Welcome to another exciting installment of Spacemon, the tale of a Pokemon TRPG campaign! This is the first part of a five-part standalone miniseries that is the perfect jumping-on point for those who have never read Spacemon before. If you’re interested in reading more, you can get caught up on the entire Spacemon saga here!
“Magnificent! Truly magnificent!”
Klara awoke to blackness, her arms shackled beside her. Fear flooded her mind as she tried in vain to register her surroundings. It was too dark for her to really see anything, and she felt cold to the point of numbness. She could faintly make out the sound of something horrible writhing and screeching somewhere, but her own panicked breathing quickly drowned it out.
“Oh? You’re awake?” a voice echoed. “Very well, I suppose you can be next then.”
Klara tried to scream, but found that a gag was muffling her voice. Unable to run or cry for help, she turned her neck to face her abductor, and in the dimness saw the shape of a monster; not a Pokemon or a machine, but a monster. One with glowing green eyes.
“No need for fear,” he said. “You should feel honored, in fact. You’re about to become a part of something so much greater than just yourself.”
I don’t care, I just want to go home! Klara thought, shutting her eyes. Maybe this is all just a bad dream and I’ll wake up any minute now. She tried to focus on reality outside the nightmare, but was distracted as she heard that awful sound once again.
“You’ll have to forgive me, I’m afraid I’m rather low on all the traditional essentials,” the voice drifted closer, carried on light footsteps. “I’m sorry, but this will be quite painful.”
Even were she able to scream, Klara was convinced no one would hear her.
Date Point: February 3648, 42 standard years after the Helix Treaty
Location: Nolnaya City, Mir Zimoy
Light snowfall collected on the office windowsill as it fell from the drearily grey sky, not that Inspector Viktor Gorovich noticed through the lowered shades. Instead his attention was focused on his terminal, his eyes scanning the various messages and notifications of the morning while occasionally glancing at his open case files. The most recent message was from his partner-in-criminal-investigation: a few gorgeous vacation photos from some balmy tropical world.
“Bastard,” Gorovich grumbled, swilling his coffee mug. He was stuck here in the swamp of the office, stationed in the frigid snow of Mir Zimoy. He had been trying for nearly a decade to get transferred offworld, out of the capital, but his efforts so far had only landed him as far as Nolnaya, a small mining town out on the edge of the wastes. Quieter, yes, but the cold was even more bitter out here.
The ping from his terminal stirred him from his rumination. Straightening up, he put down his mug and pressed his lips together as he read the alert.
Missing person. Klara Rhine. Female. 22. Student. Her roommate had reported that she hadn’t come home one night, and that she wasn’t answering her phone.
“Damn, another one,” the Inspector muttered as he furrowed his brow. He stood up, grabbed his datapad, and marched through the near-empty room and down the hall to the door on the end. He gave the door frame three hard raps as he turned the handle.
“Chief, this is the seventh missing persons report this month. You ready to consider that maybe all these disappearances are linked, or are we gonna wait for an eighth or ninth? Or how about an even ten?” Gorovich was a somewhat large man, more broad than tall, and the shabby mess on his head that he called hair was streaked with various shades of grey. Protocol be damned, he was not going to sit on his ass while a man over fifteen years his junior lectured him on all the latest developments in investigative analysis.
“Inspector,” the Chief returned with a cold stare through his narrow glasses. With smooth skin mapped over rough features, he was a younger man, as well as taller, thinner, smarter even. His background was more academic, and he had recently transferred from a criminal investigations unit on Troyva: the largest, densest city in the galaxy. Of course he wouldn’t see seven as a particularly high number. “We’ve already been over this. There isn’t a strong enough connection or similarity between any of the victims to imply commonality … unless you’ve found something else with this new case that you would like to bring to my attention?”
“No … sir. But,” Gorovich nearly gritted his teeth. “Nolnaya City has a fairly low population. This amount of disappearances is highly irregular for us. My gut’s telling me something’s going on here.”
“Yes, well,” the Chief folded his arms and leaned back in his seat. “Unusual as the circumstances may be, ‘your gut’ does not substitute hard evidence. We’re short on manpower right now as it is, we simply can’t afford to manage a nonexistent crisis at the moment. If you want to throw all of your available time at this however, then by all means, lead the charge on each of these cases. Just deliver me some actual results.”
“ … Yes, sir.”
“Now, if you don’t mind, you’re free to get the hell out of my office.”
The Inspector returned to his desk, gathered his things, grabbed his coat, and walked towards the exit. It looked like he had his work cut out for him. He stepped through the door and out into the snow, stopping to light a cigarette. He inhaled the hot smoke, paused, then blew it out.
“Insulting a man’s gut,” he said, grinning to himself. “What is the galaxy coming to now, I wonder?”
Romanov Military Outpost, Outskirts of Nolnaya
Chaos swirled around with the snow as the sounds of battle filled the air around the squadron of troopers. Private Lee Drakon had just dove into cover when a gunshot from above rang out, striking down his comrade across the deserted street.
Lee kept his head down. Even if he wasn’t currently suppressed by sniper fire, it had been a clear headshot. There was nothing Lee could do for the man, aside from moving forward to the objective he had fallen for. He grabbed his comm.
“Krasnaya’s down and I’m pinned! What’s the status on those damn turrets?”
“Almost have the system down,” came the staticy reply from another of his comrades, Private Ivan Burya. “Thirty more seconds, maybe?
“Well, get a move on! Charging that building while the turrets are still online may be suicide, but we’re just as dead sitting here!” he yelled as yet another sniper round ripped through the air, just barely whizzing past, over his head. Lee glanced to the rest of his team. “Screw it. We can’t hold our position here and the weather’s only getting worse. I say we advance now and take our chances with the turrets! Who’s with me?”
There were a few half-hearted murmurs of agreement, before a sniper round hit their medic square in the shoulder, knocking him out. That pretty much ended the discussion. With two of the other men hoisting up the fallen medic, their unit ducked through the intersection, rounding the corner to face a full array of defensive turrets, which began to open fire on them. The men all roared and charged, rushing through the unforgiving barrage of enemy fire. Lee felt a shot graze his leg and he dropped to the snow, certain the mission would end in failure, but the hail of bullets ceased almost as quickly as it had started. Lee looked up and saw that the turrets were all powered down.
“What do you know? Looks like Ivan pulled through after all,” he muttered as he picked himself up off the snow, wiping the slush off his uniform. His leg stung quite a bit, but he was more than capable of limping forward to the building where their prize lay waiting. One by one, those still left standing filed through the unsealed door with rifles drawn, ready for whatever traps or ambush might await them. As Lee entered the room, however, he saw only a simple table in the center, upon which stood the objective that was absolutely vital to the success of their mission.
“A bottle of vodka,” Ivan commented, entering the room through the rear entrance alongside the other specialists on the team. “Seriously?”
The entire mission had been a training exercise. Lee’s squadron was part of a larger battalion of recruits stationed on Mir Zimoy for harsh weather and conditions mission training, and the finer details of their mission objectives were frequently subject to the whims of their superiors on base.
“I heard the 404th battalion had to retrieve a pack of cigarettes. They say that when they finally found it, there were exactly enough for each of the ‘survivors.’ Legend says that, to this day, no one knows if it was a coincidence or not ...”
“Oh, shut up.”
Thankfully, these were not live fire exercises, so those who did not “survive” combat encounters were merely stunned. Even Krasnaya would be fine, albeit after some rest; a stun round from a high caliber sniper rifle directly to the face was rather nasty, after all.
“Alright,” Ivan said, grabbing the bottle off of the table. “Any ideas how to get out of here and back to extraction? Can’t say I’m keen on giving the Lieutenant out there any more target practice if I can avoid it.”
“I agree,” replied Lee. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lieutenant just shot the ‘objective’ right in our hands.”
“She wouldn’t dare!” Ivan gripped the bottle just a little tighter, his knuckles whitening over the neck. “I was looking forward to draining this back at base with everyone!”
“You honestly think we’ll get to keep this? Command’s probably just making us fetch their stuff.”
“Lame!” whined Ivan in reply.
“Suck it up, man. You let anything happen to that bottle, you get to explain to the Captain why she doesn’t have her vodka.”
Suddenly Ivan was clutching the bottle as if his life depended on it, his face nearly as white as his knuckles.
“Point still stands,” Lee noted, taking a very careful glance out of one of the very small windows at the dark clouds gathering over the horizon. “We need a way out of here that doesn’t involve us getting picked off one by one by sniper fire. Anyone have any Pokemon left?”
The squad had a Blastoise and a wounded Typhlosion left between them. In other words, not much. Many Pokemon had fallen during the initial assault phase and they were all out of revival items. Lee frowned.
There were no paths in or out with reliable cover and, looking at the remainder of the squadron, it was clear they lacked numbers for another big rush. Lee teetered on the verge of despair until the increasing snowfall against the window gave him an idea.
“The weather’s getting bad out there. I’m—”
“No shit it’s getting bad, more problems for us!”
“—willing to bet a blizzard is coming. When it does, we can use it for cover against that sniper fire.”
“... so we use the environment to our advantage,” Ivan mused. “Shit, I’m glad at least one of us was paying attention in training. Alright, let’s do this.”
And so they waited as the storm set in.
The freezing air stung Ivan’s lungs as he ran, panting in the heavy snowstorm. So far their play seemed to be working, as they encountered very little resistance back along the way they had come. Best of all, there was no sniper fire.
“How far are we from the extraction point?” he shouted. It was difficult to make himself heard over the howling wind, and the air was cold enough that it hurt to speak, but he was used to it now after a month in Nolnaya.
“We’re almost halfway there!” came the blizzard-muffled reply from one of his comrades in the front. “Visibility is obscured but the way looks clear so far, I don’t see any—”
A high scream from behind them cut him off, and Ivan whipped around, peering back to see who had made the noise, but the only thing before his eyes were the heavy white flakes of the falling snow, and the only sound he could hear over the roaring wind was his own breath.
“What was that?”
“I don’t know! What’s going on?”
“Who did we—”
The sound of gunfire cut off his comrade as yet another yell rang through the cold air. Ivan gripped his rifle tighter and dove into cover, his eyes darting around what he had thought was a deserted road; it seemed they weren’t alone.
“Where the hell are they coming from?!”
“What are we dealing with? Human contacts, or Pokemon?”
“I’m … not sure! Visibility is too low! I can’t … wait … what the hell is that? I don’t—”
Another scream, this time closer. Ivan peeked around the corner and saw snow that seemed far too red for just a training exercise. Somehow his blood began to run even colder, and he ducked back down.
“Alright, if they’re attacking and evading us in this hailstorm,” he heard Lee call out from the other side of the snowed in street, “then they might be using Ice Pokemon! Do we still have that Typhlosion?”
The question was met with only silence.
Suddenly Ivan heard light footsteps in the snow behind him. He quickly turned around, raised his rifle, and saw …
The only thing Ivan saw was everything going black.
Inspector Gorovich prowled through the streets of Lower Nolnaya City looking for clues. Far from the industrial zone, this area was really only notable only for the local university plus a host of residential buildings. The most recent victim had ties to both.
The Inspector had already spoken to her roommate, although she wasn’t particularly helpful as she wasn’t able to provide any additional information other than what was already in the missing persons report. He doubted very much that she was involved, especially given his theory that the recent string of missing persons were all connected.
But, of the seven victims reported missing, only three were either students or faculty here: the rest lived or worked elsewhere in the city. Gorovich frowned. He could practically hear the Chief’s voice in his head, dismissing his theory.
He paused at a street corner to light a cigarette, looking around. Nolnaya was still a pretty small city, and it wasn’t unreasonable to think the perpetrator was based somewhere in between the known abduction sites, operating within a radius of some kind. Trouble was, there wasn’t really a whole lot between the zones of Nolnaya aside from empty roads and snow. Not much of a hiding place, out in the open and out in the cold. The only anything around that Gorovich could think of was the military base out on the outer fringes of the city.
Suddenly a freezing burst of wind came in, drafting up the street, buffeting the Inspector and snuffing out his cigarette.
“Shit,” he muttered. “Well, screw you, too, you cold, forsaken snowball of a planet.”
The Inspector quickly decided to move on, and went to retrace his best estimate of Miss Rhine’s route home from school. There were a couple alleyway shortcuts along the way, but it was generally safer for a woman walking home alone at night to keep to the well lit streets. And so he combed the main streets, looking for anything out of place, any sign of a struggle or a Pokemon battle. Everything seemed perfectly in order, however; there were no broken windows in sight, and the streetlights, manhole covers, and road signs were all unblemished. A few of the parked vehicles here and there had a ding or two, but they all seemed to be of the collision variety as opposed to the collateral variety. Nothing out of the ordinary here.
Somehow, this reminded Gorovich of a case he worked back in Novmoskva City fifteen years ago where people were being taken off a street with no witnesses or evidence of a crime scene. It turned out the perp was following his victims, and herding them into nearby park after dark where an accomplice was waiting to box them in. The park in question was a popular spot for unorganized Pokemon battling, so any signs of a struggle were masked by the residual marks of constant battles.
So if Miss Rhine was afraid … it was possible she could have turned down one of the alleyways. Not exactly the brightest move, but the Inspector couldn’t find it in himself to fault a young lady for not being up to snuff on criminal tactics. He didn’t know at which point on her route, exactly, she might have been spooked, but fortunately (or unfortunately for her, depending on how you looked at it) there were only three alleyways connected to this stretch of road, so he checked them all one by one. By the second alley he had found what he was looking for: a large scorch mark on the side of one of the walls, no longer warm to the touch in the morning after.
“Gotcha,” grinned the Inspector. The blast mark was big, and judging from the size and shape, he’d say he was looking at a Fire Blast. A pretty intense attack … and a rather rare one. Looking around, he could see that its user hadn’t needed a second attack. Clearly not a typical Pokemon duel. The Inspector reached for his comm.
“I need a registry check of everyone in Nolnaya with a Pokemon that knows Fire Blast.”
Captain Deva Zheleznaya, First Rank, stood up and slammed her fists down onto her desk. She had a tall stature, and her immaculately trim naval officer’s uniform belied the lean muscle coating her entire body. Her dark hair was cut short, out of her face, and was kept tidy beneath her cap. The intensity of her grey eyes fell upon the Lieutenant before her.
“What do you mean the trainees all deserted!? Explain.”
“Well, the squad reached the objective, then we lost visual when the storm hit, ma’am,” Lieutenant Anastasia Long resisted the urge to squirm. “My own forces never made contact after that and we can confirm that they successfully managed to take down the defense network. Despite having no other opposition they failed to show up at the rendezvous, and they are still unaccounted for. I’m … not sure how else to interpret that.” The Lieutenant shrugged and let out a nervous laugh. “Maybe I was flexing a bit too much with all the headshots?”
The Captain did not laugh.
The Lieutenant awkwardly cleared her throat. “We did a sweep of the area once the hailstorm died down, but we found nothing. They didn’t even leave the wounded behind in their escape. At least they had camaraderie successfully drilled into them in basic, I guess. What do you want to do, ma’am?”
“The entire squadron, you say … even the wounded,” Zheleznaya pondered, calculating. “One or two men dishonoring the uniform I might … understand,” she almost spat at the word, “but not the whole unit. Notify Nolnaya City of the missing soldiers. I want them found immediately.”
“Dead or alive, ma’am?” asked Anastasia. The penalty for desertion was … high.
“Alive,” replied Captain Zheleznaya, “for now. Something is off about this, and I do not like it. There is a chance our men are in danger, and if they are, we are going to get them out of it. And if they are not in danger,” she clenched her fist into an iron grip, “then they will be.”
Lee slowly opened his eyes. He was unsure of his location, only that it was cold and dark. He tried to stand, but found that his arms were restrained.
“This is not good.”
“Oh, man,” he heard his buddy Ivan groan beside him, “Is it just my imagination, or did that simulated exercise seem really real?”
“Quiet,” Lee whispered, “I don’t think this is a training mission anymore.”
“... shit. I was hoping you wouldn’t say that.”
One by one, the rest of their comrades began to wake up, groaning in pain and confusion. Soon, soft yet menacing footsteps drew near, echoing throughout the room, and a voice spoke out.
“Excellent! You’re all awake,” a pair of glowing green eyes came into view. “Now we can begin.”
Editor’s Notes: Aw yeah, a new story begins! This is the first part of a new miniseries written by DragonStorm247, the GM of the original Spacemon campaign. I’m just in charge of posting it so I can easily go back and edit things as necessary. As mentioned above, this piece is a good jumping-on point for anyone reading for the first time. This miniseries stands on its own and will serve as a good introduction to the setting leading into the upcoming sequel series to the original Spacemon series. However, for those who have read everything, it’s another exciting adventure. For context for those who have read it, Red Winter is set about four decades after the end of the original series. Now sit back and enjoy; the five parts of Red Winter will all be dropping throughout the week!
That does it for this part. As always the Spacemon gang and I will be monitoring the comments to foster discussion and answer any questions. Feel free to give feedback and critiques of the writing so I can improve it for the future, or just leave a comment with what you think about what went down in this piece! You can also revisit past chapters, check out the rest of the Spacemon saga, join the Spacemon Discord server, or like our Facebook page to stay updated on all things Spacemon! Click here for the next exciting installment of Spacemon!