Prologue

Macavity116

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This is the story of something that happened outside of our own time. It occurred before the creation of our own Universe, and before the Universe that preceded it, and the one that preceded it, and so on. These events took place long before the Paradox caused time to bend backwards upon itself, forcing the lifespan of creation to repeat without rest.

In fact, this is the story of how a troubled young girl became that very Paradox...

The Second Hyperspace War lasted exactly 21 years. When the storm cleared, over 15,000 inhabited worlds had been burned, crushed, exploded, silenced, pulverized, shattered, or otherwise annihilated. There was no possible way to count the dead.

During the final battle, fought both on the ground and in the skies above Earth, 15 Stormbreakers, each one the hero of other stories I don’t have time to tell you, rose from the island of Kyushu and led the combined forces of every galactic civilization in a colossal offensive against Agamemnon itself.

10 Stormbreakers fell to the Invaders.

4 Stormbreakers vanished and were never seen nor heard from again.

And Jericho stood alone against Agamemnon.

The storm became more intense and vicious than ever before. Their battle shattered planets, killed millions, and caused permanent damage to the Hyperspace Network across the entire galaxy.

And then it was over. Neither Jericho nor Agamemnon remained. The Invaders, having lost their nerve center, became lethargic and vulnerable. All across the galaxy, Invader fleets were outmaneuvered and crushed by forces less than half their size. Within a year, the Invaders were completely purged from all creation.

The war was over, but the damage was still done. The Invaders destroyed three quarters of all populated places in the galaxy, while Jericho and Agamemnon disabled every Hyperspace Gate in the galaxy. Without the Network, great star nations like the Kingdom of Partoga, the Levakian Confederation, Amadiio, Vania, the Micore Empire, Kelta, and the United States of Assuria simply ceased to exist.

While the political powers of the galaxy died, tens of millions of tons of battle debris rained down on the Earth. The impacts thrust clouds of dust into the air. Shrouded in clouds, the Earth fell into a long winter, returning humankind to its isolation from the rest of the galaxy. Unable to call upon their new extraterrestrial allies for help, the people of Earth vanished into silence, and soon, the Sol Star itself became lost.

Which brings us here:


y4mzodf_LT1vHEgp6UzIGxUico1TWk2UzMmvy2GSuOeJHHOAsS0484CRKtOM8FKxtuSTAIkVPjfV4RPVossPnP6ra5FBRG2z0XktWiHz8yb51DkGdHGIRPRMYhy3Ft0_DpZoLImZdzP9MqPEKy3fNybJyCSgtAz3eE798q3t178_N8ROYASx6dlNI-qk8W_PUtw


This desolate world is Earth. Once, it was the home of legendary heroes, the site of epic battles and adventures, haven for a wide and diverse array of life. Now this world is on the brink of death. The skies are choked with ash, the soil and water fouled by radiation. The stench of death is everywhere, and a horrible silence hangs over the ruins of once-grand cities.

To think this husk of a planet is where the savior of all creation was born.

But this is not the story of Jericho. That tale has already been told. Between these pages you shall find a much different kind of narrative. This book does not seek to entertain you or teach you a lesson.

If you press on, continue into the dark chapters beyond this warning, you will not find an uplifting tale of heroes triumphing over evil. There is no joyful story of a young girl learning to love her family. You will not witness a legend of creation, nor a moral lesson shrouded in entertaining antics.

This book will serve only one purpose, to answer the following questions:

Who is the Paradox and where did she come from?

The answer to this question is dark and tragic. Finding it will bring both enlightenment, sorrow, and some frustration at what could have been. But this is a question that must be answered, and it will be answered.

Twenty-four years after Jericho gave herself to the final victory, someone else’s story is about to begin...


y4mv0fXbaNoBJ0QdnEFtVa5jN0ciIodnnNEcZLH85tgh_S1fTFU4m9GsjVPiW5H_uBlYQhfBO18H3z4slYdm1Xtsa27Cs0igs2C7QtBehLUzhmKg5v_byl3WKTvWWAB2O-RZMk8tl6ekIU1jXWGnbMpWLkiYeuxqE-afpKE8EKCUKI-VqUvGsFi_3gMq88kqAxm

 
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Nikolai

Basileus Romaion
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Great, now I have another @Macavity116 AAR to fall gloriously behind on! :p It's two I need to catch up on before already. ;) Looking forward to reading it!
 
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Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
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Great, now I have another @Macavity116 AAR to fall gloriously behind on! :p It's two I need to catch up on before already. ;) Looking forward to reading it!
At this point, falling behind on one of my stories must be like a rite of passage for the Stellaris AAR forums. :p Hopefully it won't be as bad this time as I'm planning to post only 1 chapter per week.

I'm also glad to be back here. I discovered a while ago that some regular readers don't have accounts on this site, meaning they never got to see the previous two installments in the series, which are locked away on the OT forums.
 
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HistoryDude

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Can't wait to finally see the tale of the origin of Paradox!

All our sins must be remember'd. But who are "we"? Whose sins must be remembered?
 
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Macavity116

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All our sins must be remember'd. But who are "we"? Whose sins must be remembered?
Good to see you again!

And in answer to your question, I'll give you a hint: head on over to the TVTropes website and familiarize yourself with the following tropes:
  • What the Hell, Hero!?
  • A Match Made in Stockholm
  • My God, What Have I Done?
  • Pity the Kidnapper
  • Break the Cutie (A personal favorite of mine ;))
Happy reading, new chapters every Saturday!
 
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Idhrendur

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Part 9. Oh gosh. I keep telling myself I need to catch up on this series. I hadn't realized just how far behind I was.
 
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Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
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Part 9. Oh gosh. I keep telling myself I need to catch up on this series. I hadn't realized just how far behind I was.
Hello again! I hope it'll be easier for readers to keep up now that I've returned from the Off Topic forums. That corner of the site has made the previous two entries in the series rather hard to find. If you are looking for those earlier stories, best place to start is my signature, where the whole series is listed in order from first to most recent.
 
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Chapter 1: The Fifth Child

Macavity116

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Happy Birthday to the very first reader of these stories: @RedMotorCycle!

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Chapter 1
The Fifth Child

Two decades after the War in Heaven, the Earth was a dying world. As the dust settled from the epic battle, thousands of disabled starships fell from orbit and crashed. The violence of these impacts were similar to meteor strikes and nuclear weapon blasts. Fires broke out in cities and wilderness alike. Before a few months passed, the skies were choked with ash and soot.

At first, people were too busy celebrating the great triumph to notice the damage, but it soon became apparent. Fields were beginning to wither away. The sunlight was cold. Whole forests turned brown... and then the death began.

Oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, and all other kinds of waterways were suddenly choked with dead fish. Herbivorous animals starved to death in search of green leaves and grass. The horrible truth was now clear. The Earth had been thrown into nuclear winter. The layer of smoke in the air was just thick enough to block out the light of the sun. It was the largest mass death in the history of the world. Farmers struggled to salvage their crops, to save their livestock, but there was almost nothing to be done.

Then came the famines. And the cold. A dark silence fell over the Earth as untold millions of lives were extinguished across the globe. What cities remained standing fell dark as their inhabitants fled to the countryside, looking for new sources of food and water.

But the mass extinction was not total.

Scattered across the world, some one billion Humans survived, along with a sizable fraction of Earth’s flora and fauna. Yet the world was nowhere near recovery. The air was still full of soot. Dry fog hugged the landscape and was not dispersed by the rising of the sun. Daylight itself was cold and gave little energy, and sometimes, the winter snow would fall as far south as the Sahara and would not melt until May. Meanwhile, whole layers of the atmosphere were damaged or destroyed, leaving anything and everything on the ground vulnerable to the sun’s dangerous radiation. Life became difficult and miserable.

Eventually, after about ten years, the nuclear winter came to an end. It was followed by nuclear summer. Heat from the sun became trapped beneath the cloud layer, warming up the world year after year. The snowfall stopped, what little moisture remained in the air dried out, and wildfire raged across the landscape. Now the people of Earth were faced with death by fire and famine instead of the usual freezing and famine.

But there were plenty of people who refused to simply wait for the end. Many of the soldiers, scientists, and engineers who once made up the military force behind the Liberation of Earth were still active. XCOM lived, if only just barely. The heroes who saved the world from the Elders and then from the Beast were still hard at work, now trying to stop an ecological disaster from finishing what their enemies had started.

Leading this effort were two people, a man and women who called themselves “Stormbreakers” two decades ago. Blake Robinson and Chihiro Tachibana were friends of Jericho when she was alive, and great heroes in their own time. Now, they spent their time cleaning up the mess of their own battles, so that their children could inherit a good world from them.

Blake, Chihiro, and their children lived, travelled, and worked together. They were a very close-knit family. They did have a place they called home, but they spent so much time together aboard their spaceship that the title easily applied to this vessel as well. It is this ship where we find the Robinson family and the subject of our story, flying east on a sweltering June morning...



June 27, 2060
Manhattan, Kansas



The JSDF Ark Angel throttled down her engines and began to glide over the American Great Plains. The spaceplane was about twenty-five years old, her white hull streaked and stained by the weather. Inside the ship, the entire Robinson family prepared for landing.

Blake, the family patriarch, occupied the engineer’s chair in the back of the cockpit. A veteran of three major wars, the forty-seven-year-old warrior was not the man he once was. His right arm was burned and desiccated to the point where it was clearly useless, and he kept it pressed against his chest in a tight sling. His hair was grey and wrinkles gave the middle-aged soldier a premature grandfatherly look.

In the right-hand pilot’s seat, Blake’s wife was flying the spaceplane. Like her husband, Chihiro Tachibana also bore multiple scars from old war wounds, most noticeably on her neck and hands. Her long black hair was streaked with grey, but her blue eyes still contained just a little bit of that intense energy she was known for in her youth. Next to her, two weapons rested against the pilot seat: An ancient pistol that resembled an Old World flintlock, known as the Shadow Keeper. The other weapon was a black and silver sword with a secondary blade concealed in the handle. This Katana had once belonged to the Elder’s Chosen Assassin, and now stayed with the one who killed its previous owner.

The left-hand pilot seat was filled by a twenty-one-year-old man. Alexander Robinson took after his mother. He had her pale skin, small size, straight hair, and rounded face; but his dark eyes could only have come from his father. Alexander, sometimes called Alex, was close upon the prime of his life. He looked strong enough to fistfight a Muton, and the way he handled the ship’s controls with ease and confidence showed that he was the best pilot in the family.

In the crew compartment, the four remaining Robinson children had nothing to do but wait for the landing. This room was still built for war. Computer workstations were installed in the walls of the fuselage on either side, and would have allowed the users to operate the spaceplane’s many sensors and weapons, but none of them were powered on today.

Sitting at the defunct weapons control station, Asuna Robinson was about to fall asleep. She was the eldest of the five children, at twenty-three years old. She inherited many traits from her father, including dark skin and curly hair. When one of her brothers walked down the aisle and passed by her, Asuna opened her eyes, raised her hands to chest height and made a series of gestures that her brother understood.

Unlike all four of her siblings, Asuna Robinson was completely deaf. She was born during the War in Heaven itself, and spent the first four hours of her life being carried across a live battlefield. The near constant sound of explosions, gunfire, and shouting had caused permanent damage to Asuna’s ears. For as long as she lived, the only sound she would ever hear was a high-pitched whine. Thus, Asuna relied on hand signals, body language, and facial expressions to communicate, since the spoken word meant nothing to her.

James Robinson and his twin brother, Josiah, spotted Asuna’s gesture as they went by. They looked their older sister in the eye and nonverbally promised to behave themselves. Asuna gave them a suspicious glare, watching them until they were out of sight.

The twins might have been born at the same time, but they didn’t really resemble one another. James and Josiah were fraternal twins and mercifully easy to tell apart. James had dark skin while Josiah was pale. Josiah had curly hair while James’ hair was straight. James was tall and his brother was... well, okay. They were both tall.

Another trait they had in common was troublemaking. James and Josiah were a mischievous pair and they were each other’s lifelong partner-in-crime. The twins slowly and quietly made their way toward the back of the spaceplane, where their younger sister was alone.



Halfway along the fuselage, a bulkhead door separates the crew compartment from the living quarters. Here, the left and right sides of the fuselage were lined with bunk beds, separated from one another by a dark curtain that divided the sleeping area into the men’s and women’s section. The bunk beds themselves were more like nooks, with sleeping bags held in place by straps to allow a person to be comfortable in zero gravity.

In the back of the living quarters was a small dining area: a simple table surrounded by stools bolted onto the floor. Behind it was a kitchen, but most of the equipment was packed away in a series of locked drawers, due to the fact that cooking wasn’t really feasible in low gravity.

Sitting at the table alone was a young girl, the very one whose story we are here to learn. Fourteen-year-old Akira Robinson didn’t just take after her mother; she was the spitting image of a young Chihiro Tachibana. Akira had the same pale skin, round face, straight black hair, and vivid blue eyes as her mother. She was also just as short and scrawny now as her mother was at this age.

On the hazy morning when Akira’s story began, she was in a good mood. She had two things to look forward to, and they made her feel excited. Just three days from now, on June 30th, Akira would be celebrating her fifteenth birthday. Both of her parents had promised that once Akira turned fifteen, they would start teaching her to fly the Ark Angel. But that wasn’t the only piece of good news. In fact, there was something far more wonderful to look forward to... someone she desperately wanted to meet was down on the ground, waiting for her.

Keeping her back turned to the only door, Akira reached into the pocket of her dress and pulled out her most prized possession. It was a photograph of a man, dressed in a flightsuit emblazoned with the insignia of XCOM and a mission patch on his chest that read HMAS Bushranger – Australian Defense Force. The man in the picture was a Caucasian fellow with friendly hazel eyes, a strong chin, and wavy blonde hair. Most ordinary people would see this individual and declare him to be “good-looking.”

Akira, however, believed this man to be nothing short of hypnotizing. The longer she looked at his handsome visage, the faster her own heart thumped. Finally, Akira turned the picture over to read the handwritten scribble on the back. It was a message from the man in the image:


Dear Akira,
Thank you for the thoughtful birthday present. I hope to someday return the favor.
Keep learning to fly and aim ever higher, future pilot of the Ark Angel!

Signed,
Emanuel Luis Espinosa Peres
Mission Specialist – HMAS Bushranger, XCOM
“Mutare ad Custodiam”



Even though Emanuel Espinosa had never actually swept her off her feet, she felt like this was happening every time she looked at this picture. Perhaps this was how her parents felt for one another when they were young. The girl pressed the picture into her chest and lost herself in romantic fantasies for a few moments until the sound of a door closing caught her attention. Gasping, Akira stuffed the picture back into her pocket and looked around just in time to see her twin brothers enter the living space. James grinned at Akira in a mischievous way while Josiah shut the door behind him.

“Hey, Kira!” James said. “What’cha’dooin?”

Akira drew her knees up to her chest and looked away from her brothers. She’d been putting up with these two for almost fifteen years, but some days were worse than others. She got the feeling that today was going to be one of those bad days.

“Leave me alone.” Akira mumbled. “I don’t wanna talk to you.”

“Aww, not feeling friendly today?” Josiah said. “Come on, Kira. We just wanted to share the good news. Some friends are meeting us in town this week.”

Akira looked up and then rearranged her hair with one hand so that her bangs fell down to cover one of her eyes.

“Friends? Like who?”

James and Josiah rattled off names while counting on their fingers.

“Well, Asu’s boyfriend will be there for starters.” Josiah said, referring to Asuna by a nickname.

“Nezzie’s coming too.” James added. “And the Emo.”

“So many familiar faces.” Josiah’s voice drifted in a nostalgic way. “I guess they’re coming for dad’s birthday. Also, I heard that a certain blonde guy’s gonna be there.”

“Some unimportant guy whose picture you’d had under your pillow for the past six months.” James added with a sneer.

Akira felt her heart drop into her stomach.

“What!?” She gasped. “How’d you know?”

“Doesn’t matter how we know.” Josiah looked it his fingernails in a nonchalant way. “Fact is we know that you’re like, head over heels in love with a man twelve years older than you.”

Then Josiah clutched his hands to his chest, pretending to be scandalized.

“Oh, what will Mom and Dad say when they find out?”

James followed his brother’s lead, clapping his hands to his face.

“Our sweet little sister, bewitched and led astray by a strange man with irresistible golden locks!” James put on an expression of fake shock. “We really should tell Dad before something happens.”

Akira shuddered at the thought. Her mind’s eye was suddenly full of scenarios in which her parents, in one way or another, prevented her from seeing Emanuel again. Instinctively, Akira blurted out:

“No, don’t! Come on!”

James and Josiah fell silent. They looked at one another, grinning.

“You’re right, Kira.” James said. “Telling Mom and Dad won’t do any good. We need to go to the source.”

“Yeah, we are your big brothers, after all.” Josiah piled on, cracking his knuckles. “We should go straight to the source. What do you think, bro? Can we take that Espinosa guy in a fight?”

“Oh, stop!” Akira pleaded. “Don’t tell anyone, and leave Emanuel alone, can’t you? Please please please don’t tell anyone! I mean it!”

Josiah rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Or at least, he was pretending to be thoughtful. Then, Akira’s brothers finally revealed their true intentions:

“So you don’t want us blurting your secret all over, huh?” James’ voice took on a tone Akira knew meant only bad things for her. “Okay, Kira. You can buy our silence... for a price.”

“You’re horrible!” Akira whined. “That’s blackmail!”

Josiah put one arm around Akira’s shoulder and held her close, ignoring her vigorous resistance to his embrace.

“Oh, what’s a little blackmail between siblings?” Josiah replied in a casual tone. “We’ve got something you want: Our silence and discretion, and you’ve got something we want. Specifically, we want that big bag of candy you got from the Ackermanns.”

Akira felt herself deflating in her brother’s grip.

“Well, I guess I can give you a few pieces.”

“Nuh-uh.” James vetoed. “We want the whole thing.”

At that moment, the spaceplane nosed down in a gentle dive. Blake’s voice sounded over the intercom.

“Alright, kids. We’re in final descent now. Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for landing.”

“Last chance, Kira.” Josiah said. “What’s it gonna be?”

Cursing under her breath, Akira broke free of her brother’s grip and moved towards her bunk bed. She stuffed her hand inside of the pillowcase and retrieved a small plastic bag filled with brightly colored sweets.

“Just so you both know, I totally hate you.” Akira snarled at her brothers. “What kind of jerks blackmail their own sister? You’re big, stupid bullies.”

James snatched the bag from her and said:

“Good doing business with you, little sis.”

The twins turned to leave, but before they could put one hand on the handle, the hatchway swung open! The two young men took a step backwards as their father entered the dining area, a deep scowl on his face.

“Oh, hey dad.” James quickly hid the bag of candy behind his back. “I thought we were preparing to land.”

“So did I.” Blake replied, blocking the only exit with his own body. “But then my most responsible child told me to check on you. Said you looked like you were up to something.”

“Azzie.” Josiah muttered under his breath.

Blake’s eyes quickly flickered to Akira. She saw his expression change right away, he must have figured out what was going on by reading her own face.

“Boys, whatever you just stole from your sister, give it back.” Blake said, sounding annoyed.

Josiah put a hand to his mouth, acting scandalized again.

“Why would we ever dream of robbing our own sister?” he replied. “We would never!”

“If that’s true, then let me see what your brother’s holding.” Blake said, pointing to James with his good hand.

When James hesitated, Akira piped up.

“Dad, they’ve got the candy Sophie and Sophia gave me!”

Blake narrowed his eyes at the twins and they both took a half step back. When he spoke, he did not raise his voice:

“Boys, you’re almost eighteen years old. I would have expected you to grow out of this childish behavior by now. But seeing as you haven’t, you’ll be re-packing the parachutes after we land. Alone.”

Both of the twins dropped their jaws.

“But dad!” Josiah protested. “The weather forecast said it’s going to be over eighty degrees outside tonight!”

“Give Akira’s candy back now, and I’ll send an android to give you water every few minutes.” Blake said. “Otherwise, you’ll have to carry the water yourselves and repack the chutes.”

A moment later, Akira had her candy back and the twins left the room, grumbling. Blake watched them go until his youngest daughter suddenly flung her arms around him in a great big hug.

“Thank you dad! Thank you!” Akira half cried.

Blake patted her on the top of her head and reassured her:

“You’ve got nothing to worry about. I’d never let anything happen bad to you. I love you.”

“Love you too.”



The Ark Angel swooped low over the southern shore of Lake Milford and came in to land at a ramshackle airport. Hitting the tarmac at high speed, the spaceplane’s brakes struggled to slow the massive craft and would have set the wheels on fire if not for two large parachutes deployed from the tail, slowing the vessel to a halt. The spaceplane touched down on a massive slab of flat ground that would have been an airport runway about fifty years ago. In fact, very little of what was once the City of Manhattan was still standing.

Located in the very heart of Kansas, this region used to be the home of a military base that was nearly three times the size of the city that hosted it. While Manhattan fell to ruin, Fort Riley was annihilated, the only reminder of its presence being the airport runway, an impact crater about a mile to the northwest, and a perfectly round hill sticking out of the otherwise flat terrain roughly ten miles due north.

In between the wreckage of Fort Riley and the ruins of Manhattan, a new settlement had sprung up. Some five hundred ramshackle buildings stood on what used to be the main road, all built from reclaimed canvas, corrugated metal, and timber. A high wall surrounded the town, defenders armed with rifles stood underneath canopies, allowing huge fans to keep them somewhat cool. The only entrance or exit to the place was a single gate built into the wall.

This place was the Colony. For the Robinson family and many former members of XCOM, this was home.

Curious children braved the overpowering heat of the early morning to stand on the outer perimeter of the town and watch the landing. Men carried large tarps and poles onto the tarmac, quickly erecting a covered lane between the taxiway and the Gate.

In a matter of minutes, a series of long canopies were raised between the motionless Ark Angel and the Colony, allowing people to move and work away from the dangerous light of the sun. One of the locals rapped his knuckles on the hatch and stepped back. The Ark Angel’s boarding ramp lowered to the ground and the Robinson family disembarked.

The spaceplane had a powerful air conditioning system in the cabin, so Akira and her family were buffeted by a blast of hot air as they exited the ship. Akira reached up and felt her hair starting to get frizzy. While Asuna, Alexander, James, and Josiah disembarked ahead of the family, Akira stayed with her parents. Not out of choice. Chihiro wrapped on hand around her daughter’s shoulders and was holding her very close. Her father descended the boarding ramp and shook hands with the man who’d come out to greet them.

“Tucker!” Blake shook hands with the man. “When did you guys get in?”

Former XCOM soldier Cory Tucker was a black American, completely bald and looking to be in a state of perpetual exhaustion. He was wearing a flightsuit, similar to the kind worn by the crew of Battlemaster-class gunships such as the Ark Angel. Tucker’s flightsuit was unzipped, and the upper half of the uniform was wrapped around his waist, leaving the old man wearing just a tank top over his torso. Even so, the heat of the day was clearly getting to him.

“We landed about three hours before you did.” Cory Tucker replied. “Before the sun came up. Do you have anything you need to unload?”

“We’ve got an atmosphere generator in the hold.” Alex chimed in. “Salvaged it from a Vanian shipwreck in western Africa.”

Cory Tucker looked astounded.

“An atmogen!” he gasped. “Oh, man! That’s a lucky break.”

Then Cory turned around and called out to his own crew.

“Guys, get over here and lend a hand!”

The Robinsons stood to one side as two more people approached. They were members of the same starship crew as Cory himself. Alexei Volobyov and Duane Gardner greeted their friends warmly.

“We’ll take care of this, Tachibana.” Duane said to Chihiro. “Why don’t you take your kids and get outta the heat? Weather forecast says it’s gonna be triple digits all day.”

The Robinson women didn’t need to be asked twice. The morning sun had just barely risen, but the local temperature was already exceeding a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Before the men set to work unloading the spaceplane, they all took off their shirts and passed around bottles of water. Chihiro, Asuna, and Akira left at a brisk pace, following the shadow of the covered walkway into the Colony.

The Colony of Myron was built on the Kansas River, which was far smaller and narrower than it was fifty years ago. The biggest structures were repurposed shipping containers, stacked on top of one another and connected to form more complex buildings. The vast majority of structures were constructs of corrugated metal and improvised concrete, thrown together by survivalists who flocked to the site after it was established. Finally, there was a smattering of simple tents all over the place. Varying in size, shape, and color, they were sometimes found in clusters, but more often than not, just scattered all over the place.

If one was to look at the Colony from above, they would be forgiven for thinking that the entire settlement was a single solid object. There were no roads or streets, no avenues or alleyways to be seen. In fact, such things did exist in the Colony. They were just hidden. Every possible open space between the buildings was covered by awnings, solid panels, metal rooftops, canvas sheets, or some other kind of overhead cover that sheltered pedestrians from the dangerous sunlight.

In the center of the Colony was the Kansas River, and along its northern shores were a complex of large buildings, leftover military installations from the Second Hyperspace War. Surrounded by a smaller wall of its own, this military base was somewhat like the Keep in the center of a medieval castle. Chihiro guided her daughters toward this facility with great care, holding Akira by the hand and keeping a tight grip on Asuna’s shoulder.

Each time the trio crossed a roadway, Chihiro would put both hands out to stop her children from crossing until she was sure it was safe. Whenever a man turned his gaze onto the girls, Chihiro would put one hand on the scabbard tied to her waist, making sure the stranger got a good long look at the Katana. And all the time, Chihiro would constantly warn her daughters to “be careful, keep your heads on a swivel, and let me do the talking if it comes to that.”

Asuna and Akira may have been young, but they were not stupid. Chihiro was being protective of her children, as any parent should. But both girls were aware of the fact that their mother was going slightly overboard, doing too much. Asuna, for her part, was very annoyed at her parent’s overprotective tendencies. Throughout the trip, she would constantly try to break free of her mother’s grip and remind Chihiro that she was twenty-three years old and no longer needed a chaperone. This touched off the same argument that Chihiro and Asuna had been having for years. Akira could practically predict the words:

“Mom, I am an adult. You do not need to baby me anymore.” Asuna signed with her hands. “I can take care of myself.”

Chihiro replied in sign language as well.

“You cannot go out alone, not even here. People might take advantage of you.”

“I’m deaf, not dumb!” Asuna spelled out each letter with her hand to emphasize her point.

Akira, for her part, actually liked it when her parents put in too much effort to keep her safe. It was, by far and away, the most attention they paid directly to her. Blake and Chihiro were so busy with their work on the “Project” and raising four other children that Akira sometimes felt neglected or forgotten. So when Chihiro pulled Akira close to her while waiting for a caravan of traders to pass by, Akira put one arm around her mother and turned the protective hold into an affectionate hug. She loved the reassurance that her parents were looking out for her.



Finally, Chihiro, Akira, and Asuna reached the inner gate in the center of the Colony. Two soldiers recognized Chihiro on sight and said:

“Welcome home, Corporal Tachibana.”

The Inner Gate opened and five people came out to greet the Robinsons. Or rather… four people and an android.

Asuna squealed and jumped for joy before her boyfriend grabbed her around the middle and lifted her into the air kissing her passionately. Christopher Wright, a sandy-haired man with green eyes, pulled away from Asuna and saw the expression on Chihiro’s face. He put Asuna down, and trying to hide how much he was blushing, he started to greet Chihiro respectfully, but his voice cracked. Akira felt her face getting hot and red. She turned to look away, only for another familiar person to grab her.

“Oh, la niña sagrada, you’re getting big!” Said a woman’s voice.

Inez Vasquez was a friend of the Robinson family, and she was just as dirty and messy as Akira had always known her to be. The red-haired Venezuelan was dressed in mechanic’s coveralls that were stained with motor oil. She had no doubt spent the morning arms-deep inside of an engine. Inez ruffled Akira’s hair and smiled at her before going to speak with Chihiro.

When Inez stepped away, an android with a rectangular head and a single red eye looked at Akira, then tilted its head to one side.

“I don’t know what she’s talking about.” The android spoke in a voice that was extremely sassy, snarky, and full of suppressed malice. “You’ve only grown a centimeter since you were last here. But then again, my sensor hasn’t been cleaned in a while, so I might be mistaken.”

“Good to see you too, Julian.” Akira mumbled.

Julian the android started to say something in reply, but he was abruptly pushed out of the way by a small person, who was so eager to see Akira that she bowled over a machine twice her own size. Akira grabbed and tightly hugged her one and only friend in the world.

“Scar!’ Akira cried.

“Kira!” The girl replied.

Scarlett Freeman was a Caucasian girl, roughly the same age as Akira. She had platinum-blonde hair, green eyes, and the cutest, most harmless face you can possibly imagine on a teenage girl. Scarlett and Akira held one another and jumped around for a few seconds, squealing so loudly that even Asuna seemed to be aware of the racket they were making. After a moment, the joyful reunion was cut short by the final friend of the Robinsons making his appearance.

“Let’s save the happy reunions for when we get out of the sun!” Declared a man’s voice. “Girls, you must be cooking alive out here. Come inside and cool off!”

Akira looked away from Scarlett and felt as though she’d been struck dumb.

Emanuel Espinosa looked even dreamier than in his picture. He was a full twelve years older than Akira, standing tall and proud with lean but noticeable muscles and a smile that made Akira’s heart flutter. Wavy blonde hair framed his face in a way Akira thought was perfect.

When Emanuel turned around to lead everyone inside the building, Akira and Scarlett both followed him closely. Keeping their eyes locked on him, both girls wore a blissful, dreamy expression on their faces as though they were being lured away by the mythical pied piper. Akira was vaguely aware of the fact that she must have looked like a zombie as she shuffled along after Emanuel, leaned forward, panting a little as she kept pace.

Emanuel was right. Akira desperately needed to cool off. As she, her family, and her friend followed him into the building that now served as XCOM headquarters, she felt as though her body was superheating beyond all reason.

<=== Previous Chapter (Prologue)


Author's Note: Special thanks to Reddit user "u/ace_pade" for the artwork of Mira Mihaka!
 
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Macavity116

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Hello all, I wanted to take a moment to talk about an exciting development.

Currently, my math and predictions indicate that when this story is finished, All Our Sins Remembered will be somewhere between 75,000 and 80,000 words in length. This means it will be longer than The Legend of Whetu Kealoha but shorter than After Everything.

HOWEVER... a much greater milestone lies ahead.

As of this moment, on June 5th, 2021, the story of the Stormbreaker Universe consists of exactly 952,221 words. That means at some point between now and the final chapter of All Our Sins Remembered, the Stormbreaker Universe as a whole will exceed a total cumulative length of one million words.

I’ve known this milestone was coming since My Father’s War, and I’ve been preparing to celebrate the achievement in a grand way. Now I’m ready for those plans to become known:

As soon as I post a chapter that pushes the series above a wordcount of one million, I will also post The One Million Word Celebration. It’s a huge celebratory post I’ve been preparing for the past two months. It will contain a fanart showcase, celebrating artwork of the series created by people other than myself. There will also be a preview of The Last Heroes, the story that will serve as my final excursion into the Stormbreaker Universe. Finally, there’s going to be a special thing I’ve been working on: The original ending of After Everything!

@HistoryDude asked about this once when I mentioned the ending of my very first story being changed. Tragically, the original version of the After Everything finale has been lost to the sands of time, so for the past three weeks, I’ve been trying to re-create it from memory. I’m proud to say it’s coming along well. It won’t be exactly the same as the lost ending, but I think it perfectly encapsulates what I was going for. When this story hits one million words, you’ll get to see the “lost ending” in all of its reconstructed glory.

There is some extra good news: During the run of Faith in Chaos, I developed an extremely bad habit of dancing around reader questions because I was frightened of accidentally spoiling future plot developments. I want to rectify that now. So, as part of the One Million Word Celebration, I want to let you know what I am highly encouraging reader questions throughout the entire run of All Our Sins Remembered. This story has grown to be exceedingly large, and I know some details can get lost or confused. If you want to ask me anything about any of the previous entries in the series, this AAR thread is now your place to do that. Need a recap, or an explanation about a certain character or McGuffin? Is the timeline messier than normal? I’ve got you covered.

As always, I humbly thank you for reading my stories. I have no real expectations when I post my works online, I’m just here for the fun of it. I hope you enjoy this, the newest installment in the Stormbreaker Series, and I do hope you join me for the great moment when this series reaches a milestone I never expected to reach...

The wordcount of one million. See you there. :)

She raised a finger and pointed to the screen. Thousands of Kios away, the gargantuan ring loomed in space, just hovering there, motionless.

“It’s there. I have to go.” Mira mumbled, “Find the answer.”

“The answer to what?” Moana asked. “What’s the question?”

“Not a question you can understand.” Mira muttered. “I barely understand. Might be beyond me, but I need to know. I’ve gotta find the answer.”

“Where’s the answer?” Moana pressed. “Where are you trying to go?”

Mira pointed at the ring on the screen. Meanwhile, Captain Rangi had figured something out:

“Uh, Ranginui. I think I know what that thing is.”

He tapped the screen of the sensors manager.

“It’s a Hyperspace Gate.” Rangi explained. “Built by the old Progenitor Empire, roughly fifty-thousand years ago.”

Moana and Tai both looked at one another in shock. They remembered their history lessons from childhood. The Progenitors were a powerful race who invaded, conquered, and then ruled over the entire Galaxy roughly one million years ago. Then, a mere ten thousand years ago, the entire Progenitor species died out in a very sudden fashion. All of their ships and technology were left behind, and Progenitor ruins were scattered across all of creation.

“This gate...” Mira muttered. “Progenitors made it. It goes to Balcora. The answer is in Balcora.”

Captain Rangi clicked a few buttons on the console and brought up a star chart on the screen.

Balcora was a cluster of supermassive black holes, located near the very center of the Galaxy. This particular star chart contained a two-hundred-year-old note that said the region of space surrounding Balcora was totally uninhabitable. Moana took one look at this note and then grabbed Mira by the shoulders, saying:

“No! Absolutely not! You can’t go there, you’ll die!”

“The answer’s in there.” Mira mumbled. “Gotta go. No choice.”
 
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Chapter 2: An Old Family Friend

Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
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Chapter 2
An Old Family Friend

June 27, 2060
The Colony, Kansas, North America



It was the hottest time of the year, so most people did their work and activities at night. Once the sun went down, the temperatures outside of XCOM HQ fell to a chilly ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit. It was safe to step out from underneath the protective awnings and rooftops, although the ground would remain hot enough to burn feet until very late at night.

Akira’s parents were, as always, busy. They separated from the main group and joined a gathering of men and women in a meeting hall near the center of the headquarters. Since Asuna and Alexander were adults, they were free to do what they wanted, and they did just that. Asuna took Chris by the hand and they slipped off to a different building in the complex. Akira knew she wouldn’t see them again until the following night. Alexander joined his parents at the big important meeting, carrying a floppy manila folder stuffed with paperwork under his arm.

As for the younger Robinson children, Akira found herself in a situation that had one very bad side and one very good side. Before leaving for their meeting, Blake and Chihiro entrusted Akira to the care of Inez Vasquez. This was good because Inez was close friends with Emanuel Espinosa. Akira’s imagination ramped into overdrive as she mentally planned out all of the ways she could remove Inez from the equation and be alone with Emanuel. But then there was the bad side: James and Josiah were also going to be there, and no amount of planning could work on them.

Inez lived in a tenement house with nearly two dozen other people. The building itself used to be a barracks from the Second Hyperspace War, but in the intervening years, someone built walls to separate the many beds from one another, creating over two dozen small cell-like rooms. A central hallway ran the length of the barracks, connecting all of the rooms to the public bathrooms and communal shower.

The twins barreled into the tenement with the force of a tornado, almost crashing into an old man who was on his way out. He waved a bottle of beer angrily at the twins, cursing.

“Sorry, Bradford!” Inez gasped as she followed the twins inside.

“The Robinsons are back, huh?” grumbled John Bradford, the former Central Officer of XCOM. “Guess I should go see how long we’ve delayed the inevitable this time. And hey, Nezzie, keep those two cretins on a leash, won’t you?”

As Bradford left, Inez and Akira looked around to see that the twins were barely inside of the tenement and already causing chaos. The doorway to the communal showers had just swung open and Scarlett Freeman walked directly into the ambush. Dressed in a pair of bath towels, one wrapped around her body and one around her head, Scarlett recoiled at the sight of the twins.

“Oh, no. Not you again!” She moaned.

Sniggering and laughing, the twins descended on Scarlett, teasing and bullying her with not a breath of remorse. The older twin grabbed Scarlett’s hair and pulled so hard she shrieked.

“Hey, it’s Rope Girl!” Josiah teased. “Where’s the rope!? What did you do with it?”

He grabbed a handful of Scarlett’s hair and tugged, searching for the braids Scarlett used to be known for, causing her to scream and sob.

“I don’t braid my hair anymore!” Scarlett cried. “Leave me alone!”

Akira ran forward and put her shoulder into Josiah’s side, shoving him to the floor.

“You heard her! Leave her alone!” Akira barked at Josiah.

Scarlett scampered into her room and slammed the door while the twins stared slack-jawed at their sister.

“You’d better apologize for that, Kira.” James growled.

Akira simply flipped a very rude hand gesture at James before walking back to Inez.

“Can we go somewhere before I kill those two, Nezzie? Anywhere’s fine.”



And that was how, ten minutes later, Akira and Inez found themselves outside, making their way up to the roof. The sun went down several hours ago, and the ground was finally cool enough to walk on with bare feet. Inez and Akira wandered around the flat rooftop, overlooking the town, and played catchup.

“So, I heard your familia was in Africa.” Inez said. “What was that thing your dad said he found?”

“An atmosphere generator.” Akira replied. “We found it in a Vanian starship that crashed near Lagos. That’s in Nigeria.”

Inez pulled the power cord on one of the industrial fans, letting cool air wash over them both..

“Oh, that’s so exciting!” She declared.

“Don’t see how.” Akira snorted. “Hell, I don’t even know what an atmosphere generator is supposed to do.”

Inez put her hands on her hips and looked down at Akira.

“Wait, they haven’t told you?”

Akira laughed.

“My parents haven’t told me a lot of things, Nezzie. They’re too busy with that stupid project, whatever it is. You know they never told me where babies come from? I learned it from the twins!”

Even in the darkness, Akira could see that Inez was looking scandalized.

Oh, la niña sagrada,” Inez cursed. “That’s muy malo.”

“It’s okay.” Akira shrugged. “Mom and Dad are making up for it. Dad promised I’d get to fly the Angel when I turned fifteen, and I’ve been reminding him on and off for months now. He won’t forget that.”

Inez shook her head.

“It’s not that, little niña. The Project is so important to your padre and mamá. It’s... well, how do I explain it? It’s their legacy. Their legacy and their gift to you and your siblings. It’s the Terraforming Engine.”

“Terraforming Engine?” Akira repeated. “I’ve heard of something like that before, but... why? Why would mom and dad build one?”

“Not just your parents. XCOM.” Inez clarified. “They think it’s their last best hope for fixing the world. If they can get this thing running, the world will cool off, the Ozone layer will come back, and none of us will have to live in a scorching hellhole anymore. That’s what they’re helping XCOM build inside the headquarters.”

Inez gestured to the silhouette of XCOM HQ in the darkness.

“If this works, you’ll get to grow up in a temperate world, and you can go out in the daylight instead of skulking about in the dark like this.”

Akira scoffed.

“You might like it, but I’ve never been cold before. I’d totally freak out if the world cools off. And what about heavy clothes? Do they really slow you down?”

Akira had seen plenty of pictures of people wearing winter gear, and it simply didn’t make sense to her. The heaviest article of clothing she’d worn in her whole life was a rain jacket, and Akira could count on one hand the number of times she’d actually put it on. Unlike Inez, or any of her siblings for that matter, Akira was not old enough to remember what the world was like before the beginning of Nuclear Summer.

“You’ll be fine.” Inez laughed. “You’ll really freak out when you see it's possible to be cold in the daylight, too.

Then, Inez put a friendly had on Akira’s shoulder.

“This might just be the last birthday you have in the dark, Akira. Cross you believe it? Are you ready for the day when you can walk around in the sunlight without being killed by it?”

Akira leaned back and looked up at the night sky. The combined layer of haze and dry fog in the air obscured all but the brightest stars.

“I’ll believe it when I see the heavens for real.”



June 28, 2060


“What!? Just a small party!? But, but, but... you’re turning fifteen!”

“Yeah, I know.”

Akira and Scarlett were sitting inside the dining hall at XCOM HQ, about thirty feet below ground level, where it was cooler. They weren’t alone. Scarlett’s parents were at the next table, chatting with Blake and Chihiro. Julian the android was sitting at Akira’s table, just a short distance away from her. Scarlett, who had just asked Akira about her birthday plans, didn’t notice as her spoon tipped sideways and some cucumber soup dribbled down her front.

“I thought, like, all girls threw these big huge celebrations when they turned fifteen.” Scarlett stammered. “Isn’t it, like, tradition or something?”

Julian leaned over to interrupt.

“It is a tradition in certain Human cultures.” The android said. “If Miss Robinson was of Latin American descent, she might have considered throwing a fiesta de quinceañera, a mass celebration with hundreds of guests. The option is still available, as my personality database suggests Tech Sergeant Inez Vasquez would be open to the idea, and is willing to assist.”

“Shut up.” Akira said to Julian. “Look, Scar. I don’t want a big birthday party. I just want... uh... you know... I just want one or two specific people to come and hang out with me for a few hours.”

This did not produce the reaction Akira was expecting. The smile on Scarlett’s face suddenly flickered, and it seemed to be very forced. Her left eyelid twitched a miniscule amount. Akira locked eyes with her friend.

“Hey, something wrong?”

Scarlett overacted, pretending to choke on a nonexistent bite of food.

“No, I’m okay! It... It’s nothing.”

At that moment, Julian stood up and approached Scarlett, metal arms outstretched.

“As much as I find your suffering mildly entertaining, my programming compels me to intervene against my own will.” The android declared.

It was Akira’s turn to fake an emotion. While she struggled to stop Julian from giving Scarlett an unnecessary Heimlich maneuver, she wondered exactly what part of her statement had caused Scarlett to shut down.

Akira found herself wishing she could read minds.



Later in the evening, as the sun was starting to go down, the whole Robinson family gathered together for a short meeting. Standing in main entrance hall, Chihiro said:

“So, Blake and Akira. Both of you are having your birthdays on Wednesday. Have you picked a place for the party?”

Blake took a step back and pointed to his daughter.

“You know me, Chi. Akira gets first pick.”

Akira’s face got red. It was a tradition as old as she was. Ever since she was born on her father’s birthday, Blake had always chosen to give up his own celebration to make Akira’s big day even better. She hugged him and said:

“I wanna have a picnic in the river park.”

Alexander clapped his hands excitedly.

“Good idea!” He said. “I saw a merchant caravan go through the Gate this morning. There’s probably a lot of cool foreign food in the Trade Center right now.”

“And how many people do you want to invite?” Chihiro asked, pulling a notepad out of her pocket.

“Just two.” Akira replied. “Chris Wright and Emanuel Espinosa.”

Blake and Chihiro both stiffened. Alex was confused, while Asuna gave a wide smile at the mention of her boyfriend’s name. James and Josiah looked at one another and raised their eyebrows. Finally, the parents, in a concerned tone of voice, replied:

“Um, Akira. Chris and Emanuel are... uh, they’re fully grown men.” Blake said. “Don’t you want to invite someone your own age?”

“Someone like that lovely Freeman girl?” Chihiro suggested.

Sensing she was pushing her luck too far, Akira quickly tried to offer a compromise. She wasn’t willing to give up on having Emanuel at the party, but she was ready to give a little ground.

“Okay, sure. Scar can come, and maybe Nezzie, too, if she brings Julian.”

Chihiro gave Akira a very quizzical look.

“Is that it? No one else? This is your fifteenth we’re talking about, Akira. It should be a special occasion.”

Akira put on the biggest, cheeriest smile she could muster.

“And it will be.” She replied. “That’s why I invited people who are special to me.”

In reality, Akira wanted a single moment with just one person. But if that meant putting up with a slightly larger crowd, then so be it. She would just play the cards she was dealt.

Meanwhile, Blake and Chihiro were looking at one another as though they were having a silent conversation. Finally, Blake relented. He turned to speak to Asuna, making sure to spell out his next request with his hands,

“Alright. It’s your birthday, and you’ll get the party you wanted. Chi? Asuna? Can you take Akira to the Trade Center? Get enough food for a nightlong party.”

He passed a large pouch to his wife. It jingled with the sound of many coins rattling together.



Once the sun went down and the heat of the day broke, the Colony’s Trade Center came to life. It was a large plaza, covered in awnings as usual, surrounded on three sides by storefronts where merchants and traders peddled their goods. When Chihiro, Asuna, and Akira arrived, the plaza was already brimming with people. Some five hundred men and women bustled about, shopping and bartering and trading.

Chihiro opened up the bag her husband gave her and distributed its contents to Akira and Asuna. Each girl received fifty United Nations Credits. The Credits themselves were in the shape of coins made from a bronze-aluminum alloy. The heads side depicted a profile of Jericho while the tails side contained the insignia of the United Nations: a map of the Earth encircled by twin olive branches and the words: EST. 2035.

“I know we’re supposed to be buying food and party supplies,” Chihiro said. “But I’m not going ask you to give back the leftover money when we’re done.”

It was a pre-birthday shopping spree worthy of the Old World. Akira and Asuna went from one food vendor to the next, stocking up on salted meats for what was rapidly starting to look like a birthday cookout. Once they did a lap around the storefronts, Akira, Asuna, and Chihiro turned their attention to the central plaza.

Just as Alex had mentioned, a merchant caravan had pulled into the Trade Center. Eight vehicles (mostly trucks) had parked in the middle of the plaza and merchants were selling their goods directly off the backs of their vehicles. Some food items were strangely shaped. Others strangely colored. And a few were just plain weird.

“What the hell is that thing!?” Akira squealed, pointing towards a strange batch of fruits one man was selling.

“Oh! Pomegranates!” Chihiro gasped in delight. “I haven’t eaten one of those in about twenty years!”

And she proceeded to buy a dozen of them.

All was going well as the night wore on and the trio continued their shopping. But about an hour before midnight, right when the Trade Center was about to hit peak activity, a voice called out that made Chihiro halt in her tracks, and by extension, so did Akira. When Asuna realized her family wasn’t pulling up the rear anymore, she stopped and looked around.

“Tachibana?” someone called to the Robinsons. “Corporal Tachibana of the Avenger?”

A tall, bony man with a gaunt face pushed through the crowd and greeted Chihiro. For a moment, Akira’s mother stared directly into the man’s skull-like features before a smile of recognition dawned on her own face.

“Von Unfal!?” Chihiro breathed. “Bernard von Unfal!? No way! I thought you were dead!”

“And I you.” The man replied in a German accent.

As Chihiro and the stranger hugged, Akira and Asuna hung back, looking at one another nervously.

“Did you know mom had another friend?” Akira signed to her sister. “He seems creepy.”

Asuna replied silently, hiding her hand behind her bag of groceries and hand-spelling a quick reply:

“I think he is creepy too.”

At that moment, Chihiro introduced Bernard to her children.

“These are my daughters, Asuna and Akira.”

Bernard took Asuna’s hand in his own, and with his super-creepy bony face, he kissed the top of Asuna’s knuckles. Then he looked up and spoke in elaborate German:

“Es ist mir eine Freude, Sie kennenzulernen, junge Dame.”

Asuna let out a weak giggle before she opened her mouth and spoke in very poor, halting English:

“I am named, Ah-soo-nuh. I’m deaf.”

She covered her ear with one hand and shook her head to get her point across. Bernard raised an eyebrow before he nodded in understanding. Then the strange man looked at Akira. She looked straight into his face and did not like what she saw.

Bernard von Unfal’s face was already sunken and sallow, but his ghoulish appearance was magnified a hundredfold by the fact that his eyes were grey. Not that kind of faded blue some people had. These eyes were nearly devoid of all color. Akira knew this was not a natural eye color for Humans. The color of Bernard's eyes signified something important, but in that moment, she couldn’t remember what it was or why. All Akira knew was that when she looked into those seemingly dead eyes, her mind was filled with all kinds of dark and disturbing thoughts.

However, there was one more thing Akira found alarming about this guy. Even though she was facing him head-on, she could see some kind of technologically sophisticated device attached to the back of his head. Two metal arms snaked around Bernard’s skull and rested atop his ears in much the same way as the arms on a pair of glasses do. Akira found the sight to be very unnerving.

“And what is your name, young lady?” He asked.

Akira felt a chill running up her spine, and it came with a very powerful impulse to run away. Fighting down her reflexes, Akira managed to choke out her own name. Unlike Asuna, Bernard held his grip on Akira’s hand far longer, staring into her eyes the entire time. Ultimately, Chihiro had to make him let go.

“Blake will be happy to see you too.” She said. “How long will you be here? Maybe we can have a proper reunion.”

To Akira and Asuna’s dismay, Bernard said he would be in the Colony all week, and that he would be most happy to visit the Robinsons at XCOM HQ. When the girls finally parted ways with Bernard, Akira grabbed her mother by the hand and forcefully pulled Chihiro away from the Trade Center.

Akira looked back only once as she left the scene, and what she saw nearly made her heart stop. As she, Chihiro, and Asuna were walking away, Bernard pulled some kind of device out of his pocket. It was a small handheld computer, connected via electrical cable to a handheld contraption that resembled an Old World microphone. Bernard was pointing this device directly at the Robinsons while looking down at his screen.

Akira was so frightened she couldn’t speak.





Akira ended up going to bed just before the sun rose. She had nothing else to do because her mother insisted on “letting the birthday girl relax while her parents set up the party.” So Akira went back to the tenement. When she arrived, she could hear Inez Vasquez gossiping with somebody through the walls, so Akira just went into her own room and flopped down on the little bed.

Sometime later, the sound of conversation stopped, and Akira could feel sleep closing in on her. She tried to think about the strange encounter with Bernard von Unfal in the Trade Center again. Something about this guy just seemed wrong to her, but she couldn’t pin it down exactly. Akira punched her pillow and tried to get comfortable, but as she settled into bed, a new sound reached her ears.

Footsteps in the hallway.

This was normal, as some two dozen other people lived in the tenement building. Akira could hear voices talking, and she tried to ignore them, but her interest was piqued when somebody mentioned her name.

“And what about the younger one? I think her name was Akira?”

Akira felt her skin crawling. That was the voice of Bernard Von Unfal. What was he doing here?

“Oh, I've known her since she was very small.” The second voice belonged to Emanuel Espinosa. Akira’s heartbeat quickened and she felt herself getting very hot all of a sudden.

“She takes after her mother a lot.” Emanuel went on. “She even has Chihiro’s eyes.”

“Yes.” Bernard sounded like he was feigning interest. “You may be too young to remember, Espinosa, but I fought alongside Tachibana during the war. I was part of the squad that silenced the Chosen Warlock once and for all.”

“I know.” Emanuel’s voice said through the walls. “What’s your point?”

“My point is this, I learned enough about the universe during the war to know that young Akira is the kind of person I’m interested in. I want to get closer to her, to learn more. You’re a friend of the Robinson family. Can you help me, Espinosa?”

Akira heard all of this through the wall and suddenly started feeling very sick. She wondered if she could get out of bed and hold her door shut without being heard. But it turned out to be unnecessary. Emanuel’s response was just forceful enough that she could hear every single word:

“Not a snowflake’s chance on Earth, von Unfal. Chihiro might not know what kind of man you became after the war, but I can see the truth in your eyes. The work you do leaves marks on your soul. Don’t go anywhere near that girl, and if I find out you did, I won’t be very civil with you.”

A single set of footsteps retreated towards the door and were gone. From the sound of it, Emanuel lurked in the hallway outside of Akira’s door for a few minutes... minutes that felt like centuries while Akira wrestled with the urge to burst out of her room and kiss Emanuel right then and there. By the time Akira found the willpower to act on her impulses, it was too late. The sound of a door being opened and closed reached her ears just as she stepped out of her room and into the hallway.

Emanuel was gone again, leaving Akira so deep in love that she might just drown in her own passion.



 
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Chapter 3: All Gone Wrong

Macavity116

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Chapter 3
All Gone Wrong

June 29, 2060
The Colony, Kansas, North America



Akira couldn’t contain her excitement the next morning. Tomorrow was her birthday! She would be fifteen years old, and it felt like she had life completely figured out. Tomorrow, she would finally get her moment with Emanuel, get her first flying lesson, and basically spend the whole day being the center of attention.

When she arrived in the cafeteria at XCOM HQ, Akira found her first birthday present waiting for her. Inez Vasquez stood on top of a table and made sure everyone in the room could see it.

“Hey hombres, thanks for helping me make this thing!” Inez told the surrounding XCOM personnel while they clapped and cheered.

Akira went red when she saw that it was a flightsuit, of the exact same type worn by spaceplane crew such as her parents, Emanuel, or Inez. On the right shoulder was the American flag, fifty-one stars on a blue field with thirteen red and white stripes. The name “Robinson” was sewn on to the chest above the heart. Finally, the original Ark Angel mission patch was affixed to the left shoulder: A stylized Japanese Torii Gate on a blue field encircled by the names of the Angel’s war-era command crew.


y4mUowqATiPwaMHa_ZZQZYAuaaUMPS23vVQfBuYdMmFlrDrk0PrF7FNKqJlNEYO3LSDMlZBFsjLRPljKH_fdVmCLPE9wDsx_F0kTkezcRha7Zr_Q7gQy9JlwSnzv6ux0GNV1qggU9XzRKrSTaPYdeqmaIzrQNbtdrPBJ007sSm6ArwAhSv8F9Kt4dvKyAC3Rhde

Inez tried to give the flightsuit to Akira, but found the teenager was more interested in hugging her and squealing out her thanks. Inez pressed the suit into Akira’s hands and said:

“Try it on already, we’ve gotta see how you look all grown up!”

Because this was shaping up to be a very hot day, Akira wasn’t wearing much clothing to start with, just a tanktop and shorts. She stepped into the flightsuit and pulled it over her outfit, zipping up the suit while several XCOM personnel around her clapped and voiced their approval.

“One of us! One of us!” A Canadian engineer chanted.

Several members of XCOM gave Akira high-fives and wished her a happy birthday before moving on. As she finally got around to getting breakfast from the serving line, Akira noticed Scarlett Freeman arriving. Sitting down with her best friend, Akira quickly brought Scarlett up to speed on her encounter with Bernard von Unfal in the Trade Center yesterday.

“Oh, that guy sounds like a total creep.” Scarlett said with a shudder. “Good thing he’ll be gone soon. Those merchant caravans don’t really hang out all that long.”

“I’m still kinda freaked out that my Mom gets along with the guy.” Akira remarked. “Everything about him is wrong. Did I tell you he’s got, like, a metal spider on the back of his head?”

Scarlett spat out her food in shock.

“What!?”

Akira quickly described the spindly metal thing she’d seen latched to the back of his head. Scarlett’s eyes widened and she laughed.

“Kira, that wasn’t a spider, that was a Mindshield.”

“Mindshield?” Akira repeated.

“Yeah,” Scarlett replied. “Normal people like you and me wear those things to stop mind-readers from getting in our heads. Makes sense for a merchant to wear a Mindshield, though. If a telepath could get in his mind, he’d be out of business in ten seconds flat!”

Akira thought this was interesting, but before she had the chance to reply, two flurries of movement occurred on either side of her.

James and Josiah both sat down at the same table as Akira and Scarlett. They put down their trays rather forcefully, sending little bits of food flying into the air. Both twins pressed themselves into Akira’s sides, holding her in place.

“Hey, it’s just the little sister that we wanted to talk to.” James said.

“We wanted to clear some things up with you,” Josiah continued, “So we can all have a fun day tomorrow.”

Scarlett lowered her head and tried to make herself seem invisible. James put an arm around Akira’s shoulder, saying:

“You still owe my brother an apology for shoving him yesterday.”

“In your dreams.” Akira snapped. “You were bullying Scar.”

“She got rid of her braids without asking us first.” Josiah said. “How else were we supposed to react?”

“You self-centered moronic as-”

But before Akira could finish her profanity, Josiah shook her into silence.

“Apologize.” He said. “Or else.”

Now Akira was getting angry. She grabbed James’ arm and dug her fingernails into him, trying to draw blood. James seethed.

“Do it.” He said. “Or you and Scar won’t be friends anymore.”

Josiah leaned across the table at Scarlett and said to her:

“Seriously, though. We liked those braids. You gonna get them back or what?”

Akira lost her temper.

She raked her fingernails up and down James’ arm, staining her own hand with his blood. James gasped and let go of Akira. The twins stood up, looking down on the girls with real fury. Then James turned to Scarlett and said:

“See this, Scar? You don’t wanna be friends with this bully. She’s gonna hurt you and then steal Espinosa right out from under you!”

The words hung in the air for a few seconds. Akira was too stunned to do or say anything. Scarlett looked back and forth from the twins to her friend. Josiah scoffed.

“So yeah. You’ve both got the hots for the same guy. Kira’s been drooling over Espinosa for just as long as you, Scar. And last time I checked; Espinosa’s pretty monogamous. He not the type of guy who shares... so have fun, ladies. Let us know who wins.”

And the twins left.

Akira’s brain seemed to have locked up. She couldn’t think, she couldn’t even process sights and sounds correctly. Scarlett was just staring at her, dumbfounded. Finally, Akira tried to speak.

“Scar... I...”

Scarlett got to her feet and ran from the cafeteria, sobbing.



Akira couldn’t decide how to feel.

She wanted to pound James and Josiah into dust for bullying Scarlett and herself, but then again... Scarlett was also in love with Emanuel. Akira had read enough books in the Colony’s library to know this wasn’t going to end well.

There were stories from the Old World about a Chinese man who was desired by two women. The two women threw themselves into a river, calling for him to choose which one to save. There was also a tale of three Greek gods, whose unresolved love triangle caused a war. And of course, everybody on Earth knew about the drama surrounding the Savior herself. Jericho had been entangled with two people who wanted her at the same time. Tragically, Duane Gardner and Sophie Ackermann both outlived the woman they desired.

Akira was very frightened she would end up in a similar situation, but she didn’t know how to escape it. Walking underneath the awnings and rooftops to keep out of the sun, Akira absentmindedly headed back towards the tenement building. She needed to think, to brainstorm, to come up with something she could say to Scarlett.

Scarlett was Akira’s best friend, but at the end of the day, Akira knew that Emanuel was hers, and that Scarlett had no business being anywhere near him. What could Akira say that would get Scarlett to back down without sacrificing their friendship?

Akira was lost in her own thoughts as she passed the gate in the inner wall. To her left, a covered pathway led to the airport where the Ark Angel was parked. She walked right past it, intending to continue on to the tenement, but a loud voice caused Akira to do a double-take and return to the gate.

Outside the walls, in the main town, several people were having a very loud and intense argument.

“Aw come on, lady!” A man was pleading. “Everything’s for sale! How about two thousand Credits?”

“Go away!” Barked a slightly high-pitched voice. “Leave us alone before I decide to hurt you!”

Akira recognized that voice at once. Plenty of people said that Akira's voice was similar to the voice Chihiro Tachibana had when she was a teenager. She ran up to the gate and saw her own mother was quickly walking away from Bernard von Unfal. Chihiro was visibly angry, to the point where Akira knew to give her a wide berth.

“How about a trade, then?” Bernard sounded as though he was getting desperate. “I’ve got a very nice starship parked on the runway. It’s a Levakian Silvestris-Class, very new, top of the line. How about it?”

“You dare!? I should kill you!” Chihiro threatened.

Akira was now very alarmed. Just yesterday, Chihiro and Bernard had been as friendly as can be. What was going on here?

Chihiro reached to her belt and pulled the Chosen Assassin’s Katana halfway into view, letting Bernard know that she was armed and serious. The German veteran took a half-step backward.

“Now, now, Tachibana. Let’s not lose our heads. I’m offering you a very generous deal.”

There was a commotion behind Akira, she looked around and saw three more people running towards the scene. Blake and Alexander Robinson, as well as Emanuel Espinosa were racing toward Chihiro. They were all armed with Gauss pistols.

“Von Unfal!” Blake yelled. “If even half of what I heard is true, I swear to Jericho I’ll put a bullet in your skull!”

Bernard von Unfal kept his hands raised, but did not back away.

“I have many connections and friends.” Von Unfal insisted. “When I made them aware of the value at stake, they authorized me to pay any cost, no matter how steep. You just have to name your price!”

Blake raised a Gauss pistol with his one good hand took aim directly at Bernard’s face.

“My daughter is not for sale!” Blake yelled. “Now I'm giving you until the count of ten to clear out of here before I pump your guts full of copper! One!”

The bottom fell out of Akira’s stomach. What did her father just say!? What was going on here!? Bernard, keeping his hands raised, persisted.

“Oh, come on, Robinson! Everything’s for sale!” von Unfal gestured to the airport. “How about a trade? Do you need a new starship?”

“Two!” Blake shouted, “Three!”

Emanuel stepped to the side, placing himself directly between Akira and Bernard, but the gaunt-faced German had already spotted her. Akira was rooted in the spot by fear as the full implications of the situation started to hit her.

“Come on, Robinson, she’s right there! I know how difficult it is to raise children, you must be exhausted after the first four. Let me take the young one off your hands, I’m doing you a favor!” Von Unfal was pleading.

“Four!” Emanuel counted off. “Five!”

Chihiro reached down to her waist and tugged on a long, thin object. The Katana of the Chosen Assassin flashed in the evening light, its blade glittering in a dangerous way. She pointed the sword at von Unfal, who refused to back down.

“Robinson!” von Unfal pleaded. “I showed your wife my readings, that girl is more special than any of us can comprehend. My clients need her! How about ten thousand credits?”

“Six!” Blake took a step closer to von Unfal and flipped the safety switch on his pistol. “Seven!”

Von Unfal threw his head back and let out a growl of frustration. But just as Chihiro said “Eight,” von Unfal’s eyes lit up as though he had an idea.

“Wait! I have a proposal!” He said quickly.

“Nine!” Emanuel chambered a round in his own weapon. Von Unfal blurted out his final offer.

“My people will help build the Terraforming Engine!” Von Unfal yelled. “We’ll give you equipment, technology, personnel, and funding!”

“T...”

The word died in Blake’s throat. He, Chihiro, and Emanuel all paused. For a quarter of a second, a terrible silence hung in the air. The hesitation was palpable. Akira could see, for the shortest of moments, that both of her parents were stunned into silence. And then, the terrible, horrible truth sank in.

Blake and Chihiro were seriously considering the offer.

Akira’s blood ran cold as she fully understood that her parents had, if only for a moment, given very real thought to selling her as though she was a caged animal in a shop. After a full second of silence, Blake and Chihiro both raised their weapons and took aim at von Unfal.

“Here’s my offer.” Blake replied: “You get a bullet in your skull, and I get the satisfaction of watching the blood leak out of your twitching corpse. Does that sound like a deal, you disgusting slave driver!?”

Realizing he wasn’t going to make any more headway, Bernard von Unfal finally backed down. He withdrew, slinking away and back into the market.



Akira was left numb by the whole experience. She vaguely knew that her family steered her back into XCOM HQ. Blake and Chihiro both spoke to her, telling their daughter how much she meant to them and that they would never allow anybody to take her away. Alexander kept one arm around her shoulder the entire time, until they were all back in the tenement house.

Both of Akira’s parents escorted her to her room, and Chihiro promised to bring Akira some food from the cafeteria. Before he left, Blake put his good hand on his daughter’s shoulder and said:

“I’m sorry, Akira. Sorry for the world you have to grow up in. I never wanted you to inherit a broken world from me. Your mother and I are working as hard as we can to make things right, to give you and your siblings the best chance for a better life. I know we can’t make everything perfect for you, but I swear to Jericho, we’re going to try.”

Akira didn’t say anything, and her parents left her alone, tucked into bed. Yesterday, she would have trusted her father’s words without a moment’s hesitation or doubt. But everything was different now. All Akira could think about was the moment when her parents hesitated. She felt betrayed, and began to wonder if her life meant far less to her family than what she’d been raised to believe.

A little after sundown, Chihiro returned with a platter of warm food for Akira and the promise of a quiet, restful birthday picnic tomorrow. Kissing Akira’s forehead, Chihiro asked Akira if she wanted her bedroom door locked. Akira said yes, and as she departed, Chihiro made sure to lock Akira’s door from the inside before stepping out and closing it silently.

Akira was ready for this hellish day to be over. Having finished her dinner, she set the platter on her nightstand and picked up the analog alarm clock. She twisted the dial and set the alarm to wake her very late tomorrow morning. Akira was about to finally go to sleep when a gentle knock sounded on her door.

“Hello? Akira? Are you in there?”

Scarlett’s voice came softly through the door. Akira slipped out of bed and put her back to the door, holding it closed. Clutching the clock in one hand, Akira wasn’t sure what to say, so she just replied:

“Hi, Scar.”

Scarlett’s voice sounded equally as unsure and uncomfortable.

“So, uh... I guess you and I are in a bind, huh?”

“Straight to the point, but yeah.” Akira let out a weak chuckle. “Scar... why didn’t you tell me about Emanuel?”

“I was scared.” Scarlett confessed. “I thought you liked him too. I didn’t, I was... I couldn’t...”

Scarlett trailed off, unable to find the words.

“Have you talked to him?” Akira asked. She was dreading the answer.

“Kinda.” Scarlett’s voice sounded very small. “Just a couple of hellos and good mornings.”

“Did you do anything... like, flirty?”

Scarlett paused for way too long.

“I mean, I like, uh, a little, I guess.”

Akira was so happy that there was a door between herself and Scarlett. In the span of a single day, she’d been betrayed by her parents and now her best friend as well. Could this day get any worse?

“Akira, I’m sorry.” Scarlett sounded like she was sobbing. “I didn’t know! I didn’t mean to hurt you, you’re my best friend.”

Somehow, those words felt like a knife to Akira’s heart.

“Scar...” Now Akira couldn’t find the words, but Scarlett had more to say.

“Kira, I... I respect you and our friendship, and since it’s your birthday... I think it’s only fair.”

Scarlett paused, waiting for Akria to reply. When she didn’t, Scarlett went on:

“You’ve known Emanuel longer than me. My family came here only a couple years ago, but you’ve lived here all your life. I’ll back off and give you a chance, okay? And if it doesn’t work out between you and him, then I’ll come back and try again. Is that okay, Kira?”

Akira was still silent. She couldn’t think of anything to say. After a few moments, Scarlett sighed.

“Alright, Kira. I’ll see you tomorrow.”



Akira couldn’t sleep. She watched the hours tick past on the face of her alarm clock, laying on top of her bedsheets. As time went by, she felt more and more sick. After everything that happened today, the sense of being overwhelmed was starting to creep up on her like a hideous insect.

The second hand seemed to taunt Akira as it made yet another journey around the clock face. It was one minute to midnight. In just a matter of seconds, she would be fifteen years old. Akira had pictured this moment before, but now that she was here, it was feeling both disappointing and anticlimactic.

Fifteen seconds to go. Akira wished she could have just skipped over the entire day.

Ten seconds to go. Akira fantasized about a perfect world where all of her friends and loved ones could be perfectly happy without stepping on Akira’s hopes and dreams.

Five seconds to go. In this world, the twins didn’t exist. The thought made Akira smile.

Three.

Two.

One.

BOOM!

A loud blast shook the entire building! Brilliant light danced into the bedroom window for just a moment before disappearing. The tenement house filled with the voices of people screaming and crying out in confusion.

“What the hell was that!?” Somebody shouted from the second floor.

“Was that a cannon?” Asked a voice from down the hall.

Akira sprang out of bed and peered out of the window, trying to see what was going on. In the courtyard between buildings, some kind of altercation was going on. At least six men were approaching the building, and three or four people raced out to confront them. A fight broke out, and the sounds of shouting echoed off the low cloud cover that obscured the moon from view.

Behind Akira, there was a sudden violent banging on her own door.

“Akira!” shouted the voice of Blake Robinson. “We’ve gotta go! Come on!”

Akira raced across the room and swung it open. Her father was there, alongside several men and women who Akira recognized as veterans of the Second Hyperspace War. Duane Gardner, one of Jericho’s lovers, kept his back to the group, aiming a Beam Rifle down the darkened hallway while Cory Tucker, an XCOM squad leader, covered the area Duane couldn’t see. Alexei Volobyov, a Russian soldier with something of a checkered past, grabbed Akira and pulled her into the middle of the group.

“Follow me.” Blake told his daughter, “And keep your head low!”

As Akira’s father started guiding her to the nearest exit, the air lit up again and a second loud crack echoed through the walls.

“What’s going on!?” Akira screamed.

“Stay quiet.” Duane hissed. “Don’t give us away.”

Down the steps and out the front door, the group was soon dashing across open ground. Akira had not been given time to put on a change of clothes, and was walking barefoot across the hot ground. Each footstep brought searing pain and forced Akira to step as lightly as possible. Akira saw an armored truck parked about fifty yards down the road. There was a stylized hexagonal eye painted on the side in red, with the words “Scientia Potentia Est” underneath of it. Blake took one look at this and said:

“I knew it. I knew it!”

As they passed the armored truck, Duane Gardner pulled a small circular object from his pocket and reached underneath the vehicle, attaching it to a spot inside of the wheel well, just out of sight. Blake put one hand on Akira’s shoulder to make her continue on. The inner gate and the path to the airport were just coming into sight through the darkness when Alexei shouted:

“Jig’s up, here they come!”

Blake, Duane, Cory, and Alexei all spun around to look behind them. Akira tried to turn as well, but Duane seized her around the middle and threw her behind a low concrete wall.

“Stay in cover!”

Akira curled up into the fetal position and pressed her hands to her ears. Gunfire rent the air like a terrible thunderstorm for a few seconds before somebody yelled above the noise!

“Stop!”

The gunfire died away as Bernard von Unfal made himself heard. Akira dared to peek her head above the low wall. The perfidious German stood out in the open, his arms extended.

“This fight isn’t necessary.” Von Unfal called out. “My men have left two hundred kilograms of Elerium outside of your headquarters. We’ve also given you food, supplies and all of the tools and equipment you need to finish your Terraforming Engine. Your great project will be completed in a matter of weeks! Just give us the girl as we agreed!”

“Agreed!?” Akira screamed.

But Blake’s voice was louder than her own.

“Von Unfal, I’ll kill you where you stand!”

Blake rose up from behind cover, aiming his pistol directly at von Unfal’s head! Behind von Unfal, two shadowy figures took aim with weapons of their own.

Not a moment later, the earth shook and the whole place was lit up as though it were daytime. Akira screamed as blast after blast split the night as though the whole world was going to end right then and there. The flashing lights were so intense that Akira jammed her eyes shut. She silently prayed to Jericho for the whole ordeal to end, but then somebody grabbed Akira by the shoulder and pulled her upright.

“I’ve got her!” a strange voice called out.

Realizing that she was being held by someone who was not friendly, Akira opened her eyes and started flailing about, screaming and punching and kicking at whatever part of this guy she could reach. The strange man tried to redouble his grip on Akira, and in the confusion, she saw something that made her heart freeze.

Blake, Duane, Alexei, and Cory were all lying on the ground, their bodies twitching and convulsing. Bernard von Unfal, the gaunt-faced German, was standing over Blake’s body, holding a boxy-looking sidearm with a computer screen and a keypad in the spot where one would expect to find a gunsight.

Akira had no idea whether her father was alive.

Her screams seemed to overpower all other noises. Akira struggled against her captor with all of her strength, kicking his stomach and biting his arm. The man dropped his rifle and seized Akira with both hands, snaking his right arm around her neck and squeezing until she choked. Desperate, panicking, Akira kicked again, this time connecting the back of her foot to the man’s kneecap, forcing him to buckle.

“Boss!” The man cried out. “Need some help here!”

Von Unfal looked up at Akira, then gave her the most unpleasant smile she’d ever seen. He strode over to Akira and her captor, keying some command into the computer attached to his sidearm.

“A soft hit should do the trick.” Von Unfal said. “We don’t want to damage that wonderful brain of yours.”

Von Unfal raised his weapon and held it less than an inch away from Akira’s chest. What can only be described as a bolt of lightning jumped from the weapon and hit Akira, as bright as the sun and loud as a cannon. Every muscle in Akira’s body seized up, and she immediately lost consciousness...


 
Last edited:
Chapter 4: Spirited Away

Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
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Hello all, Macavity116 here.

Real Life, being the terrible, horrible, no-good very bad monster that it is, has thrown me an unexpected curveball to the effect that I will not be able to post a new chapter on Saturday as planned. Therefore, Chapter Four will be posted early. (As in, right now!)

Thankfully, this disruption in my personal life promises to be only a week long. Chapter 5 is still going to be posted on-schedule. Expect to see it on Saturday, July 3.




Chapter 4
Spirited Away

June 30, 2060
Somewhere in the American Wastes



Very slowly, Akira regained consciousness. Every inch of her body hurt. When she opened her eyes, there was nothing to see. Akira then found out that her hands were tied behind her back, and she was blindfolded. To make matters even worse, Akira could distinctly feel a cold metal object affixed to the back of her own head. Two prongs pressed into her temples painfully, adding to her distress. After another moment, Akira realized something else: She was in a moving vehicle. Judging from the deep rumble of the engine and the warm air moving around her, Akira was sitting the bed of an open-top truck, one that was traveling across rough terrain.

Instinctively, she raised her voice and cried out:

“Hello? Can someone help me?”

There was a flurry of movement to Akira’s left, and a moment later, something very hard hit her in the head and she recoiled, screaming.

“Shut up, girl!” A harsh voice snapped. “Now!”

Akira whimpered, and she was struck again, this time across the face. She bit her tongue, literally, and held her breath. Whoever was beating her finally backed off.

“Keep it quiet.” The man’s voice grumbled.

A moment later, the sound of the truck engine and the wind was all Akira could hear again. Reeling in pain, Akira sobbed silently for a few minutes until she felt a stranger lean on her left shoulder.

“Are you okay, young child?” A female voice spoke with a French accent, just barely loud enough to be heard over the truck engine. “At least, I think you sound like a child.”

“I think I’m okay.” Akira whispered. “Who are you? What’s going on?”

“I’m called Tsiajotso.” Replied the woman’s voice. “I was trying to return to my home when they took me.”

“Where’s home for you?” Akira asked. “I’m from Myron, a little town in Kansas.”

The woman named Tsiajotso chuckled.

“I lived in California for most of my life. I was traveling alone when these thugs took me.”

“So we’ve been kidnapped?”

Akira could just barely sense the movement as Tsiajotso nodded her head.

“Yes. And there’s two more us here. Pascal’s on my right, and I think Dave is on your other side.”

Akira flexed her shoulder, trying to get a reaction from whoever was on her left.

“Leave me alone.” Said the voice of a teenage boy. He sounded to be roughly the same age as Akira.

As quietly as they could without incurring the wrath of whoever was guarding them, the other three prisoners introduced themselves to Akira.

Ingrid Tsiajotso was a fifty-year-old Malagasy person who had been kidnapped while trying to return to Madagascar, her homeland. David Sepulveda was a fifteen-year-old Mexican-American boy who lived in a small community on the Rio Grande River, and he’d been snatched from his bed in the middle of the night. Pascal Etienne was a blind man, native to French Canada. He was travelling to XCOM Headquarters in Myron, pursuing a rumor that someone there would be able to restore his eyesight. Instead, the people who offered to give him a ride had kidnapped him instead.

All four victims, Akira included, were blindfolded and tied up. But from the information they were able to share, it was apparent there were just three kidnappers: Bernard von Unfal, a second German man, and a woman from New Zealand. Akira was glad to know all of this, but she still didn’t have the answer to the question that was bugging her the most.

“Why, though? Why are they doing this?”

“No idea.” Pascal admitted.

“You got me.” David replied.

“Who knows?” Ingrid said.

Thinking hard, Akira asked if anyone had seen von Unfal pointing a strange device at them, taking great care to describe the thing he used in Myron. Obviously, Pascal Etienne never saw such a thing; but David and Ingrid did.

“I thought it looked like a Geiger counter.” Ingrid whispered. “You know, the thing they use to measure radiation.”

“So they kidnap radioactive people?” David snarked, then he spoke loudly enough for the kidnapper to hear. “Wow, you guys really are morons!”

Immediately, there was a shuffling sound from the other side of the truck bed as Kidnapper Number Two stood up and bashed David’s head with... something. The boy cried out in pain while the kidnapper yelled:

“Shut up! Keep quiet!”

Akira and the others fell silent. No matter what she thought about all this, Akira realized that she was in a completely hopeless situation. She was blindfolded, tied up, and had some device strapped to the back of her head that did Jericho-knows-what. She was screwed. The kidnappers would just keep driving until sunrise, take shelter in the daytime, and carry on until...

Until what?

Until rescue came? Was that even possible? The last Akira had seen of her father, he was lying flat on the ground. She didn’t even know if he was alive. And as for her mother... Akira didn’t know what happened to her, and that was somehow even worse than the sight of Blake lifeless on the ground.

Full of fear, Akira tried to speak to her captor again:

“Where are you taking us? What are you going to do to us?”

The answer came in the form of something solid striking her in the face.



The kidnappers drove on for a few more hours. Eventually, Akira felt an oppressive heat that suggested the sun was rising. As soon as dawn broke, the kidnappers pulled off the road and forced all four of their victims to disembark. Still blindfolded, Akira felt someone grab her by the arm and force her to walk for a short while. She was brought inside of a building and made to sit down in what felt like a dusty corner. Kidnapper Number 2 again demanded the prisoners be silent. It was around then when Akira finally heard the voice of the third kidnapper for the first time.

“How old are you, girl?”

She spoke in a thick New Zealand accent. Akira couldn’t help but imagine this woman as one of those Partogans she read about in stories of the Second Hyperspace War. She didn’t reply.

“Girl, your age!” The Kiwi Kidnapper snapped.

“You told me to be quiet.” Akira mumbled.

Once again, Akira was hit in the head, but this time, she was expecting the blow and figured out exactly what she was being beaten with. It was the stock of a gun! She was dreading the confirmation, but now she had a much better appreciation for the situation she was in. Reluctantly, Akira said:

“Fifteen. I’m fifteen.”

The Kiwi Kidnapper let out a gasp.

“Fifteen? You’re bloody kidding. Rider, are you seeing these numbers?”

The voice of Bernard von Unfal replied, sounding stunned.

“I see them, not sure I believe them. Is that even possible for one so young?”

“Scan her again.” said the voice of Kidnapper Number 2.

Even though she had some fabric over her eyes, Akira got the sense that she knew what was going on. The kidnappers were scanning their victims with the same device Akira saw von Unfal using in Myron’s Trade Center. The one Ingrid compared to a Geiger counter. In her mind’s eye, Akira could just see the handheld sensor being passed over her body while the kidnappers looked at the little screen.

“Unbelievable.” Said Kidnapper Number 2. “The numbers go right off the edge of the screen.”

“In terms of energy output, she’s just below Jericho on the scale.” von Unfal breathed. “If my math is right, that comes out to around one-hundred-fifty Petajoules.”

There was an audible shuffle as all three kidnappers backed away from Akira. To her shock, she also felt a subtle reaction from Ingrid. The Malagasy woman inched away from her, just a little, but enough to notice. Akira, for her part, was confused. She knew that Joules were used to measure energy, but she couldn’t comprehend a Petajoule. It was beyond her. Akira’s ignorance of the situation was partially lifted when the Kiwi Kidnapper said in a terrified whisper:

“This girl’s a freaking’ nuke. A big one, too. A hydrogen bomb that walks and talks.”

Akira’s breath caught in her throat. She was simultaneously confused and terrified by having the label “walking and talking bomb” attached to her.

“She’s worth more than the other three combined.” Kidnapper Number 2 said.

“I’m going to call Boston.” Said von Unfal. “We’re not delivering her to anyone until we get paid the right amount.”



Akira, David, Ingrid, and Pascal were all forced to their feet and made to walk into a place that felt dark and chilly. Still blindfolded, they were all forced to eat a foul-smelling paste and then, one by one, the victims were allowed to visit and make use of a bathroom that smelled even worse. It was the first time all day that Akira had her blindfold removed and hands untied, but in that brief moment, all she could figure out was that they were inside of an Old World restaurant. Which could be anywhere.

During the few minutes she had alone in the bathroom, Akira used her fingernails to hastily carve the XCOM insignia into the backside of a stall door: the letter “X” with three stars above it. Then she added her own initials: “AJR.”



In the dark, cold room, Akira and the others were finally left alone and they could talk freely. The first words out of her mouth were:

“Okay, what the hell is going on here? Who are these people? Where are they taking us?”

Pascal and David both shook their heads.

“None of this makes any sense to me.” David said. “I just wanna go home.”

Ingrid, however, was totally silent. Unable to see, Akira had to call out to check if Ingrid was still in the room.

“I’m here.” she said. “I’m just... I’m in shock.”

“Why?” Asked Pascal. “You figure out what’s happening here?”

“I think I did.” Ingrid replied. “I just don’t want it to be true.”

Akira leaned forward, the better to hear Ingrid’s theory.

“Has anyone here ever, uh... have any of you ever... heard things? Like... voices?”

“No.” Akira and David said together.

“Occasionally, I think I heard someone speak to me.” Pascal said. “But when I reply, they claim they haven’t said anything.”

Ingrid let out a sharp gasp.

“And have any of you seen something really weird happen, something you couldn’t explain?”

Pause.

“I once had a premonition that came true.” David said. “I dreaded an earthquake, and it happened the next day. Wrecked the town.”

“Oh, la sainte fille, veuillez nous protéger.” Ingrid said something in French that sounded like a prayer, invoking the name of “the sacred girl.”

“What?” Pascal and Akira gasped. “What is it?”

Ingrid’s voice shook as she voiced her realization.

“It’s the Gift. I think we’re all Gifted. That would explain why they took us.”

“What?” Pascal breathed.

“Impossible.” David muttered.

“Are you sure?” Akira whispered.

“Very.” Ingrid replied. “I remember when I was young, someone once told me that Psionic energy is measured in Joules, and during the war, special sensors and scanners could detect it. That thing there were using must be one.”

Akira was locked in a daze, barely able to comprehend the weight of what she’d just heard.

The Gift.

From a young age, Akira heard all about it. Her parents would often discuss it in their weekly history lessons. “The Gift” is a catchall term used to describe Psionic powers. Telepathy, Telekinesis, Pyrokinesis, any supernatural ability fueled by mental willpower. She remembered what she knew about other famous Gifted people:

Cory Tucker, an XCOM operative who served as the commander of the Bushranger. Hadn’t he once beaten someone in a fight without lifting a finger? All it took was a stare, and the opposing man had fallen to his knees, cowed. Then there was Cory’s shipmate, Duane Gardner. Akira had actually seen him reading the minds of his friends. Once, Duane humiliated Akira’s sister by looking into her mind, seeing her crush on a certain someone, and revealing her secret feelings to everybody in the room.

Her own mother, Chihiro, had used her own Gift during the War. Whenever Akira talked to veterans, she would hear the stories of how her mother deflected bullets and forced powerful aliens to submit to her will.

And of course, there was Jericho. The girl who killed the gods, the woman who saved the Galaxy. Every time Akira and her family ventured into one of the few Megacities that were still standing, they would see the famous photographs and videos of Jericho, filling digital screens and hologram projectors everywhere. Akira’s favorite image of Jericho was a four-second video her fighting in battle. In the clip, Jericho put one hand to her own chest and seemed to pull a flickering blue flame right out of her own heart, before throwing the Soulfire towards the enemy.

Akira, Pascal, Ingrid, and David were all in the same boat. None of them knew they were Gifted until they were kidnapped, and it was becoming increasingly clear that wherever they were going, they would be exploited upon arrival. The foursome agreed to an escape pact. The instant an opportunity arose, they would try to get away. Taking their chances in the wastes was far more preferable than whatever fate was waiting at the end of this journey.

Akira wasn’t sure how long she and her companions were left alone in the room that felt like a cellar, but eventually she did fall asleep, dreaming of escape plans …



July 1, 2060
Somewhere in the American Wastes



Sometime later, Akira was violently shaken awake. One of the kidnappers seized her by the arm and forced her to her feet. There was a deep thudding sound coming through the walls. An aircraft was parked outside of the building, its engine running. The Kiwi Kidnapper told Akira to be quiet and walk. She, Ingrid, Pascal, and David were made to walk out of the building and into the overpowering heat of the early morning.

Still blindfolded, Akira and company were brought aboard and made to sit down in some uncomfortable seats. Each person was belted in place with a five-point harness and ordered to remain still for the entire journey.

For several hours, Akira didn’t perceive anything besides the noise of engines. There was no way to know what direction they were flying, and the interior of the craft was air-conditioned, making it impossible to know if it was day or night. There was nothing she could do but wait…



After what felt like five or six hours, the aircraft nosed down and started to descend. Akira felt the gentle thump of tires on a runway, and before she could get her bearings again, Akira was forced to her feet and made to disembark.

The very first thing she noticed when she stepped outside was the air. Ever since Akira was a small child, she knew nothing but hot and dry air. She could count on one hand the number of times she’d felt the ambient temperature fall below eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit. So when Akira stepped into this new location, she immediately began to shiver violently and think: I’m gonna freeze!

Wherever Akira had just arrived, it was cold. Very cold. In fact, the temperature here was about seventy degrees, the coldest Akira had ever been in her life. Her whole body began to quiver and shake uncontrollably. Pascal, Ingrid, and David couldn’t stop their teeth from chattering loudly. As the engines spooled down, von Unfal’s voice could be heard again.

“We’ve got four more for you, Sally Ann!”

A woman’s voice, full of friendliness and joy, replied.

“Oh, thank you Bernard! And welcome back, Klaus and Sarah! The Boss insists you guys stay a while and recover. It must have been rough out there in America.”

Then the woman named Sally Ann turned her attention to the captives.

“Oh, Bernard. Those aren’t necessary anymore. They’re safe here.”

“Have it your way.” Bernard replied. “They’re all yours. We’re going to talk to the Boss and get our payment.”

Akira felt a woman’s hand grab her arm and she was steered away from the group. After walking for a few minutes, the woman made Akira stop. Then the blindfold finally came off.

Akira’s eyes were assaulted by light and color. There was so much green in her field of vision that she thought she’d gone blind. Sally Ann quickly stepped in front of Akira and gently took her by the shoulders. Akira found Sally Ann’s appearance to be extremely off-putting. Sally Ann was an American woman with blonde hair and blue eyes, she was also obscenely beautiful, the point where Akira wondered if this was her natural appearance. However, Sally Ann did have one feature that definitely wasn’t natural.

Her smile.

There was something horribly wrong with the big, toothy grin plastered across the strange woman’s face. There was nothing genuine about it. No, this smile wasn’t being forced, Akira could see that. It was a hollow kind of smile, as though there was nothing behind it. There were no lights in Sally Ann’s eyes, instead, her eyes seemed to be glossed over and glassy. Akira’s mother once said that the eyes were the window to the soul. Well, Akira could see straight through Sally Ann’s window, and on the other side, there was no soul to be found. Sally Ann might be walking and talking and smiling, but her eyes gave away the fact that she might as well be dead on the inside.

“Calm down, girl.” Sally Ann said in a gentle voice. “It’s okay. You’re safe now. Nobody is going to hurt you.”

“But your friends kidnapped me!” Akira’s voice cracked. She was on the verge of sobbing. “They stole me.”

“Don’t be silly.” Sally Ann admonished Akira in a friendly voice. “You’ve been rescued. Those horrible people aren’t going to hurt you anymore.”

“What!?” Akira was incredulous. “You’re out of your mind! I was kidnapped, they stole me!”

“You’re still being silly.” Sally Ann countered in a cheerful, singsong voice. “Von Unfal told us about the people holding you. About how horrible they were, parading you around a trade center at sword-point, offering your body to older men for a price. You don’t have to defend them anymore, they’re never going to catch you again. That cruel, disgusting Robinson man can’t hurt you anymore. You’re safe.”

Akira took a step back. Did Sally Ann really think she was going to buy any of this!?

“You’re horrible, you’re talking about my family!”

“Oh, do try to think, Akira.” Sally Ann replied, her voice even and cool. “How could they be your family? Did they ever care for you? Were you ever happy?”

Akira tried to speak, but found she was having trouble getting words from her brain to her mouth. She knew what she wanted to say. She wanted to rage and curse at Sally Ann for trying to brainwash her into thinking the kidnapping was something else… anything else… but for some reason, Akira’s anger and rage was being sapped away as soon as it came to her. She just couldn’t sustain her own fury. Finally, Akira found a tiny speck of rage in the back of her mind. Mentally, she seized onto it and held tight!

“You people abducted me!” Akira shouted as Sally Ann. “You hurt my family, and… and… and…”

It was gone as quickly as it came. Now, Akira just felt tired and sick. She didn’t have the strength to stand, let alone fight. Sally Ann, for her part, never stopped smiling. As Akira’s legs buckled, she collapsed into Sally Ann’s outstretched arms. She stroked Akira’s hair with a reassuring hand and said:

“Just take a deep breath and try to think of all the stuff in the past as a nightmare, as a bad dream. You don’t have to think about those terrible people anymore. Breathe with me. Deep breath.”

Akira complied, taking a deep breath of air through her nose. Not only was the air cooler here than in Kansas, it smelled differently, too. The air of this place was pleasant and sweet, and it reminded Akira of the quaint little candy shop run by Sophie and Sophia Ackermann in Brazil. For reasons Akira didn’t know, each time she took a breath of the sweet air, she felt a little more relaxed. Her heart rate and breathing slowed, and her mind no longer racing. She was finally able to look around and properly process what she was seeing.

Akira and Sally Ann were standing outside the entrance of an airport, built on the shores of a tropical island. Akira knew such places used to exist in the past, but she had no idea any of these islands were still around in her own lifetime. To her left, Akira spotted a small town nestled between two ridges that were covered in lush, green trees. A mountain, also covered in forest, rose up in the distance. To her right, an ocean of crashing waves loomed large, going on as far as Akira could see. A large complex of hypermodern buildings occupied the space between the airport and the town.

There was one other thing. For the very first time in her life, Akira was standing in direct sunlight! Without any kind of protection, Akira could feel the light hitting her skin, but was perplexed to see that she wasn’t being burned.

In any other situation, she would have screamed and then run for overhead cover in a panic. But there was some strange property about this place, about the sweet air, that suppressed Akira’s fight-or-flight response. Instead, she calmly looked at Sally Ann and asked:

“How come we aren’t getting burned by the sun?”

Akira’s voice was softer and weaker now.

“We’re protected here.” Sally Ann replied calmly. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

Sally Ann and Akira both took another great big lungful of that wonderful sweet air. Akira tried to think of her family, wondering what they must be thinking right now. But no matter how hard she focused her mind, Akira found that she was drawing a great big blank. The thoughts just weren’t coming to her.



About five miles away, Bernard von Unfal and his two accomplices were welcomed inside of a grand-looking office building in the downtown area. Klaus Eberhardt, who was the other German, was very anxious and kept close to his comrades. Sarah Harris, the New Zealander, shared his concerns.

“I don’t like this place.” Klaus told his friends. “We should leave.”

“I agree.” Bernard replied. “We’ll get our payment and be off as quick as we can.”

Two armed guards waved Bernard’s team through a door, giving the trio a pair of off-putting smiles that caused Sarah to get goosebumps.

On the other side, they found an opulent office. Red and gold carpets matched the drapes on the windows, while elaborate oil paintings adorned the walls. A throne-like chair sat behind a magnificent wooden desk. The desk and chair behind it were adorned with the same symbol, a red hexagonal eye. However, the man who occupied that chair spoiled the imposing look of the place by grinning and laughing like a schoolchild when the trio came into the room.

“Von Unfal! You did it!”

A man in his late middle ages rose from the desk and threw his arms around Bernard. If the trio did not already know this man’s identity, they would have been very hard-pressed to believe that this was Shaojie Zhang, who had once been a notorious member of the Chinese criminal underworld.

“Well done, von Unfal, getting the Robinson girl.” Zhang continued. “I’ve been wanting her ever since the first scouts detected her potential, but you pulled it off. I can’t tell you how happy you’ve made me! And I daresay a payment is in order!”

Zhang reached into the pocket of his business suit and produced three slips of paper. He passed them out to each member of von Unfal’s crew.

“Give these to the bank teller across the street.” Zhang said. “And after that, why not stay a while? You’ve earned some relaxing time in the sun, after all. Enjoy yourselves while you’re here.”



Bernard, Sarah, and Klaus left Zhang’s office and quickly made their way to the bank. They had absolutely no intention of staying. As they left the building, they all got another whiff of that sweet air.

“Ugh, why does this place smell so off?” Sarah grumbled.

“And why are those people just smiling at us like that?” Klaus added.

Everywhere they looked, people were staring at the trio with those dead, soulless smiles. It seemed as though the city was populated by androids or mannequins. Bernard, Klaus, and Sarah decided to fast-walk to their destination. As they moved, they took faster and deeper breaths, inhaling more and more of the strange sweet air.

After about thirty seconds, all three people started to get the sensation of brain fog. Their thoughts were just a little clouded, a little muddled. When they got into the bank, Klaus Eberhardt was embarrassed as he handed the receipt to a teller and completely forgot the name of the person who gave it to him. Sarah thought this was so funny that she laughed uncontrollably for a good five minutes, only stopping when her sides began to hurt.

Eventually, all three of the kidnappers got their reward money and left the bank. Instead of making a beeline for the airport, they just stood there on the city street, looking lost. Finally, Bernard asked the others:

“Uh, isn’t there something we were supposed to be doing?”

“Weren’t we going somewhere?” Sarah added.

“Not sure. I think we got distracted by how beautiful this place is.” Klaus finished.

The trio started to wander aimlessly through the coastal town, moving slowly away from the airport. They took long, relaxing breaths, enjoying the sweet air. And slowly, their faces were overtaken by a great big smile; full of contentment, void of life.

<=== Previous Chapter (All Gone Wrong)

 
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War of the Paradox: Issue #0

Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
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Longtime readers might remember that during my Stellaris Stories, there is a second related tale that plays out in the form of interludes.

The Legend of Whetu Kealoha and My Father's War both played hosts to the Overture of The Last Heroes.

The Stormbreakers
contained the Stories from the Front.

And Faith in Chaos had the Battle at the End of Time.

All Our Sins Remembered
is no exception, of course. There will be a second story playing out alongside the main one as usual. This time however, is different. Instead of placing Interludes at regular intervals between chapters, the secondary story of All Our Sins Remembered will play out in REAL TIME. Updates will vary between frequent and infrequent. Some will be long and others short.

Oh, and one more thing: All Our Sins Remembered takes place in the 1st Cycle, at the very beginning of the Stormbreaker Universe. This secondary story will take place in the 116th Cycle, at the very end of the Universe. In fact, this secondary tale takes place roughly 48 years after the events of The Stormbreakers.

So, I hope you enjoy this extra tale from the Stormbreaker Universe: The War of the Paradox



Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number Zero
“Dark Portents”


COMMAND CENTER: GALACTIC EARLY WARNING SYSTEM – HIGH ORBIT ABOVE AORAKI
[VOICE RECORDING (transcript)]

27 PIPIRI 589 (June 27, 2084)

[11:07 HOURS]

Aoraki: Hokianga, this is Aoraki. Early Warning Sensors indicate some six hundred Hyperspace signatures in your vicinity. Please verify, over.

Hokianga: You’re gripped, Aoraki. There’s nothing out here. Over.

Aoraki: Understood Hokianga. Aoraki Out.


[11:16 HOURS]
Aoraki: Aoraki calling Micanawn. Early Warning Sensors are picking up several hundred Hyperspace exits near the Micore Homeworld. Please identify, over.

Micanawn: Response from the Central AI Core of the Micore Empire. Negative. No unusual Hyperspace activity in our region of space. Communications terminated.


[11:22 HOURS]
Aoraki: This is Aoraki calling all stations on this net. Aoraki calling all stations on this net. Be advised. We believe the Galactic Early Warning System has suffered a large-scale malfunction. We are running diagnostics at this time. Please standby. Aoraki out.


[11:29 HOURS]
Nynrah: Aoraki, Nynrah here. We’ve just done a sensor sweep of the Great Wastelands. There's nothing out there. You're seeing phantoms. Nynrah out.


[11:33 HOURS]
Aoraki: Uhh, Amadiio, this is Aoraki. We may be experiencing a widespread failure of the Galactic Early Warning System. Do you have any incoming bogeys on your scopes? Because we just saw nearly eight-hundred Hyperspace exits in your vicinity. Over.

Amadiio: What!? No. There's nobody here. I don’t know what to tell you, Partogans. We’ll keep our eyes peeled until the system’s back online. Over.

Aoraki: Much obliged, Aoraki out.
 
War of the Paradox: Issue #1

Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
17 Badges
Mar 1, 2018
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  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition

Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number One
“The Day of Infamy”


From: Your Benefactor
To: Varian Robinson, Cetla Shu’naan, Maui Ririnui, Inez Espinosa, Kingi Mihaka, Ninu Dokunle, Corder Leang
Subject: Hostilities have begun
Date:
28 June 2084

My agents have intercepted a series of distressing voice communications from the Great Wastelands. It would appear that open hostilities between the United Nations of Earth and the Partogan-Levakian Commonwealth have officially begun. The first action occurred only a few hours ago. Please read the attached transcript.




VOICE RECORDING (transcript)
28 PIPIRI 589 Partogan Dating System (28 June 2084, Earth Gregorian Calendar)

06:15 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME

Nynrah Control: Attention incoming vessel. This is Nynrah Control, transmit today’s recognition codes and state your business.

Nynrah Control: Incoming vessel. This is Nynrah. Transmit recognition codes and ident.

Nynrah Control: Incoming vessel. Ident immediately.

HMS Tahu: Control this is the Cruiser Tahu, Commonwealth Royal Navy. Are you trying to talk to that ship beyond the fifth planet?

Nynrah Control: Cruiser Tahu, this is Nynrah Control. Uh, yeah. We are. He’s not talking and he’s got no transponder. He’s totally NORDO.

[NORDO: shorthand for “No Radio” - military terminology for a vehicle that does not have radio communications with anyone]

HMS Tahu:
Is he running without a transponder? Screw up or something else?

Nynrah Control: It sure looks that way.

HMS Tahu: Okay. I’m gonna talk to the captain, see if we can do anything to help.

Nynrah Control: Understood, thank you. Nynrah Control out.



Time Unknown

Beznar Security Agency Emergency Line: Beznar Security, my name is Hotu. What is your emergency?

Stuntship: Uh, hi. My name is Aroha Taimana, I wanna report a bunch of reckless flyboys.

BSAEL: Reckless flyboys?

Stuntship: Yeah. I’m a flight instructor and I’m in the cockpit now. My student and I were doing a slingshot maneuver around Beznar 7a. You know, the big moon? The one that’s tidal-locked? Anyway, we just got buzzed by a squadron of Starfighters. Some of them got within half a Bio of us, they nearly hit us!

BSAEL: Describe the Starfighters for us. Did you get any insignia or tail numbers?

Stuntship: No tail numbers, but I did see they were single-seat fighter craft, delta-wing fighters with dual cycle engines. Painted blue and grey, so I guess they were either Humans or Hiigarans.

BSAEL: I’m sorry, what was your name again? And what are you flying?

Stuntship: Aroha Taimana. A-R-O-H-A break T-A-I-M-A-N-A. I’m flying a twin-seat racing ship, Moana Nui-class. I’m the instructor.

BSAEL: Okay, Miss Taimana. We’re going to look into this. I’m gonna pass you to our complaints department and I want you to give them a full account of the incident. Also, be sure to give them your home address and spaceport of origin so that we can follow up with you when we contact that squadron leader and get his side of the story. Did you copy that?

Stuntship: Understood, I copy all.

BSAEL: Very good. And what is your Hyperline Contact number?

Stuntship: My number is (REDACTED)

BSAEL: Please change your radio to channel twelve point six-six-five at this time.

Stuntship: Roger, changing channel to twelve point six-six-five.

BSAEL: Have a good day, Beznar Security out.



07:07 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME

(Indistinct. Microphone keyed three times, no spoken words)

Nynrah Control: Is that the NORDO ship trying to call?

Rafi Bakir: (Indistinct) Tahya 'ariha!

Nynrah Control: Who was that? Who’s trying to call me?

Ingrid Tsiajotso: (Indistinct) Tora tora tora! Tora tora tora! Tora tora tora!



07:08 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME

Unknown Nynrah Officer: Yeah, we saw him on primary radar. Sensor suite’s still looking.

Unknown Nynrah Officer: Hey, Iruni?

HMS Iruni:
Here.

Unknown Nynrah Officer: Did you just hear a transmission from that NORDO ship?

Unknown Nynrah Officer: Yeah, we definitely heard a transmission coming from that thing. He’s got radio, he’s just not talking to us.

HMS Iruni: Copy all. Iruni out.

Unknown Nynrah Officer: Yeah, we need to (indistinct)

Unknown Nynrah Officer: Call the supervisor, please.

Unknown Nynrah Officer: Already done.



Time Unknown

*Hyperwave connection established. Faster-Than-Light communications enabled.*

(Indistinct)


Unknown Voice (Partogan Female): Yeah, the NORDO spacecraft by Beznar 5. Heading remains unchanged, at 225. Acceleration is nil, speed relative to Shipyard Nynrah is seventeen-thousand-eight-hundred Kios per second and holding steady. Nobody’s talking to him. We’re broadcasting on all frequencies and a Navy cruiser’s trying to raise him on guard now.

Unknown Nynrah Officer: Copy all, thanks.



Time Unknown

Unknown Voice (Partogan Female): The NORDO spacecraft has turned sharply and is no longer heading for the shipyard.

Unknown Nynrah Officer: Signal 85 Nynrah.

Unknown Nynrah Officer #2: Yeah, go ahead.

Unknown Voice (Partogan Female): Put the NORDO spacecraft on your sensor manager and keep a close watch on him. He’s got radio comms with somebody and it sure as hell ain’t us.



07:21 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME

Nithascal Control: Well Beznar says they never had radio contact with him in the first place.

Unknown: The guy doesn’t have a transponder of any kind.

Nithascal Control: They’re tracking him with primary radar, he’s not showing up anywhere else.

Unknown: Uh huh…

Nithascal Control: The NORDO guy is talking to someone. There was a broadcast, he said something in a Human language, and then someone replied speaking another Human language.

Unknown: Two languages?

Nithascal Control: Yeah, we think the NORDO spacecraft said something in Arabic, and whoever replied said something in either Korean or Japanese. I dunno, man. None of this makes sense.

Unknown: Alright, lemme call the manager. Hey Patariki, where can I call you back?

Nithascal Control: Our Hyperline is (REDACTED)

Unknown: Okay. I’ll call you back.



Time unknown

Hohepa: (Indistinct) Tipene Hoepa.

Waaka: This is Ngaire Waaka from Shipyard Nynrah.

Hohepa: Okay.

Waaka: I’m on the line with Aroha Taimana, she’s in a personal Stuntship in the outer Beznar Star System and she says she’s following the strike craft that buzzed her.

Hohepa: Do you have her on the line?

Waaka: Yeah, she’s in the instructor seat. Her student is flying the ship.

Hohepa: Can you conference her in with us?

Waaka: No can do. Her ship doesn’t have a Hyperwave Relay. Too small.

Hohepa: Shit.

Waaka: I’m reading back what she just wrote to me. She says it’s a group of five, I say again five, F-I-V-E strike craft. She describes them as Raven-Class interceptors, with the United Nations of Earth insignia painted under their wings. I say again, Raven-Class interceptors from Earth.

Hohepa: Call that Taimana girl back and ask her if she can raise the squadron leader. Tell her to call them on the guard frequency first, then the emergency channel if that doesn’t work.

Hohepa: Nynrah says they got that civilian pilot on the radio.

Waaka: Something’s wrong. Taimana’s screaming.

Hohepa: Screaming?

Waaka: She started screaming and said something we couldn’t catch.

Hohepa: Alright.

Waaka: (Indistinct) says we’ve got LOS.

Waaka: LOS, yeah. We’ve got Loss of Signal on our end. Taimana’s not transmitting anymore.

Hohepa: Connection’s gone?

Waaka: Yup. I think we lost her.

Hohepa: Oh, no.

Hohepa: Call up the boys in the Sensor Suite, ask them to calculate every possible destination along the last known trajectory of those Starfighters.

Hohepa: We may have a situation on our hands.



07:30 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME

Beznar 6 Mining Station: Hey Teuterangi?

Beznar 4b Mining Station: Teuterangi here.

B6: Got a head’s up warning for you.

B6: We’ve got a NORDO spacecraft in-system, and we’ve got foreign Starfighters in the area. None of these guys are talking to anyone.

B4b: You have recognition codes on any of them?

B6: Negative. Something’s going on. Pass on the message to all the other stations. Might be an unscheduled military exercise. I’ll call you back if anyone heads in your direction.



07:36 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME

Nynrah Control: Nynrah Control here, can I get a patch-through to Sector Command?

Nithascal Control: You bet. Is this about the NORDO guy or those Starfighters?

Nynrah Control: The NORDO guy.

Nithascal Control: Have you had any contact yet?

Nynrah Control: Nothing so far. He is a confirmed alien spacecraft, though. Possibly a Human ship.

Papua Sector: Papua.

Nynrah Control: Ok, Papua. Good morning. We’ve got a Human spacecraft flying NORDO in our system. We’re not sure if he’s in trouble or he is the trouble.

Papua: Roger that. What’s his destination? Where’s he landing?

Nynrah Control: We have no idea. He just flew past Beznar 5 and he’s on a direct route for Beznar 3. We think he’s going for a slingshot trajectory to the Shipyard itself.

Papua: Understood. What’s his transponder signal?

Nynrah Control: There is no transponder signal. He doesn’t have one.

Papua: Copy all. I’m going to contact the Transportation Agency; see if we can get an enforcement ship out your way. Has the NORDO ship put out any kind of distress signal?

Nynrah Control: Negative. He did send a brief voice message, but we’re very confident it was not meant for us.

Papua: Copy all. Stay on this frequency, we’ll call you back. Papua Sector out.



07:47 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME

HMS Tahu: Contact report! Contact report! This is the Commonwealth warship Tahu. We have engaged and destroyed the NORDO spacecraft. I say again! NORDO spacecraft destroyed. Contact report to follow:

HMS Tahu: On approach, we identified the NORDO spacecraft via visual and holographic sensors. It was a Cloaked Frigate of the Armed Forces of the United Nations of Earth, positively identified as the UNS Nico da Silva. Upon being counter-detected, the Nico da Silva opened fire with Mass Drivers and Ion Cannons. Enemy fire was inaccurate. We returned fire with Ion Cannons and high-yield nuclear missiles. The Human warship sustained severe damage and became inert. Enemy crew is believed to be deceased at this time. Report ends.

Nynrah Control: Copy all, Tahu. Hold position and wait for further instructions.



07:50 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME

Papua Sector: Everybody copy?

Nithascal Control: Say that again, please?

Nynrah Control: A navy cruiser has engaged and killed the NORDO guy. At this time, we believe the NORDO guy was an armed warship and that he may have opened fire. Information is still coming in.

Papua Sector: What type of craft was NORDO guy?

Nynrah Control: Looks like he was a Frigate-class. Tahu says he was running with a cloaking device.

Papua Sector: Uh, Nynrah, can you say again when this engagement occurred?

Papua Sector: Nynrah Control, when did the engagement happen?

Papua Sector: Papua Sector calling Nynrah Control.

Papua Sector: Nynrah Control, please respond.

Nithascal Control: Nynrah Control, this is Nithascal Control. Please respond.

Nithascal Control: Perimeter Station Kahu, this is Nithascal Control. We’re having trouble raising your buddies at Nynrah. Can you give us an update?

(Indistinct)

Nithascal Control: Kahu Base reports, (Indistinct) are you serious!? Kahu Base reports they are under attack. They are taking heavy weapons fire from strike craft, corvettes, frigates, and capitol ships.



07:50 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME
(Simultaneous with previous entry)

Perimeter Station Kahu: Attention Nynrah Control. This is Perimeter Station Kahu. We have multiple unidentified units detected.

Perimeter Station Kahu: Signal indicates Human bomber strike force.

Perimeter Station Kahu: This is a scramble alert! All pilots to their stations!

Green Squadron Leader: Kahu Base, this is Green Leader. Enemy units locked in. Awaiting orders.

Nynrah Control: Nynrah is under attack! All forces to combat alert. This is not a test. All strike craft, intercept and destroy the incoming bombers.

Green Squadron Leader: Acknowledged. Moving to intercept.

Perimeter Station Kahu: We have additional Hyperspace signatures. A Carrier Strike Group is moving against Shipyard Nynrah. Distance, four thousand Mios.

Nynrah Control: Human warships have breached the Nynrah perimeter. The shipyard is under attack!



Time Unknown

Unknown Nithascal Officer: This is (Indistinct) getting out of hand. Can someone call the military already?

Unknown Nithascal Officer #2: Shouldn’t the military already know about this sort of thing?

Unknown Nithascal Officer: And what if they don’t? Does anyone have a Hyperline number that leads to a military base?



07:53 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME

Akarana: Daxia Approach.

Wihone: Hey, Daxia. This is uh, Maro Wihone from Nithascal Control. We’ve got a situation out here in the Papua Sector. Nynrah says they’re under attack, could you scramble a QRF to go out there?

Akarana: Under attack? Okay, we’ll talk to the commander.

Wihone: (Indistinct)

Akarana: Okay.

Wihone: I’ll talk to them now. And who is this?

Akarana: I’m Sergeant Akarana, Commonwealth Royal Army.



07:57 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME

Patariki: Taihara, Sergeant Patariki

Nopera: Hi, I’m a traffic controller at Nithascal Starbase. We’ve, uh, we’ve got a problem here. There’s a situation in Beznar, the next system over. It sounds like they’re being raided by alien ships. We need you guys to send someone to scramble some frigates or cruisers or something to help us out.

Patariki: Is this, wait a minute, is this real-world or a drill?

Nopera: No. Not an exercise, no test, no drill. This is the real deal. Shipyard Nynrah is under attack, alien ships running all over Beznar.

Patariki: Okay. Hey, hold on a second, alright?

(Sergeant Patariki has stood up from his desk. His voice gets quiet as he runs down the hall to catch an officer)

Patariki: Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey! Seriously! (Indistinct) Big time. (Indistinct)



07:58 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME
Patariki: Sir? Sir? Are you there?

Nopera: I’m still here.

Patariki: I’ve got an officer coming right now to talk to you. Stay on the line.

Nopera: Yes sir. I’m not going anywhere.

Wirihana: Hi, this is Colonel Wirihana.

Nopera: Kiwi Nopera, from Nithascal Control. We’ve got some kind of military operation happening in Beznar. Shipyard Nynrah said they were under attack, and then we lost contact with them. We’re wondering if you can scramble a Carrier or a Battlecruiser, maybe out of Daxia?

Wirihana: Do you have transponder data on the alien ships? Communications? Recognition codes?

Nopera: Negative, nothing of the kind. Nynrah was tracking a NORDO target for about half an hour before everything went crazy, and the only solid data we have comes from primary radar. So when your ships get here, we’d have to vector them towards the aliens.

Wirihana: So hold on, lemme get this straight: You, a civilian starbase, want to control a military interception?

Nopera: We have to, yeah. Primary radar data only.

Wirihana: Okay, so do you have a general location of these alien ships?

Nopera: Nynrah picked up the first NORDO target near the fifth planet in the Beznar system.

Wirihana: Are you still tracking the target now?

Nopera: Negative. We’ve lost all contact with Nynrah Control.

Wirihana: Can you give me astrodynamics data? Relative speeds? Orbital characteristics?

Nopera: Yeah, hold on a second.



07:59 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME

Weapons Controller: This is real world?

Wirihana: (Indistinct)

Weapons Controller: Daxia on battle stations.

Weapons Controller: Putting Daxia on battle stations right now.



Time Unknown

Partogan Trainee #1: What!?

Partogan Trainee #2: What was that?

Levakian Trainee: Is this real? Is this really happening?

Partogan Officer: Real world.

Partogan Trainee #1: Wow… cool! (Humming)

*Hyperwave connection established. Faster-Than-Light communications enabled.*


Unknown: Nithascal, military desk.

Partogan Trainee #1: Yeah, Kavinika calling in reference to the raid at Nynrah.

Unknown: Yes.

Partogan Trainee #1: We need some information: Number of starships, type, and weapons in use. Also, we need location data.

Unknown: No, we don’t have any of that information.

Partogan Trainee #1: None?

Unknown: We were getting all of our data from Nynrah, and we haven’t heard from them in a while. We’ll call you back as soon as we have more information.



08:00 PARTOGAN STANDARD TIME

Daxia Control: Tower is on.

Akarana: Daxia Approach is on.

Patariki: Kavinika?

Kavinika: Kavinika here.

Patariki: This is Taihara placing Fort Daxia on battle stations. I repeat: BATTLE STATIONS. Day word: Aoraki. Action word: Rangi. Command word: Kealoha. All parties acknowledge.

Daxia Control: This is Control. Weapons powering up and we are now polarizing armor.

Akarana: Gravity well generators online, awaiting command.

Kavinika: Ready to scramble.

Patariki: Copy all. All parties are cleared to drop.



08:14 PST

Command Post: Command Post up.

Kavinika: Kavinika’s on.

Patariki: Approach?

Akarana: Approach is on.

Patariki: This is Taihara with an active space defense scramble for Task Force Kavinika. Day word: Aoraki. Action word: Rangi. Command word: Kealoha. Kavinika, you are to undock from Daxia and proceed to Nynrah at best possible speed. Put all of your crews on General Quarters and contact Taihara on Hyperwave frequency [REDACTED] backup frequency is [REDACTED] All parties acknowledge.

Command Post: Ack.

Tower: (Indistinct)

Akarana: We’re ready.

Kavinika: We’re go for launch.

Patariki: Tower you’re clear to drop. Kavinika, clear to drop. Command Post, clear to drop. Taihara out.



08:17 PST

Command Post: What’s all this about strike craft?

Unknown: Strike craft, sir?

Command Post: I just saw a report about a civilian ship being shot down by unknown fighter craft. Where did that happen?

Unknown: Uh, I wanna say that was in Nithascal, sir. I heard Nithascal Control say something about it.

Command Post: Dispatch probes and recons to that system immediately. I wanna know exactly where those fighters are. Contact Nithascal now.

Nithascal Control: Nithascal here.

Command Post: This is Fort Daxia, Commonwealth Royal Navy. We need you to send all data relating to the squadron of alien fighters seen earlier in the day by the civilian pilot.

Nithascal Control: Understood. We got all of that data from Nynrah, so we’ll call you back in a minute.

*One minute ten seconds of silence removed for clarity.*

Command Post: Nithascal Control, Command Post.

Command Post: Nithascal Control, Command Post.

Command Post: Nithascal Control, do you read Command Post?

Command Post: Nithascal Control, can you hear me? Come in, please.

Command Post: Gargantua Research, can you hear me?

Gargantua Research Station: Affirmative, we read you five-by-five.

Command Post: Okay, thanks. I’m trying to reach Nithascal Control. They just kinda dropped off; wanted to make sure the problem wasn’t on my end.



08:22 PST

*Hyperwave connection established. Faster-Than-Light communications enabled.*

Herangi: Timoti?

Daxia Control: Hello?

Herangi: Have, uh, have you heard anything from Nithascal? They just dropped off the Hyperline for everyone here.

Daxia Control: Nithascal? I thought it was Nynrah that was under attack.

Herangi: Yeah, Nynrah’s under attack, but now Nithascal’s gone too. Can’t raise them on any frequency. They’re just gone.

Daxia Control: Okay, I’ll pass it along and see what we can do.



08:28 PST

Daxia Control: Kavinika.

Kavinika: Here.

Daxia Control: We’re getting recon reports saying that hostile starships have entered the following star systems: Wendel, Lythorius, Cajubus, Nithascal, and Tediss. Proceed with caution.

Kavinika: What is the nature of the enemy force? Numbers? Types?

Daxia Control: Unknown at this time. Reports are scattered and mostly coming from civilians. Like I said, stay cautious. Clear to drop.

Daxia Control: All stations on this net, I can see you calling me. Please know that we have several serious situations going on here and they are escalating quickly. If your situation is not a life-threatening emergency, I need you to clear the net. This frequency must be kept clear for military use at this time.



08:33 PST

Daxia Control: Hey Koro, are you tracking those Hyperspace signatures near Tediss?

Koro Mihaka: Hang on…

Daxia Control: Okay, now we’re seeing the signature of a Super-Capitol ship.

Koro Mihaka: Negative. Still don’t see anything.

Daxia Control: It’s a Mothership-class vessel. Near the Trecta Hyperlane.

Koro Mihaka: Okay, I’ve got eyes on it now. Holy mother of Jericho, that’s a big ship!



08:34 PST

Daxia Control: Koro, can you look out your window right now?

Koro Mihaka: Yeah.

Daxia Control: Do you see that point of light, left side of Whiro, about four degrees above the plane?

Koro Mihaka: Aw, shit, that’s new. Someone just Hyperspaced into our system.

Sensors Manager: Control, sensors. New contact bearing one-eight-zero minus eleven degrees. Distance, ninety-thousand Kios and closing. Tentatively identified as the Human Battlecruiser Kim Il-Sung.

Daxia Control: Make sure the armor is still polarized.

Weapons Controller: Control, weapons. We’ve been spiked! That ship is target-locking us.

Daxia Control: (Indistinct)

Koro Mihaka: Oh, holy Jericho! Those are missiles!

Daxia Control: Sound general quarters and scramble fighters.

Chief of the Watch: Understood. Dropping the airtight doors. Armor polarized.

Weapons Controller: Weapon systems fully charged.

Daxia Control: Incoming missiles. Brace for impact, brace! Brace! Brace!

Chief of the Watch: We’ve been hit!

Sensors Manager: Multiple impacts confirmed.

Daxia Control: Return fire! Get me a damage report!

Weapons Controller: Weapons hot, missiles away.

Comms Officer: Mayday, mayday mayday. This is Fort Daxia calling all Commonwealth military units on this net. We are under attack by a Human battlecruiser and need immediate assistance.

Chief of the Watch: Sir, we’ve taken critical damage to our Sensors Array and Life Support Systems.

Daxia Control: Concentrate fire on the enemy’s bridge!

Weapons Controller: Ion Cannons spooling up now.

Sensors Manager: They’re maneuvering again! They’re going high!

Daxia Control: They’re after the radio! Stop’em!



09:00 PST

HMS Mahuika: Attention Fort Daxia, this is the Triple Alliance flagship Mahuika. We have answered your distress call.

HMS Mahuika: Fort Daxia, this is the Mothership-class vessel Mahuika. We have arrived in sector one-one-six and request targeting data.

HMS Mahuika: Is anybody there?

HMS Mahuika: Is anyone out there?

HMS Mahuika: Anyone?

*The record of events ends here*


As you can see, a wider war between Earth and the Galactic Community is now imminent, if it is not already in progress. We are very confident that one of Akira Robinson’s new allies participated in today’s action: Major Rafi Bakir, who is now Field Commander of the UN Space Rangers.

The situation has transformed. The Partogans, unwitting as they may be, are now our allies in the war against Akira Robinson. Any spacefaring civilization that stands beside them will be the same. I shall use all of my available contacts and influence within the Galactic Council to bring these allies to your side at best possible speed.

Your orders remain unchanged.

Seek out and kill Akira Jaqueline Robinson.

Eliminate anyone who stands in your way.

Good luck, Stormbreakers.


<== War of the Paradox, Issue #0
 
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Macavity116

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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number One, continued...


The Partogan News Network
"More Than a Century of Royal Approval"

Today’s headline:


COMMONWEALTH ATTACKED

June 28, 2084 – Shipyard Nynrah, a historic military installation that has served as the beating heart of the Commonwealth military since the Second Hyperspace War, now lies in ruins following an early morning assault by strike craft originating from the United Nations of Earth. Preliminary reports suggest the attacking force consisted of some one thousand fighters and corvettes, launched from a nearby carrier strike group.

The destruction and death toll of the assault are thought to be catastrophic. At time of writing, Commonwealth Battlecruisers are reported to have been hit. News of the surprise attack has been met with shock and outrage across the Partogan-Levakian Commonwealth, with calls for war being echoed from Aoraki to New Levakia. It is clear to all that the Partogans have been left with no choice but to settle their differences with their evolutionary kin by means of military force.

Her Royal Majesty Queen Marka delivered a statement tonight from the Royal Palace on Aoraki. She informed the nation that an attack of unprecedented scale has occurred and that there may be several thousand fatalities by this point. Kuhina Nui has asked the Queen on behalf of the National Assembly to issue an immediate declaration of war against the United Nations of Earth. Analysts suggest the Queen may write and issue said declaration within the next thirty-six hours.

Across the Commonwealth, emergency procedures not seen since the Second Hyperspace War have been enacted. All civilian spacecraft were grounded as the ranking members of the Commonwealth government and military were moved to secure locations. Queen Marka is thought to still be in the Royal Palace, possibly in one of the many emergency bunkers underneath the structure.

At the time of publication, Human attacks against the Commonwealth have materialized along the southern border, normally shared with the Micore Empire. Nithascal, Tediss, and the old Capital system Trecta were reportedly attacked as well, with the enemy progressing all the way to Fort Daxia. Prince Tangaroa of the Papua Sector declared a state of military emergency late today, allowing him to mobilize local units of the Commonwealth Army and Navy without waiting for the approval of Her Majesty the Queen.

Commonwealth Navy ships are moving to seal off Hyperlanes leading into the Papua Sector at this time. Subjects living in this region of space are advised to seek shelter immediately and remain in their homes until told to do otherwise by Commonwealth military members.


<== War of the Paradox, Issue #1, Part 1
 
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Macavity116

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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number One, continued...




The Partogan News Network
"More Than a Century of Royal Approval"


Today’s headline:

UNMASKED! THE PARADOX LIVES, ORCHASTRATED DEADLY SNEAK ATTACK

June 29, 2084 – Her Majesty Queen Marka delivered an address to the Commonwealth National Assembly this morning, in which she confirmed the “execution of a highly destructive and lethal sneak attack against our nation by the Armed Forces of the United Nations of Earth.” The Queen proceeded make a series of historic revelations regarding the perpetrators of yesterday’s sneak attack.

While there is no doubt that the Human military of the UNE is responsible for the attack, Her Majesty has told the National Assembly that the grand architect of what appears to be the next Galactic war is Akira Jaqueline Robinson. The infamous time-traveler was last seen during the War in Heaven 48 years ago and is believed to be directly responsible for untold thousands of crimes and atrocities across all of recorded history, including the destruction of Asalele during the Levakian Uprising of 1928.

Her Majesty the Queen said in no uncertain terms that the Human government of Secretary-General Pascal Etienne is acting in lock-step with Akira Robinson, and that the Human military is acting in accordance with her own agenda.

“There can be no doubt that the Human government has either allied itself to Akira’s sick vision of a dystopian Human-supremacist future, or Pascal Etienne has fallen under her direct control. This cannot be allowed to stand for any length of time.” The Queen concluded by promising to call for an emergency session of the Galactic Council Security Council. Her Majesty laid out her intentions to have Akira Robinson declared a Galactic Crisis. Such a declaration from the Security Council would allow Her Majesty to mobilize the entire Galaxy to make war against the Paradox.

The death toll from yesterday’s sneak attack on Shipyard Nynrah, perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the United Nations of Earth, has now climbed above 9,000. Many of the largest and most powerful ships in the Commonwealth have been deemed a total loss following salvage attempts by Hiigaran, Blorg, and Micore workers. Our sources inside the Royal Palace on Aoraki suggest the Partogan Armed Forces are too badly damaged to inflict any damage upon the Human aggressors.

Also today, Human attacks have materialized against targets all over the Galaxy. An invasion fleet has been reported in Ghenna, near the Shining Hinterlands. Human raiders have penetrated into the Micore Empire and have reportedly attacked the Aetherophasic Engine, a technological marvel currently under construction at Micanawn. Attacks against Hiigara, Amadiio, Nithascal, and the Blorg Diaspora are also underway at this time.

The Galactic Council has released a statement calling for all interstellar travelers to cease their journeys and seek shelter immediately. The Human delegation to the Galactic Council at the Angel Moon could not be reached for comment.



 
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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number One, continued...



The Partogan News Network
"More Than a Century of Royal Approval"

Today’s headline:


EARTH DECLARES WAR! FIERCE FIGHTING ACROSS THE GALAXY

June 30, 2084 – According to Commonwealth Foreign service workers, Robert Lansing, the Human Ambassador to the Partogan-Levakian Commonwealth, delivered a formal declaration of war to her Majesty, Queen Marka on June 30. It arrived a full two days after the deadly and destructive sneak attack against Nynrah, which has left the Commonwealth military all but destroyed. The full text of the declaration follows:

“JOINT RESOLUTION of the GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS OF EARTH: Declaring that a state of war exists between the Royal Government of Aoraki and the Government and the people of the United Nations and making provisions to prosecute the same.

Whereas the Royal Government of Aoraki has taken unambiguous actions that indicate a strong intention to carry out acts of war against the Government and the people of the United Nations of Earth:

Therefore be it Resolved by the General Assembly and Security Council of the United Nations of Earth, That a state of war between the United Nations and the Royal Government of Aoraki is hereby formally declared; and the Secretary-General is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire military forces of the United Nations and the resources of the Government to prosecute war against the Royal Government of Aoraki; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the General Assembly of the United Nations.”

The Human declaration of war is an incendiary document, accusing her Majesty of plotting to attack Earth when no such plot exists. The Galactic Community remains on the backfoot as Human forces advance throughout the Western Galactic Arm, invading the Hiigaran Empire, Taiidan Republic, Amadii territories, Blorg Diasporas, the Micore Empire, as well as our own Commonwealth. Earlier today, Xenonian News started to receive reports of a mass expulsion of aliens from Human space. At present, some 4.5 million non-Humans are believed to be fleeing their homes in UN territory ahead of some kind of reprisal. The city of Jamestown in Alpha Centauri is said to be in flames tonight as Human rioters are violently purging the alien ghettos of life.

Furthermore, Kuhina Nui Ranginui has informed the Press that he has seen a classified briefing from the Commonwealth Green Guard regarding the recent revelations about Akira Robinson. The Kuhina Nui said the report confirms “beyond all possible doubt” that the Paradox is alive and active once more. Political analysts suggest this classified report is being disseminated throughout the National Assembly and Commonwealth military. Additionally, Her Majesty has shared this report with the heads-of-state of other Galactic powers, including Assuria, Hiigara, Taiidan, Scyldaria, and the Blorg.



 
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A crisis indeed!
It's like a snowball that dreams of being an avalanche.

...



Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number One, continued...


The Partogan News Network
"More Than a Century of Royal Approval"

Today’s headline:


QUEEN DEMANDS ACTION, MICORE AETHEROPHASIC ENGINE DESTROYED

July 1, 2084 – Queen Marka has dispatched a strike force of Fleet Carriers to hunt down the Human raiders who carried out the brazen and unprovoked assault on Shipyard Nynrah. The task force has been placed under the command of Macavity, the famed General who rose to glory for his use of stealth, camouflage, and ambush tactics during the Assurian Proxy War two years ago. Rumor suggests that Macavity was physically present during the assault on Nynrah. Xenonian News attempted to contact the many critics of Macavity who previously argued against his promotion due to the fact that he is a Human/Levakian Hybrid. None were willing to repeat their criticisms today.

Meanwhile, the Micore Empire has been dealt the second major defeat of this war. An armada of several thousand Human warships, believed to be under the command of UN General Rafi Bakir, appeared in high orbit above Micanawn and assaulted the Micore Homeworld. During the fighting, thirty Human strike craft broke away from the attacking fleet and made an unexpected attack run on the incomplete Aetherophasic Engine, a megastructure under construction in the region since the Second Hyperspace War. The Aetherophasic Engine did not have sufficient defenses to fend off strike craft, and the small group of fighters made short work of the megalithic structure. Casualty counts are still coming in, but it’s currently believed that the fatalities from this battle are in the hundreds of thousands. (Possibly millions) The Human attackers are believed to have escaped from the scene with minimal casualties.

The Galactic Council Security Council continues its emergency session. Kessick, the President of Kelta, has presented evidence to the Security Council suggesting that the notorious time traveler “Akira Robinson” is alive and active within the United Nations. This is not the same evidence submitted by Commonwealth Queen Marka. Widely believed to be deceased, the true story of Akira’s actions during the events leading up to the War in Heaven still is not fully known. Political and military analysts on the Angel Moon have confirmed the authenticity of Kessick’s evidence, and are warning the Galaxy at large that we may not have seen the last of the Paradox.

Due to the highly chaotic nature of the situation, the Partogan News Network has been unable to acquire casualty lists for any of the engagements that have occurred over the past four days. Furthermore, we have little to no Intel as to what is happening inside of star systems that have fallen to the enemy. The catastrophe playing out over the past week is on a scale of violence and terror equal to the Second Hyperspace War itself, and we ask our readers and viewers to have patience with us. Our struggle to bring you information from the forefront of this disaster is just as difficult as the duty of the soldiers and starship crews who seek to protect us from it.



 
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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number One, continued...


The Partogan News Network
"More Than a Century of Royal Approval"

Today’s headline:


UNITED WE STAND! THE GALAXY DECLARES WAR

July 2, 2084 - In an unprecedented show of unity and strength of resolve, the Galactic Council has voted unanimously to ratify the joint declaration of the Galactic Council Security Council, condemning the actions of the Human woman named Akira Jaqueline Robinson. Furthermore, the Galactic Council has declared a Galactic Crisis; creating a state of war against Akira Robinson and mobilizing all sentient life on a mission to end her existence by any and all means possible.

The Joint Declaration was signed by the leaders of the Galaxy’s four most powerful nations: The AI Core of the Micore Empire, Queen Marka of the Commonwealth, President Capella of the Taiidan Republic, and Elam Somtaaw-Sa of the Hiigaran Empire. The Joint Declaration binds the nations of the Galaxy to make war against Akira Robinson with all possible strength and resources, and to bring death and destruction down on anyone who attempts to give her aid or shelter. Additionally, no nation is allowed to make peace until the death of Akira Robinson has been confirmed.

Here now is the full text of the Joint Declaration of the Galactic Community:


A Joint Declaration By The Partogan-Levakian Commonwealth, Hiigaran Empire, Taiidan Republic, Scyldari Confederacy, Levakian Confederation, Micore Empire, Assurian Authority, Vanian Solidarity, Blorg Diaspora, Alcogaran Nation, Canaan, Edom, Tobaris, Vigoth, Republic of Kelta, Free Jigoku, Praku Empire, Morbuzakh, Vaygr Clan Kaljamm, Vaygr Clan Osoro, Vaygr Clan Xunuru, Frerrn Aggregate, Kel-Azan Republic, Mandate of Amadiio, Hanoch Tribes, Asshur, Kingdom of Nubia, Iyssadae Concordat, Gilead, Havilah, Idae, Taanach, and the Voor Technocracy.

The signatory Governments hereto,

BEING CONVINCED that the Human known as AKIRA JAQUELINE ROBINSON has made herself into an imminent and catastrophic threat to the lives, liberty, and freedom of the many peoples of the Galaxy

ACKNOWLEDGING the ongoing struggle against savage and brutal forces seeking to subjugate the Galaxy on behalf of AKIRA JACQUELINE ROBINSON, furthermore

RECKOGNIZING the repeated behavior of AKIRA JAQUELINE ROBINSON, and her multiple crimes against sentient life, including acts of genocide, mass murder, abduction, and assassination of political leaders

The Galactic Community Declares:

(1) That a state of WAR exists between ALL SENTIENT LIFE and the Human known as AKIRA JAQUELINE ROBINSON.

(2) Each Government pledges itself to employ its full resources, military or economic, towards the goal of bringing about the death of AKIRA JAQUELINE ROBINSON

(3) Each Government pledges itself to cooperate with the Governments signatory hereto and not to make a separate armistice or peace


The foregoing declaration may be adhered to by other nations which are, or which may be, rendering material assistance and contributions in the struggle for victory over AKIRA JAQUELINE ROBINSON. The armed conflict resulting from this declaration shall not be terminated until the death of AKIRA JAQUELINE ROBINSON is confirmed to have occurred beyond all possible doubt.

The Human delegation to the Galactic Council did not speak or vote on this declaration. It has been reported that all Human representatives and delegates on the Angel Moon have departed and are on their way back to Earth at this time. The President of the Galactic Council refused to entertain a motion by the Vaygr Alliance to expel Earth from the Galactic Council, arguing that Earth has left the international body of their own accord, vacating and abandoning all of their agreements and treaties with the rest of the Galaxy.

The Royal armed forces of the Commonwealth are now in full mobilization, and all subjects are urged to stay in their homes unless absolutely necessary. Negotiations at the Galactic Council are underway to establish a command and control system capable of coordinating a Galaxy-wide military effort, in order to avoid the confusion that occurred during the Second Hyperspace War nearly fifty years ago. Mere hours ago, the Scyldari Confederacy (a spiritualist egalitarian state located in the Outer Rim) has proposed the creation of a new Galactic institution: The Office of the GALACTIC CUSTODIAN.

If the Scyldari proposal is taken up by the Galactic Council, a single person will be granted sweeping authoritarian and dictatorial powers over the Galactic Community, and would be expected to step down from the role and surrender their powers once the Galactic Crisis has ended. Currently, there are three well-known interstellar leaders who are being considered for the office of GALACTIC CUSTODIAN, if it were to be created:

The first possible candidate is the Central AI Core of the Micore Empire. As it is already the custodian of the Micore species, this vast army of droids already has the knowledge and technology required to safeguard a sentient species. The AI Core has already stated its intentions to mobilize the horde of military droids at its disposal to prosecute war against Humanity.

The second possible guardian of the Galaxy is Commonwealth Queen Marka Ranginui. She is President-for-Life of the Triple Alliance, the largest military bloc in the Galaxy, and commands some of the most elite warriors in the cosmos, namely the Commonwealth Green Guard. Queen Marka has filed a proposal with the Galactic Council to create a new international military force called the Galactic Defense Fleet. (GDF) Theoretically, this new GDF would be placed under the personal command of a Galactic Custodian.

The third candidate could be President Kessick of the Republic of Kelta. He has a reputation as a shrewd negotiator and maintained diplomatic contacts with Earth right up until the deadly sneak attack on Nynrah last week. President Kessick is currently term-limited by the Kelt Constitution and will be leaving office in two month's time, leaving him free to devote all of his time and energy to the office of GALACTIC CUSTODIAN.

The Galactic Council is currently scheduled to vote on the creation of the office of GALACTIC CUSTODIAN a few weeks from now, on July 20.



 
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