”Engineer Langenberg,” Tango’s voice buzzed through the speakers, ”I believe you have missed an announcement by the Captain. The crew is to meet in the docking bay lounge in twenty-nine minutes and thirty-four seconds.” The room’s PA was disturbing her attempted sleep, yet again. Unfortunately, disabling the speakers or lowering their volume was out of the question. No way that would fly past anyone with half a brain in the engineer’s quarters of all places. She half-opened one eye, still not entirely used to talking to the ship itself. ”Did he happen to mention what the occasion is?” ”No he did not. Although his delivery seemed to imply the gathering is mandatory and certainly not to be slept through.” ”Fiiine. Bloody nagmachine.” she groaned as she pulled herself off her bunk and started throwing her clothes back on. The Irene didn’t talk, why couldn’t they just keep making ships silent?
Having reached the lounge with some time to spare, her gaze fell upon Yasiliah. Of course it was the witch. Astrid perched herself on a chair on the opposite side of the room in silence, wondering what was on the captain’s mind. No more than a minute later, her curiosity got the better of her. ”You have any idea what he wants?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.
Voice: Ashley Burch (Aloy, Horizon: Zero Dawn) Height: 176 cm Weight: 74 kg
Omni-tool. A miniature Computer that allows for communication, calculation, augmented reality navigation and small-scale hacking. Perhaps most importantly, because she's been kidnapped halfway through second grade, it contains several textbooks of Rau've and Korta origins. Taking on the government is hard when you barely understand what a square root is.
Credits. Small amounts in material form. Don't ask her where it’s from. And check your wallet, just in case.
An electronics toolkit. Meant for dismantling and repairing computers. Also works for bypassing locks and simpler alarms on the hardware level.
Rapport (Mind): Rachel can give an order to a single person. To do this, she needs to perform a specific hand gesture and say the order out loud. Her target needs to hear her and understand the language. If the target loses consciousness or goes through intense pain (like gunshot wounds), the spell loses effect. She may also intentionally cancel it.
Illusion (Mind): Rachel can create an audiovisual illusion perceptible by a single individual. She has to concentrate on keeping the illusion and cannot do anything else that requires her mental faculties (she can create an illusion while running away from something, but not when solving an equation). The illusion can be virtually anything, but bigger or more detailed things require more focus and take a greater toll on her. Keeping the illusion for more than a few minutes also leads to headaches, nausea and general exhaustion. The illusion can only be seen by the affected individual and Rachel and cannot physically interact with the world. Rachel can only make a person see something that isn’t there, she cannot change something that already exists.
Memory Bridge (Mind): By far the most advanced and tasking spell available to her, Memory Bridge allows her to relive the memories of others or share hers with someone else. The process requires physical contact and complete concentration, sending both Rachel and her victim into a trance-like state. Memory extraction time ranges from milliseconds to minutes, depending on the target’s mentality and training to resist such practices, but the more the target fights it, the worse their headache will be when she’s done.
Telekinesis (World): Rachel can manipulate objects at a distance by creating small, homogenous gravity fields. Applying its effects to herself allows her to jump higher, slow her fall or make small adjustments to direction mid air, but does not allow flight.
Due to its versatility both on and off the battlefield, she devoted a lot of time to practicing control and pushing the boundaries of this spell, giving her very precise control over the fields.
Pyromanipulation (World): Allows Rachel to create, extinguish and manipulate flames, from small sparkles to decent-sized fireballs. Utilizing the spell in certain ways with gloves on is not recommended, as Rachel found out the hard way during training.
Much like with Telekinesis, Rachel gave a lot of time to practice and improvement of this spell due to its on and off the field versatility.
Deflection (World): Summon's a rapidly shifting, head-height gravity field in a 90° angle in front of Rachel to shield her from attacks. Unlike telekinesis, Rachel cannot influence the strength, direction, shape or location of the field, but it's strong enough to alter the direction of incoming projectiles. Physical contact with the field is not recommended.
Aural implants: During training, Rachel’s ears have been severely damaged by an explosion. To restore her hearing, she was given cybernetic audio implants that can pick up and amplify distant or quiet sounds as well as lower the volume of loud sounds to protect what little remains of her biological ears, effectively making them better than before. When paired with an Omni-tool, the right ear implant can play audio files and receive transmissions, allowing incoming voice communication inaudible to others.
Without her implants, Rachel is for all intents and purposes deaf. Her left ear is severely damaged and her right inner ear has been completely replaced with cybernetics. As a side effect of this, disabling it will also make keeping balance much more challenging.
Ocular implants: Biotech implants in Rachel’s eyes mimic the tapeta lucida found in nocturnal animals, granting her better vision in low-light conditions. With the implants active, Rachel can only see grayscale and bright shades of green. The implants react to incoming light intensity and only work under a certain threshold to avoid interference with daytime sight. The implants only amplify existing light, therefore she will still be blind in a completely dark environment and the do not protect her eyes from bright light.
Polyglot: Due to her many forays into alien minds, she has become fluent in both written and spoken, albeit heavily accented, form of Rau've, Korta and Gill languages. The accent is caused by the differences between human and alien vocal cords, mouth structure and other body parts.
Fingersmith: Rachel's been stealing things since she was six. While the dark and crowded environment of Tranbiran habitats and the ability to move through crowds quickly helped, the main ingredient to that was a lot of hand-to-eye coordination practice and dexterity.
Swimming: Tranbir has no hydrosphere, it’s not going to happen. The first time she came into contact with swimming was a Commonwealth training camp. Once she can’t see, or at least reach the bottom, she’s not going in unless there is absolutely no other way. Being suddenly immersed in a volume of water larger than a tub will also likely cause no small amount of panic.
Firearms: The closest Rachel ever got to firearms, aside from being shot at, was watching others at the range. She’s never operated, let alone fired even the most humble coil pistol. She may try, but it just occupies her hands and wastes ammunition. The most lethal way she can use a gun is to send it flying at some poor bastard’s head with telekinesis.
Thief: She can’t help it. Whether it’s for practice or because an old habit is an iron shirt, when she enters a large crowd, there’s a good chance she’ll be a bit richer by the time she emerges on the other side. While that may not sound like a bad thing, as mistakes are usually few and far in between, picking the best target wastes precious time, not to mention it will draw attention should she get careless. At least she’s not a complete kleptomaniac, as she has enough sense about her to refrain from stealing from friendlies.
Short fuse: Due to the loud, free-spirited culture, patience isn’t the most common trait on Tranbir, and some may call Rachel one of the worst. While she’s learned to bite her tongue during her Commonwealth service, that only makes her worse when she doesn’t have to sit and take it quietly. Her way of dealing with bad mood only compounds this issue, as few have been known to bear with the snarky comments she uses to get over her personal lows and insecurities.
Short Bio: Born and raised in the capital of Epsilon Theta, Longannet, neither the neighborhood nor her family were particularly well off. And since a little girl couldn’t be employed, Rachel took to thievery to give the household an income boost. Over the years, she’s become proficient at sleight of hand, unarmed combat and getting from place to place without being noticed. Well, most of the time. Sometimes someone would notice, and so she learned to navigate urban environments quite well, often with officers at her heels. One day, she made a blunder, and one of the officers was faster. Upon her capture, the authorities took note of her agility and resistance to questioning. It wasn’t long until her holding cell was visited by men in armor instead of policemen - the last time she saw her home.
Rachel was sent for “augmentation”, which lead to a fear of needles, and assigned to intelligence. Along with another group of children with similar predispositions, she was engineered and trained to enter and exit any compound, negotiate any terrain or obstacle and extract any necessary information from captives. Rachel was made to be a crossbreed of a black-ops operative and a master interrogator. And then the first tests came. Though considered a relative success, the group’s mind oriented capabilities were weaker than expected. Fearing the possibility of being disposed of, Rachel picked up basic electronic engineering in an attempt to increase her value to the Commonwealth.
Sent to a recon and deep strike team for further training, her outer-colony origins certainly didn’t make her the team’s favorite. Fortunately, there was one other person, a child soldier on tech support duty, in a similar predicament - a Venerian girl named Lucinda Cain. Though Sol-born, Lucinda was nonetheless shunned due to her extensive cybernetics that, in combination with mind magic, allowed her to interface with and rewrite almost any computer system she had previously familiarised herself with. The two quickly formed a sister-like bond, keeping each other’s spirits up in face of the hostile squadmates in addition to the standard horrors of war.
At Proxima, the team was sent to board a Rau’ve electronic warfare ship acting as a jammer with the intent to disable it, allowing the human fleet to target the aliens at full range with more than thermal detection. But before they got even halfway through to their objective, Lucinda tripped a silent alarm she wasn’t familiar with. The boarding team was set upon by the Rau’ve shipboard security, the two child soldiers were abandoned by the squad and Rachel was captured.
In captivity, the former thief awaited her inevitable execution for the horrid things she was forced to inflict upon captured aliens at the Commonwealth’s orders during her training. Against all expectations, she and those like her received good treatment, which greatly aided her recovery. However, she couldn’t return to normal life, if “return” was even applicable. She didn’t know much besides thievery and war, despite the efforts of some of her alien captors, or rather saviors. All of this pushed reason aside and fanned the flames of vengeance that lay dormant at the back of her mind, and seeing an opportunity for revenge, she took it.
Personality: While her Commonwealth file describes her as 'distrustful, abrasive and hard to work with' due to spending her childhood as a thief, she wouldn’t go that far. She’d call herself 'careful when dealing with people'. Though she does usually prefer to stay unnoticed, she recognizes she will need a few friends to get back at those who took her life away. To this end, she is willing to put her distrustful careful attitude aside, in spite of her fear of losing yet another person close to her. Though it may take a while for her to overcome it at first, it’s not impossible, as sometimes she may be heard fondly reminiscing of 'a dear friend' from the war. Once she warms up to someone, this fear of losing the people close to her drives her to be a little overprotective of these people, often to a fault.
She’s about as cheerful as someone who grew up just above the poverty line and got kidnapped by the government to fight in a war can be, adopting a cynical worldview, gravitating towards dark humor. While she still has no problems with theft, she draws the line at needless killing. Having already killed so many during the war, she’ll try to solve problems in a non-lethal way if possible now that she has a choice.
Planetary Bodies: Tranbir - A gas giant comparable in mass to Jupiter and the only noteworthy feature of the Epsilon Theta system. Tranbir has a belt made up of rock fragments and ice, suspected to be the remains of a moon similar to Enceladus, in addition to over eighty moons. The second largest of which, Tranbir-IX, is the only inhabited body, not counting several orbital refineries, and serves as the system’s capital.
Location: Epsilon Theta is a border system on the inner edge of the outer worlds. It borders a few other Commonwealth systems near the outer edge of colonized space, far from any other powers.
World Type: Tranbir-IX, shortened to T-IX or just Tranbir for convenience, is a barren rock with no hydrosphere and a dense Nitrogen atmosphere. Due to its heavy core, the gravity is quite comfortable to human life. Prior to being stripped of resources, T-IX was rich with copper and gold. Now, only countless shafts crisscrossing T-IX’s crust remain.
Classification: Class K
The Civilized Populace: Terran
Population: Last prewar estimate states around 25 million, but high death rate among the poor and unchecked migration during the war leaves its accuracy in question.
Tourism: Epsilon Theta is a glorified gas station. The only people that ever go there are either immigrating workers, freighter pilots hauling ice from the belt away or warships coming in to refuel.
Society: Tranbir-IX’s entire population lives in subterranean “habitats” dotted around the terminator line - former gold and copper mines that were widened and converted into underground cities, all of which are separated into different levels. While the layout and number of strata of each habitat differs by depth and population, they all follow the same general pattern:
Strata A - Being closest to the surface, Strata A contains spaceports, fuel storage and cargo spaces. It has no habitation modules.
Strata B - Strata B contains high-class housing and entertainment, and the only place where the inhabitants can own their homes. Only people who live or work there are allowed to enter this strata.
Strata C - Strata C contains rental housing of decent quality, as well as all educational facilities.
Strata D - The middle ground between lower and middle class, this strata of the moon’s capital was Rachel’s home. The biggest difference from Strata E are private bathrooms and kitchens for every apartment.
Strata E - A low-income strata with shared habitation modules. The bottom of society.
Strata F - A desolate strata inhabited by lowlifes and the homeless, but watched over by the best guards to keep the shaky peace. Generally not a good place to be, no matter if you're a thief or a model citizen.
Each strata is further divided into sublevels following the same convention - the upper ones are more affluent than the lower ones. There is another strata below F, an unofficial “Strata G” where all of the waste from the habitat is dumped. Strata G is inaccessible due to its toxic environment with the exception of HAZMAT geological teams regularly checking the integrity of supports and the occasional black market smuggler. Due to the mining origins and nature of the entire system, the local dialect incorporates many mining and geology terms. As all Tranbirans live underground, schools include mandatory safety lectures dealing with geology, air quality and other hazards.
“You talk too much. Our ancestors came up with a nice, simple word for these occasions, it’s the word ‘no’.” she rolled her eyes at Rook’s response just in time to see something in the sky. A dot at first, but quickly getting bigger and bigger. Soon the dot had arms, legs, thrusters...
As if this couldn’t get any worse. It almost sounded like the start of a bad joke. ‘Two former child soldiers, a giant, a merc and a battlemech meet outside a prison ship...’. “Ye’ve gotta be takin’ the piss here!” she groaned somewhere between frustrated rage and utter terror, hastily repositioning to put something between herself and the third newcomer. As if it would be of any help against that mountain of metal and death. Somehow she doubted her telekinesis would be enough here. And she thought things have gone out of her league before. At this rate, the entire Ascendancy Fleet would show up in the next five minutes.
Fortunately, this one seemed to be a fan of poetry as well. If poetry meant a friendly, then there was now a good chance they might make it out alive even if Tiny decided to do something stupid. On the condition that this bright red beast could fit into the ship’s corridors. “Nice entrance.” She regained some of her composure and stepped out from her cover. “Did you rehearse that, or is that just the way you roll?”
The appearance of yet another armored suit, this one somewhere in between Rook and the Red Baron, made her seriously doubt the life choices she’s made over the previous year. It was only when the suit’s occupant spoke did she breath a sigh of relief. “Finally!” It had to be the big guy, no one else spoke in an accent even weirder than that of Arcturus. She was relieved when Kelan didn’t trust Tiny either, yet at the same time disconcerted when he mentioned a hostile encounter with one of his buddies. True to her word, she’s kept her eyes on the newcomers, though mainly Rook, and thus hasn’t noticed the damage Belial’s suffered. “Careful, big guy. I heard a high-powered railgun shot just before the defecation hit the ventilation. Any helpful sensors on that thing that might tell us whereabouts he might be hiding?”
Rachel didn’t expect the girl to flinch at her question, though given the situation, being intimidating was a good thing, as the Giant could attest. Guess she learned something from her Ascendancy ‘squadmates’ after all, even if it was just barking at others. Then she spewed out something about looking for allies and her name, followed by a passphrase straight from a book of poetry. “Whatever happened to the good old days when passwords were pseudorandom strings of alphanumeric characters?” she sighed.
“Wait wait, are you seriously suggesting we implicitly trust two people that literally wandered out of the sodding woods?” she asked John, her gaze now shifting between Narvia and the Giant. The latter’s unique method of approach left her a more than little worried for her safety, which only amplified the general distrust of other people she has developed during her days as a full-time thief. “Ugh, you’re the leader,” she groaned, then addressed Narvia and the Giant, “but I’m not turning my back to either of you.” For foreman’s sake, John, now you’ve made me volunteer for a rear guard!’ she thought.
And what was that about ‘Secret regiments’? What was John going on about? Then it hit her. Shortly before the start of the mission, he mentioned he could see all magic. Damn it, another unwelcome variable, one that could potentially make this girl even more dangerous than the Giant. Rachel was feeling more and more out of her element with each passing second. At least Narvia claimed she didn’t want unnecessary bloodshed. It was a shred of good news, whatever her word was worth. She turned to the giant. “Alright, that’s three claiming peace. What about you, Tiny?”
She should’ve just died at Proxima. Walking into that airlock would’ve taken two seconds and it would have spared her from dealing with this crap. First a tank, then a giant, now this barely legal merc, or whoever she was supposed to be? She let out an exasperated sigh. “Too many freaks, not enough circuses, who the bloody hell are you supposed to be?” she snapped at Narvia, only briefly glancing her way, sizing her up. Between her and the giant, Rachel thought it was clear who was the bigger threat. Had she known that Narvia possessed magical abilities, she wouldn’t have decided so easily. Fortunately, she sounded utterly clueless, if not outright scared, though Rachel was not a massive fan of the drawn, albeit lowered sidearm.
But the current situation warranted the brainstorming of contingency plans if the unknowns got hostile. One or the other could probably be defeated with little trouble. Both, not so much. Another ugly variable was the way those two would interact. It would be just splendid if they were hostile to each other. The girl seemed easy - telekinetically snatch the sidearm and set her clothes on fire. They looked flammable enough, though she wouldn’t know unless she got a close look at the fabric. Either way, hair burned well as a fallback option.
The giant would be a bit problematic. In theory, he should go down using the same method. But his hair was covered by his helmet and his demeanor, and the fact he so casually shared he had backup, either meant that he underestimated them, or he had a very good reason to be this confident. ’The sharpshooter...’ she realized, remembering the single shot she heard at the start of this shitfest. That particular problem was twofold - first, was he on the Giant’s team? Second, if he was a marksman, they could technically reach him. If he was a sniper, he was probably miles away, out of sight, but certainly not out of mind.
She turned back to the giant. “That gunship was already gone," she growled, "poor bastards just didn’t know it yet. And your little show of force wasn’t necessary, he was no longer a threat.” she referred to the gruesome execution of the escaping soldier. Maybe this band of mercs had appearances to keep up, but if the Ascendancy reached this wreck and found a bloodbath, the easiest thing for them to do was to blame the public enemy number one - aliens, or even better, the ‘xenos-loving Moonstrike rebels’. That would be some fuel for the Ascendancy propaganda machine.
Rachel was about to throw a railgun dropped by one of the downed soldiers into the gunship’s engine intake to bring it down when someone’s literally knocked it out of the sky in such a horrid manner it made her look away for a moment. It wasn’t the first time she’s seen a wall painted with someone’s blood - heck, she’s done that more times than she could count - but there was something gut-twisting about this specific instance.
“I’ve got our six, keep it up!“ she called out to the team. Between John’s disarmament trick, their reinforcements disintegrating, the tank’s offensive capabilities severely limited and the wailing of their fallen comrades, the morale and fighting capability of the Ascendancy soldiers guarding the ship plummeted. With the extra breathing room, she cast a ring of fire around the unknown intruder to gain his - its - whatever’s attention, though the flames went out almost immediately as there were no flammable materials on the floor.
“What, the fuck, are you?” Rachel stressed the ‘what’, moving away from the tank’s line of sight and dropped to a lower, defensive stance. As if it would help against something that could throw a man with such force. That Ascendancy soldier, who she assumed was thrown by the exosuited new arrival, hit the ship with enough force to turn him into coal on impact. She was visibly poised to lash out should the giant get too close. And friend or foe, she surely wouldn’t shed any tears over this one’s demise.
Rachel was momentarily taken aback by John’s display, never having came into contact with a high magic user before. Though she was glad she wasn’t the only one going out of her way to reduce the bodycount. After all, all carving a bloody path through the known universe would accomplish is bring the hammer down on them sooner.
With both the Ascendancy soldiers and the tank preoccupied by John, she took the opportunity to take a good look around. But aside from fallen soldiers, many still alive, but out of the fight due to numerous fractures courtesy of her favorite fighting technique, there wasn’t much that could be used against the tank. “Maybe next time you should do the stuff you actually were quite good at during the war, not the stuff they had you do when your abilities didn’t turn out to be to their liking.” a voice in the back of her mind nagged at her. No doubt the infiltration team was enjoying their stroll through the ship. If only they’d hurry up. Unless…
Rachel’s gaze fell upon a soldier shuffling away from the fight, missing his helmet and dragging his leg behind him. Best candidate around. She reached out and watched with slight amusement as the poor sod tried to grasp why the gravity suddenly shifted from ‘downwards’ to ‘backwards’. Upon realizing he came to rest at the young rebel’s feet, he scrambled for his sidearm, only to have it break free of his shaky hands and land in Rachel’s palm. Her hand swooped down at his unprotected face and he braced himself for another painful strike. Except it didn’t come. Instead, the young insurgent just touched his forehead, there was a brief strange feeling and that was it. Little did he know she’d just relived half his memories since he entered boot camp.
“Thanks,” she said, tapping her temple with her left index finger, triggering her mind control spell. “Now scram.” The soldier pulled himself up without a word and limped away. “Tank’s CO has got a blind spot between the turret’s fifth and eighth o’clock. Probably the best way to approach.” she called to her teammates. She used the fact that most people were paying attention to the unchained mass of white liquid instead of her and moved to a different, slightly elevated position. In addition to ‘reviewing’ the basics and learning the orders of the local Ascendancy forces, she learned from the soldier’s mind that the tank was equipped with incendiary infantry suppression charges. The soldier she ‘questioned’ seemed to believe it would prevent anyone from getting close to the tank, a view likely held by the tank crew as well. They wouldn’t like it when the anti-personnel lining would not ignite upon firing. She only wished she could influence the tank commander’s mind directly. “Think one of you can open that tin so I can get to the crew?”
Height: 167 cm Weight: 70 kg Hair: Black Voice: Sean Chapman (Michael Sykes, Crysis)
Title: Major Role: Military, Away team leader Organization: Corps of Royal Marines Skills and qualification:
Small unit tactics
Mountain, arctic and expeditionary warfare.
Mountain leader officer
History: Larry grew up near Plymouth, in close proximity to the Stonehouse Barracks of the 3 Commando Brigade. After gaining his bachelor’s degree in electronics and communications at the University of Plymouth, where he also gained an advanced PADI qualification offered by the university, Larry joined the Royal Marines and passed the Potential Officers Course and entered the Royal Marines Officer training. During this time, he’s shown impressive endurance and an uncanny ability to navigate almost any environment.
It was for this reason he was approached after completing the training with an offer to take part in the Atlantis Expedition. The then-Second Lieutenant Pickett was sent to Atlantis via the McKay-Carter bridge and served in Pegasus between 2006 and 2009 as a member of Atlantis Reconnaissance team 9, a team focused on exploration and rapid response. In 2007, he was promoted to Lieutenant. When the Atlantis’ hyperdrive failed during the escape from Lantea and the city collapsed the shield to save power, his team leader was killed by vacuum exposure while escorting a pair of scientists trying to repair the city’s power grid. Command of AR-9 fell to Larry and he kept the post until Atlantis returned to the Milky Way to intercept the Superhive.
Following the dissolution and subsequent reformation of the expedition at the hands of the IOA, he did not return to Atlantis. Instead, in addition to the annual winter training in Norway, he took part in several exercises in Belize over the course of the year, gaining further experience with jungle operations. In 2011, Larry was sent to the middle east as part of Operation Herrick, adding arid environments to his resume and going on to serve several tours until the end of 2014 when the British forces pulled out of Afghanistan.
In the four years following the end of Larry’s involvement in Afghanistan in October 2014, he attained the Mountain Leader Officer qualification and was promoted to the rank of Major.