Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number One, the conclusion.


Partogan News Network

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY MESSAGE TRANSMITTED AT THE REQUEST OF HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN

A MESSAGE FROM THE ROYAL PALACE


The Queen, the Kuhina Nui, and their closest advisors have left the Royal Palace.

This is a precautionary measure.

Its purpose is to make sure the Commonwealth's leaders are able to continue to search for solutions to the grave problems that confront us.

Following this message, we will activate the Emergency Alert System, where you will continue to receive information from the Royal Government.

In the meantime, Her Majesty has asked me to urge everyone to remain calm during these critical days. Stay at home, and offer your prayers for peace.

...
...
...

We interrupt this program.

This is a national emergency.

Important instructions will follow.

All stations have interrupted their programming at the request of the Royal Government to broadcast a message to the nation.

During this emergency, most stations will remain on the air to provide news to the public in their assigned areas.

This is NTCA. We will continue to serve Nithascal and the surrounding star systems.

You are listening to the Emergency Alert System serving Nithascal and the surrounding star systems.

This is a national emergency.

Important instructions will follow.


This is an emergency warning from the Partogan News Network. Information of a military assault against the Commonwealth has been received. The current threat level is critical, meaning an attack is imminent if not already underway. All royal subjects are advised to stay in their homes.

Currently, the planets Nithascal and Hokianga are believed to be the targets of enemy attack. If you live on either of these planets, DO NOT EVACUATE. IT IS TOO LATE TO EVACUATE. Seek shelter immediately in the lowest part of the building or structure you occupy. If you are on the road, pull over immediately and vacate your vehicle. Take shelter in a ditch or trench or other low point in the ground. If you are not in these areas, obey and follow the orders of Commonwealth military and law enforcement officers quickly and without question. Remain at home unless police or military officers tell you to do otherwise.

All non-essential forms of communication have been disconnected for military use. Do not use Hyperwave-based communication. All Faster-Than-Light communications have been requisitioned for military use. You must prepare for protracted and destructive hostilities at once.

Collect essential supplies now. This includes food, water, medicine, and clothing. Ensure you have a battery-powered radio along with a portable method of power generation, such as solar panels. Tune your radio to this station to ensure you can listen to additional information.

You must seek shelter in the lowest part of the building as possible. Do not use elevators. Use the stairs. Place as much dense materiel as possible between yourself and the outside walls, such as mattresses or sand. Do this now. Keep your radio tuned to this station for more information as it becomes available.

This is NTCA. We will continue to serve Nithascal and the surrounding star systems.

If you are not in the Nithascal Sector, tune your radio, television, or Hyperwave Relay to a station that serves your area.

You are listening to the Emergency Alert System serving Nithascal and the surrounding star systems.

During this emergency, most stations will remain on the air to provide news to the public in their assigned areas.

This is a national emergency.

Important instructions will follow.


The following message is transmitted at the request of Her Majesty’s government. The Commonwealth Green Guard has detected the Hyperspace exit signatures of several hundred Human spacecraft above Nithascal. These warships are expected to enter weapons range of Nithascal within the next ten to fifteen minutes.

THIS IS AN ATTACK WARNING.

I REPEAT: THIS IS AN ATTACK WARNING.

Attack warning means an actual attack against this nation has been detected and protective action must be taken immediately. All citizens on the surface of the planet Nithascal should seek shelter immediately. Move to a basement or interior room of a sturdy building. Stay away from windows. If outdoors or in a vehicle, take cover. If none is available, lie flat in a ditch or other depression. Cover your head to protect yourself from flying debris. Take a battery powered radio with you for use during your time in the shelter. DO NOT leave your shelter until it is declared safe to do so.

To repeat: Hostile warships from the United Nations of Earth are on approach to Nithascal. This is an attack warning. Take cover and stay tuned to this station for future instructions.

This is an emergency action notification.

All stations have interrupted their programming at the request of the Royal Government to broadcast a message to the nation.

During this emergency, most stations will remain on the air to provide news to the public in their assigned areas.

This is PNN-NTCA. We will continue to serve-









This is the end of Issue Number One of Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox. See you tomorrow for Chapter 5 of All Our Sins Remembered!


 
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Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
17 Badges
Mar 1, 2018
1.225
567
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Chapter 5
Utopia

Akira Robinson was a happy girl who lived in a happy world. She didn’t know exactly how long she’d lived on this island, and she dearly hoped she could stay here always and forever. For some reason beyond her, she couldn’t remember her life before the island. She knew she had one, and that it was nasty and terrible. But she knew to push those kinds of thoughts from her consciousness. Why would she let unpleasant memories get in the way of her happiness?

About ten thousand people lived in the town of Wailua, located on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Unlike the rest of the world, this place was happy and safe and perfect in every way. Here on Kauai, the air was clean and sweet, and the sunlight wasn’t dangerous. People could go out in the daytime without fear of being burned or irradiated. There was a near-limitless supply of food and drinkable water, so nobody would go without. Finally, a cadre of security agents, armed with magnetic weapons, patrolled the island, keeping the dark world Akira left behind very far away.

Unlike in Kansas, Akira was free to go wherever she liked, and to do whatever she had in mind; at least, until school started in the fall. The entire island was open to her, and she made a point of exploring as much as she could, and she was not disappointed. This wasn’t just any old rock in the Pacific, this was Kauai, one of the Hawiian islands and a historical place. The town of Wailua was on the eastern shore. With the exception of a few flat spaces along the coastline, nearly the entire island was rocky, mountainous, and covered in forest. There were only two landmarks of note:

First, on the southern shore, there was the shattered ruin of an Old World mausoleum. A simple historical marker next to it declared:

“In the early morning hours of September 11, 2015, the savior of all Mankind was born in this graveyard.”

The second landmark... well, Akira had never seen it up close. Not because she wasn’t allowed to see it. In fact, Sally Ann had told Akira that she was allowed to visit. No, Akria never saw this landmark up close because she physically could not reach it.

Kawaikini was the tallest mountain on the island, located right in its very center. Yet, when Akira looked at the mountain from a distance, she could plainly see that a man-made object had been placed atop the Summit. Sally Ann simply called it “the Spire,” and explained that only the town leaders knew what was up there.

“The Spire is a tool that keeps us safe.” Sally Ann explained. “Not only is the core of the island’s entire defense system, the leaders use it to purify the air we breathe.”

Akira assumed that this “air purifier” was the reason the air smelled so sweet. She liked the Spire, and wanted to see it even more. But she was disappointed to learn that there were no roads or footpaths leading to it. Not even a trail. When Akira insisted on trying to push through the jungle anyway, Sally Ann said:

“If you get lost in the jungle, you might get sick or hurt, and that would ruin your happiness. You don’t want to do that, do you?”

Not wanting to wreck what she had, Akira decided to explore Wailua itself instead.

Unlike the Outside World, there was no money and no economy that Akira could perceive. Even so, there was no such thing as homelessness or starvation in Wailua. Furthermore, there were no markets or stores. Instead, all food and supplies were stored in the Commissary at the center of town, and citizens could simply take what they needed whenever they wanted to do so. There was food of all kinds, a wide array of drinks, medicines, and clothing to choose from. Nobody knew where this stuff came from, and Akira asked only once.

“Our leaders say that if they tell us where these things come from, the knowledge would ruin our happiness.” Sally Ann replied. “And we don’t want to do that, so we don’t ask.”

So Akira never asked again, and remained happy.

In fact, Akira found that her overall happiness seemed to increase as time went on. A long time ago (she didn’t remember exactly when) Akira had wondered aloud why she wasn’t getting tired of being happy all the time. Her new neighbors and friends all replied the same way: “Happiness is all that matters here.” And they were right. The longer Akira lived in this place, the more often she got to see those words put to action.

Everyone here was dedicated to maximizing the comfort and happiness of everybody around them. People constantly asked “How are you” to one another in the streets, and if the reply was even slightly in the negative, the person feeling down on their luck would find themselves surrounded by kindhearted Samaritans offering the help, love, and support.

This happened to Akira frequently when she first arrived in Wailua. She remembered how, for the first few weeks, she’d kept to herself in her new bungalow, sobbing and mourning the life she had left behind. She would write the names of her parents and siblings in a notebook each day, hoping that she could someday see them again.

But the community was not willing to let Akira be miserable. Dozens of neighbors came together to cheer her up. Sally Ann was there, and that was how Akira learned about her job. The young woman was a schoolteacher, and Akira would most likely be in her class when school started in the fall. Whenever Akira tried to talk about how much she missed her family, Sally Ann would tell Akira to remember the truth of her own rescue.

“Those people in Kansas were monsters.” Sally Ann would say. “They were kidnappers and abusers.”

Early on, Akira would protest, try to insist that she remembered who her family was. But the others would correct her, in a gentle way.

“Take a deep breath and think.” Some of the men said. “Really try to remember now.”

“We all heard the story when von Unfal rescued you.” Sally Ann continued. “He told us about those horrid XCOM people prostituting you, selling you to older men. I’m sure you must have blocked out all of those terrible memories, and I want you to know there’s nothing wrong with that. You were traumatized and hurt. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t remember what really happened.”

Whenever she was prompted to do so, Akira took a deep breath of the delicious sweet air that filled Wailua. She’d actually grown to enjoy the stuff, because she discovered it had a small effect on her. The sweet air was calming. It slowed down her thoughts, made it easier for Akira to understand and believe the things she was being told. It was a wonderful feeling.

Over the course of the summer, Akira was able to process the trauma of her past and move on from it. She stopped writing the names of her former captors in a journal each day, and Sally Ann assured Akira that in time, she would forget them completely.

“Who would want to remember such horrid people, anyway?” She told Akira.

Sally Ann was right. The memories were distant and vague now, but Akira could recall a few fragments of darker moments from her old life. Two older men had blackmailed her once. Akira couldn’t remember the exact details, but Sally Ann was able to fill in the blanks. The details were dark and disturbing. Akira also remembered another girl, much like herself, being tormented and made to scream. This time, Akira did not ask for details. But there was one memory in particular that haunted Akira like no other. It wasn’t even a full memory anymore, but clouded and muddled bits and pieces; like the fragments of a half-forgotten nightmare.

In the memory, there was a man. He was standing between Bernard von Unfal and Akira. She remembered how von Unfal, the man who would eventually bring her to Wailua, had been desperate to reach her, but this stranger insisted on standing between them, blocking the rescue. The terrifying stranger yelled about how he was ready to “pay any price” for Akira. He wanted to buy her.

Eventually, Akira grew to trust Sally Ann enough to share this dark memory with her. Sally Ann listened to the whole story, and she accepted it without question or doubt. Instead, Sally Ann offered to connect Akira with someone who could help.



The next night, Akira was at home by herself when there was a knock on the front door. A lone person had come to visit her, and as she invited him inside, Akira was taken aback to see that this was not the person she was expecting. After her chat with Sally Ann, Akira was expecting to receive a visit from an old therapist or psychologist. Instead, the person now standing in her living room was a teenage boy, almost the same age as herself.

The newcomer was a young boy with brown skin and vaguely Arabic features. His eyes stood out more than any other feature, as they were bright purple and seemed to glow dimly.

“Um, hi.” Said the boy. “My name’s Rafi. Sally Ann asked me to help you out with a bad memory.”

Akira couldn’t help but feel skeptical. But so far, everybody in town had been nothing but friendly and helpful to her, so she had no reason to suspect this boy of being any less so. Also, to his credit, Akira found Rafi to have a very attractive appearance. She invited Rafi inside and asked him to join her on the living room couch anyway, where he introduced himself more fully.

“I’m Rafi Bakir.” he began. “You might not know me, but I know you. I was one of the scouts they sent out to find Gifted young people, and I saw you in Myron a few years ago.”

Akira felt a prickling sensation on the back of her neck.

“You saw me?” She breathed.

“Yeah.” Rafi admitted. “And I passed your situation along to the community leaders. They contracted Bernard von Unfal to rescue you.”

“So it’s because of you that I was saved!” Akira said. “Oh, thank you so much!”

She hugged Rafi so tightly that he struggled to breathe. After a moment, Akira let him go.

“So you’ve always lived here?” she asked,

“My whole life.” Rafi said proudly. “My parents are from Palestine, the West Bank specifically. They were rescued separately and got married here.”

Rafi sat up and gave Akira a serious look.

“Listen, I know I don’t look like it, but I really can help you with bad memories.”

“If that’s the case, then where were you when I first showed up here?” Akira blurted out.

“Sally Ann said she wanted to let you acclimate to life here first, because once I do... uh, when I do my thing... there’s going to be a side-effect. We both agreed you should be settled first before I do this.”

“A side effect?” Akira repeated. “What are you going to do?”

Rafi gently took Akira’s hand in his own and gave her a kindly stare.

“Well, Akira... you see. I have the Gift, and I can use a special Psionic technique on you. It’s called Psionic Manipulation. Basically, I can take that bad memory that’s bothering you, and I can rewrite it... or if you want, I can destroy it.”

“You can do that?” Akira breathed

“Yes, I can.” Rafi said, “But you need to know, Akira. Von Unfal and Sally Ann both told me that you have a dormant Gift.”

“Yeah, I know.” Akira mumbled. “I remember finding out from Bernard, when... when he rescued me.”

Rafi nodded.

“If I go inside your mind, there’s a chance I’ll accidentally activate your Gift. You’ll suddenly have Psionic powers of your own. You need to be ready for that possibility, okay?”

“Sure.” Akira felt a little numb, but she did think of one last question: “What’ll happen if my Gift... you know... turns on?”

Rafi jabbed his thumb over his shoulder.

“Sally Ann told me to walk you straight to the Psionic laboratory just out of town. They’ll be able to help you.”

The two teenagers fell silent for a moment, both unsure how to proceed. Finally, Rafi took the initiative.

“So, what do you want me to do?”

Akira closed her eyes in thought for a moment, then said:

“Just... get rid of him.”

“Him?” Rafi said.

“There’s a guy, a man, in my memories.” Akira breathed. “I think his name is Espinosa... and I don’t remember why... but I have a lot of bad thoughts and memories tied to that name. Can you just... wipe him out? Make him go away... please.”

Rafi took a very deep breath.

“Okay, I can do that.” He said. “But you’re asking me to go really deep inside your mind, and purge a whole person from your consciousness. This is going to be really... uh, really intense. Are you sure this is what you want?”

“Yes.” Akira sighed. “Please.”

Rafi looked concerned, as though he wasn’t convinced he truly had Akira’s consent.

“I’m serious.” He said. “We’re talking about me breaking into your mind. This is going to be unpleasant.”

Akira nodded, then she repositioned herself on the couch, so that she was close enough for Rafi to reach out and touch any part of her.

“Just do it.”

Rafi nodded, then he gently put his hands on Akira’s face, tilting her head so that she was looking into his purple eyes.

“Look at me.” Rafi breathed. “Don’t break eye contact, don’t blink, don’t move, don’t struggle. This is going to be kinda jarring, but it won’t take long...”

Akira stared long and hard into Rafi’s eyes, taking in all of the colors and features to see. He slowly reached out with one hand and gently placed his fingertips on the side of Akira’s head, just above her temple. The instant Rafi penetrated Akira’s mind, the world around her suddenly stopped making sense, and she was plunged headfirst into a dream, the deepest and most vivid of dreams, the kind of vison she would only have in the late hours of sleep just before waking up…



The first sensation Akira felt was bewilderment, followed by confusion. She completely lost track of where she was and how she got there. None of her senses seemed to be working properly, as sights and sounds collided and meshed with one another. In the midst of all this chaos, Akira was still there. She could tell her body was still intact and unharmed, adrift in the middle of this swirling, roiling cacophony of shapeless color and formless shadow.

Then there was a new sensation. Akira had felt it plenty of times before in her life. It was a creeping feeling on the back of her neck, the kind of feeling a person gets when they think they’re being watched. Akira had no idea where the watcher was hidden, but she was certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that somebody else was in the chaotic void with her, and they were watching her very closely.

A new feeling came over Akira. This time it wasn’t an external sensation, but more of an internal realization. Out of nowhere, Akira suddenly found herself feeling exposed. A chill ran up her spine, and Akira felt as though somebody had just violently torn her clothes off. Instinctively, she tried to curl up defensively, to make herself as small as possible. Next thing she knew, Akira felt a warm presence, like a person’s hand, gently rubbing her neck and shoulders in a reassuring way. She relaxed… and then it happened.

A pain unlike anything Akira had ever felt before erupted in her head. The agony stemmed from the front of her brain, just above her eyes. The presence had plunged one of its hands into… her mind, her soul? She wasn’t sure. All Akira knew was that the presence had gone somewhere deep within her very essence that was supposed to be closed off and private. The grasping presence was pushing on the corners and recesses of Akira’s mind, attempting to find a way even further inside. And it found one.

In hindsight, Akira wasn’t sure if the intruder forced its way in, or if she allowed it.

Here, in the very core of Akira’s being, were the things that made her who she was. Perhaps this was in the heart of her mind, or inner ring of her soul. Nonetheless, all the rest was built on this, a collection of memories and knowledge and experiences, all glittering and shimmering together like a cluster of stars in the night sky, making a constellation. Unbidden, the foreign presence raced into the center of this place, and then, like the encroaching shadow of an eclipse…

It snuffed out one of the lights.

The reaction was incredible. The loss of a single star caused the entire constellation to change. The quality of the colors flickered, not by much, but enough to notice. The image drawn between the points of light was different too. A whole new Akira Robinson had just been brought into existence. Finally, the presence began to withdraw. As it left her, Akira felt a sense of relief being left behind. All too quickly, she was waking up.



Akira’s eyes snapped open. She was back on the couch in her house in Wailua. She and Rafi were holding onto one another very tightly, arms around each other’s backs. Both teenagers were panting and sweating heavily as though they’d just run a mile. Out of strength, Akira collapsed into Rafi’s body, pressing her face into his chest.

“Oh, no!” Rafi gasped. “Are you okay?”

“I, I think I’m fine.” Akira panted.

Then she heard Rafi’s voice again.

Oh, no. I over did it! She must be hurt!

“I’m not hurt.” Akira said, “Just a little worn out.”

Pause.

“Uh…” Rafi’s voice had changed tone a little. “Akira, I, uh… I didn’t say anything.”

Akira looked up at Rafi so quickly that his chin hit the top of her head.

“Wait, really?” She said. “Say that again?”

“What about how I didn’t say-“

“No, no no!” Akira cut him off. “In your mind, think it!”

Rafi’s eyes widened and a stream of thoughts raced through his mind, moving so slowly and loudly that Akira could perceive and understand them with no effort on her own part.

Rafi was, as far as Akira could tell, going through a lot of emotions all at once. He was frightened that he’d overdone it and accidentally broken her mind. He was also thrilled that Akira had allowed him to hold onto her like this, with his arms around her torso. Rafi was secretly hoping Akira would allow this to continue for a few more minutes. Finally, Rafi’s internal mental voice brought itself to the forefront of Akira’s attention:

Can you hear me? Can you hear my thoughts?

Suddenly, Akira felt as giddy as child on Victory Day. She pulled herself off the couch and stood up, jumping up and down on the balls of her feet excitedly.

“Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” Akira cheered. “It’s really happening! You turned it on! It’s activated, or whatever you said. I’ve got my Gift!”

Rafi smiled as he watched Akira celebrate. She did a happy little dance before gasping with realization and pointing to the coffee table in front of the couch.

“So, that means I can move stuff with my mind now, right? Telekinetics?”

“Telekinesis.” Rafi corrected her, “And no. Not right away, at least. You’ll need training.”

Akira wasn’t listening. She was pushing her fingertips into her temples and staring so hard at the table that her eyes were watering.

“Move!” Akira commanded the table. “Move a little to the left!”

Akira stopped, however, when she noticed a wave of emotions and impressions passing through Rafi’s mind.

“Hey!” She said. “Whaddaya mean I ‘look cute all of a sudden’? You saying I wasn’t cute before?”

Rafi spluttered and stumbled over his own words, unable to excuse his subconscious impulses.

“Oh, god.” Rafi said. “So, you can read all my thoughts then?”

Without saying a word, Akira covered her chest with one arm and gave him a very stern scowl, confirming his theory silently. Then Akira went back to trying out Telekinesis. She refocused her efforts on a glass lamp sitting on an end table next to the couch. Akira swept her hands from left to right, trying to knock the lamp onto the floor with sheer force of will.

“Again,” Rafi said. “I need to remind you that you can’t do Telekinesis right off the bat. You need to spend some time in a meditation cell and practice and train, and then maybe… what the hell!?”

Right as Rafi was about to finish his sentence, Akira swept her arms through the air one last time, and the glass lamp, to everyone’s surprise, skittered and slid over the surface as though caught in a high wind. It slipped right off the edge of the table and shattered into bits, leaving Rafi stunned and Akira overjoyed. She jumped up and down, squealing with excitement.

“Did you see that!?” Akira cried. “Did you see?”

“I did.” Rafi was dumbfounded.

Akira rung her hands, expecting to see sparks or something flying out of her fingers, then she asked:

“So what happens now? Didn’t you say I’d have to go to the psyche lab or something like that?”

“This Psionic laboratory.” Rafi repeated, “And don’t worry. They’re always open in case something like this happens. Put on your shoes and I’ll lead the way.”



Even though it was getting late at night, the pair stepped out of Akira’s house and started to make their way north, towards the far side of Wailua. As they walked, Akira began to experience a phenomenon that happens to everyone when they first gain Psionic powers.

She started to uncontrollably read minds.

Every time the duo passed by another person on the street, Akira would get, whether she wanted it or not, completely unrestricted access to the other person’s mind. As they walked through town, Akira’s mind was filled with a messy clutter of hopes, aspirations, daydreams, fears, worries, fantasies, and paranoias. She suddenly became hyperaware of every person who looked at her for longer than a moment. She knew which people weren’t fully integrated into the Community yet because they still harbored the false belief that they were kidnapped or abducted.

But there was one hitch Akira wasn’t ready for. The longer her telepathic powers went uncontrolled, the wider reach she acquired. Soon, Akira was picking up the thoughts and memories of people who were up to half a mile away. Because these thoughts were already inside of her head, there was no way to shut out the noise or the visions. After just half an hour, Akira was blind and deaf, her eyes filled with the things hundreds of other people had seen. Her ears filled with the sounds of countless experiences that weren’t her own. Despairing, Akira wailed and fell to her knees.

Rafi was still with her. He took Akira by the hand and guided her the rest of the way to the Psionic laboratory. Above the chaos taking place in her mind, Akira was vaguely aware of people grabbing her arms and making her walk in a particular direction. Then, somebody gently pushed the back of her head, making Akira lean forward. Then, a single voice spoke, making itself heard above the hellish cacophony taking place in Akira’s head:

BREATHE

Akira inhaled sharply, and took in the sweetest, most delicious air she’d ever smelled. It smelled like someone had removed most of the oxygen and replaced it with whatever chemical made the air smell so good. In mere moments, Akira received a near-quintuple dose of the Sweet Air, and her mind started to fall quiet. The voices ebbed away. The lights and colors became dull and muted. Akira could see and hear, if only a little. She was still reading minds uncontrollably, but those readings were no longer at the forefront of her consciousness. Now, she could actually make out the person standing in front of her.

A European woman with long grey hair a narrow, pointed face regarded Akira for a moment before saying in a half-French, half-German accent:

“Hallo, Frau Robinson, my name is Doctor Vahlen. I oversee the Psionic research and development department in this facility. We are going to help you, but to do that, we need you to consent and cooperate with some procedures, understand?”

Akira nodded her head. Doctor Vahlen spoke to someone just out of Akira’s line of sight.

“Place the IV line in her left arm.”

Akira felt a small prick, followed by a warm and relaxing sensation that seemed to spread over her entire body. Doctor Vahlen gently took Akira’s head in her hand and looked the young girl in the eye.

“Frau Robinson” Vahlen said, “You are being anesthetized. I want you to count backwards from ten, please. Start now.”

“Ten” Akira said slowly, her voice getting groggier and groggier. “Nine… eight… sev…uh.”

<=== Previous Chapter (Spirited Away)

 
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Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
17 Badges
Mar 1, 2018
1.225
567
archiveofourown.org
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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number Two
“Six New Heroes”


My name is Varian Robinson. I am a Stormbreaker, with all of the prestige and power that comes with the title.

I’ve also been branded a traitor by my own species, and my own people put out a reward for any information that leads to my capture or death.

Death seems more likely.

My history teacher back at Pearl City said the first generation of Stormbreakers were very intelligent and always had good ideas. So here is some sound advice from a second-generation Stormbreaker: If someone walks up to you, hands you a plasma rifle, and says the fate of the Galaxy is depending on you…

Don’t walk.

Run.

Seeing as my companions are either insensitive morons or slavishly obedient to historical precedent, they elected me as the leader of this new group. Previously, I was okay with this since we operated more like a team of secret investigators more than anything else. You know, we’d wear trenchcoats and sunglasses, gather clues, do deals with information brokers, and spy on our enemies from afar. It was the private investigator life I wanted to have when I was young, and to be really honest, I was kinda having fun.

But then the Human Navy went off and clocked the Partogans over the head with a big fucking stick, now everything’s changed.

The Stormbreakers have gone full paramilitary. We aren’t lurking in dark alleyways on Alpha Centauri anymore. Can’t really do that when every Human from here to Wolf 359 is actively trying to murder any alien or species-traitor they can find. It’s all-out war. Humans versus literally everyone else. Now every intelligent thing that ever walked, swam, flown, or crawled is bearing down on Earth, and they’re all looking to give my species a beating unlike anything ever seen in history. It sure seems like they’re gonna kill ten-thousand Humans for every dead Partogan at Nynrah.

And somehow, in the middle of this carnage, we’re supposed to hunt down and kill one woman.

But not just any woman. Akira Robinson, the Paradox herself.

And that’s why I’m writing all of this down. We’ve got a job to do. Hunt down and destroy the single most dangerous being who has ever lived, while caught in the crossfire of the biggest fight since my grandparent’s time. Oh, and all of our enemies in this new war used to be our closest allies and friends, did I mention that? It’s an insane mission, in an insane time, and I just don’t see a way we can all get out of this in one piece.

The entries that I’ll add after this will be my after-action-reports. These will be mission debriefs and summaries of the action, if there was any. Our boss said he wants to see these things too, so I’ll try to tone down the language, but no promises. This is just to make sure our story gets out, if or maybe when we all get murdered by our own people.

There were supposed to be seven of us Stormbreakers, but only six of us showed up in the beginning.

I’ve already introduced myself, but there are a few other details about me I guess the Galaxy should know just in case I die on this crazy mission. My grandparents are Stormbreakers but they don’t know where I am or what I’m doing. Also, I’m an amateur detective. Emphasis on “amateur” since I learned everything from books and haven’t solved a case on my own yet. Also, for the past few years, I’ve been kinda struggling with myself, or rather the idea of myself. But the less said about that, the better.

After me, I guess my second-in-command would be Maui Ririnui. He’s a Shipbreaker from Aoraki. Partogan. He tends to be really quiet and soft-spoken, but that’s because he’s constantly thinking. Maui is some kind of tech-wizard. He invented a scanning device that’s part of his glasses, so he’s constantly getting new information about everything around us. Maui is also a pretty good pilot, but his shuttle is too small for the six of us.

Corder Leang is the first of two Hybrids on our team. She’s half-Human and half-Levakian, but she insisted we treat her as full Levakian. I know why. Some Humans a really weird obsession with the concept of “cat-girls,” and Corder tends to go berserk whenever somebody calls her that. As for her Human side, she’s definitely Chinese. Corder was a bounty hunter before she joined up with us, and I think that makes her the best fighter on the team now.

The other Hybrid is Kingi, son of Eraka. He’s an Assurian with a Partogan father, hence the Partogan names with the Assurian naming rules. I know the least about this guy. From what I could gather, he is somehow connected to the assault on the Partogan starship Mami Tamihana. (The ship that was carrying Whetu Kealoha's corpse when it was stolen) Kingi's dedicated himself to getting some justice or revenge for the whole thing, and he’s convinced Akira Robinson is somehow responsible for the disaster.

Cetla Shu'naan will most likely be the only Micore any of us ever see in our lives. He's a huge reptile, like a dinosaur, but he doesn’t eat meat. Can’t, actually. Cetla is an amazing fighter and really friendly once you get to know him, but feeding and housing the guy has been a logistical nightmare. Apparently, the dietary requirements of the Micore species is part of the reason they became so dependent on their Droid army to do all of the work on their Homeworld.

And then there’s Ninu. None of us know why he was picked for the team, but our mysterious benefactor insisted that Ninu Dokunle is exactly what the Stormbreakers need. He’s a Kelt translator. Being Kelt, the guy is really tiny, about one foot, ten inches tall. But what’s really cool is that Ninu is a polyglot. This cool little lizard can speak a lot of languages and he picks up new ones quickly. Ninu’s said before that he feels like he doesn’t belong with us, and that he’s not cut out to be a Stormbreaker. I know the sort of company my grandparents kept during the last war. There’s a decent chance Ninu is wrong.

That just leaves Inez Espinosa, the “Missing Stormbreaker.” She never showed up, and our benefactor said that his agents never managed to deliver the summons to her, wherever she was. Our benefactor did give us her file, though. So we do know a few things about her:

Her full name is Maria Madelina Inez Freeman Espinosa, but she prefers her middle name. She is the daughter of Emanuel Espinosa and Scarlett Freeman, who is the Director of the Internal Security Office, a spy agency that answers directly to the UN Secretary General. Inez was abandoned by her parents a few years ago and now she lives alone on Earth in the Detroit Megacity, where she is employed as a sex worker. As to why she never joined us, it looks like her invitation to join the Stormbreakers was intercepted by unknown actors before it reached Inez. For now, we’ll just have to hunt Akira without our seventh teammate.

But we can’t hunt Akira at all for the moment. Now that open war is starting, the six of us can’t use public transportation to get around anymore. This particular problem brings me back to the whole “being branded as a traitor" thing.

When the war first broke out, all six of us tried to report to Stormbreaker HQ in Honolulu. The team itself is an official part of the Armed Forces of the United Nations of Earth, so we were expecting the guards to just let us in.

Nope.

The post guards had weapons on us in a second, and then they started shooting at us! They never said a word, didn’t ask us to ID ourselves or anything. Just opened fire. We ran from there and tried to hide, but law enforcement and the VDF were hunting us. Cops were asking everybody in town if they knew us or had seen us anywhere. I overheard one VDF soldier saying that we were wanted for questioning about a plot against the UN. That was all we needed to hear. It was time to leave Earth.

We barely got away from Honolulu with our lives. We stole a UN Navy corvette and ran like hell, taking fire from UN ships the whole way. They never asked us to surrender. Never tried to communicate at all. Somebody really high up the chain of command must have put out a kill order on us.

Ninu wanted to make a run for the Hiigaran border, but Jericho Station was locked down and broadcasting a warning message about a travel advisory issued by the UN government. Apparently, the UN is saying that a “Space Storm" is causing disruptions to faster-than-light travel across the whole Galaxy, and people are being ordered to stay on the surface of whatever planet they’re currently at.

Space Storm? What happened to being at war with the whole Galaxy?

And just to add insult to our injury, Jericho Station was also broadcasting a message from the ISO, calling on all Humans to report us to the UN if they see us. There’s even a §5,000,000 reward for anyone who turns us in! So we needed to run and hide, but Corder pointed out that we would need to change ships first, since the UN already knew we were rocketing around in a Corvette. So we hatched a plan… or I guess I should say Maui hatched a plan.

Maui knows a quiet region of space where we can build a new base and operate in relative secrecy. He says it has everything we need to retrofit a stolen spacecraft into something that is so much our own that UN officials won’t recognize it. All we would have to do is steal a second ship and fly it (alongside the one we’ve already lifted) to the new base.

As soon as Maui told us his plan, I knew which ship we needed to take. It’s kind of an obvious choice, honestly.

Okay. This is really it. We’re going to war.

I’ll write an update when our first combat mission is over.

VR.



 
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Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number Two, Continued


AFTER ACTION REPORT: OPERATION HONEY POT
  • Primary Objective:
    • Steal the Battlemaster-class Gunship UNS Niagara
    • Establish a new base of operations for the Stormbreakers
  • Secondary Objective:
    • Disable or destroy the Graf Zeppelin-class carrier UNS Akagi

Operation date: July 8, 2084
Location: Sirius Star System, United Nations of Earth
Mission Type: Guerilla Combat

Mission Debrief – Squad Leader Varian Robinson


I knew our first combat deployment was going to be a shit show… but HOLY SHIT that was a fucking shit show! We’ve known for a while that if things went hot, we would need to secure a starship for ourselves and stop relying on public transportation. We did have a stolen UN Corvette, but that’s a short term resolution. We needed a vessel that was truly our own. Maui and I came up with an idea that was so crazy it couldn’t possibly fail. All we needed was a second starship, preferably one that was very old, so the UN wouldn’t waste time and resources trying to get it back. I knew just where to find one.

Turns out AFUNE still uses those old Battlemasters from the Second Hyperspace War. Of course, they’re so old they’re just being used as training ships now, which means they aren’t as well guarded as actual combat vessels. The one I picked was the USS Niagara, which was Gramps’ old ship during the 2HW. It was being used to train naval recruits in the Sirius system, so we flew in aboard our Corvette and went to… well, I don’t wanna say ‘steal the ship.’ We ‘confiscated’ it from some dangerous people.

The Niagara was being stored at Sirius Starbase, which, as luck would have it, was being visited by a high value target at the time. The Akagi is a Fleet Carrier for the UN Navy, and it’s safe to assume she’s been taking orders from the Paradox just like everyone else in a UN uniform. We had a chance to stick a wrench in Akira’s war plans, so the six of us agreed to mess with the Akagi while we were stealing the Niagara.

This was a bad idea.

To accomplish these simultaneous missions, we split the party in half.

This was also a bad idea.

In case I haven’t said this before, I am the only Human on our team. Now try to imagine what might happen when five heavily armed aliens start up a gunfight inside of a starbase located deep within the frontier of a spacefaring nation currently engaged in a genocidal campaign against all alien life that makes the Rwandan Genocide look like a schoolyard slap-fight.

Whatever you’re imagining, multiply it by twelve. Then add a few zeroes on the end of that number. You’re still not close.

Corder, Cetla, and Kingi went for the Akagi. They were carrying about fifty kilograms of X-4 plastic explosives with them, to blow Akagi into Jericho’s Realm. Maui, Ninu, and I were supposed to sneak our way into the hangar. Basically, Corder’s team was supposed to be a distraction. They would draw all attention to the fighting on Akagi while my team would snatch the Niagara. We thought the plan was sound, but it went to pieces in a hurry.

Somebody in the command center sent out a distress call and every Human starship for a hundred light-years around came racing to the scene. Cetla and Kingi were chasing some Human grunts down a corridor and they suddenly came into a room that was just full of UN Space Rangers, all armed to the teeth. Cetla took a few hits, but Micore are tough, and he’s no exception. In the end, Corder’s team never got aboard the Akagi, but they didn’t need to. Kingi planted the X-4 in the airlock connecting the starbase to Akagi, then ran down to the hangar with Cetla and Kingi.

At the same time, Ninu, Maui and I were getting our asses kicked. The Niagara had a round-the-clock security detail we didn’t know about, and they sounded the alarm as soon as we showed up. Maui and I got pinned down by enemy rifle fire and we probably would have died there if not for Ninu. Scratch that. We definitely would have died. But anyway, Ninu is so small he escaped the notice of the guards. He slipped aboard Niagara while we were fighting and powered up one of the Mass Driver turrets. Then Ninu tried to mow down all of the remaining guards, but he was a terrible shot and just wasted all of the ammo. But it still worked. All of the bad guys dove for cover and the rest of us made a break for it.

So all five of us had to do a final running dash to the Niagara while Ninu covered us very poorly. We were getting shot at from all directions by UN soldiers. Someone blasted the rifle out of my hand and I lost it. Corder took a round in the leg, Cetla got hit a few more times, and Maui was hit by shrapnel at the last second. But we made it to the ship and we got up the ramp. So now we had to start up the engines and take off while half of us were bleeding from really bad injuries, and at the same time, UN soldiers were blasting the ship’s hull with Gauss rifles. But we were out of options, so we just went for it.

Maui took the pilot seat, Ninu was the copilot. They got us out of there in bombastic fashion, and I mean it. Ninu remotely detonated the X-4 charges. The blast opened up a huge hole in both the starbase and Akagi. Any UN soldier in the hangar who wasn’t killed instantly was in no shape to hold us up any longer. Maui navigated us out into open space, and we finally got to see the damage.

I’m no expert, but I can say for certain the UN Carrier Akagi is a total loss. We opened up every deck and exposed the Elerium power plant to the vacuum of space. She was a dead hulk when we left. The Sirius starbase is pulverized, and I think their life support was knocked offline. We could see the atmosphere venting into space.

Anyway, we escaped into Hyperspace after. Corder knows a fuel depot in Vaygr space that doesn’t ask questions. After we refueled, we flew off to our final destination. There’s no point in trying to recover the Corvette we stole from Earth. In the chaos, we accidentally left it behind in the Sirius system, which is crawling with enemy ships by now. Instead, Maui is going to adjust his plan to use the
Niagara by itself. We plugged in the coordinates for the place Maui suggested and jumped into Hyperspace.

Finally, this brings us to the very place where I am writing this report from: the new Stormbreaker HQ.

We’ve set up shop in the Karos Graveyard. It’s a gargantuan debris field filling the space between Hiigara and the Galactic Core. There are disabled, destroyed, and derelict starships from every era in this place, including the wrecks of vessels built by the Progenitors nearly a million years ago. Megalithic structures the size of planets blot of some of the view, all of them abandoned and fallen into serious disrepair. The debris field is so dense that resolving live ships from wrecks is extremely difficult, which is why this is such a good place to hide.

As it turns out, Maui has done some shipbreaking in the area, and he knows a particular region of the Graveyard where we can operate without being interrupted or spotted. This part of the Graveyard is filled with the hulks and remains of starships that fought in the First Hyperspace War, approximately four thousand years ago. This region is perfect for us because it’s under the protection of a Progenitor ship.

The Progenitors themselves died out ten-thousand years ago, but most of their ships were run by powerful AI systems and continue to function. As we jumped into the Karos Graveyard, the Niagara was approached by a fifty-thousand year old Progenitor ship. The vessel had no weapons, just a pair of vice-like jaws that it would have used to try and physically grab our ship with. Maui punched a set of numbers into our transponder computer, and after a few seconds, the Junkyard Dog flew away.

"I sent a signal that makes the Dog think it’s already caught us." Maui explained. "Now we’re included in its mission to protect the Graveyard. If anybody comes into this area, the Dog will take care of them for us."

Under the watchful eyes of our automated guardian, we flew the Niagara between the many hulks until we found the bow section of an ancient Progenitor Mothership that had been blown in half. Maui told us that this was ‘the Junkyard Office.’ Nearly two centuries ago, the Rebel Alliance had used this place as a communications hub in their war against the Taiidan Empire. We parked the ship inside of a docking sleeve and discovered something very fortunate. Even though the mothership was blasted in two, the Progenitor AI was still running, and both the life support systems and crew interface were compatible with our own. Soon, all six of us were inside of the Junkyard Office with our helmets off. The AI guided us to an infirmary where we could treat Cetla, Corder, and Maui’s injuries. Most of the Progenitor technology is still working, too. The AI was able to produce all of the tools and medicines we needed right away. Ninu and Maui want to investigate the Office further, but that’s not an option until everybody is rested and healthy.

I think this is where I’ll have to stop writing now because Kingi just killed the lights. We’re all going to get some sleep and then get to work on Maui’s plan to overhaul the Niagara.

We still need to find an arms dealer who will re-arm the ship. That may be a problem going forward. We’ll work it out.

That’s all for now.

VR.



The Stormbreakers

Today’s Date: July 8, 2084

Current Location: Junkyard Office, Karos Graveyard, Hiigaran Empire


  • Varian “Aeneas” Robinson
    • Active
  • Corder “Grace” Leang
    • Wounded
  • Maui “Uplink” Ririnui
    • Lightly Wounded
  • Kingi “Anvil” son of Eraka
    • Active
  • Ninu “Mockingbird” Dokunle
    • Active
  • Cetla “Rex” Shu’naan
    • Gravely Wounded


 
Last edited:
Chapter 6: Deluge

Macavity116

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Author's note: If you are that one individual who is watching All Our Sins Remembered on YouTube, please allow me to apologize for the sound of my voice in this chapter. I was sick on recording day, and in hindsight, I definitely should have waited until I got better.





Chapter 6
Deluge


When Akira woke up, she felt vaguely… off. Something about her just didn’t feel right and she couldn’t put her finger on it. Opening her eyes, she noticed that she was lying in a medical bed in a very sterile-looking room. Two people were occupying comfy chairs nearby, but only one of them was awake. Rafi Bakir startled when he realized Akira was conscious, and he sprang out of his chair to take her hand.

“How are you?” He asked. “Are you okay? Still hearing voices?”

“Whoa, hold on.” Akira mumbled. “One question at a time, I’m still waking up.”

“Well, wake up faster.” Grumbled another voice. “Before he decides to do the Sleeping Beauty thing and kiss you.”

Akira didn’t recognize the second person with Rafi. It was someone she’d never met before. When Rafi stepped aside to let the stranger talk to Akira, she recoiled in horror at the sight of him, jerking her body so much that an IV line broke free of her arm, spraying fluid all over the place.

“What the hell!?” Akira gasped.

The second person in the room was Human-shaped, in that they had arms, legs, and a head, but this individual’s face was very far from Human. He was completely bald, and the skin of his face was rough and leathery. But his most striking feature was his eyes. The man had huge, bulbous eyes with massive pink irises. When he stood up and approached Akira, she saw that his fingernails were so long and thick they may as well have been claws.

“Calm down, girl.” The creature said. “You have nothing to fear. My name is Dyeunda Zeil, I am a Hybrid, created by the old ADVENT regime long before you were born.”

This wasn’t the sort of statement that would have calmed Akira. Thankfully, the Sweet Air did what Zeil’s words couldn’t. After a moment, the sudden burst of anger was gone, and Akira’s voice leveled out.

“I know who you are.” She spoke calmly. “My parents fought your kind in the war.”

Zeil and Rafi both gave Akira a very stern look, silently scolding her. Sheepishly, she looked at the floor and said.

“Well, the abusers who pretended to be my parents said that, anyway.”

“You must learn to think and seriously consider your own past before saying something so offensive.” Zeil reprimanded Akira. “You hold prejudices based on lies. They will sabotage your own happiness, as well as the happiness of the community residents around you. Understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

Zeil clapped his hands together and assumed a much more friendly expression.

“Good. Now that’s out of the way, let me explain myself. Akira Jaqueline Robinson, you are Gifted. That means you have the ability to manipulate the natural Psionic energy contained in the deepest recesses of your conscious mind. My job is to teach you how to use this ability and then help you put it to good use for our wonderful community.”

“Wait, put it to use?” Akira repeated. “How?”

While the Hybrid named Zeil spoke, he carefully reattached Akira’s IV line.

“Well you see, our perfect community is dependent on Psionics to maintain the peace and prosperity you’ve grown so accustomed to here.” Zeil explained. “We have several Psions and Telepaths who do various jobs to keep the island running smoothly. Some people are maintaining a Psionic shield that protects our island from the dangerous weather the rest of the world is experiencing. Others are augmenting the effects of the Sweet Air. Some people work in a similar profession as mister Bakir, helping seek out Gifted people and rescuing them from the outside world. Also, every member of our Security Force is Gifted, using their powers to keep anyone who wishes to harm or steal from our island at a great distance. There are plenty of other lines of work for a Gifted person, too. If you go downtown, you’ll find the entertainment and service sectors are always looking for a skilled mind-reader. If you become good at telekinesis, you may have a future in construction or demolition.”

Zeil paused, then leaned in close to Akira.

“However, Mister Bakir told me that when your Gift activated, you showed an aptitude for telekinesis almost immediately. I cannot stress how rare it is for anyone to do that. I hope you recover from your surgery soon, as I’m very eager to start your training.”

Zeil shook Akira’s hand and turned to leave, but he paused when Akira asked:

“Hey, wait a minute. What did they do to me anyway? How come I can’t hear voices anymore, and why does my head hurt so much?”

“It’s a standard procedure for everyone who becomes Gifted.” Zeil replied, waving his hand casually. “We have embedded several cybernetic implants in your brain. These implants will give much more refined control over your powers. With a little training, you’ll find you can use the implants to turn your telepathy on or off at will.”

“It’s great for when you have to go visit the outside world.” Rafi chimed in. “If you turn off your telepathy, you can trick outsiders into thinking you’re not Gifted. That’s how Bernard was able to get so close to you before your abusers caught on.”

Impressed, Akira let out a low whistle. Then an idea came into her mind. She decided to try it out on impulse, without really thinking about it. Just as Zeil left the room and stepped into the hospital hallway, Akira looked at Rafi and locked her gaze onto his eyes. She focused her mind on one thing, a question she wanted to ask:

“How long were you here?”

And to her surprise, it worked. She couldn’t actually see Psionic energy, but Akira felt an invisible force move from her own body, into Rafi, and then return. A collage of images and sounds flickered past the forefront of Akira’s consciousness. Rafi’s mind surrendered the answer to her question before he ever had the chance to say it aloud, and Akira was left stunned by it.

Huh. She thought to herself. He really cares about me.

After that, Akira wondered to herself whether Rafi knew she was starting to care about him in return.

“Yes.” Rafi said out loud. “Yes I do.”



The next day, Akira was released from the Mahelona Medical Center with a clean bill of health, aside from the fact that she now had a bald spot shaved into the left side of her head, marking the spot where the cybernetic implants had been installed in her cerebral cortex. Rafi escorted her to a quiet place outside of town where her Psionic training would begin.

Neither of the teenagers said a word to one another the whole trek, but their minds were open to one another, and psionic energy flowed freely between them. They shared their memories and thoughts, and Akira grew comfortable with the sensation of Rafi’s presence inside of her own consciousness. It wasn’t long before the mental images and concepts passing between them grew more… intimate in nature.

After a while, Rafi led Akira out of the city entirely and along one of the many footpaths that meandered through the forests of Kauai. They eventually came into a clearing. About one hundred square feet of jungle had been clear-cut, leaving behind a great patch of open ground. The place was set up like a training field. Sparring dummies, set up like scarecrows, were standing in a row. Many were burned and charred while others were missing limbs. The ground was trampled and beaten down. Many patches of dirt and mud were left behind by great numbers of moving people.

Dyeunda Zeil was already there, waiting with another person. David Sepulveda looked different from the last time Akira had seen him. The Mexican-American boy seemed to have taken to Kauai well. He was grinning from ear to ear and it looked like he’d put on a little weight. David and Akira hugged in greeting while Zeil started the proceedings.

“Now that we’re all here, it’s time to begin. Mister Bakir has been though my classes once before and has volunteered to assist.” Zeil began. “Today, you will learn to understand your Gift, and in doing so, master these new powers of yours.”

David raised his hand.

“Sir, are we going to learn how to make Soulfire and put people under Mind Control?”

Akira was not the least bit surprised to see the image of a handsome boy flash in the depths of David’s mind as soon as he said the words “Mind Control.”

“Obviously, you will not.” Zeil narrowed his eyes at David. “Remember, you must put your abilities to use for the betterment of the Community. That is how it has always been here. We will be starting with a very useful, but tragically near-forgotten aspect of Psionics: empathy.”

David and Akira looked at one another, confused. Rafi gave them a knowing smile.

“History only remembers the Psions who were great warriors.” Zeil explained. “Jericho, William Carter, Tantomile, the Partogan Queen Miranda, Riesstiu, and so on. Sure, all of those people could sweep armies aside with but a wave of their hands, but there is so much more to the Gift than that! This is why we’re going to start with empathy, the perception and understanding of another’s thoughts and feelings.”

Akira, David, and Rafi were made to sit on the ground, facing one another. Then Zeil told everyone to close their eyes.

“You must listen.” He said. “Open your minds to the outside as though you were opening the front door of your own home.”

The trio sat in the training field for so long that Akira started to wonder if she was going to get a suntan. As soon as she had this thought, an idea drifted through the forefront of her mind, suggesting that Rafi would find Akira to be attractive if she was tanned.

Wait a minute! Akira felt a rush as she realized that this final thought wasn’t her own. She didn’t actually read Rafi’s mind. She’d picked up a subconscious impulse. Rafi himself wasn’t fully aware of it. Excited, Akira reached out mentally and picked up even more. She could sense a layer of insecurities around David, and a growing bubble of joy within Zeil, who was fully aware of the fact that Akira was very quickly mastering this basic technique.

Akira could sense Zeil’s pride in her, Rafi’s affection for her, and even a hint of respect from David. All in all, she couldn’t be happier.



As the days went on, Akira fell into a rhythm. Each morning, she and David would join Zeil and sometimes Rafi on the training grounds. On average, it took Akira five days to learn and master a new technique. Just as Zeil predicted, Akira seemed to have a knack for telekinesis. It wasn’t long before Akira was casually moving things around with sheer willpower alone, and after two weeks, Akira felt ready to try some more advanced Psionics.

And she wasn’t just learning new things in class. In the afternoons and evenings, Akira would hang out with David and Rafi in town, where Rafi taught them how to empathically read emotions and how to notice when someone was wearing a Mindshield. While David would often strike out on his own after a while, Akira and Rafi would spend the evenings together. Sometimes they would part ways late at night, other times the sunrise would find them both in the same house.

One morning, Akira showed up to class full of energy and excitement. She had learned to do something she thought was very cool, and couldn’t wait to show off. Zeil sensed Akira’s excitement when she arrived and quickly put his own lesson plan on hold.

“Alright, young lady.” The Hybrid said. “Why don’t you demonstrate your new skill for us?”

Akira asked the trio to follow her to the edge of the training ground, where a gentle and shallow stream of water widened into a pool. The pond was small, no more than twenty feet across, and in the early morning, the water was calm and flat. Akira pointed to the pond and said:

“I was watching TV last night and there was a movie from the Old World. Some Chinese martial arts masters were having an epic battle. They flew through the air, leapt between trees, and walked on water, all while they were fighting. So I decided I wanted to try it for myself, and I realized I can use Telekinesis to do… well… just watch!”

As she turned around, Akira could sense apprehension coming from David, while Zeil and Rafi seemed to know what she was about to attempt and silently wished her luck. Facing the pond, Akira concentrated all of her telekinetic energies into a space roughly six feet in front of her. Akira took a deep breath and broke into a run.

Akira hit the water at a brisk pace. Her foot sank about half an inch into the water before hitting something solid. She didn’t pause to think about the fact that this pond was roughly two feet deep. Instead, she continued commanding the water to support her own weight. Stepping lightly, Akira sprinted across the water, never so much as getting her ankles wet. At the water’s edge, she leapt into the air and, with precise application of telekinesis, ran straight up the side of a large tree before coming to rest on a branch about thirty feet off the ground. David and Rafi burst into applause. Zeil smiled so much that his large alien eyes seemed to light up.

“Well done, Akira!” Zeil congratulated her. “It’s been a long time since I saw somebody master Telekinesis as you’ve done. Tell me, in all of your experimenting, did you ever discover your own unique power?”

“Uh... well, no.”

By this point, Akira knew all about unique powers. Every Gifted person had that one thing they could do with Psionics without fear of being copied or replicated. And Zeil wasn’t taking a shot in the dark here. Akira had also expected her unique power to be based in Telekinesis because that was what she was good at. Rafi folded his arms and said:

“Well, perhaps we should consider the fact that Akira’s unique power is a combat ability.” Then he spoke directly to Akira. “Have you ever been in a fight?”

“No.” Akira let go of her tree branch and floated gently to the ground. Then she walked across the pond again to rejoin her friends. “I’ve never hurt anyone before.”

Zeil put a reassuring hand on Akira’s shoulder.

“I know what you’re thinking.” He said. “You believe that if your unique power is indeed meant for fighting, then you won’t want to learn it. I applaud your idea. This is a peaceful island, after all. But listen to me, if your special power is indeed one meant for violence or destruction, we cannot have you discover it by accident or happenstance where some innocent may get hurt. Bakir, Sepulveda, go back into town for now. Robinson, follow me.”

And then, Zeil jumped into the air, leaping from treetop to treetop in exactly the same way Akira had just seen in last night’s movie. Hearth thudding with excitement, Akira launched herself into the forest, following Zeil to the west. Right away, Akira realized that Zeil was moving with incredible speed, and she could also see a short distance into his mind. Zeil had an ulterior motive. He was testing Akira, right now. He wanted to know just how much she had mastered Telekinesis.

Well, Akira felt up to the challenge.

Zeil broadened his stride, leaping and bounding across the jungle canopy at high speed. Akira used her own powers, not just to continue jumping from treetop to treetop, but to give herself a push as well. Soon, she was sailing hundreds of feet through the air with each bound. The teacher and student rounded the southern slopes of Kauaikini as Akira called out:

“Where are we going?”

Zeil replied with telepathy. Akira saw in her mind’s eye an island, not too far from here. The security troops who guarded Kauai used it as a training ground. Today was Sunday, and this nearby island was deserted.

Akira suddenly jolted back to reality as the ground beneath her feet suddenly vanished! Zeil and Akira had shot straight off the westernmost tip of Kauai and were now over the Pacific Ocean itself. In the distance, about sixteen or seventeen miles away, Akira could see the shores of another island. Zeil’s voice filled Akira’s mind:

Here is the next stage of your test! Both our island and the next one have Psionic protection from the elements and clean air that is not toxic like the air of the outside world. But, there is a space, a corridor between these islands, where neither of those protections exist. You must divide your attentions! Follow me to safety, and at the same time, guard your mind and body from the outside world. Now follow!

Zeil hit the choppy waters of the Pacific at a run, jogging across the sea as though the water was nothing more than a sand dune. A moment later, Akira joined him. She ran up the sides of great crashing waves, raced between valleys of torrential water, and jumped across roiling chasms of foam. Surrounded with the Psionic energy that made all of this possible, Akira lost herself in euphoria. This was wonderful, this was incredible!

Then, she crossed some invisible boundary, and it was like stepping into a completely different world. Everything changed, and for the worse. Suddenly, the air became so hot that the sweat on Akira’s face and arms evaporated instantly, and her skin started to burn within seconds. Akira panicked, acting on the very first thought that came into her mind. All of her telekinetic efforts stopped, and she leapt from the crest of a wave, diving headfirst into the ocean below.

The shock of hitting cool water nearly paralyzed Akira, and the pain of her near-instantaneous sunburn reverberated throughout her body, making her convulse. After a moment, she got her bearings again and surfaced. The extreme heat above the water’s surface seemed to press down on Akira, forcing her head down below the waterline again. She took a deep breath and submerged.

Hanging there beneath the surface, a new reason to panic hit Akira like a wall of water. She’d lost track of Zeil! How was she supposed to find her way to the other island, or back to Kauai for that matter? She was lost in the Pacific, trapped beneath the surface by the oppressive heat above. The more Akira thought about her situation, the more she freaked out as she realized just how screwed she was.

Relax Akira. Zeil’s voice drifted through the forefront of her mind. Fear and panic will get you nowhere. You have the rest of your life to solve this problem. Take a moment to think.

A pulse of anger rippled through Akira. She was probably going to drown and now she had Zeil’s telepathic taunting to put up with!

Rest of my life, yeah, all two minutes of it. Akira thought to herself.

That was when an idea came to her. In fact, it was such a powerful train of thought that Akira opened up her mouth to gasp, only to take in a mouthful of seawater. Coughing and spluttering, Akira sprang to the surface. She only kept her head above water long enough to refill her lungs before diving again, cursing herself for not thinking of this sooner. Telekinesis worked above the water, didn’t it? Why shouldn’t it work below?

Reaching out with her mind, Akira found Zeil’s consciousness. It was far away and getting farther still, but she knew where it was relative to her own. Akira started to kick her feet and propel herself in the right direction. Then she applied the smallest bit of Telekinesis.



About two hundred yards ahead, Zeil was still above the surface, running on the waves. A Psionic shield over his head was making a near-constant pinging noise, like raindrops falling on metal, as it protected him from the sun’s harmful radiation. The Human-alien Hybrid looked over his shoulder just long enough to see a Human shape rocketing through the water like a torpedo. He laughed out loud as Akira breached the surface in a dolphin-ish way, taking a short breath before retreating beneath the waves again. It wasn’t the solution he was expecting, but he was still very impressed.



Finally, they reached their destination. Akira felt a great sense of relief as she and Zeil came under the protective umbrella of the Psionically-enhanced Sweet Air once more. The new island, meanwhile, was a different sort of place from the one Akira had just left. Kauai was rocky and mountainous, whereas this place contained many gentle sloping hills. The ground, as far as the eye could see, was pockmarked with craters and trenches.

“What happened here?” Akira asked, looking around the blasted shoreline. “Looks like there was a battle.”

“There may as well have been.” Zeil admitted. “Like I said. This is where the security forces come to train, but we have the island to ourselves today. This place is called Ni’ihau.”

Akira shook the seawater out of her shoes and looked around.

“Ni’ihau?” She repeated.

“Before the war, this island was the final refuge of the native Hawaiians.” Zeil explained. “Now that they’re gone, it’s a firing range. Look up there.”

Zeil pointed to a distant grove of trees.

“We want to discover your special power.” He said. “Therefore, we need to keep things simple and give you the chance to experiment. Akira, do you see that forest on the hill? I want you to destroy it by whatever means you can muster.”

Akira’s jaw dropped. She was struggling to comprehend the magnitude of Zeil’s request.

“Wait a minute, destroy it?”

“Correct.” Zeil said. “Wipe it out. Burn it, vaporize it. Use your Gift to make it cease to be. If your unique power is combat-oriented, as we think it is, then we should discover it here.”

Akira looked away from Zeil’s gigantic eyes and towards the distant forest. Destroy it, huh?

“It’s just a clump of trees, right?” Akira asked. “Nobody’s in there?”

“No one at all.” Zeil reassured her. “But if it helps, try to imagine one of your abusers in there. One of the monsters we saved you from.”

Akira took a deep breath and refocused on the distant treeline. She had no idea how she was supposed to destroy a whole forest, but she might as well start with what she knew. First, Akira held up her dominant hand and closed her fist, all the while focusing her gaze on a very tall-looking tree.

Even though she was over a mile away from her target, Telekinetic energies moved at the speed of light. Akira mentally seized hold of the tallest tree and tore it out of the ground by the roots. With sheer force of will, Akira threw the tree some fifty feet, where it crashed into the hillside with tremendous violence.

Akira scowled, disappointed with herself. Tearing up trees one at a time was definitely not what Zeil had in mind. She looked over her shoulder to see that her teacher was giving her an expression that was very difficult to read. Zeil’s mind was also closed off, so she had no idea what he was thinking. Looking back towards her objective, Akira decided to try something else. Taking Zeil’s advice, Akira tried to imagine someone from her old life underneath those distant trees…

What if it was Blake?

Akira tried to picture her “father” standing beneath that distant grove. The man who’d kept her in that hellhole of a village in Kansas; the man who only paid attention to her when it suited his own interests. The man who never really cared for Akira. What would she do if he was out there?

She would tear him apart.

Akira knew what she wanted to do, but she’d never attempted it. Zeil had never taught her how to do it, either. But she did understand the theory. Akira closed her eyes and pressed both of her hands to the side of her head, just as she did whenever using Telekinesis to move something big and heavy. Focusing all of her energies on the distant treeline, Akira could sense all of the energy produced and spent by the living flora. The whole environment was laid out before her, distant yet tangible. She reached out with her right hand and grabbed a fistful of the air in front of her. Telekinetically, she seized the very fabric of the world and tore it with all her mental strength.

Before she opened her eyes, Akira knew it had worked. A loud, chaotic roar filled the air as Zeil cheered:

“A Void Rift! Impressive.”

The scene was very different when Akira opened her eyes. A swirling, roiling, angry vortex was tearing the forested hilltop to shreds. Her jaw dropped at the sight before her. The Void Rift is a highly destructive tear in the fabric of reality. Akira had just torn a small hole in the Universe itself. Trees were shredded, sending splinters and sawdust in all directions while dirt and leaves tumbled through the air. Akira put her hands to her mouth and gasped:

“Did I really do that!?”

“You did.” Zeil said, gesturing to the destruction.

After a moment, the Void Rift expired. As the Psionic Storm died down, Zeil turned to Akira and said:

“Again.”

Akira stared at him, dumbfounded.

“I can still see plenty of trees up there.” Zeil told her. “Wipe them all out at once. I know you can.”

Akira wrung out her hands, getting ready to try again. Now that she understood how to make a Void Rift, she decided to add her own twist to the concept. After all, they were here to experiment, weren’t they?

So Akira went through the same moves, preparing to open another Void Rift. But this time, she decided to try something different. She was used to her perceptions of the distant world now, and she could feel exactly how her Void Rift had damaged the area. But now she wondered, could she do more than just tearing a hole in the fabric of reality? Perhaps she could destroy the fabric itself? That might satisfy Zeil.

Akira opened her right hand, reached forward and then pulled backwards. In perfect concert with that movement, Akira focused all of her telekinetic powers on a single spot. Destroy, not tear. Destroy, not tear. Destroy.

A tiny sphere of darkness appeared in the air in front of Akira. Despite its small size, it pulled everything in the area inexorably towards itself, like a miniscule black hole. Instinctively, Akira knew that she could not keep this thing anywhere near herself, so she pushed against the dark orb with all of her willpower and sent it flying away, towards the now doomed forest.

As for what happened next, Akira wasn’t too sure. Only a moment after she summoned the dark orb, Akira felt an overwhelming sensation of fatigue and exhaustion wash over her body. Suddenly, and without warning, Akira was completely and totally spent. Akira tried to remain standing, to keep her eyes open, but she no longer had the strength to do either. She fell backwards, and was only vaguely aware of hitting the ground.

All around her, Akira could hear a terrible crashing sound, accompanied by racing wind, rushing water, and Zeil’s excited yelling. Slipping into an out of consciousness, Akira tried to speak, to scream, but the effort alone caused her to pass out.


 
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Macavity116

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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number Two, the conclusion


AFTER ACTION REPORT: Assisted Shipbreaking and repair, Karos Graveyard
  • Primary Objective:
    • Retrofit the UNS Niagara
  • Secondary Objective:
    • none

Operation date: July 11, 2084
Location: Junkyard Office, Karos Graveyard, Hiigaran Empire
Mission Type: Shipbreaking

Mission Debrief – Deputy Squad Leader Maui Ririnui

Varian is occupied with other matters, so I will file away this report. I am Maui Ririnui, shipbreaker. Partogan.

We have spent the past two days in the Karos Graveyard, where I’ve enacted my plan to retrofit the UNS Niagara and make it capable of carrying us on our mission. This is a summation of my work.

The Battlemaster-class gunship is an older design, having first entered service in the final months of the Second Hyperspace War some forty-eight years ago. The Niagara was built at Port Armstrong and commissioned into the UN Navy just a few weeks before the end of the war. She saw battle at Neptune and the Moon, and it shows. The outer hull of the spaceplane may have been repaired and repainted, but the chassis is very badly battered and in need of some upgrades. The wings have sustained damage to their fuel tanks, halving the ship’s overall range. This wasn’t a problem to the UN since Niagara was relegated to the role of training vessel. For us, this is a serious issue.

Before I could upgrade the vessel, I needed to fully repair all of the war-era damage. To do this, I reprogrammed the Niagara’s transporter to broadcast a Progenitor comm signal. The same signal used by the Hiigarans to hijack Progenitor Movers when they fought the Vaygr for control of the Graveyard a century ago. The automated guardians of this place were made to believe that Niagara was one of theirs, and that it was in need of rescue and repair.

I left the others behind and took over the Niagara, backing the ship out of its docking sleeve and setting her adrift in the Graveyard. Soon, Progenitor Movers and the Junkyard Dog grappled onto the Niagara and set about their work. I donned my spacesuit in advance and exited the ship. Using my personal flight pack, I stayed nearby and watched. As I expected, the Movers quickly found and identified all of the structural faults and stresses caused by battle damage. Then the Junkyard Dog used its jaws to tear away the corresponding sections of hull. Movers latched onto the dorsal and ventral sides of Niagara’s fuselage and used a Phased Disassembler Array to dismantle damaged components on-site. The PDA was then reversed and used to install Progenitor equivalent devices in their place. By the time the Progenitor ships were finished, the Niagara was a very different ship. As soon as our vessel was left alone, I re-boarded and flew her back to the Junkyard Office.

Upon my return, I set about installing technologies I salvaged from the Progenitor warship that now serves as the Junkyard Office. I also built a few technologies of my own that should serve us well. Once the rebuild was finished, the Niagara was so radically different from her 2036 incarnation that it would be an insult to infer that she is the same vessel.

I’m sure my companions would love to leave their own thoughts on the retrofit, but they will do so separately from this account. This report is for facts, not opinions.

The new Niagara is no longer a Battlemaster-class gunship, yet continues to be a spaceplane, owing to the fact that the general shape of the Corvette Chassis has been preserved by the Progenitors, in spite of many modifications. First and foremost, the ship is now outfitted with several Progenitor technologies. Niagara now has a primary sensor range of five-thousand kilometers and a secondary sensor range of nine-thousand kilometers. The ship’s armor has been heavily reinforced with Progenitor radiation shielding. Niagara can now travel to radioactive regions of space without fear of harming the crew.

Additionally, the Niagara has undergone a serious change in dimensions. The spaceplane has doubled in size, increasing the length of the fuselage from 30 meters to 60. The ship is now 16 meters tall instead of 8, and has a wingspan of 42 meters instead of 21. Her sublight engines, powerplant, and Hyperspace module have all been augmented with Progenitor technology and are performing well beyond previous normal levels. The Niagara was previously rated for Hyperspace Jumps up to 40,000 kilometers. Now she has a maximum jump range of 150 light-years.

Furthermore, all of the Niagara’s weapons have been replaced with Progenitor armaments. The Mass Driver turrets were reconfigured into Pulsar Beam Weapons, a lightweight cousin of the devastating Ion Cannon. The missile pylons have been removed entirely, as have the wing-mounted fuel tanks.

These systems have been replaced with the Niagara’s new secret weapon, a retractable holographic emitter array. While ship-based hologram technology has existed for the past century, it never saw widespread military use beyond the Turanic Raiders and a few of the Hiigaran Kiith. We can take advantage of this. The Niagara will trade off her speed and raw firepower in favor of much better armor, precision weapons, and the ability to disguise herself as anything the size of a frigate or corvette.

The UNS Niagara herself will no longer be referred to as a Corvette, nor as a gunship.

From here on out, the Niagara is a Stealth Frigate.

MR.


This is the end of Issue Number Two of Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox.



 
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volksmarschall

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Another Macavity AAR. Looks like I'll have to add this to my summer reading list!

Cheers as always mate!
 
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Chapter 7: Wrath of the Blue Dragon

Macavity116

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Chapter 7
Wrath of the Blue Dragon


When Akira woke up, she felt very groggy, as though she’d slept for over twelve hours and still felt tired. A dull aching and soreness seemed to reverberate throughout every bone in her body, and it took a tremendous effort just to sit up and open her eyes. She wished she hadn’t.

Akira was laying on the rocky beach at Mānā Point, on Kauai Island, directly across from Ni’ihau Island. The early morning sun was gone, obscured behind a dense layer of white clouds that seemed to roll across the sky as though they needed to go somewhere in a hurry. A little ways down the shoreline, six men and women were gathered together, all focusing their attention on the western horizon. The newcomers were wearing the heavy black coats used by the island’s Security Forces. Akira followed their gaze and saw something absolutely horrid.

The island of Ni’ihau was gone. In its place, a cyclone, wider and taller than Akira could comprehend, roared and raged across the ocean. It was like someone had taken all the destructive energies of a hurricane and compressed them all into one place. Chunks of land sailed through the air while a steady rain of rocks stirred up the ocean until it was frothing from the chaos above.

Among the six people on the shoreline, Zeil stood out as the only non-Human. He gestured to the nightmarish scene and told the others:

“As soon as she passed out, it began to grow out of control. We must seal the Rift now or we’ll be next!”

The other five people nodded and pulled a series of strange devices from their coats. Akira gasped and quickly tried to stand up as she realized these people were brandishing Psionic Amplifiers. Zeil pulled out one of his own. A swirling orb of purple light illuminated the empty space between the prongs of his amplifier, and then Zeil pointed it towards the maelstrom.

“On my mark!” Zeil shouted as the others followed suit. “Three, two, one, mark!”

The group of six aimed their amplifiers towards the raging storm. Each amplifier emitted such a powerful light that Akira had to shield her eyes. She couldn’t see what they were doing to the maelstrom, but she could feel it. The air around her suddenly got very hot, and there was a great rushing as though a powerful wind was racing from east to west.

“Almost there!” A man’s voice called out above the crashing noise of wind and waves. “A little more, just a little more!”

The terrible vortex heaved as though it might leap out of the sea and slam into Kauai. But then, with a final rumbling sigh, the maelstrom dissipated. The winds fell silent and the sea calmed, if only for a moment. As the chaos began to subside, all of the seawater, wreckage, and debris from the island of Ni’ihau started falling back to the ground. Akira, Zeil, and the others suddenly found themselves caught in a heavy downpour of rain, accompanied by loud slapping sounds, caused by clods of dirt and rock falling from the sky.

Zeil pointed his amplifier to the sky and raised a telekinetic shield above himself and the others. Akira put her hands over her head and ran underneath the invisible protection as well. As the group huddled together, someone finally acknowledged Akira’s presence.

“This is her?” A man’s voice said above the noise. “This is the girl who did it?”

Akira wrapped her arms around herself and looked down. Now that the immediate danger had passed, she was starting to remember and realized the full nature of what she’d just done. A quick glance out to sea confirmed everything. Where there should have been a neighboring island, there was now nothing but ocean.

A creeping sense of dread came over Akira. She was going to be in so much trouble! She’d just sunk a whole island to the bottom of the sea. What was Zeil going to say? Would they kick her out of the community, force her to live in the outside world again? Akira seemed to be filling up with fear and anxiety, at least she was until one of the security guys put his hand on Akira’s shoulder and said:

“I’m impressed, girl. Hat’s off to you.”

Another man added,

“I like your spark kid. You got talent.”

One by one, all of the security guys complimented Akira on her Gift. Confused, she looked at Zeil, who smiled and said:

“I know what you’re thinking, Akira. You’re not going to get in trouble for sinking that island.”

“But… but,” Akira started to protest, but Zeil cut her off.

“We wanted to know what your unique power was, and now we know. Young girl, you have the potential to destroy all that lays before you. And you have every right to be scared of that power, as I feel you are now.”

The hybrid put a reassuring hand on Akira’s arm and continued:

“But that is why we brought you here, to Kauai and our community. So that you may learn to harness and control that great power, and then to use it for the benefit of your friends and neighbors, and the community as a whole.”

As the rain of water and debris finally came to a stop, a rainbow appeared in the western skies, opposite the morning sun.

“But how can I do any of that?” she asked



Much later, Rafi heard a loud knocking on his door. The sun had just gone down, and he still hadn’t heard anything about Akira or Zeil following the abrupt destruction of Ni’ihau Island. Like the other inhabitants of Kauai, Rafi had been told that he needed to go home and wait for tomorrow morning. So he was quite surprised that anyone would break curfew to visit his little bungalow.

Opening the door, Rafi was stunned for a moment by the sight of the person on his doorstep. It was Akira, but she looked very different from when Rafi had seen her last. She was wearing the uniform of the island security team. A gleaming silver badge adorned her chest, and two weapons hung from her belt: a stun baton and a Psionic Amplifier. Akira was full of smiles and joy as she told Rafi the story of her adventure with Zeil and its aftermath.

“I’m officially part of the Security Team now.” Akira explained. “I’ve got a badge and everything. They said my powers were perfect for keeping all of us safe! Isn’t this great!”

Rafi pulled Akira into his house and embraced her in a warm and loving hug.

“I’m so happy for you!” Rafi declared. “Congratulations, you’ve really come into your own destiny, Akira.”

Akira couldn’t help but return the affection.

“I never would have got away from Kansas without you, Rafi. I owe you everything.” She told him.

“I’m glad I found you there.” He said. “You’ve brightened my life.”

The two stopped talking. Both teens had the Gift. They could read one another’s minds as though they were skimming the pages of a book. At a single glance, a flicker of eye movement, they understood how each felt for the other. Akira felt a wave of emotions crashing over her soul, and not all of them were her own.

There was no need to say the words aloud, the young lovers understood one another perfectly, and as the night went on, no further words were spoken; even though the two did not fall asleep until well past midnight.



The next morning, Akira reported for duty looking disheveled, her clothes and hair rumpled up and unkempt, but she was still full of energy and ready to do her duty for the community. The Kauai Security Force was based out of the airport near Lihue, and had a twofold mission as Akira found out.

“Protecting the island is only half of our work.” Said the Commandant, a big man named Wolfe. “There are some materials and consumable resources our people need to survive that don’t occur naturally here. It’s also our job to acquire those things as necessary.”

“How?” Akira asked.



In reply, one of the Security agents guided Akira to a nearby locker where a suit of power armor was waiting for her.

“The people of the outside world don’t understand the perfect world we’ve built.” Wolfe explained. “They are afraid of us, so they push us away, sometimes with force. A few have even tried to destroy our community, so now we take special actions to both defend ourselves and keep our would-be enemies as weak as possible. Don the armor and follow us.”

Akira did as she was told. The power armor was heavy, but once it was on, Akira felt the internal motors, hydraulics, and pneumatics go to work immediately. The suit not only protected Akira from the elements and weapons, but it gave her increased strength and endurance. It was technology straight out of the Second Hyperspace War. Next, she donned a helmet that completely sealed her suit, giving Akira a constant supply of cool Sweet Air.

“The air of the outside world isn’t treated like it is here.” Wolfe said. “To keep our heads clear, we always take some of Kauai’s air with us. Now, this may be a live mission for us, but for you it is training. Stay close to me and observe very closely.”



Akira’s first mission was unremarkable, but that was by design. Late that night, after the sun went down, she boarded a transport helicopter with eleven other Security Force members, including Wolfe. The helicopter took off and flew out into the Pacific Ocean for a couple of hours before crossing paths with a large cargo ship. The vessel was moving through the sea at a constant pace, its lights the only illumination in the endless ocean besides the moon and stars.

Because it was dark out, the crew of the ship didn’t realize a helicopter was approaching until it was far too late. Rappelling ropes fell from the sides of the chopper and Akira followed her compatriots down to the deck of the ship. At Wolfe’s command, Psionic Amplifiers were drawn and the team got to work.

Akira was quite grateful she was only expected to watch and learn, because she was left dumbfounded by the way the ships’ crew was incapacitated. Not a single person was harmed, let alone killed. Wolfe’s team had landed near the ships’ bridge, and in mere seconds, the Captain and nine of his subordinates were placed under Mind Control. Those who remained weren’t mentally strong enough to resist the next wave of telepathic attacks. Wolfe put any non-essential crew member into a deep, dreamless sleep, while the other members of the team quickly fanned out across the ship, incapacitating anybody they found.

After just ten minutes, the cargo ship was under the control of Wolfe’s team, and not a single drop of blood was spilled. The entire crew was subdued beneath an overpowering telepathic field, too impaired to do anything else but stand at their posts and carry out whatever tasks the hijackers demanded of them. It was as though Wolfe had transformed everyone aboard the vessel into mindless, obedient zombies.

The action was over in a matter of minutes, and all twelve members of the Security team settled in for the trip back to Kauai with their stolen ship. Akira stayed with Wolfe on the bridge, watching as he manipulated the crew into turning the ship towards Kauai Island.

“I don’t understand.” Akira said. “Why not just kill these people? You said they might be dangerous to the island, or they might be our enemies, right?”

“Once they stop being a threat, there’s no point in hurting them anymore.” Wolfe explained. “Besides, they can be brought around. Each person here will go through the same experience as you, Akira. They will breathe the Sweet Air and experience the perfection of our island. Eventually, they’ll find a way to contribute to the community and become a part of it. Everybody can be made to understand perfection, and once they do, they’ll want to join our Utopia. And we will take them in.”



The trip back to Kauai was much longer than the flight to the ship. To pass the time, Wolfe, Akira, and the rest of the team took inventory of the cargo in the hold. It was a mixed array of food, construction materials, and household appliances. Wolfe declared it wasn’t the best haul of the day, but that scrapping the ship for parts would yield additional rewards as well.

The stolen vessel docked in Nawiliwili Harbor, just south of Wailua and Lihue, and the Security Force’s job was pretty much done. Wolfe dismissed the group and told everyone to report back to the airport later that evening. Akira had just barely disembarked when Rafi swept her off her feet. It was a very happy reunion on the shore. While cargo was being unloaded and the crew passed off into the care of Sally Ann, Rafi and Akira got to spend a little time alone on the nearby Kalapaki Beach. They kissed and took in the morning sun together. Rafi complimented Akira’s power armor and said it looked good on her, and she lost herself in a fit of giggling.

In that moment, Akira realized just how happy she was. Since coming to Kauai, she had found her own Gift and started learning to harness and control it. She had a cool new job that suited her powers, and she had a boyfriend who adored her and celebrated her accomplishments. Akira knew that right now was the happiest, most joyful and satisfying moment of her entire life. Could things get better than they were right now?

Maybe she would get married to Rafi. Akira Bakir sounded like a nice name.

Perhaps she would someday become the Commandant of the Security Forces. Why not? Zeil and Wolfe had acknowledged her potential.

Or perhaps she could join Rafi on his own missions, finding Gifted people and bringing them back to the safety of Kauai?

No matter how her life ended up going from here, Akira knew that she never wanted to leave the beautiful, perfect world that was that of Kauai Island and the people who lived there.

Akira was pulled out of her wistful daydream when Rafi looked up into the morning sky and said:

“Hey, what’s that sound?”

He pointed up. In the middle of the blue sky, two black dots were flying side-by-side, accompanied by a high pitched whistling sound that grew louder and louder with each passing second, louder and louder, until all of a sudden… there was silence.

It lasted only for a moment.

A terribly loud CRACK rent the air, followed by a huge rushing noise and a furious hot wind. Leaves were blown from the trees and sand flew up into the air. Then, an orange glow caught Akira’s attention, and she screamed.

“The mountain!”

In the distance, along the horizon, smoke and flames were rising from the summit of Kawaikini, while a third black shape flew in ominous circles above Lihue Airport. White streaks of light launched from the shape and raced to the ground, where there were even more blasts, fires, and smoke.

“What’s happening!?” Akira gasped.

“I, I think we’re under attack!” Rafi breathed.

He was right. The trio of fast-moving shapes finally drew close enough to resolve themselves into recognizable shapes. Akira felt her heart sink as she recognized them.

A squadron of Battlemaster-class Gunships were circling lower and lower, firing their weapons into the island as they went. Missiles and mass driver rounds rained down on Kauai, slamming into the Sweet Air dispenser at Kawaikini, smashing into the Security Force building at Lihue, and leveling the community leadership’s office building in downtown Wailua.

Akira and Rafi sprang to their feet and ran back to the harbor, where Wolfe and several members of the Security Force were hastily trying to regroup.

“I don’t understand!” One of the Security guys was saying. “How did they get through the Psionic shield!?”

“No time to wonder about that.” Wolfe replied. “Everyone fan out, get the residents to safety, and if those invaders come down here, use lethals! Bakir! Robinson! Stay with me, and put your heads down!”

At that moment, one of the Battlemasters sailed low over their heads, just above the treetops. Akira looked up just in time to see the words JSDF Ark Angel painted on the underside of its wings. Where had she seen that name before?

“Something fell out of it!” Wolfe shouted. “It’s in the trees just ahead.”

On the far side of the harbor, the sound of grinding metal and servomotors was louder than the distant explosions. Akira’s memory was jarred at once, and she raised her voice.

“Android! It’s an android!”

Wolfe’s eyes went wide.

“Everyone, find cover!”

But it was too late. A hulking mass of metal lunged forward out of the nearby grove of trees. The android stood nearly seven feet tall and carried a machine gun that was roughly the same size as Akira herself. Its armor plating looked to be almost four centimeters thick, and the android’s feet were sinking into the sand.

The machine looked around at the gathered Security team and then said out loud:

“Ah. Well, so much for my little stealth adventure.”

“Soulfire!” Wolfe shouted to his teammates. “Now!”

Akira and Rafi watched in amazement as Wolfe and his team raised their Amplifiers and fired jets of brilliant blue and purple fire towards the android, which tilted its head to one side and quite literally shrugged off the inferno of supernatural fire.

“You do realize I’m a robot, right?” the android spoke in a very calm, nonchalant voice. “Anyway, Corporal Tachibana, this is Julian here. I’d like to request a kill order on the ten people presently shooting at me.”

A woman’s voice, quiet but still audible, replied.

“Waste ‘em.”

Julian the android raised its machine gun in one hand and said:

“Oh, yes. I’ve always wanted to do this… MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE!”

Akira screamed and recoiled backwards as Julian tore into the Security team. The sound of his machine gun was like thunder. Men and women screamed as they were cut down by the first onslaught, but Wolfe and a few others survived by conjuring a telekinetic shield. Akira and Rafi threw themselves to the ground and took cover behind a shipping container, looking around just in time to see Wolfe’s last stand.

Julian emptied his colossal magazine into Wolfe’s shield, while grumbling:

“Please stand in front of the projectile, Human. You’re making this harder than it needs to be.”

Wolfe used telekinesis to reflect all of Julian’s weapon fire and send it back the way it came. The android was peppered with its own bullets and took a step back.

“I cannot believe I’m saying this.” Julian growled. “But I believe you are actually starting to piss me off. The sensation is quite pleasing, thank you. You are all still going to die, of course.”

Then Julian threw aside his machine gun and ran full tilt towards the remaining Security team. Before anybody could do anything, Julian raised one metal fist and brought it crashing down on Wolfe’s head. The security chief was killed instantly and Akira screamed in horror!

The android paused in its attack and looked in her direction. The robot’s optical sensors made contact with Akira’s eyes.

“Julian to Tachibana. I have eyes on your daughter. Repeat: Contact with HVI.”

Rafi grabbed Akira by the shoulders and pushed her away from the scene.

“Run!” He cried out. “Get outta here!”

A thunderous stomping sound told Akira that Julian was giving chase, and that he was gaining on her in a hurry. Behind her, the sounds of screaming and gunfire and explosions only got louder and louder.

“Little girl, don’t run away from me!” Julian called to Akira. “I may be as fast as a gazelle but that doesn’t mean I’m graceful like one!”

Akira darted around containers and machinery as she fled through the heart of the shipyard. She had no idea where she was going, only that there was a massive robot chasing her. She pulled out her Psionic Amplifier and tried to launch Soulfire against Julian, but all she could do was send sparks flying backwards towards the oncoming machine. Julian ignored this attack outright and sprang forward, grabbing Akira’s arm with one metal hand. She screamed and writhed and squirmed, trying to break free of Julian’s grip, but the android held her fast and said:

“Akira Jaqueline Robinson. You are being rescued. Resistance is useless.”

Julian grabbed the Psionic Amplifier and crushed it in one hand, then he grabbed Akira around the middle and lifted her into the air. Kicking and screaming, Akira was carried back the way Julian had come.



The scene was one of devastation. The harbor was wrecked, and the stolen cargo ship was on fire. Burned out and smoldering vehicles littered the road to Lihue. Bodies and blood were all over the place, and as Julian dragged Akira onto the scene, several people shouted her name at once.

The heavily armed intruders glared at Rafi and Sally Ann. The two people who meant so much to Akira were kneeling on the pavement, their wrists tied behind their backs. Akira struggled even harder against the massive android and screamed at the men and women who carried guns.

“Please, leave them alone! They’re my friends!”

Two of the armed intruders stepped forward. Like the others, they were both wearing suits of power armor and helmets that obscured their faces. The warriors looked at one another for a moment before pulling their helmets off and revealing themselves.

Akira took a step back as Christopher Wright and Inez Vasquez looked at her with a mournful expression.

“La niña, don’t you remember?” Inez said. “We’re you’re friends.”

Chris looked over his shoulder and yelled at someone in the distance.

“She’s over here, she safe!”

Three more of the armored soldiers broke away from the group and approached. Blake Robinson, his wife Chihiro, and their eldest son Alexander cheered at the sight of Akira. Chihiro dropped her rifle on the ground and wrapped her arms around Akira in a motherly embrace. Julian finally relinquished Akira into the hold of her parents.

Akira felt a building wave of fear and panic inside herself, and she pushed, struggled, and strained to get away from her old family. Whatever joyful reunion the Robinsons were trying to initiate was cut short when Akira desperately sank her teeth into Chihiro’s hand. Akira’s mother screamed and let go, giving just enough time for Akira to run back to Rafi and throw her arms around him.

“Rafi, are you okay?” She asked. “What’s happening? What’s going on?”

A pair of hands grabbed Akira by the shoulders and started pulling her away from Rafi.

“Come back here!” Blake roared. “Get away from him!”

Off to Akira’s right, there was a scuffle and three more people, all with their hands tied, were dragged into view. Bernard von Unfal, Klaus Eberhardt, and Sarah Harris all looked frightened and worse for wear. The XCOM soldier who brought them to the scene raised his arm in salute to Blake before saying:

“Their boss got away, sir. And you were right. We found EXALT iconography all over that office as well as the spire on the mountain.”

Blake let out a curse word, then he passed his daughter into the grip of her eldest brother.

Alexander tried to hug and embrace Akira, but she pushed against him, gasping:

“No, let me go back! Let me stay with my friends!”

“Those aren’t your friends, they kidnapped you!” Alex burst out.

The Robinson family looked at Julian. The android shook its head and spoke to the group:

“Stockholm Syndrome. A common psychological paradox that can sometimes affect the victims of kidnapping or sustained abuse.”

These final words had a profound impact on Akira’s parents. Akira herself began struggling and fighting against her brother even harder now. Akira tried to say she did not have Stockholm Syndrome, but her family was now ignoring her. The trio of Robinsons looked down at Rafi, Sally Ann, Bernard, Klaus, and Sarah with extremely dark expressions. Finally, Klaus Eberhardt dared to speak:

“We never harmed the girl! She’s been a welcome member of our community, she’s among friends who love and care for her!”

Blake Robinson looked from Akira to Klaus and back again. Akira flashed a smile at Klaus and whispered:

“Thank you.”

Blake saw this, and the expression on his face became grotesque, as though he had seen something absolutely horrible. Then, in a swift series of movements, Blake unholstered a Gauss pistol and shot Klaus in the head! Blood and bone sprayed through the air while Akira screamed until her throat hurt! Sally Ann and Sarah Harris both burst into tears and started begging for their lives.

“Please, sir!” Sarah sobbed. “Please don’t! We never meant to hurt anyone!”

Blake was seething. His fury was so great that his hands shook as he pointed the pistol between Sarah’s eyes. The young woman recoiled and shrieked:

“Please! Please no! I don’t wanna die!”

Two more gunshots, and Sarah keeled over backwards. This time, Akira didn’t just break free of her family. She managed to turn herself around and punched Alexander in the face. She hit him so hard that one of his teeth fell to the ground, and then Akira ran back to her bloody and battered friends. She throw both arms around Rafi, who was shaking, and held him tightly.

“Stop!” Akira screamed. “Please don’t!”

Blake, Chihiro, Alexander, Inez, and Chris were all staring at Akira as though they had never seen her properly before.

“Get away from him!” Alexander spat through a mouthful of blood.

“No!” Akira cried. “Please, I love him!”

Rafi leaned into Akira and gently kissed her lips.

“I love you.” He whispered. “No matter what happens, remember that.”

Chihiro seized her daughter and forcibly turned her face up.

“Look at me.” Chihiro’s voice wavered. “Look into my eyes.”

The experience was completely different from the first time. Now it was a true, genuine violation. Chihiro’s telepathic assault broke down every mental barrier in Akira’s mind with the force and violence of a conquering army. All of Akira’s most intimate thoughts and memories were forcibly opened and laid bare for her mother to see. There was nowhere in her own mind or soul where Akira was safe from Chihiro’s invasion. Nowhere for her most private memories to be preserved in secrecy. And then, Akira found herself plunged into those memories!

The long nights she had spent alone with Rafi replayed from a new perspective. Chihiro watched, like a silent specter, as all of her daughter’s private encounters with Rafi played out before her. Then, a burning wave of anger and rage seemed to ignite. A wildfire of fury burned a trail of destruction through Akira’s mind as Chihiro withdrew from it.

Screaming from the agony of it all, Akira lost her grip on Rafi and she was pulled away from him by unknown hands. Blake grabbed his wife by the shoulders and said:

“What is it? What did you see?”

Chihiro locked eyes with her husband, and the briefest of telepathic pulses moved between them. Blake’s eyes widened into an expression of horrible understanding, and no more words were spoken. Blake and Chihiro both raised their weapons.

“NO!” Akira screamed. “STOP!!”

Blake raised his pistol and shot Sally Ann in the face, then he finished off Bernard von Unfal. Chihiro, meanwhile, drew the Katana of the Chosen Assassin and held it above her head in both hands. Akira begged her mother to show mercy. In those final seconds, Rafi pledged his love and loyalty to Akira…

And then Chihiro brought the Katana down; with two graphic and bloody strikes, she severed Rafi’s head from his body.

Akira screamed until she couldn’t scream anymore, and then she fought against everyone around her. She had forgotten about the Gift. She forgot that she was short and skinny and fifteen. Akira punched and kicked and bit anyone she could reach. Without a weapon, it was a hopeless fight. The Robinson family and their friends fell upon Akira in one last attempt to subdue her. Their efforts would succeed; but just before the last of her strength left her, Akira raked her fingernails across somebody’s face. She didn’t know who it was, but she felt the warm flow of blood and heard a scream of anguish.

Then, it was over. Too weak to carry on, Akira had no choice but to allow the family she hated so much to carry her away.



 
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Macavity116

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I watched the Prologue and my jaw dropped in Amazement! The Voice, The Narration is better than some who have thousands of views. It is a shame that fewer than twenty had viewed. Bravo, Sir, Bravo!
Many thanks, I wasn't expecting such a response! :)
 
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Watched chapter 1 and a third of way through 2. Besides the great narration, the subtle movements in a basically motionless picture are wonderful!
Thanks, I appreciate it. I've actually been having a lot of second thoughts about using the videogame "Wargame: Red Dragon" for the b-roll footage, so it's good to know it's kinda working out.
 
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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number Three
“The Empire of Evil”



AFTER ACTION REPORT: Operation Banished Stallion
  • Primary Objective:
    • Gather Intelligence
  • Secondary Objective:
    • Locate Akira Robinson

Operation date: July 18, 2084
Location: Terra Nova, Alpha Centauri Star System, United Nations of Earth
Mission Type: Deep Space Reconnaissance

Mission Debrief – Squad Leader Varian Robinson


Okay, so I can’t write a full AAR for this mission because it’s not over and still happening, but we just picked up on something insane and I needed to write it down.

We need to get the word out now!

We’re one day into our first sortie with the new and improved Niagara. We’re supposed to be eavesdropping on Human military communications, but it’s been slow going up until a few hours ago.

We infiltrated Human space using the hologram emitters Maui installed to project the image of an asteroid around the Niagara, and then we burned our engines once and coasted across the UN border into Alpha Centauri. None of the UN warships patrolling the perimeter looked twice at us. Once we were within sensor range of Terra Nova, Ninu and I fired up the comm array and started listening.

It’s kinda hard for me to write an AAR for a mission that basically amounts to the six of us taking turns listening to radio transmissions. We were looking for something very specific, after all. See, we already know Akira Robinson is alive and hiding somewhere in Human space, but tracking her down is going to be difficult since we don’t have a starting point.

Corder works as a bounty hunter for a living, so we turned to her for advice. She suggested we take advantage of the information we already knew: Akira Robinson has, according to our secretive boss, already taken control of several UN agencies. She also has partial control of the military, which means she’s actively commanding Human forces in this suicidal war against the Galaxy. If we can actually catch her giving orders over the radio or the Hyperwave, we’ll know where to start looking.

That’s why we’ve snuck into Alpha Centauri. Jericho Station is home to a huge naval base, and if Akira’s giving orders to anyone, they’ll be routed through the Hyperwave Relay there.

But all of those plans went out the window when we started receiving transmissions and decoding them. All six of us got sick to our stomachs when we found out what was going on.

THERE IS A GENOCIDE HAPPENING IN HUMAN SPACE RIGHT NOW.

I’ll say it again: GENOCIDE.

Ever since this war started a couple of weeks ago, aliens have been fleeing Human space, saying that they were being forced to leave the UN. Well, any alien or hybrid that tried to stay has either been murdered or is about to be. The mass killing is happening on a very large scale and is highly organized. Orders to remove non-Humans are coming directly from UNHQ in Berlin. Any alien or hybrid that resists deportation is killed on the spot. Alien ghettos on Terra Nova and Earth are being burned to the ground.

We’ve heard progress reports from UN military commanders about mass killings in the Megacities on Earth: Versailles, Shanghai, Auckland, Manchester, Cairo. Not even the famous “City 31” in America was spared. It’s a bloodbath on pretty much any Human planet right now. The Volunteer Defense Force seemed to be doing the bulk of the killing, and they are taking orders directly from Scarlett Freeman, who is the current director of the UN Internal Security Office.

I cannot emphasize enough that genocidal killings and displacements are happening inside the United Nations of Earth right now, and that non-Human sentient life is being targeted. This highly organized mass killing was clearly planned out far in advance.

Since arriving over Terra Nova, we have picked up hundreds of radio and Hyperwave broadcasts spreading Human supremacist propaganda. VDF broadcasts have also been telling people where they can acquire military-grade weapons to defend themselves against non-Human aggressors. At least one propaganda station has made reference to a larger war, saying the following quote:

“This is the final war for Humankind. Today is the day the Empire of Man will be born.”

To our unnamed boss, you promised to get us some Partogan allies. We need more than that. We need the whole Galaxy out here as soon as possible.

An Empire of Evil is being built on Earth.

VR.



 
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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number Three, Part 2


XENONIAN NEWS
“The galaxy’s most trusted news source according to 4 out of the 5 arthropods we nerve stapled.”


Today’s headline:


CRUCIAL GALACTIC COUNCIL VOTE TOMORROW!

July 19, 2084 - Delegates from all over the Galaxy are gathering at the Angel Moon, high above Hiigara, to discuss the conduct of the War Against Akira Robinson, a conflict less than one month old that has already galvanized the Galaxy and claimed untold thousands of lives.

At stake tomorrow is the newly created office of Galactic Custodian. It will be the duties of the inaugural officeholder to wield supreme authoritarian and dictatorial powers over the Galactic Community for the sole purpose of seeking out the Human known as Akira Robinson and ending her life by whatever means possible. Once the crisis has ended, the Galactic Custodian will be expected to lay down their powers and vacate the office. The Galactic Custodian will become the commander-in-chief of the newly created Galactic Defense Force, a multinational military force representing the combined firepower of twenty-five spacefaring civilizations.

Tomorrow, the leaders of the Galactic Community will have to choose between three candidates and elevate one of them to the office of the Galactic Custodian.

First is the AI Core of the Micore Empire. It is being supported by Micanawn, Amadiio, Tobaris, Scyldaria, Canaan, and Nubia. Supporters of the AI Core claim that its prior experience in guarding the people of Micanawn would be indispensable when fighting against a genocidal opponent such as Earth.

The second candidate is former President Kessick of the Republic of Kelta. Tomorrow, he can expect to receive votes from Kelta, Hiigara, Kel-Azak, Hiverion, Blorg, Jigoku, Taiidan, and Idae. Kessick’s claim to the office of the Galactic Custodian is based on his extensive history as a diplomat. Many claim he above all is best qualified to command a multinational armada.

The final candidate is Queen Marka of the Partogan-Levakian Commonwealth. Aoraki, New Levakia, Assuria, the Vanian Diaspora, Edom, Frerrn, Gilead, Asshur, Vigoth, Alcogaria, Iyssadae, Havilah, Praku, and all three Vaygr clans have pledged to vote for her. Queen Marka currently commands the largest single military force in the Galaxy: the Triple Alliance, a military bloc founded in the aftermath of the Levakian Uprising nearly one-hundred-fifty years ago. The sheer firepower at Marka’s fingertips makes her uniquely qualified to defend the Galaxy, according to some.

The vote is expected to take place at the end of the day tomorrow, following a marathon twelve-hour session of the Galactic Council where arguments are expected from all sides. The people of the Galaxy await the results with baited breath, knowing that the results of this crucial decision will dictate the conduct of this new and bloody war against a single woman.



 
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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number Three, Part 3


XENONIAN NEWS
“The galaxy’s most trusted news source according to 4 out of the 5 arthropods we nerve stapled.”


Today’s headline:

DEADLOCK! CUSTODIAN ELECTION TO BE DRAWN OUT OVER DAYS, POSSIBLY WEEKS


July 20, 2084 – The 46-member Galactic Council has failed to select a Custodian on the first try. Council parliamentarians indicate additional votes will be held until the office is filled. A simple majority of 23 votes is required for one of the candidates to become Galactic Custodian.

Today’s vote occurred after a twelve-hour session of Galactic Congress in which representatives of every member state gave arguments and stump speeches in favor of their preferred candidate. Only one candidate was present on the Angel Moon today: former Kelt President Kessick. The Micore AI Core is not physically capable of leaving its Homeworld and Partogan Queen Marka is currently commanding an armada in the Great Wastelands.

Political analysts on the Angel Moon say they are not surprised by this turn of events.

“We’re talking about investing a single life-form with supreme dictatorial powers over the entire Galaxy here.” Said Lavir Paktu, ambassador of the Hiigaran Empire. “We’ve got to be really sure that we’re making the right choice… that Jericho is on our side.”

Delegates and ambassadors expect the process to continue for several days, possibly even weeks.

Former President Kessick expressed optimism that a Galactic Custodian will be selected before the end of next week. He thanked all of the gathered delegates for their support and promised to remain on the Angel Moon until the election is concluded. If elected, Kessick will be able to move into the Custodian’s office within minutes.

The AI Core of the Micore Empire had no statement on today’s proceedings, but did reaffirm its claim to the Office of the Galactic Custodian, saying that Micore Custodian protocols would make the AI Core an infallible guardian of the Galaxy.

Queen Marka could not be reached for comment. Her new flagship, the Triple Alliance warship Riri Nui, is currently hunting Human warships and is out of contact with the Galactic Community.

Many sentients we approached for an interview expressed a strong desire for the election to conclude quickly.

“I don’t care who the Custodian turns out to be.” A local Hiigaran told our reporter. “We need one now.”



 
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Just wanted to say Mac that I really appreciate the effort you obviously put into this AAR. The YT video and audio that accompanies add a nice, new, dynamic. I'm sure you enjoy the work, which is why you do it, but as a real life writer -- not just here on these forums -- I know it's always nice to have positive feedback over one's work. So from one writer to another, well done! :)
 
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Macavity116

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Just wanted to say Mac that I really appreciate the effort you obviously put into this AAR. The YT video and audio that accompanies add a nice, new, dynamic. I'm sure you enjoy the work, which is why you do it, but as a real life writer -- not just here on these forums -- I know it's always nice to have positive feedback over one's work. So from one writer to another, well done! :)

Many thanks! Believe it or not, the youtube videos were a last-second addition to the project. One of the soldiers I was serving with earlier this year laid down the challenge, and I accepted not really knowing what it took to make those things. o_O But I'm not overwhelmed yet and I'm still having fun, so I press on.

Finished Chapter 3 Video! For some reason, every time that I see AI Core, I read Al Gore. He did invent the internet!
Thanks so much for watching, and yeah, that's why I always post my stories in Times New Roman, to avoid little mistakes like that.
 
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Macavity116

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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number 3, part 4


XENONIAN NEWS
“The galaxy’s most trusted news source according to 4 out of the 5 arthropods we nerve stapled.”

Today’s headline:

GUARDIAN OF THE GALAXY!
KESSICK BECOMES GALACTIC CUSTODIAN

July 21, 2084 – Degra Kessick, the 43-year-old former President of the Republic of Kelta, has been elected Galactic Custodian in a surprise that caught the Angel Moon off-guard.

What happens now?

By the time of publication, Custodian Kessick has already taken up his new office in the Palace of Sajuuk on the Angel Moon. The former vacation home of the Taiidan Emperor will serve as both the official residence and office of the Galactic Custodian.

The President of the Galactic Council Security Council, a Hiigaran named Cnaan Nabaal, told Custodian Kessick that his term of office will last for exactly one year, and that he will be expected to either step down or run for re-election on July 20th of next year. If the current Galactic Crisis comes to an end before that time, Custodian Kessick will be expected to yield his power and step away from the Custodianship at once.

Custodian Kessick has also taken command of the newly-created Galactic Defense Force and reportedly spoken to Queen Marka, one of the rivals he defeated today. The exact nature of the conversation is unknown but political analysts believe she offered her congratulations to Kessick for his victory.

As Galactic Custodian, Kessick will have command and control authority of all GDF units. He will also be able to veto any proposed resolution in the Galactic Senate, alternatively, he can declare an emergency measure, forcing the Senate out of recess and back into session. The Galactic Custodian also has the power to prematurely end any session of the Senate, forcing an immediate resolution to any ongoing debate.

Custodian Kessick spoke to news agencies shortly before sequestering himself inside the Palace of Sajuuk:

“The Galactic Community is under a threat not seen since the Second Hyperspace War.” Kessick said. “We must move swiftly and decisively to contain the Human threat before more lives are lost. I have spoken to the commanders and leaders of the Galactic Defense Force and I have full confidence in their ability to defend our worlds and our people. The threat of Humans and their secret leader the Paradox will end. That is a certainty.”

Born in 2041, Degra Kessick is a lifelong politician, having served in the Kelt Government in some capacity since the age of 12. Modern science has allowed Kessick, along with the rest of his species, to greatly exceed the 30-year lifespan expected from the Kelt species. He may live to the previously unthinkable age of 50.

Kessick was elected to the Kelt Parliament in 2054 as a member of the reformist Horizon Party and briefly became Prime Minister for a few days during the Kelt Political Crisis of 2061. As a Member of Parliament, Kessick oversaw the development of new interstellar trade routes between Kelta and the Hiigaran Empire, as well as the successful relocation of some 80,000 Kelt settlers from the Chara System following the catastrophic systems failure of an orbital habitat station there.

In 2073, Kessick was elected to serve a ten-year term as President of the Republic of Kelta in a landslide vivictory that saw the Horizon Party seize full control of the Republic. After assuming office in 2074, Kessick set to work rebuilding relations with the Partogans, which were damaged by Kelta’s military intervention in the most recent Assurian Civil War. He also negotiated a migration and travel agreement with Earth that many now see as an effort to lock Humanity out of certain Hyperspace Gates in the Galactic North. This action has had the unexpected side effect of restricting the enemy’s mobility in this new conflict.

Kessick chose not to run for a second term when his first expired, stating that he intended to retire and live out the remainder of his life on Kelta. The planet is worshipped as a deity by its inhabitants and dying on its surface is considered to be an inalienable right of the Kelt people.

Many political analysis believe Galactic Custodian Kessick will pursue a multinational solution to the Earth Crisis, bringing overwhelming firepower to bear against the Humans in an effort to end the conflict quickly. A Taiidani analyst told us under condition of anonymity the he believes the naturally short lifespan of Kelt people will place considerable pressure on Kessick to seek an immediate and definitive end to the War Against Akira Robinson. Kessick’s natural “ticking clock" and his spiritual beliefs may also preclude him from seeking a second term as Galactic Custodian.

It is not known who would campaign to succeed him next year, should this come to pass.



This is the end of Issue #3 of Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox.
 
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Chapter 8: The Broken Bird

Macavity116

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Halfway there! We are now closer to the end of this story than the beginning!




Chapter 8
The Broken Bird

September 12, 2060
San Diego, California, North America



“I want to go back.”

“Out of the question.”

“Let me go back to the island, please.”

“Do you even hear what you’re saying?”

“Do you even care?”

Akira stared at her father with newfound hatred. Blake tried to convey how much she was hurting him, but Akira ignored him.

The Ark Angel had landed in the ruins of San Diego, on the Pacific Coastline. Two more ships, the Hyuuga and the Crusader, were nearby. All three crews were trying to celebrate their victory over a bonfire after the sun went down, but the sense of triumph was ruined by Akira’s contempt towards her rescuers. Not to mention what she’d done to her eldest brother.

Alexander had just barely survived his fight with Akira. During those frantic, bloody moments on Kauai, Akira managed to gouge his right eye out with her bare hands. Her older brother nearly bled to death, and was saved only by a transfusion from Chris Wright, who had compatible blood. Both men were completely exhausted and were passed out by the fire. Alexander’s face was caked in dried blood and a hasty eyepatch was covering up the wound.

Chihiro and Blake tried to speak to their daughter, but she was completely closed to them. Following her mother’s telepathic assault, Akira created new mental barriers in her mind, determined to shut out everybody around her. She could feel her mother constantly trying to probe her mind, but Akira was having none of it. Psionic feedback jumped from Akira to Chihiro, and her mother would recoil from the shock.

“Akira, I know you might have grown to think better of those people,” Chihiro started to say, but Akira cut her off.

“Shut up! Shut up! You don’t know anything!” Akira screamed at the top of her lungs. “You just murdered all of my friends and blew up the only place where I was ever happy, I hate you! I fucking hate you so much!”

Chihiro looked like she was going to burst into tears.

“But, honey. Those people, they were-”

Again, Akira cut off her mother.

“No. Don’t you dare. Don’t you fucking dare.”

Sobbing, Akira ran away from the group and boarded the Ark Angel. She locked herself in the living quarters and threw herself onto the bunk bed still marked as hers. She wanted to cry, to mourn Rafi and Sally Ann and the others. She wanted to see them smiling and happy again, and felt so terrible that the last time she saw the wonderful men and women who loved her so much, they were begging for mercy, just before they were executed in cold blood.

Akira could hear her parent’s voices outside as they talked to their friends and family. She overheard Julian the android suggesting Akira be made to see a therapist.

“The girl is clearly traumatized and suffering the continued effects of Stockholm Syndrome.” Julian explained. “She needs multiple sessions of therapy.”

“What about me?” Alexander said. “She put my eye out. Can’t I sock her in the face, dad? Just once?”

“No.” Blake responded. “Doctor Tygan can make you a new eye when we get back to Kansas, but what I really think Akira needs now is time to reconnect with her friends and family… her real ones.”

At this, Akira put her face in her pillow and screamed.



The next day, the Ark Angel returned to Manhattan. Autumn was arriving early in Kansas this year. What few trees still stood were now adorned in colors of red and orange, while the surrounding fields were muddy and waterlogged. The days were still lethally hot, so Akira once again found herself made to walk underneath canvas canopies and awnings, at least for the first few hundred feet.

Once Akira was back inside the walls of Myron, she started pulling herself away from her parents, who instinctively let go when Akira stepped into the deadly sunlight. With a click of her fingers, Akira summoned a telekinetic shield and positioned it above her head, keeping her safe from the sun’s deadly rays. Blake, Chihiro, and Alexander all looked at her, visibly confused.

“What’s wrong with you?” Alexander said. “Aren’t you happy to be home again?”

Akira scoffed and walked away, taking a shortcut through the sun-bleached square to get away from her family. She wanted nothing to do with them anymore.

The tenement house was exactly as Akira left it back in June, overcrowded and noisy. She was planning to lock herself in her old room until she decided what to do next, but she never got the chance. A flurry of platinum blonde hair swept across Akira’s field of vision before she found herself on the receiving end of a dive-tackle hug.

Scarlett Freeman squealed with delight, seemingly oblivious to Akira’s passive reaction.

“You’re back! I’m so happy to see you!” Scarlett jumped for joy and hugged Akira once more, then launched into a barrage of questions. “Where did they take you? Did they hurt you? Are you okay? What happened, tell me?”

Akira remembered Scarlett, and wondered just how she had ever been friends with her. But she found that just couldn’t be angry with Scarlett, no matter how much she wanted to be. After all, if Scarlett had not stolen Emanuel Espinosa from Akira, then she might never have fallen for Rafi. Her voice dripping with contempt, Akira asked:

“How’s Espinosa?”

Scarlett’s face fell. Akira felt a building sense of triumph as her former friend replied in a weak tone:

“I, uh… well. He told me…” Scarlett trailed off.

Akira wanted to know the answer. She had already guessed the outcome, but she wanted the satisfaction, she wanted to hear the words herself. Using telepathy, Akira broke into Scarlett’s undefended mind. The young girl’s mind was seemingly transparent, and Akira could read all of her thoughts and memories with very little effort. Very quickly, Akira found what she was looking for.

The memory was only a few weeks old, so it was still fresh. Akira could feel the mental and physical anguish emanating from it. She saw Scarlett and Emanuel wandering around the Trade Center together at midnight. Scarlett revealed her secret feelings for him, ready for him to reciprocate. But instead, Emanuel gave a nervous laugh before asking Scarlett to sit on a bench with him.

It was then and there that Emanuel said:

“I’m flattered, Scarlett, I really am. But I’m too old for you. You do know that, right?”

Akira felt a deadened recreation of the emotions that rocked Scarlett as she realized she was being rejected. Overtop of Scarlett’s anguish and misery, Akira felt her own satisfaction. So, Scarlett had failed to steal Espinosa from her. Well, at least one good thing came from all this.

Akira turned away from Scarlett, who was still recovering from the mental invasion, and started wandering towards her own room.

“What the? Akira? What was that!?” Scarlett called to her. “What did you just do to me?”

Akira didn’t reply. Instead, she began to laugh. She laughed at how the events of the past two months played out. She laughed at the conclusion of her love triangle with Espinosa and Freeman. She laughed at how all of her family and friends expected her to just carry on with her old life as though nothing had happened at all.

As she stepped into her old bedroom and locked the door behind her, Akira pressed her back to the wall and sank to the floor, still laughing, because she had finally accepted a horrible truth. It was something she had been suspecting ever since she returned from Kauai, ever since her mother’s telepathic assault left a trail of devastation through Akira’s consciousness. This truth explained her newfound contempt for the people she should have loved, and it revealed how she was able to mentally assault her former best friend without an instant of hesitation or remorse.

Akira’s mind was broken.

How exactly, she didn’t know. But nonetheless, her conscious mind was somehow damaged to the point where it had been changed, and Akira suspected there was absolutely nothing she could do about it. Slowly, Akria’s laughing turned into tearful sobs. She threw herself onto her bed and wept until she fell asleep.



Meanwhile, on the other side of the colony, Blake Robinson and Chihiro Tachibana were about to enter the XCOM building when a man caught up to them and delivered a message.

“Your daughter is in her room in the tenement. Locked herself inside, and we think she cried herself to sleep.”

Chihiro sighed and gave her husband a worried look. Blake nodded and then replied to him.

“Thank you, Mister Freeman. You should go check on your daughter.”

As Scarlett’s father left, Blake and Chihiro maintained a worried expression all the way to their destination, a conference room where several other veterans of the Second Hyperspace War were gathered. The former Commander of XCOM was seated at the head of the table, and she gestured to a pair of free chairs as the Robinsons entered the room.

Laura Harper was an old woman now, nearing the end of her life. A pair of armrests on her seat gave away the fact that she was occupying a wheelchair. The elderly leader continued where she left off.

“The Terraforming Engine completed a static test today.” She informed the group. “I’m told by Doctor Tygan that he has high hopes for our next test, and that he will require additional raw materials for the next run. I’ll pass around that list shortly, but first, we need to discuss the raid on the EXALT facility on Kauai island. Lieutenant Robinson, Corporal Tachibana, is your daughter well?”

“No ma’am.” Blake and Chihiro replied together.

“Akira has gone through extreme mental trauma.” Chihiro explained, “Including Psionic assault.”

“Her behavior matches that of someone with Stockholm Syndrome.” Blake added. “She’s tricked herself into thinking she was in a romantic relationship with one of the EXALT operatives.”

“How?” Asked a voice from down the table.

Holly Smith, former leader of the Stormbreakers, looked alarmed.

“How the bloody hell could EXALT do something like that?”

Someone else raised their hand. Chris Wright stood up and spoke.

“When we arrived, we noticed a device on the mountaintop that was dispersing a psychoactive gas across the whole island.” Chris explained. “I think it’s safe to say that everybody on the island, even the EXALT leadership, was under the influence of this drug. It would explain why the people there were so passive and willing to accept whatever they were told.”

“They called it ‘Sweet Air’.” Inez Vasquez chimed in. “We heard three of the rescued victims tell us it was the best air they ever smelled.”

“Which victims?” inquired Central Officer Bradford.

“Sepulveda, Tsiajotso, and Etienne.” Inez replied. “They’re all here in Myron now, but we don’t know how to rehabilitate them. They’re brainwashed very badly, just like the Robinson’s kid. They all wanna go back and live on the island again. Tsiajotso said it was like living in a perfect utopia.”

“Sure, a utopia kept alive by raiding nearby shipping lanes and kidnapping people.” Bradford scoffed. “Sounds more like a Bandit Kingdom to me. So, how do we deprogram these people? Anyone have any ideas?”

The leaders of XCOM collectively scratched their heads for a few minutes before someone had an idea. Lily Shen, the chief engineer, held a tablet computer above her head and spoke up:

“So I was looking through some of my dad’s old files, and in one of them, he mentions that XCOM experimented with waking up Humans afflicted with the Sleepwalker virus in 1962. Maybe our science team knows how to do it?”

Doctor Tygan, the chief scientist, folded his arms in thought.

“Hmm. I strongly doubt my predecessor could shed any light on the matter.” Tygan replied. “The atmospheric device on Kauai bears her fingerprints, both metaphorically and literally. However, I think that we might cast our attention onto the first chief scientists of XCOM. I am talking, of course, about Doctor Heinrich Dresner and his compatriot, Doctor Alan Weir. Their work with Zudjari technology and the Sleepwalker virus were groundbreaking. I believe I share my companion’s convictions. We should consult the oldest of XCOM databanks.”

Blake stood up.

“I know where they are. Site X.”

Bradford cocked his head to one side and gave Blake a quizzitive stare.

“Robinson, Site X is, a: buried underground, and b: literally a hundred years old. There’s no way any data down there has survived this long.”

“Remember the technology of the times.” Blake replied. “Back in the 1960’s XCOM didn’t have high volume data disks or portable hard drives. They would have kept all of their information on paper, and in a dry environment like the Nevada desert, that paper might still be salvageable. Commander, with your permission, I’d like to take the Angel out to Site X and try to recover the Sleepwalker data.”

A murmur of assent went around the conference room. In general, people seemed to like Blake’s idea, but Laura had one more thing to say. As she addressed Blake, everybody could feel a gentle Psionic pulse emanating from the elderly commander, as though the Ethereal being inside of her was stirring restlessly.

“I can see your hopes, Robinson.” She said. “I know you think this knowledge will help your daughter, and there’s no harm or shame in that. I ask only that you keep in mind that Akira is not the only one who is suffering. We must help the other victims we found on that island. Find whatever information you can about curing the Sleepwalkers. If any of that data can be used to help the victims of the Sweet Air, bring it back to us as quickly as you can. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.”



The next morning, Akira was woken by loud knocks on her door.

“Go away!” She cried out. “Leave me alone.”

“Akira, we’re leaving.” Blake called through the door. “It’s a short mission to Nevada. Pack a few days’ worth of clothes and meet us on the runway. Wheels up in one hour. Don’t make us come looking for you.”

For a few minutes, Akira wondered what would happen if she simply refused to leave her room, but her question was answered by a noise coming from her bedroom window. Servomotors and the clunking of heavy metal told her that Julian was lurking outside, and that he would probably just reach in the window and grab her if she refused to budge. So Akira reluctantly packed a backpack and stepped out the door.

As she departed the tenement, Scarlett Freeman did not speak to her former friend. In fact, the young blonde withdrew into the safety of her room and held the door shut until Akira was gone.

Out on the airport runway, the Ark Angel was being loaded up with fuel and cargo when Akira arrived. All of her siblings gave her a wide berth as she approached. Even the twins, James and Josiah, seemed to regard Akira with newfound apprehension. Only Asuna attempted to say hello: The eldest Robinson child placed one hand on her forehead and then moved it forward as though she were making a salute. It was the same gesture Asuna used to say hello. Akira barely acknowledged the greeting, simply nodding her head. Then she boarded the spaceplane.

To her surprise, there were two more people on board. Chris Wright and Emanuel Espinosa were both in the crew quarters, strapping themselves in for takeoff.

“Asuna loves these sorts of missions.” Chris said. “So I thought I’d tag along.”

Akira tried to move on and find a seat when Emanuel gently grabbed her wrist.

“Hey, Akira.” He said quietly. “I know you’ve just been through hell, and if you need to talk to someone, I’m here for you.”

Akira didn’t know why this made her feel so angry. It just did. She wrenched her arm free and moved on, pretending she didn’t hear Emanuel’s words. Akira didn’t get to sit down for long though, as Blake spotted her when he boarded the ship and said:

“Hey, why not come up to the cockpit with me, Akira?”

It was the last thing she could have wanted. To spend time with the people who had murdered her friends and lover? She was so full of anger and hate that when Akira arrived in the cockpit, she didn’t even look at her mother. Blake, who had been planning to offer Akira her first flying lesson, seemed to realize the moment wasn’t right and he settled for the next best thing. He asked Akira to strap herself into the engineer seat at the back of the cockpit and watch as he flew the spaceplane.

“Someday, you’ll have to fly this thing yourself.” He said.



The flight was painfully awkward, but mercifully short. The flight took just two hours, and the whole time, Akira just sat quietly in the back of the cockpit while her parents took turns trying to engage her in conversation. But Akira had nothing to say to them. Nothing would ever make up for what Blake did to Sally Ann, or how Chihiro had butchered the only person who truly loved Akira.

She wasn’t really paying attention to where the spaceplane was going. Akira was vaguely aware of the grassy plains giving way to rocky and mountainous desert below, but when the Ark Angel flew low over the ruins of Las Vegas, she sat up and took note.

The city itself was wrecked during the war and no one ever returned to it. Over the past fifty years, the Nevada Desert slowly reclaimed the city. Most of the high-rise buildings had collapsed, and a layer of dirt and sand covered the rest. None of the streets were visible, and vegetation grew out of control elsewhere.

After circling around, looking for a place to land, Blake and Chihiro pointed out and agreed on a space of flat desert about sixty miles north of the Las Vegas ruins. Akira had no idea why her parents wanted to land so far away from the city, but she would soon find out. To the north of Las Vegas was a stretch of desert that looked far different from the rest. Hundreds of craters pockmarked the ground, making the region resemble the surface of the Moon. Some craters were small while others were hundreds of feet across.

In the midst of these massive craters, a small complex of buildings could be seen. The Ark Angel touched down just five thousand feet sort of these structures and used her parachutes to slow down and stop. Once the spaceplane came to a halt, Chihiro declared:

“We’re here!”

Where exactly was “here?”

Akira’s curiosity grew so great that her anger was momentarily forgotten. Nobody asked her to follow them and yet she followed all the same. Blake, Chihiro, Asuna, Alexander, James, Josiah, Chris, and Emanuel all walked towards a seemingly unremarkable shack. There were no windows, only a single heavy-looking door. Plastered across the front of this door were big block letters that spelled out the words:


Bureau of Strategic Emergency Command – Authorized Personnel Only

And underneath of it was an insignia: a white five-pointed star rising above the continental United States, along with the words: “Vigilo Confido”.

Blake pushed the door open, revealing a set of stairs that led underground.

“Welcome to the original XCOM headquarters.” He said. “What’s left of it, anyway.”


 
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