The Metal Neko blog will be going through some format changes as we enter the new year. Look forward to shorter, but more frequent, posts focusing on specific aspects of the universe and the game.
In other news, MNG will be officially be at Adepticon 2020 at the end of March in Chicago, Illinois. We’ll be giving demos of the game and have some swag and products available! Come out and see us~
Fnippith Aluxi, Cloak of Olaos Specialist
Our first revealed Otakke character is technically a bit of an enigma amongst her kind. The Otakke typically keep themselves bald as a sign of dedication, only choosing to grow a lock of hair to signify a promise that as not yet been fulfilled.
Fnippith has made many promises over her few years dealing with Terrans, and she has quite a few outstanding debts to pay.
She’s designed to be a stealth character for the STARFALL™ game–just while also carrying a grenade launcher half her size. Another fun teaser for you: a member of the Blood of Croatoa helped design her ACS, naming it after the answer she gave to the first question she was asked, “to seek the green.”
Meallan the Thunderer, Blood of Croatoa Lieutenant
A special surprise to anyone who comments on our Facebook page with the choice above that matches what we decided to have Cameron develop. The other options may or may not be developed into new models or characters as the universe continues to expand.
Our resident wind-riding, two-spirit warrior wears the Flintborn ACS designed by his home tribe specifically for their Mercenary Initiative representatives (there are two in the first wave of characters). Loathe to give up their military technology, the First Nation’s Flintborn base-chassis relies on the wearer’s skill for survival, offering very little protection once the shield has been depleted.
Honestly, that works just fine for Meallan and Okwaho both. Meallan’s tribe added tools to help him hear the voice of the wind as well as his spear–now near-legendary in Broker circles for its vaguely magical abilities. As for Okwaho… We’ll talk about the Bear another time.
This week’s short story will be separated into multiple parts as a format experiment! We’ll be introducing Squad 2 of the Cinderfane and some STARFALL-universe elements, all while teasing an eventual Storyline Event for Season 1 of the STARFALL™ Organize Play year (no date given yet).
Look for Part 1 of the short story, “The Forgotten and the Mad,” to release Sunday morning, with the remaining two parts to release throughout the week.
Short and sweet today, let’s look at some new art! These are the first pieces to show our other two alien races–the Aidleans and the Otakke.
Silvalinus Concordis, Cloak of Olaos Captain
The Aidlean species originated from a planet covered in massive trees, huge cliffs, and naturally-forming crevices. Their larger forearms are used to navigate this vertical existence quickly, while the smaller hands developed for fine manipulation and tool-usage. This translated to their spacefaring vessels in a way inhospitable to any unprepared would-be boarders. They have no need for anti-gravity. Their ship flies with enough momentum to create an “up” and a “down.”
How does that work? Well. You see.
Inertial dampeners control the effect of their speed on the structural integrity of their ship, which also keeps the momentum from crushing anyone inside. Aidleans are also large and dense, making them perfect for such an environment. As a culture, the spacefarers rarely return home, so any permanent effects on their physiology are unapparent, at the moment.
It also means their cruisers basically go forward as fast as they can go on sublight engines, arcing around the combat zone if, somehow, they missed you with their initial ramming run.
Not that we’re working on a space game as well, or anything.
Fnippith Aluxi, Cloak of Olaos Specialist
To draw comparisons to other universes, the Otakke are something of a cross between your stereotypical “tinkering gnome” and a goblinoid creature living in caves.
They are nomadic on an individual basis, only returning home to their world–wherever that is–once or twice a lifetime after leaving in order to bring back stories of the outside, new trinkets, art, fashions, and pretty much anything that they thought was interesting. So, yeah, basically goblins with more refined tastes in shinies.
Galactically, they are known as great inventors, innovators, and adapters of new alchemical processes and tech. Qhurothi research teams frequently include itinerant Otakke that happened to be an expert on the subject, or was carrying a volatile substance around from whoknowswhere that was the perfect test subject–their collective survival instincts are often overshadowed by their desire to debut something new. The Aidleans have a hard time comprehending how something so intelligent can come in a package so small, fragile, and incredibly irresponsible; as a result, the Otakke are rarely welcomed aboard an Aidlean vessel, but are a common-enough sight around Aidlean settlements.
In the sol system, the Terrans know them as the only race they’ve met that might, genuinely, just be hanging around because it’s fun. The Otakke integrate themselves within a matter of years, gradually arriving one at a time, and spreading themselves around a new culture. With Terrans more or less in one place, it happened very quickly on Earth. These days, you can’t go two blocks without finding an Otakke shop or home or visiting vagabond. Not everyone is happy about that, of course.
Next week–New Year! Woo!–we’re diving back into the mysticism surrounding alchemy and some of the stranger elements of the Terran-delve into the craft with Squad 2 of the Cinderfane Paths!
It’s exciting! See you all on the other side of the decade.
Generic Vanguard ACS concept art–complete with AoM’s two major weapon choices available during list building at this time!
The Mobile Combat Specialist profile relies on ranged fire from a stock Model 3-A Iron-Class sub-machine gun.
The Elite Combat Specialist opts to charge into battle, wielding a zinc-edged panabas–a large sword on a stick–to cut through shields are armor like butter.
Being honest, I just really like saying “panabas.”
When last we left off, the Bloody Groves had begun to move once more, trailing after battlefields, armies, towns, and cities–where blood stained the ground, the transmuted wildlife soon followed.
Let’s take a minute to remember the time-frame and setting. This is 1851 in a world changed by the Starfall events. Phones don’t exist; communication relies on old fashioned couriers and unreliable mercury-based alchemical wells. Horses and a few trains were the order of the day–and the rare, highly experimental alchemical land-craft. The telegraph was only used in localized areas. Due to the wide-spread and random nature of the yearly starfalls, trying to maintain telegraph lines cross-country proved futile.
So sure, the Groves were a known issue, but the true scope of what was happening in what we’d call the Midwest was inconceivable to either side of the continuing conflict. Information could not travel quickly enough to be consistent, keeping the military commanders largely in the dark about the growing danger.
By late summer of 1850, mass-tragedy was all but inevitable.
Their backs to the Mississippi, the continental army stood their ground against the endless raids of First Nations warriors–whose shamans worked night and day to combat the horrors unleashed by the U.S. alchemists. With alchemy still a relatively new addition to human existence, the depths of depravity deployed by both sides knew no bounds, no limitations, nor understanding of the impending consequences.
The red-tinged Groves sprung up around the encampments almost over night–infesting the triage centers, the battlefields, the workshops and laboratories of anyone experimenting too wildly with azothite. The roots and teeth of the earth struck back against being tampered with so negligently.
After a decade of war, the guns were silenced in a matter of days–there was no one left to pull the triggers. The First Nations evacuated across the plains, the continental leaders literally ordered their troops to start swimming. Now, much of modern day Missouri still stands as a no man’s land. The alchemical opportunities abound–but who would be that foolish?
The Birth of the N.A.A.
That winter, a dialogue was finally opened between the two leaderships. The Groves seemed to cease their activity in the cold, as any plant-based lifeform would; so, it was deemed safe enough to risk the couriers–mostly.
At first, they could only agree on one thing: that the alchemical weapons used by both sides were to blame–well, they blamed each other’s recklessness, not their own. Solutions were offered and denied. A formal ceasefire was put forth and rejected multiple times.
No additional conflicts of any notable scale occurred that winter, but neither side was willing to give up the fight. The continental armies wanted revenge for their fallen–and the cries of manifest destiny still rang strongly through the citizenry. The First Nations rightly-held that the land was their’s to begin-with, and they maintained that they would continue to defend it to the end.
Come spring, the armies were on the move again–quickly followed by overgrowth from the Groves. The two sides took the fields in Colorado–the continental army having secretly moved the main body of its forces through upper Canada throughout the winter. With the tainted animals of the Groves approaching from the south, everyone prepared for what they assumed would be the final chapter in the war.
History is a funny thing; it’s mutable, ever changing–much like human nature and alchemy itself. The actual events are quickly lost in story, exaggerations, flawed-recountings, and the imaginations of humankind the world over. Truth becomes subjective; fact becomes myth.
As the story goes, the Groves invaded the battlefield, as they had done time and time again. With both sides unwilling to relent, the massacre continued for days, spreading across modern-day Colorado. The more blood was spilled, the more the Groves flourished, preying on the dying and the weak with impunity. Then, on the morning of the sixth day, the trees, plants, and mutated animals just stopped. The fighting ended as the armies mutually rejoiced. Peace spread, weapons were abandoned, cats and dogs living together, blah blah, a peace treaty was signed and dancing was involved. A nice little fairy tale.
While factually accurate–something did happen on the sixth day to halt the hungry tendrils of root and claw–few people actually witnessed what was required to right a mistake of humanity’s own making. Fewer still lived to recount the truth–not that they got the chance. The peoples of the newly born N.A.A. had survived an apocalypse of their own making and were content to leave well-enough alone as they learned to live with their new brothers and sisters.
As for the heroes that brought about the end of the war and forever changed the Groves themselves, well, that’s a story for another time.
I hope you enjoyed today’s fluff! Next week, we’ll talk about the political structures of the N.A.A. and briefly touch on how the settles on the other side of the mountains are doing right about now.
Today’s short story introduces the third member of the Cloak’s Squad 1–and our last named character for all 12 Squad 1 characters! Woo! We’ll start with Squad 2 soon.
Don’t make deals with trees. Enjoy!
Written by Amanda Vernon
“Forget the fight. Win with a show,” came the murmur from across the room. It seemed his outfit was loud enough to catch everyone’s attention, even if his voice might have been missed. A slow grin appeared as expectant eyes focused on him. “I have ideas if no one else does. No?”
“Perhaps a discussion of your proposal before you begin, Farrah,” his captain interjected. The Aidlean had both sets of arms crossed, though it was something of a long-suffering smile on Silvalinus’s lips.
Shouldn’t there always be a show?
A show could improve even the most dire of circumstances, and he knew it could bring down the potential death toll of impending battles. Today, they would finally hear him.
In the brief fall of silence among the gathered New Carthaginian committee, Farrah pushed from the wall and leapt upon the table they encircled. His arms spread, showing off the iridescent quality of every article of clothing hanging from him loosely. “Distraction, friends! The heart of every good trick, and properly done, could save thousands.”
“Lieutenant Saygh, I do not see what a show has to do with the Cloak’s combat strategy.” The staunch nay-sayer of his work and New Carthage’s magistrate stayed seated, struggling to keep maps and wells of ink across the table and out from under Farrah’s boots.
Farrah’s eyebrows jumped, the slow smile returning to his lips. “Certainly—”
“Saygh, you are a performer,” the magistrate interrupted. “Leave this to those of us who understand combat.”
A chair screeched back along the floor. The room silenced in the presence of the towering Aidlean now standing as he preferred not to do off ship. “Consider it, magistrate,” Silvalinus said, “His strategies, though unorthodox, have worked. More could benefit from his innovations.”
“Captain,” Farrah murmured, inclining his head, before he swept out his arms. “It does take imagination, magistrate, but we are New Carthage!” In the wake of the severe frowns, Farrah decided it was time to relive his days upon a stage before adoring fans…and show them a man could be more than his mask.
He moved with a flourish down the table, commanding the attention first of one committee member and then the next. “Tell me! What is it we believe in?”
“…Trade?” came one tentative answer.
“All this and more,” Farrah approved. “But it is unification. We stand together. We call others to us, welcome them to sanctuary. We are…” He raised both arms and called forth an answer from the crowd. “New Carthage! So let us entertain…” he lingered on the word with singular pleasure while his voice retreated to the soft murmur, “…the idea of distraction before violence.”
He allowed a hush once more, and then from one pocket, he retrieved a small mine. Fit perfectly into his palm, it engaged with a click while watching eyes widened in alarm. Cries of “Are you mad?” went ignored. A second mine pulled from the other pocket, he triggered it and then flicked both wrists out, sending the miniature weapons spinning until they landed at the base of each wall.
The committee always met at the center of the Tower of Brysa, New Carthage’s crown jewel and the pinnacle of its intergalactic trade. Farrah could understand the terrified scrambling of the committee beneath the table, even as some hesitated, afraid to miss the trick.
But while they huddled—all but his captain, who offered a grin and a tired shake of his head at his lieutenant’s antics—a small pop echoed against the mosaic of the walls. Color exploded out from the two mines. It spun on a whirlwind, an iridescent cloud that filtered through the entire hall.
Farrah hopped down from the table, stretching out an arm and helping committee members back to their feet, while many began to laugh and wonder over why he didn’t go back to performing at Sufetes Hall. Since last they’d torn down the banners of his final show, there had been a lack of the magicked art form within the city.
“This is a solemn place to be respected. It is the lifeblood of our great city!” the magistrate blathered on, brushing the colorful dust from his shirt like it was a stain on his fine reputation.
“Of course,” Farrah relented, inclining his head to the magistrate. “Though I hope you will consider my point. My mines can be manufactured to do more than maim, and given the funding, I believe they would serve our mission beyond my own team. I need very little when compared to the demands of alchemical development.”
The magistrate cleared his throat and took his seat with the dignity of a bird with ruffled feathers. “Lieutenant Saygh, we will consider your request, but out of respect, we must be clear, the Cloak is dependent upon alchemy as every other mercenary company is. As every planet in the galaxy is.” He nodded to the other members of the committee, while Silvalinus looked to Farrah. “It’s a matter of practicality. Combat is not a show. It is real.”
A soft hush followed as the performer took his seat at the table. Silvalinus spoke when they all stilled, “Then let us consider what we hope our reality becomes.”
The remnants of Farrah’s show glittered across the table, brushed away so the committee could view the next proposal: more alchemical weapons.
It’s been a crazy week. To keep up that energy, today we’ll be delving into more crazy concepts in this world of alchemy and aliens.
As usually, these are awesome. Look at this brilliant glow-up from generic First Responder chassis to Lieutenant Tengri’s personal ACS–complete with concussion cannon.
Isn’t pseudo-magical technology grand?
A Brief Accounting of Appalachia
The resurgence of ancient alchemy revitalized ancient and modern cultures and practices around the world, directly changing the course of history. For the native peoples of the Americas, this meant a return of their legendary powers–and, the rise of demi-god impersonators in South America; but, more on that much, much later.
By the time the Starfall events were predicted and feared, the continental armies of the United States had pushed inland–as had the droves of would-be colonists. This would have continued had a particularly violent Starfall closed much of the western passes through Appalachia for several years.
As mining teams were assembled on the eastern side, using the newest in alchemical tools, they continued to be stonewalled by continual snags. Overgrowth disrupted equipment, rockfalls seemed to block every new path or trail as soon as it was discovered, and the number of missing crew members rapidly increased with each passing week.
Of course, the colonists and military escorts assumed the native populations (now calling themselves the First Nations to push back against their would-be conquerors’ attempts at revisionism) had something to do with it. They were wrong, of course; but, that doesn’t really matter to history.
In short, people died. In one fiery sweep, the United States army tried to wipe the fields before middle-Appalachia clean of life–plants, animals, people. The First Nations were quick to retaliate, joining forces behind a handful of enigmatic leaders that had been blessed with near-fantastical alchemical powers over the land. This continued for nearly a decade, effectively halting all western expansion by the colonists and cutting off anyone that had already made the journey from their friends and family.
Then, in 1849, ten years after the infamous Cherry Creek massacre, the Groves started moving once more.
Which is more terrifying? A plant with teeth, or a wolf with nigh-impenetrable bark for skin?
The sites of large amounts of azothite, leftover from various Starfalls, the Groves are sites of violent, natural change. Technically speaking, this is a common occurrence all over the world to a much smaller degree; however, with the Appalachian Invasion in full-swing on both sides of the conflict, loose energy, raw materials, and alchemical rage fueled the upwelling of what would be called the Bloody Groves all across the midwest.
Sure, these odd places of strange animals and natural energy were known prior; in fact, they were often a sought-after defensible location–or just a source of resources. It was this constant interference, the trampling, the conflict that affected the most dangerous changes throughout them.
You see, azothite has a tendency to pull itself together–this is the same principle that allows for easy space navigation using azothite lanes. These groves, lush with alchemical energy and catalyzed azothite left buried in the underbrush, began ‘calling’ to each other. The groves moved, and the animals–forever changed–followed.
This alone was not enough to bring an end to the fighting–which had now spread across our-modern day Canada and Mexico. Once the groves had coalesced into a handful of copses, each miles and miles in diameter, nature’s fury finally let itself be known. Natural alchemy follows the rules of science and the natural order, just like anything else. It was human blood that spurred the changes, and it was human blood that the new life sought.
Next week, we’ll finish our look at the North American continent and all its weirdness in more detail, as well as how the N.A.A. grew out of the apocalyptic foliage.
Don’t forget to check out our Facebook page after 12-1-19 for more information regarding the Closed Beta for STARFALL: Age of Mercenaries and the first chance to obtain the Cinderfane Squad 1 Box–with Elierian, Marcus, and Vigil!
Enjoy today’s short story, introducing a personal-favorite of mine! She’s cute, she’s trustworthy, and she’s definitely going to leave some damage in her wake, it’s our first Otakke character, Specialist Fnippith Aluxi of the Cloak of Olaos!
Written by: Amanda Vernon
Fnippith dove between the stalls, hidden by layers of multicolored cloth that made her watching gaze stray; did she have enough coin in her purse to buy that? Careful ﬁngers dug around in the small bag, unearthing two coins with signiﬁcant glee. A thunderstorm of feet blew past. Fnippith crept forward on her hands, a swath of purple draped over her shorn scalp. It still prickled with heat from the last cut. Completed oaths had an annoying habit of lingering even after the hair was gone. No more commitment, Fnippith. No more oaths!
Today was about freedom! Freedom and the stack of research papers nestled in her bag.
She swore on that while hoisting herself up, dramatically wrapping the purple cloth ﬁve times around her neck, letting the extra fabric poof out and hide the lower half of her face. The two coins ﬂipped with perfect precision from her thumb to the merchant’s waiting hands.
The bazaar stretched a good three kilometers, which meant Halifax and the rest of the scientists would be easy to hide from. They all had poor eyes anyway.
A jaunty gait brought Fnippith halfway through the winding stalls to the bridge—Halifax spent four hours once ranting about the absolutely absurd construction of the Korador Bridge, swearing up and down he’d sooner jump off it than walk across. Sure, it had been dramatic, but Fnippith appreciated the kind of passion that would compel someone to claim something so absurd. That sort of passion could bring progress. Five years into their partnership, Fnippith realized it also made some people overzealous and desperate to succeed…at the expense of anyone necessary.
“Stop that Otakke! She’s a thief!”
The cry rallied at her back, and Fnippith sighed. See? This is why she needed to stop making oaths to assist every interesting person she met. If steam could roll out of her ears at the indignation boiling in her blood, Fnippith ﬁgured she’d look a lot like Halifax’s latest invention. Of course, as the papers in her bag would prove, all of his inventions were a little less than his.
“Grab her bag!” Halifax yelled, the croak in his voice from years of smoke inhalation putting the image of a very pissed off bullfrog in Fnippith’s mind’s eye. The bullfrog would have made a better partner. “That one! The purple scarf! Stop her! FNIPPITH!”
Her feet planted seconds later at the foot of the bridge. Wind blew the rocking slabs of wood until they danced like driftwood over water. When she spun to face her accusers, they were hidden by purple and then appeared an angry red. Human faces could turn such odd colors. It was almost exciting.
“The research, Fnippith.” An expectant hand stretched out. A few seconds passed before he screeched again, “Fnippith! That research could change the collective mind of —of nations! World leaders! You made an oath to see this through.”
Science had lost sight of what could be outside of the alchemical catalyst known as Azothite, but there were a few still struggling, still searching for more than alchemy. For capturing lightning in a bottle and powering a nation. For transforming the world and ending the Azothite dependence. “I swore to you I would help you ﬁnish your work…but we both know now, it’s not yours.” Her heel clipped the ﬁrst step onto the bridge, while a hand held the bag out over the water below.
His face paled. “I gathered it, reﬁned it…”
“You stole and then wrote your name over it!” More steam built up like it could pour from her lips and scald him. The bag slipped, spun, and papers spilled out into the air, hung for a second before ﬂoating to the river like the oath she’d once made to help a fool change the world.
No more oaths.
Unless…well, maybe if someone was interesting enough.
In short, when your presiding physician tells you not to overexert yourself while suffering from concussion symptoms, you should listen.
I am awaiting another series of appointments before determining permanency; but, I had a stroke due to aforementioned concussion, and currently can’t reliably focus or speak for long without sounding like a distorted, scratchy vinyl record.
STARFALL blog posts will continue as usual, but there will be a reduced amount of content, pending my own efficacy. In that vein, today’s post will include a new short story, an update on the Closed Beta, and no background content.
STARFALL: Age of Mercenaries™ Closed Beta
As previously mentioned, beginning December 1st, we will be tendering applications for individuals and groups to participate in our Beta program. The application will be hosted on MNG’s Facebook Page.
We will also be selling the first Squad Box for the Cinderfane through our partners at Metal Oak Studios beginning the same day–with the other Squad 1 and 2 Boxes coming as quickly as possible. Participants in the Beta program will receive a code to purchase Squad 1 boxes at a discount once their NDA has been accepted–the code will remain usable throughout the Beta program.
What You Can Expect From The Program
-Weekly updates, questions, polls and new content to break -Early Access to new characters, scenarios, and event kits -Access to special Beta rewards as we move closer to the full release of the game -Honorable mentions in the final printed version of the Rulebook -Chances to weigh-in on design–and possibly submit their own designs for presented concepts! -First chances at our ambassador program once the game launches
The Application Process
It’s pretty straightforward, honestly. Starting December 1st, the following will be available on the MNG Facebook Page:
-A form asking for contact information and containing a small questionnaire regarding previous gaming and play-testing experience (lacking in previous experience will not preclude you from the program). -An NDA, signed by each individual if applying as a group
Each form and NDA will need to be signed and emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Closed Beta Applicant – [Your Name/Group Name]” in the subject line.
Once your application has been reviewed, if we have any questions, you will be contacted through the same email thread. Otherwise, you will be invited to a hidden Facebook group and an email thread. From there, you’ll have access to the Beta rulebook, content threads, and more updates than you can shake a stick at–unless it’s a small stick. You can shake those pretty quickly.
By request, here are the names of the characters in each squad, listed by faction–along with an epithet where available–as a teaser!
Squad 1 Captain Luka Schwarz, the Anvil. Lieutenant Tengri, the Hammer. Specialist Sofia Lehmann, the Empire’s Masterpiece. (And our favorite little psychopath.)
Squad 2 Captain Gülnar, the Roaring Thorn. (She’s a bit of a princess, you see.) Lieutenant Maja Kaas, the Wall. Specialist Code Name Vega.
Blood of Croatoa
Squad 1 Captain Elizabeth Radcliffe, the Young Miss. Lieutenant Meallan, the Thunderer. (Only Liz calls him that; which makes him sad, honestly.) Specialist Remi Dubois. (He doesn’t need an epithet, he’s an alchemical werewolf.)
Squad 2 Captain Okwaho, Nature’s Rage. (He’s a bit of a bear to deal with.) Lieutenant Billie Derringer. Specialist J.J., Artillerist. (What American combat force would be complete without a big gun, waaaay over there?)
Squad 1 Captain Elierian, the Wanderer. Lieutenant Marcus Berger, the Trai–I mean, uh… Specialist Vigil, the Guide.
Squad 2 Captain Nerügi, the Empty One. Lieutenant Miraluke Teek. He’s a sniper! Specialist Renrue Leung, the Mad.
Squad 2 Captain Saif Moghadam, the Assassin. Lieutenant Dr. Seward, who is most certainly a real doctor. Combat Specialist Paxus the Mighty, self-entitled.
More to come on the beta and the N.A.A. next week! Enjoy the first short story featuring the Cloak of Olaos.
Written by: Amanda Vernon
The mask could have been a flare in the open street, a warning sign that something was amiss; no one wore masks in New Carthage, and fewer still would steal away into the narrow side streets—they existed like a remnant of the old city before the rebuilding.
Silvalinus’s gaze cut from the shadowed stranger to the cheery festival that paraded by his chair, a wash of noise and color that frankly was a bit exhausting after three days of it. The magistrate decided an extravagant party would best start the week of ballot-casting ahead. Still, as another explosion of confetti rained upon the dancing crowds, not a single guard glanced his way. His voice would not carry over the noise, either.
Heavy with a sigh and the unnatural press of Terra’s gravity, the Aidlean pushed himself to his feet, saying a silent and fond farewell to his chair before ambling toward what he hoped was an ill-dressed partygoer. A steady drone of cheers followed at his back. How a city of such mirth and personality could find it suitable to elect him captain of one of their company, he would never understand.
The narrow street offered little room for his bulk, and Silvalinus forced himself into an unnatural twist of his torso, both sets of arms held out while he shimmied—what he could only assume was a ridiculous sight, though it did allow him to squeeze in through the small opening of the alley. The walls sloped out beyond the entrance, allowing his chest to swell back with a breath of relief.
A soft voice called to him from a half-open door, “Admiral Concordius, join us.”
Suspicion buzzed at the base of his skull, stiffening him first in surprise before he relaxed his muscles, prepared though annoyed at the prospect of a fight. It hardly seemed worth the effort. “Perhaps you would join me in the open,” he returned, unwilling to pin himself in even more than the narrow street already had.
“Prudent, Admiral.” The masked Qhurothi stepped into the light, fingers curled at the edge of her hood before pushing it back. “We would have expected nothing less, though…you did come alone.”
He studied her, silent. Bait into a conversation would have to be far stronger.
“I hoped you would be interested in some assistance with the selection of your team.” As two figures appeared, hovering like ghosts behind each shoulder, she corrected herself, “We hoped.” One stood taller, wider, a clear Aidlean like himself and moving just as awkwardly within the confined space. But the other appeared human, slender and likely agile. The trio hardly seemed odd in New Carthage, where the call for unification was the heart of everything they did—or so they trumpeted, and Silvalinus believed some were earnest.
“My team will be chosen by the New Carthaginian people, same as I was,” Silvalinus said.
“But there are…clear frontrunners.” She did not remove the mask, but the way she held herself spoke of some combat training, a ready stance if he should strike. Scars formed patterns across her skin. “The fool of a showman, up for re-election. And then the Otakke, who seems more obsessed with paying a debt than serving our call to unification. Neither are equipped to fight, to complete what’s asked of them.”
Silvalinus’s gaze did not waver, though all four of his eyes glowered with intensity at the insults cast.
“They are a liability holding you back,” the Qhurothi continued. “You were an admiral of an Aidlean ship for years, an impressive one, but you’ve been given children to work under your command in New Carthage. Let us fix that.”
It was not the treasonous intent to fix an election that pooled molten rage in his stomach. Fighting the Terran gravity all the more, Silvalinus drew back his shoulders and spoke: “They are warriors in their own right. They fight for New Carthage with an integrity that few can match. Unification is more than a word to them, and if the people choose them to form my team, then I will consider myself lucky.”
He stopped her with a word. “Captain. It’s captain now.”
Today’s title is a joke on two fronts. I missed last week’s blog post due to extreme exhaustion, and then I suffered a Grade 2 Concussion on Monday, putting me even further behind.
But! I live!
Regular postings will continue on Saturdays as of now and onward–Eevi needs to figure out that whole life/work balance thing. It’s a trap, I know.
Have a picture of my cat as penance.
It’s the oldest active participant in the Mercenary Initiative, Argent Palisades Squad 1 Captain, Luka! His ACS is based on the mythological Zirnitra, a dragon-deity of magic and sometimes of destruction.
The Zirnitra MKI specializes in self-maintenance, durability, and platinum-based alchemical weapons for total battlefield control. Luka particularly likes to generate raw force to slam his enemies into walls for fun and profit.
From a game-design standpoint, he was concepted to be an Anvil–let the enemies smash themselves upon Luka, he’ll not be moved.
(Eevi note: Yes Aaron, this one is for you eventually as well. How hyped are you?)
Pardon for potato.
We’re making our way through the Squad 1 models at a good speed! Next, we’re completing the Palisades, then the Blood, and finally the Cloak!
Oh, and a bunch of unnamed Broker Agents. Those too.
Playtesting Updates and Announcements
We have been hard at work for months working to bring the rule-set to a consistently playable state. At this time, we have complete stats for all 28 model profiles that will be a part of the game’s launch!
That consists of Squads 1 and 2 of our four initial factions (Blood, Cinderfane, Cloak, Palisades) and 4 non-unique Broker Agent variants.
Each Squad consists of a Captain, a Lieutenant, and a Specialist, giving you plenty of list building options! The upgrades available to each profile give you new avenues of strategy and play as well.
The Broker Agents will be released individually as semi-customizable models, with each one themed to a specific equipment/upgrade load-out. But, more on that later.
So, announcement time!
Starting December 1st, we will be tendering group/individual applications to participate in our closed beta! More details on this and how to apply will be available both here on the blog and on our Facebook page in the weeks to come.
We haven’t discussed the North American Alliance in great detail as of yet. That changes today with the introduction of our young miss, Elizabeth Radcliffe.
Writing alternative history has its challenges. How close is too close? How much can you change before it just becomes disingenuous? The lines are tough, and ultimately up to you, the writer.
I set out with the intent of treating history as reverently as possible–and then promptly smashed it with a rock from space. The parallels to ‘our’ history are obvious in some places, as are the changes–and I don’t just mean the whole space-magic-alchemy nonsense.
For the N.A.A. I knew I wanted to flip the script even harder than dropping an alien warlord on a devastated Europe. In many ways, developing the N.A.A. shaped the way alchemy is treated in the STARFALL universe. I wanted to see the natural world fighting against industry–a common theme, sure. I wanted the resurgence of alchemy–a ‘natural’ power–to push what my world understands as the limits of mechanical and industrial capabilities. “Adapt or be crushed by adaptation,” as well as, “accept your own limitations and seek to improve.
The timing of my alternate history more or less provided the answer. The bloody history of colonization all over the world is well-known (and should be beaten into every would-be moron’s head). In order to ‘flip the script,’ in this case, it made the most sense to start there.
I’ll discuss the specifics in more detail next week!
Enjoy today’s entirely unedited-as-of-posting-this short story. Stay tuned on our Facebook page for more details about the STARFALL™ beta program!
Of Blood and Patience
Written by: Eevi
Tomorrow. There’s always tomorrow.
Elizabeth relaxed her grip, letting the alchemical arrow dissolve back into wispy nothing. She found the disappointed little noise of hissing steam as the Nightshade choked back its own anticipation quite irritating today–the audacity of the strange weapon never ceased to amaze her.
A useful thing, this alchemical bow; supposedly ancient, powerful, and belonging to her alone. The antimony conduits were all-but made for her hands; each node meshed with her hands, her drive, her longing for the hunt with perfect synchronicity. Its own desire for release, to strike a foe and taste its coppery blood, overwhelmed her–she reveled in it.
But, as her late father had often said, “The ways of the beast are not for men. Embrace them, control them–then, reject them. It is patience that separates the hunters from the starved. Patience and control; without them, your wildness serves no purpose.”
Liz allowed herself an audible sigh. She found her father’s expectations and precepts restrictive, exhaustive–unreachable–and the Nightshade hummed in agreement.
‘Tomorrow is the last day of the Circle Festival,’ it rang in her ear. ‘We will be deploying soon after, and not soon to return.’
She would try again tomorrow.
An hour’s walk and two hours of interminable nitpicking and redressing saw her rejoined with civilization, standing a pace behind her uncle, as he expected of her. Despite the frippery, the pomp and attention, her nakedness made Elizabeth quite the precocious little monster. She was unarmored, unarmed, and entirely inured with her quarry’s stench. Her uncle, such that he was, put her uncomfortable smiling on display for his own benefit, enamoring local warriors, diplomats, villagers, and soldiers with impotent temptation.
She hated him, though no one would have ever guessed. Despite her unease in such a crowd, Elizabeth had worked hard to maintain a familial air with her uncle dearest. Wary prey is more prone to bolting, after all. She laughed when he joked, praised his success with her father’s business, and meekly accepted his praise for her beauty in return. As all the assembled peoples knew, the Radcliffes stood together, as they always had.
This year, holding the ring aloft fell to her. She stood, rigid and uneasy, along the circle with her peers, arms stretched out to meet them. To her right, Meallan the Thunderer, a childhood friend and ally, child of a tribal chief, and her closest confidant. To her left, a cobbler’s son who made no lasting impression. On and on around the ring, holding hands in unity, the local youngsters of all tribes, villages, and backgrounds stood together, facing outward. In the center, her uncle–Douglas Radcliffe–and the other elders stood with their backs to the outer ring, as was the custom in this new land of Groves.
Her father’s words, spewed forth by his traitorous brother, echoed throughout the meadow. Douglas Radcliffe, chewing on the traditional speech with every hateful syllable, recounted the days of the Appalachian Wars and the coming of the Bloody Groves. Equal parts truth, metaphor, and object lesson, the history served to remind the peoples of the North American Alliance why they stood together–why they must stand together as brothers.
‘As brothers,’ the Nightshade whispered from its far-off cupboard. ‘Brothers in name or in blood?’
The ritual dispersed just before midnight, leaving her just hours to prepare. Tomorrow, Elizabeth would run away to claim her captaincy and a new life representing the nations her father held so dear.
Today, however…today was the last day of the Circle, and she had not yet completed her hunt.
We’re breaking some new territory today and introducing concepts at which we’ve only partially hinted thus far. Somehow, it seemed appropriate right after All Hallow’s Eve.
(This post has been updated to correct a copy error in the attached short story. – Eevi)
A Broken Moon
In the early days of galactic mining, Terra’s moon served as a localized repository–the ONLY repository–for azothite mined from the remains of the asteroid. The primary processing facilities were each run by different world powers, though the largest was ever the N.E.E. rille in the southern hemisphere–facing away from Terra, of course. Despite Otakke warnings, azothite continued to pile high throughout caverns and craters along the moon while awaiting final transportation.
See, the older powers–the Qhurothi and the Otakke, specifically–had implored the Terran workers to ship azothite in relatively discreet quantities. Using the moon as a dumping ground, a relay station, to keep the shipments small seemed a reasonable solution. An Otakke scientist, going by the name of “Nora” at the time, pleaded with anyone who would listen that it was still a mistake, to slow down the shipments if necessary. And, of course, with the backing of the Hegemony, the Terrans proceeded anyway.
The problem was simple: no one race, besides the Otakke, had ever had access to such vast, seemingly endless quantities of azothite at once. How could they know the dangers? Sure; the Qhurothi knew that a large amount might be dangerous to ship–vasts amounts of energy being expelled in such close quarters with the most volatile material in the universe while ripping along at ludicrous speeds just sounds like a mistake. Thus, they backed the Terran’s storage plan against Nora’s outcry, thinking it the most reasonable way to ensure their own access to the element as well.
A decade or so before the launch of the Mercenary Initiative, a wealthy family from the N.A.A. sent representatives to inspect a new research facility that had been experimenting in secret–trust a human to make the worst possible safety decision in the name of potential profit. In due course, an accident happened, forever changing life all over North America.
Antimony is an odd element, particularly in alchemy. The energy created when combined with catalyzed azothite can encourage natural life, healing, growth. Left unchecked and uncontrolled, however, it kills, eats away at the flesh, and can deforest a huge area in a matter of days. Naturally, despite being relatively scarce, it’s the N.A.A. element of choice.
The family’s inspection detail included ACS-equipped guards and equipment–pirates aren’t as common this side of the asteroid belt, but incidents are bound to occur when so much metaphorical wealth is stockpiled in one location. As these things happen, a member of that detail panicked after being accidentally being spaced. Meaning to launch a grappling hook to pull himself back to the surface, he discharged the full might of his antimony-laced weaponry, blowing his suit in the process.
The energy rained down upon the research facility, itself full of antimony-alloys meant for alchemy. A few days passed, mourning of the man quickly forgotten, and the howling in the depths long-since explained away as distant echoes. A few more days, and the entire research team and inspection crew fell ill–the same symptoms of metal poisoning, progressing at the same rate, no matter what was done–and the howling had grown closer, louder.
Within a week, a handful of people had recovered well enough to care for the sick as they wasted away. They barricaded the mess hall, unable to close off the lab or storage caverns. The howling thing came every night, scratching at the walls and the doors, driving them crazy. Unable to call for help, unable to leave, they slowly went mad.
Officially, the three survivors–Remi Dubois, Charles Atkins, and Katie Smith–were charged with piracy, the murders of the rest of the crew and research team, and institutionalized for collective insanity. Unofficially, the galactic world of alchemy was in shock after reviewing the meager security footage. The burst of energy, amplified by the sheer amount of azothite stockpiled below, had created a monster–a living amalgamation of azothite, antimony, and a hapless scientist in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The survivors had fought it off to their own detriment. The alchemical radiation ate away at their sanity, driving them wild. By the time a rescue team was sent for the missing inspectors, the thing was dead but still leaking subtle energy, and the survivors had mere scraps of humanity left about them. Each body, regardless of the state it was in, was taken back to North America–every single one.
Over the next few weeks, the thing’s influence impacted the land–and, specifically, antimony-based alchemists and those influenced by it. The first ‘mooncursed’ monstrosity appeared that fall–and only at night, when the moon was full, hence the name. A wolf, or a dog, originally–which, it doesn’t really matter–it preyed on other animals at first, leaving huge, irradiated messes. The first human victim survived, soon joining the bestial ranks of the mooncursed.
And on that happy note, that’s all for today! Happy November. Next week, we’ll talk more about the N.A.A., the mooncursed, antimony-based alchemy, and the Appalachian Invasion.
Enjoy today’s short story! You’ve already read the name.
Queen’s Gambit Declined
Written by: Eevi
The move was a mistake–he knew that immediately. Too late, the pawn settled on c4, and, once again, his opponent smiled. How many times had he presented this opener? How many times had he lost to the counterstroke?
Perhaps chess was just not his game.
Remi shook his head in silent rebuke. No matter; he would keep trying, learning. One day, perhaps he’d win a game. Not today, not tomorrow; but, someday.
Black pawn to d5. There it was; his opener was surely doomed now. Could he find a new way to recover? A few more turns and a glance upward told him the simple truth: this game belonged to his opponent and he had no hope—not this time.
No matter. There would always be another game.
“Aweille, mon ami, it’s your turn again,” his opponent said.
Remi licked at his moustache, letting him stew a while longer. Three more moves and he was finished—just three turns separated him from yet another loss. As ready as he was to play again, the aging-young man hardly relished the oncoming defeat.
“Perhaps—mon ami,” Remi replied, voice cracking in the empty air. “Perhaps we should take a break, non?”
“It’s your turn.”
He coughed, clearing his throat of the cigarette-burn, and made his move. The response came without pause, as was expected.
“It’s your turn.”
A floorboard creaked from behind him, though he didn’t turn to look.
“Monsieur Dubois? Remi Dubois?” The voice was unfamiliar, nervous. “I come with Initiative papers–signed by Miss Radcliffe–a friend of yours, I am told. You are to report to the Lune d’Or for immediate enlistment.” Nerves were quickly replaced by heavy tension and agitation as silence responded the meek errand runner–a lapdog of the Board, as far as Remi was concerned.
“Miss Elizabeth? She is Capitaine now, oui?”
“That is correct, uh, mister–Monsieur Dubois. She’s asked for you, specifically. It caused quite a stir amongst the Board, as, uh, I am sure you can…” He trailed off–perhaps it was the deathglare Remi had sidelined him as he made his next move.
“Too easy, mon ami. It’s your turn again,” his opponent declared, voice triumphant.
Remi coughed again, drowning out the carrying-on of the errand runner–oh, why must the weak prattle? Can’t the man understand that he needs to concentrate? Why all the noise? There was always so much noise…
“Make your move, mon ami.”
“Monsieur Dubois? Uh, did–did you hear me?”
“It’s your turn.”
“You lose, I win. Take your turn.”
“Monsieur Dubois! Are you–”
Remi swiped the board away, sending it crashing to the floor, pieces scattered and broken. As he turned back, his grotesque, deformed hand, ever-fused to the remains of his combat suit, clawed at the bars of his unbreakable cage, unable to reach the source of his irritation. He bit at the air—once, twice—tasting the little man’s fear, and the ionized sting of azothite as his caretakers readied their batons.
“I win, mon ami,” his opponent once again declared, his voice echoing inside Remi’s mind in silence. “I always win.”
“But not yet, mon ami,” Remi replied aloud, his good hand straightening a non-existent neck-tie. “My friends, I am ready to go—at your convenience.” He turned his back upon them once more, stooping down to pick up the pieces of his chess set. He could feel their eyes staring at him in wild bewilderment as he scoured the floors of his solitary confinement.
The white queen was destroyed, but the king remained intact. Ah well; perhaps Liz would be kind enough to obtain a new one for him. If she intended to use him, that was the least she could do in return.
They were old friends, afterall.
Soon, the guards were wheeling his tiny cage out from the huge room, out towards the transport ship that would take him to the endless beyond once more. Sitting alone amongst his meager possessions, he felt his opponent breathing down his soul, as it ever did.
Calculated Results; or, why it’s a bad idea to leave raw azothite just laying around, Dan.
You know what you did.
Modern alchemy employs three forms of azothite in all common experiments and technology:
Raw – pure, freshly-mined minerals and chunks of space rocks. Refined – carefully purified ingots, slivers, or heated and liquefied streams. Catalyzed – liquefied and electrified at different currents for specific results. Technically, there are multiple types of catalyzed azothite in that regard; however, the effect is usually the same–just to differing degrees and strengths.
Each form has specific uses, qualities, and drawbacks that are taken into account when designing a formulae. Proper alchemists meticulously plan every introduction of azothite to ensure they have the correct mix. As long as you stick to known variables, the risk of unwanted side-effects or disastrous results is negligible. If the formulae is the same, the end-result should always be the same. Hence, random experimentation is highly discouraged, particularly on the battlefield.
There are other forms of azothite, of course, but these are the primary, acceptable forms. The Qhurothi have perfected a method of plasma-distilled azothite that allows them to ingest the element directly, using their own body as part of the formulae. The Aidleans are rumored to use “hardened” azothite as part of their mechanical designs. At least one Otakke is rumored to have used a crystalline form of the element to awesome effect when cornered by authorities–but this is unsubstantiated. These forms, and others, are heavily regulated by Terran governmental powers and are restricted to experimental, lab-controlled uses.
By far the most commonly used, the introduction of specific electrical currents to liquefied azothite allows alchemists the most control over its interactions with base metals.
Low-currents are the most “explosive”–fast, often violent reactions. Most weaponry and heavy machinery relies on these reactions for power, propellant, and so on. This is the best way to permanently alter something’s state as well, as long as you don’t care what it looks like (you aren’t going to win an art contest [unless they REALLY like paintings by Dali], but sometimes the fastest way is the best way).
Solidifying a liquid with iron or potassium (when you don’t care how it fragments or forms), bursting through a solid with lead or platinum (mining or demolition), purifying food and drink with silver (if you don’t mind it being well-done), or creating bursts of electricity with copper and zinc; these are the most common, non-weaponized uses for low-currents. Typically, this form of catalyzed azothite is introduced to a base-metal in the form of small, charged “pellets” stored in heated injection systems.
Mid-currents are the least impactful, thereby making them the most commonly-used in general experimentation. The changes and reactions they impart don’t tend to be permanent, allowing them to be used in relation to living beings with a measure of safety. Of course, soft metals (antimony and arsenic in particular) have been known to leave trace elements behind in the blood, resulting in alchemical poisoning–which, well, you’ll see in today’s short story what that can do to you.
By and large, mid-currents can act like lessened versions of their lower and higher counter parts–as with all things, however, proper experimentation safety techniques should always been employed when using a new formulae.
High-currents act slowly–and it isn’t always obviously clear what has “happened.” If you want to completely change a stream of water to a stream of liquid ammonia, for example (which would make you a jerk, by the way), you’d use azothite catalyzed with the highest current levels possible, introduced in a steady flow with a pump of some sort to a combination of arsenic, lead, and potassium. The higher the current, the longer the change will take, but the more wide-spread and permanent the change would be. ACS’s use high-current azothite to power their engines and strengthen shields. Most alchemical “powers” used in combat also rely on high-currents to create the reaction, and low-currents to deliver it.
Oddly enough, by purifying the element, it becomes much less useful.
Primarily used as incredibly efficient starship fuel, refined azothite carries a hefty price tag nonetheless. In terms of alchemical experiments, combat powers, or technological uses, the element is far too unstable to be used reliably. Sure, if you have enough of the stuff piled up, you could probably accomplish anything–it just wouldn’t likely be what you intended, you see. All known methods of predicting outcomes and reactions breakdown when 100% pure azothite enters the equation.
That doesn’t stop people from trying, however.
There are sections of the Australian continent that are now entirely inhospitable to intelligent life due to a certain alchemist’s tinkering with potassium and gold with a large pile of pure azothite he stole from the N.E.E. No one knows what he was trying to do, unfortunately; so, we have no way of knowing if he was ultimately successful.
You can ask him yourself, if you can find him.
In its raw form, azothite is much like any other metallic element.
It’s usually found in large pockets, surrounded by non-reactive minerals, and, as far as any of the current galactic powers have determined, only forms in space–and only relatively recently. For you space nerds, this means that, as a heavy metal, only the most recent generations of extremely large stars have produced the element when they’ve ‘died.’ As such, planets current capable of supporting life would not have it naturally as part of their make-up except in very small quantities. Alchemists are quite lucky that it takes very little of the metal to produce fantastic results.
Another peculiarity of the raw metal–and one that allows for the creation of the ‘space lanes’ used by most commercial travel–seems to be a propensity to want to come together. It has no “power” to do so on its own, of course; but, if you know how, a small amount of ore can lead you to more, and more, and more…
We have a short story for you today, introducing the first Lieutenant of the Blood of Croatoa–a company sponsored by the North American Alliance (which includes the First Nations and the descendants of early European colonists on the eastern-side of the Appalachians).
As always, hit us up on our Facebook page with feedback, comments, and hype! And, be on the lookout throughout November for more information on the upcoming closed beta of STARFALL: Age of Mercenaries.
Written by: Eevi
A deep breath before the plunge–his spear struck true and pierced deeply, aided by the distance of his plummet. The suffering animal roared, sickly foam spewing from its mouth in great globs of bile and blood. It thrashed about, dislodging both hunter and weapon with wild abandon, toppling trees and foliage all around.
He slammed into a tree behind the mooncursed monstrosity, the Windspeaker’s Lance tumbling into the forest out of sight. An electric pain ripped through his left arm and shoulder–dislocated, at best. A whiteness filled his vision, straining his view of the animal as it rampaged away deeper into the woods.
Meallan, as he had been called by the Radcliffes, steeled his beating heart. He felt the wind, the earth, the sky, just as his people had taught him. The pain remained, but it was joined by a welling of strength from his very core. Alone, the hunter had failed; but, perhaps, the speaker would aid him–perhaps he would slay the beast yet.
The passage of time was unclear–several minutes, at least. He rose, only just able to hear the screaming-throes of the mooncursed’s anguish to the north. Its wake of destruction and poisoned bile made for easy tracking–now, if only he could keep apace. The light was fading quickly, and he wasn’t so foolish as to fight the wounded monster in the dark.
Distracted by his own throbbing arm, Meallan blundered into a large clearing, coming face-to-face with the animal. Fear clawed its way up his spine as he reached erringly for his spear–it laid on the forest floor far back where he came. There was nothing for it now; the alchemically cursed monster rose to its feet and lumbered towards him with hungry eyes, fury building with the rising moon. Each step shook the air, claws rent the earth, and soon the large form of what was once a bear would fill Meallan’s sky for the last time.
A fire burned in his core as he activated his suit, the dark forest around him suddenly aglow with alchemical energy. The pain was excruciating, but he focused upon his mother’s spirit within him, unleashing her emphatic voice that could halt an army. The zinc-alloys in his left arm flared to life, bursting forth as a wave of energy. The monster stumbled, one leg collapsing beneath its shifting weight, its pace slightly deterred.
Seizing his chance, Meallan charged, leaping over a wildly-swung claw, then another. The hunter climbed the monster’s back, his grandfather’s wild spirit filling his right arm. The bloodrage that lead warriors against the invaders’ descendants burned a battle-lust into his eyes as the antimony-laced musculature flared to life. He ripped at the monster’s back with bare first and tooth, but to no avail.
As the monster recovered and began its thrashing anew to shake off its would-be slayer, the futility of his situation ate away at his focus. If the moon broke the canopy and shown over this clearing, all hope of victory would be lost. He was but one man, and he would fail to fulfill his promise to bring this murderous beast down. How many more orphans would its hungry jaws create? His heart wept at the thought.
Once again, his mother’s calming spirit filled him, joined by his grandfather’s warrior-flame. Letting their strength guide him, Meallan kicked off of the animal straight up. With his left hand, he called for the earth, wind, and sky to part for him, returning his spear in a bolt of light. With his right, he struck the beast’s open wound once more.
He was Meallan, the Lightningrider, who was of two spirits, and together, he struck twice and fulfilled his promise.
What happens when a crazy alchemist accidentally blows up a moon? Bureaucracy.
Alchemy… in… SPAAAAAAACE
The majority of the plot of STARFALL takes place out in the local arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. Space lanes following azothite trails from point-to-point are the most common paths taken due to their natural stability and ease of travel. Ships typically latch themselves to a known trail with a mercury-based engine and hit “go.” The more widely-used the trail is, the quicker the trip–to a point.
It’s possible to travel at hyperlight speeds without following an azothite trail directly, of course; it’s just highly dangerous, unwise, and downright foolish to do so over any significant distance.
For reference, a Terran-built lane is used to traverse the Sol system to and from Terra itself and the asteroid mines. In the lanes, a one-way trip takes a few days–less if you’ve managed to acquire the latest N.E.E. engine; they’re specially attuned to that specific lane, supposedly. Outside of the lanes, the trip could take you weeks; or, just a few minutes.
Zinc-based engines, stardrives lined with gold, phosphorus alloys, or potassium growth wells; all of these work more efficiently than mercury engines reliant on azothite trails. However, without explicit knowledge of the destination, and every possible obstacle in between–no matter how small–the results can be catastrophic.
Like blowing up a moon.
The Europa quarantine zone is a sore point in Terran politics. A lone alchemist from somewhere along the Pacific coast of the North American continent built himself a potassium-based Dart–a single passenger space plane capable of short-distance hops. Then, after proving it worked with a quick round-trip to one of the more remote N.E.E. mines–which his engine-wake destabilized, trapping dozens of prisoner-miners in azothite shafts that slowly encroached upon them with advanced crystal growth–he planned a crazy jump distance to orbit around Jupiter.
Of course, it worked. This isolated alchemist, working with the barest scraps of azothite scavenged from Starfalls in year’s past, since the western part of North America had no access to the supply lines at that time, managed to make the largest jump in a Terran built ship 100% successfully. The energy required, however, overloaded the potassium wells in his ship, necessitating a core dump as he re-entered normal space.
The wells continued to grow and bloom long after the alchemist had perished in the cold of space. About a week after his ill-fated jump, they crash landed on Europa, having increased in mass and energy to have the equivalent force to a small meteor. All of that potassium-driven energy, which is unstable at the best of times, reacted with Europa’s naturally catalyzed underground water sources, resulting in a huge fissure that cracked the moon.
Now, see, the Dart’s core survived the impact and subsequent cataclysm. It’s still burning in the debris field, sending out warped growth energy to everything nearby. As much as every major galactic power would love to get their hands on it to understand what (and how) the alchemist managed to build, they can’t. The broken rocks and released ice and water are so charged with the radiation, to do so would be worse than suicide–you might make it home.
We’ll talk about potassium-alloy azothite poisoning another day.
The Brokers, the Hegemony, and the Grand Fleets of the Aidlean Empire all agreed: leave Europa alone. Measures were taken to safeguard against the rampant energy leaking out further–or affecting Jupiter itself. The alchemist’s identity was never disclosed, but it is well known that the Frontier Nations suffered for his actions.
Once it was all squared away nicely, the ruling powers were left with a dilemma. The N.E.E. was rightfully angry about the destruction of one of their mines–and they had the backing of some smaller nations that they supplied through that mine. Given the total destruction of Europa as well, they had the political clout to ask for universally enforced sovereignty over their space lanes–a blow for the rest of Terra. Then, they requested the Hegemony’s oversight in Terran nations further developing spaceflight technology, thus restricting further advancements without help.
The fact that the N.E.E. had direct access to Aidlean technology was, perhaps, conveniently overlooked in the trauma of Europa.
The trade-off was also a masterstroke of negotiation: extraterrestrial powers were expected to use Terran ships and Terran lanes while within Terran space. Specifically, this meant that the N.E.E. controlled almost all alien movements into and out of the planet proper.
With the launching of the Mercenary Initiative’s first official squadrons, the N.E.E.’s control weakened slightly; the dropships given to captains were the most advanced ships available to Terrans outside the N.E.E., and the Argent Palisades were expected to use them as well. In theory, they should be on an even playing field in terms of movement and deployment.
No short story this week! We’ll pick back up next week by introducing the first member of the Blood of Croatoa and with more details about the specific mechanics of modern alchemy.
I hope you all enjoyed the teaser excerpt from last week. The book isn’t finished just yet, but we’re excited for the first published piece of STARFALL fiction to be available as soon as possible.