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  1. Chapter 26: Unofficial Business Freight is the blood in the veins of Human society. It moves everything from where it starts to where it ends and everything starts somewhere different to where it ends. Freight goes everywhere and the Forwarder goes where fright goes. The rig felt remarkably still for a floating facility, the submerged ballasts resisting the swell of the waves. Even so, the Forwarder felt unusually sensitive to the movement... Too long in space He thought to himself as he looked out over the azure horizon. The Independent Freight Association has over a hundred such floating facilities across the globe, the cost of what land wasn’t reserved for homing people, or growing crops to feed them being so high. The Association didn’t make their locations public but he was quite sure the likes of Octancorp had mapped them all and captured movement around them... to some degree at least. He recalled a statistic he’d heard once about how less than zero-point-one percent of all the data collected by Octancorp’s surveillance programme was actually viewed by a real person; the rest was just... filed. They were looking, but watching?.. The two were not the same. It made him cautious, however. If you think no-one is watching, you get careless... And then you make a mistake and real people start looking through all that filed data. Octan’s Regulations Enforcement Department had been a constant niggle in his operations. He’d had to ‘sign their charter’ just like all the rest... What choice did they have? Tramp freighters were starting to be worth more as scrap than a way of moving cargo. There had always been freight lines to compete with but these mega-corporations were a different beast. Octan had the brute resources to push any operator out of the market... and their livelihood. “Work with us” Octan had said to those who wouldn’t apply for ‘employee status’... They had described it as an offer... It was taken as a threat. And so, one by one, they all signed in terms that did all but bind them at the wrists. Some fell in line and made the best of it, others... like him... and a certain red-haired Woman, he thought with an involuntary wry smile, didn’t like being told what to do. That’s what R.E.D. was for; external contract enforcement. It was because of them, the once head of the I.F.A. now worked out of a shipping container and never stayed put for too long. It was because of them that it had taken so long to get back to Earth avoiding all of the checkpoints and ultimately the corporate blockade at the anomaly that was ‘keeping everyone safe’ from the radiation in Andromeda. His return had been for a single purpose. He had managed to contact, discreetly, the president of a renowned starship manufacturer. Cylbruda Starworks were known for their high-end premium models in the freight and civilian markets but they had never created a bespoke military design; their rugged and manoeuvrable C118 Quadstar had been adapted, even by Octan for ‘defence roles’ but the original was an orbital utility vessel used for towing. The manufacturer had, at times, proudly boasted that it built for trade, not conflict... But times had changed and even they acknowledged the threat posed by large corporations building their own fleets. The process had been slow; Cylbruda took pride in their work and progress had also been hampered by the need for secrecy, from the corporations, from him. But it had been worth the wait. He just hoped it would be worth the investment. He’d been there nearly an hour by the time it arrived, soaring gently overhead at a low subsonic cruise. It performed a wide arc - customary for a visual approach and leaned back to arrest its forward motion, revealing in full detail the large antimatter rotors that kept it aloft and the array of weaponry that adorned the central body. On final approach, the lower extenders retracted, the landing gear deployed and the drooped nose that was a hallmark of Cylbruda design slid out and upwards through a mechanism that kept it vertical and reduced the clearance that would be required for the ship to land. The upper section of the nose now obscured the pilot’s forward view though the pilot was likely using his side view and instrumentation at this point anyway but the Forwarder immediately considered the protection it afforded the cockpit on approach... He had a feeling that was a feature, intentional or otherwise that might prove its worth. With a heavy ‘gerchunk’ the craft settled on the pad, a reverberating shudder passing through the floor and into the Forwarder’s legs. Finally, he could take a moment to look at it properly. He’d seen schematics and images during development but it wasn’t the same. Now it was... real. He heard the electric whine of the ramp opening at the rear of the craft and after a few moments, a figure appeared. Phalen Lux was an I.F.A. pilot, very skilled but with what most considered to be some kind of personality disorder, though no-one could agree on which one. He was skilled but prone to erratic behaviour so he was generally only assigned to the more... ‘unpredictable’ missions. He seemed to live in his own Universe and didn’t ask difficult questions. It was for those reasons that the Forwarder specifically requested him for this; not the delivery - a mere taxi run but it was what would come next that contained the most unpredictable element of all... A red-haired Woman with a bad knack for survival. Phalen greeted the Forwarder, doffing the tip of his cap which the Forwarder immediately noticed had a visor fixed to it above the peak. A useless addition, he thought, noticing that there was no way of lowering it down as the peak was in the way. It puzzled him for a moment... It didn’t make sense but then, there were many things about Phalen Lux that only made sense to Phalen Lux. “Mr Forwarder.” He said by way of a greeting. “How is she?” the Forwarder asked, his gaze raising to the ship. Phalen turned and looked with him, returning to the Forwarder after a moment. “Something special.” He said, a bright glow of excitement in his eyes. “She’s a bit heavy in atmo but in space... With the extenders deployed... She can dance.” “Good.” The Forwarder replied. “Better give me the tour then.” It took the best part of an hour for Phalen to show the Forwarder everything his new ship had to offer from armaments and flight controls to fuel management and the minimal amenities. “So what’s the plan?” Phalen asked as they returned to the payload bay from the cramped cockpit. The Forwarder recalled his conversation with the man in the suit... The man who had no name, or at least none he was willing to give. “Make the arrangements” he had said... He had spoken to the Forwarder several times and it had always felt like he was using the Forwarder to to execute some small part of a greater plan that would never be explained to him. That was the idea he thought. His mind turned to the significant events of the corporate fight for control over Andromeda - the execution of John Hannibal on Donwarr that ended the Quarrel. Kawashita’s relentless pursuit of the Dust Demons and M.A.N.T.I.S. putting a bounty on the head of one of their own executives... Could the man in the suit have been the architect of it all... and me a pawn. Surely not. It was easy to dismiss the notion as ludicrous though, and that worried the Forwarder; those were the most dangerous notions sometimes... And this, he thought, would be the most dangerous yet. If Phalen did not succeed, she would find him... She knew how. He did not find the thought of that confrontation palatable... They’d worked together for so long, they knew each other so well. How could he do this on the whim of a man in a suit?.. “The plan...” He replied to Phalen, trying to hide the reluctance he could feel was in his words. “... is to kill Yseult Brenneaux”.
  2. “I have seen beyond the vale. Those of us that saw the true nature of Andromeda have been touched by a power greater than ourselves and greater than these mighty corporations can ever know. Their petty squabbles will be their end. The Dawn of Order approaches...” Sheep. Thought Yseult as she gazed over the crowd that had gathered to listen to the oddly-dressed character on the platform protruding from the temple entrance. He had recently become a kind of overnight celebrity, preaching about the future of Human-kind in vague ideological terms. He was ridiculed my many as an attention seeker, latching on to people’s fears and discontent with unfounded rhetoric, yet to so many, he had become a visionary, someone who spoke the truths that no-one else dared to. “... I was once like you, a slave consumer, blinkered by the empty promises of corporations. Lured into their cycle of temporary fulfilment... I was blind, but now... I see. They went to Andromeda to further their own greed, but they have kept from you what they discovered... The future of Mankind. I have seen this future, with my own eyes... But when I open the door to this future to you all, I will not sell it wrapped in a package of lies, I will give it freely to all those whose follow behind me.” There was a cheer from the crowd. They seem so easily pleased. Yseult thought as the man on stage that had termed himself ‘The Shadowmancer’ moved on to his next well rehearsed soliloquy of crowd-fodder. “I didn’t expect to see you here.” A man’s voice said behind Yseult. She turned, tensing, as if expecting trouble but it was Riddaeon who stood there. “It’s you.” She said, sounding disappointed, though self-loathing would have been more accurate. She hadn’t liked that someone had approached her without her knowing. She relaxed and turned back to the podium. Riddaeon stood beside her, taking in the crowd and the figure on stage. “Doesn’t seem like your...” Riddaeon looked for the right words. “Cup of coffee.” He said, recalling what Yseult had done with the one he took her on Donwarr. He doesn’t see it. Yseult thought. Few would have in her experience. It was both a blessing and a curse; usually the latter that she could see disparate and apparently unrelated things and make the connection between them. She knew when people were lying, or just improvising and hoping no-one would notice, when the facts didn’t add up. But of course, most of the time, there’s no way of proving to people how you know. She’d challenged plenty of them, sick of seeing them get what they want with carefully placed lies. But with no proof, most of those instances ended in fights. A few she won, many had been part of the lesson not to bother anymore. Let the liars lie, I’ll go live my life elsewhere. Some would tell her she looks into things ‘too deeply’ but to her it was obvious, apparent and glaring. She didn’t know why no-one else seemed to see it. They’re all idiots, happy to be taken for a ride... Not me. “Upsilon.” Yseult finally said to Riddaeon. “What?” He asked in reply, the word being so out of context. “Upsilon.” Yseult repeated. “Big Sal believes something is changing reality, the Universe. I think this man has seen it too. The difference: Sal wishes to understand it, this man wishes to worship it. But what he says... I think maybe they have seen the same thing...” The crowd suddenly dropped to complete silence and Yseult turned to see the Shadowmancer stood at the edge of the platform, his bejewelled staff pointing straight at her. After a moment, He brought it back upright, stamping the end on the platform with a deep thud. Before Yseult, the crowd cleared to make a path to the steps up to the platform. “Do not fear child.” The Shadowmancer said, his words echoing across the silent crowd from the loudspeakers places out side of each set of steps. Yseult looked him in the eyes, barely visible though the shimmering vale that covered his face. She hadn’t expected this, a chance to get closer to him, to evaluate him. She didn’t want to go up, she wasn’t one of his little sheep... But she also couldn’t resist the opportunity. Cautiously, she left Riddaeon and walked to the bottom of the steps, a disorderly array of stones at different heights. She stopped for a moment at the bottom of them as she decided how best to ascend. “The path to enlightenment is never obvious.” The Shadowmancer’s voice echoed out. “We must each learn to find our own way.” Yseult thought for a moment... A test she realised. He’ll use it to make a judgement about me. She observed her wider surroundings, there was no other way to the platform which was about head height... With a stride, Yseult leapt forward and launched herself up. Her hands finding the platform edge, she pulled herself up, managing to get a foot on the platform as the rest of her followed with ease. The Shadowmancer stepped back in reaction, giving her room. As she stood before him, he stared at her, looking almost dazed. “Interesting.” He said in a quiet, half mumbled voice. Remembering his intent, the Shadowmancer gestured for Yseult to stand in the middle on a rectangular purple dias. The crowd was silent in anticipation as she stepped into position, as though some sacred ritual had begun. The Shadowmancer stood before her, holding his staff out to his side, an aide silently stepping in to take it while he gazed at Yseult’s face as if analysing her features. Both hands free, he gently placed them to cradle her face, moving it carefully from side to side. “Another orphan to corporate greed.” He announced loudly to the crowd who jeered and shouted to express their anger at the corporate enemy. The Shadowmancer analysed Yseult’s features some more. His face changed, eyes widening... A realisation. “Tell me child...” He asked. “How did your father die?” Yseult’s face changed instantly and the Shadowmancer’s hands were pushed away before a right-hand swing caught him square in the face. He stumbled back, falling to one knee and his aides moved quickly to restrain Yseult. “STOP!” The Shadowmancer shouted, his voice echoing through the loudspeakers. The crowd’s brief uproar once again became a sea of silence at his command. Slowly, he brought himself back to his feet and gestured to receive his staff. Once in hand, he stood before Yseult, contemplating, wrestling with his decision... “Let her go.” he eventually said, nodding to the aides to ensure they understood. “Let her go.” As Yseult jumped down from the platform, the crown had made a new path, this time directly away from the temple. The heads of every person following her every step as she walked away. Upon the dias, behind a shimmering violet veil, the eyes of the Shadowmancer narrowed beneath a furrowed brow.
  3. Location: Iceland Tags: vacation Previous vacation related post: http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/135847-o-h06-vacation-all-i-ever-wanted/ Currently... We're going to Iceland, honey? Yes, while we're waiting for Andromeda's Gates: Second Era, I thought it would be nice if we visited one of historic precursors of Mitgard with Ethel, as she travels to learn about her ancestry. I see. Bqllr! ++++++++++ So, where's our first stop? Well, we would be remiss if we did not visit the Icelandic Phallological Museum in Iceland's capital city of Reykjavik during our trip. It houses the world's largest display of penises, including 280 specimens from 93 different species. Here are some from the common seal. Bqllr! And here's one from a sperm whale. It's impressive, but it's not as impressive as yours, honey. I know. Bqllr! ++++++++++ Here's the famous Hallgrimskirkja, a Lutheran church finished in the ancient Terran year of 1986, which is a popular landmark for tourists in Reykjavik. And right nearby is a statue of Leif Eriksson, one of Ethel's ancestors. Contrary to popular belief, Christopher Columbus wasn't the first European to discover North America; that honor belongs to Leif Eriksson. Bqllr! ++++++++++ Where are we now? We are at the Þingvellir National Park, part of Iceland's famous Golden Circle. Not surprisingly, it's full of tourists even during off peak hours. It's still beautiful! Bqllr! ++++++++++ These are geysers! Yes, we are at the Geysir location along the Golden Circle. My favorite one is named Strokkur. It erupts every six minutes. That is some impressive endurance; but still, not as impressive as yours, honey. Bqllr! ++++++++++ What interesting rock formations! Indeed. These are the famous basalt column cliffs near Snæfellsjökull National Park. There are so many incredible things to see in that park, such as these beautiful rock formations at Arnarstapi. Or Mount Stapafell. Or the glacier capped volcano the national park is named after: Snæfellsjökull. Bqllr! ++++++++++ And we'll end our trip by hiking on the Sólheimajökull glacier. It's so hard and slippery! Bqllr! ++++++++++ Wow, that was a great trip! Iceland is such a beautiful country! What's next, honey? I believe now we spend our time preparing for Andromeda's Gates: Second Era. Bqllr! Comments and criticisms are all welcome!
  4. I've really enjoyed writing for AG's first era - it's helped to develop my characters and writing more than I could possibly have expected. My recent chapters have introduced a lot of characters though and I'm conscious that it may be hard for new readers (or even ones that have read them all) to keep track of what's going on. So here's a character summary to help anyone who needs a refresh (please note, it may contain some little spoilers you didn't notice reading the full entries). Yseult Brenneaux. A tempestuous freight pilot who isn’t afraid to get into a fight. She is French and was raised in Bordeaux with her Father, an aerobatics pilot who inspired her love of flying [Rest]. Often referred to as ‘The red-haired Woman’, she makes friends with difficulty and enemies with ease. She is a survivor and much of her past is unknown. Discovered by Big Sal working as a con artist on Marphacia, Yseult Brenneux (using a different spelling to help mask her past) was lured into a trap to force her to join MANTIS [The Mark]. She was initially stationed at a communications outpost called Uplink [Uplink] where she met Riddaeon. She paid off her debt to Big Sal working on the outpost’s Walk-lifts [Pay Dirt] after which she had initially intended to return to her previous line of work. Riddaeon convinced her to give life in MANTIS a try and after contemplating the hard life she had just left behind, she agreed [Departure]. Yseult quickly passed though the MANTIS pilot training programme on Aeristus gaining notoriety when Training Officer Briskett’s attempts to humiliate her by giving her an impossible scenario in the simulator backfired when, despite crashing, her reactions resulted in one of the highest evaluation scores possible [Gyrocube]. Her first mission was to pilot a new spying ship designed by Flight Engineer Eliana Seyka [Darksight] to Donwarr to try and discover how supplies of liquid mithril were disappearing during transport [Jade Sun]. She uncovered a clue and followed a small vessel but was discovered by the Octan Quadstar escorting it and was shot down. The pilot, Vyken Tyros, landed nearby and, after being disappointed that his mission had not been uncovered by a more famous MANTIS agent, tried to kill her when he was interrupted by the mysterious appearance of Gnarl Graves [Fighter Escort]. As the two fought, Yseult caught Vyken off guard and was able to knock him out [Reflection] before falling unconscious herself after she used an almost fatal dose of anaesthetic to sustain her during the fight [Rest]. Following her recovery, Yseult spent some time piloting a Lineopeia class passenger transport [Charter Flight] before her next mission to Freegate to steal a cypher from an Octan heavy speeder using Vyken Tyros’ stolen Quadstar. The heist was succesfull but when she returned to orbit, her ship’s GATE drive was missing [The Cypher] leaving her stranded. She was able to escape by latching on to an unmanned cargo ship [Autofreight], narrowly avoiding being fired upon by MANTIS patrol craft. Meeting with Riddaeon back on Donwarr, she was finally told that Big Sal believed she could help them find Upsilon, the key to uncovering a mysterious force that is making changes to space and time. He informs her that Big Sal believes that her unpredictability is key to drawing who, or whatever is at work out into the open [Upsilon]. She tells Riddaeon he needs to get her a ship so they go to see The Forwarder, an independent freight forwarder that Yseult knows from her past. He calls her by her real name (Brenneaux) but she corrects him and they discuss getting her a new ship and potential work from him. Yseult is reluctant, however, to do certain types of work that she has done for The Forwarder in the past [The Forwarder], including smuggling [Rogue Orders]. Having purchased a ship, Yseult and Ellie make repairs while Riddaeon secures fuel and supplies, then the two Women depart in their new ship [Speedy Owl]. Their first job, however, involves getting past Octan and MANTIS forces unnoticed [Wraith] with a container. They get through but cause an incident [White Hawk] that is denied by both corporations. Following delivery, Yseult spends some time attending a local bar where she keeps getting into fights before returning to the ship where Ellie treats her. She eventually allows Ellie to go with her where they see a report on the news about the incident they caused and have an argument about the merits of the corporations and their mission to find Upsilon [Old TImes]. Riddaeon A MANTIS operative, Riddaeon is an administrator who works behind the scenes to further MANTIS interests. He aides Big Sal on certain projects, notably the recruitment of Yseult Brenneaux. He first met her on Marphacia at the communications outpost Uplink where he assessed her character [Uplink], reporting back his findings to Big Sal [Pay Dirt]. RIddaeon managed to convince Yseult to remain with MANTIS once she had repaid her debt [Departure] and followed her to Aeristus to watch her training [Gyrocube] Riddaeon was involved in the planning of Yseult’s first mission for MANTIS [Jade Sun] and visited her on Donwarr while she recovered from a crash during that mission, after which he reported her progress back to Big Sal and was informed that there was a new mission for her involving the stolen Quadstar [Rest]. In preparation for the mission, Riddaeon visited Ellie who had designed and built a detachable GATE drive for the Quadstar. Riddaeon continued to lead the mission despite Big Sal disappearing and being pronnounced a fugitive of MANTIS [The Engineer]. Having intercepted Vyken Tyros’ communications with Octan, Riddaeon posed as an Octan agent and picked up Vyken, helping him to get safely back to Octan space [Rendézvous]. In a later communication with Big Sal, Riddaeon is warned that such action could be treasonous. Riddaeon defends the decision explaining that Vyken may be able to help them convince someone who’s help they may need. He then met with Yseult to explain Big Sal’s belief that someone, or something is altering reality but the motive and who or what is unclear. He tells her that Big Sal’s calculations have revealed that to draw this potentially malevolent force out, they have to find Upsilon and Big Sal believes that Yseult is essential to helping them locate it. Yseult accepts the new mission but insists they get her a new ship [Upsilon]. Riddaeon accompanies Yseult to meet The Forwarder to arrange the purchase of a ‘box runner’ container freighter [The Forwarder]. While Yseult and Ellie make repairs to their new purchase, Riddaeon steals fuel and anti-matter for the ship. After they take-off, Riddaeon used the ship’s landing platform’s communication dish to access the Octan network and upload a programme [Speedy Owl]. Gedron Briskett A MANTIS flight training officer based on Aeristus. He has a reputation for being hard on recruits and has a chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t like the idea that anyone else can tell him what it takes to be a good pilot. he considers himself to be the best and looks down on civilian pilots, considering their skills to be ‘less advanced’ than those he trains. He is prone to rash decisions, however, and and tried to embarrassed Yseult by forcing her to fail a flight test simulation [Gyrocube]. It backfired and the computer that analysed her efforts gave her one of the highest scores possible [Darksight]. He doesn’t like Yseult Brenneaux. Elliana Seyka A MANTIS Flight Engineer called ‘Ellie’ for short who works in design and development of new spacecraft. Ellie was the project lead on the new spy ship Darksight, an experimental ship whose first mission was brought forward causing the original intended pilot to have to be replaced by Yseult owing to her demonstrated flying skills [Darksight]. She also designed a detachable GATE drive for a stolen Octan Quadstar to allow trans-anomaly deployment without using a carrier [The Engineer]. Ellie accompanied Yseult in the purchase of the Speedy Owl, assisting her with repairs before they departed together. [Speedy Owl]. She accompanied Yseult when they smuggled a container on to New California [Wraith][Old Times][Yseult Brenneaux] and spent time with Yseult on the planet, treating the pilot’s injuries after bar brawls. She is finally allowed to go along to one of the bars and the two argue about the merits of corporate membership. Special note: Ellie is seen leaning over Yseult in the stone square in Yseult’s dream though she is not mentioned in the text. [Rest] Vyken Tyros A special forces operative in Octan. His last recorded mission was escorting a freighter that was stealing liquid mithril from MANTIS [Jade Sun]. When Yseult discovered the operation he shot her down. When she crash-landed her ship, Vyken set down nearby and he was about to kill her when Gnarl Graves appeared and an epic sword fight ensued [Fighter Escort]. Vyken was knocked out by Yseult during the fight and awoke later to find his personal Quadstar fighter stolen, though his sword and rations had been intentionally left behind [Reflection]. He was later able to contact Octan and arrange for an Octan agent to collect him and return him to Octan space [Rendézvous]. He is highly skilled in blade weaponry choosing the Katana for close combat. He is an old friend and mentor to Emily DuPont and it is from him that she acquired her sword-fighting skills. A man in a suit A man of unknown name, affiliation or origin. He appeared in The Forwarder’s container/office after Yseult departed, and appeared concerned with her activities. He has an uneasy relationship with the Forwarder but appears to levy control over him [The Forwarder]. Special note: This is the same character that Yseult saw in a dream where he was sitting at a desk writing the letter ‘Y’ on a piece of paper over and over again [Rest]. The Forwarder A freight forwarder who once held a high position in the Independent Freight Association when it was the largest and most influential freight organisation in Andromeda. During this time, Yseult worked for him and he holds her skills in high regard. There is a suggestion that she may have worked for him as a smuggler [Rogue Orders]. When Yseult reappears after a significant absence, he helps her to acquire a new ship and work as a ‘box-runner’ [The Forwarder]. After the withdrawal of the corporations, the Forwarder is visited by an old acquaintance who has discovered Yseult's attempts to hide her past and asks him what he knows about her [Yseult Brenneaux]. Captain Aurixx Commanding officer of the MANTIS cruiser Shadowfall. When an unidentified object passes through MANTIS-controlled space between them and the Octan fleet around New California, he dispatches an Interceptor to investigate [Wraith]. The interceptor destroys the Octan ships that respond [White Hawk] but the loss of the ships is publicly blamed on a mechanical failure [Old Times]. He receives orders to withdraw to the main fleet and feels that being taken from the front line is punishment for causing a ‘sensitive incident’. Convinced that all is not as it seems, he asks Vashin to remain in Andromeda when the fleet leaves to try and discover what really happened and who is responsible for ruining their careers [Rogue Orders]. Vashin Tulka A MANTIS pilot stationed aboard the Shadowfall. When he responds to an unidentified object passing through the no-fly-zone between MANTIS and Octan forces around New California, he attracts the attention of Octan orbital defence fighters [Wraith]. A firefight ensues; Vashin hits one of the two craft in his initial volley and out-manoeuvres the second allowing him to pursue and destroy it [White Hawk]. When Shadowfall is withdrawn from front-line operations, Captain Aurixx convinces Vashin that it is punishment for causing an incident and Vashin agrees to remain in Andromeda when the fleet leaves to search for those resposible for the unidentified object [Rogue Orders]. Lynton Bryss An Octan pilot in the Orbital Defence Unit stationed at New California. He responds to a MANTIS interceptor approaching the Octan fleet [Wraith] but when a firefight ensues, his ship is hit and burns up in the atmosphere, exploding before he can eject. He had a Wife and children [White Hawk]. Octan officially blames his death and the loss of the ship on a mechanical failure [Old Times]. Vex Obryn An Octan pilot in the Orbital Defence Unit stationed at New California. He is Lynton Bryss’ wingman when they respond to a MANTIS interceptor approaching the Octan fleet [Wraith]. He is hit in the initial exchange of fire and he and his ship are lost [White Hawk]. Octan officially blames his death and the loss of the ship on a mechanical failure [Old Times]. Vex wakes up in the New California desert near his damaged ejection seat, presumably having successfully survived the accident. He is able to walk to a small settlement where an old Woman cares for him and he learns that in fact, four months have passed since the incident [Hard Landing]. Dangerous Woman A woman of unknown name, affiliation or origin who visits The Forwarder, asking about Yseult. She has an interest in the red-haired pilot, having discovered that Yseult was using a mistyped surname to try and distance herself from her past. The Woman and The Forwarder have some History with each other but have not seen each other for four years [Yseult Brenneaux]. Dangerous Man An associate of the ‘Dangerous Woman’ [Yseult Brenneaux]. The Sentinel An associate of the ‘Dangerous Woman’. His face is adorned with various cybernetic implants leaving only small sections of skin visible. He appears to require a respirator to breath, even when in clean breathable air [Yseult Brenneaux]. Drakin A mercenary who has worked for the Forwarder in the past and looks to have met Yseult at the time. He sees Yseult in a bar on New California around the time that two White Hawks are lost above the planet and presumes that she is likely to be involved given what he knows of her past. He does not know her name but meets with MANTIS pilot Vashin Tulka to divulge his knowledge in exchange for a fuel cell [Rogue Orders].
  5. [Freebuild] Rogue Orders

    Chapter 24: Rogue Orders. Vashin Tulka looked around the dim bar he had ended up in somewhere in a remote settlement in one of the least populated provinces of New California. Where the dregs wash in. He thought as he surveyed the patrons. Any one of them could be the one he’s looking for, assuming he could trust his contact. It had taken weeks of searching, making contacts, asking the right questions. Captain Aurixx was right. He thought, recalling the conversation that had before he left the Shadowfall. “Six days.” Aurixx’s voice was full of disdain and loathing. Vashin had noticed the digipage on his desk when he had entered the ready-room and guessed that it contained the orders they had received shortly after the incident. Despite Vashin’s success in his engagement with the Octan fighters, the Shadowfall had been ordered to return to the main MANTIS fleet. Aurixx had told him personally to reassure him that it was no criticism of his actions. “For six days, we were the front line of MANTIS operations on New California.” Aurixx continued. “Face to face with the enemy, where corporations are made and broken.”And now we’ll spend the rest of our careers on patrol duty supporting the main fleet.” He stared into Vashin’s eyes, a burning desire flaring behind his pupils. “I don’t know why they covered up what happened... I don’t know why MANTIS let them. But I know the answer is in the signal you were tracking before you engaged the Octan ships...” The air hung thick with tension as Aurixx prepared himself to say something he would rather not have. “I cannot order you to do this.” He said, his voice low and husky. “But I can ask.” He allowed a moment for Vashin to to take in the meaning. Any official business would be a simple matter of giving the order so a request meant ‘off the record’. “The fleet leaves Andromeda tomorrow. Once we’re gone, so is any chance of finding out what that signal was... Unless I send you on a routine patrol shortly before we depart... And you don’t make it back in time.” He gave Vashin a moment to take it in. He was asking him to be voluntarily left behind. On his own with little corporate support. “I can’t tell you that finding the answer will put everything right.” Aurixx added. “But at least you’ll have an answer”. As Vashin surveyed the dim backwater bar once more, he wondered if he had ever really needed that answer, or was he just here out of some potentially misplaced sense of loyalty to his captain. It didn’t matter now anyway; the fleet was a Galaxy away from here. “I take it you’re the one.” A low gravelled voice said from over Vashin’s shoulder. It belonged to one of the patrons, a man with long black braided hair, a grimace upon his face and the garb of a professional mercenary. He was the latest link in a chain of contacts but whereas the previous links had merely led Vashin to more links, this one had claimed to know who it was Vashin was looking for. It would come at a cost, however. The man’s eyes were wrought with suspicion as he looked over Vashin. A wry smirk grew in one corner of his mouth. “You even look corporate.” he added. Vashin had hoped it wouldn’t have been so obvious. “You have the payment?” The man asked. “If your information is reliable.” Vashin responded. “It’s worth nothing if I can’t trust you.” The mercenary considered his words for a moment. “Let’s get a drink.” Vashin swallowed a mouthful of the bright green liquid the mercenary had ordered for him and couldn’t help pulling a face. It was some kind of distilled larvae juice. He’d had it before around MANTIS but there it was always drunk with a mixer - now he knew why. The Mercenary smiled a wry smile. His name was Drakin, a disreputable ‘hand for hire’ that, like so many, had flocked to the Quarrel to offer their services when the conflict between Octan and MANTIS had escalated. The corporations never admitted to hiring mercs publicly but over the past few weeks, Vashin had heard plenty of stories. “I did jobs for a guy once.” Drakin began. “Hard to find type - always moving around. He did a lot of deals under the table, took a lot of jobs that shouldn’t be taken. To get those jobs done, he needed mercs... and smugglers.” “You think I’m looking for a smuggler?” Vashin inquired. Drakin hesitated to answer, considering his position. “You have the payment?” He asked in place of an answer. Vashin reached down to a bag. Lifting the item in it carefully, he placed the MANTIS fuel cell on the table between them but kept his hand firmly on it. Corporate fuel cells were, it turned out, highly sought after among the non-corporates; the were cleaner and more efficient that the recycled or refurbished units most of them were getting by on. A MANTIS fuel cell like this could keep a family in light and warmth for around a year. Somehow, he doubted this one would go to anything so noble and while he could ill-afford to lose a fuel cell, being out on his own now, it would be worth it if this mercenary had what he was looking for. “I have the payment.” He told Drakin. “Do you have the name?” Drakin stiffened. He doesn’t have it. Thought Vashin. His mind raced, surveying the surroundings. Could it be a trap? Who was nearby? Where was his pistol? Where were Drakin’s hands? Where were his eyes looking: Vashin? The cell? Nearby associates? Vashin tensed, ready for a confrontation. “I don’t have the name.” Drakin finally admitted. “No-ne here does... But I know who you’re looking for.” Vashin remained cautious and kept his hand on the cell. Let the merc feel like he has to prove himself if he wants the deal. “The pilot on the job was some box-runner.” Drakin explained. “Pretty as hell but twice as crazy in the seat; they said she was his best pilot. Not sure why, she had a knack for all hell breaking loose. Anyway, few months ago I’m in here and who should walk in just days after the first reports of your little incident. She comes back a few times, makes a few contacts, picks a few fights. But no-one knows her name. Few weeks later, her and her friend take an interest in Octan’s report that the whole thing was just a malfunction. Never saw her again after that. ” “Can those contacts get in touch with her?” “Remember the guy I did the jobs for?” Drakin answered. “They call him the Forwarder. You want to get to her, you need to go through him. When you get a pilot with a bad attitude, a French accent and red hair...” Vashin processed the information carefully. It was hardly proof but surety was in short supply these days. He figured the merc was drawing reasonable conclusions though; it’s easy to write things off as coincidence rather than trying to fathom the connections between disparate events. Slowly, he removed his hand from the fuel cell. “The red-haired woman.” He said, a final subtle question - is she the one I’m looking for? Drakin cautiously reached forward and took the cell... “The red-haired woman.”
  6. [Freebuild] Hard Landing

    Chapter 23: Hard Landing. It felt like being hit by a heavy speeder; given how far he’d fallen it was actually more like being hit by a planet. His head pulsated with pain, coarse sand hurt sore fingertips as he tried to push himself up... No use. He tried to recall how he’d got here... Nothing. He couldn’t remember, but then, he had just hit a planet. He thought he lying on the floor but it felt like he was standing, forced against a sandstone wall, a bright light in his face, hot, burning. That’s the sun. He thought, I must be on the ground. He sighed and his arms relaxed. It was easier if he didn’t fight. “It’s easier if you don’t fight.” The voice echoed. A gust of wind blew grains of sand onto his lips; just enough to give him a sense of them, a fragrance, an aroma... It was familiar. I know this sand. He thought. The geological makeup of sand was different from region to region and very different from planet to planet. Spend long enough among it and you start to be able to tell the difference. This one had a feint saline tint to it. He racked his brain. Where am I? He tried to open his eyes. The bright sunshine pierced the first gap in his eyelid with blinding power. He forced them shut again. I must be on the ground. He told himself. Summoning all his remaining energy, he pushed with his arms and forced his head away from the gritty surface. He started to lift a knee up under him but the dizzyness stopped him. He had become unbalanced, pushing himself away fro the wall and lifting one leg off the ground, He felt like he was about to fall over backwards but never quite did, stuck on the edge of falling and feeling more and more sick with every moment. He woke some time later. The air was cooler and more refreshing though the smell of stale vomit prevented him from feeling the benefit. His head was clearer and in the dimming light, he could just about tolerate opening his eyes enough to see. He was still unsteady but he raised himself up slowly and looked around the harsh grit-filled landscape that had been his resting place for who knows how long now. A moment later it came to him: The dusty landscape’s saline sand. It was from the evaporating lakes the planet was known for. New California... I’m on New California. He tried to remember how he’d got here. His memories were a haze of voices, sounds, lights... Bright hot lights, or was that the sun. How long had he been out here. He surveyed the horizon. He had no idea where on the planet he was but a column of steam and the the hazy dim outline of towers gave him hope that civilisation wasn’t too far away. He stumbled forward but kept his feet. His legs ached. Looking around the nearby vicinity, he noticed a broken pilot’s chair. I must have been thrown from it when I landed... A hazy memory formed - Space... Fire... Alarms... Voices... Several voices, static. I must have been in a firefight. He surmised, trying to piece together the remnants of what had happened before. It was like trying to remember a dream, only moments ago yet already distant. He checked the wreckage, relieved to find the emergency ration package in tact on the underside. He removed it, clipped the water bottle to his belt, divided the nutrient packs between his suit’s various pockets and started walking. The night was cool but never cold as the sun never quite fully dipped below the wide, flat horizon. He must have been fairly far North or South but he wasn’t sure which. The mild climate allowed him to make good progress and as the Sun began its slow and steady ascent into the proceeding morning, he reached a small settlement. The steam and towers were still in the far distance but he needed to rest. He was exhausted, most of his water was depleted, drank to recover from his waking condition. It would take the bottles condenser several hours to extract enough moisture from the air to refill it. He made it far as a sheltered porch-like area protruding from the nearest building before his legs insisted on not supporting him anymore and he dropped to his hands and knees, rolling onto his back. He closed his eyes... He shouldn’t. Anyone could live here. But he was so tired. And it was starting to get hot again. He closed his eyes. Just for a bit... Just for a bit. He woke in cool air, fresh and clean. He ached all over but he was comfortable, lying on a soft bed. He heard a clatter, the sound of water. Someone appeared and sat over him before dowsing his brow with a wet cloth. “I was wondering when you’d come to.” An old Woman’s voice said. He didn’t recognise it. “How long?” he asked instinctively. “Two days.” the old Woman replied. “Didn’t think there was any of you corporates left.” She added. He didn’t understand the question. He looked down at his clothes - A flight suit, white with a red arm and leg. The old Woman noticed. “We’ll contact the nearest outpost once they all come back.” She said. “Hmpff.” She added. “If they come back.” The old Woman got up and walked off. “I don’t suppose you’ve got a name.” She asked from across the room. The man went to answer but caught himself. He tried to think... It was on the edge of his tongue but he just couldn’t quite get it. He thought for a moment, closed his eyes, cleared his mind. He had said his own name so many times he tried to not think about it and just let his mouth form the sounds. “Vex.” he sounded out. It started to come back to him. The hazy pieces became a little clearer. Not fully formed but... Then he remembered. “My name is Vex Obryn.” He tried to collect his thoughts. What had happened? The Woman’s comment suddenly clicked. “Wait... You said When they come back?” Could they really have abandoned him. He’d been gone around three days, maybe five depending on how long he’d been lying on the ground out there before he came to. They wouldn’t have abandoned the search for him. There were nutrients for a week in the ration pack and the bottle continuously condensed water from the air and filtered it into drinking water. They wouldn’t leave yet... After so little time, from an Octan controlled World. He knew MANTIS had been making a move for the planet but ... The hazy memories became a little clearer. A MANTIS ship... Fire and smoke... I was hit. He had to contact Octan immediately and report his survival. He still didn’t remember much but being alive, he presumed he somehow ejected before his ship was destroyed. “I have to contact Octan... now.” He stated, trying to get himself up before the aches became sharp piercing pains that halted his progress. “I told you, they’re not here.” The old Woman said. Vex heard what she had said but It didn’t make sense. MANTIS couldn’t have forced a withdrawal in five days. Octan were too strong. The corporate newsfeeds had been full of analysts talking about how close they were to victory. “When did they leave?” he asked without realising. “About a month ago.” She replied. Vex froze... “A month?” His mind raced. It didn’t make sense. “It's Janurali.” He said aloud, though it hadn’t been meant as a question. It was received with a short sharp laugh that verged on a cackle. “You’ve been out in the sun too long.” The Woman replied. “But not that long... It’s Maian... Janurali was four months ago.” ...
  7. [Freebuild] Yseult Brenneaux

    Previous chapters can be accessed from the Andromeda's Gates player list. Chapter 22: Yseult Brenneaux. The Forwarder stood tense, one hand behind his back, plasma pistol charged and ready. The yard foreman hadn’t warned him they were coming, he hadn’t had a chance, or a choice. The Forwarder had picked them up on his tap into the freight yard’s security system. Fortunately, his own system was better than the yard’s at flagging suspicious activity. Years of input and tweaking had achieved that. He remembered the feeling of dread and inevitability when he spotted this one. Little more than a feint shadow off the quarter of a bigger vessel; traffic control probably wrote it off as an echo and so it slipped by. They’d have been more wary if the signal had been stronger as it could easily have been another vessel but ships don’t give off signals this weak... And so it slipped by. But the Forwarder saw it and the Forwarder knew. The corporations preferred those fancy cloaking devices; heavy, cumbersome and power hungry, they worked but weren’t seen by everyone as a practical way to go unseen, especially those who were here before. Once the ship was within scope a visual scanner, The Forwarder trained every resource he had onto it as it glided gently towards the Freight Port’s cargo terminal... Nothing, just blackness. A glint of light flashed, a shimmer emerged, then disappeared, bad memories returned and the outline of a black ship became apparent. Despite the feeling of dread, he couldn’t help but smile. Of course. He thought. The corporations had recently agreed a unilateral order to leave Andromeda due to some kind of anomalous radiation coming from the Galaxy’s centre. With everybody used to corporate control, who would step in? And who would stop them? The ship put down behind a hangar, tucked away. He did his best to follow the three figures that disembarked but they split up, rejoined and split up again, leaving a silent and unseen trail of bodies behind them. From what he could see, they were working their way across the freight terminal through every line of defence to... Here. Every set of eyes he had in the yard were as good as blind. Even he didn’t see most of them until it was too late. They would be here soon. He swallowed, suddenly finding it something he had to think about doing. He activated a control on his terminal and folded it away, the conference table lowering in its place. He removed his plasma pistol from its holster on the underside of the table and stood, tense, one hand behind his back, plasma pistol charged and ready. They didn’t knock. They didn’t need to. The door to the Forwarder’s container office gently swung open and a figure stepped in, slender, wearing a black flight suit covered in metallic and bright green attachments. He’d never seen the design before but the helmet the figure wore... That, he knew. Black with a luminescent yellow/green visor, the inside of which was a constantly changing display of data and information for the wearer. The Forwarder’s arm tensed. He fought the urge to draw his pistol too early, the figure stood just inside the doorway, analysing him, assessing him, no doubt aware that he was armed. The figure didn’t carry a weapon in their hands. They don’t need to. He reminded himself so as not to foolishly think he had the figure out-gunned. The figure’s hands raised to their helmet, there was a click, a release of pressure and hands raised the helmet off, short pitch-black hair around a pale face with high prominent cheekbones. and sharply-pointed eyes. The tension in his arm disappeared, his brow un-furrowed, but his breathing remained unsteady...it always did around her. Why is she here? After all this time. He thought. “You look the same.” He said. He wasn’t sure what else he could say and certainly didn’t have anything more pertinent. The woman looked at him, her thin eyes thinning just a little more as she assessed his appearance. “You look different.” She replied. “Four years is a long time.” The Forwarder responded, apologetically. “A lot has changed.” “Not so much.” the woman calmly replied with definitive confidence as she took a step towards the Forwarder. His nerves jolted. “I don’t do business with you anymore.” He said in instinctive reaction, a cautious assertiveness in his voice. The woman looked around the confined container that had become his office, that had become his life. “Everyone does business with us.” She responded calmly, her eyes inspecting every corner, every nook, every shadow. “The only difference...” She added, her eyes returning to the Forwarder. “Is whether or not they know.” She placed her helmet on the table and activated a control on her suit. A moment later, two additional figures entered the container behind her. One had already removed his helmet, A man the Forwarder didn’t recognise in a similar suit to the woman. The third wore a different black suit with piping and metal work around it. Its helmet was still on but the visor was opaque black and unlike the other two, it wore respirator tanks on it’s back. The woman sat down in the chair beside her while the man surveyed the container with equal attention to detail. The third figure stood in the entrance, sentinel-like. After a moment, the man nodded to the woman who in turn nodded to the third figure. A variety of quiet gentle electronic whirrs went silent and the figure reached up , activating a control on its helmet. The black visor raised, allowing a thin cloud of super-chilled air to woosh out and curl into a feint mist in front of it. As the mist dissipated in the warm air, the face of the figure became seen, or some of it did, being mostly covered in metallic augments and devices. Sections of exposed facial skin contorted and pulsated as it breathed. It’s still alive under there. The Forwarder thought as he viewed the assemblage of metal plate and technology that now constituted the wearer’s face. He wasn’t sure if it was looking back, it just stood there, watching presumably. The Forwarder knew about cyborgs and AI mechanoids, Kawashita were known to utilise them for their most dangerous missions and assassinations but he’d never seen one integrated like this... He’d heard stories though, about experiments that left the subjects in such pain, only constant supplies of anaesthetics allowed them to function. This one, he noticed, was using a respirator and he wondered what gaseous concoction was within those tanks. “So.” The woman said in a contemplative tone, her gaze fixed upon the Forwarder. “Tell us about the pilot.” The question caught the Forwarder’s attention and brought his gaze back from the augmented cyborg in the corner. He sat down and cautiously replaced his pistol into its holster under the table. “The Galaxy is full of pilots.” The Forwarder replied, trying to be clever. “Unfortunate incident.” The woman said, appearing to change the topic. “Those two Octan ships over New California... What were they doing out there?” The Forwarder opened his palms into a gesture that said ‘I don’t know’. “The minutiae of the corporations is beyond my ears.” He said. “They weren’t lost to a malfunction.” The woman said in a stern tone, her eyes fixated on the Forwarder. “They were pursuing a MANTIS ship... Which was pursuing our consignment.” That caught the Forwarder’s attention. The woman was right, the difference was whether or not you knew. He liked to think that he was the one in the know, that he had more information than whoever was across the table from him. He didn’t like being out manoeuvred, out strategised. Maybe that’s why he stopped doing business with them, or had tried to at least. “The pilot was a red-haired woman.” The woman added. “We’re interested in her.” That’s bad news. Thought the Forwarder. “So.” The woman continued. “Tell us about the pilot... Tell us about Yseult Brenneaux.” “Brenneux.” The Forwarder corrected her. The woman stared at him, silent, considering her next move. Her eyes thinned again. “There is no Yseult Brenneux.” She replied. The Forwarder’s face changed. Following his meeting with Yseult, he’d done his research having been corrected himself. At first, probably like so many would, he just assumed he’d been pronouncing it wrong or spelling it wrong, the name using a French letter combination, a language of which he had only the most rudimentary knowledge. But the Forwarder was suspicious. He didn’t like that he’d got it wrong and rather than just write it off, he checked it out. That one little letter had allowed the red-haired woman to all but eliminate her past when she joined MANTIS less than a year ago, appearing out of nowhere on Marphacia. The woman repositioned herself in her chair. “Yseult Brenneux.” She began. “Appeared in a MANTIS flight training schedule on Aeristus last Junali. She has been connected to MANTIS activity on Donwarr and Freegate but before all of that... She never existed... There isn’t even a record of her arrival in Andromeda... Yseult Brenneaux, on the other hand, was one of your regular freight pilots who captained a ship with a certain... Reputation. Until three years ago, that is... When they both apparently disappeared.” The woman was right, Yseult had just vanished. It wasn’t unusual for that to happen, between accidents and Dust Demons, there were plenty of reasons a ship and its captain could go missing. The captain’s just don’t usually turn up three years later on some classified corporate mission acting like no more than a day has passed. “So.” The Woman said, confidence behind her voice. “Tell us about the rad-haired woman... Tell us about Yseult Brenneaux.”
  8. Location: H06 - Farmolis Tags: Technology Currently, aboard the Axle... What are you working on? I'm composing an email, Eshey. In light of what we've recently accomplished, I wanted to thank all our hard working coworkers. Of course. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Dear all employees in Octan's Andromeda Galaxy Division, This is your chief operating officer, Pombe. I know right now, as I compose this email, all of you are going about your routine and handling your various assignments. I write this because we have reached a momentous occasion and I wanted to share my thoughts with you. We set out almost two years ago into the unknown: a new galaxy. And through our dedication and hard work, the Andromeda galaxy is now known. From our adopted home planet of Farmolis, we explored system by system and discovered new lifeforms, new technologies, and new exciting ways to generate a profit for Octan. It was long journey, and I am so proud to have done it with such an amazing and talented group. There were many stories of incredibly long hours, homesickness and depression, experimental disasters, and tragedies of lost friends and companions. Despite these setbacks, we never stopped driving forward. I have read stories of brand new spaceships and land vehicles, new friends and alliances, heroic adventures, new romances, and even the return of those we believed lost. In the end, we created something even greater than we could have possibly imagined at the beginning; we created something awesome. And just as we changed Andromeda, Andromeda has changed us. Andromeda has shown us new ways to look at things and allowed us to imagine the impossible. From the harvesting of space whale poop to building ships that can sail the stars, nothing is off limits to us. If we can see it in our mind's eye, we can and we will accomplish it. That is not to say that we were alone or that only Octan accomplished the incredible. I want to take this moment to acknowledge our competition, the corporations of Kawashita and M.A.N.T.I.S.. Any business person worth hiring knows that corporations need each other. While we do compete for sales in the same markets and do our best to steal market share from each other, we also buy and license products from each other. No one corporation owns all the intellectual property necessary to complete many products, and just as there are Octan parts in Kawashita and M.A.N.T.I.S. products, there are Kawashita and M.A.N.T.I.S. parts in Octan products. I have been in these debriefings, and when your parts are in the other corporations and their parts are in you, you understand why these intercorporate relationships are vital. And don't forget: depending on the job application and hiring process, any one of us could have been working for a different company. In fact, my own dear sister works for our rival, M.A.N.T.I.S., as does Dr. Long's. Anyways, I wanted to share with you my pride and reflect on what we've achieved, and I believe it's time to wrap up this email. I have asked Hombre to start gathering all the employees for a group photo. The time and the conference room should show up on your calendar once you receive this email, in case Hombre misses you. Afterwards, we will begin a new chapter. In fact, I have already put all the awesomnium we have gathered to its actual purpose. I hope that all of you will continue to enable Octan to beat analyst expectations and that we will continue to see our employee bonuses and Octan's stock price soar. Yours truly, Pombe ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Later... Now, after nearly 2 years, we can finally proceed to the next chapter. The next chapter? Yes, Eshey. We now have enough awesomnium to open the portal. A portal? Where are we going? Andromeda's Gates 2. What? You mean we're not at the end of the journey? Silly Eshey. Andromeda's Gates was never about where the journey leads you. It was about where you lead the journey. I see. Are you ready to continue the journey with me? Yes, I am, honey. Comments and criticisms are all welcome! I wanted to thank Bob and the rest of the Andromeda's Gates staff: Lady K, Narbilu, Big Sal, and EpsilonEta. I'm sure it was an enormous amount of work and effort, and I wanted you all to know that it meant very much to me. Andromeda's Gates solidly brought me out of my Nth dark age and spurred my imagination to build things I never thought I could and tell a story that...well...was certainly beyond anything I had ever thought of before this. It also brought me into contact with so many incredible builders and storytellers from whom I've learned so much. And though I am cheering on the accomplishments of the players of Octan that brought us to this victory with this final entry, I really want to also thank all the players from all the factions. Many inspirational builds and narratives came from builders and authors outside of Octan whose talent I can only ever dream of having. All together, we worked through nearly 90 weeks and 2000 MOCs. Thank you, everyone. I mean it. I hope all the players stick around and continue to build and tell stories in Andromeda's Gates 2. Finally, for those reading this but did not participate this time around, I want to invite you to join Bob and the rest of us in Andromeda's Gates 2 when it begins. It will be a rare opportunity to be able to tell a story fresh right as a game begins, and I hope you will take that opportunity to share your MOCs, your stories, and your vision with the rest of us.
  9. [M-G03] The End of the Journey

    Location: G03 - New California Tags: Location: Current Temporary Office of CEO SpacerSteve A voice spoke over the intercom, "Holo Transmission for you sir. Broadcast content unknown." and promptly the voice faded out. Spacersteve turned to the central projector, awaiting yet another news agency requesting comment on Octan's Impending victory perhaps, or another report of equipment failing that he didn't have the people to fix. The transmission flickered into view in the shape of Captain Pangolinus, previously listed as MIA following his disappearance in Octan territory, but recently returned at the head of a battle fleet, which reports claim is engaged in heavy fighting. "Sir, if you are receiving this message, then I have given the order to abandon the Osiris, and for all MANTIS craft in the system to retreat. I will stay with my ship til the end, as my service life is nearing its end. I was given a drug which resulted in rapid deterioration of brain cells while in captivity, and the antidote I obtained from an octan facility bought me only two weeks more of brain function. It has been twelve days since that antidote and I feel myself fading back into an abyss. If you should have need of my starship designs in the future, they are in the care of the Morph Program. I will not explain where or how, but if you need them, you will find them. Agents Urtem and Aryna perished in the attempt to rescue me, honor them well. I regret that my return has been so brief, but my brain will not last. If the internal affairs department figured out where I came from, you may send my remains to rest there, if not I shall rest on Torresta. I wish a fond farewell to my fellow members of M.A.N.T.I.S. and especially my fellow pilots. This is Captain Pangolinus, Signing Off"
  10. [O - E10] Universal Laws

    Location: E10 - Traig IV Tags: land vehicle Dramatis Personae: Previously: http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/147934-o-i06-the-wolf-of-wall-street/ Currently, on Traig IV... Wow...so...we finally merged. This build is recycled Yes, yes we did. I guess this was the logical conclusion to things. I wonder why it took so long to happen? You weren't ready until recently. It took a long time for your eyes to finally open. But I get it now. By the way, I have something to show you; my latest land speeder. Oh? It takes advantage of one of the universal laws to both save energy and save animals that would otherwise be euthanized. And which universal law is this? The one that states that cats must always land on their feet. Come, let me show you. So we rescue cats from animal shelters and offer them employment where they are attached by their feet to the bottom of our land speeders. Because these cats can no longer land on their feet, the land speeder is perpetually suspended from the ground, thus saving both energy use from anti=gravitational units and the lives of cats in the overcrowded animal shelters. This is genius, Eshey. The ride is surprisingly stable and smooth. Initial tests with just one or two cats resulted in very unstable platforms for the ride. Our results suggested that three cats were optimal for stability and a smooth ride. I'm so proud of you, Eshey. You've come a long way. This is all thanks to you, for opening my eyes. Comments and criticisms are all welcome!
  11. [O - E10] Curtain Call

    Location: E10 - Traig IV Tags: Civil, Building, Spaceship Traig IV, Octan Canal Settlement. Previously... Jeb: Goddamnit CLAPPIE, make this thing go faster! CLAPPIE: I'm sorry Jebediah, but you chose quite possibly the slowest escape vessel in the entire shipyard. By the way, Archive Security fighters are closing in, ETA 22 seconds. Jeb: [expletive deleted] thanks CLAPPIE. Appreciate the heads up. CLAPPIE: Of course. Jeb: We're hit! CLAPPIE: Systems critical. Jeb: Aaarrrgggggg!!! CLAPPIE: Complete failure imminen- *skaddosh* *boom* Fighter Pilot: There's no way anyone could have survived that crash. I can't say I understand why President Business ordered us to shoot down our own top special forces agent... Fighter Pilot 2: I'd rather not ask questions- I'm sure the big boss had his reasons. A week later, onboard the OCS Axle, hazardous materials lab: Lab Tech: Dr. Long? Long: Yes? Lab Tech: I have a parcel and letter to be delivered to 'Danielle' Long: Don't call me that. Lab Tech: Sorry, ma'am. *shuffles away nervously* Dear Danielle, I'm sure you think me dead, they all do. It's better that way. I'm afraid I have a few confessions to make. I never told you everything about my experience with your time machine. To be honest, I met myself. In the past. I am not proud of who I was. I did many, many, terrible, dark, awful things. And I am not proud of that. I also met your mother. She seemed like an amazing woman, taken from this life by a desperate fool stretched to his limit. That man was me. From the bottom of my heart, I'm sorry. I'm not the man I once was. Enclosed you will find the full tapes from Project ICARUS. I sincerely hope they have the answers you seek and can finally bring some closure to the life of your mother. You will also find the tapes from a very old initiative called Project EAGLE. Selective mind manipulation - President Business used it on me to turn me in to who I am today. I was done killing, I wanted out, and President Business turned me against myself. Don't trust him- he will use you just like he used me. Don't come looking for me. You won't find me. I'm done living a lie. I'm out, for good. Your friend, Jebediah
  12. Planet: E10 Tags: Vehicle We made it, Ronin! We actually made it back to the Octan Main Space Ship. I thought we would be stuck on this Planet for a long time, but not only did we make it back to the Ship we manage to bring this back with us. Octan Is going to like this. Where ever it came from our Scientists and Engineers will figure it out. Week 83 by boxerlego, on Flickr
  13. Location: I06 - Yetornius Tags: civil building, land vehicle Dramatis Personae: Previously: http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/147654-o-f10-panzer-general/ Currently, on Yetornius... You look happy, ma'am. As I should. Natco's initial public offering has gone gangbusters. You, Tracy, and myself are now gajillionaires. We're rich? Not just rich, Peyton. We are evilly rich, moohoohaha! And now, with this evil Wolf-Chicken-Walker mech, we shall crush Octan once and for all! Now, we shall head to Octan's hidden base! Yes, ma'am! Meanwhile... Beautiful Man, thanks for coming. I need to talk to you. Yes, sir. How can I help you? It regards your honey, Evilshey. The time has come for me to merge with her. I understand, sir. The truth is that she will never accept me as her honey. To fill the hole in my heart caused by this realization, I've been consoling myself with Ishmael's physical affections. I do not mind, at all. In fact, please keep consoling yourself with my physical affections. Thank you, Ishmael, I'll do that. Anyway, sir...Evilshey was never mine. If you can win her heart, then by all means, merge with her. I appreciate this, Beautiful Man. <blam blam blam> Sir! We're being attacked! Right on time. Outside... ATTACK!!! Yarrrrr!!! <door hisses open> Alright, stop this attack. Oh crap! It's Pombe! His skill with his sword is legendary! Peyton, don't fear this man. Afterall, he has no control over us! Actually...I do. What?! See, Evilshey, your evil plot had an evil flaw. You had an IPO. No...you couldn't have! Yes I did! I bought enough shares to have a controlling interest. No!!! And now, Evilshey...it is time we merged. You mean Octan and Natco? Yes, but not just the companies. It is time for you and I to merge, as well. You mean like Voltron? Yes, and I will form the head. I see. Comments and criticisms are all welcome!
  14. [O - F10] Start Your Engines

    Location: F10 - Arium Major Tags: Civil, Land Vehicle, Spaceship, Building Octan Shipyard near Octan Archives, Arium Major Branch. 1200 Hours. Male Tech: Cap off the tank and we're good to go. Geez, nothing interesting ever happens around here. It's fix that, repair this, repeat. This hunk of junk has been in use since the early days. When do you bet it's going to retire? Female Tech: I don't know. I agree this one is pretty outdated soon. I heard in the lunch room the other day we might not even need these smaller transports soon what with the advancements in GATE technology! Male Tech: That would really be something... hey, who's that? Jeb: Jebediah O'Reilly, Octan Special Forces. I'm commandeering your vessel. Male Tech: You can't just commandeer any ship you want, there are rules and regulations- Jeb: Consider them overridden. Female Tech: It doesn't even have a full tank- this thing isn't safe- Jeb: CLAPPIE, can it get me to the next system? CLAPPIE: Calculating... 70% success rate. Probable. It can fly. Jeb: Excellent. Please move before I move you. Jeb: CLAPPIE, plot a course for the Axle. I need to find Dr. Long. She can help me make sense of this... and she needs to know what is on that ICARUS tape. Business hasn't told anyone everything, that lying snake... he used me... Female Tech: Don't take off! The airspace isn't clear! Jeb: Let's get going CLAPPIE. We don't have much of a lead, Archive Security will be after us as soon as they realize what's missing. *woosh* Male Tech: Hey! Speaker: *****RED ALERT. ROGUE AGENT JEBEDIAH O'REILLY IS ARMED AND DANGEROUS AND IN POSSESSSION OF RESRICTED, CLASSIFIED DATA. APPREHEND AT ALL COSTS. REPEAT, APPREHEND AT ALL COSTS. RED ALERT***** Female Tech: Is that the guy we just let go...? Male Tech: We didn't exactly let him... I think so. Hold up, I'm scrambling the fighters. Female Tech: He won't get far in that transport... C&C welcome.
  15. [O - F10] Panzer General

    Location: F10 - Arium Major Tags: civil building, land vehicle Dramatis Personae: Previously: http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/147294-o-e01-an-old-friend/ Currently, somewhere on Arium Major... And finally, Peyton, our tour ends here at Natco's state of the art engineering bay. Welcome to Natco as our first official hire. Thank you, ma'am. I'm sorry our CSO, Tracy, could not be here on your first day. She is busy meeting with our evil investors. I understand that start ups are pretty hectic and busy, ma'am. I'm sure I'll get to meet her in due time. Of course. In any case, here is your first assignment. I'd like you to field test this evil tank drone. It responds to voice commands, so use this walkie-talkie. It has been programmed to only respond to the voice signatures of Natco employees...you know, for security reasons. But ma'am, I don't understand. Didn't you hire me for my skill with a sword? I did indeed. Tell the evil tank drone to "transform". Transform. <mechanical sounds> See? Now it has a seat. Go ahead, get in. Yes, ma'am. Now, you can command the tank to drive up to our enemies so you can hit them with your sword. Genius, ma'am. Absolutely evil genius. Yes...and this is just the beginning. With our evil technology, we will crush Octan...moohoohaha... Comments and criticisms are all welcome!
  16. [O - F10] Access Granted

    Location: F10 - Arium Major Tags: Civil, Building Octan Archives, Arium Major Branch. 19 Febrarali 3817. Robot: Hello sir. Welcome to the Arium Major branch of the Octan Archives. How may I help you? Jeb: Yes, I need to pull all files related to Projects EAGLE and ICARUS. Robot: The files you have requested are classified. Jeb: Override code [REDACTED] Robot: Approved. The files you have requested can be found in Section C18A23.6 Jeb: Thank you. Later, in Section C18A23.6... Jeb: CLAPPIE, please pull all hard copies for Projects EAGLE and ICARUS. CLAPPIE: I'm sorry Jeb, but I'm afraid I can't do that. Project EAGLE is restricted to Security Clearance Levels 10 and above. You are Level 9. Jeb: Override code [REDACTED] CLAPPIE: Override failed. Jeb: Execute protocol [REDACTED] CLAPPIE: Override failed. Jeb: Goddamnit CLAPPIE! Override code [REDACTED] CLAPPIE: How did you get President Business' credentials...? Jeb: That's not important. Pull the files. Wipe the servers clean once I have them in hard copy. CLAPPIE: This is highly irregular. These files are read-only, and you shouldn't be reading them anyways! I will have to alert the proper authorities once they've been extracted, per my Octansoft deception detector alarm(TM). Jeb: I'll be out of here by then. Pull the files. CLAPPIE: Very well. Robot: I trust you found everything well. Have a nice day. Jeb: Indeed. Today was most... profitable.
  17. [M - G03] Old TImes

    Location: G03 - New California. Tags: Civil, Building. Previous chapters can be accessed through the AG player index here. Chapter 21: Old Times. Yseult looked strangely at home reclined in her seat surveying the unsightly inhabitants of the bar. The establishment wasn’t just ‘not corporate’, it was the kind of place corporates didn’t go. A few patrons had given Ellie a look up and down as they walked past, some smelling the corporate branding, others for other reasons no doubt. One look at Yseult and they had quickly and silently moved on. Her face was stern and not in the mood to tolerate anyone pushing their luck. It was the third night Yseult had come here but the first time Ellie had been allowed to come with her. The first two nights, Yseult had returned to the their room with bruises; Ellie had figured the previous nights had both ended in fighting of some kind and from the looks and whispers between the regulars, she was building the picture that Yseult had actually come out of them the better. She had asked what had happened but Yseult had just told her she was ‘making contacts’. She wanted to believe that it hadn’t just been because she liked it. They were sat in a booth and past the wall against which Yseult leaned was a holoscreen showing some broadcast or other. “In planetary news.” The presenter said. “Faulty gravimetric compensators have been blamed for the recent loss of two Octan Corporation vessels which burned up in the atmosphere recently killing two pilots. The findings are unlikely to quash rife speculation that it was caused by a firefight as tension between Octan and the increasing fleet of MANTIS ships in orbit grows. Both corporations deny that any fighting has occurred...” Yseult noticed that the news had caught Ellie’s attention and leaned round to view it herself, turning back a moment later, less interested than her colleague. She saw the look on Ellie’s face, a look of concern, guilt even. Two pilots had died and Ellie had found it very easy to wonder if they were to blame. Maybe she wouldn’t have worried so if they were on some official MANTIS mission but for some reason, this was different. They had been offered the consignment by The Forwarder: Just like old times - Yseult had thought as she checked the job sheet. To a casual viewer it looked like any other but The Forwarder had his ways of hiding the real details if you knew what to look for. She had wanted to say no at first... A new ship, a clean break. They had collected the container from an orbital holding station around Terrial Major, the problem was going to be the delivery. The growing MANTIS presence on New California had put everyone there on edge, especially the corps so she’d had to rely on her old tricks to get through. I’m not supposed to be that person anymore... It cost me everything, the small mirror in the Speedy Owl’s cabin had tried to tell her... She hadn’t listened; The job paid enough for her to not listen. And so, deactivating her transponder, she descended the Speedy Owl down the tightly monitored corridor between the Octan and MANTIS fleets. When one responded, so did the other. It had been a risk but she new what corporate types were like. Once they were close enough to each other, she became a forgotten blip on the scanners and once she passed through the ionosphere, they were too far behind to track her. Ellie noticed Yseult looking at her and stopped watching the news. She thought for a moment, pensive. “One of them had a family.” She said. “So do many others.” Yseult replied. “Do you think the things you design, you build, have never killed someone with a family?” “That’s different.” Ellie responded. “That’s for the corporation... What was this for?” Yseult sat on the question for a moment... It was clear Ellie had a belief in the corporation that she didn’t, never had and never would. She spent a moment thinking how to phrase her response... When you try to explain it to someone like Ellie, someone who believes, you have to phrase it right. “You believe in your corporation. What does your corporation believe in?... You?... Humanity?... Or the number at the bottom of the quarterly result. These corporations are trying to tear each other apart... What happens when the Galaxy is not profitable enough... eh? When you are not profitable enough. Corporations come and go; water, food, electricity... You will always need these things. You think your corporation will provide them when you are not... profitable? Silence hung in the air between them, the clinks and chatter of the busy bar a muffled dull sound that couldn’t penetrate the bubble of tension around them. Ellie’s breath wavered, her eyes fixed. She wished she had an answer, she wished she could say with confidence that Yseult was wrong. Her eyes turned stern, sharp. The bright innocence she normally showed was gone. “And what do you believe in?’ She asked, her voice short and harsh. “What will bar brawls and risking getting shot down to smuggle someone else’s contraband earn you?... Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité?” “L’eau, La nourriture, l’electricité.” Yseult replied without hesitation, her voice full of a determined realism. “In the corporations, the plates are full and the beds are comfortable; anything to make you forget that tomorrow, maybe they change their mind.” “And if Big Sal is right” Ellie proposed. “And this Upsilon is something we need to find... For all our sakes...” She looked around at the dank, grim collection of strays that had dragged themselves in from wherever they came to spend what little they had earned on forgetting how they earned it. Her gaze returned to Yseult, her eyes - daggers. “Will they help? When the time comes... Where will they be?” They both knew the answer to that... Thanks for reading. All comments welcome as usual. Luc.
  18. [K-H08] The Doctor

    Location: Sinden's Run H08 Tags: Civil Building The evil doctor by North White, on Flickr "Alright folks, time for the mission briefing." Said Captain Mesabi The evil doctor by North White, on Flickr "But first, I must tell you a story." "Question? Does the story relate to the mission?" Asked Professor Phillips "Of course it relates to the mission!" Yelled Captain Mesabi "Geeze, no need to yell." The evil doctor by North White, on Flickr "Many years ago.." "Let it be known I feel this is a very unprofessional way to tell us about a mission." Interrupted Professor Phillips "It is noted. Many..." "I kinda agree with Phillips. I find your lack of professionalism disturbing." Said Rusty "Many years ago, I worked with a scientist." "He was evil." The evil doctor by North White, on Flickr 'Now most surgeons use a scalpel. I however, prefer to use something more.... robust. MWAHAHA!" The evil doctor by North White, on Flickr 'Hey, Doc, did you eat my croissant?' 'Have you heard of knocking!" 'Aw man, are you doing human experimentation? You know I have to report this to HR.' 'Never!' *STAB* The evil doctor by North White, on Flickr 'Ow' The evil doctor by North White, on Flickr "And that's why we need to capture this guy" The evil doctor by North White, on Flickr "Wait, you want revenge on this guy because he ate your croissant?" Asked Professor Phillips "Were you even paying attention?" Asked Captain Mesabi "Not really, since you were being SUPER unprofessional." The evil doctor by North White, on Flickr "I'm all in Captain. We need to punish this guy for stealing your croissant." Said Rusty. "I hate you both." FIN Hope you liked this week's build, as little and pitiful as it is. C&C appreciated
  19. [O - E01] An old friend

    Location: E01 - Donwarr Tags: Civil Building Dramatis Personae: Previously: http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/147086-o-f09-the-rise-of-natco/ http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/146960-o-f03-z-on-forring/ Currently... <whip crack> <whip crack> <whip crack> ++INCOMING PRIORITY TRANSMISSION++ ++AUTHENTIFICATION SUCCESSFUL++ ++PRIVATE SECURE LINE ACCESS GRANTED++ <bzzt...crackle...bzzzzzt...shhhhhhhh...bzzt> Hombre? Hombre, are you there? Yes, it's really me, Hannibal. I'm alive...in a manner of speaking. I need your help. I knew I could count on you. Meet me on Donwarr at these coordinates. Beware that there is a heavy M.A.N.T.I.S. presence nearby. And understand that you...might not...recognize me in my current form... Later, on Donwarr... Thanks for meeting me here. Others are also on the way, but the favor I'm asking of you requires a bit of discretion. Hannibal is copied off goatman's design. As I already told you, parts of me are scattered throughout the various corporate networks. Somehow, the memory fragments of my more intimate experiences ended up on a M.A.N.T.I.S. network which is backed up on a server in a nearby base. This body is not capable of sneaking in and retrieving those files undetected and the only one I can trust with such matters is you. Coincindentally, Callahan is also being held prisoner at this M.A.N.T.I.S. facility. This allows us to kill two birds with one stone. The others and I will provide a diversion for you as we break him out. Once you have the memories, make your way through the facility and join us as we extract. This means a lot to me. Thanks. Comments and criticisms are all welcome!
  20. [O - F09] The Rise of Natco

    Location: F09 - Arium Minor Tags: spaceship Dramatis Personae: Previously: http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/146871-o-f09-run-away-run-away/ Currently, on Arium Minor... Thank my great aunt's glans! We've found them! The terrain is recycled I've called for an immediate medivac! Do we have their vital signs? Pombe's waking up! Oooh...we made it. Phew. That was an ordeal. I see Dr. Long is alright. That's good. Sir, are you... Bqllr! Yes, yes...I'm alright. Yes, I just checked. All my man parts are good. Eshey? Tracy? What are you two doing here? Hyer hyer hyer. Hyer hyer hyer hyer hyer hyer hyer. Hyer hyer hyer hyer hyer hyer. Hyer. Hyer hyer hyer hyer hyer. That's right, sir. Tracy and I put in our notices two weeks ago. I'm glad you're back, but Octan just isn't the company it used to be. In fact, I think it's lost it's touch. That was clearly evident while you were away. I can't stop the either of you, but I'd like you both to reconsider. No! Octan has lost its way! And now, Tracy and I are going to form...evil Octan! No! Not...evil Octan! Yes! And it will be called Natco and I will be its CEO, Evilshey! Natco is Octan spelled backwards! That's evil! Yes! And you've grown an evil mustache! Yes! And you've added the word "evil" to your name! Yes! And that's not all. No...not even you would be that evil! Yes! Natco has a color scheme that is the reverse color palette of Octan! No! That's like an April Fool's Joke! That's truly evil! Yes! And here is Natco's first product! An evil starfighter! No! Not an evil starfighter! Yes, and now, Tracy is going to fly it to meet with our evil investors! Hyer! Did you need a ride, Eshey? Uh, yeah...I was wondering if I could get a ride back to the Axle to get my stuff. Comments and criticisms are all welcome!
  21. Location: F09 - Arium Minor Tags: land vehicle, airplane Dramatis Personae: Previously: http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/146564-o-f09-to-boldly-go-the-search-for-pombe/ Currently, on Arium Minor... Any signs of survivors, Tracy? We need to assist them immediately! Still scanning the remains of The Bird That Sashays which mysteriously and inexplicably crashed on Arium Minor. Nearby... Get us out of here before she finds us!!! It won't go any faster, ma'am!!! Comments and criticisms are all welcome!
  22. [O - E03] Year of the cock

    Location: E03 - Ertauq Tags: Spaceship, Civil Building, Land Vehicle Dramatis Personae: Previously: http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/145912-o-e03-in-space-no-one-can-hear-you-poop/ Currently, above Ertauq... This build is recycled from last week. There, the rotator cuff actuators are installed. Excuse me, is someone in here? I need to clean the toilets. Eshey...what...what are you doing? Tracy! I've been meaning to talk to you. And, I'm working on Octan's latest drone. Why are you working in the lady's restroom? I work best on a toilet. Anyway, Tracy...have you been happy at Octan? I clean toilets, Eshey. Octan policy requires all restrooms be sanitized every six hours. Exactly! All the employees here only care about this protocol or that regulation! It's so stifling. They just don't get it. It's a paycheck. There's nothing to get. There's everything to get! Don't you ever wish for something more? What are you suggesting? I'm not sure. I just feel like I'm not such a good fit here. Oh, I finished the rooster drone! Later... Alright, ma'am, we're back in Ertauq in a Doombringer class heavy fighter. That girl on a toilet mech doesn't stand a chance now. I'm feeling pretty cocksure, ma'am. Don't get too cocky now. Let's just take out this toilet mech girl so I can go home and get some cocktails. Ma'am, something just showed up on our scanners. Putting it on screen now. I...I think it's a cockatrice? Poppycock! Cockatrices aren't real! Maybe it's a cockatiel? What a cockamamie observation! It's the wrong colors to be a cockatiel! Perhaps it's a peacock? What did I just say about being the wrong colors?! It's a cock! It's a cock! Cockadoodledoo!!! Shoot it! Shoot it! Too late, ma'am! It reached the hull during the time we spent trying to figure out what it is! Ahhh!!! It's on the cockpit!!! Evasive maneuvers!!! Cockadoodledoo!!! The cock is pecking us!!! It's trying to penetrate!!! We're so screwed... Comments and criticisms are all welcome!
  23. [O - F03] Tread Carefully

    Location: F03 - Forring Tags: Civil, Building, Spaceship //Log of Dr. Granger, 15 Januarali 3817//: Jebediah's condition has not changed since he was admitted a week ago. Brain activity is mostly consistent, with only minor spikes, as if he were simply asleep, and dreaming. He is certainly alive, but nothing will wake him up... he is to be transferred to our new facility orbiting Ertauq on the next outgoing medical cruiser, at my recommendation. New, cutting-edge medical technology is being tested there, and I believe it may hold the key to saving him. //End Log// Unedited photos in spoiler: C&C welcome.
  24. [M - G03] White Hawk

    Location: G03 - New California. Tags: Spaceship. Previous chapters can be accessed from the AG player list here. Chapter 20: White Hawk. Racing through neutral territory high above the once secure planet of New California, two ‘White Hawk’ class defenders sped towards the approaching enemy. The MANTIS heavy fighter had been picked up early, dispatched shortly after an unidentified vessel had begun descending through the buffer between Octan and the ominously growing MANTIS presence. There was every chance it was a ruse: sending out an unmarked vessel to justify launching fighters. Without an immediate response, the enemy vessel would be in attack range of essential supply ships before they could do anything about it. Not on my watch. Thought Lynton Bryss, a wing commander in the Orbital Response Unit assigned to New California. His chain of command had launched him as an immediate precaution: MANTIS had overstepped the mark coming here, they were all over The Quarrel but while their advance had reached around to Kaalin, New California and Fractor V had stood as worlds on the edge of the abyss where the pure order of Octan had stood firm... They didn’t come here. Perhaps they didn’t need to, perhaps they didn’t dare... This is our world. “MANTIS vessel.” He said into the A-Comm. “You are in violation of Octan-controlled space. Return to your carrier or you may be fired upon...” Lynton let the threat hang, knowing full well the MANTIS ship wouldn’t back off so easily. He observed the MANTIS ship’s descending trajectory and adjusted his course. “Vex.” He said into his A-Comm on the encoded connection to his wingman. “We’re going to push out high and come down behind him. It’ll be easier to see a black MANTIS ship against the planet.” “Copy that.” Vex Obryn replied. Vashin watched the two Octan ships arc upwards towards space. In his head, he plotted out their likely intentions. Let me follow this decoy while you come up behind me. He wasn’t going to be fooled so easily. Maybe the unidentified ship wasn’t Octan but either way, following it was looking like a bad decision. “Octan vessels.” He announced over the A-Comm. “You are entering MANTIS controlled space. We are conducting protective operations. Return to your fleet and you will not be fired upon. You will not be given a second warning.” With every moment that the Octan ships remained on course his heart beat a little faster than the moment before. There had been battles before and he’d flown in them but things had changed. Fierce battles had given way to uneasy truces. You no longed launched with the clear instruction to engage and destroy. Now it was more like chess, or poker. He was closing on the unidentified ship but it was descending fast, he’d need it to hit atmo and slow in the air for him to get close enough to identify it. Behind him, the two Octan fighters were on a course directly in his trail. He’d be able to keep ahead of them until he hit atmo and then the same would happen, just with him the prey. If he was going to do something it had to be now. Whatever this vessel was, chasing it could cost him his life... He flipped his Wraith Interceptor around and engaged full throttle, arresting his descent. Octan would be on him in moments all the same, but now they’d be in space... and in his sights. “We’re gaining fast.” Vex announced. “Weapons live.” Lynton commanded. They both removed the safety mechanisms on their gunships’ rapid-fire plasma cannons and missile launchers. “Remember, we don’t fire first...” He added, trying to calm the growing tension in the tendons of his hands. “... Unless we have to.” The afterthought was born from fear. How close could you get to a MANTIS craft before they opened fire? Too close and you wouldn’t get a chance to fire back. Could he risk that? His finger lingered gently across the trigger. He breathed deeply and opened the A-Comm one more time. “MANTIS vessel.” He said into it. “This is your final warning...” The Octan ships were in range. The Wraith’s weapon system indicated missile-lock but Vashin knew better that to use them. Missiles were slower than plasma bolts and the distance was still great enough that the Octan ships would have plenty of time to use countermeasures. Just a little longer. He thought, waiting tensely for them to get close enough for a decent plasma shot. He felt sweat form on his brow... This is happening. The hand had been called... Time to show your cards. “MANTIS vessel.” The voice of one of the Octan pilots came over the A-Comm. “This is your final warning...” Now. Green bolts flashed past the canopy of Lynton’s gunship. His finger instinctively squeezed the trigger and both White Hawks were spraying the space before them with a volley of light plasma fire. They both manoeuvred, trying to roll away slightly while keeping a weapons lock. The space between the opposing ships had become a stream of red and green fire. An alarm sounded... Missile alert! All the plasma fire prevented the scanners from clearly seeing exactly where it was or where it was going. Both Octan pilots immediately rolled out of the column of crossfire. Lynton felt his heart pound against the front of his chest as he entered a high-G turn. “I’m hit!” he heard over the A-Comm. Vex! He looked to his scanner. Was his wingman down? The blip was still there and so was the... Behind him. Having hit Vex, the MANTIS ship must have pursued him. His mind raced. He rolled his craft 180 degrees and turned his attempt to pull up into a steep dive. Vashin pursued the undamaged Octan ship with vicious grit, his eyes narrow, waiting for the moment. He had hit one of them as they tried to peel away from the path of his missile, angling his Wraith Interceptor to follow the trajectory of one of them. Once he saw the flames, he spun his ship all the way round and accelerated towards the remaining vessel. He hadn’t destroyed the first one but with an engine ablaze, it was unlikely to trouble him soon and so he pursued the remaining threat. He bore down fast, the interceptor’s engines doing their job. The missile lock indicator beeped; he pushed the thumb button without hesitation. The Octan ship had turned into a dive with a hard barrel roll. Trying to out manoeuvre me. He thought. The missile curved gently down towards the gunship. Vashin took a chance and kept his altitude, turning only towards the inclination of the barrel roll. The Missile alarm blared out and an impact countdown appeared on his H.U.D. He rapidly considered his options, flicked a switch on his left joystick to launch countermeasures. A spray of bright white flares shot from the rear of Lynton’s gunship, spreading across the space behind him. The countdown continued. His navigation screen showed the missile approaching. Damn it! He realised. The barrel roll sent the flares in wide arc too far from the missiles long wide approach. None were close enough to draw it in. Unlike his MANTIS counterpart, the White Hawk wasn’t built to sit and take hits while it returns fire: spinning around to try and shoot the missile would leave him unable to control his trajectory and vulnerable. His ship was designed to be manoeuvrable, evading fire and hunting for an opening of its own. He twisted hi right flight stick the other way, halting the barrel roll. The White Hawk climbing back into space. He saw the first flash of bright green plasma shoot past him; he did not see the second as it hit his starboard engine unit and sent his ship into an uncontrollable tumble. The alarms rang, outside the window, the black of space and bright sandy orange of the planet spun rapidly in constantly changing direction. Heat, smoke... Fire! It was getting hard to breath. Was it smoke? or panic... The controls wouldn’t respond. The atmospheric alarm sounded: I’m entering the atmosphere! Everything started to go bright, he couldn’t see. Can’t eject now. He realised. He stopped fighting the controls and struggled to engage his suit’s emergency air supply. He forgot about the ship he was in, and the planet he was falling towards. He forgot about Vex and the fleet... He thought about home. The Wife that would be sent the automated message, the child that there would be no easy way to explain it to. He thought about the credits the corporation would give them, that sum that was buried somewhere in the terms and conditions... How much was it? He tried to think... It had seemed like such a large amount at the time... But now... He thought of his Wife one last time as the hull of his ship breached and what was left exploded into a rainfall of flame and wreckage. Note to judges: The MANTIS vessel has been judged previously. Thanks for reading. All comments welcome.
  25. Location: E03 - Ertauq Tags: Spaceship, Civil Building, Land Vehicle Dramatis Personae: Previously: http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?/forums/topic/145741-o-e03-desert-storm/ Currently, above Ertauq aboard the M.A.N.T.I.S. cruiser Remorseless... Captain! We've picked up something on the scanners! Give me a visual. Yes, ma'am. It appears to be yet another hidden Octan base, ma'am. The scanners don't show any activity that would indicate that they've noticed us and I don't see any sort of combat fighter patrol. This is too easy. Alright...all stations, red alert! Bring weapons online and give me a firing solution. Calculating now, ma'am...wait, hold on. Something else just appeared on the scanners. It's headed straight for us. How did we miss it earlier? It seems to be very small, ma'am. On screen! What in Cor's balls is that? It...it...appears to be an...uh...open cockpit mech with a scantily clad woman sitting on a toilet... This is odd, even for Octan. I...I can't process this. How is she even still alive?! And...and...she's smiling at us! I'm scared, ma'am! Keep it together! Too late...I peed myself! Maybe we should get you a toilet. Quick! I want a new firing solution on the mech! I don't understand, ma'am! The weapons systems won't give me a firing solution! It's like the mech's not there! Oh no...I crapped my pants... Bring engines to full power now and get us out of here! This must be some new Octan technology. We must report it right away to the CEO. Comments and criticisms are all welcome!