Cloak of Olaos: Unmaking – Part 2

Written by: Amanda

The lull in the debriefing left Silvalinus time to study his team. A political mission never guaranteed a peaceful one.

Fnippith sat on the floor, adjusting the settings on her combat suit before switching to admiring the grenade launcher with a dozen new prototype mines from Farrah. Fnippith’s grin made Silvalinus certain of her happy trigger finger, which had a tendency to fly off at random times even without new technology to experiment with. 

The Terran performer, however, was nothing like his usual self. He’d locked himself firmly into his seat, piloting the ship while Silvalinus walked through the parameters of their mission. Where jabs at his captain’s severity would normally be, he held his tongue, staring out into deep space and the streams of light that lingered in the paths of the space lane they’d acquired permission to travel. 

“Are we all clear on the terms?” Silvalinus asked, piquing immediate attention from Fnippith who cocked the grenade launcher back over her shoulder, testing its balance with the new mines before flipping it forward into her other waiting hand. “Fnippith?” It always took a couple tries to get her reply. Farrah should have spoken by now.

“No weapons, no fighting—only talking and signing.” Clearly satisfied by her weapon, she finally set it aside. “Say we convince them to sign the treaty, does that mean we can take our ship anywhere we want once the space lane opens? There’s a planet south of Heldar by like…” Her voice lowered to a mumble, as if he wouldn’t hear her or consider the journey’s length, “…just a couple lightyears…and I heard from Asha—you know, the Qhurothi down by the city bazaar, with the remedies shop—anyway, she says there’s been talk of a transformative agent, like an accelerated variant of azothite that provides temporary effects at higher volume.” 

Her voice rose in pitch as she continued; it was amazing how long one person could talk, and the Otakke rivaled most. Silvalinus drew her attention back with a tap of his hand on the console stretched in front of him before switching the ship back to his control. 

From his right eye, he saw Farrah stiffen. The Terran drew a round object from his ACS, slowly coaxing it over his knuckles with a wave of his fingers, like it might have the power to explode and take them all with it. Not what Silvalinus wanted to see—restless energy never made for a smooth mission. They all knew that from experience. 

“The base on Heldar accepted the board’s request to be neutral ground for the negotiations,” Silvalinus said; if Farrah wanted to stew in silence over their orders, then he could. They had time, at least a span of half a day, before they would dock. “Show of good faith, no weapons once boots touch ground.”

Fnippith’s long ears twitched. She hid her annoyance well from those who didn’t know her.

“And the pirates? We’re trusting them to just hand their weapons over?” Farrah asked.

The pressure of a freefall into space, an immense emptiness beyond his combat suit, crept up in the back of Silvalinus’s mind. He forced a chuckle. “We trust they want the raw azothite New Carthage is offering.”

Lights in the pressurized cabin flickered. The ship’s hull shuddered as if struck, and Fnippith, still seated on the ground, shot a hand out to stop from slamming into the wall. A brief quiet followed. “Meteor debris?”

The question drowned in an onslaught of groans from the ship, like an animal in pain as the azothite woven through their ship activated. 

Of course. Silvalinus should have guessed. A neutral meeting place? It really had been too long since he’d been face-to-face with his former fleet admiral, and the reminder of who they were dealing with came with tightening along Silvalinus’s arms—the azothite in his ACS seizing. Whatever trick this was, it would run their ship into the next planet they passed. Janus had always had an affinity for strange inventions. 

From behind him, he heard Fnippith snatch the grenade launcher from where it began to float away. No artificial gravity. The weightlessness was right; it was freedom, and he pushed from his chair, long arms grabbing hold of the railings he’d hammered into the ship himself. They carried him past Farrah wrestling for control of the spiraling ship. 

Hullbreaker hung on the far wall. The alchemically enhanced laser could tear apart a ship. Janus would remember, and grimly, Silvalinus smiled as he broke the cabin’s pressure to leverage open the ship’s hatch, activating his ACS while ordering his team to do the same. 

He launched himself up, breaking into open space. The chaos inside the Brokerage-issued vessel disappeared. The galaxy stretched in all directions—endless, suffocating, and ignoring, ignoring, ignoring it all. His boots activated, the enhanced magnetic pull yanking him back to the ship. Anchored, he lifted Hullbreaker. 

New Carthage needed this treaty. According to the magistrate. This treaty would die with a single trigger pull, and he would scrawl in an almost empty record log about his failures as captain. Perhaps the Cloak of Olaos would no longer be his future…but his team at least would have a future.

Now, all he needed was a target.

The ship quaked beneath Silvalinus. 

In the vacuum of space, a presence loomed at his right—gone, and then to his left. He turned, chasing shadows and pointless mirages until black swallowed their ship whole. This again. Always with the dramatic show, and now, Hullbreaker fell useless to his side. The engine propelling them along the space lane sputtered and cut without a sound. Everything out here was always curiously silent. 

Around them, the nothingness shifted, snapped with color and shook; his boots disengaged and he jumped to the void. Invisible ground stopped him; the stench of metal in the air burned like a memory. 

Not in space anymore, but he dreaded this more. Terran flies and the magistrate’s incessant prattling would be far better. 

“Captain,” a voice rumbled out of view. “Ah, and your team. Welcome, Silvalinus, Fnippith, and an entertainer!”


“It’s Fleet Admiral,” the Aidlean admonished, not even a shadow in the black of his ship’s hull. “Welcome to the Iron Spectre.”


The small object lay useless in Farrah’s palm. A simple push at its edges could activate it. The potential drowned out the voice of the Aidlean taunting them from outside their own ship. He knew them all by name–well, Fnippith and Silvalinus, at least. Entertainer was all Farrah got, but he’d been called worse before.

This Aidlean? This fleet? Silvalinus had turned his back on them for a reason, hadn’t he? They couldn’t even follow the simple terms the board established.

“Let’s go!” Fnippith said, appearing at his shoulder, a hand latched onto the rail above the pilot’s seat. “…What’s that?”

Farrah’s hand closed over the coin before fitting it beneath the plating of his ACS. “Good luck charm.”

The Qhurothi said to activate it when any critical information might be shared, if he chose to right New Carthage’s path. Now wasn’t the time. His captain wouldn’t go through with this treaty. Silvalinus was an Aidlean, but he was no pirate, and he’d left this behind him. 

The mines manufactured with a preview of the Qhurothi’s money gave Farrah the confidence to climb the ship’s ladder up to the hatch. Fnippith raced ahead—to be perfectly dramatic, he’d kill for her confidence. Or was she just not aware they might be about to die? Yeah, that seemed more likely. She must have missed the black ship building impossible speed until it overtook them. A thing of metal could not disappear without a trace, and yet, it had shuttered from existence with a flash only to reappear far from its vanishing point. Close enough to open its own hatch and engulf their small vessel.

A ghost ship. Were all rumors true then?

“This wasn’t the agreement,” Silvalinus said, out of sight. “The board sanctioned Heldar as neutral ground.”

Fnippith still had the grenade launcher in hand, suddenly free floating in dead air. Her cloak fanned out, just long enough for Farrah to grab hold of the ship’s edge and snatch her back from wherever she might drift off toward. They hung against the hull. 

Down below lines of azothite-activated metal set off a dull glow. Silvalinus stood in the center. Angry or stoic. It was always hard to tell with him, but especially with his back turned, and the hulking weight of the ACS hiding his head almost entirely. The rest of the ship was shrouded in heavy black.

It was simple. End this insanity now. That was all Silvalinus had to do, and Farrah knew he would do it; Silvalinus believed in the Cloak, believed in unification, and even believed in Farrah’s research.

With no free hand to grab a mine and throw—and no gravity to ensure his projectile landed where he wanted—Farrah held back, his lungs tightening before he realized the oxygen regulators in his suit were failing, the rest of his ACS glitching to follow the pattern of the ghost ship’s walls.

Fnippith tapped against the side of his suit. It whirred back to life while the shaking of the ship beneath them finally stilled. The tinkering Otakke reappeared in his vision, flashing an OK with her fingers before gesturing down. Whatever she’d done to his suit, his lungs filled with renewed air, and he nodded. The mine he knew she wanted would help them see what they were up against in the dark belly of the ship, if nothing else.

Fnippith’s eyes scrunched up, evidence of a grin hidden behind the scarf covering the lower half of her face. A tug at his belt told him she’d grabbed the shock mine. A dramatic name, but a simple tool. She didn’t find them fun enough to stock in her grenade launcher. 

A thunk followed a high-pitched whistle. The spinning mine soon erupted, and the Iron Spectre flooded with light. Aidleans hung from every side and crevice of the ship, as if nothing within had set direction. No up, no down, left or right. Only one oddity mixed among them, an Otakke with eyes gleaming and focused. He scuttled along toward the Cloak’s ship, scrambling for purchase, seemingly foreign to the gravity-less space. The rest of the crew turned to Silvalinus.

“And they ordered no weapons, yet here your team is.” The fleet admiral hung from the siding too, not standing like Farrah first thought, and neither was Silvalinus. The captain moved with ease through the strange ship, closer to the threat: Janus.

“Release our ship and let us dock, conduct this meeting peaceably.”

Fleet Admiral Janus. The name alone evoked a two-headed beast, and Farrah wondered if the imagery would be lost on a man who likely only cared for battle. Wasn’t that what the Aidlean fleets were? Warmongers. His skin crawled, and the open hatch down into their ship tempted him. They could blow a hole through the Iron Spectre and escape out of it. This treaty was doomed from the start.

“The entertainer can keep his toys, of course,” Janus said, waving one of his four hands to a member of his crew. “The rest, we’ll need.”

“Toys?” The outraged cry came from Fnippith now struggling to shove off from the ship and use the lack of gravity to her advantage. Farrah wrested her back, hissing for her silence, while she loudly protested. Reason upon reason were muttered under a bitter breath. “These are state-of-the art technology! Do they realize how rare it is to find development like this in something without azothite? Toys?!” 

“We will surrender our weapons to the denizens of Heldar,” Silvalinus said. It was almost admirable the unshakeable focus that refused to bend, not even to look at the member of his team stewing over a slight.

This was just a show, Farrah knew. The Aidleans wanted to prove they were in charge of this meeting and its terms. Intimidation, and a shoddy attempt…ignoring, of course, the slight shake of Farrah’s legs. He hoped no one noticed. It was Silvalinus’s show too, though. They didn’t realize the captain had no intention of agreeing to this treaty.

The chuckle from the fleet admiral set the hair on the back of Farrah’s neck on end. “It is good to see you, Silvalinus, and welcome an old traitor back into our ranks.”

Carelessly said, the word brought Farrah’s gaze sharply to his captain, just in time to see the surrounding crew of Aidleans closing in. They waited for their admiral’s orders, while the giant ship lurched and flashed with odd lights spiraling like veins through the metal. Farrah’s ACS gave an answering groan.

A hand reached out, approaching from behind their ship. Farrah flinched, already reaching for a mine until a small Otakke face peered up. Right, the oddity. He’d made it through the webs of Aidleans to cling to the edge of the Cloak’s vessel, eyes dark and pleading before darting around, as if ready for a large hand to yank him back. Janus droned on, nearly covering the Otakke’s whisper: “Please…find it before it destroys the planet…”

Farrah’s brow furrowed, pulling Fnippith back from the ominous words. This was a trap, no doubt, set by Janus. They couldn’t trust one of his crew.

Fnippith wriggled free and lunged for the small paper the Otakke held up. She floated for a second, perfectly content in knowing that Farrah would grab for her again and keep her from drifting off. He wouldn’t. Gah, of course he would. He grabbed hold and pulled her in, just in time to watch her unfold the small scrap of paper. Half the page of a scientific journal, it looked like. Even ripped on one edge, it was an unmistakable but unremarkable box, carvings along its sides with a gear set to the right corner. 

“My crew will see us down to Heldar,” Janus said. “Now surrender your weapons.”

The Otakke’s gleaming eyes flashed with alarm. “…like it already did to him.”

Cloak of Olaos: Unmaking – Part 1

Written by: Amanda

“This was not your mission, not your orders!” The raised voice echoes from the walls, a judgement from above in a chamber empty save for a lone table and the platform beside it. The Brokerage Board hovers like gnarled trees that have little function but to block the light. It leaves Silvalinus in the shadow beneath them. “Was it not clear that your job, as captain, is to ensure that death does not occur on your watch unless we order it? And so many…”

The chair only barely large enough to accommodate his frame, it groans beneath him when he shifts. “Necessity,” Silvalinus answers, for the thousandth time, his eyes straying from the back to the cracked door along the wall where a tiny face gleams. Fnippith, always listening where she shouldn’t. Her best trait.

A board member coughs in the following silence. 

“Inadequate,” another asserts. “It’s time you elaborated, Captain. What happened on Heldar?”

Their words irritate like Terran flies. No one ever warns newcomers about the flies.

A story seems no more adequate than simple truth, but waiting eyes suggest it’s the only way for this wretched meeting to end—the best reason he can find to carve out the patience for more politics: “New Carthage’s magistrate came to me two weeks ago.”

The small Terran often moved rather like a bird that had forgotten it had wings or the capability of flight. A waddle that forced a path with swinging, awkward steps to make up for his threadbare frame. Odd…and wildly unthreatening.

Silvalinus refrained from a sigh at the sight of the city’s highest elected official, always here for another favor. He’d learned forcing a smile to placate the mood of Terrans often had the opposite effect between his four eyes and larger teeth. Instead, he greeted the magistrate with a nod. It was enough to launch the small man into his rambling speech.

“Ah, Captain, Captain, I’ve had a wonderful thought.” His little hand patted Silvalinus’s forearm, earning a slow glance down from the Aidlean. “Already spoken with the Board, and they’re thrilled.” The magistrate waited, earned no response, and continued to wait—admirable patience.

“How can I help New Carthage, Magistrate?” 

“This is exactly why we elected you, Captain, always so eager to help the city.” The magistrate beamed, gesturing for Silvalinus to walk with him through the broad streets, like a tour guide waiting at the docking stations to introduce new arrivals to the city.

With pressure from the Terran gravity forced on his limbs, Silvalinus dragged himself onward as the small man continued. 

“We’ve decided to extend a hand of peace to your people.” The magistrate nimbly stepped over a break in the cobblestone path, oblivious to Silvalinus’s struggle to keep pace. 

“New Carthaginians are my people.”

“Of course, of course, but your other people. You’re a practical man, Captain. Ah, Aidlean, I mean. You must understand the tactical advantage in making strides toward an arrangement with Aidlean forces.”

The weight on his chest too much to speak and walk, Silvalinus stopped. “A trade agreement? I’m afraid you may be overestimating their interest in—”

“A space lane, Captain!” the magistrate interrupted. “One created and controlled by New Carthage.” Gleeful eyes narrowed as he stepped in closer, lowering his voice but raising up on his toes to cast the whisper up to waiting ears. “You don’t have to tell me the Neo-European Empire and others would immediately invade. No respect for anyone else, really. But we have the azothite stores to create the lane…and the Aidleans…” He trailed off and exaggerated brows raised.

Silvalinus blinked, the action almost painfully slow, before it occurred to him the man wanted him to guess at the intention. For dramatic reasons, Silvalinus could only assume. “You’d like the Aidlean fleet to defend the lane.”

“Of course they will. They’ve got considerable fighting power in their ships.” He smiled. “It would be an unheard of achievement, Captain—a considerable notch in your belt. We would be the first truly Terran city to be a hub of intergalactic trade. Think of it…direct access to us, not being routed through gods only know where only for someone else to take a cut of our profits.”

“But to use raw azothite as a bargaining chip… The fleets of Aidlean ships operate under a different code, Magistrate.” Pirates, some called them… Silvalinus knew more than most, and the thought of New Carthage signing on for an alliance with an Aidlean fleet made his teeth grind. “They’ll create your lane and a thousand others to take them across—”

Again, the small man couldn’t contain his words long enough to listen: “Captain, I hear your concerns, but we have the perfect partner in sealing this deal.” Again, the small hand entered his space and rested on his arm. Silvalinus braced himself. “You are Aidlean,” the magistrate said, as if this was earth-shattering information. Again, missing the point. As always. “Maybe others would have trouble with this deal, but you, Captain, it will be simple for you to get them to agree to our terms. Purely a political mission. We can’t have anyone saying New Carthage attacks its would-be allies. We are the city of peace and unification.” He brandished his smile once more. “And soon, intergalactic trade.”

“Magistrate, I really must caution you.“

“Certainly,” the man said, “but the Brokerage Board has already connected us to the perfect Aidlean fleet.”

In his patience, a silence of almost a minute passed until Silvalinus relented in a murmur, “Who?”

“Fleet Admiral Janus.”

No expression crossed his face; Silvalinus stared, unblinking, and nearly without breathing. A ship encroached like a shadow in his own mind, black as the surrounding sky closing in on him. Air gasped as the hangar lock disengaged. It fell back into empty space…and he fell with it.

“Captain?” a voice echoed from beside him. “Do you remember your old fleet admiral?”

A face locked in a sneer fades from his mind, and Silvalinus levies a stare at the hovering Board. The way they wait, as if ready to devour him for a wrong word said, sets a twitch to his trigger finger. Of course, his weapon was confiscated on entry. 

“I did what was necessary for New Carthage.”

In the echoing silence, he doubts they care.


Do they think they intimidate him? Farrah stands, refusing the offered seat. When he entered, they tried to insist, but now they brood grumpily on their own chairs—albeit they’re sitting pretty on a stage, neatly spotlighted with a ring of candles that hang from the wall behind them, a backlight that shadows their faces. Really, back in his performance days, he would’ve hired the architect of this disaster on the spot. They want to make him feel small. 

He straightens his shoulders and meets the stares he can’t see with an easy grin. “Lovely as ever, Your Honors. Really, the lights are a brilliant touch. New robes?” The worst kind of audience: a bored one. “Well, if there’s no questions, I suppose I’ll just begin…or is the silence meant to be a lesson?”

They haven’t spoken in minutes, but this was his captain’s orders, and for the sake of the past, perhaps Silvalinus is owed this. Talk to the Brokerage Board. Gods, Farrah would sooner talk to a wall. At least walls can be useful. All the board can do is hand out orders and play at being impartial, as if they don’t double deal in the dark and sell their services like everyone else.

This is their fault. Don’t they realize? He could make them burn for it, them and the magistrate…but it would mean burning his captain too. His shoulders stiffen on the spot. The Qhurothi had been right before, and perhaps this is it: the hard choice.

He clears his throat, and it bounces from the ceiling like a thrown voice; if they were trying for intimidation, they should have picked someone easily cowed. “Then from the start—“

“Lieutenant,” a board member says, “we think it best you submit your report in writing.”

“Ah, and Fnippith too?”

“Send the Otakke in after you.”

His lips tighten, fighting to find a humorless grin, while running a small device over his knuckles—no larger than a coin but intricately woven with metal, simple at first glance but something so much more. Poison is child’s play. This is true danger, and he finds it fitting to brandish it in plain sight, as if the act is rebellion when he can’t even decide if he should use what it contains. “Explain to me the difference between my account and hers.” He tilts his head and adds a jaded, “Your honors. No, no, of course, I understand, she’s brilliant.”

The device catches the candlelight. It lands evenly in his palm, and his hand cinches into a fist. The Brokerage Board has no interest in this. Oh, they would if they knew what it contained, but that is between Farrah and the waiting Qhurothi stranger. He’d met her only weeks ago.

The crowded hall fluttered with loose banners, muted golds and silvers, as if metal didn’t run every other piece of their life that it bore featuring in their decorations too. Farrah moved between small clusters of visiting dignitaries, brokers, and promoters, most of them giving casual words, asking after his team’s latest mission. 

Had he heard the song written? He came off rather well. Heroic, some might say. Oh, no, no, he’d never heard it. He certainly wasn’t the one who wrote it. 

He worked through the room, casually directing conversations around to the latest feats performed on the battlefield—only possible because of his own inventions: his mines. Interest was a funny flame to try and light, especially when asking for funding, but it went well enough in crowds like these. He baited a few possible donors before a Qhurothi stepped in his path.

“Apologies, miss, I must’ve gotten in your way.”

She stood in the swirling chaos of laughter, unaffected by those stumbling into them, like she existed somewhere else entirely. In fact, she smiled. The scars on her face gave him pause; what exactly did someone have to do to acquire scars like those? “One of the Cloak. I’m quite lucky.”

“Oh? You’ve heard songs recently, I take it?”

“Not quite. A proposal of yours crossed my desk. Unfortunately, it was a cast-off from the magistrate’s office.”

His eyes narrowed before he could smooth away his irritation. “Well, not everyone sees the value of technology that doesn’t require azothite…or any weapon that’s sole purpose isn’t to kill.” 

“It’s a shame. I would like to see New Carthage living up to its ideals.”

“Exactly!” The words broke like a drizzle turned into downpour. Around them, the bustle continued, and the Qhurothi’s smile never wavered. “I just mean, it’s a day I look forward to: New Carthage setting aside traditional combat for something more in line with who we are. The Cloak of Olaos should be a call to something better than the rest of the mercenary teams.”

With a low hum, she fixed the ends of her sleeves, drawing them down over more scarred skin. “That would take a magistrate who believes in unification.”

The brazen words struck Farrah silent. 

“Anyone could see his choices lack direction…and sense. He’s a simple man, and combat is a direct path. Smarter choices, sounder choices that will bring our city success aren’t always so clear…or easy.”

Her words were an echo of a thousand rants he’d forced Fnippith to listen to while she waited to have her turn to ramble about something he didn’t care about next. 

“Choices like…”

“Preventing a mistake that could ruin us,” she said. “The magistrate wants to partner with an Aidlean fleet, even giving them the power to create space lanes. Accelerating destruction, if you ask me, giving a fleet the power to travel swiftly wherever they like.” 

Farrah’s mouth opened. Twice, three times before he found his voice and laughed. “Even the magistrate would never make a deal with an Aidlean fleet. They’d sooner take over than partner with anyone.” He turned from her, the rest of the room waiting with coin purses ready to be opened for donation to his project. That was what mattered, not her. Really, he meant to leave, but he couldn’t resist a grin back over his shoulder. “I thought you were rational, but rumors? That’s what concerns you? I also heard rumors that a ghost ship is haunting the lanes just past New Carthaginian skies. Would you like me to find a priest and order an exorcism of the heavens?”

With a slow smile, the Qhurothi reached out, placing a steel and copper bonded coin in his hand. “It’s rudimentary, new technology, and totally devoid of azothite. I believe there is value in research like ours, Farrah, and I would be interested in funding yours.”

He should have realized sooner: she was a promoter. “But first, you want something.” The coin pinched between his index finger and thumb, he studied it from every angle. Fnippith would be sent into frenzied excitement at the thought of breaking this open and learning its secrets. “What does it do?”

“It captures a voice inside. I want you to use it to save New Carthage.” 


“And then he came to the left, right here, but at an angle so it made it hard to take him out at the knees—plus if he fell right then, he might’ve squashed necessary people.” The chair sits too tall, leaving the Otakke’s feet swinging while she talks, not bothering to even glance in the direction of the Brokerage Board. Half hidden by the assorted findings she liberated from the building that no longer needed it, Fnippith scrawls a near-perfect map across the wooden tabletop. 

A board member interrupts with a stuttering, “Fnippith, ah, that is—perhaps paper could be found—“ while another insists something about “Starting from the beginning.”

“Then everything shakes,” Fnippith continues, “like an earthquake focused only on one building.” Her hands clasp the table’s edge to give it a hard rattle. “Of course, mines start exploding, but then a flash!”

“Fnippith!” It’s a chorus of voices.

She stops, lifting her head finally. Hm. Way up there, they look less scary than how Farrah always makes them sound—just little bugs, talking at her with a hivemind voice: “The beginning.”

“Oh. Why didn’t you say so before?” So much wasted time, and now she has to talk about the boring part. With her palm, she taps the table, speaking slowly since they apparently can’t pay attention. “So, we were at Heldar with the Iron Spectre’s crew–”

“Further back,” a board member interrupts. “The smallest details may be the most important. Your captain’s logs were unclear about a number of things that went wrong.”

Pushing back her hood with a sigh, Fnippith eyes the shadowed figures. One, three…seven—and one she knows instantly. He’s off to the side, like he doesn’t want to be mistaken as a friend of anyone else, and even though he’s half-hidden by the glare of the lights behind them, it’d be hard to forget the peculiar cut of his clothes. They’re colorful, and he had refused to tell her where he got them, which was just rude.

“Broker Dereon came to me with the mission.”

“To you?” The woman closest to Dereon looks to him, a small shift in her posture changing the way the light falls and the only reason Fnippith can tell she’s moved at all. “That breaks standard procedure.”

The light dances over the table as all the board members turn. Dereon clears his throat, uneasy and not hiding it well. Poor Dereon. Wait, no…rude non-sharers get no sympathy. He has good taste in clothes, though.

“He asked me to get the board something on the mission,” Fnippith says, now doodling again on the table, the only empty space left on the upper right corner. Definitely worth standing in her chair to reach the space. It’s too long, still, so she stretches while talking. “Tech that multiplies objects when they’re exposed to it. He said it got stolen from you, and that it…” Her voice deepens while mimicking him, “‘Puts us all at risk.’”

Whispers break out among the board. Fnippith raises up higher, trying to catch a word or two. Useless, but the board grows louder the more they argue. 

“We agreed on the performer!”

“You said he wouldn’t manage it.”

“I said if it went badly, we wouldn’t answer to New Carthage over his dea—“

An abrupt quiet swallows up the room, as if the entire board remembers suddenly that Fnippith is seated in the room, staring up at them with a smile.

Dereon clears his throat again, as Terrans do when uncomfortable. She’d learned that ages ago. “And after you received this mission…?”

Fnippith’s hands tent out in an invisible explosion before she slashes an x on the map. “That happened,” she says, as if every question is now answered.

Packaging Art!

After an unexpected hiatus, we’re back with more art.

You know Murphy; you start planning some huge release and suddenly everything that you thought was chugging along fine is on fire–not blazing, mind you; little fires. Campfires, really. You still have to deal with them, however. The end result is a bunch of progress, feelings of success, and not burning down the forest–I’ll call that a win.

Liery hasn’t been fed today. If that sounds like a warning, it is.

Packaging Art!

It’s real! It’s really real. That logo just pops so nicely, don’t you think?

The ‘squad’ boxes will come with these lovely beauties slapped on the front. They will be available at Adepticon, as well as on our affiliate’s webstore:

We collectively had another “… we’re actually doing this?” moment, staring at the long list of pre-convention needs along side these. I have an ever-increasing appreciation for the sheer hours of work it takes to organize publication and printing. It’s not my first rodeo, but it is the first time my stake was so personal, you know? I’m simultaneously beaming with parental pride and screaming in fear of what I am undertaking and creating.

Character Art!

Farrah Saygh, Cloak of Olaos Lieutenant

Art by Cameron Nissen.

Do you think he has enough mines?

I don’t.

Of course, these are just his patented shock mines. Farrah tends not to bring around his other toys when on assignment with Fnippith–it’s just safer that way.

This officially rounds out the character concept pieces for all of the Squad 1 designs! Next week, we’ll have some Squad 2 characters to show you.

Everyone’s Favorite Murder-Monster

Sculpted by Aaron Ruiz.

Doesn’t she look friendly?

A couple people have asked how could she possibly still have hearing after firing those badboys once or twice. Answer: she’s an alchemically-altered supersoldier from the Argent Palisades, and they have access to some of the best doctors and alchemists in the Neo-European Empire–you think they can’t compensate for a little bit of tinnitus?

Actual answer: space magic.

I’m such a fan of her expression. “A Mercenary is coming to help us! I bet she’s friendly. Oh, she just–ooh, ohh. Hey, that’s a bit–oof, I’m pretty sure he needed those limbs…Not anymore.” Not very friendly, no.

Wrapping Up

This week, we’ll be posting Part 1 of a long-form story written by Amanda. She’s dived headfirst into a complicated mission undertaken by the Cloak of Olaos–Silvalinus, Farrah, and Fnippith (collectively called the Sword of Carthage, *winkwink nudgenudge*). Choices are made, explosions occur, and cuteness ensues.

Check back tomorrow for the first section!

Convention Plans!

Oh, hey; fun fact: we’re live on’s exhibitors and sponsors page. That’s exciting.

Look forward to that Swag Bag, my friends. We’ll be posting our booth location on here, as well as on our Facebook page the week of the convention. We’ll also be announcing our Convention Deals ahead of time–and, of course, have our Convention Exclusive Elizabeth Radcliffe model available.

Liery is looking forward to Chicago–especially the food.


Remi Dubois, Blood of Croatoa Specialist

Remi is a big boy.

This was a design challenge for the writers and the artist–who, as usual, did a fantastic job of translating my inane babbling. We wanted the ‘moon curse’ to be gross, obviously unnatural, and not just a one-to-one werewolf analogue. There’s just enough of the original human left to make it an unsettling sight, without directly relying on more common horror-tropes to convey the feeling.

In terms of gameplay, I’m excited to see the sculpted model on the table. Staring down that big claw will make Remi a constant threat on the board in a way that a piece of tape on a 50mm base just doesn’t convey.

Design Updates

Wave 1

We have a few more weeks of playtesting planned for all Wave 1 content–which includes Squads 1 and 2 for the first four factions and six Broker Agent profiles. At this point, the model profiles are more or less finalized. We’re still tinkering down the minutia of equipment and a few of the more problematic upgrades.

Layout design for the character cards and tokens is well underway–and man, I can’t wait to show them to all of you. When the game launches, printable versions of both will be made available for free. The fancy versions will be available through our store and through our partner affiliates.

The digital rulebook is undergoing edits, reformatting for clarity and ease of use, and general screaming (me). By the official launch of Wave 1, both it and a Quick Start document will available for free download. Unless something goes horribly wrong, it will should be available for preview at Adepticon as well.

Wave 2

The second release wave will introduce a ton of new content. Two new factions, additional characters for existing factions, new upgrades and equipment (including a new type), and will officially introduce our character Broker Agents–including some based on designs submitted by our lovely playtesters, and not all of which are Human.

We’re a long way off from revealing too much about the second release wave, but the designs are coming along strongly! You can expect to see story previews of the new characters before too much longer while we finish up the character introductions for the Squad 2 characters. In fact, you’ve already met Agent Parker…

Wrapping Up

Short and sweet today! Look forward to introduction stories this week for the Blood of Croatoa Squad 2 characters–Okwaho, Billie Derringer, and little J.J.

Until next time, we’re marching towards a game existing! Hit us up on Facebook with questions regarding our beta program and how you can get involved!

Eevi out.

Promoters: Intrigue and Complications, Part 2

Finishing up the political backstabbery–for now.

All hail the Goopcat.

Liery, our friend in the goop, asks that you join him today.

In the goop.


Blue Delta Walkers Agent

One person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist.

The Blue Delta’s are insurgents; that’s a plain fact. They act, often violently, counter to the wishes of the Qhurothi Hegemony. In the outermost reaches of Hegemony space, as is often the case, however, the Blue Delta’s are heroes. When the Hegemony abandons your colony to the plague or opts not to commit military resources to repulse pirate raids–Aidlean or otherwise–the iconic Null-Pressure Environment Fighter-crafts employed by the disenfranchised soldiers of the organization (often Hegemony deserters) are your only hope for rescue.


The bulk of the Blue Delta agents have retreated well beyond the Black Line, fighting daily to deal with whatever horrible fate lead the Hegemony to pull back its assets. What few operatives and agents remain near Terran space have simple aims: disrupt the Hegemony, find allies, and stall any attempts to gain full control of the asteroid–by anyone. As long as galactic attentions remain centered around Terra Prime, the threat of discovery by the Aidleans or the Hegemony’s spies is greatly diminished.

The retrieval of technology, resources, and medical assets is also a high priority. It’s not unheard-of for doctors making friends with a Qhurothi passing through suddenly go missing–especially if they’ve dabbled in viral studies.


Despite their lofty, humanitarian aims, the Blue Delta’s are well-known for horrible acts of violence, destruction, and death. I suppose that’s what happens when you anger a bunch of soldiers and pilots enough to make them desert en masse–they use the training they were given.

The main fighting force of the Blue Deltas are engaged in anti-piracy actions along the outer-reaches of the Hegemony’s space. They protect isolate colonies as best they can from space-based threats, while their agents work to defend the colonists from planetary threats–as well as the threat of plague.

Each ‘Wing’ operates entirely on its own. In theory, the organization has a leadership structure, but where and who have yet to be determined.

Gameplay in STARFALL: AoM™

When it comes to the Initiative, however, they hedge their bets–after all, they have at least one agent within its ranks; it wouldn’t fit their creed to get their own killed. Taking payment from the Blue Delta’s means sabotage, interrupting the Broker’s plans, and retrieving vital information. Just don’t ask what they plan to do with it, if you want to live long enough to spend your pay.

N.E.E. Inquisitor

Does it actually surprise you that the Neo European Empire employs inquisitors?

It’s more of a military rank than any sort of secret or covert organization. The inquisitors maintain order and compliance within the ranks, punish lawbreakers, and remove dissidents from power–all entirely within public view. Ostensibly, they keep out of civilian affairs.

Of course, ‘civilian affairs’ is such a nebulous term, isn’t it?


The total domination of Terra Prime and all of its–

I mean.

The inquisitors serve the peoples of the N.E.E. and carry out the orders of the Father-Knight himself. What they do, they do for the people–just not ‘all’ peoples. The Mercenary Initiative is a great platform to spread their influence and improve galactic perceptions of the Terran home world. What better way to gain footholds on other worlds and obtain technology and contacts to empower the greatest empire to have ever existed?


Captains often fall prey to the simplistic trap of ‘plausible deniability.’ Working for the inquisitors means knowing that some greater game is afoot–but, you don’t know what, and you won’t have to know unless things go horribly wrong. Do your job, get paid, go home.

They aren’t as clever as the Hegemony, neither are they as ruthless as the Angels, nor as resourceful as the Blue Deltas. It’s their dauntless tenacity that sets the inquisitors apart from the other Promoters influencing the Brokerage board. Even if you fail, they won’t.

Gameplay in STARFALL: AoM™

Working for an Inquisitor means saying “yessir” and not asking additional questions. You will plant this device at X location. You will defend our designated asset. You will return and report back in full. Then, you get paid. It’s straightforward and easy; surely even you can handle that, eh?

Just don’t mess it up.

Wrapping up

Check back Saturday for more information on the beta program, and the introduction to the members of the Blood of Croatoa’s Squad 2!

Promoters: Intrigue and Complications, Part 1

What intergalactic political agency dictating the whims and woes of a paramilitary-mercenary organization would be complete without bureaucratic backstabbery?

At least one of the Promoters represented in this two-part series works for the Goopcat Supreme.

Archangelus Speaker

It’s a lofty title, to be sure.

The Archangelus Speakers represent the various factions within the Angels–a covert group controlled by the Brokers directly. At the moment, they are seemingly unified in their actions and requests, pushing the various Companies to hold the Board’s interests over all else.


Non-Terran interference with the Board’s dealings is an unacceptable factor. Long-term, the Angels are working towards Terran autonomy in its own interests, particularly where mining of the Azothite asteroid are involved.

Note, they are not “Human-centric.” The Angels are comprised of many species, all of whom have made Terra Prime their home for multiple generations. Qhurothi, Otakke, Aidlean, Tsurrech, Ulorruu, and Humans work together under the banner of “Terra First” regardless of their ancestral backgrounds.


Of the currently available Promoters, the Angels are by far the most subtle. They opt for secrecy, spies–cloak-and-dagger operations. They have members in the ranks of the Initiative itself, and are not afraid to make sacrifices to further their own aims.

Outside the missions of the Initiative, the Angels employ assassination, sabotage, blackmail, and wide-scale destruction just short of colony-wide genocide when they deem it necessary. Of course, the members of the Board know nothing of their actions, though they are glad to have such a powerful organization at their disposal.

Gameplay in STARFALL: AoM™

Right now, the Initiative is still relatively young in its operations. The Angels don’t want to disrupt the growth of what could be their most powerful tool in pursuing their mantra of “Terra First.”

Working for the Angels means subtlety, observation, and dealing just a little bit of wide-spread damage. They’ll ask you to report on your missions, detail the nature of any opposed squads or governments or organizations. They’ll reward you for engaging in light combat–they need to see how effective their ACS-equipped mercenary soldiers are, after all.

Hegemony Representative

Let’s be honest: is anyone surprised that the Hegemony directly interferes with your missions?

I thought not.


The Hegemony seeks what it always has: control over all azothite dealings in their region of space–“their region” being loosely defined at any given point.

With so many other spacefaring species involving themselves, they were unable to wrest ownership of the asteroid away for themselves only. Manipulating the Board seemed like a perfect alternative–they gain the benefits of an ‘impartial’ military force to aid their outlying colonies, and get to appear magnanimous is aiding the development of the human-species.


In short: yes.

As a whole, the Hegemony strives for peaceful resolution, mutual growth and benefit, and the protection of its people and allies.

Individually, the members of the Hegemony are uniquely monstrous in their machinations, particularly when there is personal promotion to be had. They aren’t so different than any species’ politicians, really; they just have the backing of the largest and most advanced empire this side of the galactic arm.

Of course, the individual representatives rarely get along outside the Quorum. The Otakke have a saying: “the best way to get one of those tall bastards off your back is to mention you heard their neighbor politely praising their garden.” Perhaps to the great relief of peoples throughout the galaxy, the Qhurothi trust their own the least of all.

Gameplay in STARFALL: AoM™

In the Qhurothi mindset, the best way to disrupt your opponent is to out stall them–let them make their own mistakes rather than committing resources to forcing them, eh?

Working for the Hegemony gives you a simple aim: don’t let anyone else complete their missions. The less they accomplish, the more you are rewarded. It’s a simple system, but an effective one.

Wrapping Up

Check back Thursday for write-ups on the remaining two Promoters to be available in Season 1!

Scenarios and STARFALL

That’s right! Today we’re talking loosely about game mechanics–and, specifically, how they tie-into the universe and the continuation of the story line.

But first, Art!

Meallan, the Thunderer

That’s going to be a cool-looking model.

We wanted to incorporate Meallan’s returning spear, voice amp, and vague affinity for lightning into the pose, and I think Cameron has successfully done that here in the concept. I’m excited!

Fnippith Aluxi

Art by Cameron Nissen. STARFALL™

Final pose renders for Fnippith as well!

She’s going to be so small… I absolutely love her.

Liery has exciting news for you–but you have to go to his “definitely not a trap” meeting first.


Metal Neko Games will officially be attending Adepticon 2020 this coming March. Stay tuned for more details, promotions, and general hype!

Storyline Events, Promoters, and Actually Winning a Game

Games of STARFALL: Age of Mercenaries™ are played over two rounds, during which your character models and broker agents will activate numerous times each, all attempting to remove obstacles (*cough* your opponent’s models *cough*) and score points for either the Mission Scenario or your chosen Promoter.

We’ve talked about the Promoters before. Think of them like intergalactic lobbyists, influencing the whims and decisions of the Brokerage Board. At the beginning of a casual game, you’ll declare which Promoter you are actually working for–this determines how you earn half of your possible points.

Your Promoter may instruct you to do any number of things: add an additional objective piece, give you an assassination target, or just keep your Captain alive through the melee. To win the game, you will have to complete your Promoter’s objective as well as work towards the Mission Scenario to outscore your opponent.

There are currently four Promoter choices: an Archangelus Speaker, who represents the Angels and the Board itself; a Hegemony Representative, working, in theory, for the benefit of the government of Qhurothi Prime; a Blue Delta Walkers Agent, whose aims are obscure, but definitely full of fire and flame; and an N.E.E. Inquisitor, claiming to be acting on the behalf of all Terrans and the Initiative itself.

If you decide to work for the Speaker, you’ll always know at least half of your objectives going into a game or event–his aims never change, even if the scenario does!

Why all the thematic drama added to choosing objectives for a skirmish game? Easy, your Promoter choice during Organized Play will help influence the direction of the overall story! You, the players, will be directly impacting the ebb and flow of politics, power, and conflict within the STARFALL universe.

In simple terms: an official Storyline kit (like one based on the Forgotten and the Mad short story series) will report three data points back to the Brokerage Board: the winning faction and squad composition; the total Victory Points earned by each available Promoter choice; and the decisions made by the first and second place players in regards to a prompt given to them by the Tournament Organizer after the event.

Once the initial Storyline Window has closed, the accompanying kit will still be made available until the end of the current season, but additional votes will not be taken into account.

Sometimes these Storyline events will determine what faction picks up a new named character or piece of equipment; sometimes they’ll change the very nature of the universe; and, sometimes, most of the time, you’ll get to read the results here in short story form.

Wrapping up

There will be no additional short fiction published this week. Check back Tuesday and Thursday for write-ups on the first four Promoters, their aims and goals, and what you can expect from them as a loyal Mercenary Company.

Short Story: The Forgotten and the Mad, Part 3

Written by: Eevi

The Goop-Cat Supreme takes offense to the term “Alchemical Monstrosity.”

               Four days since the Hegemony had ordered its dropships to flee the planet, four days since these people—colonists, scientists, families—had been abandoned by their caretakers so far from home. His squad had done their best to corral the survivors of the initial containment breach, but they had been separated quickly be the sheer scale of the tragedy. Now, having long-since forgotten his mission, Nergüi focused his attentions on bringing them back together.

There. That should appease the Board.

The young man ended his log, going to great pains to then ‘lose’ his only pen in the general debris—such a pity he wouldn’t be able to take any further, more precise, notes. They’d reprimand him, of course. As Captain, it’s his job to debrief the Board representatives—to present evidence and analyses of the mission. Unfortunately, without any physical evidence, they’d have to take his word in the moment at face value, wouldn’t they?

It wasn’t going to work, he knew; but it would delay them long enough to make further action undesirable. After all, they had also taken their sweet time sending a replacement ship to rescue his crew—and the colonists; them too.

Agent Wildman groaned on the gurney—what was left of her. Nergüi had saved her life, though he wondered aloud if it had been worth it. A glance out the blackened window was enough to dictate that he wouldn’t be able to carry her and defend himself. Her ACS was destroyed, legs crushed by mutant jaws. The crazy combat junkie had tried to defend a bunker entrance alone on open ground.

Speaking of crazy, Nergüi watched with some personal satisfaction as his lieutenant soared through the air to Wildman’s previously assigned post across the road—his comms must be broken. Working quickly, he drew the necessary runes on the floor, raw azothite flowing down over his hand as he concentrated. Then, pulling through the burning void with all his might, making far too much noise while doing so, he wrenched his comrade through the flames below and up to the relative safety of the blackout room.

“You’re late, kid.”

“No, you’re late. You stopped answering my messages,” Nergüi responded, already moving to cut Agent Wildman free from the gurney.

   “Bugs separated me from my gear. Journey’s End, what happened to her?”

“They’re not bugs—and she tried to face the horde alone. Help me get her on my back.”

“Fine, ‘Alchemical Monstrosities.’ It doesn’t have the same ring as just spitting ‘bugs.’” Miraluke shouldered his gun and did as his captain instructed. “What’s your plan to get off this rock? I have a certain Representative back at the Hub that needs a good—”

“Save it. There’s a gangplank on the roof. It should take us across to the granary. Ren should already be on the way there.”

“What’s at the granary? I’m pretty sure these—things—are carnivorous; we’re not going to get them to stop chasing us to graze about.”

“Hold on to her legs and try to keep up, little man.”

“Fuck you, kid.”

The pair moved slowly, burned by Agent Wildman’s inert body and Miraluke’s inherent blindness. The occasional jet of flame from their ACSs helped the older, and smaller, man navigate the steps up to the gangway, but he still relied heavily on Nergüi’s verbal or physical cues. They could hear the bugs clawing their way into the blackout room below—they were attracted to high energy alchemical reactions, after all. Tension, blood, and sweat from the burning heat of the colony made for an awful escape.

“What did you discover about the bugs?”


“Why not? I’ve got no place to be, Captain.”

Nergüi rolled his eyes. “Dr. Townsend was close to fully replicating his alchemical drone—for pollinating and collecting salvageable grain. The Hegemony alchemists stepped in to ‘help’ him. An accident happened. And then—” he gestured out a window.

“And then the Hegemony bugged out, leaving us to deal with the bugs.”

Nergüi huffed his agreement. Normally, walking was hard enough on its own—his ACS supplemented his damaged body at the cost of anything remotely like ‘armor.’ This, though, this was a strain; carrying another person, even with a blind Otakke’s help, drained his stamina quickly. Better to conserved his energy for the trek across the gangplank than to speak, he thought.

Miraluke, however, thought otherwise. “So, Captain. The granary?”

“There’s an intact transport—a grain transport. Big tank on the back, thick metal walls. Should be good enough to move some survivors.”

“Move them where?”

“I was able to contact a ship.”

The aging lieutenant paused mid-stride. That was news—and surprising on multiple levels. Unfortunately for his curiosity, the bugs broke through into the stairwell below them just then.

Nergüi blasted open the door at the top of the stairwell, balls of alchemical fire appearing in the air around him and streaking forward, setting the entryway ablaze. The flames allowed Miraluke a chance to ‘see’ their surroundings for himself, as well as, you know, being too hot for the bugs to follow through safely. Most of the colony was already suffering some level of burning destruction anyway—the young captain saw little point in being subtle now; if the Board had wanted subtle, they would have given the mission to another squad.

The gangplank, though it barely qualified as one, was mercifully clear. The ground, the rooftops, and the scaled pillars of the granary, however, swarmed with the alchemical bugs. At a glance, the granary itself seemed to be intact—and, somehow, not on fire.

“Ren hasn’t made it through, then.”

“Sorry, kid?”

“Nevermind.” He hoped his Specialist had received the message, he didn’t really have a way to confirm unless she arrived—or didn’t. These new Hegemony communication devices were useful of course, even though the zinc-azothite reaction only sent messages one way—though, Nergüi wondered about that. What were the odds that someone, say, a Hegemony alchemist, could intercept an energy transfer on its way, copying down the message?
               A useful gift to the Board, indeed.

With nothing else for it, they sprinted across the gangplank as best they could, managing to attract the attention of every bug in sight, it seemed. Unceremoniously dumping the Agent’s unconscious body on the floor, Nergüi slammed the door shut behind him as they entered the top-level of the granary, the bugs close behind.

Excited to read the bound-to-be-fiery conclusion of Nergüi-and-friends’ buggy adventure? You’ll have to wait! They’ll make it through, one way or another, and you get to help decide how in a future Storyline Event for the Beta Season of the STARFALL: Age of Mercenaries™ organized play.

Check back tomorrow for more preliminary details!

Short Story: The Forgotten and the Mad, Part 2

Written by: Eevi

“Look man, I told you not to bet on black again,” she chortled back at her anguished companion. He groaned once more, collecting the various coins and packs scattered about the bunker floor into a single pot. Renrue enjoyed practicing her English with Agent Parker—but, not as much as she enjoyed watching him lose. The burly man let it get to him, every loss affecting his judgement further, every coin-toss a moment of excitement and chaos leading to further frustration and despair—truly a fascinating experience.  

“Alright, fine; red. Bet on red,” Parker grunted, tossing down one of his few remaining ration packs. “Well? Toss it.”

Ren smiled, flipping one of her coins haphazardly into the air. She wasn’t cheating—at least, not conventionally. Luck just always seemed to smile on the young Qhurothi, for a while anyway. Shifting priorities left or right, adjusting the trajectory of weapon’s fire, pushing the odds ever so slightly in her favor—all easy, simple for the voidtouched alchemist; Ren’s problem was knowing when to quit. The coin clinked and bounced off the concrete floor, coming to a firm stop on red right as the screaming started.

A colonist—human male, adolescent—blitzed into the room, looking for something, anything, he could use as a weapon. Agent Parker was already moving, his beaten and battered ACS thumping along the concrete like a stampede as he positioned himself to hold the hallway for the fleeing civilians. They were slow, slower than they should be. Four days of running and hiding will wear down anyone.

Not Ren—and not Parker; no. She grabbed the nearest elderly-looking person—bound to be in charge of something, she assumed—and asked in her sweetest, most sympathetic and ill-timed voice possible, “good friend, please explain to me what is happening? I would like to aid you if I—”

The colonist spat in her face.

Graciously, Ren opted not to rend him in twain. “Good friend, I understand that you are angry at the Hegemony, but, as you can see I’m not with—”

He spat in her face once more before wriggling out of her grip and taking off down the hallway. She noted Agent Parker chuckling at her expense over their local communicators. “Good try there, Specialist. Maybe next time don’t shake him so hard, eh?”

“Or harder,” she spat back, tripping out into the hall over a dropped toy of some kind. Maneuvering in human buildings was always a challenge for her—even in military-built structures designed to accommodate Heavy-class ACS usage; hell, even the Agent’s cannon managed not to scratch itself on the ceiling. She was, simply, too tall. Now that she thought about it further, perhaps the humans didn’t appreciate being pulled up to her level.

She’d try kneeling next time—or, maybe not. Her leg was still healing from that awful bite the other day. Maybe the humans would not mind if she spoke from a chair.

The last group of the humans were fleeing down the escape route and the barriers were holding. She smiled at them as they passed, as she had been instructed. As usual, they either did not seem to notice, or they reacted with surprise—as well as disgust, confusion, and anger; there was always anger. Lately, fear had been the predominate emotion evident amongst their faces, but that was to be expected.

Her communicator buzzed unpleasantly with static, bursts of sharp painful noises. Eventually, they coalesced into a voice. “Ren are—can you—Agent, if you can hear—your position—overrun. Evacuate to point gamma. We’ll try to—ship. We think—good luck.”

Renrue and Agent Parker exchanged glances, nodding their agreement. A few minutes later, as the first of the bugs began scratching at the last barrier, the pair were off down the hallway as it filled with flames behind them. The captain had said ‘ship.’ That was good enough for them.

Their human charges were kind enough to hold the barriers open for them—ah, no, wait; the locking mechanism was stuck. Luckily, Ren knew how to fix it. Between the flames and the additional security doors, the humans would have time for a breather before…

“Ah, friends. Yes, could I have your attention—yes, over here—thank you! Your attention for a moment, then you can all get back to relaxing for a few minutes before I open up the other doors and we start running again!”

Oops, that was wrong. Screams and wailing; always a bad sign.

One of them, the same man that had spit in her face, stood up angrily. “Don’t you have a plan to get us out of here? Aren’t you with the Board?”

The crowd agreed, cries of “where’s the ship?” and “what good are you,” or, Ren’s favorite, “stupid greyback,” resonated throughout the cramped bunker room.

Ren smiled back at the man as she reached for the door controls—Agent Parker’s voice sighed heavily over her comms. As the doors opened, she drew her odachi, its flaming generators eager to roar. “Yes. Specialist Renrue Leung, Cinderfane Paths. My specialty is combat. My plan—also combat.”

Agent Parker made a show of revving his booster rockets in anticipation as the humans stared at her in disbelief.

“Get ready to run.”

Short Story: The Forgotten and the Mad, Part 1

Written by: Eevi

Click. Click.

Two shots, two targets down.

The Otakke sniper’s hands felt the alchemical runes and carvings along the barrel of his weapon, checking for damage or flaws developing from use. He grunted in acknowledgement before firing once more.

The kid had done well—he’d even managed to keep that infernal buzzing to a minimum this time; nothing was so distracting to Miraluke Teek as that incessant, inconsistent rhythm had been. Concentrating on the battlefield was difficult enough without his sight being constantly interrupted by his own weapon humming when he fired—but not every time, you see; if it had been every time, he might have been able to accept it as part of the process.

But, no; this silence was much better. How else would he have heard the window slide open on the floor below, or the creeping pitter-patter of the bug’s spiked legs as it crawled up the stairs towards him? As the battle raged out in the city-scape before him, one lone bug would have been his end had he been distracted, unable to listen.

Without turning, he fired once, twice, the weapon’s barely audible clicks loosing bolts of alchemical energy through the sentry fire set behind him. The bug screamed as the flaming charges struck him slightly off-target, its piercing wail causing Miraluke to flinch, breaking his awareness of the flames. Too late, a moment too late, he regained his focus and silenced the dying creature as its broodmates answered from all around.

Quickly scanning around the other sentry fires—as well as the general, flaming carnage left in the wake of his companions—he plotted his escape route, committing it to memory. Dropping smoke to cover himself—and to bring attention to his problem—the little man clutched his weapon tightly and leaped out the open window onto the catwalk just as three more of the scuttling bastards entered the bottom floor.

Eight steps, then turn, two steps, then eight steps, then turn… He could pause briefly to check his location, but that would take time—he didn’t always pick-up the correct angle from the fires on the first try; finding himself amongst the burning rubble would just take too much time that he didn’t dare risk. Better to trust his memory and to just move. Five rotations, stomping away on the metal staircase, making far too much noise for anyone’s comfortability; just five rotations before he would be safely away.

“Agent, get a move-on!” he shouted while throwing himself off of the second to last floor. Agent Wildman, he thought, an acceptable replacement for Benny—though he preferred his old wingman’s absurd sword to Wildman’s shotgun—she would catch him; that was the plan. As gravity took hold, Miraluke had a brief second to scan the fires, learning two things immediately: there were bugs everywhere, and his squadmate was nowhere in sight.

All things considered, this was the death the ol’Teek had expected for himself—alone, forgotten at the fringes of some battle no one would remember. As soon as the dropships had left orbit, leaving him, his squadmates, and all those poor civilians hiding in bunkers behind, he had assumed this would be how he went—flying through the air, trigger clicking away at the endless throng of mutant bugs.

Oh well; death was a quiet thing—unlike the dying part; he could do without that step—and, frankly, the quiet sounded nice after all this screaming. Maybe he’d finally be able to take his goggles off, stare at the sky in silent peace, wondering what it looked like.

Alternatively, fuck that noise.

Unable to prepare himself properly, Miraluke hit the ground hard on his shoulder, rolling over once. Thankfully, he kept a grip on his weapon—that would have been all she wrote. Switching weapon modes and backing himself against a wall as he heard the scuttling approach, he fired at every sound, every scratch, scuttle, scrape, or screech, all the while standing silently; a statuesque vision of stoic slaughter.

Soon, his position was overrun and Miraluke Teek, Lieutenant of the Cinderfane Paths, smiled at his oncoming demise, motionless, surrounded by the dead and dying as he had ever been. His goggles flipped up, milky-eyes staring into the smoky night sky for the first time in months, he could barely make out the edges of the pincered legs baring down upon him as dark flames suddenly spurt out from the ground around him. In one last gesture of defiance learned from his squad’s American friend, he flipped off the nearest bug as the flaming void wrenched him sideways in space to the safety of a dark room.

“You’re late, kid.”