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  1. #31
    Poet of the Deed Captain Corrigan's Avatar
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    1608 (x8)

    @adamwelton that would seem a very good idea on the short stories, since it'll keep me writing while I don't have time to write for the main story. I shall begin one once I have finished my entry for the LO short story contest.

    Absolutely on the issue of writing as a job, many people who know about my writing ask whether I'll be an author when I'm older and I always stress the fact its not something to choose as a full-time occupation. Besides, its hardly work if you enjoy it.

    Ahaha, yes I'm definitely not going to end it with the battlesuits of death... that would ruin the fun...

    I'll see if I can post up more concept art too to give more insight into the galaxy I hope to create, working alongside the short stories.

    -Corrigan


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  3. #32
    EWOP adamwelton's Avatar
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    Get your thinking cap on in your spare time and start knocking out basic ideas on paper. These help you develop your story and keep everything in hand so you don't forget anything and look a prat later when you've changed your mind halfway through a major plot occurrence (read: any Horus Heresy novel by any author).

    I used to really enjoy smashing out D&D or Traveller RPG scenarios and the like as a teenager, and even at school I would have twenty or thirty mates constantly living in a paperless RPG (my head) based on all known universes (Battlestar Galactica meets Dr. Who meets Buck Rogers meets Star Trek, etc. etc.). This is what people want-imaginations pushed beyond their limits.

    When you post a new short, lob out a sketch for us to go with it. These will give us an idea of what's going through your head and enable us to build up a picture of how the Corrigan universe is developing. Robert E. Howard and Tolkien were ace at this sort of thing-just look at their "doodles" in the early and collector's special editions of their works. If you think The Hobbit film is going to be mega, remember that what made it and its parent tale epic was the artwork that gave us a window into a world we could only imagine.
    Last edited by adamwelton; April 27th, 2012 at 21:49.
    Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank and he can rob the world.

  4. #33
    Poet of the Deed Captain Corrigan's Avatar
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    1608 (x8)

    I'll make sure I do, I've finished the writing part of my entry now and although that is very short (limit 1000 words) and so I have to cut down on words for that it only took an evening to write so it shouldn't be too onerous to write a few short stories, I might even get one done at the weekend if I put my mind to it.

    -Corrigan

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  6. #34
    EWOP adamwelton's Avatar
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    88 (x2)

    Don't overload yourself. Get your writing priorities in order and make time for it. I'll leave you to it and look forward to the next thrilling instalment...
    Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank and he can rob the world.

  7. #35
    Poet of the Deed Captain Corrigan's Avatar
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    1608 (x8)

    Just started writing a short, will post it up when I am happy with it. The sketch to accompany it might take a while tho, my scanner and camera are both broken.

    -Corrigan

  8. #36
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    Captain, you are nothing if not prolific. Which is good, because reading your stories is always a pleasure.

    Well, if I am honest, all the criticisms I might have had have already been mentioned by adam. It seems a really interesting piece, a with elements of cloak and dagger making the war story all the more dangerous. You are a genuine talent, it seems.

    Anyway, enough congratulations and bootlicking, just write some more mate!

    Sparhawk

  9. #37
    Poet of the Deed Captain Corrigan's Avatar
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    1608 (x8)

    Well its been a while, but here is an update:

    __________________________________________
    PRELUDE

    Nevarus System, November 2762



    The space above the world of Nevarus III was seldom busy, with most freighters choosing to take a more direct route to Earth from the industrial powerhouses of the furthest reaches of human-controlled space, and today was no exception. A pair of aging Gigantus-class heavy civilian freighters, doubtless filled with the food and essential supplies the colonists of Nevarus could not provide themselves, drifted slowly towards the main planetary docks on the northern continent of the world, but besides that there was no air traffic recorded over the world, and nor was any more anticipated.

    So Dockmaster Vabran Tull, a slight man in his sixties with wispy, silver-white hair and a robe of office that had clearly been tailored for a man far larger than its present wearer, was left alone in the darkened windowless room in the docks that served as his office, sitting in the ruined grey-green leather chair behind a mahogany desk that had evidently seen better days. He had filed a request for the office to be replaced, but Nevarus was far from Earth and nobody was overly worried by the discomfort of a Dockmaster on a minor colony. He sniffed loudly with discontent before settling down again to dream of the day when he might get off the planet.

    Had he been more attentive, he might have noticed the sleek alien vessel that hung in orbit behind the planet’s primary moon of Teirus, or noticed that one of the freighters was not carrying the cargo it was supposed to bear.

    Instead, he sat in his chair, imagining himself as a great commander of the Assembly Defence Council Navy. The mistake would cost many lives in the months to come.

    ***
    Lord Veijur Kranthus, son and heir to Duke Drust of House Kranthus, stood before the massive glass viewscreen. The holographic lens over his left eye sent him a constant stream of information through his neural implants. Besides this, the old cargo freighter was woefully ill-equipped, with a complete lack of modern technologies on the bridge. Had it not been for the need to arrive inconspicuously, he would have left the thing rotting in the shipbreaking yard where he’d found it.

    He increased the focus of his eyepiece to bring close details on Nevarus’ surface into view, and he scanned further east from the primary spaceport until –

    There. He turned back to the point of interest.
    “Increase magnification factor by five-hundred percent, Akia,” he addressed the AI that resided in the chip that had been implanted in his head at birth in accordance with House Kranthus custom. The AI duly increased the zoom on his eyepiece.

    “Is that satisfactory, Veijur?” questioned the AI, her interest evident, and Veijur merely nodded.

    It had always struck him as odd when he was a child, that this AI could call him by his first name when even his father’s bodyguards were forced to use his
    title instead. Then, the use of the honorific by the guards had annoyed him, but he had learned much since then and now enjoyed the power and authority his exalted position brought him on his homeworld of Feyd. Truly intelligent AI chips were, after all, far rarer than human lives on that world.

    He put the thought aside for a moment and concentrated on the image before him.

    The picture showed the network of bulbous alien ruins and structures, the discovery and subsequent excavation of which had been the only reason the Assembly had ever approved the colonisation of Nevarus. He liked what he saw.

    The structures were vast, the smallest easily the size of his father’s palace on Feyd, and represented a massive technological feat for whoever had
    constructed them, but exactly who had put them there and why they had left were questions the Assembly research teams had never been able to answer. It was, they declared highly unlikely that anyone would ever know who had constructed the fortress complex, or how the weapons systems inside could be activated.

    Veijur believed that he had the answer to the first question, and he was here to discover the latter. He turned to the robed, stooped being that stood in the shadows. The figure was clearly alien and faintly reptilian in appearance, although Akia had been swift to inform him that the Larians were in fact amphibians.

    “Jirif?” he addressed the alien. Jirif inclined his scaled head in acknowledgement. The Larians had once been a great interstellar culture, Akia had taught him, with an empire at least twice as large as humanity’s own, but they had fallen prey to civil war and disease and had been amongst the first races to be subjugated by Veijur’s ancestors when they had conquered the space around Feyd.

    “Yes, milord?” answered the alien, his voice rendered into a dry, reedy whisper as his vocal chords adjusted to the unaccustomed human vowel sounds.

    “Would you care to take a look at the structures?”

    The alien grunted its reluctant acknowledgement. Although the words had been spoken in a civil manner, there was no mistaking the fact that he wasn’t being given a choice. None of his people had, not since they had lost the war for their independence against the human settlers. Although ostensibly free under Assembly legislation, men like Veijur considered themselves above the jurisdiction of their government on Earth. It was a belief that was sadly mirrored within the overstretched Assembly Enforcement.

    “As you wish, milord,” Jirif answered, and accepted the pad offered to him which displayed images of the site. He gazed at them with interest for a moment.

    “Did they belong to your people?” asked Veijur.

    Jirif ignored him as he gazed at the lost technological marvels that his people had once possessed.

    “Well?” demanded the human nobleman, and Jirif forced himself to look away from the pad and injected a tone of humility into his voice.

    “Yes, milord. It is as you thought.”

    “And can we use them?” pressed Veijur.

    Jirif hesitated. He did not wish to place the ancient relics in the hands of this human, but equally Veijur would likely have him and his family executed if he said no.

    “Yes, lord. They are operational.”

    “Excellent,” spoke Veijur, his dark eyes flashing with avarice and a lust for power, and he turned away from Jirif and spoke to the bridge crew. “This world will do nicely. My father will be most pleased. Prepare an open channel to Feyd.”

    “Aye, sire,” answered the communications officer, a tall young man with the dark skin of a Feydian, “I’m putting you through now sir.”

    Veijur strode across the bridge to where the long-distance communications transmitter was positioned as his father’s aristocratic voice crackled out from the set, followed momentarily by a static-obscured image of the Duke’s face.

    “Greetings, father. I bring good news of our expedition. The ruins on Nevarus are everything we hoped they might be.”

    His father reclined in his throne and paused before answering.

    “Good. And what of our plans for obtaining the relics?”

    “They go well, father. Nevarus already has a large number of Independence militant groups who seek self-determination away from the rule of Earth. My men will raise discontent amongst the population and the political agitations should stir these groups into action. The weak fools and mindless radicals of our ohh-so-noble Assembly will have no choice but to place me as a temporary governor over the world, and then we shall make our move.”

    ***
    Concealed behind the black and orange mass of Teirus, the alien vessel waited patiently assessed the human defences on Nevarus, and transmitted the data back to the main fleet.

    Warlord Tregyke flicked his pink tongue across yellowed canines at the prospect of another victory against the ape-descendants who believed they had the right to walk the stars. He would show them the error of their ways.

    But, for now, he remained where he was, and gathered information.


    ONE

    “Citizens of Nevarus! Humanity enters a new age of enlightenment and discovery, and yet we have been left behind. We need a strong leader in times such as these to overcome the fears of the old age; a man familiar with the systems in place on other worlds. Thus do I call a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Governor Theklis.” – Representative Eugene Belor of the Nevarus Governance Cell, prior to the election of Lord Veijur Kranthus as Governor of Nevarus, January 27th 2763

    Lord Governor’s Chambers, The Winter Palace, Kerviss, Nevarus III, February 12th 2763

    Veijur reclined in the armchair that sat behind his new desk in the Governor’s quarters in the Winter Palace of Kerviss. The chair was a simple one, an archaic piece crafted from hardwoods imported from neighbouring systems at great expense, and Veijur wondered again why the Governance Cell had not chosen a cheaper, but more comfortable, antigrav chair like the one he was more accustomed to at home.

    Taking control of the world’s government had been as easy as he had anticipated. The Governance Cell was, until recently, the sole preserve of aging local aristocrats. His arrival had changed this. Presenting himself as a dynamic and modern leader, Veijur had taken the local political scene by storm. This, combined with his proposals to deal with the recent unrest, had ensured his swift admittance to the Cell. It had barely been a week after that that his combination of bribes and charisma had ensured that his supporters had been able to call a vote of no confidence in Governor Theklis. Ordering his men to ease up, he was able to swiftly resolve the “unrest” and cement his leadership. Backwater worlds could be so politically naïve, he mused to himself. Safe from challenge, he was now finally beginning to take control of the disused excavation site, although a degree of tact would now be needed to avoid the attentions of the ADC.

    Sighing as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair once more, he picked up the data pad containing the reports of Dr Tomas Queuden, one of his archaeologists stationed in the excavation zone. It whirred softly as it loaded the document, and he flicked past the old ADC excavation data he had already read.

    +++ Processing request…
    Data recovery from the ADC excavation codename “Project Borehole” pending…

    February 5th, 2763

    The potential for data retrieval from the site appears promising. Indeed, I would estimate that there are at least two-hundred thousand technological relics of xenos manufacture beneath the surface, possibly much higher. Slight setbacks and delays suffered after all recording and scanning equipment went dead part way through preliminary searching. I believe that this could indicate damping equipment in place in the structures, possibly from the ADC teams but more likely left here by the aliens themselves since, unusually for damping equipment, there is no detectable magnetic interference. Digging in the southern quadrant slow but improving, progress has been faster since Dr Janice Reeden (phD, Professor of Archaeology at the Kerviss College of Xenology) suggested we send the Larian to assist with the identification and classification of retrieved data in the southern quadrant. I would formally request for this decision to be ratified, and would also request that funding be increased so as that the secrets of the site might be better unlocked. +++

    Veijur frowned at that; eager though he was to gain results quickly, at present he was unable to access any more of his family’s fortune, and to divert funds directly from other projects would risk losing the support of the Cell. He read on.

    +++ February 6th, 2763

    Digging in the southern quadrant continues under Dr Reeden’s watch, and several hundred further relics have been retrieved, including what the Larian has positively identified as The Key, an artefact central to the aliens’ religion. Its purpose is currently unknown, but Dr Reeden has proposed that it might be a means of activating the complex if utilised correctly. If this is the case then further study of Larian brain tissues is recommended in order that we might learn of the activation procedures that may still be imprinted in the racial memory of the amphibians. Damping of electronic equipment continues, although there is no detectable damping equipment which would suggest that the xenos possessed the means to cast total electrical darkness over a precise area indefinitely; several of my juniors have already questioned why a race capable of such lasting precision should not be able to hide their structures. I dismissed their queries as irrelevant, but the point would appear to be of more importance than I initially thought: why we were able to find the site in the first place is a most perplexing mystery; surely the xenos would not wish for their sites to be so easily accessible to others? Or indeed, is it possible that there are many more structures are hidden to us, and we do not know of their existence. If this latter possibility is the case, then it raises yet more questions; for why should some sites be rendered invisible while others are not? In order to attempt to answer these questions I humbly repeat my earlier request for further resources to be made available. +++

    “Persistent, isn’t he?” said Akia, mirroring his own thoughts.

    “Yes, I’m not sure I like the way he seems to think that his digging is the number one priority on Nevarus,” agreed Veijur.

    “Correct me if I am mistaken, Veijur, but I was under the impression that the excavation was our number one priority on Nevarus,” replied Akia, a rare tone of confusion entering her tone.

    Veijur laughed.

    “Indeed it is, Akia, but if my useless father has taught me one lesson then it’s that it never pays to show someone how important their work is to you, or else they start to get the idea that they aren’t expendable anymore.”

    Akia’s tone took on a note of comprehension.

    “A most wise countermeasure, Veijur.”

    “I thought so too, but my father didn’t pay to have you installed simply so that you could sit there pouring flattery over me. I have plenty of politicians I can talk to if I want to hear nice things about myself.”

    He laughed at his own joke before continuing to read.

    +++ February 7th, 2763

    Spectroscopic analysis of the “Key” artefact (itemisation code ZMK004-P29) largely inconclusive regarding the actual construction material of the artefact (I.E. The relic is constructed of materials unknown to humanity at this time), however detailed research revealed today that it is indeed a means of activating other artefacts, as revealed by data readouts an intact terminal that appears to be largely equivalent to human computers, only possessed of far greater computing capacity. Were this technology to be made usable then the mass-market sale of such devices could revolutionise the information industry and would doubtless be a highly profitable enterprise.

    The same databank contained a kind of map projection, which, although we were unable to recover it fully due to stringent locks and security countermeasures on the alien terminal, would appear to suggest that the Key should be reunited with a core processing unit close to our present location. It is my intention that Dr Freigand (phD), of the Berlin Institute of Archaeology, should lead an excursion into the tunnel complexes revealed by earlier investigation in order to locate the core processing unit. Studies of aliens provided by the Governor Lord Kranthus himself have been most invaluable to the project thus far, to the extent that I severely doubt that we should have been able to achieve any results at all without their interpretation of our existing finds and their manipulation of newly discovered technologies.


    February 8th, 2763

    Findings today more limited in scope, as excavation teams have been forced to dig deeper into a complex of tunnels beneath the structures in order to obtain more relevant data pertaining to the technologies left behind. This delay, although regrettable, was necessary in order to ensure that none of the data was lost in less coordinated digs, and also served to provide considerable insight into the layout of the complex and so was in itself of a certain usefulness.
    As mentioned yesterday, Dr Freigand led a team comprised of five senior and thirteen junior excavation officers to the location marked on the map systems. Intially they were denied access by automated defence procedures (poss. Denoting the importance of the site?), only to be admitted later after the Larian named Jirif was sent to converse with the machines. The defensive machineries now appear to have regrettably vanished, preventing studies of their weaponry, which was advanced beyond our comprehension. However, Dr Freigand continued to the core unit and installed the Key. Evidence that this has had results of any kind has yet to be found, since most technologies remain dormant, yet I do not believe that this is of import given the size of the site. +++

    Despite the lack of results obtained from the Key itself, Veijur had to admit the rapidity with which the team had made these early discoveries was utterly unheard of. He cast his eyes over the next section of the text, hungry for more finds to be revealed. To his disappointment, the writing style appeared to take on a more hurried note, and the brevity of summations was matched by a lack of new findings.

    +++ February 9th, 2763

    Lost contact today with northern excavation site, findings in the area had been limited but radio silence is worrying. Technologies have entered a state of partial activation following the work of Dr Freigand and his team, however we are still unable to access them for unknown reasons, possibly due to fail-safes and secondary activation mechanisms we have yet to discover. Findings limited, many passages previously accessible have sealed shut and our digging equipment is proving insufficient. I wonder if this installation was not some last defensive position built by the aliens. If so, why was it not used when the Larians suffered their decline?

    Men starting to act irrationally, and outbreak of an unknown pathogen, possibly from storage within the xenos facility, has accounted for the lives of seventeen men, with six more in quarantine. I fear that we may have finally discovered why the ADC halted digging here. +++

    The final entry was barely coherent at all, and was written in a style Veijur thought unbecoming for a scientist of Queuden’s calibre and reputation.

    +++ February 10th, 2763

    Indentured diggers refused to work today – death stalks this cursed place…I fear I will not make it out alive. Immediate isolation of site needed, or else yet more will die. Freigand found dead this morning, and Reeden has disappeared. I fear I may be next.
    Sightings of craft of unknown origin (ARCHIVIST: could these craft be alien vessels sent to reclaim the site?)made by many from distance, nobody has survived close range encounters with the newcomers however. They came from above…

    END OF TRANSMISSION +++

    Veijur dropped the pad on the desk, his face a mask of fury.

    “Fetch me Saudoran!” he snarled at the terrified personal attendant at the door, and moments later the Planetary High Secretary emerged, his face fearful.

    “Lord Governor sir?” he questioned

    “Why the hell was I not informed earlier of the developments at my excavation site?” Veijur demanded of the man, flecks of spittle flying from the corners of his mouth as he roared in anger.

    “Milord, the reports were only decrypted earlier this morning. We brought them to you as soon as we could-“

    “Not good enough, Secretary, I told you this was priority one!”

    “I apologise for the oversight. It will not happen again.”

    “Too damn right it won’t. And get me a direct line to Dr Queuden. I won’t have his fearful ramblings any longer, and I certainly won’t let him get away without providing me with detailed daily reports. The man’s a wreck, and –“

    He looked up at Saudoran again before continuing.

    “And I thought I told you, sir, to get me a line to Queuden. Now, Secretary, now!”






    TWO

    ACDN Military Complex, Gegnis Prime, February 12th, 2763


    Lieutenant-Commander Kurt Brayden burst from cover, firing a burst from his submachine gun as he did so to keep the targeting sensors of the combat simulator busy. The AI controlling the simulator reacted swiftly, moving a pair of hover-drones away from the defensive position they had established to rake the ground where Kurt had been moments before with heavy cannon fire, but he had already sprung away, cybernetic limbs raising his reflexes to the point at which his motions appeared to blur into one, continuous action. One of the machines clattered onto the floor with a metallic clang as a hail of bullets struck the antigrav mechanisms that gave it its mobility. Tracer shells hurtled towards Kurt as the other robot reacted quickly, one of them clipping his shoulder armour and denting the plating that protected the delicate circuitry of his cybernetic body. He cursed and returned fire, but the AI had learned from earlier mistakes, and a rippling energy field flickered into existence in front of his target in time to deflect the incoming fire. It disappeared into cover for a moment, and Kurt used the time to reload his weapon before it strafed his position with more fire. He ducked further into cover before unleashing a burst lasting several seconds. The rounds tore through the cabling linking the construct to its weapons and unbalanced it, causing it to careen into the ground.

    A hail of fire from his left flank revealed what a mistake it had been to focus so singularly on the hover drones, as four hulking, biped combat machines advanced towards him, shoulder mounted rotator cannons cycling as they spewed a stream of high explosive shells at Kurt. He sprang lightly to one side and returned fire, unloading the rest of the clip into the nearest combat drone. The machine staggered back under the fire, the ablative ceramic plating over its torso shattering before the volley, and Kurt discarded the useless weapon before snatching up an assault rifle from the rack and flicking it onto full-auto. The penetrator rounds inside the weapon brought another robot down, but they were too close to be repelled by firepower alone now and Kurt drew his sword, relishing the coldness of the metal in his hand as he activated the blade and brought it up to parry a brutal stroke from the robotic warrior he had damaged earlier. He ducked under a second strike and cut deep into the joint connecting the drone to its leg, sparks flying from the severed connections.

    Kurt didn’t bother to deliver the coup de grace, instead turning on his next opponent. He met the construct’s hammer as it descended towards him and brought up his rifle in his free hand to fire at point blank range into the single, red eye in the centre of its head that contained the camera that allowed it to see. It collapsed on the floor, and Kurt turned on his final opponent.

    The controlling AI adjusted its tactics, and the robot feinted clumsily at Kurt, its massive limbs better suited to firing the heavy weapon it was slaved to than to swordplay. Kurt twisted away from the real attack and landed a blow of his own on the drone, but the blade rebounded off the thick metal plating of its arm and his opponent took the opportunity to swing at him, a blow that Kurt was forced to drop his sword to avoid. It advanced relentlessly, sensing its advantage, and Kurt looked desperately for a weapon nearby. There was nothing suitable for his current situation.

    Cursing, he ran forward, grabbing at the pneumatic hammer it bore on its left arm. His foe attempted to throw him off, but he held on. Another foe arrived from behind, this one unarmed but for its huge arms, and it grabbed him and threw him off. He gasped for air as he struck the floor with enough force to crack his helmet, and reached for something from his belt. When he looked up, both mechanised fighters were stood over him.

    “You lose, I think, human,” taunted the practice cage AI.

    “I don’t think so,” gasped Kurt, and thumbed the detonator on the EMP grenade.

    ***
    “I’m not entirely sure you’re getting the point, Lieutenant-Commander. Under no circumstances is non-standard issue equipment to be used in my practice run. The damage done by that detonation will cost thousands to replace, Brayden, and what the hell do you have to say in your defence?”

    Arielle Preen, Mistress of the Armoury at the ACDN base on Gegnis Prime, was a formidable woman, and Kurt had little desire to prolong the confrontation with her. Nonetheless, after twenty minutes of ceaseless lecturing, it appeared that he didn’t have any alternative.

    “With respect, ma’am,” he replied, measuring his words carefully, “I run Company 52. And I am sure you are aware of the fact that EMP grenades are standard issue for Company 52. As stated in Command Directive 36122A, pretty much anything is standard issue for us, ma’am.”

    Preen glowered at him. Company 52, along with its sister units Companies 50 and 51, were the elite ground troops of the ACDN, all members having received extensive cybernetics as they developed in accordance with the customs of their homeworld of Heriol, and as such they were accorded a high degree of autonomy and a carte blanche to use whatever equipment they saw fit in the execution of their missions. This answer, although true, did not sit well with the haughty armourer and she was about to respond when she was interrupted by a man at the door. He wore a plain black naval tunic, but the rank insignia on his arm was unmistakeable and marked him as a Naval Captain.

    “I’m sorry to interrupt, Mistress, but Vice-Admiral Yale wishes to speak with Lieutenant-Commander Brayden here immediately.”

    Brayden’s ears picked up. A Vice-Admiral? He was aware that his orders, as a special forces commander, came directly from the Admiralty, but nonetheless he had never received his orders directly from a man such as Yale before.

    “Should I be in dress uniform, sir?” Kurt asked. He seldom wore the clothing, preferring instead the protective shell of his armour that hid his metallic limbs, but if Yale wished to speak personally then perhaps he should make himself more presentable.

    “That won’t be necessary, Brayden. Vice-Admiral Yale wants you ready for war, not for the parade ground. If you wouldn’t mind following me, please, I’ll
    escort you to his office.”


    ***
    Vice-Admiral Thaddeus Yale had a reputation for being a no-nonsense leader with little time for the luxuries his station could have afforded him, and his office was as spartan as one might expect from such a man. It was a large room on the top floor of the Admiralty building in the complex, and had a sheaf of stamped papers pinned to one wall, the documents that had been handed to him on his induction into the Navy, but that was where the ornamentation ended. Yale himself sat on a plain chair at an equally ordinary desk.

    There was, however, nothing even slightly ordinary about Yale himself. He was a man of medium build, yet his sheer dynamism and force of personality gave him a certain massiveness of his own that defied explanation. His uniform was perfectly turned out, and on his chest were pinned rows of medals, including many of the highest accolades the ADCN could offer. His features were equally remarkable, his eyes a steely grey and the hint of a smile played across his mouth. To look upon him was to see the very image of the great military heroes of ancient human history, evoking the image of men such as Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and Marius.

    By contrast, the man sat next to him was utterly unremarkable in appearance, with features that were easier to forget than to remember. Indeed, were it not for the rank insignia on his arm he would have been easy to mistake for a member of the enlisted ranks, rather than the Captain he was. Next to the great Vice-Admiral, he appeared small and insignificant, his small hands working across the keypad of the datapad in front of him. When the two figures appeared at the door, one clad in the massive armour plating of a Company 52 specialist, he did not so much as look up to acknowledge their arrival.

    “Lieutenant Commander Kurt Brayden, sir, reporting as requested,” said Kurt, saluting stiffly.

    “At ease, Brayden,” answered Yale warmly, “please take a seat. I apologise for the suddenness of my request, but the matter at hand is of considerable importance. I hope I did not interrupt a lesson of importance. Mistress Preen has a certain fondness for the sound of her own voice.” The Vice-Admiral laughed at his own comment before continuing. “Recently, however, certain events have been brought to our attention that should not go unaddressed. Perhaps Captain Thorpe would prefer to deliver the details of the intel himself.”

    Captain Thorpe sat upright and looked at Brayden for the first time.

    “Perhaps you’d care to leave us, Captain Harn,” he spoke in clipped tones, addressing the officer who had escorted Kurt to the office. Harn looked at Yale for confirmation, who nodded. Harn saluted sharply before leaving the room.

    “Well, Lieutenant-Commander, I need hardly tell you that what I am about to tell you is Alpha-classified, and no-one outside of your team is to hear of this. If I suspect that that classification has been breached then I will hold you personally accountable. Is that clear, Lieutenant-Commander?”

    “Of course, sir,” answered Kurt.

    “Good, I’m glad we understand each other.” Thorpe pressed a button on the screen of his datapad and a projection of a system of eight worlds orbiting a yellow sun appeared on the desk.

    “This,” he said, “is the Charis system, as of September last year. One of our most productive factory worlds on the edge of human-controlled space, under the direct control of ACDN forces in the area. Earlier last month, several unknown vessels were encountered in ACDN space around Charis VI. All spacegoing vessels in the area were, of course, cloaked, in accordance with protocol, and the craft was identified as belonging to an alien species as yet undiscovered. The military governor sent out envoys to them in the hope of establishing a diplomatic link with them, but it would appear to have been a poor decision as after the negotiations proved abortive the aliens, who call themselves the “Trueborn,” suddenly became hostile.”

    The projected image suddenly switched to a low-quality camera feed which depicted several alien vessels breaking off from their main fleet and engaging the human craft bearing the envoys. Streaks of light flashed from weapons batteries on the alien ships and struck the human craft, obliterating most of them instantly.

    “That video was taken from a camera aboard the destroyer Wrathful, prior to its destruction an hour later in the ensuing battle. The aliens’ ship borne weapons technology, although clearly far in advance of our own, appears to involve firing a beam of light so intense that the photons actually form a solid projectile to punch through shielding and armour.”

    “I’m not sure I understand, sir,” said Kurt, “I won’t pretend not to have heard of the aliens. Rumours have been circulating since October last year. But surely dealing with alien threats is the responsibility of local system commanders, not the ACDN. We’ve lost worlds before, sir.”

    “Have you any idea how much energy firing such a weapon would require, Lieutenant-Commander? The very fact that they are capable of producing such weapons for small military vessels means that these aliens are a threat. No, worse than that, they could destroy us. In the six months since they discovered us, these aliens have destroyed twelve human systems, and the trouble is nobody knows where they will strike next,” replied Thorpe icily.

    “Sorry to interrupt, sir, but surely that’s impossible? It takes months to calculate the varying angles and distances needed for a gravity jump to a new system, doesn’t it?”

    “Not for these Trueborn it isn’t,” answered Yale, “If we don’t do something fast then we’ll lose all support from the colonies, especially if it comes out that we’ve been abandoning worlds to their fate. We’re short enough on funding as it is, without those damn fools at the Assembly cutting our budget any further.”

    “I see,” said Kurt, thinking for a moment, “but what can we do? I thought you said we didn’t know where they’d strike next?”

    “Normally, we don’t,” answered the Vice-Admiral, “only this time Thorpe has excelled himself. He heads up the intelligence unit in the eastern colonies, and he has uncovered something that might give us an insight into the next move these Trueborn might make.”

    The image shifted again to show a system scan of a different system.

    “This is Nevarus. I don’t expect you to have heard of it – it’s an old-fashioned backwater at the best of times – but a system scan last November by the system defence fleet picked up this.”

    The hologram focussed on a specific point behind the moon of the fourth world. A small blemish of light became visible, a vessel cloaked almost perfectly from plain sight, but not perfectly enough to hide it from the scanners.

    “We believe this is a Trueborn scouting vessel, lightly armed but used to provide detailed reconnaissance and to seek new worlds to bring into the fold. The Dockmaster in charge should have sent us these images immediately, however it would appear that he was either too lazy or incompetent to perform his duty. Normally, the Trueborn fleet would have decimated the place by now.” Thorpe paused. “Only, this time they haven’t. It’s been three months since that vessel was detected, and still our fleet in system have not found themselves engaged. There is no question of the blemish not being Trueborn – it fits every template we’ve seen – so there has to be a reason for their holding back. I believe I may have found that reason.”

    An image of a towering building of clearly alien origin appeared in place of the image of the alien vessel.

    “There was but one reason for our colonisation of Nevarus IV – the place had little enough in the way of resources – and that reason was these ruins. They are alien in nature, again advanced beyond anything we have ever seen before. We had hoped that by excavating the site we could make discoveries of our own and put forward our technology by centuries. Unfortunately that did not prove the case: the excavation teams were forced to leave the area after signs that several members had been infected by a pathogen our medical experts could not understand, and so work ended and the zone was quarantined for several years by the Governor, a man named Theklis.”

    “And you believe this technology might be what the aliens are after?” asked Kurt.

    “I believe so. However, recently Theklis lost leadership of Nevarus and was replaced by this man.”

    A projected image appeared before them next to the image of the ruins, depicting a tall, slender young man dressed in the formal robes of office that marked him as the son of a major aristocratic family. His features were youthful and possessed an arrogance that led Kurt to instantly dislike him.

    “His name is Lord Veijur Kranthus, firstborn son and heir to Duke Kranthus of House Kranthus, a major aristocrat on the world of Feyd. Lord Kranthus appears to have arrived on Nevarus shortly after the alien presence was detected in space, and quickly began to attempt to take control of the government of the world. This is in keeping with known behaviour of members of major Feydian houses before – they often see it as a way of cementing their position within the family, and truth be told we can’t afford to anger men that influential on matters like this, whether we agree with them or not. However, following claims from a rival family that the Duke intended to commit treason, I was forced to insert an agent into the family.

    The agent’s name was Dr Tomas Queuden, a professor of Xenology from Earth, and we were almost ready to withdraw him when he began reporting suspicious activity shortly after Lord Veijur’s accession to Governorship, a political manoeuvre Queuden believes was planned for a long time. Almost immediately Governor Veijur ordered that the quarantine be lifted and sent in an excavation team of his own, led by Queuden. It seems Queuden believed that House Kranthus hoped to use the technology to increase their influence to the point where they could challenge the Assembly directly.”

    “Do you believe that sir?” Kurt questioned Thorpe, who simply laughed.

    “Of course not, Lieutenant-Commander. We took on Queuden on the recommendation of a family rivalling House Kranthus, so doubtless it’s all politicking.”

    Next to him Yale spat derisively. “Petty politicians are the last thing we need right now.”

    “Indeed,” agreed Thorpe, “but that is not the important part. Queuden sent copies of his daily reports to the Governor to us. Early reports simply allude to the vast amount of artefacts at the site, but three days ago reports became more hurried and negative in note, and our analysts believe Queuden was writing them under pressure. Then, the reports stopped after February 10th altogether. Initially, we assumed that the pathogen had been released once more, but for one line in his reports.”

    Thorpe held out the datapad, on which a line of text was highlighted.

    “Sightings of craft of unknown origin made by many from distance, nobody has survived close range encounters with the newcomers however. They came from above…”

    “I believe we’ve found our missing Trueborn. They’re landing on Nevarus IV.”

    The two senior commanders paused to allow Kurt to digest the implications of the information.

    “So what does the Assembly want us to do?” asked Kurt after a moment.

    “It’s us asking you to do this, not Earth. The Assembly is on the verge of collapse as it is, without the hysteria of a full scale invasion. You and the remainder of Company 52 are to travel to the Nevarus system and assess the situation. If possible, the alien advance should be halted, but failing that you are to evacuate the main population centres and make sure Governor Kranthus gets out alive. We cannot afford to have his father accuse us of weakness; not with the Trueborn conquering systems as fast as they are. If possible I want a detailed analysis of the enemy hierarchy structure and captured technology samples too. How you achieve this is up to you.” said Thorpe.

    “I understand, sir,” answered Kurt, “may I ask how we will get there?”

    “You may. You will travel to the system in the frigate Bonaventure under Commander Marcus Iulior, escorted by four other frigates,” responded Thorpe.

    “You’re giving the command to a Commander?” asked Yale, surprised.

    “Indeed, sir. Commander Iulior is a somewhat…underappreciated officer.”

    “You mean he’s expendable,” said Kurt flatly, “and by extension, so are my company.”

    “How dare- ” began Thorpe, but Yale cut him off.

    “Yes, Brayden, I’m afraid you’re right. I don’t like it either, but this mission’s too damn important to risk it going wrong.”

    Kurt nodded.

    “I understand sir. Permission to go and brief my troops, sir?”

    “Permission granted. Good luck, Brayden. Don’t let me down.”

    ***
    The commandos of Company 52 looked up as their commanding officer entered the room, but didn’t bother standing to attention. Long years spent together had eroded the barriers of rank between them, although they all still looked to Kurt for leadership. Ensign Felys Sevren paused from stripping her rifle and raised an eyebrow at her commander’s arrival.

    “Something wrong, sir?

    “Not as such, Felys,” he replied carefully. Sevren raised her eyebrow still further, eliciting a chuckle from Kurt.

    “Damn me for a fool, Ensign, but you know me too well. Yes, something is wrong. Fleet Command’s given us new orders.”

    Sevren frowned.

    “But surely that’s good news, sir?”

    Kurt laughed harshly.

    “Not this time. This one’s gonna be a bitch. Alright, might as well get it over with,” he answered, gesturing to a projection table at the centre of the room and approaching it.

    “What I am about to tell you is Vermillion classified,” he began. A few eyebrows rose at that. Even campaign plans usually only warranted Magenta.

    “We’ve all heard the pessimistic stories of doom coming back from veterans from the eastern colonies. I can now confirm that the reports are indeed accurate, and
    that an alien species known as the Trueborn have been decimating system after system. They outmatch us in technology, as is demonstrated by the video I am about to show you depicting their naval forces in action.” He removed the datachip from his armour and plugged it into the projector to display the destruction of the Wrathful, followed by several close up shots of Trueborn warriors. He waited until it was finished before continuing.

    “As you can see, their technology is far beyond our own capabilities. These aliens could destroy us all. Worse, they move so fast we’ve never been able to work out their next target until it’s too late. Until now.”

    Around the room everyone sat up. He had their attention now.

    “However, recent intel gathered by videographic means has shed some light on the matter. It seems that they intend to target a small colony called Nevarus. An unregarded backwater, by all accounts, only it transpires that the planetary governor is a scion of a major aristocratic family. No doubt he hoped to exploit the technology that lay hidden in the quarantined alien ruins on the world, but we’ll have to disappoint him on that score.”

    “I’m not sure I understand, sir,” said a voice, “what exactly are we meant to do?”

    Brayden turned to face the source of the question. Chief Petty Officer Remyn Agges was a support specialist, a gigantic man who stood several inches above the next tallest member of the unit.

    “Let’s face facts, chief. Nevarus will fall, no matter what we do. The local armed forces are small, and the newest fortifications are now over a century old. There’s nothing we can do to stop that happening, and nobody is going to blame us for that. But if the governor dies then his father just might object, and we cannot afford to piss too many people like that off. Our job is to extract him. We’ll try to evacuate as many civilians as we can, but that is secondary to getting Governor Kranthus off that rock. Kapeesh?”

    There was a mumble of affirmation across the room. Brayden nodded curtly.

    “Good. Now here is the plan. At 0500 hours tomorrow, we leave for the Nevarus system aboard the frigate Bonaventure under the command of Commander Iulior. Once in system, the Commander will take up a supporting position at a safe distance and we will be inserted into the capital city of Kerviss in Thunderer dropships. We then grab the governor and link up with surviving local forces to make for the spaceport, situated on the northern continent some two-hundred and forty klicks due north, raising hell all the way.”

    “And after that?” asked Sevren.

    “Same as always Ensign. We make it up as we go along. Any questions?” He looked around. Petty Officer Thom Johnson raised his hand.”

    “Sir, if we are engaging these Trueborn, shouldn’t we know a bit more about them? Weapons, anatomy, command structure? We need to know how to kill these reptiles.”

    “I share your concern, Johnson. Truth is, we don’t know. Which is why I’ll be taking the precaution of every extra piece of kit I can find. We are to gather as much information as we can. As for anatomy, well, here is the best I’ve got.”

    A translucent image of a Trueborn appeared on the table, text scrolling around the diagram. Labels were tagged to the image, indicating possible targetable locations.

    “It’s not perfect I’m afraid, but it will have to do.”

    “Thank you sir.”

    “Not a problem Johnson. Anything else?”

    There was no response.

    “Then we’re good to go.”


    ***

  10. #38
    Poet of the Deed Captain Corrigan's Avatar
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    1608 (x8)

    And a little more. This bit has surprised me a bit actually, I hadn't intended to take it this way beforehand.

    ______________________________________________

    Captain Thorpe stood up as the special forces commander left the room.

    “Can he do it?” he asked Yale.

    Yale exhaled slowly and ground his teeth together before answering.

    “I don’t know, Captain. If anyone can, it’s the Company, and Brayden’s the toughest bastard I ever met. I hope you know what you’re dealing with. If he survives and finds out what you’ve done then-“

    “Then I suppose I’d best make sure that he doesn’t make it out alive then, won’t I?” laughed Thorpe harshly.

    “Damn you!” Yale raged impotently. “Brayden’s the best we’ve got. He’s an icon. If he dies, I guarantee you that you’ll have a mutiny on your hands within six months. And I pray to God you pay for this.”

    Thorpe casually slapped the Vice-Admiral. The rings on his hand gouhed deep marks in the man’s face.

    “Know when you’re beaten, old man, and keep your views to yourself next time. Next time your homeworld burns. My master doesn’t take kindly to defiance.”

    He strode out of the room, leaving Yale alone in his office as the reinforced steel door slammed shut.

    ***

  11. #39
    Poet of the Deed Captain Corrigan's Avatar
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    1608 (x8)

    Well, its been a long time with no updates, so apologies there. I actually decided that I needed a considerable restructuring of the story to fit with some pretty drastic changes I've made to the way things are run in the timeframe of the story, so I have actually restarted the story.

    Hopefully there's still some interest in this, and sorry again for abandoning the thread for so long. This is only a really short section because I am drowning in AS exams right now.

    -Corrigan

    ________________________________

    Prelude
    Nevarus System, November 2762


    The Cyrene was drifting.

    Devoid of any trace of life or any clues as to its fate, the black vessel edged forward on its long journey to the star where it would inevitably meet its end in a dazzling half-second, flare of brilliant white light.

    The AI controlling the drone ignored it, continuing its analysis of the system unperturbed by the ghost ship’s appearance. Such vessels were not unusual, the relics of wars fought long ago and trapped outside realspace by the particular circumstances of their demise. It was not important, it decided, its response dictated by the advanced logic circuits of its automated brain.

    The drone was one of seventeen-thousand new units being installed, the first wave of the new generation of Unity-class All-Purpose System Patrol Units being imposed by the new Administrator appointed by the Res Publica. Nominally responsible for ensuring the safety of the system by keeping unwanted agents out, in truth the AI controlling them guaranteed that they served an altogether more insidious purpose: to keep the remaining supporters of the Technocracy in. For all that the colony had been under Res Publica administration for three years, and for all the propaganda spoke of a system pacified, this was still a centre of insurgent activity and the Administrator knew it.

    Oblivious to all of this, the Cyrene drifted further onwards, ignored by every one of those seventeen-thousand drones. Perhaps it was because of their preoccupation with their appointed task, therefore, that they missed the solitary light that flickered behind the glass viewing panel of the Cyrene’s bridge.

    It was an error that would cost many lives in the decades to come.

    ***
    Baron Leonid Kratus, son and heir of the esteemed Duke Mako of House Kratus, stood impassive behind the glass viewing port of the Cyrene. There was an eerie silence to the bridge of the vessel, and despite understanding the necessity of the measure, it irritated him. His retinal implants displayed an impressive array of information on the system outside the ship, the text displayed along the surfaces of a shimmering orb.

    Bring up surface grid sixteen by nineteen, he commanded, the thought pulsing through the neural capacitors of the mind impulse unit and passing to ASQI.

    Enlargement complete. Res Publica Section Research Facility 917. Initial spectroscopic projections are showing abnormal surface composition in relation to surrounding territories¸ chimed ASQI’s soft, feminine tones. The process of AI ‘pairing’ was almost prohibitively expensive, with the surgery involved in wiring the chip to a human brain requiring expertise few men possessed, but Duke Mako had insisted that his family receive the implants. ASQI represented the pinnacle of civilian intelligence units, and although far inferior to the military variants used to coordinate campaign strategy she was nonetheless a miracle of technology, serving both as Leonid’s closest advisor and his most trusted companion.

    Is it what we are looking for? he asked.

    The AI considered for a moment.

    It seems highly likely. I can’t say for sure without a closer look though.

    A closer look. The words had an ominous sound to them, a sound that spoke of a need for direct acion.

    And my father? Leonid pressed. He won’t like this development. We can’t afford for this to be traced to him.

    He will be notified. There are the usual contingency plans should further developments make your position… untenable.

    Leonid shuddered involuntarily at the concept. The governor looked unfavourably on family feuds, and he was not eager to add patricide to his list of crimes. There were times, he thought, that ASQI was too effective.

    He looked again at the hologram before him, flicking the display to photographics.

    The Section facility was more of a fortress than a laboratory, its walls grey concrete and steel beneath the sheath of their rain-coating. But even they couldn't completely conceal the prize they guarded. The gigantic xenotech spires the place had been built around soared skywards, their strange, bulbous architecture both utterly alien and pleasingly organic to look at.

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