Ever get depressed writing a book because you realize how long it will take before you can share some of your cooler ideas? I certainly have. Here’s a way for me to share some cool stuff from my story so my head doesn’t feel like it will explode. Don’t worry, no plot spoilers here. Check back for regular updates.
(New!)Fantasticality Engine–The Fantasticality Engine is the opposite of the Gravity Artifice. It is the heart of Mandala City and is powered by multiple sources. Its raw fuel needs are met by crystal network lattices that coat the ceiling/floor of the near mythical city. Intel reports allude to the engine having a mysterious, greater source of fuel, as the supposed inventions created by the engine are beyond the wildest dreams of technology. Whispered rumors refer to it as “The convergence point between sorcery and science, where both become so advanced that they are indistinguishable from each other.”
Ascension–The moon city of Ascension is home to Echo’s social elite. Only the highest strata of citizenry are permitted to live on Ascension. It is also home to the Regent, the de facto ruler of the Regime. Everything on Ascension is alabaster white, with few exceptions. Even the residents undergo mind-blowingly expensive genetic surgery to alter the hue of their skin. Their skin and hair is not white as you and I think of the skin color; it is chalk white. The genetic surgery alters the pupil and iris to be jet black-the only nonwhite color on their body. This is a continuing source of frustration to Ascension’s genetic surgeons; not only do they fail to find a way to get rid of the black in the eye, the flaw also lessens the amount of light reaching the optic nerve, making everything appear slightly dimmer to those having undergone the procedure. A glaring departure from the color theme is in the food and drink of Ascension. All cuisine is extravagant and opulent in color. The population of Ascension does not hesitate to nourish itself with incredibly beautiful forms of sustenance.
Ascension is similar in mass to Old Earth’s moon, and Echo is similar in mass to Old Earth. Due to physics, Ascension has inherently weak gravity, which poses immediate safety hazards as well as long term health concerns, since weak gravity has a negative effect on human health. This problem is addressed by a quantum technology engine known as The Gravity Artifice, which approximates Earth-like gravity, but is the linchpin for so much more.
Just like Old Earth’s moon, Ascension spends a significant period of it’s orbit where sunlight is obstructed due to its parent planet being in the way. During this period, where Ascension is in Echo’s shadow, it still undergoes an equal period of daytime by a fortuitously well-placed cluster of white dwarves. The location of these dying stars permits Ascension to have daytime when it can’t get sunlight.
Crusader–An elite, direct action operator for the Department of Enforcement. Similar to Old Earth special operators, they eschew their formal sounding title (Crusader) and opt to simply call themselves Crew. Out of a thousand potential candidates, Crusader Selection narrows it down to ten recruits through a brutally competitive school where students are turned against each other. Many of those who fail Selection become permanently crippled or killed as a result of their injuries.
Crew shooters are equipped with the Neural Linkup Enhancement: a special piece of cybertech that allows them to employ tactics that are physically impossible for a regular human. With it, they can shoot with a pistol in each hand as accurately as a decent marksman on a knee, only they can do it at a dead run. The Neural Linkup Enhancement also allows them to perform normally impractical movements in combat, such as aerial flips or twists, all the while maintaining effectively accurate fire. One or two Crew operators can take down a building filled with scores of combatants, a task normally reserved for multiple squads of Enforcers.
Department of Enforcement–On Echo, there is no military, no police. Long ago, they were merged into the Department of Enforcement.
Echo–Echo is the planet that humanity settled after leaving Earth. Sometime in the twenty-first century, Earth began experiencing a host of problems. Climate change accelerated to an unforeseen degree. Wars were fought over fresh water. Volcanic activity rose sharply out of nowhere, adding tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, compounding the problem.
Humanity, bucking the trend of selfish shortsightedness, unexpectedly came together, realizing that its time on Earth was short. In addition to putting money into practical tech that would enable people to live off-world and survive the interstellar transit, world leaders and business giants began investing in technology that gave deeper insight into the nature of existence, such as the optimistically named New Hope Super-collider, in the hopes that good enough tech and science could be developed to escape the rapidly deteriorating Earth. It worked. Research at the super-collider turned out discoveries that-though they weren’t originally meant to-indirectly yielded technologies such as faster-than-light travel, gravity and mass manipulation, refined radiation shielding and projection, incredible new ways to harness energy, and multiple advancements in industries such as fabrics, interstellar shielding, and countless others.
Humanity eventually left Earth and found Echo, a planet with roughly the same mass as Earth, complete with an intact and livable atmosphere and climate cycle, as well as plenty of fresh water and ocean. It amounted to a golden second chance. Aside from a few hardy microbes, life had yet to evolve on Echo. With heavy use of cloning tech, humans implanted Echo with all the flora and animals of Earth. Corporations and governments came together, merging in the promise of a new utopia.
Fast forward nearly 1200 years later, and the opposite has happened. Cityscapes cover over half of Echo, pushing out the natural beauty of the planet. For centuries, the official ruling body, The Regime, has waged war against the Dissident Movement, a huge rebel network that makes its base camps out in the wilderness, where they are harder to track and strike at. All advances are relegated primarily to weapons and energy-harvest tech, as well as anything that enhances the luxury of Ascension residents. Other areas, such as fashion and art, have experienced a massive period of stagnancy, changing little over 1200 years. People on Echo still dress the same as if they were on twenty first century Earth, or “Old Earth,” as they call it.
Originally, Echo’s name was New Earth. After a century of settlement, following the rise of the Dissidents and the concentration of wealth and luxury among the elite, the populace began sarcastically referring to New Earth as Echo, as in: “an echo of Old Earth.” The planet became an echo of promise and hope. An echo of better times. As time passed, nearly everybody has forgotten that Echo is not the planet’s real name. The dark age seems destined to last forever.
Enforcer--All-purpose foot soldiers for the Department of Enforcement. Fulfill the duties of the police and the military.
Enhancile–An Enhancile is the Dissident response to the Exo. They are widely considered the most dangerous threat on the battlefield. Dissident forces don’t have massive funding for giant robotic suits of armor, so they make do with supersoldiers created via brutal and punishing surgical modifications. Across the board, all Enhanciles have enhanced strength and speed as well as some kind of ranged attack. Total spine replacement with cybertech is a must, due to the weight of their augmentations and implants.
A single Enhancile is not a match for an Exo, but three or more will guarantee an Exo’s demise.
Enhancile alterations mangle outer features and compromise internal organs; they often look monstrous or deformed. Those volunteering for the procedure only live five to ten years from their date of alteration.
Exo-Suit (Commonly referred to as “Exo”)–The Exo-Suit is essentially a giant robotic suit. It is the Regime’s multipurpose armored unit. It can serve as a heavy indirect fire platform or as a blitz-style assault weapon, depending on it’s configuration. It is divided into three “lines” of systems. An Exo operator is referred to as a pilot.
Exo-Suit: First-line Systems–First-line Systems are considered the rudimentary baseline required to add on additional robotic armor. They are comprised of a Crusader with his Neural Linkup Enhancement.
Exo-Suit: Second-line Systems–Second-line Systems are considered the core suit: A ten-foot tall robotic shell that the Crusader climbs into. It is equipped with black-light charged plasma blades that punch out from the forearms in wicked curves, not unlike overly long talons in their appearance. A complementary, shorter pair of blades are sheathed in the elbows, able to extend rearwards. The elbow blades are useful for spinning/shorter-ranged, rotation-based strikes. Another pair of longer blades spring from the knees, making it easier to strike at lower targets.
Second-line Systems also come with a medium machine gun that lies diagonally across the suit’s back. The base rests against the small of the back on the left side, while the barrel extends slightly past the right side of the neck. When activated, the gun moves diagonally upwards on a motorized track to mount over the right shoulder. A micro-missile pod housing four missiles is built into the left shoulder. It pops up when ready to fire, and retracts flush into the shoulder when inactive.
The strength in Second-line Exos lies in their combination of mobility and speed of violence. Their close quarters, hand-to-hand capabilities (referred to as “Mech Combatives”) combined with their ability to run at speeds of up to seventy miles per hour, as well as being able to turn on a dime, make them the weapon of choice to quickly break through light and medium defenses. If need be, they can act in limited capacity as a suppressive/indirect fire platform with prudent use of the machine gun and micro-missiles.
Exo-Suit: Third-line Systems (Sometimes referred to as a “Heavy Weapons Skeleton”)--The ensemble’s Third-line Systems are basically another giant suit for the Second-line to fit into. The Third-line resembles a giant pair of arms and legs with a cavity in the middle where the Second-line seats itself. There is no physical enclosure over the Second-line’s head and torso, so it is in essence a bigger set of limbs that attach to the Second-line.
The extra strength given by the extended limbs is needed to carry and use the Third-line’s massive weaponry. Built onto the left shoulder is a heavy plasma launcher. It resembles a claw with four equally spaced “fingers.” When activated, the fingers spin around a plasma round in the center, which resembles a giant glowing orb. If fired, the round has the effect of a small bomb. The sole drawback to the launcher is that it can only be fired twice per minute.
The other piece of ordnance used by third-lines is an eight-foot long, rapid fire cannon. Able to churn out three hundred rounds a second, each round is as big as an adult’s forearm. Due to the sheer volume of ammunition used by the cannon, Third-line Systems require a huge “backpack” built onto them for space to store the rounds. An armored ammo belt loops out from the backpack and connects it to the gun, which is held and fired at a hip-carry.
The colossal amount of weight from the third-line requires greater tensile support and strength. The skeleton adds another six feet of height to the ensemble. It also cuts mobility, leaving the behemoth to tromp around at top speeds of ten miles per hour, or about as fast as a running human. To compensate for the reduced speed and agility, Third-line Systems are fitted with limited flight capability. When encountering obstacles, jets on the back and feet can lift the suit up and over. If an angle of fire needs to be adjusted, the jets can also assist in positioning. The flight system is not fast however, and is built in mainly as a consideration to prevent the skeleton from getting bogged down.
Gravity Artifice–The Gravity Artifice is the core of Ascension, and in a sense, Echo as well. It is a programmable mass manipulator. Harnessing the mass of virtual particles that continually wink in and out of existence, it tethers them to Ascension’s molten core, artificially boosting the moon’s mass and creating a field of gravity that is conducive to human life-as well as assisting in stabilizing the atmosphere. It is also capable of manipulating gravity on a refined level, adjusting it for individual buildings. Because of this, the physical architecture and infrastructure on Ascension does not rely on the physics of solid construction to hold them in place; the Artifice does it for them. Were it to suddenly become defunct, all architecture would topple. The style of the buildings is, as a result of the Artifice, both wondrous and impractical. Some buildings, for example, resemble a giant wind-blown tree, branching out expansively in one direction. Impressive and beautiful, but also a symbol of waste and luxury, because without the astronomically expensive Artifice, such a building would collapse.
Dissident forces only dream of disabling the Artifice. While it would without a doubt throw the Regime into chaos, the Artifice is probably the most fortified structure known to man.
Due to it (in essence) brute-forcing nature into a desired configuration, it sucks up an enormous amount of power. A huge chunk of what the harvesters bring in is directed towards keeping the Artifice up and running.
Kaia–An internal energy that runs through the body and is woven into the fabric of reality. Much like our understanding of vital energy systems (chi, prana, pneuma, fluidium, ruah, orgone energy) kaia has limits and is subject to certain practices and rituals that affect its level of strength. Sleep, food, time of day, seasons and some other seemingly bizarre things will affect kaia. This system of esoteric energy has its limits. Kaia is largely unknown outside of Mandala City.
There is however, something beyond kaia. This force remains unnamed, only known to a select few. Fewer still (maybe two people on all of Echo) can tap it. The strength of it is such that it allows a practitioner to treat reality like it’s putty. One master of it says that most people see reality as a piece of unbroken tissue paper, unable to realize how thin and fragile it is. Upon accessing the power beyond kaia the practitioner pokes holes through the tissue and looks through it, able to perceive the insubstantial malleability of existence and realize how easy it is to manipulate. This level of development remains the barest, thinnest rumor, unknown to most even as legend or myth.
Mandala City–A supposed Dissident stronghold (despite no hard evidence of Dissident operations originating or being initiated from it). Rumored to be located somewhere underground, it is supported by huge crystal lattice networks that line its ceiling and base level. The crystals snake from above ground down to the city, redirecting and refracting sunlight and making it accessible as energy to the city’s residents. Similarly, the crystal networks at the base of the city reach down into the core of Echo itself, redirecting geothermal energy to be stored and used by the city’s populace.
Mandala City has existed for centuries, shrouded in mystery. Many doubt its existence. Just as many believe that it existed at one time, but was dissolved long ago, and is presently nothing more than a myth. Among the more popular unsubstantiated rumors is the theory that there is a mystery school within the city that instructs its students in sorcery. All that is known for certain, however, is that the Regime considers location and destruction of the city of the utmost importance.
Neural Linkup Enhancement (commonly referred to as “linkup,” “L-rig,” or simply “rig”)–A piece of specialized cybertech exclusively used by Crusader operators. Resembles a spinal column. Each “vertebrae” is black. Needle thin “legs” protrude from the side that faces the skin. When worn, the legs insert into the skin of the Crew member’s back and neck, interfacing directly with the spinal nerves and brainstem. The outward facing side features an invisible, high frequency LED that can only be seen with enhanced optics. Designed this way specifically to preserve light discipline. The LEDs indicate operating status: Green is good, yellow means maintenance is required, red is inactive.
The top vertebrae is slightly bulkier, containing a collapsible visor that expands up and around the shooter’s eyes. The visor offers imaging in nonvisible frequencies of light, such as x-ray or infrared. Useful when a shooter wants to know what’s around the corner without having to “cut the pie.” The visor is also equipped with a heads-up display that transparently imposes targeting and operating information on the shooter’s field of vision.
Armored smart-fiber cables connect from the bottom vertebrae into specially modded pistols or rifles, greatly enhancing accuracy.
The linkup can also alter the brain’s electrical activity and dish out an artificial influx of hormones, giving the user a temporary enhancement in speed and strength, allowing them to perform at superhuman levels. The enhancements can be activated by the individually keyed voice command, “Boost me.” The linkup is sensitive enough to detect the Crew member simply mouthing the words, to avoid compromising noise discipline.
Retrieval Specialist–Ostensibly a cross between a commando and an emergency room surgeon, Retrieval Specialists are formally tasked with in extremis medical evacuation. It is well known though, they aren’t just coming to help anyone. Retrieval is only concerned with rescuing high-ranking officers in the unlikely event that they require evac under adverse conditions.
Informally, Retrieval is heavily used as an option to prevent Dissident forces from acquiring intel or tech. If the Regime suspects that a Specter (deep-cover intelligence operative) or an Exo-suit is in danger of being captured, then a Retrieval team will be deployed to kill/destroy any personnel/materiel that is of concern.
Retrieval typically employs sniper weapons and orbital fire to destroy tech or zero personnel from a distance. Specialists will remain on-site to provide verification that their target has been destroyed. After verification, they will exit the battlespace. If for some reason there is a piece of armored tech that can’t be verified or reached by orbital fire, Specialists will close the distance and personally utilize a “render-null” device. Render-null grenades are specially designed to attach to a surface and employ a “quantum flash,” a burst of calibrated radiation that weakens the molecular alignment of armor, then activate a thermite concentrate, reducing the tech to molten slag in a matter of seconds.
Retrieval units are organized as eight-man teams. Due to deeper than normal forays into the battlespace and the responsibility of humping the extra weight of sniper systems and medical gear, Specialists are outfitted with a lightweight, bare-bones exoskeleton that enhances their strength, speed and endurance. It resembles a wireframe. Carbon fiber rods run along the limbs and contours of the body to physically boost and reinforce the Specialist.