Hatches

Another story set in the Beyond the Gates of Antares Universe has just gone live. As a trooper on a Concord long-haul star freighter Vidge thought his biggest problem was boredom. Then some hatches went missing and a scratching noise started and now boredom isn’t the issue.

http://www.beyondthetales.wordpress.com/hatches

It is completely Unofficial.

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Chalices and Challenges – Myrus Saga Episode 2 Part 2

Two announcements this time.

Firstly, following feedback I have changed the format of the site. Each story (or part story) will have its own page rather than just being a post. This means I can create links and improve accessibility. So now there is a
Contents Page

While I mention feedback, it is always welcome.

Secondly, the second part of the Chalices and Challenges story has gone live.

 

Freeborn Lord Kolasmus was hired to help Thurcon escape an Algoryn blockade. Instead, he had just turned in the criminal to the Algoryn Authorities.

As ever everything is completely unofficial.

Beyond the Gates of Antares and the Beyond the Gates of Antares Logo are trademarks of Warlord Games Ltd. and are used with permission. © Warlord Games Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.

Chalices and Challenges – Myrus Saga Episode 2 Part 1

Chalices and Challenges – Myrus Saga Episode 2 Part 1

This story is set in the Beyond the Gates of Antares Universe. It is completely Unofficial.

That’s the problem with being desperate, you have to consider actions you would otherwise dismiss out of hand. And I was desperate, we had been on Julpaw III for nine days and none of the traders would deal with me. Perhaps my ruinous hulk of a ship was deterring them. Perhaps my former Lord had made good on his threat to freeze me out of the market. Whatever the cause I was hungry and running out of options. I had exhausted the traditional avenues and now I was in some back-street dive on the bad side of town with the region’s second-most notorious criminal, Sterg. Now mind you I have nothing against criminals but we were in Algoryn space and the overlords of this planet had quite a robust response to organised crime and those who dealt with them. Like I said I was desperate.

The Julpaw system was ruled by an iron fist. The same could not be said about it’s neighbouring system Ryef. There, the Algoryn governor was weak and idle. Criminal gangs ruled most of the planet and that was where Sterg came in he was second in command of the Gripworms. Yeah I know who calls their gang the Gripworms: a blind slimy creature who spends most of its life in the dark waiting to be walked all over. Deadly yes, cool no. But then they hadn’t consulted me in their choice of name.

Sterg had been running arms from Ryef to Julpaw when the Regional Governor decides he’s finally had enough of Governor Weak and Idle. And for that matter had enough of the Gripworms. So the Algoryn navy have blockaded the planet and the Armoured Infantry were now systematically searching for known gang-members like Sterg and his boss Thurcon. However, as I said Sterg’s currently off-planet and Thurcon wants to be. Which brings us back to my desperation and options that I should not be considering.

To tell the truth, there have been many times when I have feigned indignation as a negotiation tactic. Like most Freeborn traders, I regularly use a variety of negotiation skills. Indignation is one, emphasising the negatives and the threats in order to get the best deal is another. However right now, I was not exaggerating and the indignation was real. “You trying to get me killed, Sterg. It would be a suicide run and you know it.” I got up to leave, again another negotiation trick I have used in the past which I wasn’t doing this time. This time, I really was leaving. I crossed to the door.

So Lord Kol of House Myrus are you saying you can’t do it?” Sterg called after me it was a blatant appeal to my pride. However, you don’t get to be the lord of a Freeborn trading house without being able to spot a negotiating trick. That said I wasn’t entirely clear how I had got to be the lord of a Freeborn trading house. Albeit a very small trading house: very very small. But still I wasn’t falling for such an obvious trick. I scoffed loudly and kept on walking. I wasn’t that desperate.

Or was I? I had been raised to Lord of my own house as a power-play between my old master Lord Cassar and his master Lady Sellendra. Part of me knew it was a poisoned chalice and part of me wanted to rise to the challenge. I so wanted to prove myself worthy of managing a trading-house, but that came with responsibilities as I had to raise a levy by the Grand Bister, the summoning of the houses. I had next to no resources and in my promotion I had drawn the enmity of Lord Cassar: a dangerous combination.

Chalice or challenge: often they were the same thing. It was just how you saw it; how you approached it. I had travelled off the beaten track here looking for an opportunity to make my fortune and now I was being offered another poisoned chalice: run a blockade, save the region’s most wanted man and run the blockade again.

I looked around and realised I had stopped at the door. Behind me, Sterg was waiting for a response to his question. I turned to look at him. He was a battered and scarred human and those scars said all he needed them to say. Even in this back water he could have found medi-drones capable of fixing his face without scars, but he had left them; he had chosen to leave them. They were badges of honour. They said I have met dangers and defeated them, but here he was asking me to meet a danger he did not want to face.

The answer was obvious, I clearly should say “no” and go find another deal, but instead I weighed up my options. I had a battered old capitol ship that I had salvaged and of which only five percent was habitable, a much nicer transport shuttle, a pilot, two HazEnv suits, a mag-gun and mag-pistol, less than a week’s worth of food and water, a bottle of fine spirits and a crate of cryo-suspended beetles we had scavenged from Gloot. The bugs were a delicacy in some parts of space but not here. I had little to trade and that was why I had come here hoping to provide a service and after nearly two weeks I had precisely one offer. An offer that clearly everyone else had already refused. Perhaps it was Cassar putting the word out; arranging a boycott. Whatever the reason I had only one offer of payment and I had a ship to repair and a crew (albeit a small crew) to feed.

My mouth moved and the words that came out shocked me, although perhaps I should not have been surprised “Let me think about it. I will give you my answer tomorrow.” Sterg’s face displayed surprise and satisfaction: this was clearly the most positive response he had had. I filed that fact away for future reference and then I did turn and leave.

I did indeed need to think about it. I needed to work out if it was a chalice or a challenge. Perhaps I wanted it to be a challenge, but wanting would not make it so. I walked through the streets on my own wishing (not for the first time) that my pilot Hurindor had followed me planet-side but the very idea of leaving space and setting foot on a spinning rock filled her with terror. Like me she had been born and raised on a ship, well more of a star-faring city. She was my oldest friend but unlike me she had never yearned to leave the confines of a craft and explore the myriad planets out there.

I found myself outside a functional looking building, brutal and militaristic. It had been built solidly, bristled with weapon ports and was heavily armoured and shielded. This was the local headquarters of the Algoryn Armoured Infantry. The Algoryn were the most militarised society for many systems and they governed hundreds of planets. Julpaw was one such planet as was the blockaded world of Ryef. In desperation, the people of the region called in the Algoryn military and their response was like this building; unsubtle, harsh and aggressive. That was precisely why the task was such a suicide run, but instead of turning it down like any right minded entrepreneur, I had said I would think about it and here I was outside the local headquarters of those enforcing the blockade.

I had a localised transmat function built into a stud implanted behind my right ear. It was relatively low powered and could only carry items of about the size of my head. I opened up a comms channel back to my ship. “Hi Hurindor, how’s it going?”

Fine, my Lord.”

You don’t have to call me lord.”

No, my Lord.”

Come on Hurindor we’ve been friends for over two decades you don’t need to call me Lord.”

Yes, Lord. We were indeed friends for a long time but that was before you became a lord, my Lord.”

I sighed “Can you please send me one of the bottles of Huavan spirits.”

Yes, my Lord.” The transmat by my ear hummed and I grabbed the bottle before it dropped and smashed. Two doors down from the headquarters was a drinking establishment and if I knew anything about such drinking establishments (and to be honest I did); I would be able to find some clarity in there.

A week later:-

A Captain should never be negative about his ship, but mine was a burnt out ancient wreck.

I mean that literally. Travelling into the Antarean end of any gate was a risky business. Getting that close to the photosphere of a red super-giant star was always a danger and some gates were deeper and therefore closer to Antares core. Unfortunately it’s a fact of life that sometimes ships don’t make it. A fact of life that particularly takes its toll on the nomadic Freeborn. Sometimes craft burn up and disappear completely, sometimes a wreck might make it to the gateway mouth and then emerge system-side lifeless and broken. My ship, the Victory Chest, was one such wreck. I had salvaged it shortly after being granted my own house. The engines and the drive worked and we had refurbished it to the point where maybe 5% of the ship was habitable and significantly Hurindor and I could remove our HazEnv suits. Nonetheless I could derive little pride from its appearance.

As I said a Captain should never be negative about his ship and right now its ruinous appearance was an asset. Hurindor had approached the gate at a shallow angle and forced it into a slow listing roll. We arrived system-side twisting and spinning, powered down and back in the HazEnv suits we had worked so hard to remove. Hopefully the Victory Chest looked just like it had before we had salvaged it, a ruinous hulk drifting aimlessly all but destroyed by the deadly Antarean photosphere.

Hurindor had suggested we huddle together to minimise both heat loss and the likelihood we would appear on a long distance scan. I thought the former reason was quite dubious: the suits were insulated to vacuum standard, we would not be sharing any heat, but I didn’t like to disappoint her so we lay together. I held onto a broadcast unit waiting for a sign of hope to appear in my scan detector. The detector was a passive device much beloved of smugglers. Basically, a piece of chemically-coated synthcard, which was photo-luminescent if scanned. Right now it glowed faintly suggesting a relatively weak scan and therefore a long range one.

Now was the risky time, an Algoryn blockade seeing a ship could just fire at it. Even a lifeless wreck might be taken as target practice. My ship had no shields and could not take much damage. If the weapons did not vaporise us we would be marooned in space clinging on to fragments of our home. It didn’t bear thinking about, so of course my mind kept coming back to it. I tried to focus on my what I wanted to achieve, i.e. my deal with Sterg. That had included half of the payment up front. I had taken that half in food, a change of clothes and rare crystals. The latter were useful to any navy and hopefully the Algoryn scanners would spot the crystals at long range and resolve to keep them for themselves.

If the drinkers at the bar were to be believed, standard protocol would be a long range scan by the destroyers and frigates. Then if no immediate threat was detected, a smaller patrol-craft would be dispatched to do a more accurate close range scan. The two of us huddled together in a powered down ship were probably invisible to a long range scan or at least indistinguishable from the minor heat and power sources you would detect on a genuine fresh wreck. However, the close range scan was likely to find us.

The passive scan detector shone brightly. They were now scanning the ship at close range. I turned on the broadcast unit and hoped its weak signal would reach the patrol craft and not the larger ships further away.

If the drinkers were accurate, today at this time the patrol-craft was likely to be piloted by Gor Brunnar. “Greetings Gor Brunnar, Palvae sends her love.” That should catch him off guard and buy me some time. Probably not much time though, so I needed to keep talking and make it quick, “I am here to help you and Palvae. I understand that her father prefers another suitor with more prestige and status.” Ahh, star crossed lovers, it was ever thus. “I can help you. I am a Freeborn information broker and I have business on Ryef. Obviously, I need you not to shoot or indeed to report my presence on this craft; in return I will find Thurcon and give you his location, you personally. You gain prestige and status and you will be that much closer to marrying Palvae. Plus I’ll work it so that your rival is diminished.”

There was a pause which I took as a good sign although he could easily be reporting our location back to the destroyers, huge powerful ships capable of reducing us to deb… Nope, I can’t afford to think like that I need to focus in negotiating and preventing that outcome. “How do I know you will uphold your end of the bargain?” Excellent he was clearly considering it.

As the philosopher Gahfridis would put it “a man who does not keep his word devalues it.””

Another pause then he asked the other logical question, “What makes you think you can find him. we have been searching the planet for weeks.”

I am sat here in a burnt out wreck with no power, risking being blasted to nothingness by Algoryn destroyers.”Don’t think about it, focus “The fact that I am taking such risks means I must be very confident…or to be frank insane.” There was no point letting him come up with that idea on his own. Much better to bring it out into the open. “But would an insane man know your name and that of your girl”

You’ve clearly done your homework”, came Brunnar’s considered response.

I have and that is why I am confident I will find Thurcon.”

A longer pause this time, then a new voice joined the discussion. “Hang on what about me?” The patrol craft was a two-seater vessel and the new voice would be Brunnar’s partner. That voice continued, “Brunnar here, gets closer to the love of his life, you get to sneak pass the blockade. But I also take the risks, what do I get out of this?”

Greetings Dal, how about tickets to the next concert by The Winds of Zyra. It’s all sold out and only available on the black market.” A black market dominated by Sterg and his gang. Dal was speechless, but as had been noted earlier I had done my homework.

The ship rocked suddenly and I found myself pressed uncomfortably up against Hurindor. Hoping that we weren’t being shot at. A long period of time passed and I exchanged occasional short bursts of conversation with the patrol craft. They were dragging us to a quarantine position orbiting Ryef’s moon. If the ship was still safe in a month they would board it and salvage the crystals. Don’t you just love standard procedure? It makes your opponent so predictable.

From here I could transmat to the surface of the moon but not the planet, but importantly I could transmat onto the patrol craft. It was cramped but hopefully the discomfort would be worth it. The patrol craft made the short journey to one of the planet-orbiting destroyers and landed curtly and efficiently. Curled into a ball in an equipment-locker was not the best way to land and my ribs ached from where the survival kit dug into them.

Once we had landed, I reached forward and handed Dal the concert tickets. Then he and Brunnar exited the patrol craft and some ten minutes later I found myself being transmatted again: relayed from the patrol craft’s locker through the destroyer’s transmat system and down to the planet. Brunnar had kept his word, now he would expect me to keep mine.

I navigated the planet’s transmat system emerging just under twenty kiloyans from Thurcon’s hideout. Ryef was a highly populated world with many dense cities which made hiding easy and searching for a person hard. It also made travelling around quite easy. I could have caught a monorail from the transmat station but I walked for an hour to the checkpoint that marked the current edge of the Algoryn controlled zone and then flagged down a hover cab. I deliberately gave the however cab an inaccurate address and walked back to the hideout. Sterg had given me the password and I was admitted into large solid basement. It was sparsely furnished and had the overall quality of a defensive bunker on a low-tech world.

Inside were four occupants: Thurcon, two obviously human bulky goons and a modified human-form. The latter was shorter than average, maybe a head shorter than me, but what stood out most were his long muscular arms they reached down past his ankles and he could almost touch the floor whilst still standing upright. His collar bone protruded out in front of his chest like the wish bone of a bird. His chin and forehead were prominent and chitinous. These gave an impression that his squat nose and beady eyes were peering out from a half-open oyster shell. The other striking feature about the modified human was the crude explosive wired round his neck it was clearly a compliance device which if triggered would kill him instantly. He was also speckled with bruises and cuts like he had been either fighting or mistreated, or probably both.

The goons were like goons everywhere: relatively muscled and maybe a head taller than me. They were trying (and quite frankly succeeding) to project an air of menace. Thurcon was huge; equally as tall as his goons but covered in rolls of fat. His face looked like it had been roughly shaped out of dough. Two pink eyes stared out from above his jowls and these were quick moving and alert and gave him a look of intelligence belied by his bulk.

Thurcon and his goons eyed me suspiciously as I entered. One of the goons stepped between me and the door cutting off my escape. Hands rested on holstered pistols. I made every effort to saunter in confidently and sit down nonchalantly. “Sterg sent me. I am to escort you back to Julpaw.”

Thurcon laughed throwing back his head. I passed across a data chip from Sterg that would vouch for me, but Thurcon barely glanced at it. Instead he threw it to one side carelessly and asked, “What makes you think you can get me out of here?”

My answer was simple, “I have a plan.”

Your kind are pretty much the definition of two faced swindlers and cheats. You’ll probably sell me out to the Algoryn.” He was clearly trying to bait me, but I kept my face impassive, keen not to show that I already had.

What and have you or Sterg track me down? That would be suicide.”

Some would describe trying to run an Algoryn blockade as suicide.”

I know and before I accepted the challenge many did.” Clearly I had as well but I wasn’t telling him that. Instead, I stuck to my guns “I have a plan. I am confident I can get you off world. In fact, it’s already in motion. The dice are thrown to quote Kolasmus the Esoteric.”

A man who hides in quotes can not be trusted.”

Isn’t that itself a quote?” I riposted.

Indeed but that does not make it any less true. I am very untrustworthy. I have killed many who thought me a friend.” There was menace in his voice and his words were intended to impress and frighten me. “I would kill you as soon as..”

Well, I’ll bear that in mind. Anyway,” I interrupted keen to change the topic. “I imagine it’s been tough getting hold of luxuries during the blockade. Sterg sent a gift: some Huavan Spirits and a fine vintage too.” I produced three bottles from a compression pod at my belt and cracked one open.

Thurcon glared back with steel in his eyes. “I observe that I don’t trust you and your response is to offer me a drink.”

Well yes, but not any drink. This is a very excellent vintage.”

It could be poison.” His voice crackled with aggression and paranoia

That’s not what the experts say.” I laughed.

Very droll. Let me be very clear – you could have poisoned it.”

Why would I do that? I know where you live. If I wanted you dead I could just alert the Algoryn. No risk for me and probably a small reward. But I didn’t; I came here.”

You will drink first.” This was not a request but a bold statement of fact.

Well, I suppose I am the guest.” I took a long deep draught straight from the bottle letting it fall towards my mouth through the open, so he could see I was definitely drinking it. I took a deep swallow satisfied. Thurcon motioned for one of the goons to drink. After this, he motioned for the other goon to taste it as well, before finally joining us. Each bottle was the same: I drank first drink and Thurcon last. The only one who didn’t drink was the long-armed guy in the corner, who frankly looked parched. Thurcon was alternately insulting and paranoid throughout the drinking. I ignored him, satisfied that my plan was working. Part way through the second bottle the goons started yawning and their speech was notably slurred. As Thurcon was drinking from the third bottle, the goon in the grey jumpsuit slipped slowly from his seat and slumped to the floor snoring.

It took Thurcon a moment to notice, “What’s he doing? Whass happened? Slowly he turned his pink eyes to me “Hass you done shomeshing? You’ve poishoned him hassn’t you.” As he spoke the second goon slumped out of his seat. Thurcon reached for the gun at his belt but his hands were clumsy and slow and he fumbled at the holster ineffectually before he too dropped down.

I put the poisoned bottle down. As I think I mentioned, I have a small localised transmat mounted behind my ear. The true skill is the fine detail adjusting, so it creates a portal the size of your inner mouth without damaging teeth or gum. Each slug of poisoned spirits that I appeared to pour into my mouth, was actually poured through that portal and therefore into a bucket a block away.

The long armed guy rose slowly and warily to his feet. His eyes darting to and fro, ready and alert. His body ready for conflict. I looked him openly in the face trying not to challenge him. I really didn’t want to find out how hard he could punch me with his incredibly long arms. I performed an open handed gesture and summoned a mech-drone from inside my compression pod. I took a slow easy step towards him. “Trust me.” I said.

Once the repair drone was working I put in the call to Brunnar and that gave me twenty minutes for the artificial meat substitute and the change of clothes. I was clear inside of ten, well you can’t be too careful.

To be continued.

 

Beyond the Gates of Antares and the Beyond the Gates of Antares Logo are trademarks of Warlord Games Ltd. and are used with permission. © Warlord Games Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.

Systems of The Quol Sector


This is a table of systems created by me as the background for my stories and my games of Beyond the Gates of Antares.
This is completely unofficial but is presented purely for interest and inspiration.

The Quol Sector

These are the systems in the Quol Sector, within the Algoryn Prosperate. It is bordered to the north by an area of the determinate known as the Ayal Strait. It is not far from a region of Ghar space and the Isorian Senatexis, both of which are potentially significant threats.

System Notes
Falla For an independent world in the determinate, Falla has an exceedingly high level of technology comparable to the major Imtel societies. In fact, some scholars believe that back in the sixth age it was part of the Senatex. The population is low and given the technology level, they no longer have to work. The people have given themselves over to the arts and philosophy. Whilst there are many reasonably sized towns, huge numbers live in relative seclusion. Settlements dot the mountains and the forests of brackens and ferns. The vast majority of residences have transmats but it is not unknown for individuals to choose to be off the transmat network, revelling in a largely illusionary seclusion.
Falla is a peaceful world. They have no standing army although the High Chancellor has a formal guard who are more versed in etiquette than combat.
Gavlos Not long ago, Gavlos was an independent system famous for its craftspeople. “Made by the artisans of Gavlos” was a sure sign of quality. However, a decade or so ago the system was incorporated into the Algoryn Prosperate. The Algoryn rulers (of Duccaron Moch) closed the system down until they were confident it had stabilised. Therefore, trade ceased for a while (at least officially), this forced the price up and created a vacuum which was inevitably filled with cheaper copies. Now Gavlos V is an Algoryn Border world and is once again open for trade. The Artisans are working hard to reclaim their reputation. Given its history of trading across the Ayal Strait, it is perhaps unsurprising that Gavlos has high-levels of Panhuman diversity.
Hamarin The Algoryn are frequently considered to be a militarised culture by many observers, but even by their standards Hamarin is very militarised. There are no cities or towns on Hamarin, only bases. Many of the bases are built partially or entirely underground. Within each base there are hydroponic farms so that all are entirely self-sufficient. Hamarin immediately borders Ghar space and is therefore subject to frequent invasions. It is also often the staging point for counter-raids. Most of the temperate surface of Hamarin is covered in rolling purple forests, broken by the occasional hill. The equatorial region has rain forests and deserts in equal measure.

The system is controlled primarily by the Jhuli Moch.

Harulsa Harulsa IV is an unforgiving planet which takes the same time to rotate on its axis as it does to orbit its star. This means one face of Harulsa bakes in eternal day and the other freezes in eternal night. The habitable zones are perpendicular to the sun in a band of permanent dusk (approximately 400 kiloyan across). To survive in this twilight, the Harulsans are modified humans with large sensitive eyes and huge ears. Their skin is pale, with enhanced vitamin D synthesis.
Plants which survive in the twilight band are relatively tough and have to be efficient photosynthesisers, so they tend towards darker coloured foliage and broad leaves. Therefore, Harulsan camouflage colours are very dark, near black. The dark half of Harulsa is the domain of fungi. There are some species of small exoskeleton creatures that live off the fungi but none 6bigger than a thumb bone. The Harulsans harvest the fungi and many of the twilight plants. There is a moderate trade in these.
The Harulsans are a proud independent people used to hardship. They have a reputation for being stoical and hard living. Family and loyalty are important concepts in Harulsan culture. The political system is based around the clan system and each clan has its own colours. These are often displayed on their robes and some of the militias wear these robes to war in contrast to their dark armour. The hereditary leaders of each clan are called Chiefs. In each state, they select High Chiefs from amongst their own ranks who report directly to the Governor of Harulsa, who is naturally an Algoryn.
Harulsa is not a desirable posting for the political and military elite of the Algoryn Prosperate. In a society famed for its stoicism, few dare complain but the average Algoryn finds the relentless dusk unsettling. It is also some distance from the embattled borders of Antarean space and is seen as a safe posting, which reduces its prestige still further. Therefore, Governorship of Harulsa is typically given to an appointee from the minor mochs. The Fadas Moch have been waning in influence for over two hundred years now, although they had never reached great political heights. The Governor of Harulsa is currently Amnaaen Ir Fadas. Like all Algor of any standing she is a trained warrior and tactician, but her moch are unable to sustain a large AI garrison on Harulsa. To offset this, she has allowed the Harulsans to maintain a relatively large local defence force. Their forces are representative of the majority within the Prosperate, able to field a mix of troops in reasonable numbers.
Harulsa V has a thin atmosphere and a moderate Boromite presence. Further out the asteroid belt is also worked by several Boromite Guilds.
Julpaw Julpaw is a fairly flat geologically stable world with a generally shallow water table. Huge tranches of Julpaw are marsh land and most buildings and population centres are raised on stanchions.
It is an Algoryn controlled system, but most of the population are not ethic Algoryn but standard panhumans. It was conquered less than a hundred years ago. It proved to be a difficult conquest, which was prolonged by some poor military decisions and some cowardice on the part of one of the Algoryn leaders. This allowed resistance to persist and organized violence continued for some time after the conquest. This was met with an iron fist by the ruling Duccaron Moch. A sense of injustice survived the harsh reactions and indeed thrived, although an uneasy peace has lasted for three decades now. Recently, however the increased lawlessness of Ryef and the thriving outlaw gangs there have contaminated Julpaw to some extent. Ryeflan gangs have exploited the resistance networks and the general anti-Algoryn sentiment.
Karmon Karmon calls itself the Gateway to the Quol sector. Most of the major routes through and into the area pass through Karmon. It has a busy star port close to the gate and this is all that most of the visitors to the system see. Planet-side life is good for most inhabitants (typically standard humans). Karmon V is largely a series of lush verdant valleys separated by sharp linear mountain ranges. The mountains thicken towards the poles and nearer the equatorial region the valleys fill with jungles and rain forests.
Lizen Lizen is a dwarf star and therefore has relatively few planets. There are also relatively few of the denser metals present in the system. Lizen II is a border-world and currently the most northerly point of the Quol sector. Until recently, it was an independent planet and the process of pacification/incorporation is still ongoing, led by the ruling Jhuli Moch. The vast majority of the planet is under Algoryn control and peaceful but there is still some organised resistance in the mountains of Cavugh.
Migglar Migglar is predominantly controlled by the Suvaan Moch. Vaalys ir Suvaan is also head of the Intelligence service in the Quol sector and it is said little happens on Migglar without Vaalys knowing about it. Migglar has troublesome neighbours. Ryef is largely lawless and the Vomarin Moch have lost control and Julpaw has a thriving anti-Algoryn sentiment. However, Migglar has remained uncontaminated by these systems and is proving to be an effective buffer for the capital Quol. This is largely due to Vaalys surgical approach to insurrection or crime. It is also helped by Migglar’s relative wealth and comfort, as it benefits from its proximity to the capital.
Quol Quol is the capital system of the sector. The Sector Governor is Grynef ir Jhuli, she has a reputation for patience and wisdom. She plays the long game with great strategic skill. Quol is an affluent system and all the major Mochs across the Quol sector have residences on Quol: Ducarron (from Julpaw and Gavlos), Fadas (from Harulsa), Suvaan (from Migglar and Karmon) and Vomarin (from Ryef). Often the residences reflect the value and repute of the individual Moch. The planet Quol II has no polar ice and therefore the water level is relatively high. Islands are scattered across almost the whole surface. The island cities of Quol reflect the huge diversity of the Prosperate and most panhuman morphs are present in reasonably sized communities.
Ryef Ryef is an Algoryn world. However, most of the population are not ethnic Algoryn but standard panhumans. It was conquered over a hundred years ago. At the time of the conquest the Vomarin moch were in the ascendance; however, they have since been rocked by intrigue. They were associated with Ma’req before that house was outlawed. The Vomarin failed to sufficiently distance themselves from the Mareq taint. Accusations of cowardice in the battles for Julpaw further tainted the Vomarin name and the moch dropped into a steady decline. The current governor of Ryef is a weak and idle man. He hoarded what little wealth he was able to retain and the garrison of Ryef suffered as a result.
In the weakening grip of the Vomarin moch, Ryef became fertile ground for the creation and growth of a black market and a number of underworld gangs. The Governor ignored the issue for a while and ultimately his weak response allowed the gangs to prosper. Now the underworld gangs wield more power than the Algoryn authorities, who remain in nominal charge. Thurcon, the leader of the biggest gang is the de facto leader of the planet in all but name. The wider powers of the Prosperate will not tolerate this for much longer and a formal intervention is no doubt on the cards.
The planet itself is speckled by population centres and crisscrossed by a reasonable transport network including transmat nodes. However, it is showing some signs of neglect with damaged nodes and occasional ghettos. Here in particular, the gangs thrive.
XiT’Ch’tith An Algoryn world populated primarily by the T’Chax or T’chath.
Zonch The Zonch system borders Ghar space and has therefore been the setting for a number of wars. Currently, the Algoryn are rebuilding, following a particularly devastating series of raids. Huge tracts of the planet Zonch III are now polluted wastelands and the natural Zonchian bracken forests are struggling to reclaim the land. But conservation is not a high priority for the Prosperate and they are concentrating on bunkers and trench systems. The mountain batteries are now complete and this provides a measure of protection.

The names The Ayal Salient and Ayal were created by Ian Ackerman and are used with permission.

Beyond the Gates of Antares and the Beyond the Gates of Antares Logo are trademarks of Warlord Games Ltd. and are used with permission. © Warlord Games Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.

Guild – Thurrid Saga Episode 1

This story is set in the Beyond the Gates of Antares Universe. It is completely Unofficial.

 

Madam Zhia slid up to Thurrid, who was leaning fist down on his desk. “You look uncomfortable.” The Rock Father glowered by way of response. The Matriarch teased him gently, “Is there somewhere you’d rather be?”

“I’d rather be arranging the next cycle’s security patrols or a practice range for the support teams, which does need doing by the way.” He slumped down in his chair. “Teheck, I’d rather be leading a ground assault against Hazard suits.”

“I know Thurrid, but I need you. Young Salina needs you. It is her coming of age celebration after all… and the first day of the rest of her life.”

“I don’t do diplomacy. If someone needs threatening or sorting out, I’m your man. But this…” He shook his head and glared out at the assembled diplomatic parties. “You’ll be fine. Salina and I will do the silken words and the flattery. You just need to be a pillar of strength in the corner, a silent pit-prop. Just try not to punch anyone or have them shot.”

“No promises!” He growled but she could just make out the beginnings of a smile on the Rock Father’s lips. She curtsied: elegant and graceful for such a large woman and excused herself.

It was he reflected a risky business inviting representatives from three other guilds to your mine-head and therefore inside your defences. In theory, all were friendly guilds but history was littered with feuds that started as friendships. Protocols dictated that they should all be allowed personal weapons and Thurrid hated being dictated to.

All three guilds had sent a relatively young Overseer and a few bodyguards. They were likely to be the most eligible bachelor from each guild and all were ready to leave their birth clan and set up a new clan with the Guildess Salina. Thurrid’s Guild of the Resolute Honour had found a promising region on the other side of their planet which would be offered alongside the Guildess’ hand. Thurrid had argued it was too much; eligible Guildesses were rare enough amongst his people that it shouldn’t require an additional prize. The Guild Mother had made a play of considering his advice, before carrying out her plans unchanged. That was after all the Guild Mother’s prerogative.

He checked over the comms link that his men were ready to respond to any threat. Then he circulated around the mine-head. He made a point of playing the dutiful host and greeting every visitor, but in reality he was assessing their threat.

The Ferachi Guild were the richest Boromite Guild in the Sector and this was reflected in their outfits. Gems and diamonds sparkled from every inch. Despite their wealth, Thurrif had not wanted to invite them. They did not observe the traditions and ways of their people. They didn’t mine, they were traders who wouldn’t know hard graft if it bit them on their ornately garbed arses. And what sort of name was Cassar; it was more commonly given to Freeborn traders not decent hard-working Boromites. Needless to say, Thurrid was not impressed by the simpering braggart, but as Madam Zhia would have told him, it wasn’t his opinion that mattered. So he swallowed his words and pressed on to the next party.

Their brilliant blue skins marked them out as the Guild of the Sapphire Fist. Their clothing was also expensive, but it spoke of quality rather than luxury or decoration. It was also fighting garb and the four had the bearing of warriors. They also carried Isorian style plasma carbines. Thurrid got the sense that they were weighing him up, as was only right. Their young suitor was Makkog, with piercing eyes which matched his blue skin. He was almost a head taller than Thurrid, but then he was short for a Rock Father.

The Guild of the Shining Hope had travelled the least distance. They were from a neighbouring planet in the same system. Their suitor, Holith was thin and constantly moving. Often, he just swayed from foot to foot as if he could hear music no-one else could. His skin was dark grey and he had the muscles and callouses of a hard-worker. “Honourable Father, I have heard much about you. They say…”

“Of course you have, we’re neighbours.” Thurrid believed in speaking plainly. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have much to do.” He turned and slipped way.

Once he was satisfied that the risk was minimal or at least as minimal as it could be, Thurrid gave the signal for Madam Zhia to introduce Salina.

Salina swept into the room, flanked by two bodyguards. She wore a long flowing formal dress in what Thurrid had been assured was the current style. It had a reasonably long train behind her, which floated just above the ground with its own suspensor field. The black and silver of the dress offset her striking purple skin which shone with its own light. Zhia had clearly given her lessons in moving gracefully and gone was the ungainly girl he knew so well.

Thurrid was not surprised that the first Overseer to approach Salina was the ornately adorned Cassar. Milady, allow me to present myself I am Overseer Cassar of the Ferachi Guild of Port Desgal. You will not find a wealthier or more well-equipped Guild in this region of the determinate. If you choose me I will ensure you have only the finest robes and the most beautiful jewellery.” It was undoubtedly true but Salina seemed unimpressed.

A new voice cut across, “It is hard to imagine that any jewel could be as beautiful as Madam Salina”. This was Holith from the neighbouring clan of the Shining Hope. At least he sounded sincere. The third overseer hung back, but one of his bodyguards was nudging him subtly to press forward and say something anything. The other two Overseers needed no such encouragement and golden words tumbled from them both. Thurrid tuned them out and carried out the serious business of sweeping the group for any threats.

Madam Zhia swept in and brought Salina to the third Overseer – tall, blue Makkog. Salina greeted him formally and he mumbled his response, equally formally but with little clarity. Thurrid wondered if the Overseer had ever spoken to a woman before. Certainly, the long silence suggested he had not.

Cassar broke the silence, “We have viewed one of the commodities on offer, perhaps we could now go out and inspect the other part of the deal: the land.” Thurrid fumed at hearing Salina being called a commodity and he formed fists at his sides. Madam Zhia shot him a glance that said, ‘Don’t punch anyone’. He relaxed his hands and stepped back.

Instead, the Guild Mother cut in “Shall we move on to the next item on today’s plan? We could go and take a look at the proposed site for the new mine. We have dug some exploratory shafts so you may check out the potential.”

Zhia led them to the Guild’s only craft: an old freighter that had been patched up many times over the decades. In theory it was capable of surviving a journey across the Antarean photosphere, it just didn’t give that impression. Thurrid had had it cleaned and emptied, so it could ferry the visitors out across the planet.

Most of them climbed in to the hold and stood up gripping onto the webbing which ran across the ceiling. Cassar went to perch on a raised section towards the back. He called out, “Please could I have a cushion.” Thurrid was developing a strong dislike for the Ferachi Overseer. Even one of Cassar’s own bodyguards rolled his eyes at that request. A cushion was not fetched and the door closed with a satisfying hiss.

The freighter lifted off and carried them out across the planet. Between Cassar’s boasting and Holith’s empty flattery, the journey promised to be a long one. Makkog remained silent and uncomfortable. Fifteen minutes later, one of the Sapphire Fist guards decided to help his Overseer. “So Milady, do you like locomites?” It was a breach of protocol to speak direct to the Guildess, but Thurrid was prepared to forgive him; if it stopped the other two talking for even a few seconds.

I’ve always wanted to own one.” As Salina spoke, she shot Thurrid a hard glare; he had always denied her requests. In his opinion, there were more useful Lavan species. He had grudging respect for aggressive lavamites and even the hulking brood mothers but he could not see the point of riding Lavans. Cassar made the predictable response to Salina’s comment. “I could provide you a whole Locomite stable.”

And then Makkog spoke. “They’re fantastic creatures, so noble and so loyal. If you can earn their trust which isn’t easy, mind, you have a steed for life. I know experts favour the Alzanthan breed but I’ve always preferred the Ch’ymi  variety, they have a more balanced temperament. Not as aggressive as…” and then Makkog was away. It was clearly his area of expertise and talking about it seemed to relax him. Salina responded to it asking questions and chatting. Cassar chipped in a few boasts but had little of substance to add and Holith withdrew in apparent disdain. Thurrid made eye-contact with the guard who had changed the topic and subtly inclined his head in a respectful bow.

The rest of the flight passed uneventfully, Salina and Makkog conversed the whole way. Even Cassar had stopped contributing and wandered across to bore the Guild-Mother with the fact that his Guild were building a small fleet of interstellar craft, each implicitly superior to hers. Although, Thurrid noted to himself this was a very strebuous standard.

The clearly inferior freighter landed by the new minehead. It was a basic and small affair, but then it was a small network for exploratory analysis only. Holith was keen to explore the mine, and Cassar was reluctant, he stomped around topside commenting to how many ships he could dock here. Thurrid shook his head in dismay: the spoiled brat was not a proper Boromite at all. Makkog gave the impression that he was happy to be anywhere as long as he could talk about his beloved steeds.

Thurrid led the way in to the tunnel, Cassar hesitated at the tunnel mouth. Holith asked all the intelligent questions about strata composition, mineral impurities and scan depth. If he was hoping to impress Salina with technical knowledge; he was out of luck. She only had eyes for the cavalry man. The contest was now a one Locomite race. Thurrid smiled at his own unspoken joke. Zhia sidled up to him, “Stop smiling, it doesn’t suit you.” She laughed. “I assume you are reminiscing about our own courtship.” Thurrid didn’t reply but turned away, in what he hoped was an enigmatic manner.

They descended in a tight spiral, sloping through the clay down to the interesting strata. Here, a few tunnels branched off. None were very long maybe five yans. There was not enough space for the whole group, so they naturally split out into their own clans. Holith from the neighbouring planet finally managed to catch Salina’s attention “Guildess is this ore, potentially palladium rich?” he pointed down the first tunnel which his group had filled. Dutifully the young Guildess went to investigate. Thurrid followed, he wasn’t letting her out of his sight.

He had a bad feeling and it was growing. Something was wrong although he couldn’t tell what. He threw a glance back to Zhia. She was further from the entrance with the Sapphire Fist party. There was the gentle hubbub of conversation but something was missing. Then he realised. The hum of suspensors fields was background noise in a pit of any size. They held the roof up and stopped the sides sliding out. It was a subtle noise but one that was entirely missing. In theory, the pitprops and pillars were strong enough without the fields, but you could never be too careful and this was a young pit, it had yet to fully settle.

“Perhaps, we should head…” He began, but the creak-crack of a pit-prop snapping changed his plan again. “ROOF HO! He bellowed the traditional warning as he triggered his armour. Plates materialised out of nodules doted around his skin and nanites melded these together in to a robust suit of armour.

Cracks appeared in the roof of the second tunnel, spidering towards him. Salina’s tunnel looked reasonably solid, so he charged towards Madam Zhia. As he leapt all the other Boromites were triggering their armour and looking up to assess the safety of their surroundings. The roof started to fall: dust and pebbles pattered off his armour. He grabbed at Zhia, hauled her back past him, throwing her towards Salina and the Silent Hope party. The air turned thick with dust and soil and in the choking darkness, he heard the rumble of bigger articles detaching from the ceiling.

Something solid clumped off his shoulder and bright flames of pain arced from it. As he turned, he reached out ahead and grabbed an unseen arm. He dove through the cloud of descending matter pushing Zhia ahead of him and dragging the arm’s owner with him back to cover. Something large thundered to the ground beside him shaking the floor, but he didn’t slow down. Three of the Amethyst Fists were still back in the thick of the collapse but there was little he could do for them now.

Zhia gasped in pain ahead of him. Then, she stopped. “Let us through.” She shouted above the din of the rockfall. Thurrid realised she had bumped into someone in the cloud and couldn’t get past. Logically, it was one of Holith’s party. Stones clattered off his armour and he could hear the slither of something big moving over his head; no doubt ready to fall. He let go of Zhia and shoved hard at whoever was in her way. The blocker moved and the three tumbled into the safe tunnel. Behind them came a roaring thump as the ’something big’ landed and blocked them in.

Thurrid wiped dirt from his eyes and looked around. He was crammed into the first tunnel along-side Salina, Holith and his bodyguards, Madam Zhia, and the Boromite, whose arm he had grabbed. Although, could not tell he was from the Sapphire Fist now because he was so thickly clogged with dust and muck.

Thurrid opened the compression pouch, which he wore constantly and extracted from it a powerful transmitter, capable of sending through several yan of solid rock. He sent a distress signal and summoned borer drones. Then he began to check the wellbeing of the seven of them. The four who had remained in the rockfall were unharmed if a little dusty. Thurrid and Zhia had some bruises and lacerations. The Sapphire Fist survivor was Makkog, he was badly bruised, his shoulder was messed up and his left arm hung limply from his side. He was also coughing up dirt.

The borer drones made relatively short work of digging the seven out and retrieving the missing. One other from the Sapphire Fist Guild had survived: the bodyguard who had started the locomite discussion. However, he was badly mangled and his continued survival was in significant doubt.

The borer drones carried out the most seriously injured first, then the walking wounded, the Guildess and Overseer Holith in that order. As was traditional for Rock Fathers, Thurrid was the last to emerge. He clambered out of the sunken pit to find Cassar and his group unharmed and clean waiting by the freighter. The moment he appeared the spoilt Overseer announced. “We’ve called our ship to come fetch us.”

Thurrid kept his voice calmer than he felt, “There’s no need for that. Our freighter is here we’ll be half way back before your ship even gets close.”

“How do we know we can trust your ship? It might fall down around our ears.”

“It will be fine.”

“We could have been killed in there!” Cassar’s response was petulant and frightened.

“But you weren’t. In fact you look like you came out of that unscathed.” Thurrid allowed his anger to show through, but kept it in check.Lashing out at Cassar might make Thurrid feel better but would help very little.

“No thanks to you!”

Thurrid bridled at that but let it go. “How did you manage it?”

“We had the good sense not to go beyond the down shaft. So, the moment your ramshackle mine started to collapse; we retreated back above ground, back to safety.”

“Ramshackle?” He started to argue and then hesitated, lost for words. It was hard to defend a mine that had collapsed killing two Boromites. He swallowed hard. He was the Rock Father, his duty was to protect the safety and security of all his Clan and any guests or visitors. Today, he had failed.

“I am sorry, Honoured Guest.” The tone was formal and the words almost caught in Thurrid’s throat but he got them out. “I will pesonally check over the freighter and one of your men can accompany me. When we are all satisfied, then we can head back.” He turned to Holith “Honoured Guest would one of your party care to join me in my inspection?” The inspection took longer than Thurrid would have liked and he had to swallow his pride at several points. Each time, he caught Madam Zhia giving him a reassuring smile and pressed on.

Ultimately, the freighter took off with all on board and the corpses stowed respectfully. Early in the flight, Zhia drew Thurrid aside. She kept her voice low and subtle. “Well done, Honoured Father. I’m impressed. We’ll make a diplomat out of you one day.”

“No, you teheck’n wont.” He snapped back but again there was the beginning of a smile on his lips.

“There are worst fates, you know.” She joked and then her voice went serious again. “Cassar and the Ferachi Guild are withdrawing: they no longer wish to be considered suitors.”

Thurrid bit back a celebratory cheer, to hear his least favourite candidate was out of consideration. However, any joy was short lived when he realised it was now a one locomite race. Makkog was hardly in contention. He strode away from Zhia and paced the back of the Freighter liked a caged Greatcrest. He strode off to the freighter’s bridge and approached one of the technicians there. “How are the drones faring in terms of making the hole safe?”

“They are making good progress, Honorable Father. Better than could be expected.” There was a note of mild surprise in the technician’s voice, but also something darker. 

Thurrid raised an eyebrow. “Suggesting the ground was not too soft in the first place?”

“Perhaps, Milord.”

“In that case, I have another job for the drones. There’s something I need them to find.”

Once the drones were set on the task, Thurrid wandered back to the hold and kept an eye on the injured Makkog for a bit. He had regained consciousness, but was barely able to sit up.

As Thurrid paced, Cassar approached him, “I have contacted my ship and arranged for it to meet us partway. Then we can get out of here. After all, there is no point me wasting my time.”

Or indeed us wasting ours” Thurrid countered.

Indeed.”, came Cassar’s reply, although his expression suggested the thought had never occurred to him. Thurrid agreed to rendez vous with the other ship. In the short term, it would create some hassle and delay the return journey. Ultimately, it would simplify matters back at base.

Thurrid was in the hold with the guests, when the technician requested his attention. The Rock Father strode purposefully to the bridge, where the technician informed him, that the borer drones had found the pit props.

In turn, Thurrid called the Matriarch to the bridge.  She swept in and as she saw Thurrid’s expression, her own face set hard. She asked, “You have your serious face on. What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking, I wish I had drilled the support weapon and artillery teams more. We are about to enter a guildwar.”

“Can it be helped?”

“Then you’d best win it, hadn’t you?”

“Yes, milady.”

“We also need to make a decision regarding the suitors.” They discussed it in the bridge briefly but both agreed quickly.

The two ships liaised twenty minutes away from Thurrid’s settlement and all were relieved as Cassar flew off.

As the ship disappeared, Thurrid made an announcement. “The Guild Mother and I have made our decision. We will declare the successful suitor upon our return. I thought we should arrange an honour guard. To show our respects, all the men of our guild will line the path from the ship to the mine. It will symbolise the new couple’s journey together. I’ll make the arrangements now.” Holith’s only response was to a confident smile. Makkog groaned.

The Rock Father spoke on the comms link and by the time the base came into view, two lines of Boromites were clearly visible. It was an honour guard, all bore arms and even the support weapons were on display. The ship alighted with a worrying creak and the hatch buzzed open. Zhia and Salina had been chatting in one corner, now the Guildess glided across to Holith at the doorway. She watched as the last few Boromites moved into position, joggling the lines sideways to meet the ship.

Thurrid’s voice boomed out the freighter systems “Three suitors visited us today to win the hand or our beloved Guildess, Salina. One has withdrawn and one is seriously injured, so Holith of the Guild of the Shining Hope is the last man standing, literally.”

Confidently, Holith surveyed the scene. He was satisfied that the Honour-guard was for him and in a way, it was. He hadn’t noticed that all the overhead weapons were on one side of the route. All the direct fire weapons were opposite with their backs to the two visiting ships: Holith’s intra-system vessel and the Freeborn craft that had ferried the Sapphire Fist.

Thurrid continued, “As Rock Father, it is my duty to make the best decision for my Guild. So, Brothers, present arms.” Across the two lines of Boromites, mag-guns and tractor mauls were raised and support crews bent over their weapons. All those in the left line turned in place, so now all the assembled warriors faced the visiting vessels. With some satisfaction, Thurrid watched realisation dawn across Holith’s face. “Fire”, roared the Rock-Father. Scramble rounds dropped across the top of the Shining Hope’s ship and its shield faltered and faded. Then the compression weapons and mag support weapons opened fire. Ragged lines of flames blazed across the intra-system ship.

On Thurrid’s freighter, Holith’s bodyguard suddenly snapped into action. They tore their eyes off the carnage in front of them and reached for their guns. But even as their hands made contact there was the whining hiss of two plasma streams and they fell to the floor. Holith turned at the commotion to find Zhia and Salina holding glowing plasma pistols. His jaw dropped and fear gripped his face. Then, Thurrid hissed in his ear. “You abused our hospitality! You sabotaged our mine to further your own ends. You almost killed our Guild Mother, you killed two men under our protection and injured two more. Just to win the hand of our Guildess.”

“I did no such thing. It was your mine that collapsed. You’re blaming us for your shoddy workmanship.” Holith had to shout over the roar of support weapons and collapsing ship.

“Someone turned off the suspensor field and damaged two pit props so that they would fail. But somehow you and your guards managed to find the one safe spot inside the mine.”

“The Ferachi were safe too! But you are not accusing them!” Came the obvious accusation.

Thurrid had expected it. “Indeed, but they withdrew from the competition and to be honest they wouldn’t know how to sabotage a mine, if someone tattooed instructions onto their skin.”

“Well, how could we have done it? We had only just arrived.”

“Clearly, there is a traitor in our ranks. When I found out who assisted you, they will pay! Do not doubt this!”

Holith sounded desperate now. “You have no proo…”

“I bore of this.”, this time it was Salina that spoke. She interrupted her would-be-suitor sharply, before her pistol hissed again. Holith’s corpse fell backwards out of the hatch.

Thurrid strode across to where Makkog barely sat. “Look! Look at your new bride with her pistol in her hand and remember what happened to the last man to betray her!” Then his voice softened “I hope you have a long and fruitful life together. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a Guildwar to win.

Epilogue

In hindsight, the sound that woke Thurrid that night was his comm link. He reached for it, while his eyes adjusted rapidly to the gloom. The technician’s voice rumbled out of it. “Honourable Father, I know who communicated with Holith’s Guild. I know who betrayed us.”

Thurrid’s response was blunt and to the point. “Who?”

“It’s Ghinir, sir.”

Please note, another story of Thurrid and the Guild of the Resolute Honour can be found in Weapons and Armour of the Boromites.  https://www.gatesofantares.com/weapons-and-armour-of-the-boromites/
Beyond the Gates of Antares and the Beyond the Gates of Antares Logo are trademarks of Warlord Games Ltd. and are used with permission. © Warlord Games Ltd 2017. All rights reserved. 

First – Myrus Saga Episode 1 Part 2

This story is set in the Beyond the Gates of Antares Universe. It is completely Unofficial.

This story follows on from First part 1.

Kolasmus tried to reveal war-crimes committed by the Lord of his house, Cassar Teggori. He was stopped and banished, but before he could be marooned on a desert planet. Sellendra Cadix, Cassar’s Lord granted Kolasmus his own house and a shuttle. So far there is only one person in his house: his best friend pilot Hurindor. Now, they are racing Cassar to a semi-derelict hulk. Without it they will be trapped in the system, and face a slow death.

The shuttle shifted beneath us and the console showed maximum thrust. We couldn’t outrun the huge Teggorian vessel from which we had departed but we could out-accelerate it.

I opened up a communication link with the system’s garrison. “Come in Thoralin garrison. This is Kolasmus on the Shuttle Dreams in the Rising Suns; requesting permission to land.” The hulk was too big to fit in the vault and was actually hidden inside the gas giant itself but I didn’t wanted Cassar to realise what we were up to. “Come in Thorralin Garrison we are inbound towards your location. Permission to land please.”

One moment,” The comms link was cut at their end no doubt while they sought further instruction from Lord Cassar. If we posed a threat or perhaps even if we had not come from a friendly vessel they would not have hesitated. They would have attacked us with everything they had, which was quite substantial. The vault’s defences were designed to repel attacks from cruiser and capital class vessels. A single shuttle posed them no threat. The distance between us ticked down. Cassar’s vessel, The Gates of Redulla, was not in pursuit; at least not yet. No doubt, Cassar was confident that we posed no threat to the vault. Instead, he had merely moved between us and Sellendra’s throne ship. He was blocking any transmission we might try and send to her: trying to keep his grubby secret. Excellent, that would help later.

The vault garrison came on line. Their response came as no surprise. “Permission to land denied. This is a high security installation any attempt to approach within 20 Kiloyan of the planet will be treated as a hostile action and met with fatal force. You have been warned.” The threat was delivered in a neutral monotone, but it was sincere. Cassar wanted me dead but he did not want Sellendra questioning it. Therefore he had to legitimize it and the threat would do that. No doubt he was hoping I would not comply and get my own shuttle vaporised.

One moment, Thoralin 5 Garrison.” Hurindor stalled. Instead of consulting with me she created a 21kiloyan sphere on the holo-map and plotted a course around it. She appeared to be aiming for the last possible course correction that would avoid us getting shot and still leave us a straight route to the gas giant. She waited as long as she could before re-opening the comms link. “Come in, Thoralin Garrison come in. Please note we are complying with your request. Please note we are complying”. According to the screen, the course adjusted but again I did not feel it.

We powered on past the ominous sphere on the map and I turned my attention to Cassar’s giant vessel. Initially it would look like we were course correcting to avoid getting shot which was true in part. However, as we continued on a straight path, our true course would rapidly become apparent. We flew on in silence. I hoped Cassar was not on the bridge and was still with Sellendra. That would mean everything would have to be relayed to him second hand and that would buy us valuable moments.

The monitor pinged to inform us that the giant ship had come to life behind us and was now moving forward. Immediately a probable intercept course sprang up on the holo-map. If it followed the projected course, it would overtake us 20 kiloyans from the gas giant and then beat us to the prize. Cassar’s great vessel accelerated hard but the gap kept growing. I strolled back to the shuttle’s transmat pad and produced the data crystal I had hidden. I copied the data over on the ship’s system.

Then I called up the transmat settings and adjusted them. Within every transmat system there is a complicated protocol for matching inertia so that an object for instance being broadcast from a ship to a rotating planet arrives already matched to the planet’s spin. Rather than arriving with it’s orginal ship based inertia. But these protocols can be turned off or modified. I checked the readings in front of Hurindor; Cassar had already matched our speed and was now beginning to reduce the gap. The predicted interception point had not changed we were still likely to lose. I placed the data crystal on the transmat and stepped back.

I walked over to Hurindor, she was alert at the controls but there was little she could do. We were in open space and the gas giant was still some way off. This was not a case of ducking and weaving or taking the racing line, this was an out and out straight drag race. Pilot skill didn’t matter, just acceleration and top speeds. All she could do is open up maximum thrust and hold course. I watched as Cassar ate up the gap between us: slowly but inexorably gaining. We were still out of effective weapon range but I was hopeful he wouldn’t shoot even when we were. Not without some form of legitimacy and not when they could just leave us to starve in system.

Cassar’s vessel crept up on us: the gap was fifty two kiloyans. Fifty one… fifty… forty nine… forty eight. I broadcast the data crystal out into deep space. Transmatting an item from a transmat platform out in to the open was less accurate than a platform to platform broadcast but I didn’t need accuracy: I was playing fetch. The data crystal would materialise somewhere behind Cassar. Thanks to my alterations it appeared with sufficient retained momentum to carry it back towards Sellendra’s Throneship. He might be blocking a comms signal but I could still launch a data crystal towards her. Now, Cassar had a quandary. He could try shooting a tiny data crystal with ship board weapons but it would be extremely difficult and he would be firing in Sellendra’s direction and I was gambling that was a risk he would not take. So, he could stop us reaching the unclaimed hulk or stop the data crystal reaching Sellendra and denouncing him as a traitor. A ship or his life, it didn’t take long to decide.

Behind us the large vessel slowed dramatically. The projected intercept point responded by moving closer towards the gas giant. If he chose to accelerate now he could still beat us to the ship but only just. Then as he slowed further the intercept point travelled through the planet’s image and out the other side; suggesting we would win. I allowed myself to smile, but Hurindor continued to stare resolutely at the interface image. Our shuttle powered on.

Behind us, the Gates of Redulla shrank back coming briefly to a full stop before reversing after the crystal. As we pulled away from Cassar, I concentrated on scanning the planet. The whole point of hiding it inside the gas giant was clearly to make it as hard to find as possible. I had the advantage that I knew it was there, I knew what I was looking for. I started scanning from the closest pole weaving up and down as we slid across the planet. I had scanned maybe a third of the gas giant when, the shuttle’s AI system beeped to alert me that the Gates of Redulla had completed its reverse and was now once again accelerating towards us. No doubt the data crystal had been caught and destroyed.

Cassar’s ship accelerated again but for a long time we were faster than it and the gap between us kept growing and then… it stopped growing and started shrinking, but it was still a long way behind us and we were nearly there.

The planet filled the display a huge ruddy orb of blood red swirls. The ship’s AI system highlighted a circle directly in front of us. Scan readings scrolled above it. The scanned area was maybe 20 kiloyan across and changed each second. When I did my military service, we considered 7 kiloyans a good day’s march on foot. So 20 kiloyans was not a small area but at this rate it would take over two hours to scan the planet. Two hours which we did not have. On the second display Lord Cassar’s ship was closing the distance. “Ship spread the scan thinner we are looking for a lump of metal that is a kiloyan across. Dot the surface with 300 yans between each dot separation. The circle on the display enlarged by a factor of twenty probably at the shuttle’s maximum scan range. The readout showing the estimated time to complete the scan also changed. Three and a half minutes. The shuttle had been decelerating as it neared the planet and now slowed it began to circle the planet. Behind us Cassar was still accelerating and the Estimated time for Intercept was down under two minutes. Not enough time to complete the scan but we didn’t need to look everywhere just the right place.

I stepped back, discarded my robe and wrestled a HazEnv suit on over my clothes. As I did so I watched the larger ship bare down upon us. I watched it race forward on the display, purposeful and determined. Purposeful! Maybe that would help. “Ship extrapolate Cassar’ s route until it intercepts with the planet. Centre the remaining search on that point”. A ping sounded and a little green dot appeared on the display. The shuttle twisted to head up to the highlighted area. It pivoted on that point and began to an outward spiral.

I locked the HazEnv suit closed and lifted the helmet. “Ship the moment you find the hulk’ plot a transmat broadcast and send me across. I want to be on that ship as quickly as possible.” I stepped back to the transmat platform and raised the helmet over my head. I heard a sharp exhalation from Hurindor. I slammed the helmet on and spun to her. The hulk had appeared on the screen and we were clearly closing on its position. I was worried that the sight of the derelict hulk would be disheartening but oddly it wasn’t. I felt my heart leap with hope. Hurindor was having a similar reaction. “By the stars its beautiful.” Well I wouldn’t go that far but it had potential.

The ship announced transmat signal locked broad casting. My vision glowed gold and then as the light faded, the scene had changed. I was on a powerless old hulk. Outside of my suit it was cold vacuum, even here on the bridge. I could stand easily, but I suspect it was the gas giant’s gravity pulling me to the ship’s deck. A light shone automatically from my helmet illuminating my surroundings around me. The bridge seemed to be in a reasonable condition, but I could not afford the time to look around.

I spoke into the suit’s comms and my words were broadcast far and wide by the shuttle. “I, Doma Kolasmus Lord of Domas Myrus, salvage this unclaimed vessel under the full authority of Freeborn tradition and Cadixian law.”

There is a tradition amongst the Vardos Cadix of naming vessels after epic poetry of the sixth age. The race to claim the ship had put me in mind of a poem by my name sake: Kolasmus the esoteric. So I named her the Victory Chest; although the naming ceremony would have to wait.

As I spoke I advanced to the central desk. My helmet display had identified it was drawing power, albeit at a low level. It was probably a passive system. I tapped it prospectively and there was a brief hum and lights came on around me. A display hologram flickered into life. Parts of the ship were powering up but only parts. I scanned the information. Cassar had clearly prioritized vital systems and these were all operable. The ship could move under its own power and the ship’s artificial intelligence was fully functioning, but huge parts of the ship were open to vacuum and the vessel’s ribs were visible in places. That said onboard maintenance and fabricators reported as good and given the right materials the ship could rebuild itself. That would be tomorrow’s priority. Today, my priority would be not sustaining any more damage.

I watched Lord Cassar’s craft on the hologram, he was manoeuvring into a dominant position, where if he chose to he could reduce us to so much stardust. We had no weapons, no armour, little by the way of shields and to be frank not a great deal of hull. If he chose to he could destroy us easily. The question was would he choose to. I had humiliated him, revealed that he was hiding secrets from the Vardo and effectively stolen a ship (not under Cadixian law maybe, but I have no doubt that was how he would perceive it). Plus I knew about Soong Raphel and I could not be allowed to tell. However, he was being watched by that Vardo in the best vessel in the Cadixian fleet and that might be enough.

I opened up the comms and kept my voice formal and polite, “Doma Cassar, as Lord of this system. I humbly request that you escort us to the gate so I can exit and leave you and the Vardo in peace.” My request was met by silence, absolute silence. He was clearly choosing: destroy us and prevent his secret coming out but risk Sellendra wondering why; risk Sellendra taking offence at her will being thwarted.

Or let us go and kill us later when we weren’t being watched.

As the silence rolled on I watched on the holodisplay as my shuttle approach through the giant’s thick atmosphere. I opened the shuttle bay. Still no communication from Cassar perhaps he was waiting for Hurindor to come aboard so he could destroy us both in one devastating broadside and avoid having to chase a shuttle around the system.

I closed the bay doors behind her trapping her inside. Now was the optimal time for him to fire but nothing. The display hologram turned red a flashing light indicated that the Gates of Redulla was charging all its starboard batteries. Oh teheck’n ka ha. I had failed: the confrontation, Sellendra’s intervention the chase and the claiming of the ship would all come to nothing. Hurindor and I were about to die in a hail of plasma discharges and fractal energy. I tried to come up with some great last words but nothing came; the bitter sting of so nearly making it stole them from my mind.

I realised I was holding my breath and forced myself to exhale slowly. In front of me the holodisplay shifted again rolling back to a calming blue and the warning flashed away. I checked the display the batteries appeared to be powering down. Hurindor appeared next to me in the golden haze of a transmat broadcast. “What’s happening?” She asked and then added as an after-thought “My Lord”.

I don’t know but we ought to be moving.” I’m sure I felt the ship shudder as Hurindor powered up the engines and the massive hulk ploughed though the atmosphere. She was no longer streamlined and the protruding ribs swirled the gases as we ran. We rose rapidly and burst out into space. Hurindor guided the nose towards the gate and Cassar’s vessel twisted to keep his batteries facing us. As we drew past him. It accelerated to follow us; matching our pace and keeping between us and Sellendra’s throneship. No doubt jamming any signal we might send to her. He shadowed us all the way to the gate. Looming ominously behind us. Hurindor sent the key-signal which opened the gate and powered us slowly carefully towards it.

At this point the comms line opened and finally Lord Cassar spoke. His tone was level and his words considered. “Some advice: a Doma is only as good as his or her networks. For instance, I have allies and contacts everywhere: every system, every star-port, every market. Everywhere, someone owes me or wants to earn my favour.” It was clearly a threat.

I’m more of a fan of the philosophies of Gethrides myself: The driving force of trade is the acknowledgement that today’s poor might be tomorrow’s rich and today’s rich might be tomorrow’s poor.” I closed the comms link, there was nothing more to say.

Hurindor spoke and her manner was oddly stiff bearing in mind she was my oldest friend. “My Lord, you know there is no guarantee this hulk will survive this?” It was unclear whether she meant the transition into the gate, the journey across the photosphere the other side of the gate, or a feud with Cassar. All were probably equally true. I simply nodded. Hurindor throttled the ship forward into the gaping mouth of the Antarean gate and on towards our future: to either wither in the sun or to flourish.

 

 

Beyond the Gates of Antares and the Beyond the Gates of Antares Logo are trademarks of Warlord Games Ltd. and are used with permission. © Warlord Games Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.

Map of Ayal Strait and surrounding area

Below is the map of the Ayal Strait and the surrounding regions: the Ayal Salient and the Quol Sector. This is the area, which I use as the setting for several of my stories and some Beyond the Gates of Antares wargames. It is completely unofficial and presented here for inspiration and interest.

More information on the various systems is in separate posts.

myrus

Many of the systems are on regular trade routes for the Freeborn houses. The houses are shown by the colour of the rings.

Ring Colour Freeborn House
Red Vardos Fulgare
Brown Domas Raphel of Vardos Cadix
Blue Domas Teggori of Vardos Cadix
Green Domas Vexalin of Vardos Cadix

The Ayal Salient and Ayal were named by Ian Ackerman.

Beyond the Gates of Antares and the Beyond the Gates of Antares Logo are trademarks of Warlord Games Ltd. and are used with permission. © Warlord Games Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.