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    Titan in the Playground
    Aotrs Commander's Avatar

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    Jan 2007
    Derby, UK

    Default The Myst Project: Aotrs Myst Exploratory Team Mission 001

    What follows is a write up (hopefully the first one of two) of our new Rolemaster/Spacemaster party’s first adventure. Why this warrents a write-up is several-fold; firstly, I've been working on this game since May and I've written more words than literally on some campaign worlds and am quite hyped about it. Secondly, it is a party composed of Liches from the Army Of The Red Spear (the Aotrs). It is also an excuse for me to display my own quest-writing style, something I've been threatning to do for a while now. And for those of you that are familiar with the Aotrs when I go on about them (which is mostly ponythread regulars), it is a chance to see them in action.

    (Be aware... there is a LOT of this, because doing things by halves is not an Aotrs Thing! As it vastly exceeds what I can fit into one post, I'll be adding stuff in as I tweak the formatting and proofing and whatnot over the course of the afternoon.)

    First a bit of background on how this quest came about, because it's kind of a long path (or you can skip right to the actual metaphorical meat!)

    Spoiler: How This All Came About
    The campaign had its origins sixteen years ago. At the time, we only had a few low-level Rolemaster parties. I set plans in motion for us to play with a part from the Aotrs of about 10th level. The initla idea was that the Aotrs were up to something in the Myst system, and this quest would be to assign what. Norath and Ramus' players wrote their backgrounds and generated their characters before the idea petered out (I can't quite remember why). The character sheets an background were filed away in my quest storgae system.Nevertheless, several scenarios and galatic situation updates mentiond the Must project for a few years afterwards.

    Skip forward to early 2015. Harkan's player had told me that this year he wasn't going to be able to write a quest for my birthday session (which is late October/early Novemeber typically, it's late this year). I knew I would have to write either a two-parter (for then and the Christmas session) or two quests - and I had absolutely no ideas. The only germs of ideas I had were unsuited to my current parties, especially for the long-running RM/SM party (which had been one of those at low-level sixteen years ago, but was now at level 12 and stupidly overpowered).

    While I was on holiday in Blackpool, I mused about setting up an exploratory party (since a lot of my sci-fi quests were explorartory in nature) and my first thought was to make it a joint effort between three of the major good-aligned powes, the Royal Elven Kingdoms, the Saiyvalyss Alliance and the Shardan Marauders, which would b best suited... and none of which I'd even got proper write-ups on. I chuckled and thought "maybe I should use the Aotrs, at least I have all the information, hahahahahaaang on..." I stopped, and gave it serious consideration. It woud mean another evil party. It would mean the PCs having access to fairly well above average technology and thus the power level would be quite high (though since the Maruaders were at the top of the tech-tree, that wasn’t as big an issue).

    I decided on consideration, that it was actually the better choice. (Given the amount of work I put in, already HAVING the vehicles and weapons and whatnot written up, it was also the only real practical choice!) I re-visited the Myst Project with an eye to Aotrs-does-Stargate SG-1, and realised from my original scribble brief on paper, it was more-or-less the same idea...!

    Since it had been ten years since we'd even had a new Rolemaster party, I had an overhaul of my rules. I implemented a points system, rather than randomisation, since random power creep had given us serious balance issues (both internally and externally to the party) in that long-running RM party.

    (For instance, it was the equivilent of having to balance a character wearing nonmagic Leather with a +4 Dex bonus with a character with Dex 30, Monk Ac bonuses of mid-twenties Wis, a +6 Amulet of Natural Armour and a +5 Ring of Protection...)

    I decided to this time stipulate everyone was Liches, since that further kept the balance more even, but still gave enough flexibility with race and background options. Norath's and Ramus' players regeneated/updated their character's background and Harkan's imported him in concept and name only (everyone else joined prety much after then).

    Note: for the purposes of my sanity, I will present the flavour text as written (and read out to the players), rather than attempting to completely change the entire tenses from 2nd person present to 3rd person past, since that would... take rather a long while...! (I may at some point edit and do that, but not tonight, at any rate!)

    This is presented with as much as I can remember and made notes on; after a full day's quest (and about three hours after-game chat!) I might have not got completely everything, of course. (And I am notoriously bad at remembering the exact wording of the one-liners while I’m actually DMing, since so much of my attention is focussed on that!)

    So, for those of you not familiar with the Army Of The Red Spear itself, a quick bit of background.

    The Army Of The Red Spear

    The Army Of The Red Spear was established approximately 2750 years ago by Lord Death Despoil the Lichemaster, as his personal army. The Aotrs (offically pronounces “A- oaters”) has come a long way from its humble beginnings. It has grown into one of the galaxy’s major powers, despite a small relative size. Technology is significiantly above the galactic average, placing the Aotrs in the top seven (even accounting for two newly-discovered races), and thaumatergy is simialrly advanced, putting it even higher. Though ruled absolutely by Lord Death Despoil’s decree, the Aotrs is in practise a functional meritocracy.

    The Aotrs military (as opposed to the Aotrs as an empire) consists mainly of free-willed spirit bound Undead, mostly skeleton warriors or Liches. (There are living beings serving in the Aotrs proper – slightly more in the navy than the army – as Undeath (nor lichdom) is not a requirement, but they are in the minority.) Expansion comes from recruits (and more occasionally, volunteers) and a significant proportion of its members are recruited posthumously, after being offered a position having come to the notice of the higher ranking members. This is not about just skill, but personality and potential. The Aotrs, unlike almost all other powers, can afford to spend centuries training the right sort of person into their potential – personality is often more important than skills. As recruits are analysed (and examined through precognition) and only the most suitable and promising candidates are selected, the result is a highly-motivated, extremely skilled military force.

    The Aotrs military proper is divided into two services, the Army and the Navy, with Fighter forces being an offshoot of the latter. There are also three other services within the Aotrs as a power, in order of size, the Dalrk Elf Troopers, the Orc Stormsoliders and the Kobold Commandoes. The Dark Elf Troopers are principally of living Dark Elves (hense the name) from the Aotrs homeworlds, but also a significant number of other living races, other Elves, humans. While well-trained and generally able to hold a higher standard than the majority of goblin-kin, they are generally not at the high standard of Aotrs regular army forces – again, the most promising recruits are usually creamed off to the Aotrs regular infantry, and service in the Dark Elf Trooper divisions is seen and something of a stepping stone to the regular army. The Orc Storm Soldiers serve a simialr role, but are comprised almost solely of goblin-kin (i.e. orcs, hobgoblins, goblins and kobolds). The Kobold Commadoes are specific service comprised of Kobolds (both livign and Undead), chosen from the most promising candiates (usually the one which natural selection would have had killed off by their brood-mates). Finally, there are the Pathfinders. While technically under the purview of the Aotrs proper, the Pathfinders serve as mostly independant agents (both living and Undead) and are considered as something of a halfway-house between the Dark Elf Troopers and the Aotrs proper.

    (The current year – which advanced in real time – is 2341.)

    First off then, let us meet our protagonists - in order of rank.


    Our "heroes" Commander Norath Deathbringer, Captain Ramus Y'Alper, Captain Cael Yathril Ragnar Invidius Lightslayer (“Cyril”), Third Trooper Harkan Valkor, Second Startrooper Snowward, First Trooper Shadow Soulwhisper, First Trooper Serpent Sundeath and First Trooper Stab Voidslay, with a Fallen Soul Multirole AFV behind.

    (The ventral turret not visible on the Fallen Soul model. I did manage to make one work, but it broke, becauce there's only so much you can do with cardboard and paperclips and it is about ten years old...! Of note is the fact that Norath and Ramus' figures were actually made for them specifically (since they pre-dated me actually making the 28mm ground army in anger), and Stab was slightly modified to actually be represented by that figure (since she's the NPC, required to bring the squad up to the full eight.))

    (Again, I have not modified the PC backgrounds; Norath's and Ramus' were written in third person by their players, I just expanded, and I wrote the others (from the input supplied by the players) in my usual second person PC-handout style. Aside from Norath, I have also omitted the final paragraphs about Myst, except where they were not identical.)

    Spoiler: Commander Norath Deathbringer
    Norath was born in 2241, by the galactic calendar, in a large kingdom called Kraan on Niyaan. Niyaan is a tech-locked HPE-L planet with a middle pre-industrial society technology level (terran equivalent approximately 1200 as of 2240). Kraan was located on Niyaan’s continent of Vetrie, occupying a fertile region extending from the southern fringes of the Northern Frostwoods (a huge expanse of conifer forests) and the northern reaches of the Mountains of Murn.

    Norath came from a small peasant village that had suffered badly from raids by the northern barbarians, culminating in the one which eliminated almost his entire village. Norath, still a child, was found starving by a wandering old sage. The sage saw something in Norath. Not simply his magical potential, but his rage and a keen mind. The old sage was a necromancer and raised Norath in conditions that were near-slavery. Norath nevertheless benefitted from this, as it hardened him to the world. As was usual for the way of things, Norath eventually reached the point where the aging necromancer could teach him no more. Norath killed him quietly, with a little dose of poison that took him while he slept, denying the old necromancer even the dignity of the final battle he had been expecting.

    Kraan was ruled by one royal family that had reigned for two thousand years. But that dynasty was soon to come to an abrupt end. The King of Kraan was an incompetent man who was frequently lead by equally incompetent advisors who saw the stifling bureaucracy as a way to forward their own personal gains and line their considerable pockets. One fine day in early 2259, a tall, handsome and powerfully built young man named Norath appeared at the royal court and demanded to speak to the king. Rather than costing him his head, this bold action won the favour of the king, who was very fond of acts of bravery and self-confidence.

    So it came to pass that in 2267, when Norath was just twenty-six, he became the chief advisor to the king. Due to Norath’s political acumen, he managed to increase the efficiency of the royal court by over three hundred percent. Even the king, despite his arrogance and lack of intelligence, noticed this vast improvement and he bestowed upon Norath the position of Supreme advisor, which gave him exclusive rights and allowed him to veto any suggestion made by the other advisors.

    The fool did not know what he had unleashed for Norath’s efficiency was matched only by his ruthlessness. Slowly but surely the other advisors vanished and were replaced with those who were more acceptable to Norath. The king was widely known as a fool by the general population and not popular, while Norath became known (by subtle manipulation and propaganda) as wise, fair and just.

    Norath secretly formed an elite guard of his own and in 2271, stormed the royal palace and held the king hostage. Norath’s demand to the king was simple; either the king transferred sovereign power over to Norath or he would die. The king being noble and stupid, refused and Norath was forced to kill him.

    Norath appeared in public and announced the unfortunate news that the king had “died in a tragic accident while fencing with his son, who was also unfortunately mortally wounded in the incident.” As there was no natural successor to the throne, Norath appointed himself Emperor of Kraan. Norath promised the people radical changes and strong leadership. The people rejoiced and Norath was heralded as one of the country’s greatest leaders. The few who spoke out against Norath mysteriously disappeared.

    Ten years passed and Norath presided over a prosperous and efficient country. He was in the process of writing a new reform for the people when he was interrupted by his chief messenger who brought him the grim news on an invasion from the north. The news was not a complete shock to Norath. The northern tribes were a violent people and they were jealous of the prosperous land of Kraan. It was not the first such large-scale attack they had launched.

    Norath was confident that his high quality troops and competent generals would make short work of the invaders. But his spy network had catastrophically failed to realise the extent of the threat posed by the northern hordes and had instead been far more concerned with their traditional rivals to the west. Instead of the army of roughly ten thousand fighting men Norath was expecting from a handful of tribes, Chief Thanegardt had united the whole of the northern lands with the goal of crushing Kraan and seizing the fertile lands for themselves. In the ensuing battle, Norath and his Generals were becoming increasingly worried as the northern armies were getting a seemingly almost limited supply of reinforcements.

    When all seemed lost Norath ordered a charge with his elite guard that threatened to sweep the right flank of the invading army from the field. Just as it started to go well for Norath and his army, an unknown archer drew forth his bow and the fateful arrow was let loose. It pierced his chest and he toppled from his horse onto the arrow, driving it straight through his heart and out of his back. The twist came just before Norath died - he had been casting a powerful Necromantic spell and the catastrophic failure of the spell inverted the powerful dark magic flowed into him.

    Norath awoke on the battlefield among the dead of his former guards and his most trusted commander. The arrow, still protruding from his back, snagged on his blood stained cloak and robes. Strangely for Norath, he felt no pain, only a feeling of hatred for his enemies which threatened to consume him if he didn't hold it back. He began the long walk back to his city leaving the decay of the battlefield behind him. As he walked he found the sunlight displeasing and he longed for the night. Eventually he found his beloved city in ruins with his former subjects butchered and strung up. The invaders had not stayed but moved on in a rampage of destruction sweeping the land. He made his way to his throne room and found it in a state of chaos with his former advisors disembowelled. Blood and excrement were smeared on the once beautiful tapestries in a mocking gesture. Norath’s lover had been dragged out of her chambers, brutally raped and then decapitated. Her severed head had been tossed a few feet from her lifeless body. He slumped upon his broken throne with a feeling of hatred for his enemies and sadness that ten years of hard work and effort had been obliterated. He longed for revenge, sweet revenge.

    Many months passed and Norath roamed the lands during the darker hours searching for a way to take revenge upon his enemies. He became something of a local mythical figure after the barbarians unfortunate enough to encounter him seldom survived. One moonless night, he ran across a small band of adventures, seeking to earn their name by destroying this monster of the night. Norath knew he was overmatched and feared that death might claim him yet.

    But then fate intervened. Two other skeletons came upon the scene; one in rust-brown plate the other in a grey leather and helmet, shield and sword of utter pitch black, a red spear slung across his back. They swept aside the adventurers with such trivial ease Norath felt an even greater surge of fear. But the leader approached him and introduced himself as Lord Death Despoil. He and his companion, Foul Skream had come looking for Norath specifically. They had come from a far world on business of their own, but had heard the rumour themselves. And come to investigate – and make Norath an offer.

    If Norath would help them with their current business, they would give Norath a position in the Army Of The Red Spear, where his considerable talents would be of great benefit to both of them. Norath agreed, after a short consideration.

    Norath participated in the remainder of the Aotrs Niyaan campaign, serving as both a source of local information, translator and administrator for a small specialist exploration and retrieval team. At the conclusion of the campaign in 2285, Norath left with a number of other Niyaani recruits to begin his re-training.

    He spent a few decades adjusting himself to the vastly higher technology and thaumaturgy of the Aotrs. But he now had the luxury of time. Norath took to the Aotrs well. He respected the chain of command and was extremely patient. His new master had given him purpose and few got such a fantastic second chance. He knew that one day he would rise again to greatness. After all, what was a petty little empire on an insignificant planet when there was a whole galaxy out there?

    On completing his training, Norath’s background had him placed directly for officer training. He was then deployed to the Eighth Fleet. The Eighth Fleet was a small fleet that serves principally as the support and supply for the First Fleet (Lord Despoil’s Own). The Eighth was primarily responsible for escorting the supply vessels and the occasional spot of guard or garrison duty. It was considered a good place to acclimatise new personnel to operational service (as well as emphasise the importance of patience and efficiency to the slightly more hot-headed), and First and Eighth fleets had necessarily close ties.

    On his first posting, Norath was assigned as a very small cog the enormous wheel of the Doomskrieg Supercruiser Unholy Fate. Coming to the end of their useful lives, the supercruisers were planned to be eventually refitted as supply and repair vessels – a job the Unholy Fate had actually been performing for some time, albeit in a limited capacity. The sheer size of the vessel was daunting and Norath had been placed in charge of a small section near the rear lower quarter. His principle job was to simply to administrate his small team to keep the section – mostly empty aside from internal machinery and maintenance access – supplied and operational.

    Norath distinguished himself when, on his own initiative, he re-organised the maintenance drones and supply flow in his section and increased efficiency by nearly double. This small effort was nevertheless important, and quickly distributed throughout the neighbouring sections. It finally came to the attention of the Eighth’s commanding officer, Admiral Damath Surkask (one of the Aotrs’ few vampires). Surkask – himself an able administrator and engineer – saw the potential in the new plan and brought it to the attention of the staff planning the Doomskreig refit scheme. Norath’s re-organisation had principally come from having a fresh set of eyeglows to look at an operation that had not been updated since the original design of the Doomskrieg over a hundred years prior. Technology had changed and updated since then, allowing new physical routes and other new technologies that were not in existence at that time to be used. The general thrust of his plan was adapted and expanded upon, which would allow the actual refit process, once begun, to be completed with considerably more efficiency. Norath received considerable acclaim from his superiors (and a hefty bonus) for this action. Surkask was quick to realise the “young” lich’s potential and took Norath under his wing shortly thereafter, using his relatively fresh outlook on the modern Aotrs technology to query and troubleshoot through administrative problems.

    Surkask grew fond of Norath – the two had a great deal in common, including a not dissimilar life history, Surkask considered himself a mentor figure to the younger Undead and referred to him jokingly as “my lad” to the amusement of both parties. Norath thus ended up getting some very interesting – and difficult – assignments, but ones that made him recognised among the ranking officers of both First and Eight fleets, putting him in the minds of exalted company indeed. For all his age, Norath sometimes found himself feeling like child in comparison to the long centuries of experience of the seniors around him.

    Surkask, in concert with the First Fleet’s admiral eventually had Norath transferred to the First Fleet itself, where he served in various positions across several vessel. Surkask kept a watchful eye on Norath’s progress and continued to mentor him when time allowed in military strategy, in particular, naval combat. He also had him introduced to many of his own contacts and Norath even served directly under Lord Death Despoil himself on two occasions.

    In 2335, Lieutenant-Commander Norath served as duty officer on the bridge of the Midnight Dreadnought LSS Dreadbolt. The Dreadbolt served as command ship of the second wave of attacks on a large Cybertank fleet heading through the Tros sector towards Myst, intercepted in the Cathadrid system. The battle as a resounding success, with a complete destruction of the Cybertank section targeted for the loss of only a single Crater, whose crew was retrieved.

    In late 2341, Norath participated in the battle at Senyaer, where a large Royal Elven Navy fleet made a surprise incursion to attack Lurking Terror station, again on a Midnight Dreadnought, this time the Midnight D LSS Shadowdrain. The REN forces put up a tremendous fight and had brought a nasty surprise in that they had outfitted their missile ships with long-range warheads, something the REN had only very sparingly used in the past. The Shadowdrain was heavily damaged, and only a last-minute Gate jump took it out of danger. Norath personally organised the repair effort in his section and his swift management enabled the port warhead launcher to be repaired fast enough that the Shadowdrain was able to finish off the Elven Great Eagle Battlecrusier Gondolin from long range. The Shadowdrain was put in further danger by two squadrons of fighters, but with the assistance of the Spectral Glow Defence Corvette’s point-defence missiles, was able to destroy most of the fighters with its anti-capital ship warheads. The Shadowdrain’s own escort, the Hoarfrost Frigate LSS Frozen Spite made a final rush at the remaining fighters and ensured they were destroyed before the Shadowdrain was at further risk.

    It was likely due to his natural aptitude for leadership and his talent at looking at things from a different perspective that caused Admiral Surkask to put Norath’s name forward when the quiet call for personnel suited for exploratory operations went out.

    Shortly after the Shadowdrain out in for repairs, you were approached by an officer. “Commander Deathbringer, I am Commander Nightweaver. I have been sent on the authority of the High Command to solicit your participation in a classified program to further the goals of the Army Of The Red Spear. I am forbidden from discussing with you the nature, of this mission or your personal involvement. I can only to tell you that if you accept, you will be given transfer orders to your new command, effective immediately. Your selection in this project is entirely voluntary and if you decline, you will not be contacted again.”

    Upon your acceptance, your transfer orders sent you through several intermediate steps before your final destination – the Myst system.

    Myst is located in the Tros sector, a mostly uninhabited region on the fringes of human space. Despite Myst itself being a habitable world, which once supported some sort of sentient race (exactly what you don’t recall even being specified), it had never been claimed by either of the two local powers. The Tros sector comprises an area that encompasses the NAC and NEC mutual border. Myst itself has only been officially known on the charts for sixty years, and the distance and contested ownership have precluded any major attempt to colonise or exploit beyond a few scientific surveys.

    That changed in 2325, sixteen years ago, when the Aotrs quietly slipped in and annexed the system. The reason has never been openly specified, though the presence of the temples and ruins on the surface are almost certainly part of it and scuttlebutt abounds. Whatever the reason is, the Myst system has been heavily fortified and guarded in the subsequent years (as you knew from personal experience) and now houses a sizable naval facility and ground base. Neither NAC nor NEC have ever made, to your knowledge, more than a cursory attempt to get it back after both powers detected the initial incursion and sent fleets to investigate and wound up fighting each other before being driven off.

    So there is a certain sense of excitement about being stationed on Myst – you might finally be privy to exactly what is going on down there!

    Spoiler: Captain Ramus Y’Alper
    Y’Alper was born in 2200, by the galactic calendar, on the planet Niyaan. Niyaan is a tech-locked HPE-L planet with a middle pre-industrial society technology level (terran equivalent approximately 1200 as of 2200). Y’Alper was born in the Dirati Empire, a sizable primarily human nation on Niyaan’s continent of Vetrie. The Empire stretched from west from the Mountains of Murn to the eastern coast of the Sunset Sea, and from the southern savannas to the tundra and wind-blown scrappy, conifer scrub of the Northern Wastes.

    Y’Alper’s parents were from hugely different castes as his mother was a simple girl, daughter of a servant in the royal house and his father was a member of the nobility with royal blood, but not in line for the throne. Y’Alper’s existence was kept secret from his father for fear that he may have had him slain because of his own embarrassment. Y’Alper led a relatively normal childhood with his mother and maternal grandparents. Y’Alper received some schooling from his grandfather, who was required to be literate for his job. During this time, Y’Alper showed his intelligence through his speedy learning of all that his grandfather could teach him.

    Y’Alper’s grandfather had hoped that his male grandchildren would follow him in to the honourable service of the royal family, but due to his close resemblance to his father, he was never taken to court for fear of his lineage being revealed. Instead, at the age of nineteen, Y’Alper found himself in the army. His aptitude for learning meant that he quickly began to climb the ranks. Y’Alper proved to be a model soldier, and had much opportunity to ply his trade, as The Dirati were almost constantly at war with their neighbours. Y’Alper was refused a commission on several occasions due to his common background. Around this time Y’Alper married, and his wife bore him a child, Adlien. Aside from the stalling of his career, Y’Alper was truly happy.

    In 2232, a war began between the Dirati and their neighbours, the Ansuri. In one battle, Y’Alper’s company was instructed to hold a wood against the Ansuri hordes. Several Ansuri charges were repelled. As it appeared that the wood would be held, an Ansuri general cast a spell, raising a huge wall of fire in front of the Dirati ranks. The woods were set ablaze, and many Dirati soldiers were killed or fled. Y’Alper held the troops around him steady. As the Ansuri attacked through the subsiding flames, they expected to meet little or no opposition. They met Y’Alper and his strong line, and were repelled.

    For his actions Y’Alper was commissioned, an act almost unheard of in the Dirati army. Over the coming years he rose to the rank of general, and was much loved and respected by his soldiers. His father, having suspected that Y’Alper was his son for some time, felt able to summon Y’Alper, and they were united.

    However, this period of contentment would not last – the Dirati throne changed hands from father to son in 2242. The new King despised Y’Alper and his respected position, and wished to remove him from office. Y’Alper’s father managed a delicate political game for several years, using his influence to keep Y’Alper from the clutches of the Emperor. But upon Y’Alper’s father’s death in 2243, there was nothing to prevent the Emperor from destroying Y’Alper. Y’Alper’s family were sent into exile in the cold Northern Wastes, where death awaited them. Y’Alper was stripped of rank and sent to a penal battalion on false evidence of some treachery. He hoped to escape, and find his family, but he was so closely watched by the commanders that this was impossible.

    Y’Alper became increasingly bitter of his treatment at the hands of the Emperor. However, in 2245, Death Despoil and the Army Of The Red Spear launched an invasion. The Aotrs has quietly conquered the Boiling Isle, a large island to the north-east of the Dirati Empire that was only kept free of the permafrost by the considerable volcanic activity.

    A long conflict ensued, and Y’Alper fought bravely in defence of his Nation. Many of his comrades were pardoned, yet despite Y’Alper being amongst the most courageous, he was not. On the eve of his final battle as a Dirati soldier in 2246, he swore vengeance upon the Emperor for his ills, and the lives of his family. The following morning, Y’Alper’s unit was ordered to attack the Defilers – which Y’Alper learned was simply to cover the Emperor’s retreat. The unit’s commander was killed almost immediately and command fell to Y’Alper. Cornered by terrain, and cut-off from any retreat, Y’Alper managed to succeed in halting the Defilers for almost fifteen minutes before his unit was swept away, Y’Alper fighting to the death at the last.

    Y’Alper has made a sufficient impression on the Defilers that Lord Deather brought him to Lord Death Despoil’s attention. Lord Death Despoil chose to raise him from the dead and offer him a place in the Army of the Red Spear. Y’Alper remembered his vow and accepted. Y’Alper initially served as a guide and source of information on the workings of Niyaan and the Empire in particular. A short time later the Dirati nation fell and Y’Alper was granted leave to personally killed the Emperor as a reward for his service.

    Y’Alper was eternally grateful to Lord Death Despoil for raising him from the dead. Free of moral constraints he could avenge his family. The death of the last Dirati Emperor was slow and excruciatingly painful.

    Y’Alper served in the Niyaan Aotrs forces for nearly forty years, assisting in the conquest of several other nations. However, as a tech-locked world, Niyaan was not a suitable candidate for full planetary conquest and eventually the Aotrs had achieved all their goals by 2285. A few months later, in early 2286, Y’Alper was given the choice of continuing to serve on Niyaan as part of the (soon-to-be cut-down) garrison or leaving for re-training to join the Aotrs proper. Y’Alper elected to take the latter option.

    His ability to learn quickly again helped Y’Alper immensely and he became skilled in many new methods of war. But even so he spent the next few decades being re-educated to the vastly more advanced technology and magic of the Aotrs. When his final re-training was completed, Y’Alper entered the Army of the Red Spear as a Army Lieutenant, due to his years of prior service.

    He began his career in the Army of the Red Spear within the infantry of the Third Fleet, and was involved in operations against both the Neu Swabian League and the New Anglican Confederation, amongst others. He quickly began to live up to his reputation as an excellent tactician, being instrumental in the planning of three planetary invasions. His success in these operations resulted in his promotion to Captain. It also gleaned him his current favoured weapon – a heavily magically enhanced Mark 11B Coldbeam rifle, the first coldbeam rifle he was issued with. By the time an overall superior weapon was available to him, Y’Alper had already had it enchanted, and has stuck with his rifle ever since, occasionally boosting the enchantments further.

    However, Y’Alper had not yet achieved further promotion, and as a former Dirati General Y’Alper sometimes felt bitter that he did not hold more seniority within the Army Of The Red Spear. He is still hungry for promotion, and increasingly feels the urge to brush aside those weaker than him in this quest. He has shown no hesitation in using his skills in covert operations and long term planning to further this goal. He has not been attempting to challenge those around him openly, but has attempted to undermine those who he sees as barriers to both his future promotion using more subtle methods.

    Y’Alper was transferred to serve in several specialist branches, including intelligence, where he was involved in the planning and preparation of other planetary invasions and work in subsequent planet side covert operations. After some years Y’Alper was removed from these duties and transferred in 2321 to the infantry of the Aotrs First Fleet. While this was (technically) something of lateral promotion, Y’Alper was unhappy at the abruptness of the move – Y’Alper was given no indication or explanation – unusual for the Aotrs. He became concerned that was be due to some personal failing. It has become a goal he will go to great lengths to find out about, but he has so far been unsuccessful.

    During his service in the First Fleet ground forces, Y’Alper has participated in many of the more recent major operations. In 2326, he participated on the raid on the NAC’s secret Area 52 facility on the world of Barston Thelmich. He was the commander officer in the Battle of Danabad, where his forces destroyed an NAC force retreating through the town of Danabad. He also participated in the entire length of the aborted Muisis campaign from 2331-2334, fighting in several of the key engagements. During one of the final battles, he was struck by an anti-armour rocket and incapacitated.

    After his recovery, and learning of the failure of the Muisis invasion, Y’Alper began to question his role in the Army of the Red Spear. Eventually, he took a leave of absence and returned home to Dirati, where he camped beside the graves of his family. He pondered what he had become, and how a man who was once so good could change so much. He soon remembered the bitterness he felt at the Emperor, and returned to the Army of the Red Spear much invigorated.

    Ramus Y’Alper undoubtedly began and ended life as an honest and hardworking, honourable man of the highest integrity. During life he would try to help anyone in need, and he believed that only the enemies of the Dirati were evil. However, his betrayal by the Emperor twisted his perception, and whereas Y’Alper once saw the good in people he now only saw them as enemies to be crushed and enslaved for his master.

    Blinded by lust for revenge for his family Y’Alper failed to see the consequences of his pact with Death Despoil, which will see him assisting in the murderer and enslavement of civilizations for the rest of time. This has made him cruel and heartless, and he has come to enjoy inflicting pain on his enemies.

    Shortly after your return from Niyaan, you were approached by an officer. “Captain Y’Alper, I am Commander Nightweaver. I have been sent on the authority of the High Command to solicit your participation in a classified program to further the goals of the Army Of The Red Spear. I am forbidden from discussing with you the nature, of this mission or your personal involvement. I can only to tell you that if you accept, you will be given transfer orders to your new command, effective immediately. Your selection in this project is entirely voluntary and if you decline, you will not be contacted again.”

    Upon your acceptance, your transfer orders sent you through several intermediate steps before your final destination – the Myst system.

    Spoiler: Captain “Cyril” Lightslayer
    You hail from the planet Kalanoth in what is now the Llactidraen (lit. Elven “sun-tomb”) system. If Fearmore is the Aotrs Capital proper, Kalanoth is the economic centre. Kalanoth was one of the first worlds be truly under Lord Death Despoil’s control. It is the homeworld and seat of power of Lungrender, the most senior (and famous) living Dark Elf in the Aotrs. Though Lungrender is technically part of the Aotrs High Command, he is also the overall commander of the Dark Elf Trooper legions. He also is Kalanoth’s ruler and these duties keep him mostly planet-bound, unlike earlier times, leaving the more active duties to the High Command’s Liches.

    Kalanoth is a high-magic, fully inhabited world. While officially conquered nearly a millennium and a half ago in 802 when the majority of the nations had been subdued or exterminated, it took many more years of work and smaller wars before the entire world was finally solidly under control. The population consists of Elves by the majority. Kalanothi Elf blood tends to run true, and the effect of both interbreeding and the short human lifespan (leading to both a quicker cultural indoctrination and often more motivation to attain Lichdom) has steadily reduced the native human population and all but obviated dwarf and halfling. There is still a solid core of goblinoids (orcs, goblins, hobgoblins and kobolds), both native stock and from other Aotrs worlds, though the majority of these are concentrated in their own national regions. Over the centuries, the Aotrs has expanded across the globe, with Aotrs favoured-races having largely supplanted or exterminated the other races which once dwelled upon it, except in a few isolated communities in unimportant areas.

    You were born in 2295 in the region of Bleakwood, a still-heavily forested region, ancestral home to the largest Wood Elf nation of Kalanoth. Bleakwood has undergone many changes in the last thousand years; in modern times, it has long-since recovered from the serious depredations of the industrial ages, and is once again largely wild between the settlements. It was this home that gave you your first taste of the joy of exploration; much of your youth was spent in hiking in the wilds. Nor was this always without incident, since the return of nature meant that some of the rarer magical creatures or fey again has a place to hide, and you learned to defend yourself quite early.

    Your family line can be traced back almost to the time of the conquest, and from it have sprung many notable Dark Elf Troopers and a few notable Liches in the Aotrs proper, with Grand General Saendrith Sundagger being the most renowned. (Most of the latter are fairly far removed from your main family line, as Liches tend not to have descendants...) Your mother, Glasien Lightbringer, is a well-respected colonel in the Dark Elf Troopers. So it was natural that you yourself enlisted.

    After basic training, you entered into service in 2317 with a light infantry company. You graded high enough that your first assignment was in the hot, dank jungles of Torrid, then only conquered from its native near-humans a few years. You experience in the wildness of Bleakwood came in handy. On your first posting, a group of Torrid’s dryad-like creatures were causing significant problems in the Grimjade region, and your platoon had to brave the dense, magical jungle to wipe them out. You distinguished yourself on this first assignment and soon found yourself fast-tracked for officer training. You served on Torrid for several years, helping pacify the region.

    On your final promotion to Shadow Officer in 2324, you applied for Pathfinder service, wanting to broaden your horizons. While still technically under the umbrella of the Aotrs, the Pathfinders work as mostly-independent operatives whose remit is to explore and/or gather information in the galactic community; often under the veneer of a legitimate pioneer. Many of the personnel in Pathfinder service are livings (especially in the latter capacity, where it does not require magic to blend in). The Pathfinders are often considered something of a halfway-house between the Dark Elf Troopers and the Aotrs proper, and a good way to gain some experience.

    With both your Wood Elf heritage and your skills and prior record greatly to your favour, you were accepted and assigned a small transport vessel. You spent much of the next decade as a Pathfinder, exploring a variety of worlds and environments for things of interest – and the occasional bit of quiet diplomacy. Given many of the locations you explored were ancient ruins, you honed your skills and locating and safely dealing with traps of all sorts – from the simple but cunning snares and pits of the dryad-like denizens of Torrid’s jungles to the rather more advanced mines of modern make.

    Your lucky break came ten years ago, in 2331, when exploring the world of Servuis IV. The Servuis system has been only recently surveyed. Uninhabited, but once held a thriving civilisation on the forth planet. The atmosphere is a mix of primarily nitrogen, methane and the distance from any of the major powers had precluded any major exploratory operations. You were among the first to find out about it and you made your own personal initial reconnaissance and determined that the planet was a high-magic environment. Fortune was with you as well, since the second ruin you explored contained several magical/technological artefacts of unusual design, and what appeared to be some sort of data crystal. Your own skills were not up to the task, so you called it in. The Pathfinders decided on analysing your data that this was important enough to send a Subterfuge scoutship to conduct a further investigation.

    You assisted the continued exploration of the area. It was determined that the artefacts were some sort of advanced teleportation devices. The crystal appeared to be fragmented and analysis suggested it had been deliberately broken into three parts. The location of the second part was discerned, and you assisted in its retrieval from a ruin infested with both a nest of large hostile alien creatures and some form of spectral alien Undead. In the final battle, you were heavily wounded.

    Your performance was sufficiently impressive that Captain Frostbitter, the commanding Army officer of the expedition, and Captain Tathklor, the Subterfuge’s commanding officer, both recommended you for immediate induction into the Aotrs Army. With limited medical assistance aboard the ship, Captain Tathklor made the decision to pre-emptively offer you death and Lichdom, which you accepted. By the time the Subterfuge had returned to the fleet, you were a Lich and confirmed as a Aotrs officer. Due to your efforts, the Aotrs was later able to retrieve the third crystal fragment from a later archaeological expedition a few months later

    You have continued to serve with the Pathfinders, but now as a full Aotrs officer, you have been assigned to several positions with the regular Aotrs army as a scout and specialist. Most notably, you were instrumental in locating the Spirit of Fire during the aborted invasion of Muisis, though the Aotrs was ultimately unable to retrieve it.

    Recently, after the conclusion of your latest operation, you were approached by an officer. “Captain Lightslayer, I am Commander Nightweaver. I have been sent on the authority of the High Command to solicit your participation in a classified program to further the goals of the Army Of The Red Spear. I am forbidden from discussing with you the nature, of this mission or your personal involvement. I can only to tell you that if you accept, you will be given transfer orders to your new command, effective immediately. Your selection in this project is entirely voluntary and if you decline, you will not be contacted again.”

    Upon your acceptance, your transfer orders sent you through several intermediate steps before your final destination – the Myst system.
    Last edited by Aotrs Commander; 2016-01-05 at 07:07 AM.

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    Jan 2007
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    Default Re: The Myst Project: Aotrs Myst Exploratory Team Mission 001

    Spoiler: Third Trooper Harkan Valkor
    Harkan was born to a scholarly family on the New English Colony world of New Westminster in 2295. Located in the Hanwood system on the fringes of the Sondat sector, New Westminster was primarily a farming world. It was colonised relatively recently in history in 2261, a scant seven years before the NEC seceded. In other circumstances, New Westminster might have become a quiet backwater due to its location. However, when the NEC formed, it needed to utilise every resource available to it. Before colonisation, New Westminster had been a priorly-lifeless planet, but having possessed an atmosphere only lacking in oxygen, had been relatively easy to terraform. It was thus suddenly placed in a prime position for rapid expansion. This was further helped along by the natural resources the planet – and its moon – possessed. The NAC had not considered them worth exploiting, since they had better sources, but for the much smaller NEC, they were not only now desirable but necessary.

    New Westminster still has a relatively small population with a low density. Almost the entire planet’s land area is covered by farms or commercial woodlands. With no native life, New Westminster’s artificial ecology has proved very fruitful, significantly helped by stringent biological import controls instigated from the very start.

    The modern capital city – North Basingsford – has a thriving industrial sector, founded principally on the construction and repair of agricultural machinery. The early lead the planet gained, combined with the local mineral resources (in particular zinc, cobalt and titanium) soon lead to it becoming the primary agricultural industry centre in the NEC. North Basingford’s engineering colleges became the largest and most prestigious in the NEC.

    The Valkor family all worked in and around the colleges. Harkan inherited his intelligence from both of his parents. An exceptionally intelligent child, Harkan absorbed knowledge like a sponge, but was most interested in maths, physics – and engineering. His father, himself a quite senior agricultural scientist, and his mother, a computer scientist, encouraged him. Neither of Harkan’s parents were especially socially adept and his upbringing, while comfortably, was somewhat lacking in what they considered frivolous pursuits. Harkan found it very difficult to make friends of his own age, partly due to his intelligence alienating him and partly because of his parent’s attitude to normal childhood pursuits. Harkan himself did not find this especially problematic, as it allowed him to concentrate on his studies to the exclusion of all else.

    Once he had graduated from college, Harkan declined several promising positions in the industry in favour of his doctorate in physics. Harkan increasingly found, however, it was not enough. He wanted to know everything. It had taken him, in his opinion, far too long to get his doctorate, constrained by the necessity of curriculums. Despite numerous positions offered to him, Harkan began to realise that, as he neared thirty – the time he had left would be limited. How could he achieve the highest of knowledge in everything in – if he was lucky – another 90 years? Then all his knowledge would count for nothing.

    Chaffing at the restrictions, in 2324, Harkan sold his services as specialist consultant to fund a frantic search for a means to extend his longevity. He became concerned that there were no methods available to him – at least in the NEC. Harkan had always been rather insular, seeking little beyond his local environments, but he began now to actively look further afield. He knew of races that were immortal, but he had never considered biology in any detail, and realised that he would have to spend most – of not all – of his precious remaining years trying to learn why and how and if he could apply it to himself. He was desperately beginning to consider finding a way to upload his mind into some sort of computer or robotic body. While such technology existed, it was beyond the NEC.

    In 2325, the Army Of The Red Spear came to Harkan’s attention. He had heard of them in passing, but as the Sondat sector was quite a distance from the Aotrs’ primary operations, he had only paid scant attention to the interstellar news. But now he was looking, the news of the sudden, unexplained Aotrs occupation of the uninhabited Myst system in the Tros sector, on the border between NEC and NAC space, became much more interesting. While he had – rather to his surprise – learned about magic during his search, what little he could find on magical life extension would have required him to learn magic himself. Harkan had no idea whether this was even possible, especially as he could not find any spellcasters on New Westminster. But as he researched, he learned that the Aotrs’ method, creating spirit-bound Liches, was something that was done to him.

    Harkan had never cared for morality much – he considered it, like much philosophy, beneath him and his search for pure science – and so the decision was an easy one. That the Aotrs had a higher level of technological advancement almost sealed the idea in his mind at once. Harkan was sure that if he just get to the Aotrs, he could convince them he was an asset. Harkan carefully planned in secret how to reach them. It was obvious one could simply not, say, fly into the Myst system and offer his services. What anecdotal evidence he could find suggested that the Aotrs did not recruit via traditional methods and that finding a way to come to their attention was itself the first stage of recruitment. He considered trying to steal some technology or data, but quickly realised that his insular life had ill-prepared him for such an operation – and further, that what technology or even intelligence (assuming he could even gather the latter) the NEC could offer was unlikely to be of interest to the Aotrs. The NEC did not have a significant military research program.

    And there it might have ended. Harkan could have slowly slipped into insanity and frustration, hampering what could have been his bright future in the efforts to extend it.

    But fate intervened.

    Following the occupation of Myst, there were numerous skirmishes between NEC and Aotrs forces – rather one-sided in the case of the battles in space. During one such incident, one starship crew made a lucky discovery – the almost intact computer core of an Aotrs Subterfuge Scoutship, miraculously not destroyed along with its vessel during in the fighting. The frigate’s crew had spotted it and had the foresight to tractor it during their escape, using some ingenious diversionary tactics to ensure that the Aotrs had not detected what they had done. It was a million-to-one chance, the sort of event that comes only once a lifetime.

    If the NEC could access the core, the data they could take from it would be invaluable. Harkan only learned of this when he – along with a scant few others, including his mother – was invited to come to a NEC military facility as specialists to attempt to crack the core. The technology was beyond what the engineers of the NEC could manage, and they hoped that fresh minds would aid the task. But in their haste, they had made an error. Harkan, to all outward appearances, was clean. If they had noticed his interest in the Aotrs, they had assumed it would merely make him more eager. The thought he might try to join them had never occurred to anyone.

    Harkan saw this as his golden opportunity. If he could prevent the NEC gaining access to the core – or better yet, manage to return the core to the Aotrs, he was certain that it would enough to join them. It would not be easy. Harkan was no fighter, and while his computer skills were good, hacking was not his forte. Harkan also knew that before long, the core would be shipped out to a more secure facility, where he would never be able to retrieve it and would likely have little chance to even sabotage it.

    He came up with a plan. First, he needed to win the trust of the NEC navy. Working with his mother, he was able to actually crack a small part of the least-secured data. This early success was roundly lauded, and his mother expressed her pride. It also guaranteed them a position of seniority in the project. Harkan then managed to very carefully hack into and modify the data, just enough to spoil the usage.

    It was a process he repeated, sacrificing a little real data (if he could not manage to quietly alter it) as he stalled for time. Harkan found himself in the position of having to attempt to socialise – not for its own sake, but as a means to talk to the other engineers and technical officers and glean some understanding of how all the systems worked. The communications system was one priority. He knew at some point that the NEC would have arrange the transfer. If the information got out – or enough information – it would make the transfer a target. Harkan did not dare do so directly, but instead manipulated the encryption on the facility’s communications, rendering it in effective. Harkan hoped the Aotrs would be monitoring communications and thus learn enough.

    He was right. Either by his own efforts or their own intelligence, the Aotrs learned what was going on and the NEC base commander was told that the transfer was now at great risk. During the meeting with all the senior staff, it was Harkan that proposed they sneak the core out in an unmarked freighter, while the full escort fleet took a dummy with them. He assured them he could create a mock-up that would stand up to all but the most scrutiny – the sort that would only be achievable if the core reached Aotrs hands anyway.

    His mother and the project lead, convinced of his earnestness, pushed for the project to go ahead. The base commander was not as convinced, but allowed them to proceed.

    Harkan worked feverishly and performed what was the best feat of engineering in his life. He was as good – and perhaps a little better – than his word. The fake core was loaded into the fleet, and the real one into the freighter. Harkan insisted he must go with the core, to continue to work on it and ensure that it avoided detection. His mother insisted she go along as well, despite Harkan’s protestations.

    The freighter launched, and set off on its journey. Harkan now put the next phase of his plan into action. He would have to seize control of the vessel quickly and them use what time he could before it was missed to make a run for Aotrs space. He would have to rely on the ship’s automated systems, since he had no illusions about being able to control the crew. They had to die. Harkan manipulated the computer’s warning systems, shutting them into a diagnostic loop. He then access the environmental controls. Jumping into a spacesuit one night, when only the minimal watch was on duty on the bridge, Harkan vented the ship’s atmosphere, killing everyone onboard, including his mother. She died in her sleep in her cabin, never even aware of what was going on.

    Harkan was now on a very limited timeframe. Not only would the ship be missed before too long, but having vented the ship’s air, he was reliant on the supply of spacesuits and the few unoccupied areas he’d been able to seal off. However, avoiding pursuit required him to attempt to set a circuitous course.

    It took Harkan almost a week to escape. He managed on brief layover (after changing the ship’s transponder codes) on one of the two unoccupied but habitable planets in the KK210 system in the Phlost sector enroute to Aotrs space, and that gave him enough leeway to reach Aotrs space proper.

    But his luck had run out, and as he approached Aotrs space, the NEC found him. The need for secrecy gone, he broadcast directly to the Aotrs and made all speed towards the system’s jump-point, squeezing every last drop out of the engines. The Aotrs picked up his transmission and a task force arrived. It was a tense chase, but eventually, he reached the relative safety of the Aotrs fleet and the NEC were forced to withdraw.

    The Aotrs were somewhat surprised when they boarded his ship and Harkan offered his services. However, Harkan was negotiating in good faith and he had succeeded in saving them a great deal of trouble. When it was revealed he was behind the plan and the fake core – which they had launched an operation to retrieve only for it to be destroyed be the NEC rather than it be captured, they were impressed. Harkan was given an assessment and quickly passed the test. He requested lichdom at the earliest opportunity.

    In the years since, Harkan spent some time learning the new skills required of him during training – some understanding of magic and the theories behind the more advanced Aotrs technology. He was also trained in more martial skills, where he was deemed adequate. Harkan found that, with his immortality achieved, he found a new sense of peace with himself, and was able to relax in a way that he never could have in life. This was as well, since as soon as his training was completed, he was assigned as technical support to several special operations. His initiation overseers had commented on his primary weakness being field experience – and perhaps somewhat ironically, considering, a lack of social skills. His new commanding officer therefore put him on these tasks to address both of these weakness. The somewhat awkward attempts at social contact he had begin on the NEC base were honed, and while Harkan was never going to be a super-spy, he could at least now dissemble credibly. (He also found himself enjoying a something of a second childhood, as his contemporaries introduced him to many new leisure pursuits that he was now relaxed enough to be able to enjoy.)

    After four years of such work, during which he was promoted, Harkan was assigned back to normal fleet operations in the weapons research division. He assisted on the refinement of the new Drain Cannon technology and helped implement several incremental improvements to weapon systems, including the Mark 17 Coldbeam pistol.

    It was likely his technical skill, combined with his history and foray with special operations that got him short-listed for the next phase of his unlife.

    You were approached by an officer. “Star Trooper Valkor, I am Commander Nightweaver. I have been sent on the authority of the High Command to solicit your participation in a classified program to further the goals of the Army Of The Red Spear. I am forbidden from discussing with you the nature, of this mission or your personal involvement. I can only to tell you that if you accept, you will be given transfer orders to your new command, effective immediately. Your selection in this project is entirely voluntary and if you decline, you will not be contacted again.”

    Upon your acceptance, your transfer orders sent you through several intermediate steps before your final destination – the Myst system.

    Spoiler: Second Star Trooper Snowward
    You come from Austin, one of the first worlds of the Free Cal-Tex (FCT) to secede from the NAC. Born in 2289 as Edden Snowward, your early life was not especially remarkable; you followed in the footsteps or your father, getting from him your abiding interest in planetology and the xeno-history and studies. As you reached your late teens, he took on several expeditions to alien worlds. Some of there were somewhat dangerous, and you learned first how to handle weapons, skills you have continued to refine and improve.

    Upon graduation, you applied to join the FCT’s Xeno Intelligence Division. While you might have liked to do as your father did and become an independent specialist, you felt you would need some experience and a more solid financial footing first. The XID was a catch-all organisation in the FCT, which dealt in both conventional intelligence work and the associated analysis of alien technology and cultures.

    You quickly found, however, that the latter was very much subsidiary to the former, and the XID’s main goal was to try and use whatever means necessary to improve the FCT’s tentative standing as minor power to something greater. You found yourself a niche, however; your skills lent themselves very well to data analysis, and you rapidly found yourself promoted to a senior position. You have a natural instinct for sieving through seemingly useless data to find the string to make it all unravel, and your reputation meant that you often found yourself being passed information to work on if no-one else had had any luck.

    The drawback to this talent was that you had a tendency to wander around and follow whatever paths the data lead up on, sometimes to areas above your pay grade. Your eccentricities were tolerated, however, because of your high success rate.

    Sometimes, your work required to go out into the field, and here you occasionally found keeping your self-defence skills sharp was a wise investment, despite your typical protection detail. During one of these field operations, you were assigned a guard by the name of Jodie Woodrow. You quickly became close and married within a couple of short years. You and Jodie had two children, Harry born in 2314 and three years later, Laura. Jodie had retired to be a full-time mother, and you were attempting to cut back on your field work to have more time with the children.

    However, your superiors resisted your attempts and you found you were becoming increasingly unhappy. The FCT government was becoming increasingly high-handed and allegations of corruption began to abound; and the attitude was filtering into the XID.

    Events came to a sudden head two decades ago in 2321. Your home town was targeted by a terrorist bomb attack by the at the time newly discovered Galactic Liberation Armada. The attack came just before Christmas. You had been called into work at the last minute to work on a particularly difficult problem, to your great annoyance, as you had been planning to go with Jodie and the children to your family’s traditional Christmas party. The GLA had somehow managed to plan a small nuclear device and it detonated, causing several thousand fatalities, your family among them, along with most of your friends and co-workers. After this the tragedy, you threw yourself into your work, as you feared if you did not, you might succumb to the bottle as did your uncle.

    However, during an unrelated piece of data-mining, you discovered the true reason for the attack. It has been a botched counter-terrorism operation, designed to place a plant in the ranks of the GLA, sanctioned by the XID and the highest authority in the FCT. They had allowed the attack to go ahead, initially not realising the scope of the attack, but had been prepared to sacrifice the lives of the people in order to convince the GLA their plant was genuine. To your fury, you found that they had at the last moment had knowledge the bomb was nuclear, and elected to proceed – and you had been called in specifically because the powers that be considered you too valuable to lose. And that your family was “a distraction” that you didn’t need. Nor were you the only person that had been placed in the same position.

    Of course, the operative plant died in the bomb attack as well, rendering the whole operation ultimately pointless. (Whether this was because the GLA had discovered him, he had truly gone over or simply it had always been intended to be suicide attack was never clear.) Except, of course, the FCT government was now in a position to tighten its grip on a terrified populace and get away with more draconian measures to suppress social unrest.

    You suppressed your reaction to the discovery, but the damage was irreparable. It was now clear that, after all your studies of aliens, that humans simply could not be trusted in a position of power. You needed to get away. But you knew that you would never be simply let go. In fact, you began to realise it was just a matter of time until your superiors now decided you knew too much and quietly eliminated you.

    You began seeking a way out, a place to run – and a power not ruled by humans. The Royal Elven Kingdoms were too far, and further, they would not help your real goal – to get your family back. As you sifted through the options and possibilities under cover of your usual rambling work, you increasingly decided that the only viable option would be the Army Of The Red Spear. If you could bring them something of value, you could perhaps join their ranks – and most importantly, perhaps THEY, with power over death could help you regain your lost family. Perhaps they could even help get some form of revenge – for you knew that direct vengeance of the responsible parties would be impossible.

    You carefully accrued as much data from the XID as you could, storing it away. The XID’s newer operatives had traded skill for loyalty their superiors, so you managed well enough. It took a great deal of effort, but you were finally able to track down a way to make direct contact with the Aotrs. You had managed to follow one of their legitimate front companies through and arranged a face-to-face meeting. The man you met and spoke with never gave his name and you even now remain unsure whether he was human or under an illusion. He told you the Aotrs were already impressed with your ability to reach out to them in this manner. If you could deliver the information you promised, the Aotrs would ensure you safe passage and at the very least assessment.

    It took another three months of planning before all the pieces were in place. Security was tightening, and while you had not yet been discovered, you knew you were going to need some assistance to escape. The Aotrs sent you assistance in the form of a Kobold Commando, who helped you in setting up a little parting gift for the XID – a little bomb of you own. And you carefully ensured that the finger would be pointed as high up as you could manage.

    In the chaos and confusion, you managed to slip away. It was not quite without incident, but the only guards who saw you did not live long enough to report and you had left enough evidence to fake your own death – and the destruction of a number of interesting artefacts you were able to rescue.

    After a long journey of several stages and a meandering route, you finally reach the Traitor class Recon Destroyer Shadow’s Herald, the class of the ship seeming appropriate. The Aotrs assessed you and quickly decided your skills would be very useful. You were inducted into the Pathfinders. While still technically under the umbrella of the Aotrs, the Pathfinders work as mostly-independent operatives whose remit is to explore and/or gather information in the galactic community; often under the veneer of a legitimate pioneer. Many of the personnel in Pathfinder service are livings (especially in the latter capacity, where it does not require magic to blend in). The Pathfinders are often considered something of a halfway-house between the Dark Elf Troopers and the Aotrs proper, and a good way to gain some experience.

    You served in the Pathfinders for two years. You were instrumental in discovering several alien writings of great importance. There had been rumours and hints in the histories of several worlds about visitors from another world who had not arrived by ship. The visitors were described as arriving in a manner not unlike Gate technology, or the Pathways of the Xakkath Demon Wars and anymore detailed information was to be of the highest priority, especially as some of the worlds in question would not have been part of the Xakkath Demon Wars; the missing planet was even supposed to be the lost world Syalin. Your discovery was one of several which allowed the location to be triangulated to the Myst system.

    This was a sufficiently important discovery that you were offered a position in the Aotrs Army proper and your Lichdom. You took both... And suddenly the goal of finding your family again seemed much less important, especially with a the much more interesting work you were able to do with the Aotrs! After your formal Aotrs training, you have served in a variety of positions, both analytical and exploratory with the Aotrs ground forces for the last sixteen or seventeen years.

    A couple of months ago, you were approached by an officer. “Star Trooper Snowward, I am Commander Nightweaver. I have been sent on the authority of the High Command to solicit your participation in a classified program to further the goals of the Army Of The Red Spear. I am forbidden from discussing with you the nature, of this mission or your personal involvement. I can only to tell you that if you accept, you will be given transfer orders to your new command, effective immediately. Your selection in this project is entirely voluntary and if you decline, you will not be contacted again.”

    Upon your acceptance, your transfer orders sent you through several intermediate steps before your final destination – the Myst system.

    Spoiler: First Trooper Shadow Soulwhisper
    You were born as Tellath Sastharwaeil on Lellantisiroloth, the ancestral homeworld of the Royal Elven Kingdoms in 2292 by the galactic calendar. Your family lived in the endless bounds of the Gaeithil Forest, where miles of unbroken wilds perfectly intermeshed with the Wood Elf settlements. Your father had once served long ago in the Royal Elven Army, and he believed that service should be something that all Elves should do, at least for a while. So upon coming of age, you ended up pushed into service with the Royal Elven Army yourself.

    The Gaeithil Wood Elves serve as their own, not-quite independent part of the conglomerate of the Royal Elven Kingdom’s armed forces and you were trained as was normal for the task of skirmishing and reconnaissance, which the Gaeithil excelled at. For a while, you were, if not happy, at least content. You always wanted to know everything, see what was beyond the next hill and what the people around you were doing. Recon, at least allowed some outlet for that urge. But eventually, it was not enough.

    You finished your first tour and left the armed forces, your duty by your father discharged. As you had been sent in so early, you had few other skills to rely on and your choices were... more limited... without having to spend more years on only your discharge pay while you re-trained. But the Royal Army at least made an effort on your part, and found you a position within the Gaeithil law enforcement service.

    However, despite the initial appeal, you quickly found that law enforcement on a near-utopian planet was rather dull – even if your work took you almost across the globe – and you put in for a transfer.

    You considered Tárivaurënórië, the REN’s capital world (and one far busier with interstellar traffic), but in the end, you found a more promising post on Goldfall in 2318.

    Goldfall – (both the system and the system’s primary colony world’s name) – is a border system. Tucked away near a series of uninhabited systems, Goldfall is quite remote. The binary system only contained one habitable planet – a small, not-quite tide-locked planet in orbit around the secondary dwarf star. Goldfall gets its name from the periodic intersections on its orbit by the neighbouring asteroid field (the Silvercloud belt), which leads to beautiful meteor showers every 237 years. The other planets in the system contain a variety of unusual minerals and crystals – especially on Noosta, the furthest planet, a world of lifeless crystals with a high background magic, believed to be a late capture.

    Goldfall’s natural resources were enough to make a colony founding viable and prosperous, but were not of sufficiently common use to make it an industrial centre. Instead, the terraformed world’s grand vistas and the presence of mysterious Noosta – and some suggestions that other creatures might once have lived in the system eons ago – made it a place of learning and contemplation and later tourism. This attracted many sorts of people from over the galaxy – and not all of them desirable. Some of the rare elements found in Goldfall could attract a high price on the galactic black market and Goldfall’s law enforcement was much busier, despite a greatly smaller population.

    You thus found yourself much better occupied – and for the first time, out from under the thumb of your father and his old cronies in the army. Here, you WERE the law. And you developed an appreciation of the finer things in life; the sort of things your – grossly unvalued – pay would not stretch to, so you took... other methods to acquire it. The skills you were now developing as a law-enforcement officer dove-tailed nicely into your out-of-work activities and with your clearance and a little skill, you were able to cover your tracks very nicely. You stopped from outright joining the strong element of organised crime that pervaded Goldfall, however – to do so would have left more tracks, though you were not averse to having some of the incarcerated criminal elements teach you things in return for favours. After all, why join someone else’s criminal empire when you could build your own?

    But even this did not entirely satisfy you, after a decade. So, in early 2327 when you heard rumours that Goldfall was the site of a secret REN research project, your curiosity demanded you investigate. Some elements of the REN were conducting research so secret, they did not want anyone finding out about it, especially their allies. So they had squirreled it away on Goldfall amid the clutter.

    It took a great deal of very careful work over the course of a couple of years before you could unearth something of use. You did not entirely understand what is was the research was on, but it was something to do with some specific magical crystals from Noosta. You sent out tentative feelers to see if you could find a buyer. After all, the sort of money such a thing would bring in would allow you to more or less do whatever you wanted, probably for centuries with careful management...

    But somewhere, something went wrong. You were just in the process of lining up a potential buyer when they abruptly disappeared. Shortly thereafter, the next Cybertank Incursion began in anger and suddenly Goldfall had an unwelcome presence of a modest military fleet, forcing you to curtail your operations. Not long after that, a task force from the Galactic Empire entered system, having first dragged a small Cybertank fleet into pull the defending fleet out of position. A number of Imperial Assault Transport attempted to raid the surface, but were beaten off. It was quickly determined that the only thing they could have been after was the secret research. Further attacks by the Aotrs cemented it, following in the Empire’s footsteps – the knowledge of the project had obviously been leaked.

    You could only surmise your buyer had been captured by the Empire. The trail would lead back to you, now Goldfall was the subject of a rather more thorough investigation. Despite your best efforts to obfuscate your involvement, your actions were uncovered. You were caught in a neat trap before you could flee and arrested.

    The charge was of high treason. While the REN did not have a death penalty, you knew you would instead be looking at decades – if not centuries – of prison time. Your father, enraged beyond belief, spoke to you only once after you had been arrested, to tell you he was personally ensuring that the prosecution had the best lawyers in the Kingdoms. He disowned you.

    You knew your only chance was to escape. If you did not managed to get out now, you would be taken off-planet for your trial, and then shipped off to some penal colony somewhere. You would not be ill-treated, of course – but you knew the boredom would send you mad. Anything was better than that fate.

    But you were watched all the time you were on Goldfall. There was no way to escape before you were brought to Tárivaurënórië for trial. There, you were placed in a less secure facility while you awaited your trial. Your father’s insistence on proving your guilt was working for you, in that it was taking time before the case could be assembled. And you had, at least, managed to keep your copy of the data from being found. Away from Goldfall, you had no contacts, no resources.

    One day, you found a note, slipped in with your morning meal. It was an offer for help, in return for the data you had stolen. Your mysterious benefactor would free you from your fate and ensure that you were well-set up for your long-life wherever you chose to go, if you could furbish them with the data. It also told you how to contact them via scribbled notes left in a particular place. Your negotiations were swift – you would agree, but ONLY on the condition that you yourself were on-hand to retrieve the data, since only you could unlock the decryption in person. Your benefactor agreed, but warned that this agreement came with great risk – rescuing you from the heart of the Royal Elven Capital would be extremely dangerous.

    You festered in prison all through your trial. In the last week before it, you heard nothing from your benefactor, and began to fear that all was lost. The enforced boredom was already starting to get to you and your anger at your confinement rose. And then the trial finally came and went. You were found guilty and sentenced to a total of two hundred year’s incarceration.

    As the transport took you away, you were at your lowest ebb. But that was when your benefactor sprung into operation. The escape plan was highly audacious, involving ambushing the prison vehicle mid-transit through Tárivaurënórië’s capital city. But it worked – to a degree. You were free, and with the team of operatives from your benefactor... Who turned out to be the Army Of The Red Spear, probably the chief among the REN’s enemies. But no plan survives contact with the enemy, and despite all their efforts, the Aotrs extraction team ran into problems. Between your own hacking skills – and the shooting skills you’d kept honed after your military days – you managed to stage a daring raid on a nearby starport and steal a vessel to escape.

    But just as you were making the final dash for the shuttle, reinforcements arrived – including your father, for reasons you have never understood. The one thing you do know is that it was his lazer bolt that struck you as you sprinted up the ramp. The wound was fatal, but not immediately so. The Aotrs team could do nothing for you but watch you die. So, in your dying breath, full of rage and frustration, you made one last bargain with their leader. Make you like them – a Lich – and you would lead them to your data as promised. The last thing you ever saw with your living eyes was the contemplative look of the leader’s eyeglows.

    And you awoke, ascended to Lichdom but a few hours later. You had swapped vessels in the meantime, and were now sneaking back to Goldfall. The Aotrs had staged enough of an explosion with the remains of the flesh they’d stripped from your bone to keep the authorities on Tárivaurënórië distracted for a short time – time enough to do the job, it was hoped.

    And do it you did. Using all of your knowledge and home-ground advantage, with your death still believed, you were able to enter your old workplace and secure the data the Aotrs wanted. The extraction was fraught, but this time, you made it out a step or two ahead of the REN navy.

    The leader of the Aotrs team told you that you would – as agreed – be paid. But now that you were a Lich – disappearing would be much more difficult. Instead, he said, you had proven that you had the potential to join the Aotrs.

    You took that option and have never looked back. Your superiors took note of your skills and drives, and assigned you to a special operations team. While you were by far the most junior, the work you did varied from assassination to reconnaissance. And you found with the clarity brought by your imprisonment, death and Lichdom, you had a new sense of perspective; the nagging feeling that prevented you from settling throughout your life had faded.

    You have served most of the last decade in this capacity, undertaking a wide range of operations.

    A couple of months ago, you were approached by an officer. “Star Trooper Soulwhisper, I am Commander Nightweaver. I have been sent on the authority of the High Command to solicit your participation in a classified program to further the goals of the Army Of The Red Spear. I am forbidden from discussing with you the nature, of this mission or your personal involvement. I can only to tell you that if you accept, you will be given transfer orders to your new command, effective immediately. Your selection in this project is entirely voluntary and if you decline, you will not be contacted again.”

    It was an offer, even with your new found perspective, you simply could not refuse! Upon your acceptance, your transfer orders sent you through several intermediate steps before your final destination – the Myst system.

    Spoiler: First Trooper Serpent Sundeath
    You were born in 2302 as Telanir Sunspear in Shining Spires, on the world of Tusharnos. Tusharnos has retained its name – with some lingual drift – from as far back as the Xakkath Demon Wars. Formerly a relatively unremarkable HPE-L world, Tusharnos was one of the major battle grounds during that conflict and the face of the world was forever changed into one of sweeping vistas, fantastical cliffs and enormous valleys rent by the numerous divine combats.

    When the Aotrs invaded in 1287, Tusharnos was still a struggling world. Much of the hydrosphere blasted away, and there are only three small oceans occupying what was once the deepest portions of the world’s land. The towering plateaus borne the brunt of the unforgiving sun, Kul, while the once-lush forests were confined to the valleys and crevasses. Shining Spires dates back to before the conquest. It was the seat of power of the High Elves, who had carved one of the few true empires of Tusharnos. Much of the rest of the world was divided into patchwork nations or city-states (mostly human of Elven), divided by near-impassable cliffs and mountain ranges or gulfs of burning deserts. The High Elves had an astonishing command of engineering, even by the standards of the Aotrs at the time of the conquest. They had constructed an impressive series of lifts (modernised versions that still stand today) that climbed from the top of the Naetith Valley to the top of the Dansin plateau, and there built a city of towering spires to look over their realm. Shining Spires is treated to the most fantastic sunsets of any city in the Aotrs, as the plateau behind it is almost completely flat and lies above the now-low median cloud layer.

    Tusharnos today still has a relatively small population for a world of its size and age. The remnants of the Xakkath Demon War (the primary impetus for conquest) have been largely found, though every so often another one might come to light in some forgotten region. Selective terraforming and climate control has improved and stabilised the waning hydrosphere, though by design, much of the surface remains desert still. A millennium of Aotrs conquest has seen the disparate tribes and mini-nations subjugated, though many are still very primitive and pre-industrial, never worth the effort of exploiting and are more-or-less left alone to rule – or bicker – among themselves, with only the occasional reminder of who truly controls Tusharnos required.

    Your family can be traced back as far as a few centuries prior to the conquest. Raised in one of monolithic towers – for the rise of technology has only seen Shining Spires grow taller and more impressive – you are unusually comfortable in the sun for a Lich. At an early age, you were assessed and identified as a potential candidate for the Aotrs. Such assessments are common in Tusharnos and it is considered a prestigious event for one’s offspring to be so qualified. You entered the Dark Elf Troopers upon your graduation from education. There, you showed a natural aptitude for combat and weaponry and you particularly enjoyed explosives.

    You first served as part of the Tusharnos garrison forces. You partook in several of the disciplinary police actions. These involved as much intimidation as diplomacy, but assessing the right tactic to use to maximise the impact but minimise the collateral damage was something you learned quickly. The high performance and adaptability you showed during the three years you served in this capacity got you transferred to a new unit, this time one which operated more widely around the Aotrs. You served there for eight years, posted variously on the watery expanses of Semilkar, the broiling jungles on Torrid and in the subterranean caverns of Melimfar.

    For you, there was no one instance that garnered you your promotion to the Aotrs army proper, but a consistent level of competence – and a little luck in being in the right place at the right time to attract the right sort of attention. You took your Lichdom voluntarily when offered, wanting the extra edge it would grant you in combat.

    With your service history, you needed little extra training and joined the ground forces of the First Fleet only a few months before the start of Operation Ghost Trap in 2331, where your unit was part of the first wave of troops dispatched.

    This operation was a long-term mid-level ground invasion of the independent planet Muisis to retrieve a number of magical artifacts called the Spirits of the Elements. The existence of the Spirits of the Elements was discovered by then-Captain Bleakbane, a fresh rising star (now Commadore in charge of Bleak Despair sector). He uncovered that Muisis, colonised by the humans in 2156, was formerly Verdelain, a world known in the Xakkath Demon Wars. While the ecosystem of Verdelain was mostly intact, what had happened to its intelligent races and civilisations remains unclear, save that they vanished sometime in the last ten thousand years, long enough ago to leave virtually no trance. The latter day colonists had no idea what they were sitting on. The locations of the Spirits were not known, and the search for (and as it happened when some were located, the disparate and inaccessible positions of) the Spirits precluded a covert attempt retrieve them.

    Over the course of Muisis operations, you served with distinction. You engaged in a wide variety of operations, including air-borne assault drops from Fallen Soul Multirole IFVs, covert operations and recon and even one or two instances of armoured combat when the situation got tight. Your penchant for explosives landed you often the position of the wielder of the squad’s Snake Guided Missile Launcher. In the hectic five years, you used at one time or another, all of the Aotrs standard-issue armoury, including plasma-pulse and railgun weaponry. You also learned a fair bit about the fine art of traps and mine-laying during some of the more interesting operations. You scored a total of 26 vehicle kills (though of those, only nine very APCs or MBTs, the rest being scout vehicles) and more human kills than you can easily remember.

    Operation Ghost Trap lasted for two-and-a-half years. Despite being only a system state and not even two hundred years old, Muisis had a large population and a vast array of ground armour bought from exports or surplus from many of the human major powers, especially the NAC and ESU. While the Spirit of Light was retrieved and the Spirits of Fire, Earth and Water were located, the Aotrs was unable to locate the others – including the most desired Spirit of Ice due to the phenomenal resistance put up by the Muisis Militia. Despite early success, the tide slowly turned, as attritional losses mounted against the Militia’s seemingly endless supply of outdated armour.

    Lord Death Despoil elected that Operation Ghost Trap was to end, and be replaced by Operation Spirit Lance, a full-scale invasion in early 2334. But the Muisis Militia put up a stupendous defence. Only one the landing drop of the nine (Drop 4, which Lord Death Despoil oversaw personally) established and shortly came under heavy attack. In late 2334, Lord Death Despoil made the wrenching decision to abort any further Muisis operations.

    As irony would have it, yours was the very last squad to leave the surface. You were covering the last of the Dirge Transports as they were Gated up to the waiting starships and were under heavy fire. You managed one last kill with your Snake Launcher before your Fallen Soul transport lifted off.

    In the six years since, you have continued to serve in the front lines on a variety of other operations across the galaxy, including several zero-G marine operations. Despite your relatively young age, your consistently good performance has meant you have received a fair bit of notoriety amongst your various squad leaders as a highly dependable asset. It was probably this that was what lead to your most recent assignment.

    You were approached by an officer. “First Trooper Sundeath, I am Commander Nightweaver. I have been sent on the authority of the High Command to solicit your participation in a classified program to further the goals of the Army Of The Red Spear. I am forbidden from discussing with you the nature, of this mission or your personal involvement. I can only to tell you that if you accept, you will be given transfer orders to your new command, effective immediately. Your selection in this project is entirely voluntary and if you decline, you will not be contacted again.”

    Upon your acceptance, your transfer orders sent you through several intermediate steps before your final destination – the Myst system.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Titan in the Playground
    Aotrs Commander's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Derby, UK

    Default Re: The Myst Project: Aotrs Myst Exploratory Team Mission 001

    And let us begin!

    (The original read-out flavour text is presented in bold.)

    (Note: I have spoilered the main body of text, simply for sanity of browsing! I tried it without and it just was too much.)

    The starry black void of space is broken by a single point of white light. It swells near-instantly into a sharp-edged square of whiteness tens of meters across; featureless, yet somehow still imparting the impression of a square passage. Streamers of pale roiling colours spill out around the periphery, yet from behind, the only the colours can be seen, appearing around a square section of empty space. It is the signature mono-directional exit aperture of Aotrs Gate Drive.

    From the Gate corridor, a vessel emerges – the Shadowfang MkII class Destroyer Visceral Spear.

    Spoiler: Shadowfang MkII

    The Visceral Spear flies out of the Gate, which closes behind it as swiftly as it appeared, and on into the Myst system. While little would be visible to an unaided observer, the holographic displays aboard the vessel tell a different story. It looks, to an observer unfamiliar, almost like the display one might find in a computer game; starships, seemingly close together, with little holographic displays showing identification and statuses, centred on the image of the Visceral Spear itself. But the images here are not graphics, but real-time images of the vessels and stellar bodies. Elements too small for the naked eye – or eyeglow – are magnified hundreds of times, effectively compressing the emptiness of space into a format more readily accessible for the viewers.

    It reveals a star system teeming with Aotrs starships. Behind the Visceral Spear, the silent floating rocks of the Myloti Asteroid Field recede. Before it lies the planet of Myst itself. Unusually for a nominally terrestrial-habitable world, the atmosphere is tinged red. Beneath it, the patchwork of blues, greens and browns of the oceans and land are devoid of the signs of civilisation – or at least current civilisation.

    The Visceral Spear slows to a halt as it approaches a large space station, in a geosynchronous orbit above the planet’s southern hemisphere at the 37th parallel. As it closes, the image of the station is automatically scaled until both vessels are at their true relative size and distance as the Visceral Spear docks.

    Aboard, several Liches look up from the holodisplay in the stateroom, which they have idly been watching since one of them, a naval officer with a unusually well-polished skull and a equally unusual two-handed rune-covered blade, turned it on. They do not need to be told, but start gathering their belongings from the stateroom where they were stashed during this final stage of their journey, and when the ensign comes to escort them to the docking port, they are all ready.

    A short time later, the small group of liches are aboard the station, and taken to a briefing room by a lieutenant, who tells them that “the General will be along shortly.”

    There were about twenty or so Liches in the room, not all having arrived by the Visceral Spear. After a brief stony silence, the lich with the well-polished skull spoke up, introducing himself and Commander Norath Deathbringer and suggested that they all introduced themselves and what their specialties were, since they were all going to be working together.

    While there a mixture of various army and navy officers of various ranks, reaching up to the odd Major, we will examine in particular seven of note.

    Captain Ramus Y'Alper introduced himself as a tactical planning specialist. Y'Alper was also one of the few liches in the room apart from Norath to be carrying a non-standard issue weapon, and older Mark 11B Coldbeam rifle - a veritable antique 6th generation weapon from the 2260s, eighty years prior - which to the sight of those Liches (like Norath) with the ability to perceive magic via sight, was quite well enchanted.

    Next to speak was Captain Cael Yathril Ragnar Invidius Lightslayer - "just call me Cyril," he said.

    Norath blinked and said. "I will."

    Cyril briefly explained the Pathfinders for those unfamiliar and said that he was ultimately an explorer. Norath noted he was thus going to be well suited to this new posting.

    Third Trooper Harkan Valkor was next, introducing himself as a engineer.

    "What speciality?" Norath asked.

    "Engineer," Harkan repeated with a smirk.

    Norath then turned his attention to Second Star Trooper Snowward, who said he was a research

    "In what fields?" North asked.

    "Whatever takes my fancy," Snowward said.

    Norath, gamely containing his mild irritation, asked "well, what are you analysing at the moment?"

    Snowward replied calmly (and quite rightly) "I don't believe you have the clearance to know that."

    Norath's eyeglow twitched a bit.

    First Trooper Shadow Soulwhisper introduced himself as someone who was “quite good with data,
    computers and a rifle.”

    First Trooper Serpent Sundeath said he was an expereinced soldier, with several campaigns under his
    belt, and a bit of an explosives expert (principally with the shoulder-mounted-self-propelled kind.)

    Finally, the only other person of note was Onomatopoeia-Beneath Library, who was very much in the

    The conversation moved on to where everyone was from. Both Norath and Y'Alper revealed they hailed from Kraan, and not massively distant nations. Norath explained his sword was relic of this former life. "I know usually you leave it all behind, but sometimes it’s difficult to part with some to ties from your life" he said.

    "Speak for yourself," Harkan smirked1...

    Curious, Snowward snapped a picture of the runes and ran it through the computer network to find a translation, which he readily found as "Souldrinker."

    As generic major had not heard of Kraan, Norath explained it was a tech-locked HPE-L world. There followed a brief diversion into the explanation of HPE-L (Sianetic Harbinger Probability Engineered. Lellantisiroloth paradigm) and Sianetic Harbinger probability engineering. For the benefit of those who were not aware of the meaning, it was explained that it was the recently-uncovered explanation for why there were so many planets with similar hydrospheres, ecologies and races and species showing up, apparently independently time after time.

    At one time thought to be the work of the gods, it was now known that the now-extinct Sianetic Harbingers had used their technology to reach backwards in time and engineer probability, forcing planets, systems and sometime whole sectors to develop in a specific way. This lead to the prevalence of HPE-worlds, i.e. those with an almost identical oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere, 1g, similar day/night cycle and the repeated pattern of species (humans, elves etc). HPE-L worlds specifically were a subset of HPE worlds, named after the Royal Elven Kingdoms homeworld and categorised by a high background magic. Other types of HPE worlds were HPE-E (HPE- Earths), which explained the presence of the identical-to-a-point-of-divergence Earths. Why Earth was specifically selected was unknown, but as the phenomena had only been discovered a mere sixty years earlier, it was entirely possible that it was just the first such world that had so far been discovered to be probability engineered to that level. What the Harbingers had intended with the HPE worlds remains a mystery, but as Harkan succinctly put it, "they were fracking nutters."

    This briefly forayed into a discussion of the equally mysterious tech-locking - that is the process
    by which some worlds are protected from any forms of technology more advanced than its own from being
    brought into it, Kraan being such a world and then unsuitable for proper global conquest.

    And finally, their new commanding officer, General Flaywind arrived.

    The doors to the briefing room open, and two liches enter. The first, by the rank insignia of two red spears, must be General Flaywind. Tall and broad-shouldered, your initial impression is that he is of human stock.

    The second lich is shorter, a little over five feet, and of a slighter build – whether human, Elven or some other humanoid is difficult to place – and bears the twin crossed blades of an army Major.

    “Be seated, ladies and gentlemen,” the General begins, taking a chair at the head of the table, the major one to his left. “I am General Grimzephyr Flaywind, the commanding officer of Myst Base, and this is Major Carallan Scimitar, the Base’s lead technical officer.

    “Welcome to Myst Base.

    “Before I begin, I must inform you that the Myst Bases’ operations are classified to rating 4O.”

    This is quite a high security classification. It means that the knowledge of the operations here (outside the Myst Base personnel themselves) are only open to Rating Four and above personnel (i.e. General and Vice-Admiral and above); the “O” suffix means this knowledge is not mandatory to all such officers (which would be 4M) and so further likely will not be widely known aside from those directly involved in it, even if they do have clearance. Needless to say, it means you won’t be discussing it with anyone outside the Myst operations, since the penalties for violating that sort of clearance are harsh.

    “Let me begin with what you already likely know.

    “Sixteen years ago in 2325, the Aotrs occupied this system in force, out from under the noses of the NAC and the NEC and reinforced it, even to the point of building this station.

    “What very few have been privy to is why. You’re about to find out; and find out why all the secrecy and what you’ve signed yourselves up for.

    “Settle back lads and lasses, because this will require some explanation.

    “How much do you know about the Xakkath Demon Wars?”

    "Nothing," replied Y'Alper, speaking for many of the room's inhabitants.

    “Potted history: ten thousand years ago, the Demon Lord Xakkath united a huge number of demonic realms and lead them out into material plane on the planet Voth. The gods of the time and the primitive civilisations under their purview fought back and the war raged across tens and probably hundreds of worlds.

    “The reason for the size and scale of this conflict – unprecedented for such a low tech level – was due to Xakkath. With the aid of his Demon Orb, a magical artefact or unknown origin, he was able to create what we term “pathways” between worlds.

    “These pathways didn’t have an actual physical presence or location, but rather existed in the background magic of the planets. You might think of the pathways as essentially acting like a wormhole, allowing mundane teleportation or planar teleportation spells to act through them – essentially, compacting the distances between worlds – instead of having to try to teleport interstellar distances. The pathways, once opened, could be and were used by both sides in the war.

    “The big limitation to the pathways was that Xakkath could only open them to similar worlds and ones which also had enough background magic to support the pathways – what is now termed an HPE-L world. Which is why places like Earth and Lazers – despite being now classified as HPE worlds “similar” enough – were never involved. Worlds that were on the “edge” of this similarity were tactically important to Xakkath, as if would have allowed him to expand his reach. We know of at least one such world by name – the lost world Syalin – but it’s never been found since and was likely physically located across the galaxy.

    “Once the Demon War was over, and Xakkath utterly destroyed along with his Demon Orb, the pathways began to deteriorate. The gods, after moving around and settling into their current worlds, agreed and made every effort to destroy what little was known about the how Xakkath and the Demon Orbs worked, to prevent a similar occurrence.

    “Of course, with so much going on and the increasingly unstable pathways as they started to collapse, they couldn’t be completely thorough and scattered fragments remain. Of course, at the time, the gods had no idea that FTL transit would be created ten thousand-odd years down the line or they might have tried harder!

    “Now, the smarter ones among you are perhaps seeing some similarities between the pathways and are own Gate spells and drives? With good reason. Lord Death Despoil created his Gate spells partly from some fragments of knowledge of the pathways and a little thaumaturgical reverse engineering. We are always searching for more fragments and many of our operations to recover magical artefacts are related to this goal. As you can imagine, being able to improve or replace the Gate drive with near-instantaneous transport would be a phenomenal advantage. This information has always been classified but your participation in the Myst operations clears you by default.

    “That finally brings us to Myst itself and our operations here. Myst is an HPE-L world, towards the borderline I mentioned earlier. Being more towards the fringe, they had a few more alien species among the usual HPE-L mix and it was these that left most of the ruins and temples on the surface.

    “For long time, we’ve heard occasional scraps and obscure rumours in the histories of several worlds about visitors from other worlds. Visitors who arrived in a manner consistent with the sort of way magic like the pathways – or our own Gates – worked, and on worlds which were not necessarily HPE-Ls, but had never been able to trace it. Then about sixteen or seventeen years ago, we found a few writings in quick succession which allowed us to triangulate an approximate spacial location to investigate, since there was only one world that might be the origin in the sector. At first, the team thought it might even by Syalin.

    “The initial team snuck in quietly under the noses of the NAC and NEC and did a bit of digging around. They discovered, before they were wiped out in whatever catastrophe happened to their civilisation, the Myst aliens had done some reverse engineering on the pathways of their own, and had created a sort of portal-device.

    “Lord Death Despoil himself arrived to personally investigate, and decided this was important enough that Myst needed to be annexed and the portal device thoroughly analysed.

    “The Myst Base was established to that end. It took some time for the facilities to be built and prepared. The portal device was located underground in a badly ruined temple, unsuitable for repair. As the potential to lose any pertinent information was too high, we had to essentially demolish it brick by brick and rebuilt it. It took even more time for us to start to translate the alien records left and work out how to repair and reactivate the device, which we call the Myst Gate.

    “Your purpose on Myst will be to explore the Gate.”

    Flaywind turns to indicate Major Scimitar.

    “I’ll turn over to the Major for the more technical details.”

    Scimitar taps her datapad and brings up a holographic image. It shows a large room, perhaps fifty metres wide. The walls chamfer in the last few metres into a shallow curved vault, perhaps thirty metres high at the highest point. The floor and part of the walls are covered in the usual hangar-grey metal surface, but above that, the room is mostly stone.

    Where you can see the walls, there is ornamentation in the form of complex patterns, lending the impression that this is some grand cathedral – which is, of course, exactly what it was.

    Sets of columns rise up along the walls. At the base, they are covered by a protective sheath of metal, but about halfway up, you can see they are stone. The columns are inlaid by a tracery of metals – a fair proportion of which you guess are gold, silver or copper or close alloys of the same, gemstones and what appear to be sweeping runic-like symbols. Some of the stone is clearly ancient, where in other places you can see that it has been restored and replaced.

    The ceiling is dominated by a huge structure. It reminds you nothing so much as the spine of some creature, running the length of all the ceiling you can see. It hangs a couple of metres below the ceiling and must be five or six metres is diameter. The wall columns rise to meet it, rather than the ceiling and you can also see similar columns coming out from the ceiling to meet it from above – presumably those would run through higher parts of the building. Where column and spine meet, there is a complex lattice of metals around the join, where the inlaid designs appear to leap forth into three-dimensions and blend together. Almost all of that looks new, presumably replaced recently by your engineers.

    At the far end of the room, the spine curves down into what must be the Myst Gate device itself.

    A free-standing monolithic structure, the Myst Gate device is over half the width of the cavernous chamber, and it runs back to the far wall, which must be nearly thirty meters distant. In the cathedral-like air of the room, it is reminiscent of a grand altar structure.

    The basic shape is roughly rectangular from the front, but numerous protrusions and indentations visible along the sides make it defy easy description.

    The front is dominated by a huge catenary arch imbedded in the surface, whose frame must be two metres thick. The arch must be not far short of twenty metres high, and not much narrower at the base; easily wide enough to drive a Distant Thunder Heavy IFV through with room to spare. The arch frames a smooth, blank wall. Both are made in some pale gray material. From the distance of the image, it’s impossible to tell whether it is stone, ceramic or even metal. The room spine curves back along itself to disappear into the squarish stone just behind the top of the arch.

    The base of the arch is raised slightly above the floor with a single step, but a shallow, heavily reinforced metal ramp runs down the centre of the room and rises to meet it – evidently your impression about it being wide enough to drive through was not far off the mark.

    Aside from the featureless surface inside the arch, the whole thing is covered with more runic designs and metal traceries. Even the addition of Aotrs technology, presumably linking it to the computer system and possibly some power sources, is discretely woven into the design.

    All in all, the chamber and the device itself is one of the more imposing and impressive you’ve seen.

    After giving you a moment or two to take in the image, Scimitar speaks up, revealing herself to be female.

    “For the past two years, we have been using Myst Gate and experimenting with its operation. Most of these operations have been conducted at high level, using our more powerful Gate-capable spellcasters as they have the ability to extricate themselves if they get stranded. The High Command, notably Lord Foul Skream – have even made several forays personally.

    “Obviously, this reliance on high-ranking personnel has meant our ability to actually explore has been limited until now. We have now enough understanding of the Myst Gate to be able to use it operationally, rather than experimentally.

    “This is why you are here. You will form the Aotrs Myst Exploratory Team. Your mission will be to explore through the Gate.

    “We have discovered that the Myst Gate can connect to a very wide number of worlds. The ancient Myst aliens could only essentially used the device to connect to random worlds, never the same world twice. With access to computer technology, we are attempting to track the variables so that we can re-open the Myst Gate to the same world. Our understanding of the variables is limited – the number of variables is simply enormous; it’s no wonder the Myst aliens were only able to use the Myst Gate empirically.

    “We don’t have anything like the number of sample sizes to be able to understand what they mean yet. We’re essentially trying to understand a whole new genome system when we can only see parts of a handful of lifeforms.

    “The Myst Gate so far has always appeared in the same geographical location in each world, but we might also be able change that once we have a better understanding of the numbers.

    “So at the moment, we are activating the Myst Gate, letting it find a destination, recording the numbers and sending a team through to explore and gather information, both on the destination world itself and its spacial location to build up a larger database. With time and enough references to work from, we should be able to enter our co-ordinates and travel to worlds we haven’t opened the Myst Gate to before.

    “So far, most of the worlds the Myst Gate has connected to are HPE worlds or some sort. We have had five instances so far where it didn’t; one lead to a lifeless hothouse world, one to an atmosphere-less planetoid, two to Gas Giants and one to what we believe was a Divine Realm. We can’t confirm that one, due to the presence of hostiles near the Myst Gate exit point.”

    "What sort of hostiles?" asked Cyril.

    "Angel-y sort of hostiles," Scimitar replied, “It went a bit pear-shaped, that mission."

    Cyril, correctly surmising they were going to be exploring through the Myst Gate, asked how long the
    gate could be open for.

    Major Scimitar answers. Flaywind’s eyeglows lessen and slightly contract in a smirk, apparently knowing you are about to get the deep, technical end. The way Scimitar’s eyeglows brighten with enthusiasm and she becomes more animated doesn’t help the feeling.

    “The Myst Gate uses a complex magical algorithm to open a wormhole to another planet. We don’t know how the Myst aliens powered it, but we’ve been able to modify our own generators to do so.

    "That wasn't what I asked..." Cyril started, but the Major carried on, clearly getting into “lecture mode.”

    “The Myst Gate can be only held fully open – that is, to allow passage through the wormhole – safely for a net period of one hour per activation. This period can be extended by one or two hours; our record is three hours, nine minutes, forty-three seconds, but much longer than an hour and the wormhole becomes increasingly dangerously unstable, and can collapse completely, effectively destroying anything within it.

    “We have found we can extend the time by reducing the wormhole down to a metaphorical pin-hole, essentially making it a micro-wormhole, allowing us to expand it to fully open only as required while remaining ‘connected.’ While in this state, we can still communicate via standard communications systems through the wormhole.

    “We can hold the Myst Gate ‘connected’ for up to seventy-five hours per activation, though our safety limit for re-opening the portal is seventy-two hours, as the wormhole becomes increasingly unstable in the last two-to-three hours.

    “The Myst Gate requires approximately twenty-four hours to recharge per safe activation. Increasing past the safe limit rapidly escalates the power usage and thus recharge time.

    “We have discovered that attempting to link to the same world is difficult, even with recording the co-ordinates. We have observed that when connecting using a priorly-established set of co-ordinates, the Myst Gate takes more time to connect and there is some “drift” between the co-ordinates we input and the final ones the Myst Gate connects to. This is primarily we believe due to the spacial location of the planets moving and the delay is due to the magic “hunting” for the planet in the local area. The further in realspace the planet is away, the more drift is created and the zone in which the device can successfully find and connect the planet in is quite small is astronomic terms.

    “We are fortunate in that the hothouse planet I mentioned earlier is both relatively close to us as has a small orbital radius. It falls mostly within the device’s detection margin, even considering the moment relative to Myst itself, so we can most often connect to it. With careful timing and observation of the planet’s physical location, we are starting build up a picture of how the algorithm changes due to the changing relative positions of the planets, but our understanding is far from being practical.”

    She looks like she could go on, but Flaywind gently interrupts.

    “Therefore, current operations work on a 72-hour timeframe, leaving enough time for the team to perform the operation and safely return without the risk of having to close the Myst Gate and not be able to reconnect.

    “If you want more technical information, I’m sure the major would be happy to explain it an length another time.”

    "How long does it take to get through," Cyril asked, and Scimitar explained that it was not unlike the Aotrs Gate spells and technology in that you walked through it like a corridor - ands it was typically about 40m on average, but varied somewhat due to the currently not understood variables.

    "How many of these missions through the Gate have had to rely on the high-level Liches' own spells to get back," asked Serpent.

    "Eeeh, not many," Scimitar said.

    "How many of these operations without high level Liches with Gate spells have been stranded?" Harkan
    asked more cynically.

    "None," said Flaywind, "but in anticpation of your next question, that is because the next operation will be the first operation in that regard..."

    Cyril then asked about whether they had any drones to send through.

    "Ordinarily, yes," Flaywind replied. “I would like in ideal circumstances to allow you a few days to acclimatise and get used to the facility, but our first proper operation is coming on a bit of a time crunch; two teams will be undertaking the first operation in about twenty-eight hours; as soon as the Myst Gate recharges and the preparations are complete.

    "Right, if there are no other questions, we'll head down the the Myst Base itself and get you quartered. I'll give yu a cpuple of hours, and then those of you paerticpating in this operation will be summoned for the mission briefing."

    You are shortly loaded aboard a Dirge transport. Scimitar, travelling down with you and the general, explains (at length!) that normal Gate transit is restricted to avoid any interference with the Myst Gate and used only when absolutely necessary.

    “Besides,” the general says “you’d also miss this!” He gestures to the vision ports. Not actually real windows, the vision ports, existing only in the interior of the vessel, nonetheless provide a real-time view of the outside of the craft.

    The Dirge clears the last low cloud, and you can see Myst Base for the first time.

    The base is situated on a plateau below a mountainous region on the west of one of the continents. The ocean is barely two hundred miles to the west, and at the latitude, the prevailing winds have created a landscape of subtropical rainforests between cliffs and valleys laced with waterfalls and rivers. You are approaching from the south.

    Myst Base itself looks like a temple. You recall Flaywind saying they demolished and rebuilt it and he apparently meant it literally. The “temple” is in the form of a large stepped pyramid, made of a pale blue-grey stone. The steps are themselves arranged into five tiers, each three steps tall.

    The first three steps – which must each be nearly a story tall themselves – extend into a wide square surface either side with a base size a little smaller than that of the main pyramid. On top of each stands a smaller stepped pyramid.

    The main building rises up another dozen steps to a wide, flat roof. At the sixth, ninth and twelfth steps, the next tier is smaller, leaving a wide flat platform. Low walls fringe the edges of these steps; originally, you suspect they might have held gardens or other recreational space and you think there are few splashes of green even now.

    The roof is dominated by four large spires, jutting into the sky. Made of darker grey stone, they are surfaced with the same metal inlay and runes as the columns in the Myst Gate room and presumably are where the upper columns finally terminate. At each of the three lower tiers at each corner, another of these spires juts upwards.

    Unlike the more traditional stepped pyramids made by more primitive civilisations, the interior is clearly not solid; you can see windows in the steps and there are no staircases rising up the sides. Instead, twin channels run down either side on the south face of the main pyramid, appearing to be lined with copper, and from the sheen, they carry water.

    The whole structure sits on a wide stone base. Where presumably once would have stood other temple buildings, now stands a series of new Aotrs ancillary buildings, built to blend in with the temple and other like ruins, including a landing platform and vehicle lift.

    To the west and south, only a few tens of metres from the base’s periphery, the land drops sharply away into a precipice. To the west, a deep valley divides the base from the nearest plateau, and a spectacular waterfall spills from the north end, the bright afternoon sun scattering into a myriad of colours. To the south, a crevasse separates the base from the next plateau, which is coved with forest.

    The land rises slowly to the east and north, disappearing into more forest east and into the mountain ranges to the north.

    From the soft, proud glow of the General’s eyeglows, you can tell he’s extremely proud of the base; and with good reason; as secret military bases or even non-secret military bases go, this one has a picturesque location. (At least during fine weather...)

    “We had to rebuild the temple more or less as a copy of the original,” Flaywind extemporises. “Something in the geometry contributes to the Myst Gate function; Scimitar can no doubt explain it. So I thought if we had to do that, we should make the extra effort and do the job properly. Lord Death Despoil agreed. Even though the Aotrs presence is kind of obvious now, we thought we should at least make the pretence of being a secret base!”

    The Dirge comes in for a smooth landing and you disembark. The base is extremely neat and clean even outside, and you suspect that the good General might just be a little house-proud...

    The general takes you all on a personal whistle-stop tour of the base facilities, including a trip to the Myst Gate room itself.

    It is even more impressive in person, especially since you can see the whole room. The cavernous chamber runs about seventy meters back from the arch. The spine curves in from the ceiling ten or so meters before the opposite wall. Slightly set off to the right-hand side (as you stand with your back to the arch) and about half-way down the far wall, jutting out into the room, is the base operations centre. A starship grade bridge window protects the ops centre and a wide balcony projects from beneath it. Gantries either side run about half-way down the length of the room, just far enough from the wall to skim the columns.

    Below them, you can see several blast walls, to provide cover for infantry and two heavy weapons turrets are retracted into the walls, showing that the base is prepared in the instance something comes the wrong way through the Gate.

    To the left of the operations centre on the far wall, and between two columns on the adjacent wall are hangar doors, behind which are the base’s vehicle bays, which strech back and connect with the lift above. Flaywind says they have a fair collection of various vehicles, though none in any particular number.

    Of interest is the crowd of engineers beavering away setting up some kind of raised metal track or chute in front of the arch. The General nods his head in that direction. “Part of the current operation, we’re having to throw it together at short notice. For those of you for whom it is relevant, you’ll get a full briefing.”

    After the tour, the general leaves you in the capable hands of lieutenant Rotblade, who sees you to your quarters.

    You only have a couple of hours to settle yourselves in before your receive orders to meet with the general in two hour’s time.

    The Liches took a little time to unpack, Snowward in particular going almost straight to find a library, before they were all summoned - with nine others - to the briefing room.

    The briefing room is a fairly big room situated not far behind the command centre. It has a large
    table holoprojector at screens and projectors along the walls.

    The General is already waiting.

    “Though I’d prefer to give you some time to be more thoroughly acclimatised to the base, we have something of a time crunch.

    “A couple of days before you arrived, we connected to a new world. Initial scans through the Gate indicated nothing out of the ordinary, except slightly elevated levels of electromagnetism.

    “We dispatched a Hunter Drone through the Gate to make an initial recon, tracking it from here. During the passage through the Gate wormhole, it was subjected to an enormous electromagnetic discharge; the sort of levels you’d normally expect out of a capital-starship ion cannon. It emerged from the Gate, but we only got a few second’s data before it shut down.

    “We kept the Gate connected for as long as possible before shutting it down to try and take readings. We also tried sending a Sentry Drone with EM shielding through – wasn’t protected enough – but nothing is conclusive. The only thing we do know is that the other side opens into a planet; our first thought was that it might opened into the area of effect a blackhole or other phenomena. The major is sure that this is not a tech-locking effect, since that would have made the Drones instantly nonoperational and there would be a magical signature.

    “Your mission will be to transit through the wormhole and ascertain the cause of the EM field so we can work out why the wormhole is behaving as it is, to retrieve the Drones if possible and conduct an exploratory sweep of the area. You will be split into two squads. Alpha Squad will be detailed with securing the Gate exit point and making a base camp. Beta Squad will provide support if necessary, but Beta’s primary job will be to explore the area. You will have the standard allotted 72 hours from Gate opening to perform this operation. Be aware that there a significant possibility that we will not be able to open the connection a third time, so if you miss the gap, you’ll have a very long wait – assuming we can even glean the planet’s location.

    “We will be re-opening the Gate in twenty-four hours as soon as it has finished recharging; Major Scimitar believes our odds of being able to open it to the same location are good.

    “For this mission, you will be equipped with two Fallen Soul AFVs, which we have reinforced with additional EM shielding. The pilots have already been briefed. Under normal circumstances, you would be able to organise your own resources, but we’re a bit pushed for time.

    “Due to the EM interference, you will travel through the Gate with all electrical systems powered down. With the additional EM shielding, you should be able to re-initialise the systems on the other side. We believe that the EM field is most intense across the exit threshold, so the Fallen Soul’s ram should be able to take and deflect the brunt of it.

    “Since you can’t fly in there, we’ve rigged up what basically amounts to a chute and you’ll slide in under gravity and inertia. It’ll be a bumpy ride, but the Fallen Souls are ideally suited for this sort of circumstances.”

    “If we are correct and you can re-activate the systems on the other side, when you return, you’ll have to fly in, switch off and then go ballistic – the pilots will work out the exact flight plan – and we’ll catch you this side with the crash tractor beams.”

    “If you can’t re-activate the systems, Alpha will hold the Gate and strip down the Fallen Souls for everything they can move on foot. Beta will perform a foot-recon and attempt to determine if the EM field is being created artificially, and if possible, shut it down. If this is not possible, or Beta cannot find the source of the EM field, both squads will return through the Gate as soon as Alpha is done.

    “Let me stress this latter case is a worst case scenario and Major Scimitar is confident that in a deactivated state, the additional shielding on the Fallen Souls should protect all your electronics.

    “Due to the operational conditions, you will not be able to take any Drones or War Droids; we can’t shield another vehicle to fit them in and the chances of their more complex brains,” there is a momentary chuckle from one or two of the others in the room at the irony, as War Droids are not noted for their intelligence, “surviving the transit is more questionable in any case. We wouldn’t send any livings if we had any for the same reason; even with the shielding, the pulse would be enough to cause serious damage to their nervous systems.”

    This makes sense – a capital-scale ion blast would kill an unshielded human or elf easily just from the electromagnetic pulse.

    “We have no idea what you’ll find at the other end. The EM field may be natural or artificial. You could potentially come out anywhere, so be cautious, especially if you find yourself near a contemporary civilisation.

    “You have twenty-four hours to gear up and avail yourselves of your resources to the extent the mission allows.”

    “Commander Deathbringer will be in command of Beta Squad and the operation as a whole; Alpha squad will be lead by Lieutenant Icehaunt; your individual assignments have been forwarded to your scanners.”


    Cyril was concerned about weapons and asked whether they had any weapons suitable for use in case their Coldbeams didn't work – meaning specifically (chemically proprelled) firearms. He was a bit taken aback when he was told they didn't.

    "We don't have the resource to have 2700 year's worth of various weapon technologies," explained Flaywind. "And typically virtually all tech-locked worlds are pre-industrial anyway. While are there are stores of such weapons around, they're in storehouses for dealing with tech-locked planets. This is the first time we’ve ever run into anything like this, and as I said, it's a bit of a time-crunch."

    Cyril suggested that, as part of their contuned improvement plan, making provision would perhaps not be a bad idea, if this was to be a regular occurance. Flaywinf relied he’d look into it, if this appeared to be something more than an isolated incident.

    Beta squad in particular seemed a bit concerned about what they would do if the EM was not something they could shut-off. Lieutenant Icehaunt (a former female elf) said that they shuld be able to strip the Fallen Souls down, in that worst-case scenario in five or ten minutes.

    "Yeah but what if we have to fight in the meatime?"

    "We have spells, and our magic short swords... And anything that is going to stop our magic short swords working is not going to be an issue, since it's also going to stop us working."

    "As I say," Flaywind interrupted, "Major Scimitar believes that to be a worst-case scenario, and we expect that you should be able to re-activate your systems on the other side."

    There were no further questions, so Alpha and Beta squads went off to prepare.

    Beta squad were introduced to their final member, Stab Voidslay a cheerful and relatively young (at twenty-eight) Lich, who introduced herself as a robotics and cybernetics expert - as well as a fair shot with her rifle.

    Spoiler: First Star Trooper Stab Voidstar
    Stab was born as Starbright Lellari Greystar (“Stab” to all her associates) in 2291 on Vastbatros in the Frost system. Vastbatros was founded in 1732 and was the first Aotrs world to be settled via colonisation as opposed to conquest. The Frost system was only a short distance from Kalanoth and 6th planet had an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere. The planet was distant enough from the star that the world was cold, with only a temperate equatorial band free of the permafrost. Lower-life had evolved, but there were few large or dangerous creatures and the planet had a great deal of mineral resources, making it an ideal candidate for the first real-space expansion.

    Among the eight moons of the mid-sized gas-giant Frost III was one with a suitable for terraforming. Its position closer to the Frost’s sun made in an ideal place to provide food and other renewable resources for consumption at Vastbatros. Hasbaal, as it was named on founding, was colonised shortly afterwards in 1739. Vastbatros remains an important mineral and industrial centre, and houses the third-largest shipyards in Aotrs space.

    Stab was identified early as a prodigy. She graduated at 18 with degree in robotics. Despite her keen interest in robotics, Stab had an adventurous streak. As soon as she was able, she enlisted into the Aotrs Navy. As the Aotrs navy had a higher personnel requirement, and due to her exception grading, she was able to enlist directly in the Aotrs Navy proper. She was initially assigned to help with War Droid repair and maintenance with the 8th Fleet. It was a job she excelled at. Despite her love of robotics, however, Stab wanted to be on the front lines and applied for marine training.

    Given her already highly visible status due to her skills and a natural aptitude for combat, she was accepted. Her commanding officers expressed some concern that Stab was impulsive, and while she focussed hard on her robotics and combat skills, the split in attention meant she was neither and outstanding soldier nor an ideal technician. They agreed she would ultimately be better suited to an army role, where was in a position to better serve as a combat droid engineer. However, her drive and verve impressed Captain Traskat sufficiently that he made some efforts on her behalf.

    Traskat pulled some strings and had Stab assigned to the early stages of the Myst Project. She earned her Lichdom on one of the final exploratory operations only a few months ago. She was part of Lord Foul Skream’s escort during the exploration of what appeared to be the Divine Realm and he personally recommended her. (She took the opportunity to make her name official “Stab.”)

    At 28, Stab is only relatively young, but her eagerness sometimes makes seem younger. She is considered very capable by General Flaywind. He considers only her (comparative) youth and inexperience as her current weakness, and one that time and experience will correct and she was one of the first names he placed on the list when he began the search for the new personnel for the Must Project to begin in anger.

    Stab maintains contact as often as she can with her family (somewhat unusually), who are very proud of her.

    Beta squad spent the remaining twenty-four hours of time attempting to undertake some emergancy training (essentially cramming for a temporary skill that would last for the duration of the mission) and selecting their gear.

    Ramus, Cyril, Serpent and Stab all picked a standard infantry bundle, which contained the heavier Medium Body Armour and Mark 14D Coldbeam rifle. (Though Ramus still preferred his own, which, while weaker, was heavily enchanted). Serpent grabbed a Snake Guided Missile Launcher ans a single SK-4 warhead to boot, alogn with a few trap kit and anti-personnel mines. Norath grabbed a resreach bundle with a few illuminators, and after rflection, a demolitions bundle (and some emergancy training to use it). Snowward grabbed an archeologist's kit and a potion of wounding (in case the party needed some non-regeneratable healing). Soulwhsiper picked up a crime technical kit (for the use of various security and such usage), and traded his Mark 14D rifle in for a Mark 15D Sniper rifle. Harkan grabbed an electronics technical kit, and traded his standard-issue Mark 5K coldbeam pistol in more powerful Mk 17 Colbeam pistol; Ramus and Cyril followed suit. Harkan, given an allowance for a weapon bundle, but not really having much use for it, grabbed a Mark 16C Support Coldbeam, on the basis that what the hell, he could at least ineptly fire it in the hopes of suppressing something. Finally Ramus rounded out his own weapons choices with a grenadier bundle.

    Stab brought her own toolkit (with "Stab's toolkit" painted on it in bright white painted on it) and her own energy whip.

    "Why the energy whip?" Norath inquired.

    "It's magical, cold enchanted. But mostly because I just like weapons," she replied, cheerfully, grabbing a PP-2 Plasma Pulse pistol.

    Snowward inquired about getting some sort of folding trolley – again just in case they needed to carry stuff. He was told that they didn’t have anything lying around (since usuall that was what grav-sleds were for – and in any case, he REALLY wouldn’t want unsecured random chunks of metal bouncing around in an unpowered Fallen Soul...

    Having now geared up, and finsihed their emergancy training (Harkan is using the supprt weapon and several of the others in martial arts, just in case) and Beta squad headed out.

    Norath, a the mission overall leader, was entrusted with Astrometrics Analyser, a specialised piece of equipment used to determine the spacial location of a planet. The system was essentially a highly compact long-range sensor array, specifically geared up for searching for astrometric data (and specialised for the Myst Gate base).

    They were now ready for the mission itself!

    1Perfectly timed to make the DM (as the only other person aware of Harkan's background) spittake with laughter.
    Last edited by Aotrs Commander; 2015-11-22 at 11:40 AM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
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    Jan 2007
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    Default Re: The Myst Project: Aotrs Myst Exploratory Team Mission 001

    You arrive at the designated time in the Myst Gate chamber. The structure you saw yesterday is now complete. It looks nothing so much like a child’s toy car chute, albeit one with a heavily reinforced support structure.

    Two Fallen Souls sit just behind it, each attached to a wheeled cradle. The usual rust colours of their hulls has been covered over dull, nearly-black grey polymer coating, and a mesh baffle covered in the same material has been attached to the turrets and over the engine. The turrets are already inverted to the rear, presenting the most armoured section to the fore; a necessity to protect the barrels when the Fallen Souls performs its role as ramming boarding pod.

    Two tractor beam emitters sit either side of the structure, ready to lift the Fallen Souls onto the track.

    You are marshalled up by the AFVs, but do not enter yet – once you enter the Fallen Soul and shut the doors, without communicators, you won’t be able to hear any orders. As the Fallen Soul doesn’t have any windows or cockpit (a structural vulnerability it also can’t afford as a ramming pod), and no power for the vision ports, you won’t be able to see out, either. The pilot suggests you load your packs ready and do everything but actually sit in.

    “Standby, Alpha and Beta,” the General’s voice comes over the intercom from the command centre. “We are going to activate the Gate. If we connect and the scan results are consistent, we will send another Sentry Drone through to confirm and then we’ll drop you in, Alpha followed by Beta.”

    This does at least give you chance to see the Myst Gate in operation.

    There is a brief pause, and a second voice, by timbre a female, sounds.

    “Initialising Myst Gate now.” A warning alarm blares a single note. The columns around the room begin to light up, the traceries glowing with blue, green, white and gold lights. The lights run up into the room spine and finally down into the Myst Gate itself, and it comes alive with a multitude of colours.

    The featureless surface beneath the arch ripples like the surface of water when a stone is dropped into it. As the ripples continue, the grey surface fades, leaving you staring into a vortex of red bands of swirling cloud, some clockwise, some anti-clockwise. Crackles of golden lighting jump at random intervals between the clouds, though none across the eye of the vortex itself. The vortex seems bigger than the arch, as if the arch was just a window into it and the vortex seems to extend into infinity.

    The voice of the Gate officer continues. “Attempting to connect to Myst Gate location 034.”

    The lights and runes on the Myst Gate start to flicker and change colour in sequence. The vortex seems to shudder a little and some of the bands of clouds slow or speed up slightly.

    After a few seconds, the lights stabilise. Nothing more happens for several long seconds. Just as you are beginning to wonder if this is it, or whether something has gone wrong, the vortex changes.

    The vortex seems to shrink in length, the infinite disappearing point seems to sudden rush closer, stopping what looks like maybe ten or twenty metres from the Myst Gate. An impenetrable curtain of falling red fine mist, a waterfall of crimson cloud, completely obscures the vortex beyond, though you can just about make out the sides of the vortex spiralling into it. Simultaneously, a glowing red mist forms at the same level as the bottom of the Myst Gate arch. The mist coalesces into a flat surface of what looks solid dim red light, forming a bridge between the arch and the curtain, anchored in empty space over the swirling vortex around it.

    A few of the Myst Gate’s lights and runes change slightly and then remain static.

    “Connection established,” the Gate officer’s voice. Sounds again. Your pilot turns and gives you a cheerful thumbs up.

    There is a minute’s pause, as the command centre conducts the initial sensor scan and then you hear General Flaywind again. “Initial scans are good. Sentry Drone, go.”

    From the rear of the room, a single sentry drone rises up. Like the Fallen Souls, it has been
    covered in the almost-black EM polymer. And, as a conmcession to a suggestion of Cyril's earlier (part of that “continuous improvement plan” again), a cable had been tied to it for retrival. With a burst of its main drive – presumably to carry it through even when its engines fail – it streaks into the Gateway and vanishes into the curtain of mist.

    Again there is a pause, as the command centre evaluate the data.

    Flaywind’s voice comes again. “Confirmed, Myst Gate is connect to location zero-three-four. We have a go.

    Alpha squad dashes inside their Fallen Soul – both sets of pilots are now sat inside, and after a final check with the tractor beam operator, the door is sealed. The tractor beam’s barely visible white glows lifts the Fallen Soul onto the chute, settling it into pace. The tractor beams give it a push, and the vehicle slides down the chute with a roar of air. The rattle of wheel-on-metal changes timbre as the vehicle passes into the archway, becoming more muffled, but the Fallen Soul’s inertia carries it on into the mist curtain and out of sight.

    It is now your turn.

    As you climb in, you see that the technicians are moving the facing of the chute just slightly, so that – all being well – you should miss Alpha team’s trajectory. That fact you are a minute or so behind doesn’t matter – if the circumstances are good, it should allow Alpha team to move themselves out of the way, whatever happens.

    Norath did a check to ensure everyone had switched off all their gear. Snowward went as far as taking
    all the power cells out, and the other followed suite. The pilot and the tractor officer did one more check to ensure all the gear was turned off and they all (wisely) strapped in.

    The technician gives you a thumbs up, and shuts the hatch. Inside, it is pitch black, only lit by the dull, bloody glow of your own eyeglows. After a moment, there is a jolt, and a sensation of lift as you are raised up to the chute. There is a clunk as you settle into place. There is a sudden rush of acceleration and you are off. You are all mostly young enough Liches to notice the absence of the feeling in your stomachs a living creature would have had. The sound of the wheels is only somewhat muted by the hull.

    You feel the Fallen Soul hit the end of the shoot and the roar of the wheels changes pitch – and then there a moment of utter stillness and silence, where you can see and hear and feel nothing – and then a split-second of disorientation, like all the molecules in your body just jumped in random directions.

    There is a metaphorical heartbeat and then you pass through the strongest part of the EM field. You know this, because you can actually feel it, the field passing through your bones. In the darkness, it also highlights the faintest blue-white flash from the doors, where perforce, the EM seal cannot be completely tight over the moving parts.

    Almost immediately thereafter, the sound of the wheels changes pitch as you hit some other surface. The Fallen Soul judders violently, sharply jerks as you hit some obstacle and slews around into a partial spin. You can hear the improvised cradle breaking under the force, and the vehicle tilts sharply to the left and for a brief moment you are afraid it might roll end over end. But the screech of metal over ground dies away and you skid to a stop, having spun round probably nearly to the opposite the direction you were facing.

    There is a chuckle from the pilot. “Not one of my better landings,” he observes self-deprecatingly, half-muffled because of the wall between the troop hold and the cockpit. “Still, any landing you can work away from...!”

    The gunner mutters something inaudible, and the pilot audible snorts something.

    Harkan got out a simple (analog) field-strength measurer out of his tool kit and had look at the gear. He pronouced that they needed to leave all the equipment off for about five minutes to discharge before they tried turning anything on.

    On Norath's instruction, Snowward popped the hatch, just as one of the Alpha squaddies was raising his hand to knock on it.

    Out of the door, the first thing you see the members of Alpha squad; half of them out by their own Fallen Soul, which has also skidded a bit, though not as badly as yours and the other half have come to help you. The vehicles appear to have emerged on some sort of rocky outcropping. You can see the trail of disturbed rock at gravel left by your vehicles – your trail hit a low rock, which was apparently what made your entry so rough. Between the AFVs is the exit Gate. It appears as a hazy arch and beyond looks almost identical to the one in the Myst gate, except the colour is shades of blue, not red and the lightning is silver rather than gold. Despite the light coming from it is fairly muted, the surrounding lighting conditions are fairly dark. Gravity feels pretty normal, or close to it.

    Climbing out, you get your first sight of this planet. The outcropping is sitting on the edge of a set of mountains that rise up beyond the Myst Gate. You can see a few cave entrances not far from the Gate. The sky above is completely clear, showing the set of unfamiliar stars in great clarity. From the lighting conditions, you surmise that the sun must have set behind the mountains not long ago.

    The atmosphere is very cold and very dry. The rock surfaces are coated with a thin skein of ice, especially in the lee of the direction of the set sun. You can see a few taller rocks have a dusting of something black on the upper portions. There are no signs of vegetation or life. A steady, strong breeze blows towards mountains, to the direction of the set sun. You can still feel something of a faint tingle in your bones – almost unnoticeable, but present.

    As you step out from around the Fallen Soul to see the other side of your position, you are slightly taken aback.

    The land falls away from the outcropping steadily, forming into a series of steep valleys and crevasses – actually, you are brought to mind of the land around Myst Base – as it recedes from the mountain range behind you into a plateau in the distance.

    What takes you by surprise is what rises out of the valleys.

    It is a huge structure. At first glance, it reminds you of nothing so much as the stereotypical flying saucer, perched on a gigantic column, the base of which you can’t even see as it disappears behind a cliff face.

    It takes a moment for you to register the scale of the structure. It must be two or three miles in diameter, and the column it rest on is somewhere between a third and a quarter that width. The structure is easily the size of a large sector starbase. It is large enough that the very top is still in sunlight and a haze obscures the upper details. On closer inspection, what details you can see suggest some sort of protrusions, possibly spires or towers, leaving you with the impression it might be some sort of city. It certainly looks more like it is made of stone, rather than metal. No lights can be seen from within, though, and no activity – vehicular or otherwise – around it.

    In front of the structure is a flat plateau almost directly in front of your position, about three miles away from you. The plateau must have been artificial – it is rectangular, longest side running right to left. The plateau itself must be getting on for a mile wide and maybe a little over half that deep, bordered on each side by a sheer drop. There is some sort of fringing arched structure, fallen down in many places, running around the edge. Two bridges – which must be very large themselves – lead off the plateau in the centre of each long side. One leads across the large crevasse towards the mountains below you, and the other reaches to contact the pillar on which the maybe-city rests.

    Near both bridges are more curiosities: tall, thin structures of what might be metal that are capped with a bulbous tip. They appear to be swaying in the wind, despite their considerable size, granting the impression of nothing so much as stalks of some strange grain, blowing in the wind.

    The rest of the plateau appears to be covered in ruins of some sort of settlement. You can’t make out much in the way of details at this distance – without magnification, anyway – but you can see enough straight lines to make an educated guess.

    “Well,” the Alpha squaddie says, “can’t say as we haven’t found anything, can we?”

    Spoiler: Cad-equivilent scribble-sketch

    Drawn in real scale, i.e. the dish is actually about 4km from the outcropping.

    A quick search located all three Drones; the Hunter Drone


    With a human-sized War Droid for comparsion.

    was rather worse for wear, having been knocked flying by Alpha squad’s entry, but both Sentry Drones flew far enough to be out of the crush range.

    Lieutenant Icehaunt and Alpha squad got their gear out to start setting up the base camp. She suggested a couple of Alpha strip down all their EM-vulnerable gear and lichhandle the drones back through the Gate (and/or drag, in the case of the one drone on the cable).

    Norath, consumed by burning curiosity, was determined to find out what would happen if you fell off the Myst Gate bridge. He chucked a rock in and watched it disintegrate when it hit the vortex clouds.

    "Right, note everyone: never, never fall off the bridge!"

    After the five minutes, Harkan determined it was safe to put all the gear back on and the exploration could begin in earnest. He went to scan the black dusting on the rocks. Norath re-established communications with Myst Base, and Flaywind had the wormhole minimised. Norath then handed the Astrometrics Analyser over to Snowward (the best equipped to use it) to get started collecting data and himself made a scan of the atmospheric composition. Cyril borrowed the Fallen Soul's sensor arrays from the gunner(Fallen Souls are two crew) and attempted to scan for power and magic signatures.

    Cyril - and the others, in fact - immediately detected an unusually powerful magnetic field that seemed omnipresent. He also detected a high level of background magic. He found no other power signatures within range, but when he moved on top attempt to scan the maybe-city-saucer (hereinafter called the "dish," as decided Ramus), he found he could get no useful readings and the sensors would not penetrate beyond one or two feet of material.

    Neither he with the sensors not Serpent with magnification in his helmet make any kind of sense out of the haze around the upper tower structures on the dish.

    Harkan determined the black dust on the rocks was a form of primitive algae-like plants. Once Snowward has set up the analyser, he went over to help, botany being one the areas he'd studied. Snowward further determined that the plants were not in suspended animation as he initially thought, but had an extremely slow metabolism. Further, aside from the universals of being carbon-based life, it was not similar to any existent known planetary flora.

    Norath determined that atmosphere had a dry composition is 78% Nitrogen, 20.98%, 0.95% Argon and 0.37% Carbon Dioxide – enough variance to suggest this was an HPE world or HPE-B (rather than an HPE-L). Gravity was also slightly different, at 1.018G.

    The Astrometric Analyser came back with inconclusive results. It had successfully gathered local data on the visible stars (which placed the planet in a location it did not immediately recognise, which suggested an extremely distant part of the galaxy). Snowward was now now prettyy confident that the EM field was natura, and generated by the planet. The presense of the EM field suggested that the problem they'd been having were due to an interference pattern caused by the boundary of the Myst Gate, creating a barrier of high-EM. Not much they could do about it, but at least they knew what the problem was now.

    However, the Analyser appeared to be having difficultly gathering information on the planet’s statistics. It normally did this by tracking the amount the visible (to sensors) movement of the stars, and the strength of the solar wind and/or the change in daylight, but it had not detected sufficient data to complete this.

    This suggested a very slow rotational period and day; unusually slow, in fact. The problem was compounded by EM field and the enormous strength of the solar wind creating a significant interference pattern at the atmosphere’s surface.

    This left Beta with two options – put it on again and leave it for several hours, or take it up in a Fallen Soul to leave the atmosphere and hook it into the Fallen Soul’s sensors and scan the planet directly, which would require Snowward and a good hour's time.

    Norath opted for the latter. In the meantime, he directed the rest of Beta to explore the nearby caves. He placed Ramus, as the senior infantry expert, in charge or organising this portion of the expedition.

    A cursory scan of the caves by Serpent indicated that they were all connected in a loose network that appeared to be mostly natural. One obvious exception was a straight shaft which ran approximately a 15º angle below the horizontal for about a mile, where it joined another network of caverns. There were no detectable lifesigns or power signatures.

    A more thorough exploration of the local caverns would take about an half an hour, plus another two hours to explore down to the shaft (including travel time of about half an hour each way).

    Inside, the upper caverns had a very thin skein of ice – barely more than frost – presumably left when the atmospheric water vapour condensed and froze.

    As Beta searched, they spotted a cavern wall upon which were some dark markings on the otherwise lighter surface, beneath the thin dusting of permafrost. They appeared to the remnants of some sort of cave painting. The details were too degraded to make anything out aside from smaller blobs near larger blobs, but the smaller blobs had what appeared to be faint, thin lines on very close inspection, which suggested spears or some form. The remnant of the pigment, which appeared to be mineral, suggests it might be as much as twenty thousand years old.

    Shortly thereafter, Soulwhisper located a piece of metal lying in one of the caverns, not far from where the shaft was located in a side-cave. It was about two feet long and maybe two and a half inches wide. It was very heavily corroded , but looked as if it would have been straight once. It had a dark greenish-grey colour, much lighter like weathered copper in the most damaged areas. It came to an abrupt stop at one end, suggesting some sort of break and at the other narrowed over the last four or five inches.

    Harkan, barely even bothering with his scanner, picked it up, tapped it, made a pretense of sniffing it and pronouced it was composed of an alloy containing iron, copper and nickel (with a few other traces contaminants) and some sort of carbonate compound. The compound appeared too complex to be a natural mineral and suggested some sort of organic origin. The contaminants of the alloy suggested that the manufacturing methods were primitive. The age of the artefact was probably about three thousand years (plus or minus a few centuries).

    Harkan and Cyril determined that this was probably the broken blade of some sort of melee weapon. Harkan further thought that the tensile composition of the metal suggested that it had probably not been specifically picked for those properties, but was more likely to have been chosen for other reasons, possibly as some sort of allergen (like silver or cold iron etc) to a specific type of creature, though what he had no idea.

    Beta then headed down the shaft to the lower caves. As they neared the bottom, Snowward (who had been following and in contact via scanner1) finished his analysis with the Astrometrics Analyser and reported what he'd found.

    The planet was slightly larger than the HPE standard by 7.3% at 6523km mean radius, giving it 5% more surface area (535 million square kilometres (5.35 ×108 km²) or 207 million square miles. The density of the planet was only 5424 kg/m³, which was 99.4% of HPE-standard. Gravity was thus 1.018G, close enough that the difference was not noticeable.

    The planetary orbit was 104 AU, translating to a year length of 1197.15 years. The planet was also tide-locked to the primary, making day length the same. (The AMETs were located just into the dark side of the terminator).

    This was, while not outside the realms of possibility, highly unusual. Tide locking generally occurs for planets much closer in because the deceleration is much higher, though strictly all the planet needs is a low angular momentum to be decelerated.

    This far out, the planet would normally be an ice-ball, but the stellar flux was in fact nearly twice typical HPE (at 2350W/m²). The star had a luminosity of 7.2×108W, nearly 19000 times HPE normal. A solar wind of that magnitude should have blown the atmosphere away long ago, but the planet’s unusually strong magnetic field has prevented this; even more unusual considering it could not be generated in the normal fashion by planetary dynamo rotation. The scan identified the star as a G0 yellow supergiant; a type of star that typically only lasts a few tens of thousands of years.

    The planet’s day side was showing larger amounts of flora and fauna, with heavy cloud cover and a permanent hurricane at the sub-stellar point (as would be expected from a tide-locked planet).

    With a clear line of effect to the star, Snowward detected it appeared to be a form of carbon-heavy eruptive variable star, as evidenced by the large stellar dust cloud out to about 44AU. During an eruptive period, the visible light from the star would be dimmed significantly from the planets. This was even more unusual, since by their nature, these stars threw out clouds of carbon dust, further reducing their lifespan. There should not have been time for life to arise on a star like this.

    As he completed the initial scan, he detected what appeared to be a body in orbit around the star, at or near or possibly below the surface of the star’s corona. The body might have been an usually dense cluster of dust-cloud or a sunspot, but the shape and sheer density of the dark spot suggested that it might be solid. If so, it would have had to be extremely large, perhaps even as big a dwarf planet. The reading was lost almost as soon as it was detected in the background of the radiation and EM and Snowward cannot get a further reading on it.

    The star was not the only one in the system; there was also a distant binary pair of stars (a G2V and a K1V) about 3000AU, making this system a trinary system.

    The nearest planet was a gas giant at an orbital radius of 80 AU, in a 2:3 resonance with the planet (which determined that the planet had tectonic and volcanic activity).

    Finally, the planet had a moon. A 609km radius body 143 thousand kilometres from the planet, orbiting the planet once every six days (currently it is the opposite side of the planet to the AMETs, just coming into the sun-side) and rotating on its own axis once every three days. Given that it had neither become tide-locked to the planet, nor had unlocked the planet, it seemed to be a captured body, but one that has probably been present for high-hundreds of millions or low billions of years. The moon’s surface had a very high albedo, and tentative composition suggests high concentrations of silver and magnesium oxide (perhaps left by water-ice photodissociating as the moon moved closer to the sun).

    Snowward had also had time to do a quick visual scan and map of the plateau ruins determining it did appear to be a settlement, and a quick scan of the surface, which indicated other ruins on the planetary surface.

    Snowward reported that, with another four hours or so, he could perhaps do an analysis of the dust-cloud patterns, but Norath decided that was better tackled later, if there was time. Snowward was flown back down and headed out to join the rest of the team, pausing only to take a sample of the cave-painting and bag up the blade for later analysis.

    The downward shaft is about five feet wide and circular. The sides, aside from old natural water erosion, are completely smooth, showing no signs of workings or tool marks. It heads down straight, through several strata of rock until it enters the cavern nearly a mile down. It is noticeable warmer here; the temperature is about 10K higher. At this depth, it is warm enough for liquid water and the walls have a thin sheen of glistening liquid.

    (The cavern complex was roughly 414m below the surface at this point.)

    Harkan could not idenfiy the method that created the tunnel, though several options (magic, disinegrators etc) were possible.

    The shaft opens into a cavern a foot or so above the floor. The cavern is somewhere between roughly square and roughly ovular and about three metres high at the ceiling and perhaps only a foot lower near the walls where the curves steepens considerably. The floor, however, is mostly flat. It is about ten metres long and maybe six metres wide. You can see two doorways, each a bit over two metres or so high and a good 1.4 metres wide, leading out to your left and right. The right one is parallel to the length of the room and the left one perpendicular. The walls are notably not smooth as the shaft was. You can see faint impressions of some sort of tool mark – some sort of curved but comparatively wide (as compared to a pick axe, for example) device... or perhaps appendage. Your best guess is it might been somewhere between a pick and chisel.

    There is a small scattering of loose rocks and pebbles in the broad direction of where the shaft opens into the room.

    The only other features in the room are a few patches of white detritus.

    Soulwhisper determined with a scan that this detritus was some sort of organic residue, revealing a few traces of a series of tiny decayed filaments, indicating perhaps some sort of fungal equivalent, long since dead, but that most of the detritus is a slurry of organic waste resulting from bacteria or other micro-organisms. There was not enough material left to gain any more data.

    Serpent, having not heard anything moving around except for a few drips of water, took a quick wander around the caverns while Snowward caught up to the group.

    Beyond the room, the complex of caverns is self-contained and numbers about seventeen, all interconnected. The chambers are much like the first one, though of varying size but consistent height – a few larger caverns are taller, but none or shorter.

    Many of the caverns have patches of the white detritus around the floor and walls and in a few places you find what might have been tools – corroded lumps of iron too far gone to determine anything else.
    Several of the rooms are littered with piles of crystal fragments.

    Serpant scanned the crystal fragments adn determined they were a structure that was composed of a prasiolite (pale green) quartz with some sort of elastic organic compound, suggesting the crystal was biologically formed and probably slightly tougher than regular quartz. Organic inclusion aside, the sheer size of the fragments suggested a nontypical mineral origin as crystals are not typically found at large size with a purely chemical origin. From a careful examination of the fragments - with him being something of an explosion expert - it appeared that the crystal fragments had been part of some sort of structure that was subjected to repeated (medium velocity, i.e. not firearm-level) impacts and shattered.

    In the centre of the complex is a larger cavern. It appears – from the stalactites on the roof – to have been natural, but had been modified.

    Notably, there is only one entrance. It leads to a shelf of excavated rock for the first third of the room, before dropping down perhaps eight feet to the natural floor of the cavern. The cavern floor appears to be covered in the frozen, rippled surface of cooled lava, upon which a few small stalagmites have started to form.

    A bridge of stone, rounded but clearly worked in the same way as the cavern walls, leads to a central platform. This is perhaps forty feet square. The platform looks as if it was almost extruded from the floor of the cavern; it has sheer sides and no apparent tool markings.

    The outer six or seven feet appears to be some sort of walkway surrounding the inner portion. The inner portion is hollow – perhaps a basin, as it is partly filled with water and thick mud. There are a dozen black structures, roughly evenly spaced around the circular basin, rising out of the mud, looking vaguely like ribs, rising perhaps twenty feet and curving inwards to terminate a to a point perhaps a ten foot diameter around the centre of the basin. Four of them, nearest the bridge, are broken. They appear to be perhaps two feet at the base and perhaps eight inches towards the tip.

    Harkan determined the "ribs" were of organic, as opposed to structural, origin and called Snowward over.

    The "ribs" were composed of substance that is akin to chitin or keratin, with several other compounds and traces of minerals which are the reason it had not completely rotted away. Internal structure, though badly degraded, suggested some form of respiratory structure. The scan also showed the “ribs” met in a circular structure at the bottom of the basin, under the mud, perhaps another ten feet below the lip, under the water.

    A further scan indicateds this area in particular showed a few traces elements of magical activity and that the “ribs” had a few faint traces left in their structure. Given the age of the caverns (approximately two to three thousand years), this suggested that this areas was host to considerable magical forces for an extended period.

    The damaged “ribs” appeared to have been against subjected to multiple impacts from sharp-edged tools. Four of the undamaged “ribs” (at the 1, 3, 9 and 11 o’clock positions relative to the entrance) have a thickened bulge at about head-height, slightly hollowed out. Snowward identified these as points of muscle attachment, the pattern similar to that of a fleshy growth like a trunk or tentacle. .

    The mud itself was thick with organic detritus, the remnant of the creature that once lay in the basin.

    Soulwhisper confirmed that the forty-foot square block had indeed been extruded somehow (for a fair distance down) from the bed rock of the cavern, litrally just shoved up ten or so feet, withnthe gap long-since filled with cooled lava.

    Snowward was fairly confident that the remains suggested that this creature was native to this planet, but there was some debate as to whether it would have gotten down here while small and grown much larger, or whether the 5' shaft was something else breaking into these caverns.

    With nothing else of interest, Beta headed back tp to the top. Cyril wanted to fly up to the dish, but Norath decided that they would first investigate the plateau. They took the Fallen Soul, keeping low, and headed over towrds the bridge.
    Last edited by Aotrs Commander; 2015-11-22 at 12:12 PM.

  5. - Top - End - #5
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    Default Re: The Myst Project: Aotrs Myst Exploratory Team Mission 001

    There was a brief debate about directions - in that they didn't have any cardinal directions to use since the norms of planetary rotation were negated. They settled on the direction of the dish from the portal as being "north."

    About half a mile below the outcropping, they came down onto what appeared to be remains of a road, leading directly to the bridge, and snaking off into the mountains to the newly-labelled east. Looking perhaps a mile or so in this direction, the road quickly degenerated and was broken by landslides and is no longer a contiguous surface. The further it reaches into the mountains, the more damaged it became, until finally there was no remaining trace. Snowward determines that this mountain range must have grown slightly in the last few thousand years.

    The road is wide, perhaps sixty feet. You suspect it is only the sheer size and the absence of plant life and the scouring wind that leaves the surface revealed. The surface appears to be some sort of rough-faced ceramic as opposed to stone or metal, and has handled the weathering comparatively well, though if there were any markings, they appear to be long-gone.

    The Fallen Soul parked up for a mment for Cyril to pop u an insepct the surface to se if he could see any sign of wear. He was fairly sure that he found some sign that the road had been travelled by (fairly primitive) wheeled vehicles in the past. They coducted a further test by landing the Fallen Soul on it to see if a few tens of tons of Fallen Soul would make dent in it (It did.)

    “Damaging thousand year old ancient relics,” Snowward said, shaking his head.

    “Who cares?” Ramus replied...

    The road leads to the bridge. Up close, you can appreciate the scale of it. The bridge is at least forty metres wide – ten times the width of a Fallen Soul – and runs for a quarter of a mile. The sides of the bridge are marked with structures that look like a suspension bridge. Tall towers from which enormously thick metal cables – which must be three metres thick – run the length of the span. Thick pillars of what appear to be stone, or perhaps another form of ceramic, support the towers, dropping into the chasm the bridge crosses.

    The valley floor must be several hundred feet below. Looking at the cliff surrounding the plateau in more detail, you surmise they must have been artificially created – the entire valley side surrounding the plateau must have been quarried away. An undertaking that might have seemed dwarfingly mammoth, were it not for the giant maybe-city on its column now dominating the skyline.

    The widest lip of that massive structure overhangs the furthest part of the plateau by about fifty metres, though nearly 750m above the plateau’s surface, it is only through the dimensions of your helmet’s displays that is apparent.


    Harkan scanned the towers to determine they towers were faced with a form of complex composite ceramic and metal lattice structure around a stone core, which gave it an unusual resistance to damage and wear. The cables appeared to be a form of titanium alloy. The entire bridge structure and materials suggested a fairly advanced culture (pre-FTL) capable of creating complex metallurgy, but one that has developed along different lines to the standard HPE standard.

    On the ruined plateau city itself, orderly lines of ruined walls perhaps only a couple of feet high, and little more than stones led off the main thoroughfare that ran between the two bridges.

    The centre of the plateau had three square opens spaces, surrounded by larger structures of various shapes and sizes; the size of the debris suggests they were tall and imposing structures in their day.

    There were four more square open spaces, situated roughly equidistant from the centre and each corner. Around these, the buildings were smaller, but more widely spaced, each forming a compound, with fairly wide roads. The quantity of debris suggested these were only perhaps two or three stories tall.

    In the centre of each side furthest from the central road, the buildings were larger and the streets narrowest at only perhaps ten or twelve feet between the buildings. The amount of rubble suggested multi-storey buildings.

    The fringing structure appears to be a series of large arches. The arches have the well-eroded remains of inlays or carvings. There is just enough left to ascertain the patterns were repeated and mirrored, making the arches into a series of discrete units, each about seventy-five feet long. Each arch is fifteen feet wide at the base, and a little under sixty feet wide clear span. The arches are about sixty feet high and about twenty deep. It seems mostly likely to be some sort of decorative function, since aside from a thin four-foot wide and deep channel at the top, there is nothing connecting the structure to anything else – though it is possible one or other of the badly-eroded areas of the plateau where the archway has collapsed might have once contained an abutting structure. However, some sort of magical function is not necessarily ruled out.

    The arches are a dull, dirty green stone.

    Harkan ascertained that the stone had a high copper content, but that was likely to be more decorative than functional since it had no particular conductive properties.

    Next, Beta investigated the structures blowing in the wind.

    The structures are made of silvery metal, and apparently featureless on the surface. They about eight metres in diameter and reach up 150m. The bulbous cap is about 30m deep and 24m across at the widest point, thought width varies considerable, tapering off from about three-quarters of its height. There are twelve in all – three each side of the road by each bridge, about 65m apart. Each structure stands in the centre of a plot of land delineated by what was once a wall of some sort of concrete or similar substance. What appears to be a similar but different material covers the entire area of the plot, but whereas the bounding wall has eroded with time, the surface of the plot is undamaged. A single break in the wall facing the road indicates an access point, and a slightly winding indentation in the solid flooring leads to the only visible feature on the structure, a protruding box at about chest-height, about thirty centimetres square.

    The structures sway in the wind, but not so much as so come close to as to being in danger of touching each other (at least in this wind).

    Snowward initally thought they might be some kind of wind-power structure, but on a scan by both himself and Harkan, they could find no evidence that supported this. The structure appeared hollow, and the wals, perhaps only 25mm thick, contained a series of thin meshes of what appeared to be low-grade power conduits. (Low power to the point of, as Harkan put it, "something to plug your hoover into.") The second structure on the left actually had a faint power source emanating from the bulb at, only detactable at this close range.

    Harkan detected the outline of a faint doorway about ninety centimetres wide and about 2.4m tall just to the right of the box. The box, on inspection, appeared to be hinged such that it could be opened upwards (with a bit of effort, since it had not been opened for a very long time) and in fact was a cover. The cover was extremely well fitted so that the elements had been unable to penetrate beneath it, which suggested significant engineering precision.

    Beneath the cover was what could only be some sort of control panel. A single large button with a short series of alien sigils sat in the centre. It was made of a plastic and was a vivid emerald green. To its left side was what appeared to be a speaker grill. Below that was a key pad, again in plastic, but in a bland grey colour, with more sigils. There were fifteen keys, arranged in four columns of three, with a slight space and the final three as a fifth column. All had unidentifiable characters on them. When the panel cover was lifted, the large button lit up slightly.

    Harkan immediately called over Soulwhisper to get him to attempt to hotwire the door. Snowward suggested they tried it on one of the unpowered strcutures first, but they went ahead anyway.

    The section of the wall that contains the door sinks back slightly, before quietly sliding aside to the left.

    Beyond the door is a sort of foyer. A couple of slabs of the concrete-like material sit in prominent positions in the centre of the floor, and there are several empty shelves around the periphery. A winding spiral ramp, just over a metre wide – with no rails – climbs clockwise up the sides of the structure’s interior, rising until it reach what must be the floor of the first level “bulb” at the top of the “stem.” The ramp is fairly steep; about 12% (3m in 25m; 8.3% (1:12) is typical.) In several places, the winding spiral ramp levels off for a short stretch for no readily apparent reason. It appears to be composed of the same metal as the walls, but the surface has a shallow raised mesh, presumably either serving as grip or a mounting for a long-gone organic compound surface. In the centre of the ceiling far above, there is some sort of protrusion that looks structural. The reminder of the “stem” is empty.

    The structure is lit by a series of strip-lights placed at intervals around the ramp and in the foyer, which activated as soon as you opened the door. It seems incongruous, but none of them are flickering as you would have expected, given the apparent age.

    Everything is covered in a thin layer of dust.

    Beta headed up the stairs. Despite Snowward coming close, no-one slipped on the ramp during the walk up.

    There were seven floors in the bulb, aside from the last, each a little under four metres high. They were linked by a series of spiral ramps of the same size as the one leading up the “stem”, though this one was not contiguous to the stem ramp. There was a metre or so of flat space between the top of one floor’s ramp the bottom of the next. This time the ramps were free standing in the centre of the floor and again, have no rails. In the centre of the spiral ramp on each level, there were various raised slabs or platforms of the same material as the floor, though they appeared not to be connected to it. These were all approximately the same height – a little above waist-height from a humanoid. Many of them had a groove around the edge in the material, which looked like it would house some sort of casing.

    The floors were divided into smaller rooms around the exterior. Some of these appeared to be open, and lined with a few sparse shelves or more of the platforms. Others had a still-intact sliding door and were more tightly packed with shelves, save for a space at the end where it was apparent some sort of furnishing once stood; power sockets were located nearby, presumably to power whatever device was present.

    The fourth floor was open-plan, and had more numerous platforms and shelves. The fifth floor was similar, save that the the central section on the interior of the ramp was walled off, with only a few hatches. The sixth floor continued the walled off-interior structure, but again had more of the smaller room divisions.
    The power source was comong from within the walled-off area, so Harkan pried off the hatches and had a look. It also appeared to be some sort of computer system, though none of the hatches appear to be anything more than a maintenance access point. The power source appeared to be magical; some form of matrix which produced electrical energy from background magic and stored it in a crystal capacitor, which explained why it was still functioning. The level of magic/technology involved in such a device was consistent with late Information Age with access to magic. (The device was itself not particularly remarkable in and of itself – Aotrs technology was vastly better already.)

    The ramp to the final floor opens into a dome, about eight metres high at the highest point. The ceiling is a completely flat black, and the surface continues down to within a metre of the floor. There is no active illumination in this room. In the centre of the room stands a circular device. Aside from a ring of plain metal around the edge, the centre is composed of some sort of opaque glass-like surface. You are immediately put in mind of a holographic table. There are three consoles of some description spaced around it, which appear to have their own screens protruding above the surface of the table. The consoles have a keyboard of numerous buttons, the symbols of which are badly worn and rather meaningless even when visible.

    By each of the consoles is a flat rectangular area with a strange looking device standing on it. It looks sort of like a control stick of some sort – a straight shaft that sticks up maybe four inches attached to a roughly oval base. It looks and feels like some sort of moulded plastic. On close inspection, the shaft is not movable like a control stick. It appears to have a tapering helix-shaped grove running down the device, widest at the top and narrowest at the base. On the inside of this groove are several buttons, and a sort of wheel at the very base. It is clearly a device not designed for creatures with hands.

    None of the devices seem active currently.

    Harkan assesed that the device appeared to be in working order not just turned on. He and Snowward between them guessed that the stick-devices were some sort of input device (like a mouse, only designed for something with tentacles, not fingers). Harkan further determined that they were once bbattery powered and were not something he ws gong to be able to replace.

    On Norath's assent, Harkan found what appeared to the on button.

    The device lights up. The console screens activate, showing what you can only assume to be some sort of boot-up sequence, with strings of unfamiliar characters. (This would seem to indicate a fairly early level of computer technology.)

    The central surface lights up slightly. The ceiling is suddenly covered with a pattern of stars, which on your first impression reminds you of a planetarium display – though as your are unfamiliar with the stars, it is difficult to tell whether these are the stars of half of the night sky of this planet or if so, whether it is a live projection or a recording.

    The centre of the holoprojector is covered by a pale blue-white projection of what you assume is the planet’s surface (or at least one hemisphere of it).

    A small hologram of a moon appears near the wall and begins to slowly orbit at an odd angle to the perpendicular, rather than as you might have expected, with the orbital plane parallel to the floor. Perpendicular to this orbit, there is a larger light which would seem to indicate the planet’s sun.

    A few odd-sounding notes indicate that the boot-sequence is completed, leaving the three screens of the console looking identical.

    Cyril, seeing a prominent blue icon in the centre of the screen, attempted to press it, but found it was not, in fact, a touch-capable screen. Harkan reckoned he shoud be abel to mock-up an interface by dismantling one of the control sticks and jury-rigging something to his scanner or datapad, but that this woud take him an hour or two.

    Norath decided then that they party would split its efforts. Harkan would get on with that (with Stab to keep guard), while Norath, Cyril and Ramus flew up to the dish in the Fallen Soul. Serpent, Soulwhisper and Snowward, in the meantime, would start having a search through the city outside.

    The Fallen Soul almsot immeditely ran into difficulties. I had gone up little father than a few tens of metres above the height of the bulbs, when there was a sudden spike in the aminet EM, and the wind suddenly increased exponentially. Snowwward, scanning from below, detected that as the Fallen Soul approached a magically-powered bubble came into being around the city. A little careful emprical experimentation on the Fallen Soul indicated that this field intensified the loser to the dish the vehicle got, and that had gotten much closer, it would have burnt through the shields and they would have dropped like a stone. The effect appeared to emanate from the dish about a mile in all directions, save on the underside, wheree it disipated beyond about 300m from the dish's surface. Cyril exprimented with throwing a rock from the Fallen Soul and determined that the wind force that sprang up was enough to hurl it with considerable force away from the dish. It was clear they were not getting into the dish that easily...

    “Still, we’ve learned something we didn’t know before,” Cyril reflected.

    They took the Fallen Soul up to the column and did a fly around. The found that the bridge widened out into some sort of platform at the point it reached the column. A dozen metres abve this, they sotted a narrow (two foot wide) ledge, running up towards the dish anti-clockwise around the coloumn. With a thin sheathe of the EM/Wind effect next to the surface, they determined that trying to land or jump to the ledge from the Fallen Soul was not likely to end well and abandoned the idea for the moment.

    Snowward and company had only managed in their two-hour search to turn up various shards of pottery and ceramics or badly-corroded lumps of iron which suggested tools, but full search of the ruins would take a fair bit more time. (As would assessing the finds properly.) Another job for later. Snowward had, at least, determined that the building had stairs and that the doorways were shorter and not quite the same width as those in the bulb-structures and raised the possibility of there being two species present.

    Harkan, had, by this point, finished his work, so they all went back up to the holoprojector room. Harkan activated the blue icon and another little boot-sequence enabled. The hologram in the centre flickered slightly, and a new window opened up. Harkan, detecting slightly higher power emissions from the projector, attempt to move and found that he could. As he touched it, a voice began to speak. The speech was deliberate and authoritative (at least as far as tone could be determined), but had an odd liquid quality to it, as if it was spoken underwater and amplified in air. Parts of the hologram highlighted (the sun-side, the night side and various parts of the surface) and it occasionally rotateed (the sun and moon rotating with it) and a star would be highlighted. The voice continued for about ten minutes, and then stopped. Touching the hologram again began the same sequence.

    Repeated and careful listening allowed the Liches to pick out one particular word “anndorrleynne”, the best phonetic onomatopoeia which was “Andorlaine,” which was spoken at the start, while parts of the hologlobe were highlighted, and occasionally thereafter as other stars are highlighted. While a careful listening also picked out one or two other words repeated, there was no obvious context; the only other possible word was “eyelorr” (phonetic onomatopoeia “Ilor”) which might have referred to the sun, though this was basically a bit of supposition.

    Snowward asked Harkan if it was feasible to extract the holoprojector or the hard-drive for future study, but Harkan said it would have required dismantling the entire structure. He did, however, believe he could copy an image of the device's hard-drive to his scanner (though it would take an hour or two).

    As he started on that, the party were just starting to debate what to do next when a urgent call came in from Alpha, stating they were under attack. Norath ordered them to send a feed from one of the holocamereas in one their helmets as Beta rushed down to the Fallen Soul.

    The feed showed Alpha under attack by shadowy, insubstantial creatures.

    The creatures appear as a dark, insubstantial, shapes about four feet long that float in the air. They appear to look something across to a fish crossed with a traditional sheet-ghost lying down; a vaguely ovoid body with a pointed tip and a triad of fin-like protrusions to the top, left and right which ripple like cloth in a breeze. The rear end tapers and fade out. They are no other visible features.

    The creatures were also discharging lightning attacks.

    Beta's Fallen Soul reached the battle site shortly thereafter, as a steady stream of thr creatures continued to emerge out of the ground. Ramus, Cyril, Serpent and Soulwhisper cracked the hatches as they came in, firing double-taps from the doorways with their respective weapons. The cold was perhaps not as effective as they would have liked, but the sheer power of their weapons was enough to kill several of the creature, which shed lots of sparks and dissolved into nothing.

    With the addition of Beta, the tide of battle turned very quickly. Ramus dropped out to the ground as the Fallen Souls came, in, leaving Snowward to take his place by the door. A few of the creatures shot lightning at Beta, but only Ramus wa more than a little scorched; he took a strike to his back that burnt the bone and put him a little off. Norath used his Jihad spells to first boost Beta's other combatants (everyone apart from himself and Harkan) and then to through a shield on Ramus. A few more blasts of coldbeam fire and the stream of creatures stopped. Ramus stunned the last one with one glancing hit - showing that whatever else they were, they were not Undead, giving Stab (who had started scanning as they appraoched) time to complete her readings before they killed the creature.

    There would be time to analyse the creatures later, as first Beta had to assess the damage to Alpha. A curspry check indicated that a couple of Alpha had been sufficiently burned that they would require Cyril to stay on guard, while Beta returned to work.

    And thus ended the first session. Some of the player needed to go, otherwise I might have spun the combat ut a bit more and gave them chance to go through the scan results, but that can wait for next time. (Cyril's player can't make it next time, to the principle reason for that last encounter was to give an excuse why he wouldn't be there as wel as provide a good break-point to be put in where required. He, at least, contented himself with four shots, four kills, as befits the party's best sharpshooter.)

    The players all enjoyed themselves (Snowward's and Norath's players especially); if this write-up seems a little dry, it's largely because I can't remember the all quips and one-liners (especially the not-quite-in-character ones) and having a three hour break chatting with Snowward and Serpent's players before I started writing it up didn't help that!

    Next session is 30th of December, where hopefully, I shall continue and equally hopefully, the PCs will explore the remaining bulb-towers and then venture into the dish itself...!


    Who am I kidding, I'm just damned stubborn enoguh to do that anyway even if no-one reads this...!

    I hope that anyone with the time and fortitude to read this far has drived some entertainment from it, at least!

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    Default Re: The Myst Project: Aotrs Myst Exploratory Team Mission 001

    Wow, that is a huge amount of post so far. Will take me some time to get through it all. I like the "Whatever suits my fancy" response Snowward made.
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    Wow that was a lot of text. It was a quite fun read. It is a little odd to read a second-person character introduction as a third party reader, though.

    So, Aorts does Stargate? I kind of find it fun to have these very high tech undead people, who have a galactic empire come across an artifact like this Myst-Gate and not quite getting it. But when immediate understanding fails, experiment! That's a weird world the party found. Good to see what the AutoCad illustrations I saw in the Ponythread were for now. Whoever built that builds huge. And has tentacles. "Huge and with tentacles" is usually a bad thing. Then again, so are "Liches in spaceships", so I suppose the danger has to scale up to be a challenge.

    Also, I love the dark theme-naming the Aorts have. It's that exact level of over-the-top where it can be both genuine or just something they do to mess with the rest of the galaxy. I'm leaning towards both. Might be a genuine theme, but if it makes their enemies uncomfortable, it's worth keeping up. I do wonder now, is there an actual Red Spear somewhere in the early Aorts days?

    But I think my biggest take-away from this is this: "A-oaters". Now my inner voice can pronounce Aorts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by McNum View Post
    But I think my biggest take-away from this is this: "A-oaters". Now my inner voice can pronounce Aorts.
    It is one less mystery of the universe. :D
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    Quote Originally Posted by McNum View Post
    Wow that was a lot of text. It was a quite fun read. It is a little odd to read a second-person character introduction as a third party reader, though.
    Yeah. In an ideal world, I'd have tense-changed it all for the post, but honestly, I just looked at the amount of wordage (epescially after writing up all the non-read out text) and my brain just went "bibble" and curled up in a corner in the foetal positon...!

    Quote Originally Posted by McNum
    So, Aorts does Stargate? I kind of find it fun to have these very high tech undead people, who have a galactic empire come across an artifact like this Myst-Gate and not quite getting it. But when immediate understanding fails, experiment! That's a weird world the party found. Good to see what the AutoCad illustrations I saw in the Ponythread were for now. Whoever built that builds huge. And has tentacles. "Huge and with tentacles" is usually a bad thing. Then again, so are "Liches in spaceships", so I suppose the danger has to scale up to be a challenge.
    Andorlaine, is, in fact, the new, completely alien campaign world I mentioned a time or two in ponythread that I'd done all that astrophyics on. As I usually do the campaign write-ups from the in-character perspective on some latter arbitary scholar, I had toyed with who it might be. I initially started with the SSA, but when the idea came along, I realised I had a much better candidate! The Aotrs were in an idea position to gather data, but not be able to gather enough to solve all the mysteries! (It also had the effect of forcing me to do some work on Andorlaine itself on more than a theorhetical level and get some ecology and whatnot down on paper - but in a controlled environment where I only had to do a few bits.)

    (Yes, I am aware that the grand irony that I spent all this time making a as-real-as-possible campaign world and the offical first creatures encountered are floaty-magic things!)

    And yes, the monsters here are comparitively dangerous for the Aotrs to deal with (partly to discourage the Aotrs from actually wanting to come establish a permenant presence), so you can imagine the sort of terrors they'd hold to a civilisation at "typical fansty" tech levels, or even "modern" technology levels.

    Quote Originally Posted by McNum
    Also, I love the dark theme-naming the Aorts have. It's that exact level of over-the-top where it can be both genuine or just something they do to mess with the rest of the galaxy. I'm leaning towards both. Might be a genuine theme, but if it makes their enemies uncomfortable, it's worth keeping up.
    Yeah, it is pretty much both! It's a tradition, obviously stemming from Lord Death Despoil himself (and extending through Lord Deather, Lord Yeller, Lord Foul Skream etc) to take a new name upon Lichdom. (Like one of those things once you call something a name for so long, you stop registering as anything but the name.) There's also (as demonstrated by the party) a bit of personal preference whether you follow that tradition or keep your name from life, keep some of it, and whether, if you choose you choose one whether you have one or two (or more) names.

    Quote Originally Posted by McNum
    I do wonder now, is there an actual Red Spear somewhere in the early Aorts days?
    Oh yes. The Red Spear still exists and Lord Death Despoil typically carries it around with him even now. It was a powerful artifact he found very early on. Despite a few upgrades over the last two millenia, it's long-since been surpassed as even his primary melee weapon, but it obviously has symbolic value!

    Quote Originally Posted by McNum
    But I think my biggest take-away from this is this: "A-oaters". Now my inner voice can pronounce Aorts.
    Quote Originally Posted by DigoDragon View Post
    It is one less mystery of the universe. :D
    Yeah, 's one of those things you don't think much about because it's second nature to you yourself. It got put in as nearly an after-thought when it ocurred to me non-pony-threaders might be reading it. (It might have cropped up once of twice in ponthread's long history, but it who knows when ro where!)

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    Part 2 of 2!

    (I pre-emptively apologise for any grammatical errors - I wanted to get this up and it's quite late and I'm quite weary from running - and then taking... crikey... nearly four hours to write thus up (my goodness, we finished abot half-six and it's now ten-past eleven...! As before, I've not translated the bolded text from read-out, simply for time and sanity!)

    We rejoin our “heroes” in the aftermath of the creature attack. Cyril gave up a potion of wounding to fix up Ramus’ light injury and then assisted Lieutenant Icehaunt with Alpha, as several of their members had been more badly fried by the lightning1.

    Stab completed her scan of the stunned creature, before it was dispatched.The creatures appeared to some sort of electromagnetic lifeform that fed on thermal radiation. Her supposition was that they were attracted by the heat and light – small though it was – from the Aotrs technology and the wormhole. They appeared to be able to subsist on the natural EM field of the planet almost indefinitely in hibernation, but required a larger influx of radiation to allow them to grow and breed and even to think. Their brains needed significant IR radiation to function at peak efficiency leaving them in an instinct, animal phase when first awoken. They could not absorb high-frequency EM emissions like UV light and X-Rays which were especially deleterious to them.

    There was a debate about what to do. Eventually, the illuminators which Norath and Snowward carried were remembered, which could be set to both IR or UV modes. Beta debated whether to try and keep them around and use the IR mode as a sort of lure. Stab pointed out that the creatures were not likely to attack the actual Liches, because what little IR given off by the gear was swamped by their own cold auras. Eventually, they settled on Harkan’s final suggestion that they set up Norath’s four illuminators in UV mdoe around the camp to ensure the creatures wouldn’t attack it.

    Beta then set back out for the plateau city. There, they split into three groups. Harkan went to oversee the download of the data base he’d started, whichy would take about another two hours. In the meantime, Ramus and Serpent would go to see if they could find a way into the city, while Snowward organised another field-walk of the city, trying to get some more finds.

    Ramus and Serpent took the Fallen Soul to the oether end of the bridge.

    The bridge the other side runs nearly five-sixths of a mile (1350 metres) to the point where it join the column, the entire length lying underneath the maybe-city’s underside.

    Looking up, the maybe-city’s base slops at about 30º below the horizontal for the first 450m. Beyond that a much shallow slope flattens out to a horizontal surface about 300m from the column. The first portion as a few visible surface features. The function of these slight protrusions and small rectangular recesses are not apparent. You might have said the latter were something akin to windows, save that they are made, as far as can be determined, from the same material as the rest of the structure. The flatter slope and horizontal surface are featureless, as far as you can determine.

    At the point the bridge touches the column, it broadens out into a square about twice the width (80m/240’) of the bridge, supports for which jut out from the surface of the column below. The square is ringed with what is a fence or barrier of some sort. Apparently constructed of the same material as the bridge cables, the barrier consists of five 10cm rails spaced about 30 apart, supported by struts roughly every 2.5m. This area is rather sheltered. The column itself is 1200m wide and the steadily blowing prevailing wind is deflected around the it and under the expansive lower surface of the maybe-city, no rain could fall even if there were clouds to cause it.

    The junction of the column to the maybe-city is not flawless. You can see a dark line of seam around it, which suggests that at the very least, the two portions were not created as one piece.

    A rectangular section is cut out of the curved surface of the column, twelve meters wide and about six tall, and recessed into the column by about three metres at the edges.

    At this distance, you can now make out a very narrow spiralling ledge, perhaps only a couple of feet wide winding up anti-clockwise around the column towards the maybe-city. The ledge starts perhaps twelve or so metres above the surface of the bridge at what appears from this distance to be blank wall.

    Other than this, the column appears featureless aside from a small box, similar to the ones outside the wind-spires, located on the right-hand wall of the recess.

    Serpent went over to the box and flipped it up. The box was a panel, similar to the one in the wind-spires. This one also had a keypad, but with rather more buttons than the prior one (though the first dozen were exactly the same). It had what appears to be a screen as well as a speaker grill. He pressed a couple of buttons, but it did nothing.

    He and Ramus – following the assumuption thast there must be a door somewhere – had a close look at the indented sction and located the outlines of doors, alomst the size of the indentation. Serpent also notice some
    faint remnants of some sort of markings along the left-hand side (looking from the bridge) of the square. They appeared to approximate a series of rectangular shape perhaps two or three meters wide and perhaps four or five metres long.

    “Car park,” Serpent suggested.

    They took note of the ledge, but determined that the EM field was still present and that they would not be able to easily climb up to it.

    Not able to get any further for the moment, they returned and helped Snowward’s field walk. A couple of hours later, and Snowward, Soulwhisper, Harkan and Stab had found more pottery fragments and the remains of some ceramic tiled surfaces. Rusted remains also indicated some sort of boilers in some of the buildings (steam-powered), which indicated a moderate level of technology. Snowward also was able to place the ruins at somewhere between two and four thousand years of age; most likely more towards the younger end, considering the age of other finds.

    Norath decided that, while they could probably have a few mours hours of field-work, that proceeding into the column was the next priority – they could always come back later on and finish up and Snowward agreed.

    Beta piled into the Fallen Soul and down the bridge. It took Soulwhisper only a little time, upon discovering there was still some power in the box-panel, to hot-wire it so they could gain access. Harkan, meanwhile managed to get enough of a scan to ascertain that material of the column (and by extension, the maybe-city) was is some sort of what appeared to be artificial igneous rock (e.g. granite) laced with various metal compounds. Further, it was either inherently magical or heavily permeated with magic to increase durability, strength and damage resistance. The level of technology required was more advanced that advanced metallurgy and construction Beta had seen so far. The magic level required was also high, suggesting a level of advancement at least or beyond the technological level. As such, it could not have been made by the Late Information Age inhabitants.

    Spoiler: map provided for ease of understanding!

    (2: Loading Bay)

    The wall space that contains the doors makes a slight “pop” of released air. The sections of the walls that make the doors recess back with only a faint scraping noise. It sinks perhaps half a metre, before the doors slide aside, a little more quietly.

    Beyond is a large chamber, perhaps twenty meters deep and thirty metres wide, eight metres high. The left, right and rear walls have a platform a little over a meter tall and about three metres wide. At the far end of the room, there is a six meter gap in the raised platform, in the centre of which is a metal double door about four metres wide and 2.5m tall, by the right side of which sits another box/panel. To the left and right on each side the raised area extends into two eight metre long, three metre wide protrusions. A two-metre wide ramp leads from the platform to the floor on either side, the near edge of which just skims the track of the sliding entrance doors.

    Six large double doors (three by three metres) sit on the platform level; one either side on the far wall, one near the far left and right corners and one further down on the left and right walls.

    The internal structure appears to be made of the same substance as the column itself, where as the doors appear to be the same substance as the stems.

    Scanning the area remained problematic. The walls remained largely impermeable to scans, and while some of the local area could be gleaned through the doors, the scan petered out to intelligible noise at about a hundred meters or so. The floors and roofs were apparently at least one or two feet thick, since they block the scan as solidly as the exterior walls did.

    The surface of the platforms and the floor to a lesser extent, were marred with scratches and scrapes and the occasional chip, suggesting damage from heavy usage what Beta would normally associate with industrial equipment or cargo transfer. There was a moderate amount of dust, though the air was so dry there appeared to be no life present.

    Snowward wanted to take a sample of the floor or wall material, but was unable, as it was durable to what was probably starship-levels. He observed that it was strange that the floor, then had got superficial damage to it2. He contented himself by taking a scan. He ascertained that beyond the six doors ere mmore rooms, while a corridor was behind the larger double door in the centre. The air was notably stale, though it had some organics contaminents.

    Beta had some debate on how this fitted in, settling on the fact that this place would have had to have been cleared before it was abandoned, given the lack of artifacts found. They aslo suspected that these rooms would have been created by tone-maipulating magic by the later inhabitents, rather than built in by the original struture builders. Before Serpent quite went bonkers with boredom, Norath had him start exploring the other rooms, starting with the door on the far left.

    The room (3) was fairly large and of similar height to the entrance chamber. Platforms of fair size jutted from the walls. Like the former room, this rooms showed signs of heavy usage.

    A further three-by-three metre double door lead out. At the far wall was an unpowered door, about 90cm by 2.5m, which opened into a small room (3a). This room had shelving built into the walls and what appears to have been some sort of workstation with a primitive computer system (primitive relative to the Aotrs). The shelves had some remaining organic detritus which suggested there might have been some sort of organic substance – paper or equivalent perhaps – which had long-since degraded into a dead mass of dried alien mould or fungus equivalent.

    A further mass lay in front of the workstation, with a few badly-corroded metal spars suggesting it might have been some sort of furniture. The computer was roughly recognisable as what it is – a screen connected to a box on which there were a couple of (inactive) lights, a power connection to the wall (non-functioning), a console of keys and an interface device (different in design but essentially the same set-up as found in the powered wind stem). It further appeared to connect to another device, which Serpent identified as being some sort of printing device.

    The computer system was very badly eroded and a cursory examination, even to Serpent’s untrained eyeglow, determined it was scrap. Snowward managed to date the organic residue to approximately two thousand years. Norath surmised this might have been some sort of clerk’s office for tracking the loading bay operation.

    The double door out lead to another corridor (4).

    This corridor is much the same size as the door then opens to it. However, it seems fairly apparent that it was not designed for walking down. The floor appears to consist of a series of rollers, attached to machinery. The rollers, the machinery and the spaces between are coated with a dried black gunk, which would appear to be the remains of whatever type of rolling surface once ran over it. The corridor stretches out about 300m before ending at another similar door.

    Harkan scanned th gunk but was unable to determne the composition other than “probably a bit like rubber,” but couldn’t determine whether it was natural or artificial. Serpent raised the question of whether this loading facility was likely to be for material in or out.

    After a check of the other side doors, all of which lead to more of the store-rooms and similar corridors, Beta picked their way through the decrepid conveyer corridor and through the door at the other end.

    Beyond the door is another chamber, not unlike the last one – though with a rather obvious difference. The chamber opens into a giant shaft at the core of the column (5). The shaft is 500m wide, and seems to extend up and down out of sight.

    From the edge of the shaft, you can see that the division of this room from the other five chambers is largely cosmetic, since the dividing walls end three metres from the shaft, allowing you to simply walk around the wall.

    The shaft itself is almost featureless on your level and up as far as you can detect, with only odd protrusions and a few diagonal patches of roughness. It ends almost 600m above you, which must be well inside the maybe-city structure.

    Looking down, the shaft drops even deeper. Starting perhaps forty meters below you, you can see what appears to be a narrow set of stairs a metre or two in diameter, spiralling clockwise down into the depths of the shaft. The stairs seem to end at nowhere, but then you realise that the protrusions and roughness were where it would have continued, all the way to the top.

    Serpent’s basic scan detected the shaft extended down over a mile-and-half below the liches’ feet. After about 1800 metres, the surface of the shaft was no longer the smooth artificial rock surface, but changed to natural bedrock. The “floor” of the shaft is a solid mass of cooled lava. Starting at about 800m down (which equated to roughly 400m below the surface), the stair way began to have some platforms, from which corridors lead off.

    Ramus got his scanner out to make a scan, and found the utility cell had run out3.

    Snowward and Soulwhisper conducted a more intensive scan, and found that astonishingly, the shaft extended another 1800m below this point, now completely filled with cooled lava. This would have made the shaft about three miles in depth from the top of the column to the base. (Which would make the temperature that far down almost the boiling point of water; at the point where the shaft gave way to the bedrock, it was a fairly tropical temperature already.) They also detected a shattered disc of metal (too deep to be concretely identified), almost as wide as the shaft, buried at the bottom of the shaft under all the lava.

    Norath decided the party needed to head down. It was at this point the squard realised that, actually, no-one HAD brought and rope or cable... Ramus was especially sulky, gripping about why in the Lichemaster’s name would he would have brought cable (or lockpicks, since he’s the only one with lock-picking skills...) instead of his nice, improved coldbeam pistol4...!

    Snowward was just about to try to jump, when it was pointed out that if he missed, he’d have a mile-and-half-drop. He would survive it (though it might take a few hours to pull himself back together, but his equipment definitely would not5... He elected to not jump. A cpuiple of minute later, Ramus, who had not being paying attention, considered the same thing... With the same outcome.

    Fortunately, the problem was finally rectified just by Norath using Gate V to allow the Liches to get down to the staircae below. Once there, Ramus asked Harkan to determine if the damage to the staircase was delibterate or not. Harkan walked to the top of the damaged stairs, poked the wall, made a show of pretending to taste his finger, and proclaimed with absolute authority that it was not only definitely debilberate, but had been done in rather a hurry. This causes some debate as to whether it was destroyed to keep something from coming down or going up as the party descended down into the depths.

    Once they reached the platform level, the found an increasing number of corridors leading off. There was even some suggestion that these platforms were linked by walkways, as there were there are protrusions that project out into the shaft in the direction of other doorways.

    In the above-bedrock portions, corridors ran out from the shaft for about a hundred meters, sometimes with a few empty rooms before the walls became bedrock, running a few metres more before they were blocked by rock fall and debris.

    Serpent conducted a scan from the end of one of these corridors – which penetrated the bedrock, if not the column – and indicated that the column remained 1200m in diameter until 400m below the surface. It narrowed to only 700m in diameter (effectively sheathing the shaft with 100m of artificial material) down to the point it became bedrock. (1400m below the surface level (1800m from where the squad entered).

    Cooled streams of lava spilled out of most of the doorways at and below the bedrock point, and the stairs there were heavily damaged and mostly missing, the sign of some terrible geological disaster. After some thought, Beta concluded that the lava had flooded into the shaft, Serpent estimated via scan that the lava flows appeared to be only about fifteen hundred years old. (Which placed it five hundred years after the column had apparently been abandoned.)

    Harkan noted that the shaft and column essentially functioned as a single giant pile foundation.

    Ramus suggested the disk may have been some sort of lift. Snowward wanted t try and work out if it was magicla or technological, but nearly two kilomteres of rock preventing him for making more than an educated guess. Norath concurred that it was likely magical.

    The squad now headed back up. Using their LCD helmets to magnifiy the ceiling, they ondered the oddity of why the stairs appeared to go straight up into the ceiling; the top step appeared to have been flush with the roof, with no apparent door or other access out. The EM field extneded down to about 150m above the point they’d entered and climbign 600m up a sheer wall seemed ike it was going to be difficult. They debated as to whether the could simply Gate up into the maybe-city. After some thought and deliberation, Norath picked a taregt point some three metres above the ceiling and attempted to Gate VII (which had a range of up to seven miles). The spell gave him the warning it could not detect a valid exit point and he was able to abort before he’d used any of his mana.

    He and Harkan pondered as to whether this was because of the EM field or the lack of an exit point and North cioncluded it ws most likely the former. With one more Gate V back to the loading bay level, the sqaud headed out to the double doors (6).

    Spoiler: Footnotes

    1As aforementioned, his player couldn’t make this session.

    2I dun goofed, in this instance! In the end, we said it was probably due to the later phase of building that created this complex through magic weakening the durabity enchantment.

    3It was 02 on the check, which is an equipment fumble: 65% chance of just being a depleted battery, 10% chance of equipment malfunction, and what everyone else was routing for, dropping the equipment, which would have been quite hilarious considering it would have goen straight down the shaft...

    4To the DM’s great amusement, since he’d noted that one-one had ever even thought about it. And I wasn’t going to outright say “what about cable?” – they had the list of gear when they made their equipment picks, not my fault if they didn’t really read it and think properly...!

    5His player had also not considered that while the staircase was 40m down, it was also not directly below where they were standing, since the stairs lead off from their platform.
    Last edited by Aotrs Commander; 2016-01-04 at 06:16 PM.

  11. - Top - End - #11
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    Default Re: The Myst Project: Aotrs Myst Exploratory Team Mission 001

    Soulwhisper popped the doors with a bit more deft work from his Crime Technics kit.

    The doors this time swing open inwards, rather than recessing or sliding open as the previous doors, but once again with a slight chuff of air, suggesting the doors were air-tight when sealed. A six-metre wide, four metre tall corridor runs a length of thirty metres.

    The central two or three metres are clear two-thirds of the way along to the end. Along the walls, however, is what appears to be actual furniture. What appears to be seating protrudes from the wall, little more than slabs, covered in the long-disintegrated dry remains of organic covering. It looks approximately humanoid height, though perhaps on the larger end of the scale.

    At the far end, ten metres from the end, there is what looks like a sort of terminal. What can only be a console bank stretches across the width of the corridor, broken by two arches of inert machinery, gated by metal barriers.

    Beyond the console bank, there is a smaller double door with another control panel.

    What most captures you attention, however, is what is either side of the door. Two decrepit robotic guards stand, half-propped up against the wall. They are 2.7 metres tall and are vaguely humanoid in that they have an upright torso and a head with two unlit red “eyes” and a speaker-grill like a muzzle. Two gun mounts, magazines clearly visible projecting above and below the barrels, sit in a position roughly equivalent to arms. Below the “waist” however, they are tracked – or at least once were, as the lower portions seem to have deteriorated particularly badly. The wheels are misaligned, and the tracks themselves have disarticulated.

    The robots have some sort of brown-coloured armour plating, which is missing or corroded in a couple places, and it is difficult to tell if it is the original colour or just rust. In the gaps between the plating, thick bunches of metal cable link the moving parts, giving the machines an archaic look to your eyeglows. The cables look superficially vulnerable at first glance. However, the cable’s outer sheathing shows no sign of corrosion of age apart from dirt, suggesting these parts are a lot tougher than they appear.

    Currently, they do not appear to be active and simple sit in position, their guns lowered.

    There was a quiet “yess!” from Stab at the back.

    Norath was rather unconcerned about the robots – after all, they were Aotrs! – and was all for just marching down the corridor. He did, however, decide that maybe a little descretion was called for with a scan first...

    Stab eagerly grabbed her scanner. She detected that the robots did indeed have power, enough to keep them on minimal maintenance and run scans. Her initial estimate was that they were consistent with the other advanced technology of the later occupants (Late Information Age), though a bit further on, which could have meant either more advanced or just the difference between military and civilian tech. Neither she nor Harkan were able to identify exactly what it was aremd with, other than the guns were some kind of kinetic projective weapon with about two hundred rounds each.

    The squad considered whether it was possible to somehow distract or sneak past them, and decided it was simply not going to be possible.

    Norath wanted to try provoking a reaction from them. His first thought was to throw something at them. Finding the only disposable item int he party (Ramu’s expended utility cell), he cocked his mighty arm and hurled it with all his might. Sadly, between the fact a utility cell is only 0.01kg and Norath’s own incompetance, he managed to get it all of maybe five metres down the corridor. There were a few quiet muffled snickers.

    “Right!” Norath said. “Serpent, shoot it on minimum power!”

    Serpent gamely turned his coldbeam rifle down to minimum power and fied a single shot at the left-hand robot. It... Failed to do even th slightest scratch on the surface. The robot started to raise its arms, not quite sure it had actually been attacked...

    These incidents – to be reviewed later by General Flaywing with palm firmly resting on his metaphorical face – were the start of a firefight which called into question the entrie premise of the Aotrs of an elite combat force.

    Soulwhisper and Ramus ran forward to crouch and sprawl full-length respectively behind the nearest left and right seating slabs. Serpent let off a solid shot, which did a fair bit of structural damage – but little else. It appeared these were heavy combat robots, more akin to an Aotrs Enrager Heavy Assault Droid (i.e. pretty close to a main battle tank) rather than an infantry walker and as such they were effectively using anti-personell weapons against a vehicle... Soulwhisper managed a single shot, which impaired some of its hydraluics, and Ramus barely to scratch the surface before th first robot fired. The right gun lanched a hail of withering suppressive fire across the pair, causing them to duck into cover. The suppressive fire kept them pined, but didn’t do any damage.

    Soulwhisper sadly learned the value of sacrificing his offense for defense when the left gun bullet hit hard. His kinetic armour prevented any serious damage, but the sheer force of a heavy 10mm machine gun round knocked him out of the fight6.

    While Harkan and Snowward stayed out of it, and Norath ummed and erred about what he should do, Serpent had a bit of a spasm and his twitchy trigger finger jerked several shots into the ceiling. Changing tactics, he grabbed his Snake Guided Missile Launcher (and anti-tank warhead capable of taking out MBTs) and shot the undamaged one on his right. To everyone’s great surprise, it failed to kill it – though it caused enouh of a hydraulic leakage that it would cease to be able to move in another thirty seconds7.Still – it would shortly be out of the fight and the damage at least seriously impaired its accuracy.

    Norath attempted to cast a shield spell on the party and completed fumble it; had he not been a Lich, he have stunned himself for twenty seconds or so... As it was, he just wasted all the mana he’d sunk into the spell. (And then realsied their “shield” didn’t mean “like starship forcefield shield” it meant “like a medieval shield, albeit one made of force,” and so wouldn’t have helped either...)

    Stab took aim with her weapon... And it prompt fell apart in her hands, which was almost as embarrasing, considering she’s also a weapons technician.

    Serpent grabbed his rifle again and managed to successfully hit... Ramus in the back. Fortunately, as it was a coldbeam rifle, Ramus was mostly just highly unamused8.

    Harkan snatched a sheepish Stab’s weapon off her and reassembled it with a quick flick of parts and an exasperated sigh, before grabbing his support weapon. He figured, despite being the least competant combatant in the squad it looked like they needed all the help they could get...

    Norath, after trying to work out all manner of way to make his Gates work offensively, finally opened up a Gate with an entrey point in the wall next to Ramus and the exit point next to Soulwhisper. Ramus crawled inside, now out of the line of fire, while Norath concentrated on keeping the Gate open. (Why his Gate worked now, when they were in the EM field and not at any other time is a mystery9). Serpent exchanged some more fire with the robots until the righthand one ceased to move. As he was firing from around the corner, his much better cover meant that the robots failed to do any significant damae.

    Harkan and Stab, firing from the other corner of the doorway, drew the remaining robot’s suppressive fire and Ramus was able to move, slipping down the Gate corridor to grab Soulwhisper from the other side and pull him into the Gate as well. (Whereupon we later realised, Ramus found Soulwhisper was just faking it...!)

    Finally, between Stab, Serpent and Harkan, they managed to land a hit which caused the second robot’s hydralics to leak. All the squad had to do now was play for time until it too, ceased to move.

    After a long break while Soulwhisper regenerated, the squad could actually progress to the doors between the robots...

    Spoiler: Footnotes

    6The players learned the hard lesson (kinda) that they weren’t playing their Aggamemnon characters, stuffed to overpowered stupidity with shields and adrenal defence, and as such in a position where they did not have to parry (i.e. swtich attack bonus to AC, to put it in D&D parlance). The Aotrs party, while perhaps only 75% as nasty on the offense, does not have anything like that and so are comparitively much more fragile to attack if they don’t parry. Despite the critical hit being negated, Soulwhisper took enough concussion hit damage to drop him to -20.

    The really embarrassing part (my fault too, I shouls also have remembered, this is only the second time they’ve played these characters and only th first time he’s been hit) was after the combat. Soulwhisper’s player had stepped out for a moment, and I grabbed his character sheet to work out how much time it would take to renegerate – and then saw the note to remind us that he’s got and ability thay means he can take 150% of his hits before going unconscious, and so can continue until he reaches -42. Whoops...

    7Including mine. In hindsight, I overdid it on the robot’s defenses. But I was so used to the Aggy party’s ability to tear through everything like cheese that I overestimated how hard the robots would be. I should not have had them use the Large Android Critical table (and made them immune to stuns), as even with an open-ended result of 149 on the criticalon the best column, it did virtually nothing.

    8I was in hysterics at this point. Four fumbles in less than two rounds. I wouldn’t have minded, but I’d handed Stab over to Soulwhisper’s player (with him being down) and it was him that rolled the fumble! What was supposed to be a quick combat was dragging out way longer than I’d wanted, so taking into account the penalties on the robots attack rolls, I rolled my dice and said “they miss” in the interest of expediency (and the fact that a) an ME23 weapon did way more damage than I’d expected) and b) I was only rolling middling-low rolls. I’d have resolved it properly if I’d have got a 90 or more or something. But as it stood, at this point, I didn’t think the PCs needed the monster help...

    8I goofed again, but to be fair, I was just as happy to get this damn fight over...!
    Last edited by Aotrs Commander; 2015-12-30 at 06:47 PM.

  12. - Top - End - #12
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    Default Re: The Myst Project: Aotrs Myst Exploratory Team Mission 001

    Getting the doors open required the application of brute force; the doors were again sliding doors, though this time they didn’t sink into the surface, so it was not all that difficult.

    You open the doors to see another pair directly behind it, barely an inch or two away. This pair appear to have suffered some damage, the right one being slightly ajar, and both doors have a slight bulge at the base.

    Through the crack is a small room perhaps three by three metres, the walls and floor are heavily buckled. A second pair of doors have been jarred loose out of their frame opposite you, behind which is a wall, the metal surface scraped and dented. There is a small panel on the right side of these doors, though it has smashed loose and the casing hangs by wires.

    Looking at the inner set of doors, you can see a gap between the wall in which the doors you’ve just opened and this small room – looking up, you can make out that this small room is a self-contained unit at the bottom of a shaft.

    The squad determined pretty easily that this was a defunct lift. Harkan ascertained that the lift car had basically fallen when the cable had snapped to to old age. To progress, they now had to do a bit of climbing. The shaft roses 48m up. There was an emergency hatch in the top of the lift, though that itself was a little over three metres up from the floor. Five metres or so above that, there was an open doorway on like the one into the shaft in the guard post on the same side of the shaft (towards the exterior). These doors appeared to have been struck on the lift car’s way down, and has been bashed open, bent almost in half. Another eight meters above that, there is another doorway – still shut – on the opposite side of the shaft and then three more such doors, each one eight meters apart, until a final door only four meters above the last one.

    As the squad had neglected to bring any climbing gear with them, Harkan cut a length of what remained of the lift cable, which was lying on the top of the lift car where it fell. With a bit of Dead Robot tied to it for a crude grapple, Serpent scaled up and the rest of the party followed.

    The first doorway lead to an L-shaped corridor three metres wide. The short base of the “L” ran about twenty metres to the right (orientated from the direction of the plateau) and then turns outward and runs 50m back to the exterior of the column, terminating at a door which leads to the ledge Beta had seen from outside.

    Opposite the lift entrance, two doors (unpowered and simple inward-swinging) lead each to an empty 10m by 4m room. Power sockets in the walls and the wear pattern on the floor suggested there were consoles or workstations here once.

    A third door sat at the bend of the corridor on the wall adjacent to the lift door.

    This opened into a 20m by 40m room (7).

    The door opens into a large room, perhaps twenty metres wide by forty metres deep. You are in the right-hand corner; the left-hand wall must be nearly flush with the lift shaft. The room is about just under eight meters tall, but you are coming in about half-way up the height onto a gantry. The gantry is made of latticed metal and is about one-and-a-half metres wide. It runs off to your left and run around the room. In front of you, the gantry drops in a ramp to the floor, stopping short of the far wall by only six or so metres. Across the centre of the room, another gantry walkway links the far and near walls, with a pair of cross spars to the left wall spaced about evenly along the length of the room.

    On the ground floor is what is clearly some sort of machine shop. Large pieces of heavily age-worn, defunct pieces of heavy machinery stand in the floor, some of it nearly reaching the bottom of the gantry. Another dozen or so of the guard-robots stand about the room in what looks like special maintenance bays, in various states of disrepair. The machinery looks partly degenerated with age, and part as if large amount of components have been removed.

    Scattered about the floor are the remains of smaller robots, which are barely recognisable as such, given how most of them are almost completely dismantled. They are flatter, something under two metres long and half as wide and little more than a metre tall and apparently once tracked. Various tool appendages of all sorts protrude from some of the robots which have been more thoroughly dismantled, spouting from hatches.

    They are neatly placed outside of the main pathways between the machinery, but they do not seem, unlike the guard robots, to have been placed in proper positions.

    A possible explanation may lie with the one smaller robot that appears to have stopped mid-way between two of the machines. A piece of machinery, which looks like it was taken right out of one of the machines, remains gripped in several of the appendages.

    A single four-metre by three metre wide doorway at the far end of the room leads into another empty chamber of about the same size.

    Stab, being the robotics expert, got permission from Norath and scurried down for a closer examination – keeping her distance from the big robots,because no-one wanted to go trhoguh that agaun. As she suspected, it appeared that the little roibots had basically been maintaining the guard robots, cannibalising the machinery as it failed until the last one finally broke down. (Two thousand years is a loong time for your robots to run without and new supplies, even if they spent most of the time doing nothing.) A cursory scan suggested that the rooms in the lift shaft above lead to more machine shops.

    Norath decided that these were not important, and the squad would now head up the ledge to try and get to the maybe-city.

    The ledge had a 12% gradient, which meant (as chance would have it) that it more-or-less did a full circle of the radius of the column as it spiralled the distance up (434m) to the base of the maybe-city. At 3.77km (a little over two and a third miles) long, it would take about forty-five minutes at normal human walking pace.
    However, it was a little under two feet wide (narrow enough to mean it was difficult to walk up it forwards with bulky gear), and was exposed to the wind for much of its distance. The combination of the steepness of the slope, the lack of any surface feature or handholds and the wind necessitated a much slower pace to avoid any danger or falling or being blown off. A cautious trek up the ramp, shuffling face to the wall required about two hours. Except for Norath, who chivved everyone along at a slightly too brisk pace. He ignored the muttered comments about how he was being highly competance now they were just walking...

    On nearing the top, you discover that the spiral does not, in fact stop, and winds a further 150m up (and another quarter anti-clockwise turn) around the column until the very top. This last stretch, however, is much safer, since despite a small gap between the lip of the ledge and the solid wall of the maybe-city, it’s not enough to fall through, and you reach the actual top in another ten minutes or so.

    The ledge finally ends with a flat stretch of corridor couple of metres long. As the ledge approaches the base of the maybe-city, a corridor-like section is cut out above it, just over a metre wide and about 2.5m tall, transforming it into a proper corridor over this last stretch. At the other end of this is a door way. It is small, only 90cm by 2.4m – the same size as that of the wind-stems. A panel sits just to the right of it in the corridor wall.

    A careful examination of the location found that there was a seam extending between the floor and the walls of the ledge, and floor of the ledge itself about a meter down the corridor. This indicated the join between the separate parts – i.e. the column and ledge up to that point, and above and beyond that, the maybe-city; notable, since there had been very few join lines and seams in any of the constructions thus far.

    In the last ten metres or so of distance between the squads and the maybe-city, EM emissions spike again. Not significantly to cause an immediate shut-down (though Harkan indicated that a period of many hours or days would be deleterious), but it casused problems with all computerised systems (i.e. scanners, LCD displays, datapads etc). Harkan and Snowward took their helmets off, since the interference made their targeting display so bad it was worse than having none at all.

    The panel was similar to that of the wind-stem door’s, but it was without power and even a cursory examination on an attempt to hot-wire it showed that the power line to it has been physically disconnected and removed. The squad had no alternative other than to blown it open or cut their way in.

    Norath had been carrying around demolitions charges, so he handed one off to Serpent. The squad backed off.

    There was a pause.

    There was a sort of vagueley fizzing popping sound.

    There was a pause.

    Norath, teeth audibly grinding, handed a second demolitions charge to Serpent...

    Beyond the door in another corridor, two meters wide and 2.5 metres tall, that runs, slightly anti-clockwise, following the curvature of the structure. It runs for about fifty metres, and abruptly terminates in a wall. Dust covers the floor.

    Serpent, first in, spotted that there were a number of doors along the walls. They appeared to be made of a metal faced with a thin surface lining which looked very similar to the walls. By each, there was a slight mark in the walls and small hole, which suggests there was once a panel next to them that has been removed.

    Snowward’s architectural skill determined that the wall at the end of the corridor was a later – though not recent addition.

    Soulwhisper, examining the doors with Harkan, found that they had been welded shut from the other side, even to the point that they had been melted into the wall. Harkan noted that behind the door is a solid surface of some kind, further plugging the gaps. But again, with awe-sinpiring deftness, the first door Harkan tapped sounded different, and he immeditately realised it had not been not properly sealed. The welding was not as thorough, and while it was sealed off with a wall, it was a metal one, not the artificial igneous rock-with-composites of the walls.

    It took Harkan half-an-hour to laboriously cut through the door and metal wall. The demolitions charges would not have helped, since while they would have taken out the door easily enough, the wall behind it was rather tougher.

    A corridor runs directly towards the core of the maybe-city. It is the same dimensions as the previous corridor, but widens out into a space two double that width, ending at a another double door. This one is not plain, but has an intricate pattern of swirls and whorls engraved into the surface.

    Dust lies thick on the floor. From the patterns of dirt on the walls and what might be power-fittings, the walls probably were not as bare as they are now, though what might have once adorned them is a mystery.

    Snowward compared the patterns to the sigils they’d seen earlier and there was no match, suggesting this was more loikely to be purely decorative. Harkan confirmed the doors were made of the same material as the previous doors.

    Soulwhisper walked up to the doors, prodded it with a finger, made a pretense of licking his finger and said “barred from the other side.” Harkan got his laser cutter out again...

    The room beyond the doorway is absolutely pitch black. You get the impression of considerable size, but you can see nothing, even with the enhanced imaging of your helmets. This sort of blackness would indicate that it is not merely darkness, but artificially induced. You suspect even without interference on the sensor portions of your LCD display, you would be struggling.

    The only feature aside from the wall of blackness that suggests there even IS a room to your sight are five circular pillars, arrayed equidistantly in a circular formation. They are made of a silvery metal. At the top of each there is a cap, slightly thicker than the shaft, from in which a strip of slightly yellow-tinged white light emanates. The light sharply illuminates the areas around and between the pillars, but outside the radius reflects nothing. You cannot even judge the size or distance of the pillars from an initial glance – they could be relatively close and mid-sized or larger and in the distance.

    Norath could see the magic perculating within the room, confirming his guess this must be magical in nature. Snowward got his illuminator out and shone it in from the doorway. It only lit up the first five metres or so, being cut to merely 5% of its strength. After a few moment’s debate, he ordered Ramus into the room on point.

    As Ramus entered the room, he felt a very slight cold prickle in the back of his skull, a sign he had come to recognise as some sort of fear magic or power, which cannot affect him as a Lich. It was not quite the same as the sort of fear effect – like that produced by his own fear aura – but something similar.

    However, the sound of him entering the room allowed his LCD system some audio feedback to work with, and it was able to roughly parse the dimension of the room – the chamber was roughly a flattened ovoid about two hundred metres long, a hundred and twenty metres wide, thirty metres high, with the pillars are more or less in the centre. By extrapolation, the pillars are about eight metres tall and two metres thick, spaced about eight metres apart.

    Ramus reported all this in a hush whisper. When Norath asked him why he was whispering, Ramus was mystified for a moment. But then he noticed a compulsion to speak and act quietly; he could override it with a little concentration. He wondered if it was some sort of filtered down effect from whatever the fear-aura effect was. Harkan suggested it might be explicitly to ensure that the sanctity of the room was kept. Ramus conceded it did feel like, in a more extreme form, the sort of feeling one sometimes gets when standing in a cathedral or other holy place (or even a library), to not speak to loudly.

    The squad marhced over to the pillars, only Serpent and Ramus fighting the urge to tiptoe. Norath commented that he would make all the damn noise he wanted.

    The five pillars were unadorned. There is a faint pattern of ridges in swirling raised lines in the floor between them, like some sort of fractal hypocycloid and epicycloid roulette curves9.

    Snowward, not wearing his helmet, noticed very faint lines of ultraviolet shades running along these lines. (Liches can see slightly further into the EM spectrum than living creatures. The helmets were actually working against the Liches in this instance, since they could not distinguish between the background EM and these emanations.)

    Harkan tapped one of the pillars. The lines flare with much stronger “colours,” visible to all of them. The colours ran in complex patterns for a couple of minutes before stopping. The squad spent a few minutes recording and trying to analyse the patterns. They found that, each time a pillar was touched, cycled through three patterns, with each pillar having its own three patterns. The pillars and their ridges were completely free of dust, unlike the rest of the floor.

    Snowward let out a shout for one reason or another. Withthe additional noice, Soulwhisper’s sharp eyes spotted a faint ripple in his acustic projectoion of the room and on investigation, discovered several doors. Eight side doors, four to each side of the longer walls, plus a main door at the other end of the room.

    The side chambers are roughly evenly spaced around the long curved walls. The doors are slightly larger than some of the other doors, being about a meter high by two-and-a-half tall. This time, there is no opening mechanism, but simply pushing on the door makes it yield slightly. It requires some force to push them open, and they offer a fair bit of resistance, but not enough to be problematic.

    Beyond is an ovoid chamber, perhaps nine metres wide, six metres deep and four metres tall. The magical darkness does not appear to pass the threshold, leaving only regular darkness. The chamber is, for the first time, not the smooth, plain surface, but faced with some form of dark blue stone, formed into liquid-like patterns.

    Around the room are several stone artifices. They are all about the same size and shape – roughly cylindrical, a little over a metre wide and slightly over two and a half metres tall – but are otherwise varied in detail and position, and are constructed of varying stone materials. Some stand in niches in the rear walls, and other upon plinths in the floor. One rather more elaborate-looking cylinder, covered in inlaid traceries of some form of blue gemstone, stands in a stone framework of curves and arches and whirls in a quite impressive feat of stonemasonry.
    Everything is covered in a thick layer of dust.

    Harkan and Snowward immediately noticed the room was unnaturally dry and very. Close examination of the cylinders showed that they all have a seam. The ones in the walls had seems running the vertical length of the cylinder, whereas most of the free-standing ones had a horizontal seam about three -quarters of the way up. Some of these seams appeared to be sealed with some sort of metal, whereas others did not.

    Norath and Snowward guessed these were some sort of sarcophagi. Despite the entire squad rying to scan the interior, the interferenc prevented anythign useful. Harkan did manage to determine that the stone used in construction – while varied – was mostly natural and unremarkable. He also roughly dated the cylinders to the earliest being sometime two-and-a-half thousand years ago, with none later than a few decades past two thousand.

    Norath decided they should open one of these sarcophagi. Opening the cylinders with vertical seams seemed easiest, as essentially the front of the “coffin” seemed like it ought to come off. Those with the horizontal seams – where the lid was more of a cap – would have proven more difficult, since the squad would be both lifting against gravity (and this in stone) but more pertinently just because of the physical height. So they picked one of the vertical pillars that had not been sealed.

    Within, you get your first true glimpse of one of this planet’s creatures. The body is heavily mummified, but enough to finally give you an idea.

    The first point of note is that this is definitely not a humanoid.

    The body is not-quite-spherical and about eighty centimetres in diameter. A dozen rib-like structures, evenly spaced around the body are clearly visible against the tight, thin skin, rising from the base towards the top. You can just about tell they do not quite meet at the top, where there appears to be some sort of soft-tissue structure (or the remains of one). There are what appear to be six much-withered stalks projecting out from around the structure, though they are too badly degraded to ascertain what function they may have had or even whether in life they projected upwards or lay in their current collapsed position.

    The body rests on the bottom of its spherical body a sort of pillar/base in the coffin, which is situated not quite a meter and a half from the bottom of the cylinder. The space below it is taken up by six appendages, which appear to have been boneless tentacles. They have clearly shrunk during the mummification process, but you can guess that they would have almost reached the floor of the cylinder, being about twice the length of the body in life. They are attached to the “ribs” part-way up at the 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 o’clock positions.

    There is a bulge in the sphere from the 5 o’clock to the 7 o’clock “rib,” a little above where the tentacle attach. It would be going too far to say it was a head, but the bulge has two sets of four dark disc-shaped flattened domes in a diamond pattern either side of the central “rib.” To a cursory glance, you are would ascribe them to be eyes or at least eyespots. Further, slightly smaller identical spots ring the base and top of the sphere, one each to and bottom between in rib. (The top maybe-eye of the diamond pattern replaces the smaller one on those two faces.)

    The skin is parchment-thin and torn in several places. It is a dark-grey-black, but you suspect that to be more a facet of decomposition. A line of nodules, which look uneven and are probably were some form of softer issue sac of some type, run down each of the “ribs” and all down the tentacles to within a few inches of the tip.

    After a cursort glance, Snowward – the zoologist of the party – said that the tentacles do not look like they would have served as a motive power and that the creatures most likely would have floated, almost certainly via magic or psionics. He said further information would be pending a dissection which would require a couple of hours. Norath considered, and decided that they had the time to spare (they were just coming up to trhe 24-hour mark) and this was important enough to do now.

    Snowward managed to drop the first body on the floor and smash it up. Norath skullpalmed, and they got him a second one...

    Two hours later, Snowward had made some sense of what he was looking at. The flesh mass at the top appeared to be both the mouth and part of the excretory system. The structure of the mouth was perhaps closer to that of a predatory tunicate (sea squirt) or a trunk than, say, a mammal jaw, being primarily muscle.

    There were a number of pores, slightly larger than would be expected for, say, sweat glands, across the surface and they seemed to be linked to the digestive system. This suggested that at least some of the waste products would have been essentially “sweated” out.

    The mouth was surrounded by six stalks and a series of what were essentially nostrils, connected to six lungs placed between the ribs (between the 1-4 and 8-11 o’clock ribs). The lungs would have, in life, pushed out the skin between the ribs like and inflated sac, rather than the by expansion of the “ribs.” The motive action for breathing appeared to come from muscular action and a framework of some sort of cartilage.

    The stalks appeared to most likely be some form of antennae or olfactory apparatus.

    The attachment point of the tentacles was very slightly upright, giving them a slight bow, rather than simply dangling. There was a modest amount of silica in the tentacles, concentrated on the underside and towards the tip, which on close analysis, came from a series of cells which appeared to have functioned somewhere between a stinging tricome (i.e. a stinging nettle sting) and a nematocyst (i.e. a jellyfish/comb jelly/ anemone cell).

    The “ribs” were made of the same substance as the “demon-brain” in the caves. They rose up out of a disc-like structure at the base of the creature. There was also a fleshy, muscular “foot” on the underside of this bony disk, though somewhat atrophied. It suggested these creature could move around very slowly on their “foot” but it seemed most likely the muscles were there to help it sit at rest.

    At the rear of the creature, between the two sets of lungs were a pair of complicated organs for which the use was not apparent. Snowward’s best guess, combined with the absence of any other obvious motive method and the comparative anatomy, was that these were something like magical flight organs, though they do not appear to be similar to any such organs on the Aotrs records.

    The creature had (perhaps unsurprisingly) a large brain-case, located at the front, behind the bulge, protected by a sturdy cartilage shield. The creature had a well-developed nervous system, far closer to a terrestrial vertebrate than a terrestrial invertebrate or cnidarian.

    The function of the nodules was unclear – they appeared to be some sort of sac-like structure in life. They were connected to the nervous system, but were not part of the digestive or circulatory system aside from the basic connections required to sustain the cells. There were traces of some sort of chemicals within the nodules, but they are too far gone to determine what they were.

    The colour of the creature was difficult to determine, but a lack of obvious pigmentation suggested it might have been colourless or perhaps even transparent. (It was also impossible to say what colour its blood may have been, the cells are too degraded.)

    Overall, the creature appears to come from a phylum that originally may have been some sort of sea anemome-like creature, though the level of adaption suggested that it is was as far removed from that instance as a mammal from the first vertebrates.

    Morphologically, it was clearly related to the “demon-brain” remains, though the differences were clearly on the level of Order (i.e. they were of the same class e.g. “mammal” but were as closely related as Primates are to Carnivores or Ungulates).

    Beta headed to the double door out of what Serpent termed the mausoleum. These doors though unpowered and requiring some significant effort, were reasonably easily be forced open.

    Beyond there is corridor, perhaps four metres wide and tall. To the right, only a few metres pat your doorway, the corridor starts to ramp upwards in an anti-clockwise spiral, whereas to the left, it is level.

    You can make out at least two more doors which look similar to this one in this stretch. The corridor is detailed, some sort of frieze on the walls and the stone-work appears to be decorative10. There is a faint light, visible only as an outline of the walls, coming from somewhere around the spiral to your right; to the left is only natural darkness.

    Again, thick dust coats the floor.

    Beta first went left, following the long sweeping corridor that ran most of the circumference of the maybe-city at this radius, running to getting on for two miles. The only exits were to more tombs and more mausoleums, though they were rather more widely spaced (and lacked the magical darkness and pillars of the first one). Harkan paused to occasionally date the sarcophagi by their materials, and the median age increased the further they went. At the very end, the corridor opened into a one final tomb, not significantly different from any of the others. Here, the oldest “coffins” here dated back around 4500 years.

    A long walk back, the the squad headed up right, past the first mausoleum and upwards at a shallow slope.

    The light comes from a stone structure in the corridor, perhaps twenty meters up the corridor. It is recessed into the wall, and looks almost like some sort of basin with an alcove above it. Statuettes of creatures that look like but not like the floating creatures flank either side of the “bowl.” Above it, an ornate arch frames a stone surface on which a series of sigils is engraved. The light itself is situated in the bottom of the bowl, and is set to carefully illuminate the structure, but not too much of the surrounding area, making it stand out almost as brightly as the pillars in the room before.

    Pausing only to take a few scans for later, the squad headed on. The corridor ran for about another four hundred metres before it came to another ornate set of double doors.

    The sides were lined with more tombs. These however, were progressively more modern (though none are younger than about 2000-1850 years). In the last hundred metre-stretch, there were notably less “coffins” in the tombs, and several were completely empty.

    The double doors were again ornate and similarly decorated to the pair that lead into the mausoleum, but this time, had no bars and were opened with a simple pull on two handles about half-way up.

    The room beyond is again quite large. It runs perhaps fifty metres ahead, and is about twenty metres wide. Either side of the central span are two wings about six metres wide and eighteen metres long. The roof is about four metres high in the latter half of the main span and at the wings, but above the near half, it towers up perhaps forty to a vaulted ceiling. You can make out some sort of decorations on the walls and floor, amid the dust.

    At the far end of the room is another pair of larger, ornate double doors – this time with some sort of window pane in it though beyond the glass – or equivalent – is nothing but darkness.

    As soon as Ramus entered the doorway, something triggered a number of lights.

    The entire back wall above your heads becomes illuminated by a series of blue-white lights, revealed a complex set of ornate designs and statuettes rising up towards the vaulted ceiling.

    More lights in the ceiling shine down to highlight designs in the floor, and along the walls, multicoloured displays of light dance around the decorations.

    Norath noted that this must be the “front” entrance to the burial chamber, whereas as, he quipped, they had come in through the tradesman’s entrance.

    The door opens into what appears to be some sort of arcade. A high vaulted ceiling perhaps twenty metres up sits over a dozen-metre wide corridor that stretches off to the left and right. Doors and large panes of windows of various sizes line three four-metre-high tiers of frontages. The upper two tiers are recessed back by about three meters to allow access by a walkway in front of them.

    You can see various objects or structures place at intervals down the middle of the corridor, and about fifty metres to your left is a ramp system that runs between the tiers.

    Your first impression is almost of some sort of shopping arcade, though the absence of signage somewhat diminishes that idea.

    The arcade reaches off in both directions, curving sharply out of sight on your right, and more gently to the left, running several hundred metres (with more ramps every two hundred metre or so) before it curves out of view.

    As soon as the squad exited the doors fully, once again the entire area lit up.

    The whole area suddenly becomes alive with lights and displays, many of them holographic. Complex sigils float around some of the frontages – so perhaps you were not that far out in your first impression. It is quite spectacular, but a bit eerily silent.

    Some of these displays were magical, Norath noted with his magical aura sight.

    On closer examination now, the entire area appears disused, and appears to be in worse shape than first appears. On close inspection, the frontages are damaged in some cases, the glass is broken. There is some evidence of scoring on some surfaces, but it is difficult to tell if any of the patches of direct are from decay or damage, an even a scan from Snowward could only identify it as organic residue of some kind.

    The contents of the “shops” suggested they are not, as such. A fair number were empty, others had a small complex of rooms and a great deal contained what appear to be purely ornamental decorations. Most of the contents appeared to have significantly degraded, however. Snowward estimated that the detritus was about two thousand years old.
    As the squad explored, they detected a “bubble” in the EM field in which it was absent, perhaps four hundred meters from to left.

    The squad headed in that direction. Norath caught a faint glimpse of something, a brief pale flash out of the corner of his eye, gone as soon as he looked around.

    “We’re being watched,” he warned.

    The “bubble” appears to be coming from inside a structure on the core-ward side of the corridor, on the second tier (about seventy metres from the nearest ramp). This building appears to take up both the second and third tiers and possibly extends below, though there is no access apparent from the bottom tier.

    There are fewer lights around this particular building at it appears more workman like. The entrance is a plain metal clam-shell double-door, the sort often seen as a blast door. The is some notably damage around the area, including a scorch mark on the door itself.

    A panel once sat by the right side, but it appears to have been ripped out and the internal circuits have been damaged by what looks like energy weapons fire.

    The only way in was with another demolitions charge or Harkan’s laser cutter. Norath opted for the latter, in the basis he thought they might want the charges later. Half an hour later, they were able to get in.

    Beyond the door is an antechamber about eight metres wide and four deep. There are some sort of cabinets along the left wall, and a single door in the far wall.

    Notably, there are about five piles of debris, each centred around a cage-like structure of a dozen “ribs”, the whole about eighty centimetres wide. Metal implements lie discarded around the room.

    As soon as they entered, light in the ceiling activated, but simply illuminating the room.

    The rear side of the door showed a few scratches and dings. Snowward matched those up to the discarded implements. It became clear that therse creatures had been deliberately sealed in this chamber and left to starve to death.

    The implements appeared to be tools of a sort. They are too badly degraded to be of any use, Harkan determined they appeared to be the sort used for general systems maintenance and of similar age to the other technology so far encountered. There were more in the cabinets.

    The “bubble” appeared to come from beyond the door. Snowward held back, taking more scans and bagging up more samples. And then he caught a flash of something at the corner of his vision too, from outside in the arcade.

    Now more concerned, Norath had Ramus orgainse the squad into a defensive posture, with Soulwhisper keeping watch on the arcade door while thye tracked down the buibble, onlt a few metres ahead now.

    The door opens into a short stretch of corridor about four metres long. On the left hand side hangs several metal hoops, each just over eighty centimetres wide, with some sort of hemispherical dome and two tanks attached to the back. Beneath each lies a pile of detritus and smaller hoops (perhaps only 3-4 inches wide).

    Another sturdy door sits at the end of this corridor, with a panel net to it, this time lit, with large single green light.

    The room beyond was short, only two by two metres, with an identical door at the other end. A green light shone above each door. There was a simple panel by each door with two buttons, one green one blue. Harkan and Snowward entered the room and Harkan tapped the green button. The door shiut and locked behind them, (causing the green lights to turn red).

    “Airlock, Snowward observed.

    After a moment when nothing happened, he tapped it again and it unlocked. Tapping the blue button produced a short harsh beep , so he hit the green and blue in sequence, and the air was extracted from the room, leaving a vaccuum. Harkan and Snowwatd were recent enough Liches they both started for a second befoe they realised they were both fine. From the perspective of the squad, it suddenly went very quiet (no windows in the airlock doors) – until Norath got a text message frpm Harkan on his scanner saying “airlock.”

    The doors opens into a cylindrical chamber, about ten metres across. It is dominated by a large shaft of machinery that emerges from the floor ten or so meters below and rises to the ceiling perhaps twenty more above it, merging into the back wall of the chamber behind it. A narrow (60cm) rail-less gantry runs six metres from the door to the machinery. The machinery is powered, as evidenced by the glowing lights on its surface, though many of them appear to be read, rather than green.

    The “bubble” appeared to comprise the extent of this chamber. Harkan and Snowwards scanner’s and gear functioned normally, enabling them to put their helmets back on and talk to each other. (The suits were able to repressurise enoguh for that purpose.)

    Harkan’s examination of the device determined this was some sort of power flow system regulator, though probably a minor one. The technology level was higher than that of the previous advanced technology, perhaps being up to almost FTL-flight levels.
    He also did a confirmation scan of the artifical stone wall’s composition and internal structure. Both analysis indicated that this portion was very old. The stone and some components of the machinery appeared to be as much as twenty thousand years old. The rest of the machinery components appeared to have been replaced since then, but none of them are younger than about two thousand years. The machinery had survived as well as it has because it was in a vacuum.

    Outside, Soulwhipser caught another glance of something ouf ot he corner of his eye. And this time, Harkan and Snowward’s scanners pinged. Harkan realised he could configure the scanners to look for that blip and did so.

    The squad reassembled in the arcade. Norath was keen to press on up into the city proper. But they had got no more than a couple of hundred metres before they got a blip. As they slowed to look around...

    There it was.


    It appears out of thin air with the speed of a light after the switch is thrown.

    Four tentacles dangle to half a metre about the floor as it floats; the other two are outstretched towards either side of the creature. The whole creature is transparent, the transparency of a jellyfish or comb jelly, a bluish-white. Down the segment ribs, and down the backs of the tentacles are tiny globes. Blue-green lights run down the line of these globes, from crown to tentacle tip, reminiscent of how a comb jelly’s cilia refract the light – those these are clearly bioluminescence of some type.

    It takes you a second or two to realise that it is not just luminescent in the light, but actually faintly glowing a very faint blue-white light. And that you cannot see any internal organs, through the transparency, but you can see through it...

    Snowward immediately started a scan.

    The creature floated there for a moment, regarding the squad as they regard it. Norath noted it radiated magic (keyed mostly strongly, but not entirely, towards Channelling (divine magic)).

    The creatures mouth opens and it speaks, the side segments bulging out from the ribs slightly. You do not understand what it says, but the tone sounds strident.

    The language sounded consistent with that of the recording in the wind-stem. Snowward tried play some of that back to it, which seemed to momentarilymake it pause – mperhaps in confusion or annoyance of sheer bafflement, but it re-iterated its speech, louder and with similar words but not quite the same, and raised its other tentacles. The lights running down its sides increased in frequency and intensity.

    Snowward completed his scan, showing that it was definitely neither Undead, nor alive. (Though had the liches though about it, they would have seen that it neithered breathed nor registered on their lifevision.) It appeared to be some sort of spirit – perhaps ascended, Snowward mused. It was also emitting a fair about of hard radiation (specifically top-end frequency extreme UV rays through soft X-rays to low-end frequency hard X-rays).

    It made one more loud, sharp declaration.

    Norath loudly stated that on behalf of the Army Of the Red Spear, it was to back down ot be killed. He turned to Ramus and told him “weapons free.”

    The creature, having not elicited the response it wanted, lost its little patience. It was at this point Norath learned that it had x-ray vision.

    As in, it fired x-rays out of its eyes.

    The luminescent sacs flashed, a pulse running up from the tip of its tentacles to the top of its head. As it passed the top of the upper ring of eyes, the eight larger eyes incandesced and emitted eight beams of searing white light.

    The beam sadly did little more the singe Norath (though it was nonregeneratable damage11).

    Ramus shot it with his lightning-enhanced coldbeam – this time whith great effect, paralysing some of the tentacles with the aftershock, while Norath drew Souldrinker and Serpent his shortsword, on the assumption that magical weapons would be necessary to kill it. Stab put another blast into it. Souldrinker passed harmlessly though it, and Norath found out that physical attacks – even magical ones – were not that effective against an insubstantial creature. Harkan – with a good stroke of fortune – actually put it down with his coldbeam support.

    The celebration was immediate cut short when Norath realised it has just dropped, just like an incorporeal Undead subject to too much regeneratable damage. It was down, but not out. Thinking quickly, he stepped up too it and discharged a Darkbolt spell directly into its not-quite-a-face. That, happily, seemed to kill it.

    And the the scanners started beeping. There were a lot of blips, very rapidly increasing in number, closing in on the squad. Ramus’s scanned tagged ninety the first time he checked. Beta Squad beat a hasty retreat towards the exit. Despite a few desultory zaps from their pursuers, Beta squad made it back out and a little more quickly than they climbed up, scuttled down the stairs. Fortunately, the ghost-jellies seemed content not to pursue them.

    But as they reached the bottom of the ledge, they heard a huge clunking sound from above. The maybe-city lifted off the column, sending a shower of dust and small particles raining down on them. Aside from the clunk of what was presumably a locking mechanism detaching, the maybe-city-ship’s departure was silent.

    Norath, however, seemed keen to make up for the lack of noise, loudly complaining about how after all that, it was a ghost ship. He ordered the Fallen Soul to shot at it – but as laregly expected, the coldbeams failed to do anything. Norath fumed, desparately wanting to put a torpedo into it and quite unable.

    The maybe-city rises slowly and then begins to ponderously float away further into the night side. They tracked it for a while and it seemed to be heading for another column, further into the night.

    Whe Norath recovered, they went back to clean up the loose ends. They made another pass of the ruined city on the plateau. Snowward found an odd-looking golden hoop, which appeared as it must have been worn as a decorative item by a creature that was neither the electromagnetic shadow nor the ghost-jelly. Serpent found what appeared to be printing press in the lee of one of the ruins, even with a pile of copper block, some of which even had characters stiull on them.

    Snowward also found a titantium box buried nin a pile of rubble. He had (to his great disgust) actually use his crowbar to pry it open., Inside he found a set of figuries made out of some sort of crude plastic. There were highly stylised and came in two sets of twelve, which Harkan suggested meant it was perhaps for some sort of chess-like game. The plastic was quite vulnerable to decomposition and had onyl survived as well as it had because it has been so tightly wedged into the titanium case.

    Snowward now started his final archelogical analysis.

    “Um... Has anyone seen my datapad?”

    Norath, eyeglow twtiching, sent the squad out to search.

    “No matter,” Snowward said, “that’s what I’ve got my scanner... for...” his hand flailed at the empty belt. “Oops.”

    Soulwhisper came back later, having found both of them where the dopey Lich had put them both down while extracting the titanium box and Snowward was actually able to start his analysis.

    Several hours and bagged find piles later, Snowward had identified that there were either several phases of occupation, or that the site was occupied for an extended period. His best estimate from this was that the earliest phase was something around four thousand years old, and the latest no more than two thousand. The later phase seemed to indicate a comparatively high tech level (as evidenced by the plastic). Evidence suggests that there was little to no obvious magic use. The tech-level at the end fells somewhere broadly around the terrestrial industrial revolution level, though as usual, this is subject to wide variation since not all cultures develop at the same rate. (Further, the presence of the higher tech level of the Late Information Age ghost-jellies would have had an effect.)

    The data downloaded by Harkan was able to be analysed at greater length back at Myst base, and it did appear that the some of ghost-jellies (though not spirits at the time) had been educating and helping the denizens of the city – though translating the visiaul records was proving to be rather harder.

    There were still a large number of mysteries. What had happened to the ghost-jellies to make them change – perhaps ascend – what happened to the creatures that lived in the city. It was pretty clear that the ghost-jellies also did not make the maybe-city, and that when it launched, it had been te fgirst time for millenia from what records could be deciphered.

    The only other clue was that the last entries in the downloaded data talked about the sun dimming, and rising fear.

    These mysteries would likely never see an answer, however. Norath’s final report indicated that there was nothing that he believed was worth pursuing for the Aotrs. The alien magic and technology – while certainly imposing – was not more advanced than anything the Aotrs had, nor had they found any particularly useful resources. Combined with the distance via Gate travel and the difficulty of EM at the Myst Gate, it was his recommendation that this “Andorliane” was not worth further exploration.

    Spoiler: Footnotes
    9I.e. a curve that is formed by a circle rolling in (hypocycloid) or on (episcycloid) another circle. Illustratively, like a spirograph picture.

    10The PCs didn’t examine the friezes, whcih was something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, the friezes showed other creatures ostensibly from the same phylum as the jeely-things and “demon-brains” – floating armoured shells that are basically akin to bats (i.e. no the dominant flyng creature but numerous). On the other, it save me having to bovine excrement around that fact that I haven’t detailed more of the major flora and fauna yet...!

    11I rolled 13 on the attack roll. Dammit.

    And there we have it! My frack, that was a lot of wordage... (Write up was 45k words...!) Don't think I'll do that again in a hurry! (But at least Cyril's player has a write-up to read, having missed this session!)

    If it seemed a little rushed at the end there (there weren't a thorugh at exaimining everything), that was because we wanted to get finished, since there wasn't really enough for a thrid installment, and we must have played the better part of seven hours!

    Norath's player in particular I think will have to get used to the fact RM spells and very definitely not D&D spells...!

    The most important thing though, was that they all enjoyed themselves a grand time was had by all. I would like to say I've never seen such collective dice incompetance... But I actually frequently have...

    I hope this has at least provided some entertainment and a terrifying glimpse into the thing that is Bleakbane's Quest Writing.

    And, if nothing else, as McNum said, you have at least learned how to pronounce "Aotrs...!"
    Last edited by Aotrs Commander; 2016-01-04 at 06:13 PM.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Ogre in the Playground

    Join Date
    Feb 2012

    Default Re: The Myst Project: Aotrs Myst Exploratory Team Mission 001

    Quote Originally Posted by Aotrs Commander View Post
    And, if nothing else, as McNum said, you have at least learned how to pronounce "Aotrs...!"
    And knowing is half the battle! The other half is getting invaded by space-liches.

    I do approve of making a monster based on deep-sea critters. Some of those are freaky, so if you want a suitably alien, but plausible design for a decidedly not humanoid alien species, those are a good place to start. There are some really weird and awesome animals down there. And a ninja shark.

  14. - Top - End - #14
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    Jan 2007
    Derby, UK

    Default Re: The Myst Project: Aotrs Myst Exploratory Team Mission 001

    Quote Originally Posted by McNum View Post
    And knowing is half the battle! The other half is getting invaded by space-liches.

    I do approve of making a monster based on deep-sea critters. Some of those are freaky, so if you want a suitably alien, but plausible design for a decidedly not humanoid alien species, those are a good place to start. There are some really weird and awesome animals down there. And a ninja shark.
    Oddly enough this entire quest came from two trips to Blackpool this year. A random water tower served as the inspiration for the maybe-city the first trip. I was mulling over what the creatures should look like, and was half thnking squid-fish-sort of things, but wasn't happy with that. The second trip we did a few months laster, specifically for the Blackpool Illuminations, and one of the road decorations was a sort of glowing hanging pyramid-sort of thing. That made me think of comb-jellies, which in term gave us the "ghost-jellies" and the whole illumination thing in the city itself. Until that point, I had plotted out pretty much to the point with the column, but no further and was still debating about what to do inside the city. With that last idea, it all fell into place.

    Also: shiny! Ninja shark! You just can't make this stuff up!
    Last edited by Aotrs Commander; 2015-12-31 at 01:46 PM.

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