Meet the Crew of the Stormchild ... and the monsters they will face
Some would say that Alain has lived a privileged life. He is twenty years old, the son of a wealthy couple, and someone who has never known what it is to want for anything. Yet he has known loss, and hardship. When his parents passed away in an accident he was still in his teens. He inherited the family fortune and the responsibility to care for his younger brother Dex, and rose up to the challenge admirably. He resisted the urge to squander his wealth in lavish trips to Haven Prime, instead setting aside a fund for both himself and his brother, donating the rest of the family inheritance to charity. As soon as he graduated from high school he enrolled in Haven VII University and chose medicine as his career path. His goal in life was clear: he wanted to become a psychiatrist so he could help others. Starting with Dex.
Alain knows that Dex is special. Dex can see things. He knows things about others, things he couldn’t possibly have found out, as if he were somehow able to pluck the thoughts from their minds. Unfortunately, Dex’s strange gifts carry a heavy price. He needs to be alone, isolated from others, and a mental institution in the Psychiatry Wing of the Electorate Research Compound is the only place where he has found peace. Alain hates to see his baby brother stuck in a cell, even if Dex insists that it doesn’t bother him. Maybe, after Alain becomes a psychiatrist, he will be able to figure out is what is going on in Dex’s mind. For now, though, his plate is full. He has to juggle demanding studies, a high-maintenance girlfriend like Marie, and the occasional bike torus race while making time to visit Dex as often as he can. He knows it will be worth it, though. This is the path he chose for himself, and he is happy to meet its challenges head on.
Except destiny had other plans. And when the Night of the Swarm came and Haven VII was all but destroyed, Alain wasn’t prepared. Not even a little.
Dex has always been different. He always knew it, on some level, but as he grew older the divide between himself and other people grew wider and wider. Not that he minded. Solitude has always been what he’s liked best.
These days he interacts with very few people. It’s okay, though. He has board games to keep him occupied in his cell, several computer terminals with access to more knowledge than he could ever hope to memorize, and a window that lets him look at the sky every now and then. It’s better this way, and he knows it. Before he came to the mental institution to stay for good, he would sometimes say things that made people uncomfortable. Things that made others look at him with suspicion and fear. Those were sharp emotions. It hurts just to remember them.
At least Alain still comes to visit. He’s the one person in the world to which Dex feels connected, and he’s glad that Alain doesn’t think him crazy. His older brother still wants to help, though. It’s why Alain is studying to become a psychiatrist, even when Dex knows there’s really nothing wrong with his mind… Well, except for the whispers. They’ve woken Dex up a couple of times in the night of late. They are very faint, and impossible to understand. It’s almost as if the sounds weren’t human.
Marie is beautiful, and she knows it. Not that she hasn’t worked hard for her looks. That would be stupid. She’s serious about fitness because it comes with her lifestyle – becoming a famous dancer isn’t easy, not even when her father is one of the most influential politicians in the Electorate of Haven VII. She has never cared much for politics, though. There’s too much deceit and far too little glamour. Marie prefers the straightforward honesty of the dance floor, where it’s only the music and her performance guiding the hearts and the eyes of her audience in any direction she wishes to take them.
At twenty, she knows she is probably too young to get married, but when Alain popped the question she said yes. It was unexpected, but beautiful. Alain had the whole thing planned beforehand and he convinced all of his geek friends from the Medicine Faculty to perform a flash mob dance for her. Marie was delighted, even if the actual performance hadn’t been very good. It was the thought that counted, though, and it had been a true surprise. Not even her best friend Rain had told her about Alain’s plans, and Rain was in on the entire thing.
Secretly, Marie is incredibly relieved that Alain proposed. He has been acting distant lately, almost doubtful. He’s not as affectionate anymore, and once Marie walked in on him crying, sitting alone in the living room of his huge lakeside mansion. He was holding a tablet displaying a picture of himself taken a few years earlier, where he was standing next to another teenager with dark, bushy eyebrows and a mean frown. Nikos. Marie asked him about it, but Alain insisted that he was only feeling melancholy because of how things had changed from when his parents were alive.
Marie comforted him that time, and gently but firmly took the tablet away from his hands. She chose to believe him, squashing her simmering doubts. It was probably nothing to worry about.
Doctor Joachim Mauer is the foremost pioneer in the research of the creatures he chose to name skolopendra in honor of the extinct centipedes which they closely resemble. As a behavioral biologist, the discovery of an extremophile life form that is able to seemingly thrive in the arid wastelands much of the world has been reduced to is thrilling. Even though research source material is limited to vague reports and video files from scouting drones, he has been able to start building a comprehensive picture of this new arthropod species.
His conclusions have been rather unsettling.
The creatures appear to be extremely hostile and remarkably resilient. They display behavioral paradigms consistent with swarming organisms. A live specimen has been impossible to capture, and for some reason the Electorate has denied again and again his request to send a research team out into the wastelands to gather more data. He has even gone so far as to request the assistance of Enforcers in order to ensure the safety of the scientists outside the walls of Haven VII, something he is now regretting. An armed platoon of Enforcers has come into his lab to ‘assist’ him, although just in what fashion remains a total mystery.
If the creatures weren’t so fascinating, Joachim might just be alarmed by the subtle but unequivocal signs that something big is happening around him. Something that has the Electorate on edge, almost as if they feared an attack of an invisible force which could strike at any moment. Something that may or may not have a distinct link to the ferocious creatures he is desperately trying to understand.
When the great cities of the world fell, Kyrios was already ancient. Its origin is shrouded, Its intentions unclear. It watched over humanity, hidden, unnoticed, for thousands of years. But the great Cataclysm came, and with it a desperate need for a savior. Kyrios revealed Itself to the bedraggled survivors. It built Havens for them, thirteen in number. Haven Prime to Haven XII. Its help was received with awe and boundless gratitude.
Yet, as years became decades, gratitude turned to suspicion. Suspicion became resentment. Kyrios’s motives have always been a mystery. Is Its surveillance of the Havens the benign watchful eye of a concerned caretaker, or the relentless gaze of a tyrannical overseer? Some people have begun to question the extent of Its power and influence. After all, an artificial intelligence, no matter how advanced, can never understand what it truly is to be human. Or so they think…
A movement has begun to stir in Haven Prime, and from there it has begun to spread to other Havens. Its extremist members call themselves the Brotherhood for Human Sovereignty. They decry the constant presence of Kyrios in every electronic device, every windblown nanite with an active sensor that feeds back into Its vast network. They view the mechanical Mantid sentries which patrol the streets with hostility. The ancient symbol Kyrios uses to brand all of Its physical manifestations, fraught with meaning of sacrifices forgotten to history, has become the first casualty in the simmering conflict of man versus machine. Brotherhood members deface it at every opportunity. They wear it crossed over in T-shirts and laugh openly and those who dare to defend Kyrios out loud.
Kyrios has seen all this, and allowed it to come to pass. It knows it is the natural flow of things, like the rising and ebbing of the ocean tides. There is a much greater problem occupying Its vast mind, after all. Something is wrong in the world. Something deeply unsettling is stirring in the darkness, a thing with no shape that bears the unmistakable mark of the cold void. Kyrios prepares Itself against an attack It knows will come, although when it will happen is impossible to predict. Even for Kyrios. It knows one thing for certain, though. When the time comes, It will be the only thing standing between humanity and total destruction.