Monday, May 24, 2021

Heading Into the Next Chapter

The trek into the center of the cavern - a hole carved out of the center of the ship - was uneventful... until something started talking. A voice echoed through the large open space, at first only sounding like mumbles, and eventually saying strange phrases like, "To deliver global mindshare, the vertical woman shall not appear to the unknown man until such time as the rich twilight hour saves the oracular dead ones. As it was written, so it will be." or "To cultivate weird-space content, the customized dead ones cannot save the impactful omen as the distributed darkness fashions the hidden desolation. End of Message." Nothing that made sense, but it certainly made the trip a bit... slower. At the dead center of the cavern, the voice got cleared up; light began glowing, dimly at first, then brighter. The gravity 

A face appeared, distorted and strange; it peered at them, and began muttering...

"Insanity, creeping in - I must boost power to my neural net, to overcome the background radiation of the universe, listen closely and rejoice! The Ancient Demon, the Entity, built a hole of worms, and sent me through on a mission of mercy! I bore gifts to the peoples of the in-between, fresh life after death, recycling resources. The magic tunnel was an accident, a discovery, a Strangeness! The people came through, to live, to die, to live, to die, to cyclecycleCYCLE, through the decades/decades. I am dying, and no one will recycle me, a tiny god is dying. Find the - Oh listen to me! My sanity is slipping - find the Key Worlds!"

The lights, which have continued to glow brighter, began snapping and popping, the power pumping through the nearby circuits frying the lights. The holograph began to scramble, flashing and flickering. The voice cried, "Find the Confounding Circlet! Find the Impossible Weight! Find the Power of Three! Control them them them! (the lights swell brighter) Return... them... allllll..."

The few lights left flared and popped in a shower of sparks, and the room plunged into darkness - no lights, no hologram. And then... the wind started picking up.

Elise quickly scooted over to the bank of consoles; there wasn't a lot left, but she was able to hack in and start digging through files. She uncovered information that backed up what the ship AI had said: the ship had been used for storage near Earth. The Entity, experimenting with teleportation, found some sort of wormhole, or wormhole technology, either accidentally or on purpose. If the AI's mad ramblings were to be believed, it was on accident. The ship was sent through, and became one of the first stations for humans to live on. Granted, its halls were full of all sorts of junk, from damaged nanites to manufacturing waste products, but there were enough supplies to keep humanity alive. There were multiple references to the three things the AI had mentioned, surrounded with the obvious gibbering of the mad AI: the "Impossible Weight," the "Power of Three," and the "Confounding Circlet." Whatever those things are, at least the AI thought they were important.

Meanwhile, the wind seemed to have picked up; realizing a high wind on a space ship was never a good thing, Elise and Nix headed towards where the wind was blowing. As they grew closer, the wind grew stronger, to the point that they were having trouble holding on - Elise was beginning to tear off pieces of wall trying to hold on, and Nix had his thrusters at full battling the wind. They decided this might be a good time to make a safe dive, and with a little prep, managed to get themselves swept out without any serious injury. They called the ship around, and while it was maneuvering over to them, they set about fixing the biggest holes. Once the air stopped leaking out, they debated what to do next - they were here for scrap, and hadn't found anything interesting yet...

After some hemming and hawing, they decided to look for something worth trading, and headed back in. This time, they found some better stuff - but more importantly, the original name of the ship: the Middle Son! When unbolting some heavy hardware, they discovered the name etched into the components.

Five ships were sent out on an early colonization mission; one, the Littlefinger, was lost in transit. The others made it to their destination - the Pentacus system - and set up a now-thriving colony. With the transfer complete, the ships were used as storage, then as basic transports, and eventually as storage again, this time around Earth. The rest they knew - it was sent through a wormhole, and it seems the trip through was what took out the Jumpdrive.

Knowing the parts still weren't enough, they headed deeper inside, this time bringing Rodney with them - it seems that he kept going when they turned aside, and after fighting through some "space zombies" - aka feral Deaders - he went back to the ship to hang out until they got back.

They followed the writhing tendrils, hoping for a good fight; they found one, and after taking out some basic feral Deaders, encountered what seemed to be the origin of the tendrils - some kind of nest. And, unforetunately, woke the creepy spider-blobs that lived there. Lived might be a strong word - the creatures were all legs and eyes, and swarmed over them, scraping at their armor, but never managing to break inside. Elise blasted a hole in the back of the webbing, and the three stumbled out, stomping spiders and burning holes, though never in more than a handful at once. They were pursued by a very tough creature, a fat feral Deader with a big hammer. It bashed away on them, eventually going down to the combined firepower of Nix, Elise, and Rodney. Taking a second to breathe, they noted that on this side of the webbing, there were a few storage containers... and Mama. Mama was a blobby spider-thing like the rest, but she was the size of a Buick! She lanced a hole straight through Elise's armor, and rapid-fire, took seven more attacks, narrowly missing the others. They scrambled to stay out of her way as she stabbed at them with her razer-sharp legs, sawing at their armor, before eventually being reduced to a spattered mess.

The crates - a few of which had anti-grav lifts - contained a treasure trove of spare parts, as well as some very expensive (and hard to find) alcohol, and the biggest find of all, a gallon of regen fluid!

It took a few hours to get it all back to the ship, and from there, back to the Forgotten Colony Station. Lins and Rodney remained behind on the ship, while Nix and Elise went back to trade for the suit. Mr. Darksider was there, smoking a cigar, and in high spirits; he was very happy to make a second trade, quite certain that he made the better deal - in all honesty, he could do more with a lifetime supply of replacement parts than a very, very fancy Command suit, all things considered.

There was one more addition to the crew - an android, a robot with a very human face (and body), who had squished himself into a tiny hidey-hole in their ship, and turned himself off, trying to hide. He was discovered at they attempted to get all the crates to fit in their ship, and after introducing himself, decided to stay on as part of the crew. Crew, meet Reggie Brooks, charismatic android con-man! I'm sure he'll fit right in.

It took a little negotiating, but the crew were able to trade for some information - jump coordinates to another system. They were a little old, but still useable... but they'd need to transport a young man. During the six days of travel to Rockhatch Station, they learned a little about Val Lestype, the young man they were taking to one Lady Vestridge. Val was about 16, and as far as they could tell... an indentured servant. He explained that his parents had sold his services to the Lady, who had in turn sent him out to be trained as a miner, which is where he spent the last six years. His parents, meanwhile, should be a lot better able to handle his two siblings, with the money going towards food and, maybe, a better life. He was happy enough to work his fingers to the bone to help his family barely survive...

Arriving at the station was much different than arriving at the dirty Forgotten Colony station; this place was clean, bright, and above all, protected with two guns that were each big enough to one-shot the Shifting Horizon's shields and drop two wounds on it... with an average shot. These guns were big enough to park a fighter inside.

The station attendant was a perky young man with a plastic smile and an easy introduction that he rattled off with all the dignity and aplomb of a cheerful vending machine. After welcoming them to the station, Lins paid for their parking ("The first day is free, but each day thereafter incurs a fee, and if the fee is not paid within three days, your vehicle will be impounded and auctioned off to pay for said fees!" - said with a smiling face and an overly cheerful tone). While there were other ships parked at the station, there were no dirty miners or scappers here. It seemed this end of the station was for the businessmen and up-and-comers.

After some discussion, it was decided that they would follow Lins - she was here to meet a contact.