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Literature / The Second Gate

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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.

The Second Gate provides examples of:

  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: One reason Knights prefer not to use psionic interrogation.
  • A Protagonist Shall Lead Them: Bryan Honore's visions of the Sixth Prophet.
  • 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.
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  • 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 awesomeness.
  • Arranged Marriage: A staple of Erani nobility.
  • Aren't You Forgetting Someone?? / Snub by Omission: Rumil and Timothy explain to a third party that they plan to ditch Justin once they're done with him... with Justin in the room with them. Luckily, they were lying.
  • Attempted Rape
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: In general, the higher a Knight's rank, the more ass he can kick.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: A couple. One is a strip club, the other is an upper-middle class family establishment.
  • The Battlestar: The thirteen Dreadnoughts of the Solarian military, with complements of two million personnel and capable of berthing and servicing up to a dozen cruisers at a time.
  • Because Destiny Says So
  • Beneath the Mask: More than one character is not at all what they seem. Some don't even know they're wearing masks.
  • Bittersweet Ending
  • Blue Blood: Timothy and Justin, and indeed, every other Knight.
  • Breast Plate: When Rumil gets custom-molded armor, somewhat to her embarassment.
  • Character Tics: Especially Timothy, whose limited yet distinctive range of facial expressions consists almost entirely of smirking and sneering.
  • The Chase: The first quarter of the story.
  • Chunky Salsa Rule: When sidearms typically use explosive plasma rounds, Pretty Little Headshots just aren't an option.
  • The Church: The Kiros and Solarian faiths are pretty much the ONLY religions in the galaxy now, having usurped all others.
  • Church Militant
  • The Clan: The basic community unit among Ubeks.
  • Coup de Grâce: Twice in the short stories.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Second Battle of Mydor, once Mican shows up. At that point, the Arch-Demon is rendered so irrelevant that he gets his ass kicked off-screen (so to speak).
    • A popular aphorism among the Erani is that one Knight is the equal of a thousand soldiers. This turns out to be a bit of an exaggeration though.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Several. The Baramak Slaughter is responsible in some way for almost all of them.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Baramak Slaughter.
  • 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.
  • Duel to the Death: Common among Knights.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Yes, they're out there... and some are already here.
  • The End of the Beginning: The appearance of the Sixth Prophet heralds the next great age of Erani history.
  • Famous Ancestor: Each of the premier Knighthood families of the Kiros and Solarians trace their lineage to the two great heroes of the battle of the First Gate.
  • The Federation: The Galactic Alliance, which is largely benevolent and effective in spite of the many skeletons in its closet. Notable in that there's no Evil Empire to contrast it against. Yet.
    • The Galactic Alliance is more analogous to the United Nations than The Federation, anyway.
  • Five-Man Band: Juggled around a bit, but mostly lays out like so...
    • Timothy: The Hero, the one most actively working to make the world a better place.
    • Justin: The Chick, thanks to being the protagonist with the closest thing to a normal family life.
    • Rumil: The Smart Guy from start to finish.
    • Dewin: The Lancer eventually, though he'd be the Hero in his own mind.
    • Orion: The Big Guy. It's all that he aspires to be, and he's quite happy with that, thank you.
  • For the Evulz: Regis Gallan, former leader of the Blood Hawk pirates, was by all accounts an irredeemable prick.
  • Freudian Trio: Timothy, Rumil, and Justin.
    • Timothy: Superego - stern, moralistic, driven by idealism to impose change for the greater good.
    • Justin: Ego - believes the status quo works just fine for everyone and actively works to maintain it.
    • Rumil: Id - generally motivated only by concern for herself and those few close to her.
  • Going Commando: Combat armor is molded to fit the wearer very closely, and is normally worn only with a skintight bodysuit instead of typical undergarments. Rumil forgets this to her discomfort.
  • Good Is Not Nice
  • Götterdämmerung: The Archangel Wars 2000 years ago. Every civilization in the galaxy felt the ramifications of it to some degree.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Possible between any two humanoid species, but exceedingly rare and always producing sterile offspring.
  • The Heretic: The Endtimers.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade / Historical Villain Downgrade: It's a safe bet that Bryan Honore and Julius Feroz weren't as saintly/villainous as the Erani sects would believe. And they're not the only ones...
  • Hollywood Apocrypha: Averted in the writings of the Fifth Prophet, Bryan Honore, whose writings read like the diary of an ordinary man... who just happened to have divine visions.
  • How We Got Here: The Second Gate begins with Rumil struggling to find an opening for her memoirs, then going outside to meet a Mysterious Watcher and reminisce about their past.
  • Humans by Any Other Name: Arcadians.
  • 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.
  • Humble Hero: Everyone but Dewin.
  • Hyperspace: Called "foldspace" in this universe, and makes it possible to cross the galaxy in hours... if you know exactly how to program the coordinates.
  • I Am Who??: No less than three times. That's what happens when apocalyptic prophecies get involved...
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Star Smasher. Or so everyone thinks - it actually drains power from everything around it, which is how it seals the Gates.
  • Interspecies Romance
  • The Jeeves: Fiona, the head servant of Justin's household.
  • Ki Manipulation
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Craig Honore, Timothy's adopted big brother and childhood role model.
  • 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.
  • Lie to the Beholder: Psionics can create illusions, either real or subjective.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Jonathan Feroz grows up to look and behave almost exactly like Justin. Less thoroughly, Timothy learns that his father Niles was an idealistic revolutionary in his youth.
  • Lineage Comes from the Father: Standard for the patriarchal Erani. Timothy notes one exception - Bryan Honore never had children, so the current Honore family is descended from Bryan's sisters.
  • MacGuffin: The Star Smasher.
  • 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.
  • Messianic Archetype: Divided up among each of the trio.
    • 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.
  • Odd Couple: Timothy with both Justin and Rumil.
  • 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.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: The Se-Lan, who've lived in complete isolation since the Archangel Wars.
  • Pointy Ears: Erani.
  • Power Levels: All Knights are tested and measured on their raw psionic output. Timothy specifically chooses not to know his though, seeing it as rather pointless.
  • Plot Coupon: The unedited prophecies of Bryan Honore.
  • 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.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guys: The Ubeks, who even determine ethnic superiority by ritual mass combat.
  • The Quest: Most of the second half of the story.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Who indeed?
  • 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.
  • Relationship Upgrade
  • Rescue Romance: With three years between the rescue and the romance.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Erani nobiliy is comprised of its Knighthood. And at the Second Battle of Mydor, the two Erani kings personally attend.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The evil being the demons of Bannor, the seals being the seven Gates, and the cans being planets.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: The prophecy of Mican's return. According to Bryan's unedited version, a certain individual does a One-Winged Angel into an actual angel.
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: Solarian ships are quite shiny, thanks to their proprietary metallurgy.
  • 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.
  • Space Plane: Trans-atmospheric shuttles.
  • Standard Sci-Fi History: With one notable difference - the disaster prior to alien contact happened on EVERY world.
  • Standard Sci Fi Setting: Most of the elements are there, with the exception of epic space battles (thus far).
  • 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.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Horace Hightower.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Word of God says that among the Erani nobility, "sterile" is a code word for "homosexual."
    • And yes, that means exactly what it means when Niles is referred to as such. Hence why he is extremely dubious that he is Timothy's father.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The justification of the Endtimers.
  • Very Punchable Man: Several, but the most punchable are the three pirates who assaulted Rumil when she was working as a stripper.
  • We Help the Helpless: Part of the creed of both Knighthoods.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Taesha, the preadolescent Diviner of Vilium Temple. And it creeps Dewin out just a bit.
  • 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.


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