SUNDER [Transfer Project]

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Mobius 1
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SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

I wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages for an RPG board for the past few years, and I'm looking to see if I can transfer some of the plotlines and meat into a new world. Let's give this a shot.

SUNDER
The Last Cycle

Image

…Successful Connection Established
Initial Parameters Achieved
Credential Handshake Accepted
Vetting Connection…

ALPHA PRIORITY TRANSMISSION 04678Z-97

Encryption Code: Red
Public Key: file /alpha-zulu-charlie-seven/
From: Chairman Alton Nureno, Chairman of Contellation Council, FLEETCOM Sector One Commander/ (CRF Service Number 00923-11672-HS)
To: All CRF MIDNIGHT Commanding Agents
Subject: ANOMOLIES IN AMALGAMATION
Classification: SECRET (BGX Directive)

/start file/

I've been asked by Majiec to compile an executive summary of just how we got to this moment. A marker on the gravestone of the human race, if you will. By tomorrow if may be all that's left of us. It's honestly fascinating reading, compiled from dozen of action reports.

Table of Contents:

SEGMENT ONE:
  • The Great Moon Robbery | Files 2, 4, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 20, 22, 23
  • Midnight on the Firing Line | Files 17, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34
  • The Horsemen
  • Backstop, Unlimited
  • Honor Among Thieves
  • Ressurection
SEGMENT TWO:
  • Tremors
  • Dark Wood
  • Earthfall
  • Ghosts of Armstrong
  • The Battle of Moscow
  • The Heart of the Horde
  • The Apollo Civil War
SEGMENT THREE:
  • File error, retrieval uncertain
File Tree >>active: Mission Report Structure
>play from zero? y/n
>>starting playback
Convergences: None Detected Post-Amalg-betatype

/end file/ /scramble-destruction progress enabled/
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
Mobius 1
Global Mod
Posts: 1099
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 11:40 pm
Location: Orlando, FL

Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 00: The Man with the Pyramid Head
Subject: Zoe, Personal Journal


I always wanted to fly growing up. Outside the bubble we all lived in, to see the world and the stars all in one encompassing expanse, to drink the view all in as once with a single sweep of my gaze. To be outside, in the void, with an engine underneath me and the freedom to anywhere, ever, at all.

My memories of my parent grow weaker the older I grow. I know it hasn’t been much more than thirteen years since the opening shots, but with the sheer chaos that had happened since beginning of the war, every time I try to draw up those past experiences, I have to wade over a decade plus of trauma, of desperate escapes, of scrabbling in ports for scraps just to survive.

My father worked as a dockhand at the spaceport. Our colony was one of dozens in cluster, one such cluster one of many orbiting the planet. Occasionally, after hours, he’d sneak me into one of the hangars, when the colony has turned at just such an angle that the only thing standing between us and the blue marble far, far below was my dad’s arms and the transparent screen shielding the portal.

I was foolish then. Weak. It may seem callous to call a six-year-old weak, but I’ve seen far younger turned feral by this war. I don’t care who caused it. All I knew was I had front row tickets to the first shots.

I was six when the colony broke. It was my birthday. Mom and Dad had scrounged for months to afford the dingy skiff that was allowed – under strict port authority supervision – to go on practice flights in cleared lanes past the earthside end of the colony. I don’t think I really understood what they had sprung for me – I had been the port a dozen times – until he pulled aside the tarp and did a ta-da gesture towards the bubble-canopied micro-frame sitting there in the storage rack.

I remember sitting in my dad’s lap as the canopy sealed over our heads, him testing out the butterfly controls, watching as each of the frame’s stubby, tool-covered arms responded to his motions. This was the first step, I had thought in a moment entirely too cognizant for the naïve little child I was back then. I would be in space soon.

Zero-gravity was nothing new to me – it ended at the port, which didn’t rotate with the rest of the colony’s cylinder – but this was a whole new level. Once we had launched from the hangar – one of dozens honeycombing the glowing cigar butt-end of the colony – I marveled at the freedom of movement, entirely independent of the cylinder that had been my entire frame of reference up until this point.

My dad pressed a finger to the glass, pointing out the rest of the small dots in our constellation. Each housed almost a million people, with several more given entirely over to agriculture and manufacturing. Each constellation was largely self-sufficient, he told me, all save for the Essentials.

And it was for those Essentials that the colonies lived in harmony with the blue sphere beneath us, he had said. Harmony. What an incredible lie.

He let me put my tiny little hands on the controls, and I almost immediately upended us. I remember my father laughing as I turned green, his giant’s paws covering my own as he gently eased us out of our spiral. We tried again and again, and I slowly got my first real experience behind the controls of a frame.

Our battery gave a warning whine, and Dad winced. Time was up. Time to head back to the port. In a show of understanding uncharacteristic for my age, I didn’t pout. It was slowly beginning to slip in just what Dad had had to pull to swing this gift for me. Nowadays, I can chart out the path my parents had planned for me from that moment to the future. With a pilot’s license, I could go anywhere. Escape the slums of the constellation and perhaps make a better future across the Lagrange Points or even down on Earth.

That plan died when the colony broke. My father leaned in over me, squinting at the length of cylinder before the port-end swallowed our view. I saw it too – the slight puckering in the smooth metallic paneling. Air might have been invisible escaping the puncture, but the light twinkling in the water droplets wasn’t, and we both knew from training instilled from birth what the local Armageddon looked like.

The panels, always so smooth, curving around down the two-mile length of the cylinder, buckled, a shock wave rolled out in the metal. The skin of the colony shouldn’t have been that malleable, but that singular moment stuck out in my mind – that split second of sheering before every single rivet blew outward and each panel separated out into space at once, air escaping between every edge.

Dad screamed something – I think it was Mom’s name – before yanking hard on the controls, perhaps in a futile effort to get the solid underbelly of the frame between us and the colony. I was still trying to crane my neck to see what was happening to my home when I felt Dad jerk underneath me, going very rigid and very still.

I turned awkwardly in my space suit, helmet bumping against him, against the canopy as I scrambled desperately in a fear response. I had fully expected Dad’s calming hands to hold me down, to tell me everything was going to be okay, but he never moved. And never would again, I realized, as I turned around and saw his bone-white suit rapidly staining red from innumerable puncture points. I’m not sure how my own suit came through unscathed, but I knew that my Father’s dying actions had been to unknowingly shield his daughter from the broken shards of our detonating home.

The canopy began to spin, alternatively displaying the Earth and the decaying colony in orbiting journeys from front to rear of my vision. I racked the butterfly controls back and forth along their control tracks, uselessly. I was strapped into the bucket, with only my own suit’s air to last on, the only survivor pinballing away from the first mass casualty in the coming war between Earth and Space.

The impact against a massive hunk of metal halted the spin, thankfully, giving me a longer view of the skeleton of the colony unravelling in the distance. I held my gaze on it, transfixed, completely unwilling to turn around and take another look at the shredded corpse that had once been my father.

I saw them, between the wreckage and me – glowing fireflies, zipping around in erratic patterns. They left trailing tails of light in their wake, lines that zig-zagged through the darkness, taking hard turns in their illegible scribble on the canvas of the stars. I knew what a drive-light was, even then, but this was my first time watching combat frames do battle from a distance.

The glow of the engines were complimented by stuttering balls of fire, dying out as soon as they were born, strangled by the vacuum of space. Laser pinpricks and tracer fire lanced out, back and forth in the heart of the melee taking place on the newly forged graveyard. This enraged me, even as a child. The dead hadn’t been such for even a few minutes and the Stars and the Dirt had already decided to take their feud to the realm of explicit violence.

Rage turned to fear as, even with the drive-lights reducing in number, the dogfight seemed to be moving in my direction. What had once been a bubble of fire the size of a small coin was now the size of my palm on the canopy’s glass. I could make out the limbs of the frames now, Empire and Constellation models. Guns were chattering silently in the void beyond, and even though the build-up had been in place over the past two minutes, I still yelped when the first tracer round flew past the micro-frame.

I saw a red drive-light, separate from the others, moving with a speed and vive that completely outclassed all displayed so far, cleave its way forward from the graveyard to me, extinguishing other fireflies along the way.

It was the first time I had seen a Godhand at work. Despite the humanoid flourishes of the frames’ designs, the Godhand took the conceit farther than any other. The angel spread its wings, six of them in total, and shot forward, spear aloft. Both of the frames dueling in front of me didn’t have a chance, too engrossed in their struggles to notice before the long twin blades mounted on the end of the spear cleaved both of them into sparking chunks. One of the pieces, burning purple smoke, tumbled in my direction, all too fast.

I scream my defiance uselessly at the oncoming frame-leg, throwing up my arms uselessly to ward off the missile.

The angel interposed itself between me and the flaming debris, three of its swings sweeping out and slapping the leg away into parts unknown.

I stared up at the burning red eyes of the head of Godhand – an affectation of camera housings meant to intimidate – and watched as the angel hovered down in front of my own tubby ride, long metal arms cupping the torn underside of the micro-frame.

The hatch in the top of the torso slid forth, and the pilot – his head encased in a triangular-snouted helmet - stepped out, cape swirling in the vacuum. I remember his arms reaching out and tearing the canopy free without any visible effort, the hands reaching down and lifting me away from my dead father. The warm arms supporting me.

My first memory ends when the man with the pyramid helmet saved my life.
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
Mobius 1
Global Mod
Posts: 1099
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 11:40 pm
Location: Orlando, FL

Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 01: Heavens Fall
Subject: The Fracture Asteroid Cluster


The most important discovery of the late 21st century: Life Ore. The near-destruction of the homeworld of mankind led to the great leap forward in technology that the species had ever seen.

Enter the Fracture Asteroid Cluster. The early warning systems of Earth had been upgraded immensely since the narrowly avoiding impact of 101955 Bennu, but they were entirely overwhelming by the seemingly targeted beeline the massive – near sprawling – collection of asteroids and smaller meteors made for the inner solar system. Caught in the Earth’s orbit, the morass of metal and rock formed a ring around the planet, with larger fragments occasionally falling to earth and causing untold havoc on the civilization below.

Fast forward fifty years. Humanity has settled several of the orbiting asteroids, discovering the glowing mineral that would change everything. Completely clean. Untold return on power generation. This new element nearly plunged humanity into a world war there and then, if not for the decisive leadership of a newly resolute United Nations.

Fast forward another century. The Gungnir network may have neutralized the threat of decaying asteroid orbits, but the massive emigration to orbit combined with endless proxy wars coalesced those still bound to the planet under the banner of the initially benevolent Imperium. Formed partially in response to the increasingly independent collection of colonies formed in the Fracture Belt, to those looking down on the scarred homeworld, the Empress’ attempts to retain order represented the last gasps of the old order to prevent humanity’s next step in evolution.

Tensions between the colonies – the Constellations – and the Imperium – ratcheted up over the next two decades, until the inevitable reckoning played out. The war – violent and futile – saw the death of billions until a tentative peace was reached and the independence of the colonies assured.

The tentative peace that followed was a fragile illusion, marked by violence on the part of ARClight separatists and rogue factions in the Imperial Space Service. These quiet proxies wars and streaks of terrorism held humanity in a state of building suspense, the drums of war ratcheting up once more –

-Until the Sundering. Until the day the Imperium disappeared.
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
Mobius 1
Global Mod
Posts: 1099
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 11:40 pm
Location: Orlando, FL

Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 02: The Last Horseman
Subject: Atmos Karras
Thirteen Years Later


The War in the Heavens raged for ten years, with humanity losing a quarter of its population in the mutual slaughter. More exhausted than sated, the two sides signed into existence a fragile peace, taking their war into the realm of proxy terrorists. That was, until the Sundering.

“Boss, wake up!”

He felt her boot connect with his midsection. The sharp jolt of pain sent him bolting upright, head colliding with the top of his bunk. Cursing to himself, Karras rolled out of the bed’s straps, rubbing his head and looking up at his new assistant. Hopping from one foot to another the best she could in zero-gee, Zoe was twirling one pigtail around her fingers, a sure sign the situation was somewhere between ‘possible threat’ and ‘start praying.’

“Christ, kid, what did I tell you?”

“No rest the wicked, sir!” she said, rolling her eyes at him.

“Yeah, when I’m awake,” Karras said, pulling on his pilot’s boots and tightening his tie. “I work very hard when I’m awake. And when I go to sleep, I sleep. Segmented.”

“Yeah, sure,” said Zoe with an impatient edge. “But I’m not sure McCraken is going to accept that excuse.”

Eyes wide, Karras found himself now instantly awake. “He’s back?”

“Yeah, with about four of his friends.”

“I told him I’d be perfectly willing to sell him the food,” Karras muttered to himself.

“They’re in frames, sir.”

“Well, damn.” Karras trailed off.

“They say they’re going to blow up a vessel until they get what they want, starting with our yacht, boss.”

“That’s moroni-” he started, before sighing. McCraken wasn’t the smartest pirate. Pulling on his flight jacket, Karras pushed off towards the yacht’s cockpit, Zoe trailing in his wake. The young girl – nineteen years, if he had to guess – was bereft of both family and ethics. When Karras learned her first solution to ninety percent of her problems was murder, he had hired Zoe instantly as his aide de camp. With his cover partially blown, he needed someone to administer his dealings within the refugee convoy that he had fallen into.

Snagging the comm mic, Karras keyed onto an open frequency. “What the hell you do want, McKenzie?”

“It’s McCraken.” Karras could practically hear the would-be outlaw’s teeth grinding over the connection. Thinking back, he had probably provoked the man and his team, but he hadn’t really thought anything of it at the time. He had been relying on his reputation, a reputation he didn’t have after the Sundering. Great thinking, Karras. Great.

“You know that if you blow us up with first you’ll have no way to get what you want, right?” Karras said, ignoring the pirate’s frustration. “I mean, I’m just saying here.”

“Then why don’t you come out here and settle this like men, fair and square?”

Karras cut the mike as he strangled a snort, looking at Zoe and rolling his eyes. “Says the guy sitting outside with five frames.” Keying the comm, he returned, “Why would I do that? I’ve got a very strong belief, McClaren, that if I’m fighting fair I’ve already lost the fight.”

Looking back at Zoe, he jerked his head towards the encrypted comm line he had set up to communicate with the captains of the convoy. “Tell them to head for the nearest debris cluster,” he signed out in gesture.

McCraken was starting to talk again, but Karras, who had been running plans and numbers in his head, set let the mic float away and turned back to Zoe. “What’s the status on my frame?”

“You’ve got half a tank,” Zoe said, smiling over Karras’ immediate grimace. “The Imploder Rifle’s trashed and your missile pods are empty or broken. You’ve got maaaybe a dozen rounds in the PD-Vulcans, sir. Oh, but I fixed the AC.”

“Thank god,” Karras growled. “I hate sweaty sorties.” Pulling on his heavy flight gloves, he shrugged. “Look, we’ve got maybe a minute until he stops ranting and realizes we’re actually factually not listening to him. I’ll get to the frame, you get to the skipper-shuttle and cruise on over to Captain Lau’s tanker, okay?”

“You sure you can make it back in one piece?” Zoe asked, biting her lip.

“Please,” he grinned. “I want to know if I’ll make it back in time for the next intel dump. Now scram, kiddo.”

Kicking up the hatch on the top of the cockpit, Karras pushed off and shot into the half-hangar situated above the ship’s living space; little more than a blister with hydraulic doors, mooring mounts, and a pathetic mechanic’s shop. But there, slightly scuffed, was Karras’ only weapon in this verse beyond his mouth and his mind.

The completely rebuilt Wasp-model Tempest frame – named by Karras as PALE HORSE Custom – was a sleek and spindly mech, all long limbs and extendable thruster vanes, a mosquito from hell. And right now it was going to double Karras’ kill count post-Sundering. If he could handle Earth-side ImpSec, he could handle a couple of upstart buccaneers.

The readout built into Karras’ cybernetic right eye began to warn him that McCraken was counting down with weapons charging up, so Karras didn’t bother with pre-flight. Keying open the cockpit from afar and catching the railing surrounding the open door, he flipped into his comfortable gee-chair. Slotting his metallic left arm into the interface, Karras grimaced as he felt the familiar ice-cold activation of the Frame’s onboard central computer.

“Talk to me, CC.” Karras said.

“You have maaaaybe five seconds. Zoe’s out.”

“’Bout friggin’ time,” Karras muttered, pulling the straps over his shoulder with one hand before jump starting the frame’s reactor. The thrusters gently buoyed the frameto life, and the hatch slid shut just as –

-Just as a massive beam of energy bisected his yacht, perforating it instantly in a purple-white pillar of destruction. Almost instantly the slip of a starship began to break apart, a testament the low, low price of a couple dead bodies Karras had managed to rent the ship out for.

Shoving the butterfly control sticks of his frame forward, Karras tensed as he felt the mech accelerate, running forward, arms pumping, each footfall shredding steel deck beneath black magnetic-connection stabilizers.

“Hold on!” CC buzzed at Karras before the broker pushed the controls all the way forward on the tensile grooves. The Wasp responded with a jerk, throwing itself out of the shattered hangar and into the true vacuum of space, arms pinwheeling.

The dark grey frame – an old Locklear Colony-built Andras model – that had been covering the yacht’s rear was just ahead, flitting between the hundred-foot wide sections of plate steel, backpack-mounted thrusters tracing an electric blue line in the void.

Sighting the enemy frame, Karras flung out the Wasp’s arm, catching ahold of a tumbling chunk of airlock. Getting the frame’s feet underneath it in a crouch, Karras took a heartbeat to gauge angles of momentum before pushing off the makeshift springboard, aiming straight at the Andras. He wasn’t going to waste his maneuvering gas if he could help it.

The frame’s pilot, perhaps forewarned by the SLIDAR or good-old-fashioned pilot’s instinct, hit his thrusters into a spin, whirling to face Karras –

“-You son of a bi-” was all the pilot had time to say-

-Just as the Wasp impacted fist-first with his helmet mounted main camera.

The force of the impact nearly decapitated the Andras, shattering the cyclopean camera and half the housing helmet in a burst of bright red alloy and circuitry. Grimacing as he realized that McCraken has fallen in with the Red Masks since their last meeting, Karras pressed his advantage. Getting his frame’s free hand on the captive frame’s shoulder, Karras kicked downward, viciously shearing off one of the Andras’ legs in a trailing burst of electricity. Bereft of a stabilizing thruster, the Andras entered and uncontrolled spin, taking a wide circuit of the refugee convoy.

It was all the poor pilot could do to not so much steer as guide his frame away from major hunks of steel using the SLIDAR, and Karras took advantage of the pilot’s divided attention to clamber over the frame's shoulders and position himself, catlike, at the juncture between the Andras’s shoulders and the flight unit.

“Sorry, mate,” Karras sent back over the shortburst comm. “It’s mine now.”

And with that, he ripped the flight unit Andras’ back.

Things instantly went right over the edge of chaos as the sudden change in directions sent them into an even more uncontrolled spill. Karras barely had time to rip out the unit’s mounted energy lance and slave the controls to CC before their combined vector put them on a direct line to impact a kilometer-wide chunk of what had once been a colony.

Tossing aside the flight unit over the Wasp’s shoulder the way an unruly youth might toss a crumpled sheet of paper, Karras kicked off the Andras, hitting full reverse burn on his own thruster unit before the enemy pilot even had time to realize what was happening.

The Andras spun on its remaining leg thruster, futilely attempting to swing at Karras with a procured vibro-knife –

-But by then the distance was too great. Karras gritted his teeth as the flight restraints bit uncomfortably into his jacket, but he could still see the Andras growing smaller, smaller –

-Until it was sideswiped by an orbiting section of debris twice its height.

The reactor breached, and the Wasp’s hexscreens barely adjusted in time to keep Karras from being blinded by the all-consuming light – but the fireball retreated as quickly as it a sprung into being, collapsing into a single, wavering point of illumination before winking out with the finality of death.

The hexscreens slowly adjusted tint back to normal, and Karras saw the breach had consumed everything – everything – in a half-klick radius, leaving a perfect bubble in the swirling cloud. But the moment was fleeting, almost illusory, and the spin of gravity eroded the null zone, wiping it away before their eyes.

“CC, situation,” Karras barked.

A miniature spinning globe of life appeared above Karras’ right arm, sections compacting or extending at random.

“The other frames are closing at different vectors. Shall I draw a line to the closest one?”

Flicking a finger, Karras sent the mote of light representing the waypoint from his GUI to the hexscreens in front of Karras. Adjusting the flight unit’s thrusters, he poured juice into engines. “Let’s go roll out the welcoming mat, then.”

Clearing the debris field, the Wasp chose to drop into the thick latticework of what had once been construction on the field’s Earth-ward side. CC tagged at least three framesdarting through the maze of rock and steel, two of them old black market Kroner Integrated models – old enough that the frame still had propellant tanks in the place of legs.

An explosion bloomed on the far end of a humongous plate of sheet metal, flash-glowing the alloy red-white before detonating outward in a burst of rapidly dissipating gases. From the gash burst McCracken’s unit, juking this way towards Karras’ path. Lacking an actual ranged weapon, Karras thumb hovered over his left control, the one that triggered the head-mounted personal-defense vulcans. No, save them for a special occasion.

Karras snap-turned, spinning in place to orient himself towards the incoming pilot, the gees pushing him into the harness. In response, McCracken activated his own blade with a flourish. Deciding to trigger his own in turn, Karras activated his stolen lance – to find it fizzle and spark, out of power.

“How come his just works?” Karras whined, “I had to ask for mine.”

“Talk to him and he might loan you his,” CC suggested.

Plotting a trajectory along the seam line that marked the juncture of metallic construction and solid asteroid, Karras slapped the acceleration strip of the Wasp into full burn. “Yeah,” he chuckled. “’Talk.’”

Spinning the frame to face the oncoming bogies, flying with his back to the asteroid, Karras barely had time to bite down on a curse as he saw a charged ball of plasma flying towards him from the overshoulder cannon of one of the prop-legs. He had hoped the colony’s wreckage itself would provide him with a modicum of discretionary cover, but he had clearly been wrong. Twirling the flight unit around so he was now shooting backwards, Karras caught the frame’s legs underneath it, throwing up twin troughs of rock and metal as he worked to break the lead the plasma had on him before directing his flight unit’s propellant into a ninety-degree change.

He threw the Wasp’s spindly limbs wide, and the titanic ball of launched particle energy passed directly underneath him as though he had leapfrogged it. Connecting with the surface of the asteroid not three frame-lengths underneath Karras, the packet detonated with brutal force, catching the Wasp in the sheer kinetic blast wave and – exactly as planned – giving the frame the extra momentum it needed to close the distance between it and the cannon-bearing prop-leg.

Executing a mid-launch tuck-and-roll, Karras landed feet-first on the torso of the enemy frame, sending it spiraling off away from its wingmate. A plasma cutter – obviously a repurposed mining tool – sprouted from the palm of the prop-leg’s right arm, flashing at Karras’ cockpit, but he knew the predictable response and grabbed the arm in his free hand. Karras could practically see the panic go through the enemy pilot’s face – the pirate was a backwater average, and was desperately out of his league. Eager to end the engagement before he drew fire, Karras directed the cutter to shear off first the shoulder cannon, sending the eight-meter plasma focuser tumbling off into space, before embedding the prop-leg’s palm directly in its helmet camera.

Triggering his flight unit, Karras shot away from the neutralized frame just in time to dodge an oncoming stream of shells from McCraken’s vulcans. Flitting down and underneath the leader, staying just ahead of the oncoming fire, Karras pulled into a tightening circle, using the Wasp’s superior speed and maneuverability to stay in McCracken’s blind spot faster than the pilot could rotate to keep Karras in his sights. Normally such a maneuver was suicide on the attacker’s part, but Karras was subconsciously putting the frame through its paces – he knew that he had the superior frame, but he wanted his opponent to get a handle on just how outclassed he was.

Or more importantly, the two remaining wingmen. CC noticed it, too, and flash an icon over Karras’ HUD, making a hurry-it-up gesture just out of the corner of Karras’ eye.

McCracken finally made a mistake – Karras juked left, he tracked right – and Karras was suddenly on him, praising whatever angels watched over him on the battlefield. Dodging a final burst of fire, Karras hoped third time was the charm as he got within melee range of the prop-leg and slapped the rifle aside, sending it and a couple torn fingers out into space. Trusting CC to attach a marker waypoint to the gun, Karras put his attention squarely on the thermal lance McCracken was currently trying to drive into his Wasp’s chest.

Fortunately, now that he had access to a real weapon beyond the frame’s maneuverability, Karras didn’t have to put up with this bullshit any longer. Pushing off the frame and applying full reverse thrust on his flight unit, Karras bobbed the Wasp in a quick one-two-three dodge away from the the advancing Andras, gradually pushing his course towards the floating rifle.

Just when it looked like he wouldn’t be able to disengage from the aggressive onslaught of red-tinged slashes and stabs, Karras threw the Was into a full spin, flinging out one arm – and came back around with the stolen autocannon in hand. He didn’t even bother to aim, firing from the hip and trusting his instincts to land the shots. The burst stitched across the Andras’s chest, shearing off the arm holding the saber futilely going for a parry before taking off the prop-legs stubby mono-eye head. Trailing blue fire and smoke, the disabled mech gyrated away, its pilot already initiating the ejection procedure before his reactor blew.

After an extended second, Karras realized, with a bump of horror, that McCracken wasn’t going for the eject lever. He was going for the self-destruct contingency.

“Bastard!” Karras barked, tossing away the empty, useless autocannon and flitting forward, snagging the discarded thermal lance in one hand and, with a slick spin, cut the Andras in half at the cockpit. McCracken’s rant, which Karras realized had been going this entire time and had been muted by CC, ended in a gurgle and wash of static as the two halves of the finally neutralized mech floated off into space.

Turning back to the two remaining Andras units, Karras flashed the stolen lance in a mock salute.

Somewhat predictably, the two pilots turned in wide arcs and blasted out of the engagement area, hopefully to lives dedicated to helping abandoned puppies and orphans.

Extracting a flask of rum from the webbing overhead, Karras uncapped it and took a long pull before turning back towards the convoy, unharmed in all the chaos. Dead ships meant dead kids.

Separately and more importantly, dead customers.

Trusting CC to tag to relative motion of the three destroyed frame for any potential salvage later, Karras accelerated towards the former Constellation tanker, a refuel on Lau, and the next steps. They’d reach Lunasphere in a couple hours, and from there Karras could set about making things just like old times.
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
Mobius 1
Global Mod
Posts: 1099
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 11:40 pm
Location: Orlando, FL

Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 03: Chariots
Subject: Tempest Frames


Powered by Life Ore, sleek one-man mechs formed the basis of warfare in space. Reliant on advanced ambac systems, the highly mobile spacecraft evolved out of the disrupting effect Life Ore reactor technology had on guided missile technology. Augmented by smart constructs – all of which flirted with the Glasgow Treaty ban on true artificial intelligences – these frames exploded in variety of form and power under the battle-driven evolution of the War of the Heavens.

With frames cheap to produce en masse, any mercenary band worth its salt would lay claim to at least a squadron of the Tempest frames, fed by either faction in the pursuit the ever-evolving bleeding age. Clan leaders and warlords could be expected to sortie in highly customized or even unique models, a calling card of their dominance in a given Lagrange point. The continued supply of the terrorist band ARClight in particularly with models more advanced than even the Constellation wielded led to speculation that elements within the colonies were actively supplying the malcontents.

While colonial frames tended to outperform a given Imperial equivalent, the Imperium laid claim to thirteen frames - thirteen frames that each alone could turn the course of a given battle.

The Godhand.

Life Ore – was still a consumable resource, limiting the sortie time and conceivable power output of any given frame. The Godhand didn’t follow those rules. Their intertwined dual Life Ore reactors didn’t use the precious mineral - if anything, they produced it. Such a thermodynamic impossibility was unheard of, and completely unique to the Godhand. Colonial scientists would spent years trying to deduce the origin of this phenomenon – and why the Imperium never applied such a world-changing advancement to any other element of human civilization.

All they knew was the terror the Godhand brought to the battlefield. All they knew was how the Godhand had managed to keep the Imperium afloat for the ten years of the war. Their only weakness was that there were just thirteen of them – they could only be in so many places at once.

The Godhand disappeared in the aftermath of the war, scattered amongst the earthsphere. Without their equalizing presence, ARClight grew bolder by the day, their attacks all the more brazen. Some even turned to the Keeper Cult for the chance to create their own Godhand – only to be rebuffed.

The Keepers of the Forges were neutral in the war, as in all things. They were preparing for something far worse.
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

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File 04: The Woman Who Didn’t Exist
Subject: Alix Aubrey


The Imperial Security Service was the most feared cabal in the depths of the Empire’s labyrinthine collection of militarized agencies. Eyes everywhere and knives brandished behind every dark corner, despite their cruel reputation they served as the only counter to ARClight in the aftermath of the war.

After a grateful top-off on Lau’s dime, Karras returned to search the debris field, gathering the remnants of the two disabled frames in wide cargo nets before towing them back into the tanker’s – the Old Familiar’s – cavernous hangar for salvage. It was only when the hangar was sealed and pressuring and Karras was opening his cockpit’s hatch that he saw Zoe bouncing up and down on the hangar floor, hand raised and waving as though she was in a classroom.

“Yeah, kid?” Karras asked, pulling off his gloves and stuffing them into his back pocket. “What’s the big trouble?”

“Well, considering you left two of the three pilots alive,” she said.

“Hey, I killed McCracken,” Karras shot back.

“Yeah, and the first guy zoomed off into a metaphorical brick wall,” Zoe said slowly, as though explaining something to a particularly dense child. “That leaves the prop-leg with half a gun and a quarter of a face.”

“Oh, shit,” Karras sighed, running his hands though his unruly hair. He caught the eye of several of the Old Familiar’s mechanics and offered a shrugging ‘what can you do’ gesture before pushing off towards the lashed down Bulldog. The arm of the frame was twisted in an impossible angle and jammed fist first into the pulverized head camera, but the cockpit in the chest was untouched.

“Zoe,” Karras said slowly. “Toss me a gun.”

His assistant produced a submachine gun from seemingly nowhere and tossed it lightly to the former Colonel, who caught it deftly, dropping the mag and checking its contents before slapping it home and racking the charging handle.

“If he somehow gets the drop on me-” Karras began.

“-Shoot through you to take the pilot out?”

“-Er, hahahaha-no,” Karras said, frowning slightly. “I was going to say just shoot him. Don’t shoot me, christ.” And with that cheery thought in mind, Karras pushed off towards the Bulldog, lighting easily on the railing surrounding the hatch. Pulling a set of wires out of his arm and attaching it to the cockpit’s maintenance port while steadying the SMG against his right shoulder, Karras activated a remote uplink to CC. “Think you can get past this?” he whispered.

“Three decades of divergent computer engineering evolution?” CC quipped. “It might take twice as long, maybe three times as- wait, I’m done.”

“You’re way too smug for a comp cent with a personality matrix. Shut up, please.”

“You ready?”

Karras shifted his grip slighting. “No. Yes. Do it.”

The hatch slid open and Karras saw the hold-out pistol being shoved forward, aimed at his head – he slapped it aside, calling upon two decades of hand to hand experience and twisting the slide before the pilot could fire, pinching the trigger finger –

-His fingers quested towards the mag release, but the trapped pilot slammed a combat knife into his wrist – it skived off his metallic arm. Karras lunged forward, dragging the knife along the arm, leaving a long streak on the housing before catching it against the hatch’s edge-

-The pilot lashed out with one lithe leg, and Karras barely shifted to the side, shrugging the blow off his flank and finally leaving the pilot completely overextended. With one great exertion, he yanked the pilot out of the Bulldog and sent him flying across the void, sans pistol and blade.

The pilot hit the deck and bounced, up into the Bulldog’s ankle, and Karras was on him, smashing the helmet in, sliding out a blade from his robotic arm and leaving the tip centimeters from the pilot’s eye.

“Give it up, eh?”

The pilot looked out through the shattered glass, past tangled curls of short red hair and smiled, tapping a second hold-out pistol against Karras’ crotch.

“Took the words out of my mouth,” the woman shot back, offering him a slight smile.

There were a pair of quick steps, and Zoe appeared with a gun of her own pressing into the woman’s temple. “Drop it, hon.”

The pilot gave Karras an acknowledging head bob, as though recognizing a fencer’s touch, before sending the pistol spinning away into the void.

Stepping away from her, Karras retracted his wrist blade before leveling his SMG right in the pilot’s nose, just out of her arms’ reach. “Fancy moves,” he allowed.

She laughed right in his face. “You think I’m scum like McCracken. That’s cute.”

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and flies a shitty piece of trash combat frame like a duck, it’s a wannabe pirate,” Karras said.

“Maybe I just wanted a closer look at your operation,” she shot back demurely.

“And flying like a rookie and getting captured and disarmed was all a part of your master plan. You might be the worst secret agent I’ve ever seen.”

“You’re not from the Constellation service, despite using one of their elite frames,” the woman said. “You’re not part of those old-European Imperium types. You’re not Leo Constellation, because they said ‘screw it’ and left for Mars. You fly a powerful custom model frame, but it’s clearly not a Godhand.”

“Jokes on you, my second LO reactor was ordered yesterday with express shipping,” Karras said, fighting off a frown.

“You’re clearly trying to set up for something big, considering you hold enough sway in this convoy to act without hindrance after your own yacht was smashed, despite you not being from the same team. Despite that, you haven’t hooked up with orbital ImpMil or the eighty Insurrectionist splinters running around.”

“I confess I was terrible picking teams for dodgeball at school,” he said, stalling for time.

Her grin widened. “You drink in the cockpit, you use sarcasm to mask your train of thought, and apparently don’t believe in the invention of razors.”

“Okay,” Karras said in mock outrage, his grin slipping. “That last one was a low blow. You got a name before I space you for pissing me off? Wait, does it matter?” He looked at Zoe. “What’s your recommendation?”

“Space her,” the young woman shrugged, as though this wasn’t her solution for everything.

Karras noticed a slight hesitation in the pilot’s voice when she spoke next. He had her. “A fact for a fact.”

I leaned forward. “I’m an information broker, darling, and there’s more fish in the sea.”

“That’ll be great when you run into the ambush waiting for the convoy at Luna.”

“I can deal with pirates with they’re as shit pilots and as cowardly as the past bunch.”

She shook her head. “Not pirates. Worse.”

“I’ll start popping popcorn if you keep up the suspense.”

“The Carnifex.”

Karras burst out laughing, turning away had half-covering his mouth with his arm. He came back up sporting a massive grin. “The what?”

“A full cyborg, and one of the best pilots alive. He has his own Insurrectionist remnants loyal to him and his Godhand – the Keter – alone is one of the best in his universe or any other. You’re looking at the culmination of thirty years of solid battle-driven evolution.”

He placed a hand on his chest, feigning terror. “So I avoid them. He may have a Godhand, but Luna Sphere is never a small space.”

“Good luck with that. Carnifex-“ she stopped to allow Karras to fight off another bout of the giggles “-is on a collection hunt after the Imperium fell and if I’m right about who you are, he won’t be able to pass you up.”

“I’m nobody’s baseball card,” Karras stated.

The woman crossed her arms. “Carnifex is going to catch up to you, and I’m the only one who can help you survive.”

“Say I believe you on a dozen fronts and decide to let you tag along and help on a trial basis,” Karras said, pursing his lips. “And just say I go with whatever plan you cook up. What’s to stop you from just backstabbing us the moment we’re clear?”

The pilot removed her helmet, shaking out of her crimson bob. Tossing off her helmet, she made to stick out her hand for a handshake, before thinking better of it. Holding her gauntlet up, she slotted out a small cartridge from it and tossed it to Karras who caught it with one hand.

“Because I’m no longer pointing a poison dart at you,” she said, sticking out her now dart-less glove. “Alix Aubrey, Imperial Special Branch.”

Karras stared at the hand just long enough for the moment to become awkward before pocketing the dart gun and grasping Aubrey's hand for a firm two-shake. On cue, Zoe stepped away and lowered her gun, though not completely.

“Alix, let’s adjourn to my office,” Karras said.

“Boss, you don’t have an office,” Zoe put it. “It kinda blew up.”

“Alix, let’s adjourn to the nearest conference room,” Karras repeated. “And maybe you get start cluing me as to what this whole giant clusterfuck is.”
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

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File 05: Outside Context Problem
Subject: The Keepers


Most people dismiss the Keepers as a technocratic cult. And in part, they’d be right. Anyone who joins is in for a life of endless cybernetic surgeries in pursuit of enlightenment, with the front-facing leaders of the organization barely recognizable as human. If humanity is to move into the stars, the Keepers argue, they must be prepare in body as well as soul for this next step in evolution.

The world could easily dismiss them if these were mere cultists that preyed upon the taboo of machinization and artificial intelligence.

They would be able to, easily, if not for the Forges. Massive structures spread across the planet, the belt, and the moon, these factories worked seemingly against the laws of physics and logistics in the speed and volume of their construction, but one could deny the economic powerhouses that coalesced in whatever region the Forge could be found in.

Neutral to the simply affairs of man, the Keepers would sell to anyone, simultaneously ensuring gratitude for their miraculous skill with construction and the grudging hatred for ensuring the war dragged on for far longer than was possible with humanity’s meagre grasp.

Imperial analysts can only study the preaching of the Keepers and form their own theories. The war had killed billions, but the resurgent humanity was nothing if not stronger – if far less numerous – after the brutal conflict. Fuel, resource, and food shortages were no longer an issue. If the Keepers were preparing humanity for something, the world could only feel a quiver of fear at the idea of what that something could be.

For these transhumans were as close to aliens as humanity had yet encountered – they had evolved from seemingly nowhere, their constructions happening in impossible segments of time, and their inseparable value to humanity established near instantly. This was an invasion from within, some analysts whispered. Humanity wasn’t becoming a weapon. It was becoming a shield.
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Shroom Man 777 »

Welcome back. :D
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"Sometimes Shroomy I wonder if your imagination actually counts as some sort of war crime." - FROD
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

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Glad to be back.

File 06: SEGMENT ONE
Timeline, First Twenty Months


0 – Sunder Zero Point. The Horde emerges from underneath the capital of the Imperium and the Capricorn Constellation, spreading outward. The immediate humanitarian disaster is expected, and between the infighting, confusion, and Horde predation the next few weeks are a morass of death and uncertainty as the human population equalizes. Refugee columns are a tremendous problem for the quickly forming nation-states, with the Horde constantly attracted to the potential prey.

+1 Month AS. National-states begin to form from the summoned imports. A pair of surviving princesses, daughters of the late Empress – Aurore and Noemie Roux – resurrect the protective intent of the Imperium as the Apollo Kingdom on the moon, providing the single largest civilian haven in the chaos. The Constellation as a whole, managing rebound from the destruction of Capricorn Colony, pull together to enact the largest single humanitarian aid effort in human history, pre or post-Sunder.

The L3 Colonies declare independence from the greater Constellation consortium, using their majority of the colonial military might to invade portions of Earth in attempts to claim vast swathes of territory, be it Horde or Imperial. This new faction, the Atlean Republic, stands in opposition to both the Constellations and the Imperium.

+2 Months AS. The remnants of the Imperium earthside, under the leadership of Solomon Vo, shepherds a mass of refugees on a shuttle launch out of Australia towards Apollo territory. The assembled might of Imperium’s Chandelier special service corps makes it first concerted forays against the main mass of the Horde and its leading Generals. The remnants of Imperial bureacracy quietly rebuild along in the territory around Moscow.

+3 Months AS. The Battle of the Chasm. The ARClight insurrectionist forces, led by Carnifex, stage a raid on a Marrow base – known as the Chasm – in an attempt to steal Diego Bardem’s true prize – a collection of three hundred nuclear bombs. Tipped off by several moles, including Backstop and Constellation agents, the collective might of Chandelier, the passing ImpMil convoy guards, and the Apollo Kingdom Self Defense Forces form an alliance against the two warring terrorist factions. The battle climaxes with the Apollo Kingdom fielding the Godhand of Despair against a Marrow-use prototype Godhand-Titan, though it is only with the sacrifice of the Godhand that the battle is brought to a close.

The battle proves a seminal moment in international relations with the largest alliance yet secured between the three factions, along with the elimination of both of the original aggressors and their leaders (Carnifex and Bardem). To the Forerunners, this only furthers their hope that the assembled might of their champions can eventually be manipulated into dealing with their Horde nemesis.

+6-9 Months AS. The rebuilt factions fall into war amongst one another. The Atlean Republic finds itself in constant conflict with the technologically superior Chandelier forces, who seek to curb any further aggression in this fragile new era. Humanity’s heroes begin the fall to the Horde, one the most devastating defeats being the destruction of the Godhand of Wrath and the assassination of its pilot at the hands of the Horde General known as the Ronove.

While putting on a face of public generosity, Constellation Chariman Alton Nureno secretly funds multiple factions – his own in-house black ops team, MIDNIGHT, along with Imperial data-centurions – towards the intent of keeping humanity’s factions from assembling into any one power bloc.

+10 Months AS. The neutral Libra Republic, situated at L5, suffers a series of unexplained colony destruction events. Backstop and Chandelier agents team to investigate the growing disaster. Along the way, the team uncovers and breaks up a rogue Keeper project to combine technology from various faction into the first post-Sunder Godhand. With the newly acquired (stolen) Godhand, the team thwart thought-dead war criminals from fermenting an Atlean annexation of the Republic. The captured perpetrators – proxies of the Constellation – are handed over to Imperial agents for interrogation on Earth – proxies of Gabriel Kelevra, first among the Imperial Data-Centurions.

+1 Year AS. The first anniversary of the Sunder sees humanity having roughly settled in a several factions, more or less in a constant set of war against the Horde. While humanity eeks out a state of survival in equilibrium, the Keeper dream of using the universe’s heroes to defeat the Horde remains unrealized.

+15 Months AS. Pirates under the flag of the Red Masks make their presence known across Lunasphere and the surrounding LaGrange points, their attacks and influence finally tipping from the cost of doing business to an actual threat. Led by the mad pirate queen known as Herja, the terror and chaos caused by the Masks consequently lead to a new surge in Horde activity.

+18 Months AS. Chaos in the largest city on the moon, Armstrong. Agents of Constellation use low-end terrorist proxies to break into a research facility and infuse a nuclear device stolen at the Chasm with technology meant to specifically shatter the powerful shields protecting a Horde or Keeper Great Forge.

The Chandelier rescues a scientific research vessel from the clutches of the Horde, taking down a high level commander in the process and providing one of the largest recent victories against the foe.

+19 Months AS. An Apollo SDF raid on a Red Masks treasure fleet results in the death of the second in command of the pirate group and the formal declaration of civil war between the Mercenary Trust offshoot (colloquially known as the ‘White Masks’) and the main body of the Masks. Backstop formalizes its alliance with the Chandelier and sets its sights on the Constellation black ops group that has covertly been behind the Battle of the Chasm, the L5 massacres, and the Armstrong raid. Their target – a Keeper Great Forge, returning from the edge of the solar with four newly-made dual Life Ore Reactors and post-Sunder Godhands to match.

+20 Months AS. The Battle of the Great Forge. Chandelier and Backstop forces chase after the Constellation agents as the operatives steal into the returning Great Forge with the aid of Horde-luring beacons and the enriched nuclear missile. Both sides learn that a section of the Keepers, having grown impatient with the ingrained fractious nature of their chosen human implements, have built Godhands purpose-designed to control the Horde and assassinate highly dangerous existing Godhans and Godhand-Titans. The battle climaxes with the intervention of a new breed of Horde General – formed in the largest GH-Titan seen to date – that the multitude of human factions and stolen Godhands have to band together to vanquish.

The implications from the battle are clear. The Keepers are no longer the united force they presented to humanity before the Amalgamation. The Chandelier/Apollo Alliance stands aware of the Constellation’s machinations against the unification of humanity. Cracks begin to form in the Nureno/Kelevra alliance with the death of the attached data-centurion observer. The new breed of Horde General stands apart from the established leadership of the Horde’s Godhand of Valor. All in all, the Keepers start to realize that, like the several dozen previous Sunder events across a multitude of universes, their current attempt at defeated to Horde is starting to fall beyond their control.
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

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File 07: Sparknotes
Subject: First Meeting


Despite the initial animosity, Karras soon warmed up to Aubrey when she began feeding him his favorite food – fresh intel. The fall of the Imperium, what was happening down on Earth. When Karras noted that the aggressors were piloting frames that were unknown to any faction, Alix pursed her lips and said that ISB didn’t have any info on those parties.

“They’re calling it The Sundering,” Karras said, chewing on his pencil’s eraser and staring down at the collection of vid files that were floating from the conference table’s holoprojector. “And to be honest, it’s pretty accurate. I mean, you’ve got this new Atlean Republic on the other side of the belt breaking off, right? The capitals of both nations are smoking craters.”

“Goners. My contact pulled some data from L4 before Capricorn went up in flames” Alix flicked up a video file taken from a Andras over at L4.

Karras saw the enormous monoeyed frame flit into the partial torus, disappearing from sight, followed quickly by a brief flickering – Vulcan fire – a flash of light – an explosion – a green flash – the red frame’s particle weaponry – and then an unholy, all-consuming sickyl green glow.

“I’ve seen that light before-” Karras began before a trio of enormous particle beams erupted from the colony wreckage, following quickly by the crimson ImpMil frame, which was hightailing away from the area at speed that reduced the frame to a red line zipping through space. “Sweet Jesus,” Karras murmured as he saw the white and green Godhand burst out from the torus, trailing the Imp. A pair of Andras units tried to impede the Godhanad, and only succeeding in getting themselves spectacularly flattened – at one point, the Godhand appeared to flash-step towards the grunt frame.

Though he didn’t impress easily, Karras had to take a fortifying sip from his flask as he watched the rest of the battle play out. After the observing pilot ended the recording to avoid falling into the expanding debris cloud himself, Karras turned back towards Aubrey. “Is that the Godhand you mentioned earlier, Aubrey?”

Alix frowned, nodding her head forlornly. “He was a kid, Karras. Sixteen. It’s a common thing, from what I gather. The Carnifex wasn’t originally a Colonial. He was a Godhand pilot that went rogue.”

“Christ,” Karras whispered.

“You’re the one with the kid over there.” Alix jerked her head towards Zoe, who was sitting outside the glass doors of the conference room, standing guard.

“And she doesn’t act as my lance in what looks to be another war,” Karras returned. “That’s beyond the point. In my professional opinion, we wouldn’t stand a chance against the Keter alone, let alone a team of Hornet frames or his lieutenant’s upgrade – the Yellowjacket. I mean, I might be able to dodge the gundrones of the Yellowjacket for a couple minutes without anyone helping Lietenant Yagami, but come on. This is ridiculous.”

“So what you think you want to do then?” Alix gazed at him levelly, hoping to gauge his reaction.

“Lie my ass off, obviously. Bluff. Rig and set up parlor tricks. They don’t know anything about me, and his rebellion is pretty much moot at this point, he’ll be open to what I have to say.”

“And what’s that?” Alix scoffed.

“That he needs my services. He’ll be my first client, not counting this lot.”

“I, what,” Alix began. “These guys are racist terrorists, Karras!”

He shrugged, spreading his arms wide. “I’ve worked with worse. Didn’t you get that I’m a broker? I work with who has money. Carnifex has the next best thing – power. I want at that tech, and the ability to parlay myself onto a greater stage. I’m not looking to shut down jackshit, hon.”

She crossed her arms. “I can’t believe I’m hearing this. What would it take for you to go against him, huh?”

Karras paused, considering. “He’d have to betray me. I usually wreck anyone who does that. He’d have to deliberately traffic people, or specifically target kids. See here, I have standards. I’m not Tedja, for the love of christ.”

“So what are you waiting for, then?” Alix asked, flopping down into a swiveling chair.

“C’mon,” Karras said, motioning her back to her feet. “I’ll show you.”

Zoe hopped to her feet when they exited the conference room, clapping her hands. “What’s next, boss?”

“Did you get Lau that list?” Karras asked, pushing his way down a nearby corridor with Alix close behind.

“Of course,” Zoe said with a perennially chipper air. “She said he’d have more than enough mining charges, but the microthrusters might be a tad difficult to coordinate.”

“And here I was thinking that title was literal,” Karras grumbled under his breath. “Go check up on that, will you? We’ll be hitting the ambush zone soon, and I need the stage set to make sure we don’t end up with a king-sized portion of dead on our order.”

Zoe gave a mock salute and split off at the next junction, disappearing towards the Old Familiar’s bridge.

“Where are we head, then?” Alix asked after another minute.

“Lau had an empty fuel container. We’ve been keeping it there.”

“Keeping what?”

Finally seeming to reach his destination, Karras stopped in front of a closed set of shutters in the bowels of the ship’s dorsal spine. Flicking a panel on the wall, he depolarized the shutters and gave Alix a look at the tank’s contents.

“That,” Karras said, heading off her question, “is a miniature particle condenser, and nestled in the center there is a 1.5 LO drive.”

“And you’re keeping it on the ship?” Alix asked, slightly alarmed.

“Well, I mean, sure, it’s a knockoff, but I’m not exactly rolling in dual-drives, hon,” Karras said, looking taken aback.

“No, I mean the yellow glow,” Alix clarified, pointing out the particulate radiation emanating out from a central strip on spherical 1.5 drive’s central ring.

“All LO drives do that, from what I understand,” Karras explained. “They can be baffled, because acting like a flying nightlight isn’t my style, but I personally think the yellow is cooler than the green the Godhand have. It’s… meaner.”

“You really are all style,” Alix said sarcastically. “Why didn’t you mount it earlier?”

“Well, to be perfectly honest, because I didn’t have it on me,” Karras blinked at her, before grinning. “No, but beyond that, it wasn’t charged. This condenser’s hella jury-rigged, and the 1.5 drive was zapped right when the Amalgamation happened. I was running on fuel cells and gas when I took down you and McCracken’s cre- say, it’s my turn to ask a question. What the hell were you doing with that asswipe, anyway?”

She gave a near-perfect imitation Karras’ flippant shrug. “Short version, I was separated from the Chandelier flagship after the, uh, event, and fell in with McCracken’s crew. Long version, when I saw you were a step above the average criminal, so, I goaded McCracken into returning to see how capable you were. He’s a literal leftover from the war and was running sorties with Mad Dog Tedja during the Amalgamation, so I wasn’t crying at all when you vaped him.”

Karras tapped his chin in thought. “First off, wow. You’re hilariously cold, considering you just sent two men to their deaths. I take this as a promising development on your front, Alix. You’ve got potential, spunk, moxie.” Seeing her threatening glare, he continued in a more serious voice, “And two, I’m nobody’s pawn to move across some goddamn chess board. I’ll engage Carnifex and his own ARClight on my own terms, not to aid in some Marrow grudge match.”

“Hey!” Alix objected, as Karras turned away. “I’m not with those clowns! I have standards!”

“You didn’t blink over the whole sending two blokes to their deaths thing, and this is what raises your heckles?” Karras turned around in the zero-gee, floating backwards and watching her with eyebrows raised. “Christ, those tools must really be bad, then.”

Alix opened her mouth to respond, but Zoe’s voice buzzed out from the computer strapped to Karras’ robotic arm. “Boss, we’re nearing zero hour. You better hit the bridge to oversee final prep.”

Karras skidded to a stop, arresting his momentum and clasping one hand on Alix’s shoulder. “Your frame’s trashed, and I doubt you want to whiz around in a worker unit, so I’ll need you on the comm line at all times with info when I need it. Forewarned is forearmed, and the second this guy catches wind that something’s amiss, we’re all dead. Got it?”

“Bluff the biggest threat since the assembled Thirteen,” Alix said, nodding. “Got it.”
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

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File 08: Locations: Space
Subject: Locations as of +2 Years After Sunder


-Luna/Moon
  • Galileo City: Seat of former Apollo Kingdom government. Multilevel structure descending into a large cavern. Currently reinforced by Constellation fleet under the name of the new Zodiac Confederation.
  • Armstrong: Bubble City, formerly the large single space-based civilian concentration. Dome damaged irreparably following massive Horde Siege. Evacuation still ongoing, heavy Horde presence lurking nearby.
  • Aires City: Located on southern dark side of Moon. Currently under massive construction expansion with influx of refugees from Armstrong.
  • Gagarin Industries Park: Nationalized by Zodiac following the fall of the Apollo Kingdom for its large factories, both Keeper and human.
  • Nationalized Factories (F1/F2/F3): Located outside of each lunar city, operating independently. The F2 operation, located outside of the abandoned Armstrong, is under intense guard from a Zodiac task force.
  • The Chasm: Abandoned Marrow base. Nuclear arsenal and most equipment stripped, but defense network, not deactivated largely remains intact. Rumors of hidden treasures far past the base zenith continue to ensnare local salvage crews, with none returning from their quests.
-Lagrange Four
  • Colonial government: ‘Gemini Union’ – entirely neutral.
  • Colonies adopted from Capricorn survivors provide the bulk of agricultural output for the colony system as a whole. This makes Gemini a quiet economic powerhouse.
  • Keeper Forge provides ship construction contracts to all colonies.
  • Sizable criminal network controlled by Backstop.
  • Shoal Zone: Capricorn colony cluster destroyed by heavy Horde fighting in first few weeks AS.
  • Powerful salvage union makes continuous journeys into the nearby shoal zone. Seemingly never-ending supply of salvage, provided junkers can navigate occasional Horde bands that crawl out from the depths of the debris field.
-Lagrange Two
  • Aquarius Union - Once loosely allied with former Apollo Kingdom, now considering throwing in with either Zodiac or Atlean Republic.
  • Once reliant on Lunar factories for logistical support, now in desperate defense/food/supply crisis.
  • Loose self-styled ‘military police,’ a loose mercenary band contracted to the colony, unable to contain increasing Horde attacks. Supplies for ragtag Andras fleet running low.
  • Home to most Red Mask haunts, with large pirate presence further weakening militia control.
-Lagrange Five
  • Once under control of staunchly independent civilian colonial government known as the Libra Republic.
  • Sizable minority of colonies destroyed during terrorist spree of +10monthsAS. Attempt to incorporate territory into then-Atlean control rebuffed following capture of perpetrators.
  • The government, barely holding on to power following the destruction incidents, slipped further into irrelevance until its dissolution in +16monthsAS.
  • Now a lawless nest of villainy. Largely controlled by the Red Masks, though other factions patrol around the edges: ‘L'échange’ run by crime lord Les Albatros, Backstop agents constantly snipping at the pirate power base.
-Lagrange Three
  • The massive military powerhouse known as the Atlean Republic resolutely holds the territory against constant Horde assault.
  • Ceres II asteroid base under control of Mercenary TRUST. Former Horde Base, resources currently being expended towards rebuilding the semi-functional forge.
  • ’Utopia Colony,’ built post-Sunder, provides to bulk of the former Imperial civilian presence in the area.
  • Population hardy and entirely self-reliant following reconstruction and geographic distance from other colony clusters.
-The Constellation – Lagrange One
  • Economic and military powerhouse, largely untouched by the Horde.
  • Titanic goodwill for wide-ranging humanitarian efforts across all colonies.
  • Constellation Reaction Force (CRF) and ruling chairman Alton Nureno face of potential in post-Sunder word.
  • Finally extended outward in absorption of Apollo Kingdom and ImpMil into newly formed Zodiac Confederation. Time will tell if the CRF forces are, in fact, overextended.
  • Technological and innovation powerhouse, with engineering presence on par with L4.
  • Numerous under the table covert operations branches set upon secretly sowing discord across humanity with intent of bringing nations under the purview of CRF. Very few possess knowledge of these acts, unlikely to be believed in face of the public image of the Constellation.
  • Easy relationship with L4, cool relations with L3.
Other Notes
  • The Vector: a band of self-propelled asteroids that holds the single largest collection of Horde forces along with a Great Forge. Comes and goes from tracking seemingly at random, with a unique cloaking technology shielding the Fracture from being hunted at length.
  • Mars: Mostly uncolonized beyond a smattereing of Leo Constellation settlements, all of which were established following an exodus immediately after Sunder. Entirely neutral and sequestered from the Horde.
  • Artificial Intelligences: the fledging Imperial supercomputer was destroyed along with the rest of Paris with the emergence of the Horde. Quantum computer clones are a popular covert project, with ones found in the Chasm, Moscow, and Armstrong, though none have fully replicated the fearsome power of the original quantum computer.
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Booted Vulture »

holy shit it's moby! Awesome stuff.

eta: Read File 00. Very good stuff. A lot of character work and world building included. Finishing with the Godhead suit. Poor Zoe. :( Kind of classic original story material though!
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Siege »

I'm up to file 7, and recognize some of these names :D . Great stuff as usual, including trademark Moby akshun setpieces and the typical catastrophes emerging from calamities that I've come to love. The character work and world building are also intwined in a way that I really like. Looking forward to reading more!
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

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File 09: Hostile Takeover
Subject: Yellowjacket


The ambush zone was textbook – not entirely predictable, but too perfect in Karras’ experience to be anything but bad news. The maintenance drones had worked tirelessly in advance of the convoy, and by the time the collection of refugee vessels had reached the debris field just outside of LunaSphere proper, Karras and Alix were reasonably certain their preparations hadn’t been noticed by the ARClight spinter group.

Not that they had seen neither hide nor hair of them. Lau had reported sensors ghosts, and many captains were on edge, but no one as of yet had actually seen a Hornet unit.

“Just wait,” Alix had said, arms crossed, standing next to Lau on the bridge. Her cool confidence was a contrast to Lau’s jumpy expression. Though the captain of the Old Familiar tried to put on a brave face for her skeleton bridge crew, the air on the cluttered command deck was so tense it was practically electric.

Already in EVA, Karras had just finished supervising the reinstallation of the 1.5 drive into the back of his PALE HORSE Custom. He had filched the drive off of a demi-Godhand a year ago, and had rarely used it in the field – today would probably be its biggest test yet – he needed every ounce of power and maneuverability he could muster from his frame in order to survive the expected attack.

Seeing Zoe give him an A-OK symbol from the worker frame she was piloting, Karras gave one last check-over of the drive seals before retracting his tether and entering the Wasp’s cockpit. A minute to they hit Aubrey’s supposed zero line, and all Karras could do was drum his hands on his butterfly controls, mind racing. While he put on a brave face for anyone who wasn’t his assistant or the ISB agent, in private he realized just how utterly stupid this entire plan was – he was so out of his depth here, and it would take a minor miracle to even survive long enough to get his point across.

Moreover, his entire planned argument was chilling in its implications alone. He had seen the footage of the mechanic monsters that had swallowed up France and Capricorn colony. What chance did humanity have if it was still replaying out ten-year-old grudge matches? And what if this new world shook up other, even worse evils whose mere concept of return kept Karras up at night?

It didn’t matter now. Everyone was working on second chances. Karras fully intended to craft a new fate for himself from here on out.

The timer on his HUD flashed, and right on cue, a barrage of unguided micro-rockets arose from the meteor cluster dead-ahead, taking loose aim at the lead vessel of the convoy, an outdated CRF supply ship that had been converted into a sensor ship for the miniature fleet. CC tagged the missiles being tipped with EMP heads – of course, the ARClight pilots had no actual intent of destroying a potential valuable haul, but neither could they afford to leave the convoy with eyes on.

The pilot of the former CRF ship followed the script to the letter, floundering to the side in a futile attempt to dodge the rockets. The next barrage of pencil torpedoes adjusted course, entering cleanly into the massive null zone Karras had plotted thirty degrees starboard of the fleet’s bearing. LO jammers, created from jury-rigged distress beacons mashed with particle dispensers, created a net that sent the missiles haywire, veering off in every conceivable direction that wasn’t their target. Contrails peppered out as the micro-missiles’ propellant ran dry, though the EMP warheads didn’t trigger automatically – as Aubrey had predicted, the ARClight group was strapped for supplies enough to recover unused munitions.

Ordering CC to tag the location of the missiles – they could come in handy as makeshift grenades in order to avoid murdering his client’s men – Karras saw a single Hornet frame rise out of the debris cloud like a curious meerkat poking its head out of the dirt to investigate the situation. Seeing the long-range particle cannon slung underneath one of the frame's arms, Karras decided to time had come for him to intervene.

“Stage center,” he muttered, nudging his accelerator strip forward. The baffled LO drive whirred, masking the telltale red-stream of yellow particles as the Wasp shot forward, taking a wide arc to hopefully sideswipe the Hornet before he was discovered. Karras was hoping the aftermarket baffling would be enough to conceal with presence long enough to take the by Hornet by surprise.

Snagging one of the EMP missiles along the way, Karras had his comp cent override the warhead’s proximity sensor for the time being – the last thing he needed was for his trip to be cut short. Lining up a cross vector with the slowly advancing Hornet, Karras slapped the Wasp’s engines to maximum, aiming to catch the Hornet before it could produce a clean targeting solution on the convoy.

Perhaps something twinged the pilot’s consciousness at the last second – cybernetic insight – but the Hornet pivoted towards the stealthed Wasp at the last second, its sensors picking out the baffled drive trail. Abandoning its beam cannon and reaching for the handle of a plasma axe, the Zulu had just ignited the crude weapon when the Wasp flashed past in its flight mode, flitting to the right to avoid the hastily-timed strike and leaving the EMP missile tumbling in its wake.

Before the Hornet’s pilot could even realize what the object was, CC reactivated the warhead’s proximity sensor, and a capital-ship grade blue sphere winked in and out of existence for a split second on the Wasp’s hexscreens as the missile blew. The Hornet jerked once, and Karras was pleased to see the pilot had still been close enough to the debris field for the expanded blast wave to snag at least one more hidden frame, the grey-painted unit floating jerkily out of the staging area, completely disabled.

Karras pulled a hard arc, circling the dead space between the convoy and the debris field, snap-rolling back into a holding pattern when his HUD flared danger-red and he jammed his sticks in a random vector. The Wasp flash-transformed and sprung up, then right, and then forward, swerving to avoid a continuous pattern of triplicate orange particle beams.

He had hoped the expected attack would give him enough of a lull to make some breathing room, but the gundrones were firing non-stop, and it was all Karras could do to prevent himself and his frame from being turned into metallic ribbons.

While Karras was flying for his very life, CC and every computer back in the fleet were struggling to feed him escape vectors as they traced the gundrones’ wires back to the custom Hornet’s position. There – a waypoint marking the anti-cyborg prototype, standing with arms extended as though conducting a symphony. Built from Yagami’s own Hornet and spare parts from the Godhand Keter, the frame could limit Imperial drone weapons – controlled by bred supersoldiers as opposed to simple computer macros programmed by cyborgs – the Yellowjacket may have had an edge in long-range combat against a drone-type Godhand, but if a skilled enough regular pilot could close to melee range, he might be able to engage the Yellowjacket on equal ground.

Flipping and juking his way closer to the black-striped Tempest frame, Karras put every ounce of skill he could muster into playing his Wasp’s thrusters and mobility unit to their extreme capabilities, but even then one of his arms got caught by a scything verdant beam, and then a leg below the knee.

By then Karras had used the resultant detonations to propel himself to melee range with Yagami, who had just realized through a cloud of arrogance what Karras was planning. A shield with an LO-field generator came up, but as Karras had no ranged weapon, the LO-Field had no attack with which to reflect, and by the time Yagami rerouted power to her right arm’s built-in particle cannons, Karras had parlayed his momentum in a downward scything kick that connected at the crook of the Yellowjacket’s neck.

Knocked off balance by the attack, Yagami fell backwards, yelling “You bastard!” over the comm, retracting his gundrones at speed, but by then Karras was past the Zulu. Flipping into flight mode, Karras fired full thrusters in an attempt to completely destroy his forward momentum, and succeeded in spinning in place, coming up with his deactivate imploder lance up and pointing right at the center of the Yellowjacket’s back, where the cockpit would be.

Cara Yagami, despite herself, froze, and Karras finally let out the breath his had been holding. He had been relying on Yagami’s arrogance, hoping the Lieutenant wouldn’t consider a full-on charge towards melee range until it was too late. It had taken the assistance of the combined might of a dozen or so Central Computers back in the convoy along with his Wasp’s own comp cent, but provided he could maneuver past the Yellowjacket’s gimmick, the frame was a poor close-quarters combatant.

“Right then,” Karras said in a minor squeak, taking a few deep, calming breaths before triggering his calm. “Captain Carnifex?” he called. Now that the easy part, so to speak, was out of the way, here was where the real fun began. “Please note that I haven’t actually killed any of your pilots, right?”

The HUD gave a beeping noise, and a magnified circle tagged an all-to-recognizable white frame floating at extreme range, above the plane of battle. The back of Karras’ neck began to itch furiously as he saw the Godhand Keter’s signature particle gun, styled as a classy hunting rifle, aiming right the Wasp’s cockpit.

“I’m listening,” the voice purred back, and shivers went down Karras’ spine as it began to sink in just how truly outclassed he was in the entire matchup. Maybe he should have just stayed in bed, let the ARClight faction pillage the convoy, and gotten away with his life. He could’ve even parlayed his capture into a piloting job. But no. He was the most powerful broker on Luna back during the war, and he wasn’t going to let simple nerves get the better of him.

“I trust you are apprised of your situation,” Carnifex continued over the comm channel. This didn’t sound like a did. It sounded like a monster, Karras thought. “My forces and myself have you under our sights, and my flagship, the Cocytus, is standing by extreme range with sightlines on your protected vessels. I would hope a surrender would be in order.”

Karras suppressed a half-hysterical giggle before replying. “Shoot me, and the dead man’s switch I have tied to my lifesigns will trigger my LO drive’s self-destruct mechanism.” With that pronouncement, he retracted the baffles over the 1.5 drive’s exhaust, allowing a starburst of yellow particles to flower into the black of space behind the conjoined Tempest frames. “You can’t afford to lose a pilot nor a frame so valuable to your cause, sir.”

“What proof do you have that this drive would even accomplish such an effect?” Carnifex asked, sounding politely intrigued, as though this were a friendly conversation from across a table as opposed to a high-stakes hostage situation.

“You have no idea how the 1.5 drives work,” Karras shrugged. Hell, he didn’t know if the quasi-dual drive would actually blow, but he didn’t want Carnifex to call his bluff. “But you didn’t disagree in that you can ill afford such a loss.”

“Perhaps not,” Carnifex allowed. “But that is not for you to decide.”

Karras paused, considering his next words. “Since we’re at something of a stalemate, mind if I ask you a question?” Then, not pausing to allow Carnifex to answer, he continued, “What’s your ultimate goal in all this? You still after the dissolution of the Empire?”

“Perhaps,” Carnifex said again, sounding amused once again. Maybe his forces were maneuvering into position for a smash-and-grab, but Karras didn’t care. “This new situation certainly has changed things.”

“Because I heard a recording of your speech aboard the Chandelier flagship from a year ago. It’s a good plan, organizing the cyborgs and restoring balance, and all that.” He paused, and with no objection forthcoming, followed up with the one-two. “But what would Nureno make of it?”

“Explain,” Carnifex said.

“You’re modeling yourself off of his wartime persona,” Karras said. “Continuing to use his memes as a way of organizing followers. But when he took up the title of Imperator, he knew that there was a time to set aside the role was peace was assured.”

“If you heard my speech, perhaps you heard other recordings of me as well,” Carnifex said patiently. “A man is nothing but a symbol, a symbol in this case to guide to colonies to a bountiful future. Who the man is, pardon the expression, behind the mask, matters little.”

Maybe Aubrey hadn’t been too harsh after all calling his guy a vessel. “So walk me through the logic here,” Karras began slowly. “Nureno won’t take you back, or you’d be with him already. But the Imperium is gone now – we can both look down and see the smoking crater where Paris used to be. Any movement against the Empress is moot.”

“Assuming this train of logic holds up,” Carnifex said, “am I correct in assuming that your eventual point is that, with half the homeworld a smoking crater, the forced evolution to the stars has already begun?”

“You’re a smart guy, Captain,” Karras said respectfully, holding back his frown. If his suspicions were true, this kid had the mother of all daddy issues with the Constellation chairman – pardon the pun. “Look, I’m not saying that there’s to be some big clash up throwdown for the title of Dux. But look at your group here. You’re hurting for supplies and money. You’re raiding civilian convoys to get back on your feet. What’s your endgame here?”

“Leaving aside an ‘endgame,” Carnifex replied, “there presents a more immediate threat on the surface of the moon, one that left unchecked in its own timeline, threatened the survival of humanity as a whole.”

Karras snapped his fingers at the hexscreens to his right, and a window of Alix popped up on his HUD, peering down through a console camera on the Old Familiar’s bridge. “What’s he talking about?”

“Marrow,” Alix said, conferring with someone offscreen. “Practically ran American Imperial politics, earth racists against cyborgs, tried to nuke the Contellation multiple times. ISB was always there to put a lid on them, though.”

“And unlike your crew,” Karras said over the comm to Carnifex, “Marrow seeks no such equilibrium with their opponents.”

“You understand my meaning correctly,” Carnifex said. “The Apollo Kingdom, despite disagreeing fully with my methods, is the largest collection of cyborgs and colonials for quite some distance. Given enough time to get their feet underneath them, the Marrow base will begin their genocide at Armstrong City.”

“If they’re on a scale that you’re plotting to take them on, how can they threaten the Apollo Kingdom?” Karras asked. “Wait. That’s obvious. They have nuclear devices.”

“Several, in fact.”

“That’s what you’re prepping up for, then,” Karras inferred. “To work behind the scenes to prevent Marrow from creating a new, blood-stained crater on the moon.”

“And acquiring the considerable number of assets Diego Bardem has brought with him from planetside.”

“In that case,” Karras said, adopting a more formal tone. “Perhaps I introduced myself properly. Name’s Atmos Karras, and I’m probably the best contact you’ll find this side of Lagrange One. I can organize short term funds, supplies, and most importantly, intelligence, if you intend to hit Marrow.”

“Why would we hire you at all?” Yagami finally spoke up, though Karras swore he could have heard teeth grinding the entire length of the conversation. “Why not just kill you the second you return to your ship?”

“Because, Cara, you saw what I did with one underequipped grunt frame and a convoy of civilian vessels. Give me access to your network and I can make sure this, uh, great moon robbery, goes off without a hitch.” He paused. “I am correct in guessing you’ll acquiring the nukes for yourself?”

“Obviously.” Carnifex voice was once again amused. “And be respectful, Lieutenant. I had no idea I was playing host to one of the Horseman. Rumor had it you had all died last year.”

“We all did,” Karras said curtly.

“Let’s say I take you up on your offer. What would be your asking price?”

“How much is there?”

“A hundred million and five nuclear devices.”

“Twenty,” Karras said flatly. “I need to resupply my fleet as well as recoup the investment that will go into this heist. I want repairs to my frame and a team of your three best agents. You may have worked this out for yourself, but your frame, while powerful, can’t solo the Marrow base,” Karras chattered, reading off information Aubrey and CC were supplying him, as well as from the database he and CC had compiled over the week they had been in this verse. “I, however, can procure codes that can allow me to, say, sneak in through the back and open the gates for you.”

“You talk a big game,” Yagami cut in again, voice tight.

Karras tapped the Yellowjacket with the deactivated lance. “Hush.” The grown-ups were talking.

There was an interminable pause from the Keter's line of the comm. “I suggest we convene aboard your flagship to iron out the details and to get a better demonstration of your claimed talents, Mr. Karras,” Carnifex proclaimed at last.

Letting out the tension that had built up over the course of the conversation with a sigh, Karras nodded his Wasp’s head up at the Godhand. In response, the massive white frame lowered its particle rifle, releasing Karras from its sights. Soon after, a near dozen Hornets rose from cover, having encircled Karras and Yagami over the past few minutes. All of them had weapons down.

“I’m taking Cara here with me to my… flagship,” Karras announced, triggering his thrusters as he tugged the Yellowjacket towards the Old Familiar. “Hopefully we’ll all behave ourselves until then. No need for anyone to die.”

But considering the rate they were going, someone was bound to.
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 10: Weight to Bear
Subject: Terrorist Factions


With the end of the War in the Heavens, three main organizations rose from the ashes of the conflict to bedevil the shaky peace, with more spawning after the Sundering.

The most straightforward, the Red Masks, were a pirate organization spread across the Fracture belt. Decentralized through an alliance of twenty captains, the Masks operated as the primary criminal component in the region following the disappearance of the Backstop empire. The near-viral spread of the ruthless pirates, with their red-headed Tempest frames, was facilitated by the intact nature of the Backstop apparatus. While sections of the Backstop territories were well-governed – specifically under the greyer of the Horseman – the Masks held no such compunctions.

Trafficking, deadlier synthdrugs, state terrorism – all was fair game under the Masks captains. The only rule – don’t cross the Admiral. Herja, known to many as the pirate queen, circles the Fracture belt in a massive treasure barge fleet, demanding tribute from each of the captains while throwing her might into any problem that holds up the operations of her captains. Her two brothers – Silence and Noise – work as her enforcers, using demi-Godhands with 1.5 drives to counter any serious Constellation or Atlean enforcement raids.

With the rise of the Backstop, Unlimited successor organization several months after the Sundering, the Masks found themselves losing ground in a long-running turf war with the BULTD agents. With Unlimited’s operations proudly, well, limited – refusing to deal with children, keeping the conflict off the streets and limiting any civilian casualties with a blanket ban on pirate activity – colonial governors were more likely to collude with Backstop, Unlimited captains over the Masks.

Further trouble befell the Masks when an upstart Lieutenant – known only as the Black Cross – disgusted with the excesses of Herja and her enforcers, seceded from the circuit with respectable portion of the pirate’s hardware. Joining with the Atlean-funded Mercenary Trust, these so-called ‘White Masks’ formed a loose alliance with BULTD to further stamp out the menace of the Red Masks once and for all.

Meanwhile, several Constellations, unwilling to see the war with the Imperium end with the colonies so dominant throughout, funded the terrorist cell known as ARClight. Modeled after the special projects task force war hero Alton Nureno used to counter the might of the Godhands controlled by the Imperium, ARClight was supplied with a ready font of lost and unguarded materiel by hawkish, if quiet colonial governors. However, the real threat was the group’s leader - a rogue Godhand, pilot having defected from the Imperium during the nadir of the war. Styled as the Carnifex, this masked young man strung together a long series of victories against ImpMil forces in orbit in the three years between the war and the Sundering, widely receiving comparisons to Nureno’s own famed service as the ironically-titled Imperator.

Birthed from the Imperial aristocracy, the direct counterpart to ARClight was the Marrow. Anti-cyberization purists, the wealthy cabal made the transition into terrorism following an unacceptable peace with the Constellation. Robbed of their chance to finally wipe out the affronts to the flesh of man, they banded together to form the single largest private army in secret, with bases on the moon and spread across Australia and the Pacific Rim. Using brainwashing and drugs, they set about creating a counter force of child soldiers to the superior colonial cyborg pilots. Preaching hate through a dozen fronts, the Marrow turned their displeasure towards the Imperial citizenry on earth as well, for the cheered young heroes that piloted the Godhands were willing cyborgs in their own right.

Tasked by the Empress to root out the corruption within her own court, the Inquisitors of the Imperial Service Bureau set forth to counter the increasingly brazen actions of the Marrow before they could spark another war. This secret conflict came to a head when the heart of the ARClight network raided the Chasm moon base, home to the majority of the Marrow’s operation. Caught against a surprise alliance of surviving ImpMil forces, Apollo Kingdom SDF, and the Chandelier, the Chasm base was wiped out to a man, with the only survivor being the captured pilot of the prototype Godhand-Titan that caused so much devastation at the climax of the battle.

Spirited away by a MIDNIGHT operative, this pilot was reprogrammed to serve the covert Constellation direct action group in tracking down the rest of the Marrow hideouts and bases, climaxing in Operation: DARK WOOD two years After Sunder, where a sizable MIDNIGHT task force destroyed the largest Marrow base at Mount Gingera.

MIDNIGHT itself stands as a fourth faction to note, for its goals over time do not seem to align with that of its benefactor, Chairman Nureno. Its wraith of a leader, Majiec Wilder, rarely enters the battlefield, remaining sequestered in his predictive matrix and plotting endless false-flag operations through his right hand man, longtime CRF assassin Thaddeus Teague. Working through proxy after proxy, Teague has left a swathe of surgical destruction across the galaxy, from the Chasm to Armstrong City, from the Great Forge to Gingera Base and beyond.
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 11: Carnifex’s Eleven
Subject: Armstrong City


The negotiations took no small amount of tap dancing on Karras’ part, but he was finally in his element, and by the end of four hours of negotiations and planning, he had hammered up a contract and battle plan with the ARClight remnants. Having avoided coming to blows with Yagami several times, Karras’ nerves were frayed to the point of complete collapse. His hopes, however, to retain some agency after the meeting were dashed when Carnifex, at Yagami’s suggestion, assigned one his top ground agents to follow Karras and act as Carnifex's representative in his absence.

The young pilot had surprised him – he couldn’t have been no more than seventeen, clad in a green pilot’s suit and refusing the remove his mask-like helmet even aboard the ship. Despite the kids’ size, there was no denying the force of his charisma or the power backing any of this threats.

Karras clapped his hands together as the Godhand departed from the Old Familiar’s cavernous loading bay, turning to face his shadow. He was a mountain of a man, bigger than even Karras, with salt and pepper hair and a close-cropped beard. One eye was hidden behind a black eyepatch and a crisscross of jagged scars, giving the operative a fearsome, battle-hardened appearance. Combined with a single dead, soulless black eye, the man gave Karras the willies.

“Name’s Thaddeus Teague,” he said in a gravely basso.

“Teague Teagle!” Karras exclaimed, sticking out a hand.

Teague’s eyebrows furrowed. “I sense that you’re going to call me that every time, so here’s a new rule: every time you call me that, I beat you to within an inch of your life.”

Karras quickly withdrew his hand, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. “That’s a good rule.”

The operative turned away, apparently filing Karras under the category of ‘scum, criminal,’ which served Karras just fine. “You’re some broker,” Teague said, examining the prop-leg Andra that had been tied to a jury-rigged TF cage on the far end of the hangar. “Your handle of Constellation politcs is commendable, though I find some of your intel… interesting.”

Clapping his hands together, Karras fixedly watched the ARClight frames retreating to the distant Cocytus and worked to control his voice. “There are some sources I can’t and won’t reveal, you understand, right? I don’t need to work to render myself superfluous here, Teague.”

Teague turned back from the Andras to fix his empty black gaze on Karras. “You still tipped your hand when you mentioned the Captain’s speech. So here’s the rule: I don’t see the Imperial agent, or blood gets spilled.”

Pointedly trying not to look at the Andras’ left propellant tank, Karras shrugged. “If that’s what you think, you’re dumber than you look.” No sense not playing this to the hilt.

Teague’s voice was icy and could’ve dropped the temperature around them by several degrees. “You’re trying to project superiority, to create an image. It isn’t going to work.”

Offering Teague a sunny smile, Karras shook his head. “I don’t need to create jackshit, Teagle. Because if I or anyone on this convoy gets hurt, my assistant will make sure you take a spacewalk without a spacesuit.”

The operative took half a step forward before he caught sight of Zoe sitting across the hangar, perched on top of the Wasp’s head. She offered Teague a wave with a lot of finger rolling.

“You’ve got to be joking.”

“Find out, mate.”

Opening his mouth for a half second, Teague decided to close it again. “We’ll have a mechanic over with the amputated pieces of your frame in an hour to do repair and resupply. And I’ll need someplace to dock my Aeon Drifter.”

Karras’ eyebrows raised at the mention of the rare and heavily armed frame. “I’ve been working on converting some of the modular tanks into TF docks with hardpoints and jaw doors. You’ll be the first test subject.”

Teague snorted. “And you won’t clean out the interior, leaving a layer of fuel to ignite in case you need a cage to kill me in.”

Placing a hand of his chest and looking offended, Karras feigned shock. “There’s a line between paranoia and reasonable precaution, man. If I wanted you dead, you think I’d let you near a combat frame?” He rolled his robotic arm and waved a holographic projection of the Old Familiar’s layout into existence. “I organized a makeshift armory near bridge a couple days ago. You might want to take a look for some toys, we’ll be heading to Armstrong for a shopping trip in a half hour.”

Looking for a second like he was going to object, Teague finally decided further argument wasn’t worth the effort, and left for the lifts without another word.

“What an ass,” Karras muttered under his breath when the agent was finally several decks away. “Right, Aubrey, you can come out now.”

The maintenance hatch to the Andras’ left propellant tank was kicked open, and Alix floated out, removing her oxygen mask with an impatient air. “Christ, I thought he’d never leave.”

Pursing his lips and looking back into space, Karras waited for her strip out of the protective cleaning suit before saying, “From now on, you’re my partner from Lagrange Four.”

Running her hands through her hair, Alix was chattering, “You would really trap someone in a flammable cage to kill th- I’m what?”

“You heard him,” Karras said simply. “The second he was places you as ISB, you get to see what’s inside your head.” He tossed her a tube of dye. “Restyle and see how you look with black hair. We’re going on a shopping trip.”


***

Situated in the Cayley Crater, Armstrong was a sprawling, circular city some fourteen kilometers wide. At the moment, it was filled to the brim with refugees, with hundreds of civilian vessels crowding the space docks. While uneager to abandon his charges to the Port Authority, Karras had promised to get the majority the convoy safely to safe territory, and at the moment he could think of no safer place than Von Braun.

Granted, with the revelation that Marrow was planning a covert nuclear strike on the city somewhat soured that notion, but catching a glimpse of the massive blue Godhand doing a routine patrol around the outskirts of the city gave Karras some degree of hope. Perhaps the twin daughters had brought one of their knights with them as well. Between Aurore and Noemi, Karras was fairly sure the surviving members of the Roux line could craft something a decent settlement on the moon that didn’t involve worn cyborg/natural or earth/space distinctions. Of course, he wasn’t going to let anyone know that, war had its own unique sources of potential income, and Karras always game to make a quick dime along the way.

Teague had looked on with a politely incredulous expression when introduced to Alix, but with Zoe lurking nearby with a particularly lethal looking clipboard, the ARClight agent could only shrug and accept Karras’ story. Now walking easily through the throngs of displaced civilians crowding a busy market, Karras was pleased to see that Teague was keeping his distance, acting more like a bodyguard than an obstacle.

Trading credits with a nearby official, Karras began the long and tedious journey of rebuilding a contact network from scratch. There was so much to learn, and despite all the new intertwining realities creating fresh, untested rules, some things thankfully remained constant. With a decent purse that was buoyed still further by the remaining funds of ARClight, Karras had soon rerouted several pallets of small arms, a shipment of TF-grade life ore, a delivery of spare CRF-type parts, and more. Karras soon noticed how interchangeable the Tempest frame parts and machinery was for everything from third party frames to CRF or ImpMil models.

Considering that a single conglomerate – the Keepers – had been selling to both sides, it didn’t really come as a surprise. Karras really had to admire the gall of the whole setup, and wasn’t really surprised to learn from the Marrow-appointed street preacher on a nearby corner that the fires of damnation would fall upon the two-timing transhumans as well. Pushing back the crowd that was forming around the stage before it could turn into a riot, Karras continued on his way.

Constantly in contact with CC and Lau, who was docked back near the edge of the actually active docks, Karras soon learned that the temporary council the Roux twins had set up to govern the crater city had been having problems with civilian agitators – and it didn’t take much more digging to learn that Marrow had long been demonstrating in the city against the rapidly swelling cyborg presence. Further to the point, Karras discovered large groups of Marrow agents had been preying on the burgeoning Apollo Kingdom Self-Defense Force, creating a respectable black ops force of their own. Since Karras didn’t yet have access to the Marrow command and planning structure, he didn’t know if the terrorist group was going to try a hostile takeover before resorting to nukes, or was going to use a small, tactical device to sow chaos before launching surgical ground strikes.

Always able to build up impressive amounts of short term funds, Karras used the time it was taking for various ARClight-related bribes and projects to mature to play the youthful Armstrong goods market. Soon accumulating enough money to allow him to retire in peace, Karras funneled it towards the members of his convoy who had chosen to integrate into the Kingdom society, ensuring priority housing and supplies enough that they wouldn’t be on the streets begging in days. It was a small drop in the bucket, considering the sheer scale of the humanitarian disaster the Sundering had spawned, but Karras wasn’t going to leave without repaying the fleet for the troubles he had brought down on their collective hides.

Eight hours in, Karras was lounging at a rooftop bar, circling the long island iced tea in the dirty highball glass, watching the contained chaos of Armstrong below. The hologram computer was cataloguing the constant stream of intelligence as a constantly rotating bubble feed. Teague, who was standing off to one side maintaining his guard dog image, was grinding his teeth at Karras’ supposed apathy, but considering that the feed was also projected through Karras’ cybernetic eye, the broker was content to let the operative stew in his own indignation.

This was what he lived for, Karras realized. The thousands of tendrils stretching across an entire city, knowing its every secret and having hundreds of active projects, with dozens of jobs going on at any given point in time. Karras had always been a competent field agent, but it was the planning and foreknowledge that made him a dangerous opponent. In a blind fight, Yagami would have eaten him and his custom Wasp unit whole. With Aubrey’s tactical assessment and the counterstrategy to thwart the gundrone system, Karras had managed to force a draw.

Using his hands to manipulate the augmented reality windows in front of him, Karras looked perhaps a tad crazy, as though conducting a symphony for the ignorant city below, but he didn’t really give a shit about what vibe he gave off at the moment, considering he had bought out the entire bar for the night. Flipping up a camera feed of the Old Familiar’s hangar bay, he watched the pair of ARClight mechanics reattaching the severed limbs to the tattered PALE HORSE custom. Between the four tanker mechanics Karras had paid off to stand guard and CC’s own internal integrity subroutines, he was on the watch for any potential… modifications Carnifex could tag to his Tempest frame. From a simple tracking beacon to a system jack trojan or even a remote self-destruct subroutine, Karras would be having none of it. Teague was bad enough, but harming a man’s ride… criminal.

Alix leaned over from the acoustic guitar she was strumming to catch Karras’ attention. Swiping the varied windows to minimized motes of light of the side of his vision, Karras smiled jovially at the ISB inquistor. “What’s up?”

“As wonderful as the view is,” she began – the moon was currently nearing the end of the multi-day cycle of sunset – “I get the idea you set up shop up here with an ulterior motive.”

Karras looked pleased. “Damn right I di-“ He cut himself short, catching sight of something in the distance just beyond Alix’s head. Reaching out of squeezing her shoulder, he said, “Dear, you have the single best sense of timing I’ve ever encountered.” And with that pronouncement, he dunked her torso down, throwing himself over her as he yelled “Hit the deck!!”

The gunman that had taken up position on the opposite rooftop opened fire on the bar. Glasses, bottles, and tables shattered under the onslaught, and Karras saw Zoe, across the patio, speed-crawling to a more advantageous position with the sort of detachment Karras prided in his employees.

Teague, the consummate professional, had flipped a table the second he had seen Karras grasp Aubrey’s shoulder, and had produced a cut-down carbine who the hell knew where, immediately returning fire on the gunman.

The first attacker ducked out sight just as a second assassin opened up from perpendicular to the first, forcing Teague to dive to the deck to avoid being decapitated. A heavy, booming rhythmic chatter let Karras know that this gunman was wielding a heavy machine gun, and considering the haphazard way the HMG’s barrage went high and low, pulverizing the front face of the four-story building they were situated on, the attacker didn’t give a shit about collateral damage. So, not Apollo Kingdom.

“Holy Chandler’s Law,” Karras muttered under his breath, producing a high-capacity pistol from a shoulder holster and a slotting forth the wrist-mounted magnum on his robotic arm. Tossing Alix the sidearm, Karras duck-walked to a corner of the patio, distancing herself from her, before popping up, just out of the first gunman’s line of sight, and carefully firing one-two-three at the assassin pining down Teague.

The man across the rooftops swore as Karras opened fire, ducking to the side as his compatriot reentered the picture, questing for the new source of resistance. However, with Karras out of sight, his hang time proved lethal, as Teague smiled calmly to himself and put two bullets into the man’s temple, sending him toppling over into the street below. Screams floated up from whatever passerby’s that hadn’t yet cleared the area, but by then the second gunman, realizing that perhaps he and his buddy had bitten off more than they could chew, turned to flee back through the stairwell out of which he had been firing.

Whatever Teague was packing in his armor was clearly penetrative, because the next shots blew straight through the solid steel door and caught the retreating assassin in the calf. Overbalancing, the man fell back out of the stairwell, his machine gun skittering several feet out of reach.

By that point Aubrey had used her years of ISB training to jury-rig a table into a makeshift bridge, and she had crossed the narrow gap between buildings, covering the man with her gun. In the middle of retrieving a sidearm from a shoulder holster of his own, the crippled assassin froze as Teague followed Aubrey across. The bulky ARClight operative bent over and checked over the HMG, apparently pronouncing it serviceable as he pulled the strap over one shoulder before kicking the gunman in the face, knocking him unconscious. Throwing the body easily over his other shoulder, Teague straightened and nodded towards Karras. “Maybe a minute until the authorities arrive. Got an exit strategy?”

As if on cue, the tiltrotor Karras had hired an hour previous when he heard about the open hit Marrow had put out on the mysterious new power in town exploded in sight, swinging to a stop at near roof-level and presenting an open rear hatch to the bemused team.

“You know my motto,” Karras said, dancing over to the mercenary manning the tiltrotor’s pintle MG and bumping fists with the hired help. “Be prepared. C’mon, the last thing I need is that Godhand outside to show up and ask us awkward questions like ‘who still drinks long island iced teas?’”
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
Mobius 1
Global Mod
Posts: 1099
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 12: Locations, Earth
Subject: Locations as of +2 Years After Sunder


Executive Summary, in progress.

-North America
  • ImpMil’s central Earth holding, once at San Diego Base, is now largely a symbolic foothold used to supply smaller bases along the Mexican border.
  • Montreal, Quebec houses the shattered remnants of the main Chandelier planetside base. A large amount of abandoned equipment remains with only random Horde Drones patrolling the area.
  • The greater New York metropolitan area, unaligned, is the largest civilian enclave in the hemisphere. A robust milita, led by the a unknown young pilot in the Godhand of Fugue, have proven their mettle and repelled several Horde assaults.
  • An Imperial Court remnant city/base exists in Montana as the last bastion of the faction.
  • Minor ImpMil bases located across the Mexican border as watch guards against the Horde. Cut loose during the Horde assault, time in running out for their survival.
  • Mexico is, by large, occupied by Horde.

-South America
  • The Cancer colony was dropped on top of the Horde continental Great Forge, destroying a large chunk of the coast of Brazil and half of the country’s landmass in a singular cataclysm. Nevertheless, the Horde infests what is left of South America.

-Europe
  • The Republic of Moralia, rising from dissident Imperial bloodlines, holds territory along southern Europe, stretching from lower France to Croatia.
  • Numerous Atlean outposts exist in Northern France as a remnant of the Republic’s aborted spacedrop campaign to root out the Horde occupants. Nevertheless Paris, the former Imperial capital, remains a blaster crater.
  • London, the former ImpSec headquarters, was abandoned during the Horde offensive of 23 months AS. The Ronove is rumored to have settled a planetary base in the city’s skeleton.
  • The fortress city of Moscow exists as the eastern bastion of the resurgent New Imperium, though the territory is covertly under the control of Gabriel Kelevra’s powerbase.
  • A Moralia-neutral buffer territory – the Stark Confederation – contains a large civilian population spread across numerous underground enclaves, surviving through a series of hit and run tactics.
  • Scandinavia remains the last permnanent collection of Horde territory on the European continent, with a permanent Forge situated in Oslo.
  • A Keeper haven exists in Turkey, with two lesser Forges supplying the defenders of the region. The coalition is rumored to have a powerful Godhand up its sleeve for covert defense, but such murmurs have yet to be confirmed. The region mostly exists as an economic and manufacturing powerhouse, as the best-supplied neutral coalition on the planet.

-Asia and Oceania
  • The Harimau Coalition holds dominion over much of Southeast Asia and much of Oceania, with centers of power in Taipei and Manilla.
  • Northern India finds itself the home of two Horde great forges, with one, however, mysteriously inactive.
  • Vast swathes of land north of settled territory – inland China and eastern Russia - are untamed Horde country, though many air routes have been carved out between the Harimau and Turkish coalitions for the sake of continued trade.
  • The Zodiac Confederation holds a base in Zhanjiang and Papua New Guinea, neutral in relation to the Harimau Coalition.

-Australia
  • Mostly former ImpMil territory, the continent was abandoned after a massive civilian evacuation during the early months post-Amalgamation.
  • Sydney Base houses the bulk of the remaining Chandelier forces, recently reinforced by allied CRF personnel in the newly formed Zodiac Confederation.
  • Most human residents reside in Sydney Base. Populated by a hardened resistance that has survived for more than a year a half past entirely on the merits of their own tenacity. Entirely untrusting of outside help, the Sydney Network guards in small but growing civilian population.

-Africa
  • The Horde holds Eastern Nairobi Base with a well-defended Great Forge. Everything south is firm Horde territory.
  • Nigeria is the largest civilian enclave on the continent, with Keeper Great Forge and a well-organized civilian militia managing to turn aside numerous Horde advances. Strong economic ties with the Turkish Coalition has kept the twin civilian centers abreast any strain with a constantly increasing population.
  • Madagascar holds a Zodiac/ImpMil base as a forward operations point against the Nairobi Forge.
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
Mobius 1
Global Mod
Posts: 1099
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 11:40 pm
Location: Orlando, FL

Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 13: The Night Before
Subject: Genre Patterns


The mercenary tiltrotor arced through the skies underneath the dome of Armstrong, leaving a blood-stained rooftop and rapidly closing emergency services in its wake. Lighting up a cigar he had acquired during the shopping trip, Karras blew out a pillar of smoke towards the open rear hatch and slowly relaxed, letting the surge of adrenaline wind down. Standing across from him was Aubrey, who held one hand looped through the ceiling mesh as she watched the city pass by at speed below.

“I don’t know about you,” Karras said to nobody in particular, “but I’m exhausted after all that.”

“Hell yes,” Alix agreed at once, taking a swig from a plastic jug of water.

Karras turned towards the hatch of the tiltrotor. “How ‘bout you, Teague?”

“Feeling fine. Arm’s getting tired, though.” And with that, the ARClight operative shook the collar of the assassin he was holding out over the void below.

“I’d like to lodge a complaint, though!” the man shouted over the howl of wind. Short and stocky, with thinning black hair, the mercenary was trying his best to project an air of self-assurance. However, up against the three hardened agents in the cargo hold – and the bored-looking gunner half-napping near the cockpit – the attempt was largely like starting up a power blower against a cat five hurricane.

“Oh?” Teague asked, giving the merc a half-hearted shake. “I don’t recall asking you opinion.”

The man raised an arm to point a now-quaking finger at Karras, “No, but he did.”

Karras took another puff from his cigar and nodded to himself, as though working through a train of logic. “You know, Teague, I think he might have a point there.”

“You want to take him?” Teague asked, half offering the merc to Karras. Dangling boots scrabbled to find purchase on the edge of the blood tray before Teague re-extended his arm. “You’d probably be able to hold him a lot longer with that robotic arm of yours.”

“That’s true,” said Karras, holding up his left arm for all to see, as though presenting a prototype up for examination on the floor of a tech show. “But that’d ruin the whole point of the intimidation, if there wasn’t the threat of my arm getting tired.”

Reflexively flexing his biceps under the fabric of his jacket, Teague frowned in mock distress. “I’ll let you know I spent many hours working on these arms, Karras.”

“I’m sure Alix noticed,” Karras shot back. “Right, Aubrey?”

Spitting out her mouthful of water and looking up with a shocked expression, Alix looked like a deer caught in headlights. “I-what?

Stubbing out the remnants of his cigar, Karras leaned back and interlaced his fingers behind his head, grinning, before looking at the increasingly bemused assassin. “Your big mistake in all this is assuming this is an interrogation, mate. I don’t want to know what you know. I know that. It’s my job to know, right? You’re third party, go by the name of JuryRigged, but since you were born Melvin Onesto, I don’t think I can blame you on that one. You were hired by an agent of Marrow roughly two hours ago for a hit neither you nor they understood, but because you’re a hired gun in a pacifist kingdom, you’re on the streets looking for work. That leads you here, hanging out of a shuttle with a bullet in your leg.”

At this, the sleeping gunner finally seemed to stir, lifting up the visor on his helmet long enough to put in, “Sir, I should let you know that this is a fully capable AA-45 Gento Tiltrotor, and not a shuttle. You should know, seeing how much you paid for it.”

Karras pointed a finger at the gunner and made a shooting gesture. “He’s right! You’re hanging out of an AA-45 Tiltrotor, son.”

“T-then why go through this whole show?” the merc asked, looking between each of the team in turn.

“You opened fire on me and my team with intent to kill. That sort of thing requires a response, after all. And besides,” Karras said, finally standing and walking down to the edge of the bay, next to Teague, “I’m really enjoying this breeze.”

Taking Onesto from Teague, Karras settled the man on the edge of the deck and made a show of brushing off the man’s shoulders and straightening the merc’s gear before clamping his hands on Onesto’s shoulders. “I wanted a good meet face to face, so this town gets an idea who’s the new top dog.”

Looking confused by Karras’ demeanor, Onesto looked between him and Teague. “So you’re just going to let me go?”

“Of course,” said Karras, giving an exaggerated nod. And with that, he shoved Onesto out of the back of the tiltrotor.

The merc gave a choked scream and hit the rooftop not five feet below, shattering his ankles and falling into an accelerated roll. His form quickly disappeared into the distance, a speck on the sea of lunar rooftops. Turning away from the hatch, Karras made a show of brushing his hands off against each other. “You’d think they’d stop giving me such obvious openings like that.”

****

The Old Familiar made it out of the Armstrong docks with minimal interference, save for an inquisitive Scottish-accented guard pilot. The tanker’s long double-rows of reservoirs, instead of being filled with fuel, were laden down generic MS parts, weapons, e-packs, and more – enough for a full-on assault on the Marrow compound. Taking a long enough route to make sure they were not being tracked, Captain Lau finally set the supertanker on the long track towards the shoal zone ARClight was taking refuge in.

A few hours later, Alix found Karras in the Old Familiar’s mechanics’ lounge, reviewing old ISB data files from the ARClight and ImpSec archives. While most warships had expansive and well-furnished pilots’ lounges, the abundance of empty space on the massive supertanker allowed the original pair of mechanics to knock out several bulkheads to set up their own off-hours hangout. It, ironically, was what Karras valued in a private space – worn, lived-in, and practical – and most importantly, possessing a tremendously well-stocked bar. A constant watchdog, Teague sat on the completely opposite of the double room as Karras, fastidiously disassembling and cleaning a full set of assault rifles for the upcoming mission.

Seeing a red demi-Godhand flit across several different holograms, Alix frowned as a she pulled up a comfortable plush chair opposite Karras. “I thought you were researching Marrow?”

Reading a datapad, Karras didn’t bother to glance up. “Oh, Bardem? I’m fairly sure I’ve got his number. Egomaniac with a sadistic streak. Loses it when things don’t go his way. Put him off balance, and he’ll do the rest of the work for you.” Sighing, he tossed the pad aside and pinched the bridge of his nose. “No, I was taking a closer look at Carnifex, actually.”

Alix’s eyebrows raised. “Thinking of revising your professional opinion?”

Chuckling, Karras shrugged. “Perhaps. The kid’s a prodigy, for sure. Pretty much sitting pretty for a majority of the war before defecting. Probably one of the best pilots among the Godhand corps, too. Hilariously strong cyborg, with a huge cult of personality back home. He’s flying around in a frame that even by beginning of the war standards is ancient, and continually thrashed Godhands in better frames than her. Hell, for that red demi-hand even have a chance, he turned off half of his gundrones.”

“So why the reticence?” Alix asked, resting her chin on one hand and watching a recording of the battle between Carnifex’s Godhand and the unknown demi-Godhand.

“This is a kid, Alix. Not even legal age, pushed into a war by one nation and then molded into a tool of revenge by the other. His bodily autonomy was stripped from him before he had even hit puberty, and I’m not even sure his grey matter exists or if it’s just a cyberbrain in there. He may not even be truly human at this point, but just a walking condensation of the grudges and hatred of the past fifteen years. If there ever is a representative wraith of the War of the Heavens, this kid is it. And Alton Nureno helped create him, luring him over from the Imperial Military, before cutting his legs off from underneath him and telling him the revenge he was promised would have to be set aside in the name of peace. No wonder ARClight hits Constellation targets occasionally. At some point, it’ll be incumbent upon Nureno to put his creation down.

“But who am I kidding?” he asked, taking a swig from a short glass of whiskey. “It’s not like this’d come down to a stupid mano e mano fight anyway. Oh no,” he said, waving his hands at the objection that Alix almost spoke, and nearly choking on a mouthful of whiskey, “don’t get me wrong. They’re both big enough morons and egotists that a rematch will be inevitable if Constellation politics drags Nureno to the front again, but I don’t think it’ll decide anything, unless the remnants of the loser’s side are dumb enough to fall in with whomever’s proven stronger. Which,” he said, pausing to think, “is a good chance. I’m slowly coming to the realization that, rhetoric aside, Team ARClight can be really goddamn dumb. I give Carnifex’s stolen hype of Nureno’s position name equal weight against the sheer power of Nureno’s personality cult.”

He groaned and threw his legs up on the table, evidently winding down from his makeshift speech. “In the end, I think it’ll take some outside factor to force the stalemate between CRF and ARClight. Perhaps a well-funded and armed Carnifex, but who knows? It’s not like Chandelier or the Apollo Kingdom will want a combined Constellation formed of the civil war’s survivors.”

They didn’t talk for a couple minutes after that, Karras simply focusing on draining his bottle of whiskey and Alix reading through Karras’ accumulated notes. Finally, she looked up and caught his attention. “What’s this about trends you have here? It sorta trails off, Atmos.”

Raising his eyebrows, Karras leaned across the table to glance at the page Aubrey was looking at. “Oh,” he said, laughing, “that. Look, it’s been ages since I had direct access to the ImpSec deep archives. But look at these Godhand pilots. They’re teenagers that practically fall into the goddamn cockpit during a battle, they wind up with a perpetually outmatched team, they get themselves a blonde rival, and their loved ones always end up getting killed to solidify their resolve. Half the time the poor gals get shoved into some shitass Tempest Frame to actually die on the field of battle. So I’m saying, why not keep an eye out for these factors going forward? Or, hell, even try to make a Godhand pilot of our own?”

Pausing, Karras leaned back in his chair and called across the room to Teague, who was currently hand-feeding rounds into a row of magazines and pretending not to follow the conversation. “Yo, Teague, before you got all old and stuff, what color was your hair?”

“Brown,” Teague growled, not looking up from his work.

“Damn,” Karras muttered, dropping his chair back onto the deck. Shuffling the open holograms back into the node in the center of the table, he sighed again and reached for the bottle of whiskey, only to find it empty. “I’d say get some sleep for the actual prep work tomorrow, but I really can’t be assed at this point. Anyway, I’ve done enough talking. Your turn.”

Alix’s eyes went wide, and she threw a half-panicked look towards Teague in his corner.

Karras laughed and scrawled a note on his datapad. Don’t give away those sort of details, then. “You have family before all this?”

“A sister,” Alix said, nodding to herself, as if recalling something out of the very distant past. “We were inseparable growing up, but we had a falling out about six or so years ago. She joined ImpMil as a test pilot, and I went into the, uh, free market.” Meaning intelligence work, obviously. “I was always too reckless, she’d say, overcommitting before getting a sense of the playing field. I thought it’d take a death in the family for her to get off her ass and care about anything. She stopped calling herself by the family name for a while to get away from it all. Went by ‘Fixer,’” she laughed.

“I dunno,” Karras said. “There’s been crazier names. Have you seen some of the names we take for granted?”

“The Godhand of Awe!” Alix laughed.

“Marrow!” Karras added, breaking down and slapping the table in a fit of giggles. “Marrow, as though cyborgs didn’t have such a thing!” Wiping a tear from his eyes, he straightened, remembering something. Reaching under the table, he withdrew a massive box, sliding it across the table towards Aubrey, who regarded it dubiously.

“Just open it,” he said, rolling his eyes.

Reaching over and knocking off the top of her box, Alix’s jaw dropped. “You didn’t.”

“I did, alright,” Karras said, sounding a bit modest.

Reaching into the box, Alix removed the second hand acoustic guitar Karras had had delivered to the Old Familiar halfway through the day. “I thought,” Karras began, before starting again, “look, money’s not really an issue with me. And I tend to enjoy my free time right before I go try to get myself killed.”

Across the lounge, Teague growled, “I think I’m going to barf.”

“Hush, Teagle,” Karras shot back, before grabbing a second guitar from under the table. “C’mon, let’s hit the observation deck and jam.” And leading the way, Karras left the lounge for perhaps the last peaceful night of his life.
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
Mobius 1
Global Mod
Posts: 1099
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 11:40 pm
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 14: The End of the War
Subject: Imperator and Carnifex


The Godhand were, at first, an impossible might to counter for the CRF (Constellation Reaction Force). While initial technological superiority in Tempest frame technology – first seen in the now comparatively ancient Wasp frame – allowed the Constellation pilots to made major advancements in the war, the deflective shield technology enabled by dual LO reactors was a seemingly unbeatable trump card.

Pushing back CRF advances in leaps and bounds, it looked like the once-battered ImpMil would drive back the vengeful CRF, until a colonial governor-turned General from a backwater colony cluster rose to prominence, forever changing the course of the war.

Alton Nureno – young, handsome, charismatic, formed a colonial militia known at the Legion, employing newfound quasi-dual drives – known as 1.5 drives to many – in frames termed Demi-Godhands to counter Godhand strikes in pairs or larger teams. Seeing these unstoppable foes turned breathed new life into the rock-bottom morale of the CRF regulars, bringing the war back up to an evenly matched give-and-take.

Nureno’s free-wheeling style and loose regulations attracted men by the thousands, growing into the power base he would later enjoy at the first post-war Chairman of the Constellation’s central council. At the time, however, with the war drawing to a close, Nureno set his sights on the oldest of the Godhand pilot corps and his personal rival on the battlefield – the pilot of the Godhand of Awe. Trading conversation over multiple clashing sorties across the entire circumference of the fracture belt, Nureno eventually seduced the only Godhand pilot to ever break ranks into defecting to the colonial cause.

This would have been an all-consuming coup for the CRF, if ImpSec Enqueteur Marius Halsey hadn’t gone rogue in control of the Gungnir Array, threatening the extinction of both sides in his quest for total power. The young pilot, so thirsty for revenge against the empire that made him into a metallic implement, was denied revenge by the joint-task force assembled by both sides to root out and vanquish Halsey.

The so-called Imperator parted ways with his so-called Carnifex, famed for leading the charge to save humanity and negotiating the peace resultant from the alliance, leaving his would-be apprentice in the cold. It would come as no shock to any outside observer when the scorned Godhand pilot seized upon the covert suggestions of seditious colonial governors, dissatisfied with the abrupt end of a war that had been going their way, to form the organization known as ARClight.

The growing terrorist band represented the ultimate thorn in Nureno’s side: his relation to Carnifex was an eternal sore spot for the Imperium, with the very basis of the war-ending peace treaty threatened by the defector’s continued operations. Nureno’s own power base at home was further hindered by ARClight lashing out at the CRF patrols sent to reign Carnifex in. With several unknown governors in passive revolt against Nureno, the post-war Constellation seemed to be hurtling towards a potential civil war.

These fears ultimately came to a head with the Sundering – the secession of the Atlean Republic at Lagrange Three – and the scattering of ARClight at the battle of the Chasm just three months after the emergence of the Horde. Nureno, powerbase assured, folded the surviving ARClight agents into his new in-house black ops cabal, known only by the name of MIDNIGHT.
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
Mobius 1
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 15: Setting Up the Board
Subject: The Chasm


The Cocytus’s briefing room was a vast, well-appointed affair, with each pilot’s seat generously spaced and accessorized. Having read the debriefing files of ImpSec agents following their rescue of a Godhand pilot in Operation: REFOLD, Karras was uncomfortable to see the extravagance of ARClight firsthand – with the civilians of the colony clusters most directly tied to ARClight support living in abject poverty, the flagship’s accoutrements were… ostentatious, to say the least. It looked like a bunch of kids playing at their idea of style.

But Karras had an image to live up to, and as he hooked up his datapad to the projector and waited for the presentation to load, we took a sliding step over to a minibar to pour himself a scotch. No sense in letting a perfectly good drink go to waste.

Swirling the liquid in the tumbler, Karras took position next to the theater’s massive screen and let the chatter die down before beginning. Carnifex’s personal guard squadron, by this point, numbered ten strong, not including Yagami. Spaced unevenly throughout the amphitheater, the pilots lounged easily in their seats, looking for all the world like members of a warlord’s raiding party – which, of course, they were. The Captain of ARClight himself stood as the very top of the small amphitheater, arms behind his back in an easy parade rest. Cast in shadow as he was, the only part of Carnifex’s silhouette Karras could make out were the mask’s bright red eyes, a tactic Karras was sure was deliberate.

Knowing better than to fight the pilots, Karras sipped at his glass until he had silence, finally pushing off from the wall and placing the scotch on podium some ensign had carted down for Karras’ use. “’To the future of our flesh, pure and born from the mother Earth,’” Karras began, speaking into the darkness. “That’s the motto of Marrow. We all have an idea of them – they’re fiercely opposed to the cybernetically modified trashumans to the point of extreme violence, denounced by their own government. Make no mistake, guys. These are assholes.”

Flipping through a series of slides Karras had compiled from interviews and the fast growing secret archives in Armstrong, Karras ran through a brief history of Marrow’s greatest hits reel. Kidnapping, drugging, and training kids from young ages to become loyal supersoldiers. Loosing the first Godhand-Titan – a completely new Tempest frame grown from scratch, hundreds of meters in height– on Boston, killing millions. Destroying the heart of Sagittarius Constellation, and then launching multiple nuclear assaults on the rest of the clusters. Then there was what had happened to the third Roux sister, which was more than enough to ever justify a preemptive assault if Karras had anything to say about it. If there was a raging id to the actions of the Imperium during the war, Marrow was it.

“At the head,” Karras wrapped up, “Diego Bardem. Enthusiastically smug, childish, misogynistic, arrogant, psychotic – everything. Cares about as much for his own minions as he does the enemy. Listen, if you thought your own challenges with the colonial citizenry could be charged, this is a guy who steps up into genocide and does so skipping with glee. And we, all thirteen of us, have the rare opportunity to put this little shit down before he can reignite the nuclear express.” By now, the pilots were grinning – even Yagami looked primed and ready to go – and Karras knew he had them.

Clicking to a cross-sectional schematic, Karras continued. “The Chasm. A manmade breach in the moon’s crust, intended as a geothermal power and mining station. It was abandoned with the advent of miniaturized Life Ore power or high-end battery packs, but in its time it was secretly constructed as a black ops military base for ImpSec.”

Tracing various vertical lines through the picture, Karras began labeling sections of the Chasm. “Head-on, from a ground assault, the Chasm is practically impossible to crack. Defenses are well-hidden from prying eyes, so the Apollo Kingdom’s largely unaware of the viper right under their nose. The Tempest frame contingent is impressive as well – largely customized versions of their MP frames called Black Andras Vested – BAV frames. While these largely won’t present much of a threat for you guys, there are a lot of them. And let’s not get started on the Valac frames, which, in the hands of a competent pilot, gave the any tier one frame trouble for quite some time. No, the real threat will be the drug-fueled centurion supersoldiers that Diego smuggled out of Paris before the Sundering – they have three demi-Godhands, ladies and genetlmen.”

Flipping through combat footage of the War in the Heavens, Karras grimaced. If anyone would give him or ARClight trouble, it would be this three. “The Ose – long range support. The Balam – heavy assault, practically indestructible. The Shax – a transformable frame that specializes in hit and run tactics. Think of their pilots as equivalent to a full cyborg, with all of the mental instabilities brought to the forefront. I don’t know if Diego is able to keep them running at full potential without his terrestrial support structure behind him, but expect the centurions to be, if nothing else, tenacious opponents. It’ll take extreme damage or a point-blank melee strike to the cockpit to take these guys out, which means that they can hold you outside the Chasm long enough for the BAVs to tear you to pieces.”

Karras offered a small smile to the pilots. “That’s where I come in. The Chasm is impenetrable, unless you happen to have access to hundred-year-old mining schematics showing the original veins in the crust that the builders of the Chasm encountered. Many of them were sealed up, but the architect at the time left a single one open as a backdoor to be sold to malcontents for a pretty penny if he found himself strapped for cash sometime in the future. The designer, being a notorious spendthrift, found himself exercising that option sooner than later, and the rebels we sold the plans to killed him shortly thereafter. The rebels were exterminated by the local Armstrong militia to the man, save for a single survivor that went on to hole up in the city for the rest of his miserable life. It took me a couple days, but I managed to track down the schematics for the backdoor in the bowels of Armstrong.”

Motioning to Teague, who was sitting front and center, Karras addressed the room at large. “One of your own will accompany me and an associate of mine into a vein just under the Marrow sensor net, where we can slip into the bowels of the Chasm base undetected. From there, we can proceed on foot to sabotage the point defenses on the fortress, disabling any of the environmental advantages Marrow will possess. From there, with the centurions lured away by your Captain,” Karras indicated Carnifex, “and Lieutenant Yagami, the Guard team can blitz into the base and seize it by force. We can crush any of the logistic base Marrow has, locking down their supply of nuclear warheads, and seize their credit reserves in one fell swoop.”

The rest of the briefing covered Marrow battle tactics and the specific capabilities of the centurion’s demi-Godhands. Having passed along most of the information he had accumulated about Marrow, Karras yielded the floor to Yagami, who reviewed the insertion strike tactics for the Guard team while brainstorming specific strategies to employ against the BAVs and the demi-Godhands. Retreating to the rear of the auditorium, Karras took up a position beside and slightly behind Carnifex. “Are you satisfied with Teague accompanying me?”

The captain’s voice was frank. “I know neither of us can truly or completely trust each other, but given enough precautions we may be able to assure each other that this mission may go off in… good faith.”

“And what guarantee to I have I’ll receive my take once the Chasm has fallen?” Karras asked, letting a hint of bluntness creep into his voice.

“I’m sure you’ll figure something out,” Carnifex said offhandedly, a smile touching the corners of his synthetic lips. “You seem to be a resourceful man.”

Struggling not to shiver, Karras didn’t answer. He lingered in the briefing for another quarter hour before retreating out through the back of the room, leaving three or four hidden recording bugs in the room to keep tabs on things in his absence. Finding Zoe in her customary position just outside the double doors, sitting and swinging her legs while reviewing Karras’ ledgers, the broker clapped a hand on her shoulder. She looked up and offered him a quick grin. “You guys finish up?”

Karras shrugged. “There’s only so much tactical theorycrafting I can sit in on before I fall asleep, grasshopper.” Adjusting his demeanor, he turned and around in his march towards the Cocytus’s hangar and caught Zoe’s eyes. “Are you okay? I mean, seriously here.”

Standing up and stretching, Zoe pushed off the wall and floated past Karras, datapad in hand. “I can’t say I won’t be satisfied they’re dead. But it won’t bring my family – or anyone else from Sagitarrius-Alpha back to life.” They floated along in silence for several seconds before she spoke again. “How old was she, when…?”

Setting his jaw, Karras turned his back on Zoe and didn’t speak for the rest of the trip back to the Old Familiar.


***

“So, we’re totally betraying them first, right?”

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Karras looked away from his newly restored Wasp to see Alix floating down from above, already dressed in her brown spacesuit. “We’ll get nothing done with that attitude.”

She regarded him coolly.

“Alright,” Karras said after a beat. “Fine. I’m not initiating, but I’m prepared.”

Her cool mask breaking, she snorted and shook her head. “I get that you’re not going to tell me. Are you always this cagey?”

“It’s like a drug,” Karras proclaimed. “These ARClight mechanics are pretty skilled hands with hot iron.”

Sizing up the PALE HORSE custom, Alix nodded slowly in agreement. The severed leg and arm had been tracked down and reattached, with the gaps reinforced with titanium-k alloy. Not content for Karras to head into battle as his wingman with just an imploder lance, Teague had tracked down an adjustable focus particle pistol for Karras to use.

The bulky handgun could be flipped between serving as a makeshift sniping platform to a shotgun pistol in seconds, but the positively ancient revolving chamber consumed miniaturized charge batteries in with every shot, making reloading in the heat of battle a risky prospect. It was certainly Teague’s style. Just powerful enough and suited to Karras’ style to be useful, but impractical enough to limit its applications in open combat.

“That they are,” Alix agreed. “The amount of variants their mechanics concocted of their framescompared to ImpMil during the war was and is still simply staggering, to be honest.” She motioned towards her newly customized Andras, as if to prove her point. The ancient machine had been fitted with an ancillary reactor, as well as having the propellant tank legs replaced with the bottom half of a broken Siegebreaker Hornet ARClight had lying around. A powerful jamming unit had been fitted over the new mono-eyed head, intended to aid Teague and Karras in their infiltration of the Chasm. The frame wouldn’t be winning any races, but it looked like it could hold its own against several BAVs if things got hairy.

Karras’ watch began to beep and he glanced at it, feeling a wave of dread in the pit of his stomach. Zero hour. “Look, Alix,” he said, retrieving his helmet and fastening it over his head, “if I don’t make it…”

“Yeah, Atmos?” she said, already walking towards her custom SB-Andras.

“Shoot Teague for me.” And with that he pushed off towards his Wasp’s cockpit. Settling in and running the customary pre-flight check, Karras scanned the instruments one by one before settling on the photo of a beautiful woman with dark hair and a six year old fresh off for her first day of school. Flicking the photo slightly to make sure it was still there, Karras sealed the cockpit and pushed the Wasp out of the Old Familiar’s hangar.

“Atmos Karras, PALE HORSE Custom, heaven or hell – let’s rock!
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
Mobius 1
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 16: Equalization
Subject: Diego Bardem


Neither Teague nor Karras expected the graveyard on the outskirts of the Chasm’s perimeter. Dozens of civilian starships, shredded from without and within, beached upon the grey lunar surface.

“What could have done this?” Karras asked frowning.

“These impacts aren’t consistent with Marrow weaponry,” Teague noted, bulky Aeon Drifter Kai dropping down to inspect the vessels, careful to avoid stepping on a near-carpet of corpses spilling out of the bellies of the ships.

“We can cover it after the battle,” Alix said, floating above, keeping watch. “But trust me here, guys, it makes the fate of these nukes all the more important.”

It took about three hours of low-speed drifting to reach the cavern Karras had discovered and perhaps another hour of careful navigation through tight fits in the veins surrounding the Chasm to reach the long-hidden gateway under the belly of the Marrow base. Despite Teague’s offer to do so, they couldn’t simply blast their way through the jutting remnants of underground magma rivers – Karras was fairly sure the Marrow base had seismic sensors in case of an underground attack through newly created tunnels. By sidestepping this defense through a technicality, Karras was sure he’d catch the terrorists off guard.

By the time they reached the massive archway built into the central column of the Chasm base, Teague was eager to actually begin the mission, and even Karras had to admit that he himself was getting jittery. The whole point of a backdoor was that it was secret – a lack of opposition was a good thing. That didn’t stop the flutters, and he was sure happy to see his plan working out for a change.

Docking his black Wasp alongside Alix’s blue SB-Andras and Teague’s red and white Aeon Drifter, Karras popped his cockpit and stuck his helmet out into vacuum, surveying the hatchway that the original designer had installed in the Chasm’s spine. It would most likely allow a Tempest frame to pass with some contortions, but given that Karras wasn’t just ready to fly a frame straight up the gullet of the Marrow base, on foot was the only option from here on forward.

Touching against the ancient steel of the Spine, Karras felt minor shudder run through the metal. Looking behind him, he saw that large pieces of the cavern had detached themselves from the walls and were currently floating free through the empty void. Odd – gravity well projectors had been abandoned decades ago due to a few too many horrible accidents, but apparently Bardem had set up a well to project up through the Spine.

“They haven’t started the assault,” Teague radioed on an ultra tightbeam comm channel into the ensuing silence. At least Karras hoped it was true. He had actually been about to activate the remote beacon for the Cocytus to begin its assault, having finally reached the Chasm and needing the chaos of mobilization to cover their entrance. But with the signal still inert on his robotic gauntlet, Karras was sure Carnifex hadn’t jumped the gun.

“Remember, this place started as a geothermic power and mining station,” Karras whispered. “I wouldn’t doubt there’d be instabilities this far down. If anything, if it’s regular enough we should be thankful for the cover.”

“Just as long as that’s the extent of it,” Alix put in, eyeing the debris orbiting her SB-Andras. “The last thing we need is to be hit by a magma plume or so-”

Powered by some perverse need to be wonderfully timed, fate stepped in at that point. The Spine began to tremble with a greater intensity, and Karras knew this was no simple natural phenomenon.

The BAV came up from the core, dragging an imploder lance along the length of the Spine’s inner walls, throwing up sparks and comparatively giant waves of molten metal in the tip’s wake.

Several things happened at once.

Karras’ uplink to CC intercepted the comm channels used by the Andras’ battlenet and, using codes he had obtained back in Armstrong, decoded the transmissions to let Karras know that the pilot was indeed sortieing in response to the detection of a massive blue battleship just beyond combat range.

His eyes widening, Karras reacted instinctively, pushing Alix back into the cavern and using the wonderful third law of physics to propel him into the massive empty space of the Spine.

The BAV’s pilot, who by dint of most likely being a barely functioning trained psychotic, had been dragging his sabre through sheer force of malicious boredom after being recalled from a guard CAP, realized that a previously-unseen loading hatch had been opened in the wall of the Spine. Most likely getting sensor feedback of three idling frame-sizedenergy signatures just enough the hatch, the pilot poured power into his flight pack, boosting towards the hatch and plunging his lance into the wall. Karras, who would’ve been disintegrated by the blade had he not acted, missed being struck by the decelerating Andras’ head antenna by mere meters, drew a grappling hook from his belt and fitted it to his arm, firing it at the side vents of the frame’s head.

The magnetic head at the tip of the hook’s monowire snapped onto the corner of the BAV’s facemask just as the frame ground to a halt. The Marrow pilot peered out into the space beyond at the three docked frames and realized just what was happening.

Knowing from blueprints of the original Andras line that the main communications antenna was wired through the crest that covered the front of the frame's head fin, Karras engaged the retraction mechanism on his wire, yanking himself up towards the Dagger’s head. Alighting with his feet just upon the frame's left camera – one of its ‘eyes,’ Karras reached into his belt and withdrew a trademark of his time back in ISB a decade ago – a sticky bomb. Throwing the explosive down at his feet before leaping to the side as the BAV’s pilot realized what was happening, Karras narrowing avoided the swipe of the frame’s massive fist.

And, more importantly, the resulting explosion of the penetrative EMP grenade he had affixed to the face of the BAV. The resulting blue-tinged shockwave strategically shorted the frame’s communications and threw half of the frame’s viewscreens into static. The BAV’s pilot, panicking over the tiny gnat that had just momentarily crippled his Tempest frame, let his training take over – his goal was to neutralize the more important threat of the three frames within arm’s reach. Retrieving a grenade the size of a large car from its belt, the Andras flung the device into the open gap of the backdoor.

Realizing what was about to happen the second the geological shivers began wracking the Spine, Karras rappelled down towards the chest of the BAV and braced himself in the protective cover just outside of the frame’s cockpit as the grenade went off in a tremendous burst of unforeseen consequences.

The already unstable connection between the cavern and the hatch in the Spine shifted under the sudden structural shock – one second Karras was looking at a fireball, the next solid rock had replaced the view of the cavern beyond.

And with that, Karras realized he had just been separated from his only allies, stuck in the heart of the base of a crew of psychotic space racist terrorists, and was currently clinging to the hatch of a frame that would soon quash him like a bug.

Knowing he’d never been able to blast his way through the Dagger’s laminated titanium-k armor, Karras knew he had one option. Remembering he’d still have a remote connection with CC, he clung tight to the handrails encircling the BAV’s cockpit hatch and pulled a wire from his wrist-mounted computer to interface with the Andras’ diagnostic window. If it worked once… Well, it wasn’t like Tempest frame designers expected to be engaged by a human-sized opponent in open combat, did they?

Granted, this time CC didn’t have to overcome an unknown computer architecture with the frame itself currently trying to murder Karras, but – there.

The hatch slid open to reveal a surprised looking soldier, who went for his gun with speed Karras had never seen another human duplicate. Dodging out of the way as the first bullets buzzed silently out of the cockpit, Karras did the only thing he could – drawing another stick bomb from his belt, he quietly primed the timer and chucked the explosive into the cockpit.

Perhaps the pilot attempted to swat the grenade back out of range, but given the putty that had gone active the second the bomb had left Karras’ hands, Karras could only imagine the pilot’s panic the grenade adhered to his glov—

-There was a soft whoomph of light, and Karras peered past the open hatch of the cockpit to see a mangled corpse and an equally trashed pilot’s console. While he doubted he would have even been capable of piloting the Black Andras, it was regrettable that he had to completely disable the controls in addition to the pilot.

Grimacing, Karras looked away from the macabre sight and triggered his comm. “You guys okay?”

“You alive, bub?” came Teague’s gruff, disappointed response, as though he expected nothing less of his begrudging ally.

“Barely,” Karras said, looking up at the titanic metal fist that was poised meters above his head, frozen a split second before it could brush Karras off like a troublesome cobweb.

“Listen, Atmos, don’t worry about us,” Alix put in. “We’ll try to find a way around. Or, failing that,” and Karras could practically imagine her throwing a sidelong glance at Teague, “blast our ways through.”

“Happy hunting,” Teague intoned, before closing the channel for good.

Taking one last look at how close he had come to a grisly end, Karras pushed off of the disabled BAV and, reloading his grappling line, began to slowly work his way up the length of the gargantuan Spine of the Chasm. It was barely any faster than their progress earlier to the backdoor, but here Karras was free to move at speed, not detecting any potential checkpoints or security measures that we could trip this far down in the bottom of the Spine. Still, it was a race against time to find a way inside the base before, in the chaos of the ARClight invasion, someone noticed that the nethers guard hadn’t returned from rounds.

He ultimately shaved it close. Reaching a service hatch, Karras had just disappeared inside a tight maintenance tube when a pair of BAVs flashed by, evidently dispatched to retrieve the truant guard. While Karras was particularly proficient at infiltration and stealth on foot, he wasn’t relishing the increased security that would ensue when Bardem realized he had an intruder.

Maneuvering the fastest he could through the bowels of Chasm base, following the stolen schematics, Karras finally arrived in a smaller auxiliary bay, one that was only wide enough to house a pair of Valac frames and several starfighters that were currently undergoing repairs. Pulling himself up out of the tube and into the hangar, Karras ducked behind the leg of one of the Valacs, adjusting his backpack of supplies and glancing around. The hangar, thankfully, appeared to be deserte-

“I was wondering when you’d make it up here,” a voice called out over a loud speaker, as if on cue.

Karras froze.

“There’s no point in hiding,” the speaker continued, the smug air in his voice unmistakable.

Bardem.

Karras glanced out through the rather solid pair of blast doors sealing the hangar and sighed. And he had come so far, too.

Shrugging out of his backpack and kicking the sack into a corner, Karras stood and stepped out from behind the Valac’s leg, arms raised.

No fewer than twenty black-armored soldiers stood in a wide arc at the rear of the hangar, intimidating rifles all aimed at Karras’ center of mass. Behind the soldiers stood a pair of a walking tanks, the size of the autonomous spider hunter-killers ImpSec employed as pirate-hunters. Armed with wicked-looking grenade launchers, the armors were perhaps overkill, but were entirely within Bardem’s style.

Glancing up at the glass-encaged operations room surveying the entire hangar, Karras saw the leader of Marrow standing confidently behind the undoubtedly bulletproof glass, his white suit pristine. Bardem had one had casually in his pocket, the other idly adjusting his tie as though he honestly had more pressing matter to attend.

“I, for one,” Bardem announced over the hangar’s loudspeakers, “am shocked that you thought this would work. Which part were you counting on? That I’d be too busy focusing on the pesky distractions you have my Centurions dealing with outside, or that I’d never notice that ancient backdoor to my base and be completely unprepared for the rather predictable attempt at a Trojan horse. I’m insulted.”

“You should be,” Karras said quietly.

“What was that?” Bardem's lips curled smugly.

“I said, you should be. I was hoping I could arrange this meeting, Diego.”

Bardem eyes narrowed dangerously, and his grin vanished instantly. “You have seconds before I have my men gun you down.”

Karras laughed up at the bastard. “You’re thinking you know me. That I’m a broker, and I might offer to sell out of ARClight right here and now.”

“It would, after all, give you a good chance of surviving the next hour,” Bardem allowed.

Knowing that Bardem, with his hair-trigger temper and poor sense of honor, wouldn’t hesitate to murder him anyway, Karras smiled and interlaced his fingers above his head, stretching and cracking his knuckles. “It’s not really that, man. I just wanted to look you in the eye where neither of us can harm the other to give you a heads up.”

Looking Diego directly in the eye, he added, “A heads up that I’ll be coming for you personally.”

Bardem’s eyes widened. He was smart enough to know that Karras wouldn’t be acting this flippant if he didn’t already have an exit plan in place. And he had just placed his prime guard – soldiers, who, being recently shuttled up from earth, didn’t usually wear spacesuits in combat situations, in a hangar where the only thing keeping the air in were two thin blast doors.

Following the chains of logic to their conclusion, Bardem widened his eyes. “Oh.”

“I learned this one from my teacher, Diego!” Karras shouted.

And before Bardem could shout to his men, Karras moved one hand down to the wrist computer. Flipping off the leader of Marrow with one shining robotic finger, Karras used his other hand to depress a single button on the cybernetic gauntlet.

A fireball ballooned into existence over the blastdoor before the flames were swiftly sucked out into hard vacuum. Unable to support the stress caused by the hidden explosives, the doors blew completely outward. Karras allowed the sudden suction to bring him to his knees, his magnetic boots holding him in place. One of the armors went wild with its grenade launcher, but the 40mm bolt sailed wide as the flash-evac of air sent the armor flying. Karras rolled to one side as the miniature frame slammed a crater in the metal deck as it passed – before being crushed underneath one of the falling Valacs.

Men flew past Karras, unhelmeted and doomed to the vacuum outside, screaming and scrabbling at the deck. Marrow hasn’t occupied the base in full for long, and proper safety procedures had yet to be established.

The second armor was quickly on the uptake, sliding halfway across the hangar before seizing ahold of an overhead launch catapult and arresting his momentum, riding out the pressure differential. Even as the hangar emptied, the armor trained its grenade launcher upon Karras, who seemed completely defenseless in the middle of the hangar.

He wasn’t. Raising his mechanical arm, Karras loosed his magnum launcher at the control panel of the catapult at the far end of the room. The bullets sparked against the launch level, and before the mini-armor could obliterate Karras, it was flung out into the open air of the spine to fall to its death.

Karras lay there for a moment, breathing heavily. He had heard stories from that damned immortal cyborg for two decades, and he knew the ins and outs of each war story by heart at this point. The opportunity had been too good to pass up. Rolling to his feet, he looked up at Bardem in his surveillance room. The man stood there, rooted to the spot, momentarily slack-jawed at what had just happened in the hangar below.

“Like I said,” Karras yelled up at him. “If you think you know me, that I’m some sort of two-bit criminal,” he took a step forward and drew a pistol from a hip holster, silently working the slide, “think again.”

With that, Bardem spun on his heel and marched out of the room without so much as a parting word.

“No you don’t, you little bastard,” Karras growled, firing the grappling line up at the windows while simultaneously straightarming his last sticky bomb at the bulletproof glass. The charge, shaped to explode outward, went off on impact, sending a vicious web of cracks through the pane, and when Karras hit it at speed, the glass shattered.

Alighting inside the luxuriously decorated control room, Karras plunged into the heart of the Chasm, intent upon putting an end to Marrow personally.

Seeing the tails of a white suit whip around a corner at the end of a corridor, Karras started after Bardem, only for a pair of black-armored guards to open fire on him, forcing him to duck into a nearby briefing room to take cover.

Taking advantage of the moon’s lowered gravity to flip a large metal desk into his hands, Karras maneuvered what would normally take two men to carry into the corridor. The makeshift shield held under the increased gunfire, dimples forming everywhere a bullet struck, but Karras was a man possessed, bumrushing the rearguard with two-meter desk raised.

As his cover passed the doorway one guard was firing out from, Karras set the desk in place, launching himself at the praetorian, driving his fist at the man’s stomach in a truncated uppercut. With skills expected of the ImpMil’s elite, the man easily caught Karras’ robotic arm in one massive fist, trying to twist Karras’s elbow into a position that would rob the broker of the weight of the blow.

It was a futile gesture, and the guard glanced up to see Karras grinning at him.

The twin blades running the length of the cybernetic forearm shot out, impaling the guard in his gut. Eyes immediately watered and a glob of blood exploded from the man’s mouth, but by then his compatriot had shoved Karras’ desk to the horizontal and was drawing a bead on the man who had just murdered his comrade.

Spinning the soon-to-be-corpse around on the blade, Karras got the body between him and the burst of fire. Rifles on space bases had never been loaded with AP ammo, and the guard jerked under the barrage. Karras lashed out with one boot, kicking the desk across the space in between him and the final guard. The edge of the desk caught the man in the gut, stunning him, and Karras shook the corpse off of his arm blades, calmly and deliberately drew his pistol, and shot the final praetorian between the eyes.

Vaulting the desk, Karras began sprint-jumping down the halls, intent on reacquiring Bardem’s trail. A bullet, sparking off a bulkhead just inches from his left ear, gave him all the answer he needed, and Karras didn’t even flinch as he saw the terrorist leader ducking out of sight, hold-out pistol in hand. Had Bardem just faded into the base, he probably could have gotten away, but always one to have the last word; he had just allowed Karras to easily regain the trail.

Slowing his pace, Karras began to stroll through the corridors, checking every corner and doorway with his pistol. “I gotta say though, you may not have the highest kill count, but man, when it comes to spreading misery, you’ve got pretty much everyone outmatched. You’re Tedja with power and purpose. And just like him, you use kids. Kids! Pretty much one thing gets me off my ass, and you just managed to find it!”

“Shut! Up!” Bardem yelled, appearing and firing another bullet at Karras. Ducking easily down a perpendicular service corridor, Karras heard Bardem. “You made money off of misery, so don’t even think you can lecture me on what I’ve done to secure peace for Earth!”

Snarling, Karras threw himself out of cover, firing at Bardem and forcing the man back down a flight of stairs. Taking a half-second to aim, Karras’ next bullet hit Bardem’s gun hand, sending the derringer flying in an arc of blood. Hissing in pure fury, Bardem sprinted to the very end of whatever the stair flights were converging upon. Intent on finally finishing the confrontation, Karras pushed after him.

He emerged into the largest non-Tempest-frame-oriented area in the Chasm – the arms locker. And here Karras realized, if anything, Carnifex had underestimated just how many nukes Marrow had. There weren’t five. There were five hundred.

The catwalk stretched over the center of the circular room, overlooking rows upon rows of triangular devices, a good half of which were mounted upon interstellar cruise missiles. It was an awe-inspiring sight, and it cost Karras the momentum of the fight, just as a white grenade bounced across the catwalk to land at his feet.

Karras didn’t even have time for his instincts to take over – the grenade exploded with a flash of light and a tremendous racket, and suddenly Karras was blind in one eye, his opposite arm hanging limply, useless.

Dimly, he looked up to see Bardem approaching, holding a length of steel pipe in his hands. “Like it, Karras? Stole the idea from you and your ARClight pals. Thought it’d even out the playing field a bit. Make everyone-“ he raised the pipe – “…equal.”

The first blow sent Karras crashing to the deck, and it was all he could to do keep Bardem from breaking bones as the leader of Marrow went to town on him with the pipe.

“You – thought,” Bardem screamed between swings, his hair wild and eyes wide, “that you could – just – come in here – and bring me down?! I’ve been ruling the planet, Karras! The - earth! – and I will not – be silenced – by some upstart shit!”

Covering his head and neck with awkwardly with one arm and the weight of his lifeless robotic limb, Karras rolled onto his back, glaring up at Bardem, who had raised his pipe high for the final blow.

What, Karras?! Some final, pithy comment? Some words you think will chill me, make me give up this life?” Spittle was flying from Bardem’s mouth.

Karras shrugged. “No jokes.”

And with that, he drove his boot into the front of Bardem’s knee. Legs weren’t built to bend in that direction, and Bardem went down with a high-pitched scream, left leg bent inward. Sagging against the walkway, he struggled to retrieve his dropped pipe, but Karras kicked it into the pit below as he regained his feet.

“Not now that you mention it,” Karras said, shaking out his arm and his legs as his cybernetic eye began to reboot, “I should let you know that the Roux twins sends their regards.” And with that he spun a roundhouse kick into the side of Diego Bardem’s face, sending him toppling over the railing and into the pit of nukes far, far below.

With Luna’s gravity one sixth that of Earth’s, it took a lot longer to reach terminal velocity, but Bardem didn’t need to hit that point.

The sharpened tip of the nuclear missile he had been preparing to use on Armstrong intercepted him before the ground did, and Bardem screamed when the tip burst from gut.

Reaching down to retrieve his pistol, Karras glanced it, considering putting Bardem out of his misery, but instead holstered the sidearm, staring down at the dying man impassively.

Bardem lay there, writhing on the nuclear missile, before his eyes finally glazed over and he went still, the angel of death coming to collect him.

Slumping against the railing himself, Karras finally took a moment to catch his breath. Tapping his comm, he let out a code burst. “Alix, you hear me?”

“Karras! Thank god, we thought we lost you!”

“No such luck,” Karras wheezed.

“You okay?” Alix asked. “What happened to Bardem?”

Straightening up, Karras threw one last look down at the corpse below. “It turned out his soul was still weighed down by gravity.”
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
Mobius 1
Global Mod
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 17: Caffiene
Subject: Kent Ethier


“I know it’s been a tough month for you, team.”

There were hearty grumbles from the grouped pilots. A crumbled sheet of paper flew by Stanchion’s head, rebounding off of the projector canvas to float aimlessly in the zero gee. Blinking mildly, the twenty-year old Godhand pilot could only smile thinly at his team’s frustrations. The endless evacuations, holding actions – seeing city after city and colony after colony fall to the mechanical tide.

Short and thin, Yvgenny Stanchion was all too uninspiring to be believed as the most dangerous pilot alive in the entire earthsphere. The most senior of the surviving Godhand corps, Stanchion had inherited tactical command of the Chandelier remnant in orbit, driving the gathered pilots from one wildfire to the next, fighting on the forefront for the very survival of the human race.

The Chandelier had once been the greatest single military force in the Imperium, the condensed expression of the Emperor’s will. Horrendous losses had somewhat… diluted that pool, but by this point any pilot still in the briefing room had proven their mettle by merely being still alive at this point.

Pushing his glasses – entirely an affectation for style – up his nose, Stanchion turned to the map of the Earthsphere, highlighting the moon with a laser point.. “For those of you still new to this entire situation, here is a general breakdown.” Stanchion announced, voice droll.. “The Apollo Kingdom has been set up by the eldest surviving inheritors to the royal line – you all remember Aurore and Noemi? Charming girls. They’ve claimed the Kingdom as a pacifistic state, and have requested our assistance. As one of the few nations not named the Constellation still taking in refuges, I – and Rear Admiral Winchester – feel it is in our best interests to ensure the refugees’ safe transit and establish strong diplomatic relations.”

In the back of the room, one of the younger pilots leaned over to the other and whispered, “Christ, Yev could put a raging rhino to sleep.”

Ethier – Kent Ethier, age nineteen, didn’t respond. Weisz couldn’t pay attention if his life counted on it, but he’d been like that for the month Ethier had known him. Ethier, an ensign just like his squadronmate, had barely received his Chandelier commission by the time of the Sunder. The next several weeks had been a whirling smear of carnage and sacrifice. His precious Valac-Command frame had just gone through an all-night session, Ethier tinkering with the mech beyond the point of casual interest for the mechanics of To All Things.

The dark-haired young man did his best to look forward and focus towards the pertinent information on the screen, but his mind get sliding towards a few more modications he wanted to make. Some improvements to the thrusters, and he could catch up with a speeding Wasp. He’d be able to stymie longer-range frames while directly countering melee frames at their own game given his chosen armament.

His pencil scratched across a spare sheet of paper at a furious rate, far surpassing the rate of any other pilot merely taking notes for the briefing. His equations might just be able to completely redefine the way the custom Chandelier frames used Life Ore altogether. He held the paper up to his eyes, following the math. If he were to modify-

“Ensign.”

He could increase the rate of thrust while improving his targeting...

“Ensign.”

He could increase performance by-

“Caffiene, eyes up here now” Stanchion stated with cold authority.

Ethier looked up. He rose and knocked his designs off the table. “Sir!”

“I suppose you know what the briefing entails, since you are so absorbed in your 'work?'” Stanchion asked.

“No, sir.” Ethier said. He maintained a firm attentive stance.

“Hmm, I think you do, Ensign. In fact, I think you know it so well, that you could even help others who do not have your level of understanding.” Stanchion said. “Weisz, stand. Now.” Weisz lifted his head with an unfocused gaze and stood with in a casual manner.

“Yeah.” Weisz said with his arms crossed.

Stanchion adopted an authoritative expression. “Ensign Weisz, are you sober?”

Weisz feigned shock. “Yes sir, as space is black and the sky...” Weisz paused for a moment. “Blue. The sky is blue.”

Stanchion moved his attentive gaze to pilot behind Weisz's seat. “Ensign Lee, does Ensign Weisz smell like scotch?”

“He smells like scotch, sir.” Lee answered in a hushed voice, drawing each word out The time from the beginning of his sentence to its conclusion felt like centuries to the pilots. If Weisz's stare could shoot daggers, Lee would have been torn to shreds in that moment.

“Honest answer, Lee, I appreciate that, and for your reward, you're assigned to Ethier's team. You will be subordinate to Weisz as well.” Stanchion stated. Though Ethier swore he heard a tinge of glee come from Stanchion’s voice.

Lee stumbled his words “Reward, sir?”

“Yes, ensign Lee, a reward.” Stanchion cleared his throat. “Because I could just assign a certain Ensign who-”

“Understood, sir.” Lee stated before Stanchion could finish his insinuation.

“Consider your group Recon Team Alpha,” Stanchion nodded, before turning back to the group at large. “These teams will primarily be reconnaissance teams, though you are authorized to engage if you feel action is absolutely necessary. Your recon teams are to report back within the allotted mission time and report your findings back to the To All Things before awaiting further orders. I will stay with the flagshipas it approaches the Apollo Kingdom.” Stanchion settled his hands on the podium. “Is that understood?”

A hand shot up “Sir, will the other Godhands be accompanying us?” Kusanagi asked.

“No, Ensign, they will be assigned to a separate, but equally important mission pertaining to Apollo kingdom.” Stanchion stated. No more questions were asked and the cybernetic legend dismissed the group. Gathering up his floating notes, Ethier hurried out of the briefing chamber to the break room.

Huddled in a far corner of the storied rec room, Weisz and Lee conferred with one another. Ethier could see Weisz bent over a sealed up, intent upon creating the right mixture of scotch and coffee, while Lee had already finished off an entire juice box with deceptive speed.

“Yeah, sir?” Weisz asked, voice dripping with sarcasm as he saw Ethier approaching.

Ethier’s brow furrowed. “I want us to be on the same page here, Dante. Are we going to have any problems?”

“How old are you?” Weisz asked.

“I don't see what that has to do with anything.” Ethier said as he looked straight at Weisz.

“You're a good pilot, I admit that. You can do that. But what do you know about leading people? I bet the only time you 'led' was when you led your parents to the toyshop.” Weisz said.

Ethier felt his anger rise, but calmed himself. He knew he wouldn’t win any friends by taking such obvious bait. “Take it up with Commander Stanchion if you want a change. Until then, I'm going to state some points for you both. One: I am responsible for leading this team. I’m not going to order either you to do something I wouldn't do. Two: I have your back as I'm sure you'll have mine.”

He paused. “Oh, and one last thing, if either of you mention my parents in a disparaging way again, we throw down.” Ethier looked straight into Weisz's eyes and rapped with knuckles on the table.

There was a beat, and a large grin cracked Weisz's face.

“I knew it. This kid has got the guts to lead.” Weisz said to Lee.

“Fine. You got me.” Lee said with a sigh.

“I think you're forgetting something.” Weisz made a gimme-gesture with his hand.

“Here.” Lee said, sliding a five-credit chit across the table towards his wingmate.

“You set me up?” Ethier asked, the tension flooding out of him.

“As I said before, I knew you were a skilled pilot, but I wanted to know how you would handle a confrontation in your own team.” Weisz said with the most serious expression Ethier had ever seen a man adopt in his entire life. “Plus, you earned me a nice little performance bonus.” Weisz waved his winnings in front of Lee.

“So are we good?” Ethier asked, still feeling off-balance. Weisz gave a thumbs up and Lee gave a muttered an affirmative.

“So how about a celebratory pre-mission drink, glorious leader?.” Weisz suggested, raising his glass.

“You know the mission is tomorrow, right?” Ethier asked, incredulous.

“I guess you're right.” Weisz said with disappointment. “How about this: I drink enough to toast all three of us.”

Ethier met this suggestion with a stern stare. “I'll see you tomorrow morning. Sober.” Shaking Lee’s hand, he left for his quarters.

--------

Four skiffs departed from the sprawling Chandelier flagship the next morning, loading a long burn towards Luna. Each had a specific region to cover, with Team Alpha taking the vast area around the massive dome city of Armstrong.

Watching the glow of the other skiffs retreat into the distance, Ethier took a sip from his steaming thermos of single-origin coffee, assured that he had managed to make the necessary alterations to his frame in time.

Several hours later, a buzzing voice woke him from the light nap he had been enjoying. The dummy-construct piloting the skiff didn’t even have a voice tone package installed, giving its voice an obvious, halting mechanic quality. “Approaching the mission objective, be ready to detach.”

Sitting up in his gee couch, Ethier lowered his helmet’s visor and glanced over his controls. “Be ready to detach, Lee. Weisz, I want you to stay with the transport and provide long range fire support if needed. Lee and I will scout the surrounding area.” Ethier stated, mustering all the calm authority he could. “When I say stay with the ship, Weisz, I actually mean stay with the ship.” he added.

“Gotcha, Caffeine.” Weisz responded.

“Ready, sir.” Lee responded.

Each Tempest frame detached simultaneously, power cables retracting back into the skiff.

“Is that glow over the horizon what I think it is?” Lee asked, unsure of himself as a flickering light began to seep in to the north.

“We haven’t even taken two steps from the skiff and we’ve already got trouble,” Ethier stated. “Move in.”
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
Mobius 1
Global Mod
Posts: 1099
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 11:40 pm
Location: Orlando, FL

Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 18: The Ark
Subject: The Sydney Airlift


With millions of refugees pouring towards the Australian Mass Drive, one of the most famed holding actions in the weeks following the emergence of the Horde was fought north of the city of Sydney. Noted Imperial Knight Solomon Vo, given the base commander posting as a matter of court exile, found himself defending more of Oceania’s surviving population, with the mass driver under near constant operation for the solid two months Vo held the line.

In his late forties, Vo had made a name for himself during the War in the Heavens as a dashing figure assigned to protect the Crown Princess – and protect her, he did, through no less than fifteen assassination attempts, earning no shortage of accolades. Seen widely by his lady’s side as she campaigned for humanitarian causes, his fame rebounded upon him when he failed to stop the sixteenth attempt, one that took the life of the successor to the throne and her chosen consort.

Reassigned to as close to Antarctica as the Court could muster, Vo quietly reshaped the lax regulations and barely trained militia into a hardened and incredibly well-trained crack military force while sitting out the rest of the war. Doing so a shoestring budget and in the face of eternal ridicule, Vo nevertheless persevered for the day he would be able to redeem himself.

The day came with the Sundering. The Imperial capital gone. Millions upon millions dead. Endless unmanned Tempest frames rampaging across the planet, slaughtering all those in their path. And Vo, guarding the only exit offplanet for an entire region.

That Vo lasted as long as he did is a minor miracle in its own right, but one in service to the purchase of enough time to build an engineering marvel – the titanic, unwieldy, certainly jury-rigged Ark. Holding civilains stacked like sardines in cryogenic suspension, this vessel held all of Vo’s hopes, weighed against his soon to collapse defensive line.

The ordered retreat to the mass driver would be one studied in history books if humanity was to survive this brush in extinction. Vo micromanaged for days, never sleeping, fliting from one brush fire to the next as he contracted his lines to the Ark, holding off endless waves of increasingly brutal Horde assaults.

Demolishing the mass driver in the wake of it taking to the sky, Vo – a set of boosters attached to his own frame – personally guarded the Ark on its trip into orbit and beyond. It was through this example cemented not only the already formidable loyalty of his men, but the belief of all the civilians waking up in the escape pod writ large following the launch.

Vo could have made a play for serious power in the moments following the flight to orbit, with the Imperial Court in shambles that belief of the millions of people in his refugee fleet. Instead, he set forth to come to the side of his deceased Lady’s sisters, his duty to the bloodline still unfulfilled.

It was this route that would take the Ark’s advance guards near the Chasm on the day of the ARClight raid.
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
Mobius 1
Global Mod
Posts: 1099
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 11:40 pm
Location: Orlando, FL

Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 19: The Sky is Falling
Subject: The Washington Colony Drop


The Gungnir network, constructed to curtail terrestrial impacts caused by the decaying orbits of Fracture belt asteroids, was one of mankind’s greatest constructions. Blanketing the entire planet with a multitude of circular railgun arrays, the Imperium secured public goodwill by deliberately and openly programming the network to be able to target asteroids, and only asteroids.

To say the early administration of the Constellation seized upon this loophole in the opening hours of the War in the Heavens is something of an understatement. Tethering forth several colonies under construction at L1, less scrupulous CRF fleets set the asteroids – some actually partially inhabited – on a direct trajectory for Imperial centers of power on Earth, aiming for a swift victory over the more numerous ImpMil forces.

The programming of the Gungnir network – egged along by several long-placed saboteurs, crashed into a logic loop as the inhabited colonies fell towards the planet. Of the four colonies that entered the atmosphere, one broke up in orbit, while two more were shot down by the reestablished Gungnir network at the last minute by Imperial override.

One colony made it through.

The Imperial Governor of North America had been a staunch opponent to anti-colonial sentiment in the lead-up to the war, holding off what would coalesce in Marrow after his death. He, along with seven million people, died when the colony broke up over Washington and Baltimore. The region, reeling from the catastrophe, is still suffering a localized nuclear winter to this day.

While the destruction of Sagittarius-Alpha had been a mystery, with the Imperium not directly implicated, the DC colony drop was carried out in full cognizance by elements of CRF. If the opening shots of the war fallen to the wayside with cooler heads prevailing, the flash-apocalypse unleashed upon the eastern seaboard of what had once been American ended that possibility. ImpMil registration skyrockets, and what could have been avoided would drag on for ten more bloody years.
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
Mobius 1
Global Mod
Posts: 1099
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 11:40 pm
Location: Orlando, FL

Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 »

File 20: Ghost in the Machine
Subject: Cybernetics


The rigors of life in space wore immensely on the human body, with bone degradation unavoidable and bulky exoskeletons required for any sort of EVA or frame activity. Humanity turned towards the advancements in cybernetic implants in the early twentieth century for the answer, with augmentation sweeping across the colonial citizenry like a wildfire. From simple brain implants to full skeletal conversions and complete brain swaps, the line between man and machine blurred in a manner unique to every colonial.

This widening void between the effectiveness of those augmented and those who remained ‘pure’ led to a new prejudicial divide – between normal humanity and so-called transhumans, as hardline Imperials termed the leaders in the mechanization charge (‘clanker’ was often used in private). This polarization sped off even further with the organization of cabals that would form the precursor to Marrow, along with cyborg supremacist groups. The Imperium couldn’t claim to be entirely pure, either, with most all pilots required to at the very least install a simple cranial uplink. Between conservatives in orbit who refused to sully their bodies and the open secret that Godhand corps were almost entirely fully cyberized, and the issue was fully muddled on both sides.

Man to man, Imperial pilots couldn’t stack up against Constellation cyborgs without offloading a massive amount of processing to crutches within ImpMil frames. Dumb constructs – known as Central Computers – oversaw some frames, while other, more complex units require installation of a neural network known as a Cortex. Such a device would interface with the pilot’s brainwaves, translating pilot macros and gestures in a fully articulated frame that could in many cases exceed even a fully cyberized opponent. Implements such as Cortexes were dangerous, however, as they could quickly build up a layer of poisonous gathered aggression from a pilot’s suppressed combat traumas and stress. If a Cortex was not regularly wiped, it could very well drive an unprepared pilot insane.

Godhand frames, of course, made use of every trick in the book to provide the ultimate edge on the battlefield. Third-generation Cortexes, an entirely classified black box technology, allows the Godhand’s pilot to synchronize with the machine as though it were an extension of his or her body, while near of full cybernization allows the psychic backlash of damage to the Godhand to be offloaded to a boxed, independent computer process.

Trapped, cloned mental constructs – analogous to souls, or ghosts in the machine, give each Godhand a unique handling personality, making the operation of such a machine a paired dance between the near-sentient cortex and the pilot. Numerous safety limiters exist inside Godhands and 1.5-drive-enabled demi-Godhands to prevent the dangerous, possibly fatal merging of a pilot and his cortex. While the astronomically increased performance can and most likely will prove absolute on a battlefield, such a folly could swallow the pilot in the ensuing berserk rage of the machine.
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.
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