Author's Note: I'm still trying to figure out how chapter 2 not only got more views, but more visitors than chapter 1. Don't people have to go through chapter 1 to get to chapter 2? In other news the Void Skimmer John Archer got assigned to is named the Punctuality. Also, a teeny bit more exposition.

I just realized something terrifying. This Federation has RTS level manufacturing, except they don't need resource nodes. And every unit is also a builder unit.

Federation Economics: As the development of the Replicator more-or-less made all matter, equipment, and energy inter-changable, it also rendered conventional currencies worthless. Thus the Federation uses a 'matter economy', with the kilogram being the standard unit of wealth. Worth noting is that a license or similar authorization is still required for a replicator to produce a firearm or just flat out convert matter to energy. Everyone is provided a certain amount of matter by the government based on what service they provide the Federation (list of pay rates below), in 25 gram iridium slugs. In addition, citizens may supplement their income by providing a service to others and charging a certain amount of matter for it (though they had better make sure the service they offer is something not just anyone can do before starting if they want to avoid getting laughed at).
Pay Rates
-Freeloader: 1 kg per day
-Miner/mass extractor: 1% of yield (evaluated at end of week)
-Civilian ship hand/low level transport driver: 4 kg per day
-Civilian ship officer: 6 kg per day
-Civilian ship captain: 12 kg per day
-Street/desk level Police work: 4 kg per day
-Detective: 6 kg per day
-Police Commissioner: 12 kg per day
-Researcher: 10 kg per day
-Research Director: 15 kg per day
-Designer (makes new designs to feed into the replicators): 12 kg per day
-Grunt-level military service (trooper or ship hand): 6 kg per day, paid at end of tour of duty
-Low-level officer military service: 8 kg per day, paid at end of tour of duty
-Mid-level officer military service (I.E. Major or Captain): 12 kg per day, paid at end of tour of duty
-High-level officer military service (admiral, general, that sort of thing): 18 kg per day, paid at end of tour of duty
-street-level government official (civil engineer, IRS agent, health inspector, etc.): 5 kg per day
-mid-level bureaucrat: 8 kg per day
-local governor: 25 kg per day
-habitat/planetary governor: 35 kg per day
-system governor: 50 kg per day
-star cluster governor: 100 kg per day

John Archer groaned as the Punctuality left the replicator that had just manufactured it exactly 5 minutes behind schedule. They were launching from Tau Ceti, which was a well-developed core system by now. Their ship was equipped with an experimental Transwarp drive (effective velocity of 100 light years per day), the basic principles of which had been provided so thoughtfully by the Borg. Their destination was the galaxy's core, which John suspected was at least partially to get him out of the way for about a year and a half.

They departed immediately.

1st stop: somewhere I can't be bothered to name (1,200 light years from home)(48,200 light years to go)

As the Punctuality exited Transwarp on the outer edge of the system, they came across a Class L planet. It was a rather cold place with a brisk average surface temperature of 9.3 degrees centigrade and an atmosphere that could be easily breathable if one were wearing a simple breathing filter. As they were about to simply mark the planet for later consumption, the spectrometer detected faint traces of industrial pollutants. On closer inspection (a quick in-system warp to 1.5 light seconds of range) it was determined that the planet had inhabitants that were just entering the information age.

Even closer inspection revealed the presence of large numbers of nuclear missile silos, and what appeared to be military satelites (some of which were weaponized). In total, it was fairly obvious that this world was on its way to a nuclear war. Dirk Vanlith, captain of the Punctuality, would be having none of that. Internal conflicts were mostly the affairs of the species in question, but that went out the window when extinction was a serious possibility. A plan was concocted. 1 'bouncy ball' set to nuke mode would be transported to each nuclear silo and weapon satellite the natives had, and they would all be activated at once. But first they had to make sure that they had found them all.

This meant that 2 ground operations had to be undertaken, 1 for each superpower, to get intel on the locations of things such as well-camouflaged nuclear silos.

Ground operations

Rules: each team consists of 10 troopers, 6 generalists and 4 specialists. The specialists are the Heavy who carries the big honking kill everything gun, the Poltergeist with a quieter suit, optical cloak and high-performance gravity manipulation augs, the field engineer with a high-capacity personal replicator/mass harvester, and the officer who keeps everyone organized.

There are 6 relevant stats, strength, finesse, endurance, speed, intelligence, and intuition. When a team member goes down, who that is gets randomly rolled for, and has an 85% chance of getting right back up thanks to the suit's auto-med system. stats go: low, average, high, very high,incredibly high, extremely high, insanely high. No-one with a low stat made the cut (or they just got augmented until that wasn't a problem anymore). As long as their suit's exoskeleton is still functioning, all physical stats (strength, endurance, finesse, and speed) are treated as extremely high. Every soldier was randomly generated. The teams are being inserted via stealth drop pod (replicated on site) and extracting via transporter. Please bear in mind that these are simultaneous operations.

Team #1 (dropping into the Herate Empire)
1: Str: very high/End: very high/Fin: average/spd: average/intel: average/intu: average/ gender: F/ name: Terica Carrick
2: Str: high/ End: high/Fin: very high/Spd: average/intel: high/Intu: high/gender: M/name: Darwin Ducote
3: Str: average/End: high/Fin: high/Spd: average/intel: average/intu: very high/gender: F/Name: Bryanna Centrich
4: Str: high/End: high/Fin: very high/Spd: average/intel: very high/intu: high/gender: F/Name: Rosette Vilchis
5: Str: very high/End: average/Fin: very high/Spd: very high/intel: average/intu: very high/gender: F/Name: Keva Galven
6: Str: average/End: very high/Fin: average/Spd: very high/intel: high/intu: average/gender: M/Name: Issac Malik
Heavy: Str: high/End: high/Fin: very high/Spd: average/intel: average/intu: high/gender: M/Name: Elvin Veillon
Poltergeist: Str: average/End: high/Fin: very high/Spd: high/intel: very high/intu: high/gender: F/Name: Ai Engstrom
Field Engineer: Str: high/End: average/Fin: high/Spd: high/intel: high/intu: high/gender: F/Name: Jennel Steward
Officer: Str: very high/End: high/Fin: average/Spd: very high/intel: high/intu: high/gender: M/Name: Dillon Grippen

Team #2 (dropping into the Belshen Dominions)
1: Str: average/End: average/Fin: high/Spd: very high/Intel: very high/Intu: high/Gender: M/Name: Elvin Burcham
2: Str: high/End: very high/Fin: average/Spd: high/Intel: very high/Intu: average/Gender: M/Name: Hank Wynn
3: Str: very high/End: average/Fin: average/Spd: high/Intel: average/Intu: average/Gender: M/Name: Darius Askvig
4: Str: high/End: average/Fin: average/Spd: high/Intel: average/Intu: high/Gender: M/Name: Damien Castiglione
5: Str: average/End: average/Fin: very high/Spd: high/Intel: average/Intu: high/Gender: M/Name: Weldon Lockley
6: Str: average/End: average/Fin: average/Spd: very high/Intel: average/Intu: average/Gender: M/Name: Darron Sonoda
Heavy: Str: high/End: high/Fin: high/Spd: average/Intel: very high/Intu: average/Gender: M/Name: Walton Avant
Poltergeist: Str: very high/End: average/Fin: high/Spd: high/Intel: very high/Intu: high/Gender: M/Name: Arlen Nicolau
Field Engineer: Str: high/End: high/Fin: high/Spd: very high/Intel: high/Intu: average/Gender: M/Name: Linwood Grippen
Officer: Str: average/End: high/Fin: very high/Spd: average/Intel: high/Intu: high/Gender: F/Name: Jennifer Shepard

Operation 1 (Herate Empire IntCom) (note: This is in the style of a report from one of the survivors)

I was a janitor. Yes, you heard me, I was a janitor. I was just finishing mopping up some [vomit] in the radar tower, when I see this massive fireball streaking towards the ground. So, like anyone with a working sense of self-preservation, I ducked behind the nearest sizable cover, which happened to be the radar's computer. Then I hear this huge CRASH noise and look through the window.

That was no meteorite, no matter what they try to tell me. It was a cylinder of some blackish metal, roughly [3 meters] in diameter and [6 meters] tall. Then, as the guards come up to it, a hole sort of... melts open in the side and a group of vaguely [humanoid] things that were probably robots comes out, guns blazing. When they shot at us, it was a one-hit kill, but the aliens had some sort of barrier to deflect our bullets that visibly flared up when we shot it. Eventually, Gertuyi managed to take down one of the regular ones with one of those mini-nuke launchers, but when the rest saw that he went down in less than a [second]. I'm so glad it came down roughly 2 km away from IntCom.

You ask what I meant by the regular ones? Oh, there were about 3 ones that could do... really weird [S***], even accounting for the infinite ammo anti-tank rayguns they used for assault rifles. The first type was the most straightforward, it just had these 2 massive shoulder 'cannons' and was much more bulky than the rest at about 3 meters tall. One shot from those things must have hit with the force of several tons of high explosive. And each one fired 6 times every [second]. I call that type the beast, and the other survivors agree with me that was an appropriate term for them.

Now, we never actually saw the next type. But it was probably there. You see about halfway through that desperate delaying action, rocks and such started levitating off the ground before launching themselves towards people at hyper-sonic velocities. When they shot at where those rocks were, they hit empty air. The scariest thing that one did was when we managed to get one of the new nuclear MBTs on the scene. One [second] it was there, the area it was in went entirely black for the briefest of periods, and then it was just... gone. The only real conclusive evidence we have that one even existed is that eventually one of the guys with an automatic shotgun traversed his gun around while doing a mag dump, and about halfway through an apparently empty spot flares up like one of those alien's shields do when hit. We nicknamed that type... or possibly phenomena the wraith.

This next one is what really freaked me out, if only because I actually got within 2 meters of it. It was about the same size as a regular one, except it had this large backpack thing it wore around. It came up from below ground inside the base. I heard some gunfire and some weird fizz around the corner, and then the shooting suddenly stopped. I looked around the corner, and I saw this tunnel sloping down in the wall lined with gleaming metal. I followed the noises and trail of matter that had been ripped from the walls, floor and ceiling, and I showed up behind that monstrosity as it was storming a barricade. Not by itself though, it was hanging back, and it was taking things apart near it, changing the matter and using that to build floating spherical combat drones it was sending at the defenses. The drones apparently lacked a barrier, as they were being gunned down in fairly short order.

That... thing apparently got tired of waiting for the defenders to run out of ammunition, so it produced a little red ball in much the same way as it did the drones and threw it. As it turned out, that little red ball was a horrifically powerful hand grenade. The... thing continued into the carnage it created, and it F***ing GREW floor for it to walk on as it crossed the hole in the floor it had caused. I took one of the downed combat drones with me as i continued. It had a hole in its casing, through which I could see a sheared wire emitting sparks. I didn't know what would happen if it made contact with somewhere it wasn't supposed to go, but I had a hunch it wouldn't be good. As I continued following that monstrosity, I watched as it disintegrated one of my friends and used her for raw matter to build another batch of combat drones.

That was when I lost it. I ran up behind this death machine, and jammed that wire around in my appropriated combat drone, which yielded a slight fizzing noise. The monster whirled around and shot me with some sort of dart before grabbing that thing and throwing it as far as it possibly could. As it flew, the monster disintegrated stuff around its flight path while at the same time layering on as much of some super-dense alloy as it could. That drone must have been buried under 8 meters of material by the time it went off, and it still popped that casing like a [water balloon]. I passed out from whatever was in that dart shortly after. You're wondering what I call that type? Let's call it the alchemist.

-Jerged, janitor (retired)

Operation 2 (Belshen NLA)

As we dropped in, we decided to go for a tunnel insertion. To facilitate this we came in slow enough to avoid the normal fireball, and landed in the forest 28 km away. Exographic sensors and the ability to tunnel with almost no restrictions meant Arlen more-or less just slipped in when they weren't looking, grabbed the intel, and beamed out before they ever knew we were there. We decided to leave the tunnel behind and well-lit though just to troll the natives a bit though.

~A few minutes later, back in space~

"Lieutenant Dillon, I'm trying to figure out how the squad with fewer guys on it somehow acted more pointlessly violent than the team with only one woman."

"What, we got the intel!"

"At the same time, your decision directly caused the unnecessary deaths of over 125 natives, who I would like you to remember did not have the option of continuously updating a remote backup of themselves."

"But why do they matter!?"

"I would like to remind you that the entire purpose of this operation was to prevent a nuclear war by sabotaging their nuclear arsenals, NOT to stroke your already huge ego."


"Consider yourself demoted to Grunt, and you will perform the next ground operation with no equipment or augmentations besides a conversion pistol with only 400 shots left, a dress uniform, and a communicator. On planets besides Class M you will be provided with the bare minimum life support equipment to function in that specific environment."

"Shepard, considering your extremely low-casualty performance on that last mission, would you like to do the honors of destroying all of their WMDs?"


Dirk considered what to do to fulfill the Prime Directive and help boost the natives of this planet to the stars without just giving it to them on a silver platter. He supposed he could give each power bloc an orbital plate made by some seed replicators launched to the planet's surface to start out with.

Orbital Plate: An orbital plate is a sort of habitat that blurs the line between a Space Elevator and an extra subcontinent. An orbital plate is a hexagon 600 km on a side with walls 225 km tall. The top is covered with a specialized force field to prevent what little air loss the walls don't deal with but allowing spacecraft to pass through. An Orbital Plate is anchored to its planet by extremely heavy duty space elevator systems at the corners, center, and other such points. Inside an Orbital Plate are 935,000 square kilometers of usable land (though some portion of that is covered in bodies of water). Typically, an Orbital Plate is just a teensy bit further out than geosynchronous orbit, and the extra tension leads to centrifugal force simulating gravity fairly well without any power-hogging gravity manipulators. In Federation space, a planet typically has such a large number of orbital plates around it that they eventually get joined together into a solid ring out of convenience.