Tolwyn's Children

Plywood Fiend

Rear Admiral
Hello all, i've returned from the shadowy realm of silence and nothingness with another attempt at a story.

First off, appologies to all Front Lines fans, I think at this point I must finally admit defeat with that story. After three years and a number of desperate last minute storyline attempts my enthusiasm for the series has fizzled utterly... which now that I think about it was probably evident from the months of inactivity.

For now i'm going to try and stick to smaller scale projects.

For those who don't like such things, I should mention that this story has a fair few grisly elements.

Hope you enjoy.

Tolwyn's Children

By the Plywood Fiend

Chapter 1

Unlike the savages he was gunning down, Lucian had no trouble partaking in a little idle philosophising whilst he worked. This was the nineteenth transport he’d boarded in the last three months and by now the routine was old hat anyway.

The Border Worlders’ fire was erratic, they were more concerned with emptying the clips on their antiquated firearms than they were actually hitting something. Subsequently, while they busied themselves with defacing the cargo hold wall with laser fire, he and his friends could sidestep any incoming shots and take careful aim at the ragtag defenders.

Three were already dead with smoking holes in their throats. Another was hiding in a small gap between three crates. It wasn’t a bad piece of cover in itself, and if the boy had been willing to use it as such than he might have been cause for attention. As it was, Lucian’s enhanced sense of smell could make out the sweat and voided bowels over the otherwise overpowering stench of burned air in the hold.

Of the two defenders still fighting, Chimera downed one easily enough, having counted down all two hundred shots in the handheld Landor rapid fire pistol, which she’d been able to identify from the frequency of the discharges. After the 200th shot, she leapt over the crate she’d been using for cover and iced the subhuman before he knew his weapon was empty.

The final enemy thought she had an easy shot at Chimera, when she tried to take it however she exposed her head to Satyr, who promptly blasted it clean off with his rifle.

Lucian listened for any hidden breathing or muffled curses, but it seemed the cargo hold had fallen silent, save of course for the squealing of the cowardly Border Worlds’ child which was still hiding in its own filth.

With a slight smile, (which was all he ever managed), Lucian fired two harmless rounds into the adjacent wall at a spot where the boy would see them. As he predicted, the kid sprang to his feet and made for the door with remarkable speed for a common stock biped having to run over his friends’ bodies. Fast though he was though, it wasn’t enough, and the boy, who could be no older than fifteen, died with a burning hole in his back.

“This just never gets old.” Satyr said, casually walking over the corpse of an unarmed crewman to rejoin his friends.
“I beg to differ.” Lucian muttered.
“You’re never satisfied.” Chimera added, taking the opportunity to scan the bodies for any hardware worth taking. The odds were slim of course, but you never know.
“That’s not true.” Lucian said in a defensive tone, his eyes casually falling to Chimera’s chest.
“You know what I mean.” Her eyes rolled as she followed his gaze, but she couldn’t quite help but smile a little, “This is all for the greater cause Lucy. Bringing about humanity’s evolution shouldn’t be dull.”

There was a time when Lucian would become violent at the use of that infernal nickname. This however only encouraged his fellow soldiers further and ultimately he resigned himself to it. Also, there was something different in how Chimera said it.

“I can hear two more past the door.” Satyr said dismissively, “Probably a skeleton crew on the bridge. You want me to handle it?”
“Ok then,” Lucian said, “we’ll see to the escape pod decoys. Work quickly Satyr, we’re on the clock here. I don’t want Border Worlds patrols to be hounding us all the way home just cause you happen across a cute Bridge officer and...”
“That only happened once, and we handled them easily enough.”
“Yes, and their home base noticed that they didn’t come home, and we had a carrier group patrolling this quadrant for a month.”
“You know, if you want me to work quickly than beating me over the head with this memory lane act isn’t really the way to go about it.”

He had a point there.
“Fine, fine, off you go.”

Leaving Satyr to jovially massacre the rest of the crew, Lucian and Chimera backtracked to the escape pod bays. Once there they would pile in a number of corpses, set off the distress beacons and fling the pods out in the opposite direction. By the time the militia found out what had happened, they’d be gone, just like the twelve times before.

Cheap sentimentality it seemed was what made the Black Lance’s work so easy. Even if they knew it was a deception, the frail herd humans couldn’t ignore a distress call because there might just be innocent people in need of assistance. Little matter that they were worthless creatures, unable to safeguard their own security. Honour had to be obeyed, or some such horseshit.

* * *

The next morning, the captured freighter, the boarding shuttle and its two Black-Banshee escorts entered sensor range of Tolwyn’s keep. Almost every time Lucian set eyes upon the secluded fortress, twisted together from about twenty cannibalised hulks and surrounded by enough turret platforms to hold off an armada, he couldn’t help but wish that they’d made their base from the independent mining station in TX-93-34-21 instead. The bulbous, spiral of foolishness that was his peoples’ home and headquarters looked like a spiny rollercoaster bedevilled by a swarm of bees. The name only served to make the place all the more hilarious. No doubt an opposing force would laugh their heads off as they were blasted to pieces.

“Incoming transmission Lucy,” Chimera said, pulling her feet off of the console where she’d been resting them and turning her eyes towards the bridge’s com terminal. “they’ve queried us.”

Lucian walked to the com station, which was still sticky with spilled blood and charred brain matter, and punched in the appropriate countersign to the ‘keep. A few moments passed and then the incongruously young face of Admiral Jennifer Tolwyn appeared on screen.

“Ah Lucian, good to see you.” She was in a good mood today. That normally meant someone had either found parts for the bio-convergence lab or had snared a freighter carrying Epsilon tea.
“And you ma’am.” Lucian replied with a salute, “It’s good to be back.”
“Indeed. So what have you brought us? I don’t suppose you captured a ship full of Devastators perhaps? Failing that I’d settle for Longbows.”

He almost managed to laugh at that. They both knew full well that there was more chance of having Geoffrey Tolwyn rise from the grave and tell them the locations of his hidden Gen select cryo-chambers than there was of finding decent ships in this part of space. Even if they could, the ship he was in was an ancient, rusty 2350’s drayman that seemed to hold together thanks to hope and paperclips. There was enough room for two, maybe three modern day fighters onboard at best.

“No such luck Admiral. Medical supplies and foodstuffs. Nothing remarkable.”
“Medical supplies?” The Admiral paused, as if she were tasting the word, “It’s a handy thing to have, but the enemy will probably miss it. I suspect we’ll have to pin the blame on another pirate gang. Of course at the rate we’ve been going we’re fast running out of those.”

It was true, with all their considerable activities in this region, there was a dramatic downturn in the number of merchant and pirate ships close at hand, as well as an upswing in the number of military patrols.

Lucian’s inclination would have been to slow down and let the Border Worlders’ think that the problem was no more, than strike when they became complacent. The Admiral had decided to simply expand their operations to outlying systems and start making use of scapegoats. They were the destined rulers of the galaxy, she said, and it wouldn’t be fitting for them to hide away like rats from their enemies.

He could see the rationale in that. Lucian’s mind was designed for short term tactics and battlefield operations, not the larger scale strategies and Empire building machinations that the Admiral had to deal with, therefore he tended to separate survival and victory in his plans and prioritise the former over the latter, whereas his leader juxtaposed the two and achieved noticeable progress through her decisions. Thus far she had done an impeccable job. The late Space Marshall Tolwyn would doubtlessly be proud of his quasi-daughter if he could see her.

“You’re cleared for docking port Beta,” she said, “I’ve planned a dinner for my inner circle at 8PM Commander. I want to outline some very exciting new developments in the war effort.”
“I understand Admiral,” he waved one hand to Chimera, who started moving the ship towards the docking port.
“Good. I’ll see you then.” With that, her face vanished from the screen.

Lucian moved to the nearby seat and lowered himself into it, half expecting the spindly frame to snap in two and send him tumbling onto the floor. As it was, the chair held together with minimal protest at his presence. Being on outdated hulks like this always tended to make him paranoid.

“I think she likes you.” Chimera said with a smirk. Lucian let loose an elaborate sigh and shook his head.
“She’s the head of state,” he said, “she likes all of us. It’s part of the job description.”
“Whatever you say. I’ve never heard her call any other Commander by their first name.”
“Most of the other Commanders tend to start steaming at the ears if someone calls them by their first name. The Admiral accommodates them for the sake of convenience.”
“Course she does.”

Lucian knew that once again he was being made fun of. He couldn’t for the life of his however understand why he didn’t care when it was Chimera doing it. Granted they were an item, for lack of a better word, but that was a standard biological reaction between two compatible individuals of comparative age, character and interests. Similarly, irritation at a verbal attack was another natural biological reaction. It was a small scale variant of self defence, and it was a reflexive habit which he had registered enough times in the past to recognise. This reaction, or lack of a reaction, that Chimera induced was puzzling to say the least.

He shook his head and cleared his mind of such thoughts as the freighter slid between the two metal struts of the docking bay. This was a mystery that could wait until later.

“Switching to autopilot.” Chimera said, flicking the appropriate switches.
“It’s a shame really,” he said a little hesitantly, “I was hoping we’d be able to spend some time together. Off duty, that is.”
“It’s just a few hours listening to briefings and trading war stories,” she said dismissively, “we can get together afterwards. I think we’ve still got some Firekkan firethistle juice left. I’m sure we can put that to good use.”
“Yeah,” he said, feeling marginally disappointed by something he knew not what, “that’s true. Ok then, I’ll stop by yours after this dinner’s out of the way.”
“Ok.” She replied.

* * *

Steak. Real, honest to God steak. Lucian hadn’t seen its like in almost a year. The Admiral was definitely in a good mood.

As the other commanders took their seats and the stewards retreated to the background, Lucian found he had to make a conscious effort to keep his hands off of the cutlery.

“Thank you all for coming.” Admiral Tolwyn said from the head of the table. “Before we get to business I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your heroic efforts over the last few years. It is through the efforts of you and your subordinates that we have fought our way back from the brink of extinction, and now stand poised to make my father’s noble dream a reality once more.”
“We can’t claim all the credit Admiral,” Commander Jonas Trent said tactfully, “it is your leadership as much as anything that has brought us to where we are now. We merely act according to your will.”
“Here, here.” The other Commanders chortled, some raising their wine glasses, others trying to conceal the fact that they’d already emptied theirs. Social niceties, Lucian mused, were one of the many things the Black Lance had still to properly work out.

“Well, in any case,” the Admiral continued, resisting her body’s compulsion to blush with all the effort she could muster, “here we now are. Celebrating our well earned success and on the verge of many more. Now, if you’ll indulge me as I propose a toast;” She stood up and raised her own glass. “to humanity, specifically what it shall become when the weeds have been plucked from this galaxy.”
“To humanity.” The Commanders echoed.

“Now, please eat ladies and gentlemen. I have important news to relate, but I think it’s wise to remove the distracting temptation of these steaks from our path before continuing.”

Her guests laughed dutifully and tucked in to their meal. For a good twenty minutes there was a cheerful exchange of conversation and, as Chimera had predicted, war stories. The alcoholic tolerance of the 2nd generation Black Lancers was incredibly high by conventional standards, and every man and woman at the time had a clear enough head to listen to the Admiral’s briefing when the meal was concluded.

“Now then,” she said as the stewards scooped up the empty plates, “to business my friends.” Pulling a small remote from her pocket she pointed it at a map screen on the wall opposite her. The screen was pulled from an old Ranger class carrier and all it was able to show were wire frame outlines. The one Lucian saw was a green, rotating planet surrounded by two moons.

“Recent acquisitions from our raiding forces have at long last allowed us to complete our work on five prototype gen-select devices.” The Admiral said, pleased to be able to reveal her secret to the crowd at long last. “That is just enough to cover this new Border Worlds colony on Radden V.”
“That must be new,” Commander Jones blurted out with his typical verbal diarrhoea idiolect, “my apologies for my interruption Admiral but I’ve memorised the entire galactic star chart and I’ve never heard of a Radden V. Am I right in assuming that it’s a recently settled world in an obscure fringe territory?”

Admiral Tolwyn smiled wearily and nodded. Commander Jones was a fine soldier, but due to a slight mishap in one bio-convergence operation two years ago had left him a babbling eccentric. The doctors assured her that the problem would sort itself out, someday. Until then she found it best to simply endure his quirks and keep him out of the way whenever possible.

“Quite right Commander. This is a new colony. The population as of yet is estimated at only nine thousand, and intelligence from our spies in the Border Worlds military suggest that military presence in that system is pitiful at best. This planet represents our best opportunity for Operation Trelawney.

A brief murmuring of excitement circulated around the room. This was indeed big news, if all went well it might just mean new recruits, which was something the Black Lance was in desperate need of. Cloning was a limited option as cellular degeneration crept steadily into the flesh with each new incarnation, and natural breeding stock took too long, and also resulted in good soldiers having to step out of the action for maternity leave. Not a one had ever managed to get their edge back in combat after giving birth.

“You all know what this operation will consist of. The first wave will clear the defences, the second will drop the package, and when all is done the transports will drop in to pick up any survivors, and we’ll see if we can make anything of them.”

The screen played a fast forwarded display of the operation as the Admiral spoke.

“Now as you know,” she continued, “there’s a chance that this plan won’t work. Preliminary estimates indicate only a 62% chance of the gen-select prototype being effective, and even then we can only guess as to whether we’ll be able to integrate any of the survivors. At the end of the day they remain herd stock. Still, nothing ventured nothing gained, and if all we manage to achieve is a fist in our enemy’s teeth than we’ll be content with that and revert to the clone stock option for the short term.”

Again the crowd muttered their approval.

“Twice before our kind has been routed and hunted by the barbarian hordes. This time my people, I swear to you, we shall make them pay as they cannot imagine, and with all that is left we shall begin again and fashion a strong, enduring and unyielding human Empire in this galaxy. One way or another, this shall be the first real step towards that goal. This is our best, and final opportunity. We cannot allow failure to drag us back to the shadows. When the time comes, my fellow soldiers, You must fight, and fight hard.”

To be continued.
I like the way you write!

Would you be interested in working with me on my underway Fan Project, a novel/e-book set just after the Nephilim War? I know it can be pretty disheartening working away on your own, so I thought it might be fun to get together a few of the more prolific and able writers from this forum to work on a single project.

Here's an early release (10% done or so):

Let me know if this interests.
Mmph! Blasted post-loss... You'll have to do without some examples I wanted to bring up, sorry.

First things first: Then/than. You write them almost systematically opposed to what I learned, and occasionally you slip up and use them as I would. :) Consistency is a good thing.

Also, take care of how you move from dialogue to narration. It seems the standard procedure is to write ["Blaaaah," di-bla bla. "Pfft!"] You're very inconsistent in this area. It doesn't really concern me if you conform to the standard I've seen, or invent a new procedure, but, again, be consistent.

Interesting twist to introduce hints of autism or Asperger's in an extreme breed, but what's with the alcohol-tolerance?
Welcome back to story mode!
I'll be looking foward to see how this one unfolds. It's a pity about Front Lines, but oh well, some things need to go their seperate ways, and this story certainly seems good enough to hold my interest.
Good first chapter, I'll be looking foward to further updates!