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"How far to the target?"

"At current burn, I'd give it two, three hours tops," came the crisp, softly accented response. On the plotting table's projector, the figure of a Victorian English soldier fizzled into being. "That is, if the target doesn't flee, like he did over Thuris."

"He won't. We've got him cornered this time." The Captain muttered, thrusting the smouldering cigarette into the ashtray. "A few frigates from Admiral Richard's 13th are on their way, but we're to be the scout vanguard for this one."

The heavy frigate Constantinople, along with the scout ship Farsight in tow, had been rerouted from patrolling some of the mining outposts of the Kuiper Belt to the pursuit of the rebel Alexandre Lagos, who had escaped the raids on Titan that had killed his commander, deserter Colonel Tobias Locke. He, along with his cadre, had fled deep into the Empty Quarter with a few light ships stolen from dock over Saturn. His mission, as far as he knew, was to recover either Lagos or the ships, or, if possible, both.

All in all, a rather standard mission for the crew of the Constantinople, who had been hunting down the dissenting cells the now-exiled EAF had been funding and supporting since the collapse of their interests on Luna and Earth.

The system they were set to patrol was rather empty, all things considered. A few cold, icy gas giants wandered around an ancient star, still ringed with the debris of what might have once been an interior world. Fragments of an ancient asteroid belt, shredded by what was likely a cataclysmic impact, filled the void between the worlds, drifting slowly in the silence. Why anyone would find refuge in this dead system, Davis wasn't sure, but there was certainly no better place to hide.

"Anything on the scanners, Trevelyan?"

"Nothing but debris and dust, sir."

Davis turned to the ship's comms officer, sitting adjacent to his command chair. "Anything?"

"No sir," The woman, Ensign Anna Tchaikov, responded, frowning. "Although, there is a considerable amount of EM interference from the star. Could be hiding transmissions."

The Captain nodded, turning back to the bridge's duraglass viewing window, still overlayed with Trevelyan's scans of the nearby dead worlds, cracked and spilling atmosphere and magma into space. "Keep an eye on it. Let me know if anything changes."

Sighing to himself, he sank into the command chair, closing out the local map he'd been provided by the Belfast when she'd passed through a week earlier. Whether through fatigue or boredom, or perhaps through a mixture of the two, he began to think back.

Back to the day he'd boarded the Phoenix on it's deep cover mission, along with the LRR unit he was assigned to oversee. Every single one of those troopers lost their lives one way or another throughout the war, two of them on their very first mission, which, coincidentally, was also Davis' first mission outside of UEG space. Their target was a world that was technically part of the DMZ set in place after the first Kal'Haruum-UEG conflict a mere sixty years earlier, but had recently gone dark for both sides.

The planet was Nar Shadil, a swampy, dank rimworld claimed by neither the Kal'Haruum or the UEG, and also an alleged bioweaponry production site.

"Alleged" wasn't even the start of it.

A result, however, was the inflammation of a second Kal'Haruum-UEG conflict, after the battlegroup sent to cleanse the horrors unleashed on the planet was attacked by an overzealous captain of the opposing side and igniting a slugfest over the dying world.

The rather weakened Kal'Haruum, drained militarily from numerous border conflicts deeper upspin, were forced to turn their sights back towards the usually quiet systems that bordered the empires, and began to bit by bit scour the UEG side clean of human "infestation." This campaign, having started in late 2253, was known as the Second War of Aggression, a knee-jerk response to the tragedy over Nar Shadil, and the result of the High Council calling for redemption.

"Captain. Contact on long range passive, bringing it up now."

Snapping himself out of his thoughts, Davis blinked as a three-dimensional overlay of the system phased into being on the plotting table, plots symbolizing both the Constantinople, close to the world signified AC-1104, and the contact, further in system around one of the inner worlds. "Is it a ship?"

Trevelyan, flipping through a projected book, frowned. "I'm afraid I can't tell at this distance, sir. The background radiation of the star is preventing any good readings."

Sighing, Davis turned back to the screen. The contact, a small, black dot even on the highest zoom, was in a low orbit around one of the inner planets, a burnt ball of blackened rock that pinwheeled around the star almost twice the speed of the other worlds. It was a moderate sized world, with a very small habitable belt between the "day" and "night" sides.

"Take us into a high orbit, and engage whatever EW systems we have. Don't want to tip them off too early."

The navigator, a short, blond haired man seated at one of the consoles, nodded. "Setting course one-zero-zero, Sir. Current speed shows an ETA of around five minutes, not factoring in the gravity banks and spatial distortions around the star."

The planet, so remote and unwanted it was only listed in the prospective catalogue as "PP-101," was a very strange world. It was tidally locked, one side permanently facing it's dying star, and the other facing off into the depths of space. A small, belt of greenish-brown, obviously terraformed, stretched around the world from pole to pole between the extreme deserts that covered each side. Faintly, lights could be seen on the surface as they made their entrance into high orbit, showing it to be inhabited.

"Captain, I'm reading quite a bit of chatter from the surface, on civilian channels," Tchaikov remarked incredulously, tapping away at her console. "It's... a colony. Not listed on the BCA database."

The contact, now revealed to be the renegade Federal Navy Frigate Redoubt, rounded the planet's horizon just as the Constantinople slid into geostationary orbit over one of the planet's poles. Silhouetted by the system's sun, the frigate halted it's advance a few thousand kilometres off of the ship's bow. Her hull was battered, scorched streaks of blackened plating lining her sides, one in particular bisecting the service number on the ship's centrifugal well, which had obviously taken enough damage to stop turning.

"Redoubt has queried comms, Captain. Standard UEG protocols, high priority." Trevelyan announced, his holographic body vanishing in a flurry of light to be replaced by a simple tactical display. "Do you want me to patch them through?"

"Do it," Davis remarked flatly, crossing his arms as he surveyed the tactical display.

With a hiss of static, the projected rendition of the frigate's bridge resolved into view, spots of still-blackened machinery where they'd taken damage during the ship's escape. In the center of the frame, wearing a worn, tattered UEGNF Captain's uniform, stood a man. Tall, unshaven, and foreboding, Wilhelm Vandof had been one of the many captains who'd found pleasure in the retaking of Agate and the following excursion into the Kal'Haruum's weakened territories, himself supporting the order to burn Hak'Shala, the empire's capital, to dust.

"Well, Captain," Vandof mused, rubbing at his chin in mock thought. "Welcome to Paradiso. Lovely region of space, is it not?"

"Under the Luna Convention Treaty of 2117, you are in violation of sixteen different regulations of UEG law, Captain, least of all absconding with a Federal naval vessel." Davis stated flatly, crossing his arms. "By the sheer unwillingness to send a fellow captain to their graves does your ship still remain in a single piece."

The man on the screen laughed, cupping his chest with a hand. "You wound me so, Zachary. It really hurts to hear those words from a fellow captain." Folding his hands behind his back, the man adjusted into a relaxed parade rest, a slight scowl visible beneath the beard. "Tell me, do you know why I deserted? Why I left?"

"Frankly, no. Not that it matters much, seeing as you're in possession of a stolen vessel."

"The UEG is failing, Zach. More worlds fall from it's gaze every day - vanishing into the dark like a candle blown out in the wind. The days of a benevolent overseer are gone, replaced with corrupted tyranny! That is why Paradiso remained off of the charts, my friend. A haven, for wayward souls and renegades. It is hard for them to punish what they cannot find, no?"

Those... I've heard those words before. On Titan. Locke said the same thing.

"If I found you, so can they," Davis muttered, leaning back in the captain's chair.

"Yes, that is a problem, isn't it?" Vandof muttered under his breath, turning to one of his bridge crew and saying something unaudible. "Or, it would be, if you were going to survive this little... encounter, as it were."

Almost immediately, the deck beneath the Captain's feet shuddered, the lights on the bridge flickering for a moment from some unseen cataclysm. Rising fear began to pool in the back of his mind as the man on the viewscreen laughed, sitting back into his captain's chair as the bridge around Davis became frantic, the AI shouting about "additional contacts" as fire suppression teams were ordered about by Ensign Tchaikov, her voice wavering with stress.

"And so, I leave you here, my friend." Vandof said flatly, his voice carefully neutral. "It pains me so to sign the death warrant of a fellow captain, least of all one I fought alongside in the greatest campaign of my career, but..." He was interrupted as another shot from one of the ships to the rear, identified by the frantic AI as the Babylon, punctured it's way through the hull of the Constantinople, plunging the ship into darkness for a moment as what was left of the backup generator struggled to power the upper decks. Debris spinning off into the void was visible through the viewscreen, pieces of deck plating, chunks of the lower decks and engine components, all destined to be impromptu meteors burning up over the planet below. With another titanic impact, Davis was pitched forward as the artificial gravity generator was destroyed, the ship's hull buckling under the stress as more impacts rocked her superstructure.

The last thing he knew was the loudest sound he'd ever heard, and panicked screams of some of the crew who weren't unconcious.

Then nothing.
Redux
Long time no post, apparently. :L

This is the first chapter (aka prologue) of a project I've begun, that project being a complete rewrite of my old Beta Protocol series, which, well, was average at best. I still have some of my source material and notes on various topics saved in old folders sitting around my laptop, not to mention much better plot ideas than my 15-year old self did. xD

Anyways, the usual this stuff is property of me, Illinath, and all that jazz.
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"Exiting gate in t-minus 30. Hold onto your hats, boys and girls, this one's gonna be rough." The intercom crowed, the crowded freighter packed to the brim with refugees from their various worlds, fleeing the threats that now filled former Confederacy space. The deep, seismic thrum of the translight engines began to ebb, the shaking of the ship increasing steadily as the timer clicked closer to zero. Somewhere in the crowd, a baby's cries were hushed by a worried mother, not used to the translight gates or the turbulence they contained. The vibrating reached it's apex, and, almost as suddenly as it began, stopped. "Ladies and gentlemen," The intercom crackled, a voice drifting out into the bay. The side windows creaked, and the blast shutters slid upwards, revealing a dirty, city-covered world, surrounded by exoconstructs and myriad ships headed to all corners of the Sagittarius Arm with cargo of various types. "Welcome to Haven."

Much was the same all across what had once been regarded as "frontier" space, colonies that merely seemed to... exist. They served no purpose, other than simply holding the overflow of humanity as it spilled across the stars, pushing other, lesser races back into the distant, dusty star systems that populated the other arms of the Milky Way. Ask any human, and they will tell you that the Sagittarius Arm was Humanity's second bastion, a new empire to rival the ones of old. Haven? A backwater hive, corrupt and full of filth, human or otherwise.  Many of the passengers aboard had nowhere to go but further into the gate system, hoping they would eventually find a colony worthy of their inhabitation. Some merely drifted from world to world, running on booze and starship fuel as they reminisced about bygone days aboard their junkers that drifted among the nebulae and stars.

"Docking sequences are commencing. Passengers, you are now free to move about the holding area. Please collect all baggage and belongings, and move to the designated disembarkation points." The twangy, confident tones of the pilot's voice drifted from the shipcomm. "We wish you a pleasant journey, and thank you for flying Mike's Celestial Cargo!" He chuckled at his own joke, before the comm went silent again.

The doors, heavy, gear laden things that made an awful grinding sound as they slid open, began to slowly creak upwards as the familiar, metallic smell of scrubbed air drifted through, revealing a lit, immaculately clean passage towards a bulkhead, windows along either side of the passage showing just how close they were to Haven. The station, if it could be called that, was in actuality the headpiece to an orbital tether, heavy strands of ferrometals tethering it to the planet's surface using centrifugal force to keep it in orbit. Most of the newcomers were awed by this sight, but one, a weathered, rugged-looking man with a particularly military-looking holster beneath his longcoat, didn't seem impressed. Why should he be? He'd seen many different worlds in his time, many more after the collapse of the Terran Confederacy, many much nicer than this dirty world.

"So, where are you from?" A particularly excited young man asked him, either oblivious to his animosity or simply stupid. "I'm from Alastair, over in the Draconis XII system. Well. What used to be the Draconis XII system, before they came..."

The man merely sighed. "I'm voidborn. No colony to call home." He said simply, his voice hard and more than a little toneless. "And, if you'll excuse me, I have a lift to catch."

The main hub of Cradle Station, the nexus of the spacedock where the many crowds clashed and mingled, was a dirty, crowded atrium filled with hundreds of languages and people rushing from place to place, speeding individuals in the crowds along towards the massive tether elevators at all corners of the room. Neon and xenon lights lined the edges of the room, over the top of small shops and stalls, alleyways going off towards the massive arms of the station, serving as homes to the many beggars and drifters who floated from system to system. The man, rushed through this chaos by the flow of the crowd, grabbed a small plate of Khalini (A local dish made from a small aquatic creature found on Haven's moon. It is said to taste like calamari - if calamari was dragged in dirt first) at a small restaurant-stall near to the lift's access door.

"Haven't seen it this busy in decades," The man behind the counter said, struggling to make conversation over the din of the busy station and people as the recycled air that was blown into the room caused the displays and lights to swing, adding a bit more movement to an already hectic amalgamation. "People are saying whatever's causing the influx holding what they have. They won't dive into the SagNet, or the few fringe colonies that still exist in the Orion Arm or the core stars. Too costly, I say."

It had been only ten years. Ten years since the Confederacy had fallen at the hands of an open rebellion led by the nigh-mythical Callista Renmarr, who is believed to have died in the sacking of Mars when her flagship had been speared by a shot from the few remaining defense platforms from bow to stern, turning a once-proud ship into a million glittering fragments. Many still thought the Confederacy's defeat a folly, considering the Rebels had tech considered nearly obsolete by modern standards... but they'd managed a victory. Sheer numbers had overwhelmed Terra's defenses and burnt the cradle of Humanity into a charred cinder, splitting the once-sturdy Confederacy into numerous warring states as greedy enterprising factions attempted to fill the void, which then proceeded to be overrun by the rebels. The Terran Confederacy was now wild space, full of terror and outlaws, incursions to attempt a restoration of order from the Sagittarius Arm's autonomous government, the New Terran Republic, being far and in-between. But, now as more and more refugees flooded in from those outlying worlds, there was an unsettling undertone to it all. "So, want a drink with that? I've heard Khalini makes the throat dry."

"I'm fine." The man said, handing the cook his credit chip, then accepting it back after it was swiped and standing up to leave. "Have a nice day."

"I'm sure I will," He responded, smiling. "Actually, could I get some directions on this station?"

"Depends. What are you looking for?" The cook responded, leaning on the counter.

"The local NTR Constabulary." He responded, sliding his coat back on. "Turning in a bounty."

"Ah, so that's why you're so damned quiet." The cook said with a chuckle. "Near dock 2A. Next to the tether bays."

With a nod, the man vanished into the crowd once more, a destination now in mind.

Orbitals in this region of space were somewhat less of a dock, and more of a spacebound city. They housed everything from people and ships, to farms, marketplaces, and really anything else that could be thrown in. The design came from the very reason the planet below was packed to the brim- overcrowding. Extra space meant more people could be crammed in like cattle, and if it was cost-effective, it was liable to happen. Each was overcrowded, and many different types of people made their homes and lives there, brought by various reasons from myriad different worlds. As a result, each of these stations was massively diverse, cultures and languages blending in strange and wonderful ways as generation after generation was born, entirely native cultures developing to exist only aboard their individual constructs as the years passed. A floating nation, if you will.

While the bounty hunter himself wasn't fluent in the strange, Creole-like language known as Cradlespeak that was spoken in some parts of the station, most were kind enough to simply speak Inglis, a language based upon the ancient lingua franca of Terra. Stepping up onto the Constabulary's small step, he was greeted by one of the constables, leaving his post for a rather late lunch break. "Need something?" He asked, eying the holster beneath the man's jacket warily.

"Turning in a bounty, is all." The bounty hunter replied, moving his hands away from the holster and it's contents, just in case. "Might take a look around the planet below. See how life is in a shithole."

The constable's eyes flashed anger, but his face remained a rather forced smile. "Oh? Well, I'm guessing you're looking for the kiosk, then. Just inside the door, to the left." He continued out the door, before pausing on the steps "And, bounty hunter?"

The man paused, door half open as he turned back to look at the constable, curious.

"Shut your goddamned mouth."

He chuckled, and headed inside.

The constabulary wasn't much, and with a quick scan of his ID chip the bounty kiosk dinged an affirmative tone as it accepted the information he'd provided. CALVIN MATTHES, it read, in a big, blocky print, just under his picture as it compared the file and Cal's own face, the bounty hunter frowning to match the photo. Soon enough, he was standing back out on the little stoop that made up the front of the constabulary, stuffing the various ID cards back into the small wallet he kept in his coat, wondering how much passage was to the surface. Could always jump a crate down, He thought to himself as he watched one of the huge cargo crates glide along the overhead rails toward the station's port. Would probably smell better. Sighing, he re-entered the crowds that were hurrying along towards the tether bays, hoping at least that his trip to the surface would be worth it. They rarely were, after all, even back in the days as a Confederate Marine exploring new star systems and driving lesser races back into the stars. Dirt was dirt after all, nothing special. Cal had always felt more at home in space, metal beneath his boots and the stars beyond his window.

With a clang, the massive doors that separated the tether bays from the rest of the station slid open as the cars returned from the surface, crowds flowing out to mingle with the ones flowing in. Finding a small seat in the corner of the capsule, Cal waited for the small light built into the ceiling to change. Red, yellow, green, he thought to himself as it began to cycle through various colours, each representing a different check beginning or ending. As it reached green, the car was released from the Cradle Station's clamps, and began to accelerate downwards with it's cargo -human or otherwise- shaking and rolling as it thundered into the atmosphere, the first vestiges of dirty air burning against the duraglass windows that made up the edges of the platform he was sitting on.

Great. I'm riding a glorified meteor down to what is likely the dirtiest world this side of Alco Prime.

With a thud, the airbrakes deployed from beneath the pod, jolting everything aboard, throwing Cal from his seat into a rather unfortunately placed piece of luggage.

As the pod began to slow and broke through Haven's dirty, industrial cloud cover and Cal finished wiping the blood from his nose, he finally got his first glimpse of the city-planet's capital, New Prosperity. A rather ironic name, if you thought about it. It was a shining metropolis from the sky, towering buildings reaching for the obscured stars that overshadowed the rest of the city, giving the undercity it's name - The shadow districts. Slums, seedy establishments and clubs covered these lower levels, neon being the mItain source of light in the winding catacombs of alleyways and streets that wove a tapestry of asphalt and neocrete beneath the richer, 'perfect' city above.

Sliding the small dataslate out of his coat pocket, he inserted the small ID chip before thumbing through the various bounties listed on Haven. Most weren't too juicy - a measly 600 for a launderer, 4000 for a murderer, the usual. One, however caqught his eye.

Michael Stross, wanted for the theft of... something. It didn't list what was stolen, but the figure was quite heavy for a simple robbery; Sixteen thousand rolens, offered by the Lombard Corporation for his 'capture.'

Grinning to himself, he tapped the bounty, highlighting it in the pad for future reference as the massive car slid into it's dock in the shadow of the high city, doors sliding open to reveal dirty light and metal beyond.

So much for a vacation.
In Search of Solace
A story I've been working on  on and off for a few months or so due to a number of factors (school, lack of inspiration, general laziness), and have finally finished! Finally.

Anyway, it's set in oe of my many universes, this one in particular known as Frontiers. (names to be changed... eventually) It's a rather new one, needing lots of fleshing out and more backstory dedicated to it, which I'll likely do at a later date. If I can get around to it, might even continue it into something.

That's enough rambling for now.

Story/Universe belong to me, etc, etc.
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Illinath

Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
Welcome to this page. It's a nice page, huh? Made it myself.

So, I'm Austin, and I'm rather uninteresting. I'm a writer, through and through, and I'm hoping to eventually write and publish a book! (Maybe.)

I mostly write sci-fi and fantasy, but hey, there's always room for something new.



Aaaand that's about it.
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:iconi-hate-tucking-fypos:
Happy early birthday!!!!
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:iconillinath:
Illinath Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks. :giggle:
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WizzDono Featured By Owner May 1, 2014
fav.me/d7gra5e
Request's done!
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CarrierNovels Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you for the :+fav: on The Key That Changed The World!
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Illinath Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
No problem! It's really good. :3
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CarrierNovels Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
:hug:
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DenTora-Tora Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Thanks for the watch~!!
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:iconillinath:
Illinath Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
No problem! :3
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WizzDono Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
Foxes! by WizzDono
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Illinath Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Awesome! Thanks! :la:
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