Wraith Reborn: Galactic Chronicles - The Loresworn Order

Jun
24

Wraith Reborn: Galactic Chronicles

This short story is part of Galactic Chronicles, an ongoing space opera based on our multiplayer campaign in Paradox’s space grand strategy game, Stellaris. Events and characters, while embellished heavily in some cases, are based on actual events and characters encountered during gameplay. These entries do not have to be experienced in a specific order, but the “Earth Standardized Solar Date” header will indicate where in the galactic timeline a particular entry falls.

This story concerns the United Global Alliance, a human government based on Earth. Learn more about them here.

[EARTH STANDARDIZED SOLAR DATE *CLASSIFIED*]

When you’ve spent a subjective forever immersed in coldness beyond all understanding, the real world burns like fire.

James Mason Graham O’Connor had been in reverie for time inestimable. Was he asleep? He found himself asking that question often enough that he’d assumed he wasn’t. Time passed in weird ways in the black. Most times, he was alone, left to shiver and freeze as he drifted in nothing. Other times, memories replayed before him…

The first birthday he remembered, Mom and Dad laughing and clapping for him, a tricycle, soy sweet cake with cream cheese icing, playing with the puppy…

Graduating Secondary at 17, looking dapper and sure in his uniform, feeling nothing but excitement and optimism at his prospects. Celebrating long into the night, losing his virginity while the Auto drove him and his date home…

Basic training. The sweat and the blood and the tears. The heat on his face and the ringing in his ears from live fire. The agony of basic interrogation resistance conditioning. The exhilarating head rush, followed by the sphincter-tightening terror, of zero-G combat training…

When the commandant had informed him he’d fallen short of standard, despite passing every test, doing everything he’d been asked. The only time in his life he felt suicidal…

Feeling reborn when Fleet Intelligence informed him of the ruse, the duplicity…

Feeling dead again when he became a deniable asset…

Raining down fire and steel as a Wraith…

James held on to himself in these moments with reminders of who he was in litany. He was a Wraith: mobile shock infantry deployed via orbital drop or infiltration into EHCEs – Extremely Hostile Combat Environments. Power-armored warriors trained to the the highest levels of martial prowess for one purpose: sow chaos behind the adversary’s lines, rendering the main assault by the UGA Marines and the orbital cannons of the Sharks, basically a clean-up operation. When wraiths did their jobs well, entire armies simply evaporated, and planets subsequently fell.

He, Lieutenant Commander James O’Connor, was a wraith. And he took comfort in that knowledge, in that identity, before allowing himself to fade back into slumber unending…

Until, with the pain and suddenness of an electric shock, James returned to the land of the living.

The soundtrack for his second birth, his liberation from the cryogenic womb in which he was entombed, was the hissing of Cryo-Myst being hydraulically filtered from the atmosphere around him, and his own coughing and gagging.  The tableaux of sensation rapidly shifted from being frigidly numb to being wracked with agony as the nanites injected into his system to prevent tissue damage were flushed via catheter. James had never, ever consented to being cryogenically frozen, and this rude awakening only reassured him in his decision.

There were various reasons people requested to go under. Usually, it was a luxury of the wealthy who found themselves with a terminal disease for which there was no cure available. Other times, it could be used to stabilize someone with critical injuries, or flash-freeze an infection of antibiotic-reistant pathogens. But there were always risks and unpleasant side-effects. James was not rich, and, to his memory, had never been seriously sick.

Why was he here? God, how long had he been in the cooler?

That sobering question had no sooner crystallized in his mind than fluorescent lighting turned his world into a luminous migraine. Retinas that hadn’t been used in way too long, that had been well and thoroughly chilled until moments ago, couldn’t handle the stimulation. James fumbled to cover his eyes, cursing all the while.

“Lieutenant Commander James O’Connor?” a gruff voice asked, the noise clearly filtered through some remote device, probably through a one-way window overlooking the thaw.

“Call me Jay,” he groaned in response. “Where the fuck am I? How did I get here?”

“Well, Lieutenant Commander… you died. Precisely when you were most needed. And thus, UGA Intelligence has seen fit to reclaim their significant investment.”

Jay lowered his hand, forcing his eyes to take in and adjust to the light, beheld the sterile, nondescript thaw ward he’d been brought back in. He let out a soft, ragged breath belying the sudden thundering in his heart and the sense of dread in his mind.

“You have my attention.”

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About D.M. Schmeyer

D.M. is a co-founder of The Order and co-developer of the Beyond setting, story, and characters. He is the resident renaissance man, an actor, author, gamer, JD, and martial artist, bringing his diverse interests and experiences to bear for the Order.

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