Chapter 23: The Beach Episode

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 23: The Beach Episode

Post by uso » Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:42 am

Planet Hawking,
Fort Barrera,
~ 2 weeks after leaving the Gartagen Union

---

The trip to the Gartagen Union involved lots of waiting around, a sudden jolt of excitement, and then back to the boredom of waiting.

For those who had traveled on the Edward Deming, the white sands of the coast near fort Barrera would be their first opportunity to really stretch their legs in some time. A small town had sprung up nearby to house the survivors of the SS Pandora, and along with it came some prime
beach area.

The assignment for this week was some mandatory R&R



Green Thumb had arrived at the beach site early in a dark green one-piece. She had already laid out some beach towels, and started setting up a volleyball net, using a flying drone to anchor a pair of pillars into the sand before waving over Soffy to help with setting up the net.

“I’M COMING!” The small waspy biologist called out, doing her best to pick up the net with her legs and mostly just getting tangled up in it, only half-managing to drag some of the next along the sand towards where Green-Thumb was. Her sister Torace wasn’t that far away. She had been dragged out of her room to come to the beach, only for Soffy to set her up on a towel and under an umbrella. The I’ee was holding a small screen with two of her legs, and two of the kittens ‘rescued’ from the Adlet homeworld in her lap. A small sack of sugary-juice-snacks setup next to her as the three watched another episode of some magical-girl-series.

Geiben had other plans in mind. No way at the end of the void was he going to let this opportunity for some actual sailing to go away. Sure, the VR Pod worked well to keep his sanity intact, but it never replaced actual water. It took a whole year of material allotment he saved up, but the temporarily ex-commander got his hands on a mobile vehicle bay and some scrap metal, rope and fabric he brought down from the Edward Demqming. This week at least, he’s going to simply be Geiben Folami, and nothing short of hell-on-earth was going to stop that.

He made sure to get up at the crack of dawn to get everything set up. By the time Green Thumb got onto the beach, the sailboat was already halfway materialized. By the time Ecur squad showed up in their ridiculous attire, Geiben was on the deck, securing the sails to the mast and checking the motors. As soon as he saw the soldiers, he couldn’t help but chuckle a little.

It was an awfully weird sensation for Nix and crew, stepping onto sand for the first time. For as long as they knew, the ground was either hard dirt, metal, or at best, plastic. Now it feels so… cushy? Not exactly the right word to describe it: the sand doesn’t bounce back like the surface of a mattress. It’s certainly soft and letting, allowing their feet to sink in. The whole of Ecur squad wordlessly play and kick around in the sand as they make their way to the water’s edge. Boomer was the first to drop his jaw, then push it back to speak: “I didn’t know so much liquid water could exist in one place.” Of course they did. They saw it in photos of textbooks, some propaganda posters, simulations, and with their own eyes every time they were due to land on a habitable planet, be it Gartaga or Hawking. But seeing the endless ocean at the ground level, watching the incoming waves arrive from the horizon beyond, where the dark blue meets the light blue of the sky, this is a first.

Echo cautiously brings one foot to the water pushing up to the beach, like a nervous cat, then immediately shirking it backwards. “It’s cold, sarge.” He remarks childly. Then they hear Geiben’s chuckle a few feet above them. “You’re all quite prepared,” he comments with a smile, jumping off the deck, making a small indent in the wet sand. The Pacifican was wearing nothing but his watch and a pair of swim shorts at this point, his shirt left on the deck’s railing. Ecur squad, on the contrary, was in full diving attire, goggles and breathing masks hanging from their necks, their hoods thrown back for now, and…

“Life vests. Right, I almost forgot. You’ve been stuck on a space station for the better part of your lives. Sorry.” Geiben lightly slaps his own forehead, then climbs back up to the deck. “Do go back to the shuttle and switch into something more relaxing though. Soffy already did biochecks on the water. You’ll be fine exposed to it.”
Last edited by uso on Thu Jul 18, 2019 2:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Chapter 23: The Beach Episode

Post by CadetNewb » Wed Jun 26, 2019 8:40 am

"Ara-ara, what do we have here?" a succulent voice spoke up. "Oh, my manners! Though I've met Heram, I haven't introduced myself to most of you. My name is Sakamoto. Sakamoto Hina." As their heads turned, the owner of those heavenly notes confidently strode into view, her claws clicking like heels against the hard walkway. Graceful, elegant, the flamboyantly colorful woman was dressed in a playfully frilled set of swimwear. Feathered arms spread as though to let their eyes feast on her, Sakamoto smiled at them all. "More importantly, I've brought a little someone with me. Do any of you recognize her?" she asked. Stepping aside, her bright plumage moved to reveal a shy little girl in a swimsuit to match Sakamoto's own. However, her two pig tails were orange, with black and white highlights, her tail spotted like a jaguar's.

"I-it's the man! The one she talks about!" the little girl exclaimed, rushing to hide behind Sakamoto's feathery derriere.

"Ara~ Just who could this little child be talking about?" the raven haired woman mischievously smiled. "Who's the one who will be taking their little girl in?"
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Re: Chapter 23: The Beach Episode

Post by uso » Thu Jul 18, 2019 2:51 pm

Hearing that, Geiben froze, and Ecur squad stopped in their tracks.“Hurensohn (Son of a bitch)...” the man muttered under his breath. Ecur squad similarly recoiled. Memories of dealing with Hoshiko and the rest of the Taianese lot were still well ingrained into their brains.

“... Called it. Wazu definitely hooked up with the tiger bitch. Ow!” Echo muttered, before elbowed by Snow. “What, she rubbed some of that bitchiness on you too?” He retaliated by elbowing her back. The two soldiers start staring daggers at each other until Nix commanded,

“Knock it off, both of you, this is none of our business. Let’s just go get changed.”

Geiben eyes Ecur squad making their way back to the shuttle, then eyes back at the… rooster form? Then what’s with the cat ears? And who in the void is this child? So much for sailing. The Pacifican sighs, tapping on his watch. “Mr. Wazu, I think one of your Taianese hare--- I mean friends, came to visit. Care to come deal with it?” He jumps off the deck of his boat and walks up to the Taianese. “Sakamoto and…” He eyes the child. “Err… Care to elaborate? I don’t think we met…”

As Ecur squad approaches shuttle 7, Enid scatters out and hops down to the sand. She oddly sports a pair of cargo shorts and a white Mechcall 2 shirt, logo divided a million times by age. A small green and beige plastic box in one hand and a long pole in another she looks to be equipped to catch fish. Strutting by Ecur squad she approaches Geiben and the Tainesse though awaits a pause in the conversation to speak. "Geiben, I wanna go fishing on your boat." Enid's tone was sweet yet prompt and her words to the point. Exemplified by her comic 'professional' pose and accented by her smirk.

“Ah, right!” Geiben snaps his head towards Enid. Thank the forefathers that the rookie came over. Any excuse to not have to deal with the Taianese. He turns his head back towards Sakamoto. “Nevermind that.” He points at his watch. “I called Mr. Wazu. He’ll be on his way to take care of you two.” And with that, the Pacifican turns and gets ready to leave for his boat.

“Ara~” a sweet breath ticklishly washed over Geiben’s ear, the man’s arm enveloped by soft, velvety skin. The man miscalculated, and the moment he turned his back, the raptor had pounced. Now she had him in her grasp, arms wrapped around his as it rested in between frilly mounds, the thin, velvety cloth teasing him with their hidden treasures. “Why so cold? Don’t you remember me Geiben dear?” Sakamoto asked, her expression genuinely saddened by his cold shoulder.

“M-Mister Folami?” the little girl spoke up, peering up at him from behind the Rooster’s feathers with her big, golden eyes.

Geiben's face turns red at the sudden physical contact, forcing itself into a poker face. He shouldn't be surprised; the Taianese have no concept of personal space, after all. He tries to sidestep away from Sakamoto, his arm still hopelessly wrapped by her arms and stuck between her… chest. "I-- I really don't think we've met. In fact, the only Taianese I've talked to was…" The Pacifican's eyes go wide, a realization dawning on him. The child's physiology looked familiar. Geiben frowns. For the love of--- "Hoshiko put you up for this, didn't she?!" His tone changes, now louder and audibly annoyed. He looks around, almost forgetting the Taianese's current ownership of his arm. Heram, where in the void are you?


Frank walked over to the beach, being the mandatory relaxation destination. However, the lack of swimwear left him with using his speedo which, coupled with his height and muscle build, he looked rather good for a greying haired man. Seeing the Taianese arrivals as he rolled out a towel for tanning he waved, "Nice day huh?" He asked, though in his opinion he’d rather be by himself--- or at a brothel for that matter--- but he had to interact with the young folk at some point. A smile slowly crept over his lips at the sight of Ecur squad. "Hey Geiben, how’s the duct rats doing?" he asked, using an old slang term for people who've spent most of their life in space.

You’re not helping! Geiben shoots the O.G.R.E an unamused glance, then goes back to trying to pull his arm out of Sakamoto’s grip as politely as possible. “They’re doing fine.” He announces to Frank in an impatient manner.

Heram and Quarum weren’t that far behind Frank. The two Wazu siblings involved in a discussion about the finer aspects of Gartagen society when their data-pads started pinging them with message notifications. While Heram would spend quite a bit of time reading through the messages, Quarum would only take a few moments to see what had been sent, and who was on the beach with them.

Sakamoto… A small cat looking girl…

**EXCITEMENT**

“YOU DID IT DIDN’T YOU?!” Quarm said, her voice unreasonably loud at first. The woman turning towards her brother and lowering her voice back down to normal levels. “I heard rumors from Ecur squad and all but… wow… this is totally going to get the parents off my back about having kids!” Her tempo was fast, but not overly bubbly. While she did lack the professionalism of someone like Somnya, she was still quite suitable for the relaxed life in academia she prefered, her body clad in a baggy white T-shirt and green shorts along with mirrored aviators that matched the kind her brother was wearing.

This just left Heram confused, checking his data pad, then looking at his sister, then looking over at the group on the beach. The soldier-types were all getting setup, Soffy was tangled up in a net, Sakamoto was busy groping Geiben, there was a small feline woman there who…

And it was then that it clicked for him,

“No, she isn’t mine. I mean, we didn’t do anything like that on the Adlet homeworld.” He said, leaning in and adopting a quieter tone, “Why would you think that?”

“Hey, I’m not judging, I think it’s great you found a way to make it work!,” The sister taking an increasing delight in the current line of thought.

“Don’t worry, Hoshiko didn’t put me up to tormenting you,” Sakamoto reassured Geiben, releasing the man from her heavenly grip. “You can just blame Heram here,” she added with a smile, gesturing to the man with a fan of feathers. “He wasn’t around, so I decided to pick on you instead,” the woman confidently replied in playful fashion.

Geiben let out an air of relief. “Just ask for Mr. Wazu next time.” He replies in a somewhat whiny tone as Ecur squad returned from the shuttle, switching into attire much more comfortable. Each of them were wearing navy blue rash vests with orange stripes lined along the sleeves, along with pairs of comfortable cargo shorts in varying shades of tan and brown. Of course, they were carrying their life jackets: can’t swim after all.

Seeing Mr. Wazu now on the scene, Echo snickers. “Father and daughter, just need Mom now too.”

“Seriously, shut up about the fucking for once.” Snow growls at him, with Echo simply smiling and putting his arms up carefree in response.

Sakamoto’s gaze then turned on the other man in question. “And no, you didn’t give Hoshiko a little something while you were asleep in the cave,” Sakamoto reassured Heram, quickly whispering, “Though I think she could have used it,” to nobody in particular. “But in all seriousness, don’t you recognize her?” the feathered woman then asked, placing the little girl front and center. “You did insist on taking care of her~” Sakamoto teased.

“... you seem to have me at a disadvantage,” Heram stated, still not able to put it together despite Torrace being seated only a few feet away. She was watching cartoons with two of the kittens rescued from the adventure on the Adlet homeworld crawling on her chest and shoulders, both of which found the smell of the newcomer rather familiar. “...I was not aware Hoshiko had Taianese children, or that she would position me as… godfather?”

Quarum was just grinning like an idiot, just as clueless as her brother while getting far more enjoyment out of the situation. “They say a man’s more attractive when he’s taken. Maybe you got Hoshiko jealous while cozying up to Vishta? This could be her way of staking a claim, saddling you with her child…” She perked up just a bit more as she considered the cultural implications, “I should write a paper on this….”

Of course, she also realized they had been ignoring their small guest. Quarum would squat down so she was eye level with the newcomer. “Hey there! What is your name? Is this your first time coming to a beach?”

“Ararara?~” Sakamoto questioned in delight, a hand held up to the side of a cheek almost mockingly. “I’m shocked that you haven’t put two and two together yet, or worse yet, hadn’t even noticed that one of your crew had been missing for some time!” the exotically feathered woman exclaimed. “Look again?” Sakamoto suggested. “Maybe you’ll notice something particular? If not you, perhaps someone else?” she then turned her attention on the others. “I’d be very disappointed in you all if you are so callous,” the woman teased. By now, the two space-jaguar kittens had left Torrace, and were eagerly rubbing themselves up around the little girl’s legs.

“Um. My name is Liú Bǎo,” she looked up to Quarum with uncertainty. Standing there with the two kittens around her legs, the three were a matching set.

Geiben takes a moment to think, then goes wide eyes. He first looks at Heram. "Mr. Wazu---" He then looks back at the kittens. "That one time you were on the planet---" He then shifts his incredulous stare at Sakamoto, mouth a bit open, and pauses for a few seconds, then bringing a hand to his forehead. "You Taianese gave a cat sentience. I'll brave and ask: why?"

“Why did Earthlings make us?” Sakamoto asked Geiben right back with a smug smile.

“Hey!” Bǎo’s ears perked up in irritation. “I’m not a cat, I’m a kitty!”

“Kitty got your tongue?” the feathered woman teased, tail feathers swaying as she shook her hips with glee. Whatever answers Sakamoto had, she was playfully keeping out of hand’s reach, taunting the humans with her kitty and mouse game. If they wanted a straight answer from her, they’d likely have to work for it.

So this is how she wants to play it. Geiben considers his options. He technically wasn’t on duty right now; for all intents and purposes he was just a civilian right now. He could afford to play loose. The Pacifican opens his mouth gently rolls his tongue back and forth, while he rids the uptight stature he’s been maintaining. “No, kitty didn’t get my tongue. And honestly, I wasn’t really expecting an answer, knowing how you Taianese work. I don’t think Hoshiko sent you out here to only have---” He glances down at the twitchy feline, “---Bǎo rejoin her siblings, but it’s not my place to pry.” Geiben looks back up and taps his watch. “All I care is that there’s only half an hour before noon now and I expect to be on my boat enjoying a fish sandwich, in the middle of water. So either stop being coy (as you Taianese always like to act) and have a conversation normally or allow me to excuse myself so I can get on with my vacation. Been verdammt (fucking) waiting for half a decade just to get on real ocean again.” There was a real impatience, and anger, in the Pacifican’s eyes, a kind of anger only found when a man is losing something personal.

As this was going on, Heram was lost in thought. What was even the right thing to do in this situation? Uplift the other two kittens? If so did that imply an obligation to uplift all life? The moral implications alone was turning his stomach into knots.

His sister was less bothered with such things. She would trade a smile with Bǎo, “You’re a cute kitty! Did you want to go get some snacks with me? There is a small place that serves all kinds of frozen treats a short walk back up that path!”

Frank sighed, “Can't we all just get along I’d rather this not turn into another Ecur screwing up a good day scenario ...” Frank said lowering his shoulders. As he looks around to the cats “Hey um kitty? Do you want to go say hi to the bee lady?” he said reminding the new child of the l’ee that more or less took care of them.

“Ara-ara, you’ve been waiting all day for this?” Sakamoto replied. Coyly holding up a hand, her face was half hidden behind a fan of feathers as she smiled. “Well, don’t let me keep you,” she teased. Despite her words, it seemed as though she foresaw the man just not getting his way.

“I’m sorry, I can’t,” Bǎo began, apologizing to Quarum and Frank. Turning away from the woman, she approached the angry man and looked up at him with her big, golden eyes. “M-mister? You can have mine, if you want,” she offered, one of their accompanying drones fading away. Held in the small child’s hands was a decadent Lox sandwich.

“Err…” Geiben’s temper drops immediately with the kitten’s confrontation. “That won’t be necessary,” He replied, petting Bǎo’s head gently. “I brought my own.” He looks back up at Sakamoto, almost squinting at her. No way she doesn’t have something planned. “Yeah. Please. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

"Hey Nix, if you're not busy want to spar to see which of us experiments is better?" Frank challenged the Ecur squad sergeant behind Geiben. "With safety nets of course; wouldn't want either of us to go full retard, eh?”

Nix shrugs at Frank. “As much as I’d like to right now, we’re going sailing with the commander. Maybe later?”

“Yes, yes we are.” The Pacifican interjects in a giddy impatience. “Of course, Frank, you’re welcome to join us.”

Changing his attention back to Geiben he shook his head and lowering his voice a bit, “I would but I’m afraid of water and don't know how to swim…”

Quarum watched the little one try to offer a sandwich, then Frank getting into it with the others, then she was noticing a conspicuous lack of anything from her brother who was just sorta standing there. She’d slowly move a bit closer to him, bumping him in the side with her elbow, “Uh, you with us?”

“This is crazy, after all of the trouble that Hoshiko has caused she now expects me to take care of her child?! Worse yet you think it is perfectly ok to arrange this setup so that we would have to have this conversation in front of Liú.” Heram said, his attention directed solely on Sakamoto. His tone was elevated, his mind racing to sort through the implications of this philosophical question dropped in his lap. “We need to have a discussion in private.”

“Hoshiko’s child? Ara-ara,” Sakamoto sweetly began, her all-too-pleasant smile widening. “Bǎo, why don’t you go play with the others?” she suggested, gently urging the child along. “Maybe help the man that doesn’t know how to swim?”

“Oh, okay!” the little girl replied, squirrelling away the sandwich in a floating drone. Running along after the two soldiers, she then reached up with her small hands and tugged at Frank’s trunks. “Mister! I know how to swim! I can teach you!” Bǎo offered, her spotted tail excitedly held high. With her out of the way, Sakamoto then looked back to Wazu.

“How irresponsible of you Mister Wazu, insisting on having this child, and then refusing to care for her,” the feathered woman replied, feigning hurt and indignation. “After all you went through, you insisted on keeping her after all,” she reminded the man. “Hoshiko was very ambivalent about this, but allowed you to have your way,” Sakamoto added. “All she is trying to do is help you, that’s all,” the Rooster-type woman explained. “It’d be too cruel if you turn her away now.”

“This feels suspiciously not like having my way with Hoshiko,” Heram replied dismissively, crossing his arms as he waited for Bǎo to get out of earshot. “You shouldn’t surprise someone with something like this. Worse yet you shouldn’t be having a discussion about a child’s future in front of that kid. I also now have to consider if the other two kittens are to be uplifted… and how to care for Bao long term, not to mention the ‘What if she’s a spy’ considerations.”

Quarum was still standing off to the side, looking a bit awkward, and slowly slinking away from the two of them.

“Ara-ara. How could this not feel like having your way?” Sakamoto replied in disbelief. “This is a good surprise. Not only do you get to keep her like you want to, but she’ll practically take care of herself and the other two kittens,” the Taianese woman pointed out to the man. Leaning in and tickling his chin with one of her feathers, she then added, “And do you really think Hoshiko is the type to send spies and assassins?” Turning to the retreating Quarum, she lassoed her back in with another question. “What do you think? Do you think Bǎo is the most adorable spy or assassin ever? If she were, I’ll fund a cartoon series after her called ‘My Little Spy: Friendship is Espionage’ or some other!”

Quarum winced, she had almost managed to disengage from the conversation. “Hey, come on now, who my brother has children with is really more interesting to our parents than me. I don’t need to be roped into his personal life any more… Besides, kids would make for terrible spies. What would they do? Send back crayon drawings of your secret documents?”

“She could be an older person inside of a younger-looking body,” Heram stated, “Or be unknowingly transmitting back information from her senses, or she could just be here to be a distraction.”

“So… do they use little adorable-kid operatives? Would they have a school for them? How would they know which ones of them are actually the old ones and which ones are the young ones?” Quarum asked, her curiosity peaked. The anthropologist stepping forward to get back into the conversation, “This could work as a cartoon, or a character study. I assume the first-class citizens of Taipan would view their bodies as more of a tool than an immutable part of themselves?”

“THE POINT,” Heram said firmly, trying to regain control of the conversation from his family’s curiosity, “Is that you are putting quite a lot in my lap without having asked. Hoshiko appears to just be knocking things over without concern for where they land. It certainly feels more like Hoshiko is having her way with me.”

As Sakamoto watched the two siblings go off on their tangents, mock realization dawned on her face before she burst into laughter. “Dohohohohohoho! I see what the problem is!” the feathered woman exclaimed. “Quarum, Bǎo is not a love child between Heram and Hoshiko, though I will take note of how receptive you are to that idea,” the swimsuit clad Sakamoto explained. “She’s simply a Jongwu we created using the jaguar-kitten that he had brought back from their little misadventure,” the woman added. “Hoshiko simply thought that taking care of three wild, untamed kittens would be too much, so made things simpler by having one of them be made capable of caring for herself.” Her fey gaze fixated on Heram. “As well as others. She’s even gone through a finishing school. Others would pay a small fortune for someone like her, so go ahead - have her make some crepes!”

Quarum looked delighted to hear that “OH! That’s a lot less awkward! I know the parents are Pro-population and all but I don’t know how the Gartagens would feel about Heram courting Vishta with his love-child from another nation’s uh… general?... How long do your finishing schools run for? And what all do they teach?” She asked, with all the swiftness of someone who actually had to look up information in order to know it. The woman fishing a small datapad out of a zipp’d up pocket so she could find some answers herself.

“I think Hoshiko and I may have different opinions on how to best raise children.” Heram said, trying to back down from the overly accusatory tone from earlier, “Of course I am not going to turn Bǎo away. Though perhaps if you assist Hoshiko with these decisions in the future you could caution against making them without involving the other party?”

“Everything of importance, though some things were taught in a way she won’t understand until she’s older,” Sakamoto winked at Quarum, her gaze shifting back to Heram as she looked at the man from head to toe. “I’m guessing he doesn’t like surprise birthdays either?” the woman asked the sister. “I guess I won’t be popping out of any birthday cakes then,” she shrugged. “I honestly think you’re making a bigger fuss about this than it really is. It’s like a friend putting your pet dog through a one-day training course,” Sakamoto airily began. “One day, Bǎo was using the litter box, and the next, she’s massaging your feet or making you dinner.” Looking over at Quarum again, she asked, “Don’t you think he’s overreacting? Fussing over foot massages and the like?”

“Was that an option? Why are you inviting me to these diplomatic missions instead of the missions where people are poping out of cakes?” Quarum teased. “OH! If you don’t want the foot-rub machine I’ll take it!”

“Don’t call Bǎo a foot-rub machine,” Heram said, sounding displeased as he kept his attention focused on Sakamoto. He was struggling to get back onto a more diplomatic tone taking pauses between sentences to try and re-calibrate, “Are there any health-concerns I should be aware of? Don’t feed her after midnight? Don’t get her wet?”

“Hmmm,” Sakamoto pondered, chin elegantly held in hand as she thought, eyes staring off into the unknown distance. Once it dawned on her though, the feathered woman smiled as she settled her gaze on Heram. “She knows how to take care of herself, but if you had to worry about one thing?” Sakamoto teased. “Don’t give her catnip until she’s old enough. Stay in touch!~” she waved, turning to leave.

“Dropping your payload and leaving without catching me up on all the fun things you’ve been doing? You’re going to leave me feeling like your dumping ground.” Heram added, leaving his sister to ask the important questions,

“OH, What happens if you give her catnip?” Quarm asked excitedly.

“Ara-ara,” Sakamoto slyly began. “You should be more grateful I’m dropping my payload on you,” the woman remarked. “It’s worth a small fortune after all, but, if you really don’t want her…” the Rooster-type’s words ominously trailed off. Sakamoto then smiled. “Just give her some catnip then. I’m sure someone else will take her in.”


Boat crew
(Edited by Ray)
Great, now I’m on babysitting. Oh well, children can be more well behaved than certain Taianese. Geiben chuckled to himself at the thought. “You’ll be fine, Frank. I’ve got spare life vests.” He remarked to the O.G.R.E, walking over to the sailboat and pats its hull. The whole thing was of a sleak, aero and hydrodynamic design, coated in a brilliant white with orange stripes, its waterline marked by a blue paint covering the bottom portion of the ship. “Enid, Bǎo, you can climb aboard now. The rest of you lot, mind helping me push her into the water?”

A smile spread wide across Enid's face,her plan was working. Eagerly she held her equipment in one hand as she slowly clambered up the side ladder of the boat. She wasn't much of an outdoors person, though it was no lie she was actually interested in fishin, she chose to come along with Geiben to get closer with him. Locking herself in the hideaway on ED and playing games would have been just as relaxing. Once atop the ship she sat her things down and stood by the railing. Calling down to Ecur "Push my minions, your Queen demands you!" Her tone playful and her smile genuine but her eyes held a slightly crazed energy.

“As you wish, your Highness!” Echo gives a sarcastic salute as he and the rest of Ecur squad got on the sides of the boat and began to push. They were no sailors, but they certainly handled heavy objects well. With little apparent resistance, the sailboat slid along the wet sand, entering the waters, waves splashing along the underside.

Enid's smile twists as Echo plays along, her posture intensifies into a royal pose. "Today we conquer the Forgotten Seas!" Her eyes drifted to the shirtless Pacifican. He wasn't in a commanding rank nor was he on duty, if she wanted the Chocolate God of a man, today was her shot. The fantasies played in her head of him helping her bait a hook and cast while standing close, swimming very close out in the water, his gaze always on her… more adult thoughts came to her even though she pushed them deeper down to hold on to her composure.

Frank would help push the vessel into the water before climbing in and putting on a life jacket catching the glances from one of its occupants to another. Tapping on the Pacifican's shoulder Frank chuckled. "Seems you might have an admirer," he says, jestering back to the person staring before taking a seat on the boat as the calm waves wash against it's Hull.

“Huh? What?” Geiben pulled on the mast’s ropes, letting the sails catch the winds at full, then turns back to Frank, following his gesture to Enid. He immediately blushes, then goes back to handling the boat. “Let her be, she doesn’t know me.” He speaks softly to the O.G.R.E. as he steers her into deeper waters.

Ecur squad, in the meanwhile, were already enjoying themselves as much as they could. Not everyday can they move around freely in boundless, breathable atmosphere without worrying about things trying to kill them. Boomer laid on a plastic couch at the back of the boat, resting his head on Snow’s thighs as they smiled and flirted with each other. Echo already fell into a midday nap, snoring with Geiben’s sun hat over his face. Nix was at the stern, holding onto rails as he takes in the full view of sky and sea.

“Aww, life vests are cheating,” Bǎo remarked, deftly hopping over and into the boat. “You’ll never learn how to swim good if you use one all the time,” the little girl told Frank. As she settled to the boat however, her gaze drifted over to Enid, only to begin staring herself. “Hey, misters! This lady has a look on her face like Sakamoto does when she thinks nobody’s looking!” Bǎo exclaimed, excitedly pointing a finger at the cyber-legged pilot.

As more and more eyes turned on Enid she became extremely anxious and overly aware of herself. She scanned the boat for somewhere to casually hide but found nowhere to go. Instead she turned and leaned over the railing to just pretend she wasn't there but the pressure still persisted.

Boomer and Snow, seeing Enid’s embarrassment, looked at each other and chuckled knowingly. Boomer pushed his lips out in exaggeration, while Snow took the opportunity to lean down and give him an actual light peck.

Hearing the commotion, Nix turned back, seeing the faces his squadmates and the child were making at the pilot. He looked back towards the sea for a few seconds, then shrugged. Might as well make use of the day. He made a loop around the boat, adjusting his footing to compensate for the rocking waves, adjusting the sun hat on Echo’s face so it didn’t block breathing, left the two love birds be, gently smiled and pet Bǎo’s furry head, then finally arrived next to Enid, leaning on the rails. “Good day, isn’t it?” The 6-and-a-half-foot-tall Indian made an awkward greeting, staring blankly at the seas.


Enid turns back to glance Nix but looks away instead of making eye contact. "Geez man I just wanted to fish." Exasperated sighs escape her.

Frank sat in the boat being rather quiet in the calmness of the waves. When mentioning of when someones not looking Frank snorted trying to stifle a laugh “well that's her business regardless, hey Boomer how'd you get that sweet arm?” Frank said with mild admiration to the squaddies prosthetic.

“Uhh… this?” Boomer looks up at Frank from Snow’s thighs with mild annoyance, both at the disruption of the romantic process, and at the topic itself. “Why do you ask?”

Frank shrugs, “Honestly it seems reminiscent to the kinda tech that was used in creating me, so I kinda guessed or wondered if you worked for the same people before you know being with AFL?”

Boomer frowns, and Snow with him. “Uhh… can we not talk about them? It’s a good day, how about literally anything else?”

“Yeah, no problem kiddo” Frank said with a smile.

“Thanks man.” Boomer politely smiles, then looks back at Snow and boops her nose.

Frank directs his attention to Geiben “so Captain, you a seafaring lad or is this just a hobby of sorts?”

“Glad you asked.” Geiben smiles back at the O.G.R.E., forgetting that technically he was only a commander, “I was building and sailing boats ever since I was a kid. Got into heaps of trouble with it too; Mom and Dad didn’t like me throwing myself a three-story-high waves on a weekly basis. So they sent me to Eden to do college and what not. Well, jokes on them, I took classes on shipbuilding anyways!” The Pacifican laughs in self-congratulation. “The lady we’re on right now? My senior design project that I improved over the years.” He lets go of the steering wheel and leans on the wall of the ship with a pride in his eyes.

Frank gave a hearty laugh. “Well it certainly shows. I’m not exactly a man good with sea stuff or water in general, but I respect a man who sticks with his dreams.” Frank stared out over the water. “I’d like to wish moments like these last forever with friends like you all, but I’m getting to be an old man with nothing more to my name than the countless wars I’ve fought, before joining the elf after floating in a ship graveyard threw space... but if it's any consolation I’m glad we are friends.”

“Yeah…” Geiben’s voice trailed off, leaving only the crashing waves and Ecur squad’s chit-chat as white noise in the background. The waters grew deeper in color as the shoreline disappeared behind the horizon. He looked up at the hulking, but gentle figure before him. The Pacifican bit his lips. The reminiscence came out of the blue, and he didn’t have an answer to it immediately. He spoke nonetheless.

“... So am I. Good that we’re friends.” There was a half sincerity to it. What else was Geiben to say to an engineered soldier with twice as much life experience?

Frank smile “it's fine Geiban sorry for the sudden reminiscent talk” frank chuckled softly “you'll get this way when your older honestly i got about 80 years left and im trying to convince an old flame of mine to join alliance so there's that.” Frank said with a nervous laugh and slight blush to his face.”

O.G.R.E's live way too damn long, was Geiben's first thought. "Old flame… yeah, I had an old flame as well… " was his second thought that he blurted out. He takes a glance at Nix and Enid, then puts a hand to his face, sighing.

Nix maintained an awkward silence, before alas gathering the willpower to speak up. "I don't think fishing is all you want to do. Look, you've been eyeing the commander as long as we've been on the same shuttle together. Maybe you should----"

A large coughing roared from the back of the ship. Echo wheezed and breathed profusely, his respirator sending off sparks. Snow was already on the case. Geiben looked back. "Nix, do I need to turn this ship around?"

Nix now rushed to Echo's side, helping Boomer carry in to under the deck of the ship. He looks up. "His throat is acting up again. Don't worry commander, don't let this get in the way of your shipping time." He then winks at Enid. "And neither yours, too, rookie," before disappearing below deck with the rest of Ecur squad.

Geiben shook his head. "Physical wounds aren't the only kind that opened up today. … What in the void was that about shipping?" He gave an annoyed look of realization.

Frank chuckled "I think it's something the young people say when they are trying to get two people that will look cute together to be together." Frank said with a smile. Looking towards the kid "so...you were one of the animals brought back by wazu correct? By any chance did you say hi to the insect caretaker you had?"

Enid swiveled following the events around the ship reacting to each one, attentive to Nix' words, surprise at Echo's injury, smugness at Nix' second statement, a glance at Geiben. Turning to the waters again she devised her plots once again.

For the longest time, Bǎo remained silent as her big golden eyes watched the group of familiar-strangers. “Oh, I haven’t had time yet, but I’ll say hi to hug-wasp when I see her again,” she replied to Frank. For her, everything old was new again, though they perhaps didn’t realize that. “Miss Halliday?” the little girl tugged at the hem of Enid’s cargo shorts, unaware of the woman’s scheming. “One of the men patted me on the head, and Miss Sakamoto said that only virgin otaku think little girls like that,” she began. “Does that mean he’s like olive oil somehow?” Bǎo asked the pilot. “The kind that costs a little bit more?”

Enid's eyes widen at the awkward question before she even looks at the little girl. "Duuhhm, no more like aaa, Otaku is more like a person's lifestyle. Usually means they stay in their dark bedrooms and watch animated shows over and over all day." Enid studies the girls reaction with worry. This conversation is like a minefield she wishes she could avoid. "They usually range from like a normal fan of a few shows to the deeply obsessed and creepy guys." She speaks without confidence and only desires to not scar the child.

"I was afraid you'd say that." Geiben mumbled to Frank as he gave a quick glance at Enid. No, he can't. Can he? How long has it been, one year and a half? That's long enough, right? Wait… that's not the issue here. They're both naval personnel. What did protocol state again? She is attractive--- Shut up, Geiben!

The buzzing of his watch saved the Pacifican from anymore embarrassing thoughts. Only now did he realize his cheeks were flush red. Chugging down some water, Geiben checked his screen. "Alright, folks." He announced out loud. "We're here, Green Screen, do our sats’ see us?” Geiben looks up at the blue skies. Somewhere up there in low orbit was the Edward Deming monitoring everyone on the ground.

“Here” was seemingly in the middle of nowhere in the vast western ocean of Hawking, land long gone from sight. All that was in sight of half-a-dozen kilometers were the sea and sky, and the occasional equivalent of a sea bird. After double checking the coordinates, Geiben nods to himself, walking over to the back of the boat and lifts up a strange hook-like metal tool, with both a carbon fiber rope and a nylon rope attached to it. The metal piece couldn’t have been more than 10 pounds in weight, but the Pacifican threw it into the water like an anchor anyways. After a minute watching the carbon fiber rope slither along off the deck until it stopped, Geiben gave a quick tug on the nylon rope, then pulled at the carbon fiber rope. Confirming now that the metal piece dug itself into the seafloor, he made his way back to the stern of the ship, but not before knocking on the door to the lower level.

“Nix, how’s Echo faring?”

“Not great, commander. We’ll be down here monitoring his vitals.”

“Alright. Yell at Enid if you need evac.” Geiben shrugged, then walked up front, pulled out a foldable chair, and laid on it, taking a sandwich in one hand and a bottle of beer with the other.

It would take a few moments before Green-Screen would respond, the face of a rather annoyed looking young woman showing up on his screen, “I’m on shore leave too!” She said, “Go ask someone eLSAHAA!”

*THUD*

Geiben didn’t get to see the results, but it was pretty clear Green-Screen had just tripped over something, sending her datapad and her boba-tea flying.

“Green-Screen, are you alri---”

*THUD*

This time, the sound wasn’t coming from Green-Screen. The anchor that had been dropped off the side of the boat had been thrown back onto the deck. A dark grey face was bobbing above the waves not too far from the boat, whiskers and yellow eyes clearly visible along with quite an impressive array of jaggedy teeth in the young humanoid’s face.

“Humans go home!” It shouted!

In a few moments another face would pop up beside it, then another, their bodies clearly treading water to keep their heads just above the surface.

“EWW-MANS GO HOME!” They shouted in unison.

As Enid spoke, the little girl attentively listened, her big eyes locked on the pilot as she explained a small portion of what it meant to be human and to suffer. “So, he’s creepy olive oil then?” Bǎo asked, now even more confused than she was before. Though uplifted from animal into something so closely resembling a human being, even her blessings had its limits it seemed, and this was one of them. As the commotion began though Bǎo peeked over the edge of the ship and on seeing the strange beings, did the only sensible thing possible. Summoning the sammich from her concealed drone, Bǎo deftly pulled off a morsel, tossing it into a shark-toothed mouth below with precision that only one of the Taianese could muster.

The bit of sandwich would fly through the air, landing right in the first grawla’s mouth, causing it to “ACKSGHUASD!” and immediately dive under the water. The two smaller creature’s just behind it would look at each other for a moment, and then dive under the water as well, returning just a few moments later with a fish in hand.

“EWMANS GO HOME!” They shouted, returning fire at Bǎo by throwing a still flopping fish at her. The small silvery creature landing on the deck beside her and bouncing around a bit as it struggled to find its way back towards water using its fins and tail to push off against the deck of the boat.

“What in the blazes ---” Geiben rushed over to the edge of the boat next to Bǎo to gander at the creatures shouting in broken English. He glances at the kid. At least she’s not panicking. For now, anyways. The Pacifican turns his eyes to the anchor, examining it. Perfectly intact: all the mechanisms that allowed it to dig itself into the seafloor at the pull of the rope, the even more complex ones that loosened its grip, and these creatures… did they dig it out, or did they---?

“Quarum,” Geiben pinged, “What am I looking at here?” He starts by pointing at the xenos, but then realizing that his watch didn’t have a camera, started motioning in the air instead, “They’re uhmm… they have whiskers and pointy teeth, grey faced, yellow eyed, I think fins for ears? Oh! They’re also damn pretty intelligent, pulled my graduate thesis right out of the sands without causing a dent.” There was a hint of salt in the last sentence.

Enid's laugh was uncontrollable, gripping the railing in one hand and her mouth with another, tears rolled down her cheek. Maybe it was a bit much but she genuinely found Geiben hilarious in this moment.

After a short pause, Quarum would respond, “Grawla are the only sentient race on the planet besides us. How come you….” Back on the beach, Quarum froze up, “HERAM?! DID YOU NOT TELL GEIBEN ABOUT THE GRAWLA!?”

“He doesn’t know about them? I thought it was common knowledge... “ Heram replied, it didn’t take him long to put things together: Quarum wouldn’t be asking why Geiben didn’t know about the Grawla unless the Grawla and Geiben had run into one another, “Maybe we should have him head back?”

“HEEEEeeeeyyyyy…. You should probably head back now. Just be nice to them, wave, say hi, sail back and such. Grawla can be kinda territorial and all. No need to get them all riled up.” Quarum responded.

“That would be an understatement. The Grawla have reacted very aggressively to the human presence on their planet.” Caxia stated as their cybernetic body approached the beach, legs fully extended to get the mechanical joints up above the sand as much as possible, a spray can of sealant in one of their eight arms ready to go to help repel sand from getting in. The sensors inbuilt into their head easily able to pick up the conversation between the group on the beach and the group on the ship.

Frank looked over the edge of the ship at the Grawla. "Grawla go home." Frank said casually as he picked up the anchor on the deck of the ship with one hand before adding "You don't want to ruin my shore leave and get me angry. You won't like me when that happens."

“Easy there,” Geiben puts a hand in front of Frank, his other hand clenched into a tight fist. “We don’t have anything to defend ourselves, and who knows how many of them are there.” Enough to ruin my vacation. He looks back at the Grawla. “What he meant was we come in peace and just want to be left alone. If you insist on us leaving then we’ll---” Geiben lets out a deep, heated sigh containing much repressed anger, “---heed to your request.” If he wasn’t representing the Alliance here, and, more importantly, dressed in something more than his swim trunks, he’d put up more of a fight. Maybe he’ll still throw his chair at them, though. Damn xenos.

Frank sets the anchor back down on the deck, took a deep breath, holding it for 6 seconds, then exhaled before sitting back down as Geiben had hopefully defused the situation. “Geiben, if you want, next time, we can just go to one of the O.G.R.E colonies if you want to use your ship there; I’m sure they won’t mind” Frank said in an agitated voice but trying to make Geiben feel better.

“Fish!” Bǎo excitedly exclaimed. Grabbing up the flopping fish, she quickly plopped them into the nearest cooler before returning to the side of the ship. Taking off one morsel after another from her sandwich, the cat-eared little girl began quickly feeding as many of the aquatic people as possible.

“EWMANS GO *HGGHAACK!*” Bǎo’s precision nailed another of the young Grawla right in the mouth, causing it to gag a bit then disappear under the waves, the other Grawla following shortly afterward. This was their territory, and they were going to force the humans out one way or another. They had already exhausted all the english they knew, and they weren’t about to go swimming to their parents for help.

After gathering up what they could find in the nearby area, they would return to the boat.

“EWMANS GO HOME!” The three of them shouted in unison, pelting the boat with a hail of small fish, small ball-like plants, and oyster-like creatures that they had dug up off the ocean floor.

“Alright, alright! For the love of our forefathers, we’ll go!” Geiben puts his hands up, partly as appeasement, partly to block off the crap thrown up onto his brand new boat. “Damn xenos…” He muttered under his breath, along with a slew of Germananic choice words as he went back to the steering wheel, let the sails catch the wind again as he turned the boat around back towards the shore. With the Grawla’s projectiles withering as they pulled distance, Geiben let himself cool down, then looked back at Frank. “Yeah… I think I’ll take you up on that---” The Pacifican abruptly paused as he, through the corner of his eye, spotted Bǎo still throwing her lunch at the Grawla. “Kid! Scheiße! Get away from the railing! And stop harassing the natives!” He barked with remaining frustration.

“But, but space fish! And space clams! And space shrimps!” the little girl cried out, redoubling her efforts at stuffing all the free seafood into the cooler. Hurrying to squeeze in as much trading in with the aliens as possible before she had to absolutely stop, Bǎo scurried over to the side and leaned over its edge, the other half of her sammich in hand. “Eel! I’d like some eel! It’s like, a nope-noodle of the sea - an aquatic sock puppet!” she began. “Or, or maybe a lobster? They’re butter-sauce cockroaches! They look like aqua roombas but aren’t as flat and pinch like scissory water spiders!”

"Ugh… Frank, do me a favor and keep an eye on her? Don't want Sakamoto or Hoshiko hounding us for this." No wait, that's a bad idea. Frank can't swim.

Frank looked at the girl and sighed. "Geiben, you owe me for this." Looking to the feline girl, "So you want an eel and a lobster and what else? I don't have to breath so I can go retrieve one of each for you, provided Geiben is ok with meeting me at the shore as I am not buoyant so I'll sink straight to the bottom."

The Pacifican interjects, now throwing his hands up again, “Now hold on, I didn’t ask you to do anything for her. And on top of that, we’re nearly an hour away from shore by sailboat. Even if you could walk underwater I’m not going to let you do that and risk running in with the natives.”

“Oh, it’s ok!” the little girl replied, her jaguar spotted tail twitching with anticipation. “The fish people are nice!” As though to emphasize that, she took the hook-rod meant to grab a deployed lifebuoy, and fixated the smoked salmon bagel sandwich onto its end before leaning over the side, thrusting the foodstuffs towards the natives in hopes of completing her shopping list via trade. “Once I have all the ingredients, I’ll cook up a really tasty meal for everyone!”

“I think you’re done playing with the natives enough, kid.” Geiben looks back to steering the boat. “... I do appreciate your spirit though.” After some contemplation, he turns back to her. “There’s some reefs not far from our camp at the shore. I’m sure you’ll find what you need there. I’ll… uhmm…” He glances at Frank, then at the entranceway to below deck, then finally stopping at Enid. “Oh! Enid wanted to go fishing as well! She can go with you!” The Pacifican shoots the pilot a pleading facial expression. Translation: PleaseIjustwantmyshoreleaveinpeaceI’llreturnthefavorlater

Enid's face made a clear expression of the sullied moments she was sharing with Geiben. To make his vacation better she had to sacrifice her chance to be with him. Maybe she was being dramatic but it was accurate. The decision scratched at her skull as she stared at the Tainesse. Fishing was just a half lie to get Geiben's attention though she could still help this girl with her meal. "Come on lets go catch dumb sea bugs, kid." She didn't even feel the words, "We need to make some cage traps for shellfish though. Something I actually know how to do." Truthfully she did understand how to craft many basic survival shelters and tools, however it was mostly knowledge from self-studies, video games, and videos of people using primitive technology.

This whole process just confused the native Grawla. They were young, didn’t know more than a few words of english, and were getting frustrated that their attempts to scare off the intruders were failing. Yelling at them and throwing stuff at them just wasn’t working! The little girl seemed to have much better accuracy than them too… there must be a solution! They would dive back under the water once more to collect more ammunition, gathering up armfuls of fish and mussels. They would then take turns popping up on around the ship, showing up for just a moment to hurl a fish at someone onboard and then ducking down below the waves.

Unfortunately, Frank was the easiest target.

*THUCK*

A fish was thrown right at his face! A grawla popping up from the water for just a moment to make a throw.

*THUNK*

Then a heavy clunk came from the shell of another creature as it was thrown at the hull of the boat.

Then, after a moment, one of the Grawla jumped out of the water to grab the sandwich, yanking it and the attached hook-rod with it. Sure, the creature on the boat had been trying to choke them by hitting their throats with pieces of it… but it did taste good.

“EWMANS GO HOME!”

Frank nodded to Geiben at the mention of where to go for fish and stuff, before he was hit gobsmack in the face with seafood. "OH THAT'S IT!" Frank yelled before looking over the side of the boat, "C'mere snowflake time to teach you ‘bout sacrifice!" Frank roared diving into the water, then immediately starting to sink like a block of lead.

“Oh for the love of--- Enid! Take care of Bǎo and grab all the life vests that you can!” Geiben yelled at her as he dashed over to the edge of the boat, but threw the pilot his watch before then. He then untied the rope on the anchor and glanced back one more time. “If I don’t come back up with Frank in 60 seconds, contact the Edward Deming and get them to send us the shuttle.” Without another moment wasted, the Pacifican took in a large gulp of air, grabbed the end of the rope, and leapt into the water to go after the O.G.R.E.

“Whaaaa!” Bǎo recoiled in surprise, the retrieval rod yanked from her grasp. “Gimmie some aquatic sock puppets and butter-sauce sea roaches!” the little girl eagerly shouted after the aliens she was ‘trading’ with. As though for emphasis, her servant drone decloaked itself and projected an image of eel and lobster! Seeing Frank dive in after them, she cheered him on. “You go get them!”

The grawla were ecstatic! They had knocked TWO of the humans off their boat, both of which were now sinking like rocks. It was easy enough for them to avoid them, the webbed feet and fingers combined with their fin-like tail made traveling through the water second-nature to the Grawla. They had no problem quickly putting distance between themselves and the rapidly descending Frank. While two of them would circle around out of reach, the third would swim back towards the surface, zipping past Geiben and grabbing ahold of the rope he was dragging with him, the Grawla chomping down on it with rows of jagged teeth, attempting to shred the high-strength composite before giving up and instead just trying to drag it down into the water away from the two ewmans, pulling more of the spool off the boat itself.

The bottom of the ocean wasn’t much further away for Frank. Down there he would find the ocean floor was covered with a variety of coral, creatures, and Grawla-constructions. Several crab-traps were set out, some filled with lobster-looking crustaceans. The Grawla had also left a small bundle of tools nearby that included a knife and what looked like a spear.

The cold ocean water caused Geiben to flinch momentarily. The salt walter muddled the Pacifican’s vision, but he could see a large body descending further down towards the ocean floor, the two small bodies swimming away, and a third going for the rope. What to do? Go after Frank or shoo off the harassing Grawla? … It’ll probably just leave and come back to tug anyways. Plus, he’d rather not get bit by the natives. With his mind made up, Geiben points his body downwards and starts kicking as fast as he can to descend before the Grawla tugs away all of his rope.

Upon reaching the O.G.R.E, Geiben tries to grab his attention by tapping his shoulder, then handing him the rope and pointing up at the same time. It is at this point that the Pacifican starts to feel his lungs cry in protest, his heart beating against his ribcage, and his vision darkening. Scheiben, I’m out of practice.... How much longer? 30 seconds? 20? He takes a second to take in the surroundings. Even with his blurry vision, there was great peace down here. Were it any other situation, Geiben would be more than happy to grab an oxygen tank and just stay down here for hours on end---

The moment of awe was broken up by carbon dioxide bubbles forcing their way out of Geiben’s nostrils.

Frank, shaking his head at Geiben’s recklessness, grabbed one of the filled traps and the spear before grabbing Geiban with his other arm as he squatted down. He the pushed upwards with all the might in his thighs and aimed the spear at one of the fish people that was pulling on the line.

Frank was going to use the speared fish person as a springboard as even with his push, he wasn’t sure if he’d make it all the way to the boat. Even if he wasn’t successful he would still attempt to use what little momentum he has to fling Geiben’s body towards the boat hoping he wouldn’t get the bends in the process.

Even with his enhanced strength, sending objects quickly through the water was a very difficult problem. The spear quickly losing speed until it just came to a stop in the water well away from the Grawla it had been thrown at. The attack did seem to catch their attention, and the Grawla would swim off into the ocean, disappearing from view quickly as they shot through the water.

“Mmmph!” Geiben almost shouted, but slammed a hand on his mouth before he did something stupid. Regaining his composure, he used his free limbs to reorient himself upright as his body slowly floated towards the surface. Well, at least the small bodies are going away. He looked up and kicked his way towards the surface.

Emerging from the waters, Geiben gasped for air and stared up at Enid. “Ah… Alright, get ready with the rope, I’m going to make sure Frank still has it!” He then darted back into the water to look for the O.G.R.E’s silhouette beneath him.

Bearing witness to Franks stupidity, Enid calmly opened her tackle box and retrieved her datapad. No forms required as Shuttle 7 was already deployed on the shore. Using an application standard for a pilot she remotely moved the shuttle to the boat. It lifts off the shore and silently glides over the water. Stepping on she ties the rope to a weighted frame bar inside for cargo. Using the shuttle to pull Frank up would be so much easier than doing it by hand. In fact using the shuttle made it possible. However she retrieved her LP as well while she had the opportunity, setting it to high stun.

Frank grabbed ahold of the rope and began climbing his way up. Upon reaching the surface he got back into the boat putting the shellfish trap full onto the deck of the ship. “There you go kitty lady.” Frank said bowing forward a bit.

“Hey! I’m not a lady! I’m a girl!” Bǎo puffed up her cheeks in protest. However, the little girl still took the space-lobster trap from the man, with a belated, “Thanks,” glancing away from him as she accepted the caged crustacean. Despite all the chaos, the little girl didn’t seem bothered in the slightest as she looked for a container to put the lobster into. After all, buttersauce-roaches needed to be kept alive to taste good.

Geiben blinked blankly at the shuttle as he climbed back up onto the deck. He puts a hand behind his wet, curled hair and scratches in mild annoyance. “Well… crap. Looks like I’ll have to write a report regardless.” He walked over to the entrance of the lower deck. “Hey Nix, the shuttle’s here. If you want to get Echo off this boat, now’s your chance.”

Ecur squad walked up, Snow and Boomer helping a semi-conscious Echo on his feat, acidic smelling liquid dripping from under his respirator. “Gladly, commander. Uhh… hope you don’t mind.” Nix remarked as they boarded the craft. “He made kind of a mess down there.”

“Ah, don’t bother.” Geiben waved him off. “Anyone else? I’ll have to stay to sail the boat back regardless.”

Enid glared intently at Echo, "If you barf on my shuttle I'll dump you in the waters and Ecur will scrub the whole thing inside and out." Memories of egg whites and other slimy liquids rush Enid's mind before she can dampen the imagery...
uso
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Re: Chapter 23: The Beach Episode

Post by uso » Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:19 am

Meanwhile, back on shore…

Dr. Knowledgebot marches next to another being of machinery, walking up to Mr. Wazu like a machine on a mission. He stands easily 7 feet tall, with a slim build, black plating covering its body save its robotic face, which glows in orange data lines. Held in robotic hands with seven fingers is a briefcase. The machine nods its head respectfully at Mr. Wazu, seeming to stare deep into his eyes without having any itself. It speaks, a neutral tone exiting its face.

“Dr. Heram Wazu, I am the being known as Dr. Knowledgebot. I believe you were expecting me? I have passed all the tests necessary for travel with you, and look forward to gaining more information on our travels. I of course am pleased to give information to any who desire it.”

Heram practically snapped upright, nearly dropping the datapad he had in hand as Dr. Knowledge bot approached him. Though the large black robot wasn’t hard to miss, Heram was someone who was easily distracted by what was on his handheld display, namely the attempt to get Geiben and the others back before disaster struck. Heram himself was easily a full head shorter than the robot, grey eyes quickly looking over the new arrival. There was plenty to consider, but the inclusion of Dr. Knowledgebot was going to be a fairly straightforward process. “...and I look forward to working with you. I was actually looking forward to getting your help in a construction project while you’re with us.” He would check his datapad again, trying to make sure no one had been killed yet, “...Specifically, a data storage solution that can be reasonably stable for a few million years.”

The construct paused, processing this information. A repository of data, designed to last throughout millennia, and further through millions of years. It seemed a fantastical idea, but the spark of creativity was already churning within Knowledgebot. “A storage module to last eons? Ambitious. I accept. It will not take me long to acclimate to my new surroundings. When do we begin work?”

“As soon as…” Heram stopped himself. He wasn’t going to ask someone to work during shore leave. This was time scheduled for relaxation. “... actually, this is supposed to be shore leave. Let’s hold off on talking about that specific bit of work until later? Green-Thumb and Soffy are just about finished with the volleyball net.”

Not too far away, the rather amazonian woman in charge of Green-Squad was indeed finishing up with the Volleyball net, tightening the last few ropes to get it in place. Soffy wasn’t too far away either, the small wasp-like creature hanging onto the net itself as she tried to help with tying off the last of the knots. Quarum, and a few of the others, were already sneaking away from the main discussion in order to get themselves something to drink.

“I am certain Caxia has already questioned you on what type of robot you are.” Heram added, “I’ve already seen your turning screening, but there is always more to it. They didn’t ask you the Trolly-car problem.”

“Yes, the question of mortality and sacrifice. Does one switch the tracks and kill 1 person instead of 5? This question is further muddled when you take into account that the 1 may be an important official. Then, do you allow 5 civilians to die for this 1 VIP to live on? Or do you kill the official and accidentally begin a war with another power? What if among the five are children? What if the 1 is a child? In the end, my conclusion is that no one can take the test without seeming like an apathetic machine, or having an existential crisis.”

“THE ONLY WINNING MOVE IS NOT TO PLAY?!” Caxia responded. Instead of the monotone synthetic voice they had been using earlier, Caxia was now deploying a far more aggressive and masculine tone with the clear intent to communicate distaste. Despite Caxia’s outwardly heavily-robotic appearance, there was still clearly a human inside of there somewhere. They would adjust their tone back to the more deadpan statements they had used before, “Perhaps that is to be expected. From your kind, it is either insight that is unknowable for humans, or giving up because they do not understand the problem.”

“It sounds like it is your turn to answer the question Caxia.” Heram said, not trying all that hard to hide his smile.

Caxia would respond in force, using projects inset into their ‘head’ to display the various laws and regulations of the human settlements on Hawking. “If the trolly system was designed properly there should be systems in place to prevent fatalities from occurring. The responsibility for preventing deaths rests upon the designer and operator of the trolly itself, unless the people on the tracks are circumventing the safeguards intentionally in which case liability is shared between both parties. Attempting to adjust how the trolley operates as an outside party opens you up to liability for any deaths that may occur. Human law also does not recognize a responsibility to render aid, so there is no penalty for not intervening. Weighing the risks, cleary not intervening is the correct choice.” There would be a pause, Caxia’s head tilting slightly towards Heram as a way of indicating who they were looking at… something that was very difficult to tell with the 360 degree placement of sensors on Caxia’s head, “Or: you can not be responsible for fixing everyone else’s mistakes.”

“Unbelievable, you’ve managed to overthink a mortality question. The question as I was told is: ‘A trolley is careening down the tracks, unable to stop. 5 people are tied down to the tracks, but you could switch the tracks so that only 1 person tied to another set of tracks dies.’ It’s not as complicated as you say. And besides, many stories tell us that just because you did not cause a problem to start with, doesn’t mean you can’t help. That’s how heroes are made.”

It was around this time that Geiben’s shuttle-assisted boat was arriving back to the shore. One of the party members was already soaking wet, while the small fox-girl had seemed to accumulate a large stockpile of fish and a caged ‘butter-sauce roach’

Quarum had found a spot near torace and a towel to lay on the sand, the woman laying down near the Dark-colored I’ee and sharing in the fruit snacks while watching the latest episode of Magical Girl Ayumu.

A few other crew members started trickling in as well, some starting to compact sand together to make a table for their cooler filled with an assortment of drinks. Others just looking for a place to lay down. This included the ship’s acting captain [url=character:somnya_srilin]Somnya[/url], a purple-hair’d elf who had chosen to wear little more than a bikini with a nearly see-through overshirt and wide-brim’d straw hat.

None of this activity seemed to bother Caxia as much as Dr. Knowledgebot’s response. They were perhaps as taken aback as one could be with a face that didn’t display emotions and was in fact just a metal sheet with various sensors integrated into it. “That was a genuinely quietly dismissive response. I can see why you have scored so highly on your turing screening. Perhaps you were constructed to emulate humans too well?”

Caxia” Heram said, speaking up with a firmer than normal tone, “Play nice. It’s a question designed to expose how one things about problem solving. Overthinking it is part of the fun… and you did want to gather more information.” Without having answered the question himself, Heram would wave at the newly arrived sailors, “GEIBEN! HOW ABOUT YOU? TROLLY PROBLEM! DO YOU PULL THE LEVER?”

“Uhh… hold on… urrgh...” Geiben remarked, exerting himself to pull the boat ashore, “Yeah, what?” He took a moment to take in his new surroundings. More specifically, the sleak, black robot standing before him. The Pacifican blinks twice, looking at Mr. Wazu, then back at the robot. “I assume you’re a new addition to our crew. Welcome to the bag of bolts and people that is the Edward Deming. Before I introduce myself, let me answer Mr. Wazu’s question that he seems so enthusiastic about. If there isn’t any other other information at hand other than what’s typically stated, I won’t pull the lever. Five people’s lives are worth more than one. You can’t do that math any other way. Now, in an ideal scenario, if there aren’t any people onboard that train, I’d just get my pilot to shoot it off its tracks from orbit.” He smirks, “hopefully the universe would be so kind that day.” After pausing for another moment, Geiben brings his hand out with a polite smile.

“Commander Geiben Folami of the IAS Edward Deming, pleased to meet you. It’ll be interesting to work with a being like you, at the minimum.”

Frank walks past Geiben carrying, the different fish stuffs that was gathered on their trip “great time geiben we should do this again sometime."

Touching down on shore Enid lands the shuttle at the same location as before. Deciding against the possibility of fishing she digs through her bags in the co pilot seat for a change of clothes, something more beach like. A short sleeve, women cut, white top and a pair of black nylon-material short shorts over top of a standard salmon bikini. She carried one bag off the shuttle as she left, a wicker tote full of stuff for a day at the shore. Heading closer to the group she passed Geiben during his remarks on the trolley puzzle. "Hold on, you can't change the situation you gotta answer as its given to you. Besides boring moral question anyway, I prefer the one where its a fat guy in front of you and you either push him on the track or let 5 people get hit. That one is better. More variety in answers since its asking you to be more hands on than a basic numeric choice." She gushed as she eyed Geiben and the others. Pointing at the tall dark robot she stared at Geiben looking for a reaction.

Dr. Knowledgebot was quite pleased to have caused such a reaction in the cyborg, proving to itself that she was in fact still human in some way. He fixed eyes with the man before him, Geiben, and made no movement towards him. “Yes, it will be fascinating to work with a being such as you.” And with that odd statement out of the way, he turns to Enid, and employed an old trick he had mastered at University. He stared at her, unmoving, lights blinking as if in thought, his black armor gleaming with light, and he mimicked her action, pointing at her. He calls it, Sight Without Eyes, as if he was mirroring her very soul.

Taking note of the black bots mimicry tactics Enid turned her pointing finger into a hand and covered her face. Striking an over dramatic pose to accompany it. Her other hand out to the side opened wide.

Geiben scans Enid from top down. "Uhmm… you look… nevermind." He brought his hand that was meant for Dr. Knowledge of, left hanging, and redirected it to point at Enid. "Doctor, meet Enid, our residential pilot. If you need to get anywhere fast, just call her." He then looks at her, crossing his arms with a questioning smile, ignoring the weird pose-standoff she and the bot were undergoing, "What did the fat guy ever do to warrant getting run-over?" He shakes his head. "The trolley problem has always devolved from the initial premise. These morality questions need to be more specific."

Enid's eyes only darted to Geiben for a tiny second and locked back to the dark figure, "Shh my chocodile, I'm in contest with this Doctor Robotman." She spoke with a weird accented speech as if she was mimicking something, it was fancier than her normal dialect to say but also just odd.

The Pacifican is taken aback somewhat. "Choc---" He puts a hand up, "Fine, you take your time with the doctor, I need to go make a report with Captain Somnya." He backed off, and went to go consult the elf.

Dr. Knowledgebot… sensed a contest. Yet this was not a contest of wits or intelligence, but of a frivolous action that would amount to nothing. Or at least, that’s what most machines would think. The good Doctor, knew that such actions endeared one to humanity, increasing his chances of survival. And… he kinda found it amusing. Completely monotone, he bends his limbs in impossible ways, which is really just backwards so it’s not as impressive as he thinks it is, and strikes a pose, arms to the sky, as it praising the sun.

As the others filed out, a certain small person diligently made to tetris all the fish, drinks and various other items into the cooler. Satisfied with her work, Bǎo wiped her brow before exiting after everyone else. “Hey everyone, how do you want me to cook it all?” the feline tailed little girl excitedly called out after the others. Trotting off the ship after them all, she still looked ready to continue their vacation given the swimsuit she still wore. “I can make sushi and sashimi, or maybe I can grill the fish, and I can make a bisque out of the buttersauce roach so everyone can have some too!” Bǎo suggested to them all, her ears twitching at their suggestions.

“Bǎo!” There was a very excited I’ee trapped in the Volleyball net being disentangled by Green-Thumb, and after a few moments, the I’ee was free. It got up on its rear two legs and trotted over to the Jongwu girl, giving her a hug with her remaining four frontal legs. “YOU’RE SO MUCH BIGGER!!!” The I’ee’s feelers would be patting all about on Bǎo’s head, getting a feel for the newly resized kitty.

Heram would get a good laugh out of the outcome, waiting the pose-off between crew members continue. “.... part of exploring morality is letting the question change a bit. Does it make a difference if you push a fat person onto the tracks instead of pressing a button? Or is your morality so il-defined that you are unable to explain it simply and understandably for those around you? Also, and more importantly, What should Bao make to eat?”

“I will not be eating.” Caxia stated. “And I have made the basis of my morality clear.” Their tone had returned to being quite sterile and monotone. The cyborg easily able to look down upon both Dr. Knowledgebot and Enid, raising its main body up a bit on its tripod like legs. However, just walking away at this point seemed like it didn’t get the point across of just how superior their blend of biological parts and high end cybernetics was. Caxia’s main body was cylindrical, with eight arms positioned around it near the top, with a similarly cylindrical head piece on a neck with several sensor systems attached to it. Copying Enid’s pose was quite simple, one hand pointing at Enid, another at Dr. Knowedgebot, while a third covered Caxia’s face with that ridiculous hand gesture. Two more arms made Dr. Knowledgebot’s ‘Praise the Sun’ pose. Caxia then used two more of her arms to angle and point upward while her final arm simply flexed.

Enid's next pose was weak and without much thought as she devoted most of her brain power to the moral argument. Sticking to a still infamous pose she flexed her left arm, popped her chest out, held her left wrist with her right hand and bent her midsection to also flex her glutes and thighs. A simple strong man competition flex made popular by bodybuilders and old time wrestlers. Enid's build was actually noticeable in this angle, with a well defined set of lower body muscles and impressive arm strength. Mostly developed because of her condition and not at all from exercise, she is a gamer. "Listen weak boy," her speech a heavy accented German as she addressed Heram, "pushing the fat man is meant to emphasise your involvement, you pushed him. Sure, it's still a decision but it's one made with less anonymity. You had more of a say in his death and therefore the question becomes more about whether you should be a bystander or make that decision." She switches her pose to the mirrored side. "Your stupid, and weak, you have to hide to smoke your stoogie, meanwhile I can smoke anywhere I want because I'm not a pussy like you." She lays the accent on thick and switches to a 'gunshow pose'.

“Was that a reference?” Geiben’s ears perked up, looking back at Enid, Dr. Knowledgebot, and Dr. Caxia still trying to flex on each other. “Please tell me that was just satire. And don’t escalate to the point where you’re pulling each other’s limbs out.” He observed, noting that all three of them had cybernetics in some way shape or form. Geiben the promptly continued walking forward, nodding to Frank. “Glad you enjoyed the trip, sad that it was cut short.” He looked down at Bǎo. “Grilled fish would be great, kid. Speaking of the trip though…” Alas, Geiben spotted the captain coming towards them. “Ma’am! You--” He abruptly stopped before he followed through with something stupid. “I mean, I need to discuss with you the events that have transpired thus far.”

“That tickles!” Bǎo childishly laughed, the antenna poking her left and right. “It’s good to see you again!” Though her memories of the time were fuzzy and indistinct, they still remained, and there was nothing but fondness for the insectoid alien. “Ah! Please don’t fight guys!” her ears flicked back as Enid went on the offense. “Can’t we all just get along and enjoy our fish?”

“OH, I’m supposed to know where that pose is from?” Heram asked, thinking for a moment before adding, “I keep telling Sakamoto I haven’t seen Star Wars, so I’m not going to pick up on those references… Though I think that question speaks more to why you think pushing someone onto the tracks to kill them is being more responsible for their death than pushing a button or switching a lever to kill them? Both actions lead to the same result.”

Caxia looked frozen. Though they had more arms than anyone here, they also had a very rigid body that wouldn’t allow for the same level of posing as Enid was capable of right now. This certainly was a problem, as now Caxia could be out-posed. Rather than continue with the fight they would return to a more neutral pose as if continuing this fight held no interest for them.

Somnya didn’t seem to be doing much better with her lack of interest. “As much as I appreciate your… eagerness. Such a work ethic can lead to burnout. So please consider how much you need to convey this information to me with just how valuable I consider getting to lay down in the sun.”

“FISH!” Soffy shouted, trying to aid in Bǎo’s fish-based distraction, realizing there was an un-hugged Dr. Knowledgebot that she had yet to meet. “... I’ll be right back!” The I’ee would let go of the Jongwu and scurry over to Dr. Knowledgebot. The four foot tall wasp-like creature hugging the jet-black robot’s legs with her own, “HELLO! I’M SOFFY!” She shouted, excited to meet a new metal-friend.

“With all due respect ma’am, I’d like to grab a beer as much as you want those rays.” Geiben crossed his arms. “Anyways, the gist is Mr. Wazu was forced a child on him and we pissed off some locals when we were out at sea. Echo also almost died for unrelated reasons; he’s being taken care of by his teammates right now.”

Enid lowered her arms and turned to face Wazu. "No it's the thought of effort involved. It's easier to pull the trigger on someone 30 meters away but to be next to them and all that just feels like a literal closer connection. And in the situation where there is one track and 5 people, pushing someone on the track is much more your decision than it is part of the game setup by whoever set it up. The fat man's death is 100% your choice and had no involvement in the twisted game at hand. Arguably this makes you a more demented person depending on your answer but more over the idea of it to me is how you could be tried in a court of law after the fact for a seperate murder charge than the charges at hand for the person who tied 5 people down on the track and would get 5 cases of attempted murder. Your only defense is probably the 'Good Samaritan' law but I'm not sure if that is a standing law everywhere." Enid looks at Wazu with a slight raise in her eyebrows. "But I'm not gonna argue with some science officer." She begins to scan the beach for a lounging spot but looks at Wazu long enough to give him a chance to respond.

“So if I understand properly,” Heram said, a bit excited that someone was taking the bait, “What is right is also inherently what is legal? Or at least what you could get away with in a court of law? Would it be easier for you to kill a person if you knew your lawyer was going to get you out of the murder charge? While Caxia and any other Risk-Management agent would agree, I would be far less certain. I’d go as far as to saw Law is a by-product of morality and not a source of it.”


Enid nods "Nah totally, I only obey laws because jail time is inconveniencing. And like fuck fat people amirite? Keep on though, science guy." Her eyes roll away from the conversation, pissing contests often turned her away from an entire conversation. Enid stepped away to take a seat near or next to others on the beach.

There were plenty of lounging spots nearby as well, towels setup across the beach with additional chairs nearby just in case someone wanted to change things up. For the time being it was just the crew of the Edward Deming here, so there was plenty of free space on the beach. One of these beach towels was occupied by Somnya who was busy trying not to work. “The child sounds like Wazu’s problem… and if you have offended the Grawla and brought my time in the sun to an early end I will be quite cross. File an appropriate report and please refrain from using language like ‘almost died’. Keep it clinical and do not inject your own views in that manner.”

“I really couldn’t agree more about the stolen time, ma’am.” Geiben’s tone was a mix of annoyance and sympathy. “I’ll get the report done within 36 hours,” He remarked, jotting down notes of what transpired, then looked back at his captain, “... after I go douse myself in alcohol and seawater.” The Pacifican grabbed a couple of beers from the cooler, took a life jacket with him, then headed for waves. Passing by Bǎo, he assured her, “Easy, kid, they’re just messing with each other with pedantry. Tell me when the fish is ready; I’ll be in the water.” He then continued towards it, wading through it before finding a depth that suited him. Content, he brought his legs up and laid there, floating with the life jacket on, and gulped on his beverage.

Dr. Knowledgebot’s pose off is cut short by a sudden hug from a small waspy thing. He looked down, and stared at this being of such affection, confused. “Why do you embrace me so soon? You have yet to converse with me.”

“YOU ARE NEW AND YOU NEED A HUG!” Soffy declared, the feelers on her head poking against Dr. Knowledgebot, “I’m Soffy Oo’Tut! Hi!” The enthusiastic I’ee continued to hug the robot, seemingly unconcerned about personal space.

Meanwhile Heram watched Enid disengage from the conversation. “I suppose that is my fault,” He said, more to himself than to anyone else, “I tend to have annoying past times... “

Dr. Knowledgebot was unsure how to respond to this kind wasp person, but it knew it couldn’t push her aside. That would hurt her feelings, and then the bot have to deal with people's emotions again. “Thank you, sweet being of naïveté.” And it pats her head gently.

*****

Once everyone began to tribalize and enjoy their beach stay as their whims so wished, Bǎo made her move, striking fast and hard.

“Food’s ready everyone!~~~~” the little girl cheerfully called out. With the matter synthesizers on board the shuttle nearby, the all-too-human looking Jongwu managed to whip up the cooking equipment as well as the extra ingredients she needed in order to cook up meals for everyone. Laying it out, the fish was succulently grilled to perfection over a charcoal flame, and was laid out family style on several large platters for everyone to serve themselves. The sides of rice, veggies and soup were superb, but what she did with the space eel and space lobster were of special import. “I made the aquatic sock puppets into unagi sushi, and the buttersauce roaches into a creamy bisque - please try some!” she eagerly offered to everyone, her tail standing up on end and ears perky with excitement.

From the distance, an old man dressed in a fancy tie and suit, comes walking down to the beach. He appears to be on the heavy side as he slowly makes way towards the gathering. He holds a yellow folder in his right hand. He waves towards Dr. Heram, heading directly towards the Dr. “Dr. Heram, a pleasure to meet you. My name is Peter Speers, general lieutenant of aviation.” The aging man speaks in a German-American accent. “I’ll be overseeing air-operations and co-jointly monitoring land operations with Maples.” Peter opens up a left hand for a handshake. Peter turns his head about - looking at the colourful cast of characters on the beach. “You have an interesting range of people….” Peter states in a questionable tone.

Lured by the smell of his meal, Geiben waded through the water to return back to the shore. He picked up a plate and nodded to Bǎo, “Thanks kid.” He then started walking towards Enid, before spotting the man dressed up way too much for the beach. “Since when our vacation turn into a recruitment party?” The Pacifican muttered to himself in his own, skewed German accent before walking up to Mr. Wazu and the newcomer, staying a few feet away, waiting for his introduction as he ate away at the buttersauce roach.

“You could join the Sheffeldan Foreign Legion. Recruitment is always open afterall, but I don’t think that would interest you.” Peter chuckles. “The name is Peter. We’ll be handling all the dirty work of civil protection on your behalf.”

“So...what’s your crew about?”

Heram took the folder offered and started leafing through it, waiting for Soffy to run over and finish her outburst before saying anything...

“NEW PERSON!” Soffy seemed absolutely thrilled to be meeting so many new people all at once. She had only just finished with Dr. Knowledgebot a little while ago and now she was running back from her spot sitting by her sister so she could hug Peter. The 4 foot tall wasp-looking creature wrapped four of her 6 legs around Peter’s lower body, the large compound eyes on the top of her head looking up at him as much as compound eyes could ‘look’ at anything. “I’M SOFFY! Oo’TUT! IT IS NICE TO MEET YOU!”

“You will be tasked with some small part of the security setup as a trial run for your organization. That trial run is about fitting in. It is about being a part of a team. It is about working with others ...and while the suit is usually the shibboleet of business you are wearing one to a place that is inappropriate to do so, this is a beach party.” Heram stated, trying to maintain the evenest of tones throughout the process, looking up from the folder for long enough to notice Geiben was waiting around, “This is Geiben by the way. He will be second in command for the Interstellar Alliance group that is going on the relief mission to the Kiwomian Homeworld.”

“The relief mission. Have you sent the documents to command yet? I’m not aware of the details yet.” He paused. “Good to meet you too, Soffy.” Peter did not know how to really respond to this thing...A 4 foot tall looking-wasp. “I...Right…Umm….” Peter gives off a nod towards Soffy. An awkward silence sets in as Peter stares at the wasp. “Anyhow, Dr. Heram. That sounds like a nice ideal to shoot for. Working with others and the team is always a good thing, although my job involves more layers of paperwork and more stress due to the nature of my job.”

Peter hands the yellow folder to Heram. “You’ll need to know a bit about our command. You’ll be solely in contract with an entity called Overwatch. All info and command-wishes will be forwarded to it. This will be the last time that we’ll be meeting in-person or in-voice.” Peter points to the folder. “Everything you need to know about Overwatch will be in that folder. You don’t need to read everything. Just know that it will speak in very technical-detail. Terms and definitions will be at Section 5, Label 9. Read that and you’ll be fine.”

Peter reaches into his coat to pull out a recorder. “I’ll give you an example.” Peter pushes a red button on the recorder as the internal tapes spins. A monotone robotic female voice is heard.

<:: Stabilization team, hardpoint blue. Blackout. 603-individual is socio-stable threat. Sweep. Contain. Prosecute. ::>

A few more lines play out.

<:: Company. Cover. Danger-close. Ordinance inbound at 564, 657, A64. ::>

<:: Bio-signal lost at Block-4A. Anti-citizen is 95 illegal carrying. ::>

Peter stops the audio. “You should get an idea on how it talks now.”

So this is the kind of character we're dealing with. Geiben coughed twice and walked up to the Peter. If he was the commander of the Edward Deming, he certainly didn't look the part right now. The Caucasian-African figure was wearing nothing but a data-watch and a pair of swim trunks right now, seawater still evaporating off his back, leaving salt stains behind. In his right hand was a plate of the local seafood, a bottle of beer tucked under the armpit. His left fingers were oily, the result of eating his meal bare handed. "Greetings," Geiben politely stated. "Apologies, but I'm not in the state to shake your hand right now. I happened to eavesdrop on part of the conversation. Why don't you join us momentarily for lunch? We can discuss the mission after Mr. Wazu and I are in a better state of attire." Geiben sighed internally. Why must vacation end so soon?

“I can stay for an hour, but I have a staff meeting soon.” Peter pulls forth a white-hand towel and offers it to Geiben. “Something to clean your hands.”

Enid pulls out a large electronic tablet, it is supposed to be mounted in the cockpit of the shuttle but Enid pulled it out and installed a mobile device operating system on it. She often used it for Edward Demmings message boards, books, movies, and video games. Tapping through some applications she messages Geiben from her cozy beach chair. 'Hey, where did you get dem foods?". Closing out she surfed the crew logs to find the Science officer she left dry a second ago. 'Hey, Heram It's me. Let's continue the philosophy chatter on the side.'.

Geiben took the towel and nodded. “Thanks.” Just as he tucked the towel under his other armpit and wiped his fingers on it, his datapad buzzed at Enid’s message. He turned his gaze towards Enid. “Really?” He asked with his facial expression as he then eyed towards where Bǎo was stationed.

“Hey, that message sounds super important.” Heram said, thankful for an excuse to pull out his datapad and glance at something else for the moment, “I’m going to go get some food, you should work on the fitting in part Peter. Get a feel for what the crew are doing now and join in. Mission briefing happens later.” Meanwhile Soffy gave up on hanging off of Peter to go back towards the food table.

Geiben then snapped his head back at Peter. “Would you like to go pick out food with me?” He invited, as he tapped away at his datapad, messaging Enid. “What do you want? I’ll just get it for you on my way over.”

It was Heram’s turn to go examine the food, fish meat, vegetables, rice, that buttersauce-roach thing made into soup. It felt a little weird to be eating actual animals again but it was a hangup he could easily get over considering the effort that Bǎo put in. He would also make sure to try the Bisque while the little Jongwu was in sight of him, doing his best not to offend as he tried to work out just what he would do with such a creature now following him around… though that might be best saved for later.

He would end up getting a towel and sitting down near Enid, testing out the fish before responding, “Sorry if the trolly car problem got a bit too pushy. It is a silly question, but also one designed to get at why you think the way you do. I think ultimately the right answer is to reject the question. You can save everyone, just not if you let yourself be constrained by the person asking the question.”

Tapping at her tablet Enid messaged Geiben. 'Rice with veggies and some meat. Thank you' turning her head to Heram, "I get the idea of the metaphilosophy of changing the given question but I would prefer to play in defined limitations." She spoke matter of factly. Enjoying the discussion as she did.

Peter shrugs, going along. He overlooks the various amounts of food on-site. Peter grabs himself a plastic plate before piling on every single type of food-type there is. Peter then steps aside. He reaches over with a hand to his food-plate, using his raw hands, to stuff his mouth full of food. There was no stop in his rush to shove ungodly amounts of food into his mouth. Before long, Peter just had shallow down a stack-high-pile of seafood, rice, meat, and likewise. Peter goes back for food. Again, Peter stacks his plate high and then quickly shallows everything in a short time. Again, again, and again. By the time that Peter has finished, he would have taken up all of the food. “Thanks for the offer of food.” Peter happily says, getting another small-hand towel from his coat. He quickly cleans himself off of the oils and food stains that has gathered up on Peter’s suit and mouth. “I may ask...how much food do you have?”

At first, the little girl was nothing but smiles as people began to eat the food she worked so hard to make. Watching Wazu, her tail held high in excitement, Bǎo asked, “I hope it was good!” However, the ungodly noise that one of the newcomers made startled the little cook. Turning her gaze on Peter, she soon grew pale as all the remaining food was devoured. Quickly running away, Bǎo soon came up to the sun-bathing Enid and bowed. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t cook enough food! But I’ll go make you something from the matter synthesizer!” she apologized, eyes wet with tears.

“No, no. I’m good. Thank you.” Peter nods. “Soo...umm….” Peter stands in his spot quietly. He does not know what to do next. Peter then sits down and then stares at the sand. “Good food.” He says towards Bǎo…….”How old are you, kid?” Peter stands up, walking himself towards Bǎo ,hovering over the small child.

Looking between Enid and Peter, she wasn’t sure who to focus her attention on, but given that the pilot hadn’t immediately replied to her apology, Bǎo let out a meek, “F-four,” her tail tucked between her legs. At three and a half feet tall, the man easily towered over her along with everyone else, an effect that didn’t help in tense circumstances such as these. “Four months,” she clarified. Making a gulping noise and balling her tiny hands into fists, a fire lit in Bǎo’s eyes as she stared up at Peter. “Mister, what you did was mean - Enid didn’t get to eat anything at all! You should apologize to her!”

Enid sat her tablet in the bag she brought, perching herself on her hip and taking hold of the little kitty she began patting her head as she figured it would soothe her, "Hey, it's fine, it's fine Bǎo-Bǎo I can eat later. He doesn't need to apologize, I'm not hurt by anything." Speaking soft and motherly to comfort the child. Guiding Bǎo closer she hugged her as she continued the gentle patting. "Don't cry, okay."

“Didn’t mean to scare you, child. I’m just a fast eater.” Peter turns his head towards Bǎo and Enid. “Are you bringing her to the planet? I don’t think an active war zone acts as a good place for kids. Especially when anti-air and an intervention force is going in.” Peter pasues. “Things will get heated very soon.” Peter digs into his pockets to get his watch. “I don’t have much time left. The staff meeting takes priority.” Peter once again goes to his coat pockets, showing off a card. “That reminds me. You need temporary-identification numbers. This makes interactions less awkward and faster with our associated organizations and members, unless you want a permanent one.” Peter hands out his card. On the card, it shows his picture on the left side then name, height, weight, and other non-discrete info. “There’s more to that. When used under a Freehold scanner, everything from medical, crime, and other personal info is displayed. For you, we’ll just making a temporary port.” Peter takes out a small-hand-held camera. “Mind if I take your photos?”

“Perhaps you should go to the staff meeting. I don’t think there is much of a value-add with you being here right now.” Heram finally said to Peter, “You shouldn’t start something new so close to your deadline and you should be able to arrange for shuttle service for yourself out here.”

“I know, but I wanted to see you try my food and like it,” Bǎo replied to Enid, returning the hug. When the warm embrace came to an end however, she quietly pouted, refusing to look at Peter again. The little girl didn’t care what he had to think about her coming along or not - she was going where Wazu went, and that was final!

“I meant for you. You can’t do anything without an ID within our system, given that you’re a temporary-associated member. You’ll be denied to anything by our troops and command when on planet. I just need your photos and everything should be fine,” Peter remarked.

Geiben only spectated on the sideline as Enid calmed Bǎo down. He winced as the kid went into a crying fit. Was that personal weakness? Maybe that’s why she--- He shook his head to rid unpleasant thoughts, instead brought his focus back to Peter. “I don’t care much for how your system works; not right now anyways. What you’re effectively doing right now---” Geiben crossed his arms, “---is interfering with the Edward Deming’s time table. These 48 hours have been scheduled as shore leave for the entire crew a year in advance, even before I was assigned as commander, and is key to maintaining our morale and mental health. To be rushing us through bureaucracy---” The commander knit his eyebrows, “--- on a beach, of all places, is impolite, to say the least.”

He sighs, and relaxes his shoulders. “I understand you have your own schedule to meet, and Kiwomian situation will only worsen with every year or planetary cycle or whatever the void. But right now, you--- we--- are in Alliance territory as Alliance personnel, direct or indirect. We have to play by the rules, even if the rules tell us to waste time on a beach and eat seafood. Protocol’s there for a reason.”

The mountain of a man known as Frank rejoins the group after his time sunbathing changed from his beachwear to his bdu pants and a muscle shirt that hugs his toned frame. Looking around the room he spots the new guy. "So who are you supposed to be?" Frank questioned probably coming off abrasive even though not intended though with vary little social interaction it's the best he could muster before looking to Wazu. "Sir, I was informed that the cat girl made food but it looks like I was a bite late for that huh?"

“48 hours resting on a beach? Hell, I wish I had that kind of time, but work always take priority. Not if I have choice anyhow.” Peter waves and then runs off to his meeting.

“He ate it all,” Bǎo fumed, pointing a finger at the retreating man. As irate and angry as she was, Bǎo was still a little girl, and that came with certain caveats. Namely, that it was very difficult to take her seriously, even though she was upset. The way her cheeks puffed and glowed red, her tiny fists curled at her side while the feline tail fuzzed up like a bottle brush could all be described as one thing. Cute.

Geiben nodded in agreement with the kid’s fury. “Jerk,” He muttered, as he walked over to where Mr. Wazu and Enid were sitting. He felt for a soft spot in the sand and settled down and ate away at what remained of his meals. “Perhaps now I’ll get to enjoy the rest of vacation in peace.” He said to himself out loud.

Enid wrapped her left arm around Bao and with a sound of effort hoisted the little one into her lap and began to tickle her along the sides, "Aaaww yeah look at you, you so mad. You so mad aint cha. OoooOooooOOO." With such a motherly baby voice Enid can't stop smiling. Bao is cute and that was for sure unavoidable.

Flicking her ears back, Bǎo’s anger soon turned into embarrassment as her golden eyes looked to the sandy ground. “E - Eniiiiiid, stop teasing me!” she tried to muster up some anger again. However, it fell flat as her face turned redder and redder under the pilot’s babying.

“I still have some left on my plate,” Heram offered to both Enid and Frank, having only tried a little bit of what Bao had to provide so far. The man turning his attention to Geiben. “... You should really go enjoy it while you can. Everything is fleeting… though I’m starting to rethink the current crop of outside contractors. The Echoni were more….” Heram had to think about it for a while, “... Well they didn’t cause friction.”

Geiben grumbled in response. "Several centuries out of the dark ages and we still can't get past petty squabbling. I thought we were better than this." Yawning, he set aside his plate and laid on the sand. "Let's hope that it doesn't carry to the field."

Frank patted bao on the head “you know Enid your right, she is rather adorable when angry” looking to wazu frank shook his head “thats ok sir i don't eat meat.” returning his head to geiban he sighed “yes and you’d think several centuries out of the dark ages would have better ship builders.”

"Oooohhh" Enid exclaimed as she waved away the leftovers, "Is that shade? Frank throwing shade at Geiben?" Enid turns herself to Geiben and leans to his ear, "Beat 'em up." She continues to hold Bao in her arms tightly however.

Geiben frowned and leered at Frank and Enid from the ground. "You try designing a structure that can be built from a synthesizer in a few hours without overloading it, while maintaining functionality. What was wrong with the boat anyways?"

"Mmmhmm tell em." Enid's voice was over exaggerated and she waved a finger at Frank as if saying 'No No', "let him know how unreasonable his expectations are for something he has never himself attempted." Her voice continues to carry a sassy tone but she over enunciates the T's as sharply as she can. "Then beat his ass." She smiles for a second before covering her mouth and looking at Bao, "Don't repeat that BB." Waving her finger again in the same fashion to the small on in her lap.

Frank grinned and chuckled “what was that about squabbing geiben? That we were better than that?” Frank said chuckling a bit more, “I don't hate the boat geiben just water but I felt like proving a point where if you touch a sore spot in a beings ego they will squabble its in the nature of creatures sure were above that but will we succumb to it if our own ego is poked? Mine touching that sore part gave me and you the answer to your question.”

"I never excluded myself out of the equation." Geiben closed his eyes. "I'm well aware of my imperfections. Granted, that was a pretty good way to prove a point. It certainly triggered me. Well played." He continued, "Oh, and Enid, I'd never challenge Frank to a fight, much less kick his… rear."

“I like to think that we have developed far more advanced methods of squabbling in those hundreds of years… we will need to employ some of those methods if we want things to go our way on the next mission.” Heram added.

Enid points a finger to Wazu, "Agreed, Sticks and stones can't break a Bipedal Mech armed with a sonic-speed railgun." She nods and waves her finger, "Super Soldiers, Augs, Laser Rifles, Shuttles with shield emitters that can cancel sound by wind direction and calculate it all at mach speeds. Geniuses minds wielded by angry people have led to some cool shit." Enid sat Bao down and shooed her to go play.

"I don't know, the way you make it sound it's still the ancient trend of better-army diplomacy. I mean, when you think about it, we're traversing light years as daily routine, but what are we doing with that ability that our forefathers could only dream to do? Settling a rebel uprising on a rock with all the usual political dance from both the Alliance and the Taianese. Our ancestors did this kind of thing on foot, and not even on a single planet, but a small part of that planet that can be erased with a rod of tungsten dropped from orbit. Sure, we now do it with cool shit, but the fundamentals haven't changed."

Enid shrugged "I just like the cool shit."

"I suppose there's merit to that thought, but I'd rather not be on the receiving end of any such cool shit. Ideally, this Kiwomian thing will resolve as soon as we get there, and everyone can dance under a rainbow and eat cupcakes." Said Geiben.

Enid's expression melted into pure desire, "Yooo I want cupcakes dude," she shivered at the thought of a red velvet cupcake with whipped cream cheese frosting, "I also want a Mech but paperwork suuuucks." She shivered again in a similar manner but pouted in the end instead.

“I do not…” Bǎo stomped her tiny feet, the little girl’s protest far, far less than effective at proving to everyone that her cuteness index did not go up a few points the angrier she got. Grumbling as Enid shoo’d her away, she came to rest in Heram’s shadow as they continued to talk. However, things just got more and more confusing. “Um, I know about the boat and the tunnel of love and how that leads to there being a bun in the oven, but how do giant mecha and orbital bombardment come in?”

Just what did Hoshiko teach her?! Wazu thought to himself. He would have to look up what topics a finishing school included. There was a strong hope in his heart that Hoshiko wasn’t going to make this super weird, and along side it were plenty of questions. When was the right time to talk to a child about this kind of thing? What even did she need to learn? Was it more appropriate to just set her up with a computer terminal and let the machines teach her? That’s what he did… but perhaps that wasn’t the best choice for Bǎo? “Uh… Bǎo, How about you go get Enid some cupcakes?”

Heram congratulated himself: Crisis Diverted.

“Uh sure? Is Enid gonna have them combine into a bun to put in her oven or something?” Bǎo asked, still confused. Several data-files were time-locked until she was older, and the information that was available just didn’t make sense. It was like some sort of message within a message that just didn’t really follow without the proper cipher or encryption keys. And yet, they were talking about all sorts of things that just kept hitting the keywords. Tail held up in a confused question mark, she wasn’t even sure if Heram really wanted her to get the cupcakes. Was it code for something else?

Frank looks in the direction of wazu and decides to ask,”So is the tai pan officer going to pay you child support for Bao?” before bending down to her level. “Cheer up kiddo if your good next time we stop at a water based planet ill buy you the ingredients to make the food again fair?” He asked with a gentle smile.

Enid smirked slyly and wiggled her eyebrows in response to all of the innuendos at hand. "Ah Yuh," she makes a breathy noise and sticks her tounge out. She was being a maximum hoe as she raised one eyebrow, pursed lips, and bobbed her head back and forth while staring at Geiben.

Dr. Knowledgebot has spent its time standing around, watching as the mortals play around. It wouldn’t call itself… lonely, but he- it did not know these people. They would no doubt dislike it barging into their conversations, and so he just watched as they live their lives. Whether it wished it could speak with them or not was another matter entirely. Perhaps someday they would be friends.
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