• 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: Hostile Waters


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Northern Ice Flow
On approach to the Charophyte Oasis

The hallways of the ship were taken up by drones moving equipment around as the “Test Model 2” cut through the cold waters in the North of Atlantica. It was one of the few ships that the Magnetic Assembly had taken at the start of the war that had survived the duration of the war on Atlantica, having survived the Statesmen prowling overhead by hiding from their prying eyes.

Moving to the northern ice-flows of Atlantica was a move to keep the ship intact. There were fewer satellites dedicated to tracking here, and unlike the more populated equator, it was far more costly to place ships in polar orbits where their path would let them continually revisit.

Even so, the ship’s surface to orbit laser seemed to always have something to shoot at.

Ahead of the ship was the Charophyte Oasis, an island that was mostly covered in a primitive moss. A similarly sprawling city was developing on the shore, spreading both into the island with dense greenhouses and out into the ocean with older ships having been lashed together to create a floating habitat that lacked the intentionality of the prefabricated artificial islands that humans inhabited.


“This is your operation,” Somna reminded Geiben, “Hearts and Minds… We have many that our sympathetic to our cause within the Charophyte Oasis, and we should be able to keep the ship hidden there. If a Statesmen adjusts orbit to be overhead, we’ll at least have some warning to move the ship before they reach a strike position… Not that the American Union is popular here. This place is a dumping ground for excess population. High unemployment. The only real exports are plant-based and that relies on cheap labor, which in turn relies on no one drawing too much attention from the Authorities that might have rules against such things. Not that any of these people should be here in the first place. The entire Northern ice flows are owned by Atlantica Petrochem… water, land, resource extraction rights, the whole nine. Normal policy would be to establish patrols in the area, and secure relationships with local leaders… but we don’t have the boots on the ground for a traditional campaign here.”

Geiben was dressed in a puffy winter coat, a hand terminal in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other as he read over the notes on the local demographics and economic situation. “We’ll need some real solutions for the people here. I bet that they’ve been hearing administrations promising fixes to their plight for decades now. They don’t have trust for American politicians, they’ll have even less trust for robots. What can we offer them?”

“We have a surface to orbit laser system, 20 land attack missiles, another 20 configured for multi-mission use, about 5000 cannon rounds, 4 short range spotter drones, another 4 small USVs, 8 bad dog drones. There are other Assembly forces on the planet that are being shuffled around to avoid attacks from orbit as well as those that are sympathetic to the Assembly…” Somnya would continue to explain what they can offer in the way that a soldier would. The world was viewed through security concerns. There were the legitimate institutions of the area, the Planter's Association, Atlantica Petrochem, the Atlantica Colonial Administration… there were those that were less reputable such as Cold Shoulder… Then there was the ever present threat of those committing crimes or unrest. The American Union’s presence was framed as the actions of an enemy nation… Though against the statesmen in orbit their small ship could only hope for deterrence. “The American Union is still the major player on the planet, but not the major force locally. Militarily, the one currently with the largest force is the Planter's Association. They operate a rather large police force, not just for protecting the greenhouses, they also use it to police the population centers. Atlantica Petrochem is quite a bit larger though, if they wanted to they could pay for the kind of security force needed to control this whole area. They have the legal authority to do so under their contracts with the American Union too so it’s in the Association’s best interest to not rock their boat. The Association is also reliant on fertilizers produced by Atlantica Petrochem, and genetic IP from their associated corp Nature-clear. Their main security concerns are with Cold Shoulder, a loose association of criminal cartels that are destroying the local plant life to illegally farm their own crops on the island. They also tend to spread out into other activities, theft, gun-running, that kind of thing. If we want to position ourselves as a proper security partner then leveraging the Assembly’s expertise to provide wide area surveillance and counterinsurgency would be our best move. The Assembly can fuse data together and form conclusions faster than any of the other players. At the moment we also have the fastest and most heavily armed boat.”

Images of their island hiding spot were being shown on the table infront of them. The curved island was like a small mountain, covered in a thick green moss. The Greenhoues and professional looking workspaces of the Planter’s Association were eating into the natural moss of the terrain, with some nicer living spaces closer to the coast. The safe inner coast areas quickly devolved into a patchwork of piers and lashed together ships that housed an increasingly poorer population, often of people displayed or fired from jobs elsewhere on the planet that had ended up here.

Geiben nodded along. This all made sense to him as a fellow officer. Security, and power projection, were ultimately how they were going to stake their rule in the area. But it was cold. Cold, and unsustainable.

“We’d just be another warmonger if security is all we can offer.” Geiben replied. “It won’t change the reality of these people if we just brought a larger cannon. We’d just be a replacement for the Planter’s Association. How can we help these people socioeconomically? If we simply put a boot down on the unrest we wouldn’t be solving the core problems.”

Somnya would give him that look… the same look she’d been giving everybody for the past year or so but in this specific case it was more of a ‘We are another warmonger’ look. It was a sentiment that she considered herself too professional to express. Instead she would focus on ways to enable Geiben’s request.

“If the goal is to increase prosperity in the area, we would need to increase the value of this area, and ensure the local leadership invests in their workforce. Our Kinetic options would be to remove the Cartels from the area. Alternatively I’m sure there is technology we could offer. We would be threatening relationships between suppliers, but the Assembly isn’t looking to make a profit here. We could also look at making inroads into local leadership… the normal path in is appealing to them through Money, Pride, or Blackmail. The Planter’s group are all single-owner operations but Atlantica Petrochem is operated by a board where flipping a few members would be sufficient.”

There was a brief pause as another plan was formulated,

“We could also remove middle-men. Atlantica Petrochem does own this territory, and the Planter’s Association is essentially squatting. Delivering the agriculture operations to AP would earn us influence.”

Geiben mused. “If we want to really install our presence here, we’ll have to appeal to the grassroots. I think we can do better than placate some corporate types.” He stood at the bow of the bridge, looking out at the moss covered island. He swiped across his hand terminal more, searching for descriptions of the local demographics, then gave up and shoved it in his pocket. “We’ll need to get boots on the ground to really know these people. Let’s get armed and head out.”

“It’ll take time to run a security profile for the area, and we do not have the numbers to ensure our own safety on the ground. If we want to go in we would be reliant on our local partners for security,” Somnya reminded him, not liking the idea of walking around if the words ‘in force’ weren’t included somewhere.

“Don’t draw attention to yourselves.” Mari said, using the spears in the table to make her voice heard. The small ‘thump thump thump’ of her smaller drones could be heard in the nearby hallway. As she continued to explain herself, the drones would start assembling themselves into her more normal form, the humanoid shape hidden within a dark purple robe and hood, “I will get clothing for you that fits in with what the locals wear, and is treated for disrupting electronic surveillance. Also leave your devices here, fresh Cells will be provided for you that are untraceable.”


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Northern Ice Flow
Charophyte Oasis Boat Graveyard

The covered area the ship was hiding in was inside of another larger ship that had clearly seen better days. The ship had probably been some kind of tanker. The inside parts had long since been salvaged, leaving an empty hull with lots of internal space. The rear of the ship had been cut off, and the front had been beached against the island, leaving enough space in the center for the Magnetic Assembly’s ship to hide inside of the rusted hull.

“GEIBEN!” Davina called out as he stepped down off the ship and onto the dock. The woman had tan skin, hair like the Ocean, and a body that suggested she’d already bought a few Daqin ‘upgrades’ to improve her physique. Her clothing was made from an orange jump suit that was unzipped down the front, a typical piece of clothing often used by oil rig workers who might end up in the cold ocean, though the much more revealing blue top underneath was meant more of accentuating her assets rather than for an emergency search and rescue situation.

She would immediately grab his arm, pressing her chest up against his side, “We’ve been waiting for the Assembly to come out here. I’d be happy to show you around if you don’t mind slumming it with us here. We don’t have a lot of the comforts of Hawking but I promise the food is better so long as you know who’s making real stuff,” This close he could really see her hair, heart shaped bangs framing her face, and a braided ponytail. Her hair color was a darker blue at the roots, and slowly became lighter as it came down towards the tips. Splashes of foamy white would occasionally erupt at the ends of her hair as if the colors were a rolling wave crashing against a rocky shore.

Somnya was leaving the ship just behind Geiben. She had also taken with her an orange and yellow jumpsuit for protection from the cold and the waters. A pair of aviators obscured her face, and her hair was pulled back in a tight bun like always. She didn’t look too pleased with what was going on, but wasn’t saying anything.

Of course they weren’t the only ones leaving the ship. Mari was close behind, her smaller drones were crawling out from the ship, some moving up towards the top of their harbor, others hiding just under the exit ramp or moving into areas closeby but not entirely out of sight.

Geiben hid knit eyebrows behind his own pair of polarized glasses. He certainly didn’t mind an attractive woman hitting up on her, but he wasn’t stupid enough to ignore a potential trap for extra bargaining power.

“Ms. Dabloons.” He gently pushed her off of his arm, then offered his hand for her to shake instead. Dabloons. Another sure sign that she was bullshitting him. He’ll have to ask Mari all about “Davina Dabloons” later. “I’m sure your food will be excellent. I haven’t been to a place where the local food wasn’t good. Except for England back on Earth.” He chuckled politely.

“They say the taste of their food and the beauty of their women drove the british to be the greatest sailors on earth!” She responded, immediately leading Geiben away from the hiding spot and out into the ship Graveyard. This area of the island had hundreds of ships that were either beached on the shore or close to it. Many had been lashed together creating a floating cityscape where tent cities and other makeshift constructions had been setup. “Of course, they never had to deal with the perpetual storms of Atlantica. Small ships don’t quite cut it around here. You need something big if you’re going to get where you’re going and right now you’ve got the biggest ship outta anyone. One that can knock out the AU satellites and lets us move around whenever we want. A few well placed threats and we’d be running this island.”

There it was. She wanted his weapons. “The Assembly isn’t here to warmonger. Our ship is just insurance. With that said, I want to meet your friends and how this place is run.”

“The Assembly made it sound like we’d be in bed together… of all times to start playing hard to get,” She responded, taking Geiben through the walkways that had been setup between and over ships. Their path would take them over a variety of old boats. Some of them still had working reactors, with power cables spidering out from those ships to adjacent areas where homes or businesses were setup. Others were entire unpowered, with inner sections walled off as best as possible with metal scraps to keep out the cold. Still other ships were being picked clean, their guts and skeletons being carved up and transported away for sale. “Why don’t we just enjoy ourselves here for a bit? The market’s got most anything you could want. Here, try one of these.” She said, stopping them by a small food cart inside of another ship. This area had rows and rows of booths, small stalls, and other vendors selling all sorts of doodads… this particular one was selling some kind of savory food-ball that was overflowing with a strong beefy flavor, “You can’t get that on Hawking.”

Geiben nodded, handing the vendor a disposable credit card and picked up one of the food balls wrapped in paper. With how large and deep New Cambridge was, it was highly unlikely he wouldn’t be able to find something like this. He took a bite nonetheless, his eyes widening somewhat, as the savory protein and oils assaulted his senses. Good food was good food. “This is great,” He exclaimed. “What is it made of?” He asked both the vendor and Davina.

“Beef Fat. From a REAL cow.” She said, “tastes completely different from the lab grown fats of Hawking huh? Plus its not like that stuff is cloned fat anyways. Who knows what the spacers make their food out of… its still rare to see real cow-meat but occasionally animal products make their way down here from the islands. Veggies and grains are easier to find… fry those up in beef fat though…”

As she was speaking, Geiben could see the people going about the market. In here it was safe from the cold weather outside. Food was being sold of course, as was all sorts of other items. There was quite a few biologicals, plants, and other materials that had been gotten from the island, and all sorts of spare electronics salvaged from ships.

“Just wait for it… You’ll see what you’re looking for soon enough.” She finally added, seeing that Geiben’s attention wasn’t on her but on the people around them.

Five guards would show up… not that they were wearing any kind of badge of insignias but the way they carried themselves with unquestioned authority gave away that they were working for whoever was running the place. Their uniform black outfits under their similarly black ponchos didn’t exactly help them blend in either. At first it seemed like they were windows shopping… then they were taking interest in one of the merchants… then they were grabbing that merchant and starting to carry them away…

Geiben made several hand gestures behind his back towards Somnya and Mari. “On guard, but stay calm.” He then asked Davina with hushed tones, “Who are they, and who are they working for?”

“Such interest in so many other people when you’ve got a beautiful woman on your arm.” Davina replied, “... THOSE guys are probably Safewater… or ASG… maybe even actual Pinkertons. Buncha private security groups are hired to patrol this place since its not officially meant to be settled under Atlantica Petrochem’s charter for this area. Officially they are deporting people to where they are supposed to be. They’ve all got their quotas to maintain… keeps people worried about losing their jobs. ‘Course those that end up somewhere often need help getting back to their families or friends so its always good for them to know someone like me.”


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“So you’re a smuggler?” Geiben observed.

“It’s called a Coyote when you’re smuggling people.” She replied, “... but yes.”

“I heard that term before in my AU history class. Many of them worked the borderlands between Latin America and the old United States before they integrated into the AU. Some old habits die hard. You mentioned that this area doesn’t have a charter. So who owns these lands? The AU Administration?”

Atlantica Petrochem owns the area, but it’s only zoned for petrochem work, not for settlement. Separate zoning for the biologicals work by the Planter’s Association has been held up for decades. Personally I think Atlantica Petrochem just doesn’t want to make a decision on it yet so they’re stalling things with the Colonial Administration. ‘Course that also means that if they want to come down on the Planter’s Association they’ll have the AU’s backing.” ”

“But people still need a place to live. Do these people have citizen rights here? Surely they do, since it’s still AU territory. Don’t they have representation in the Atlantican Senate?”

“What part of the AU do they live in? This is an uninhabited petrochemical production zone. Not a city, state, or whatever. If they’ve got an ID number then they’re just trespassing and they’ll be sent back to Gulfia. Maybe sent to prison until their legal status is sorted. Likely they’ll just end up dropped off at whatever platform will take them… and platforms ain’t taking people who aren’t working.” She replied. “Besides, Atlantican representation in the senate is limited to a handful of senators. Earth always outvotes them.”

“How many people do you think live in this unincorporated area compared to the rest of the Charophyte Oasis?”

“A few thousand tops. The numbers keep shifting. Private operators who can’t cover their boat’s operating costs end up in places like this so there are always people arriving. Its also one of the few places on the planet where it’s easy to grow land-plants. Everyone’s got plans to get their own farms up and running for quick cash. Bet you every person here had the same idea at one point… come here, get rich quick, fix up their boat… “ She replied.

“Yet you mention that you smuggle people to get back here after they’re deported, so some people still call this place home, real home. The land is viable for permanent settlement. And a few thousand people is not a trivial amount. That’s enough to swing elections in a district, and carry on state, then national consequences.”

“If only poor little me could afford an army of lawyers…” She lamented, “Or perhaps some kind of giant laser weapon to threaten people with to get my way! I could start earning money off the farms… maybe join your Atlantica Assembly and get some of that sweet representation.”

“Well, that depends.” Geiben smirked. “How much are you willing to help us help you? We need connections and information. No use swinging around a bat if we don’t know who to swing it at.”

“And I’m a well connected, well informed woman,” She replied, “You need to get in, know who moves what, get a meeting with the current players around here? I’m happy to help show you where to swing that bat of yours.”

“Alright, show me then, who’s in charge of the unincorporated folks here and the security companies keeping them down. I have a few ideas in mind to expedite that bureaucracy that the PA’s getting stuck in.”

“Well. That’s a bit of a walk. We’re gonna have to head up to the planter’s association…”

A few hours later
The Planters Association

“And just what have you brought me this time?”

“This is from France… EARTH France. Certainly older than anyone here.” Davina said, offering up a bottle to the other woman.

“Well the bottle wasn’t what had me curious,” The other woman said…

No longer were they all on shoddy boats lashed together above the waves. This building was built into the rock of the island. It was quite a bit nicer than the ships. It was a permanent construction, thick walls and floors that were meant to survive decades. The interior was warm, decorated with paintings and eclectic lighting that varied from room to room, each having its own style with several showpieces that were prominently displayed.

The woman in front of them was similarly dressed. The simple black dress showed two things: the savvy to know when to wear less, and the status affording with being able to dress in a way that disregarded the hazardous elements outside. An expensive looking necklace and ear-rings accentuated the outfit. This display was a bit more gaudy, someone wanted to show cause that they could afford expensive rocks and fashions imported from earth.

“Well if you’re interested in him, then his name is Geiben. Geiben, this is Yun.”

Of course, Somnya wasn’t far behind them, lagging a bit behind Geiben and keeping quiet. Meanwhile Mari was elsewhere. The only real hint that she was around was the increasing number of security camera feeds from this house that were popping up on Geiben’s datapad.

Geiben Folami, Diplomat to Atlantica on behalf of the Magnetic Assembly.” The Zulu-German man introduced himself. “We’re here to look for more sustainable solutions to the local socioeconomic problems, with your blessings.”

“So then you have some proposal to put forward?” Yun asked.

“Oh she gets a proposal right off the bat? The tyranny of the wealthy… after all I’ve done for Geiben!” Davina mused quietly as Somnya remained stoic with her arms crossed.

“Nothing concrete yet. What we bring is powerful by local standards, and needs to be handled accordingly.” Geiben shook his head. “I have a vague understanding of the power dynamics so far, and need to learn more before I make kinetic decisions on behalf of the MA. As I’ve explained to Ms. Dabloons, we’re not warmongerers.”

“Hm.” Yun mused, thinking about the situation for a moment, and certainly not sounding like she was too pleased to be having this conversation, “Vauge indeed. I do hope you’re not bringing more problems to the island. We have a nice thing going here, no one looking over our shoulders. We’d rather not invite attention to ourselves the way some of the platforms have when they declared themselves for the Assembly and received American Union intervention as a result.”

“Well, some people clearly are interested: the hired guns for Atlantica Petrochem. Sure, they might not be going directly for you, but they’re making the lives of folks here fearful, and miserable. Sooner or later the Atlantican administration will decide that this little complex of ‘illegal’ folk is inconvenient, and some senator will use the removal of it for political brownie points.” Geiben glanced around at all the shiny riches that decorated the room.

“Your situation is far more brittle than you care to admit.”

“And I don’t imagine including you in that situation would make things any less brittle.” She replied, “Unless you have brought enough forces with you to keep the American Union away. With the way the war has gone for your people, I don’t imagine that is the case.”

“We have a ship with anti orbital capability, and enough energy to level this entire oasis. That wasn’t a threat, by the way, just to point out that we’re serious about operations here.” Geiben replied. “Plus, long term, international observers are en route to the system to oversee elections, with their own warships. We can deal with overt American military actions, but they’ll also be politically deterred as well.”

“I am hearing little in the way of an overall plan, just what do you think you’re going to do? Rely on the good will of the international community to keep the American Union at bay while you make this island your own small kingdom?” She asked.

“Of course not. What we need is information. We have the capability to surgically remove anyone in the area, but we need a list of targets. People who are making life hard here and letting bureaucracy stall. What can we do to help get this area legal recognition and let people plan by years and decades instead of by the day?”

“Its Atlantica Petrochem that is responsible for pushing through the paperwork. Not sure how far you would get threatening them into doing the right thing, though you’re welcome to try so long as you don’t mention you’re doing it on our behalf. Our relationship is pricey, but stable.” She replied

“A pricey relationship? What do you---.” Geiben went quiet, glaring at Yun underneath his visors. “How many people are you obligated to deport every year?”


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“Enough to keep the Petrochem workers happy that they are employed and depress wages in the labor pool. We do our part for Atlantica Petrochem and they look the other way,” Yun replied.

“You’re using private deportation work as a source of employment?”

“It seems like the Assembly might not be the best fit for us here,” Yun replied dismissively, “Maybe it would be better if you tried plying your services with another one of the platforms on Atlantica that would be more receptive to your mercenary services.”

“Not the best fit for you, as in the people that make up this platform, or you, who just avoided a simple yes or no question?” Geiben narrowed his eyes, interrogative naval officer instincts kicking in.

“Not the best fit for someone like me who has to balance our relationship with Atlantica Petrochem with strangers coming in from the cold and demanding to know everything about someone else’s business. You should know as well as anyone that you’re trespassing on Atlantica Petrochem property.” She replied.

“Please forgive my friend here, you live in space long enough and your brain gets all flubbery. Its a real problem,” Davina said, eager to steer the conversation a bit, “Why don’t we break into the wine, we can talk about the what’s come in from off world this month!”

Geiben jumped on the opportunity to relieve the tension. This wasn’t working, and he needed more leverage, more information, before he tried another push. “We have Assembly made electronics on our ship and some of the best technicians in human space, if you have any equipment in need of service.”

Somnya would put her hand on his shoulder, “Geiben, take the loss here. Don’t look desperate by throwing out offers without knowing what the other party wants. We should regroup and come back later.”

“Just being courteous.” He shrugged back at her.

Somnya would nod towards the door with her head, eager to move on and leave their current guide behind.

About 20 minutes later…

On the way back to the ship, Mari would speak up over the comms, “It looks like the planter’s association is speaking about you.” WIthout further explanation, Mari would start streaming an intercepted phone call.

“We just got paid a visit by the Assembly. They’re going to be making some kinda move here. Get our men out into the ship graveyard. Be sure we’re aware of what they are up to, and make sure that whoever they’re working with are on OUR payroll not theirs.” - y

“Would be simpler and faster to let the Union handle it. One call and I could have the Epsilons down here and end up with a little coin for our troubles.” - Anon

“Don’t. No need to pick sides until we have to. I’d rather not be the first to rock the boat.” - y

Geiben massaged his nose bridge. This wasn’t unexpected, but it still sucks hearing the threats. “The Planter’s Association is lodged financially with Atlantica Petrochem. It’s going to be difficult breaking that bond unless we can offer something much better, and be worth upsetting AP. Agriculture is this place’s life blood. We can’t just conjure supporting companies out of nowhere before the elections.”

Geiben’s datapad would start notifying him each time a new data source was added in, and the notifications would start speeding up. As they talked it seemed like Mari was busy, finding new camera feeds inside of the planter’s association that were mounted to walls, inset into appliances, and attached to individuals phones. Voice recordings were also being added as text transcripts.

“Geiben,” Somnya said, putting her hand on his shoulder, “Leadership knows how to do things because they know who can do things. If you think this is a business problem with a business solution then we should call in a business expert.”

“You’re right.” Geiben nodded. “You and I are military personnel. We know how to fire an anti-orbital laser well enough, but we need someone who can do the softer approach here. Now, who do I know is a good businessman?” He scrolled through his contact list on his list and knitted his eyebrows. “No, not him. Mari, do you know anyone?”

“No one I like,” Mari responded.

“Mr. Wazu and Caxia are both aware of how to conduct themselves around these kinds of people,” Somnya offered, withdrawing her hand and any concern in her voice, mirroring Mari’s own dislike of the options. “Other members of the Assembly may be of use. I have had run ins with Xoana of the Letters Testamentary who can pull financial weight. Sakamoto Hina of the Daqin Merchant Fleet has also been of use in this regard in the past, though I don’t know if her affinity for working with the American Union will transfer over to the Assembly.”

“I have a bad impression of the Daqinren. They’re always meddling in human affairs. Though, I guess we do the same. Who’s Xoana?”

“A heiress to a mining concern fortune, she is a part of the Magnetic Assembly…” Somnya started.

“And she is a slave to the will of the oppressors we slew hundreds of years ago. She is as much our enemy as they were.” Mari added.

“That… sect… of the Assembly is funded through trusts established during the Yelton Veda era of the Assembly. They are obligated to follow the rules set down back then as part of the Zombie Estate.” Somnya tried to clarify.

“Doesn’t sound like you too approve of her moral character. Alright, who’s our least bad option? It sounds like Sakamoto might be a nuisance, while Xoana is straight up a hostile to the MA.”

“That is the question you’re going to have to Answer. Ein will push to extract the maximum amount of value from us if we involve him. Xoana’s goals will be opposed to the Machine Exemplar itself, but she hasn’t proved to be much of a threat in the past. Sakamoto is aligned with the Daqin, and we’re only technically not at war with them but their long term goals include destabilizing the Human Sphere.”

“Is the Magnetic Assembly all out of business types?” Geiben exclaimed with exasperation. “An entire system, and we don’t know anyone financially savvy, who also remotely aligns with our interests?”

“I usually let Wazu handle the finances.” Mari replied.

“And the Machine Exemplar isn’t something we can get on the phone to answer questions.” Somnya replied, “You’re not part of the Union with hundreds of millions of people to call upon.”

“We used to be. It was nice letting the corporate types handle the money.” Geiben mused, then growled. “Ein is the plague that we’re trying to get these people out of in the first place. Xoana sounds like an adversary who we’ll have to pay back later. I hate to say it, but right now, the goals of the Daqinren and ours’ align. They want to destabilize the human sphere? What do you think we’re doing right now, breaking an existing human bond?”


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“I’ll get an untraceable connection setup to…” Mari started to ask.

“Reach out to the Daqin Embassy at Gulfia, they’ll be able to get Sakamoto’s contact information,” Somnya said.

“... an untraceable connection to the embassy of the people we were shooting at not that long ago.”

A bit later,
Untraceable connection to Sakamoto…

“Fuck, I hate talking to the Daqinren.” Geiben complained out loud before the connection solidified. “They’re always so coy and proud more than they have any right to be.”

“I assume that is not what you want me to send to them.” Mari commented.

He cleared his throat, then talked into the video camera of the terminal. “Ms. Sakamoto, I am Captain Geiben Folami representing the Magnetic Assembly. I have a proposal for you. Right now, we are trying to break down the business connections between the corporations and workers’ unions in Northern Atlantica. I understand that you are well versed in such operations. I believe the success of this task would benefit both our parties’ goals. Let me know what you want in return to help us.”

“Ararararararara!~” a bashful voice filled the comms. Popping to life, the screen came to show the blushing face of a young woman of asian descent. Embarrassed and caught off guard, she shook her head, long, hime-cut hair shaking about in girlish refusal. “I’d never do something so horrible!” the woman pretended to swoon, eyes gazing up to the ceiling as a feathered hand rested upon her now dizzy and light head. The act stopped there however, as the woman’s eyes darted back to fix on Geiben. “And so upfront! Very daring.” Marked by her inhuman additions, the Daqinren’s demeanor shifted to smug curiosity. “You must be very sure this connection is secure. Are you certain this is not meant to entrap a humble merchant such as Sakamoto Hina?”

“If you were a military officer on the battlefield, then I would’ve had every intention to do so.” Geiben barely suppressed disdain in his voice. “But you’re not. So spare me the usual theatrics, and just tell me what you want so you can help with our corporate problem.”

“Theatrics?” Sakamoto began, offended. “Why I neaver!'' she played the bit of Southern Belle. “But this gross accusation aside, why would you ever want to ruin a profitable and lucrative relationship in Atlantica?” the woman asked a bit more seriously. “You’re not in position to exploit it at this time, are you?”

Geiben paused. Were they doing the right thing? Non-natives, barging into this financial ecosystem, risking the livelihood of thousands. He looked back at Mari and Somnya, then back at the terminal. They were already here, and Atlantica Petrochem was no saint. The leadership at the Planters’ Association will surely be unhappy with them, but the people should welcome the change. If the Magnetic Assembly steps in quickly to fill in the power vacuum once the chaos starts.

“The whole structure is rotten.” Geiben replied. “Even if we could, I don’t want to. The profitability is only for a select few; the rest of these folks are living scared and destitute. Not that I expect you to care, but I do think you’ll be able to profit in your own way through any breakups.”

“Ara, ara,” Sakamoto drew back in pain. “Of course I feel for the poor,” she reminded Geiben. “It’s not like I’m some inhuman monster that wants to gobble up the destitute for breakfast,” the feathered woman playfully jabbed at him. “I’m certain that this company has been naughty, and it’s just a matter of finding the right lawyer and the right wrong.” Rubbing her chin in thought, Sakamoto came to an epiphany. “I know! We can ask The Legal Beagle to investigate some of those residency or land claims that the whistleblowers were angry about.”

It’s going to be a literal talking dog as a lawyer, isn’t it? Geiben replied, “That’s going to take months, isn’t it? Even if something does come up, I’m not sure we can count on the Union courts doing anything about it, especially with Daqinren and MA personnel pushing the ordeal. Still…” He mused out loud. “There might be just enough dirt to sway the vote in the area. It’s worth a try.”

“Oh, don’t be such a downer!” she leaned forward, trying to cheer Geiben up. “You’re talking to me, live, after all!” Sakamoto pointed to herself, gorgeous feathers puffing up with pride “And - theoretically of course - it’s not so much the Union courts themselves that we need to act. You would - theoretically - just need to find a good, dry, easily flammable wedge issue to put a spark to.” The far eastern woman brushed aside her ‘hime cut’ and leaned to the side, resting her cheek on the palm of a hand for a moment as she glanced away. Right as a new connection began to initiate. “May I present to you, The Legal Beagle, as seen on StarTube!’


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A second screen would show up displaying a nice book case and office setup. After a few short moments a curly hair’d and besuited Daqin appeared on screen.

“Sakamoto! My favorite client. What can help you with today? I’m sure you’ve brought me something interesting.” This Dog-type Daqin had clearly chosen the legal beagle moniker to match her body type that came with aesthetic floppy ears but an otherwise human look... though it was pretty clear that under the suit was another perfectly produced Daqin body matching muscle tone with just enough softness to make it seem that Lawyer wasn’t where she made her money.

“Leagle… Beagle?” Geiben raised an eyebrow. This all seemed highly cartoonish, almost setup. It was most likely just Daqinren hijinks. He suppressed an eye roll. “Your real name---” He cut himself off. Nothing they were doing was above board anyways. “Leagle Beagle,” He asked with a straight face, “I’m Geiben Folami representing the Magnetic Assembly. We have suspicions that the Planter’s Association and Atlantica Petrochem are engaging in illegal activities in Northern Atlantica in violation of sapient rights.” Awfully rich, considering the Daqin Empire’s own awful track record on the subject, “We would like your help investigating and exposing these violations.”

“If you want a more professional name, you can call me Barbara Stone. The Leagle Beagle is also my Spacetube channel where I explain legal issues to the people of the Hawking System! Of course if you’re willing to pay for time and the expense of me coming out to Atlantica I would be happy to take the case,” She replied.

“bài thơ Shítou, other known Alias’ do include Barbara Stone which she adopted upon arrival in the Hawking System, The Legal Begal which is a trademarked name both for her law firm and Spacetube channel. Previous clients include the Olander group, and the Neomni clan. She was involved in the incident on Fuminsho Station, and has managed to keep Hilda Olander out of jail though it is suspected that has more to do with Hilda having friends in high places who have questionable taste in women and could honestly do better if they weren’t so hung up on the past…” Mari started to say.

“Well that’s not…” Barbara started to say…

“She was also retained by the Neomni clan after her business with Hilda. Though the legal activity was questionable, all lawyers on the station were retained by the clan to defend their activities so she has managed to avoid being referred to the bar over the Fuminsho incident. Tax records indicate no previous business through Sakamoto directly, which may imply she has been working through intermediaries in the past. Further she appears to be active on On-” Mari continued only to be interrupted by the lawyer.

“OK SO YOU KNOW I DO GOOD WORK.” The Legal Beagle replied, “Not just on explaining complex legal concepts easily, but ALSO in complex criminal cases, international law, and interstellar law. Just what is your goal with this upcoming investigation?”

Somnya crossed her arms harder, trying to find a way to cross them in a way that indicated even more displeasure at working with the Daqin.

Geiben turned around to flash a sympathetic look at Somnya, then looked back at the monitor. He considered his language. “Atlantica Petrochem and the Planter’s Association are both less than ideal governing institutions for the people of the Charophyte Oasis. Our goal is to highlight their wrong doings to the public so the local citizenry might choose a more appropriate government institution.” Translation: “We’re trying to launch a smear campaign so that we can wedge in and take power.”

“Your government institution you mean?” The Legal Beagle asked, her eyes wandering over to Sakamoto for a moment before going back to Geiben, “Interstellar law is complicated, but pretty much all of it frowns upon insurrection. The legal theory behind such things tends to devolve into who has the most guns. I think our best bet might be to create a new legal entity under the Atlantica Colonial Authority to self-govern the location. Of course you would also need standing to sue for any kind of change, or to start discovery. You’d need someone who lives there for that.”

‘You wanna short sell some stock?’ Sakamoto messaged Legal Beagle.

“I’m sure we can lend a hand with that!~~<3” the exotically feathered woman offered with delight. “With just a little looking around, I can find more than just people that live there,” she began, “I can also look for just the right personalities to work with us!” With a wave of her hands, Sakamoto brought up several images of local Atlanticans, all involved with Atlantica Petrochem and the Planter’s Association. “Though, for them to sue, even in a group, they’ll need some financial backing…” her voice trailed off expectantly.

It took the Beagle a moment to consider what was being offered. Her response would be short and to the point, ‘we should talk about that in person! I wouldn’t want my legal services to be considered market advice!’ The meaning would be clear to anyone in Sakamoto’s profession. What you’re talking about is probably a little illegal, and I want in!

“You would think the wealthy merchant could afford to bankroll this operation if we’re also going to be using her people. She just wants to double dip, learn about our operation and get a cut of it.” Somnya thought out loud with little concern as to if Sakamoto could overhear.

“A hostile takeover of Atlantica Petrochem could be possible if we time it with a dip in the stock price from this bad news. Shorting the stock ahead of time could help pay for the operation. We’d need some seed money, and I can reach out to some of their shareholders to lay the groundwork for the operation.” Mari replied directly to Somnya and Geiben, wanting to avoid tipping the Assembly’s entire hand to Sakamoto.

Geiben, unlike Somnya, stayed silent, considering his options. He was no businessman; he loathed it, especially when it came to legal maneuvering. But agreeing to the plan would be loosening northern Atlantica from AU influence without bloodshed, even if it cost him a part of his dignity. He turned around to give Mari a cryptic nod, then turned back to Sakamoto. “Let’s come up with a cost estimate and figure out financial responsibility.”

“You’re taking responsibility?” Sakamoto drew back in surprise. “How scandalous! Fortunately for you though, running the numbers is as easy as yī, èr, sān!~~<3”


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Hostile Takeover​

Atlantica Petrochem
Northern Islands Head Office

Atlantica Petrochem’s refinery and office complex was a sprawling city located in the icy waters of the northern islands. Docks handled the arrival and departure of ships filled with chemical products either recently extracted from under the surface of the waters or freshly produced and on their way to facilities across the planet. The docks themselves would give way to the sprawling refinery complex that was the bread and butter of the company’s business, which in turn would give way to the housing districts and finally the office parks that would be at the center of today’s activities.

A boardroom in the office sector had been reserved for this meeting, loaded with state of the art security, holographic projectors, and communications equipment to allow telepresence from anywhere.

Standing at the head of the table was Asema Soucouya, a woman wearing a simple, but expensive suit. Someone who could have easily blended in among the office workers here but still managed to exude a presence. She stood rather than sit, her hands reaching down to press against the table with her fingers, though her arms went down at an angle to make her look larger than she actually was.

“I represent interests that make up 23% of Atlantica Petrochem. Your groups represent 29% and 28% percent. As I am certain you are aware.” She said, her tone indicating there was quite a bit that was better left unsaid, “Between the conflict, the legal actions, and the state of the economy, investor confidence is at an all time low. Our stock price was in free fall all of last week. I have a fiduciary duty to this company and your groups…”

Once more, things were left unsaid.

“...have taken a large interest in this corporation. The 23% that I represent want to see returns, not infighting, not personal agendas, not politics. My interest lies in appointing a new board and stability of the company.

Before we put things up to a vote at a shareholder meeting. I think everyone in this room should have a conversation about just what that board will look like.”

Geiben wore a suit mathematically tailored to his build and stature. He and the Magnetic Assembly as a whole were completely unprepared for the intricacies of diplomacy and political maneuvering, but what they lacked in social dexterity they made up for in brute, computational force. He was assured that worse case scenario, Mari could come in and wreak havoc across the financial electronic systems, which gave him enough ammunition to be naturally confident at this meeting.

That is, if the Daqinren didn’t also buy a sizable share on their own. Geiben watched Sakamoto across the table carefully. Who knew what the snake merchant had to play.

“Our vision is to see long term prosperity of all parties tied to Atlantica Petrochem.” He started out loud. “We believe that continuous investment in the grassroots of the company will prove to be a more sound strategy than the previous administration’s methods. By investing in the employees and the local infrastructure, AP’s growth years, decades down the line would be cemented, and far less vulnerable to outside uncertainties. Thus, we would like to see a board composed of visionaries, people who have the patience and foresight to prioritize continued investment over short term profits.”

“Ara-ara-ararara!~” Sakamoto’s tongue trilled with delight. “So many bold and brave objectives,” the exotically feathered woman quailed in awe. “How ever will my years of mercantile and economic expertise ever compete against his search for truth, justice and the American Way!” she wiggled her behind in woe, her shiny train of feathers shaking with worry. “My focus on guaranteeing maximum profits and ensuring good turnout for the shareholders can’t possibly compare and is absolutely trembling.” Shaking her head back and forward, Sakamoto pretended to swoon. “In the face of such masculinity, my quest for the absolute bottom line and ability to maximize profits with a cheap, obedient labor force that absolutely won’t rebel or question surely won’t be picked! Oh no, woe is me!”

Plopping down into her seat in the most over-dramatic fainting spell, Sakamoto’s Chongwu assistant began to fan her as best she could. The pink and white Chongwu reaching into a bag to get out a bottle of cold water…

Asema’s eyes darted from Geiben, to Sakamoto, then back to Geiben. If she carried any disdain for either party she didn’t show it, instead choosing to address the perceived shortcomings of both as diplomatically as possible. “Do you intend to seek outside investment, or are you looking to reinvest our existing profits back into our profit centers? While we do see benefit in investment, there is concern that investment going into the local infrastructure would be wasted. Further production would drive down the prices of petrochemicals across the planet, which would lead to no net new profits. If anything we would be more interested in your investment in automation. We think the most profitable way forward is to further reduce costs of production so we can expand our profit margin.”

Her attention would then turn to Sakamoto, “And while we appreciate that bringing onboard Chongwu workers would bring down our overall costs, we would have concerns about the loss of proprietary IP to the Daqin. We would need assurances that shareholders would receive payouts should any leaks occur, and further assurances that any moves by your interests to gain further control over the company would result in appropriate compensation for our shareholders.” Reading between the lines, Asema didn’t entirely trust Sakamoto’s motives.