"Who is there to love, anymore? Is there anyone?" —Austin Walker
While Kingdom Come creeps through the dark, the Golden Branch explodes into violence and betrayal. In the peripheries of the sector, the Golden Branch Demarchy, the Hands of Grace, and the Rapid Evening seek to secure the power necessary to survive what's to come. On Counterweight, the Golden Branch's beating heart, Minerva Strategic attempts to undermine its rival, while Ibex's Righteous Vanguard makes its presence known. And in the shadow of September, an unseen threat sails on a sinister vector.
This week on COUNTER/Weight: "A Special Kind of Warmth"
Are you going to just stand still?
Thirty days ago, on Counterweight, the room already smelled musty. The automated cleaner units Orth Godlove left behind did an admirable job of keeping the room free of biological contagions, but they did nothing to make it comfortable, let alone pleasing, to be in.</p>But Ibex brings his own aroma wherever he goes, and within the first few steps of his arrival, the memory den took on a refreshing fragrance. The cleaner bots moved aside, lifting up their air scrubbers like trumpets announcing his arrival. He puts a hand on the old hero's head. It's warm; that special kind of warm that means that things could move in any direction, if pushed just so.</p>Ibex was familiar with that heat-- he'd practiced controlling it, bringing it from balmy to boiling to bring down a state, cooling it from scorching to sapid to ruin an economy. If you wanted to move history, you had to first learn to be comfortable in that mercurial warmth.</p>He glided from one station to another-- the press of a button, the flip of a switch, and then a cord, pulled from its socket-- and there on the bed, Jace Rethal struggles, desperate to feel cool air.
Ariadne holds a public demonstration on Gemm, agitating on behalf of the Golden Branch Demarchy. Fortitude attempts to disperse the demonstration, but instead incites a full-scale riot. Fortitude is heavily damaged in the chaos.
The Rapid Evening launches drop-pods from Kesh to Minerva XII-A, containing deniable assets in the form of a small space marine unit, led by Kiva Hellsing. The planned use of the troops is to disrupt Minerva's mining operations.
The Minerva Strategic Alliance executes a soft takeover of Petrichor's Counterweight-based marketing team through recruiting disgruntled employees. Minerva then uses the marketing team for a campaign making it fashionable to wear a different face, which defeats Petrichor's facial recognition and marketing technology.The Hands of Grace activates stealthed psychic assassins on Sigilia, utilizing Sigilia's true alien tech to give the assassins a form of precognition.
Centralia's Memorial Square has never been a quiet place-- at least, not since I've been here; since the end of the war. The inconsistent architecture seeks to combine the improbable whirling of Diasporic construction with the focus-tested blocks and spheres of OriCon (every curve so algorithmically studied that it was transformed into a hard line), and all of that, built on top of the ruins of Apostolossian marble.
The result is a space that echoes sounds in strange, discordant ways, but that day, something strange happened. In the park at the core of Centralia, a new cadence had taken hold. People laughed, and when the laugh bounced from building to building, it didn't twist; it amplified in joy. As vehicles moved by, blasting music through the park and the streets, the songs took the architecture into themselves, so that each note was performed at a new venue, an intimate stage.
The rumor that day, was that he'd speak soon, there, where he pulled the statue of Grace down, shattered her hold on the Diaspora. Here, in a single symbolic gesture, he'd add his voice to the concert. And then he did, and though I know that this is how it works, I feel that even now, years later, like he looked at me, looked through me, and demanded I see in myself the best version of who I thought I could be, and he demanded I be that person.
Watching Ibex take the stage was a strange moment for all of us on Counterweight. All of the hope, and so little vision towards the cost of change. There was one man in the crowd, though-- his curly hair already growing back-- who knew all too well how expensive transformation could be. But Jace knew something else, too-- maybe better than anyone else on the planet; maybe better than anyone else in the sector. He knew that living the same day, over and over, was cowardice dressed up in pragmatism. And finally, he was done being scared.
I remember that it was warm that day; a special sort of warm. I remember, because when Ibex pulled away that fake sky, when I looked up and saw the burned atmosphere, and the way it distorts the stars, when I saw Weight in all its beauty, I shivered. And then he saw me-- Jace did-- and the warmth came back. People cheered, but I barely remember that; I barely remember the speeches, or the music, or the food, or the dancing, or that night; but I remember the warmth, and even now, I hold onto it. One vice. One gift I let myself have. The warmth.
Atax Dawn, member of the Rapid Evening, signing off.