- Published: 26 March 2020
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Sword of the Xan
As it became clear that the Terran Sphere would have to yield yet another world to the Shohan, the Bard defense force and part of the TSN fleet refused the order to retreat. On open comms, Commodore Gerard Clairvaux, highest ranked surviving officer of the defense force, berated the retreating squadrons in stark religious tones for its constant cowardice, then rallied forces into a headlong charge against the Shohan forces. It was the last sight that retreating ships had of their erstwhile brethren. Almost all believed that Clairvaux charge, glorious though it might have been, could only have led to their deaths.
Despite appearances, the breakaway force did not die that day. Clairvaux adroitly lead his ships on a fast run through the Shohan forces, to the Grav Limit, and deeper into Shohan controlled territory. However, Commodore Clairvaux feinted yet again and ordered his ships to crash their waves in deep space before reaching the nearest star and backtracked, bringing them to Bard B and Hamlet’s moon Claudius.
As the ships settled into orbit around the moon, Clairvaux revealed that he had received what he believed was a message from the Xan, showing him how to track the Shohan using a Prophetic Net: a method utilizing multiple prophetic attunements inside a concordance where the gaps in the vision reveal the Shohan’s location. In the year since their separation from the Terran Sphere fleet, this technique has allowed them to stay one step ahead of the Shohan. Its success has helped solidify Clairvaux’s vision of Tóngxīnfǎ Ascendantism among the ship crews and raised his standing to nigh living saint status. Long Concordances, sometimes lasting entire shifts and involving an entire ship’s crew, are now commonplace and their fervor only grows day by day.
Functionally, the Long Concordance is a rank 3 telepathic attunement. During a Long Concordance, prophetic visions are able to reverberate and be shared through the members, allowing them to be seen from multiple perspectives. While they can't directly see the Shohan's actions behind their force fields, they're better able to see the shape of the reactions. As a result, the resulting Clairvoyance tag can be condemned and consequenced against Shohan targets. This ability only lasts as long as the Concordance is maintained and costs 1 point of strain from the Concordance per Clairvoyance roll, multiplied by the resulting Tag’s rank. There are side effects, however. Chief among them Telepathy Induced Dissociative Disorder. TTID is a rare diagnosis in most of the Terran Sphere, usually linked to those without psionic training - or not enough training - who spend a great deal of time in high-level psionic attunements. It is believed that these individuals become used to the presence of other thoughts alongside their own, and become incredibly anxious, uncomfortable, and even panic-stricken when not in such an attunement. Affected individuals will retreat from their own identities, sometimes refusing to answer to their name, or attempt in a to mimic the Concordance through behaviors such as conversing with themselves. After the first several documented cases, the Xan Academy started researching ways to combat and prevent the phenomenon. Common treatments recommend extremely individualistic endeavors, such as art, to reinforce the notion of the self. The disorder may be taken as a Wound Tag by non-Psionic individuals who spend long periods of time in Concordances, especially during combat.
The Sword Of Xan may be ever unified in their faith, but their ships are a motley. The battle line’s backbone is a small squadron (4 ships) of Intrepid class frigates. This is supplemented by a variety of cruisers and lighter craft that they’ve been able to salvage from other systems. Many are System Defense Craft: the Pocket Cruisers that were the TSN’s bane. These ships lack gravitic drives, therefore the Sword has outfitted a recovered freighter to act as a Carrier, although it is by far their most vulnerable warship. The core of their support staff are a few big Locust Industrial ships that were discovered trying to escape from the Shohan occupied systems before the Shohan caught up to them. Most of the original crews are still on them. For many the relief they felt when the Sword’s ships first offered to escort them to sanctuary has soured as they have been forced to remain at Claudius with their ships commandeered by the Sword for their own ends.
The Sword does not have access to the Plasma weaponry designs that the Terran Sphere has developed. Instead, their engineers have kitbashed together scavenged drive systems to mount on their ships. The modified ships can use the Turn and Burn maneuver at Standard rather than Hard challenge rating but Step up the difficulty of the ship’s Evasion Roll next turn and uses 2 units of Fuel for each turn that they do so. Most of the modified ships are the System Defense Craft, their most expendable units while the heavier combat craft hammer away at any ship whose force fields have been breached.
By far the most important project the Sword has undertaken is Project Vigil. The name is a reference to the Vigil of St. Gereon, when he was lost in the Void and the Xan appeared to him. Some of the most skilled psionics of the Sword set out astrally into the void, making the journey from Claudius to their homeworld of Prospero. For most Psionics, travel across the vast void of space between worlds would be unthinkable. With no frame of reference to ground themselves, they quickly lose their way. Go too far and the line back to their bodies can weaken, leaving a Psionic lost, all alone in darkness and starlight. One Psionic who was fortunate to escape such circumstances likened it to being trapped in an avalanche and not knowing which way was up or how to escape. The psionics of the Sword who undertake the Vigil, christened Spirit Walkers, have an advantage. They can hear the faint call of Prospero, even out as far as Claudius, and can drift towards its call. Even so, it is a long, lonely, and dangerous journey.