Written by Dan Oles
Planet Athena is one of well over a zillion worlds humankind has colonized, specifically a 'squatter' planet of low priority for the ruling Consortium, low enough that colonization is accessible to settlers of limited means
or a desperate desire for freedom.
Whereas poor terra forming, dangerous wildlife, unfriendly natives or poor resources define other squatter planets, Athena has a little more complex history behind its status. To power through space, wage war, build settlements, and explore ever further into the universe mankind has built many, many machines with varying purposes and designs, but like all things these devices are not eternal. To maintain the raw materials of literally millions of broken or worn out robots, space ships, and other mechanisms, Athena was designated a scrap yard world, where the junk of the surrounding planets could be stored in great piles until Consortium officials could be bothered to melt it down for reuse. However the strain of running a multi-galaxy empire means some projects get lost in the shuffle, and for many years the scrap yard of Athena has sat in the desert environment, corroding to rusted mountains and canyons of forgotten metal. Likewise the neglect of The Consortium allowed several groups of settlers to live on that arid planet, making a good living through hard work and taking advantage of the absence of control to live their lives by their own terms. Several settlements now exist in the more fertile parts of Athena, abutting the mountainous wasteland of the scrap yards. Here came to rest tired soldiers, people of simple pleasures or anger against the Consortium and society, renegade pilgrims, wanted men and woman, archeologists, and fortune hunters.
And these in turn brought their families.
The largest settlement is called Sanctum; the closest that Athena has to offer in terms of true civilization. Here not only are their buildings but modern amenities, robotic service, well tended farmlands, nearly everything Consortium planets can boast of, but none of the sanctions, taxes, and restrictions those would demand. Here the Becker family has lived for several generations. The youngest child of the family is a rambunctious but good-natured boy named Tyler.
Sanctum being the largest settlement is also the home of the ruling council and planet administrator, the aged but just Ferris Asher who has made it a point to keep Athena's colonies neutral and free, not just of the Consortium but also of internal debates. The most pressing matter is the rise of an ideological society calling itself The Advance, devoted to freeing the robots of the colonies from human control and allowing their A.I to make free decisions, as well as their dogmatic pursuit of genetic perfection. It's been twenty years since The Advance has subsumed several prominent settlements and bent them to its will, but he will make no decision regarding them at all. Some council members see merit in joining the advance, especially the ambitious councilor Sabian Hart, but Asher has maintained diplomatic neutrality.
Then one night the unthinkable happens.
A massive force of soldiers and war machines bears down upon Sanctum. Normally the massive walls, force fields, and security measures of the city would keep them at bay, but inexplicably all systems have been sabotaged from within, and now nothing stands between the armies assault except the poorly trained and equipped peace keeping forces, who are all but destroyed to a man after only a token resistance. The very robots that once served the people of Sanctum now rise against them as well, only hastening total defeat.
When the dust clears and the living are separated from the dead, Lothar Pace arrives; mastermind of The Advance. This attack has been their doing, but they come not as horrid destroyers, but as emancipators to usher in a new way of living to the survivors. The Advance has not only developed ways of shutting of the inhibition controls of robots, allowing them to act on their A.I's own volition, but also knows of an operation to make chosen individuals genetically perfect. These hyper-evolved 'Paragons' were the same that ripped through their forces so easily, shrugging off all but the most grievous wounds and retaliating with incredible reflexes. This power will be granted all those who prove themselves sufficient servants to the regime. To represent the goodwill of The Advance, councilor Hart was allowed to retain his position as a governing influence in Sanctum. Since many of the other councilors had been killed in the raid, Hart was now second only to Lothar himself.
Unknown to The Advance however even as they secured the greatest settlement on Athena, there had been a last ditch effort by some of Sanctum's people to escape. Although many fugitives had been caught or killed, thanks to the sacrifice of several brave citizens a small cohort of children had managed to evade the prying eyes of surveillance drones and soldiers alike. Along with them a single soldier, Royce Shores, managed his escape as well. Having nowhere else to go, the renegades fled into the badlands, the scrap yards themselves, and hid amongst the mountains of rusting metal, inside the artificial caverns formed by ruined space ship hulls and massive pipes.
And in the years that followed, the soldier became first a surrogate parent and protector
and then a trainer and adviser as the children grew up. He taught them the cardinal rules of survival, of staying on the run and alive, of constructing their environment to suit their needs, eventually of combat. Royce unlike many citizens of Sanctum had traveled into the badlands before on patrol missions and so he knew something of Athena's fabled 'mecho-system'. This phenomena unique to the planet is a literal ecology of machines, perpetuating themselves, developing their units to fulfill different tasks, Some develop outside of their original functions, forming new clans that roam the scrap yards. Theoretically some of these robots might even be of alien origin. This knowledge of the mecho-system gave the renegades an edge for eluding The Advance. Robots can also be 'bred' using this knowledge, or trained to serve.
Then during one raid by Advance sweeper teams, Royce is separated and presumed dead. Barely into their young adulthood, the rebels find themselves without their guide and defender, forced to band together to continue on.
Not yet has the specter of the scrap yard renegades made its presence known, but with four years of self reliance spent gathering resources and strengthening bonds of brotherhood, the children of Sanctum are preparing to begin action against the ever expanding influence of The Advance. Spy reports have made two things clear; Hart betrayed his people to gain power, and The Advance's true designs stretch beyond Athena, the ultimate goal being the assimilation of the entire Consortium.
For vengeance, for justice, for the preservation of freedom, the scrap yard rebels will not allow that to happen
History: Son of a retired soldier who came to Athena in hopes of escaping the ever restricting ties to The Consortium. He was taken from a life of comfort on a core world, where his father was honored as a war hero, to the mostly barren wilderness of a backwater squatter planet and so knows both extremes of living in the universe. Ever curious, daring, reckless, and at times contradictory, Tyler was Sanctum's designated troublemaker, surrounding himself with several other children on his escapades to stir the stagnant life of the settlers. These followers included the daughter of Admin Asher named Katrina Asher (preferring the abbreviation Kit), a mechanic's son Edward (Ed) Mikula, Michael Collins who was the son of a security officer, the youngest member they babysat, Bindy (Brat) Peterson, and several other local miscreants. Tyler had very little in the way of mechanical skill or really any trade ability but he was strong, imaginative, and very agile. His natural leadership was his most distinguishing feature however and made many suppose he could have taken an administrative position, if his attention deficit disorder hadn't constantly sent him spiraling from one mess into another.
With the downfall of Sanctum, Tyler's personality deadened for a time and he retreated from his fellows to sulk. Since Royce was still alive he was able to serve as leader and allowed Tyler to mourn his father's likely death in peace. During this time Tyler came across a small, wiry robot, which imprinted on him because of his constant interactions with it. It took diligence and time, but Tyler managed to train the droid to respond to his commands, accompany him, and eventually to use its various functions to help him. He named the wild droid Spider, and his occupation with it eased away his loss and depression. He returned to the group and thanks to Spider proved the rarely tested theory, that wild robots of the mecho-system could be tamed. Other members of the scrap yard rebels trained wild droids of their own (with varying success) following his example.
Tyler is in his early teens as the story begins, gaining back his old spark of enthusiasm thanks to a renewed sense of purpose and his growing responsibility as unofficial leader of the rebels.
Relationships: Tyler originally stylized himself as everything his father wasn't: energetic, anarchic, and iconoclastic with no responsibilities or apologies. However when his father sacrificed himself to save Tyler and his brother (who was lost in the confusion and whose whereabouts are still unknown) the respect he felt for the old man brought about a dramatic change. Tyler now tries to live into what his father represented as a sort of penance, even if he has to constantly remind himself to do it when his rebellious spirit rises up. This includes relationships. His father and mother had a very formal relationship on the surface (although a very passionate one in private) and so Tyler's only reference to relationships at all is the veneer of a 'proper' acquaintance. He is heavily attracted on all levels to the admin's daughters Kit, but simply refuses inwardly to admit any attentions to her at all beyond her value as a rebel and simple friendship. Truthfully the strain of not admitting his fascination and deep affection for her makes it appear he doesn't care for her at all sometimes, making their relationship rocky but burn all the brighter at key moments because of the uneven ground its had to survive. Tyler is a bosom buddy with Ed, close enough to be brothers, shares a rivalry for influence with the hotheaded Mike, and has a mutually protective friendship with Spider.
Tools: Spider is a multi-function device, several generations wild. It's not of human make, or at least not recognizably, making some rebels believe him to be alien in origin. With adaptive technology and several sets of devices, Spider is Tyler's all in one tool, whether he needs a welding torch, most kinds of hardware, a distraction, an advance scout, and even a staunch defender since the bot is not only hardy (and can be reassembled after most damage) but is armed with powerful laser weaponry. Tyler also carries a jury-rigged shotgun like weapon and an unreliable pistol with a secondary 'ascension gun' grapnel option, as well as numerous pouches loaded with anything and everything he feels he might need.
you guys want to start a revolution?'
Katrina (Kit) Asher:
History: The Asher family were originally political refugees, escaping to Athena after a revolution in their galaxy deposed or executed the ruling class. Because of centuries of breeding and training Ashers are born diplomats and strategists, and Ferris Asher quickly established himself as Administrator of Sanctum, insuring his family could live in relative prosperity. Katrina like Tyler recalls well a life of better means on another world before being dragged to the desert planet where water is more valuable then gold. Initially she was quite spoiled, but as time wore on she came to appreciate the laxness of courtly procedure, playing into the role of a tomboy and deliberately slighting her father by hanging around with the notorious 'Becker kid' and his gang. Kit appreciated the opportunity to wreak havoc and misbehave, considering all the negative press against her family as a result just revenge against her father, who neglected her desires in favor of running Sanctum. She was at first not allowed into Becker's group because of her sex and the stigma that came with it, until she proved herself athletic and competent at causing trouble, as well as giving the street kids a taste of the high life with stolen delicacies from her mansion's table. She and Becker became close after several close shaves with local law enforcement, and when their similar backgrounds were revealed to each other the bond only grew stronger. Becker however would never admit to something as demeaning as liking a girl, and Kit was stubbornly against becoming nothing more then Becker's 'gal pal'.
When the night of The Advance arrived, Kit was told not to leave the mansion while Ferris went to negotiate with the attackers. Her highly paid security detail abandoned her when the army breached the walls and the only thing that saved her from capture or death was the intervention of beat cop Royce Shores, who literally carried her to safety. She was sent out of Sanctum intermingled with all the children that could be rounded up, through the escape passage way only they could leave by. Royce rejoined them later after his own daring exodus.
In the intervening years during which Royce was their guardian, Kit was in a state of shock, stripped of all ties to power and influence which she had learned to rely on. Likewise the increased distance between her and Tyler only deepened her loneliness. Royce coaxed her back into a sense of wellbeing, but a bitterness and fear of commitment lingered on in her personality, paranoia that no one could ever be loyal enough to defend her or keep their word and that every meeting meant a painful parting. When Tyler returned with Spider she understood how much the boy had meant to her, but was held back by his new conviction to upholding his father's memory, as well as her own reservations. To distract herself she set to taming her own wild robot. She discovered a 'brain' robot during her explorations; one designed to retrieve and dispense information, and tamed it to be her assistant. She named it 'Lady' and the device serves as a constant companion and accessible database for most information a rebel could ever desire.
Now with Royce gone Kit (being the oldest) has taken on the role of a den mother to the lost boys, as well as diplomatic head of the renegades when such a need arises. Kit is not very spontaneous despite her wide array of knowledge and knows that Tyler is a better leader for the battles to come for the little band. That doesn't mean she and he don't argue over leadership.
Relationships: Kit can sense a connection with a boy she's watched grow into a man, but will not acknowledge it because of pride in being separately distinguished as a woman of her own right not just a girlfriend, but also because of her ingrained fear of abandonment and betrayal. To Ed she's like a sister. To Mike she's a trophy he'd very desperately like to win, although he'd have no idea what to do with her if he succeeded. Coincidentally the distant but persistent relationship between Kit and Tyler is reflected in the attitudes of Spider and Lady, which lends more credence to the theory that wild bots can learn and mimic some of their master's personality. Kit is a bit headstrong, but it's this stubbornness and pride that make her spirit indomitable, never willing to give her enemy an inch if she can help it.
Tools: Lady is Kit's friend and all-purpose device. Although not quite as combat efficient as Spider, Lady can emit a short burst EMP, which makes it invaluable against dangerous feral machines. Because Lady is a brain bot, most of the planet's surface and structure schematics can be viewed with the click of a button, and several vision modes allow it to see through solid objects, determine life or heat signs, and project holographic images. Kit is an amateur mechanic, more skilled then Tyler, and so has more of her personal gear devoted to tools and spare parts then weapons and survival gear. She carries two pistols for emergencies, one of which she built and the other she was given by her father for protection.
Quotes: 'I can't be the only one here who sees how stupid that is.'
Edward (Ed) Mikula:
History: The Mikula's are some of the earliest settlers of Athena, not because of desire to live there but because they were part of The Consortium's early efforts to begin a disposal program for the scrap yards. His father was a mechanic assigned to the badlands along with other laborers to begin the daunting task of gathering, sorting, and expropriating the mountainous refuse, but an accident cost the man and most of his crew their lives. Ed learned his trade skills as a mechanic from his mother who was rumored to have been a prostitute before she meant his father, a stigma, which made the boy an outcast even among the lower element. However Tyler discovered the kid and learned quickly of his skill with devices and machines. Seeing this as opportunities for endless mischief he took Ed in as his second in command, and became fast friends with his partner in crime. Ed was never very clever in anything but technical matters, and perhaps it was this simplicity of mind, which made him amiable to most everything, lacking the same kind of vengeful drive his fellow gang members had. The infectious recklessness of his fellows, especially Tyler, rubbed off on him eventually and infused in his once retiring and quiet attitude, transforming him into a wild kid when he was among his companions. His mother who doted on him religiously was very concerned for his safety because of his daring escapade, but at the time he was having too much fun being valued and belonging somewhere to notice her concern.
On the night of the attacks, Ed's father shrugged off his long held vow never to raise arms for a city he believed to be corrupt, grabbed up a rifle and rushed into the fray, never to be seen by Ed again. His mother was the one who rounded up as many children as she could because of her knowledge of the escape tunnel, and to Ed's horror she too took up arms to sacrifice herself, slowing The Advance to allow the children's escape.
Ed was never a very deep thinker, but the stripping of everything he knew punched a hole in his natural optimism and laid back attitude. Tyler's brooding and refusal to see him only increased his anxiety and confusion to such an extent he rarely even spoke for several years, even when Royce tried to keep him preoccupied with constructing devices. On Tyler's return, Ed returned to his usual amiable and fun-loving self, but the time with his thoughts had deepened his thoughts and made him a much more contemplative person. Whereas Kit was clearly the brains of the rebels, Ed became its soul, presenting insights he could now access because of coming to grips with several shattering realities at once, and finding serenity someone inside them. He tamed a hardy little robot had named Block (because it can fold into one) which greatly aids his job of scavenging from the scrap yards, and building devices for the rebels to use.
Relationships: Ed is devoted to Tyler as if they shared the same blood. If he has any romantic feels towards Kit or anyone else they're guarded by his perpetual enigmatic smile, which betrays nothing of his feelings.
Tools: Block is Ed's second set of hands, a bullet proof barrier if the need calls for it, an observant partner in scavenging, and even a willing seat if he gets tired. Ed was always a mechanic from the beginning so his clothing is designed to carry and keep accessible many tools of his trade. He doesn't carry a weapon and refuses to learn how to use one since he hates violence.
Quote: 'Look on the bright side.'
Michael (Mike) Collins:
History: The Collins are old hands at the craft of fighting, but not for many years since the Verse Wars came to a close and The Consortium rose to power. Mike's father was a head of security for Sanctum in the glory days, a no-nonsense lawman who was famous for warning perpetrators once only, and needing only one warning. Because of the reputation as son of Athena's acknowledged badass hero, Mike was driven from the cradle to be a famed warrior in his own right. He was not helped at all by his slight build, short stature, and sickly disposition. Because of constant frustration, Mike was a bitter child who bolstered his flagging self-esteem by attacking others verbally and physically, or engaging in stunts to prove himself. All this posturing did improve his strength and resilience, but made him very unlikable and lonely. To gain attention he took on Tyler Becker, challenging him to a series of dangerous stunts and eventually an all out rumble. Tyler matched him in all events and during the battle Mike's envy drove him to come close to seriously injuring Tyler. But when law enforcement arrived, Mike did some completely unexpected. He took full responsibility for the groups' actions and damage to property, and gave Tyler and his friend's ample time to escape and set up their alibis. Because of his confession Mike was reprimanded, beaten, and grounded, but when he emerged Tyler actually offered him a place in the gang, impressed by his selfless action. Mike's pride only allowed him to 'tag along', but he became a regular face in the group of troublemakers, at times forgetting himself to lend a hand in their antics.
Then on the night of the attack his father and several other security officers left their posts. His father told him that The Advance was the way of the future, and that he and his fellows were betraying the old corrupt order to usher in the new way. He demanded that Mike join him, but Mike was too terrified by these events and escaped through a window. Wandering aimlessly in the war torn city he spotted his old friends and followed them to freedom outside the walls.
It was a jarring experience for the boy to discover his father, hero of Sanctum, was among the conspirators who caused its downfall. His confusion manifested as lashing out against Royce as a symbol of the authority he now mistrusted, and his insistence he was going to strike out on his own instead of playing 'kid's games' in the scrap yard. He never quite managed the courage and stayed alongside the rebels, even after Royce died, taking it upon himself to guard the 'kids' himself afterwards.
Mike lives in constant fear his lies about his father will one day fall apart, and his friend's will know that he's the son of a traitor. More fearfully, Mike sometimes wonders if his father was right to join The Advance. His own wimpy form sometimes tempts him to consider how great it would be to become a genetically perfect Paragon. But his loyalty to his rival Tyler, his burgeoning possessive affection for Kit, and prideful determination to be a better man then his father keep him on the rebel's side.
Relationships: Mike is on the surface as straightforward as a bullet. People are his command, his possessions, or his enemies, but unfortunately the way people think always upsets these ideals. The way Mike thinks too frustrates this simple worldview since at times he genuinely admires Tyler, a man who beat him and therefore should be his enemy. He's on the cusp of manhood himself and so Kit has ceased to be a disgusting pariah, but his attachment to her doesn't reach beyond his desire to own her and prevent Tyler from being near her. He discovered a mean tempered wild bot, which bristled with weapons and has thick armor. Naming it Arsenal he's had only some success making it obey his commands, but it's his constant companion as long as he doesn't strike it in frustration. Mike is in search of closure for his father's betrayal, and he still views the man with equal parts admiration and hatred.
Tools: Arsenal is well named. It resembles a four-legged animal, often compared to a cat, and can sprout at least twelve fully automatic machine guns from its back either when it personally feels like it or when it's inclined to listen to Mike's instructions. It can also launch explosive rockets, a pinpoint accurate rail gun, and comes equipped with retractable claws sharp enough to puncture steel. Mike himself is obsessed with defense and assault and so carries as many weapons as he could find and repair. Notably he has a sited officer's pistol, which his father gave to him, numerous other one-shot side arms which he's built or refurbished, several honed throwing knives, and sometimes a rifle he discovered, although it's inaccurate and tends to jam.
Quote: 'Out of my way.'
History: Sabian was a prominent council member of Sanctum and gained his position through popular consent because of his charisma and tact. His history is a unsolved mystery due to his never going deeply into it with anyone beyond some vague story about being an exile from a planet on the outer rim and allusions to prejudice against his people and a war. These memories were always so painful he would never elaborate. He was considered the one man who would never betray the Administrator among all other council members because of his deep loyalty to the man and the cause of neutrality.
Until after one expeditionary trip to the other colonies he returned a changed man. His ideals went from neutrality to appeasement and even incorporation of The Advance's ways. Asher placed him under surveillance reluctantly because of his sympathies, but The Administrator never took drastic steps to prevent Hart from speaking at council meetings, traveling, or anything else.
When Sanctum fell the councilors were located specifically and assassinated. Hart's survival was seen as providence instead of design, and even his appointment as second in command was not viewed with too much suspicion, mostly as proof that The Advance did have the best interests of the people at heart.
However truly Hart had planned the invasion months in advance, and personally given the order to sabotage the security systems.
The motives of Sabian remain as enigmatic as his past. He has refused the Paragon transference operation despite his being offered it because of his service to The Advance and seems content to run Sanctum as a puppet governor. He continues to give grand speeches glorifying the new rulers, and whenever Pace arrives to give a speech or make an order, Hart is rarely not at his side in the shadows.
Relationships: Hart has made mention on rare occasions of a wife and children he lost on the planet he was exiled from. Otherwise he has not appetite or time for pleasurable company, or company at all beyond meetings with Pace and officials of The Advance. Sometimes he expresses great and seemingly genuine shows of remorse for the people who lost their lives in the attack, or of the hard decisions The Advance enacts to further their agendas. If these displays are lies then Hart is a very, very good actor indeed.
Tools: His tools are his influence. Fifty hands of common men and robots will rise at his request and fulfill any task he desires. Hart very seldom does anything himself, preferring to order it done by others. He does carry a pistol and is an amazingly good shot with it.
Quote: 'Together we are. Together we shall be the light, the way, the advance.'
History: This man has gained enough notorority to become a legend, the spook story of a crazed cultist who butchers entire settlements at the head of his dark army. The man who arrived at Sanctum was quite different from the rumors; a swarthy man, medium build, piercing blue eyes and cropped hair, stubble, remarkable only because he was unremarkable. However whereas Pace had very little in the way of distinguishing features it was his bearing, the power of his voice, and his anger that held the attentions of any who heard him speak. He was capable of swaying opinions of the most devout simply by fixing his eyes and speaking in his collected by commanding manner. Lothar never ever seems to be the villain. All actions interpreted as villainous he continually claims very convincingly to have either ordered against his will or to have been done without his knowledge. Whenever he speaks its directly to the common people, firmly demanding that they do what is best for themselves but never seeming either a ruthless dictator or coddling father figure.
When he is obeyed it is usually out of respect, not fear. Because Lothar was one of the first successful Paragons, his poise and command only further advertises the benefits of The Advance.
As for his past, Lothar has not even shared it with his closest allies, and his earliest fellows only recall him appearing one day out of the deep desert.
Despite his powerful speeches, Lothar does not follow his own edicts, codes of ethics, and demands of his people. He sees no need to since a genetically perfect being like he is beyond petty human cares like morality or concern for others. Like the name of the movement he supposedly began, he seeks only the blind advancement of his way, the regime, and the perpetuation of the Paragon program. In private however he can be petulant, wrathful, suspicious to the point of paranoia, and very petty when it comes to slights against his power.
That's not to say Pace lacks conviction. Everything he does he fully endorses since he has done it; reason enough to his mind. He will willingly face pain, humiliation, and death to see his designs are met, his enemies disgraced and destroyed, and his legacy secured.
Relationships: None. Pace is the living embodiment of the best and worst of Paragon nature. He was the earliest subject and so is both the strongest and least stable of Paragons, but exhibits their tragically characteristic apathy towards the rest of the world beyond their own desires. Pace can fully play a man greatly concerned with someone and convince them that he is truly their loyal friend and endorser. Seconds later he can fire a bullet into their brain without a second thought, before or after, and never feel a twinge of guilt. Pace is both everything and nothing for his expanding regime, a caring leader to every person, and a distant wrathful god uninterested in limited human beings.
Tools: Paragons like Pace are not only faster, smarter, stronger, and tougher then humans but they can also manifest their mental prowess through physical action. With a thought Pace can halt a barrage of bullets, cast aside hurtling objects, throw a full grown man several feet, bend or break metal plating, and focus blasts of concentrated force to shatter iron, concrete, or even flesh to fragments. He carries a pistol for the purposes of quick defense and lingering execution. He has a robot assistant he refers to as '27' which resembles a young woman and which delivers speeches on his behalf at times, but possesses Pace's malicious streak, laughing aloud when she has the opportunity to inflict harm upon her master's foes with two automatic weapons stored in her back.
Quote: 'I believe in one thing only; the power of will.'