The Multiverse » Arcs » The Children of Ash

One of the first rebellions has finally been noticed by the Aschen Empire. How will it turn out?

As written by: CaptainGrue, Joseph_Bennett, Absenthia, barney_fife


35 pieces and 16 characters involved, written by 4 different authors.

1 places involved




So begins...

The Children of Ash


Sky's EdgeSetting: Sky's Edge


Roland let out a drawn out, raspy sigh through the stubble of his upper lip. His breath was hot. The sun bared down on him, a few flying insects hung around. He had been sitting on a steel bench for some time now, located outside a small spaceport in the jungle clearing. His face was rough, burnt and beading with sweat. His hands were hard at work solving a puzzle cube, but his eyes were splitting focus between the few others around the structure.

A man walks out of the building. Roland had seen him before, about two months ago. Their name was Oliver Wilton. They had shown promise but were too gripped by fear to make use of it. Oliver did not recognise Roland because he had never actually met him in person before. And when Roland had contacted Oliver it was through the name of Albert Polyester. He had a fake name for just about everyone he encountered. It was all listed in a paper document he updated for himself, but it was never too hard to remember. Oliver worked in agriculture as a contract worker, and would periodically return to this part of Sky’s Edge to visit family.

Roland kept an eye on Oliver as he entered his personal transport and drove out of sight, obscured by the green brush the jungle provided its roads. He would detail the vehicle’s specifications later. It wasn’t him he was waiting for, though it was reassuring to see that Oliver was still doing alright. Roland would have to contact him again, and see if he’d change his mind. The people of Sky’s Edge saw themselves as the ones left largely abandoned by the Aschen empire. But if they had any idea how lucky they were not to be considered one of the core worlds… Oliver was making the right choice for his livelihood, for now. But as soon as some arbitrary calculation in the Aschen’s matrix of data decides it so, the Sky’s Edge may become yet another titanium hell devoid of humanity. Of course the outer worlds’ general view that the Aschen empire should be restructured to be more open would help prevent that fate. In an ideal world, no one would have to know what Roland knew. But knowledge is a weapon, one the empire wields as its impenetrable armor and unbreakable sword.

A ship had just recently landed here, bearing the model Roland had been expecting. It had been a few hours of waiting, now. Best not to get specific with time when communicating long distances. No doubt its pilot was taking their time being discreet. Roland had been very clear about protocol. If he were to expose himself like this, it was necessary. A woman stepped out of the building. Dressed in a tanktop, khaki shorts with a backpack strapped on. She looked around briefly before spotting Roland and sitting down next to him. Finally he looked down at his cube. It was complete.

“How are you wearing a coat in this heat?” She said.

“I’m just more comfortable like this.” He said, eyeing the terminal across the road. His voice was smooth, but cold and devoid of much variation in pitch.

“Right.” She said, more quietly. She pulled her backpack around, unzipped it and produced a neatly compacted series of documents. Emblazoned on the front page was the symbol of a phoenix, drawn on the paper with a surprising amount of detail.

“You could be an artist.” Roland said, taking the documents and flipping through its contents.

“Not exactly the market for it at the moment.” She said.

“You should keep at it.” He said. Roland pulled out a pen from his coat, along with a blank prescription order form. He started to scribble. “From the looks of the consultation your son is suffering from hibiscus poisoning.”

“He knows not to eat random plants.”

“I’ve written a prescription for a bentoquatam blend that he should have about thirty millilitres of every eight hours until symptoms stop. It should give immediate relief, and more substantial improvements in less than a week.” He tore the form off its booklet, and produced a standard bottle of pills. “It’s a pretty common medicine but if for whatever reason it proves difficult to obtain then have your son take these every four hours, barring sleep. Mostly pain relief, but it does help reduce any inflammation or irritation.”

“Thanks.” She said, taking the items from Roland and placing them in her bag.

“He might not have intentionally eaten anything. Sometimes you just get unlucky timing, a weakened immune system and some stray leaf or stem finds itself in an outdoor meal. Just a guess.”

“I guess that sort of makes sense… The rest of what’s in there? Is that good?” This had all taken a healthy amount of planning, and she rightfully seemed concerned as Roland looked through a couple of the pages. They listed Aschen deployment schedules in Sky’s Edge this woman had been recording for the last eight months. He quickly shut them and packed them into his larger journal before shooting up from the bench.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He smiled, the slightest coy inflection in his voice. “I hope your son recovers well.” He started to head off, down the road. The woman let out a sigh. She would wait about thirty minutes before taking her own personal transport back home.

As Roland walked amongst the brush, he began to unravel his completed puzzle cube.
"Mister Cossack," says a young boy as he walks up to Roland. He walks alongside the man for a couple of seconds before they are out of average earshot, then asks, "When do you think my brother going to get back? He's run off again. You know, Joseph? I'm sorta worried. I hear he went to Langara." The boy keeps on walking alongside the older man, hoping for a reply. He doesn't know the man very well, but he knows he can trust him, as he is another member of the... well, the "Group." He doesn't even want to think about the name of it, he's sure some of the Aschen mind-reading tech will pick it up, even if Sky's Edge is decades behind in tech. Thomas, being the younger brother, is still confused as how to take his brothers actions, irrational as they are. Joseph had taken the first ship to Langara with a couple weapons and bombs, and hadn't been heard from since. At least that Thomas knew of.

"Oh God, I hope he's okay."
Thomas Lawson had appeared beside Roland, and he welcomed the company. He was feeling good about today. Given a couple hours with his new documents Roland would be able to plan a series of effective incursions on Sky's Edge soil.

It was also hard to deny the similarities between the two. Despite their limited interaction, Roland's dossier on Thomas showed his penchant for thoughtfulness in regards to aggressive behaviour. A positive influence on his brother, he had hoped.

At least he had hoped so before Thomas told him his brother was missing.

"Langara?" He hissed, holding back a great amount of fury and shock.

Roland leaned up against a tree, pulling out his leatherbound journal to find his collection of tasks assigned to local members. Despite the seemingly messy and unorganised approach Roland had to his documentation, it didn't take long at all.

He skimmed down the page, finding Joseph's name. "He should be on perimeter defense. I had him down for perimeter defense for the next two months!" That anger was making its way to the surface, a disappointed anger that Roland took full responsibility for even if he was looking to blame the young child. He flicked through more pages, seeing who was scouting the spaceports and who might have seen him leave. "Well why'd they bloody let him..?" Roland calmed himself, fidgeting with the puzzle cube in his hands. He would have to have a word with a few of the younger members later.

"Thomas," he said, "Are you sure he went to Langara? Why would he do that? I've told him…" visions of Raul, Roland's own son came to surface, "I need a moment to think about this. But if he really went to Langara, I don't know what I could tell you."

Roland had already started theorising hypothetical means of escape. He had so many projects on the go, perhaps it was time to finish one and put it to use? He could use the Skull Probe, even if those guys made Roland feel all sorts of uneasiness. And then there was the matter of Thomas. Just a kid, like Joseph (although wiser for his years), but being with the Children ironically meant they could not be treated like a child. The ethics of child soldiers were debatable, but this was their choice. Their freedom to act. If only Joseph had used the freedom to think.
Thomas observes Mr. Cossack's face go through emotions, like a slideshow presentation. "I think he was itching for some conflict, sir. I had heard a lot of complaints from him about... us, like 'hiding like a bunch of cowards, not ready to fight.' I think he ran off to prove a point." Thomas grimaces at the thought of the joy his brother found in destruction and disobedience. "What should we do, sir?" He looks at the bound book that Roland was using, and then removes his own, a simple spiral notebook. It’s filled with notes on his brother’s behavior, things like statements of Joseph’s, like ‘Just burn those monsters for what they did to us all,’ ‘Send me out to fight already. Let’s fight! No more hiding!’ And most outstanding, ‘I will go soon. Stay safe, brother, and cooperate with whatever they tell you. It’s my job to break the rules.’ Thomas flips through the notebook before showing Mr. Cossack the page with Joseph’s ramblings, and says, “I’ve been recording these for a while now.” He points to the last one, the ‘I will go soon’ one, and says, “He’s been going on like this since we’ve got here, rebellion this, rebellion that. I think he was expecting... well... more?”
Roland took the notebook from Thomas, looking at the note he pointed out before flipping through the other pages. He appreciated that he had picked up handwriting as a skill, as it served a legitimate purpose in being undetectable by the network of information in the Empire. He spoke in a low voice.

“You really should have come to me earlier about this, Thomas. If he’s gone to Langara they will not hesitate to kill him. Even worse, if the system picks up on his thoughts they will send him to re-education.” Roland maintained eye contact with Thomas, leaning down to his height. He spoke quietly, and his voice started to shake ever so lightly. His bloodshot eyes welled up and held back tears of terror. “Do you know what happens in re-education, Tom? They strip the soul away. They wring dry any individuality, any freedom, any semblance of the person you were so that they can turn you into a weapon against the people you loved.” Roland took a moment, and continued, “And they get his memories. You won’t be able to use your name in public any more. And places you used to spend time with Joseph, you cannot go to. If you told him anything, anything about our whereabouts then we have to move base. If you told him anyone's name, then they will have to change it. Do you understand how critical this is, Thomas? I will not allow the impulsive behaviour of your brother to undo years of hard work and endanger the lives of all of us.”

Roland took a breath. He would give time for Thomas to speak, if Roland didn’t intimidate him too much.
Thomas observes and listens to Roland, and then says, “From what I can tell, Joseph didn’t pick up on anything, really. He’s sort of... well, in his own world. He only knows my name and a couple of people from the security detail he’s on, at least that I know of. I don’t even think he knows your name.” Thomas clearly does not understand the full situation, but understands most of what Mr. Cossack is saying. “Sir. Me and my brother have only been here about a month. And that slightly psychotic brother of mine, while they may rip things out of his head, he will do his level best to resist. This is out of our hands now. We just need to trust. Hope.” Thomas’ eyes flicker a couple of times, but that’s the most he reveals about his inner thoughts. He had heard a bit about Roland’s past from the people he worked with. The adults usually didn’t expect a kid to listen in on their conversations. So he thought he could see why Cossack was having a minor panic attack. “And while he may be psychotic occasionally, he’s not stupid enough to get himself killed.” As an after-statement, Tom mutters, “I hope.”

Thomas draws a karambit knife from a sheathe on his belt, and begins to spin it around and around on a finger by the ring on the handle. “And I also seriously doubt he knows where we are besides planet-wise, he doesn’t pay much attention to that. The one thing they’ll be able to get out of him, if they catch him at all, is mostly information on me. And I don’t exist.”
"Alright." Roland said, shutting journal and sliding it back into his coat. He took a breath. "I've got a plan. I need you to lay low. Don't go anywhere where there's a screen that isn't ours. Let any of our people know who might be compromised because of this, they know what they'll need to do." Roland stood up, and looked toward the skies from which his latest informant's ship was visible. "Maybe Joseph was right, in some regard. It's time we started heating things up a bit."

And with that, Roland headed deeper into the jungle confident that Thomas would have things handled from his end.
"Yessir." Thomas says. He walks off, still flipping his knife, and ponders Cossacks words.
Roland is a man who does not like to run. Given the option, he will walk quickly instead.

Roland was jogging through the labyrinth of underground tunnels. This attracted the attention of many idling renegades taking their breaks in the base.

“We about to go on the offensive?” A young man shouted as Roland brushed past.

“Not yet!” Roland said, losing a sheet of paper from inside his coat.

The man picked up the sheet and showed it to his friend, snickering. It was the lunch menu Roland had planned for the next three months in lieu of greater food capacity. He swung a corner, losing last week’s defense roster and Roland’s personal exercise routine (overly detailed but simple in practise). He’d pick them up later.

He reached his office space, a dark grey room with a wide table space covered in junk. Flasks of unlabeled substances, and their respective labels littering the desk due to a weak adhesive. Writing tools, large blueprint sheets with excessive notes and while several empty coffee mugs were present not a single spill. Roland’s personal terminal was on the left side, currently switched off.

In the right corner of the room was what he was after. A grotesque fusion of technology and human remains. A skull patched with metal plating, silver tubes sprawling from its neck. Antenna spikes coming from its temples, with gears at the base of the skull. Its right eye socket was fitted with a large camera lens, currently showing no signs of life. All Roland had to do was turn it on.

Despite his rush, despite the time Roland could not spare he hesitated. They were outsiders, after all. Could even be considered xenos. Facing away from the exit to the corridor, Roland knelt down to examine the probe. There were too many variables to think about, he didn’t know where to start. If only there was a particular friend of Roland’s nearby he could seek counsel with, one he had not seen for a long while...
Thomas walks through the halls of the... He wasn't sure what to call it. A base of operations sounded the best though, so he decides to stick with that. He sort of leans against one of the walls, and sheathes his karambit knife, instead taking out his butterfly knife, which he spins a few times, ignoring all else. The loud conversations around him? Didn't matter. The group of people cleaning their guns in anticipation of combat he wasn't sure would come? Mattered, but not much to him. He didn't like guns. That's how he had lost his parents, at least from what Joseph had told him. Joseph didn't like talking about their past. He claimed not to remember, but Thomas knew he was lying. He just didn't want to remember.

An unwanted memory surfaces. He was little then, on some forgotten planet. He could hear the screams of a riot, angry and afraid. He thinks they were in a sort of building? His mother hugged him, then told Joseph something about being ready to run. Joseph nods and picks up Thomas, and his mother hugs them both.
He stops himself before the memory can go on.

Thomas stops focusing for a second at the thought of Joseph and his family, and the blade of the steel-gray butterfly knife bites into his hand. He intakes a sharp breath and drops the knife, making it clatter on the floor. Thomas wipes the blood from his finger onto his dark jeans, and bends over to pick up the knife and sheathe it. "Dammit." he says, frustrated by the sure annoyance the cut would cause to him in the near future. He straightens up and looks around, analyzing every face, looking for a familiar one he could ask for a bandage.
Days if not weeks had been spent in what Rei Harkov politely referred to as the "the damnable jungle" just trying to survive long enough to find another mode of transportation besides her own two feet, had left Rei in anything other than a good mood. The only thing that had propelled her forwards and convinced her to put one foot in front of the other, was the motivation to get off world and find out what had happened to her ship.

The Ghost Dance was a precious thing to her, and while just a ship had been both home and refuge for as long as she could remember. With it's alpha level artifical intelligence and hyper diamond hull cladding combined with it's fierce point defense weaponry, there had been little that stood in her way of getting what she had wanted. But a brief entanglement out in the Aschen Rim had left her questioning everything.

The time spent underground in the Cenote had only left her with time for more questions, and it wasn't likely she was going to get any satisfactory answers.

Easing back on the shuttle's yoke, Rei looked towards a small jungle clearing not far from what looked like the remains of an old mining camp.

Precious minerals and other valuable resources had long since been stripped from this section of the jungle. All that was left were the old workings left from the Aschen's efforts to extract everything they could from an often inhospitable and unforgiving jungle. Locals had been eager for a job that wasn't involved with the planet's on going war, but as soon as the ore veins had played out, the company left. Anything that had been left behind was abandoned in place down in the mine or destroyed to prevent anyone ever using it again.

Flying her shuttle low, skimming across the canopy of the jungle, Rei looked for anything that would prevent her from safely landing. In her mind, abandonded was good and meant that she wouldn't have to be dealing with anything or anyone. She just had to keep an eye out for any wild life that might decide to make a meal out of her.

Easing the ship down, Rei breathed a slight sigh of relief, glad for once to be back on what passed for solid ground these days. "Well it can't possibly get worse can it?" She muttered to herself as she hopped out of the shuttle ignorant of what potentially awaited her on the ground.

Sky's Edge had earned its reputation as a no go or even no fly zone, except for those willing to risk themselves and their livelihoods to earn a few credits. It had long since stopped becoming news outside of the colonial territories that some poor soul and their ship or shuttle had disappeared in or around Sky's Edge and it's few cities. One such city, Nueva Valpariso, was especially prone to seeing many a man disappear as he came to seek adventure, or his fortunes in the wars.

The small landing strip that Rei had picked was no where near Nueva Valpariso and its problems, instead it like the Cenote was as far out in the jungle and away from any known routes as possible. This was both a blessing and a curse, as there was little to find a person or for a person to be found if they disappeared under the right circumstances.

"Lookie here guys, we got ourselves a new shuttle." A man spoke as he stepped out of the thick canopy and pointed a older model beam rifle at Rei, who raised her arms carefully and slowly before turning around. "Didn't anyone teach you not to come on other people's property girlie?" He asked as he motioned to two others to check her for any hidden weapons and then detain her. "I'm just looking for Roland.. you know Cossack? Someone said if I found the old Iodralt mine, I'd find him. I'm an old friend of his!" Rei quickly explained not wanting to go through the whole mess of being captured yet again. The first man squinted at her and then the shuttle before motioning the two that had held her to bring her with. "Aren't we all." One of the men chuckled as they dragged her through the jungle and down through the tunnels to Roland.

"Oi.. Misser Cossacks. Broad says she knows you." He commented before roughly shoving Rei into the room.

"You need to hire new help Roland," Rei admonished, glaring at the three that had intercepted her at the shuttle. "Now c'mon tell them I know you so I can.. we can get this over with." She insisted. It was hard to believe that the woman standing in front of him was Rei Harkov, she was dirty and unkempt. Her pale skin was scraped and burned from time in the jungle, and underneath that was a lurid set of bruises from her time in the Cenote among other misadventures.
The guard's words caught Roland off guard, spooking him as Roland immediately stood up and spun around. At first a face he didn't recognise, Roland's first thought was to grab the closest thing in the room he could use as a weapon. As soon as she spoke, however, he was relieved. Despite the urgency of what he was doing, he was glad to be able to delay it.

"Rei..?" He broke out into a smile. "You're alright." Perhaps an over-exaggeration. He at first went in for a hug, before stopping himself to pull a small scanning device from his coat. He pointed its antenna at Rei, holding down a button until it gave two short beeps. He shoved it back into its coat, and gestured to the three guards. "Meet Rei Harkov. You'd do well to show her some respect. You wouldn't be here without her. Back to work, then. You've still got..." He checked the analogue timepiece on his wrist. "Twenty seven minutes until your watch ends. Quickly, now." They glumly apologised and made their way out of the room and out of sight, whining about how they were excited to shoot someone. "We take what we can get." Roland said to Rei. "You know how it is."

Now alone, Roland took a moment to take in Rei's new dishevelled look, trying to ignore the skull probe in the corner of the room.

"I had assumed you were dead by now." He said, moving toward a bench that had been used to lay out maps (although its cushioned surface would suggest it was a medical bed), with chairs on either side. From his side of the makeshift desk he pulled some medical equipment out of a drawer. Ointment, cream and a roll of bandages. "Apply this one to your burns, it will stop it stinging rather quickly and promote skin reparation. This cream is an antibiotic. Apply a healthy amount to your scrapes and dress however you like." He presented the items on the desk for Harkov to take. "Unless you want me to do it for you." Roland said with the slightest acidic inflection, accompanied by a smirk. He had hoped Rei hadn't changed too much in her absence and could still detect such things.

"I have questions, Harkov." Roland said in a lowered tone, and left it at that. His inferred meaning was obvious. He did not know where Rei had gone, what had happened to her, or why she had chosen now to return. Meanwhile the skull probe watched them from its corner, silent and inactive.
Thomas looks up for a second at a group of three men, walking down the sort-of hallway, and talking amongst themselves about a newcomer. He looks at them in interest before going back to messing with his knives, sitting down and taking out his DarkLine bootknife, coated in a black metal for takedowns in the dark. The dark tint of the blade didn't allow your target to see the flash of the blade with light. He had yet to use it, but still... Better safe then sorry.
"The rumors of my death have more than likely been greatly exaggerated." Rei grumbled, her mood still slightly sour after having been frog marched through the tunnels of the mine by three goons who had been more interested scoring points with Roland than anyone else. "Probably by some poor sodding bastard looking for a promotion." She added. Rei tried her best to keep a low profile, but in the last year things had gotten progressively more difficult. It seemed like she had a target on her back and from what she had yet to figure out exactly.

"Nice to see you too." She commented as the medical supplies where thrust into her grasp. Shrugging off her filthy jacket, she took a quick survey of the various cuts, scrapes, and burns she'd suffered. It seemed like any bit of skin exposed to the harsh sun of Sky's Edge had burned in one way or another. Rei was more used to the dark of space, than the bright, hot sun of the jungle planet.

"The local girls not doing it enough for you Cossack?" She shot back with equal acidity. After the last time she had let him patch her up, Rei wasn't exactly interested in a repeat of his version of field surgery. Mumbling a few swear words and wincing as she cleaned out one of the deeper cuts, she was for the most part ignoring Roland. Her mind had a several thoughts about her previous would be captors, and none of them were good.

"About?" Rei finally said squinting at the contents of the tube of ointment Roland had handed her with suspicion. "If it's about the skull... it's probably thirteenth or fourteenth era of occupation. Some people used them for nav and coms, wired them all fancy like to a child or someone with enough aptitude anyway." She explained waving and gesturing with the tube at the skull with it's accessories sitting not far off. "Sometimes there's still a spark left in them, hard to tell though." Rei added before gingerly spreading ointment on her tender skin.

Meanwhile out in the hallway, the three men stood not far off from Thomas talking. "He says he knows the broad! Ain't that the funniest thing you've heard all week?" One said with a laugh. "Yeah! Mr. Cossacks seemed awful surprised to see her." Another said rubbing his chin with a dirty and calloused hand, as if he were deep in thought. "Betcha he's havin' a little fun wit her right now.. I sure would." The third cackled, completely unaware of the relationship between Roland Cossacks and Rei Harkov.
Roland watched as Rei casually examined the skull probe, rattling off details about its history barely batting an eye toward Roland. Was this it, then? Back to work like usual?

“Rei…” Roland said under his breath during Rei’s elaboration, almost unaware he had even said it. She continued to apply the ointment he had just given her, and something in Roland’s mind ticked over.

“Christ, look at yourself.” He said. He didn’t raise his voice. “Where have you been, Rei? You disappeared. And now you’re just back, all roughed up like you’ve spent an evening with the Emperor. I had over fifty contingencies for if you’d come back as a confessor, you know. Do you want to read them? They’re very detailed.” Roland wanted to stop talking, but at this point the machine in his brain steamrolled all over other intentions. “And I’m fine, by the way, thanks for asking. I’ve only been spending every minute of my life trying to organise an insurrection out of morons and children.” He didn’t really mean that, of course. “We lost a wheat shipment two weeks ago. Still don’t know where it is. No one knows a goddamn thing, and no one seems to understand that if we don’t completely re-organise how we ration out food we will literally starve to death.”

Roland took in a deep breath of air, calming the speed of his speech.

“Ah... Rei, I’m sorry. It’s been a journey. I know what the skull is for, by the way. Outsiders calling themselves the Imperium of Man made contact not too long ago. I’m meant to contact them through that horrid thing, but… Army sorts, you know. Just another conglomeration of heartless bastards to have their way with us. But then this kid, Joseph, has gone and headed to Langara in some impulsive one man rebellion. God knows what they’ll do to him, and how this’ll affect all of us.” Roland pushed his hands into his stubble, somewhat muffling his voice and bringing out his bloodshot eyes. “His brother’s here. Came to me earlier. I said I had a plan but we just don’t have the resources to do anything without risking everything. I don’t know what to do.”

Roland grabbed a mug holding down one of the maps and went to take a drink out of it, miserable upon the realisation he hadn’t actually poured himself anything.

“I need a drink.”
Thomas had his mind set on a completely different problem. How to deal with the traitors, the ones who help the enemy. He had a book, wasn't sure where it came from, on a group called the NKVD. Apparently there were warring factions in a country a long, long time ago. The NKVD dealt with the traitors in their own populace by rooting them out and making an example out of them. Oftentimes just shooting them. A cruel system, but effective. He'd have to present this to Cossack if the problem ever occured. He jots down a note or two in a spiral notebook about potential deserters and traitors.it's very hard to differentiate from just plain stupidity and actual traitorous intent, but he was good at it. Just nobody took him seriously.

He looks at his boot knife. He hopes that changes soon.
Sky’s Edge - High Orbit

High above the planet, where the typical comings and going of the Aschen Military, and Colonial Authority would see a pretty strange, and unusual deviation from the norm, as a brief distortion winked in high above the skies. The Imperious class Command Carrier, the Keeper of Abassid winked into existence from seemingly nowhere. The outline of the massive Command Carrier could easily be made out from the surface, and it was accompanied by hundreds of Aschen warships, all winking in one, by one. Local space traffic would be significantly disrupted. The orders had gone out, as the civilian transports were frozen by the incoming Aschen warships.

It was only a matter of time before their arrival made local news, and certainly among the local insurrectionists, the Aschen fleet in orbit made no efforts to communicate with the local planetary authorities, but the strangeness of it all was magnified only by their formation.

They were in formation to begin blockading the planet, but the Aschen Authorities seemed to give no indication as to what was going on, or why. Official sources cited a military exercise, a planned exercise to increase readiness against a possible Asylian incursion. Perhaps this fleet was positioned here to defend the planet against invasion? It certainly looked like the Ships were organized in a defensive picket around the planet.

Admiral Clegg would stand quietly at the console as his Executive officer announced the FTL jump was completed, the fleet was taking position all around the planet.

Hundreds of Iconoclast Battleships, Hera class Fleet Tenders, Athena class missile carriers, and Hastati class cruisers all took positions all around the orbital stations of Sky’s Edge, appearing as additional flickering lights in the night sky.
"Yes?" She answered Roland with a questioning glance. Rei could be prone to being absent minded or at the very least one track minded when it came to certain things. But she hadn't even begun to think about how she looked just showing up like she had. "Oh, that." She commented absently as she continued to clean and bandage the burns and lesions. Some had already begun the slow process of knitting skin and tissue together, only adding the woman's strange and lurid appearance.

"Cenote." She explained answering Roland's question as to where she had been. "El Frente Rojo wasn't the Emperor last I checked." Roland was always the worrier, and prone to panic if the least little thing in one of his plans went wrong. "Asking? For fuck's sake Roland... you're the one who didn't even bother to ask and just dumped a shit on me!" She added motioning again, this time with a roll of bandages. "I'd be lucky if they even decided I was confessor material." She grumbled testily as she finished tending to the wounds. Rei would still need the opportunity to shower and clean up, but apparently that was a long way off given Roland's current mental status.

"My ship was damaged badly out on the Rim and I was briefly captured by some psychotic IIA... LDA.. whatever bitch. I'm lucky she let me go. I limped as far as I could before having to put my own contingency plans in place." Rei explained, referring to the emergency methods for putting an individual into an indefinite cryo statsis. "After that I woke up around one of El Frente Rojo's scrap yards, they took the ship. They. Took. My. Ship." She had given as good as she had gotten, and more than likely had at least put one of the assailants down for good. "They put me in a god damn cenote, Roland! I was lucky to even escape!" She deflected with hostility.

Rei was doing good to remember anything given how much El Frente Rojo had rattled her brain around, between the drugs and the abuse. But it also seemed that there was also something deeper, something was beginning to try to worm its way to the surface if only evidenced by her struggle with the correct terminology. "Go ahead, rattle off your bloody contingency plans. Guilt me into admitting abandonment, Roland. You know you want to." She snapped as she finally finished patching herself up. Rei considered herself lucky, nothing seemed to require stitches or even worse so far as she could tell. She then sighed as he apologized, this was a mess bigger than either one of them had ever anticipated.

"But for fucks sake Roland... why.. never mind how... Kids shouldn't be involved with this."

Leaning back against one of the tables in the room, she watched him rummage about, trying to seek comfort from the one thing they didn't have, alcohol. More than likely the other supplies he was so worried about had been embargoed or stolen by another guerilla group. Sky's Edge was at constant war with itself, it was amazing that anything new managed to get more than just a few days toe hold.

"We'll have to cut our losses with this Joseph kid, it's too risky to try to do anything else." As much as she hated it, they had little other options. As much as she hated it, if the kid wanted to take on an adult's role, then they would treat him like an adult. That meant denying any existence or connection to him if necessary, it was for the better good of the rest of the group.

"And what do you even plan to do with this Imperium? How do we even know that they're on our side?" She was far from enthused about this latest development. There was something about the skull and it's purpose that made her skin crawl, never mind that the things had been used in an earlier era of occupation by some.
Thomas looks up again as a tech member runs down the hall, shoving past the occasional guard or member that got in his way. So Thomas gets up and follows, walking behind the man, who seems terrified.

The tech member bursts through Rolands door, giving only a brief glance to Harkov. He takes a breath. "Aschen blockade, seen on the scanners. Looks like they don't want to let anyone out." He pauses for a second. "Sir. I think they're going to glass the planet."
Roland was appreciative that Rei decided to share with him the tribulations she had faced, although other than his resigned silence and a couple nods she would not receive much thanks. He would note everything down at his earliest convenience. The loss of her ship was particularly distressing, and its reacquiring would have to be looked into. Her acknowledgment of the use of children resonated with Roland’s core, too. Roland was beginning to realise what was important once more, and that there was no time to lose on insignificant bickering. He turned away from Rei, eyes facing the wall in front of him. He composed himself more properly, and the human calculator was back (perhaps colder than Rei had remembered).

“You are right that we should cut ties. I’ll start the procedure.” Roland pulled a seperate, pager device and began typing digits to begin the purge of data. “The children were necessary, though. They are advantageous in the utility they provide to the cause. If you want to talk ethics, talk to those who have lost their families to civil war. To those whose parents were taken away for suspicion of treason. There is a fire in their hearts and without a guiding force they will surely destroy themselves… Much like young Joseph. Their childhood has already been taken from them.” He said.

“I’ve lost my touch, somewhat, I suppose. The Imperium is a tool to us. Not the other way around. I do have procedures should anything go wrong. The Phoenix Machine, something I’ve been working on based on a device we use to rejuvenate new plants from a single cell. The De-Re-Educator is still a work in progress, and I’ve thought about… Other… Applications.”

He turned around to face her. He would have appeared stoic, if it weren’t for the deep bags under his eyes or the redness that glazed over them.

“We need power. They have it. The Asylians have done an excellent job at keeping them busy, but more is required. We retake Sky’s Edge in the chaos. Take command. The presence of another outsider army will surely unite us. Yellowstone is on the horizon, Rei. I know it.” He took a pause.

“That does remind me, though. I’ve also been meaning to contact a person of interest who is said to have a certain affinity with very powerful creatures. Could you contact them for me?” He produced his journal once more, and from one of its binded pockets came a makeshift comms device designed by some more tech savvy rebels (with much room for improvement). It had two chunky buttons, one for turning it on and one for turning it off. In place of a screen it had a speaker. He also gave a single page handwritten dossier on the individual, labeled ‘Kassandra’. It also detailed some of the wildlife on Xamoyos Roland had an interest in with loose references to a mythical beast known as ‘Dath’. “Interplanetary one way comms unit. They jipped the heatsink or something, so uh... It gets hot.”

At this point the techie came barging in awfully impolitely. Roland acknowledged him with a nod, and turned to Rei. The techie looked terrified. “I need to use the skull, Rei. Can you get in touch with the Xamayos woman? Use the name Bennie Dwight. Don’t worry about the blockade, this is a kind of technology that won’t show up on a scanner.”
The Rocketeer was in his work room, assembling a flamethrower asked to be constructed by him on request of a younger member. He didn't know why one of the kids needed it, but whatever. He just made weapons.

He was pretty new to the rebellion, but he was willing to help. He did repairs on weaponry and designed and put things together for his comrades, and was also partially involved in some larger projects, such as helping Mr. Cossack. He wasn't sure what the things he was helping build were yet, but he didn't need to know. He had designed the interplanetary comm, and was working on the overheating problem, but it would take some time, and they didn't really have that. Not a lot, at least.

He screws the barrel of the flamethrower onto the pump and trigger, and sets it aside to be tested later.

The Rocketeer wasn't used to building things other than propulsive tech, but he was good at other things too. He could put together basic weapons, such as the flamethrower he just assembled, and beam rifles, as well as slugthrower weapons, like assault rifles. A lot of the men and women out there were able to fix their own weapons, but the younger ones weren't as usually experienced. So that was what he did part time. Fix weapons.

He flips up his mask and moves on to the next weapon.
“Then someone should have protected them.” Rei stated hotly. She was in no mood to hear Roland’s sad excuses when it came to why he had allowed children to become involved in what amounted to little other than guerrilla warfare against the Aschen currently. Sure, they were causing trouble, making things a little inconvenient; but there was little else they felt that they could do. Often enough their pleas fell on deaf ears in the government, and their worlds were continually stripped for the usefulness of the Aschen and their effort to conquer the entire galaxy.

The Children of Ash had done everything in their power to move quietly and covertly, but there were still those with power who would see them dead or otherwise forgotten by the masses in the colonial sphere.

“I don’t know anything about the Asylians, but it seems they have the Aschen running scared.” That alone was pause for concern for Rei, and she wondered just what that fleet was doing stationed around the planet. In previous times, they weren’t given so much as a nod of acknowledgement, but all of a sudden they seemed to have the albeit divided, attention of the Aschen empire. At least that was the impression that yet another one of Roland’s ill trained goons gave her, and she wondered how much of this was an intimidation tactic and how much was action.

“…they did what?” She then asked Roland as she caught the device he had tossed her. “That’s… never mind. As long as it works.” Rei muttered reading over the dossier before anything else. “But.. I think I can contact this Kassandra.”
Roland ignored Rei's pushback on the topic of children. She hadn't been here for a while, and Roland did not have the time nor the temperament to debate his ethics with her. Thomas could speak for himself with much greater effect, anyway, should Rei continue to have doubts in the future.

"It's a plan, then." He said. "I'll catch up with you soon. I have to determine if there's any link between your arrival and the fleet's, as well as how to reacquire your ship. Good luck, Rei."

Leaving Rei to exit the room, Roland headed back to tinker with the skull probe. He reached into the empty eye socket, contorting his hand into an incredibly uncomfortable position to reattach a tube leading to the ceiling of its 'brain'. The other eye's robotic lense glowed a deep red, as its systems started to whir into action. What was previously a great sense of unease was overwhelmed by the thought of the Aschen fleet above his head. Roland would wait for the probe to become fully operational, and then speak.

"Hello?" He said to the probe. "It's the Children. We're ready to talk about moving things forward."
Rei had made her way down to a disused and subsequently forgotten workroom in a drift off the main tunnel of the old mine, long since left to molder by the previous occupants. Left to her own devices by Roland, who clearly seemed to have better things to do that fuss over someone, who in his opinion would likely be gone with the next shuttle out. Equipment lay scattered throughout the workings that the group had so firmly entrenched themselves into, and it wasn't any wonder that the Children of Ash had taken to such a location. It was defensible and located close to strategic locations from which to launch smaller campaigns. They were at least within a week of taking Novo Acamepamento, a middling city not terribly far from Neuva Valparaiso and it's equitoral elevator. But the safety of their holdings deep with in the planet's jungles would have to hold out.

In the meantime, she had promised Roland she would try to get a signal off planet by way of the hunk of junk he had handed her. If she was to believe him, it was some sort of subspace ansible technology that would evade even the Aschen's own scanners. He had gone on and on about how it worked, that they had bypassed a heatsink that prevented the small device from cooking itself or the hand of poor unfortunate soul that held on to it.

Switching the item on, the first thing Rei noticed was a whirring, followed by a series of sparks. Catching her breath and feeling her stomach plumet, she hoped that it wasn't broken. If it were, it would fall right in line with the series of unfortunate events she'd been having lately. Risking burning her fingers, Rei picked up the device again, feeling it thrum between her fingers. "Hello? It's Bennie Dwight." She ventured groaning inwardly at Roland's choice of names. Where did he even come up with a name like Bennie Dwight? "The children need you... they... they set up a blockade with an entire fleet over Sky's Edge."

Need wasn't exactly the best way to put it, but that's all her scrambled brain could come up with. Need was the strongest way she could put it and have everything still make sense. The fleet sighting worried her and made Rei wonder if this was all for nothing. Sighing in frustration she tossed the device aside and closed her eyes drifting off while awaiting a response, unsure if Roland had said it was one or two way.
Thomas, having overheard the techie freaking out over the blockade, surprisingly felt nothing at all. Well, not exactly nothing. He felt a need to prepare. For what, he didn't know. But he knew something was coming.

He makes his way down the hall, not saying anything to his brothers and sisters in arms so as to not incite panic. Roland would handle that.

He puts his brother out of his mind as he reaches the barracks, going straight to his cot and drags out his duffel, and taking out a disassembled crossbow, he quickly screws the bow onto the riser, and attaches the sight to the sight bridge.

He doesn't think this is enough, so he goes over to Joseph's cot and snatches up his bag, taking out a couple of smoke grenades and an incendiary.

"I hope you're okay, brother." he mutters to himself, dropping his brothers bag and taking a quiver out of his own, as well as a couple of arrows. He would have to go to the shop in the mines and purchase some more.

He goes back over to his cot and sits down, doing a thorough check of his equipment, humming a song he heard long ago and had forgotten the words to.
Roland waited in silence, secretly hoping the skull probe would not respond.

“Hello? This is the Children.” He said, giving the grotesque machine a little shake. A bright blue light sparked from its inner workings, giving Roland a static shock as the glowing red eye faded out.

“What?” Roland said. He shook it a couple more times before pushing it onto the floor in irritation. He’d have to get an engineer to repair it. Possibly that new rocketeer fellow, although he seems more interested in propulsion systems than anything else.

Roland headed out into the corridor, quickly locating Rei in a mostly unused workroom. He could see she was waiting for a response, and gave it a good moment before the communicator got way too hot to keep holding on to. “It’s alright.” He said, using his coat like an oven mitt to take it from her and place it into one of his many unreasonably deep pockets.

“Just as well the skull-machine is unresponsive too. That was my plan B all the way to Z…” Roland twirled a pen in between his fingers, looking intently through the doorway leading to a corridor. Just as one of the Childrens’ many thugs rushed past, Roland called out.

“You!” and the thug stopped in his tracks, attentive to Roland’s words. “Sorry. Daniel, I mean. Collect Thomas Lawson. Bring him here. Afterwards get our resident rocketeer to repair the skull probe in my office.” Daniel gave a nod.. “Then prepare a ship to take us off world. Enhanced procedures, more discretion than usual. Use a connection we haven’t used in a good while. Understood?”

“Uh, sure thing... Are we boned?” He said.

“Not if we stick to procedure. Get to it, now.”

Daniel left down the corridor. Roland turned back to Rei.

“We need your ship. Great Magellan war era, yes? The technology we could develop from its design would give us a much needed edge. I can track it, within reason, and also get a ship prepared to smuggle us outside of the blockade. Getting back in would be a problem, though I believe the Ghost Dance meets the technical specifications for such a task.”

“So Rei, what do you think? I’ll require every piece of information regarding its present location, to your knowledge.”

~~~

Daniel headed down the corridor, poking his head into the occasional barracks room or meeting area until he spotted Thomas looking through his things at his bunk. The kid had earnt himself a reputation as being one of the more quiet souls as part of the Children, and it was irksome to see him rummaging around weapons and grenades.

“Uh, Tom?” Said Daniel. “The boss wants you. Sounded important.”

If Thomas would follow, Daniel would lead him back to Roland before moving on to tasking the Rocketeer with repairing the skull probe.
Thomas looks up as he hears the voice of Daniel, and quickly nods, deciding to leave his crossbow behind as he gets up. He walks with Daniel, heading back to Roland.

Later, At an out-of-the-way workroom

The Rocketeer looks up at the door as someone knocks, rather loudly, he thinks, to come in. He walks over and opens the door, partially at first, then wider as he recognizes the face behind it. "Daniel! Are you here to pick up your beam rifle?" Daniel shrugs and says, "No, not exactly. The boss says he needs you to fix this." Daniel then holds up the skull probe.
The Rocketeer flips up his mask and walks up to it, taking it from Daniel, and then looking at it from all directions. "This Rolands?" he asks. Daniel says, "Yeah." The Rocketeer mutters to himself, "Seems fried, should probably replace a couple wires and the antenna. Main wiring seems to have frayed a bit. Probably should replace the lens as well, just to be sure about it."
He then sets it down on his workbench, hands Daniel his modified beam rifle, stating, "Thanks for this. The rifle should have a faster cooldown and more energy efficiency now. See you around, Dan."

As Daniel closes the door behind him, The Rocketeer sits down and gets to work.
Rei had spent the last however long drifting in and out of sleep waiting for a response. She had half suspected that all she would get was the static of communication across interstellar space, but she held out a small glimmer of hope that something might crackle across where she sat waiting.

Roland plucking the communicator out of her hands though did catch her by surprise, at which point she moved quickly and grabbed the offending party by wrist on their empty hand, twisting hard. "Roland?!" Rei exclaimed quickly releasing him from her vice like grip. "The fuck is wrong with you?! Don't sneak up on people like that! Especially not me!" She admonished the other, but it seemed he was too busy blabbering about the skull.

"Of course it's unresponsive.. it's a fucking dark age relic. They somehow pick and choose who they'll work with. Fuck if I know how... and what the fuck do you want with my ship?" She asked looking at him suspiciously. When she had gotten there, it had all been 'oh sorry about your ship.. but now that you're here..' nonsense. As always, Roland had been preoccupied by something that had piqued his interest, and never what Rei considered the issue at hand.

"So what if it is? There's probably more relics from that occupation out there, not just my ship." Rei was suspicious, and hoped that this wasn't some last ditch, suicidal effort. As much as she disliked the Aschen, she also tended to like not getting shot. "I told you, it was damaged out on the rim. I limped back here, and woke up in a Cenote. I don't know who has my ship or where it is."

To her it sounded like he wanted to gut it, use the technology aboard to do something she wouldn't like. "Even if we find it, what's to say it hasn't been scrapped already? Also running a blockade is... well... it's not easy."

Getting through the Aschen line would be hard, and undoubtedly they'd be on the lookout for the ship. Especially once someone spotting the hull numbers or radio signature. There would be so much that they would have to do to make everything seem legal and above board.
Broadcasting room, Orion base, Sky's Edge.
(View Q&A with an anonymous Aschen fleet member -COTA Broadcast #002 for context.)

Jack Scott had just finished his "on the 'waves" discussion with a low ranking member of the Aschen fleet above him, when he heard arguing voices through the thin walls in the room next to him. Sounded like an upset woman, at least to him. He was used to listening to radio static all day, god knows what it does to his ears. He thumps a fist on the wall once or twice and shouts, "Hey, I'm trying to run a radio show in here!"
He then goes back to his chair and sits down, fiddling with his revolver. He has probably one of the riskiest jobs of the entire rebellion, he's the guy who picks up most of all of the info from the outside worlds. He knows names of most everybody outside of Sky's Edge, and the names of most everyone inside it. If the Aschen took the base, and got as far down as where he was, he'd save five shots for them and the last one for himself. He hopes to God they don't ever find the Children, or any of their bases. Orion base was by far the biggest, and definitely the most at risk to attack. Especially at a time like now. When one member goes missing and you figure out they've probably gotten themselves arrested and interrogated, and then a fucking fleet appears over your head, it only causes a little bit of stress, don't you think? He just hopes that Joseph Lawson doesn't end up killing them all.
So he lights himself a smoke and sets the revolver on the table he has. This room was already meant for radio broadcasting, and when they first inhabited the mines, he immediately claimed it as his workspace. He just needed to mess with the longwave radio equipment a bit, and there he was. All set.
One of his main concerns, however, was that blockade over his head and what the hell they were planning. He hopes to hell they don't glass the place, and he doesn't know if the mines go deep enough to save at least some of them.
"Basically, here's how it goes." He says out loud into his microphone, even though the radio transmitter wasn't on. "If they glass us, we're fucked. If they send down ground troops, we're fucked. If they do literally anything. We. Are. Fucked."
He sighs and shakes his head.
Rei's reluctance to his ideas brought Roland some irritation. He understood she was frustrated, and that since her arrival he had been particularly demanding. It had been his prerogative that any emotional discomforts were secondary to the cause, and had the compartmentalisation skills of a banking firm to make that a reality. He knew it was absurd to expect the same in others, yet it still irritated him.

Roland took a step back, carefully considering his choice of words.

"It might have scrapped, yes… That would be quite the gambit. But things are bad, Rei. We're losing support. It becomes harder and harder to spread the message let alone convince people to heed it. I've exhausted every conceivable lead on this planet. If you told me a year ago that I'd be cavorting with xenos I still wouldn't be able to foresee the current predicament. But the blockade is there for a reason. They know something, and they will make a move as soon as something cracks. I've got nothing else." He lowered his voice. "The mountain just keeps getting taller…"

Thomas entered the room shortly thereafter making himself known to the two.

"Ah, yes. Thomas Lawson, meet Rei Harkov. She was critical to our growth before your time with us." He said, with a cheery tone. "Rei, this here is one of our brightest minds on deck. The Aschen forces lack a certain level of… Creativity. Thomas does not. I can get us through that blockade, but it will require the both of you. Unless either of you have any ideas based upon knowledge I do not have."
Thomas says a "Hello." to Rei Harkov. He's kind of surprised that Roland views him as one of their 'brightest minds' but he goes along with it.
He looks at the transmitter in Rei's hand, and a vague idea clicks in the back of his head.
So he starts talking, probably the most words anybody has ever heard him say.

"Hear me out, real quick. There's a man named Scott a couple of rooms over from here. He runs a sort of radio show. He once bragged he could reach some of the more distant planets, using the occasional ship to pass on his message. Places like Xamayos, Terra, Space Station Z, even Asylian Space. If we broadcast a message calling on people who have felt our suffering, maybe, just maybe, we could get some help from a couple, ah, rogue starships, pirates, factions, maybe even a few superbeings as well. We just have to try. Maybe we can cause the arrival of enough ships, at least around Moleclay, to distract the Aschen fleet long enough to allow us to get out. I'm not suggesting violence, just a blockade surrounding the blockade, just to draw their attention away from us."
He looks down, a bit embarassed, but he hopes that's enough of a plan to start them off.
Aboard the Keeper of Abassid

"Sir!" A young Lieutenant called out as he interrupted Admiral Clegg's deep train of thought, as he kept his eyes focused on the console before him. "Astrometrics intercepted a series of transmissions from the planet." The Lieutenant said as he passed the Admiral several sheets of paper attached to a clipboard.

"Thank you, Lieutenant." The Admiral replied.

"Ad Victoriam!" The Lieutenant called out, bringing his closed fist across his chest. "Ad Victoriam." Clegg replied, turning to the paper, and looking back to the console.

"EVE, can you verify?"

Flickering into view, the soft blue visage of EVE appeared, and she offered the Admiral a reassuring smile. "I'll begin analyzing points of origin, as well as voice patterns to identify the individual in this transmission." The AI Chirped. "As well as monitoring all crew activity from the last twenty four centars, to present." The AI Added, before disappearing.

Briefly, the Admiral brought his thumb to his chin, and began to stroke his beard in thought.

"Colonel, reposition our robotics and aegis cruisers to a wide dispersal pattern, instruct them to begin jamming all communications on the planet's surface, and then assemble a marine strike team for deployment."

The Colonel nodded, and turned to leave his post as the Admiral focused his attention on the readout before him.

He tapped an icon on the display, and began to magnify it.

"EVE, reposition the Night Flight, and the Nox Obscurus to these positions here, and here." The Admiral instructed, moving the icons to two points around the planet. "Have them engage their stealth systems, and have them track, but not pursue anything that tries to leave the system."

"I'll be in my ready room, open a secure channel to Intelligence as soon as I arrive." Clegg added, turning to leave his spot at the console.

---

Dozens of Royarks class robotics cruisers, escorted by Aegis class cruisers began to move away from the main fleet formation, slowly they moved to take up high orbit positions around the planet, with the advanced Electronic warfare suites aboard both the Aegis, and Royarks class ships, jamming signals coming on, and off the planet would likely be a trivial matter.
Sky's Edge - High Orbit

A small ship, miniscule compared to the Aschen ships, arrives just outside of the blockade. It does not seem to be armed, and poses no visible threat, for it would be only one ship against the entire Aschen fleet. The ships name was The Silver Dawn. It made no attempt to contact the much larger ships all around it, and hardly anybody would notice its presence. It made no advancements to get past the blockade. It was just... There. For what reason, it was unknown. The crew need only consist of up to three people, but could carry up to ten more. If anybody were to scan for life on the ship, however, they would see only two beings on board. No more, no less. The ship was silent. Absolutely silent.
The rebel base below knew nothing of its presence. The Aschen fleet likely did, however. It didn't seem to matter to the little ship what they did.

On closer inspection of the ship, it would appear to have no activated shields, no armed weapons. Not even an armored hull. The little ship was clearly not designed for spacial warfare. The only real advantage, it seems, was its size and those heavy thrusters.

Onboard the ship, the two crew members sit anxiously at the controls, one, named Johnathan Roman, at the comms, and the other, Charles Lorain, at the flight mechanism. Neither of them say a word to each other, and Charles slowly moves the small ship so that is at an even distance with the blockade surrounding the planet.

They have one mission.
And I hope it doesn't fail.
The CIC of the Keeper of Abassid was a flurry of activity while the fleet re-positioned itself over the planet. Two cloaked reverence S stealth corvettes moved into position in geosynchronous orbit above the planet, slipping through the cover of blackness, and adjusting their phase shift drives so they would be undetectable to even the most sophisticated of countermeasures.

"Sir! Unknown contact bearing two nine seven carom one two eight, CBDR!" The tactical officer called out, as a red icon flickered into view inside the large three-dimensional holographic display in the center of the Command Carrier's CIC.

Admiral Clegg gritted his teeth, there was no IFF, and it was an unknown design. EVE had already began trajectory analysis while the tactical crew worked to bring the command carrier to bear. Quickly he made his way from his ready room back to CIC, while one of his officers passed him a data slate.

"EVE, coordinate targeting solution for that unknown ship!" Clegg called out. "Reposition the Escutcheon, and move a harbinger onto an intercept course."

"As soon as it's in range, destroy the ship." Clegg ordered.

Moments later, the Keeper of Abassid launched a single Aschen Harbinger class gunship under escort from a squadron of Raptor Talon starfighters. In addition to this, a single Aegis class cruiser, the Escutcheon broke from it's formation on an intercept course for the Silver Dawn. Given the vastness of the enagagement distance, and at current speed, the small group of Aschen strike craft would be within weapons range in about a minute.

Watching the green icons move to intercept the red icon, Admiral Clegg sent out a wide range broadcast.

"Attention unidentified vessel, this is the Keeper of Abassid, Imperial Aschen Navy, you are instructed to disengage your present course, depart this system, and return to a minimum safe distance of one light year." The Admiral ordered. "Failure to comply will result in your immediate destruction, this is your only warning."
The ship gave an almost immediate response.

"This is the, ah, The Silver Dawn, Nobodies Navy, and, uh, we don't want any trouble, but we were just, uh-"

The voice on the comms changes to that of Charles Lorain.

"This is the captain of The Silver Dawn speaking, I determine your request to be unfair. We are here to offer our services to the people of Epsilon Eridani, mainly in trade, and do not wish to present any harm to the Aschen Fleet. We will retreat approximately... Why is our retreat required? As far as I can see, we are on the other side of your blockade. We are not violating any laws, either of the international space travel act- oh, Johnathan here says you don't honor those. But hey, can't we just chill here? We mean no harm. We don't want any trouble. We'll leave."

Unbeknownst to the Aschen, the ship drops a single, metallic object, the size and shape of a plate. It is undetectible by any purposes, and almost invisible to the naked eye.

"In compliance with your demands, we will retreat one light year from this area. We don't want any trouble."