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The Twilight Struggle - Part One

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  • Mark de Vries
    Alright everybody. This is it. The poo is going to hit the rotary oscilator soon. In a big way. This also means that from now on the posts in the Twilight
    Message 1 of 47 , Aug 3 12:16 AM
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      Alright everybody. This is it. The poo is going to hit the rotary oscilator
      In a big way.
      This also means that from now on the posts in the Twilight Struggle part of
      Lowell's story are going to be GM'ed by me. There is a very strict time
      table set up, and a story arc that Lowell and I feel will give everybody
      the chance to come up with wonderful, dramatic and heroic parts. However,
      for this to work there are some rules that must be followed.

      1- From now on, lightspeed limits are strictly enforced. It takes *time* to
      transmit a message. It also takes time to get a weapon to its target! For
      the time being all distances will be expressed in lightminutes and light-
      hours because that tells you how far physically something is as well as
      how far away in time.

      2- No more omnescience. You can not know things before you have seen them.
      You can not know things you have no realistic way of knowing. This includes
      but is not limited to what the K'tan are, where they are and what they or
      their ships are capable of. The K'tan have isolated themselves from the rest
      of the omniverse for decades now and even before they were very unfriendly
      and did not encourage anybody to linger close to them. About their technical
      abilities little is known, even by Omnet. Very little of that is shared by
      the IGNM network or by the paying data channels of Omnet.

      3- The Omnet data network is still down due to certain incidents and the
      effect of the quantum storm. This means no instant broadcast. Database is
      local only, as are newscasts. Contact to your homeworld is subject to a
      delay of several days at best. Weeks at worst!

      4- The quantum storm is still very much raging. Think of it as:
      the tornado may be gone but the worst thunderstorm in history is still
      raging very much. Serious discharges occur roughly once every hour and
      the frequency is dropping slowly to once every two to three hours over
      the next two days. During a discharge technicological systems are likely
      to become unstable and may explode. Magical systems are likely to fail
      completely due to the local q-dex not supporting any form of magic. There
      are ways to protect against the storm surges but they are difficult and
      expensive and can only be applied to vital systems like life support.
      They also do not give any certainty, just an improved chance.

      5- If you post things that have no impact on the story arc but are
      entirely inside your own ships feel free to post. If you are asked to
      write a story arc part, or if you are uncertain if your writing will
      properly fit in, please send me a mail so I can make sure it does not
      contradict something that needs to go on later. I can not of course
      enforce this, but I ask this as a courtesy.

      6- There will be some dozen story arc posts in The Twilight Struggle.
      The first one is posted today, and will be followed by one written by
      Lowell, and again one by me, or by Jeff, if I can contact him in time.
      After that everybody will get a private mail detailing the outline of
      the story to tell, the things they know going in and what is to happen
      during their part of the story. How you write the story is of course
      entirely up to you and you do not have to restrict to only the parts
      in the outline either.
      Hopefully everything will come together perfectly for the next part of
      the war story. I am sorry if I sound needlessly strict and bossish
      about this but I have never done something like this before and I want
      the story to be told properly without stiffling everybody's creativity

      About this story. It takes place 4 hours into everybody's future. That
      means because of point nobody in the main fleet will know anything of
      this for another 4 hours. The moment when everybody will learn about
      the events started in this post will be clearly marked. For now this
      post, and the following two are just to kick off the initial shots of
      the war story.

      p.s. I am sorry Jeff to have written this for you but I have been
      trying to reach you for weeks. I guess you are on vacation or
      otherwise. Please if you finally have the chance to read this make
      whatever change you want and I will correct it. I hope I have not
      mixed up the names of fleet, admiral and ships.

      The Twilight Struggle
      Part 1

      Written by M.de Vries on behalf of Jeff (cirminth)

      --- --- ---

      Captain Ashfel Zulain surveyed the status of his little command. The LCWS
      Green Wave, or Big Ears as it was affectionately nicknamed by its 36 crew,
      was a listening post stationed ahead of the actual fleet, crammed full
      with sensitive scanners. The distance to the fleet was not to give an
      early warning, because they could not get out a signal any faster than
      lightspeed, and most things they scanned for travelled at that speed
      anyway. It was simply because even as quiet as possible an entire fleet
      made a lot of noise on the EM bands, let alone on the more sensitve
      detectors that had to be recalibrated even for a crewman simply walking
      around during a scan run. That was under the best of circumstances, which
      riding out a Quantum Storm moste definitely was not.
      There was little point in having the vulnerable little ships out during
      the height of the storm. Any signal they could pick up was lost against
      the immense turbulence of the storm itself, and the frequent discharges
      had done a good job of wiping out most of the sensitve scanners. A large
      part of the work had been taken over by Listhani extending themselves to
      their limits while the small human complement worked flat out to repair
      the damage and keep the ship operational.
      A gauge, indicating the tension in the local Q-Dex began to flutter and
      then creep up.
      "Brace!" was all the captain could send out telepathically to his crew
      before the gauge hit the right end of the scale in a millionth of a second
      and the storm discharge struck. This half second warning was all the
      Listhani had to throw an adaptive dampening field around vital equipment
      and human crew that had been developed by Zaineel <sp?> at the cost of her
      own life. If it worked it would allow the Listhani drain the massive
      buildup of instable possibilities for a short time, hopefully long enough
      to ride out the wave. It if failed the backlash could well kill him, if
      the explosion of the equipment did not see to that first. Several of the
      crew had been killed already during the long vigil and it was an open
      question how much longer the ship and its crew could survive the

      Back at the LCSW Avatar, the flagship of the Listhani 31th fleet, admiral
      I'nores asked himself exactly the same question. The tactical meeting of
      the chiefs of staff of the Trinity Alliance states had been cut short by
      the assassination attempt, and in those frantic minutes before everybody
      was evacuated the decision had been made to go on with the plan to send a
      sizeable part of the Listhani fleet ahead to slow down the expected K'tan
      invasion. Based on what little information they had had it seemed a good
      plan, and seeing that only the Listhani had a reasonable chance to ride
      out the storm in anything resembling combat readiness it had been decided
      that no other fleet would send support. The admiral himself had decided to
      bring as few humans as possible, because for survival they relied more on
      technology which had to be shut down during most of the storm.
      Nevertheless they had lost crew and even entire ships when massive
      explosions and uncontrollable fires forced them to be abandoned. The worst
      loss so far had been one of the frigates which had to be exposed to vacuum
      to prevent it from blowing up completely and jeopardising the entire
      fleet. 47 crew had lost their lifes, and the survivors were now
      frantically working to seal the hull breaches and restore power to engines
      and shields. Every ship in the fleet had had at least one and often
      several near disasters, and the constant pressure and continuous effort to
      keep the ship operational was running the crew into the ground. The
      admiral realised they had every right to be proud of their extroardinary
      feat though. They had moved an entire combat fleet into position during
      the worst of the quantum storm. The risk had been considerable, and there
      were many losses, but the gain was that there was no chance the K'tan
      could have spied on that. For now they were hidden from the K'tan would
      think they should be and with any luck they could be the ace in the hole
      that would turn the tide of the coming battle.
      At this moment the admiral estimated the fleet to be at half its normal
      fighting capacity. While the crew struggled to keep their ships
      functioning, the admiral had additional worries. With the IGNM network
      down for the entire sector, and he did not for a moment believe that
      coincidence regardless of what IGNM had reported, there was no way to get
      any news quickly. At four light hours distance from the main fleet their
      information was at least that old, and the storm made reception of any
      message at all questionable. From a tactical point of view he realised he
      was in a very bad sitation. He was isolated from all support, had only old
      reconnaissance information and any conversation that he could attempt with
      the fleet command, whoever that might be since that message had been lost
      in the storm, would have an 8 hour delay between message and reply. He
      needed reinforcments but there was no way of getting them in time. Most of
      all he needed permission to mine the inbound vectors. During the last
      meeting of the commanders that idea had been shot down by the Dr'owe, who
      wanted to keep their trading post operational, and by the Archaeans who
      did not want to risk blowing up refugee ships arriving from areas hit
      harder by the quantum storm.
      Waiting out the latest storm discharge, and allowing a brief glow of
      purple to tint his sphere to express his relief nothing had blown up on
      the carrier this time, the admiral turned his attention to the tactical
      situation. With the storm finally fading it was time to put a finishing
      touch to the plans that had been developed to block the K'tan. Of course
      none of those plans had figured a crippled fleet and a quantum storm, but
      it was all he had to work with. He sent out a message to all ships to keep
      him and his staff constantly up to date on their status, including which
      repairs were scheduled and when they were expected to be completed.
      Watching the mountain of data stream in the admiral wished he had been
      able to bring an Archean True Dreamer with him, but of course there had
      been neither the time to arrange that, nor the trust.
      It became clear early from the figures that there was nothing to do but
      consolidate his forces, again, and work partially disabled ships back in
      as they became more or less operational again. Several of the most wounded
      ships had to be written off as anything but decoys, and he ordered all but
      a skeleton crew off them, sending the ships ahead of the actual fleet. He
      also made the decision that would end his career, but that might save his
      men and women, to start laying mines. Even with the minimal information he
      had about the K'tan commander, little more than a storm garbled piece of
      security camera footage, showed him this was a dangerous opponent. This
      commander Daret did not act like other K'tan commanders from the Omnet
      databases. I'nores's instincts told him not to underestimate him. This one
      would not come bullying into the system flattening everything in his path.
      Even with his arrival announced he would find a way to surprise the
      defenders. He knew he had to be smarter still, and figure out what options
      the K'tan had, and how best to counter them.

      Aboard the Green Wave hell broke loose, almost unnoticed.
      A green status light blinked yellow a few times, turned green again and
      then remained yellow. The engineer on duty blinked twice at the light
      before the significance sank in. Two days before he had been part of the
      maintenance staff when a powercoil exploded. It cost him his arm, and the
      Listhani in the engine room his life. The ship lacked medical facilities
      so all that could be done was to pump him full of desinfectants and
      painkillers and put him at a duty station that he could operate left
      handed, while the Listhani who was actually trained for this was
      reassigned to damage control. Clumsily with his bandaged left hand the
      crewman hit the touch panel that opened up the status of the listening
      systems. Laboriously tapping out a sequence on a piece of paper in front
      of him the sensor readings came up on his display.
      A line that had been almost flat for days had had a little blip on it and
      then another one. As the crewman watched the line began to climb again,
      but this time kept climbing as the gravitational torque increased. At the
      same time several other sensors came to life as well. The P-flux dropped
      sharply while the EM pattern began to fuzz. The status light flipped from
      yellow to red. His heart sank as he tried to hit the alarm switch. He had
      to try twice before the siren sounded throughout the ship. This would
      bring the captain and regular bridge crew running from whatever other duty
      they had had at the time. The torque kept climbing and the EM pattern
      fluctuated wildly. This could mean only one thing. Something huge was
      dropping into the system, somewhere, and the turbulence had only now
      reached the listening ship.
      The K'tan had arrived.
      Days before the earliest prediction.

      Mark (writing for Jeff)
      Retired Libris Grandis of the Codex Stellarus
    • Richard McKinley
      Maryssa took in the scene with horror. Kallas was a good friend, and she couldn t allow him to die in such a senseless manner. There was only one way to save
      Message 47 of 47 , Jun 16, 2005
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        Maryssa took in the scene with horror. Kallas was a good friend, and she couldn't allow him to die in such a senseless manner. There was only one way to save him. The time for keeping secrets was past. She leaped from her horse, transforming in the blink of an eye. As a swan, she sped toward the plummeting Tuathan, using her own body to break his fall. Her strength was not sufficient to bear them both aloft, nor were her webbed feet capable of grasping anything. Both tumbled in a heap, and the impact of the fall knocked all the breath from her lungs.
        Her mind was no longer able to maintain the concentration necessary to retain her swan form, and she reverted to her Human form. Brightly colored lights spun before her eyes, and pain wracked her body as she struggled to take a breath.
        The weight that had pinned her to the ground vanished, and a pair of hands turned her over, helped her to sit up, and wrapped a cloak around her nakedness. Then, Aryllon's voice spoke soothingly in her ear. "Easy, my love. The kitraal is gone, searching for easier prey. Kallas will be fine; you saved his life. You don't appear to have broken any bones. Other than a few scrapes and bruises, you're as lovely as ever. Breathe deeply and slowly, so your body can assimilate the oxygen it needs. There you go, my love."
        Gentle hands massaged her back, and Maryssa started to relax. The first few breaths were torture, but eventually, her breathing settled into a normal rhythm. Her body ached all over as Aryllon helped her to her feet, but she felt a sense of accomplishment. Kallas was safe, thanks to her quick thinking. The pain was worth it.
        "We'll be going no further today," said Aryllon, raising his voice to be heard by everyone. "Maryssa and Kallas need to rest for a while. Aurania's Chalice can wait a little longer."
        Ewan Mac Niall, the Morda, was staring at her as if she were some sort of monster. He made a sign to ward off the Evil Eye, and stayed as far away from her as possible. So be it, then. What she had done had been necessary. Why should the opinion of a stranger matter to her? All those who really mattered accepted her for who she was. With that thought, she comforted herself.
                                                     * * * * * * * *   * * * * * * * *
        The Dragon was temporarily sated, and Karylla revelled in the Power he gave her. Somewhere in the shadows, the six Draks awaited further orders. The Dark Priestess considered the creatures. She knew that only the Dragon kept them from consuming her own Life Essence, and she was wary in their presence. Should she anger her benefactor further, it was very likely that he would lift that prohibition. Therefore, she resolved that she would not fail him again.
        They were still no closer to finding a way into Finnan's castle. Focusing upon her hated twin brother, yet careful to keep her presence well hidden, Karylla listened in on his companions and him.
        That was interesting. One of the Cave Folk had survived the Draks' attack upon his people. Apparently, he knew how to reach the castle in the clouds. Probing his thoughts expertly, she soon had the answer to her dilemma. There was a portal hidden in the aerie of a giant eagle.
        Karylla smiled in triumph as she broke off contact. All she needed to do was bide her time, and the Chalice would be hers for the taking. She began making plans immediately. Let them take care of the difficult part. Then, she would step in and snatch victory from their grasp.
        The Dragon would be pleased. She and the Draks would follow Aryllon and his companions to the portal, and prepare a trap against their return. At last, she would achieve total victory over her twin, and Azman would walk Talira. Then, let the world beware!
                                              * * * * * * * *    * * * * * * * *
        - To be continued

        "May our relationship be a Harmonious one. May the Protector watch over you until we meet again."

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