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With one truck carrying most of the village supplies and another provided for the elder (and emergency rations and weapons), the last one is the only with true public access. Using their space efficiently, the truck is used as a civic center of sorts. It is where classes are held for the village’s children, and where village plans are shared among adults. It holds what little technology the village has, along with books and other keepsakes. Its use is kept to a schedule, and usually, there are at least three inside at any time.
Ukraine is a wasteland, part of the stretch that separates Imperial Russia from Europe. Some of that land is heavily guarded with massive watchtowers. Other areas are deserts or barren mountain ranges. Some places, however, have been forgotten to time and reclaimed by nature. And there are remote lands, untouched by humans for decades, holding relics of lost eras and battles. This is one of the least populated regions in the world, and only its capital of Kiev, an imperial stronghold, shows any signs of life.
New York City
Three city-covering forcefields are spread across America’s largest metropolis, an urban center with a total population of over thirty million. Cramped, polluted, and stricken by war, many have fled the city recently even as the Empire seems to wrangle more civilians inside. Buster grew up here with his father, but after his mother disappeared and they fled, he never came back. Still, he does feel something for his old home, and reacts to the news of it disappearing behind opaque, impenetrable forcefields.
Another derelict town in the region, Sokyryany has long been abandoned by its populace, and now functions only as an imperial checkpoint outpost for the northern entryway into Moldova. With the attention that the felile village has attracted, a full force of soldiers has been sent here to intercept them. If they should ever see that the villagers safely cross into a promised haven, Buster and Pylv will have to undergo one last trial and fight their way through the broken streets and bombed-out buildings.
EUM Moldova Branch
Where Buster was originally heading to, the European Underground Militia is a resistance group throughout Europe. Unlike the global Resistance, they do not interact much with the public, and do not have worldwide reach. They are also more militaristic, and employ high-grade weaponry and tactics to strike and destroy key imperial targets. Much of their time is spent in underground bunkers, planning and observing. With imperial presence light in the poor region of Moldova, they thrive in the area and remain elusive.
End Story Spoilers. Following the battle in Sokyryany and the safe passage of the felile village into Moldova, the felile restarted their lives in a lush and protected valley, where they constructed houses that would provide for them for years. Eventually, after the fall of the Empire, most would leave it and integrate into larger society. But in the time they did have together, Buster and Pylv only had to protect the village from several bandit attacks; the Empire never again found their way to this group of felile.
Little is known about Cristyl City outside of the independent nation of China, but to those outside who do know of its full purpose, it becomes a beacon of hope for the future. Here, in a city once known as Beijing in a different age, felile and humans walk the streets together in peace. Protected by the constant vigilance of the center of the Resistance, the Rebel Core, Cristyl in turn funds resistance movements across the world. Later on, it becomes the capital of the new government and the place Valice calls home.
The first home of the felile on Earth, and if it came down to it, the last one. After putting up a final stand against the Empire on the day of its collapse, the mysterious floating city of Valice, its origin unknown, continued to be a place for all felile to look up to and visit at least once in their lives. The first Valician Emperor, Greyia Razle, settled here with other felile elders after their escape from Mars. They remained hiding in Antarctica for nearly a century until the time came for felile to achieve their right to live.
Located in one of the dozens of buildings in Oryol that still has electricity and water, Bar Nomad is a popular spot for the few who live in the failing city. It’s expectedly seedy, and the owners proudly proclaim the inclusion of Terra-Force patrons outside to avoid trouble with Empire, whose officers frequent the locale; off duty to drink, on duty to perhaps drag off a suspect facing any number of charges. Most of its light comes from the blank wall filled with Imperial network projections.
Long ago it was an artistic and beautiful city of several hundred thousand. Today, under the Empire, Oryol is a derelict city of only a few thousand. Most of its inhabitants moved into the larger cities nearby that have forcefield protection; a common occurrence across the world. Its only maintained and fully functional building is its imperial police headquarters, decorated with Terra-Force banners and controls most of the police forces in Eastern Europe and western Russia, giving Buster more reason to leave the area.
Russia is both the largest region in the world and the one with the most imperial influence and power. The thousand miles surrounding the Terra-Force capital of Moscow have been devastated, the towns razed, the land uprooted and replaced with war factories. Further out, plant and animal life struggle to survive in a polluted environment. Near the border of Ukraine and Russia, where Oryol is located, human presence is minimal and stretches of dry forests are slowly reclaiming ancient human settlements.
In the deepest reaches of the wastelands of Russia and Eastern Europe, lands long untouched by humans have recovered, where trees flourish from the ruins of old villages. The pollution has caused some mutations in the trees, making them tougher than usual. They slowly cleanse the land and allow pristine water to flow again. One could lose themselves in this almost now-alien landscape free of urban decay and imperial oppression. Still, it’s not free from the eyes of the Empire.
A leftover from a time when cars and trucks, many of them computer-guided, roamed thousands of miles across asphalt, this particular stretch of highway is connected to what was once the main line going from Spain all the way to China. Both ends of this road are now covered in soil and vegetation, so only the crumbling raised portions remain visible on the landscape. Mass transit took over most city-to-city routes, leaving cars relegated to urban use and this road to bandits and nomads.
Though countries, now known as regions, have changed drastically in the dystopian world, borders for the most part have not. Roads, no matter their serviceability, are heavily policed areas intended to stop criminals and illegal trade. Most regions actually have light restrictions on entering and leaving, and only basic identification is required for crossings, but no one gets by without a thorough background check. Even the lightest of border checkpoints have armored soldiers and usually one or two ERA units.
The member of the village who commands the highest of respect, Elder Shi-len has an entire truck to herself, and thusly, the only one with an actual home 24/7. Filled with worldly relics and contraband text books, the truck is lightly armored and constantly protected by armed bodyguards. An invitation is required to enter, but Shi-len is still an outgoing elder who spent her days outside with her people, sharing stories and learning of those of others. But she’s rarely left it since the old village was destroyed.
Often used by the Terra-Force Highway Patrol, armored motorcycles have found their niche for small squad, long range patrol units serving at the bottom tier of the Imperial Army. Built for a pilot in a prone stance at the front and a navigator and turret operator sitting in the back, the bike can shrug off light arms fire, and its durable tires can run over a grenade and repair what little damage is done. They feature a full communications array and stolen ones are favorites among smugglers.
Long Range Drone
Small drones and cloaker drones are prevalent in many Terra-Force squads and urban patrol units, but long-range high altitude drones can be found flying above much of Eurasia. They are a rare sight in the rest of the world, but their use is set to expand. Able to fly for months and equipped with adaptive AI, they can also be equipped with a set of missiles and launch attacks in special circumstances on distant Resistance cells where manned military raids, preferred by the Empire, would be prohibitively expensive.
Over 80% of Earth’s citizens, poor or rich, supportive of the Empire or otherwise, own tablets – known most often as “tabs.” Home computers are not as integral as they used to be, and modern tabs offer terrabytes of storage, long battery life, and access to the network and digital magazines and newspapers. Their notorious security problems have given the Resistance a great propaganda tool, and they frequently create illegal “hotspots” at vendors that auto-download their newsletters into tabs as their owners walk by.
The wardrobe of the felile reflects the lengths they go through to avoid detection. Long, heavy cloaks are the standard in both hot and cold weather. They are unisex in design and often blend the men and women together. Interior headbands keep the ears down and folded, and a comfortable under robe allows free movement in combat, and if need be, the wearer can easily run on all fours should they need to flee. Very similar cloaks are often used by human criminals and the poor, adding to their anonymity veil.
Given a typical Imperial utilitarian name, the Enhanced Robotic Armor is a relatively light (2-3 tons) servo-aided walker with an armored cockpit for the pilot, who uses six exterior cameras to see his surroundings. With a top speed of 20 MPH, basic models equip two different weapons at once. Plus models, for officers, can do four. Used as urban patrol or guard units to cover a single infantry squad, they have been seen with miniguns, missile launchers, flame throwers, battering rams, blades, and even rail cannons.
The enigmatic trademark weapon used by the felile and designed by Valice, plasma pikes have seen recent proliferation in Resistance groups globally, even in those without felile. Using super-heated plasma that ignites in an extended super-poly shell, the heat actually retracts the very tip to a width of only a few atoms. The weapon can easily eviscerate unarmored foes or turn steel molten. Red varieties, rarer and reserved for trained warriors, burn hotter and are more difficult to control than blues.
“It’s just a start,” Reiver will tell anyone who mocks his cork board. Knowing that should peace ever come, these objects may very well end up in a proper museum, Reiver is diligent about his project. Any scavenged human materials, no matter how small, will get added here, and he will pay passing felile merchants well for any additions. It features articles of propaganda and news stories from both sides, and its owner works hard to assure others that not all humans agree with the presented views.
Hellfire Machine Pistol
A smaller variant of the Vulcan submachine guns that are frequently bought and sold on the black market, this machine pistol developed by the European Underground Militia compensates for its small caliber with deep clips that fire slugs supplemented by a small mass driver inside the barrel for increased firing velocity. Specifically designed for anti-imperial armor-piercing bullets, the felile village has managed to acquire just one of these respected weapons, and entrusted it to Buster.
Another cruel imperial weapon, the simple electro staff is essentially a riot control prod that shocks on contact. Its power levels can also be turned up to a lethal degree, and its battery can last for weeks. Commonly used only by the lower ranks, Resistance members have found that the electricity will only discharge on a strike, and holding the orb is safe otherwise. Because of this, if the orb can be removed, it can be used against its wielder to fry their battle armor and life support systems.
In some urban centers, these drones swarm like insects. Usually lacking any weapons, they fly around, recording video, taking pictures, and performing facial scans. Designed to give the Empire full surveillance in any environment, these thinking robots can calculate risk and sound alarms without human oversight. Recently, more terrifying varieties with a red “eye” and frontal razor blades have been reported, with the ability to cloak themselves by bending visible light around them.
When the imperial workhorse tanks need a commander on the field or just more firepower, the imperial rail-gun equipped tanks come rolling in. Able to fire as quickly as a regular tank but at higher velocities, these weapons can also charge their magnetic coils for more powerful attacks, or enter a siege mode, using supports to stabilize the vehicle. At a full charge, the orb-shaped shell can be ejected at speeds a fraction the speed of light, penetrating through nearly any conceivable barrier.
Among the oldest of the aircraft used by the Terra-Forces, Vyper craft are being fazed out by the newer and deadlier Fawloc class gunships. For now, they are still easy to produce and provide cheap air defense. Typically equipped with primitive chain guns and missile launchers, Vypers are typically seen in older cities, seen as less important by the Empire. They remain agile and can hover steadily at low altitude, making them effective for the Urban Patrol, but are notoriously easy to take down – sometimes even crashing on their own.
The ultimate weapon of the Empire. Due to the limited ability for non-imperials to monitor orbital space and beyond, the Terra-Forces are free to convince most people that these city-destroying weapons belong to the “Unknown Enemy”, an alien race they are said to be fighting. There may be dozens of these weapons in orbit, all unassailable, and they have the ability to hit multiple times with deadly precision, or charge up for an ionic blast of explosive heat strong enough to take out a city block.
Cruel and seemingly mindless, the millions that fight in the imperial armies across the world, whether on land, at sea, or in the air, are known for their signature armored suits. Only certain higher officers do not wear armor, and it is theorized that the suits impair cognitive ability. What limited research has been done on the armor suggests that they move through use of servos, and provide some manner of life support to their users, enabling them to operate in any environment and for extended periods of time.
Story spoilers. Many years after the fall of the Empire, Emperor Veli, once in the same Resistance group that Buster operated in, invites him to Valice for an awards ceremony. It is a place that many Resistance members have visited for recognitions of their own, but Buster was also the first human, by all accountable records, officially adopt a felile. Older now, with his grown up daughter Denae, Buster goes to Cristyl and Valice, where he is reunited with Pylv and presented with a medal of valor. Not that he felt like he needed it.
In Valice – Origins, Martin Druvska and his group are with the narrators, Vince, Veli, and Adago, throughout much of the story. Buster is mentioned as a former member of the group twice in the book, although little is said about him. When Buster left the Chicago-based Resistance team, it consisted of Martin, Rupert the tech, his protégé and the close combat oriented Sasha, and Kepper, Veli’s older brother and the first felile to fight in the group. It would later take in Jess, Pelter, Ruby, Vince, and Veli.
There are many small felile villages across the world, and most are nomadic at least some of the time. This one in Eastern Europe recently lost half its population in an imperial attack, and were forced to move. Now out in the open and looking for a new home, they are an example of their people’s struggle to survive. They hired Buster for protection and to hopefully make it easier to get past checkpoints. Composed of a dozen children, one elder, and only seven fighters, they hope to reach Moldova soon.
TF Highway Patrol
Armored only lightly and among the lowest ranks of the Imperial Army rest the Highway Patrol, who are paid far less than the police-like Urban Guard. As a result, many of them are incompetent and bore easily. Their primary job is finding felile on the run who are far away from the cities, and they also deal with human criminals. Usually in small squads, they either call in reinforcements to capture possible rebel or felile leaders, and kill anyone lesser outright.
Torbias and Michael
Surnames Salian and Dashenel, these two early Resistance members became legendary for their actions and at the time unprecedented friendship, although their tales aren’t well known out of Europe. One a trained warrior from Valice and the other a former Imperial British officer, they were wary of one another at first but quickly found out how well they complimented one another in the field. They wreaked political havoc before they died as friends in a botched assassination that cost the Empire five entire squads.
Felile Village Warriors
When a felile village is assigned an elder, they also receive one or two trained pike artists from Valice, who in turn teach the most promising men and women the art of pike-crafting and combat. Spinels are given to more villagers as a hunting and last resort self defense tool. What the felile have in speed and prowess, they lack in armor and firepower. Luckily, should they get close, a pike can breach even a rail tank’s armor, and today, most Imperial soldiers still fear the sight of a felile with a pike.
Felile and Death
As much as humans suffer at the hands of their empire, they still feel a sense of security, however false it may be. Felile don’t have that luxury, as their existence is punishable by death. Knowing and accepting their odds, they remain eternal optimists on long term survival. It’s all they have to keep their spirits up, but should friends fall from combat, illness, or the simple depravity of those that hate them, they honor the dead with compassion and humility, and press on with a white, pure fire in their hearts.
Felile Origin Stories
“Listen my children, and know of our roots. Created by man, from man, we fled the Red Planet of our birth in peace, to further it, towards a day of Unity. We live a life not asked for and unwanted, but we must believe that it is for a greater purpose, yet unseen. Guided by a Heavenly Arrow to the City in the Clouds, we spread like seeds, led by our Elders, taught to love and accept, so that we may blossom into a flower not of retribution, but of reconciliation.” ~ Hymn shared with felile on their first day of school
Vast chains of imperial war factories, primarily running through Africa, have run unregulated and heavily for decades. Although the global climate has been thrown into turmoil, the amount of sulfur they pump into the air helps to counter the build-up of heat-trapping particles. While severe storms are prevalent in summer, much of the northern hemisphere faces even harsher winters with repeated blizzards and bitter cold. Felile villages can be wiped out overnight if they’re ill-prepared or without shelter, like an old tunnel.
A Kiss from the Country
Another song on the long list of anti-imperial seditious media, A Kiss from the Country, released earlier in the Empire’s reign in 2148, is a folk song banned for its anti-urban lyrics. Even though its sounds innocuous enough, its emphasis on the poor and crowded conditions of the metropolis goes against the imperial effort to move the population into urban centers and under the protection of forcefields. As with all illegal music, it is commonly played on Resistance networks, and used to attract new listeners.