Brotherhood of Ercedia

Tales from the Other Side - Continued
A case, and a silent Juror

“What do you mean you lost the mark?”

“I got distracted…”

“You got distracted?! You’re the best in the business! You don’t get distracted.”

“Well, thank you for that, but this was… I thought I saw… look, I still know where the guy is, he makes the same trip every day, I’ll get him tomorrow. I just… look, I need a drink and some time alone with my thoughts.”

Kerrick stood at a street vendor stall, holding one of the random wares being sold, his full attention on scanning the passing crowds. His current assignment required following a biogenetic scientist, whom Kerrick believed was a corporate spy planted by Tergeo-Mancipium, and Kerrick needed to gather more information. Kerrick continued to toy with the object in his hands, occasionally inquiring with the vendor on prices or quality, when the mark walked by him. Placing the object down, and pausing a few moments for the mark to get a few extra steps further away, Kerrick turned after him, pulling his coat closer around him. The man continued along his way, distracted with the terminal on his arm, his pace casual. Kerrick kept a safe distance behind the man, his eyes continuing to scan the passing crowd on the street, assessing any potential threats or Tergeo-Mancipium contacts the man may be delievering information to.

Kerrick suddenly stopped mid-stride, his eyes staring ahead of him, no longer truly seeing anything. His mind quickly tried to catch up, to make sense with what he saw, questioning what it was he thought he saw, doubting and pushing out the suddenly hope welling in him. “That woman,” he thought to himself, “that just passed…” Kerrick quickly turned his head to look behind him, searching the crowd, but at this time of day in the corporate sector, the streets were filled with employees leaving work and heading home. Kerrick cleared his mind, pushing aside personal thoughts to return back on mission, and turned back around.


Having lost sight of the scientist, Kerrick looked around him one more time before heading back to his office.


Tales from the Other Side
Night City Blues

Kerrick sat in an alleyway, back against a wall. Only a few old flickering neon signs gave any illumination to darkness. One of the signs denoted the entrance to a noodle shop, the words flickering between sylvan and broken common. Another sketched the figure of a scantily clad Alaryan woman in some erotic pose. In this section of the city, the “Alaryan” girls this brothel tried to sell its clients as being 100% pure blooded, were most likely some poor Heltian with a few feathers glued to her back. But, if you were visiting this type of location, you were probably hopped up on some backwater synth-drug (lag, mirage, and myre being the most prevalent around this sector) to really care.

He had been in this world for six months now. Six long months, and in that time he hadn’t gotten any closer to figuring out how to escape. The first week he had been here, he spent most of the time on the run from the “police,” a glorified term for the corrupt organization that enforced the city counsel’s laws. Booster gangs, megacorps, the sleaze of mankind, they all could get a finger in the pie if they had the right connections and the right credit figure; money ruled the counsel, and Tergeo-Mancipium controlled the money. It all led back to Tergeo-Mancipium. Kerrick had spent the days dodging patrol cars, getting into a few fights, or outright running from the semi-competent officer who remembered they carried a firearm. His nights, Kerrick slept wherever he could secure; stairwells in forgotten parking structures, rooftops, etc. A couple times, a few wanna-be booster thugs found him, deciding he was an easy mark to score their next hit. They were highly unprepared to fight a soldier, and Kerrick was able to pocket their credits and feed himself. After the week, the police grew bored with chasing him down and turned their attention back to more lucrative ventures.

Finally able to slow down and relax, Kerrick made his way to a bar. “Alice’s” bar was an oasis in a war zone, neutral ground in a city where city blocks were fought over by boostergangs while corporations or the mobs owned the whole. Everyone was equal in Alice’s, where all the patrons were looking for that brief moment of escape from their realities. The bar itself had gone through several fashions before settling on the well fashioned dive bar it was today. Odd pieces could still be found: decade old techno music playing over the speakers, a broken karaoke machine in a corner, chrome walls bordered in neon. Kerrick quickly made friends with the bartender/owner Luke, an old soldier who had lost a leg in battle and retired. Luke now had an older generation synthetic prosthetic leg; chrome, wires, and the mechanisms were visible and well into deterioration. After a few days hanging out at the bar, and helping to break up several fights among the patrons, Luke offered Kerrick a position as bouncer, which included a discount on the spare room he had to rent.

After a month of daily life. Kerrick was sitting at the bar chatting with Luke, when a distraught woman entered the building. The woman was short, long blonde hair, with her make-up clearly displaying she had been crying. The woman was searching for her husband, now certain that he had been kidnapped. Taking pity on the woman, Kerrick offered to look for her husband. She led him back to their small apartment, explaining that the men had debts to some of the local gangs. Finding the rooms in disarray, and questioning the woman more, Kerrick determined which gangs may have done this. Kerrick proceeded to the streets, working his way through alleys and some of the contacts he had made, Kerrick quickly found the man in an abandoned factory, with some of the gang enforcers threatening and roughing up the man, demanding payment. Stepping in to stop the beating, and having to fight one of the enforcers, Kerrick offered the men the outatanding balance due. After collecting the money, all parties leave the building. Bringing the husband back to his apartment, and after countless thanks, Kerrick is able to leave and return to Alice’s. From then on, with word of mouth, more desperate people approached Kerrick at the bar to find or locate things or people. This quickly became an almost full-time business for Kerrick; so much so, that Kerrick quickly converted the majority of his rented apartment into a private detective office.

Kerrick continued to sit against the wall, bleary eyed and alone. His attention shifted from the whiskey bottle he clutched tightly around the bottle neck in his left hand, the now faded and tattered photo of his old squad held in his right, and the Armalite pistol he had carelessly dropped next to himself. Kerrick sighed, having made up his mind; he was dangerously low on ammo for the Armalite, but he only really needed the one bullet. Kerrick once more brushed his thumb across the photo before tucking it back into his pocket. He grabbed the pistol next to him tightly, and slowly stood, taking a step closer to the center of the alley. Surveying the building around him one last time, Kerrick decided this was a fitting place to die. Slowly, and painfully, Kerrick brought the whiskey bottle up towards his mouth, before suddenly turning and throwing it back toward the alleyway entrance. In the same fluid movement, the Armalite was brought up, the sights pinned upon the bottle as it flew through the air. Kerrick grinned as he pulled the trigger, the 12mm HEAP round piercing the bottle and igniting the highly explosive CHAOM filled inside, the resulting fireball illuminating the three merc solo-assassins making their way toward him, the bottle centered between the front two. The fireball consumed the two, the few remaining rounds in the pistol dropped the remaining assassin.

The Morning of the Battle, 0100UF

Roark flexed his new arm and ground his teeth. A vein on his head pulsed and he growled. The fething Riden would pay. After he ripped off the plates one by one, he thought, he would tear each artery and vein out with his fingers, starting with the arms, and tie them around a pole. Then he would rip the pole away. He stifled a curse as another chip of his tooth came free, and he spat it out with some blood. He looked at his face in the mirror. Still healing, some patches jaundice yellow or blemish purple.

His gaze drifted to a nail file in the medical kit he was using to wrap his wrists. He could, he thought, rip them out with his teeth instead. ‘The Night drags on and on’, he thought. The Lady would see to that, one way or another, and he would soon be reborn. He reached for the nail file.

Herrod walked next to him, a steely look on his face. Roark stopped. Harrod turned to himself in the mirror, closing the split in his forehead that had opened again. The magic took a toll, Roark knew. But Roark had given things up too. Herrod said nothing, just washed the rest of the newest victim’s blood from his hands, and clasped his hands together. Reality warped slightly around his knuckles, and Roark stifled the urge to take a step back. The same energy had gave him his arm, with literally the strength of ten men, and at least one woman. The same energy had of course, consumed several others for energy.

“Finish Roark. They will be here soon. Go stand guard.”

Roark ground his teeth again. That was all he said, then the Devil’s Hand walked back to his victims again, to begin probing the next one’s mind. He had consumed a dozen already, in preparation, and his portal was almost complete. It would take a little over an hour to complete. Apparently there was going to be a whole world between here and Arcane, or here and Skaath if he chose it.

Roark considered killing him, not for the first time. His hand bore the key. That was all that was necessary. That bloody kingstone could open the gate. The ring of ultimate power, given to Herrod by his treacherous uncle, and used to kill, to build Herrod’s empire, and to speak to the Lady of Darkness herself. Soon Asmolek and the others would be free. Soon Bhall would walk the worlds, doing as he pleased.

Roark shook his head. He didn’t have the vast stores or discipline of energy to take over and they both knew it. And he didn’t have the foresight to counter the kid’s paranoia. Roark stepped over the body of Applewhite and some female Riden and walked to the door, pulling on the spiked gauntlets that he had just had made, and smiled. That Riden would die this time. He had practiced on the female, just to be sure, and he knew now how to abuse the Riden’s weaknesses. He would make that rhino pay for taking his ship, women, money, and humanity.

Since he had arrived in this strange place, his anger had been easier to keep in check. Herrod had done something, and at the back of his mind Roark could feel the collar around him, the invisible leash that stole something away and kept him obedient, but he didn’t care. He had what he wanted now, coming to him. Revenge. He smiled a shattered smile, and spit blood from his mouth again. As he walked into the antechamber leading to the surface he saw something move in the corner of his eye. Something other than the mules and the small drones that filled the room, something…

After a few moments of searching he thought he saw a face in the wall, just the outline of closed eyes, and a helmet. Just then a drone flew past his vision, almost hitting him in the face, scanning him. Out of frustration he swatted it down, instantly cracking the two-inch armor and causing the drone to emit sparks and die. He couldn’t find the thing in the wall again. With a discontented grunt he moved on, certain that the magical wards, electronic ftraps and triggers, and mechanical tripwires and sensors would have detected something moving in here, had it existed. He walked through the open door, noting small shavings on the ground from the wall, or perhaps from a drone? They were the same dark mirrored color, so he couldn’t be sure. He looked back at the wall.

“Roark! Stop attacking my drones.” Herrod sounded distracted, only partially aware as he focused life force and energy on the glowing milky portal before him. Roark growled and walked back to the entrance of the base, into the blasted hot sun and red blistering light.

He shaded his eyes against the crimson sunlight, and saw a figure materialize from his right. One of the commanders from the initiate army walked over, his white gloves stained from the copper sand. “Commander Roark!” He barked.
Roark gave him a curt nod, walking away from the man toward some of the only shade on the planet, outside the canyons. “What is it?!”

“Sir, long range scans have detected a fleet approaching.”
“You don’t think your god knows?”
“Sir, I don’t know?”
Roark considered crushing the man with his tree-stump sized fist, but reconsidered. It was still healing somewhat from the operation. And the man hadn’t insulted him.
“Fine, thank you. Get your men into position.”
“We have men hidden in the sand and along the ridge, the tanks and hovercraft is camouflaged and hidden 100 meters out.”
“Fine.” Why was this man telling him? Ever since Commander Grestin had had his accident Roark himself was treated like a Prime. He still wasn’t sure how he thought of this. And no one was sure how Grestin had died, in his ship, outside of conflict. Every explosive on his craft had simultaneously exploded. Misconduct, or sabotage? With this crowd, it was never clear.

Roark turned his eyes to the red sky. Somewhere up there was that Riden. And that Shutta Wrinwriss. He would take great pleasure in her capture. He would keep her for days, in a cage. arms cut. legs too. Maybe he would make a doll out of her, and let her starve. Feed her nothing but drugs, and watch her mind melt. He nodded slowly. Yeah. Her ship, her life, and sweet revenge would soon be his.

Tell Them I Was One of the Good Guys
The quiet thoughts of Thomas Greyburn

It’s strange… that feeling that you’re near the end of something; be it for better or worse. For a while it seemed like it was just my lot in life to keep trudging through all of this fighting, death, and suffering ’til the end. But it looks like we’re finally about to get a chance to cut the head off the snake with one hard swing and finish this awful business.

So much life has been lost because of a single man’s lust for power. Although in fairness, lust for power has been the cause of much more death before this monster was a twinkle in someone’s eye; and will probably kill more people long after he’s gone and forgotten. But all the same, it don’t make it any better. Don’t make it any less wrong.

The Heltian races are a funny sort when you stop and think about it. For the most part, it seems that we’re just as likely to sell each other out for a sack of beans as we are to try and actually save our own race from tearing itself apart… that’s probably not the clearest metaphor I’ve ever thunk of but light take me if I don’t mean it.

At the end of the day it’s easy to feel like you’re just another speck of dust floatin’ out in the great cosmic emptiness of space. Like no matter what you do it’s just a single drop in this vast ocean of existence. I don’t know if I particularly enjoy waxing philosophical, but after you’ve seen what we’ve seen it’s hard not to.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that for better or for worse, us living folk are all we got. And the fact that we’re all trying to kill each other for a scrap of power to live just a bit longer or boss around just a few more people is one the universe’s greatest ironies: Killing to create life, destroying things to create. The Krypt say we’re not strong because we fight among ourselves and allow the vilest things to grow and thrive under our own noses… and I have half a mind to say they might be right. The result of doing nothing about the presence of evil is just about as bad as doing the evil yourself.

Now that don’t mean there aren’t good people out there. Light knows there are good people. I’d like to think that I fell in with the good sort. And if I have anything to say about it, we’ll all be walking away from this scrape with maybe a scar or two and a story to tell… but we’ll all be walking away.

But the reality is that you don’t get to choose when the Lady calls you home. And I’ve made my peace with that. All I really know is that when I do finally get to cross that river and meet with the man himself, with White Lady standing next to him, I want to be able look him dead in the eyes and tell him true.

I was one of the good guys.

And if I don’t get the chance to walk away from this fight I hope that at least that part of my story gets told. Tell them I was one of the good guys, that I didn’t give up when things got hard, and that I didn’t shrink from my duty when a sacrifice was called for. That’s about all I can ask for.

Extranet Broadcast "Unified At Last"
-30 Juvia 4122h, Global News Broadcast

SILENCE WAS HEARD for the first time.

Rhunion, Helt. 30, Juvia, 4122h. -Cassidan Lighten, Senior Correspondent.

For the first time in over two weeks I lay on a down pillow as soft snow drifts undisturbed outside. There are no gunshots to race the pulse, no artillery or crack of orbital guns. No smell of sweat or dirt from hiding in a hole. For the first time, I and Sgt. Holliday, freshly promoted to First Lieutenant Holliday, and her troop slept through the night, (excepting a few souls on watch).
The battle of Rhunion lasted less than sixteen hours once it began, the last in a series of pushes by the Halcyon’s augmented “steel division”. Nearly ten thousand metal frames and fifteen hundred flesh-and-blood Halcyon operators lay across the ground outside the Fortifaçade. The Fortifaçade lays in tatters, several sections missing, and rubble turned to dust in at least two sections, but for the 260 men and women that called the ancient wall their home for the last two weeks, it will stand as a reminder that no force, not Heltian or otherwise, has conquered the inner city in recorded history, and today it is no different.
Seventy-five of the bravest souls I could ever hope to know survive the grueling struggle. Similar numbers and stories are can be found in Broadling, Cierre, and the old melted fort at Hammerfall.
A large number, over a hundred, Halcyon Operators have surrendered, and their orbital ships have stood down. The autonomous army from the oceans lay in wrecks on the beach, smoking black plumes mark downed drones and warbirds. With the help of the Dulani delegation, a handful of the Blood of the Chieftain, and a finally united people, the Halcyon threat has ended, and a clear message has been sent. “We will not be conquered!” hangs on banners around the city, and when Seneschal Arrevian arrived from the Halcyon delegation to begin peace talks, his opening remarks were apparently in recognition of the spirit of Helt united.
After emergency actions resolved, the chain of command fell at the feet of General Richards of the United Forces, who immediately moved to reinstate the global military. A message will be sent out some time tomorrow to beacon dispersal, calling back every dismissed soldier loyal to the United Forces, which will finally be expanded to include every nation and people on Helt. This initiative is being called the United Helt Protectorate Force, and will include Feyborn, Chelle, Darkilings, Riden, Dulani, Underborn, and Daarken, as well as recognizing Sivrya, Aeria, and Central Keladon as sovereign nations. Other changes are coming as well.
After so much fighting it is nice to have a moment to write.



Other news:

Theft at Skycorp “inconsequential” authorities claim. Det. Lügner- “Your information is safe.”

Dregleik Dragons lose Blitztick 2 – 3 vs. Arcadian Fireflies, Coach Thomasin claims overtime win was “long time coming.”

Arcane South District Attourney Lucila Hera steps down after 55 years of dedicated service, celebration in her honor to be held Thursday.

Blast from the past: “Dr Ecicler” has returned with ‘lessons’. 2 new published articles appear overnight.

A Few Notes to Expound Upon
: Remind myself to fill in details when I'm not so busy...

Khyla said I was being targeted personally by someone on planet. She asked us to go to the penthouse to lie low. If they came for me, it should be at the ship, in which case she and Aleric are waiting to ambush them.

We have Des’ Ceremony.

The penthouse is cleaned and Wayland’s stuff removed. I speak with Vendrana about providing her with members of my crew.

I talk to Holt about the plan to draw Hubbard out of hiding.

War meeting- Malcolm suggests seeing Danny Darklight because he knows where everyone is.

We pile into Wayland’s SUV and head to Danny’s club. Malcolm, Crow, Des, Cara, Dev, Kerrick, Holt, Tom and Naraia go. We drive through the Waterfall. When we get closer to the club, two SUVs box us in and ask us where we go. Kerrick gets out and acts as the face of our group. Malcolm tells him to say that Malcolm is here to see Danny. We were let through.

The club was crazy. One AI girl to run things and control the robot girl servers. Tells us Danny is in the back. We go. Danny is lounging and barefoot.

He tells us to sit and Kerrick gets right to business. We want to find Hubbard. If we want Hubbard, we need to do Danny a favor, get his friend Nicolas Sarcov out of a bind. Everyone asks for more information but Danny won’t give it unless we agree.

He asks who speaks for the group. Mw. I decide to agree.

Tom asks about the girl slave trade and Kerrick gave him more info about us than I was comfortable with. Luckily I had secured Danny’s promise not to divulge info about us to others- who knows how long that will last.

We go to the address Danny gives us for Nicolas and we discover that he’s in prison. I ask Holt to do some research. Seems a rudimentary prison. I suggested that Holt prepare and file a face release document at the prison and DA’s office to allow Nicolas to just walk out. Dev was chosen to go into the facility to get him out and Holt went in after, cloaked, to plan the documents.

15 mins later, Dev and Nicolas (Danny’s twin) walked out. An invisible Holt jumped into the car, holding his breath. I instructed Cara to pick everyone up and we drove to the wall. Nic talked. He wanted us to save a former DA’s assistant. Wayland Corp wanted her dead. They had kidnapped her daughter to shut her up. Nick found the daughter so the guys killed the daughter and exiled Finny. That isn’t enough so they sent someone after her to kill her.

We agreed and he got out. We paid the Coyote to let us into the Dump. There, people surrounded our SUV and took our hubcaps before we got out and had Cara turn around. The people then surrounded us and asked our business.

I was going to try to fly Holt to the helicoptor we were trying to find but they trained rifles on us.

They asked who we were looking for. I said a woman named Finny. We were sent to protect her from an assassin. The lady addressing us said she was finny. I had Sylph run a face recognition. The lady beside her was Finny. I addressed finny. The lady stepped in front of her. I looked past her to Finny and said that Nicolas sent us to help her.

She told Rebecca to stand down and that she trusted Nic. We walked with her and Rebecca back to their houses. We talked about the Black Coven. Jones and Roark worked with Wayland and Roark was on planet now. Guess I know the most likely candidate for who’s hunting me.

I followed Finny into the house. She gave us her terminal. Said all her info on the Coven came from a relative who married a coven member.

We came under attack. There were forces around us. I tried to shield Finny with my wings. Bullets sprayed up my back and the final bullet hit bone and muscles in my wing and unfortunately went through into Finny’s head.

Somehow we got out (an EMP Blast-no wings, no flight)

We found the Heli and made it back to the penthouse.

A Country Boy's Prayer
The quiet thoughts of Thomas Greyburn

You know, I never really learn how to do this right I figure… never felt right asking for someone from upstairs to come down and fix your problems for you…

But I could use a little help right about now.

You see, I’ve always believed that right is right and wrong is wrong, and that by working hard and trying for the right the world would be a better place for it. And a better world is something worth fighting for. Right? I mean that’s what I know. That’s what makes sense. Well, at least that’s what used to make sense.

But what about when no matter what you do innocent people die? If it ain’t your brother it’s someone else’s brother, or sister, or mother, or cousin, or what have you. Who gets to decided then? The lucky ones pulling the trigger? Where are you great guardians of light when young girls are cut into pieces and burned alive from the inside? When whole towns of civilians are massacred? When—


Just… what is the point of all this suffering?

We keep throwing around the words “acceptable losses” … I suppose it’s to help us sleep at night after leveling a city full of civies with a laser cannon… but really, there ain’t any such thing as acceptable losses. There are just losses.

Try telling a mother that her son was an “acceptable loss” for the greater good of humanity. I’m sure that would comfort her right and proper…

I guess I’m not really praying anymore… Or whatever it was I was trying to do…

I’m just tired of seeing people die for the greater good. I’m tired of telling myself that there was nothing I could have done. Light fething burn it all! There’s always something that can be done. There’s always a choice.

-Naraia Rain

Choices. They affect everyone around us. Mine have more affect than others of late. I don’t relish that fact. Today was one of the toughest I have had to face because of my choices and I had to face it twice. Not many get the chance to turn back time and undo their mistakes. The price? My death.

Sylph’s admonishments are right. A half failed mission is no reason to commit suicide just to reset the odds. I don’t know what I was thinking. Tom just looked so lost and withdrawn which is so far from his character that the only think I could think to do to fix things was to use the bracelet.

The day started out as any normal day for us would planetside. We had landed on the asteroid colonies and I took Kerrick and his team with me to speak to my contact, Maximillion, the local mob boss. He was to have the code we needed to enter Chalonia’s space and he needed a favor as payment. I found his shop easy enough since it hadn’t changed since Cara and I were here last. Luke was standing outside with his thug friends, grinning like the ruffian he is, as his friends barred our passage and asked for our business and a fee. Amused but also in a hurry, I flashed them the gold card Max had given me for such purposes and Luke finally took charge.

He lead us passed the front shop façade and the back betting room to the room I had first met Max in. It was good to see both Luke and his father though, understandably, was more businesslike this time. He gave me the disc with the code on it that we needed and asked us to take out a certain target that was beginning to take control of some of the people. I provided him a list of names to see if he could ID the target and to my surprise, he identified 3 of our Black Coven targets. Luckily, the guy he wanted removed was one of the guys on our list. Our goals coincided this time. Before we were dismissed, Max asked after Cara and shared a ‘look’ with Luke when I said she was working on a different assignment at the moment. I filed that little exchange away to tell Cara and asked after Max’s daughter. He said that she had woken up a few times and was doing much better. Strangely, I was very relieved to hear that.

Luke lead us back out. For Cara’s sake, I asked Luke if he wanted to join us on our hunt. He declined, citing a different task he had to handle regarding a turf war. I didn’t push the issue because I understood. This was our mission anyway. Things got a little dicey once we set foot outside of the store though. I was approached by a man with a scarred face who pretty much told us to scram if we knew what was good for us. Kerrick stepped between me and the man, to shield me from the hostility and impending violence the man threatened. I noticed a laser sight on Kerrick and with the intention of showing these suckers that we are not to be messed with, I took out my Blackwatch shotgun and fired at the window the sight was coming from. I didn’t hit the enemy and three more men popped up on the buildings across the way from us. Dev, Kerrick, and Juror took out those targets after Belltower was hit in her chest plate. Kerrick moved us to the end of the street and just as we were about to leave, Tom called out an attack from behind. Wanting precision, I pulled out my security pistol and quickfired behind us. The man with the scarred face had come out of an alleyway with a missile launcher. My shot hit him in the head causing him to fall back before he fired, launching his missile into the store front next to him.

Now that is how it’s done! I’ve been fighting with my own solo style for so long, I’d forgotten how great it felt to be able to work together with a squad to take down five enemies in less than ten seconds. Kerrick’s team is pretty impressive when they are all together. Granted, I’m still the odd man out in the team but I feel like I helped add to the success. Now we just need to figure out who sent the goons at us in the first place.

We made it back to the ship to rendezvous with the others who had their own scouting missions. While at Luke’s, I had sent word to Khyla that there are rumors of a demon in the vicinity of our target. When I got back to the ship, I tried to talk to Khyla about it and found she was under the weather. I asked Sylph to do a scan and found out that Khyla had somehow lost a lot of blood. She said there wasn’t anything I could get her when I offered but I couldn’t just leave it alone. I went to Tom to ask if he had anything special someone could drink to restore blood quickly and safely. He didn’t have anything on hand but had the recipe to mix one up if we got the right ingredients. I left it in his hands and later found out, while getting ready to ship out to the next phase of our mission, that he had had Holt find a medicine marketeer who had the proper components for this drink. We met him on the road a ways away from the ship, en route to the facility, some guy called the Blak Market Man. He seemed to be all over the place with a strange get-up and rather annoying accent. He did, however, have the items that we were looking for. I let the boys play shop for a bit then suggested that Tom mix the drink, give it to Abby to take back to Khyla. Aleric volunteered to escort Abby back to the ship then catch up with us. I was pleased that he had thought to offer.

We continued on our way. Ryler had broken us up into two group. I was in the first group in order to detect and disarm any booby traps, with Sylph’s help, that were in our path since we were going in through an underground tunnel. Things went relatively well. There was one point that Kerrick went ahead of me in case a spike trap was triggered. His belt got caught on a razorwire and I cut my finger trying to release it. He was eventually able to get free and cut the wire so that I could untangle my finger from it and then we all continued on. We came out of the tunnel by an old parking lot that lead up to the facility doors. Dev and Kerrick took out two of the guards to make an opening for us to go in. Team B, who was following close behind, opened the door and secured the first part of the room. It wasn’t much of a fight and Team A was free to move forward.

Dev and Aleric went to the higher catwalks to secure them and we ascended a ramp toward a suspended block of glass offices. Someone opened the door and we entered. There was a garden inside the glass space, a strange garden. The ground was a little squishy and if I had bothered to look down, I probably would have seen the blood that pooled around my boot soles. I didn’t bother. My focus was on our target. He stood in the middle of his brainwashed followers as they tried to block his body from our aim. He was calm and cool as he stood there, confident that we wouldn’t do anything to touch him. He motioned to six glass cages around him. He held captives. At least one Kryp, an alaryan, a few others from different races and one human male that looked an awful lot like Tom. I guessed that that was David, his brother.

I didn’t pay attention to the captives. I should have. I really should have but I thought that if we took out the target, we’d have time to clean house and figure out how to open the cage doors. I think David may have tried to tell us something but the glass was soundproof. I should have paid attention. If I could kick myself over this lack of awareness, I would do it. Anyway, we fanned out around the target and using what little head clearance I had in the small space, I flew up a foot or two which allowed me a clear shot at the man. I took it. My aim was true and he died with a bullet in his head…and David, along with all the other captives, were splattered all over the inside of their cells. I was in shock. How? I looked at Tom in horror. Just then, I realized that the Kryp hadn’t been killed in his detonation but had managed to get out. Fearing more deaths, I placed myself between him and my companions. I spoke to him, or tried to, in Sigil. He responded in Abyssal, which I instinctively understood and knew how to respond. I told him to let us help him. There was one more delayed explosion from above and suspended offices began to fall, with us still in them.

I didn’t have time to react. One thing I knew was that I was talking to the Kryp and the next, he lunged at me, grabbed me, and rolled into a ball as we all fell. I can’t describe the feeling of pure terror as I saw the Kryp come for me nor the strong wave of confusion that followed close on its heels as I realized I was being protected, not torn open by claws, tail, and teeth. When we landed, the Kryp gently let me go. I was unharmed. Everyone else from my group was alive as well but pretty banged up. The Kryp told me that He Who Hides comes and gave me a coordinate to go meet him as he wished to meet with me. Then he ran off.

Numb, we all stumbled from the facility and made it back to the Nighthawk. I thought the Kryp experience was terrifying but I quickly realized that it wasn’t anything near what I felt when I looked at Tom’s face. His eyes were hard, unseeing. Any laughter, tenderness or compassion he had ever felt had been wiped away and in its place was a look of death. Not that he looked dead but he looked like he could coldy kill any of us now and he wouldn’t even bat an eye. He wouldn’t care. He was empty. It gave me chills.

I tried to apologize, (like that words would change anything, stupid) but he wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I have never felt so lost. Not our sweet Tom. I caused this. I had pulled the trigger without properly assessing the situation and I killed all those people. It was me so…I had to fix it. There was only one thing I could think of to do. Use the bracelet. It was only triggered by my death so I went into my room, and without a word, grabbed a pistol and shot myself.

I never want to kill myself again.

It worked though. My bracelet reset the flow of time and I found myself, and my companions, once again outside of the suspended, glass offices, just about to enter. My one consolation in this matter about using the bracelet is that no one but me will remember what transpired before my death. Before, it had been frustrating because I’d have to explain why I knew what was going to happen to whoever I was with but this, I was grateful for it this time. I wouldn’t want anyone to know. Not because it was my mistake but for Tom’s sake. He doesn’t need to know what had happened to his brother. I didn’t want him to lose the light in his eyes because of that knowledge.

Choices. I get to live and relive with all of mine whether they were good or bad.

This time around, we did things differently. I already knew that the captives somehow died in the cages if we killed Barous outright so I focused on studying the cages while the others kept Barous at bay. I also skipped the pleasantries with the Kryp and mouthed to him in Abyssal to let us help him. He’d already gotten his cage to crack as he rammed one of the walls and if he were to break out, I didn’t want him to turn on us.

The explosives in the cage were wired to the captives themselves. With Sylph’s help, I found out that the detonator was a dead man’s switch in Barous’ hand. When I took him down the first time, he let go of the detonator which had caused the deaths. This time, I was able to relay to everyone else what I had discovered. Holt disappeared and later reappeared behind Barous, struggling with him for the switch. Chaos ensued and in the middle of it, Barous manipulated events to allow him to sneak out of the offices. Somehow Kerrick shot Aeoni because of Barous and Tom was frantically trying to save people who had been affected by the same gas that had exploded out of the mutated being at the UF convention where I initially met up with Kerrick and Tom. Ryler had used his magic to contain this second gas incident so that it didn’t spread to us, condensing it into a small, compact form which Tom ended up putting into a used can of biofoam.

I stayed by Aeoni’s side. Tom came to stabilize her and used some healing magic he’d picked up from the old couple we’d stayed with in the safehouse. He passed out. The Kryp got out and after a brief conversation, I told him that Barous was our target. He took off after Barous. I noticed that Aleric was also going after Barous and at the last moment, when the Kryp and Aleric were about to hit him, Holt appeared out of nowhere on Barous’ exposed side. All three of them attacked at once. There was no way for our target to survive.

A gentleman I had never seen before appeared beside Aeoni and did something to help her then disappeared. I wonder if it was her father. Anyway, I helped to figure out how to open the cages and we got all the prisoners out. Tom revived enough to try to finish his work on the cultists caught in the gas but there wasn’t much to be done. The survivors took their dead and injured with them as they left and the prisoners left on their own as well. David came with us.

I left the offices, noticing the blood on myself. None of it was mine and that was when I realized that the garden had been watered with blood.

The Kryp was waiting for me at the entrance to the facility. He told me that He Who Hides would contact me in the coming week or weeks. I didn’t get coordinates this time. He left.

We got back to the ship and took off. I’m relieved to report that Tom still has his light and Sylph had a few very choice words with me. I apologized profusely to her for killing myself, for she knew something had happened and I couldn’t keep it from her. She deserved to know. I felt stupid for my first mistake and wanted to change it. I fixed my mistake, but I still feel stupid for killing myself to do it. I have too much to lose and I’m no longer the only life I affect when I make those choices.

As I said, my choices currently carry more weight than most others. It’s a heavy burden but I’m supported by those who help strengthen me to I can carry this weight every day.

Battle Report 7S-XYPLA-91q
In the wake of destruction

Encryption: xxx-xxh-Sn1-8
Reporting Officer:
Lt Cdr Kerrick Little
Report Submission Date: Juvia 29, 4122h
Date of Engagement: Juvia 29, 4122h
Location of Engagement: Klixis
Target(s)/Objective(s): Secure Lt Devlin
Unit(s) Involved in Engagement: 82nd Tactical: Kerrick Little and Thomas Greyburn; “Queen’s Guard” – The Queen, Overwatch, Adept, Blink; Black Angels: Valkyre; Unaffiliated: Stranger

Through intel and personal communications, we learned that Lt Devlin (hitherto referred as target Alpha) was deploying to the planet Klixis, for a suicide mission. They were to be in hostile territory, battling a Sovereign-class Halcyon drone (hitherto referred to as target Bravo). Reports indicated that surrounding the target area were 3 Halcyon anti-aircraft units. I lead my unit in a HALO drop to the planet surface, directing Blink and Valkyre to assault 1 unit each, and Queen and Adept to assualt the 3rd. Overwatch was to land closer to Bravo, supplied with the Outsider Cannon, to provide overwatch on our entrance and destruction of Bravo once contact with target Alpha was established. I would lead a stealth team of Lt Greyburn and Stranger further into the target zone to provide distraction of hostiles if needed, and extraction of Alpha. Upon landing, Blink, Valkyre, Queen, and Adept were successful in disabling the AA units, while my team was attacked by Halcyon soldiers. I sustained injuries from the assault but Lt Greyburn and Stranger were able to withhold the forces and administer medical attention. As our operaring window was closing, and target Bravo beginning a leveling assault on the city, i instructed Overwatch to engage with extreme prejudice. The weapon provided a larger area of destruction than was anticipated. Overwatch and Alpha sustained injuries as a result of the blast. Searching the rubble, we discovered Alpha and an unknown female UF soldier whom Alpha had been shielding. The female sustained no severe injuries, minor lacerations from the falling debris, though Alpha was severely injured. After deploying a signal flair, and rejoin the others in returning to the exfil site, we were engaged by an unknown force. We provided suppressing fire long enough to board Queen’s ship and escape atmosphere.
End Report

Personal note
Please deliver upon death.

< To my parents >
Mom and Dad,

I love you both so very much. As you know, the military life is a series of unknowns: not knowing when the next engagement might be, where you may be deployed to next, or when a simple goodbye may be your very last. Knowing that you both understand, I take comfort in what may be my last transmission to you. You both have raised me to believe in everything that i do. I did not join the Corp solely to carry on the family tradition, though i must admit that it is an honor and a privilege to add my name to that list. The UF is more than a mere weapon force, it is an instrument of good, a means of safeguarding those that cannot defend themselves, to rise up the down-trodden, a continuance in peace.

Mother, you have always taught me to remember those less fortunate than myself. That it is the act of a truly courageous man to defend the bullied. You brought me warm in your ever enduring love, for me and all creation you saw around you. Father, i am truly proud to call myself your son. You taught me that a man must be comprised of a set of ideals, and willing to defend that which is good, not for fame or fortune, but because that is how you truly won the war. I also now better understand what you once said: i do not hate or despise my enemy, though i may have to use those emotions in the course of battle, for he is but also a man, holding to his principals as well. I am truly grateful to have you as my parents. I love you so very much.

< To Thomas Greyburn >
Thank you for always being by my side. We have seen some of the best and worst in people, and yet you have never wavered, never doubted, in that which is Good. It has been a privilege to lead you and the others, to fight with you and with you personally. I expect you to take care of your family, who have opened their arms and hearts to me. And make sure to rile Fishlips for me, if i am gone. You are a good soldier and a good man.

< To Stephanie Juror >
How do i express here the words that have gone so long unspoken? I love you, completely and wholly. You have been my guiding star through those cold, bleak nights. Each time we looked at possible defeat, your bravery, your cunning, your drive, made me love you more and more. I love you. Please keep yourself safe. I love you.

Holt Redfield Terminal System Log
An Experience in Hacking

!——Alright. Whew. Here we go.——-!

>run root/w-NetConnect.exe
>Running “root/w-NetConnect.exe”
>Initiating connection sequence
>Accessing Halcyon Calisoga-Class AA interface
>Adapting interface. . .
>Successfully connected.

!————Excellent. Now that I’m in…————-!

>>Unauthorized system access. Identify.

!———Crud… uhh…———-!

>cd externalAccess/GhostTerminal/Tools
GhostTerminal/Tools/./>Run probe.exe par (w-access/root)
>Running “GhostTerminal/Tools/probe.exe” par (w-access/root)
>>. .
>>Unauthorized system access. Identify.

!———Great, that didn’t work…————!

>cd w-access/root
w-access/root/./>ps Security.Subsystem
>>You must have administrator privileges to access this function.
>>. . .
>>Security threat detected! Terminating unauthorized wireless connection. . .

!———Oh no you don’t———!

>cd externalAccess/GhostTerminal/Tools
GhostTerminal/Tools/./>Run Silencer.exe par (w-access/w-Controller)
>Running “GhostTerminal/Tools/Silencer.exe” par (w-access/w-Controller)

>>. . .
>>w-Controller access granted.
>force w-Controller.Access=Enabled
>>w-Controller.Access set to enabled
>>. . .
>>Security threat detected! Terminating unauthorized wireless connection. . .
>>ERROR. System unable to access wireless controller.

!———Haha, that’s right———!

>>Security threat detected! Locking down manual access controls.

!———Crap. Alright, looks like I’ll have to try out my new toy…———!

>cd externalAccess/GhostTerminal/Tools
GhostTerminal/Tools/./>Run batteringRam.exe par (w-access/admin-access)
>Running “GhostTerminal/Tools/batteringRam.exe” par (w-access/admin-access)
>>Security threat detected! Locki#234^#$__(90sd#4
>>ERR@R . . .
>>. . .
>>34RR#@@!%%. . .
>>. . .
>>%^&5&00&^86%. . .
>>. . .
>>Greetings Seneschal Ibex Trajan Arrevian, Commander of the Fleets, Trimarch of the Sword.
>>Please enter a command.

!———-Ha ha! I didn’t think it would work that well…————-!

>Deactivate main gun, and prepare for redeployment.
>>At once, Commander.
>>Deactivating main cannon. . .
>>Deploying rapid transport capability. . .
>>System ready for redeployment.

!——<<gunfire>> Feth! . . . Hmm, I have an idea.———-!

>Hostiles attempting to capture materiel. Activate escape and evade protocols.
>>Seeking verification: activate Escape and Evade protocols? Note: this action cannot be undone.
>>At once, Commander.
>>Please set parameters for variable “hostiles”. . .

!————-Shoot, um. Rebels are a thing, right?————-!

>Rogue Halcyon forces.

!——————Ha, perfect.——————-!

>>Please indicate last known location of enemy forces. . .
>East of current location.
>>. . .
>>Activating Escape and Evade protocols. . .
>>Core overload countdown set to 30 seconds.
>>Ejecting core. . .
>>Core ejected.
>>Activating emergency backup systems.
>>Engaging rapid evasion capabilities.
>>Locking out manual control.
>>. . .
>>Farewell, Commander. It’s been an honor.
>>Shutting down user interface.
>>. . .



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