The Charnel Child

JackGoose

Corporal
22 Badges
Oct 29, 2011
32
9
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Crusader Kings III: Royal Edition
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Teleglitch: Die More Edition
  • Sword of the Stars
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Sword of the Stars II
I haven't posted something here before. But I like scifi and I like to write a lot, and draw a lot, and when I was playing Stellaris I had a rare bit of really powerful inspiration and I just rolled with it. What I ended up with ended up significantly darker than anything I had written before, and it features some very heavy and intense themes of war and a lot of graphic content that ranges from gore to genocide. But I mean, this is Stellaris. Purges exist, slavery exists, and it is easy to check some boxes and watch your economy improve.

But what about the people on the ground?

The Lumirians were a peaceful race of aquatic mammalians, living simple lives and just starting to reach for the stars, when the Rothaki showed up and changed everything.

AT2gQM5.png


You will be the last I care for.


Those were among the final words my father ever said. It was in the Season of Storms, back when I was a mere fourteen, towards the end of the Rothaki Occupation. I had never seen a Mekon free, but the memory of a time where the sky didn’t burn and when the holt village gathered in the monastery grounds for Harvest Festival without fear haunted my father and grandfather like the spectre of a lost lover. I had only heard stories; tales of a time where there were weekly fishing reports, not weekly lists of those who had gone missing. A simpler time, so sweet sounding it may as well have just been a story. It was something my grandfather dwelled on and squaked on about for hours on end. Honestly there were times where I wish he would have just stopped.


It made me mad.


Sometimes I could feel my blood boil as he told our holt village about the time he had gone out to fish just before this grand typhoon; he had gone out with his friend, Sula, for one last spearfishing sail before the Season of Storms. I could see the glimmer in his eyes when he spoke of the tale. Tears he held back with the experience of age. He recounted the cold air and the gently rolling waves, how Sula and he would fight the wind and the rigging as they made their way towards the safe shallows some two leagues out into the shoals. White sand and breaking waves marked dangerous waters, and he had said that what he lacked in sailing skill he made up for with his aim. He admitted that Sula did all the skilled work on the boat, and at times he was perhaps more of a hassle than a help. He’d tell us about how the sky was as clear and as deep a sapphire, and how you could see the ghostly shadow and glaring crescent of Mekon-Sul as our little watery world orbited around her. I dreamed of those skies with longing when I was younger. At this point, it saddened me to know that they were taken away from me before I had ever seen them.


My grandfather would tell us about how the cold ocean water sprayed up on his face as they crested waves, how he could not get the smell of the Tulan-ik he used for bait out of his paws, and how he fished with a bone spear made by his own father rather than using one of the carbon composite shafts you could buy in the city center. He’d tell us about the time where he spent a full ten minutes under water, searching through the clear depths and lurking between outcroppings of red coral and how he’d have to avoid the anemones that blended their poisoning stingers into the wafting seaweed near the bottom of the cove. He’d say how he hunted his famed sand-shark, a creature of legend to the children of our holt village, for it was some twelve tails in length with teeth the size of his paw. He’d tell us about how he fought with the beast and how it nearly took his leg, and how it grew more ferocious as it came to realize it smelled the inky blood of a Lumirian. It was an exciting tale that went on longer than it should have and overstayed its welcome like bad neighbour. It was a riveting tale, it always got the youngest to use their imaginations to their fullest… just like my grandfather.


Even now when I think about it, my mouth grows sour and my nerves grow tense. It makes me mad, as I would never have that. I feel greedy.


My father was young when the Rothaki of the Fell Throne made planetfall for the first time. Despite what it may have sounded like, the Lumirians are by no means a primitive species. The old nation states of Mekon had made it into space by the time of my grandfather. I can’t speak much of what happened at first contact. Likely what you’d expect. The Fell Throne had made a declaration to the nations of Mekon and her outlying colonies that effective immediately they were to be annexed and fell under the direct jurisdiction of the Fell Throne. This all happened very quickly from what I was told by my father. The Rothaki ships had only been spotted in the system a week or so prior to their official communication, and their sighting sparked a new wave of scientific and militaristic frenzy as first contact with an alien race loomed on the horizon. But it was not a peaceful meeting, as you are already aware.


Panic was the first thing, everyone was confused and frightened by this announcement. Some called it out as a hoax of some kind, our Monastery Keepers frantically sought out prophecies to explain and calm the populace, while others immediately broadcast messages that they have surrendered. When it became obvious that there wouldn’t be any negotiations prior to our subjugation, the fleeting nation states elected to resist the Rothaki. I was told that there was some hope for a time.


My father said that there was a war, though it was brief. Before they were defeated and dismantled, the old nation states launched a coordinated attack on the Rothaki, but not before each capital city had been obliterated by orbital weapons. It was a fast war. The militaries did manage to damage the invasion ships and destroy some with the asteroid defense system, apparently the Rothaki had underestimated our resolve at the time. LD bombs were detonated at their primary beachheads, incinerating their occupation troops within their landing craft in brilliant thermonuclear blasts. This trick only worked once, it was one coordinated attack. The last one.


The war lasted five days.


My father told me that our people had been broken by then. He didn’t understand what was going on at the time, he was so young. I can’t imagine him like that, a child, crying, tugging at his father’s coat as news came in over the radio with stories about how the towns his friends lived in vanished off the map never to be seen again. I can’t picture it now, not as I remember him. Not that man, he was so strong.


I don’t know if I can even say I had a childhood. Everything felt so wrong. I could count the number of times where people were genuinely happy on one paw. I heard stories about how our parents and grandparents fished and played out in the caves. We couldn’t. My parents said the water wasn’t always such a dull gray color, that it didn’t always feel slippery near the surface, they said it wasn’t safe in certain places. It was from the strip mining, they said. And the unsafe places, well, kids never listen. I went there, to the shallow beaches out on the westside of the archipelago. It was where the current carried the bodies. That is why my mother and father said not to go there. Maybe I should have listened.


Then again there shouldn’t have been bodies there.


My father became some kind of clerk in the city. My grandfather was a fisherman, but he couldn’t do that anymore as he had grown old and his good friend Sula had been killed. Worse yet, the fish had gone from the shallows and the water soured like bad ale. He moved on to farming. My grandfather made the paddies where he planted and grew his crops his life’s work. The other fishers from the holt village soon worked for him, and the farms gave the people something to focus on. I had so much more respect for my grandfather than for my father at that time. I remember how frustrated I was with him. I had grown up so bitter and hollow feeling, I remember thinking about what my father did and wondering how he could just go about his life like this, he was practically working for the Rothaki with how he had rolled over. He was even called a collaborator, everyone in the government was at some point.


Our world changed with the puppet government the Rothaki had installed. Some Lumirians were given power, just enough power to try to appease the public as the Rothaki looked over their shoulders and their troops patrolled the streets of our villages. Labor camps were established along the inner coastlines. People would frequently vanish, like my older brother and my uncle, and there were weekly raids as the Rothaki troops and Lumirian collaborators broke into homes and searched for signs of anything relating to the resistance, often executing those who made a stand or talked back to them. People frequently vanished at night. I remember how our neighbours often came home injured and bloody with marks that they dared not speak of. The Rothaki haunted our villages and our fields. I remember my father looked so tired all the time. He was always watching them with fear in his eyes. I called him a coward, right to his face, in front of my mother. They ended up taking her away from us a month later, a collaborator said that she was to be taken to the Rothaki to “comfort” them. I didn’t understand what he meant at the time. I never saw her again.


There was a resistance. I only heard whispers of them, sometimes the Rothaki guards could be overheard talking about how a cargo ship was damaged, or how a labor camp had their mining drills sabotaged. How a Rothaki landing pad had exploded or how a general had been poisoned. Bits and pieces, but it was enough to know that there was some hope out there. It was a growing hope for me. Despite what our overlords put up for a face we all knew that they were failable and mortal.


I remember when I asked my father about the resistance. I remember his eyes, he was so scared. He was always scared. The thought of losing one of his daughters must have terrified him beyond anything I could have imagined. But at the same time I could tell he was expecting me to ask about them. I was the oldest of his children, the most bitter, the quickest to anger, the one that had the most righteous inclinations. Stories of how beautiful and peaceful our world had been soured me to the core. It was like a dream that my grandfather had given me, the idea of a world where there were clear skies and oceans that were full of life, a world with happy families and villages that didn’t have a looming ghost lingering over them that would cart away their mothers and fathers in the dead of night. A time where the sky didn’t turn gray with smoke and when the land lacked scars, when the ocean was a brilliant lifegiving blue and didn’t wash the corpses of our neighbours up onto the beach.


I was afraid of so much and I wanted so many things to change. I wanted to claw and rip these changes out of the corpse of a Rothaki. But sometimes I think I just wanted to hurt them. I didn’t think that was so bad. And I am still not sure that is a bad thing to want.


When I was fourteen, during the Season of Storms, there was a night that would take great effort to forget. I was rebellious in my youth, and I would often slink away at night with some of my friends and cousins. I had known some people who would have been called thieves and vandals, and we would frequently sneak away from the town at night to the ocean caves to eat our stolen food and gawk at alien trinkets we acquired.


I could remember it like it was days ago.


I was sitting out on some wet stones, throwing rocks into the ocean as my friends joked around and yelled at each other as they ate stolen rations. I remember the cold breeze steadily growing warm. Something struck me as dreadfully wrong as the silver shimmers on the water slowly turned orange. There was smoke in the air.


Suddenly my heart was racing, and I was compelled to climb up over the sea stones and look behind us where our holt village was. Scorching swafts of fire blanketed the hills as I saw our farm fields and homes vanish in a blaze. I could see shadows backed by the fire, huge Rothaki clad in armor were moving from building to building as scampering Lumirians either fled or pleaded with them. I saw in the distance a Rothaki soldier kill a man with his disruptor, the hollow electric pop of it with its little green flash, blowing chunks of his body out as he collapsed into an unmoving heap. I saw him move over to one of his comrades, who pointed at the next building and leveled his flamethrower on it.


And I hid in the cave and I cried.


I heard more gunshots not long after but I dare not look. Seeing the orange reflecting off the waves was dreadful enough. I didn’t look. I let myself imagine it, imagine it like when I was a kid and I dreamed of clear blue skies and a cold sea breeze with boundless fish down below. I had a good imagination.


Not long after I was surprised by the sound of voices up above, my friends had already gone and run, but I did recognize them as Lumirian voices. I remember hiding in the wet sand, unsure if they were collaborators working with the Rothaki up there, looking for survivors. I had a particularly hefty stone in hand, fearing that this was the case I was ready to kill, kill anyone, it didn’t matter if I died.


And that was when two disheveled looking women came in, mag rifles slung across their backs as they awkwardly carried an improvised stretcher with a wounded man on it. My father. They saw me the instant I dropped my stone, it hit the mud with a smack which made them wheel around and train their guns on this unarmed crying teenager. Neither of them shot, and I remember pushing my way past them to see my broken father on that stretcher. I remember another man who I later learned was named Moss entered from outside but I barely noticed him. My father was here. His stomach was sopping wet and drenched with blood that had stained through all his clothes. I could feel a hole in his side big enough to put my paw in. There was a look of terror in his eyes when he saw me, he knew that I was going to see him die there.


He told me that he tried, he tried to stop them. The Rothaki had come looking to kill and had begun burning the town. My father said he begged, he pleaded, but they kept going, and they shot him. Through the sobbing I could hear him say how they burnt down our farm, his grandmother’s garden, our home with my brothers and sisters inside. My poor old grandfather too... It was all gone. Everything he worked for all his life, except for me. I was all he had left.


I couldn’t remember the face he was making through the tears I had in my eyes.


He told me that I was the last he would care for.


I found out later that my father had been in the resistance. For most of my youth, I hated him, I won’t lie, it was a quiet hate that kind of festered. I saw him as a man who was complacent with the world, who wouldn’t do anything about the evil in it. And I was wrong. He was stronger than anyone I have ever met. The resistance fighters who were with my father that night told me that the Rothaki had come looking for revenge, as someone had been funneling information to the resistance.


My father?


It was him. The clerk. The quiet sad man who had been forced to give up fishing with his own father. He wasn’t a fighter or anything nearly as glorious. Just a man who tried to keep his head down, a man who got sick of it and tried to help. I don’t know what he did in the town. Logistic work I think, he was deep enough in the government to see the ledgers and manifests for the labor camps and he smuggled out what little information he could. That is how the resistance knew which camps were doing what, and where organized mass murder was about to take place, what towns were in their sights, sometimes even when a high value prisoner was being moved. I don’t know how many people my father saved with his work. Some of the people who I met later called him the bravest man they knew, because he stayed so close to the Rothaki, he stayed close and stole every bit of information he could when he could have been found out any day and killed right there. He was as sick of what had become of Mekon as I was.


I held his hand through the night, even after he died.


I joined the resistance that night.
 

JackGoose

Corporal
22 Badges
Oct 29, 2011
32
9
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Crusader Kings III: Royal Edition
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Teleglitch: Die More Edition
  • Sword of the Stars
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Sword of the Stars II
YkQUE03.png


Believe it or not, I hadn’t actually seen a Rothaki up close until maybe a year after I joined the resistance. Whenever they had shown up before when I was younger, I would always hide or watch them from a distance as they romped through our village. They were intimidating enough even at a quarter league away. Most of them were close to double the height of a Lumirian from what I could guess, maybe more. It was hard to tell, as they were always wearing armor and helmets that glittered black in the sun like polished volcano stones.


I stayed well away from them for a time. They set off almost every mental alarm I had, as if they were some kind of predator from the marshlands. But they were worse. Predators are just part of nature, a necessary element to the world. But the Rothaki, they were vicious, they humiliated and tortured us simply because they could. No predator ever did such things, real predators just hunted and killed to keep themselves and their young alive and fed.


I left the charred remains of my village behind. I had a new home.


The cell I joined had made their base a dozen or so leagues off the coast and far below the surface of the waves, nestled in a cave surrounded by a reef of red coral, not far from a large series of atolls. Apparently this was an old listening post that a rival state had set up along our shores a few years before the occupation started. It had all kinds of surveillance equipment that was once state of the art. The resistance had a pair of military submersibles and a handful of sea-jets at the time. Half the equipment didn’t work properly anymore, if at all. Years of neglect and lack of maintenance did that to a place; there were no soldiers and no governments left except for what the Rothaki had installed.


There was enough room here for forty people to bunk. Our cell had twenty nine, counting me when I joined. That number would fluctuate to a high of forty three and down to a low of twelve over the years. When it was just twelve of us I swear I could hear the rain on the water above us. Moral was low then, no one wanted to talk much.


When I joined the resistance I didn’t start out doing combat operations. One of the first things they actually did was try to break me in. That grueling task fell on Moss, an older man who seemed to have a lot of military experience. He trained me for combat, tried to teach me a few things about field medicine, and showing me how to work some of the equipment around our base. Normally I was a rather horrible listener. I was a kid who was full of frustrations and anger and overall just unpleasant, as I have said half a dozen times. But these resistance fighters were the last and best hope I had, and I recall that I tried my hardest to meet their demands and standards. I was that eager new soldier, just waiting for a combat mission. In hindsight, I am not sure if you can call someone who joins a cause just to kill things a real soldier. I told myself that it was for my people, to free my world, but really, in any given moment, I just wanted to hurt them. I felt like I had been wronged in some of the worst ways. I was young and naive then.


Despite how romantic it may sound to be a resistance fighter, the stuff I worried about most of the time wasn’t glamorous. Fixing broken radios, dressing wounds, cleaning weapons, acting as duty watch, etc. Honestly, in another life, I think I would have made for a fine engineer or mechanic. Lusan seemed to think so. It’s a shame that didn’t happen. It’s weird. I had dreams where I had another life. Just fleeting fantasies where I spent my days in the clean sunlight fixing boats along a cold beach where sapphire waves crashed around the rocks and wooden docks.


One of our primary focuses early in the resistance was capturing and reverse engineering this alien equipment. It is weird to think that you could hold one of the most advanced firearms developed by your species and know that it’s primitive technology. Rothaki weapons themselves were too large for a Lumirian to use in any practical manner. We had a few captured Rothaki disruptors, but it would take Moss and Lusan just to move one of them around without dragging it. Lumirian mag-rifles were solid and effective weapons, but they didn’t have the power to penetrate Rothaki armor without extensive upgrades. I spent a lot of time with Lusan, a fat little mechanic, as he constantly rebuilt our weapons. I could tell he knew what he was doing, between starting small fires and electrocuting himself he managed to build mag-guns, radios, and bombs on a table in the store room out of spare parts. Lusan and I would often be found among half assembled sea-jets with their parts strewn about the room mixed in with our tools and wrappers from stolen rations. Sometimes we even managed to trade some stolen goods in exchange for a bottle of black rum; a special treat we’d share together in the middle of quiet nights.


I spent days with Lusan learning how to operate a motion scanner, going out to atolls and learning out to differentiate the different signals alone with him. It was surprisingly calming. One of the only places I found peace, and with one of the only people I could find peace with. We would frequently make our way to the sandy beaches of the atolls and spend the days field testing our equipment. We’d pack our stuff up at dusk and go spearfishing together. There were still the occasional Galfar crabs in the dirty shallows that were big enough to eat. We would roast them and eat them together under the smoky sky and we’d try to pick out constellations and lost stars between the clouds.


We talked a lot. On one of those nights, Lusan told me why he joined the resistance. He was an apprentice to a machinist in the city center, he and his mother and father and older brother would repair farming equipment and boats and the like. At some point some collaborators rounded up him and his family and took them to the labor camp at Metost, they had need of technicians. The drills, loaders, and other mining equipment needed repairs and maintenance and he was graced with the work. Lusan said he was young and didn’t know any better, and while he was afraid he didn’t understand just how bad Metost was until he was there.


The first memory that he had of that place was the smell of the camp as he rolled in over the hills on the truck. Brackish smoke wafted over the stripped slate gray hills, and it carried with it the smell of oil and blood. Lusan told me about the large black walls and the tanks, the metallic gaze of the Rothaki and the odd resignation of the collaborator guardsmen. And he told me about the people inside the labor camp. How they were dirty, tired, broken, how they looked like ghosts with how they looked over their shoulders as his family worked to fix the machines they were forced to use. They looked like they had no souls, he said. Then when one of the machines they had fixed broke down the Rothaki decided to keep his family in Metost. Lusan was trapped there for a time. He didn’t talk much about what he saw in the camp, just that he was able to escape after a couple years. The more he talked about it, the more uncomfortable I could see him getting. So we just looked at the stars in silence. I think I was one of the only people he told these stories to. We calmed each other.


One of the more interesting practical things I learned working with Lusan was that the Rothaki technology wasn’t waterproofed very well. You could take any Lumirian motion tracker or mag-rifle and leave it underwater for hours and it would work fine, but a Rothaki disruptor or wave scanner would fry itself in a couple minutes. They must not have bothered adjusting their equipment much for when they invaded Mekon. So was that arrogance or poor planning, or something else? At this point we didn’t know how widespread the Rothaki were or if attacking Mekon was a major event for them or business as usual.


In the Cold Season that year I went on my first proper mission for the resistance. We had spent months collecting ourselves and upgrading our equipment, remaining relatively quiet the entire time. We made excursions frequently, gathering data and supplies, and infrequently I heard about our cell and others making small raids. Nothing I went on. It was something that drove me mad, but when I learned that the Rothaki had slowly been growing complacent, I got excited. Moss fed us weekly reports and recon data and slowly we began to organize ourselves. The Season of Storms had just come to an end, which meant that the skies would be calm and clear. Much easier for the Rothaki shuttles and ore tractors to do their work, and they began to appear more frequently.


We couldn’t engage in a direct fight with the Rothaki. The resistance was too small and too ill equipped to take on their army. We had to keep them off balance. My first mission was an attack on one of the southern landing pads near the Metost labor camp. It was a small way inland, towards a large area that had been nearly deforested with dark gray and stark naked hills framing it. Victims of the strip mining, these segmented mounds descend sharply down into the ground. Rothaki buildings and watch towers dotted the hills, and down off in one of the pits sat a large warehouse compound and a flat rectangular pad with criss crossing yellow paint. Black towers with red security sensors blinking into the fog beyond the walls.


We made landfall under the cover of night and heavy fog, so even the light glistening off of Mekon-Sul was muffled and muddied. We had parked our small submersible some ways off the coast and clambered up past the skerries and into the rocky outcroppings along the beach. There were ten of us in my group, nine in Rikkan’s. No one said much since we left our base. And soon we were on the beach, alone with the sound of our breathing and water dripping off our gear, both of which were drowned out by the crashing of waves along the shore that bathed us in salty mist. I was near the middle of our line as we made our way up into the island. I could barely see Lusan in front of me by the time we were in the saltmarsh. Moss was far up ahead, leading us along. We all looked like spectres from some wrecked ship, one foot here and the other foot in the grave, sopping wet with salty water and bringing death to the land.


I stayed close to Lusan with Moss in the lead, everytime my eyes stopped scanning the tall grass they settled on the back of his head which seemed to pivot and scan in parallel of my own. We raked the horizon and the hills for any signs of movement in the fog, but my eyes frequently fell back down to the bulky motion tracker I was lugging around in my off hand. Occasionally the narrow scanning screen blipped and showed us some small animals moving in the brush, and I had to constantly sweep this thing across the horizon and readjust it’s settings to account for wind and terrain.


Our teams split up, Rikkan’s group had gone down towards the roadways with the mission of planting several bombs along the powerlines that ran below the roads. Our group was to head towards the loading docks and plant bombs on the ore tractor once the Rothaki were distracted. Once we had crested the hill it was easy to make out the warehouses and the landing pads, complete with a big fat Rothaki ore tractor sitting on the landing pad like some oblivious shore bird. It was the only bit of color in sight. The depot was an orange lit cluster of buildings at the end of a heavily used road that leads back towards the strip mines. Dark watch towers slowly raked their spotlights over the tall grass as large figures moved around their parapets. Large hover trucks and a pair of tanks sat near a well lit entrance and what looked like guard barracks. Our group found a spot among the rocks a good distance away from the warehouses and waited for the signal. I didn’t care about the cold or the mud or the wind. I just sat there, quiet, peering out into the dark, occasionally sweeping my motion tracker around us. The waiting made my guts hurt, like someone had stuck a mixer into my stomach and spun it all around. The air felt heavy.


Then there was a bright flash in the distance, it slowly turned into a plume of orange flame as a mushroom cloud leapt up from the road to the flickering of lights. The fog over the road turned orange and quickly burnt off around the blast as the fire illuminated the countryside. Yelling came next, deep voices carried themselves over the hills through loudspeakers as alarms started to scream into the night. A pair of Rothaki IFV’s shot out of the warehouse depot along with one of the tanks towards the explosion as huge chunks of tarmac and stone rained from the sky in the distance. As they sped off we moved quietly down the hillside.


All my previous excitement seemed to stay behind me on that hill as we charged through the tall grass. I nearly stumbled over the rocks and uneven ground as I glared furiously at my motion tracker, my mag-rifle bouncing against my side. As we slid up against the metal I flashed Moss the signal; four moving west towards the gate. He nodded and flicked a hand sign, and we ran east. Lusan had the technical know-how to overload the already taxed security grid, I didn’t know the details of it, but he had set up some device on the wall. My focus was to keep my muddy and sweaty hands working my motion scanner and rifle and keep him alive.


Up above there was a loud clunking sound as the spotlights blinked off as more of their equipment malfunctioned and shadows dance wildly around us. We had made our way to one of the maintenance gates around the back, far from the main security gates. My scanner said nothing was moving on the other side. In the dark fog, we took positions around the gate and Lusan forced it open a quiet click from his tools. We swept in and spread out like a crashing wave, disappearing into the cracks between buildings as the Rothaki and collaborators scampered in the distance around the main gate.


The ore tractor loomed beyond the dark warehouse like a distant outcropping of stones. Dark and angular, it cut a striking shape against the distant dirty sky. We stayed to the shadows, throwing silent signals to one another so we could avoid the fuzzy shapes on the motion tracker. We ducked and dodged into a garage that had no signs of movement in it, Lusan and Moss and the others went inside as I watched our rear.


I turned around to go in and walked straight into something that had just come around the corner and it hit me hard. I smashed my nose against this plate of metal that felt like walking into a wall that shouldn’t be there. I nearly knocked my visor off and I could already smell the blood in my nostrils by the time a half second had passed and I opened my eyes.


I saw black metal and red lines running up and down the flanking sides of these two columns that were thicker than I was. When it moved slightly I instantly froze. I knew what it was even though I couldn’t see all of it. This thing was absolutely dominating my field of view. My eyes sank down, following the columns down to their obvious end. Feet. Armored feet with these huge clawed toes caked in mud. Scales. Tan scales. My throat dried up and I felt my mouth open instinctively as my blood turned cold.


I thought I would be angry, I thought I would be brave, a hero, I thought I would lean into a Rothaki with unbridled rage and hatred and happily fight them when I saw them. That I would reflexively hurt them for burning down my home, for ruining our world, for killing my father, and for taking my mother away to be raped. But as my hand slipped and my motion tracker fell towards the mud, I realized that despite how mad I had been, despite how wronged I felt, despite all the focus and spite there was in me… I was too terrified in that moment to even lift my eyes to see this Rothaki’s face as he loomed over me. His dark shadow weighed on me like a suffocating sand and I felt his gaze burning into me like a coal on my scalp. Time felt as if it had frozen, and I was suddenly aware of every detail in the crushing little bubble of my existence.


The inky black blood that was now dripping from my nose and into my mouth, I could feel how hot it was on my cold skin that the fog chilled. The pain in my nose seemed insignificant for the moment with how my mind was bubbling over with turmoil. My eyes had trouble focusing, oh, my visor was half off my head, I could feel it tugging on my ear and on my headband. Salt, mud, dirt, iron, sweat, plastic, smoke, the ocean, death. All of these were in my nose past the blood, coming in on the heavy air. The thumping in my ears. My heart. It was getting louder and louder. Those alien feet in front of me. How many Lumirians saw that before they died? Was I going to die?


There was a splat as my motion tracker landed in the mud next to my boot.


I looked up.


I could only see the jaw of this thing up past it’s boat sized torso. The face was clad in armor and hidden behind some metallic mask that was flanked on either side by decorative horns. I could see the green panel over the eyes flicker and change as something on it shimmered, and beyond that, a pair of eyes. It shifted it’s gaze all the way down to mine. This little Lumirian. Half its height. Covered in mud and ramshackle equipment. In a place it should not be. A smile briefly tugged at its mouth as a look of shrill confidence came to its face.


And it started to reach for me. As it did a sound ripped through the air, a bass filled electrical snap that repeated so quickly it was a more of a screaming buzz. The noise carried bits of red blood and sparks with it as a dozen metal pellets exploded off his insides and armor. The Rothaki soldier shuddered and collapsed and his blood joined the mud plastered across my gear. I stood there quiet, my eyes tracing a path from the smoking hole in the back of this alien to Moss and his rifle just inside the garage. I didn’t know how to react. He grabbed me, and pulled hard. Moss dragged me inside and we ran out the far end of the building. Thunderous footfalls splashed through the mud, coming from the front gate, the deep gravelly voices of the Rothaki came roaring out through the dark as they charged towards the location of the mag-rifle burst. Their sounds, once just echos, quickly formed into much more present threats.


There was only that sinking fear lingering around my chest left in me, and a confused worry, I could hear my heart beating in my ears as Rivek and Moss took the first charge from Lusan and tossed it over the wall and into the garage, and we all ran. The cold air felt hot in my chest, I had my tracker again, somehow, and scanned the area and signaled to them that there were twelve things moving around in that garage. Once we had rounded the corner of the first warehouse there was a boom that shook the ground around us and hit my ears like a punch to the head. I had gone from merely sweating to shaking and sweating and swearing as a pillar of fire stretched up into the sky and twisted bits of metal rained down around us as the garage exploded. Lusan, myself, and Moss ducked behind a building and made our way towards the landing pad as Rivek took the others with him and set up an ambush for the guards. We got another fifty feet before we heard the electrical howling of resistance mag-rifles behind us, Rivek had made his move.


Soon the sounds of gunfire and yelling grew distant as we neared the base of the massive ore tractor. It was a thick ship, bulky, rectangular, and there were ramps leading up into a huge cargo hold where dozens of hexagon shaped shipping containers sat in honeycomb racks. I ran backwards, sweeping my gun across the buildings, looking for enemies as I hid behind a small cargo sled. Lusan made his way to the service section of the hull under the ship where four hoses as thick as I was hung from the bottom of the ship’s guts. They spread out and connected to several machines half buried in the landing pad. Fuel lines, power cables, water pumps, Lusan stuck several charges all along the umbilicals and threw a few into the landing gear wells as the sound of fighting seemed to be moving in the distance.


We were caught as we were leaving.


I didn’t see them, they must have been hiding nearby, somewhere near the wall. As we made our escape from the compound there was the electrical popping of Rothaki disruptors as the air turned hot with strobing flashes of green that made the fog dance. They were behind us, muffled from buildings and distance, lost beyond our sight in the fog.


I had a sudden realization, a thought that I had never had before. One that I am surprised I had to this day, as it was so obvious it shouldn’t have surprised me. But it did. It was an epiphany, a moment of absolute clarity.


Someone was trying to kill me.


I had never been in this position before. Never once was there an instant where I could think of someone actively seeking to end my life. We ducked into the tall grass as the stink of ozone filled the air around us, disruptor bolts ripped the air itself apart. Lusan nearly tripped as more bolts flew over our heads, and I remember grabbing his arm and dragging him along and we tried to just stay down. I could hear Lumirian mag-rifles going off in front of us as Moss and one of his guys returned fire, ripping pieces of grass up around us as bullets buzzed through the air like angry wasps. We made our way around the back of a rock formation to take some cover from the disruptor blasts. We were not in a good position and everyone knew that. Moss said something to Lusan and he checked his watch. Six seconds he said. I knew what was coming.


There was a flash of heat and in the distance the landing pad exploded, ripping the tractor in half and sending shipping crates ten times my size a hundred meters or more into the air. Jagged debris rained down around the compound, blocking out the view of the fire with their shards at irregular intervals. For e brief moment the Rothaki gunfire stopped. Just for a moment. It was enough for us to make a run for it again. I would have been awe inspired if I could stay and watch the explosion chain react through the depot, but knowing that we accomplished our mission was enough. All of my unease and fear subsided for a brief moment and I felt a little pride.


A sound of something metal hitting the rocks stood out amidst the din.


“Get down!”


Moss shoved me and I lost my footing, and down an embankment I fell. Another wave of heat hit me, but this one hurt, like my whole body was hit with a crashing wave and I had been thrown to the ocean floor. I thought for a moment I heard a loud bang but, but I couldn’t hear anything now, there was just the horrid ringing. My vision had gone white and my eyes strained and hurt as the world shifted to darkness with blurring images of rocks and after images of the sky mixed together with the confusing mess of my arms and my double vision. Everything hurt, my head especially. I think I was knocked into something with the blast, but I couldn’t tell, the whole world spun around me as I searched for something I could recognize. I have this distinct memory from after the blast, where I was looking at my arms, looking for my gun, but the two blurred right hands I had moved lazily like a drunkard’s as their images danced and spun to and fro as they tried to grab my rifle. I floundered around on the ground, searching for some way to get up in the quiet, spinning world.


Somehow I found a way to my feet, but I couldn’t walk in a straight line. I fell over rocks and up the hill, and I heard the muffled sound of my feet on the gravel, so my hearing was coming back. That is when I saw Moss nearby, totally buried under rubble near the top of the hill. I fumbled and fell over myself several times before I reached where his arm was sticking out of the gravel and mud. He may have just saved my life, and I had no intention of letting him lie there. He tried to save my father after all. I reached down and grabbed him. When I pulled, I pulled hard and fell back... only his hand came out of the mud. Half a forearm and burnt bits of cloth hung down from his wrist, and below that, exposed bone and dripping black sinew dangled like wet hair. I yelped, shocked, and dropped the arm, and it landed in the mud where small bits of flesh and blood and body armor lay scattered about in pieces no bigger than my paw. It all smelled like mud and ozone and burnt meat. There was nothing left of Moss.


A whimper nearby alerted my to another survivor from the blast. Lusan was face down prone nearby, moving, but just barely. I slid down the hill towards where Lusan lay, realizing he was trapped by one of the rocks from the top of the hill that had been dislodged by the blast. The world was returning to focus for me, and there was still a sound of Rothaki voices in the distance. I cussed to myself as I slid down next to Lusan.


“I can’t get up.” He muttered weakly, facedown in the mud.


My eyes moved down his body to the stone. It was about a meter and a half wide, and it sat on him in a way that had it crushing his right leg. I couldn’t see any of his leg below his knee under the rock. I swore again and clambered over him and tried to move the rock. I heaved and shoved and tried with every bit of strength I had, but I couldn’t move it. I pulled Lusan’s bent and broken rifle out of the mud and used it as a makeshift lever. I still couldn’t move it.


“You should go.” I heard him whisper. “They’ll be here soon.”


“Shut up, I’m not leaving you here to die, Lusan.”


“You should, they’ll find you if you stay.” I was already pulling out a tourniquet before he had finished his sentence.


He had been staring at the mud up until he felt me reach around his groin and wrap this strap tight around his thigh. Lusan seemed more awake in an instant, he tried to turn over, drag himself out from under the rock. I tried not to look at the horror that was coming to his face as he made the connections in his head.


“T-trabb. Trabb, wait...” I was quick unbuckle his belt and fold it over a couple times.


“Be quiet!” I snapped, I probably shouldn’t have.


“Please… don’t, don’t cut off my leg...” I don’t remember why I was getting angry. Maybe I was angry at myself. I didn’t say anything else to Lusan.


“Trabb, please, I don’t-”


I was quick to grab his snout and force his belt in and I tried to make him to bite down on it. I fought him for this, but he was badly injured and he couldn’t resist me as I planted my knee in his back and pulled out my filament knife. The orange glow it made as I activated the super-heating elements shown like a cruel fire in the darkness. He must have heard me turn the blade on, because he began thrashing anew.


A horrid muffled gasp of a scream came from his mouth as he contorted under my knee, all his muscles growing tense with spasming pain as the superheated blade slid into his leg with the slightest effort. I cannot begin to describe how uncomfortable this made me felt. My life had come to butchering a friend in the middle of a foggy night. This scene came to me in dreams almost every month since that night. It never left me. Lusan’s leg, and Moss’s hand. I remember cutting the leg so well. There was a time when I had to work harder when I hit his bone, but it got through, and it cauterized the cut in an almost mocking fashion, that would keep him alive.


Lusan was left a hollow looking man on that muddy hillside. He had spent all his energy on that pain, and he was limp as I hauled him up over my shoulders and down towards the coastline. I heard him mumbling to himself on the way down, gasping, dry heaving, sobbing. Then he passed out.
 

JackGoose

Corporal
22 Badges
Oct 29, 2011
32
9
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Crusader Kings III: Royal Edition
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Teleglitch: Die More Edition
  • Sword of the Stars
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Sword of the Stars II
qplKe5H.png


Major Trabb leaned back in her chair, staring dryly at the screen on her desk. The cursor blinked on the document page, waiting. Slowly she turned in her seat, resting her paw on her chin. An empty mug and a half full ashtray sat to one side of her computer. To the other side sat a pair of pictures, one of her father, and one of herself, Lusan, Moss, and Rikkan. A bottle of black rum in her desk drew her thoughts every so often, a frequent call she often answered alone in the dark. Why was she even writing this? She had started writing it for those Federation ambassadors, yes, but now, maybe she was just writing it for herself. There was a glitter of orange light dancing around the ocean on the horizon, and it was already drawing long lines across the wall and ceiling as dawn broke.


How long had she been at this, she wondered? She started just before sun down. With a sigh, she got up from her chair and wandered towards the window and looked out over the clouds and the sea. A sky without smoke. The city beyond the military base looked fresh and new, clean and happy. She could see colors in the streets far down below as the city planners prepared floats made of flowers for the Abolition Day parade. Farther down the road a column of hoverdyne tanks was being lined up and decorated as well, and she could see vendors giving out food to the troopers. With an exhausted smile, she had to acknowledge that she had been writing through the entire night. She hadn’t thought so much about her father and Moss in a long time, not in a way that made her feel happy like this. No. Happy wasn’t the right word. Thankful? Melancholic? Grateful.


Trabb watched the crowds down below, resting her mind from the trying thoughts of her youth. Forty years more years had matured her and tired her in ways she didn’t think it could. Her reflection made her look exhausted, and she could easily see the gray hair creeping around the sides of her gray box cap, giving away her time on this world. And she had scars, many left in her mind more so than her body. Decades of troubled sleep. It seemed like so much time to her. And now, on the dawn of Abolition Day, she felt grateful for everything.


Trabb’s boots quietly moved her across the dull red carpet of her building in the base. A few younger CCA soldiers in matching gray dress uniforms stopped and saluted her with a brief “sir” as they gave her way. She greeted each one with a nod and their name as she made her way down to the embassy level with her tablet in hand.


Down on the ground level of the base she passed through several security checkpoints before she arrived in the Federation embassy. A pair of aliens greeted her. The spindly bird like creature similar to her height was a Yondar security officer named Turek-Lull, and the taller and largely hairless mammal was a human linguist from the United Nations of Earth named Siddarth. Both were attached to the Federation ambassador Vel-bur. The Federation had been invited to establish an embassy office on Mekon not long after the Rothaki withdrew their occupation, though they did nothing to directly drive the Rothaki off world. Trabb had heard that the Federation had applied political pressure behind the scenes in some manner, but the exact workings of intergalactic politics remained a mystery to her. Regardless, she greeted them and offered her security credentials and they let her proceed inside the embassy.


Ambassador Vel-bur was a Vroovian, a large creature not unlike a snail. He was a creature that always seemed busy and caught up in something, always reading, and always excitedly looking into every Lumirian matter that was brought to him. After her dealings with the Rothaki, Trabb was surprised by any offworlder who was genuinely friendly. It threw her off guard.


“Ah, Major, I had not expected you so early.” He spoke in his native language, and the universal translator Trabb had attached to her temple of mimicked his speech back in an understandable Lumirian dialect.


“I hope I’m not interrupting. Sir.” Trabb stood straight and stiff as she spoke.


“Of course not. What is on your mind at such an early hour?”


“I am… not sure I am comfortable writing this autobiography for your people. I need to touch on a lot of… unsavory issues that will no doubt upset your readers. It will be uncomfortable to read.”


“Whether or not it is comfortable doesn’t matter. It is your story, Major Trabb, daughter of Vilk. My people feel it is fitting that we learn of your history, of the history of all Mekon’s heroes.”


Heroes? She thought. It was a word that sat in her head. Her soldiers may call her a hero. Kids she met in the street may call her a hero. Vel-bur may call her a hero. She wasn’t a hero. People might call her one. But it wasn’t true and she knew it. Moss was a hero, Lusan was a hero, Rikkan was a hero, her father was a hero. But not her.


She didn’t feel clean enough to be a hero. She knew she killed a lot of Rothaki, sure. Blowing up barracks, poisoning them, killing Rothaki prisoners, gunning down their non-military cargo pilots, bombing their homes. That she can live with. But there were things that haunted her. The killing of supposed collaborators on an impulse, bombing a clinic that was helping care for wounded Rothaki and Lumirians alike, shooting a Lumirian in the back because she was worried he would call out when he saw her only to find out his kid was watching. How her actions and attacks against the Rothaki made them constantly retaliate by burning down villages and lining up farmers and fishermen and laborers to be executed. Was it her fault? No, it couldn’t have been, that was what Rothaki do. That is what she told herself. But it nagged at her and had driven her to drink at night when no one was around to see her, when she couldn’t sleep. There were some things that troubled her dreams and kept her from sleeping. Trabb had grown frightened of what she had become during the occupation. Rikkan and Lusan kept her in check and prevented her from doing some truly horrible things she had planned. Trabb felt like her friends had saved her from becoming something truly reprehensible.


“Terrorists don’t get to be heroes. Sir. Maybe you should have Rikkan write this thing. He was… is a better man than I was. He was a leader, a noble man. He is your hero.” She turned and looked towards the window. “I have done a lot of things you wouldn’t like...I haven’t even gotten to the worst of it in my writing. I am not sure you yourself are aware of what I’ve done, and what the Rothaki have done to my world. Not in the detail I am familiar with.”


“I’ve seen the reports.” His tone was dry. “Four hundred sixty million Lumirians died under Rothaki rule. I think-”


“And I saw it.” She snapped, her hot blood getting the better of her and betraying her younger self. But her voice was dry, tight, and controlled, tempered by age and contaminated with vitriol. “You weren’t there when I walked into Metost. The starved and brutalized bodies of my people that the Rothaki decided to nerve gas instead of letting us free them… and that’s just the mass murder, that’s just the end of it, we found old men and women buried alive… women and children brutalized, publically beaten, stripped of their clothes and tied up outside for the birds to pick apart when they were no longer able to comfort their Rothaki masters.”


There was a silence in the air as the bite of her voice subsided. Trabb knew she had gone too far when she felt the ambassador’s judgemental eyes settle on her own. In a way she was still as hot headed as she was when she was younger. She just could hold her tongue for longer. Usually. But she was a professional now, she had to do her job and be respectful. She broke eye contact and rubbed the bridge of her nose as if forcing a headache away. Why did Rikkan jam her square peg into this round political hole?


“Damn I… Sorry if I sound curt… if I am curt. I am aware that I have a history of being overtly vocal and outspoken about the occupation. I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the aid your Federation has given us. Personally I feel like Mekon must firmly establish its status as an independent world under the Civil Combine Authority.” With a quick step she turned back towards the ambassador. “We have only just gotten our freedom back. We need time… is all. Over a third of our people were killed, our culture was nearly wiped out, and our planet may not recover...”


“And it is this position that makes us believe that you would make a fine envoy for your people in the work to make the CCA an associate power to the federation.”


“Why’s that?” She cocked her head to the side.


“Because you want what is best for your people. You’re not willing to capitulate or give up. Nor mince your words. I’ve worked with politicians and generals for half my life, but you’ve got the fire of your people in your hearts. And it suits you.”


Silence hung in the air again. Personally Trabb didn’t want the help of the Federation, but she wanted to do what she could to mend her world. And she had to start here. The Rothaki had gone from Mekon. It had been her dream for over fifty years. They did so much harm when they were here, and it still hurt so much. But even years afterwards, her people needed help to heal. She had to take time to try to heal herself. This is what peace is for. To make your life and your neighbor’s better one step at a time.



“Sir?” She turned back towards the window.


“Yes?”


“The Abolition Day parade will begin in a few hours. Do you plan on attending?”


“Of course, Major. I’d be absolutely delighted.”


“Perhaps... I can offer you some breakfast. My son sent me a couple loaves of bread from his bakery, and it would make for a fine side for steamed Galfar, provided I can get pepper jelly. We are still having some supply issues with certain crops.” Trabb turned back and managed a weak smile as she extended the offer.


“I think that sounds like an excellent plan, Trabb.” He gestured towards the door and excitedly moved forward. “Perhaps one day I can meet this son of yours, and your husband, Lusan.”


“I think they would enjoy it.”
 

JackGoose

Corporal
22 Badges
Oct 29, 2011
32
9
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Crusader Kings III: Royal Edition
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Teleglitch: Die More Edition
  • Sword of the Stars
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Sword of the Stars II
And that is it really, I do hope you guys enjoyed it. I may write more concerning the Lumirians, the CCA, and the characters, but I was emotionally exhausted after writing this, so any future tales may come some time later.

have a couple bonus drawings
RDFcLTJ.png


DBVUtGn.png
 

Macavity116

The First Stormbreaker
17 Badges
Mar 1, 2018
1.117
396
archiveofourown.org
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
This is really cool! Someone once said to me 'Stellaris is the perfect game for narrative-driven storytelling' like this, and you're proving them right!

I absolutely love the drawings, especially the portait of Major Trabb. I definitely enjoyed your tale and hope to see another one when you get that inspiration again.
 

stnylan

Compulsive CommentatAAR
124 Badges
Aug 1, 2002
36.973
3.658
  • 500k Club
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • March of the Eagles
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Europa Universalis: Rome
  • Rome Gold
  • Semper Fi
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Rome: Vae Victis
  • Hearts of Iron III Collection
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • Europa Universalis: Rome Collectors Edition
  • Mount & Blade: Warband
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Deus Vult
  • Hearts of Iron II: Armageddon
  • Cities in Motion
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Darkest Hour
  • Arsenal of Democracy
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • For The Glory
  • For the Motherland
  • Hearts of Iron III
A very excellent introductory series of posts. Grim, but not over the top.
 

Vilhelm

Stellaris Nerd
56 Badges
Jun 10, 2017
283
17
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
  • Surviving Mars
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cradle of Civilization
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Surviving Mars: Digital Deluxe Edition
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
  • Surviving Mars: First Colony Edition
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Age of Wonders: Planetfall
  • Age of Wonders: Planetfall Deluxe edition
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
  • Stellaris
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Revelations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Surviving Mars: First Colony Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
This a great short story! I especially love the drawings you included; a visual aid is always great in any story.
 

TurtleShroom

Censor
On Probation
71 Badges
Dec 8, 2013
1.792
498
fanon.clubpenguinwiki.info
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mare Nostrum
  • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Europa Universalis IV: Third Rome
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma Pre-order
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
  • Age of Wonders III
  • Cities: Skylines - Green Cities
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Cities: Skylines - Parklife Pre-Order
  • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
  • Cities: Skylines - Natural Disasters
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Victoria 2
I just finished your story and I was blown away. The bipolar dichotomy of the cutesy drawings aside a portrayal of the horrors of war really made this tale one to remember.

I'd never be able to write a true AAR because of the screenshots, data gathering, and most importantly, the risk of crashing. In my lifetime, most stories I've started have never been finished.

However, I've entertained the idea of a narrative before. Maybe one day, I'll do it.
 

JackGoose

Corporal
22 Badges
Oct 29, 2011
32
9
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Crusader Kings III: Royal Edition
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Teleglitch: Die More Edition
  • Sword of the Stars
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Sword of the Stars II
I haven't logged into the forums in some time, but I want to thank you all for so many kind words, and all of you for taking the time to read this as well! And I got a bunch of alerts and saw I even got writer of the week! Thank you guys so much!

I also want to say that I have a lot of work already put into a second part of this, it may still be several weeks before it is ready to be posted due to my work schedule, but I have more story on the way, specifically focusing on the aftermath of the war, the Federation, and the prospects of integration... and betrayal.



lrx2wWk.png


Also enjoy this wonderful art of Trabb from the artist Lethal_Doors
 

JackGoose

Corporal
22 Badges
Oct 29, 2011
32
9
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Crusader Kings III: Royal Edition
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Teleglitch: Die More Edition
  • Sword of the Stars
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Sword of the Stars II
Mostly posting this because Levgar seemed curious

G88si70.png


Next post I make in this thread is going to be the next part of the story though, I have a shorter 1.5 chapter essentially ready to go but I want to get more done in 2.0 just to cut down on in between time and get a couple more drawings done.
 
CC: Interregnum

JackGoose

Corporal
22 Badges
Oct 29, 2011
32
9
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Crusader Kings III: Royal Edition
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Teleglitch: Die More Edition
  • Sword of the Stars
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Sword of the Stars II
Chapter 2 is still a ways off from being in a state to post it, but in the meantime...
Let's take a look at another part of the galaxy, not too far from Mekon.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Koter III, a quiet backwater world that had seen it’s glory days have come and gone. Its name changed as the world changed hands time and again, the ages wearing down the memory of this place. The old desert world had once been a much cooler world several thousand years ago. A time long past when it played host to a massive sprawling city, a metropolis which was unrivaled in this part of the galaxy. But those who lived there died long ago, and slowly the system followed. The star of Koter exhausted her hydrogen and she began to die. Growing into a red giant, Koter destroyed most of its planetary system, and what little was left was barely habitable and of little value. Strategically or economically.


Several civilizations had come and gone from Koter III, and none of them were native to the little world. The current ruling occupants were technically the Orassian Syndicate, a small offshoot of the opulent Orassian Kingdom. They were much less refined and far more willing to take certain risks which gave rise to numerous opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to those concerned with things like ethics.


Hrask squinted out through his tinted goggles, studying the horizon as the ground shot past underneath his aerotruck. The doctor, disgraced and largely forgotten, had grown bloated and fat living off of the generous amount of credits he had been able to squirrel away before he fled the Fell Throne and their bounty hunters. It was a very un-Rothaki thing of him to do, and let himself become. But he was no warrior, he had no honor and no prestige left in his bones. He filled the gaps inside by gorging himself on what meat and delicacies he could conjure up, and filling what was left with drink.


Koter III has been feeling smaller in the last few months. Smaller than Mekon felt. He heard whispers from the Orassians he could trust, word that there had been offworlders looking for a Rothaki doctor. Orassians were infamous for their big ears and nose for gossip. If this was indeed true, his past was catching up to him, and no amount of credits he could muster would be able to bribe the Fell Throne to let him leave in one piece after what he did.


On the edge of the Glarcian Badlands lay remains of Generator District 06; a massive set of solar farms and wind turbines that had been left to rot in the desert long ago. Pirates and scavengers had taken to the ruins, looting valuable materials and facilitating the growth of several shanty towns that stretched across the region like creeping scar tissue. The junkers were able to trade valuable scrap for food and water, and the lucky ones got passage off world. The Kingdom of Orassia did watch the world with passive interest, and the Syndicates had their fingers in all the serious salvage yards. Most of this world was junk however. The right price kept Hrask hidden with the rest of the trash. The hulks sped by him with the sand, glittering and groaning in their dusty abandoned tombs. No better than the rest of the world.


Hrask flew his truck over the fields of half buried solar panels until he came to a lone mesa, an obelisk of a landmark and the only apparently natural formation on the entire horizon. Yet despite that, it still framed in wreckage and garbage. Several dozen improvised buildings lay about the base of the rock, shelters and homes built out of old rusted storage tanks and welded together hull panels. Tattered awnings flapped in the wind around the entryways and windows, poor attempts to keep the sun and dunes at bay. Fluttering cloth and chimes echoed out over the wind and met his ears the moment he cut the screaming aerodyne engines. Otherwise silence hung in the dusty air under the orange sky.


It took him some effort to heft himself from the truck. If the roar of the engines didn’t attract attention, Hrask’s form would. A Rothaki was a rare and frightening sight this far from the Fell Throne’s core worlds. Hrask made for a poor soldier, even in his youth, he lacked the stomach for it. One reason he went into doctoring. But still, the locals didn’t know that. He could smell their fear on the air. Prying eyes glistened in the shadows, watching his movements, his fluttering desert gear, his rifle at his side, his hands, for any sign of threat to them.


The largest of the structures was a nameless inn and bar, a lonely place where liquor and worldly pleasures were peddled and rest was offered. A pair of rusty aerotrucks were parked out front, likely belonging to scavengers or merchants. But there was something else, Hrask could smell it on the air.


There was a bigger threat here than a Rothaki.


The cleaner, more sophisticated looking zip shuttle stood out amongst the trash. The distinct black and white curved paneling along its hull said Orassian in their engineering and elegant shapes. Six Orassian men stood equidistant from one another around the building; all dressed in black-lined white duster coats that fluttered in the wind. And armed with state of the art needle rifles. It screamed Syndicate. They seemed to cautiously scan the area, remaining still and quiet as if life had left their bodies long ago. The locals were giving the craft and the men a wide berth, despite their inclinations to loot. They knew the punishment for offending the Syndicate would be delivered indiscriminately and swiftly, and they valued their lives more than their wallets. Save for one Kettling rat, bleeding to death in the sand.


They let the Rothaki pass by.


2us6HlY.png



Hrask slide his solar goggles off his face as he lumbered inside, smoke from exotic herbs and the smell of drink meeting his nose in the dark room. He loomed in the doorway for a moment, the harsh light from the outside leaking in around him as his eyes adjusted. A sad tavern greeted him, dusty travelers clad in rags and survival suits were littered around the red and orange room, distracting themselves with murky drinks, grilled gutter rat meat, and long drags on makeshift cigarettes as static laced offworld music floated on by.


A couple patrons looked shocked as the Rothaki stepped through and blocked the door. But for them, there was no gunfire, no yelling, no knives, and no death. So no problem. They retreated back into their drinks with some anxiety as Hrask’s gaze settled on a particular traveler and made his way towards him with distinct intent. The Orassian Syndicate man. Hrask approached him with no fear, despite the five Orassians that stood around the edges of room like unmoving pillars. They watched him through their tinted visors, fingers near the triggers of their needle guns.


An Orassian man by the name of Kenshar sat in the corner, his looks betraying his wealth. The tall mammalian was slight of build and moved in a very deliberate and elegant manner, his golden jeweled rings adorning his dark mechanical arms caught the light in a way that his expensive white and black clothes did not. Kenshar of course greeted Hrask with a grin and a beckoning handwave. Money to be made, he knew that look in Kenshar’s eyes. Kenshar was in control.


Hrask had met Kenshar once before and he knew to be careful. Even so... The rail-like Orassian was not what he seemed. Most Orassians were not what they appeared. It was the nature of the technologically obsessed people. But now, in this dusty orange light, Hrask could see the mammalian’s true synthetic nature.


The skin on his face, despite the high quality of its production, had apparently been removed from around his muzzle since their last meeting. Black composite plating and sensors lay exposed to the air along his mouth, it would be a gruesome look if not for his affluent attitude and dress. Hrask did find himself staring, despite his discipline. Soon his eyes met Kenshar’s black sockets and their little glowing orange irises. His time on Koter III had been harsh and relentless on his body, Hrask could see that. It was uncanny.


“Your time here has been unkind to you, Kenshar.”


“Your needless squandering of credits on glutting yourself has been unkind to you, Hrask.” The angular creature gestured towards Hrask’s survival suit, tight around his midsection.


A smile crept across Hrask’s face for a mere moment at the audacity of Kenshar’s remarks.


“Have a seat, my dear hydrocarbon burdened friend.”


The bartender approached with a bottle the moment Hrask settled into the creaking chair. Something top shelf and ice in a pair of glasses, one for each of the men.


“You drink?” Hrask’s deep and gravelly voice was the polar opposite of Kenshar’s light and airy speech.


“My dear Hrask... I do have a fully functional digestive system that I can elect to use at my own discretion, and my sense of taste and smell is vastly superior to your own. I need to be able to partake in these worldly things, and I have the most expensive components to allow me to do just that. What would be the point of purchasing such a sophisticated body if I couldn’t enjoy myself?”


“I see.”


Hrask watched the gangly tall creature pour some amber colored liquid into a pair of crystal glasses from up beyond the curve of his gut. Kenshar, despite his expensive body, was a frail looking individual who's torso was thinner than Hrask’s arm. Even with Hrask’s fat and out of shape body, he was sure he could crush the synth or cyborg or whatever he was without effort. But that would get him nothing. He had to humor this Orassian until he had what he needed. Plus, Kenshar had previously bragged about how he had his neural patterns backed up on a nightly basis. Killing him would be tricky if it ever came down to it. The more money someone has in this world, the more difficult they were to kill after all. And the Syndicate has money to spare.


“Tell me what it is you seek, my good doctor.” A glass of the drink was slid across the table to him. It smelled floral and earthy. Not a drink for him.


“I require a subspace transmission antenna. Something that will not require me to use the global communications network.”


“Mmm, and why come to me?” The synth’s fingers clicked together with some type of amusement.


“Because you understand subtlety.” Hrask’s drink was gone in one gulp, the delicate glass, miniscule in his hands, was placed back upon the table carefully. “You are subtle in ways that I cannot be.”


Kenshar’s smile grew, and Hrask simply leaned back and folded his hands over his stomach.


“Subtlety costs extra.”


fmB7JtG.png
 

stnylan

Compulsive CommentatAAR
124 Badges
Aug 1, 2002
36.973
3.658
  • 500k Club
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • March of the Eagles
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Europa Universalis: Rome
  • Rome Gold
  • Semper Fi
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Rome: Vae Victis
  • Hearts of Iron III Collection
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • Europa Universalis: Rome Collectors Edition
  • Mount & Blade: Warband
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Deus Vult
  • Hearts of Iron II: Armageddon
  • Cities in Motion
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Darkest Hour
  • Arsenal of Democracy
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • For The Glory
  • For the Motherland
  • Hearts of Iron III
“My dear Hrask... I do have a fully functional digestive system that I can elect to use at my own discretion, and my sense of taste and smell is vastly superior to your own. I need to be able to partake in these worldly things, and I have the most expensive components to allow me to do just that. What would be the point of purchasing such a sophisticated body if I couldn’t enjoy myself?

This is a very fair question, and besides it made me smile :)
 
CC: Home

JackGoose

Corporal
22 Badges
Oct 29, 2011
32
9
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Crusader Kings III: Royal Edition
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Teleglitch: Die More Edition
  • Sword of the Stars
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Sword of the Stars II
Ooof well this took a good deal longer than I would have liked, and it didn't even get as far into the story as I wanted. At this rate I will likely need another 3 or 4 installments to get this where I want it and call it done. My job was a mess lately, but I feel like I have enough here to post part 2.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

New Year’s Dawn was celebrated only a few months after Abolition Day, making the end of the calendar year on Mekon a very busy time. Trabb had been stuck under a mound of bureaucratic work since Abolition Day and the big Federation visit. Dozens of forms and files and dossiers covering every subject one could imagine in interstellar politics passed through her office every day, regardless of whether or not she was meeting with foreign officials. Not only was she stuck playing host half the time, but it was her duty to edit, correlate, file, and submit every single one of the Federation reports. Those and of course the reports of each member of Parliament in regards to the Federation. That and attend constant xeno-sociological forums, review star charts, and effectively drown herself in hundreds of pages of intergalactic law and regulations of not only the Federation but each of her neighbour states. There were many nights where she was sure the janitorial staff heard her cussing and frantic pacing as she tried her best to remain “diplomatic” on her inter system communications before diving head first into her black rum. Trabb could say that she was easily the most miserable foreign affairs officer on Mekon. And probably the best. And her office was closed for the holiday, amazingly, and it offered her a minor respite.


The fact that Trabb got any time away from her office was a Shroud-sent blessing.


The middle aged Lumirian didn’t bother changing out of her CCA Military uniform for her trip on the lightly packed puddlejumper. She was disheveled, unkempt, and exhausted looking, and had no energy left to bother. She gave the automatic greetings and superficial nods to the flight crew and people who greeted her, the same ones that she had grown used to giving automatically in the embassy. They seemed to float on by in her mind as she decompressed and disassociated. Half the time it was like people didn’t exist if she didn’t think about them. She heard the other passengers and the flight attendants, but it was like a dream. Maybe she was tired. No, Trabb was always tired. The crew had a lot to say about not smoking on the flight. Trabb left the extinguished cigarette hanging out of her mouth and slid her hat over her face, letting the world fade away save for the hum of the engines, the warm dark of her hat, and the wet cigarette filter lazily sitting between her lips.


No dreams came to her as she drifted off to sleep. Something she was thankful for. Sometimes, when the stress of her work got to her, the idea of sleeping began to scare her. Work became another drug for her to abuse, it kept her mind focused and it stopped the wandering ghosts of the past from getting in. When it tried she would smack it away with nicotine and caffeine and alcohol. There were times where she closed her eyes and nodded off, against her will, only to see the dark alley from her recurring nightmares. The same one with the din of the rain and the feeling of her rifle in her paws, where she squeezed the trigger impulsively… where his kid was-


She would often snap awake in a shivering cold sweat, feeling like someone punched her in the gut.


But that day on the puddlejumper she just faded into dreamless oblivion.


A foreign feeling of relief washed over Trabb as she stepped off the puddlejumper gangway ramp and was met with the full smell of the ocean breeze. Shallow waves rocked the dock and threw foam up onto the beach as little seabirds squaked up above her. Tufel-Met was a fishing holt village, one that was somewhat of a satellite of the Capitol that was never burdened with extensive urbanization. Small fishing boats lined the floating docks nearby. Lumirian fishers were out and about, scattered around the bay in boats or inland getting their catches onto ice or just butchering them on the spot for the bustling nearby market.


Trabb felt better here, almost good and confident, or at the very least she was not miserable. She told herself that this is what she had fought for. This is why she did all those things. She had tried to be a good person in a bad time, but the past hung on her spirit like soggy clothes. Cold and heavy feeling. A burden she felt obligated to bear for her people. For her people to just live their lives and have their homes. For them to be fishers and scholars and poets, for them to have children, to have clean air and water and not have to ration their food or live in fear. Tufel-Met was all of that. She couldn’t help but distractedly saunter through the docks and market district, her mind wandering in a happy way for a change, giving happy nods to her neighbours and countrymen as they greeted her. She forced that, but it was just a little thing she could do for them. To look happy for them. It still all felt dreamlike to her though, like she was just floating through. Just floating through and putting a mask on. This place almost felt fake to her. Like a dream.


Deep in the market district, past all the stalls selling fish and fruit and clothes and tools, she found herself in front of a bakery with distinctly delicious smells floating on out. Fresh breads and pies and little buns full of sweet jelly or cream. They made her stomach grumble from the smells alone, imagining their taste, knowing their taste. Peeking inside through the little rust colored curtain she could see even more bread and sweet rolls, some more decadent desserts hid behind glass cases framed in blonde beachwood. A shorter Lumirian worked behind the counter, distracting himself with a rack of dough he was pulling from a proofer. A grin crossed Trabb’s face as she quietly stepped on through, folding her arms behind her head.


“Sorry to say citizen, I need to requisition this roll, state business.”


The short baker turned around, rack in hand and half smiling. His soft features were brushed with flour along with his clothes; errant handprints were smeared across his apron. He was the spitting image of Lusan when he was younger, just a bit thinner, more wiry, and a bit cleaner than how she remembered Lusan when he was his age. Kald, son of Lusan.


“Mom, you can’t just take my stuff without paying.” He half laughed, trying to sound serious in the face of a half dressed military officer as she deftly snatched a roll from the table, tossed it from one paw to the other, and then stuffed her face with the lump of bread.


“Send an invoice to Commissar Rikkan and the CCA.” Somehow the rest of the roll got into her mouth as Kald gawked at the embarrassing display. “Mfs, ish ghodf. Mmmmph.”


“Mom, mom stop.” He grabbed Trabb’s hand as she reached for another roll. “What are you even doing here?”


“Well I was going to help you in exchange for some bogberry muffins but it seems you’re not too interested in that, are you? To think I took time out of my busy yet heroic schedule of nothing but paperwork to come and help you. Pah!” Trabb’s scruffy face went from feigned seriousness to a crooked grin as her facade broke down upon making eye contact with her son.


The look on his face changed from flustered annoyance to relief. Trabb had heard through the vine that her son’s assistant had been sick for the last two days, leaving Kald floundering the evening before New Year’s Dawn. Trabb was by no means an expert baker, and Kald had to guide her through most of the menial tasks he gave her as he focused on the more labor intensive and skillful aspects of making sweet rolls and spiced buns. Trabb was entirely out of her element, but that didn’t stop her from tossing her coat aside, rolling her sleeves up, and making a massive fool of herself with her cooking ineptitude. A few hours in and the two of them were wiping flour off their paws, having scooped the last batch out of the oven long after sunset.


“You know, as bad as you are at this, without your help I am not sure I would have been ready for tonight.”


“Would you rather have had your father help you?”


“Yes. He is much better at this than you.” He pointed at a tray of desserts, some of them were poorly shaped and of varying sizes while most of them were uniform and neat. “Look, you’ll ruin my reputation with your work.”


“Pfft, you just said you were grateful.” A flour covered hand clapped him on his scalp and ruffled his hair.


“Stop stop… how has dad been anyways? I haven’t seen him in three weeks.”


“Lusan’s doing fine. Unfortunately he’s also the only idiot who knows how to fix the water purification system it seems, otherwise he would have been down here with us for the holiday.”


“Yeah, sounds right. You’d think they’d give him a few days to himself.”


“You’d think they’d give him a water purification barge that worked.”


The light that filtered in from the misty horizon had since turned orange with the sinking sun, and before they had noticed, had gone completely. Trabb and Kald wrapped up all the bread in parchment and loaded them up onto a little grav resist cart to ferry them out to the fairgrounds. Most of the little holt village had gathered out on the sandy dunes to await the first dawn of the new year. There were children running and playing in the sand and mud, vendors selling food and drink, a huge fish fry, and a few people up on the hill getting fireworks ready. Dozens of torches were scattered around the beach like burning trees, and a particularly large ring of them surrounded a band who were having at a set of traditional and metal drums. The sound of gentle waves, music, partying, all mixed together in the air that smelled of salt, fish, and fair food. All of it next to the gentle ocean that glistened with their fire light and the silver light shining down from the crescent of Mekon-Sul that hung in the sky.


Kald’s cart of bakery goods drew a crowd and Trabb did her best to help him sell them. Now that she could manage better than actually making the things. It was hard for her to swallow her antisocial side, but she did her best to force a smile and be amicable. She did not always handle crowds well, even here she felt surrounded in a way. Her mindset left her in a near constant hyper observant and defensive posture, even at this innocent place. She couldn’t help but scan faces for their dispositions, her eyes quickly going to their hands, belts, and ankles in brief searches for weapons even though she knew she wouldn’t find any. An instinct she carried with her over the years. Always looking for trouble, always looking for an escape route. The one thing Trabb couldn’t brute force was trying to relax. When she was having doubts, she just tried to rub her son the wrong way.


“This is wonderful, Kald I am so glad you managed to get out here tonight!”


“I am just glad I got some help.”


“Oh yeah, he really needed it too.” Trabb would butt in, smiling. “I taught him how to bake you know.”


“You don’t even know the difference between salt and sugar, mom.”


“I know. It’s a miracle he got this far honestly.”


Or


“He looks so much like you and your husband, Major!”


“Honestly that’s a miracle, considering how many handsome men I met.”


“Mom...”


“And women.” She would lean in and whisper.


“Mom, shut up!” Kald helplessly changed hues at this kind of thing.


And the night was going wonderfully. For a brief few hours Trabb was careless.


She was at one of the fish fries, grabbing a late dinner for her and Kald. Some salted and beer-battered Lesk-fin flank, the smell of it made her mouth water and she had been eager to bring it back to where Kald was peddling off the last few bogberry muffins. There was a sparse crowd at this point, and she had to sidestep a few families on the way back before she nearly lost balance as a pair of kids ran into her. One spun on his heel and crashed into the mud, sending a cold splattering of it across Trabb’s coat and face.


Something shattered.


It was cold. Something inside her grew tight and she slowed to a freeze where she stood. Instinctively something clicked in her head. A switch had been thrown in her mind and she couldn’t grasp what it was. Suddenly her core flooded with fear and ice as an overwhelming sense of danger clouded her mind as the world shrunk away. Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong. She felt herself reaching up and touching the mud on her face, but didn’t remember moving her arms, it was like she wasn’t even there, like suddenly she was just watching herself. Why was, why was she tense? Her heart pounded in her ears, and there wasn’t any other sound. The mud on her face… cold. Wet. Slippery. People around her were talking. It just sounded like the color gray. The world felt like the color gray. Someone yelled.


“No, you idiot it’s going-”


There was a puff of smoke from up on the hill as one of the men at the fireworks jumped back, a green rocket shooting out sideways and bouncing off the ocean water. Trabb ducked and there was a loud bang nearby as something exploded. She lost her footing, sometime during the fighting her visor had been knocked off some fifty meters back. Her chest hurt, she hadn’t run this far in so long, she was out of breath and the Rothaki were still coming. Her boots slipped off the mud and sand and she stumbled to her feet, racing to the small pile of rocks as another green bolt flashed nearby. Smoke filled the air. She- shit, Nelks… where was Nelks? Trabb spun on her heels and saw him a ways back behind her for a mere instant before a green screaming buzz hit him in the back and a horrid popping sound came from him with a matching puff of fleshy gore. Panic took her, she wasn’t looking, and she tripped over the rocks and the wind was knocked out of her chest as she fumbled and fell over to the other side, dragging globs of mud with her.


Where, where was her rifle? Did she drop it? There was another screaming green flash, one that was close enough that she could feel the air burn and smell the ozone. Frantic yelping gasps fell from her mouth as her shaking hands searched her body for a hole or missing part. Footsteps, someone was coming. Too small for a Rothaki.


Lusan stumbled over the stone, rushing to her side. His mouth opened and closed as if he were struggling with words. Without a word he knelt down next to Trabb, worrying concern filling his eyes as if Trabb had been shot. But she didn’t, she wasn’t, right? Unless she was in shock. She heard about that, she saw it, people who were dying without realizing it. Her eyes went from his face, down his gear, to his sidearm.


“Lusan?” She gasped. “Lusan, where- give, give me your gun.”


“Mom, what are you talking about, what’s wrong?” Lusan grabbed her by the shoulders and held her tight.


“Lusan-...I...”


“Mom!”


cofyTcW.png



Trabb blinked hard, breathing hard, feeling hard. This wasn’t Lusan… it was Kald. It was Kald. It took her a second as she sat there in the cold mud in quiet as the world filtered back in around her. There were bystanders from the beach party she couldn’t bare to look at as their murmurs reached her burning ears. With her unsteady breathing and the way she was shaking they may have assumed she was dying if they had missed the episode that sent her into that delusional state.


“Mom.” Her eyes snapped back to focus on Kald. “Are you okay?”


“I...” Her voice was shaking like her hands. “I’m, I’m fine.”


Her mind wasn’t working right, her thoughts were coming in impulsive and nonsensical waves. She tried to force it all down and back, to stay here, in the present. It had never been this bad before, everytime it got worse, and she was afraid because she knew that it was getting worse. With knees buckling, Trabb dragged herself to her feet with a lot of help from Kald. None of the faces in the crowd registered for Trabb, she made a point to just not look at anyone, not even Kald. Uneven sand and stone left her struggling to walk in a straight line as Kald tried to stay with her, his plees falling on deaf ears.


“I said I’M FINE!” A brief twist ripped her shoulder out from under Kald’s paw. Quietly, he stepped back. Trabb knew, in hindsight, that he was hurting, confused, and worried. She should have stayed with him.


Instead she wandered into the dark away from the party and headfirst into a quiet bar not far from the fishing docks. With a mouth and throat that felt like she had nothing but sawdust to eat, Trabb desperately took a seat and ordered something, anything would do. Disgusting, she thought, as she saw her hands were still shaking. There were many nights where a stiff drink would be the only thing that would calm her nerves and give her peace. It dulled the anxiety and sickly feelings.


Soon she was eight shots in and nursing a third cigarette and finally, finally she was feeling better. It was enough for her to forget how pathetic she was, for her to let go of those memories and let them fall from her mind and clatter off her bones as they fell into the bottomless pit of her cold soul. And she kept drinking and kept staring into that amber filled glass.
 

JackGoose

Corporal
22 Badges
Oct 29, 2011
32
9
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Crusader Kings III: Royal Edition
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Teleglitch: Die More Edition
  • Sword of the Stars
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Sword of the Stars II
The next thing Trabb knew she was laying face down somewhere, half asleep, with a pounding pressure in her head that forced her awake. Gray light from a mid morning sun streamed in through the narrow blinds of her room, a fact she groaned at with some disgust. Disgust. That was a feeling that came to her in excess as she peeled her face off the pillow. Mostly from the sour taste on her tongue and the dried crusty stuff around her mouth and on her shirt. Great, she thought. She really made a mess last night, didn’t she?


The quiet sounds of the ocean, her headache, and her overall apathy let Trabb stay laying in bed staring at the ceiling of her son’s guest room despite being half covered in her own dried vomit. Her eyes lazily traced the patterns in the ceiling, her letting her mind empty as she did. She was so tired. But, not tired enough for the smell of something cooking to stir her from her place of pathetic repose.


The smell of frying eggs and spicy rice drifted through the house, forcing Trabb to throw her shirt into the guest room’s sink and wash her face so she could at least pretend to be a well adjusted individual. Being a black out drunk who ruined parties and threw up on herself was not a label she wanted to wear all the time.


Kald wasn’t the one in the kitchen. She didn’t even want to imagine last night, the idea of Kald dragging her back to his home too drunk to walk and throwing up all over the place. How humiliating… especially after that episode of hers. The doctors said she had developed post traumatic stress disorder from her time in the resistance. Such a clinical sounding term for those barbed wire clad moments in her head that kept coming up, sometimes even taking her senses. She felt like it was some kind of madness, how she could just vanish from the real world like that. She hated it. Heh, real world. If this was real why does it feel like a dream? Why did the past feel so much more vivid?


Save for that food.


“Morning.” Trabb said, getting no response.


“That, that smells good.” Silence.


Kald’s mate, Susa, was in their little opened aired kitchen at a large cast iron pan. She was a clerk in the Capitol, but had the day off. Trabb and her never seemed to get along. It is not like they fought or anything, but their conversations and interactions always sputtered into nothing. It led to Trabb feeling as if she was unliked or unwelcomed, and her constant distant attitude made it hard for there to be a real connection between the two. Despite Susa wedding her son. She liked Lusan plenty though, that was good. But her and Trabb, that was another thing.


“I take it that some of that’s for me?”


“Yes. Kald said you liked your omelettes with rice and pepper sauce. I saw you were moving around, so I started.”


She was slow to turn and greet Trabb, who was sheepishly standing in the archway to the kitchen wearing only her pants. When she did turn, Trabb saw a tea tray next to her. Four full cups. She wasn’t sure if Kald was here, but if he was, they’d only need three. So, there were guests aside from the hungover officer. Lusan maybe? No, he would have been here in the kitchen or would have greeted her at her bed. Who then?


“He’s right, I love that stuff.” She smiled, her eyes scanning the doorway as Susa turned around.


Silence hung in the air for a few moments before Susa handed Trabb a steaming plate. Soon she retreated to the porch and out of view with the tea tray. Someone out there thanked her and she returned a moment later and began to clean the place, no tea tray in hand. The voice was not Lusan’s nor Kald’s. Trabb just followed her path out to the porch, already shoveling fried eggs and rice into her mouth with her sticks.


By the time she was outside it was impossible to escape embarrassment. Under most circumstances walking around shirtless and shoveling food into her face while nursing a hangover wouldn’t have made her bat an eye. She didn’t care who the guests may have been or how she presented herself. Usually she would not have cared at all. But a familiar sounding sigh met her ears and she froze dead in her tracks instinctively. Suddenly she was somewhat concerned.


With half an egg hanging out of her mouth Trabb turned to face Commissar Rikkan, the head of the CCA, sitting on her son’s porch with two other suits. Sipping tea. Her eyes drifted from his slate serious face that quietly judged her. Beyond the two troopers guarding the walkway sat a D17-H Swordfish dropship floating quietly in the ocean near the docks. Sleep must have had a deathgrip on her to have missed that earlier. Quickly, Trabb slurped the egg in her mouth down before turning back to the Commissar with an awkward smile.


“Good morning, sir.”


“Major.” It was just one word, but it came with a stiff authority.


Rikkan quietly locked eyes with Trabb and sipped some of his tea, not saying another word for some time. Trabb had trouble reading Rikkan at times, and a cold anxiety found itself pooling up in her chest. The Commissar had a presence that just extruded gravitas and demanded respect. Respect she couldn’t always give; she spoke too frankly and acted too aggressively for his tastes. He was a proper looking man, unlike her. Rikkan was always clean, well groomed, and since the end of the occupation, made a point to wear tidy bespoke suits that snugly fit his thin body. At the end of the occupation, Rikkan became one of the leading members of the effort to reestablish a government on Mekon, and had since ascended the ranks and was elected Commissar of the CCA. He was drawn to leadership positions like a compass needle, and he seemed perfect for the role. Rikkan was even quick to assume leadership in her resistance cell after Moss died saving her, something she worried Rikkan blamed her for. It was another nagging thing in her mind, tugging at loose threads.


Trabb wanted to say that they were good friends at a time, but she couldn’t say if that were true. Over the years throughout the occupation it was Rikkan who constantly butted heads with Trabb, Rikkan and Lusan. Their arguments were legendary in their cell, and their fights. Sometimes she found her eyes going to his mouth, still expecting to see the tooth she punched out during their resistance days. He had it replaced years ago though. Whenever she found herself glancing at his jaw, she found his eyes silently locking with hers. Over the years she found that she had alienated Rikkan.


But here he was now. Haunting her son’s house like some benevolent ghost.


“What brings you out to my son’s home, sir? The muffins?” She took a seat next to him and kept eating.


“You, Major.”


“I gathered that, sir. You never struck me as a man who liked pastries.”


He sighed and waited a beat before opening his mouth again. He seemed to be mulling over things to say. An average citizen wouldn’t have made note of it, but Trabb knew Rikkan long enough to spot telltale little signs in the way his eyes moved.


“The same as always, aren’t you, Trabb?”


“You should have seen me last night.” With a gulp, another large portion of her breakfast vanished down her throat before finally her mouth was clear enough for words and a small smile again. “I was the life of the party.”


“I don’t even want to ask.” A look of concern and mild disgust crawled across his features as Trabb spoke. He knew her too well, and was already trying to imagine what she did.


“You really don’t.”


Trabb took a drink of her tea in the middle of that silence.


With a quiet hum, Rikkan reached into his suit pocket, producing a black plastic object no bigger than his palm. It looked like a communicator at a glance, but the strange antennas that unfolded from it and the grid of small globes along the top distinguished it from such a mundane thing. A static field generator, that was it, she thought. It was something Trabb recognized. However they worked, they did their job well; with one of these things it would be impossible for anyone more than a few feet away to hear them. Without a word, he placed it on the table between their two chairs and pressed one of the small buttons on the surface. In an instant the sound of the ocean quieted to a distant and muffled scratching sound.


“I have an important assignment, Major, if you’ll accept it.” With the field generator on, their voices sounded flat and scratchy, as if they were on some poor quality voice call.


“With all due respect, sir,” There was audible bite to her voice, frustration leaking through due to her hangover no doubt. “I thought you restricted me to desk duty after my demotion. I am sure you have better choices than this old jerk. Have you considered some of the younger jerks we have now?”


“Major, you… Trabb, you need to stop thinking of your current work as a punishment.” In a motion unbecoming of the Commissar, Rikkan turned to her and actually showed some care on a personal level. Trabb didn’t expect him to look her in the eyes like a friend, as opposed to as an opponent. “I didn’t take away your command or your ship. Not personally. You’re stubborn, hot headed, but you’re passionate and you have good instincts. And despite everything that I have said over the years, I trust you. A lot.”


His eyes turned away as he went back to studying the horizon. Small fishing boats moved out along the distant shoals, far beyond the white of the breaking waves near the rocky beach. Holes in the gray cloud cover revealed a deep blue sky beyond them.


“Two days ago the CCA received a transmission. It came from a junk relic world known to the locals in the region as Koter III, but the Federation recognizes the world as Fen Habbanis. It’s in the frontier space of the Kingdom of Orassia.”


“I’m familiar with them. They seem relatively quiet on the galactic scale all things considered. Was it a message from the Orassians?”


“No. We don’t know who it was from.”


“What do you mean?”


“The sender identified himself as a clinic worker, that is all. The message itself, while sent on a modern subspace transmission system, was broadcast on an old emergency frequency used by the pre-occupation United Metost Republics on Mekon.”


“...what?” A sputtering cough of surprise led to a splattering of tea dribbling down her chin.


Trabb’s mouth hung open for a moment. She didn’t know where to begin, except for the most obvious questions that hung in her mind: how the hell is a pre-war emergency frequency being used by someone so far from Mekon? Who would even know those frequencies? Why now? There was a lot to ask, but she stabbed at the most obvious question.


“What was the message?”


“It was a call for help, sent in a northern Mekon dialect. The Security Council believes it may be a collaborator who got off world, but we don’t have any concrete proof of who it is. That could be why declined to give us his name. We’re trying to cross check what little information we have on the Rothaki medical clinics that were on Mekon during the occupation, but the information is so incomplete or simply just destroyed that it’s a futile effort honestly.”


“A collaborator could have gotten off world with the Rothaki during their evacuation, but, but if this guy is a collaborator should we help him at all? We should leave him in whatever hole he dug for himself and save ourselves the court fees.”


“Under most circumstances, I think I’d be inclined to agree with you. However, the subject has a bargaining chip that Parliament wants to get their hands on. He claims to have a physical copy of the Rothaki planetary database from Mekon. He is willing to give it to us in exchange for asylum.”


“You can’t possibly believe that, Commissar? The Rothaki wiped every bit of data from the computers when they left Mekon. The guy’s making it up, or fabricating data, just to get a free ride back here.”


“We think he may have made a copy before the evacuation. He sent us this. I think you’ll find this all the proof you need. Parliament did.”


Parliament did, did it? They were slow to settle on anything with their fields of red tape and constant infighting. The notion that something could so easily unite them got Trabb’s attention. Nothing woke you up as well as political intrigue, it seems. Rikkan produced a datapad from his coat pocket. Trabb tossed her plate aside and as it clattered on the table she snatched the small computer from the Commissar. A sigh hung in the air as he sank away from the eager Trabb. The pad was a large collection of numerical codes, dates, numbers, and names. What she was looking at wasn’t immediately obvious to her, and Rikkan realized this.


“What you’re looking at is a list of prisoners processed through the Metost labor camp.”


Damn.


“I… I need to make a call.”


“This information is classified.”


“I know I know.”


With a clumsy hand the pad was tossed into Rikkan’s grip and Trabb dashed back to her room where her son had collected all her trinkets and personal things from the night before. Greedily she swiped her communicator off the top of the pile and keyed it in for North Eastern Block 02 Water Purification Barges; Foreman Lusan, son of Relsi. It beeped in her hand twice.


“This is Lusan.”


“Lusan. It’s me.” Trabb tried to mask the impending awkwardness of the call.


“Trabb?” His tone changed from professional to relieved in a single puff of static. “It’s been a while, how have you been? Is everything alright?”


“It’s fine, it’s fine.” She could feel his suspicion through the comm lines already. “Lusan. I need a favor, I need some information.”


“Sure, I will see what I can do.”


“I need… to know your prison ID number from when you were in Metost.” She could see them tattooed on his arm in her mind, a blur of numbers she couldn’t remember. The words came slowly from her mouth, fearing his response.


She stood there, communicator in hand, biting her lip. Maybe this was a bad idea. She could see him right now, somewhere on that barge, staring at his communicator, looking for words. That was a scab she should have left alone. But no, no this is important, and she knew that Lusan would know that, she wouldn’t ask him such a curt manner otherwise.


“Trabb?”


“Yeah?” Her eyes shot from the window to her communicator.


“I have it, it’s-”


“Oh wait, shit, hold on!”


“Trabb?”


Awkward and rushed footfalls echoed through the house as she rushed back outside to where the Commissar sat.


“Rikkan.” He didn’t look at her. “Rikkan!”


Her frustrated gaze shifted from him to the static field generator on the table, and with a groan she realized she had not been heard. A swift boot to his shin got his attention, and he flinched in pain as he got up and shut off the sound blocker.


“Hey!”


“Rikkan give me that pad.”


“Rikkan, are you, is the Commissar there?”


“You didn’t have to kick me, Major.”


“...did you just strike the Commissar?!”


“Both of you shut up.” Her tone was more frustrated and almost patronizing, like she was talking to children. She was arguably the least mature out of the three though. “Lusan, give me that number.”


“TMU-2321-L-012078-4a.”


Trabb keyed it in as he said it, and the database came back up with one entry. With a tap it expanded the entry into a personal camp record, complete with medical data, technical skills, and suggested and met mining quotas. And a picture of a very young Lusan.


Trabb didn’t know how to respond. This was genuine. The data here was genuine.


“Lusan, I’ll call you back.” She hung up before he could answer. “Commissar, what do you need me to do?”
 

JackGoose

Corporal
22 Badges
Oct 29, 2011
32
9
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Stellaris: Nemesis
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Crusader Kings III: Royal Edition
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Stellaris: Lithoids
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Teleglitch: Die More Edition
  • Sword of the Stars
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Sword of the Stars II
Far down below the Swordfish, under the scattered clouds, beautiful blue ocean waves rocked quietly in the thin fog of the northern sea. They caught the light in brief, inconsistent ways, sending a glitter of diffused light back up at Trabb through the tiny transparent metal canopy. The pilot’s HUD and augmented reality displays traced a variety of information out in front of Trabb and the two ship crew, leaving her view of the clouds littered with green numbers and lines. Both the pilot and copilot were in full vacuum suits in preparation for their departure to the CDV Kha Vaknis. By now, Trabb had managed to put herself back together and get herself cleaned up proper, and actually looked like an officer with a purpose. She wore the blues well, the Commissar said so.


The CDV Kha Vaknis was due to leave in 8 hours. A brand new second generation Warlock class FAC corvette. It’d be a bit more advanced than the old retrofit Rothaki ship she was skipper on after the occupation, considering it was built from the ground up with all the new tech the CCA and Feds had been working on.


With a bit of an arm twist Trabb was able to convince the Commissar to let her see her husband before she left. Trabb wanted to talk to her son, she should have talked to her son, but the rush of the morning and the awkwardness of last night left her feeling rudderless. In her mind, flying a quarter of the way across Mekon to see her husband was easier than confronting her son who was a fifteen minute walk into town. Trabb found herself carefully weighing which shameful meeting would make her more uncomfortable. She couldn’t leave without saying goodbye to someone. Trabb has seen too many friends leave and never come back. Eventually, Trabb knew she would be the one to leave and never come back. The thought lingered in her mind as the Commissar’s parting orders hung in her ears; ‘no Federation involvement.’


This would be easier with a Federation ship, she thought. They were faster in slipspace than the CCA’s ships by a significant margin. It wasn’t her place to question why Rikkan wanted the Federation kept out of this, but she wanted to know. She didn’t get an answer from him, just the mission to retrieve the subject and the asset; let Colonel Corbin handle the ship while she did the boot work with the marines. More dossiers she had to read through, she thought.


Sleep again tugged at the corners of her mind. She never did get the rest she needed on her brief vacation. With the roar of the engines in her ears she found herself nodding off. When sleep took her, she found herself somewhere else, sometime else. There was that nameless Lumirian in front of her, in that alley. The pounding rain echoed off the nearby roofs and splashed in muddy puddles, how it all seemed to stop for an instant as she squeezed that trigger and the sound drowned out… only for it to resume after the wet splat of him landing in the mud in front of her. She shot him there, in the rain, in fear. It felt so real, so present. The grip of the gun in her paws, the smell of the rain, the scream of his kid and the paralyzing shock of it all as her impulsive actions finally registered as the child’s tiny hands grabbed at her father’s bloody body, as she stepped back, horrified at what she did.


The wireless suddenly sprang to life in a burst of static and startled Trabb back to reality, the shock of her actions decades ago still sitting fresh in her mind.


“Unidentified aircraft this is NEB zero-two flight control tower, we have you CBDR please identify yourself, over.”


“NEB zero-two this is Swordfish echo-one-eight heavy, Hexer requesting landing clearance. Bearing on in at fifty-four notch five magnetic, three decimal five-eight leagues, CBDR. Confirm, over.”


“Hexer, NEB zero-two, confirm. Echo-one-eight heavy you are cleared for approach and landing on pad zero-one. Call the ball, over.”


“NEB zero-two, Hexer, copy. Marker lights green, I have the ball, out.”


The pilot reached up and toggled several switches as the wireless snapped off.


“Callsign’s Hexer?” Trabb watched from where she was strapped in as her pilot switched into descent mode, several HUD elements switching over to blue as a landing pad digitally drew itself over the fog.


“Yessir. Our resident ECO there is Spooky.” He gestured to the copilot, who remained quiet.


“How’d you manage that callsign?”


“Back when I was a rook, my CAG made the mistake of swiping some sweets my sister sent me from home. I joked and said I’d curse him for that. I didn’t actually do nothing, but I was from the western Kultar region and I guess we have a bad reputation considering our spiritual practices. Anyways, next morning my CAG falls down the stairs and lands face first in some rook’s vomit. It was a laugh.”


“Remind me never to piss you off lest I suffer your sea witch curses.”


“I’m sure you won’t, sir.”


86dpqfW.png



As they spoke the Swordfish rocked in crosswinds as the water purification barges appeared through the fog as massive, smoky shapes. Under that the ocean changed from its crisp blue to a sloppy looking black with an unhealthy sheen that was punctuated and lined with endless strings of yellow marker buoys. The sour water brought back feelings from her youth, she couldn’t help but associate the rainbow sheen with her misery and suffering. She wondered if her son ever even had seen these waters in person. There was a sour aura in the air, she could feel it as the dropship’s doors opened.


The smell of dirty salt and oil met her ears amidst the roaring waves and thundering machinery in the distance. Mist blasted up and over the landing pad as she stepped out into the dark gray fog. The water reclamation barge bobbed gently under her feet, Trabb and her marine escort were sprayed with mist as they made their way over to an orange and yellow clad worker and the lift he had waiting for them. Flashing orange and red signal lights blinked all around them on the landing pad, weird shadows danced across their faces in the fire-like light.


“Major, I’m sorry we don’t exactly have a proper welcome for you, you didn’t give us much notice.” The man had to shout to be heard over the roaring sea.


“Just take us below deck.”


Down below, in the undressed guts of the barge, the noise quieted down substantially in the stale air. Trabb was reminded of her days in the resistance, when she spent her days living in that old underwater base. Though here she was now, no longer some grubby terrorist, but a well dressed Major with a pair of CDMC marines on her flanks. The group stomped through the base, following the guide, as civilian workers made way for them. Trabb would be lying if she said that the ability to project power like this was something she didn’t enjoy.


Several decks down the group passed through a couple pressure doors and unceremoniously and unannounced entered the barge’s control center. The half dozen Lumirians and the two Vroovian smails inside quietly turned away from their monitors and control consoles as Trabb stomped her boot once to gain their attention.


“Lusan!”


A scruffy and fat middle aged Lumirian twitched and slowly rose from his seat and Trabb hid a smile as his shocked face went from realization to an inkling of joy. Trabb merely jabbed her finger straight down in a demanding gesture. Lusan quickly hopped up, and hobbled his way over, his fake leg clicking against the deckplates. Lusan, once her squadmate and cell’s tech expert, now a foreman charged with running and fixing the stuff that is fixing their world. And always her love.


“Trabb I didn’t-”


Her arrival on the barge was as unexpected to him as the kiss she gave him as she grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and drew him in close. The two immediately relaxed in each other’s arms as the artificial tension Trabb injected into the room dissipated.


“It’s been a while, Lusan.”


“Yeah.” Trabb stroked the back of his head, her eyes going up and looking across the room, catching the eyes on them. “Can we talk in private?”


As the two turned around to leave the room, Trabb caught a whisper over the sounds of the consoles.


“I didn’t think the foreman was going to get busy with his girl today...”


“HEY!” Trabb spun around, instantly finding the shocked face of the joker. “I love my husband very much, he is literally the best, and I will grind him whenever I want! But consider I hacked the leg off the man I love, so imagine what I will do to you if you don’t show some respect!”


The technician shrunk into his chair and said nothing else as the pair left.


The foreman’s office was small, and sparsely decorated. Beachwood carvings of small ships lined some shelves, along with a picture that Trabb had as well. The one with her, Lusan, Rikkan, and Moss. She couldn’t help but pick it up and stare at it as Lusan took a seat behind his desk which was astoundingly more organized looking than her own. Trabb was, for a moment, lost in the picture she held.


“I think about him, a lot.”


“Moss?”


“Yeah.” Trabb looked into the eyes of the photograph a bit longer, trying to imagine what he would look like today if he didn’t die saving her. She couldn’t. Her eyes drifted to Lusan, who was pouring coffee into a couple mugs.


“Coffee?”


“What, no. No I can’t stand that stuff. I can’t believe you like that Earth drink.”


“For a forgein affairs officer, you sound pretty intolerant, you know.”


“Oh, oh I’m plenty tolerant. Those Humans and Vroovians have plenty of stuff that’s good. Blues music, shogi, variable state hydroponics. Just not coffee. It’s so bitter and people need to add things to it so so they can stand it.”


“Bitter, eh?” Lusan took a sip from his mug. “What’s shogi, a type of tea?”


“What… no. No it’s a strategy board game, created by the ancient Japanese on Earth. It’s a game about planning, cunning, and-”


“Let me guess, brute force? I am familiar with your type of strategy, Colonel Trabb. Endlessly aggressive, foregoing defense, just pummeling your opponents so they can’t hit you back and can only play defensively. Like you in the occupation, and like you with people now.”


Trabb found her eyes going from Lusan to Moss in the photograph, and she replied with a slow and barely audible “It’s Major.”


“So, Major. What’s wrong?”


“Hunh?” She put the frame back.


“The Metost stuff.”


“Oh.” She moved a couple feet over, ignoring the chair, she sat on his desk, half facing him. “I’m going to be gone for a while. The Commissar came to see me earlier today. He asked me to go on an offworld mission for him.”


“How long?”


“About ninety days there, one way, a week or so of operations, ninety days back.”


“Almost half a year...” Lusan ran a hand down his face, obviously tired. “We barely see each other as is.”


“I know, I know.” Trabb pulled out a cigarette. “But this is important. I can’t go into the details of course, classified stuff. You know if you stayed in the service I could have shared it with you. Your clearance used to be high enough.”


“You know I couldn’t. The engineering corps is where I belong. I wouldn’t be doing anything in the military that someone else could be doing better. Besides, I am needed here.”


“Yeah.”


“Yeah.”


“So...” She spoke, taking a drag from her recently lit cigarette. “How have you been? How’s this been?”


“Busy. This place keeps breaking down. The Federation made adjustments to these barges to compensate for all the extra salt content in Mekon’s oceans, but we’re pushing these systems past their normal operating parameters on a daily basis.”


“Mmm, Federation this, Federation that. That seems to be the only thing people talk about anymore.” She wasn’t looking at Lusan anymore.


“You don’t like them? Isn’t that your job, miss foreign affairs?”


“Oh shush. I don’t have to like them.”


“So you don’t like them?”


“Not as much as I feel I should.” She searched for words between drags on her cigarette. “I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with their offworld influence affecting Mekon. I mean, I appreciate them yeah. The stuff like this, cleaning the water, the food shipments, the equipment to repair our infrastructure, helping us get our rudder back. I just feel like this is… fast. My instincts keep telling me that something isn’t right here. But I don’t have any real reason to feel like this. It’s just my gut.”


“They’re not the Rothaki, Trabb. They’re not evil.”


“I know. I know that. It’s just… things. The occupation for instance, the Federation knew about it, they didn’t help us when we needed it.”


“Trabb, you know they can’t just go around an-”


A series of tones sounded before a voice came over the intercom. “Foreman Lusan, this is control. You have an incoming transmission.”


“Can it wait?”


“It’s your son, sir.”


Trabb and Lusan exchanged looks.


“Put him on through down here. I’ll take it now.”


Lusan turned away from Trabb to his terminal where he cycled through a few options before opening up the communications panel. Another tone sounded before it lit up, Trabb could faintly make out her son’s reflection in the shelving behind Lusan.


“Hey, dad.”


“Hey Kald.” He folded his hands in front of himself as he talked. “What’s up, kid?”


“Hey dad, I just wanted to say, well, happy New Year’s Dawn. How are you doing?”


“Oh I’m doing good, I’m sorry I couldn’t make it down to see you and your wife.”


“It’s fine, mom stopped over.” Lusan’s eyes glanced over to Trabb for an instant.


“Ah yeah? How has she been?”


“I’m worried about her, dad. I don’t know if she’s been well lately. If it’s her job or something else… she had an episode last night, a full blown flashback thing. She ran off and got drunk before I could help her. I had to drag her back home in a rather sorry state. It wasn’t good.”


“I see.”


“I thought she would be spending the rest of the day with us, but she’s run off again.”


“I’m not too far.” Trabb got up, stepping behind Lusan and resting a hand on the back of his chair.


“Mom? I didn’t expect… well I didn’t expect to see you there on the barge.”


“Oh well you know me. I like to show up where no one expects me. Besides, do you know how long it’s been since your dad got to see me naked?”


“Mom, mom please don’t do this to me.” Kald was already hiding his face, and Lusan was stifling a chuckle at their son’s expense.


“I am going to have to go for a while, Kald. Military stuff.” Trabb said with a sigh. “I’m sorry I didn’t stop in to see you before I left. I think I made a fool of myself, frankly.”


“How long will you be gone?”


“Half a year, maybe. I can’t say for sure just yet.”


“Where are you going?”


“Off world, I can’t say more than that.”


“Ah well, I... ” Kald’s passing surprise seemed to be replaced with hesitation as he looked for words. “I was hoping to invite you over to tell you this. But since you’re leaving, I should tell you before you both while you’re together.”


“What’s up, kid?”


“I’m not one for words but… ah, oh, I may as well just say it. Susa’s pregnant. I’m gonna be a father myself.”


A crooked smile crossed Kald’s mouth as his parents managed a collective gasp, their mouths turning up into smiles as they pulled each other close.


“Kald that’s wonderful! Congratulations!”


“That’s, that’s amazing, ah wow...” Trabb leaned in close to the monitor. “You know I never would have been able to imagine this day forty years ago. I never would have imagined I would have lived this long, or have fallen in love, or had a son, or having been able to raise him on a world that we owned. I never would have imagined myself becoming a grandmother. Especially the part about you having sex, that’s especially amazing.”


“Oh, Trabb, shut up.” Lusan jammed her in the gut with his elbow, both of them smiling and laughing.


“Have you thought of a name?”


“Maybe Vilk, after your father, mom, if he is a boy. If not, Inki, after your mother, dad.”


“We think they’re wonderful names. Kid, I’m so proud of you, I can’t wait to see you and Susa again. I am going to try to make time to get away from the barge as soon as I can.”


“And I will come and bother you first thing when I get back, kid. Don’t think I will cut you any slack. I will absolutely judge every parenting choice you make.” A smile crossed her face as she pointed at the screen with her cigarette.


“I’m sure you will mom. Dad. I’ll see you soon. Love you.”


The three of them said their goodbyes, leaving the two parents looking at an empty comm window for a moment before Trabb got up. With a groan she stretched and started towards the door.


“I wish you didn’t have to go.”


“Same.”


“Why not stay a little longer? I am sure I can find you some tea on this sad boat.” Lusan got up, limping towards her with his mechanical leg. Trabb’s eyes fell on it as he moved towards her, that night on the beach suddenly boiling up in her mind.


“Lusan.” She turned towards him, standing in the bulkhead door that lead back into the hall, her cigarette hanging loosely between her lips. “I love you so much. Thank you for seeing me, not turning me away. It’s more than I hoped for. All of this is. I needed this.”


“You know, if you’re feeling guilty about anything and want to pay me back, you do owe me a leg. Maybe you can find a nice one for me while you’re off world. Or let me see one of yours before you go.”


“I gave you a son, that’s worth a leg, plus interest.”


Trabb smiled at Lusan, running her hand down his scruffy face. He was warm to her touch, his smile was warm too. She didn’t deserve him. She wanted to say goodbye. The words were caught in her throat. For a quiet, rare moment, Trabb wasn’t on the attack, and she wasn’t defensive, she was just here in the present. She stepped into her husband’s office, closing the door behind her with a hiss and a click. The two were alone together, Trabb had time to spare, and no sound they’d make could get through that pressure door.