The Long Sad Song of Chinenye Ojokwu

datetime April 10, 2015 12:14 AM

I produced all of what follows last summer, and it only occurred to me recently when I went looking for it that I’d never collected all of it online anywhere.

The first half is long-form Infinity fiction, but for what I presume is the majority of you who don’t care about that, you can skip past the blue blocks straight to Week 2 for the start of the comics. 🙂


Last summer, I played in an Infinity league at my store. As a major feature of this league, each player created a Spec Ops special character to fight alongside their army, gather experience, and grow as the league progressed. Each player was told to write up a backstory for their character in the month leading up to the league, and then after each week’s mission, we were encouraged to post an in-universe writeup of the mission’s results, whether as a narrative or as a debriefing report.

On this page I’ve compiled all of the material I created to tell the tale of my spec-ops, a Crusader Brethren Hacker named Chinenye Ojokwu; I previously covered the process of converting her game model here. For anyone not familiar with the game’s fluff, my army are Knights of Santiago, an order of Violent Space Catholics who travel aboard trading ships on long journeys to escort religious pilgrims from planet to planet. I had only been playing for a few months when I wrote all of this, so it’s possible that some of it isn’t quite canonical, though I did try to research everything as much as possible. 🙂

The interesting thing to watch as the weeks roll on is the steady degradation of my hope for the character’s future. At the start, I thought I was writing a story about redemption and new beginnings… and then I started losing.

And losing.

And losing.

And… well, you’ll see.

*sigh*

Prologue

[**** FOUR YEARS AGO ****]

Two months in, Chinenye found out from a tipsy pilot that she was the Nomad crew’s third hacker in a year. That caught her attention. Captain Faisal’s assault team were a tight-knit group after years of these raids, but they noticeably kept the newer replacements at arm’s length. Mostly she figured that it wasn’t worth their while to get to know people until they were sure they’d still be there a month later, and Chinenye couldn’t really blame them. In theory, raiding poorly-defended Circulars in transit is fairly risk-free work, but some of the recruits they scraped up on their return trips to Tunguska had that special combination of eagerness and stupidity that ensured she was always meeting new people.

The crew had a fairly straightforward racket: they bought schedules and shipping manifests on the black market, ambushed the plumpest targets in-transit, and took the most valuable cargo with them as they ran. All things considered, it wasn’t even all that violent– their trick was to burn straight into cargo holds, clear out whoever might be loitering around there already, and then lock the doors to keep other crew from interfering. That last part was Chinenye’s job, and it was pretty dull work; civilian couriers are mostly too cheap to pay for expensive counter-intrusion systems, so her “contribution” to each job tended to be complete inside forty seconds. Things got more lively when their “clients” brought private security along for the ride, but for better or for worse, the assault team were very good at their job, and always had their cargo for a minimal expenditure of rookies.

Chinenye had no illusions– she worked for bullies. But at least they were competent bullies, and the work was steady and predictable.

Until it wasn’t.

The Circular was no different from a dozen others, albeit a bit thicker in the passenger areas than in the bulk cargo. Faisal’s new engineer burned through the hull inside the docking collar, and their commando rush into the hold yielded only two short bursts of echoing rifle fire before Chinenye made her way over. There had been no guards, only a pair of sleepy crewmen; Chinenye didn’t look at them. As Faisal’s people maneuvered their prize toward the collar, she did what they paid her for– she froze the doors, locked out the internal sensors, and covered the door in case someone foolishly tried to cut through.

However, as it turned out, she was watching the wrong way– because when they came, they didn’t use the door.

The access hatch beside the main loading doors blew open, and Chinenye barely had time to turn around before three pairs of heavy magnetic boots thudded to the cargo bay floor in rapid succession. Air rushed past the advancing white-and-black figures, taking Faisal’s second-in-command out the hatch a moment before the crate she was carrying slammed into the opening, wedging awkwardly in the aperture and slowing the loss of pressure.

The next thirty seconds were a blur– the heavy figures advanced inexorably through the cavernous cargo bay, flushing Faisal’s men back toward the far corner. For her part, Chinenye’s eyes were locked on the hatch the hulking knights had left open. After a moment of blind panic, she used the system access she had already gained to locate the hatch controls and fire the emergency seals. She was too caught up with her task to notice that the shooting had ceased, but there was no way to ignore the flashing lights behind her eyes as her implants alerted her to nearby networked systems. She spun, and came face-to-face with a pearl-armored figure draped in black, raising a shotgun toward her. She reacted instinctively, reaching out toward her assailant, past his body and into the systems that drove his hulking frame. Chinenye didn’t have time for anything fancy or subtle– she found something central and important and fragile-looking, and gave it a yank. And when she opened her eyes five seconds later, the figure was still standing there, frozen in place.

Her shock was sufficient that this time, she didn’t hear the warnings from within her cerebral framework and caught the butt of another knight’s gun to the temple.

When Chinenye woke up, she… was alive to do so. That was her first thought. She was alive, and her head was sore, and she was alive. As the world came into focus, she heard an accented voice off to her right.
“…what you have done here today is a terrible sin, and this man will accompany us to pay for it. He is… known to us.” Chinenye blinked the light from her eyes, and saw a man in armor under-padding standing above a kneeling, bleeding, restrained, and scowling Captain Faisal. “As for the rest of you… leave your weapons, and go home. I leave you in God’s hands.”

The rookie to Chinenye’s right was first to speak. “We… we can go?”

The swarthy knight turned to him. “God called me to a task, and it was to be neither jailor nor executioner to His children. My brothers and I are tasked only to guide travelers safely to their destination. We have done that for the three hundred souls on this vessel, and now I send you on toward your own journey’s conclusion.” He paused, and looked sternly across the lineup of brigands. “Your sins are your own burden to bear. Think on them. Pray on them. Via con Dios, child.” He bent down and touched the rookie on the shoulder. “Make better decisions.”
Those last words rang through Chinenye’s head as she watched what remained of her crew file sheepishly back toward the docking collar, then turned to see the knight who spoke kneel down to attend to the scattered plates and robes that made up his frozen armor. She paused for a moment, then walked toward him.

“You made quite a mess here, sister,” he said without turning around. Chinenye stopped in her tracks.
“But it could have been worse, I suppose.”

Chinenye paused, startled, but worked up the will to speak. “I don’t understand, sir. If you let us go, most of them… most of us will just find a new crew. Those people won’t stop because of a speech.”

The man sighed. “Perhaps not. But I like to give people a chance to surprise me, sister. I have a good friend who believed in second chances.”

She looked down pensively, then made up her mind. “Brother, I… haven’t made the best decisions in my life.”

He smiled coyly. “Evidently.”

“But I think… I’m ready to make a better one.”

A warm smile filled his face, and he clapped her on the arm. “Joyous news, sister. My name is Íñigo López, Father-Officer of the Loyola.”

“Chinenye Ojukwu. And I’d… like to meet your friend.”

“I’m sure he’s just as excited to meet you, Chinenye.” He put an arm around her armored shoulder. “You see, sister? I gave you a chance to surprise me, and now I have someone to fix whatever you did to my armor.” He smiled. “The world is truly filled with God’s blessings.”

Week 1

Mission: Board a Nomad-controlled space station in an asteroid field, take over the control room before the enemy can activate its self-destruct mechanism, and take captives.

Outcome: Chinenye utterly failed every defensive hacking roll she was called on to make, leaving the heavy Santiago Knights she was supposed to be escorting frozen by enemy hacking. A brave doctor managed to hold the control room for a while, but was eventually cut down right next to the frozen knights. Chinenye limped home with the mission’s only success– a captured Space Monkey who had tried to sneak around the flank.

After ten long minutes, Chinenye worked up the courage to speak, though she continued to stare out the window at the approaching dropship rather than meet her Father-Knight’s gaze. “I’m sorry, Íñigo. She… this was my fault.”

She couldn’t see the tall man’s face behind his white mask, but she knew he wouldn’t be angry; saddened, to be sure, but not angry. That only made it worse; she wanted him to be angry.

“Oh?”, he spoke softly as he placed armor seals across the breaches in the dead woman’s armor. “Then I’ll have to ask you to submit yourself for criminal judgment, Sister.”

Chinenye turned, startled. “I… what?”

“I’m afraid that our Lord takes a dim view on murder, niña. Though for what it’s worth,” he paused, placing a finger on the blood-soaked hole in the doctor’s helmet, “your aim is improving.”

Chinenye stood stunned. “I… but, Father…I did not… I was outside. By the landing craft.” A wave of panic tightened across her face. “By our Lord, Father, I would never– I swear I would never–”

He stood. “Of course not, niña. Kaheru was shot, and the fault lies with the man who shot her.” He looked down at the writhing figure tethered to Chinenye, screaming silently within its helmet. “I’m not looking forward to getting him into a pressurized environment, you know. Brother Sieger put a hole through his clavicle, from the looks of it… the docking bay will be awash with the agonized screams of wounded space monkeys within the hour, I’m afraid.”

Chinenye didn’t hear the Father-Knight’s joke. “Father… Íñigo… Kaheru died trying to rescue you. And you wouldn’t have needed rescuing if I’d done my job and kept that filth out of your armour.” She was shouting at him now, she realized. “You gave me one job, Íñigo. One job. And when I failed, this woman bled for it.”

Íñigo knelt and picked up the doctor’s limp form. “I was standing eight feet from this woman while she fought and died.” The levity was gone from his voice. “Eight feet away, and I did nothing to help her. I watched her kill the first man through the door, then turn around to speak to me. I saw the second man walk in, and gave her no warning as he raised his rifle and shot her. I stood by and watched while they killed her, Chinenye. I stood and did nothing.”

Chinenye looked at him in confusion. “Father, you… there was nothing you could do. You couldn’t move. Your comms were cut. You–”

“I raged within my armor, Chinenye. I struggled to move, but two hundred pounds of plating and frozen servos held me fast in my place. I tried to reboot my control systems, but their attack programs only dug their claws deeper. I shouted to Kaheru, screamed at her to turn around, but the airless void stole my words.”

Íñigo gently cradled the doctor, using an elbow to trigger the airlock. “I tried, Chinenye. And you tried to keep me and my brothers safe as we foolishly charged into a trap. But sometimes, wanting something very much is not enough to make it true.”

The pair of them activated their suits’ thrusters and began drifting toward the evac ship, the simian shape occasionally tugging on its tether as it wriggled behind her. “We failed, Chinenye– we both did. But trying and failing to stop evil does not make one a murderer. God does not judge results– only intent.”

Chinenye said nothing for a while. Her mind drifted back to the patterns she had tried and failed to keep out of the Knights’ drive systems. “They used something I hadn’t seen before. I kept a copy before I purged it from your suit.”

“And you will learn from it, and next time you will do better. That’s all God asks of us, Chinenye– it’s why He asks us to reflect on our sins. Not so that we might wallow in our misery; but rather, so that we might learn from our weakness, and not make the same mistakes again.”

“Next time, do better, niña.”

They drifted wordlessly the rest of the way, the sounds of the screaming monkey mercifully muted by the void.

Week 2

Mission: Hold a base against the invading Combined Army. The base is equipped with three defensive anti-air turrets that keep the enemy from landing drop troops; I was tasked with keeping them online for as long as possible.

Outcome: My army was N2 Sepsitored– ie, irreversibly mind controlled through solid walls.

My entire army.

Except for Chinenye.






Week 3

Mission: In week 2, another Space Catholics player with an insane Spec Ops trooper let three nukes go off in a city. Therefore, in week 3, I was tasked with hunting him down in the ruined church where he had holed up afterward.

Outcome: In what was rapidly becoming a disturbing pattern, the mission ended in massive failure with a single survivor.

See if you can guess who.









Week 4

Mission: Work with a semi-allied Ariadna force led by Van Zant, to sweep out a mercenary stronghold packed with automated turrets and an endless supply of troops. At no point should the allied players have any reason to exchange fire.

Outcome: I would really like to stress here the semi in semi-allied.

…DON’T JUDGE ME

Thus endeth our tale of woe.

-Spud

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