Act I: The Exile
445 P.C.C. (2570 A.D.)
My hands struggle to write these words. A small act, far removed from the first time I defied Them, yet still I cannot control the ebb. Knowing each action I take could be my last—but I diverge. It is the four-hundred and fourty-fifth year since Their reign began—the Cormedites—and by Their will, the fate awaiting me and others the same is death. To keep alive the histories of what came before Them is no easy task, but you must be made to know…
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You exist for the Cormedites
You shall die for the Cormedites
All is done to preserve...
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Divided into territories by the Cormidian armies after the War, what we once knew as Earth no longer exists. Mankind tried everything at our disposal to destroy what we had created...and in doing so left our conquerors a cold, fallout filled world. Placing Themselves as Gods over what remained, the Cormedites began gathering and subjecting the few humans who were left. Those deemed worthy were given protection and allowed admission into the Their camps, while the rest were turned away and abandoned to the waste. Within the habitable parts of each territory They built colonies, only the largest of which retained true Cormedite overlords. Lesser colonies were given into the hands of lesser men, each swearing an oath to remain loyal to Their regime. To provide resources for Their colonies, The Cormedites began building small, isolated outposts throughout the galaxy...referred to collectively as the Outer Rim. These too are ruled by men, and the Cormedites seldom pay them mind...so long as they continue to pay tribute in resources and manpower. It has been nearly half a century since their rule began, and it would seem that no end is in sight. Cormedites—the name had once been a play on their original purpose: the “Corporate, Military Elite”; but now it is only synonymous with the horror and corruption They have inspired. Created in the image of God, man, and science, They were our greatest achievement…and They have all but destroyed us.
Antoniv the Apostate,
Leader of the Resistance
Chapter One: The Six to Midnight
469 P.C.C. (2592 A.D.)
Dawn breaks over the broken stones of the waste as the exile awakes. His eyes open and though he sees only darkness, he can sense morning has come. The warmth of sunlight on his face would be a welcome contrast to the stone walls surrounding him, but he knows no light will reach him til past noon. That light would be weak...dying, a cruel jest thrust into the hopes of any prisoner still clinging to barren dreams of freedom. Ten weeks had passed since he entered the Void. Ten weeks in a cell, surrounded by earth and iron, with only the sounds of the other condemned to console him. It would have broken a weaker man, but the Exile is strong. He raises his head slowly; a vain attempt to keep the iron ring around his neck from shifting. He ignores the pain. It is nothing. He curls his shoulders and as his arms extend he listens to the soft rattle of the manacles around his chafing wrists...soon to leave permanent marks; formed with intent. Though these were his body's only motions, the Exile's mind was active. He counted the number of steps each guard took when they made their rounds. He counted the number of seconds between one guard, and the next. He could hear them coming before he could even make out their shapes in the dark. He could smell the fat guard even sooner. He listened to the other inmates, what they said, and what was said to them...He listened to the screams of the ones who did not obey. Only the slow, rythmic rise and fall of his chest betrayed him for not being the statue he seemed. Silence was his warmth. Force of will was his sunlight. Footsteps echoing above him brought his focus back to the present. As the sound bounced off of the cavernous walls towards him, he prepared himself for whatever would come next.
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"Wake up, Exile". It was the fat guard. He rattled the Exile's chains with the butt of his rifle. The Exile winced as the vibrations of the metal links rattled and slapped against his skin, and the guard laughed. "Does it hurt? Good. It's supposed to. Those scars on your wrists will forever betray that you are scum, Exile. I hear no one lasts a month in the Outer Rim...and I hope they gut you the first day." The guard waited for an answer, but the Exile said nothing. Robbed of his sport, he slid the Exile’s rations through a small rectangle cut from the bottom of the cell door. Hard. Hard enough to send it shooting into the waste pail on the other end of the cell, spilling it’s contents across the floor. "Enjoy breakfast...Sheriff says it's your last."
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The Sheriff was the real power here in the Void. In truth he answered to the Warden, but the Warden was too busy pandering to President Arguno and the rest of the Colony’s powerful elites to pay any attention to what went on inside his own prison. The Sheriff's official title was the ““Head of the C.D.R.D. Interrogation and Penalization Unit”. He was ruthless, and he savored the role... he loved to make a point that everyone broke, eventually. Everyone. The Exile, however, had proved difficult. For nearly a week he resisted, refusing to confess to the crimes they had falsely accused him of: destruction of Colony property, plotting to assassinate leaders of the Council of Justice, and treason in the highest degree. His will was strong, but the Sheriff broke it. Everyone has a weakness, and the Sheriff found the Exile's. It was evening when they broke him. Or maybe it was morning...one loses track in the Void. It was the same room. It was always the same room. This time the room was nearly empty. Bare walls to his right and to his left. The same mirror and door on the far wall. Chains had been slung over a rusted metal bar across the ceiling, and the battery clamps in the corner drew an intake of breath from the prisoner. "Not today, Exile." The smirk on the Sheriff's face suggested something much worse was in store for him. Anxiety gnawed at the Exile's mind, and his thoughts raced to uncover what it could be that they had planned for him this time. In the end it didn't matter. The Sheriff's cruelty was far outside the fathoms of what the Exile's own imagination could spawn. Guards escorted him to the door at the far side of the room, next to the mirror. He had seen the door before, but he had never seen the other side. He had never seen someone go in, or come out. He suspected it was a more than just a mirror...most likely a window into the first room for those in the second. Perhaps someone was recording the interrogations. The Warden? The Exile almost laughed. The door opened, and he saw a single chair, facing the room they had come from. The guards led him to the chair and forced him to sit. His suspicions about the mirror confirmed, The Exile watched as The Sheriff brought a new prisoner into the first room and secured him with the hanging chains. His face was obscured. As they attached the battery clamps to the new prisoners body, the Exile felt a sick feeling grow within him. The Sheriff pulled off the prisoner's hood. Before the first arc of electricity sent them flying upwards, the Exile looked into the frightened eyes of his own father.
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"He's gone." It had been so long since he'd spoken, the sound of his own voice almost startled the Exile. More footsteps above him. The fat guard again. He could already smell him. Was it midday already? Two guards. No, this was something else. They reached his cell door. "Alright, Exile. Your time has come." Slowly, they led him up the narrow stone staircase hewn into the sides of the Void. The Exile gazed down into nothing. Truly there was no prison quite like her. Taking her name from the giant, conical chasm extending deep into her lower levels, she housed notorious criminals from all over the colonies. 'Cells' had been built into the sides of the abyss itself, spiraling downwards into darkness...no one but the Sheriff and the Warden knew how deep they went. Prisoners through rocks into it from time to time. Even the Exile had tried it. But there was never any sound announce their projectile's arrival at the bottom. For all they knew, there was no bottom. The Void was just that. A void. It had always been a formidable place, but in the hands of the Sheriff it had truly become a house for the damned. They had reached the door to the upper stairs, the Void's walls on their left. Just past the doorway the steps stopped and leveled out into a small platform over the crevasse, lit by a single spot light. The Exile took a last look above him at the screamers dangling out over nothing. The screamers were the Sheriff's favorite toys; an invention of his own devising that he seemed to never run short of uses for. They were large metal bird cages, suspended over the Void on motorized chains like the egg sacs of some monstrous robotic spider. Hanging death traps. The platform held a control panel that allowed you to move them back and forth across the expanse. They were mostly used for executions; the Sheriff would simply put a prisoner inside and position it out over the gorge. Then he'd drop the floor out from under them. Sometimes you could hear the screams for over a minute. They never really stopped; they simply faded away over time. But this bored the Sheriff; he was much happier when the quicker prisoners held on to the bars forming the walls of the cages, struggling to keep their grip and pleading for their lives. He made bets on when they would fall. The fat guard smirked. "Getting sentimental?" The second guard laughed. "Through the door, Exile." The Exile remained still. One last time, he gazed into the Void. I will return. And you will all pay with blood. Upon reaching the top of the upper stairs, the group made their way down the main detainment hall. Comprised of a hundred yard row of cells, the detainment hall sat directly underneath the main C.D.R.D. base within the government district of the Colony. Halfway to the end of the hall, they made an abrupt right into a side corridor. "This way Exile, to the transport station." He looked to his left, a door. They kept walking. He looked to his right, another door. They kept walking. Another door on the left...it was the room.
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When he awoke, the Exile was deep within the Void. Did I confess? They had kept him in the detainment hall before. He knew the Void was for dead men walking, and exiles...he looked at his wrists. The handcuffs. He must have confessed. Why can't I remember? The last thing he remembered were his father's screams. Exiles were sentenced to a ten week containment period before they were to be transported from the Colony. Exiles were sent to the Outer Rim ...and were never heard from again. Things were different in the far reaches of space, without the rigidity of Cormedite control…anything and everything was fair game. Why can't I remember? The last thing he recalled were his father's screams. After that, nothing. What happened? He heard yelling above him. The Sheriff's voice. It grew closer. "Arguno should never have sent him here! He should be dead already! If this fucker.." The Sheriff stood before the Exile. "How are you already awake!? Fuck you for Arguno protecting you, why he won't let me kill you is beyond me. I'd barely started to have any fun, and you come barreling out of that goddamn door like a fucking hell hound. I don't know how you got past two of my guards. You even broke Jenkin's jaw." The warden peered through the bars at the Exile, as if he were waiting for him to explain himself. "The fat guard has a name?" A spasm of anger crossed the Sheriff's face. Even in the darkness, the Exile could see him turning purple. "I don't know why they pulled me off you. They should have let me put you down. They should still let me put you down. But if they won't...I still know how to break you, Exile. No one cares about your life. No one. And no one cares about his, either." The Sheriff pointed towards the platform, far above. The Exile craned his neck to see. He watched as the guards led a hooded prisoner out onto the platform and forced him into a screamer. The Exile's mind went back to the room. The Sheriff's laughter cut through the dark like a finely sharpened knife to silk. “Take a long look, Exile! It will be the last time you ever see him. And do you know what else, Exile? I want to watch him burn!” “No!” The Exile strained against his chains, as if he could rip them from the walls with his own raw strength. “I’ll do anything! I'll confess anything!” The Sheriff laughter became almost maniacal. “It’s too late, Exile! But hey, at least you get a front row seat!” He turned and motioned to the guards on the platform, ignoring the Exile’s pleas. The Exile watched as the screamer slowly moved across the Void, until he could no longer see it against the dark backdrop of the gorge's other side. Suddenly, the Sheriff stopped laughing. And as the echoes of his laughter rang hollow in the blackness, the screamer with the Exile's father inside burst into flame. Nothing short of wild, animalistic rage consumed him. A scream rose up from within his chest, and erupted into a roar that sent shivers through the spines of every inmate in the Void. He fought even harder against his chains, but to no use. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he screamed curses at the Sheriff. The Sheriff simply smiled and stepped back into the darkness. The last the Exile saw of his father was a burning corpse, falling into the nothingness of the abyss until it disappeared.
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No man should ever have to live through the trials and tribulations I have. The Exile stared down at the marks forming on his wrists. His eyes were drawn to the brand on his arm above them, the words of the Cormedites that had been seared into his flesh the day they had taken him in. The Cormedites were the true reason for the Colonist’s way of life. We live as maggots of the earth. We are nothing to them. It was a thought many had expressed to him before; but now the Exile understood the machinations behind such a feeling. Burning family members falling to their deaths into a black hole of nothingness can do that to you. Jenkins sneezed. It sounded painful. The Exile smirked. "I said move, Exile. I would have thought you'd had enough of that room." The second guard shoved the Exile from behind. He stumbled forward and the group began walking again. They had reached the end of the side corridor. Double doors this time. The guard scanned his ID, and the doors before them opened unto a dimly lit boarding platform. A forboding tunnel opened to either side of the platform, and the Exile soon realized the approaching sound he heard was the prisoner transport. As it came to a rushing stop before them, the guards beckoned for him to get in. "Even when you leave, they won't let you see daylight" he thought to himself. "Bastards." The ride was uneventful. Almost painfully so. And silent, save for Jenkins wheezing breathing through his nose. When the transport stopped and the doors opened, the Exile finally felt the sunlight he had craved for so long. Damn. Had it always been this bright? Before him was the government sector of the Colony's docking bay. Beyond it stood the shuttle that would take him off world. With each step his feet seemed to grow heavier...weighed down by memories as his mind scrambled to recall the series of events that was his life thus far. A brief summary of nothing special. Is this really the end? As the shuttle doors opened and the Exile stepped inside, a familiar voice sent shivers down his spine. He turned, and there was the Sheriff. Is this really the end? Jenkins shoved him through the entryway. The Sheriff stood and looked him up and down. The Exile returned his stare. Anger boiled up inside of him. He wished he could take that intangible anger and turn it into a very real, and tangible sword. To murder him with. There was a look in the Sheriff's eyes; they seemed almost genuinely happy. "Ah, Exile. You didn't think I'd really let you live, did you? I have order's from higher up. Even Arguno can't stop me this time. You'll be dead before we even reach space." Is this really the end? The Exile felt a sick feeling begin to grow within him. It was only the beginning...