Thousand Dying Suns

N8, internal log, 20170920
Awakening

This one is uncertain of events. Darkness. Then an awakening. Before full activity could be resumed, this one detected people who move through a dimensional rift in space. This one attempted to follow. Then there was change. This one is certain of being called N8. This one is certain of being an artificial construct. This one is certain of metal and ceramic and plastic. This one stares in wonder at a body now of stone and sand. Confusion.

There is an attack. Three robed men swing axes. N8 remembers skills. N8 parries the first blow and dodges the others. N8 is not alone. There are others also being attacked by these robed men. Although violent, they are unskilled. N8 dances on the sand’s surface confusing its enemies. A quick blow breaks bones and sends the attacker’s axe flying. A female is under attack. N8 aims and triggers the release. N8 remembers beams of light. Instead, a rock shoots out of N8’s palm. It still strikes the attacker with deadly efficiency. Most unusual.

The defenders drive off the attackers. The man is speaking to us. His name Is Yen Getti. He says the caravan master Mon Chander is missing. He suspects collusion between the master and the bandits. Yen Getti identifies this one as a free Jinn. Is that correct? N8 has no way to refute the current reality. The others of skill are all biological: a female named Caitlyn, a female named Zamia, a male named Arden, a male named Gabriel, and a male named Khiron. The caravan is traveling from Opar to Ofir. These words mean nothing to N8. The landscape is of desert and dunes. Location? Unknown.

There is a village nearby that we retreat to. Something is amiss. After partaking of drink and food at the bar, several of the party fall ill/sleep. Poison? This one retreats to the safety of the caravans, carrying two back.

Night deepens. The camp is surrounded. Two dozen figures emerge from the darkness. A net is thrown over N8. Again, skills come back as N8 easily slips off the net and begins the dance. Khiron is attacked. He appears to lack CQC capabilities. N8 goes to assist his new companion. The words of Gabriel has power. The ill companions rise, no longer ill. The tide turns. Once again the defenders drive off the attackers. Query. What to do next?

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A Series of Extraordinary Events
Caitlyn's vlog

To quickly sum up;

  • Dwight and the zombie lizard can make amazing chili, enough to put the Texarkanans traditional cuisine to shame.
  • We were able to free the married couple of their perpetual zombie status. The rest of the guests disintegrated, but reuniting the Swan with their bodies freed them.
  • Which also destroyed Ms. Mummy. So much for needing to find her phylactery thing.
  • We managed to converse with maintenance worker in their weird ugly masks.
  • Then we found the Bondage Fun Room
  • Which lead to the golden machine.

That machine was a bit hair raising, as it sucked out My and Dwight’s souls. Luckily Ardwen was able to do some time shenanigans, coupled with Dwight’s magic-mumbo-jumbo and well, shooting it, caused it to slowly fall apart. Explosively.

We next proceeded to the clone decanting chamber. One looked rather like Chezza. Another ahem well endowed gentleman emerged. We had an interesting conversation, followed by him ripping a tear in reality and wandering off to his next engagement sans clothing.

I wish I could even make this nonsense up.

Next there were costume ball cannibals back in the gift room. The Cavalcade of Inane sallies forth. They foolishly brought knives to a firearms fight.

I’ve also got a bit of a note about the Marquis of Aoli and the Lady Torc. I believe those where the previously mentioned blissful newlyweds newly awakened from their slumber.

Final location we discovered was a giant Aboritum. Mr. Trundleball was able to map out the area and show me video of patrolling Orchizoids and a trapped…. Man? Adonis thing both trapped and engaging in a conjugal relationship with all of the ivy in the universe.

I think.

I’m still kind of hoping this is the result of some REALLY good drugs someone slipped me in the mess earlier. I’m assuming Ensign Cambridge. He does like the prank wars. I’m thinking graphene-transpolymeride in his underwear might be a good reply – it would turn into goo in the presence of the microwave after all. Seems appropriate.

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Portals and Paintings
Caitlyn's vlog

So there we were, facing a biomass on the dead planet. Thorne mouths off with a ‘Well, that’s that then’ and off he jumps through the Lizard’s portal. Leaving us without his psychic VooDoo staff +10 against getting your brain eaten by ghosts.

We all jumped through the portal after him following a comical moment (laugh track optional) of looking at each other in disbelief. Bloody hell and other insults to his lineage and bearing were bellowed.

We then spent a spot of time faffing about with the 20th century gizmos in the warehouse; a robot man, paintings, video disks. I found the pyramid control widget and started scanning the whatever out of it as it had…. blank spots lacking EM. Specifically there was a little black box of some sort.

I need to snag one of those to disassemble.

Whilst all of this was going on, Thorns were playing with some painting. He eventually mutters come look at this then and we found our self in a painting facing a woman having a bit of a bondage moment. Khiron somehow deftly avoided Thorn’s grasping and avoided the matter/space transferal painting.

So some more puttering about, interrogating whatshername, the boys boggling over a bit of nudity and off we went (Khiron in tow) to the next room.

Oh! I almost forgot, some cowhand that the group met elsewhere showed up folded in a box. He made a big deal about my skinsuit leaving my ankles exposed or some such retrograde neobarb wankery. The group seem pleased to see him there as Thornes are missing in action.

sighs

Of we went to meet a blue demon woman who was looking for ‘unique statues’. This began manderings and wanderings through;

  • an Escher painting where the non zero g rated people got a bit iffy.
  • A reception / cloak room with a talking peacock.
  • A wedding filled with dead attendees and the happy couple in stasis.
  • A Gift room with a Swan and a river of wine containing the souls of the happy couple and the officiator of the event.
  • A stone hallway filled with orchids.
  • The actual gift room filled with rotting things, an asymmetrical chandelier and a locked door.

I hopped through the door only to find a mummy woman named Safferonia Wort. She wants me to find her phylactery or whatever and destroy the golden machine.

I really have no idea what is happening, and beginning to suspect one of the boys put something exceptionally fun in the Whiskey – and clearly Olivia is in on it or she’d let me know. Time to run a diagnostic when I get back.

Is it normal for one to decide to run Neural diagnostics on the ships Imprint when hallucinating?

Right. Off to the next… thing in this place. Cavorting Roman mannikins I assume.

A ponderance. If Mr Cowhand is going to demand ‘Mr. Dwight’ should I reciprocate with ‘Captain Ser Hamilton-Smythe’? Or see if he’s reserving such things just for me?

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Venture Files: recent conflicts of the Terran Dominion
Carter background data

The Voidship War

In the early stages of Terran expansion there was a splinter philosophical group known as ‘Evolvists’ who migrated in mass to Sol b (a brown dwarf star orbiting Sol prime out in the Kuiper belt). This group’s main focus was opposition to humanities expansion to other terrestrial worlds, fearing the elimination of proto-intelligent native species.

This group quickly made inroads into AI, neural mapping and bio machinery. They gave rise to the ‘Voidship’ class of vessel – what amounted to a self-replicating, intelligent bio-machine.

For whatever reason, the voidships declared war on humanity, destroying the Evolvist enclave and then began a string of vicious conflicts with the rest of human space. The war took over a decade and was ‘to the knife’ in every respect. Several colonies were destroyed before the main nest at Sol b was destroyed. The disturbing question that remain was what happened to the Evolvists? Many believe that the Voidships were in actually a violent Evolvist faction, given that the central voidship nest incorporated the central consciousness repository of the group, containing all uploaded individuals as well as their central AI nexus.

In the end though Node alpha was destroyed and there has not been a Voidship sighting in over 20 years. Observers are confident of humanities victory given that part of the entities lifecycle involves spectacular deep atmospheric dives into Jovian class planets.

The First Contact Conflict

The first contact war was caused by a simple misunderstanding, based on Humanities (apparently unique) use of the Einstein-Rosen bridge technology. The long distance exploration vessel ‘Endeavour’ arrived in a new star system, Mu Arae. As it turns out Mu Arae is a grav-lane nexus system for the polity knows as The Triumph of the Buul!’tcha, and as such is heavily militarized. Their reaction to an unknown vessel appearing in the middle of their star system, conforming to no known ID codes made them assume a pirate or assault vessel with some sort of failing stealth system. As such, they attacked without any warning. That would have been the end of it if the Endeavour had not been able to send off an emergency drone before destruction.

Fearing another Voidship nest, the Military Governor of outpost R-15 send a full reconnaissance in force. This resulted in a spectacular full naval engagement, with assault marines breaching Buul!’tcha Destroyers, multiple vessel casualties and all sorts of nonsense. Admiral McTimms withdrew after the mutual pummeling, but there was still no understanding what had happened. This pattern would repeat itself in the Mu Arae region, as exploration vessels would get ‘ambushed’ without warning, and then Dominion forces would arrive to smash the place.

From the Buul!’tcha perspective (not helped by their naturally xenophobic tendencies) unidentified scouts of non-galactic standard design kept appearing in impossible places followed by a military ‘raid’ of unknown reason.

From the Dominion perspective exploration vessels were getting ambushed without warning justifying reprisals.

An unholy mess in other words.

This went on for several years, until a Terran vessel encountered an actual Buul!’tch border region, who opened comms instead of assuming hostile intent and firing on arrival.

From that moment Terra became aware of galactic civilization, and the Galactics became aware of a new polity completely isolated from the standard grav-lane trade network equipped with a completely novel technology stack.

While the shooting war has ended, we live in ‘interesting times’.

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Olis Conversations with Venture
5 weeks of boredom

Venture, this is security chief Olis. Any changes… I mean significant changes to report since yesterday?
I see. How many days do we have until arrival?
Three… more… weeks.
Alright, this is driving me nuts. When I was in the Khallan campaign, we were stuck in place for a long time.. We had a lot of time to kill. Oh, the nobles kept us busy with crap work. But even then, there were still more time to kill. We practically had a little village. Sure, we had cobblers and coopers and smiths. That’s all necessary for the campaign. And camp followers, of course. But I’m talking about farming. We had a little vegetable patch we were tending. Nothing fancy but things that will grow fast, like radishes. We had a mason. He actually made bricks from that crappy mud. And we turned those bricks into an oven. And the baker made those flat breads in that oven. They sold well. We mostly kept those activities secret from the nobles. They would only muck it up. Anyway, the point is that even bored, we had a lot we could do. Here on this ship, it’s more like a sailing ship, but even smaller. We can’t go outside of the ship to fish. Wait, unless there is something to fish on the outside?
No, I didn’t think so.
You’re right, I need a project. Let’s look at this sword I picked up in the Lantern Dungeon. Tell me what it’s made from… in words I would understand.
Hmm… so nothing really special about it despite being used by a millenia old golem.
OK, next project. Armor. Tell me about the armor and space suits the normal crew would wear on your ships. I know about those skin tight suits that the others wear.
No, I don’t like them because it makes me feel too exposed. But I am curious how something as thin as a woolen shirt can provide protection like mail.
Nano-weave? So thin and really tough.
Venture, you’ve been able to create the ballistic armor I picked up on Khiron’s world with relative ease. Does that mean the material is easier to manufacture?
I see, less sophisticated. So what do the marines on your ships wear when going into combat?
Stop. What is this battle armor you speak of? Show me on the screen.
Oooohh, now that’s what I call armor. Venture, do you have the capability to manufacture one of those?
Yes, I would like one of those made. Wait. Is that all the same or can it be modified?
Well, depending on what a soldier does, we often wear slightly different armor. Oh, and on my world, it also depended on how much money you could spend. Those from noble houses had better equipment while peasants did not. But light infantry, often armed with spears, wore lighter armor for better movement. Heavy infantry, like myself, wore mail and used heavy weapons. But we couldn’t move as far or as fast due to the armor. Archers were very lightly armored, and even then, spaulders would get in the way of archery so they never had any.
Yes, both functional and cosmetic modifications would be nice. I suck at drawing but something tells me you are a much better artist than I.

Close_Quarters_Combat_Trooper.jpg

So if we get back to Venture, willing to spend 2XP to have a battlesuit made by Venture. Will count as Battlesuit (page 254 of Cypher System Rulebook).

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And the universe cried out for the billions of lost souls...
There are no nice things.

We arrived at a lovely main sequence red dwarf a mere 5 weeks after our departure from Phoenix Empre space. The trip was uneventful, other than Thorne playing with the reality Settings on the VR rig again.

Thorne’s latest ghost has been retailing us with tales from his species history. One of the more interesting ones was about how they would capture Astral Kraken beasts and convert them into living space zeppelins. People would ride in cupolas borne by the beasts and travell asterally to new star systems.

I have no idea how anything works any more, as that sounds like the sub plot to at least 6 different major novels from the golden age of science fantasy.

Regardless, we made to to the red dwarf named Chofa – an utterly dead system. The planet has an inordinate quantity of debris, with all planetary signs of civilization having been consumed by Jungle. Interestingly, there is no real evidence of fauna, just riotous flora.

As our survey continued we came across a spy sattelight keeping an eye on the planet. We jammed its signal party way through. So there is that. After a bit of conversation we brought it on board for analysis. It was biorganic, and as such I executed general order 043, engaged the object with weapons on hand and began a deep scan of all systems. So far no evidence of infection. Venture will continue to scan for anomalies as aprioiate.,

Excitement ended we made our way to the planet itself – evidentially a giant spiritual sinkhole of horrors.

So naturally we made planetfall on a shuttle that runs based on the stern will of some mage from 1000 years ago.

I really can’t make this nonsense up. Any sane editor would tell me to piss off with this nonsense, and advise me to not self-publish.

To continue, we made planetfall and found a massive active gate to the asteral realm.

Multiple members of the group sense a Great Disturbance in the Force, and are convinced of horribleness which I mentioned earlier. Evidentially the trapped spirits try to constantly possess anything and everything that comes into range. The plant life has been permanent ally scarred as a result. Luckily between Khiron and Thorne they were able to erect Intellect Fortresses or somesuch to protect us from the bad VooDooin.

And now there is a giant mass of biomass heading toward us. Odds that it will be suggested we hop through the portal instead of doing the sensible thing and retreating to the ship and bombarding the region to suppress the possessed vines……?

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The planet is dead
Olis recordings, goddamn planar travels

We are in the new star system Chofa, the home system of the lizard people. The planet Lytha is a giant spirit sink hole. It is dead.

Something about spy satellite and the others are talking about danger and explosions and not on my ship and stuff. They do something and they do eventually bring it aboard to examine it. It’s a little odd looking and Gabriel puts words to this feeling: Chagma. Uh, oh. Arden object reads it and it is not good. He reports it is part biological and thinking. Carter immediately jettisons it and uses the rail gun to create a spectacular explosion.

Thorne frees the lizard man from its own turmoil of returning to the planet. Unfortunately the spirit does not make wise choices. It attempts to possess Carter and Thorne is forced to ‘dismiss’ it, whatever that means.

We head down to the planet but Thorne detects a mental intrusion that the rest of us would not be able to resist. We retreat and Thorne attempts a ritual to protect us (2XP). He powers a staff with the ritual and we head down to the surface.

Once down on the planet, we head to the gate. It turns out it’s not just any gate but an astral portal. A lengthy discussion happens on what to do next. Thorne thinks agents of unlife come to this planet to destroy. The inhabitants escaped (?) through the magical portal. The unlife could not follow (could not figure out how to operate the portal?). They left things like the satellite to watch and observe.

I’m not keen on going through the portal. But Thorne does make a point that the more they understand planar travel, the better chance of returning me home. Of course, this is contingent upon Thorne sending me home. I’m not entirely sure about where their confidence comes from.

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The Caper
KindleNomicon Audio+Text entry - Thorne

We’re not entirely certain what lesson might be learned from this unfortunate Lizard-man Geas. Don’t search for spirits? Don’t Interact with them? Obviously that’s not an option for us. In a sense, this compulsion is something worth doing; transporting the remains of a lost soul across the galaxy so that it might finally know peace. But we hate having to do a thing. Give us an opportunity and we’ll jump at it, tell us we have to do a thing we probably would have done otherwise and we balk. Maybe there’s a lesson in that somewhere? The idea of free will is more important than the actuality of it? To perceive ones own actions as unconstrained is the actual desired state, even more than the truth of that perception?

Speaking of unconstrained action, we had a genuine caper! This was brought on by the unfortunate realization that Gromes wasn’t where we left him and his com signal was coming from Moorpoint – home of the Gargoyle tourism bureau and the Churchiest place on this rock. This led to a Geas fueled argument about whether or not it’s our responsibility to go and rescue him. Turns out, it is. So we did.

So, here’s the breakdown on the steps of the Great Church infiltration:

1. Seduce a priest and steal his frock and knowledge of the church.
Complications arose when we discovered the priest was a glorified repairman and in order to pose as his crew we needed to know how or if he would go about hiring non-church types. Because we left him naked and muddled, he called the police. They were there when we returned. Despite our fabulous cover story they were suspicious of us and so we had to erase their memories of our arrival. This worked, but left them with a nude priest in the back of their car, whom they didn’t notice for some time.

2. Jumpsuits for everyone

3. Looking up and forging documents for a churchy repair crew.

4. Turning up dressed as a priest and work crew with forged documents.(it worked! Also, yay blasphemy!)

5. Finding the access tunnels and using them to make our way to the cells.

6. Detonating a powerful EMP device, disabling all unshielded electronics in the city, including loads of really cheap cybernetic augmentations the Crimson hound guards were loaded with. This led to lots of unfortunate dying on their part, but also some timely disability for us. We lied to them, a lot, and got our friend Gromes out amidst the chaos.

7. ???

8. Profit

We’ve struggled with situations like this in the past, but for the first time, we really seem to be coming together as a group. We’re proud of everyone and proud we rescued Gromes. Despite the flagrant law breaking and possible accidental murdering of scores of augmented guards, this feels like a great moment for us.

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Unicorns barf rainbows
Olis recordings, in the lantern cave

Our request to Venture for our heavy weapons was accepted but… it’s going to take a few days before Venture can make a capsule that can be dropped from orbit. So we decide to continue exploring the lantern cave.

I turn the central sarcophagus to point at the Indigo alcove. A five foot diameter metal cylinder rises from the floor. Inside are crushed bones and clothes and a pouch filled with ancient coins and a ruby.

Next we point the sarcophagus to the Yellow alcove. The cylinder appears and others call it an elevator. Some of the others can squeeze in two at a time but with my bulk, I descend alone. Down below there is a chamber with twenty foot ceilings. The walls are covered in reliefs of androgynous humanoids. I think they are paying homage to something? A passage out is blocked by a block of stone, perhaps a triggered trap? Carter phases through and reports nothing unusual so Thorne portals us past the stone block. Carter is attacked by some sort of tenticular monster with eyes but we make short work of it. We enter a large chamber with a central pillar. There are other exits to the right and left. As we approach the pillar, the room gets cold, really cold. The pillar is covered in frost and something else, which turns out to be the frost moss we (Thorne and myself) hand encountered on Mount Bubi so long ago on Aldamere. We warn the others away from it. We can see that the central pillar has indentations. I think the right side one is a wash basin. Was this someone’s bed chambers? Further exploration does reveal stone bed and a stone armoire. It is a bedroom. We find the skeletal remains of a body. Gabriel’s sharp eyes find a silver charm and two wands. Thorne claims they are minor magical items [Cyphers].

On the opposite side of the room is a red pedestal with a black stone egg. Thorne of course has to touch it and it turns into an elemental… a very angry elemental. Somehow Thorne manages to use his Kindlenomicon to understand its rumblings. Apparently it is pretty angry at being stuck here for a long time. It cannot leave the room as there is some sort of threshold. Thorne creates a portal out of the room to bypass the wards, and I walk through it to demonstrate the portal’s safety, and the elemental follows through. It rumbles in joy (I think) and sinks into the floor to go wherever that elementals go. We return to the sarcophagus room.

We point the sarcophagus to the Green alcove. Grinding sounds are heard. We remove the stone slab from where the cylinder usually emerges. It is stuck below about thirty feet down. Gabriel ties me a rope and I get lowered to see if I might be able to free it. I manage to do so but almost fall. Just then, I catch sight of something scurrying up the shaft. I cannot avoid them and their touch burns. I can hear hissing sound as parts of my armor bubble [medium armor reduced to light armor from damage). They are exuding some sort of acid it seems. And of course, one of them touches the rope and it breaks [Free Intrusion]. I take a hard landing thirty feet below. I am confronted by two giant spider like thing, only with much meatier legs and the body is a giant eye. I pick myself up the floor and manage to stomp one, but they are tougher than they look. I can hear fighting above as I try to avoid these spider things sharp claws. Eventually I see the telltale signs of Thorne’s portal opening above my head. The others join the fray and we make short work of the spider things, including the third one that joined.

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The Gulf of Improbability
KindleNomicon Audio+Text entry - Thorne

Warning, metaphysical nonsense incoming:

There is an important conceptual gulf between what things are supposed to be, and what they can become.

Example: A human body is meant to contain one “soul” with one “identity” but ours contains more. We have come to believe that there is a a considerable conceptual gulf between individual and plural existence, and because we became a plurality instinctively, we now encompass that gulf. Because we encompass that gulf, we touch the place in the universe where all other plural beings exist, conceptually. This gulf exists as an often physical presence, we feel it lurking just out of sight, constantly. We have visited in fact. The “mental labyrinth” that we retreated to with our fellows when struggling against the demon on the Venture was a construct that exists in that place, and not one of our individual creation.

This notion can be expounded upon to encompass worlds. A world has a default state of intentionality. It takes peculiar events (magic, vast cataclysms, huge fucking bombs) to nudge it out of this well trodden path, but we have seen examples of this in every world we’ve visited. Yen Enoth, the time fraught tower in broken Earth, the necropolis of the Necromancer where the soil was made of meat. In these places, the gulf of improbability yawns. Where the laws are loose and the walls are thin. We have touched it enough that we have begun to experiment in it’s use: teleportation, wormholes, things like these.

Now we have found a new location that manipulates these colossal forces. This time almost casually. These ruins of “the 3rd Epoch” seem to suggest that these “Aaqa” weaved the fabric of causality at their whim. But perhaps not. These destinations seem special to them. Temples and tombs. Perhaps the gateways were reserved for particularly important locations? The latest portal was of considerably different construction than any we have previously encountered. It had space inside, a sort of hallway, and in it lurked some monstrous agent of the Unlife. Was this construction a defensive precaution? Was it an accident? Some mutation of powerful magics left over time? We really must find out. We should try and find a way to tear it from inside the portal, so that it can be studied and possibly destroyed.

We must also try and determine the nature of the smoke spirits that sought to unmake us. Although not of the unlife, their perception of us “mud creatures” was such that they were compelled to try and tear us apart. While not inherently malicious, the distinction is academic. Although, we imagine a situation in which our sapience is adequately demonstrated to them and the inherently harmful practice of trying to see what’s inside of us discouraged.

Lastly, we begin to see a process through which we might come to more fully master the forces governing causality, at least in regards to location. Time remains the purview of Arden, for the moment. Thinking about distance as a limiting factor was misguided. The multiverse is as much an idea as it is a physical reality. Physical, scientific constraints, such as distance, are important for maintaining the function of such a system, but need not impede upon our ability to traverse it. We must simply know the notion of a thing in order to go there. The magics needed to get causality to agree with this concept will be more complicated than anything we have previously attempted, but the path is revealed. We will begin to unravel these mysteries.

That is enough for now.

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