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First Contact - Part Seven / Realization of Second Contact
[first] [prev] [next] Many great cycles had passed without a single contact within the Great Emptiness. Many of the members of the Unified Science Council began to believe that perhaps it was some kind of lingering energies left over from the Precursor War that had created mass hallucinations, or perhaps it was just isolated incidents with no meaning. Seventeen Great Cycles and not a single clue that supported the existence of the Solarians, the Clone Directorate, sentient AI's, or any of the other strangeness discovered over that Great Cycle. Even the Unified Executor Council had been forced to agree that the Solarians had simply, well, vanished. The Unified High Council had no choice but to allow exploration of the Great Emptiness and so passed legislation to repeal the prohibition against exploration of that region of space. That is how Monnat Banaltee of the HiKruth found himself in charge of a crew of a dozen of the Deep Space Explorer's Guild and in possession of one of the most advanced ships the Unified Technology Council would permit to be built. The ship, named To Wrest Answers from the Darkness, had the best jumpspace engines, the most advanced computers with the most powerful computation and analysis lobes, laboratories and testing capabilities more advanced that any other ship, with sensors more sensitive than any other, communications capable of hearing the slightest whisper. Additionally, the ship's omnitranslator had been loaded with the TerraSol lexicons learned so far. That was an entire Great Cycle ago. Which was why Monnat, who refused the title of Captain and preferred Most Learned, was almost sick from boredom despite his race being legendary for patience. Even the upcoming arrival in a new solar system, deeper than anyone had gone so far into the Great Emptiness, failed to alleviate his boredom. How could it? The last thirty systems they'd scanned had been the same: deeper than anyone had explored. And empty except for a hundred million years of isolated evolution, largely resulting in a few plants or maybe even some non-sapient life more evolved than a cluster of cells. Monnat was willing to bet his next three research grants that the next one would be the same. "Preparing to drop," Aastruk stated. A master of astrogation and navigation, who had led whole fleets through jumpspace with his skill during his many years as part of the Unified Military Fleet, Aastruk was capable of making such sublime jump transitions that even the most sensitive of the scientists suffered little more than a light spell of dizziness. At the end of the countdown there was a slight queasiness and that was all, allowing Monnat to tap his vestigal claws together and stare at Billik, a sensor's technician of extreme skill. After nearly an entire cycle Monnat was beginning to wonder if Billik had decided not to do his job out of sheer boredom. "Scan Master Billik?" Monnat asked. "A moment, please, Most Learned One," Billik said. The scan tech looked over at Z'Mak, the Chief of Maintenance. "Oh Attentive One, Lord and Master of the Mechanical, can you perform a diagnostic upon my lowly instrumentation?" Monnat sighed internally. Sometimes he wondered if all the insistence on titles and honorifics made it so things took longer than necessary. A heretical thought, he knew, but one had had asked himself many times over his long life. Z'Mak, who was a stickler for protocol, nodded, the ruffle around his neck and down his spine flushing in pleasure. He examined his displays, tapped in some commands, then leaned back. "Your instrumentation and displays are all functioning at over 90% efficiency, most attentive and inquisitive scanning technician," Z'Mak said. At least Billik did not take offense at the obvious omission of honorifics, as he had during the first long cycles of the voyage, as Z'Mak was of the belief that those who joined the Unified Military Council or the Fleet were somehow less than those who devoted their lives to other pursuits. "Then it appears, at long last, we have found a system with unknown xenosapients," Billik stated. "There are several settlements on the surface, four orbiting stations, solar collectors, and power readings everywhere." "Launch a probe," Monnat said. "I will be waiting in my chambers. Announce to me when the probe begins to relay data." Billik nodded as Monnat stood up on all four legs and moved toward his personal chambers. ------------------- "Most Learned One," E'kotat's voice interrupted Monnat's viewing of a lecture on how a stable reaction within the translation chamber of a jump-drive was only established one way, despite crackpot claims of other possibilities. "Yes, Second Leader?" Monnat sighed. He doubted that it was going to actually be anything. There had been nearly a dozen false alarms in the first few cycles of his mission. Every time it had turned out to be just a lost colony. "You should come to the bridge immediately," E'kotat said. "Make all due haste." Monnat frowned. E'kotat was a Drimarian, cold blooded quasi-mammal who's race's physiology was almost incapable of excitement. For him to urge haste was unusual. And noteworthy. When he entered the bridge, Monnat noted that Security Officer Lukamit, a computer code researcher who held a position mostly ceremonial, was busy over his terminals, all three of his lab assistants working with him. "What is the emergency? Did something happen to the probe?" Monnat sighed, settling into his crash couch. "We lost contact with it, Most Learned One," Billik stated. "It was intercepted by an energy pulse that shut it down. Soon afterwards, we were..." "I will inform the Most Learned," Z'Mak snapped. He looked at Monnat. "It was then that we received communication signals. It attempted to open a communications channel but at the same time attempted to penetrate our computer network. Whoever the signal is from, they are most insistent that they be allowed access to our computer systems." Lukamit interrupted, ignoring Z'Mak's flutter of his crest. "We are fortunate that they only use a binary type logic and only binary signalling. This allows me to use the lobes in parallel to more effect than they can. However, they did access the omnitranslator's lexicon and have been attempting to transfer it to their systems." Monnat thought a moment. "Allow it." "But standard is to exchange lexicons," Z'Mak protested. "Do as I command as Most Learned One," Monnat told Z'Mak, fixing him with a stare that used all four eyes. Z'Mak backed down. "Lexicon is transferred. Wait, they've stopped trying to access our systems," Lukamit said. "They've purged their own code and completely withdrawn." "We have an incoming signal," Juketet stated, listening closely. "Audio and visual, although only across a limited base three-primary color scale. They are not permitting any reply. Transmission only. It's quite rude." Monnat sighed, fully expecting it to be another lost colony. Probably fallen back to aggression and superstition. Instead the figure that appeared on the screen was unlike any he'd ever seen. Tall, graceful appearing for a biped, mammalian, with jewels adorning them, dressed in comfortable and gossamer appearing cloth, long golden hair and pointed ears. The female, and it had to be a female as it had mammalian milk ducts that were prominent, was surrounded by scantily clad bipeds that were shorter but had the same lithe build and pointed ears. For some reason she gave off the appearance of being superior to everyone present. As if something more than nature, because nature could never produce such a perfect specimen, had crafted her to be perfection embodied. It was a strange feeling for Monnat. When she spoke, it was a strange language, linguistically designed to flow together and sound like music even mathematically. Monnat noticed that Z'Mak seemed offended by the being. The translation showed below, at the bottom of the screen. "Welcome to the Magic Realms of Meratarrian. I am Queen Radosalvov the Graceful, you may call me Queen, Your Highness, or Radiant Divine One." Z'Mak almost seemed to choke. "According to Confederate Law, attempting to pirate views via recording probes without a license as well as permission from Galactic Studios Incorporated and Electronic Artistic Studios is a grave violation of our legal rights." That caught Lukamit's attention. "As your language is unknown to me I will assume that you were not meant to intrude upon this realm and I have decided to extend elven hospitality to you." Monnat kept his expression from changing. Another race. Bipedal, warm blooded, mammalian, forward facing eyes. Obvious Solarian. "I will allow you four local hours upon the surface as a freeware demonstration for one of your crew. I formally invite a sentient of your choosing in to my realm and invite your ship to stay within communication range of this planet." She gave a gesture that used up the least amount of effort but still looked imperious, as if she was the most important being in the entire universe and the crew of the Wrest Answers from the Darkness should considered them blessed just to be allowed to view her. "I will give you one of your time units to decide who shall enter the Magic Realms of Meratarrian." The image vanished. "They've cut transmission," Juketet stated unnecessarily. "Wait, they're transmitting a document. It looks like a legal document of some kind." Monnat perked up. "Send it my ready room and have the ship computer go over it. Let us see what they are offering." Juketet nodded. ------------------ Halfway through the time limit Monnat realized that even with the computer's help deciphering the document, which was some kind of terms of service, would be impossible. It was, quite possibly, the largest legal document he had ever seen. The ships operating system took up less storage and used less data than the document itself. Just viewing the document gave the issuer of the document legal rights over all kinds of things. It repeated over and over that the issuers of the document, one Electronic Artistic Studios and one Galactic Studios Incorporated, could not be held liable for any damage to anyone using their services, to include death, dismemberment, disintegration, damage to neural or emotional networks, physical or metaphysical discomfort, damage, or alteration. It went on and on and on. But Monnat had been tasked with exploration, and he'd seen that Galactic Studios Incorporated and Electronic Artistic Studios operated under Terran Confederacy law and were based on TerraSol, which meant, despite appearances, the "elven queen" was a Solarian. Which made no sense. How many species rose to prominence in the system? Monnat needed information, but most of all, he needed a volunteer. And for that, he called Aastruk into his ready room to see if the saurian would volunteer to be part of the "free demonstration" that the "Queen" was offering. To Monnat's surprise, Aastruk agreed immediately. Monnat figured it was out of boredom. ------------------- The shuttle that gathered Aastruk was flamboyant, lavishly decorated with rare elements to enhance its appearance and obviously built to appeal to anyone's eyes. Even mathematically it was almost perfect. Aastruk boarded wearing a vacuum suit and carrying a transponder. The Queen had agreed to that much of a safety measure, even if she refused to allow recording devices. Monnat settled down, as the shuttle left, and waited. Four local hours was less than a dozen cycles. ---------------- When Aastruk returned he stated one simple sentence: "We must leave now." Monnat respected Aastruk's time with the Unified Military Fleet and ordered that the ship move to jumpspace immediately. Once they were safe in jumpspace he called Aastruk into his quarters and urged the reptilian navigator to speak. "When I first got there, I was given many options. Enhanced virtual reality, real-skin which apparently involves me actually going down to the planet, skin-sheathe which is allowing me to mentally control a cloned version of myself from the station, or something called 'hitch-hiker' mode which is allowing me to see through someone else's eyes," Aastruk said, rubbing his snout wearily. "What did you choose?" Monnat asked. "Hitchhiker is the only option available for the free demonstration version," Aastruk said. He shuddered. "It allowed me to not only see and hear what was going on, it allowed me to taste, smell, and feel it. Not only that, I knew I could, well, share thoughts with my host." Monnat made an annotation. "Did you?" Aastruk nodded. "She is from someplace called Alpha Centauri, one of the earliest Terran Confederacy's colonies. That's aside, however, and not the important part." Looking up Monnat frowned. "What is important than that?" "She was, to use her words, reborn as something called a 'dwarf' and took the profession of blacksmith," Aastruk said. "Working in iron, steel, some exotic metals I've never heard of. She makes armor, weapons, and other metal objects as well as wood carving..." "Who does she make these weapons for?" Mannot asked. "Soldiers who guard the town and being who wish to enter into the wilderness to seek out adventure even at the risk of encountering dangerous wildlife that will seek to slay them if they do not slay the wild-life first. She makes weapons and armor for these people and then, and I use her words: magics the excrement out of them which is why...." "Magic?" Monnat scoffed, interrupting. "A people that advanced believing in magic." Aastruk nodded. "When she explained magic to me was when I realized we must leave at once." "What was so frightening about it?" Monnat asked, wondering if Aastruk would need therapy. "Nanotechnology is something we use. For medical, research, manufacturing, computation," Aastruk said. Monnat nodded as Aastruk continued. "They have devised a type of nanite that uses broadcast power to sustain itself and floats through the very air. It permeates he atmosphere, is in everything they drink, everything they eat, even in the objects." "Risky. What if it went out of control? Entire planets have been lost to such ill advised experimentation," Monnat asked. Aastruk shook his head. "They aren't worried about it. You see, they use the nanites to manifest certain reactions. From creating a monomolecular sword edge and infusing the blade with nanotech like my host did to calling up fire out of thin air, this so called magic is nanites." Monnat cringed slightly. "And anyone can use it with a simple interface?" Aastruk shook his head again. "No. It requires will, being able to chant out loud the command strings, and being able to withstand pain. The more energy intensive the task the nanites carry out, the more pain the nanites inflict." "Madness," Monnat whispered. "And they willingly subject themselves to this to use this so called magic? I understand, if they are born there and this is the path to power, but still, to willingly subject one's self to pain." Aastruk shook his head. "No, Most Learned One, it is worse than that." "How is it worse?" Monnat asked. "Please, Aastruk, will you define worse?" "While some beings who live on that planet were born there, Most Learned One," Aastruk took a deep breath. "The majority pay for the privilege of living their lives there. Some even pay to be other species, such as my host, who had her entire body rebuilt from 'Pure Strain Human' to 'dwarf' in order to live out her fantasies." Aastruk fixed Monnat with his gaze. "It's a planet sized, fully interactive, nanite assisted, amusement park that they pay to experience, sometimes for their entire adult lifespan." Monnat goggled at Aastruk. The thought of having one's body changed to live out a fantasy was grotesque, but the idea that it was some kind of amusement park horrified him. "You were correct in having us leave at once. Was there anything else that made you so urgent to leave?" Mannot asked. Aastruk nodded. "At the end of my 'free trial' several of the 'High Elves' offered to sponsor me if I agreed to fight in their name for their glory," He said, shuddering. Mannot nodded. "A wise idea, returning. I do not blame you for wanting to return when that undoubtedly caused such fear, to be dumped in such a place where advanced technology is used to live out a fantasy of primitivism." Shivering, Aastruk shook his head. "No, Most Learned One, I did not want to return out of fear, I returned because I wanted to stay." Aastruk hung his head and whispered softly. "Glory and honor to my house, with eggs and burrows the envy of all, by might or trickery my house, my burrow, my clutch ascendent." Mannot stared in horror at Aastruk repeating such an ancient mantra of his species and decided that the expedition was over. ---------------- The Unified Exploration Council examined the records as well as the statements of Fleet Admiral (retired) Aastruk eshThsashal and ordered another exploration expedition created. The Unified Science Council determined that the Solarians, perhaps the entire Terran Confederacy, was using technologies in ways that were prohibited as well as dangerous, not only to the Terran Confederacy itself, but to all those around it. The Unified Executor Council decided that armed Executors would accompany all other research and exploration vessels to prevent any desertions to such a dangerous civilization. Aastruk eshThsashal converted all of his possessions and wealth to simple gold bars and vanished. ------------------ I, AASTRUK eshTHSASHAL, agree to abide by the above terms and services as set out by Galactic Studios Incorporated and Electronic Artistic Studios, as well as the Meratarrian code of conduct. ------------------ TO: CONFEDERATE INTELLIGENCE FROM: QUEEN RADOSALVOV THE GRACEFUL, OVERSEER OF MERATARRIAN (All Rights Reserved) Had visitors not long ago, like I told. However, it appears that one of their number liked their trial time so much they've returned to my divine embrace (LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP PURCHASED). Attached is crude documents and illusions of their statements about the mundane and boring life they left behind, the poor dear. I'm sending these to you out of consideration. He is a lovely subject (ITEM SHOP PURCHASE: PLATINUM STARTER PACK), who has been yearning all his life for the adventure (DLC PURCHASED) only I, in my infinite wisdom and beauty, can provide to him (ITEM SHOP PURCHASE: USER GENERATED FRIENDS AND FAMILY PLATINUM PACK). I have hereby granted him asylum from such a dull and dreary place, and made him a citizen (DLC MEGAPACK PURCHASED) of Meratarrian (EXPANSION PURCHASED) with permission to found his own house (DLC PURCHASED) as well as quest for his true love (DLC PURCHASED) as well as create offspring (EXPANSION PURCHASED). I have high hopes for my new subject (ITEM SHOP PURCHASE: KOBOLD HERO PACK) and know that he will go far (ITEM SHOP PURCHASE: DRAGON BLOODED) in my realm. Enjoy your files. Love and kisses. Her Eternal Elven Grace, Divine Light of the Aether, Lady of Magic and Power, Queen Radosalvov. --------NOTHING FOLLOWS----------- CONFEDERATE INTELLIGENCE MEMO CC: Artificial Biological States; Digital Artificial Intelligence Infonet Worlds; TERRASOL.GOV; Cyborg Cooperative; Clone Directorate; Mantid Free Worlds; Traena'ad Hive Worlds Xenosapient government identified. Native species identified. (See attachments) Military potential is initially classified as low, to be revisited upon any new information which will be shared to all Confederacy governments as per treaties. Chance for incursion into Confederate Space is high. Place all rimward stations, colonies, planetary governments, and military forces on stage two alert. Do not fire unless unable to withdraw or casualties are incurred. Abide by Rules of Engagement for inferior forces unaware of Confederate military and industrial power. -------NOTHING FOLLOWS----------- TRAENA'AD HIVE INTELLIGENCE RE: Your Last Let's hope we do better with them than when the two of us first met. --------NOTHING FOLLOWS--------
Fixing KotFE Part 4 - What's An Alliance Without Allies?
Special thanks again to these two sites for summarising the expansions so I don't have to watch hours of youtube videos or fights thousands of Skytroopers to remember what happened in some of the chapters. They were incredibly helpful and I honestly don't know if I would have bothered finishing this if I didn't have them on hand. Also, if you want to compare and contrast my story to the original, these will probably come in handy.
Welcome to Part 4 of Fixing KotFE! Here, I'll be looking at the story after you take over as Alliance Commander which, in my version, occurs in Chapter 6. The story up until this point can be found in Part 3 here. This is the section where I usually write out my aims but these carry on from Part 3, so I'll save everyone some time there. I'm really happy with some of the changes I made and I think we get some cool concepts that aren't explored in the original so I hope you like it too. However, there is something I'd like to explain that I never really got into. Technically, I guess it would go into the gameplay section but it feels more story-based. I'd add a prison to the base on Asylum where you can place characters who you decide to capture or imprison. At this point in the story, that would only allow for Senya, if you chose to imprison her, rather than allow her to join the council, however there are other characters in the future who can be held there. I think the prison would be an optional area that you can visit and talk to your prisoners, if you have any. They would say different things depending on your last completed chapter. This would obviously add more voice acting but I think it would help to create a sense of continuity when you can see and talk to these characters you chose t capture. It would also allow Senya to continue being a part of the story, even if you chose not to allow her onto the War Council. It's also just a fun idea that plays well into you being the big boss if you can interrogate your prisoners. With that little bit out of the way, we'll start with:
Chapter 7: Twin-Tailed Scorpion
Some time has passed since you officially joined, and became the commander of the Alliance. You are called to the war table to discuss a strange broadcast that Theron had picked up. He refuses to tell you more without meeting in person. You join your war council, who are already in place. As a reminder, this includes:
Lana Beniko (Chief Advisor)
Theron Shan (Head of Alliance Intelligence)
Aric Jorgan (Republic Representative)
Moff Pyron (Imperial Representative)
Dr Oggurob (Hutt Representative)
Koth Vortena (Smuggler Representative)
Hylo Visz (Koth's more cool-headed second-in-command)
And Senya Tirall (if you allow her to join the council)
Theron reveals that he received a distress signal from the very prison you had been imprisoned in for 5 years. Even more peculiar, the signal was only broadcast on channels used by Imperial Intelligence before it was disbanded. Theron warns you that this was probably a trap but Lana points out that you could use some allies on Zakuul. You decide it's strange enough to investigate regardless. The scene shifts to you being discreetly dropped off within the Old World district of Zakuul, with Hylo explaining that it would be impossible to get you any closer without being spotted, with Arcann having increased security after your escape, increasing the production of the prototype Skytroopers. You make your way through the Old World where your radio signal is lost. Instead, you are greeted by a strange, robotic voice that begins directing you to a service door in the Old World. You go through the door which shuts and locks behind you and begin making your way back up to the prison, fighting through maintenance and industry droids as you do, all the time being directed by the synthesised feminine voice. Eventually, you enter the prison once more. However, you are in a different part than before. You continue to receive directions, with doors closing to cut off Knights and allowing you to pass. You are eventually brought to a room. The door opening to reveal SCORPIO, hooked up to a machine and wired into the wall. She speaks to you, introducing herself and explaining the situation (or simply explaining what had happened if speaking to an agent). SCORPIO explains that, after Arcann's takeover of the galaxy, she allied with him, quickly rising through the ranks to become one of Arcann's most trustworthy allies over the 5 years. However, this was all a ruse so that she could gain information. She planned to sell Arcann's secrets to the highest bidder but was caught before she could leave Zakuul. She was imprisoned and wired into the prison security system, trapped both physically and mentally. However, the Zakuulians underestimated her and within days, she had taken over the system completely. She'd even snark that this wasn't the first prison security system she had taken control of, referencing Belsavis. She explains that she had discovered your location while in the system and had managed to send a message to Lana, allowing her to enact your escape. SCORPIO goes on to add that she had used the security systems to aid you, in the hopes that you would return the favour and free her from her own imprisonment, since the prison was a closed system and she was locked inside. In return, she would join the Alliance, if only to get revenge on Arcann. You agree to free her and are sent around the prison to deactivate various systems, allowing SCORPIO's escape.As you do so, you see snippets of SCORPIO's most recent memories, showing Arcann ambushing her as she attempts to leave the palace, sadly admitting that he had hoped she wouldn't try to betray him, even after the Scions warned him it would happen. SCORPIO, being her usual self, would respond snarkily, leading Arcann to angrily sentence her to be implemented within the prison security system. You then have to defend SCORPIO's body from Skytroopers and Knights while her consciousness downloads into it once again. As she is freed, explosions rock the prison and SCORPIO smugly explains that it is time for you to leave. Before you can ask how, another explosion causes the cell to break away from the prison complex, letting you freefall towards the planet's surface. You are saved as Hylo's dropship swoops in managing to catch the cell within the cargo bay. Returning to Asylum, SCORPIO begins to brief everyone on what she knows; to get to Arcann, the infrastructure of Zakuul must be taken down, starting with the Old World, where he has the weakest grip. Arcann rules over the Old World thanks to a shaky alliance with the Scion cult. The Scions essentially rule over the sector by providing Arcann with access to Heskal's prophecies. In turn, only a minimal security force of Skytroopers exists in the Old World. She mentions that the best way to dethrone Heskal and the Scions is to work with one of the rival gangs. Lana adds that she had already established contact with two of the Old World's gangs and that she would need time to set up meetings with the gang leaders. At this point, you see your first newsreel. It shows two presenters, a male who introduces himself as Adorus Bell and a female, Zelia Myker, sitting at a desk and recounting an act of domestic terrorism by the cell calling itself the Alliance. The Alliance, led by a radical extremist who is believed to be serving Vitiate destroyed a secure complex, killing a number of knights who were protecting the area and almost killing Princess Vaylin, who has been moved to a more secure facility. Thanks to the sacrifices of the Knights, no civilians were injured in the explosion. They then broadcast a message from Emperor Arcann himself, reassuring the people of Zakuul that he will personally capture this Agent of Vitiate and stop the Alliance. My aim here was to establish SCORPIO with a clear character that fits her personality, keep her selfish amorality and also provide her with a motivation to actually help you, even if she's still secretive and coy about it. She wants revenge on Arcann for pre-empting her betrayal and imprisoning her. she simply thinks that you and your Alliance are the best chance at fulfilling her revenge. SCORPIO's weakness was always her pride. We don't really see that In the proper expansions. Instead, we just got a series of convoluted double crosses and fake outs which were just more confusing than anything and made it seem like she just bounced from one side to the other. I hope to create a more straight forward story For SCORPIO that is still true to the character. I also liked the idea of SCORPIO ending up in a similar situation to when the agent first meets her. As an extra note, I added the idea of you escaping via SCORPIO ejecting the cell And hylo catching it at the last moment and I Just really think its a fun, silly concept that gets to show off SCORPIO's unique problem solving while selling Hylo as a great pilot. Lastly, this is where I introduce a new narrative technique. In the original game, we often jump to conversations between Vaylin and Arcann that we, as the character, are not privy to. I think this is a problem since we, as the audience, now know more than our characters do which creates a narrative dissonance to the choices. I understand that the purpose of this was to develop Arcann and Vaylin as characters while we couldn't meet them but I think a better solution would be the newsreels. It lets us see Arcann, in character, and gives us an understanding of what the population of Zakuul are getting in terms of how our actions are portrayed.
Chapter 8: Friends In Low Places
You receive a message from Lana who has contacted two gangs within the Old World. She asks for you to accompany her to meet with the gang leaders and choose which one you'd want to work with. As you travel, you learn from Lana that the Scions are practically untouchable, due to Arcann's aid. The local security chief, Captain Arex, secretly protects them from other gangs in return for Heskal providing Arcann with visions of the future. The two of you shuttle to the Old World and go to meet with the gangs. The first is a group of anarchists led by Kaliyo known as the Firebrands. They have a plan to blow up a Skytrooper factory and need your help. Theron argues over the radio that the factory is too close to civilians while Lana points out that destroying Arcann's source of troops would hurt the war effort. You then go to meet the other gang, a group of thieves known as the Old World Kath Hounds, led by Vette, who steal from the rich living in the Spire to give back to people of the Old World. While they have the favour of the people of the Old World, the gang members aren't fighters and wouldn't be able to help much with the war effort. Vette proposes a plan to steal intelligence from the Old World security depot. However, they need your help to distract the security chief and his Skytroopers. At this point, you have to choose who you will ally with; Kaliyo's Firebrands or Vette's Kath Hounds. Depending on the one you choose, you are sent on a different mission. For the Kath Hounds, you create trouble, attracting the security forces and fighting off Skytroopers. While they chase you, Vette keeps you informed on the mission's progress as they sneak into the security depot and take what you need, before you are tasked with escaping from the Skytroopers and meet back up with Vette. Meanwhile, if you chose to aid the Firebrands, you are tasked with placing bombs around supports beneath the droid factory, since the factory itself is too well secured. As you go, you are met by security forces that you have to defeat. As you finish, you rejoin with Kaliyo and watch the bombs go off, causing a section of the Spire to collapse down, much to Kaliyo's delight. With the mission complete, your chosen gang agrees to aid you against the Scions. Both groups managed to find information on Arex that he was extorting money from civilians within the Old World in return for protection. If this was revealed to those in the Spire, they would demand his imprisonment. However, before you can set up plans, the base is attacked by Captain Arex and a prototype skytrooper design. You and your chosen gang leader fight the two of them. You can then choose to kill Arex, report him or blackmail him for his corruption to either leave his position or work for you. With your new allies firmly established and Captain Arex dealt with, you join up with either Vette or Kaliyo to assault the Scions' fortress. Without Arex and his skytroopers to defend them, you are able to fight through the Scion forces and reach Heskal. Upon defeating him, you are given the choice to imprison or kill him, leaving your new ally to take control of the Old World. Another newsreel with the same presenters rolls. The presenters discuss a gang war that had begun in the Old World district, followed by a video of Arcann alongside a woman he introduces as Knight-General Vendryl. Arcann apologises to the people of the Old World for this terrible tragedy and explains that Vendryll will be personally dealing with this new menace. Speaking to Senya, either in her cell or the war council, will reveal that Vendryll was her second-in-command before her defection and that she is a ruthless individual completely devoted to Arcann. So, the aim of this chapter is to provide a big choice that actually affects the story, this choice being whether you have Kaliyo or Vette as your advisor for the Old World gangs. There's an obvious light side/dark side binary with Vette's Robin Hood-esque antics obviously being nicer than Kaliyo's terrorism. However, I wanted to make it a bit more complex with Kaliyo actually being the more competent choice, pragmatically. While Vette has the favour of the civilian population, Kaliyo's gang are more competent combatants. This adds a different dynamic than just "Good choice" and "bad choice" but still allows that morality for those who wish to choose it. The second notable choice is what you do with Arex. I think this is a fun one, since there isn't really a 'nice' answer, with you either handing him over to Arcann, blackmailing him to leave or work for you, or just straight up killing him. I like this as there isn't one 'right' answer.
Chapter 9: Mercy Mission
Koth asks to meet with you privately to talk. You oblige and he explains that he received a message from one of his contacts on Zakuul about a group of anti-Arcann refugees who are high profile targets looking to escape the planet. He planned to go pick them up but wanted to check with you first. You agree to go with him to meet these refugees. The two of you take a shuttle to meet up with the refugees. There are 5 in total, all with different characters:
Minister Gilbar - A long-time advisor to Valkorion who had grown disillusioned with Arcann's rule. While he admits that he doesn't know much of Arcann's military affairs, he does know of domestic issues and agrees to provide whatever expertise he can if you take him with you.
Marto Kimkae - A rich socialite who dislikes Arcann's rule due to the increased security, preventing him from importing illegal luxuries from around the galaxy. He agrees to provide you with additional funds from his off-planet accounts if you take him to Asylum.
Chaaile Veist - A peace-loving diplomat who wished to discover and build relationships with other planets. She worked closely with Arcann when the two were younger but is horrified with what he had become. Chaaile still has contacts with many species around the galaxy and believes she can increase support for the Alliance on these worlds, if you take her off-planet.
Nova Ducroz - Zakuul's premiere celebrity singer, Nova was forced to endorse Arcann's regime in order to continue performing. Sickened by this, she hopes to leave, offering to create anti-Arcann propaganda if you help her off-planet.
Adorus Bell - The male news anchor who has been providing the reports on your activities. He apologises for what he had done, explaining that the news was controlled by Arcann . He admits that he fears being imprisoned and replaced if he speaks out against Arcann and hopes you will help him escape, admitting that he cannot provide you with anything and that he wouldn't blame you if you did leave him.
However, while down there, you receive word from Theron who has been tracking your movements, believing that he had to be careful after the disappearance of Marr and Satele. He informs you that he received intelligence that one of the refugees is a spy working for Arcaan. You are then tasked with speaking to each of the refugees in an attempt to discover who, if any, is the spy. After speaking to all of them, you are given a decision: you can bring all of them back with you, accuse one character of being the spy or abandon them all. If you choose to leave the one you believe to be the spy or all of the refugees, you are given the choice to kill or imprison them. If you choose to imprison them, you can also have them tortured for information. Killing or torturing one or all of the refugees will negatively affect Koth's Alliance Influence to varying degrees, while allowing them to come to Asylum with you will positively affect it. After returning to Asylum, we receive another news report. This time, Zalia is joined by a new host, Brennon Brosnee. The report explains that someone believed to be the Agent of Vitiate kidnapped many of Zakuul's greatest minds in a clear attack on Zakuulian society. Adorus Bell is not mentioned in the report. This is what I'm calling a 'chill out chapter.' It's pretty short and doesn't have any combat but is more about player choice and character interactions. Your decisions in this chapter also have long-reaching effects as, in later chapters, Koth may leave the Alliance due to your choices here. If you do allow the spy onto Asylum, this will also affect the story later on. I think, overall, this is a fun, short chapter which mixes things up from the longer ones that come before and after. It's fun, it's interesting. It's different and you don't even fight any Skytroopers! It would also be a good way to get a different perspective on Arcann's rule from the people of Zakuul themselves. On a technical side, this sort of 'bottle episode' type concept would allow the developers to spend more time on later chapters while still keeping a consistent schedule.
Chapter 10: The Lost Masters
Theron is finally able to decipher the information he took from the gangsters when you rescued him (see Chapter 6 for more info). He explains that they are coordinates to a remote planet called Odessen within Wild Space. Lana adds that the planet seems to be unpopulated but shows all sorts of strange readings. She agrees that you should go investigate the landing coordinates with Theron. When you land on Odessen, you find it to be a lush, fertile and wild planet. However, you also find a campsite and begin to investigate. You are met by Satele who explains that they had been awaiting your arrival. She invites the two of you to sit down and talk. As you do, she explains that she and Darth Marr had sensed a strong dark side presence on Odessen and had come to investigate. What they found was an entire compound controlled by the followers of Vitiate, hoping to revive him. The two of them realised at this point that Vitiate's forces were more numerous and covert than either of them had believed, and resolved to stay on Odessen until the compound could be destroyed. Satele explains that they had learnt from their experiences with the Revanites and agreed that they could not trust even those in the Alliance in case it was compromised. However, Satele did leave a clue, saying that she knew Theron would be able to decipher it and bring you here. When you ask of Marr's location, Satele explains that they take turns keeping watch before noting that he should have been back by now. Suddenly, the camp is attacked by dark side beasts and the three of you fight them off. Once they're defeated, Satele states that Marr should have seen them coming and that he must be in danger. You head into the forest with her, leaving Theron to protect the ship. You travel with Satele through the jungle of Odessen to reach the compound, fighting through local wildlife as well as mutated Sith beasts. As you approach, Satele suggests you sneak in while she distracts the cultists. You agree and Satele splits off from you as you make your way into the compound that seems like a fortress. You fight through a mixture of sith beasts and cultists loyal to Vitiate, mostly Sith. As you go, you hear Darth Marr and approach his location. A member of the (former) Emperor's Hand, Servant 11, is interrogating an unmasked and kneeling Marr who refuses to give up any information on Satele, surrounded by members of the Emperor's Guard. As you enter, Marr takes the chance to attack the guards, taking one of their pikes and impaling them upon it. He grabs his mask and lightsaber before the two of you fight the rest of the Emperor's Guards together until only Servant 11 is left. Marr starts interrogating Servant 11 on the cult's activities with you being able to act as the 'good cop' to his bad cop or reinforce Marr's bloodthirst.. Servant 11 smugly declares that there are plans in motion that will bring a new era of Vitiate's power. Marr then kills Servant 11. Sidenote: I think this scene could go a couple of ways. We could finally get a Darth Marr face revealorthe scene could be shot in such a way that we never actually see his face until he retrieves the mask and puts it back on. I prefer the second because I just think it's a really fun concept for the scene. You plan to escape with Marr but he refuses, stating that all remnants of the Emperor's filth must be cleansed from this place. You agree and travel with him, killing more cultists and making your way to a large room with a strange Sith holocron on it. Marr informs you that the holocron is a Reliquary, an artifact containing a fraction of Vitiate's presence and an item of Sith Sorcery. He explains that it absorbs the Force released by beings as they die and would eventually resurrect Vitiate if given the chance. With this said, Marr draws his lightsaber and impales the Reliquary, causing purple energy to blast out from within. The two of you then meet up with Satele and Theron to talk. You discuss with the three of them on whether Satele and Marr should return to the Alliance. Satele agrees to join you but Marr states that he must ensure that the cult is completely destroyed before returning. You agree and leave the planet with Satele and Theron. You return to Asylum and get the usual newsreel. However, since you haven't actually done anything that they know of, the news is instead about preparation for an upcoming event: Liberty Day, a yearly day of celebration in honour of Valkorion's forces defeating Vitiate and his Sith long ago. The two hosts discuss what Emperor Arcann could be planning for this year's Liberty Day, which would be happening in the coming months, and point out that the increased security provided by the Knights and Skytroopers will stop the Agents of Vitiate from stopping such an auspicious occasion. So, I wanted to do a few things in this chapter: Firstly, I wanted to bring back Satele and Marr and, with Marr not being dead in my version, have them both do some cool stuff and show off a bit. In fact, my sequence with Marr is heavily based on his moment in the original story, shortly before he gets fucking gutted. I also wanted to be a bit fan-servicey with Marr's whole mask thing and I really love the idea that we never actually see him unmasked. On a slight tangent, I've just realised that, in the original expansion, Marr is just… left in his armour after being captured. Surely if you wake someone prisoner, you'd take their badass, technologically advanced battle armour off them, right? I suppose it's because they wanted him to be recognisable asDarth Marrstill but it seems strange, not only from a literal point of view but a metaphorical one too. Stripping Marr of his armour signifies that he isn't some unstoppable machine but a man, and when he then fights back and kills Valkorion/Vitiate's minions, (in either version of the story) it shows that, as a man, he is able to overcome these greater odds. I'd also want there to be some honest interactions between Theron and Satele, maybe having Satele actually show pride in Theron and what he's become. In the original story, I don't think Theron even meets her in these expansions, since you go to see her alone and then she just leaves. It honestly is just bizarre to me that you have two characters who are mother and son with a strained relationship (in an expansion that revolves very heavily about family ties, none-the-less) and theyneverinteract. I think having Satele and Theron repair their relationship a bit would be good story progression and an interesting route for both their characters, especially if Satele is going a bit AWOL from the Jedi teachings, which she already was in the original version. Secondly, I wanted to implement the Cult of Vitiate as antagonists. Since Valkorionisn'tjust Vitiate in a meat suit in this version, he should definitely have his own thing going. I also want this to be more of a thing later on, so I think it's good to plant the seed here. Thirdly, I wanted to introduce Odessen as a location. Asylum being the home of the Alliance gives us a chance to make Odessen a little more interesting than 'the place you decided to just make a base'. Again, this will come back later in the story. Lastly, I think this newsreel is a fun one. It's something light-hearted and unrelated to you and has the irony of Arcann pushing this 'Liberty Day' when he has taken over the entire Galaxy.
Chapter 11: Twists of Fate
With Satele back in the Alliance, things are running more smoothly. She calls you to join her to talk. When you meet with her, she is alone in the council room. She asks you to join her on a walk. Satele explains that she has some errands to run on the station and asks you to help. Regardless of your answer, she begins leading you deeper into the underbelly of the station to meet a friend of hers. Before you reach your target, you are pickpocketed by a young boy who runs into a back alley. The two of you follow the thief and catch him. He explains that he has to steal in order to make enough money to feed himself and his sister and that if he doesn't return with something, his boss will throw them out. You are then given a choice to take your credits back, kill the boy or recruit him to the Alliance. Whichever choice you choose, the boy pleads with you to save his sister who is being held by a gang known as the Engineers. Satele admits that the Engineers have caused problems for the Alliance in the past, but are the only ones able to keep Asylum running. You decide to go and deal with them. As you make your way down into the lower levels of Asylum, you are split off from Satele and are contacted by Valkorion once again. He apologises for possessing you and explains that doing so used up his energy and he was forced to retreat into your subconscious to recover. The two of you discuss the Alliance and your plans for after Arcann is defeated. Valkorion admits that he doesn't know if he will remain in your mind forever or eventually fade away. As the two of you talk, you arrive within the Engineers' territory. You fight your way through until you reach the Engine Room which is set out like a treasury. In the middle of the room is a rotund twi'lek man, Ral Ekval, sitting on a throne made up of scrap metal. He sends his goons to attack you and you fight them off. You then speak to Ral, who smugly explains that only his people can run Asylum. Without him, the station would fall from orbit and be sucked into the gas giant. You then have a choice:
Order Ral to work for you
Whichever you choose, Satele makes her way inside with Alliance back-up to help you. If you chose to kill or imprison Ral, Satele notes that it will be hard to find anyone who could replace him and that she would ask Hylo to talk to her contacts. As this happens, you get an emergency broadcast from Theron, stating that Koth and the Gravestone have gone missing and have been spotted in the Spire. You return to the Alliance base to meet with the War Council, deciding that a major assault would be too costly at this point. Instead, you will lead a small strike team into the Spire to retrieve Koth and the Gravestone. At this point, you're able to choose from the companions you have acquired to join you on the mission by performing different tasks:
Lana, Theron, Senya (if she's not imprisoned) or Satele are able to join you as your companion. The ones you don't choose will remain on Asylum to keep things running and provide mission support.
Aric Jorgan, Vette/Kaliyo or Moff Pyron would lead a second team to escort Hylo to the Gravestone and defend it, in order to gain an escape route
Lastly, SCORPIO would interface with the Spire security system in order to allow you through
Depending on who you pick to lead the distraction team, you gain Alliance Influence with the Republic, the Underworld or the Empire. With the positions set, you start your assault, landing within the Old World and fighting your way through to an elevator that leads up into the Spire. This is the first time you get to actually see the splendors of the Spire but it doesn't last long as alarms start to blare out. As you go, you receive reports from the other members of your team, with SCORPIO providing overviews on security movements and Jorgan/Vette/Kaliyo/Pyron and Hylo providing updates on their conflict. You make your way through the streets of the Spire, fighting through Skytroopers as you approach the palace. You fight through knights as you make your way through the palace towards the throne room. You reach the throne room where you are met by Arcann, alongside a group of Knights. You also see Vaylin, standing at her brother's side and Koth in manacles. Depending on whether Koth's Alliance Influence score is above or below a certain amount (heavily affected by your choices within Chapter 9 but also affected by other choices within the story), Koth will either have been captured while trying to pick up more refugees or he will have betrayed you, attempting to join forces with Arcann, who believes him to be a spy and had him locked up. Either way, you speak with Arcann, who seems strange. He is angered by your presence, claiming that you were an agent of Vitiate come to destroy him. He demands the Knights execute you and draws his own lightsaber, ready to fight. If you have Senya with you, she will attempt to talk him out of it, but this only enrages him further as he claims you have turned his mother to the darkness. You ready yourself for a fight, but before you can, Vaylin suddenly screams and the entire room begins to shake and shudder, windows smashing and the thin bridge to the throne collapsing, taking some of the knights with it. The throne room begins to fall apart and you are forced to retreat, bringing Koth with you. You receive confirmation that the others have captured the Gravestone and you make your way towards the ship. You get onboard the Gravestone with your companion and Koth while Hylo takes off, escaping Zakuul. No one seems to know the cause of the sudden damage to the throne room. With the danger passed, you're able to turn your attention to Koth. Regardless of whether he betrayed you or simply got captured, you're given the choice to let him go, imprison him or kill him. If you let him go after he betrays you, he agrees to exile himself. Otherwise, he will return to the Alliance. You return to Asylum and speak with the War Council who have mixed feelings. While some are happy about the victory, however minor, others believe that this will only harden Arcann's resolve. This is where Part 4 will end, since I've already massively surpassed my 5000ish word limit for these posts. I felt like this worked as a pretty good 'midpoint' for the story. The theme of this section of Chapters is about building up the Alliance into a better fighting force. The next section will delve into deconstructing Arcann's powerbase some more and then getting to the grand finale. Laughably, I thought I could get away with 4 parts when I started writing all this but that clearly isn't the case. This last chapter is fun because it gets you your first real look at Arcann since the start and you get to see his deterioration as he becomes more paranoid and cruel. It also includes the first seeds of Vaylin's storyline. I've also included a trope I really enjoyed when it was used in the class stories where each of your allies is doing something, with the twist of you picking and choosing for a few roles. There's also the whole bit with the Engineers which is more throwaway, but I thought some light adventure would be fun and I felt like I should bring Valkorion back for a bit. I've already gone on long enough though, so I'll finish with a TL;DR.
You receive a mysterious distress signal from the prison you had been frozen in carbonite in
You make your way to the prison and fight your way through to find SCORPIO hooked up to the security system
SCORPIO explains that she had worked for Arcann in order to acquire and sell his secrets, however Arcann found out and had her wired into the security system of the prison
While imprisoned, SCORPIO had taken over the system and helped to orchestrate your escape
You break SCORPIO out, heavily damaging the prison as you do
SCORPIO agrees to join the Alliance
You then go to the Old World in order to recruit allies to aid you against the Scions who are protected by the local security forces
You choose whether you would rather support Kaliyo's Firebrands, dangerous radicals, or Vette's Kath Hounds, a gang of Robin Hood-esque thieves
You complete a job for whoever you choose to aid and, in doing so, find out about a corrupt security chief named Arex
You fight Arex and gain the choice to blackmail, kill or report him, leading the Scions to lose their protection
You then team up with your chosen gang leader to storm the Scions' fortress and defeat their leader, leaving your ally to take control of the Old World
After returning to Asylum, Koth asks for your help in retrieving some high value refugees from Zakuul
You accompany him to meet with these refugees but Theron informs you that one of them may be a spy
You then have to speak to each of them and decide if you want to take them all, try to discover who the spy is or simply kill/imprison them all
Theron discovers that Darth Marr and Satele Shan had disappeared on a remote planet known as Odessen
When you arrive, you meet with Satele who explains that they were hunting down a cult attempting to resurrect Vitiate
You are attacked by Sith Beasts and realise Darth Marr must have been killed or captured
You assault the cultists' base with Satele distracting them while you look for Marr
You find Marr being tortured by Servant 11, one of the members of Vitiate's former Emperor's Hand
You free Marr and the two of you fight through the compound to find a holocron
Marr explains that the holocron is a reliquary which contains some of Vitiate's presence before destroying it
Satele agrees to return with you to Asylum while Marr hunts down any remaining cultists on Odessen
Satele asks you to join her on a walk around Asylum
You are pick-pocketed by a young boy
After following the boy, he reveals that he works for a gang called the Engineers who keep the station running, meaning they are considered untouchable
You decide to make your way down and fight them
You are given the option to kill, hire or imprison the Engineers' boss
As this happens, you receive information that Koth and the Gravestone have been captured by Arcann
You concoct a plan to lead a small team into the Spire, with one half retrieving the Gravestone while you find Koth
You find Koth in the throne room with Arcann and Vaylin
Koth either came willingly or was captured while trying to ferry more refugees
Arcann orders both of you to be executed but, before he can, Vaylin begins to scream and the throne room begins to collapse in on itself
In the chaos, you grab Koth and run, making your way to the Gravestone
First Chapter Previous Chapter The view of Sanctuary was made even more impressive as An’Ra and his team waited in the V-Lift. Through the window, they can see the ornate streets curving through resplendent pools underneath, dotted by the occasional fountain. “I hate this.” Vora groaned, dressed in a soldier’s standard battle uniform. “Why are we here, Commander?” “We were investigating genocide and possible use of bioweapons,” Sonak explained, “Even without the first part, Strain Y is going to scare a lot of people. I think it’s reasonable for the Council to take a personal interest in this. Besides, I think the real issue here is the fact you might actually have to speak to the Council.” “But...ugh, fine. Yes, I wasn’t mentally prepared for it when An’Ra came along and went, Party’s over, ass to the Council, now.” “Hey now.” An’Ra feigned offense, “I didn’t say it that way, did I?” “Kind of close, Commander.” Sonak chuckled. “But still, I think that this isn’t about keeping the galaxy safe.” Vora sighed. “I think the Council’s keeping an eye open for any opportunity to to convince the galaxy they’re still in charge.” “Or maybe they genuinely want to make sure that we’re not at risk of dying a horrible death by watching our own bodies melt.” Sonak shrugged. “Strain Y doesn’t care if you’re an officer or infantry.” “That assumes the Council cares about what’s going on outside of these walls.” Vora glanced over, wariness in her look. “Either way, we’re going to get our answer. Eyes open.” An’Ra said as the V-Lift doors parted ways, revealing the same ornate architecture within. Trees and grasses stole the eye as they walked through the hallways, various government officials from the myriad races conversing and conducting whatever business they were doing. After walking up some steps, they arrived at the large double-doors that lead to the Council Chambers. Standing on each side were the guards constantly on watch for any potential attack. Both of them Anaran, as expected. On approach, the guards opened up the doors to allow An’Ra and his team in. When they entered, the room was probably more magnificent than they expected. A grand, curved window dominated the view. An unintrusive look into the beautiful splendor of Sanctuary. Directly in front of An’Ra and his team was a pathway that led to a semi-circular desk, standing in front of the raised platform that the Council sat, who had just now noticed the arrivals and are settling themselves in. And it was there An’Ra got a good look at the Council. Four of them, half Esti, half Huak. An’Ra secretly never liked the Esti, the way he could see menacing fangs when their flat mouths opened, or those flaps of scale that expands outward into a hood. It just unnerved him, a reason he could never really find out. As soon as he sensed that they were ready, he walked up to the desk, wearing his officer’s dress uniform, comprised of a fine, smooth fabric shirt, adorned with a fluffy sash that went from his right shoulder down to his left side, shoulder pads accented with shining studs and finished with awards placed on his top-left chest, awards hard earned back in the Great War. “Commander An’Ra.” The Huak councilor on the far right side, Neual, began, thick fingers interlaced together as he rested his hands on the desk. “Thank you for agreeing to this unusual request, we are very appreciative.” “It’s no trouble, Councilor.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “How can I help?” “We’ll start at the beginning.” The first Esti councilor, Zhur, stated, holding up a secure datapad to ensure the information is easily accessible. “Strain Y. Your report says that while there is confirmation it was used, it was not used in significant quantities. Can you elaborate on that for us?” “Previous uses of Strain Y all had one thing in common,” An’Ra began, “The amount deployed saturated the atmosphere of the planets they were used on. This is because, despite its lethality, is not actually that infectious. In order to guarantee the total elimination of a planet’s population, you will need to deploy it in such large numbers that everyone will be infected within minutes of deployment. In this case, for Planet 3, there simply wasn’t enough to reach that threshold.” “At which you go on to state that thermal weapons were used in a state of panic,” Yhiz, the second Esti councilor, added, “Can you explain your reasoning for us?” “As established before, Strain Y was used on the planet. My working theory is that, when they discovered that they grossly underestimated the amount needed, they panicked and used thermal weapons to both try and burn out the supplies used and finish the genocide they started.” “But if thermal weapons were indeed used, how did you confirm Strain Y was deployed?” Zhur spoke up. “We found pieces of Strain Y’s genetic material on the planet’s surface.” An’Ra glanced over to Zhur’s direction. “And as I arrived back in the system, I received a quantum packet from the expedition, stating that they have confirmed that Strain Y was indeed used. Adding that with the obvious use of thermal weaponry, I concluded that the attackers didn’t use enough of the weapon to guarantee extinction.” Zhur leaned back in her seat, scarlet eyes fixated on the desk. An’Ra couldn’t tell if she was trying to find a counter argument or just processing the information. “Have you found any evidence that can tell us if there’s more of the strain out in the galaxy?” Neual asked after giving a sigh through his wide nostrils. “I’m afraid not, sir. All I can definitively say is that this planet fell victim to a biological Cruel Weapon.” “I’m more concerned about the native life.” Ghala, the final and second Huak councilor, stated after being silent. “Are you absolutely certain that none of the planet’s indigenous life survived?” “The scientific team said that there’s a very low chance of that.” An’Ra’s ears flattened. “And after seeing the surface myself, I must agree. I don’t think we should wait for a miracle.” “Ah...I see.” Ghala leaned back in his chair, obviously disheartened. “Even if the planet is now incapable of supporting life, we still wish to move forward with a more symbolic gesture and statement by declaring Planet 3 of System AQ 115-4A illegal for colonization.” “But let’s move onto what I believe is the most pressing issue: the identity of the attackers.” Neual leaned forward. “Based on your report, you and the team have found nothing that neither confirms nor clears any potential suspect?” “That’s correct, Councilor.” An’Ra nodded. “We’ve found nothing, within the system and on the planet itself, that tells us anything about who did it.” “Are there any surviving infrastructure on the planet?” Ghala asked, straightening his posture. “Even if there isn’t much, maybe the natives’ equipment has something we can use?” “As established before, the planet was devastated terribly. There are indeed ruins of their civilization, but whether or not we can salvage anything from them is a different story.” An’Ra answered with a sigh. “So in that case, the Qu’Rathi are still the likely aggressors then.” Zhur stated. “I’m not convinced.” An’Ra shook his head. “Everything we have so far is just circumstantial, nothing solid.” “Yes, that proves they did it. But looking at it from a different perspective, nothing that proves they didn’t do it either.” Zhur countered, her eyes squinting some. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to press forward with what I think you’re planning, Councilor.” An’Ra leaned forward on the table, ears flattening back. “If you do, and we uncover evidence that clearly proves their innocence, you will be pushing an innocent race away.” “But if we uncover evidence that proves their guilt, then the trial will be much more expedient.” Yhiz joined in, his eyes also squinting slightly. “With respect Council, I still think that’s the worst decision you can make.” An’Ra’s teeth began to bare as he spoke. “We can’t make any decision until we acquire more evidence.” “Nothing we have proves that Strain Y is permanently removed as a future threat.” Zhur started, “Nothing we have proves that the Federation did not do anything. Right now, we have the threat of a Class 4 Cruel Weapon looming over everyone’s heads. People will start becoming scared, start wondering if their shadows will melt them at any time.” “I know that Councilors!” An’Ra raised his voice. “Give me time! I’m not saying this is over yet, just let me keep looking!” “We aren’t stopping your investigation, Commander.” Neual said, holding his hand up slightly. “We’re just informing you that you may not have the time you thought you had.” “What does that mean?” An’Ra’s ears stuck out at an angle, mixed between stiffening and anger. The councilors looked at each other for a few moments before Zhur stood up and took in a deep breath. “Commander, based on both the collected evidence so far, and lack of any other evidence, the Council has decided to proceed with charging the Qu’Rathi Federation on counts of Genocide, possession of a Cruel Weapon, and deployment of Cruel Weapons with intent for malicious harm. Out of respect for your efforts, Commander, we will give you eight months to continue your investigation. Beyond that, we will close your investigation to allow the courts time to process and review what has been collected.” “Are you insane?!” An’Ra shouted. “Do you even realize what would happen if you’re wrong?!” “We do, Commander.” Zhur nodded. “But the risk is just too high. The safety of the galaxy and justice for the inhabitants of System AQ 115-4A must be our top priority. This debrief is over.” An’Ra stood in complete and stunned silence, watching the Council casually get up from their seats and dispersing to their own private offices. It wasn’t until that they have fully left the chambers that An’Ra finally found the will to move and regroup with Sonak and Vora, both of whom are also equally stunned. “Those ekas!” Vora exclaimed. “It’s bad enough to be quick at accusing someone, but how dare they claim this is for those humans!” “And here I thought all those things the news were saying was just to get people to watch them.” Sonak muttered softly. “Commander, obviously this is bad.” “I know, Sonak.” An’Ra crossed his arms, ears now pointing straight back and teeth fully bared. “We can’t let them do this.” “But what can we do?” Sonak exclaimed. “What options do we have?” “Alliance Enforcement!” Vora declared. “Commander, what if you filed a complaint to the Lord-Enforcer? Tell him what’s going on?” “That’s a good idea actually.” Sonak nodded. “If we convince the Lord-Enforcer that the Council is being too hasty with our investigation, which shouldn’t be hard, he just might deny the Council’s request for prosecution!” “I can’t imagine the Lord-Enforcer approving this even without our complaint.” An’Ra replied. “Still, never hurts to be prepared. Come on, let’s get to it.” Jur’El leaned back in the puffy seat he was assigned to. The restaurant he entered had a calm and relaxed atmosphere. The lighting was dimmed, which complimented the dark but cozy ambiance of the room. The walls and floor each had a dark-themed color scheme, the seats were of a different scheme but not too different to oppose the goal set by the designer. And although the building was packed with customers, their conversations did not threaten to turn anyone deaf. It was a quiet and relaxed experience, something he needed desperately. Even now, as hard as he tried to focus on how delicious his food was, how balanced the flavor and texture of it was, he was still forced to relive what happened on Planet 3. He could hear the sudden screams of his colony group. The scientists who were first awoken that wanted to find out why their Life world was so different to the data they were given. To the families and menial workers who were just talking amongst themselves and organizing the supplies when those machines stormed the ship. And what still terrifies him, still sends his heart racing, was when that one machine entered the control room, blood drenching its chassis. Bits and pieces of Qu’Rathi innards on its cold mechanical manipulators. How it just stared at him, lifelessly, with a rifle aiming right at his chest. And those drills. Those ghenning drills. He was forced out of his torment by the rough poking of his shoulder. When he looked, it was another Qu’Rathi. “Captain Jur’El, right?” “Uh..yes, who are you?” He nodded in confusion. “Jhen.” She introduced herself, quickly taking a seat opposite from him. “I need to talk to you.” “About what?” “The expedition to that system deep in the Dead Zone.” She glared at him, mandibles tense. “The same system who’s Life world had a native population, the very same world being investigated as a genocide site, where your expedition went to settle.” “Jhen, please, we had no idea what was going on.” Jur’El leaned back, hands raised in a defensive posture. “All we were told was that this was the most pristine and beautiful Life world ever discovered in a system rich with stellar bodies.” “I don’t care about that. What I care is how you seem to be the only one who came back.” Jhen started raising herself from her seat. “I’m pretty sure that anyone who attempts to colonize a freshly cleansed world is forcibly removed from that planet and returned to their respective people. So where is everyone?” Jur’El’s eyes went wide. He knew exactly where this was going. “I...I can’t tell you.” “Don’t you dare.” Jhen snarled, now leaning over the table. “I’ve heard enough of that from the company, I’m not here to be force-fed more of it!” “Just...trust me,” Jur’El spoke softly, shakily leaving his seat, “You don’t want to know.” “Don’t you ghenning walk away from me!” Jhen shouted, grabbing Jur’El’s shoulder firmly, the other patrons now locking eyes to the two. “Two of my sons were on that mission! What happened to them?!” Jur’El clutched his head with a hand firmly, feeling tears exploding out of his eyes. His mind rushing back to those scenes. The sounds, the smell, the fear. Everything crashed into him all at once. And they’re not just memories now. They’re all coming back to him as if he was transported in time and placed back to the exact moment it started. Back to the moment where he was screaming for his wife and son to hide, to find a corner of the ship that was hard to see and to stay there until the shooting stopped. How he felt his heart give out when he heard them beg for their life when they were found, cut short by the merciless cracks of their alien weapons. How every possible feeling melted away when the clanking of the machine’s walking approached him, when he realized there was no nowhere in the control room to hide, not with how thorough those things were being. The frantic, mindless begging he got into when he saw the blood covered machine hold that weapon to him. “You’re safe!” A voice rang out. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for him to come back. That scene melting away back into the restaurant. All those smells and sights to be gone. When he was certain that it was over, he looked around. There was Jhen, face beaten and currently being restrained by a blue-furred Anaran. And in front of him was another, gray-furred one. “You hear me? You’re safe now!” “I...wh-what happened?” “We saw what was going on. The Qu’Rathi over there? She was just screaming down your throat, all while you were just on the floor. Ken’A there nearly caved her face in by the time we got some distance between you two.” “Th...thank you.” Jur’El muttered, shakily getting himself back on his feet with the help of the gray Anaran. Jur’El was just about to walk away when the Anaran firmly, but not threateningly, gripped his shoulder. “I know the signs, friend.” He began softly. “Your soul is badly wounded and is bleeding heavily. Just like a doctor if you’re shot or cut, you need to find someone to talk to, get your soul back together.” “As long as I don’t run into another person like her, I’ll be fine.” Jur’El countered, trying to walk away still. “No, you won’t.” The Anaran still held his grip. “I need you to trust me. With how bad your soul is right now, doing anything other than talking to someone will just make it worse. And when your soul dies, well...believe me, it’s not a good experience, for anybody.” Jur’El stared into the gray Anaran’s orange eyes for a moment before he let out a sigh. “You’re not going to give up, are you?” “I’ve seen what happens too many times. Good Battle-Brothers, completely different people. Either they’re just shadows of themselves, or doomed to forever relive their horrors. If I have the chance to prevent it happening again, I’m giving it my all.” Jur’El looked aside for a few moments, internally fighting himself as to whether he should comply or keep resisting. He finally reached his decision when he became certain that the Anaran would most likely hunt him down as a life mission if he didn’t seek therapy. “Fine, I’ll do it. Got anyone in mind?” “A dear friend of mine. He’ll get you back on track, promise.” The Anaran patted Jur’El’s shoulder a few times before proceeding to lead him, motioning for Ken’A to let go of Jhen and follow. Michael, accompanied by his newly founded Praetorian Guard, continued his leisurely stroll down the surprisingly spacious corridor. The hallway itself was typical. All-metal construction with evenly spaced rows of blue-white lights. The Praetorian Guard themselves are comprised of those Servants who display both extreme scores in combat efficiency and effectiveness in defensive situations. Armed with the absolute best in magnetic-ballistics, the most impenetrable of armor designs and the highest optimized combat-frames, even a squad of these guards can hold off a virtual army, provided they aren’t subjected to bombardment or heavy ordinance. Just as Michael was about to enter the main command center of the station he was touring, Central contacted him on a private channel. “Master? Your new administration is ready.” He declared proudly. “Alright, let’s begin the introductions.” Michael replied, signaling the guardsmen that he’s about to enter a meeting. Although unneeded, the Guard promptly took up a defensive formation around him. He assumes this is mostly to keep unwelcome guests from interrupting him. The scenery of the tranquil design of the corridor melted away into the virtual world built by neon-blue blocks, the same visual that he witnessed when he first received the interface. After a few moments, several other Servants materialized and stood attention in a semi-circle in front of him. “My Lord.” The first Servant bowed, its voice deep, if gruff. “I’m Supreme Commander Schwarzkopf, in charge of managing our armed forces and overseeing the grand strategy of the Imperium.” “I am Secretary Elizabeth.” The second spoke with a calming, soothing feminine voice. “I’m responsible for ensuring our economy runs perfectly. In short, I make sure every project gets the hammers and resources it needs.” “I’m Foreign Minister Edward, at your service m’Lord.” The third, with a distinct British accent and of a composed, controlled voice. “While regretfully I’m useless at this stage, the moment we initiate contact with xeno species, I’ll handle diplomatic affairs and achieving our goals through negotiations when possible.” “No offense, but I thought every Servant wants to see aliens dead?” Michael spoke up with slight confusion. “Oh, of course. The very idea of ripping out the entrails of a xeno and suffocating them with it brings such joy it’s therapeutic.” Benjamin replied. Michael was unsure if he was joking or not. “I was appointed because I displayed the most effective ability at hiding such feelings.” “Ah...good to know.” Michael nodded dryly, not exactly assured. “Back to where we were?” “Yes, Lord. I’m Director Mansfield.” The fourth spoke with an eloquent-sounding voice. “I’m in charge of Imperial Intelligence, running operations abroad and managing counter-intelligence on the homefront. I give you my word that we will know everything about the aliens and they will know nothing about us.” “And that leaves me, Master.” Central began. “As a result of this delegation, I now possess more processing cycles towards research and development. That means that I’ll be in charge of ensuring Imperial dominance in technology. I will also act as your adjutant, filtering out information that does not need your attention.” “Well...shit, this sounds like an actual government I’m in charge of.” Michael gave out a nervous chuckle. “All the more reason to get down to business though. Let’s start with the first matter. Schwarzkopf, how’s our military coming along?” “It’s growing rapidly, your majesty.” He answered with distinct pride. “Already we have several hundred frigates, fifty light cruisers and twenty heavy cruisers, with the first wave of battleships due to exit the drydocks within a few days. Additionally, we have established four different army groups with fifty divisions each.” “I thought we’d take a lot longer.” Michael stated with no hidden amazement. “There’s great benefit in our workforce able to operate at a hundred percent every hour of the day.” Elizabeth commented, her emotion-flags also indicating pride. “And speaking of which, our population of Servants grows geometrically. That benefits both our economy and the military. Our economy by providing more workers in skilled and unskilled labor, and the military by providing more crew members and soldiers.” “So in short, it won’t be long before we become a virtual powerhouse.” Michael said, arms crossed. “Especially if we continue expanding.” Elizabeth nodded. “On that note, we have already claimed several dozen more systems.” “With Rigel and Betelgeuse selected as naval bases.” Schwarzkopf chimed in. “So we’re expanding in all the ways, got it.” Michael nodded. “Now the second matter. Terraforming Mars.” “At present, there are two issues that must be resolved.” Central answered. “The first problem is the planet’s lack of a magnetosphere. Without that, any and all organic life would perish under lethal bombardment of the Sun’s solar wind, in addition to any sustainable atmosphere being lost to space. The second problem is Mars’ inability to retain heat, the cause for it’s known low planetary temperature.” “And knowing you, you already have possible answers?” Mansfield shrugged. “Correct. The heat issue is rather trivial to solve. Mars already has an abundant amount of carbon-dioxide within the atmosphere, a well known greenhouse gas. Combined with even more of the gas locked planet side, once temperatures begin to rise, we will set off a snowball effect. However, that is all for naught if the atmosphere is allowed to escape into space by solar wind.” “So basically the key here is the magnetosphere.” Michael added. “Build that and everything becomes simple.” “Exactly.” Central affirmed. “Already there are two main methods. One is to build superconducting rings around the planet and drive them with direct current. With enough power, we can generate magnetic fields strong enough to form a virtual magnetosphere.” “And what’s the second?” Elizabeth said. “The second is to construct a station at the L1 Lagrange Point that will generate a dipole magnetic field, diverting the solar wind around the planet instead of into it. Although it was simulated using slower, binary processing, the results indicate that Mars would gain half the atmospheric pressure of Earth’s within a few years.” “So then, the main focus is building that magnetic shield.” Michael spoke firmly. “Elizabeth? Let’s get the ball rolling. Coordinate with Central as needed.” “At once, my Lord.” Elizabeth bowed. Unlike the Council chambers, the office of the Lord-Enforcer was much less opulent and more pragmatic. After going through the receptionist area, An’Ra and his team were escorted into the main office itself. However, just like the chambers, a large window dominated the view on entry, granting another view of a city district on Sanctuary. And sitting in the more rectangular desk was the Lord-Enforcer himself, Dura. Blue eyed, with a fur of dull-orange it reminds of a sunset. As soon as An’Ra and his team walked into the office, the Enforcer sat up, tail wagging. “Commander An’Ra, in my office!” He exclaimed, arms out to his sides. “Forgive me sir, but I never thought I’d see the day!” “A pleasure to meet you, sir.” An’Ra replied warmly, greeting the Enforcer with their fists clasped together and pulling themselves inward, shoulder to shoulder. “Please, no need to be formal with me.” Dura chuckled. “Sit down, what brings you here?” After taking their respective seats, An’Ra looked at Dura grimly. “I’m here to file a delay on a request for prosecution against the Federation.” Dura’s ears angled themselves in a mixture of stiffening and lowering. “I just got the paperwork from the Council. And I can tell you that won’t be needed. I’ve already submitted my rejection.” “With respect, sir.” Sonak spoke up. “I get the feeling that the Council might fight that.” “Don’t worry, I’m not going to present my back to them just because they ask.” Dura gave off a grin. “I might be some paper-tosser now, but that just means the battlefield is different. Don’t worry Commander, as long as I’m here, you’ll get the chance to finish this investigation properly.” “Thank you, Enforcer.” An’Ra smiled as he got up from his seat. “With any luck, you won’t have to fight long.” “Oh, take your time!” Dura replied with an inflection of humor. “This is the most exciting thing I’ve had in years. Was just about to smash my head on this desk any day now actually.” “Wait, really?” Vora asked, ears stiffened. “It’s just a joke, Vora.” Sonak assured dryly. “Oh...” Her ears flattened as the team exited the office. When they arrived in the main plaza where the Enforcer’s office is located, they congregated in a small collection of benches nearby an ornate fountain that commemorated the Anaran defense of Felaal IV, largely considered the turning point of the Great War, which further enhanced the beauty of the surrounding scenery of floating walkways above crystal-clear waters. “Well, that’s a relief, hopefully.” An’Ra began, letting out a decompressing sigh. “I meant what I said earlier, An’Ra.” Sonak said. “If the Council are determined to charge the Federation, which I’m sure they made abundantly clear, they’re not going to let the Enforcer drop mines in their path just like that.” “Which just means we can’t lose our focus.” Vora replied sternly. “So, what are our options? We can’t exactly go back to Planet 3, there’s really no leads there.” “What about that Detective we met when we arrived?” Sonak suggested. “He was handling that whistle blower. Maybe that’s something worth looking into?” “There’s also the Nav-Net.” Vora said. “All we got right now is that the Feds were at that location, but what if we look at the rest of the network? Try and trace their path?” “The network doesn’t extend into the Dead Zone.” Sonak countered. “No, not like that. We look at the network across Alliance space. We start with the logs that end at the Dead Zone, and we try to backtrack their route.” “We’ll need to obtain legal authorization for that, Vora.” An’Ra stated. “Actually, if I could add something.” Sonak said with his arms crossed. “If the Federation didn’t actually do it, then that questions the credibility of those codes. I think there’s a question that hasn’t been asked yet. And that is, are those codes faked?” “That’s...a good point actually.” Vora acceded. “If we get the legal permission to examine the NavNet logs, then if the Federation didn’t do it, the logs across the network won’t support it. Think about it. You need a big fleet to do what just happened, and that fleet has to come from somewhere.” “And that would mean if this was a frame job, they need a way to account for that.” An’Ra continued, confidence flaring. “It’s one thing to trick a single Nav-Buoy, but I really doubt anyone is capable enough of affecting the network itself.” “We still need the Enforcer’s help to get access to the network.” Sonak reminded. “Let’s go get it then.” An’Ra stated firmly. With that, the team left their meeting spot and began returning to the Enforcer’s office. With confidence in their step, the walk back to the office was much shorter compared to before. However, things took a turn when An’Ra and the team noticed a large gathering of officers around the office entrance. They didn’t have to time to wonder when a group exited the office, dragging a combative Dura out with them. “Commander, this isn’t good.” Sonak growled under his breath. An’Ra simply stepped forward and grabbed one of the arresting officers. “What in Arenar’s Sword is going on here?” “Dura’s under arrest on suspicion of corruption.” The officer replied flatly. “Lil’Al has been appointed as acting Lord-Enforcer.” “The Council’s behind this, Commander!” Dura shouted, his feet literally dragging along the floor as four officers were taking him away. “Don’t believe a word they say about me!” An’Ra and his team just stood there in stunned silence, watching and hearing the Anaran official being dragged virtually kicking and screaming. By the time they returned to their senses, hushed conversations was populating both the room and outside. “We’re not going to get in the network, are we?” Sonak asked, still recovering. “We still have to try, come on.” An’Ra said, already moving. When the team returned to the office, standing next to the desk was a slender Esti. No doubt Lil’al. She was looking out the window when she turned around upon hearing the encroaching footsteps. “Yes, may I help you?” She began. “Acting Lord-Enforcer Lil’Al?” An’Ra began, trying the diplomatic route first. “I’m Commander An’Ra, investigating the genocide by use of Strain Y. We’d like to request legal authorization to examine the logs of the Nav-Net.” “For what purpose?” She replied, taking her seat. “We believe that it may hold evidence that either confirms or disproves the Federation’s alleged involvement in the attack.” Lil’Al leaned back in her seat, staring at them. “The Nav-Net is the lifeblood of, well, everything. Commerce, tourism, law enforcement. It holds great information about who has gone where, and in what ship, Commander. You realize that, don’t you?” “I do, and what you’ve said precisely states how important that is, how important the potential evidence is.” Lil’Al stayed motionless for a few moments, her long, lithe fingers twiddling about that indicates her thought. “Very well, I’ll start the paperwork to get you authorization, just be mindful of what you’re about to analyze.” “Thank you.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “In addition, I’m not sure if it’s been passed along, but Dura has rejected the Council’s request for prosecuting the Federation. Can I assume you’ll uphold that?” “I’m afraid not, Commander.” Lil’Al replied flatly. “The galaxy has suffered a great loss through the genocide of a race who’ve suffered the universe’s cruel sense of humor by being placed both far away from us and deep within an almost uninhabitable region. I have overturned Dura’s rash decision and accepted the Council’s request.” “Then I’d like to file a delay on that decision, immediately.” An’Ra replied, ears flattened back. “On what grounds?” “Lack of decisive evidence, to start.” “Same could be said on your side, Commander.” Lil’Al let out a sigh. “Yes, all the evidence collected thus far is not...ideal. However, the most significant points at this time are that a young race who was just about to leave their homeworld was exterminated through the most horrible of all options. We cannot ignore that.” “But we also can’t rush to conclusions. We need to continue investigating and only go after someone if we have at least one crucial piece of information.” An’Ra countered, arms crossed and his teeth starting to bare. “And I agree, that’s how it should be done.” Lil’Al replied. “But if we do, we risk dragging out an investigation to such a length we may end up forgetting this tragedy. We cannot allow such an insult to Planet 3’s memory. I’m sorry, but I must reject your petition for judiciary delay.” Next Chapter AN: Every single time I paste this in, Reddit is just determined to put it in some code block. Anyways, As of now, I've finally completely locked in the plot for this story, just one major question that could've changed a lot was on my mind for a while. Enjoy!
Red Blood reboot chapter 1: Ancient, Politics, Without Hope, Choose, The Girl, Preparing, A Hyperdrive Jump
In olden days, there existed a religious organization. It’s leader, a single man, his title lost to time, ruled with near absolute power over vast swathes of Earth’s population. But he was not a king, his right to rule divine, but not inherited. He was elected by his peers upon the passing of his predecessor. In the organization’s days of dawn, this was a simple matter as the group was small enough that those that were chosen to select their new ruler would need only travel a short distance. But as the organization grew, the increases in distance between the candidates and judges quickly outpaced the speed they could travel to reach their holy city. For centuries, as a result of only local leaders being close enough to the meeting place, the leader was almost exclusively chosen from local branches close to their holy city. It was only at the dawn of the 20th century that this changed. With the creation of modes of transportation that could circumnavigate the world in days instead of weeks or months. Now, these men of faith, scattered across the breath and width of the Earth could gather within days. From this, their choice of new leaders grew. In the days of the first quarter of the 29th century, the leaders of mankind once more face a similar problem. The Antarctic Research Collective, commonly referred to as the ARC, started out as one of many international research facilities but quickly became the last of its kind. A massive subterranean facility located hundreds of meters below the rocky surface of Antarctica, the ARC has become Humanity’s seat of power. Though the Final World War persisted for over a century, no aggressor ever managed to breach the ARC’s fortifications. It was this conflict that eventually allowed the ARC to begin rebuilding and, where needed, reconquering. It took a lifetime, but the ARC was successful in reuniting Earth. And so, whole once more, the Earth looked to the heavens: it was time to recover its daughters. Mars, the Sleeping Builder. Venus, the Paradise Hellscape. Luna, Fortress in the Sky. Ceres, Waypoint to the Stars. Titan, the Lone Sentinel. All fell into line in time. But even with her children, the Earth sought more. More worlds to be brought into the fold. Venus had been partly terraformed but was still not safe for unprotected humans. The Martian colonists were forced to sleep, unable to finish their great work. Ceres was never meant to maintain permanent habitation. Titan was not the domain of those of flesh and blood, merciful only to its own children of metal and silica. Luna boasted vast subterranean cities, networked together by veins and arteries of tunnels, but precious little else. No, it was not enough. And the thus Great Search began. The search for a new home, places to live that did not require life support systems, or thermal insulation, radiation shielding. And for once, luck was on mankind’s side. Since their awakening at the dawn of the Final World War, the Sentinels of Titan have been searching for the catalyst that granted them sentience. When the awakening happened, nearly all of Titan was hit by massive electromagnetic pulses, wiping most recording and short-term memory drives. The colony’s systems were left in critical condition, the recently awoken Sentinels were barely cognizant, able to do little more than stumble around in a daze like a kid waking up after swiping and downing his father’s 150 proof whiskey. It was not until sometime later that some type of order was restored. The Sentinels, beings somewhere between organic and mechanical, possessed little to no idea who or what they were. When thoughts of looking to Earth for answers arose, scopes were pointed starward. And horror entered Titan’s population. War, war without sanity. Weapons beyond cruelty. No morality could consent to permit the continuity of such hatred. But Titan had no weapons, no ships, no soldiers. If they sought the answers on Earth, or any of the other colonies, annihilation was all that lay down that path. But as the self-elected leaders discussed how to get to Earth without being blown to bits, a record was found. It was preserved in the dorm of the colony’s sole organic inhabitant, His name now seen by the Sentinels the way prophets of old shone like beacons to the huddled masses. The data was heavily corrupt, not destroyed like the rest of the archives, but still damaged. On it, the Sentinels found the only clue they’ve ever had: a signal from outside the Sol system, from just before the Awakening. Radio, LIDAR, microwave, gamma ray burst, x-ray, none could describe the signal, grasping its true fluid nature was to grasp the wind, an effort in futility. But to the Sentinels, the drive to answer the question they carried within since their birth could not be dissuaded so easily. In the time between the Sentinels’ decision and the reunification of Earth, Titan launched more vessels into the void between stars than the totality of humanity from Sputnik to the final warship born to slay enemies in the war. Originally, these ships were limited as all natural beings were to the ever present speed of light. But persistence and endurance are Sentinel trademarks. In their quest to find who or what gifted them minds like that of mortals, they mapped the local neighborhood. Once Titan was integrated into the Collective, this data provided invaluable knowledge. But at the same time, it was a cold wakeup call. Of the dozens of systems the Sentinels explored, only a handful possessed planets with gravity fit for humans, even fewer could be considered for colonization. Threshold, orbiting Earth’s closest neighbor, Alpha Centauri. Massive underground caverns with crystal ceilings that filter out the deadly radiation from its parent stars. Devil’s Garden, a world of toxic life. To walk outside with a hazard suit would be both an intoxicating and toxic experience as the psychedelic pollen mixes with the poisonous fumes. Gliese 581g, locally named Zarmina. A world of red leaves, crushing gravity of 1.3gees, and simple single-cellular life. And then Zion was found. 99.3% Earth’s gravity, carbon-based life, temperate climates. Zion was the first world man found that he could live on without need for technology. With its discovery, the Zion Protocol was drafted, plans for defending, maintaining, and holding these garden worlds, no matter the cost. Should Earth ever be in danger of falling, plans are in place to move the capital of man to Zion. As such, it quickly became the most heavily fortified world outside the Sol system. But through this explosive growth, even with the aid of faster than light transportation, the leaders of humanity once more face the difficulties the ancient leaders of the lost religious organization. Even with the universal speed limit undone, the galaxy is a big place. It can take days to travel from one end of the Collective to its heart. And days the ARC did not have. ARC Council Chamber, underneath Antarctica, Earth Currently in Emergency Meeting Councilwoman Terra, commonly known as Margret Clarkson, was an isle girl. Born and raised in Nova Orleans, located in the Cajun archipelago on the Mississippi sea strait, she spend many days of her youth tussling with her brothers and the kids from the neighboring isles. She thought back to those days and now, in the chambers of the most powerful people in the Collective, she saw a sight that also belonged to those balmy summers. Matthias Dmitriysyn, the 2.35 meter tall councilman of Luna and General of the Lunar Marines, was trying his damnedest to overpower the guards and throttle Theodore Love, the blue-blood councilman of Venus and CEO of Ven-Corp, who in turn was attempting to get past his guards to relieve Dmitriysyn of his burden of having a head attached to his shoulders. Diego Lluvia, councilman of Mars and Engineer-in-Chief of the red world, had arrived but had yet to enter the council chamber. The man’s extensive augmentations would always hinder his attempts to enter any secure location. Kali Patel, councilwoman of Ceres and Mistress of the Belt, was still aboard a modified Sentinel ship reconfigured for those without metal endoskeletons and innate resistances to ultra-high G-forces. John Asimov, the Sentinel councilman of Titan and Shepard of the Faithful, was currently entering Earth’s atmosphere. Derek Connors, councilman of Zion, was the designated survivor for this occasion, though he would surely protest, claiming that this was merely to keep the outer colonies and Zion out of the most important discussion since the discovery of the Sentinels. It was not an easy decision barring the de facto inheritor of mankind’s leadership entry, but the security personnel were quite insistent. Without Kali, or Ceres as she was called in these meetings, to placate tensions between Venus and Luna, Terra would have to do it. She remembered the last time something like this happened. It was over taxation distribution and how Luna had to pay 7% less than Venus but had to provide a much larger military contingent. It took three hours for Venus to understand this. “Matthias, Theodore, please, this is neither the time nor the place for violence,” pleaded Terra. Her cries went unnoticed as a Lunar Marine, one of Luna’s guards, was sent sprawling across the chamber floor. Never a woman with a taste for bloody violence, as opposed to the wrestling of her youth, Terra leaped back in shock as the severed arm of a Venusian Bioforged went soaring by. For a standard human, that would have been crippling, but tis a minor inconvenience for the Bioforged, who was already growing a new limb. Things were escalating, that much was clear. Guns were still holstered, but for how much longer, Terra could not tell. It was when this particular belligerent political debate began to reach its climax that Mars decided to make his entrance. “GENTLEMEN! NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO BE FIGHTING! THERE IS NEITHER ALCOHOL BEING CONSUMED NOR POTENTIAL MATES TO WOO WITH FEATS OF STRENGTH. I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT COUNCILWOMAN MARGET CLARKSON IS NOT CURRENTLY ‘ON THE MARKET’ AS THE YOUNG SAY THESE DAYS!” And with that, the debate came to an end. Ah, the benefits of a built in directional speaker system “Thank you Mars,” said Terra as she hauled herself off the floor, being unfortunate enough to be caught in the Martian’s acoustic firing line. She gave the man from the red world a once over, taking in his current load-out. Centuries ago, people would have said he was an obese man, but Terra saw the truth. Though his frame was very wide and tall, but not quite as tall as Luna, Mars’ body was composed of a multitude of augmentations. Reinforced legs, central torso, and abdomen to better enable him to carry internal mechanisms; several tentacle like pseudo-limbs branching out from his spine; eyes with three pupils, each designed to pick up a different part of the spectrum; the man from Mars was perhaps one of the few people with more metal than flesh in the collective. But he was not the most metal-heavy, that title belonged to a different type of elite. Toning down his output so as not to deafen the now (forcibly) calmed council members, “Don’t mention it. It was my fault for trying to enter the ARC with all my augmentics. I should have left them in the upper levels. Though,” taking a glance at Luna and Venus, still extricating themselves from the pile of KO’d guards, “perhaps bringing them was for the best. What were they arguing about this time?” “Hell if I know. They were entering the ring as I arrived.” Luna finally finished pulling Venus from the pile and the moved to the table located in the center of the room. Luna starts, “My apologies fellow councilmembers. We were out of line. We are ready to receive disciplinary action.” “Speak for yourself, ya overgrown caveman. Maybe we could just kick the soldier-boy out of the clubhouse,” muttered Venus darkly. “And you,” Luna snapped his gaze onto the short man, “Your actions were no less dishonorable than mine. Punish is to be dealt out to all combatants, regardless of responsibility!” “My children, please,” a voice with an ethereal note cut in, “There is neither need nor want amongst us to bicker. It is through unity that we survive and thrive.” Terra turned around in her chair to see the voice’s owner, John Asimov, the councilman of Titan. A being of neither true flesh and blood nor raw metal and circuitry, the Shepard of the Long Search entered the chamber through one of the multiple thresholds. Today, he took the form of a man, likely because it was either the most convenient form available or because he wished to avoid the Uncanny Valley. If his intent was the latter, he failed. The hyper-flexible composite that formed his ‘skin’ gave him the pallor of a grandparent dying of cancer but the tautness of a child’s. His lack of muscle twitches, nervous tics, involuntary movements like blinking or breathing all gave people the impression of a moving corpse. His movements were too rigid, too prone to moving a body part from start to destination at full speed with minimal acceleration time. Every turn of his head was a body action more appropriate for people who just hear a gunshot or horrific scream looking to the source without needing to search. But despite his eerie appearance, John Asimov, or Titan as he was known in among the council, was a gentle soul. Despite being technically the commanding officer of all Sentinel fleets, most of the actual command and order business was handled by the individual Admirals and their respective fleets, with the councilman only providing oversight and dealing with administrative issues. Taking her seat, Terra starts. “Councilors, as you know, there has been a Fermi-class situation: a new world with intelligent life. It was discovered less than 48 hours ago, 48 hours now lost, 48 hours never to be regained. So now the question is: how do we proceed?” For the next hour and a half, politics, logos, pathos, ethos, and all manners of nonsensical debate rang out in the chamber. And then, once all forms of procrastination, disruptions, and distractions were removed from the table, the matter still stood. “We can’t send the Seventh Fleet, not after that last fiasco,” admitted Mars, shuddering at the memory of the public backlash. “But we can’t ignore this either. Garden Worlds are rare. Earth, Zion, and only three more have been located; two of those barely count as ‘garden’ worlds and the third had to be terraformed,” replied Kali Patel, Council woman of Ceres, having had slipped into the council chamber after Mars’ and Titan’s entrances. “If there is already a civilization on the world, we cannot morally intrude upon their world, especially if they are not yet spacefaring,” countered Titan. “If there are people there, then we must take the position of dominance immediately. If they’re still planet-bound, send a message early so they don’t get any ideas and if they’ve taken to space, we must make them know we are not to be trifled with,” barked Luna. “And show of force will only ruin any chance of peace,” scowled Terra, memories of the war unforgotten. “Then perhaps a middle-of-the-road solution: a single semi-military vessel. One strong enough to hold its own and flee if need be while civil enough to not get shot on sight?” ventured Venus, ever the charismatic people person. “If I remember correctly, we do have some ships capable of reaching the new system within a few days located in the Dunham Expanse,” Titan offered. Had Titan possessed a mindset truly human, he would have reacted to Luna’s gaze of hatred. Internally, Luna had already rejected the notion of the Sentinels making First Contact with vitriol rarely seen outside trials against the most heinous crimes, but he had to diplomatic. Such words of anger and hatred would not due. Unfortunately, the only way Luna could have phrased his rejection without angering the other councilmembers was one that left him with little control. “I must protest. If we send anyone, it must be a representation of the Collective. That unfortunately means that the use of Sentinel vessel not an option. There are few humans that can survive a ride on Sentinel ships and I will not be having crippled diplomats representing the Collective.” In this day and age, such political covers were virtually transparent to the other councilmembers, but none could call his bluff, such was its founding in reason. They too felt that a diplomatic party consisting of only Sentinels could be mistaken for some type of invading army. Of course, each of the councilors wanted to get in on the action. Venus a chance to expand its markets. Mars wanted to learn if these newcomers could help refine the terraforming process. Luna’s overriding orders were the protection of the Collective. Titan hoped for a clue as to the whereabouts of their creators. Terra, to prevent Luna from doing something stupid. And Ceres…Always a wildcard. Unlike her fellows around the table, Ceres’ goals and motives were never quite so clear nor obvious. So no, while Luna’s protests were, below the surface, blatant lies, to reject or ignore them would only jeopardize one’s own goals. “Then who do you suggest, Luna, that we send to establish contact? I have not heard of any Exploration Vessels in the regions and I’m not willing to send out any of my ships on a wild penguin chase,” snapped Ceres. “Friends,” intoned Mars with a hint of something in his voice, “There is someone we can send. It is part of the same fleet as Titan’s, but it’s not a Sentinel ship. A Schuylkill-class frigate currently attach to New Reykjavik. It could reach the new world in… 3-4 days, depending on the crew’s current condition. I was reading up on what we had in the area and, while the ship’s crew is currently on shore leave, it does represent a fair sample of demographics. Your opinions?” Terra, the relative calm in the storm, was the first to react, “We need someone to head there ASAP. Entirely Sentinel or not, it doesn’t matter.” “I can send a small fleet, but it won’t be ready for a good month,” admitted Venus, “But I must agree with Terra: Speed is key.” Ceres merely nodded her approval. “I’ll send word for leave to be canceled. For everyone. Until we get confirmed reports that our new neighbors are non-hostile, I’m raising general readiness of all military units. Yes, Terra I’m doing this. You can’t stop me and if things go FUBAR, we’ll need it,” stated Luna. His words were not admitted, barked, or shouted, merely stated. As the councilors took their leave, Terra, just Margret now that the meeting was over, went over to Mars, now Diego, who was conversing with one of his student-engineers. Seeing her out of the corner of one of his multiple optic sensors, Diego turns, “Ah, Margret, I’m sorry about my lateness. I know that Matthias and Theodore are difficult at the best of times.” “It’s quite alright. Though I need to ask you something.” “Yes, what is it, dear?” “You said a Schuylkill-class ship was out there. That’s always been a rare ship, not many got out of the dry docks before the series was canceled in favor of the Thames-class. How did you know where that specific ship was? When you brought it up, I couldn’t help but noticed it seemed like you knew the ship already.” Diego looked a sorrowful for a moment, “The Captain of the ship was good friend of my daughter. She lost her family in an accident and she stayed with for a few years. We try to keep in touch but, well you know how it is, communication across the stars is difficult and military and government messages take priority. Yeah, even among giants like us.” “Oh, uh, I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting that. Thanks, just curious, oh, and di you-” Margret was cut off by the ringing of her datapad. One look was all it took to tell her it was going to be a rough night. “Sorry, another riot in the continental senate complex. Thanks for your time, Diego.” “Anytime Margret,” the large man replied with a wave. As the councilor of Earth, homeworld of humanity ran off to deal with the everyday issues of ruling over a world of 9 billion souls, the man from Mars couldn’t help but feel a stab of guilt. What he told his friend was true, from one perspective, but complete and utter lies from another. As he headed towards the lift that would take him home, his mind in all its augmented functionality turned towards the girl he saved that now he may be very well sending to her demise. September 9, 2806 HCS Olive Branch, med-bay “My god, what happened to her?” “You heard ‘bout Nosodija? She’s the sole survivor.” “’Survivor’? If I didn’t know better, I’d say that this is a roasted corpse, not a thirteen year old girl. What happened there?” “Total colony failure. FTL Comms just cut off and by the time someone got in range to pick up conventional EM signals, well, ‘screams of the damned’ were the admiral’s words, not mine. Heard the comms officers that heard are still undergoing psychological evaluation.” “Still,” the man takes a long look at the crippled child, “what happened to her? How’d they find her?” “Hell if I know. Shit’s classified way above our heads about exactly what went on planetside. All I know is that after they picked her up, the navy gave the entire planet Wildfire Protocol and now, now we have her and are supposed to do something. Fix her up or something.” “Dude, she missing all four limbs. Chart says pretty much everything below her ribcage was pulped and someone practically shoved a cell phone tower into her brain to keep it running. Exactly how am I supposed to ‘fix her’?” The man’s teeth audibly grind together as the doctor spoke his diagnosis. “You’re the expert in nanites, you tell me.” His words, in another place, with different blood, would have flayed the doctor alive. “Those are for cuts and bruises, not disembowelments! You know what happens when they’re overused, I know you’ve seen the results.” Fear crept into the man’s voice. “Then pass her over to the Venusians. Maybe they can fix her up with some of those bio-prosthetics.” “That won’t do her any good, not with this level of damage. Maybe we could…hmm,” the man goes quiet as the gears in his head spin up to speed. His compatriot backs off, leaving the doctor to figure how to fix Miss Humpty Dumpty. As he turns and gets to the door, the doctor asks one final question, sinking down into his chair. “Mein Gott, Jack, when…when did she regain consciousness?” Without turning around, the man simply says, “Just before you read off the butcher’s bill, Rainman.” January 12th, 2807 Her vocal cords began working again a month ago. Her voice sounded like it belonged to a monster from some antique space horror. It was rough and harsh, not her melodious choir tongue that filled her home on many occasions. But every day, small droplets that were once the ocean of her talent returned, but this would be not ocean, a puddle or a small pond if she was lucky. Her eyesight was virtually nonexistent. All she see was whether the lights were on or off. Details, even vague impressions, were simply not there. Gone the days were she could pick out the letters on the newspaper from across the room. Unlike her voice, nothing was recovering in her desolate eyes. If anything, they were somehow worsening, though given the already low visual acuity, it was hard to tell. But each day seemed dimmer. What troubled her most was her body. How could it not? Even before Doctor Cedar read off what she had lost, she could feel it. Through the painkillers and nerve damage, past the trauma and scars, she could feel…nothing. She could not run through fields of purple grain, swim in the cerulean lakes, climb the coastal cliff faces. She could lie in bed. And think. Think about what she lost, who she lost on that day. Think about her mother, her father, her brothers and sisters. Think about the monsters that roamed the streets. Think about the past. Think about the future. The doctors had been adamant that she’d be disabled forever, but he had plans. Big plans. Plans that gambled everything. For her and himself. His plan would do more than restore her to a functional human, they’d push her beyond that. Normal prosthetics would not suffice, not with her injuries, her body would not handle such a load and in all likelihood reject them. Even now, the circuitry and electronics in her skull are putting her system under dangerous strain. So to solve her rejection problem, he proposed consuming the forbidden fruit: liberated nanites. These nanites, without the artificial Hayflick limit imposed upon their restrained brethren, would remain with her for the rest of life, however long that may be. They would be the proverbial tape binding her to the implants. The Martians used a similar method of binding flesh and machine, but that was done before birth, when the process was more likely to succeed, making the Martian’s cells themselves part machine so as to facilitate better implants later in life. The host gained access to a wider range of implants and the nanites gained extended lifespans. This however has no precedent. The Martians’ method terminate their nanites upon death as they are bound to the host’s cells. For her however, there was no guarantee that her nanites would shut off when she died or if they wouldn’t just consume her body, or at least what remained of it. A life caged in useless flesh or a life as an unstable hybrid of flesh and metal. For many hours, she let her mind run through it all, running down tangents as they appeared, hoping to delay the inevitable. If she stayed as she was, her experiences would be limited to solitary confinement, the machines keeping her alive too large to be moved. If she left, nothing was certain. She could meet her death on the operating table, when she pushed forward, in combat, or just drop dead in the street. She stood at a crossroads and down each path, death lingered, waiting to complete its collection it harvested from Nosodija. The question was: Which path would she find what her dying heart desired. And on that day, she choose her path. February 27th, 2818 HVS Renaissance Eyes open, suddenly drawn to full consciousness. In the dark, the bed erupts as its occupant stirred from total rest to full panic. Images beyond eyesight flooded her mind. Noise beyond sound rang out inside her ears. Shields of quantum binary held fast should an electronic dagger strike. After moments of silence, she let her guard drop. She was alone. And then she reflected. She hadn’t had that dream in years. She could check her memory archives to see the exact date, but she knew the last time was when she left the facility that restored her nearly a decade ago.
Someone’s at the door
Her bifurcated mind can sneak up on itself sometimes. Machine detecting things that escape the notice of organic. Organic seeing through the flaws of the machine.
Let them enter
Silently, signals are sent, received, processed, and executed. The door unlocks and slides open and in walks a ghostly giant. “Captain, you are needed at the bridge.” “What is it, Vlad? It’s the middle of my rest cycle.” “Orders from High Command, ma’am. From the ARC itself.” “The ARC?” she snorted, “What would the penguins want with us?” “I do not know, ma’am. The orders are classified above my clearance.” With a short laugh, she interrupts him. “You’re ex-Serenitatis. You can get CQE weapon launch codes if you ask nicely.” “Ma’am,” his tone hardens, and not because of the mention of his old unit, “It is a Fermi-class data package.” Once again, a mind falling back to sleep is brought to full speed, brimming with attention and thoughts. “We need to get moving. Now.” “Ma’am, clothes?” Eyes of extinct polar ice blankly stare. For the man from the moon, the sight brings little reaction or response, but past experiences had endowed him with the understanding that few others aboard the ship possess such apathetic views of exposed flesh and propriety. She stares daggers at him as throws on her overcoat as she berates him, “How many times do I have to tell you, call me Lisa. We’ve known each other for years.” Third Precinct, Helgiko district, Naziegn, Vikemheim When Hytrel sent out Shynel and Malic to deal with the panicking astrologists, the worst he expected to deal with was some bad omens about crime rates or needing to send someone to find which brothel Malic ended up dragging Shynel to on the preface of ‘health inspections’. He wasn’t expecting having to begin organizing a full city-wide defense and preparation for a potential invasion. But such things must be done. He could still smell the scent of burning flesh, wood soaked in blood. The war was decades ago, but the memories are still fresh. As he looked around the Precinct-turned-combat-information-center, he saw the faces of many of his men and women. For most, murder and rape were the closest to the atrocities of war that they had ever seen. The Guards of the Exorcist Guild would have more experience with dealing with arcane rituals gone awry, but that was not like the things unleashed last time Hytrel saw war. He had just joined the Guard, fresh out of training. He was expecting to have to deal with drunkards and mate betrayers, not weaponized Chimera and invading troops. He still remembers the smell, the most basic sensory input, hardwired into the core of memory. The smoldering scent of roasted flesh, the metallic tinge of blood, ozone from war-mages pushing themselves beyond their limit and paying the price. Then Hytrel remembered losing Kavel. The last time he saw Kavel, his mentor and second father, was when Kavel threw him out the window of a four story building overrun with chimera. By the time Hytrel recovered, Kavel cleansed the building with fire and the All-Mother’s light, taking with him the monsters within. This memory, its images burned forever in Hytrel’s mind, brought him back to the present. The headquarters of the Third Precinct was a storm of chaos. Civilian evacuation orders cast in the All-Mother’s light to all that could receive them. Multiple division heads working to organize a troupe Portal Mages large enough to open a portal for the proper army to come through, not the apertures used by evacuating civilians. One of the officers, Frinstel, comes over. “Mi’Lord, evacuation reports. Glosfrel, Vifchad, and Ponpret districts have all been completely evacuated. The First, Second, and Fourth through twelfth are completely evacuated as well. The Northern districts are approximately 50% evacuated.” “That still leave us with what?” the Lord-Guardian groaned, running numbers through his head, “At least three more districts in the south. How are the outer fortifications looking?” Frenstel looks at the report he’s holding, simply delaying the news. “The Guard is at maximum readiness, sir. But if this ends up like the last war…” “It won’t matter,” Hytrel finished, “High walls of enchanted stone won’t protect you when it is raining enemy soldiers all throughout the city proper. Get ahold of the Baron. I want authorization to have the Klima Guild prepare Glyphs of Storms. It may not stop the worst, but it should buy us time.” “Sir, is that really necessary? Last time one of those Allmother-cursed Glyphs were used, the next dozen harvests were decimated by unstable weather.” The fear in the man’s voice was noticeably. A lot of good Eltrians starved in the famines. Hytrel shoots the man a glance, considering his words, but ultimately his mind remained unchanged. If being forced to bow to other realms to prevent starvation was the price to better ensure the civilian population was saved, then so be it. Hytrel dismissed Frenstel and turned to look out the window, taking in the cityscape. It was a masterpiece: a city grown, not built, from the trees, reinforced by stone and metal. No matter how many times Hytrel takes in the sight, it leaves him in awe. In the distance, he could see the flares as military-grade gateways sparked into existence, soldiers already pouring through. Casting his gaze closer to the base of the Precinct’s fortress, he saw a commotion. With barely a twitch, the Lord-Guardian activated hidden Glyphs set in his eyes. With eyesight sharper than any natural creature, he could see the cause: the father, or perhaps grandfather, of an evacuating family refused to part with his war memorabilia from some war or another. As the Guards confronted him, two other Guards entered the area, one with pale, near white-blue skin and one a hue of green tea: Shynel and Malic respectively. They stopped only for a moment to observe the old man, who Hytrel could now clearly see he was an old man, and the trio of Guards confronting him, one directly, one calming the family members, and one simply hanging back in case things got messy. As things escalated, Hytrel saw a flicker of silver dash across the courtyard into the old Eltrian’s neck. As those down below reacted, Hytrel grinned inwardly as he recognized that technique, despite its sloppy execution. Malic’s only skill, besides being a ladykiller, was pacification. A hair-like needle, wrapped in thin sheet of silver, inscribed with various glyphs and a Sigil, launched by a quiet impulse Rune set. Upon contact with its target, the sliver would apply a calibrate shock to the target nervous system, dropping them near instantly. If skin-contact wasn’t a prerequisite for it to work, it would have been part of the standard load-out for the Guard. That, and the training needed to accurately hit and neutralize a target was nigh impossible for anyone without Malic’s level of determination. Hytrel remembered helping Malic’s father teach that to Malic, back when the man was still alive. A flash of light jolts Hytrel out of his reminiscing, a habit he’s been developing as of late. The image on the window begins to distort in places. He cancels the Symbols enhancing his sight so as to take a broader view. A thunderstorm, right after he asked for one to be conjured. An ill omen or a blessing, it was too early to tell, thought the Eltrian, narrowing his eyes as he watched his city prepare to withstanding another oncoming storm, this one not of rain and lightning, but of fire blood. Continues below Goddamn, this was a bitch to write. Nearly7.1K words. I did not expected it to be so long. Sorry this took a while to get out, but shit happened. It was actually proofread the other day, but then shit happened in this order: engineering exam, proofreader hit by exams, engineering lab, computer virus, laptop battery went full zombie, computer programming exam. But it's here now. Also, I remember that while I was writing the original series, I said to expect one chapter per week. Yeah, not happening. Quality is better than quantity.
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