AdeptiCan’t – Official Launch of the Open Beta

And we’re live!~
Links, Updates, and Art included today. Enjoy!

Look at this lil’ guy; all excited to meet new people and teach them a brand new game… Just, uh, don’t get devoured.

Welcome to the Initiative

The AdeptiCan’t Banner!

We’re so glad to have you. Alas, we would have preferred to meet you all in person at Adepticon, but public health and safety come first. Our own staff was negatively affected by COVID-19, but we’re happy to report that we’re all still here, back at it, and ready to see this game off and running!

At this time, we have two squad boxes and what would have been our special, surprise Adepticon character available for purchase from our partners, Metal Oak Casting Studios. Click that link to check out the catalog! Additionally, our event exclusive alternate sculpt of Elizabeth Radcliffe will be available through the end of the month!

Use the following coupon code for 10% off MOCS’s entire store, including our products, through March 29th!


Our Starter Boxes (also called squad boxes) run at 22USD a piece, with an option to purchase at 25USD to also receive a set of the full-color character cards. The cards are not mandatory for play as all rules and cards are available for download in the Downloadables section above–as well as some other printable goodies. This is very much a beta launch–the game will continue to grow; quickly.

Individual models will vary in price based on size.

All models are resin and include the appropriate size base. Starter Boxes also include a Redeploy Beacon model and base.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Later this summer, our current intention, barring a sudden change in economic climate, is to launch a Kickstarter for the rest of Wave 1 and beyond. Why? Well, to be perfectly honest about it: the loss of exposure that would have been provided by Adepticon was a huge blow–not to mention all of the lost advertising budget that went into the convention ahead of time for a small start-up like MNG. We want to continue producing and publishing everything we’ve intended to launch with, but COVID-19 has really thrown a wrench into the works for us, for everyone, and the entire planet. In order to proceed, we need the reach that a large platform like Kickstarter or Adepticon provides.

As of today, the rule book and the dossiers for all six characters for the Argent Palisades and the Cinderfane Paths are available in the downloads link, as well as all of the generic broker agents planned for wave 1. Next week, the Blood of Croatoa characters will be added, then the Cloak of Olaos. Additional models will be delayed for a while as we navigate the COVID-19 problems and concerns.

We’ll be opening up a form next week for Beta feedback as well–and story-related rewards for participants. Saturday, the 28th, we’ll cover what will be available in the full “Wave 1” of STARFALL.

Stay tuned!

Official Wave 1 Models

Painted Cinderfane

New Arts!

Arts are good. So good.

As always, all art by Cameron Nissen and Metal Neko Games™.


Welcome to Metal Neko Games

Also entitled, “Wait, who made me the captain of this ship and why did they think it was a good idea?”
Oh. Right.
I did.

Hello and welcome to the official Metal Neko Games™ blog! My name is Eevi, I am the Owner and Creative Lead for MNG and the STARFALL™ universe. We are a small team based out of St. Louis, MO with a long history of game design and production.

We’ve partnered with our friends at Metal Oak Casting Studios to produce a series of games based on a universe I have been developing–more on that later. They will also be hosting our products for sale on their shop when the time comes. Check them out at: http://www.metaloakcastingstudios.com

We have a long road ahead of us before STARFALL: Age of Mercenaries is fully published. Come back every week for updates, short stories, character biographies, art, sculpts and everything else! The Image Gallery tab is a bit spartan at the moment; but we’ll be updating it frequently.

Next week, we’ll be diving into the design of STARFALL™ with an overview of the high concepts and some world-building elements. Until then, please enjoy the first officially published short story from the universe and a glimpse into the inner-monologue of an important figure in the developing history of our alternate-Earth.

Enjoy~ ❤



Written by: Eevi

    Armistice Day, November 11th, 1930–eleven years after the armadas arrived in Earth’s orbit, forcing an end to the Great War. The moment when the Neo-European Empire stilled its cannons for the first time in half a decade as the invading “Peace Forces” entered the skies above the capital still burns vividly in the Father-Knight’s memory. He remembers turning his eyes upward towards the burning sunset, watching in silence as his dreams of conquest dispersed before him like so much engine-wake. 

Today, the beloved alien warlord, Remulanus Domitius, Commander of the First Legion, Breaker of Stars, savior of all Terrans–whether they believe it or not–sits on his modest throne, playing the ever-gracious host to the armistice celebrants whom he welcomes with open arms–and, of course, with such glorious speeches as befitting this wonderful occasion. 

    Today, amongst the assembled world leaders, the official representatives of no less than three extraterrestrial powers, including a handful of legates from his own former home-world, and the throngs of scientists and military leaders from across this planet, he holds the singular honor–nay, the privilege–to open these peace proceedings by introducing the first graduates of the Mercenary Initiative. 

Nine teams of three, each sponsored by their governments to undergo the rigorous training deemed necessary before they would be allowed to represent the assembled peoples of this planet. They enter the grand hall together, wearing their newly established mercenary companies’ full regalia: the latest in Alchemical Combat Suits, redesigned for extreme environments–gleaming, brightly colored, and proud. More companies and more graduates will follow, but these newly christened mercenaries truly represent the best that the Earth has to offer–with some guidance form our new friends and allies.

Yes, yes, the Hegemony in particular has been quite helpful in developing this program in hopes of fostering future alliances. Without their timely interference, after all, who could say how different the world would be today? 

Truth be told, the Extraterrestrial-to-Terran ratio amongst the initial teams had been a matter of great discussion; though, he would admit that to none. The stipulation requiring at least twenty years of active involvement in Terran life had assuaged most of the outcry in his own nation. Regardless, the Father-Knight had successfully secured a fully Terran company for Neo-Europe’s first representatives–what more did he care?

Today, we, as Terrans, take this step forward towards rebuilding our home-world. We celebrate together, as friends and family, eager for this new era of peace and exploration. May today be remembered as the day we stood united behind our chosen few, and may these sons and daughters of the world make us proud as we take our place amongst the galactic powers. 

    Today, the Father-Knight stands, head held high to the faceless masses before him. He ignores the subtle jeers, the hateful stares of the so-called world powers that crumbled against his armies years before, the disingenuous slow-claps of the alien delegations self-corralled in the far corners of the room; today, he refuses to give them the satisfaction. 

But who could say what tomorrow would bring? 

Pardon Our Dust

As the global pandemic continues to develop, we’re actively re-configuring our 2020 plans. Check back soon for a more in-depth roadmap for the next few months–as well as another round of beta updates!

In the meantime, have some previews of the Palisades Squad 2 characters:

Liery misses all of you!

Adepticon and COVID-19 Update

Well, the pandemic has officially brought the planet to a temporary halt while everyone tries to get the virus under control. Unfortunately, this necessitated the cancellation of Adepticon. The health and safety of ourselves, the other vendors, and all of the attendees is more important than a weekend of gaming.

For us, unfortunately it also means changing our launch strategy for STARFALL: AoM. We’ll have more specific information in the coming weeks; however, I can confirm that the products we would have released at the convention–including the special release of Becca, the Iron Fist–will be released on our partner’s webstore March 26th as planned.

Metal Oak Casting Studios

Effective immediately, and running through end-of-day March 29th, they are running an “AdeptiCan’t” 10% off promotion. Once our starter boxes release, they will be included as well! Just use the name of the promotion (apostrophe and all) as a coupon code at check-out.

Becca, the Iron Fist

Check back over the next week for the new Metal Neko Games 2020 roadmap, including when to expect the beta rule book for download, character cards, and what to expect next~!

Stay Safe Out There

Don’t let the pandemic get you down! Ultimately, these precautions are for the health and safety of everyone, and the crisis will be resolved soon as long as everyone does their part to prevent the continued spread of the outbreak!


Adepticon 2020 Primer

We’re all crossing our fingers that Adepticon won’t need to be canceled due to CORVID-19. On the assumption that it won’t be necessary, here’s a quick primer on what to expect from us at the convention!

We are in booth 411 in the vendor hall, facing the Reaper Paint-and-Take.

Hope to see you there.

Liery has opted to abstain from attending–he wasn’t sure he could avoid the temptation to impose the Rule of the Goopcat; so, we thought it best he stay in his bog.

Product Releases

Metal Neko Games and STARFALL

We’ll have a slew of products available!

— The Cinderfane Paths “Those Who Wander” starter box containing Elierian, Marcus, and Vigil.

— The Argent Palisades “The Father’s Chosen” starter box containing Luka, Tengri, and Sofia.

— Additional copies of our Adepticon special release model–also included in the swag bag! We’ll be releasing more information on her later~

Metal Oak Casting Studios and Other Affiliates

Our lovely parent company will also have tons of models available! Check them out at metaloakcastingstudios.com. If you want to order anything early (before Wednesday the 25th), we’ll bring it with us for convention delivery!

Our friends at Mats By Mars will have their awesome playmats available. If you drop on by and love STARFALL, be sure to give them a thank you from us for sharing their booth space with us!

Token sets produced by Warsenal will be available in limited quantities.

Participation Event and Downloadables

If you come by our booth, you’ll be given a business card with a link to this website and a password to access the previews in the Downloadables section above–don’t worry, everything will become public soon. There, you’ll find printable versions of the character cards for the released models (we’ll also have fancy versions available at the booth with purchase!), token sheets, and the beta Rules Reference document–which includes a Quick Start section!

All of our rules and character cards will always be available for free online, post-launch.

In the weeks following the convention, we’ll be adding more characters and more factions into the beta folders for your enjoyment and gaming experiences.

Additionally, during the weekend of the convention only, a special short story will be available in the downloads section! At the end, you’ll find a link to a google questionnaire where you’ll be able to cast your vote on the first major Storyline Event outcome for the universe.

In The Booth

Demos! Lore discussions! Art! Me! No Liery, though. Sorry everyone, I know how disappointing it is not to have the chance to be subsumed into the goop (we’re kidding about that; Liery wouldn’t eat humans–we’re too gamey).

Some of our volunteer playtesters will be available all weekend to walk you through the game, talk about the fluff and the factions, and answer any questions you might have about what the future looks like for STARFALL!

Unfortunately, due to health reasons, I will be available as much as I can be, but will not be in the booth the entire time.

We will have some tables set up in the open gaming area to run full games for demonstration purposes! If you and a friend want to try out the full scope, hit us up on Facebook and we’ll make sure one of us will be there to help walk you through your first mission.


We’ll be back to our regular schedule this weekend. Apologies for the delay; Eevi has been dealing with some personal emergencies.

Liery has been quite amicable while Eevi has been indisposed–he’s only eaten two of the interns!

Makes you wonder…

The Character Cards for the models that will be available at Adepticon are finished! We’ll be talking about them in-depth the week of the convention. For now, enjoy these portrait snapshots used on the cards themselves!

All art by Cameron Nissen.
™ Metal Neko Games 2020

As an added bonus, have a lovely painting of Renrue of the Cinderfane, carrying Liery on a pride-filled sprint. The Goopcat Supreme seems to have stolen someone’s hat…

We’ll have more surprises as we get closer to the convention! We’re super excited to see you all there and to formally unveil the game!

What If?

Unexpectedly, I survived my reckoning with Liery. My stroke of luck means I’m here yet again to talk about my favorite subject: the Starfall universe. -Amanda

Wait, what day is it?

Back eons ago—okay, technically less than a year, but who’s actually counting?—when I was graciously invited to join this project, the first question I had was a simple one. Simple to ask, anyway. On planets devoting everything to alchemical solutions, what became of the inventions we know of as foundational today?

Covering that entire question in one blog post is a bit lofty a goal for even me. But instrumental to everything is the concept of long-distance communication. Some people live under rocks, but they still deserve to know if armies are invading, after all.

Initially, planets were dependent on traditional modes of communication. People traveled by foot or horse or sea. Militaries continued the use of the heliograph, which used refracted light and coded flashes to translate messages across tens of miles. Outposts were built strategically throughout controlled territories, which worked effectively until messages needed to be conveyed to those in neutral land or land controlled by neighboring countries. Off-planet communications relied purely on ship travel, bartering for use of space lanes where possible to speed the messages.

In 1837, the patent on the telegraph was briefly followed by an attempt to commercialize. It found no traction as the scientific community quickly turned to the discovery of a new material: azothite. Bad timing, you have to admit.

That is, until Mihaela Cioban—a leading scientific mind of Moldavia—proposed the creation of a focused azothite propulsion system in 1889. This new system would eventually be adapted for use in deep-space vessels, but the Argint Viu Colectiv patented the technology first, becoming Terra’s first Runners.

Taking and modifying alchemical combat suits that were scrapped by the mercenary companies, the collective developed the Argint Curier in 1915. The first of its kind, the suit was outfitted with the focused azothite propulsion system to move a single individual at breakneck speed—but in good news, without breaking any necks.

Briefly, the Argint Viu Colectiv monopolized the long-distance communications market. They boasted Runners that could cross distance at four times the speed of any other form of travel. The collective established itself as a political neutral by moving its base of operations off-planet and marketing partnerships across all borders, eventually building bases worldwide.

By 1920, other companies of Runners formed, aligning themselves with different groups to garner support; however, none could match the Argint Curiers for their range of access. Or their style.

Who knows where azothite will take the worlds of Starfall, changing the way they communicate across the years. But for now, as of the modern year of 1931, the Argint Curiers run the world. Literally.

Check back next week for more exploration of the Starfall universe!

Eevi Note

I moved rather unsuccessfully this past weekend, causing delays in posts! The tournament report I promise is coming later this week. Now, to go speak rather bluntly with a certain goopcat about eating the construction crews…

Art Dump

In lieu of humor, have a dump of art.

Liery approves of this message.

So Much Art

All art created by the amazing Cameron Nissen for STARFALL™.

Till Next Time

We’ve sent off all of our promotional product for Adepticon and are hammering away at finishing up the rest of our preparations! The end of March is approaching much faster than it feels like it should, and there are so many little things that need to be done between now and then. We’re very excited to present what we’ve created and are looking forward to seeing you all there!

Check back this Saturday for another post from Amanda, and on Sunday for a tournament report from the first ever STARFALL Storyline Event–including the Aftermath, the winning team, and some general screaming about an artillery-happy squaddie named J.J.

Eevi out!


Liery has deemed me worthy of borrowing the blog from Eevi today. I’m honored, though I get the feeling my time is limited, and then I’ll be swiftly judged. Only few can meet the Goopcat and live, you know. – Amanda

Liery is pleased with its new minion.

You might recognize my name from some of the short fiction posted up, but today, I get to talk about a new facet of the Starfall universe. The mercenary companies don’t get to have all the fun—or, well, they at least don’t get to be the only ones to light everything on fire in the name of “progress.”

The alchemical age led to a revolution of industry. Though many minds focused on the development of alchemical combat suits and weapons of war, the applications of azothite were seemingly endless.

Like so often happens, innovators partnered with the wealthy and focused on another sector of public life that could be transformed—both for societal wellbeing and for profit: healthcare. Across nations, the concept of what it meant to heal the body—or the mind and soul—were approached in wildly different ways. The use of azothite was no different.

The first experiments produced results so horrifying they were destroyed by inexplicable fires. But as they progressed, loss became synonymous with opportunity. Assuming you were willing to risk life, limb, and sanity.

The N.E.E. condemned such experiments, some said ironically, as inhumane, despite reports of their own testing being done off the books. But it was the published papers that led to new medical schools, world-renowned inventions, and a transformation of what it meant to be a physician, healer, or shaman.

The question posed was simple: why cure when you can improve?

After all, that was what azothite was for—not just for combat and space travel, but to bring about a next stage of humanity. Some healers took on a new name, thaumaturgists, or “miracle workers.” Debates erupted over the right of such people to play at being deities, crafting new eyes for the blind that could see in the night, new limbs to function with superior strength and agility, and any manner of oddity that suddenly placed those “blessed to lose” with advantage over others.

Healing was no longer the goal. Stolen technology soon appeared on the streets, and underground channels for acquiring “life-improvement” technology populated rapidly. The modifications became deliberate, a choice outside of necessity for those who could afford it or steal it. Many Terrans did it out of the misguided belief that they would be rendered irrelevant if they couldn’t keep pace with the abilities of the alien races and of those modified humans who had gone to the thaumaturgists.

As philosophers questioned what it means to be human, various Terran governments scrambled to pass and enforce new regulations. But the widespread fascination could not be undone, and the backlash from attempts to shut down research centers only encouraged more radical experimentation.

Why, after all, should only the mercenary companies reap the benefits of azothite?

The work of the thaumaturgists continued.

Wrapping Up

And on that ominous note, I leave you. Should I survive my reckoning with the Goopcat Supreme, I might see you all again.

We’ll be back later this week with more short story content, and some new art!

Cloak of Olaos: Unmaking – Part 4

Written by: Amanda

A string of nothing but panicked swearing filled Farrah’s head. The device the Qhurothi had given him days ago burned in his hand—working, he hoped. His captain had been about to sell them out. All of them. All of New Carthage. This had to get home.

He jerked upright. Not fast enough. Eyes wild, he struggled against an Aidlean’s hold, being tossed about more like a toy than a man. He scrabbled for purchase, an arm around a neck, then a hand jabbing at eyes. “Fnippith!” The yell kickstarted a chain reaction.

The Iron Spectre’s crew converged on the fallen Otakke, as if Farrah’s yell might have launched her to her feet for good, old-fashioned revenge. Instead, the double vanished. Empty ground met the grasping hands before a startled shout. 

“The Otakke!” a crew member yelled.

“Control your team, Silvalinus!” 

The captain showed no sign of discomfort even in the face of the fleet admiral breaking apart in flashes of strange light, reappearing two steps away, then five, only to be closer than before. What Farrah had done on stage his entire life had been an illusion. But this…this looked like witchcraft. 

The candlelight that filled the room flickered and died. They might as well have been back in the ghost ship.

In the black, all he could hear were heavy footfalls and gasps. Glimpses of sight came only from Janus. He flashed again, brightening the room. From behind the door, Fnippith appeared. Airborne. The room submerged back in darkness, a battle shriek from the Otakke and then the dull thud of skin against bone, barely cushioned.

Why did it have to be a fight? Farrah shifted forward, ready to bolt toward his teammate and join the chaos inside the room. Cowering by the fallen doors was useless. A hand latched onto Farrah’s ACS before he could move. Gods…he’d been afraid of that.

Stomach thrown to his throat, he careened through the air, slamming into a tower of boxes that lined the wall of the room. Faster than he wanted, but he was inside… Pain seared through his shoulder, and a low groan fell from his parted lips. He was going to die here.

“Don’t be so dramatic.” A small face appeared two inches from his own, and before he could scream, a hand covered his mouth. Fnippith winked. Cool relief followed the low glow of her suit activating.

Thank the gods. “You’re the worst…”

“I know!” She darted back off into the black—only this time, one became three, like she and Janus were in competition for how much they could make Farrah’s head spin. It took a hard drop to the ground, but she slid neatly between an approaching Aidlean’s legs, reaching up for the tech still clutched in Janus’s hand. A pulse of energy knocked her back. The double vanished. 

Farrah staggered back to his feet in time for the ground to quake. Two Aidleans approached, finally spotting him as another flash shot through the room. 

A low roar built outside, shaking the windows until it was the howl of relentless winds buffeting against the glass. Whatever was out there wanted to come in. He reached for the mines clipped to his ACS and pulled, forearms crossed before ricocheting the weapons off the combat suits of the nearest Aidleans. They exploded mid-air, while he yelled “Eyes!” His team knew how to protect themselves from the dizzying lights.

His team. The two words rattled bitterly in his tired mind. There was no team if there was no trust, and Janus had been right to call Silvalinus a traitor.

The two Aidleans collapsed, Heldar’s gravity and the disorientation too much to stay standing. 

Silvalinus and Janus faced each other in the center of the chaos. Hullbreaker kicked to life, and Farrah hit the ground, covering his ears. But nothing happened. Eyes narrowed to make out the shapes in the dark, he watched his captain struggle with the weapon as it sputtered and died under pulsating waves from the tech in Janus’s hand. His face contorted with the spread of whatever alchemical magic he’d been touched by. The Otakke had been right; whatever this was, it could take out a planet.

An iron grip wrenched at the back of Farrah’s suit, hauling him upright in time to watch Silvalinus sweep Hullbreaker like a sword into Janus’s side. The honorable captain…always doing the right thing. That was what Farrah had always believed.

Tearing loose a piece of his suit, the Aidlean lost hold. Farrah dropped back to the ground and bolted in the direction of his captain. Traitor or not, this was how they all lived. The board would handle the rest–or perhaps the Qhurothi would.

Long arm outstretched, Silvalinus locked eyes. His voice didn’t reach, but it didn’t have to. Gods, Farrah hated when they did this. Three small mines fell into his open palm. He latched his hand to the captain’s shoulder plating, and with a sharp pivot, the extra gravitational force slingshotted him past Janus.

The mines flew faster—straight through the admiral as he glitched and onto the wall behind him. Deaf from the roar, Farrah didn’t hear them detonate. The proof was hard to miss, though. Cracks spiderwebbed out along the wall. Silvalinus yanked Farrah down, and the world vanished beneath his captain’s massive suit.

If this was how it ended, there was only one consolation: New Carthage’s magistrate was going to get ousted for this public failure. And if the conversation stolen away in the coin never came to light…Silvalinus’s reputation would be spared. With the captain shielding him, it became hard to wish for anything else. But how could a traitor, even one keeping him alive, be worthy of mercy?

A small crouching figure joined them. Fnippith pointed, and gradually, red light filtered in from Heldar’s moon, streaming through a hole in the building’s side. The Aidleans moved soundlessly. From above, a black shadow sunk into view. It glinted in the red-light, close enough to touch: the Iron Spectre.

Fnippith wanted to know how it worked–maybe break it open and poke around on the inside. The way the admiral swayed mimicked the ship behind him. For every time the object in his hand pulsed, the ship gave an answering keen, a high-pitched tone that felt like metal being jammed directly into Fnippith’s ears. Could a ship bond with a piece of technology? Not to imply sentience, of course, but the possibility of there being some sort of magnetic compulsion between the two was fascinating. 

Scarf cinching tight across the lower half of her face, she glanced over to Farrah. He had a firm grip, eyes shadowed by an intensely furrowed brow. Fine, fine, she wouldn’t try to take the tech again. Maybe Kelsef would know how to deactivate it.

She hadn’t seen him since the gun had been wrested from his hands by one of the admiral’s crew. He wasn’t standing in the room, or far more likely, even lying unconscious in it. 

Ears twitching at the sudden silence, Fnippith crept from under Silvalinus, who slowly began to right himself to face the admiral. 

“We’ll take the azothite…” Janus’s voice cracked into a dry cough, while fissures began to form all over his body. A puzzle no one would want to put back together, Fnippith was sure. “We’ll take it ourselves.” He stiffened as waves of the alchemical compound washed over him. Pale knuckles refused to loosen their grip. He didn’t realize the object had begun to crack. “I just need…your signature.” He wheezed through the words, staggering closer. Every step spread the infection. Boxes duplicated and then vanished. The floor splintered beneath the weight of the incomplete alchemical reactions. 

The building groaned as the Iron Spectre dragged closer, drawn to the tech. Janus powered on. 

“Bring him,” Janus ordered. 

No one moved.

“BRING HIM!” The admiral and his ship jolted with lines of blue. 

Heart pounding and holding on to Farrah, Fnippith scrambled back from the encroaching corruption. It snaked its way across the floor, overtaking everything it touched. The admiral’s crew ran. Down the hall and out of sight, she could hardly blame them for fleeing in terror. Her head throbbed with the lights. It beat a rhythm while she struggled with Farrah to get to their feet as Silvalinus reached back with both giant arms.

“Don’t!” she yelled, just as he grabbed hold and slung her and Farrah back. He placed himself in Janus’s path. “Don’t touch it!” The words whipped away by a gust of wind as the Iron Spectre pulled back like an arrow being drawn only to shoot into the building. It gave, everything sliding to the left while her captain latched onto the hole in the wall as it suddenly became the ceiling. His hand reached for the tech. Fnippith’s heartbeat stuck in her throat. 

Cool metal pressed into her hand, and Farrah, crouched now on the opposite wall, nodded. His last mines. They took aim, while Fnippith could do little more than hope in the chaos that the explosives missed their captain. Farrah threw with abandon.

Janus swung one great arm, the blow knocking Silvalinus back in time for the careening mines to land. They attached. 

They attached. To Janus.

Fnippith stared in disbelief. Joy stuck in her throat. He wouldn’t kill them all…unless his ship did it for them. But as Janus shuddered, the Iron Spectre did too, and in the barest moment, Fnippith knew they had won.

She thought…they’d won.

Janus smiled. It looked like pain.

Along his suit, the corruption gravitated to the mines. Hounds to blood. They rent metal from metal, and what was left joined the dust collecting in the air. “All you had to do…was sign,” Janus growled. “Do you know the bribes I paid to sanction this inane treaty?” He trembled with rage, swinging his sword in long, hard arcs. Silvalinus lurchd back, and Fnippith watched in horror. Pure energy crackled around the admiral as he raged. “All for one board member to ruin it all by picking you!”

Silvalinus’s grip on the wall cracked as he swung like a punching bag for the admiral’s rage. 

“The azothite would’ve fixed this!” A blow from the sword beat against Silvalinus’s combat suit. More than anyone should be capable of. Metal bent like paper. 

The wind changed. Silvalinus dropped, landing with a heavy crack of stone walls now underfoot. Janus hovered above, suspended like the ship was locking him in place with its pull on the corruption in every cell of his body. His eyes smoldered with it, like the ire was fading to embers. 

He looked tired…empty.

“I didn’t want this.”

The Iron Spectre lifted with a gust of heat, dazzling until it choked and blinded. Fnippith turned away. At the corner of her eye, she saw her captain raise Hullbreaker. His lips formed two silent words and turned into a frown.

None of them had wanted this.

A tap against her foot pulled Fnippith’s gaze: a small box, clattering against the ground and flickering with faded light. As all eyes turned toward the Iron Spectre’s last flight, Fnippith crouched, silent. She shouldn’t, of course. There was a lot she shouldn’t do. Did it ever stop her?

Debris fell like rain.

The silence lasts until a knock at the door to the expansive hall. The board members start as if breaking from a trance after Fnippith’s tale of Janus and the Iron Spectre, and then the denial begins. 

“Board members do not accept bribes.”

“We would never approve the sanctioning of a mission that would lead our team into a trap. A fake mission! Ridiculous.”

Another stands, apparently so frustrated that he believes several extra centimeters of height will make his words more valid. He’s the first to pin it all to Janus: “You can’t possibly believe the ravings of a mad Aidlean—practically a war criminal!” 

It lasts longer than the story did, so wrapped up in themselves that they barely see her. A single mercenary team hardly matters to the board, but their reputation is everything, even if no one believes it. She lets her feet swing while they talk themselves in circles. 

Eventually, they swing back around to her with accusations. “You must be misremembering. Or perhaps making it up! Is this all to make New Carthage appear innocent?”

She doesn’t answer. She doesn’t have to with the next board member jumping to speak. “Enough! Enough. We all agree this was the Aidleans’ fault. None of us were culpable for this absolute disaster. The Cloak of Olaos is cleared from all charges, and New Carthage will not be held liable.” Taking a breath, she smoothes down the front of her tunic and then sinks down into her chair, hidden once more from Fnippith’s view. “Now, to bring us back to what matters most…what became of the technology you were tasked with finding?”

Fnippith tilts her head back and forth before steepling her fingers. “Like I said…” Eyes locked on the board, she flings her hands out. “Boom.”

Cloak of Olaos: Unmaking – Part 3

Written by: Amanda

“I don’t mean to sound pessimistic,” Fnippith said, peering up at both her captain and lieutenant, “but it does seem like giving up our weapons was a bad call.” The strands of hair peeking out from her hood and lightly tapping against the side of her face were both an annoyance and a reminder. Oaths. Honestly, when was she going to learn to stop making those? It wasn’t an election that kept her with the Cloak of Olaos; it was the two giants looming on either side of her as the Iron Spectre hissed when its airlocks disengaged. 

“We should have the locals loan us a ship,” Farrah muttered. “Get out of here.”

The doors fell open. Weaponless, they exited with the Aidlean crew at their backs.

Heldar lacked the open streets and bright banners of New Carthage. Cobblestone and stained glass livened the city she’d made her home, but this looked like someone colorblind had grabbed brown from the palette and painted the enchanting color everywhere. Mostly dirt. She hoped.

“Fleet Admiral, Captain.” A Qhurothi met them at a crooked gate. Winding paths led to a small cluster of buildings that leaned toward a point. His considerable height overshadowed the Otakkes darting around, shoving at boxes and casting furtive glances toward Janus. “The Board estimated your arrival hours from now, but we do have a room you are free to use. Forgive the mess. We’d intended to have everyone well out of your way, but…I suppose things happen. Schedules aren’t for everyone.”

Fnippith’s mouth twitched at the veiled aggression, before she looked back over her shoulder. The Otakke aboard the Iron Spectre had stayed behind. Where did she know him from? The set of his eyes and the distinct crooked nose, even the way his voice caught hard on certain vowels… It would come to her. She always remembered faces. And names. She just needed to stop thinking about him—usually much easier, but then again, most people didn’t normally go around whispering about planets being destroyed. Not exactly polite conversation.

“You, the small one.” The Qhurothi stepped in Fnippith’s path, while another Otakke’s gaze caught hers and then fell abruptly. “You stay here with him.” He gestured back carelessly to Farrah while a door slammed in their faces, sealing them into a violently multicolored room. Ah, the rest of the palette. They’d trapped it here. “The Aidleans will do their business alone.”

Fnippith traded a glance with Farrah. She could always count on him for this.

He swept forward, casting off the imaginary raincloud that had been haunting him all day. This was what made him interesting—well, in addition to the mines he created. “It’s a bit small but this space will do. Tell me, is it just you I’m entertaining for or is someone else coming in for the show?” 

The Qhurothi’s brow deepened with confusion, mouth hanging open. It shut primly a second later. “No show, Lieutenant Farrah. This isn’t that sort of planet.”

“Allergic to fun, aren’t they all.” He lapped the room, ignoring the Qhurothi keeping pace and trying to urge him to simply take a seat until the negotiations ended. “The stage here. Curtains, of course. Do you have something less drab than…this?” Disdain raised his eyebrow, and he plucked at the bright tapestry on the walls as if it wasn’t an echo of the clothing he normally wore when not in his combat suit. “No, of course not.”

After this, she should remember to get him a present. He’d been eyeing something at the bazaar—the new silks in from Huzhou?

Kelsef! The Otakke from the Iron Spectre. That was his name! Her triumph could only last till she remembered what Kelsef specialized in: the study of alchemical impurities…and their devastating consequences. 

The voices behind the door grew louder; a quick sweep of the room told Fnippith that just down the hallway there were windows mounted high up that probably looked into the room. The phrases she could catch came like a whisper from that direction.

With the Qhurothi’s back turned—his arms out as he tried to rein in the absolute spectacle Farrah was making of himself—Fnippith took a step back and launched herself up the hanging drapery. Worse than the Terran gravity, Heldar’s pull nearly shoved her back to the ground. Her fingers clawed into the fabric. 

The sound started the Qhurothi turning. Fnippith froze.

“I think you have the quality to star in my show,” Farrah asserted, sidestepping into the other’s path. “Really, you’re quite commanding with your presence. Not my assistant, of course, you’d steal focus.”

“I’m not an entertainer, Lieutenant.” The droll answer followed with the Qhurothi turning back to Farrah. Withering stare and all, at least he didn’t see Fnippith climbing her way up the drapes. 

And just one second for a quality check—a quick glance over her shoulder showed a perfect replica of herself still standing where she’d been. Wow, she almost impressed herself. The alchemical reaction necessary buzzed through her combat suit, no longer white-hot or painful these days, but annoying. The bismuth base left metal lingering on her tongue. Later, she was making Silvalinus buy her freshly made makroudhs for this. Any excuse to eat pastries. 

From this vantage point, and with her alchemical double still on the ground for the Qhurothi to now corral back over with Farrah, there was plenty of time to hoist herself up to the window’s ledge and peer inside. Boxes stacked on shelves and tables. They framed the room and left the center empty for the Aidleans to awkwardly stand. More than usual, they hunched over with nowhere to sit, while arguing back and forth. Only Silvalinus stood quieter than the rest.

Below and to her left, five of the Aidlean crew exited. The door banged open, and shook the wall. Fnippith flattened herself as close as possible. Tactical advantage came from surprise, and she generally preferred not to be trapped up a wall. Easy target.

“The rest of our audience!” Farrah crowed from below. In a sudden flurry of confusion, the Aidleans found themselves rounded up by the Terran and pushed into chairs that he’d apparently also liberated from other rooms. She wasn’t exactly sure when he’d found the time, but once he had an idea in his head, he wasn’t easily dissuaded. The surly Qhurothi looked resigned to it by now.

Leaning in to shut out the burgeoning show, Fnippith focused on her captain. 

“As you requested,” Janus said, “even if traitors shouldn’t be making demands. I expected you to grovel, maybe beg for forgiveness. You threw so much away.”

“We’re here to talk about the treaty.”

“I came to see an old friend.” 

Silvalinus drew a rolled paper from the compartment of his ACS that he’d attached for simple storage. He offered it, though made no move to close the space between him and his old fleet admiral. Fnippith squinted. The treaty. “Sign it, Janus, with our terms. This is a good deal for your fleets and for New Carthage.”

“Your terms place all the danger on our shoulders and all the profit to New Carthage.” Janus pushed aside the paper. “I have alternate terms. For our continued protection of the space lane, New Carthage relinquishes the raw azothite fully to me.”

“The azothite remains the property of New Carthage. You will have borrowed use for one space lane’s creation and nothing more.”

Janus smiled, reminding Fnippith of every time Silvalinus refrained to prevent intimidation. Oh, he wanted to intimidate her captain? Well, she’d see about that. “Space lanes mean nothing to me.” A flash echoed over the room. Fnippith blinked. Janus and Silvalinus both remained standing, as if nothing had happened. Okay, after this mission…maybe a nap or five. “This isn’t a request anymore, Captain.”

“Easy! He doesn’t even know how to use it.”

The yell from below jerked Fnippith’s focus. Farrah stood opposite five towering Aidleans, Kelsef at his back. The Otakke bent low—almost hidden by Farrah save for the monstrous weapon that he staggered to keep upright. It took Fnippith a moment to register whose weapon it was: her captain’s. 

Hullbreaker’s laser focused. Built for range, Kelsef wouldn’t even need to aim. He could blow a side of the building clean off. 

Okay…now she was impressed. 

Farrah’s eyes went wide, showing white, and that always meant—


A mine detonated, followed by two more, this time securing to the bottom of the meeting door. With a great groan, it ripped from its hinges and slammed into the ground.

Farrah stood surrounded with her duplicate at his side.

Still hovering above them, Fnippith could only sigh. She really hoped they didn’t die today. 


Silvalinus didn’t have to look to know he would see the members of his team in the now open door; it was harder to decide which of them was responsible for tearing it down. For now, his head did little more than turn, while his hands went through the futile motion of reaching for weapons still aboard the Iron Spectre. 

The accompanying silence ended when Janus laughed. “Well, I suppose they can join in on the negotiations, since we were almost done.” He glanced to his crew, already in motion, and shook his head with a simple, “Wait. You’ve agreed to my terms, haven’t you, Silvalinus?”

His team’s appearance told him enough; Farrah’s eyes had a tendency to bug out when he had been given awful news. Fiddling with something in his hand, the Terran man looked dismayed but resolute, a stranger combination than the usual outright fear when he was forced into possible combat.

“Captain,” Janus said the word like an insult, “your team has already instigated a fight on a political mission. If the treaty doesn’t go through, word will get out that New Carthage threatens its potential allies. Is that the reputation you want for your city?”

Farrah shook his head, and Fnippith stayed suspiciously still. If Silvalinus had been one for taking bets, he would suspect the Otakke was not where she seemed. Well, they weren’t so out of luck after all.

“I should have guessed that you would have no loyalty to New Carthage.” Janus approached, his voice dropping into a raw scratch from deep in his chest. “You were ready to blow apart my ship on sight with that little laser of yours, even knowing that would mean no Aidlean fleet would come near the treaty your magistrate and the Board so desperately wants.”

“You broke the agreement of meeting on neutral ground and stole our weapons.” Ignoring the effort it took to move even a step on this dusty planet, Silvalinus closed the distance between him and his former fleet admiral. “I fight for New Carthage.”

Janus smiled. It took over his face and pushed up at all four of his eyes. “Good. All we need is you to look the other way when the raw azothite goes missing. Blame a failure in transfer. I can destroy a drop ship, if that sells the story better.” Unsurprising and lacking in all imagination, the way he’d always been. Silvalinus met the smile with one of his own until Janus continued. “You’ve looked the other way before, Silvalinus. You remember the group of Qhurothi.”

The meeting room, no better than a storage closet really, fractured into the image of the black ship—faster than any he had ever seen. His almost home once, until the Blue Delta Walkers had come calling for a favor. It wasn’t betrayal. It was a choice…meant to save lives. 

Janus’s obsession with unusual alchemy had brought the entire fleet down on a small planet. Promises of riches had paled next to frightened faces, and all the Blue Delta Walkers had asked was to give them an opening. Look away and let them slip past. The civilians, that was who they had promised to come and save.

His head spun with the memory, a throbbing reminder of the constriction of empty space as he fell from the open hangar. No longer welcome on the Iron Spectre. But it wasn’t the fleet admiral hanging to the ship’s edge that seared his mind with an unshakable memory. Beside him, the lights were not stars. 

The dying flame of Aidlean funeral pods soon left him alone in the dark.

“I’ll make you an admiral again.” Janus’s voice ripped Silvalinus from the horror of gaping mouths and lifeless eyes. “The fleets won’t spit out your name.” He clapped a hand around the shoulder of Silvalinus’s combat suit, like comrades returned to the same side of a war. “Once the treaty is ratified, New Carthage will honor any terms you’ve agreed to, just to avoid a scandal. You have nothing to lose here, friend, and New Carthage will gain.”

An accomplished liar, Silvalinus knew, but still…the thought of no more weight bearing down on every limb, no mores stares from the people who pretended acceptance—or the magistrate derisively commenting on “his people.” Were these his people, then? The Aidlean fleets with their code of honor that bound them to none but their own?

Admiral Silvalinus.

Janus stared back, unwavering. 

“What will you do with the azothite?” 

The admiral released him, reached for his own arm and held it. A strange light traveled like a shockwave over the metal of his suit. The gesture so odd, Silvalinus could only follow it with his gaze, uncomprehending. “Is that a yes, Silvalinus?”

He left for a reason, not just cast from the ship but for a choice. Why couldn’t he remember that choice now? After years of wearily watching New Carthage’s celebrations, grabs for money under the guise of peace—Farrah reached for peaceful resolution to conflict, and the magistrate rejected his research at every turn in favor of weapons development…

“Tell me, Janus,” Silvalinus murmured. “The azothite…and then we can come to terms.”

The whir of machinery built slowly, then reached a crescendo with a crash and a thud. A cry followed, and Silvalinus jerked back to see the Aidlean crew with weapons drawn. Farrah scrambled for a small object thrown onto the ground–nothing more than a coin. Behind him staggered a different Otakke, one Silvalinus didn’t recognize. He did, however, recognize his own weapon, as it nearly dropped to the ground. One of the Iron Spectre’s crew lunged for it. Another hauled Fnippith to her feet. He couldn’t bet on it being a double though, not even now.

If he agreed, Farrah and Fnippith would die. They’d heard the deal Janus had wanted to keep only to his ears.

Silvalinus’s mind cleared instantly. Still an old fool, and Janus had known it.

“The azothite is my concern.” A crew member at his side, handing off his own weapon, Janus raised it in a straight line toward Silvalinus. “Now sign the treaty, and stay aboard the Iron Spectre. We welcome you home, Admiral.” Burning lines of azothite ignited in rapidly spreading patterns across Janus’s combat suit. Silvalinus braced himself for impact, until the pattern spiraled out onto Janus’s face, like a virus that crept down his arms and polluted every clean space. His eyes burned blue. “Sign it, Silvalinus!”

Alarm stiffened the captain. 

From the end of a gun’s strike to her temple, Fnippith fell to the ground. It brought Silvalinus back to himself, his focus on a quick scan of the room. Nothing had changed—no exits save the one where his team lay with the Aidleans towering above them. 

In seconds, Janus’s body began to crack and split. A flash circled the room, and two of him snapped back into one. His haggard breath grew louder. In one hand, his knuckles paled with a death grip over a small box. In another, he held a longsword, lit with the strange alchemical reaction. It became two, and with the supernatural speed shared only by his ship, Janus advanced forward. One of him. Three. He shot back to himself, becoming whole while his voice cracked with raw power: “Do not make this a fight you cannot win.”