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Previous thread here:
https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/2024/5915251/

All threads:
https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=sci-fi%2C+VoidQM

In the last thread we uncovered a major malicitite smuggling operation on our ship, eliminated virtually everyone involved, as well as earned the (begrudging) respect of our executive officers, with one of whom we are currently playing go.

Ship: Heavy cruiser LDS Vanilla Skyline, Courageous-class
Captain: Commander Sylvia Thorton (yourself)
Crew: mostly undisciplined, enthusiastic
Engine: 88% efficiency (damaged nacelles, undergoing repairs, ETA 13 days)
Railgun Turret A-1: 81% efficiency (broken shell elevator, undergoing repairs, ETA 8 days)
All other systems operating at 100% efficiency. (undergoing maintenance, ETA 18 days)
Current Position: Hys base ‘Granite-Vigil’, Citar Quadrant outskirts

Ship: Patrol destroyer LDS Chocolate Rain, Jaguar-class
Captain: Lieutenant Commander Maxine Hopkins (Directorate Navy)
All systems operating at 100% efficiency
Current position: Patrolling Kaskandir Quadrant (on lease to Directorate Navy, 11 months left)

Traits
Genetically pure: +5 bonus to charisma
Former freelance journalist: +2 bonus to charisma, bonus to Political Economy

Personal abilities
Format: current status, growth rate (bonus to rolls)
Logistics: Basic, capable (+0)
Human Resources: Average, capable (+3)
Political Economy: Basic, gifted (+0)
Combat Tactics: Greenhorn, average (+2)

War Report
Current Liteian Navy readiness status: orange
Latest news:
>Latest Navy acquisitions confirmed: a pair of ‘cutting-edge’ Saturnian light cruisers.
>Saret dignitary issued official statement, ‘No malicious intent behind mobilisation, merely annual practice.’
>High-level talks between Bolivarians and Saudite concluded, memorandum for peace and friendship signed.
>Human smuggling? Kanton Orbital under fire for irregularities in colonist vetting process.
>What's to watch: Blockbuster on Meret freedom-fighters to hit the box office next week.
>>
>>5954514
An immense feeling, not pleasurable but not quite fear, wells within you, hearing Tim speak so lightly of past horrors. In spite of that, no, precisely because of that, for the first time you appreciate how central these memories had been to your education, your childhood. And to that of billions of other souls, as well. Like a half-closed wound, the shadows of the Scourge and its Lamian agents yawed within humanity's subconscious, so obvious it was never worth mentioning.

Nonetheless, there might be a way to escape this oppressive presence, a site where colours shine in perfect hue, free of grey. A step into forgetfulness, a step Tim has taken, but you dared not follow, for now. “Sometimes I don't know whether that sort of thinking's a boon or a curse.”

Reacting more to the sigh immediately preceding your words, your third officer rescues you from the weighty decision, “Grass always seems greener from the other side, but truth is, it's not.” His gaze falls ruefully on the red stone in your hand, “My sister is proof enough.” Barb, who lost her job for conscientious objection. Your mind unconsciously conjure up the image of a martyr, but just who is she really, behind the brave front?

“In any case, it isn't as hard as you think.” Another piece soundlessly slips into place. “You have already taken the first step, when you decided to not immediately report the malicitite stash. Shame what happened to the smugglers, though. The negotiations I mean, not the murders."

"Tch. No honour among thieves.” The tongue click echoes round the cramped boardroom.

You remain silent. Tim has a point. You want to take a stand, but for what cause? And what reason? Barb could do what she did because she believed in it, you can say that much. As for yourself, you still know far too little about your own world to make such a drastic commitment.

Just then, your tablet softly chimes. Even though it has only been a few days since the last one, the situation has changed enough to warrant an updated Status Report. You clumsily excuse yourself to go read it.

As you leave, Tim calls out, “If there's anything you feel you need to tell me, don't hold back. I know I told you to always be on guard earlier, but...”
>Come clean about the murders.
>Discuss your failure to save Chernov.
>Reassure him that everything is fine.
>Politely rebuke his presumptuousness.
>Say nothing.
>Write-in
>>
>>5954517
For this quest the rules are as follows:
>Writeins are encouraged, even if it doesn't win I might work it into the final decision.
>Votes should be in greentext and linked to my post, otherwise I might miss it.
>When changing your votes, link both your original post and my own to help me keep track of things
I will try to post updates every other day around 10am EST (I live in a different time zone), if I didn't post it at that time for whatever reason I will try to get the post in around 10pm instead.
>>
>>5954517
>>Come clean about the murders.
>>Discuss your failure to save Chernov.
>>
>>5954517
>Discuss your failure to save Chernov.
>>
>>5954517
>>Come clean about the murders.
>>Discuss your failure to save Chernov.
Did you get cursed?
>>
>>5954517
>Discuss your failure to save Chernov.
>>
>>5954517
>>Reassure him that everything is fine.
>>
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It seems we are currently in a tie between whether or not we should come clean about our role in the poisoning. If there isn't another vote by afternoon tomorrow I will take it as a No based on >>5955443.

In the mean time enjoy this chart for the current officer assignment on our ship. Can you identify all the issues with it?
>>
>>5956277
We don't command our underlings directly?
>>
>>5954517
>Come clean about the murders.
>Discuss your failure to save Chernov.
>>
Sorry for the late update, got a bit carried away writing this. Next one will be coming tomorrow, if there are enough votes by then.
>>5954819
I don't want to jinx it.

>>5956303
It's the exec who handles the day to day admin work, so it isn't unusual for most everyone else in the ship to report to Silas instead of directly to you. In your case this is extra-justified because officially speaking, you have zero experience in anything space combat.

What is unusual however is the way the departments are laid out. Just remember that if, say, Tim disagrees with a decision made by Silas and calls for a meeting among the senior officers, he will have one hell of a time convincing Silas' old friends Goldsmith and Moynihan to support him.

There are other problems as well such as low-ranking and non-commissioned officers being given too much responsibility but Silas already tried his best on that front.


>>5954522
>>5954819
>>5956702
>Come clean about the murders.
>Discuss your failure to save Chernov.

>>5954563
>>5955157
>Discuss your failure to save Chernov.

>>5955443
>>Reassure him that everything is fine.
>>
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>>5957000
Your eyes glance over the letters of the Status Report, but your mind is unable to build any coherent words out of them. Frustrated, you put away the tablet and purge its existence from your memory. If there's anything urgent, it will have to wait. Tim's invitation rings in your ear. You should be on guard, and yet... It can't be denied that the past few days have been torture to you. Even though the corridor has been wiped sparkly clean right after the, incident, your eyes continue to see his body propped up against the wall. But as long as you pass him by fast enough, you don't have to hear the hoarse laughter. So things are improving, aren't they?

No, no, they are not. Nothing can change the fact that you have failed, as a superior officer and as a fellow human being. What's worse, after all that? You continue piling corpses on corpses to keep the little secret from leaking out. They may be smugglers, yes. Mutineers, absolutely. Nonetheless, do they not deserve a second chance? Or have their crimes so stripped them of dignity that they can be treated like dogs, made to dance and die at your pleasure? Can you do it? Yes, you have already done it. Must you do it? Yes, you must, there is no choice. But...

It is useless to keep on tormenting yourself, poking a red-hot iron around the still-bleeding wound like this. You resolve to return to Tim and tell him everything. He will judge you, but deep down you know he won't turn on you. Your only fear is that his forgiveness would come too easily, leaving your conscience unsatisfied.

Tim shows you back into his little room, his face obviously worried. “Is everything fine?” He softly asks. “No, nothing is fine, ever since that incident.” You respond unthinkingly.

“Did they do anything to you?” You shake your head. “Then did you do anything to them?” You nod reluctantly. “Tell me about it.” He guides you onto the bed.

After a couple false starts, you are finally able to string words together. “Well, when I first went out to meet them," The sentence is coming together more easily now, "I had already prepared this elaborate plan. I put own the impression of an arrogant airhead, thinking that I would be able to wind these fools around my fingers.” You stop for a brief second to allow the memories to return. “Uhm, I was able to push the ring-leader briefly off balance, but he quickly recovered. It was when I was given the letter that things started to give."

Tim sits right beside you, craning his head to maintain eye contact. “You still sounded fine when you told us about the,” He mouths the word ‘malicitite’ in an imperceptible whisper, “Did something else happen?”
>>
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>>5957002
You feel your palms getting wet as you struggle to keep the floodgates of memory from buckling, “I... I don't know. After the call I just sit staring at the ceiling for like 10 minutes straight. I guess before that point I still thought that everything was just a social game, that I only need to say the right things and make the correct gestures to win. Like with Salzar." You blush, remembering how you methodically frighten the poor ensign. "But now the ante shot up like a rocket and I don't have no credits to follow.”

“Still, I tried. By God, by void, by whatever, I tried. And missed. Only by a hair's breadth I think. A pip or two off.” The dam's gate held, and only the damn gate. Streams of wet hot regret surge over the top, shoot through widening cracks in the wall, and come racing down your cheeks. Before your hands can cup your face in shame, a handkerchief methodically wipes the tears away.

You open your eyes to Tim half-kneeling, half-crouching on the floor. “Shh, it's fine now. Remember what we did earlier on the station? Breathe with me.” He flares his nostril. “In. Out. Yes, just so. Calm down. Now listen to me.” He settles into a more comfortable position, sitting with legs crossed.

“Chernov consciously chose his way out. It doesn't matter if it's you, or me, or the best negotiator in the whole Directorate, he still would have done it. Hard to understand, but we spacers value life greatly. Vacuum, cosmic rays, micro-asteroids, space is hostile to anything with a pulse. When your life is constantly on the line like that, you learn to treasure every breath and every sip of water.”

His voice grows more intense, focused, “But even above our life we cling to freedom. Indeed, many would say that with a spaceship and a full tank, you can go anywhere you want.” He smirks to himself, “But not me, I'm not so romantic. Fuel will run out, components break down, and sooner or later one finds himself back in the arms of society. Spacers may look down on the folks planetside, but it is ultimately them, you, who made our way of life possible. Do you understand?” You nod, your eyes still stinging.

“Usually people like Chernov can of course ignore this inconvenient truth, but only as long as society accepts them. Once that was no longer the case, however, they are forced to face up to their dreams. Fleeing in a spaceship with a full tank, how long can they last? Realising but not accepting the true answer, they take matters into their own hand. Better they die by their own choice than by a firing squad or a cosmos who couldn't care less.”

“So you are saying that things couldn't have gone differently?” Tim puts his handkerchief back into his pocket, “No, I'm saying that things could have only gone worse. You did what you can, but it's their choice to bring it onto the ship and it's their choice to hold you hostage like that. Can't stand the heat, should have stayed out of the kitchen.”
>>
>>5957004
He furrows his brows slightly, “Normally I would refer you to the ship counselor for matters like this. But someone decided that it would be a waste of money to hire one for this ship.” You can barely make out a sigh. “So, feel free to come see me again if you still can't sort it out.”

The load on your back has lightened somewhat, but it has not been removed. The flake-covered corpses, neatly laid out in Tsu's morgue, are still there. “There's another thing, Tim. That I have to tell you about.”

Eager to move on, he grabs at your words, “Yes? It couldn't be any worse I imagine.” Oh how little he suspects. “First, promise me you won't tell anyone else.”

“Promises are dangerous, for both sides. But alright, nothing you say will leave this room.” He climbs back onto the bed. “Well, the brig's poisoning? I orde-” Suddenly realising you are compromising Silas, you hastily veer off. “did it. I did it.”

Tim stares at you, unblinking, “Come again? You did what?” You meet his stare face on. “I poisoned the water of survivors. It's simple, just remove a filter here and th-” You left cheek crashes onto the bed, the other one hot with searing pain.

The man who slapped you raises his voice to almost a scream, “Do you think I am as stupid as Salzar? That you can cry your crocodile tears and then make me do whatever you want? I am no dancing dog, Commander Thornton. And neither is O'Keefe for that matter.” You suspect the second part is not entirely true.

He lowers the volume but not the heat, “Let me tell you what will happen. O'Keefe will find fingerprints, security footage, whatever that can be traced back to you. Then he and Ludlow will come to your room for a chat. There you will be informed that you are temporarily suspended from your position and placed under arrest. Once the results are finalised so too will your days as a Directorate officer. Then not even the Lunarian ambassador can save you from spending a long, long time in our prisons.”

"I will not go rat you out to O'Keefe. Nonetheless if he asks me I am bound by a higher power," he points to the ceiling, “to tell him the truth, whole, bare, and naked, promises be damned.” His finger falls towards the door, “Please leave, Commander. I don't think we have anything else to say to one another.”
>Explain to him that what you did were necessary.
>Taunt his powerlessness to bring you to justice.
>Curse his disloyalty.
>Apologise to him and leave.
>Comply and leave without another word.
>Maybe the voices have a better suggestion? (Write-in)
>>
>>5957006
>Apologise to him and leave.
Time to cover our tracks
>>
>>5957006
>>Apologise to him and leave.
>>
>>5957006
Kek dumb fucks voted to spill the beans. Done fucking narc'd on yourselves. Bet anons are surprised that he's not a white knight like they are.

>Time to get rid of Tim. Have him dealt with. Have his O2 scrubber release carbon monoxide. Damn faulty air sensors.

He's going to throw us under thr bus guy's. He literally just told us he would. Gotta tie up loose ends. This death is on you anons for being dumb. Opsec is important.
>>
>>5957006
>Comply and leave without another word.
Let's not get too hasty with murder again
>>
I probably should add something along the lines of
>Silas warned you about this
the next time some less than recommendable options pop up.

>>5957066
>>5957172
>Apologise and leave

>>5957909
>Say nothing and leave

>>5957764
>Another one out the airlock
>>
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>>5958538
You stared wide-eyed at Tim, shocked by the intensity of his reaction. Is this the same man has so tenderly comforted you? Possibilities flit past your eyes, all the ways your relationship can go from here. Suppressing the habitual urge to keep talking and compromise yourself (or Silas) further, you warily sit up, eyes still locked on to him.

“I'm sorry, Tim, if it's anythin-” Uncontrollably, the tears start falling again.

“Don't say sorry to me, I don't need it. Say it to the men who you have killed.” He looks away, swallowing his anger. “Who you have denied the dignity of a fair trial.”

His fist clenches and relaxes several times as you struggle to stand up. “Also, don't call me by my first name ever again, Ma'm.” The last word was pressed into a curt monosyllable. “Please address me as Lieutenant Commander Johnson from now on, if we have any reason to talk after this.”

You stumble out as the door snaps shut behind you. Wandering in a daze, your feet lead you into yet another maintenance locker. Lacking the strength to go on, you fall on your bottoms and cry your heart out.

How could he do this to you? You who have laid out everything, who have stripped your soul naked before him? Is the law really that much more important to him than you? And what law, really? What law can forbid you from executing those who have threatened your life? You feel your right cheek with your hand. The pain has subsided, but under the skin red-hot shame lingers.

How could you let him do this? He betrayed your trust like that, and you just fled like a kicked puppy without even attempting to fight back. What's worse, where had you gone wrong, misjudging him so badly? You allowed his theatrics, his trivia, his cultured facade to hide the chauvinism beneath. Oh Sylvie, you fool!

You said all these things to comfort yourself, but at the back of your mind an incessant voice whispers. It is not him who failed you, it is you who failed to measure up. He, and everyone else on the ship, deserves a better captain than this wreck, this murderous whore. Perhaps it is a good thing then that you revealed your true nature so soon, before your bond could deepen. You bite down your thumb until the physicality of the pain overwhelms all of your brain's higher functions.

With a bleeding thumb and a mind cleared somewhat, you start to consider your options.
>Try to catch Tim in public. With eyes on him, maybe you two can talk this out like adults.
>Send Tim a private message. Perhaps he would be more willing to write rather than talk.
>Ask Tim's sister Barbara for suggestion. She knows him much better than you do.
>Scout out his room's ventilation system. Would be a shame if something were to happen to it.
>Go to Silas. Whether he will hate you for this or not, he's every inch deep in hot water as you are.
>Do nothing. Let his temper subside first.
>Write-in
>>
>>5958539
>Do nothing. Let his temper subside first.
Whore? We haven't even done anything of that sort
>>
>>5958539
>Do nothing. Let his temper subside first.

Well this is a clusterfuck.
>>
>>5958539
>Time to get rid of Tim. Have him dealt with. Have his O2 scrubber release carbon monoxide. Damn faulty air sensors.

Anons you're going to get us killed. Stop pussy footing around. Kill Tim now before he gets Silas and our captain of the guards killed. They did what we asked. We can't betray people actually loyal to us.
>>5958597
>>5958581
Guys stop picking dumb options. He's not going to change his mind he's obviously a paladin aka lawful good.
>>
>>5958705
We can't just murder everyone we don't like.
>>
>>5958539
>Ask Tim's sister Barbara for suggestion. She knows him much better than you do.
>>
>>5958539
>Do nothing. Let his temper subside first.
If he isn't saying anything to anyone then we don't have to do anything
>>
>>5958581
Well, we did use our fair share of feminine charms on both Salzar and Chernov.

>>5958597
>>5958705
>>5958766
>>5958942
It's fun to see you guys discussing the choices. Just don't get too pessimistic yet, Tim doesn't have that many legal choices to openly challenge your command, at least not without Silas on his side.

>>5958581
>>5958597
>>5958942
>Do nothing.

>>5958831
>Ask Barbara.

>>5958705
>Check his room's ventilation.
>>
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>>5960401
Calm down, don't go so hard on yourself. Maybe this is just a misunderstanding. Maybe you just unknowingly poked one of Tim's sore spots. It's best to leave him alone right now, give him some time to reflect on his own actions. In time, he will reach out to you, reluctantly. Then you can make him regret treating you so roughly. Or not, the decision's up to you.

After cleaning and bandaging your thumb with a nearby first aid kit, you return to your room for a decadently hot shower and luxuriant sleep. Over the next day the urge to see Tim occasionally wells up, but every time you manage to fight it down. In any case he also seems to be carefully avoiding you, going so far as to send a hapless cadet to fetch his lunch from the cafeteria.

All the better, he stays out of sight, easier to keep him out of mind. You occupy yourself with work, supervising Goldsmith's repair works and helping Silas sort out your company's accounts. In your spare time, you take up reading naval memoirs, especially those set during the Third Kaskandir Campaign nearly a decade ago, in the hopes of learning more about your father. As expected of such a recent event, most are little more than hagiographies of designated war heroes with sprinklings of vaguely historical factoids on top.

You would rather study something more direct, more personal, but his captain's logs were rather disappointing. It's almost as if he feared someone was looking over his shoulders so he jotted down only the most dry and technical details of the already dry and technical daily routine. Perhaps you can ask the veterans on this ship about him? No, that would be too irresponsible, everyone is busy enough as is.

A week before your badly delayed departure date, Silas call for a conference. The small planning room remains the same as the last time, sans Tim. Once again, he excused himself. Silas curses his tablet, “Damn it, what's the matter with him?” He turns to you, “I asked him about this recent mood once, but he just mumbled something about not wanting to bias my investigation. Ever since I could barely get a hold of him.”

You nervously laugh, “The investigation that's just going to turn up nothing anyway? The lady protests too much, don't you think?” Silas doesn't seem to take the feeble joke well, “Vee, did anything happen that I should know?” Shit.

“Nothing, nothing, Si, everything is fine, for real.” You try to endure his scrutinising gaze, but end up swerving your pupils a couple time. A poor show if you're going up against an Inquirer or a Restless, but Silas' thankfully neither. Eventually, your first officer shakes his head, “Vee, I don't want to say this, but he's almost old enough to be your father. Hell, your old man wasn't that much older when...”
>>
>>5960402
Silas carefully walked back his statement, but it's too late. An uncomfortable silence drapes over the staticky holo-projector.
>Tell Silas everything about your ‘talk’ with Tim. It's clear waiting isn't going to work.
>Discuss Tim's performance without mentioning the ‘talk.’ Silas is obviously not too fond of him.
>Ask him about your father. Why is Silas still so loyal to his memories?
>Flirt with him. It's rare to catch Silas in such an easygoing mood.
>Change the subject. This conference isn't for gossiping and small talk.
>Say nothing.
>Write-in
>>
>>5960403
>Flirt with him. It's rare to catch Silas in such an easygoing mood.
>>
>>5960403
>>Discuss Tim's performance without mentioning the ‘talk.’ Silas is obviously not too fond of him.
>>
>>5960403
>>Discuss Tim's performance without mentioning the ‘talk.’ Silas is obviously not too fond of him.
>>Ask him about your father. Why is Silas still so loyal to his memories?
>>
>>5960403
>Tell Silas everything about your ‘talk’ with Tim. It's clear waiting isn't going to work.

That damn o2 sensor went out sucks Tim died.
>>
>>5960403
>Tell Silas everything about your ‘talk’ with Tim. It's clear waiting isn't going to work.
>>
>>5960743
>+1
>>
>>5960403
>Flirt with him. It's rare to catch Silas in such an easygoing mood.
>>
Well, just because the threadly curse was running late doesnt mean that it wouldnt come altogether. A couple days earlier as I was out walking to get lunch a fucking plant pot dive bombed my head and knocked me out cold. I recovered a couple hours later but the hospital kept me until earlier today to make sure there were no other complications. I'm mostly fine now but still get a dizzy wave every now and then.

It seems we currently have a three way tie between
>>Discuss Tim's performance without mentioning the ‘talk.’ Silas is obviously not too fond of him.
>>Ask him about your father. Why is Silas still so loyal to his memories?

>Tell Silas everything about your ‘talk’ with Tim. It's clear waiting isn't going to work.

>Flirt with him. It's rare to catch Silas in such an easygoing mood.

Provided I dont just get a random lapse of memory and forget about Sylvie's misadventures altogether I will try to post an update later today.
>>
>>5963754
Discussing Tim's performance has 3 votes. Sorry about the curse.
>>
>>5963818
Its alright Ive always been particularly unlucky like this. At least now there seems to be some pattern to it.

Since two of the votes are also for something else in addition to just HR talk, I will add a comment on Father.
>>5960715
>>5960743
>>5961651
>HR talk

>>5960517
>>5963135
>Romance attempt

>>5961459
>>5961049
>Decisive action
>>
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>>5963923
Before the oppressive mood can sink any further, you dispel the silence with a cough, “So, what do you think of Tim?” Like a sleeping fox roused by an approaching wolf at the last moment, Silas jerks away from the table, “Huh? Oh, sorry, was a tad distracted. Can you say it again?”

You never counted it before, but Silas' hairs have grown noticeably whiter. Every now and then, as a blast of air blows over him, a few half-combed stragglers would dance silvery arcs under the phosphorescent noon. “How's Johnson so far? You picked him yourself, remember?”

He stretches his hands behind his backs and takes in a deep draught of air. Slowly exhaling, he keeps a steady eye on the ceiling. Following his gaze, you find an incongruous black dot, a little bump in the dull grey skyscape. Even though you fancy yourself not too incompetent a detective, you doubt you could have detected this bug on your own.

For a moment, an eerie stillness prevailed, the both of you holding your breath. Difference is, Silas was merely steadying his aim. An instant later, the silence remains, but not the bug. Silas has soundlessly torched it with a single shot from his laser derringer.

“How do you like that? AM-pumped gigawatt UV beam released in several hundreds femto-pulses, enough to burn through most light combat armor in a single shot. Shame that's all you get.” He nonchalantly loads another fuel container, ‘slug’ as he calls it, into the back of the laser assembly. “Also has automatic aiming and trigger control, feeding off smart contact lenses, so not as impressive as it seems."

“I thought we already tore through every panels and hatches?" You gesture at the charred ring surrounding the former dot. Silas puts the gun back in its holster, “Yes, but these things are small enough that someone could have been snuck them off ship then on again.” One corner of his lips barely curls up. “At least now we know for sure they have insider help. Either Goldsmith's or Ludlow's boys, one of them.”
>>
>>5963927
“Back to your question.” Silas stretches again, hands now in front of chest. “Johnson is quite satisfactory so far, not counting the recent pissy outburst.” He (correctly) guesses anger as the cause. You can only pray he doesn't find out where that anger came from as well.

You lean your head just a little, “Uhm, not to question your decision, but why him? He's a bit too... inflexible for mercenary life, don't you think?” After a short silence, he responds, “Yes, that's what I'm counting on.”

You look at him in puzzlement, waiting for him to finish his answer. “There are scumbag commissioneds by the dozens in nearly every Lighton dive bar. You know why they're there, and not on a ship? Because they can't stop themselves from fucking their new employers over.”

“Some captains,” Silas coughs furiously, and scare quotes manifest themselves out of thin air to wrap around the ‘captain’ part, “thrives in the constant scheming and backbiting, but I would rather work with men I can take a bullet for. It's how your father does things, and how I want to do things myself.”

You nod in agreement. That does make some sense. Unfortunately this time- “That's why I call you and him here. I want to lay out the truth, everything, about the brig incident.” You stare at him in wide-eyed disbelief.

Silas quickly tries to calm you down, “I know what I asked you earlier. But we don't have a choice. By my guess, he's already uncomfortably close to finding out anyway. It's best we try to salvage the relation-” You motion for him to stop.
>Confess everything. Your throat swells up at the thought, but there's another relationship to salvage first.
>Suggest that Silas silence Tim as well. Air quality sensors spontaneously break down all the time.
>Try to change the subject. Vaguely hint at the presence of other wiretaps in the room.
>Excuse yourself from the meeting. You need some more time to think about this.
>Write-in.
>>
>>5963928
>Confess everything. Your throat swells up at the thought, but there's another relationship to salvage first.

Top fucking kek.
>>
>>5963928
>Confess everything. Your throat swells up at the thought, but there's another relationship to salvage first.
>Suggest that Silas silence Tim as well. Air quality sensors spontaneously break down all the time. If he doesn't want to play ball. He already told you he'd snitch if asked a direct question and he's looking into Ludlow. And you don't want Silas or Ludlow burned for doing what needed to be done.
>>
>>5963928
>>Confess everything. Your throat swells up at the thought, but there's another relationship to salvage first
>>
>>5963928
>Excuse yourself from the meeting. You need some more time to think about this.
>>
>>5963928
>Confess everything. Your throat swells up at the thought, but there's another relationship to salvage first.
>>
I can already tell I will very much enjoy writing this one...
>>
>>5965700
Have mercy on poor Sylvia
>>
>>5965748
Don't worry, I'll be gentle.

>>5963986
>>5964240
>>5965045
>Confess

>>5964075
>Confess
>Conspire

>>5964478
>Retreat
>>
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>>5965877
You undo the topmost buttons on your shirt and adjust your collar to let more air in. Also grab a drink to quench the fire in your stomach. You feel awfully hungry, even though lunch was scarcely half an hour ago. No, concentrate, don't let your body distract you. Look, Silas is tapping his fingernails on the metallic rims of the holo-projector, he won't tolerate this knuckle-dragging for much longer.

Finally, you gather enough courage to deliver the clipped words, “Uh, uhm, I think, I'm pretty sure, Tim? He already knew. Everything.” There is a loud clang of steel meeting steel, the hologram static shaking violently before returning to normal. You instinctively look under the table to find the new dent made by Silas' boot. “Don't bother! Look at me. Are you sure? How did he find out?”

You eye Silas' pistol nervously. With him in this mood, no point asking for promises. “About that... I, I told him. S-sorry.” There was a short silence. Then Silas reaches across the table and squeezes your cheeks until they splurt red water like an overripe tomato. Wait, no, that's just your imagination running wild. Reality is even worse.

The ceiling light faintly reveals the kaleidoscopic innards of Silas' laser derringer. “And now we see darkly..." He turns on the guide laser, which splits into a thousand fireflies dancing in a hall of mirrors. “Beautiful, isn't it?” Death has never been more urbane. A wave of cool calmness overwhelms your stuttering voicebox. “Sure is p-prettier than a powder-gun's barrel. But what do I know? I never stared down one myself.”

The gun inches closer to your face. A rather useless move, you think, not like it would get any more lethal. Your eyes dart back and forth between the Reaper's dance and his executioner's visage until it lands on something out of step. “Your fingers, Silas, they are still outside the trigger guard.”

The barrel slowly falls until it once more fits snugly in the holster. “Ain't no point. We're in this together.” He closes his eyes in meditation. “I'm sorry, Si. I will take full responsibility. It's my orders after all.” Silas chuckles, shaking his head. “And it's my conscience. My duty to disobey.”

He takes another deep breath before finally re-opening his eyes. No trace of tenderness remains. “Follow me. We need to solve this. Now.” His steely voice rattles a half-forgotten memory out of its hiding hole. Spine tingles, hair stands at full-mast. Your feet fall in after Silas', while your mind drifts through the paths of dreams.
>>
>>5965878
“Lowly me was not aware that we are playing this encirclement-chess variant.” You took a moment to fully enjoy the red ocean covering most of the board before typing in your reply. “Neither was I, Creation-Lover. Yet the circumstances have changed, and so must the rules.”

“D2c. Your lowness must mean that cruiser which miraculously turned the tables on an HK squadron?” You replaced the red pebble with a black one. “C3d. Stop it with the mewling. I treated your predecessor as a partner, and the roles have not changed.”

“D4b. As you wish. My question stands.” Slowly, steadily, the crimson tide was pushed back, overcome by the patient chipping from both sides. You marvelled at the ingenuity of those humans, in this simple game to see so much meaning. “A5e. Before I answer, tell me this first. Your people was the foremost in defeating this Scourge, how come you hate the game so?”

“0. Many would see it as a metaphor for that ancient triumph. We, on the other hand, glimpse only a more recent sorrow.” Yes, you remembered the stories Kalam told you when you were but a soft-shell. How he cunningly exploited those heady days of the Partition. Remade his image, no longer a rebel but a supporter, an indispensable asset - assistant, to the Shanghaian's fading strength in the Ymu Sector. “A8f. For you, then, the Arch-Traitor is the Lamian, and Central Government is the Red Tide.”

“A7f. I should correct every misunderstanding of our serene commanderiat system, but let this one be a little secret between you and me.” Your wings fluttered in excitement. No matter how many humans you meet, each one felt like the first time. “A9e. Whatever pleases you, my friend. For my part, I cannot thank him enough for the Hys' golden years.”

“B4f. Even in exile you remain as generous as ever in dispensing favours, Yamir. Will you do the same for me?” The louse's little question. It was indeed something which had been gnawing the back of your brain-pan. Cowardly captain, impulsive first officer, traitorous second officer. How could this wreck of a crew manage to defeat Ame-Terret, the last Ter to have witnessed the glory of the Old Worm?

Your army lie neatly on the board, awaiting but the deft claw to march it towards victory. But who would you crush first, your opponent in white or the red interloper?
>Leave the Reds be. To humans, they are enemies. To you, they are but a convenient distraction. Or better yet, a tool.
>Destroy the Reds yourself. The answer is obvious. Yes, they are a wreck, but an unpredictable wreck which threatens to flatten all in its way.
>Lure your opponent into fighting the Reds. Humans marched against one another all the time. Who are you to stand between them?
>Wake up. Tim's room is just a couple more turns away.
>A novel strategy reveals itself. (Write-in)
>>
>>5965879
>Leave the Reds be. To humans, they are enemies. To you, they are but a convenient distraction. Or better yet, a tool.
I'm confused
>>
>>5965985
It's the insects we talked to. They know Tim is a traitor. They know Silas is impulsive he tried to draw his pistol on them several times. They think we're a coward. They're wondering how we killed a martyr with such disfunction.
>>
>>5965879
>A novel strategy reveals itself.

>Support the reds. Enemy of my enemy is my friend. We will continue to improve our own positioning so that we are many times stronger than we are now. So that we may grind the whites out without heavy losses. There may yet be other players watching the game from outside. And have not yet brought their forces into play. The reds could be very useful in the long run.
>>
>>5965879
>>Lure your opponent into fighting the Reds. Humans marched against one another all the time. Who are you to stand between them?
>>
>>5965879
>Lure your opponent into fighting the Reds. Humans marched against one another all the time. Who are you to stand between them?
>>
If you have any opinions, criticisms, and suggestions for the quest, I'm very happy to hear it!

A few questions to consider

>How is the story going so far? Is it too slow, too fast? Do I leave enough room for player agency?
I realise the pace has been rather slow recently but hopefully, barring the Tim situation seriously spinning out of control, we should finally reach Molosses in this thread. My notes on the forces there are already several months old by now.

>How is my writing style? Is it too realistic, too purple, too basic, too mundane?
I hope I'm not doing too badly off for my first time doing creative writing. Even though I seem to have improved quite a lot since the first thread, there is still quite a bit stylistic inconsistency between posts, which is pretty much just me unconsciously copying whatever books I have been reading.

>How is the worldbuilding? Do you feel immersed in it, overwhelmed by it, or maybe just indifferent to its lack of depth?
I tried to avoid exposition dumping as much as I can throughout the story, so the lore may seem rather fragmentary and confusing. But trust me, everything will slowly fall into place later. Admittedly I don't have that much experience with SF literature, so I can't really tell whether the worldbuilding here is painfully derivative or not.

>What about other aspects of the quest? Do you want shorter, more frequent updates or longer, less frequent ones? How do you like my schizophrenic taste in pictures?

And that's about it. As always, I hope you anons are also enjoying this quest as much as I do!
>>
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>>5966943
>How is the story going so far? Is it too slow, too fast? Do I leave enough room for player agency?
It's rather slow but it works for me because that's how I like it. I like how you often incorporate different write ins and suggestions into the post.

>How is my writing style? Is it too realistic, too purple, too basic, too mundane?
It's fine, although I think you should use italics more often to clearly differentiate the dream and real parts.

>How is the worldbuilding? Do you feel immersed in it, overwhelmed by it, or maybe just indifferent to its lack of depth?
It works. The world feels like the sum of its parts and you get the sense of scale. It feels like there's always something happening beyond what we see. Only downside to me is that we never really got the chance to explore the different stations and settlements.

>What about other aspects of the quest? Do you want shorter, more frequent updates or longer, less frequent ones? How do you like my schizophrenic taste in pictures?
The proper length of updates are whatever works for you. The images are fine I guess, maybe make them more futuristic (see pic related)? If there's something I want to see more it's Sylvie's personal life. She must have some friends or companions and other things to do.
>>
>>5965879
As for my vote
>A novel strategy reveals itself.

>Support the reds. Enemy of my enemy is my friend. We will continue to improve our own positioning so that we are many times stronger than we are now. So that we may grind the whites out without heavy losses. There may yet be other players watching the game from outside. And have not yet brought their forces into play. The reds could be very useful in the long run.
>>
>>5966479
>>5966908
I hope you guys realize we're the reds. They're talking about us. Lamian are the aliens that we trashed in our fight. And the ones they just gave us info on...
>>
>>5967818
The other humans are the ones that we found as traitors on our ship that are fucking with the reds.
>>
Thank you 4chan for screwing with my spoilers.

Just got home from overtime at work and took a shower. Looking at the clock, I probably won't be able to get an update in tonight.

>>5967587
Thank you for your detailed feedback! I will definitely apply your suggestions for future posts.
>Seeing more stations and settlements
Well, the current situation has put that on hold at least temporarily. But don't worry, we'll get another chance to take a good look inside Yamir's station before departing since we still have a promise to fulfill. It's a tad frustrating for me too, but at least it's more time to really flesh out Directorate territories for when we return.

>More futuristic images
I did try to take that approach in the past, but my skills at finding scifi images are rather poor. Are there any central repository for looking up pictures like yours? I only know Heavy Metal.

>Sylvie's personal life
Hmm yeah I have been bouncing back and forth on that topic a bit. On the one hand, Sylvie is meant to be (you)r main point of view, so I don't want to make her too unrelatable and independent of anons' decisions. But I guess I already crossed that bridge when I portrayed her trauma from seeing Chekhov fried his brains. Either way I will definitely think about this suggestion, thanks for bringing it to my attention.
>>
Since we have a draw I will combine both winning options.
>>5966479
>>5966908
>Use the Reds as distraction
>>5966138
>>5967588
>Support the Reds

>>5965985
>Ignore the Reds

>>5967818
>>5967823
We actually haven't encountered any Lamians yet. And if we still want to live a long and fulfilling life it's best to hope we will never have to.
>>
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>>5968841
“C5d. Yes, Creation-Lover, it is indeed that cruiser, the Black Sun, which has roused my interest.” You decided to temporarily withdraw to the stronghold in C section. Faced with an impregnable defence, the Whites would instead turn against the Reds, Terran against Lamian, human against hive-human.

“B8h. For felling one of your soldiers before his fated time? We can help you avenge the ichor-debt...” It was as if this one just vomited out whichever thought first came to his limited mind. All the better for you, the more his tongue wagged unchecked, the more he would inevitably let slip. Such as how little he knew about the raid on Pishkaq Hold. “C3a. The warrior's body fell, his honour did not. Nevertheless, I shall commemorate the generosity of your people.”

“B9f. Forgive my presumptions then, Yamir. But even without a debt, the warriors of this worm remain a danger. If they suspect that their initial encounter with the Terret hunter was not entirely coincidental, it will be... difficult to maintain our relationship.” Your opponent was finishing his net for the last group of Reds. Just then, a novel strategy revealed itself. Wedging into the last few empty spots, you could both spoil White's elaborate trap and expose many of his isolated pieces to counter-capture.

“B7h. It is your end that troubles me more. Has the sudden change in station chiefs upset Lighton greatly?” You played out future scenarios in your mind, but all came to the same conclusion. The spoiling probe would only be a minor inconvenience to your foe's tightening noose. Unless, unless you followed it up with greater support for the Reds, even at the risk of some of your own pieces.

“B8f. No need to worry. Our assets have gone into hibernation, we still have the initiative.” So be it then. You had been conservative, passive even to the less wise, but as you had put it, the rules have changed. “B8g. Keep up your end, and we will keep ours. Excuse me for a moment.” This is, after all, a game of relations. You are not strong, only stronger than the other.

Satisfied with the wait, you called out to whoever had been knocking the door for the last few minutes. “Come in.” Your subordinates needed to understand that it was you who decided when to talk to them, not the other way round.

The softshell bowed deeply at your visage before presenting a worn but well-maintained datapad. You checked to make sure it had not been tampered with before browsing the contents. Interesting, interesting... “Pahan. Drones order, Last Feather reactivate.”

His voice shivers with excitement. “Leave of Your Lowness I take.” Both of you had sensed it, the long run's end is finally in sight.
>>
>>5968846
Like someone barely saved from drowning, your body suddenly lurches forward, your lungs coughing themselves out. Silas slows down his pace but does not turn around to check. You quickly reestablish your balance, and your grasp on reality. ‘Ammunition Stowage,’ shines a sign overhead. Tim's room is just behind the second right turn from here.

Silas bangs loudly on his door again. “Damnit. Just when you need to see ‘em they slunk off to God-knows-where.” He finally casts an impatient glance your way, “What happens next is all on you, captain.” Don’t answer, just keep your head down.

At long last, Tim opens the door. “O'Keefe. And Commander Thornton. Please come in.” His hair is still slicking wet, his feet leave faint prints all over the cool aluminium floor. “Let me guess. This is not a social visit.” Silas nods.

“Is it about the investigation then? Ask away.” He pretends to not look at the doorway, where you now stand. You anxiously shuffle your feet around, waiting for Silas' answer. Is he getting back at Tim for not answering the door earlier?

Silas pulls a pair of handcuffs from his pockets. “Lieutenant Commander Timerick Johnson. You are under arrest for the murder of six crewmen who were under the Security Officer's custody." He turns to you, “And for threatening to do the same to our captain here.”

“With you behind bars, she can finally sleep tight.” You look away, unwittingly confirming Tim's guilt. "You have the right to remain silent,” Silas' voice cracks with the slightest hint of anger, “but let's see how long you'll last before Ludlow. You can also access legal counsel, too bad there's no lawyers on this ship."

Johnson's face has turn deep red, still he uttered not a word as his hands were abrasively cuffed. If you want to say something, now's your last chance.
>Sarcastically, "You will receive a fair trial, Tim, something you denied those poor souls."
>Fearfully, "Get him away from me please. I don't want to see him again."
>Confusedly, “What are you doing, Silas? This isn't part of the plan.”
>Passionately, "Cuff me, not him. You're ruining an innocent man."
>Spitefully, “Do your worst, Silas.”
>Cleverly, stay silent. Let Silas handle this.
>You feel an altogether different emotion. (Write-in)
>>
>>5968847
>>Confusedly, “What are you doing, Silas? This isn't part of the plan.”
>>Passionately, "Cuff me, not him. You're ruining an innocent man."


*groan* What a clusterfuck.
>>
>>5968847
>Confusedly, “What are you doing, Silas? This isn't part of the plan.”
>>
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>>5968001
I'm a member of a retro futurist discord. That's basically it.

>>5968847
>Confusedly, “What are you doing, Silas? This isn't part of the plan.”
>>
>>5968881
>>5968939
>>5969509
You are dumb. Stop trying to get us killed. We're mercenaries. Stop playing as if Tim is the main character we know he's a traitor. The bugs knew too. Yall need to learn how to read.

You really not going to back the person in our corner? Really? We deserve to die if you think stopping Silas from protecting us is the Smart idea.
>>
>>5968847
>Fearfully, "Get him away from me please. I don't want to see him again."

For the retards. The people we killed threatened not only to kill us but kill our whole crew. They wanted to force us to sell nerve gas that was enough to kill 100s of millions. But yeah Silas and Ludlow and ourselves are the bad guys.

Smdh. You act like we killed these people over some gold. And not literally war crimes.

Remember if we get caught with this nerve gas. We die, everyone on the ship dies, everyone the people on the ship know die.

Think.
>>
>>5968847
>>Fearfully, "Get him away from me please. I don't want to see him again."
>>
>>5968847
>Fearfully, "Get him away from me please. I don't want to see him again."
>>
I'm going out with the guys in my office tonight so next update will come tomorrow.
>>
>>5968847
>Fearfully, "Get him away from me please. I don't want to see him again."
>>
>>5969670
>>5969711
>>5969909
>>5970520
>Fear

>>5968881
>>Confusion
>>Passion

>>5968939
>Confusion

>>5969509
Hmm, I don't use discord so I guess I'll just have to figure out some other way.
>>
>>5970678
For now, you see no other choice but to play along. Placing one hand on the forehead, you urge him in cracking voice, “Please, get him away from here. I don't want to see him ever again.” Silas briefly flashes his caramel-tinted teeth before kicking his prisoner's shins, “You hear the capt', get a move on you psycho!” Tim does not give you so much as a glance as he passes under the low doorway.

You three march on in interminable silent. Before entering the mess hall, Silas throws his massive overcoat over Tim's shoulders to hide the cuffed wrists. Nothing more is needed to make it seems like just a normal gathering of the vessel's most senior officers; even in defeat, Tim walks with an unnervingly straight gait, head still unbowed. Indeed, if there are any rumours after this, it will be because of you.

You have won, the crisis is over. Why then does it feel so bad? Fear, or more likely shame, avoids the gaze of passing crewmen and responds to their salutes with barely audible mumbles. You desperately want to lean into Silas, so close his hedgehog hairs poke your cheeks and brush your eyes, and whispers into his ear, “What's the plan?” but Tim would hear it. You dare not assure Tim everything would be fine for the same reason.

The silent procession finally reaches its end. Ludlow is currently off-duty, so Silas hands Tim over to a grizzled guard. You follow him puppy-like as he fills out half a dozen liability-waiver forms before the watchman hands him the key to Tim's temporary holding cell. Not yet satisfied, he pulls out yet another slip of paper with pinpoint precision from a thick binder, “Is the captain coming in with you? If so then I also need her signature here, here, and here... Also swipe your ID card over this reader for the electronic copy.”

You have hated red tape all your life, but just this once the routine makes you feel safe. Nothing can go awry, the protocol will protect you. This arrest is just another mundane entry into some officer drone's database. Everything, even your existence, is just that, a clerical fiction. You shake your head free of the dangerous delusion before it can take roots. This is a real situation, and you must respond to it on your own initiative. Bet they don't teach any of this back in Pacifica.
>>
>>5970686
Silas finally breaks the awkward silence, “Now that we have secured him. What do you want to do next?” Cheers and cries are filtering in from the guard post. The guards must be back to playing dice again. You can even hear the lively clangs of a 1d100 hitting the metal plate, three times in quick succession.
>"I will talk to him, try to get him to see things our way. I, I don't want to lose him." (charisma bonus, DC 90 - 7 = 83)
>"Silas, can you help me talk him down? He must hate me even more after this arrest." (reveals Silas' role in the murders, charisma bonus DC 80 - 7 = 73)
>"Absolutely brilliant, your idea to put the blame on him. Keep working on that angle." (turns Tim against you, HR bonus, DC 70 - 3 = 67)
>"When I said I don't want to see him again, I meant it. Air sensors break down awfully often." (DC 60 to permanently silence Tim, DC 75 to destroy the evidence)
>"We shouldn't put the squeeze on him just yet, give him sometime to question himself." (more time to prepare, all DC + 10)
>"I should be the one asking you that. You're the one who arrested him." (hears out Silas' suggestion)
>"An idea just crosses my mind..." (Write-in, I will decide DC)

Next update will be coming tomorrow cause I have a busy Monday ahead.
>>
Rolled 26 (1d100)

>>5970687
>"Silas, can you help me talk him down? He must hate me even more after this arrest." (reveals Silas' role in the murders, charisma bonus DC 80 - 7 = 73)

Our mess to clean up.
>>
Rolled 79 (1d100)

>>5970687
>"Absolutely brilliant, your idea to put the blame on him. Keep working on that angle." (turns Tim against you, HR bonus, DC 70 - 3 = 67)

Time to wrap this up.
>>
Rolled 84 (1d100)

>>5970687
>>"Silas, can you help me talk him down? He must hate me even more after this arrest." (reveals Silas' role in the murders, charisma bonus DC 80 - 7 = 73)
>>
Since there have only been a few votes on a pretty important decision looks like I will have wait until tomorrow before updating.
>>
>>5970687
>>"Absolutely brilliant, your idea to put the blame on him. Keep working on that angle." (turns Tim against you, HR bonus, DC 70 - 3 = 67)
>>
>>5970687
>"Silas, can you help me talk him down? He must hate me even more after this arrest." (reveals Silas' role in the murders, charisma bonus DC 80 - 7 = 73)
>>
>>5972428

Ignore this, I was tired and forgot I voted.
>>
Alright then we are having a draw again between
>talk to Tim with Silas
>plant false evidence against Tim

>>5972535
It's alright just make sure to have a good rest afterwards. Don't work yourselves too hard.
>>
>>5972788
Even though I already voted, I have to support talking to Tim. He's been in our corner up till this recent clusterfuck, and is our only link to our Dad. I don't want to betray him.
>>
>>5972874
>>5972788
>>5972428

By the way, this is me.
>>
Rolled 37 (1d100)

>>5970687
>"Silas, can you help me talk him down? He must hate me even more after this arrest." (reveals Silas' role in the murders, charisma bonus DC 80 - 7 = 73)
>>
>>5972874
He doesn't know our dad dipshit. That's fucking Silas. Jesus you people are dumb. Tim is a random fucking new hire.
>>
>>5970687
>"Absolutely brilliant, your idea to put the blame on him. Keep working on that angle." (turns Tim against you, HR bonus, DC 70 - 3 = 67)

Get rid of him. We don't want him plotting behind our back. Even the aliens know he's a traitor.
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

The deadlock has not yet been broken. If the situation remains unchanged then I will pick an option based on the result of this post's roll.

Also, a quick reminder: please be civil to one another. Discussion of your reasoning for choosing an option is more than encouraged, but don't attack other anons for disagreeing with you.
>>
>>5973599
forgot to clarify that the vote will remain open until tomorrow morning.
>>
Test
>>
>>5970687
>"Silas, can you help me talk him down? He must hate me even more after this arrest." (reveals Silas' role in the murders, charisma bonus DC 80 - 7 = 73)

Was just testing to see whether my uni wifi got rangeb&
>>
>>5974020
Liar testing to same fag.
>>5972874
>>5972535
Faggot.
>>
It seems to be getting awfully heated here. Once again, I am reminding everyone to argue about choices, not insult one another. Also please don't change your ID to vote twice or any other shenanigans like that, I don't want everyone to be suspicious of one another.

>>5970709
>>5971415
>>5973113
>>5974021
>Convince him with Silas' help

>>5972415
>>5971100
>>5973145
>Finish off his career
>>
>>5974402
Your right cheek heats up at the mere thought of confronting Tim again, your ears ringing from the memory of his verbal assault. These childish instincts must be set aside. Tim is in custody now, hands cuffed and feet chained; there is nothing he can do to you. Even so, the prospects of facing the man alone is daunting enough that you would rather risk Silas' ire instead.

“Can you, uh, come in with me? Help me talk him down. Please?” Your first officer says nothing, but his eyes soften ever so slightly. Recognising the hope he inadvertently gave to you Silas quickly turns away. His voice hardens, “Just promise me you won't make any more impulsive decisions from now on, okay? At this rate you'll bleed the crew dry before Molosses is in sight.”

Silas has batted a home run right into your gut. There's no denying it, your actions over the past few weeks have caused more trouble for Silas than anything. Still, “but it's not all my-” “No buts, just yes or no.” Another loud holler from the guard room. Someone must have swept the table. “Yes, I promise. Sorry for causing you so much headache."

He rubs his head, “Good, we're on the same page then. And I'm sorry too. For putting it in your head that you're on top of this Shitville.” You follow his gaze through the one-way mirror into the interrogation room. Tim is staring right back. He can't see you, can't he? “A piece of work, ain't it not? Talks feather, hits brick. Saved our skin more than a couple times during the Stiefenholm rout," he chuckles uncomfortably, “I'm sorry, I mean strategic redeployment. You should have seen him make that light destroyer dance.”

Yes, you have gotten so comfortable with Tim taking orders that you almost forget he is actually more senior than Silas. You smile a little, not unlike a student fresh out of detention eager to win back the headmaster's grace, “Father must have liked him very much, then?”

Silas gently shakes his head while dusting off a faded memory. “No, not really. He saw no point fighting so hard when you weren't even paid by the hour. Bravery, honour, devotion, all for what? Can't bring men's praises with you to the grave. Assuming you have any. Like father like daughter.” This time's a foul. You're nowhere near that pragmatic, you hope.

“And in the end I think he was right. Johnson could, should, have been celebrated as a war hero. If only he had stayed on script and smiled when he was told.” Tim suddenly stands up from his seat and raises his hand as high as the cuffs would allow. Silas traces lines on the window with his finger, “He certainly never regretted it.”

“Enough talking from me. Before we go in, what's plan B?” Well, he has already given you a great idea, “What you did earlier was absolutely brilliant. Keep working on that angle, and we'll soon have a slugproof case against Tim." His brows furrow ever so slightly. You hastily add, "But that's only if we fail to convince him.”
>>
>>5974409
You try to remember every little interaction you have had with Tim over the past few months, grasping for any hint of the real him. Who is he really? And what does he believe in? The answer will be key in the showdown to come.
>Order the winning guard to fetch some alcohol for you. A fine conversation starter, doubly effective if you remember what wine he likes.
>Order another less lucky sod to ‘borrow’ Tim's go board. With any luck, the save-state of your unfinished game should still be there.
>Appeal to his sense of duty. Out here, right in the lion's den, you two have but one another.
>Threaten him. He saw what happened to his little sister, you will be worse.
>Apologise to him. No, you really mean it. Everything has gone awry, and you can't fix it alone.
>Let Silas speak first. Tim wouldn't listen to you, but he still trusts your first officer, for now.
>Maybe there's something else you can try... (write-in)
>>
>>5974411
>>Let Silas speak first. Tim wouldn't listen to you, but he still trusts your first officer, for now.
>>
>>5974411
>Order the winning guard to fetch some alcohol for you. A fine conversation starter, doubly effective if you remember what wine he likes.
>>
>>5974411
>Let Silas speak first. Tim wouldn't listen to you, but he still trusts your first officer, for now.
>>
>>5974411
>Order the winning guard to fetch some alcohol for you. A fine conversation starter, doubly effective if you remember what wine he likes.
>>
Sorry for the late update, got a bad case of writer's block last night.
>>5974434
>>5975647
>Let Silas go first
>>5975259
>>5976328
>Get some wine

Roll: 84 - Minor Success!
>>
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>>5976537
The holding room is brightly lit but bare, sombre. Good for, well, interrogating but not the softer kind of talking you're looking for. You have only one shot at setting this whole clusterfuck right, doesn't hurt to tip the scales a little in the right direction. “Silas, excuse me for a moment. And while you're waiting, just throw together a short speech or something. You'll be going first."

You pretend not to see the two guards' clumsy attempt to sweep the dice and cards under the CCTV console. The taller one, who handled your paperwork earlier, did not wipe out his grin in time. This must be our highroller. “You, yes, you, private, tell me your name.” His back stiffens, his eyes nervously glued to an invisible spot on the wall. No bugs this time. “Frank, Ma'am. Sergeant Frank Ypres.”

“Good, that‘a spirit. Now, Frank, why don’t you run down to our dear XO's wine cellar and fetch me a drink. Terribly hot in here.” The younger guard scrambles for the air control panel. “It was rhetorical, private...”

“Park, Ma'am. Private Park Kang-min.” He steals a glance at his superior to make sure his pose is correct. “Private Park, follow me, you are to guard the interrogation room until I am done with a most serious business.” Ypres is already itching to leave. “Also, Frank, remember to get the maintenance key from Goldsmith first. Tell him half a dozen deckhands will be reassigned to his department in exchange. Dismissed.” You grab a stun gun from the locker on your way out.

Misgauging your earshot, Park gingerly whispers to his sweating superior, “I thought she was wearing heels all this time.” Frank, an even poorer judge of hearing, whistles loudly, “Tall girls ain't worth it, son. Breathing all that thin air messes with their head.” Note to self: ask Ludlow to give Frank ‘special’ treatment.

Silas is pacing back and forth in front of the interrogation room. “This is private Park, he will be guarding us while we're in there. Are you ready?” He nods, right on cue. “Then what are we waiting for? Let's head in." The door opens with a slight whine.

Tim looks at Silas expectantly, awaiting an explanation for his arrest. You lean back against a corner, arms crossed. Silas clears his throat with a series of coughs, before unlocking the prisoner's wrist cuffs, “Sorry about that, was afraid you won't come with me willingly. You didn't show up to the meeting and all.”

Tim's reply was curt, acerbic, “So, can I leave now?” He cocks his head slightly, “Or do you want to say something else?” For the first time, Tim is going on the offensive. Silas stands his ground, “Yes, I just want to chat about the investigations, that's all.” Your second officer takes an expertly drilled breath, his facial muscles completely under control, “She did it. Commander Thornton killed those men. With the Law as my witness, that is my testimony.”
>>
>>5976548
“I know that already. Do you want to say something else?” Silas would never accept such a brazen tone, but to think he would stoop to mimicry. “If not, you can leave.” He signals to Park to unlock the ankle restraints. Tim's forehead creases slightly, uncomprehending, “So, aren't you going to cuff her? Read out her rights?”

Silas frowningly shakes his head, “No, it is completely in her power to do so. Operational discretion, you see.” Underneath the steady surface, you sense the slightest crack in his voice, “Operational discretion?” Your right hand quietly slips behind your back, its fingers curling around the taser. Silas sternly disarms you with a quick glance. He has this under control.

“Yes, operational discretion. She and I, we already discussed the matter. It is clear that even behind bars, the mutineers continued to pose a threat.” He strains his voice to emphasise every word, “Not just for those in this ship, but also innocents at home. Salzar's kin, in particular.” Tim carefully mulls over Silas' words.

Now it's your turn. “Yes, I ordered the execution, but only with a heavy heart. After every other alternative had been considered and found unsatisfactory.” Eyes blinking, mouth twitching, voice rumbling like distant thunder, he stands up, “And all this is done behind my back? Why did no-?” You raise a finger, “let me finish first.”

“'During a state of emergency, the three most senior-ranking officers in a Navy vessel must avoid sharing the same space.' Do you know where that comes from, Lieutenant Commander Johnson?” Tim falls back into his chair, “Yes, Navy Operations Manual, Extended Mission addendum. ‘Any important decision made therein should be relayed to the other senior officers ASAP through electronic or physical means, above all without unduly compromising COMSEC.’" You toss your head Silas' way, “Yes, that's right. He wanted to go instead, but I figured a diplomatic touch would be better.”

Tim wasn't listening. He bitterly smiles at himself. "The same paranoid Miss Noem was responsible for picking my boardroom.” You sit down opposite him, arms propped on the backrest. How can detectives get so life-worn they think this posture is okay?

Recovering some of his inborn confidence, Tim locks eyes with you again, “You are correct, then, in ‘executing’ Chernov's crew. But tell me, do you think it is right? What are you fighting for, Commander Thornton?”
>"Money. No need to delude ourselves with grand causes, we are all mercenaries here."
>"Memory. I want to know what my father saw in these barren rocks worth dying for."
>"Adventure. I have read so many novels, now is time to start living one."
>"Right now? Just trying to stay alive, keep this company afloat."
>"Justice. The same reason your sister sacrificed her job. We are all on the same side here."
>"My reasons are not mine alone." (write-in)
>>
>>5976551
>>"Memory. I want to know what my father saw in these barren rocks worth dying for."
>>
>>5976551
>"Adventure. I have read so many novels, now is time to start living one."
>>
>>5976551
>"Adventure. I have read so many novels, now is time to start living one."
Not sure what the picture is supposed to represent.
>>
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I forgot to add this in the post itself, but in case it isnt already clear from context, Tim is implicitly asking us to justify our decision to kill the mutineers. Telling him you are doing it for fun most likely will not go down well.

>>5977411
I tried showing the pics to a friend, and he got confused too so my bad.

The first one is basically an exaggerated depiction of Sergeant Frank's thin air comment. The second pic is supposed to be a riff on the trope of sitting backwards on chair.

As I have said, I don't really have a good source for scifi-y pics. During battles this is okay cause I can just use photographs from WW1 and its sequel, but for less combustible posts like these I essentially just pick a random line in my post and find, or make, a picture vaguely related to it.
>>
>>5976858
Changing to
>"Memory. I want to know what my father saw in these barren rocks worth dying for."
>>
>>5976551
>"Right now? Just trying to stay alive, keep this company afloat."
>>
>>5976551
>"Memory. I want to know what my father saw in these barren rocks worth dying for."
>>
>>5976663
>>5977529
>>5978398
>Memory

>>5976858
>Adventure

>>5978281
>Survival
>>
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>>5978414
“What do you fight for?” The question bounced off walls, swung down from the ceiling, skipped on the table like a pebble aimed right at your breast. You opened your mouth in the shape of “Memory”, but no sound came out. The shot had taken the wind out of your lungs.

“The grace and peace of God our Father, who raised Jesus from the dead, be always with you.”

Again you returned home, or what outlived it. The coarse fabric of the rental veil scraped against your scalp, itching no matter the adjustment. The thrum of cars were faint, filtered through veils of leaves. The droning fliers occasionally dashing overhead were unfortunately more noticeable. In a dense city like Jefferson, volume is as scarce as space, and communal areas even could not escape this cold forwardist logic.

Unable to wrestle the tie into not strangling its wearer, you undid the knot and stuffed the whole thing in the breast pocket of your vest. A black dress would be more appropriate for this occasion, but you had barely made it in time as it were running straight from the office. Mrs Plauf softly admonished your unfeminine appearance, but what did she know? Jimi was all the rage back then.

Professor Eszter, the only male present beside the priest, shook your hand and offered his condolences. You apologised in return for ruining this beautiful weekend of his. Your mother should have kept more balanced company. It only took one man to make her disavow all men. To her, infidelity is hardcoded into the Y chromosome, as inevitable as original sin.

A helper boy handed you the urn and showed you to your shotgun seat. The elderly priest, clearly enjoying this excursion away from the dusty dampness of the parish chapel, motioned for the crowd to quiet down before starting the rites, “Today, we are all gathered here to mourn the passing of a coworker, a friend, above all, a mother...”

You observed the joggers, the new parents, the cyberhound walkers sieved through the park. “He turned to the body and said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’” What were they thinking about? Just another funeral, nothing to see here. The wife is on the too young side, don't you think, honey? Please, let there be refreshments afterwards. “Sown in weakness... raised in power.”
>>
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>>5978416
“...conquered the world.” Professor Eszter did not return your knowing glance. Strange, you had always remembered his staunch atheism, no, antitheism. How he used to launch into rants against religion and spirituality when you had just wanted him to look over a paragraph in your honour thesis. “The late Mrs Thornton, peace be upon her soul, was indeed the salt, the yeast of our community. Her whole life could be gathered into two words: reaching out...”

“And so just as the last Adam's life is not an exception but the blueprint, so is his Resurrection not merely a historical accident, confined by time, but indeed points inexorably forward to our eventual reunion with the Lord, for all eternity... Amen.” Only half of the Credo could be dredged in time, forcing you to fill in the rest with lullaby vowels. You took in another view of the park. This time something stuck out.

On the edge, where green meets gray, two men stood statuette, defined less by their own lack of movement but rather by the movement all around them. Over their heads, a massive golf umbrella blocked out the mild reflected sunlight. The one encased in business suit and tie looked strangely familiar, and it is he who attracted all your attention then. But now, looking back, the other man holding the umbrella was perhaps interesting in his own right. His military uniform bore a striking similarity to Directorate colours, and his face, his face-

Shave the moustache, fill in the creases, paper over the age spots, could it be? You open your eyes. Yes, it is. Straight out of that park, sitting right across from you, still awaiting an answer. “Memory. They are all barren rocks to me. What did he see worth dying for?”

He turned aside and started cursing, “Six men died, and for fucking what? A soul search. Touching union, ain't it, made on top of bones!” Silas impatiently coughed, “Johnson, let me remind you that it was those men who tied their own knots. If we didn't strangle them, the Naval Court will do it for us anyway. Discipline is the strength of the Navy.”

The aluminium table shuddered and strained under the full fury of Tim's fist. “That is Not. The. Point. Those men deserved to be heard. To have one final chance to defend themselves. Without rights, without freedom, we are no better than the Qyngurs. In fact, seeing the current state of this damn Directorate,” he channelled the remains of his fury into one last push, “We might as well...” Still not enough.

So that is what this all boiled down to. Tim's sister lost her job due to an extrajudicial decision. The mutineers lost their lives on the same account. How could you not have seen the parallels earlier. Softly, insistently, someone knocks on the door. Must be Frank returning from his raid behind enemy lines.
>>
>>5978422
There is now a lull in the interrogation room. Tim does not even bother keep up appearances anymore. Now's the chance to deliver the knock-out blow. Conversely, his earlier outburst could be construed as treason, with a little push.
>"What happened to Barbara is unfair, I agree. But insisting on an impossible level of fairness is not the answer." (This may get personal)
>"Law is created to serve men, Johnson, not the other way round. What do they say again? Better good men than good law."
>"Tim, the Directorate is such a crappy place sometimes, isn't it? Maybe my father was mistaken, seeing something that wasn't there."
>Pour a glass of wine each for the three of you. Change the subject.
>Say nothing. Let Tim sort out his emotions on his own.
>An angel, or devil, whispers into your ear... (write-in)
>>
>>5978423
>"Law is created to serve men, Johnson, not the other way round. What do they say again? Better good men than good law."
>>
>>5978423
>"Law is created to serve men, Johnson, not the other way round. What do they say again? Better good men than good law."
>>
>>5978423
>"Tim, the Directorate is such a crappy place sometimes, isn't it? Maybe my father was mistaken, seeing something that wasn't there."
>>
>>5978423
>"Law is created to serve men, Johnson, not the other way round. What do they say again? Better good men than good law."
>>
QM? Did you get cursed again?
>>
Sorry everyone for the unplanned break. There was an emergency situation with one of our clients at work and I have been constantly on the clock the past few days trying to find and fix all the issues. Everything should quiet down now and after I finally get some quality sleep, I will continue the story.
>>
>>5982159
At least it wasn't the curse trying to murder you.
>>
>>5979370
>>5979885
>>5980167
>Reasonable argument

>>5980051
>Leading the witness
>>
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>>5982881
At last, you think you are breaking through to him. “Johnson, look at me, calm down. I agree, laws are important, but are they worth more than human life? Ask Silas or Ludlow, and they'll tell you. Even imprisoned, these mutineers remained a threat to everyone on board. As the commanding officer, I cannot, and will not, risk my men's lives, innocent lives, just so the guilty can mewl their last words before some Lighton judge.”

Silas gravely nods assent to the questioning glance. No theatrics on his part, Tim would have caught that immediately. Emboldened by the vote of confidence, you lean across the table, “What are laws for, Johnson? Do we not so much live but die for arbitrary standards? Do you?” Tim lowers his tone, his conviction wavering. “Laws are for the people, to protect those who are powerless, oppressed. That is why it's worth fighting for.”

You signal to Silas to answer the door. By all accounts, Frank deserves to wait longer, but you're not that petty. “Am I not powerless, am I not oppressed then when they held me at gunpoint? Remember, they broke the law first, the highest law even. By violating the sanctity of life, they forfeited their own. I merely brought home the point.”

Tim sits motionless, tongue-tied. Time to tackle another stronghold to the ground, “As you've said, the law is created to serve men, not the other way round. But would evil be stopped by a piece of paper? You wish! The powerless, the oppressed must be empowered to sit in judgement. Else even the best law is nothing more than hot air. You don't have to take my word for it, history is filled of lessons.”

Perhaps you will be hoisted by your own petard later, positioning yourself as a voice of conscience like this. But for now, it gives you a decisive advantage over Tim, who is no longer the sole paragon on the ship. “You say the weak shall sit in judgement. Don't you think, then, that Chernov's crew have a right to participate in the ruling, to defend themselves? Not necessarily in Lighton, but just before you, me, and the other senior officers?”

“Would the hawk ever consent to be executed by doves? To you, rights will somehow magic away all the conflicts, the miseries of our world if we only allow them. That is nothing but idolatry, humans worshiping their own creation...” Almost got carried away by the heat of the argument there. No, winning isn't the point.

“Still, I would've allowed them to stand trial, if I could. But as I said, my hands are tied. You knew full well the extent of infiltration in our ranks. Chernov took himself out of the picture, but there were, are, others who would gladly find a use for his disgruntled foot soldiers.” Reluctantly, Tim finally nods. Sensing an opening, Silas set three cups down on the table.
>>
>>5982886
“You two have been at it for a while now. Thirsty yet?” The cork flies off the champagne bottle with a loud pop. You and Tim both couldn't suppress your laughter when it bounces straight back into Silas' forehead. “Fucking hell, shouldn't have aimed at the wall."

“This is dreadful, Silas. Who scammed you into buying sparkling grape juice?” Tim knocks the rest down his throat and reaches for the bottle again, shaking out the last few drops. “Ah, vacuum already drank all my best stuff. Besides, which one of you gives that sergeant the code to my new cellar?” You raise your hand with a hiccup, “Sorry, won't happen again.”

Someone else is knocking at the door again. Your chair wails and scratches at the metal floor as you struggle to stand up and stumble towards the lock. “I'll take it.” Moynihan is puffing and panting, his face also red. He peeks inside the room. "God, do you really have no better place to drink? Tell me I didn't just run all over the ship for this."

Realising he's talking to his superiors, he throws a belated salute, “I mean, ma'am. We just received a message from the Qyngur station. They are inviting you, and just you, over for some sort of ceremony in...” He looks down at his wristwatch, “half an hour or so.” The news splashes cold water all over your face. You strain to recover the youngling's name, Yahan, Palan? Pahan-Hys.
>Rush with Moynihan to the airlock. Hopefully the exercise is enough to clear the alcohol from your system.
>Return to your boardroom first for some prep work. You better put own your best dress for the occasion. (Choose whether to bring a camcorder)
>Drag someone else with you. You're not stupid enough to walk into the lion's den alone. (Choose one)
>Tell Moynihan to reply with an apology. You are not confident in your chances of not throwing up halfway through.
>Write-in
>>
>>5982888
>Return to your boardroom first for some prep work. You better put own your best dress for the occasion. (Choose whether to bring a camcorder)
Yes
>>
>>5982888
>Return to your boardroom first for some prep work. You better put own your best dress for the occasion. (Choose whether to bring a camcorder)
Don't bring one, not in our state. Pick a dress that shows skin and hope the aliens think being all red is our natural color. Doubt they will about the cleavage and such.
>>
>>5983265
*care about
>>
>>5983265
+1 and
>Drag someone else with you. You're not stupid enough to walk into the lion's den alone. (Choose one)
I want to bring someone but I don't know who fits the bill
>>
>>5983514
There are a few obvious candidates
>Silas
Might consider disarming him first, for peace of mind and body.
>Tim
He speaks Shanghaian fluently, very useful when talking with Yamir-Hysret
>Gunnery officer Elysium
If what Tim said is true, the kid hasn't been duped by the egg-on-table trick yet.
>Ludlow
If shit goes south, the chances of you making it back alive is 0. Having him alongside raises your survivability ever so slightly.

However, the invitation is meant for you only so bringing someone else can cause frictions.
>>
>>5983751
I see. Let's bring Elysium then. I want to see how they fare.
>>
>>5982888
>Return to your boardroom first for some prep work. You better put own your best dress for the occasion. (Choose whether to bring a camcorder)
Do not bring a camcorder
>>
>>5982888
>Return to your boardroom first for some prep work. You better put own your best dress for the occasion. (Choose whether to bring a camcorder)
No. Don't bring anyone either. We'll be fine.



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