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Valentina Barbaro and the Echoes of Empire — An Interactive Adventure #5

November 10, 2021
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The Celestial Claim Land Presale begins tomorrow, November 10th. To be notified early via email, sign up at Echoes-of-Empire.Game.

Part 5 — Celestious Nox

Every now and then, Valentina crossed through a region of space that was a little more dangerous than that controlled by the usual penny-anty warlord or trumped up space pirate. In the case of Celestious Nox, it was because of the Miasma. Empire Cartographers had studied the Miasma for generations and were largely uncertain of its purpose, sentience or even its composition, except to say that it was made up of a high-energy, viscous, hyper luminous material that lured unwary pilots and ships to their doom. That’s not to say Celestious Nox was a deserted sector of space, there were entrepreneurs aplenty, rich asteroid belts and mining colonies built along the razor’s edge of the Miasma. It even had a space-base or two, hastily built to support the mining communities. One of the largest was referred to as “Old Nox”, an ancient Imperial Hub and one of a handful of Mark 1 tracking stations still online, to this day desperately trying to peer through the stellar Misama that slowly cut off the Empire from the rest of the galaxy.

It was a hard run getting out of House space and into the Ember’s Grace star cluster that led into Celestious Nox. A couple of hastily plotted jumps put some much needed distance between her and the Garrison, landing her dangerously close to the pulsing edge of the Miasma. Valentina hated to push the Asterias that hard, but it was the only way. For a brief moment she even thought she might have given the Garrison the slip but her revelry was interrupted by a loud crack followed by a series of whumps, alerting her to the presence of several Garrison fighters as they dropped out of FTL and raced toward the Asterias. If she was going to make it out alive, she’d need more than just fancy flying.

As you’d expect, the Miasma had produced quite a bit of space debris over the centuries, and Valentina took advantage of it. The pilots behind her were trained for war, but she was a smuggler. Learning to smuggle meant learning to lose a tail. They might be more skilled flyers, but the Garrison wasn’t up to speed on all the dirty pirate tricks that Valentina had learned to live by.

“Right, the first order of business,” she muttered to herself and ran her fingers over the console calculatingly. “Let’s start with flares and mines. See if that gets their attention.”

They were expensive, but worth it. Valentina flipped the switch and watched as thousands of miniature space-mines deployed from the back of her ship. Larger orbs floated among them. A press of a second button triggered the flares, and Valentina smiled to herself. Bright flashes pierced the darkness of space and, as they were meant to, gave away her position.

Four Garrison ships shot towards her. They hadn’t opened fire yet, and she was hoping they wouldn’t until she chased them off. She didn’t want to kill them, but it wasn’t like they were going to try and bring her in alive, no matter what they claimed. She was going to have to cripple their ships, or lose them long enough to jump out of the system.

The flares threw smaller sparks of light in every direction and shot in circles thanks to the tiny rockets affixed to each little sphere. The blindingly bright flares made it very hard to see the little mines Valentina had released at the same time.

With the vacuum of space to buffer them, Valentina couldn’t hear the small explosions, but she knew those mines and she knew what they did when they hit a ship head-on.

When she looked back, one of the ships was gone, and another was listing hard to one side. One of the mines must have hit their stabilizers, because the pilot seemed to be struggling just to keep their ship from drifting further into her impromptu minefield.

Good. It was hard to fly with a ship that wouldn’t go in a straight line.

With two down, Valentina was feeling more confident about her chances. She honestly hadn’t expected to get two of the four ships with the mines.

Now that they were distracted, she took her ship down through the space junk that lined the approach to the Garrison base. It looked like the half-gutted wreckage of a huge cargo ship, and the hull of it was more than big enough to fly through without so much as brushing the sides. Valentina wove through the wreck until she spotted an opening ahead, then cut hard to the left. It was a tight fit, but she hoped that the sudden course change would startle the smaller fighters behind her.

Just to add insult to injury, she fired a second line of flares into the wreck. They were bright inside the thick, crowded darkness, and with luck, the disorientation would be enough to crash another of the Garrison fighters.

When neither of the ships emerged from the wreck, Valentina sighed in relief, but didn’t relax. She hadn’t seen that first ship get destroyed after all.

“I just had to think it,” she muttered when she caught the glint of thrusters and picked out the shape of a Garrison fighter against the nearest star. It was moving slowly, but it didn’t look damaged. Either it had made it out of the wreck, or it had avoided the mines in the first place. Now it was looking for her, and the smaller ship was powerful enough to destroy the Asterias if it got a clean shot. Her ship was a cargo ship with some creative additions, not a Garrison fighter with Military-grade hardware. “Okay, fine. Time to try something different.”

Before she could reach into her bag of tricks again, tracer fire crawled across the bow of the Asterias, and within seconds, set off alarms throughout the ship. The pressure shield clamped into place as Valentina cursed, and cursed again when she realized that the oncoming ship wasn’t alone. The crippled ship wasn’t as crippled as she hoped, and had her dead in its sights. Valentina hammered the thrusters forward, taking the Asterias into a tight roll and heading straight past the second fighter, back towards the wreck. She needed better cover as she warmed up the engines for a longer jump.

Entering the wreck gave pause to her pursuers and just enough time for Valentina to plot an actual course across the ecliptic.

Clearly, something had gone wrong on that last job, and she wasn’t about to let that slide. Valentina punched in the coordinates for The Crucible. While it was still in the Ember’s Grace star cluster, it was a great distance from Celestious Nox and far outside of the Garrison’s patrol range. Better safe than sorry.

Valentina slammed her hand down on the console. She’d head to Mateo’s home at the Crucible. Smuggler stories said visiting the Crucible uninvited was an evil omen, but Valentina had never been the superstitious type. That old information peddler might know why she had a target painted on her back, and that info was worth a visit to red sky.

Part 1 — Kepler’s Remnant

Part 2 — Sovereign Protectorate

Part 3 — Lightspire

Part 4 — Shepherd’s Void

Echoes of Empire is a 4X strategy game by Ion Games. Players will begin their journey in Kepler’s Remnant, a zone within protected House Space. Follow along with Valentina as she traverses a galaxy rife with intrigue and danger.

Learn more at the Echoes of Empire Website, and sign up for the Celestial Claim Land Presale that begins on November 10th!