The maps we were given both an immense help and a tactical headache. There were far too many branching hallways and blind corners that typified the worst aspects of fighting in an enclosed space. Even worse were the notes about it not necessarily being accurate in some areas meaning that relying on it to determine if our flanks were secure was a good way to end up dead.
It also looked like my power-cells were not being unduly drained during my presence in this memory. That was good as it meant that when we finally exited this memory we didn’t have to immediately leave so that I could swap out to fresh ones. Still made me wish for the convenience of having the wireless power system, but if I had that I’d also have access to the Fourth Generation Shieldsuit. Can’t have everything I suppose. And I had my doubts as to whether I could sustain such a technology given the issues we’ve already experienced with repulsor bikes and such.
Still, there was one question that I needed to ask the technical support crew.
(Vanatica) Do you have any records of a previous visit by a young woman of my species. Her hair would have been white and she would have been carrying a weapon similar to this.
I pulled out my lightsaber for demonstration purposes and once again became slightly annoyed that no one recognized what a technological miracle I simply carried around like it was a normal thing. The sheer expense that went into mass producing crystals made up of layers of matter and antimatter was to my knowledge a feat no one else in galactic history had accomplished. Allandras was the only one that seemed to notice this and he was mostly concerned about pilfering the crystals for later sale.
(Kyrcanir) Some! The woman you refer to was seriously misguided! She showed little interest in the actual Archive – although her reopening access to the surface was not unwelcome since it’s interesting to have visitors – but a considerable interest in the dozen or so remaining holdouts, who’s patterns have degraded so far that they are quite insane and not at all informative. Why she would wish to consult destructive madmen who’s brains are long since dust and exist only as recorded patterns linked (badly) to their spirits over a sensible source is hard to make out! She seemed quite irrational.
I briefly considered mentioning that this was fairly normal behavior on some level back home with people hunting down ancient Jedi and Sith holocrons. Half the time the spirits of those Force users were still linked to the holocrons and as such would make an appearance themselves. Whether one considered this smart or not was an open discussion, but one could not deny the value in holocron collecting. Even if it was to keep them out of the hands of someone stupid.
(Vanatica) Her irrationality has perplexed us all for some time now. She doesn’t seem to be fitting the normal patterns of madness amongst our kind.
Part of me did wonder if Seras was caught up in some sort of Recursion blindspot that we hadn’t documented before. What exactly that entailed and how I might exploit it was far from certain, but my time with Lindral was making it increasingly clear that Seras could be a lot more dangerous than she had been if she simply used the resources of the Anomaly a bit more intelligently. Instead it looked like she was simply picking up one or two additional tricks and ignoring almost everything else.
(Kyrcanir) In her conversations with one of the “Resistors”, Seras learned a badly-crippled version of certain magical fields. She also refused to give up her notion that those magical fields were a manifestation of the…. Force and Codex I think it was. So she is using those talents to tap and channel the energy – a quick and easy, but very limited approach. She apparently believed that she destroyed the Resistor she was interacting with due to her foresight showing her that her interacting with him would result in her gaining…. I believe it was called “Sith Sorcery” and the Resistor being destroyed. She may well have been right about that if her actions led to your expedition.
Suddenly a lot of little details made sense. If Seras actually believed that this was all variations of Sith Sorcery, then her inability to fully make use of the potential of true magic was understandable. It also suggested that continuing to learn magic would potentially allow me to gain a major advantage over Seras in the future. She probably was not going to be using things like Obols and various magical artifacts to the full extent she theoretically could. Which meant it continued to behoove me to gain as much access to whatever knowledge on the Anomaly was available.
(Vanatica) Is it possible to set up a remote link for later queries?
(Kyrcanir) Hmm, that would be difficult to set up, but not impossible. It may well be easier to simply come visit from time to time instead.
If I had more resources at my disposal, I’d simply dig up the entire complex and have it hauled off to somewhere more convenient for my purposes. Although I imagine they would frown on that one. I had also considered schemes whereby I might try to export the contents of the Archive to some sort of data format I could hook up to THELOS, but I simply couldn’t think of any method whereby to convert between the two formats beyond dumping a lot of Obols on what amounted to a wish. I wasn’t sure I was ready to be dropping Obols for that kind of expense at this stage. Still, there were more methods of gaining access to large amounts of resources to use in solving problems.
(Vanatica) Do you have any insight in how I might construct a gate that can reach my home galaxy with any sort of precision? The best attempts I’ve been able to make thus far cannot do any better than hitting the right universe after numerous failed attempts. And even then the exit side of the gate is so far from anything meaningful as to be near worthless.
(Kyrcanir) Ah, the “constantly shifting through dimensions” problem. The simplest first step is to create something alive that can hold a gate. If it’s alive, it will have its own, personal, stable reality link – so if you have a living structure to work out of, it negates the first (and quickest) level of shifting. Secondary shifts as realms come in and out of phase call for more power and occasional maintenance. The really long-term shifts can occasionally be gotten around with really high order magic, but for the most part it’s not worth fighting them. If universe #37 will be out of reach within three thousand years…. just finish up with whatever you were doing there before then.
Drat, that more or less negated any technological advantages I thought I possessed with subspace tunnel technology doing the bulk of the heavy lifting. Worse, I wasn’t aware of any species back home that generated actual gates. Unless you counted monotalents that shunted in (or out) mass/energy. We did have seed samples of the “Hippyverse Space Trees” (was never a fan of that name) though that constantly shunted in hydrogen for star formation. Whether or not that would suffice for this purpose was another matter.
On the other hand, we had reports of that castle or fortress was utilizing technology that wouldn’t ordinarily work in this region. There were also reports that the fortress was “alive” on some level. Since this likely meant it was maintaining a specific reality overlay around itself that we might learn something from studying how it was constructed on how to create our own reality overlays and eliminate some of the “shifting” problem that way. Oh well, more things to look into later once we have a base set up somewhere my technology had a better chance of working consistently.
(Vanatica) What information do you have regarding the nature or origin of the Anomaly?
(Kyrcanir) The Anomaly, as you call it, predates our arrival by an unknown amount – possibly trillions of years.
That was a bit of a shock. That easily outpaced the Final Empire in terms of duration although it seemed the Anomaly didn’t have anything approaching a continuous Anomaly-wide government for that entire time. If there was such a thing as “Anomaly-wide” anyways. I also had to wonder about the maintenance systems in place that could keep a place like this functioning well enough for sapients to survive for all that time. Presuming maintenance meant anything when dealing with a Tier IV universe. For all I really knew, it was simply the laws of physics that maintained this place in a “pristine” condition and those hills eating infrastructure and turning it all into forests was simply a natural consequence of those physics. How exactly would I tell the difference?
(Kyrcanir) It apparently “likes” to take in refugees – a higher than would be expected number of overlays and “random” gates open to such situations and there’s some evidence that it encourages rescues by it’s own inhabitants – although that may just be because most civilizations are made up of social creatures. It definitely encourages life and survival on its surface. At least one of its major functions is to expose sapient beings to many realities, encouraging cross-dimensional linking and powers. This eventually encourages higher-dimensional ascension, although that may be a side effect of the “make it easier to get powers” function.
Well, that definitely suggested some sort of guiding intelligence at work (or really weird physics). I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the ascension stuff though. I knew that was a thing the Final Empire claimed to be pursuing, but they hardly seemed to be making any progress on that front despite a head start of hundreds of billions of years. Plus I wasn’t sure what I thought of entire species effectively going extinct due to this process either. Not that I condoned the idea of turning oneself into an undead monstrosity to avoid that fate, but I had to wonder if there wasn’t some sort of middle path. And am I being “unenlightened” when my primary goal of gaining these powers and accessing new technologies is to haul it back home for the betterment of my family and the Protectorate as opposed to some sort of abstract goal like becoming a higher dimensional being or whatever ascension means? I wasn’t sure, but figured this was a topic better left for diary musings that historians could debate over.
(Vanatica) Alright, any indications in your records that my reality has had prior interactions with the Anomaly?
(Kyrcanir) Hmm, that universe, or at least the probability cluster, has had prior interactions. It became a major part of the cycle during “The Great Burning” event, and has had regular contact ever since. It has not, however, been reached all that often, since it seems to be manifesting in a well off the beaten path as it were.
I knew of the Great Burning and that it involved a lot of destruction that led to the end of the Wraith Empire. Beyond that I never really understood what was the cause of it all. I remember making inquiries about it previously, but I can’t seem to recall the answers. Which probably meant the Censor was involved on some level. I do seem to recall that it was a massive radiation storm originating from another galaxy that hammered the Galaxy for a hundred thousand years and sterilized a good fraction of it to create the Dead Zones.
Hmm, that did mean there was a significant potential for finding areas on the Anomaly that might have buried Wraith artifacts. That could be immensely valuable to look into at some point when I had more resources, manpower, and time at my disposal. Even more, those refugees probably had faced the same issues I was regarding mixing our technology with the new capacities the Anomaly made possible. I did get a list of rough locations for where cities and such used to be located dating from that time period. I’ll ask the ships in orbit to try and do some ground penetrating radar scans and such to see if they can pick up anything unusual in those areas.
It wasn’t entirely clear though based on the differences between my calendar and the Kyrcanir’s what dates the Anomaly was present in my universe. Of course, it seemed like it was entirely possible that it appeared in a different timeline every time it connected with our “probability cluster” as the Kyrcanir called it. Perhaps this meant there was some actual sense to Grandmother Lessa’s rambling about the Lost Sound Clan. Not that I imagined there was much of any real revelation to be had from that discovery. After all these millennia, I had more genetic material in common with the average street rat on Coruscant than I would have with some isolated branch of the Soung family that’s been stuck here for twenty millennia or so.
(Kyrcanir) Hmm, it looks like there was a relatively recent problem with a species called the Yeveetha though.
Oh damn it all. That was not what I wanted to hear. Such a species loose on the Anomaly would potentially run rampant through such a nigh infinite biosphere like this one. We had planetary sterilization weapons at our disposal and we still had problems cleaning out infestations. Not that the Censor was of any help in that regard. The blasted thing considered the Yeveetha (and the ecosystems they occupied) living things to be protected even though the Yeveetha would systematically exterminate every other sapient species if given the chance.
On the other hand, the way that was stated led me to believe that the Yeveetha had been contained somehow here on the Anomaly. I’ll need to look into that at some point.
(Vanatica) Alright, and last major question for the time being: do you have any records on an ancient mage named Lindral?
The ghostly form of Lindral then appeared next to me and put her hand on my cheek.
(Lindral) Aww, I get the impression that you don’t entirely trust me!
(Vanatica) Let’s consider it a common motif in my home universe to beware of ancient ghosts offering secrets of great power in exchange for “favors”.
Lindral then retracted her hand and tapped her chin as if contemplating what I had just said. I felt the gesture was highly patronizing and that it was intended to be that way.
(Lindral) Hmm, a wise policy I suppose. Not very fun though!
I don’t know if the Kyrcanir staff could see Lindral and thus were waiting for her to finish, or if this was one of those subjective time things going on. But Lindral’s ghostly form sat on one of the desks where one of the Kyrcanir were working and the one I had been speaking to proceeding to speak again.
(Kyrcanir) Hmm, judging from the memory-fragment you carry, she is extremely recent by our standards – less than three millennia ago – but there is a low-level link between the fragments that will make it possible to locate them. If you seek information on the current locations, that should be easy enough to grant.
I jotted down those locations on the maps we had been collecting. Not that I was sure how valuable a memory of a paper map was going to be once we left this memory, but all of my computer interfaces were non-functional and I couldn’t communicate with THELOS either. That kinda made me wonder just how any of my computer controlled equipment was managing to function at all, but decided that was a topic for later discussion.
(Vanatica) While that is useful. I was hoping for a bit more information about her as a person. She has an annoying tendency to be enigmatic and speak mostly in riddles. That tends to make me hesitant to entirely trust her.
(Kyrcanir) Ah. One sec…. It looks like “Lindral”, as you call this individual, is a soul fragment of a fairly powerful scholar-mage named Orbas. In particular, Lindral is the Familiar fragment. As for Orbas, it looks like about halfway through his career he went insane during a quest to become a “god”. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, this process involved a large number of lives being sacrificed and other unethical behaviors. This eventually brought the attention of a group of adventurers that killed Orbas and scattered his remains and soul.
(Lindral) Yeah…. kinda had a hand in that one. Finding adventurers willing and actually potent enough to finish the job was a real pain. Let’s just say that Orbas’s conscience caught up with him.
She must have seen the look on my face upon hearing of a number of the atrocities Orbas committed.
(Lindral) Hey, I was embodied into a cat during that timeframe! I do suspect that his externalizing my aspect was what led to his going off the deep end though. Not going to say that was one of his smartest moves.
(Vanatica) And yet you and he are fundamentally the same person.
(Lindral) Aspects of the same person, there is a difference. And I was not the dominant aspect by any measure. Now, it would behoove you to ensure that the remaining fragments of Orbas reintegrated under my dominion as opposed to one of the less savory aspects of Orbas. My offer to grant you all of my knowledge in exchange still stands. Well, most of it, since I really am not keen on sharing some of the worst things Orbas learned during his “experiments”.
(Kyrcanir) Unfortunately, I am unable to provide much detail regarding the current status of the other fragments beyond a simple location. Updates since our ascension have been a bit sparse and usually entails someone coming to visit us.
Ugh, it seems I’ve gotten myself in a heavily externalized therapy session for the sorcerer version of a Sith. That was presuming that what I’ve been told by Lindral was actually true and that she could be trusted. Which was far from certain by any measure. I already had to deal with one crazy sorceress in Seras.
(Lindral) Needless to say, since time is subjective here and the threat to you and your friends has ended, we can spend some time getting in some training for you.
(Kyrcanir) I would not recommend spending more than spending a subjective decade or so on any one visit though – and taking a few days in reality to readjust is recommended per subjective year.
(Lindral) Then it’s settled then! Your friends will likely spend several months studying various magical texts and whatnot. So that gives us plenty of time to try and move your training to the next level.
What followed was months of what amounted to a flashback to my days of being tutored by my various instructors my parents had hired. I was never a fan of this particular power dynamic and Lindral seemed to revel in it. She kept going over all sorts of arcane lore and rules of thumb that hardly amounted to anything resembling theory. At times it seemed like learning how magic worked was a lot like studying trivia for a game holo as opposed to actually learning anything useful. Lindral insisted that this was because magic could take many forms depending on the user and learning all those forms was critical to knowing how to counter everything.
Finally the time came when the others were ready to depart back for the real world again. We ended up back in the altar room we had started in a day ago, even if it seemed like it took us months. I couldn’t raise anyone outside on the radio however and it looks like the droids had been pulled back from the archive. That probably was because of the issues with power supplies caused by the negative energies of the archive.
On an interesting side-note, it looked like a number of items the others had found managed to leave the memory-scape with us. We had acquired a number of additional Obols, several pieces of that weird crystal technology of the Kyrcanir, various other weird bits, a significant stack of books, and a not insubstantial sum of minor coinage. Allandras was claiming ownership of much of it, but I think when push came to shove that the rest of us were willing to force him to share the spoils despite his protests otherwise.
I did begin to wonder if there was more to the possible variations of crystal technology that worked back home than what we knew about. With the Censor, it wasn’t really possible to tell if something didn’t exist because the technology was unworkable or if because that technology could be used to destroy planets and thus was banned. It may be worthwhile to compile a list of crystal technologies and see if any of them work back home (or at least on Itaint).
We stacked it all in a corner out of the way and started (or continued) or exploration of the archive. At least this time we had a map at our disposal. Not that the Kyrcanir could vouch for it being accurate in places were the undead were holding up. Still, it at least gave us something of an idea of where to go next.
(Zin) There is a large rock blocking the path ahead. It will take considerable effort to move it along.
(Vanatica) Let me have a try.
The rock was quite large and did block the passage quite thoroughly. Still it didn’t seem to be supernatural on any level. A quick swipe of the lightsaber confirmed that it cut readily enough. A few more quick swipes sheared off a chunk of rock that I then caught and tossed out of the way behind me. Had this stupid rock been out in the open, it would have been easy to simply slice it to pieces like a melon, but since I only had access to the portion visible through the archway I had to get creative with my slicing to make this work.
Soon enough I had an opening carved out and a large pile of rocks radiating considerable heat. Checking my power cells, it didn’t appear that the effort had drained things too badly. If I had to guess, it was because the bulk of the energy came from the cosmological constant as opposed to the power cell itself. At least this gave Zin enough leverage to break up the remaining pieces and move them out of the way and thus give us a clear path forward.
The passageway was obviously carved, whether by magic, psionics, or some form of mundane technology instead of by hand. Various collections of seeming junk such as statues, pottery, and various other oddities were shoved into the various side-niches. Most of that appeared to be fairly recent. Eventually the passageway opened up to a fairly good sized cave. This chamber showed obvious signs of blasting. Evidently the passageway hadn’t quite hit the blatant door made of some sort of highly reflective metal and bore an inscription. It was flanked by a pair of decorative pillars. Here, amongst the loose rubble were traces of recent movement. At least someone had managed to get this far and milled about. Everything was still, but there was a looming sense of dread.
Jacob pulled out that tricorder again.
(Jacob) Hmm, no signs of undead so far. They must be further in AUGH!
Mummified hands had burst forth from ground and had grabbed Jacob by the ankles. All around the chamber even more undead mummies (or whatever these were) starting rising from the ground. Watching them shamble forth towards us, I didn’t see much in the way of any sort of coordination. Oddly enough, there was no smell of death and decay strangely enough. At least the mob was moving quite slowly.
(Vanatica) I’ll cut Jacob free if the rest of you provide cover.
My first swipe failed to hit anything because Jacob kept squirming around and I was paranoid about amputating one of his legs if I was careless.
(Vanatica) Hold still damn it!
(Jacob) It’s invading my mind with strange sigils which radiate blackness!
Zin had to block several attacks at me from mummies while Jacob tried to assist me with that phaser weapon of his. I finally got a clean shot at one of the arms holding down Jacob and thus freed that leg. Allandras did something that caused a significant number of the undead to explode in a burst of fire while another group of undead seemed to be struggling with something on the floor holding their feet.
(Allandras) Alright, I got rid of a quarter and held up another, you guys going to do anything?
I had to struggle to repress the urge to pay him back with a grenade shot to his face. Ignoring him for the time being, I finally managed to get a clean shot on the remaining arm holding Jacob’s leg after a quick shove to him pulled the arm taunt. Now that Jacob was free, the need to keep fighting in such a poor tactical position was no longer necessary.
(Vanatica) Fall back to the passageway. I’ll use grenades to take care of the rest.
There was a semi-organized retreat at that point. Once we got to a fairly good chokepoint, it was a simple matter to ready the rifle and start unloading grenade rounds liberally throughout the room. That took down the undead swarm with relative ease, but I couldn’t help feeling that better organization and tactics on their part could have made that whole situation a lot more dangerous than it had actually been.
Heading back in the peer over the blasted remains, I noted that most of the bodies were local types, but there were a few exotic specimens I hadn’t seen before. Most appeared to have been originally slain via knife-blows to the chest. At a guess, I figured these all to be adventurers that had been a lot less cautious and well-armed.
(Vanatica) That could have gone better.
(Vanatica) Want to give scanning for undead another go?
(Jacob) Sure one more try then.
Part of me wondered if this meant the tricorders were fallible after all, or if the undead hadn’t actually existed in that location previously and just sort of spontaneously generated. The knife wounds suggested these weren’t just generic corpses materialized out of nothing, but so far the tricorder had been downright mystical in its ability to pull accurate information out of the void. More observation was warranted I guess.
(Vanatica) Are we likely to be fighting the same undead corpses again as they simply reassemble themselves? Or are we actually making progress by destroying these things?
(Jacob) Hmm, looks like these are permanently destroyed. They weren’t even under control particularly and were pretty mindless.
(Zin) There are necromantic energies flowing through the area however. Anyone who dies will likely rise as a zombie given a few days. Similarly, the area is quite sterile.
(Vanatica) Alright, I think we need to go with room by room clean out procedures.
(Allandras) Hmm, sponges, bleach, hot water, extra buckets…..
It was hard to tell if Allandras was being sarcastic or really was that ignorant of tactics. I decided it was best to assume someone else might well be ignorant of such basics as well and adjust.
(Vanatica) Get to the next room, do not enter, scan for enemies, grenade into dust regardless of results, rinse and repeat.
(Allandras) And I loot anything of value to be sold later.
He was really beginning to try my patience.
Now that we had access to the door itself, we could see that it was covered with various inscriptions in that language of the Kyrcanir. I got to work attempting to translate while the others did their own things.
(Jacob) Hmm, compacted matter infused with negative energy that reduces orbital radii. Allows them to resist most directed energy, and makes the molecular bonds very difficult to break since most energy applied will simply get negated.
That was weird. I mean, it made some sort of sense from a physics perspective, even if the physics I was normally aware of wouldn’t actually allow someone to do that. Had to wonder how many other applications could be made by combining magic with an advanced understanding of physics. Maybe some of those Itaint projects could be expedited substantially if I could simply remove the guesswork from the process and simply alter mass, energy, space, time, and information to my desires? This meant I really need to see how much of this could be made to function back home and how feasible it was to construct reality overlays.
Sadly, the inscription was another issue. While I was able to read it, the syntax and grammar was rather recursive in written form compared to the spoken form I encountered back in the memory sequence. That meant whenever I thought I was getting close to a translation, I’d stumble upon a character or mark that changed the entire meaning of a section I thought I was done with. I was about halfway through all the characters when Allandras glanced at it all and spoke.
(Allandras) Negative Entropic Cascade Nexus. Warning: Class Four Necromantic Hazard. Contamination Potential. Exercise Caution. Blood Link required for access.
(Vanatica) Oh, Force damn it all….
Part of me was upset at being so casually outdone by Allandras and part of me was annoyed by the meaning of the warning. This probably meant there were significant negative energies behind this door above and beyond the levels we had already been dealing with. And I knew enough from my studies with Lindral to be wary of anything that mentioned a “blood link”. At a guess, it was wanting proof of bloodline from one of the maintenance families or something.
(Vanatica) Any idea whose bloodline it needs or what lies beyond the door?
(Jacob) According to the map, we’re at the main door. It should open into the outer monitoring and control area, but that was all put on automatic ages ago. Evidently people have been getting in by offering blood sacrifices though. Of course, they likely got it all wrong; they obviously weren’t too clear on what they were doing.
Hell, that could even be said about even a hybrid like Seras. At the moment, I wasn’t sure if that also applied to us or not either.
I looked over the inscription again and suddenly something clicked. This was set up to link to those who pass through it and drain off any excess necromantic energies they got infused with on their way out. It basically acted like a decontamination station of sorts. Judging from the way it was written, the link would fade in a few months if one got killed inside though, thus allowing one to become undead and come out again. Probably not a design feature as I imagined the designers figured no one would stay in there that long – or not take any bodies out. Probably wouldn’t open until we all donated a drop of blood. Hmm, offering someone else’s blood would also work I suppose since I doubt any of the designers thought about such an idiotic loophole.
Jacob already pricked his finger and pressed the resulted blood against the door. I pulled out one of the ceramic knives from my belt, removed the gauntlet on my left hand and nicked my fingertip. Once a drop of blood began flowing, I pressed the blood against the door. Out of habit I took out a tube of bacta cream and applied a droplet to the cut on my finger to no avail. It took me a moment to realize that the bacta was probably dead in this environment and thus useless. Annoyed, I applied a bandage and put the gauntlet back on over my hand; flexing it to adjust the fit so the bandage didn’t rub annoyingly on the inside of the gauntlet.
Probably should have cut my pinky instead of my index finger.
Allandras provided his own blood sample and Jacob ended up supplying one for Zin, since to the best of our knowledge, Zin didn’t have blood. That got the doors open and the room beyond had many neatly arranged opalescent crystal slabs, across which stage symbols of pulsing, radiant, darkness crawled. The door to the far left had been wedged open, it revealed a large chamber with crimson lights crawling across the floor, illuminating lines of symbols and text. There was an intrusion there though – an obviously out-of-place stone structure – that someone had plopped down in the middle of the floor.
Directly ahead there was a door depicting a massive chain, rising from what looked like a range of mountains into the heavens. To the left there was a wall where a crystal slab had been carved with intricate depictions of various monsters. To the right was a depiction of a portal, a depiction of a book surrounded by the same symbols we saw at the archive doors. Even further to the right was a heavy slab of metal showing what looked like the accretion disk around a black hole.
(Jacob) There is something quite powerful in the crypt feeding on whatever is going on with the floor. Some of the symbols of the floor say things like “Exhalation Niger Lung”, “Vortex of Time”, “Psychic Avalanche”, “Postponement”, “Nightfall Wave”, and “Psychic Physician”. Although each name is followed by rows of symbols, which spread across the floor in strange curves. Sort of like a cursive style – all with a single line, each symbol leading into the next.
Ugh. Many in the family (especially Mother) loved to write in such cursive texts. Vatasha seemed to make it an art form in and of itself. I just found the whole mess illegible for anything beyond signatures. There was a reason why all text displayed on a computer was not in a cursive script: it made everything easier to read. And a computer display that no one could read was of no value to anyone. It didn’t help that the Aurebesh script was notorious for being nigh impossible to write cursively and legibly at the same time. Vatasha insisted my complaints were due to being left-handed and that a right-to-left script would be easier for me to work with. I still don’t see how that affected my ability to read other people’s poor penmanship.
Back to the matter at hand, the symbols on the floor were actually sliding across like a scrolling stock ticker towards the crystal slab marked with the depictions of various monsters. Once in a while the script appeared to repeat itself. That was ominous, but I didn’t have enough understanding of the technology to really say what it was doing. We did know that the undead were using the Anchor System’s negative energy to anchor themselves. This was also supposed to be a supply or tool room of some sort. Sadly, while I figured fixing the Anchor System would solve the problem in one fell swoop, I had no idea of how to go about that and destroying it sounded like it would have bad consequences. And attempting to short it all out against the cosmological constant would likely destroy several kilometers of terrain. That still didn’t actually tell me which statue, pillar, or set of inscriptions was the Anchor System.
(Allandras) I think this is a psychic variant of a Hearthstone. A sort of “scroll rack” of various psychic disciplines. Currently running randomly and it seems like something is feeding on it. However, we might be able to use some of the power if we can trace out the appropriate symbols for what we want. I might be able to use it to increase my storage capacity for more looting!
I was about ready to smack him, but I noticed at this point that the stone slab depicting monsters was now solid black and beginning to ripple with things pushing through it. Figuring this was something setting up to attack us, I ran next to the slab and powered on my lightsaber. I then held the blade across the width of the statue in the hopes that whatever did come through would promptly be bisected.
(Vanatica) If we can disable the feed to the undead tap, we might be able to impair their ability to sustain themselves.
(Allandras) Oh, I could look for ones that allow me to make psychic objects, so that I can make those in addition to my magical crafts!
(Jacob) So one needs to trace out the appropriate symbols on the floor in order to activate the system.
(Allandras) If you’re going to dance, you need to know the steps. I don’t want one whose only purpose is to attract predators.
I had no idea what he was talking about anymore. Here we were, deep in a crypt full of hostile undead, enemies spawning around us, and he wanted to dance. At least the first…. whatever sliced itself in half against my blade. Looking back at Allandras, I saw him with a flowing mist that formed up into a slender form – a female canid type, made of little more than fog, but flowing towards him in a graceful dance – the symbols of fog flowing down her skin and into the floor, where they became a complex web of symbols and steps.
(Allandras) Ah, dancing with the spirits. It’s like being back with the family.
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at that. Unfortunately, I was too busy making sure we weren’t attacked by monsters to force Allandras to focus on the matter at hand as opposed to his desire to dance.
(Allandras) A beautiful woman, a dance of love, a gentle mist about. Truly, will be an epic tale, though not for all ears. Since the steps are outlined, I will take my place.
(Vanatica) Maybe I am gutting the wrong target.
(Jacob) I think this dance has something to do with “warp cosmos”.
As Allandras began dancing, he faded into a creature of swirling mist.
(Jacob) Um…. what does this have to do with “warp cosmos?”
(Vanatica) My question is what does this have to do with our larger objective of clearing out this place?
(Allandras) Well, a good dance can change your view of the universe.
(Vanatica) Doubtful, most such events tend to just bore me to tears.
(Allandras) Then you’re dancing with the wrong women.
I was now really tempted to slice him in half instead of these damned monsters. Not that I was certain my lightsaber would do anything against fog. More importantly, if that was the form one of the undead was taking, it stood to reason that he was now an undead as well since his current state was so similar from a visual perspective.
(Mist) You… you seek to join me in the eternal gyre? Then so shall it be!
(Allandras) Well, I’m not so sure about commitment like that. A dance is a dance. Eternal is a bit much for just one dance though.
(Mist) Why not? No one had innocently join me before. Some have pled for favors, others have offered battle, but you were the first to join in. So it shall be! And here, fed by the endless power-cascade of the Taps, the part need never fade.
(Jacob) It looks like the dance he joined was “Bend Reality”. Specifically it was “Transform into a Spectre”.
To the best of my limited understanding, that wasn’t going to be fixable with the resources we had. I suppose it might be possible to try cloning his original body and then seeing if he can possess it, but I didn’t have high hopes of that working. First, he didn’t seem to be a classic Force ghost per se and we didn’t have someone that could teach him the appropriate technique either. And secondly, the medical facilities for actually generating a clone were not available down here on the Anomaly.
(Allandras) Ah, but there’s more fun to be had then just this party. I can sense your boredom with it. I’m Romani, for us, the road is home. We travel, we explore, we dance the paths between the worlds. Come join me, travel, and see something new.
(Mist) But there is only one destination remaining, and I have refused that path for many ages! I shall not renounce what is MYSELF for that journey!
(Allandras) Oh, that is so mistaken. There is a brand new world through those doors over there, and many more besides. Don’t give up, just for forth.
(Mist) That way is shut. Only here between the worlds, can we endure as once we were.
(Jacob) This thing has been using the excessive energies of the “tool room”, where people could pick up temporary psionic disciplines, to stave off the final death for an enormous length of time. Probably can no longer exist outside, but does have access to plenty of psionic disciplines.
To me, this seemed like a a really powered-up Force ghost. Definitely undead, but relatively safe if not disturbed. This wasn’t much left of this one’s mind either beyond the desire not to move on. In many ways it seemed like undeath was as damaging to the mind as the Dark Side or Fading. And judging by how damaged this one’s mind was, she was as much a lost cause as some of the worst cases of Sith and Faded like Lecrouss. Seems to be a general trend with immortality and obsession.
(Vanatica) In essence, she refuses to move on and has degraded to becoming little more than the desire to not move on. We can’t convince her and the only way forward would be to force the issue by removing the system that keeps her here unnaturally.
(Jacob) If she has been reduced by all of this, what she really needs is to temporarily restore enough that she can be rational and show her what is actually on the other side of the one door left to her. I am sure this strategy will work. Does anyone have the right effects available for those two tricks with a few of us helping here?
I was fairly certain that my meager curative magicks would not suffice. However, I had to wager that a few Obols could accomplish much of what Jacob was proposing. I also figured that my Dawn spell, while not particularly powerful, had to help at least somewhat. Luckily, I had several of those prepared. Not that I was anticipating this particular situation for using them though.
With a bit of coordination, we used a few Obols and Jacob did “something” to boost that. I discreetly threw in a Dawn casting to assist as well. Allandras continued to do his weird attempt to persuade this undead that dancing alone in a crypt for hundreds of thousands or even millions of years just to avoid moving on to the afterlife or another plane of existence was getting a bit excessive.
Suddenly there was an immense energy discharge. Probably all the power she had stored away going up as it lost the link to her. Allandras then went into another dance that caused all of that energy to swirl around him and even seemed to flow into him somehow. Probably him enacting another one of those psychic disciplines via interpretive dance or whatever one would call what he was doing. Still, that seemed to have made the undead mist dancer vanish and presumably move on to wherever it was she had been avoiding.
However, it looked like Allandras was still an undead mist creature himself now. I had somewhat figured that particular effect was tied to the dancer and that her departing would end it. Looks like that assumption was wrong though. I was going to be really annoyed if the first undead we’ve finally dealt with ended up getting replaced immediately by a party member doing something stupid. Not counting Allandras, we had another ten major undead left to deal with.
At least a quick search of the tool room afterwards revealed a stash of around two hundred Obols to add to our collection out of the deal. And I had to admit that this was the first time I had seen someone dance so poorly that they died from it.
Matthieu Cleque definitely looked worse for wear. His blue skin was covered in numerous bruises and he was bleeding from his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Even worse, he was breathing poorly and wasn’t wearing his breath mask. The pollution in the air of War Shadda was more than enough to make someone like me ill and I could eventually adapt given time. A Tiven like Matthieu was not going to be so lucky as those lungs of his just sucked all the toxins out of the air and dumped them straight into his bloodstream. I had to suspect the only reason he was even standing was because of the two bouncers holding him up by the arms for presentation to Preed.
What Matthieu was doing here, I didn’t know, but it was easy to guess. He was former Republic Special Forces that has since gone independent to work for a mysterious private organization that specialized in dealing with low level crimes that the various security forces were too busy deal with. Cases I knew he had dealt with included murder, arson, low level government corruption, and corporate malpractice. Presumably he was here following up on a missing person’s case and had stupidly gotten in over his head.
I had encountered Matthieu numerous times in my career, and will admit that some of those interactions had been…. sensual. It did annoy me that my relationship with Matthieu had apparently become public knowledge, but I had doubts that Matthieu had been anything but discreet. And while that relationship could be described as little more than a series of one night affairs over a period of years, I was not going to be pleased if Matthieu got himself killed. Still, it did annoy me that my mission here was getting badly derailed because of this and that Tosa had foreseen it.
(Vanatica) You wandered into the den of a mediocre crime boss and didn’t have an escape plan prepared?
(Matthieu) Hey, you know me. Never know when to let things go.
(Preed) Mediocre?! Princess, I am going to have to….
I turned towards Preed and raised my voice as I cut him off.
(Vanatica) Be quiet! Mommy and Daddy are talking now!
I turned my attention back to Matthieu. I pulled a breath mask from my belt and tossed it to him whereupon one of the goons restraining him caught it. I made sure to shoot that goon a glare that informed him just how little tolerance I had for defiance right now.
(Vanatica) Put that on him now! I will be annoyed if I have to rush things simply because you can’t be properly trained!
Immediately that goon and his friend worked to put the breath mask on Matthieu much to the consternation of Preed. I didn’t give him time to countermand my order though.
(Vanatica) And now I have to waste my time saving your sorry rear. I have other things I wanted to do today that didn’t include you.
(Matthieu) Well, you aren’t really under any obligation to do anything.
(Vanatica) Perhaps, but then Damian will complain. Then I’ll have to try to ignore him and that will leads to things escalating to Mother. I’d rather avoid that headache if I could.
By this point the breath mask was on Matthieu’s face and I could see that the infusion of pure oxygen was helping him. While he would need medical treatment later, that should help his stamina enough to make himself useful when the time came. Matthieu clearly understood my line of thinking as he made a slight nod my direction. With that out of the way, I turned my attention back to Preed.
(Vanatica) So, how much will you pay for me to take him off your hands?
Preed straightened himself up at that and reclined into a position whose body language suggested he thought he had the upper hand in this.
(Preed) Pay you to take him? Not going to happen. This golmeck was snooping around my private business and has been harassing my men. That’s going to cost him. If you want him, that’s going to cost you too. Your Protectorate has made itself a pain for my business and I am to recoup some of that with this latest windfall.
I walked up to the table Preed was seated at and propped my foot on top of it so that I could rest my arm on my knee as I leaned in towards Preed.
(Vanatica) I don’t think you understand the situation. If you thought the Protectorate was bad news before, you obviously have forgotten what happens to those that draw the ire of the Sith.
I leaned a little more of my weight onto the leg propped on the table and thus caused the table to slide along the floor until it was pressing uncomfortably against Preed’s large gut. Several of the goons started rushing forward to Preed’s rescue, but were halted by a brief gesture from him.
(Preed) You’re not Sith, princess. You’re just a kid with some fancy toys and an inflated sense of self-worth that comes with being a spoiled brat. And the Protectorate isn’t the only one with Sith on the payroll.
With that a seemingly nondescript goon to my right flung his hand out at me and I was sent flying across the room via a telekinetic blast. I collided with numerous tables and chairs before coming to a stop on top of a pile of broken furniture. The one that had flung me across the room was walking towards me with a pair of lightsabers drawn. Behind him, I saw that Matthieu had taken the opportunity to break free of the guards and was fighting them valiantly, but was likely to be overpowered again soon. Still, that bought me at least some time. I made the gesture to extend the armored hood over my head and face again as I used the flight systems to flip over onto one of the tables behind me.
(Vanatica) THELOS, I am going to need some support.
(THELOS) Lady Vanatica, I have four combat droids on the rooftop ready to enter the building immediately. I also have another twenty on board the courier ship and have begun a rapid descent to initiate a combat drop. I am also detecting another ship closing in on your location rapidly. My preliminary analysis indicates that it is the Chevalier.
I heard THELOS, but didn’t have time to respond as that Sith began throwing furniture and lightning at me. The shields were holding against that onslaught, but it was difficult to retaliate effectively, which was probably the Sith’s intention with these tactics. I did hear the droids drop in through the skylight and add their firepower to the fight. Presumably they were focusing on the regular thugs and assisting Matthieu first, but it was hard to see from my viewpoint.
I needed to do something to throw the Sith off his attack pattern. Extending out my left hand, I held the gesture that began charging a blaster shot and held it. As power continued to be fed into the charge, the field began to warp and extend into a whip-like structure. As plasma began to leak from the end of the whip, the charged ions generated electrical arcs back along the length of the whip. With that at the ready, I swung the whip in a wide arc that made it hard to outright miss the Sith as it sliced through furniture. He dodged that easily by leaping backwards, but that gave me a moment’s respite to move to the attack.
I flew forward as I donned the shield on my right arm and pulled out a lightsaber with my left. I thrust at the Sith with the lightsaber, but he spun to the side to neatly avoid my attack and hit me with another telekinetic blast that flung me back across the room. At least this time I was prepared for it as the flight systems struggled to counter the kinetic energy imparted to me. Amazingly, we were stalemated with me hanging in mid-air unable to fly any closer to him and he was unable to push me away any further.
This one had some skill and was obviously smart enough to use tactics that countered my own. He wasn’t just relying on power and precognition like so many do. He was actively trying to keep me as far away as possible and limiting my opportunities to use my technological advantage effectively. Was he a Varen Sith? He wasn’t one I recognized, but then again, it was impossible to know every one of them these days.
Eager to break the stalemate, I threw up both of my hands and fired a rapid series of blaster bolts at the Sith. That forced him to drop one of his hands he was using to telekinetically blast me as he deflected those shots with one of his lightsabers. What I hadn’t anticipated was that he also used his remaining hand not to push me backwards still, but to impart a significant sideways velocity to my flight as I surged forward again. Not prepared for the rapid and unexpected acceleration, I smashed through a series of booth tables, a wall, and then landed with a roll in what was presumably the kitchen.
This wasn’t good.
I was running out of technological tricks to throw at this guy and I couldn’t get close enough to use the Vailo martial art techniques specifically designed to deal with Force users. The only saving grace in all of this was that my defenses were keeping this at a draw where neither of us could effectively harm the other. It probably came down to whose backup made the difference first. Mine was probably closer, but his were going to be a lot more numerous.
Dislodging myself from the metal counters, I saw the Sith standing at the hole in the wall patiently waiting for me to get up. His weapons were drawn and ready, but he didn’t seem to be eager to out and out attack me. Very odd behavior for a Sith.
(Vanatica) What’s the deal? Some sort of twisted honor code?
(Sith) Just doing what I am paid for. It’s nothing personal.
What he was paid for? Was he really just doing his best to protect Preed and thus delaying me to give Preed enough time to escape? I mean, that made sense, but it wasn’t behavior I would have expected from a Sith. Jedi don’t go for protecting mediocre crime lords either. Where did Preed get the kind of money necessary to hire someone this professional and talented?
(Vanatica) So the goal is to keep me busy until your boss gets away then?
(Sith) That and to keep you from getting too nosy with poking around in places you shouldn’t. I’m well aware that you would love to get access to the records here if given the chance. I can’t let that happen.
So much for the idea of offering to let Preed go for an end to the hostilities and using the truce to find some useful information before leaving. Further fighting was just going to cause more property damage and more annoying complaints from the Hutts later. I figured my best option right now was to take Matthieu and withdraw for now. Perhaps an opportunity to learn more about “Angels Fall” will present itself later.
(Vanatica) Since further hostilities seem to be pointless….
(Sith) My thoughts exactly.
(Vanatica) I’ll offer a deal then: I take Matthieu and leave without further hostilities. That’ll save us both a great deal of trouble and corpses.
(Sith) Hmm, I’ll allow it. It gets him out of my hair and allows me to declare that I did my job by driving off one of the legendary Soungs. At the very least, it’ll look good on my resume even if my boss isn’t happy with letting Cleque go free.
That certainly wasn’t a reputation I wanted becoming widely known, but I didn’t have any soldiers available nor did I have enough droids to force the issue. Even if I had a Mark II rifle, firing it in the midst of a city-moon was going too far. I was going to have to find out more about this Sith and keep an eye on him. He could be trouble further down the line. Maybe Jax could have a “talk” with him later.
With a truce agreed to, I stepped out of the kitchen to the main dance floor where I saw Matthieu standing over a half dozen unconscious goons looking worse for wear as the four combat droids buzzed around him in a defensive formation. He was definitely in need of medical attention as he tried to brush it all off with a smile and wave towards me. I grabbed him around the waist.
(Vanatica) Come on, we’re getting out of here.
(Matthieu) Already? I was just beginning to have fun with teaching them a new dance style. One where they bounced their face against the floor instead of their feet.
(Vanatica) Save the bravado for someone who would actually be impressed by it.
With that I flew up through the skylight while holding onto Matthieu. The courier ship was circling just above the rooftop in a holding pattern and immediately lowered the boarding ramp. I flew inside the ship and the ramp closed behind us once all the droids had finished boarding as well. I then heard the engines engage to take us far away from here.
I set Matthieu down on one of the couches and examined him for any new serious injuries that needed medical attention. All I found though were lots of bruises and some minor bleeding. Given the way he was wheezing when breathing, I figured he had some broken ribs. He probably had a concussion too, but I didn’t have enough medical training for that sort of diagnosis. A medical droid took over things for me on that end and began making the usual series of complaints doctors do. Not to be outdone, I added my own to the mix.
(Vanatica) Well, you just cost me a lead in an important investigation. You’re lucky I felt sorry enough for you to save your ass.
(Matthieu) Aw, you do care.
(Vanatica) Enough to throw you out the airlock. What the hell is a Tiven like yourself doing on Nar Shadda of all places? It hurts my lungs just looking at the air and I don’t have your problems.
(Matthieu) I had an environmental suit, but they took it when they caught me.
(Medical Droid) Well thankfully, I have extensive medical files on Tiven anatomy and biochemistry. We should have you back to full health in no time. THELOS is already increasing the oxygen concentration to thirty percent and double cycling the air filtration to make your stay aboard this ship as pleasant as possible.
(Matthieu) Well the, thank you THELOS.
(THELOS) It is my pleasure Master Cleque. It is always nice to have you visit.
(Matthieu) And my ship?
(THELOS) I have been in communications with the Chevalier for some time now. It is providing escort for us as we proceed to rendezvous with Trust’s Mobile Unit on the outskirts of the Nal Hutta system. We should be docking within thirty minutes.
Well, I guess that meant I was going to be saying hello to Kurst and Marlene then. They were always friendly, but never really seemed comfortable around me.
(Matthieu) So what were you doing in Preed’s place anyway? Doesn’t seem like the sort of ritzy establishment one would expect to find the Firstborn of the Soungs.
(Vanatica) I could ask you the same thing, but I figure you were following up on a missing person’s case.
(Matthieu) Something like that. Did Preed kill one of your agents or something?
(Vanatica) I was hoping to get some information on a new smuggling route he’s apparently operating called Angels Fall.
(Matthieu) Then perhaps we can do each other a favor. I’ve got an unrestricted remote tap on his computer systems installed before they caught me. If you can get THELOS to break through the encryption on the data, I’ll give you access to all the information you want from the system.
(THELOS) I would be more than happy to assist in this matter, Master Cleque.
Unrestricted access to Preed’s computers could allow us to utterly dismantle a significant portion of the slave trade business. It wouldn’t stop it entirely, but it would be a large enough bust that the remaining players would learn to be a bit more respectful of the laws of the Protectorate and the Republic. It would also be a nice feather in my cap to present to Mother and Father.
(Vanatica) Indeed, that would be a nice gift for me.
I leaned in and gave him a kiss as the medical droid complained about my blocking its attempts to treat Matthieu. Breaking the kiss, I stepped back and gave Matthieu my best accusatory tone.
(Vanatica) Now, what’s this I’ve been hearing about you spending time with my sister then?
(Matthieu) Now that I can explain! Nothing happened! She just helped me with an investigation and lent me some equipment for this job.
(Vanatica) Uh-huh, then let’s get the story out of the way before you have to share it in front of your compatriots.
Not that I expected Matthieu had done anything improper with Tosa, but I definitely wanted him to share all the details of his encounter with her. Putting him on the defensive so that he willingly spat out everything about it just to satisfy me was all part of the plan. Hopefully he’ll be able to follow through with he claim to being able to provide access to Preed’s computers.