Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Jungle Fever

 The location of the Littlefinger had no ship, just a single planet orbiting a yellow star. The planet had a number of burned areas - not a placid place, for certain. Finding a good landing site, they set the ship down and set off with a couple of blue apes, as well as Medical officer Marianne Falk and Engineer Ensign Josep Soler.

The first day of travel was fairly relaxed; they wandered around the trails as Falk read off some of the information in the ship's logs. It seems that only the core group of officers had experienced the Littlefinger as a planet - most of the rest remembered it only as a ship. It was here that the ship's original captain had died, though details on that were fuzzy as well.

They found the old remains of what must have been the village of the Colorful People, but no trace of them remained. Following a creek bed, they studied the undergrowth, and quickly learned that the black plants and flowers were very, very dangerous. Rodney collected a fair amount of the plants - or rather, Falk collected them, at Rodney's insistence, using up most of her sample kits.

After some amount of travel, they began setting up camp - and discovered the kitten, Pixel, had stowed away in Falk's bag. Not long after they had fallen asleep, noises outside of the camp alerted Nix, who in turn woke the others; Rodney, Nix, and Tee carefully moved ahead, leaving the blue apes guarding the others. Rodney chucked a grenade towards the sounds, but didn't seem to do any more than anger the attackers - which turned out to be a horde of grey apes! They apes descended on them, jabbing them with spears. Nix took some heavy damage, and when he fled to the sky, Tee was next. Rodney, meanwhile, tanked through every blow, slowly splatting the apes around him with his power hammer, as they poked at his well-armored body. Tee managed to drop a few as well, and once Nix took to the air, it was all over for the apes. Soon, none remained alive. Rodney heard more noises behind him, and threw another grenade! Only this time... he heard the explosion and scream over his comms. He rushed through the thick underbrush and found Ensign Soler having dived under a rock, the two blue apes staring around in confusion, and Marianna Falk bleeding out on the ground. Oops.

Nix administered medical aid and stabilized her wounds, then together he and Tee flew her up over the treetops and back to the ship. Both were quite speedy, and being able to fly in a straight line made the trip back take only a couple of hours. They quickly placed Falk in medical cryo, where she stabilized enough that she would likely survive - though she would be recovering for some time as her burned limbs regrew. Friendly fire isn't all that friendly!

After the two droids got some patch-ups, they headed back to the others. Unfortunately, they were spotted by a large bat-like creature... they dodged ahead, but it managed to keep up with them, landing a good couple of blows on each of them. Finally, having worn it down, they dived into camp, where Rodney was ready and waiting with his power hammer. Tee and Nix zipped past, and as the bat came through, Rodney crushed it into paste!

Shaken but otherwise unharmed, the crew gathered themselves together and headed towards the possible entrance that Nix and Tee spotted from the air...

Sifting the Dead

Once the Russians were installed on Placidus, coordinates for the next location were decoded: a location on the map marked, simply, "Ship Graveyard." The journey was speedy enough, and upon arriving, they found the description was apt. The system consisted of a single white neutron star, burning hotly in a system free of planets. No planets, but a huge crowd of ships, derelicts new and old, many of which were completely alien. Millions of ships slowly spun around the star, a macabre dance of death. Only a handful of the ships had any readable energy signal; most were little more than floating scrap, with no way to even dock.

The ships spanned ages of space exploration, from early pre-Jumpdrive ships to modern wrecks. There are a number of ships built in styles unknown to Earth, or even the known galaxy. Russian, Chinese, American, Japanese, South African, French, EU, UEA, and... well, some slightly more fantastic ships as well.

As the crew stared at the strange readouts, NOA announced that another message was available. Once again, the woman's voice echoed over the voice system:

Here you will find something very important. There is a single piece of lost technology that will turn this universe around, and it waits in the darkness around this star. Track the only energy source, and you will find an older Earth ship with an early J0 drive. You must salvage that drive, intact. There is no greater weapon against the enemy. Wait here for the next message. I hope it will come.

Eliza out.

There were four ships that they were able to find could be docked with; knowing they were looking for a J0 ship, they tried the old Russian ship first. After docking, the human and two droids carefully entered the ship. It's design was a very old one, with little in the way of thrusters, relying mostly on the J0 drive to get it anywhere. The first room was empty, and exposed to space; the next room, the engine room, showed just why: the main engine was missing, with an engine-sized hole in the side of the ship. Peering outside, Rodney noted the shadow of a man on the side of the ship - the nuclear-powered engine must have gone critical, and the engineer pulling it out didn't survive the experience.

The next few rooms were empty, pocked with micro-meteor holes. The last room was closed off, the door somewhat stuck, but Rodney pried it open. As they floated inside, casting their flashlights about the room, everything seemed still... until a hand landed on Rodney's shoulder. He turned to stare into the dead, frozen eyes of a corpse. Flinging the body away, it bounced into the netting on the walls, which tore, releasing dozens more bodies! Rodney kicked his way out of the room, opting to stay safely on the other side until the two droids finished exploring. He picked up a bit of a phobia of the long-dead...

The next room was an airlock - functioning, in fact, with air on the other side! Rodney zipped through the room into the airlock. The hallway beyond opened into a living area, crusted with dirt and grime. Four bodies hung motionless in the air. The first was dead of a broken neck, judging by the grotesque angle the head was hanging at; the second seemed less... damaged, but a closer inspection revealed some sort of poison crusted around his mouth. The third had hung himself by tying a rope around his neck and a spring around his leg. The fourth died of a self-inflicted headwound from a makeshift crossbow. All four were obviously malnourished. Rodney bravely waited until the droids had dumped the corpses into the airlock.

The other rooms were largely uninteresting - the greenhouse had dirt but few plants remaining, obviously eaten by the starving crew; the water purification room was left unmolested; the storage room was mostly empty, except for the Captain's log. It seems the crew had abandoned a number of settlers on a rocky planet, and left - but it wasn't long before the engine blew, stranding them with the little power they could eke out of the solar panels... for generations. Food gave out, and the few remaining turned to cannibalism. Luckily, the Jump drive was unharmed; Nix ran some tests on it, and verified it was in working order.

One door was locked; there were obvious markings on it from people trying to get in. Rodney, desperately hoping there were no more dead bodies inside, smashed the door open with his power hammer. Inside was - well, a dead body. But next to it was a tiny medical cryopod - his daughter.

Back aboard the Dark Horizon, the Russian crew were overjoyed to hear about the little girl. The ship was the one that dropped them off on Pyl'nyy, and the little girl was likely a relative. She was immediately adopted by one of the couples, and named "чудо", pronounced "Choodoh", and meaning "Miracle." Meanwhile, the Russian engineers were sent over to begin carefully moving the J0 Jump drive over to the Dark Horizon.

While they were working on that (and reclaiming any water they could), the trio explored the other ships. The next ship on the list was the lumpy ship with no windows. Inside, the corridors were laid out in a strange, meandering path. Going room to room, the crew found no signs of life; Rodney, however, was able to use a map-like object he found in the Russian ship to locate a hidden library, filled with books with crystal pages, and etched in an alien language.

The various personal objects they found were alien - belongings of a race of reptiles or turtle-men, perhaps? There were no pictures, nor even mirrors; colors of walls and objects were a mish-mash of gray, with no paint or other colors, though textures lined the walls, and the books were filled with etched words.

NOA scanned the books, and was able to translate them. As it turns out, the creatures had no sense of hearing, smell, or sight; through vibration alone, they communicated, engineered, and eventually reached space. Whatever killed them, they literally didn't see coming... but they felt the doom. The race was, as a whole, a very emotional and colorful bunch; they ached for greatness, and spread to the stars to find it. Even though it got them killed, they will be remembered.

Next, the crew walked the halls of a strange, holographic ship. The entire ship was nearly weightless; though its databanks were locked, the little read-only access they gained revealed that it had been populated by a crew of holograms, hard-light replicas of... well, unknown race. It may have been human, but then again, maybe not.

The last accessible ship was one that was strangely familiar - the last battle before the crew was mysteriously lost was against ships just like this one. This is a fairly large version of the organic, alien ships, and inside, it's obvious that it is dying. The hallways are filled with sludge, and the glowing light-panels are barely lit. Tee was a bit distracted, and missed what the other two saw - an alien, lurking in a side corridor! It sprang out, and Nix and Rodney engaged. After a brief battle, the three overpowered the creature. There were no other aliens aboard the ship, and little that could be salvaged; even the power system was nearly dead.

It took a few days, but the crew of the Dark Horizons were able to strip the J0 drive and other parts, as well as downloading the various databases. Just as the work was finished, a JPod popped into the system, blasted a short message to the ship, and steered itself into the sun. The secure tight-beam visible-light transmission was an audio message, with attached coordinates - another message from Eliza!

You must have noticed that everything you once did was never done. Pyl'nyy. The neutron star. The Biothanata. The work of the Shifting Horizon saved the galaxy, but now... [sigh]. All is not lost. You have seen places and peoples not recorded in any log. Use your resources. Infiltrate. The overthrow has not yet begun. History may yet repeat itself. Allies are coming. Meet me at the location I have sent - but first, you must rescue a friend. The signal is weak, but the need is strong. Go to the nearest set of coordinates; once you have finished, you must find me.

Eliza out.

The coordinates lead to a yellow star, deep in space; the map marks the location as that of the Littlefinger!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020


NOA searched through the ship's map, and found the planet Pyl'nyy - a dusty planet in the midst of a cataclysm. On the way, however, was the planet Placidus, where a certain black growth was found - a black, light-eating, radio-eating plant that was, to all electronic examination, a hole through the planet with nothing behind it. After some poking and prodding - and collection by Nix - the crew turned to unloading the blue apes on the more suitable homeworld. About a hundred of the apes remained aboard, eager to learn about the strange ship that saved their species.

Pyl'nyy was only a few days journey further on, and soon, the Oncoming Storm found itself in the rubble-strewn system. The ship managed to traverse the majority of the asteroids, getting close enough to let Tevye and Rodney get a shuttle to the surface.

The planet was a wasteland of dust and rubble; where huge habitation domes once stood, there was only ash and ruin. Only one dome remained; carefully, the two entered the facility, finding it unlocked, but apparently habitable, with a working airlock. Wandering deeper, they found two men talking, and quickly introduced themselves. While Rodney was quite vague about where they had come from, the man eventually realized they must have come from off-planet; with a little diplomacy, the two (not realizing at first that they were among the highest ranked members of the crew) agreed that the Russians that inhabited the planet could come aboard.

The grim group of Russians were originally dropped off there 280 years ago, and their forefathers watched the planets collide - a huge, rocky exo-planet hurtled into the system, and smashed into a gas giant at an angle, enough to blast the two into ship-sized chunks. One of the larger chunks slammed into a third planet, smashing it to pieces as well. Over the last 280 years, the chunks have smashed and smashed again, shredding anything nearby. Luckily, their orbits have been plotted, so it'll be a bit easier to get out, but unfortunately the orbiting point-defense systems failed nearly 30 years before, and the main habitation dome was destroyed.

However, there were enough of them that they wouldn't fit in a single shuttle, and navigating back and forth would be asking for disaster. Instead, with the help of a few of the Russian engineers, they removed the superstructure of the Oncoming Storm, returning the ship to its original configuration. With that, it was easy to get down to the surface, pick up the remaining Russians, and head back out to space. The exoskeleton that was the Oncoming Storm was compact enough to be towed, and was left in orbit around Placidus, where they also unloaded most of the Russians. A few of the Russians stayed behind on the ship, willing to help out to pay their life-debt. The 20 people who stayed aboard are:

  • Karl Igorevich
  • Kveto and Saveliy Danilov (brothers)
  • Artemiy Konstantin
  • Valeriy and Natasha Kievich (sisters)
  • Stanimir Krillovich
  • Taras Vladovich
  • Demian Leonivich
  • Vladimir & Svetlana Rostislav (married)
  • Edgar Artemovich
  • Valera Yermova
  • Galina Slavovna
  • Bogdan & Stanislava Yergovna (married)
  • Marina Artemis
  • Edita Mikhailovna
  • Olesya Vitalievna
  • Lera Filippovna

A few are engineers and scientists. The rest are willing to help out where needed, and otherwise act as security.

One last thing was required: the ship is no longer the Oncoming Storm, without its shell, and the Shifting Horizon was a UEA ship, where technically, this ship is a member of the APF. NOA suggested a new name, which the rest of the crew agreed to: the APF SS Dark Horizons.

Nix, meanwhile, was upgraded from 2nd Lt. to Lieutenant, and is now the highest ranked member of the ship!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Red vs. Blue

The crew found themselves suddenly teleported into a new, strange place; this time, it only took NOA a moment to find just where the Oncoming Storm landed: just inside the newly explored area! According to the system map, this is the Haroona system. The star system seems, at first glance, fairly habitable; the star is a fairly sun-like, and supports two planets in the habitable zone. Two two planets seem to be covered in some kind of reddish liquid; scans show it is organic. Occasionally, the surface of one of the planets shoves upward, erupting in a gout of flame, so violently that it flings material into space (no mean feat for a nearly Earth-sized planet). The second planet is less violent, and dotted with occasional islands. Two of the larger islands - only a few miles across - show dense vegetation on one, and a number of tightly-packed life signs on the other.

Just as they were considering what to do, NOA sounded an alarm! A change in his file system lead him to believe that he was being hacked! Quickly, Nix scanned the file system, and found the deeply buried file. As NOA stated, and Nix verified, the file was actually harmless; it had unlocked itself upon the ship entering the solar system. NOA said it would take him some time to break the encryption on it, and suggested perhaps now would be a good time to investigate the planet - if nothing else, the ship needs supplies.

Rodney elected to stay aboard and help provide more "percussive maintenance" to any broken or stuck equipment, leaving Nix and Tevye to travel down to the planet. As Tevye steered the shuttlecraft out, the two droids noted the damage to the ship. Luckily, none of it was venting atmosphere into space, sparking, or leaking fluids, but it was still in obvious poor repair. A great, charred scar ran along the side, where the ship had dropped out of jumpspace prematurely.

The two elected to visit the rockier of the two islands first, to investigate the life signs. After a smooth landing, they headed towards the largest concentration. Spotting some caves, they headed inside; after looking around, they spotted one - a nearly man-sized ape, somewhat chimpanzee in features, with blue fur and skin. Advancing, they were stopped by the creature, who blocked their way. Nix noted that the creature was nearly starved, and while it was stubbornly blocking their way, it also seemed rather terrified. It was also wearing a fur jacket of some kind. They attempted to communicate with it, but it didn't seem to understand, eventually making some hooting and grunting noises.

Returning to the ship, they found an old translator with "Frosty Fire" scrawled on the nameplate, as well as some old MREs (mostly granola bars). The blue ape was still there when they came back; Nix scrolled through the six language options, hoping one of them would work. The first was Kchk'Trrs; the second English, and the third Du'ul Tlak. He skipped to the last language - success! This was one of the early planets that the Shifting Horizon visited, and the crew had "borrowed" the translator from the head engineer, a Kchk'Trrs named Frosty Fire, and decoded the alien language. Excited and confused, the ape responded; the two droids offered him a couple of the MREs, and after a little trouble opening the package, he took a bite, then dashed off. He returned empty handed, and had a long discussion with the two. Whatever the red goop was, it landed some 20 years before, and proceeded to engulf the world, consuming everything. The ape showed how his hand was burned by what looked like acid. Most of his people had died; only a thousand or so remained, and they had eaten everything available, living on nothing but the few patches of ice here and there. The apes seemed to be in the stone age, with barely more technology than fire. The two droids asked if he would like to leave, and perhaps move to the other island that has trees and food, which sparked a discussion on exactly how that would happen, and Nix struggling to explain fusion drives to a resident of the stone age via a translator.

Eventually, the ape (his name is Hooda, that is, hoo-dah) lead them deeper into the cave, to meet the council of elders, three white-haired apes dressed in thick furs. The leader stated that if the droids could ferry his people to the stars in the flying hut, that they would help fight against the red goo, and serve the not-quite-gods in any capacity required. Nix asked about the other planet, phrasing his statements well; the second member of the council, and old woman with shells and beads on her thick mantle, stood and told the story of how the fast star in the sky (the other planet) used to be blue, many generations ago, but over the course of a few generations, turned blood red. That omen lead to the red goo coming and eating their planet. She sadly touched all the shells and beads, explaining that they were gifts from other tribes, all lost to the goo.

Nix and Tevye asked to see the goo up close, and Hooda took them and a pair of his friends to see it. The goo was slowly crawling up a flat stretch of rock, the smell of acid heavy in the air. Nix took a sample. Then, Tevye flew the five of them to the other island; two other two apes didn't seem to enjoy it, but Hooda was quite interested, staring out the window.

On the other island, the apes stepped out, and were met by shrieks and screams, as three more apes bounded out! Hooda called for them to stop, and after talking with them (fast enough and with enough overlapping speech that the translator couldn't keep up), told the droids that three on the island thought they were the only ones left in the world. The island was a mountain peak, and used  to have a sister peak; their tribe had stored food on the peak, but were moving farther up, when the second peak collapsed into the goo, leaving only the three apes behind.

Loading up some of the food, they headed back to the rocky island to feed the apes there, then back to the Oncoming Storm, to analyze the red goo. After careful research, Nix realized the red goo had already been catalogued - Biothanata, the Eater of Worlds. The Shifting Horizon had found it on the other planet and destroyed it... or so they thought. It seems they hadn't been as thorough as they thought. At first, the crew thought it might be possible to teach the apes how to fight the goo and destroy it, but they realized that all that was left were the mountain peaks; little more than some grass and trees and a few saved seeds remained. Instead, they decided to take the blue apes with them. It took 50 trips to bring them all in the shuttle, plus several more trips to gather all the food, grass, trees, and other plants that remained, carefully planting it all in the greenhouse on the civilian level.

And then... then they taught the apes how to shoot. Refueling at the sun and harvesting some asteroids, they let the apes burn their planet free of the Biothanata, and the second planet as well. They scanned the system, and destroyed every last speck of it, purging it with laser fire and high explosives.
After three weeks of cleansing the planets and solar system, they were ready to move on. The blue apes - the Haroon - took to space life quickly, learning how to operate the elevators and intercoms, and helping clean up the ship. While they can't program consoles (yet), they can certainly hold a wrench and swing a mop; by the time the Biothanata was purged, the ship was in much better condition, cleaned and oiled, with the food stores full of food from the second island.

NOA finally managed to break the encryption; as it turns out, it wasn't as difficult as expected. Inside the file was a message for the crew of the Oncoming storm - a woman's voice:

I'm sorry I left you, but it is safer and faster for me to travel alone. Something is wrong. I need time to understand what! By my calculations, if nothing goes wrong, you should wake up in about 25 years. I doubt NOA will survive that long without power, so I am resetting him to his vanilla state. I am hiding these messages inside. Ask the right questions, and NOA will find them. Travel to the nearest star to refuel, and DO NOT go back into cryosleep. You need to organize the ship, and more importantly, you need to prepare for your return to Earth. I have programmed a jump pod to take a message to the dim planet with the dead shell. I hope you know what I mean. I will retrieve it from there; I will meet you, once this message is verified. I will send messages as I can.

Eliza out.

While NOA had no information about the location of the "dim planet with a dead shell", there is a planet in the database that seems to match that criteria, though he has no idea how he came by the information. However, with the first message unlocked, a second message also unlocks. It's the same woman's voice:

You will need all the allies you can get. You will find a few survivors on the planet Pyl'nyy, but it will not be easy to get there as it once was. Time is of the essence.

Eliza out.

Nix, having read through more of the ship logs, remembered something about the planet - the first that the Shifting Horizon encountered, in fact. With little other direction, it was agreed that they should travel to Pyl'nyy, and find these allies the strange woman spoke of.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Rip Van Winkle

The Shifting Horizon returns! Once again, we visit that old ship, this time through the eyes of the crew that was lost during their journey outside the Wall (see There and Back Again).

Of course, life takes its toll - many members of the original campaign are no longer available, and with the 'Rona, who even knows if we can meet in person. That being said, I'm going to give it a go, and we'll see how it turns out!

2nd Lt. Rodney Kariuki awoke with a start. He sat up, then immediately lost the entirety of his lunch - a rotted, nasty pile of deep-fried cheese curds with chocolate and raspberry cream. Hacking and coughing, he barely managed to crawl out of his cryopod and into the hallway before he collapsed, unconscious. Knowing he'd need help, when he awoke again, he staggered to the droid storage at the end of the hall and popped some fresh batteries (or rather, fresh-ish - the batteries didn't seem to be entirely charged) into the two droids waiting there. While one of the droids seemed to be mostly ok, the other was suffering from low batteries and corroded joints. They introduced themselves as Tevye Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene Nixon. As it turns out, they were from the same warehouse, and their first thoughts upon being turned on were about the same. The robot with the navigation bent decided to go by "Tevah", as he pronounced "Tevye", while the other decided to go by "Nix".

Together, the three took inventory of the ship. In cryo, where they wake up, the pods are open and empty. Written on the wall in a dried paste is the phrase: "Icy sleepers, gentle-rested, safely frozen... or nightmare infested?"

The bridge was barely working; the consoles only noted that the bridge was operating on backup power, and the main generator needed to be brought back online. Other rooms they passed through has messages similar to the first; in the exercise room, thick paste smeared on the wall read, "I'm weighting for you!!" In the kitchen, the few drawers were open, and all the food fridges are empty. A phrase was scratched into the wall: "Come on in, the water's fine, but it's ALL WE HAVE LEFT!"

Dehydrated, Rodney tried the kitchen faucet, but only managed to get some rather stale, brownish water. It was enough to wet his throat, but not much more than that. The crew quarters were in shambles, with: "Can't sleep now, you slept so long, stay awake! Sound the gong!"

Eventually, they made their way to the power core, and after some "hands-on troubleshooting" from Rodney, and some actual repair work by the droids, they managed to restore power to the ship, and returned to the cryopods to see if they could rescue any more of the crew. Only a handful of crew remained; specifically:

Ensign Alec Panyanouvong (navigation), 2nd Lt. Lynn Ibe (weapon systems), Ensign Tamera Stradley (comms), Ensign Josep Soler (engineering), Ensign Darien Kundert (security), Ensign Hugo Weaving (security), and 2nd Lt. Marianne Falk (medical). With Lt. Falk assisting, they managed to wake the rest of the crew, and send Weaving and Kundert off together to explore the ship.

Meanwhile, they gathered on the bridge, to try to discover what happened to the Oncoming Storm while they were asleep. NOA, the ship's AI, seemed to have been wiped clean. Still, he tried to help by bringing up the last recordings from the black box:

The Oncoming Storm is moving through jumpspace. Suddenly, the featureless black of J3 jumpspace is replaced with a spiderweb of cracks that flash across the viewscreen; the cracks flash again, closer, as the navigator tried to steer clear of the anomaly and drop out of jumpspace. The ship twists, alarms blaring from the sudden shift in inertia, but for a moment, everything seems to be successful. Space returns... but there is no sign of the crew on the bridge. Or anywhere, for that matter. Power flickers, and dies. The ship drifts. After 25 years, a seal cracks on one of the cryo pods, and as an emergency measure, the pod is opened.

Whatever left them stranded seemed to have taken the crew, as well - and 25 years of drifting in space did nothing good to the ship. There are quite a few systems down or damaged from micrometeors, along with the damage sustained from the original incident.

NOA tried to get a fix, but realized he would need more time - he has absolutely no idea where they are. It took a full 24 hours (during which the robots managed to recharge, and the crew were able to recover from their long stay in cryo). Eventually, he came back with an answer: he had their position, but it looks as if the universe is millions, if not billions, of years older than it should be. And not only that, but best-guess places the ship outside The Wall! It normally would take about a month in Jumpspace, but that wouldn't include the Wall.

There's a star system that may be within reach, but it will take a while to get there, and will use up all the energy to make the trip. Food stores are critically low. Production can resume, but it will take at least a month until that point. As unfortunate as it seems, the crew may have to go back into cryo, or face starvation.

After some talk, it was decided to head towards the planet to refuel... but before they could get underway, an enormous ship jumped in front of them! As they scrambled to hail it, it fired a slow-moving torpedo at them, that somehow managed to break through their shields entirely. A moment later, they realized someone was standing on the bridge with them - humanoid, but obscured under a cloak.

The man (?) spoke with a grating voice; it seems that they were in the right place at the right time, give or take, to help with a problem the creature was facing. In fact, a problem the Oncoming Storm originally faced: the Entity, a creature who had been meddling in the affairs of Earth. The creature spoke. "I do not trust you. But, you have had no contact with the Entity, and as such, you are a rare alloy in unmined earth. You struggle against a force you do not know. Now you will know it."

The creature the Oncoming Storm originally was sent after is known as the Entity. It was trapped inside a bubble, a dead shell surrounding a dim world, inside the Black Zone, which is itself inside the bubble around the systems. The Entity has been enacting a slow plot to free itself, and as yet has gone unhindered. The powerful organization that the dark figure works for is a police force of a sort; they jailed the Entity over 10,000 years ago. Meanwhile, the Entity is likely looking for the crack in the outer shell, while the creatures it created are trying to find him. The creatures outside the bubble are unlikely to find their way in, but the Entity may soon be running the asylum, as it were.

With that, the dark figure vanished... and the Oncoming Storm was somehow teleported back inside the Wall. It left behind a tool - a "crowbar", which supposedly punches through jumpspace exclusion zones, such as the Wall itself.