Jul 23, 2019 3:47 PM
Deskyl and DZ among space debris
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She won't disturb her, then. Instead she returns to Deskyl's suite and checks whether she can learn how to pilot the local kinds of spacecraft from the computer there.

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The necessary information is all there on the network, though it’s not assembled in any especially coherent fashion.

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Well, she has time, and a perfect memory; she can put together a reasonable understanding of it by the time Deskyl wakes, if nothing interrupts her.

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Nothing does.

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DZ checks on their companions on her way to the kitchen, and drops breakfast off with any who are awake on her way back to Deskyl. That taken care of, they settle in to work on hyperdrive plans: a few sketches of hyperdrive-capable ships, with annotations on important parts of the designs that will need to be replicated in whatever they make here, a list of materials that may not be available here that will need to be reproduced, and a list of questions, places where there are gaps in Deskyl's knowledge of hyperdrives that will have to be filled by experimentation.

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Aqualond Station's residential core comes alive with activity. Where the engineering staff had been listless before, now there's suddenly a multitude of projects to pursue and nobody wants to look like they're slacking off.

 

Not all initial efforts are successful. In fact, most of them aren't. For every experiment that yields useful data, there are several that yield nothing conclusive and a couple that fail explosively. (No one is hurt; the more volatile experiments are all carried out in isolated sections of the station by remote-operation of robotic systems).

 

And amidst this commotion, Drishti and her counterpart pursue their assigned long-distance communication project. They start with the model used to keep the cloning facility patched into their boss' distant base of operations, but eventually scrap that plan on account of (1) the distance (2) the colonial scrutiny the border territories receive compared to the non-embattled frontier they're currently hidden away in and (3) the difficulty of establishing any permanent relays or other infrastructure through the Gray Sea.

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(Shreya hovers over the communications specialists in a not particularly helpful way.)

 

"How long do you think until we can contact the dragons?"

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They agree that it doesn't seem possible to establish covert relays between their current position and the draco territories. This agreement prompts a new tangent of discussion:

"What if it wasn't covert? We could could bypass the Gray Sea and beam transmissions straight across the system interior."

"Are you kidding? Vader would have our hides for that!"

"We could still encrypt it."

"There's no cipher we've got that the government can't crack."

"Sure... but if cracking it takes at least a couple cycles then that doesn't matter--rate things are going, there might not be a united colonies to worry about by then..."

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"Would that give away our position?"

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“It definitely would. Which is another reason to scrap this project.”

”Sure. There’d be risks... but do you want to be the one to tell the scary lightning lady it can’t be done?”

”No...”

 

...both women look to DZ expectantly.

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"I'll tell her. What can you do that won't give away our position?"

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“Well, we could do it the slow way: longform messages in physical storage, handed off to neutrals on the frontier for smuggling. Of course, Gray Sea smugglers are known to rifle through data that’s been left in their care...”

“We may not have good enough ciphers to stop the government, but we can at least stop a few smugglers!”

“Or we could lace out storage media with quarantined nanocontaminants, so that their whole ship gets grayed if they try to snoop.”

”Right. Point is, we’ve got options.”

”But trading secrets that way would be slow.”

”Yeah, real slow.”

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"It's better than nothing, at least. Do you know how to contact them if we want to send a message that way?"

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“You’ll want Meera for that,” the station’s comm specialist says. “She’s the one who handles all our contact with smugglers.”

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DZ nods, and goes to find Meera, waiting quietly until she doesn't seem to be busy before making herself known.

"I've been talking to the communication technicians about getting us in touch with the Draco territories; is there anything we could set up there that would make it possible to send messages without giving away your position here, or are smugglers our best option?"

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The group finds Meera in the holoconference room. She jumps, a little, when DZ makes her presence known but quickly assures her visitors that their timing is good—she’s just finished a briefing with Lord Vader and can give them her full attention.

 

”That’s absolutely possible, once we’ve established an ongoing encryption protocol with your allies on the other side, though of course avoiding detection would introduce complications... we’d have to abandon relays as soon as the Colonials detect then which could cause communication blackouts for dozens of degrees at a time...”

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"But better than nothing. Can you give me an idea of how costly it'd be, relative to Lord Vader's available resources?"

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“It’d be nontrivial, even for my master.”

She turns around, gripping one of the rails in the room’s center for support. (The sparse chamber resembles a SLAYER’s cockpit in dimensions, but has amenities of easy traversal rather than for minimizing injuries from high speed maneuvers.)

“We should consider cost/benefit. What gains does your master expect such a communications arrangement?”

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"Improved coordination between Lord Vader's resources here and those of Xaari Deskyl's allies in the Draco territories, primarily, especially for research purposes; we met a dragon on our way here who seemed likely to be willing to contribute to that. The ability to operate in either theater without losing access to the other may be important, especially in an emergency, though communication between this facility and the territories will only help with that in a few situations. And it will improve our chance of being able to borrow personnel from the dragons in the future; they prioritize the comfort and wellbeing of their vassals, and Culamine's pilot is quite upset at being out of contact. I will need to speak to my master about whether she thinks any of these will be worth the cost, though; at this point I'm just gathering information."

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“Of course. It is not our place to do more than that.”

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She nods, and gives Meera a considering look. "Sith vary quite a bit, but Xaari Deskyl does appreciate servants who take initiative, at least when they're competent about it."

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(Wouldn't that be a nice way for things to be?)

Vader's Envoy says nothing.

(Emotion read: melancholic, covetous, helpless, glad that her emotions aren't being read, glad that at least her thoughts are still her own...)

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While DZ, Shreya and the com-techs meet with Meera in the holoconference room Devika is out exploring the depths of Aqualond Station.

And regardless of who she is or isn't speaking to, Devika's thoughts here are absolutely not her own.

She knows this. It's only become more salient to her in the degrees since her mind and Deskyl's were linked, but it still doesn't bother her.

It's convenient, if anything. A way for you to hear me without anyone listening in.

She bounds from handhold to handhold, traversing a larger passageway usually used for transportation of heavier machinery. She can move faster this way than if she sticks to the human-scale crawlspaces. (The air here is stale, so far from life support, but she has an oxygen canister and a breathing mask.) She feels a little less claustrophobic out here than she did in the crew quarters.

It's a little ironic, isn't it? You'd think SLAYER pilots couldn't afford to fear tight spaces but... well... the cockpits may be cramped but when you're uplinked the only walls you see are constellations.

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Deskyl has a breathing mask, too, but she's not bothering to wear it properly; the oxygen that gets to her from having it hanging around her neck is sufficient, just about, and every so often she brings it to her mouth for a deeper breath. She's traveling in the same way Devika is, mostly, with the occasional bout of ridiculous Force-assisted acrobatics, or simply bounding ahead and then spinning to wait upside-down for her companion to catch up.

Yeah, she signs, and then something that might be 'flight', or 'space', or 'freedom'.

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Freedom indeed.

(She misses flying, but if she closes her eyes a little bit she can imagine she's forty-meters tall and that the walls she rebounds from are kilometer-long dysofrags.)

The transport corridor balloons out a bit as they near the assembly level. The gentle thrum bordering the manufacturing levels gives out to be replaced by staccato grinding and rumbling. The larger hall here has many doors, most of them enormous pneumatic monstrosities, but a few smaller service hatches dot the expanse as well.

All the macro-fabricated components come together in the section of station up ahead. Devika waits for a handhold to stop shaking in her grip and then launches herself out into the nearly-airless open gulf. Her movements are confident, even without the comforting presence of her otherworldly ally she'd trust her whiplash bodysuit and her null-grav instincts to handle this unwieldy terrain. I want a closer look. There's been nothing for me to do for so many degrees here... I think I'd feel better if I could see some tangible results, even if they're not from anything I really contributed to.

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