A Science Fantasy Space Opera

  • Nobles of Null is a forum based roleplay site where sci-fi and magic collide. Here, Earth remains fractured and divided despite humanity reaching out to the stars. Worse still, the trans-human slaves of one major power have escaped, only to establish their own Empire, seething with resentment at abuses of the past. Even the discovery of aliens, though medieval in development, has failed to rally these squabbling children of Earth together with its far darker implications. Worse still, is the discovery of the impossible - magic. Practiced by the alien locals, nearly depleted and therefore rare, its reality warping abilities remains abstract and distant to the general populace. All the while, unseen in the darkness of space, forces from without threaten to press in. For those with eyes opened by insight, it is clear that an era is about to end, and that a new age will dawn.

Chapter 10: Vipers Amongst the Sands

Ray of Meep

Administrator
2320, Mid-May

Earth, Iran, Taybad

For most of human history, the Middle East has been a cauldron of cultural exchange and conflict. Countless empires rose out of the mountains, and rivers of this place, then died, blood dyeing the water red and staining the white and yellow sands. The environmental collapse of the 21st century did the region no favors, further fueling conflict as the inhabitants fought each other for increasingly sparse livable land, while outside opportunists were more than happy to aid all sides in the bloodshed, in exchange for what little wealth they had left. By all predictions, the Middle East was to become as hot as Venus and as barren as Mars, with skeletons of man and civilization buried, a permanent, painful reminder of all of humanity's vices and failures.

Yet, by the miracle of life itself, civilization persisted in the Middle East throughout the environmental collapse, and continued onwards. As the divided regions were integrated into the superstates of the planet, state-of-the-art technology, fusion power plants, solar arrays, hydroponics, were sent in. Icy asteroids were dropped from orbit to keep the region hydrated. Underground cities were constructed to shield the denizens from the heat. It was a messy affair as conflict continued as airships and cargo trucks brought supplies in, but the outcome was irrefutable. Humans were here to stay.

Taybad itself was a small city on the border between Iran and Afghanistan. Like most cities in the region where the heat was at its worst, much of the city was underground in concrete chambers, while the old city along with ceremonial buildings remained on the surface, painted white. Hilly ridges, sand, and long dried up farmland dominated the surrounding landscape.

The Lancers were currently aboard a Stymphalia VIII, currently under cloak, and escorted by two drones. It's been a few hours after they packed up their gear and left their headquarters in Sicily. Without its cloak, the Stymphalia VIII had a sleek, black look, the articulation of its rotors taking heavy inspiration from the ancient Osprey design of the AU. As the Stymph gently lowered its altitude, aiming for a clear patch of land on the outskirts of the city, the pilot remarked. "Surface temperature is more than half way to boiling point. I'd keep those helmets on out there."

A team of local peace keepers were already waiting for their arrival. Their equipment was similar to that of the Lancers, painted in desert camouflaged colors, all wearing helmets with visors completely covering their faces, along with armor plates. However, unburdened by the need for a tight seal and radiation resistance, the suits beneath the armor were slimmer, without body gloves.

Through the transparent visors, the Lancers could see that the team was made entirely of locals: a mix of Persian and Arabic men and women. One of the feminine figures walked up to greet them as they stepped out of the Stymph. "Welcome." She remarked in her Farsi accent, using Commonwealth Common. "I'm Captain Atossa of Xerxes Squad. Thank you for helping us out here."
 
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The Middle East held a lot of bad memories for Juan. So many people had died here, and so many of them he'd liked. Not to mention the shitty circumstances that sent him there in the first place. It was just as hot as before, this literal hellscape. Juan hated it here. He hated this job for sending him back. But he put a diplomatic face on to talk to the local fighters. "Captain, good to see you. How bad is it and where do you need us?"
 

Ray of Meep

Administrator
"Let's head into the city first." Atossa replied. "It's not particularly safe out here in the open, with all the snipers on the ridges." She remarked, as she led the group onto armored shuttles that brought them into Taybad proper.

Along the dusty streets, there were a few cars crawling along, most of them grey or white, with solar panels on the roofs. Soldiers were dotted along the buildings, doing patrols and talking to the locals. On the occasion, the Lancers could see pedestrians walking out in the open sun, wearing bright white hoods and robes to ward off the deadly rays. Underneath the hoods where helmets with clear face masks to keep heads cool. There were even children on the streets, playing football, getting yelled at by drivers. Even after several centuries, some things apparently don't change.

There were subtler anomalies though. The broken window. The burnt remnants of a small explosion, staining walls and the ground black in its radius. Bullet holes sprayed across a door and wall.

Two soldiers guarding a small building saluted Atossa as the group stepped out of their shuttles. It seemed well fortified, replacing the windows with steel plates, sensors and cameras dotted along the walls and the roof. The first floor had a cozy atmosphere in contrast, with traditional wooden floors and patterned walls in Persian fashion. If it weren't for the armed soldiers milling about, the interior could easily been mistaken for an office complex.

Atossa brought the group down into the basement, where it was more militaristic, patterned walls giving way to plain white ones, harsher white lights replacing the softer yellows. Atossa stopped in front of a planning table in the middle of the room, bringing up a geographical map on the screen with several marked points on it.

"A few weeks ago Traditionalists launched a surprise attack on this city. With no aid at first, the local police force surrendered without a fight. Fortunately civilian casualties were light. We were brought in from Mashhad, and the occupation by the extremists looked to be over. At first." Atossa explained. "Then there was a guerilla warfare, as we had to go through every building in this city to stop them from assassinating my men and burying landmines everywhere. Eventually we rooted them out and forced them to group up here." Matossa pointed to an elevated point in the city. "The local Abrahamic church. All evidence points to them making a last stand here. The folks here have requested us not to use airstrikes or heavy weapons on the building. That's why we brought you in. You worked in space, right? Where everything's made of cardboard compared to stuff on Earth? I'm sure you can help us take the building without damaging it too much."
 
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