The camera turns on with a hum. A closeup on an eye, blinking with purpose, as punctuation to a muted lecture. The shot pulls back slowly to reveal the imperious visage of Ibex—Candidate of Righteousness—as he makes his presence known to the crew of the Kingdom Come.
The shot pulls back further, and we see them too in a cutaway of the ship. A dioramic view that reduces it in size. A reduction helped by the sheer force of presence of Ibex, which does not shrink as the camera zooms out, but grows.
We see Mako Trig and Aria Joie laid up in the medical bay. AuDy—the symbol of the Iron Choir resting on their chest—at the ship’s helm. And the lost Apostolosian Cassander Timaeus Berenice in the glow of the comms screen. And then a shot of Cassander’s face—just their face—determined.
A wave of pale green static tides across this view, and the camera retracts further now, revealing a second screen, watched by Orth Godlove, leaning forward in his chair, his suit too tight, his eyes straining. It has been a long time since he’s seen Ibex, and he knows what he has to do.
It happens quickly. Moments after the Candidate vanishes from the screen, Orth’s face appears and makes it known with haste there’s no time to argue. That the Chime needs to know who is gunning for them, and that they should meet him in Mesa, the dome that houses the majority of Counterweight’s OriCon population.
The flight is long, and by the time you arrive you are all awake, and aware, and concerned.
Mesa is overcrowded and the BluSky Dome here does nothing to improve the cramped feeling this place has. Nor do the final preparations for the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Golden War Armistice.
You’re guided through side roads and alleyways, and eventually you find a door down a flight of stairs and a building at the end of an alley. Then, you move through a set of door-lined hallways, each turn adjoined by a cough or a wheeze or a groan from behind one of the doors. And then you open a door, and there’s Orth, seated among a set of five medical beds, four of which are empty. And in the fifth, Jace Rethal, pale and bearded and asleep, and with Orth’s hand on his forehead.
He explains the situation quickly: “Righteousness and Ibex are threats, and you must learn what it will be to face them when they arrive. The last time anyone did such a thing was a decade ago—and now you will find out how that happened.”
He seats you in the beds. Attaches a wire here, a clamp there. And soon, your body isn’t. You’re someone else. Someone then. You are Jace, or Addax. You are Orth himself. You are Tea Kenridge, Queen-Captain of the Queen’s Gambit.