VI. Contact from Earth - Twenty Thetan Days

Author: Radetch
Published: 2020-01-09, edited: 2020-01-11
Continuation of our story, already in progress. This entry saw the introduction of several other 'protagonists,' and introduced some of the consequences to Radetch's expansionism.

Part of the campaign:

Unfinished Starbound AAR

Previous part:

Game: Other games

V. Sanguine: And yet again, we cross paths. Fate, perhaps?

Images: 20, author: Radetch, published: 2020-01-09, edited: 2020-01-11

Error: Mood not found. Commencing backup protocol...

To the untrained eye, it was for all the world a classical castle - suspended miles above the ground.

https://youtu.be/vcCujhlguNM

Bon-Hwa Reedwind had trained his entire life in the underwater metropoli of the Hylotl, however, and was not impressed. The grandness of the place was artificial, he felt; much like the Glitch as a people.

Oh - certainly, the crowds were amusing in and of themselves, and the voi Tinselkampf seemed content to invite most anyone who would come - he had even been allowed safe passage to preach the superior messages of peace and inner discipline, and found no real resistance.

But of course - very few payed attention, as the Hylotl expected.

Espionage was much easier when people pretended you didn't exist, after all.
Default boot; Okay. Emergency boot; okay. Restore system param?

"So, are you all alone tonight?"

The sumptuousness of the false sunset projected by projectors which imitated the rococo style melted away, a quiet voice next to him interrupting his thoughts. The Hylotl turned to face a small human woman - who he immediately decided would be unnoticeable as well, if it were not for her ridiculous costume.

"And what are you supposed to be?"

He managed, biting back a more biting retort. She laughed, or rather snorted, from under the brim of her wide hat.

"Oh, I'm a witch - of course. In the employ of the great House voya Tinselkampf!"

Folding his lagoon-blue arms against one another, Bon-Hwa frowned.

"Certainly you are. Good to know that even Terrans buy into this ridiculous nonsense. Are we just supposed to mingle around here forever?"

Her eyes never moved from his, and she had the wide, career-smile of someone who never left parties like this. Someone playing the same game as him - perhaps.

"Oh, there's plenty of other things to do while we wait for the main attraction; are you new to Isla Argus?"

Without waiting for a reply, she took his hand and led him through the maze of ostentatious passageways, into a cramped and surprisingly more modern elevator.
System param not found. Access redundant system?

He was suddenly aware of how close they stood; human women were not particularly attractive to him, though he'd always reckoned it to be more Hylotl xenophobia then any real bias.

Like waves, her elabourate robes draped over each other as she tapped her foot impatiently, half-boot looking even more comical against titanium paneling.

And he wondered, for a moment, if perhaps the ceremonial robes of the Hylotl looked as ridiculous to her - or her Glitch masters.

Then the doors roared open, and he was surprised to find himself face to face with a large observation deck. The Glitch normally eschewed them - this seemed suspiciously Apex in character. Not quite as utilitarian, but...

"Is that - Theta Legionis II?"

"Wow! You really know your astrography!"

Her sarcastic laughter turned into a bad cough, and after awhile Bon-Hwa realized she was doubled over from something - pain of some sort.

"... You all right?"

He asked, not unkindly.

"Fine. Just the hazards of being a witch - you end up working with all sorts of things, you know. Anyway! This is what I wanted you to see. Do you understand why this is important?"

They stared at each other for some time, his bloodstone red eyes trying to read her tiny, cloudy blues. Finally, he gave up and shook his shoulders.

"It's a USMC world. Your people were mining it, or something."

"My people are the voya Tinselkampf."

She whispered gutturally, her smile vanishing for only a few seconds before returning to its proper place.

"And I just felt you'd like the view, that's all. You're kind of thick, aren't you?"

Every instinct was telling him to run - but, he hadn't found what he was looking for - intelligence hadn't even KNOWN there was another complex in the belly of this place. What other secrets might it hold..? If only he went deeper -

"That's me - thick as an Impervium brick. So - you said there was more to do here? Why not show an unlucky Hylotl a good time?"

He flashed his winning smile, and her pause must have meant she knew it was as fake as he estimated hers to be.

But neither smile faded, and in the silence as Glitch servitor-stenographers thanklessly tapped at keys, the two were as living statues.
Redundant system corrupt. Systems corrupt - aborting...

A few minutes jaunt past the elevator system - and then under it - Bon-Hwa found himself under the vastness of the structure above, carved of far less valuable stone and cement limes.

Even their damn tunnels are derivative, he mused, a single webbed fingertip against his lips.

"So - tell me about the Hylotl! I want to know. Are you all really so pacifistic and smug as half the galaxy seems to say? Because I have a hard time imagining that to be the case..."

"Oh, we all are. We live in hidden lands beneath the waves were we talk endlessly about how boorish surface-dwellers are."

"Is that so?"

The glee in her voice wasn't fake, he decided. Maybe she was just glad to have someone to talk to. To be honest -

He wasn't entirely unhappy with the scenario, himself.

"So - you need to be super-careful in the room ahead. One hundred, perhaps two hundred percent more careful then you already are."

Her laughter died, and he suddenly realized with horrified heart how wrong he'd been.

"Because if you aren't..."
Catastrophic failure detected. Unable to finish sequence.

The room smelled of vice.

https://youtu.be/MrjZQCPbQas

Laughter peeled from the wallpaper, from every corner around him. It caught under his skin, stuck to him like the toxic smoke he realized he'd caught on the breath of his companion. He knew the ceremonial knife Hylotl carried with them was nothing against this - place.

For it was not a place where he saw the knights-errant of the Glitch, but the idle cruelty of their nobility.

To his left, a Glitch woman lay sprawled against the ground, idly nursing a potent concoction of chemicals that had discoloured and stripped the metal around her 'mouth' in a way that made him wonder what it would do to an organic lifeform.

To his right, a huddle of Glitch, wearing the bright and gaudy colours of the nobility shot him sulphurous glances - then burst into laughter and began a cacophonous song of cat-calls, cheers, and invitations.

He caught sight of the Floran shackled behind them.

He turned away.

Bon-Hwa's host practically skipped around him, robe fluttering in the air and making look like nothing more then a thin-stretched black moth.

"Baronet, o' Baronet! See what Clever Magda has found! A little fish came from far afield, to pry your secrets from the ground~"

And perhaps it was that which made him look to his feet - that first called his attention to the ground itself; and the many deactivated, crushed Glitch faces staring back up at him.

It might well have been ceremonial, perhaps, but he bit back a yell regardless.

"Thoughtful: ... Well done, Clever Magda. Bring him forward."

A surprisingly soft voice reached Bon-Hwa, and he cast his gaze forwards.

So - this was the Baronet voi Tinselkampf. Radetch, was it..?

The petty-lord of the House was slumped over a chair that could hardly be called a throne, save for the rich-red velvety furs draped over it. He seemed not to be indulging in the decadence around him - and yet powerless against it, or perhaps...

"Authoritative: Bon-Hwa Reedwind. Do you know of whose presence you stand?"

Bon-Hwa pulled the durasteel knife from his side, and an instant his hand felt the crackle of electricity teasing it. Magda had a sly smile on her face, her mechanical hand pulsing with a current; gently, for now.

"Calming: Dear boy, know that we mean you no harm. I mean you no harm. But I repeat - do you UNDERSTAND who you are standing before..?"

"I know you, petty-lord of the machinemen. So. What sort of end comes to spies in this personal kingdom of yours..?"

And suddenly, both the Glitch and the Terran were laughing, and then the entirety of the room were laughing, and the floor was laughing, and the serfs and slaves and prisoners were laughing - and before long, unwillingly, Bon-Hwa was laughing, too.

"Patronizing: Silly boy - we do not murder spies, here."

Above, he could hear the Isla Argus' carrier bay roaring into life as sounds were broadcast to the planet below.

"Feverish: We recruit them."
Theta Legionis II: 14:52.

"Awright, Father. Looks like most of the civilians are in the ground as per your orders."

The cocky USMC soldier shot Sergius a big grin, his rifle slung over his back.

How had it come to this..? Sergius was a chaplain, not a leader in any sense of the word. His wisened hands felt even older as he thought of his family, back home. Earth depended on them. He would not cede a single inch to these idol-worshipping metal men..!

Wait.

"Ground, you said... What about the evacuation?"

"A, hmm, a plurality of the settlers left to New Wrangel on the last flight out. But most refused to go."

Sergius closed his eyes, trying to imagine how many must be like the young marine - hunkered down beneath durasteel beams and artificial lights, feeling safe because they were young -

Because they had not fought the Glitch, as he had.

"You fool..."

Sergius whispered quietly.

"Now, we must hope they understand our response."

"Hey, you smacked their diplomat in the face with that incense-thing."

"Censor."

"Whatever, caved it right in. I can't imagine that they're going to take that as anything else other then - "

And then the ground exploded with the hail of drop pods.

https://youtu.be/9QamnfH6BOM
Theta Legionis II: 16:01

The bunkers shook. Jittery USMC soldiers stood side by side, but the Glitch were using an army composed entirely of their 'serf' levies. Their armour was perhaps less durable then their bodies themselves; when shot, it often crunched and pierced the Glitch underneath, doing as much damage as hot plasma.

But the Glitch just kept coming.

Every few moments, they could hear another pounding thump as a robotic serf threw itself against the bunker walls, shouting their House name, if they had one, deactivating, and further damaging the walls.

The bunkers could not hold forever, and though the Corps. could hold its own against scores, perhaps hundreds of the peasants for every one of it's own members...

https://youtu.be/Xy84N_U5jw0
Theta Legionis II: 16:21

Her durasteel charger sang as it roared at her side.

She was the only knight in the service of the House voya Tinselkampf, but she knew the gods had favoured her this day - for she would know glorious combat against the best those of the flesh had to offer.

Beneath her mount, the bones of peasant and man alike crunched into the foundations of what would be this newly claimed land.

And then, they were on her - from behind every stone and cavern, their cowardice permitting them no glory but to shoot at a distance - though their plasma and armour-piercing rounds did nothing against the reinforced mail she wore.

Carmine voya Rumi savoured the moment. It, like all things, would not last.

Then, she stared at the soldier beneath her charger as it rose to strike - pallid face covered in grime and dust.

"Do you have last words, champion of the House voya Legionis?"

The marine's face twisted into a pained, defiant smile - as she held up her hand in a peculiar salute.

"Y-yeah. Fuck you, toaster."

And then, rocket rounds tore through the air.
The Peace of Theta Legionis

Carmine fell to her feet - on her feet, dropping her piston-lance and unholstering the greataxe from her back. Once again, she was in the fray as marines shouted and shot and fell around her - by the tens, by the twenties, by the hundreds.

She did not recall when she lost her axe and began to use her greatsword - nor when that failed her, as did the use of her hand, her gauntlet crushing skulls with impunity.

Nor the moment that she fell to the ground, balanced against the mud of combat, dust, blood, and coolant fluid - and the hilt of her former blade.

Carmine waited for a finishing blow, but there was none. Around her, peasants and marines alike seemed to be falling back - perhaps retreating, perhaps something else..?

Ah - glory had come.

"I have no lack of honour, dying here. Glory to the House voya Rumi..."

Carmine muttered, and was no more.
Content: And that's how we pushed the Terrans off of Theta Legionis II.

It wasn't as comfortable as a full-slime chassis massage, but nevertheless, Radetch couldn't help but enjoy the sensation of being sun-baked upon the top of one of the temple complexes dotting his demesne.

https://youtu.be/zFuFwZISZ6g

"I tried some delicious cakes the other day."

The bored Avian attendant offered, clearly riveted by his tale.

"Ah, so did I! Riveted: Did you know - buckwheat is quite a fantastic material. Possessed of many useful properties, or so my alchemists tell me."

"Mmn."

"Could you - yes, lower, please. Thank you. One must look one's best!"

"Mmn."

"Ah - most certainly, there."

Radetch turned his optics off, and went silent. Finally, a sigh from the Avian alerted him to his time being up.

"Okay, you're done. I know you're some special robo-man, but this is a temple, not your personal spa. So if you're done..."

"Grateful: I am! And I am thankful for your effort! I am certain they shall be glad to see me at the local High Hall - and all for your effort! Glory to you, bird-man!"

And as the Baronet picked up his things and left, the bored Avian cast a glance to his side - his eyes bulging at the large sack of coin, glistening serenely against the yellow tile.
Focused: They will welcome me, now. They must.

The rain on the planet - unmarked, as all such valuable realms were - was heavy, and felt warm against his shoulders.

https://youtu.be/iozIZBFH45Y

No - he was aware, aware enough to know he perceived the idea of rain, and that it should be warm - and that was enough for him, even though a small segment of his mind wondered if it was the same thing.

Ahead of him was the attendant, as spoken of - the normal steel of his armour doing little to dampen his solemn appearance.

"Humble: Lord guard - I have arrived."

Radetch near-whispered, and waited for a reply.
Astounded: I - but - what - I... I...

The guard shouted something to his superior, who did not reply. Folding his arms, the Glitch sentinel shook his head.

"Stern: You are not accepted here, voi Tinselkampf. There is no glory in the deeds of your house, nor has there ever been. The high lords of this place have elected others to suit their needs; the seat voi Tinselkampf remains, and shall remain, empty."

Radetch felt his shoulders sag. The hammer he had grown fond of was nothing as noble as a Glitch zweihander, nor as useful as a bardiche. But for a minute - he imagined turning it against his fellow Glitch.

For a brief, foolish minute.

"Understanding: I depart."

The Glitch watched the fallen lord leave, his countenance resigned, until finally his personal craft vanished from the low horizon.

As they stared, unblinking, the rain continued to fall.
Parameters found. Complete system restoration?

Quiet: ... Hello.

Funny we cross paths here, again.

An entire world full of poison. No, that's not that uncommon - but someone literally just - just left it.

Abandoned this place, to sit and be forgotten.

Afraid: Do you ever - think about such things..?

Look closely at the buildings over yonder; those that rise and fall with the sea. You can see how new life has found them. A grotesque parody of organic life, perhaps - but life all the same.

Vicious: I wonder what such a parody of life might feel, if it contented itself to know, to truly know what surrounded it.

But to have such a kingdom as this - perhaps there would be a glory in that, as well.

...

Apologetic: I am sorry. I do not mean to burden you - my old friends - with such worries. I do not even know what shall come of voicing them. Complaints do not suit the noble of souls - nor do they accomplish anything.

... Haha. I do not even know why I am collecting this; poison, yes. Waste - useless material, even for the most vile of enterprises. And yet it can be synthesized, grown in a vat in a lab more easily, more perfectly by my Apex scientists then by labour alone.

Wistful: Yet - might there still be a purpouse..?

Might there yet be a place for one such as I amongst the stars..? I -

...

Quiet: Do you see the stars..?

Unwavering: I think... I know...

Wavering: What I must do.

Uncertain: I shall - see you, there, I hope..?
System restoration complete. Damaged data restored.

The elevation of Radetch voi Tinselkampf from Baronet in the internal Glitch hierarchy was not without precedent, but still almost entirely unheard of.

All house-electors are to remain Baronets, or Princes, in name if not domain. This keeps them under the nominal authority of their monarch; unified in nobility as they are in serfdom.

The self-proclamation of an unimportant House, let alone one barred from electorship, to Voived was considered an act of open rebellion against Glitch authority - not dangerous in the same manner as largely unorganized and unimportant 'Outcasts' but as a rebellion of the lower nobility against the higher.

With the proclamation, the organized Glitch hierarchy shuddered - and found itself devoured from within almost overnight.

A time of troubles had begun...

Next chapter:

Game: Other games

VII. Luxury deadens the senses and soon becomes common.

Images: 16, author: Radetch, published: 2020-01-09, edited: 2020-01-11

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