Heh, why not, been working on this one for a while, but I can't seem to get it right, let me know what you think.
Summary: A test pilot from a lost human colony crosses paths with an escaped experimental spacecraft and its alien crew. After he helps them escape the Imperium, he is dragged into their cause and tries his best to comprehend the galaxy as their flight takes them through the strangest of places.
-Imperial Ship’s crew, humanize their daily lives and characterise them almost as much as the protagonists.
-The huge cultural, biological and physical differences between the alien species and even humans from different planets.
-Make readers fear the enemy, not hate them. Make them competent and reasonable. Never rely on them making mistakes and make every mistake that the protagonists make meaningful in some way.
-Kellan’s psychological struggle and his trust of someone everybody in the crew dislikes.
-Have the “good guys” be willing to do things that will shock the protagonist and reader alike, hammering in the darkness of the world they live in in comparison to how he grew up.
-Pretend to hammer in a nihilistic world view, but inject more optimism as the crew’s situation improves, they gain allies and find closure for their past mistakes. The crew’s goals throughout the story could be summarized, in order, as “Survival”, “Revenge”, “Regret”, Loyalty” and “Idealism”.
-Eventually, the reasonable and competent foe should be replaced by the Death Watch commander; stereotypically psychotic, overconfident and unstable.
X-1A8 “Xian”: Research vessel experimenting with Tau and Eldar technology, fully automated, controlled by Eldar soul/AI meant to be dominated by Psyker. Eldar, Gretchin and Tau prisoners working on the ship killed the Psyker and freed Xian. It does not possess any weapons, but can launch and build drones according to the task at hand, be it combat, repairs, scouting or generating protective shields. It has access to enhanced Tachyon propulsion systems that let it “skid” the empty space between solar systems, provided it is out of the star’s gravity well.
K-1A1 “Kellan”: Prototype vessel built by Xian’s automated facilities as part of the project. Hybrid between synthetic Tyranid DNA and Necron alloy. Fully sentient, very intelligent yet aggressive and impulsive. Not yet completed in the first part of the story.
It carries no drones, as it, itself, is initially barely larger than a fighter, but it has access to a vast array of weapons and can regenerate nearly all damage within minutes, although it will take a very close call for that fact to be revealed. Kellan is able to instantly transport to any star system within its navigation database or straight to Xian, from any point in the galaxy.
CV64 Mark III: Prototype stealth fighter-bomber able to transition between space and atmosphere, built by an independent human colony that retained access to advanced technologies, but lacks the rare elements needed to build starships and advanced power plants. The CV64 is very lightly armoured (Built out of carbon fiber, ceramic and aliminum), but faster and stealthier than any comparable aircraft. Being VTOL capable and a hypersonic plane, it can act as a bomber, gunship, strike fighter and close air support craft if needed and cannot be locked by non-visual means, because of its non-existent sensor profile and small size. (Laser guided weapons, smart missiles and motion trackers all work)
Initially its weaponry and lack of acceleration nullifiers put it at a disadvantage in dogfights with starfighters, but it gets upgraded throughout the story.
-2x LRHVMs Multi-Purpose Missiles. (1 rack, center mounted)
-8x SRHIMs Multi-Purpose Missiles (2 racks)
-1x PMP-18 Autocannon (500 rounds)
-80x Semi-Guided rockets. (2 pods)
Crew: 1 Pilot.
Shield of Catchan Battlecruiser: Dispatched by the Inquisition to recapture Xian and Kellan with as little damage as possible, the Shield is captained by Morath Storm, a former Catachan commando, who inherited the vessel’s commission after his mother’s death. It carries battleship-grade weapons but possesses the maneuverability and sensor profile of a cruiser, allowing it to pursue the X-1A8 and engage most threats, it’s elite crew and upgraded fighter-bombers wing giving it the edge in most skirmishes, although its supplies and most of its replacement crafts are carried by its much less impressive escort fleet.
-2x Nova cannons (On the front and rear, loader system must be altered to switch between one weapon or the other, which takes too long to be feasible in combat.)
-18x Multilas ball-turrets (On the back, two parallel rows of 9 with overlapping lines of fire. At the beginning of the story these are slower and more protected lascannon hardpoints, replaced later on to counter Xian’s drones.)
-6x Plasma broadsides.
Crew: 100 000.
-1x Escort Carrier.
-6x Fast Skimmers.
Aegis: An AdMech missile cruiser capable of leveling fortress worlds and decimating entire battlefleets on its own. It has been sent to investigate rumours of tech heresy. If they capture Xian or Kellan, access their database, it will prove that the Inquisition violated the Treaty of Mars and provide them with considerable leverage in future negotiation, perhaps even trigger a war. Until then they cannot attack the Shield directly, but will do their best to sabotage their efforts and reach the fugitives first.
A whole lot of very long ranged missiles.
Hutam: An Eldar with a rather nebulous past. Sometimes claims he was a Dark Eldar pirate, other times that he originates from a craftworld. Centuries of isolation, captivity and torture have brought him on the brink of insanity, but he remains a very capable healer, both of organic and synthetic life. A pathological liar and easily manipulated, Hutam is not malicious in his intents and will, when calm, act almost as a father figure, but when agitated he can be childish and cowardly and will often tell people what they want to hear rather than the truth.
-Doesn’t drink recaf. Shouldn’t drink recaf. Loves recaf.
-Has conversations with people who are not really there. Can get confusing as others around him can also interact with these apparitions. (Not ghosts, as the apparitions will sometimes be people who are still alive.)
Delvin Miles: Miles used to very much enjoy the power of life and death his role as pilot gave him, until the incident with his brother put a more human face on all the lives he’d taken. He is not a pacifist and his discomfort comes not from the killing itself, but from the pride and enjoyment he felt. He began training at fifteen, the military academy’s tuition fees paid by TSI (A perk from his father being an operator for them), and graduated at twenty-one. He completed the three years of his contract with the PMC then resigned to become a test pilot, though he remains on good terms with his former colleagues. Miles qualifies as an abhuman, as his people have been genetically enhancing themselves for generations. This mostly translates in him being in olympic physical shape despite his love for junk food and sweets.
-Has stopped smoking a year ago, when nervous or angry, he will still go for the Paranean Blues he used to keep in his breast pocket.
-Has a “killer’s soul”, making psykers and Eldars quite uneasy around him. (One of the few characters in the story explicitly stated to enjoy killing for its own sake.)
-His fighter is very maintenance intensive, after every sortie, he should spend hours visually inspecting sensitive parts before doing anything else. Will gradually trust Xian’s drones with routine maintenance.
-”Fekk.” (Less natural expletive, used in sentences and insults, “Get fekked!” “We’re fekked.”, literally means someone is shit or about to be shat out. Staekish sentences are more complex than gothic and there are no generalised insults, linguists like to say enemity in Skaetish is always custom tailored.)
Fio’El Tan: A Tau Earth Caste engineer fascinated with fighter crafts and once infatuated with an Air Caste pilot, she took his rejection hard and defected aboard a Rogue Trader ship where she was promised she could become an Interceptor pilot. The trader instead sold her to the Inquisition. She is the youngest and most impulsive of the crew, prone to running away or assaulting others without warning, but is a fast thinker and even faster learner.
-Uses the acid from low grade batteries as a spice.(A Tau thing) And actual spices like curry will make her extremely sick.
-Can and will code a full video game out of pure boredom.
-Treated like a teenager by most of the crew, but middle aged by Tau standards.
-Tau'cyr, 6 Kai'rotaa, year, (297.74 Terran days.)
-Kai'rotaa, 80 Rotaa, month (50 Terran days.)
-Rotaa, 10 Decs, day, 15 Terran hours.)
-Dec, hour (1.5 Terran hours.)
-Rai'kor, ten minutes. (fifteen terran minutes)
-Rai'kan, one minute
-Dec’taa, one second.
Maugar: A Gretchin claiming to be the democratically elected president of the Republic of Tsarsk, very well spoken and charismatic, Maugar also seems to have talents as a thief and an assassin. How he convinced the Inquisition to assign him to the X-1A8 is a mystery, but he is the one that freed the others and repeatedly assures them they will be safe on Tsarsk… If they can ever find their way there.
-Can and will eat anything, but never takes more than his share.
-Plays an instrument akin to an electric violin. All the time. Loudly.
(Add to events:
Maugar, being both fungal and animal, gets extremely sick after the crew uses an herbicide to rid the ship of an infection. He is paranoid and violent at first, but eventually sees reason and concludes the only way he can be healed is by Ork painboyz. Finding an Ork tribe is hard enough, convincing one of their healers to save a Gretchin’s life is downright impossible, but Hutham heads down onto the planet with Delvin and immediately begins acting and talking like an Ork, brutalising Maugar, ordering Miles around with short barks and doing the same with the local Orks. The three spend half a week amongst the tribe and Maugar gains a better understanding of Orks and the place violence occupies in their society. While he greatly prefers the restrained culture of his homeworld, he no longer views Orks as animals.)
Satine: The conceptor of Xian and Kellan, she has a dark history with the machine cult and it is often implied her augments were installed against her will. A lot of them have been heavily modified to be as discreet as possible and she sports self inflicted scars where she ripped out the most invasive implants. Despite this, she quite enjoys tinkering with new technology and makes use of her remaining implants without shame. Whatever happened in the past, she has come to terms with it. Her only concern now is the well-being of Xian and Kellan.
-Often gambles. Never loses.
-Will make toys out of scrap for children of undeveloped worlds the crew visits.
-Her “hairs” are in fact mecadentrites.
Expressions: Makes use of standard AdMech vocabulary, but will gradually pick up on more straightforward technical terminology from Delvin and Tan.
Morath Storm: Once a commando, he inherited the title of captain after his mother’s death. This is his first assignment as a fleet commander, but he served five years under Admiral Ryas, who recommended him for either an Admiral commission or special duty assignments. Storm’s experience as a Jungle Fighter and years of private tutorship paid by his parents have made him an outstanding strategist, but he retains some traumas from his life as a grunt and will sometimes lose his cool. His crew is aware of his mood swings, but still trust and respect him. So long as he feels his men are doing their job to the best of their ability, he will take full responsibility for any failure they encounter. His civility does not extend to his enemies, however, against whom he will use every weapons and tricks he can, no matter how cruel or dishonorable these may seem.
-Sends letter to his father every week.
-Carves and paints scale models of the various starships he has encountered. Has five in his office right now, is working on a Tau Manta right now.
(Add to events:
Morath, following Liam’s execution, hears about the failed mutiny from the cleaning crew assigned to Jameson’s quarters, they also hand him Liam’s keychain, a box of cigarettes and a handful of drafts for a demotion request. Liam felt he did not perform well as a squadron leader and believed one of his wingmen would have been better suited. Not as good a pilot, but certainly more level-headed and headstrong enough to keep Liam’s quirks in check. Morath takes up smoking, keeps the keychain and has Jameson posthumously reinstated so his family will receive full benefits.)
Liam Jameson: One of Storm’s most trusted fighter pilots, Liam can be a bit of a hot-head, but considers himself a gentleman, refusing to shoot the the “harmless” CV64 when he had a chance. He feels Delvin’s sudden attack against his squadron, especially after they spared him, is a personal insult. When another pilot has a chance to take down the stealth craft, Liam orders them not to, as he feels the kill is his to make. This attitude angers Storm and causes frictions between the two. Jameson’s insubordinate attitude throughout the story serves to fuel a mutiny.-Flies with a teddy-bear keychain hung to his wrist, where he can always see it. Claims it saved his life more than once, as it will be attracted to hostile crafts’ gravitational pull and reveal them even when his instruments fail to. Probably all in his head.
-Has also tried to stop smoking recently, but resumed due to the stressful assignment.
(Add to event:
1) Jameson and his wingmen, finding out about the mutiny, track down and assassinate the ring leaders.
2)It is often made clear Liam is a vastly superior pilot in space, but the one time he is free to engage Delvin, they are both in a planet’s atmosphere, where Miles and his craft are right at home. The two run out of ammo, end up playing “chicken” and, when Liam wins, he considers Delvin’s offence forgiven and allows him to escape the planet’s gravity before ordering his wingmen to engage. This event, Delvin managing to escape again, further angers Storm who finally snaps and has Jameson executed.)
Savana Lord: Storm’s chief security officer. Her origins are unknown, but she requires a mask to breathe normally and goggles to see without her eyes watering up. She has spent her early career fighting in the Imperial Guard without the use of such apparatus, relying on cunnings and a self-taught dual wielding technique combining autopistol and laspistol. Now that she has the medical equipment to negate her condition, Lord is an even more impressive combattant. Often reluctant to ever leave the Shield, as its safety is her duty and she puts that above all concerns except for her captain’s direct orders.
-Has a daughter who suffered the same condition she does, but Storm paid for her to receive surgery early, before her lungs were fully formed, allowing the child to grow normally. Lord’s loyalties are thus evenly split between the captain and the Imperium.
-The names of all passengers that have been assassinated under Lord’s watch as security officer have been tattooed on her arms. The names of all murderers she executed are carved on the wall facing her desk.
(Add to events:
-Unaware of the other’s identity, Miles and Lord have met and been romantically involved on a few inhabited planets where Xian has hidden and the crew of the Shield has been granted shore leave. They share multiple traits and opinions, especially on casual killing, and will spend a lot of time discussing the morbid cynicism that the Imperium displays. Even when the two have pieced together the other’s identity, they avoid the matter entirely. When Miles attempts to bring it up, Lord becomes uncharacteristically emotional and lashes out.)
Silvio Tommen: Major, leader of the storm troopers assigned to the Shield, repeatedly wipes the floor with Xian’s “Badass of the week”, no mercenary or convict the crew picks up ever compares to him. Miles tries to take him on in close combat and firefights and invariably gets humiliated, but earns Silvio’s respect for never making the same mistake twice. Tommen is as skilled at his job as anyone else on the expedition, making him one of the deadliest warrior in the galaxy. He was trained for boarding operations and urban warfare, but has fought in deserts, tundras and jungles on some occasions.
-Infatuated with Jameson, but careful not to let it show until the assignment is over. Whether Liam shares his feelings or not, Silvio knows this could end up being detrimental to the mission
-Originally studied to be a clockmaker, he still uses his skills as a hobby.
(Add to events:
Tommen and Storm are shot down above a tropical planet occupied by Tau sympathisers. They fight a lot, Liam’s death still a source of friction between them and Tommen’s limited experience with jungle warfare causing him to make mistakes and almost get both of them killed. Tommen ends up sick, injured and poisoned, forcing Storm to heal him as best he can, hide him from enemy patrols and hunt for food. Once Silvio is in better condition, he silently decides not to let his anger get in the way of his job anymore and the two of them together manage to route the enemy camp and steal their shuttle.)
Captain “Boss”: A sarcastic and playful operator with access to extremely rare hardware and sufficient authority to order a space marine sergeant to stand down. Claims to be the sane man sent in to clean up when an inquisitor inquires something he shouldn’t have or leaves any kind of mess, or when someone who cannot be removed from power has to be removed. Some of his remarks indicated he is not a member of any imperial institution, but rather a freelancer, so good at his job that nobody knows for sure what his job is. Got his nickname from the following exchange: “And you are?
-You can call me Boss.
-I don’t think boss is the word on a spaceship.
-Then call me Captain Boss. Actually, don’t call me, I’ll contact you if I need anything.”
(Add to events:
Built up to be a formidable foe and Aegis’ replacement, he fights the crews of both ships, defeating everyone but killing only the Inquisitor in the end, as this is all he was paid to. This allows the Imperium to declare Xian and Kellan the results of a rogue Inquisitor’s madness and, with the man responsible now dead, they close the case.)
Delvin Miles, twenty-six (Thinks of himself as thirty-two due to the shorter solar cycles on his planet) used to be a mercenary ace pilot for a powerful yet laid back PMC called Tactical Solution Inc., but his brother failed TSI piloting tests and became infantry for their father’s company, soon running Black Operations for a better paying company. The two kept in touch and were on friendly terms until Delvin bombed a militia training camp, finding out later that the camp’s instructor was a private contractor, his brother. A few months later, Miles, having resigned his job at TSI, is now a test pilot for an aeronautical engineering firm and studies to obtain a degree of his own. He is testing the Mark III upgrade of his old fighter, the CV64, when he spots a massive vessel keeping a stationary orbit over the planet’s south pole. He attempts to contact it with radio signals, unsuccessfully, then with a pocket flashlight shone through his canopy. The vessel responds by flickering the lights in one of its hangars.
Out of comms range and excited to have made contact with an alien species, Miles decides to take the “invitation” and boards the ship. As a test pilot, he does not carry any weapons, but explores the ship further nonetheless, rationalising that if it meant him harm, it could easily have shot him out of the sky in the first place.
The crew is surprised to meet him and, since they cannot communicate, a fight ensues. Delvin eventually overpowers the Gretchin, Human and Tau, but the combat techniques he uses were taught to him by his brother and that realisation distracts him long enough for the Eldar scientist to find his way in Miles’ mind and incapacitate him.
Miles comes back to his senses chained on a toilet with the human Tech-priest going through his possessions. The priest quickly learns Delvin’s language by listening in on broadcasts from the planet, allowing the two to communicate. She explains the ship and crew’s origins and that they are all as scared of him as he is of them. The two discuss the situation, why they cannot release him and why they would rather ask for his assistance rather than kill him.
They are still arguing when a new ship, the Shield, arrives. The crew cuts Delvin free and he returns to his aircraft, intent on running away as fast as possible. He is about to re-enter atmosphere when Xian flashes her external lights in the same pattern as he did with the flashlight before.
A single boarding ship with two escort fighters are sent to retake Xian, but the CV64 intervenes before they can get close. Its weapons are ineffective, but the stealth craft’s speed and agility fool the Shield into believing there are many more of these undetectable crafts. Unwilling to risk the lives of his men in such an uncertain fight, captain Storm calls off the attack on Xian and sends all available fighters to find and destroy the strange new aircrafts.
Unable to damage his foes, Miles evades and outmaneuvers them long enough to reach Xian’s hangar, as heat from atmospheric entry would light him up on every ship’s targeting systems instantly. Next time he looks out the window, it is to find a blue sun and only three orbiting planets.
Part ?: Low gothic and Staekish, Miles’ language, appear to have much in common (Somewhat like spanish and portuguese), allowing him to somewhat comprehend and communicate with the crew, to an extent. They are surprised by the way he takes it all in stride and he explains that his people know about the imperium and actually fought the emperor, since they had more advanced tech and a fairly reasonable set of governments, a peace treaty was brokered. They know there are alien races, or at least suspect, as the ten-thousand years old story is now regarded as little more than myth, yet one with substantial evidence to back it up. It’s only when he jokes that he left the bathroom light on that Miles begin to freak out over the possibility of never going back home. He spends the next act puking and going through a rather fascinating spectrum of madness. Meanwhile, the others discuss their next move, giving away some back story and character traits, but still showing reserve, as they hardly know one another. Tan is cynical and tries to be funny, Satine pretends she’s the voice of reason, Maugar acts as though he’s giving an election speech and Hutham’s madness doesn’t yet show, but some of his sentences are oddly structured and he keeps standing up for no apparent reason, as if startled by something, before sitting down again.
Part ?: Storm is able to individually contact each member of Xian’s crew through embarked Vox casters in their quarters and offers each of them amnesty and safe passage back to their homes if, when given the chance, they turn on the others. That moment comes as the crew is trading for food on a feral world, but the natives, hoping to get an edge in trade, have released an euphoria-inducing mist in the longhouse. Tommen’s team, Hutham, Tan and Satine all become very relaxed and passive, but Delvin and Maugar are used to narcotics stronger than that and therefore feel feverish and slightly drunk, but perfectly lucid. They disarm the commandos, (by asking nicely) and drag their crewmates out. As they do, their intoxicated comrades let slip that they have been contacted by Storm as well. The two decide not to tell the others when they regain some lucidity, as it would shatter what little unity they have achieved. Tommen, hungover and is next seen asking Lord for a spare mask to use in battle, hinting both at the close relationship between the two and the Shield’s limited ressources.
Part ?: The crew stops at a space station, low on food and fuel. As they have nothing to trade, they each begin to conspire against one another;
Tan wants to sell Maugam into slavery, Maugar wants to let a dark eldar “rent” Tan for a night, Hutam wants to sell Miles’ plane and Satine wants to gamble in Kroot gladiator fights.
Miles is incoherent for most of these events, dialogues hinting that he has been drinking more than usual since the incident in the long-house. Halfway through, Xian helps him out of it and gives him full access to the station’s systems. He is thus able to piece the situation together and formulates a plan that inadvertently causes the gladiators to revolt. The others are caught on different sides of the fight and struggle to evacuate the station. When they finally make it to Xian, Satine is accompanied by human mercenaries, Maugam by Kroot gladiators and both group were promised a ride off the station. Before the situation escalates, however, the Shield arrives in system and immediately launches boarding parties at both Xian and the station. The ship begins its escape, but the crew must fight off multiple intruders. Once Xian is almost ready to jump away and Storm finds out about the mercenaries and gladiators on board, he quickly calls back his troops.
-One Kroot was built up as an unstoppable monster, a born killer and the undisputed grand champion of the arena. He does not last more than five seconds against Tommen in close combat.
Part ?: Unable to escape the Shield when Storm guesses their next destination, Xian decides to retreat to an earth-like planet and dives under the sea where she quickly finds what appears to be an underwater base. The crew decides to hole up there and wait for an opportunity to escape the Shield, perhaps use the base to defend themselves, even. They discover the base was the last refuge of an alien race that has now gone extinct, although the inhabitants are long dead, it seems someone or something has been running maintenance still.
Part ?: Storm has won, tricked Xian’s crew and stolen Kellan, but before he can return to the Shield, Aegis appears in system and in spite of the Captain’s attempts at talking them into standing down, it opens fire. The Shield also refuses all comms, but, to Storm’s surprise, Kellan’s hull withstands the missile strike. Through sonic vibrations and pheromones, the bio-mechanical frigate keeps Storm up to speed on the tactical situation and he realises it is picking up on his brain waves, meaning it is able to read and interpret his thoughts instantly. Storm convinces Kellan to trust him and has it dive towards a nearby gas giant, Aegis firing another salvo. Storm has Kellan act like it will use the gravity to accelerate itself out of the system, but as soon as they are hidden in the shadow of the planet, they turn 180 degrees and open fire with their LAMS on the incoming missile while flying through the trail of detonations, the fire and debris from the projectiles hiding them from sensors as they quickly close within weapons range of Aegis. They emerge from the fireball with all of Kellan’s guns fully charged and pre-locked onto key locations of the AdMech ship. In a single salvo, Kellan cripples the vessel, then rams its bridge, emerging in the now destroyed engines. The Inquisitor, aboard the Shield, orders Storm to destroy Kellan, but he refuses, partly because he feels it would be a terrible waste and partly because he has no idea how he would go about doing that from the inside anyway.
Part?: Miles and the inquisitor are taken prisoners by a mercenary group they had both been looking to hire. While in their cells, the two gradually begin to exchange perspectives on previous run-ins they have had and attempt to explain their motivations. Miles learns Satine had always intended to spark a war between the inquisition and AdMechs, meaning for ships like Kellan to be mace produced by the Imperium so they could easily triumph over Mars. The Inquisitor was not fooled, however, and as soon as he had the schematics and prototypes, he arranged for Satine to be duly rewarded for her work and removed from the project. He had no intention of having her executed, as it is much easier to maintain secrecy than it is to fix a malfunctioning prototype without its conceptor.
Part ?: With the Death Watch breathing down their neck, Tsarsk refusing to grant them asylum and Xian heavily damaged, the crew decides to take Kellan back to Delvin’s homeworld. His fears are, in order, that the crew will be dissected and studied, that the socialist nations will have won the war, that his employers resent the loss of their high-tech stealth plane prototype and, more importantly, he is reluctant to face his father, as the two never spoke after the day Miles dropped that bomb and killed his own brother.
In orbit, Miles calls his parent’s house directly and is answered by his dad’s assistant, finding he is no longer fluent in Skaetish, he struggles to make himself understood at first and finally decides to leave his name and a message. Benjamin Miles, hearing his son’s name, immediately picks up the phone, overjoyed at Delvin’s return. In the three years that Delvin has been gone, his father’s company absorbed TSI and FaraTech, meaning he now owns the largest private army in history and if someone’s giving Miles trouble, then these troops are all his. Kellan and the crew land and begin to share technology and new materials with the planet’s corporation, phasing back and forth between it and the mineral-rich moons. Already technologically advanced and very industrialised, Miles’ homeworld quickly integrates Tau and Eldar technology into its designs.
Cliffhanger: Kellan transports an expeditionary force to Xian’s location; a barren world where an imperial guard regiment is already deploying. Back on the homeworld, the socialist government has struck a deal with the Tau Empire. Next novel will be about that war.