Thousand Dying Suns

Oh Look. They have a Voltron.
Carters vlog

We successfully made planet fall on the planet Bureaucratopolis where the System Baron and his lackeys Lackey about. Also there is a chapter of the Church militant – whom we ran into before we even left the space port. They adhere to galactic standard grumpy traffic cop demeanor. It is good to know that some things are universal. We managed to avoid fleeing from the gaze of their Authority as we presented our papers ( literal paper! Nary a biometric to be found! What an odd bunch of neoBarbs these are ).

Anyway. Knight Chaplain Maug evidently found us suspicious and felt the need for a once over. We made it through that gauntlet without incident, but I am concerned how he zeroed in on us from the get go.

We did the tourist thing for a bit whence we came upon a Miners Union todo where they were protesting Arcturi for their role in worker exploitation. It seemed a rather festive affair until a bomb went off. Much harried running about and scanning for follow on attacks ( I guess I’ve seen to many terrorist affairs in my day as my first impulse was to look for the follow on attack against the first responders ) as the group pitched in to help. We managed to discover the entire thing was a set-up, with the bomber very obviously trying to make a show of being an anarchist. Straight out of the Propo handbook. The more things change I suppose.

Venture was able to pick out the site of some planetary com nodes that were active during the bombing. After dealing with the locals’ idea of analog encryption she was able to pin down military traffic, Church traffic and the tail end of something from the Eminence saying they should follow up about us. I suspect further visits from Maug and his cohort.

Eventually we made it to Moorepoint, the seat of the Church ( a huge tourist location ) and “the gargoyle” which is clearly some sort of powered down, radiation absorbing Apocalypse Voltron.


Initial exploration of Caliban system.
What do you mean it's all bloody analog?!

This is the first official vlog of acting Captain Carter Hamilton-Smythe of the Venture.

We’ve made it to the Caliban system by hitch-hiking and propelling on the mega-derelict. Douglas Adams would be proud. One of the first things we did was to sort out a crew manifest of temporary assignments. The ship recognized this expediency until we could once again come under the Command Authority of the Admiralty. Thus, me as acting captain. These are tremendous shoes to fill and I will do my upmost to serve The Vessel and to represent The Dominions to the best of my ability.

We have hired a local guide named Gromes. His new salary is evidently 1000 solarian credits per month. An intriguing tidbit in of itself. This leads me to wonder, is this an alternate Empire of Man? Where is Terra? Is this the far future of what we were building? Or some sort of twisted disaster produced by the infinite mutability of the multiverse? Either way, the entire situation exudes absurdity.

On his advice we are masquerading as explorers from the Second Republic. Evidently it is not unheard of for entire clusters of lost stars to reappear now and then.

It turns out that Caliban is ruled by a combination of aristocratic satrapies and medieval style guilds who create monopolies around certain techs. Evidently they’ve lost democratic institutions here. In any event, we will endeavor to join the ‘Spacefarer’s guild’ as soon as reasonable.

As such we made for the System Capitol where we set up a line of credit were we could purchase innumerable permits, licenses, and tax fees for everything under the sun (confirming this is a human system at the very least).

We did find out that while the natives were shocked by our method of travel via Einstein-Rosenburg bridge, the authorities rapidly lost interest when they discovered Venture is not ‘jump gate’ capable.

Amusingly, the natives use a very similar method of FTL jump travel as the Venture, but their analog (!) computers simply aren’t capable of performing the required calculations. This opens up an opportunity. The native system economy seems to revolve around resource extraction (animal protein and minerals) as well as relic mining. So it is quite possible that we could hop to a nearby system and set up auto miners to produce alloys or minerals they find rare here in order to pay off of debt to the Guild and bureaucrats.

Long term we need to figure out how to make Venture gate capable (which should hopefully require only modifications. We need to do some analysis of how their keys and gates communicate, and then how the physics interact. Perhaps some packet sniffing probes are in order), and then resume fixing the Skip Drive so we can become dimensionally capable.

Outside of that make ourselves useful to the locals and not get so into hawk that the tax assessors or the local church inquisition decide to seize Venture. Reminder to the team; let’s not oversell our competency. As such, skin suits are to be covered by utility overalls when mingling. The FAB and Venture’s AI are to remain on lockdown as much as possible when the locals are about. (this also includes the Food prep area. Let’s start a chef of the week / day rotary. Last thing they need to see are FABbed pho, lamb vindaloo and such things). No need for them to get interesting ideas about the shiny bits. I would hate to have to space Gromes because he decided selling info about Venture was in his best interests.

Memo so self: FAB some pans, spatulas and other miscellany when Gromes is sleeping.

Further note: enquire with our Esotery Officer to see if he can put up ‘this is boring’ fields around certain parts of Venture.

Final note: Train Olis on Security spaces and procedures as well as making certain he has correct access to the security and anti-boarding systems.

I need an even more final notes field. Training for Arden on ship processes and capabilities ASAP.

Even in space, there are still nobles and peasants
Olis recordings, arriving on Valles

I chat with Venture. She has a lot of information. For example, the sun here is A3V white main sequence star named Caliban. I have no idea what that means. Therein lies the problem. Too much information can cloud a command decision. In addition, what she tells me often does not mean anything to me. It’s like asking a question in Hrondene, and the reply is in Dolmnic. She needs to use words I understand.

The others return from the Conger Reef. Apparently they have hired a local guildsman to guide us. His name is Gromes. I’ve dealt with his type before… greasy.

He gave us a run down on the power structure:
The Baron runs the system and is the local representative for the Empire.
There is the Guild which controls stellar commerce.
There is an Archbishop representing the church.
There are three major Mining Companies (Rockannon, Teledyne, Vrestag). Mining is the lifeblood of this system.
There are some other noble houses.
Then there is everyone else, including the Miner’s Union.

He also gave us a brief history lesson:
4993 First Emperor Contantine Hawkwood
5568 Rain of Fire and closing of Hammadryad
5715 Atrulinos line founded by Dârsax the Fair
6036 Ibanzag line founded by Ubaros the Despot.
6317 current year, current Emperor is Alunos the Black, fourth Ibanzag Emperor

We make contact with the red planet Valles. Under Gromes guidance, we pretend to be Second Republic survivors that are reestablishing contact with the Empire. This gets us through the border. Good. I think we need a gate key of our own if we are to travel the stars. We can’t be hauling that derelict Crucifx everywhere we go. How to get our own key? That is the question.

Some rumors we picked up:
Tensions between the mining companies and the miner’s union is rising.
Kooj piracy continues to plague the shipping lanes.
House Arcturi implicated in Teledyne kickback scandal.
Geologist claims new crystal found but has since disappeared.

The Death Throes of the Imp?
KindleNomicon Audio+Text entry - Thorne

So we talked and they listened and now we have a logical choice for Captain and for XO; Carter and Arden, respectively. This seems almost as it should be. We might have preferred it the other way round, but that’s what opening things up to democracy means. It’s funny, they thought we wanted to be Captain. Have we presented ourselves as someone who wants to control them? Maybe in as much as we cause things to happen that maybe not everyone wants to happen. That’s a bit subversive. Maybe that’s why.

But thinking on the implications there, we do need to change. We have gotten what we wanted. A means to move vast distances and possibly even to travel between dimensions. We are delivered unto a new reality. We have been shown that cosmic forces move in the Multiverse and we have been given the opportunity to manipulate them for the good of the powerless. What we always suspected is true. So this imp that we present as, It’s got to be reigned in. If we are to play the role of the Wise, we must project wisdom. We know enough, and have seen enough, to do it. But the urge to pick at the seams of everything is so great. We have been so long at playing the malcontent that we’ve almost forgotten that something would be required of us when we removed all the things we were not content with.

So, the Carver was a force for change in the Universe and she has given us the means to be the same. This has to start with proving to those who have come with us that we can be that force. So, the imp must show restraint. It can’t really die, not really. But it can’t color our interactions with our companions and those whom we meet to the extent that it has. We need to be able to be relied upon for more than mystic nonsense and chaos. We are a source of knowledge and Wisdom. Our bearing must reflect that. For good cause.

Even now, some of us, all of us historically, have made decisions because they are safe or pragmatic or efficient. When we (Erasmus and Chezza) were split, we made every decision to be made whole once more, caring nothing for the larger implications. But in our (the Party’s) encounter with the bugs, it was made wholly apparent to us that the time for us to make safe decisions had passed. We have to care. We have to seek to understand. We have to put ourselves in the role of potential enemies and ask “why do they do this?” If the answer is anything less than malice or allegiance with the Unlife, we must show restraint and compassion. We perch on the fulcrum of cosmic events and we must not be petty or safe in our actions or thoughts.

Then, and only then, can we start to work against the forces that have beset this place, and lift the people suffering under them up. The Eldar have corrupted the Church Celestial, the Emperor and the Noble houses. At least, that was the state of things when Carver was last here, and nothing so far indicates that this has changed, only progressed further.

So as we go, we must try to gain a clearer picture of how those corrupted forces interact and at the same time seek the key, determine what it opens, and whether or not the door will solve the problems in this place or make them worse.

We can’t wait to begin.

“There is no passion in nature so demoniacally impatient, as that of him who, shuddering upon the edge of a precipice, thus meditates a Plunge.”
-Edgar Allan Poe, The Imp of the Perverse

Caliban star system awaits
Olis recordings, I hate guilds

Remind me why we are helping the space bugs? I like not this idea but the others seem insistent. They have fashioned a helmet that can talk to the bugs. The bugs are not like the Chagma. They do not think well. We can tell they want to leave the star system but that is about it. If we take them through the gate, we could be releasing a plague upon the next star system. Thorne tells them we will help them in return for the cessation of hostilities. I understand we need the gate opener on Crucifix but taking the bugs with us? Well, it’s not on my conscience.

Since Crucifix is one big derelict, we turn the Venture into a tug. Carter would be mad but he’s not here. So we haul Crucifix out to the far point. Moving further away from the sun makes the bugs even more sluggish. Eventually, they go into hibernation. So why not squash them while they are down? Whatever.

We transit the gate. We are in a different star system called Caliban. There are numerous planets orbiting the sun. We are taking all of this in when we are hailed! The Conger Reed asks if we require assistance. There is much talking and it appears we need guild permission. Pesky guilds, I don’t trust them. Of course, we are not from here, or even from this universe, so I don’t care. In fact, we discover the Conger Reed is not moving. We approach and we find a freighter in need of repairs. We don’t know these people so I armor and arm myself. The others insist on going unarmed. Screw that. That is exactly how that young idiot noble that I served under got himself killed in the fifth year of my service. It’s easy for Thorne to say go unarmed because he has magics and his mind is a weapon. In the end, I agree to stay behind and be the cavalry. They’ll call me if there is trouble.

Which leaves me all alone on the Venture. Hmm…
“Hello Venture, can you hear me?”
“Yes sir, I can hear you. How may I be of assistance?”
“Well Venture, tell me more about your history. When were you commissioned? How long have you been in service? Any commendations? Tell me, I’m all ears.”

KindleNomicon Audio+Text entry - Thorne

Audio recording transcribed into text, also available as an audio file on the KindleNomicon.

So the problem is, as usual, why, and consequently, who is interested in why. Why are the bugs on Crucifix, were they brought there? Did they come there on their own, Why? Are they organic, if so, who created them, Why? They want to leave and they want us to facilitate that for them. Why do they think we would and what do they want on the other side of the god door? Are they agents of the Unlife? They don’t seem un-lifey, they also don’t seem to represent the Conquering force, because, no conquering, as far as we can tell. So they’re on this big ship, they leave the drive core intact, redesign the rest to their tastes and then, when we arrive, we witness them do two things that seem fundamentally opposed, they fight us and then they try and communicate.

We’re not in agreement with Arden on what this means, however. He’s just had his skull raped by an alien mind-fuck prong. Of course he’s full of “kill it with fire.” That doesn’t change the essential intent of the act: to communicate. Which it accomplished, however inexpertly. So WHY? Their purpose doesn’t necessarily seem to be to destroy organic life. They’re in orbit above an inhabited planet and they left it alone. We know that they can not only survive in vacuum, but can propel themselves through it. So what do they want, why are they here and what are we destroying if we kill them?

Why would we chose that? Because communicating with them further is dangerous, possibly fatal, and we need the ship they’re on. That seems a poor reason to start killing.

We don’t want to kill them. They don’t seem especially driven to kill us. The only problem is communication. We need to have another look at Arden’s head wound scans and see if it’s possible to rig up something to serve as a go-between.

Olis recordings, I'm sick of bugs

I am getting sick of Crucifix. We were traveling through a bug tube and happened upon a crossroads of sorts. There was a big spiral shell and the bugs were marching by it. Thorne says they are moving from dark to light to warm up. The ones coming back from the light move faster. We portal our way past this mess and end up in a corridor with crystals and such. Acid spewing happens so we once again portal past that mess and end up in the control room.

It is a strange sight. A giant cube is suspended in mid-air with lots of cables and conduits running into it. We get on it to look at it closely but something else was looking at us. Arden gets his head pierced by tentacles. Yes, through his helmet. I try to take a swipe at the tentacles but miss. Then Thorne cautions us not to harm it as Arden is trying to communicate with it. With WHAT? I stay my hand and shortly after, the tentacles withdraw. Unfortunately the holes in the helmet it created, not to mention Arden’s head, does not seal up. Arden almost dies but we manage to get him back to the Venture. It was close as we had to seal the helmet first or he would have died shortly after. But that meant the holes in his head were bleeding a lot. That did not go so well and I’m not sure what the others gained out of this futile exercise. The ship cannot go anywhere as it lacks the engines. The only hope was to get information but that was not fruitful. So we decide to head out to the point in space.

The trip is taking several weeks but we are well stocked. The Damians are getting used to the weaponry of the ship. I too become very comfortable with the operations of this heavy plasma rifle. It is not as satisfying as seeing a blade cleave through armor, muscle, and bone, and feeling the impact travel back through your weapons to your arms, but it’s pretty good.

So we are here and it’s impossible. We from Aldamere say there is an old man’s face on the moon. But this? This _thing_… this planet (?) is carved with four faces: Latimer, The Green Man, The Androgyn, and a female face none recognize. I don’t know what it is. Thorne performs the ritual. I almost jump in surprise when the eyes of the faces open. What? What? I don’t even know what to think anymore.

Thorne's Log 1 - Recklessness and Variable Density
You are my density

fumbling, microphone whooshing noise

Uhhm, Star-date whatever the fuck, Thorne’s log number 1

This is my Kindlenomicon, it’s a fine thing, really. It probably needs a better name than that? Maybe not.

A certain healthy recklessness has always seen us through through difficult moments. Although, it must be said, we try not to harm our friends with our choices. They might tell you otherwise. There’s really two ways of looking at this recklessness. On the one hand, our choices move us forward, and frequently in directions that the others might not have chosen. We can’t or wont apologize for that. We would never stop apologizing, and for what? Forward momentum is all, the multiverse calls to us, it’s secret song guides us toward destiny or oblivion. On the other hand, we sometimes are impetuous in the moment and make choices that inadvertently harm our friends. For that, we are sorry.

We teleported onto Crucifix station because we’d just learned how and new toys! But we hadn’t quite gotten the hang of the magic and we drug Olis along with us. Lucky we didn’t explode him, or us, innit? Then there were metal space bugs coming out of Gigerian hive resin walls trying to murder us. Thankfully Carter and the others whooshed in with the venture and skidded it right in the middle of the hanger. Crazy battle ensued. Up was down, dog was cat, magic was muscles. Nothing worked right, very :( Very confusing. We pushed off the station wrong and ended up spinning through the void. That could have been the end without Teleport. This time we got it off right. So we bamf’d back onto the Venture and helped get rid of a few of the bugs. Then everyone was aboard and off into space again.

Something technical was intuited or scanned or both? Arden and Carter and Khiron, some combination thereof, sorted out that the more we riled up the bugs, the more energy they used. They have a finite amount, so if we keep strafing them, eventually they’ll run out and we can just pop them. So we did that for a tic with the ship and the rail gun. It worked pretty well. Kind of boring even, which is the hallmark of having the upper hand in a space battle type situation.

So, we made a drone and sent it into the ship’s bum. Things were discovered! Not sure what really, but we went inside and crawled forward until we got into the engine room. There was a big “bulb.” The bulb was wonky with density. It’s density kept changing, but not it’s mass. Pretty exciting stuff really. There was talk of prizing this device open, which we strongly argued against because there were loads of cables running from it everywhere, which says to us “POWER”. If a thing with variable density is or can power the entire ship, prying it open might equal EXPLOSION or DEATH. We followed one cable to a hull panel and pried it open. Inside were bits covered in runes like the ones on the “key”.

Then we opted to follow the biggest “trunk” of cables which ran forward up the middle of the ship, straight into bug country. We followed it and soon found the weird resin stuff that the bugs make. They consume and reform the ship walls (bulkheads?) into shapes that appear to help with heat dissipation and ease of traversal, for them. We ended up having to wormhole inside one of their tunnels because it completely blocked the way forward. Interestingly, the material of the cables wasn’t harmed by the bugs at all, so either they can’t or won’t re-purpose it into their resin.

Photo references of the bulb, cables and bug walls contained

On military vessels, and the lack of bay windows

Automatons with business suits clinging black boxes,
Sequestering the blueprints of daily life
Contented, free of care, they rejoice in morning ritual
As they file like drone ant colonies to their office in the sky

So there we were, peering at the hangar bay of Crucible through all of the sensor suites we had at our disposal, when two startling things happened; first Thorne and Olis teleported (!) from the bridge to the hangar bay of the derelict. Then out broiled a hoard of… Space bugs.

I kid you not.

Giant mutant radioactive acid spitting space bugs.

I have no idea of they were from the 5th Dimension or the planet Zod, but at this point I couldn’t legitimately counter either assertion.

Regardless. Thorne and Olis found themselves in a bit of zero g bother I began to move the vessel away from the station so we could affect a rescue without putting our vessel at risk, but I then realized there simply wasn’t time. So with a bit of inspired piloting I flew the ship into a space which would have had me cashiered by the Admiralty on general principal if they were about to review the logs. (although the skip in the time log was really odd…)

Thus began a general scrum and montage of punting bugs, watching Thorne drift by, getting Gabriel medical attention from exposure to acid and vacuum followed by me and mostly Khiron patching the hull where necessary.

We then bodged up a drone to explore the aft of the derelict. This showed vast cargo spaces and a dead engineering section (probably because all of the nuclear piles were taken to the surface to warm bath tubs….). Eventually we took the drone too far forward where it was promptly eaten? Disassembled? No idea.

Hours later we played a bit of railgun tag with the bug swarm trying to thin the herd of space bugs.

All of this then begs the question; what next? We could probably clear the vessel of bugs. We would then have to figure out if it is possible to get the vessel up and running again (which may be possible due to the bugs hiding some sort of power source in the toroid). We would then have to find some way to evacuate the population of the planet below, or at least provide the medieval nutters with the way to get to and fro, provide piloting lessons – once we figure out how the monstrosity works…

I am still in favor of examining the rest of the vessel to see if we can recover any salvage, but I believe if the Hawkwood clan want to explore the galaxy they’ll need a commercial freighter instead of this thing.

Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!
Olis recordings, fighting space bugs

So we are over at Crucifix when giant bugs swarm us. And by us, I mean just Thorne and me. They are the size of large dogs and they do not like us. As they come at us, I try kicking them but something weird happens. It’s like… I’m not kicking them with my muscles. It’s like I have to WILL my legs to kick them. It’s really tiring to think that hard. So I managed to kick two of them but they do not splatter. Unfortunate. I manage to dodge their attacks but there are so many of them. It’s not looking good.

Then suddenly the Venture is there. I thought they were going to crash into us. Carter sure knows how to pilot the ship, or is it the Ehi Eye who is doing the piloting? I jump onto the hull of the Venture, just like the bugs are doing. A hatch opens and there is Gabriel, Khiron and Arden. That’s when I notice another type of bug on the station. These bugs are much larger than the swarming bugs. They are like twice the size of a sturdy ox and shaped kind of like a river snail. They also kind of glow and the next thing I know, I hear screaming from the comm as Gabriel is hit by something that the cone bug spit out. His suit is melting and Khiron is scrambling to tape him up. I don’t see Carter but I hear him screaming to get the bugs off of his ship. Apparently Thorne has made it to where Carter is so he’s safe. I lost track of him when he went hurtling off the station. Anyway, I hop over and kick more bugs while the Venture starts to pull away.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, the bugs can swim through space. How? Don’t ask me. My comrades told me there was nothing in space, which is why we wear these ridiculous outfits. So how can bugs swim through nothing? Hmm… I guess Venture does sail through space so maybe space isn’t nothing. I remember something about magic and the ether. Maybe space is ether? Bah! Too much thinking, not enough action.

We get away from the bugs and Carter gets to fire his railgun. There is much glee. Once we are safe, there is a long, boring discussion about what to do next. I mean, we either go to the other place in space, or we clear out Crucifix of the bug problem. There is much talk about having all the people on Damaina come onto Crucifix so they can sail away from the apocalypse. They tell me Crucifix is actually a huge ship but centuries old. But maybe it can’t sail anymore. Well, then why are we bothering with it? Thorne insists we need to save the people on Damaina. Those people have lived on the planet for many centuries. They didn’t even know about this prophesy. It clearly hasn’t happened yet and who knows if it will actually happen. I stopped listening after awhile and took a nap.

When I awoke, Carter and Khiron had made a small robot so they could scout Crucifix. The bugs are on the side of Crucifix where the sun shines. So we go send in the scout from the dark side. Inside, It‘s all metal hallways. Carter thinks it looks bad. The “engine” is worthless, confirming that it can’t sail. Eventually, the scout robot gets eaten by bugs.

We should stop worrying about this derelict ship and go to the other place in space.


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