline, so they didn't pick up on any changes to the personnel, either. "I am skilled with detection... But I need to know what is going on!"

"Here we go again. Esscast, take care of the missiles again, I'm going to go take care of the drone.", Sarah said hopping out of the pod, and grabbing her power armor and rifle. She just hoped the starfires would be enough, as she pulled out the magazine loaded with normal .50 BMG, and slapped in a mag of .50 Stuffaria shells. With a satisfying rack of the charging handle, she hefted the rail assisted anti-material rifle which had a black rose painted on the stock. The helmet quickly went on before she grabbed the rifle, recalling the radio message from last time. She paused however at seeing the clock, then looked to Doris, "You woke us up an hour early this time. Good, that either means you're aware as well of the time cycles, or fate decided to stop fucking us. What's the fastest way to the drone bay with the autonomous tanks?"

"Time cycles? What? Are we being attacked by aliens on temporal velocipedes?" The blonde-haired scientist was just plan confused. "No, I messaged myself in a few hours. It looks like the artificial wormholes surrounding this superstructure let me do it... Genius idea, really."

Snapping themselves out of pseudo-patting themselves on the back, this left Doris jogging to catch up with Sarah. They actually had a hand-printed map of the ship on hand, and willingly handed it over. It even had anotations to describe the differances from all the random upgrades over the years.

"Well doctor, in my line of work, i've heard and seen more bizzare things. I suppose it's completely possible, but it doesn't matter, they just need to be stopped. Those in the medbay remember, so i wonder why you don't? We've died and restarted at when we've been thawed 4 times now. The first two were from just the missiles before we realised it was, third we stopped them, only to be killed by a runaway tank drone. Now at number four, i'm going to prevent that....I don't think I caught your name last time when you were screaming at us via gunpoint about green men. Sarah Pine.", Sarah explained as she scanned the map and made a digital version on her implant which she converted to minemic data.

"Doris Muller." They responded simply, absorbing the rather abstract information. "The drones... Well, they are drones... Like, they are remote control... Did the culprit actually act from that area of the ship, or elsewhere?..."

"I think last time, the pilot shouted about hacking from the planet. That's likely where we'll find answers, if we can live long enough this time to get there.", Sarah said simply as she handed back the map.

"...Sarah... Miss Pine, was it?..." Still struggling to catch up. Doris' metal limbs weighed half a motorcycle, and they didn't have a soldier's body to compensate. "How sure are you that this wasn't... Like, for a reason?... Green-Thumb told me that some others had already gone down to the planet... And, well, I could kill all the drones from here. They are in their charging bays, so all it would take is some negative voltage... But, like, why? Does this mean that the ground team are already dead? I don't have your data!"

"Quite possibly. In all likelyhood, it's the outcome with the highest probability. My group were meant to be the next wave to the surface. The shuttle was sabotaged everytime we boarded and were about to take off. I don't have much to go off of either. If there is a reason, then I doubt it's a good one, especially with how this stuff usually goes. But we won't know for sure until we get there......wait, if you can fry them all, then that saves me fusion shells.", Sarah said slowing down, before ultimately stopping. "I suggest you do it soon, because as soon as those missiles are dealt with, that drone is going to come online and come for us. People are going to die if we do not act now."

Doris took a few moments to just stare and blink. Were they really about to disobey the chain of command in deep space, just because somebody told them that they are a time traveller and everything was about to go tits up?...

"...Well, it's not like the damage would be unfixable." A shrug. They made another odd face whilst their antenna interfaced with the systems remotely, bypassing about half a dozen safety protocols and debasing the charging software itself. The drones were now set to charge at a rate of negative five million watts, something that would surely kill any capacitor trying to draw voltage in the wrong direction. "Done... The treason is done... Hopefully?... Anything else I can help you with, Miss Sarah Pine?"

She gave the woman a nod of admiration. She was a good hacker, but this woman was clearly no slouch either. "Finding some way to prevent any other intrusions would be good, hopefully together we can cover all accesses and backdoors to the systems. Other then that, we have to hope Esscast does his job and handles the missiles. Otherwise me and you will be having this conversation all over again."

"Well, I mean... We could detach the main antenna internally. Everything routes through that." A stern look up at the taller, more muscular woman. "But we would be running blind."

Esscast had already been getting his custom light power armor on and grabbed his AR and service pistol "on my way to the missiles do me a favor and prep a medical stim for when I deactivate them if I don't respond in 15 minutes assume the most and reset see you soon" esscast said while using his magnetic field to jog in zero gravity.

What bugged him even more than this whole thing is that he started referring to his death as resetting like the video games of old.

It wouldn't take long for Esscast to reach the missile launch room, rows upon rows of missiles just waiting inside of their containers for the order to launch. He wouldn't have a problem getting access to the room, and was able to setup an electrical surge just like before.

Meanwhile in the command center Green-Thumb was starting to freak out as she watched the displays The ship's drones were reporting an electrical problem... there may be lasting damage. Then the alarms for the missiles went off, indicating a massive malfunction across the board for the ship's main weapons. She had to do something... she checked the stasis pods, she'd need to wake up some techs to repair the damage and.... THE CRYPODS WERE ALREADY OPENED UP!

Everyone could hear her shouting over the PA,

"WHAT IS GOING ON DOWN THERE?! I'M SEEING SYSTEMS FAILURES ACROSS THE SHIP!"

Esscast shrugged "oh lighten up we're just redecorating, you should try it when you don't have a stick up your arse"

-"We are merely taking some preventative measures, Miss Green-Thumb."- Doris responded a little more professionally over the coms. -"But it does appear that these is a serious conspiracy going on here... Have you heard any news from the team down on the surface? I have a feeling they may be central to all this..."

A shrug. If they cut off the dish, they would stop enemies from accessing the ship. But it would also make it a lot harder to find out what was going on outside, and down on the surface.

Tecuma was already headed down toward the drone, her heavy minigun swinging at her side as she walked. With a growl she had the barrels spun up as she walked into the room and with little else, lit the place up with heavy weapons fire. She didn't stop until she knew the drones wouldn't be moving.

"Drones taken care of..." She growled over the comms, seemingly less angry then she had been earlier. With her deed done, she was walking back toward the others, her heavy minigun in one hand, her other hand clenching and unclenching over and over and never fully closing, as if she was holding something in her hand she didn't realize.


"......"

There was a heavy pause over the PA as Green-Thumb took a deep breath. She was an expert at dealing with those that were hard to deal with. It took a lot of effort to keep reminding herself of that.

"I need to know why you have wrecked so much of the ship, otherwise I will need to rapidly incapacitate you..."

'rapid incapacitation' was a term normally used by the police and military. When spoken aloud it often sounded like a non-lethal solution and in truth most people who are rapidly incapacitated do tend to survive... however the tools used for rapid incapacitation are normally devices ranging from pistols to assult rifles...

-"...Log onto my messaging account. The password is Deadly-Poisonous-Zanzibar-Hamsters, no spaces..."- Doris said this secret out loud with a little too much pride, knowing that it contained a fragment of evidence about time travel. As sketchy as it was, it was something. -"These crew members randomly remembered a timeloop too, without any of my input, so I suppose the cryo might have had something to do with that?... Yes, a VERY big conspiracy is underfoot here, Miss Greenthumb!..."

"Oh, and please ignore the online receipts for that... Erm, weird stuff... I don't know why they keep messaging me..."

"So you decided to wreck the ship instead of just air-gaping the communications system?" Green-Thumb said, sounding more than a bit on edge, Doris wasn't something she was ready to deal with, same with the marines. Getting them OFF the ship would be a big help for everyone, "... ok... you know what...go to the surface and prove something is going on...."

Esscast nodded heading to the shuttle whistling as he walks and smacks tacuma on the ass "good Hussle marine" he says before quickening his pace to the shuttle

-"Please give us the current location of the previous away team."- Doris zipped up their space-coat and began moving towards the shuttle bay, but sounded perfectly prepared to stand their ground with Green-Thumb. They needed at least some information, or the ship could well refuse them coming back on board later on. -"I know the reasoning seems abstract now, but as with any great science experiment, we have been left with many questions to solve yourself. I haven't experienced the 'time loops' noted by these marines either... But the existing evidence is compelling. A definite asychronisation between the signals being received by this vessel and standard physics... And, well, this alien structure is truly unknown territory. We should have been taking every precaution."-

Esscast sighed before Pinging green thumb "listen kid we’re going to fix this I know you don't believe anything that we say or the reasons that caused our actions in the first place but look at my dossie before I joined you guys I have never lied not even to the enemy so why would I now understand me when I say I don't quite understand everything right now and I might not be able to but we need to do this now in case we have to reset again I need you to do me a favor and tell me something that you have never told anyone that way if we do reset I can tell you it as a message to prove to you that this is happening."

"What? Like how I have not killed anyone before, but also that you guys are getting close to being the first?" Green-Thumb said, her annoyance still only barely contained by her voice. "The first team is by the dome the drones built. It looks like they are still there... should be the only structure on the planet."

Esscast raised an eyebrow under his helmet "really you never killed anyone before yet you are sure you can take on us marines..., Honestly i was assuming something you would have said is that you have a crush on green-horn."

Azazel walks into the room, his two Unix model F.2s behind him. His Carbyn Combat flight suit armor covering his body and face. His navy blue visor turned to them, and his augmented voice, morphing his speech. “What in God’s name is the issue in here? I arrive to see you smashing everything to bits. Explain.” He stated. On his back was his IRG, and his hip, his IGP.

“I….” The PA cut out for a moment as Green-Thumb tried to figure out what to say. She was responsible for the ship and on her watch quite a bit of the equipment had been wrecked. “The marines here seem to think we’re stuck in a time loop. The ship is in danger… so they destroyed our drones and weapons…”

“Not that we think we are, WE ARE STUCK IN A FUCKIN TIME LOOP! I’VE DIED LIKE THREE TIMES NOW AND IT’s PISSIN ME OFF!” Tecuma shouted through the comms at Green-Thumb as she checked over her gun once before headed to the armory for a fresh bit of ammo. After getting what she needed and suiting up, she headed to where the others were meeting at, using the ship’s computers to guide her where she needed to go.
Hi
“This shit fuckin sucks and I’m so fuckin over it, it’s not even funny. Get us planetside so we can figure this shit out!”

“Yes. It is best we leave.” Doris fixed her glasses whilst examining Azazel, bringing up his personnel file on a PDA in her free hand. Of course, she had avoided the entire argument about guilt, knowing that she hadn’t technically killed anyone, but had been to prison… Out here, everything was a quantity of trust rather than actual guaranteed innocence. “What we need is evidence. Scientific material. And if we know death is waiting for us in an hour, it’s best to pre-hempt that problem, yes?”

“Hey, fellow with the two robots… Will you be attending?” Another scientist would be helpful. One less heavily armed person protecting this schism in the timeline moreso. “It’s not like you are going to get much done up here without a sensor dish, right?”

Esscast sighs and gets in the ship “well I'll drive us down to the planet all aboard the Hope we don't die express” he chuckled and pinged green thumbs come “I'll just send green thumb the message you okayed us to leave after destroying everything on your watch unless you want to come along.”

Sarah gave a sarcastic chuckle, “To be honest, I expect quite a few more along the way. Oh hey a boy in a fancy science suit, real helpful. Want a juice box for the ride?” So this was the Azazel character she’d heard about. Intel was a bit sketchy at best, but recent events out in the outer territories had brought it a bit more attention. The black power armor wearing woman hefted her rifle and boarded the ship, “Also Ess sweety, don’t get us killed with your driving please, otherwise I will be driving next time.”

“My name is Morgan. That is all you need to know, other than I will be attending as an extra engineer and technician. On top of having a few extra arms at my disposal.” He explained in his augmented voice that made his voice distorted and like a child’s. His entire suit of armor covering him completely. Making it impossible to see any distinct features. His assessment on what was going on was, magic. A topic he did not want to get himself involved in. He made it so he would remain where he was. However, with the increase in popularity to leave, he was all for getting out.

Green Horn was already starting to wake up the ship’s remaining technicians from stasis as the troublemakers boarded the shuttle and departed for the surface. It would take weeks to restore the ship to working order… and there was no telling just how much damage was done to other systems.

At least life support and engines appeared to be working… but it looked like someone had nipped the communications gear on their way out. She’d need to get that working too. In the meantime the crew already on the ground would just have to deal with their surprise guests.


Chapter 3:

Day 1 - 13:00 Ship Time

...or about one hour until everyone usually dies…

There was a loud ‘CRUNCH’ as the second shuttle came to a stop outside, bouncing once before really digging into the dirt below with its landing skids.

The prefabricated dome nearby had been built over the area the science team had arrived to study, and just outside of the main doors was a mocha-skinned woman in a lab coat who was just finishing off a cigarette. Though she was covered, her arms did show just how much more toned she was than the softer members of the science team.

“We weren’t expecting you down for a few more hours?” She called out as the shuttle doors opened, “Did someone else up there want to get started earlier than planned?”

Heram Wazu, the man leading the expedition, had already pushed his own timetable up a few hours. The first shuttle that had arrived was still nearby and mostly unloaded. No doubt the rest of the team was still inside somewhere.

David emerged from the dome a few moments later, taking a second to check himself over and make sure the newly acquired pistol was hidden under his jacket for quick and concealed access when that armoured bastard eventually made his move - the technician’s brown eyes tried to not put too much suspicion on the previously smoking linguist but he knew what Britney was up to, or at least part of it, there was still no motive he’d found yet besides maybe just money.

He stayed quiet for now though and just sidled up alongside her to inspect the new arrivals, nothing like this had happened in his previous… what did David decide upon again? Right, cycles. So something odd was going on for sure - he just needed to know what… was the butterfly effect really this sensitive?

Esscast before getting out of the driver's seat had to inject himself with a strange liquid due to the purplish liquid from his bionic arm seemed to be spreading through the veins in his neck leading to his face. Once done he stepped out and looked around “out of curiosity would anyone in there happen to have access to a long range computer capable of reaching the ship from here?”

Sarah stepped off the shuttle, the impressive anti-material rifle “Black Rose” in her armored hands. She had never stowed it, having been to large to sling, and too paranoid to leave it a weapon rack. The magazine had already been swapped out for one of plasma rounds, no sense in using the heavy stuff just yet. She looked over David and could already tell something was off about the man, what she didn’t know. She wasn’t hiding it either, hoping her clear examination would get a reaction out of him. Her eyes however shifted towards the smoking woman, examining her as the visor was still pointed to David. When she finally lined up her focus to the what seemed like a scientist, she spoke “We had a few bugs in the system, they wanted us off the ship already while diagnostics were run. Things stuck in a loop, and repetitive issues. Nothing too major I hope.”

Esscast sighs “Sarah, dear your better off just telling the man that we reset if he thinks we're crazy oh well we just repeat what we just did to get down here.” Esscast sighs grabbing his rail assisted lmg and both prepared drums picking up the dmr conversion kit as well on his back while his right eye gives a purple glow he is able to carry it all with little issue.

Of course being a tech he was listening to their computer problems and request for a system beefy enough to contact their mutual friends above orbit but David had no reason to believe anybody but himself had been experiencing this rare kind of deja vu… up until it was all but blurted out to him.

Though with the murder of everyone here seeming to be linked to the stone tablet’s ability to skip back a few hours at a time it was understandable that he had some scepticism about anybody else even hinting that they’d been through today already, even more so when they rocked up ahead of schedule wearing armour and toting more substantial weaponry… he didn’t buy all that being from a few system bugs.

“Uh-huh… well we haven’t heard anything from up top so let us check that first and I’ll see what I can do to help~” the combat technician suggested with a healthy dose of caution, had things gone awry prior to the idea of them also being in a loop getting stuck in his head then David could have simply offed himself - though this might complicate things, afterall he was no expert on the field of time travel.

David would find that the ship had stopped communicating with the surface shortly before the new group had arrived. The communication equipment in the base was working properly, but the ship either wouldn’t or couldn’t communicate back.

The mocha-skinned woman would keep her attention on Sarah, taking in what both her and Esscast said.

“Would you care to elaborate on that?” She asked Esscast, pulling out a datapad from one of her lab coat pockets and starting to enter in commands, “... I'm Britney by the way, with the science team… if you are experiencing DejaVu or have something to show that you’re actually experiencing a time loop we should log it sooner rather than later.”

Doris had been silent during this period, but not inactive. The others had been frozen during the trip, but she’d been awake for every month of it, toiling away in a tin can filled with air.

First thing to do was to raise her hands in praise of the stellar body. Perhaps it was not Eden’s sun, but every stellar friend deserved respect. And this one was sitting in the center of some damned unique alien superstructure, too.

Checked off the list. Next, the planet. She had to absorb those vibes. Very flat. Very green. Peaceful like death itself.

She rather liked it.

“Britney, is it? Hello! My name is Doctor Doris Muller! It’s a pleasure to meet you on this fine day!” The blonde woman smiled much too enthusiastically, joining it with a curtsey. Neither the flak jacket or narrow, predatory eyes made it all that comforting. “Unfortunately, I think Mister Esscast has a point about the truth… Yes, we smashed the dish and some of the security systems in order to prevent a highly hazardous future situation from coming to fruition… If my calculations are correct, my past self will have informed Mr.Wazu of this through a signal I sent through the star’s temporal vortices as a test, several hours ago…”

A finger came to her lips, a slight pause, and a renewed smile.

“Our logic, unfortunately, is not our friend here. This dyson sphere is not born of our logic… We must analyse it’s logic and seek to play by it’s rules, understand?...” She could clearly already see that the other scientist did not understand. “...I’m sorry, but this seems to have been the reason why Mr.Wazu invited me on this mission in the first place. But... I need to know what new information you have gleaned since this team reached the surface!... Would you mind sharing that information before you start throwing words like ‘crazy’ and ‘criminal’ about, sweetie?”

“Unfortunately, I do not think he has checked his messages… otherwise I expect he would have mentioned it…” Britney replied, her weight shifting uncomfortably as she considered the situation. “Though, it sounds like he may have already turned something on. We have been examining the only feature of note we found on the planet which we have inside the dome. We think some markings have changed since our original images of the stone markings were taken but we do not have a record of when or how they changed. Do you have any ideas on how to turn this off Dr. Muller? A time loop would be exceptionally dangerous to...”

“HEY DORIS!” Quarum waved, peeking out from around the door to the dome. No doubt she was another one of the science team. She had long brown hair pulled into a ponytail, glasses, and a bit more curvey of a body that indicated more of a sedentary lifestyle than Britney. She had also dressed far less professionally, wearing flip-flops, skull and crossbones pajamas, and a grey hoodie.

“The markings have changed? Surely this sequence doesn’t run far back enough in time to- Oh hello Quarum! Isn’t this planet simply lovely?” Doris bore her teeth, throwing hands wide and then clapping them together. “Do you perhaps know if your rather intelligent brother has been causing some kind of space-time disturbance that’s been repeatedly killing us all?”

“Oh dear,” She huffed, “Heram said this would be safe…well… safeish... ”

“Well with the amount of energy they took to build this place, it’s certainly possible they were trying to create a planet-cracker, you know… Or a time machine, I suppose.”

“Hm,” David mused thoughtfully at the latest findings the technician found on his datapad before those brown eyes went back to the rather intense conversation that had seemingly sprouted from simple greetings, though the man’s gaze softened a tad when the pyjama-clad Quarum strolled in post-nap.

“Ah well first thing~” David abruptly injected himself into the back and forth, deciding to speak up and make himself heard rather than fall behind in all their intellectual dialogue, taking a huff before he continued speaking.

“For starters it certainly seems like you broke something important or at least turned it off because I’m not getting anything back from our friends up in the heavens, secondly some more information about this hazardous future event might be nice - thirdly you don’t mind if I check the message you sent Heram right?” the combat technician spoke, maybe he wasn’t the best actor but right now David was a little more focused on all this new information rather than being subtle as he began opening up a command prompt on his tablet - while not saying he wasn’t a part of this time loop he wasn’t confirming he was either as he turned back to offer Quarum a smile.

“...and finally but certainly not least, rise and shine sleeping beauty, sleep well?”

Esscast sighed not particularly wanting to be in the coverations just said “we died 3 times, I picked up on it by the second time, everyone else the third time.” Walking from the group for a moment he stops to light a cigarette. “However in my opinion this Time machine, reset whatever thing seems vary choosy since it let us have the power but no one else the power.”

“Yeah… great nap… up until certain death woke me up... “ She gave David a sleepy smile before turning her attention to Esscast, “I take it this is your first time loop being down here then? My brother said to come up with a code for this… uh…”

She had to really think about it for a moment,

“Unicorn. Tacit. Avocado. Validor…. I think that was it. Share that with me if you go to the past again. It should validate you’ve been in a time loop.

But, I really want to know why it singled you three out? There would have to be something different about you guys that sets you apart? Perhaps Marines on the ship are immune to being… uh, time-reset?”

“The alternative is that someone is selecting who retains their memories. That would put us all in extreme danger.” Britney said, finishing typing in commands on her datapad. “I think it is time we leave. We have planet-crackers onboard the ship. We should destroy this place and head home.”

“I’m not part of the loop.” Doris mentioned, flexing their black-clad arms behind their back. “It might have something to do with the cryogenics?... That’s my theory…”

“I’ve been manually sending messages back to myself, by transmitting messages back through the subspace disturbances around the core star…” Considering they had a pair of antler-like antenna sticking out of their head, it didn’t really bear questioning how. “Yes. I wish you could see it… It’s lovely!... I’m not completely certain that destroying the planet would even stick, though, due to this... Seems like we are dealing with much bigger forces at work.”

The attention turned to David next, bespectacled eyes ascertaining exactly what his function within the team was, as well as digging up his qualifications from memory. A combat technician. Psyche profile said he was quite impulsive.

“You can check his messages if you want.” A sly smile. “I might tell him that you’re snooping his email, though.”

“Noted,” David spoke as his fingers darted across the datapad’s keyboard, rather absorbed in quickly accessing that message before the not too distant thunking of WarPig’s heavy armour caught his attention - why had everything suddenly deviated from how it had been going prior? It irked the tanned man but he’d just have to deal with it, what was another death?

God, had he really gotten so used to it all this quickly? That was a chilling thought but again he didn’t have enough time to deal with it right now. “...Rather than deciding to blow up the thing we barely understand might I suggest we move into the room with the apparent time travel device and see if there is something we can do about it?” David proposed to the group, maybe the fact some armed and armoured marines had suddenly arrived was a good thing? He really hoped so…

“Yes yes, let us examine the fundamental elements of the problem at hand!” Doris agreed, a little too enthusiastically.

“Oh my god you eggheads are hurting my head. Just tell me when I need to shoot somethin ok?” Tecuma said with a growl as she checked over her things. She hefted her chaingun up to check it over once as she followed the group. She didn’t care much for the all the sciency stuff, she was just here to kill things and move on for the next kill.

Quarum would nod in agreement, “Lets go.”

She would also be the first to enter the main room inside of the dome… a large open chamber with a stone floor and raised stone-desk type thing in the center. Small markings and engravings seemed to be across every surface here and the dome shape really helped amplify Quarum’s voice when she yelled,

“JAMES! WHAT DID YOU DO! The marines are saying you killed everyone in the future!”

“It isn’t a time machine but it acts like one. It looks like it can reset things back to how they were and allow people to keep their memories of the events.

I am fairly certain it is not reading my mind either. These markings on the main console only change when actually intend to change them in the future and not when I only think about it.

That would mean that some of these icons represent the targets for the reset.” Heram James Wazu, expedition leader. Man of many talents. Currently focused entirely on the task at hand: trying to decode how to use the device in front of him rather than his sister’s notification about the impending disaster.

“JAMES! I WOULD LIKE TO NOT DIE.” Quarum said sternly.

Heram looked up from his datapad for a moment,

“Either David or Britney is trying to kill everyone. We have a time loop machine. I am certain we will figure it out without everyone being killed. If I can figure out how this works then I won’t need to investigate the two of them.”

David just so happened to be taking a detour at this point to go replace his jacket with a ballistic vest, had things stuck to the schedule then the combat technician probably would have been finalizing that electromagnetic pulse generator he planned to use to disable the hulking armoured frame of WarPig but no - he had to be quick and besides now he had backup, strapping the two pistols to his person and coming to a halt just outside the same room the stone tablet resided within in time to hear the accusation that he was one of the bad guys. It was a fair point, they’d have no clue what was going on but it still pissed the techie off a bit.

Greater good and all that, at least that is what David told himself to try and boost his own confidence as the room’s threshold was entered. He knew how it must have looked, walking in with a gun on each hip and a vest over his chest as the combat tech half-slammed the backup he’d nabbed earlier onto a nearby table - keeping his eyes trained on their linguist.

“Well I’ll just say what I know then and hope you believe me,” he began speaking, hand resting on one sidearm as the other moved about expressively during the admittance. “Our linguist here had both an unregistered gun and portable backup linked to our security system stowed in her bags until I apprehended them - I know I look guilty as fuck right now but take a look for yourself~” David offered, gesturing to the backup with his free hand as the other hand was ready to draw on Britney at a moment’s notice…

Or the thudding that was getting closer, whichever problem came first.

“Sarah find, David and find out what he knows. Tecuma you and I are going to take down any combat drones or anything that can be turned against us via hacking.”. As esscast walked he paused “doris, if Sarah finds out anything reach us on radio, alright team move out!”

“Well you found me, congratulations I guess?” David spoke up, though he was still rather weary of these newcomers for stepping into his domain when everything had been so carefully planned out in his head.

“These aliens can rearrange the orbits of planets, construct vast architecture at the very border of our understanding, and snap basic linear time constraints over their knee like such brittle driftwood.” Doris put a hand on David’s shoulder, though her slightly nasally voice warbled like she was performing some great melodramatic monologue. Her steely grip was about fifty percent convincing Esscast that they already had him, and about fifty percent ready to yank the man out of harm’s way. “But what makes any of you think that they would bother with replacing or brainwashing one of us mere mortals, when they could very well just delete us from existence like some insignificant bacterial contamination or programing error?... I said it before. The outside world’s logic doesn’t apply here. Only the megastructure’s logic applies to the megastructure. We need to find out what that internal logic is.”

“Mister Esscast. Miss Tecuma. Would you please find out what that terrific racket is? The stomping, I mean. You are also right about the drones. Something is still on schedule to try and kill us, very soon…” The scientist lady was still smiling, placid and whimsical. “Mister David, Mister Wazu, what does your research indicate about this facility so far? I may be able to offer a unique perspective, but we need to correlate our information…”

-<Miss Sarah.>- This voice wasn’t from their voice box, but rather communicated straight to the woman’s radio. -<Despite my dismissiveness, there could still be foul play here due to simple, human corporate greed… If you can find out some information on a person who is acting suspiciously, then I remind you that I can send that information forward to the next loop…>-

Nobody else knew about the next, secret message. Sent immediately forward, through the loop. The one that told herself that Sarah was the traitor, if no additional information was reported…

The scientific method. It was a real bitch.

Esscast turned to Doris “no offense Poindexter, but no one's off the figurative chopping block not even myself, for all we know anyone who could be a sleeper or traitor.’
Esscast began to remove the cigarette butt from his mouth and flick it aside. As he exhaled he added “not to mention if they wanted us dead so much they would have done it by now, take it from my augmentations Doris no one helps for no reason it either wants to show us something or it needs our help both of which aren't good to think about.

Esscast nodded “alright tecuma let's look for that stomping want me to spare you some high explosive rounds?”

“Doris, I only have speculation so far.” Wazu started, “This device seems to just shift things back to how they were. I think the planet is not shifted back which explains why the star seems to jump every so often. We probably aren’t going back in time, the world is just being physically changed to make it appear so.

The star itself may be a different time machine type. There is more going on there I am sure but we will need probes to get in closer. I will still need more time to study this device, though I think I know enough to turn it off.

I also assume our killer has a way to save themselves. That makes it unlikely they were onboard the ship. What is likely is that they plan to wait here until a ship comes to rescue them after eliminating everyone. I am ruling out Myself and Quarum. WarPig is unable to disobey his orders while in that suit, and I am the only one with sufficient rank to issue orders to him. That leaves Britney and David as the two remaining suspects. It would be best to suspect them both for the time being, and as long as we keep an eye on them I do not think they can pose a threat to a group of marines and a power-armored soldier.”

The thudding finally got in close. Right by the entrance to the dome was War-Pig. The nearly 7 foot tall power armor was covered in netting stuffed with grass and dirt from the surroundings… the fieldcraft would have made it a lot harder to spot if it weren’t inside. The armor looked bulky, guns integrated into its arms, and a backpack integrated into the whole setup with thrusters and missile launchers. The marines would be acutely aware that the armor carried enough explosives to glass a city.

“You seem awfully calm for someone who has someone trying to kill them!” Quarm said, crossing her arms, more than a bit upset at her brother.

“People try and kill me sometimes,” Heram said in a way that was awfully calm for someone who has someone trying to kill them.

“Doris has a point. We are dealing with something out of our league here. You are putting all of us and all of humanity at risk by continuing.” Britney said, her hand pushing her lab coat aside so she could rest her palm on her pistol. “Whatever you release here could follow us back home, and from there it could spread through the entire alliance. You are nuts if you think you’re going to get one over on whatever setup this place.

We need to leave NOW, before we do something we can’t undo.”

Rather than worried, Wazu looked a bit excited, his attention going to Esscast, completely ignoring Britney’s warnings. “What if it does need our help? I wonder if there is something we bring that the makers of this place could not fabricate themselves?”

“I don’t need them.”

Tecuma grinned as she spun up her minigun as the loud whirring noise came to life from the tri-barreled gun. She couldn’t help but start to get excited as she started to head closer to the noise, her finger on the trigger and ready to pull it down to let the fountain of angry led spray forth and carve a path of death and destruction.

“Let’s fuckin kill somethin…”

David let out a slow, drawn out breath, he dared not take his eyes off of the linguist as he just gave up his one little trump card, as if it wasn’t obvious already he’d looped too - “You’ll have your chance, this is the fourth time I’ve been through today and every time it ends with our armoured friend outside bursting in here, executing Heram and god knows who else - haven’t made it past then yet but I’ve only been co-operative with you lot… besides our latest arrivals, that hasn’t happened before~ haven’t seen Britney’s corpse yet either so now we’re all on the same page.”

The Combat technician paused momentarily to gather his thoughts before adding one final thing, “So if you plan to blow my brains out with that pistol then do it, it’ll only help future me…. Or I guess past me, whatever - point still stands.”

esscast sighs walking back to the group “tecuma Take care of that thing I have a hunch”

As esscast makes it back to the group, he was going to
shoot at Brittany, but is stopped by Sarah attempting to smack his rifle out of the way only managing to just bearly move it due to his magnet augs holding it in place far greater than her augmented strength power armor would allow

“What the fuck is wrong with you?!”, She snaps at him as she slaps his rifle with no noticable effect. “Just walking around and starting to waste people is not how we solve this damnit! Think of the reprucussions dipshit, what will people think if this just happens to solve it. “Crazed squad of soldiers massacres entire base in the outer worlds.”, yeah that will sound real great won’t it.”

The protective plates over her visor slide back as the visor depolarizes, revealing her glare and disapproving look. “This is not how we do things, we are not murders. We find intel, or clues until we have a valid target.”


“Are you sure there is no possibility it is him?” Doris remarked to Wazu, crossing her arms. They weren't about to jump in front of a bullet for a stranger, but this was turning into a real witch hunt.

Deciding that they were not getting anywhere just standing around bickering, the scientist then just walked off, hoping to examine the markings on the ancient tablet for themselves. The language etched into it could have arcane or magical implications that Heram’s eye was not trained to spot.

Whilst doing this, a bundle of duct tape, some wire, and a cyberisation battery was fetched from their pockets… If she could just find a handy bar of lead or a rail weapon’s barrel, then she’d have an electromagnet to play with. Seemed kind of necessary given the irate nature of the present company.

Esscast put the safety on his rifle “fall in line Sarah, until your in command you will follow orders but if you want to keep Brittany alive so bad you watch her and make sure nothing bad happens to her do I make myself clear maggot?”

Esscast growls as he turned to leave.

“YOU WERE GOING TO SHOOT ME!?” Britney snapped,

“JAMES DO SOMETHING!!!” Quarm said, running to get behind the stone looking table in the center of the room.

“Warpig, Disarm everyone.” Wazu said, quickly ducking down behind the stone with Quarum and Doris. The slight raise of his shoulders trying to express just how unsure he was as to who the most dangerous person out there was. “Uh… I think we have a problem… HEY DAVID!?”

The entire room erupted into shouting…

Almost as soon as Doris started looking at the tablet, new text would appear as well as a soft electromagnetic buzz as a text file was sent right to her:

______
So you think you’ve got a plan?:
A primer on this time-loop for the time traveling novice
If this is your first time reading this, please iterate the counter at the end of the document.


Greetings if you are reading this, then you’re stuck in the time-loop again and your last plan didn’t work out.


What has happened already:
I’m not sure exactly when this started, we have been at it for a while. At some point Heram J. Wazu comes to this planet, cuts a deal with the mystic entity that already lives here (We call it ‘legal’ for reasons that will be obvious soon) to figure out how to build a time machine. They succeed and then spent quite a lot of time trying to take control of the machine from one another by using the time machine to change things.

The timeline has to make sense. So if you stop Heram and Legal from figuring out how to make the first time machine then everything gets undone, which means you stopping them from figuring it out ALSO gets undone. That just sets them right back on a course to meet one another. We’ve tried just about every combination of that. It doesn’t work.

In about an hour, Wazu and Legal will use the time machine here to spend a few years in a blink of an eye together figuring out how to make the other time machines.

Our best plan now is to try and destroy Legal right after the two of them meet up and figure out how to make the time machine. Of course Legal is going to try and do the same to you… so radio the ship and have them send down all the weapons.

The Interstellar Alliance also has an anti-memetics division agent here. It’s Britney. They call themselves the ‘frogmen’ after some ancient meme. If Doris is with you (Image included) Insist that Frogmen are Amphibianmen and NOT lizardmen. If Britney manages to destroy the whole place you’ll just end up resetting the whole loop and have to start from scratch again.

What will happen:

Under this tablet are a bunch of tools you’ll need to defeat Legal. Magic stuff. Very scary. Once you defeat legal, you’ll need to hunt down this stuff in the future and send it back to yourself now.

Also, in about an hour these guys are going to attack. So get ready for that:



In the future, Wazu will figure out how to build a better time machine that can actually go back in time, instead of just creating a portal from now to a point in the future. That’s how this whole place gets built. But for now, just give him the list of portals that need to be opened up that’s included at the end of this document.

Also, the time machine uses a lot of energy. Once you use it, it’ll cause the star to explode so this will be your only chance to setup portals. Don’t mess it up.


Everyone was shouting now and just… god, it made it hard to concentrate as people pulled guns and others didn’t while all the scientifically inclined personnel hunkered down behind the stone tablet but two things came through to the combat technician - his name, and the name of that armoured bastard. “What? No~ no not WarPig, I just said he kills you all~” David tried to convince whoever had called his name, these goddamn marines had made everything spiral into chaos from the moment they arrived - to say he had some words for them was an understatement.

But if Heram was calling out to WarPig… oh no.
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