Far into the future, across the stars and through the darkness, our story begins…
The Earth you know is gone. Humans fled the dying planet in search of a new home. What they found was a galaxy in the midst of a war for survival.
Under threat from an overwhelming evil, the denizens of the galaxy begrudgingly worked with the outsiders to help turn the tide of the war.
The fearsome threat known as the Reavers were beat back to the fringes of the galaxy. Time passed and they became little more than a scary bedtime story. The galaxy, as a whole, moved on.
Your story begins with an awakening. A single defining moment in your life. The birth of your Soul, a spirit that mirrors your true self. Through battle and the forging of a bond, you both become stronger and capable of great feats.
It is your time. Show the galaxy how strong your bond is. Fight back the darkness.
Post by ✯Star Sheriff BRANDO✯ on Feb 10, 2020 13:13:15 GMT
Tamar, Stellar Principalities
It was for all intents and purposes, a thrice-dead world. The official records said that until around the end of the Galactic War, Tamar had once been a prosperous world, built on the ashes of an earlier civilisation that had been ravaged by the Reavers. Of course that all changed when the War came to their turf, and the last fleet action above it resulted in the Union burning rebuilt planet from orbit. Nearly two decades later, large portions of the planet continued to burn as volcanoes triggered by the bombardment continued to flow, magma chambers blown wide open by heavy kinetic and energy artillery.
All that remained of the Tamarian Nation was a number of small offworld colonies, most of which failed without homeworld support before reaching self-sufficiency. Those who could return to the home system reunited into an endangered minority clustered in oft-pirate-harassed Steam-Era towns on Tamaria's moon Korander. But those descended from this introverted race had much to say about their history on the Holonet. Yes, they still had Holonet access. The in-system Holonet Buoys were fortunate enough to have been spared destruction.
For those who had an interest in galactic history, they understood, of course, that the pre-glassing civilisation of Tamar was not the first. Rather, it was the resurgent offspring of an even older chain of succeeding societies whose origins predated the Oracle's arrival by a number of centuries.
Much like the rise and fall of nations on many planets, of course.
But what caused the downfall of the oldest, and most fabled First Tamarian Empire? That which today's disparate Tamarians held with legendary regard as Terrans held their ancient lost homeworld of Earth?
The archaeological records were sketchy, and the glassing by the Union didn't help to preserve evidence that was already so sparse. But from what could be pieced together from pictures and videos of murals and ruins, and fragmented oral folklore from various Korander settlements, ROPE was able to put together a somewhat coherent narrative.
"It was before the Reavers showed up," Rhomi wiggled her fingers as if to invoke an air of mystery, sitting in the pilot's chair as the autopilot VI brought the charred planet into view of the cockpit. "'bout ten years er so. An invading army comes in under some guy the Tams call 'Lord Brakka'. It's like he's got a few screws loose when 'e spoke to em on comms. Almost like he's packin a split personality or somethin. One second he's demandin surrender so's 'e can take the planet's titanium mines fer 'imself. But then 'e changes 'is mind an just tells em ta lie down an die so 'e can eat em all!"
She'd decided on this planet because of all the "Reaper Sword" sightings, this one had the most circumstantial evidence backing it up. If it wasn't here, they could always try a few more 'sword sighting' planets. And if not, then maybe the one with the last Reaper sighting would be the best place to find it...
"So 'e goes back and forth like this the whole time 'e's threatnin the Tams. They figger either way, 'e's not 'ere ta chat. So's they just start shootin' before 'e can finish.!" Which sounded oddly amusing if you thought enough about it, but anyway... "But turns out 'is army's tougher than they expect. So the fightin gets mighty fierce! And the boss ain't no pushover either despite bein off the rocker! Goes on fer a whole year before they uhh... the Tam HoloTubers all say it was somethin called 'Troq'. Dependin on the VI translator, it either means a magicky ritual that nullified Brakka's sword, allowin them ta beat 'im by attrition, or a magicky ritual of mutually assured destruction so powerful it... well let's just say either way, it meant they beat him, but the First Empire collapsed beyond recovery and they had ta start from scratch..."
She scrolled up the last bit of text, and treated it almost as an afterthought.
"Oh right, and the war ended up killin all o their Vessels, so the Reavers just kinda passed 'em over for the duration o the invasion." A whole generation devoid of Vessels. Or maybe two? Three? Maybe just a portion? She never really studied how long the Tams took to breed a new generation, but either way, that was fifty years without Vessels, leaving them off the Reavers' Soul Radar and allowing them to rebuild in relative peace during that terrifying period.
Rhomi shut the app and took the time to take a bite out of the SnakPak ration bar sitting on the dashboard's pop-out food tray.
"So this 'ere's our first stop! Spooky place, ain't it?"
Hikari’s room in the spaceship was, for the most party, completely silent and empty, its walls and floor illuminated solely by the flickering flashes of passing hyperspace outside the window. A small, frightened fairy sat on her knees on the windowsill, staring at her Vessel, shrouded in darkness, save for a dimly glowing right eye, a visual trait inconspicuously growing in him for the last few months.
"You saw what happened out there - in any way you can measure, Rhomi is stronger than me. And as long as she stays stronger than me, I won’t have to bear my burden alone. So, I won’t have to become a Hollow Soul again."
Hoping to make at least symbolic amends with his Soul, Hikari offered his hand, only to see a frightened Paizuri crawl away from his fingers instead of stepping onto them. The little fairy turned to the side, struggling to keep away building tears, and finally muttered through anguish:
"You… you set a bad precedent. When Mia first forced that mask upon you, neither of us knew what it meant, so I have to forgive you for what happened as a result. But in that fight - you were in no fight of life or death, you knew very well of what that… mask does, and you chose to do it anyway. Why?.."
Hikari stared back at the lamenting Paizuri, ultimately released a sigh and began to explain himself. "I had to figure out how the two of us compare - and that includes pitting each one of us at their absolute best. And the farthest I can push myself is in that form, beyond Integrity Armor, and... " A brief sigh punctuated his descending trainwreck of thoughts. "It’s just something I’ll have to live with, you know? And always keep it in mind as a last resort - there will be times when I won’t be able to tolerate your power removing caprices, you know that?"
Instead of explaining the rationale behind his actions and finally putting the debate to an end, Hikari opened his eyes to see a Paizuri which felt even worse than before. His last sentence, as sincere as it was, left a mark of terror and tears on her face.
"I-I can’t believe what you’re saying..."
"That thing is going to kill me!"
Paizuri sniffed, huddling into a fetal sitting position, and wiped a few tears forming under her eyes. "And you don’t even seem to care, as long as it helps you go on your crusade..." She turned back towards her Vessel, whose eyes were closed yet again and whose mind was once more immersed in deep thought. "Please tell me you misspoke. That you didn’t mean to. That you don’t see me as nothing more than a restraint..."
Hikari faintly opened his eyes again, his face contorted into a bitter frown. ...He couldn’t say anything. This was one decision where he wanted to stay sincere - not like he could lie to his Soul and get her to believe it, anyway. But the truth… wasn’t going to satisfy anyone.
So he said nothing. And simply walked away.
With a scowl on his face and his hands shoved deep within the pockets of his trench coat, Hikari stared across the window, the vast, destroyed expanse of Tamar's orbit unfolding before the spaceship. Many who were to take a glimpse at the sight would begin to recall the long and arduous history of the planet, rising, falling, and rising from the ashes once again - that was certainly what Rhomi did, beginning to recant a tale from the world's distant past and using it as a justification for why she hoped to find the Reaper's weapon here. Though she didn't say it outright, he could already guess that she was trying to connect the erratic and yet unbelievably powerful "Lord Brakka" with the Reaper.
Looking into the charred planet, Hikari saw something else, however. He did not see an ancient history long since forgotten, he saw a travesty so recent that many were alive to witness it. The extermination of an entire planet for simply being in the way of way, for simply not belonging to the same side as all the others.
Billions perished. The Alliance used this as a propaganda piece to push through the perception that the Union was going to stop at nothing except extermination of everyone who stand in their way. Remember Tamar! Remember, that if you do not dedicate your efforts to support the Alliance, the same will happen to Mobius, or even Sion! That propaganda made Hikari sceptical of the Alliance's intentions, but he could not deny that what happened here was a tragedy.
Billions perished. And nobody was there to stop it. And everyone was there to see it through.
But lamenting at the demise of others was not what he was here for. He shouldn't ruin such a good day for his Sweetheart. Right as Rhomi finished speaking and exclaimed that this was their first stop - "a spooky place" - Hikari turned around, stepping away from the window and turning towards the pilot's chair.
"And not exactly the easiest place to search, either..." He didn't even know if the air down there was breathable. If it's got too much volcanic ash and poisonous gas, then they'd have to put on spacesuits, and, well...
...fighting in a spacesuit sucks.
"What's your plan down there?" Hikari continued. "Even if this place wasn't torched down, it would take the two of us several decades to search through all the nooks and crannies on the surface - and I'm sure that even if that weapon is down there, Union bombardment probably buried it a mile underground. Or inside a volcano."
Post by ✯Star Sheriff BRANDO✯ on Feb 14, 2020 3:47:56 GMT
Oh, right... not just spooky. Hard to sift through as well. This wasn't any regular old planet. It was part glass, part lava, part toxic ash and fumes. Chances are the temple where they kept the sword - a trophy for defeating Lord Brakka, of course - was vaporized. Or buried. Maybe buried. Hopefully buried. It was a tough temple, right? Maybe in a subterranean vault?
Rhomi raised a finger as if to answer that. The difference was, when she opened her mouth, nothing came out of it. For the first few seconds, she just sat silently there, like a statue of someone saying something important. Of course the truth was, she was as silent as the statue itself.
It was around this time that the VI completed its scan of the planet's orbit and turned in its report. <<Total number of undamaged artificial objects in orbit: 27,825.>>
A low number, considering the length of Tamar's space age. But that was to be expected after the terrible fate that it suffered. No doubt, the Union took out many of its most crucial stations and satellites. Ships, defence platforms, comm hubs, the works. And the decades after that would obviously not have been kind to those that survived destruction, but were left to float in dereliction. If there was anything left running, they might either be low on power, or jury-rigged stations that pirates got back up running and were using as bases.
<<Active power signatures detected in 0.4313% of objects.>>
"Yeah, how many is that?"
She turned to Kari. "Sugar, if we can find three GPS birds, we might be able ta hack em and triangulate the ol temple's position." Rhomi didn't actually know much about hacking, but these Vanguard-issue Omnis were so good at automating all sorts of things. And with the Tamar systems being decades old, cracking through their firewalls would be a cinch.
Either that, or they were so old they'd become incompatible... which was also a real potential problem.
"Sure, it's all slagged down there, but the birds should still remember where those features used ta be..." Hopefully. Otherwise, Rhomi would have to be honest, she didn't really think this part through.
Hikari's thoughts were followed by a silence setting in across the entire starship. Rhomi tried to offer something in response, but nothing left her mouth - she was completely stumped. How could she not be? This plan was even worse than searching for a needle in a stack of hay, at least a needle will poke you rather painfully if you do actually find it on accident.
If they had the RIDERS by their side, this would certainly be less monumental of a task, just with the manpower they'd have access to alone. Instead, however, the two of them were alone. Even if both of them were trained Vessels in their own right, there was only so much they could pull off. Of course, none of this was going to simply stop Rhomi. So, she began searching for alternative options with the help of her ship's virtual intelligence. Scanning the satellites still swarming the planet after its glassing, picking out which of them still have active power signatures and thus could possibly be of use to them, so on and so forth...
Finally, she proposed an idea.
Let's fetch some of the GPS satellites, hack them and search the data stored inside for any information on the location of the temple where the Reaper's weapon used to be held. Getting some info on the former map of the surface, that's not... a terrible idea.
Sure, there's a whole bunch of ways how it can go wrong.
"If we can find them among the entire orbit of the planet. If they still carry any information. If that information actually brings us any closer to where that artifact is."
...but, well, it's at least better than no plan at all.