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While I have managed to knock a few items off the list, I also seem to have added a lot more.  The Verdan log is likely a lost cause at this point particularly.  Oh well, the list of items currently in progress has been updated to remove completed ones and add new ones.

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Shadowed Galaxy Campaign Logs: Sessions 13 – 24

And here is the second set of logs from the Shadowed Galaxy Campaign.  Hopefully the third set (out of a total of what should be five) should be going up in the not too distant future.

Session 13 – 08/19/2016

Well, the previous investigators were at least somewhat helpful in terms of what documentation they had left behind. There didn’t seem to be a common manufacturer involved that may have been offloading defective equipment. Nor was there any obvious attempt at attacking share prices for a literally hostile takeover. However, one claiming to be a necromancer did turn up “evidence” that the victims were alive at the time of the accidents in question. He also confirmed that those that had died had received (poor) offers for their operations shortly before they had died. Weirdly, he then went on a tangent about long dead aliens on Io and went missing investigating a sulfur volcano.

So this eliminated the theory of someone using accidents as a way to hide that the bodies were already deceased. It also suggested something might be to the theory of a hostile takeover. I also couldn’t shake the feeling that the reference to Io was just random insanity. After seeing firsthand a Lovecraftian horror rise from the oceans, I couldn’t readily discount much of anything as irrational. Interestingly, there were three companies/groups with significant operations on Io that were involved in the bidding here: Desian Industries, the Government Of Kyrgyzstan, and the “Masters of Orion XVII”. Desian Industries was noted for pressuring smaller operations, but not so much for killing people off. Kyrgyzstan had some odd religious ideas and ran a wide variety of operations based on no system that anyone had been able to figured out. The Masters of Orion used expert systems to make most of the decisions, albeit with some input from exotic sources. I left the others to run analyses on equipment and autopsies and elected to simply visit one of the major gathering areas to see if there was any interesting talk about.

One of the major benefits of being a vampire is how easy it is to manipulate unsuspecting targets. The human mating impulse was easy to manipulate and could be harnessed to make people ignore a lot of unusual behavior. Plus it was useful for getting all sorts of drinks for free. Still, Desian had apparently gotten their Jupiter operations organized, and – while there is plenty of room to expand – was apparently looking to become a major operator by Saturn as well. Kyrgyzstan was also making offers, but theirs were much more specific; they’re after bits of old metal, and several claims that had yielded a good bit of it. Masters of Orion had a modest presence near Saturn at best; someone there had bought up several of the best “exotic ice” claims – but those aren’t a terribly high value to begin with.

Given that the Masters of Orion mainly utilized expert systems consulted by “Advisors” with weird talents and good track records, I felt they could be comfortably ignored for now. That left Kyrgyzstan and Desian Industries as suspects. Correlating traffic from Io to the time the murders start did narrow down the list of potential suspects to a couple of mining engineers and a pair of representatives from Kyrgyzstan. It was easy enough to eliminate the mining engineers as suspects based on subsequent activities. The Kyrgyzstan bunch, however, had been traveling around the system buying and making offers in competition with a couple of independents who arrived soon afterwards. Chasing them down (quietly and subtly of course), I learned they were of the feeling it was quite urgent to acquire as much of the weird metal bits they were looking for as possible. Which ran into issues as those in possession of them felt the metal bits acted as lucky charms.

Running some queries into those revealed they’re suspected to be of Idiotic origin, but twisted lumps of metal that have obviously been ripped from larger chunks have been generally considered fairly non-threatening. The stuff was only easy to tell from space junk thanks to the massive sulfur content. Mostly found in small deposits buried in chunks of ice. They are very hard, and resistant to melting, but rather brittle. Given the high sulfur content and the origin of the reps from Io, I found the coincidence hard to dismiss. The reps however mainly seemed to concern themselves with buying, interviewing, and holding religious services. All in accordance to the words of some great prophet.

Digging into that, the prophet was one Giorgio A. Tsoukalos. Claimed that prior to the Idiots that Earth had been visited by great and wise aliens to sow the foundations of humanity. The Idiots then failed to heed their words, rebelled, and then the decline of the galaxy set in. And one day the Ancients would return or some such. It was hard to reconcile much of their doctrine with observable and verified galactic and particularly Earth historical records. One piece that was of note was that they felt the metal bits were remains of their Ancients. Unfortunately, as insane as their beliefs were, it was immediately obvious from a distance that their faith was sufficient to give me problems.

And the semi-missionaries did seem to keep wandering at random, while praying – at least a few hours a day – and during that time ran into people with metal bits at least twice, always offering to buy (one sold, the other did not). They discussed possible alternative approaches with the one who did not sell, and wound up deciding to send another emissary to talk to him later. And there was another accident that seemingly defied the odds of even Murphy’s Law. And interestingly enough, some of that weird metal was present on the victim. With a (admittedly circumstantial) narrative in play, I suggested the others keep an eye on the reluctant seller as another potential victim. They were able to quickly confirm that the metal piece he was carrying had been infused with a modest charge of psychic energy from somewhere – possibly from the semi-missionaries thinking of it as a holy relic. More semi-missionaries (although I think they qualify as cultists now) made a second offer for the metal and it received a second dose of psychic energy charge.

I was able to verify that the metal bits that they did buy were being sent to a deep mining facility on Io. And our potential victim quickly became an actual victim as the others were on hand to note that the metal bit used the stored energy to trigger a decompression accident. They were able to rescue him and examine the metal bit. Right now the theory is that the bits are pieces of some sort of psychic battery mind thing that stores psychic energy and releases it as an effect related to what the person imbuing it thought it did. At least that was the theory. I had to take their word for it myself. Much I had to take the word of a presumed necromancer to get a lead on this case.

Session 14 – 08/26/2016

Sadly, while it looked like we had established who, the motive, and the method, we were running up against the fact that what the cultists were doing was not technically illegal. While this didn’t bother me too much (I was quite willing to murder them all if that guaranteed the survival of homo sapiens), it would help in terms of getting support if we could get a legal framework for action. At least if we could convince station management they could outright ban the cultists with little need for pretext.

Unfortunately, it looked like that in order to get the evidence we needed to provoke a mass crackdown on this cult, we needed to go to Io and see what their endgame was. And walking up to their Io base and demanding access was probably a nonstarter. So that meant sneaking in and the easiest way I saw to do that was to stow myself away on one of the transports hauling material back to Io. From there is should be a fairly straightforward matter to either sabotage things so that everyone is killed or gather sufficient evidence to bring in one of the major powers on a crackdown.

Annoyingly, I was selected to be the one to convince station management that the cultists needed to be banned and efforts made to take the metal bits out of people’s hands. Ugh, I find it annoying to be playing the “cutesy doll” when I am not getting a meal out of it, but none of the others seemed convinced of their ability to sell the circumstantial evidence. So it was off to play my best “cute, beautiful, young woman that would like a mere moment of your time” act. A bit of glamour, a hypnotic suggestion here and there, and just a well practiced art of persuasion was able to convince them of our claims enough to force a ban on the cultists. Which immediately produced results supporting our argument and helped reinforce our claims.

It was satisfying to learn that this was sufficient to get paid. The debate on whether we continued to bother with the cultists did split the party though. I wasn’t exactly keen to watch as an insane cult unleashed an insane idiot god on the same system with my largest food supply. Reminding the others that Earth would potentially be affected by such an immensely powerful artifact becoming active did convince them of the need for intervention. At least long enough to prove enough guilt for the military to take over. While I am confident in my abilities, the odds of me successfully killing hundreds or even thousands of devout cultists was questionable at best.

Which led to the decision that we would split into two groups: one would try to “join” the cultists and infiltrate the facility, the other would try to find the necromancer and see what he had learned if anything. I was right out as an option for the first group, as was Leeroy. So that left MT and Van Helsing as the first team and Leeroy and I for the second team. That meant he and I had to cross the surface and try to dig the Necromancer out from underneath an active volcano in the middle of one of the most intense radiation fields in the Solar System.

Lovely.

Not that I would presume there was much left of anyone after some weeks or months spent out in the open on Io with just whatever they happened to be carrying. The place was seemingly in a competition with Venus for the most accurate rendition of biblical hell in the solar system. Still, with a self-professed necromancer it was hard to discount any possibilities these days. There were also concerns what a necromancer might think or do when confronted with a vampire. Of course, that was still probably better than dealing with a secret lair in a volcano full of insane cultists.

Electing to just all go to Io together and then split up once we arrived, we packed up and began the trip to the Jovian system. There was a micrometeorite hit on the hull as we entered orbit. And annoyingly enough it looked like the good luck charm stuff managed to reseal the hull breach through a most contrived set of circumstances. The others were concerned that the stuff was able to manipulate events like that despite being in a box, but I felt it wise not to concern myself too greatly about how things might go horribly wrong given the nature of the stuff. If the others wanted to have Mason poke at it recklessly during the landing sequence, that was hopefully their concern and not mine.

Session 15 – 09/02/2016

As we entered suborbital (the difference between a suborbital trajectory and normal flight on an airless ball like this quickly becomes academic), Leeroy, Mason, and I loaded into the dropship for departure so that the others could take the main ship on to the volcano base directly. My concern was trying to get as close as possible to the volcano without showing up on sensors. About the closest I could risk it was a crater just at the edge of the horizon so that the rim blocked direct line of sight of our landing. That still left us with ten kilometers of trekking on foot to deal with. That was fairly straightforward to deal with given some rope and time, but the sulfur “snow” that was strewn about the place made every step a treacherous game to determine if you just stepped into a sinkhole. Luckily being a vampire makes doing that classic elven “walk on top of the snow” trick actually doable. Not that this helped Mason and Leeroy much beyond having me as a semi-stable anchor point. Leeroy in particular had to be drug out of a number of holes.

Everything was the same disgusting shades of yellow around here. The volcano, the buildings the cultists built on the side of the volcano, the ice towers, and very quickly our own suits were that horrid yellow color. But still we managed to reach the base of the volcano. My scanners were not picking up much of value beyond the base though. Mason thought he detected a psychic signal that was human and recent somewhere in the mouth of the volcano though. Going over the lip of the volcano and descending that way would surely get us caught on the sensors of the cultists. Mason and Leeroy did find a gas pocket or tunnel had partially collapsed and thus could be a way in with some digging. At least Leeroy was willing to help with the digging. It quickly became obvious that the cultists had been digging throughout the volcano for what we could only presume was more Idiot tech given the automated systems and drones that were busily digging nearby. At least none of it seemed to be too concerned with us at the moment.

We found Mason’s signal was emanating from a side crevice that had been partially blocked by a collapse. Digging inside, we found a man in a spacesuit in a meditative pose and a larger chamber where it looked like he had committed some sort of ritual. Mason detected no pulse, but I found it highly unlikely this one was truly dead. Perhaps undead or in stasis at least. Confirmation quickly came in that a mind was still present at least. It also looked like he had an ongoing (presumably psychic) effect going that was attempting to dig him out. Probably would take another year or so to complete at this rate.

This decision was made to grab the necromancer and try to sneak out of here. I would carry him since I was easily the fastest and strongest. Unfortunately, we were spotted almost instantly. And that meant a mad dash across ten kilometers of rough terrain with one necromancer acting as deadweight while cultists shoot at us with military grade weapons.

Fun (Sarcasm)

Session 16 – 09/09/2016

Getting into a running firefight with a faction representing the national religion of one of the nations of Earth all to save a necromancer was probably not going to earn us a lot of good press once word of this breaks out. Of course, given that this is a cult started by a twenty-first century moron that insisted aliens were behind the Kennedy Assassination, Hitler, and the Eurozone disaster among other things, I was more than willing to entire cult on the to-be-murdered list. I wasn’t sure what was the greater crime: them shooting at me or that stupid haircut of their messiah they all emulated.

Luckily it seemed like Leeroy was the primary target. He actually seems to act like that is his mission in life. Not that I am going to complain about it. Mason was keeping up at least and it looked like Leeroy collapsed the tunnel behind us. Out in the open life was getting complicated as failing rocks, new crevasses, blasts of hot gas, and other geological havoc was making the trek back to the dropship hectic. At least I was able to get a remote link going to the dropship going through my HUD now that we were out in the open. According to diagnostics, the dropship was too heavy for the surface around here, and had sunk about five meters down a crack and tipped at a nasty angle, with some damage to the undercarriage. I could probably get it free and into the air with some good piloting, but trying to do that remotely, an emergency systems startup, and dodging weapons and rocks while carrying a necromancer was not making this easy.

Luckily the amount of time and money I’ve invested in the thing (as opposed to Tori’s half-assed crap) meant everything on the dropship was handling my commands flawlessly. Setting up a flight path to intercept my own run, I was able to meet the dropship partway and leap into the opened hatch as to swooped in doing a low flyby. It was a simple enough matter to grab Mason and then blast across the horizon and out of range of cultist missiles.

Meanwhile Mason was working to revive (is that even the right word?) the necromancer. He came around fairly quickly and wasn’t cackling madly, which was a point in my books. While Mason brought the necromancer up to speed on what we’ve learned so far, I began to consider our next move.

Session 17 – 09/16/2016

It looked like in the confusion that the prospector ship managed to get away. Meeting up to dock with it, we found out that Van Helsing and MT were missing and presumably still in the cultist base. Assaulting the place to mount a rescue was easily out of our means to accomplish. Meanwhile our necromancer was able to confirm that the cultists were assembling an ancient artificial intelligence of unknown purpose and abilities without much heed to any sensible precautions. To me this indicated that we needed to get the system authorities involved and have them assault the place to stop the cultists and possibly rescue Van Helsing and MT.

To that end, I pulled up the coordinates of the nearest (non-cultist) major facility and laid in a course to take us there before the cultists got their act together enough to try and pursue. It took some convincing of the authorities (again, I was the spokeswoman for some reason) what we had determined. Luckily the evidence, even if much of it was circumstantial, was on our side and so an assault was launched against the volcano base and everyone inside was taken into custody. It proved a simple enough matter for us to retrieve Van Helsing at that point. He oddly enough insisted that MT had died but was still active despite that and didn’t think that was anything unusual. The whole bizarre scenario Van Helsing described was infuriating on a number of levels as well. The behavior Van Helsing described MT engaging in was blatantly negligent at best and outright sabotage at worst.

The fact that MT had purposefully hidden such “supernatural” abilities from all of us, seemed surprised when we acted like he didn’t have those abilities, and was annoyed that we would have preferred to have known about them upfront was being obtuse to a level I had a hard time believing was “innocent”. I wanted to just leave him on Io as an unacceptable risk to the team given his current track record, but Van Helsing overruled me on this for reasons I can’t fathom. At times I think my own amorality gives me a much needed dose of rationality and pragmatism that these others need more of. Oh well, at least I got a concession from Van Helsing and Leeroy to double my share of the pay in compensation for me putting up with this nonsense.

I just feel this overwhelming urge to take him and that crate of his and throw them both out the airlock with several missiles in close pursuit.

(Sadly much of this session was taken up by MT refusing to pay attention to the situation he found himself in as he repeatedly attempted solutions that didn’t at all line up with the problem at hand and thus nearly got Van Helsing killed repeatedly. This may have been all some effort to make a some sort of obscure point about Van Helsing abandoning an obvious corpse for dead when Van Helsing had no idea at the time that this (apparent death) meant nothing for MT, but that may be giving too much credit.)

Session 18 – 09/23/2016

Orders came down that the next objective was to find the source of Tori’s crystal infection. I wasn’t entirely pleased to be finding out we were going to be hunting for the source of the crystals that could go off like a nuclear device if they contacted me. The coordinates for where the supposed infection happened were well beyond known space, within the nebular edge of an old supernova remnant. A few probes had been out that far and they reported lots of radiation, and in-falling material triggering flares in nearby systems. Absurdly dangerous for normal explorations, but I could see why a prospector might want to poke around the area.

Van Helsing’s theory (which I think conventional theory shared) was that my vampirism linked me to subspace and Tori’s crystals linked her to hyperspace. Thus our touching each other would effectively be shorting out two nigh-infinite potentials through our corporeal existences which if conventional experiments were any indication, was a very bad thing. I didn’t really need any more encouragement to not touch Tori anyway.

Besides, we needed to get out of the system for a while since we had just triggered a minor international crisis and highly annoyed a major world religion. As much as I wouldn’t mind the excuse to kill and drain the blood of cultists sent to kill me, cultists did rank amongst the most dangerous food groups out there.

We elected to take a rather slow path towards the region in question with some emphasis on charting the place. That did net us a rogue planet approximately four light years from the nearest star that was unaccountably warm, emitted a lot of radiation, and seemed to possess regions capable of supporting life. Even weirder (well, I figured it explained some things, but the scientists thought otherwise), the planet seemed to be on a trajectory directly away from a supernova remnant. The supernova remnant itself was a neutron star with a lot of material still orbiting it. Some of the mass had collected into near planet sized objects even. Once again, the whole area was unaccountably warm. We even picked up radio signals that seemed to originate from Earth and elsewhere from that debris field.

More concerning were the radiation bursts typical of collapsing FTL fields whenever we stopped to look at things. Whatever the source of those were, they were about six light hours behind us. A quick vote decided we weren’t going to just wait for whatever it was to find us out in the open. Better to have an encounter with the unknown when we can have planetoids as cover and raw materials. Quickly ducking into a nearby system, I brought us into one of the disks of condensing material to hide in. Leeroy offered to eject and act as a probe/scout for whatever was following us while I landed the ship on one of the larger planetoids and powered down most of the ship.

After about twelve hours we got our first contact via Leeroy. He was detecting some oddly modulated radio frequencies from a source that was slowing down, but was not emitting normal drive signatures. The scientist types thought gravimetric distortions were in play, but I had to take their word for it. Whatever they were, they were roughly cylindrical and the same general weight class as the prospecting ship. However, indications were that the surfaces of the three ships were very rough and damaged. Probably automated sentries in my opinion. One did spot Leeroy and made a beeline for him. He made efforts to signal to the ship and was swiftly pulled inside it.

At which point Leeroy started receiving transmissions from the craft as it examined him and apparently us through the weird informational goggles Leeroy kept handing out. Leeroy was diagnosed as possessing a subspace infection that they were now attempting to purge. Tori was classified as a juvenile seed form. I was an Active Class-II Subspace Infection and labelled a Threat Level of two. MT was a threat level one. Mason was an unknown threat level. We did at least get clarification that the threat scale went from zero to twelve and that the things thought Leeroy’s design was idiotic. Also apparently my hunch about these being automated patrol drones that would warn off any class four threats and attempt to destroy anything found to be level five or higher. All in the name of the defense of a world called Arhendahl-Zarlan where it looked like their creators had in all probability reverted to a tribal level.

The drones were also aware of two other potential space-faring civilizations: one mining nebular gas for some centuries, and radio signals detected from another direction. Also interesting was that the drones had been operational for several million years already.

I just had no idea how to evade something that appeared to be operating on a technology that was vastly different than humanity’s if I had to.

Session 19 – 09/30/2016

We did eventually get a bit of an information dump from the drones:

The Arhendahl appear to have been (and perhaps still were) a Microtronic A, Informational B, (Positive) Spacefield C, Psychic D, Biotech E species. Physically they were creatures of silicon and metal, hexapodal, with numerous manipulative tendrils. In human terms, they were slow and weak, but very good at fine manipulation and surprisingly tough. Their technology (such as the patrol craft) seems to mostly have a fairly conventional basis – but with informational control systems and spacefield power sources enabling self-repairing functions. The ships themselves seem to use a spacefield drive, informational navigation, and either very sophisticated expert programs or true artificial intelligences (if there’s a difference).

“Arhendahl-Zarlan” – as a proper name – did not translate too effectively. It seemed to wind up as something like “Worlds / Civilization / Homes of the Arhendahl” – apparently a reference to a small-to-moderate interstellar civilization. Several of the planets involved remained at least partially habitable; the Arhendahl had not been observed in space recently (within the last sixty thousand years); they may or may not be still extant. The patrol, however, was intended to be perpetual, so it remained – as it has for the last three million years.

Threat Levels:

0) Minimal to None. Animals without biowarfare adaptions, Sophonts with limited access to personal powers.
1) Threat to interacting entities and possibly local area, no mass-destruction capabilities.
2) Level one threat on individual basis, but capable of slowly spreading. Possessing entities. Major social manipulators. Monitoring required to prevent spread.
3) Potential rapid threat to substantial areas. Very rapidly reproducing weapon systems. Hive mind organizers. Monitoring with potential immediate response required to minimize hazard.
4) Potential immediate threat to massive areas or numbers of people. Threat reduction, departure, or elimination required.
5) Threats to continents, things which require mass-destruction weaponry to contain, fast-breeding “super soldier” organisms.
6) Threats to entire planetary populations and their civilizations.
7) Threats to the Arhendahl species.
8) Threats capable of inflicting mass damage on entire solar systems.
9) Existential threats to entire solar systems.
10) (Semi-Theoretical) Threats to entire stellar clusters.
11) (Theoretical). Multi-System to Galaxy-wide threats, self-reproducing Idiotic Fleets, etc.
12) (Theoretical); Existential threat to Reality.

“Subspace Infections” seem to be possibly-contagious subspace templates and effects, all of them representing a major drain on the energies of an organism. They appear to be rated as to how contagious and dangerous they are.

“Nonspace Links” are Informational Effects that link objects across space with indefinite range. They appear to be a result of making multiple objects into direct expressions of a single informational template, causing them to act in some ways as a single, conjoined, object.

A “Juvenile Seed Form” was a potential member of the Rehenli species (Classified Benign / Very Limited Communications). The Rehenli are a sessile Spacefield-Psychic-Biotech-Informational-Microtronic species. It is unknown how many individuals make up a colony (or whether they are stable entities or informational patterns running in a crystalline substrate), which grows to unknown depths in planetary crusts. Symbiotic Seed forms are implanted in visiting space travelers, and integrate with their biology, providing those entities with a variety of matter and energy manipulation abilities while the seed form develops. If and when the host dies on a planetary surface, the Seed Form will attempt to establish a new colony there.

“Psiclass” is fairly mysterious as far as the patrol ships are concerned. They are capable of noting their presence, and determining a rough estimate of energy reserves, but treat incidences with great caution due to the possibility of memetic weaponry. Class-I is minor tricks and communicative functions, II covers active, controlled, abilities with a substantial power reserve, III begins showing the presence of exotic functions with a substantial power reserve. The patrol ships are incapable of analyzing the higher reaches of class-III, so only demonstrations can raise the classification beyond that point.

“Psiactive Incapacitating Agent” appears to be a reference to Leeroy’s “stench”, which appears to be a bit more than physical. It does not, however, seem to be regarded as a major weapon. It may have been one originally, but whatever has infected Leeroy is obviously not working properly, if it isn’t on the edge of failing entirely.

The Nebular Mining Vessels were intended to collect very rare materials from the edges of the nebular remains of a supernova. The ships appear to be non-reproducing automated probes, and have shown no weapons and no hostility, and so their presence is acceptable. Their origin appears to be well outside the patrol boundaries however.

We also got some basic maps of the region with some annotations indicating points of interest and acceptable routes. However, the drones were unwilling (or unable, but is there much of a difference with a computer system?) to give us much of any information regarding their progenitor species’ worlds, defenses, or locations. Not that we couldn’t derive at least some of that from the list of approved routes. They were also unwilling to discuss the rogue planet we had found or the supernova remnant. The radio signals from Earth (but not…) had started a few centuries ago, which didn’t give enough time for the radio signals to travel the long way and then get repeated back. Whatever was going on had to have been fairly instantaneous in terms of time/delay in order for the timing to work out. That was actually potentially very valuable, if we could find a method of transmitting EMF signals near instantaneously across large distances that would revolutionize interstellar communications if the method could be duplicated.

Still, as potentially valuable as that was, the decision was made to visit the crystal planet first and then the source of the radio transmissions (estimated to be about thirty light-years from our present position). At least the drones were not acting as xenophobic as my first impression would have suggested and seemed to be aware of the concepts of search-and-rescue and good-relations.

The planet was similar to Mars in many ways with seventy percent gravity, thin atmosphere, and little water. The supernova may have been partially to blame for that. Still signs of plant life in areas that would likely have been somewhat shielded from a direct blast. The atmosphere was breathable, just needed to be pressurized or supplemental oxygen added. Ambient radiation was high compared to Earth, but tolerable for months for normal people.

Personally, I blamed the Americans for refusing to cooperate with everyone else in setting up a standard for generating coordinates on arbitrary worlds. Thus we ended up with systems like this where we were having to compare pictures of land masses at different altitudes to try and determine where exactly Tori had landed the last time she had visited this planet. Eventually we Id’ed a location that was mountainous, had numerous rocky outcroppings, ravines, veins of minerals, and exotic energy readings. Eventually we were able to land about three kilometers away from the site of Tori’s accident. Beyond the energy readings and occasional minor seismic disturbance, the first two kilometers were fairly uneventful.

Suddenly a massive crystalline scorpion-like creature burst from the sand that was easily the size of a tank. The tail even had things vaguely resembling a lightsaber sticking out of it. Most unfortunately, I was getting seriously major instinctive alarms in my head against getting anywhere near the thing or especially touching it. Of course, that danger probably extended both ways and wasn’t going to be pleasant for anyone caught in the subsequent blast radius either. Trying to read emotional state (if it even had any) was next to impossible given that its head was a block of crystal. Leeroy attempted to head up communications attempts with the thing, but was swiftly imprisoned inside in a cage of crystal for his trouble.

With that I brought my pulse rifle to the ready and started backing away. I wasn’t about to open fire though as the consequences for hostilities breaking out were especially bad for me. So I tried to back away slowly from the lightsaber tail of instant death while being as ready as possible to dodge and return fire. Tendrils of crystal snaked out and clutched at Leeroy as he suddenly went completely rigid. Our informational computer linkups with Leeroy then started receiving a “broadcast” of a decidedly weird committee meeting between Leeroy and what could only be presumed to be a computational hive-mind that resided on the scorpion thing. And said scorpion thing was continually tracking my movements with that tail at the ready to strike me. Van Helsing wanted me to return to the dropship, but I was hesitant to leave the group for fear that more of these things might try to ambush me when I was alone. At least Tori was available back on the dropship for requesting a pickup.

Session 20 – 10/07/2016

As I was waiting for pickup, Leeroy collapsed for no immediately apparent reason. This probably qualified as a hostile act I think. Tori quickly pulled up in a low hover and we quickly loaded into the dropship and then made for high altitudes where we would hopefully be out of range of anything that could try to harm us. By the time we rendezvous with the main ship though, we found that the same thing affecting Leeroy was infecting the main ship’s computer. So it seemed we were dealing with a computer virus of some sort and Leeroy was the primary attack vector. Every system onboard was briefly activating and deactivating. Weirdly, Mason said he was picking up thoughts from the computer systems and Van Helsing was detecting psychic activity as well.

Oh well, it was next to impossible to remotely keep control of a computer system from people who had direct access to the hardware. Once we reached a stable orbit, we should pull the breakers on the computers, disconnect all remote pickups, and then a manual restart of each subsystem one at a time from factory default settings or offline backups. Pretty much impossible to hack against that at least.

Unfortunately, pulling the breakers didn’t shutdown the computers like I’d expected. Tori did manage to regain manual control, but the computers were still operational and visibly running outside code according to the monitors. This should be fundamentally impossible unless Tori did another one of her stupid hack repair jobs and somehow the computer was getting back-fed power from some other feed. Tearing out the power cables didn’t shut the thing off either. This was concerning. Disconnecting all the I/O at least would keep the computer from trying to kill us, but wasn’t going to regain us control of the computer. The journey back to the Sol System was going to be a real pain at this rate if we didn’t have a functional computer.

According to the others, there were forty-some-odd consciousnesses in the computer system upgrading the processor speed, memory, and more. How in the hell software was upgrading the hardware was impossible to fathom. Of course, how software was providing electrical power to a computer disconnected from the electrical distribution system was difficult to reason as well. Working up the courage, I ripped out the casing on the computer system only to find that the computer was being transmuted into a large block of crystal by an some sort of glowing energy field. Sensors suggested that the whole mess was pulling power from hyperspace somehow.

Not much that could be done about this unfortunately even if it did appear that the new system could handle the workload of the old system with only 0.001% utilization. If there was any consolation, it was conceivable that the entities inhabiting the computer could do the hard work of translating computers given the processing power and information database at their disposal. This idea was at least somewhat confirmed as the various computer terminals started displaying something vaguely resembling Shakespearean Sonnets.

MT was advocating genocide against the hacking entities, but wasn’t getting any additional votes supporting this course of action. I certainly didn’t want to declare war on a species that had control of our computers while we were stuck many light-years from any support beyond this one lonely ship. With not much of any consensus from the others beyond a long limping trip home, I elected to sit down at a computer station and start trying to teach basic French to the hackers. The tendency of the things to respond in Shakespearean style sonnets even when “conversing” in French was making things really frustrating.

At least after many frustrating days of this weirdness we were able to hash out a truce where we would hook up some of the systems back to the computer, they would return control of the automatic functions for those system back to us for verification, and then we would set course for Earth. That took some more time to set up, not the least because I was getting rather paranoid about maintaining and verifying system controls by installing crude hardware protections against things going rogue on me.

Still, this gave us enough computer access and control to make the journey back to Earth somewhat feasible, if not particularly fast.

Session 21 – 10/14/2016

As we approached the Sol System, I began working on a crude analog transmitter for generating an SOS after I had disconnected all the remote links to the computer system. Leeroy’s own FTL Informational link back with the Lifeboat Society was also transmitting warning regarding our status and approach. At least, I think so, given that Leeroy’s communications these days was in French Shakespearean Styled Sonnets. Annoyingly, we got back “helpful” warnings regarding the importation of active, obviously transmissible over links, alien entities that take over and rebuild computer systems into the Sol System.

My response was to point out that it had infected every system on the ship by now and to ask what the protocol should be. Tearing out every electronic device and attempting to limp home on napkin calculations and prayers probably wasn’t going to be too successful. If their response was to advocate we self-destructed, I was tempted to cease communications with them at all. Their “helpful” response was for us to ask for a pickup and abandon ship. I just about through the radio across the cabin with that one considering that we pretty much started this whole mess with requesting a pickup and quarantine of the ship. Probably some idiot reading instructions out of a three ring binder and instructed to ignore all details told to them that didn’t directly pertain to the current step in the troubleshooting guide.

Unfortunately, this meant abandoning pretty much ALL of the equipment we had accumulated so far. This was going to hit our combined pocketbook hard since that obvious included both ships as well. The fact that Leeroy would have to be quarantined was a minor annoyance comparatively. Of course, since his annoying habit of being tied into everything with little regard for quarantine protocols was the root cause of this mess, I would have been keen to give him a few good whacks with a baseball bat if I wasn’t halfway convinced the combined Hyperspace and Subspace energies would detonate hard. Of course, that might also trigger an interstellar war since Leeroy was now a minority inside his own body these days. So I ended up retreating to my quarters with the whipped cream stash and several blood packs.

At least the horrible stench was gone.

Disembarking, debriefing, and getting transit on a system shuttle, we started looking into work for rebuilding our funding. We were once again warned against approaching Earth, but otherwise had free reign of the system. As for work, there was always stuff going on. There was still the job in the Mars Labyrinth going on. An object orbiting Neptune had been flipping back and forth between being an inert rock and a fairly normal orbital habitat hosting some sort of jungle inside. Right now it was be entering the orbital habitat stage for about ten days and would be in that stage for about a week. Meanwhile one of the Jovian mining complexes was reporting that children were seeing cartoon characters looking for scooters. Also the Solar Observatory was found something solid floating in the photosphere of the sun. Orbital scans of Planet IX were showing a shifting magnetic field around one of the moons that was corresponding to tremors on the surface. Mercury always had its own weird anomalies to look into. Eris was driving those that entered the caverns in certain areas into paranoid frenzies of violence.

Meanwhile, the State Church of Kyrgyzstan was mired in a host of legal disputes regarding the incident on Io. Undoubtedly there were going to be plenty of fanatics and fringers who saw us as blasphemers, heretics, and servants of the Idiots. So it was more than likely that at least a few of those would at some point try to kill us for our transgressions. Oh well, those that sought to kill us were only making themselves my next prospective meal.

The directive eventually came from Van Helsing that we were going to investigate the anomalies of the moon of Planet IX. In exchange for transport and equipment from the Lifeboat Foundation, we were getting a “handler/assistant” in the form of a man named James Svenson. Something about him seemed off (I’m going with the faint smell of wet dog hair), but no real information was forthcoming on that front at the moment. The moon in question was only 400 kilometers and change in diameter made mostly of rock and nickel-iron with a surface gravity of one meter per second. I didn’t know much about planetary formation dynamics, but this didn’t seem like an object in the right place or with the right mass for the gravity it was generating. Add to it the fact that the whole rock was about 150 degrees Celsius too warm for where it was in the Sol System. Probably a rogue planetoid or even planet core from another star then.

Not a lot of neutron emissions, but quite a bit of EMF from a magnetic field that was a tangled mess of localized polarities. Probably still cooling from radioactive in the core with quakes as the whole mess shrank. Magnetic field snaps not unlike what the Sun does were probably not out of the question. Running some drilling tests revealed that the iron content was grossly high for a natural body with traces of non-metallic elements spread out in tiny bubbles. Oddly enough, we were picking up tremors that were proceeding to move around in a distinctly linear fashion nearly a kilometer down. Even I knew that was not at all natural.

We eventually found a ravine deep enough where one of those linearly traveling tremors was projected to intersect. We lowered a sensor pack into the ravine to see if we could get a glimpse of the source of the tremors as it passed. As the tremor approached though, it got within about seventy meters of the crevasse wall and then promptly made a hard turn without losing any speed. Definitely not a natural phenomena, of course hardly anything about this damned “moon” with a density three times that of planet Mercury seemed natural. More survey work found the whole place riddled with what a geologist might have labelled lava tubes, but already we had more than enough evidence that these were not lava tubes but tunnels being dug by something weird. Whatever was causing these tremors and digging these tunnels was traveling about a little less than half a kilometer per hour. Of course, I wasn’t aware of anything capable of tunneling nearly that fast with human technology.

We elected to dig into one of the tunnels to see what we could find out. Breaching the tunnel wall with explosives and some drilling, we were able to enter an almost perfectly circular tunnel about thirty meters in diameter. The walls were about three meters thick and made out of compressed metals with no pockets of gases remaining. Temperature was about 7 degrees Celsius. There were gases in the tunnel however, but not at the right pressure, mixture, or temperature to be at all breathable. Svenson managed to drag an electric motorcycle into the tunnel with us and proceeded to rig up a sled to haul the rest of us along. I rode in the sled with the scientist types and their surveying equipment. I had my rifle at the ready, but was not really convinced it would do much against anything able to tunnel like this.

As we got closer to the “source” the temperature and gas density rose steadily. The walls were about 90 degrees Celsius and the only thing keeping it at all reasonable was the heat conduction between the walls and the moon and the still somewhat low gas density. Still, dust and gas outbursts was making it nearly impossible to see further ahead beyond what was obviously some sort of mechanical drilling machine boring its way along. It wasn’t entirely clear where the mass left over from the tunneling was going though. The scientists spotted a relative cold spot along the wall though. Since trying to get a closer look at the drilling machine was liable to roast us like an oven, we decided to explore that cold patch once things got cool enough for us to actually walk on the tunnel surface. My first thought was this was another tunnel that just got sealed up by the tunneler, but acoustic testing revealed that this chamber or side tunnel was considerably smaller in diameter and was behind one to two meters of wall.

Explosive charges were out of the questions for a number of reasons and simply trying to shoot through that much metal was a non-starter. Alright, time for the fusion cutter. Breaking through into the next chamber, we found it filled with a full set of metallic platonic solids each one to three meters in diameter. Sigh, probably some sort of weird automated mining system that has been left operating without supervision for far too long.

Still not sure why I smell wet dog hair whenever I am around Svenson though. You’d think sealed pressure suits would stop that sort of thing.

Session 22 – 10/21/2016

As we took pictures and debated what to do next, one of the polyhedra unfolded a set of legs and emitted lasers that seemed to be grid mapping the room. Mason and I managed to back away and avoid the scan, but Svenson was leaning in for a closer look and got a face full of low powered laser before another polyhedron fired…. something that looked like a dart at him. A tiny line then reeled the dart back in again. Since Svenson didn’t seem to realize he was being shot at, I mentioned it over the radio while I tried to get a good line of fire on the polyhedra but couldn’t with Svenson in the way. Pulling Svenson out of the way, we waited for his eyesight to return and for any new developments.

A small sphere on a metallic tentacle (armature?) poked out to presumably locate us. MT then made his presence known by simply reaching out and grabbing the thing. I wasn’t sure how wise this was, but Mason quickly started examining it and declared it to not be psychically active. I could tell it was doing something weird with space given the aura it emitted that was I was getting alarms about. Probably something hyperspace related then. MT also announced it was informationally active on some level mostly for controls and sensors but possessed no real “mind”. Another “tube” came out of the chamber to try and point at MT, but he grabbed it as well and was pointing it away from him. As he demanded help in trying to restrain the thing, I eventually gave in and grabbed hold of the sphere tentacle for him.

Immediately the thing threw some sparks as I touched it and I felt a sharp tingling sensation. In about fifteen or twenty minutes this was going to become quite harmful or quite intoxicating and I wasn’t sure which. Not sure that I really cared either way. MT was doing something weird with a computer tablet where he managed to pull a diagram out of the tablet with his hand to produce an actual physical object the diagram represented.

MT then used the object and informed us that the polyhedra were demanding we surrender for analysis and that it classified us as potentially hostile. Or at least it classified MT, Svenson, and the informational experts as potential threats. Tori, Mason, Van Helsing, and I didn’t seem to rate at all though. Somewhat concerning was the fact that it looked like the rest of the polyhedra were cutting their way out of the chamber and into the tunnel we were in. The polyhedra were insisting that we be scanned for links to the Velanrithi, whoever they were. MT seemingly was classified as a Velanrithi or was using similar techniques. It did identify itself as a Type II-17-R6V8 Scout Module that was placed here as part of this automated manufacturing facility and took commands from something called an “authorized source”. The closest authorized source was a Type V Lith or something like that. Probably the dodecahedron then given that a Type II was the cube.

Eventually the rest of us were patched into the “channel” MT was using to talk to the thing. I ultimately had four questions for it. What was their species of origin? Could they give a description of the Velanrithi to see if we’ve encountered it? Could we set up an agreed upon set of units of time so that we might ascertain when they last had contact with a non-automated supervisor and how long they have been on this moon? And what would it take to assure these things of our non-hostile intentions?

The species of origin did not match anything I or any of us recognized at all. The Velanrithi seemed to be the War Gods we had encountered earlier or possibly something quite similar. No known contact with non-automated supervisors were on record at all either. And it still insisted on scanning us for links to the Velanrithi. I had no problem with such scans at least. By this point the wall separating us from the polyhedra had come down revealing 64 Type I’s, 32 Type II’s, 16 Type III’s, 8 Type IV’s, and 4 Type V’s. Not much point holding onto the stun cannon arm at that point, despite how great it felt to hold it. Svenson was scanned and registered as a non-hostile. I was classified (after a particularly… intoxicating scan) as a potential aide and ally. MT, while of the wrong species, was apparently using the same technology as the Velanrithi as should be restrained.

This resulted in a highly juvenile debate between the polyhedra and MT over whether or not he should be restrained and demands that he give coordinates for his point of infection. Seeing this was not going anywhere, I elected to make a supply run given that this was going to take a long time to resolve. Svenson did make me promise to bring lots of bacon. By the time I got back, MT was demanding the polyhedra solve a simple mechanical puzzle before he would cooperate with anything. Except that he kept insisting that the computers solve a variation that would require more moves than there were seconds left in the lifetime of the universe. As the polyhedra kept coming up with creative solutions that would take a realistic amount of time, MT kept insisting they were cheating and thus “untrustworthy”. Personally, I feel that asking someone to complete a task that can’t be completed in the anticipated lifetime of the universe and objecting to any and all attempts at creative solutions was probably not negotiating in “good faith” despite MT’s objections to the contrary.

This resulted in a long and asinine spiel from MT where he kept insisting that the polyhedra were hostile despite the fact that they outnumbered us, hadn’t hurt us yet, and were trying to accommodate his unreasonable demands. He refused to let them find a planet that he was already on record stating was a lifeless rock because he was concerned about these things exterminating the inhabitants.

Really? I’m the amoral sociopathic vampire here and I’m the rational one in all of this? Considering the sheer numbers of polyhedra arrayed on this moon given that these caches are placed every couple of kilometers, they weren’t showing themselves to be as hostile as they could be. Then there was the fact that they were this close to Earth. And here we have MT becoming increasingly hostile to these things. It took some time to browbeat into MT how insanely stupid this was, but eventually we got him to cooperate. That got these things coordinates to follow at least and made them more cooperative in giving us answers too.

They had been on this moon for roughly 800,000 years, although much of that wasn’t with the moon in the Sol System (why am I not surprised?). Last contact with their creators was about 795,000 years ago. They had a fairly lengthy grievance list to be supplied to any alien species caught up with their operations that included things like possession, drain energies, proclaim themselves as gods, and so on. Must have been real jackasses if things like vampires didn’t even register except as possible allies against the Velanrithi. Unfortunately, it looks like now that these things had a set of coordinates to target, they were going to move the entire moon to that location to continue “containment” operations. An entire moon going missing was going to be hard to explain to the authorities.

Session 23 – 10/28/2016

Well between the astronomers being upset with us over the loss of a moon and MT’s attempts to salt poison all of us with his cooking, this particular mission has been a relative bust. Yes, we made contact with a bunch of alien automatons, but those automatons couldn’t put us in touch with their creators and we may have set them off on a genocidal campaign in another star system. The scientist types were chattering excitedly about the robots using something they called a Mach Drive to move the moon at least. Supposedly they were predicting the moon reaching 10% light speed at some point given the physics of how they thought the drive worked.

Oh well, next up was that odd satellite of Neptune (originally named Thalassa) that was morphing into a forested O’neill Cylinder and a relatively normal potato shaped asteroid every so often. Arriving in the Neptunian System, we set up orbit outside the outer limits of the ring system where the satellite was to be found. The satellite’s rotation was a bit high for a stray lump of rock and its composition was largely nickel-iron as opposed to the mass of various ices one normally finds this far out. According to the reports, some sort of self-repair mechanism had to be in effect for the cylinder phase of the satellite as damage from previous appearances vanished with the next appearance. A system of various airlocks was apparent on either end of the cylinder.

Previous explorations attempts were hampered by internal terrain and and paranoia regarding the transition back to an inert lump of rock. Still, drones had provided a somewhat rough map of the interior. We did have sufficient time to request a few bits of specialized equipment before the place transitioned to O’neill Cylinder mode. Once it shimmered into view we deployed with all haste to cycle ourselves and our equipment through the airlocks and started unleashing surveying drones.

In all, the interior was heavily overgrown with absurdly tall plant life given the low internal gravity (roughly a fifth of Earth’s). A central shaft ran down the length of the interior and provided light. After some debate, the initial plan settled on doing a flyover between the lighting and the jungle while scanning through the canopy with radar to look for any hidden “surface” features of interest. We did detect water features underneath the jungle, and there were definite hints that the far side possessed structures of some sort underneath all the foliage. Nothing obvious in terms of a previously lost expedition was coming up though. We did encounter lots of bugs and birds as we flew towards the far end. The others did determine that the biochemistry was quite Earth-like, although specific species were not identifiable. The plants were rather toxic but not too horrible and we even spotted a nest of squirrel type creatures.

While the scientist types chattered excitedly over samples and bits of detail I didn’t understand, I found myself much more concerned with the birds. More specifically, the flocks of birds numbering in the hundreds of thousands that were shadowing us. About a sixth of the way along the central axis one of the swarms engulfed us. Whether they were acting territorially or in some sort of predatory fashion was impossible to verify, but they were obviously not taking kindly to the “ward off” ultrasonic as they proceeded to attack us. Luckily my unnatural presence and a pre-emptive charge of dark negative energies was more than sufficient to keep the things at bay from me and my ultralight. The others weren’t doing so well as their ultralights were getting torn to pieces by thousands of birds. Within moments the others were crashing to the ground through the tree canopy.

Sigh, best to go assist them then. Since trying to fly through those branches was going to tear my own ultralight to shreds, I simply stopped in midair using my levitation abilities and began folding up my ultralight in midair. With the thing packed away properly (might have a use for it later), I began a slow fall through the branches towards where it looked like the others had crashed. Unfortunately my companions did not have the decency to all crash in the same place and thus we all ended up a bit scattered. Nor was the flora and fauna on ground level any more friendly than the birds.

Not that I was particularly friendly either. I had to deal with a small group of some sort of weird cross between a bird and a velociraptor that was looking to make a meal out of me. Given the manipulative wings, I was curious if these things were at least mildly sapient like dolphins or early species of humans. If so, then attacking them might go poorly for interstellar relations. On the other hand, simply using loud and flashy explosions may work better than direct force. That definitely spooked them, but they didn’t retreat entirely. Instead, the retreated some distance and maintained watch over me. Definitely not consistent with any sort of normal animal behavior I’ve seen either Terran or otherwise. This suggested a level of intelligence and curiosity that hardly qualified as “animal” or that they were part of some sort of Biological Defense System. Not enough information to say either way.

Best plan I felt was to find Van Helsing. Not only was he the mission leader (and thus the source of pay) but he was also seemingly the one least likely to be able to defend themselves against the kind of threats I felt we were facing. After him was probably Mason. Moving through the vegetation towards Van Helsing’s direction, it took some effort to shake off my “observers” given how dangerously fast and persistent they were. One of the advantages of perceiving the world of smells as many animals do is that it gives me a a leg up on making it harder for them to track me. Still, as I moved along, it became quite clear that something was SERIOUSLY wrong with this ecosystem. It had entirely too many very hostile, persistent, and dangerous creatures about to make any sense. Night was not going to be pleasant given the lack of moonlight or starlight to work with.

Already I had dodged an acid pit that could have swallowed a jeep whole, a serpent-like creature that seemed to spray neurotoxins, and something up in the branches I couldn’t quite make out that shot needles at bullet velocities. What was maddening about it all was how they all seemed to be herbivorous and yet they all had these adaptations that would only make sense on carnivores. Still, being a vampire that thus preyed on apex predators such as humans did mean I was well equipped to handle most threats. Preying on humans isn’t like chasing squirrels after all.

Still, once I got a feel for the wildlife, it became easier to move in ways that would be hard for it all to detect and track me. I silently arrived at Van Helsing’s location and found him riding atop a strange cross between a wolf and an ATV that reeked of Svenson. Soon enough we also found MT and Mason as well. Taking stock, the scientist types were of the opinion that everything here was derived from variations of Earth species either past or present that had been modified to be excessively aggressive and dangerous (but not with each other oddly enough) in some way, shape, or form. Probably an alien bioweapons development lab meant to remove hostile natives (humans) from Earth if the need arose. Svenson figured that the flora and fauna were separating intruders from allies via scent, but I could not smell anything common to all the different species I’d seen so far. Although some of the smells from a few of the plant species were more than a bit intoxicating. Definitely grabbing samples of those for later.

There was some debate as to whether we continued hiking towards the structures at the far end or if we cut our losses and retreated now given the limited timeframe we had to work with. I advocated retreat and most of the others agreed. That meant we had three days to cover ten to twelve kilometers. It sounded simple enough until one considered the hostile terrain filled with bioweapon plant and animals arrayed against us. This may end up a lot harder than first thought.

Session 24 – 11/04/2016

Needless to say, the maps were horrible. Not quite useless, but bordering on it at times given the lack of detail and the difficulties in orienting oneself with respect to any identifiable features. Still basic physics would allow us to determine which direction the cylinder was spinning and thus use that in conjunction with the radio beacon we left at the entrance to keep from going in circles too badly. Van Helsing, MT, and Mason rode…. Svenson while I kept pace on foot. Partly I did that because I found Svenson’s transformation too silly to take seriously, but also because I could better serve on point if I wasn’t loudly crashing and roaring around the forest like he was. And his blood (which he was leaving traces of EVERYWHERE) tasted more than a bit odd.

Not that I had much free time to ponder such things as just about everything around us wanted to kill us. My own unnatural aura was warding myself against much of that fairly well, but the others were having worse luck. I tried to compensate by using myself as a bit of a shield to ward off attackers, but this was getting tiring fast even with my endurance. My computer did note that a lot of complex ultrasonic sounds were being generated all around us. Hmm, was everything here using ultrasonics to communicate and coordinate? The computer did determine it was informationally dense enough to be possible. So this wasn’t simple screeching. That also suggested that by disrupting those ultrasonics might disrupt the coordination of everything here. Definitely worth a try.

Those hummingbird things were getting really annoying, but not rating much more than as an irritation for me. Svenson was able to ignore them, but the others were not faring so well. I threw them some thick blankets I had packed away so they could cover themselves as best as they could. At least the ultrasonic disruption did eliminate the tactical behaviors we were experiencing. The resulting uncoordinated cloud was still dangerous but not as much so. Still, this raised all sorts of weird questions about what was going on. If this ultrasonic network was anything like how ad-hoc radio networks operated then this level of coordination, intelligence, and planning was difficult to explain. You needed base stations, hard-wired connections between those nodes, and lots of centralizing processing to accomplish this much. But the animals couldn’t support this. The trees maybe? The roots systems could be interconnected and form a hard-wired network. The trees could even potentially host a biological computer system within their trunks. Hmm, the animals all seem to be herbivorous despite their adaptations to the contrary. If it possible that they are all merely drones for a plant based intelligence that gives them food in exchange for control?

Our attempts to outrun the blood sucking hummingbird…. things went well enough, but we soon found ourselves facing a massive pack of those flightless birds I had encountered earlier. These things were definitely individually more intelligent that any of the other species found so far. Were they the inhabitants, remnants of them, or something akin to guard dogs? Or were they simply drones with more autonomy for the trees? Too many possibilities and not enough information to start narrowing in on theories. Best bet was not to kill unless we have to since that would make apologies easier later. Frustratingly enough, these were still able to act in a coordinated fashion somehow and were countering our attempts to bypass them. Their speed and limited gliding abilities weren’t making this any easier either. Svenson moved to ram/tackle his way through the encirclement and I used the opportunity caused by his disrupting of the birds’ line to make a break for a gap that opened up.

I didn’t see the one in the trees leaping down at me from above until the last possible moment. As it was, that huge talon came very close to disemboweling me. Not that this would kill me, but it would very likely impair my ability to flee effectively or even fight back. Unfortunately, dealing with these things on the ground was probably a fool’s game even with our abilities given their speed, size, and strength. On the other hand, those same traits probably limited their climbing skills significant. Sharing this idea with Svenson, we both leapt up into the tree branches and started climbing the trunks with our claws. The bark and underlying wood was harder than any wood I’ve encountered. That make digging in my claws difficult and I had to rely more on the unevenness of the bark than simply sinking in my claws to maintain a grip. Svenson suggested I try sampling the tree sap (and a sample of hummingbird blood he had acquired) to see if I could gain anything from it. While it didn’t look like that patched me into the ultrasonic communications network, it did seem to get me removed from the target list the animals were apparently referencing.

Still, at this point I noticed that Svenson had acquired a stowaway in the form of one of those birds that was trying to kill him and his passengers. MT was attempting to fight back ineffectually while Svenson got himself distracted chasing a giant cat. It’s times like these that make me truly understand why Van Helsing keeps me hired on as a mercenary: I am competent, very difficult to kill, and hard to distract with such cartoonish antics. I can just see Svenson chasing mail carriers down the street given his current behavior. Since they weren’t having much luck, I leapt to the underside of a branch Svenson was going to go under and dug in my claws. Waiting for the best moment, I then pushed off the branch with as much strength as I could muster. My trajectory was true as I rammed the bird on Svenson back with enough momentum to carry both me and the bird off the branch. It began a simple glide down to ground level, while I used it as a springboard to leap to the nearby tree trunk. From there it was another simple leap to get back on the same branch as Svenson and continue to do what I could to provide cover.

What was odd in all of this was despite how damned persistent these things were, they weren’t actively attempting to mass themselves in our path to try and overwhelm us. Instead it was more like territorial defense responses from whatever we happened to encounter. Perhaps each tree or set of trees is acting independently of the rest? Perhaps whatever intelligence(s) is controlling things has gone feral? Or this is some sort of automatic pilot/defense system running without any supervision? Not that I was complaining since this was working in our favor somewhat, but I do prefer to have a working theory that makes some sense as that gives me more ability to plan and anticipate potential issues before they happen. I am not a fan of simply reacting.

Shadowed Galaxy Campaign Logs: Sessions 0-12

I know it has been nearly two years since I last posted something, but real life issues always seemed to interfere too much to get something done.  However, I am hoping to get a chance to work through some of the backlog of material I’ve come up with in the next few months.  So to start off with we have the first 12 or 13 sessions from the Shadowed Galaxy campaign.  There should be a grand total of five of these with the remaining four coming in the next few weeks.

Session 00 – 05/13/2016

Well, my attempt to head to Earth after my latest mission turned into a complete bust. I got held up in medical once I arrived at the spaceport. Apparently whatever had turned me into this vampire was sufficient grounds to hold me on quarantine and from landing on Earth. Their diagnosis was that I had been infected with a spacefield weapon, they think. And to top it all off I had a robot that smelled like he was rotting inside that armor of his and someone with the last name Van Helsing escort me back from Titan for examination. Whatever, at least I could have run of the Isolation Zone until I decided what to do next.

At least it looked like work was available to those willing to perform it. The Fendahlr Colony had recently dropped out of contact, which needed to be investigated. There had been a report of the Idoleran (a research vessel) found embedded in an ice planetoid out in the Kuiper Belt. It was lost about thirty years ago. Elervas had been broadcasting a ward-off signal. There’s only a small group of humans there, although there was a native race as well. On a somewhat larger scale, Dolrina is trying to deal with a fairly standard “zombie” outbreak. More, if less highly specialized, troops are on the way now, but there’s always room for specialists on such missions. Plus there was the usual assortment of old ruins to be investigated, but there were always plenty of those. As it stood, Fendahl was scheduled for a mission and a follow-up. At the moment, Elervas was just getting a checking-up on.

All of those required resources exceeding mine to follow up on. Which meant either sitting here twiddling my thumbs for who knows how long or attaching myself to a larger team in hopes of earning some more cash and scavenging equipment. At least that was one bit of good news in all of this: being in the Earth System meant prices were a lot lower than elsewhere and thus my earnings so far translated into a substantial fund. Perhaps I can purchase that new model dropship I’ve been eyeing.

It did look like Van Helsing and Leeroy were collecting a team to deal with the Elervas job. Since they seemed to be at least halfway competent and well-funded, I decided to throw my name in with them for the time being. Civilians frequently need protection against primitive locals and are willing to pay handsomely for it. Well, best to get that new dropship ordered and arrange details for pickup enroute to Elervas.

As we loaded up to head to Elervas, we found at least three of the six subspace drones were carrying warn-off messages and the local emergency beacon was in the same mode. An attack by the locals appeared to be at least part of the problem, but the speed with which the locals broke into the facility was odd. It should have taken a stone and wood tool using tribe much longer to batter their way in thus leaving plenty of time for the civilians to record some details of what was going on. No such detail was recorded though.

Session 01 – 05/20/2016

Arriving in orbit around Elervas, we found the ward-off beacon was still transmitting the same basic amount of non-information that the subspace probes were. We did at least find five more radio signals on the planet though. Three were low-powered transceivers that were intermittently active in bursts, probably hand-held devices then. There was a personal implant transmitter transmitting a distress signal. And finally some sort of source generating spark-gap bursts with no apparent pattern. That possibly was some really basic electrical machinery.

The transceivers were to the northeast of the colony’s location in some rugged terrain. The spark-grap stuff was coming from a location about 100 kilometers to the west of the colony, and the personal distress signal was 24 kilometers to the southeast. No major heat sources were evident though which indicated that the colony’s fusion system was either too deeply buried or was offline. Telescopic observations were similarly non-informative as they showed the area badly damaged but not much in the way of detail. This probably meant we’d need to descend into the lower atmosphere at the very least to get more detail if not actually land.

Given that we likely we dealing with an Idiotic weapon infestation of some sort, I didn’t want to alert the locals to our presence for as long as possible. Ergo, I suggested night overflights of the regions in question. From the available data, it looked like the locals could not perceive red light and weren’t particularly good at seeing dim lights compared to humans. Ergo, it looked like a night overflight with a mounted red spotlight would suffice to evade local detection, highlight difficult to see details, and alert any human survivors to our presence so that they might attempt to signal us.

Annoyingly, the ship’s cook MT (or whatever he/she/it is) was questioning why I would want such a thing. At least Van Helsing and Leeroy seemed to appreciate the idea and went to work rigging something up. We were also finally beginning to get topographical information regarding the locations of the signals detected thus far. The colony itself was situated in a plains environment, the transceivers were in a rugged hilly terrain, the personal implant transmitter was in a swampy biome, and the spark gap stuff appeared to be in more plains. Also on a helpful note the doctor elected to help mix up some tear/allergen gas that would be effective against the locals but not ourselves.

With everything prepared, we loaded up the dropship and descended to about 300 meters above ground level. First off we scouted the area around the personal implant transmitter. The area was covered in wetland forest that was rather dense. From the look of things, something broke though the canopy relatively recently about 45 meters from the signal. At first I was wondering if this was a crash site of a shuttle or some other small craft that fled the attack of the colony, but a further evaluation of the landing site seemed to indicate a controlled landing and clearing of a landing site. However we were now close enough to get some clear readings on that transponder. Looked like who this was now was quite dead given the lack of a heartbeat.

Oh well, best to collect what information we can. The prospector, the doctor Mason, Leeroy, and Van Helsing all elected to drop out of the dropship while I circled the area in case a rapid evac was necessary. From what I heard over the radio as the others investigated, it sounded like this was one Ardel Jones doing some sample collecting before he got attacked by some sort of informational spear weapon from an unknown source. Further examination revealed that Ardel was likely held in stasis by whatever that weapon was. Whatever it was, it was apparently too advanced for the locals to have made recently.

Something about all of this was setting off alarms on an instinctive level for me though. Nothing was showing up on sensors, but I got the distinct impression that while this spear (or whatever it was) was minor in the grand scheme of things, something else was out there that knew how to build such things, control them, and was VERY dangerous. Already my fingers were positioning themselves over the weapons controls in case something made itself known. The reports from below of churning pillars of mud and water erupting out of the swamp lashing out with waves, blasts, and tentacles of muck only reinforced my opinion of the matter.

Urging everyone to return to the dropship if they didn’t want to be left behind, they all scurried back. The prospector though continued to display a number of highly weird informational talents for a human to possess. Oh well, at least she was showing up on an instinctive level as an “incompatible natural hazard” than “enemy”. Once everyone was back aboard, I hit the thrusters hard to lift us back to a reasonably safe altitude.

From there orders came down from Van Helsing to investigate the main colony compound next. A flyover from 300 meters gave us more detail on the damage to the compound. There were both native and human corpses, but not enough to account for the forty or fifty that should have been here. Whatever caused the damage though utilized mainly physical force to do it. Whatever did this likely had support of native auxillaries and was incredibly fast. Most of the damage seemed to focus on the dorms, whatever this was, it was after people. The backup archives seemed undamaged at least. Thermal scans revealed four natives hiding under cover though. While the natives seemed to show no signs of being hostile prior to this incident, it was quite evident that they were now. Someone had probably stumbled upon their War Gods I imagine.

This time Van Helsing, Leeroy, and Mason elected to be dropped on the surface to try to get to the backup archive. Their attempts to sneak into the compound though were cut short as Leeroy did something to attract attention and got skewered by a pair of locals charging him with spears. Given how quickly he went down as a result, either Leeroy’s construction was a lot more fragile than I suspected or those I really need to avoid those pointy sticks at all costs.

Oh well, at least it looked like Van Helsing and Mason managed to get to cover and then inside the compound before the locals had time to respond. Now that they were inside, they were able to get access to the backup system and get a replay of the events leading up to the destruction of the compound. From what the records showed, a Dr Mellius was investigating a site to the west and some time thereafter something humanoid came back with some of the locals and proceeded to tear up the place capturing everyone it could. Given that whatever it was appeared to be Informational based, the fact that the local precursor server was primarily psychic suggested this thing was not native in origin.

Now the question gets to be if I am going to be asked to help kill it and whether I will get additional pay for doing so.

Session 02 – 05/27/2016

I continued to circle the area around the ruined colony scanning for potential threats as I waited for Van Helsing and Mason to finish getting access to the colony’s backups. Thus far we’ve yet to see any indication of substantial anti-air abilities amongst the locals. At least I should be relatively safe up here against the natives armed with spears and what appeared to be somewhat limited psychic abilities. At least I thought that was the case until I started getting really odd indications from the sensors that wind speeds were rapidly increasing as was electrical activity in the cloud layer.

Strange, I don’t recall any indication that a storm front was moving in. The lightning would be annoying but manageable since this was an aircraft. The bigger issue was the rapidly increasing wind speeds and the gusty nature of those winds. Straight hurricane winds I could readily cope with by increasing thrust, but these bursts of wind in semi-random directions was liable to overwhelm my abilities to keep this craft from hitting something. Really odd thing about this was the lack of any precipitation. Probably an informational attack then and one with a lot of power to work with.

I informed Van Helsing and Mason that if they wanted a ride, they’d best do it now because I was prioritizing my own safety over their’s if the chose was to be made. That got them scrambling back to the ship for pickup. I didn’t want to risk a full landing for pickup though for obvious reasons and elected to hover as best as I could manage while they climbed aboard. Attempts to harpoon Leeroy’s “lifeless” body and reel it in were unsuccessful, but Tori was able to assist Mason and Van Helsing to get into the ship. With them aboard, I hammered the thrust hard to get us above the cloud layer. That probably flattened or knocked unconscious the others aboard by the acceleration but that at least got us out of the most immediate danger.

The information from the database, while enlightening about the colony’s final moments and bits about the local culture, did not prove especially useful in determining what exactly we were dealing with beyond poorly translated legends and myths. Part of me was hoping that Van Helsing would just elect to cut our losses, determine that there weren’t much of any survivors left, return to Earth and pay me.

Unfortunately, it didn’t look like things were going to go that way. The next objective given was to recon into the rugged terrain to the northeast where we had been detecting intermittent use of transceivers. An overflight there revealed a number of camps of locals in terrain that seemed quite unsuitable for their anatomy. If I had to wager, I would say that these were locals fleeing the appearance of the informational entity that had attacked the colony. Probably weren’t hostile then unless they were now associating humans with informational horrors.

This promptly led to the discussion of who should go down and try to talk to them. I was not an option for a number of reasons, but the one I chose to vocalize was the fact I was flying the ship. Eventually they decided on the robot (new body manufactured in orbit apparently) that smelled of intensely rotting flesh to head negotiations. Needless to say, I think it is becoming quite evident that my new employers are idiots. Oh well, worst case I suppose I might kill them all if they get too insane and simply fly back to the Earth system where I’ll say I was the only survivor.

Introductions didn’t go over very well as it appeared that the locals have an even more overt reaction to the smell than we did. Not that I am surprised since they asked him to remove the armor that I suspect was bottling much of that stench. Why the others thought it was a good idea to send the rotting robot as an ambassador I couldn’t fathom. Oh well, once we got a audio/visual communications setup going, it was easier for the locals to talk to it as opposed to Leeroy.

We eventually found out that there were six survivors from the colonists amongst the various local tribes. The locals were also claiming that this information entity was some sort of ancient War God or something that they’ve seen before. Well, I guess that means this mission can be labelled a success on some level at least. This began prompts that the next step should be with regards to how we handle the War God. I was partial to using rocks from orbit in his general area to simply make a mess of the place and likely kill him, but the others were partial to using paint guns to nullify his informational abilities and armor. Looked like I was being asked to take the brunt of this in the dropship.

At least it looks like the War God is going to be using a primitive generator to generate lightning attacks that aren’t going to be very effective against a flying machine.

Session 03 – 06/03/2016

I wasn’t real keen on all the modifications the others were making to the dropship by adding a lot of pyrotechnics to the outer hull that would go off when hit with an electrical discharge. Part of me was wondering if we were going overboard with the paint gun idea though. Of course, given the warnings blaring in my head about how powerful and dangerous the War God was supposed to be, I was concerned this whole idea was ill-conceived to start with. Nonetheless, being at the helm of the dropship during the battle with the largest guns and thickest armor was probably the safest place to be. Worst case, I could just take off for orbit, dock with the prospector ship, and head back to Earth.

Further consultation with the locals on how they dealt with the War Gods seemed to indicate that they typically gathered their forces, had a hero eliminate the major informational defenses, and then rushed the thing with sheer numbers (that’s if overwhelming numbers didn’t work at first). Given that they insisted that this had worked in the past, I could only presume that the War Gods were individually highly formidable but not relatively omnipotent. Still, given the unknown level of psychic abilities amongst the locals, I wouldn’t put it past the War Gods to easily be a threat to a heavily armed tactical team either.

This particular War God the locals thought was an Earthmaster (whatever the hell that meant). They expected special weapons, weird devices, armor, fortifications, armed slaves, and considerable physical power. The slaves were likely to be sacrificed on some strange alter for unknown purposes if left alone too long. Any rescued slaves were likely to require some sort of a journey into the Dreamtime or whatever the hell that phrase was supposed to translate to in order to regain their consciousness/minds/souls (another phrase that wasn’t clear).

Scans from orbit and a few high altitude flyovers revealed the fortifications to be a mess of earthen works that would have been at home during the Trojan War. Given the probable presence of long-range attacks and the power to rebuild and reinforce the defenses as needed, I was figuring even an aerial assault was going to be prohibitive. I figured it was a matter of fact that the whole area was criss-crossed with tunnels whose entrances were hidden by the fortifications. I know the initial plan was to storm the place while relying on our superior equipment and firepower to simply overwhelm the defenses, but the presumably extensive underground tunnel system and the fact that this War God could manipulate masses of earth made me extremely leery of entering an enclosed space with it. Nor was it likely to want to come out and fight us head on.

I was willing to attempt a surface assault after nightfall at least to see if it was stupid enough to try and assault us out in the open. However, I had a sneaking suspicion that the plan was quickly going to devolve into us retreating and bombarding the place from orbit. Ten to twenty kiloton explosions hitting the place in rapid succession should generate sufficient shockwaves to either collapse the tunnel system on top of the War God or bury it under so much rubble that it would take weeks or months to dig itself out. Oh well, if the others want to recruit some of the locals to help us attempt an assault, who am I to complain?

Needless to say things did not go as hoped. The locals were able to draw off much of the garrison easily enough, but the War God refused to come out to face us. Tori immediately (and without what I considered fair warning) immediately openned fire upon the fortifications with the prospector ship’s mass driver. Personally, I had been hoping to drop a rock or three on the place for a bit more oomph with each shot instead of this effort that only managed to damage the landscaping. Sigh, this just makes our job harder then. I was all for simply packing it up and leaving things for the locals to deal with, but Van Helsing insisted we attempted an assault in the tunnels.

I still thought it suicidal, but wasn’t likely to get paid unless Van Helsing returned alive. So into the tunnels we went following the drive shaft of the crude watermill/generator contraption we found. The first pair of guards or technicians went down readily enough with sufficient application of paint, as did several more we encountered before finally arriving at the chamber where the War God was directing things. There were a distressing number of slaves in the room with the thing and already my instincts were telling me that this was not a creature/thing to take lightly. Still, it didn’t look like we were noticed yet on our ledge above the chamber.

Rapid consultation between us decided that one of us needed to serve as a distraction to lure the slaves away while the others assaulted the War God directly. Since I was the one most likely able to maintain a lead on any pursuit, I was chosen to be the distraction. Leaping down from the ledge, I fired multiple grenade rounds at the weird runic circle in the room thus destroying it. Landing in the midst of the carnage and destruction I had just wrought, I flared all of my powers in a dramatic show of intimidation as I held one of the unconscious slaves in one hand and roared at the War God in a show of strength.

Despite the bandaged appearance, it was all too easy to note the thing recoil in shock at my presence. Nice to know that I wasn’t the only one here with instincts indicating dangerous monsters present.

It foolishly attempted to use some sort of wind attack to slam me into the wall that I easily sidestepped. Taking my prize (the unconscious slave) with me, I stormed out of the room into one of the adjacent rooms at random. That got a significant majority of the slaves to follow me, but they were quite unable to keep up with my superhuman speed and agility. Recognizing the fool’s game in running around tunnels I had way of knowing which deadended or not, I took the first opportunity to present itself when my pursuers lost line of sight to hide on the ceiling and disguise my “perch” with an illusion of more rock. Predictably, my pursuers kept running down the tunnels beneath me thinking I was still on the run. Once they were out of sight again, I dropped down and returned back to the main chamber to assist in the battle against the War God.

By the time I got back, the War God was on fire and losing the battle badly. A few more grenades finished it off handily as it dissolved into a pile a burning bones and ashes. While this didn’t permanently kill it (since it presumably resided primarily on the Informational Plane), it certainly ended the immediate threat. After that it was a simple job to retrieve unconscious bodies, snack on them a bit to replenish my reserves, and haul them back up to the surface for treatment. From the look of things, this is a lot more successfully rescued “hostages” and thus a bonus to our final penalty.

Session 04 – 06/10/2016

While the locals were able to treat the now mindless slaves, they were of no help against the victims with the ethereal spears imbedded in their chests. Neither was anyone else amongst the colonists or our group able to do anything about it. So we were left with no choice but to return to Earth with them in cryo-stasis and hope there was a specialist there that could deal with it. At least the trip was uneventful, although we got confined to the quarantine zones again once we arrived.

While the others worked on getting us paid and hiring a specialist to help with the colonists in cryo-stasis, I decided to grab something to eat (away from Leeroy’s stench) while I reviewed what missions were available.

-The Idoleran (a research vessel) was still out there stuck in the Kuiper Belt with no one biting.

-The Fendahlr Colony was still out of contact, but a mercenary group had elected to respond. No word had been received from the mercenary group though in the meantime.

-Dolrina’s zombie outbreak was slowly coming under control according to the reports, but isolated pockets of resistance were holding out.

-Hansworth Biogenics had a new line of modified canines that they’d like field-tested, and were willing to pay rather a lot for someone to take them into the Alvitha Labyrinth. From what I recalled, the Alvitha Labyrinth was an underground complex on Mars that has never been properly explored with a few reports of various nasty sea creature like things that resulted in numerous personnel losses.

-The Dercalt Corporation has located what appears to be an alien research station in fairly close orbit around a black hole. They wanted it boarded and investigated (and blown up if needed). Interestingly, the contract specified that they were willing to pay according to Earth-Time rather than per exploration time.

-Another colony had become minimally responsive. What reports there were seemed to indicate that the colonists had suddenly developed a desire for the rest of the universe to go away.

All of them looked to be paying decently for the risk involved. I figured I’d let Van Helsing decide where to go next until he proves my presumptions of his general competency incorrect. In the meantime, it looked like Van Helsing and the others had hired a number of specialists to join our team and help with any Imaginal issues.

-An artificer named Salah al-Din Karam who specialized in being able to construct various “gadgets” that could be used for specific imaginal purposes. However, his gadgets all suffered from some flaw or disadvantage of some sort.

-A dabbler named Jamilah Dutcher that had a knack for disrupting various imaginal effects at touch range.

-A seer named Marika Kaspersen that had a nasty habit of sleep-prognosticating that resulted in obsessions with going to weird (and seemingly random) locations. Often by storming the bridge at gunpoint.

-An individual with a weird talent named Gus Richards that could transform between a physically weak but powerful psychic and a immensely strong but stupid brute.

-A detection specialist named Wentworth Boucher that had a knack for divinations and understanding it with an unusually broad range of detections available.

It was also decided that we were going to the Fendahlr Colony to see what was going on. What information we did have indicated that there planet ad a native sapient species at one point that seems to have gone extinct with the last ice age. There wasn’t much in the way of ruins but that could have been due to the seemingly coastal nature of their species and the fact that the planet nearly had become an ice ball with the last ice age. A number of food caches had been found though that dated as recently as only a few centuries ago.

The mercenary group that had responded first was noted mainly for doing snatch-and-run rescue/salvage operations. They were considered reasonably good at fast rescues, but quite useless on investigations. According to the reports, they were also decently well armed. This suggested either they were trapped on the planet or that something unusual had managed to overwhelm them in fairly short order.

Arriving in orbit, we found no mothership in orbit which lined up with what we had heard about them foolishly using only a single ship on their missions. There weren’t any radio signals coming from the surface that we could detect either. The satellites in orbit had logs indicating a burst of activity some months ago that then terminated shortly thereafter. No transcripts were available though as the satellites are only relays not data storage units. Surface scans showed signs of native settlement/ruin foundations that seemed to be remarkably intact for having been under an ice sheet for millennia. Some of the more recently exposed ones showed signs of differential melting like they had experienced a localized heat wave. At least two of those showed signs of having been disturbed since being uncovered. A third near some sort of crater showed signs of a substantial heat source that had been active even underneath the glacier judging from the meltwater erosion patterns.

The colony’s estimated population of five thousand was spread across six settlements on the southern continent near the equator. Five of those settlements were on the smaller side of things while the sixth one was a larger port facility. Not much sign of any damage from orbit, but there were also few signs of activity. For the most part the various facilities looked abandoned. As for the mercenary ship, it was probably the scattered metallic debris down around the port. No sign of what destroyed it though. It didn’t help any that the sheer amount of volcanic dust and ash in the atmosphere was interferring badly with radio communications either. There were some systems that still seemed to be functional amongst the settlements, but it was all local stuff and seemingly automated.

Part of me was getting concerned that we were dealing with some sort of weird technology that could disrupt conventional technology. If that was true, then it was exceedingly dangerous to head planetside. It would be nice if we had an unmanned probe we could send down to verify things like that, but unfortunately we don’t have one. No choice but to do a low-altitude recon using the dropship. Wentworth Boucher did warn us that according to his divinations while a flyover at 300 meters was safe enough, dropping down to 30 meters was potentially dangerous enough to possibly kill us, even if it wasn’t too likely.

Sigh, no indication on WHAT the threat was though. The fact we were doing this in broad daylight was annoying though. The tinted cockpit windows on the dropship limited the issues with me burning, but I didn’t like to consider my chances if I got stuck on ground level in a firefight in the middle of the day with only my armor and helmet keeping me from catching fire. That would be…. unpleasant.

According to the others, there was a surprising amount of psychic energy running about the surface of the planet. More psychic energy than a planet down to only moderate sized sea life should really be able to sustain. At least part of it was focused on some of the newly uncovered areas. According to the experts in our group, it was also way too variegated than just human life would produce. Then there were the odd trails of dents in spots with a really massive set around the spaceport although all of those start and end quite abruptly. There was some radio traffic under the ash clouds even, but it was sporadic and low-powered. What we could pick up from that was from survivors that were hiding mostly inland and currently grounded. From the sound of it, they set up emergency beacons while a bit torn about not attracting attention versus the need to send at least some information. There may have been survivors around the towns too, but it wasn’t immediately clear. No signs of bodies strewn about which was odd given the lack of local predators or scavengers that could reasonably be expected to pick things clean.

Blast, if I had to guess, we were dealing with a sapient race or biosphere (or ghosts I suppose) that was probably taking possession of the colonists after some event took place that acted as a catalyst. That meant encountering any of the infected colonists or whatever was infecting them (if it could be seen at all) was a far riskier proposition than a simple matter of firepower would suggest. Of course, that was supposing any of this supposition was correct at all. We needed more information and the only way to learn that was to find survivors or encounter whatever got the colonists. Personally, I’d prefer to learn from the colonists what we are dealing with as opposed to finding out the hard way.

With the others in agreement, we headed inland towards one of the presumed larger collections of survivors. The experts said that the psychic energy levels were significantly lower the further we moved inland. At the strongest beacon we found a trio of heavy atmospheric transports. From what I recalled, this model (more or less a flying box) was banned on more heavily populated worlds for using brute force fusion thrusters that generated ridiculous amounts of noise, light pollution, damaging landing fields, and excessive heat dumping. According to the beacon, we had here about 15 crew and 112 passengers that had been picked up at the last minute. No activity was immediately apparent though.

Flying in closer did get an automated response from the flight control computers giving anti-collision and anti-thruster hazards, a query about identification, non-hostile system response, and an attempt to summon the current command staff. It then proceeded to request medical assistance and current information. Querying the computer, it looked like the crew and passengers were in hibernation-suspension. The commanding officer left the system set to evade if anything hostile approached, and was only getting up every week or so for a quick snack and check on the system. He looked to be set to wake up in three days, however he was not responding to the message buzzer.

No choice I guess but to land and search the place. I landed us on a rocky granite outcropping that looked to be the most stable landform around. Disembarking, I took point (making sure to cover my head helmet and that my armor covered the rest of my skin) as we headed towards the lead ship. Getting the door open was easy enough and there were no immediate signs of hostiles. Entering the ship, it definitely appeared that the colonists had done a lot of work. From what we could tell, someone on board was a fairly strong psychic given that inducing this level of stasis normally called for a LOT of equipment or some moderate equipment and someone with some good skills. Given that this looked to be psychically induced, there was probably someone on board that had space emergency training. It would probably take several days to wake everyone, but as long as the ship systems held up and no one was allowed to actually freeze, almost everyone should survive.

The commander we found in one of the cabins in his own stasis trance. This one was self-induced and had a time limit on it. Looked like the automated call buzzer wasn’t sufficient to wake him under these circumstances. Supplies were limited however. It looked like we only had aboard these vessels sufficient supplies to keep everyone going for a couple weeks if we went light on the rations. The cargo was of processed metal, but difficult to determine which metal readily. Apparently no one had dumped it when the emergency broke out. The ships were all showing signs of minor damage on the hulls. Looked like impacts for the most part with some corrosives or energy thrown in for good measure. Probably weapons fire from whatever got the main colony if not the colonists themselves.

I was quickly forming the opinion that until we had more information for what we were dealing with, we needed to start considering plans for evacuating everyone here back to Earth. Our ship couldn’t carry everyone normally, but given some legwork we could probably start packing everyone like sardines in an air-tight box extension that snugly fits inside the warp field. The colonists probably won’t be happy to find themselves waking up on Earth, but that was better than ending up dead or worse.

Now to see about waking someone up safely so we can find out what the hell happened here.

Session 05 – 06/17/2016

It didn’t take long for Mason to wake up the commander. He was pleased to see that a rescue team had arrived. It was quickly decided that any debriefing needed to occur in the air before we attracted too much attention to this location. Taking off, the commander started giving details on what he knew had happened. It looked like things started to go downhill when the pack ice around the southern edges of the continent (or at least near the settlements) started to break up. Shortly thereafter rumors started of things seen out of the corners of eyes. Investigations turned up nothing however. The ships were enroute back to the settlements with a load of metals when things went to hell. Reports of shooting and the settlements under siege from a wide variety of scaly monsters that went after everyone while targetting energy sources first.

The ships picked up refugees, but there wasn’t anywhere left to go and the creatures appeared to be good at finding hiding places. Given that the things only appeared after the ice broke up, the decision was made to retreat inland to try and wait it all out. After that, they put everyone into deep hibernation to conserve food, put everything on low power, and hoped that would be enough to elude detection of whatever the creatures were long enough for rescue to arrive. The plan worked, but I had concerns about how long that would actually last. More importantly we needed to find if there were any more survivors and what exactly type of menace we were dealing with here. Sitting here wasn’t going to answer those questions though. With that in mind we started scans of the other distress beacons we were picking up while the rest of the crew on the prospector made arrangements to evacuate who we could. At least there was quite a bit of processed iron to work with.

We had four more possible significant signals of survivors to check up on with another eighty to ninety less likely signals from our low passes over settlements, but no way to be sure if that was interference or damaged equipment running on automatic. The first location was on the edge of a volcanic caldera where it looked like a small flyer had landed. Idiots probably didn’t realize the danger presented by poisonous volcanic gases their location posed. Ground inspection found eleven dead and one survivor in need of serious medical attention.

Second location was devoid of survivors for a different reason. Here it looked like the ship had been ripped apart into pieces somehow. Connecting to the computer (such as it was given the damage) showed that the ship had been attacked by several creatures nearly 2.5 meters tall. The fact that these creatures were able to rip through the ship’s hull with their bare hands was more than a bit alarming though. The creatures went after the active personnel first before taking out the sleepers. what little remains we found were torn to shreds. Strangely, we didn’t find any sign that the bodies were consumed despite the mess generated. I would have thought this level of dismemberment was a sign of predatory action on some level.

Van Helsing suddenly gave the warning that she was detecting three powerful psychic presences approaching rapidly. We immediately started scrambling to get back to the dropship. I got there first and started rapidly firing up the engines for takeoff. Van Helsing made it aboard fine but Mason was momentarily blocked by a vaguely amphibious creature with two arms, two legs, four tentacles, and fins that he managed to vault over before getting into the ship. With everyone aboard I hit the thrusters hard for quick ascent but rapidly noticed we had a “passenger” on the outer hull trying to force entry. From the sound of groaning metal, I figured the hull wasn’t going to hold for long. We needed to get rid of this thing fast before it got inside and did real damage.

None of the ship’s weapons could reach that section of the hull (usually good reason for that under normal circumstances) and none of the others on board were proving to be of much use in the matter either. Ergo, time for the direct approach. Sighting a nearby and relatively flat rock face, I accelerated the ship hard as a flew to pursue a high proximity flyby of the rock face hoping to use the stone to abrasively sandpaper away our new annoyance. Sadly I got the angle and distance wrong (probably due to our stowaway’s rending of the armor plating) and probably took a bit more of the armor plating off than I had initially wanted. Still a loss of armor plating and some minor holes in the hull were minor compared to having one of those creatures on board considering it would probably take seriously heavy weapons fire to kill.

For good measure I brought the ship around and fired a pair of missiles at its location. If that didn’t kill it, it was surely buried under the ensuing landslide. Meanwhile Mason and Van Helsing were making themselves useful in patching holes in the hull so we would be spaceworthy again. Probably best to eliminate the two remaining creatures before they could carry word of our presence and possibly our past movements back to wherever they had come from. With that in mind I started firing the guns and missiles at the two creatures with distressingly little effect considering the level of armaments I had specifically requested this ship be equipped with. At least one seemingly retreated by melting/merging/phasing into the ice sheet while the other seemed intent on attacking us despite my possession of the tactical advantage given our altitude.

Which became really annoying when that one suddenly showed up on the outside of the cockpit window looking right at me. Even with superhuman speed and jumping ability, that thing shouldn’t have been able to do jump up a hundred meters without my own superhuman reflexes catching it. Damned thing must have teleported then somehow. I briefly toyed with the idea of letting the thing smash its way in so that I could rip out its throat, but the cockpit window was going to be a pain to replace afterwards. Simply sending the craft into a tight corkscrew in an attempt to fling it off was likely to do similar amounts of damage given the presumed grip strength this thing had. Best bet was to limit its means of action while still changing the situation to one where I lived and it didn’t. Time to head for orbit.

Given the damage to the ship’s hull already done, I didn’t want to risk full acceleration. The fact the g-forces that would have involved would likely have killed the others on board too was incidental in my opinion. Nicely, this did mean the creature was now having to expend most of its effort to stupidly hold on to the hull against slipping off. Annoyingly though, this did not to preclude it using what I could only presume was a line-of-sight psychic attack to forcibly boil off the water from my body. It quickly became a battle of attrition between my less-than-human physiology and that thing’s inability to breathe the rapidly depleting oxygen content of its surroundings. Hopefully, even if I “died”, the ship’s dead-man’s switch would cause the autopilot to take over and level out the flight trajectory thus allowing the prospector ship to recover us.

Luckily it died glued to the windshield before I could black out from the continual water loss. Needless to say, even with Mason’s attempts at healing weren’t helping me recover quickly despite the liters of water I was drinking. As soon as we docked with the prospector ship I immediately went to medical and grabbed several bags of blood to partake of. I didn’t really care that Van Helsing and the others found my eating habits disturbing. They’re who hired me knowing what I am and if they can’t deal with my special nutritional needs then they may encounter some unpleasant circumstances should they try to force the issue.

Turning my attention back to the dropship, I found that a section of the armor had been sheared off and attempts to pry the creature off the windshield were proving fruitless. Oh well, this is why we purchase lots of spare parts. Diagnostics also showed a distressing number of faults on the drive system. Inspecting that, I found that a number of components were entirely gone as if they had simply been torn out or ceased to exist and a number of support struts were brittle and cracked. Only reason the system remained functional was the sheer number of redundant systems and components. Blasted creatures were probably flinging parts into hyperspace or subspace in order to try and make us crash. More parts to pull from spares for installation then.

Meanwhile the others had been investigating the remains (such as they were). From their report the creature was apparently adapted for underwater existence, probably amphibious. Obviously intelligent, although how intelligent was debatable. Several combat adaptions, apparently used the tentacles to grab and restrain and claws for close combat. The fins and webbing were severely damaged, but there was enough left to say “good at swimming”. A few bits of crude metalwork are embedded here and there, probably not natural. The Skeletal structure was robust, and supplemented by scaly natural armor, but the tentacles are an obvious anomaly; they looked almost like they’re adapted from another creature entirely. There was a network of air bladders, apparently capable of adjusting for neutral buoyancy at a wide variety of depths.

It did NOT seem like a tool maker, but did seem to have some. There may be multiple intelligent species or variant forms on this one. It had higher than human psychic potential, apparently focused on militaristic applications. Given the impracticality of such a specialization as a general thing, likely either trained or a caste power. Cold-blooded, but fairly rapid metabolism regardless, we didn’t have the equipment to analyze enzyme structures, but they either operated efficiently at lower temperatures than the human setup or their psychic abilities play a roll. Traces of “antifreeze” compounds in what is left of the blood that were protein-based, either internally produced or injected. Not enough of the internal organs left to say which. Too much damage to say if some of it is artificial.

Not really enough information to inform us on immediately effective counters though. Still, we needed to investigate the remaining major site and the remains of the settlements for survivors. A quick high altitude flyby of the fourth site was curious given the lack of anything but snow, ice, and rock despite the area being a source of a number of radio signals. A lower altitude hover did reveal a good deal of camouflage netting around the area. Definitely seemed to be human in origin compared to what little we’ve seen of what the natives produce. Probably some sort of imaginal totems shielding the place against sensors. Soon enough we got a set of humans waving us down. Landing, we found them pleased to see us, and were informed that there were nearly two hundred survivors hiding here. Looking at probably only 6% of the colony had survived this long, maybe 10% if we were lucky.

Sadly, while these people seemed to have found ways to avoid detection from the creatures, they hadn’t been able to make effective use of that beyond supply raids and rescuing the occassional survivor. Apparently whatever imaginal ward they were using had severe limits on what it could hide. Nor did it look like they had much more information in the way of what these creatures were or how to combat them. Powered weapons and vehicles quickly became useless in the wake of the creatures’ ability to make parts decay or simply vanish. Apparently all this is believed to have started when a colonist shot one of the first physical manifestations of whatever these things were doing when they weren’t corporeal.

At the very least we were exceeding our capacity for the prospector ship to move everyone back to Earth even if we made new storage units to attach to the ship. So the decision was made to send the prospector ship back to Earth where it could request a larger ship be sent to facilitate evacuation. In the meantime, the bulk of the team was to remain behind, help guard the survivors, search for more survivors, and then possibly recon for further information on these creatures. Perhaps that might entail investigating that copper mine they seem to have opened up. Although I suspected that the bulk of the natives’ civilization was to be found under the ocean where we had very little means of investigating. Not that I was feeling particularly inclined to enter an environment that greater favored the locals over me despite even my superhuman abilities.

Best to see who else (if anyone) has survived this long.

Session 06 – 06/24/2016

I was against doing too much recon from the air simply because of the risk of alerting the locals to our presence and thereby risking further damage to our only current means of escape from this planet (even if it is just further inland, to orbit, or to a moon I suppose). Meanwhile Tori was making weird complaints about the damage my ship had sustained during the last battle and attempting to explain that to some “shipping board”. Considering that repairs were already complete and the ship was in a far better state than her’s, I wasn’t sure where this complaint was coming from. Of course, it didn’t really matter in the end: my ship, my piloting, and my problem to deal with if and when it came up.

From the look of things, we had six possible locations to scout out: four were by the sea where they had been exploiting for access to food and appeared to have suffered the worst of the damage, the port was also pretty smashed up with the damage focused on the center of town, and then there was a small mining settlement showing relatively little major damage. I advocated against flying into the midst of the settlements and instead suggested that we land some ways out, set the autopilot to take off and fly around at a decent altitude, and then be programmed to land after a set amount of time had passed to pick us up again. Part of me suspected that the dropship was going to prove more a liability than an asset in trying to scout while evading detection anyways. There was some debate over the exact timeframe to set the autopilot to wait, but we eventually settled on eight hours. That was the supposed duration of the talismans’ ability to hide us from detection, although I was more than a bit dubious about how effective those things were going to be.

I leaned towards scouting out the mining settlement first given that the damage there seemed minimal compared to the rest. That probably meant a higher chance of survivors. MT started complaining about our lack of planning, but I figured that since the ship’s cook had yet to volunteer anything of value during all of this it was all probably projection and whining for his having ended up in this situation. Can’t say that any of that was at all my problem.

Approaching the settlement on foot, it was obviously not very large. The place was situated on a spur of mountains that reached into the sea as a series of islands. From the look of things, it appeared that the locals had figured out doorknobs given the relative lack of destruction about the place. The various house computers were still active, but in standby/backup power mode. Didn’t seem to be anything for it except to get closer and hope the computers had some clues stashed away that could help us search for survivors.

Meanwhile, I cracked open the visor on my helmet to let me get better access to the smells of the place. There were a few reasonably fresh scent trails of humans to be found, a number of old alien odors I didn’t recognize, and the smell of old blood about. On top of that was the smell of rotting food. Following the scents of humans from downwind of the town did reveal that a number of the alien scents seemed to start and stop abruptly. Probably further evidence of their ability to teleport again in my opinion. Which was going to make attempts avoid any patrols difficult given that the blasted creatures could in theory teleport right on top of us. This was far from what I could consider ideal.

From what I could tell, a small squad of the aliens came through the place frequently, but an equally small group of humans was sneaking about semi-regularly. Most of the human trails seemed to originate higher in the mountains while the alien ones came from the direction of the sea. According to the others, the teleportation origin points seemed to indicate that a large amount of energy was being expended at those locations. Supposedly the areas were prepared or attuned somehow. I figured it was humans being used to sacrifices to power the things, but the others said it didn’t feel like that.

Oddly enough, the damage around here seemed surprisingly methodical. It looked like the aliens were prepared for small arms fire by avoiding line of sight and such. Odd for a species (or multiple species) that looked like it preferred “charge and grab” tactics given the lack of ranged attacks beyond mental powers. Either these things were learning by observation of humans, or they were somehow acquiring this knowledge from their human captives somehow. Could they possibly be absorbing the knowledge from the humans they captured or killed? Oh well, I was about to bark at the others that we needed to keep moving towards the mountains to avoid getting ambushed when I noted the wind carried the fresh scent of a number of the aliens.

Damn it all to Hell. I informed the others and started shoving some of the slower moving ones into hiding positions while they brought up camera feeds to try and track our latest arrivals. From what I could tell, they were starting a methodical sweep of the area starting from a few ridges over. Probably likely that they were going to sweep the whole area in my mind. At least the blasted things didn’t seem as nimble at climbing, weren’t very fast, and demonstrated a distinct lack of agility especially compared to humans. We probably had five to ten minutes before we were found at most. We needed to keep distance between us and head towards the mountains if we were going to hope to avoid a confrontation. Another point in our favor at least was that these things didn’t seem to have much of a sense of smell on land or else the humans that have been scavenging around would have been hunted down weeks ago.

We were moving up into the mountains when we were finally spotted by the aliens whereupon they sent a squad of four moving (with periodic teleports) our direction. I suggested finding a defensible position, although I wasn’t entirely sure what constituted defensible against an enemy that can teleport right into the midst of us. Regardless, I pulled out my rifle and prepared to let loose a series of grenades at the aliens once hostilities commenced. At least this got us a good look at the teleporting ability in action. Whatever it was, it was short range, required line of sight, and had some sort of a recovery time. Longer range seemed to require more power buildup and a correlating recovery time. Minimum recovery time was twenty to thirty seconds it seemed.

As I was about to squeeze the trigger as the aliens entered weapons range, I heard the others arguing about trying to open contact. I was about to shout at them that they needed to decide quickly when suddenly Van Helsing threw a ridiculous hat contraption onto Mason’s head and I could only presume that Mason began to try to do something telepathically. Meanwhile I got a chance to see the aliens’ weapons and gear from much closer as they came to an abrupt halt still some hundred meters distant. Looked like they were carrying bundles of seaweed, balls of what I could only presume was some sort of jelly, and crude bronze knives. From the look of things, I would wager it was standard issue equipment given the consistency between them all.

I could only guess they had paused their ascent after us either out of confusion or a desire to acquiesce to our request to talk. Mason wasn’t being entirely clear on his translations though. He did note a general feeling of impatience and irritation regarding us, but also a desire that we be captured quietly without causing injuries to their people. He claimed at least to have established a temporary truce while negotiations took place. He thinks.

Three hours of waiting later, the negotiator for the aliens arrived stomping out of the sea. Unfortunately, this thing easily was in the skyscraper category for size and could probably give Godzilla a run for his money. Except this thing was a mass of tentacles and lots of eyes on some of those tentacles. Thankfully it wasn’t radioactive at least. On the other hand, I was fairly sure there wasn’t sufficient firepower available on this planet to kill that thing if we had to unless it happened to be covered in extremely flammable slime. It had to have some weird sort of augmentation given the fact that gravity hadn’t ripped it open like a giant water balloon filled with giblets. I have to wonder if the old writer Lovecraft had been picking up psychic emanations from this thing or something like it when he started writing too.

We did find out that this… thing did not approve of “minor menaces” such as myself. I’d feel insulted if I wasn’t facing a creature that easily outweighed a battleship. On the whole (such as it was), the thing seemed to consider humans as visitors, infestation, burglars, accidents, a good chance at getting some more recent data on nearby interstellar problems, things to insert into random memories of fancy jellyfish, research opportunities, creatures who do not know what is good for them, brave creatures who still dare to travel and colonize, mysterious entities using incomprehensible forces that are really hard to detect, creatures that need more seaweed with air bladders in it, unfortunately cripples who have to make do with hands instead of adding specialized tentacles, and a couple of dozen other things, ranging from the highly complimentary to the highly annoyed. There was an underlying irritation perhaps best expressed as “you started it” though. Probably referring to the colonists firing the first shot though.

Mason managed to get across that it was a misunderstanding, at least we think so. Still, it looks like we’re going to get paid for this effort and survive long enough for that to happen.

Session 07 – 07/01/2016

The trip back to Earth was uneventful save for the occassional bit of trouble due to the prospector ship’s lack of what I would call reasonable maintenance. The cook didn’t seem to appreciate my concern over the current state of repair though. Why he gave a damn about my lack of “respect” for the “captain” was beyond me. He needs to learn that I only take orders from Van Helsing and that is if I am continuing to get paid. No promise of pay and all bets are off.

On Earth there was considerable surprise at our discovery of a more-or-less functional alien civilization, even if it was aquatic. From what I could gather, the bulk of the surprise stemmed from our making more-or-less peaceful contact with it. Unfortunately, this meant a great deal of reports, details, and debriefings were requested of us. And that meant more effort had to be expended on my part to at least pretend to be human. On the plus side of things, this did mean we were getting a substantially improved pay for this mission. Can’t really argue with that. Although the fame we seemed to have acquired as part of this mission was more than a bit concerning.

Not much had changed regarding the missions available the last time around although new ones were now on the listing too. Of course there were more ruins to be explored. A set of military prototypes that were being testing in one of the more dangerous areas of Poictisome (one of the more populous worlds) was up for retrieval. The Martian town of Iobvan was being besieged by giant (as in dog to horse sized) insects and were finding it really annoying although they were mostly handling it by staying in some of the older and thus more robust housing. A prospector ship had reported a major deposit of Isolite Crystal on one of the fringe worlds that was being defended by insurgents. Given the lack of a colony on that world, I had to question the choice of the word “insurgent” on that one. According to the others, Isolite Crystal was an aberrant material known for its use in photon storage systems and for its rather extreme ability to distort the path of light.

To me the best idea seemed to be to do the missions in the Sol System in fairly rapid succession as a means to build up some quick cash and resources. That meant taking on the Idoleran research vessel out in the Kuiper Belt followed by the two Mars missions of testing the modified canines in the Alvitha Labyrinth and assisting Iobvan with their bug problem. The others quickly agreed with this assessment and preparations were made to head to the Idoleran.

From what we knew, the Idoleran was researching anomalous ice accumulations with high-density cores, surveying for interstellar thermal paths (a theory about detecting FTL routes), collecting samples for bioanalysis (testing panspermia theories or possibly just how common contamination from earlier civilizations and species was), and resource-surveying for a bunch of “nutcases” who felt that colonizing ice asteroids and mining them for fusion was a better route than colonizing planets. Personally, I figured colonizing comets and asteroids was a saner plan than the already proven disasterous track record with other planets. I found it highly unlikely that there was Idiot contamination on EVERY Kuiper and Oort Cloud body in this system and elsewhere. The fact that there amount of sunlight out here amounts to little more than bright starlight helped my assessment too. The counterargument was that when something goes wrong, you had a greater chance of living long enough to fix things on a planet than you did on a snowball out in the depths of the solar system. I figured this would be offset at least by the sheer number of installations and colonies that could be set up. Oh well.

Arriving in orbit of the planetoid, it appeared to be over seventy kilometers in diameter with a surface gravity of 0.01 G and an icy surface. What information existed in the archives suggested a substantial rocky core with warmer spots and traces of outgassing, but not much of either. Although warm was probably relative when dealing with temperatures that would still freeze nitrogen into ice. From what we could see, it looked like the crew of the Idoleran had embedded and frozen their ship into the ice. Apparently their idea was to use the ship as an airtight base of operations that accessed a pressurized tunnel they dug deeper into the iceball. This seemed like an extravagent effort to go through considering they buried the ship thirty meters down.

Presumably they weren’t so stupid as to completely seal themselves in. There should be an airlock of some sort that pokes through the ice so we didn’t have to tunnel into their ship. Sensors scans did eventually find the airlock, along with data that suggested the ship was quiet. It looked like the fusion systems were idling and producing a ship temperature of -20 Celsius. Sensors also confirmed the presence of a rocky core suggesting that the ball had originated closer towards the sun before being ejected this far out somehow. The others said the place was a few degrees warmer than it should have been.

We finally found the airlock. Looked to be locally fabricated and rather crude too. Not much room besides enough space to send one person at a time through. Leeroy volunteered to experience an explosive decompression accident first. Unfortunately, he was unable to fit without substantial disassembly, which then necessitated some of us following him in to reassemble him. Which ultimately meant that Van Helsing, Mason, and I all entered the tunnels to scout the place and reassemble Leeroy. Temperature was below -30 Celsius, there was a faint humming sound, the air was breathable, but with detectable contamination with ammonia and other volatile contaminants. The floor was obvious ice, and looked to have been sprinkled with ground up rock to provide traction.

Lights revealed weird and seemingly random patterns tracing through the ice via refractions and reflections. The ship itself seemed to be mostly undamaged at least. Typical sounds of humming and dripping water were echoing through the tunnel as one might expect, but the sound of bells or clanking metal was seemingly out of place. I could obviously smell ammonia and other contaminants in the air such as alcohol and sulfur compounds, however the smell of burnt insulation, smoke, chemical explosives, and frozen blood spoke of a disaster having played out here. Part of me was willing to bet the scientists had killed themselves mishandling the explosives, although the others didn’t think that likely.

Mason found some biochemical analysis gear and was trying to see what he could learn from that. He did say that the scientists found the place oddly rich in organics, thus implying an energy source to feed things and signs of bacterial activity deeper in the snowball. Meanwhile I found the airlock to the ship and decided to probe inside to see if there were any clues as to what happened. Inside, the ship was warmer, but still only just barely above freezing. Someone had gone to town painting the place with the most insane abstract art I’ve seen.

Ignoring that for the time being, I focused on tracking down the crew. I did find several at least, or what was left of them. One on the bridge was most a dehydrated husk with signs of flash burns and several broken bones. Another in the crew quarters was another dehydrated corpse with little damage to the body, but quite a bit done to the room near the door. One was frozen solid in another room that was slightly below freezing for some reason. Another died in her sleep via unknown means (although I suspect a life support system failure). In Engineering, one was cut in half then dried out in a very messy fashion while another was at station with a bunch of wires wrapped around the various bones. The whole ship reeked of old death and dried up food.

The fusion plant was still running at a fairly decent power level with more being used than was obvious based on what I could tell was running. It seemed well-maintained and was extracting fuel from the hydrogen in the ice outside despite what should have been decades of lack of maintenance. Needless to say, I found all of this highly suspect. Computer logs of the crews’ last days seemed to confirm that the crew were all killed in freak equipment malfunctions in rapid succession. This ruled out the more mundane biological causes like a disease or whatnot. Bacteria, even nominally weird ones, usually don’t cause such deliberate equipment failures. And that didn’t even begin to touch on maintaining the fusion system. Ergo, my theory was leaning towards something like nanites or some sort of computer virus.

It looks like before the final disaster, the crew had discovered a concentration of near-pure metals including some heavy elements. It was warmer than the rest of the snowball, probably due to radioactive decay. It was also at the center of the biochemical and biological signatures, and was fairly near the surface. Their efforts to dig down to it ran into a layer of much harder than usual ice (never explained) with strange striations. When they broke through that, they found the inside even warmer than originally detected (although still below freezing). Things seem to go fine for the next few days before the walls started changing colors and then things went incoherent as people began to die in weird “accidents”.

As if on cue, as I began entertaining thoughts on computer viruses and nanites, Leeroy began to complain of a headache in both of his “heads”. Given that zombie robots or whatever the hell he was shouldn’t be able to experience headaches, I suspected that he got infected with whatever took over the ship’s systems. The others began to disarm him (both here and the main body on the prospector ship) and I directed them to start disconnecting computer control to all systems that could be shut off or run in manual if needed. At least we should be better prepared for whatever is going on than the crew were.

Session 08 – 07/08/2016

As we took controls offline, minor systems began to shutdown. At which point a cascade of black motes which seemed to “glitter” with darkness began pouring out of the engine spaces. And the ship began shaking a bit. To make things more ominous, there were sounds of ice cracking, a dimming of the light, the temperature was dropping rapidly.

Sigh, we were probably dealing with a nanotech swarm or something equally weird that had managed to take control of the ship’s computers. Flamethrowers and EMP’s might be best for combating this, although I think it might be better to withdraw from the ship where the computer has machinery to use against us. Unfortunately, that meant getting outside as quickly as possible and it looked like whatever this was appeared to be intent on attacking us.

Cables and other connectors were snaking through the air towards us, presumably held up by the magnetic gravity simulation system. There was also a selection of floating cleaning supplies added to the mix and the main power feeds that had been snaking deeper into the comet. On top of all of this, the magnetic gravity was getting quite erratic. Van Helsing shot at the cleaning supplies with the flamethrower, which meant the air quality degraded rapidly to the point that sealed air supplies would be needed for those concerned with such issues. At least the tool handles and roomba failed to elicit much of any damage with their pathetic attempts at attacking us. The fact that they were all burning though was quite another matter as that hurt significantly more than the impacts of the plastic itself.

To add to our issues, whatever was attacking us was now flinging furniture, maintenance tools, and other heavy objects at us in an attempt to kill us. Making our way to the airlock, we found ourselves increasingly troubled by the attacks aimed at us. Van Helsing was flailing uselessly at blocking the attacks with the crumbling remains of the roomba. Sighing in frustration, I opened one of the nearby cabinets, tore the door of the hinges, and handed it to her to use as a more effective shield as I tore off another for myself. That neatly helped in blocking the bulk of the attacks on us or at least limiting the damage caused.

Unfortunately, Mason informed us that the ship’s anti-personnel weapons were trained on the airlock we were hoping to exit from. Not feeling our chances of handling the anti-personnel weapons were especially good, we needed to find another means of egress from the ship. Given that all the other airlocks I was aware of all led directly to walls of ice or more anti-personnel weapons, we needed to make a hole in the hull if we hoped to get out. Luckily, this is one of the reasons I always carry a few extra clips of grenades with me. Pulling out a few clips, I started rigging them up as an impromptu remotely activated explosive device. Sadly, focusing on this inadvertently led to me getting impaled by a number of screwdrivers, pliers, and other tools in the back. Painfully annoying, but not nearly as bad as it would of been if I had been human.

To make matters worse, after I had set the charge we started getting attacked by electrical cables carrying a serious current. This made retreating to a section of the ship better protected from the explosion I was hoping to make even more difficult.Only insulator I could find nearby though was the carpeting. Van Helsing was struggling to cut out a piece using a knife when I threw him aside, dug my claws into the carpet, and simply tore off a large piece using brute strength. Then it proved a simple enough matter to grab the cables using the carpeting and then tearing the cables out with a bit of strength and leverage. Once the immediate threat of attacks was neutralized for a moment, I then directed Van Helsing to hide behind a bulkhead as I detonated the grenade clips.

That neatly made a hole in the hull in a location the anti-personnel guns couldn’t reach. Why a science vessel from that era felt the need for such things was not entirely clear to me though. Mason was already attempting to use his telekinetic abilities to dismantle one of the guns, meanwhile Leeroy’s “corpse” was apparently attempting to get free of some crude bindings in an attempt to presumably kill us. Emptying a clip of rifle rounds into it neatly stopped that menace from manifesting at least. That just left trying to get outside the ice ball without the science ship shooting at us. It didn’t help matters that much of the equipment I had was now malfunctioning. This included the commlinks that allowed us to talk to the prospector ship.

At least Mason was able to still talk to the prospector ship and inform us that the crew were attempting to use the communication laser to drill to our position so we didn’t have to attempt to use the existing tunnel to escape. That neatly sucked us out into space as the interior was suddenly exposed to vacuum. I had no doubt we had all reached escape velocity by this point. My suit was no longer airtight, which would have been annoying except for the fact that I was drying out fast. Becoming dessicated was going to present a much larger problem to remaining functional much longer. Mason eventually caught up with me and stuffed me into stasis and an rescue air bubble.

Awaking on the prospector ship later, all of my injuries were healed although all of my equipment had been removed and destroyed to prevent spreading the contamination of whatever this thing was. At least digging another tunnel with the laser and using it send our divination expert in so she could try to learn what exactly we were dealing with. What she was able to determine was that we were dealing with two different “artifacts” here. One was apparently an informational technology spaceship trapped deep in the ice. Meanwile, the other was a spacefield/microtech entity or entities (strangely related to vampires like myself in some ways) that had somehow infected the informational ship. The crew were able to isolate and quarantine the infection using some sort of binding or sealing spell, but had to abandon the ship in the process. Some long period of time later, the science vessel we were investigating stumbled upon the place, got infected as well, and the entire crew was lost in the process.

A potentially functional (or at least well-preserved) informational ship was going to be worth quite a bit of money for discovering. Still, I felt it best if we ensured that the science ship’s power and drive systems were sufficiently damaged to ensure that this infection didn’t try to leave and possibly reach Earth, Mars or any other major world before a serious team could get here to clean out the place. Unfortunately, that meant going back in.

Session 09 – 07/15/2016

While we prepared another go at this, we did receive some news from the inner solar system. It looked like a mining operation in Saturn’s rings were facing an issue with many of the workers disappearing without much of a trace. Perhaps we could swing by there and investigate after we finish here and deal with the misssions on Mars first.

Currently I was advocating that we use the laser system Leeroy set up to drill a hole through the ice and and science ship’s fusion reactor in hopes of ensuring the thing was stranded and starved of power it could use to try to do something untoward to either us or any follow-up missions. Given that the fusion plant was also the main propulsion system, that ensured we had good chances of killing two birds with one stone.

Unfortunately, the diviner informed us that the laser was unlikely to work against this enemy. Kinetic impact or an explosion had much better chances though. That meant getting closer though, and thereby risking the thing throwing off spores or whatever out into space that could inflict more chaos on whatever they landed on. Best way I could think of to minimize that was to make a long and winding tunnel that would absorb and dissipate that energy before it had a chance to exit the ice ball. The laser could make a tunnel easily enough, but lasers unfortunately only travelled in straight lines. Mirrors could help with that though.

Luckily we had some mirrors stashed away. So I grabbed one of the spare spacesuits and performed an eva to place the mirrors and guide the laser to drill out our tunnel. This process took days to accomplish, but eventually we were able to make a zig-zag gradually widening tunnel. Unfortunately, this still left us with a gap of tens of meters between the end of the tunnel and the hull of the science ship. Unfortunately, this gap made it possible for the science ship to potentially shoot at us if we attempted to disable it.

This prompted Van Helsing and MT proceeded to bring rockets launchers down the tunnel to assist me in shooting at the science ship. Properly armed, we then kicked out the remaining ice in the way and proceeded to open fire. Immediately I could see that there had been a few changes in the cavern. Looked like there had been some very odd attempts at repairs. Whatever was doing the patching appeared to have no idea how an Earth-style ship was supposed to be assembled.

My shot took out a plasma projector while Van Helsing managed to ricochet a rocket off a number of surfaces before hitting another missile launcher in the midst of repairs, thus causing it to fire a missile into the back of the science ship. It looked like the drive system was venting which was a good sign, however we were now facing a number of missiles coming at us. One shot hit the wall and scattered tons of ice in a hail of debris which bounced around and ricocheting everywhere. The other missile made a bee-line straight for the tunnel we were occupying.

I barely managed to dodge the missile itself, but the subsequent explosion and hail of shrapnel and ice did not help matters. Much worse was the shrapnel hitting the mirrors and unleashing an explosion of silver plated glass everywhere. The missile and ice fragments were bad enough, but the silver plated glass made a number of burning wounds that weren’t going to heal on their own. At least I was still mobile, Van Helsing was unconscious and MT was also injured badly. As we made our way back to the ship, Mason met us and helped stabilize Van Helsing.

It looked like the prospector ship had come under attack from missiles somehow. One of the cargo bays was exposed to vacuum and there was some general damage, but nothing catastrophic. We were going to have to decontaminate the ship and our equipment again and possibly stop over at a shipyard for repairs, but otherwise the damage was limited. Unfortunately, the mission objective of disabling the fusion reactor and thruster systems was a failure. Van Helsing thought he might have damaged the thruster, but there was not a lot of evidence to support a critical disabling of the engine.

Oh well, at least we have valuable information on an informational ship to sell and it looks like we might have crippled the science ship for the time being. Whether our employers can take advantage of that remains to be seen. Still, this mission should turn a hefty profit. I just find it highly annoying that an entity (entities?) possessing a science ship should prove to be this major a threat to me.

Session 10 – 07/22/2016

Selling information about the informational ship to the authorities did turn a tidy profit. This in combination with our reward for first contact with a functional alien civilization did mean we had quite a substantial amount of funds to our names. The bulk of mine went towards purchasing upgrades for the dropship including the main drive system. Replacing the equipment I had lost during the mission to that science ship was a much cheaper matter relatively. Plus since it looked like we might be going bug hunting on Mars next, I procured a hand held minigun that should prove useful in dealing with swarms of insects.

Arrving in orbit around Mars, we started receiving data on what we were facing. It looked like the insect problem was a new thing and not a periodic thing the locals had to deal with. The insects themselves were typical Earth types that had been imported during the terraforming process. Except now those insects were the size of large dogs or horses. Apparently 30-40 of the things popped up everyday according to the reports. The selection was rather random too: beetles, wasps, moths, butterflies, ants, and other insects. They didn’t seem to break into places very often, but at least one family got eaten despite being in a shelter.

This at least suggested this wasn’t just an anthill that dug into something weird. There was also no obvious sign of tactics or intelligent purpose to their actions. This suggested a food source or a water supply had been contaminated. I suppose it was also possible that a terraforming lab went rogue. The labs said that the insects were a direct scale-up which should not work at all. Even the cells were bigger now. No clear indications on whether there was a hard limit on how many of these things were running around. There just wasn’t enough food, water, and oxygen to be supporting creatures of this size. Probably some weird informational or spacefield effect in play here.

Locally, Iobvan was a mining town that focused on crystals and small deposits of exotic metals. It was built around a terraforming station where most of the population was now sheltering. We really needed to learn more about the extent of the area affected or at least how widespread the insects were. Towards that end, a plan was made to make flybys of the area and have someone fire radio tags at the insects coated with epoxy gel to adhere to the exoskeletons. I helped pilot the dropship for that while the one of the others shot at insects. Meanwhile Mason and Leeroy both were investigating the corpses of insects for clues as to what was going on.

This definitely wasn’t microtronic, biotech, psychic or informational. That left only spacefields as a possible option. That suggested we were dealing with a projection effect as opposed to insects that really were the size of a horse. That neatly explained why MT’s attempts to cook one failed to produce anything beyond boiled water. Divinations seemed to agree with that assessment. Strange thing was, that should be showing anomalous heat or cold signatures.

Tracking efforts were at least turning up some useful data after a few days. Most important piece of data was that the giant insects appeared to be centered on an region with a radius of seven kilometers. Beyond that it appeared that the insects shed the trackers. More likely in my opinion that the insects shrank back to normal size beyond that range and thereby either the tracker fell off or it squashed the still attached but now much smaller bug.

Unfortunately, any further investigation was interrupted by the sounds of shouting and screaming from the halls. Checking on that, it looked like a giant centipede had entered the facility somehow. Given that the blasted thing nearly filled the corridor, and the fact that it currently chasing some fleeing colonists, trying to stop it from eating the colonists was going to be difficult with them in the way. It was easily over a meter in width and over two meters tall standing on its legs. Shooting through the colonists to hit the centipedes is probably going to get frowned upon.

Leeroy rectified the problem by leaping into the jaws (mandibles?) of the centipede so it would focus on eating him first. Mason closed the blast doors to help trap the thing, and Van Helsing started pulling out gallons of pesticide that I don’t recall him ever having in his possession earlier. I stood back trying to stay out of the way and ready to intervene in case this counter-assault didn’t work. Shortly after an exchange of blows, the centipede exploded and then imploded in a shower of pesticide.

With the immediate threat out of the way, things turned to figuring out how the centipede got inside. We did eventually trace the trail of torn up carpeting to a cold spot that seemingly was torn up out of nowhere. This suggested that a random centipede was spontaneously super-sized in the middle of the hallway. This unfortunately meant that to properly defend the colony, we’d have to prevent all insects from entering the premises whether they were normal sized or not. That vastly complicated any sort of defense plan.

More survey work eventually revealed that the area experiencing this issue was an ovoid with two major axi. One was near an exotic metal deposit that’s been being mined, the other near one of the original resources that was supporting the town – a much larger operation producing aberrant crystals. No apparent weird anomalies during mining operations were recorded when the giant insects started appearing though. Nothing about the two substances suggested that they could be the direct cause of this either. The aberrant crystal was a variant on graphene that made thin sheets of rigid or flexible material depending on whether an AC or DC current was run through it. The exotic metal was a weird form of copper that was used in stardrives because it could help with containing and focusing the negative energy spark needed for warp to operate.

At least the operation around the copper pit was associated with the smaller radius of the ovoid of effect. Unfortunately, to get more information we were probably going to have to go to the mining sites and investigate directly. Which may mean more crawling around narrow tunnels filled with giant insects that could potentially overwhelm or trap us. Lovely.

Session 11 – 07/29/2016

Landing outside the main mineshaft, I told the dropship to hover around the area until we signaled it to come pick us up. It was decided I would enter first while everyone else followed and Leeroy covered the rear. The low gravity and construction of the mineshaft (lots of supports and occasional piece of sheet metal) left me fairly confident that a reasonable amount of weapons fire wasn’t likely to collapse the tunnel in on us, but I was concerned about getting cornered and trapped in these narrow and winding corridors. Outside the entrance it looked like a giant anthill was in progress here. Giant ants were occasionally popping out of the ground to drop some piece of dirt or rubbish on the anthill entrance. Every once in a while though, they’d leave some rocks on a smaller pile about a hundred meters away from the main entrance.

According to the science types, the rocks in the separate pile had a lot of inclusions of the crystals that the had been digging previously. While interesting, I wasn’t sure I understood the importance of this fact considering that it didn’t look like the ants were actually using the crystals for anything beyond building a pile. The others got in touch with an entomologist who confirmed that ordinary ants do not sort crystals from dirt. The general guess was that the ants were being controlled via a psychic effect of some sort. It probably didn’t have a lot of control though and mainly could only influence what basic instincts were activated when, but then that probably made some things simpler too.

Of course, NOW they want to use Mason’s abilities to ride some ants down into the anthill so they don’t have to walk. I was rather vocal in my opinion of how poor an idea this was. All we needed was for a bunch of ants in our midst to shake off Mason’s control in the middle of a combat situation to really make a mess of things. Unfortunately the others were insistent on pursuing this nonsense. I steadfastly refused to participate except to walk along as an escort.

It did look like whatever was generating the control effect was centered on an area near the break room the miners had set up at some point. That meant we probably needed to focus our efforts on that area. At least the ants were ignoring our presence as we entered the anthill. Unfortunately, four massive beetles were now blocking our way. The beetles beat us to the punch as they immediately went after Leeroy first. I responded by opening fire on the nearest beetle with the mini-gun. That knocked out great chunks of chitin and flesh from the lead beetle as it was pushed back futher into the tunnel. The others were already engaging the three remaining beetles as the one I fired on attempted to charge me again. Blasted invertebrates and their more modular body layout.

My second burst of gunfire at that beetle sawed it in half as Mason managed to detonate another one with insecticide. Unfortunately, a third beetle charged me and managed to pin me against the wall with its mandibles. The uncomfortable crunching of armor and bone was more than enough indication to me that this was a bad position to be in. Luckily I had sufficient leverage to wedge the muzzle of the mini-gun into the mouth of the beetle and pulled the trigger to unleash around barrage of gunfire. That forced it to let me go as it was thrown against the opposing wall where subsequent gunfire put it down. The final beetle fell moments later to the efforts of the others.

My injuries were slowly regenerating and Mason was assisting the others in healing. Approaching the breakroom, we found it to be fairly crude in construction with thin, cheap cushions, boxes of snacks stacked in one corner, a coffee machine, a stockpile of drinks, and some other basic conveniences. The walls were heat treated vitrified rock, which made the room stable enough to actually be used as a break room. There was definitely something around here that wasn’t normal or registering to typical senses. Possibly coming from behind the north wall where it looked like a bunch of normal sized ants were crawling out of crack.

And I was drafted into digging into the wall. Eventually, I found a crystal cylinder about five meters long, a half meter in diameter, and made of the same type of crystal that was being mined here. Probably self-repairing given access to sufficent raw materials too. The general speculation was that it was a probe of some sort designed to land, release insects, and then psychically control them to dig up valuable minerals and metals. Already the others were chattering excitedly about reverse engineering this technology and using it for low cost mining operations elsewhere. Personally, I figured the odds of humans successfully reverse engineering this thing and making functional copies was rather low. Besides, we still had to get out of here with this thing first.

Session 12 – 08/12/2016

We were at the end of a dead end in an underground tunnel, next to a device that transformed insects into giant killing machines, and surrounded by a bunch of giant ants that were no doubt coming to the defense of the artifact. This was not my idea of a good idea. Putting up barricades was a stalling tactic at best given the bite strength of those ants and how crumbly the walls of the cavern were. Estimates placed us about twenty-five meters underground. I moved the vending machine to block the entrance way as the others began piling loose rock around it. Leeroy’s suggestion was to give me a shovel and ask that I start digging an upward slanting tunnel while they piled the dirt and rock I dug out behind us to further block the tunnel.

I was not exactly happy with being relegated to manual labor, but my speed, strength and stamina likely exceeded everyone else’s by a significant margin. I just wasn’t sure how well I would compete against an army of ants attempting to dig into our tunnel. Unfortunately, my ears told me that the ants were gaining on me rapidly despite my efforts. It probably did not help matters that the others were simply just piling the rubble I was generating. Leeroy “helpfully” decided to start spraying plasma around to try and fuse the rubble together into a sort of makeshift stone wall. I was not entirely sure of the effectiveness of this strategy, but I was getting annoyed about the wisps of plasma that were coming a bit too close to me for comfort.

Even my stamina was beginning to fail by the time we reached the surface after eighteen hours. I was hungry enough to make a real mess of a civilian population if I didn’t get blood soon. Our tunneling pursuers were twenty to thirty minutes behind us, but on the surface we were immediately surrounded by several ants. The others immediately unloaded with various implements of destruction upon the ants surrounding us. I used the time they were providing to establish a remote linkup with the dropship and began piloting it remotely.

Bringing the dropship in for a low hover, I activated the weapons systems and began firing ordnance at the insects surrounding us. Between the various concentrations of massed firepower, we were able to successfully beat off or kill the various waves of attackers. I instructed the dropship to pick up the artifact as the others started climbing aboard. Once onboard myself, I started the dropship climbing to an upper atmosphere altitude where insects were unlikely to fly up to us at. I didn’t want to risk orbit just yet in case something on board was supersized and started a hull breach necessitating an emergency landing somewhere.

Once we were satisfied that nothing else was going to appear and kill us, I went to orbit and docked with the prospector ship. I paid little heed to the others as I headed to the medical bay as soon as we docked as I raided the blood stores onboard. That took far more blood to satisfy my thirst than I’ve felt in a long time too. If Mason chooses to complain about the mess and the depletion of his blood stores, he can find someone that cares.

By the time I got back to the others, they had more or less confirmed what we already knew: this was a space probe of some sort that landed and used insects to perform mining operations. What recognizable tech there was appeared to be psychic and not too far advanced from what was state-of-the-art for humans. MT was keen on trying to reverse engineer it so that we could make more of these things. I personally had serious doubts that humans could ever control the necessary spacefield components, let alone produce them. At least the others decided to hand the blasted thing over to a lab to study instead of playing with it themselves.

Next came up the topic of where to go next. One proposal was to go after wherever it was those crystals came from that gave Tori her powers. I was of the opinion that me being near more of those things was a bad idea from the start. Another proposal was to continue on to the Labyrinth as initially planned. Most agreed this was a potentially profitable mission, but no one felt especially driven to complete the mission as some sort of imperative. Only other option that seemed to gain any sort of traction was the one to investigate the bizarre series of fatal accidents occurring out in the rings of Saturn. Strangely enough, Van Helsing ultimately ended up deciding we would investigate the accidents in the rings of Saturn.

Once we arrived, it looked like the bulk of the mining operation was for exotic aberrant materials imbedded in the moonlets with export of primordial ice for rich clientel to use in drinks as a profitable side business. I enjoy a rich lifestyle as much as the next person, but the level of contaminants in that ice had to be high in toxic chemicals like ammonia and methane was risking a serious lawsuit from an idiot with more money than sense. Oh well, not my problem and I am not being paid to do anything about it.

Oh well, turning our attention to the deaths, we learned most of them occurred during transit. The sheer number of accidental deaths was easily an order of magnitude higher this year than each of the previous four years. And that wasn’t including the death of three accident investigators. To me this screamed “foul play” of some sort as random bad luck was hard to believe to that extent. I suppose it was possible that the local water supply had been massively tainted with lead recently and thus all the deaths were from people who had lost half their IQ to lead poisoning, but much of the infrastructure out here needed to support life would have given up the ghost in that case. The cold harsh realities of space were not very forgiving about lax maintenance or sloppy adherence to procedures.

Ergo, something external was probably in play here.

Sabotage was hard to rationalize though given the sheer number of victims and how spread out they were. Still, almost any other explanation was nigh impossible to fit the facts given the sheer variances in the types of equipment failures, locations, and people involved. MT insisted it had to be focused unluck, but my theory was that we were dealing with another vampire that was using these “accidents” to dispose of the bodies and then moving from location to location to keep their activities hard to track. Attempts at analyzing traffic and “who was where when” to try to correlate if certain people where always nearby when accidents occurred quickly ran into a mess of variables that failed to elucidate any meaningful patterns especially if we had to consider the possibility of a group being involved. At least Leeroy helpfully suggested we look into what the other investigators had found.

Diplomatic Mission Notes from Knight Enforcer Cola (Samhain) – Session 60

Well to say that things were going according to plan would have been a major overstatement.  The Ankylla was lost in the Minotaur’s maze effect for the moment and the Tyranophon was unconscious as well.  How long either of those situations would last was unknown.  Plus there was the fact that the Triceromera was still up, Night Templar was unconscious, Amoebro was barely clinging to consciousness, and the Minotaur was still recovering from the beating the Tyranophon gave it.

This pretty much left Armageddon, Vasilko, Illarion, Captain Mayhem and I to deal with the Triceromera, keep the Tyranophon, and be ready for the Ankylla whenever it managed to return.  About the only saving grace on all of this was the fact that I was conjuring drones faster than the Triceromera could destroy them.  At the rate this was going, I was giving serious thought to asking the Chauffeur to fly to Silverhold and retrieve Icos as a potential trump card to play.  But first I really needed to take the Triceromera out of play for even a few moments to give us a chance to regroup.

(Samhain)  Cartridge….

(Love Divine)  Loading Cartridge….

As the power from the cartridge flowed into me I prepared a spell to convert the water around the Triceromera into a massive block of ice in an attempt to entrap it.  As the spell fired, massive spikes of ice rose out of the water around the Triceromera as a layer of frost began to form on its skin.  Within moment the whole thing was encased in a solid block of ice over thirty meters in diameter.  That should hopefully hold the blasted thing for a little bit.  I was about to cast a second spell to place another layer of ice on top of the current layer to buy us additional time when suddenly the whole iceberg started floating up into the air.  It took a moment or two for it to register in my mind that this was the work of Captain Mayhem and his “anti-gravity” gun.  Well, provided he can get the thing up high enough, that should keep it occupied for more than long enough.  That remained to be seen though as the thing was busily melting its way out of the ice with those various energy blasts.

(Samhain)  Annoying monster isn’t it?

That wasn’t named at anyone in particular, but still most everyone one on the yacht gave me annoyed looks.  It looked like Bobby was moving to rescue Night Templar and Amoebro.  Meanwhile Captain Mayhem was moving the Triceromera into orbit, possibly on to Mars afterwards.  And finally Armageddon was now in the process of moving the unconscious Tyranophon to Mars as well.  With any luck we’d be able to get those two taking care of and a chance to regroup in time to begin preparations for the Ankylla’s return.

(Love Divine)  WARNING: Incoming Dimensional Transit!  Arrival Imminent!

Oh crap….

Suddenly all light from the sun was seemingly eclipsed by this massive spinning behemoth of spikes and leather that was rapidly approaching from above.  This was going easily destroy the boat when it impacts and that was going to put it at a massive disadvantage.  Fighting that thing scattered in the air and water when it has abilities to manipulate the wind and seas was a losing proposition especially if Armageddon, Captain Mayhem, Amoebro, and Night Templar are all indisposed.  We had to dodge this and fast.  The boat wasn’t going to be able to get out of the way fast enough.  That only left one option.

Almost by reflex I started casting a dimensional transit spell to take everyone on the boat out of here.  Not really sure where to go, I went with the location I was most familiar with: the Imaginal Realm of Hell.  It was only as the scenery shifted to a molten landscape that I considered that this probably shouldn’t have been my first choice.  Now one would probably think that the first thing I really noticed about this specific location was the multitude of nude “female” forms around me, but in truth all of that was easily ignored in favor of the glowing mass of magical nuclear plasma that was floating next to me.

This had to be the “real” form of Illarion Drake.  Of course, trying to look anywhere near him with either my eyes or magically only resulted in blinding me outright from the sheer intensity of light and magic.  This was going to be hard to ignore or make discerning details about anything else a real pain though.  Still, it didn’t seem like we were any immediate danger.  Given what I knew of Terran ideas of modesty it was probably a good idea to put a censoring spell on the others until we came up with a plan.

(Foxfire)  So is this place not actually dangerous?

(Samhain)  As best as I can tell, this is a realm formed from the temptations of at least a few Terran sects.  Given that such things tend to conform to instinctive desires that are completely natural even if they are labelled as “evil” by some authorities, such realms tend to be mere destinations to indulge some impulses.

(Foxfire) So it’s a glorified tourist trap?

(Samhain)  I suppose in some ways, yes.

(Illarion)  So what’s the plan?

(Samhain)  Give me a moment to recover and then we’ll scry as to what is happening on Earth.  Once we know that, we’ll make a plan and transit back.

Ultimately I was hoping to buy time for the Ankylla to move on to another target instead of waiting for us to return.  Unfortunately, with Armageddon and Captain Mayhem both busy, that probably meant it was going to go after Night Templar, Amoebro, or one of the members of the Mandate.  On the other hand, Illarion was here with me at the moment, so it was possible that the Ankylla would cease the attack as the target was no longer present.  In that case, where would it head to next?

Best to check that out first.

Setting up a scrying spell, it looked like the Ankylla was now heading into the city, although Amoebro was battling it somewhat effectively that I saw.  Drat, that probably meant there was another Orthallen in the city somewhere.  Projecting its course forward, it looked like it was heading towards the Mandate’s base of operations.  Why am I not surprised?  We probably needed to get our act together and head back before that thing reaches the city proper and causes however much damage and casualties.

At which point Night Templar showed up next to us looking more than a bit ragged.

(Night Templar)  Aghhh!  I came here to rescue you, so why is it that I am the only one that has to master my lust to escape this realm?!  These winds should be driving you mad and thus allowing me to teach to master those urges and save you.

(Illarion)  Wrong species.

(Foxfire)  I’m a kid.

(Samhain)  I’m married.

(Night Templar)  Aghhhhh!

I wasn’t entirely sure that he came here to rescue us so much as he came here to save himself and was simply looking for an excuse to say otherwise.  Still, this meant Amoebro was back on Earth more or less by himself fighting the Ankylla.  Best to head back to Earth and do what we could to assist.

By the time we returned to Earth, things looked to be winding down as Amoebro had managed to knock out the Ankylla and then was promptly sneezed across town.  Hauling the Ankylla off to Mars was simple at this point, although it took time to gather the party together again as they were scattered not only across town, but the entire solar system.  At least this jaunt into America had proven less destructive than our first time when we managed to trigger wide spread destruction and a riot in the midst of a major metropolitan area.

Diplomatic Mission Notes from Knight Enforcer Cola (Samhain) – Session 59

And here we have a brief interlude from the fighting as many of the players were not able to show up this session for a variety of reasons. For purposes of the timeline, it is probably best to consider this entry as taking place between Sessions 60 and 61.

With some downtime I started digging through some notes and books recommended to me by a local historian regarding Earth’s development. Given what little I know, it was clear that something occurred a few centuries ago that triggered an upward development in terms of technology, democracy, and respect for human rights that didn’t seem to exist previously in Terran history. The fact that Earth’s factionalism was still quite open and vicious despite this upward trend was also confusing me.

Hmm, according to the summarization made by Professor Hayworth, a lot of Earth’s current state was a reaction, to a large extent centered in northern Europe, and triggered by the development of the printing press. The various belief systems became far more codified, and less tolerant of local variations. Secondarily, a form of simplification took place in religious thought; in the place of some rather vague theology, local beliefs and customs, the meanderings of local hedge magi, and inherited folk beliefs, things got boiled down to a fairly rigid system. Quite a lot of local powers resisted – and got labeled as being part of the generic “forces of evil”. Since those powers tended to work with local dissidents, it wasn’t long before dissidents – and anyone who was disruptive – got lumped in with “forces of evil”. Once they were categorized as “Other”, “Evil”, and “Out to get us”… things which would have been petty offenses became indicators of “evil” – to be dealt with with extreme harshness.

Coupled with technological growth, this led to rapid expansion of the newly unified, and more advanced, nation-states – but since a group of them shared those advantages, a lot of the rivalries played out across the rest of the Earth – leaving opposing local factions. Unfortunately, no one leader emerged who was sane, charismatic, and powerful enough to actually unify the various factions – and the communications problems (which Zantu did not have given the small, homogenous initial group) did not help.

This, coupled with the fact that the various Imaginal Realms actually existed on Earth, caused Voso and quite a lot of other imaginal entities and realms to be more or less co-opted into being dreams of escape from oppressive circumstances, plagues, famines, and similar problems.

Now recent belief systems were being turned upside down by the emergence from the Rho-Field. The old-style types were already having trouble with the inevitable reaction to the hardline traditions – individual rights, etc. With conditions changing radically, a lot of groups were now forming their own cores of hold-to-the-last the-end-is-coming fanatics – mostly hating everything that’s changing. When they focus on something, one got a hate group or an apocalypse-cult. This combined with the fact that some of the older belief systems were later branded as evil for being “different” seems to be part of the reason why somewhat “neutral” entities like Voso or Belial being seen as overtly evil according to the locals.

This certainly suggested that Earth being in the Rho Field did a number on things. Coupled with the advantages Zantu had with regards to a small and coherent seed population plus the rise of the Saint King and it seems like Zantu has gotten the better deal for most of the history of the two worlds thus far. At least from a cultural and social perspective. From an economic and technological perspective, it seems like the Terrans are beginning to win that race due to the events of the last century or so and the much more generous level of resources available everywhere they go.

Just when my foray into amateur comparative anthropology was getting interesting I started hearing cries of exasperation and terror echoing through Silverhold.

(Voice 1) Oh now what?

(Voice 2) OH NO! NOT THEM! NOT THE TREE SAP!

(Armageddon) Oh joy, what is going on now? Ok, who is the designated prankster today?

At which point there was some sort of thumping sound followed by people yelling in Zanti.

(Voice 3) Get this off me!

You know, there was still a part of me that feels the urge to get up and start investigating immediately despite the fact that this sort of crap seems to occur around here daily if not more than once a day at times. Ergo, this was probably something simple enough that the others could take care of it themselves without involving me.

(Voice 4) Caera! Put that thing down! You don’t know where it’s been!

(Caera) But it’s SO CUTE!

However, not that it appeared that my daughter was involved I probably need to make my presence known. Hopefully she wasn’t at the center of the mess and had only gotten involved peripherally. I found Caera currently rolling up a cloth with her foot and clutching a very small and young-looking horned horse thing, with a jewel stuck on the end of its horn. It was currently is turning a little blue, perhaps from being squeezed too tight. Given that it seemed about the cutest thing I’d ever seen, I figured this had to be some sort of imaginal creature then.

(Night Templar) I really hope this is not part of a prank war between Loki and the demon kids.

(Armageddon) I think that would be a lot worse than this.

(Samhain) Caera, what is that?

(Night Templar) Ack, its worse. It’s children’s cartoon invasion. We are doomed!

(Caera, hugging the thing tighter) It’s a unicorn! Isn’t it GREAT!?!?

(Armageddon) Oh no….

(Samhain) You might want to try not hugging it quite so hard. Where did it come from?

(Night Templar) Yay! Strangle the cute abomination!

And yet he wonders why the police were so enthusiastic about arresting him for child abuse….

(Caera, as she loosened her hug) Well… Mr Armageddon found a unicorn friend…

I think I can already see where this is going…..

(Armageddon) Ack, My Little Pony Attack!

(Samhain) Right, now what are the rest of you going on about? It looks like Caera has gotten her hands of some cute Terran imaginal animal is all.

(Night Templar) Seal the building and I will start sending these abominations back to the special hell that shall not be named.

(Armageddon) Wait, let me make a call first.

(Samhain) Right…..

Why exactly did they elect to put Night Templar in charge of this team again?

(Captain Mayhem) Wait! We can’t do anything cruel to them! This will destroy what little public support we have!

Alright, in the meantime I elected to put a minor barrier over Silverhold to keep our new arrivals from escaping into the city until we could get this mess cleared up. After that I put on my best annoyed parent face as I awaited explanations from the others as to what exactly was going on.

(Night Templar) These are fictional characters from a children’s show. They are the worst type of abomination that must be sent back from whence they came.

(Armageddon) Look up the ‘My Little Pony’ show.

(Staff) Well… they came bursting out of Caera’s room, and went running around, and we tried to catch them, and suddenly the place was full of the most ABSURD traps, and the other one was absurdly fast, and THAT one (indicating the one Caera was holding) started leaking random magic all over!

(Samhain) Right, are any of these creatures ensouled Night Templar?

(Night Templar) Sigh…. checking… Looks like all three. Whether they were before, or whether it’s just Caera’s latent power is unknown. All with souls… drat. This is worse than just being normal abominations.

(Armageddon) Ugh. Well that explains the poking, tickling sensation earlier.

I found myself rubbing the bridge of my nose in annoyance. Meanwhile a large kettle fell out of the ceiling and onto Night Templar’s head. Another pony was trying to yank the little unicorn away from Caera and into the air conditioning ducts.

(Samhain) Are these creatures vulnerable to anything in particular? Such as bindings or seals?

(Night Templar) They are vulnerable to cliches and tropes.

(Captain Mayhem) Damn! We’re lost! All we can do is yell at them. And we can’t do that while being filmed.

(Samhain) You know all of those things are cultural things I HAVE YET TO LEARN?!

(Night Templar) Also being yelled at, having older relatives discipline them, getting caught in tree sap…. (He then began yelling at a pony he caught with a rather silly trap involving a carrot, a box, and a string.) Alright you. Stop making messes and leaving them for other people to clean up.

(Armageddon) Would someone please lower the barrier? And Caera please close the portal.

(Caera) It was just a summoning Daddy… I was only trying for one!

(Armageddon) But you tapped into me and my husband, how much power do you think would come from that?

(Caera) Uhm… it was mostly for guidance! I don’t know any imaginal magic…

(Samhain) It looks like you threw a little too much power into it and got some of the parameters wrong. You ended up, not with a summoning, but with an all out manifestation.

(Night Templar) Argh. Angelic influences muck up so many summonings. Do not involve them in any of it.

(Samhain) I’ll remember that the next time you try to summon a demon.

(Armageddon) And it seems that she summoned mostly kids too.

According to the internet it looked like we had a trio of kids: Sweetie Belle the Unicorn, Scootaloo the Pegasus (not yet able to fly much), and Apple Bloom the “Earth Pony”. Apparently mischievous, enthusiastic, in pursuit of their special talents, and inclined to do absurd things to try and find them. Very durable (standard cartoon), actually quite good at magical accidents (Sweetie), throwing together absurd devices and booby traps (Apple), and speed and stunts (Scootaloo). This does not seem to register on them as being possible talents though.

(Night Templar) Hmm… so to banish them I just need to do something that will make being here reveal their cutie marks. This will make them spontaneously disappear to avoid breaking the running gag.

(Caera) Waah!

This was interrupted by Night Templar suddenly rolling down the hallway and down the stairs on a single roller-skate. Luckily his armor seemed to absorb most of the damage of that fall. Although from the sound of things clanking and making all kinds of strange noises, I would wager Night Templar fell into yet another trap.

(Night Templar) Argh!

(Samhain) With them being now ensouled, this means they could get loose on their own like with our doubles. Ergo, it is probably best that we keep them underfoot here where we can keep an eye on them.

(Captain Mayhem) I could just kill them.

(Samhain) Probably need to install a seal on them to keep the worst of the abilities under control though. Perhaps a transformation sigil? A geas might work as well.

(Night Templar) No killing them. We do not need to send souls made for these things to anywhere they might go. I might want to go to one of those places.

(Captain Mayhem) So you oppose the wanton slaughter of adorable children?

(Night Templar) Yes.

And this group was picked to be on a superhero team? The Canadian government must not have had much of any options at all.

(Captain Mayhem) Well, in that case, Captain Mayhem has a good idea. Children! If you all come here I will tell you a story. You will have to take an
afternoon nap afterward.

There were some protests about naps as to be expected. From the sound of things, it appeared they wanted to go exploring instead.

(Captain Mayhem) You can explore after you take a nap.

(Armageddon) So what do we do with them now? Can someone do a portal to send them back?

(Samhain) Are we sure that’s the best option here?

(Captain Mayhem) Eh, having even MORE insane children around probably won’t hurt anything. Even if they are strange, colorful children with four legs.

(Samhain) As best as I can tell, simply banishing them to the Imaginal Realms will simply result in them getting loose again in short order given the number of followers that program has. Keeping them here with us at least ensures that we can keep an eye on them.

(Night Templar) Damn it you are right, but then we have to put up with them here.

(Samhain) Then we construct some seals and geas’s to handle the more…. troublesome abilities and start hiring some teachers and nannies. We’ve already proven that the school system can’t handle the other kids.

(Armageddon) Can we send them back with an enchantment or something to help make it harder to summon? Or if they are summoned to ensure that there are restrictions?

(Samhain) Don’t think it works that way. Summonings are a function of power of the summoned creature versus the limitations of that same creature.

(Sweetie, pouting and sniffling with great big eyes) I don’ WANNA be all tied up in magic bindings! Meanie!

And she promptly kicked Armageddon with about enough force to stun a gerbil.

(Samhain) Altering that requires fundamentally altering the soul of the creature itself. That isn’t something even I am willing to try. Familiars and Fusion Elementals are one thing given proven designs, that sort of thing is completely unfamiliar territory.

(Armageddon) You might want to work on that kick there.

(Night Templar) Please do not teach them how to kick. If you teach them how to kick I am teaching them how to summon demons. Fair warning.

Oh now THERE is a mature and reasoned response…..

(Sweetie) Demons are ICKY!

It took some work, but my own experience as a parent did give me a leg up on trying to instill a bit of discipline onto the new “kids”. And once again it looks like I am becoming a surrogate dad to yet another set of small children.

(Captain Mayhem) Hey! I’m the one who made them grilled cheese and told them a story! Now we need to get them guns and booze…

Which probably puts him in line with the annoying uncle that comes, riles them up or tires them out, teaches them all sorts of annoying behaviors that the parents have to deal with once he leaves. Not that I can really say Croft did that. He didn’t have hardly any interaction with me or Justina after Caera was born until he finally disappeared.

Still, once I was convinced that the others weren’t going to be killing the ponies or teaching them demonic magic, I decided it was time to get Caera a familiar. I figured one of the friend/guardian models would work just fine for our purposes. But this was going to require a host animal to act as the base for the familiar template to be applied to. Getting a suitable animal hauled here from Zantu was going to be a chore though so probably best to use an Terran animal. One of the species the Terrans consider suitable for pets would probably work well.

Searching the internet revealed that the best location locally for acquiring a pet would be the local animal shelter, which should have a good mix of cats and dogs available to chose from. It looked like the nearest one was open at the moment.

(Samhain) Caera, come on, let’s go to the animal shelter. I’ll let you pick out one of the animals there and we can set it up as a familiar for you together.

(Caera) Ohhh! How about a kitten?! Those are cute!

(Samhain) Sure, let’s see what they have first though.

While she and I started flying to the animal shelter, I had Love Divine pull up the relevant rituals and materials needed to perform a familiar binding. I was familiar with the basic theory of it all and the instructions had centuries of refinement behind them so I had little concern on that front. Hopefully getting a cute animal friend will provide a safe outlet for these urges to summon ponies and other things. Throwing a basic guardianship program on top of it was a fairly standard option too that was probably worthwhile in investing in.

At least Caera has Justina and I around to help her with things like this. Croft and I didn’t really have anyone to act in a close parental role to us. I guess I really need to spend more time with the demonic kids and other orphans we’ve been accumulating. It’s not like the school and foster care systems were setup to handle children with their kind of talents and “difficulties” either.

Diplomatic Mission Notes from Knight Enforcer Cola (Samhain) – Session 58

According to what reports we had, China was not sharing information on how it was doing against the Titanosaurs. The massive ongoing storms along the coast suggested things weren’t going well. Kiev (Ukraine I think?) was having problems too: their Titanosaurs kept vanishing somehow and thus far eluded all attempts to track them. No reports from Tibet (also China?) either. Antarctica seem to be holding their own due to the assistance of that glacier construct. Australia was sending word that they had successfully retargeted their Titanosaur to deep in the interior where Colonel Ashford was keeping it annoyed long enough for the locals to prepare an offensive.

Meanwhile Finland was heavily reinforced by the Europeans and had managed to handily lock up their Titanosaur into suspended animation via ice. Egypt had no problem dealing with theirs either, but was now running into problems with some sort of religious rioting due to the fact that those intervened were from (or at themed themselves on) ancient regional mythology for reasons I didn’t entirely understand. Japan thus far wasn’t having much luck luring their Titanosaur someplace non-vital but had managed to avoid much in the way of loss of life or property damage. And Taiwan had somehow managed to get theirs into a theme park of all places.

However New York seemed to be the one struggling the most. They had kept their three Titanosaurs moving in circles outside the city – mostly offshore – but hadn’t been able to actually stop them. This seemed to be because of a fair number of the local heroes losing effectiveness when the Titanosaurs retreated deep underwater. According to the news, some big-shot business tycoon down there apparently lent his yacht to the luring effort with the coast guard are wondering what kind of motor he HAS on that thing.

And all of this was on top of trying to coordinate with the police and other superhero teams around the world in taking out the other Kyinn running about before they got wise and went to ground.

(Captain Mayhem) Captain Mayhem is a courageous defender of Earth – except for China. Screw those guys!

(Amoebro) Amoebro eats China! And Tupperware!

(Captain Mayhem) They don’t have any good liquor AT ALL!

There are times I think my teammates are each having their own conversation and not actually talking to each other per se.

Thus far, New York had turned down several offers of assistance although most of those involved the groups Guardians and Wildstrike who had track records for substantial property damage. I would say that we could do much better than that, but the Ancient Base incident on Zantu suggested otherwise.

(Night Templar) Nah, we are good. What happens on Zantu stays on Zantu.

Not sure this was a line of reasoning I could agree with.

(Samhain) Yes, and your pants are MIA and Armageddon has gone rogue like….. three times now.

Unfortunately, this didn’t elicit the response I was hoping for though as again they all just brushed such objections aside. Apparently my colleagues consider frequently going rogue or creating monstrosities that promptly go rogue is par for the course. I really don’t want to know what these people consider unacceptable behavior. Still, it looked like we were heading to New York to deal with three more Titanosaurs.

(Samhain) What types of dinosaurs and titan monsters are we dealing with here?

(Night Templar) Tyrannosaur, Ankylosaurus, and Triceratops. Hosting Typhon, Scylla, and Chimera. In their own way, a pleasant little family group, if you overlook the whole Greek beastie thing.

(Captain Mayhem) OK, to kill Chimera we’re going to need somebody on a flying horse. I can supply the a flying horse just as soon as I can to a good horse statue. Who’s going to supply Medusa’s head?

(Night Templar) Amoebro ate Medusa so he has to stand in for that.

The others wanted to drag along Alexandre as well. I was completely against bringing a child into a probable combat zone though. A few years of training and local age of majority might change that assessment, but he wasn’t anywhere near that point yet regardless of how many legendary artifacts these so-called “gods” gave him.

Alexandre, understandably, wasn’t keen on being there when we informed his parents about his little “adventure” to Olympus.

(Alexandre) Ur… Can I use the helm of invisibility?

(Night Templar) Nope we are telling your parents and they are going to see that you are alright. Treasure having parents that can worry about you. Not everyone who becomes a hero has that privilege.

(Amoebro) Yeah, I don’t . . . So you should be happy and they should be proud!

I could make a very good case that Amoebro’s species doesn’t have parents per se.

(Night Templar) Nope, that is not how it works at all. They should be worried and you should be embarrassed

(Amoebro) But he’s a hero now!

(Armageddon) Never take enchanted swords, helms, and supernatural powers from strange pegasi?

(Night Templar) Does not matter a bit.

You know, this lecture from them would sound a lot more convincing if Armageddon and Night Templar weren’t accepting offers of “Holy” and “Demonic” power in exchange for whatever bargains they made for said power. Although, as a point in Alexandre’s favor, I had to admit that strange pegasi offering magical weapons of great power never came up in my childhood. I mainly spent time with my brother being a pain in the rear to the teachers and guardians.

Unfortunately, the boy’s mother was at work – some sort of corporate deal – and so was the father (he ran a restaurant).

(Samhain) Sigh….

(Night Templar) Crap, we have to wait then.

(Amoebro) Don’t worry, I bought my phone! We can watch Sesame Street!

Oh joy….

(Night Templar) By wait, I mean come back later. There are dinosaurs to fight.

(Amoebro) Aww . . . well, fighting dinosaurs is fun too!

(Armageddon) Taking him along?

(Night Templar) Is there really a reason to take him with us?

(Samhain) Not sure, it might be prudent for him to see just how dangerous these battles can be from a safe distance. Otherwise I say leave him behind for the moment. Of course, he might wonder off while we aren’t watching him.

(Night Templar) Argh, we take him along so he does not sneak off to fight dinosaurs alone. But he stays back during the fighting.

(Samhain) Put him on the yacht with the other heroes from New York?

(Alexandre) If it’s New York, the Mandate and the Chauffeur must be involved… maybe I could ride with him? The precognitive mage-pilot with the invisible armored time-traveling craft has a pretty much perfect record of “getting away safe” even when he loses.

(Night Templar) I see no problem with this at the moment.

At which point we placed a call for a pickup by the Chauffeur who, annoyingly enough, appeared almost immediately. At a guess, this was more use of time travel as a matter of convenience as opposed to anything to be concerned about abusing. It seems like recklessness and Terrans seem to go hand in hand. How they haven’t managed to destroy themselves with those nuclear weapon things is an open question.

At least this gave us time for a mission briefing. Currently, the Yacht was being manned by Ilarion Drake; since he’s the first target, he made the best bait. They’d basically stacked a lot of defenses on the thing, and he – much to the annoyance of the more sensible members of the team – was simply pushing it where he wants it to go with his weird reaction-less strength. So far he hasn’t needed to use the teleport talismans they left with him, although it’s been close a couple of times.

Unfortunately, most of the powers of Eris’s kids are fairly useless against the Titanosaurs. This didn’t surprise the others for some reason. Which meant that the name Eris had to go into the list of things to research later. Vasilko was mostly running defenses for the city. The Chauffeur had been harassing the things, but most of his weapons simply don’t have enough power to have much effect. Bobby has been doing wide-area shields and such; given that he was on the right power level, but wisely assessed that jumping into the middle did not look like a good idea.

(Samhain) Right, do we aim to divide and conquer or do we try to be ambitious and take them all at once?

(Amoebro) We didn’t have TOO hard a time with the one, other than Armageddon getting stomped. I say we lure one away.

(Night Templar) Hmmm… what do we know about the abilities of Typhoon, Chimera, and Scylla?

Armageddon pulled out one of those tablet things that had something to do with some sort of fruit.

(Armageddon) Typhon is another multi-headed reptile thing, projects fire, tends to take attacks to one or another body part somehow, rather than to it’s main body. Defeated Zeus in battle.

(Night Templar) Yikes.

Ok, that apparently meant something, but I lacked the necessary context to understand it.

(Armageddon) Scylla controls water and wind, another multi-headed thing (a common theme it seems), got a bunch of Odysseus’s men. The Chimera has no fixed form at all; it tends to just adapt various animal features as needed. Tough to stop, but not really a major offensive power – although now it has the triceratops body to take care of that.

(Chauffeur) It has gone winged a few times, but so far the I’ve been able to harass it back into the water.

(Samhain) What about psychic powers provided by the dinosaurs?

(Armageddon) Tyranosaur: Capable of leaping enormous distances, flying kick hind claw attacks inflict massive damage, very powerful plasma blasts, fairly fast and tough. Heavy offense. Ankylosaurus very heavy armor, minor electrical abilities, massive ability to smash things with it’s tail-mace. Far more dangerous with wind and wave to bring things to it to hit. Triceratops, powerful (but exhaustible) shields, minor personal armor, fires a wide variety of energy attacks – usually trying to find something that goes through a given targets defenses. Fortunately, no herd to reach consensus with.

(Captain Mayhem) The problem with the Ankylosaur is that we’re going to have a hard time actually hurting it at all, but it’s likely to stupid to actually be tricked.

(Amoebro) I’d say the Triceratops is the best option here. While it’s versatile, it can be worn down and it’s not as heavy a hitter as the others.

(Samhain) Have the minotaur maze the other two then while we deal with it?

(Night Templar) Yeah, does not look like we are going to get good trumps set up this time. Let’s go with the concentrated firepower and the minotaur mazing to let us avoid the other two till we are ready.

(Night Templar) The triceratops/chimera is our first target since it is likely the easiest.

(Captain Mayhem) Not sure if this is anywhere near easy but I’m in agreement that we try that first.

(Night Templar) I dub these Triceromera, Ankylla, and Tyranophon.

Overall, the city seemed to be safe enough. Bobby and Vasilko were layering shielding spells over the city quite effectively – although more than a bit recklessly in my opinion. As best as I could tell, that “spell” Vasilko was using somehow managed to alter the geometry of the city such that the city was “inside” him from the perspective of the Titanosaurs.  At least Bobby was using more “standard” shielding spells in comparison.

While this meant the city was protected by all of his layered defenses, I could not begin to fathom what would happen should he be killed or if that spell was disrupted without warning. The yacht itself was currently accelerating at about four gravities across the bay in giant circles. Given that it wasn’t hard to see why the local authorities were having concerns about it’s drive system.

(Armageddon) So… plan of attack?

(Samhain) Use drones and illusions to have the Triceromera attack aimlessly. Then either try to hammer it’s defenses with large blows or bypass the defenses with mental attacks.

(Night Templar) Have the minotaur maze the other two, attack Triceromera. Amoebro and Armageddon leading with ranged support from me, Samhain, and Captain Mayhem. Unless someone has better plans.

(Samhain) We might be able to screw up its homing on Ilarion Drake and have it chase illusions around. I think I’ll be position myself on the yacht and try to coordinate the drones from there. But I’ll need some prep time to get the drones going.

(Amoebro) I’ll try to katamari it while it’s distracted. I can’t grow enough to swallow it completely, but I could get around a leg or its head or something.

With that all decided, I was dropped off onto the yacht busily steaming circles around the bay along with Captain Mayhem. The other occupants of the yacht were a young boy (probably age fourteen) sitting in the pilots chair and apparently steering by pressing a foot against a metal kick-plate which ran around the base of the piloting area. There was also teenager currently maintaining a selection of defensive spells there too, mostly long-range attack deflections.

The kid steering was currently complaining about all this running away, instead of just smacking the Titanosaurs. I would wager that this was the Orthallen Ilarion Drake then. Based on the fact that he was able to push hundreds of tons of boat at multiple gravities with just his foot, I would also say he was the physical type too.

(Samhain) It’s best to reveal as little information to the enemy as possible. So hold back, be bait, and let us handle it to deprive your enemies of intel.

(Ilarion) Argh! But they could just look in the papers for THAT much! It’s not like I haven’t smacked things before!

(Samhain) And do you really want it to be known how well creatures designed to kill Orthallen such as yourself perform? While we caught the guy who made these, we don’t know who else might be out there taking notes on what improvements to make.

(Ilarion) Aaargh! You sound like father always did!

Well, at the very least it sounds like I might get along with one adult Orthallen on some issues. I was also finally able to console the wisdom of holding back and letting us probe at the things.

(Ilarion) Well, what’s your plan? This won’t work forever, and nothing else so far has more than annoyed them!

(Samhain) We’re going to buy time until we can perform a mass bombardment of specialized attacks that should bypass the defenses. I think we can easily hold until then. Basic idea is to pinprick it into submission and then handle the other two accordingly. The Minotaur will be most helpful in this operation of course.

(Ilarion) What, is he still around? I thought he had to go back after that mess in Greece about ten years back!

(Samhain) Oh, he got resummoned into one of these things, however he reasonable enough and I’ve been able to reprogram the geas spell on him for the time being.

(Ilarion) Huh… One of these things? Does he need a sparring partner? Ever since the Brick left no one will spar with me!

(Samhain) He’d probably go for it I imagine.

This seemed to do much to extract cooperation from Ilarion. Which gave me time focus on conjuring drones to work with. I figured a fairly diverse mix of illusion, defense, and offense drones was probably the most prudent course of action to take given the presumed abilities of our opponents. Captain Mayhem used his helmstone to reinforce the defenses of the yacht and return fire at the Triceromera. Meanwhile Amoebro and Night Templar were moving to the attack.

Unfortunately, the Minotaur’s attempt to maze the Ankylla and Tyranophon did not go as planned as the Tyranophon seemed heavily resistant to the effect. This left us with two particularly annoying Titanosaurs to deal with instead of the initially planned two. As such, both Armageddon and the Minotaur diverted to intercept the Tyranophon while I sent illusion drones to assist as best as they could. We really needed to take one of these down quickly if we were to salvage this cleanly.

Annoyingly, the Tyranophon was blasting large area of effect attacks in all directions which was hindering my efforts to build up a large drone swarm. About the only thing helping us was that the Titanosaurs didn’t seem too clear on what was going on and so were responding more or less at random. And the Triceromera was firing various blasts at the yacht seeking an opening in the defenses. This included one shot that made Ilarion say something that I presumed was a swear in whatever passed as a language for the Orthallen.

Also ominous was how the Triceromera was currently hovering just above the water with tiny bird wings, seemed to be sparking a bit, and was puffing itself up a bit for some reason. I could only presume this was in preparation for some sort of attack. At the least the blasts from Captain Mayhem’s helmstone were giving the blasted thing trouble.

(Amoebro) Watch out guys! He’s getting all puffy!

Luckily Night Templar threw up a barrier spell in front of the Triceromera that neatly blocked that breath attack. While that also impeded its forward movement, it also caused the creature to turn its attention towards Amoebro.

(Amoebro) Uh oh!

With that an immense gout of energy hammered Amoebro into the water along with Night Templar. It looked like that had been powerful enough to possibly badly stun, injure, or even kill either of them. So that meant we were down two party members while Armageddon and the Minotaur were steadily losing to the Tyranophon. All I could really hope for at this point was for the Minotaur and Armageddon to hold off the Tyranophon just a bit longer to give Captain Mayhem and I enough time to wear down the Triceromera. At least it looked like that portion of the plan was slowly coming to fruition.

(Ilarion) Gah! The stupid thing can’t injure me faster than I can heal it – but this is REALLY ANNOYING! IT ITCHES LIKE MAD!

More of Night Templar’s barrier spells started popping up in the meantime which probably meant he wasn’t dead yet. Those barrier spells in turn were giving the drones a reprieve so that they could begin massing attacks and also slowing down the Tyranophon enough to get the yacht out of firing range. So with me making Drones and bombarding, Captain Mayhem bombarding, Foxfire doing defense, Ilarion doing mobile defense/piloting, the Chauffeur bombarding, Alexandre bombarding (with relatively small effect, but it’s something), Night Templar throwing up more barriers, Ameobro recovering and grappling, Vasilko and Bobby defending the city, Armageddon moving to better support the Minotaur, the Minotaur in close combat with Tyranophon, and some local (lower powered) heroes throwing in minor attacks / defenses, we seemingly (f slowly) were winning against the Trycerama and holding even with Tyranophon.

Ilarion’s complaining about all of this was getting on my nerves though. I was halfway tempted to smack him on the back of the head in hopes of that making him focus on the task at hand.

Amoebro’s attempt to tears holes in the Triceromera’s hide seemed to be going well until the blasted thing seemed to just peel off its own skin (how does THAT work?!) to reveal yet another skin underneath it. Amoebro then quickly fell with the shed skin back into the ocean.

(Amoebro) It shed its skin! No fair!

(Amoebro) Does anybody have a jetpack, or SOME flying thing?

This swiftly resulted in the image of Night Templar sporting wings of dark fire carrying Amoebro aloft into the air.

(Amoebro) Whee!

This didn’t last long though as the Triceromera promptly erupted (?) a massive stony shell with razor-sharp edges and then plummeted on top of the flying Night Templar and Amoebro. This was definitely not going nearly as smoothly as the last few of these things. That smashed them all into the water. I was beginning to wonder if we might lose this battle when amazingly Armageddon managed to knock the Tyranophon unconscious for at least the moment.

One down, two to go…. and one of those remaining is still locked into a dimensional maze. If we can get the Triceromera down quickly enough and keep the Tyranophon unconscious, we might actually pull this off yet.

Diplomatic Mission Notes from Knight Enforcer Cola (Samhain) – Session 57

By this point data was streaming in from the police regarding the stakeout of that Gentlemen’s Club we had traced our Kyinn targets to. Based on what information we had, it looked like Illari didn’t have much of any knowledge of tactics and was more or less flailing around in his attempts to thwart anyone after him. Of course the Titanosaurs were powerful, but he wasn’t really making good use of that power. He’s just pointed it and turned it loose without even making sure that it wouldn’t backlash on him. He also tried to get other people and creatures to do his dirty work – likely partly a matter of lack of direct power and his irrational fears. By all evidence it looked like Illari hadn’t even figured out who his real enemies were.

(Amoebro) We should find out where he is and scare him!

(Night Templar) Or just arrest him.

(Samhain) I really want to track down his accomplices.

As far as his personality went, he was blatantly neurotic, to the point of insanity; “evade death at any price” made no sense for a mage – especially since Terrans had plenty of evidence that “Death” is not the end of you and there are plenty of ways to delay it substantially anyway (even if something WILL get you sooner or later). His taking this approach pretty much shrieked “desperate and crazy” even BEFORE he started turning himself into a Kyinn.

As far as his magic went… he was a ritualist/alchemist, might know a few personal-magic charms, and apparently uses at least three invocations – calling on Kyinn magic of gas-related powers, the Darkstorm energies, and Olympian Chaos Magic. It seemed fairly obvious that he’s picked up what he could, with no system and little formal training. On Zantu he’d probably be considered a low C class or even a D class medjai if it weren’t for the power of the invocations boosting him to a high C class or maybe even B class.

Meanwhile his “evade the authorities” tricks mostly amounted to “do not make a fuss” and “hide”. He obviously has no scruples at all – but he and his associates are throughly dated; the basic illusion at the office wouldn’t fool anyone using modern instrumentation or a decent magical education for more than a few minutes, if that. They’re probably making a fair amount of money with the “medical gases” business – but they’re blatantly using their inherent basic air magic to do it. They’re operating as individual magical craftsmen. He’d likely be trying to hire mercenaries if he had any sense at all; he certainly couldn’t hope to take on Aurora Ward directly.

As for locations of probable Kyinn associates, we had a small cluster of six in New York State, eight scattered around Canada, three in Australia, two in south America (both inactive), three in the Antarctic (Inactive), four in Eurasia, and two – for some reason – on Easter Island.

The club seemed to be the meeting point for at least five of the ones in Canada, and may have links to new York. It looks like two are cooperating in the medical and exotic gases business, one actually holds a job as a weatherman, one does underwater salvage operations locally, and one simply holds investments.

(Samhain) We could probably farm the bulk of those out to the police and other hero groups while we storm the club.

(Armageddon) Alright, another question, how did they do the teleport? Do we know if it was a ritual type thing or if it was done by one of the group? Either way, it might be possible for them to teleport out of there when we come in.

(Night Templar) The teleports were ritually-based, one reason why they were so easy to track later on.

(Armageddon) Well, I think the most important thing is to coordinate the incursions to ensure that either they are all simultaneus or have a scheduled delay.

(Samhain) Alright, wait for as many as possible to be there then, police cordon and assault?

(Armageddon) Sounds like a plan.

That evening we got notification from the police that four of our five targets present at the club simultaneously. Given that this looked as good a time as any, we gave the go ahead for the police to form a perimeter while we forced entry into the club. We were situated on a rooftop across the street as we planned our assault when a young man on a scooter and a police officer arrived. The officer was complaining about the kid jumping his car with the scooter amongst other things.

Ah, this must be young Antione. Apparently since we’ve broken the geas on him, he’s branched out to start selling people items they would have ordered if they had known what was coming. Sigh, more weird precognitive senses that lead to difficult questions about the nature of time. Right now he was delivering a pair of klein-bottle shaped flasks with six-pointed star stoppers (something the locals called Djinn bottles). Supposedly good for gaseous and less substantial (Imaginal) creatures.

As best as I could tell it was basically a focused, independent, conditional defense transformation to “timelessly imprisoned in the bottle”. However, the downside was that these things required a substantial amount of mana being fed to them in order to function properly. Probably going to push my limits on mana throughput though if I used one. It was decided that both Amoebro and Night Templar would each take one for potential use during the assault. It did mean the government was going to foot the bill for the bottles, but that is one of the perks of official government work.

Basic plan pretty much was for Armageddon to lead the assault while Amoebro assisted him in storming the place. Captain Mayhem and Night Templar were going to block the exits and then start pushing their way in as well. Meanwhile I was to remain in a support role outside providing counterspells and watching for any stragglers. With the roles decided, it was time to begin and Armageddon led off with an assault on the front door by melting it with his eyebeams.

He was promptly thrown back out again via some weird conditional defense spell, but quickly got back up and stormed in again. Sounds of fighting and gunfire broke out quickly enough as one (presumed) patron ran out screaming looking like a skeleton. Since that seemed to be just an illusion and as far as we knew he might also be a suspect, I simply smacked him with the back of the mana-blade I was projecting and promptly knocked him unconscious to be sorted out later.

It was then that I noticed a powerful summoning being cast. At a rough guess, this one was Chaos Magic and was at least a Rank 18 in power. Best to not let that one go off given the mess likely to result.

(Samhain) Cartridge!

(Love Divine) Loading cartridge….

As stored mana surged into me, I began casting a general suppression effect. Hopefully I can at least reduce the magnitude of the summoning even if I can’t suppress that outright.

The fact that Amoebro was now rising through a new hole in the club’s roof like a giant balloon was something to worry about later as my opponent was casting yet another spell. Pushing my luck hoping I could successfully suppress enough of the spell to render it non-functional was probably a fool’s bet. Best to rely on other tactics then.

A simple enough sphere of silence projected around the spellcaster does wonders for disrupting complex invocations requiring incantations. And indeed it was satisfying to watch that invocation seemingly imploded on itself as the incantation failed. There was a certain satisfaction in knowing that I had successfully disrupted a Rank 18 spell using a Rank 12 spell. Hopefully that silence spell will keep that one occupied until the others can subdue the spellcaster.

(Night Templar) NNOOOOOO!!!! A soul has been sent on surely into the forces of Hell! Now I am going to have to fight him again later with demonic powers.

Well, it sounded like we’ve had at least one fatality amongst the suspects. An unfortunate thing to have happen, but not entirely unexpected given the nature of these raids and the violent resistance being given. To be honest, I was finding myself more annoyed by the fact that Night Templar was showing more concern over this suspect dying while resisting arrest than he did when we accidently countless innocents on Zantu while dealing with the Ancient Base.

I was about to call him out on that when I noticed a Darkstorm invocation in progress. This one I wasn’t going to be able to counter readily.

(Samhain) Big Spell INCOMING!

(Night Templar) On it!

Him using the Lights of Luathon invocation neatly countered that Darkstorm spell at least and it looked like the fighting was winding down on all fronts as the spellcaster was subdued. While the others took the others to the police to be questioned and arrested, I worked at assisting the emergency services treat injuries and undoing whatever had been done to Amoebro. We even called in that ritualist we’ve worked with in the past to try and undo the Kyinn transformation on the suspects.

Eventually we were back at Silverhold where we swiftly were descending into an argument over why the accidental death of a suspect resisting arrest was somehow more tragic than the deaths of thousands of innocents due to our lack of foresight for our own actions.

(Night Templar) You killed a villain and now he’s just going to be WORSE!

(Samhain) But all the people killed on Zantu were only innocents!

(Night Templar) Good! That means they are not going to be going to Hell and becoming superdemons!

My eye was twitching and I felt the distinct urge to throw something at him as hard as I could manage.

(Armageddon) Please, if you are going to argue, take it into the Danger Room, away from the kids.

(Samhain) Oh no, you don’t get to lecture me! You punched his flesh right off of him and corroded his very bones with that punch!

(Night Templar) I really cannot understand how that could be worse than a new Superdemon wielding Darkstorm Energies and a grudge. Those innocent people probably went to Heaven and are happy now.

I fear for the day when he realizes the logical conclusion of his own twisted thinking. I also had to admit I looked forward to the opportunity to brain him before he does anything remotely like that. And this only reinforced my concern that the Canadian government felt the need to put HIM in charge of this team all things considered.

Diplomatic Mission Notes from Knight Enforcer Cola (Samhain) – Session 56

With the Titanosaurs relocated to Mars, it was time to consider our next move. This job was far more insane than anything I was normally tasked with doing on Zantu as a Knight Enforcer. We didn’t have insane idiots cloning long dead monstrosities and merging them with other monstrosities from the racemind. Those were simpler days I think.

(Night Templar) At least we’re getting hazard pay for this stuff.

(Armageddon) True enough. Superheroes are generally on continuous hazard pay.

(Captain Mayhem) But.. you get paid?!

(Samhain) Yes, yes I do. After all, this IS a government sponsored team… I get TWO salaries: Canadian and Zantu. Although, the Zantu salary was docked for a few months pay though.

(Captain Mayhem) …What?! You get paid officially? Son of a dammit!

(Samhain) Why yes, are you not?

(Captain Mayhem) I have to shill cheap booze to get dinner!

(Night Templar) He is getting paid. It goes to his bar tab first.

(Armageddon) He may not see any money for a long time then… So then; our next priority?

(Samhain) More titanosaurs?

(Night Templar) The dinoes in Canada on the way back? We do not know who it is after so it will be a little harder.

(Samhain) Well, by this point we might be able to get the dragons to tell us the locations of the dragons we don’t know about considering these things are out to kill them.

Once again, here I am being the sensible one it seems. Contacting Chi’an and Darvain did get us a list of Orthallen, their typical “territories” and basic contact information. There did seem to be gaps in the list though for various reasons though. At least the location of known teleports of Titanosaurs was matching up well with the list of known Orthallen. Sadly, it looked like many of those were effectively beyond our jurisdiction to readily intervene or assist without diplomatic issues. This probably meant we needed to delegate those to some of the other so-called hero groups. At least we can offer assistance and see if they take us up on it.

The one Titanosaur teleported to the Canadian Midwest though did line up with with an Orthallen named Arach “The Black”. He apparently was a specialist in enchanted weaponry and supposedly pretty stealthy although I figured that meant stealthy for a giant magical mass of fusing plasma. At least this one was undoubtedly in our jurisdiction. The decision seemed pretty clear cut to me, but the others felt the need to argue and debate for a bit.

When they finally did come around to the obvious conclusion, it came time to call ahead to Arach. He appeared to have some old Terran style armor and a variety of weapons both primitive and of more modern vintage. Unfortunately, Arach did not react well to the idea of standing down while we handled this.

(Arach) But that would be cowardly!

(Samhain) Considering that these things are created by one possessed by a powerful Kyinn mage to kill dragons by summoning titan monsters from Olympus to possess powerful psychics, we would rather not test his theory that this might work. In fact it is probably in our best interests to ensure this Kyinn be deprived of as much information about the bunch of you as possible for strategic reasons.

(Arach) But that sounds like a challenge!

Definitely an over-enthusiastic self-trained nine-year-old warrior-mage type. The hormones (or whatever passed for hormones with THAT metabolism) probably were not helping either.

(Amoebro) No, if you go fight, he’ll kill you! That will make us all very sad!

It took some effort for us to make him see the wisdom of our methods. He wasn’t happy about it, but I was more concerned that he cooperate as opposed to how happy he was with any given plan.

(Arach) Do you need some weapons? I have lots!

(Night Templar) Hmmm…. what kinds of enchantments do you have on them?

I had an academic curiousity regarding what level of enchanting this “kid” was capable of and so decided to look while the others “shopped”. From what I saw, there were two major varieties of devices: independent boosters for more or less normal weapons and boosting devices for one’s personal powers. It was also evident that the kid was getting much better over the last four centuries. He wasn’t the greatest expert I’ve seen, but he was pretty good, spared no expense, and has a great deal of personal power to pour into things.

Far more concerning in my opinion was the fact that this kid had several centuries worth of artificing stashed away. A stockpile of magical weapons this large in the care of small children was more than enough to make me nervous.

(Amoebro) Ooh! I want a magic-eating booster!

(Night Templar) Well, it is hard to say no to an offer like that.

From what I saw, most of this stuff wouldn’t really help us too much considering our own abilities, but would be very effective in the ranks of normal people. After all, in some respects I am the weakest member of this team and I still would rank as an SS-Rank or maybe even the legendary SSS-Rank back home. Still, there was perhaps some potential to getting some of this equipment for the more minor members of our team.

With that out of the way it was best to return to the task at hand.

(Samhain) Alright, so what monstrosity of a Titansaur are we dealing with?

(Night Templar) Looks like… The Minotaur, in the body of an Edmontonia. Saurian powers… earth control, armor, life support.

(Samhain) What about the minotaur itself?

(Night Templar) Should have superhuman strength, weapons mastery, rapid healing, high resistance to mental powers, ability to entrap people in dimensional labyrinths.

That combination of abilities was going to be…. problematic.

(Samhain) I am leaning towards trying to ambush it on a lake or river. Attacking it over water sounds like our best option.

(Armageddon) Yep. And – annoyingly enough – it has human level intelligence.

Standing back and attempting to entrap it while we hammered it with really long range conditional attacks seemed like the safest bet. That also gave us plenty of water to try to use for entrapment and other effects that couldn’t be countered by its own ability to manipulate earth.

(Armageddon) It is currently in northwest Alberta, roughly halfway in between Fort Nelson and Fort McMurray.

I had Love Divine pull up a map of the region.

(Love Divine) Best bet for water… is likely the Wabasa River. There are plenty of little lakes, but I think you want something bigger. Next best if it keeps moving is the Peace River, you MIGHT be able to drive it to Margaret Lake though.

(Night Templar) Yeah, I can’t think of what else we could try there, but how do we lure something smart and earth controlling away from solid earth… unless we are banking on one of Mayham’s guns?

(Samhain) Layered images spells to bypass the mental defense for illusions?

(Armageddon) That would do it. Those can’t actually hurt anything, but it may be possible to mislead it.

(Amoebro) Perhaps of something tasty.

(Samhain) Or of impassible terrain that it is better off walking around as we move it off a straight line path.

(Night Templar) I don’t know how much something tasty might motivate it if it has the minotaur’s intelligence.

(Samhain) We also haven’t determined how these things are finding their targets. If it is a special sense, we might be able to slowly divert it that way using specialized illusions targetting that sense.

(Love Divine) Well, there IS a report from Fort McMurray about a monster – but it’s tagged low-urgency, since it apparently left again.

(Armageddon) Well, if we can find it and monitor it for a bit, and get Arach to help, we might be able to determine how they are tracking. If it is a special sense then having Arach move several hundred miles should result in a path deviation of noticable amount.

(Samhain) That might work, but I don’t want Arach getting too close too it though.

As we flew towards the area, I started reading up the report that Love Divine had found. Reports consisted of a towering upright creature, alternately described as “Angirus” and “Gamera”, came through the Eagle Ridge division of Fort McMurrey. There was some damage – mostly new footprints/potholes in the roads – but nothing major. It was apparently carrying an enormous axe and wearing armor made of rock (quartz mostly apparently). It went through the drive-up at Teppar’s Donuts, got two gross and twenty gallons of coffee in a huge mug, and paid with a small stack of gold nuggets. At the moment, half the staff had quit, the other half were hoping that whatever it was comes back. It ignored the police and headed off into the woods again; everyone who tried to follow it wound up lost in a maze which erupted out of the ground in it’s wake. It went away a few hours later though.

(Samhain) Hmm, it seems at least vaguely honorable considering that it paid. Perhaps it can be negotiated with if we can undo the geas on it.

(Night Templar) Might be worth a try.

(Armageddon) If nothing else, we know it likes donuts then.

(Night Templar) Or cardboard.

(Amoebro) Coffee, anyway.

(Samhain) How does it know about coffee?

(Armageddon) Maybe check those other modern reports?

(Love Divine) It’s appeared in Greece (most notably in a conflict with the Children of Eris), and has been summoned by a few mages here and there.

(Amoebro) Which mages?

(Night Templar) I would think lots have since it is a famous guardian.

(Samhain) I concur.

(Night Templar) It is indeed “lots”. From the records… it appears to treat a good fight as a sporting occasion, and generally sticks to implied rules – no cheap shots, pull lethal blows, and that sort of thing. Generally only wants to fight suitable opponents. Also drinks enormous quantities and – when in appropriate form – is quite a womanizer. Actually pretty normal for a demi-deity.

(Samhain) Negotiating with it may not work, unless we can get it to agree that attacking a child is unsporting. Maybe get it to accept us instead?

(Amoebro) We should have Captain Mayhem approach it when it’s at a bar.

(Armageddon) Heh, a trade: a barrel of the super alcohol for leaving! Or have Captain Mayhem challenge him to a drinking contest, only drink allowed is the super drink.

(Samhain) Or have it duel the bunch of us in exchange to leaving the child dragon alone?

(Night Templar) Well I guess we have to talk to him somehow. I rather like the build a bar in his path idea and have Captain Mayham do the talking this time.

(Samhain) Another option is an image projection avatar. But I guess have Captain Mayhem try first?

(Armageddon) Yeah, bar and Mayhem are first attempt.

Between the bunch of us we were able to make a reasonable facsimile of a bar in the middle of the woods. Why the Terrans insisted on spending so much time drinking a concoction that was mildly poisonous even to them was not something I’d ever understand. I also suspected the Minotaur would suspect a trap of some sort given how blatantly weird it was to have a lone building here in the middle of the woods so far from any town.

However, my fears were quickly shoved aside when the Minotaur cheerily stopped to eat giant pretzels, huge bowls of nuts, and drink a few hundred gallons of beer like it was nothing unusual. The nearly sub-sonic voice was more than a bit hard to understand though. Not being particularly familiar with the etiquette of “pub-crawling” I could only presume that the fact that glasses kept getting filled and songs sung were good signs. The singing was…. crude and loud for lack of a better term. Plus it was nigh unintelligible given the frequency it was running at.

(Amoebro) Yay! My vacuoles are vibrating!

(Night Templar) I think we might have hit a snag in the “talk to him” plan.

(Samhain) Sigh…..

(Night Templar) Hmm, can we get a phone app that frequency shifts your voice to let us hear him better? I have no idea if those will work for subsonic but it is worth a try.

(Samhain) A spell can also handle that.

The moment I got that spell working I immediately regretted it. Evidently the ancient Greeks knew no shame at all as the lyrics clearly demonstrated. I didn’t see much of any sign of inhibitions either in all of that. Best to not let Caera hear this I think. However any hope of that was going to depend on Amoebro not repeating what he was hearing, which considering he was singing along at the moment meant trouble. Armageddon seemed to recognize the problem at least as he pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to Amoebro.

(Armageddon) You might want to listen to that instead.

(Amoebro) But the song is pretty!

(Samhain) Try not to repeat the song in front of others Amoebro, it’s liable to get you in a lot of trouble.

(Armageddon) It may be pretty, but it is an adults only song.

(Amoebro) Oh, OK!

In the meantime, the conversation between Captain Mayhem and the Minotaur was finally winding it’s way towards our objective of preventing this thing from attacking the Orthallen.

(Captain Mayhem) You know that your targets are just little kids?

(Minotaur) Children? Hrrmph! That will not do at all! And I thought that most dragons were CREATED as fully adult monsters! Now I have a mage to hunt down and smash after I deal with this bothersome geas!

(Amoebro) Can I eat the geas?

(Samhain) Might be better to dispel the geas rather than have to deal with Amoebro now being geased. Might be able to banish it from the dinosaur and then resummon it to possess it again with a different constraint.

(Night Templar) So we would need to transform him to get rid of it and most likely require a new limitation in its place.

(Samhain) Don’t know how much magical resistance it has, or if it can willingly lower that.

It turned out the Minotaur did have a fair chunk of magical resistance, but it also possessed a fair amount of control over it too. From the looks of things, the underlying dinosaur species relied on throwing up barriers and vanishing into the depths of the earth for survival, so it had fewer uncontrollable defenses.

(Samhain) Alright, what do we wish to replace the geas with as I cannot actually break it, only alter the terms of it?

(Amoebro) Sense of duty to us?

(Night Templar) Let’s not do that type. It is perhaps unwise if it finds it annoying anyway.

(Samhain) Use a long-term counterspell and deal with it as it wears off? It will give you time anyway.

(Armageddon) Could alter it with something like “Enjoy being a hero”? Or perhaps Enjoy life?

(Samhain) Sounds like we do the counterspell and renew as it wears off until we have time to come up with a more permanent solution.

(Night Templar) He is going to be pretty awkward to have around though. Huge dinosaurs are like that. Fortunately there is a LOT of Canadian wilderness. But hey, its a dinosaur we did not send to Mars.

I guess that was a point in some ways. At least once we got back to Silverhold, the questions I had asked regarding the ships seen around Zantu were finally turning up answers as Love Divine gave a report summary. From the reports, identical craft had been seen around Earth shortly after it had exited the Rho Field and again in the last few weeks. My initial fears that they might be a prelude to the Arrehenis Swarm was swiftly shown that the timing simply didn’t add up. There were heavy reports for several years, then it tapered off rapidly – but it had kicked off a UFO frenzy by then. Current speculation centers on some sort of survey being made after the Earth emerged from the Rho-Field – it seems like it would be worth an “after” study – but it wasn’t positively identified. Most telling was that the NSD didn’t go after them.

(Samhain) So possible survey of Zantu going on then.

(Love Divine) Quite possible. They do not, however, seem to be using FTL drives.

The ones most likely to be conducting a survey then were the Orthallen or their proxies. Which meant that Zantu has finally managed to attract the attention of one of the adults. Probably me talking to Chi’an Lung that did it. Hopefully this doesn’t lead to the outcome of an adult Orthallen attempting to sterilize the planet as a precautionary measure. Blowing multiple holes in the planet was bad enough, I couldn’t begin to imagine what would happen if I had inadvertently caused the Orthallen to try and exterminate my entire species.