SUNDER [Transfer Project]

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Mobius 1
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Location: Orlando, FL

Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 » Fri Oct 21, 2016 6:28 am

File 20: Pilot Safety Disregarded
Subject: Tainted Cortex


Sprinting into the main control room of the Chasm base, Karras fired his pistol into the air before addressing the room at large. “Looky here, folks! I’m not in the business of killing those who are hindering me, but you guys think of locking up the system or pulling something on me, and I will know! And I will shoot you!”

There were a couple of beats of stunned silence, and the twenty or so technicians manning the room’s console fled their stations. Karras descended the stairs towards the center of the room as white-jacketed Marrow ensigns ran past him, clearly eager to depart the station before the ARClight crew broke the doors down.

Pulling up a chair next to the largest console he could find, Karras set his pistol down on the counter next to him and got to work, pulling the interface wire from his wrist computer and linking up with CC. “You have those disarm codes?”

What do you think I’ve been doing this entire time?” the Central Computer asked as the infiltration rootkit began to unpack, lines of code scrolling across the large glass screen of the Marrow console. “It’ll take about to minute to work around deactivating the point defense grid and opening access to the Spine, boss, but I think there’s something you should see in the meantime.

“Show me,” said Karras, pausing in his rapid-fire typing to glance at a window that CC had opened in a corner of the screen.

Remote activation codes for the nuclear stockpile,” CC said, the straight mechanical tone of its voice gaining an ever-so-slight waver. “Boss, we currently have enough power to blow one hell of a hole in the side of Luna.

Pursing his lips, Karras considered, before saying, “Hold onto those for now – dump them onto my wrist comp and onto the Wasp’s secondary servers. They’ll be useful when it comes time to negotiate with ARClight.”

“So,” a booming voice echoed from behind Karras. “Just the two of us.”

Even expecting it, Karras still hesitated before swiveling in his chair, slipping his pistol off the desk on down out of sight. “Boy, if someone walked in on us after you said that, would our faces be red. Where’s Aubrey?”

Teague stood framed in the entrance to the control room, alone, his carbine held loosely by his side, eye twinkling as he surveyed the massive screens and holograms the dominated the center of the circular room. “Out of the way for the time being. I thought we could use this time to chat. My employers enjoy their privacy, and I doubt we’d get the time to talk with ARClight breathing down our necks.”

Karras’ head rocked back at this. “But of course.”

The operative didn’t even try to look abashed. “I’m like you in a lot of ways, Karras. We both work for the highest bidder. We both don’t want to see nuclear missiles in the hands of someone like Carnifex. This doesn’t have to get bloody.”

“It’s a bit late for that,” Karras said. “Or did you see what I did to Bardem?”

“Worked out a bit of untapped aggression there, didn’t you, Atmos?” Teague asked jovially.

“Don’t call me Atmos,” Karras snapped. “Only my friends call me that.”

Teague feigned a hurt expression. “And who says we cannot be friends?”

Karras pointed at his chest. “Me. listen – we, can, not, be, friends. Got it?”

“You’re never going to scrabble to the top of the pile with that attitude,” Teague said.

“If the price is handing over nukes to whomever would hire a guy like you, I think I’ll sleep soundly at night.”

“You sure you won’t reconsider?” Teague asked, making a show of checking his watch. “I give it a couple minutes before we run out of time.”

“For what?” Karras began, then shut his mouth. “I did the same thing. Who’d you slip the coordinates to?”

“An old friend who is currently ordered the ImpMil recon team forward. You?”

“The Scottish pilot who inspected the Old Familiar when we left the dock.”

“So,” Teague concluded, “it shouldn’t be long before the Apollo forces intervene in the name of securing a metric shit-ton of nuclear devices. That should sufficiently distract the Cocytus long enough for me to make my delivery to my employers.”

“And what’s that?” Karras asked, playing for time.

“Well, for one, the shipping container with five nuclear bombs for my employers. And two, this,” Teague held up a single data shard, which glinted under the shifting light of the room’s holograms. “You weren’t the only one shifting through this unearthed data with a passion, Karras. Carnifex was quite interested in the designs Marrow had been working out with the keepers. And with this marriage of Keeper, Imperial and Constellation philosophies, he would have stood unchallenged by anyone in this new era. I rather think my employers would value the blueprints more.”

“A single frame?” Karras laughed.

“Never underestimate the difference a single person in the right frame at the right time can make, Karras,” Teague said, as though explaining something obvious to someone completely oblivious to reason. He glanced at his watch and sighed, pocketing the data shard. “Time’s up.”

And with that, the arm of the Aeon Drifter crashed through the roof of the control room, revealing the massive main hangar of the base beyond. Dozens of stationary frames lay smashed, rent from limb to limb – Teague had obviously been busy during Karras’ showdown with Bardem. Leaping onto the Aeon Drifter’s open palm, Teague offered Karras a mocking salute before his frame’s arm retracted from the room, bringing its pilot to its cockpit.

Retrieving his data pad, Karras stood, slowly realizing just how screwed he might be. And before he followed Teague through the hole in the side of the control room, he reached down, and with a single vindictive tap on the console’s keyboard, deactivated the defense grid of the Chasm.

The Aeon Drifter floated behind Alix’s SB-Andras, which stood motionless in the center of the hangar. A sense of foreboding fill Karras as he saw Teague standing on the chest of the SB-A, a flexicuffed Alix Aubrey standing just in front of him, helmet off and blood blanketing half of her face.

“You style yourself as an expert in trends, Karras!” Teague called over an open comm channel. “So let me know if you’ve heard this one!” Holding up what was clearly a server board for a ImpMil central computer, he snapped the circuitry easily with just one hand. “A hated rival shoves the hero’s love interest into a frame with a sabotaged cortex, forcing the pair into a reluctant duel to the death!”

“Don’t do it, you bastard!” Karras yelled, knowing deep down it was futile.

Giving Karras a knowing smile, Teague slit the cuffs on Alix’s wrists and shoved bodily through the open hatch of the Siegebreaker Andras, which automatically sealed behind her. Allowing Karras a jovial wave, Teague leapt easily over to his Aeon Drifter, which rose up off the deck and floated easily out of the hangar and out of sight. “I’ll leave you two to… catch up.”

“Atmos?” Alix asked over a comm channel, sounding as though she was trying to control a wave of terror that was coursing through every fiber of her being. “I can’t see anything – the cockpit’s screens are completely red.”

“Hold on, Alix!” Karras yelled back. “I’ll get you out of there before-“

Alix screamed, the sound pure pain that sent shivers down Karras’ spine. The cortex was starting in interface with her cyber-uplink as the Andras came online, and who knew what kind of history Teague had programmed into the soul of the computer…

“Zoe!” Karras screamed into another channel. “Get your ass up here!”

“On my way, boss!” And on cue, the PALE HORSE custom exploded out of the empty floor of the hangar in between Karras and Alix, carving its way out with its imploder lance and holding out a hand to Karras, who gratefully leapt onto an extended finger.

The cockpit slid open, and Zoe, who had been hiding in the Wasp’s aftermarket smuggling compartments, waved Karras forward, sliding out of the pilot’s chair to offer Karras control of his frame. Strapping herself into the sidecar-like observation chair, Zoe looked worried and tense at the current situation, which, considering her usual sense of composure, only served to hype up Karras further.

Sealing the cockpit, Karras turned the Wasp towards the Siegebreaker Andras, which was contorting painfully in place, the cockpit beginning to glow a sickly red. The frame’s massive vernier thrusters cycled open and closed while massive missile pods slid out of hidden compartments, adorning the Andras’ shoulders and humongous leg thrusters.

“Hold on, Alix!” Karras screamed, shoving his butterfly controls forward and sending his PALE HORSE Custom leaping across the hangar. “Fight it off!”

“I’m trying, Atmos!” she said back, her voice wracked with pain and, strangely, guilt, “but I couldn’t save them! They’re all around me! The colony, it’s-!”

The cortex was forcing Alix to relive her worst memories, and that tsunami of guilt was crashing down over the ISB inquisitor with torturous consequences. Removing her from the activation cycle could expose her to lethal feedback, but the alternative would be far worse, depending on whatever modifications Teague and ARClight had made to the custom Andras.

Crash-tacking the massive Tempest frame with his own spindly mech, Karras was finally painfully aware of how his speed-at-all-cost philosophy was costing him, as the impact barely nudged the SB-A. Igniting one of his lances, Karras prepared to surgically disable the Andras’ reactor before things could spiral out of control. This would take all of his concentration.

“All the dead!” And Alix’s voice was raw, as though she had been screaming nonstop for hours. “They won’t get me like my sister – they won’t!”

Karras realized what was going to happen a split second too late, as the Andras’ augmented fist lashed out and sent the Wasp flying, crashing back into control room like a shuttlecock.

“Get a hold of yourself, Alix!” Karras yelled back. “They’re not real! But I am – I’m right here, and you’re going to kill me if you don’t fight off the cortex!”

But whatever the server board that Teague had crushed had controlled, its absence ensured Karras’ cries fell on deaf ears, as the SB-A began to float in place, the red light retreating and infusing the frame. The verniers unfurled, as the massive frame looked for the world like a titanic angel of destruction and death.

“Alix, no-“

The Siegebreaker Andras charged.

The frame’s speed was astounding, clearly the thruster network the ARClight had installed was beyond Karras’ expectations for a frame of that size. Karras could barely flip his Wasp up and over the oncoming Andras, having to half-transform his frame in order to avoid being smashed by the oncoming Andras.

Finally in open space with room to maneuver, Karras allowed himself to relax a bit – a feeling that evaporated when the Andras spun, tearing with it a section of the Chasm superstructure the size of a small warship.

“Oh, shit,” Zoe breathed behind Karras’ shoulder, just Karras threw himself out of the hangar as the hunk of metal and rock was flung at speed at the Wasp, followed by a barrage of micromissiles and particle cannon fire. Pouring all of his power into his mobility unit, Karras dodged out of the hangar’s door just as the space he had inhabited a second before was filled with high-energy death.

“I’ll make it stop!” Alix half-cried, her voice in shreds now. “All of it! The Constellation – they’ll pay!”

“Oh, oh, christ,” Karras said, realizing what was happening as he dodged another barrage of missiles and beam fire. “You can’t take on ARClight, Aubrey! They’ll mow you down in seconds!”

“My family was in DC, Karras!” Alix hissed back. “Don’t even try to stop me!”

The SB-A cleared the hangar and made a beeline for the Wasp hovering above it, a pair of imploder lances flashing into existence in each of the frame’s muscular arms. Reigniting his own lance, Karras flipped into flight mode and shot under the Andras, hoping to draw her away from the now-opening entrance of the Spine to lunar surface beyond. Alix, too focused on potential revenge, didn’t take his bait, and began to accelerate towards the surface.

Gritting his teeth, Karras pushed upward, aiming a slash at one of the Siegebreaker’s massive legs. The cortex must’ve twigged something in Alix, who spun, green lances intercepting Karras’ red in an explosion of lightning.

“You have no right!” Alix called. “This is my fight, Karras! My world!” And she began to drive Karras back with the dual bombardment of lance strikes, each blow pushing Karras further down into the Spine. While he had succeeded in momentarily distracting her, he wasn’t really sure getting himself killed in the attempt was really to his advantage.

“Listen to yourself, Alix!” Karras yelled, hands playing across the controls as though conducting a symphony. “This isn’t you! It’s the cortex, and a decade of hatred! You have a chance to break that cycle and chart your own path in this new future. Right here! Right now!

“I’ll create a new future!” Alix agreed. “Without these bastards there to cause more deaths, more pain, more misery!”

With an enraged cyborg bearing down on him it was all Karras could do to even try to muster a response, but he had to try – he had to. “You think I’d just give them nukes? I’m not stupid, Alix! I have a plan!”

“And where’s that leading you, huh? With Teague and Carnifex about to walk off with the nukes!”

“Yeah, because you’re here, in my way!”

This finally seemed to get to Alix, who finally had Karras’ back to a wall and was slowly wearing down his defenses. Pausing just before delivering the final blow, her raw voice wavered. “I can’t just let these bastards get away with this…”

“Then don’t!” Karras said, pushing his advantage. “I’ll take the guys down, for you! For your sister, for your family, for the future of humanity, I – ATMOS KARRAS- swear it!

“And that’s all I needed,” said a third voice over the comm.

Teague.

Karras spun to look up and see the Aeon Drifter floating at the very apex of the Spine, massive particle launcher fitted to its chest, beads of energy collecting at its tip, aiming right at them – right at Alix.

“Teague, I swear to-“

Teague laughed, and fired.

Karras tried to shoved the immobile Siegebreaker Andras out of the way, but the frame’s bulk was too much. And Alix, frozen by the dissonance between her mind and the cortex, wasn’t even able to move in time. Tears in his eyes, it was all Karras could do to disengage his attempts to move the Andras and flip into flight mode, zipping out of the way of the incoming hyper beam just as it impacted Alix’s Tempest frame

The lance of light impaled the frame directly through the cockpit, shredding through the armor in a heartbeat and sending Alix’s wildly elevated lifesigns to a single shrill flatline.

The particle array overheated, Teague discarded his rifle and laughed once more, before zipping out of sight.

Karras floated there in space, his Wasp still, as he started at the broken remains of the Andras. The sheer misogynistic glee of it all, the complete callousness it which it had happened.

And he couldn’t save her.

Karras couldn’t.

For all his preparations.

For all his planning, his foreknowledge, all his improvisations and speeches, he-

-just-

-couldn’t.

Cold rage took Karras, and in that moment the plume of yellow LO particles shooting out from behind the Wasp Custom tripled into a volcano of red lightning.

The cockpit HUD flashed, and the hexscreens began to glow.

LO PARTICLE DISPERSION AT MAXIMUM.

DIALOGUES COMMENCING.

LIMITERS DISENGAGED.

PILOT SAFETY DISREGARDED.

SUNDER MODE.

ACTIVATED.
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 » Fri Oct 21, 2016 8:16 pm

File 22: Tempest Black
Subject: Sunder Mode


A bright red star shot from the open mouth of the Chasm’s Spine like a tracer from a gun, wide red LO particle wings unfurling at the comet zipped into the night.

“High energy signature detected!” a pilot could be heard to scream, as the crimson rocket performed a wide loop and launched itself parallel to the lunar surface at speeds that only the Godhand Keter itself could replicate.

The custom red and white Aeon Drifter, hovering just above the lunar surface, had just enough time to slowly turn in place, Teague’s eyes widening, jaw dropping ever so slightly as he realized just what was ab-

-Just as the fist of PALE HORSE Custom impacted with the Aeon Drifter’s face so hard the entire framehit the surface of the moon and skipped along like a rock along a lake, throwing up troughs of rock hundreds of meters wide with each impact.

Racing to get control of his frame, Teague turning his out-of-control tumble in a backwards three-point slide, sending out still more waves of rock and dust before finally grinding to a halt.

“So you managed to unlock it?”

“You!” Karras screamed, his red-tinged Wasp floating high above Teague’s own frame. “Just what the hell are you?”

“Why don’t you come, and find out, kid? THADDEUS TEAGUE-

BRING IT! ATMOS KARRAS-

“-AEON DRIFTER KAI-”

“-WASP PALE HORSE CUSTOM-”

“-CLEARING A PATH-“

“-AVENGING THE DEAD-”

“—FOR THE FUTURE!!—“

The drives of the two frames exploded with thrust cones, and the two lights – red and blue – converged in an explosion of light the threatened to swallow all else. Drawn imploder lances ground against each other, combined cones of LO energy interacting and creating a veritable firestorm of thunder and lightning.

The sheer power of the Drifter’s reactor – near that of the a dual LO drive itself, and not powered towards any of the frame's numerous particle cannons – began to overpower the Wasp’s Sunder system, and with a mighty exertion of the frame’s joints, the Aeon Drifter Kai sent the Wasp flying backwards, up into space, to the very opposite end of the tremendous cloud of battle.

Staring across the glowing drive lights of dozens of a Black Andras frames, the remaining Hoernets, and the barely-conceivable speed of three demi-Godhands and the Godhand Keter, the two frames hung in space, motionless.

“You think you’re fighting for the future?” Karras yelled over the comm. “You’re a mercenary!”

“What does it matter – it’s a future you won’t be around to see, Karras!”

Snarling, Karras flipped the Wasp into flight mode and exploded towards the Aeon Drifter, not even bothering to dodge when a Black Andras interposed itself in the PALE HORSE’s path. Enhanced LO vulcans blazing, Karras cut a swathe of massive holes down the length of the Marrow frame, and without even a second thought he plunged his frame straight through the reeling Andras, shredding it in an instant and causing it to burst in a detonation of purple smoke.

Teague raised the Aeon Drifter’s second particle rifle in response, tracking the PALE HORSE as it burst from the cloud of smoke and firing timed shots at the oncoming red fireball of a Tempest frame. Juking left and right, Karras used the Wasp’s superior maneuverability in flight mode to dodge each shot, aiming straight for the chest of the Aeon Drifter –

Drawing back an arm, the AD Kai backhanded the charging Wasp, slapping it away and sending it spinning back into space, where Karras flipped the frameback into TF mode, eyes wide. “Give it a rest! You’re no all-seeing man above all of this! You’re a thug! You’re just another cog in this machine!”

Hefting his beam rifle, Teague roared, “Join your girl in death, Karras!”

Letting out a scream of rage, Karras reignited his imploder lance in an arc of crimson fire and shot at the Aeon Drifter Kai again, firing his vulcans and forcing the frame to fall back, returning blows with its particle rifle, abdominal cannons, and torso launchers at Karras in a full assault. Using every ounce of skill and every last bit of power he could wring from Sunder activaation to weave his way through the shots, Karras lashed out at the Aeon Drifter with his lance, only for the slash to be parried by Teague’s own imploder.

Blasting away before Teague could follow up with a lance blow, Karras saw the enemy frame raise its particle rifle, take aim at Karras, and fire. Throwing the PALE HORSE back into flight mode, Karras tore away, but not before a shot clipped his left shoulder, leaving him trailing green smoke in his wake.

“She was no threat to you, or anyone!” Karras called. “You created that situation as a power play, you bastard!”

“Hatred, rage, good!” Teague laughed back. “Show me what you’ve got, PALE HORSE!”

Roaring, Karras rushed the Aeon Drifter again, dodging Teague’s fire and bursting into TF mode right in front of the frame, sideswiping at the Kai’s head with his lance. Teague caught the hand holding the lance easily and began to squeeze, while bringing up his rifle with his other arm, swinging it to point at the Wasp’s chest cockpit-

“Burn in hell, Karras!”

“You first!” Karras screamed, slapping the rifle aside just as the Aeon Drifter crushed his Wasp’s left hand, shattering the lance into pieces and sending its charge sizzling into nonexistence.

Teague got a leg in between their frames and kicked Karras away so hard the Wasp impacted the lunar surface – flipping his backpack binders over his shoulders, Teague let loose a massacre of rockets, three dozen contrails streaking towards the prone PALE HORSE Custom.

Eyes going wide, Karras pulsed his frame’s engines, shooting out parallel to the moon’s surface and leaving a third of the rocket to smash in the crater he had been lying in just seconds before. Still, close to twenty-five heatseekers had managed to hack the turn, and were yet on his trail – flipping into flight mode, Karras shot up straight away from the moon, past Teague and into the furry above, leading the missiles with him.

Two dozen plus missiles caught on trails of Vulcan fire, intercrossing particle bolts, multiple BAVs, and even one unlucky Hornet. Leaving an arc of fireballs behind in, Karras spun out of flight mode, flying backwards and firing his vulcans, catching the last of the missiles that hadn’t been intercepted in the carnage with his own stream of bullets.

“You don’t even understand what’s going on, do you Karras?” Teague cried, flashing his imploder lance and blazing forward to meet Karras, who drew his remaining lance in his frame's unbroken right hand.

“You’re dying to tell me!” Karras shot back, shooting towards Teague. “Spill it!”

“Cower in your ignorance – die confused!” Teague roared, and the framescame together again, spinning in place as their blades locked in another pulse of fire and lightning.

“You smug son of a bitch!” Karras yelled, before feeling Zoe tugging on his shoulder and pointing to his cockpit’s readouts – he only had but seconds of Sunder-infused particles remaining.

Sensing Karras’ momentary distraction, Teague forced his Aeon Drifter forward, and headbutted the Wasp. Karras’ cockpit went awash in static, and when the hexscreens cleared, he was staring down the barrel of the Aeon Drifter’s charging particle rifle.

Yanking on his butterfly controls, Karras threw a vicious hook with his lance that bisected the rifle, lodging the hilt through the heart of the gun. Pushing out of the melee lock, Karras spun in space and drove a kick into the Drifter’s wrist, sending the rifle flying, where it detonated, leaving the lance floating in in a cloud of yellow smoke and electrical arcs.

Kicking the lance back into his working hand, Karras roared as he saw Teague pour all power into flying away from the Wasp, back onto the battlefield. Not even bothering to flip into flight mode, Karras poured the last of his Sunder power into his mobility unit and closed on Teague’s trail.

The two lines of light – blue and red – wove through the battlefield, tracing loops around each other and zigzagging in and out of lance locks, forming an intertwining double helix that converged on the deck of the Cocytus’s catapult.

The PALE HORSE’s HUD flashed, and Karras choked out of a curse – “You can’t be serious!” Out of LO particles, only battery life remaining!

The Aeon Drifter landed on the Wasp and began driving its foot into the frame's chest, hoping to cave in the armor – once, twice, sending both Karras and Zoe crashing around in their gee-webbing – before leaning over and repeated slamming his fist into the green faceplate of the Karras’ Wasp. Warnings were blaring, the screens were in static, and Zoe was screaming in fear –

Taking ahold of the Wasp’s chest, Teague made to haul the PALE HORSE up, but Karras fired his vulcans point-flank into the Aeon Drifter’s face, blowing out an eye. Shrimping his frame'slegs between the two units, Karras lashed out, sending the Aeon Drifter tumbling back head-over-heels to the edge of the catapult. Freed of the brutal assault, Karras pushed off the Cocytus before its point defense could draw a bead on him. There was only so much he could do now that his unlimited mode was gone, the Aeon Drifter Kai’s advantages were too great-

The enemy frame launched off the deck and the two units met again in a swirl of lance strikes. Slipping underneath a vicious strike, Karras was able to lash out with a lucky blow, sending the Aeon Drifter’s right arm below the elbow – lance included- flying off into space.

Firing his vulcans, Teague tried to disengage, but Karras was on him, carving at the Drifter’s right binder and freeing another chunk of metal from the frame’s carriage. Teague spun and kicked out at Karras, and the framesparting only for a moment. Karras, overcome by rage at this point, threw all power into thrusters and drew back a fist, screaming as a he charged the Aeon Drifter. Vulcans dry, lance gone, and too close to reliably use his cannons, Teague roared right back, charging PALE HORSE and throwing all his thrust behind his frame's remaining fist-

-The two fists met knuckle to knuckle, but the PALE Horse’s already shattered hand gave out first, and his entire left arm was shredded up to the elbow. But Karras’ momentum couldn’t be stopped, and the Wasp body checked the Aeon Drifter. Before Teague could respond, the Wasp’s other arm came up, and with the flash of an imploder lace, the Aeon Drifter’s left arm was pierced at the shoulder-

Leaving the lance embedded in the Kai’s shoulder, Karras rolled the Wasp behind Teague, and with one vicious horizontal chop of his tattered stump of a left arm he decapitated the Aeon Drifter. Lashing out with a leg, Karras punted the Aeon Drifter away. The ARClight mech trailed smoke, electricity arced over its entire form, and still it spun to face Karras, only to see the Wasp throw its weight behind one final punch.

The impact shattered the intricate ARClight logo mounted on the Aeon Drifter’s chest, allowing the Wasp to plunge its remaining arm into the frame’s chest, and with one wrenching pull, rip the spherical cockpit from the torso cavity.

Tucking the stolen cockpit under one arm, Karras pulled his embedded lance from the Kai’s shoulder and, with one last contemptuous look of venom at the shattered Tempest frame, flipped into flight mode and shot back into the open mouth of the Chasm’s Spine.
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 » Sat Oct 22, 2016 7:18 am

File 23: Rules of Nature
Subject: Teague v Karras, Instance One


“I figured we deserved a little privacy.”

Teague glared up at Karras out of the open hatch of the cockpit sphere, blood sheeting over half of his face, a dozen shrapnel slashes perforating his flight suit. Karras stared back, down the barrel of his pistol.

And above both them stood the PALE HORSE Custom, with Zoe aiming head-mounted vulcans at the red pilot capsule. She had nearly been knocked unconscious by the maneuvers of the Wasp in Sunder mode, but with an injection of stabilizing medication she was more than able to cover her boss as he took to the floor of the bottom hangar of the Chasm.

“You think you’re going to just hold me at gunpoint and maybe kneecap me if I don’t immediately start talking,” Teague replied, releasing the four-point gee-webbing that held in place.

Adjusting the aim of his pistol, Karras gave Teague a level stare. “I’m considering it.”

“Well,” Teague said, interlacing his fingers and cracking his knuckles, “for a man who prides himself on accumulating knowledge, you don’t really seem to learn from your mistakes.”

The outer casing of the capsule exploded.

Karras was thrown to his feet, instantly losing vision in his right eye, his cybernetic arm losing its grip on the pistol as the sheer force of the blast wave sent him sprawling.

The PALE HORSE Custom slumped to one knee and toppled into a side wall, momentarily knocked offline. Out of the corner of his remaining eye, Karras could see Zoe slamming the butterfly controls up and down the tracks uselessly in an attempt to get the disabled frame to move. By the time Karras got his limbs underneath him and looked back up at the open hatch of the cockpit, all he saw was an empty seat –

-And the toe of a massive boot coming up to catch in the side of his face. Karras’ vision exploded into a shower of stars as the kick lifted him off the deck and sent him crashing backwards. Struggling to overcome the pain, Karras turned the flip backwards into a roll, coming up and seeing Teague out of the cockpit, a machete the size of a shortsword drawn and pointing straight at Karras. “Most of my missions are impersonal, businesslike,” Teague admitted. “But for you, I’m willing to make an exception. I mean, don’t feel bad. Rain falls, wind blows, the strong prey upon the weak. It’s only nature taking its course.”

He raised his machete for what would probably be a decapitating strike. “And you can’t fight nature, Karras.”

“Boss!”

Both Teague and Karras glanced up at the open cockpit of the Wasp to see Zoe leaning out, waving one of the replacement blades for Karras’ robotic arm – it seemed, in the time Teague had taken to draw the machete, Zoe had wrapped the mounting hilt of the blade in rags and electrical tape, crafting a blade of her own.

“You little shit,” Teague growled, taking a half step towards her and brandishing his machete threateningly. “After him, I’ll be ending you next.”

In response, Zoe raised her middle finger in a grand salute to the mercenary. Snarling, Teague leapt up the ladder rungs of the Wasp’s torso at her, clearing the frame's knee in one leap. In a half-second, he was face to face with Zoe, who responded the only way she could – she threw the blade to Karras, who extended one arm high and caught it easily.

Snarling, Teague fetched Zoe a backhanded blow across her helmet with his free hand, sending her to the deck of the cockpit.

Teeaaagle!

Grimacing, Teague spun to look down at Karras, who was still holding the blade high.

“Remember why you’re here!”

With a snarl, Teague dropped down from the Wasp and was on Karras like an unleashed animal, letting loose a flurry of overhead slashes and sweeping strikes that instantly put Karras on the defensive, forcing him to backpedal towards the very edge of the bay.

Dodging one of Teague’s swings, Karras did a quick shuffle-step sideways, swinging at the mercenary and trading positions. Locking blades with Teague once more and leaving him teetering over the empty space of the Spine, Karras threw his weight behind the lock, only to intercept Teague’s speeding fist with his helmet.

Reeling back, shaking his head to clear the stars from his vision, Karras saw Teague rushing in from his blind spot, and it was all Karras could do to parry two more slashes. Teague’s fist slammed against Karras’ helmet again, sending a crack running down the length of the visor’s right side. Two more vicious uppercuts send Karras stumbling backwards, and Teague never faltered, never ceased his advance back towards the center of the hangar. Placing a boot in the center of Karras’ chest, he sent the broker flying back, skidding on across the deck.

Closing the distance in a flash, Teague swung a boot into Karras’ ribs, hitting the sore spots from Bardem’s assault earlier and leaving Karras coughing up blood inside his helmet. Noticing the spray of red, Teague kicked Karras again – and again.

It was just when his vision was going white when Karras’ cybernetics rebooted, and with a snap-hiss, he extended the twin blades on his robotic arm. Teague, his face in a triumphant grin, brought an overhead slash aimed at Karras’ chest only for his opponent to catchthe machete in between his twin blades. Gripping Zoe’s makeshift blade tight, Karras swung at Teague’s belly with his other hand, forcing Teague to disengage lest he meet his intestines.

Karras flipped his feet underneath his waist and popped up into an aggressive charge, unloading on Teague with both blades, forcing him back once again with the double onslaught. Each blow contained the weight of pure, refined rage, of hated, and it was all Teague could do just to retreat under the sudden fury of Karras’ attacks.

Needing to rob Karras of his momentum before they could reach the edge of the hangar again, Teague ducked under one of Karras’ swings and locked blades with the wrist strikers before sweeping Karras’ legs out from under him. Karras went down in a tumble, coming up without the makeshift crafted blade and bereft of his righteous momentum from earlier.

The two met in a circling flamenco-dance of strikes, looping around each other, aiming blows at each other’s backs, ducking and flipping, before meeting again, Karras’ left arm twisted awkwardly to hold Teague’s machete from opening a slash across his ribs. The blades slid against each other, producing an ear-piercing grating sound, and Teague was shocked to see Karras smiling at him for the first time in the duel.

Karras threw a ‘go, ahead, look’ glance downward.

Teague looked.

To see Karras’ pistol held in his right hand, aimed point-blank range at Teague’s sternum.

Karras opened fire, fanning the trigger as fast as he could. Teague flinched away, his chest armor absorbing each bullet. The barrage sent Teague jerking towards the edge of the hangar, and he hit the very edge of the deck, the front of his torso piece shattered, blood seeping from at each two penetrative shots, and his machete lost under the assault.

Throwing out an arm, Karras caught Teague by one of the clips fastening the webbed ammo belt around his abdomen and pulled his opponent close in.

“Don’t be ashamed,” he said, quite calmly, raising his wrist blades and slashing Teague vertically across the chest, “It’s only nature running its course. Fall.”

Teague’s eye went wide, and sans Karras’ support, he toppled out of sight, down into the depths of the Spine. Karras spun away, claiming Teague’s ammo belt and, tucked away inside, the data crystal Teague had flashed earlier containing the custom frame blueprints and whatever other data of hidden supply caches Teague had pulled from the Marrow System.

Retracting his wrist blades, Karras leapt up onto the toppled Wasp and gently cradled Zoe in his arms, shaking her awake. “Grasshopper, we need to scram. The Apollo Kingdom will be here any minute, and believe you me, we don’t want to be here when they do.”

Zoe stirred, blinking awake, a line of blood seeping from a cut on her brow. “But what about the nukes?”

“One way or another, I don’t think we have long until someone decides to detonate them,” Karras said, waving his wrist computer at her and diving into the Wasp’s cockpit, forcibly rebooting the system. “Ain’t no rest for the wicked, after all.”
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]

Post by Mobius 1 » Sat Oct 22, 2016 7:35 am

File 24: Midnight on the Firing Line
Subject: The First Convergence


History cares little of the wars fought in the shadows, of entire campaigns conducted without the knowledge of the public, never to be recorded for posterity, never to be known to the descendants of the survivors.

Hundreds of battles met in the hours immediately following the Sundering, with millions dying over the course of a single week. Dozens of factions, some clawing their ways towards resurrection, others long established yet suddenly lacking their base of support, clashed in those opening months – the solar system stabilizing, pulling itself up the cliff and away from the edge of chaos.

The Siege of the Chasm just a few months after the Sundering was meant to be one such shadow battle, a skirmish that no one would notice, just two embittered remnants slugging it out to reclaim a shadow of their former glory. The tool of that resurrection – one of the largest caches of nuclear missiles this side of Luna, with enough combined power to sterilize Luna or the colonies several times over.

Battles raged, on a grand strategic scale on down the viciously personal, over the titanic secret base of the Marrow. Stories of bravery and valour, of treachery and wanton destruction began and flickered out over the course of the battle. Twelve soldiers – just a dozen of a threat that once stood on the verge of unraveling the fragile Constellation’s peace – engage the shadow of a power that had once pulled the strings of the entire Imperium, an entity that once came very well close to its goal of accomplishing genocide on a massive scale.

With these factions distilled into their most lethal forms, the ensuing bloodbath would have perhaps been the single most spectacular battle never to be noted by the newly emerging powers of the day, a flash on the other side of the Moon, where one side would limp away and the other would be killed to a man. That was, until two separate third parties within the ARClight remnants leak the location of the Chasm – the Marrow base – to the Apollo Kingdom, stationed in Armstrong City. By the time the information is decoded and the still-shaky intelligence apparatus of the Kingdom realizes what was about to happen, there was a narrow margin where they can intervene in the name of preventing terrorists from seizing or retaining a massive hoard of weapons of mass destruction. At the center of this strike team is Zane MacAlistair, a volunteer in the Apollo Kingdom Defense Force, determined to stop those who would threaten any stability and unity After Sunder.

At the same time, taking note of such a massive mobilization of such nominally pacifistic Kingdom, the flagship To All Things of the elite Imperial peacekeeping force Chandelier receives word of its own of the impending showdown. With little time to spare, the vessel makes for a full burn towards the Chasm Base. On board is fresh recruit Kent Ethier, who, along with aging heroes of the War in the Heavens, endeavor to ensure that the worst mistakes and atrocities of last decade can never repeat themselves in this new paradigm.

Lifting off from Australia, a gargantuan ark carrying within its belly some fifty thousand refugees sets its sights on the Apollo Kingdom, which has just accepted the influx of those directly threatened by the encroaching Horde. With the two most powerful Tempest frames of the Apollo Kingdom deployed in action too far away to assist the intervention team in time, the Kingdom puts out a call for any aid it can get – and the Crimson Lance of ImpMil himself, Solomon Vo, answers, leading his most trusted men into the fray to aid in the disarmament.

At the base itself, the ARClight forces find themselves outnumbered to an outrageous degree, but superior experience and training allows the personal guard of Carnifex to fend off a small army of tenacious grey-operation-optimized Black Andras Vested frames. Meanwhile, the Captain of the ARClight himself and his top lieutenant find themselves forced to contend with the vanguard of the plan Marrow has for this new universe – three second-generation demi-Godhand frames, piloted by the enhanced and quite insane supersoldiers known as the Centurions.

With the base’s considerable point defense network aiding the Marrow forces, ARClight is hard-pressed to make headway – that is, until the third party agent they had hired a week earlier – a former AD information broker known as Atmos Karras – uses his connections to infiltrate the base, assassinate the leader of Marrow, and deactivate the defense grid of the Chasm. Now free to maneuver, the battle reaches its terrible climax as ARClight flagship, the mighty Cocytus, moves into to provide close support and to send shuttles of soldiers to retrieve of the hidden nuclear arsenal.

As the carnage plows on above, a mercenary ostensibly hired by ARCClight to provide support – Thaddeus Teague – filches several nukes onboard a stealthed shuttle, shipping them off to parts unknown. His goal for unknown masters accomplished, Teague moves on to attack Karras’ ISB partner, sever the broker’s alliance with ARClight, and engage Karras in a no-hold-barred throwdown in the middle of the battle. Though Karras prevails, ultimately wearing Teague’s Aeon Drifter Kai and seizing the mercenary’s assets before tossing him down a bottomless pit, he now emerges into a battlefield where literally everyone wants him dead, armed with only a battered, nearly broken Tempest frame.

With all of these multiple lives converging – and some ending – over the Chasm, one thing is certain.

This is a day people will speak of for years to come.
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]

Post by Mobius 1 » Sat Oct 22, 2016 9:50 pm

File 25: ARClight’s Last Stand
Subject: Carnifex


The air was so thick with Black Andras that he had no room to maneuver. It would be a killing field, but with these numbers even the Marrow soldiers were testing his ability to handle multiple pilots.

The demi-Godhands didn’t help either.

There’d be a crazed ‘hey hey hey’ over the comm, and a frame would come diving at him out of the chaos, firing just when it’d be most inconvenient to shake off the embrace of the BAVs. Twice he had to call in Cara to fire up a defensive screen of gundrone fire, which had distracted the Lieutenant from her valuable role in crowd control.

There seemed to be no end to the scores of specialized Tempest frames pouring out of the hatch in the sprawling face of the complex. Between the long range blasts of the Chasm’s beam cannons and the point-blank defense turrets the ARClight forces had immediately been placed in an awkward position, completely unable to scratch the face of the base. A Tempest frame stealthed behind some form of particle-based veil of invisibility had spotted them while on a covert patrol at extreme range, forcing the Cocytus’ hand into combat readiness just as the broker’s strike team had entered the bunker.

Those first twenty minutes were the most brutal, and he lost two good men – Veronimus and Nolson – before his team could adequately form up against the onslaught. When it looked like all hope had been lost, the Chasm’s guns cut out mid-cycle, as the colossal central blast doors to the main shaft of the Chasm ground open. This allowed the ARClight team to close to ground level and use the terrain to their advantage, but Carnifex had been forced to send out a pair of pilots to infiltrate the base while they still had time.

In short, things were going exactly to how Carnifex had predicted them, right up until, five minutes after the Chasm opened, a miniature sun shot out of the Spine at a speed close to what the Keter could produce at max thrust. Carnifex didn’t have time to pause – or else Ose’s cannons would have wrecked his shield – but the sight of the crimson shooting star provided the first unchecked variable of the night. Zipping and crashing again and again against the defenses of Teague’s custom Aeon Drifter, the frame was finally tagged as Karras’ Wasp when the red light dropped and Teague began beating Karras silly on the catapult deck of the Cocytus, which had closed to provide fire support.

By the time Karras finally outmaneuvered Teague and disappeared back into the base, Carnifex couldn’t say he was relieved – he hadn’t expected much from Teague, but judging by the recording the mercenary had blasted over the comm channels used by Carnifex’s team, the merc had deliberately provoked Karras. A confrontation with the broker would ultimately be to no one’s gain, but the situation had clearly moved past that point, judging by the two strike teams the Cocytus had picked up on extreme range.

This, Carnifex had accounted for. Planning for a potential third party being tipped off as to the heist had been his first consideration, having hired a rather large team of mercenaries to harass Apollo Kingdom territory over at L1. While Carnifex was reasonably confident he could keep pace with the Apollo’s Godhand Knight – less so now, though, with the ridiculous amount of munitions strapped to the Kingdom’s frame – the addition of an enemy Godhand would’ve been too much for any side to handle. As the third-generation Godhand was, by Karras’ reckoning, capable of manhandling the entire new world singlehandedly if provoked into a berserk state, removing it from the equation had ranked high on Carnifex’s to-do list.

The appearance of Chandelier scouts was far more worrying, though, but upon learning from Karras’ automated intel feed that he had set up prior to the mission that both the Hesed and the Binah Godhands had been dispatched to assist the Knight’s mission, Carnifex could barely conceal his pleasure. Things had worked out almost too well – sure, they were still fending off an almost literal horde of crazed, trained-from-birth psychotic pilots in customized shadow ops frames, but at least his team wouldn’t be dogpiled by the best three different factions had to offer.

Carnifex was shaken from his reverie by the jolt of impact, glancing up at an alarm in his spherical cockpit, he saw that tenacious Valac had taken ahold of the top quarter of his shield and was attempting to use it to leverage a stab at the Keter’s chest insignia. Given that Carnifex was currently locking a land with the Godhand Balam, whose pilot was cackling maniacally over the comm, this could prove rather inconvenient. That was, until, with a flick of his thumb, Carnifex activated one of the hidden lances folded underneath the top half of his shield, sending a flare of purple energy convalescing outward, swallowing the head camera of the Valac and, thankfully, its attacking left arm. Flipping the spasming frame inside his shield’s guard, Carnifex practically clobbered the Balam across the head with the Valac, breaking the saber lock and forcing the Centurion pilot to retreat.

Sliding upside down relative to the lunar surface, the Keter shot out above the cloud of battle, drawing its long-barreled particle rifle and sending several shots lancing downward, forcing the demi-Godhands to scatter before they could reform into a unified trio. A shrill trill of the Cocytus’s piped-in sensor feed demanded his attention, and Carnifex glanced upward to see a pair of customized – yet old model – Valac-Commands detach themselves from a small Tempest frame skiff and flit around at long range, likely performing reconnaissance. A third, bulkier frame hovered around the transport, likely providing long range cover in case things got harry.

Never one to leave a guest unattended, Carnifex keyed two of his most slippery pilots to take a run at the Chandelier advance team. “Rodriguez! Tendo! Draw out a welcome mat for our guests, would you?”

Two snapped acknowledgements filtered through the battlenet, and a pair of drab yellow Hornets detached from the furry – leaving Carnifex with just six men and Cara to handle the increasingly aggressive Marrow pilots.
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 » Sun Oct 23, 2016 7:25 am

File 26: Closing the Noose
Subject: Solomon Vo


The battereshd refugee ISV hung in high orbit above Luna, Tempest frames buzzing about in every direction as a forward assault party began to assembled in the ship’s massive belly hangar. In the center of the chaos strode a tall, regal figure, magboots clicking on the deck, cape swirling as he gesticulated this way and that, taking personal responsibility for the construction of his guard party.

They had been privy to just a few days of peace since fleeing Earth’s orbit, but the distress signal he had received – coded through back alley channels – from an old, once-abandoned mining base just outside Armstrong had piqued his interest. Browbeating the single ImpSec officer onboard into giving him access to the Imperial Archives, Vo had been shocked to learn the base’s true purpose.

His lieutenant – a huge, muscled woman named Deanna Russ – floated down next to him, clicking into place on the deck and matching his pace easily. “You’re going to wear a hole in the deck if you keep this up, sir.”

“If the harsh bite of vacuum gets you layabouts moving any faster,” Solomon shot back, the tension nevertheless easing out of his posture. “What’s the news on the grapevine?”

Russ recited the intel from memory. “Hostiles engaging in sector fifty-eight. Two factions, originally, but we have word that Apollo SDF teams are moving in from Armstrong, ETA five minutes.”

“Further word on the enemy units?” Solomon asked, satisfied with the team’s preparations and turning to his own frame – a red-painted Demi-Godhand, wrapped in a thick cloaklike anti-beam mantle. A yellow crest rose from the towering unit’s head, giving it an entirely regal appearance.

“Black Andras Vested and Valac frames, sir. You may have been right about who stole that Forge shipment after all.”

“Then that means there may be Centurions on the field as well,” Solomon mused, checking over his ammo reserves on a fold-out monitor. “I’ll handle them myself. And the other group.”

“Hornets.”

An eyebrow quirked. “Constellation Reaction Force?”

“Worse. ARClight.”

A smile flitted back across Solomon’s lips. “I may get that rematch with the turncoat after all. The honor of the royal house may be restored tonight, Lieutenant. Set the deploy order for two minutes. Crocells on ranged support. Have our Valacs in squads of four for hit and run – when one squad is falling back, I want two more in their place. We’ll carve off sections at a time from the Marrow fleet, try to bait out the heavy hitters. Got it?”

“Crystal, sir. Happy hunting.”

Sliding his visor down on his crowned helmet, Vo gave his aide a thumbs up before clambering into his unit – the Astaroth Alpha and maneuvering it onto the ISV’s double-wide catapult queue. With a white burst of power from the railgun mounted underneath the catapult’s track, the Astaroth was the first out of the ISV, riding disposable boosters down towards the lights of the battle raging over the Chasm. He had a few moments of calm before he entered extreme particle beam range, so he tapped his helmet, activating a tightbeam back towards the mothership.

“Comet-01 here. Do me a solid and patch me into the ASDF command, Home Plate.” As the feed was established, Vo allowed Comet-02 to spread the feed squadron wide so as to keep the team appraised of the communications.”

“Lieutenant MacAllistair speaking,” barked a harried Scottish-accented voice a moment later. “Bloody well tell me you have more men.”

Vo smiled easily. “Apollo Kingdom forces, this is Sir Solomon Vo of ImpMil. We’re currently escorting refugees from Earth to Armstrong City as dictated by the ‘Safe Haven’ directorate. Are you in need of assistance?”

The Solomon Vo?” the voice of the young pilot was incredulous. “For crissakes, get your ass over here, then, unless you want it to be a slaughter.”

“Copied, LT,” Vo said. “We’re ETA three minutes. Roll out the welcome mat for us.”
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 » Sun Oct 23, 2016 7:26 am

File 27: The Means of War
Subject: Tempest Frame Terminology


With Tempest frame – and Godhand – production just now entering the fourth generation of models, most existing faction-used frames rely on a wide variety of customization to adapt to battlefield roles. Most pilots, for shorthand, group various upgrades as prefixes or suffixes listed along with the name of the frame itself. Example variations include:
  • Vested: Most Imperial frames host a number of hardpoints across their body for mounted exterior armor and weaponry. These interchangeable ‘suits,’ as they came to be known by CRF pilots, were termed ‘vests.’ Most vests equipped extra thrusters to compensate for the additional weight of the armor, but should a vested frame not also equip exterior Life Ore condenser tanks, operation time will be extremely limited.
  • Gundrones: Weaponry unique to frames with cyborg pilots or cockpit cortexes, drone technology was initially wired to prevent LO reactor inference. This force multiplier gave CRF aces vast advantages in the early years of the war, but with the fielding of Imperial Godhands such tactics fell by the wayside with select Godhands being able to override, or in the some cases, completely hijack the drones. With advances in wireless technology late in the war, gundrones saw a resurgence among the CRF elite once more, specifically with simple hard-edged gun-less bladedrones (BDs, for short) that hounded enemy frames while being completely hackproof and not limited to the short usage times of the mobile rifles.
  • Flight units: Backpack hardpoints were often a way for less mobile frames to vastly increase output in space while also allowing atmospheric operation. While some CRF model frames adapted to aerial combat through simple flight-mode folding transformations, backpack units remains the cheaper and more adaptable method of fighting Imperials on their home turf.
  • Particle weaponry: Originally invented for use in mining fracture asteroids for Life Ore, particle beam-based carving lasers were adapted into bolt-based action with self-contained charge-capsules. While the technology eventually evolved to run off of Life Ore batteries midway through the way, smaller, stronger capsule-based sidearms remained a favorite for mercenaries and pirates across the belt.
  • Imploder lances: Another adaptation from mining equipment, imploder lances were originally meant surgically carve out sections of metal and rock from the Fracture asteroids for further refinement back at a colony. Originally carried by colonial milita in the early days of the war as a last-ditch melee defense, Imperial scientists reinvented the lance to be a reusable grip. Charges would built out from an extendable baton, the Life Ore-laced core burning itself out to provide a volatile close-range weapon – giving the weapon the appearance of ‘imploding.’ While lances these days bear more similarity to single-edged blades than the impalement devices of old, the name has proven tough to shake.
  • 1.5 Drives: Production of Dual Life Ore drives is a methodology jealously guarded by ImpSec – mostly due to difficulty, time, and cost of activation. Colonial weapons scientists, unable to compete with the vastly superior power generation of the dual drives, found themselves at a loss until a local governor delivered to the CRF the device that would turn the tide of the war. The 1.5 drive, while somewhat weaker than the dual drive, could be produced in limited quantities and recharged from larger portable condensers. Frames mounting these drives – termed demi-Godhands, could compete with their purer brethren in small groups. 1.5 drives are something of a black box technology, its discovery and production a closely guarded secret that in large part boosted then governor Alton Nureno into a position of absolute power within the colonies.
  • Black Frames: With the end of the war, faction-use operation Tempest frames were tied to a strict IFF structure, with chest insignia a common method of visual denotation to unallied pilots should communication be jammed. The ‘colors,’ as they came to be known from the terms of the treaty that brought the war to a close, became signature to CRF and ImpMil frames, along with established, signed PMCs and smaller private firms. Units not displaying recognized IFF tags or insignia – so-called ‘black’ frames – were subject to immediate and obligated destruction when encountered by any signed pilot. Pirate bands such as the Red Masks have viciously sought false IFF tags in their quest to catch prey offguard, but any advances have quickly been reversed in the mutual interest of both major factions.
  • Shadow Frames: Not developed until the very eve of the end of the war, shadow veils miniaturized for any significant period of use by a Tempest frame were outlawed under the terms of the Treaty of Sagittarius. Imperial Service Bureau Inquisitors proactively sought out any destroyed any instances of the physics-defying technology, vested with the authority by both sides to ensure that such a reality-warping black box would never propagate into wide use. Borrowed terminology from old, pre-fracture Earth denote the single most feared bogey a frame pilot can encounter: a Shadow Tempest Black.
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]

Post by Mobius 1 » Tue Oct 25, 2016 12:43 am

File 28: In the Thick of It
Subject: The Battle of the Chasm


The Apollo Kingdom he had expected, even planned for. Chandelier’s recruits he could handle.

The addition of a third faction gunning for his head would make things… interesting. Lively. There’d never be a dull moment, to say the least.

With the Cocytus piping the relayed messages between the ASDN Olympia and the two ImpMil ISV-class transports into his ear, Carniexx was just barely keeping abreast of the situation. Captain Cheng, back on the Cocytus was more than competent as a tactician, but given that Carnifex had preferred to handle assaults on enemy battleships personally, the Cocytus’ crew wasn’t as battle hardened as it could have been in the face of multiple warships bearing down on it.

If the Apollo Kingdom, Chandelier, and ImpMil forces could divide the attention of Marrow long enough for Carnifex to buy his team a little breathing room, the Cocytus could distance itself from providing close support. It could then potentially ward off the rapidly forming joint task force long enough for Carnifex’s team to seize what it had been after and flee the scene, leaving the allies to handle the Chasm’s remaining, and still quite tenacious defenders.

A plan rapidly formed in Carnifex’s mind as he wove throughout the furball of intercrossing particle beams, trading fire with the three trailing second-generation demi-Godhands. Keying in orders to Cheng, Carniex hit a wide burn, flipping to observe the strike team of old model Imperial frames closing in with the Kingdom’s Olympia.

In response to Carnifex’s hurried messages, the Cocytus ponderously swung on its axis, placing itself perpendicular to the lunar surface and bring the sightlines of five double-barreled particle cannons to bear on the Apollo forces.

Seeing the ARClight flagship positioning itself with its thrusters, the Olympia’s captain must have realized what was about to happen, as the ponderous carrier threw itself to the side – but with the quintet of cannons covering multiple vectors, there was only so much the ship’s helmsman could do.

With a flash of lightning, ten beams lanced up from the moon towards the Apollo Kingdom strike team. Casualties were certain, but Carnifex didn’t have time to observe the results of the strike.

The three Centurions had taken his bait, and had disengaged entirely from the main field of battle to follow his Keter at a vector bisecting the multiple Valac and Andras frames. Having been forced into a cat-and-mouse game with an opponent they hadn’t been able to pin down for an interminable amount of time, the rapidly unraveling Centurion pilots would practically pounce on the opportunity to prey on frames that wouldn’t be able to put up as much of a fight as the true Godhand.

A small, wicked smirk flitted across Carnifex’s lips. It’d be a slaughter.

****

A rapid shriek filled Zane’s helmet and he instinctive threw himself to the side as a monstrous, scythe-wielding demi-Godhand flew past, turning two of his wingmen into spiraling pieces.

A veteran of the ending years of the War in the Heavens, Zane MacAlistair had thought he had conquered his demons after the conclusion of that hellish conflict. But the shriek of that incredibly specific alarm brought all the memories flooding back – it was all he could do not to turn tail and flee. He just had to be conducting an inspection of the Armstrong City ports during the day, and he just had to have had a coded communique drop right in his lap alerting him to be biggest potential disaster since Sagittarius Alpha.

He just had to have had accepted command of the first encounter team, being the ranking flight officer in the region. Military organization efforts had been in full swing back Galileo City, the Apollo capital, leaving Armstrong’s burgeoning militia critically understaffed. That, and the Red Masks attack over on the moon, and Zane had suddenly found himself in the middle of a grudge match between two terrorist bands he really bloody well wished would have had the good manners to shut up and never be seen again.

Fighting through the paralyzing fog of his flaring PTSD, Zane rolled his Andras Vested to fall back towards the lunar surface, dodging a stray rocket from the heavy-artillery-based Ose Godhand. “S-shore up within the umbrella of the Olympia, team!” his quavering voice leaked out over TeamComm.

“Negative, Paragon One!” came the voice of another squadmate – Paragon Two? Five? “That ARClight boat just lit up the mothership!”

Eyes wide, Zane turned in time to see the Olympia roll ponderously away from the battle, trailing smoke from a series of vicious-looking gashes on its port flank. The expected coverage from the ship had ceased, with several of the once-pristine particle cannons twisted and warped under enemy fire.

To his right, another Godhand – the Shax – well down from above, swinging a chain-mounted mace at Zane’s collection of nuggets. “Back off!” Zane roared, turning his AV’s rifle on the cackling beast. The standard-issue sidearm flashed and shook in the Andras’ hands, only for the destructive beam to fly wide as the Shax flash-transformed into flight mode, easily slipping away from the shots.

“Keep mobile, team!” Zane said, forcing confidence back into his voice – towards the ImpMil rendezvous! Scanning the furball above, he sighted on the frame that had led the Centurions towards him – the Godhand Keter. Zane had flown with the young pilot before the end of the war, and had seen the terrifying prowess of the full-body cyborg firsthand.

Still, he had to earn points for trying. He settled his shaking crosshairs over the darting, distracted Keter high overhead. He fired thrice, leading more and more with each shot – only for the Keter to slip the bolts effortlessly, breaking away from leading the demi-Godhands.

Sufficiently distracted, the Marrow aces fell back upon the Apollo recruits as another volley from the Cocytus streaked across the sky. Zane gritted his teeth, falling back from the overwhelming power unleashed by the Ose Godhand to the south. If things didn’t change up soon, this was going to be a slaughter.

*******

The alpha strike worked better than he could have dreamed, leaving the Olympia adrift and scattering the Apollo pilots. The heavy-hitting Crocell team would be the biggest problem in the long run, though. Carnifex had the feeling that the true skill of the SDF was concentrated into that particular squad, and they’d try to hold the mouth of the Spine with tenacity bordering on suicide.

The Olympia, mustering up reserve power, fired in retaliation, beams arcing back down towards the Cocytus. The flagship, ill-equipped to do more than accelerate into the oncoming strike, went full burn on its twelve titanic engines, cratering the lunar surface beneath it and veering to one side, all while firing anti-beam missiles from its six launchers. Fireworks of green LO particles detonated in front of the Cocytus, intercepting only some of the incoming blows from the Armstrong. The weaponry of the converted Apollo battleship, however, did not rely entirely on early war targeting systems, and a few beams and missiles got through.

Point-defense guns rattled, and a line of explosions blossomed and died just off the Cocytus’ bow – but not before one of the Olympia’s cannons grazed the keel of the black battleship, disabling the bottom catapult and two of the port beam cannons. Cheng, likely hearing damage reports ringing out from the bridge crew, had already queued up a second firing solution and, sure enough, six particle beams shot out towards the stranded Olympia. A ship-to-ship slugfest could either drag on or be finished decisively, and every minute the Olympia remained on the battlefield was a minute ARClight was in danger of losing their home base.

Not that they needed to load the nukes on the flagship itself – Carifex fully intended to use the secret passage Karras had discovered out of the bottom of the Chasm, allowing them to breach the lunar surface enough of a distance from the battle so as to not incur pursuance. With the base revealed to the world at large its use as a home plate was now null, so the only option Carnifex could see would be to seal the back door behind them and leave an active nuke to cover their tracks. The resulting detonation would knock Marrow permanently out of the picture and more than adequately discourage pursuit from the newly-formed task force.

With the ImpMil forces closing, Carnifex could see what looked a tentacle of swarming Marrow Tempest frames – BAVs and Black Valacs - rising to meet the oncoming Imperial frames. A second formation buzzed around the ISVs, lying in wait. While Carnifex had no intention of attacking the ImpMil ships unless they closed to support range, he could make no such promises for the BAVs and Black Valacs.

A trio of shots from a standard rifle lanced up towards the Keter, and Carnifex easily wove through the particle beams. Glancing down, he noticed his HUD tagging the source of the targeted fire – a customized ASDF Andras with a color scheme eerily replicating the pattern favored by the Imperial Military before the war – a conscious choice on the part of the pilot. Arcing away from the scattered ASDF frames at the last moment, Carnifex made to retreat when he noticed a single demi-Centurion still on his trail – the artillery-based Ose. Shrugging, Carnifex pulled the Keter in a sharp split-turn, leading the Godhand straight for the troublesome Andras.

Pulling off at the last moment, Carnifex imagined the invisible leash connecting him and the Centurion pilot snapping, flinging the demi-Godhand straight at the easier target. Legionnaire Sigma-Eight – the pilot Karras had identified as the most stable of the three Centurions, hauled his Ose’s long-range particle cannon down to aim at the Andras. Shoulder-mounted high-energy cannons trained on the Andras as well, and with a burst of all-consuming light, the Ose opened fire.

To Carnifex’s surprise –and undoubtedly that of Eight, as well – the Andras flitted through the three colossal fonts of death, revealing custom maneuverability additions that no normal Andras would possess. Firing two shots at the Ose, the Andras’ pilot was most likely disappointed to see the bolts dissipate on the Ose’s anti-beam shield.

Carnifex could hear the Ose’s pilot exchanging taunts with that of the Andras, just as the demi-Godhand hefted its shield and opened up with a salvo of automatic particle beam fire from the mounted twin cannons. Yet again, the Andras wove through the barrage, soaring in a lazy closing spiral as it neared the Ose.

Seeing the Ose prepare to swing the sharp tip of the shield – the long-ranged frame’s only melee defense – the Andras’ pilot shifted the beam rifle to his shield hand and snapped out a crimson imploder lance, clearly tensing for the first contact with the Godhand.

Carnifex was impressed – the pilot had clearly surmised the demi-Godhand’s weaknesses despite this most likely being his first encounter with the frame. Had the Ose had more than just a shield to defend itself with, the gambit might not have borne fruit, but as the Captain of the ARClight remnant watched the two frames close to melee range, he wasn’t prepared to place a bet on either side just yet.

Flitting through a pair of BAVs, the Keter flashed its imploder lance twice, leaving four pieces behind it that blew into short-lived fireballs a moment later. Rolling his Tempest frame onto its back, Carnifex drew his rifle and took aim at the rapidly closing duelists. Whomever survived the encounter would be easy pickings when they emerged from the clash.

******

Zane’s lance bit into the Ose’s shield, the anti-beam coating preventing a clean cut through the slab of metal. After a moment he cut the power to his imploder lance, the core disintegrating into a haze of red fire. The Ose’s shield swung wide, leaving the demi-Godhand wide open for Zane drove his left knee up into the enemy’s face.

The Centurion pilot screaming obscenities over the contact link, the Ose batted Zane away with its shield, its head showing only minor dents. Bracing itself on the lunar and fired its back-mounted cannons point-blank at the off-balance Andras. Eyes wide, Zane cursed and used the momentum from the shield bash to aid his evasion, flipping cleanly over the massive particle beams.

He charged again, firing off a pair of shots from his rifle while reigniting his lance. Zane stuck high, aiming for the cannons. The Ose’s shield caught him again, an upward strike aimed for the cockpit, sending the Andras Vested spiraling upwards back towards the Olympia. Rolling behind the wall of a crater, Zane barely dodged another barrage, suffering grazing hits to his frame’s back.

A momentary chill borne from years of experience warned Zane of another frame closing in. He turned towards it instinctively and loosed a bolt out of his rifle. The shot bent off into space, reflecting off a shoulder-binder that projected forth a protective LO field. Retreating further, Zane dodged a swipe of the Godhand Balam’s scythe.

As he baited the Centurion away from his team, Zane heard the order to regroup blare through his helmet. That meant his distraction plan had worked – the Crocell team was storming the Chasm, all while the ImpMil squadron had arrived to assume command. Pushing his acceleration stripe to the max, Zane boosted towards the Balam, dashing above a horizontal swing of its scythe. A brilliant flash of light lit up his cockpit’s rear monitors as the Ose’s waylaid salvo was defused by the Balam’s binder shields. Maybe he’d have a chance after all. Hurrying on, Zane ducked behind another crater wall to break line of sight with the two Godhands. Storing his lance, he opened up a line to the ImpMil commander.

******

Ethier’s screen flashed just as we entered the extreme edge of the battlefield – one of the groups had been kind enough to roll out the welcome mat for them. “Look alive, Echo Two,” he keyed in towards Lee. “We’ve got two Hornets inbound.”

“They haven’t opened fire on us yes,” Lee noted with some trepidation.

“High speed and weapons drawn,” Ethier countered. “They would be flashing hailing signals if they were friendly.” Keying in a zoom on the closer of the two frames, he started. “Those are black frames, Two. Get ready. Three, provide cover if you get a shot.”

“Copy,” Weisz’s voice came in from behind them. “Think they’re ARClight, Caffiene?”

“They’re certainly flying like them.” Keying back towards the To All Things, Ethier added a general report. “Echo One here. Black frames located at recon point alpha, mothership. Seconds from engagement. Requesting backup.”

The lead Hornet raised a massive imploder launcher, aiming towards the Chandelier team. Energy was already collected at the weapon’s tip, the charge leaving a yellow streak behind the muzzle’s path. “Shit, break!” Ethier called, throwing power into his mobility unit as the chain explosions of the imploder’s activation rippled past him and Lee – to connect with Weisz’s Crocell. Unable to even fire off a shot in defense, the surprise assault caught the older pilot off guard. Glowing white-hot in an instant, the entire front face of the support frame slagged backwards flowing away under the glow of the heavy weaponry.

Weisz didn’t even get a chance to scream before his cockpit melted around him and he was reduced to component atoms. A beat later, the Crocell’s reactor breached, a pillar of flame shooting out sideways to catch and cripple the drone skiff, sending the transport spinning down to the surface.

Ethier’s head spun back to see the lead Hornet discard the spent launcher, draw an equally massive rifle, and charge.

“Stay mobile!” Ethier called to Lee as he threw his Valac Command to the side, a particle bolt rending the space he had occupied just moments before, overloading several of his hexscreens with the all-consuming brilliance of the beam. Pushing his finely tuned thruster net to its limits, Ethier fought off the pull of the gees as he dropped low to the surface, surfing between craters to avoid the rapid-fire machine gun fire of the second Hornet.

He knew Hornets were dominant at midrange with their superior targeting systems, while Valacs dominated in melee – he just had to find a way past the wall of fire that was actively limiting his options. Aiming up at the lead Hornet, he paused to lead his target before firing off a staccato double-tap from his slug rifle. The pilot dodged the first shot as expected – flying straight into Ethier’s predicted second vector. The round careened off the Hornet’s gun arm, crumpling the armor in a flash of sparks.

Nevertheless, executing a thatch weave with Lee, Ethier noted the first Hornet wasn’t tracking him as fast it could have – he had definitely weakened it. When he runs out of energy, Ethier thought, I’ll have him. He can’t maintain that pace with a weapon that large forever.

Seeing his ally falter, the second Hornet reached behind its shield and snap-igniting an imploder axe, charging towards Lee, intent on separating the two Chandelier pilots. Lee – in the middle of reloading his machine gun - only had a moment to see what was coming and plant his own Valac’s feet on the lunar surface. Drawing his imploder lance, Lee barely had enough time to get up his guard before the Hornet fell upon him, the impact creating a new crater on the moon.

******

The Valac-C’s thrusters flared, a blue signal fire in the black of space, and the Tempest frame shot forward, closing towards Tendo’s Hornet.

With the odds evened out to a solid two-on-two, Tendo was more than game to raise his particle rifle and let loose at the closing pair of Chandelier frame. With the fire support backing up the recon team neutralized, he and Rodriguez could close without fear of reprisal. If only he could break the spirit of the other pilots – his hopes were dashed when the Cocytus piped in the intercepted comms of the leading Valac-C – a shout for backup.

“Focus on the lead frame!” Tendo called up to Rodriguez over a shortwave. “Divide and conquer!”

The Valac wove through the incoming stream of emerald bolts, popping off some anemic return fire towards Rodriguez’s Hornet. Sparks flew from a glancing hit, with only one slug catching in the frame’s elbow joint, slowing the tracking. A veteran with year of experience as one of Atlea’s child soldiers, Rodriguez knew the score and swiftly interchanged grips on his rifle, bracing the gun while using his sluggish arm to retrieve a reload.

The second frame– another Valac – rose high above the command frame, zipping in and kiting Tendo away from the chase. Fine, Tendo thought, he’d be more than happy to oblige. Activating his imploder axe, he fell down towards the second Valac, weapon raised. His entire frame shook with the impact, only for the two frames to zip apart and close again, zig-zagging back and forth across the void, twin drives trails tracing sharp spikes and tight loops behind them.

The frames came together a seventh time - by this point Tendo had stowed his machine gun, instead bringing out a long-handled grenade. Flicking his thumb across a stud on his controls, he activated the charge and shoved it at the joint of torso and hip on the enemy Valac. He had to accept a shallow slice across his thick shoulder guard as the price of doing business, but he rolled off the enemy with a shattered shield and a grenade lodged in his foe’s hydraulic tubing.

The enemy pilot, panicking, scrabbled to yank the grenade out, aiming it at Rodriguez, who was still trading fire with the closing command frame.

With the pilot so focused removing the threat of the grenade, he was wide open for Tendo’s follow-up attack – snatching his gun back up, the ARClight pilot aimed his rifle squarely at his foe – he was wide open –

Machine gun fire lanced across space, hitting Tendo’s own rifle, which detonated in a splash of energy and smoke smoke, nearly taking the Hornet hand with it. Tendo whirled to see that the Valac-C had disengaged from Rodriguez, and now had a clear line of fire on him.

Tendo did the only thing he could. He remote-detonated the grenade.

The flash of smoke and fire burst out just above and to the right of the Valac-C, sideswiping it out of the way with the sheer kinetic force, even though the explosive itself barely managed to scratch the frame itself.

The chain of distractions reached a head when Tendo’s HUD flashed, notifying him that the second frame, free from the grenade, was charging him again. The Hornet hirled, raising its axe – but it was too late.

The imploder lance plunged into the upper left of the Horet’s torso, and with a surgical slash, the Valac cut the arm holding the axe clean from the shoulders of Tendo’s frame.

Rodriguez, seeing the mortal danger Tendo was in, pulled his frame in a wide turn, flipping around and taking aim the Valac. Beam fire stitched across space, a pair of bolts just barely clipping the target and forcing the pilot to roll out of the way, interposing Tendo between him and the oncoming fire. Unwilling to shoot his wingman, Rodriguez cut short his fusillade and spun in space, reacquiring the stunned Valac-C, which had only just recovered from the force of the grenade’s blast.

Unable to focus on the reengagement, Tendo slapped the acceleration stripe of his Hornet to the max, making his way towards the furball below. Without weapons, he was worse than useless, but if he could bait the Valac into following him, perhaps he could still win without fully needing to withdraw.

A BAV frame at the very edge of the fray flashed up on his screen, firing at the weaving Yellowjacket. Pouring even more power in his thrusters, Tendo aimed directly for the BAV, lowering his remaining, spiked shoulder.

The pilot realized what was going to happen a second too later, turning towards the Horet and getting a spike through the cockpit for his troubles. Shooting his remaining arm out and snatching the BAV’s particle rifle out of its flailing arms, Tendo kicked off the broken frame and spun up to face the pursuing Valac, raising his new rifle and taking aim-

-The Valac-C was way too close – and all Tendo could go was scream in impotent rage, right before the leader’s imploder lance caught the Hornet across the waist, burning against the thick armor for just a second before cutting all the way through. A shaft of almighty red light replaced the front viewscreen in the Hornet’s cockpit and surged forward, swallowing Tendo’s legs before moving upward, dissolving the entirety of his form in the vicious energy.

Snapping off the lance and rolling away from the engagement, Ethier spun up to regroup with Lee and provide him the support he needed.

Rodriguez, seeing the death of his wingman and knowing he was again outnumbered, chose the only smart option he had left – retreat. Firing a wild burst of bolts at the second Valac, he swung his ride away from the closing foe and shot down towards the lunar surface, hoping to head off the command unit and join up with his comrades before he met the same fate as Tendo.
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]

Post by Booted Vulture » Tue Oct 25, 2016 10:51 pm

I've read up to File 04.

Cool stuff, though as Siege says a lot of the terms are familiar. I only know enough gundam to figure life matter = minovsky particles

And remembering a terrible joke from my child hood I can only assume McCracken's first name is Phil.
Ah Brother! It's been too long!

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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 » Tue Oct 25, 2016 11:22 pm

File 29: Great Man Theory
Subject: Dramatis Personae

  • Aegir DuPont: Masked leader of the original Backstop empire. The Horseman of Conquest is obsessed with cultural control through societal memes and engineering. May or may not be a mask wearing the man instead of the other way around. Questing to become the ‘most complete’ human through absorption of other’s consciousness’s. Perhaps the best pilot in the world.
  • Alix Aubrey: Newly minted ISB Inquisitor. Perpetually bemused by world around her. Thought dead after the Battle of the Chasm, later seen resurrected through unknown means to work as Teague’s second in command on MIDNIGHT Alpha Team.
  • Alton Nureno: Current Chairman of the Prime Constellation. Wants to see world united – but only under his banner. Famed and beloved for ending war and leading vast charity efforts. Funds both Majiec Wilder’s MIDNIGHT and Gabriel Kelevra’s Neo-Imperium. Takes the long route, even if it means waiting for decades. Ironically has no tolerance for bullshit.
  • Atmos Karras: Former ISB Inquisitor and Horseman of Backstop. Information broker and current founder of Backstop, Unlimited. Prototype Cyborg. Asshole. Could be the next step in human evolution if he wasn’t an alcoholic. Wishes his past would stop trying to kill him. Would love to come up with creative solutions to problems that he constantly has to shoot his way out of.
  • Angela Lau: Current captain of the Old Familiar. Former CRF fleet captain. Nervous and jumpy but roped into Backstop ULTD operations through virtue of Karras paying excellent rent. Killed by Malik during his escape in the aftermath of the Siege of Armstrong City.
  • Aurore Roux: The oldest surviving member of the royal line with her twin sister. Founder of Apollo Kingdom. The politically savvy part of the duo, Aurore learned politics at the hand of her mother – if only she was half as charismatic as her sister.
  • The Author: Near-immortal cyborg that runs Imperial Security and, by proxy, the Imperial Service Board. Will not stop telling old war stories – prefers ‘author’ over ‘director’ due to fact that he can’t tell a story in less than two hours. Trained Karras and half of the shadow ops circuit.
  • Demiurge: Leader of the Horde. Intelligence spread across a dozen server forges. Has prosecuted war against humanity and the Keepers for centuries across hundreds of worlds. Entirely too human in personality for its own liking. Rarely seen downloading into a custom-built avatar body to change the tide of Horse assaults. Would be likable if it wasn’t a genocidal robot.
  • The Black Cross: Red Masks lieutenant. Uncomfortable with his leader’s brutality, he broke off with a portion of the fleets to form the ‘White Masks’ mercenary corps.
  • Cara Yagami: The second-in-command of ARClight and the only surviving member of the band following the disastrous battle of the Chasm. Joined with Mad Dog Tedja to facilitate the fall of the Apollo Kingdom.
  • Carnifex: a young full-body cyborg who defected with his Godhand to the side of the Colonies near the end of the war, only for a peace treaty to cut off his potential revenge. Founder of ARClight rebellion. Assumed dead following the Battle at the Chasm. Might have daddy issues.
  • Ciel Roux: the strong-willed Empress of the Renart Imperium. Hamstrung by a manipulative court into joining into the War in the Heavens, and could of broken the war off five years early if the death of her eldest daughter hadn’t driven her into exile. Killed with the rest of Paris during the Sundering and the emergence of the Horde.
  • Colette Mara: Horsewoman of Famine, posing as a wealthy Imperial court member. Brain copy stored in unknown location, will return, mind recompiled with new traits following each death. Chronic backstabbing disorder. Something of a hedonist. Grudgingly follows Kelevra due to him holding the leash of her mental backup.
  • Dari Oyewolo: Long-suffering doctor for the Old Familiar. Something of a cybernetics expert. Patience so legendary he might be deified at some point in the future.
  • Diego Bardem: The charismatic – and petulant – leader of the racist terrorist group Marrow. Assassinated by Karras at the beginning of the Battle of the Chasm.
  • Favian Fisk: Twin brother of Olivia and ace pilot, to her sister’s perpetual horror. Perpetually smiling in face of horrors of universe. Team chef. Hired in conjunction with his sister for the newly forming Tempest ULTD. Killed by Malik during the FOUR HORSEMEN casefile following the Siege of Armstrong City.
  • Gabriel Kelevra: A next-generation bioroid ("Data-Centurion") created by the Imperium several decades previous, thought dead with project’s failure. Puppetmaster behind Moscow Fortress City and rebuilt Imperium. Allied with Alton Nureno, rival with Majiec Wilder. God complex would be putting it mildly.
  • Gilgamos Reiser: Former CRF mercenary captain who deserted after one too many war crimes. Sworn off leadership, choosing instead to work as a pilot for Backstop ULTD. Works as Karras’ second-in-command in the field. Cynical and depressed.
  • Hedja: The mad pirate queen of Red Masks. Rules through her roving treasure fleet and the enforcement efforts of her two brother.
  • Jacques Zadine: brother in law of Atmos Karras. Current head of security for the Apollo Kingdom Advanced Warning Directorate. A lantern-jawed pillar of justice who also trained under the Author. Loves calling out Karras on his failures. Chose the wrong side during the Apollo Civil War.

    Jerica Aubrey: Sister of Alix and official the Chandelier Test Pilot. Unofficially, she’s worked as the Imperium’s chief troubleshooter for the past decade. Never fails to point out Karras’ hypocrisy. Eventually defrosts to join Backstop as the official Chandelier representative. Driven into service by her sister’s death, now seeking to rescue her at all costs.
  • Kellan Routhier: Chief of security for the Saint-Yokaze Keiretsu, a chief rival of Backstop, UTLD in Armstrong City. Mole for MIDNIGHT, acquaintance of Atmos Karras from during War in the Heavens.
  • Kent Ethier: fresh recruit for Chandelier, having seen first action in the aftermath of the Sundering. Being groomed by the Author to take over as Jerica Aubrey's replacement. Works often with Backstop and is close friends with Zoe. Pilot of the Godhand Abaddon Lobelia. Soft-spoken and considerate. Callsign “Caffiene,” for obscene addiction to coffee.
  • Mad Dog Tedja: Crime Lord for vast segments of East Asia. The Horseman of War is the definition of a monster. Once thought dead after the dissolution of the original Backstop, broke out of custody during the Libra Republic colony destruction events. Personal grudge with Karras. Initial mastermind of the Apollo Civil War.
  • Majiec Wilder: Leader of MIDNIGHT. The Man with the Pyramid Head. Terrifying.
  • Malik: Tedja’s right-hand-man and Backstop Unlimited’s most successful nemesis. Excuse of long-dead son stopped be relevant about the time he participated in Tedja’s escape from custody and facilitated the deaths of millions in the Libra Republic. Constant thorn in side of Backstop, Unlimited, with personal grudges against both Ethier and Karras.

    Noemi Roux: A philanthropist before the Sundering, she can give Alton Nureno a run for the person with most goodwill in going into the new world. The outward face of the Apollo Kingdom, she executes her sister’s plans with consummate grace. Probably cracking under the pressure. Her supposed assassination would later kick off the Apollo Civil War.
  • Null: Sigma Zero, the first Centurion. Codeword-commanded supersoldier reprogrammed for use as Teague’s personal wetworks assassin if it means she gets revenge on the people who stole her life from her. Holding out for a hero, and might get one in Zane MacAlistair.
  • Olivia Fisk: Former CRF spy turned mercenary to prevent her twin brother’s enlistment. Defined by failure with his forced recruitment. Hired by Karras for wetworks on foot. Perpetually frowning grump. Crippled by Malik during the FOUR HORSEMEN casefile, leading to her assuming command of the new Backstop flagship, the Dante.
  • Riza Rose: Failed CRF attempt to create a counterpart bioroid. Made living as single defender of an isolated colony before being hired by Zoe in exchange for a permanent Backstop-paid militia stationed at her home turf. Soft-spoken, kind, and the deadliest pilot on the Backstop action team.
  • Sigma Units: Drug-fueled, genetically altered supersoldiers raised for use by the human-supremacist terrorist band Marrow. Most were wiped out at the Battle of the Chasm, with only the progenitor unit surviving.
  • Solomon Vo: Personal knight to the crown princess until her assassination midway through the way. Exiled to a governorship in Australia, only for him to rescue millions after the Sundering and shepherd his charges into the Apollo Kingdom. Once seen as a relic in this day and age, his decades of experience led to his appointment as the head of the Apollo Self Defense Force and as the personal knight to Aurore Roux. Given amnesty during the Constellation absorption of the Kingdom in exchange for service in Teague’s new created MIDNIGHT Alpha Team.
  • Thaddeus Teague: A riddle wrapped up in mystery wrapped in an enigma. Longtime CRF shadow operative, chief action officer for MIDNIGHT. Works through disposable proxies towards long-game goals. Unable to tell the whole truth. Kind of a huge nerd in private. He and Karras have a thing going, if ‘thing’ meant ‘attempt to murder on sight.’ Rewarded for years of loyal service with the gig of babysitting MIDNIGHT Alpha Team.
  • Utina Winchester: Admiral, surviving commander of Chandelier and the highest-ranked surviving Imperial authority outside of The Author. Commands from the ISV flagship To All Things. Killed along with most of Chandelier two years post-Sunder.
  • Yvgenny Stanchion: the first and strongest Imperial Godhand pilot. A humorless full cyborg and one of the best pilots alive. Assigned to Chandelier and served as the main stopgap against the Horde until his death two years post-Sunder.
  • Zane MacAlistair: Apollo Kingdom SDF’s most visible pilot, if only through the (in his view) unfortunate virtue of always being in the wrong place at the right time. Chosen to be the personal knight of Noemi Roux after the Battle of the Chasm. Framed in inciting incident of Apollo Civil War and forced to go on the run after the fall of Armstrong City.
  • Zoe: Sagittarian Orphan. Current the chief aide to Backstop ULTD. Formally adopted by Karras following Battle at the Great Forge. Morality chain for Karras. Loose ethics. Grows her own coffee, which forms the seeds of her growing friendship with Kent Ethier.
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]

Post by Mobius 1 » Tue Oct 25, 2016 11:25 pm

Booted Vulture wrote:I've read up to File 04.

Cool stuff, though as Siege says a lot of the terms are familiar. I only know enough gundam to figure life matter = minovsky particles

And remembering a terrible joke from my child hood I can only assume McCracken's first name is Phil.
Yeah, there's a lot of direct analogues in here. The mecha genre is pretty incestuous when it comes to its building blocks. The story right now is still the origin phase, so I've got to set up the pieces to known them down and twist them later. I wrote some of this at the same time I was writing STB2, so there's some overlap in names - and the fact that I had written the entire CSWnext Sins of the Father arc originally for the RPG board I was on.
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]

Post by Mobius 1 » Wed Oct 26, 2016 8:20 pm

File 30: Old Grudges
Subject: The Battle of the Chasm, II


“You do know what we’re transporting, right?” Solomon asked as he ducked another BAV, pulverizing it with custom piledriver hilt of his imploder lance. Twirling the grip of the slab of metal in his hands, he ran the Marrow frame through with now activated lance, severing its power lines. The Imperium had enough problems without these terrorists cavorting around in its name.

“I wasn’t given much of an advance warning,” Lieutenant MacAlistair shot back, sound distracted.

“We may need to break the package’s seal before the night is out,” the Imperial Knight mused, raising his Astaroth’s fist and calling his trailing squadrons to arms. “Comet-04, fall back and regroup with the ISV. The Olympia is in desperate need of our gift, understood?”

A double-tap acknowledgement over the comms and four Valacs peeled off of the ImpMil force to join with the second ISV’s advance team.

The swirling collection of Marrow pilots below, finally noticing the falling pieces from Vo’s kill, pulsed, rising up to meet the ImpMil forces. “Crimson Lance to all units,” Vo called, pumping his lance high before aiming it down at the BAVs – “Engage!”

Particle fire flashed between the two opposing teams as the frames closed with one another, Vo’s demi-Godhand leading the way. Spiraling downward, the Astaroth-Alpha easily avoided the incoming fire, observing the enemy Black Valacs rising up the middle to meet him. If they wanted the honor of being the forlorn hope, so be it. Spinning the activation dial on his custom lance, Vo dumped an entire vial of Life Ore down the core of the lance’s length, turning the ruby fires of the weapon into a burning white pillar of seemingly holy fire.

Pouring power into thrusters, Solomon Vo dove into the enemy forces, his personal guard opening fire with their rifles and clearing a path for him. Whipping out the swirling anti-beam cloak draped over the Astaroth’s shoulders, Vo cleared the arm holding his supercharged lance and stabbed downward, piercing the lead Black Valac through the chest. The foe didn’t so much break apart as melt under the impact of the lance, the half-liquidated pieces flowing off of the Astaroth’s mantle. Rockets and heavy particle beam fire flew over Vo’s shoulders into the BAVs around him, shredding the enemy forces closing on him. Of course, even if these kids Marrow were using were trained from birth, they were still kids, and they would assuredly choose Vo as a target above all others, allowing the Imperial Knight to use himself as bait for his men behind him to exploit.

Even if these pilots were kids, the best Solomon could offer was a swift death.

Decapitating a BAV on the return stroke of his lance, Solomon set his sights on another Black Valac, intent on seeing how many times he could exploit the hardcoded training of the Marrow pilots. Solomon had never seen enemies fight this hard before, not even in the closing stages of the war. They were tenacious, like a swarm of bees defending their hive.

Seeing the Apollo SDF forces closing with the three Marrow Centurions on their tail, Vo broke from the crowd to raise his lance. “Team, regroup in defensive formation – we’re about to get to the main course!” Setting his sights on the looming Godhand Shax and setting his lance in the crook of his frame’s arm, Solomon charged.

*******

Comet-04, a veteran of the war that should have retired two years ago, adjusted his flight trajectory to avoid the edges of the combat cloud before it could spill into his path. Even if his team hadn’t joined the fight yet, he considered his role just as important as Vo’s. “Noah-2,” he called towards the ISV. “Alert the Ark that we’ll be entering Kingdom territory soon. We’ve got some obstacles ahead, but I’m confident the new joint task force will make short work of them. Please bear with us as we proceed.”

“New task force?” Comet-05 said over teamcomm, sounding incredulous.

“He always tried to force these things,” Comet-06 said in response.

Ignoring his subordinates, 04 dropped into the ISV’s hangar, intent on inspecting the package. The bay of the second ImpMil carrier was deserted, save for a single massive coffin-shaped crate in the middle of the deck. 04 had only strong guesses as to the contents of the slightly glowing container, but he knew that even if Noah-2 was compromised, Vo had arranged back-up from the Ark to take over custody of the package. “Noah-2 bridge,” he added, after a moment, “set the hangar on primary ale-“

A BAV frame, having tracked the ImpMil team towards their mothership, charged the arrowhead formation outside.

“Look alive!” Comet-05 shouted on the comms as the starboard flank of Noah-2 alit with outwardly directed fire. “There’s more behind him!”

Assured of the package’s integrity, 04 snatched up a scout rifle from a nearby rack and, integrating the scope’s drivers into his sensor package, took up a sharpshooter’s perch inside the ISV’s hangar.

*****

“C’mon, Five, let’s finish these pests!” Sigma-Eight yelled into his comm, spinning his Ose away from the coalescing Apollo-ImpMil task force and laying down a swathe of particle cannon fire that left several fireballs in its wake. “Move in and flank the leader! Pin him down for me!”

“My pleasure!” Five crowed over the comm. Eight tightened his grip on his controls at this – his wingman usually preferred to operate separately from him and Nine, fancying himself a lone wolf, but if he was open to actually work in concert with Nine, it was a sign of how cluttered things were getting. Their forces were not inexhaustible, and despite how much carnage the three Centurions were laying down, if the task force got its act together they could rain holy hell down on the Marrow forces from all sides.

The Shax’s engines flared and the demi-Godhand shot forward, shedding incoming particle beam fire on a pair of shimmering LO energy shields. The pilot’s favored scythe flashed once, twice, and a pair of Andras frames were left to detonate in the Shax’s wake. Flipping into his Godhand’s assault form, Five pulled a wide arc in his frame, railguns flashing out in every direction and forcing back the mass of SDF frames that were closing on him from every direction.

That’d be my cue, thought Eight. Hefting his bazooka, he let loose with a pair of shells before shifting to the side to choose a new vantage point from which to fire up on the ImpMil forces.

Sigma-Two swung his scythe around again, a small smile forming across his lips – and barely managed to pull his Godhand back in time to avoid being skewered by a titanic white-hot imploder lance. He swung his scythe at the crimson frame that had the temerity to close with him, but the enemy danced to the side with a swish of its encompassing mantle. The frame – a demi-Godhand, Five realized – pulsed once, and the Balam’s screens exploded into static – a jamming field! Flashes of camera input flashed in disorienting sections of the screen, and Five bit down on a scream as his drug-induced high began to feedback on him.

Spinning in place and hefting his scythe, Two hoped to clear enough breathing room for –

-Seeing that the overload of the jammer hadn’t just damn near fried his own frame’s cockpit, Solomon hefted his lance once more and surged in for the kill, hoping to end this before it could get ugly –

-The Shax crashed into the Astaroth, body checking the blood red custom frame as it plowed it across the battlefield, away from the Balam. “Gaaaame over!” Sigma-Five screamed at Solomon over the contact link, raising his flail and swinging in a pair of wide circles before bringing it crashing down at the pinned Astaroth. With his arms unable to move, Solomon triggered the only defense available at the moment – the missiles in his left shoulder pod, all proximity precautions overridden.

The resulting explosion sent the two frames flying apart, trailing smoke and fire – the Astaroth protected from the worst of it by its flowing mantle, the Shax by its strengthened LO field. Furious at the denial of the kill, Two swung his flail around again, intent on finishing the ImpMil ace.

But Solomon was ready for him – a mace on a chain was predictable, and with the ultra-dense head’s built-in thrusters trashed by the missiles, the mace was only mass times acceleration.

The Astaroth swung to the side, flinging its cape over one shoulder, freeing its lance arm.

The flail came flying towards the Astaroth-

Solomon narrowed his eyes, gauging the timing. In a single motion, the Astaroth Alpha drew its imploder lance, ignited it, and bisected the mace in a smooth slash.

“What?!” Two screamed, off-balance, just in time for the Shax to be rocked by a double-tap of particle rifle fire. Spinning, he saw the dark blue Andras from earlier closing, rifle up, lance ignited in its other hand. Roaring, Two ignited the Shax’s mouth-mounted short-range cannon, spitting out a burst of purple fire towards Zane’s oncoming frame.

Grimacing against the gees, Zane shunted his Andras to the side, avoiding the last-ditch attack, and raised his lance for a killing blow. Massive lances of beam cannon fire forced him to immediately abandon that idea – the Ose had moved in to provide fire support for the beleaguered Sigma-Two.

The Shax, realizing it wouldn’t again get a chance like this to make a tactical withdrawal, flipped into flight mode, turning tail to Solomon’s charging demi-Godhand-

“Oh, I don’t think so.”

-And flying straight into a lance of yellow particle energy from that came out of nowhere.

A wing and an arm parted with the Shax in an explosion that rocked the cockpit and left Sigma-Two coughing up blood. Spinning back into frame mode, Two gazed wildly about to see who had clipped him – and saw, far, far away, floating just above the lunar surface, the Godhand Keter, long-barreled hunting rifle pointing straight at him.

The Keter fired twice more, and Two barely dodged the follow-up attacks, only losing his right foot to the barrage. Trailing smoke and flames, Two tried to twst back into flight mode to resume his retreat, only to find the mechanism jammed.

And, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Astaroth raise its lance in a salute before charging in for the kill.

“Brothers!" Two screamed, tears collecting inside his helmet. “Help!” His frame’s right arm was gone, along with his shield and twin velocity cannons – all he had left was his mouth cannon, which he struggled to train on the closing Astaroth.

But the Balam was too far away to provide assistance, having decided to charge at the source of the ImpMil Tempest frames – the two snow white carriers that had closed had hung back to protect the massive refugee vessel on the edges of the battle. Likewise, the Ose was currently trading fire with the Keter, which had likely expressly engaged it only to deny Two backup.

With two Tempest frames charging in on his crippled demi-Godhand and a dozen more grunt frames realizing there was blood in the water, Two raised his remaining claw arm and refocused the cannon’s beam into a crude energy blade, plasma spewing everywhere. He had survived worse, and he was damned if a pair of jumped up mooks were going to end him here.

*****

Ethier was still catching his breath from the grenade blast that shaken him like a rag doll inside his cockpit – the concussive force seemed to still be reverberating through his body. The kill of the Hornet had been on pure reflex, his instinctive mind taking over as he had rushed the enemy pilot. But as the adrenaline began to catch up with him, he glanced back at the glowing remains of Weisz’s half-melted frame and wondered if he could have saved his teammate’s life if he had acted just seconds soon.

The self-indulgent reverie was broken a moment later by Lee’s jubilant voice. “We got the bastard on the ropes!” And after a beat, he added, sheepishly, “sir. Should we pursue the second Hornet?”

Ethier saw the ARClight frame retreating back towards the battle, loosing fire towards them at random in an attempt to discourage backup. The sound of the pilot’s screams when Ethier had cut his frame in half – he didn’t sound old enough to drive a car, much less be a part of an elite terrorist organization. Were they all kids?

Frowning, Ethier boosted forward and established a secure contact link with Lee’s Valac frame. “Lee,” Ethier said, weighing his words, “return to the mothership and report. We’ll need the Godhands on the field if this keeps up.”

“And what about you, sir?”

“I’m staying to keep a log of this – those are ImpMil ISVs to the north, see them there? I’m going to try to establish contact.”

“You don’t think Stanchion will have your ass for that?” Lee asked.

“Call it commander’s prerogative.”

Lee was about to respond, only to be interrupted by the warning of incoming bogeys. He turned to see several Black Frames – Andras Vesteds, by the look of them – hard-charging towards their position.

“We may not be able to RTB cleanly, sir,” Lee said, deadpan as he caught a stray particle bolt on his raised shield, the energy dissipating to component gases over the reflective coating.

“We’ll make a run for the ISVs,” Ethier said. “They are technically on our side.”

*******

His systems had been used up earlier than he had expected – Solomon felt that he had truly being put through his paces by these rather rambunctious Centurions. Years of indoctrination had left them quite mad, and altogether too tenacious for Solomon’s liking. He had already burned up his jamming system, along with his PD missiles. A well-balanced Knight stewarded his munitions wisely, and Solomon definitely felt he had let himself down in that regard.

Time to make amends. Streaking towards the Shax with his lance set, Solomon would have claimed his first real kill – if not for a Black Valac interposing itself between him and the Shax at the last second, standing its ground and firing resolutely up at the oncoming Astaroth. Solomon managed to slip the first bolt, only for the second to slip past his mantle and catch his demi-Godhand in its unprotected left leg.

Gritting his teeth at the feedback from the frame’s cortex, Solomon shifted his aim from the Shax to the immediate threat. The lance plowed clean through the Valac’s head camera, crumpling the frame’s body to the ground underneath it as the Astaroth vaulted the now-disable Marrow frame.

But the Shax had already managed to break line of sight, flanking the Astaroth and coming it at its back with his beam-tipped claw arm extended. Solomon went for the textbook parry, only his frame’s leg to crumple underneath him, throwing off his stance. Pain flashed through his mind as the Shax dodged his half-hearted lance stab and melted a chunk out of the Astaroth’s shoulder with a swipe of its remaining claw.

Pulling his cartridge revolver from its magnetic hip mount, Solomon shoved the sidearm towards the Centurion’s frame – only for the Shax to fire its mouth cannon, obliterating the gun – and the Astaroth’s left hand.

“You sonuvabitch!” Solomon said, voice tight with pain as his flesh and blood hand seemed to catch fire inside the flightsuit’s glove. He would have been toast from the Shax’s follow-up claw strike, but the SDF Lieutenant – MacAlistair – came in out of nowhere, rifle bolt catching the distracted Shax in the shoulder and sending it flying away from Solomon before it could finish off the damaged demi-Godhand.

Gritting his teeth over the agony, Solomon threw his weight behind one final blow with his lance. The red-white pillar passed clean through the Shax’s raised makeshift plasma claw, scattering the convergent gases even as the lance sunk hilt-deep into the Shax’s cockpit.

Withdrawing his lance swiftly and flicking the sizzling metal off of its containment field, Solomon offered a nod of his Astaroth’s head towards the Apollo leader. “I’m indebted toward you, young man.”

“Call it even for the time you saved my squad back during the war at Atlea, Sir,” Zane saluted, before taking off.

Vo started at the mention of the particularly bloody battle. Was this the young man – he paused to consider his options. “Comet-04,” he said into his comm. “I may have found just the person we need for the package. Get her ready for me.” Not even pausing for his subordinate response, he turned back towards Zane, who was preparing to lead with rallied forces against the two remaining demi-Godhands. “Son,” Vo called. “I’ve got an offer for you.”

****

It had taken a couple minutes to find a nook to stash the PALE HORSE behind and another few moments to tap into the Chasm base’s trunk line. Sitting, legs crossed, on his gee-couch, Karras sipped quietly at an electrolyte pack as he observed the progress of the battle through the base’s sensors. Crouched under the side chair, rummaging in an open hatch, Zoe quietly rewired the motherboards of the Wasp’s CompCent, trying to get the frame back into working order – and to figure out the origin of the mysterious Sunder mode.

Too focused on the battle to allow much though towards the sudden disengagement of the performance limiters during the duel with Teague, Karras flicked the holograms, spinning them to view the melee from various angles, intently tracking the back-and-forth. It had looked like the equilibrium of that battle might have been entirely destroyed by the intervention of the Apollo Kingdom, ImpMil, and Chandelier forces, but quick thinking on the part of Carnifex had apparently crippled the ASDF Forces out of the gates. Moreover, with the peacekeepers split between the Apollo Crocell team at the gate and the force near the Olympia, the melee a trois has devolved back into its initial bloody stalemate.

Given that the ImpMil team had largely stayed back to protect their carriers, the convoy had only been able to donate half of its fighting strength to the battle, preventing the Apollo force from being wiped out completely out of the gate by the Centurions. Not that that had stopped Marrow, which like a spreading spill, was reaching out a couple tentacles towards the ImpMil convoy in an attempt to either take out any witnesses or to drive off any potential foes.

That all Chandelier had committed so far were three –no, two – frames in the recon effort was a bit surprising. Between the various Godhands active in Chandelier there could’ve been more than enough firepower on the field to end this battle. Hell, even end it without fatalities, given Stanchion’s famed predisposition towards disabling his enemies as opposed to finishing them. But none of the remaining ImpMil Godhand frames had appeared, allowing high-end units like the Keter, Yellow, and the three Marrow demi-Godhands to rampage unchecked.

Not that the intervention had been stopped cold. Furrowing his brow, Karras leaned forward and watched intently as the ImpMil advance force shored up the space around the Olympia, driving the demi-Godhands back. And there – the Keter watched all of the battle from down near the surface, intervening with a short barrage that ultimately –

“Holy shit,” Karras whispered, watching the commander unit of the ImpMil force slowly and determinately strip the Shax of its armaments and defenses, culminating its assault with a final dash that left the demi-Godhand dead in space, its cockpit surgically destroyed by a lance strike. Was that the red Godhand Alix had shown him in the combat footage? It had been so long ago. “You know, we may not need to get involved at all,” Karras said over his shoulder to Zoe. “The task force may find their feet after all.”

“And ARClight?” came Zoe’s voice from the underneath the seats.

A couple of Hornets had made it into the Spine before the ASDF advance team had set up the blockade over the entrance. They’d loaded up a couple of sleds of nukes and were currently excavating the back-door entrance near the nape of the Spine. Karras was reluctant to let them escape, but he had little desire to face a pair of ARClight aces with his frame in such a battered state. “My big mouth may have ruled out a working relationship with them going forward, grasshopper. I’ve got more than enough money to set us up for the foreseeable future, but right now we’re trapped in the base.”

“Is there a chance whomever inherited command from Bardem might detonate all the nukes at once in attempt to take everyone else with him?” Zoe asked, popping her head up to glance at the hologram.

“They certainly has the option,” Karras allowed. “The Marrow forces are diffusing pretty widely, but there are enough nukes down there to blow a clunk in Luna large enough to wipe out everyone involved in this battle if he so chooses. And considering that the Shax just got a bad case of the deads, it’s an option that’ll look more and more attractive as the fight goes – wait.”

A warning icon was flashing on the edge of the hologram, and Karras pulled the light front and center, enlarging it with a flick of one finger. “They’re launching something. Something big.”

The walls of the Spine began to quake, and Karras pushed the PALE HORSE further into the relative shelter of the nook, hoping to remain unnoticed. Feeding out an optic line from the Wasp’s chest, Karras peered down at the base of the Spine through the remote feed.

Down, at the edge of the camera’s reception, was an energy signature so huge is nearly overloaded the Wasp’s sensors.

“Oh, oh shit.”

At least a hundred meters tall, it was quite easily the largest Tempest-Titan Karras had ever seen. A titanic ring studded with battleship-grade particle cannons along with a pair of gargantuan three-barreled imploder cannons, reverse-jointed legs, a quartet of arms, and a beefy torso hanging underneath. It might have seemed comical – this mess of an amalgamated collection of arms and weaponry – if the frame wasn’t so large.

“I recognize that from combat footage from Boston…” Karras breathed. “That’s… oh, hell, that’s a Godhand-Titan.”

“What does it mean?”

“It means that everyone – ARClight, Chandelier, ImpMil, Apollo, and even Marrow – are screwed. Maaaybe the Keter could handle it… well, kid, this is the next best thing to a couple hundred nukes going off at once. Get strapped in. We have to warn the Crocell team before they’re the first to go.”

“And if they shoot you?”

“Then they deserve to get hit,” Karras growled, pulling his gee-webbing over his shoulders. “Launching!”

The Wasp Custom pushed out of the nook and shot up towards the mouth of the Chasm base, where at least a dozen Crocells and Andras frames were hovering, firing up and out at any pilots foolish enough to come near them. Clearly trying to establish a beachhead before infiltrating further into the base, the crew had nevertheless met heavy resistance from the remaining Black Andrases and Valacs still in the Chasm, as evidenced by a veritable solid cloud of Tempest frame wreckage that was nearly plugging the vast opening of the Spine.

Karras let loose a series of signals from his Wasp with the intent of showing that he was an approaching friendly, but considering the amount of LO interference flying around outside the base, he wasn’t sure if he’d reach the team’s commander

To his surprise, a window snapped open on the side of his hexscreens. “Lieutenant Liviya Suarez of the Apollo Kingdom Defense Force. Identify yourself.”

“Colonel Atmos Karras, ISB Inquistor, Panopticon Squad,” Karras replied, giving himself a suitably impressive unit to go along with his former rank. “I was deployed to do reconnaissance inside the base.”

“What’s the status of the missiles?” Suarez snapped.

“Well, beyond the two Hornets making off with whatever they can carry, I think you have a much laaaaaarger problem,” Karras said, dragging out the word. “There’s an T-13 Titan Breaker-Type being launched from inside the base, and once it hits the surface everyone’s day is probably going to be ruined if you catch my drift.” In addition, Karras spent over a burst transmission with all the combat footage he had gathered that had the Godhand-Titan tagged in it. A dozen gifs showing the Breaker trashing Boston and half of New England should be able to convince most anyone. “Ma’am, we both know what happened the last time a Titan popped up - several million civilians lost their lives. We’ve got minutes or less until it launches. Forget the nukes, and call in all the backup you can muster.”

Suaurez pursed her lips, eyes widening slightly as she watched the footage. “If it’s on its way up, then we won’t stand a chance in hell of taking the beast down.”

“Perhaps not, but you need to get your men out of here.” Karras grimaced. There was one option that was on the table, but he’d want to be very far away before trying it. “Call in the Godhands for all I care, but it you stick around here you’re gonna get fu-incoming!

A sickly green glow was rapidly approaching from the bottom of the Spine, and everyone knew at once what it was. The Apollo squadron scattered, splitting into four separate flights to avoid in the incoming barrage. Flipping into flight mode, it was all Karras could do to draw every last thrust out of the PALE HORSE in order to clear the Chasm and the debris field, immediately shunting the Wasp to the side in a desperate attempt to dodge the twenty-four-plus capital-caliber plasma beams slicing up towards him.

He barely managed to dodge the attack, and the verdant eruption hit the very center of the furball that had formed over the base. Frames from every side, caught in the alpha strike, melted and detonated instantly under the onslaught.

There was a lull, a moment of shocked stillness, as everyone froze at the sudden bombardment. Even the Keter cruised along, aimless, staring the Chasm’s mouth.

Slowly, ponderously, one massive arm reached out of the Spine, and then a second, pulling with it the head and massive ring of the fully-unfolded Titan Breaker. The green eyes of the juggernaut stared up at the battlefield, full of challenge, and particles of light began to collect around the Titan’s mouth cannon and four chest blasters.

“Karras!” Carnifex’s feed popped onto the screens opposite Suarez’s. “Explain what I’m seeing.”

“Remember Boston?” Karras asked, voice very quiet. “Well, Marrow decided one day that that just wasn’t murderous enough.
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 » Thu Oct 27, 2016 9:47 pm

File 31: Titan Breaker
Subject: Battle of the Chasm, III


Comet-04 lowered his rifle, the barrel already sagging as it began to overheat. He reached for another replacement gun – it’d be faster to swap the entire gun that go through the time-consuming effort of exchanging barrels – only to come up short. Glancing down, he counted the longarms littered at the feet of his Tempest frame. All glowed white-hot, all spent.

Perhaps sensing what Noah-02 intended to deliver to the battlefield, the Marrow pilots had launched a no-holds barred assault on the ISV carrier, throwing man after man at the outnumbered defenders. Comet-05 had been the first to go, catching a stray particle bolt to his thrusters, leaving him dead in space and easy pickings for the determined mass of BAV pilots. The two other ImpMil pilots had fallen so thereafter, leaving only 04 and the point-defense array of Noah-02 to defend the package.

Hands shaking as he flicked switches inside his stiflingly hot cockpit, Comet-04 drew his frame’s revolver, aiming down the sights as he rolled the charge cylinder into alignment. One shot. Two Andras frames went spiraling away, critically damaged. Switch targets. A Black Valac in the back, calling the shots. Its cockpit was punched through, mechanized gore blowing out the back of the frame. Four enemy pilots broke at the loss of the leader, zipping away from Noah-02.

But still more came. Had there been atmosphere around Comet-04, the revolver would have barked like a watch dog – a slow, steady rhythm as he led targets, trying to maximize the amount of damage for each of the overcharged cells in the revolver’s chambers.

“How’s the evacuation going, bridge?” He tried for a nonchalant air, but failed to impart any sense of calm over the comm line.

“We’ve got all but the essentials shuttled over to Noah-01.”

“Good. Execute Falling Star contingency.”

The remaining Marrow pilots scattered as the ISV surged forward, engines alight as it began to descend towards the moon, and the thick of the battle. Every remaining rocket pod on the ship began to empty with commendable speed, specialty shells laying down all manner of beam dispersion and smoke screens to shield the carrier as it plowed towards the Chasm’s mouth.

When he was twenty seconds from touchdown, aiming for the middle of the ASDF beachhead, an untold number of beams lanced upward from the open doors of the Chasm’s spine, laying waste to friend and foe alike. A line of fireballs blossomed across the horizon, fading out as quickly as they formed.

Loading his last set of cells into the revolver, Comet-04 barely had time to yell a warning before the Godhand-Titan pulled itself out of the Chasm, skittering forward with deceptive speed with legs and arms alternatively. The frame was enormous, many times the mass of even the largest standard Tempest frame, all flailing cannons and unchecked destruction.

The bridge crew remaining on Noah-02, realizing the suicide charge of the crippled ISV was about to place a lot more emphasis on the suicide part of it, dropped the entire lower hangar bay out of the ISV’s clamps, the detachable module falling towards the lunar surface. Engines going critical, the carrier plowed straight for the newly revealed Titan, aiming to ram the emerging game changer before it could assert itself.

The Breaker-type Titan raised one arm, straightening up – and the entire hand separate from the wrist, flying forward as one massive multi-cannon gundrone. Particle beams scythed out from the tips of the drone’s fingers, slagging the front face of the charging ISV. Dogfights across the battlefield paused to see the awe-inspiring sight of the carrier plowing into the open palm of the gundrone hand, the fingers closing around the plow and digging destructive energy into the innards of the starship.

Momentum redirected, the flaming, smoke wreck of Noah-02 crashed down into the ground beside the rising Titan Breaker, completely destroy from within.

Pilots across the field began to scream as the Godhand Titan threw out its five other hands unleased its other gundrones across the assembled armies.

*****

Zane watched the hangar module fell away from the ISV at the last second, hitting the rock and skidding to a halt just nearby, settling in a massive cloud of dirt. He could probably make a run to the boxy white module – the coast was almost clear. There was just the small matter of the Titan Breaker lumbering around nearby, sowing unbelievable chaos and destruction.

But there – the Titan was beginning to move away, lumbering to the east to attack several incoming ImpMil squadrons. Now was his chance. Pushing forward, Zane skated his Andras across the lunar surface, head on a swivel. When Vo had told him what the ISV had been carrying, he had scarcely believed the Knight, but now he knew they needed every chance they could get.

Several BAVs fell down in front of him, legs bending to absorb the shock of the impact as they brought their rifles around to target Zane. He was in the open, and his team behind him was still occupied with the Centurions –

-A revolver flashed from inside the open mouth of the hangar, and two of the BAVs fell to the ground, felled by a single beam. Another flash, another downed frame. Whomever the sniper was, he was incredibly efficient. With his opening secure, he made his final dash for the module, ignoring the quake in his frame as one of his backpack thrusters exploded under the strain. He knew his unit was on its last legs – it had never been meant from combat against such overmatched opponents.

Landing in a cloud of dust and flames, a half-scarred Black Valac shouldered in front of Zane’s path, brandishing a drawn imploder lance with its single remaining arm.

“Get the hell out of my way!” Zane roared, drawing his own lance even as the enemy pilot laid down a withering fusillade of Vulcan fire, ripping across the shoulder and left arm of Zane’s Andras. Buffeted by the explosive rounds, Zane leaned into the momentum of his quaking frame, using the concussions to spin his Andras in a full circle, building up momentum as he lunged forward with his own lance.

The Black Valac’s weapon plunged into the Andras’ head, short-circuiting the camera feeds in Zane’s cockpit as he felt his own frame crash into the Valac, riding it to the ground, weapon arm plunging through the enemy’s torso. Zane rode the defeated frame into the crashed Noah-02 hangar, coming to a halt in the middle of the scarred deck.

Popping his cockpit, he leapt down to the debris-strewn deck, looking up at the revolver-wielding ImpMil Valac and imagining the slack-jawed surprise on the face of the pilot within.

“You must be the aug Sir Vo radioed about,” the sniper said after a beat composing himself. “We don’t have much time.”

Taking two deck-shuddering steps forward, the Valac tapped a code on the top of a box tied down just next to the two crippled frames. Lights over the coffin-shaped crate went from red to green, and three of the container’s vertical faces fell outward, revealing-

“You can’t be serious.”

“I’m not kitted to fly it, and you’re the next best pilot on our side after Vo,” the Valac’s pilot said. “You’re the one who can save us, Lieutenant. You.”

Zane stared up at the frame. It was taller than even the Astaroth, with four bat-like wing verniers and a massive hilt attached to one hip that served as the end of a cable that fell to the floor before running back into the frame’s backpage. The frame's face was vicious, with a massive protruding horn, blood-red visor and over-emphasized jaws underneath. Long-dangling limbs and sleek legs came the frame a dangling, vicious, predatory look.

“May I present,” the sniper said, “the first fourth-generation Godhand. The Godhand Hadraniel.”

With shaking hands, Zane crossed to the looming Godhand and began to climb the ladder dangling from the frame’s open cockpit hatch. The Godhand watched him the entire way, eyes burning behind its visor.

Setting into the massive spherical cockpit, Zane was unsettled at the controls wrapped up around him, the gee-webbing encircling his flight suit of its own accord.

A glowing hologram floated in front of him as the cockpit hatched sealed itself in front of him, the hexscreens powering up and displaying the battered hangar around him.

The text of the hologram held a single word.

UNCAGE?

The world shook as the Titan Breaker unleashed another all-consuming wave of annihilation outside.

Setting his jaw, Zane stabbed a finger towards the hologram, accepting the question. The window fizzled out and a second later the uplink cable plunged upwards into the port at the base of his neck.

And everything went white.

***********

The BAVs Rodriguez had thrown at the pursuing Chandelier Valacs had barely slowed them down. But those had only been single frames at a time. Let’s see how they deal with a full-blown dogfight. Rerouting more power into his thrusters, Rodrigeuz had no way of knowing just how little ammo Ethier and Lee actually had left - had he chosen to force the issue, the battle might have gone in his favor.

Rolling his Hornet down to face the ground, Rodriguez gazed upon the battle below – the flitting firefly drive patterns, the crisscross of missiles and particle beams, and the lances of hyper particle fire from the dueling warships marked was unmistakably a battle moving at full-tilt.

From the beginning of the battle, Rodriguez knew they’ve have to rely on their force multipliers to make a real dent in the Marrow force. While any member of Carnifex’s team was worth ten of any other set of pilots, Rodriguez had been at it for a decent amount of flight time before he had been dispatched to intercept the Chandelier forces. They had been rotating out the Hornets on the Cocytus for resupplies and spot repairs, but the sojourn and subsequent scuffle with the Valacs had left Rodriguez jonesing for the assistant of Lieutenant Yagami or the Captain.

It was when he crested the ridge overlooking the vast valley holding the Chasm that the Godhand Titan Breaker emerged from the mouth of the Spine and let loose a second blast of fire. Particle beams projected forth from the monster’s mouth, chest, and fingers, turning the battlefield for one insane second into a laser light show at a dance floor. Rodriguez barely managed to dodge a beam that was so strong that the paint boiled on his Hornet and his left leg caught fire from the simple proximity to the annihilation. Behind him, the Valac’s pilots pulled into a wide corkscrew to avoid the beam with much more successful results.

A second later, explosions filled the night sky above the Moon as a couple dozen more frame reactors breached.

The Olympia and the Cocytus, their bout momentarily set aside, rotated to face the test model of Marrow’s future plans to subjugate vast swathes of the world and opened fire with all barrels.

In response, the Titan Breaker, tossing aside the failed would-be ImpMil kamikaze carrier, lifted its arms and shot forth all six of its fists, projecting forth from the newly created gunrones an all-encompassing plane of blue LO energy that dissipated the particle fire before it reached its target.

And above everything, above the Cocytus and the dogfight of Apollo and Marrow forces, the Godhand Balam, piloted by Sigma-Two, led the assault on the remaining ImpMil assault carrier, command a column of sixteen BAVs and eight Black Valacs. Without his teammates to burden him, he would claim the glory of downing the vessel of the interlopers entirely for himself.

Shedding sniper fire with his shoulder-mounted LO fields, Sigma-Two charged the final bastion of forces surrounding Comet-01. Carving through a Crocell with his scythe, Two flipped into frame mode and, with a flick of one wrist, ordered the squadron of Valacs forward to crash upon the ImpMil formation.

The lead Black Valac managed to dodge the outpouring of fire from the ImpMil forces, making a beeline for whatever they were protecting in the burning husk of Comet-01.

He got more than he bargained for when a shooting star exploded upward from the moon’s surface, closing with the Marrow pilots. A massive white fountain of light spun through the Black Valac’s frame, leaving it drifting limbless and headless in space, an abandoned torso.

Red eyes flashed dangerously behind the dismembered Valac, and they all saw the four-winged monster floating behind its kill.

They all saw the horn on its head.

Sigma-Two raised his scythe and poured power into his engines. Finally. A real fight.

A call went up from the BAV squadron.

“It’s – it’s a Godhand!"
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]

Post by Invictus » Mon Oct 31, 2016 2:37 pm

This thread contains a highly satisfactory quotient of both GUNDAM and AKSHUN, which is great, though I want to know how much of it is determined by actual RP and how much is non-RP writing?
"This explanation posits that external observation leads to the collapse of the quantum wave function. This is another expression of reactionary idealism, and it's indeed the most brazen expression."
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Re: SUNDER [Transfer Project]

Post by Mobius 1 » Tue Nov 01, 2016 1:43 am

A lot of the character posts come the battle were completely rewritten and repurposed - partly because they were paragraph-long snippets, and partly because the original board this was on was lost (similar to the OZ to O1 switch) and web archive didn't catch much if at anything of the old board.

The only character from someone else who retains the same name, origin, and rough plotline of the three other PC-type characters present is Ethier, and while he's still changed somewhat significantly, I'm in contact with the person who originally created the character and running the sections past him to get his opinion (since he's active on the 2.0 board).

It's mostly Karras solo threads that make this up, though the next arc has a long Ethier crossover.
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]

Post by Mobius 1 » Fri Nov 04, 2016 7:15 pm

File 32: Majesty of God
Subject: Battle of the Chasm, IV


When he had given chase to the fleeing Hornet, Ethier had not expect the true scale of the battle when he took a closer look at the chaos. Exchanges of particle fire lit the space above the lunar valley, giving the appearance of a fireworks show to any distance observer. His sensors, he realized, he misjudged the size of the conflict, overwhelming by the outpouring LO interference generated in the heat of combat. He had seen battles like this before, but they had all been one-sided slaughters down on Earth, the ever-spreading Horde overrunning city after city.

He gripped his flight controls tighter as his heart skipped a few beats – whether from excitement or fear, he knew not. Two battleships were exchanging fire to the south, with drivetrails weaving blue lines between the two vessels. He could return now, if he wanted – he had more than enough data for Stanchion and Admiral Winchester. But something kept tugging him along. He wasn’t going to fly into the heart of the light show, but then again, neither was the pilot of the Hornet.

His instincts screamed at him and he ducked his frame down behind the ridge just as a pillar of light shot out from the mouth of the lunar base, destroying untold amounts of Tempest frames in a rippling series of explosion. The searchlight was made of over two dozen smaller beams, Ethier realized after a moment as he dialed down the brightness of his hexscreens.

Holding up a hand for Lee, he held at the edge of the ridge, watching in silent horror as the Godhand-Titan emerged from the base and began to rampage across the valley floor, sideswiping battleships and occasionally belching forth new waves of destruction. Two battleships didn’t even seem to have an effect on it, with all their combined firepower.

“I’ve got an uplink with the mothership,” Lee whispered over a contact link. “They just received our data package.”

“What’re they saying?” Ethier asked, distracted.

“To hold outside the battle until the Godhands can deploy. They’ll be twenty minutes out, though.”

The Titan Breaker’s fist gundrones zoomed across the field, thirty different beams scything this way and that. “I’m not sure they have that much time- head’s up!”

The Hornet, having received repairs on its own mothership, had circled back around, weapons fresh. The Imploder Cannon was enough to send Ethier into overdrive. “Get down!”

Lee’s Valac stepped backwards, only for the outer slope of the valley’s ridge to give way underneath of the foot of his frame, dropping him down and away from Ethier as the cannon fired. The laser-fine projection flew over Lee’s falling frame, catching nothing but vacuum. Ethier only had enough time to reached down for the lance stored at his hip before the Hornet was on him, pulling him down the other side of the ridge towards the battle in a vicious tumble.

As the world spun around Ethier, the contact link opened a window and he saw the enemy pilot, cracked helmet and crazed expression. The pilot couldn’t have been older than Ethier, he realized, looking closer. The opponent – his helmet read Rodriguez - leaned in and shouted, “These are the big leagues, kid, and you need to know what a real soldier can do!”

The Hornet lifted its beam rifle and shoved it towards the Valac’s cockpit, muzzle primed. At the last second, Ethier slapped his thruster activation, hitting maximum burn and rotating his tumbling framejust enough to doom Rodriguez’s aim. The bolt sizzled underneath the Valac’s arm, searing the flank of the torso and causing the right-side hexscreens in Ethier’s cockpit to bubble and short out.

The two frames hit the floor of the valley, rolling apart, both coming up with lances drawn and alight. The Hornet, tossing aside its mangled rifle, charged Ethier, moving almost too fast for him to track. The lance was going to hit him square in the cockpit –

-Ethier’s fingers danced across his controls like a concert pianist playing his great masterpiece. Every single thruster dotting the Valac-Command oriented and ignited, skating the Chandelier frame up, around, and behind the oncoming Hornet in a single impossible twisting flip. Rodriguez, too committed to his assault, could only look over his frame’s shoulder, eyes wide –

-The Valac’s lance plowed through the Hornet’s backpack, piercing the frame’s cockpit and turning the ARClight pilot to ash. Snapping off the lance and letting the defeated Hornet fall forward onto its face, Ethier popped his visor and wiped at his sweat-soaked brow. He couldn’t believe that had worked – if he hadn’t sacrificed his sleep the night before to work on his frame, he’d be dead right now.

The ground shook underneath his frame’s feet and, looking up, he felt the reality of his situation sink in around him. An entire war stretched out in front of him and his rifle was empty. No rounds. No reloads. He couldn’t justify any further entangle-

-White light drew his attention from the furball high above the surface – there, wielding a massive radiant plasma sword, a black frame darted from one Marrow frame to another, slaughtering them with abandon. The IFF tag rendered as friendly, but with a callsign Ethier had never seen before.

“A new Godhand?” he asked himself, instinctive fright creeping into the corners of his mind. The frame’s actions were ferocious, without any reserve.

“What the hell is that?” Ethier started as Lee touched down next to his Valac-Command, tugging his commander’s frame with an insistent urgency.

“One of ours, I hope,” Ethier said. “The pilot isn’t running with a cortex interface, though?”

Lee’s brow furrowed over the vid-window. “How do you know that?”

Ethier shook his head and allowed his wingman to guide him back into cover. “Before the Imperium developed CCs for their cortexes, they had a huge problem with Godhands going berserk in the field, with no regard for friend or foe. That’s what command units were originally for, Lee.”

“You’re not going to-“

“I am.” Ethier delved into his frame’s OS, searching for a subroutine so rarely accessed these days. “Cover me. I’m doing a dive.” And before Lee could object, the port plunged up into his neck and the entire world faded to white.

*******

Zane wasn’t Zane anymore. He was vaguely aware of the flesh and blood body within the Godhand, but it was only a processing terminal for his true form. He was aggression writ large, come forth to this earth to make these mere men learn how insignificant they were.

Hadraniel shot forward with thrust beyond anything Zane could comprehend – all consuming power, but tempered by complete control. This was combat omnipotence. No longer was he chained to a weak, long-abandoned model. He and the Godhand had merged to become one in purpose.

And that purpose was hovering above him, twin Imploder cannons locked and aimed directly at him. This was, of course, a futile gesture, but at the very least the fool had earned the honor Hadraniel’s direct attention. The plasma sword in his hand flowered with power fed directly from the dual reactors, forming a flat leaf that swept up at the imitation Godhand.

The Balam danced back, firing both imploders at point blank range – only for the beams to diffuse spectacularly against the trail of burning fire Hadraniel’s sword left in its wake. Pulling power into the field mantle, the true Godhand plunged through the curtain of fire, raising its free hand high. Claws exploded out of the black frame’s knuckles, glowing blue-hot as Zane yanked his butterfly control back to his chest, slashing downward with Hadraniel’s splayed fingers.

Sigma-Five screams and pulled up both arms to solidify his own LO field – only for the rippling afterimage of the warp claws to shred the particle blanket into glowing ribbons. There was a heartbeat as the Balam fell backwards before the front face of his chest armor rent apart, shredding in parallel to the claw’s path through the defensive shields. “No!” Eight screamed, coughing up blood as the cockpit folded up on his legs, crushing his knees into his hips. Pushing through the pain with sheer insanity, the Centurion pressed forward, looking to drive the edge of his drawn scythe into the death mask of the oncoming Godhand.

Zane’s eyes went wide as his pupils dilated, his mind ceding more control to the Godhand’s cortex. Pilots observing from the outside didn’t see precisely what happened – one second Hadraniel’s wings splayed wide, the next second the demi-Godhand was drawn from each limb by a white-hot claw-tipped wire. Each heat whip trailed from a wingtip, and Sigma-Five only had a moment to draw out a scream before Hadraniel flexed, pulling the Balam apart in four quarters, each bleeding plasma and other burning fluids. The demi-Godhand’s scythe, grip on the handle lost, went flying up and away, over the edge of the ridge as Hadraniel cast the pieces the fallen foe aside.

Crouching in place and shuddering, the black Godhand flexed as every panel on its body vented gales of steam, cratering the rock underneath it and throwing up a miniature tornado of dirt and dust. The death mask covering Hadraniel’s face split along the jaw, revealing a rows of gnashing metallic teeth.

Inside the heart of the Godhand, Zane felt the last of his consciousness slip away as the seeping presence of the cortex finally washed over his mind.

********

The scythe came down out of nowhere, landing just meters away from the Wasp, tip first, long handle quivering from the impact.

“The hell?” Karras hissed, looking up from his battlenet.

“The Godhand’s getting messy,” Zoe said, flick-zooming a picture of the battlefield. “It’s starting to shove friendlies aside.” She pursed her lips, looking worried. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think they’d’ve shoved someone who wasn’t a full cyborg into it and just hoped for the best.”

“Desperate times,” Karras said, moving the Wasp over and taking ahold of the lost scythe, ending the vibrations in the haft.

This is Hornet Eight!” A voice from the ARClight comm net caught Karras’ attention. “We’ve got everyone left aboard save for the LT and the Captain – sir, if you want to leave, now’s the time!”

Looking down into the valley, Karras watched as the fire-scorched Cocytus began to wheel away from the field, still trading heavy fire with the Olympia and the Titan Breaker. Were they only just pulling their prize aboard, Karras wondered. Carnifex had stuck around longer than he had needed to – surely he hadn’t been trying to vie for the position of top dog, especially with the appearance of ASDF and ImpMil? Was it pride, or something else?

Copy, Eight,” Carnifex’s mechanical voice cut in. “Prepping for exfil.

Karras tracked the drive-light of the Keter turning away from the battle, burning towards the Cocytus – right before the massive ARClight starship was replaced by a burning ball of light.

“Shit!” Karras said as his screens pumped to max tint. He held up a hand and watched as the ball of fire winked out just as quickly as it had formed, leaving nothing but a void of null space on the outskirts of the furball.

“Was that what I think it was?” Zoe asked, rubbing at her eyes and blinking rapidly.

“One of their prizes went off in the hold, yeah,” Karras said, feeling his stomach drop out from underneath him.

“Marrow getting revenge?” Zoe asked, tagging the Keter soaring away from the destruction, flight path jerky.

“Can’t be,” Karras said, scratching his beard. “We cut out their activation codes back at the control center. Anything beyond the interior of the Chasm wouldn’t catch.”

“So I guess that means we’re not getting paid,” Zoe said, crestfallen.

“No, but it also means that there’s only one other person who could’ve done this. The final Hornet – it went out through the back door. It’s covering its tracks – starting with ARClight – and if we don’t stop it, it can blow the entire base’s cache as well.”

“The pilot, Naveen,” Zoe said, voice flat as she flicked through a series of dossiers, “was hired along with Teague.”

“His back-up,” Karras cursed, flipping the Wasp up into flight mode. “Can we catch him?”

The lights of the hologram reflecting off of Zoe’s face gave her an eerie quality in the otherwise dark cockpit. “He’s in close enough range to activate the nukes,” she said softly.

Karras let the silence play out as the Wasp zoomed across the surface of the moon, careening towards the coordinates set by the broker’s assistant.

“And yes, he’s been trying to set them off. I wasn’t prepared for the Cocytus, but here, I can counter him. With the exact same codes in our possession,” Zoe explained, still focused on the screen, “I can play computer warfare with him to prevent the detonation. So not only is he in range to fight my blocks, but he’ll probably seek us-“

The Hornet cleared the ridge at lightning speed, plasma tomahawk held high above it as it came crashing down at Karras’ custom Wasp.

“-out,” Zoe finished.

***

The Balam’s destruction would’ve weighed on Sigma-Eight if he had been sane enough to notice the death of his comrade.

He was finally winning.

The white Godhand was gone. The new black Godhand was distracted.

There were only the Crocell units to fall under his imploder lance.

Despite his frame’s predisposition to ranged combat, Eight found himself more than enjoying his bout with melee tactics. The Ose, no longer burdened by an assortment of heavy artillery, skimmed across the moon’s surface, as nimble as a skater as it carved a path through the ASDF frames before it.

First one, dragging the tip of his lance from the groin to the head camera.

Then another, a precision strike to the cockpit that left the Crocell floating in space.

Another tried to flip into flight mode and beat a retreat or flanking maneuver – it didn’t matter. Eight stretched out the Ose’s arm and almost lazily snatched the Crocell’s leg, dragging the frame back to be diced into four pieces by a bar of collapsing energy.

The fourth and fifth Crocells, however, fled before he could get to them.

Sigma-Eight felt a burble of unease in the pit of his stomach that quickly turned into a curious combination of panic and grim satisfaction at the appearance of a true challenge.

Hadraniel’s plasma sword came from above as the Ose pulled back, scoring a long but shallow groove down the left side of the demi-Godhand’s torso – a flesh wound if that.

Lost in the flow of the battle and the backlash of drug withdrawal, Eight regarded Hadraniel with the cool eyes of the truly insane. There was something different, almost mechanical about the Godhand’s onslaught as it flung itself towards the Ose. Gone was the uncertainty of the pilot’s obvious inexperience at the stick of a high-reaction Tempest frame. Here was something different.

The Godhands skated inches above the dirt as they danced across the moon, trading swipes and parries, and it slowly began to dawn on Eight that he-

-was-

-completely-

-Out. Of. His. League.

He mechanical precision, once of passing interest, had morphed into something terrifying accurate, without mercy.

Or perhaps it had always been that way. Eight, after all, wasn’t at his most lucid.

Deciding to gamble a blitzkrieg before the Godhand could wear down his defenses and his withdrawal would start backfeeding, Eight surged forward with the Ose.

He didn’t see the whip-like heat wire shoot forward from the Godhand’s upper wings, snaking out of absolutely nowhere and encircling the Ose’s head.

Eight tried to push his thrusters to the max, but his display lit up and the cockpit rocked as Hadraniel, in a swift series of motions, dismembered his demi-Godhand.

Maybe he had miscalculated.

The Hadraniel’s yanked hard on the superheated cables, obliterating the captive Demi-Godhand’s head and sending the limbless torso spinning like a top above the ground.

And in a batter’s swing, Hadraniel annihilated the cockpit of the Ose with the flat of its massive plasma sword.

The remnants of the Ose – four severed limbs, a hip section, and twisted shoulder joint – fell slowly to the rocks, more molten slag than recognizable Godhand at this point.

But Hadraniel’s uncaged cortex was already scanning the entire battlefield, assessing targets with risk/reward profiles, aiming for the location of the most damage being levied against allied forces versus capability of a swift resolution.

The cortex acquired its target – the Godhand Keter – and spread its four wings wide as it roared toward its prey.

***

Carnifex was partially in shock. How could everything have gone so wrong?

He had trusted too much. Been too benevolent. Hired the pair of mercenaries when they had assisted the Cocytus in repelling a pirate attack. They returned the favor when they had remotely activated the nuclear bombs stashed within the Cocytus’s hold.

And Karras. He could’ve noticed this, come to ARClight’s aid at any point in this battle, but he had sat idly by, waiting to see which way the winds would turn. The reluctance had cost the lives of every soul under Carnifex’s command.

He had considered going down fighting until he was mowed down in a blaze of glory or consumed in the inevitable conflagration of the base’s stockpile detonating at once.

But no. Accounts must the settled. Scales had to be balanced.

Both Karras and Naveen were still out there. They would answer for their deeds.

But first had the escape the ball of ASDF and ImpMil and Chandelier forces all trying their damndest to murder him.

The Valacs pincering him he could handle.

But when the crimson capeddemi-Godhand charged him he didn’t know whether to feel worried or laugh. Of course Vo would choose this moment to reignite the one-sided rivalry

Kid!” the comm screamed. “-I- will be your opponent!”

“If you say so,” Carnifex murmured, throwing his Keter into a backflip, dodging the volley of missiles from one side and the double stream of gatling fire from the other as he drew the plasma axes from underneath his battered shield. With a flick of either wrist, the Keter flung out his axes like tomahawks.

One caught the right Valac clean in the cockpit, sending its missile launcher flying the frame exploded soon thereafter. The other pilot was quicker on the draw, but Carnifex had seen and judged the slow response time on the damaged gun arm – the frametried to dodge and swing its gun around to shoot down the axe at the same time.

Carnifex paid him for his tactical plan with a particle rifle shot to the face. The Valac reeled backward, disabled but not out.

And then the Astaroth-Alpha was on him.

Carnifex continued the momentum of his flip, his right leg catching the Astaroth square in the chest and simply carrying the Tempest frame up and over the Keter as though the Godhands were a pair of acrobats practicing their tumbles.

The Astaroth tried to stab at the Keter’s leg on the apex of the revolution, but Carnifex was ready for him, holdout lance shooting out of his gauntlet cuff and catching on the Sir Vo’s own lance in an explosion of lightning. The weaker lance began to melt instantaneously in contact with Solomon’s stronger weapon, the white-hot lance pushing towards the Keter’s face-

And then physics took over and the two frames separated, Carnifex quickly spinning so as not to present his back to the ImpMil Knight, the man who had taken his defection the hardest.

You may have taken the Shax when it was half-dead already.

But I am no wounded half-sane drug addict.

I am the embodiment of Alton Nureno’s will itself.

And I will not die here.

Carnifex brought up his rifle in his other hand and drew a bead of the already dodging Astaroth. He had no time for this.

He fired.

Only to find his shot intercepted by the Godhand with a white-hot swing of four whirling heat wires.

Hadraniel had arrived.

Carnifex, recognizing the threat of the fourth-generation Godhand, immediately cut left, flanking Hadraniel while keeping the troublesome Vo in sight. The Knight tried to take another go at Carnifex, only to be cut off by the massive scything beams of the Titan Breaker far below.

Monstrosity might as well make itself useful for once.

Right away Carnifex judged that something was different with Hadraniel’s pilot. The style was completely different – it was optimized. It was analyzing him, watching his maneuvers.

It was not a fight to protract. It was also not a fight to be spooked into making a sudden rush – that had been the Ose’s downfall.

But when the wave of BAVs, a last surging tide of organization within the Marrow ranks afforded by the Titan Breaker, came at Hadraniel, not all could be stopped by the covering fire of the Valac and Crocell Units.

Hadraniel didn’t react right away. It was only when the revolution of trying to follow the Keter brought the Godhand’s left side to face the oncoming enemy units did the cold intelligence deign to respond.

By then the BAVs were on it – this could be the moment to retreat! Even as he reached for his controls, there was an almighty flash from his hexscreens, sending a wash of static through his mechanical eyes. Before Carnifex even turn tail and retreat, Hadraniel had, without even breaking a sweat. destroyed three BAVs in the span of a couple heartbeats.

Carnifex recognized two things from this laser-quick engagement -this was by far no ordinary opponent.

And it was blind on its right side.

The Keter darted forward, hoping to clear a gap, but Hadraniel blocked it – it was all too obvious a feint, but Carnifex didn’t want to give away the game just yet. The two Godhands closed on each other, Hadraniel easily sliding past all of Carnifex’s sniper-accurate shots with inches to spare.

The frames passed, and in a swipe of its sword, Hadraniel cleaved past Carnifex’s expert guard and sent the Keter’s left arm and particle rifle tumbling away into space.

No.

Carnifex wheeled, cutting and reversing his momentum in gut-churning moment of high-gee maneuvering. His kick caught Hadraniel in the blind right side of its head, sending the Godhand crashing down to the moon below.

But not before the computer-assisted reflexes of the pilot allowed Hadraniel to shoot out one of its superheated wires, encircling the Keter’s left leg in a vicegrip.

Grimaching, Carnifex spun his frame’s right hand, pointing the bent imploder lance downward before beginning to hack at his own frame’s leg to clear to hold. He just didn’t have time for this. His Godhand came free, and he raised his arm to throw the lance at Hadraniel as a departing knife –

-But a blast of particle fire obliterated both the lance and a good chunk of his upper right arm.

Carnifex’s head popped up to see the Astaroth, keeping an uneasy distance, alter the aim of its revolver for a killing shot.

But the Keter was already out of the engagement zone, and in one pulse of its engines, cleared the battlefield entirely.

Hadraniel pulled out of its kick-enforced dive and considered, in the span of sizzling circuitry, the advantages of pursuing the disabled Keter. This was a victory by any measure. This was a failure by any measure of letting a helpless foe escape to fight another day.

But a light touch upon the mind of Zane MacAllister loosened the hold the uncaged cortex had on the young pilot – a light in the darkness.

And clarity rushed back into Zane as he looked around and reassessed the field for the clearest threat to his allies and friends.

It wasn’t the defenseless Keter, the last member of an annihilated band of brothers.

It was the Godhand Titan Breaker currently looming over him.

***

Karras caught and parried the descending tomahawk with a twirl of the acquired scythe, shouldering the Hornet into a berm of accumulated rock at the bottom of the ravine PALE HORSE had chosen for cover.

Naveen snapped open a vidcomm channel to Karras, a sly grin splitting his handsome features. “What’s your deal here, Karras? You can’t be afraid of someone erasing the evidence of your betrayal.”

Surging forward with slash of the massive scythe that the Hornet barely dodged with a jet-assisted leap backwards, Karras ground his teeth. “Is there some sort of mercenary handbook you guys follow where your banter has to make you guys such complete assholes?

The Wasp and Hornet met in a dance of traded and dodged blows across the floor of the ravine, Naveen respectful of the range and power of the Wasp’s newly acquired scythe, while Karras was careful to stay close to the Hornnet lest it be able to switch to ranged weaponry.

“How long can you keep this up?” Naveen crowed. “You can’t have much gas left after that display with my partner!”

Karras gritted his teeth – the cutthroat was right. His battery and hydrogen reserves were critically low, even after the assistance of his now-depleted 1.5 drive. He didn’t have much time left.

Leaping up above the Hornet, he let loose one final, decisive strike – against the rock face above the mono-eye. In a shudder and screech of metal against rock, the bluff came free of its buttressing – and came crashing down on Naveen’s flat-footed Tempest frame. The Hornet momentarily disappeared until a cavalcade of boulders and stones.

Karras made to draw his hand cannon – the one Teague had entrusted him just hours earlier, pulling away from the avalanche site – only for his attempted engine pulse to barely squeak out enough propulsion for a simple leap back from the cliff face. This sent the Wasp skidding backwards upon landing, dropping to one knee, as though physically exhausted.

Realizing that he had no way to fight now, Karras slammed his fist down on the console. He had been so close.

“How long can you keep him from detonation?” he whispered quietly to Zoe.

“As long as I need to,” she allowed. “Or at least until he digs his way out and murders us, boss.”

And as sure as the sunrise, the rock pile began to tremble, first a simple rumble of dislodged dust, and then an explosion of one arm then another clawing the forest green Tempest frame out of the rubble.

“If you thought I was going to make this quick, Karras,” Naveen said, a cut on his temple streaming blood into one eye, “your intelligence might be out of date.”

Karras went for his handcannon – only to see it lying on the rock face out of reach, having been dropped during the power loss.

Damn!

And when it looked like all was lost, a shadow fell across the PALE HORSE.

And Naveen.

And the entire valley.

Karras glanced up to see none other than the Old Familiar itself rising out from behind a nearby berm, moving at speed. A burst of potshot point-defense tracers sent the Hornet skittering momentarily out of range in time for the small tanker to wheel its ass around, presenting its flank and rear hangar as though for inspection.

“Christ, Angela, your timing is superb,” Karras breathed.

“Don’t thank me yet,” the Old Familiar’s captain intoned somberly over the comm. “Just kick this guy’s ass for me.”

And with that, a single power cell was jettisoned through the force field of the open hangar, spinning through the void and coming to land right at the Wasp’s feet.

It took Karras a half-second to recognize what it was.

A condenser.

For LO particles.

Holy shit.

Using the last of the Wasp’s power, Karras seized the condenser and slapped it to the shoulder port of the 1.5 Drive’s charging slot.

Pure life flooded through his Tempest frame with a surge of crimson particles streaming from its drive.

Karras stood.

The Wasp stood from its kneeling position, hefting his scythe just in time to bring it swinging up at the charging Hornet.

Karras smiled to himself as he saw Naveen’s eyes go wide through the video feed when he the heavy scythe caught the Hornet in the hip and vaulted it up and over the Wasp, flying off into space.

The PALE HORSE pivoted on one foot, kicking its handcannon up in a waiting hand to aim at the off-balance mercenary.

“You’re good, Naveen,” Karras allowed. “But you’re no Thaddeus Teague. And guess what? I killed Teague.

He fired twice, catching the Hornet its mono-eye, rotating the frame’s bulk for a clean cockpit shot.

The second slug cut the video feed of Naveen into a hash of static.

Karras glanced down at Zoe, who nodded up at him. “I don’t think he’s in any position to activate the nukes now. I mean, we might, but not him.”

He laid a hand on her shoulder. “That’ll do kiddo. C’mon. Let’s skedaddle. We’ll use the ship’s sensors to see if Naveen stashed his nukes anywhere.”

With a pulse of refreshing responsiveness from the 1.5-backed engines of his Wasp, Karras leapt the PALE HORSE up to the waiting hangar of the Old Familiar.

Any levity Karras was feeling curdled when he came level with the hangar. He ground his teeth together as his blood turned to ice in his veins.

The Wasp PALE HORSE Custom came to rest inside the atmosphere of the Old Familiar’s hangar, kneeling opposite the propped-up, one-legged, battered and broken frame of the Godhand Keter.

Well, shit.
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 » Mon Nov 07, 2016 6:01 am

File 33: The End of the Beginning
Subject: Battle of the Chasm V


The Godhands had been built – grown - on a mountain of bodies. Dozens of men had tried and failed to master the predictive system of an uncaged cortex, falling prey to the barrage of future possibilities and losing their insanity in the process. Many had committed suicide – that was, if their brain hadn’t simply been fried by overload of the cybernetic reality. Only full cyborgs, bred and chosen for the role could be said to have mastered the system – and none could be called well-adjusted by any means.

With no friend or foe designation, with no concept of morality, it was simply a matter of time until the influence of a Godhand’s cortex led the pilot to commit an atrocity.

Potential futures scattered in a forest around Hadraniel, hundreds of predictive premonitions that threatened to close in on the Godhand all at once. In the center of the vortex, on the top of the Godhand’s chest sat a haggard, near skeletal brown-haired veteran, huddled with his hands around his head.

Ethier alighted upon the very edge of the digital mindplane and quietly watched the futures swirled around the Apollo pilot – he was nearly a decade past Kent in age – he watched as the pillars of possibility crowd in around the pilot, threatening to drown him.

“They never stop. They keep coming, one after the other.” The man’s voice was ragged, but there was no mistaking the iron determination that formed the bedrock of his core self. “For every one I disable, that monster-“ he glared through his copper bangs at something over Ethier’s shoulder “-kills a dozens of my allies.”

Feeling the stab of cold on the back of his neck, Ethier slowly turned, pivoting to see a roiling storm on the horizon, a rumbling volcano on the beginning of the range, a massive pillar of darkness.

Even battered by missiles and rockets, by kinetic cannons and sniper fire, the Titan Breaker stood as the largest Tempest frame ever fielded by man, a behemoth of nothingness to the perception of the Haraniel’s pilot. As Ethier watched, grasping fingers of darkness coiled outward, enveloping Tempest frames of ASDF, ImpMil, and Marrow stripe alike and dragging the still forms into its void.

Like any grand clash, the monster would fall, eventually crashing lifeless to the ground. But that was not the string of futures that the Godhand’s cortex was hanging over the pilot’s head. No, it was the time it would take to disable the remaining BAVs and Black Valacs before dispatching the Titan Breaker – all while staying true to his ideals. All without another death.

“I’ve seen death,” the pilot said, shaking, as his flesh rippled underneath the sleeves of his flight suit, his face covered with sores and boils that stretched and retreated as if at random. “But not like this. No more.”

Crossing his arms against the chill of the mindlink – he was standing in space, after all, even if this all was one big metaphor – Ethier took a few steps over towards the black Titan, careful to stay just out of reach of the roiling edges of darkness.

The pilot of the Titan was a young woman, radiating fear and bereavement so powerful that it nearly doubled Ethier over like a punch in the gut. Turning and looking upon the plane of battle, Ethier saw Hadraniel from the girl’s perspective. Even if named for an angel, the black Godhand was a demonic figure, burning with endless flames, holding aloft a sword powered by sickly strength of hell itself. Its wings were vast, a quartet of searing whips snaking across the battlefield. One by one, the whips encircled the remaining Marrow pilots – all young men and women, the same age as Ethier or far younger.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the whips were closing around the throat of each of these possible futures, clearing the forest, a path towards the young woman. Those who were too young to fight in the war did not know of the massive battles that took place across an electronic mindlink, connecting enemies in the dark of the void, at the very brink.

As it was only in the face of death.

Ethier was, first and foremost, a soldier. He did not humanize his enemy. To do so was to hesitate. To do so was to die.

And yet…

That was the true tragedy of an uncaged mindlink, shared only by Godhand – that we could see into each other’s minds, and completely understand their point of view, understand the twists of fate that had led them to this point in time.

The training camps that had birthed every Marrow pilot present on the field of battle. The grueling, torturous training. The barrage of drugs, surgery, and propaganda. These children never stood a chance. To the young woman, the ARClight remnants and then what seemed to be every other faction in spitting distance had shown up on the footstep of her new home with the intent of exterminating her brothers and sisters.

The racist sentiments, born of those who had had a choice – those who lay within the Chasm base itself, sitting back while the proxies they had stolen from their families did the fighting and dying for them – those sentiments were a seed. A seed carefully watered, until it grew bore the fruit of the here.

The now.

The true tragedy of the mindlink was that he could understand his opponent – and still be unable to stop the showdown that was in motion, unable to prevent any more carnage. Some wounds ran too deep, some wars had too much momentum to be ground to a halt by the connection of three souls in a maelstrom of death and destruction.

***

Hadraniel hit the lunar surface so hard the crust cracked under its feet, twin impact craters throwing up geysers of rock. Thrusters spread across the undersides of its wings and on its back flared into azure lightning as the Godhand pushed back off the ground, throwing itself backwards as a scattershot of high-explosive rockets covered the fifty-meter square of rock it had inhabited moments before.

Tossing aside a smoking launcher, a Gundrone-equipped BAV shot forward, backed by two Vested Black Valacs. Pulling forth twin Imploder cannons off either shoulder, the BAV used the bracketing fire provided by eight total gundrones to assemble its lightning cannon and train it on Hadraniel.

Possible futures converged into a single targeting solution as the Godhand spread its wings wide, throwing all power into thrusters in time to avoid the first shot from the lightning cannon. The shell impacted the berm behind the Godhand so hard a fountain of rock spat a half-kilometer into the sky – and then another detonation, and another, as the composite cannon continue with a steady barrage.

Sticking close to the surface, Hadraniel allowed the geysers of dust to occlude visual location – there was only so many lines of fire the gundrones could cover, after all.

That was not so say they weren’t putting the Godhand through its paces. Ten sources of fire – punctuated by the occasional heat-seeking missile – was more than enough to tie down Hadraniel.

And slowly, in the pit of the stomach, Zane began to realize that the longer this squad tied him down, the more lives would be lost at the hands of the woman behind the controls of the Titan Breaker. He could tank his way out, but do so would probably cripple his Godhand – he had the growing feeling that these three pilots were the best non-Centurion operators Marrow had to offer.

Salvation came in the form of an ImpMil – Noah-01 - warship literally blasting over the horizon, missiles clouding the skies as they traced lazy paths by the dozens towards the drone-equipped frames. The pilots, faced with the choice between holding down the Godhand – and dying – and defending themselves while letting Hadraniel escape, chose the latter. Gundrones reoriented and gatling fire began to trace explosions across the sky.

Free to truly move for the first time in minutes, Zane glanced up at the Titan Breaker in time to see the last of the ringed beam cannons take a trio of missiles to the barrel, blowing it to pieces. The Godhand Titan reeled, and the cortex began to scream at Zane as it recognized the vulnerable enemy.

Thee screams reached a horrible crescendo in Zane’s head when the Titan flexed and purged its massive disk-like backpack.

Twin crescents of scorched armor shot in opposite directions, barely missing several Tempest frames and carving a pair of troughs in the surface before coming to a rest.

The assembled task force seemed to pause as the Titan Breaker came to life, demonstrating a vigor the sluggish behemoth had so far not even seemed capable of. Secondary grasping hands folded out from the holes where the remote weapon arms had docked, and the Titan Brreaker reached over its back, retrieving a battleship-caliber high-energy cannon in each claw.

“Oh,” Zane breathed, breath catching in his throat. “Oh, no.”

Strips of crimson energy lit down vertical outer length of the barrels, forming what everyone recognized as the two long imploder blades that might well have been wielded, or ever would be wielded.

Armor began to purge itself from the Titan Breaer, leaving a leaner, meaner giant – in turn, the remaining LO reflector shields on the beast began to ramp out in output, cloaking the prototype in a shimmering blue aura.

The Titan, for the first time in the battle, focused its attention on the most dangerous singular threat in the battle – the dumbstruck Hadraniel.

There was no time to think – the Titan, once a lumbering beast, brought one of its anti-colony swords down at Hadraniel with blinding speed.

In neat flourishes, the Godhand’s cortex began to paint futures of Hadraniel slipping to either side, of the follow-up from the second massive sword, and it finally dawned on Zane just what exactly he needed to do.

He was going to end this right here. Right now.

He stood his ground.

The anti-colony sword came scything down at Hadraniel, which braced its legs, shook out the power cable, and gripped the plasma sword in both hands while disengaging the limiters on its reactor.

The Godhand raised its sword in a horizontal parry, to the astonishment of the entire task force, and stood its ground.

The impact of the Titan Breaker’s sword threw an umbra of rock out in a circle, dust momentarily choking the area around the crater – but without, say, the continuing barrage of eight gundrones, the dust swiftly cleared –

-To reveal the Godhand Hadraniel, blue sparks of lightning arcing over its entire frame, holding off the anti-colony blade with a white fan of flowing energy nearly twice as long as the Godhand was tall. After all, this sword could cut through the fabric of dimensions– it would not be cowed in the face of a mere… Tempest frame.

Gazing upon his masterwork, Solomon Vo found a slight chuckle escaping his lips, which formed a grim smile. “Everyone – fire.”

And Tempest frames of every stripe, of three different factions – opened up as one on the Titan Breaker, battering the behemoth long enough to distract it from Zane.

Hadraniel shifted the weight of the anti-colony blade onto one shoulder as it wrapped both arms around the lower cylinder of the once-proud cannon.

And with all power diverted to the skeleton and joints of the Godhand, Hadraniel lifted the anti-ship sword.

Taking the battered and dazed Titan Breaker with it.

The barrage from the task force petered out as they all bore witness to a moment that would be spoken about it hushed whispers in bars and messhalls for years to come. They all gaped at the sight of the mighty Breaker prototype, stripped off armor, its weapons half wrecked, being dragged in a wide circular arc along the northern face of the Chasm valley – taking air for a brief second as Hadraniel yanked the Breaker back down to the surface hard enough on its back to crater a hundred meters into the rock upon impact.

But Hadraniel – but Zane – was not yet done.

Heaving on the anti-colony sword, the Godhand ripped the transforming weapon from the stunned Titan Breaker grip, flinging the blade into the sky, where it traced several lazy revolutions before landing grip first in the waiting arms of Hadraniel. The rock cracked once against under the Godhand’s shifted footing, and Hadraniel reoriented its grip on the massive blade, readying it as the Titan Breaker clambered to one knee, once again bracketed by dozens of impacting rocket shells.

Zane.

The Titan Breaker hefted its remaining sword and brought it swing diagonally down at Hadraniel.

Zane, remember who you are.

Servos and mechanical muscles screaming, Hadraniel brought its own stolen sword around to crash against the Titan Breaker’s blow. The impact was stunning, with multiple starbursts of thunder and lightning as the imploder edges ground against one another. With another blinding crack of light, the two blades parted, only for Hadraniel to shift the blade across to its other shoulder as they two swords clashed again from the opposite angle. The Titan Breaker outmassed the comparatively tiny Godhand to an almost absurd degree, but here it was, standing its ground.

The red power strips along the edges of both swords shot sparks, and even with Hadraniel operating far beyond reasonable capacity, the Titan Breaker, incensed at the opposition, poured all excess shield power into its servos, beginning to bear down on the black Godhand, grinding it into the dirt.

Across the battlefield, crouching in the upended ISV’s hangar, Comet-04 steadied his Valac’s sniper rifle.

Floating above the Titan Breaker’s head, Solomon Vo hefted an imploder launcher in each hand.

Leading a pack of newly-arrived Chandelier Valacs, Lee lined his squad up in execution procession, launchers primed and locked on.

The sniper rifle cracked silently, twin rounds impacting the clear armor covering the Titan Breaker’s eyes.

Vo fired at the weakened armorglass, glowing the panes away entirely.

With the signal from Lee, the Valacs –as one – decapitated the prototype Titan Breaker.

With the loss of the prime visual input, the Titans OS took a lethal second reestablishing its HUD, and in that second the attention of the massive frame’s pilot was diverted from the grinding swords.

With one final outpouring of Life Ore energy, Hadraniel shoved the Titan Breaker’s sword to the side, sending the entire massive opposing Titan crashing down onto one knee.

Flipping the sword in his Godhand’s hand around so the blade now pointed upward, Zane charged forward with one last upward slash, the blade leaving eddies of shorn spacetime in its wake. With a ground-quaking crash, the sword entered the Titan Breaker at the right hip, carving through its belly and out through its left shoulder, bisecting the frame in its entirety.

Rerouting all energy into wings, Hadraniel shot off the mark, discarding the warped Titan sword even as its own plasma sword exploded to life as two surviving hand-sized gundrones dropped in front of the crippled mother unit, ten fingers glowing with primed energy.

They never stood a chance. Hadraniel lifted its flowering sword to flash the sweep of burning fire once, twice, before riding the shock wave of the two explosions now behind the Godhand to land feet-first on the abdomen of the broken top half of the Titan Breaker, right above the exposed cockpit unit.

The Breaker made to reach for its fallen sword, but Zane lifted his own fiery blade in response.

The young Chandelier pilot’s voice echoed through his mind.

Zane. Keep your promise.

“I will,” Zane hissed, plunging his sword down and carving away the armor covering the cockpit unit. Bracing both legs on the torso of the Titan, he reached the Hadraniel’s other arm down and physically yanked the cockpit of the frame out of its corpse with such force that the pilot unit was sent flying out of the Hadraniel hands and out into space by sheer momentum.

Watching the cockpit spin away – and probably out of the moon’s gravity well entirely, Hadraniel at last looked down at its shimmering plasma sword, and with an unheard snap, deactivated the brilliant flow. The thirst of the Godhand’s cortex, finally sated, retreated from Zane MacAlistair’s mind, leaving him shuddering and heaving in the now all-too-large cockpit of the frame.

Rocking back and forth, Zane clawed at the fabric covering his right arm, and with a snap-release of the sectioned flight suit, tore the orange covering from his arm. His eyes went wide as he saw his limb – covered with metallic ridges bursting from the skin, sores seeping silvery-blue liquid, and a mesh-like weave where his forearm hair had been. He had only been in the Godhand for perhaps five or ten minutes, and this had happened to his arm? Even as he fought and failed to keep control of his rapidly accelerating breathing, the mechanical growths began to softly pulse with glowing blue light.

Eyes wide, Zane reached for his comm unit – and fainted, slumping down in the gee-couch, the wires snaking away from his neck port of their own accord.

Resolutely – deliberately – Hadraniel stored the cable-led sword hilt at its hip before kneeling at the gash torn in the Titan Breaker’s torso and going still, lights dimming as the Godhand powered down.

*********

The first thing she noticed was the blood floating inside the cockpit. Crimson droplets swirling in zero gee, glimpsed through a shattered visor. Blinking through blurry eyes, she glanced around the 360-cockpit. Half the hexscreens were static or simply black, the other displayed an inverted moonscape.

A moonscape covered in shrapnel.

Rolling her neck to be confronted with the mother of all headaches, Cara Yagami felt consciousness flood back into her mind all at once.

The battle, the call to retreat. The Captain’s decision to hold the remaining enemy forces, despite her fervent objections. The close in towards the Cocytus.

And then the light. The all-encompassing light. The shockwave, as though the hand of god, smacking her up away from the lunar surface.

And then, as soon as the second sunrise, the pitch of night.

Chains of logic began to form in the Lieutenant’s mind. The Cocytus had been destroyed from the inside. No one on board would have been incompetent enough to accidentally trigger a detonation in the armory, but the one option that sprang to her mind seemed to be the only reasonable answer.

The nuclear missiles.

Only those could explain the reboot the Yellowjacket’s central computer was going through at the moment – a cold boot from zero. And who else had the codes?

Who would be imminently positioned to betray ARClight once the battle was concluded?

There was only one answer.

Karras.

Life pulsed back into the Yellowjacket, with gas burning from the frame’s shredded left limbs. A single thruster pack blazed to life, flipping the Tempest frame upright, while an out-of-calibration sensor suite location in the units torso began to survey the surrounding region.

There had been only one 1.5-drive-powered Tempest frame in the theater during the entire length of the battle that had disengaged its limiters to a degree Cara had never before seen. That mosquito-from-hell Wasp. And no matter how trashed her frame was, it could damn well track a stream of distorted LO particles.

Pushing down towards the surface, the Yellowjacket began the hunt.

***

“Zoe. No matter what, don’t leave the cockpit.”

“Keep the vulcans on him or the Keter’s vulcans?”

Karras strove to inject his voice with authority and confidence, despite the monster he knew lay just outside the PALE HORSE’s hatch. “The vulcans. I’ll handle him. We’ll need a third eye. Get the bridge on the line and have Angela get her best shot down here. We’ll need something to tip the scales.”

Glancing up at Karras through eyes clouded by worry, Zoe added, “Be careful. We all saw what happened the last time this happened.”

The hatch of the Keter’s cockpit hissed open, black alloyed slabs sliding aside, a grey plank dropping down for Carnifex to step out on. In his right hand was gripped a pistol, a clear invitation for Karras to meet him man to man.

“That won’t happen,” said Karras, studying the monitor. Had the full-body cyborg always looked so small? The Godhand pilots could choose any chassis they deign to make use of, and this child had chosen one barely taller than Zoe. The simulacrum skin looked all the more artificial in the cold light of the Old Familiar’s hangar bay – combined with Carnifex’s posture and movements, it seemed the young man had given up any pretense of pretending to be human.

Karras took a deep breath before reaching for his own cockpit release.

“What makes you say that?” Zoe asked, cutting in at the last second.

In Carnifex’s left hand, now held high, was a pen-sized stick tipped by a red button held down by the cyborg’s thumb.

“Because he’s got a dead man’s switch for his dual drive’s safety systems.”

***

The first Centurion drifted through space, largely forgotten by the worn combatants down near the surface. This suited her just fine, she supposed. She had never really had this much time to herself, without any obligations wearing her down, without an Overseer looking over her shoulder or a colonial pilot trying to shoot her down.

She had time to think.

Think, about how she had failed. Her friends. Her superiors. Herself.

Oxygen warnings blinked an insistent, angry red at her from the corner of her splintered HUD display, but she paid it no mind. The cockpit sphere was breached, and she had maybe five minutes of O2 left to her. It only made sense for it to end like this, after all. She had been, her entire life, a tool, an implement. And with her masters gone, it only made sense for her to be cast aside. She had nothing to fight for, to live for.

And even if she lived past the next five minutes, she wouldn’t last a day without her medication – medication that had been produced and stocked solely in the Chasm base. The secrets of the base, including the process of developing a true Centurion, had lost likely been purged by whomever had been left inside in preparation for the eventual searching eyes of the Coalition forces.

Try as she might to shake the feeling, she knew deep down that, in those final moments, she had been connected to the pilot of the black Godhand. She had felt the cold, divine purpose, and it terrified her more than even her impending death. If the only way to defeat soldiers bred from birth to be soldiers would was to cast aside one’s humanity in its entirety, she feared for the world crafted by the victors, the strongest. Those without a shred of humanity, whose singular purpose had been the absolute destruction of those who took up arms against them.

But in that final moment, that second voice had floated into her mind as though buoyed by a gentle breeze. And with such a simple touch of that voice, the pilot of the Godhand had spared her life.

What a mercy that was.

Hugging her knees to her chest, she watched through broken flatscreens the Coalition forces milling far below, regrouping as they tallied their survivors in preparation for seizing the Chasm itself. Perhaps they had forgotten her in the confusion, though she doubted she’d receive stellar treatment after slaughtering her way through their final push. She’d pushed the Breaker prototype to its absolute limits, even activating the PURGE system, and it had taken the intervention of the Godhand to stop her from taking another score or more of pilots with her.

As the red blink being a consistent shrieking tone, he let herself float away the beginning of oxygen deprivation took her mind. If she had been lucid, she probably would have noticed the shadow-equipped shuttle decloak just long enough to scoop her cockpit into its tiny hangar before dropping back into invisibility and blasting off to parts unknown.

***

“I suppose I have you to thank for the LO Condenser?”

Carnifex shrugged, his pistol still aimed at Karras’ face. “Reparations had to be made. And I won’t stop until the scales are entirely balanced.”

“What do you want?” Karras faced the ARClight Captain squarely, hands on his hips, hovering entirely too closely to the holster containing a spare .45 taken from the PALE HORSE’s cockpit. “I mean, it’s obvious what you want.”

“Indeed. But I think at this point we should all thankful that I am offering you the chance to escape with your life in exchange for the entirety of the haul.”

Karras quirked an eyebrow at Carnifex, bemused. “The chance? I wasn’t working with Naveen or Teague, and I’m not about to do some song and dance to prove it.”

“Considering your circumstances, I don’t really think you’re in a position to argue,” Carnifex stated, confidence strengthening every syllable. It was almost enough to hide the tinge of barely contained anger boiling just under the surface of Carnifex assured demeanor – and something else that Karras wasn’t sure he could place.

“I’d say we’re evenly matched. Vulcans to vulcans. I’m a fair draw, so let’s say even on that front.”

“And the dead man’s switch.”

“Yes, that.” After a pause, Karras added, “for the sake of argument, how were you planning to get out of here? You don’t have your propellant tanks attached, and I can only assume you’re almost out of fuel after a sortie that long.”

“Of all of my men, I picked up Cara’s signal closing in on this location. He was so reluctant to retreat that he was far enough away from the Cocytus to weather the worst of the detonation.”

“That seems fair. How is she tracking us?”

Carnifex’s robtic mask barely shifted, denying Karras any read on his expression beyond the set of the jaw. “You’re the only pilot in the region using an uncaged 1.5 drive. The condenser’s activation was a pre-planned signal beacon, after Teague reported you had several on board your vessel.”

Karras nodded, pursing his lips in mock consternation, before sighing and sitting down on the Wasp’s open hatch, leaving his legs tangling over the deck far below. “Then we’re just waiting for him to arrive. Good. That gives us time to talk.”

“Talk?” Carnifex titled his head ever so slightly.

“Well, yes. You’re about to come into a great deal of money. It only seems fair to ask you what you intend to do with it.”

“You heard of my plans from the recording that the ISB Inquisitor took before the Sundering.”

“Yes, yes,” Karras said, waving his hand impatiently. “Starving off the Imperium might have been a nice idea, but you can’t seriously think its relevant now at all. The Earth is in tatters after the Sundering, and that’s not even counting the constant Horde attacks. Whatever oppressive surface hegemony you feared is gone.”

“But it philosophy still lingers on, like a self-perpetuating meme, Karras. Humanity’s evolution was never an earth-space divide.”

Karras’ head rocked back, surprised. “Now that’s the first time all week you’ve sounded like the crazy asshole you style yourself after. Is this the talk of a man desperately seeking a purpose in life?”

“You find yourself in a fine position to criticize, Karras, as a man who has always benefited from the perpetuation of the status quo.”

Karras openly sneered at Carnifex. “Don’t try to rebound this back at me. Don’t try to use such meaningless terms with me. Let’s look at the facts. There is no Earth government to protect against. Your shining beacon on the hill isn’t the Constellation, and it sure as hell isn’t Atlea over at L3, embroiled in some petty civil war over the childhood grudges of its respective leaders. It’s the Apollo Kingdom, and quite frankly, I’m not sure they want your help.”

“They needn’t know I even exist.”

“Piss off. You’re not some silent guardian. You’re a tool created by a ghost of a remnant of a phantom to perpetuate their endless cycle of revenge. Alton Nureno wouldn’t take you back because you couldn’t end the fight. You’re an appendix in this new age, someone vestige from a forgotten era, something we honestly don’t even need.”

“And what makes you think you deserve to join them on your beacon on the hill, Karras? I have neither the time nor the inclination to listen to you prattle on silent guardians when you intend to become one yourself as a…. benevolent crime boss. How amusing.”

Glancing up at the catwalk above the Carnifex, Karras saw a white-clad figure drop silently down from above, a simple civilian model rifle in hand. Taking a position directly above Carnifex, the figure quietly took aim upon the man.

“You keep trying to bring things back to me, and honestly, it’s not going to work. My future is my own. You… you don’t have a future.”

“The good Lieutenant should be here any minute now, Karras. I suggest you hand over the data drive now before I move from you to deciding whether or not to kill the rest of your crew.”

“On the contrary, your departure time may be delayed… permanently. You see, while I may not have been compared for Teague being a deep cover plant, I was entirely prepared for any funny business on your side, Captain.”

Carnifex paused, and then took a very tiny step back. “The LO condensers.”

“They were there for a reason, after all. You pulled from a rack of maybe twenty slots, of which maybe five were full.” Karras spread his hands. “It only takes her to choose one wrong beacon, and there are fifteen out there.”

***

The trail of warped LO particles led into a deep crevasse – another cave system, one of many that dotted the region. While Cara was not as foolish as to go down after the Wasp – while she was in no way equipped for close-quarters combat, the one arm that remained to her fortunately mounted her single remaning gundrone.

Dropping down as close to the split in the rock face as she could, Cara extended her drone, maneuvering the wire-fed remote cannon into the cavern below. The sensors and camera mounted in between the barrels of the drone’s cannons told her the source of the particle was just around the corner – all he had to do was circle the turn firing, and the zero-armor Wasp wouldn’t stand a chance.

This was for the Captain.

But no.

The wires weren’t long enough.

Gritting her teeth in frustration, Cara dropped the maimed Yellowjacket further down into the rock. With sheer walls on either side of her, she has precious little room to maneuver, but she was at least still out of Karras’ visual range.

Just a bit further, and she touched down inside the mouth of the serpentine cavern. With a burst of microthrusters, the drone floated forward, green energy collecting at the quad-tips.

Just before the drone fired, Cara caught a split-second glimpse of the tunnel beyond, with the floating, blinking beacon attached to a red-sprouting LO condenser.

And by then it was too late, as the grenades strung along the length of the tunnel exploded.

***

Karras glanced down at the red light blinking insistently on the face of his wrist computer and faux-grimaced. “And I was looking forward to seeing the smug look on that girl’s face on last time.” Quite slowly and deliberately, he clambered back to his feet.

“This isn’t checkmate, but I think you’re starting to get the idea.”

“A fine bluff.”

“You may have had me if this was only a year ago, back when you were seated in the heart of your power. But this is a new world, with new rules.”

Slowly, as though raising a protective talisman, Carnifex brought the dead man’s switch up to eye level. “Think very carefully about what you’re going to do next.”

“I already did. Angela.”

Perched high above the broken Keter, the Captain of the Old Familiar opened up with her rifle. The first bullet caught Carnifex in the shoulder, sending him spinning in a slow pirouette. The next hit his outstretched arm – a stroke of luck, more than anything – sending the old German-patterned pistol flying away.

Carnifex wobbled on the edge of the hatch, thumb visibly removed from the switch’s button. “B-but?” He sounded confused, as though he were a child experiencing pain for the very first time.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve replicated the signal from a dead man’s switch. When I said the world didn’t need you any more, I was speaking quite literally. Zoe’s been replicating the signal with the PALE HORSE’s broadcast suite for some time now.”

Carnifex dropped to his knees, black blood staining the white of his uniform a deep grey before spilling down onto his pristine pants. “I don’t understand… I did everything he ever wanted, Karras, and he sent one of his tools to bury me. I only every did what he wanted. I only ever wanted to make him proud.”

Karras swung his feet, looking down at the .45 that had found its way into his hands. The young man – scared at the first taste of mortality – tore through segments of his moral code that he had managed to sidestep and keep out of focus until now. This was a child, sent forth as a golem to carry on the war his father and his father’s father had started.

“From one man to another,” Carnifex wheezed – the bullet must have punctured an artificial lung, “I know you don’t see yourself as much as a shepherd… but it’s your burden now. Your curse.”

“If you insist,” Karras said, before raising his pistol and firing a single bullet.
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 » Tue Nov 08, 2016 2:36 am

File 34: New World Order
Subject: Aftermath


Pilots scurried across the hangar of the To All Things, performing triage on flesh and metal alike as the experienced mechanics of the Chandelier flagship when to work on the survivors of the Battle of the Chasm.

“I always thought the name was a bit mouthy,” Vo said, watching from the catwalk above.

“Chandlier, To All Things,” Yevgeny Stanchion said reprovingly. The smaller man anxiously rubbed ones of the lenses of his glasses on an untucked corner of his uniform, aiming to eradicate a nonexistent smudge. “But you already know the theory.”

Vo could only cross his arms and frown severely as he watched the still-crouched Hadraniel being carried up through one of the flagship’s several intake airlocks. “Did you and Utina manage to catch any the ghosts you were chasing, eh?”

The Godhand pilot blinked mildly. “It was a Horde ambush. ARClight set it up, of course, but I deign to question where they got that sort of high-level intelligence.”

“We’ve had our suspicions about those funding your…. Little brother, so we say, for a while now,” Vo countered, careful to keep his voice gruff and detached.

“Still, it was awfully convenient that the first post-Sunder Godhand saw action here-“

“-And it performed spectacularly-“ Vo put in-

“-And yet,” Stanchion continued, not to be halted now that he had built up the momentum, “And yet, Sir Vo, this Godhand is entirely divorced from the Imperial control architecture and its pilot…” Stanchion trailed off as the Chandelier technicians, experienced with servicing Stanchion’s own Godhand Malkuth, finally managed to open the once-sealed hatch of Hadraniel and begin the process of extricating the unconscious pilot.

They both seemed unsurprised by the metallic growths ringing and growing throughout Zane’s revealed arm, even if several of the technicians down below shouted and began calling for medics.

“Hadraniel’s pilot seems entirely under the thumb of a Knight once set south in disgrace under suspicion of seeming regicide.”

“It’s difficult,” Vo said, words measured, eyes still on Zane as he was wired into a regeneration pod, “to question the honor of a man who has none left.” Fishing out a handkerchief from a pouch on his flight suit, he let loose a burst of vicious coughs before tucking the cloth – now wet with flecks of red – away once more. “Worry not, Yev. We’ll all be meeting the princesses tomorrow and I’m fairly sure Zane’s attention, no, loyalty, will be entirely captured by one of our dear lieges.”

“Ciel may be gone, Sir,” Stanchion said as Vo turned to leave, “but I have no stomach for treason.”

Vo paused, glancing back over his shoulder. “It’s a new world, Yev. Get with the changing times or get left behind.”

Stanchion remained on the catwalk as Vo dropped down a ladder to intercept MacAlistair before he carried out of the hangar. Of course he’d want to be the first thing the younger veteran saw when he woke up – an idol, guiding him back down from the high of first activation. This was incredibly troubling, making a non-fullbody a pilot. There had been reasons, all those years ago they had been given the conversion.

Vo thought he was creating a loyal soldier to sally forth in the name of the surviving Roux princesses. What he didn’t realize could very well lead to ruin down the line if Stanchion wasn’t there to keep an eye on the newest member of the Godhand corps. Allowing himself a rare outward expression of distaste that was gone as soon as it had appeared, Stanchion swallowed his pride and followed Vo’s path down the ladder to greet MacAlistair.

****

Ethier huddled over his cup of steaming coffee, taking a moment to left the smell waft up into his nostrils before he took his first sip. They were still low enough to enjoy the pull of Luna’s atmosphere, allowing Kent to enjoy the rare pleasure of freshly-pressed coffee in an honest-to-god mug.

They had left him alone after the battle, though he suspected it had been under Admiral Winchester’s orders to give him time to unwind. Minddives were a dangerous, somewhat illegal process, and detangling the mingled psyches from his own consciousness would take some time.

“You never wiped off the blood.”

Ethier started to see a man best described as ‘utterly forgettable’ standing in the now-closing door to the emptied officer’s mess. He was dressed in simple pilot’s fatigues, his short dark hair – complete with greying temples – swept back from his thinly smiling face. “Your nostrils,” the man said, waving in the general direction of Ethier’s face. “Don’t want blood in your Libra 82 roast.”

Wiping at his upper lip, Ethier was surprised to see almost-dried blood smearing the length of his index finger.

“Backlash from a link,” the man said, pulling up a chair opposite Ethier. “To be expected, though I’m surprised you didn’t notice.”

Ethier squinted at the man. “How did you know my roast?”

Ignoring the question, the man leaned forward and stuck out a still-gloved hand. “Jack Raeneth. Comet-04.”

“You were Vo’s sniper. His second,” Ethier nodded, taking Raeneth’s hand and giving it a firm two-shake. “Look, I’m supposed to be waiting for Admiral Win-“ He paused as Raeneth’s head flopped back, the light literally going out of the man’s eyes as his body slouched in the chair. He held his coffee cup all the more protectively, glancing around the room to see if this was some sort of prank.

“No, I don’t think that’ll wake him up. He’s been through a lot though.”

Holding himself very still, Ethier turned his head slowly to see a figure seep forward out of the shadows of a corner of the room, a panel retracting into the wall behind them man. The figure, cast in darkness, seemed to be a shaded variation on Raeneth’s outline, as though the two had been cut from the same cloth and given minor differences during final the final design phases.

“I, however, am bone-exhausted,” the man said, standing behind Ethier. He heard the clink of his French press as the man poured himself a second cup. “I hope you don’t mind, but I never pass up a rare roast when I see it. When you’ve seen as many years pass as I have, you learn to really invest in state-of-the-art taste receptors.”

Nudging his chair to spin, Ethier faced the man in full, offering only a slight tilt of his head in greeting.

“You see,” the man said, pausing to take a sip from the still-warm liquid – “mmmmm, perfection. Yes, you see, Editors don’t last long when I take a personal hand in their processes. The flesh ones – the standalone figures – well, they live their lives, but the proxies – the Editors – always have a backdoor for me to sneak in and write the script personally.”

Recognition began to seep into Ethier’s mind in time with the caffeine hitting his system.

“They say Editors have the power to literally rewrite reality,” the man continued. “Utter farce. But I do like to keep a hand in every plot, as it were, even if my selection of true proxies has been significant diminished in the past month.”

“That man… was your agent?”

“Every good manuscript needs someone to reign in the excess, as it were,” the man’s eyes twinkled. “I’m surprised you haven’t complained yet about my complicity in allowing quasi-AIs to run rampant in our wonderful world.”

“Well, yeah,” Ethier said, stumbling over the words, “But I don’t really think the rules apply to you… sir.”

“I’ll take that as a backhanded compliment.” Another sip, another expression of contentment. “Neither Vo nor Winchester are particularly big fans of mine, but the Roux line always saw a need for my existence.”

“I’m not sure how I can help you, sir.” With shaking hands, Ethier wrapped his fingers around his mug, hoping the coffee would combat the sudden chill that had taken his body.

“On the contrary, I recently lost an Inquisitor that was uniquely position for larger gains. I had an Editor, you see, Kent – can I call you Kent? I had an Editor that went rogue over a decade plus ago, and this Inquisitor was in a prime position to keep an eye on a section of the plot I needed managed. But, alas, she’s gone now.” The glowing blue eyes turned to affix upon Ethier. “Tomorrow, your friend Lee will reap the accolades for assuring Chandelier reinforcements. Vo will stand as an elder stateman, the steward of a new coalition. And Mister MacAlistair, bless his heart, will stand as the Kingdom’s newest Knight. But you, son, won’t have any such honors. That is not your path, not to fame and glory.”

“You walk a darker path, though I’d like to think I’d have some say in mine,” Ethier said, forcing the slightest of edges into his voice. He needed to be careful, sure. This man could have him disappeared without so much as a second thought.

“Ha! Where are my manners, young Kent? Excuse me for not offering a handshake, I already appropriated one from the Raeneth proxy. But then again, you know who I am.”

“The Author,” Ethier stated.

“Somewhat appropriate given the layers in this world. Call what we deal with subplots, young man. Never burgeoning into something that could swallow the course of the world at large. Ours is to set the stage for the heroes to do their derring-dos.”

“As much as I appreciate the extended metaphor,” Ethier said, “let me repeat myself: I’m not sure I’d be of use as an agent for you, sir.”

“You underestimate yourself, young man,” the Author said, setting aside his mug to lean forward and meet Ethier’s eyes with his own glowing blue irises. “It’s not what you are now, but your potential that interests me. But let me make things simpler for you: I’ve known many people in this world – for centuries, I’ve met all kinds of heroes and villains. Friends have died early and villains have lasted far longer than they should have. But this is different. This isn’t some madman plotting domination – we’re talking about complete destruction here for humanity. Total extinction.”

“The Horde,” Ethier stated.

“In part, yes,” the Author said, running a hand through his hair. “And others. I hate to admit a lack of complete omniscience, but I’m working on half a plotline here. I need someone to work around the edges and help me fill in the blanks. And yes, I suppose I’ll throw in the carrot as well.”

“Human extinction does work fairly well as a stick, yeah,” Ethier said, morose.

The Author flowered a hand palm-up, summoning a hologram of Ethier’s dossier. “Kent Ethier. Twenty. Now Lieutenant First Class of the Chandelier. Placed into the training program following distinguished performance in the aftermath of the Boston Massacre. Quiet, reserved.” A pause for effect. “Orphan. Here’s the carrot, kid: complete this mission for me, and I’ll tell you how your parents died.”

“They were freighter jockeys during the beginning of the war,” Ethier said. “Don’t tell me they were important. You ain’t Ben Kenobi.”

“Now that’s a pull,” the Author chuckled, closing his fist and quenching the hologram. “But I see the curiosity in your eyes.”

“Fine,” Ethier said, snatching the French press and pouring himself out the dregs of the brew remaining in the glass chamber. “Who’s the mark?”

*******

“You couldn’t have saved her, Boss,” Zoe said, hurrying after Karras as he stalked down the spinal corridor of the Old Familiar towards his appropriated cabin.

“Something of a theme in my life,” Karras said, toweling the blood off his bruised face. “Tell Lau to set course for Armstrong. “The blood from this can at least fertilize the roots of my new project.”

“So Aubrey was right?” Zoe asked, catching herself at an intersection behind Karras. “About you being one of old Backstop?”

“The Horsemen of that empire were all cutthroats and world-shaking crime lords. Murderers, assholes, and reprobates. And I was no exception. But,” Karras said, holding up a finger, “perhaps we can use the name to reanimate its corpse into something new.”

“I was thinking,” Zoe said, holding her position now that Karras was finally opening up, “about the PALE HORSE. I’ve seen that Vasnetsov painting – it goes white, red, black, and grey. You’ve got your scheming all wrong for the Wasp.”

“This would be true,” Karras admitted, “but 1.5 drive and all, it wasn’t originally mine, grasshopper.”

“Who did it belong to?” Zoe asked. “I mean, beyond the obvious implications of the color scheme?”

“Someone I hope stays dead,” Karras stated flatly.

*********

The throne really was quite comfortable. Lounging across it, boots propped up, he swung the chair’s hydraulics around, spinning the base to view the starscape beyond. Spinning a disc around one finger, he took a couple seconds to watch how the light of the stars played across the chromed surface.

“Teague. You’re in my chair.”

Spinning the throne around to face the lifts at the other end of the massive chamber, Thaddeus Teague saw the Chairman of the Constellations step out, arms behind his back. Nureno was a tall, imposing figure, with short white hair, a stylish coat, and jackboots that would be… fascistic on any other secret dictator. “I take it the mission went well?” Nureno asked, voice a rolling, relaxing baritone.

Twisting around and standing, Teague removed a datapad from his jacket and tossed it like a frisbee at the Chairman, who caught it deftly with one hand. Glancing off-handedly at it, Nureno raised his eyebrows, impressed. “Six missiles?”

Teague calmly brushed nonexistent dust from the sleeves of his jacket, trying to look nonchalant. “All tied to Marrow signatures. Or any signature, to be honest. You could spark just about any conflict you want with these. Firestarters.”

“And Bardem?” Nureno glanced up.

“The final nuke,” he said, motioning at the pad.

Nureno flipped through the pictures and allowed himself a small smile. “That’s… well, it’s certainly a novel way of providing proof of death. Was this your doing?”

Chuckling, Teague shook his head and turned away to watch the stars again. “I think we can lay that one entirely at the feet of Karras.”

“The information broker?”

“He probably came the closest to realizing what was happening. But I managed to occupy his attention long enough for the rest of the MIDNIGHT Operatives to make off with the missiles.”

Placing the datapad on a desk, Nureno ascended the steps to his throne and settled into it, spinning it to share the view with Teague. “Something tells me there’s enough bad blood there that it might come back to haunt us later.”

“As much as I tried to prolong the battle, he did defeat me fair and square. I didn’t expect him to gain access to the drive’s Sunder mode so soon, after all.”

Nureno, more knowledgeable than any man alive on the intricacies of a 1.5 drive, looked impressed, despite himself. “Oh, really? We should keep an eye on him, after all.”

“I’d recommend it. He’s too much of a loner to join a faction, but I could see him funneling most of the money he made away with into recreating his old criminal apparatus on this Luna. We could use him in the future.”

Flipping idly through the computer display on his throne’s arms, Nureno nodded quietly. “I’ll have to dispatch another operative to keep tabs on him, then. You’ve done well, Teague. We’ve unified the Lunar factions while dispatching two separate possible terrorist groups. And what more, we have the ability to shape the future of this new era going forward without our actions ever being tied to us.”

“And what about the TF blueprints I swiped from Bardem?” Teague threw a sidelong look at the Chairman.

With an idle wave of his hand, Nureno expanded a hologram of a quartet of Tempest frame schematics, leaving them rotating slowly in the air. “Frames that can rival the Titan Breaker or Hadraniel, yet are completely untraceable to the CRF? I think we may be able to find a use for them. It’s simply a question of laundering them through the Keeper network.”

Drawing a cigar from the inside of his jacket, Teague lit it with a puff of smoke. New Godhands for a new era. The TX-0 series. Majiec called them Reaper frames.”

An eyebrow quirked. “Careful to speak of the devil, Thaddeus. I don’t need him and Kelevra having another row in my throne room.”

Studying the glowing cigar, Teague shrugged. “I’m just the point man, sir. The herald, if you will.”

“To the world after the end,” Nureno said.
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 » Wed Nov 09, 2016 12:03 am

File 35: Freshly Ground Hope
Subject: The Libra Republic


If there is a rough frontier along the colonial circuit, is that the form of the governed-in-name only Libra Republic. With neither a Keeper force or a strong Constellation presence to provide an impetus for business to funnel money into the Colony cluster, the population has largely fallen under the thumb of multiple criminal interests – from the Red Masks to the elusive crime lord known as Les Albatros – giving the entire region around Lagrange Five the sense of being a recreation of the old American west, with a decided dystopian air.

This was not always the case. The Libra Republic was one of the few Lagrange Points to remain neutral during the War in the Heavens, sitting safe due its relative lack of mineral deposits. This point had originally put the area foremost in the running for a potential capital for a future Colonial state, as envisioned by Empress Roux – until the outbreak of the war swept aside any possibility for peaceful transition of the colonies out of the Imperial court.

Political infrastructure, constructed in secret, lay abandoned for the rest of the war as the Atlean Republic took the brunt of the fighting in the initial years of the war. The far more warlike neighbor sucked whatever meager talent or resources Libra had before the war dry, leaving the colonies adjacent to the initial rebels to suffer the worse economic consequences when the conflict drew to a close. While Atlea could call upon its superior manpower and Life Ore reserves to replenish itself to relative readiness so soon after the armistice, Libra had no such recourse to replenish itself in the postbellum period. The cluster might well have occupied the peaceful position the prime Constellation at L1 found itself if the war had been averted, but as of immediately pre-Sunder, the two cluster form a striking study in contrasts.

With the fall of the Imperium and the near-constant state of attack Atlea found itself under following the Sundering at the hand of Horde armies, Libra finally settled into a groove as the expanding breadbasket of its powerhouse neighbor. With Atlea distracted by the fight for its very survival, Libra finally found itself in a position of negotiating power. Of particular interest was Les Albatros finding himself in an awkward position of having to reorganize territory for which he was technically the ruling power in order to see potentials for his empire grow in the future.

Once one of the biggest losers of the War in the Heavens – or at least the biggest loser that still had its cluster intact – Libra Republic was primed for an ever more disastrous fall than before. And fate did provide, just ten months after the Sundering. Colonies began to wink out, one by one – universally falling into internal chaos before disappearing without a trace. With the so-called attacks happening at random and no way to predict which colony would fall next, the economic bubble within the Libra Republic burst slowly, giving the cluster the appearance to outside observers of an apocalypse in slow motion.

Almost thirty percent of the colonies in the Cluster would be stardust by those behind the attacks were dealt with, but the destruction permanently annihilated the burgeoning sense of hope that once been so foreign to Libran colonists. It would take even less time for Libra to descend down further than it had before, with the departure of Les Albatros appropriately signally the final gasp of the republic before its complete demise towards lawlessness. Going forward, the only people who would stay in the cluster would be the hardy, the victims, 94 both.
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 » Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:11 am

File 36: Echoes in the Machine
Subject: Keeper Communiques


Light filtered through his eyelids, the sudden intensity pulling him into the realm of the living. Blinking and rolling out of his bunk, Ethier looked across his cabin to see that the small screen built into the far wall had come alive, showing a single icon blinking on its glowing surface.

He had come to dread the appearance of that icon – the gunmetal sphere encasing a dark blue circle – metal covering the earth. A single long-feathered bird floated above the sphere, battered yet proud, tested and proven. Each time Ethier inspected the icon he saw new details – this time, he saw the feathers encircling the planet, as though tracing a never-ending loop.

Ethier should feel relief – this was a something new, something that wasn’t the past several months of non-stop combat with the Horde. If the screen hadn’t woken him, he would place money on the nightmares following through in the next few hours. At least with this he wasn’t bolting upright, covered in sweat.

The Keeper contact the Author had put him on had been nothing like the cyberized cultists fixed in the public’s eye – if anything, she was a completely normal psychiatrist operating out of the Armstrong City military port. Winchester had assigned him to therapy following the mind-dive, a prospect Ethier relished and feared in equal measure. He needed an outlet with the increasing horrors of the war, but at the same time, he had spent so long covering up his past that any amount of loosening up was complete anathema to him.

Out of curiosity, Ethier rose and padded across the room, passing his computer and instead inspecting the results folder the doctor’s office had sent him after the most recent session. Even as he thumbed through the papers, a small – no larger than a thumbnail – datachit fell out from between the page to fall slowly to the deck of his cabin. Crouching in the lunar gravity, Ethier leaned in to inspect the chit – it wasn’t of any make he recognized in ImpMil or CRF channels. Keeper make, he supposed, hijacking his computer.

Standing, he pressed the intercom near his cabin’s hatch and swiped over to the line for the security chief. “LT Ethier here. Let the Admiral know that the target made contact. …And that I’ll probably need a new computer, yeah. Yes, I’m aware of what time it is. No, I’m not sharing my roast, Senior Chief.”

********

“Coordinates.”

The data-chit glinted under the light of the single lamp illuminating the Admiral’s office, the rays refracting and painting the entire room in a spread of shimmering blues and purples.

“That’s the Senior Chief agreed, yes ma’am,” Ethier said, feeling awkward.

In her early sixties, hair long since come white, Utina Winchester had been widely regarded as the moral backbone of the Imperium following the purges – her appointment to the head of Chandelier had gone a long way towards cementing the armistice following the end of the war. Born and raised a colonist, she had joined the Imperium, in her words, for a chance to reform it from within. Despite a keen strategic and tactical mind, her primary fame during the postbellum period had been her skill at diffusing potential explosive situations with a curious mix of calm, rational diplomacy and, if the situation called for it, swift and decisive surgical action.

Setting down the chit in the center of her desk, Utina turned her grey eyes back to regard Ethier, who only shrank further back into his seat. “It seemed fortuitous, then, that we severed our access to the mainframe, eh, Lieutenant?”

Ethier fidgeted. “I had an idea, to be fair, that they’d try to use me as an in to the mothership, ma’am.”

“They’d be fools not to. Never trust free charity, young man. The Keepers play ball just like the rest of us.”

“If I may, ma’am, I think the coordinates are a real opportunity.”

“Oh?” Winchester asked, leaning forward and interlacing her fingers, eyes sparkling. “Just what have you picked up from that ancient gearbox?”

“The intrusion, I think, was just to get our attention. The coordinates aren’t a trap, but a way to get us to look at something that they can’t just tell us about straight out.”

“Cutting through the bullshit,” Winchester said, making a slicing motion with one hand, “you think there’s dissention in the Keeper ranks?”

“Differences of opinion, or whatever. But if there’s any disunity in the Keeper ranks, we damn well need to know now, ma’am.”

“And your reasoning,” Winchester continued, stringing him forward, “for thinking that we can trust the source?”

“The chit was an offering, proof of good intent. They know we’ve been looking for any Keeper technology we can get our hands on, and this is their down payment.”

“Or,” Winchester countered, tapping the chit with a finger and spinning it like a top, “It’s something they can afford to give up if it means luring out our best and brightest.”

“I can go by myself,” Ethier offered.

She let out a sharp bark of a laugh, studying him with renewed interest. “You implying you are neither our best or brightest, Lieutenant?”

“Let me put it this way, ma’am. Given the fact that a data chip was included in my medical file, it would be correct to assume the second copy sent to our medical staff might also contain one.”

Winchester glanced over at her monitor before nodding. “We covered that, yes, but I appreciate your argument for why I shouldn’t let you go on a solo mission. Are you trying to stay home?”

A message tone tweedled from the console and Winchester audibly groaned. “Of course, he’d want to interject. Look, son, you haven’t even been on board for four hours. You’re marching back to your bunk, and you’re getting six more hours of rest, and that’s an order. Then, you march your ass back here and by then you’ll have decided your fates.”

Ethier stood, snapping off an exhausted salute. “Yes ma’am. That isn’t ominous at all, ma’am.”

Her eyes sparkled one more time before she dismissed him with a wave.

_____________

The nightmares found him as he knew they would the second his head touched the pillow and unconsciousness took him.

I walk through a sparkling heaven, its sidewalks lined with the sprawled and twisted bodies of the dead. The path is infinite, with only three forms ahead of me.

I see two people hug with their child tugging on their legs.

The oil of his first project stains his clothes.

I see a girl in a cockpit crying to sleep. I see a young man fighting against all odds in spirit and battle.

Floating blood droplets fill the room with the smoking gun. Ideologies spent and dying among the new ruins in this amalgamation. More and more fill my eyes, but I cannot keep track of them all.

One woman makes herself clear. She wanders this highway of light with me. Her glasses are opaque from the reflections around us. She is familiar.

I walk toward her.

A body gets in the way. A battlefield gets in the way. Millions of bodies surge up, corpses blocking my back. I can’t see her.

A lithe single-horned Tempest frame opens its arms and says “I’m here.”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Cold sweat soaked his body at he jerked upright. His uniform was drenched. “At least have the courtesy to tell me what it all fucking means…” he muttered, before climbing out of bed. Discarding the uniform into the laundry bin, Ethier stumbled into the shower.

After finishing, his attention was draw to a new message glowing on his screen. Shrugging on his jacket, he crossed to the console, wondering if the tech crew had already switched out the computer proper during his meeting with the Admiral. Reaching out and swirling the dregs of an older pouch of coffee, he sat and lent forward to read the displayed message.

Come to the lab as soon as you wake up. You’re going to want to see this.

From
Tori J


More information from the examination of the chit. If he wasn’t going to grab any more z’s, he might as well come to the meeting with the Admiral prepared.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Hey, Caffeine. Or should I say, Lieutenant Caffeine.” The green haired technician – wired so that she rarely slept, and was always perhaps annoyingly chipper - sang. “How long until you make Captain?”

“Just a pilot and mechanic, Tori.” Ethier, rubbing at his temples as he rolled a stool over to the only occupied console in the otherwise empty lab.

“Tell me,” Tori said, swinging her legs and resting her Cheshire cat grin on a palm. “Do you think we’re the same now?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I mean you’re finally getting in touch with the reality of your first mind-dive, and here I am, having been exiled for going on one too many. Are we like, I don’t know, intergalactic space cousins now?”

“Why am I here, Tori?”

“You’re no fun, you know that?”

“Why am I here, Tori?” Ethier said with emphasis.

Waving her free hand lazily at the console, she said, “Take a look at the screen and tell me what the hell that is.”

“A building.” It looked like an old mechanic shop, garage worn with used. The door, was rusted, paint job peeling all over. Old, but nothing memorable.

“Oh, that’s not what I meant, goofy. Wait for it.”

New words formed in the center of the screen.

You want to see her
Don’t you Ethier
The girl in your dreams
You do not mean to demean
You mean to see her



“A limerick.” Ethier rubbed his temples with renewed pressure, hoping to drill into his brain. “The advanced super-race are communicating with limericks. Another riddle.”

“Another what?”

“Never mind, did you tell the Admiral about this yet?”

“Of course I did.” Tori looked up at her imagined light bulb. “Oh right, the coordinates. You wouldn’t believe where they lead.” She trailed off.

“They lead…?”

“Sorry, was caught up in the logic chains. Lagrange Five. They lead to L5, and I suspect that building is there too.”

“Are you sure?” Ethier shuddered with memories of home. Of the Libra Republic. He saw his parents’ smiling faces one last time while he waited on the space dock - the last time he would ever see them.

“Does Tori ever-“

“Stop. Don’t speak in third person again. Are you sure?” Ethier looked into Tori’s eyes.

“Jeez. Yes, I am sure.”

“I’m going to see the Admiral.”

“Good, she wanted to see you anyway after I briefed you. She told me she’d be in his office.”
Standing, Ethier made his way straight to the door, pausing for a moment in the portal.

“Thanks.” He didn’t wait for a response.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Consider this a mission briefing, Lieutenant, so pay attention.” Winchester stated as a matter of fact.

Ethier was amazed by the captain’s words. He had been prepared to go on a lengthy speech about why he was the right man for the job and how he could deliver no matter what the Forerunners’ plans were.

“Of course, ma’am.”

Winchester paced the office, nervous energy giving the air an uncomfortable charge. “Did Tori brief you on his findings?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Since the Chasm, our resources have been devoted to aiding and negotiating with the Apollo Kingdom. I have nothing I can give you besides your frame, your objectives, and my advice.”

Ethier deliberately suppressed a smile. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Here’s the straight of it: You are to find out what the Keeper’s intentions are. You are to retrieve whatever device or information they intend to give, though if you can find out anything else, you are authorized to do so. Ensure that you return to the To All Things within a month. We’ll likely be done rendering assistance to L2 and by then we’ll have to return to negotiate the new treaty with Nureno, so don’t dawdle if you can help it.”

She paused, giving the next words extra weight. “Do not engage in hostile actions if it is at all possible. Especially against any possible Atlean forces you may encounter during your transport to L5. We’ve had nothing but trouble with them, and I’d rather not escalate into a full war. Use your Tempest frame as a last resort, if you choose to take it with you. Do not let anyone know Chandelier is responsible for this mission. We can’t afford another actively hostile force. Most important of all, come back alive, and come back quietly. Understand, Lieutenant?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Ethier felt like a broken record, but this was all happening so fast. “I understood.”

“Now this is off the record, Lieutenant.”

“I understand, ma’am.”

“Speak to Raeneth about finding a way to get you to L5. His methods may seem unsavory, but his connections can be effective.” Winchester offered him a wide smile, before extending her hand. “When I say come back alive, I mean come back alive. Good luck, Lieutenant.”

Ethier accepted the grip. “I won’t let you down, ma’am.”

“That’s what they all say,” Winchester’s eyes hardened. “Just find out what those cultists want. The Author is a bit more aggressive in his intentions, but I’m sure you’ll find out what he wants shortly.”

Jack Raeneth waited outside Ethier’s quarters in a white suit and with a cocky smile on his face.
“So I hear you need to get somewhere secretly. Sounds like serious business.”

“You know a man?”

“You could say that,” Raeneth said, adjusting his tie. “Bit of an asshole, though.”
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 » Fri Nov 11, 2016 8:22 am

File 37: Tour of the City
Subject: The One Small Step Bar


The more Ethier worked with the Editor known as Raeneth, the more he disliked the man. He could never tell if it was the man’s own personality or the Author taking control personally, but between the tacky suits, the permanent cocky smirk, or the predilection for showing up out of nowhere to send Ethier on life-endangering assignments, Ethier had come to secretly dread his appearances.

Perhaps it was the attitude of having all the answers, relishing the fact that he wasn’t yet going to share his secrets. And yet, Raeneth had been transferred by Sir Solomon Vo to act a liaison between the ImpMil remnant and Chandelier, which through some quirk of command structure put Raeneth directly in Ethier’s chain of command. As such, Ethier was in no position to make his feelings known, but he still disliked having to deal with and rely on the spook.

“An asshole?” Ethier repeated, raising one eyebrow.

“Yeah, well, I trained him.” And for a moment, Raeneth’s eyes flashed bright, electric blue. Ethier straightened instinctively. So he wasn’t just dealing with the proxy, but the puppetmaster proper.

“I know you get this a lot, sir,” Ethier said, taking the offensive, “but just how old are you?”

In response, Raeneth flicked out two fingers, sending a business card fluttering into Ethier’s chest. Scrabbling, Ethier managed to snatch it before he hit the deck, squinting to inspect the clean lettering.

“This is the dumbest name I’ve ever seen.”

“Get used to it. He’s one of the best middlemen in the business, and he’s agreed to set up a meeting with your ride to L5.”

“But… Michael Dobrakota. Archangel Good Cat?” Ethier had a working knowledge of polish from secondary school.

“Look, ever notice how every Imperial frame has a themed name, be it Lesser Key or Sepirot, or random archangel? And an actual person having such an obvious codename is what bothers you?” Raeneth laughed.

“Yeah, well a Godhand can lay waste to a fleet. This is just a man.”

Raeneth’s expression settled. “In the world you’re entering, you’ll find men whose words are as powerful as any Godhand’s weaponry.” He turned to leave.

“Wait, so I just talk to this contact?”

“If you’re asking if everything’s been arranged, then yes. The only thing you need to do,” Raeneth said, looking over his shoulder as he walked away, “is show up on time. Be there by the morning, Armstrong time, and he’ll find you.”

“Uh, thanks,” Ethier said, studying the business card for any sense in this new world as his boss disappeared around the corner. “For your help.”

Raeneth peeked his head back around the bend, shooting Ethier with finger-guns. “No problem, Caffiene, just lose the chip on your shoulder before you get killed.”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sitting in the lunar shuttle, Ethier flipped over the card in his hands one last time.

MICHAEL DOBRAKOTA | ONE SMALL STEP | SKY LAKE LOWER LEVEL | LANDING CONCOURSE | 0815

It didn’t seem to be real. He wanted to see his home again, sure, where he had created so many project for various mechanic competitions, where he had truly grown up during the war, watching as the Republic was drained from within. And now, with Atlea readjusting its relation to Libra after the emergence of the Horde – would his home be better than when he left it? He knew he wouldn’t exactly have time to sit around once there and absorb the ambience.

Tucking the card away, he shivered against the cold. Pulling the collar of his nondescript blue coat higher, he wondered the hell the Luna citizens always had to keep their habitats so cold.

“Yeah, I don’t get why they keep it so cold, either, and I’ve lived here most of my life.”

Ethier started to see a man standing nearby, hanging on to a fabric loop overhead. Dressed in a smart ASDF uniform, he looked oddly familiar, with long copper hair whose tips were highlighted gold. Ethier saw the man’s right arm bulged oddly in the white Apollo uniform, and his eyes went wide.

“Sir MacAlistair!” he said, making to stand and salute before the older man waved him off.

“I never did a chance to thank you at the ceremony,” MacAlistair said, eyes warm. “For everything.”

“Yeah, well I was ordered onto another mission,” Ethier said. “Time’s moving, got other minds to dive.”

“Heh,” MacAlistair said, his chuckle half-feigned. After a beat, he asked, voice now serious, “Do you still get the nightmares?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” Ethier sloughed in his seat.

“Stanchion said they go away after a while, but these many months later, I’m not so sure.”

“If anything,” Ethier sighed, “they’re getting worse. Did your… condition improve?”

MacAlistair shifted his right arm uncomfortably. “I’m not really at liberty to say. Godhand pilots apparently have trade secrets.”

“If you told me, you’d have to kill me?”

“Something like that.” MacAlistair motioned toward Ethier’s coat. “Though you’re one to talk.”

“Trade secrets,” Ethier said, standing as the shuttle pulled into the Sky Lake spaceport on the southeast corner of the Armstrong dome.

“Well, good luck,” the older man said, rolling his shoulder as if in pain. “I’ll try to stop ruining your cover.”

------------------------

The One Small Step was a dingy little dive tucked into a corner of the bowels of the spaceport, but Ethier was nevertheless surprised by the level of traffic the barlanc was generating. The bartender, with a harness of four extra spider-like arms, dealt with multiple customers all while using his own flesh and blood hands to idly clean glasses with a dirty rag.

“What’s your pleasure?” the octopoidal man said as Ethier found a free stool.

“Fresh brew… and a shot of whiskey.” He was increasingly feeling like he’d need more than just a single shot.

As the bartender turned away, Ethier felt a slight brushing on his sleeve and turned to see a rail-thin young man with long white hair standing over him.

“Mi-“ Ethier began.

“No names,” the man said, tossing down a ten in front of Ethier’s spot at the bar. “Follow me.”

The bartender, returning with the steaming mug, merely shook his head, setting aside the drink and opening the back door for the stranger – presumably Dobrakota– to lead Ethier through. For the next twenty minutes, in complete silence, the man guided Ethier down a series of tunnel interlacing the deepest bowels of the Armstrong City, covering what seemed to be entire diameter of the city, even if was only a miniscule fraction. Just when Ethier was finally about to speak up, they reached an elevator that seemed like it could barely fit two.

The elevator seemed to crawl along at a snail’s pace, and five minutes later they were disgorged in a teeming industrial district still far beneath the dome proper. Their progress was slowed by the swirling crowd of between-shift workers dedicated towards strengthening Armstrong’s air cycling infrastructure. At least the Roux siblings had managed to find the influx of dismissed masses work, Ethier was pleased to see.

As they ducked through a warehouse that was only empty by virtue of it being a lunch break, Ethier felt compelled to finally grind out a strained “Are we there yet?”

Just a single, whispered, “Soon” was all the response he got, said so quickly that it almost slid past Ethier before he could comprehend it. After yet more door and floors, they reached a chasm between building blocks that, while only three meters wide, stretched up and down for seemingly forever, with a roiling mist obscuring the outer reaches between the two plates. The only light came from a bulb at the far end of the corridor behind Ethier, leaving their shadows cast wide across the fog on the opposite face of the wall.

Blinking as his eyes adjusted, Ethier slowly realized they weren’t crossing habitation blocks, but the catwalk was stretched over to a full-on starship in a deep dock underneath the city. Looking to the far left, Ethier could make out the bulging engine sections of what he now realized was a massive demilitarized CRF tanker – a modular command block, a long spine holding a double row of six massive cargo containers, and an engine block holding an underslung hangar. He had seen dozens of such vessels at L1, but the degree to which he had become accustomed to the Armstrong architecture had left him unready to see a ship tucked tight in Armstrong’s belly.

The airlock swung open, revealing a mean-looking group, all brandishing rifles and snarls in equal measure. Ethier tensed, but the lead man held up a glinting metallic hand. He was massive, with broad shoulders and unruly brown hair topping a scarred face and a clipped beard. Ethier noted one eye was glowing red, clearly cybernetic. The leader was dressed well, with black slacks, a neat waistcoat, a red tie, and a grey shirt, sleeved rolled up. He spoke, his voice a rough basso, though tinged with a sardonic edge.

---------------------------

“Thanks, Mike,” Karras nodded to the white-haired youth. “You’re good.”

The serious-faced young man nodded, his severe tail bobbing in the low gee. Pushing off of the portal, the hired courier brushed past the delivered charge without a word, disappearing back into the bowels of Armstrong.

Interlacing his fingers, Karras stretched, cracking his knuckles, a disconcerting sound of bone and metal. Dressed in his work clothes, Karras presented a cutting, professional figure that his wild hair in no way completely downplayed.

Truth be told, Karras hadn’t really left his new stateroom onboard the Old Familiar much in the past few months, running his newly founded empire from seclusion through a single terminal and a net connection. He hadn’t had much company beyond a long line of scotch bottles – Zoe and the crew of the Familiar had kept their distance, which Karras more than appreciated.

That his outside hired job had come down the pipe so soon after the Chasm had surprised Karras – until he followed the tracks and recognized Chandelier pulling the strings being a pair of proxies. It was Raeneth’s work, then.

The cargo had arrived not a half hour before the young man himself – a container that so obviously held a Tempest frame that Karras had loaded it inside one of the Familiar’s custom disguised launch pods out of simple courtesy. This was to be a smuggling job, sure, but there was no reason not to be prepared.

Then again, if anything went wrong, the magrails inside the pod could jettison container before it could cause any real harm.

The young man himself was of such a completely average height and build that, combined with his bulky jacket and low-slung cap, anyone would be hard-pressed to track him a crowd. Granted, the mirrored glasses were a bit much, even up top on the open streets, but anything to obfuscate facial-mapping software wasn’t a bad move at all.

But no. Karras could see it in the way the kid moved, following him in the CCTVs of Armstrong from midlevels to the arranged rendezvous – a bar Karras had sampled and found wanting – the kid was no operative. He was most likely just a pilot, but what business he had in L5 was his own.

Karras glanced to his left at Zoe. The young woman, who Karras realized was of height with the pilot – marking her, Karras thought with a jolt – as fairly tall even for her age – held up a scanning pad and shrugged. “We’re clean, boss. He’s clean. Unless you count the shoulder holster.”

A brief facial expression flashed over the young man’s face. Anger? Chagrin? Sheepish embarrassment? Simple annoyance. It was too fast to place a single point on a what was truly a spectrum, but Karras could see the pilot’s focus shift, as though lifting a heavy weight, from himself to Zoe.

They could talk here. Good. Karras disliked any recording devices that he didn’t operate himself on principle.

“Congratulations on your promotion… Lieutenant,” Karras said, his voice gruff from a solid week of drinking and smoking, not that anyone could tell. Karras prided himself on appearances, and if his vices allowed him to at least sound intimidating, then all the better.

The young man looks surprised. “How-?”

“After the last group I teamed up with, I made it a professional and personal point to know who I’m working with. I have contacts in Chandelier.” Or, well, a deceased woman’s access codes, but those had been more than enough to move money into willing hands. “Your record at the battle was… distinguished, Lieutenant Ethier.”

The look of confusion cleared at once on Ethier’s face. “I recognize your voice. You were there too. And hers,” he said, nodding at Zoe.

He wasn’t wrong – Karras had shouted the warning about the Breaker prototype, while Zoe had issued the warning about the live nukes. Could Chanelier know what happened to the second shipment Naveen had been carrying? No.

“You knew the Titan Breaker was coming,” Ethier said, squinting at Karras as he let steel fade into his voice. “You knew enough time in advance that you had to have been in the shaft.”

“I pride myself on knowing,” Karras said, brushing off the accusation like a tattered cobweb.

“I don’t think you’re Apollo,” Ethier continued, sizing up Karras, Zoe, and a trio of burly engineers Karras had snatched from the engine room not minutes before. “I reviewed the footage afterwards. You were the Wasp pilot.”

Karras waited patiently, watching the young man silently.

“No one else on site was flying that model. You were there before the Kingdom blockade.”

Karras stared evenly at Ethier.

“You’re not Marrow, obviously.”

Leaning in so his eyes were at level with Ethier, Karras smiled ever so slightly. “And judging by the fact that Raeneth sent you my way, I’m obviously not ARClight or Atlean. I’d rather not start this trip with Mexican standoff.”

Straightening and gesturing towards the airlock, Karras beckoned Ethier inside. “Your cabin’s on this deck, and your cargo’s in pod seven. Zoe’ll show you around.”

Blonde hair floating slightly in the lower gravity, Zoe interposed herself between the two men and smiled slightly at Ethier. “C’mon, we’ll drop off your stuff and take a stop at the mess to keep you oriented. Boss only has liquor on hand, but I’ve got a kickass selection of teas and coffees if you want something to drink in the meantime.”

Eyebrows rising slightly, Karras stepped aside to let the pair pass. “We cast off in thirty minutes. Let me know if you want to continue this conversation when we’re in the void.”
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 » Wed Nov 16, 2016 8:57 pm

File 38: The Best and the Worst of Us
Subject: The Atlean Republic


Isolated physically from the other Lagrange points – exactly opposite Luna, the third point held a massive collection of Life Ore that proved attractive during early settlement of the Fracture belt. Before the invention of proper safety procedures for mining the mineral, work proved hazardous to the point of fatality for many a colonial miner at L3. With only the strongest surviving such a harsh environment, all while separated from the majority of the human settlements around the moon, describing the society that evolved as having a chip on its shoulders would be something of an understatement.

Powerful pirate factions in the region prior to the formation of the Constellations led to the so-called Atleans banding together to construct the first true space-based combat fleet, organized and regimented completely separate from ImpMil. With the eye of the Imperium focused on fostering the Lunar colonies and refineries, the Atlean citizenry fostered a grim sense of self-reliance and stubborn independence – a streak than came into direct conflict with the Imperium’s attempts to integrate the colonies and led to the first sparks of the war in the Heavens.

The specifics of the actual disagreement – attempts to automate directly contrary to the Imperium’s longstanding edict against artificial intelligences – are immaterial to the rapid build-up of ImpMil forces around and within Atlean space. The conditions, analogous to a pressure cooker, produced the inevitable first shots – and the infamous slaughter at Icarus XII. Atlean propaganda what could have been nipped with rapid diplomacy into a full-on cassus belli, with the mysterious destruction of Capricorn Colony provided the impetus to drag along the rest of the Colonies into a united front against the Imperium.

Powerful Atlean Generals oversaw the Washington colony drop, provoking the immediate nuclear bombing of several L3 colonies in return by ImpMil fleets in the region. Most of the warfare in the early years of the war was centered around L3, with the Atlean fleet being the only power than could take ImpMil on in direct conflict.

By the time the Atlean command council was destroyed in the first deployment on the Godhand corps, the war had shifted Fracture-wide and the war was larger than any one Lagrange point. This left Atlea destitute and in shambles for years, its citizenry struggling to pull itself back together after its hawkish leaders led the republic into extremism. Atlean reformed as isolationist after the Armistice, jealous of its borders and reluctant to trade with anyone but its longtime partners in the nearby Libran Republic. Naval reconstruction – in direct and flagrant violation of the terms of the armistice – would have led to a harsh Imperial crackdown years after the end of the war, if not for the Atlean dream – the Sundering.

While Atlea had no involvement in the emergence of the Horde, it wasn’t exactly bound to hide its joy at the complete disintegration of its oppressor, and in the aftermath of the Horde’s rampage across Earth Atlea seized the opportunity to invade planetside. Declaring themselves independent of the Imperial remnant as well as from the Nureno coalition, Atlea pursued massive land grabs following the Sundering. This placed the direct focus of the Horde on the republic, with massive battles raging across the far side of the fracture belt, indirectly allowing several Colony clusters to remain completely unaffected by the Horde’s menace.

While Atlea reshaped itself into the so-called defender of humanity, the loss of the stalwart ruling board from almost a decade previous echoed into the political reality of the Republic, as the government – really a semi-structured form of the colonies’ id – fell in upon itself, with three to five warlords asserting right to rule in a civil war that would continue for years post-Sunder. This internal conflict, while not hindering Atlea’s bloodlust toward the Horde, put a damper on its expansionist dreams.

While Atlea may be vicious and cruel in its military actions, the cluster still serves as a beacon of hope to the common man – following the Sundering, it took in any refugee it could that was unable to made it to the Apollo Kingdom, taking the huddled masses under its wings for protection. While Apollo may have been able to survive on the message of hope and togetherness, Atlea offered a way to get back at the mechanical marauders that stole one’s home, one’s family, one’s entire life – a gun and marching orders.
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 » Fri Nov 18, 2016 12:23 am

File 39: New Edits
Subject: The Old Familiar



The mess of the Old Familiar was a standard affair, reassuring Ethier after passing through corridor after corridor decked with expensive paintings and clearly demarcated defense choke points. Comparatively, the grub hall resembled the sort of standard-issue affair Ethier knew from the Chandelier mothership. Pausing at the hatch, he surveyed the room, taking in smattering of crew members clustered at various tables, discussing the day’s events with jovial expressions.

“What?” the young assistant – probably his age – asked, brushing past him. “Did you expect to be stuck in a crate for the journey?”

No one seemed to acknowledge his presence as he tagged alongside Zoe to the self-serve station. Was she acting as a shield for him, or were transients something to be expected on the ship? The questions evaporated when he saw Zoe digging around inside a cabinet underneath a coffee machine.

The crew continued their conversations despite Ethier's presence. Whether it was because he was accompanied by the woman who seemed to be higher up on the command chain or if they simply did not care if he was there or not, the young pilot could not discern. The speculation regarding his status, while intriguing, was deemed unnecessary in Ethier's mind when Zoe guided him to a table by what seemed to be the coffee maker.

She dug through the contents of the cabin below the machine, pushing aside foiled bags in her search. “Damn- wait, here it is.” After a what sounded, honest-to-god, like a keypad being pressed and the sound of a safe’s locks disengaging, she pulled out a small bag in triumph and looked up at Ethier. “They tell me your name is Caffeine, which works for me considering everyone on this boat seems to only drink heavy alcohol.”

Choosing to simply remain silent and observe – better to be quiet and be thought stupid than to open his mouth and remove all doubt – he watched as Zoe set about preparing two cups with a sort of hesitant care that belied her brash attitude. Passing him a steaming mug specifically constructed for low gravity use, she guided him to a corner table to sit. “Beware,” she added, “once you have one, you may not be able to have any other slop ever again.”

“We shall see,” Ethier allowed, taking a moment to cup the edge of the mug with one hand and taking a deep inhalation of the fumes before taking a precautionary sip. His eyes boggled, and he look another, longer sip, swirled the flavor in his mouth. “I need to know where you got this.”

“Trade secrets. If I told you, I’d have to airlock you, LE.”

“LE?”

“Lieutenant Ethier, obviously.”

“You do know that Lieutenant isn't my first name, right?”

“Yes,” she said, rolling her eyes as though explaining the obvious to a child, “but for naming purposes, LE just sounds better. More mysterious that way. Think about how badass ‘LE launching' sounds!”

“Uh, sure.” They carried on the prattle about joe for a while longer, sharing in disappointment in how their favorite blends had been disappearing even before the Sundering. The conversation carried on with general window dressing until Ethier maneuvered the topic to the subject of their benefactor.

“So, what does he do?” Ethier asked while swirling his second helping of the secret brew.

“Well, you know he has information and a ship. Anything else probably isn't good for your health.”

“Is all the threats on each other’s lives your way of bonding in grey market land?” Ethier asked, genuinely curious.

“I don’t know, it seems germane now the Chandelier has gotten into the business of sending untrained pilots on suicide missions.”

“I prefer on the job training, myself,” Ethier said, not rising to the bait.

“In that case,” Zoe said, eyebrows raised as she glanced instinctively towards someplace beneath their feet in the decks below, “you might want to talk to the boss personally.”

“I need to do that, in any case,” Ethier allowed. “I have extra cargo he didn’t mention during the handoff. I’d like to be level about it.”

“You should be able to find his cabin easily – it’s down below, the really gloomy one. Closest to the ship’s liquor storage.” Ethier detected something in her tone that suggested that this was something he would have to do on his own, as he had more than enough to do today.

“Thanks,” he said standing. Despite that fact that this probably did far worse than simply smuggle limerick-infused pilots to Atlea tribute states, they had still treated him well so far. He really didn’t need anything to endanger his stay during the trip to Libra. “Good chat.”

She laughed. “I’m sure one day you’ll loosen up.”

He made a finger gun at her as he walked away. “Maybe over another pot?”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The bowels of the front end of the ship weren’t as well-kept, with only maintenance drones tending to the floors- which were simple grates, as opposed to the polished steel Ethier had seen above. Definitely the gloomiest one, he reflected. Keying the single comm button mounted in the center of the hatch, he leaned in and spoke. “It’s Ethier. Mind if I come in and talk for a sec.”

He counted a full and exact thirty seconds before a response finally rolled out, a simple gruff “Fine.”

The door slid open and out washed a haze of smoke, trailing from an overfilled ashtray on a well-appointed desk. Ethier’s eyes traced from a strapped-in collection of hand-written journals to the massive – possibly original – painting on the far wall of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, the one popular culture had transfixed in Ethier’s mind.

Karras sat in an overstuffed rolling chair, the seat attached to the deck with a quartet of spinning magnets. A lit cigar was held easily in the man’s artificial hand, resting next to a glowing console screen and a half empty bottle of an amber liquid. Rubbing at rings underneath his eyes, he asked, “May I help you, Lieutenant?”

“You’ve already done a lot so far, thank you.”

Blinking slowly, Karras said, “That may be the first time I’ve heard that without sarcasm.” Spreading his arms, he added, “Why are you in my office?”

“I feel the need to honestly inform you about something.”

“Listen, Lieutenant, if this is about your 'mission,' I don't need to hear it.” Karras took a heavy drag off his cigar.

“You may want to hear this though. I don't want there to be too many secrets between us. As you told me, it's your business to know.” Ethier pushed on, doggedly.

“Spill your guts, then.” Karras gestured to Ethier with his metallic arm, the cigar tracing a path through the air..

“I brought explosives and flashbangs with me. They're in cargo pod seven. And no, I have no intention of using them on this ship, but I didn't need to tell you that anyway.”

Karras’ expression didn’t so much as flicker. “Hmmm.” He took another drag on his cigar.

“That’s it?”

“Look, kid, short of an imploder lance, nothing that activates inside your Valac is gonna do much to Lau’s ride. But I appreciate the honesty.” He squinted up at Ethier. “You sure you’re cut out for this life?”

“I’m hearing that a lot,” Ethier bristled. “Raeneth seemed to think I was the man for the job.”

That finally broke Karras’ mask – his eyes widened, ever so slightly, and he rocked back in his seat. “So he’s recruiting new Editors. I thought he down just the Raeneth skin and a few others.”

“You know him?” Ethier asked, still unwilling to say his true employer’s name.

“Take it from me, kid,” Karras said, turning back to his desk in a clear dismissal. “Don’t trust anyone once we reach Libra.”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

With ship’s mechanics still swarming around the Old Famliar’s hidden dock, it wasn’t easy to accomplish the mission unobserved. But there was something to be said for the cover of simple numbers, of being lost in a crowd. It was easy to attach one little device, to wire in between the main communications circuit and the bridge bypass. If all went according to plan, he’d be off this rust bucket and back home in a week’s time.

Leaning over the circuit, he offered a solemn whisper. “Glory to Atlea. Glory to ARClight.”

Before anyone noticed his dalliance, he dropped back into his regular duties, melting into the retreating crowd.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“We’re leaving dock in a couple minutes, folks. Grab a window seat if you ever wanted to say, Adios, Luna.”

Ethier looked back down from the ringing shipwide announcement to see Zoe round a corner, hands full of what honestly looked like bags of flour intermixed with belts of grenades.

“Thanks for the tour,” Ethier said, offering a lazy salute and carefully taking the bags of flour off of Zoe’s hands.

“Thanks yourself.” She flashed a wide smile up at him. “No problem, LE. Come back anytime you want another brew.”

They both leaned against the outer wall, watching the outer docks of Armstrong begin to slide past as the Old Familiar powered out of Luna’s orbit, boosters dropping away behind them.

“I wouldn't go to anyone else,” Ethier said, shifting the bags over one shoulder before continuing the journey back to the mess where they deposited half of the bounty. They traced a path back towards Ethier’s assigned cabin, but before the door could close behind her, Zoe spun back towards Ethier.

“So... Did you get along with the boss?”

“Not yet,” Ethier said, pondering the answer. “But I know how to hook him into opening up.”

“Oh?” Zoe said, stepping back out of the room. “One day you’ll have to share the secret.”
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 » Tue Nov 22, 2016 10:35 pm

File 40: Avatars
Subject: Samurai


With the advent of advanced cyberization technology and the increasing balkanization of settlements post war and post-Sundering, many factions have adopted a practice pioneered by the Imperial Service Board: highly trained, dangerous, and competent agents vested with the entire power of their organization behind them. These avatars – known colloquially as Samurai – act as the judge, jury, and sometimes executioner for their benefactors, acting as highly mobile troubleshooters for any given issue that currently troubles the faction.

Though the Author – the highly secretive cyborg that heads Imperial Security and large portions of the Imperium’s labyrinthine grey ops circuits – brought the service to the forefront, the term originates from the idea of a Corporate Samurai. Defined by a rigid code of ethics, a desire to limit collateral damage, and a respect for comparable others in the profession. Seeing the task before them as just business, the consummate Corporate Samurai evolved from the menagerie of hitmen, corporate spies, private military contractors, and former intelligence operatives that many a megacorp employed in the dog-eat-dog world of the Fracture belt. This example is best personified by the current head of security for the dominant Saint-Yokaze Keiretsu, Kellan Routhier. A long-time retainer for the Saint family, Routhier in turn took his inspiration from the Knights of the Imperium.

Imperial Knights were a dying breed even before the war wiped their numbers down a meager two-hand count. Chosen entirely at the behest of a member of the Imperial Aristocracy as the personal representative of a given Duke, Baron, or even Princess, Knights led the Imperial war effort and suffered tremendously for it during the opening years of the conflict. With aristocratic prejudices towards cybernization so high, combined with the Knight’s highly ornate Tempest frame stylings, the Knights were easy targets for the CRF aces, leading to a massive leadership deficit before the introduction of the Godhand corps. The practice has carried on, in a tad more modest form, under the stewardship of Sir Solomon Vo, with his and Zane MacAlistair’s pledge of fealty to the only surviving members of the royal family under the banner of the Apollo Kingdom.

Compare these failures to the Editors – the personal agents handpicked by the Author – lacked the Knight’s ostentatiatory, while retaining a unique code of ethics to survive and thrive in the cutthroat world of shadow intelligence. Taken from any walk of life, Editors have infiltrated just about every slice of society, from the military to corporations, from governments to simple local defense bands. Capable of assuming control over any Imperial power when they reveal themselves, this level of discretion and power comes at a price. Mandatory implants allow the Author himself to assume direct control of the Editor’s body at any point, using them as a puppet for him to directly enact his will. This act carries a hefty price – there is a good chance the Editor will be left a fried husk after the control event. Only one Editor acts free of this leash – the woman known as the Fixer, Jerica Aubrey, who acts as the Author’s final and strongest representative in the field.

The most benign shades of the Samurai are the Colonial Magistrates. Appointed by Constellation governors, these heavily cyberized and experienced officials act as roving sheriffs across the frontier, tracking down bounties and lending their expertise to delicate cases in understaffed fringe colonies. The DNA and machine coded badge of a Magistrate is as respected around the Fracture as a Knight’s epaulets are hated, and then penalty for impeding, harming, or worse, impersonating a Magistrate is an immediately sentence of death, usually zealously carried out by incensed colonists as opposed to the Magistrate herself.
SHADOW TEMPEST BLACK || STB2: MIDNIGHT PARADOX
The day our skys fe||, the heavens split to create new skies.

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