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Oct 18, 2019 3:20 AM
Hall in dystopian Star Trek
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"Zari," Jean says, voice tight with frustration, "get me on a comm channel, I can't do anything if I can't talk to anyone--"

"Your recordings are broadcasting on all the available channels I am doing my best they aren't taking transmissions now shut up I am trying to get on their systems--"

"Fine -- fine -- someone, you, give me numbers fifteen through twenty on list C, maybe someone can get me an override code."

A woman starts reading off names, in a clipped tone. Jean shakes his head at the first two; then another alarm goes off, adding to the several that are currently blaring and increasing the general chaos of the room. "Fuck," Jean interrupts, "is that Vulcan? Someone tell me that's Vulcan."

The man at that terminal shakes his head. "Message didn't make it through the bounces. I'll resend, but it's not going to make it in time."

Jean curses, again, this time in French and rather more extended. "We just need to stall -- we just need time -- Epsilon, can we arrange something they can see from orbit, doesn't matter what it is, just something to make them stop and reevaluate the situation..."

"Jean," Zari interrupts, "I've got someone on-planet who might have a shuttle, we could get a couple of people off, come talk to them--"

She hasn't finished speaking before he's taken the headset from her and is talking rapidly into it, hand over his other ear.

On about half of the dozen screens in the room, the USS Orpheus continues to hang in the blackness of space, looming over the planet, with its Genesis Device prepped and armed for firing.

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—and there's a soft flare of light in the middle of the room, twisting in the air like a tangle of golden thread, and a teenage boy of some indeterminate humanoid species falls out of midair as the light fades. He's about six feet tall, lean and long-limbed, with a faint pearly sheen to his pale skin; also barefoot, and wearing a shirt and trousers in a distinctive and totally unrecognizable style.

He lands on all fours like a cat, and his greenish-black hair falls in his eyes as he twists his head to look up in alarm at his unfamiliar surroundings.

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Everyone in the room turns to stare. All of them seem to expect that this is Jean's job to deal with.

"...hello," Jean says, taking a step towards the stranger, "did you just beam down or was that a personal teleporter?"

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He recoils instinctively from Jean's approach, very much in the way of a wild animal startled by an unexpected movement.

Then he takes a deep breath and uncurls from his panicked huddle into a mere wary crouch, staring up at Jean with his head tilted slightly to one side and an alert, focused look in his dark eyes.

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Ooookay the guy has Issues that would explain why he has not previously volunteered his apparent teleporting equipment.

"Hello," Jean says, more calmly. "Are you all right?"

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Another deep breath.

"...I don't know where I am," he says, and despite the words being in a completely unfamiliar language, their meaning is perfectly clear.

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This would be weirder if Jean weren't currently wearing a universal translator!

"You're in a private residence in New Venice on Omega Cygni. Does that help?"

(Where did this guy jump from -- is he from the ship? What is up with him?)

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"No."

(The movement of speech reveals a hint of elongated canines. If that's a clue about his species, it's not a straightforward one.)

"How did I get here?"

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Genetically engineered, Jean diagnoses. It's not terribly surprising. If anyone's going to care enough to come show up in his hour of need ... there's people he's done less for.

"I was rather going to ask you. It looked like a transporter of some sort. Where were you before?"

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"A forest. Don't know what it was called. Why is everyone afraid?"

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"Some people are about to kill all of us. And everyone else on the planet. Including millions of civilians, many of them children."

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...he stares up at Jean incredulously for half a second, and then finds words again.

"How? Why? Where are they?"

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"In order: with a Genesis device; because there are a small number of political dissidents on the planet; in orbit."

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He shakes his head impatiently and rises to his feet. The movement almost disguises the four inches of height he gains along the way, but it does nothing to disguise the fact that he starts to glow, or that his eyes turn a searing yellow-white like they're filled with solar plasma from lid to lid.

"I don't understand what any of those things mean," he says. "But if you're telling the truth, I'd better try to help."

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Uh what.

Several people are expressing this opinion out loud, some less calmly and more profanely than others. Jean keeps his calm face on, because he doesn't know what's happening but they don't have time for him to panic.

"If you can," he says, "please. We'll get you anything you need to do it."

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"...have none of you seen a Meili mantle before—?"

The word Meili comes through very strangely. It means 'light' and 'fire' and 'sun' and an intricate fractal tangle of other concepts all wrapped up together, and it makes it really obvious that this is not ordinary universal translation at work.

"Tell me where to look, and what I'm looking for, and what to do with it when I find it. This 'Genesis device', will it yield to Meili?"

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"I've never heard of such a thing. Or of Meili, or mantle," Jean says, realizing for the first time that, yeah, that is not his translator, it's obvious in retrospect, this is increasingly weird. "So I can't tell you if it'll work. I can show you on the computer where the ship is -- they haven't fired the Device yet, there will be innocents on board, destroying the ship isn't the best option -- but if it's what you can do -- well, there aren't millions of them."

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"I don't need to burn the whole - ship? - if I can find the Device in it," he says. (His language's word for 'ship' refers exclusively to oceangoing vessels.) "Meili sees. Show me where to look."

(Light shines from inside his mouth, from under his fingernails, from his veins where they run close to his skin. A mantle of light and fire indeed.)

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Zari comes up behind Jean and nudges him out of the way. She looks equally unintimidated by the slightly terrifying glowing, although in Jean's case it's acting and in hers it's linguistic fascination.

"It's a ship for traveling -- above the sky," she tells Glowing Dude. "It's very high up. Not as high as the moon, but higher than the clouds. And it's in ... that direction from here." She points at an angle. "Does that work?"

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He looks where she pointed. His expression grows a little distant, although it's hard to tell what his eyes are doing when they're made of sunfire.

"I see it," he says. "What am I looking for inside it?"

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"Someone get me an image of the -- yep, thanks," she says to the room at large; someone has indeed pulled up an image of the Device on their screen. "Here's a picture of it, if you can see it while you're doing ... whatever that is. It's about half again as tall as a person, basically cylindrical, the shell is made of metal, there's a lot of very complicated stuff inside. There might be more than one on board."

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"'Will it yield to Meili' means 'can it be destroyed by heat'," he says, searching the distant ship for cylinders of that type. There remains the problem of getting there, but one thing at a time.

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The ship is rather enormous: not town-sized, quite, but approaching it. Certainly larger than any reasonable vessel. It's saucer-shaped, mostly hollow, divided into layers like a stack of pancakes, with two -- somethings? complicated mechanical things -- attached 'above' it. There are several hundred people aboard, scattered through, though with a tendency to cluster in certain areas. It's quite a lot of space to comb for a roughly-human-sized object.

"If you can heat the inside enough, yes. But it's designed so that even if the outside gets very hot, the inside will stay cool."

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"Then the other question is how much heat I would need... maybe I'd better use another element," he says, half to himself. "I need Meili to see it, Tila to get there - I think I can hold one more..."

(Tila: sky, air; speech, movement. And countless other meanings trailing away into indecipherability.)

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"The inside needs to be -- hotter than boiling water, not as hot as molten metal. I don't know how your thing works or if the insulation will be a problem for you."

(Zari glances over at Jean, who's talking quietly into a microphone at one of the stations, and taps her wrist. He holds up four fingers; she nods.)

"If you can't destroy it, there might be other ways to keep them from firing it. But we don't have much time."

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"If I don't need to make it hotter than molten metal, Meili will do fine. What do I need to know if I'm going to fly there and burn the things? I see two."

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