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Dec 08, 2019 1:33 PM
The meeting of some space werewolves and some silvers
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Peg crosses her legs and takes a deep breath, settling into a storytelling rhythm.  "This story is true:  about two and a half thousand years ago, when all of humanity lived on less than a dozen worlds, they were attacked by the Thurisaz, who I mentioned earlier, the aliens who created changelings.  The war was long and terrible and I'm going to not even try to do it justice, because it's not actually the one I meant, but you need to know about it because that's when the first synths were developed.  Creating new ones was banned after the war ended, which practically speaking meant those with the knowledge and the tech to do it went where the government couldn't or didn't care to reach, and those places were a lot less common then than they are now.

 

"Skipping ahead to around ninety years ago, we've figured out how to work the Stygian Gates and gotten better at terraforming and spread out across most of the galaxy when colonies start going dark.  Once survivors are able to report back, they tell stories of telepathic aliens, invisible to scanners and targeting systems, with ships and weapons unfathomably more advanced than ours, leading... our own troops.  They'd been infected with the Red Plague, which we thought was stamped out even before the Thurisaz war, and it had changed them.  Humans die yet keep moving, animated by the will of the Silent Legion.  Anyone supernatural-" she swallows, "-turns on their friends and allies, with unquenchable rage and alien cunning and every gift or talent they possess.  And it spreads, even as far as the Core, because it has a long incubation period so refugees bring it with them all unknowing as they flee.

 

"The Silent hit Sector 1 first, and hardest:  many are the worlds with no one left to mourn the dead.  Every force in the area scrambles to hold them back- the Marines, the Expeditionary Force, mercenaries, even rival corps' security who days before were at each other's throats.  But they're not prepared for a full-scale war, not with this enemy, and paranoia spreads as swiftly and silently as the plague itself.  So as they're pushed back, slowly but steadily, the Protectorate ramps up to a full war footing as fast as it possibly can, and never mind the cost to get there.  They commandeer ships and build shipyards, they start conscripting- Ida here was already under martial law at the time, 's why the plague didn't hit us as hard, but that's a different story..."  Peg closes her eyes briefly and takes a breath.  "And they call back the corps with Synth tech from the fringes of inhabited space, and they set them up with bright new labs, to churn out pilots for the ships and hands for the shipyards and bodies to replace the conscripts and all the soldiers they could want.

 

"And it's enough.  After twenty-six years, it's enough.  Don't believe anyone who tells you they're gone for good, not for a second, but no one's seen a trace of the Silent since the invasion of Dumah in '57."

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The triplets listen all of this with grave silent. "Thank you for telling us, it all sounds too terrible to be part of your recent history."

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"I wasn't born then, but... yeah.  Lot of uncles never came home."

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"Still the sheer magnitude of it all..."

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Peg nods, and lets the silence sit for a moment.

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But soon the top of the cavern approaches.

"So, ah- does one of you want this back, once we get off?"  She holds out the arm with the bracelet.  "Have to go back to the translation relay till we get off the street, but if we run into a cop we can't exactly trade jewelry before we talk to them."

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"Let me have a go at it? If something happens I might be able to give it to someone else in the blink of an eye."

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"Hopefully not, but-" she cuts herself off with a small shrug as she hands it over to him.

The lift moves into an enclosed tunnel in the ceiling, and the floodlights cut off below them; the air gradually goes from cool and moist to slightly stuffy.  After a little while the tunnel opens out above them and the lift comes to rest in a sort of loading dock, lit by a few flickering bulbs and more of the glow-fungus, a reddish-orange strain this time.  The dog hops off and starts trotting away, tail held high.

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"Thanks," Felix says after clasping the thing around his wrist.

All three look around curiously and keep following Peg's lead.

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Peg hops off the crate and gets out of the way of a loader, this one piloted by a human.  She leads them down a wide hallway with worn lane markings painted on the floor; street hubbub gradually overwhelms the noise of the machinery behind them as they go.  (Felix can pick out vendors advertising "New boots, sturdy boots!  Best boots in the ward!" and "Glawg onna stick!  Piping hot, fresh today!")

 

She pauses before a large set of metal doors.  "Okay, it's half a block along the street and then we can go around back where it's quieter, any last questions?"

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"We are going to your grandmother's place, right? Anything we should know before dealing with her?"

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"Mm- if she asks something and it's embarrassing or it's someone else's secret say so, she won't push unless it's important and she's good at telling when people lie.  She's used to handling people more powerful than her, so don't try to push her around, not that I expect you would.  If you decide to stay for a while, offering to help out where you can is a good idea but Uncle Marr is possessive of the kitchen so he'll probably turn you down, it doesn't mean he dislikes you."

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Nod. "We will definitely help we stick around."

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Peg nods and holds the door open for the three of them.

 

On the other side is a bustling pedestrian street, better-lit than the loading dock but not by much.  A small flock of rather cleaner children are playing some kind of game involving a rather lumpy ball and a great deal of running and shrieking.  In addition to the two vendors audible from the hall (one with spiky blonde hair and a pushcart, the other with a long green coat and a bit of girder with boots hanging off it by the laces) there's an older man selling steaming cups of something, currently not advertising them because he's busy coughing into his sleeve.  The general passersby are wearing clothes in the same style as Peg's, subdued in color and built for sturdiness over flash. 

 

The bones of the street, architecturally, are squarish concrete buildings, not quite identical but clearly all on a theme and all built within a short span of time, quite a while ago.  They're set well back from each other- the street must have originally been intended as a broad boulevard- but they've since acquired protrusions and cantilevers and corrugated-plastic lean-tos in all directions until less than a third of the space between the buildings is actually usable.  (All directions including up- one of the most popular ways to gain extra space appears to be stacking shipping containers on the roof, sometimes three or four high.  Two buildings down they've built a bridge across the street with them.)

 

Peg leans over to Felix and says in an undertone, "The woman with the pushcart is a free synth, don't stare too much."

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"Okay," Felix answers quickly.

He doesn't actually stare. There is plenty to keep an out for.

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Peg alternates between scanning the crowd and exchanging greetings with people as she leads them past two buildings and around the corner into an alley.  (This one has most of the width taken up by a row of shipping containers with a tarp-covered framework along the top.)

"No cops today, that's good.  Some staring would've been fine, by the way, I just didn't want to explain why I wasn't buying you a kebab."

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"I can speed up my perceptions. I didn't stare that much, but I did some, at super-speed." Felix whispers.

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"Huh, right."  Around another corner!  Weaving through a collection of broken chairs!  Up three brick-and-concrete flights of stairs and one rickety metal one!

"Okay, if you're actually mages pulling some weird kind of long con, now's your last chance to tell me."

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Felix gives her his best innocent smile. "We are not mages pulling a weird long con."

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One last door opens onto a narrow hallway, where a twelve-year-old girl is sitting on the floor poking grumpily at a battered tablet.  She looks up and blinks at them.

"Dude, you brought home three boys at once?"

"Shut up, Cressy, it's not like that!'

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Felix snorts. "Hi, I am Felix. Are you Peg's sister or cousin?"

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     "Cousin," she says, as though anyone with an ounce of sense would've seen this was obvious.  "How come you're all wet?"

"Because they fell in a tank.  We need to talk to Gran, is she home?"  Peg pulls her scarf and jacket off and hangs them on a hook by the door.  Her ears are a little bit pink.

     "Yeah, but she's talking to Sparks still probably.  How'd you fall in a tank anyway?"

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"Complicated story. I can tell you that it was very dignified and it did not involve us comically colliding against each other."

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Cressy snickers.

"Go ask your dad if they can borrow some of his clothes, would you?  Gran's in the kitchen?"

     "Whoa, how important is this?"

"Important enough that you'll get an explanation later.  Now shoo."  Peg tousles the girl's hair affectionately.

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Felix waves. "Ah, the joy of family."

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