Iconic Encounter: Personal Magnetism

Thursday, July 18, 2019

“‘Fix the shuttle,’ she says. ‘It’s only a little banged up,’ she says.” Angry clanging noises came from beneath the deck, followed by Quig’s face popping up out of the engineering access bay. He waved a spanner angrily. “Next time Navasi wants to sign us up for a salvage mission, she can patch the junker, and I’ll stay on the Maiden and watch for pirates!”

Altronus stared down from the hallway, both sets of arms crossed. “I’m sure the captain was just expressing confidence in your abilities.”

“Yeah?” Grease-smeared ears twitched above Quig’s mask. “Well I’m sure that this rustbucket isn’t going anywhere without a miracle. I’ve wired together every battery we’ve got to charge the capacitors, but the reactor containment field is totally shot. If I fire it up without the magnetic bottle in place, they’ll be finding pieces of us all the way out on Aucturn.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Sure. You can tell our fearless leader that unless she wants to abandon our score to the rest of the jackals, we’re gonna remain stranded on a barren rock approximately three times the size of my furry brown ass, with no way to call in a tow because—oh yeah—this whole job is technically illegal.” The spanner made another wild circle, nearly clipping Altronus’s knee. “I swear by my grandmother’s tail, I—”

“Anything else I can do? To help with the repairs?”

Quig sighed and let the spanner droop. “Go outside and get a look at the right main thruster for me. Let me know if the nozzle housing looks intact.”

“Right.” Grateful for the chance to escape the ysoki’s incessant, undignified complaining, Altronus walked to the hatch and cycled the airlock.

The air beyond was thin, and bitterly cold. The sarcesian colonists who had once tried to make this asteroid habitable had long since abandoned the project, and Altronus’s lungs burned with strain and frost as he struggled to process what little air their machines had left behind.

Yet as it always did, the nearness to vacuum soothed him even as it stung. Out here, there was no barrier between him and the cosmos. The cold he felt was the same cold that wrapped the stars. The song of the Cycle hummed in his veins like background radiation.

He walked around to the back of the shuttle. From the outside, the damage looked worse—for all Altronus’s faith in the captain, he had to admit that Quig had a point. The fact that they were even close to getting the thing flying again was a testament to the ysoki’s skill. He reached up with his highhands and hauled himself easily up into the engine’s darkened mouth.

“Quig? Altronus?” Navasi’s voice crackled over coms. “Are you still at the shuttle?”

“Where else would we be?” Quig snapped. “Listen, Captain, this thing—”

“Stow it. Raia’s got life forms on scanners. Half a dozen of them, moving fast in your direction. Raia and I will intercept as many as we can with the Maiden, but some of them will reach you before we do.”

“Acknowledged, Captain.” Altronus turned and leapt down from the engine, his descent gruelingly slow in the meager gravity. “How much time do we have?”

But the answer was already coming over the crater’s rim: three round-shelled creatures, their front ends writhing masses of tentacles, two of which were longer than the others and heavily scaled. They skimmed along like antigrav speeders above the asteroid’s surface, their shells glimmering metallically in the light of Altronus’s mote. One instant they were at the ridge, and the next they were at the shuttle’s side—halfway between Altronus and the hatch.

Altronus, a four-armed kasatha wielding a blade of light in one hand and brandishing a pistol with another, stands his ground before a pair of enormous tentacled creatures hovering in mid-air and crackling with blue lightning.

Illustration by Alyssa McCarthy

“Altronus!” Quig appeared in the open airlock. “Get in here!”

“Working on it,” Altronus muttered. Then he stepped forward, careful not to launch himself off the asteroid’s surface, and raised his voice.

“Greetings, friends.” He lifted all four hands in what he hoped was a universal sign of peace. Would tentacled creatures even recognize the gesture? Raia would probably know. “I mean you no harm. My name is Altronus Barasul Dovenayan, a kasatha of House—”

A distortion rippled across the creatures’ shells, blue lines that weren’t quite lightning tracing down their tentacles.

Altronus froze. “Easy, friends. I—”

The creatures pulsed.

Altronus flew forward, dragged off his feet by some invisible force. He landed in the dust and rolled, barely avoiding lashes from the closest creature’s main tentacles. He yanked his pistol free of its holster, but the creatures pulsed again. This time, the pull on his body was weak enough that he could brace against it, but the gun lurched from his hand, slapping against the side of the creature’s shell and sticking there like—

Of course. Magnets! Now that he had the idea in his head, he could feel the variation in the pull—the force exerted on the metal components of his armor, but none on the plates themselves. If he squinted, he could see the lines of magnetic fields around the creatures, dust-like metallic fines from the asteroid’s surface forming a cloud that pulsed like breath.

Quig’s swearing flooded the coms. Altronus looked over and saw the ysoki splayed out across one of the creature’s shells, pinned to it by his junkyard of a spacesuit.

Beneath his scarf, Altronus smiled.

The creatures thought they’d disarmed him. They didn’t realize that the gun was just a tool.

Altronus was the weapon.

He stilled his mind, letting the false divisions between him and the universe fall away.

He was not Altronus. He was not kasatha. He was matter: forged in the heart of a star, pulling and pulled by every atom in the cosmic dance. He was energy: uncreateable, undestroyable, a momentary configuration of an eternal process.

He was everything. He was nothing.

And he was going to wipe the floor with these worm-faced bastards.

He stretched his consciousness down, into the asteroid, finding the thread of its gravitational pull and strengthening it. This time, when the creatures pulsed, he stood firm, tethered to the rock’s surface. With his lowright hand, he reached up and grabbed his mote, feeling the white-hot stellar energy distending into its familiar blade.

There was a sharp pop, like an electrical arc, and something slammed into Altronus’s side, spinning him halfway around. He looked down at the metallic barb protruding from his armor, and had just enough time to think the word harpoon before the creature pulsed again. The force yanked him sideways, threatening to rip him in two as the creature’s magnetic tether competed with his own gravitational anchor.

Well, one of those he could control. He dropped the anchor, lurching through the air toward the barb-thrower, stellar blade extended. The sudden rush caught the creature off-guard, and alien eyes widened as the blade struck home. The creature thrashed, tentacles sliding across Altronus’s armor as he slid his glowing blade free and thrust again. And again.

The creature’s strange antigravity cut out, dropping them both to the ground. Before Altronus could regain his feet, new tentacles wrapped him up from behind, pinning his arms to his sides.

The thing’s grip was like industrial machinery, the coiled tentacles crushing. Trying hard to ignore creaking bones and empty lungs, Altronus cast his mind out to Mataras, the blazing sun at the heart of the Pact Worlds. Delving down into its flaming seas, he made his consciousness a conduit, and let the fire flow.

Flames burst from his body in all directions, a tiny supernova burning tentacles to ash. He spun, chest heaving as the pressure around it relented, and brought his blade up.

The creature lay flat against the ground, charred tentacles twitching spasmodically. Off to one side, Quig stood next to the corpse of his own attacker, yanking tools free from its shell.

Alien eyes rolled in terror as Altronus pinned his beast to the rock with one foot, placing the tip of his blade inches from its eye.

Altronus coughed. “Let’s try this again, friend. I mean you no harm. And you don’t mean me any harm either, do you?” He waggled the blade.

The creature stared up at him, but made no move to protest. It just lay there, its shell wrapped in softly pulsing lines of magnetic fields.

Magnetic fields. Altronus turned to his companion. “Quig. Is the reactor’s magnetic containment still broken?”

“Yeah, why?”

Altronus stared down into the creature’s eyes.

“Because I’ve got a crazy idea.”

About the Author

James L. Sutter is a former Starfinder Creative Director and Executive Editor of the Pathfinder Tales novels. In addition to foundational work on both Pathfinder and Starfinder, he’s also written award-winning novels, comics, video games, and short stories. You can find him at jameslsutter.com or on Twitter at @jameslsutter. His Pathfinder Tales novels, Death’s Heretic and The Redemption Engine are available now.

About Iconic Encounters

Iconic Encounters is a series of web-based flash fiction set in the worlds of Pathfinder and Starfinder. Each short story provides a glimpse into the life and personality of one of the games’ iconic characters, showing the myriad stories of adventure and excitement players can tell with the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games.

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Tags: Iconic Encounters Web Fiction

9 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Hooray for Starfinder fiction! Starfinder Tales next, please.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Oh god this was incredible. Solarians are the best. Thank you Sutter. Reading Starfinder straight from your imagination is a trip to make the year.

Wayfinders

10 people marked this as a favorite.

oh no you made me love Altronus, how dare you

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Huzzah for James to write this!


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Just because he's a solarian doesn't make him a nice guy.

"Wipe the floor with these worm-faced bastards." Ha, wonderful line.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I have so missed James Sutters silver pen.

This was excellent. Altronus is the true Harsk of this setting. Worst Pre gen but BEST Iconic

Contributor

4 people marked this as a favorite.
eddv wrote:

I have so missed James Sutters silver pen.

This was excellent. Altronus is the true Harsk of this setting. Worst Pre gen but BEST Iconic

And the Altronus Pregen is only really bad at 1st level. The 5th and 8th level ones are REALLY good, once he's gotten enough ability boosts for his build to work.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Wonder if we'll see the tentacled magnets in Alien Archive 3


6 people marked this as a favorite.

“Because I’ve got a crazy idea.”

Line every GM waits from his players =D


James Sutter is an incredible writer. This story grabbed my attention and refused to let it go. I didn't want it to end. The iconics both captured me and the tentacled magnets were SO much fun. I'm new to Starfinder and now want to play both a ysoki and a solarian because of this. Thanks!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

LOVE This! I would so much love to get some Starfinder novels to read. Please make this happen.

Contributor

14 people marked this as a favorite.

Thanks, everybody! When Mark originally asked if I had time for a new assignment, I had thought I was too busy... but then he told me what the project was. :) I'm deeply honored that Paizo let me come back and do some of the first fiction with these characters, and I can't wait to see what you all think of future episodes! :D

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber
James Sutter wrote:
Thanks, everybody! When Mark originally asked if I had time for a new assignment, I had thought I was too busy... but then he told me what the project was. :) I'm deeply honored that Paizo let me come back and do some of the first fiction with these characters, and I can't wait to see what you all think of future episodes! :D

Future episodes?? Where's my "Shut up and take my money" meme when I need it....


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Kyrand wrote:
James Sutter wrote:
Thanks, everybody! When Mark originally asked if I had time for a new assignment, I had thought I was too busy... but then he told me what the project was. :) I'm deeply honored that Paizo let me come back and do some of the first fiction with these characters, and I can't wait to see what you all think of future episodes! :D
Future episodes?? Where's my "Shut up and take my money" meme when I need it....

Apparently Sutter has written up encounter stories for every Starfinder iconic, including the upcoming three introduced in Character Operations Manual (ten in all). These next few months are going to be a really great time to be a Starfinder fan: what with Attack of the Swarm!, Alien Archive 3, three new iconics, three new classes, expanded starship rules and more in the Character Operations Manual, and Starfinder Tales fiction straight from the silver pen of James Sutter himself. It's like Christmas came early.


Woohoo! Solarion goodness!

Sutter being awesome!

Quig go splat!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Forgive me if it's been said elsewhere, but I am curious as to where the art is from (and, by extension, where the pieces of art tied to the upcoming fictions are from). Do we know?

Grand Lodge

MythicFox wrote:
Forgive me if it's been said elsewhere, but I am curious as to where the art is from (and, by extension, where the pieces of art tied to the upcoming fictions are from). Do we know?

Perhaps Alien Archive 3?

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber

This was simply lovely.

Hmm


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Please Please Please I cannot call more loudly for a Starfinder Tales line of books!!

Seriously, just write up and take my money! :D

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Opsylum wrote:
Kyrand wrote:
James Sutter wrote:
Thanks, everybody! When Mark originally asked if I had time for a new assignment, I had thought I was too busy... but then he told me what the project was. :) I'm deeply honored that Paizo let me come back and do some of the first fiction with these characters, and I can't wait to see what you all think of future episodes! :D
Future episodes?? Where's my "Shut up and take my money" meme when I need it....
Apparently Sutter has written up encounter stories for every Starfinder iconic, including the upcoming three introduced in Character Operations Manual (ten in all).

From the Office of Expectation Management: Sutter was gracious enough to accept the offer to write the Iconic Encounters for the original seven Starfinder iconics, despite his busy schedule, but he is not set to write anything about the COM classes. We have both Meet the Iconics and Iconic Encounters for all three new classes in the works, but you'll have to wait to see who their authors are.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Altronus: In Touch With the Cosmos And His Place In It. Which should scare the living hell out of you!

Paizo Employee Developer

2 people marked this as a favorite.
MythicFox wrote:
Forgive me if it's been said elsewhere, but I am curious as to where the art is from (and, by extension, where the pieces of art tied to the upcoming fictions are from). Do we know?

This art is from a soon-to-be released product. Like so very soon.


That was outstanding! Looking forward to more!


I skimmed it. Sutter is a really talented guy.

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