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Coma 2020

Name: Team: Age: Gender: Species: Aura:
Coma Evenki Bad Bitches 18 Non-Binary Faunus (Tiger Shrike) Vermillion

Attributes

Mental # Physical # Social #
Intelligence 2 Strength 4 Presence 3
Wits 2 Dexterity 2 Manipulation 2
Resolve 2 Stamina 4 Composure 2

Skills

Mental -3 Physical -1 Social -1
Academics 0 Athletics 2 Empathy 0
Computer 0 Brawl 1 Expression 3
Craft 3 Drive 1 Intimidation 4
Grimm 0 Melee Weapons 2 Persuasion 0
Science 0 Slight of Hand 1 Socialize 0
Medicine 0 Ranged Weapons 4 Streetwise 0
Politics 0 Stealth 0 Subterfuge 0
Dust 0 Investigation 0
Survival 1

Other

Merits # Flaws # Aura/Weapons #
Wings 4 Compulsion: Singing/Humming 1 Aura 2
Striking Looks 2 Reckless 1 Semblance 2
Faunus Sight 1 Overconfident 1 Weapon 4
Explosiove Weapon 1 Villager 1
Bombardier 1 Curious 1
Painful Semblance 1
Overprotective 1

Advantages

Health Aura Pool Armor Passive Defense Speed Initiative Perception
13 8 2 / 1 1 11 5 4 (5 Visual)

Attacks

Name Value Notes
Brawl 5
Ranged, Single 10
Ranged, Launcher 9
Ranged, Splash 6, 3x3 Square
Thrown 8
Melee 10
Aura Strike 12 2 AP
All Out Aura Strike 14 No Defense 2 AP

Semblance

Bolide - 4AP, Major Action, Lose Defense
Born as the stars fell from the skies, Coma possesses a semblance uniquely fitting for such an energetic, boisterous, and violent personality. Crackling with barely-restrained and all but uncontrolled power, their aura leaves a persistent trail wherever they pass, every move they make leaving a wispy trail not unlike shooting stars fading into the night sky. Though present for nearly all Coma’s life, these raw energies remain largely beyond their understanding, though their influence is explosively simple:
When imbued with Coma's aura, things gain a tendency to explode, in a violent and unpredictable fashion. Unfortunately, Coma's aura and semblance remain largely beyond their own control, evidenced by the persistent crackling and trails it leaves in their wake. This becomes even more problematic when the student's emotions begin to grow past a certain limit, as inadvertent spikes have had a tendency to cause objects Coma touches to shoot off into the distance, explode on the spot, or both.
Eventually, however, Coma learned to harness these energies for their own use. By channeling their aura, Coma’s semblance turns their own body into an explosive projectile, launched with prejudice against anything they deem in need of a sudden change of scenery. These brief flares see a cascade of flame envelop Coma’s body, burning a hot blue nearest to their skin and cooling to a glowing orange as the fire radiates outwards, trailing behind them much like a comet’s tail.
To be struck at ground level by this human cataclysm is akin to being smashed by a falling star, but when Coma begins their dive from above, the effect grows into a monumental blast, shattering the very skies as they rain from the heavens.
Effect:
Coma launches themselves [Semblance + Strength] yards in any direction, slamming into a target and dealing an attack of [Semblance + Intimidation] vs the target’s [Aura]. If initiated while airborne, however, the blast occurs an instant before Coma strikes the ground, affecting radius equal to their relative [Altitude / 5]-yards.

Physical Description

At roughly six feet tall, Coma’s seraphic, hourglass-shaped frame is toned and muscular from a life of constant activity. A soft, light brown, their skin bears signs of constant exposure to the elements, and the scars of a particularly rambunctious childhood. They also possess a unique flair to their movements, in that many seem to be outlined by faint trails of aura, remnants of their barely-controlled semblance continuously leaking beyond Coma's control.
Their lanky neck supports a rounded head and heart-shaped face, adorned with short but thick plumage in place of hair. Radiating outwards from a darkened whorl, blue-black roots of these feathers quickly give way to vibrant hues of scarlet and orange, lightening in color as they fade out towards the edge of Coma’s pixie cut. Below their hairline, Coma’s flat ears taper towards the sky, while their upturned eyes rest atop barely visible cheekbones. Ringing their pupils with a sharp line of blue, Coma’s bicolored irises adopt the same orange fade as their feathers, accented by sharp brows and a pointed nose. Thin lips rest below, often curled into a mischievous smile above a sharp chin. More striking than Coma’s face, however, are the two massive wings sprouting from the student’s spine. Though often tucked flat against their back, these two wings can stretch to nearly half again Coma’s height, rugged and muscled from years of use, and adorned much in the same coloration as their “hair”. Dark blue roots outline the skeletal structure of their wings, turning into a more brownish-orange before radiating into the usual scarlet, with tufts of white ringing their edges and streaks of crimson spotted throughout. Notably, about a third of Coma’s right wingtip has been dyed a vibrant red, and closer examination might reveal signs of injury at some point in their life.
The weight of these feathered appendages makes itself clear through Coma’s slim, but rippled torso. Clearly defined abdominal, pectoral, and rhomboid muscles often make themselves visible through clothing, while a close bust, tapered waist, and rounded hips complete Coma’s trunk. Long, muscular limbs complete their figure, while a darkened birthmark rests across the back of Coma’s left hand, vaguely reminiscent of a shooting star as the bursting head gives way to a slender tail passing across their forearm.
Coma’s wardrobe hearkens back to their time spent wandering northwestern Anima, often sleeping with broken down or insufficient heating. Having lived off the abandoned clothing left behind in forgotten, abandoned, and fallen settlements, as well as hand-me-downs from their older sister, Coma possesses a hodgepodge sense of fashion, known to include whatever they can find to keep warm, be it a toque, skirt, t-shirt, or jeans. Despite now having access to nearly every shop in Vale, Coma continues to favor the clothing brought with them to Beacon for its sentimental value.
Capped with a padded orange ushanka lined with gray-blue fur and patches of their winged comet [emblem](put this in later) on each ear flap, Coma’s outfit makes no attempts at subtlety. Often riding above this cap are near-ancient goggles, with a similarly-ancient headset slid into the ear flaps, making itself known only by the microphone and wires jutting out from the left side.
Nearly as old as Coma themself, their sheepskin jacket bears a telltale emblem across its left breast, lined with similarly-colored fur to Coma's hat. Beneath this, the student often wears a navy-blue t-shirt, with both articles featuring zipper holes cut out for their massive wings. Shoulder-length, navy-blue arm warmers feature a stylized version of Coma's emblem across their lengths, capped off by a pair of orange padded gloves, stitched back together in several spots.
Coma's pants are worn jeans, faded from wear, and held up by an aged leather belt. Worn over their jeans is a loose orange skirt, held up by the same aged belt and reaching down to the Coma's lower thighs. Poking through holes in their jeans, Coma wears striped blue and orange kneesocks beneath blue hiking boots, both bearing Coma's emblem upon their tongues.
In addition to their clothing, Coma carries a shard of meteorite on a necklace, with occasional piercings made from similar material. These chunks were all harvested by Coma's family shortly after they were born, and hold a deep sentimental value to both Coma and their family. Finally, a century-old set of binoculars hangs from a worn leather pouch slung over Coma's left shoulder, dating back to the time of the Great War, and often hidden beneath their jacket.

Weapon Description

Shattercone
The low roar of a turbine breaks through the night, turning for a brief moment into a shrill wine before the sky comes alive, a fireball hurtling through the night before exploding in a blinding flash. The roar heightens in pitch, a shrill whine permeating the forest seconds before a smaller bolt streaks beneath the shattered moon of Remnant. Shattercone has come to life.
Constructed around the dust turbine of an airship, pieced together using scrapped components from across Anima, and finished with the reshaped fragments of the comet that fell to Remnant on the morning of Coma’s birth, Shattercone is a weapon that truly stands out from the crowd.
The weapon’s primary form is a shoulder-fired comet launcher, nearly as long as its user is tall, and weighing almost as much. A bulbous front end houses most of the weapon’s internals, as well as its two-handed grip and a beaten-up sight. On the left side of the weapon’s front, three steel dust canisters sit empty, while on the right, a large subwoofer and sound system has been installed. From the rear of this bulbous construction extends a long tail, mounted above a padded shoulder stock. A stylized version of Coma's emblem is painted onto the front sides of the weapon, a navy starburst hazed and surrounded by an orange streak, tapering towards the end of the weapon. The remainder of the launcher is painted against a dark black, and a stylized "R" can be seen on a piece of metal used in the weapon's tail. When active, the front end of the launcher glows the vibrant blue of a running engine, while the painted tails glow a softer version of Coma's signature orange. A low emanates from the weapon in this form, punctuated by a shrill surge when firing its explosive projectiles.
When precision is needed, Coma shifts Shattercone into its secondary form, allowing the tail to slide from rear of the weapon to the front, the artwork and glow of the launcher shifting from a comet, to a long, thin bolt. Its bulbous front end splits open to enshroud Coma’s shoulder, while the worn sight telescopes to provide greater accuracy. The weapon’s normal low roar rises to a whine and creates an ear-splitting shriek when firing. In this form, the weapon projects inert, slender bolts, rather than explosive comets.
Despite their differences, both of the weapon’s projectiles share a dark blue core surrounded by a red shell, and a tail of orange fire. Objects of pure dust formed into projectiles and launched by the weapon’s turbine, the cores will change colour to reflect any special forms of dust infused into the weapon, if used.
For close quarters, Shattercone’s launcher form splits open down the middle, revealing a menacing glaive nearly two and a half feet long, and adorned by patterns where meteor fragments were forged into a solid blade. The weapon’s grip slides down its tail, offering a firm purchase to hold its melee form. Several nozzles extend outwards from the weapon’s turbine, providing enough thrust from the back and rear of the blade to simply smash through anything too tough for it to cut. The glowing accents of Shattercone continue in its melee form, changing to outline artwork depicting jagged fragments of rock falling from an explosion.
When not in use, Shattercone’s turbine powers down as the weapon’s tail and grip collapse inwards, providing a more compact form which Coma carries slung across their right shoulder by a thick leather strap, adorned with a patch that bears their emblem.

Backstory

It was a cold and snowy day in the mountains of Northern Anima, where the sun had yet to crest the East horizon. In the shelter of a sheer cliff, aboard a colossal remnant of an industry long since forgotten, Zima Evenki had been in labor all night. Not nearly as exhausted, but just as tense, her Husband Gerel had been tending to his wife, and the couple’s young Daughter, Halley.
The family was native to the region, although none had ever visited the Kingdom of Mistral, to the east. A shrike faunus, Gerel had spent his entire life as a hunter and trapper, roving the mountains and steppes of the continent, while Zima, a magpie, had previously cut her teeth with a family of nomads, plundering the countless ruins which dotted the lands. The two had met years earlier, fate having brought them together in a recently-destroyed village on the coast of Lake Matsu, once known as Danai. Over time, their relationship had flourished until the two decided to part ways with Zima’s family, marrying in a small ceremony before setting off to find their own fortune. Shortly thereafter, Halley was born, a magpie, like her mother. With both parents unwilling to settle down in any of the small villages across the continent, they chose instead to build their own home, one which could take them wherever they desired.
A fortuitous expedition to an abandoned mine brought the answer, in the form of a colossal ore hauler. The project of converting such a huge vehicle into a mobile home was extensive, and was still far from completion by the time the couple’s second child came around. Christened the Arkhangelsk, it was aboard this converted crawler that Zima was now entering the eighth hour of her labor, when the skies shattered.
Outside, the morning darkness had suddenly given way to an intense brightness, as if the Sun itself had fallen to Remnant. A deafening roar sundered the sky, rattling loose fixtures, cracking glass inches thick, and sending a shower of falling rocks to slam onto Arkhangelsk’s roof from the cliffs above. Moments later, the world turned white. Cracked glass exploded, hull panels bent and groaned from the force, and the forests visible beyond the shelter of the cliff burst into flames, trees knocked flat to the ground as a cataclysmic blast seemed to crack Remnant itself. The ground shook, and around the family, the lights went out.
When the shaking had ceased, the roaring had ended, and all that remained was the light of a burning forest, trickling in through blown-out windows, Gerel looked up towards his wife, their newborn child laughing in his arms. The child was a shrike, like their father, and already possessed a full head of thick plumage, and the first sprouts of feathers upon their wings. From the very beginning, the child’s calamitous birth, a curious marking on their arm, and the wondrous glow which seemed to follow them meant that there would be no question as to the child’s name. After one look at the newborn, quietly staring at the shadows cast by the burning landscape, Zima could only manage one word.
Coma.
It took several months of repairs before Arkhangelsk would be able to move once more. The devastation had been complete, a kilometer-wide crater blown into the terrain below the epicenter. Knowing the likely value of the remaining fragments, Gerel made sure to collect as many pieces of the comet as possible, and even took the couple’s newborn out scavenging with him, strapped into a harness on the man’s back. At one point, Gerel had set down his child atop the plateau in order to move a large chunk of debris, only to turn around in horror, as he watched his child crawl over to the cliff’s edge, and disappear. He ran, nearly tossing himself off the cliff in an effort he already knew would be doomed. There would have been nothing he could have done to save his child, only to see a familiar light streaking down from the ledge, slamming into the unfinished roof of Arkhangelsk with a metallic CLANG!, and a blinding flash. When he looked again, Coma was laying on their back, laughing like an infant who had just seen their first rattle. Scarlet ripples pulsed and cracked across their body, but as Gerel swooped down to check on his child, it seemed that while the vehicle’s roof had suffered significant damage, Coma themself was unharmed.
To Gerel, this was no coincidence. He knew that there was something special, something wondrous, about their child. Though his account of the event wisely left out a certain detail, the two would continue to keep close watch over Coma, noting how the new crackling of Aura never did seem to fade away. Over the next few years, the family would continue to roam Anima, constantly improving upon Arkhangelsk with every fortunate discovery or valuable sale.
The lifestyle was far from idyllic, forcing immense tolls upon each member of the family. Often, months would pass by without any word from the outside world. Without any formal education, and with minimal opportunity for socialization, both Halley and Coma found themselves largely self-taught, pouring over the family’s impressive collection of literature from an early age. It wasn’t much, but with Gerel and Zima constantly fighting to keep Arkhangelsk running, it was often the best the couple could do. Often, the two children would delve into the realm of fantasy, with Coma quickly showing a fondness for musicals, even as Halley had to read them aloud. By the time the young firebrand had learned to read for themself, they had become incessant about repeating lyrics and melodies, often incomprehensible in their young age. It was a talent which would only solidify with time.
As the siblings grew older, more and more housekeeping duties fell upon them. The isolation of the wilderness, the toil of a home in constant need of maintenance, and the ever-present threat of the Grimm meant that both children quickly found themselves thrust headlong into a world in stark contrast to the upbeat tales which had previously occupied them. By nature of their profession, the Evenki family often found itself journeying into some of the most forsaken landscapes the vast continent had to offer. From Old War battlefields, to razed villages, failed mines, and destroyed caravans, these ruins offered reward, but posed a great threat. Reduced to epicenters of suffering, despair, and death, each stop came with the ever-present threat of the Grimm. In order to cope, Arkhangelsk had to become as much of a mobile fortress, as a mobile home. Constant additions of armor, weaponry, and provisions became a matter of routine, as did lessons in their use. And use them, they did. Even as a child, Coma would often find themself taking tentative flights above Arkhangelsk, constantly scanning the surroundings for any sign of danger.
In even the bleakest of these ruins, however, the family found their resolve. Zima and Gerel never tried to hide the reasons why these sites were abandoned, nor did they attempt to explain away the monsters which so often accompanied them. Instead, the couple taught their children from an early age to anticipate the realities of life, and death, on the frontier. Though some may have called them grave robbers, those few who knew the Evenkis would attest to how they treated the former occupants of each site. There would be no shortage of graves marked by the family, who chose to view their work as preserving the memories of those gone before them. With each proper burial, the presence of the monsters diminished, the memory of their victims hallowed in time. Their possessions, once abandoned to entropy, were given new life by the family. In this regard, Coma quickly developed a knack for leaving no stone unturned, lest they leave something behind.
So life continued for the family, circling the continent year after year, until finally, after years of scouring ruins, fending off the Grimm, and raising their children, the couple seemed to catch a break: A travelling collection of airships, roaming Lake Matsu. Operating in the lawless wilds, the loose band was always in need of gray-market services, merchants and traders who wouldn’t ask too many questions, if the price was right.
The Evenkis rarely traded in weapons, limiting their sale to villages and towns, with only rare exceptions. Despite this, their collections of food, equipment, and trade goods proved worthwhile for the roaming fleet, and the two parties would often come to meet on a regular basis. For most of the family, this arrangement meant new goods and food. For Coma, however, isolated as the family usually was. it meant something else: a friend.
It was a peahen faunus named Ocelle, who came down to wander the family’s wares one day, and found her eyes set on an antique spyglass, which Coma had recovered from a shipwreck some time earlier. The young shrike was originally reluctant to part with the trinket, but managed to work out a trade, in exchange for one of the girl’s feather combs. As their two parties would be in the same area for several days, the two soon came to an awkward friendship, bonding over the shared curiosities of their lifestyles. It was still the first time Coma had been able to make a true friend, however, and to say they took to it with an unpracticed energy would have been an understatement.
Though their meetings rarely lasted more than a few days at a time, the two childrens’ friendship soon proved one of the few constants in each other's life. Without the benefits of the CCT network or modern communications hardware, they relied on primitive radios to keep in touch in between visits. As the years went on, calls of “hello” developed into a daily occurrence, whenever transmitting conditions allowed. The two traded stories, played their own games, and even sang in concert through the crackling airwaves, as Coma’s collection of instruments grew. Their friendship, borne of an awkward first encounter, developed into the strongest of platonic bonds. It had to be, in order to survive the distances and isolation imposed between the two.
But fate had another plan for the two. At the age of seventeen, Coma and their family were met with unexpected visitors. It was a singular airship. Discovering Ocelle aboard would normally have been a cause for celebration, a surprise visit of an old friend. But there would be no joy in this encounter, as Khol, the ship’s captain, explained. The crew had received an order, one, by which, they could simply not abide. Both parties knew of their shared history in the grey market, but now, Khol and his crew had been tasked with a deliberate raid on civilian shipping. A raid which they had refused.
They all knew what was coming. A showdown, from which there would almost certainly be no return. They had little time to prepare, but the Evenkis were ready to help, in any way they could. Caches of weapons were collected, hoards of materiel accumulated from across decades of travels. Batteries were hastily added to the solitary airship, armor was affixed, and the vessel was rechristened:
Renegade.
Coma had helped Ocelle paint the words across the ship’s hull. They had sat, and spoken, begged, even, for Ocelle to talk some sense into her family. For them to stay. But they couldn’t. If the Renegade did nothing, its prospective quarry was as good as dead. They all knew this. Coma couldn’t ask her to stay, not while her crew- her family -went into battle. But they could try to help. Arkhangelsk had become far more than a repurposed ore hauler over the years, including the additions of mounted weaponry and a colossal piece of siege artillery, repurposed as a main gun.*
Win or lose, the *Renegade wouldn’t be fighting alone. At least, that was the plan.
But no plan survives first contact with the enemy.
The two had sat in the woods as evening turned to night, and as night turned to the dead hours of the morning. It had all been too short, but it could never have been long enough. They had reminisced about the years gone past. The hellos, the stories, the games, the songs, but never the goodbyes. Perhaps neither truly believed the danger they were all in. Perhaps neither wanted to believe it. Coma was no stranger to death, to despair, and loss, and morning, but for them, it was a problem for other people. Something witnessed second-hand, even as they buried the dead they had never known. Death had been something familiar, but it had been something that happened to someone else.
The two never said goodbye. As they parted ways on that final day, they had simply had one last hug, then waved eachother off, both knowing that then on out, there would be no radio traffic between the two. Renegade and Arkhangelsk both kept pace, trolling towards the southern shore of Lake Matsu through the day, and on into the night. As the two vessels parted ways one final time, the Evenkis dug in, and prepared to offer support from the shore.
That support never came.
Coma looked on, as dawn broke the next morning. Through their ancient binoculars, they watched as the three parties came into view: The Renegade, seemingly moving to join its lawless former comrades, and a small flotilla of civilian transports. From atop Arkhangelsk, an ancient cannon slowly traversed into position.
Flares shot away from the Renegade, as it broke off from the Armada. Turning headlong into its former allies, the airship charged into battle, as Arkhangelsk’s radios blared to life in receipt of the lone vanguard’s distress call. A frantic transmission blared from the radio, urging the civilian ships to safety. It was the same tinny voice Coma had spent years getting to know, and it was the last thing they heard, as, tracked onto its first target, Arkhangelsk fired.
Coma was thrown to the deck, cracking their skull hard against patterned steel flooring, as the cannon, worn from a century of neglect, exploded. Two-thirds of the titanic turret were sent skyward, tumbling off into the woods, as Coma looked on in horror. They came to their feet, unsteady, and bleeding from the ears, watching a silent fusilade as Gerel, Zima, and Halley all sprinted from the vessel’s cabin, Halley screaming words they couldn’t hear at the sight of the destroyed cannon. The siblings’ parents tried to man the smaller emplacements scattered across the vehicle, but it was no use: the battle was raging farther away Arkhangelsk’s close-in weapons to ever hope to reach.
They could only watch, Coma’s binoculars dangling from their strap. Even with their superb vision, the young shrike could hardly make out the finer details of the battle. Despite the lack of onshore support, one of the Armada’s lead vessels still seemed to break and flee, as it was pounded by the guns of the Renegade. Coma watched, as on the second pass, three more vessels broke formation, these turning with the valiant defector as they turned face, pouring fire into the remaining Armada vessels. By then, the massive engines of Arkhangelsk had also begun to spool up, as the land crawler began to move, hoping to come within range of the battle as it drew ever closer to shore. For a moment, the briefest moment, it seemed as if the Renegade and its defectors may have just succeeded.
Until, low and fast, the Armada’s reinforcements arrived, tearing through the defectors as the Armada found its second wind. Still deaf and concussed from the force of the turret’s demise, watching helplessly as the Renegade sped towards shore, only to be blasted in half, the ordeal seemed to Coma like a waking nightmare. As the flaming wreckage splashed into the sea, they could feel Arkhangelsk accelerating, racing towards the battle as Gerel and Zima finally began to land harassing fire, just enough to cover the retreat of the civilian transports back into the woods behind the hulking crawler.
Coma met the fleeing transports as they came ashore. Streaking through the droves of refugees, flitting over their heads as they searched for one face in particular. Calling out into the crowds, straining their eyesight, they searched, and waited. Faces, some familiar, passed them by in the crowd. But none of them hers.
She wasn’t there.
But the wreckage of the battle still was. There was still hope, somewhere, that Ocelle was alive. And hope for her rescue, streaking over the lake, wings ablaze and muscles burning. The wreckage of the Renegade wasn’t far from shore. Moving the lumbering mass of Arkhangelsk would take too long, but if Coma could make it there in time, maybe, just maybe, there was a chance.
When they arrived, the ruined airship was only barely afloat. Grounded near the shore, the sundered vessel bore all the damage of its final stand. Damage Coma had seen before, elsewhere. Signs of battle all too familiar to the frantic firebrand, who now scoured the wreckage for someone, anyone, but mostly, for their friend. Tearing through the listing hull, calling out in desperation, even diving through too flooded cabins, fearing the worst, Coma remained aboard until the sun was high and the listing had ceased.
The answer to their calls, was silence.
Across the lake, the last of the crippled ships had long since slipped below the waves. Coma didn’t need their binoculars to see the field of debris had long since faded away. Their friend, their only friend, in a lifetime of wandering, was gone. And in that moment, the world shrank to a pinprick.
Reality struck like a hammer of the Gods. All the loss, all the suffering, the devastation, the death which had been so clear to Coma from an early age, found a break in the young bird’s armor. These weren’t strangers, lost to an unfamiliar tragedy, nor were they victims of a conflict lost to the eons. This was their friend. Their only friend. Now gone.
That night, as panicked masses huddled on the shore, watched over by the guns of Arkhangelsk, Coma never returned. As the sky turned to black, no music came from the open windows of the crawler. No singing graced the forests of Anima. On that moonless night, the darkness seemed absolute.
Until the stars began to fall.
In the distance, lights began to streak from the sky. Lighting just above the treeline, each streak burned towards the ground, disappearing into the woods before a brilliant flash lit the area. Here and there, the howls of dying grimm carried on the wind, as minute after minute, the forest erupted into flames.
When dawn broke,
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6

[OC] The Last Regiment: Chapter 1

Note: As usual, all units are automatically translated. Don’t like it? Too bad. Humanity makes the best units of measurements and we’re on an HFY board!
If you haven’t read the prologue, be sure to do so here.
The stasis field was an amazing invention. With a trickle of power, it could hold any material’s state indefinitely, down to the smallest quantum uncertainty. It could keep exotic food fresh over a long voyage, contain nanites until ready for use, hold antimatter in a stable environment, or isolate dangerous pathogens for later study. It was also the most economical way to transport a large number of people through the vastness of space.
 
Colonel Mikael Silva felt a brief disorientation. One moment he was entering his personal stasis chamber – called a coffin by most troops – and the next he was stepping out into the staging room. The Colonel had done it dozens of times before. There would be a navy corpsman there, maybe some briefing officers, and on either side his staff would be exiting their own chambers.
 
Except not this time.
 
“Corporal,” the tall, vaguely Slavic officer said mildly, looking at the enlisted man to his front, “Exactly what is going on here?” And his brain caught up to his mouth the memories came rushing back to him.
 
Hyperdrives were a mature technology. Their failure rates were incredibly low, and there were safeguards against nearly any accident. But drives did contain enormous energies, and on the rare cases that they failed they tended to do so rather spectacularly. When the INS Broadsword had hit an unexpected grav wave at the same time two separate governors failed simultaneously, the whole assembly simply translated sideways to another dimension of hyper… and left the Broadsword with no hyper-luminal maneuvering at all.
 
It was nearly a week before the crew was able to jury rig a temporary replacement out of space tape, carbon monofilament wire, and most of the Post-Trans-Uranic Alloys (PTUs) on the ship. The ride back down to N-Space had been more than a little rough. In fact, it was so rough that they left a large chunk of the makeshift drive scattered behind them. But they made it.
 
And the Broadsword found herself just as stranded as before.
 
In the first day of drifting in hyper, the ship had exited Solar controlled territory. By the time they dropped out, the ship was almost 1,200 light years from the border. Considering the previous hyper speed record was less than a tenth of that velocity, the catastrophically translating drive must have bumped them to higher dimensions than anyone expected was possible.
 
Now, an entire Marine Expeditionary Unit and assault transport were stuck out beyond the edge of beyond. Calling for help was out. They had still used their petawatt laser to beam a message to the nearest known inhabited world, knowing it would take over a millennium to arrive. FTL coms were no good, either. The main one resided in Broadsword’s now missing drive, and the emergency beacons only had a 150 lightyear range. They couldn’t even travel to the nearest habitable star and set up as castaways. Spectroscopic analysis showed the closest one capable of sustaining life (and barely so at that) was nearly 60 light years away. The particle shields would fail long before they could reach the system, even at just 0.1 c.
 
The leadership decided the best thing that could be done was sit back and wait. The troops were already in stasis. It didn’t make sense for them to be using consumables, and aside from a few senior NCOs and tech specialists, they had been left that way for the duration. The command element and naval crew put the ship’s systems on standby and entered their own coffins. Zero point energy reactors would come on for a few hours every year to keep the batteries charged, and repair bots would run monthly sweeps to keep everything in repair. A naval officer would be awakened every year by the AI to assess the situation before going back to hibernation. It wasn’t a good plan, but it was the best of a lot of bad options.
 
“Sir, I’m Corporal Mendoza, Charlie Company, 1st Batt,” The soldier said, interrupting the Colonel’s thoughts. “Sir, I was just awoken by these guys,” he pointed at the two smaller aliens to his right. The things looked a bit like bipedal, four armed aardvarks and were trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. “No clue what’s going on, except I can’t access the ship’s nets or find any navy pu- I mean personnel. So, sir, I felt the best thing to do would be to wake you up first, sir.”
 
“Good work Corporal Mendoza,” Colonel Silva said. “Good initiative. I’ll make sure you’re briefed in soon. But first, can you check the status of my staff? I need to talk to these two.” He thought for a second, and then asked, “They can understand us, yes?”
 
“Yessir,” Mendoza replied. “My suit can’t make heads or tails of their speech, but they can understand us just fine, sir.”
 
Silva then turned to the two xenos and began speaking, “First of all, thank you for finding us. I’m sure we’ve been out here for quite some time.” Pausing for a moment to query the net exactly how long that had been, he found he couldn’t connect to the net, either. The internal timer in his neural implant was subject to the stasis field and it needed to sync with another timepiece to recalibrate. Continuing, the human colonel smiled at the beings. “Anyway, our ship suffered a catastrophic drive failure and we’ve been drifting here ever since. We would appreciate a tow to the nearest inhabited system, or some assistance with repairs. Failing that, I need to get into contact with my government.”
 
“Well, I’m sure our captain would be happy to help,” a voice from the alien on the left. “Of course, there is the… well, times aren’t exactly easy and we’ve already lost time here…”
 
“You will, of course, be compensated for your troubles,” the Colonel said, trying to keep from grinning. It was obviously terrified of him. He wasn’t sure if that was because of their relative sizes, some innate cowardice in the being, or some action on Mendoza’s part. He resolved to have a word with the corporal about his handling of those two before continuing, “But I really must contact the Solar Empire.”
 
“Who?” the right hand alien asked.
 
That was frightening news. If the Empire was gone... Still, the least he could do for his men would be to get them back to human controlled space. They’d figure out little things like who was in charge of Earth at a later date. “The Solar Empire. Or any group that controls a large number of humans.”
 
It was hard to tell, but the xenos looked agitated, twisting their heads one way, and nasal appendages the other. “Well, sir,” the left one with the tan colored fur said, slowly, “I’d love to help but I’ve never heard of a human before. I’m assuming you’re a human, yes?”
 
“Yes…” the commanding officer replied. “But… your species has obviously encountered ours before. You can speak our language, after all!”
 
“I know,” replied the self-nominated spokes-being of the group. “It’s legacy code. Doesn’t even have a name attached to the language. In fact,” it said, manipulating something before continuing, “In fact, according to this, no translator has accessed these files in almost 2,300 years.”
 
 
“And that’s the long and short of it,” Colonel Silva said to his gathered staff. He had detailed the Corporal to wake them, and then take their alien guests to a comm node where they could bypass the EM shielding and contact their ship. Now they were discussing plans for the future. “We’ve been out of action for two thousand, five hundred and six years. Give or take a few months. Ship itself is still in decent shape, apart from the drive. They make them tough.”
 
“No AI, though,” Captain Erin McMillan piped in. The average height ISNF Captain had short cropped black hair and a dark complexion that belied her name. She was also intensely competent and had a reputation for getting the absolute best out of her crew. “I tried to access it as soon as I woke up. And I should have come up for air at least a few hundred times over the years,” she continued. “I only remember Wallace wakening me thirty four times.”
 
“Wallace is KIA,” a senior lieutenant in charge of the Broadsword’s computers answered. “A cosmic ray destroyed its interface to the ship’s networks during our second century. By the time the bots woke for their monthly check and fixed the hardware, the rampancy had triggered a lobotomy.”
 
Everyone nodded somberly. All AI’s had such protocols for when certain parameters exceeded their thresholds. With constant input and conversation, an AI could live centuries before the cybernetic equivalent of dementia kicked in. Cut off from the rest of the universe, Wallace would have entered recursive loopbacks and lost stability in days.
 
“We still have Chesty,” said the regimental S-2, or intelligence officer, Major Zachary Leblanc noted. “Not in the same class as Wallace, but it was in hibernation for the journey, and it should be able to handle the ship. Especially with the additional processing power Wallace left behind.”
 
“Good suggestion, Major,” the Colonel said. “But it doesn’t help with our primary objective. I take it no one will argue against returning to Earth? Even if our old homes are gone, we need to find out what happened. I can think of nothing that could have wiped humanity out so completely, even in twenty five centuries. At least, not without spawning galaxy spanning legends.” At the nods from the group, Silva continued, “But to do that, we need a functional drive. Our new friends,” he rolled his eyes a bit at the thought of the would-be scavengers as friends, “seem downright mercenary. I have no doubt they’d be happy to tow us to the nearest inhabited system for the right price.”
 
“Now, now Colonel,” interrupted Lt. Colonel Amanda Heins. Born in the Old Terra province of Austria, she had a classically Germanic complexion and an accent to go with it. She also was the head of the Regimental Ops shop, or S-3. “You wouldn’t be insinuating our guests were anything less than completely altruistic? What ever would the Civil Affairs Corps say about that?” she finished with mock severity. Then she spoiled the effect with a broad grin as most of the gathering had a chuckle at the joke. The Imperial Civil Affairs Corps was probably the butt of more jokes than the much older slot of Public Information Officer. They seemed to exist solely to tell troops that they should respect and admire their enemy. It didn’t matter in the slightest if that enemy cheerfully used sentients as shields or fired on hospital ships. They were gentle and kind beings that only had the misfortune of somehow angering the military industrial complex of the uncaring Solar Empire. No debate would be tolerated on that issue.
 
“Well, right about now, I’d be happy to see even a member of the CAC, as much as it pains me to admit it,” the Colonel said, smiling. “But,” he continued, turning sober once again, “we still need a new drive, and with the Empire apparently gone, we have no external resources to draw upon. We have only this ship and the men and women on her. Which leads to the course of action I would like to bring to the table. It is more than a little… unorthodox. But I think it gives us the best chance to succeed.”
 
“Well, you’d better be spitting it out, then,” came the voice of Lt. Colonel Richard Travis. A native of New Texas, the tall, lanky man was also Silva’s second in command and the holder of several awards for bravery. He also had a devious sense of humor and a burning hatred for anything that threatened his home planet, the Empire, or his beloved Corps.
 
“As I was saying, we have three options as I see them. Well, four, but I don’t think doing nothing is an somethin any of us would favor.” At the vigorous assent from all gathered he went on. “First, we could sell the ship and buy a new one. I would fight this course of action on several grounds, chief among them I cannot – in good conscience – allow Imperial military equipment to fall into non-human hands. If there is a legitimate successor to the Empire, that’s one thing. But simply selling her, with all weaponry and classified materiel intact and no approval from higher would be treason. Moreover, I will not proceed down this path without a damned good reason.”
 
Seeing no objections, Silva continued, “I’d much prefer the second option, but I have the feeling logistics makes it impossible. We could simply sell unclassified goods to interested parties. Our tech level is apparently much higher than that of the Ampersians who found us. If that’s any guide, we could make quite a bit of capital in the sale. But, as I’m sure Major Kaleed is about to tell us all, that may be a non-starter.”
 
“Definitely, sir,” the olive skinned officer, Major Ahemd Kaleed was the S-4 or logistics officer. “Specifically, we’re low on nanites for the fabbers,” he clarified, referring to the fabrication facilities. These technological wonders could produce nearly anything given the raw materials and nanites. But they needed periodic recharges of the tiny bots, given they could not be made to reproduce. “There are enough to make a few spare parts, but millennia of even minor repairs took their toll. I doubt we could make enough to afford a new drive.”
 
“Exactly, and this leads to my third option. According to our guests, this portion of the galaxy is a fractious mass. There are always hot spots and conflicts. I propose we take advantage of this state.” The Colonel paused as the muttering rose to a crescendo.
 
The XO was the first whose voice rose above the mass. “Well, that certainly is unorthodox. You’re proposing we become mercenaries?”
 
“In essence, yes,” Silva replied, calmly. He had expected this. “I’m not proposing we simply sell ourselves to the highest bidder nor do anything morally offensive,” the CO continued. “But given our capabilities and lack of other resources, I feel this is the best course of action to get home. We perform one mission and get one drive. Then we go to Earth. Anyone have a better plan?”
 
In the end, there were many objections, but no alternatives. Their course set, the crew of the INS Broadsword and the 37th Solar Marine Expeditionary Unit began preparations for war.
 
 
“Well that’s… a thing,” Captain McMillan said, sourly. The subject of her ire was the hulk just over three light seconds from the Broadsword’s bow. “And they expect us to dock there?” The jumbled mass of alloys orbited a large gas giant approximately four AUs out from a standard G3 star. And despite the ramshackle appearance, the station seemed to be doing good business. She triple checked her instruments and then sent a message to traffic control for an inbound vector assignment.
 
The Ampersians had been good to their word, happily providing a tow in exchange for a few hundred kilos of heavy metals and some consumer grade electronics. Well, at least they pretended to be happy. The Captain knew they had hoped to take her ship for salvage. Not on her life, they wouldn’t!
 
Now they were headed into Nara’voz Station at just above 100 G’s. It was a sedate pace for a warship who’s grav drive was capable of generating accelerations of over 300 G’s and maintaining an N-Space velocity of almost 0.1c, but there was no need to show their capabilities at this moment. “Lieutenant,” she asked, turning to the engineering officer on the watch, “How are our inertial compensators holding up?”
 
“Oh, just grand Captain,” came the sarcastic reply from the young man. “A slight bariocentric negatron leak in the aft forward emitter, but I’ve got a chief with a work party slapping some space tape on it.”
 
Chuckling the Captain replied, “Well, sounds like you have everything under control. Carry on.” It was their own private joke. All it had taken was one movie from New Hollywood, and now everyone thought that just because they could accelerate at hundreds of times Old Earth’s gravity they needed some sort of device to keep the passengers from being squashed flat. Honestly, did they have any grasp of basic physics?
 
But the routine and the joke served to lift her spirits a bit. Almost to the point where she could tolerate docking with such a hideous station.
 
Almost.
 
 
“Sir, I think we might have a lead on a contract.” Colonel Silva looked up from the report he was reading as the XO and Lt. Colonel Heins entered his office. Between them was what appeared to be a 160 cm tall version of an Earth Koala. Well, no Koala he’d ever seen had slit pupils or eight fingers, but it was close enough.
 
“Hello Colonel Silva.” The voice came from a small device on the being’s uniform. It was much better modulated than the previous ones he had encountered and even appeared to convey some emotion. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”
 
“Thank you very much. Um, you appear to have the advantage on me. You are…?”
 
The being nodded and said, “Apologies, your officers have already told me much about you and your troops. I am a recruiter for the Tausennigan Collective. My name is Petagolaganistiac.” At the look from the commanding officer he issued a small bark that Silva assumed was a laugh. “Lt. Colonel Travis has already asked if I minded being called Petey. I have no issues with this moniker.”
 
“Thank you, Petey. I assume by your presence you have need of our services?”
 
“Yes, Colonel, I have provided your men with details,” the alien responded.
 
As the S-3, Heins began the briefing. “Petey here represents a single system star nation about seven light years from here. Apparently they were attacked by a larger polity called the Bal’on Hegemony interested in making a very lucrative trade node their own. The conflict has since bogged down on the ground. Tausennigan Forces are holding the Bal’on to a handful of toeholds, but they don’t actually have the forces to kick them off. Meanwhile their space forces are split between defending themselves and blockading the orbitals to prevent reinforcement. They need an infusion of combat power or one of their lines will collapse.”
 
Colonel Silva nodded for a moment and then asked, “I assume you verified this with other sources? No offense to Petey,” he said, nodding at the mammalian nearby, “but the only thing less accurate than military intelligence is a sales pitch.”
 
“Of course sir,” Heins responded. “I’ve accessed the local information databases, and they agree on the major points. The Bal’on are an aggressive, expansion minded species and they did invade the Tausennigan homeworld without more than token provocation. And the force structures Petey provided are accurate as far as my department can tell.”
 
“And is there any reason we can’t just drop kinetics on the enemy from orbit?” the CO asked, already fairly sure he knew the answer.
 
“Banned,” replied Travis. “About the only thing most of the species agree on is orbital bombardment is a badness thing. We drop so much as a pebble and they’ll be on us like a ton of bricks. Course, “he said, with a sly grin, “Nothing says we can’t throw some damn big pebbles once we’re on the ground.”
 
“Okay, good work people. This is the best offer we’ve gotten so far, and I’m inclined to take it.” In fact, it was their fifth offer of the day. Of the other four, two had been for minor jobs not worth their time; one had looked good until research discovered they would be going on what passed for a suicide mission; and the last involved capturing and transporting slaves. The slaver had been lucky to escape with its life when that little tidbit had come up.
 
“Now Mr. Petey,” Silva continued smiling broadly. “Would you care to elaborate on the terms of your proposed agreement? And can I get you any refreshments?”
 
So ends chapter 1 of The Last Regiment! Tune in next week for the Regiment’s first taste of combat in this new universe. There will be heroics! Danger! Suspense! And many a big Ka-boom!
Seriously, though, I know the HFY has been minor up to this point. Bear with me on that. You can’t just jump into humanity kicking ass and taking names. There has to be some exposition first. Maybe a bit of buildup. It makes the pay off so much the sweeter. And if you think you like where this is going, leave a comment and an upvote. The more positive encouragement I get, the longer the series will go on. If you have a suggestion or think I completely screwed up, also leave a comment. I’m an engineer, not a writer, so pointers are appreciated.
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