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Macavity116

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Is this any way a homage to Lost in Space? We have the father as a Robinson? Akura could be Will and Dr. Smith could be the German kidnapper!
Actually, you're not the first person to suggest that. Some of my older family members spotted the similarities to Lost in Space back in My Father's War. Now that I think about it, the similarities are kinda obvious. I've only watched the modern Netflix version of the show, and certain grandparents and older cousins do occasionally ask "when is the android character going to rescue a Robinson from danger?" It's like that "Say the line, Bart!" scene from The Simpsons. :)


The plot of All Our Sins Remembered is very heavily influenced by two works of fiction I love very much:
  • the 2014 action movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • The 1955 children's book The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
 
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Macavity116

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Well, what a coincidence. My 1,000th post on these forums is a celebratory one. Neat!

@Nikolai nominated All Our Sins Remembered for the Weekly AAR Showcase and I cannot be more grateful. :D

Longtime readers may remember that I have a house rule: If I'm ever nominated for a weekly award, I will immediately post the next chapter of the story to celebrate. Well folks, Chapter 9 of All Our Sins Remembered is not ready to be posted. Not by a longshot. It takes two days for me to write the chapter and another two to convert it into a Youtube video. (Recording, editing, exporting, uploading; all of this takes time)

Rest assured folks, I am moving quickly to put a bow on Chapter 9, and you will get to see it early. That's a promise. But I do ask you to be a little patient with me, as I am currently sick with what I strongly suspect to be COVID-19. (Awaiting test results now) In the meantime, please enjoy this offering to tide you over until then, the next issue of War of the Paradox!

And many thanks again, @Nikolai!



Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number Four
“Where in the Galaxy is Akira Robinson?”



Signals intelligence report
Possible Alter-Egos of Akira Jaqueline Robinson



Communications Expert – Ninu Dokunle



I’ve never written one of these reports before, but I figured I might as well try since I’m not good for anything else. My name is Ninu Dokunle and I’m the polylingual interpreter for the Stormbreakers. For the past week and a half, we have been using our ship’s new ability to disguise itself to spy on the Human military and listen to their communications. Sometimes the holographic emitters turn the Niagara into an asteroid and we lurk nearby. Other times we pose as civilian or AFUNE vessels to get even closer. Using the signals and communications intelligence we’ve captured, we have started building profiles for all of the people we suspect are secretly the alter-ego of our target: Akira Jaqueline Robinson.

It is a well-known fact that the Paradox likes to disguise herself and carry out her alterations to history while acting under a false identity. It is only logical to assume she is disguised once again. Our fearless leader Varian Robinson has determined that we must discover evidence of a disguise before attempting to unmask the Paradox. According to him (Or her, I still do not know for certain, to my great anger) falsely accusing someone of being Akira Robinson will only make the situation worse for the Galaxy. We must get it right the first time.

To that end, we have gathered information about many hundreds of people who we suspect of being Akira Robinson. The list was by no means exhaustive, and it fluctuated over the past few days as Varian added new names and Corder removed a select few. The mysterious figure who bankrolled our operation has also contributed to the effort. He contacted a member of the Partogan Green Guard who gave us unrestricted access to a database of known Galactic criminals, which has proven to be most useful.

Earlier today, I sat down with Corder and Kingi. We narrowed down the list to just eight suspects. They all have easy access to the United Nations government and we agreed that it is very plausible for each individual to be secretly orchestrating this war.

I will now list all of the individuals we currently suspect of secretly being the Paradox. All information is accurate as of noon, July 25, 2084.


  • Erin Hyatt
    • Human, founder and current leader of the Cult of Jericho. Fought alongside Jericho herself during the War in Heaven. Erin was blinded in battle and Jericho restored her eyesight, casing Erin to have a religious experience. The cult was founded after Jericho disappeared during the War in Heaven and was presumed dead. The publication of the book “The Stormbreakers” in 2082 by Blake Robinson has only exacerbated the problems caused by the cult. (Specifically by revealing to the whole Galaxy that Jericho is alive and in hiding) Erin has many friends in the UN Government and has been compared to Rasputin the Mad Monk by Human news agencies. Reportedly a close personal friend of Pascal Etienne, Secretary-General of the United Nations. It is not known if she has any control over the Progeny, a militant arm of the cult that is actively participating in this war. Currently at the Cathedral of Jericho in the Altair star system.
  • Ingrid Tsiajotso
    • Human, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the United Nations of Earth. Served in XCOM as a Grenadier from 2055 until 2072. Has a strong working relationship with Secretary-General Etienne and ISO Director Freeman. Some have compared the trio to the old Roman Triumvirate. Known to harbor Human Supremacist beliefs and is thought to be the architect of the recent expulsion and mass murder of non-Humans in UN territory. Fellow Stormbreaker Corder believes Ingrid is the weakest member of the so-called “Human Triumvirate” and has also argued that Ingrid is under the complete control of ISO Director Scarlett Freeman. Currently on Earth at XCOM Headquarters on Earth in Nagasaki, Japan.
  • Inez Vasquez
    • Human, Weaponsmith and Armory Officer of the ISO. Served in XCOM as a Ranger from 2059 until 2079. Served in the Reclamation Agency as a Field Agent from 2079 until 2082. Known to be a Human Supremacist, implicated in several Hate Crimes against aliens, including the extrajudicial murder of accused ADVENT war criminal Bellus Mar. Several thousand non-Humans have been murdered with weapons designed by Vasquez during this war. Currently on Earth at ISO Headquarters in Berlin, Germany.
  • Scarlett Freeman
    • Human, Director of the Internal Security Office, (ISO) a spy agency that answers directly to Secretary-General Etienne. Has held the post for the past seven years, Freeman is thought to have some three hundred agents and operatives scattered throughout the Galaxy, including sleeper agents on the Angel Moon. Is close friends with Secretary-General Etienne and Supreme Commander Tsiajotso, the trio is often compared to a Roman Triumvirate. Happily married to Professor Emanuel Espinosa, Director of the UN Science Directorate. Has abandoned her biological daughter, Inez Espinosa. Scarlett and Inez have not had any contact with one another for the past six years. Freeman is a confirmed Human Supremacist and has been implicated in the attack on the Partogan starship Mami Tamihana and subsequent theft of the corpse of Whetu Kealoha. Hyatt’s religious doctrine leans heavily on the concept of Human Supremacy, Hyatt believes Jericho took Psionics away from the Galaxy so she could return to Earth and ensure that only Humans would be Gifted in the future. Hyatt continues to insist that Psionic power belongs exclusively to Humans and nobody else. Furthermore, Hyatt has claimed on several occasions that she is Gifted and possesses Psionic powers, despite the fact that the Gift ceased to exist almost 50 years ago. Hyatt has taken to calling herself a “Sorceress” and there are multiple stories floating around the Galaxy that Hyatt has performed miracles and demonstrated her ability to use the Gift, both claims fly in the face of reality. There is a very significant overlap between members of the Cult and members of the Human Supremacist Movement. Most supporters of Secretary-General Pascal Etienne are members of the Cult of Jericho or somehow otherwise affiliated with the group. Currently on Earth at the Elerium Mine in Bannack, Montana.
  • Inez Espinosa
    • Human, civilian worker on Earth. Daughter of ISO Director Scarlett Freeman and Scientist Emanuel Espinosa. Abandoned and left to her own devices about six years ago, has made her way in the world as an employee of Binary Fusion, an adults-only entertainment service often advertised as a “virtual-reality holographic brothel.” We don’t know exactly what Espinosa does at the company, but the Detroit government has classified her as a “registered sex worker.” Espinosa was selected to be the seventh Stormbreaker by our unknown employer, but her invitation to the team was intercepted by hostile actors and she remains unaware of her own selection. While she has never spoken in support of Human Supremacists, Espinosa has demonstrated a noticeable unwillingness to associate with non-Humans. Despite strong indications that she is involved in the world of adult-only entertainment, Espinosa’s nonexistence on social media sites remains highly suspicious. She has no footprint on the Hypernet whatsoever. Currently on Earth in her apartment in Detroit, Michigan.
  • Sophie Murphy
    • Human, half-sister of Varian Robinson. (same mother, different father) She is considered to be estranged from the Robinson family for the exact same reason as her uncle, Marcus Robinson: She is a loyal supporter of Pascal Etienne and appears to have Human Supremacist beliefs. She spent her 16th birthday in juvenile detention after she got into fistfight with her half-sibling Varian following an argument between them on the subject of Human supremacy. Sophie served a 90-day jail sentence for assaulting Varian and was briefly out-of-contact with her family during her imprisonment, creating an opportunity for Akira to “bodysnatch” the troublesome youth and get close to Blake Robinson himself. Since being released from jail, Sophie has become employed by the Campaign to Re-Elect the Secretary-General (CRESG) and is now actively working against her Grandfather, Blake Robinson, who seeks to defeat Pascal Etienne during the 2086 Election. Currently on Terra Nova in the Alpha Centauri star system, at the Apollo 13 Convention Center in Lovell City.
  • Hahli Mihaka
    • Partogan, criminal mastermind, once commanded a pirate armada and is known to be a thorn in the side of the Commonwealth Navy. Hahli is the last known pirate to command the infamous Rancor-class Battle Carrier and has been operating in the Great Wastelands for the past 35 years. She employed many thousands of Humans in her fleet and Green Guard intelligence suggests that both her fleet and its leadership structure have been infiltrated by the Progeny, the militant arm of the Cult of Jericho. Since the war began, Hahli’s fleet has refused to attack any Human ships or colonies, and appears to be exclusively focusing their violence on Micore and Levakian targets instead. Currently commanding her fleet in the Great Wastelands, near the Ketu Supernova Remnant. Also the great-great granddaughter of Mami Tamihana. (Queen Kendra the Great)
  • Ruunhan Somtaaw
    • Hiigaran, secular terrorist, known to sympathize with Humans. Responsible for the New Daiamid bombing four years ago, Somtaaw claimed she carried out the attack in response to Hiigara’s trade embargo on Earth. We think she may be one of the very few non-Human members of the Progeny. This is alarming because it is extremely out-of-character for the Progeny to accept non-Human recruits. Hiigaran authorities have made many efforts to find her. The most concerning detail about Somtaaw is that she has faked her own death at least once, something the Paradox is known for doing. Current whereabouts unknown, but Green Guard intelligence suggests she may be laying low in the Sirius star system.
Once we composed this list, I took a survey of the team to see where all of our suspicions lie:

Varian strongly suspects Erin Hyatt is the Paradox. He argues that Akira Robinson strongly prefers the role of Kingmaker and will usually steer clear of any action that results in her becoming a ruler. Hyatt’s position of influence over the Human Triumvirate as well as the Cult of Jericho give’s Hyatt a means to manipulate many millions of people at once while exerting minimal effort. Varian has ruled out Inez Espinosa as a suspect.

Cetla thinks Ingrid Tsiajotso is the Paradox. He points out that the AFUNE leader is in the perfect position to plan and execute the genocidal actions taking place within UN territory; these action align perfectly with Akira’s plan for her “perfect future” that she spoke about during the Second Hyperspace War fifty years ago. Cetla has ruled out Hahli Mihaka as a suspect.

Kingi is convinced that Scarlett Freeman is the Paradox. He told me that the Human spymaster is acting far too sure of herself and is behaving as though she has perfect foresight. Furthermore, Kingi points out Scarlett’s possible involvement in the theft of Whetu Kealoha’s body, suggesting that such a seemingly pointless crime might have far greater significance in the eyes of the ISO. Kingi has ruled out Sophie Murphy as a suspect.

Corder says Ruunhan Somtaaw is the Paradox. Corder was once contracted by Kiith Soban, the Hiigaran warrior clan, to hunt down and kill Ruunhan. The Hiigaran terrorist demonstrated incredible physical prowess during her fight with Corder and escaped from the scene using means Corder did not fully understand, suggesting Ruunhan may have employed a Return Beacon. Corder also claims that Ruunhan’s ideology does not line up with her terrorist actions, and that Ruunhan is conducting herself very strangely in comparison to other high-profile Hiigaran criminals. Corder has ruled out Inez Espinosa as a suspect.

Maui also claims that Erin Hyatt is the Paradox, for many of the same reasons as Varian. He thinks Hyatt’s ability to reach millions with her religious message gives her the best means of influence, and that the way she capitalized on Jericho’s survival and rediscovery suggests and intent to rapidly expand both the Cult of Jericho and the Progeny. According to Maui, it won’t be long before Hyatt possesses her own personal army of religious fanatics who are ready and willing to lay down their lives for Jericho. Maui has ruled out Scarlett Freeman as a suspect.

As for myself?

I personally agree with Maui and Varian. The Sorceress Erin Hyatt is most likely to be the Paradox, due to her ability to access and influence the Human Triumvirate, plus her control over the Cult of Jericho and possibly the Progeny as well. Hyatt has the means, motive, and resources needed to orchestrate this war and then command it from the shadows. Finally, there is the major issue of this woman calling herself a “Sorceress” and claiming to have Psionic powers when it’s no longer possible for anybody to have them. Jericho destroyed all Psionic energy during the War in Heaven. Erin Hyatt should be as powerless as the rest of us. If she is not, this would instantly give away her secret identity as Akira Robinson.

Tonight, all six of us will have a meeting and select one suspect to focus our efforts on. Then the real work begins.

Although we won’t be meeting in this cramped little cabin. Cetla is huge.

ND.



 
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I have news!

I tested negative for COVID today, but my dad tested positive, so the virus is literally inside the house with us. We're both fully vaccinated, so we should be fine, but right now neither of us are feeling healthy.

Chapter 9 of All Our Sins Remembered will be posted sometime tomorrow, and then I'm going to take a short hiatus for my physical health. I hope you'll rejoin me for the second half of this story when I return on Saturday, August 7th.

As always, thank you for reading.




Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number Four, part 2



Dossier – Person of Interest: Erin Hyatt


Squad Leader – Varian Robinson


After a long and heated discussion with the team, we have selected an individual who we are convinced is secretly the Paradox, Akira Robinson.


Erin Faye Hyatt

  • Date of Birth: November 30, 2016 (Age 67)
  • Place of Birth: Toronto Megacity, Earth

Biography: Born under ADVENT rule, Erin lived in occupied Canada for most of her early years. Erin first enters the public record in 2033 when she visited the Toronto Gene Therapy clinic seeking treatment for an illness. Erin’s loyalties shifted during the Battle for Earth on July 20, 2035, when she aided and abetted Resistance fighters during an outbreak of fighting in Toronto. After the fall of ADVENT, Erin joined the newly founded AFUNE.

Erin served in the Human military for two years, where she became a pilot for Battlemaster-class gunships. She served aboard the USS Niagara as Blake Robinson’s copilot during the Battle of Neptune. In the course of the battle, Erin was blinded by the flash of a nuclear explosion. She was returned to Earth via medical transport for treatment.

Approximately two days before the War in Heaven, Erin was visited in the Busan University Hospital by Jericho. Nobody witnessed this meeting, so we only have Erin’s account to go by. According to her, Jericho washed her hands in cold water and then pressed her palms to Erin’s face. Erin claims her vision slowly returned over the course of several minutes, and by the time she could see again, the Savior had already left the room. To this day, medical professionals have no explanation for the sudden restoration of Erin’s eyesight, saying that it is scientifically impossible to restore the vision of someone who has looked into a nuclear fireball.

During the War in Heaven, Erin fought in Busan, Korea, helping members of the Reclamation Agency protect non-Human citizens from the genocidal rampage carried out by the Reapers. Just like everybody else in the Galaxy, Erin suddenly found herself under the protection of her deceased loved once, who Jericho had resurrected as Psionic entities. The experience seems to have had a profound effect on Erin, who started the process of leaving the UN military as soon as the Second Hyperspace War was over.

After being discharged from the military, Erin began travelling the Galaxy, spreading the Gospel of Jericho. Sometime in 2039, she and fifteen of her closest disciples travelled to the Altair star system, located in a constellation called “The Eagle” which is in the outermost frontier of Human space. Here she established the Cathedral of Jericho on one of the moons of Solomon.

One of the very first visitors to the Cathedral was Violet, a former Stormbreaker and de-facto leader of the Progeny, a splinter group of the Templar Order. During their one and only face-to-face meeting, they founded the Cult of Jericho, an organized religion that brings together the worshippers of Jericho under a single unified leadership.

The Convocation of September 11, 2039 was a huge Cult meeting that commemorated the third anniversary of the War in Heaven. It occurred at the Cathedral of Jericho. During this assembly, tens of thousands of Jericho-worshippers claim to have witnessed Erin and Violet perform fifteen “miracles”. These acts ranged from healing the sick to blotting out the light of the sun. Both Erin and Violet proclaimed themselves to be “Sorceresses” and started claiming to have Psionic powers, they pledged to bring the Gift back to all of Humanity. At the end of this convocation, the Progeny officially severed their previous ties to the Templar Order and became the militant arm of the Cult of Jericho.

After Violet was captured in City 31 by XCOM’s Chimera Squad, Erin seized control of the Progeny and attempted to finish what Violet started. Under her leadership, the Cult and the Progeny have expanded aggressively, engaging in offensive military conflicts with the Turanic Raiders, Blorg Diaspora, Vaygr Crusades, and other local powers. Erin’s cult has carved out a region of the Galaxy and exercises some level of control over some twenty-five star systems surrounding Altair. The Galactic Council has labelled the Cult of Jericho a “militant theocratic proto-state”

From 2040 to the present, Hyatt has continued to be the de-facto leader of both the Cult and the Progeny, and continues claiming to be a Sorceress. Millions around the Galaxy genuinely believe she has performed miracles and the unique religion she has created has grown to the point where it is actively competing with established systems of faith throughout the Galaxy, including the Hiigaran Pantheon, the Partogan Church of the Mountain, and the Mythos of Sajuuk. According to the Galactic Council, Hyatt is worshipped by some ten billion sentients across the Galaxy, the majority of whom are Human.

I say “Hyatt is worshipped” intentionally.

Over the past ten years, Hyatt’s religious message has shifted, and shifted so radically that we must suspect direct interference from the Paradox. She began preaching less and less about the power and glory of Jericho and started focusing religious fervor upon herself. In one such speech she declared:

“I believe in Jericho because I have seen her and experienced her glory with my own body. You should believe in what you can see and experience. Those who see me as a friend shall have my friendship. I’ll be a mother to any who think me their mother. I’ll be their savior, and I’ll be their god.”

While Erin has not declared herself a divine being yet, she appears to be on the verge of doing so. Many of her followers already regard her as the “True Successor of Jericho”.

In 2082, Blake Robinson published The Stormbreakers, an autobiographical account of his interactions with Jericho during the Second Hyperspace War. The book conflicted with Erin’s descriptions of Jericho’s personality and would have caused a crisis of faith if not for a massive revelation contained in the epilogue. In the final page of the book, my grandfather revealed that Jericho was still alive and secretly living in New Zealand.

In what should not be considered a surprise, the island nation became a pilgrimage site as millions of people from all over the Galaxy tried to seek and audience with the woman who killed the gods and saved the universe. According to travel records, Erin herself visited New Zealand at least five times trying to meet Jericho.

However, after just fifteen interviews with selected individuals, Jericho once again asked to be left alone and turned everyone away, including Erin. Thanks to the New Zealand government and the local government of the Partogan colony where Jericho lives, we know beyond all shadow of a doubt that Erin never met or spoke with Jericho. Yet when she returned to Altair and the Cathedral, Erin told her followers that she spent three days in Jericho’s company. Erin claimed that Jericho had shared “15 Revelations” with her, which Erin refused to elaborate further on.

Immediately after this, Erin set about remaking the Cult of Jericho, starting with a mass expulsion and excommunication of non-Human members. In December 2082, just months after meeting Jericho, Erin travelled to Earth again, but this time she went to the city of Berlin. Unlike with Jericho, we have proof that shows Erin Hyatt was given a closed-door meeting with ISO Director Scarlett Freeman. The two women spoke in secret for approximately six hours before Scarlett escorted Erin across the street and into the UN Capitol Building. There is a famous picture of the Spymaster and the Sorceress walking up the front entrance of the Reichstag.

Erin and Scarlett had, according to records, an unthinkable marathon TEN-HOUR meeting with Secretary-General Pascal Etienne. Ingrid Tsiajotso, Supreme Commander of the Human military, joined them partway through the meeting. We don’t know what happened during this meeting, but we strongly suspect that at least one member of the so-called “Human Triumvirate” was personally inducted into the Cult of Jericho by Hyatt.

After this meeting, the foursome became friends, as best we can tell. Erin has visited Berlin seven times in the past year, each time she was given a private audience with the Secretary-General. It should be noted here that Etienne is a blind man and is known for being religious. Secretary-General Etienne has also taken Erin to a prominent Berlin restaurant twice, where the Sorceress was wined and dined at the expense of Human taxpayers.

As her relationship with Human leadership improved, the religious doctrine of the Cult of Jericho shifted to fall in line with the Human Supremacist beliefs of Secretary-General Etienne and his fellow triumvirs. As non-Humans were expelled from both the Cult and the Progeny, Erin’s rhetoric grew even more violent and hateful, calling for her followers to aggressively dive aliens and Hybrids out of their cities and colonies. She has repeatedly called on the Human military to “establish dominance” over Earth’s Galactic neighbors, namely the Hiigaran Empire and the Vaygr Crusades.

About six months before AFUNE launched their surprise attack on the Partogans, the Progeny launched its own military offensive, attacking all interstellar powers in the immediate vicinity of Altair. This offensive was launched on Erin’s command. Progeny fighters are currently engaged in battle on five fronts and have successfully captured territory belonging to the Vaygr, Baterra, Blorg, Vanians, and Amadii. For reasons known only to Erin, Progeny forces appear to be focusing heavily on the Baterra, a machine civilization that became spacefaring only recently.

As far as we can tell, Erin is coordinating the Progeny’s war effort with AFUNE. Her war goals are nebulous and unclear, yet the Progeny’s effort appears to be indirectly supporting the UN’s plan to create an “Empire of Man” by distracting would-be foes with a completely separate conflict. All of the nations attacked by the Progeny have been rendered unable to support the Partogans and Hiigarans in their efforts to fight Humanity.

Erin’s actions over the past decade, along with her regular contact with Human leadership, strongly suggest that she was replaced with Akira Robinson almost immediately after Jericho came out of hiding. The Paradox is using the Progeny and Cult of Jericho to further her own goals. She is drawing fire and attention away from AFUNE, dividing the would-be enemies of Humanity.

Akira has intentionally made herself into a red herring, which means I now have to spend the next few hours explaining this Human term to my non-Human comrades.

Physical Description: At 67 years old, Erin has aged gracefully. She is physically fit enough to walk up the Reichstag steps without assistance. According to my Grandfather’s book, Erin had green eyes before she was blinded. After, her eyes were grey. We think this may be because her body was infused with Psionic energy when Jericho restored Erin’s eyesight, and that energy was destroyed by Jericho mere days later, giving Erin the same grey eyes shared by everyone who has lost the Gift.

Personality Assessment: Erin’s personality is very inconsistent over the past 40 years of her life. My grandfather described her as “bubbly and energetic” during the Second Hyperspace War, but for most of her life, Erin seems to behave in a self-serving way. By collecting tithes from Cult members and donations from political supporters, Erin has made herself into one of the richest Humans in the Galaxy and continues to amass wealth and power.

Additional Notes: Owns an illegal Habitat station in the Sirius system, some twenty-thousand Humans live there without authorization from the UN Government.

Current Location (accurate as of July 26, 2084): Erin is currently aboard her personal star-yacht, which is passing through a region of space called the Shining Hinterlands; is en route to Earth from the Cathedral of Jericho.

VR.


This is the end of Issue #4 of War of the Paradox.

 
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Chapter 9
The Good Doctor

September 13, 2060
Site X, Area 51



The Robinson family and their companions descended the stairway for several minutes before emerging in a pitch dark cavern. Emanuel passed around flashlights and soon enough the whole place was illuminated.

“Oh wow.” Chihiro breathed. “This is where XCOM was founded?”

“Right over there.” Blake said, pointed to a stage on the far side of the mission control room. “That’s where Myron Faulke gave his speech, almost a hundred years ago.”

The original XCOM headquarters was a very small and cramped place in comparison to the roomy facility in Kansas. A full century of neglect gave the place a haunting atmosphere. As everyone’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, Josiah said:

“Watch your step. There’s bones on the ground.”

Akira looked at her feet. Just a few feet in front of her were the skeletal remains of a Human. Gazing around, the group saw many other bones scattered about the place.

“Back in ’62, the Zudjari ransacked this place.” Blake explained. “So this is going to be a bit of a challenge. Everybody huddle up.”

The group came together in the middle of what used to be the Mission Control center. Akira hung back, shooting suspicious glances at her parents. She didn’t want to be a part of their little “mission” but she still wanted to know what was going on.

“We’re looking for any information about the Sleepwalker Virus the old XCOM might have had.” Blake explained. “Don’t bother trying the computers down here. Technology in the 1960’s is very primitive compared to nowadays, plus the aliens probably smashed all of the computers down here. Search for anything written on paper. If the names ‘Dresner’ or ‘Weir’ come up, that’s important. We’re going to break into small teams so we can search faster. Asuna and Chi will go together. James and Josiah, you’ll be a pair. Chris and… uh.”

Blake looked around the group and then towards Akira. She could sense a little bit of desperation coming from her father and it made her feel just a little better. Finally, Blake accepted the arrangement that would lead to the least conflict.

“Chris, you’ll go with me. Emanuel, you and Akira will be a pair. Is that okay with everyone?”

While murmurs of assent rounded the group, Akira picked up on the rising sense of apprehension from everybody in the group. She could also sense that some kind of argument had preceded this mission and some people were still harboring resentments. As best she could tell, several members of her family, namely Alexander and Chihiro, were deeply opposed to bringing Akira on this trip. Others had apparently argued that including her was the only way to help Akira recover from her experiences on Kauai.

Reluctantly, Blake allowed Akira and Emanuel to move out as a pair. As the group split up and started searching, Akira aimlessly wandered into a nearby office and leaned against the wall, arms folded. Emanuel grabbed a stack of crumbling papers from a desk and gave her a stern look.

“No. I’m not going to help.” Akira cut him off before he could speak. “Just leave me alone.”

Emanuel shrugged and replied:

“Suit yourself.”

He sat down on the remains of a wooden desk. The name “William Carter” was just barely visible on a rusted nameplate. Akira scoffed. She could see into Emanuel’s mind; and it was obvious to her that he was pretending to be aloof, so that she might be interested in talking to him again.

Well, fine. She wasn’t going to play this game.

Akira stuffed her hands in her pockets and left the room. She guessed that her father was hoping she might still have feelings for Emanuel, but that ship sailed months ago. Keeping her flashlight over her head, Akira wandered further into the ruins of XCOM HQ. She didn’t really have a destination in mind, she just wanted to get away from her family, if only for a little while.

Of course, the only way to leave this place was the way she’d come in. All other entrances or exits had long ago been caved in or demolished by the aliens. But if getting lost in the interior of this place could separate Akira from the others for a while, then so be it. Pointing her flashlight down each corridor, Akira chose a path at random. As she went along, she noticed that several colored lines were painted on the floor. They were barely visible and had faded over the past century, but she could still make out a red, blue, and yellow line running parallel. She had a hunch why these were here, so she looked around in the darkness for anything on the walls.

About twenty feet on, she found what she was looking for. A map of the facility was beaten down and barely legible, but enough of it remained to tell Akira that if she followed these lines on the floor, she would end up in either the armory, the Skyranger bay, or in the Research and Development labs. On a whim, Akira picked the R&D lab. There wasn’t any particular reason, she just had a feeling that going down that way might be interesting.

So for another two minutes or so, Akira fumbled around in the dark corridor, pointing her flashlight at anything that wasn’t rocks or bones. She could tell the defenders of the base had put up a furious fight near the R&D lab, because the sheer volume of bones in the area was accompanied by the blackened marks of fire damage. Also, Akira found the skulls of two Sectoids in the wreckage, along with the skeleton of a single Zudjari warrior, easily recognizable because Zudjari mouths opened sideways. (in relation to a human mouth)

Just when things looked like they might actually get interesting, a voice echoed through the passageway, behind Akira.

“Hey! Where are you?”

Emanuel’s voice bounced off the many walls and corners, eventually finding its way to Akira, who groaned loudly. She just wanted to be left alone. Was that too much to ask? Just when Akira opened her mouth to reply to Emanuel, she was stopped cold by the sudden sounding of a second voice.

“Oi, Sheila, is that you?” The voice of a strange man, speaking with an Australian accent, echoed out of the darkness. “You should have sent the signal, ya know. I would’ve turned on the lights for ya. Hold on.”

And with three very loud clicks, a series of florescent lights flickered and powered on, illuminating the hallway as clear as day. Akira instinctively crouched down behind some rubble and looked around for the new speaker.

“Kira!” Emanuel yelled. “What’s going on? Where are you?”

“Come on, Sheila.” Said the Australian voice. “You remember the way, right? Follow the blue line. Or the light, whichever you want, as long as you… ya know… get here.”

Heart racing, Akira had a quick thought. She reached out with telepathy, trying to sense anyone and anything around her. In mere moments, a field of Psionic energy permeated all of the abandoned base. Akira detected eight people: Blake, Chihiro, her four siblings, Emanuel, and Chris. There was nobody else in the ruins… which means that voice was not coming from a living Human.

Feeling confident in her powers, Akira turned her back to Emanuel’s inquisitive voice and followed the blue line, moving toward the source of the mysterious new voice…



About fifty feet in front of Akira, there was a set of double doors. She supposed that this must have been a decontamination chamber once. On the far side, an overhead light revealed the next room. This large chamber had once been the Research and Development labs of the original XCOM.

And it was here that the great surprise was waiting.

The laboratory was fully powered. An air conditioner made gurgling sounds as it pumped a cool breeze into the lab while on the far wall, about three hundred feet away, a huge cylindrical machine rose from floor to ceiling. The outer casing of the device was transparent, allowing Akira to see a swirling green orb suspended in midair between two large apparatus. Her jaw fell open at the sight.

“Is that…” Akira gasped. “Is that an Elerium reactor!?”

Almost immediately, the Australian voice replied.

“Aw bloody hell, Moria. Ya got amnesia or something? Can’t you go bush just once without something awful happening to ya?”

Akira jumped. One more time, she reached out with telepathy, checking to see if there was anybody in the lab with her. One more time, her senses told her the place was deserted.

“Hello?” Akira called out into the room. “Who’s there?”

There was a pause before the voice said to itself.

“Aw, crikey, that’s not Moria.” Then the voice spoke up. “Oi, Sheila? Whoever you are, don’t touch anything? Alright? Ya leave all the computers alone, turn around, walk out, and tell Moria to hurry up and get back here with my new processor already. Now scram!”

Akira did not scram. For the first time, she took note of what was occupying the three hundred feet of floor space between herself and the Elerium reactor. It was a huge array of computers, all networked together with a series of thick electrical cables strewn all over the floor. The computers themselves were as diverse as they were numerous. Some were huge machines with spools of tape mounted on their sides, chugging along slowly in comparison to the boxy and noisy computers of the late 1990’s just a few paces away. Several modern and early modern computers were present as well, including a single model Akira recognized. Near the center of the hodgepodge computer bank was a sleek black box that was nearly identical to a computer she’d seen at XCOM headquarters just over a year ago.

Looking at the floor, Akira saw thousands of electrical cables all heaped in a mess, but some of the largest cables snaked their way back to the Elerium reactor, and were no doubt providing power for the whole system.

Something very strange was going on here.

“Who’s there?” Akira called into the rows upon rows of computer banks.

The Australian voice sounded very annoyed.

“Are you kidding? You’re still here? Piss off, girlie. Can’t you see I’m working?”

“No, I can’t.” Akira retorted. “I can’t see you at all.”

“Well according to my motion sensors, you’re standing inside my brain.” Said the voice. “And I’d prefer if you didn’t.”

Akira froze in her tracks, not sure about what she just heard. She looked around one more time at the hundreds of computer banks all networked together, at the motion sensors and microphones scattered around the place. Finally, she spotted a single camera sitting atop of an Old World CRT monitor. Akira slowly walked over to the terminal and stared into the camera.

“Are you an artificial intelligence?” She asked.

The Australian voice scoffed, sounding offended.

“Girlie, there’s nothing artificial about me. Don’t you know who I am? I’m guessing you’re Moria’s kid or something.”

“I uh, I’m not sure who Moria is.” Akira replied, not sure whether she should talk to the camera or the microphone. “My parents are Stormbreakers. Lieutenant Robinson and Corporal Tachibana.”

There was a whirring sound nearby as one of the computers suddenly powered up a large fan.

“Robinson, huh?” Said the voice. “So you’re XCOM. That’s good, I guess. Anyway, you can call me Doctor Weir.”

Akira turned all the way around, expecting to see a man somewhere waiting for a handshake. Still there was no one.

“I can hear you, doctor.” Akira said, “But I can’t see you. Where are you?”

“I said it before and I’ll say it again. You’re standing in me.”

And then the CRT screen lit up. A grainy black and white image appeared on the monitor. A man with a long face, strong chin, and half-moon glasses peered out of the screen, looking at Akira. On top of the monitor, a small servomotor caused the camera to reposition itself, focusing the lens on Akira’s face.

“Ya know, when you said the name ‘Robinson,’ I thought you were talking about George Robinson. He was a good agent, one of the Bureau’s best, after Carter, of course. George was good to me. But you don’t look a damn think like him. You look more like a chink.”

Akira flinched at the Doctor’s choice of words. It had been a long while since the last time somebody had been openly racist towards her.

“George Robinson was my great-grandfather.” Akira said. “What do you know about him?”

“I don’t kiss and tell, girlie.” Said the computer. “If you’re really a Robinson, what’s your name?”

“Akira.”

The image of the doctor’s face assumed a disgusted expression.

“You’re a jap.” He said. “I fought your kind in Borneo, back in ’45. I’m guessing they’re letting your kind into XCOM now, huh?”

Akira’s mind seemed to overload. There was a lot here to process and her mind seemed to be breaking down under the strain. What was he talking about? Borneo, along with the rest of the world, was liberated in 2035, not 2045. And there were very few if any Japanese people there at the time. After trying to wrap her mind around all of this for a few seconds, Akira ended up spitting out the first thing that popped into her head:

“I’m American!” she snapped. “And you’re just a racist computer. What the hell are you doing here!?”

The digital image of Doctor Weir frowned at her.

“I’m calculating.” He said. “Ever since I went through the dimensional gate in Arizona, I just… I just needed to know.”

Doctor Weir’s voice trailed off, as though he were reminiscing about something. At the mention of dimensional gates and Arizona, something seemed to click in Akira’s mind. She suddenly understood everything, well, almost everything. She remembered hushed conversations between XCOM’s leaders back in the Colony. How all of Earth’s misfortunes with alien invaders had started in the year 1962, when an enemy called Origin opened up series of dimensional gates all over the planet, allowing his armies to swarm across the world. She remembered how Doctor Tygan was consistently in awe of his predecessors, and how someone named Alan Weir had figured out how to send an Elerium Bomb through those gates to destroy the Zudjari Homeworld.

Akira gasped.

“It was you! You’re Alan Weir! Who went through the crack in the world!”

“Yeah, that was me.” Weir’s voice sounded downright nostalgic. “Ever since that night, I’ve been trying to understand, to make sense of what we did that day. The creature Carter brought back with him opened up so much potential, too. I had the whole universe at my fingertips.”

There was a pause. Akira wondered for a second if the computer had locked up, and that was when the full realization abruptly hit her.

“Wait a minute!” She said. “Wait just a minute! You… you put yourself in a computer!”

“Not as bright as George, are ya?” Doctor Weir muttered. “Yes. I did.”

“But why?”

“Short answer, I ran out of time.” Weir explained. “After Faulke took down the Outsider Mothership and lost Asaru, I was pretty much back to square one for understanding the Venn Gates. So I started over... Kiddo… you’ve got no idea. I worked and calculated and studied for almost forty years, tryin’ to crack the secret of the Venn Gates. Eventually, I started seeing the signs that my body wasn’t going to hold up for much longer. But I wasn’t ready to quit. I told myself I wouldn’t stop until I found the answer… but there was just one variable that eluded me. One little piece of the puzzle that I couldn’t find a place for. So I contacted a friend of mine, my successor, actually. And she helped me arrange and execute this plan. Every once in a while she checks in on me to make sure all of my systems are running smoothly and that I haven’t been disturbed… which is exactly what you’re doing.”

Akira’s jaw dropped. She looked around the place once again and let out a low whistle.

“All of this, just to solve one problem?” She said.

“Not just any problem, girlie.” Weir replied. “The problem. The greatest problem.”

On the screen, the image of Doctor Weir’s face was replaced with a mathematical formula. Akira leaned in close to the screen, trying to understand what she was seeing.

“What is it?” she asked.

“The Cosmic Speed Limit.” Weir said. “And the biggest obstacle in my research. You see, girlie, nothing in this universe can travel faster than light, because it would require infinite energy… and yet… Somehow, these Venn Gates allowed the Outsiders to reach our world so quickly. They clearly got here faster than light could travel here from their own world... and yet, they are not travelling faster than light. You see the paradox?”

Akira put her hands on her hips and said.

“Hyperspace.” She said. “They just jumped-”

Doctor Weir interrupted.

“No, no, no. Moria and I thought of that after the Elders showed up in ’15. Look here, at these schematics.”

The math equation on the screen was replaced with a cutaway diagram of an alien spacecraft. Akira noticed a date in the corner: June 28, 1963.

“See here.” Weir said. “This is a transport vessel clearly designed for flight in deep space. Yet there is no Hyperspace module, nor is there any recognizable component of a Hyperspace system.”

Akira had to agree. She’d spent enough time on board the Ark Angel to know what a Hyperspace module looked like. She could recognize a Quantum Waveform generator on sight, and this alien vessel didn’t have one. Weir replaced the image with another. This time it was a city-sized mothership. The caption underneath said: The Day the Sky Fell, June 1963. Once again, no matter how hard Akira squinted at the schematic, there was no sign of a Hyperspace system, nor of the components for one.

“So if they didn’t have a Hyperspace system, then how did they aliens get here?” Akira asked. “How do the Venn Gates work?”

“I’ve been trying to solve that problem for almost a hundred years.” The doctor said. “And I’m still hung up on that one Paradox. But ya know what the worst part of it all is, Sheila?”

“The worst part?” Akira repeated. “What could be worse?”

“Well, I think I know the answer.” Weir admitted. “I think I know, but I’ve got no way to prove it. Not without the solution to this problem. Until I can solve for the speed of light, it’s just an unsubstantiated guess.”

Akira was hooked. This conundrum was probably beyond her, and she knew it. But focusing on Doctor Weir’s problem allowed Akira to think about something other than what her parents had done to her and her friends. She was actually starting to enjoy this little escape from reality, and wanted to dive even further into hypotheticals about dimensional gates. So she asked Doctor Weir to share his guess.

“Time.” The virtual doctor said. “I think the key to everything lies in time… specifically in one aspect of it. I think… I theorize that Venn Gates allow a starship to displace its own position within space-time. It remains in the same physical location, yet by side-stepping into some other dimension and waiting there, its relationship to time is somehow altered when the vessel comes back to normal space. How? Why? I haven’t the faintest idea. I need more information, I need the solution to the speed of light.”

A new sound reached Akira’s ears. A machine somewhere was running.

“What’s that noise?” she asked.

“Just the printer.” Weir replied. “I always print off my latest calculations and research for Moria to review when she visits. She restocks any consumables I need and keeps the place functioning. She wants to know the answer too, just like me.”

Akira wanted a few answers as well. She didn’t fully understand the nature of the problem. Even though Akira knew Hyperspace systems very well, the concept of dimensional gates was new to her. She started to ask another question when a voice echoed out of the decon chamber she entered through.

“Kira? Are you down here?”

“Aw, bloody hell. Now what!?” Weir groaned.

Four people appeared on the far side of the room. Blake Robinson, James, and Josiah were led into the room by Emanuel, who was saying:

“She went down this way.”

Akira swore quietly, then, moving as softly and quietly as she could, she dashed over to a large tray where a printer was depositing sheets of paper on a huge stack. Akira scooped up about three hundred pages in her arms and then sat down on top of one of the computers, pretending to read. A moment later, her father called out.

“There she is! Akira! Don’t just run away like that.”

“What!?” Akira snarked. “You wanted me to find some ratty old papers to read, so I did. Now leave me alone!”

The twins shrugged their shoulders and then took an interest in the massive server bank in the middle of the room. As soon as they approached, Doctor Weir’s voice shouted:

“This is not a bloody meeting place! Important scientific research is being done here! Please leave!”

Akira couldn’t help but feel sorry for the computerized doctor, as the outburst only served to draw more attention to him. Before long, all of the Robinson family was in the room, along with Chris. Doctor Weir was forced to reintroduce himself and tell his story to the others, and once again he uttered some anti-Asian racist slang after he saw Chihiro. Eventually, after a conversation that Akira mostly ignored, Blake brought the subject around the Sleepwalker Virus.

“Crikey, is that what you’re here for?” Weir said to Akira’s father. “Look, mate. You might’ve wasted your time. The Sleepwalker treatment wasn’t our best work.”

“How so?” Chris said. “All of XCOM’s records say you and your comrades developed a treatment.”

“Yer deadset.” Weir replied. “We did develop a treatment, but we never used it. Director Faulke decided to let all of the Sleepwalkers die of natural causes.”

Akira noticed out the corner of her eye that all of her family members looked crestfallen. Blake’s eyes flickered to his daughter as he asked:

“But the treatment works, right? You were able to wake up some people, weren’t you?”

“One.” Weir said in a deadpan tone. “Agent Carter woke up one Sleepwalker. I would hardly call that proof the treatment works.”

Akira was still looking down at the stack of paper she’d taken from Weir’s printer, but using her power of telepathy, she could detect a building sense of despair in her family members, and she finally understood why. The Sleepwalker treatment they were after had been their last best hope in a plan to “deprogram” Akira, to restore her to the way she’d been before setting foot on Kauai. Deep inside her own soul, Akira felt satisfied.

She didn’t want to go back.

While her family continued their vain efforts to get information out of the supercomputer holding Doctor Weir’s consciousness, Akira looked down and finally started to read the book’s worth of research she had taken. She spotted a note on the top page, the one printed most recently. The typed letters spelled out the following message:

Strange jap girl visited today. Tried to reconcile Hyperspace theory with Venn Gate problem. Gave me an idea: reconfigure one of those Progenitor Hyperspace Cores to open Venn Gates instead of Quantum Wavefront. Plausible idea: Enter Hyperspace via dimensional gate, find a plane where time and space are desynchronized, and loiter there. Time travel in a sense, but this just re-opens the issue with circular time again. Utility limited, theory is untestable without an accompanying Progenitor Hyperspace Gate. Would also need a starship, unlikely to get one anytime soon. Idea shelved.

Akira could still hear her parents talking to Doctor Weir, but she had completely lost interest. Each page of the good Doctor’s research was more interesting than the last. She skimmed, taking in whatever she could. Akira didn’t understand much of the doctor’s writing. There were some very advanced aspects of physics and atomic theory in there, but Akira did understand the concept of Hyperspace and faster-than-light travel. Every time the doctor’s writing turned to the subject, Akira sat up and paid attention.

Differential geometry, Electrodynamic theory, four-vector mathematics. So much of Doctor Weir’s findings went directly over Akira’s head… but she did understand the general concept. Doctor Weir theorized that if a spacecraft entered Hyperspace with a heavily modified Hyperspace Core, then a highly specific type of time travel would become possible. So highly specific, in fact, that the concept as a whole ran into a serious problem that limited its overall usefulness.

All in all, it was a fun thought experiment. Akira knew that time travel couldn’t be possible, but she did enjoy fantasizing about the possibility. If she could remake the past, she would change the whole world and live out her days on some tropical island with Rafi Bakir, and nobody would ever so much as threaten to dismantle her perfect paradise ever again.

It was pipe dream, and she knew it… but for some reason, when the time came to leave Site X and return to the Ark Angel, Akira found she just couldn’t let the idea go. She brought her backpack down the lab and collected nearly five hundred sheets of Doctor Weir’s research. At the last second, before she departed, Akira spotted a curious-looking device hanging from a hook on the wall: it was some kind of technologically sophisticated backpack, with wires and cables connected to some kind of cuff meant to be worn on the right arm. Feeling curious, Akira grabbed the whole package and took it with her.

During the flight back to Kansas, Akira barely even noticed her parent’s disappointment in the way the expedition turned out. She was all too eager to continue studying the stack of papers in her backpack. Akira could think of nothing else but the research she’d taken from the site with her.

And in her dreams that night, Akira envisioned herself building the modified Hyperspace Core, she saw herself building that perfect paradise.

And she wished there was some way to make that dream a reality.


 
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First of all, Blake and Chihiro actually considered selling their daughter? That's harsh.

Akira sounds like she's under mind control. Wait, how long lasting is that? Could Akira have been brainwashed the entire time she was acting as the Paradox? Either psionically (doubtful, given her deals, but the End of the Cycle does seem petty enough to not undo such an action in revenge) or through her upbringing? If so, she would be a tragic villain.

Did she recruit Scarlett - the 116th Cycle's Scarlett - for a reminder of what she once had?

Earth is under Paradox's control. What's her plan here? Earth can't win against the entire galaxy, can it? I feel like the other shoe is going to drop soon.

Speaking of which, I feel like Akira might have other companions - even other ships. Just because one ship was discovered doesn't mean they all were, after all. If she does... that might be bad. Her companions might not know this, as she clearly didn't tell them what her end goal is - that is, what the Perfect Future actually entailed.

Heck, even if she didn't have other ships, she controls Earth now. All she needs to do is reclaim the Time Drive schematics and construct more ships capable of traveling through time. Is that her backup plan?

Poor Akira.

The Sweet Air is brainwashing air, right?

Good. The Stormbreakers are doing well.

Is Akira's mind still broken, even after all these billions of years?

I'm not sure how to feel about the "Utopia". On the one hand, it does sound pretty utopic - what with the lack of sadness. On the other hand, it is maintained through brainwashing. I'm curious as to why they don't try to extend the compound to the entire planet, though.

Will Akira get her memories - her true memories - back? If so, I wonder if they'll drive her insane...

And the beginnings of the Time Core have emerged!

Also, are we certain that Akira has only infiltrated Earth? If she's infiltrated the wider galaxy, she could have influence over the Galactic Council. Perhaps she has influence over the new Galactic Custodian. She could easily be playing both sides, and you did say this was partially inspired by Captain America: the Winter Soldier.

So sorry for not posting for so long, but the way. Congrats on the Showcase.

I'll probably post the TVTropes page when you hit a million words. Congrats on writing that much, by the way.
 
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Poor Akira! Not just Stockholm Syndrome but all of Sweden!
It's a worst-case scenario, poor Akira will never be 100% right in the head again. That kind of experience will permanently change anybody.

Akira sounds like she's under mind control. Wait, how long lasting is that? Could Akira have been brainwashed the entire time she was acting as the Paradox? Either psionically (doubtful, given her deals, but the End of the Cycle does seem petty enough to not undo such an action in revenge) or through her upbringing? If so, she would be a tragic villain.
In this universe, Mind Control can typically be made to last for several minutes, but very skilled Psions can keep it up for hours on end. The temporary nature of Mind Control makes it a useful for direct telepathic intervention, but whenever Akira needed to permanently alter someone's mind, she would use far more invasive and longer lasting methods including Psionic Manipulation.

Did she recruit Scarlett - the 116th Cycle's Scarlett - for a reminder of what she once had?
It sure seems like Akira has a serious ulterior motive playing out here. Not only did she allow Scarlett's continued existence, she put her in a position of power. Does the Original Cycle version of Scarlett really seem like a potential spymaster to anyone here? There's definitely something suspicious there. ;)

Earth is under Paradox's control. What's her plan here? Earth can't win against the entire galaxy, can it? I feel like the other shoe is going to drop soon.
As you'll see in a future chapter, Akira is deeply interested in re-creating the EXALT society on a much larger scale. A scary prospect considering the sheer amount of raiding and space piracy needed to sustain that kind of society. I'm pretty sure Stellaris has a government type that revolves entirely around raiding, pillaging, and stealing people from other worlds. ;)

Heck, even if she didn't have other ships, she controls Earth now. All she needs to do is reclaim the Time Drive schematics and construct more ships capable of traveling through time. Is that her backup plan?
It's worse. Her final plan is far... far worse.

The Sweet Air is brainwashing air, right?
Yup. The Sweet Air specifically depressed and slowed down parts of the brain responsible for higher reasoning and logic, leaving the victim vulnerable to manipulation. Essentially, everyone on the island was slightly impaired as though they'd consumed an alcoholic beverage and become buzzed.

I'm not sure how to feel about the "Utopia". On the one hand, it does sound pretty utopic - what with the lack of sadness. On the other hand, it is maintained through brainwashing. I'm curious as to why they don't try to extend the compound to the entire planet, though.
Boom! This is exactly the kind of conflicted reaction I was aiming for. And in my head, I believe EXALT would have taken this thing global if they had enough time and personnel to do so. XCOM's sudden assault on Kauai totally derailed any future expansion.

Is Akira's mind still broken, even after all these billions of years?

Yes. Her mind is irreparably damaged.

Also, are we certain that Akira has only infiltrated Earth? If she's infiltrated the wider galaxy, she could have influence over the Galactic Council. Perhaps she has influence over the new Galactic Custodian. She could easily be playing both sides, and you did say this was partially inspired by Captain America: the Winter Soldier.
That's just the thing... Varian and the new Stormbreakers only know that Akira has infiltrated and seized partial control of the UNE. There are huge gaps in their knowledge: Akira could be anywhere doing anything, and the Stormbreakers won't know until they narrow down exactly where she is and who she's disguised herself as. (They currently suspect she is posing as former Niagara copilot Erin Hyatt, but have no proof)

So sorry for not posting for so long, but the way. Congrats on the Showcase.

I'll probably post the TVTropes page when you hit a million words. Congrats on writing that much, by the way.
No worries, the forums are a big place and I'm not the only writer here.

And according to my math, it currently looks like I'm going to breach the one million word landmark during the ninth or tenth paragraph of Chapter 14: The Four Temptations, which is currently set to be the penultimate chapter of All Our Sins Remembered.

And it's good to hear from you again. Returning readers instantly warm my heart. :)


Thanks for commenting, the both of you. I'm always happy to read and respond to comments. There won't be a new chapter today, as I'm taking a short break for my health. I'll be back with Chapter 10 on August 7, but I strongly suspect the sub-series War of the Paradox will come back first.

Also, there is a slim chance that the final chapter of All Our Sins Remembered might be posted on September 11, 2021, which would be the 1-year anniversary of the end of The Stormbreakers. Time sure does fly, huh?
 
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More great stuff as usual Mac! Always an enjoyable read, and a great side trek away from my usual readings.
 
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Hello all!

I'm happy to report that I am alive and well, and the health scare I've experienced over the past three weeks is pretty much over. I'm getting back to work on the final six chapters of All Our Sins Remembered. In the meantime, we'll be taking a few more looks into the 116th Cycle to see what the main storyline of the Stormbreaker Universe is up to.

There is one other thing I wanted to say: the
Q2 2021 ACA's are currently running, courtesy of community pillar @Nikolai. Remember to celebrate your favorite AAR's of the past few months by filling out a ballot and casting your vote. The deadline for voting is August 22, 2021, and even if you don't cast a vote, the thread is still a perfect place to find new AARs to read and explore. Thank you for your time, and let's get this show running again!


Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number Five
“As a Scalpel”



AFTER ACTION REPORT: OPERATION AVENGING ANGEL


  • Primary Objective:
    • Kill members of the Progeny
  • Secondary Objective:
    • Capture members of the Progeny
Operation date: August 5, 2084
Location: Tereshkova City, Wolf 359 Star System, United Nations of Earth
Mission Type: Counter-Terror Operation (Terror Attack in Tereshkova City!)


Mission Debrief – Squad Leader Varian Robinson

Well, it’s official. The Stormbreakers are officially a combatant in this war now.

Earlier this morning, we intercepted a Hyperwave signal being transmitted by Human militants. A Progeny cell was planning to assault an alien Ghetto in Tereshkova City, on the edge of Human territory in the Wolf 359 star system. Progeny fighters were looking to drive non-Humans out of the city and kill any who tried to stay.

We’ve gotten pretty sick of just sitting around and listening to this war, plus, now that we were confident Akira is controlling the Progeny by pretending to be its leader, Erin Hyatt. So when Corder suggested we fly out to Wolf 359 and give the Progeny a bloody nose, the only question I asked was:

“Who wants to use the plasma cannon?”

We packed up all our weapons and gear and made the jump to Hyperspace as soon as we could.



So, the action.

When we arrived in Tereshkova City, there wasn’t really a plan besides “kill Progeny” and we just kinda improvised. As soon as the Niagara overflew the alien Ghetto, Maui spotted Progeny fighters who were storming civilian housing and trying to murder the people inside. Corder and Maui suited up in Archangel Armor (Yes, I know its outdated tech from 2015, it was all we had) and used the flightpack to take control of a rooftop. Maui landed the ship in a park about two miles away. He and Ninu stayed behind to use the ship as a command center while Cetla and I ran to meet up with Corder and Maui.

All told, the terror attack on Tereshkova City was being carried out by six members of the Progeny, and they split up into three groups of two when the attack started. This made things a little more complicated for us. Each terrorist had multiple weapons and explosives, so they were leaving a trail of destruction everywhere they went. To make matters worse, the TCPD was refusing to send police or security forces to the Ghetto. (We think they were secretly supporting the terror attack) So it was just the four of us against the six of them.

Corder and Kingi kept in touch with us via radio, but Cetla and I didn’t link up with them until the fight was almost over. The stormed the apartment they landed on via the rooftop and got all the way to the ground floor before encountering anyone. The Progeny had already swept that building and liquidated the non-Humans inside. Corder caught the smell of two Progeny fighters as soon as she got outside and smelled them out right away. Two Progeny terrorists came out of a high-rise apartment building down the street and were mown down by Kingi before they could react.

Meanwhile, Cetla and I got into a gunfight with two more Progeny: a man and a woman. The enemy took up shooting positions on the second floor of a row house and they pinned us down behind a wrecked car. Cetla and I traded fire with them for a good three minutes before Cetla lost patience with the whole thing. He stood up and just started walking towards the house, and both of the Progeny focused fire on him. Thing is, both of the enemies were using Gauss weapons, and Cetla’s reptilian hide was resistant to projectile weapons. He held his arms in front of his face and just charged in there like a bull. All three-hundred pounds of this guy smashed through the front door and he must have ran into something critical because the whole façade of the building came down. Both of the bad guys fell two stories and hit the pavement. The woman was killed instantly but the man survived with serious injuries.

Cetla and I got into an argument about what to do with the surviving Progeny fighter. I wanted to capture him and interrogate him about their leadership. Cetla wanted to kill the guy on the spot. Before we got to shouting at one another, there was an explosion about three hundred yards down the street, and then Corder and Kingi arrived.

Turns out, our Hybrid friends encountered the final two Progeny fighters inside of a warehouse. They were right in the middle of executing a family of Partogans when Corder interrupted them with a Needle Grenade, killing the Progeny and saving a dozen Partogans from a terrible death. Unfortunately, eight members of the same family were murdered before Corder and Kingi got there.

Once the four of us got together, we came to a three-to-one agreement (Cetla was the holdout) that we would capture the last surviving enemy and interrogate him. Corder, being a longtime bounty hunter, knew how to take the enemy into custody without doing further damage, so she dragged the bad guy back to the Niagara. Meanwhile, Cetla, Kingi and I helped evacuate the non-Humans from the Ghetto.

The evacuation was chaotic but it did get done. The Vaygr Clan Osoro picked up on the action and sent a carrier strike group to Wolf 359. While the combat ships were keeping the local defense fleet busy, several Vaygr shuttles came down to Tereshkova City and rescued the remaining non-Humans while the Stormbreakers pulled security. Ninu and Maui used the Niagara to screen and protect the Vaygr transports until all were safely away.

We fled the planet at the same time, just as a large Human armada Hyperspaced into the system. As soon as the Vaygr got away, we staged our own exit.

Corder pointed out that taking our prisoner back to the Karos Graveyard is a bad idea, as we cannot risk details about our base leaking out. Instead, we’re going to take the captive to a quiet location in the Outer Rim where we can interrogate him without fear of being bothered by our new Human enemies.





The Stormbreakers

Today’s Date: August 5, 2084

Current Location: Dig Site 603, Gehenna Asteroid Field, Vaygr Reaches

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

 
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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number Five, part 2


AFTER ACTION REPORT: OPERATION AVENGING ANGEL, continued


Operation date:
August 6, 2084
Location: Dig Site 603, Gehenna Asteroid Field, Vaygr Reaches


Debrief – Bounty Hunter Corder Leang

Sometimes, the threat of torture is more productive than the actual deed.

All I had to do was flex my claws, sharpen my knife, and yawn a couple of times to show off my fangs.

I got names, I got places, I got dates and times and Hyperwave frequencies. And that was before our new friends from the Angel Moon showed up. That’s right, our mysterious boss finally pulled through on his promise of allies.

The prisoner’s been taken off our hands now by representatives from the Galactic Defense Force, some new multinational army that’s gonna combine all the militaries in the Galaxy against Earth or something like that. But we got so much intel off the guy I don’t even know where to start. In no particular order, here’s what we’ve learned:


  • The Progeny leadership is highly decentralized and autonomous.
    • The Progeny operate in cells, each cell is run by a “Sorceress” (always seems to be female) with an unknown number of male “Acolytes” operating as her lieutenants and field commanders. Each cell appears to have little to no contact with the other and are often out of communication with Erin Hyatt. These cells do not appear to be waiting for specific orders from Hyatt, instead reacting to current events and broadcasts of Hyatt’s speeches. The prisoner we captured in Tereshkova City was an Acolyte. The woman with him was the local Sorceress, meaning we accidentally killed a much more valuable source of Intel back there, and we also decapitated the Tereshkova branch of the Progeny.
  • The Progeny has secretly built and deployed a slave army.
    • This appears to be how this organization is able to maintain an uncharacteristically large military presence. According to our captive, the Progeny has been kidnapping/abducting young aliens (newborns, cubs, small youngsters) and has been indoctrinating them to serve as Thralls. This program appears to have been in the works for the past eighteen years, ever since Secretary-General Etienne came to power on Earth. Now that open war has commenced, we may see more of these Thralls in combat rather than Humans.
  • The Progeny is attempting to develop Psionic weapons.
    • This revelation seems ridiculous, but the interrogation droid sent by the Micore Empire is convinced that our captive was being truthful. Despite the destruction of all Psionic energy approximately 50 years ago by Jericho, someone in the Progeny (Erin Hyatt) appears to be deeply interested in finding a way to bring back the Gift. The Progeny’s work on the project was set back when XCOM’s Chimera Squad took down Violet’s operation in City 31 about forty-five years ago. We don’t know how much progress our enemies have made in the half-century since.
  • The Cult of Jericho is helping the United Nations engage in some kind of cover-up.
    • This is the only new detail we haven’t been able to make sense of. It’s possible our prisoner simply did not know enough to be able to shed light on the matter, but he was adamant that the UN government was trying to hide some aspect of the current war from the Human public and the Cult of Jericho was actively assisting this effort by means of its ability to network with highly religious Humans.
  • Jericho appears to have gone into hiding.
    • We weren’t ready to hear this one. Ever since Blake Robinson blew the secret of her survival to the whole Galaxy, the Earth-based Partogan colony where Jericho lives has been a pilgrimage site for the faithful. However, when hostilities broke out, Jericho vanished. Our prisoner claimed that thousands of Progeny and Cult members are currently engaged in a massive manhunt and are combing every inch of New Zealand in an effort to find Jericho. An effort that has so far failed.
It will take some time to confirm whether anything the Acolyte told us is actually true. In the meantime, we are expecting the situation to rapidly develop soon. The Galactic Defense Force is getting ready to launch their first offensive against the Humans, and a few of us are eager to get out there and show the Paradox that the Galaxy will not submit to Humanity without a serious fight.

CL.



 
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<=== Previous Chapter (The Good Doctor)
Next Chapter (Chaos Theory) ===>


Chapter 10
Crack in the World


It started as a wishful dream. Something she knew would never come to pass. Then, as time went on, Akira noticed that she just couldn’t get the idea out of her head. She vaguely remembered having an experience like this before. It felt like centuries ago, but she had obsessed over a man once, her thoughts consumed just like they were now. And it was happening again. No matter how hard she tried, Akira’s mind kept drifting back to the massive stack of scientific papers in her bedroom, and the incredible implications of their contents.

Every night, before she went to sleep, Akira flipped through several pages of Doctor Weir’s research. By day, she reluctantly engaged with her family, withdrawn and silent. She barely paid attention to their efforts to help XCOM build the Terraforming Engine. It just wasn’t important anymore. The smallest seed of an idea was planted somewhere deep in Akira’s mind, and given time, it grew into a plan. At first, this plan was nothing more than an impossible pipe dream, but with each page Akira read, her crazy idea seemed more and more plausible.

But then she discovered Chaos Theory.

That was when everything changed.



September 27, 2060

The Colony, Kansas




Two weeks after the expedition to Site X, Akira was deep into her crash course in time travel theory. She was spending her morning at the cafeteria in XCOM HQ, but her food was getting cold. Akira was engrossed in one of Doctor Weir’s papers about Chaos Theory, and was just barely starting to understand the concept of the Butterfly Effect when a commotion reached her ears. Large numbers of people were getting up to leave all at the same time, murmuring and muttering to one another as a rumor spread through the room like a wildfire.

Scarlett Freeman passed by at a brisk pace, but then paused and doubled back.

“Hey, Kira.” She spoke cautiously, keeping herself at arm’s length. “Aren’t you coming with us?”

“Whatever it is, I’m not interested.” Akira replied without looking up from a description of strange attractors.

Scarlett looked down at Akira’s research and let out a weak chuckle.

“It looks like you’re going to be reading until lunchtime.” Scarlett said. “Are you sure you don’t wanna take a break?”

“Time is an illusion.” Akira quipped. “Lunchtime is doubly so.”

Scarlett shrugged.

“Okay, fine then.” She said. “I mean, I don’t know when’s the next time any of us will get to see a real living alien. I’ll take a picture for you.”

Akira’s head snapped up. Looking at her former friend she repeated:

“Wait! A real alien!?”

Scarlett took a step back at Akira’s sudden reaction, but she did not disengage.

“Two of them!” Scarlett declared. “A Vanian and a Partogan! Come and see.”



Outside, Akira and Scarlett saw a commotion near the spaceport. A very old and battered starship had just landed on the runway, and people were busily rolling out canvas awnings to protect the newcomers from the deadly sunlight. The ship itself was a Partogan frigate of some kind. Akira recognized the red and green insignia painted on the hull. The frigate was disarmed. Her gun ports empty and her sensor array stripped down to the bare essentials.

A large number of Humans disembarked from the craft, followed by a single Partogan and a lone Vanian. The Partogan was easy enough to recognize. It was common knowledge that Partogans were not truly aliens, but the descendants of Humans who were abducted and transported across the Galaxy by powers unknown. This particular Partogan was an elderly man, with a bald head and messy white beard. At his side was a decrepit-looking Vanian.

Vanians were avians, meaning they evolved from birds. Akira learned from her parents that Vanians, while alien, were comparable to Indian peacocks. Vanians were supposedly so beautiful they were desired by all other species, and according to rumor, their whole civilization was born when one of them discovered his own reflection. The Vanian who now arrived in Myron was not beautiful, at least as far as Akira was concerned. The bird was very old. Her plumage faded and drooping.

Scarlett was rooted to the spot, staring in awe at the first two aliens she’d ever seen. Akira, however, found herself quickly moving to follow several other members of XCOM who were making their way towards the airport. She’d picked up on something Scarlett could never have noticed.



Underneath the main gate into town, Blake Robinson and a few others were greeting the new arrivals. Several members of the starship crew were already acquainted with Blake and smiled at the sight if a familiar face. However, when the two aliens reached him, they gave a cry of delight and embraced him.

“Ranginui! Divakar! I don’t believe it!” Blake cheered. “I thought we were never going to see you again.”

The two aliens regarded Blake with a mournful expression.

“We were faced with reality, and we decided to return.” The old Partogan said. “Perhaps we should discuss things inside. Who is this?”

Blake looked in the direction the Partogan was pointing, and saw Akira, standing in the shadow if the Gate and watching the reunion with rapt attention. When she realized she was spotted, Akira cast her eyes down to the dirt, but it was too late. Blake was so happy to see his daughter out and about that he never stopped to ask why. Instead, he called her over and introduced her to his companions.

“This is my daughter. Akira, I’d like you to meet Manako Ranginui and Kanti Divakar, of the Partogan warship Kakama.”

Both of the aliens smiled politely at Akira, but an unspoken understanding quickly passed between herself, Manako, and Kanti: all three of them were Gifted.



After many more introductions and offloading of cargo, Akira found herself back in the cafeteria, where dozens of people were offering food to Kanti and Manako, practically begging them to recount their adventures to them. Manako and Kanti spoke aloud to the gathered audience, but at the same time, they engaged Akira with telepathy. Apparently, she was the first Psion they had encountered since leaving Earth and were very happy for the chance to commute with one again.

So while Manako and Kanti took turns telling their tale to Blake and Chihiro and Bradford and Harper, Akira was treated to far more than a story. She got to relive the memory itself. She leaned in a wall in the Far corner and allowed Manako to draw her into the depths of his own memories:

The War in Heaven was a catastrophe. Jericho and the Stormbreakers succeeded in killing the Beast but their victory came at a terrible cost. Most allied warships were damaged or destroyed, the Hyperspace network was shut down, and tens of millions of aliens were stranded on Earth with no way home. Manako took charge of the Partogan survivors, since Queen Miranda the Third was killed in the battle. A small flotilla of warships set out for home, followed after a while by the Vanian fleet. Kanti and the other Vanians knew their Homeworld was destroyed, and were hoping they might come across a habitable world between Earth and Partoga.

So the journey began, and it was quickly beset by hardship. With the Hyperspace network destroyed, Manako and Kanti's people could only travel by short-range Hyperspace Jumps, and then on slower-than-light engines while the Hyperdrives recharged. Distances that once took days to cross now required months. The slow travel time meant that by the time the fleet arrived back in the Hiigaran Empire, the great star nation had already collapsed. Fuel depots were empty and abandoned. Colonies and outposts were looted for what little supplies remained, while orbital stations were derelict, their crews dead from either a lack of food or breathable air. Without the Hyperspace network, all of the supply chains that sustained great interstellar empires were severed. The collapse of spaceborne civilization was quick and brutal.

Without any place to refuel or refit their ships, the convoy fell victim to attrition. One by one starships failed. Sometimes, it was possible to evacuate the crew and passengers to another vessel. Other times, the failure was sudden and lethal. The convoy of survivors was whittled down, one or two ships at a time, for years. Manako and Kanti recounted many escapes from stricken ships just before the power failed. Weapons and ammunition were abandoned to reduce weight, while Phased Disassembler systems ground up any organic matter available to make into a paste that sustained life, but was otherwise repulsive. Eventually, neither alien remembered when, all hope of reaching Partoga was lost. With survival on the line, the survivors of the War in Heaven started seeking out any planet at all.

But things only got worse.

Planets that once themed with life were cold and lifeless. Vania was fully subverted by the Beast, and the planet died with Agamemnon. The survivors had no choice but to move on. Micanawn was bombed into glass, the great cities reduced to silent wastes. All that remained of Hokianga was a crater.

The remaining leaders gathered to try and come up with a plan. The fleet was a small fraction of its original size. Most ships were damaged or breaking down, and only the hardiest of survivors were still alive. Someone floated the idea to dock all of the remaining ships together to make a ramshackle Habitat Station. Others argued the fleet should press on to Partoga. A few wanted to change course and try to reach Hiigara and the Angel Moon.

In the end, the schism was too great. The fleet broke up and the few remaining survivors went their own ways, attempting to do whatever they though had the best chance of success. Reluctantly, Manako, Kanti, and a few others resigned themselves to the increasingly likely chance that Partoga did not survive the war. They turned back and returned to Earth, arriving in Kansas over two decades after their departure.

When Kanti and Manako finished their tale, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Doctor Tygan offered his shoulder for Manako to rest on, and then asked:

“What will you do now? Do you intend to make your lives here?”

“If you’ll permit us.” Kanti replied.

All at once, dozens of people spoke up at once, offering to make room for the new arrivals and give them a proper living space. In the midst of all this, Akira absentmindedly wondered what Manako and Kanti were going to do with their old starship.

To her surprise, the answer came almost immediately.

“What? Do you want it?”

Despite being mobbed by Humans, Kanti had somehow spotted Akira and was keeping one of her beady red eyes locked on her. The telepathic question was asked again:

“My companion and I don’t plan on leaving.” Kanti’s voice played out in Akira’s head. “You are welcome to take the Kakama off our hands if you desire.”

It was like an explosion took place in Akira’s head. Ideas upon ideas flowed from a wellspring of inspiration. Perhaps, a long time ago, a younger Akira would have followed her parent’s advice to never accept gifts from strangers; but today, for the first time, Akira got a glimpse of her longshot pipedream as a reality, and she refused to pass up the chance. Navigating the crowd like a serpent, Akira made her way to Manako. The old Partogan nodded to her and pressed a heavy metal object into her palm, roughly the size and shape of a playing card. Partogan words were etched into the surface, revealing the device to be a Green Guard command card.

Heart thudding excitedly, Akira left the cafeteria at a run.

She knew this crazy plan had no chance of actually working.

She was expecting something to go wrong.

But she knew she had to try.

Time travel was supposed to be impossible, but if it was…

If it was…



After about two hours of searching, Julian and Scarlett found Akira.

She was alone inside of the barely functional Partogan starship on the airport runway. The interior of the Kakama was not only decayed and neglected, but dirtied and stained by two decades’ worth of life. Scarlett could hear a voice coming from much further inside of the ship, and she called out to Akira. When there was no answer, Julian took point. The android shone a light into the darkened corridor and stepped lightly on the aging metal. Scarlett followed behind.

They found Akira standing by herself in a reinforced chamber, deep within the old frigate. A machine, unlike anything Scarlett had ever seen before, occupied the center of the room. A metal sphere, roughly the size of an average kitchen sink, was suspended in the center of the contraption by scaffolding. A vast multicolor array of electrical cables were wrapped around these supports before snaking off to the surrounding computer banks. A Partogan command card was sticking out of one of these terminals, which was lit up and running.

Akira herself was studying the contraption. She had a notepad tucked under her arm, a pencil behind her ear, and a tape measure in both hands. But this wasn’t what Scarlett took notice of straight away. What really got her attention was a stack of paper, several hundred pages thick, resting on the floor beside Akira. Seeming to ignore the presence of Julian and Scarlett, Akira continued to record the dimensions of the contraption, all the while muttering to herself.

“This is why Weir needed one of the Cores. These short jump systems don’t generate enough power.”

These words must have made sense to Julian, because he immediately spoke up.

“Akira, we’ve been searching for you. Your parents are worried.”

Akira looked up from her work, and Scarlett took a step back.

Her old friend had changed.

For the first time since she returned from Kauai, Akira seemed to be genuinely animated. There was a kind of manic energy about her as though the youngest Robinson was on a roll and had no intention of stopping. Scarlett put one hand on Julian to steady herself.

“I’m worried too.” She said. “You’re not yourself. You were different when those EXALT guys took you, but now you’re even stranger. Please, leave all this here and come with us. Your parents are outside, and we’ve all decided that we’re going to help you.”

“Your mental health is clearly compromised.” Julian added. “And since I prefer to see you in physical agony rather than mental anguish, I suggest you come with us.”

Akira shook her head so vigorously her pencil fell to the floor.

“What? Oh no, no.” She said. “I can’t stop here, the math checks out. The hypothesis makes sense, everything adds up. I just, I need to make some modifications to this Hyperspace module and…”

“You’ll modify nothing!” Julian stepped forward and grabbed Akira by the arm. “Hyperspace modules are dangerous, they generate Gamma radiation. Come with me before you injure yourself.”

Akira started to struggle and resist right away, straining against the android. But this wasn’t going to be like on Kauai. Worried something like this might happen again, Akira had made a simple preparation. With her free hand, she tossed her notebook on the floor, where it opened to a highly specific page. As the telekinetic energy faded away, Akira twisted around to face the android and said:

“You’re not going to drag me around again!”

“And what makes you think that?” Julian laughed in her face.

“Because I know the truth!” Akira responded in a confident voice. “This statement is false!”

Julian’s grip on her slackened.

“Wait… what?” Julian stammered. “Hold on a moment, Akira. My CPU is running hot. I… I… I need to reboot.”

The android suddenly became very still and its eyes darkened. A loud whirring sound came from deep within its body and then Julian’s chest panel opened up, exposing a handprint reader. Julian’s voice, devoid of personality, spoke in a monotone voice:

“Identity: Robinson, Akira. Awaiting impression.”

Scarlett was now genuinely frightened. She tried to back out of the room, to get away, but Akira wasn’t finished. She sprang away from Julian and blocked the door. Scarlett tried to push her way past, but Akira held her ground and kept her former best friend trapped in the Hyperspace module.

“Wait a minute.” Akira said. “I can’t do this alone, I need another pair of hands. You and Julian-”

“No!” Scarlett cried, trying to push her way past Akira one more time. “Please let me go, I don’t know what’s going on, and I think you’re going crazy!”

Scarlett was starting to panic. She could feel strange things creeping into the peripheries of her consciousness. Something was wrong. Horribly wrong. There was a look in Akira’s eyes that pressed poor Scarlett right to the edge.

“You don’t understand, that’s okay.” Akira said. “I can fix that. I can make you understand. I figured out how to do something incredible that can help.”

Scarlett had run out of room. She’d backed all the way into a corner and Akira now had her trapped. The darkness and the very walls themselves seemed to be creeping in from all sides as Scarlett felt Akira’s hands touching the sides of her head. The last thing Scarlett thought of was just how cold Akira’s fingertips felt. At the last moment, before her mind went blank, Scarlett screamed:

“HELP! HELP ME!”



Outside, on the runway, no screams were heard. The starship was too big and Scarlett was too deep into the interior. Underneath an awning, Blake, Chihiro, and Asuna all looked at their watches expectantly. Finally, Chihiro groaned.

“It’s been too long. I’m going in there.”

Asuna stepped in the way, shaking her head.

“This was your idea.” Asuna relayed her words in sign language. “We need to give my sister’s friend more time.”

Blake was skeptical.

“Chi, are you sure Akira’s really closed off her mind? There’s no way in?”

Chihiro nodded.

“She’s locked her mind up more securely than the Chosen Strongholds. I can’t get in.”

Blake sighed.

“Then we wait.” He said. “Akira’s friends will have a better chance at figuring out if she’s okay than any of us.”

So the trio waited outside of the ruined starship for a few more minutes. Finally, one of the hatches swung open and three people descended the boarding ramp. Akira and Scarlett were chatting with one another excitedly while Julian brought up the rear. Blake and Chihiro both let out little cries of joy when they saw their daughter talking to her old friend in a cordial way. It made them feel just a little better about the situation. The pair of teenagers waved to the Robinson parents and Scarlett jogged over to them, smiling in a strange way no one had ever seen before.

“Akira was so happy to see me!” Scarlett declared in a floaty, dreamlike-voice. “I think things are finally going back to the way they were.”

“Mom, Dad. Scarlett and I are working on a project in there.” Akira launched into an explanation without preamble. “Is it okay if I invite a few other people to help? As long as we don’t get in the way of the Terraforming Project, you know?”

The Robinson parents hesitated for a moment, looked at one another, and then finally said:

“Well, okay. We’re happy to see you’re working with friends again, on something… productive.”

As Akira and Scarlett departed, heading for the tenement building, Blake pulled Asuna and Chihiro aside. He waited until Akira was far away, beyond earshot, and then he said:

“Hold on, ladies. Now it’s been a long time since the war, so I might be mistaken. But… did that feel like Psionic Manipulation to either of you?”

Their faces grim, Chihiro and Asuna both nodded.



October 26, 2060

Ruins of XCOM Headquarters (2015-era), Manhattan, Kansas


Autumn was arriving, and so was the date for Akira’s first experiment. For the past month she had aggressively mined the wellspring of ideas that plagued her dreams. Doctor Weir’s research was now pinned and pasted all over Akira’s bedroom, but she wasn’t there tonight.

After a stressful flight in which Akira feared the Kakama would come apart at any second, Akira, Julian, and Scarlett had succeeded in moving the rickety old starship to a new location. Here in what was once Fort Riley is a round hill with a concrete bunker embedded in one side. The hill itself was unremarkable, but the grounds around it were flat and devoid of any plants larger than a weed. The perfect place to observe an experiment.

Or perhaps observe some people.

Nearly a lifetime of warfare had taught Blake and Chihiro how to move undetected at night. So, despite their advancing years, they were still able to use the night to their advantage. Their daughter was expecting them to be at another XCOM meeting tonight. With a pair of binoculars, a telescope, and a parabolic listening device, the couple settled in for an activity they never thought they would have to do.

They were going to spy on their own daughter.

The past month was, to put it bluntly, alarming. Not only was Akira’s behavior starting to become suspicious, but the behavior of people around her was putting most of XCOM on edge. Anybody who spent long amounts of time with Akira became deeply invested in Akira’s secret project. When questioned or pressed, no information was divulged, and always for the same reason:

“There’s a high chance that all of this will come to nothing. So there’s no point in getting people’s hopes up unless this actually works.”

Perhaps it was their experience with the ADVENT Coalition, but something was causing Blake and Chihiro to be highly suspicious. Something was wrong, and they just couldn’t put their fingers on it.

As the clock ticked past midnight, the boarding ramp extended to the ground and five people descended. Blake and Chihiro recognized Akira, Scarlett, and Julian on sight. There were three others with them: Inez Vasquez, as well as two of the former prisoners who were rescued from Kauai Island. Ingrid Tsiajotso took Pascal Etienne by the hand and led him off the ship. Akira and her friends conversed for several minutes. From their safe distance, Blake and Chihiro eavesdropped on them with the parabolic sensor. They picked up a few words and phrases, but no complete sentences… that was until Akira declared:

“It’s time, everyone synchronize watches!”

And then, to Blake and Chihiro’s confusion, Akira and her Human companions started walking towards the bunker while Julian the android turned around and re-boarded the ship. The very last thing Blake heard his daughter say before she disappeared into the bunker was:

“I think we’ve worked out all the kinks this time. When that reactor hits eighty-eight cycles per second… we’re gonna see some serious shit.”

Then they were gone. The bunker door closed. Blake could only assume they were watching the “test” from some kind of safe location. Chihiro kept her eyes on the elderly starship. For about fifteen minutes, absolutely nothing happened. Chihiro relaxed and started to say the words:

“Maybe it’s a dud.”

When the whole world seemed to turn upside down and all order was abolished!

A crack split the earth, filled with yellow light so brilliant that it danced into the night sky as though the Northern Lights had just crashed down to Earth. The crack in the world grew wide and chaotic as something hot and furious rose up and enveloped the Kakama. The aging warship tumbled and fell into the golden crevasse, vanishing from the Earth entirely.

Then, as suddenly as it appeared, the crack in the world fell dark and closed itself. The whole occurrence took less than a second.

And the Kakama was gone.

As soon as this chaotic anomaly started, Blake and Chihiro both felt their parental instincts kick in. They wanted nothing but to make sure their daughter was okay. Leaving their eavesdropping equipment behind, the couple ran towards the bunker, crying out Akira’s name.

The door swung open before they got to it. Akira and her companions emerged, their emotions ranging from joyful to ecstatic.

“It worked!” Pascal Etienne cheered. “It’s finally worked!”

“I still can’t believe it.” Inez Vasquez panted. “Doctor Tygan’s going to go loco when we tell him.”

“Hey Kira, are those your parents?” Scarlett interjected.

Before Akira could say anything, Blake and Chihiro had reached the group and seized their daughter. In a show of just how much things had changed in the past month, Akira did not try to fight them off, but she did resist their sudden show of affection.

“Are you okay!?” Were the first words out of Chihiro’s mouth. “We saw the whole thing.”

“Some kind of anomaly.” Blake addressed his words to everyone. “It just… just swallowed that old starship. We need to get clear before another one happens!”

Akira pulled herself free of her parents and looked at them with an expression of barely contained joy.

“Dad, that was no anomaly.” She said. “We did that! All our work paid off!”

Blake’s heart skipped a beat.

“What? What do you mean?” He asked. “You mean you caused that thing to swallow Shen’s robot?”

“Don’t worry, Julian is fine.” Akira said in a reassuring voice that did not allay her parent’s fears at all. “For him, the trip would have been instantaneous.”

“Trip?” Chihiro repeated. “What trip? What are you talking about?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Scarlett said. “We converted that old ship into a time machine. We just sent Julian on a one-way trip into the future.”



<=== Previous Chapter (The Good Doctor)
Next Chapter (Chaos Theory) ===>


Word Count Notification said:
This chapter was 4312 words in length.

The Stormbreaker Universe now has a total word count of 990,107.

There are 9,893 words remaining until the series exceeds One Million Words.
 
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Well, the new Stormbreakers got information. This checks out with the idea that the Galactic Council is compromised.

Something's being hidden, after all.

Scarlett and much of XCOM got mind-controlled by Akira. It's beginning.

Well, the aftermath of the original War in Heaven was utterly horrifying. And this keeps repeating. That might be another reason why Akira went more insane. Watching so many deaths...

"Navigating the crowd like a serpent" - Like the serpent, really - and what besides that serpent, that progenitor of sin - is Akira? How many people have died because of her? How much sin has been committed by or because of her? Even time was broken - nature was broken by her deeds.
 
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"Navigating the crowd like a serpent" - Like the serpent, really - and what besides that serpent, that progenitor of sin - is Akira? How many people have died because of her? How much sin has been committed by or because of her? Even time was broken - nature was broken by her deeds.
Oh yes, we're gonna get to the breaking of things. By the way, have you noticed that we've made it all the way to Chapter 10 (out of 15) and Akira hasn't killed anyone yet? She's witnessed a lot of murder but hasn't done the deed herself. Kinda like I'm saving her first for someone significant. ;)

Well, the aftermath of the original War in Heaven was utterly horrifying. And this keeps repeating. That might be another reason why Akira went more insane. Watching so many deaths...
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

Maybe "definition" is the wrong word here. For Akira, I think we should use the term "proximate cause".
Something's being hidden, after all.
Something big is being concealed... and I hope it will explain why the world seems kinda weird in my next Stellaris Story, The Last Heroes.
 
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Stormbreakers: War of the Paradox
Issue Number Five 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:

DISASTER! THADDIS SABBAH FALLS TO HUMAN ATTACKERS. CUSTODIAN KESSICK DELIVERS REMARKS

August 9, 2084 - The joint Vaygr/Hiigaran stronghold Thaddis Sabbah has fallen to Human invaders following three days of battle. About thirty thousand Hiigarans and some fifty thousand Vaygr have been captured alive by the enemy. Allied fatalities are believed to exceed five thousand. Human forces under the command of Space Ranger Rafi Bakir have moved into the Thaddis Sabbah Starbase and have taken full control of one of the largest military outposts in the Outer Rim.

While details of the conflict are still coming in, Xenonian News can confirm that the attacking Human force was vastly outnumbered by the defenders. The Human fleet brought a single Mothership-class vessel supported by a fleet of three Carriers, fifty capital ships and some three hundred strike craft. The joint Hiigaran/Vaygr defenders had eight Motherships, twelve Carriers, a mobile shipyard, about one hundred super-capitol ships, double that number of capital ships, and roughly one thousand strike craft.

According to the accounts of civilians who fled the Thaddis Sabbah region, the outnumbered Humans engaged in a highly mobile and three-dimensional battle of maneuvers. At no time did the main bodies of the opposing fleets come together. Instead, the majority of the battle was fought with fighters, bombers, and corvettes. Approximately fifteen-thousand long range missiles were fired from super-capitol ships as well.

Eyewitness report that during the third day of battle, a strike force of Human corvettes emerged from a debris cloud and engaged the defending fighters. While allied strike craft were distracted, a formation of Cloaked Frigates appeared and started firing on the allied Motherships and Carriers. The remaining allied forces moved to defend the valuable production ships, leaving the crucial Starbase briefly undefended. At that time, a Human Battlecruiser emerged from a cloaking field. This lone super-capital ship managed to come within point-blank range of Thaddis Sabbah before decloaking. As soon as the cruiser was detected, Space Ranger Rafi Bakir sent a voice message to Thaddis Sabbah, demanding the immediate unconditional surrender of all Hiigaran and Vaygr forces.

Thaddis Sabbah capitulated to the Humans at 4 hours past midnight, Angel Moon Standard Time, earlier today. The news rocked military leadership across the Galaxy and has flown in the face of assumptions that the numerically inferior Humans can be worn down to defeat by attrition alone. The Kiith-Sa of the Sobanni, a Hiigaran warrior clan, has pledged to contribute over one-hundred-thousand if his Kiith brothers and sisters to make up the sudden shortfall in allied manpower.

At the Angel Moon, Galactic Custodian Kessick responded to the news of Thaddis Sabbah's capture with strong words:

“This is without question the worst military disaster in living memory. Not since the Second Hyperspace War have the allied powers of the Galaxy been so laid low. Without the Partogan navy, our Hiigaran allies now represent the strongest military in the Galaxy. To see their forces humbled is a terrible blow, but it is most certainly not a fatal one. The Galactic Defense Force continues to mobilize and we will repulse the Human offensive, consolidate our forces, and then launch a counterattack. The Paradox Akira Robinson and her puppet Pascal Etienne will not be allowed to continue their reign of terror over the Galaxy.”

With Thaddis Sabbah removed from the board, military analysts have issued a new warning, suggesting the Shining Hinterlands and all of the surrounding areas of space are now vulnerable to Human attack and invasion. Accordingly, the Galactic Council and the Office of the Galactic Custodian have declared martial law, pending military campaigns, in the following regions of space: the Somtaaw Enclave, Abassid, the Galactic Rim (Gulf Sector), the Kadiir Nebula, and all territory encompassing the Amadiio Mandate.

Citizens of these regions are strongly encouraged to consider evacuation to a safer part of the Galaxy, owing to Humanity's known hostilities toward people who are not of their own species.



 
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Well, this is absolutely terrible news.

And new five separate regions of space are under martial law. If Akira is controlling both sides, this would benefit her immensely.
 
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