• Nobles of Null is a forum based roleplay site where sci-fi and magic collide. Here, Earth remains fractured and divided despite humanity reaching out to the stars. Worse still, the trans-human slaves of one major power have escaped, only to establish their own Empire, seething with resentment at abuses of the past. Even the discovery of aliens, though medieval in development, has failed to rally these squabbling children of Earth together with its far darker implications. Worse still, is the discovery of the impossible - magic. Practiced by the alien locals, nearly depleted and therefore rare, its reality warping abilities remains abstract and distant to the general populace. All the while, unseen in the darkness of space, forces from without threaten to press in. For those with eyes opened by insight, it is clear that an era is about to end, and that a new age will dawn.

VotO: Chapter 3: The HFR Connection


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December 15, 2320,
Olympus Mons,

With the main conference behind them, Caxia was left with the smaller tasks of building relationships between nations on a one on one basis. The High-Cyborg moving along ahead of the rest of the Soyuz and Magnetic Assembly delegation on their way to the HFR’s private booth on Olympus Mons. Caxia’s message to the HFR was simple, “We request an Audience.”

“Request denied.” A text, not even audio, was sent back. “We do not negotiate with terrorists.” The city complex of Olympus Mons was made of domes connected together by generously spaced channels and tubes. The magnetosphere allowed the architecture to be lavish, thin, reckless. A rupture in the walls nowadays was a far cry from the violent explosive decompressions of old where it was a quick asphyxiated and freezing death for the poor souls caught in the vicinity. Now it amounted to a cold breeze and simply reaching for the closest oxygen mask until the whole thing could be patched by duct tape.

The boldness then, reflected in the sizable minorities of people walking outside the dome in oxygen masks and Earthly winter clothes, a passive aggressive “fuck you” to what was once a barren rock, a testament to human cooperation and ingenuity. If only it could be seen nowadays as Caxia was stopped before she even came close to the HFR embassy in the domes.

Caxia’s chat bot would respond for Caxia, “We do not need to negotiate, only to form connections.”

Though Caxia would start to look for other paths towards their goal. The HFR did operate an embassy here. Perhaps they offered cultural tours like so many others did? It would be a simple matter to check online and reserve a slot if such things were available.

A response didn’t come. Instead, a different message came from an unknown source. It couldn’t even be called a message; it was just a cryptic waypoint data file that pointed to a hotel in the neglected parts of the city complex. It could’ve just been spam, except Caxia’s bots would’ve caught that and filtered it out, but oddly, it came from the same channels that Caxia was trying to use to reach out to the HFR.

Cryptic and ‘out of the ordinary’ certainly didn’t mesh well with Caxia’s software. The filters taking a good few moments before deciding such a message was worthy of the real Caxia’s attention. Though to their human mind, it was more clearly an invitation. The waypoint would be loaded in, and their body would start its journey away from the safety of the Olympus Mons Diplomatic Space.

Caxia preferred to not go in blind, and while on their way the auto-cyber-warfare module would be running on automatic. It would be pinging the local network to find devices, applying known exploits to gain access, and attempting to insert itself into any exposed devices, camera feeds, and systems that it could get access to. While such mid-level attacks wouldn’t work against hardened systems, there were always humans walking around still using weak passwords or running software that was out of date.

Despite humanity’s best efforts, they never could keep a new slate completely clean. The statistical reality always entailed that there were going to be people who fall through the education and healthcare systems, who turn to scum and villainy, even on Mars, whose population largely consists of people, scientists and engineers who’ve ignored the political divisions on Earth and sought to build a second terrestrial home for humans in the Sol system. Thus, it was wise for Caxia to keep an eye on everyone she passed by, staying away from people with criminal records or shady profiles, who saw Caxia as a treasure trove of exotic electronics to be sold on the black market.

Eventually, she came upon the hotel unscathed. Records indicated that it used to be a PRC controlled establishment run by a PRC controlled Australian company. Now that the PRC was no more, Australia’s companies were unbound, free to operate as they saw fit. But it turns out the PRC was the one thing keeping this hotel at a high profile. Now it’s relegated as a dumping ground for the Martian homeless and for people to trade sex and drugs in.

However, the reality on the ground told her things were about to change, as Caxia spotted two Asian men in suits converging on her through her breaches into this area’s surveillance from the crevasses between the buildings.

While Caxia’s primary optic watched the structure itself, secondary optics on their turret’d head would move to observe the approaching men. It was enough to let the know that Caxia knew they were there. Much like the extraordinarily expensive coatings of Caxia’s body, Caxia would remain non-reactive. Having a body that was mostly machine had a certain way of bringing overconfidence.

Eventually, Caxia’s exterior speakers would engage, “I would assume we have business to discuss?”

“Come with us.” One of the suits replied in English in a Chinese accent. It was confirmation enough. Caxia could see that both of them were armed, but they didn’t look jumpy enough to pull them out at the slightest provocation. The two led her into the building. Scroll back a century and two decades, this place would’ve looked grandiose, with all the bells and whistles that screamed wealth and power. Now, the interior looks like the pyramids of Egypt, stripped of their beauty and all the riches they housed, now only left with stained walls and an eerily open space that reminded travelers of what the place once was.


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The two suits stopped in front of a room on the second floor, gesturing Caxia to head in. Inside was the usual assortment of human furniture for establishments such as this one: two beds with uncomfortable pillows and blankets with who-knows-what stained all over them, blatantly obvious in all wavelengths of light except visual, a table with all the different electronics ports on it, and a monitor pasted onto the wall. Standing, waiting for the cyborg, was another Asian male, this one much older, even by modern human standards, with white hair and wrinkles. He had to be in his nineties or more with current healthcare. He would’ve lived through the Second Century of Humiliation.

“I’ve been waiting for you, Ms. Caxia.” He spoke in eloquent English, and age didn’t seem to affect his mental or physical sharpness either, as he walked forward and offered his hand.

Caxia wore arms around their body like a cape, and when this man offered his hand to shake, one of the arms on Caxia’s body would immediately move to reciprocate. The primary optic on their head would focus in on this individual, while the secondary optics would start scanning around the room, taking in the various assortment of decorations. For now, Caxia’s voice would remain feminine and diplomatic, “The American Union has made reaching out to your side both mechanically difficult and politically complicated. Before we begin, I would like some clarification as to who you speak on behalf of.”

“I’m a representative for the State of Shen Zhou. I understand that my colleague of the Li Ming system has expressed disdain for the American Union publicly but hasn’t reached out to you in earnest. That is how they are, ever since they lost their cruisers to the imperialists. All bark and no bite afterwards.” The old man replied.

“It is understood that you should not be entering into details with ‘terrorists’.” Caxia explained, laying out the situation as best they could, “We ask only to understand your people and what they are after. Though we should avoid entering into any sort of agreement, you may find that our goals are in alignment. In the future there could be the possibility of close cooperation.”

“Good. We are in agreement here.” The old man nodded. “The Li Ming Governor claims the Americans have forgotten their history, but she did too. At least, she wasn’t there to feel it in her bones. Do you understand?”

He went on to elaborate further. “For too long, the HFR’s security has been at the mercy of the AU. Every ranger, every corvette, every cruiser that we put through the SLE’s we built ourselves has to get approval from the imperialists on those SLE’s, first. The Shen Zhou system is practically right next to the Ping Qiong system, the Daqinren. The people of Li Ming say they hate the Daqinren, and credit where credit’s due, Luo Meng put up a good act against the Daqin… at first. But you saw what happened, she backed down at the end.”

“How is it that the Daqinren assert so much influence over your people?” Caxia asked.

“Part of it is time.” The old man shrugged. “If you didn’t live through the carnage, you tend to forget and forgive those who did it. Our ancestors did the same thing after the Japanese tore apart their fellow countrymen. Another reason is genuine gratitude for what the Daqinren, or the Zhuli, did. The Li Ming system was always the least connected to the old administration and rewarded comparatively the most when it fell.” He paused. “The people of Shen Zhou have not forgotten, nor forgiven. Both us and the Daqinren know the importance of Shen Zhou as a linchpin to the rest of the human sphere. In that regard, Shen Zhou and Hawking are actually quite similar.”

“It would appear you have a more pervasive problem when it comes to the Daqinren. If the American Union were to vacate the SLEs, how would you keep the Daqinren from filling that power vacuum?” Caxia asked.

"The Daqinren won't because those are our SLE's and we'll be occupying them. The AU is a problem not only because they're holding what's rightfully ours, but also it puts timely response against external threats outside of our control." The old man explained calmly.

“And what of the others within the HFR? I assume not all of your people share the exact same sentiments as you?” Caxia asked.

"No." The old man shook his head. "But it doesn't matter. Shen Zhou has full control over its own budget. If we see an opportunity to remove the AU from HFR space, we will, with our without the will of Republic Space Command and the rest of the HFR."

“Then it would seem you do not speak for all of the HFR? We would wish to understand them as well, as it could be disadvantageous for us to take action in a spirit of good-will without a full understanding of the situation… or is it that only Mr. Shen Zhou is willing to speak with The Assembly?” Caxia asked.

“If the HFR as a whole was willing to speak to you, why would I ask you to meet me here?” The old man asked rhetorically. “Frankly speaking, most of the HFR wants to maintain the status quo. Peace, diplomacy, subservience, under the guise of a unified front. That’s a plain lie. Shen Zhou truly, will tolerate the Union’s boot on us no longer. If you want to open relationships, we’d be honored to respond.”

“Then we will get started on opening relationships. I would thank you for your time.” Caxia responded, sending an electronic message back to the original sender of the waypoint, ~We will reach out here when the time comes.~