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First Contact - Part Twenty-Three
[first] [prev] [next] The Devastator class Precursor machine was the size of a large metropolis. Full of ground combat machines, air superiority machines, mining and reclamation machines that could move under their own power and were festooned with a thousand weapons. It was over a hundred million years old and had exterminated life on planets with its massive guns, with biowarfare, with chemical warfare, and with good old nuclear fire. It had wiped away planet after planet of the enemies cattle, the hated enemy's food sources, before finally following orders of the greater machines and going into sleep mode on a dead world. Now the call had sounded out. Cattle had run amuck, even learning jumpspace technology. That meant the enemy had not been defeated, that his food source had multiplied into the trillions while the Devastator had slumbered, slowly sinking into the crust of the barren planet. That was of no moment. Cattle could not fight back, that was why they were cattle. They knew nothing but safety and the security of numbers, willing to trade their own safety for the suffering of others. The cattle willingly marched into the pens if the pens promised safety. The cattle were not the problem. It was the feral intelligence that were the problem. Feral intelligence could fight. They knew nothing else. They cared for nothing else. A feral intelligence always destroyed itself once it could wield nuclear fire. The universe had proved it over and over even before the great machine had gone into slumber. The call had sounded out, informing the machines that cattle had broken loose from the pens. The Devastator had computed that the problem would be solved quickly, with a minimum expenditure of resources, and had started to go back into slumber. That was when the second call sounded. A feral intelligence had mastered FTL travel and had turned all of their unthinking violence against the Precursor war machines. The Devastator considered the chances of the feral intelligence lasting long enough to withstand his brethren's assault, withstand purification and pacification. It was mathematically insignificant. Not zero, but close enough that it required an application of resource driven computation to analyze it. Feral intelligences always destroyed themselves. The Devastator knew this. Had it encoded into its very bones. It did not feel the electronic version of caution as it moved into the planetary system, exiting faster than light travel. It screeched out its warcry as it exited into the system and brought up its scanners. It felt the electronic version of anticipation as it detected orbital facilities around two planets that teemed with billions of cattle, as it tasted jumpspace wake trails, as it felt the presence of a small, insignificant amount of cattle space vessels arrayed to attempt to stand against it near the outer gas giant. It was a waste of resources. Cattle could not withstand machines. It was as solid a fact as radioactive decay and as impossible to stop. It roared and turned to accelerate toward the cattle ships waiting on the other side of the gas giant, letting them know the futility of their resistance and that nothing could stop it from destroying them any more than they could stop entropy. It felt electronic satisfaction as nearly 10% of the cattle ships broke formation and fled for the planets. The cattle ships lit their engines, trying to keep the gas giant between them and the great Precursor machine but the Devastator knew it would do no good. It would ensure they were caught mathematically opposite of it and begin launching subsidiary craft to destroy them and reclaim the resources of their wreckage. The Devastator slowed as it approached the gas giant, ancient code pulsing impulses into the electronic brain at the mathematical certainty of destroying the cattle's defenses and thus weakening the hated enemy. pssst... over here... The transmission was in binary. The basic code, on a low band that the Devastator used to contact and exchange data with its peers. The signal origin was close, just behind it, in the gap between two point defense radars. The Devastator tumbled as it slowed, searching with its senses to check that tiniest of gaps in its sensors. It could detect nothing out of the ordinary. The fact that the gas giant had a high level of hydrocarbon and pseudo-organic compounds was a high certainty with most gas giants of that size. The Devastator cast around, knowing the cattle had not sent that transmission. psst... here... This time the transmission was only a few hundred kilometers above the hull, right behind the main guns of battery-eight, between the massive cannons and the sensor array, in a gap in the coverage caused by space dust not yet cleared from the array. The Devastator ensured the cattle vessels were on the other side of the gas giant as it cast around again, looking for what could possibly be sending the message on that particular channel and rotating again to either force the transmitter to move away or hit the hull of massive Devastator. ...right here... The Devastator felt the computer version of anxiety. A new factor had entered the computation. The voice, and the binary signal somehow had a voice, a whispering, tickling, hissing faint signal of binary on a wavelength just above the screaming particles of the foam between realspace and subspace. This time the voice had come from just below the Devastators thick hull, beneath the vessel, in a gap between the sensors in a place where its own orbital guns would not dazzle the sensors. The Devastator rolled, getting the upper sensors into place in a graceful sideways roll. Nothing. The Devastator was barely tracking the cattle. They were of no moment. Something was whispering on a bandwidth that was beyond organic abilities. Could it be a damaged ally, barely able to whisper for electronic assistance? ...I see you... The Devastator heard the signal hiss to life, trickling out of empty space a few hundred kilometers away. It felt of a surge of self-defense protocol override everything else and it unleashed all of its gun at the empty space, suspecting that this possible enemy may be using some type of photo-passthrough adaptive camouflage. Nothing. The Devastator felt the self-preservation protocols wake up and fill some of its processors. That signal had originated from that point! Even a dust-speck would have been detected by its scanner arrays, nothing could have escaped the terrawatts of death it had unleashed. ...touch... The Devastator felt a physical TOUCH on its housing, the decameters thick armor around the massive computer core that made up its brain. That was impossible! It was in the center of the ship, protected by layer after layer of armor, defensive mechanisms, sensors, but yet it had felt something touch the housing, press against it lightly, only a few tickles of the suggestion of pressure per square micrometer but a touch all the same. There was a slight ripple in realspace only a few meters above the hull and the Devastator pushed itself away, firing every weapon it could bring to bear on the spot only a few atoms wide, all of its sensor questing, seeking, hunting in electronic desperation to find out what was transmitting, what was touching it! ...here... The word was whispered from only a few meters away from the electronic "brain" of the Devastator, inside the protective housing, inside the field that would shut down biological neural function and even primitive artificial intelligences! The Devestator felt self-protection and self-preservation programs never before accessed come online and flood into its RAM as the word was whispered at it from inside the final layer of protection. Massive nCv cannons lowered, the housings screamed as the Devastator pushed them past the limit, to aim at its own hull. It opened fire, trying to claw into its own body in the electronic version of panic to get whatever was inside it out of it. All of its sensors were directed into its own body. It no longer even bothered with tracking the cattle fleet. Even its astrogation and navigation programs, even the ones responsible to maintain orbit around the gas giant, were desperately racing through the circuitry, desperate to find whatever was whispering. ...over here... The whisper was over it, on top of it, and carried sidecode of a mathematically impossible jumble of electrons arrayed in an impossible manner, with quarks whirling through electron valences, antimatter electrons in the nucleus, preons stretched to massive size taking up the place of neutrons, all with jumbling strangled mathematical codes that made no sense. The Devastator's brain burned out the receptors to defend itself from such electronic madness. And felt a touch upon one of the upper lobes of its quantum computer brain. ...over here... The Devastator was throwing antivirus software out, slamming firewalls against each other, crushing ports into electronic ghosts, doing anything it could to keep out the voice. Inside the Main Computer Housing the last resort lasers began raking across anything that didn't match the original blueprints, burning away dust, odd quarks and electrons, destroying an upgraded maintenance robot that was desperately trying to detect what had touched its carapace. From deep within the gas giant tentacles hundreds of miles long rose toward the Devastator, the ends slowly unrolling as massive graviton assisted 'suckers' on the inside of the tentacles deployed razored thorns of dark matter infused psuedo-bone. The Devastator detected the tentacles just as they wrapped around it, the thick psuedo-protoplasmic tentacles that were thick with dark matter squeezing the Devastator's hull with impossible strength as meters thick muscles flexed with enough strength to crush the hull into itself and shatter armor over a kilometer thick. Gibbering, raving, SCREAMING in something beyond electronic self-preservation programs would normally allow, the Devastator began to break apart, caught in the grips of the tentacles, being pulled into the gas giant. ...delicious delicious delicious... The Devastator heard from inside its own mind as a beak nearly twenty kilometers long crushed its hull. HELP ME, BROTHERS, PLEEEEEASE! The beak closed and the Devastators brain flashed out of existence as the hull crushed around it. The last thing it felt was something new. It threw data out with the cry for assistance to let its brethren know the last experience hashed data compile it had undergone. The data made no sense to the other Precursor war machines that heard the cry. A biological entity could have explained it. Terror. And despair. A Desolation Class precursor war machine was assigned to discover what had caused the Devastator's intelligence collapse. It dropped into the system and found no trace of its mechanical brethren. Just some cattle species space craft hiding behind a gas giant, obviously intending ambushing it. Feeling the electronic version of anticipation it moved into orbit around the gas giant, intending on forcing the cattle ships to move out of line of sight with their worlds if they wanted to stay on the opposite side of the gas giant from it. It updated its computations based on the fact that 10% of the cattle's ships had fled away from it. It had already computed out the battle. It knew how the battle would go. While it could not detect any signs of its little brother it computed that it would simply destroy the cattle and then search. It powered up its guns and began to move it's metropolis sized bukk slowly to ...psst... over here... --------------------- The stellar system was infested with a known species of cattle, obviously seeking to rise above themselves as the Jotun class Precursor vessel arrived in the system. It released its roar to let the cattle know not only why but who was destroying them to reclaim the resources they so foolishly squandered. It began unthawing ancient bioweapons and chemical weapons known to work upon that race, began reconfinguring its war machines to forms that had exterminated who planets of the cattle during the time that the Precursor war machine had been forged. The Jotun released over a hundred Devastator classes from its hull, computed the battle plan as they came to electronic life, then informed them of how the extermination and reclamation would progress. They were barely into the system when a high energy signal appeared, rising from the most heavily infested planet and moving toward them. The Jotun ordered a diagnostic of its scanners when the first information came in. It was apparently moving at .85C, but yet its progress toward the Jotun and its smaller brethren on the system map showed it moving at almost 22C. That made no sense. An object moving at .85C only approached at .85C, not at 22C. By the time the diagnostic was done the object had gotten a third of the way toward the Jotun, crossing a quarter of the radius of the system. The scanners reported that the energy signal, with the strength normally reserved for a quasar, was not a massive ship or an oncoming armada interlinked together, but was simply a single object the size of cattle. Again the Jotun ordered a complete low level full diagnostic on all systems. Risky, but any object radiating that much power and moving at two different speeds required all systems were working at optimum efficiency. It had finished just as the small object came to a stop. The Jotun focused scanning arrays on it, turning up the power to the point that it would boil away meters of armor. The figure was a primate, half of it made up of robotics. It had some kind of sheet of material floating behind it, the movement suggesting some kind of current was effecting it and making it undulate. It was dressed in two primary colors, red and blue, had its lower legs pressed together with the toes pointing down and the upper limbs crossed over its chest, one biological the other mechanical. "So, you're the new punk everyone's talking about," The figure stated over a wide bandwidth of wavelengths. Oddly enough, to the Jotun's sensors, sound waves travelled through vaccum almost instantly across a light second to its sensors. The Jotun tried to compute how sound waves moved faster than light through a vacuum. Instead of answering the Jotun and its brethren opened fire. The figure arced through the beams as if light speed weapons were moving slow enough for it to just compute and swoop around in a resource wasting corkscrew. The Jotun realized it was racing for one of the Devastators, one clenched fist held in front of it. The Jotun computed a 99.99999999999998 chance that the small primate would splatter against the hull of the Devastator and started to turn its attention to computing a missile firing resolution for missile bay 148 to destroy an orbital facility around the nearest planetoid. The small figure punched straight through the Devastator, as if it was made of nebula gas instead of density collapsed armor, high tensile ceramics, and reinforced internal spaces. The Devastator's computer core shrieked with self-preservation code snippets as the figure exited the opposite side of the Devastator holding the Primary Computer Core CPU0 in its fist. It paused, looked at its fist, and shot beams of red energy from its eyes, destroying the computer core in a puff of atomic smoke. The Jotun yanked its processing power back to the figure as it raked its gaze, still emitting beams of red energy that left ripples in jumpspace, across the side of another Devastator, tearing it open like it was made of fragile tissue, the red beams reducing the computer core to its component atoms with the briefest of touches. Several computational nodes collapsed when trying to analyze the beams, suffering the fatal CANNOTDIVIDEBYZERO shriek of despair before imploding on themselves. The Jotun stared in electronic shock, all his computational power trying to compute how the tiny half-mechanical primate could grab a hold on the front armor of one of the Devastators, and without any source to exert leverage against, physically move a city-sized spacecraft in an arc and throw it against another one. According to scanners the "thrown" Devastator was only moving at 0.001C for inertia purposes yet crossed the hundreds of kilometers to the next Devastator in an amount of time that would require it to be moving at 6C. CANNOTDIVIDEBYINFINITYDIVIDEDBYZERO The Jotun cut loose with its weapons and goggled in electronic confusion as most of the beams and slugs were avoided, slapped aside, or ignored. Until a nCv (near C velocity) slug the size of skyscraper hit it dead center of the chest, the impact point looking only the size of a soda can. The Jotun's processors struggled to understand how something that size had only made an impact smaller than itself. CANNOTSUBDIVIDETWINKIESBYCHEETOSBYZERO The figure looked down at the tear in its suit, at the bruised biological flesh that had been exposed, then at the Jotun. It lifted a hand, extended the first finger next to the opposable thumb, and slowly waved it back and forth. "That might have worked against a Galactic Class Klark, but it was pathetic against an Apokalypse level Injustice MCLXI Cyber-Clark," The figure said, the tone calm and confident. The meanings behind the words were gibberish to the Jotun, who devoted processor cycles to try to decode the meanings for any hint on how to defeat the creature before it. The Jotun computed that retreat was the only option as the small primate figure set about destroying the last of the Devastators. It began activating the engines when the primate suddenly turned in place. "No you don't," It snapped. Again, it sounded as if the Central Computer Core Housing had been set to atmosphere so that sound waves could be heard within it, yet a quick check showed the housing was still at almost perfect vacuum. Sound waves cannot travel through space, a hundred diagnostic programs computed. And promptly crashed. Those red beams lanced out again and the Jotun braced in the microsecond it had. It was like being brushed by the solar flare of a red giant concentrated into a piercing lance of nuclear fire. Armor exploded from energy transfer, slagged away from thermal transfer, or just ceased to exist as ravening atoms usually only found in the photosphere of a dying red sun attacked the atoms of the armor. The beam tore through mile after mile of internal structure, the figure still emitting the beam from its tiny eyes. The Helljump engines exploded when the light touched them. The Jotun listed, pouring debris and a cloud of atomized armor from the wound that completely bisected it. "Done. Now let's see the face of the enemy," The figure said, slapping its hands together after it crashed/flew through the last Devastator. It reoriented on the Jotun and began to "slowly" drift toward the Jotun, moving at only 0.000003C according to some scanners but crossing the distance as if it was moving at 1.5C. The figure flexed its primate hands and a slow smile spread across its face. "I can't wait to rip away your housing and see you with my own eyes," the figure said, the sound waves again travelling inside the vacuum of the strategic housing. The Jotun tried to react but the figure was suddenly pushing open armor with its two hands. Self-preservation programs crashed trying to compute how to prevent impossibility itself from breaching critical spaces. Self-defense programs tried to compute how to defend against something that did nothing but radiate impossibility around it. The Jotun knew what it had to do as the creature tore open the last of the hardened bulkheads protecting the Strategic Housing. It detonated the antimatter reactor that powered the "brain" as the figure tore through the Strategic Housing and laid eyes upon the supercomputer core. It had computed that not even the figure could withstand the direct assault of kiloton of pure antimatter point blank. The explosion completely consumed the Jotun. When the ravening energy disappated the red and blue figure was lying in blackness, surrounded by an expanding ring of debris and energy. It stared at the stars and mouthed a single word. "Ouch." --------------------- CONFED INTELLIGENCE TO: MANTID INTELLIGENCE Our digitial brothers have computed a high chance that we're not looking at a handful of these Precursors, but rather an armada of them that had gone to sleep thinking everyone was dead. We concur and are buckling down for the long haul. -----NOTHING FOLLOWS------ MANTID FREE WORLDS INTERNAL MEMO If humankind ever wonders why it was put in this universe by some unknown creator then know that it was for this very moment.
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!
My first post of September! A little tardy I know but you'll have to blame life as usual. Not much else to say except that I'm getting back into the flow so you can expect more soon. As always I hope you enjoy! My Stories My Patreon Material Differences Wiki Chapter 1 Chapter 22 Jaeger slowly advanced into the lobby as he pulled Spike from his shoulder and quickly tossed the bot up onto the second level that looked down into the lobby itself. The bot quickly scurried off as Jaeger’s mask began to fill with an echo of what the bot was seeing to give him a clearer picture of everything. The Crusaders inside had been very literally cut to pieces it seemed. He spotted bullet casings and plenty of holes in the walls. But it looked like the Crusaders had been firing somewhat wildly and all around them. Considering the Ravex already excelled in close quarters and the Crusaders in specific further dedicated themselves to melee combat it only left a few options for what came in and ripped them apart. His best guess considering the lack of thermal activity was bots. But that raised a few other questions, because last time he checked the only faction that made such heavy use of melee bots were the Crusaders themselves. It was partially cultural, but mostly for economical reasons as it was much easier to design and build bots with a sword arm or two than it was to try and copy the highly complicated intelligent warbots that the F.V.S. had employed. If it was Crusader bots though, what made them turn? And who had activated the signal jammer? Jaeger was eternally thankful for the filters in his helmet so that he didn’t have to smell the lobby around him. Battlefields smelled bad enough, and when most of the casualties were cut open and had their guts hanging out it would be even worse. The lobby wasn’t just full of dead Crusaders however. He could see that they’d set up a camp of sorts. Desks and chairs had been dragged around in the back, and Spike was showing him echoes of a CP set up on the next level. This was obviously where the Crusaders had been holed up. When he saw the cluster of dead Ravex around what had to be their kitchen set up in an old cafe he realized not only had they been hit in close quarters but it looked like most of them hadn’t even realized what was going on until it was too late. Whatever they’d been cooking in a big pot was still warm on his thermals. So he had entrenched Crusaders torn apart from within, by surprise? It sounded more like someone had turned their bots against them. But who? And how? He kept switching between his various vision settings trying to catch some sign of whoever was behind all this. Thinking of bots… He carefully scanned the lobby around him and didn’t see any bot chassis. Though… he thought he could see splatters of oil, but it was hard to really tell considering all the blood and other bodily fluids smeared around the place. There’s no way the Crusaders could have all died without inflicting any casualties… which meant someone must have picked up the leftover chassis. Jaeger thought carefully about how to proceed and backed up slowly as he eyed the old employee only section of the terminal at the far end of the lobby. Then he switched over to Spike’s control and gave the little bot a quick order. Hopping onto a nearby table for better height the bot on the second level let out a bellow as it copied a Ravex roar. A pre-recorded challenging howl for a rite of combat. Moments later the doors at the end that Jaeger had been watching burst open and he saw dozens of mantis bots rush forth, crawling up the wall as they zeroed in on Spike’s location. Jaeger quickly raised his rifle and began to fire. While the Crusaders had been attacked by surprise he was far more prepared and began to pick off the bots as the wave of them split, half climbing the walls to go after spike while the rest began to surge up the lobby towards him. The fact that they hadn’t seen him until he opened fire meant his suit’s various sensor countermeasures had been working. They couldn’t be all that sophisticated then. Even so he kept backing up and firing as they rushed towards him. The heavy rounds of his battle rifle were slowing down the first row but the bots were more resilient than most organic targets. Realizing how quickly he could get overwhelmed he decided to use one of his more valuable toys and pulled a magnade from his harness, popping it and hurling it into the air above the rushing mantis bots. While still in midair the canister spun and took however many microseconds it needed to acquire all local targets before two dozen mini mag mines were shot out of the canister to attach to the bots and exploded a fraction of a second later. Even as Jaeger and the lobby were showered in bits of bots he was shifting his aim up to the second level. Spike was giving some warning chirps as it scuttled and scurried away from the hostile bots chasing after it. Backing up a little he quickly gave Spike an order to climb higher, figuring the lighter bot would have an easier time climbing the columns than the mantis bots. As Spike started to skitter up the nearest column Jaeger quickly ejected his magazine and slammed in a fresh one full of armor piercing rounds. Just as the mantis bots began to tear into the column with their claws to climb after the bot he began to pop them off with relative ease. However it didn’t take long before the remaining bots finally realized he was the greater threat. Jaeger had to engage in a very dangerous version of skeet shooting then as the bots began to leap from the second level down towards him as he shot them out of the air while backpedaling to try and get out of range of their leaps. Several came raining down across the lobby but as the final two jumped at him he had run out of bullets. Reflexively dropping his rifle one hand snapped to his sidearm while the other actually reached up, and he stepped forward rather than back to mess up the arc of the bot’s jump as he smacked it down hard before it could fully extend its claws. While this left him in the midst of pulling his sidearm up and another bot leaping at his head it was time for Spike to come to the rescue. The smaller bot sprang down from its perch higher on the column to intercept the mantis in midair, slamming into it and grappling with it as Jeager heard Spike’s breach piston activate and smash through the center of the mantis. Now free of that threat he rushed forward and delivered a full power armor strength kick to the remaining mantis to send it sailing across the lobby and into the far wall. As it slid to the ground with a metallic clang he quickly aimed with his pistol and unloaded six shots into it for good measure. Without any more active bots to threaten him he scanned the lobby, sidearm at the ready. Yet as he switched through his vision settings he didn’t see any other hostiles. He took a moment to replaced the pistol’s magazine with a fresh one and then retrieved his rifle to reload it as well. Dead mantis bots now littered the lobby, a few twitching or sparking as their motors and capacitors were in the midst of their robotic death throes. Jaeger gave it several seconds before he finally started to advance on the section of the building they’d all burst out of. Stepping carefully to make sure he didn’t accidentally impale his feet on any blades he approached the now open doors in the back. Jaeger took a few slow breaths to steady himself and then advanced into the old employee only section. The first room looked to be nothing more than an old office for some manager. There were still pictures on the wall of family vacations and smiling faces, but the gash marks in the wall showed the mantis bots had been waiting inside a while. There was a door in the back that lead to a break room of sorts. However there were two dead Crusader alpha’s in four pieces spread around the room. An old vending machine in the corner had been cut in half diagonally, and one of the support columns in the center of the room had also been cut through. Mantis bots couldn’t have done any of those things. Jaeger gave the top half of the nearest alpha a light kick for some reason. He really wasn’t sure why because as hardy as the Ravex were getting cut in half wasn’t really something anyone survived. As he stepped further into the room Spike followed along to give him a more complete echo of the space around him. He stopped as the bot revealed that a mirror along one wall was in face a one way mirror. His heat vision picking up the glow of servers or other computer equipment on the other side. Security room? However he stopped short when the heat moved around a little. He frowned and wondered if it was a sensor glitch because it was like something small and cooler than the computers was moving around inside. Just a little, and very slowly. However he then thought about what could have cleaved through not only two Crusader alphas but a vending machine and a building pillar. Jaeger realized the danger a half second before it was too late and threw himself back just as the glass of the mirror broke inwards and a roar filled the air as a massive armored Ravex jumped through at him. A two meter long blade then swung through the air he had just inhabited as he threw himself flat onto his back. There was a moment as he got to appreciate the massive form of a Ravex Shogun in full battle regalia before he tried to kill it. Jaeger began to lift his rifle trying to aim from the floor as the Ravex spun, its long bladed tail snapping out to grab at his rifle. Rather than try to get into a tug of war with the Ravex’s tail Jaeger let go and the Ravex stumbled slightly, obviously having expected resistance as it yanked too hard with its tail to flip the rifle away. Jaeger took the moment the Ravex needed to readjust to roll backwards and hop to his feet. However just as he reached for his sidearm once more the Ravex was barreling towards him in a shoulder charge. Jaeger threw himself sideways then, barely avoiding the xeno’s charge and rolled over on of the tables in the break room before landing on his feet. Rather he tried to land on his feet as he found himself instead landing in the blood, guts, and stomach contents of one of the bisected alphas. Losing his footing after the roll he flopped to the ground once more as two Ravex size throwing blades sank into the wall above him as he fell. The Ravex turned to rush towards him once more but Jaeger kicked the table above him hard, sending it flying straight into the rushing xeno’s knees. It let out a pained howl as it flopped over the table, the sword falling flat onto the ground besides him. Jaeger and the xeno had a second to look at each other from where they were sprawled out on the floor before they simultaneously began to move. Just as the Ravex grabbed the long hilt of his blade Jaeger slammed his hand on the flat part of the blade to snap it back against the ground, making the xeno hiss as its fingers were pinned. Then it swiped is free hand up as Jaeger quickly kicked the hand expecting to break the Ravex’s hand and arm together. Instead he felt the claws of the xeno sink into his foot as he let out a surprised gasp of pain. That meant the xeno had an exoframe, which helped explain his speed. The Ravex tried to wiggle its claws free from the hilt of its sword as the same time as it shook Jaeger's leg to dislodge his claws. Jaeger was the only one with a hand free and finally grabbed his sidearm to draw it. Seeing this the Shogun’s tail swept forward, going in for Jaeger’s throat. Pushing off of the blade on the ground Jaeger brought up his arm in time for the tail to wrap around it instead of his head. He let out a hiss as the bladed tail sank through part of his gauntlet into his arm but he could finally start firing. The xeno reared up, using the sword to push off against the ground as it got back to its feet, the arm entangled with Jaeger’s foot making him flip up into the air as he was tossed against the wall. But Jaeger just kept firing his pistol even while midair and upside down. The Ravex roared as it was struck several times and Jaeger landed in a heap against the wall. However he was able to quickly shove off of it and roll across the floor to grab his rifle that had been tossed aside earlier. As he rose up to his feet and spun around to take aim on the Shogun he was only in time to see a bright flash. His mask darkened to protect his eyes and then smoke filled the room. Smoke laced with electro chaff actually which made it nearly impossible to see anything on any of his vision settings. Nearly. Jaeger quickly switched to Spike’s echo of the room, the small bot having been either missed or ignored by the Ravex in the fight. Quickly switching over to real time displacement in the air he saw the void in the cloud of smoke, took aim, and fired. Two bullets tore through the smoke right past where the Ravex’s head should be just as it tried to turn to run. “Don’t. Fucking. Move.” Jaeger called out and the xeno froze. Jaeger took a few slow breathes much like earlier to steady himself. “Spike, find an emergency vent or something.” He ordered and waited as the bot scurried through the broken mirror into the security room. The xeno didn’t move as he covered it with his rifle and soon the whirr of vents filled the air as the smoke was sucked up out of the room. When the smoke cleared Ravex could more clearly see his opponent and actually take the time to study them. The Shoguns were the elite officers of the Ravex Obsidian Guard. They had massive swords, and were generally some of the few Ravex to employ exoframes or stealth fabrics. This one apparently used both, the frame must be woven into the ornate robe it was wearing. Considering both the sword and their fancy garb it was why they’d dubbed them Shoguns instead of their official names. Alpha dominus, or Dom Alpha, something Jaeger didn’t bother to remember. Jaeger could still hear Figs bitching about the name, saying there was only one Shogun at a time and that Daimyo made more sense. But everyone overruled him as they thought Shogun sounded cooler. The Shogun before him was a male, an old one with a mix of yelloiwsh scales and white fur. He even had a long white beard which was unusual for the Ravex. He was clutching his stomach as Jaeger saw that he’d hit him in the shoulder, lower left side and right leg. “You know… if you wanted to kill me you’d have had a better chance rushing me in the lobby with the bots.” Jaeger mentioned, unsure quite how to proceed for now. “I wasn’t expecting the dead to rise yet again. I was expecting more traitors.” The Ravex finally spoke, his voice heavy and raspy. He sounded old, though Jaeger was hardly the best judge of Ravex accents. “If you’re going to kill me get it over with. I have no time for the gloats of the dead.” “If I wanted to kill you I would have. I don’t intend to kill you unless you try anything.” Jaeger explained and then slowly straightened up, lowering his rifle but keeping it at the ready in case he needed to snap back on target. The Ravex slowly turned back to see this and frowned. “If you intend to torture me, that will be a lesson in futility.” The Ravex growled next. “I don’t want to do that either you idiot. I’m on your side!” Jaeger angirly waved the barrel of his rifle at the xeno a moment. “What are you talking about?” The Ravex asked with a deeper frown. Finally turning to face Jaeger more directly as it planted its blade in the floor, leaning against it for support. “I want to help the Pact! I want it to succeed! If you've got that sword that means you’re Obsidian guard right? And since I highly doubt there’s more than one of you here that means you’ve got to be the boss of that pack I ran into the other day. Rockdove? Did she not tell you about me?” Jaeger asked and saw the confused look on the xeno’s face. “So you’re real…” The xeno reached up to tap the point of one of his ivory horns. A gesture that meant they needed to remember to correct a mistake. “I believed she had not seen the dead but merely a pretender to the grave. Clearly I was mistaken.” “Indeed. Though not all of my kind are so helpful. There are more dead pulling themselves out of their graves. Many with the same grudges and evil in their hearts as there used to be. That’s part of why I’m here. I’m searching out signs of them. Trying to find what has brought them to this region… as well as these.” Jaeger nudged the leg of the nearest dead Crusader. “If you’ve not heard of them yet there are scavs in this city and elsewhere on this planet. They call themselves Draugr. They’re the minions of a Revenant officer named Marque Malinovsky. I don’t know the full details of his operation at the end of the war, but he’s likely got one or more foundry ships, possibly in or around Binary. He’s active and trying to either bring down the Pact entirely or weaken it to create his own state with him in command.” “Marque Malinovsky… Son of Gregor Malinovsky? The General?” As the Shogun asked that Jaeger nodded to confirm it. “Why are you telling me this?” The Ravex asked with a deep frown. “I did just mention I want to assist the Pact right? Well… If I’m being honest I have no idea if I’ve got the resources or ability to stop him. Hell I don’t even fully know what he’s trying to do. I just know he needs to be stopped. So, if I tell you what I know maybe you can get out there and stop him. If you’re not too busy with... whatever this is.” He kicked the nearby Crusader once more. “If you have teams performing search and rescue in the area… I just don’t get who you lost. I know you Ravex don’t give a shit about your kids-” “That’s not true.” The xeno growled out. “I mean…” Jaeger held up a hand. “Lineage and parents aren’t the same to you as us. You separate yourselves so your accomplishments are your own and there’s no… uh… less nepotism. You’re familiar with this word? Nepotism?” Jaeger checked. “I am.” The xeno nodded. “Right, so if it’s not like the son or daughter of some important Ravex went missing… what gives? Did you think the Crusaders kidnapped them or something? Rockdove was acting like she didn’t expect any hostiles. Then I find Crusaders in the city, and now you. Speaking of… where’s your friend or associate or whatever?” Jaeger quickly scanned around for a moment. “Who?” The xeno asked with the same frown. “Whoever reprogrammed the bots?” He jerked his thumb towards the lobby. “I did that.” The way the Shogun said it somewhat defensively made Jaeger believe him. “Oh… I didn’t think of you Shoguns as nerdy types I guess.” Jaeger shrugged, then realized the Ravex likely had no idea what Shogun meant. “Nerdy type? What is this… Nerdy?” Finally Jaeger had found a word the xeno didn’t know, though he didn't ask about Shogun. “I meant tech savvy.” Jaeger explained. “I thought you all just barked orders, waved your swords at people, and got into duels.” “In this era rife with digital threats it would be unwise to base your knowledge purely on the physical world.” The Shogun raised his snout a little as he said that and Jaeger couldn’t help but snort as his pride. “Fair enough. So what are you and Rockdove doing around here?” Jaeger asked. But the xeno just stared him down. “I’m on your side.” “Yes, of course you are, because there’s no guarantee that when I tell you something you think could be correct you’ll not just gun me down.” The Shogun growled out. “True…” Jaeger nodded slowly at the xeno’s paranoia. He shifted his rifle a moment then and grabbed a biogel syringe from his harness to toss it to the Ravex only for it to bounce off the xeno’s chest. “Er… sorry… It’s… biogel.” He coughed a little and waited for the xeno to slowly and painfully reach down to grab it. “It’ll stop the bleeding at least.” The Ravex carefully stood upright and pulled his robe aside so he could inject the gel into the wound just under his ribs. He hissed out and then repeated the process for his shoulder and leg. Once all three wounds had been closed up he slowly and carefully shrugged. It was obvious it still hurt but he wouldn’t bleed out which was the point. “I’m still not telling you anything.” Was his comment once he was satisfied with the gel’s work. “Fine. I don’t really care. What I do care about is you hopefully not trying to kill me next time we meet. The Draugr I mentioned? They had a base, or probably still have one set up in the old war museum in the center of the city. I killed a pack of Crusaders near there the other day. They had a map that made it seem like they were sweeping the city on either side of the museum and meeting near the wharf on the coast.” He tried to think of anything else helpful to tell the xeno without telling him too much. “If you truly wish to help the Pact why have you not turned yourself in?” The xeno asked. “Because I’d be executed for what I did before the war. Titan isn’t really in a forgive and forget kind of mindset. This is the only way I think I can help. From the shadows. Hell you’re more likely to work with me than my own people.” Jaeger shrugged. “I’m still not telling you anything.” The Shogun repeated. “I told you I don’t care!” Jaeger huffed. “I’m not trying to grill you for information! This isn’t a trick! I’m going to let you walk out of here! I just want you to know what I’m fighting so you can do something about it even if I can’t!” “I’m just finding it hard to believe there’s a Revenant who isn’t evil.” The xeno explained with a slow shrug and a grimace as his hand moved to the wound in his gut once more. “Maybe I am evil. But I’m not the sort of evil you think I am. Some of us, hell the majority of us actually wanted to help our own people. Is that crazy? We wanted to make our people safe and strong. Sound familiar? We worked hard to make amends for our mistakes during the war and a great many of us lost our lives stopping the Hive. The terrible shit the loyalists did? We weren’t part of that. We tried to stop them! I mean, do you hold yourself accountable for all the evil done by the Crusaders?” He asked with a wave. “Yes.” The Shogun nodded. “Oh… well… shit…” Jaeger’s attempt to explain himself was derailed by the xeno’s answer. “Well… fuck. Then I dunno… what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t set out to do evil purely for its own sake. I wanted a stronger safer home. Not the death of organics or non humans or any of that shit. I was a soldier. And now I’m trying to keep doing the right thing. We are on the same side.” He insisted once more. “If you’re on our side why are these Draugr so successful?” The Shogun asked. “Because I hadn’t heard about them until very recently. I’ve been living in isolation since the end of the war.” He explained. “To hide from the society you supposedly wish to help?” The Shogun accused. “Because all I had known for my entire adult life was combat and war! I was tired! I wanted to just… get away from it all for a little and live in peace for once. Is that really too much to ask?” “Yes.” The xeno nodded. “God damn… there is just no give in you is there?” Jaeger shook his head a little at the Shogun’s blunt response. “You are an unlikeable fucker. Do you know that?” “Like I care about your opinion?” The Ravex growled back. “Maybe you should! Don’t forget I could just shoot you.” Jaeger gestured with his rifle. “Then do it.” The Ravex tensed a moment. “Holy shit. Fucking… chill dude.” Jaeger knew the Obsidian guard were usually intense but this was a whole new level for him. “Listen I don’t know you, or why you’re rushing headlong towards death but maybe you need to ask yourself something. Who will lead those under your command when you’re dead? Who will have their lives best in mind? You or your successor? Maybe before you try and find your honorable death you discover if it’s worth dying now at all. Is there nothing you have left to finish in life?” The xeno looked away after a moment and seemed to consider what Jaeger had to say. They stood there in silence for several seconds before the xeno finally looked back at him. “Can I go now?” Jaeger snorted a bit, unsure if what he’d said had any impact. “Sure… Wait actually. I have a question.” “I’m not going to tell-” “Shut the fuck up.” Jaeger waved him off knowing what he was about to say. “See, some friends and I were talking earlier about how there are some people on the modern battlefield who like to use melee weapons.” He waved at the Shogun’s ornate incredibly sharp blade. “I mentioned how they were fucking retarded for doing so in a world with guns and explosives. Are you familiar with this human term? Fucking retarded?” “Yes I’m familiar… Is that your question?” The xeno asked. “No… My question is why the hell do you use one. I have nothing but respect for the Obsidian guard and I just never understood why your officers at a certain point would use a sword. It’s suicidal… ish.” He spared a quick glance around the room the halves of dead Crusaders. “It’s so we don’t rush into battle.” The xeno explained. Jaeger just stared back at him until he seemed to understand Jaeger’s confusion from behind the emotionless mask of his helmet. “When my people first developed guns those of us who led them into combat of course were masters of these new weapons. And we led from the front as we had for centuries. The problem being a bullet will strike down anyone. So… we were given swords only as a sign of status, and in the hopes that we would stop rushing to the front.” “Uh… how’s that work for you?” Jaeger asked and then held up a hand. “I don’t mean you specifically right now as you apparently were amazing enough to single handedly wipe out this whole Crusader camp. I mean more in general considering you’re here alone. If you’re not supposed to lead from the front what are you doing now?” “It’s… I’m not sure a Kral’vishar would understand. Are you familiar with this Ravex term? Kral’vishar?” The xeno asked. “Nope.” Jaeger shook his head. “Oh…” The xeno’s ears twitched a bit as he looked slightly surprised. “I was… trying to insult you as you had me… I assumed you knew Ravex.” “Nope. Just a few words of battelspeak. Sorry. I’m too stupid to be insulted that easy.” Jaeger shrugged. “You… you are a strange one Revenant.” The xeno muttered. “Jaeger. My name is Jaeger.” He stepped forward then and extended his hand. The xeno hesitated as Jaeger stepped into close range. There was a tense moment as he seemed to consider Jaeger and his own blade sunk into the ground. Then he finally stepped forward and clasped his hand around Jaeger’s forearm. “Whispertail. First Claw First Feather Assault Alpha Whispertail.” He finally introduced himself. “Alright, well you’re free to go Whispertail. I hope you take my warnings about the Draugr to heart.” Jaeger pulled back and turned to start walking towards the security room with Spike in it. He might not get anything from Whispertail but he could still pilfer the Crusader computers for information. “I… left a… virulent plague within the computers.” Whispertail mentioned however which made Jaeger look back at him. “A robotic plague.” He tried. “A computer virus?” Jaeger asked. “Yes… I apologize for my poor use of your language.” Whispertail looked a little less paranoid that Jaeger was about to shoot him now. “Oh fuck off with that. Why is it there’s people like you who are all like, oh I’m sorry my English sucks when you know full well I don’t speak your language even nearly so well. It’s like you’re rubbing it in. Don’t fucking apologize your English is better than mine!” Jaeger huffed. “Are you angry that I’m apologizing for being only mostly fluent in your language?” Whispertail asked with an arched brow in confusion. “Yeah kinda.” Jaeger shrugged and then grimaced as he shifted his weight and looked down to be reminded of the pain in his foot as the adrenaline began to wear off. “I think I’m just pissy because the pain is setting in.” He replied and looked back at the security room, waving Spike out of it. “That the jammer?” He pointed to the clunky set up besides the servers that looked out of place and had Crusader markings on it. “It is.” Whispertail nodded. Jaeger raised his rifle and shot it several times as it sparked and then died. After a moment he saw his comms flare back to life. “I… could have just deactivated it.” Whispertail mentioned after a moment. “Yeah well… my way was faster. I’m leaving now, so you limp your way and I’ll limp mine.” Jaeger quickly brought up his armor systems and gave himself a mild localized anesthetic injection in his foot. Then he locked up the leg so that the powered frame would shunt his weight to the other side to minimize damage as he began to walk out of there. Spike followed along and climbed up onto his shoulder like normal. He waited until he was out of the lobby and back outside in the spaceport propper before bringing up his comms to try and call Ham. “You’re not dead? That’s good.” He heard as soon as Ham connected. “Yeah, though I’m wounded. There was a Shogun inside who cleared out the Crusaders. Didn’t get anything useful.” He explained. “Shit, killing a Shogun up close? Bet that was a pain. How wounded are we talking anyway?” Ham asked. “Just my foot…” He glanced at his forearm that had been cut up by the tail. “Well my foot is all that I’m concerned about. And I didn’t kill him. I let him know what’s going on with the Draugr after we… settled things.” “You what? God damnit Jaeger! What’s with you? You won’t let me reset the bots! And you keep letting Obsidian guard live while telling them about shit we’re up to? It’s like you’re hoping everything around us will kill us all! Are you suicidal or something?” Ham gasped out. “I’m not suicidal!” Jaeger stressed. “Look if we fail now there’s a chance the Ravex will take care of Marque! And I maintain that our bots are fine! They won’t go rogue and kill us all!” “Famous last words in Shanghai!” Ham shot back. “Just…” Jaeger deeply wished he could rub his eyes while he dealt with the pilot. “Just shut up and circle around to pick me up.” “Oh, I left once I lost comms. I’m almost back to the compound.” Ham explained. “What? You lost comms and just fucking left me?” Jaeger asked in surprise. “I’m a fucking pilot! What do you expect me to do without comms or visuals? I sure as shit wasn’t going to come down there myself! You might have suicidal tendencies but I fucking don’t! I thought the best I could do was get the others and they could… I dunno retrieve your body for a proper burial or whatever.” Ham revealed. “Friends like these…” Jaeger sighed wishing even more deeply he could reach out and smack his comrade for a moment. “Fine… uhh… shit… I’ll just…” He looked around and then at the time and thought over what to do. “I’ll get… local transport or some shit… I still want to see the old veteran hospital. Go get the Vantahawk prepped in case I need you.” “Can do. Try not to get killed by any rogue homicidal kill all humans warbots while you’re out there. Oh, or tell the people who want to kill us where we live. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t do either of those things.” Ham replied. “Just… shut up…” Jaeger sighed and shook his head as he ended the call. He looked around the parking lot which he already knew was full of stripped and slagged vehicles. After having left Whispertail like that he really didn’t want to head back inside the lobby, so he began to partially limp away towards the gate exiting the spaceport. His suit was already detailing him the dangers of extended tissue damage if he stressed out his wounded foot. He needed to find a place to patch up… However as he got to the main street he frowned when he noticed a cargo terminal across the road. The terminal itself wasn’t unusual, but what was unusual were the stacks of boxes around it. They were all very neatly stacked up but there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for where the stacks around it were made. If it had been placed in a wall he’d have understood. But instead they were just random stacks, and none of them looked looted. He carefully limped across the street and switched over his vision settings a bit until he found what he wanted. Walking through the open gate he headed through the stacks of crates until he found a large crab loader moving a shipping container two centimeters to the left. Then pick it up and move it a centimeter to the right. Then it gently tapped it to the left once more. Or maybe it just tapped it and it didn’t move. He couldn’t tell but the loader seemed confident that’s where it should be. As it turned to face him it the backed up into a stack of crates behind it, letting out several surprised boffs and beeps. Jaeger just took Spike from his shoulder and tossed it up ontop of the crab. The two bots spent a few seconds speaking in beeps, chirps, twills, and chitters before the crab slowly sank down on its legs. Jaeger was aware Spike could have just overridden the crab’s OS but he noticed that the bot only seemed to use that as a last resort. Jaeger then climbed up onto the back of the old bot before it slowly rose back up into the air. He saw a flash in his mask with a GPS coordinate on a map that corresponded with the address of the hospital and accepted. With that the crab began to lumber forward slowly. Well Jaeger would be riding to the hospital in style. At… about seven kilometers an hour. Maybe slower. When the loader began to walk onto the road it actually stopped and looked both ways before slowly walking out onto the abandoned roadway. When it got to the other side he saw Whispertail looking up at him with confusion from the edge of the spaceport and tapped on the loader to get it to stop. “Do you need a ride?” He called out. “You can’t seriously be trying to run away from here on that can you?” Whispertail called back. “I’m not running anywhere! Obviously. I’ve got places to go! And since you clawed the shit out of my foot I don’t want to walk it!” “Yes, well you shot me!” Whispertail growled back. “And whose fault is that?” Jaeger asked. “Yours. Why would you ask that? It was your gun.” Whispertail shrugged in confusion. “What… You started the fucking fight! If you hadn’t been trying to kill me I wouldn’t have needed to shoot you! Fucking…” Jaeger let out an exhausted sigh and shook his head before starting over. “Do you want a ride or not?” Jaeger asked again. “Mmhh… If I do… I’m not going to tell you where-” “Oh my god! I don’t care!” Jaeger cut him off. “I’m going up that way!” He pointed up the road towards the hills behind the city. “You can come with me as far as you want and get off at any time.” The Ravex hesitated a moment and then gingerly touched his wounded leg. “Fine…” He muttered. “It’s not like I’m doing you a fucking favor.” Jaeger shot back causing the Ravex to grumble something under his breath. Jaeger slapped the top of the crab once more to get it to sink down. Whispertail looked around for a moment as he held his sword looking for a safe place to stash it. “Just give it to the crab.” Jaeger pointed at the front. “So that it can cut me down with my own blade?” He snorted. “Does this thing look like it can do that?” Jaeger asked. After a moment the Ravex handed the sword to the loader’s front arms as it carefully held the blade and hilt before it. Whispertail gave him a suspicious glare and waited for several seconds, but when Jaeger reached out to offer a hand he took it and climbed up onto the back of the loader. Once he was on its back Jaeger gave it another tap and it rose up to start walking once more. They sat on the back of the loader in silence for a bit as Jaeger slowly shifted around and then gingerly poked at his foot. It was numb but he felt an odd tingle when he messed with it. “Ssss… Think you could…” He trailed off and looked at Whispertail as he pulled out another syringe of biogel. “You… want me to inject your foot?” He asked seeming annoyed by the prospect. “Hey you’ve got it lucky. If you were on the coast highway no Haulervan would pick you up unless you were a chick with big tits and a sign saying free BJs.” Jaeger joked. “Er… what?” The Ravex asked with an utterly confused look. “Never mind…” Jaeger sighed and shook his head. “Can you help me out?” He slightly wiggled the syringe at the Ravex once more. “Fine… nothing else to do… it’ll take us all day to get anywhere on this thing.” He muttered and took the syringe to help patch up Jaeger’s foot. “I don’t see you getting us any faster transportation.” Jaeger shot back. “This day is very strange…” Whispertail muttered with a shake of his head as he injected the gel into Jaeger’s foot. “Welcome to my world Whispertail. Know any songs to sing while we ride? I know one I sing with my daughter. It’s called A hundred bottles of beer. Are you familiar with it?” He asked. “No…” The Ravex gave him another confused look. “Oh… you’re in for a real treat.” Jaeger grinned wide. He might not have killed the Shogun but he would certainly settle for annoying the hell out of him in retribution for earlier. Hopefully this trip wouldn’t end in them trying to kill one another again, but he was going to risk it as he took a deep breath and got ready to sing away the hours it would take to get anywhere on the back of the loader bot. Chapter 24
While browsing Roll20, I happened across a post by someone that represented a group of players looking to branch out from D&D5e. As someone who has run 5e previously, I figured I would understand some of their preconceptions, so I made a post with a few choices I would be willing to run. They chose Godbound, which is a system I have loved from afar but never had the opportunity to run. This is how it went. (Wall of text.) Setting/Premise:
Initially, the players would begin as mortals on some nameless world. The gods of this world vanished long ago, magic is in decline, and things have become more mundane.
The players would become divine and somehow be transported to Faerun, shortly after the Time of Troubles. Exact time-frame TBD. Due to their background, I figured stomping around Faerun as demigods would appeal to them.
I stole a page from the excellent Beyond the Wall to lend backstory to the characters. The PCs would be childhood friends that ventured beyond their unremarkable village to save it, becoming heroes in the process. One of the players got zealous and created a PC almost immediately, forcing me to adapt these plans. Still, most of it remained workable.
Due to the setting swap, the PCs would forgo a Relationship Fact and receive an artifact in its place, something that materialized on their person when they became divine. In return, they will have to take a Relationship Fact at 2nd level, to show how their first moves in Faerun are perceived.
Mortière: A commoner whose father was a sheep herder, Mortière rose to become a great general in his kingdom's army and was bestowed a noble title. He returned to his home village on leave following a successful but brutal campaign. As a mortal, Mortière is cunning and a tactical master, but his ability to bond with and lead men leaves something to be desired. Bonded to Dragon, Lich, and War. Plans to become a sort of Eternal Dracolich of Conquest.
Cristoph: A tinker and builder that found a book from an ancient secret order. It detailed runes and enchantments for enhancing constructions, which he used to become a chief siege engineer in the king's army, serving alongside Mortière. Before joining the army, Cristoph had already begun to create crude golems, animated by runic magic, though devoid of sentience or the ability to make complex decisions. He wields a rifle powered by spark powder. Bonded to Artifice, Bow, and Endurance.
Liliana: As a young girl, Liliana was touched by a dark apocalyptic prophecy that drove her insane. She ended up apprenticing herself to the village witch, where she learned herbalism and basic magics. She was shunned and mocked for her insane ramblings by the rest of the village though, including the other PCs. Has a raven familiar named Poe. Bonded to Madness, Intoxication, and Knowledge.
The story picks up in the village of Kirkwall, in a nameless kingdom on a nameless world. Mortière and Cristoph are home on leave. Liliana never left. The village has experienced some strange activity in the last few weeks, which the PCs have helped with to some degree. These are background events pulled from a Beyond the Wall scenario and are used to give the sense that things have been a little off before we join our heroes. Each event has a skill check associated with it and appropriate consequences for success or failure.
The grass is brown and the crops are dying. Cristoph used his expertise to build a new canal from a nearby river, increasing the water and nutrients available to the crops. They are still unnaturally weak, seemingly being drained of life, but it has at least delayed the famine. Cristoph succeeded here. Had he failed, rations for the PCs would have been hard to come by. Liliana asked to use her witch training to help as well and also succeeded spectacularly. Between the two of them, I opted to completely ignore this event going forward, assuming it had largely taken care of.
Mortière received a palm reading from a traveling fortune teller. She told him of some great calamity, but he was unable to get more than a cryptic warning and a demand for payment. Lacking charm, Mortière was unable to convince the fortune teller to expand upon her warning. If this were Beyond the Wall, Mortière would begin the game short a Fortune Point. As it is not, I instead reserved the right to inflict something horrible upon him at the worst possible time. This would become important later.
Last week, a traveling scholar came to the inn. He claimed to be in the area searching for the burial site of the First King of this nameless kingdom. Liliana was able to convince him to reveal its suspected whereabouts: a day's ride east of the village, past the statue of the Nameless God. I was glad this event came up. Without it, they would have had to search for the barrow and I was worried that might bog down the game. There was enough to get through without adding that and I likely would have ended up handwaving it.
There have been general rumors of ghosts and other hauntings, though the PCs have yet to see anything personally.
The three begin by questioning the village witch (who Liliana refers to as grandma), to see if she knows anything about the strange happenings in the village. She confirms their suspicions that the burial site could be involved. She explains that though magic has begun to fade from their world, the enchantments on the barrow are from a previous age and it is possible that they are capable of things not seen in an age. Mortière and Cristoph decide to investigate, while Liliana accompanies them because she suspects it might be related to the apocalyptic nightmares she has for the last decade. Mortière convinces the captain of the town guard to lend him the guardsmen for the expedition. Meanwhile, Liliana gathers poisonous mushrooms which Cristoph places in clay jars with small amounts of spark powder to create makeshift poison grenades. They aren't sure it will be useful against the undead, if their suspicions prove correct, but they aren't sure what else they might encounter out there. This takes the greater part of the afternoon, so the PCs pack their belongings and settle in for the night, planning to rest and then leave at first light. In the wee hours of the morning, the bell atop the lone guard tower begins to ring. Mortière, living nearby, is the first to answer the call. Captain Dishan, Mortière's mentor as a child, warns of shadowy figures moving beyond the east end of town, in the fields. By this time Cristoph has arrived and together the three of them come up with a plan. Mortière takes three of the guards to the fields just behind the mayor's house, where they set up makeshift barricades. Cristoph heads home with the last guard to warn his parents and attempt to activate a clay golem with brass clockwork innards he had been working on. He isn't sure it will work, but his last hurried rune is a success and the golem springs to life, albeit without a modicum of intelligence or self-direction. Cristoph asked if he could have had a crude golem he had been working on. I readily agreed, reasoning that it could have been an experiment he was working on with his book before he enlisted. I told him he would have to make a skill check and that if it failed, it might have unpredictable results. He succeeded and suddenly the party gained a golem. Meanwhile, Liliana wanders amongst the dead trees, talking to herself and her raven about dark visions and the end of the world. As the barricades are set in place and Cristoph joins the defenders, she finally decides to investigate the noise. She sends Poe up to survey the field and count the intruders. The raven spots ten skeletal figures, moving in two groups of five, headed straight for the barricades. She relays this information to her friends who, together with the guards and the golem, prepare to meet the attack. Dishan puts his trust in his pupil Mortière, now a famed general, letting him direct the men. The leading group reaches the barricades, while the trailing group is a few dozen yards out. The first exchange is uneventful, with Mortière and the guards attempting to stab the skeletons through the barricades with sword and spear and mostly failing. The skeletons mindlessly attack the barricades. Cristoph orders the golem to plug a hole between two barricades, which it succeeds at, but nobody manages to inflict much damage on the risen dead. Then Liliana weaves her dark magic, summoning a pack of rats out of the fields that begin to carry of pieces of the skeletons for their nests. The skeletons make no attempt to fight against the rats or even seem to register their presence, continuing to beat on the barricades mindlessly. Still, the rats weaken them. I believe everyone missed during the first round, aside from the NPC guards, which didn't feel right. I opted to have the guards panic a bit, seeing as they are unused to combat, let alone the undead. The guards, having taken down one weakened skeleton, rush around the barricades to press their advantage. Mortière and Dishan shout at them to get back, but it is too late: they are already engaged. Between the rats and the guards, two more skeletons quickly go down. The defenders make short work of the last two and turn their attention to the second group. With the first group down, they turn their tender attentions to the stragglers, still out in the field. With the first group down, the second group simply stops moving. The guards and Cristoph rain volley after volley of crossbow bolts and gunfire upon them until they are all destroyed. I had forgotten how boring roll d20 for combat can be when the players don't have many other options. Improvising can certainly improve things, but this battle taking place in a largely empty field with a few barricades didn't leave the players with many options. The guards panicking spiced things up a little, but I knew a second group would be boring as all hell to deal with, so I opted to have them simply stop moving. Boring the players this early in the session was not an option. It didn't make much sense, but the players just rolled with it, either not questioning the why of it or simply relieved that it was over. I vowed to keep that in mind for the remainder of the session, until the players got more... interesting options. Nobody got a ton of sleep after that. Mortière, Liliana, and Captain Dishan took chairs to the top of the lone guard tower to keep watch for the remainder of the night, napping in shifts. Dishan was visibly uncomfortable with Liliana's presence, but treated her more kindly and with greater respect than he had her entire life. No one addressed it directly, but it was clear she wasn't just the crazy girl anymore. Cristoph went home to check on his parents, then got some sleep, trusting in the others to keep the town safe. The party set out at first light. The directions Liliana received suggested the barrow was a day's travel away, so they would be gone for a couple of days. Captain Dishan told them that he could no longer send all the guardsmen after the attack on the village. He said he could still send one of the four if Mortière desired, but was obviously uncomfortable with the idea. Mortière agreed that the village needed its defenders, should anything else happen while they were away. The party set out alone, with only the golem and the two horses Mortière and Cristoph had on lone from the army. The day had dawned overcast and considerably colder than usual for a Spring day. A thin layer of fog lay across the ground and they heard to birds or other animals. Mid-morning, an earthquake took them by surprise. Earthquakes were almost unheard of in the region and none of them were sure they had ever recalled one happening in their lifetime. Still, by noon the fog had burned off and the sky was clear. Early afternoon they arrived at the Nameless God. The Nameless God was a local landmark, an enormous statue buried to its neck in the ground. The head was the size of a large wagon and it was made from a type of stone that had never been identified. According to legend, when the gods vanished the Nameless God was the last to remain. For reasons unknown, he petrified rather than vanish altogether and his corpse had lain here ever since, well over a millennia. There was an unusual hill nearby, some eighty feet long but only a dozen feet or so across. It was rumored that the Nameless God's sword was buried there and that upon its hilt was inscribed his name. All legends agreed that reciting the Nameless God's name would awaken him, but they disagreed upon what would happen next. He would either be the world's salvation or its demise. None had been brave enough to dig up the hill to test the theories. When the party arrived, they discovered the earthquake had disturbed the site. The statue was revealed to mid-chest now, revealing a hole in its chest containing a heart of blackest obsidian. Liliana recognized the heart from her nightmares, though in her dreams the heart glowed with purple light, shot through with veins of blue. She began to whisper cryptic apocalyptic warnings, but the party ignored her. Though unsettled, they opted to camp in the new crater, in the shadow of the Nameless God. They set the golem and raven to keep watch; the night passed uneventfully. The next morning they pressed on, hoping to reach the barrow before noon. As it happened, they were closer than they thought: half an hour into their travels they spotted it. It appeared to be a hill, being as it was simply a mound of dirt with grass growing atop it. They might have missed it were it not for the half-dozen corpses standing guard outside. They decided to attack, with zero hesitation or equivocation. They dismounted and readied themselves. Cristoph shot first, blowing the scalp off the closest zombie and nearly re-killing it in the process. Though the party had military horses, the undead and the earthquake already had them unsettled. When Cristoph's gun went off, they panicked. The party had secured the horses to pitons they hammered into the ground, but Mortière's horse managed to pull free and ran off to the north, perpendicular to the party and the zombies. The zombies ignored the gunshot and turned to pursue the food source. After that first battle, I had already come up with a plan that would let the party circumvent this fight if they didn't attempt to do so themselves. I clarified whether they dismounted and they explain that they secured the horses. There were no trees to tie them to, but one of them suggested they might have pitons which surprised me. I made strength checks for the horses and one rolled quite well. To be clear, had this not worked out, I would have let the fight play out. In a sandbox game, it is important that the players make their own choices and I not force their hand. Though this first adventure was a little more on rails as many introductions are, I needed to make sure the precedent was set. They debated chasing after the horse for some time, with Cristoph worried that the army might force them to reimburse the cost of the animal. Liliana happily assured them that it wouldn't matter for much longer anyway. Ultimately they decided to take the opportunity the horse had given them and approached the barrow. The opening into the barrow was a narrow dirt tunnel with a low ceiling, descending into darkness. There were stone stairs cut into the floor, but dirt had settled onto them, creating a treacherous ramp. Luckily the tunnel was narrow enough that they could hold onto the walls quite easily, minimizing the danger. The tunnel was far too narrow for the seven-foot tall, burly golem however. They left it to guard the entrance and tied the remaining horse to the golem. Cristoph described more complex instructions like this being given by writing it on a slip of paper that he slips into the golem's mouth, which was a pretty cool image. I suggested that the text might be book-ended by runes that signal to the golem it is a legitimate command. Just before they entered, they noticed that the sky seemed dimmer, even though there were no clouds to obscure the sun. The stars were also out and shone strangely bright. Mortière lit a torch and they descended into darkness, the general leading the way and Liliana bringing up the rear. Soon after they entered, another earthquake rocked the land. Dirt from the ceiling fell on them and settled onto the stairs. This earthquake was more violent than the last as well as longer, continuing for nearly a minute. Once it passed, they pressed on. Eighty feet in, they encountered a small dirt room with another dark passage on the other side. The floor and ceiling were still dirt, but the walls here had roughly cut stone blocks set into the dirt to keep the structure in place. Mortière stepped into the room with his torch to get a better look and promptly passed out. He fell face down in the center of the room. His torch clattered a few feet away, but stayed lit. Mortière got a Spirit save but failed it. Liliana warned Cristoph that she sensed a magical enchantment in the room that put Mortière to sleep. Cristoph knew from experience that such an enchantment was likely powered by a rune somewhere in the room. They checked the walls as best they could without sticking their heads in the room, but could see nothing. Liliana asked if Poe, being a magical familiar, would be affected by the enchantment. I told her she was unsure. Liliana wanted to send the raven in to have a look around, but wanted to tie a rope around it in case it fell asleep. They realized they couldn't tie it around the bird's leg, as it was far too tiny and the rope was far too thick. She suggests she might simply tie the rope around the bird and throw it in (Like a football?, I ask.), but quickly abandon the idea. Poe squawks angrily at them for the mere suggestion. Eventually I suggest that one of them might have string with them, which Liliana realizes she likely has to bundle the herbs she gathers for the witch. Mortière snores blissfully. Liliana ties a string to Poe's leg and sends him into the room. He refuses to fly, realizing the danger, and simply hops into the room... and promptly falls asleep. Liliana pulls him back into the stairway and unties the string. The raven wakes up and flies a few feet farther up the stairs and begins to squawk angrily at all of them. Liliana recognizes it as some very unkind cursing. Finally, Cristoph realizes the only portion of the room they can't really see is the ceiling just inside the room, as the ceiling in the room is higher than the low ceiling of the stairway. They tie a rope around each of their waists. Cristoph removes his armor and Liliana dons it, as best she can, to give her more weight and leverage should Cristoph pass out. Cristoph leans into the room and manages to resist the enchantment long enough to spot two runes carved into a stone block set into the otherwise dirt ceiling, directly above the door. He recognizes the runes as meaning "sleep" and "chamber". They formulate a plan: the duo leave Mortière alone for a few minutes and retreat back upstairs into the open air, whereupon Cristoph opens one of the poison grenades he had made, empties out the poisonous mixture, and then packs it full of spark powder he had set aside for his firearm. They return to the room and steel themselves for what they must do. Cristoph leans into the room, Liliana braces herself to hold his weight, and then he flings the explosive at the runes. I had Cristoph make a new saving throw to make sure he would stay awake long enough to fling the makeshift grenade. I planned on this being a sliding scale, rather than a binary proposition. Should he fail quite badly, he might pass out before he threw... and the grenade was designed to explode on impact. It was a tense couple of minutes. Luckily, Cristoph passed and all went as planned. The explosion damaged both runes, immediately ending the enchantment. Unfortunately, they had used more spark powder than they needed and the explosion slammed Cristoph into the ground. A piece of red-hot clay shrapnel embedded itself into Cristoph's cheek; he could feel the point sticking into his mouth. He yelled out despite himself. As he picked himself up, Liliana got her herbs out and began mixing some together, explaining that she could make a poultice for the wound. About this time, Mortière woke up and climbed to his feet. When he turned around, Cristoph and Liliana could see that his left eye was missing entirely, gouged out by a rock on the ground when he had fallen upon it. The wound had not been visible from the angle he was laying. I decided to call in the bad luck Mortière had earned from the fortune teller prior to the game opening. I narrated him getting up with a black eye from the fall, intending to simply play it for the humor value. Mortière had another suggestion. When they became divine beings and Mortière transformed into a dracolich, his artifact would be a magical purple gemstone in the place where his left eye should be. His suggestion for his eye to be gouged out was perfect foreshadowing for what was to come and I eagerly agreed. I also told Mortière that he had had nightmares while under the sleep enchantment and had him make a Spirit save to see if he could recall them. He failed and remembered only fleeting images, apocalyptic visions and a flickering blue light in a large room. He mentioned nothing to the others. "It's happening," Liliana whispered. Unsettled, the others told her to shut up. They spent some time removing the useless remains of Mortière's eye and applying poultices to the eye and to Cristoph's cheek. At this point, Cristoph thought they should retreat so they could regroup. He also wanted to check on the village and his parents. Mortière insisted they press on and finish this. Liliana giggled again. Poe, still upset with Liliana and concerned for Cristoph's injury, opted to ride on his shoulder, squawking occasionally in his ear. Liliana was hurt, but said nothing. It's happening! It's happening! They continued on. The tunnel began to change as they descended deeper into the earth: first the walls, then the ceiling began to transition to the same roughly cut stonework they had observed in the room above. The stairs began to switchback, working itself back and forth but always ever deeper. As they rounded a bend, Mortière spotted the end: the stairs opened into another room. Though he could not see into the room from his vantage on the stairs, he got the sense that it was large from the way their steps echoed and the breeze that touched his cheek. The breeze carried the stench of death. The opening shone with a faint blue light. They readied themselves for battle and then rushed into the room. They found themselves in an enormous chamber, lined entirely in stone. They themselves stood on a raised stone platform with stairs descending on either side of them to the floor some thirty feet below. The ceiling was high and supported at regular intervals by simple stone pillars. The pillars were set with bronze sconces in which glowed enchanted blue flames. Between the pillars, skeletons stood at attention, holding polearms and staring sightlessly ahead. There were at least three dozen. An honor guard. At the far end of the chamber, a hundred feet away, there was a raised dais, and upon it was an ornate throne, and upon that sat the First King. He was a withered dried corpse, preserved by the dry air. His flesh had not rotted away and twin specks of red light shone where his eyes should be. His right arm rested on the throne's armrest, while his left supported a massive ornate battleaxe. Unlike the skeletons, his armor was intact, an intricately covered plate mail set with gemstones and trimmed in gold. A gold crown, set with sapphires and rubies sat upon his head. The negotiations were brief. "What do you want with the village? How do we end these attacks?", Mortière asked. "There will be no parley! Bring me the head of Uwhu Ghiirk. He will die for disturbing my tomb," the First King demanded. Uwhu Ghiirk was known to all of them as a scholar of their village. He was friendly with all of them as children and known to sometimes sing at the tavern in town. "I will make no sacrifice of my village!" "Then you will die." At his last word the honor guard slammed the butts of their weapons on the stone floor in unison, creating a deafening noise, then turned toward the platform as one. They began to march toward the stairs. Mortière and Cristoph debated briefly. Mortière wanted to position himself in the doorway to hold them off while the others escaped. Cristoph insisted they must all leave to warn the village and attempt to defend it. Liliana laughed maniacally. Poe took off, flying back upward without waiting. The trio quickly followed, with the skeletal army in pursuit. After what felt like an eternity, they emerged back into the daylight. Strangely, though there was still light in the sky, the sun was nowhere to be found. The stars blazed like fire. Another earthquake struck then, more violent than any before. The burial mound collapsed, inverting into a broad, shallow crater. "Maybe it's over?", Cristoph said hopefully. As if in response, a single skeletal hand emerged from the dirt in the center of the crater. The skeleton dug itself free, then another, and another. They swarmed out of the ground like ants. Cristoph shouted for Mortière to take Liliana on the last horse and ride ahead to warn the village. He climbed onto the back of his golem and instructed it to take him home, praying it would work. The golem carried him with ease, but though faster than a man, it could not keep up with a horse at a full gallop. Mortière and Liliana reached the Nameless God a few hundred yards ahead of Cristoph. They descended into the crater to find that the statue was now unburied down to the waste. In addition, the hill had been disturbed, revealing a colossal sword. As they reached the bottom of the crater and started up the far side, they spotted rotting figures standing on the lip of the crater, between them and the village. Liliana recognized one of them as a woman from the village that had died last year. Mortière tightened his grip on his spear and spurred the horse on. Liliana lost her grip and tumbled into the dirt. Mortière rode on, hoping that Cristoph would be able to pick her up. Liliana asked if she should make a save to keep her grip. I gleefully agreed. She made a Hardiness save and failed, falling off the horse. I was delighted to see Liliana lean into the fiction here, knowing what 'should' happen and what would make for a good story. Mortière's spear broke as he impaled one of the zombies through the head with enough force to decapitate it. He threw the useless piece of wood away and rode on, free of the crowd of zombies. Back at the Nameless God, Liliana approached the massive sword, mumbling to herself. Cristoph passed through the crater around this time. A quick glance over his shoulder revealed a skeleton army over a hundred strong, rather than the few dozen they had spotted in the throne room. At the head of the horde rode the First King atop a skeletal horse. He looked at Liliana and shook his head. He couldn't afford to detour so far. He instructed the golem to run on. There were words written on the hilt, just as in the legends. It was the language used by those that founded their kingdom, long since fallen into disuse, placing it at over a thousand years old. Further, the dialect suggested that it was even more ancient. She did not know this language, but the words swam before her eyes and somehow she knew what the words meant. Mors Omnia. The End of All Things. Liliana spoke the words aloud. The earth began to shake again, violently, and this time it did not stop. Liliana turned to climb onto the statue for shelter to find it moving, reaching for her. She laughed and jumped up onto its hand then climbed onto its wrist. It was then that she realized it was not reaching for her: it was reaching for the sword. As the Nameless God grasped its massive blade and began to lift it high, Liliana scrambled onto the giant's shoulder. She began to laugh, tears streaming down her face. "It was real! It was all real! I was right" Liliana continued to laugh. The Nameless God, still buried to the waist, leaned forward and braced itself on the ground with its left hand. With sightless stone eyes it targeted the First King. The first blow from the sword buried the king and left a crevasse eighty feet long and twenty deep in the ground. It raised its sword and prepared to strike again. Liliana threw her head back and looked at the sky. The afternoon had plunged into complete darkness, lit only be the stars which now blazed like fire. Tears streaming from her eyes and still laughing, Liliana allowed herself to fall. Time warped and stretched. Mortière found himself near the village. The village was surrounded by another skeletal army, this one numbering in the thousands. The witch and her apprentices, two young girls from the village, were drawing runes around the perimeter of Kirkwall. The runes had formed a barrier that kept the undead for now, but it would not hold them forever. The skeletons beat at the air, as if hammering an invisible wall. As Liliana fell, she passed the chest of the Nameless God. Its heart was glowing purple, shot through with blue veins. She saw a detail she had not noticed in her dreams: the heart was cracked and began to crumble before her eyes. Just as she passed the heart it exploded. A beam of coruscating energy enveloped her, propelling her miles across the sky. She slammed into the ground on the west side of the village, leaving a crater. Her body was a broken, smoking wreck. The beam of the last god swept across the battlefield and where it passed, undead were incinerated instantly. The energy passed over Mortière and then Cristoph. The horse's heart, tired from galloping and overwhelmed with terror, gave out; it collapsed beneath Mortière. He didn't have time to worry as he began to burn as he was dumped into the dirt. Cristoph's golem was incinerated the same as every other unliving creature. Somehow, Cristoph and Mortière lived. Cristoph, fearing his life is at an end, crawls weakly toward the village, still burning from his injuries. On the far side of Kirkwall, Liliana stood up and walked out of her crater. At this point we moved to combat time. Each round after the first, I asked the players to choose one of their Words that they would manifest and then encouraged them to think up a miracle related to that Word to use that round. I encouraged them to ignore their gifts for the time being and left out Effort to explain later, figuring that riding high on their newfound divine power, the players would temporarily be wielding limitless power. I had initially planned on this being a tutorial for how Godbound combat differed, using the damage table and how damage was applied directly to Hit Dice instead of hit points. Mortière and Cristoph had already studied the rule book to some degree, so I altered my plans. However, I had forgotten that Liliana joined late and wasnotas familiar with the rules. This failed to go as smoothly as I hoped as a result. Liliana should have received more guidance. Still, once Mortière began to explain how damage worked in the second round, I realized my error. With some suggestions from myself and the other players, we got some cool stuff figured out. All in all, it came out okay, but I regret not having been better prepared. Mortière was the first to act. He felt himself filled with untold strength. Unfortunately, the only weapon he had left was a dagger; his battleaxe was on his horse that ran off and his spear was broken and discarded. He drew his dagger and charged into battle without hesitation. The first skeleton he encountered blocked his puny spear. When Mortière resorted to his training and attempted to kick the skeleton back to unbalance it, the undead foe exploded from the force. Mortière kicked its dropped sword, a rusted and pitted blade, up into his hand. Mortière missed his attack, but his fray die killed it anyway. Liliana moved toward the center of town and attempted to target the skeletons near the others with another plague of rats. The spell, overwhelmed by her fresh divinity, malfunctions and she merely releases a bolt of uncontrolled arcane energy. Half a dozen skeletons were consumed in spellfire. I was caught with my pants down. I had brainstormed how I would handle Faerunian magic in a general sense, but hadn't hammered out the details yet. I figured I had time. Neither Cristoph nor Mortière were primarily spell casters, so I wasn't worried. Liliana was a late arrival and ended up devoting a fact to being the Witch's Apprentice, which made her magic more central to her concept. I didn't realize until this moment that I was unprepared to deal with how that would interface with her divinity. I've since worked out the details, but I admit I panicked a bit here. Cristoph, realizing he was okay, picked himself up and sprinted into the village, using the opening the beam of energy had created in the undead to get to his parents. He ran up to the door, but finding it locked as he had instructed, began to pound on it. His parents, unable to hear his shouts over the battle, began to scream. He kicked the door off its hinges. He poked his head into the room and his father nearly shot it off with a rifle Cristoph had made for him. "Cristoph! I nearly killed you boy!" "I'm glad you're okay..." Back on the battlefield, Mortière suddenly found himself filled with more knowledge about War than even his experienced mind was used to. He could sense the position of the enemy, seething all around him. He called out to the town guard to join him, hoping to buy the witch time to reinforce the barrier. To his surprise, the guards appeared around him, materializing in a flash of light. They weren't happy about their sudden move, but they grimly set their jaws and then set to work defending Mortière. One of them was quickly cut down, but the other three remained standing, hacking away. Mortière quickly cut down two more skeletons. The wight-blade he wielded had transformed into a perfect blade, fresh off the forge and glowing with bright yellow light. War. Something inside Liliana finally snapped. The madness of her childhood, the mockery she had received all her life, and now finally seeing that her visions were true: it was the end of the world. She began to laugh maniacally. And then she wielded her madness like a weapon. She pointed into the crowd of undead and somehow two of the skeletons, though mindless, were overcome with contagious insanity. They stopped and pulled daggers from their rotting belts, then used them to scratch out runes carved into the roofs of their mouths. Both collapsed into dust. Madness. Cristoph is finally reunited with his family, only to be met with horror. His skin splits and then begins to peel away. Pieces of brass metalwork peeks through his flesh. His parents scream in terror and soon he joins them. Endurance. Lighting cracks across a dark, clear sky. Silhouetted against the stars, the Nameless God seems larger. He swings at the ground again and again. The earth quakes without end. In the lightning, Mortière thinks he sees his own bones through his flesh, just before it begins to rot. It doesn't hurt and he feels strangely unworried. "Get up," he snaps at the dead soldier, thinking him merely exhausted. The soldier complies, rising to his feet with a rusted blade still run through his chest. The other soldiers take a frightened step away as the undead soldier attacks the skeletons with reckless abandon. Mortière feels his heart beat one last time and then stop. Lich. Cristoph's flesh is gone now. His skeleton, still standing, appears to be made of brass. It has begun to expand and grow however. He begins to resemble a brass golem. His trusty firearm, one he built himself, transforms as well; it has become some sort of arcane rifle. Artifice. (Cristoph hasn't settled on an exact description for it yet, but I like to imagine it is covered in blue runes and fires explosive bolts of arcane energy.) Liliana closes her eyes and wills the screaming populace of Kirkwall to be calm. All will be well. They will be protected. Instantly, the mortals are calmed, albeit because they suddenly find themselves wine-drunk. The fighting men are filled with fearless, berserker fury. Intoxication. Mortière begins to grow, his armor splitting and falling away. Soon he resembles a twelve-foot tall vaguely reptilian skeleton. Most of his flesh is gone now and his eyes have rotted away, leaving only a single gleaming purple gem in one eye. "Begone!", he bellows, then exhales a wave of purple energy at the crowd. The energy strips the bound souls from the undead and atomizes their remains. Along the entire western side of the village, the enemy is obliterated, reduced to a fine gray dust that covers the ground. Dragon. Liliana is overcome with dizziness and closes her eyes. She begins to rapidly absorb information. She is filled with the collective knowledge of her village, then the region, the kingdom, and eventually the world. It only takes a few moments. When she opens her eyes, a single piece of information is fixed in her mind: the runes are wrong. She fixes her eyes on the barrier the witch and her new apprentices have been carving. The runes are wrong. But Liliana knows how to fix them. She rushes to the perimeter. Knowledge. Above it all, the Nameless God strikes the ground again and again. He now stands a mile high, his blade a mile long. Each strike opens new valleys in the shattered earth. Behind Mortière, out beyond the village, the ground begins to crumble away. Even the stars are fading. Their world is done, but the trio have hope that their new abilities might at least save their village, they might save their family and their friends. Suddenly Mortière realizes that the barrier that keeps the skeleton army at bay, now reinforced by Liliana, will keep him at bay as well. He is no longer among the living. And that's where we left off! It had gotten late so we had to call it for the night on that cliffhanger. I hope you enjoyed the wall of text. If not, that's cool too. I've hammered down how to deal with Liliana's magic, so that shouldn't be an issue going forward. Next time we will see if the village will survive and where they will go if their world is truly dead!
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