Coldness Beyond Compare - SotS/BoB Fiction

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Lathana
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Coldness Beyond Compare - SotS/BoB Fiction

Post by Lathana » Tue Aug 19, 2008 7:05 pm

Shadows out of time
And smiles in darkness gleam
Nighttime never ceases and
things aren't what they seem.

Shadows in every corner
with bloody knives to share
They show no compassion or mercy
And coldness beyond compare.


Introduction: I've been playing SotS and BoB (and just got the CE) for a while now, and one of the most interesting things in the game thus far is the so-called "fluff" -- the story and backstory, the way the technologies and the cultures fit together, and the incredible job done in bringing the races to life not only in terms of giving them a distinct culture but in translating that to research, to fighting styles, to how you colonize and act and deal with each empire.

People go on about the wonderful gameplay of MOO2, but the races were basically ... cutouts. Paper masks cheerfully glued to frameworks of the same boring shell with glue made of lazy thinking. There was never a sense of how each race differed, for each one was nothing more than a fractured, twisted caricature.

In playing SotS, I often ended up wondering about the little scenarios in my head. This game makes one think. It makes you want to fill in the blanks more, and want to discover what and why things are happening.

If you haven't read the Deacon's Tale, go back -- pick it up -- read it. How many games nowdays have a robust enough story to print a novel along with it? How many companies care about the game world enough to lavish this sort of attention on it? I've played some of the most brilliant games ever made, from Starflight and Sentinel Worlds to Portal and Overlord. Is SotS the "best" 4X game from a technicals standpoint, no.

Nevertheless, I'm playing it a lot more than any of the rest of my games, and my friends after playing went and got their own copies. I've never advocated for a game before.

Thus, although I don't consider myself a very good writer, I want to write about my SotS experience. Maybe only to add one more tiny voice of appreciation to what Ms. Dembo, Mercon, and the rest of Kerberos have done, or maybe to see what others think of the scenario.

-------------------------------
The setup
-------------------------------

The events are loosely modeled on my most recent game, a 1.53 CE battle on a 2D map with 8 players, all of which I've renamed to fit the ideas I have.

SolForce (Me)
SolForce Renegades (Humans)
Guardians of Life (Liir)
Black Swimmers (Liir)
Blood-Dappled Blossom (Hiver)
The Rightous (Zuul)
Var'Kona Legions (Tarka)
Kaan'dai (Tarka)

The game is still ongoing, so I'm writing and adapting as I play it out. And boy, right now it's completely insane. There's a Zuul-Liir ALLIANCE (okay, wtf) and the two Tarka factions are blasting the crap out of each other every single turn. Last turn over 200 ships were blown to crap.

The basic backstory:

The Hiver Rogue Princess attacks Earth, and is driven off, with almost crippling losses to SolForce. In the reorganization and uniting of Earth, there is a sharp difference of opinion among SolForce about how to deal with exploration and alien species, as well as other political tensions (dealt with in the first chapter) leading to the seperation of SolForce into two bodies.

The Liir also are split -- the Black Swimmers have decided that the only way for the Liir to be safe in the galaxy is the eradication of every possible threat to the Ocean. The Guardians of Life feel their job is to protect the Liir, not become Suul'ka to other races, and there is a vicious inter-fleet war.

The Tarkan Imperium is undergoing a civil war, a powerful military fleet commander defying the Nine and the Supreme Var'Kona , saying that unless Tarkan society pulls itself free from stagnation and calcification they are doomed.

The Hive is united, with all of it's renegades ... dealt with. Finally, the Zuul have come together as a united force.

=-----------------------------=
Chapter Outline
=-----------------------------=

Prologue: This post. It will be edited as time goes on to explain things.

Act I: Friends stab you in the front

This arc mostly sets up the story and characters. Mind you, there are some changes. While I love the Deacon's Tale , I have a different idea in mind for some things, and some of the more outre theories I've read while lurking have tickled my fancy. These chapters are shorter than the ones I plan later, and are going to concentrate on SolForce and, eventually, the Omega Renegades. Most of these chapters are in third, forced third, and in one particular case, second person.

Chapter 1 - Farewells
Chapter 2 - Horizons
Chapter 3 - Hard Work
Chapter 4 - Face to Face

Act II: Sir, I have unknown ships incoming

The war chapters (all of which are named based off the awesome Zuul speech in the intro) will each be broken into parts, based on the chapter structure.

Chapter 5 - Harmless Lizards
Chapter 6 - Mindless Insects
Chapter 7 - Chattering Apes
Chapter 8 - Blaspheming Rebels
Chapter 9 - Warriors, wise men, fathers, masters.

Act III: Nav, program us to crash into the planet.

The final act is where the actual , I guess, clincher comes in to play.

Chapter 10: Bloodshed
Chapter 11: Bloodfall
Chapter 12: Bloodrain

Epilogue: Research Station Epirius, System Omicron, to any SolForce Units...


---
Notes
---

1) The Director of SolForce is basically Admiral Durov, and the title is actually introduced in the third chapter. In public, Captain Robin Admen is in charge of SolForce Intelligence. In reality, Admen answers to the Omega Directorate, which is a group of various secret service agencies that are tied in with war profiteers and land speculators. They benefited hugely from the Hiver attack, buying up land cheaply, overcharging for relieve and reconstruction, etc, and basically acting like human jackasses. Without their behind-the-scenes string pulling , the coalition governments would never have agreed to fund and organize SolForce as an independant entity.

2) The scenario starts with the understanding that it hardly makes any sense for there to be multiple human factions. The only way that could happen is

a) humans did some slower-than-light colonization, in which case why do the other humans ships have the node drive and look exactly alike?

b) humans had prepared more than one colony ship , and in the chaos following the assault , most of the prepared equipment and ships were hijacked and used to flee Earth, which makes the most sense to me.

c) The schism came after some colonization had started.

I went with option b , but there is contact between the two factions. The two SolForces are completely different and act differently.

3) I know full well some of what I will write might contradict or not mesh well with existing story, specifically small bits buried in the various threads that Ms. Dembo has put out. If you find such things feel free to PM me or comment in the thread to suggest a fix.

On the other hand, the bigger issues that I plan to change are quite deliberate. The council held to deal with the Zuul in my work is ... a touch different.
Last edited by Lathana on Wed Aug 20, 2008 7:46 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Mecron
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Re: Coldness Beyond Compare - SotS/BoB Fiction

Post by Mecron » Tue Aug 19, 2008 7:18 pm

An amibitious plan, Lathana and thank you for the kind words and support! Welcome to the land of posting!

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The Magus
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Re: Coldness Beyond Compare - SotS/BoB Fiction

Post by The Magus » Tue Aug 19, 2008 7:45 pm

You know, whenever I see a new post icon for the Fiction forum I almost by default assume its a bot now adays ;) *blows somne dust off the board for you* Welcome, Lathana! I look forward to reading what you'll give us ;)
The teacher cut in smoothly, "Yes, of course. SolForce never fails to remind us how necessary they are to our...'survival'. ... It amazes me that the human race ever managed to exist, before you lot came along."

Cai Rui smiled thinly. "What amazes me is how quickly the human race could cease to exist, if we were gone."

--The Deacon's Tale

Lathana
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Re: Coldness Beyond Compare - SotS/BoB Fiction

Post by Lathana » Tue Aug 19, 2008 7:59 pm

ACT ONE:

When I was younger, a guy from the Bronx once told me something I'll never forget. He said, "Kid, enemies, they can't hurt you as bad as friends. You're watching for your enemies, you expect them to hit ya. You're ready. But a friend? Someone you think is a friend? They ain't gotta sneak up behind you to do the damage, kid. Enemies gotta stab you in the back , but friends stab you in the front."

Chapter One : Farewells


Commander Casey Rollins adjusted his tunic collar in the mirror a final time, checking the black and gold uniform for lint or dust. His face was barely lined, a strong, heavy jaw forming the support for narrowed, hard black eyes, a head full of wavy black hair, a narrow nose and thin lips giving him an almost cruel look, along with harsh lines of the rest of his face. Like many who spent lots of time in zero-g, Rollins was an exercise fanatic, and as he walked from the tiny cubicle that served as a washroom into his main quarters, he smoothed the tunic down over the muscles of his stomach.

The quarters, like the rest of the ship, were cramped and spartan -- a shelf with books, a computer station built into a tiny table that could fold in, a rack bolted to the floor with restraint webbing, a few knicknacks adhesion glued to the top of his wardrobe locker. He wouldn't miss it much, he decided, picking up the picture of his now dead wife and children, face twisting as he saw his son's bright eyes, the smile of his baby daughter, remembring as the beams stabbed down out of the sky ...

With a shiver he put the picture face down on the shelf and walked into the main corridor, trying not to lose what composure he had. The Hiver attack on Earth had killed so many, everyone had lost someone. There were so many dead they couldn't be buried or even burned, they had to be dumped in giant mass graves, or carted by the dump truck full to container ships and spilled into the sea. Entire nations were gone. Italy was gone, nothing but fused rock and shallow seas. The entire jungles of the Congo were still burning two years after the attack. So much of everything the human race had built was gone...

Rollins exhaled as he entered the main meeting room aboard the SFS Concordia, the flagship of the SolForce fleet. The Concordia was no bigger than any other ship, really -- there was an absolute size limit beyond which engineers had no way of making the node drives translate, resulting in the fact that any ship bigger than this would lose half it's mass in a node jump. So the entire mission section and command section were a single fused series of offices, meeting rooms, and planning sectors. The Concordia was not even remotely combat capable -- but the men and women who ran SolForce wanted to do so from space.

"Commander Rollins, as ordered. Ma'am." He saluted the woman in front of him, who was seated at a table reviewing battle manifests, and she looked up. In her 50's now, her features were like that of any black woman, except she shaved her head, a memory of her battle with breast cancer a a year back. Ironically, if she had been diagnosed before the Hivers came, treatment would have been simple, but so much had been lost after the attack that even diseases like cancer and autoimmune syndromes were dangerous again.

The woman gave a tired, cynical smile, the corners of her mouth twisting. Her dark eyes were flat and cold, her cheeks almost gaunt. With an elegant gesture she waved a hand to both a chair and a pitcher of water with a glass next to it. "At ease, Commander. Sit down."

Rollins did so, glancing at but not touching the water. "Admiral Stevens, we're ready to move out. Can I ask why the mission was put on hold?"

Admiral N'dalia Stevens gave another cynically thin smile, while her free hand pulled up Rollins' service records. Top of his class at Yale. 4 years military officer in the American Navy. 6 years service with the United Nations MILNAV program. He was out to sea the day the bugs tried to end the world. Lost his family, parents, home, everything.

Stevens glanced at Rollins. "Commander, I'm going to be blunt with you, because we've gone through too much shit to have to do the fucking and ducking that was the norm before the bugs. SolForce is not going to chase after the bugs. We don't have enough ships. We don't have enough fuel. It would cripple us for years to go ahead with this plan."

Rollins closed his eyes briefly, then opened them, his voice still calm. "Admiral. The bugs nearly destroyed us, and we can't be sure there aren't more of them. I know the idea is that we keep the resources we need to develop faster close. But the reality is simple, Admiral -- if there's another one of those things out there we need to know , now. And there's a lot of people who need revenge. "

The admiral shut off the computer and looked squarely at Rollins. "Commander, I've heard all the arguments from Admiral Dalli, who wouldn't listen. He's in a jail cell now. Your orders are clear -- return to the Providence, and stand down the Search Mission. When we do decide to pursue it, I will make sure you're assigned to it."

Rollins stood, stiffly, and pulled off his SolForce starburst. "Admiral, after I execute your orders, I resign from SolForce."

The Admiral shrugged. "Your loss."


Four hours later, his shuttle docked with the SFS Providence. The destroyer was heavily armored, with heavy 10 cm laser turrets and a pair of gauss cannons that were the best that SolForce could produce right now. He pushed past the crewman manning the airlock and stalked to the bridge.

The bridge was , as usual, neat and orderly, with two consoles -- nav and weapons -- close to the heavy, red-tinted and polarized forward viewport. Rollins grunted as Cheng, his navigator, greeted him, and instead moved to comms, keying in the frequencies to all of the ships.

He licked his lips as he spoke.


------------------------------
MESSAGE RECEIVED - FLASH
------------------------------
FROM: SOLFORCE SIGINT
TO: RADM STEVENS, SOLFORCE FLECOM
RE: SIGNAL INTERCEPT

TRANSCRIPT SUMMATION: SFS PROVIDENCE AND 19 OTHER SHIPS EXECUTED UNAUTHORIZED BURN AND NODE TRANSLATION EST 1615 HOURS DOWN PROXIMA CENTAURI NODE LINE. 2 SHIPS DID NOT TRANSLATE. INTERCEPTED SIGNAL MESSAGE INDICATES CMDR ROLLINS INTENDS TO PURSUE "HIVE" BURST TRANSMISSION. MANIFEST LIST OF SHIPS INCLUDES 5 SQUIRE CLASS BATTLE DESTROYERS, 4 NOVA MARIA CLASS COLOSHIPS, 4 VALDEZ CLASS TANKERS, 3 SAGAN CLASS RANGE EXTENDED SCOUTS, AND 3 MODIFIED ASSAULT DESTROYERS.


Admiral Stevens lifted a glass of wine as she sat back in her quarters, later that night, staring out the porthole to the stars beyond, the dispatch hurled to the floor , papers scattered about. It wouldn't be long before some SolForce investigator figured out who had unlocked Rollins node drives, or had made sure he would be pushed into the actions he had taken.

She sipped again, a wry smile on her face, as heavy booted footsteps became audible. With a moue of distaste, she set the wine down on the tiny shelf next to the bunk, and pulled out a M-344 laser pistol. She checked the charge on it -- 95% -- even as a firm knock sounded on her door.

"Admiral Stevens, this is Sergeant Cassidy Cross of SolForce Security. Please open the door."

Saying nothing, Stevens stood up, and walked to the window. Ignoring the heavy knocks , she stared. Her beloved children were dead, and she knew the cancer was coming back -- no point going on the Revenge trip with Rollins, she'd just get in the way.

They were hammering in the door now. No time. She looked around, to make sure everything incriminating was destroyed or degaussed, and then lifted the laser pistol. She had to make sure no one could figure out what had happened -- until acceptance was all that was possible.

Outside in the corridor, the Sergeant paled at the sound of the laser going off, and he threw himself at the door again, which finally crumbled under his 240 pound frame. Rolling through the doorway, he came up in a crouch, with his gauss carbine in a firing position, but only saw the slumped body of Admiral Stevens, crumpled on the floor, smoke rising from the hole in her head.

"Ah, goddammit."


The two SolForce admirals were planetside, at the memorial to the destruction of Denver, just outside the SolForce headquarters.

The taller of the two men was white-haired, with a heavy jaw, a thick grey goatee, and pale blue eyes. The shorter man was plump, his dark hair and pasty features made no prettier by the horrific burn scars that covered the left side of his face and the eyepatch over his left eye.

"So, it's done. This will set us back years, you know" the taller admiral said, watching children play in the fountains near the memorial. Overhead it was cloudy and grey, dull and forlorn skies filled with cold winds and the threatening hints of snow.

The smaller admiral laughed. "Sometimes, Dalan, you lose, and sometimes you lose big. We expected a nut to steal a destroyer and go gallivanting off. We didn't expect Stevens to have assigned every dissatisfied member of SolForce to the expedition and cover up the fact that Rollins was of dubious mental stability. "

Admiral Dalan harrumphed. "Well, we should have, Aleski. We really should have. Now? HALF our research staff was still on those ships, doing workups on the node analysis. Every single exploration vessel and SIX THOUSAND of our best and brightest, all our assault ships .. we are going to be crippled for at least, what? 10 years? 20?"

Admiral Aleski Durov shrugged, his jowly and scarred features making his smile truly hideous. "It's simple. If we had left those misfits in SolForce, we'd have ongoing issues. I'm not happy about losing the hardware...but frankly? What's done is done. We focus on rebuilding, on exploration, and let the cards fall where they can."

Dalan grimaced more. "And when they come back?"

Durov held up a finger. "Come back? They won't come back. They'll set up their own little colony somewhere and decide it's best if they run themselves. As far as I'm concerned, the only way they can come back is if they do it in the next week or two."

Dalan nodded grimly. "Good, I was afraid we would be forced to try to accomodate them."

Durov grinned. "Leave the politics to me, my friend. Here's what I want you to do. Go ahead and focus your efforts on rebuilding the exploration fleet. We'll tell the people that the bulk of the fleet is on "far maneuvers" to protect us from further incursions, and in a year people will have forgotten all about it. For anyone who doesn't, well...accidents happen. "

Dalan looked unhappy, and Durov's face lost it's jovial nature to become iron hard. "We have no time in this day and age for decency, my friend. We no longer live in an age where things such as determining the future of mankind are merely cliched speeches found in bad movies and worse political campaigns. We are either going to make it, or we're going to die. And I've been made an admiral to keep us from dying. Failure is not an option."

Dalan nodded. "I know. I just ... one of the biggest issues with the Rollins faction is they felt we were being too secretive and manipulating things too much."

Durov shrugged. "I'll put it this way. There are things you aren't cleared to know. None of those things , I swear, has any impact on your job or protecting the people of Earth. I give you my word. It's political bullshit that would just upset you but still needs to be done."

Dalan turned to face Durov squarely, the cold wind blowing his white hair back from his aging features, his blue eyes suddenly watery and old. "Such as executing anyone who asks where the ships are after a while? Or killing anyone who figures out what really happened? I noticed that the security team that recovered Admiral Steven's body was on the shuttle that we blew up to stage her death. No loose ends, right?"

Dalan leaned closer, jaw tightening. "People like Rollins left because being a loose end is often something you can't control. You'll pardon me, Aleski, if I'm worried that I may end up a loose end one day."

Durov stared back calmly. "Rollins was a fool, who was used by a bitter old woman. The sec team was TOLD -- explicitly -- not to mention anything to anyone but did so anyway. If the people of earth..."

Durov paused, running his hands through his hair, and turned to stare at the children playing in the park below. More softly, he continued. "I do whatever is necessary to protect them, even if that means killing the innocent, betraying my friends, or slaughtering those whose only offense is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If the people of Earth panic -- if SolForce fails -- if we splinter and start fighting each other, we are doomed. You're goddamned RIGHT I'll do anything to prevent that. The question is.... why aren't you?"

Buttoning his coat against the rapidly chilling wind, Durov turned away. "It smells like snow, Dalan. You should get inside. It's going to be cold out here soon."

Watching the smaller man trundle back towards the SolForce HQ building, Dalan laughed softly to himself. "It's already cold. I just never realized how cold it was." Pushing his hands into the pockets of the uniform, Dalan lowered his head and followed.

In the park, the children were rounded up by their parents, shooed back to the warmth of their vehicles, without knowing what dire events had just been discussed 100 feet away.

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TrashMan
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Re: Coldness Beyond Compare - SotS/BoB Fiction

Post by TrashMan » Tue Aug 19, 2008 9:52 pm

:thumbsup:
Image
halo07guy wrote: Praise be to Trashman! All will revel in his holy modding skillz!
And I say onto you: Blessed are those who play my mods - for they are good!

halo07guy
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Re: Coldness Beyond Compare - SotS/BoB Fiction

Post by halo07guy » Wed Aug 20, 2008 2:00 am

I suggest you right a book. Your writing style reminds me of Eric Nylund and Harry Turtledove.
Your world can end in the blink of an eye. One event, one unexpected twist of fate... and suddenly the world as you knew... is gone. Forever. All that you held dear, all that you held close... is washed away in a sea of distant memory. Life... is cruel. Of this I have no doubt. But life continues on... with, or without you. One can only hope that one leaves behind a lasting legacy.

R.I.P. Allison Mohney and Jared May

Lathana
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Re: Coldness Beyond Compare - SotS/BoB Fiction

Post by Lathana » Wed Aug 20, 2008 4:10 am

Chapter Two - Horizons

-------------------------------

Admiral Durov looked around the assembly hall, his back as straight as he could get it. The burns he had sustained in the Hiver attack had never healed well, and the large, bold black eyepatch he wore over his ravaged face stood out like a patch of black space. His uniform was immaculate, the crimson stripes of the Medal of Honor and Valor rampant -- twice -- on his left sleeve and on the white ribbon around his neck.

In front of him was all that mattered of Earth -- the heads of the Western United American Alliance, the European Federation, the Protectorate and the Jade-Chrysanthemum Empire. The minor players, such as bits of the Middle East and the like, did not matter. The room was dominated by the Sixteen Admirals of SolForce, a number of blue-water admirals and ground generals, and the newly formed SolForce Marine Commandant. Intermixed at the polished walnut tables were the most powerful businessmen, scientists, and a few famous actors and entertainers.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I am Admiral Aleski Durov Commander in Chief of the Sol System Defensive Forces. My aides are Admiral Parvanious Dalan, SolForce System Chief; Admiral Kien Chiel-So, SolForce Administratus; Admiral Nancy Dereim, SolForce Public Relations, and Strike-Commandant Augustus James Church, commandant of the SolForce Marines, with many thanks to the WUAA for the loan of the former US Marine Corps."

He paused to trigger the holographic projector from the black podium he stood at, his personal computer displaying his notes even as the room dimmed and a wavery image displayed on the huge, vaulted roof of the hotel gallery. The image was like a net of stars cast in many hues, linked by lines of azure, like a huge, complex dew-strung web. Data began filtering down the sides, as the admiral spoke again.

"Our best information, compiled from almost 3 years of exploration flights using our new Hastati-class ER ships, has given us only the most fragmentary outline of the challenges we face just to survive. We have expanded this search out to 22 star systems." A gesture made those system pulse red in a steady beat, slowly creeping outwards from Sol. "There are a host of issues -- meteor storms, bad node point formations, supply problems -- that caused the need for another 2 years of follow-on exploratory effort. However, the time was well worth it, for we've found some key pieces of .. evidence."

Durov smiled as questions formed on the faces below, and clicked on the next holodisplay. "11 of the 22 systems are empty and can support, on some level , human life, albeit only with a massive investment. We have rebuilt our populations somewhat from the Disaster, but at our best calculation, we have something like 2 billion people who work for SolForce, or whose labor directly comes into SolForce. We have so much capital that our accountants have started measuring it in credits, so our current funds are something on the order of 1 and a half trillion Euros."

He looked around. "I say this to suggest we may need more. That is why you are here. Starting these 11 worlds off will cost -- literally -- trillions upon trillions of dollars. We may end up sending 500,000 people in a colony ship and after five years be lucky if 1,000 of them are producing anything of value for SolForce. Your investment in these colonies will allow you a great deal of return on your money, allowing you to upgrade and improve Earth's infrastructure. Your voices will convince the people of Earth to trust in this venture as we move forward into the stars. It is necessary. It is vital, given the horrors we have already discovered."

He gestured to the other podium, where a tall, slender brunette woman stood and gave a thin, humorless smile. Her eyes were dark, almost shaded behind a long fall of brown hair, and while no longer young ,she was trim and fit. Two long scars , pale lines on suntanned skin, traced down her right cheek. Her voice was a strong, vibrant contralto that drew the eye. "I am Captain Robin Admen, and I'm the head of what is best described as SolForce Intelligence. We've analyzed the data from what scout ships returned alive, and it's not a comforting picture." She paused to point to the new map on the ceiling. "The renegades managed to flee a good ways upspin of us before running into trouble, and they've settled about 140 lightyears away in a cluster of stars, here. Since they took with them a lot of our Primary Sciences team, all indications are that they're developing their space technology at a much faster rate than we are. Their standard of life is probably suffering a great deal, however -- but doubtless, that won't matter much to them anyway, since the civilians taken with them are , quite simply, hostages to the situation."

She shifted the view to the right. "Outspin, we've identified a group of aliens that we've initially tagged as "Species A". Species A has not had any real contact with us -- but they fired on our scoutships, which withdrew at best speed. The disturbing thing about this species A is that their ships can move at faster than light speeds -- without using nodelines."

Several scientists began babbling questions, but the woman simply gave them a sharp look. "We'll give our sensor logs to anyone interested , but our best guess is that they have some method of deforming space-time around them. I don't know the technical details, but it gives them a level of flexibility we don't have. The nodelines in this area are not always conducive to quick travel." Her face tightened, and she brushed her hair back unconsciously as she continued. "An analysis of the battle damage to the SFS Sicarcius showed that they're using a very high-impact, armor piercing mass driver round, and a fusion-warhead , highspeed missile system."

She exhaled, looking around the darkened room. The military people looked grim, the scientists a mix of excited and upset, the civilians shocked. "I wish to stress that at this time our military capability is very low -- most of it went with the renegades. Our best vessels are using the rapid-launch gamma burst warhead designs Professor Cardon came out with last summer, and we are currently working hard to retrofit our orbital facilities to try to build larger vessels, but it will take time. We desperately need more resources and Earth is about played out."

"One final point. Six of our ships found worlds that can be inhabited with little to no investment on top of the 11 marginal worlds. SolForce has already dispatched colonization efforts to those worlds, and we plan to offer shares in our transportation and trading networks both to raise money and share the benefits of our expansion. However, 3 scouts only managed to transmit before being destroyed, and that is our primary worry."

"One scout ran into this." She displayed the picture of an ancient, heavy nickel-iron asteroid, it's surface clearly artificially smoothed, with banks of powerful looking , glowing weapons arrayed in neat rows down it's sides. "We found this in Epsilon Eridani. It's some kind of automated defense station. We never got close enough for physical samples, so the rough spectrographic and distance pentrometer feedback from the asteroid indicates that the thing is roughly 20 thousand years old. As you will see...despite it's age, it's quite functional." The picture moved, from the backup recon drone that every explorer dropped at the system edge before investigating.

The ship was like all SolForce vessels -- a heavy armored pod for a bridge and living section, a spindle-shaped armored middle section for weapons, and a huge ring on pylons borne by the in-system engine section. The ship fired distance pentrometers, small probes that transmitted back information, and scanned the object, watching it slowly turn. When nothing happened, the destroyer moved out of the mass shadow of the nearby asteroid to investigate more closely.

Four turrets on the asteroid began turning. In the background, the chatter of the crew could be heard, names of who was speaking coming up along with a transcript on each table in front of the watching dignitaries.

CMDR IASON: "Tactical, are those goddamned turrets moving?"
LT COLDS: "Y..yes sir. Oh. . .oh shit. Sir, energy spike from the rock thing, those turrets are still functional!"
CMDR IASON: "Nav, hard aport, fire starboard emergency thrusters, lock onto the nearest node. Tactical, bring the laser cannons online. Engineering, give me emergency power."

The ship goes into a powered slide, turning in space. A plume of fire erupts from the missile banks and 3 heavy , needle shaped missiles streak out.

CMDR IASON: "Nav, on my mark, vent the inert gasses we use for firefighting from the top of the ring, and give me a full burn."
LT MARKSA: "Wha.. uh, yes sir."
CMDR IASON: "Ill explain later...James, are lasers targeted? Fire."

The ship's tripled laser cannons fire on the first missile, but the shots glance away and fail to explode the incoming missile. There is the sound of cursing on the ship.

CMDR IASON: "Alright... Lisa, NOW, vent, full burn!"

The ship tumbles almost end over end, doing a powerslide and rotating on it's axis, the first missile overshooting and crashing into the asteroid nearby.

CMDR IASON: "Nav, emergency burn for the node point! Tactical, drop chaff and blow the cover panels for fuel intakes, garbage, anything."

The second missile crashes into the junk as the ship opens the range, tumbling wildly as it tries to find the target, and it also crashes into the asteroid.

LT COLDS: "Holy shit, cap. That was .. close".

CMRD IASON: "Third missile incoming. Let's hope we can take the hit--"

A flash of light and the probe transmits a message that it has lost the data downlink. Commander Admen turned to face the assembled guests. "The other two ships ran into worse -- one into some kind of silicon lifeforms that dissected it, the other into a pile of alien wreckage infested with automated defense ships that blasted it apart. We have no idea if these hazards are sessile or mobile; if they are merely reacting to perceived threat or if they have reported to something else; and at least in the case of the silicoid life form, if they are sentient." She swallowed, and glanced back at Durov.

The heavyset admiral made a motion and the lights came back up. "Our plans, ladies and gentlemen, are simple. To colonize the nearest worlds, and to use the resource to build up our defenses. We are not looking to pick a fight with anyone, but simply to ensure we are never victimized again. SolForce is asking for your help -- your investment, your moral clout, your sponsorship, your participation in this effort. If we were facing a space empty of threat, I would not do this. I understand the burden of supporting SolForce must already seem crushing, economically, politically, emotionally."

Durov pointed a stubby finger at the screen. "But what we face out there is not going to care about our problems. And if we cannot meet it head on -- united, and with the best our minds and muscles and morale can bring together -- we are going to die. Not be conquered, or defeated. We are going to face extinction. The only thing that will survive us is a handful of broken satellites, the ruins of our homeworld, and the radio and communications signals we've blasted out from Earth in the past 200 years."

Durov squared his shoulders , and smiled. "I'm ready to answer any questions you might have."


Three days later, Durov walked into the black marble building that housed SolForce Intelligence, based just south of Denver, and smiled as two black-armored SolForce Troopers came to attention. "ID card, please, sir?" one asked, and Durov cheerfully handed it to him for inspection, then stepped past him to the elevator, which deposited him on the top , sixth floor, into a single narrow corridor ending in a large , well appointed office.

The room was walnut paneled, the north and south walls covered in bookcases and maps, some of Earth, some of space. The south wall also had a collection of swords, hanging neatly from racks , each one from a different country. The west wall held a comm console and a powerful computer system linked into SolForce's intelligence systems. Bits of crytpo traffic burbled idiotically in the background as Durov closed the door behind him.

The desk near the east wall was made of solid steel, heavy, curved, and inset with a single slab of carved obsidian in the words "Repensum Est Canicula".

The man in the chair behind the desk, staring out at the setting sun through the large plateglass windows in the east wall, was huge. Massive, muscled shoulders tapered down to a narrow waist, while his broad chest was liberally sprinkled with medals, ribbons, and marks of achievement. His face was craggy and harsh, the nose almost hooked, the jaw jutting, the mouth wide and almost squarish. The eyes , as he turned to face Durov, were the worst -- black pits under over-extended, harshly slanted eyebrows, they were narrowed , haloed by an aura of angry wrinkles. The man's dark red hair was as slicked back and short-trimmed as his mustached upper lip was neatly trimmed. His voice was the throaty growl of a man who had never doubted himself, and was cold and almost arrogant in it's own liquid way.

"Admiral Durov. What a ... pleasant ... surprise. Sit."

Durov sat, licking his lips nervously. Dicking around with a bunch of world leaders and idiots who sang songs for a living was one thing. This man was something else entirely. "Admiral Kaine, I have come to request a favor."

Jeremy Kaine sat back in his plush chair, his huge hands drumming perfectly trimmed nails on the metal desk. "I'm listening."

Durov smiled weakly. "We've discovered something disturbing in our initial explorations. Wreckage of the ships at one of the sites matches the astronomical observations of the unknown vessel just before the Hiver incursion."

Kaine sat up straight and leaned forward. "Who cleared you for that?"

Durov smiles thinly. "I have my own sources, Admiral. I run SolForce."

Kaine rolled his eyes. "You run SolForce because we could hardly admit the truth to the world of .. our organization. No matter. The ... pattern is very distinctive. Show me. I'll see if it's true."

Durov handed over a chip, which Kaine slotted into a player on his desk. The holoimage came up, clear and sharp. A tumbled expanse of shattered ships, huge beyond the size anything humanity could build, rotated a blasted hellworld around a star who's blue-white radiations would have slain any life on it. The tiny SolForce explorer began approaching the wreckage, voices in the background heavy with stress, awe, and fear.

CMDR SILVA: "Sensor report?"
LT CURE: "..nothing, sir. Our sensors can register the mass...but nothing else. "
CMDR SILVA: "Dammit. Keep us in the mass shadow of this asteroid for a bit longer, then, Nav. Visual closeup, if you can, and burst transmit that back to the recon drone."

The image zoomed in , closer and closer, until it focused on a bold set of glyphs, jagged lightning on a pattern of faint scales. The intricate whorls and loops looked almost organic from one direction, geometric from another.

LT CURE: "...uh, there's something wrong with this fucking sensor, sir."
CMDR SILVA: "What's that?"
LT CURE: "Jesus, where did they buy this thing, America? Sir, I just did a shape analsys to try to map a density of the wreckage, and some of these angles don't add up. When I look at them on the scope, they're obtuse. When I look at them with my naked eye, they're not , they're way less than 90 degrees. But then I looked again and now it's a right angle."
LT SIMS: "Weird."
CMDR SILVA: "Fuck. Well, nothing for it. Bring up the weapons systems, and take us closer, son."
LT SIMS: "Yes, Captain. Engaging thrust, course plotted."
LT CURE: "...sir. Oh fuck me. FUCK!"
CMDR SILVA: "Report , Lieu .. .. shit."

A swarm of tiny vessels erupted from the wreckage, dart shaped and swept winged, curved and needlelike. They flickered in and out of view, like fell birds of smoke and shadow, and then back into solidity.

CMDR SILVA: "Nav, hard to starboard, emerengency --"

A single beam of silver light lashed out , cutting into the ring drive, severing the node engine with a flash of fire and debris. Screams could be heard.

LTCM HONSIS: "Bridge, engineering, the node drive is out. Heavy casualties, engineering one and two."
LT CASIS: "Severe casualties, mid deck, mess deck, berth deck six. Fuel leaks, too."

CMDR SILVA: "OPEN FIRE ON THOSE GODDAMNED THINGS!"

The SFS Elegiac erupted, it's lasers and gauss cannons firing rapidly. Gauss rounds hit the ships and bounced off, the lasers deflecting away harmlessly. A second and third beam of light carved into the ship and more alarms blared, before the engines suddenly exploded.

*coughing and moaning*
CMRD SILVA: "Nav? Nav!"
LT CURE: "Tactical here, sir. .. our node section is just..gone..."
CMDR SILVA: "...launch the data beacon. NOW."

The transmission ended a second later as a final silvery lance of light punched the destroyer's command module to scrap and flames.

Kaine looked at Durov, and then he brought up a close up of the images on the ship, and a grainy black and white image of the same design from some other file. "....yes, it matches."

Durov leaned back. "What does that mean?"

Kaine pulled the chip out from the player. "Who else has seen this?"

Durov shrugged. "The intel sorter who ran the session. Commander Admen. Myself."

Kaine nodded. "We're not sure what these things are, Durov. We glimpsed the first one from the unmanned probe we sent to scout Alpha Centari before we launched the Nova Maria. The probe was destroyed, and then a year later, the bugs hit us. Maybe it's just a coincidence. I don't like believing in coincidence, though."

Kaine stood. "This is a Omega Four matter now, Admiral Durov. It's not your concern any longer. Am I clear?"

Durov bristled. "I expect to be -- "

Kaine leaned forward, his massive arms unfolding from across his chest so he could plant his knuckles on the desk like a silverback gorilla. His eyes narrowed until they were dagger-throwing slits of obsidian hate. "I hate repeating myself, so I'll be plain. SolForce is there to keep us from being shot to pieces by bugs and to make sure everyone is contributing to the defense effort. We organized you. We give you your intel, your inside information on the governments. We decrypt your messages and we are the only comms link you have to the renegades. If you buck me, I'll have your corpse in the Colorado river by nightfall and a clone of you looking like you suffered a heart attack in the bed with a woman 30 years your younger in the morning -- and no one will care. You aren't trained to deal with this. So don't fucking try me."

Durov swallowed.

Kaine stood back up to his full , six foot seven inch height. "Thank you for the data. We'll let you know if we find something relevant."

Durov stood, a bit stiffly, and nodded, walking out with a straight back. Kaine waited until the door had shut and the sensor light on the wall indicated Durov was descending in the elevator before he cleared his throat and a man stepped out of the adjacent room through a door that opened from behind one of the bookcases.

The man was strictly average -- sandy blond hair in a regulation cut, bland features, average build, in a plain grey SolForce uniform. "I hate hiding in there , it's like something out of a bad spy novel."

Kaine gave only a hint of a smile. "Durov's cockroaches found something in their scurrying about. More of those ... things. Durov isn't happy about being cut out of the loop."

The man shrugged. "Cut out his throat and we can worry about happy later, sir."

Kaine shook his head. "Durov is a needed evil. If I killed him, I'd have to deal with Dalan, who is less tractable and more idealistic. No, the best thing to do is simply to insure this is handled ... correctly. Take a scout ship to the next meet with our twins in the renegades and give them the coordinates. I want it handled before SolForce gets its nerve up to go looking."

The man nodded crisply and headed to the door, but Kaine stopped him by grabbing his arm. "One more thing. Whatever happens, it is critically important that no one starts putting two and two together about what really happened during the chaos after the bug attack. Durov is smart enough to understand that things are going on behind closed doors -- some people who work for him aren't. If you hear anything about this -- at all -- don't let the rumors spread any further."

The man nodded again, and Kaine released him. "Go. I have a few calls to make." Kaine returned to his seat as the man departed, and picked up the phone.

"...yes. Give me the number for Captain Robin Admen."

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DervMan
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Re: Coldness Beyond Compare - SotS/BoB Fiction

Post by DervMan » Sun Dec 21, 2008 10:24 am

I like it so far. It has a breadth that I have tried to ignore :wink: in my own writing, the strategic overview, which I have made the assumption that is down to the reader to figure out. And I think you've pulled it off. Well done!
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Quester
Posts: 365
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Re: Coldness Beyond Compare - SotS/BoB Fiction

Post by Quester » Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:24 pm

Am eagerly waiting for the next posting.

phandukto
Posts: 11
Joined: Sun Nov 16, 2008 9:19 pm

Re: Coldness Beyond Compare - SotS/BoB Fiction

Post by phandukto » Mon Dec 22, 2008 3:06 am

Awesome! Can't wait for the next post.
"Winners want the ball"

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Erinys
Kerberos Goddess of Lore
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Re: Coldness Beyond Compare - SotS/BoB Fiction

Post by Erinys » Mon Dec 22, 2008 5:09 am

Welcome to the forums! 8) And many thanks for posting. The most rewarding part of this job is seeing how much people get out of the game. :thumbsup:

--Arinn
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Admr_Maverick
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Re: Coldness Beyond Compare - SotS/BoB Fiction

Post by Admr_Maverick » Mon Dec 22, 2008 9:12 pm

Awesome! :thumbsup:
That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.

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