Counterpoises of the Times (Balamak)
Posts: 1865
  • Posted On: Nov 2 2013 2:36pm
Styria-class Galleon Warley, in orbit via Balamak

“You Confederates are an odd lot of people,” mused Captain Noryn, slowly stroking his chin, “but let me check the regulations and consult some people. But I can't see any harm in exploring a distant asteroid belt...the only thing I can possibly think of is acquiring a salvage or prospecting permit. What is your purpose for exploring the belt?”

Trying hard to keep her face blank, Line Captain Nevaere stared at the holo of Royal Balamak Navy commander. But she couldn't. The woman's lip curled up into a coy smile. He is kind of cute. But he's anchored to this world, which makes him not for me...As diplomats hammered away at the final touches with the treaty with Uyter, Nevaere had taken her convoy of galleons and dropped off their cargoes on Kashyyyk, from whence they'd be distributed by smaller shippers to the individual worlds of the Confederation. After being joined by a pair of Montcalm frigates from Eregion, the convoy had exited the Myantor Sector and entered the Taldot Sector via the Great Kashyyyk Branch trade route. After several small stops to little outposts, the convoy had finally arrived at the area's other great agriworld: Balamak. Yet she was not only present just to do some simple trading, unlike her previous trips to the planet, not that she could admit that to the Balamak naval officer. Nevaere shook her head.

“Our local intelligence branch believes there might be some wanted pirates hiding in the area. I'd like to perform a quick search of the area, and if they're present, seize them to put them on trial.”

It's not the whole truth, but CSIS did say there were some undesirable elements also searching the area for the lost Taldot Genetic Research Station...

The man's hazel eyes pierced deeply into her own

“Certainly an honorable intention," acknowledge the man, "and one that I can hardly fault the Confederation for having, but I am not so sure the Duke will take that well. You do realize that this could be viewed as violating Balamak's sovereign space if that particular edge of the belt falls into our designated economic exclusive zone...and at the very least, it's within our proverbial back yard so to speak...but I will see consult some more learned officials and see what they have to say.”

“Thank you sir.”

Noryn curtly nodded before the holo-projector cut off. Shrugging, Lydia exited the communications chamber to enter the corridors of the Warley. A variety of crewmen and droids shuffled through the halls, carrying and pushing various cargoes from Confederate worlds to trade with the planet's farmers, and even its government. From Soroya came a variety of outside trade goods, mostly clothing from the Core worlds that was the cutting edge of fashion in the mid rim. Quas Killam had provided several hundred blasters along with many more powerpacks that the Balamak Royal Army had requested. The various other goods from nearby Confederate worlds were present, but none of them otherwise interested her personally. Her comlink buzzed four times. That'd be Randau....hopefully he'll have some news...She clicked a button on it.


“Ma'am, I've done some talking in the space port bars like you've asked, and I got in touch with a local CSIS agent. The cantinas and bars pretty much turned up empty, as far as new info. There was one really drunk Ithorian who talked about some gornt experiments done there...but it was pretty nonspecific stuff...just better gornts, whatever the hell that means. Our agent on the ground has been compiling data from amateur astronomers in the area, as well as doing some searching of his own with an electro telescope, and he has a few promising leads based on the faint data he's been able to trace.”

“Transmit the leads to the Surcoaf. One of their squadrons will be doing a little investigative work on the down low until we get permission...but how are the markets looking?”

“Pretty much like we guessed, though apparently landspeeder parts are looking hotter than normal; apparently a couple of ships hauling repulsorlifts for the SoroSuub company got intercepted before they got here, so dealerships are snapping them up if they're right model for nearly double the price.”

“I imagine we don't have any, then.”

“Well, the whole repulsorlifts, no. But I could have swore that we had some of the subcomponents, didn't we? We can make a killing on them as people try to patch up the older or broken repulsorlift models that are compatible, but only if we talk to the right people...”
Posts: 1865
  • Posted On: Nov 2 2013 3:53pm
S12 Caracal One, edge of the Balamak System

“What a mess,” muttered his wingman.

Captain Otho Pubius gently tilted his pilot's yoke to the port, flipping his stealth fighter nearly upside down. The little light that escaped the system's blue star glittered on the bones of the wreck littered across the asteroid's surface. The Hast native stared at that the ship's remains. So boxy and with such thick support structures, the structure of the vessel looks like it dates to probably the age of Xim the Despot...He looked at the wreck closer. Doesn't look like there's much left of it any more; or rather, nothing of any real worth. But scavengers probably got to her thousands of years ago. There's nothing left here that's interesting to us. I guess we can strike this one off. He cleared his throat.

“I'd say it's pretty safe to scratch this one off the list too,” mused the man, “unless our research station was an ancient ship which crashed eons ago. Though I can see how it might look like the remains of research station all the way from Balamak. Next one?”

“Sure thing boss, ready when you are.”

Caracals One and Two jetted out of the edge of the system's Oort cloud before leaping into hyperspace. Mere seconds passed before the two craft decelerated back into realspace, once again cruising the outer edges of the asteroid belt. The man glanced at his display. That's quite a ride to get into there, it'll take some time, but at least this belt seems pretty tame...He flipped on his inflight music player and the ship's autopilot. The droid brains of the two starfighters deftly took the controls from the pilots and sent the craft in a relatively straightline course towards the suspected wreckage site. Pubius closed his eyes, letting the ebbs and flows of his music relax him to a near sleepy state. Suddenly, his fighter's HUD went red. He wrestled the controls out of the droid's hands, half expecting a concussion missile to leap straight past him.

“By the maker,” whispered Caracal Two, “lead, look at our nine o'clock.”

His brown eyes whipped around to his left to scan the horizon. Large asteroids seemed to tumble about aimlessly. But one large object was not quite asymmetric enough to be an asteroid, nor was its figure entirely round. Pubius frowned. Is that a Lucrehulk, or rather the remains of such a ship? Dark blue markings rounded the pocket-marked hull upon which was set a skeletal hexagonal marking. It's really battered, but I'm pretty sure that's an old CIS ship...but what's it doing this far into the belt? He looked closer. Several kilometers away, the man was able to spot more debris, but whether it was from the wrecked Lucrehulk or some other wreck, he could not tell.

“Lead, take a look at heading ATD1063, roughly five hundred klicks out.”

The man quickly adjusted his tachyonic sensors to reveal one of the larger asteroids in the near vicinity. Stretched across it were the partially intact remains of a larger vessel. He couldn't be sure of the make or model of the vessel, but the Confederate guessed the remains stretched over a seven hundred meter radius. Maybe that's it? His sensor board pinged. Active sensors? Two's not stupid enough to break a direct order...which means...who else is with us in the belt? But there's two sets of scanning, one near and weak, and multiple signals really far out...

“We're getting scanned,” informed Two, “or rather, someone's scanning the area.”

“I know Two,” mused Captain Pubius, fiddling with his sensor screen, “the closest one is that derelict Lucrehulk back there. CIS probably had it automated enough that some of its sensors and weapons are still probably live; I've heard stories back home of people stumbling upon old Clone Wars battle sites and nearly getting destroyed by the droid-run ships. I'm just not sure about the farther ones.”

“Could be prospectors,” suggested his wingman, “there are enough asteroids out here.”

“Maybe, but why did no-one get them sooner? This systems been occupied for thousands of years at least. I can't see them doing yet another look around, or at least not that many of them.”

“Only one practical choice remaining...”

He nodded, “Someone else is looking for these wrecks, or the lost research station...and they're almost here.”
Posts: 1865
  • Posted On: Nov 2 2013 9:20pm
Dorum, Balamak

“This is all rather unusual,” noted the Duke of Dorum, “Unless these are some particularly notorious pirates, I fail to see why you'd bother going out of your way to hunt them. Tell me, you are after the Taldot Research Station.”

“I thought that was a myth,” lied the woman.

“More truth than legend,” replied the Duke, “I suppose the question is does the station still remain, or even more properly, do pieces of it remain after all these years.”

“So the station did exist.”

“That much is a part of public record,” noted the monarch dryly, “we just don't know where it ever was, except on the outskirts of our systems. Dorum International, the owners of the station, based the company right here in this city. But due to public pressure, they had to remove their genetic experiments somewhere safe where they could be tested without the possibility of accidentally altering our lands. So they had to put there in space.”

“So if we were to find the station during our search for the pirates,” mused Lydia, “we should notify your people so that Dorum International could come and claim the wreck.”

“There were no heirs to the company,” observed the Duke, “they all disappeared with the station itself, shortly before the Battle of Balamak during the Clone Wars.”

“So the wreck would belong to you personally then,” suggested the CMF officer, “am I right?”

“Depending on where it is, yes,” said the man, “so if you do find it during your search, and it does fall within our economic exclusive zone, I expect you will tell me of it. I understand your Confederation has been running a little short on money. I assure that I'll make it worth your while.”

“So we do you have your permission to search for the pirates.”

The man nodded, “You do. But if there any wanted men among them who need to be tried in Balamak, I expect you'll turn them over to me.”

“I will.”

“Good,” smiled the Duke, “then you won't mind me attaching Captain Noryn to your little expedition to ensure that all parties keep their agreement.”

She propped her smile up. Well, this could be worse. At least he is kind of cute. Captain Noryn, a slim man wearing a green tunic walked up to her. He stiffly nodded. A little too serious though, but maybe he'll lighten up once we get to work...


S12 Caracal One, outskirts of the Balamak System

“I don't like this one bit.”

Their engines cut, the two stealth fighters drifted along the starry void. Asteroids loomed and tumbled around them, yet only the dispersed, shrouded sets of maneuver thrusters deftly moved the Confederate starfighters. Pubius wiped a bead of sweat from his brow, scanning the rocks around them, but his eyes kept on glancing forward. Several dozens of kilometers in front of him, a Nebulon-B frigate decked out in a bedazzling pattern of red and black spider webs led an odd formation of dusky-colored ships which he couldn't recognize. I can't see an official government or legitimate company using that sort of paint scheme for that frigate...but one never knows, I suppose.

“Look at the fighters around it...the Entmyal, just like at Taicho,” whispered his wingman.

“Are you sure?” frowned Pubius, “they don't look the same. I thought the Entymals used fighters with rounded wings.”

“Maybe at Taicho, but the markings on their wings are the same as the ones at Taicho.”

“Interesting,” mused the Hast native, “if they're related, maybe we can get the entire fleet to back us up...”

“Transponder on the frigate is the Stellar Snare,” replied Caracal Two, “I'm going to run it by the Surcoaf and see if they can get any records on it.”


Styria-class Galleon Warley, in orbit via Balamak

Line Captain Nevaere slipped through the bridge's main blast door, with Captain Noryn trailing in her wake. Few of the bridge crew paid any attention to her entrance. Instead, they seem entranced with watching a pair of live holo-feeds from a pair of distant S12s skimming around the system's Oort cloud. Lydia frowned, noting the frigate's unusual paint scheme. Webs like that used to be popular as pirate symbols before the Claw became popular instead...but it does go with the ship's alleged name. She frowned.

“When did we start getting this feed?” questioned the Soroyan native, settling in her command chair.

“Ma'am, these ships were spotted just as you were leaving Dorum,” reported her communication's officer, “Caracal 1 and 2 were exploring an alleged wreck.”

“Before our agreement?” questioned Captain Noryn.

“Only sites out of Balamak's exclusive economic zone,” defended the brunette, “I am aware of common galactic law that otherwise would not likely be smiled on. Did anyone get a positive identification of who we're spying on?”

“The Stellar Snare is a known pirate ship,” answered a man, “but hasn't recently been listed in any attacks for several months. All other ships are of unknown types, but communications and markings on the craft suggest they are part of the same ersatz Entymal group that struck Taicho some months ago. We still haven't been able to decrypt any of their communications.”

“Do the unknown ships carry transponders of any sort?” asked the Captain, “or are they running in the black?”

“They're in the black.”

No transponders suggest we're dealing with an illegitimate group, otherwise BoSS would have registered them. Or they're simply unaware of transponder would explain why the frigate's transponder wasn't changed if they captured it...or perhaps they hired the pirates to help them out with something? But there aren't any normal fighters present in that little formation...


“Yes?” replied the Soroyan woman.

“There is one other thing you should know. This group of ships is headed towards a pair of wrecks, one of which has the potential to be the Taldot Station.”

She pursed her lips. I'll never hear the end of it if that ends up being the station and we don't get it. Besides, I'm sure the perks of getting the wreck will outweigh any of the risks. And it's not like we know for sure that they're hostile anyways. But if they are, well, perhaps I should call in some back-up before we jump...even if it looks like we're roughly matched. She flipped a strand of her hair from her face.

“Comms, send out a signal asking for the nearest Confederate ships asking for reinforcement. Prepare to exit orbit to make a jump to near the wrecks. Put us at yellow alert.”

A series of acknowledgments echoed throughout the bridge of the galleon. She leaned back in her chair and began to review the footage of the wrecks already taken by Caracals One and Two. Lydia felt a hand brush up against her back. Behind her, Captain Noryn blushed, before retracting his hand from her chair as he attempted to spy upon on her console. She offered him a wry grin and tapped a button, enlarging the holo of the footage. The man blushed and briefly turned towards the bridge's viewport, ostensibly to view a pair of starfighters coming in to dock with the Confederate vessel. He's absolutely terrible at hiding it...The viewport shifted as the Warley lead the convoy out of orbit and entered hyperspace. Minutes passed before the galleon exited realspace among the tumbling rocks of the system's Oort cloud. Several dozens of kilometers away, the wreck upon the asteroid lay almost undisturbed.

Bright lights pulsed towards the Warley, suffusing the viewport in a myriad of red shades viewport. She frowned and rapidly toggled screens on her console. Those supposed Entymal ships can't be in range yet...they just can't...the other wreck...ugh...of course, but that wreck may have some clues for us, or treasure, or is at least valuable as scrap, and the Maker knows we can use all the money we can get...She glanced up and snapped her fingers at her flight chief.

“Launch whatever transports you got available to head over that wreck on the asteroid,” ordered the woman, “weapons, I want you to silence that battleship's active guns. But no hard damage. I want the wreck as intact as we can get her. Disperse the fleet, but order the Surcoaf to move in and board that Lucrehulk.”

“Ma'am, those unidentified ships are going crazy, they're launching fighters...”

“I'd say it's safe to say they've noticed our arrival then, prepare for battle, launch all fighters, but let's not start something. Let them attack us first...I want us to be in the diplomatic right on this, m'kay? Good.”
Posts: 1865
  • Posted On: Nov 3 2013 7:40pm
CG-10 Centaur Red Three, near outskirts of the Balamak System

Droid Controller Rebosen gripped the transport's straps tightly; his squad of droids along with another dozen CMF security troopers seemed more at ease: the Paladins simply remained immobile while the security teams rechecked their weapons over again. He glanced at his datapad, pulling up the specs for all of the units he would be leading into battle. Most of them came from experienced personas. The lead Paladin unit had even participated in several actual skirmishes in the Meridian Sector under Commodore Tobias, which was more than he could say. The Gestalt-built craft rapidly slowed down, and Rebosen thought he could hear the telltale click of entering a magcon field, but he wasn't certain. Yet the craft did not stop, though he could hear the gunners talking about and firing their weapons at unseen enemies nearby. There are still probably hundreds of droids left in this ship to oppose us...Several minutes passed before the ship came to an abrupt halt. He glanced at the CMF sergeant, who briefly nodded. Rebosen nodded in turn; tapping a few buttons on his datapad.

As the ramp of the transport lowered, the droids crouched down and exited, firing their assault rifles as they left the safety of the starship's shields and hull. The CMF troops pressed closely behind, their own blaster rifles leveled. Drawing his own blaster pistol, Rebosen quickly pocketed the datapad and fell in step with the CMF sergeant. The blackened remains of droidekas littered the ground at the rear of the hangar. Some had obviously been seared by the transport's laser weaponry, yet other seemed to have merely chunks missing. He couldn't tell if they were the victims of the disrepair and age, or if the shells from his droids had simply disintegrated them with their fusion shells.

“This way,” decided the sergeant, pointing at a nearby blast door.

That looks fairly well locked down...But before he could say anything, several of his more self-aware and motivated droids were already busy trying cut the sealed door with their cutting lasers. He tapped a button an his datapad, sending the other droids to help in the task; meanwhile, the CMF troopers formed a defensive ring around the droid controller and the sergeant, not that it was entirely necessary with the protection of the nearby Centaur. A few minutes passed before the droids cut it down and charged through the door, knocking down several dozen waiting B1 battle droids in the process. The Confederate organics followed, letting their battle droids take the initial fire and utterly devastate the opposition. Durable and powerful, but still a little too simple-minded most of the time...The humans struggled to keep up with the quickly advancing droids, but they all finally met up near the blast doors to the warship's bridge, where the Paladins once again began to tirelessly burn through the wreck's door. Finally, one of the droids took its oversize arm and smashed the remains of the door down, revealing a nearly sterile bridge, aside from the remains of its Neimodian captain sprawled out across the floor, run by a crew of unarmed B1 droids with blue markings painted across their torsos. Without waiting for instruction, the troopers and their droids fell upon the wreck's bridge crew with more ferocity than a pack of starving howlrunners. But Rebosen paid neither the terrified droids or the Confederates intent on dismembering the hapless droids any heed. He jogged up to the command console and merely plugged in his oversized datapad.


Styria-class Galleon Warley, on the outskirts of the Balamak system

“One of the insertion teams has reached the bridge of the wrecked Lucrehulk, they're giving us plug and play control now.”

The woman merely nodded, staring intently at the swarm of fighters from both sides coalesce together briefly before chaotically falling out of it in dozens of almost separate dogfights. Swarms of Piranha drones enveloped their foes in fights more vicious thatn those between feral razor cats. But while the Entymals' attention was fixated on the ubiquitous drones, the light Shadowcasters opportunistically picked off their harried foes as two dozen Prowler heavy fighters smashed into regrouping elements of the Entymals' fighter groups. Nevaere ripped her eyes from the distant dogfights back to her command screen and its tactical screen. Asteroids clouded her physical view of the opposing capital ships, though she could tell by their FST profiles that several were about to slip through a series of asteroids to reveal themselves. What mess have I gotten us into this time? Her stomach churned slightly. Conflict is always inevitable in space, it's just a matter of how it's resolved...though I'm not sure I could make the clicking noises these fake Entymalians make...She shook the thought away and rapidly selected the nearest glowing dot on her sensor board and tagged it as the convoy's primary target, and then began designating various other enemy ships as other targets for those ships who weren't able to fire on the prime target because of their positions and the various asteroids blocking their fields of fire. And we have to make sure we don't hit the least this field is mature enough that those around us are large, predictable, and slow-moving...

The prow of the first Entymalian ship just peered out of an asteroid's edge. It was roughly the size and shape of the aging Gallofree transports popularized by the Alliance. Yet a pair of metal structures shaped roughly like mandibles jutting out of the bow combined with batteries of ion cannons and slugthrowers quickly put the notion that it was a harmless vessel to rest. Slightly less than a dozen streams of sapphire bolts sprang out of the craft towards the Galleon Ponsborne, which was attempting to outflank the approaching formation of Entymalian ships. Slugthrower batteries on the Entymalian escort tore at the clouds of Piranhas as the Confederate drones began to finish off the last of Entymalian starfighters. Streams of slow-moving ion tags hurled out from the clusters of Confederate galleons, joined by the turbolasers of the Surcoaf lashed out in retaliation at the convoy's prime target. The Confederate's other Montcalm-class Frigate, the Pallas, came out from behind the Ponsborne to meet a flanking movement by another Entymalian escort headed on.

“We're drawing fire from the Stellar Snare and those two other unknown frigates.”

So six capital vessels arrayed against us, we have them outnumbered, if we can safely get the other galleons in the rear in front of us without wrecking themselves on the asteroids...Turbolaser beams flashed out from the opposing frigate towards the Warley. Looks like they figured out we're the flagship...Lightning crackled across the lead Entymalian vessel. Meanwhile, beams of emerald turbolaser fire from the Surcoaf shortly smashed into the mostly disabled ship, creating a brief conflagration which faded into a cloud of rapidly expanding shrapnel.

“The Ponsborne is getting hit bad,” noted Captain Noryn from behind her, “What are you going to do about her?”

Her stomach churned some more. Lydia watched as another surviving Entymalian escort ganged up on the galleon. Caught in the crossfire by the two of the escorts, the Ponsborne struggled to keep even its position constant under the barrage of heavy ion fire. The Pallas shot ahead of the crippled galleon to engage the escort attempting to outflank the Confederate formation. I hate this part about the job. All the worlds to see, people to meet, things to discover like a regular merchant, but the consistent pay and the logistics all worked out for you...seems like the CMF seems like the perfect job, until you also realize that you're a combat commander's a good thing those regular navy folks are taking initiative to deal with the problem...The Pallas pounded the other escort mercilessly, battering down the smaller ship's shields with turbolasers and missiles while selectively trying to disable subsystems of the warship with its ion cannons. She cleared her throat.

“Comms, get the reserve galleons to send out some shuttles with damage control teams to help out the Ponsborne get that damage under control.”

“All enemy fighters destroyed,” announced her flight controller, “but we've lost dozens of the drones, probably several squadrons worth.”

She winced. The drones were expendable, though their loss would cut out into the profit margins of the expedition, assuming it went entirely as planned. Yet she was willing to trade their loss for the destruction of the opposing fighters. At least that's one thing to not worry about now, now I'd rather not worry about our fighters much longer if their's are gone.

“Send them all on a brief attack run on the Stellar Snare and then have them fall back and dock with our ships,” decided the woman.

The two formations of ships edged closer to each other, with a flood of surviving Confederate starfighters rapidly filling the void between the formations before filtering into that of the Entymal ships to strafe the Nebulon frigate with a variety of missiles and guns. The Stellar Snare loomed in the Warley's viewport. The woman abandoned herself from watching the battle unfold into directing the formations of glowing dots to attack each other. She missed the spectacle of the Pallas breaking down its opponents shields, disabling it with ion cannon fire, and then precisely cutting through its hull with its plasma drills before unleashing dozens of Paladin II Assault droids to seize the crippled craft. She did see the glowing dot labeled the Stellar Snare attempt to limp away from the battle after suffering massed ion fire from the convoy and the starfighter assault. The Nebulon frigate didn't far before its crippled maneuvering thrusters gave out, sending the ship in a circle, jettisoning escape pods to picked up by the pair of Entymalian-built frigates. The aliens attempted another flanking movement with their last surviving escort on the starboard side of the Warley, but were met head on by the newly arrived Galleon Grosevnor, which promptly entangled the other craft with its tractor beams.

“Shields going under 80%,” announced her shield operator.

We are taking all the fire from their's a good thing that KDI focused so much on heavy defenses for these ships, otherwise a typical vessel right now would be close to losing its shields...and their frigates are relatively unscratched. Well, we can change that...Lydia tapped several buttons, designating the closest Entymalian frigate as the convoy's prime target. She snorted. I'm no Admiral Lucerne, but I can at least get some basic tactics done I right? Weapons fire intensified between her galleon and the pair of Entymalian frigates. More red turbolaser bolts surged out of the wing-shaped frigates, as the Entymalian warships shifted their fire from other targets to focus on the Warley. Her eyes narrowed. So we're playing a little tit and tat, or is it just plain business? She licked her lips. Well, it's going to be a short vendetta at this rate...The last Entymalian escort fell silent under the combined guns of the Grovesnor and the Ablemarle, leaving the Confederate fleet to focus their fire on the pair of frigates.

Her console flashed a vibrant yellow, indicating that her galleon's shields had been battered below fifty percent. She hesitated. I'd rather not take any damage or lose anyone in this fight...and it doesn't look like their frigates are going to last much longer...but still...we can keep the pressure on for now...Escape pods shot out of the first frigate. Lydia felt her stomach ease up. But just as suddenly as they had appeared, the pods jumped into hyperspace. We must have taken out their engines. Her eyes turned towards the other frigate, which struggled against the pull of the Pallas' tractor beam projectors. The slower galleons moved into range and latched their own tractor beams onto the ship. The Confederate warships pounded the frigate into submission until it too launched a flurry of escape pods and shuttlecraft that quickly jumped into hyperspace, leaving the Confederate forces firmly in control of the battlefield and their prizes.
Posts: 1865
  • Posted On: Nov 9 2013 3:55pm
Duke's Palace, Dorum, Balamak

“Captain Noryn tells me do you have the station in your possession now,” said the man slowly, “Or rather, its remains. What were you able to learn about it?”

“A lot,” mustered the woman, brushing a strand of hair from her face, “the station was attacked shortly before the Battle of Balamak by a CIS battleship. While we are not entirely sure of the reasons why, perhaps to disrupt the Republic's food supply or take it in advance of their invasion. What we do know is that the battle was fierce, the station's vast defensive minefields at the time utterly devastated the many droid fighters the warship carried, and apparently the station was able to use its tractor beams to batter down much of the Lucrehulk, but it wasn't enough to prevent the station from going down after wave after wave of droid attacks. The station and the Lucrehulk gained pyrrhic victories.”

“I admit, while that is interesting, it is not my main concern...”

She flashed smile, “You want to know if any of their experiments survived.”

“Or data,” added the Duke.

“Some did,” replied the woman, “we were able to recover a fair amount of datapads, circuitry, and even one intact data core. Most of it was encrypted, so I've already sent it away for better analysis. We were able to find some carcasses of their experiments. Preliminary DNA testing shows that the station's main project was splicing genes to make a gornt better adapted to Balamak's markets. Our very basic testing was able to show a fast-growth gene for quicker maturity, as well as several minor biological adaptations to make it better suitable for raising on Balamak. There were plants being grown there, but our medical facilities on our ships aren't set up to test any of those samples yet.”

“How much would it cost to attain the samples?”

She hesitated, “I'm under strict orders not to release any of the findings to outside interests. Several agriworlds within the Confederation will most likely be taking use of the technology found here to further enhance their own agricultural markets.”

The Duke frowned, “Even the Gornts? If what you say is true, then they are only well-tailored to this planet.”

“Especially the gornts,” notified the woman, “our genetic specialists at Almas will likely be slightly altering whatever they find there to adapt to other worlds. Perhaps even Uyter.”

The Duke scowled and briefly turned away. I got him there. They're two great rivals here, but while Uyter's always been a bit more successful with its crops, Balamak has done better with its livestock, but if that were to change because of this development...The Duke turned back to face the woman and stare straight into her eyes.

“There's always a price,” muttered the Duke, “I suppose it would be available if Balamak joined the Confederation.”

“It would,” acknowledged Lydia, “but would you really have your world join a government just for that? The research can be duplicated.”

He snorted, “Don't patronize me. I know it can, but even if I found the right people and outfitted them appropiately, by the time the product would be ready, we would be over ten years behind Uyter. But don't think I'm not considering Balamak joining merely based on that alone. It's just another factor weighing in, nevermind the bout of Confederation influence in the space around us. I was nearly already at the decision to have our world join merely to get more free trade access to the rest of the Confederation, but this seals the deal. Our world is already beginning to rely heavily on the Confederation for our imports, and now apparently, even our defense. I expect my world to access to this data promptly, once our membership is approved and accepted. Can you promise me that?”

Thorn was right. That's all it would take. Continual little nudges, and now we have another agri-world to help deal with the Food Crisis...

“I can, your highness,” stated the woman, “there were several within the Confederation who thought it might end up this way. They have already begun taking the appropiate steps. I am authorized to accept Balamak's induction into the Confederation. You already have the Confederation at your side.”

“Bah,” rebutted the man, “even before this agreement. Loyalty and friendship is always earned over time, so rarely suddenly and by big things. It's in the little things. Your confederation had already demonstrated that to us, and vice versa for months now. It's the commitment and all the strings attached it brings that always presents the problems. But keeping my people's wellbeing and our economy at peak performance makes those strings worthwhile. You will have your application by the day's end.”

“Welcome to the Confederation, your highness.”