Rumil Bonamede considered herself one of the finest hackers in the galaxy, searching for information on a mass genocide of her birthworld more than twenty staryears ago. Left with barely any memories of her childhood before the day that would be known as the Baramak Slaughter, she takes on increasingly risky endeavors into Solarian and Kiros influence and information centers, the religious war between them believed to be somehow connected to the attack.When she draws the attention of each sect’s most powerful Knights, psionic-trained supersoldiers charged with defending their culture and religious beliefs, Rumil begins to think she is getting close. Instead, what she eventually discovers could lead to casualties that dwarf even the billions that died on Baramak.The first full-length novel by Thomas Knapp, former sportswriter, part-time fiction writer, and collaborator for the upcoming MegaTokyo: Endgames project with Fred Gallagher. A sequel is already in the works, and if all goes according to plan, the series will conclude with a core trilogy, two prequel stories, an anthology sequel, and a Distant Finale, with several more short stories to set the stage.The Second Gate, its five preceding short stories, and other unrelated works can be found at his Wordpress page. Given enough demand, a printed version will likely be published in the coming year.See the accompanying Character Page.
Above Good and Evil: The Endtimers. Fulfilling the will of the Creator is apparently more important than actually obeying his rules.
Aerith and Bob: A mild case - "Rumil" and "Dewin" are about the most unusual names in the story. What's odd though is that the most ordinary names don't go to the Arcadians, but the elf-like Erani.
All Nations Are Superpowers: The Galactic Alliance consists mostly of three superpower states: the Arcadian, Solarian, and Kiros. Everything else is either subject to one of those three, or barely worth mentioning.
All Work vs. All Play: Timothy and Rumil. One wants to save the galaxy, the other just wants to enjoy living. Both are extremely committed to their perspective.
Always Chaotic Evil: The demons of Bannor. Slightly less chaotic than they used to be, though...
Always Lawful Good: Erani civilization strives for this. Whether they're succeeding is a matter of opinion.
Anachronism Stew: Knights train in swordfighting, mostly for the sake of tradition when dueling against enemy Knights. For conventional combat, they have psionics and sidearms.
Ancient Conspiracy: The Endtimers, heretics within the Solarian faith who believe in accelerating the timetables of prophecy to usher in the next great age (with themselves on top).
Animal Assassin: An unusual variant. While on Feria, a sniper shoots Timothy with a needle loaded with pheromones to make the wild Ferians mob him.
Armor Is Useless: Carbide armor is an aversion, effective against combative and environmental hazards. Angels, however, are already impervious to anything their armor could stop - it's not meant to protect them, but to protect everything else from their Pure Awesomeness.
Divine Parentage: The Erani claim this as a species, being descended from the half-angelic Se-Lan. More specifically, Justin's mother was Se-Lan, making him roughly one-quarter angel.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: Two religions with a shared history go to war against each other because one of them recognizes a prophet that the other considers a heretic.
Double Weapon: The swallow, a double-bladed sword, said to be the favored weapon of the Archangel Mican, and imitated by Bryan Honore's Star Smasher. Never a popular weapon, Timothy has to resort to an old training manual to learn the basics of handling one, with some frustration.
The Driver: The acid-tongued servant of the Diviner of Vilium Temple, who drives Dewin to and from their meetings. Becomes an Ascended Extra in the sequel.
Dying Town: Demod, the capital city of the world of the same name.
Human Aliens: Partially subverted. While many species within the galactic alliance share cosmetic similarities, a result of being engineered from what amounted to a genetic template by the Se-Lan fore-bearers, other species that were not a result of their tampering (such as the Ruma and Ferian) appear very not-human indeed.
Knight Templar: All Erani Knights can be this way, to different degrees. Rumil calls Justin out on it at one point.
Large and in Charge: Arch-Demons, which tower physically over other demons and humanoids. Averted with Archangels, who are mortal-sized, yet exponentially more "in charge" than their demon counterparts.
LEGO Genetics: Subverted. The Psionic Arcadian project involved adding the "third helix" of Erani DNA into Arcadian children, but it turns out the people behind the project didn't expect it to work, and didn't care if it did. Notably, Rumil was the only "successful" subject out of hundreds, at least.
Letter Motif: The Feroz family honors their ancestor Julian by giving everybody names starting with "J" sounds.
The Makeover: Rumil enjoys one in preparation for a Solarian celebration.
Mana: A psionic's energy capacity is finite, and a direct measure of the psionic's overall power.
Cast from Hit Points: And when a psionic needs to burn off more power than they have, it gets drained from their biological energy. At the same time, the brain instinctively tries to sever its connection the spirit in order to prevent permanent harm. The consequences range from a mild and temporary psionic burnout to a comatose state - which is usually too late to save the psionic anyway.
Mega City: The Arcadian capital of Citadel, a single city roughly the size of Asia.
Timothy is a divine being born into a mortal body to save his people from evil.
Rumil is a divine prophet who defies all expectations of what a prophet should be, including abolishing many of the rules her followers established for themselves.
Justin willingly gives up his life to fulfill a prophecy of a new age for his people.
Mission from God: The Erani, tasked by their prophets to find and destroy the Gates of Bannor. After the first one, they kinda got detoured.
Modern Stasis: Life in the Galactic Alliance isn't much different from the modern world, except for exponentially superior electronic and propulsion technologies.
Modest Royalty: The Solarian King Frederick, who, at most, wears a dress uniform and simple coronet to official functions. When he pops into Timothy's apartment for a friendly chat, he's dressed as plain as it gets.
Moment Killer: Justin walks in on Rumil and Timothy just as the latter begins a his hungry advance on Rumil. Granted, this might be for the best, since Timothy's behavior was really wierd, and he snaps out of it the moment Justin shows up.
Muscles Are Meaningless: When it comes to the Erani. Though smaller than other humanoids, they have extraordinary bone and muscle density, and surprising speed. This and a dash of psionics makes it a simple affair for a skilled 5 1/2' Erani to kick an 8' Ubek into a tumble.
Mysterious Informant: The entire Sentinel network is basically a wikipedia run by Mysterious Informants.
Nice to the Waiter: Timothy is markedly polite to helpstaff in contrast to his snarky nature, and Justin's household treats their son's nursemaid like one of the family. Both are scions of the galaxy's most aristocratic families.
No Conservation of Energy: The magic practiced in ancient times drew power directly from outside the physical plane. By contrast, psionic energy is fueled by ordinary caloric intake, though it's still extra-planar in nature and processed by a "spiritual metabolism" that amplifies the energy consumed.
The Erani avert Big Eater tendencies, however. Average Erani metabolize so little psionic power that it merely helps to keep a few pounds off, while Knights would prefer to take calorie supplements than try horfing down forty-two cheesecakes a day to stay at peak strength.
Old Shame: If you ask real nice, the author just might tell you what his very first draft was like, when he started writing it back in high school. Or maybe he'll just tell you it was vomitously bad, and leave it at that.
Said author keeps one (and only one) hardcopy of the first manuscript (started at age 15), to remind him how positively horrible it was so that he never writes such tepid garbage ever again.
Oracular Urchin: Fairly common for Demodian Diviners, as they are found and trained from youth.
Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Almost all Arcadians are atheist - some aggressively so - since religion was abolished during Arcadia's medieval period. They insist the alleged "demons" at the Battle of the First Gate were merely exotic aliens, and surely the "divine inheritance" of Erani psionics could be explained away just as easily, if the Erani ever let somebody outside of their race study their genetics.
Not that the atheist opinions on the matter are necessarily wrong... at least, not any more wrong than what the Erani tend to believe.
Some Arcadians do subscribe to Erani religion though. They tend not to be open about it, since it puts them in the unfortunate position of being unaccepted by suspicious Erani and mocked by fellow Arcadians.
Pre-Climax Climax: Hours before arriving at Mydor, where Bryan's prophecy says Timothy has a 50/50 chance of dying, Rumil decides to consummate their relationship at last. The trope gets averted when she ends up falling to pieces instead.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Most leaders throughout the Alliance, even in spite of their shadier doings. Most of all, Robert Datson after he becomes Premier.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Timothy and Justin. On the surface, Timothy is the calm and centered blue, while Justin is the zealous and passionate red, but deeper down, the opposite is true: Timothy is the defiant rule-breaker while Justin is proud and traditional.
Shoulders of Doom: Older styles of Erani armor, sometimes still worn by high officers, feature oversized pauldrons specifically to look impressive.
Single-Biome Planet: Solaria, which became a barely-hospitable desert world in the course of the Archangel Wars, wiping out its original inhabitants. There's also an all-arctic world, chosen for the site of a military base partly because it's so miserable.
Space Amish: The remnant of the ancient Se-Lan on Mydor. They're surrounded by the ruins of their own ancient civilization, and purposely avoid going down that road again.
Space Pirates: Of course. The Blood Hawks are the largest and best-organized of the lot.
Stripperiffic: Combat armor, when molded for somebody with impressive musculature or curves, can be very flattering.
Tattooed Crook: The Blood Hawks each have their emblem tattooed somewhere on their arms or shoulders.
Tranquil Fury: The Nerean Trance practiced by some Knights. When Justin uses it, Rumil notes how his entire personality seems to disappear. When Emmitt uses it however, he seems perfectly normal, much to Justin's regret.
Wrong Side of the Tracks: The Erani have the ghetto variation in the form of "homeless camps." Ostensibly the camps are there to keep the destitute safe, but Rumil suspects its just so other Erani can pretend they don't exist.
You All Meet in an Inn: Deliberately played with. Timothy, Justin and Rumil all meet each other in an ally outside an abandoned tavern.
You Can't Fight Fate: The Erani prophecies. Some think that fate can be delayed or accelerated though.