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214
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The Wolf and the Spider-ant Queen

The Wolf and the Spider-ant Queen

Lyceum the Outdweller wrapped the heavy cloak around him. The cold that he had not noticed before now heavily cut into parts of him. The metal parts, the Meklan implants, the eternal itch behind his soul that reminded him what he had lost. What he had gained. Great gouts of breath turned to ragged white clouds that dispersed as soon as they were made, torn away by the howling wind. He stopped his troupe for a moment and gazed down the side of the mountain. Far below the landing pads stood, well below the snow line, and he thought he saw the shape of a shuttle landing before it was gone in a flurry big snow. He snarled and checked his communicator before pushing onwards up the mountain trail, called so only because to left was a wall and to his right a prodigious drop. But it was told at great expense that here was one of her secret laboratories. Time would tell.




Near the top of the mountain the trail ended in a flattened area, a disguised shuttle pad and a heavy blast door, the kind used in certain types of Laboratory. Lyceum looked around and scuffed his foot over the platform. From the look of it, no one had landed on this platform for a long time. He gestured to his troupe and they scattered, pulling our scanners and setting sensors. He walked towards the blast door and instintively over to the part of the wall where the control mechanism was usually, and he found it quickly. There was a Wolf Pack marking on the components, Kala's. He was on the right track. Pressing the largest button he waited while the great door squealed and opened slowly. Inside lights flickered and mostly came on, some of them having burnt out, others flickering. Climbing under the door before it was opened he walked in and looked around. It was slightly warmer inside, but not by much. Despite being close to the top of the mountain, the area inside was large and spacious. Heavy columns held up the mountain above them, and running his paw over one of them he realised it was part of the living rock. As more of his troupe came in scanners started bleeping and heavy torches were pulled out.
"Lyceum, we have remains here, mostly human but also some Dewiek.... and looks like some Hive."
"Lot of signs of fighting, debris that looks like medical equipment which has been destroyed, signs that other equipment has been removed."
"Uh Lyceum, you may want to look at this...."

Lyceum the Outdweller moved towards the rear of the complex and found something unexpected. There were several large transparent tubes that ran along the back wall. The lights in the area had long since died, and the beams from the heavy torches showed remains in them. Several were cryo-tubes, but from the look of the readouts all were dead. Some human, one that contained a large black furred Dewiek and one vast tube that contained what looked like the shed skin of a Hive Queen, but there was something wrong with it. The face was far too angular to be a purebred. It looked like some of the antenna were missing, but they might not have shed with the rest of the skin. There were two areas where it looked like vestigal wings might have sprouted from and the abdominal carapace looked to be much more heavily armoured. But the legs, the legs were more spider than Hive. Going by Hive Queens he had seen before, this one could have been a monster. A fitting project for Kala.
"It looks like one of Kala's experiments. Half Hive Queen and half Spider. Is there no end to her abominations?"
Lyceum looked at the shed skin and pulled his cloak around him tighter. It had obviously been in a fight, there were blaster marks on the carapace and it looked like it has been in the wars. The other tubes, the remains looked to once have been alive, and probably died in the tubes. There was a story here. Once.
"It doesn't matter. She isn't here, and all the equipment has long since gone. Call the shuttle to the platform outside then seal this place."
He looked at the creatures carapace and shook his head.
"Whatever happened here we missed it."
Walking away he stopped and turned around and walked back to the tube. There, at the bottom. A legend he had almost missed. He roared for more light and knelt down to read it. The burnished copper plate had a few words and a date on it.
Tshuh'Krek - TSH:KRK


Two years prior - Unidentified Location - Yank System.

In the basement of a rather non descript building on the outskirts of Balmorral the black marketeers came and spread out their wares. Others came to ask for things, items, drugs, weapons. Slaves were bought and sold. Technology stolen from secure vaults was paraded, partially for boasting, mostly for the potential buyers. Everything from nerve gas to structural modules was bought and sold, under the rader, away from authorities. Spies watched because it was their job, to gain agents and spot the other sides. Human rubbed shoulders with Naplians, with Aquaphibs and Dewiek. Every race was here, at Jacks Bazaar.

On one of the side tables several swarthy men were dealing. Their men were standing, keeping watch and keeping the curious away. It was a prize that many sought but had never been available. One man had seen it, though two others had been with him. They had died to keep the secret, only he escaped. Barely. His left arm was missing below the elbow and he had heavy cut across his chest, bound and sealed as best as the mercenary crew had been able to. He needed the sale to afford the medical bill if he wanted to live. And at Jacks Bazaar it was expensive. But his information was, if he could sell it right, golden.
"The problem is, my wounded hero, can we trust your information?"
He pulled a memory crystal from a hidden pocket and slipped it into a viewer and keyed in a code. He handed it to the buyer.
"Here, Francoise. Here is proof, and if you want more, you can look at my wounds. I tell you it is there, and the location is yours for the price I demanded."
Francoise looked at the viewer and shuddered. He handed it to his second and rubbed his chin.
"By the True One, what a monster!"
"Worth the money. I don't care what you do with it, I just want the money. I just know it's a lot, but you can sell it for ten times the price."
"Have you seen the size of this Boss? Are you sure we can handle it?"
"We can handle it. Okay, once we have it you can have your money."
"No way man, I need that money now. I need to fucking heal these wounds!"
The Boss dragged on his nic and stubbed it on the table and clicked his fingers. His crew pulled out weapons and pointed them at the guards of the wounded man.
"Don't move if you want to live. You are not paid enough."
He watched as they raised their hands and stepped back. The wounded man turned to them but could see the defeat in their eyes.
"No hold on, this ain't right!"
"You are in Jacks. If it is right here, there is something wrong. You guys, clear out. Chalk this up to bad luck, and experience."
The Boss looked down and smiled. He reached over and punched the wounded man.
"How about we drag you to the back rooms and go to work on you with a welding torch until you tell me where it is."
"Your agent told me you could be trusted!"
The Boss clamped his hand over the wounded mans mouth and punched his wound.
"You tell me where it is and I will stop punching you and when we have it I will pay you."
With his strength fading the wounded man pushed the Boss off and reached into his jacket. A silenced pistol shot took him under the nose and blew the back of his head out.
"Damn it! What did you do that for?"
"Shit, thought he was reaching for a weapon."
The second reached in and pulled out a shuttle key and some papers out of the dead mans jacket. Pulling out his communicator he spoke into it briefly and waited until he got the reply and then grinned.
"I'm guessing he didn't have time to blank his shuttle memory as his shuttle is out on pad delta tango 3. Lets go and check shall we?"
"If this doesn't work, I'll shoot you like you shot this idiot. If you've let a bloody Hive Queen get out of our grasp I swear to the True One, you are dog food."
The smugglers got up and looked around. No one was looking at the body, and on the next table there was a body slumped over, snoring loudly. The Boss walked over and nudged it. Around the table were empty liquor bottles, on top was a tool bag. He sneered.
"Drunken Dewiek engineer. Leave it. Lets get to the shuttle pads."

Kala waited until they were gone and then sat up. Slinging the tool bag over her shoulder she stretched and stepped over the body and went to another table. A very large and almost black furred Dewiek was bartering with a couple of humans. Some artifacts were on the table and the language going between them was fierce. As she pulled up they were shaking on the deal and he was pushing the artifacts into a bag.
"Aah Kala. Just in time, take these to our ship and then...."
"I need to talk to you in private. It's important."
He backhanded her and knocked her into wall, following up by grabbing her throat and lifting her off the ground. He spoke to her in a calm manner, almost caring.
"Now you know what I told you about disrespect before, girl. So I know you didn't do it lightly?"
"No My Lord.... but it's important."
"Spell it out. Slowly and quietly."
"Hive. Queen. Kidnapping."
He dropped her and looked down at her and ruffled her head fur.
"Now tell me everything and don't leave anything out."

There are few places in what is loosly termed as 'Human Space' where the Hive and Hexamon consider home. None of them are found in Yank. So it was with much consternation that a group of opportunistic thieves broke into an abandoned outpost and found a cave complex stacked with Hive Eggs, Hive Silk and Hive Warriors. Before they died they saw the opportunity that both scared and excited them. A Hive Queen unlike anything anyone had seen before. Only one of the thieves escaped. But that was all that was needed to create problems.

The Hive Queen TSH:KRK moved around the cave with several minions, her eight legs moving silently, her carapace shimmering. Her antenna flexed and twitched. Her angular face looked around at everything with a sadness. Once again, she would have to move on. How could she learn about the aliens if she kept having to move. Perhaps the hard liners were right, the only good human was a dead one. But then again, it was a new time and her adoptive family were very understanding.
<We must evacuate. The Humans will come>
<My Queen, we have already begun transfering everything to the secondary hive. When it is complete we will bury this cave>
<Scout out the surface. We must be ready if they come>
A high pitched keening sound came from one of the corridors followed by the sound of high velocity gunfire.
<My Queen, retreat to the tunnels! TSH:KRK, you must escape!>
Scores of hive warriors swarmed into the room as human troops in smuggler garb appeared at the bottom of the corridor and started shooting at everything moving. The boss Francoise appeared, two pistols in hand and pointed.
"Secure the Hive Queen! Kill everything else that moves!"
Troops with net launchers began firing nets at her, trapping her legs and making her fall. Warriors fell trying to free her, bullets ripped into her carapace and pain leeched through her. As more nets landed she looked up at the human before her.
<One day we will wipe your species from the galaxy. You are vermin>

The Smugger Boss Francoise stood over the heavily netted form of the Hive Queen and looked at her.
<Hkf'hehio lh'shfy'khy. Hlekup'akhhy>
He laughed and loaded a charge into a very large stun gun.
"I don't know what you said. But I don't care. End of the day you are just a bug to be squashed."
He fired the weapon into her and watched her twitch.
"Load her up boys, and as much of the goods here as fits in the shuttle."
Frowning he turned around. His men were lying on the ground.
"By the True One....."
A shadow detached itself from the wall and he looked up at the largest Dewiek he had seen. The razor sharp teeth that filled the mouth looking at him came close quickly and he screamed. And fired.

Kala came down the corridor with a handfull of Dewiek and looked on the scene. The Wolf Lord Black Mane Weak Heart was lying on top of the Smuggler Boss, his teeth around his throat. Both were dead. The dewiek pulled them apart and Kala leant down and ruffled his fur.
"Oh Master, why did you have to die like this."
<Please get me out of here, little dewiek>
Kala walked over to the netted Hive Queen and cleared her throat.
<Do worry not great leader.... king... Queen yes Queen help with silk and talon>
"Damn I hate speaking Hive. Bad on the throat."
<You speak my language. Please, save me and my people will reward you. Take us all away from here>
<Your people are without carapace.... dead yes dead. I will help great leader... Queen. Help and heal>
Kala looked at the Queen. Was she smiling? How do you tell when a giant ant smiles at you?
"Get everyone here loaded up into the shuttle. Even Black Mane. We are heading to the mountain hideout."

The heavy combat shuttle landed on the mountain pad and she walked down the landing pad. WIthout a sound the blast door opened and employees swarmed out and started emptying the shuttle.
"Take the Hive Queen to the medical facilities at the back, put the rest of the bodies in cryo storage until we are ready for them. Make sure the Wolf Lords's body is taken care of."
"Who will take over now old blackie is dead?"
"I don't know, but nothing changes here. This is still my lab."
She waited until everything had been unloaded and then went to the medical facilities. The Hive Queen was lying on the floor, her legs under her, shaking.




<Great.... Queen. You are.... wounded. How can... I spin silk... help?>
<Help me to shed my carapace. My wounds burn.>
<I...will try>
<What is your name>
<Tshuh'Krek or TSH:KRK in my mother tongue. I am the Spider-Ant Queen>
Kala slapped her chest and howled.
<Kala Godslayer, I am Dewiek>
She summoned her most trusted medical assistants and together, into the night they worked. Piece by piece the carapace of the Spider-Ant Queen. While others took care of the humans and the dead body of their Wolf Lord Kala sat with TSH:KRK. As her new carapace hardened Kala fed her and talked softly with her. It took days, but eventually she was ready to move.
<How will your people know you are ready>
<They have been outside for the past two days. It would be impolite to trespass on your territory without permission>
<I look forward to the day when I can see you again. Call your people>
TSH:KRK's antenna twitched and the blast doors opened, hive warriors made their way in and prostrate themselves before her.
<Kala of the Dewiek, I look upon you as friend. You are always welcome in my home>
Kala watched them go and turned to the discarded carapace. Piece by piece it was arranged in the hermetically sealed chamber and she put the legend on the bottom. Tshuh'Krek - TSH:KRK[/P]

 
News
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  Star Date: 220.45.1

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Perfidion Reached

Long speculated by theoretical Stellar Cartographers, Perfidion Reach finally opened in the last few weeks. Immediately, the Detinus Republic boldly staked a claim on the first accessible system, Hellcadium. Only time will tell the true value of this strategic move but their much-taunted bureaucracy may have finally proved its worth.

Early reports from scans of the system reveal a wildly fluctuating ISR field. Rumours suggest that at least one ship was destroyed as it was forced into an asteroid belt chasing a stable jump field attempting to exit the system. Casual travellers are warned away from the system at this time for their own safety. Leave it to skilled explorers and navigation officers.

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Mathematical model of Hellcadium ISR Field.

We spoke to Captain Zakiyah Ummahi via subspace link. Zakiyah led the first DEN expedition into the Perfidion Reach. "Spirits remain high but this is largely down to the extended R&R we were all forced to take immediately prior to jumping into this hole. Initial scouting reports show at least one planet with plenty of forests and grasslands which might help if we're going to be stuck here for Folkvar knows how long waiting for this damned ISR field to stabilise."

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Valhalla Stargate Reopens

Dewiek engineers and scientists have finally managed to re-enable Stargate Valgrind this week and the protective Exclusion Zone is to be lifted. If DEN investigators discovered who caused the gate to malfunction, or why, they were not willing to share it with us. Military sources, however, have announced a project to provide a significant boost to the already formidable defence platform in the stargate’s orbit.

 
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*** Inter Galactic News ***

Empire - DEN action grinds to a halt

After months of tension relations between the Empire and the Dewiek Nation, which rose to several large scale fleet actions ending in the DEN losing over 60 Direwolf warships in Solo, things appear to have moved from antagonistic to unfriendly. With the Solo system being a particular issue an agreement has been reached between the Wolf Mother of the DEN and Xavier Fox of the GTT. Since this things have become very quiet, not just because the shooting has stopped, but also because my reporters have been on their summer holidays.
 
News For Discerning Naplians!
---- Special Galactic Edition ----



(The Host sits at his desk as the studio lights dim, and a single spotlight bathes him in light. He looks straight into the camera and begins to speak: )

Host: Naambta!
Good Greetings, and welcome to the show.

This is News for Discerning Naplians, and i’m sure you are all showing much impatience to see this week’s Panel Discussion. We will be discussing religion with the Lady Ghadir of the Temple of Ya Zoon, renowned neo-naplian spiritualist Chairman TonTon, and a very special guest from our imperial neighbours, Bishop Samantha Porteus of the Brotherhood. But before we get to that...

(Looks demonstratively at his digital wrist watch. )

... it is time for a word from our sponsor.
 
******Empire Syndicated News Network (ESNN) ******

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Welcome to the latest version of ESNN, giving the news and views from the ESNN's reporter and news anchor, Ainsley Moore, making this the peripheries' most favourite unbiased publication in the known universe from our new home in the Heartland,

And so with the news from the last few weeks,
 
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*** Inter Galactic News ***
  • DEN assault FEL base and get wiped out
  • CIA Trade fleet caught and destroyed by the DEN
  • Krell denounce worship of the True One

  •  
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****

    Huge fleet skirmish at the London/Crossley wormhole

    A large fleet of over 700 DEN warships responded to the EMP action in Crossley, where a 4000 hull DEN platform was destroyed. Reports show the DEN ships caught a group of CIA ships napping and inflicted significant losses on the humans. IMP and GTT fleets moved to assist the CIA, matching DEN fleet numbers, but the arrival of over 1200 Hexamon ships seems to have tipped the battle in favour of the DEN-HEX alliance.

    The combined DEN-HEX force pushed through the wormhole into the Heartland area of human space and retaliated, attacking several CIA platforms in response. The outnumbered Empire fleets abandoned the area and fled, they are currently waiting for the larger alien force to make their next move from their hiding places.
     
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****

    Admiral Lord Simms killed after a long and distinguished service to the Empire.

    The Imperial Services have intercepted and serious damaged several DEN ships on the way to the Empire’s home systems. Unfortunately during the action Admiral Lord Simms was injured and reports from the Viceroy indicate he has passed away, fighting the enemies of the Empire like any true Imperial Officer.

    The Viceroy has stated that the officers and crew of the DEN ships have been captured and are now awaiting trial at a secret IMP base.

    DEN continue to strike at the Empire

    Reports are coming in of multiple engagements between the Empire and the Dewiek Elder Nation over the last week. With several battles taking out Empire ships in the Heartland of the CIA.

    AFT turn to piracy

    The Association of Free Traders have, after a long history of neutrality, turned to piracy this week. AFT Drake boarded an IND ship in the Halo periphery, killing several of the crew in the process.
    Independent trader Jarlebanke Langhofdi immediately took to the public communication channel demanding an answer to why supposedly peaceful traders had killed his crew and taken his ship.

    The AFT remain silent over the attack.
     
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****

    Combat Special Edition

    Since the DEN started shooting at those lovable FEL fluffballs things have certainly been heating up. So we through it would be prudent to bring you, gentle beings of the peripheries, a special edition in order to keep you updated with all the latest action in regards to who the DEN are shooting and who is shooting them.

    Felini strike back at Dewiek

    Reports have come in of the FEL striking back at the DEN in the Kallisan system. A huge FEL force supported by the IMP and CIA assaulted DEN positions taking both the platform and base called Lucien. There was much rejoicing in the FEL camp as the Felini proved they were not such lovable fluffballs after all!

    GTT get sucked into the war

    A passing fleet of GTT warships got caught in the fighting and this saw the GTT enter the war. When asked about this CEO Fox pointed out they are not warships at all, they are trade defence ships. So how they came to be in the DEN system of Kallisan is a mystery to us. But the GTT CEO was clear that they only engaged using support and defend orders to protect allies. Needless to say, the CEO commented “We found ourselves on the Dewiek Nation’s enemy lists pretty soon after.”

    Dewiek Nation attacks GTT positions in Orion Spur, breaking DOM system rules

    A fleet of DEN warships has engaged and destroyed a significant number of GTT cargo ships and escorts in the DOM system Monument. The GTT immediately took to the public channels to ask why the DOM were not doing something. In reply the DOM issued a statement to stop, which the DEN ignored.

    The DEN newssheet "The HOWL" published a completely unbiased review of the attack shortly after.

    DOM make a choice

    After the above incident and then further raiding by the DEN, taking out a few GTT cargo ships in the DOM system of Coptuv, the DOM seemed to have been faced with a choice of stopping drinking their tea and doing something or just hoping it would go away. Instead they seem to have decided to abandon the whole idea of being an active affiliation and we have since folded. The lengths some people will go to not to have their elevenses disturbed is truly staggering. We asked the DOM for a statement on their new system rules to share with our readers but have received no replies.

    DOM positions share out

    Just as we were going to press news has come in of various DOM assets being given to other affiliations or sold. Hopefully we will have more on this story in the next issue of your favorite factual newsheet. Yes, that's us at the SSS.

    *** Affiliations ***


    AFT Association of Free Traders (54) - Marion Tweedy
    CIA Combined Intelligence Agency (64) - Laton CIA
    DNA Displaced Natives Asylum (66) - DNA people
    DTR Detinus Republic (58) - Morley Decker
    DEN Dewiek Elder Nation (67) - Urd
    DOM Dominion (57) – we believe the DOM are now inactive
    FCN Falconian Republic (70) - Bacran
    FEL Felini Tyranny (49) - Juris
    FLZ Flagritz Republic (47) - Kayxaer
    FET Frontier Exploration & Trade (56) - Cu Chulainn
    GRC Gracians (13) - HG1
    GTT Galactic Trade & Transport (52) - Xavier Fox
    GCE Garcia Enterprises (4) - Neil
    HEX Hexamon (23) - Ando
    IMP Imperial Services (51) - Jack Jones
    KRL Krell (30) - Namica
    KRT Krell of the Reverence Temple (37) - Kal Torak
    KST Kastor Kastorians (12) - Kastor
    MZC Mizuchi Combine (86) - Mizuchi
    MOH Mohache (73) - Listens
    MIC Mohache Independent Commune (76) - Sleeps with Dragons
    NLF Naplian Liberation Front (38) - NLFHQ
    RIP Regularly Involved in Piracy - Githyanki
    RRH Roy Robert Holdings (39) - Roy Roberts
    SMS Stellar Mining and Smelting (53) - MikhailM
    USN Ulian Stellar Nation (34) - Oeipus Prime
    WMB Wimble Nations (25) - zz

    * Leader MAY be inactive, affiliation may be active
    ** Affiliation has no leader but this is the only known contact

    NPC / FoC: ARC, CIV, CGT, FRE, HBO, HEF, IND, ISP, JCN, MEK, MRC, PIR, PRV, TCA, TRN, KAS

    Inactive: ANT, BHD, COD, HVE, IDC, RIP, RCF, SKW, TAG

    Deceased: CAL

    *** Submission ***

    By private message to The Editor or via Mica if you prefer to remain anonymous.
     
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****

    New pirate threat rocks Corward Arm.

    Several large pirate ships have been spotted in outer rings of Corward systems. Reports forwarded to us at the SSS allow us to exclusively tell readers that traders should keep their wits about them when moving through these areas.

    No existing pirate menace has yet claimed ownership.

    In a possibly unrelated event one of the FET cartel members claimed nothing was happening in the outer ring of Coptov shortly afterwards. But it could be that they are still trying to catch Empire backed pirates and have nothing to do with the new sightings.
     
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    ***** Inter Galactic News *****


    DEN continue to shoot innocents

    The Dewiek have made themselves busy shooting at the peaceful and innocent traders of the SSL. Leader of Solar Spices and Liquors Mr TOAD has been vocal pointing out that the Beast-DEN are being totally unfair. News of a go-fund-me appeal are yet to surface though.

    This office is sure that it must have provided the DEN light relief after picking on the equally defenceless Felini. Word is that the DEN faced such an uphill struggle in these recent actions they had to take up Felini inter-breeding to provide some entertainment as the battle reports were rather boring.
     

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    I’ve played on and off for approximately 10 years, over a 20 year spell. After some interesting debate on the in-game forum, I did wonder what, exactly, has kept drawing me back to the game, when for so many others I’ve generally lost interest after a few months.

    Ultimately, I think it is a combination of automation (that allows the game to handle thousands of positions to interact on a daily basis) coupled with Special Actions (that allow the story arc to develop in a way that could not be catered for by a set of predefined list of available orders).
    -Zigic