Time Dump Game
Setting: Superficially AIF-like... to start.
Player(s): Dave - playing some unlucky person
- 1 Character = KITT (AKA: Pizza Dude)
- 2 Plot 000 - Ding Dong
- 3 2016.09.22 - Ancient Nibbling Death
- 4 Plot 001 - Figuring Things Out #1
- 5 2016.09.30 - Loss, Lizards, and Popcorn Of Doom
- 6 Plot 002 - How long is this going to take?
- 7 2016.10.06 - Restless Proto-Combatants
- 8 Plot 003 - Formulating A Plan
- 9 2016.10.13 + 2016.10.15 - One-Armed Marauder
- 10 Plot 004 - Prepare The Sacrifice
- 11 2016.10.10 - Flying Misery, Skulking Threats, and Pecking Horror
- 12 Plot 005 - Something Something Something
- 13 2016.10.27 - Professional
- 14 Plot 006 - In Search Of Intelligence
- 15 2016.11.03 - Bad(ass) Kitty
- 16 Plot 007 - License To Kill
- 17 2016.11.10 - Prairie Lizards, Snakes, ROC
- 18 Plot 008 - Eenie, Meenie, Mienie, Hello Moe!
- 19 2016.11.17 - From Prairie To Alpine
- 20 Plot 009 - High Altitude Attitude
- 21 2016.12.01 - Exploring
- 22 Plot 010 - Can we build it? Yes we can!
- 23 2016.12.16 - Agent of Death
- 24 Plot 011 - More Building
- 25 2016.12.22 - Assassination Attempt
- 26 Plot 012 - Tidings Of Comfort And Joy
- 27 2017.01.05 - Shipification
- 28 Plot 013 - Adventurer Stew
- 29 2017.01.12 - Adventure This, Adventure Boy
- 30 Plot 014 - Brains... BRAIIIIINS
- 31 2017.01.19 - Not a Missionary (Probably)
- 32 Plot 015 - Protectors
- 33 2017.01.26 - Something Something
- 34 Plot 016 - Harvesting Barbarians
- 35 2017.02.02 - Time Hopping
- 36 Plot 017 - Steam Age #3
- 37 2017.02.09 - A Bad Case Of Xoids
- 38 Plot 018 - A Mammal In The Lizard Empire
- 39 2017.02.16 - ALIENS
- 40 Plot 019 - "You want some‽‽"
- 41 2017.02.19 - 2nd Platoon
- 42 Plot 019.5 - Special Forces
- 43 2017.02.23 - Blinding White Flashes And Bloody Slaughter
- 44 Plot 020 - Starjammer
- 45 2017.03.02 - Face To The Face!
- 46 Plot 021 - Hanbacca the battle shuttle
- 47 2017.03.09 - To The Frontier
- 48 Plot 022 - A Monster's Place Is In The Resistance
- 49 2017.03.17 - Anti-Tank Feline
- 50 Plot 023 - What Is Best In Life
- 51 2017.03.23 - Nuked
- 52 Plot 024 - No more Ms. Nice Kitten
- 53 2017.03.30 - Lublin Set, Back to Anchor
- 54 Plot 025 - The Prisoner
- 55 2017.04.06 - Prisoner... Not.
- 56 Plot 026 - Brief Mid-Bloodbath Interlude
- 57 2017.04.13 - The Cat Who Walks Through
Walls, -er Everyone
- 58 Plot 027 - Where's Shorty
- 59 2017.04.20 - "Let's go kill everybody."
- 60 Plot 028 - Cracks Some Knuckles
- 61 2017.04.27 - Kills Everybody Else
- 62 Plot 029 - The Legend Begins
- 63 2017.05.04 - WMD
- 64 Plot 030 - So long and thanks for the all the lizards
- 65 2017.05.12 - Time Passes
- 66 Plot 031 - Reboot Attempt
- 67 2017.05.18 - Ark Of Annoying
- 68 Plot 032 - Mutter Mutter
- 69 2017.05.25 - Battle With Bureaucracy
- 70 Plot 033 - Greeting The Grotens
- 71 2017.06.01 - Aggressive Negotiations
- 72 Plot 034 - Getting Tired Of Thinking Up Plot Chapter Titles I
- 73 2017.06.09 - Being 'Unarmed' Is Relative
- 74 Plot 035 - Supposed To Go Exploring
- 75 2017.06.15 - Swarm Sweet Swarm
- 76 Plot 036 - So Much Swarm
- 77 2017.06.29 - Things get weird(er)
- 78 Plot 037 - Queen Kitt
- 79 2017.07.06 - Infiltrator
- 80 Plot 038 - Path Of Destruction
- 81 2017.07.13 - Stupid Annoying Xoids
- 82 Plot 039 - Fine, Be That Way
- 83 2017.07.27 - Hunting Infiltrators
- 84 Plot 040 - How Are Those Things So Scary?
- 85 2017.08.03 - Getting After Some Xoids
- 86 Plot 041 - Plotty McPlot Face
- 87 2017.08.11 - You Want Some? Come Get It!
- 88 Plot 042 - Life, the Universe, and Everything
Character = KITT (AKA: Pizza Dude)
Some details of the game setting may, or may not, be dependent upon certain aspects about the
main player character.
There are six characters in the group to start, of which the player character can be one of three. The three PC optional roles are:
- Pizza Dude - there are essentially no restrictions for this character, however this character will have the least insight to the initial situation. Additionally, this character can reasonably be carrying any <50-credit non-assault weapon. Because pizza sometimes needs defending.
- Janitor - This character also has very few technical limitations, however must reasonably be considered safe enough to have unsupervised access to sensitive parts of the laboratory. This character will have some superficial insights into all the other characters - except the Pizza Dude. Also, this character can have a concealed weapon - very concealed.
- Junior Lab Tech - This character has to be at least average intelligence, or they would not be allowed to work in the lab. A stage of physicist or mathematician would either be the first stage, or in-progress. Also, this character would have no secrets, as they would have been exhaustively vetted. However, this character will have many direct insights to all the other characters - again, except the Pizza Dude. And there's no way in zark that they would have a weapon on them, because of technical reasons associated with the lab.
The non-PC optional characers are:
- Senior Lab Tech - An Orbodun with a demeanour of profound patience.
- Advanced Grad Student - Aqualoid and the personification of haughtiness.
- Ancient Grizzled Professor - Hylosus that could effectively cosplay as Dr. Emmet Brown.
Plot 000 - Ding Dong
It starts with a Weird One™. Weird One's™ are eclectic combinations of toppings with non-standard delivery requirements. These tended to yield high tips, but also a high risk of the delivery person being considered a legitimate "side". Nominally, most of Megalaggio's Pizza deliveries are inside the secure zone, but unsavory Adventurer types are known to occasionally venture within - and depriving them of obvious weapons isn't always sufficient to make them harmless. Which is why Kitt usually ends up with the Weird One's™ - she actually has a chance of noticing things going wrong before they do, and because she has decent duck regardless. And a purposeful-looking laser rifle. This particular Weird One™ was deep in the bowels of the Military Academy, in the physics department.
Why, exactly, a Military Academy has a physics department is enigmatic. However, their sudden urgent need of a medium fish pizza and an extra-extra-large berries-and-grubs pizza plus mini-keg of Jolt Cola in the middle of the night is indisputable, considering the extra fee required for negotiating through campus security. Drop off the Megalaggio's Pizza ground hopper in the temporary parking beside the outer security hut, drawn out negotiation with the Ta-Arbori security goon until they can confirm that the delivery was indeed internally requested, then the labyrinthine route into the bowels of the physics department. Where Kitt finds an abandoned custodial cart outside of the lab where the delivery is supposed to go, and the grunting sounds of physical exertion emanate.
Usually grunty sounds are cause to be discreet, perhaps leave the pizza in an obvious manner and depart. But this sort of delivery headache is only tolerable due to the large tip that may be expected, so Kitt felt motivated to present the pizza in person. Inside the scientific art installation that was dubiously referred to as a lab, an Orbodun in a tidy lab coat and a large reptiloid in a custodial coverall are straining to hoist what appears to be a coffee table with an eyestrain-inducing sculpture embedded underneath its thick transparent surface into a giant parabolic bowl. Meanwhile, a Trolian in an ill-fitting lab coat nervously moves pieces of fragile-seeming equipment out of the way inside the bowl to make room, and a mincing Aqualoid looks pained with worry.
Aqualoid: "CAREFUL, you doltss!"
Orobodun: "We need to set this down without alignment first - we don't want to mash the contacts."
Trolian: "Right. Right." He scuttles around the perimeter of the parabolic bowl, and reaches in past the trembling Orbodun and Reptiloid to adjust unseen somethings under the coffee table. Then the janitor grunts, the Orbodun nods, and the coffee table is settled into the bowl with a faint creaking.
Finally, somebody notices Kitt. The Aqualoid breaks into an unpleasant grin. "Brilliant! Pizza's here."
The Trolian moves to help with the food, then sees that Kitt has it under control thanks to a hover-platter - other than a place to set them down. He frantically looks around at how every available surface is unfortunately covered in equipment, then looks worriedly at the Orbodun. The Aqualoid sees the lab-coated pair wordlessly contemplate which table to denude of gear, then gestures cleverly to have the pizzas on the unoccupied coffee table. Kitt complies without question, because whatEVAH.
Mid-deposit, which is actually a bit tricky with an extra-extra-large pizza with roll-y little zarking berries, Kitt senses another being's presence imminent.
"GREAT SCOTT!" A Hylosus boar with frantic white hairs sprouting from its head boggles at the doorway. "You removed it from the vault?!"
With an arch, the Aqualoid hides behind the coffee table. "Simulations just never worked! Every successful simulation always failed when handed off to you to test with the... artifact."
"Do you know how dangerous this is? How fragile? How..." He freezes, a stunned look on his face. "How in the sphincter of Arcturus did you get it to resonate like that?!"
In unison, the Aqualoid, the Orbodun, and the Trolian turn toward the coffee table. "Whaaaaa-"
[BLINDING WHITE FLASH]
Crap! I've stumbled into a lab full of morons with just enough intelligence to be dangerous. Screw the tip. I blink rapidly to regain my vision, and chart a course through the morons to get to the exit, hopefully without anyone noticing me.
Which feels like an entirely reasonable thought and plan, even as your brain processes that you are somehow in a freefall along with an arbitrarily spherical selection of the "lab" you are (were?) in. All of it, and you, drop 1 meter onto a gentle slope covered in scraggly grass. Except that many of the shelves and pieces of ancillary equipment strewn through the lab are no longer connected to anything and fall considerably further than just 1 meter. Worse, a heavy lump of what-used-to-be ceiling slams down onto the whole affair.
Kitt, with her agility and awareness ducks successfully.
I do a locate for people who didn't duck successfully. If any of them are pinned, ... wait. I have a will power of 2. I actually stare blankly at the surroundings with a WTF expression on my face. To the first other person who I spot that's not dead I yell: "Are you stupid?!?! An uncontained quantum mirror? Really? Where the hell did it send us?" Then if I'm able to get over my shock I look around the debris for medical equipment.
For a moment, it appears that the Orbodun managed to stop the ceiling fragment from seriously injuring anybody. Then Kitt reels from a sense of vertigo. Nauseating. Except it's not a sense of yawning space spinning around you, it's something perpendicular to that. It tears at the edges of Kitt's mind, and an arbitrary number of Stress Points feel precariously able to fall into existence - either forwards, or back.
Gnashing teeth and squeezing her eyes shut, and eventually Kitt is able to regain a clutching sense of the immediate now. The temporal vertigo abates - mostly. Tendrils of visceral unease warn that it is not going to be totally gone.
The Hylosus draws a sleeve of his baggy sweater to remove some froth from his lip. "That... was no quantum mirror."
A dull thump as the Orbodun deposits the heavy ceiling shard off the the side of the landing site. "No sir. And with all the etheric disruptors isolating the laboratory level, we shouldn't have been able to fold space either."
"We didn't." The Aqualoid's body forms a helix as it regards the landing debris. "Folded space manifests necessarily as closed 1-dimensional loops, and the power concentration requirements for the loop to be non-planar are - silly." He ends up facing the Hylosus. "This was a contained volumetric phenomena, spherical around the artifact."
The tall reptiloid janitor holds up his hand. "Uh, no. Center of sphere was fish pie."
Everybody jumps and looks at the Hylosus.
"Take a look at your sensor logs for during the bright flash!"
I look at the others to see if it appears they suffered through the same vertigo. Then I check my sensor logs for the flash.
It is difficult to read the reactions of the Reptiloids, though the Aqualoid does seem to have some extra contortions rippling along its body. The Trolian isn't a pleasant colour, and is plainly suffering. The Orbodun is too furry and calm, but who knows. The Hylosus looked like he was sick, but he seems recovered now, and may just be another gross part of being really really old.
Your own sensory logs make no sense at all. Inside that one moment of bright flash there is hours of crazy geometric... something.
"What the zark is that?"
Well, I let them figure out all the science stuff. I start scanning the area beyond the debris. Looking for signs of life, civilization, contrails in the air, that sort of thing. Also try to ping any networks with my communicator.
No networks - save the ad-hoc LAN of the 6 of you at the crash site.
No signs of vehicles - even at extreme magnification, there's not even satellites. The general vicinity of the crash site appears untouched; no structures of any kind, or ruins, or even signs of the ground being disturbed other than by footprints.
Signs of life - there are many. The aforementioned footprints are numerous, and recent. And varied. None appear to be made by beings with anything on their locomotive limbs, but that is also technically true of your party.
Rustling sounds suggest that some of the footprint-makers are still in the vicinity, though judging from the fact that the scrub crass is all a meter high at most, probably nothing particularly large. Probably.
I pull out Bitch (my gun) in case the footprint-makers are hostile. I do it sneakily so as to not disturb the science geeks.
I check my past sensor logs for some data on the sun we were orbiting before all this happened, and I compare it to what's in the sky now (assuming it's day). If there's not an obvious difference I address the science geeks.
"Hey!" -Pointing up- "Is that the same sun?"
The Bitch is back. The Orbodun and the janitor lizard (like a monitor lizard, except cleaner and staring-oriented) glance in Kitt's direction when the rifle's drawn. The rest are oblivious, either due to understandable distraction or simple lack of situational awareness.
What sensor data Kitt has for the local star from before isn't as useful for analysis as it could be because her sensors polarized to filter out radiation to improve acuity on nearby objects. However, there's enough to see that the star currently visible is very similar if not virtually identical.
The janitor lizard doesn't look up after Kitt shouts, but everybody else does. They stare, some of them exchange glances - probably having a high-speed text conversation. They stare some more.
"Yeah, that's freaky. Subtle, but definitely there."
The Aqualoid fixes Kitt with a suspicious stare. "How did you know about the star?"
"I didn't know about the star, just a hunch. I just looked for things to indicate we were still on <INSERT NAME OF PLANET HERE>. So where are we? Some nature preserve? Illusion? My guess is that I'm stumbled into a military social engineering experiment. And you guys are either actors or scientists to see how I'd react. So, ha ha, very funny. I've seen through it in record time, so can you let me out of this thing now?"
"Oh, and I expect a zarking huge tip for all of this."
The Aqualoid seems unconvinced. Or unimpressed. They might be the same expression on him.
Thy Hylosus implores Kitt with a wild-eyed look well-suited for his hair. "It's incredible! The mass and distance of the star make it the same as INOPH system where we started, except the spectrum is shifted on the main sequence slightly - by about 10 million years." He pauses, vibrating. "WE'VE TRAVELLED THROUGH TIME."
Aqualoid: "And somehow ended up on the same planet, despite the corresponding shift in space-time."
"Yeah, like that happened. So, playing along, if we <airquotes>traveled through time</airquotes>, how about we do the opposite and travel back to where we started from."
"That's a fantastic question! No, wait, you didn't phrase that as a question. Nevertheless! It is a question to which we do not readily have an answer. Because I do not think anyone here knows exactly what we 'did', so 'doing the opposite' becomes difficult. And considering the enormous vagary in our temporal shift, it might be extremely hard to repeat the process in reverse and end up anywhere within several centuries of our departure."
The Trolian loses his battle with nausea, and makes some pathetic noises into some less-flattened scrub grass.
2016.09.22 - Ancient Nibbling Death
The confusion and disbelief of their sudden transportation into the past did not have a chance to evolve into meaningful problem-solving, as the temporal castaways found themselves being hunted.
The first predators were fearsome 6-legged fluffy-feathered crocodiles. They stalked in close through the tall grass and dragged the Trolian lab tech away from the group. He would have been eaten in short order, except that Kitt quickly intervened with her large laser rifle. Even so, she was badly injured in the ensuing fracas. The F6LFFC's were mostly defeated, except for the large alpha-male which retreated a short distance, and proceeded to stalk the group.
Deciding that the stalking-enabling tall grass was not their favourite environment, they loaded all the future-stuff onto the big parabolic dish and started dragging it up the slope - toward the rocky outcroppings along the top of the ridge about a kilometer away. The Trolian lab tech fainted from his wounds, and since they lacked medical gear he was also loaded aboard the platter of stuff. To keep an eye on the stalking alpha F6LFFC, they fitted a sensor to the hover-platter for an arial view that circumvented the obscuring effect of the grass.
Then a 6-meter-tall prehistoric monster stomped over the ridge. The group laid low, and the monster passed them by. But it homed in on the fight scene with the F6LFFC's and ate all the dead. Then it started sniffing the ground, and tracking the group. Kitt recalled the hover-platter, and the Orbodun senior lab tech fitted the laser rifle to it. So Kitt then floated the rifle safely above the monster, and blasted at it. Even though it was intermediate scale, the occasional hit caused damage, and it was brought down safely.
The group renewed their push towards the rocks, but found themselves set upon by a hunting pack of murder-turkeys. The murder-turkeys attacked as a pack, and virtually everybody was injured before they could be dealt with. The murder-turkeys had a particular penchant for nibbling at the unconscious Trolian, and after the fighting they found that he was now quite dead. His blood having drained into the dish and soaking most of their gear-like objects.
And then's god's big freezer in the garage was reported to have issues, so game night was called to a close.
Plot 001 - Figuring Things Out #1
The group drags itself into a high rocky clearing with both good visibility and a modicum of cover.
The looks at the corpse of the Trolian. "We should bury him."
The Aqualoid shakes his head. "No."
The Janitor Lizard smiles a smile that clearly says "eat him?". Not noticing that, the Orbodun glowers defensively at the Aqualoid.
Aqualoid: "It might be grisly, but the Trolian's body is crammed full of biological nanoscopic robots. We can turn him into patches and the guts of some medical gear." He blinks his nictitating membranes. "Pun not intended."
The Hylosus shakes himself out of his calculation-trance. "We also need to analyze our temporal apparatus. Everyone, give me your visual data so that I can cross-reference what happened from different perspectives."
It should also be noted that Kitt still feels that special sort of nausea, in the back of her mind.
I transmit the visual data. Then I find a high rock to perch on and keep watch.
"So, is everyone else still feeling slightly sick in the head?"
The Hylosus turns his quietly frenzied expression to regard Kitt. "As a matter of fact, yes. I had dismissed it as personal frailty. But if a vigorous person such as yourself is experiencing something similar, perhaps it is evidence of... something."
Aqualoid: "Indeed. I have a persistent sense of vertiginous unease, too. I had been focussing on the problem of how to interpret the data we have on our situation, instead."
Orbodun shrugs. "Other than having my face partially gnawed off, I feel fine."
Janitor Lizard shakes its head.
The Hylosus continues to regard Kitt for a socially-awkward moment too long, then scowls and seems to retreat mentally back into computational meditation.
"Odd that it would affect some of us, but not all. Anyway, let me know if you figure anything out on the time machine."
I use the hover platter to look around the area. Looking for sources of fresh water, caves for shelter that could be defended, animals. If I spot any of those small prey animals nearby I may go hunting.
Looking around, it's negative on the fresh water or anything exceptionally shelter-y. There are larger boulders that are probably difficult to ascend without grip pads, but nothing unassailable. There are many various creatures nervously about.
It starts to get dark. The Aqualoid and the Orbodun work alternatingly on testing the temporal equipment and fabricating a biological nanoscopic robot extractor. The Hylosus remains quiet and contemplative. The Janitor Lizard restlessly stalks around the perimeter.
I attempt to focus on the nausea in the back of my mind - see if I can will it to behave itself, or indeed have any effect on it at all. Then I see if it changes in intensity as I move towards or away from the coffee table.
The unpleasant twistiness in the back of Kitt's mind is extremely sensitive to attention, but perhaps not the way that Kitt might be hoping. Leaving it entirely alone is about as pleasant as it gets, however with even a modest amount of concentration it is ready to rock. There's a sickening knowledge that it's a stress point waiting to happen, and a confusing sense that it can happen in two directions - positive and negative.
The sensation seems completely unconnected to the proximity to the Coffee Table Of Doom.
Damn. And I had to go and make will power my dump stat. I hop down from my rock and move to be among the others.
"So, I want to try something. Everyone get to be within the area of effect of last time." Then, with a face like I'm really constipated, I try to poke the mind-fucker to get it to do something. Try to focus on moving forward in time instead of backwards.
The Hylosus responds and promptly shares some probability calculations that express visually around parabolic dish - primarily as a spherical shell of effect, plus also some regions of knotted quantum mechanics concentrated at the CTOD. This galvanizes everyone else to quickly move within the projected volume of effect. Once everyone is in, they all look at Kitt to try to read meaning in her constipated expression.
For Kitt, she can feel the temporal vertigo slip easily forward and as it does so it grips a single stress point hostage. The world suddenly seems to get blurry, except she still has nominal sensory acuity. She sees the other temporal castaways, and she also sees how they're going to be looking around in the next moment - before it happens. This effect is particularly profound for watching a couple fast-moving flying animals nearby. There is a yawning sense that this is just one notch forward, and that there are further states beyond this that require... more stress points than Kitt can spare. There is also a sense that the stress point is being consumed and will eventually be irretrievable.
She pulls back, to reset her temporal vertigo to its nominally aligned state, and that's when it gets difficult. Finding the right balance becomes a puzzle of sensory and cognitive alignment, and getting it wrong would burn through the rest of the stress point. Fortunately, Kitt's intelligence check is made relatively easily, and she shoves the nausea back into the tolerable box in the back of her mind.
Most of the rest of the group look anxious and confused. The Hylosus locks gazes with Kitt. "What happened? What was it like?"
"Ok, the artifact has latched onto us mentally. Those of us who have the nausea anyway. The problem is that it causes stress - and doing it wrong will give a stress point. I think doing it right will give us a stress point too, but only a bit at a time."
I look at the Aqualoid. "Want to try it? Focus on the nausea in your mind. Try to think at it so that it goes forward slightly, and then pull back. The pulling back is tricky so be careful."
Aqualoid: "What? No. Whatever you think you did, it had no effect on the artifact - or anything else. While I still can't explain all the aspects of what happened when the temporal displacement field emerged, I do know that none of the resonances emerged from your moments of looking constipated. You're making the mistake of extrapolating subjectively instead of objectively. And, maybe, you've just decided to cling onto a symptom of being time-displaced, and it's making you insane. So, no - definitely not going to 'try it'."
The Janitor Lizard and the Orbodun look like people waiting in a movie theatre where the projector is busted.
Hylosus: "I'll try it." His expression goes from crazed to surprised. He looks around suddenly, gets fascinated with waving his arms. Then his expression returns to his habitual wild look and clutches his head with his hands. "WhooooAAAHH!" He shakes his head and looks unsteady on his feet. "Do NOT try that with less than 6 Intelligence and 9 Awareness! Almost ended up with a more permanent Stress Point."
"Right? And didn't it seem like you could push it further if you wanted to? I don't think I had the will power to handle it, but I'm hoping someone else does...."
The Hylosus nods. "Yes, but I did not see much benefit in pushing the sense of temporal disconnection further. I could only perceive barely a moment into the future, and it was unpleasant to do so." The Hylosus is profoundly a non-combatant.
The Aqualoid's eyes go wide. "You can see a moment into the future?!"
The Hylosus nods some more. "Or, I suppose, a moment into the past - though I didn't try that direction. Because that seems stupid and pointless for beings with sensory recordings."
"That means we could have..." The Aqualoid seems pained with a sort of existential angst crossed with embarrassment. "...Jedi reflexes."
"Never mind. Obscure reference."
"Hmmmm... one question would be if this is something that we experience while in proximity to the device, or if it's something it did to us and it's a part of us now. I'm going to go for a quick walk and see if the feeling goes away once I get some distance. Be right back."
I look for a rock further up the hill about 100 meters away and scamper to it. I'll sit on top of it and see if the feeling has changed at all. Not going to try to activate it again, just see if it's still there and ready to go.
As before, the sensation seems completely unconnected to the proximity to the Coffee Table Of Doom.
The Hylosus yells something while you're up on the rock, communing with nausea. You're not sure, but it was probably "Great Scott" again. Though part of you holds out to hope that it's actually some variation, like "Oblate Cot" or "Make Spot".
He immediately broadcasts his annotated results - his extrapolation of what happened, and how to reconstruct it.
Many of the technical details are too esoteric to follow, like the impedance parameters of the grounding of the CTOD to the parabolic dish, or how the stiction of the temporary grip pads acted as quantum diodes for the dimensional flux resonance of the CTOD such that it cascaded into an exponential standing wave with the ship-scale dynomer of the parabolic dish. His theory about the geometric shapes being the smeared gravimetric density of the local star system and planet being what dragged you through space-time along with the planet is sort-of interesting. But two key functional elements stand out.
- A microfusion generator in a scientific scanner grafted to the dish will be consumed. As its act of observation powers the reaction, the duration of its function becomes related to the time displaced. Fusion generators last for hundreds of thousands of years - theoretically. Perhaps more, with typical engineering safety factors. The polarity of its function with respect to the temporal field should dictate whether you move forward or back.
- Something needs to die on the CTOD. In the previous activation, the grubs from the extra-extra-large pizza had starting fighting for the fish on the other pizza. The decisive death of the first grub coincided exactly with the initiation of the exponential temporal field generation. Indeed, its tiny carbonized remains are plain to see as a black little statue in detailed scans of your landing.
You mean I get to legitimately bellow "PREPARE THE SACRAFICE!"? Cool.
I scamper back to the group. On the way I see if I can snatch a bug off of the ground.
"Let's fire this puppy up. Got the generator?"
Kitt grabs a particularly wriggly sacrifice while the Orbodun pops a suitably sized fusion generator out of his took kit. The Aqualoid oversees with micromanaging intensity as the Senior Lab Tech inverts the polarity of the power supply to feed into the sensor array. The Janitor Lizard skulks within the indicaged region of effect being calculated by the Hylosus, who in turn looks at Kitt and nods.
Squish. [BLINDING WHITE FLASH]
Pitch blackness, except for the vivid array of stars. A sense of weightlessness, which ends abruptly when you finish falling the meter down into the water.
As it happens, Kitt lands comfortably on the bobbing parabolic dish, with has sufficient displacement to support the CTOD and Kitt, as well as the heaps of lab bits collected from the previous crash site, and the Trolian corpse. Everybody else, however, was less keen on being right next to the CTOD, and merely stood around the dish - so they have all found themselves plunged into the briny water. While the Aqualoid is pleasantly surprised, nobody else is. However the entire remaining group
No comms network. No signals of any kind. No lights. No phones. No motor cars. Not a single luxury. Like Robinson Crusoe, it's primitive as can be.
"I wonder when we are."
"No! That's why I'm saying Zark! According to the constellation drift, we're another 10 million years further back than the last time!"
"Y'know, maybe you should have used a power supply that was only going to last a year. At least until we get a successful test."
I scan the horizon for nearby land. And nearby fish.
The Orbodun snarls (moistly): "That's not how fusion generators work - at least, not the mass-produced ones we have. There's a minimum required power output for the sensor array to work, and the fusion generator that can supply that power is designed to do so, well, essentially indefinitely. It's not like we can use an under-rated fusion source to run the sensors, because bypassing the safety system lets it run exponential and just explode - it would only last a few seconds."
"Doc, I think I see another factor in the quantum evaluation."
"GREAT -glub- SCOTT!" [splash splash splash]
"How do we balance the observer effect field dynamic?"
The Hylosus clings to the side of the parabolic dish so that he can rest, which risks upsetting its balance. The Aqualoid briskly slides over and supports him with graceful sinusoidal motions of his body. The old professor looks grateful. "I don't know. There aren't any other field cascades other than the sensors and the, erm, sacrifice."
The Orbodun looks as unhappy as a shaggy being can possibly look. "What is even happening with the dying thing? Why is that a thing?"
While the Hylosus doesn't answer, the Aqualoid shrugs. "Correlation is what we have. Causation would be speculation."
Also - the horizon is awkwardly close when you're bobbing less than a meter from the surface of the water. What might be clouds add an extra hurdle in detecting any nearby land masses. The water is basically an inky well of nothingness at night, even with light enhancement and polarizing capabilities of personnel sensors.
I fail to resist the urge to glare at the Orbodun. "Isn't it a factor of the sensor observing things rather than the power supplying it? So instead of setting it up to continuously run, put a switch between the power supply and the sensor and set it to automatically shut off after a year." Pause. "Though, I'm not sure if that would work, because that would imply that the sensor is witnessing the passage of time and if that's the case, so would we and we'd be dead."
"Do you think how many observers makes a difference? We're one less person observing things now, plus an unknown difference in live pizza toppings."
I send up the pizza platter again to take a look around from some height.
"So we jumped back 10 million this time, instead of 15. Is that significant?"
The Orbodun stares impassively back at Kitt, which looks a bit odd with his half-nibbled-off face.
Aqualoid: "No, number of observers shouldn't make any effect - not that any of us appear to qualify as observers according to the field readings we have. We're all just extra stuff caught in the radius of the effect resonating around the artifact and the parabolic dish. But there has to be some other observer effect directing the eddies from the field cascade."
Everyone looks at the dark smudgey shape of the Hylosus. "There IS another observer node - the sacrifice itself!"
The Aqualoid blinks rapidly while he does math. Or has an inconvenient seizure - it's hard to tell. "So the field is balanced by the sacrifice's... perception of it's own death. But that means..."
"Yes, for sacrifices less-sentient than the scientific scanner array, the field goes negative - back in time. And the sacrifices we've used so far are strongly negative in that regard. To go forward in time, the sacrifice needs to be fully sentient."
"...and conscious..." The Aqualoid seems to be a bit upset.
"Yes. And the effect is roughly proportional. To go forward as far as we've gone back... we need to sacrifice two geniuses."
"Or a bunch of average sentient beings." The Aqualoid seemed quick to clarify.
Well, that's awkward. Glad I've got one of the only guns.
"So, you're saying animals wouldn't work? Those beasts that attacked us before were pretty smart for animals. Would one of those do to get us at least a little forward in time."
[sound of god cackling]
"According to the model, which is still only descriptive based on n=2, non-intelligent life is strongly negative, semi-intelligent life would be probably weakly negative. Very low intelligence might go either positive or negative extremely slightly. Average intelligence would be weakly positive. Um, etcetera."
Then the Hylosus can be seen to be thinking furiously.
"Assuming we can find dry land and are able to work, would it be within the realm of possibility to create a genius artificial brain and use that as the sacrifice?"
If any of the large strong beings are within swatting distance, I make sure I keep an eye on them.
Orbodun uses his communicator instead of speaking out loud, because he's saving energy and floating mostly submerged with just his nostrils, eyes, and ears remaining consistenly above the surface. "We could conceivably construct a genius-intelligence AI, but we would burn through most of the reclaimed dynomer we currently have to do it."
Aqualoid: "It's worth testing out, obviously. But an artificial being's conceptualization of their own death might not excite the the artifact's temporal field."
2016.09.30 - Loss, Lizards, and Popcorn Of Doom
- -20 million years
- floating in an ocean
- Hylosus sacrifices self
- sink the parabolic dish so that everybody can fit in the sphere
- -9 million years
- jungle at dusk
- mini buffalos
- render biological nanites into 2 med kits and patches
- grind out patches
- more fauna
- slaughter some coastal mega-fauna
- horror hoppy spider crabs
- align expectations
- SLOBBER MONSTER
Plot 002 - How long is this going to take?
Eventually the sun comes up, and Hanbacca starts logging.
I'm going to use the hover platter to scout the area. Looking for caves, rivers, signs of intelligent life.
Kitt employs the hover platter to conduct a search of the kilometer around the newer camp site. No caves are readily apparent, though geologic gaps might be obscured by vegetation. No rivers are visible, though many babbling brooks meander through the soggy terrain. As for intelligent life - at least there's no obnoxious advertising.
Hanbacca: "Hey, Pizza Dude, what did you want in terms of blades?"
Surhis: "Perhaps blades are not the best option. We will need to be able to subdue something smart that will fit on the artifact. I think we should have Kitt use some sort of force construct that she can use to bludgeon and grapple at range."
Hanbacca rolls his eyes. Clearly the Aqualoid pulls this shit often. "Force gauntlets and such are a zarking pain to tune and calibrate. Not to mention the fiddly trouble with fitting them to interface correctly. Let's go with a nice pointy-slicey sliver of something and move on, OK?"
Surhis shrugs. "What you say is true, but it lacks context. I am not going to be of much help to you with the-" He gestures at the chainsaw-like apparatus Hanbacca is constructing. "-carpentry? But I could easy do the tuning and calibration of force nodes - if you could create a few good ones for me. And let's just say that the interface would not be a problem."
The Orbodun sighs. "Whatever. It's up to the Pizza Dude."
"Well, I think to be a striker, you have to have at least one blade. To get the membership card and all. But if you're good at calibrating force nodes, might I suggest a better use for them would be move boots? I think we might end up covering large distances on foot and move boots would allow me to give us much more range of scouting ahead."
Surhis smirks. "Fine."
Hanbacca nods. "Fine." The chainsaw-on-steroids gets set aside, and he starts sculpting things that are extremely small.
"While we're at it, might as well make enough for Rosie." Surhis inclines his towards the Janitor Lizard. "By my calculation, your construction project will give more than enough time to install move boots into our proto-medic, too. And it seems tactically sound to have him capable of rapid travel as well."
The Janitor Lizard hasn't done much, but now turns its head slightly towards the group. "No."
Surhis: "Don't be scared, you won't feel a thing. Until I'm done, then you'll feel the ability to exert some considerable force with your lower extremities."
The Aqualoid seems flummoxed. It clearly seems outside of his comprehension why the Janitor Lizard would not do what he suggests.
For his part, the Orbodun doesn't stop working on the force nodes, but does cock an ear out of mild curiosity.
"Yeah, I flinched a bit at the 'install-into' comment. I was thinking something I can wear, but I can see how having them built in would be advantageous too. But that's me. Would having wearable move boots be more acceptable? Or is there something else you're objecting too?"
The Janitor Lizard scowls noncommittally between Kitt and Surhis.
Surhis shrugs. "Well, there is the little issue of needing to tap into your personal nanoscopic robots for power. We don't want to use up our microfusion generators."
The Janitor Lizard says nothing, but his body language is an emphatic "NOPE NOPE NOPE".
Hanbacca: "Yeah. So I'll also make an edged weapon for you. You want to suggest criteria, like blunt versus stabbing versus slashing, size, balance, reach, throwing, etcetera?"
Surhis: "You're just going to make him an extremely plain 1-Die physical blade aren't you?"
Surhis catches Kitt's eye. "There's a 93% probability that he's going to use an existing pattern for the blade so that it goes as fast as possible, so that he can focus on his carpentry. 79% probability that he's never actually made anything out of cellulose before, and he's eager to try."
Hanbacca: "Hey, it's classical stuff. Lots of limitations and tricky operational quirks to make it do what you want."
Surhis: "99% probability that he's aiming to impress us with his craftiness."
2016.10.06 - Restless Proto-Combatants
- Kitt underwent surgery to implant force-nodes in her feet - move/thump boots
- Restlessness becomes an ongoing problem for Kitt (translating low willpower into low patience)
- She goes off investigating caves
- Finds some "mighty-mite" small pack hungers with almost-language
- Finds the cave lair of some very effective local predator
- Heads straight from the lair back to camp
- Explores the beach
- Discovers some Mer-Lizards hunting in the shallows
- Finds it possible to run across water with the move/thump boots
- Tests how fast she can run...
- Hanbacca gets jumped by a stealthy predator and dragged into the woods
- Given a mortal wound and left to die - predator circled back to kill rest of camp one at a time
- Hanbacca's auto-deploying patches save him
- Kitt races back to engage - finds Hanbacca waking up, and notices the predator about to eat another temporal castaway
- Difficult fight - technological green combatants versus primitive professional combatant
- Kitt practices using time-shift to predict combat
Plot 003 - Formulating A Plan
Hanbacca: "That sort of sucked."
Surhis: "Yes. It especially sucked because if you were taken out, we're essentially stranded. The rest of us would not be able to drag the boat anywhere."
Hanbacca: "Yeah. But where would you want to go?"
Surhis: "Well, searching for somewhat-intelligent beings."
Hanbacca: "So you would just have to get to the water. You could do that, right?"
Surhis ponders. "We would have to make a path, and shape some rollers. Find something to make some mechanical advantage. It would take forever."
Hanbacca snorts. "Worried that civilization would spring up before you had a chance to find an intelligent being to sacrifice?"
Surhis smiles. "I get your meaning. Still, I think we should accelerate focus on our Defender training. It is worrisome being so vulnerable." The Aqualoid looks at Kitt and the Janitor lizard. "What's the best way to train, without actually having to wrangle with deadly predators?"
The first thing I do is set my auto-deploy patches to only deploy three at a time.
"Well, I can think of two ways. One, is we go hunting for some less than deadly predators. That might be problematic though, because we're kind of tied to the gear at the moment. Two, is sparring. Would it be possible to change Janitor's old weapon to be stun? Either that, or I could spar with you - not to cause damage, just see how many times I can tag you while you're ducking. Not sure how effective it would be, but might be worth a try."
"I think I might pre-emptively hunt for predators when we get to a new area. Don't want to be surprised like last time. By the way, these move boots are awesome! Did you know I'd be able to run on water with them?"
Surhis: "So, should we change locations first? Hanbacca, how close are we to being done with your bucket thingie?"
Hanbacca: "Hell, we can move out now - it's just not tactical yet. The hull is shaped, but not waterproof. The superstructure I've planned has parts ready to assemble... we could put the pieces on the hull and go. Although, I was mostly thinking about keeping monsters out; that last sneaky predator would have been able to strike before we could close the doors. But that predator is dead now, so maybe we should stay here and train however we can before entering some other predator's territory."
Surhis: "Hmmm. Plus we could pause so that I can install some water-walking move-boots on you guys."
Hanbacca recoils. "Zark no. I saw what that looked like, and no thanks. Plus I could see how Kitt is managing the force output with sheer agility - and I simply wouldn't be able to pull that off."
"Yeah, I agree this area is probably fairly safe now that the local predator is dead. At least for a while. And you're right - the whole walking on water thing requires very high agility. Plus, I'm light in comparison to you guys. I vote we continue work on the boat - I wouldn't mind watching and learning there, if I'm ever going to earn a stage of tech this might help. And intersperse that with some sparring practice."
A period of low(er) risk development follows. Surhis, with Kitt's consultation, sets up a perimeter of sensors to give more advance detection and monitoring of anything that moves. The only potentially dangerous creatures that venture through the neighborhood seem to be transitory predators, who are opportunists and quickly move on.
- The boat gets finished.
It's waterproofing and security is augmented by a small shield generator. A solar array can also be deployed to recharge the shield generator, or to send power to a couple force nodes. A trickle of power could be used for silent propulsion in water, a surge of power could be used to almost-hover the boat so that it can be moved easily.
- Regular sparring limps Surhis and Hanbacca into getting a first stage of Defender. Surhis has a perplexing tendency to refer to Kitt as Chun-Li, and has adopted a battle cry of "Hadouken!" when attacking with his implanted force beam.
- Kitt can gain significant training for either technician or mathematician.
Awesome. I think I'll start with learning technician. Once the boat's done, lets carry it to the water and try it out.
Learning technician is a teensy bit frustrated by the paucity of tool kits (there's only one - Hanbacca's), and the need to conserve the dynomer. But Hanbacca makes a point of including Kitt on the boatbuilding.
The time-boat has built-in handles for Hanbacca to drag it, and he bear-handles it to the edge of the trees, and then it slides down easily to the water. Well, easily compared to heaving it though the woods. It bobs happily in the water.
Trying to act like a low will power being, I'll let Hanbacca/Surhis take the lead on when we get into the boat and what direction we go. I'll just be constantly on the lookout for predators.
Surhis is clearly at greater ease by the water. Which is not the same as being totally at ease - there are probably still monsters to reckon with.
Surhis: "I propose we head along the shore, but keeping to the shallows. Hopefully we'll come to a river outflow that we can explore."
Kitt's passive mode regarding the decision is similar to Hanbacca and the Janitor Lizard. Hanbacca presents the oars he carved, but only he and the Janitor Lizard paddle. Surhis elects instead to slip into the water and push. The tacit agreement is that Kitt should keep watch, and share his sensor data with everyone on the castawiki.
The sky is bright blue, stippled with lazy clouds. An array of reefs render the large ocean swells into formidable breakers 500 meters from shore, which leaves a relatively calm band of shallows along most of the shore. The shore with it's fence of forest ribbons along mostly-straight north and south as far as the eye can see. Surhis elects to head South - toward the equator.
2016.10.13 + 2016.10.15 - One-Armed Marauder
- Sail South on the time-boat.
- Kitt has several stress breaks to avoid going too stir-crazy.
- Find a river inlet - and a boat-eating monster.
- 30-meter intermediate-scale crocadilian-type beast.
- Kitt water-runs to intercept.
- Temporarily surfs on the beast (or, rather, clings desperately to its back while it plows through the water).
- Leads the monster away from the boat.
- Gets an arm bitten off.
- Mortally wounds the monster - making it frenzied.
- Gets the other arm bitten off.
- Pummels the beast to death with her feet.
- Camp and take break to heal and build a replacement arm for the one the monster chewed up.
- Kit helps build her own arm - earns more Technician experience.
- Explore up the river.
- Find a tracks of a staggering... something.
- Follow tracks to find a bear-lizard - with a spear embedded in its back.
- Back-tracking the bear-lizard, which closely kept to the river, they came upon a camp of ur-Reptiloids.
- After withstanding a confused-but-stealthy probing attack from the hunter-gatherers on the sturdy time-boat, they retreated to a hollow behind a waterfall.
- Kitt waited until nightfall, then crept down the waterfall itself to emerge into their camp.
- A series of marauding attacks by Kitt, with the bionic Felinid often leaping out of the waterfall to scamper across the top of the river to attack again.
- 2 green ur-Felinids fled.
- A professional hot-headed hunter jumped after Kitt - and got finished off by a laser rifle shot from the time-boat.
- An elder hunter made a good try at killing Kitt, but failed and bled to death in the river.
- Kitt paused with the Janitor Lizard to heal up for a couple hours before going in to capture the spear-making elder.
- The seemingly-ancient ur-Reptiloid spent the time scrawling a wall with pictograms of what had happened, plus perhaps some other things.
- It was quickly subdued, tampered unconscious, and carried away.
Kitt earns 4 experience points.
Plot 004 - Prepare The Sacrifice
The Janitor Lizard carefully deposits the limp form of the ancient, battered ur-reptiloid onto the narrow deck of the time-boat.
Hanbacca: "Would it be possible to set up an etheric beacon with a chronometer in a cave somewhere? It would have to be powerful enough to detect anywhere on the planet. That way, when we jump, we know exactly how much time has passed."
"Though, maybe not for this jump. I think I'd rather do that now. Let's grip our victim to the CTOD and then wake him up."
With delicate ease, Hanbacca lifts up the ancient ur-Reptiloid and carries him into the time-boat and splays him in the center of the Coffee Table Of Doom. The castawiki thrummed with sensor readings and extrapolations of the potential temporal displacement field. The Janitor lizard stood by the head of the ur-Reptiloid, with his med-kit ready.
Hanbacca: "An etheric beacon with 15 megameters range? Very doable, though a bit intensive on the dynomer."
Surhis: "Oh, if we do such a thing, we most certainly would not make it out of dynomer."
Hanbacca raises a shaggy eyebrow. "Sounds like an interesting conversation. But perhaps one to have in a million years or so?"
Everyone looked expectantly at Kitt.
I pull out my blade, and also time-shift. I want to see if I can predict where we end up before it happens. "Wake him up." I make sure the first thing he sees is the blade. Then I start the action of slitting his throat. I try to see what happens.
Woo: viewing the temporal displacement while time-shifted! Automatic 1-point of experience.
The ancient ur-Reptiloid wakes suddenly, and his eyes go wide when he realizes that he cannot move - and sees the blade. Kitt sees the instant after prone-assassinating the sacrifice from a perspective slightly outside of time. The sphere of temporal effect is spinning to unwind time at first, but as the ur-Reptiloid realizes that he is dying the direction of rotation slows, stops, and spins a bit the other way. The actual transit through time is a perceptual event horizon.
[BLINDING WHITE FLASH]
[free fall in the dark]
[bob bob bob]
Ok, I pull back the blade and don't do the execution quite yet.
Castawiki: "Ok, it's going to work, but we'll end up in the water again. And it will be night. Is this boat going to handle an ocean voyage? Or we could try waiting a few hours to see if the planet spins enough to get us over land."
God was insufficiently clear: the time shift being a "perceptual event horizon" meant that you cannot pre-see where exactly you land. I just assumed that you went ahead with it. Waiting won't really affect the outcome much with respect to day/night or land/sea - it will just be rolled again. The choice is very much like spinning a globe so that it's a blur, then bringing it to a stop with your finger - and there you are. You know what latitude you are at, and everything else is random.
Ok then. Let's give the ur-Reptiloid a burial at sea, make sure everyone is accounted for and on the boat, and start paddling. I send up the hover-platter to see if I can spot any land.
Surhis gazed dreamily up into the sky, and picked out constellations through the drifting clouds. "Approximately 10,000 years forward that time."
Hanbacca: "Zark. That's a thousand hops to get back to our time. We have nowhere near that many microfusion sources."
Surhis: "Indeed. There's a 73% chance that our sacrifice was 3 intelligence. We'll have to find some more intelligent candidates if we want to make better progress."
"Right. Let's aim for at least a 5 intelligent being, preferably 6. I think that means we're going to have to be more social than last time. It would be ideal if we could find a village or settlement and be 'friendly'. That way we might be able to have a wider range of subjects to select from, and more time to decide who's the smartest. But I digress, first things first, let's find some land.
The random globe spin generator was at least kind in the 'distance from land' department; light enhancement reveals that there is a significant land mass to the West, and a slightly less imposing land mass to the east. A brisk few hours of paddling can get you to either one.
Hanbacca: "So, getting back to the etheric beacon clock idea, are we reticent because of using up one of our fusion generators?"
Surhis blinks his nictitating membranes. "Oh, no. It's more subtle than that - though I feel like that is not a trivial worry, but we can probably fabricate a not-so-micro-fusion source for our purposes. No, I'm more worried about quantum drift of reality."
Hanbacca shakes his huge, furry head as he paddles. "Nope. Over my head there, snake-butt."
Surhis: "We can be relatively certain that there was no etheric beacon clock on INOPH at the time where we started, paranoia aside. The most probable mechanism for permitting any large-scale temporal displacement is in the quantum indeterminacy between realities. By that model, our very appearance in the timeline causes it to divert slightly from the reality we knew. Our effects are likely minor so far. But just imagine how radically a budding scientific civilization would be altered by discovering an ancient etheric beacon? The repercussions are... potentially massive. Which, incidentally, is why I was adamant that we wouldn't want to use nanotechnology in the device. That's an entirely other dimension of possible horrors."
Hanbacca whistles softly. "Sounds serious. I'm not sure I understand why nanotechnology is a big deal, though. Surely it's a natural extrapolation of other technological faculties."
Surhis shrugs. "Maybe. However, what is our prime motivation for employing nanoscopic technology?"
Hanbacca: "It's just better?"
Surhis: "It's faster and easier, yes. But that only matters if you're impatient or under stress. This assumes values that correlate pretty much exactly with war-like existence. Or at least war-like being a non-trivial aspect."
A twisting, scrunching expression of confusion contorts Hanbacca's muzzle. "Nanoscopic robots are going to make people violent?"
Surhis: "Not individual people, no. But we're talking about the path of discovery of a hypothetical civilization. Nanotechnology will enable the violent potentials in their future more anything else can."
Hanbacca chuckles. "It's kind of sad to think about how I underestimated how much you over-think things."
"On one hand, I don't really care about a hypothetical civilization, since if we jump forward and don't like what we see, we can always jump back again and try to arrange for something different to happen. But, it is possible that a warlike culture might wipe out all life on the planet making us stuck when he hop forward."
"Can you think of a way to put a small beacon in orbit? I'm not sure what's required for a small force drive to achieve escape velocity. If it's in orbit, it's not likely to be found for a long time, and we can set it to self destruct if we jump forward and find a close-to-spaceflight civilization."
"But if not, forget it. It was just an idea for convenience. And since we're making such large jumps we'll be able to tell roughly how long it's been."
Surhis: "An interesting point. Perhaps we should always carry around a spare low-intelligence creature, just in case we need to back up a bit."
Hanbacca: "HM! And maybe we should jump with the shields up, just in case there's suddenly no breathable atmosphere."
Surhis: "Though, if it gets really nasty, I'm not sure our little shield will hold up very long against hard radiation."
Hanbacca nods. "Happy thoughts! We can put a global beacon in orbit, but it'll take a few of our fusion cores to make it happen."
Surhis: "Actually, I'm not sure that makes sense. An etheric transmitter capable of reaching the whole planet will be non-tiny - more than a meter of antennae required. Even a primitive civilization with basic optics would be able to notice it. No, we'd be better off just dumping such a beacon in a particularly deep part of the ocean. This planet isn't known for its intelligent sea life."
Hanbacca grunts. Then he looks around the horizon again. "Wait, which direction are we paddling again?"
2016.10.10 - Flying Misery, Skulking Threats, and Pecking Horror
- Paddling across the narrow sea to a large rocky island.
- Attract the attention of a gigantic leviathan.
- Engage drive thrusters and drain battery while paddling to escape the crush zone of the curious giant.
- Coast to bare rock shore of the island.
- Steep rocky island covered in mega-grass.
- Drag time boat up into the mega-grass.
- Kitt, Hanbacca, and Janitor Lizard climb to the peak of the nearest ridge to survey - Surhis stays with time boat.
- Watch sunrise, spot giant flying lizards emerge, notice that they're sitting in guano.
- When the GFL's notice the temporal castaways, misery ensues.
- Castaways scramble down the steep rocky incline.
- GFL's swoop to attack.
- Kitt engages, and draws their attention.
- CLAW STAB CLAW STAB CLAW STAB CLAW STAB
- Castaways retreat back to time boat after fending off GFL's.
- Heal, and take turns picking the GFL's with laser rifle for fun.
- Megashrew sneaks up and tries to play with Surhis
- Castaways barricade themselves inside time boat.
- Megashrew grabs a shot-down GFL as a snack and takes nap on the time boat.
- Kitt goes out and shoos Megashrew away.
- Castaways notice that ur-Reptiloids are being carried food by the GFL's back from the mainland.
- Terror Bird shows up with capacity for breaking into time boat - IT MUST DIE.
- Kitt has a high-speed running fight with Terror Bird - kills it.
Plot 005 - Something Something Something
Surhis: "Anybody else wondering what those flying reptiles taste like?"
"We should mount the skull and armour of that terror-bird onto the boat. Make it look bad-ass."
"Then I guess wait until dark and start doing some mining? Unless anyone has any other ideas? One thing I thought of, we're from a extreme science era and have a biologist. Would it be possible to grab one of the ur-lizards and make him more intelligent before we sacrifice him? Even if it's only a temporary effect due to a drug of some sort, it might be enough to boost our travel time."
The Janitor Lizard perks up. "Armour?"
Surhis perks up at the mention of mention of biological manipulation and his eye flash with failed restraint of enthusiasm. "I think we might be able to come up with ...something."
Hanbacca looks doubtful. "Something?"
God fist-pumps in victory for having transferred the placeholder Plot Infliction name into relevance.
"You guys think up a plan for tonight. I'm going to start carving terror-bird." I'll then zip out of the boat and start using my sword as an improvised carving tool. Hack Hack Hack.
The terror bird ends up being delicious - especially to Felinid sensibilities.
Surhis uses the view information from the summit to map out probabilities for ore distribution, and Hanbacca plots a course for getting some samples. He focuses on titanium and carbonaceous deposits. The results are promising.
Hanbacca: "The question becomes what we decide to take time to do. I would like to propose that we don't use any dynomer except in pressing circumstances. The capacity to create nanoscopic machines is extremely limited, as it requires a significant industrial base. However, with raw materials, we should be able to make rough approximations of just about anything we need or want. So, what should we make?"
Surhis: "I think it would be nice if we made a real force drive for the damn boat, so that we're not so helpless. So a fusion supply to support that. Meanwhile, I think you're not totally correct about the nanomachines - we can't build mechanical ones from scratch, but we can grow biological ones. They can also do quite a lot. Along those lines, it seems reasonable to kill two opteryx with one sacrifice. By applying a patch to a promising candidate being, we can get them started producing their own native set of nanoscopic robots. Which we can tamper to increase the subject's intelligence, and perhaps a new microfusion power supply or whatever tech we're missing. Then we sacrifice them, and harvest the new toys and render the rest for new patches."
Hanbacca makes a face. "There are some potential ethical issues with that, but OK. However, more immediately, we have a couple development paths.
- We could haul rocks back to our boat and process them into parts we want with the tool kit.
- We could build a small clever titanium refinery and a carbon fiber loom, and use that to make the parts we want. Here at the boat, dragging rocks back.
- We could make a bigger, simpler refinery at the ore site to make the parts, and only carry the parts we want back to the boat for assembly.
There are strategic and tactical advantages to each, I suspect."
Surhis: "Oooh ooh! That could take a while. Maybe we should kidnap an ur-Reptiloid first, to give me time to... experiment!"
Hanbacca fails to fully conceal his disapproval of Surhis's enthusiasm for experimentation on sentient beings. "Also, we need to capture ourselves a semi-sentient pet to keep in the boat - in case we need to retreat a little ways back down-time into the past."
The Janitor Lizard watches Kitt, so see which way she leans in terms of priority.
"I like the idea of the small clever titanium refinery and loom, that way one of us can be using it while the other uses the tool kit. I'm really close to a stage of technician so soon I'll be a more productive member of society and it would be great to not have to take turns on the equipment. Plus, after all the action, I can probably focus for a while. Save the kidnapping for when I get antsy."
"And, um you can experiment on the ur-Reptiloid after you've tampered him unconscious, right? I wouldn't want to put one through anything like I did with the legs. And if at all possible, I think we should try to contact some of them peacefully. We could try to learn their language a bit and maybe exchange some building knowledge for one of the elderly smart people who are near death anyway."
Hanbacca regards Kitt approvingly. "It'll be the slowest mode to start, but it'll have better security than leaving our works exposed at a mine site, while also allowing us to multiply our efforts."
Surhis looks disappointed. "Fine. You fetch a bigger load of ore tonight. I'll draft a personnel scale refinery and loom for us to build."
The Janitor Lizard casually starts fashioning the remarkably sturdy armour of the terror bird into vital armour. Sadly, the skull is clearly too big for Kitt to use very directly.
Kitt manages to regularly vent her restlessness with regular patrols around the camp - at speed, flying through the mega-grass.
When night comes again, Hanbacca gets Kitt to come along - both to apprentice and to provide security. Surhis prepares some more at the time-boat and the Janitor Lizard keeps watch.
After getting to the most expedient mine site, Hanbacca pauses and tightbeams Kitt separate from the castawiki - asking to talk in private.
"I'm sorry I didn't trust you more, sooner, after all you've primarily been the one saving out collective butts against most all the threats. But I was worried you might be a little bloodthirsty, and that you might start losing grip on yourself and becoming dangerous to the rest of us." He gestures to Kitt's robotic arm. "I can remove the override / overload function from that, if you want. And I can upgrade the output of the force nodes to either have bonus to hit, or more damage, or enough dexterity to act as force beam and crude tool kit."
Then he looks down at Kitt's bulging hind paws. "And I, uh, would keep in mind that your feet might act funny if you piss off Surhis."
He starts hauling mounds of rock away from the surface, following a vein of something (he says it's Ilmenite). "I really appreciated you suggesting that we negotiate peacefully with the natives - or at least try. Not just being soft-hearted, mind you. If we can help them develop some sort of civilization faster, it'll take us a lot less time to work with smarter examples and make bigger leaps forward, back to galactic civilization."
Kitt stares at her arm, and then glares at Hanbacca. "Um, yeah, removing the overload would be good. Are you telling me now because you trust me, or because as soon as I get my stage of technician, I'd figure it out on my own? Actually, never mind. Don't answer, I don't want to know. Making it a force beam / toolkit would be preferable." I watch carefully as he does it.
"I had a thought about using an Ur-Lizard to make nanoscopic robots. If we do, we should be very careful not to let him escape. Nanoscopic robots would make him immune to sickness and old age, and if he's smart and careful, would make him all but immortal. We might find ourselves jumping into a civilization where he's the de facto god."
I keep watch while he hauls the rocks. I try to analyze the geology - see if I can find any evidence of ice ages.
God pouts pitiably, having the surprise civilization with a nigh-immortal god-like ruler becoming significantly less likely. Contemplates the need to apply a point of good role-playing experience...
Hanbacca smiles winningly. "Oh, you wouldn't have noticed with just one stage of technician. Think of it as part of the last lesson for fully understanding techies - the power of control that exists in actually understanding technology that is in use. If you don't understand something, you are not necessarily in control of it. Which is poignant, as only Surhis is actually capable of understanding how the time displacement effect of the artifact functions."
He points out the external communication array of the arm, and lets Kitt set it to be fully under her control. Then he sets about tuning the force nodes for finer control, and as a side-effect also increases the functional range to 15-meters. When he's done, Kitt flexes the hand/force array and marvels at the massively improved fidelity, feedback, and control. On a whim, she snatches up a small stone from several meters away, lets it spin in her hand, then hurls it hard at a target 30 meters away. The air hisses with its velocity, and makes an incredibly satisfying CRACK! She reckons that she can now channel the 1D of force damage into her thrown projectiles, in addition to her regular hand-to-hand damage and the base damage of the edged weapon.
Hanbacca's poofy eyebrows shoot up. "Zark. That's impressive."
The geology is not conducive to recording glaciation.
Awesome! I'm going to making some throwing blades as soon as we've got some usable material from the refinery.
Well, first Hanbacca needs to make the parts for the refinery and the loom, and construct them. Then he's planning on working first on the power supply for the boat drive. He gruffly suggests that Kitt can use megagrass and bone to make projectiles.
Let's say that helping build the mini refinery and loom, then assisting with the fabrication and installation of a fusion power source into the time boat's drive/shield system completes Kitt's stage of Technician.
- +4 Stamina
- +1D Tamper / Fix
- All the usual stage-gain stuff.
2016.10.27 - Professional
- +Stage of Technician
- Kitt arms with projecties - a couple javelins and some good throwing stones
- Look for a semi-intelligent pet (as emergency sacrifice)
- "Spotty" Scary lizard cub
- Momma unhappy
- Cross to the mainland
- Stalked by another megacroc
- Intermediate scale monsters are scary
- Megacroc gets turned into:
- armoured skin for the time-boat
- gigantic trophy head
- +Stage of Aggressor
- Deftly avoid giant scavenger bugs
- Head South looking for a river
- Kitt runs out of patience
- Runs ahead on her own
- Gets swooped on by lurking Giant Flying Lizards
- Projectiles work really well on non-ducking beasts
- Kitt runs out of patience
- Find a suitable river outflow
- Complete with its own megacroc
- But not as big as the megacroc head they have prominently displayed
- Lesser megacroc discreetly leaves
Plot 006 - In Search Of Intelligence
Hanbacca: "How far up the river do you think those megacrocs go?"
"Probably for as long as they get that good movement in the water. Could be a long ways."
The idea of more of the megacrocs following the time boat up the river sets a sombre tone in the boat. However the boat wends its way upstream without encountering any large fauna. But progress is slow, because of the twisting course of the waterway, and the semi-regular log jams partially blocking the path.
As night falls, Surhis wonders if it might be too easy to miss the ur-Reptiloids while they're inactive, and suggests waiting until daytime.
Hanbacca: "We can still explore the river way, just to be familiar with it."
Surhis: "Sure, just so long as we don't wander so far that we can't see where those Giant Flying Lizards are going to snatch up bipedal prey in the daytime."
"Yeah, in the morning, I'll climb up to the canopy and see if I can spot where the GFLs are hunting. Maybe that will give us a direction to go in."
During the evening, I'll keep watch, but also start working on Mathematician. If I can do it on my own, great, otherwise I'll pester Surhis for help.
That evening, Kitt starts reviewing what materials she has for earning a stage of Mathematician and realizes that while she probably has most of what she needs (and would eventually be able to deduce the rest) it would undoubtedly be much more efficient to have Surhis' help.
Surhis is less-than-enthusiastic. He eyes Kitt for a long moment, considering. "I'm not sure that you learning Mathematician is a good idea. You are very dangerous, and could decide to exert your desires over us by force. The only thing we have to keep us safe from you is our indispensability; as soon as you don't need us any more you would become free to domineer us. I warned Hanbacca against training you as a technician for this exact reason, but he has some fuzzy-headed ideals about basing our cooperation on trust and mutual benefit. Those ideas are a nice way to make civilized beings operate happily in a civilized setting. We're trapped in a brutal, primitive setting. And there is no recourse in case you decide to operate according to the lowest common denominator."
Hanbacca chimes in via the castawiki. "I can hear you, snake-butt. And, also, 'civilized' should not be a circumstantial attribute to strive for. It's not about beings being happy; it's about leveraging intellect to operate more efficiently - especially when there are disagreements."
Surhis: "You big faker. I know you build back doors into everything you make."
Hanbacca: "Yes, because sometimes the things I make are handled by less-than-civilized beings. But Kitt has proven her civility by saving our lives repeatedly, and being open to non-violet approaches to the natives. That's why I showed her the back door on her arm and helped her disable it, to demonstrate that she can trust me."
Surhis splutters. "You SHOWED her the backdoor‽‽ I thought you were foolish for making the large power supply to have the boat drive overland without your help, so that we don't technically need you any more. But to have no safeguards on the most dangerous being we've faced so far, that's just crazy!"
Hanbacca snorts. "The most dangerous thing we've faced so far? Did you not see those megacrocs?"
Surhis: "YES! And she killed them!!!"
Hanbacca: "She killed them with our help - thanks to our technological contributions and repairs we've made to her. And she knows that. She's a genius, just like us - not some drooling killing animal."
Surhis: "Fine." He gestures vaguely to the air, even though he's on the deck and Hanbacca is belowdecks and can't see it directly. "I'll help accelerate her stage of Mathematician. If only to hurry up her takeover of the team and to shut your smug prattle about civility."
The Janitor Lizard regards the entire exchange impassively, perched on the prow of the time boat, contributing nothing.
Assuming that Kitt doesn't kill anyone overnight, the next morning reveals from either a treetop vantage point or a hover platter view that the GFL's seem to converge from all over the island to a lonely plateau off in the prairie just in view of the coast. Seemingly somewhat North of the winding river you are currently following.
"Surhis, you've got some serious trust issues. Think about it. I'm a freak'n genius and the most I've accomplished in my life to date is being a pizza delivery girl. I haven't the ambition to try any kind of takeover. And even if I did, my will power is so pathetic, any of you could probably talk me out of it."
"Now hurry up and teach me mathematician, so I can dominate this planet. :)"
In the morning, I try and see at what point in the river is closest to plateau. How far is the plateau from the river at that point? I suggest to the team we try and visit the plateau from there.
Surhis makes a sour face. "I've spent my entire career trying to prise out the details from an artifact that fundamentally undermines anything that might be considered 'true'. And the number of seemingly-random setbacks we've had in our research defies statistical probability of randomness; there's a 76.7% chance that one - or more - of the people with access to our work was sabotaging it somehow. So genius-level pizza delivery personnel are hardly a reassuring anomaly."
It takes a kilometer-high hover-platter flight to clarify the closest point the water gets to the plateau. Further west beyond the woods is a marsh fed from grassland runoff - that extends North to within a couple kilometers of the plateau, which itself is about 5 kilometers North of the river's main course.
So, if you're saying we can get to within a couple km using the boat, let's do that.
Technically, after the boat cruises to the extent of the marsh, it can slide over the muddy runoff area that most large fauna cannot easily negotiate. Beyond that, it can also climb up the grassy slope the last kilometer to the very top of the plateau, should it be so desired.
Even from the vantage of the edge of the swamp, it is possible to see that there is some sort of ground activity going on up on the pleateau itself. The GFL's circle, waiting. Occasionally, as if by some cue, they all rush down at once to do something out of sight, and then most of them flap away low and fast from the plateau. Invariably one or more of them have an ur-Reptiloid (partial or whole) in their maws.
It'll be mid-to-late morning, with the sun rising from over the giant island to the East to beat down through sparse clouds.
2016.11.03 - Bad(ass) Kitty
The time boat creeped up the long grassy slope to the top of the plateau with Hanbacca and Surhis safely hidden inside, while Kitt and Rosie strode out front to present a master and pet appearance. The circling Giant Flying Lizards got spooked by the megacroc head and departed. Kitt scampered ahead to peek out of the tall grass to see some sort of ritual fighting - either a contest or dispute among several separate groups. None seemed too terribly bright.
There were three reactions when the castaways emerged - fleeing, staring dumbfounded, and mindless aggression.
Twelve fierce warriors sprinted across the blood-stained rocky clearing at the top of the plateau brandishing spears. Kitt instructed Rosie to gesture as if sending her to attack, then sprinted with startling speed to engage with the ur-Reptiloids. First she danced through their volleys of hurled spears, then danced among them bludgeoning them bare-pawed (but thump-enhanced). About a third of the scaled warriors were broken and dead when Kitt's health flagged badly so she instructed Rosie to signal her back, and leapt out of the reach of their few remaining spears and simple knives. Being foolishly aggressive, they followed. Rosie slapped a couple of surprisingly-effective patches on Kitt, then Kitt returned towards the warriors. The ur-Reptiloids had gathered up their previously-hurled spears and re-hurled them. This time Kitt stopped at throwing distance and started returning the spears. Instead of the graceful arcing hurls the 100-kg primitive warriors used, the 50-kg Felinid launched them back with force-enhanced throws that screamed through the air in flat arcs and slammed fully through ur-Reptiloid torsos and heads. It was brutal, and over quickly after that.
The dumbfounded observers kept a nervous separation from themselves and the temporal castaways, for those that didn't just flee outright. The group sauntered on to follow one of the tracks of fleeing ur-Reptiloids, hoping that it would lead to some community of more-intelligent members.
After a couple hours of good healing and following the tracks through the rolling grassland, they found themselves about to be ambushed by ten hunting ur-Reptiloids. The hunting party had surrounded the whispering time-boat, and were converging on it to present it with a phalanx of spears. Unfortunately for the hunters, their usual technique of using the cover of the grass worked tragically against them - they could not see Kitt waiting on the deck of the time boat, but she could see them perfectly thanks to the vantage point of the hover-platter a hundred meters above (and some mathematical visualization help from Surhis). Kitt used her new collection of primitive spears to systematically slaughter the hunters at range without them realizing what was happening. Each spear impaled a hunter through the head, and if they didn't die instantly they were unable to make much sound with a spear pinning their tongue to their brain stem. By the time the hunters had advanced enough to try to pop up and attack, there were only two left. One of these was only impaled through the chest, and after he bled to almost-death they sent Rosie to rush over and stop him from dying completely.
Plot 007 - License To Kill
Hanbacca: "OK, so he's not going to die right away. Do we heal him up to a condition where he has a chance to survive? And if so, do we stay here or do we take him with us?"
Surhis: "He's not a good specimen for trying to enhance his intelligence - he's probably just a 1-intelligence to start with. So his value is entirely in relating to others what happened here. Except that he probably doesn't actually know what happened here. If we're going to do it, we should stay here so that he can see for himself what's left of his circle-jerk squad."
Hanbacca: "Yeah. But that means falling further behind the people we're tracking. And I'm not sure how long their tracks will be follow-able."
Rosie has tampered the hunter to not wake up and starts doing a good heal on his badly perforated thoracic organs while the discussion rages.
"I think the lizards are more or less going to figure out what happened here once their hunting party doesn't return. He knows he got speared through the gut, let's heal him up to full and let him go. He could spread the word of our god-like powers of life and death. I don't really want to stop, let's continue tracking the others."
Hanbacca: "Right then. Take him with us." He hoists the hunter onto the deck and Rosie follows him up and resumes working on his especially-sucking chest wound.
Then Hanbacca heads back in with Surhis and the boat glides forward through the grass.
Either through luck, or through the intimidating factor of the 3-meter grinning megacroc head, none of the local fauna seem inclined to reveal themselves to the group. After a few hours, Rosie indicates that the hunter is fully healed - though she did leave an artistic scar both front and rear for him to remember the encounter by. And she waits for the consensus to un-tamper the ur-Reptiloid's consciousness. Which I assume Kitt agrees with. So the poor confused primitive's eyes snap open and are filled with shock and horror.
Rosie gestures something restrain-y at Kitt, and sweeps an arm away in the direction of the hunter. The hunter needs no further encouragement, and without even getting up properly swarms off the boat and veritably flies through the grass. It stays low to avoid being seen, for what good that does, and arcs around to flee headlong in the general direction you're already heading.
So it comes to pass several hours later that you come across a small stack of hides, a neatly arranged collection of spears and knives, and a crude sack bulging with meats. Surhis calculates an 84.2% probability that a contingent of ur-Reptiloids is somewhere near to see what happens.
I get Rosie to gesture to me to go check it out, which I do, being w
eary for traps. If everything checks out ok, I suggest Hanbacca come out and collect everything and bring it back to the boat. Make it seem that Rosie commands the mammals. Then once everything is collected, we continue on.
It looks legit. Except for the stench of terrified Reptiloids.
When Hanbacca emerges from the strangely stumpy megacroc, poorly-concealed gasps can be heard from about a hundred meters away. Followed immediately by the sounds of fleeing.
Hanbacca: "We don't actually want the pelts, do we? I get that Throwy McStabberson here can make use of the extra spears, and the food is welcome. But what are we going to do with dried scaly skins?"
Surhis: "Well, for one thing, we could blend in better if we made ourselves some concealing garb. Kitt could be less obviously alien, and I could hide my leglessness."
Hanbacca: "Fiiiine. I'll pile the stinky primitively-pickled lizard dermis on our nice expertly fashioned dragon armour."
A short while later, as the group continues to follow the tracks of the fleeing ur-Reptiloids, a large group of them can be seen loping over a distant hill in your direction. They seem ill at ease as they spot the time boat a few hundred meters away.
Surhis: "Fascinating! All the times we've seen these beings so far in the prairie, they've been hunched down and invisible in the grass."
Hanbacca: "Yeah - probably going out of their way to not be stealthy. Looks like we're doing this. What's our plan?"
"Don't know. You guys figure out how to communicate with them. I'll go and escort them here."
And with that, I start walking calmly towards them. If possible, I'll use the move boots as stilts so that it looks like I'm walking above the grass.
There is a general perplexed array of expressions, but before anyone can even get out a "wait, what?" or a "won't that freak them out?", Kitt is off an mesmerizing even the castaways with her hover-strutting among the tops of the tall grass.
The ur-Reptiloids are unsure of what they are even seeing, and mostly just stare with jaws agape. However, one young hunter jabbers excitedly while gesticulating at Kitt. The bent elders with the young hunter regard Kitt with haunted looks, and gesture for the rest of the caravan to keep further back.
As Kitt draws closer, it becomes clear that they are going out of their way to be non-threatening, and as submissive as is possible for their animalistic pride.
Surhis: "So, uh, I guess use broad sweeping gestures that the old guys should come to us. We'll keep coming too, unless you think it's a trap and we need to flee with our shields up."
Hanbacca: "It's not a trap; they've got kids scampering round by their sledges at the back."
Surhis: "Maybe they're just shitty at making traps."
Hanbacca: "Maybe. Whatever their plan is, they're shitty at making plans. No matter whether this is intercepting us or trying to appease us, they should have kept the breeders and young away. Preferably to rendezvous later if they survive this."
As soon as I'm close enough for them to see me without using the stilts, I descend to the ground and approach slowly. I'm smiling (without showing teeth) and when I'm a few meters away, I bow low for a few moments and then address the elders.
"Hello! I know you can't understand me, but I figure I should let you know I'm capable of speech. We're friendly! Honest! At least until we require one of you for a sacrifice. But that's down the road. But for now, I'd like to introduce you to my fellow travelers."
And then I turn and start walking back to the boat, beckoning them to follow me.
They gabble excitedly amongst each other with what seems like more meaning conveyed by intonation and gesticulation than by explicit grammar. And they follow warily. The group of elders work to keep up - if not exactly too close - while the rest of the group follow to keep everything in sight.
As you approach the time boat, Rosie is standing on the deck with her arms crossed in an authoritarian manner.
2016.11.10 - Prairie Lizards, Snakes, ROC
From the arrayed elders of the tribe, Kitt singles out two of the less physical specimens and informs them that they are called "Rosie". She then refers to one of them as "Bob", and another one as "The Other One" and urges them over to the time boat. There they are greeted by the towering perfection of Rosie and helped aboard. Then they slide away from the clan on the time boat and leave the tribe in the gloom of falling night.
Rosie tampered both elders asleep, and Surhis implants The Other One with nanoscopic robots.
As they travelled through the night, Kitt had a series of bad feelings. These bad feelings materialized as 100-200 kg snakes with especially good bonuses to hide/sneak in the grass, scores of which were drawn to the sound of the time boat pushing through the grass. A veritable wave of snakes washed up onto, and into, the time boat. The temporal castaways retreated inside the time boat hull then laboured to kill the snakes already inside. They seemed to have an especial fondness for Surhis. It was in this pitched battle that Kitt discovered that her highly-precise force-whump in her mechanical arm could add its whump damage to held edged weapons just as well as thrown edged weapons. The old ur-Reptiloids were suitably impressed.
Somewhat thereafter, having moved considerably away from the concentration of snakes, they decide to show the ur-Reptiloids how to make fire and to eat some delicious snake steaks. Kitt clears a suitable region, then fabricates some simple fire-starting apparatus from naturally-occurring materials and builds a cooking fire. Thus fire is given to the primitives, and a lovely meal is had by all.
Until the intermediate-scale monster flying lizard shatters the peace suddenly. However, Kitt has a ripple of a bad feeling immediately before hand and manages to get an action before it lands among them. In a blink she leapt to the deck of the time boat, snatched up a spear, and rifled it up into the eye of the monster. The next instant was the actual initiative - and Kitt won that too. She clutched another spear, and slammed it into the beast's head yet again. Mortally wounded, the creature tried to flee with its turn, but its huge wings could not take it far enough away. Kitt grabbed yet another spear and rifle-threw it into the base of the fleeing animal's skull, bringing it down. Everyone else was stunned, with the whole encounter over before they even had a chance to do anything meaningful.
Plot 008 - Eenie, Meenie, Mienie, Hello Moe!
As sunrise catches the time boat, it's once again sliding across the prarie. Exhausted from excitement and with full bellies, the elder ur-Reptiloids are curled up asleep on the poop deck. Hanbacca plays with Spotty on the foredeck.
Surhis studies scans of the ur-Reptiloids. "I think I've narrowed down the regions of their brains that would be most easily augmented to improve cognitive power. But it's going to take some testing, and unfortunately I can't just switch off the pain because I need the sensory feedback."
Hanbacca: "You don't need the sensory feedback continuously, do you? Couldn't you just get a read and then numb the pain and set the nanoscopic robots to fix what's causing the pain?"
Surhis: "Well, I probably could get by with just the initial readings assuming they're stable, but having the nanoscopic robots fix what's hurting might undo what I'm trying to achieve."
Hanbacca: "That sounds pretty horrible. Does it really have to be that way?"
Surhis: "Well, no, I could work on it more slowly to ensure more balanced brain alterations that should avoid discomfort. But that has risks. The nanoscopic robots are fundamentally designed to take direction primarily from the host nervous system. If T.O.O. is smart enough, or gets smart enough, he might start grasping how to make the nanoscopic robots do his bidding. Unless I slavamize him, which would be massively counter-productive to our intelligence-gain goals."
Hanbacca: "I call bullshit. I might not know biological nanoscopic robots, but I know nanoscopic robots. As long as you check in hourly to ensure that they're doing what you instructed they're not going to revert to base priorities. And it's not like you've got anything else more important to do."
Surhis: "OK, fine. Maybe I'm just impatient. Speaking of which, are there any bits of advanced miniature technology we want to start forming in TOO's liver?"
Hanbacca: "You're not a nice person."
Surhis grins. "You're such a mammal."
"Yeah, I agree on the whole no-torture bit. It's bad enough we're going to have to kill him, we shouldn't make him suffer needlessly. As for his liver, can you make more micro-fusion nodes that can activate the time machine? Of all the things we need, that's the most essential."
I get in on some of the playing with Spotty. :)
Also worth noting is that Rosie has fashioned some improvised janitors equipment and is mopping out the cabin of the time boat to expunge the gore.
Surhis: "Do we really want to be stuck on this prairie for a couple months while I oh-so-carefully tweak the neurons of this primitive?"
Surhis: "But we could be on to our next time jump in less than a week, I'm sure of it."
Hanbacca treats Spotty to another strip of snake steak as the morning sun warms the deck. He takes in a deep breath of sweet-smelling utterly clean air. "Yeah, it's pretty awful. Besides, that gives us time to find a rock outcropping, do some smelting/fabricating. We still haven't totally decided about leaving a global chronometer behind, and I have some ideas about modifying the hover platter to do a quick orbital survey."
I nod to Rosie with a thanks.
"Plus, right now we're fighting animals and primitives. Potentially lethal, but really easy to fool. I think it would be in our best interest if all of you leveled up in combatant before we get to a time period that resembles psudo-civilization. Especially if we're going to try and help them along with technological advancements they haven't figured out on their own yet. And in the mean time, I can finish my stage of Mathematician - and perhaps Hanbacca can get one too if he hasn't already."
"And if we get the fabricating thing going, we could enhance our vehicle so that if we end up in the middle of the ocean next jump, we won't be forced to try another jump right away."
"What do you think about putting a chronometer in orbit? If you can get the hover platter up there, it can deliver one."
Hanbacca's eyes go round with apprehension. He doesn't say anything out loud, but he clearly is not happy about the idea of the training required to go up another stage of Defender.
Surhis pokes his head out of the cabin with a gleam in his slitted eyes, which are hard to see well due to all the lingering swelling from all the snake bites and constriction he suffered about his vitals. "Yes, OK, that sounds splendid. I do not want to be the bottom bitch of another snake pit. Let's train!"
Rosie pauses in her mopping. Then says, "Aggressor." And returns to mopping with deliberate, regular strokes.
And so time passes productively. There are large intermediate-scale monsters on the prairie, but they are not subtle and easy to dispatch by remote if necessary. Kitt may be tempted to slay one herself, but she is persuaded not to do so by the others. Other, less-terrifying predators that can use the grass for cover become worthy adversaries for the crew to practice with, and both Bob and TOO prove to be helpful in show how to defend against them. And Rosie practices not setting grass fires while taking potshots at targets.
Thus, over the course of the next month-and-a-bit:
- Kitt finishes a stage of Mathematician
- Rosie seems to gain a stage of Aggressor
- Hanbacca reluctantly gains another stage of Defender
- Surhis eagerly earns a second stage of Defender
- Spotty get much bigger, and much less cute
Then, finally, Surhis thinks he's made the required breakthrough to increase TOO's intelligence. He appears to start grasping more language, undoubtedly augmented by access to the nanoscopic robots and translation functions, and spends a lot of energy trying to explain his newfound ideas with Bob. Bob seems a little confused, but generally pleased at all the demigods have shown him - especially making fire.
2016.11.17 - From Prairie To Alpine
- Head back to the Battle Plateau
- Spiney raiding party
- Herd of... things
- Discover massacred tribe
- Sacrifice T.O.O.
- +100,000 years
- Now technically -8,890,000 years, but into a totally new Parallel-AIF timeline
- Snow-covered mountain peaks
- Discover a mountain lodge
- Rosie enters with Kitt on standby outside
- Some ur-Reptiloids ambush and kill other ur-Reptiloids
- Decide that they cannot have any witnesses - threaten Rosie
- Kitt intervenes, violently - no survivors
Plot 009 - High Altitude Attitude
Surhis [castawiki]: "Heaters. We need to install heaters in this freezing zarking boat."
Is the bouncer still cowering in the bar or did he run off?
Hee hee! I was wondering how long it would take for him to be discovered.
In the stillness of the bloody mess in the lodge, Kitt can't see the bouncer anywhere. The snow bears no footprints that are unexplained, so he's somewhere in the lodge. And, frankly, the lodge isn't that big. All the rooms are quickly explored to no avail. There is no attic - though there are many lovely rafters for hiding in, it would take somebody with grip pads or move boots to reach them easily.
There is also no basement - but there is space under the floorboards. Lifting one of the many loose floorboards, Kitt and Rosie find the bodies of several more murdered Reptiloids. And one terrified bouncer.
I smile evilly at the bouncer and gesticulate and use whatever language I've figured out to get him to drop his weapon and come out. I'll ask Rosie to use the ropes that those other two were tied up in to tie this guy up.
"Let's bring the time-boat to the lodge. Also I suggest that we get rid of the bodies somehow. We should use this lodge as a base of operations until we figure out our next steps."
I send the hover platter up so that is has a good view of the road to the lodge.
The hover platter soars up and gives a tactical overview of the entire mountainside. Incidentally, another fireplace-plume of smoke can be seen by the hover platter some 10 kilometers distant over behind another ridge.
Hanbacca: "I'll drive the time boat over to the lodge. We should find a spot for it that's out of sight, but with access for escape."
Surhis: "Ding! I think I've got a translation matrix 80% functional - based on the conversations you two overheard before the fracas."
The wide-eyed bouncer reluctantly emerges from his hidey-hole, and gives up his weapon. "What you things do with me?"
Bouncer: "Well, that depends on cooperative you are. Why the violence? Are you at war, or was this some sort of local criminal activity? Also, tell me about the other building behind that ridge." I point in the direction of the smoke.
Castawiki: "Well. We have a sacrifice if we need to bug out in a hurry. He doesn't seem that smart, so it might be a step backwards, so it's an emergency only type sacrifice. They seem to have leaped forward technologically. It's a good sign - we might find some smart people easier."
Bouncer: "Also, how often do people come here."
Bouncer: "This is an unaligned territory, so many outlaws come through here. Sometimes bounty hunters come to get them. Sometimes the bounty hunters get got back. Sometimes folks what rat others out get got too. And sometimes it's easier to do both rather than trying to stalk each separate-like."
Hanbacca: "Somebody somewhere on the planet is smart enough to smelt metal, so our options for going forward are considerable."
Surhis: "This one has an intelligence of 2, so that's marginal either way."
Bouncer: "People come to this outpost often; every day or so."
Bouncer: "Of the people who come here every day or so, how many are return visitors? Will everyone immediately notice that the former owners are gone? Will anyone care?"
Castawiki: "Hmmmm... It seems like we should become the new owners of this outpost. Rosie could be the new bouncer and Surhis could be the bartender. I'll be hidden in case things get violent. Hanbacca will guard the time boat. If we can pull it off, we'll have a stream of potential subjects. We'll chat them up until it seems one of them is really smart.
Bouncer: "Most people only come through twice a season, if they survive living on the mountain. The help at this depot changes often; the company only cares that profits flow."
Surhis [castawiki]: "Bartender!"
Rosie scowls dubiously.
Ok, let's get the time boat to the lodge and figure out some place to hide it. We also get all the bodies and bury them behind the lodge (including the ones beneath the floorboards). I make sure the bouncer helps with the bodies. We get Surhis set up behind the bar.
Bouncer: "Are you may have guessed from our language, we're not from around here. However, we want to learn of your culture, and the best way I see doing that is to take over this lodge for a while and interact with it's visitors. You're going to help us learn the customs and refine our speaking, and anything else we may need to know regarding the 'company'. If you warn anyone that we're not suppose to be here, you'll be the first to die. If all goes well, we'll leave and you can go on with your life. Understood?"
An obvious spot to conceal the time boat near the lodge is near the slope behind the wood piles. Which also turns out to be also a reasonably good spot to stash the bodies. As you guide the supposed bouncer to extract the mostly-frozen corpses from under the floorboards (it's cold and icy down there, too), and move them to be interred under the snow, you discover even more bodies. Many have been there a long time. This appears to be a common problem.
Surhis has already created a suitably concealing apron, and takes inventory of what's in the bar/kitchen/store.
Bouncer: "I understand. I can tell you all about the company - that's who I work for."
First-stage mathematician is not necessary to calculate the bullshit of that last statement.
I look disappointed at the bouncer. "Ah, now see, I can't really trust you if you're going to be lying to me. It's the cellar for you." And we tie him up, gag him, and put him under the floorboards.
The so-called bouncer's struggles are inconsequential, and soon he's bound under the floor boards on the freezing ground.
Hanbacca raises an eyebrow after the floorboards are back in place. "You know, he'll succumb to hypothermia down there."
God re-reads and notes that the exact position of Hanbacca's eyebrow would need to be inferred from the castawiki, because his huge hairy presence is not actually in the lodge - but rather hidden back in the time boat.
Surhis: "Sure, but not for at least an hour or two."
Kitt gets a twinge of something to notice, and the overhead view from the hoverplatter high above the ridge reveals a pair of Reptiloids struggling up the mountain pass with a single six-legged furry ox-lizard ponderously dragging a sledge heaped with... stuff. A quick calculation shows that their eta is 30 minutes.
2016.12.01 - Exploring
Oh look! It's a monastery. Let's go back now.
- acolyte and stooge heading to monstary
- lend a beast of burden
- heading to the monastery
- a wee bit of mining while there's plentiful materials
- add camoflage function to ship's shields - hide time boat
- watch monastery - get bored
- Hanbacca makes tiny flying spy bugs
- discover the cliff fortress and combatant training
- withdraw - head back to lodge and resume loitering
- two rogues coming to find their fellows
Plot 010 - Can we build it? Yes we can!
So I think the plan is to get the timeboat spaceworthy. Not necessarily superluminal, but enough so that we can get into orbit and have the run of the planet. Let's do some planning to see how much mining we'll have to do, how long it will take to fabricate everything, and the minimum time the timeboat will be immobile while we work on it.
Surhis: "OK, so the temporal effect field is a sphere with a diameter of 8.15 meters. If we made it perfectly spherical, we could make a 28 chassis point vessel. We could pack a lot of capability into such a ship."
Hanbacca: "How many years do you want to spend building it, though? Think of the ship-scale force nodes we'd have to build just to forge the hull plates. Those big force nodes would, themselves, require a huge array of power and machinery to fabricate."
Based on the information currently available, and being conservative about the mining/smelting phases, Kitt calculates that a 28-cp ship-scale vessel would take at least 573.7 hours to complete. And that's assuming that Kitt pitches in to build too instead of keeping guard or whatever. Just Surhis and Hanbacca would take 688.4 hours. And that's without adding anything particularly fancy to the design, like teleporters or weapons. Oh, wait, that doesn't take into account make the tools to make the ship. That's trickier to estimate - call it +50%.
Surhis: "OK, you walking gloom rug, what do you suggest we do?"
Hanbacca: "Well, the obvious alternative is a 280-tonne ship, which would be a lot less cool but take half the time to make. OR, we could just make a force-construct ship and re-use the existing hull to house the generators. Regardless, we'll need much bigger force nodes and a bigger fusion pile."
Surhis looks annoyed. "Have you calculated the probability of us landing in a technologically-advanced setting on subsequent jumps, based on the radical progress we've seen?"
Hanbacca makes a "doing math" face. Winces.
Surhis: "Yeah. It's a non-trivial possibility that we'll plop down in a place with intermediate-scale or even ship-scale weapons on every forward jump from here on out."
"That's a long time to hole up in this lodge. Sooner or later someone is going to realize that we don't belong here and make a point of it. I have a feeling there are a lot of combatants up at that monastery. If they came down en-mass, we'd be in trouble. I think we should stay here for the mining to get all the raw material we need, but the actual fabrication should be done elsewhere. Either we find a deserted part of these mountains and work there, or make a small leap backwards using the bouncer and work where it's a bit less civilized."
"With the plan being modified if anything interesting happens while we're mining. Sound good? Let's get digging!"
Hanbacca: "Unfortunately, we don't really have the capability of fabricating remotely from the raw material. Even if all we eventually build is a force-construct ship, we're going to need to make a huge crude force array and power supply in order to even fabricate the high-density force drives and microfusion generator. We need a whole building's worth of gear, and the raw materials for that won't readily fit in our time bubble. We can't take it with us."
Surhis: "And while we can probably find raw materials again, it might be a pain in the ass as most of the planet is ocean. It's hard to imagine a location with this much quality raw material and with so few wandering intermediate scale monsters." The Aqualoid looks vaguely queasy at the prospect of agreeing with the Orbodun.
Hanbacca: "Besides, we can recuse ourselves to some more-remote ridge of the mountain - away from the few individuals that cling to existence up here."
As if on cue, the most remote sensor bug spots the two travelling Reptiloids head back down the path from the monastery - along with a third cloaked individual with a staff.
"Oooo, visitors!" We make sure the time boat is well hidden. "I have a hunch that the guy with the staff is going to notice the evidence of the violence. Might make for an interesting conversation. I think I'll hide inside this time."
So, the combination of timeshifting and mathematician could be really valuable at getting intel. If I can timeshift enough so that I can find out reactions to things I say before I say them, I can ask a series of question and feed their reactions into my mathematician brain without actually having to ask the question and give anything away. Would be a bitch to roleplay though. :)
The time boat is reasonably well-hidden thanks to its new camouflage capability. Everyone except Fluffy McBearFace scurries into their appropriate positions in the lodge, and Kitt finds some place to hide. Probably either under the floor or in the rafters.
The concept of timeshifting to cheat at conversations has a couple of limitations:
- Most conversation speed happens much slower than combat speed, so a lot more Stress Points would need to be fronted in order to get much in the way of coherent responses.
- People might be somewhat unwilling to talk to a hairy alien monster.
As the visitors approach, it becomes evident through the external cameras that the robed figure is probably blind and needs the staff for navigation. Why he isn't riding on the furry lizard of burden they're returning is unclear. They lead the big animal into the pen with the unhappy other pen population, then head to the door of the lodge.
"Hello in there! Anybody in? It looks like you've forgotten to feed the animals for a while."
Rosie opens the door for the trio and gestures them to enter from the frigid air outside.
Surhis: "Hey, you're back. Are you thirsty or hungry?"
The female traveller gives a small bow to Rosie and another to Surhis. "Thank you for your offer of hospitality." She turns to the elderly blind lizard. "Are you permitted to eat or drink here."
The old lizard sniffs, and frantically tastes the air with his tongue. He seems ill at ease.
The male traveller whispers to the blind elder, but Kitt is able to hear it and share it on the castawiki. "What's wrong, sifu?"
"I don't know what you see, but whoever you are talking to..." He turns his head this way and that to listen and sniff. "...they aren't really there."
The female makes a gesture to pause her conversation with Surhis, and leans over to the blind elder. "They look a bit odd, sifu, but they are definitely there."
"No, child. They have no scent. They may be apparitions!" His whispering is insistent but clipped so as to be hard to hear.
The male traveller's eyes go round. "That would explain why they haven't fed the animals - spectres would not be able to!"
A flurry of speculation about this turn of conversation fills up the castawiki. The female traveller locks eyes on Surhis, then whispers, "They heard us." The male travelelrs eyes go big, and he visibly shrinks with worry.
"Yes, we heard you." Rosie uncharacteristically looks directly at the visitors. Then she straightens her posture, to stand at her full nearly-3-meters height, which towers significantly over the others. "We are not spectres, or apparitions."
Blind elder: "Then, pray tell, what are you?"
Rosie: "We are... travellers, from very far away."
Surhis: "Very very far away."
Rosie glances at Surhis. "Indeed."
Blind elder: "I sense avoidance in your answer. Where is this very very distant place that you are from?"
Surhis: "Well, we have been on the opposite sides of an ocean, to give you a sense of it."
The blind elder wrestles with that thought. "So you not only assert that there are lands across the oceans, but that you crossed all the kingdoms of this land to come to the Middle Mountains? What brings you to this place?"
Hanbacca [castawiki]: "Ooh! Ooh! Tell him that we come here for the special metals in the mountain."
Surhis [castawiki]: "Do we really want to reveal that much information?"
Rosie: "We come for some special metals in the mountain."
Surhis snorts with frustration.
Blind elder: "An interesting claim. How you would know to come to this lonely mountain to find it is another question. But still you do not tell us what you are, because you do not seem like any sort of people I have smelled in all my long life."
Rosie: "We are Agents - of the Day and the Night, and of Life and Death."
The younger travellers seem totally lost at this point. The blind elder takes it in stride. "That seems very vague. Can you be more specific?"
Rosie points at Surhis. "That is an agent of Night. I am an agent of Life."
"What of Day and Death?"
Rosie smiles with lots of pointy teeth. "Day may shine eventually, and Death is always lurking."
Surhis [castawiki]: "You just told them that there are four of us? Are you insane? Who knows how many combatants they have up at that monastery, or how tough they are. This is a foolish risk. Kitt? We have to make sure none of these people get out of here alive."
Hanbacca [castawiki]: "We might still be able to salvage this..."
Rosie: "How many warriors are up at that monastery? And what training do they have?"
Surhis [castawiki]: [burying face in hands exasperated emoji]
The blind elder squints his milky unseeing eyes. "We came down to this lodge to see if the new management were Imperial spies, trying to find out the best way to penetrate our fortress. You sound like no Imperials I have every heard of, but that kind of question makes me wonder."
Rosie tilts her head. "You have 26 combatants."
Surhis [castawiki]: "I had estimated 32 ±10... but the aghast expression on the blind elder's face makes me want to revise that to 28 ±4." Based on the size of the compound visible from the spy bug and the individuals spotted, Kitt comes up with similar probabilities herself.
Blind elder [spluttering]: "You read minds‽ You are demons!" At this, the female traveller shifts to a subtly more battle-ready stance.
Rosie: "We don't read minds, but we read voices and expressions very well. Again - we are agents, not demons. And we are reasonable. Are you?"
Blind elder: "Did you reason with the former caretakers of this lodge?"
Rosie: "We never met them. But we met their killers."
The blind elder tastes the air some more. "What do you want to reason with us about?"
Rosie: "We want to be left alone while we work."
Blind elder: "Are you asking for the most remote part of the mountain, or are you asking for sanctuary?"
2016.12.16 - Agent of Death
- rapport with natives
- head to monastery with Elder X for sanctuary - build new ship in mine
- It's an army!
- Reconnaissance reveals about 500 individuals in army, with 50 actual combatants.
- Kitt and Elder X riding Rosie head down to parley with approaching army
- encounter scouts
- Elder X surrenders himself and gets taken back to the main camp by idiots
- Kitt stalks in parallel
- Elder X brought to Lead Trio
- Lead Trio revealed to be uncompromising lackes of the "god king"
- Elder X indicates that Kitt should scare them a little
- Kitt scares them a lot
- Charges into the camp past the guards, and through the tents to get near the inner circle
- Kills two of the Lead Trio with force-flung edged weapons.
- Instead of safely dispatching all the soldiers at range, Kitt decides to mix it up close for the added thrill of getting splattered with blood. Or something.
- Corners the last of the Lead Trio, kills his remaining honour guards, then makes him crap himself with fear.
- Elder X leaves the inner circle unscathed. Kitt follows, and the rest of the army do not engage, letting them leave.
Plot 011 - More Building
Elder X: "Any chance that Rosie can return to give me a lift?"
"Yes, we'll probably meet up with her near where we first met those scouts."
I let Rosie we're on our way back and could use a ride. Also, ask if she's seen those two scouts again.
Rosie meets up with Kitt and Elder X. There's no sign of the two scouts. The trip back up the Mountain of Mystery is uneventful, other than the part where the characters are travelling along majestic peaks and terrifying cliffs and wondrous scenic beauty (yadda yadda yadda).
Once back at the monastery, Elder X's explanation of what happened cements Kitt's reputation as the Agent of Death.
Work on the mining and refining tools begins. Hanbacca says that it's time to start being serious about the specifications of the ship you want to build.
Ok, of the following bits of technology, which are buildable by us?
- Superluminal Drive
- Quantum Mirror
- Full cloaking device
- Infinite improbability drive
Buildable by a 4th-stage technician and a 5th-stage physicist in Flintstone Land:
- Superluminal Drive: check
- Quantum Mirror: check - BUT, Surhis has worries about how a quantum refraction would interact with the Artifact
- Full cloaking device - NEGATIVE. Surhis thinks that if he were to research for a while, go up in physicist some more, then it might be feasible.
- Infinite improbability drive - NEGATIVE (insufficient access to tea)
Worth noting is that the minimum time estimate for the 28-chassis-point ship included:
- 3 stamina
- 1 km/turn²
- luminal speed
- 0 maneuverability
- 1 point shield
- 1 cp crew
- 1 cp cargo
- standard sensors
- 1 cp force beam
Also worth noting is that the minimum time estimate also factored in the difficulty of obtaining suitable quantity of building material and construction of a fabrication facility/framework. Those are less of an issue in the staging area of the monastery's mine. Time will have to be recalculated, but it will undoubtedly come down.
In addition to that, I think a 1D intermediate scale turret should be added. Retractable and hidden if possible. I'll pass on the quantum mirror just because I'm paranoid about screwing up the time boat.
A 0.1D weapon turret is easy enough to build, and won't impact build time much. It's also low enough power that Hanbacca feels certain that he can make it a field array turret that has no overt external structure.
Worth noting is that the 1 cp crew space is not a lot of room for extended use. Also, once the fuselage is constructed, fundamental attributes like stamina and volume usage are essentially immutable. So if you need to carry more, go faster, or have a tougher build, now is the time to say so. Current configuration build time, considering access to the mine and stone structure is 578 hours.
Well, the whole idea is to make it so that we can easily get anywhere on the planet. But... the idea of going to other systems is appealing in case this one goes nuclear war cause we mess things up. What would it take to get the speed up to 1 pph? Also, I'd be willing to spend more time if we can get more stamina/shield.
Increasing the superluminal speed to 1.0 P/h will take an extra 100 hours. Which isn't such a bad deal, because apparently 0.1 P/h will cost 49 hours. It's non-linear.
Ship stamina is linear. Every two hours of build gets another point of ship stamina (approximately for this build). With patience, you can make it really freaking tough - maximum possible stamina with your crew for this build is 112.
Shields are also linear. Every 9 hours gets another point of shell shield (approximately yadda yadda), with the added benefits of being self-renewing and no practical size limit (though god will undoubtedly dream up a power supply limit if tested with silliness).
All those qualifiers "for this build" mean that the calculations would have to be re-run if you wanted to change the ratio of useable internal volume to volume dedicated for ship systems.
2016.12.22 - Assassination Attempt
- clarified 723-hour build configuration for the new time ship
- 340 hours complete when...
- assassins infiltrate the monastery
- 4 seasoned combatants plus their seasoned lookout
- Kitt hunts down and kills all the infiltrators systematically
- then Kitt tracks down the lookout down the mountain
- lookout turns out to be somewhat difficult to kill
- lookout able to partially disarm Kitt due to freakishly capable defensive skills
- Kitt inflicts a mortal wound, then backs off and waits for the lookout to bleed to death
- lookout has ability to stop mortal wounds, then rappels down cliff
- Kitt follows with a "superhero landing"
- lookout hands Kitt back her sword and submits - Kitt grudgingly accepts
Plot 012 - Tidings Of Comfort And Joy
The badly-wounded Ur-Reptiloid has difficulty climbing back up the icy cliff, and clambering up through the steep snowy mountainside to the lookout entrance - but makes no complaints. A quick detour along the way has the lizard cutting the tethers of the pack beasts so that they can wander free. By the time you can re-enter the warm smokey air of the lookout vent, it is clear that the lizard has suffered a few more points of damage from exposure to the freezing cold.
Rosie is crouched there at the lookout position, waiting.
Surhis [castawiki]: "A pet?"
I shrug. "He surrendered. Might be a good guard lizard while we're here."
"I had a thought. If we don't want to mess with the timeline, why don't we do two sacrifices at a time. We get one of low intelligence to send us back a few years, and then one of high intelligence to leap us forward. When we go back, we start a new branch of the timeline, and then when we go forward, we travel along that branch, skipping the part where we were already there. That should negate anything we did to alter the timeline. Right?"
God didn't think of that. That should be a point of experience.
Woo hoo. 7th stage yumminess. Kitt's going up in Striker.
- stamina: +13
- hand-to-hand: +2
- duck: +1
- option: (later picked as +1 movement)
2017.01.05 - Shipification
- SCOLINOS = watcher lizard / Kitt slave
- resume ship construction
- 20 charging goofs
- Kitt jumped down to intercede
- 3 fall
- 1 big extra-dumb goon charges - gets beheaded spectacularly
- the rest flee - 4 more fall in the process
- almost finish ship construction
- dragonisk attack
- Kitt mortally wounds two, but realizes that its a dire situation
- retreat back through time
- sacrifice the big dumb assassin - able to temper the temporal effect to only travel back 10 years
- land in a temperate forest
- still not quite finished ship construction
- a band of 4 adventurers discover the build site
- one (Gortho) has 4 intelligence, gets implanted with nanoscopic robots and trackers
- spaceship COMPLETE (and there's a quick shakedown flight)
Plot 013 - Adventurer Stew
Kitt guides the spherical timeship back to its former landing site stealthily.
Hanbacca: "Everything checks out. And I've got a good scan of the whole planet."
Surhis: "Now, all we need to do is wait for the full development of the nanoscopic robots, and the subsequent intelligence enhancement modifications."
"Rosie, did you by any chance sterilize the lizard? Just in case he decides to breed while we're waiting for the nano's to develop."
Rosie squints at Kitt suspiciously. "Sterilizing un-enhanced creature is... not subtle. And nanoscopic robots would have repaired anyway. We just need to monitor lizard and neutralize potential vectors until I can tamper him sterile."
Surhis: "We need to nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."
Hanbacca: "Wait. WHAT? Are you zarking zarked?!"
Surhis appends links in the castawiki to "Archive:Human/Ancient/Movie/Scott_Ridley/Aliens/best_zarking_bits" and "chillax".
Hanbacca pauses for a moment. "OK, that was funny. But now convince me that you were joking."
"Meh, if it looks like things have gotten away with us, we can go back a year with a 1 intelligence goof and then leap forward with our smart guy. I vote we accept our food from the adventurers and then find a secluded tropical beach to relax at for a while."
Surhis cackles and posts an animated high-five GIF.
Hanbacca starts working on some new project in the cargo area of the UN-NAMED TIME SHIP with an air of discontent, as he struggles with the idea of global technological horror he might be inflicting on multiple timelines.
Rosie takes to perching on the top of the UN-NAMED TIME SHIP, possibly meditating.
The adventurers return with some delicious-looking game, which they prepare into a mouthwatering feast with surprising expediency. They also seem to have obtained a surplus of alcoholic beverage. They seem quite merry, but also are very generous with it. Surhis calculates that there is a 85% probability that the adventurers are hoping to get the temporal castaways inebriated to take advantage of them, and happy chugs down obscene amounts of fermented sugar fluids just to be a dick.
2017.01.12 - Adventure This, Adventure Boy
- Get nice and drunk and then hang out while Gortho gets smart(er)
- Kitt builds a spy ship drone
- scares the crap out of some primitive miners
- finishes second techie stage
- time to harvest gortho
- kill one of Gortho's friends to convince him
- TIME MINNOW is the new name of the time ship
- gather a loser from a nearby farm
- -30 years
- release the drone
- kill gortho
- +1,000,000 years
- ocean / night (doesn't really matter any more)
- civilization never progressed past mediaeval levels of technology (per spy drone logs)
- current level of civilization: barbarian tribes are dominant
Plot 014 - Brains... BRAIIIIINS
Surhis: "So, any ideas for where we might look for our next contestant on the Dying For More Time game?"
Hanbacca: "You're not funny."
Rosie: "Let's check the monastery."
I check the data from the drone and see if I can find the monastery, and see if there's been much activity there in the last ten years.
The spy drone sensor feed shows the monastery as being inert now. About 100 years ago it fell to a barbarian invasion, after a millennia of defense against the filthy hordes. It was one of the last lights of almost-civilization for a long time.
Surhis: "Wait, sorry, we've got to hold up while we run old Gortho here through the nanoscopic robot render/harvest machine. We needs ourselves the microfusion power supplies we had him grow for us, and to bolster our supply of patches."
Hanbacca: "Fine. I'll be in the storage bay working."
Surhis: "What are you making in there, anyway? You've been spending a lot of time on it."
Hanbacca: "MOSTLY I'm trying to finish my fifth stage of technician, and it's freaking hard, OK? So I'm trying something... difficult." Hanbacca didn't pause in his departure from the crew chamber, hefting his shaggy bulk up to the bay with his tools.
Surhis [stage whisper]: "I think he's upset about the render/harvest." He smiles like it's funny.
Rosie: "No. Is bothered by how happy you seem about render/harvest."
Surhis's smile fades a couple notches. "You aren't bothered by the harvesting and rendering of one of your own species, are you, Rosie?"
Rosie looks at Surhis blankly. "No." Then she turns to regard Kitt directly. "We should look for alternate signs of intelligent natives. If not available, maybe we call back spy drone, find a 1-intelligence native, and go back to when the monastery was still inhabited?"
To Surhis: "You could at least pretend you have a bit of reluctance for all the killing that's been forced on us. It's the eagerness that's probably bothering Hanbacca."
To Rosie: "I'll start searching for other signs of civilization similar to the monastery, though that's a good idea on going back to when it was in use. If we could help defend it against the final barbarians, it would be good home base for a while."
I start searching for other monastery like places that are still active. IN ADDITION, I start running some other analysis. Based on my battle with Gortho, I try to determine his most likely bonus to duck and or parry. Then I take that, plus everything I know about being a striker and an aggressor in hand to hand to come up with some probabilities on Rosie's stages of the same, if any. I also look at Surhis's and Hanbacca's reactions when we got back to the Minnow to get a probability that they noticed that Rosie exhibited unexpected skill in attacking Gortho.
Surhis eyes Kitt smugly. "Don't tell me that you're feeling squeamish, or that you don't know what it's like to find dark, humorous enjoyment in an unsavoury task." He carefully guts Gortho, and extracts a couple microfusion generators. The squelching noises are used to counterpoint his words.
Analysis #1: civilizations
Careful review of the spy drone sensor data is laborious - fortunately a stage of mathematician speeds things up considerably. It seems that there were several bright sparks of civilization scattered around the globe a thousound years ago, but various surges of barbarian gradually wore them all down. The monastery lasted so long because of its remote location, and difficulty to assail. And because the dragonisks developed a taste for barbarian lizards wandering the mountains. So now there's nothing - at least, nothing visible from orbit.
However, the barbarians do still seem to be capable of building boats. So not exactly up to the mean level of intelligence of the monastic miners you knew, but still perhaps a notch above the average spear chucker lizards of a couple million years earlier.
Analysis #2: Gortho's defenses
+4 duck, +7 parry, ±1. In the case of Rosie's attack, he was clearly parrying.
Analysis #3: Rosie's offensive capability
Trickier. Hand-to-hand or equivalent bonus to hit of +6, but potentially only +1 or all the way up >+10. Double-sixes are always a possible explanation for the ease of success (the +1 possibility). Plus there's the fact that Gortho wasn't properly defended against a tamper-type attack - Rosie made contact with his hand and appeared to use it to connect with the nanoscopic robots and effect the tamper. So, from Gortho's point of view, it might seem like it should have been a successful defense.
Analysis #4: Surhis's probable reactions to Rosie having unexpected skill
- 75% probability of extreme paranoia and reduced cooperation with everyone. Subset cases include trying to flee with MINNOW alone.
- 20% probability of mild paranoia - about Kitt.
- 5% probability of not caring very much, possibly asking Rosie flat-out about it.
Analysis #5: Hanbacca's probable reactions to Rosie having unexpected skill
- 40% probability of increased withdrawal and isolation from the group, with only minor effect on cooperation.
- 25% probability of trying to engage openly with Rosie about clarifying circumstances.
- 15% probability of detonating main fusion supply to eliminate a Missionary.
- 12% probability that Hanbacca will try to suggest that he and Kitt arrange to flee with the MINNOW through time.
- 8% probability that Hanbacca would just walk away, to wander INOPH as an adventurer for the remainder of his days.
"I'm not feeling squeamish, but it's obvious that Hanbacca is. I'm suggesting you take that into account when discussing what we need to do."
Is it possible that it was a successful parry, and that Rosie just used his ignorance against him, allowing her to make contact for the tamper?
Surhis deflates. "You're right. I deal with stress by covering it with humour, and the big furball and I have history for pushing each others buttons. It's not blending well right now. Not sure how to make that better."
Due to the fundamentally random nature of reality, it is possible that it was a successful parry. Kitt's seasoned combat sensibility feels like it was not parried, but that's entirely subjective and can't be crammed into mathematician calculations well. However, it raises an additional quandary. At last reckoning, Rosie had just accomplished a single stage of medic. Does a single stage medic have the technical insights required for a random peripheral-access tamper?
Ok, I try a little experiment. While studying the sensor logs, I time shift. Then I start the action of pulling out a stabby blade and plunging it into one of my companions heads. I don't actually go through with it, obviously. I just want to see the results via the time shift. I check the results of an all aggressive attack on Surhis, then on Hanbacca, and finally on Rosie. I'm guessing in the cramped confines of the Minnow, ducking will be difficult, so they'll be forced to parry, if they see it coming at all.
REF NOTE: That's some bleak shit man. And clever. +1 point of experience; character sheet updated.
The first and most obvious test subject is Surhis - he's right there in the crew compartment. A blinding-fast stabby motion time-shifted shows him reacting much, much earlier than Kitt would expect - but still helplessly watching the stabby blade plunge into an eyeball. Now, as stated, the action does not technically happen. Nevertheless, Surhis suddenly looks flustered, and looks sharply at Kitt.
Surhis [tightbeam, non-castawiki]: "I just had this sick feeling that you were about to stab me in the eye. What's going on?" He blinks rapidly, and you think you recognize him un-time-shifting.
Further assuming that Kitt is not forthcoming, Surhis de-escalates quickly to resume focussing on rendering Gortho.
Next - Hanbacca. This requires climbing up into the cargo section. Testing the same stabby future on the Orbodun reveals him to be unceremoniously pithed. No surprises there, with a side note that clearly Hanbacca trusts Kitt and is not at all on guard.
Finally - Rosie. She has perched in one of the hatchways with both the inner and outer doors open, seemingly enjoying the fresh air. This time the test future stab shows Rosie bracing for the impact, spending no dice to defend, and looking mildly annoyed as the stabby blade barely penetrates her temple before stopping dead.
Again, this does not actually happen, per the magic of time-shifting. However, Kitt does have this startling knowledge, which is considerably more than the doubts she was contemplating. For all her vaunted awareness and skills, her dump stat is still willpower - and Rosie clearly looks at Kitt and sees that something is going on.
Rosie [tightbeam, non-castawiki]: "OK, need to talk. Now."
Kitt tries her damnedest to calm down, almost blurts out 'What are you‽' but resists. I stay timeshifted and be ready to leap away.
"Hey Rosie. What's up?"
Woo - nice use of an interrobang.
Rosie: "Come a long way from 'pizza dude' and 'janitor' designations. Indeed you are powerful, and now perceptive enough to have concerns about me." Rosie stares out the open door, back to Kitt and seemingly relaxed. "You are right to have concerns. I was never janitor."
"But this circumstance - millions of years before rise of galactic civilization - means that whatever we were before is not important. We are partners now. We need gifted physicist, we need talented technician. We need an Agent of Death. We need medic, too. So now, I am medic." Rosie turns back to give Kitt a playful smirk. "Actually, I am pretty good medic."
"I'm glad that you consider us partners. So, if you don't mind me asking... did you know the artifact was a time machine? Is that why you were at the lab?"
"Also, I've been scanning the drone data and I haven't found any last sparks of civilization. I think the idea of going back a century to when the monastery was inhabited is a good one. Let's let the guys relax for a bit, and then go find an idiot to kill."
Rosie has an incomprehensible look for a moment. "It's not a time machine. It's an interdimensional portal - or, rather, part of an interdimensional portal. That tremendously clever Hylosus had deduced some ancillary effects of the artifact and developed some surprisingly perceptive theorems to describe them - but, it was crazy fluke that this Aqualoid had created a time displacement effect."
"So, should we abduct some random idiot, or do you have a special kind of idiot in mind?"
"Interesting... so if it's part of an interdimensional portal, where's the rest of it?"
"Random idiot will be fine. I'm not picky."
Rosie: "The last I knew, the main chassis of the portal was secured in long-term parking at the main spaceport on Dossalth in the Third Galaxy, and the control module was mounted above the bar in a Spunky Bucket™ on the top level of stack 1852 on New Bronx." She pauses for a beat. "...in a totally different and inaccessible continuity."
Presently, Surhis has finished rendering Gortho into patches. "All righty then. Are we grabbing some idjit and heading back to the monastery?"
"Let's do it! I think we should attempt the same as last time, hover over some poor guy and grab him with the force beam."
Soaring over to find one of the rare scattered villages of the nearly-extinct barbarians, a few options for abduction are available. Surhis highlights one on the sensor metadata. "That one."
Hanbacca: "Why that one? It looks like it might be of breeding age and have a family to provide for."
Surhis: "Well, firstly, we're looking for somebody stupid - 1 intelligence, specifically, so that we can bounce ever-so-slightly back in time. And that one is chopping down a tree in such a way that will probably have the tree fall on it and crush it to death - so no big loss there. And, honestly, I think this reality would be improved by removing this specimen from the breeding pool."
The ship-scale force beam makes the abduction extremely simple. The permanently-confused but too-stupid-to-be-scared ur-Reptiloid gets yoinked up to one of the main hatches. There Rosie tampers it paralyzed, and hauls it down to the crew chamber and the Coffee Table Of Doom.
Hanbacca connects a fresh power supply into the apparatus. "Ready."
As is customary now, Kitt is left to perform the murder. Both Surhis and Kitt use their abilities to affect the wavering temporal displacement to shove it hard back into the past.
[BLINDING WHITE FLASH]
Daytime, over the ocean. Pinging the spy drone reveals that you managed to go back about 120 years.
Hanbacca: "Wait! We forgot to fetch the spy drone. How is it here?"
Surhis smacks his forehead. "We did forget to summon the spy drone - we could have had two of them. It's good to have a backup."
Hanbacca: "What? Isn't the whole point of these hops back that we shed the continuity we were in?"
Surhis: "Yes! Except that we travel back along the continuity we were previously in. Now, all versions of continuity we'll be in will always have a spy drone. Unless, you know, it gets destroyed. Or if we go back further than the million years ago when it was deployed."
Hanbacca: "Oh. By the way, we might want to recall that sucker to perform some maintenance."
"Sure, let's go up and get it." I access the drone's data and see what state the monastery is in at this moment.
"Y'know I had a thought on helping us find more intelligent people. What if we convince a group of them that the intelligent members of their tribe should have lots and lots of babies. Make it a cultural norm that the most intelligent among them have their pick of mates. If we can establish that in the culture of enough of them, and then jump ten thousand years, it may have had an evolutionary effect on the population."
It's good that Kitt specified going up to get the drone instead of just recalling it - because it might not have survived the trip back through the atmosphere. A million years is really rough on hardware. With just 0 durability, it's pure fluke that even with ship scale stamina something didn't catastrophically fail. The sensor quality is massively reduced, and the only reason the comms system is operational is because the etheric core is behind solid hull plating.
Hanbacca: "Uh, maybe we should make some upgrades?"
The drone's data suggests that the monastery is brimming with inhabitants at the current time.
Surhis has a particularly lecherous sneer. "If we could convince people what's sexually appealing, we'd be the coolest motherfuckers ever."
Hanbacca guffaws. "And we ain't."
2017.01.19 - Not a Missionary (Probably)
- repair the spy drone --> 25 durability
- rosie reveals missionary-ish alternate reality origin and ties to the artifact
- go to the technology monastary
- scar = "protector"; chooses not to talk, and that does not go well for him
- one of scar's lieutenant's is just smart enough to choose to serve Kitt
Plot 015 - Protectors
To my new servant: "Go tell all the guards about the change of protectors. Then report back here."
Castawiki: "For all intents and purposes, we own this place now. I'll go check the mine where we were working on it before, see if it's a suitable parking spot. Come on down."
To robed dudes: "A big metallic... bird is going to be coming down out of the sky. It belongs to us, so don't be alarmed."
I run over to where the mine was and check it out.
The servant earns his terrifying tiny new fluffy master with a maybe-this-is-a-nightmare look in his eyes. "Yes, master." Then he rushes off with sure-footed lizard-centaur scuttling.
A robed dude: "A big metal bird?"
Surhis cackles over the castawiki. "We look more like an egg than a bird. They're going to be disappointed when we 'hatch' and Hanbacca crawls out."
The previous main antechamber to the mine is now massively expanded with a gigantic hollow inside the mountain. The walls of the inside of the mountain have been hewn away into a spiraling ramp, and all along the wall thousands and thousands of square meters of carved pictograms.
Oooh, I feed in all the pictograms into my translation matrix to see if I can figure out what they mean. If it will take a while I'll put if off till later. Then I'll head back to the robed dudes.
"So, we need to land our big metal bird and store it somewhere safe. That large room with all the pictures would work well... do you have any objections to us using that room?"
Even recording the pictograms with sufficient clarity will require a half-hour stroll down the winding terrace.
There are a growing number of robed dudes converging on the main hallway leading to the ancient mine antechamber. They mutter amongst themselves, but a bolder one states: "I do not think that we are in any position to deny you anything that you might request."
Surhis: "Also, technically, we don't need to store the MINNOW anywhere. It's literally the safest thing in existence - doubt ship-scale construction exists anywhere yet. Unless you want it squatting in there for some psychological effect; though I image just having it hanging ominously in mid air while we're here would be even more impressive."
To the bold one: "That may be true, but as I said before, we're not here as conquerors. We want to be friends, not bullies like those meat-heads we killed." Though I'm not sure how my translation of meat-head will go. :)
"I realize it's safe up there, but I'm paranoid about not having it within sprinting distance if we get in trouble."
"So I think we may have a small problem. I think the top intelligence here is 3. It might be a while before we can find someone smarter."
The robed figures bow deeply before Kitt's shorty fuzzy and very alien magnanimity.
Hanbacca: "We'll bring the MINNOW in to park wherever you suggest is best - you're tactical lead."
Surhis: "Yes, yes. I was just pointing out how much easier it would be for them to worship our workmanship if it constantly reminds them of its potency by virtue of defying comprehension."
Hanbacca: "Quite. The intelligence ceiling is a problem. Surely there's some extraordinarily smart person somewhere in this place...?"
Surhis: "Or somewhere on the planet. Even if it takes us a year to find one double-deviation smart ur-Triloid, it'll still be worth it in terms of the jump size we could make."
We bring the Minnow down and park it in the cave. I introduce Hanbacca and Surhis to the robed dudes. Then I ask where the old protectors lived - may as well take over their living space.
"Yeah, looks like this stopover may be a long one. May as well make ourselves comfortable."
Privately to Surhis: "By the way, how often do you keep yourself time-shifted?"
The Minnow gets nestled in the Well Of Knowledge, and everybody starts cooperating on decrypting the pictograms - because puzzles are fun. They turn out to be several versions of some basic technical knowledge - including farming, stone working, simple machines, painfully crude medicine, and reverent descriptions of mining, smelting, and metal working. No mention of mathematics, logic, or any philosophy whatsoever. Probably why it's survived - hasn't contradicted anybody's religion too much.
Random robed dude: "The protectors live wherever they want, though they tend to spend a lot of time at the lookouts or at their saloon up in the middle of the settlements."
Surhis [privately]: "I pretty much never time-shift; too weirded out by the sense of risking willpower. Except for that moment with you before - I plunged into time-shift with this panicked sense of my life ending. I've been meaning to ask you what that was about. There's a 78% probability that you were involved directly, and an additional 8% that you have knowledge about what that was. So, cough it up."
Quick tight-beam to Rosie: "Are you going to tell them what you are?"
Rosie [tightbeam]: "Yes. Is there a need to do so now?"
It also worth noting that there are a non-trivial number of people fleeing the settlement now. Their departure was conspicuous on the Minnow's sensors. Approximately 25% of the populace, all told.
Rosie: "Not yet, let's get settled first."
Surhis: "Yes, I was involved directly, and I will explain. But it's a long story and I'd like to wait until we're all settled here. Just trust me that you were never in any actual danger."
Castawiki: "Looks like a bunch of people are fleeing. Let them. I have a feeling they'll trickle back once they get cold or hungry enough. Let's go to the saloon and have some drinks."
The lizard centaur servant-lieutenant comes scuttling back with haste, and bows respectfully. "Word of your rule has been spread to all the guards. Any who would not bow have been sent away, or dealt with. I go now to the lookout to watch them leave, to make sure that they do not make trouble." He then backs away and heads up the steep passage to the high lookout reaches.
Surhis watches the servant leave before continuing the conversation discreetly. "OK, let's see what they have to drink, then let's hear what was going on."
Hanbacca heaves out some carbon fibre harnessing he must have loomed up at some point and bundles it to take with him on the stroll to the saloon. Clearly he means to make something while he's up there.
Surhis [discreet]: "I think he's also got something to tell us. Any idea of what he was building up in the cargo hold? I noticed that he tapped into the Minnow's main power with whatever it is."
The four temporal castaways proceed up the path to the saloon, with many of the villagers and guards gawking from respectful distances. Most of them are bundled up in heavy jackets against the alpine cold, lacking nanoscopic robots to counter the environment. None of them will meet the direct gaze of any of the party.
In a particularly rugged section of the path, Kitt senses several youths that are lightly armed moving to ambush the group. Their obvious intent is to rush the four of you with spears as you emerge from a narrow gap between boulders. They are green combatants, so there is no need to wait for combat rounds. Feel free to describe out you deal with this annoyance.
I'm going to bounce (1/2 sneak) over to where I have line of sight, then do a couple all aggressive attacks with rocks. The goal is to get placement, and shatter the spears two of them are holding without harming the kids. Hopefully that will freak them out enough to withdraw.
The first the kids notice of Kitt's presence is the violent shattering of their spears, closely coupled with the supersonic cracks of the high-velocity rocks. They're momentarily confused, but the cold conditions caused the rocks to leave threads of contrails pointing back to Kitt's perch impossibly high on an outcropping.
"Come and fight us, monster! This place is for the protection of our people, not for evil things to picnic!" They are very brave. And, perhaps, too stupid to be scared. Same difference? Regardless, they're even less of a threat than before.
On the castawiki, Hanbacca gives Kitt a thumbs-up for just disarming them. Surhis is paying a lot of attention to Kitt's feed, probably feeling very wary. Rosie doesn't even pause in strolling along, unconcerned. The other two follow her.
In a moment of hilarious juxtaposition, the glaring youths are so fixed on the unbeatable horror that they fail to notice the aliens saunter quietly past them just a few meters away. It's possible that the youths might have been able to harm either Hanbacca or Surhis if they were by themselves. In the tense (for the youths) moments of waiting for the Felinid to do something, the rest of the group slip away and deprive the youths of any chance of having an effect.
I assume that since the threat is effectively neutralized, Kitt simply leaps over them to rejoin the group. The youths are stunned, and follow seemingly more out of curiosity than any real hostile intent. Being so casually bypassed has drained them of their suicidal drive.
The saloon is a surprisingly sturdy hewn-stone affair that probably doubles as a last-ditch defensive bunker, and would probably fare well against intermediate scale assault (for a short while). Heading inside, ignoring the transfixed guardsmen still lingering, it is pleasantly comfortable and well-appointed for something so crude. Hanbacca finds the most likely table and proceeds to alter a seat so that it would suit him better. Surhis heads for the nominal kitchen, as the ex-bartender attempts to fit through a narrow window by the stove.
Surhis: "Oh, nope. Nope nope nope. We need to teach these people about fermentation; this ale is going to make them blind. I'll see if I can brew something up quickly that will better quench our thirsts." He begins rummaging.
While he's doing that, I'll set up some sensors on the exterior of the saloon that we can tap into.
It's pretty easy to add a quick daisy chain of sensors to the exterior of the saloon bunker. It adds some tactically-sound clarity since the Minnow's active scanners have degraded resolution through the stone of its mountain crypt.
Rosie gives Kitt a poignant look, and then addresses the whole group out loud in Common™. "Time to admit that I am not a janitor."
"And the award for understatement of the year goes to... Rosie!"
"But seriously, we are all going to spending a lot more time together. And we've been keeping secrets from one other. I think going forward that has to stop. Cause, really, there's no point anymore." <pause> "Rosie, you've got the most interesting story, so if you don't mind I'm going to get mine out of the way first cause it's quick. A short time ago I suspected that I wasn't the most capable combatant here, so I tried an experiment. As you know, I can time shift. That means I can start an action, see the results, and then decide to not do it if I choose. I used that ability to try to stab you all in the head. None of you were ever in any actual danger because I obviously never went through with the action, the intent was to see what would happen. Surhis, that's what you detected when you time shifted."
"Hanbacca, Surhis, how about you go next. And Surhis, your secret I'm referring to is what exactly you included in my legs as a safeguard in case I ever turned on you. I think I've proven by now that that's not going to happen."
Surhis: "A secret agent! I KNEW IT!"
Hanbacca: "You didn't know it. You perhaps suspected something like it."
Surhis: "Close enough! This is the evil saboteur I suspected that ruined all our experiments with the artifact and interfered with our work!"
Hanbacca: "You suspected everybody of doing that. One time you accused me of focussing a beam to tightly and making a node cause field feedback resonance, or some such technobabble."
Surhis squints beadily. "That's right. Is your secret that you're working with the non-janitor?"
Hanbacca: "No. I'll tell you after you admit what you've done with Kitt's feet."
Surhis's curiosity easily overwhelms his paranoia. "OK, fine. Yes - I have a backdoor command that engages the force beams at full power, wide spectrum, reverse direction. It should cause Kitt to be rooted to the spot for a couple minutes, until the nodes fail. The idea was to give myself enough time to get away should she go rabid, or something. That was the idea, at least, but seemed quite a dubious option after she developed the ability to hurl objects with deadly power. Now admit your misdeeds, so I can confirm those suspicions."
Hanbacca smiles. "I'd also like to hear what you think you did to the Minnow."
Surhis freezes. "What do you mean 'think I did'?"
Hanbacca: "Well, one of the things I should admit is that I created a secret firewalled control system that parses what the main control system attempts and pings me for approval for anything unexpected."
Surhis' eyes bug. "Fine. FINE. Yes, I had a few key commands buried in the control systems. Nothing relevant any more, it seems. But you said that was one of the things you had to admit. What else is there?"
Hanbacca shrugs. "I hid the fact that I made it to fifth stage for technician, and that I made an energy missiles system. 1D ship scale, +5 to hit seekers, up to 20 can be in the buffer at once, charging one per turn - in lieu of shield charging."
Surhis frowns, and says sourly in a small voice: "That's kind of awesome." Then he turns to Rosie. "OK, secret agent, let's hear it."
Rosie waits a couple beats, then speaks slowly and matter-of-factly. "I am not a janitor, but I am also not a secret agent as Surhis supposes. Neither am I a government overseer as Hanbacca probably suspects. Nor am I, as Kitt feared, a Missionary. Though Kitt was the closest." Another pause as eyes bug out again. "I am a being from another universe - laterally, rather than temporally branched continua - and the thing you call the artifact is a part of the device we used to travel to your universe. The details of that failed expedition are irrelevant now, but I was sent to collect the part in your possession."
Hanbacca gives voice to some fears. "How like a Missionary are you?"
Rosie: "I do not have any what you guess is 'active metal', nor am I a robot. I am a Reptiloid, but I have an intermediate scale chassis instead of a skeleton. Both the chassis and the biological physiology can be altered relatively rapidly. My primary skill is as a biological technician - roughly equivalent to a medic. I have been hiding this for fear of how you might react, but with Kitt using her 'time-shift' ability to reveal some of my capabilities it seemed best to volunteer the truth instead of having to quell rampant fears."
"And what's up with that universe hopper? When it was all together, did it also require a sacrifice to work? That's dark man."
Rosie does not smile. "The multiverse shuttle operated with very different parameters than what our temporal displacement apparatus seems to function. It needed astronomical amounts of power, and navigated partially by communication with some pan-dimensional sentience. And required the brewing of tea. Whereas we seem to be implementing some sort of functional necromancy."
Surhis: "You sound like a digesting bovine."
Hanbacca looks at Rosie's blank stare. "He's calling bullshit."
Rosie pauses slightly, then responds. "I'm afraid you'll just have to take my word for it, as the rest of the multiverse shuttle is stranded in an inaccessible causality branch." The seasoned combatant in Kitt feels like that pause was just about how long it would take to imagine killing everybody.
2017.01.26 - Something Something
- decide to go up in biologist then look for 4-limbed ur-reptiloids
- lietenant lizards name is George
- hunter - DIADESMOLA
- doesn't like being lied to
Plot 016 - Harvesting Barbarians
Surhis: "What should we look for, you think?"
"Well made boats? That might be a sign of intelligence."
Surhis: "Right - the boats. Shall we go buzz them and pick our favourites?"
Hanbacca: "Or, we could watch them from a discreet distance, and while you guys study up on biology some more we can trace to see who is making the best ones."
Surhis: "Oh, come on. You know you want to fly this thing past some more primitives and blow their minds."
Hanbacca: "There's no need to cause them undue fright."
Surhis pauses, then his eyes light up evilly. "How about we submerge the Minnow, then have it rise majestically out of the ocean by somebody."
Hanbacca looks torn. "OK, that sounds awesome. Just so long as we don't actually hurt anybody."
Surhis: "No, no. I just want to wreck their underwear."
"I was thinking along those lines, but just acting like a bit shiny boat without revealing we can fly. But that sounds way better. Let's go find someone and emerge from the deep."
While we're looking, I start constructing a hand held energy shield that I can use for the duck/parry while I'm not time shifted.
The refurbished spy drone plus the Minnow's sensors make it possible to find some boats that look like more than just rafts. It's actually a lot easier on the night side of the planet, because thermal imagining is much more pronounced. The Minnow ducks underwater over the horizon and carefully moves closer for the big reveal.
Hanbacca: "Should we wait for morning? So they can see us more clearly?"
Surhis: "I'm not sure if that's helpful or not. On one hand, things can be scary in the dark. On the other hand, actually seeing an 8-meter sphere rise up out of the ocean is probably worse than anything they can imagine."
Would the 'hand-held' energy shield be a loose device, or would it be part of the robotic arm? How big of a shield is Kitt planning for?
Let's make it part of the robotic arm. Going to shoot for a 5 pointer to start.
"I vote we wait for morning. But in the mean-time, deploy some listeners to see if we can catch anyone talking and update the translation matrix. They may speak differently from the ur-Triloids."
Kitt is capable of constructing a simple 20-point parry-shield without any difficulty or needing to resort to extra power supplies, or Hanbacca's assistance. Or a 2-point intermediate scale parry-shield is possible if working on a stage of physicist.
Waiting to listen in to the pirate lizards is smart - they do indeed speak a completely different language. It takes quite a while for a translation matrix to be resolved. They don't talk much during the night.
I'll make a 20 pointer now. Save the intermediate one for after I get the stage of biologist. Come morning, we raise the boat in front of them and really mess with their tiny little brains. :)
Morning breaks. A small pod of 4 largish wooden sailing vessels and a dozen smaller ancillary vessels cruise leisurely through the calm sea. Ur-reptiloid sailors work the rigging with accomplished ease, and the fishermen are already pulling in the morning catch for first meal.
[CUE JAWS THEME]
The lookouts shout warnings, possibly referring to large marine fauna. Then the true scale and other-worldly-ness of the Minnow's emergence becomes apparent.
"What in the frigid bowels of Hell's bilges is that thing‽"
"It's hide is shiny!"
"Harpoon hurlers! Heave to the great shiny bastard! Use the heavy scale-peircing tips!" Teams of heavy-weapons experts notched hardened bone tips to long shafts and threw them with considerable enthusiasm at the impenetrable hull of the Minnow. The weapons that didn't shatter merely glanced off without leaving any marks at all.
"FUCK!" "FUUCK!" "FUCK FUCK FUCK..."
"Clear the small boats away! Flee, you bobbing morsels! Turn the swift boats, and make best speed!"
"Do as he commands, you sniveling bowel remains! Lean on that rigging! Make these old timbers dance across the waters!"
"But what about the old sea lizard?"
"LOOK! He's turning the windjammer to cut up wind! He's going to catch the fastest line, and ram the fucking thing!"
"It didn't even bob‽"
"We're so screwed."
A portly old lizard does a surprisingly spry leap onto the Minnow from the ruined remains of one of the larger ships. He brandishes a heavily-weathered cutlass, and promptly dulls it on the Minnow's hull. "CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!"
"Look! He's summoned the ancient metal to deal with the horrific floating shitball monster!"
Surhis: "I think Rosie or Kitt get to be the ones to explain this to them."
Hanbacca: "Yeah. Even though it was our stupid idea, I'm not going out there. They look uuupseeeeet...!"
"I'll head out. If I get into trouble I'll come back in or dive into the water for later rescue."
I majestically exit the boat and address the old lizard. "Greetings scaled one. Please stop banging your metal stick against our ship. We find the noise... irritating. We are travelers from a far away land and are looking for your boat builders. We have need of their expertise and can offer much metal in compensation."
Portly ur-reptiloid [loudly over his shoulder]: "I hit it so fucking hard a scary little furry fucker got knocked out!"
Random person: "Kill it!"
Portly ur-reptiloid: "It looks pretty mean. It says it wants boat builders, and will give us METAL!"
Random person 2: "They can have my mom!"
I pause for a moment while I imagine killing them all. Then I say levelly "Do you think you could help us, or should we go find another boat?"
The portly ur-reptiloid is seasoned enough to get a whiff of the conceptualized slaughter, his demeanour immediately becomes more serious. [yelling]: "Pull the slaves out of my hold before they drown and line them up on the railing." Looks levelly at Kitt. "I'm not sure we have any to give you that are worth metal, but there may be something we can negotiate."
Shortly a somber row of shackled ur-reptiloids are pressed against the railing of the slowly-sinking boat. They look suitably confused and horrified at what they see to perhaps forget the wooden fastenings around their necks.
I leap over to the sinking boat and make a show of looking them over. I yell back: "So you're saying that these built your boat? I find that hard to believe. They don't look that intelligent." I turn to one of the slaves. "Tell me, is as much detail as possible, what skills you have that are used in ship building."
If the slave answers, I try to use the intricacy of his reply to deduce probabilities on his intelligence.
It might not seem like much of a deal to leap a few meters to Kitt, but to do so in a single leap that clears the railing startles the ur-reptiloids.
Portly ur-reptiloid: "I didn't say they built my boat. I built my boat. They built theirs, which we sunk. You asked for boat builders, not any particular ones."
The nearest slave answers hesitantly, and is a bit hard to understand due to a shift in the translation matrix that isn't compensated for immediately, but she claims to possess all the skills necessary to render raw trees and other natural materials into ships of varying purpose. She seems to have an intelligence of 3.
Genius level intelligence gives Kitt the insight to realize that "boat builder" has a 89% probability of actually being the race name for all ur-reptiloids.
"Ah, I see the misunderstanding. I had assumed the boats were made at some central location and they were built by the most intelligent among you. Because that's what I'm after mostly, smart people to help in our quest. I'm curious, why did you sink their boat?"
Portly ur-reptiloid: "I'm not sure why we sank that one." Yells to some random person: "Hey, why did we sink that one?"
One of the other surly non-captives yells back: "They called you fat."
Portly ur-reptiloid: "Oh, right. So, yeah, maybe those aren't the brightest boat builders that ever floated." He gives a sneering smile at the uncomfortable-in-several-ways captives.
Rosie overlays the castawiki with intelligence estimates of everybody in sight. About 1 in 6 have high intelligence - including two of the captives, and three other shipmates visible. She also highlights the fact that every single person has some sort of tools on them, including the captives (though they have nothing sharp).
2017.02.02 - Time Hopping
- Gather time hopping fuel:
- Buy 2 4-intelligence slaves from portly ur-reptiloid raider.
- Select 5 more 4-intelligence candidates from a floating tribe suffering from illness.
- Rosie can speed up the intelligence enhancement to just taking 1 week --> candidates bumped to 5-intelligence.
- Kitt upgraded:
- Another useful-class force node hidden in biological arm by Rosie.
- Mechanical arm has biological sheath grown over it by Rosie.
- Hanbacca creates a scary force blade - 2D damage, severance = 5.
- Time Hopping!
- Hop back 100 years (abduct random 6-limb idiot) to ditch causality.
- Jump forward 1,000,000 years --> Not that interesting.
- Jump forward another 1,000,000 years --> Planet is a burnt cinder.
- Orbital spy drone is gone.
- Etheric signals abundant, signs of two interstellar vessels within passive sensor range.
- Minnow sneaks up to a populated corner of the planet and Kitt goes in to investigate.
- Kitt discovers:
- that the planet-wrecking civilization is not that sophisticated, and that
- she's not very good at not killing people.
- Jump back 1,000 years by using a brain-damaged local (Rosie punches him in the head) --> same burnt cinder.
- Jump back another 1,000 years --> planet surface not dead yet.
- Orbital spy drone already gone, but no etheric signals. Some orbital structures.
- Minnow spotted by some flying craft. Large missiles start inbound.
- Jump back another another 1,000 years using a carefully brain-damaged local --> appear in a heavily populated city.
- Sirens blare, panic in the streets, threatening radio communications demand yadda yadda yadda.
- Jump back 6,000 years using a cat --> drone is intact!
- Planet appears to be in the midst of industrializing.
Plot 017 - Steam Age #3
[God rubs forehead trying to remember exactly the circumstances where we left off...]
I think we were going to go to a secluded island and hang out while we figured out what to do. Plus we need to clean our some bodies.
"So, any idea how to stop an industrial society from nuking themselves into oblivion?"
"Here's an idea. We create a nanoscopic virus that eats all of the fossil fuels on the planet, go back another thousand years and release it. Without fossil fuels they'll never reach the industrial age and not have the infrastructure to create nuclear weapons."
Secluded island and disposing of bodies: check.
Surhis: "Now, was it the nuking that was the fundamental problem? Sure, it was annoying to lose the drone and not be able to know what's going on. But it seems like they were able to recover from it - and move on to having spacefaring capabilities."
Hanbacca: "The spacefaring is sort of the problem because that's what causes the drone to self-destruct."
There are no significant fossil fuels on INOPH. Their path to industrialization is based on biofuel - so far.
"I'm not too concerned about the drone. I'm worried about the burnt cinder that we saw. What if we use the rest of the sacrifices and end up in a future where the planet is dead and we're too early for the Confederation to colonize it? Though I suppose we could go to another planet now - but it would be a risk to not find any intelligent beings again."
"If we want to try and stop the space faring, what if we construct some armed satellites in orbit? I'd guess early ships are pretty frail. We could set up the satellites to auto-destroy anything that flies into orbit."
Hanbacca looks horrified. "Five point nine million years of armed orbital platforms targeting any spaceflight? That seems kind of... harsh."
Surhis: "It could probably work though, right?" Surhis looks like he's holding in a laugh. "Kind of harsh, sure, but did you see what they did to the planet? Zarked up, that was. Zark those guys."
Hanbacca: "OK, so if we're not worried about the drone, but what we're actually scared about is the planet dying, is there some way we can bolster the environment? Or steer things in a more agrarian way?"
Rosie: "We could set up terraforming on another planetoid in this system, thus reducing their need to strip this one and to act as a failsafe reserve for ourselves. After another big jump we could seed it with intelligent life. Armed satellites would be easier, though. Especially if they also targeted large mining operations."
"I'm worried it may backfire though. If they're stubborn and see that there's things in orbit attacking them, it might inspire them to be more warlike to try and take them out. Terraforming could be interesting, but sounds like a lot of work. Could we somehow destroy the material they most likely made the nuclear weapons out of? Purge the planet of uranium or something like that?"
Surhis winces. "Yeah. 67% chance of goading a nascent technological society of becoming more aggressive."
Hanbacca: "If we're willing to just make some robots do most of the actual work, the terraforming might not be that much actual work for us. Purging all potential nuclear fuel is essentially impossible, as radioisotopes of pretty much everything exist to some degree. Cosmic radiation make non-trivial quantities of tritium in the ocean, which can be used to initiate and boost more stubborn reactors."
Surhis: "Yeah, and we know that they're capable of churning and burning pretty much the whole planet for resources, so forcing them to hunt for more exotic isotopes might just make things worse."
Hanbacca brightens. "Hey, maybe that's it. What if we help them find ways to build stuff that doesn't require zarking over the planet? Let them leapfrog past strip-mining for simple metals and show them how to cultivate more advanced materials that don't screw the biosphere."
Surhis: "It's a lot less insane than leaving robots to work unsupervised for millions of years. Still, it would be tricky to influence them without making them paranoid or crazy. Right?"
Hanbacca seems pleased with Surhis' thoughtfulness. "Indeed. It might need to be carefully done."
"I think we'd have to do it through proxies. Revealing time travelling aliens to the entire planet might inspire the paranoid/crazy, but if we find and reveal ourselves to just a few and use them to transform the society it might work better. But none of us are sociologists, the potential for screw up is great. And the time commitment is larger - we're going to be here in this time for a while."
"Though, I think trying the terraforming is worthwhile too. Cause - cool!"
Surhis: "Proxies, right. That seems to suggest two different options: smart people who can understand what we're trying to do, or powerful people who can most readily achieve what we're trying to do."
Hanbacca: "Why wouldn't we find someone who is both?"
Surhis gives Hanbacca a pitying look. "I didn't just mean smart as in sufficiently intelligent, but actually having pursued enough science/technology. And for some reason that's usually pretty wildly differentiated from those who actually achieve power. Scientific or engineering leaders are unicorns."
Hanbacca: "Fair point. OK, then we need to find leaders who have technological advisors they actually listen to, and work with them. Right? Next question: how do we go about doing that?"
Surhis: "Yeah, a giant flying ball is pretty obvious. As are furry aliens. The Minnow can remain incognito by staying underwater or up really high, but the alien aspect is hard to overcome - except for Rosie."
"We could find a largish city and hide on the outskirts. Then build a whole bunch of robotic insects to create a communication surveillance network throughout. We'll listen for a while, and find the people in power we could use. For now, I don't think we should give them any tech, but we could offer raw materials that we'd have no problem getting that might be difficult for them. Or, if they have any kind of financial instruments, all us mathematicians can probably use them to help the guy acquire wealth. Then, once we have him on a leash, we can figure out how best to use him."
Hanbacca nods. "Yeah, it should be relatively easy to set up an unnoticed surveillance network of micro-scale drones reporting back to the Minnow in real time. I'll get started on converting the drones I've already made to better emulate the current microfauna, you guys find us a decent city to haunt."
Surhis summons the data from the orbital drone, runs some calcs openly on the castawiki showing how he's picking a city based on technological trends as well as geopolitical influence, and suggests an obvious candidate. The Minnow gets directed to hover 10 km over the city and the bugs are sent down to perform a ballet of surveillance. It takes a few days to understand the social structure and trace the pathways of power - all of which converge on a royal family and their web of influence, mostly military and industrial. Work is largely done by slave labour, and the slave trade is vigorous. A lot of the work is spent supplying the military, as it seems like several wars are simmering simultaneously.
There are no speculative financial functions to apply mathematics to leverage wealth at this time.
2017.02.09 - A Bad Case Of Xoids
- spy drones on the kindom of reptiles
- getting impatient - snag another 4-intelligence person and alter their intelligence
- -4,900,240 years
- -3,900,240 years
- reptiloids almost extinct
- render for patches and power sources
- -2,900,240 years
- probe gone
- make new probe
- -1,900,240 years
- burnt cinder
- probe gone
- etheric comms
- -900,240 years
- giant space constructs
- 99,760 years
- get gnawed on by wasp megaxoid
- sacrifice spotty
- -240 years
- more XOIDS
- duck underwater to hide
- grab a fish for temporal sacrifice
- head to coast and look for a sentient being to interrogate
- xoid combatant
- inbound megaxoid mauls Minnow
- scoop up Kitt and sacrifice Xoid weapon
- -10,240 years
- Minnow crashes and gets destroyed
- Hanbacca dead
- Surhis badly injured
Plot 018 - A Mammal In The Lizard Empire
Kitt starts frantically searching for the coffee table of doom.
The debris field mixes in with the slag a little too well, making rapid location of anything problematic. Rosie recognizes Kitt's intent, and joins in the search while carrying Surhis's inert form. There is a 75% chance that the incoming ship will arrive before the CTOD can be located.
Additionally, crude pulses of radar sweep the crash zone from the incoming ship.
Any etheric comm detectable?
There are etheric signals present, but no etheric signals from the incoming ship. There is a cacophony of EM comms, though - simply encoded and unencrypted.
Rosie [tightbeam]: "Surhis is fairly fragile, slowing down my searching. Do we intend to negotiate with the incoming ships? Flee? Or fight?"
"Negotiate, then fight if we have to. Can't leave until we find out if the time machine is destroyed or not. I'll try to contact them."
I tight beam using EM towards the incoming ship. "Greetings! We seem to have crash landed on your world. Can you render assistance?" I'll feed whatever unencrypted conversations I can detect through my translation matrix, and repeat the message as I refine it. All the while continuing to look for the time machine.
Rosie [tightbeam]: "Understood. I'll continue a parallel search pattern."
Incoming ship [broadband radio frequency]: "HISS GARGLE BABBLE GARGLE CHIRRUP HISS MUTTER MUTTER SHIP NOW! THEN POWER DOWN AND PREPARE TO BE INTERROGATED!"
The searching continues apace as the ship rumbles close, then balances on a shrieking ion drive and trembles with sound as it lowers itself to land in the middle of the debris field on six long landing struts. In this orientation, the main hull of the 400-tonne ship is a crude cylinder with the toroid of the ion drive hissing and pinging with heat underneath it. On top is a pair of turrets - one has a large beam weapon and is sweeping for threats, the other has a large dish that is twitching upwards. The side of the cylinder clanks open and an access gantry starts to unfold. Coming down it are about a dozen reptiloids in uniform, with an aura that screams "COPS".
It seems that they have not technically located either Kitt or Rosie yet.
Rosie: "It seems they don't like ships crashing on their world."
I'll hide a comm relay and use that to communicate with them as I continue my search. "I'm searching for a missing comrade. I'd be happy to answer your questions as soon as find them and make sure they're all right. And well, there's nothing to 'power down'. Our ship is destroyed."
Rosie: "Seems surprising - they do not appear to care for this planet much."
Ship [radio broadcast]: "What are you transmitting from?"
The uniformed lizard cops unsling projectile weapons and fan out in a search pattern - seemingly unrelated to the direction of the communication relay. They coordinate via handheld comms - just on a different frequency, and again unencrypted. This blithely open communication and the high predictability of their search pattern makes them avoidable for a long enough time to locate the CTOD.
It also gives Rosie enough time to get Surhis conscious.
Surhis [castawiki]: "Thanks for resuscitating me, guys. I was definitely a goner. Have we found Hanbacca yet?"
I say in a grave voice: "Well, we found pieces of him." I look over the CTOD. Does it look damaged? Also, if it's night, I check the star field and try to calculate how many years back we went.
Surhis lets loose an ear-piercing screaming lament. "ZAAAAAAAAAAAARK!" This get's the attention of the arrayed lizard cops, and they start converging on Surhis' and Rosie's position. Surhis finally clues into the fact that there's some tactical tension going on.
Surhis [castawiki]: "Zark."
Rosie [castawiki]: "I'll stay with Surhis to protect him. You get to the artifact and ensure that it is intact."
The CTOD is embedded in some slag some 50-odd meters away, but with the cops attention so drawn it is trivial for Kitt to speed over to it for inspection. The part that is exposed appears to be unscathed, but it will take considerably more force than Kitt can muster to extract it.
The few stars you can see suggest that you've gone back 10,000 years.
"Well, good news is we're back before the Galactic Wars. Bad news is were before the Confederation even existed, so there's nobody to warn. At least I think so. I never really studied history much. The artifact seems intact, but it's going to take some work to extract it. I'm going to disable the cop's communication gear before we talk with them. I'll try to be quick."
I eye the large dish on the ship. Ship scale? Intermediate scale? Would a well placed rock hurtled at it disable it? If not, I'll sneak to the ship and then try to sneak onto it to get up to the dish to tamper it.
Surhis: "That would seem to suggest that we would need to move forward about 7,500 years to be at the beginning of the Confederation - assuming that there isn't something in this continuum that messes with that. And, well, frankly I have suspicions about leaving these guys alone for a few millennia."
The ship is clearly intermediate scale. A few well-placed rocks from Kitt could disable it, but it would be an uncertain thing. More reliable would be to bounce up the vessel and tamper the dish directly. Let's say Kitt accomplishes sneaking up without being noticed, then easily disables the big dish. While up on the top of the ship, Kitt also notices that is has an array of other simple antennae, probably for local comms.
I'll tamper in one of my comm nodes into the local comm so I can communicate with the ship via etheric.
"Yeah, it's possible these guys set up their own empire that was strong enough to challenge the Confederation. They were able to weaken it or delay it's development so that it wasn't strong enough to defeat the Xoids. Bastards. And we may have inadvertently caused it."
I bound down towards Surhis and Rosie. How does Surhis look? Any limbs lost? Then I sneak towards the cops. When I'm about 14 meters away I make myself visible. "Ok, I'm ready to be interrogated, what do you want to know." In tandem, I'm going to see if I can hack the ship via the comm.
Urge to kill rising...
Making the modification to the brute-force antennae to include one of Kitt's comm nodes is simplicity itself.
Rosie forwards his medical assessment of Surhis - he looks pretty good for the most part, but both his legs are totally gone. He'll never walk again.
When Kitt reveals herself to the cops, they take extremely defensive stances with all weapons trained on Kitt. Despite being mostly professional stage-wise, this marks them as being quite inexperienced in real combat - they are all completely focussed on the Felinid and with no consideration for adversaries from any other direction.
Hacking into the ship remotely is hilariously impossible. It has no control computers. Kitt can, however, have a conversation with an utterly befuddled communications officer. Though they might not be inclined to chat, as they're undoubtedly overwhelmingly concerned with their sudden inability to communicate long range.
Lizard cop: "FREEEEEEEEEEEEEZE!!!"
Different lizard cop [on handheld communicator]: "We have contact! It's an alien!"
"Hi. I was wondering if you could give me a lift to the nearest spaceport. My ship crashed and I need to buy a new one."
Castawiki: "Ok, what do we do with these guys? We're going to need some time to un-bury the artifact. Also, these guys are pre-etheric as far as I can see. Where the heck are those etheric signals coming from?"
Lizard cop: "What is your mission on the Imperial Anchor World?"
Yet another lizard cop: "Drop your weapons! Then down on your knees! If you have them! If not, then just lay flat on your face! Keep your appendages where we can see them!"
Rosie: "Shall I move over to the artifact and extricate it?"
Surhis: "The etheric signals might be coming from bases and larger craft."
1st cop: "Tourism. Tell me, how many worlds does your Empire control? Any with a lot of beaches? I like beaches."
2nd cop: "Yeah, that's not going to happen. Look, I'm actually in a really bad mood. One of my friends died in that crash. While I'm morally against killing indiscriminately, if you push the issue, I'm going to really enjoy eviscerating you."
1st cop: "A LIKELY STORY! But, seriously though, why would you come to this rock and not go to the main habitats in orbit? Or are you one of those 'truther' species that suspects the Empire secretly still has a large-population home world it protects from outside influence?"
2nd cop: "Your threats will not be tolerated! Submit or we will put you down!"
The lizard cops are still quite distracted, allowing Rosie to move with unnatural swiftness over to the CTOD and pluck it from the slag. "It appears to be undamaged."
Surhis [from a hidden spot behind some slag]: "We should conduct some careful scans to make sure that the field generation is still stable. Any signs of the rest of the apparatus?"
Judging from the powdery consistency of some of the slag - in-between the slag boulders - it would take a lot of careful sifting to find much of the smaller components.
Rosie: "It will be very difficult to find all the components we need - assuming they all survived. It is made even more difficult with these natives distracting us - we should terminate them."
Surhis: "Zark. No, we should try to reason with them. Maybe they can help us find our gear."
Rosie: "This is atypical for you to suggest."
Surhis: "Yeah, well, it was Hanbacca's job to be the enlightened one, so I could sit back and play devil's advocate. But he was actually usually right, wasn't he."
Kitt's sober assessment of the arrayed lizard cops is that while most of them are professional, it was probably substandard training - the whole squad would not count as even a single point of experience for Kitt combat-wise. Therefore, you may safely assume that any tactical interactions will be largely successful.
"Hanbacca would have been really against terminating this species a few million years ago, but in hindsight, that probably would have been best for all of us. He might still be alive then."
I smile briefly at the cops and then duck behind some slag. The plan is to sneak past them to their ship (1/2 movement, full sneak, 2D to movement), slip quietly on board and slaughter everyone inside. Then I'll come back out and kill the rest. I'm going to try to keep one of them alive for further questioning. But Kitt's pretty grumpy, so she may have trouble restraining herself.
Kitt's capability for movement stuns and befuddles the lizard cops. She easily evades their attention and scampers impossibly up the side of the spacecraft. The doors are magnetically locked, which is essentially like having a doorknob to somebody with tools or force beams of any kind.
On the lower deck are a couple engineering types who die without knowing that they're at risk. Ascending through the main hold and up into the control deck requires physically toggling a bulkhead door. This warns the bridge crew of Kitt's presence, which in turn gives them the needed seconds to open a channel on local comms for their screaming. One of them seems to be saying something about being the captain, but a casual glance suggests that it achieved that role through nepotism or bribery as it has an unmistakable aura of incompetence, and is clearly better off quietly decapitated.
With the spacecraft pacified, it's time to deal with the rest. They're forewarned by the transmission from the ship, but it's not terribly helpful for them. Half try to rush back to the ship, and they get casually slaughtered in a series of ambushes. The other half run, but not fast enough.
Technically two of the lizard cops are capable of being revived. Rosie stabilizes both of them in preparation for questioning.
I get Rosie to wake the first one up.
"I'm going to ask you a series of questions. Then I'm going to knock you out, wake up your friend here and ask him the same questions. If you have different answers, then one of you will be lying and I'll have to kill you unpleasantly."
"How large is your empire - in terms of total population, number of systems, and area of space."
"If I fly your ship back to the orbital facility, what codes do I need to provide to get them to let me in."
The lizard's eyes water with sincere horror. A forked tongue flickers over its lips. "The Empire is in about a hundred systems, but I don't know how many people - communication bandwidth is too expensive for such matters. The border systems are about a thousand light years away, but many star systems inside that have not been charted yet." [GULP] "The access code for the garrison is MAMMALS ARE FOOD."
There is a 91% probability that this is truthful.
"Ooo, that pass code is going to cost you a liver. How long can you be out of contact before they send another ship down to investigate?"
"I didn't make up the pass code! It's been the same one for the past couple years, since we came across some really big scary mammals." [GULP] "They might send somebody in as early as six hours... if they're bored. More likely 24 hours. Or longer."
Surhis [castawiki]: "Has anyone else tried to access the ship's systems? Either it's amazingly firewalled, or there's no control systems!"
Rosie [castawiki]: "We should get aboard and look."
Bound bound. Slither slither slither slither slither slither slither slither slither slither slither.
Surhis: "Well, zark. How are we going to fly this museum piece?"
Rosie: "We should let the lead technician figure that out while we hunt for the other time displacement equipment we need in the debris field."
I raise an eyebrow to the lizard: "Just curious, did the really big scary mammals call themselves 'Groten'?"
"Crap! I'm the lead technician now. Well that just sucks. Rosie, can you come tamper this guy unconscious? I'll go take a look at the ship."
Once the dude is taken care of I head back to the ship. Not going to bother with any of the large components, but I see if I can graft on a decent control system.
Lizard captive's eyes go big. "YES. Garott'n. Scary monsters."
Rosie suddenly appears by the captive and punches him in the head. Looks at Kitt. "Tampered." It's possible that her extreme biomedical skill was applied to make that have only minimal damage, but it sure just looked like a stiff-arm to the temple.
Kitt bounds up to the ship to review the controls. It takes a moment to soak in, then she realizes that primary control is handled by hydraulics and a set of four physical lever inputs. It would take practice and talent for a person to maneuver this ship with any kind of control. If dynomer were available, it would take under an hour to fabricate a proper control system. As it is, it'll likely take many hours. And that's just primary piloting, and none of the myriad of other ship's functions that likely need crew to actuate.
"Zark! This isn't going to be easy. Ok, we have some time. How about the two of you get all the bits of the artifact to see if we can ever use it again. I'm going to search the debris for usable bits from the Minnow."
I start searching. Very interested in components I can use on the other ship, plus any of the tools and fabrication equipment we had made.
The tools and fabrication equipment is probably all toast - everything in the debris field took 10-60 points of damage. However, there is lots of high-quality titanium for constructing the mechanical interface. The actual computational needs of the control mechanism is easily accomplished by any of the mathematicians.
Surhis and Rosie poke and probe through the debris looking for other parts of the apparatus, but it seems that only the CTOD is intact. Everything else - the scientific sensors, the field modulators, the microfusion generators, and the parabolic dish - are all smashed.
Surhis: "OK, this isn't looking good. But, for clarification, it's not like we actually know a useful time to displace to. If we just jump back upstream really far again, it'll be a huge pain to make our way back to a point where we can make a difference again. Before we reassemble the time displacement device we should figure out what is needed to prevent the Xoids from consuming the galaxy."
"Well, we have two options there. We can try to prevent this empire from forming in the first place (which means using the time machine to go back), or we can try to influence people in this time to get their acts together. Rosie, let's put the CTOD into the ship, plus as much titanium as we can find. I'll start working on the ship."
Using my trusty force tool arms, plus usable debris, I start constructing the control interface for the ship. How far away are the Groten, Human, and Anurian home worlds from INOPH?
Surhis: "How do we go about preventing this empire from forming? We know that they even nuked themselves and still bounced back into forming this empire in another continuity.
Rosie: "We could go back, gather up enough sacrifices to return, then build a ship to take us to a sufficiently-large asteroid, then build drives on said asteroid and slam it into INOPH such that even bacteria are eradicated."
Surhis: "Yeah, that's clearly much, much more evil than I'm willing to be. Besides, we don't need to commit genocide; we just need to make sure that the Confederation - or something sufficiently powerful - forms to face the Xoids. Right?"
"Well, they didn't form an empire in our original timeline before we went back. I wonder what happened to them originally. Well, let's table the genocide option for now. Keep it as a last resort. I bet if we can get onto an orbital facility, we can find ourselves a workshop to build a decent ship."
work work work work...
Rosie: "The very real possibility is that the majority of the timelines include this reptiloid empire flourishing and smothering the other galactic spacefarers before they can organize into an entity capable of facing the aggressive version of The Swarm in this dimension. Your original continuum might have been just a statistical fluke."
Surhis: "Well, that's a lovely thought. So, what's our alternate methodology?"
After 4 hours of fabrication, Kitt installs a revamped control mechanism on the bridge to interface with the hydraulic systems. To make the ship fully-functional, Kitt thinks that another hour of modification to the engineering section is in order, plus another hour to install proper sensors wouldn't hurt. It seems odd that there are no generalized logic circuits of any kind in the whole ship. Everything has purely mechanical modulation with custom-built parameters built into the hardware. Even the attitude modulation is accomplished via three huge gyroscopes instead of having to coordinate simple pairs of axial thrusters. And the main short range piloting sensing equipment are large armoured windows all around the bridge. But though the technology of the ship is crude, the craftsmanship is clearly evident.
The Groten Prime is 298 Parsecs away. Sol is 337 Parsecs away. Lublin is 325 Parsecs away.
What about the Felinid home world?
The Felinid home world is in the Second Galaxy.
Surhis sets up a field-expedient comm network upgrade to the ship internal communications trunk to quietly allow continuous castawiki packet transmission. "This hull makes EM transmission spotty without augmentation, and I don't think we want to be individual etheric broadcast sources. It's all hard-wired to be innocuous, and there are no logic circuits involved. That seems like a technology they're desperately missing, and I'm not sure we want to leave anything like that behind."
Rosie: "That's a problem. Because even though there are no functional examples left from the Minnow, the basic technology is littered all over the debris field."
Surhis' eyes go wide. "We should nuke the site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure."
Rosie: "You've already made that joke."
Surhsi: "Sure, but not for literally millions of years."
Rosie: "It's possible that parts of this ship was around for that."
Surhis looks confused, then his eyes bug out. "Holy zarking Groten butt plugs. Look at the beta decay on the superstructure. The basic bones of this ship are thousands of years old. Jeez. These guys have been at a similar tech level for a really long time."
Kitt finishes all reasonable modifications to the ancient ion ship to make it flyable, and there's still no sign of any incoming ships. The question is: does Kitt repair the sabotaged long-range communications dish too?
"It's even possible they reached a plateau of technology millennia ago and have backpedaled since then. They may only know how to maintain their ships, not build new ones. So, what's our plan here? Fix the time machine and get out of dodge, or are we going to make a go of influencing this empire? We could literally start a new Confederation, millennia ahead of time. Then by the time the Xoid's get here, we'll be ready for them. If it's going to be difficult to return to our original history without these Reptiloids making a mess of things, this may be our only option. Well, except the genocide option."
Yes, I repair the long range comm. Let's see if anyone's trying to contact the ship.
Surhis: "Yeah, if these guys are stagnant technologically, and have an ossified geopolitical structure across most of the galaxy before most species are even properly spacefaring, there's going to be little room for more technologically-adept species to flourish. They'll be seen as threats and squashed before then can resist. So, clearly we need to do something about that. We're too late in the timestream to prevent this empire from forming, and we're too early to get any significant assistance from any of the major species of the Confederation."
Rosie: "Perhaps, but it sounds like the empire has yet to establish itself throughout the Milky Way galaxy - it's only in this one sector so far. We might be able to cripple it ."
Surhis: "To do any time displacement we would need to fabricate the rest of the parts needed for our temporal apparatus. So maybe that's what we should focus on first. If we see opportunities to cripple the idiotic lizard empire, fine."
MEANWHILE - one the ship's long range communication dish: "-thing likely to explain it. Plus his season has been muddled with injury anyway. [crackle] Maybe so, but you have to know the league is being paid off by some rich assholes to make things happen. [crackle crackle] Will you guys quit with the conspiracy banter and leave this channel open emergency comms? [crackle] Shut the fuck up, Donny."
"Ok, so the plan is to repair the time machine, while looking for ways to cripple the Reptiloid empire. Once we repair the time machine, we'll take short hops forward to make sure the Reptiloids stay inert, and when we get close to when the Confederation species come around we assist them in defeating the Xoids. I think our first step is to get to one of the habitats. If we can get aboard and find a place to hide, we can probably install control systems throughout and take it over. Then we can analyze their empire at leisure and determine the best way to steer or destroy it."
"If we can, I think it may be prudent to set up construction modules in an asteroid belt somewhere to mine and build a robotic fleet for us to command. Then we hop forward a thousand years to when it's completed. When we do encounter a race we can deal with, we train them up and send them to engage the Xoids."
Are there any recording devices on board? Did anything record the battle between myself and the cops?
Surhis: "We should be wary about what sorts of technology we leave lying around. We have always relied on a significant technological advantage, but that's thinning. If we let an intransigent empire get hold of computational capabilities or nanoscopic fabrication, they'll be that much harder to force out of the way of a more capable galactic-defending entity."
Rosie: "Unless we can transform the empire into a reasonable anti-Xoid force."
Surhis: "Maybe, but I don't like the odds of the galaxy being a place I want to stay in if it ends up being run by just one species of any kind."
There are very limited recording capabilities aboard. Roughly equivalent to VHS tapes, except using a read/write mechanism the size of a washing machine. Alternate information storage is in the form essentially identical to microfiche. None of the recently-catalogued information seems to mention anything about a small furry killing machine.
Meanwhile, based on the doppler effect of the long-range communication signals that you can now listen to, the locations of several space stations can be deduced. At least one in orbit, and definitely stations at Lagrange points L1 and L2.
2017.02.16 - ALIENS
- Trundle-fly the 400-tonne patrol ship up towards the orbital station.
- Patrol ship has fatal collision with docking stanchion --> fission pile goes critical.
- Castaways fled ship before explosion, hiding on far side of tower.
- Tamper into a cargo bay.
- Encounter tower guards.
- Disable one, splatter another, and terrify another into hiding in a corner and hyperventilating for a long, long time.
- Explore the gigantic station.
- It's really big, noticeably radioactive, and pretty empty.
- Marines arrive.
- Engage marines half-way up the active tower.
- Extremely messy.
- Extra-messy when considering the number of free-floating heads.
Plot 019 - "You want some‽‽"
Surhis looks at all the free-floating heads. "Sheeeeeeeit."
"There's still one more scary combatant ahead. Rosie, can I have a couple more patches and then I'll go get him. Also, if any of these guys are still alive, we should stabilize them for later rendering."
Two more patches deploy, and Kitt is up to full stamina (rolled 23 and 18!).
Surhis: "Wait, so you want us to introduce nanoscopic robots into the survivors?"
Rosie: "There are six survivors. Three have suffered severe cognitive degeneration. Two are unconscious. One is unharmed, unarmed, and probably still cowering in that cargo shaft." She give coordinates on the castawiki to one of the shafts nearest the segment interface.
"Not yet. But I want the option open if we're stuck here a while." I start further up the tower looking for the other badass.
Rosie nods. "The three in comas will decease shortly without benefit of nanoscopic robots. I'll stabilize the other two, then fetch the last one and neutralize it."
Surhis: "Gotcha. Also worth noting is that we currently lack the apparatus to render biological material into patches. Not to mention lacking a functioning temporal displacement device."
A careful locate up the tower shows no sign of the shockshooter or the last tactical sensor operator.
Rosie: "Let's wake one up and question it."
Surhis: "Right. I keep forgetting how much we lost in the crash."
2017.02.19 - 2nd Platoon
In this special extra game session, Kitt decided to chase down the seasoned Sharpshooter (and sensor operator sidekick) and stop them from... well, anything. Ever again. Using her force-augmented limbs and natural quickness, Kitt was able to move at a most alarming pace. She then soaked up a horrifying number of hits to the face from the massive to-hit dice pile of the Shockshooter, to plunge the last 800 meters to intercept her quarry. Then the irresistible effects of the large high-severance force blade became the dominating element.
So, mission accomplished. Except that shortly thereafter, there was the distant sound of high-velocity beings landing on interchange sections. So, more were coming. A whole other platoon, coming to see why the first platoon wasn't responding. Kitt cut the jamming, and listened in to their angry demands for reports - clearly thinking that this was some sort of joke. Apparently, these military lizards are hilarious to each other.
Kitt decided to lie in wait at the interchange 3 km from the top of the tower, and let the 20 military personnel come to her. First they sent through a couple exploratory squads, and she was able to slaughter them so quickly and quietly that the idea of it all being just a joke persisted. Except that the joke was not funny to the commander, so he sent through the forward sensor operators and the assault weapon leads. Kitt couldn't quite murder them all before one of them managed to yell back "CONTACT!" and get off one miserable shot. Then things got frisky. She decided to keep her momentum, and leapt out to dance in the midst of the last 8 - including two more seasoned combatants. It was very messy indeed. They tried to get the last two sensor operators away to report back to their ship - to summon the 'special forces' - but Kitt managed to interrupt their escapes with high-velocity rocks and re-directed assault weapon fire.
Then it all got extremely quiet.
+3 experience for Kitt
Plot 019.5 - Special Forces
Surhis: "What do you think they meant by 'special forces'?"
Rosie: "They probably meant combatants of higher-then-standard ability, often meant to accomplish tactical operations with stealth."
Surhis rolled his eyes. "I obviously didn't meant to suggest that they were deployed by some sort of short bus. I just meant I wondered what they're special ops guys are like. Are they really big lizards with battle axes and grenade launchers? Or are they ninja lizards?"
"My guess is armour and heavy weaponry. Maybe squads carrying intermediate scale rail guns on a tripod or something silly like that. We should make sure any of the survivors don't get a signal out... is everyone we've encountered that's still alive accounted for? There was that initial group of three; I think a couple of them were still alive. We should go retrieve them after we secure the tower."
I start moving towards the top of the tower. Again. I think there's three segments to go?
Three segments to go. The last one is structurally very different. It is much more open, with large docking port areas and staging equipment for irregular material transfer. The far end has multiple hatches, and seems to have a security screening zone.
One of the largest docking ports is in use, according to the external pressure indicators illuminated around it. An additional indication is the presence of heavily armed sentries located behind a recently-erected barrier.
If I stay along the wall, is there much in the way of a negative to sneak?
This segment has an over-lived-in feel to it. While most crates and large containers are restrained, there are heaps of them located in loading-expedient places. Meanwhile, many random items are unrestrained and free-floating through the main volume of this docking interchange. There is an organic odour to this segment that wasn't as pervasive in the utilitarian segments of the tower, with accompanying stains with random distribution.
There are only negatives to sneak for most of this section is if someone were to sail ballistically through the center of the volume.
"Rosie, I'm going to go get close to see what we're dealing with. Once I'm in position, maybe we can try to get you to negotiate with them. Try and get them to surrender."
I start sneaking towards them the non-ballistic way.
The sentries are a single squad of repiloids, split between professional and green. From the direction of the large docking port they're guarding are a pair of large crude cameras, and they seem to be in nearly constant contact with someone via personal radio. In stereotypical military fashion, the professional guards are goading the green guards into being vigilant by trying to psyche them out.
"There goes another one. 30 meters."
"That's just garbage, man!"
"Is it? Or is it an alien cleverly disguised as garbage to hide its movement?"
"Or is it garbage than an alien cleverly set into motion to distract us from it's movement?"
"They can do that?"
"Kid, I've seen aliens that are made up entirely of goo that can form any shape they want."
"Yeah, and fit down pipes even though they're bigger than you."
"Shit. You think they have those here?"
"Who knows, man. No telling what some alien is thinking. I mean, why come to this burnt out old station in the first place?"
"Careful with that flamethrower kid - keep it pointed down range."
Oooo, flame thrower. How feasible would it be to sneak behind them to the camera and patch into the signal so that I can record a loop and play it continuously.
Broken down by feasibility:
- Sneaking around behind them: 87% chance of success. Darn possibility of double-sixes.
- Patching into signal to make a fake feed: 100% feasible, but would require sacrificing a spy bug.
- Chance of it fooling the people on the other end: 80% ±15%, depending on how much the talking on the radios differs from the pictures.
2017.02.23 - Blinding White Flashes And Bloody Slaughter
The final approach to the guards was flawed by a roll of double-sixes by one of the greens with a flamethrower. He shouted and directed a wave of flame at Kitt. She could have disappeared during the time the too-short wave of flame obscured her from the guards point of view. But instead she thought it would be more amusing to fire a rock to detonate the fuel tank on the flame thrower. The resulting explosion killed all the guards.
Kitt then tampered open the docking airlock and confronted the pair of guards stationed there. They died mostly-accidentally.
With a subtle surge, the ship departed. Using the nearby intercom, Kitt attempted to reason with the voice on the other side. They were not especially reasonable. After ramping up to a significant fraction of a G, they tried to suck Kitt out into vacuum. Then they fired some tactical nukes at the station tower. Profoundly annoyed, Kitt managed to raise Rosie on etheric comms before getting out of range, and confirmed that both she and Surhis would probably survive. Nevertheless, it was determined that a lot of people should die.
Rosie broke her way into the section control station, and faced off against 2 squads of combatants. They all died. Interrogating the surviving techies, it quickly became evident that there was nothing that could be done meaningfully from this control station. Operating the ship took the communication and coordination of many, many personnel.
Then the crew tried to eject the docking section that Kitt was in, sacrificing the crew inside it in order to keep the main ship safe. They died meaninglessly as Kitt effortlessly escaped, leapt across the gap, and tampered open the bulkhead door to the main ship. After letting more of the hapless crew be spewed out into deadly vacuum, she resealed the door and used active scanning to pick her way towards the command deck.
A phalanx of apparently very stealthy individuals attempted to surround Kitt. The were unaware of her ability to scan actively through walls, so she was able to ambush one, dispatch him, and then move swiftly to the bridge.
At the bridge, Kitt encountered the large array of communication officers required to operate the ship, plus the surly captain and a fantastically-scary combatant. The legendary 150 kg reptile wielding a large assault weapon faced off against the seasoned 50 kg feline armed a sword and some rocks. It was a fierce fight, and Kitt needed every cheating trick possible. The telling aspect was simply the lack of nanoscopic robots in the reptile, and the cumulative bleeding from multiple mortal wounds inflicted into its un-enhanced biology. The captain and the legendary combatant eventually surrendered.
Plot 020 - Starjammer
The medic isn't effective fast enough, and the legend is clearly doing willpower checks nearly continuously by the time the most troublesome wounds are stitched up.
Captain: "So, what are your demands?"
"First you're going to order those seven special forces lizards outside to stand down. Have them all move to an empty room and stay there. I want them all in one spot. Then order the ship to stop, turn around and head back to that giant relic in orbit we were at. Then, give me access to your external communication and sensors, such as they are."
"Are there any other ships of this class or bigger in the system, or are you the only one? How fast can this ship go?"
Hate mingled with fear blaze in the Captain's eyes. He leans over his console and presses a large button. The incoms all crackle. "Special Forces team - stand down. Assemble in the briefing room." He then toggles a different switch. "Engine rooms, prepare for 180° turn and full thrust. Sensor team, mark course for return vectors to Anchor Station."
The various communications officers start having simultaneous conversations with their engine teams, to coordinate turning the ship to thrust in the opposite direction. A truly magnificent cathode-ray tube flickers to life in the ceiling, glowing with readouts and matrices of numbers.
The Captain then deactivates his panel with a dismissive flick and stares blankly at Kitt. "If you want to look through the telescopes, you'll have to head to the observation deck. All you'll see is the glowing remains of your forces, because we nuked the fuckers."
"You idiot. You make it sound like we're an invasion. We accidentally crash landed on your anchor world. We even politely asked for help from that ship that came down. But instead of being reasonable, they pointed guns at me and tried to capture me. Then when we got here, more guns, more violence. To be honest I'm getting damn sick of having to kill you people!" I get all frothy. "And then, you send nukes to 'my forces'. No wonder you're still in the technological stone age. Gah! Telescopes. How the hell did you ever leave your system."
I move to one of the communication officers. I try to pick one of the less frightened looking ones. "You! Tell me how all this works." If there's anything written, I get him to read it aloud to me so I can figure out the written language. Meanwhile I try to make etheric contact with Rosie and Surhis.
The horrified communication officer doesn't verbally respond to Kitt, as it is busily engaging in a continuous conversation with a microphone and headphones. It shakes its head, points at the headphones, and winces when it gets yelled at by other communications officers for not keeping up. It's pretty apparent that the operation of this vessel is intensely manual - like the sailing of an Old Earth. Except much bigger, more complicated, and with nuclear reactors in space.
The Legendary Combatant slumps into a chair. "You can follow what's happening with the navigational display. The observation deck plots the course - there." He points and reads it out. "The communications officers relay the telemetry to the section engineers, who report back with timing to complete the thrust sequences. The communications officers display their sections timing - in these areas." He reads the listed sections, but it changes too quickly to read aloud. "You get the idea. The observation deck compares the intended versus actual parameters, and displays that right - there." He reads that section as well, and with a note of pride how small the variances are. "And the communications officers yell at each other to figure out how to make up the difference."
He takes a deep sigh. "I'm going to pass out for a bit. But you should know that there are several starjammer class ships in the Anchor system all the time, and they are going to nuke this ship if we don't surrender. Standard protocol for any ship encountering aliens. There's literally nowhere to go."
Neither Rosie or Surhis seem to be within personnel communicator range.
I glare at the captain: "Tell me where the other starjammer ships are. I assume they saw the nuke's going off. How long until they are within firing range of us?"
The Captain rolls his eyes, then flicks yet another switch and talks into his microphone. "Connect me to the ansible." There's an affirmative response, then a thrumming click and Kitt is awash with a crude etheric carrier signal. "Calling all starjammers in range of Anchor, this is Captain Konstantin of the Budkevich. What are your locations?" He then flicks yet another esoteric switch and the bridge speakers hum with carrier noise.
"Konstantin! Is this your way of making a distress call, and begging for help?"
"Ah, so it was the Budkevich that lit up those nukes. Was it rebels or bugs?"
"Might not be begging for help, but rather making sure that nobody else is too close to intercept him with some sort of prize."
"THIS IS IMPERIAL COMMAND. DO NOT REVEAL YOUR LOCATIONS, AS PER IMPERIAL EDICT. BUDKEVICH, POWER DOWN AND AWAIT INSPECTION. ANY VARIATION FROM PROTOCOL WILL TRIGGER THE STERILIZATION PROTOCOL."
The Captain shrugs and flips off the switches. "Yeah, we aren't allowed to know where each other are. And since the ansibles are directionless and instantaneous, there's no way to tell where they're transmitting from. But it's safe to assume that they're on their way. And unless I'm very much mistaken, we're going to be nuked."
Based on Kitt's estimates, the etheric signal from "imperial command" align with the probable location of the L2 point. The first etheric source was about 300 gigameters away and accelerating away. The second etheric source was 2 megameters away, and accelerating to intercept. The third etheric source was 1.5 gigameters away with a roughly orbital vector. Aside from all the participants in the conversation, there is still an ongoing etheric source from what is probably the L1 point, and is broadcasting a soap opera involving a cheating partner that was discovered by finding another lizard's detached tail in some sexual bondage apparatus.
I mentally plot a course out of the system that's most likely able to evade the incoming ship. Probably to start I'll put INOPH between me and it. Once we pick up the guys I'll tell the crew where to go. I keep trying Rosie and Surhis on the etheric as we get closer.
And Kitt's going to go up in Agressor.
- +8 stamina
- +2 to hit
- +3 damage
- +1 duck
- + option - guessing that it'll be number used. Because that's scary.
Plotting a course out of the system is pretty easy. If the other starjammers have the same thrust capabilities that this one does, the vast distances between everything should make it trivial to plot a suitably wide berth. However, there are several complicating factors.
First is the urge to find the artifact. There is a 78% probability that searching for it amongst the wreckage will take longer than the escape window possible before the intercepting starjammer arrives.
Second, there is likely to be a critical performance variable of crew function. While the starjammers might have nearly-identical physical capabilities, the crew of the conquered ship might have mixed motivations about assisting a disgusting alien invader. This might allow the pursuing ship to catch up.
Third - and this is an awkward one - destinations outside of the Anchor system that are likely inhabited are at least a few parsecs away. Using nuclear-powered ion thrusters, it would be a voyage of about 40 years. It does not appear that the Budkevich is equipped or stocked for a voyage of that duration.
Yeah, travelling to another system isn't feasible. Let's do some number crunching:
- Probability that Surhis and I can make our own ship by gutting this one.
- Probability that the Lizards are going to search Anchor base and find the artifact themselves.
Probability that Kitt can make a ship from 20,000 tonnes of metal: 100% It's just a matter of time.
Probability that the Lizards are going to obsessively search the remains of Anchor base with paranoid fervor after a mysterious and unstoppable alien incursion such that they discover the obviously alien artifact: 99.9%
If there are more nukes on board, what's the probability I can position the ship and fire one at the intercepting ship, based on the direction I got from their brief communication?
Given the lack of sophisticated control systems, it would be technically quite difficult to get the missile sufficiently close to the incoming ship's vector at such extreme long range. Even with AIF-modern targeting systems, 2000 km is well outside of most weapons accurate range.
The huge ship can be felt turning over to point in the opposite direction, shuddering as its huge ion drives jockey to control orientation. Then all of them open up, and partial gravity resumes. It'll take a couple minutes to kill the momentum away from Anchor station, and then return. If you want the ship to be stationary back at Anchor station, it'll have to turn over again to decelerate. There is an 89% probability that the Captain is going to make some sort of joke about there not being a docking section any more on the ship, or that the sentinel tower is no longer able to accommodate parking.
Yeah, let him joke. I patiently wait until I can make contact etherically.
"Captain? We have an ansible source asking to talk to the alien."
The Captain glowers at his speaker, knowing that everybody on the bridge heard it - including Kitt. "Who is it?"
"They say that they're the 'Agent of Life', and that they wish to converse with the 'Agent of Death' - apparently our alien infiltrator."
A look of deep misgiving paralyzes the Captain's face. "Put them through."
Rosie's voice in Common: "Hello Kitt, what is your status? We have been forced to retreat to the main structure of the station, coordinates X, Y, Z. Surhis says to tell you to that he is in great discomfort, but mostly OK. I would judge that to be not correct, as Surhis's body has suffered extensive burns beyond our ability to treat at this time. We have not been able to find the artifact yet."
I respond in Common: "I've taken the ship and forced the command deck to surrender and follow my orders. There are still enemy combatants on board, but I've got them contained for the moment. I've got the ship turned around and it is headed back, but we don't have anywhere to dock. I can adjust our course to come pick you up if you want to risk jumping out an airlock. I haven't seen the damage yet, so what do you think about our chances of finding the artifact? We've got another ship of this class two thousand kilometers away coming in. And apparently their protocol is nuke first, ask questions later. The captain here is convinced they're going to nuke us. If I pick you up, we can escape, but we'd be leaving the artifact behind. I'm worried they'd find it and destroy it. Wait, you're in the main structure? How much air have you got left?"
Rosie: "Not so much IN the main structure. The damage to Surhis was so extensive that I was obliged to turn his exterior into a chrysalis and set his metabolism to hibernate. So we do not require oxygen for the time being."
The Captain semi-discreetly mutters into a side channel at his chair. 93% probability that it's to get someone to record the alien conversation.
Rosie: "We're being recorded now, not that it will help them at all. If we do a fly-by, can you leap over? Also, are there any energy emissions from the artifact we may be able to detect as we fly by?"
Rosie: "Based on your current delta-V, we would not survive an interception. Ideally we would need you to be less than 50 m/s, but even that would be a difficult intercept for a large craft and two unpowered objects. The artifact doesn't have any emissions, but Surhis suggests that it reacts to energy fields in a way that might be detectable. Can you confirm what active sensing equipment is available on the ship?"
Rosie: "Ha! I mentioned I wanted access to their sensors and he told me where to find the telescopes. Do you think the artifact is reacting to all the radiation left over from the nukes?"
Captain: "I want to slow down as we approach so that we're less than 10 m/s as we go past the remains of the tower. Aim for the lower end of the tower. Then when I tell you, speed up again."
The Captain slumps back in his chair with a look of amused annoyance. "OK, sure. We'll just thread this 20 kiloton bucket ass-first through a radioactive debris field at some arbitrary velocity. What could possibly go wrong?" He flips on the ship-wide intercom again. "All right folks. Not only are we going back, we need to slow down to 10 m/s, fly past where the base of the tower we turned into glowing chunks of radioactive slag used to be attached to the main base structure. THEN, at some random point in there, we get to flip the ship again into some arbitrary new orientation and power up whichever drives haven't caught too many giant deadly shards of cancer-making iron." He thwacks the button off again with his open palm, which causes a terrifying echo to reverberate throughout the ship.
Then the Captain gets up and kicks his chair, except instead of any interesting breakage it just spins awkwardly. Then he goes to storm off the command deck, but finds that the door is sealed pretty completely. This results in him punching the door, yelling what is undoubtedly an expletive. Then standing slouched, surly, and wild-eyed with frustrated rage.
Rosie: "Surhis says that just residual radiation isn't relevant. We need to sweep for resonances, preferably with quantum-entangled differentiations. Whatever that means."
"Rosie, I can't see anything from up here. I think for now we're going to have to leave the artifact. We can build some sensors and find it later. You can see how maneuverable this bucket is, how about you tell the captain what to do so that he can pick you up."
I get in the captain's face. "You brought this on yourself. Everything would be so much easier if you fuckers tried to talk to me instead of pointing guns at me." I point at the speaker Rosie's voice is coming out of. "You will follow the orders of the Agent of Life. We need to pick her up. I'll be over here resisting the urge to kill anyone." Then I go sit in a corner and glare at everyone.
The Captain seems to decide something as Kitt is lecturing him. That something appears to involve pressing his oversized sidearm to his eye and blowing his brains out. The various communications officers start screaming, and the sounds of panicked conversations ramp up exponentially.
The legendary combatant is roused and looks over at the ruined mess of the Captain. "Well, that's a bad sign."
Rosie: "The vessel does not appear to be very maneuverable at all, and it is a bit remarkable that it can even-" Somebody somewhere cuts off the link to the etheric communicator.
2017.03.02 - Face To The Face!
- Heading back to Anchor base w/ Legendary Dude nominally in command
- engine crew 7 rebels, and makes the starjammer lose control
- Kitt is sent down to pacify them
- some of crew 7 resist - it does not go well for them
- the leader of crew 7 tries to lure Kitt in closer so that he can detonate a deadman switch and kill her
- she cuts off another defender's head and uses it as a projectile to kill the leader (face to the face!)
- KABOOM: deadman switch goes off
- does not achieve criticality of the fusion pile
- does kill pretty much everybody present - Kitt driven into negatives
- Special Forces goon "captures" Kitt and brings her back to the command deck
- Kitt first tampers the assault weapon to be non-functional
- hilariously awkward conversation on the bridge ensues
- Ship resumes return to Anchor base
- large deadly shard of base debris goes unobserved by the "observation deck"
- conductive shard slams into hull and shorts out communications
- starjammer loses control again and slams hard into Anchor Base
- Building at Anchor Base
- half the starjammer crew survived, and all the remaining non-combat crew leave the ship to follow the Legendary Combatant and Kitt (taking a lot of life support gear)
- they hide in a large chamber in Anchor Base, and start building a post-Confederation-tech battle shuttle (the HANBACCA)
- the HANBACCA is finished just as the backup starjammer arrives (several days later)
- the HANBACCA flies to talk with the starjammer (not a productive conversation)
- depart to start searching the expanding debris field for the transdimensional artifact
- NOTE: the Legendary Combatant turns out to be named Osasco
Plot 021 - Hanbacca the battle shuttle
Commence time machine search!
A systemic scanning of the debris field does not locate the artifact. A variety of scanning methodologies is tried to leverage the resonance properties of the artifact, but without any clear results.
Surhis [castawiki]: "The artifact might have been close to the epicenter of one of the blasts, and destroyed."
Rosie: "The artifact is extremely durable. More likely is that it is obfuscated by melted slag it could be embedded in."
Surhis: "It would take us 2000-2500 hours to complete that kind of detailed scanning. We probably only have a few tens of hours before our passengers start starving to death."
Castawiki: "Yeah, it's not going anywhere. Let's leave it for now. I want to get the fraak out of this system."
Osasco: "Can you tell me where other populated systems are in this region of space? Preferably one that isn't too crowded. We need to de-stress somewhere for a bit so we can figure out what to do next." I display a starfield on the screens with the nearby stars highlighted. "Any of these ones?"
Osasco boggles at the displayed graphic. "I saw a sculpture of known space at the Imperial Palace when I was younger, and the Imperial Cartographers would update it every year to account for expansion and relative motion." He indicates three of the local star systems. "These are all inhabited, but only have industrial presence." He points to a cluster of star systems a little further out. "These are the Jewels of the Empire. Inhabitable worlds in all, and heavily populated. The Imperial Palace is tidally locked between the double worlds of kyu-ju... there."
Rosie highlights a couple points in space in the same vicinity but not at any star systems. "These locations are broadcasting etheric signals - what you call 'ansible'. They are not moving at any significant velocity. Are they settlements?"
Osasco: "No. Those would be the secret military installations that the Emperor denies exist."
Castawiki: "What do you all think about hanging out at an industrial world and building a larger ship. Say around 500 cp. I think while this ship is adequate, none of the locals will take it seriously. All they understand is size. We also build a few hundred drones that can auto-search the debris field for the artifact. We come back here, pacify the locals, and deploy the drones. Then we start taking over the empire."
Osasco and rest: "I need to show you something. This is what 'we' were running from." Then I play back my memories of the two Mega-Xoid attacks on the Minnow. After I give them all a moment for the images to sink in, I say: "Those ships and thousands like them are on the way. Eventually they will reach here and literally devour your civilization. We might be able to help prepare you, but it's going to require radical changes to your culture, and maybe killing a lot of your established military and rulers who don't want to change."
"If you want, we can drop you off at one of your bases and we'll be on our way. But if you want to help, we might just be able to stop them."
Castawiki: "Anybody ever hear of Kyu-Ju in our timeline?"
Rosie: "I do not see the value of building a larger ship. If we cannot impress them with our massive technological advantages, then perhaps horrific military losses will impress them."
Surhis: "LET'S BUILD A STAR DESTROYER!"
Rosie: "Destroying stars seems impractical and unnecessary."
Osasco is clearly horrified at the MegaXoids. "We need to talk to the Admiralty."
The rest just shit themselves.
Surhis: "Kyu-Ju isn't what it is in the navigational data I've got, but it's listed. Large farming world orbited by a habitable moon that's basically a small city planet."
I hope that wasn't a literal comment, or it's going to smell in here.
Osasco: "We have the advantage that they're not going to be here for many generations. We have time to prepare. And I doubt the Admiralty has the mindset to help. The best they can do is get out of our way, and we'll probably have to force the issue there."
Castawiki: "One of the strengths of the Confederation was it's diversity. They were able to have multiple species working together. I wonder if we should try to set up some multi species colony planets. Give them enough tech to survive, but not enough that they can easily become interstellar. Then, assuming we get the time machine working, hop forward a millennia to see how they do and adjust from there. Oh, and obviously destroy this empires ability to hurt them. That's another argument for building a larger ship - more ability to transport people and supplies."
"Though that sounds like a lot of work right now. And I'm in the mood to build or fly. So, either lets build the ship, or let's explore. For the exploring, we could go to the Groten home world and see how badly the Reptiloids have invaded. On the way we could map out all etheric signals we detect. Then once we're at the Grotens, we could try to determine if they've gotten to Sol or Lublin, or are on the way."
Either way, I start moving the ship out of the system at sub light. Based on what I glean from their ansible tech, what kind of signal are we going to generate once we go to superluminal?
There is a smell in cramped shuttle, but it might just be fear.
Osasco: "The Admiralty will undoubtedly bicker internally and be ineffectual at actually changing in a way that could help. But it will give them pause about the activity of some aliens instead of galvanizing to fight as effectively as possible."
Surhis: "OK, fine - a Star Destroyer is silly. Actually, anything that we can't fit through the time displacement effect is a bit of a waste, since we probably shouldn't risk it being left behind to be used against our interests. But what perhaps we should make is a longer-range etheric communication device so that we can maintain the castawiki contact even during remote operations. The standard comms gear in the shuttle has 0.1 Parsec range, but I can devise a device with up to 5 Parsec range."
Rosie: "Our first interest should probably be the protection of the core Confederation species, and perhaps bootstrapping them technologically so that they can rival the damping effect of the Reptiloid Empire.
Based on Kitt's understanding of their ansible technology, superluminal craft will probably generate noise proportional to the mass*velocity product to any ansibles in range.
Surhis: "Dude. Let's do that. We can work on it on the way."
I go sub-luminal until we're past the Oort cloud. Then I ramp it up to light speed until I'm fairly certain we're out of range of the ansibles at Anchor system. Then I punch it up to 2 pph and start towards the Groten system. As we go past one of the industrial planets I ask if anyone wants to get off.
Surhis: "Dude - I'm on it, design-wise. I can also handle the piloting of the Hanbacca while you do the fabrication."
One of the Ansibles in the Anchor system probably have at least a Parsec of range, so it's probably best to just accept that they're going to hear the Hanbacca jump to hyperspace.
The vast majority of the Reptiloids would like to be dropped off.
Surhis: "Actually, why don't we make a whole bunch of 5 parsec repeaters and create a network. That way we can control a fleet of ships in this area remotely?"
I fail to hide my disappointment at the Reptiloids. "It's a pity. It would have been a grand adventure for you." To Osasco: "What about you? Do you want to be let off so you can try and warn your government about the Xoids? I doubt these guys would be believed, but you might be able to convince them."
Surhis: "Well, the main argument for not making an unattended array of high-technology communications relays is that it greatly increases the likelihood that they would be used against us if we do a temporal displacement forward in time. Magnify that point if we have a fleet of unstoppable remote-controlled warships. And the more we work on making this causality be how we want it, the less we're going to be wanting to jump back to discard it all."
Considering that the main reason for the Reptiloids wanting to leave is their fundamental fear of Kitt, her alien display of disappointment is extra scary. They were willing to temporarily swallow their xenophobia to avoid being nuked, aided considerably by the presence of Osasco, but being given an out from both the nukes and the terrifying alien is just too tempting to resist. The only ones to remain willing to stay with Kitt are clearly suffering from an excess of stress points, and have no more fucks to give - thus feel free to be curious about this potential 'grand adventure'. They might, however, be problematic to direct.
Osasco looks shrewdly at Kitt. "I do not doubt the truth of your statements. Yet I feel like my best chance for being useful is in trying to generate understanding in the Admiralty. To do that, however, I cannot languish stranded on some industrial underworld for years. Can you deposit me on an interstellar convoy inbound close to Kyu-Ju?"
Castakiki: "Rosie, we need to purge the nanoscopic robots from Osasco. How best to do that? Surhis, I'm thinking the communicators would be small ships, and we do the thing that if they don't hear from us periodically, they fly into the nearest star. For the war-ships, well, I'm thinking of ideas for what we do if we never get the time machine back."
Osasco: "Sure. Let's head in that general direction and see what we find."
If we're near the industrial planet, I search for a settlement and land a couple kilometers away. All the tech's get kicked off, even the insane ones, and we continue on towards Kyu-Ju.
Rosie [castawiki]: "If the nanoscopic robots are indeed taking hold, they cannot be easily removed from a host. Basically, we would need to render his body for patches if we wanted to be sure."
Surhis [castawiki]: "What options can you accomplish?"
Rosie [castawiki]: "If Osasco allows me physical access to his body, I can tamper him to be nanoscopically sterile and to not compensate for telemerase shortening."
Surhis [castawiki]: "So not passing on nanoscopic robots to others, and simulating natural aging - but he still wouldn't die of illness. Even on the weirdo utopian planets where that's their thing, they still have to kill themselves to actually die. If he doesn't know that, it could make for a pretty shitty quality of life for a horribly long time. What can you do if he doesn't allow physical access?"
Rosie [castawiki]: [shrug emoji] "Probably not very much. Osasco sufficiently exceeds my aggressive skills to reliably prevent me from doing anything to him that he doesn't want."
Surhis [castawiki]: "That's actually kind of a relief. How do you want to handle that angle, Kitt - you're the tactical lead. As for the 'fly-into-star' protocol, let me bounce a question at you: what is the probability that the Lizard Empire only has their ansible technology because of observing our spy drone before its self-destructed?"
Kitt does the math in her head, and it's a non-trivial probability - about 25%. Amusingly, the extrapolation is that the Lizard Empire only exists because of that ansible technology - without it their explorers would not be able to coordinate and act Imperially.
Surhis [castawiki]: "If we never get the time displacement apparatus operational again, that's a different situation. But let's plan for getting it back first, before we turf that possibility."
It takes subjectively no time at all to get to the industrial planet and kick off the techies. The act of keeping the insane ones with their peers might actually serve to assuage some of their stress points, as it can be interpreted as the universe possibly taking care of them after all. The industrial planet is dominated by a huge orbital way station, for large bulk haulers to collect material pulled up from the gravity well. It's a lot like Anchor Base, except a lot newer and fully active. The planet itself is not really habitable, but has large mobiile mining machines crawling on its surface with inhabited villages of operators mounted on them.
From the vantage of the industrial planet, it is clear that several etheric transmitters are moving relativistically (but decelerating) towards Kyu-Ju, between 0.05 and 0.2 Parsecs out.
I take out my med kit and gesture to Osasco. "I'd like to see how those patches are working on you. Would you mind a quick examination?" I lead him to the cargo bay. If he follows, and once we're alone, I say "So what do you think will happen to the technicians? From the way your military is minded, will they be killed?"
Is Surhis out of his cocoon yet?
Castawiki: "It's disturbing to think we may have ended a galactic civilization before it was born. Let's hope we get the time machine back. Erasing our spy drone from history might be a high priority. Rosie, can you guide me with the med kit to see if the nanoscopic robots have rooted?"
Osasco's eyes change from troubled hypothetical contemplation to hyper-focused legendary combatant; he knows something is up. "Certainly." And follows Kitt to the cargo bay. "Since we dropped them off on an empty portion of the facility, they should have no trouble pretending to be just some other technicians. As far as the Empire is concerned, there is no way for them to have travelled that distance, and will assume that they had perished back at Anchor Base."
Surhis is not out of his chrysalis yet. He and Rosie appear to have some sort of understanding that is playing out.
Surhis [castawiki]: "Erasing the spy drone from history would seem prudent. But perhaps it might be worthwhile to look up how they developed their ansible before we go to the trouble."
Rosie remotely operates the medial scanners proximal to Osasco via the castawiki. It is clear that the nanoscopic robots are well-established in the Reptiloid; he already has the ability to heal his scars and other mild physical impairments, but probably doesn't know that he can.
Any sign of tech? Comm, scanners, grip pads.
No internal discreet tech yet. Kitt will probably assume that Osasco has not noticed that he can deploy the internal catalogue yet. But after a while, considering a legendary being's awareness, that's not it.
I get the ship in the air and into space. We start going at sub-light away from the planet.
Osasco: "Well, the patch worked wonders. I bet you're feeling pretty good. Unfortunately that means that you're more one of us, than one of them. If you go back, sooner or later someone will notice that you're not aging. Or getting sick. What do you think about joining us permanently? Our goal is to defeat the Xoid swarm that's on the way. One species isn't going to be able to do it on their own, it's going to take an alliance of species. That means your empire will either have to adapt or be neutered so that other species can establish themselves. From how xenophobic your species seems, it might have to be the later. Would you be ok with that?"
Osasco winces. "Wait. I'm one of you now? I'm a cyborg?" Behind his eyes, a silent voice is yelling 'fuuuuuuuuuuuck!'
How many crew members aboard the Enterprise looked at the Borg and said, "Hey, neat! Me too!" It's like that.
I time shift. I see what happens if I open the cargo bay doors. If the result is Osasco being sucked into space, I do it. We'll grab him with the force beam and fling him into the sun.
That's a BIG nope. Being seasoned in striker alone, with lots of experience in zero-G and random accelerations, and being already wary means that Osasco is not going to be taken by surprise easily.
Osasco: "I feel like I'm still me, mostly. But I feel the alien machine presence inside my body and my mind. Am I trapped this way? Can I go back at some point? Or is there a required future development I will be unable to resist?" He swallows. "I wanted to be impervious to harm the way that you are, but I did not think about all the things that would go with that." Clearly, his scope of attention has contracted considerably to just himself and the tactical present. Thoughts of Xoids and the Empire are secondary.
Osasco: "Relax, you're still you. Just think of it as a really powerful immune system. I wouldn't really call you a cyborg, more like an enhanced biological being. To be a cyborg, you'd have to have things replaced with robotics. Even so, that's not so bad. Does your culture have a issue with cyborgs the way you're xenophobic of species? You seemed kind of freaked out. And.... getting back to our immediate predicament. Do you still want us to find a ship heading towards Kyu-Ju to drop you off at? We've got to set a course, so it'd be good to know where we're going."
Castawiki: "Hey, can we build a teleporter? For now we don't have to worry about it messing with the artifact."
Based on the speed of the ship 0.2p out of Kyu-Ju, how long is left in their journey?
Osasco seems willing to be mollified on the cyborg point, and he doesn't comment on it further. But he also doesn't address the related xenophobia.
Osasco: "Yes, getting to a transport ship inbound to Kyu-Ju would be good - best if it is significant delta-V from any starjammers. That would give me time to assuage any paranoia from the captain and the Admiralty via ansible before they did anything hasty. Then I could use my influence to help re-direct focus from expansion to considering defense against the Xoids." He pauses in thought for a moment. "Would there be any way to get in touch with you, so that we can cooperate?"
Surhis [castawiki]: "We can totally build a teleporter."
Based on the reverse-acceleration of the ship 0.2 parsecs out from Kyu-Ju, and giving a stiff middle finger to relativity because I'm lazy, that ship is just over 13 months from the system. Amusingly, the ship that is 0.05 parsecs out is still 6.7 months from the system. Interstellar distances without hyperspace suck balls.
Osasco: "There are two options for communicating with us. One is I can build you a decent hand held ansible. It wouldn't have too large a range, but we're planning on building a large one on this ship, so we'd be able to stay connected that way. The downside of that is that the communicator could be taken from you. The other option you might not be too comfortable with. It involves growing an ansible inside your body. We'll have to approach any ships we detect and determine if they are starjammers. When we get close to Kyu-Ju we'll start looking."
Castawiki: "Ok, if we drop him off on one of his ships, he'll be contained for months. If we end up going back in time, it won't matter. If we decide to go forward in time, we can arrange an accident on his ship before we leave. Or if we're truly paranoid, we could drop him off, and shortly afterward, destroy his ship. It sucks, but I think it's a high priority to not let this species have nanoscopic robots. Either way, I'm going to keep him in the cargo bay in case he gets any funny ideas."
2017.03.09 - To The Frontier
- Heading toward Kyu-Ju to drop off Osasco on a ship (or something)
- head to the Groten home world
- build a teleporter
- starjammer spike missiles
- get to Groten home world
- fail to spike a starjammer
- abduct Jimmy Wales
- Kitt transports to bridge of starjammer
- kills capatin and bridge guards
- offs a special forces leftover
Plot 022 - A Monster's Place Is In The Resistance
Jimmy Wales: "You're going to eat me, aren't you."
"Doubt it. I've tried your species, not that tasty."
I forget, which one was Jimmy Wales?
I get patch into the internal communicators: "Attention crew of the starjammer. Proceed to the briefing room. Anyone not complying will be disemboweled." Then I start doing active scans to locate everyone. If anyone isn't heading to the briefing room, I go and gut them.
Jimmy Wales was the unsuspecting technician that you teleported off the starjammer, and is currently being held in the cargo bay of the Hanbacca.
The entire crew of the starjammer has saturated their brains with a frothy mix of specific terror and general xenophobia. The lucky ones make it to escape pods. The over-reacting ones either try to tamper the drives to make them go supercritical or try to pre-detonate the nuclear arsenal. Kitt's active sensors and technical savvy warn her of the progress of both kinds of initiatives, and she intercedes. Messily. In short order, however, the starjammer is empty of able-bodied crew. A few aren't quite dead yet, but they're not useful for anything, and most will be dead in a few hours. Some 24 crewmembers made it out on the 6 escape pods, which are now drifting into decaying orbits after initially thrusting away at a hard 5 G's to get a few kilometers distant.
The construction ship is screaming etherically on their ansible. All very predictable stuff, and extremely detailed in terms of what seems to have happened. Obviously, somebody aboard the starjammer was able to give some sort of meaningful report by EM. However, they don't get much past "ALERT ALERT ALERT!" before Surhis jammed the signal with the beastly etheric comms on the Hanbacca.
Jimmy: "How many crew are aboard the construction ship? Any combatants? Any nukes?"
Castawiki: "Well, that was an effective way to take out a starjammer. Though, I think fabricating some knock-out gas that I'd be immune to would be less bloody."
I start scanning the planet for etheric signals, especially in the area of the planet Jimmy pointed out earlier. Also, were we able to teleport out and contain the surviving bridge crew?
Jimmy: "A million people, all combatants, and each one of them is carrying a nuke."
Rosie translates that on the castawiki to being about a 50 construction workers and a handful of security guards and not innate tactical capabilities - besides being a big-ass space ship.
Surhis [castawiki]: "Knock out gas wouldn't have worked very well - they seem well-equipped to handle atmospheric issues."
There are no etheric signals on the planet, but there is a rich node of EM chatter from the location Jimmy pointed out. Based on the signals, there are likely other nearby locations also transmitting and being repeated through a larger transmitter.
The entire bridge crew was quantum-mirrored into the cargo bay of the Hanbacca. It's getting crowded in there.
Let's teleport the bridge crew over to the construction ship, with a stern warning that if they launch anything from the ship, or try to move it in any way, we'll launch the starjammer's nukes at it. Any survivors of the starjammer get teleported over as well. Then we use the Hanbacca's force beam to grab all of the escape pods and tell the construction ship to open a bay we can put them in.
We keep Jimmy here though. I need a new pet.
Then I start working on the Starjammer - adding control systems so I can control it's engines and missile launchers. Surhis should probably come over and help too, put all those tentacles to use.
"So, I think history might have changed too much already. Having your cities obliterated from orbit is going to have a massive effect on their culture. If I remember my history correctly, the Grotens and the Humans had a war where they were evenly matched. This might change that, one way or the other."
The crew gets teleported and/or dragged to the construction ship, which might overtax the life support systems of the construction ship long-term, but whatever. They're probably glad to be alive regardless. Better than being Jimmy Wales.
Jimmy is displeased. This is conveyed in a number of ways, including crying, flailing, and the distinct stench of fear. Plus clearly articulating his wish to not be eaten. Or probed.
Working on the starjammer to transform it into automated controls has a few difficult hurdles. Being 200,000 tonnes means that even just installing the most rudimentary control system will take about 20,000 tech hours - or about 6667 hours for Kitt and Surhis working on it. This is made extra awkward due to the slowly-decaying orbit of the starjammer, which is going to see it star entering the Groten home world's atmosphere in somewhat less time than that.
This last point could be addressed by applying impulse from the Hanbacca, but since the starjammer is 200,000 tonnes of intermediate scale construction, that impulse would be somewhat plastically-deforming for the starjammer. And that sounds a bit contrary to the purposes of re-fitting it.
Surhis: "History as we knew it is already totally blown away for this timeline. And it's possible that we could never get back to that general set of temporal cascade. Think about the number of Crocaloid Major species that are naturally-occurring throughout the galaxy. The chances of one of them not stumbling onto an interstellar presence before the Humans and Grotens and Anurians do their Confederation-building dance seems dubious. And remember that we're still 7000 years before the formation of the Condfederation. That means Humans and Grotens are still 5000 years from even going interstellar. In our original timeline, the Grotens down there are just figuring out that steam is capable of doing work, while Humans are feeling pretty proud of making really big piles of rocks."
Rosie: "The timing of the arrival of the Swarm is probably pretty reliable - they are coming from outside the time cone of our temporal displacement. But everything else within 20 million light years might be affected."
Surhis: "Right, and that's the entire galaxy. Every life-bearing planet in the First Galaxy essentially has another roll of the dice for how things unfold."
Seems Jimmy rolled low on the bravery scale. Ah well. Ok, starjammer is out. We'll probably end up gutting or destroying it instead. But later.
"Ok, we could leave if we wanted to. I doubt a couple of platoons will survive down there long without backup from up here. But I think we should intervene personally. I'd like to see what kind of damage they've caused. Plus, if it becomes known that aliens saved them, they might not become as xenophobic as the attack from the Reptiloids likely made them."
I find a spot a couple km away from where all the comm traffic was coming from, away from any cities. "Teleport me there."
Jimmy is green, and with only his only stage of combatant being remote missile guidance. Which is not particularly a reassuring set of skills when facing unstoppable aliens.
The starjammer is a giant piece of crap that takes years to travel between star systems, so it's of limited gameplay interest.
Surhis: "OK. Let us know if you need us to teleport down any burritos or anything. Except not burritos, because we don't have any. In fact, if you find any burritos you could let us know so we could teleport them up. Ready? Bye!"
The quantum mirror bounces Kitt to a dense forest near some crossroads and farms.
I breath deeply the fresh air. We spent so much time in a pre-industrial world, Kitt probably misses it. She travels in the forest beside a road. Going to see if I can find any travelers, or dwellings. The goal is to sneak up on some locals and listen in on any conversations so I can update my translation matrix. Also going to hone in on radio signals.
The fresh air has a certain ringing smell of spent explosive and ash. Peeking through to the road shows that there have been some significant battles, with many dead Groten and Zygroten. Other than that, this area is abandoned and eerily quiet.
Radio signals have a strong central source on the hill vaguely shrouded in ominous columns of smoke. Other weaker signals badger from several locations further out. They seem to be discussing details about fortifying and how to coordinate with the construction ship to develop defenses against the advanced aliens that appeared.
To the hill! 1/2 movement, base sneak, 2D to move. Pause every so often to do a good locate.
Traveling unobserved is not difficult for most of the journey - there's nobody alive to observe Kitt. Many clusters of simple structures are shredded from intermediate-scale weapons, and craters are not uncommon. The hill has denser concentrations of buildings of more sophisticated fabrication, and all are thoroughly riddled with projectile holes. Bodies are increasingly plentiful.
The source of the transmission becomes obvious as Kitt crests the hill. A dropship squats there. A couple ion-powered atmospheric flying machines are perched nearby, as are several squads of soldiers. They are emplaced well and look vigilant. A thrill of interest walks down Kitts pelt as she recognizes that the majority of these soldiers are seasoned.
To engage any further here requires combat rounds.
Their deaths will be glorious vengeance to the indigenous slain. They will be sliced to ribbons by my blades and bludgeoned to death with high velocity rocks.
Ahem. I gather up some local rocks for throwing. I kick myself for not having a Reptiloid skin headband. How feasible would it be to sneak into the dropship without alerting the soldiers?
The reptiloids seem to have established a clear perimeter around their base of operations, and sneaking across undetected in broad daylight would be exceedingly unlikely. Searching for vulnerabilities in their defenses in broad daylight in a motionless and dead cityscape is also problematic. By "problematic" I mean would technically require combat rounds.
The dropship is the hub of their base of operations. What little Kitt can glimpse of it, there is some question as to whether it is capable of any further flight. It seems to have had exterior construction additions the must have been installed after landing.
How much daylight is left?
A quick astronomical calc (and a couple dice rolls) says that there is 37 hours of daylight left.
After dusk, the probability for detection visually goes down a lot. However, the ability to find and track Kitt thermally goes up quite a lot.
Also worth noting is that there are no locals near this base to directly observe Kitt being their ally.
No audience?! Curses. I patch into the ships sensors and see if I can spot any groups of locals in the area planning a counter-attack.
Ship's sensors indicate that defensive cells of locals are engaging a slowly growing perimeter of death. Currently there is one active firefight about 15 kilometers away, but there are signs that there have been at least 8 such battles around the perimeter within the last hour in totally different locations.
Well then. I start heading towards the perimeter, and then travel along the edge until I find either Reptiloids or Grotens. Same travel as before; 1/2 movement, base sneak, 2D to move.
The perimeter is a bit fuzzy, but just beyond it are clearly extremely agitated Grotens and Zygroten trying to evacuate. Though, frankly, the ones still in earshot are either impaired in their movement for some reason or part of a resistance. Or affectations to that end. Based on the corpses found, it looks like anyone who puts up a decent fight is treated to a special congratulatory bath of assault weapon projectiles with intermediate scale punctuation.
Scorch marks on the ground also suggest some ion-thruster type hover tanks.
2017.03.17 - Anti-Tank Feline
It turns out that armoured hover tanks with quad assault weapon turrets and intermediate scale main guns are no match for a 50 kg cat with a couple blades.
It sure impressed the hell out of a 1-tonne Groten and his Zygroten peer in the Resistance. The central aircraft fire support remains a problem, however.
Plot 023 - What Is Best In Life
Groten: "Is there any way to fend off those flying machines?"
Zygroten: "Or can you be waiting for them where they land?"
2017.03.23 - Nuked
- takes Zygroten resistance leader up to the Hanbacca (Simon and Garfunkel)
- makes 3 intermediate scale laser rifles
- attack another hover tank to lure in flyer
- tank dies - then falls on last crewmember
- sharpshooters initially miss the flyer - lasers are too straight
- two sharpshooters pulverized by rockets
- flyer brought down by last sharpshooter - relocated by teleporter
- second flyer nukes the site - turns Kitt crispy, everybody else saved by teleporter
- altercation in orbit with assault ship from construction ship
- flying shitstorm for it to get to the surface - delivers crate
- Hanbacca weathers flak to destroy the dropship
Plot 024 - No more Ms. Nice Kitten
I get Rosie to apply three patches and then teleport down to search for the wayward weapon. While doing that, I get on the active scanners and identify all of the life signs I can find on the construction ship. I start writing a program for the teleporter to sequentially teleport them to Hanbacca and then teleport them to about 1km above the surface of the planet a moment later.
It's time to go from combatant to exterminator.
Searching the crater amidst the dusty fallout reveals no remains of the lost weapon. There is a 97% probability that the weapon has been fragmented, and the radius it could have been distributed is over 5 km.
"Life signs" are presumably reptiloid-shaped heat signatures or some such. The Hanbacca is only capable of sensing with sufficient resolution at a range of 10 km, which means that first the Hanbacca has to play peekaboo with a phalanx of nukes and technically might be within the blast radius of a thermonuclear detonation if the construction ship is indeed rigged to detonate.
If it explodes, will it do significant harm to the planet? If we go retrieve the nukes from the Starjammer and fire them at the construction ship, can we time it so that it crashes into an ocean?
The theoretical yield of the construction ship could cause some slight harm to the planet - minor burns to sensitive organs in the short term, and a slight energy imbalance ecologically. More likely it would just be a pretty light show.
If the construction ship were hit with a large scale explosive, its debris would rain down across the entire surface of the planet. Half of the mass would rain down in the first couple days, the other half would gradually patter down over the next few decades. Most of the parts will make pretty streaks in the sky when they fall. A few of the parts, like the hardened engine nozzles, will make some craters.
Surhis: "We should show them what a relativistic-velocity crowbar can do to an intermediate-scale structure."
"Wouldn't that be hard to aim? But then again, it's not like they can duck." I give up looking for the weapon, and instead try to find a 50 kg rock that I can beam up with. Preferably with a high iron content or other dense material. Then when we're up, let's beam it into space and grab it with the force beam. Then a short hyperspace jump away and then start going back at sublight until our velocity is around .1C. Send the rock towards them and veer off. We aim it so that if we miss, it doesn't hit the planet.
0.1c doesn't have much Lorentz factor yet, but just plain old 0.5*m*v² it fully terrifying. This energy is mostly exchanged in the default form - heat - which then causes a large portion of the construction ship to transition from solid to gas. This gas finds the volume previous inhabited in solid form as rather confining, and applies suitable pressure. The resulting explosion makes the tactical nuke look quaint. A huge plume discharges from the far end of the construction ship, which hilariously causes the remaining bulk of the construction ship to accelerate to drastically change orbit.
Pretty. We attempt calculate it's altered orbit and determine if it's going to crash, where it's going to crash, and if there are any population centers that might be hit if chunks survive re-entry.
The intact portion of the ship is in a very eccentric orbit, but stable for at least a few decades.
Surhis: "It feels odd being mass-murderers officially. The individual murders I've been party to seemed reasonable at the time, for the most part. And any unreasonable parts I was sufficiently separate from to not feel too bothered by. But this was different. I have a strange sensation, emotionally."
Rosie: "We could have carefully transplanted them to the planet's surface to be dismembered by huge angry mammals."
Surhis: "Exactly, that would have been better - right?"
"It would have been better to give the Grotens a chance to enact their own justice, but this will have to do. How do you feel about going down a bit and taking pot shots at the tanks and atmospheric craft? If they weaken our shields too much we'll just go back into space, let them recharge, and repeat as needed."
The tanks are quite vulnerable to the Hanbacca strafing runs - they lack the maneuverability to avoid the blasts. The dedicated flying craft are another story. They clearly have seasoned pilots at the helms, and are generally able to dance around the attacks long enough to shoo the Hanbacca away again with a large probably-nuclear missile. Observations from the strafing runs point out that there still appears to be significant activity from the proximity of the destroyed drop ship. The working hypothesis is that the dropship was merely the cover for some underground operations.
Surhis: "Them I feel less conflicted about. We should relativistically crowbar them too."
Rosie: "You wouldn't feel bad about causing an explosion of that scale on the planet?"
Surhis: "No, not really. It's purely kinetic energy, so it would have less environmental repercussions than the tactical nuke they dropped on Kitt. And they've cleared out everything within 10 klicks, there's no collateral damage we could possibly make any worse than what they've already done."
"What about seismic activity? If we bash a rock into the crust, would it trigger any quakes? All of those Groten's are hidden in a cave nearby."
A quick superficial survey of the local geology (and a dice roll) suggest that the risk is low to moderate geologically (I rolled a 6 for vulnerability to quakes). Probably nothing, and a tremor at most.
Surhis: "This might be a great time for you to talk to the Reptiloids to negotiate their surrender. With your fur all burned away like that, you look zarking horrifying."
"I may look horrifying, but I don't sound any different. And I think all we can communicate with them is audio. Going down there puts me at risk of being attacked from the flying craft. Plus, what are we going to do if they surrender? Turning them over to the Groten's would just get them killed. We can't take them with us, and they have no ships to get off planet. Though, if we could talk the Groten's into just taking them as slaves, it might work. And it might be fun to talk to them."
I use their communication frequencies to call down to the remains of the drop ship.
"Hello? This is the agent of death you didn't kill with your nuke. I'd like to discuss terms for your surrender. Failure to surrender will result in your base being obliterated."
Meanwhile, let's grab some more rocks. Kitt seems to have an affinity for throwing rocks at people.
The dropship's communication capabilities are pretty much toast, but the flying craft and the assault shuttle are both capable of receiving.
A signal doubtlessly bounced from some cave under the base: "We have lost contact with the construction ship. Did you do something to it?"
Surhis's starts laughing. "They didn't have a view of the ship when it got spanked!"
"Yes. Yes we did. You won't be hearing from them again. You will abandon all vehicles, all weapons, and emerge from your cave. If you do this, I will negotiate with the Groten to keep you alive as their property."
There is a delay before they capitulate - tellingly coincidental with the remains of the construction ship's orbit being observable overhead.
The main glitch in the plan is that few of the local Groten/Zygroten are interested in letting any of the Reptiloids live. This is exacerbated by the fact that the number of Reptiloids that present themselves for surrender is conspicuously missing most of the seasoned combatants that Kitt previously observed.
Well, I said I would negotiate with the Grotens. I didn't say how likely it was that I would succeed. I'm guessing the air craft didn't land either.
"Those of you that have surrendered, start walking south."
Surhis/Rosie: "Commence rock dropping! I think we should try a couple trial runs first to see how precise we can make the hits. Let's find an unoccupied island somewhere, pick a spot and try to hit it with a rock. See if we can be accurate enough to hit their underground whatever."
The craft did land, and then promptly caught fire. The surrendered Reptiloids start ambling south.
An uninhabited rocky shoal makes a safe target. It takes about 36 tries at significant velocity to score a bullseye. But whatever. None of the attempted shots stray sufficiently far from the target to be of concern to any of the Grotens or Zygrotens. Though you might want to let the walking Reptiloids get a bit further away if you want them to survive.
We let the walkers get some distance. While we're waiting, I go get Jimmy Wales, and show him the recording of when we chased the assault shuttle down. I point out the crate that was taken into the cave.
"What's in the crate?"
Yes, the assault shuttle is also flickering with sooty destruction.
Jimmy Wales: "Am I still here? OH SHIT! I had totally forgotten I even existed. That crate? It's a goddamn box that has obviously just been fabricated. How the tapdancing fuck am I supposed to know what is in an unremarkable object that was made utterly without my knowledge‽‽‽ Do you think I have some sort of psychic powers that let me spontaneously access the knowledge of all the other Reptiloids everywhere, you freaky alien monster? DON'T EAT ME!"
Surhis: "I'm starting to like him. He's funny."
Rosie: "I think he's annoying and probably tastes good with ketchup."
Surhis: "Gah, my stomach roils at the thought of trying to eat such a greasy creature. You really are utterly indestructible aren't you."
Jimmy Wales: "When you guys give a series of meaningful looks at each other, you're talking to each other aren't you. YOU guys have telepathy, and you assume everybody else does to! It's not true! And stop looking like you want to eat me!"
Rosie [out loud]: "That would be dishonest."
"Meh, thought you might have an intelligence guess. Oh well."
Castawiki: "By the way, do we have the rendering tools rebuilt? We should do that if we haven't already."
Once the walking Reptiloids have gotten around a 1/2 km away, we do some rock tossing. :)
Surhis: "No rendering tools rebuilt yet. I'll get on that - who are we going to render?"
It turns out that 500 meters feels like entirely insufficient a distance to bunker-buster-class nuclear-energy impactors. The resulting 2 km-tall pencil-thin plumes of fire and smoke along with the bowel-liquifying seismic CRUMMP of the hits causes the moseying Reptiloids to break into flat-out panicked sprinters.
It also turns out that one of the impactors clearly breached the underground whatever they had created, as in addition to the typical tower of flame at the impact site, six separate lesser gouts of flame and smoke erupt from secret tunnel entrances over a kilometer away in every direction.
Surhis: "Well, well, well. I have a theory about where those missing combatants went. 89% probability that they were already out of those tunnels, though."
Jimmy Wales: "You guys are doing that not talking out loud thing again. It's really fucking creepy."
Rosie turns and looks at him. "I'm going to slowly look him up and down, and then subtly lick my lips. Who wants to bet he shrieks?"
Surhis: "No bets for something that obvious. We could instead bet on pitch. I call 800 Hz."
"I'm thinking Jimmy here will eventually support the cause by being converted into patches. Oh, and I think it'll be higher, say 950 Hz."
After we're done tormenting Jimmy, I teleport down to near the entrance of the Groten cave. I'll head to the cave and ask the guards to see Simon and Garfunkel.
Jimmy Wales: "AAAAUGH!" [700 Hz]
The guards eye Kitt warily. "Wait here."
One of the guards hustles back into the bunker, and after a few minutes returns with Simon (the Groten).
"Hello Simon. The base camp of the Reptiloids and all of their remaining vehicles have been destroyed. There are a number of them running south from the camp that surrendered. I told them I would negotiate with you about keeping them alive. They may be able to help teach you how to replicate their technology. Also, a number of the combatants got away through tunnels, but without air support they're less of a threat. All the ships in orbit have been disabled. So for now, the invasion of your world is over."
Castawiki: "How many Zygroten do you think we could comfortably house on the ship? I'm thinking of asking for smart volunteers to train as technicians for us."
Heh - "disabled".
Simon: "The invasion is all over? All the ships in space are gone?" He pauses. "You said 'for now'. Does that mean more ships are coming? If we keep these give-up lizards alive, they can help us build ways to fight other lizards that come?"
Surhis: "Comfort is a relative thing. For the time it would take to teach these guys as technicians, it's possible that none of them would avoid feeling claustrophobic aboard the Hanbacca. We're talking months, right?"
Rosie: "We could alter them neurologically to be better adapted to confined spaces."
Surhis: "We would also want to modify them gastrointestinally and metabolically to avoid having to make pitstops on a planet every 4-8 hours."
Rosie: "We could store their bodies in suspended animation and connect their brains to remote-controlled robots for the duration of the training."
Surhis: "That might have some morale issues."
"We can build facilities for their biological needs. Maybe we should just try one guy for now and see how it goes.
Simon: "If more come back it won't be for many years. We're going to go hunting for more ships that have invaded other worlds. I'm hoping they'll take the hint and stop their attacks. But yeah, it's possible the lizards here can teach you the science required to better defend your world. Just don't get any funny ideas and go invading anyone else. We're going to leave for a while, but we'll try to come back and check on you after we do some more exploring. I was wondering if you had someone mechanically inclined that would want to come with us? As you saw, our ship is kind of small, so perhaps a Zygroten?"
Simon looks levelly at Kitt. "You want to go fight the lizards on other planets, because the fight here is done. We will work so that we do not need your help again, but you will always be welcome here." He turns to one of the guards. "Fetch Kettering." Back to Kitt. "She is a good builder, very smart."
It does not take long for the guard to return with a Zygroten sporting an array of burns on its muzzle and hands, but still manages to make the overall effect seem cool. Tinted welding goggles get pushed up onto its forehead when it lays eyes on Kitt. "Well, I'll be damned, that sure as shit is an actual live alien, though I heard that you were a furry mammal you don't seem to have very much fur on you right now - perhaps the result of some sort of exothermic exposure - and I hear that it's a very powerful alien - is it right that it fought off the entire invading alien fleet all on its own armed only with some blades - which seems improbable, especially considering that our entire defense forces were unable to have much effect on even the simple armoured low-flying vehicles they used to claim territory, though to be fair they were using less defensive modes originally - before they discovered the raw power of the Grotens in close quarter combat, while the invading lizard assholes seem to be more about the same scale as regular Zygroten - which I guess makes the relatively small size of this conquering helper alien even more impressive when you think about it-"
Simon coughs interruptingly. "Kettering, you are to go with the mighty Kitt here to help her in any way you can. Do anything they ask."
Kettering: "Wow, that's fascinating - I wonder what I'll be doing - is it possible that I might get some sort of advanced alien technology training so that I can build those amazing light burners I heard about-"
Simon: "YES. It will be like that, maybe. Go; be helpful." He regards Kitt with a mischievous gleam. "She really is the smartest one we have. She can be very helpful."
Surhis [castawiki]: "Oh. My. Zark."
Simon: "Excellent. Who knows, when we return her, she might be powerful enough to lead your people."
I gesture to Kettering to follow and I lead her a short distance away. Then we teleport up.
Castawiki: "Let's blow this popsicle stand. How about we do a flyby of Lublin and Earth?"
Simon smiles wide enough to show his stone-replacement fang. "That would be very powerful."
Kettering follows, oddly quiet. Not that being quiet when following horribly burned aliens is odd in any way, but rather it can be readily seen that the act of being quiet is taking considerable willpower for her and it makes her have an aura of oddness.
Surhis: "Allllllrightythen. Earth is closer, but they're assholes. Maybe skip them and go straight to Lublin? Always wanted to see what it was like pre-asteroid belt -ified. Besides, they should be almost spacefaring by now, unlike Earth."
Rosie: "We should focus on what the Reptiloid Empire is doing relative to the major Confederation species, aside from our personal opinions of the species in question."
Surhis: "You haven't met very many Humans, have you."
Rosie: "I have met many Humans. They appear to exhibit the same spectrum of personality profiles as any other species."
Surhis: "Sure, they can integrate just fine because of how freakishly adaptable they are. But we're talking about an entire planet of Humans that don't realize that there's anything besides Humans in existence in the universe - and behave accordingly. Groups of Humans are a freaking shitshow unlike anything you can imagine."
Rosie: "Still - an important component of how the Confederation was able to galvanize into a sufficiently potent force to fend off the Xoids."
Surhis: "Sure - assholes have their purpose. But while the job to fill is forging a Resistance to the Reptiloid Empire, I suggest we go straight to the pointy sticks with global governance and orbital spaceflight capabilities instead of trying to wield the blunt cudgels with splinter-infested handles."
Rosie: "At the very least we should check to see that Earth isn't in the process of being invaded by the Reptiloid Empire - right?"
Surhis: "Can't we let them be invaded just a little bit?"
Rosie: "You really don't like them, do you."
Surhis: "You have no idea."
"We really should check. Sooner or later, protecting the Human's will become important - even for the sole reason of preventing the Trupepol from ever existing. Let's do a quick flyby of Earth, laugh at the primitives, and then go to Lublin for a bit more thorough investigation."
Jumping to hyperspace from the Groten Prime towards Sol is without major strategic issue. It only takes about 22 hours to cross the span, and no other ships are encountered betwixt. Jimmy Wales continues to be freaked out, partially because Kettering is attempting to learn Reptiloid from him. What she is learning is not exactly "conversational Reptiloid".
The Humans on Sol-3 are quite confused by the visit, and interpret it as needing to make another perfectly triangular pile of rocks in the middle of an expanse of sand.
From Sol, it's just 6 hours to Lublin. Upon arrival in the proximity of the planet, they seem to have several small artificial satellites in low orbit.
During the 22 hours, I ask Rosie to good-heal me up to pretty again. I also build living facilities for Jimmy and Kettering.
"Ok, we've confirmed the Reptiloids haven't reached the Human's or Anurians yet. That's a good thing. So what's the plan? I think we need to brainstorm a way to get back to Anchor and search that debris field in a reasonable amount of time for the artifact."
22 hours is plenty of time for Rosie to make Kitt look however she would like.
"Living facilities" for Jimmy and Kettering is somewhat trickier to pin down. There's room to make a bathroom and associated recycling annoyance. However, there's no way to technician into existence a means for providing palatable sustenance. Rosie can conjure up the bare necessities in terms of H₂O and calories, but they're kind of gross. Luckily, carnivores are typically capable of occasionally missing meals. But, dang, those upright arrogant monkeys look tasty.
Surhis: "I vote we bootstrap the Anurians into having the capabilities to repel the Reptiloid Empire locally - preferably including Groten Prime and Sol in that sphere of influence. Then we head back and find what's ours and hop forward to see how it works out over the next century."
Rosie: "As I recall, the difficulty in finding the Artifact was quite daunting."
Surhis: "Well, if we have sufficient patience, we can supervise the acceleration of the Anurian Defense Fleet over the next year or so. That should give the Reptiloids enough time to find the artifact for us - then we trample through them and take it back."
Rosie: "A year seems like a long time."
Surhis: "Ironic, isn't it."
"And what if the Reptiloids find it, freak out, and toss it into their sun? I'm fine with making a deal with the Anurians, but we need to get drone building facilities working fast. Let's offer them some tech in exchange for letting us build a factory down there. We'll need material, and workers that we can do some basic training on. But there's no way we can wait a year. A month at most."
"For the drones, I'm thinking it needs a few things: scanners to detect the artifact, force beams to manipulate the rocks, and maybe a construction module so that it can replicate sub-light versions of itself.
Surhis shrugs. "I'm hypothesizing that the Reptiloids would be explicitly looking for clues about our advanced technology so that they could study them, so the chances of them 'freaking out' and throwing it into the sun are pretty low. But you never know, they might be somewhat illogical having had their millennia-old empire disrupted."
Rosie: "So, we make automated search drones?"
Surhis: "Sure. We'll need a lot of them. Though, to make them self-replicating massively complicates things up front. It means that they have to be sentient, with a stage of technician."
Rosie: "Won't having a bunch of intelligent machines that can make more of themselves flying around a bit of a strategic risk?"
Surhis: "For either falling into the hands of the Reptiloid Empire or starting their own Robot Empire? Maaaaaaybe."
"Ok, maybe we leave the self-replicating out. Let's get close to Lublin and listen to their e.m. communications for a while. Get a sense of their language and culture. How do you want to go about contacting them? I'm assuming they haven't met any aliens yet, though I could be wrong."
Conveniently, among the E.M. transmissions coming from Lublin is a peculiar and regular signal. It is a simple mathematical sequence which starts with a list of prime numbers, runs through some semantic derivations to establish a simple language, and ends up saying "Hello! Is anybody out there?"
It appears that all their other communications are encrypted, but do not take too long to decipher. Their society appears to be pretty simple - boring even. They have global governance and seem to be peacefully industrious.
Well, that's convenient. I compose a message:
"Greetings! We're a small group of aliens that just arrived in our ship in your system. We'd like to talk with some representatives from your world."
Unless either Surhis or Rosie object, I send it along at the same frequency to the source of the regular signal.
The Anurians are effusive in their welcome, planning a huge celebration to mark the occasion of your visit. They fuss about any environmental conditions that they need to provide - which is handy, because their civilization is semi-aquatic. The entire ruling cabinet offers to be present to discuss any matter you see fit.
"Wow, friendly aliens. Who would have thought. I think for now, we shouldn't tell them about the Xoids and that their planet blows up in a few thousand years. Right now, let's just tell them about the Reptiloids."
I let the Anurians know that we're all air breathers, the approximate size of our ship, and request a place where we should land.
Surhis: "Yeah, the whole Xoids blowing up their planet is a bit alarming - plus there's a strong possibility that it won't happen like that in this timeline anyway. More useful will be to focus on the near-term problem of the Reptiloid Empire."
The Anurian's are the very definition of accommodating - building a special landing platform specifically for the Hanbacca in the midst of a stadium of onlookers and cameras. All the political and industrial leaders are in attendance in a truly stunning display of naiveté.
Even more stunning is the quality of beer that they offer as a ceremonial gesture of hospitality.
2017.03.30 - Lublin Set, Back to Anchor
- On Lublin meeting the Anurains (with/Kettering = Zygroten scientist/tech)
- tech shared with Anurians:
- etheric comms
- luminal speed travel
- fusion power
- instructions to Anurians:
- build defenses against Reptiloid Empire
- describe Reptiloid Empire
- protect Groten Prime and Sol
- and protect nascent Reptiloid world
- note: Trops inside Reptiloid Empire (as slaves?)
- spend 2 months training Kettering and a class of Anuran technicians
- head back to Anchor (Jimmy Wales does not have a good time)
- discover a "moving mountain" class Imperial ship 5 years out from Groten Prime
- divert to talk with Osasco
- Osasco appears to be hiding
- onward to Anchor
- orbital station debris field infested with Reptiloids
- Trop homeworld is 65 parsecs away
- turns out that the artifact was already found - DUN DUN DUN
- Kitt teleports into the L2 mega-station
- torso-punches a guard
- 6 SWAT
- Kitt allows herself to be captured (after hiding gear)
Plot 025 - The Prisoner
Angry voice on emergency band radio: "Secure the alien prisoner and bring it to the interrogation center."
The Reptiloid SWAT team loads Kitt into the back of their micro-gravity van with four of them as guards and start driving deeper into the habitat.
Obviously I make note of the route, and all of the structures, components, etc of the base that I find interesting. But aside from that I stay silent, and wait until we get to the interrogation center.
The van moves with irregular jounces, as the jets move the vehicle through empty spaces but get interrupted by deflecting off of various surfaces. The driver tries to bank the van so that it touches the walls with some articulated wheels, but occasional slips cause jarring scrapes against the skid-pads. Kitt's inertial tracker carefully logs the 10 km ride, augmented by a porthole view through to the driver compartment that allows glimpses out the windshield.
Passenger up front: "SWAT van 14 inbound, ETA 5 minutes. Are we ready for handoff?" This is simultaneously transmit on the emergency band radio.
[emergency band radio]: "Reception being prepared. What status is the alien prisoner." This is not audibly detectable, and probable that the Reptiloids assume that Kitt cannot hear it.
PUF: "Physically restrained, and four guards flanking it."
[ebr]: "You may not have seen the footage of it casually punching through a security goof's chest. This thing is super-strong, and extreme caution is advised. We're working to have extra security precautions ready when you arrive."
PUF: "Huh." The passenger up front leans over to look through the porthole in the back, looks gravely at Kitt, then gives a meaningful gesture to the other SWAT team members. They respond by having their pulse rifles more ready. For whatever that would actually be worth¹.
A few more minutes travel and the van enters a heavily reinforced section with an extra helping of characterlessness. A door made by somebody who clearly needed to overcompensate for something ratchets open at a pace carefully chosen to convey the sense of extreme robustness², and eventually the van drives into a narrow bay. The van doors to the back compartment are opened from outside, and an impressive phalanx of military personnel confront Kitt and her handlers. A hundred pulse rifles waver nervously at her as a pair of Reptiloids approach with a set of manacles probably designed to restrain something large with hypernormal strength.
There is some struggling to get it to actually clamp down on Kitts svelte limbs, and the end result is that both Kitt's arms and legs are prevented from gross motion. Although they are probably oblivious to the fact that the required tamper roll for the extra-large restraints is actually less than the standard manacles Kitt had on previously. The mass of the restraints exceeds Kitt's considerably, making for a faintly ridiculous appearance. It is fortunate that this is happening in microgravity, so that Kitt can be conducted out of the bay easily³.
Gliding down a few hallway check points, Kitt is eventually deposited into a featureless cell and her restraints connected to an anchor in the middle of a wall opposite the entrance. After the door is closed, a crude video camera is swung to peer through the small window, and Kitt is left alone.
¹ It would not be worth anything - even if Kitt left her manacles on, she still wouldn't earn any experience for killing everybody in the back of the van with her feet.
² Robust though it may try to look, Kitt recognizes it as intermediate scale. Even if she couldn't tamper it open easily (which she could), she could literally punch her way through it if she needed to.
³ "Easily" mostly referring to how well the Reptiloids can keep Kitt at arms length, as they clearly fear being too close to her.
Castawiki: "Well, this might be boring for a while. Should have built a robot chassis I can control remotely, so in situations like this I could be building things on the ship while I wait. So, while we wait, let's talk plans. Assuming we get the artifact back and assuming we can get it working again, we have two options. One is to go back and try to prevent the empire from coming into existence in the first place - probably by getting rid of the drone we had in orbit. The other is to continue our work here and then leap forward to see how effective we were. I'm leaning towards the latter at this point. I'm curious how the Grotens and Anurians will progress after our visits."
I also yell at the camera. "I really need to pee! Can we get this interrogation started?" I listen in on their communication to see if I can guess how long they're going to keep me waiting here.
And I do an active scan to see if there's any artifact looking shapes nearby.
After 10 minutes the lights go out, but the room is still awash with a weak infrared source - the watching camera undoubtedly has night vision. They leave Kitt alone in the theoretically pitch-black darkness for another 40 minutes. Then a group gathers outside the cell, and open the door - complete with overly-dramatic blinding light. Too late, it occurs to Kitt that she's supposed to be blinking in disorientation and glare. Alas.
R#1 [muttered]: "Are you sure it's secure?"
R#2 [muttered]: "It hasn't even tried to escape since its capture."
R#3 [muttered]: "That's not a good sign."
R#1: "Alien, we know you speak our language. What are you, and why are you here?"
R#2: "Are you the being that destroyed the starjammer?"
R#4: "What is your association with the aliens that attacked our outpost on Subjugated World 317?"
A fifth Reptiloid watches quietly. It's the only seasoned being in the bunch, and it seems extremely wary of Kitt.
There are no artifact-shaped objects are within sensor range, but active sensors have limited fidelity in the current surroundings.
"Technically speaking, I didn't destroy the starjammer. It lost control and collided with some debris."
I direct my gaze at the seasoned Reptiloid. "I'd like to discuss the object you retrieved from the debris field about a month ago. It belongs to me. I know you probably don't care about that, but regardless, I would like to see how damaged it is. It hasn't blown up your habitat yet, so that's a good sign, but I really should check on it."
Castawiki: "'Subjugated World 317'. I guess we have 316 more to go."
R#1: "We need to establish your identity and affiliation. What is your species called?"
R#2: "Eyewitnesses claim that an alien like you broke into the starjammer and killed key personnel until the ship was no longer able to function. That was you, wasn't it."
R#5 gives a sideways look at R#3.
R#3: "The object you refer to - what is it?"
I look annoyed at R1: "My species is called Felinid. You've probably never heard of it because we originate from another galaxy." I ignore #2.
R3: "Describing it's function would be too complicated. I barely understand it myself. It was a component of our ship that was damaged when we crashed. We need it back if we're ever going to get home. Now, I'm willing to negotiate for it's return, but I need to confirm that it's still in one piece and not about to explode and kill us all. If it's salvageable we can talk, and if not, well I'm screwed."
R#1 glances at R#5 and with a subtle expression Kitt is unable to interpret. R#5 in turn nods to R#3.
R#3: "Is the object part of the means for travelling intergalactic distances?"
R#2 [mutters]: "We need to shift to either a
carrot¹ snack or a stick."
R#4 [mutters]: "Agreed - it's being too evasive. Also there's the matter of its ship."
¹ Upon proofreading, it occurred to me that Reptiloids probably would have no idea what a carrot was - thus invalidating the idiom. Still, I left it in so that it could be recognized other than literally.
"No... like I said, it's complicated. Look, I didn't resist when you guys captured me. I could have, but I didn't. I'm trying to resolve our differences without further violence. So, how about this: you take me to the object so I can look it over. You can keep me in these restraints so that I can't actually do anything to it. I just want to see the level of damage, and really, I can't negotiate realistically until I know what I'm negotiating for."
"Either that, or let me out for a few minutes. I really need to pee.
Kitt watches R#5 come to some sort of realization, and do a pretty good job of keeping it contained. However, R#5 does subtly indicate that the other interrogators should join it out in the hallway. They express confusion at first, but comply.
R#5 [muttering]: "Wait here. Watch it. If it does anything unexpected, get the hell out of there."
A tense quiet consumes the hallway outside of Kitt's cell. Presumably R#5 moved away from the interrogation cell to be well outside of earshot, but then activates a radio communicator that Kitt picks up on immediately due to its relative proximity.
R#5 [radio]: "The alien is toying with us - I think it can get out of its bonds if it wants to. It seems desperate to inspect the alien object."
[radio response]: "Has it revealed what the object is?"
R#5 [radio]: "No, it is evasive about that. It claimed that it is a species from another galaxy, perhaps to suggest that the object allows faster-than-light travel. But it also suggests that the object might be dangerous if it is damaged, as a reason why it needs to inspect the object."
[radio response]: "Ah. So either it doesn't know that the alien object is indestructible, or it thinks we're fools. Either way..."
R#5 [radio]: "Either way, we should definitely not let this thing anywhere near the object. We should move on to negotiating with the ship, before the alien becomes too agitated."
[radio response]: "Agreed. The reports of its ability to walk through walls are worrisome, even if they seem hard to believe. Still, that's why we buried it in that site."
R#5 [radio]: "How long do we have before another house discovers where we are and tries to capture the alien for themselves?"
[radio response]: "House Courtney has agents tracing your path as we speak. Diversions are in place. If the alien proves too dangerous to contain, we'll accidentally let its location slip to the mole from House Anton."
A few moments later, the Hanbacca gets hailed.
[totally different radio operator]: "Attention alien craft. We have captured your companion. If you wish to see it again, we would like to get the technical schematics of the drive of your ship."
Surhis [castawiki]: "These guys are annoying."
Castawiki: "Gah. I'm really getting the urge to go all Agent Of Death on these guys."
I tamper open my bonds. Then I go to the door and tamper it open and go into the hallway. I ignore what #1 thru #4 do and walk calmly towards #5.
"I'd like to continue our conversation. Is there somewhere nearby we can sit? Preferably with drinks? I find things go a lot more smoothly over drinks."
Hopefully they're calm enough not to shoot at me.
Kitt's ability to casually stroll out of the cell stuns R#1-4 momentarily, delaying their fleeing for a few moments of aghast-ness.
R#5 is unnerved, and has a sidearm out, but not pointing at Kitt. Clearly he doubts its direct effectiveness. With an effort of will, he manages not to panic. "I see. I'm not sure there is anywhere we could go for drinks that would be suitable right away. Perhaps if you give us a moment to prepare something..."
R#3 starts broadcasting urgently on the radio. "We have lost containment of the alien! I repeat, we have lost containment! We're pulling out!"
[radio response]: "Head to the extraction point. Signal if the alien tries to follow you."
R#3 [radio]: "Roger that. It had the consultant cornered when we left."
R#5 pretends not to hear the conversation in his earpiece.
I do an active scan to get a feel for my surroundings. What's the probability they can contain me? Is it all intermediate scale construction, or is this 'site' something else?
"Meh. Don't worry about the drinks. It was a nice thought but not necessary. Convince your comrades they need to go into the cell. If I have to do it, things might get messy. If they do, I give you my word I won't harm them. Then we can go talk."
The active scan can't penetrate with much clarity very far due to the amount of mass in the construction of this section. It's all intermediate scale, technically, but there's enough material here to block a lot of energy. A good guess is that it's meant to be a hard point capable of surviving nearby nuclear detonations or equivalent impacts. That being said, all the functional parts are the technological equivalent of LEGO™s to Kitt, and there is no system nearby that she can't make into her bitch faster than you can say "non-newtonian force beam".
R#5 shrugs. "My ability to convince my comrades to go into the cell would involve the ability to convince them to come back here, and my guess is that they're long gone by now with no intention of ever being near you again. But that doesn't need to prevent us from talking. What do you want to say?"
R#5 was sufficiently sly about it that Kitt didn't actually notice him do it, but he must have keyed his mic. Because now he's broadcasting the conversation over radio.
This is all happening in microgravity. So there is no "walking" or "sitting" per se. The Reptiloids have no means of inducing artificial gravity; the habitat isn't made for spinning.
"The object is useless to you. Keeping it from us will do you no good and will cause unnecessary conflict between us. While we are few, we can still cause a lot of trouble, and the longer it takes us to find the object, the longer we'll be here making trouble. So, I propose a deal. For your part, you will bring the object to the exterior of the habitat where my ship will pick it up."
"Now, for my part. From what I've been able to glean from this habitat, you don't have a central government. Instead, you're divided into a number of clans or houses or some such. And I get the feeling that the houses aren't friendly towards one another. I'd be willing to let myself be used by you for a time. Your house has enemies, and I'm extraordinarily good at killing people. Give us back our property and I'll be your weapon. Point me at whatever enemy you see fit."
[radio feed into R#5's ear]: "The Imperial agent is adamant that we must contain the alien. If we can get it to work for us, that might be considered sufficient."
R#5: "We do have a central power structure, but a lot is handled by various subservient but competing factions. If you could help us deal with some of our competitors, we would have more leverage to make requests on your behalf. Our House does not have the authority to negotiate for the object directly-" There is a slightly odd pause, but then R#5 resumes without broadcasting. "-BUT if you help us become powerful enough to be indispensable, then accidentally letting slip the location of the object to you and having you make off with it could be conceivable."
[radio feed to R#5]: "Careful admitting that we do not have the object to bargain with. Be warned that House Anton agents are inbound, geared up for a bug hunt."
"It's disappointing you don't have the required authority." <pregnant pause> "I suppose I could assist in helping your house for a time. However I would require autonomy, a detailed map of this habitat, and support from your house. Which house will be the first target?"
Castawiki: "This might work out well. If we can have our own puppet government within the empire, we might be able to better influence it. I think we should help these goofs take over the habitat, even from the central government. And if that doesn't work, having an inner knowledge of the political structure will make it easier to find the artifact."
"Plus, it will be good exercise."
R#5 tries to look pleased, but it's tainted with worry. "This sounds like an excellent arrangement. Unfortunately, aliens are forbidden from moving freely about Imperial property - we will have to provide you with an escourt. Which is handy, as they can also provide directions as necessary. We will have to consider the possibilities for which we can employ you, but our first encounter is likely to be with House Anton. They have agents nearby to -er claim you. It is probable that they assume that since we were seemingly able to contain you that they would be as well." An honest sardonic smile creases his snout.
Surhis [castawiki]: "Is 'good exercise' code for slaughtering large numbers of people now?"
Rosie [castawiki]: "You have to admit, she could have been doing that this whole time. She's been relatively restrained."
Surhis [castawiki]: "True. Even though she was stuck in a spaceship for a hundred-fifty hours straight. I remember when she could barely go 8 hours without freaking out and running around trying to kill something."
Rosie [castawiki]: "We've all grown quite different from our incarnations back at the lab."
Surhis [castawiki]: "Amazing what a hundred and ninety-nine point nine million years will do."
Castawiki: "Hey, I usually ask for surrender before killing. It's not my fault I'm so small and cute that people consistently underestimate me."
R#5: "Ok. Let's go meet up with the Anton agents. What's the name of your house? Wait a second, does Anton know where the object is? Would it make more sense to align with them and kill you?" I keep a straight face a for a couple of moments and then burst out laughing. "You should have seen your face...."
R#5 does a pretty good job of not overreacting, but it definitely got got. "The House I am currently contracted with is House Chirmi, but I consult for many Houses. Does the fact that you are unarmed affect the wisdom of confronting the House Anton agents?"
The castawiki is a mess of howling laughter from Surhis. Rosie seems to be mildly amused, too.
Surhis: "Keep in mind that the cache of patches you've hidden back by the bay is most of the patches in existence. Plus the scary force blade is pretty much irreplaceable - unless you fancy going up in three more stages of technician."
[radio feed in R#5's ear]: "I've been instructed by the Imperial agent to inform you that we need some way to ensure the tractability of the alien - find some way to get leverage on it. If we don't demonstrate good control of the alien, we will not be able to claim ownership. And, of course, whomever kills the alien gets to claim ownership of its corpse. So make sure that's us, if needs be."
I don't say this right away, but after we've headed towards the Anton agents a bit. "Y'know, if this arrangement is going to work for any period of time, I'm going to need to arrange supplies for my crew. We're getting desperately low on food over there. Can you arrange for some supplies to be brought into the bay I was at? I should check in with them too."
R#5 [with an air of weary candor]: "Your ship is undoubtedly considered the most tactically significant thing in the galaxy, and it should be safe to assume that any supplies provided would include a variety of unpleasant surprises to try to affect it."
[radio feed into R#5's ear]: "The Imperial agent is suggesting that you should be tried for treason."
R#% [nodding to itself]: "I say this because there is no way House Chirmi could prevent such subterfuge, and it would be logical for you to assume that it should affect your relationship with the House you are dealing with. I expect that would go very badly indeed for us, as you described previously."
"I'm not sure which direction the House Anton agents would be approaching from - there are five possibilities, and it might be all of them."
Surhis: "This guy is so screwed, no matter how this turns out, I'm guessing. Unless he's got some sort of political immunity or power that isn't obvious."
2017.04.06 - Prisoner... Not.
There's nothing quite like a post-capture workout.
- with R#5, House Anton agents inbound (consultant for House Chirmi)
- double-crossing facility guards (do not fare well - incinerated in security buffer)
- meet up with rendezvous
- attempted double-cross
- take over micrograv van
- head back to the main bay
- 20 imperial guards searching for more alien stuff
- 1 gets blasted in the head by high-velocity random bits
- left off with 19 remaining trying to locate Kitt
Plot 026 - Brief Mid-Bloodbath Interlude
I continue sneaking towards my hidden gear. Y'know, I really should get a Reptiloid skin headband.
The actual sneaking is a combat-round function and will have to wait for game night, considering that there are 19(ish) guards staring in Kitt's direction trying to see her.
A Reptiloid skin headband is technically difficult due to the finicky curing process to avoid having it weak and cracking around the harder chitinous scales. Though there is the obvious solution of just wearing them while they're "fresh" and replacing them regularly as needed.
Also worth considering in this instant before the next sneak roll - the relative Coolness Factor™ of using the blades or not. When engaging longer-range combatants, the blades don't matter much, obviously. But closer up, there is a simple elegance to Kitt's bare-handed mauling of enemies. FWUMPFWUMP with the occasional SNARGE!. It does mean that most professional combatants typically survive one non-vital hit (assuming their hearts aren't plucked from their chests), which can slow things down a bit. In comparison, the 5-dice+12 horror of the blades is terrifyingly effective - doing an average of 29-30 points of damage (±12). Plus add in a 1-in-3 chance of landing a vital hit, and Kitt's capacity for getting placement when aggressive. It's just frightening.
2017.04.13 - The Cat Who Walks Through
Walls, -er Everyone
- and continue with MASSIVE BLOODSHED
- pause at the Hanbacca to heal
- Rosie installs an internal med kit in Kitt (joke pending)
- head to hunt down people who know where the object is
- gate guards
- bunker guards
- inner sanctum (badass plus old dude)
- badass dies suddenly
- makes deal with old dude to make him younger
- old dude gives up location of the Imperial Cousin
Plot 027 - Where's Shorty
R#5: "The location of the princeling is undoubtedly secured by special-ops personnel. And traps. Will any of that be a problem?"
Surhis [castawiki]: "There aren't any convenient reflective surfaces in Kitt's feed, but I'll bet a billion credits that she's got a scary-ass smile going on."
Rosie [castawiki]: "No bet."
2017.04.20 - "Let's go kill everybody."
- "Let's go kill everybody."
- Kitt and R#5 drive towards the princeling
- hidden fortress (nickel-iron asteroid)
- gets past labyrinth (trap-laden)
- guards (professional)
- badasses (special forces - 1 extra-seasoned, 3 extra-professional
Plot 028 - Cracks Some Knuckles
Honestly, there is again very little that can be done plot-wise. Random thoughts and questions encouraged, though.
2017.04.27 - Kills Everybody Else
- Kitt continues through the twisting defensive tunnels of the hidden fortress
- encounters 8 more seasoned+ special ops combatants
- mostly alone, sometimes in pairs
- the scariest one got beheaded before they even know what was happening
- the funniest one was yanked away to be used as a lure for their partner, except for their head that came off with a surprised and pitiable expression
- the toughest actual fight was from the combatant with the least-impressive bonus to hit - but the most-impressive duck
- Kitt penetrates the Fabergé egg-like inner sanctum of the hidden fortress
- a lengendary combatant defended it
- code-named IMDY because it would only say "I must destroy you."
- paired heavy pistols, three attacks, massive bonuses, huge stamina, but with speed and intelligence as dump stats
- at first, Kitt seemed massively overmatched and had to retreat
- Kitt ducked out, healed, killed another seasoned special-ops combatant for practice, and re-entered the fray
- it was a brutal fight to erode IMDY down to zero, but it wouldn't go down - then in a flurry of vital hits Kitt drove IMDY down over -100 stamina
Plot 029 - The Legend Begins
The ornately-dressed obviously-the-Dude dude blows a long sighing breath. "Well sheeeeeeit. What are my options?"
With Kitt's newly-minted legendary-ness, she can read right away that while this being is only professional, those four stages are all dedicated to leader and diplomat. It's lawyering, slippery aura roils around it as if it were the condensed form of pure lies.
"Greetings. You're options are quite few at the moment. I've been led to believe that you can help me get my property back. If that is the case, I'll retrieve it and leave you in peace. If not, well, I'll be unhappy."
Castawiki + R#5: "So R5, how best to convince this guy to help me?"
R#5 [etheric]: "His Imperial Cousin-ness is well-known for only being helpful when it both helps him and is at the expense of somebody else's dignity. Fuck that guy - start cutting off bits."
Surhis [etheric]: "I don't have any way to argue with that. Though I feel it worth mentioning that keeping him mostly intact so that you can drag him around with you in order to compel others is probably useful."
R#5 [etheric]: "OK, yeah. That's also good. All the imperial military personnel have sworn an oath to obey him and keep him safe."
Obviously-the-Dude: "I see. If this is a simple matter of property, I'm sure that we can come some sort of satisfactory arrangement. Perhaps if you could clarify what it is you're looking for, and who you are working for?"
I look over the crowd to see if there are any other seasoned individuals, or anyone that others are trying to obscure from view. Just want to make sure Obviously-the-Dude isn't a decoy. Assuming I don't spot anyone I'll just deal with OTD.
OTD: "We can discuss it on the way out." I leap over to him and prod him to the door I came in. I say back to the crowd: "If any of you wish to die, please follow us." I lead OTD back the way I came, making sure to let him see all the corpses.
Being legendary, Kitt can see clearly that there are seasoned lackeys/advisors, but they aren't hiding anyone. Their collective mincing and utterly manifest terror allows very little bandwidth for deception. Especially after the calmly-stated threat to casually execute them. OTD is 99.3% certainly the being that was the intended target.
Since OTD is over twice Kitt's size, the prodding is more about inspiration than personal application of momentum. Nevertheless, the vast disparity in experience and capabilities makes this immaterial. OTD is readily made to hurry in any direction Kitt chooses.
OTD: "Where are you taking me? If you want something from me, it will be much easier to get it for you from my audience chamber!" It's voice quavers a bit with an edge of pleading as OTD's self-control slips for a moment.
R#5 [etheric]: "I've convinced the laundromat operators to close their store for today, so that it can be rented for a private function. I'm guessing that they're going to call the police soon, but perhaps not immediately."
Surhis [etheric]: "Maybe you should ask the royal whathisface if the artifact is in the secret fortress."
I pause and glower at OTD: "About a month ago, forces from this base found an object in the debris field by anchor planet and it was brought back here. That objects belongs to me. As a member of the imperial family you likely know where it is. You're going to lead me to it. So, unless it's in your audience chamber..." I look at him expectantly.
2017.05.04 - WMD
I think Kitt has the largest body count in any of my characters in the history of AIF.
- intimidating OTD (obviously the dude)
- go to house Hintum
- threatening de-limbing
- Turns out to be an unnecessary detour.
- go to imperial dock imperial starjammer
- splatter guards 5
- intercept special forces
- head to the bridge 2 more special forces
- many many hapless soldiers
- destroys anchor fleet
- drop R#5 on Kyu-Ju
- destroys moving mountain heading towards Kyu-Ju
- destroy moving mountain heading towards Groten Prime
Plot 030 - So long and thanks for the all the lizards
Castawiki: "We need to find somewhere to hide the Hanbacca so that when we jump forward, we can retrieve it. Maybe a nebula somewhere? We can keep an eye out for one while we go hunting. I think we should hunt down all the etheric signals we detected on our first travel across the empire and destroy them all."
Surhis: "How far forward should this next jump be? That will drive how careful we need to be with the hiding spot for the Hanbacca."
Rosie: "This is assuming that we should even leave the Hanbacca intact."
Surhis: "It's awfully handy having an apex-tech vessel for our use. It's made us essentially unstoppable throughout the Reptiloid Empire. And it would be a major pain in the ass to build a new one ourselves."
Rosie: "We have flung relativistic rocks at slow-moving targets. We don't need the Hanbacca for that. Meanwhile, it is nowhere near combat capable of facing even the most minor of Swarm ships when they arrive. Meanwhile, we probably do need to build a new ship anyway - one that will fit inside the diameter of the temporal displacement effect. That would be much easier using the material in the Hanbacca rather than refining and configuring new ship-scale material."
Surhis: "It's a point. We can discuss it more as we hunt down Imperial nodes. Being near Kyu-Ju, it seems that we're in the center of the ansible web, and I think I can roughly map out 12,000 major ansible source transmissions. These are undoubtedly a mix of both settled planets and those flying-mountain generation ships. That puts us at a minimum of about 50 days of continuous genocide to deal with them all."
Rosie regards Surhis levelly, flatly not-asking about that particular turn of phrase. Perhaps gauging what it means.
"How about we focus on all the Starjammers we can find first. Once they are all destroyed we'll deliver an ultimatum to the empire - stop conquering other planets or we'll destroy them. Or something suitably intimidating. Plus we should be on the lookout for ship yards - though we may not find any. Those ships are ancient. Then let's jump forward a few centuries and see what the result is."
"We should build a new ship for the time machine and hide the Hanbacca. I don't want to give it up."
Surhis: "Right, and it's not that the Hanbacca is especially incapable of facing MegaXoids - it's that we don't have a decent pilot or gunners."
Rosie: "Granted that skill is more important than stature - as Kitt so clearly embodies. It is still true that Swarm vessels are massively potent. Nevertheless, we still have 7500 years until the Swarm starts threatening this galaxy, and most of that time the Hanbacca would be vulnerable and useless."
Surhis: "Unless I can manage to develop a cloaking device. Then the odds pretty much collapse into virtual certainty that it'll be fine. Though that probably does mean not earning any more experience piloting. But, what the fuck, it's not like I'm earning any significant experience dragging rocks in straight lines."
The starjammers do not appear to be sufficiently-regular contributors to ansible communications to log directly, however Kitt can extrapolate that there is probably an average of two starjammers for every inhabited planet or generation ship. That makes a total of around 24,000 targets to search and destroy. They are much easier to destroy - just one relativistic projectile each - but probably much less easy to locate. She calculates that it would take about 40 days to hunt down 90% of them.
Well I think 90% of their main combat ships destroyed will send an appropriate message.
"That's an interesting point about the cloaking device. How much more physicist do you think it will take to be able to construct one? Once we cripple the lizards, we could find a planet well away from all this mess and settle down for a while while increasing our non-combat skills."
Right then: the plan is for the Hanbacca crew to start systematically hunting down all Imperial Starjammers and introducing them to high-energy rocks. Shall we start the timer on the 40-ish days?
Surhis: "I think I only need one more stage of physicist (6th) to create a cloaking device - but we might need a professional (3rd-stage technician to fabricate it." Kitt absorbs that information, and finds that she suspects that a 2nd-stage technician who also happens to be legendary might work too.
Rosie: "Based on what we observed with the Anurians, it seems feasible that they would be capable and willing to host us for such an endeavour."
Commence the 40 days and 40 nights of destruction! I bet they write a book about it.
Operation Jam Relativistic Rocks Into Starjammers starts off linearly. The Hanbacca cruises into a sector and pinpoints all the interstellar ansible sources, then gathers a rock for each and accelerates them at 0.5c towards each. Imperial ansible communications go berserk as they try in vain to organize some sort of defense against an invisible foe. This causes them to hit on the idea that their vulnerability is location via ansible, and they start instructing starjammers to stop transmitting unless necessary. Being a sprawling bureaucracy, the idea is not quickly implemented. However, by the time the Hanbacca has denuded 50% of Imperial space of obvious starjammers, there is a noticeable decline in the number of readily-apparent interstellar ansible sources. Unfortunately, riding around for years on giant fusion flames is also not subtle, and Surhis is able to propose a methodology of pausing ever parsec to sight on nearby drive flames optically. This increases the hunt time by 300%, but is even more thorough.
So, after 20 days, the remaining time to finish the purge of starjammers in Imperial space is 60 days.
You just wanted to wreck my biblical reference. Thhhhbbbttt! Anyway, we continue the destruction for the remaining 60 days.
By the time 50 days have elapsed, the Imperial Navy has functionally gone dark. Modeling extrapolations estimate that as much as 25% of the Imperial Starjammers remain intact, but have both stopped transmitting by ansible and extinguished their drives for long enough to be essentially invisible. Surhis posits that it should be technically feasible to use a finer resolution of visual intervals to track the final accelerations of remaining starjammers and conduct tighter searches. However, the corresponding time to completion runs exponential.
Surhis: "I think we've made our point."
Rosie: "Yes. Beyond the obvious threat we've demonstrated, it is likely that we've obliterated whatever planning they've had for the next century. Having an empire that travels at sub-light that spans 300 parsecs must have an elaborate strategy for distribution of forces and timing of reinforcement - all of that would be totally corrupted now. Even the surviving military vessels are not going to arrive on time due to losing months of thrust."
Surhis: "Heh, yeah. Statistically, half of the surviving ships aren't going to arrive for triple the time they spent inertial - because they're in the deceleration phase and are going to overshoot their target."
OK, what's next?
Back to Lublin, and if they'll have us, stay for a while. Let Surhis get another stage of physicist. I'll try for another stage of technician. Get a lot of R&R. Slowly build a ship to house the time machine.
The Anurians are overjoyed to have the Hanbacca return, and are both willing and capable of hosting the crew for as long as is needed. Most extrapolations of the further expanse of the Reptiloid Empire show them taking at least another 40 years to get anything to Lublin, Sol, or Groten Prime.
So, there's time to do anything non-combat related.
- Surhis is going to need 5 years (60 more months) to get to 6th stage physicist.
- Kitt's total stages will influence her ability to earn combat experience (reference Clayton's 50% rule).
- Kitt can readily gain another stage of technician by building a new time ship.
- Stages of technician beyond 3rd-stage will require creative role-play (and worthy projects).
- Kitt can easily gain 1st-stage physicist without affecting her stage.
- Theoretically, Kitt could build up to 5th-stage in one science discipline by the time Surhis is done.
2017.05.12 - Time Passes
- 5 years later Surhis now 6th stage
- make new time ship - Kawésqar
- head to a random planet in the Reptiloid Empire
- fractured - having a civil war
- pick up three yokel conscripts (intelligences 1, 1, 2)
- implant captives with nanoscopic robots
- visit sites of New Earth and New Bronx, just for fun
- Kitt inscribes her name on New Bronx
- +1000 years -9235
- back to Lublin
- install a cloaking device on the Hanbacca
- head to Sol
- head to Groten Prime sets off sentinel ship
- discovers that Groten Prime is toast
- probable that most of the population were turned into slaves
- head back to Lublin drop off the Hanbacca
- transplant the teleporter into the Kawésqar
- take the Kawésqar to SOL
- gather victims for time travel
- 5 people of 5 intelligence
- 2 lizards
- -1000000 years -1009235
- -1000000 years -2009235
- head to Anchor spy probe is there
- highly industrial w/ low orbit
- -1000000 years -3009235
- reptiloids almost extinct
- no probe
Plot 031 - Reboot Attempt
The Kawésqar currently floats over Anchor, 3 million years in the past, and no signs of the Reptiloid Empire.
"Remember your quote: 'We need to nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure'. I think it may have come to that. What would it take to sterilize the planet?"
The most obvious way to sterilize the planet of incipient Reptiloid civilizations would be to systematically blanket the planet with relativistic rocks.
Somewhat more tedious - but more thorough - would be to build a huge number of nuclear weapons, distribute them with overlapping areas of effect over the whole planet, and detonate them all simultaneously.
The most epic way would be to have Surhis build a laboratory then proceed to spend 1916 years working on physicist, such that he could be 10th-stage, build a foldspace and use it to novabomb the planet.
The most insidious way to prevent the advancement of a Reptiloid civilization would be to surreptitiously introduce them to the concept of social media, and just let them stagnate and perish from apathy and narcissism.
Let's check for comets where there orbits can be adjusted to impact with Anchor.
Most of the cometary matter that could intersect Anchor already has - hence it's oceans. The remaining comets only have a few thousand tonnes of ice, and their orbital velocities are tiny. Moreover, ice would have lessened impact due to high ablation during penetration of the atmosphere.
There are a couple nickel-iron asteroids with promising orbital proximity, but still not enough mass to do more than tweak the climate and make an impressive crater.
Real global sterilization will require gathering a lot of asteroids and imparting significant momentum.
Well, we're mostly interested in killing off the Reptiloids, not necessarily all life. So, a complete sterilization is probably going overboard. How seismically active is the planet? Can we target some relativistic rocks to fault lines and dormant volcanoes to try and drastically increase volcanic activity? Put enough ash in the atmosphere to blot out the sun for a few decades? That should kill off most of them.
Survey says that the 6th-stage physicist can determine a seismic intervention strategy that fires up sufficient volcanic activity to kick-start an ice age. This has a 99.8% probability of causing the Reptiloids on Anchor to go extinct.
Surhis: "It simplifies to needing only 100 well-targeted high-energy impactors. After this genocide, how far into the future do we want to go to verify and re-kill everyone?"
Rosie gives Surhis a look. "Five solid years of studying physics is hard on the sanity, isn't it."
Surhis [whispering]: "We see dead civilizations."
"Let's hack one of the two remaining reptiloid captives to get his intelligence up to two. Then do the bombardment and then jump 1000 years to see the effects."
Brainification - check.
Bombardment - check.
BUMP +1000 years (-3008235) - Blinding White Flash
Effects: Ice age. Massive die-off of land-dwelling megafauna.
Well, I guess we'll have to see if an Aqualoid species emerges. Let's wake up and kill one of the humans for a million year jump.
Human: "Ugh. Me cold. Why me strapped to table? AAAAAAGH!"
BLINDING WHITE FLASH
BUMP +1000000 years (-2008235)
Massive sprawling Reptiloid city and etheric comms.
I stare levelly at Surhis: "What would it take to blow up their sun?"
Surhis is laughing maniacally, and starts feeding the sacrificed Human into the nanoscopic-robot render now conveniently mounted at the end of the Coffee Table Of Doom (6 patches worth).
Surhis: "Dudette, I don't know. Stars are really freaking stable. It's not like they're particularly bothered by high energy inputs. And, frankly, to create something with sufficient oomph to affect a stellar mass is massive undertaking. Even with modern-to-us technology, there isn't much to do to a star. A nova bomb can toast a planet, but it only siphons off an itty bitty bit of a star before it burns itself out. We'd need a 2-variable fold space to really zark with a star - and, well, that's just silly."
Rosie: "Yes. That is very silly."
Surhis: "Even sillier than time machines and inter-dimensional portals - for the record."
Rosie: "I think you say that to be funny, because of context. But it is still silly."
Surhis: "Yep. OK, so - where the zarking zark did these zarking Reptiloids come from?"
"Yeah, I wasn't really serious about the sun. But seriously, they guys are like locusts."
We head into orbit and see if they have space ships, and check for etheric signals coming from outside the system.
"So, is it possible that they were seeded from another Reptiloid empire somewhere else? If so, that would suck."
Rosie: "The probability of alternate seeding definitely seems like a reasonable explanation."
Surhis: "Sure - and always was. It was just functionally discarded because of Occam's razor. There are other, more troubling possibilities to consider if we want to explore worst-case thinking."
Rosie: "What would be more troubling remote seeding? We might have to try sterilizing many planets."
Surhis: "That sucks, no doubt. But what if our efforts are being deliberately countered by some other entity with a time machine or inter-dimensional portal?"
Rosie's famous blank expression becomes extra-blank.
2017.05.18 - Ark Of Annoying
- head to the pyramid
- prances across courtyard after vaulting wall
- funny disarmed guard (NYUK NYUK)
- 2 seasoned guards pummeled barehanded
- find ancient ansible in decaying ark
- here comes a tank with shock troops
- all disarmed
- they flee like terrified children
- head to museum - displays too myopic (all about recent military bragging)
- commence search for seeding planet
- find a lot of nothing and one burnt cinder
Plot 032 - Mutter Mutter
Rosie: "Our options appear to be to 1) re-sterilize Anchor and see if any other Reptiloid Empires emerge, 2) jump back in time to reveal what happened at the burnt cinder planet - to see if they seeded Anchor, and to see if they were seeded from somewhere else themselves, 3) step backwards at Anchor to see when the ark arrived and figure out what to do from there."
Surhis: "Can we pick one of the ones where we don't kill off a billion people? I know they're assholes collectively, but populations of civilians have meaningful existences. It was one thing to hunt down all those military vessels, but wiping out a huge global population is just too shitty."
Rosie: "How is this harder to take than sterilizing Anchor a million years ago?"
Surhis: "I'm not doing suuuuuper-well with that either. But there were only just a few of them at that point, and what else could we try?"
Rosie: "There might not have been many Reptiloids, but the planet was teeming with life and we killed much of it."
Surhis: "I don't know - maybe it's about my sense of their sentience being valuable or something. I've spent most of my life assuming that my narcissism was sufficient protection about worrying about other being's feelings, but this whole thing is wearing me down. I mean, we have to zarking sacrifice a sentient life form every time we want to jump forward in time. And I find myself thinking about all the years Hanbacca spent patiently trying to explain to me the value of empathy and altruism, and it's worming into me, making this all really zarking hard to process."
Rosie just looks at Surhis blankly.
Surhis: "And it sucks that only the worst of us have survived. The innocent and promising helpful person? Pecked to death by fucking turkeys. The wise and insightful lifelong researcher? Sacrificed himself so that we could get closer to returning home. The super-useful builder always focussed on doing good? Flattened running from giant flying murder bugs. Who's left? The fucking 'Agent Of Death' serial killer, an inter-dimensional spy robot that could have saved the first two but didn't bother, and the asshole scientist whose impatience got us all in this stupid situation in the first place."
"Sterilizing Anchor won't work anyway. We made the assumption that the Reptiloid empire sprang from Anchor, but that's not certain any more. Our meddling could have just made it more attractive to colonize from a Reptiloid empire that sprang from another system. But yeah, even if it was an option I'm not too keen on the mass murder either. I've had enough - hence the whole not killing anyone on my last outing. Obviously we're going to need to keep up the sacrifices to time travel, but keeping the death to a minimum would sit right with me right now."
"So how about this: We jump forward to about five thousand years before the Xoids arrive, and made do with whatever civilizations we find. We free the Humans, Grotens, and Lublins from the Reptiloids if we have to. We set up a colony world made up of the three species. We give them most of our tech and use them to conquer the galaxy. Then we go meet the Xoids before they arrive."
Surhis looks considerably relieved to only have his current set of stress points to work off.
Rosie: "To follow such a plan, we need to deploy two million-year jumps and five thousand-year jumps. We have the 5-intelligence humans, but we would need to find some 2-intelligence sacrifices."
"Ok, let's do the two million year jumps and see what we have to work with."
Booming Voice: "PREPARE THE SACRAFICE!"
Surhis engages the cloaking device and brings the Kawésqar closer to the gravity well of Anchor. Rosie retrieves one of the temporal jump fuel pods to the Coffee Table Of Doom, paralyzes it, and wakes it up.
Temporal jump fuel pod: "Wow, this place is so cool. By Set, you had better be careful with that glowing sword missy kitty cat or somebody might get -URK!"
[BLINDING WHITE FLASH] +1,000,000 years to -1008235 years relative time.
Anchor is a pile of slag, with only a few pathetic inhabitants. Etheric communication is conspicuously absent, however there is heavy electromagnetic communication that is probably originating from points within the system.
Rosie sends the spent temporal jump fuel pod into the nanoscopic robot rendering apparatus (12 patches worth!). Then she fetches another one, and the process is repeated.
[BLINDING WHITE FLASH] +1,000,000 years to -8235 years relative time.
The Anchor system is eerily quiet. Too quiet.
All righty then. First we check to see if there's a huge abandoned structure in orbit like last time. Then we check the L points for any signs of civilization. Next, we fly by the Reptiloid worlds we identified 2 million years prior, making note of any etheric signals along the way. Finally, we fly by Groten Prime, Sol, and Lublin.
Checking for orbital structures: there are currently none.
Checking the Lagrange points: There is ancient wreckage there, but nothing that has been functional or inhabited for millennia.
Reviewing the previously-identified Reptiloid worlds: Most are either cinders and lifeless or scorched with a few feeble colonies. A few are heavily-populated orbital habitats with huge, crude military vessels patrolling the system.
Interstellar activity is almost non-existent. But what there is are best-described as brutal armadas.
The patchwork Reptiloid kingdoms peter out long before Groten Prime, Sol, or Lublin. All three are in similar developmental states as the last timeline.
That's... actually kind of awesome. I could see this being the state of affairs in our native timeline.
"Ok, how about we get some reptiloids from one of those feeble colonies, brainify them to two intelligence, and then make some 1000 year hops. And when we do our abductions, I think we should be as stealthy as possible - give the people no stories of alien abduction to spread around."
Surhis: "We probably don't need to brainify the Reptiloids - they naturally occur from 1-3 intelligence. We can probably just find some appropriate 2-intelligence time-jump fuel pods. And since quantum mirrors appear to be outside of their abilities, collection should be pretty straightforward."
"Tru dat. Let's party."
I fly us back to one of the feeble colonies and hover around the outskirts of a settlement until we see 1 to 3 Reptiloids out on their own. Then we snatch them with the teleporter. Once they calm down I'll start questioning them to figure out their likely intelligence.
It's even easier than that. At the feeble colonies, much of the population live extremely remote from each other - probably due to the very poor resource availability, and each bust their asses foraging to support their hydroponics efforts. So they compensate for the remoteness by incessant EM communication with each other. It is very easy to determine their respective intelligences, and nobody is around to see what actually happens to them. You can harvest as many as you can stuff into the ship, if you want.
Surhis: "Can you imagine sustaining like this for thousands of years? How these poor bastards don't just die out in a single generation is baffling."
Rosie: "Life is rarely wise."
Ok, we grab five two-intelligence guys, and five one-intelligence guys for back tracking. Then we sacrifice a two and do the fly-by of Groten/Lublin/Sol again.
Technically, 1-intelligence time-jump fuel pods are good for ±100 years, depending. You'll need semi-intelligent time-jump fuel pods to go backwards any significant displacement. But that is a relatively simple adjustment for Rosie to make on any time-jump fuel pod - reducing intelligence is easy, increasing is hard.
[BLINDING WHITE FLASH]
[BLINDING WHITE FLASH]
The Kawésqar moves +2000 years to -6235 years relative time.
Visiting Groten Prime reveals that there is a terrible rift between the Grotens and the Zygroten, where both species have exclusive territories and are heavily defended against each other. Level of technology is actually slightly less than what they were capable of a couple millennia earlier.
Sol is at the Human year 1235 BCE, so the big triangular piles of rocks are still the peak of Human tech.
Lublin has a thriving if modest interplanetary society.
Worth noting: there appears to be a couple Reptiloid generation-ships crawling through sublight in the vicinity of Groten Prime / Sol / Lublin. A quick flyby of them show them to be pretty un-threatening. More focussed on self-sufficiency than anything else. Kind of fragile and lovely in a lonely sort of way.
"Ok guys, we need to make a big decision. On one paw, we could do 4 more of those 1000 year jumps and I think that will put us just before the first galactic war. If everything seems to match our history, we can jump the rest of the way and see if we get back to a universe similar to our original one. On the other paw, we could help Sol and Lublin fight off the initial Xoid attacks and convince them to start the confederation early. That will drastically change things, but it might be interesting to see if things end up better. I'm imagining a galaxy where it's still controlled by one government and there's no scary mentalists running amock.
Surhis: "That seems a little too good to be true. Let's verify that things are indeed on the original trajectory, then if there are opportunities to make things better... I guess we could try to carefully nudge the timeline that way."
Rosie: "Agreed. Let us move forward and see what the Swarm does in this timeline."
Ok. We sacrifice our remaining smartish reptiloids.
[BLINDING WHITE FLASH]
[BLINDING WHITE FLASH]
[BLINDING WHITE FLASH]
[BLINDING WHITE FLASH]
The Kawésqar moves +4000 years to -2235 years relative time.
There's a lot of etheric activity - both in terms of comms and FTL travel.
Ok, I think we're now in the expansion era of the Confederation before the first galactic war. Let's do another flyby of Sol, Groten Prime, and Lublin. Before we go, let's get one of our dumb Reptiloids ready for sacrifice in case we need to bug out in a hurry. Whenever we go to sub light we'll cloak.
Low-valence time-jump fuel pod is prepared. It can be booted up in short notice.
As the Kawésqar heads towards Sol (etc), it is noticed that the vast majority of vessels are traveling exactly at light speed. Still. In Classic AIF™ timeline, superluminal ship travel was the norm by this era. As the Kawésqar nears Sol, it appears that there is some superluminal travel between it and something in the direction of Lublin. In the Sol system, the main habitable planet appears to be un-destroyed - even park-like with elegant orbital habitats. A single magnificent induction gate glows at the L2.
Moving on, Lublin is similarly thriving, though with an order of magnitude larger population distributed throughout the system on habitats. Multiple induction gates shuffle superluminal traffic in several directions.
Groten Prime, in turn, is a heavily-fortified hub of military hardware. Approach superluminally is hampered by several concentric shells of patrols to interdict ships. Only luminal-speed ships appear to come or go from Groten Prime.
I share a WTF look with Rosie and Surhis. Then, let's go back to Sol, hack into their computer networks and learn their language and recent history. Looking for references to Xoids and Sandaraks. Plus, let's see how many of the other Classic AIF™ species they've encountered.
Back at Sol, and finding a suitably vulnerable computer network reveals that this region of space is called the Batrach Protectorate. It's most prominent member are the Anurians, and they administrate the Humans as well as a few Reptiloid planets. The Humans were seen as being a danger to themselves, so needed help to avoid spontaneous self-extinction. The Humans had a very significant stockpile of nuclear devices, but relatively little spacefaring assets. The biosphere of their only inhabited planet was badly compromised, though there are indications that some group of Reptiloids disguised as Humans were actively trying to remake the climate and society to better suit their preferences.
Batrach trading vessels are wide-ranging and somewhat prolific, and have encountered many kinds of species: Aqualoids, Colloidlings, Croc Majors (obviously), Grotens / Zygrotens, and Trops being the key ones. They co-exist with mutual suspicion, with interstellar conflict being a lingering worry - but not a common occurrence.
Lately there have been rumours of some horrifying overwhelming force that nobody survives encountering at the edge of the galaxy.
Trump's a Reptiloid? That explains so much... What year on the human calendar did the Anurians impose their 'help'?
The Anurians made first contact in the Human year 2362, in orbit around Earth. That event almost triggered a self-extinction by itself. The Anurians had also stumbled across several other worlds inhabited with intelligent but non-spacefaring species around the same time, though few were as volatile as the Humans. The Anurians tried to help without too much overt influence or contact, but also was careful not to give them anything they could use to hurt themselves. The United Nations of Earth and a handful of Reptiloid planetary governments petitioned the Anurians for a way to earn a more even partnership, and the Batrach Protectorate was conceived in Human year 2593.
Things have been going quite well for a while now. Human scientists were pivotal in upgrading lightspeed drives to superluminal capabilities by inventing induction gates. However, there is still a non-trivial xenophobic population of Humans self-exiled to the surface of Earth.
2017.05.25 - Battle With Bureaucracy
- flashy entrance to the Batrach Protectorate
- Admiral Tiddleywinks
- lieutenant scherwin
- meet with the admiralty
- they're pretty much convinced
- technicians being gathered for training
- head to the pilot's bar
- colloidling bartender
- yiptak (say no more)
Plot 033 - Greeting The Grotens
Surhis: "OK, so after we jump-start the Protectorate as a Galactic SuperPower technologically, we need to get the other species aligned with our purpose. The Grotens are an obvious first step, but there are lots of other regions to recruit as well. Most of these people aren't going to be as persuaded by our weird tales as the Anurians. Perhaps we need something more tangible as a recruitment incentive."
Rosie: "We could fly superluminal-capable warships to their planets and teleport into their capitol buildings / ships and... let Kitt suggest emphatically that they should join."
"I'm all for that. Once we demonstrate how woefully outmatched they are, we might be in a better position to convince them to join. It would be either 'join us' or 'face the species we're already giving the tech to'. There might be some stubborn hold outs, but it should work for many of them. Now, do we go in the Kawésqar, or should be build something a bit more formidable? Once we train up some Anurian and Human technicians, we could probably get them to build us whatever we want. Maybe a strike class cruiser? Mhwaaa haa haaa..."
Surhis: "STAR DESTROYER."
Rosie: "You've mentioned this classification of ship before, but seemed to change your mind."
Surhis: "Well, mostly because it would take too long. At least, with the manufacturing capabilities of just a couple old-school planets at our disposal. Honestly, that's the big reason why we need to convince people to join the effort - to get their industrial contribution. And that's where things fall apart a little bit - because convincing a leadership via force is conceivable, but populations don't respond well to threats. We would be impairing the industrial enthusiasm, and seeding some annoying rebel groups."
Rosie: "We could easily crush any contemporary rebel scum."
Surhis: "And that would be better for them than the Xoids showing up... how?"
Rosie: "Actually, I think it's just a scouting party that is expected in this timeline. The first major invasion is from something called a Sandarak."
Surhis: "Odd that you mention that - the Xoid exploratory force is somewhat overdue in this region of the First Galaxy. I wonder what'd going on with them in this timeline."
"That's another reason we should build a cruiser. Sooner or later we should go looking for the Xoids to see what we're up against. For now, let's get the Anurians to build a strike class for us - maybe with a bit more cargo/crew space than a typical strike class. Then we'll ask them for a delegation of diplomats which we'll take with us to Groten. I'll beam down to Groten to convince them to gather their own diplomats or whatever. Then we'll let them hash out the details of working together. While they're doing that, we'll take the strike class and see if we can find the Xoids and/or Sandaraks."
Surhis: "How big are you hoping for this ship to be? Something the size of a strike class with more cargo space is a scout class. Something with the same firepower as a strike class but with more cargo space is a corvette."
Rosie: "We also have some tactical limitations on the effectiveness of large ships that don't have AI or direct neural interface with crew - we would just be passengers on such a vessel, reliant on the cooperation of many others."
Surhis: "Yeah, it doesn't help that we suck at flying or shooting."
Rosie: "Indeed, our primary tactical strength is probably in the ability for the Kawésqar to stealthily deposit Kitt in proximity to targets."
Hundreds of technicians are assembled, ready for training in AIF-fu tech.
"There's no reason we can't build a ship that has controls usable by them AND override controls usable by us. But I see Rosie's point. If we go in with a big ship it might just be attacked and we'd have little ability to effectively defend ourselves. So maybe after the tedious training, we take the Kawésqar and visit the Grotens."
What are the parameters of the tedious training?
- Is there a particular project in mind?
- What stage of AIF-fu class technician is the goal?
- How much training in AIF-fu Physics is appropriate? (Both physicists and technicians are required for ship-scale construction.)
- To what extent is the training meant to be self-sufficient - training leaders to multiply the training bandwidth?
- Let's build a Corrival.
- 1st stage for now. That should give them ample to play with.
- 1st stage physicist. Mostly because we don't want to spend too much time here.
- Definitely as self-sufficient as possible.
Castawiki: "Guys, what do you think about donning Anurian bodies and staying here? I think we have the know-how to grow some Anurian bodies, copy our memories into them and put them among the populous. I think if I woke up in an Anurian body and was asked to stay here I'd be ok with it, at least knowing that my original me would continue on in the Kawésqar. We could create them and put them among the Anurians we're training. Heck, we could do that with all the species we encounter."
Corrival / 1st-stage technician / 1st-stage physicist / focus on leaders : check / check / check / check
Surhis: "You want to have kids?"
Rosie: "No, she said copies of ourselves with our memories."
Surhis: "Except that they would not BE us. They would be zero-stage entities with access to memories that would seem like somebody else's. In bodies that they'd have to figure out and get used to, while they develop their own stages - possibly heavily influenced by their creator's preferences instead of their own. How is that not having kids?"
Rosie: "Copies of ourselves should have the same proclivities for occupations as us, so that's not a worry."
Surhis: "That's both bull and shit. I don't know what your origins were like, but I only headed into science because I suffered the delusion that I was the smartest being that ever hatched. After I figured out that I wasn't, I was already well into my career trajectory and felt like I would look stupid for changing direction. And don't tell me that pizza-delivery cat here was naturally drawn into being a physicist or technician. Most of her stages were developed out of horrific necessity - we watched it happen. And you know what? Now that I think about it - unless we want to alter our so-called-copies to have just 3-intelligence, they're never going to fit into Anurian society and are going to be fucking miserable."
Rosie: "Ah. Well, nevertheless, I do not personally have a desire to create a copy of myself. And it sounds like you do not, either."
Surhis: "Zark no."
"Actually, I may have gone into the sciences. I was smart enough. I just didn't have the will power to see it through. There's no way I'd create a non-genius, so being an anomaly amongst the Anurians is a valid point."
I leave it at that, but start building the gear necessary to create a body. I think I'll make a Human. Plan is to create her, copy my memories over, and then train her with the rest of the Anurians.
Some clarification on the specifications of the corrival are in order. None of the classic corrival configurations have sufficient cargo space to haul the Kawésqar, but that need not be a limitation for a unique ship. Also, it would be possible to develop neural interfaces for the crew - they're just a lot more elaborate for beings that don't have nanoscopic robots. Technically, it would also be possible to whip up an AI, which would also have massive tactical ramifications.
For the Spawn Of Kitt, do you plan for her to have a full complement of nanoscopic robofauna fully enmeshed with her proteome? Doing it in some secret laboratory somewhere, Kitt would have 27 character generation points to work with. Gestating the SOK internally (#axlotl tank) would allow 31 character generation points. Getting help from Rosie would allow for more character points (how many more is not exactly known).
Ok, for now the Corrival won't be anything near what a 6th stage physicist can accomplish. As this is a teaching construction I'll try to limit it to what a 1st stage technician and physicist can do.
- 200 CP
- 200 Extra Stam
- 1 km/turn2
- 1 pph
- 3 maneuverability
- 100 shield (partial - 10 duck buffer)
- 10D Fixed weapons (in 5 cp)
- 20D Turret weapons (in 10 cp)
- 30CP Cargo (enough to fit the Kawésqar)
- 30CP Crew (enough to fit linker chairs)
- 1 parsec sensors and comm.
- Teleporter, Docking Clamp, Airlock, and 1CP Force Beam.
For SOK: Full nanoscopic robots. Let's get Rosie's help. :)
30D in weapons is a beast. On a vessel with 1 durability, it has a high probability of exploding instead of stalling. Exciting. If you add a point for coolness, it will allow for some cool docking with the Kawésqar's cool interface.
Rosie: "Fascinating. Do you wish to grow the body in some apparatus, or internally? Apparatus would allow accelerated growth, while internal gestation would free up some possibilities for making the being more robust."
Also, I assume that the 1-tech X 1-phys standard rules out a cloaking device for this thing...
"Well I was thinking an apparatus, but if internal gestation would result in a healthier being, then that's the way to go. Problem is I wouldn't want to take it with me when we visit the Grotens. How short of a gestation period could you make it?"
Rosie: "The relative acceleration of the gestation will reciprocally diminish the opportunity for advanced development. You're normal gestational period is..." Rosie waves her hand in a scanning motion. "...35 weeks. With your stage of biologist and my four stages of advanced med-tech, we can make you a 35-point being. We can instead shorten the gestational period by 4 weeks per point. Though, honestly, if you intend to only gestate one being instead of a full litter, I do not think that it should much impair your ability to intimidate some Grotens."
"Hmmmmm.... a 35 point being sounds awesome. Let's do that. What about accelerating her growth once she's born? I'd rather not copy my memories into an infant."
Rosie: "Accelerated growth to pubescence is pretty standard. Anything beyond that makes it difficult to calibrate proprioception and neurological balance."
Potential next step - MONTAGE of a time elapse. Ready?
Nothing like a good montage. Go for it. :)
Of the hundred technicians brought for training, only a few already have a stage of Leader - they become the first priority for training by Kitt.
Surhis starts intensive training in physics. After the first month, it becomes clear that Humans have a particular value in the Protectorate that has not been fully realized. DUN DUN DUNN!
Kitt reviews the detailed proteome matrix possibilities with Rosie for her planned mini-monkey-me - and realizes that in addition to the usual array of custom being generator options, there exists:
- intermediate scale skeleton (5 points)
- rapid regeneration ability (6 points)
The first corrival starts to take shape - it looks like something the Confederation might have mass-produced.
Kitt's first cohort of AIF-fu technicians start training teams of their own. Work on the corrival goes exponentially faster.
Surhis's students deduce the force drive containment technology used in the corrival from first principles (contemporary force drives are several orders of magnitude less efficient, creating a lot of waste heat). A subset work on understanding the neural interfaces, while most are schooled on the finer points of hyperspatial induction and modulation.
Kitt gets fat. Standing on the tiny bridge of the newly constructed corrival, she looks over the crew testing out the neural interfaces. They seem keen to have a live weapons test.
Damn. I was thinking SOK would be a non-combatant, maybe with some scout because she couldn't handle non-stealth. She would earn a bunch of stages of scientist while we're time hopping a couple hundred years and if she's safe and sane. Or at the very least part of Kitt would survive if some Groten got a lucky punch in. But man, those are some premium abilities - would the regeneration ability be like Pavel's was? If so I think her stats will be:
- Strength 3
- Speed 6
- Agility 3
- Hand to hand 1
- Intelligence 6
- Will Power 4
- Awareness 4
- Size 50kg
Yeah, as soon as we're ready to try a weapon's test, let's go for it.
The regeneration ability would not be like Pavel's. It's 1 point per turn as a base. If SOK develops any stages of biologist or medic, she can spend 1D of her dice pool and get +1 point per stage of biologist and +1D per stage of medic.
Who all is present for the live-fire test of the corrival?
Also, the Protectorate Admiralty ask if it is OK if they work on another ship at the central training center / shipyards.
For the test fire, I guess whatever students want to attend, plus whatever Govt officials want to attend. I wonder if they have any Groten spies amongst them? I tell the Admiralty to go for it. That's the whole point of this, for them to start building their own ships.
As it happens, all the students want to attend - but only the original class will fit. The Admiralty only want one of their member to attend, but they want the corrival to be transmitting etherically the whole time for the council's remote participation. The Protectorate civilian leaders have a tradition of never setting foot on warships (during their political service), the meta message intended to be that use of force is a regrettable affair. Though the ship's exterior is emblazoned with their navy's motto "Accept the first jab - Deliver the final blow."
They name the thing the "Barry Schweid". (Wikipedia is a cruel naming mistress.)
The live fire test involves a quick hyperspatial jaunt a light-year out to the vicinity of some dead ships - some past battle. A couple large derelicts are selected for additional pulverization. A resounding success. The additional passengers are returned to Lublin.
The ship building facility is up and running.
When is the mission to Groten Prime?
Let's go right away. Want to deal with the Grotens before the parasite gets too large.
Describe the intended mission in terms of:
- Coordination / notification
If any aspect includes the Protectorate, they are going to want clarification in terms of:
- Nominal goal
- Negotiation parameters vis-à-vis the Groten Empire and the Protectorate
- Contingency plans
2017.06.01 - Aggressive Negotiations
HACK! STAB! BEHEAD!
- pregnant kitty plans to go to Groten Prime
- DOES tell the Protectorate
- lieutenant scherwin consults admiralty
- Kitt hangs out in pilot bar…
- foolish reptiloid
- gets med-evaced to Rosie on the Kawésqar
- entering Groten Empire space
- long range hails do not go well - interceptor sent
- Kawésqar crew show off hyperdrive and get invited in
- obvious trap in main battle station
- Kitt teleports in
- welcoming committee (5+1)
- turns ambush (surprise!) - very messy
Plot 034 - Getting Tired Of Thinking Up Plot Chapter Titles I
I give the Groten diplomat access to our communicator so he can discuss particulars with his people. Meanwhile I get Rosie to start reshaping my skull.
The Groten diplomat hesitantly uses the ship's communication array (which, I assume is being bounced off of the relay for OPSEC) and has to do an awful lot of talking to explain what is going on - even confirming his identity is laborious and tedious to overhear. Eventually, after much careful explanation, and many many tangents of paranoia, they Groten High Command are ready discuss terms.
Rosie seems nonplussed about the extreme distortion of Kitt's skull, and proceeds with the resculpting.
Groten(s): "So, we really don't want to do the negotiations ourselves. We're just trying to get the ball rolling. We'd like to get a diplomatic envoy from your empire, take them with us to the Batrach Protectorate and let you guys hash it out. Or if you want, we could find a neutral world somewhere to conduct the negotiations. Whatever works. Oh, and the envoy should have representatives from both of your species, so some Zygroten along with Groten." Pause "Oh, I almost forgot the slide show! Here's what you'll be facing at some point."
I show them the pictures we have of the Mega-Xoids.
"To be honest, I thought they would have attacked already, but they seem to be overdue. Any they are not all, there's another alien species called Sanadark that are going to be invading at some point as well.
"Now, you seem to have issues with people trying to trick you. Fair enough. So for full disclosure, I could have easily fabricated those images. It's up to you if you want to trust me or not."
The Groten High Command communicates with the diplomat via a novel code language, which is probably a good strategy for dealing with other species that can overhear what is being said. However, it is not of much persistent value against mathematicians, as everybody on the Kawésqar promptly decrypts it. However, to their credit, the GHC seem to be trying to conjure some way to work an honest deal with the Kawésqar crew, except with as much care as possible to try to ensure they aren't duped at any stage.
Groten Diplomat: "We still do not trust you. No trust means hard to talk plans. We have idea. If you rescue one of our trade teams from shitty little Lizard planet, they can join group to talk to Frogs and Monkeys. We trust you more then, make the plan talking better."
Background mental processes calculate that there is a 91% probability that there is something complicating about the trapped trade team besides just tactical difficulty.
2017.06.09 - Being 'Unarmed' Is Relative
- Groten diplomats = seasoned combatants
- sifar - 8th
- aik - 5th
- doe - 5th
- off to rescue the "trade delegation"
- Kitt shuttled 'unarmed' to a mostly-empty hanger
- croc minor intel dude = acronitis
- unfortunate blaster dudes in ceiling of hanger
- give croc minors microfusion tech
- 4 croc minor delegates
- back to Lublin / Protectorate - everything seems to work hunky dory
- has human baby Kitt - ward of the Protectorate
Plot 035 - Supposed To Go Exploring
Surhis: "So, mama-cat, what's the plan?"
ASIDE: Kitt-human being needs a name.
"The plan is to make sure we have some 1 intelligence beings with us for a short hop forward if we get into a bind, and then travel towards the edge of the galaxy."
I think we shouldn't take a direct line anywhere - but instead hop system to system so that we're near a gravity well as much as possible.
I'll think of a name at some point this week. :)
The usual tactic of stopping by a Crocaloid Major planet with limited technology to harvest appropriate specimens is probably the most expedient course. Let's say the time-displacement fuel larder has 3 new ±100-year units in storage.
Jumping from gravity well to gravity well doesn't too greatly increase the total distance travelled over the total path. However, it does greatly increase the opportunities for odd encounters. A non-trivial proportion of spacefaring planets are not capable of interstellar travel but are dense with near-system craft. Which is really just a way of saying that the Kawésqar gets noticed as it travels.
Are there any circumstances under which the Kawésqar will stop?
We'll stop if it seems a system has evidence of being attacked. Debris fields, orbital bombardment, etc. Otherwise we'll continue on.
It's a big galaxy, and all sorts of really weird shit presents itself as the Kawésqar bounces from system to system. Giant reddish mining ships, planets with mind-reading brain-sucking giant bugs called "psirens", planets where everybody spends all their time in virtual reality (and having sex with really awkward attachments), planets with genetically-engineered life forms (GELFs) with nasty pets that have limited shape-shifting powers, ships entirely populated with holographically uploaded representations of people, one really cool guy called "Ace", and a bunch of other Red Dwarf episodes that don't quite have the ability to break AIF continuity.
Needless to say, none of them quite rank as sufficient distractions from the intended mission to justify stopping and having a really terribly spicy vindaloo.
After about 3 kpc (about 2 kpc to the last dense are of the First Galaxy, and 4 kpc to the effective edge), the galactic setting starts to make a noticeable shift. Which might be the crew going bugfuck after 1200 continuous hours in a small spacecraft. But it definitely appears that there is now a clear pattern of refugee vessels heading towards the galactic core. Just, you know, really slowly, because most are relativistic and only a handful even achieving luminal.
We could have a long, drawn out procedural where the crew interview various people to piece together the fragmented stories about why they're fleeing (which is mostly rumours anyway). But I just hopped and skipped over 50 days of travel, so might as well save myself this storytelling annoyance too.
The basic gist is this:
THERE BE XOIDS AHEAD.
DUN DUN DUNNN
2017.06.15 - Swarm Sweet Swarm
- have awkwardly logical thoughts about the original timeline
- pause at beach planet to recover from travel time
- heading to the SWARM to see what level of tech they have
- scared planets next
- destroyed planet asteroid belt class
- MEGAXOID - space weevil
- board the space weevil
- XOID severed
- Rosie's home Swarm
- things go weird as Rosie claims the CTOD
- the OTHER SWARM
- OTHER MEGAXOID - mayfly
- injects combatants 2
- Kitt slinks into attacking megaxoid
- 4 more xoids
- facing Rosie inside the Kawésqar
- Kitt discovers time-shifting 'backwards'
- each point translates into an extra action per turn
- Kitt goes big with a 5-point shift and is a flurry of death
Plot 036 - So Much Swarm
- Kawésqar has its cloaking device and time displacement equipment disabled
- Surhis is incapacitated
- Rosie is dead
- note: the corpse is twitching, but Kitt's legendary sense confirms that it is not a threat
- many superluminal vessels are inbound
- Kitt doesn't have any functional internal components - including comms
That's a pretty bleak situation.
I start growing a new communicator. Then I see if there's any way I can restore power to the ship. Then I see if there's any way I can revive Surhis. I be very careful in that last one in case Rosie put any kill switches in him that will go off if there's a clumsy tamper to awake him. I'll time shift forward a point when I'm doing that.
Growing a communicator will take an hour for Kitt's nanoscopic robots.
There's no way to power up the ship without comms, so that has to wait.
There's no way to revive Surhis without medical implements due to the nature of his disabled-ness - which also require comms, so that has to wait too.
Waiting is not something that Kitt does well. Which is why her impatience suggests to her that the writhing nanotech of Rosie's body might be useful. If she can get it to connect with her nanoscopic robots, she might be able to interact with its comms - maybe even use it to regrow her own faster. Or something.
This is the part where god usually fills in some more not-so-subtle ideas by having an NPC blather or or have conversations between each other. But I seem to have broken them all. <pout>
Yeah, bad god, breaking everyone. So rude.
I'll try and connect with the Rosie-bots, using the timeshift to back off if they try to do something naughty.
The Rosie-bots are not intrinsically helpful, but because Kitt has a stage of Biologist she is able to coax them to at least establish a connection. It is the paranoid use of the time-shift that helps Kitt navigate the communication protocol, as making any mis-steps will cause the Rosie-bots to either try to eat Kitt or to explode. After 10 minutes of tense biological tampering, Kitt finally prompts the Rosie-bots to craft a microfusion supply for Kitt's comms.
A few moments after that, Kitt has the Kawésqar powered back up.
Reviving Surhis requires the precision force beams (with medical-kit functionality) to be powered up. But since Kitt has figured out that aspect of the Rosie-bots, that is accomplished in a couple turns. Tampering Surhis awake turns out to be more tedious than technically difficult - it takes 5 successive successful tampers to wake him up. Being legendary helps with that.
Surhis: "ZARK! Oh, I'm alive. Well, that's a good sign." He spots Rosie's remains. "Yikes. That's something I never thought I'd see."
I check the sensors to see what kind of e.t.a we're looking at for incoming Xoids. We also punch up the drives and head towards the nearest system.
"Yeah, I'll tell you how I did it later. What would be faster, fixing the CTOD or fixing the cloaking device?"
The incoming ships are hustling along at a terrifying 4 pc/h, so are due to arrive in little over an hour - if you were to stay stationary. The nearest system is 0.4 pc away, but it doesn't have any EM emissions suggesting intelligent life. The nearest overtly inhabited system is 1.1 pc away.
Surhis: "The cloaking device will be an hour, minimum. Because we don't have any ship-scale patches. The CTOD just appears to require alignment, which should take much less than an hour."
I set course for the 0.4 pc system and punch it to maximum speed. "I'm heading towards an uninhabited system. Let's fix the CTOD first - we'll use it to jump forward a few years if we get into trouble."
While Surhis is working on the coffee table, I'll build a container to put Rosie's remains in - one that blocks all signals incase it has any leftover comm capability.
Zipping to the uninhabited system takes virtually no time at the Kawésqar's full speed. It turns out to be several gas giants with many moons and asteroids, but no biospheres.
Surhis: "Using the CTOD might not be a good idea. If we hop forward at all, we run a distinct possibility of finding ourselves in the thick of a Xoid-inhabited territory - which would definitely not be better circumstances. And if we hop backwards, we lose everything in this timeline - including your Fork-spawn."
"Yeah, I'm thinking a short hop forward - about a year - will be a desperate act. Hopefully if we have to do that, the Xoids won't wait around for us. I just want it available in case we get ambushed. I don't want to hop backwards again, we've put too much effort into this timeline."
After getting to the uninhabited system, I check the velocities of our pursuers and see if there's another uninhabited system we can flee to next.
Surhis: "Without Rosie to tamper the consciousness of the time displacement fuel pods, or to physically haul them onto the CTOD, our implementation might not be as rapid as we might ideally like."
Kitt finishes the Rosie-corpse container and force-sweeps all unused vestiges of her into it and activates the redundant physical, force, and magnetic seals. Feeling safer, Kitt reviews the impending progress of the scary-fast ships relative to the proximity of other bumps in space-time that would be star systems. There appear to be several options.
Then without warning, Kitt feels bombarded with alien telemetry that is shockingly loud and clear and total gibberish.
Surhis at that exact moment pipes up: "OK, got the CTOD back into operational configuration. Shall I get started on the cloaking array repairs? Dude - what's wrong? You're all poofy."
Surhis: "When you switched that thing on, I got a really loud signal. Try disabling it and re-enabling it to confirm it's the CTOD."
I start feeling the signal into my mathematician brain to see if I can decipher it. Is it coming from my communicator, or from the time-shiftiness I'm aware of?
There is 100% experimental correlation between the activation time of the CTOD and the new signal.
Running systemically internal interrogations, Kitt is able to readily deduce that the signal is being detected via her internal communicator. Deciphering is going to be an approximately hour-long task - at least.
Surhis's repairs of the cloaking device array will be an hour at least (no ship-scale patches).
The incoming high-speed vessels are 25 minutes out.
So, if I'm hearing the new signal, why isn't Surhis? Hmmm...
We search the system for a place to hide. Being a tiny ship, that shouldn't be too hard. If there's an asteroid belt, we use that. I'll keep trying until I get double sixes for the hide. Then I search the ship for any sort of Xoid beacons Rosie might have hid. Then we wait - Surhis working on the cloaking device, and me working on the deciphering. Actually, before the Xoids get here, we disable the CTOD just in case they can pick up on the signal too. I'll decipher what I've recorded.
There are multiple asteroid belts, and the Kawésqar is hidden in one randomly.
A thorough search of the ship reveals nothing suspicious, not Xoid beacons or anything at all that isn't part of the plans or manifest.
As previously established, deactivation of the CTOD silences the signal. Work on the repairs and deciphering proceeds as the inbound ships finally arrive.
The first trio of ships (approximately 20 chassis points each) immediately conduct active etheric scans of the system, and split up into an ambitious search pattern. They only manage a perfunctory search of the major orbital masses before the fourth, much larger vessel (about 300 chassis points) arrives. Then things get weird.
They conduct a brief, very staccato set of etheric comms, then the three smaller vessel regroup and attack the larger ship. The Kawésqar cannot observe the combat directly due to the range, but things go quiet.
Things are quiet long enough for Surhis to finish repairing the cloaking device - including almost continuous grumbling about needing to have patches on hand in the future. Kitt also finishes her rough deciphering of the signal she had recorded. It's still gibberish for the most part; it is a parallel feed of 31 parameters - 8 of which seem to be space-time vectors.
We cloak and go check out the area of the battle to see who's left.
I analyze the signal itself - is it EM or etheric? Is it tight beam to me, or is it broadcast and for some reason Surhis can't detect it? As we move I focus on the space-time vectors to figure out how they correspond to our position in space and our slow march forward in time. Do the other 23 parameters change as we move?
Who's left on a ship scale appear to be a 331 cp beetle megaXoid, and a 22 cp earwig megaXoid. Two other earwigs appear to be destroyed, but their bitey-ends are embedded in the side of the beetle. The earwig is circling angrily, but staying away from the powerful weapons of the slower beetle. The beetle seems to be wary, but preoccupied.
Surhis: "There is a 72% probability that there is still fighting going on inside that big one. The smaller megaXoids look to have breached the hull for boarding parties."
The origin of the signal is a quandary. There is no corresponding input data from any EM band or etheric attenuation, but the data is clearly present in the buffer. To further interrogate the parameters relative to current movement would involve turning the CTOD back on.
2017.06.29 - Things get weird(er)
- megaXoid fight in remote system
- re-activate CTOD
- deduces Rosie's nanobot quantum connection
- communicate with beetle
- offer to help with boarding party
- 4 seasoned, 5 goons
Plot 037 - Queen Kitt
Kitt heads to the bug-bridge. Does the Mega-Xoid have a bay that will fit the Kawésqar?
Kitt feels a strong Swarm-suggestion that she should rendezvous with the security Xoid in the antechamber outside of the command/communication hub. Clearly, this would be way more than a suggestion for most beings entangled with the Swarm. More than even an order - it would be an indisputable internal need. For Kitt, however, it feels more like repressing a sneeze.
The burly security Xoid stands in the antechamber when Kitt approaches.
bsX [in Xoid]: "You even smaller in person. You not known type of infiltrator. Where you from?"
Kitt's understanding of the megaXoid's structure shows that it does not have a bay that will fit the Kawésqar - but it can stretch one to fit. That will take an hour or so, however. If the intent is to flee before the incoming waves of Swarms, the scarab-class megaXoid can carry the Kawésqar in its legs. Technically.
To bxX: "I do not answer to you, larva. You answer to me. A short time ago you detected a signal in this system, yes? Describe it to me."
How long until the next Xoid ships arrive?
Next megaXoid earliest arrival is 25 minutes.
bsX: "This infiltrator defective. It think it full Xoid."
Pilot [coded]: "Do not perturb it, it is very dangerous. Ask it where the artifact is, and let's get out of here."
"Insolent fool! Answer my questions or share the fate of the boarding party. Bah! I shall ask the pilot." I leap past the security Xoid and go find the pilot.
There is no past the Xoid to leap; the bulkhead to the command / communication node is closed.
bsX: "Be calm little infiltrator. We not dismantle you. Just need information you have."
Pilot [coded]: "You should probably stop talking, it looks liable to murder you, and it definitely can. I'll try reasoning with it."
Pilot: "Hey there little fella. Your ship is very stealthy. Can you call it for us? Is the artifact aboard it? We need to retreat from this system and circle back into safe space soon, before the Consumption Swarm heavy combatants arrive."
"Show me a map of where your safe space is, as well as all known areas where the consumption swarm have invaded. Can this craft outrun the earwig ship outside?"
Pilot: "How long have you been away infiltrating? If you don't have the latest boundary of established safe space, we are not permitted to divulge it to you. But do not worry - we can still get us there. There is no way to be sure where the Consumption Swarm has penetrated to outside of our volume of control. But first, we need to load the artifact aboard so that we can retreat in time. Once the heavy combatants arrive, we will be destroyed very quickly."
I see if I can access their computer systems at all. If so, I download a map myself.
Kitt can readily communicate with the collection of semi-sentient minds that are the megaXoid, and they have a general sense of "safe space" which Kitt can map as being a large swath of the local edge of the First Galaxy. But it lacks any more specific information. Also, Kitt immediately recognizes that her access to the megaXoid's hive mind is very obvious to the high-intelligence node, which is clearly the pilot. Even the low-intelligence bsX notices Kitt's activity. Neither the pilot nor the bsX are accommodating with any further information.
Pilot: "You were clearly informed that we cannot share that information at this time. Your protocols are malfunctioning, and you are at risk of going Rogue. You should self-terminate - but before you do, pass on the information about the artifact so that we may complete our mission."
At the suggestion to commit suicide, Kitt has a strange sensation of straining explosive glands... that she doesn't actually have. The bsX's big compound eye seems to be looking at Kitt differently - like she's cancerous.
2017.07.06 - Infiltrator
REF NOTE: Re-reading some aspects of the Outcast game, it was made evident that descriptive prose is vastly preferable over my copy-pasted bulleted lists of notable items from my REF sheet. The problem is that I'm also massively lazy. Dave-thoughts on the matter appreciated.
- absorption swarm VS consumption swarm
- establishes control over the scarab
- how to get away from the earwig
- answer: sneak up on it and eat it
- flee (not flea, that's different)
- discover that the scarab is a "fabricator"
- Surhis leaves in the Kawésqar to fetch Protectorate representatives
- rendezvous at "New Earth"
- with TES (the Evil Spawn)
- discover that there is an INFILTRATOR in the protectorate cruiser
Where we last left the Agent Of Death, the Protectorate cruiser had its teleporters disabled, and Kitt was teleported aboard to seek out the Xoidian infiltrator. On her way to the bridge, a discreet Xoid communication attempted to establish Swarm-rapport with her. It did not go happily, and the infiltrator was warned about Kitt's abomination-ness.
I agree that the descriptive prose is much better, but I also agree with the laziness factor. I found that when I had the intention of doing a write up on my games nights, I procrastinated more. Much easier to do point form.
Plot 038 - Path Of Destruction
The bulkhead hatch to the command bridge irises open carefully before Kitt, and the Anurian / Human command bridge crew are standing in a formal-seeming greeting formation.
A shortish-roundish Anurian in Command Green (as opposed to Operations Green or Security Green) hops forward and gives the spayed-webbing gesture of salutation. "Hello Ms. Kitt, welcome aboard the (runs for a random article on Wikipedia) Sila Saygi. I am Captain (randome article) Bell. How may we best cooperate?"
Kitt has a thought. Complete with light bulb over the head. It is an unpleasant thought and she swears loudly to herself (NOT ON THE CASTAWIKI!)
"Greetings Captain Bell. I just need to check on your crew." I make a show of quickly going to each person and lightly touching them. I'm going to assume I get no Xoid sense from any of them... if I do I'll freak out and tackle them. When I'm done I say over my shoulder as I'm leaving: "Lock yourselves in this room for now. I'll let you know when it's all clear."
As I leave I cut my connection from the Castawiki and then go at top speed to where I think Tess is.
The bridge crew do a good job of plastering over their ambiguous concern with masks of professionalism. Kitt leaves them looking confused, and not terribly reassured.
Tess's location at the last active telemetry from the Castawiki was locked in her designated crew quarters. A cursory appraisal of the door to her quarters shows it to be intermediate scale and well made, and with a respectable 13-point tamper requirement to bypass the locking mechanism.
Surhis pings over separate comms, encoded. "Uh, is everything OK? Is the castawiki compromised?"
On the private channel to Surhis: "Consider three things: Rosie was a Xoid creature. Rosie made Tess. There's a Xoid creature on board."
I go back onto the castawiki. "Tess. I think you're in danger. I'm outside your quarters - could you let me in?". I also ping the active sensors on the Kawésqar and scan the protectorate ship - specifically what is behind the door to Tess' quarters.
Surhis: "Aw, fuckballs. Do you mean you think she's colluding the the Xoids, or that it's a false positive by virtue of her creation methodology?"
Tess: "Shit! OK." The door unlocks promptly.
Active sensors on the Kawésqar show a cramped crew compartment and a human behind the door to Tess's quarters. The fidelity of the scan is insufficient to tell if Tess has any specific small artifacts that she might be brandishing, but it can confirm that there are no explosives.
Ok then. I enter the room and see if she triggers my Xoid sense.
Just to be perfectly clear, the Xoid "quickening" happened as soon as Kitt made physical contact in the Protectorate ship. It diminished when she left again, but did not disappear. Immediately upon return to the Protectorate ship, it resumed at full alert. The sense of Xoidian connection is constant throughout the interior of the Protectorate ship. It is not directional, nor does it give a sense of distance.
So, when Kitt enters the room and sees Tess and has no significant shift in the Xoid sense, it means nothing. However, Kitt can clearly see that Tess is now a first-stage scientist, and feeling troubled at being so ineffectual. Kitt also seems to sense that Tess has no suspicion about Kitt's actions - her absolute trust at this stage of her existence is obvious.
Surhis [private channel]: "So, does she have antennae sticking out of her head now? Is everything OK?"
Surhis [castawiki]: "Should we be jamming etheric comms, just in case the infiltrator tries to signal out?"
Surhis: "False alarm I think. She seems ok. I thought Rosie might have sneakily made her a Xoid infiltrator." I bounce over to her and make physical contact to make sure I don't get any feeling of Xoidness from her. Then assuming not, I signal to Surhis to beam us to the Kawésqar."
How many people are aboard the cruiser?
Surhis [private channel]: "PHEW! Having a non-genocidal product of our team was one of my most cherished things."
Tess doesn't have any chitinous armour, so she feels nothing like a Xoid best as Kitt can tell. Also the Xoid sense appears unaffected by the physical contact.
After teleporting Kitt and Tess off the Protectorate ship, there are 40 people on board.
I teleport over to the Scarab and make sure there's nobody over there that shouldn't be. Then I try to convince it to fly about 10 parsecs away at top speed in a random direction after I teleport off again. I pick the direction obviously so that I can find it again. Then back to the Kawésqar and then back to the cruiser and start searching for the rest of the crew.
The scarab is amenable, and is a bit querulous about whether it gets to return or if it should fly all the way back the Swarm by itself.
The crew of the Protectorate ship are still congregated in their inspection formation: bridge crew on the bridge, engineering crew in engineering, security crew in security.
2017.07.13 - Stupid Annoying Xoids
There was difficulty in determining whom exactly the Xoid Infiltrator was, and so Kitt and Surhis with Tes left with the Kawésqar clutched in the Scarab's grip to speed back to the Protectorate. Annoyingly, when they got almost out of long range communication (almost 5 parsecs) a pair of megaXoids attacked the Protectorate ship. There was a distress call, then nothing.
They sent the Scarab off to the far side of the galaxy, just to be safe, and headed back in the Kawésqar. Before they got there, one of the aggressor megaXoids sped off after the Scarab, and the other raced back towards the Swarm. When the Kawésqar got back to the scene of the battle, there was no sign of anything. No wreckage or survivors.
Grumbling over the strategic implications of this, the Kawésqar galumphed to the Protectorate and related what had transpired. Then they also turned over all the technical information that they had instead of doling it out carefully. Nanoscopic robots, fold space theory, mentalist biologicals - everything. Hopefully it will be enough to counter the impending Xoid aggression.
Plot 039 - Fine, Be That Way
Surhis: "So, the plan is to jump a bit into the future? Have we decided if we leave Tes in this timestream?"
"Yeah, leave her here. Maybe when we jump forward we'll be able to find her."
Let's find a uninhabited rock to do the time jump on. I'm going to build some internal force beams inside the cargo bay if they aren't here already to make it super easy to put a time fuel pod on. Then we grab a 1 intelligence dude, wake him up and jump forward. Using the time sense we try to push the jump as far forward as possible.
The Coolness™ factor of the Kawésqar suggests that it has cargo-handling force beams on the inside.
Tes: "OK, bye! Drop me off on Earth."
Time fuel pod: "Oh, hi! Why am I on this ugly-ass coffee table? ACK!"
[BLINDING WHITE FLASH]
I'll be we forgot to make ship scale patches again...
100 years later, and the galaxy is massively transformed! It's one gigantic utopian den of boringness, with megaXoids giving piggy-back-rides to sentient trees full of happy varieties of sentient species playing hypo-jazz.
Wait - no. That's just a smudge on the sensor. But there certainly is a lot more superluminal traffic, congregated into familiar-type shipping lanes. Etheric communication traffic suggest a plurality of languages, with Anurian being the most frequent.
Sounds promising. Let's merge into a shipping lane and head to the nearest inhabited world. We'll see if we can connect to a network there and figure out the last 100 years of history. Then let's head to Earth and see if Tess is still around.
The nearest inhabited world seems to have a large orbital mining operation and a huge shipyard. One of the goldilocks zone planets looks like it has terraforming underway. General network connection archives reveal that the last 100 years have been a desperate operation to slow the advance of the Xoid swarm from the edges of the galaxy - with only limited success.
Continuing on to Earth, it has become a well-guarded center and the Kawésqar has to either evade the security perimeter or pause for Protectorate security review. However, from the secure perimeter it is possible to be in contact with Earth - and eventually Tes.
"Hi Tes. We just made a time hop forward to this time. Is there anything you think we should do in this time, either for you personally, or for the protectorate before we jump another hundred years?"
After Tes confirms that Kitt is who she says she is...
"Hi Kitt. Well, we could use some assistance in discovering a more effective battle strategy. We seem to need to face the Xoids at about 10:1 in order to have a hope of winning any particular altercation. Also we have ongoing concerns about the possible activity of Infiltrators. Basically, all we're able to do is try to affect the rate at which the Xoid Swarm is advancing. It's ugly to imagine where we might be in 100 more years."
2017.07.27 - Hunting Infiltrators
- talking with the Protectorate
- no Sandaraks yet
- plan to check for infiltrators at the 20 command hubs
- review with Tes
- ask for ship scale patches
- Tes is up to 6th stage phys
- to the first command hub
- EARTH --> MARS 10,000 personnel on the battlestation
- yep, there's an infiltrator
- poobah 1 OK
- FOUND 1 captain - DEAD
- FOUND 2 chief - DEAD
- looking for #3
- check engineering - follow the trail of blood
- #3 escapes
- to Lublin
- YEP using frigate as base of operations
- poobah OK
- FOUND 1 groten praetorean - SCARY BOOM
Plot 040 - How Are Those Things So Scary?
Surhis: "So there's another one of those things here? They're pretty scary. HOW are they so scary?"
"No idea. Wonder if they have the Xoid equivalent of stim patches?"
Surhis eye-ridges climb up his face in an expression of revelation. "Sweet merciful crap. If their stim technology is as advanced as their patch technology, they could have some terrifyingly effective bursts of capability. That might explain much of their general prowess. Maybe there's some way to make use of the associated Willpower impairment?"
The Lublin Poobah loops Kitt and Surhis into his preparations to set up another cruiser as a new Infiltrator Discovery Zone.
Lublin Poobah: "I'm not sure if the infiltrators will continue to allow themselves to be beamed into my presence. But, I guess we can continue to try. I'd like you to build me a room - all ship scale construction. I will have a shield I can activate in one corner to protect myself, and intermediate scale flame throwers I can activate to incinerate the rest of the room. I'd also like the option to expose the room to open space after the incineration. Plus, all of the technicians that build this room should be checked before they do anything. If any survived the freighter explosion, they would be ideal."
Surhis: "I have a feeling the will power impairment won't help us much. We won't be able to talk them into anything, and they seem to only go unconscious after significant below zero stamina harm. I don't know if mentalists would be effective."
Poobah: "When we left you 100 years ago, there were plans taking shape to start breeding mentalists. Whatever became of that? Were they effective against the Xoids at all?"
Aside: freighter --> frigate
Lublin Poobah: "It's still a mechanism for clearing individuals to proceed with secure activities. Anybody who doesn't get explicitly cleared by this process will no longer be permitted to interact with sensitive information. The rest of the Protectorate Council - other than the Sol Poobah and myself - have recused themselves pending your clearing them."
The corvette brought to be the new Infiltrator interrogation stage comes already equipped with a ship-scale bay, manipulated internal shields, inward-operating turrets, and force beams for handling hostile craft. Intermediate scale flame throwers are not standard items, and will need to be designed and fabricated - if necessary. The corvette's captain seems to think that his shockshooter turret gunner should be sufficient.
Surhis: "Dammit. Couldn't their theoretically-diminished willpower at least make them susceptible to being easily distracted? Mentalists are a good idea; I can't wait to see what excuse god comes up with for forgetting about them that he's going to muppet through that Lublin Poobah."
Lublin Poobah: "There were, well, social difficulties with the mentalists. They reacted poorly to the visceral distrust and paranoia that everybody reflexively felt about them, so they tended to not be very effective. Often they would quit and leave Protectorate service to go incognito. We do have a few mentalists working for us, but their efficacy is limited so far."
Ok, I check out the corvette. Assuming it's clear, I make sure I'm familiar with the shield and bay door controls. Then I give the go ahead to continue the interrogations.
Poobah: "Remember that someone could be replaced by an infiltrator after they've been checked, but I think that will be more problematic for them because they'd have to act like the person they replaced."
Poobah: "I didn't realize that possibility. We should send investigation teams to check the past histories of the known Infiltrators, to see if there were any observed discontinuity's in their behaviours."
The corvette checks out, and the control system is re-coded by Surhis to conform to a new security protocol. Then the interviews resume, and the Lublin Protectorate base's senior staff are systemically cycled through...
...to be continued...
One communications chief appears, teleported into the Corvette's bay, and has a resigned expression that Kitt immediately reads as being different. The Xoid Quickening is not triggered, but Kitt's hackles are raised. An oddly-soft looking Human in a slightly askew uniform, the communications chief regards Kitt evenly.
Comms Chief: "So. You're the abomination. You don't look like you're able to almost kill a fully-enraged Groten skilled at combat. But then, things are often not what they appear to be. How is it that you can communicate with Xoids?"
Corvette Captain [secure channel]: "Should we take the shot? Is this him?"
Captain: "No, it's one of you, but I think he's working with the infiltrators. Probably coerced."
Comms Chief: "I had not expected this. Are you working with the Xoids? I find it hard to believe someone would betray their own species to them without being coerced. How did they convince you?" I try to appear sympathetic.
The Comms Chief's head does an awkward tilt mimicking a curious puppy. "You still haven't guessed. That's fine. The theory is that you are from the future, yet you do not seem to know what happens. This does not bode well. For any of us. What happens to the Swarms in the future you come from? And what is different this time? Who are the Sandaraks that you warned the Protectorate about?"
Kitt notices that the Comms Chief seems to be too aware of her emotional state, and quickly deduces that this is a mentalist.
"Well, well, well. Not a Xoid after all. Things haven't bode well for me for a long time - no pun intended. We seem to be dancing around each other's questions, probably because we don't trust each other. I'm not feeling particularly trusting since I just had Groten sized deck plating smash into me multiple times - I'm actually feeling quite impatient and violent. But I'm curious as well. So if you want to have constructive discourse, how about you give us something. Like the identity of the other Xoid infiltrator at the base? If we can kill the immediate threat, then all of us would be much more likely to treat you with less hostility."
"Oh, and while it's probable you can overcome my will power and read my mind, I'd recommend against it. My strength is my awareness so I'd likely detect it, and it would be infinitely harder to trust you if you tried a mental attack."
Surhis (secured): "Or he's a scary mentalist and I haven't noticed him prying into my mind already, which means we're fooked."
Surhis: "There's something off about this guy, and not in a super-powerful-mentalist way. In a not-totally-lucid way, like he's chemically impaired." When Surhis mentions it, Kitt find that it rings true.
Meanwhile, the erstwhile Comms Chief gives a contemptibly smug grin. "Oh, so you are completely intent on just killing the infiltrator. Well, I suppose that makes this sacrifice totally worthwhile to have it made unambiguous." He awkwardly gesticulates at one of the internal heavy weapons turrets. "Quick! Blast me before I use my meeeentaaaaaalll pooooowwwweeeerrrs! Oooga booga booga!" The last bit is emphasized with some rather silly brain-wave-gesticulations.
"Cute. You can't be shocked that I want to kill the infiltrator. They're undermining the Protectorate's ability to defend itself. And thus far, they don't seem open to any sort of negotiation - kind of like you. If you were in my position, what would you do with him?"
"And why should you sacrifice yourself? You've been among the Protectorate long enough to know that they are fairly benign when not threatened. If we can figure a way out of this without further violence I'm sure the Protectorate would be open to it."
Ex Comms Chief: "Your assumptions are amusing. Well, I've delayed you long enough, so my job here is complete."
Abruptly, the human's body is wracked with a painful-looking spasm and his arms ripple. At a glance, Kitt suspects that his strength just jumped from maybe-average to hypernormal. While her tail goes poofy, the human reaches up and grabs a hold of his chin and the back of his head. And damn near twists his head off. Instantly slack, the corpse topples and sprawls on the deck.
I beam back to the Kawésqar, and we cloak (if we're not already) and change our position again. I do a few locates on the sensors for anything amiss.
Surhis: "EEEEEEEWWWWWWWwwww. That was awesome."
The Kawésqar shuffle complete, Kitt get's broadband-but-encrypted hailed by the Lublin Poobah. "We have verified that several high-speed long-range fighters have departed from many the other Protectorate central operating bases. All bogies are on vectors that would be essentially impossible to intercept by any of our fleet."
"Well, we wanted to get rid of them. This is a lot less tedious. Hopefully they didn't leave behind any nasty surprises. Did a ship leave the Lublin base?"
Lublin Poobah: "No. However, a long range fighter has unexpected launched from a freighter that had already departed from Lublin base. Our analysis suggest a >92% probability that this is the other infiltrator."
Surhis: "It's hard to believe that somebody was willing to sacrifice themselves like that. For Xoids. Also, that internally-deployed stim was pretty amazing. But what has me totally confused is, if that guy was a mentalist, why didn't he just use his brain-bending mojo to have somebody else roast in the hot seat? He could have learned just as much telepathically, and been sufficiently distracting."
Surhis: "He might have been a weak mentalist - only there to provide telepathic coordination."
Surhis: "Does that make sense either? What's so appealing about the Xoids that such a being would be willing to kamikaze like that? For, like, some pretty obvious information and a questionable distraction. And for that matter, why would the Xoid even want to sacrifice a mentalist like that? Something doesn't add up for me."
A surly pause later.
Surhis: "It's soliloquies like this that make me wish there were another regular character in the team that would banter with me, so we could cover material in a more natural way."
Lublin Poobah: "What is our next step?"
2017.08.03 - Getting After Some Xoids
- examines the body - IT'S A PUPPET
- institute systemic checking for brainscans - to make sure they have brains
- learns about the skilled combatant culling
- rebuilds the Kawésqar - now extra awesome
- gets some additional toys
- go hunting for a MegaXoid
- borrow professional pilot and gunner
- pilot = martinelli +8 duck
- gunner = feu +5 hit x 2
- D'Oh - look to all be Absorption Swarm
- change tactic - ride along
- bait ship = frigate - VALROGER
- kick some ass
- maggots 5
- badass 'roided up assault Xoids
- security staff mostly decimated (except for 2 maimed survivors)
Plot 041 - Plotty McPlot Face
Feu: "Are we allowed to talk about what just happened there? That was some intense shit."
Surhis: "Shit yeah, my frog."
Martinelli: "Whoa. Whoa there. That's a slur when used by other species."
Surhis: "Yeah, I know that. Pretty much every Human word for something is fundamentally denigrating. It's kind of like the historical basis for their society."
Martinelli: "So... why did you say it?"
Surhis: "I thought it was funny."
Martinelli and Feu exchange a look.
Surhis: "And you know what? It kinda was funny. Not because I particularly give a fuck about offending you guys. But because that shit we just witnessed through the battlewiki, as mesmerizingly scary as it was, ranked maybe a 5.6 on the SHITFUCK scale. And only that high because of how cool it looked. Usually things don't crack 5 on the SHITFUCK scale unless it involves a giant intermediate-scale monster that is also about to eat everybody else watching inside of a fragile wooden fucking boat. And sure as shit doesn't get past 8 unless it involves pan-galactic genocide with relitavistic-velocity motherfucking rocks. So fuck you guys and your sensitivities."
Feu: "Uhhh. I think we frogs can lighten the fuck up about that, right Martinelli?"
Surhis: "Fuck. I finally get some supporting characters to expand plot with, and I have to wobble off on a mental-health break. Dammit."
"Ha, yeah your sensitivities will be eroded down to nothing hanging out with us. Ask us one day how we power our time machine. But man, those Xoids were tough. I can see why you're having trouble training up personnel. I'm going to make myself pretty again - I think I'll ask the captain to head out of the danger zone and maybe in a day or so, try this again in a different hot spot."
I pass on my suggestion to the captain, then start doing good heals.
Surhis: "So far the Protectorate hasn't embraced Robotics all that much. I wonder if we should try to talk them into it. Some Rabid Centurion type robots could go a long way to protecting their personnel."
The captain was personally present for the festivities, and takes 'suggestions' from Kitt extremely seriously. Let's call him <wikipedia(random_article)> = "Captain Mitford".
The Valroger's medical bay is staffed with competent medics, and they would be able to perform good heals with somewhat more alacrity.
Surhis: "That's a good idea. A corps of robotic personnel combatants could be mass produced faster than troops can be trained. There's still a problem of having them be sufficiently skilled, though."
Surhis: "Well, we'd make them only semi-intelligent so they don't get any ideas of independence. Then we set up Robot Wars where we train-up a small group of them and make sure to record their experiences so we can use accelerated training. And then... this is starting to sound like a lot of work... maybe we should suggest it to Tes."
I let the medics make me pretty again.
Surhis: "Semi-intelligent robots wouldn't be able to coordinate any sort of independence, but it also severely limits how effective they can be. Once the technology becomes commonplace, somebody is going to leverage the possibilities while clinging to overt control, and we'll doubtlessly end up with smart rebellious machines. It seems to be that we'd be better off strategically to make the machines as smart as possible, so that they see to value in cooperation. I mean, it's not like the Confederation exactly suffered militarily from having Tundaks and like working with them."
The Protectorate navy configures a daisy-chain of ships to relay etheric comms to Earth, and Tes.
Tes: "Robot troops would require somebody to develop some expertise in AI and personnel chassis. Our research focus has been developing foldspace, with some side projects regarding ship weapons, shields, and drives. Before we fork off the resources to develop the robots, we'd need to get approval from the Protectorate Council."
Surhis: "Ok, but let's warn them NOT to create Missionaries."
Tes: "I think the Protectorate predicted they'd be defeated within 40 years. So unless the foldspace development would be done by then, diverting resources to robotics might be a more effective use of their limited resources."
I start making some of my Xoid patches crawl around in circles. "Sirhis, I wonder if we should focus our scientific efforts in trying to figure out a way to jam the communication between the Xoids and their gear. I have a feeling it will take many more stages of biologist than we have available though. What do you think?"
Tes: "You make a compelling argument. We project that it'll be a <12.4% possibility of having a functional foldspace before the Xoids consume us - and even that is for a 0-variable foldspace. Still tactically significant, but not the immense game-changer that the 1-variable variant is."
Surhis: "Right - no Missionaries. Except, according to legend, they didn't intend to create 'missionaries' - did they. They were advanced medics... Shit. There's something about that giving me the willies. Which brings us back to the simpler matter of the Xoid communication, which only you can do, and we're not sure how it works. Should we give some of Rosie's remains to Tes for investigation?"
Which makes Kitt have a funny feeling, too.
Martinelli [battlewiki]: "I think they're talking on a different system from us. They've both got those DUN DUN DUN expressions going on."
Feu: "In my experience, it takes some time and shared adventures to earn trust. Why get angsty about a simple reality? -ribbit-"
Martinelli: "Sure. I get it. It's just a little unnerving being poised over the controls of one of the most advanced ships to ever be made, near the front of the most massive interstellar war ever waged... while parked in the hold of a cruiser staffed exclusively with seasoned badasses. Feeling mighty redundant here."
Feu: "Hey, at least you got to fly us here. I'm essentially a passenger so far. -ribbit-"
Martinell: "OK, stop with the frog-noises already."
Feu: "Sorry. It happens when I'm nervous. -ribbit-"
Martinelli: "Why are you nervous? We're parked in the best getaway vehicle ever conceived, inside the baddest-ass battle cruiser in the entire Protectorate fleet."
Feu: "Sure. For now. But now that I've seen what comes for you when you get good enough to matter, I'm a bit twitchy at the thought that I'm not exactly needed in this particular role and might have to go back on regular rotation. -ribbit-"
Martinelli: "... -ribbit-"
Surhis: "Call me crazy, but I really don't want to give anyone Rosie's remains. I feel very paranoid about them. Thinking of Missionaries... aren't they able to sense each other in a similar fashion to how the Swarm sense works? That's all sorts of creepy."
Castawiki: "Sorry guys, we were just discussing robots, and some scary things from our timeline. Want to have some fun? We could go hunting for a ship from the other Xoid swarm. Might he hard to find as they seem to have become scarce."
Surhis's eyes get huge. [castawiki]: "Duuuuuuude. Does that mean that Missionaries in our timeline are... the result of Xoid Infiltrators‽‽‽"
Martinelli looks at Surhis' reaction. [battlewiki]: "Uh, that's OK. I'm not sure I want to be part of a conversation that makes you guys freak out."
Surhis [battlewiki]: "We're not freaking out exactly, but definitely geeking out over some possibilities that we just realized."
Surhis [castawiki]: "So, yeah - no. Let's not hand over any of Rosie's remains."
Feu [battlewiki]: "Well, just so long as we can be helpful, we'll do our best to help out."
Martinelli [battlewiki]: "I mean, everybody knows that we're losing this war, and you guys are our best hope of figuring something out."
2017.08.11 - You Want Some? Come Get It!
- discuss plans for finding absorption swarm technology
- tell the Protectorate to watch out for Scarabs
- while the Kitt insertion mechanism is being developed… mess with the Xoids some more
- take the Valroger to a different section of the front
- roided xoids in maggots ∙ 6 (timeshift +1 action)
- Kitt penetrator plan is a go
- plasma bombs have hover units
- particularly difficult centipede
- splutt the gunner and pilot
- kiloXoid goon
Plot 042 - Life, the Universe, and Everything
I think the plan is now to meet up with Tes and help her set up a robotics division. While we wait for any mention from the Protectorate of a Scarab siting.
The Protectorate Intelligence Gathering Service (PIGS) reviews all gathered data on the Xoid Swarm they've got, but find no clear matches in the past 50 years. The Covert Operation Work Service (COWS) initiates an updated reconnaissance effort to specifically hunt for Scarab-class megaXoids behind enemy lines. The COWS current efforts mostly focus on trying to establish the tactical function of Xoid Swarm, which is risky work. The hypothesis is that the Scarabs would be operating away from the flexing might of the Consumption Swarm, which will be new territory to review.
Tes [daisychained Protectorate comms, projecting as a hologram in the secure ready room of the Valroger]: "The robotic combatant program is progressing quickly, though it would be extremely beneficial to have Kitt present to optimize the hand-to-hand combatants capabilities. This is opposed tactically by the value of having Kitt's unique ability to detect the Absorption Swarm to help us find some of them to leverage their technology. Our trajectory, technologically-speaking, would be massively altered by being able to divine more about the bio-tech they currently demonstrate. The extrapolations along the lines of Radicals and Missionaries suggest the kinds of possibilities we could develop to close the gap we currently suffer in the realm of personnel combat."
Surhis [coiled around a conference chair in a horrifying fashion]: "I don't think we really want to uncork the Missionary bottle. There's no way to be sure that they'd help us."
Tes: "No, I don't suggest we re-create Missionaries from our original timeline - that's just fighting fire by splashing it with gasoline. More along the lines of the tactical capabilities that Rosie exhibited. Because while we currently suffer a 10:1 ratio required for a fair fight against the megaXoids, it's more like 30:1 against the Xoids in personnel combat. Especially since they have much more effective intermediate scale combatants. As soon as the Xoids penetrate a habitable area - be it a ship, a station, or a planet - it's generally theirs unless we're willing to nuke it. It's the main reason why we're projecting an inevitable loss in a few decades."
Surhis: "This doesn't seem right. We should just be facing a few Xoid hunting parties or something in this timeframe, then gearing up to stomp some Sandaracks."
Tes: "It seems quite clear that this timeline is irrevocably veered from what happened in our original timeline. We can no longer expect events to happen at anything like the cadence we thought it might. Which is why we're desperate to develop foldspace 600 years early."
"Plus, you have to remember that in the original timeline, the Confederation species were not a threat. They were more or less defeated by the Xoid hunting parties. Maybe there was a larger force of Xoids in our timeline too, but they didn't bother with us. I'm wondering what happened when the Sandarks arrived in our galaxy - maybe they and the Xoids weakened each other enough so that the Confederation would prevail."
"I am one experience point away from another stage of striker, so I'm tempted to try a duplicate of that last mission before starting to train robots."
Tes's hologram gives a wry smirk. "I'm surprised that you're able to earn any more stages of combatant. This definitely confirms how specifically formidable Xoids can be for personnel."
Surhis is less enthralled-looking. "Yeah, I'm sure that the rarified state of badassery is extremely enticing. But how much more badass does Kitt really need to be? The hunting of Absorption Swarm technology, or building of robotic combatants to face the Consumption Swarm personnel has orders of magnitude more strategic value."
Tes: "We should not underestimate the capabilities of the Absorption Swarm Xoids. Their internal stim patches appear to give them vaunted abilities that are hard to match. However, with the lack of any PIGS data showing sightings of Scarab-class megaXoids, I'm not sure how to proceed on that front."
Surhis: "Right, then. So we should definitely head back and contribute to the development of the robotic combatants."
Tes looks thoughtful for a moment. "Actually, what we really need is Kitt's training presence. And for AI, virtual interactions are functionally identical. She can literally phone it in. You just need to set up a suitable holographic bay for interacting with the student AIs."
Alright, I check with the captain to see if there's a big enough space to set up a training holodeck.
The Valroger already has a bay configured with extra shields and force beams - in anticipation of Kitt potentially needing a space for greeting suspected Infiltrators. The addition of holographic projection gear is trivially easy.
Tes becomes the first being to project into the training bay. "Looks like you're set up. Our first concepts are for general bipedal robots, due to the need for multi-purpose integration with existing gear. If you could get started training a few of these guys..." She gestures, and a row of five suspiciously-similar-to-X47's render holographically. "...that would be great."
Surhis alters the bay parameters so that the force beams will ignore him, and so that the new robotic presences won't see him. "They look familiar, somehow. Anyhoo... the captain has the Valroger headed towards the nearest supply base to pick up another kitten-spiker. Apparently they have a technical team there already working on the next one. Also, I suspect that our pilot and gunner are getting bored out of their tiny little minds inside the Kawésqar. Maybe we should let them out."
Martinelli [battlewiki]: "No! Don't let us out! It's so big and scary out there, without any disgusting smells of feet that we love so much."
Feu [battlewiki]: "Look, my boots were getting too warm, so I just aired them out for a bit. Sheesh."
Martinelli: "Also, we don't want to be accidentally exposed to any terrifying beers."
Feu: "Terrifying beers? What, like a stout?"
Martinelli: "No! They're mind-control juice! They make you drink them!!!"
Feu: "OK, I think his point is that we might like a brief stretch outside of the super-bubble-ship."
Martinelli: "Full of dead bodies."
Feu: "They're not dead, just well-preserved."
Martinelli: "Yeah, too well-preserved. They're obviously snacks for really long missions through time."
Feu: "Whatever. They're creepy, and we both want beers."
Martinelli: "They've gotten to him already! Oh no! They've gotten me too!"
Surhis had a deadpan expression. "This is them actually turning it down a notch. And a clear explanation for why I'm not in there any more."
Yeah, we let Martinelli and Feu out.
"So, I thought the idea was to make hand to hand combatants that could help defend a ship. I'm fine with training these guys, but they seem more the sort to be assault weapon shock troops, not ninjas. Wouldn't a more Bladieer or Rabid Centurion design have been better?"
Tes nods in agreement. "That is indeed the idea. But it turns out that our lack of bothering with much AI, robots in general, or virtual training in particular, means that we have a lot of unknowns that we can only figure out by doing a beta run. Dedicated H-2-H combatant bodies are hard to get right, so we're still working on those. In the meanwhile, we also need to tune our training methodology such that the skills can be encapsulated and implanted effectively. Which means that this first batch are not likely to be, shall we say, naturals - cognitively speaking. What you have before you is the first step on the most expedient path we have to generating some properly scary H-2-H beasties. That first step is not the final destination. But we also want them to have general operational value, even if they're not destined to be ninja-bots."
Surhis: "Also, more standard body formatting means that their skills could potentially be ported to biologicals."
Tes makes an annoyed face. "Yes, theoretically. However, social norms in the Protectorate at the moment will mean that we'll be sorely lacking for volunteers."
Feu wanders into the bay. "I volunteer for the Hunger Games!"
Surhis sniggers in his oh-so-annoying inside-joke kind of way.
Feu: "She's right, though. One of the core principles of the Protectorate is the absolute right of individual free will. And implanting anything is viewed rather squeamishly."
Surhis arcs his long torso towards Feu: "Why aren't you with Martinelli?"
Feu: "He's more food-motivated than I am, so he went to the galley. I'm more watching-fights motivated, so I came here. Several of the crew lamented about not having access, to either the bay or to the sensor feeds."