During development of BtGoA v1, a few teaser texts emerged from Rick Priestley. Here are a couple of pieces of short fiction that were intended to provide a hint into the workings of the C3 — and which also introduces us to Kai Lek Atastrin and the Vorl.
The recruits filed silently into the induction room and took their places along the rows of white synthene benches. Daris watched them with apparent disinterest. It was just another day and another cohort for the ranks of the Concord Combined Command. The room was shielded against the planet’s connective nano-cloud, isolated from the world outside by a barrier of pure energy.
As the recruits sat down Daris noticed how their expressions changed from vacant acceptance to something like curiosity. For many of them, it would be the first time they had ever been severed from the planet’s IMTel: the all-pervading intelligence that had directed every aspect of their lives up to this moment.
Daris knew that the recruits were in for a shock. He also knew that they did not yet know what a shock was. They had simply been summoned. When you were summoned you went. No citizen of the Concord doubted that their life would unfold beneath the protective wing of the IMTel. All knew that the IMTel would serve their best interests and ensure their safekeeping. No one doubted and no one questioned. It wasn’t necessary to think for oneself like some simple-minded savage. Anyway, who would even know how?
Something like a smile touched Daris’ lips as it always did at such moments.
The towers soared above the jungle, thrusting skyward like ascending starcraft, vast and forbidding even in ruin. No one knew what race had built the towers nor for what purpose they were raised. Despite the best efforts of the Concord’s exploration teams the multi-layered maze of buildings and tangled passageways beneath remained unfathomed.
‘Spotters for’ard five yan scout orange.’ The squad leader spoke softly and the squad’s two spotter drones glided silently ahead at his command. Kai Lek Atastrin motioned for the rest of the squad to wait. The drones’ eyes would do the work for now, checking the passages and rooms that lay in their path. The mechanical clicks that recorded the machines’ progress played out into Kai’s combat shard interface. The full spectrum of the drones’ cameras relayed their ghostly images onto his visor’s screen. Seeing what they saw. Sensing everything their mechanical senses were able to discover.
At Kai’s signal the squad hoisted their plasma carbines and followed their leader beneath the first archway. The walls, sheer and dark, rough-hewn from stone that glittered with embedded mica, rose over and enclosed them. As the drones explored the ruin, a map began to unfold in the unit’s combat shard. Kai watched as little pulses of light advanced across his visor’s screen, each member of the squad a green dot, the two drones yellow in the distance. He felt a keen responsibility for those tiny green dots.This was their first taste of fighting outside the simulators. He had not lost a trooper in three years of fighting. He was not about to start now.
The blast threw Kai to the ground. Chunks of stone bounded from his armour with a shriek of coruscating violet. The shock of impact was barely dispersed by the suit’s hyper-light shield. For a split second Kai’s connection with the unit’s combat shard blurred into a disorienting multi-coloured haze and his audio link crackled and spat with the gasps and cries of his four charges.
Kai’s vision cleared a little as his suit’s sensor arrays adjusted to the dust. Spent plasma splinters embedded in the walls and roof cast a dying light over the rubble strewn chamber. ‘Status,’ he barely framed the word.The machinery that melded him to the rest of the squad was sensitive to the slightest thought. ‘Red… click… nine-nine… click… going to ground…’
A single yellow dot remained on the screen. The explosion had no doubt blasted the other drone apart. To Kai’s relief five green lights flickered rapidly. All alive at any rate!
Now angry red dots appeared on the edge of the interface’s map. Three dots. Four. Five. More. Every red dot was converging towards the squad’s position. Fast. ‘Squad, enemy twenty two yan closing formation point defence.’ Instantly each trooper’s visor projected an overlay of target points. The squad had trained for situations like this.
Through the interface of the combat shard Kai could sense the racing heartbeats of his troopers, feel the adrenalin coursing through their bodies, even taste something of their fear. ‘Fire on my mark!’ he spoke out loud, his voice unwavering, confident. It was as if this was nothing more than a training simulation and the enemies mere holographic imagoes. ‘Fire!’
Iridescent blasts of intersecting plasma tore through the doorway, casting the target into a stark and hideous silhouette. A scream echoed in Kai’s monitor – the cry of a woman– it was Sulyn Ran one of the squad’s two female troopers. The alien creature exploded into pieces only to be shoved aside by the next monster. The alien’s own weapon spoke briefly until it too tumbled to the ground, neatly dissected by a plasma bolt.
Undeterred by the fate of their comrades, more of their kind pressed into the narrow space, seemingly oblivious to the certain fate that awaited them in that confined space. ‘Vorl,’ gasped Sulyn over the interface, ‘…those things are Vorl!’