As Sebazhan checked the restraints on the child's seat that Nene had been put in, his wife next to one of the side windows of the flying machine perused a crystalline "scroll" that had been delivered to her by a cheetah warrior in mechanical armor. The scroll refused to share its secrets until the Skreek touched a corner with her thumb, as she peeked into a dark receptacle at the top of the device. Somehow, the pad was checking her thumbprint and identifying her by "scanning" her eye, though the Silent-Ones had been unable to clearly explain in "layman's terms" just how it managed such a feat without it being magical.
As dark shapes formed into words on the surface of the translucent device, the engines of the craft made a soft whine muffled by the walls of the passenger compartment as the pilot and co-pilot lifted the vehicle straight up and off the ground. The engines rotated, and the craft began to move forward, skimming over the mountaintops, toward the trade city of Bethel.
To my trusted advisor, Lady Willow Dack of Sinai:
I am pleased to report that my physicians have managed yet another miracle of modern medicine, and I am still on this side of the Great Divide, hopefully long enough to see these matters settled. I am pleasantly surprised to learn that you have come to a decision, and I can most assuredly sympathize that this was no easy task. Your plan is a shrewd one. I should wonder if you somehow have some Khatta blood in you! I shall make arrangements presently. I shall trust you to take care of the matter of informing the candidates you have chosen.
Now that the contest is at least in secret over, I release to you the identities of the candidates, for your information. For the sake of brevity, I have included only short entries on most of those who were not chosen.
On behalf of the People, I thank you for your assistance in this matter. I approve of your selection, and will make arrangements for you to be escorted back to your home world, as per your request, and to see that you have the resources you need to deal with any difficulties you may encounter on the way.May the Star always guide your way,
Underneath the letter was the seal of the Archon, and a "link" symbol. At a finger-touch to the symbol, the scroll changed again, turning into a list of the candidates their "color codes", true names, home worlds and a brief blurb of their stations.
|Rust-Brown||Farhymn||Tapestry||Administrator of asteroid mining colony|
|Mauve-Puce||Diamond-Heart||Geode III||Guildmaster in biosphere station|
|Vermillion-Pink||Vaultway||Skyrealm||Son of wealthy governor of gas-mining operation|
|Coal-Red||Omenfire||Agekeep||Star student of academy|
|Gunmetal-Purple||Solarwind||Brighthaven||Popular colony administrator|
|Smoke-Veridian||Truesight||Obsidian||Colony governor of volcanic world|
|Earth-Jet||Trailblazer||Aegis||Colony governor of arborean world|
|Rose-Green||Steadfast||Iceheart||Distinguished military commander|
|Gold-Tan||Strongarm||Bladesedge||Commander of outpost on frontier world|
|Sienna-Silver||Lightsong||Crystalforge||Popular colony administrator on mineral-rich world|
|Sky-Grey||Farseer||Blueshroud||Distinguished student at monastery|
|Amber-Maroon||Gatekeeper||Silverspire||Governor of trade world|
|Ivory-Indigo||Reminder-of-Past||Crypt||Administrator of monastery "colony"|
|Midnight-White||Spiraldance||Duet I/II||Governess of double-planet colony on fringe of Sifra space|
|Ice-Platinum||Ironwrought||Crucible||Administrator of shipyards and mining colony; noted inventor|
|Emerald-Goldenrod||Lonevigil||Goldsands||Distinguished meka warrior|
|Crimson-Teal||Longroad||Evergreen||Planetary governor, strong in "back to nature" movement|
|Steel-Magenta||Light-of-Star||Zion||Self-proclaimed prophet and miracle-worker|
|Ebony-Yellow||Jade-Eyes||Sinai||Leader of lost colony on Sifran world|
|Royal-Bronze||Anchor-Point||Driftover||Commander of combined armed forces|
|Seafoam-Turquoise||Storm-Born||Sentinel||Governor of penal colony on Tribulation|
|Violet-Copper||Star-With-Us (Yoshua)||Tribulation||Knight of Holy Guard, defender of the Archon|
Note to Lady Willow Dack Dates have been listed according to the most widely used calendar of your homeworld, for your convenience.
Color Designation: Royal-Bronze
Occupation: Commander of the Peoples' Combined Armed Forces
Born: 6055 RTR
Physical Appearance: Standard build, head-hair cut down to fur-level, giving appearance of being "bald". Left eye was irreparably damaged, and is either covered by a patch, or an externally-worn "bionic" artificial optical sensor that covers the eye and left temple. PCAF badge fur-marked on right shoulder, covered by uniform.
Grew up on the primarily water-covered world of Driftover, joined the local military and rose through the ranks as a naval officer, then was transferred to duty with the planetary defense forces during a clash with Khattan raiders in 6077 RTR. Distinguished himself in battle, when he rallied surviving crew on a "crippled" starship (the bridge had been destroyed and the bridge officers with it), and they succeeded in rerouting primary systems to be able to steer the craft and ram it into several smaller vessels before the engines went critical, and evacuation was necessary. He was rescued from the wreckage of the ship after the battle, and had to undergo significant reconstructive surgery. Due to religious conviction, he could not accept a cybernetic replacement for his left eye. Despite his handicap, he was promoted, and distinguished himself further in numerous clashes with raiders on the fringeworlds. The optical sensor he now wears when on duty is an external device that "transmits" stimuli to the optic nerve, without actual cybernetic attachment; though the "connection" is inferior, it fulfils the religious requirements of his sect.
Due to his military accomplishments and leadership ability (as well as popularity in the armed forces), he was considered as a candidate in the contest. The recommendation from Lady Willow Dack will be passed on to him as a vote of confidence in his ability to continue in his current role.
Color Designation: Seafoam-Turquoise
Occupation: Warden-Governor of Tribulation (penal colony world)
Born: 6057 RTR
Physical Appearance: Standard build but muscular, with many scars, including a slightly "crooked" muzzle due to a nearly fatal head injury suffered during the revolt on Tribulation.
Once a warrior with a considerable list of accomplishments, but was ordered (along with several other warriors) to put down a demonstration on Sentinel. The result was a bloody massacre, and several important people were among the dead. The official responsible for ordering the action was executed, and the warriors who participated in the slaughter were given various sentences. In 6075 RTR, Storm-Born was sent to Tribulation, on the fringe of the Empire.
During a widespread rebellion in 6084 RTR, Storm-Born led a faction of his fellow warriors who rescued the Warden-Governor and several other prisoners, and reunited them with a task force sent to restore order. In the bloody campaign that followed, Tribulation was subdued once more, and the previous Warden-Governor was relieved of his position due to incompetence. In an odd twist, Storm-Born was granted the position of the new Warden-Governor … though he was still not pardoned for his crimes or his life sentence. Still a prisoner of Tribulation, he became the leader of his fellow prisoners.
Although Tribulation is still a harsh world to live on, and by no means friendly, Storm-Born's able hand at maintaining order (and productivity), in addition to his heroics, earned him the attention of the Archon. He was chosen to replace one of the original candidates that had refused to submit to the test.
He will be offered amnesty in exchange for taking on his new duties as advisor to the new Archon.
Color Designation: Violet-Copper
Occupation: Knight of the Holy Guard, Defender of the Archon
Born: 6076 RTR
Physical Appearance: Standard build but muscular, no visible scars. Wears hair long, in the tradition of the Holy Guard.
On the penal colony/mining world of Tribulation, on the fringe of the Empire, the prisoners kept there are supposed to be rendered infertile, so that there are no children born, and so that Tribulation doesn't become a true colony. Despite the best of measures, mistakes happen, and sometimes two mistakes meet each other and a third mistake is born. Star-With-Us is one of those rare "third mistakes", even rarer to have survived childhood.
During the chaos of the rebellion of 6084 RTR, Star-With-Us saw his father betrayed by "friends", and savagely beaten to death. His mother escaped with him, and raised him in seclusion and secrecy in the furthest reaches of the "colonized" areas of the planet, but then disappeared when he was just entering his teens.
Left to his own devices, he tried to blend in as a miner, but his conspicuous youth attracted the attention of the guards. He was designated a ward of the Theocracy, and raised as an acolyte and as a warrior, though his uncouth methods for dealing with enemies (i.e., dirty fighting) meant that he did not fit the desired profile for prestigious careers and the nature of his birth and parentage meant that he held an aura of shame. (Even if he had a father and mother, there is no way they could have been legitimately married on Tribulation.)
However, in testing for overall combat prowess and loyalty profiles, he scored exceptionally high, enough to have his case history presented to the Archon as a contender to join the ranks of the hand-picked Holy Guard. Although he is still considered by many to be young and not yet distinguished aside from the honor of being chosen to serve the Archon he showed himself to be steadfastly loyal and resourceful in less-than-ideal situations, as well as having a fairly impressive education in light of his background, thanks to the efforts of his mother and the training of the monks. Thus, he was chosen to accompany the Archon on a secret journey to the world of Sinai to learn of the world that Light-of-Star had taken such interest in. At a suggestion from Lady Willow of Dack, he was considered as a replacement for another candidate that had opted out of the test to see who might succeed the Archon himself.
At the recommendation of Lady Willow of Dack, and by the agreement of the Archon, he will be chosen as his successor.
Report on Light-of-Star Holdings in Primus System and Zion
Footholds in Primus System
Due to phenomena peculiar to Sifran space, this region has been unreachable by super-light technologies for several millenia, but it has been demonstrated that at least one corridor has reopened sometime at least five or six years ago, possibly longer. The individual known as Light-of-Star has enlisted the help of several planetary governors and private businessman, and it has made use of their contacts with the Khattan Trade Coalition and private elements within the Celestial Empire of the Nagai. It is believed that they have also done some business with the Terran corporations as well, though it is not clear what this has to do with travel to/from Sinai.
Presently, it appears that there are two bases that have been established within the Primus System under the direct influence of the expeditionary team presided over by Light-of-Star. One is centered around an ancient but still serviceable Gate located on the orbital plane of the system, outside the orbit of the outermost planet. Due to the nature of the system, reports suggest that building a Gate further in would be impossible, but small "gateways" made possible by Sifran technology and present on the planets themselves may provide an expedient way to transfer materials and personnel from the outermost planet to any other planet in the system. It is unclear how much time may be required to open the Gate. Doing so would be necessary for regular traffic to/from the system, especially of larger spacecraft. In the meantime, only smaller vessels utilizing independent super-light technologies are capable of reaching the system.
The second base is in orbit around the fourth planet from the sun, known as Sinai. The base consists of a derelict scout ship linked to an ancient Lightbringer Class Megatitan. It is believed that some survivors of an ancient expedition to the Primus System who were stranded in a crippled starship managed to link up with the Megatitan and were able to find a way to communicate with those on the surface by means of focused light beams. (Despite the known interference with all manners of technology demonstrated on the world of Sinai, the phenomenon dubbed "Quantum Uncertainty" does not appear to affect light-waves within the visible spectrum, except within certain territories known to the Sinaians as "Forbidden Zones".) Although the researchers on the scout vessel eventually perished, they left their equipment intact.
Approximately five years ago, Jade-Eyes of the Savanites was able to activate the signaling equipment on the surface of the planet, and triggered the relay mechanism in the still operative scout vessel. The transmission was intercepted in the vicinity of Caltrop Station, and it was thus discovered that a hyperspace corridor had opened again to the Primus System. There are reports that suggest that the Terrans may have sent a scout team to Sinai before the People a few years before this, but that their probe malfunctioned and crashed somewhere in a desert area known as the Himaat. Due to current strained relations with the Terrans, it has not been possible to confirm or deny this allegation. Some reports gleaned by scouts operating on Sinai suggest that another previously unknown space-faring culture (one making use of plant-based technology) has made contact with the natives.
Details are not clear on Light-of-Star's resources, but a privately funded research team was sent to the base orbiting Sinai. This team, while ostensibly representing the Archon, is known to be loyal to Light-of-Star. It is believed that the force has at least one Titan assisting in its defense, and a functional research vessel provides living space for those stationed there. It is not clear how the base has been obtaining supplies, except that it has not been through conventional channels within the Theocracy or private industries of the People. It is believed that an arrangement may have been made with the Khattan Trade Coalition, or else the researchers may be obtaining supplies from the planets of the Primus System itself. It appears that not only members of the People are present at the base, but of the Nagai, Khatta and Terran peoples as well.
So far as can be told, any direct travel between Sinai Base and Sinai would be one-way, as any currently available propulsion systems would malfunction upon entering Sinai's stratosphere. Even in orbit, normally stable systems encounter occasional "glitches". It is highly recommended that only military grade equipment with redundant systems be used in any capacity in the Primus System. Rather, it would appear that any travel from Sinai Base and Sinai itself would be by way of journeying to one of the other planets (depending upon which one is closest at the time), and using one of the Gateways there to reach the other planets. It is understood, however, that these Gateways can function only once approximately every standard day cycle, and that a coalition of Sinai and Abaddonian cultures (the Khattan/Kampfzengruppe Coalition) has control of these Gateways. Any use of the Gateways would require negotiations with them, or brute force. Given the danger of damaging the Gateways (which already show some sign of decay) in the process, the former is presumed the more likely course of action.
As a sidenote, the Khattan/Kampfzengruppe Coalition appears to be engaged in exploration of the Primus System, by way of the Gateways. Although their technology level would be considered very low by galactic standards, they are adapted to the interference of Quantum Uncertainty. The Khattan Emirate has experience with the phenomena of "magic" on the world of Sinai, and the Kampfzengruppe has developed fairly resilient systems that maintain a high degree of reliability on multiple worlds in the system, despite the interference of Quantum Uncertainty.
One report indicated that several (empty) cryogenic suspension chambers were delivered to the scout ship. Not enough data has been gathered to shed light yet on just what purpose these might serve, but it should be noted that all such vessels of that era already had suspension chambers for all of the crew, in case of an emergency.
Orbital Palace of Divine Radiance
Light-of-Star's primary base on Zion the Orbital Palace of Divine Radiance, donated by Chancellor Goldmoon has been under close observation as well. Spies indicate that forbidden technologies purchased from the Terrans and Nagai may be present at the Palace or, that is, individual components, innocuous in and of themselves, that if combined properly could be used to construct devices not permitted in the Empire. Due to political concerns, and the ease in which if nothing else the whole Palace could be destroyed in order to annihilate any evidence, the possibility of raiding the Palace simply to make accusations against Light-of-Star has been discounted so far.
Decrypted manifests indicate that, among many other purchases, requisite components have been acquired in order to construct Nagai neural interfaces and Terran genetic suspension chambers. Some of the tanks that have been acquired that could be used to create suspension chambers are fairly large, suggesting that especially large creatures could be contained within (i.e., several meters tall, deep and wide.). Titanian sources have verified that Light-of-Star has purchased several Sifran crystal artifacts, and it is supposed that these are being stored at the Palace.
Although the Palace is not, in and of itself, heavily defended, insofar as orbital stations go, it should be noted that Light-of-Star's influence is pervasive enough that if there were a direct assault on his Palace, that planetary defense forces might respond from other orbital stations.
Attempts to survey the Palace by remote means have been frustrated, even with the use of alien technology from the other space-faring peoples, due to some sort of dampening field around the Palace that interferes with electrical circuitry. Ships docking there have been observed to shut down most systems and rely on primitive rocket propulsion systems in order to dock and depart. No Titans are present at the station itself, and it is presumed that they would not be able to function there. It should be noted that neural interfaces and suspension chambers are most certainly electronic in nature, so this dampening field must be in effect only outside the Palace, and not within. No dampening field technology is presently known to have a "hole in the center" effect such as this, so there may be smaller generators located around the entire station (thus presenting the possibility of "gaps" in the coverage), or it may be possible to develop some sort of shielding against the effect.
Moon Base Sheol and Abaddon
Early reports on Light-of-Star's activities in Primus System erroneously contended that Light-of-Star had taken control of a base on Sheol, the moon of the planet Abaddon (fifth planet from Primus). Subsequent reports, however, have indicated that, in actuality, Titanians discovered an abandoned base on the moon, several millenia old, believed to date back to the original Primus Expedition. Titanians have restored life support systems to the station. Due to peculiar effects of the worlds in this system, it was not necessary to restore artificial gravity, but the Titanians did so anyway, to make sure the systems worked (and would therefore be worth salvaging). The Titanians then proceeded to try to trade artifacts from the base with the Abaddonians, and subsequently sold sections of the base to rival factions on the planet.
At present, there are some Abaddonians present at the base, apparently there in attempts to refurbish the station. Spies have determined that some of the Abaddonians are motivated by fear of invasion from space, and wish to set up the moon base as a defense against raiders. (Ironic, perhaps, that the Titanians of all people should be the ones to give them this opportunity, since they're likely to come back later and do some of that raiding themselves.) There are indications that Light-of-Star's emissaries have made contact with the People on Abaddon, and were ill-received (i.e., burned as heretics). If Light-of-Star has any plans for conquest of the Primus System, it is almost a foregone conclusion that retribution will be directed toward Abaddon. However, despite the obsolescence of much of the technology in place on Abaddon, it appears that a united Abaddon has sufficient firepower to defend itself from any invading force that could be amassed without establishing a large station in the system (or a functional Gate) from which to mount the assault. It is more likely that any successful invader would play upon rivalries between the nations of Abaddon, and form temporary alliances, or otherwise seek to divide and conquer.
Transport on Morpheus
Due to information provided from multiple sources (including a child of the People by the name of Last-Daughter, and Jade-Eyes, leader of the Savanites), it was discovered that a largely intact non-combat derelict vessel of the People is present on the second planet from Primus, known as Morpheus. A still-functioning beacon is broadcasting a distress signal, but due to the interference from the planet, it is very weak and can only be detected by vessels in the vicinity of the planet.
"Quantum Uncertainty" is still present around this world, and it has been determined that it would be unsafe to attempt to land on this planet to investigate further. Observations from a scout ship in orbit indicate a high likelihood of "magical" activity, as it was observed that several structures of crystal and rock seemed to defy gravity and other known laws of physics by floating in space and rearranging themselves. At latest report, it seems that a large structure is slowly forming near the known Gateway on this planet, showing more stability than other observed phenomena.
According to reports, the individual known as Last-Daughter was a child on this vessel, and its only survivor. It is not clear why the vessel was in Sifran space, as it did not appear to be part of the Primus Expedition, but, according to Last-Daughter, they were in transit, presumably between planets of the Empire. Since Sifran space lies outside of the Empire, it is suspected that navigational error brought them here, or that there may have been some interference caused by the presence of a partially functional Gate at the edge of the system, and the generally odd phenomena associated with Sifran space.
Although it has been documented that systems on the crashed vessel have experienced multiple malfunctions (resulting in the deaths of all of the crew save for one member), it should be noted that one cryogenic pod, gravitic generators, life support and a beacon were capable of functioning for several centuries at the very least, even if not at full capacity. This may warrant further study, in case it may shed any light on how technology may be adapted to function in the Primus System (albiet inefficiently and with considerable restrictions). However, it has been indicated that the Gateway to Morpheus only leads to a large crystal "cage", from which there is no apparent exit without causing damage to the Gateway itself.