The young Dimension Walker Nigel had made a grevious error. In choosing not to innoculate the Quall against the Neliff and limiting the antivirus of Yoba Sabot created an immediate power struggle. On the Planet Refuge, Holys the Chronomancer had set his Hiveking to control the many hives.
During this Month of Shame, as the Quall, the E-strain and the Unity refer to it, they were his unwilling tools and Holys showed them he had true control.
All except the Cult of Ayx. Queen Ayx had protected much of our timeline during the Month of Shame. Her Hivemind and her subordinate Queens were protected from Holys. But the protection meant they were the primary target preventing Holys full control of our timeline. And Holys would not let it rest.
Nigel meanwhile was aboard the vessel of Quall Captain Grynngrenn in the leadup to the month of shame. He was sent to learn from I.R. Lieutenant Arthur Damsk, and on Damsk’s team was experimental Mu Brethren Clone: Project Hourglass, and Damsk’s loyal Omega Brethren, Churchwood. The pair had kept Nigel safe on previous missions, but both had grown increasingly in despair as they experienced just how short and brutish the lives of Brethren really were.
Churchwood had taken to drinking. Onboard the I.R. Century class frigate, the only safe source of booze for a Brethren was the Beta BlackMarket, run out of the top bunk of the few Beta Brethren that had survived multiple missions aboard the vessel. The booze was high proof, fairly unhealthy due to contaminants, but tasted great and dulled the pain long enough for Churchwood to handle his missions. Yes the Omega was becoming a functioning alcoholic, but his lieuftenant didn’t care. Churchwood got things done.
Churchwood had a less positive relationship with young Nigel. He saw the youth as being in way over his head. But Churchwood also knew that nobody was going to listen to a Brethren’s opinion on such topics, so he returned to the bottle.
It was on one of these drunken trips to secure some booze that Churchwood was walking with Project Hourglass and the pair stumbled upon the young Nigel trying to steal a ship. Nigel blamed it on orders from the Quall Queen Qu’oa. Little did Churchwood or Hourglass know, but the High Queen Qu’oa sensed the coming danger of Holys and hoped to prevent the Hiveking from claiming young Nigel and the Larvae in his head.
But alas, Damsk, Nigel, Churchwood, and Hourglass would instead find themselves far from home and far from friends…
Alongside Nigel was his caretaker, the enigmatic Lainey Hayden. Together with Damsk and crew, they left the faux-safety of Captain Grynngrenn’s Frigate and took a small starcraft far across Iron Republic space to the polar expanse. There they found the oldest and most famous space station still acting as a hub for all species. It was Central Station, orbiting the old pole star of earth, where they tracked down information brokers who could and would provide them information on the missing Yoba Sabot.
Their reasons for hunting Yoba Sabot were widely varied. Nigel and Lainey Hayden were seeking the yellow blob to return him to Qu’oa’s hive. But they would not end there, in fact if left to their own devices they would force Yoba Sabot to submit to Quall implantation fully. They constantly broadcasted back their location to Yobak Hivelord, and the Hivelord followed a few hours behind…
Damsk, Hourglass and Churchwood were aiming at different goals, they needed to find Yoba Sabot and use his secrets to alter the balance of power, restoring Humanity and the I.R. Board of Directors over the Quall Hives. It was a profound power struggle and it played out between the elements of the team.
The other Beta Brethren onboard simply didn’t want to die.
With information in hand from the information brokers, the I.R. Heroes left Central Station behind them. Using special authorizations, Damsk got them past the orbital defenses and landed them safely on the penal colony called “Refuge”.
It was a dangerous visit. I.R. officers were killed on sight on the Penal colony by the prisoners. Those with Quall larvae like Nigel were destroyed in acid baths if captured by the natives. In fact the only place where an I.R. or Quall person might find acceptance was in the Tarrisian Free State in the baronies controlled by Iron Republic Retired Sector General Stark.
Here in a Gornenham Castlekeep on the border of the I.R. and EEF territories in Tarris, Lieutenant Arthur Damsk met illegally with General Angelus Vulfrym. Vulfrym led the elite Lions of Earth. The Lions of Earth had been trained in Dunesphere in Church of One “techniques” before coming up to Tarris for training against Technomagi, E-strain and Akunan. They were elites, but only loosely part of the EEF command structure, with more personal loyalty to General Vulfrym than to the colonies or the EEF at large. Damsk had heard rumors back at Central Station that these Lions of Earth were totally focused on fomenting rebellion back on Old Earth.
Damsk knew this was a terrible idea. The I.R. kept Earth as an example, in the two millenia since claiming Earth, the I.R. had destroyed planets and even entire solar systems to make a point of their own power. They had countless weapons, including planetkiller missiles, that could eliminate Earth overnight. If Earth really rebelled without buying its freedom from the I.R. first, it would be obliterated along with any Lions who were there.
Nigel and Lainey knew from their hivemind connection that each of the major Quall Queens had a few Quall I.R. Officers stationed at various Dome Cities on earth. If signalled by the HiveQueen Council, the Officers would simply cause the planet to erupt in enough places to kill all human life, but leave the rest habitable to Quall and those bearing their larvae.
But neither faction within the team was foolish enough to tell that to General Vulfrym and his Lions of Earth. Let them believe they can win, it will make them willing to negotiate.
And negotitate they did, gaining access to the bombed out suburb of Deloittesburg in the heart of the Tarrisian Free State. They left immediately for the burg, leaving the Lions of Earth and their General behind them.
Deloittesburg had been a site of war since before the Border Wars of 2217. The Akunan plague had been spread there by Nanoplague Giants sent from Tal Hanon a decade ago. The populace hadn’t bounced back, they had gone into hiding.
Fighting off Akunan techn-ghouls was a daily fight in Deloittesburg as it had been, and as it would be.
It also made Deloittesburg a perfect training ground for the terrorist group known as the Sons of Yantuk. An army under the cloner in charge Amdis, Damsk was blown away that a full underground army was here in Tarris. An army that stated it was loyal to the Iron Republic, as long as the Iron Republic placed Amdis, son of Yantuk on the throne as Emperor of Refuge, as they had done for his father Yankuk for six months during the year 2218.
Damsk made no promises but they used these Sons of Yantuks allies to get Yoba Soba turned over.
Fighting off techno-ghouls convinced Damsk and team they should leave this hellish penal colony as soon as they could.
With Yoba Soba in their control, Damsk and crew launched towards orbit.
But in orbit things went sideways. The ship nearly crashed into a cloaked Da’uhnb Observation Station, and Nigel used the opportunity to slit onboard at his Queen’s insistance. With Yoba Sabot and Lainey Hayden, the Observation station went into temporal lockdown.
In the Queen’s final gambit to save Nigel she had delivered him to the only place safe from Holys’ mental control. As the Hiveking took over and began the Month of Shame Nigel was safely in lockdown.
But Nigel made a foolish choice, and tried to escape instead of waiting as his Queen had wanted. He breached the temporal lockdown, and was immediately taken control of by Holys.
And Nigel became a slave to the Hiveking, and the last of Queen Qu’oa’s freed larva was infected and poisoned by the power of Holys and his Hiveking.
Eventually Gilox Teddyheart (the larva in Nigel’s head) burst forth as a whole Quall, and yet due to Nigel’s unique genetics Nigel regenerated from the wound. 99.99% of humans would have been consumed in fire and flame, but Nigel was unique. The Quall immediately began using Nigel as a gene source to produce re-usable hosts…
But the horror of the Month of Shame was complete, and the balance of power in the Quall Hives shifted permanently.
The Cult of Ayx began to plot, because they alone were free from Holys will. And Holys set Nigel out to defeat the Cult of Ayx at all costs…