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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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Anomaly Mission Logs by Vanatica Soung – Session VII

timelapse photography

Photo by Markus G on Pexels.com

The first evening after a day of hauling the Dawnchaser we arrived at a village that looked to be having trouble with some sort of monster in the woods killing or eating people. The basic description seemed to indicate it was a semi-amorphous blob monster that they had tracked to a mound-structure rather like a prairie-dog hovel based on the information I got. They were looking for help in going into the tunnels and eliminating the thing.

The others agreed with me that this was good opportunity to try and acquire some more local currency and thus we volunteered for the task. Tricorder scans suggested there were numerous pitfalls, deadfalls, burial chambers, and various crude traps. Even more concerning were the reports that several local kids were trapped inside in one of those chambers as well. So my initial idea of using explosive charges to collapse the whole mound-structure on top of it as it looked like this was morphing into a rescue mission.

Even more concerning was the new information we were receiving that this blasted thing was shapeshifting at a level I found hard to believe and an intelligence that was contradictory with the lack of differentiated anatomy they were insisting it possessed. Well, that did line up with the crude traps we were seeing on the scans I suppose. I wanted to consider the structure of the mound’s tunnel to try and pick a tactical line of assault with tunnel collapses or feints on the other entrances, but was overridden when everyone simply started plowing into the first tunnel.

Jacob insisted he could perform some sort of “technological exorcism” on the thing based on the tales from the locals that this thing was from “outside”. What the hell that meant compared to any of us was not clear to me, but I figured I’d let him do his thing and I’d do my thing with lots of blaster fire and explosives. Something with this little structure couldn’t be that resistant to explosive shockwaves.

I really should learn to quit underestimating weird things on this Anomaly. Explosives weren’t nearly as effective as it seemed this thing had the consistency of wet snot and was far more mobile than it had any right to be. Blowing it up may or may not be accomplishing anything as it was either bringing more mass into play or was simply reforming itself every time I did something. Even the lightsaber didn’t seem to help matters appreciably as more of the snot kept welling up from cracks and holes in the walls and floor to fill the tunnel in a massive tide of snot. With our immediate path of escape cut off, there was little choice except to retreat further into the mound.

I was not particularly happy to find out that the snot was highly corrosive either. Still, with the shielding provided by my suit and the special armor layers, I was probably far more resistant to such attacks than anyone else here. As such, I elected to bring up the rear while the others charged towards the center of this mess. The thing’s eyesight (slime-sight, snot-sight?) was not very effective beyond a few feet as it kept wasting a lot of effort firing globs of snot at the walls, floor, and empty space instead of actually managing to hit me. Those few hits that were dead on slammed against the shields and then simply rolled off.

Unfortunately, the bigger issue got to be that the floor was quickly getting covered in the stuff and the amount of room to fly in was getting smaller and smaller. As such, I accidentally landed my foot on an outcropping of rock that was no longer free of snot. Equally unfortunately, the computer interpreted this as a landing as opposed to an attack and thus shut off the shields between my foot and the ground. Now my foot was stuck, and the corrosive snot was attempting to eat through my boot. Luckily the corrosion resistant coating was slowing that down, but attempts to pry my foot loose were getting nowhere. More globs of snots hammered at my shields to little effect, but I was beginner to get concerned that I was going to be engulfed with this stuff even if the shields held.

Pulling out my lightsaber, I started cutting the rock around my foot while operating under the assumption that at worst I could simply make do with a couple centimeter layer of stone and dirt attached to the bottom of my boot as opposed to be stuck in a single spot where I might be overwhelmed. Allandras made himself useful by pouring some sort of solvent on the snot around my boot, which combined with my lightsaber managed to free my foot. Once free, I managed to readily fly over the hidden deadfall trap, but Allandras fell right into it. Making sure he got out of the pit, I continued to bring up the rear.

It was right now that I found myself wishing I still have the fourth generation shield suit as the lightsaber scale shielding would be really useful right now. Unfortunately, there were too many dimensional transitions between the ships in orbit and myself for the hyperspace power signal to reach me. Which meant I was dependent on local power supplies that could function without putting too much of a strain on myself or others. And that meant I had to fall back on the more limited third generation shield suit instead. I probably had sufficient power to last another twelve hours or so, but didn’t want to contemplate what might happen after that.

Soon we ended up in a large central chamber with a spiral ramp down to a large pit. The others were chattering something about “alien geometries”, but I was far too concerned about the endless mass of snot that was still trying to eat us. I did note the crystals lining the walls around us that seemed highly conspicuous compared to the primitive wooden traps and masses of snot.

(Vanatica) Anyone have any idea regarding the significance of the crystals?

(Allandras) Might be valuable.

I really wanted to just smite him then and there for thinking of his own greed as opposed to our mounting survival problems. The proper response would be to consider them significant and how we might use that to our advantage during this fight, not how much they might sell for. Zim said he thought they were acting as some sort of dimensional manipulation effect acting across some sort of dimensional barrier to facilitate an exchange. To me that suggested destruction or disruption of the crystals was thereby a worthwhile activity for everyone to pursue.

I left that to the others to follow up on as the snot monster was being incredibly insistent and would not take a hint to back off. Our descent down the ramp wasn’t easy even with flight systems unfortunately. There was just too many tentacles and slime attempting to grab us that had now thoroughly blocked our paths of escape with what I suspected was hundreds of tons of snot. On the plus side at least, this meant I could pretty much aim blindly and still hit snot with explosive blasts. A quick glance at the others suggested they were trying to perform some sort of arcane counter-ritual or something and that we were now up against the wall (or floor) where a lot of animals appeared to have been sacrificed.

Electing to try and buy them as much time as possible, I liberally fired explosives blaster shots at the endless mass of slime. It was impossible to tell if I was even hurting it or if it was simply reforming immediately afterwards without issue. Not able to hold it back any longer, I was engulfed in a massive wave of snot.

Shields were holding, but THELOS was already complaining mightily about the power drain. I didn’t need him to tell me that considering how much my suit was sparking and smoking from the strain. Again, I found myself really wishing I still had access to the Fourth Generation Shieldsuit. As droplets of corrosive slime leaked through the shield, I was racking my brain trying to think of a tactic or escape method to try and get out of this scenario alive. I was briefly pondering overloading my suit’s power supply and seeing if a massive electrical discharge would have any effect when suddenly the slime level began to drop rapidly.

As the chamber around me became visible again, I saw tendrils of slime getting sucked through a glowing blue hole in reality that promptly sealed shut once the slime was gone. A number of the crystals I had seen earlier were now detonating in spectacular fashion. Most everyone had suffered relatively minor injuries or was unharmed it seemed. My suit was going to need extensive repairs given the overloads and spots where corrosive snot managed to burn some of the outer layers of circuitry. Probably easier to have a new suit dropped from orbit than to spend days replacing each and every damaged component by hand.

Still, it looked like the rescue of those captured was a success and we managed to banish the creature behind it all. Zim gave me recordings of the ritual setup that he said was designed to open or seal mass portals from this side. That was immensely valuable, even if it didn’t necessarily directly relate to creating a portal back to my universe. In terms of spoils of war, we had a few farm animals (sigh), a number of those weird crystals used in the ritual, and a small, neatly stacked, pile of what looked like forty Fire Ruby Obols. I was absolutely certain those had not been there before.

While I couldn’t see my own face, I was quite certain the look on it well portrayed my exasperation with the disgusting way reality seems to insist it works here. This isn’t religion. Religion is a bunch of superstitious idiots following scam artists or ignorant fools peddling non-answers to the problems of everyday life and its meaning (or lack thereof). This…. this is not religion. This is like a reverse-charity where reality pays you for supporting certain causes. This is a….. job and those so-called priests are more like HR people running job fairs. Does this mean I become a goddess if I learn how to make Obols and then pay people with them in order to promote my goals? No, I refuse to allot that level of reverence to what is going on here. I refuse to call them gods when they’re this…. is petty the word I want? I don’t know anymore. What I was sure of was that I needed to add new words to the dictionary just to properly convey my thoughts about this place. Let alone try to define the array of new concepts this place introduces.

You’d think someone as proficient in as many languages as I was wouldn’t have this problem.

As for the crystals, my own limited training was wildly unable to the task of determining much about them. Zim and Allandras stated they were powerfully charged with dimensional magicks, but determining anything more than that was headache inducing. Visually, they seemed to have differing number of sides depending on the angle I looked at them from. Asking the locals about them told us they were Lukiar Crystals. Commonly found in deep mines, they acted as valuable foci for dimensional spells, learning to tap into new power-sets, and so on. That definitely made them valuable then, even if we didn’t have a way to readily exploit them for the time being. Oh well, make them available to Intimoda for the next time we attempt to make a subspace tunnel back home. Hell, if my new training actually bears fruit, I might be able to do it myself.

Still, with our job here in this town done, I was going to continue those arcane exercises Lindral assigned me for a bit until dawn and then sleep while the caravan moved onto the next town.

It seemed all I was doing any more was playing a really elaborate game of whack-a-mole with these damned incursions from Seras and her minions. The gunship I was currently on was racing through the gate system to respond to the latest location she’s made a pest of herself. Given our official status on emergency business, that meant we got emergency transit priority as we zoomed from one planet-side transit hub to the next with sirens blaring. I recognized the skylines of the planets Ascensa, Munwal, Debett, and Osgonn as we transited gate after gate. A few commuters were upset with the disruption and made their opinions known by honking loudly as we passed. Other resources were also converging from elsewhere in the Protectorate.

What details were coming in regarding the latest attack were alarming on a number of levels. First off, it looked like Seras had found one of the dummy corporate buildings set up to attract conspiracy theories about Itaint. Acting a honey-pots, they were a good way of misleading people as to Itaint’s true location for those who didn’t think it was a myth. Even better, the amount of explosive charges designed to bring down the building did a lot to discourage all but the most determined or stupid would be snoopers from prying too much. So far we’ve only had to replace four buildings over the course of a decade with such tactics. That fact that employees entered the building and then promptly disappeared through a gate cleverly hidden in the lobby helped give it an otherwise normal appearance.

Unfortunately, it looked like Seras had prepared for such countermeasures and not only had somehow disabled the explosives, but recognized the gate setup for what it was and tried to storm it. Automatic protections kicked in disconnecting the gate from this universe as new gate connections to Itaint were established elsewhere to compensate. Now we had reports that she had a small army occupying the building with fighters and even a capital ship providing support. The soldiers, fighters, the capital ship, or even their weapons matched nothing in our records either.

Protectorate units were already on the scene and engaging the enemy, but calls for reinforcements were still going out. What really worried me was that the building itself had no value without an open gate to Itaint and that could only be opened from Itaint’s end given the limitations of the technology we put in place in the building. Unless Seras was going into the real-estate market via some really subtle joke aimed at me, her precognition should be telling her to evacuate now before she gets trapped by my overwhelming forces in mere minutes. So either this was using the trap to lure me out, or she had some method of forcing a gate to Itaint. Neither one was pleasant to consider the potential implications.

(Pilot) Lady Vanatica, we’ll be arriving at the target world with the next gate transit.

(Vanatica) Just keep a head’s up. It sounds like a major fight is breaking out on the far side.

(Pilot) Don’t worry ma’am, I have no intention of getting shot down.

Preparing for combat, I grabbed the power cable from the receptacle next to me and plugged it into the receptor on the back of my shieldsuit. Until one of the command ships arrived, I was going to be dependent on wired power for full functionality or internal power for limited functionality. With the coupling firmly locked into position, I then went to the sealed storage locker.

(Vanatica) THELOS, HURIEL Emergency Lock Override, requesting access to Mark-II Rifle.

(THELOS) Request confirmed, please provide authorization code for verification.

(Vanatica) Vanatica Nyla Soung, “Winter Begins A New Dawn”.

(THELOS) Authorization code confirmed, provisional access to Mark-II Rifle is now available. Warning: excessive property damage or civilian fatalities resulting from use of this weapon will result in suspension of all SHIELD and Grenkay command authority.

With that the weapons locker clicked repeatedly for several moments as numerous locking mechanisms were disabled. Rumor had it that the lockers had explosives installed to destroy the rifle should unauthorized entry be attempted, but I had a hard time seeing where such a thing could be hidden. Finally the locker opened to reveal the Rakata rifle improved with technology only we Soungs had access to: antimatter-matter crystals that made repeated use safe and space-moss shielding against blowback from the Censor for the weaponized use of stasis-fields. Even with the shieldsuit augmenting my strength, the rifle had a mass that seemed to subtly demand respect when I held it. Clicking off the safeties, I turned the intensity setting for artillery mode and threw open the side door of the gunship as we transited the last gate.

Immediately after we emerged on the other side the gunship was buffeted by enemy fire. The shields were holding steady at least and the pilot was moving to get us behind the cover of a nearby skyscraper. From my vantage point I could see hundreds of aliens I didn’t recognize battling it out with thousands of Protectorate troops in the streets below. Meanwhile in the skies it looked like hundreds of Protectorate fighters were swarming the airspace in an attempt to shoot down unknown gold and black enemy fighters while simultaneously providing air support to the troops on the ground. Above that I saw six star destroyers busily engaging a massive golden ship I figured to be in the same class as a super star destroyer with flashes of light around them all indicating even more fighters duking it out. Something that big was not a good sign.

(Vanatica) THELOS, we need more ships in the system.

(THELOS) A tactical alert is already in progress. Two carrier battle groups are already en-route with an ETA of under ten minutes. Transit of more fighters and troops is still underway. I anticipate having a million soldiers on the ground within twenty minutes and another ten million planet-side within the hour.

That was encouraging at least. There were few things in the galaxy that could take on two Ultra Star Destroyers and win. If Seras was trying to test our response times, she was surely in for a shock.

(Vanatica) THELOS, figure out who is in charge on the ground and patch me through.

(THELOS) One General Reginald Orvus. He is on the line now.

(Orvus) This is General Orvus.

(Vanatica) This is Alpha-Wolf requesting status report.

(Orvus) We’ve engaged the enemy and have surrounded the building. We’re working on cutting off all subterranean exits and Vailo units are disabling enemy specialists. Enemies appear to be using lots of automated weapons platforms, weird lightsabers, and personal shields that resist most weapons fire.

(Vanatica) Understood, I have enacted HURIEL Emergency Protocols. Request targeting data.

(Orvus) Sending to you.

Immediately the HUD in my hood made to look like a stylized arctic wolf began to light up with thousands of red and green lights. Arrows then appeared indicating particularly annoying red lights for the troops on the ground. Glancing over the map for potential targets to hit first, I forwarded the data to the pilot whereupon he began making an attack run. Looked like the first thing to feel my wrath was a golden mechanical caterpillar thing the size of a bus. Aiming the rifle, I felt the computer targeting assistance kick in to make subtle adjustments to how I was holding the rifle. Clicking the setting to anti-tank, I pulled the trigger.

Immediately the whole area around where I was aiming exploded in white light as molten debris rained down nearby. I was most annoyed to see that the stupid thing was still there surrounded by a blue glow in the midst of a substantial crater in the pavement. Keen to make a point, I clicked the rifle to the next setting, aimed and fired again. The sound of that blast easily caught the attention of the entire battlefield as the golden caterpillar was obliterated from existence. As we continued the attack run, I took aim at a cluster of troops taking up a defensive position that gave them a clear field of fire over half the battlefield. Moments later nothing remained of them except vaporized concrete.

Predictably, enemy fighters immediately focused on the gunship I was on as incoming fire hammered at the shields. The shields on the gunship had to boost themselves to lightsaber levels at times to keep up, but were otherwise holding. I took the opportunity provided during times of slightly less incoming fire to blow even more holes in the enemy lines. I was taking aim at a spider-like mech when suddenly the rear half of the gunship just sheared off without any warning. The remainder promptly lost all flight capability as it began to plummet in a rapid tumble. I was thrown out into the side of a building where I barely missed being smashed by the rear half of the gunship falling after the front half.

(THELOS) WARNING: CONNECTION TO EXTERNAL POWER SUPPLY HAS BEEN CUT. RUNNING ON FULL POWER RESERVE. FULL POWER FUNCTIONALITY WILL CEASE IN ONE MINUTE TWENTY SECONDS.

Using the lightsaber shielding, I pushed my way through the wall of the building while swearing loudly. With only internal power, I was a sitting duck for battlefield weapons while out in the open. Layers of structural concrete and metal would provide additional protection though. General Orvus was probably getting an alert about my status now and would likely be sending a Vailo Unit to fetch me. And the carriers were outfitted with wireless power transmission systems and should be arriving within two or three minutes. Not content to simply wait here for rescue, I ran further into the building where the elevator shafts no doubt lay.

(THELOS) Full Power Reserve exhausted. Now running on Internal Power only. Functionality is highly limited.

(Vanatica) That is not really very helpful right now!

My lightsaber made short work of the doors, allowing me clear access to the shaft down. I grabbed one of the cables and slid down towards the lobby where the maps indicated friendly troops where probably waiting. I had dropped probably sixty floor when the whole building seemingly shook. Hearing groaning and crunching sounds above me, I glanced up to see hundreds of tons of debris plummeting down the shaft. Not keen on getting pancaked, I released the cable and let gravity take control. Falling past the lobby, I stopped my fall just before hitting the bottom basement and then pivoted the flight systems to throw me to the side down a maintenance tunnel. Debris impacted the bottom of the shaft mere seconds later and threw up tons of dust that obscured vision.

By this point THELOS had already retrieved a floor plan for this building and was overlaying a wireframe of the hallway on the HUD using inertial tracking to keep track of my position. Seeing that there was supposedly to be a stairwell ahead, I ran forward trusting in THELOS’ overlay to keep me from hitting a wall. The stairwell was exactly where he projected it to be and I bound up the steps to the ground floor. Reaching the lobby, I found the place to be a mess. The doors leading outside were blocked with what looked like massive piles of debris that was smoldering. More concerning though were the dead Protectorate soldiers strewn about the lobby. All were showing signs of having been sliced apart, but no indication of an attacker.

Not trusting my eyes, I had THELOS begin cycling through various EM frequencies on my HUD. It was when I got to thermal that suddenly a weird mass crawling along the ceiling became apparent. Not giving it a chance to attack, I simply shot at the ceiling on the lowest power setting. That also gave me a nice hole to fly up to the next floor. Flying up there, I found the windows outside also clogged with debris. It took me ascending twenty floors before I was able to find a window that wasn’t blocked. Forcing my way through, I found the streets were in utter chaos as smoldering debris packed the streets to a depth of a hundred meters in places. Massive clouds of dust obscured vision and the telltale smoke of fires was doing nothing to help the situation. My suit’s scanner was also picking up the signals of thousands of emergency stasis belts sending out distress signals.

What was blatantly evident though was the ongoing firefight both on the ground and in the air based on the flashes of light and thunderous sound. I was also still receiving targeting data from Orvus. I briefly pondered if we or the enemy benefited more from the lack of visibility, but ultimately decided that our sensors and ranged weapons probably were less impacted than a bunch of aliens using melee weapons and no obvious sensors. Still, the thought of getting ambushed by a bunch of melee specialists while I was still on only internal power was not a comforting one. And there was still a Hybrid on the loose somewhere.

Internal power was still enough to run the flight systems at reduced thrust. Leaping into the air, I flew along the edge of the building to minimize the odds of colliding with a fighter. Finally breaking through the dust cloud, I saw the source of the debris below had been that the top half of the skyscraper I had been in was gone. It looked like it had simply been sheared off with a lightsaber given the glowing hot remains at the top of the remainder. Had Seras found a Starbreaker and was using it at really low power as a melee weapon? Or was this yet another instance of that ridiculous gamma-ray laser of hers that shouldn’t be able to operate based on every analysis we’ve subjected it to?

I took up position next to a gargoyle that was still in place and tried to survey the battlefield for signs of Seras. Normally I would simply use the rifle to blow holes in the enemy lines, ignore their attempts to counter me, and wait for her to step in personally to deal with me, but without full power I was too vulnerable to pursue that tactic. On the other hand, it looked like our side was winning simply from force of numbers and superior combined arms tactics.

What was Seras’ objective here? Was it to simply lure me out into the open? Distract us from an assault elsewhere? Steal the receiver gate and somehow use that to derive the location of Itaint? Perhaps just causing enough sheer chaos that I get discredited in the eyes of Mother and Father for my handling of the situation? Or maybe this was a test run of something new she was hoping to try out and we’re who it is being tested on?

I got a split-second’s warning of an incoming hyper-time thermal signature and thus got barely enough time to position my arms and legs in such a way to best protect my vitals when I felt something impact my side like a star destroyer. The impact sent me flying where I bounced off one fighter before impacting a window on another skyscraper. The window cracked as did several of my ribs. The shields and armor managed to keep me from being turned into paste at least. I was still trying to get my bearings when I heard a voice come over my commlink.

(Seras) Oh poor Vanatica! What’s happened to your precious toys? They don’t seem to be working quite as well as before!

I saw her now, she was standing on the ledge I had just been on. She had acquired some golden armor somewhat similar to what the aliens were wearing and she had another one of those rifles slung over her shoulder.

(Vanatica) You’re the one with the powers. Why don’t you tell me what is wrong with my stuff?

(Seras) Better idea! I’ll simply share mine!

With that she aimed that rifle of hers again and shot a diagonal line might to slice me in half. I saw that violet fire stream through the air, incinerate part of the building I was on, and then move towards me in a mockingly slow crawl meant to instill panic in me. Not one to play along, I ran in the opposite direction along the ledge where I hoped I might make it to the corner and thus block line of sight for a few precious seconds. Seras must have seen my plan as she simply swept the beam of destruction across the face of the building faster.

Whereupon it once again ceased to exist as soon as it got within a couple meters of me.

(Seras) That’s bullshit! No shielding effect can do that and it is certainly not a Force or Codex talisman!

I didn’t know or care how it worked, I was just glad it did. Taking her frustration as an opportunity, I engaged the flight systems again and made a dash for the corner. Heading down into the dust cloud was asking for her to use hyper-time to obliterate me. Standing on the side of a building just made me an easier target. And I couldn’t risk going inside the building and her responding by simply slicing another skyscraper in half. So that left going up to the roof.

Landing on the roof, I spotted a maintenance panel that hopefully contained exactly what I was looking for. Destroying the lock with the lightsaber, I torn open the panel to find a power coupling with significant cabling for maintenance equipment. Hurriedly pulling out the coupling, I attached it to the back of my shieldsuit.

(THELOS) Full Power Functionality is now back online.

Finally, running back towards the edge of the roof, I saw Seras across on the other building manipulating some sort of settings on her rifle. Not generous enough to give her a chance to try something clever, I took aim at her with my own super rifle. I could she the precognitive realization of fear dawn on her face as she stopped to look at me right as I pulled the trigger and obliterated a thirty meter section of that building where she had been standing. Not one to trust that it actually killed her, I started scanning the rest of the building for signs of her.

The only warning I got was the bright flash of something metallic on the roof of the building to my right before the shields engaged and my world went crimson red. When the shields finally disengaged again, I saw that the entire rooftop I had been standing on was now on fire except for a two meter circle around me. The cable providing my suit with power was smoldering, but it looked like the insulation was holding for the moment at least. Not wasting any time pondering my circumstances, I aimed at that metallic flash I had seen earlier, clicked the intensity to the next setting, and fired. The top six floors of that building abruptly vanished with an immense flash of light and a crack of thunder that did the shockwave little justice. If the people in that building had failed to take shelter underground like they were supposed to, I couldn’t be held accountable for their deaths via stupidity.

I was not prepared for the green flash of light that swept the roof and struck me on across the chest. Immediately it felt like my chest was burning and I could see that the suit was on fire. I heard the shieldsuit hiss as pain killers were administered and the cooling systems kicked into high gear. Again I heard Seras speak over the commlink.

(Seras) Damn it! That hurt you bitch! I’ll make you pay for that!

Again there was a flash of green light that lit up my world and seemed to render everything it touched on fire. This time though there was considerably less sensation of intense heat as the subspace cooling systems adjusted to better handle the thermal load. Several more green laser blasts engulfed the rooftop and the power cable finally shorted out and became useless, thus rendering back to only internal power again.

(Seras) I see now! It’s a cloaking effect that blocks out all frequencies above the visible spectrum! Now that is a nifty trick! I wonder if that is a stygium crystal doing that? And did you really apply a thin coating of monopolium to all your stuff just to handle laser blasts? Just how paranoid are you?

I couldn’t follow whatever she was muttering about. With the cloth portion of the shieldsuit in tatters, I tore it off and thus exposed the underlying armored plating. The corrosion resistant paint job had been burned off in a number of places to reveal the reflective coating underneath. The rifle was holding up surprisingly well to this abuse at least so at least I still had a means to retaliate. I just needed to do something before Seras figured out that I had lost Full Power Functionality again. Spotting her standing on a water tank on top of yet another building. In between laser blasts accompanied by mad cackling I took aim at her rifle and switched my own to continuous beam projection. Luckily her precognition didn’t alert her to the danger since I was aiming for the weapon and not her. Too late she saw what I was doing, but by that point her rifle was sliced in half.

That pissed her off enough that she went into hyper-time and leapt across to this rooftop. I kept the trigger pulled and tried to align the beam of my weapon with that blur of heat and light to little avail. Seconds felt like an eternity but not nearly enough to counter the hyper-time technique as she bared down on me. Finally she knocked the rifle out of my hands and grabbed me by the throat. Lifting me into the air to look at her, I could feel the hatred in her eyes with an intensity that felt more intense than the laser blasts. There was another flash of hyper-time whereupon I was slammed into a brick wall still glowing red with the heat from our battle. This time she spoke in a quiet low tone that had none of the feigned cheeriness from earlier.

(Seras) I am losing my patience with this game of ours. It is time you knew your place.

With that she punched me in the broken ribs. Breathing became very hard at this point as I gasped for air through her tight grip on my throat and my ribs where refusing to respond as I demanded. I grabbed at her arm gripping my throat, but even the augmented strength of my armor was insufficient to break her hold.

(Seras) You collect toys and order little soldiers around in your attempt to play princess, but I am an actual physical goddess in this universe.

There went another rib as she punched a little higher this time. THELOS was attempting to compensate for my difficulty breathing by upping the oxygen content the suit was feeding me. That was keeping me conscious at least, but otherwise not of much help. With only internal power to work with there just wasn’t much that could be done to compete on her level. As Aunt Virstris taught me, that is when it’s time to fight dirty. Using her grip on me and my own grip on her as leverage, I swung my foot into her crotch with all the augmented strength I could muster. Even if her precognition saw it coming, she couldn’t avoid it without letting me go. And that would leave her open to further counters.

She apparently was too busy tormenting me to see it coming as she promptly doubled over in pain. Sliding back to the ground now that I was no longer being pinned to the wall, I slammed a fist into the side of her head and then kicked her face as she went towards the floor. She quickly rolled away and resumed a standing position to reveal a broken nose streaming blood down her face and torso. I wasn’t in much better shape as I was audibly wheezing at this point. She rushed me again, but much slower now as presumably all those blows to the head were messing with her concentration on her abilities. That gave me the opportunity to properly counter her using the Vailo Arts as I blanked my mind and simply relied on muscle memory, hundreds of trained moves, and how to effortlessly flow between any of them to foul up precognition and probability analysis.

Seras wasn’t an amateur either as she hammered back with blows of her own. I was hitting her more often, but she was still more durable and I was losing stamina fast. Executing a halfway decent throw of Seras over my shoulder while simultaneously planting a grenade on her back, I dove for the rifle as the explosion shook the rooftop. My hand nearly grasped the rifle when a boot stomped into my back slamming me into the rooftop just centimeters short of the rifle.

(Seras) I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that is a Rakata rifle that’s been modified extensively with more forbidden or hideously expensive technology considering I’ve never seen one of those fire more than three times without exploding and yet that one has fired at least two dozen times by my count. I wonder what wonders I’ll learn from it and from that armor I’ll be peeling off your corpse momentarily. Don’t worry, I’ll present your body to Mommy and Daddy so they can dispose of it. But first, let’s see if I can pry the location of Itaint from your brain before you die.

That foot pressed harder into my back and my grasp on consciousness was fading. I could feel her probing at my mind, but focusing on the pain of my ribs was sufficient to keep her from getting anywhere. Nonetheless, I was out of ideas given the prone position I was in and the lack of leverage it provided. I kept waiting for the stasis belt to click once the damage got too great and my vitals went critical.

(THELOS) Remote Power System Online. Full Power Functionality Restored.

Thank the Force for the small miracles in life. The shields immediately kicked in and caused me to sink into the rooftop as they ate through the roofing. The sudden increase in space to move meant I could roll over and grab Seras’ boot and twist it hard with now massively increased strength. The snap of a bone that wasn’t mine was satisfying to hear as I continued to roll with her foot firmly in my grasp like an alligator killing a deer. She slammed into the roof face first when probably did not help that broken nose of hers. Not giving her the chance to respond. I formed an explosive blast into my right hand and brought it down on her face as she attempted to roll over. Just as that blast was about to connect, she vanished from my grasp with a telltale pop that indicate she had done a trans-temporal teleport. Thus the blast hit what remained of the rooftop and detonated loudly but ineffectively against my shields.

Glancing upwards, I saw that two carrier battlegroups were hammering the enemy capital ship up beyond the atmosphere and it wouldn’t be long before it sank. Tens of thousands of Protectorate fighters were now swarming the skyline around me and I saw troop transports landing even more soldiers. One of them was obviously heading my direction as it landed on the rooftop and discharged several dozen soldiers and several medics who came rushing towards my position. Not one to give the appearance of being rescued, I forced myself to ignore the pain, stand up, and walk towards the soldiers. One of them at least had the presence of mind to grab the rifle and quietly set it next to me as I took a seat on the transport to allow the medics a chance to examine me. With everyone loaded back aboard, the transport took off for one of the carriers where I to be taken to the medical bay.

I didn’t look forward to the reports I had to fill out for this or Darius’ inevitable complaints.

Our arrival at the next town nicely coincided with the celebration of a local harvest festival. I gave permission for the crew to take leave so long as they didn’t get too inebriated. Personally, I simply sampled the food and drink made available and used the opportunity to get samples of seeds, saplings, blood, and whatnot of the various crops and livestock being used by the locals. Being able to grow the crops and livestock back home could be a proverbial gold mine just for the new varieties being available to wet people’s palettes. That was something Allandras still didn’t get. He kept focusing on trying to make lots of money buying and selling high-volume/low-profit bulk goods when our transport capacity was highly limited. Much better to focus on low-volume/high-profit items instead. And it was harder to get more low-volume/high-profit than foodstuffs since such things by their very nature were readily reproducible once samples were available.

Which wasn’t to say that the more exotic stuff was potentially useful too. The trees that seemed to harvest quartz and metals and incorporated them into their wood. I had doubts about the ability of such things to compete with traditional mining techniques economically, let alone the bulk energy-to-mass generation project we were still rolling out on Itaint. That was where the antimatter used in the crystals in my suit came from. Still, the genetics alone had to provide interesting insights into potential new technologies I have yet to even dream of. Ergo, worth procuring samples for further study.

I was taste testing one of the bowls of colorful fruits I have been offered when one of the technicians at the next table began screaming incoherently. He didn’t seemed to be injured and wasn’t being attacked from what I could tell. It took quite some time to calm him down and start getting some sort of coherent answers from him.

(Vanatica) What’s wrong now?

(Technician) The #$&%ing bush is growing standard-issue BLASTER CRYSTALS!

(Vanatica) Wait, they’re not just crystals, but crystals of a suitable doping configuration for blasters?!

(Technician) THEY #$&%ing SNAP RIGHT IN!!!!

(Vanatica) That…. can’t be…. it has to be someone is purposefully creating these things to do this…. Someone is actively manipulating reality in these biomes to facilitate the locals adapting to the changes in physics and technology. No other explanation makes sense.

Already Jacob was scanning the bushes with his tricorder.

(Jacob) The growth patterns can be manipulated by nearby mentation and will remain fixed for many years thereafter in the case of particular plants. The process is slow – but it looks like you can grow replacement chips, special-purpose crystals, little ruby swans, or other forms of shaped-and-doped crystals – although you will need to add any really rare dopants to the soil.

That…. I wasn’t really sure what to think about that. It was blatantly engineered to do this. It also further reinforced the relative flatness of the technology pyramid locally compared to back home. If the locals could simply grow most standard parts using common plants, then they didn’t need a massive industrial base to match most of our technology. I still suspected that even at their peak I had the power, resource, and manpower advantage if push came to shove, but otherwise they had enough here to readily construct a city that wouldn’t look out of place on Alderaan. It just bugged me that on a number of levels, it could be argued that these people were effectively running a POST-droid economy.

But that didn’t answer another critical question: who provided the mental patterns needed for this particular plant to make blaster crystals? That seemed to imply that others from my universe had visited this particular village in the not so distant past. Seras perhaps? None of the locals seemed to recognize her picture though. Perhaps just smugglers or explorers that got lost or trapped here? Or maybe minions of Seras operating under her orders? Or I suppose whatever passed for gods here might be planting the firsts seeds of the technology the locals might need when the dimensional overlay shifts to that of my universe. Impossible to tell with the information available.

(Vanatica) Fascinating, if irritating. I have a hard time believing that the plants could effectively manufacture the monopolium or antimatter really needed for the more advanced stuff.

(Jacob) Why not just use dilithium crystals?

I seem to recall him mentioning the things in the past, usually in response to discussions of how his technology worked (or didn’t).

(Vanatica) Dilithium isn’t a thing in my universe.

(Jacob) So?

(Vanatica) So that is why my people don’t use them. I don’t even know what a Dilithium crystal even does.

(Jacob) It converts matter to antimatter.

(Vanatica) Wait…. WHAT?!

Jacob then cheerily explained that mass-energy streams shunted through dilithium generated a temporal-reversal field effect that among other miracles, could produce mass-produce antimatter at a net energy profit. Already, the physics portion of my mind was coming to a screeching halt and the engineering portion of my mind was already racing through hundreds of potential applications or abuses. Within moments I came up with what I thought was a rock solid objection.

(Vanatica) But that implies true time travel is possible.

(Jacob) Of course it is possible… It is really annoying when someone has to call in Temporal Investigations for breaking the Temporal Prime Directive… Proving that this time it was predestination is really troublesome.

Well, that right there threw out pretty much half of the equations of quantum field theory as now invalid and rendered the other half suspect. I started trying to consider mathematical frameworks that’d accept such macro-scale casuality violations and quickly realized that my attempts to do that in my head were doomed to failure due to the inevitable logic pretzels.

(Vanatica) I’m too sober to be contemplating temporal mechanics right now.

(Jacob) Yeah, that is a common reaction to a visit from them. Sadly having these grow dilithium crystals would be a pain since they would be too young, but maybe there are some that were set up long ago.

Now I found myself wondering what would happen if I put a dilithium crystal into Hypertime for a few million years. Just trying to sort out the competing reference frames resulted in a massive headache. Still, another objection occurred to me.

(Vanatica) If your people have functional time travel, couldn’t you go back in time and set up the dilithium crystal you need?

(Jacob) It is common enough that doing so is more expensive than risking the strains of time travel. Plus, while it’s theoretically possible, going that far back is very likely to leave you stranded and on an alternate timeline no matter how careful you are. And it has always been true that deposits always are being discovered right when needed.

That last statement alone pretty much confirmed all the horrible casuality paradoxes my projections suggested had to be possible. I got some medicine for dealing with the headache I was developing and elected to retreat to somewhere quiet. The rest of the crew could handle collecting samples for later cultivation without me. I was going to take one of the Lukiar Crystals and pay Lindral a visit for further training.

Anomaly Mission Logs by Vanatica Soung – Session VI

ancient antique architectural design architecture

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And here is the sixth session log for the Anomaly Campaign Setting.  This one ended up taking some significant liberties with regards to one of the looted talismans, but I felt it worthwhile to include because a.) it adds new future plot hooks, b.) can be used to help explain where Vanatica starts getting training for new abilities from, and c.) I find the concept to be rather intriguing.  This however is open to GM approval and I will redo the relevant sections of the log if needed.

With our captive secured and off to treatment, attempts to scrounge anything of value remaining in the destroyed village proceeded. That got us an additional 82 Obols of various types, rather a lot of basic supplies, a couple of Gaunthounds that had been hiding in the woods, eleven things Allandras said were charms, and another five that apparently rated as talismans. There were quite a few tools and such, but that stuff was probably not any better than what could be dropped from orbit. Given my experience with flattened villages, towns, and fortifications, this was rather a large amount of useful material still around. Even more weird was the four kilograms of gold and fourteen kilograms of silver.

Villages of a “similar” level of development back home were usually on the barter system with some sort of central authority maybe utilizing gold and silver for coinage, but this many kilograms would have been difficult to find outside of major fiefdoms or cities. More reason to consider that outward appearances regarding technological development were highly misleading. Definitely indications that the locals were operating on par with a droid based economy if not necessarily the social structure to go with it. I guess magic severely flattens the technology pyramid. I wonder if that has the side effect of also limiting how high the “technology” can reach since it is all so dependent on powers and techniques that are not readily scaled up.

Oh well, more to consider later when I have more data. The “human resources” were given the standard spiel welcoming them to the Second Sith Protectorate where slavery is outlawed. There were looks of shock and confusion amongst them, but that sort of response was not uncommon either. Those that wish to be “employed” since they lacked any other frame of reference to run their lives around would have arrangements made whereupon they would be provided with a proper education and wages. Most graduate out of the program within a year usually.

(Felix) Just a random question: does the “Second Sith Protectorate” actually exist outside of, well you?

Sigh, the man dismissing all ideas of aliens as our insanities that he then ignores by drinking was now insisting that my existence was delusional.

(Vanatica) Well, besides the ships in “orbit”, the hundreds of thousands of ships elsewhere, and the tens of thousands of planets spread across multiple galaxies, there are my entourage here of several dozen technicians, assistants, and soldiers plus droids. Plus that isn’t counting the countless mining colonies, research stations, minor outposts, claimed but otherwise uninhabited systems, and so on that the Galactic Republic tends to count when they say they possess “millions of worlds”.

He had no response to that. I have too many witnesses to my existence and past to be more to be delusional than he was. Besides given the evidence available, we’re at the point where madmen claiming all of existence was destroyed for the sin of someone wearing the wrong shade of purple is just as likely to be from a universe where that actually happened as it is that they are suffering from mental illness. Who knows, maybe some of the weirdly insane nut-jobs back home are simply lost Tier IV Multiverse travelers and we didn’t know it. I’ll have to consider how to test that. Oh well, nothing that could be done about it from here.

Now that our supply of Obols had increased significantly, I felt it prudent to actually experiment with one and see how it worked. More or less selecting one of the “Death” Obols at random, I made my way back to the destroyed farm we were at earlier and “spent” the Obol on a desire to see the spirits of the dead in the manner I had been instructed would work. The Obol in my hand seemed to “evaporate” into thin air as I did so and the world around me seemed to shift. The sky became overcast despite not a cloud in the sky, and I got the vague impression of a fog drifting beneath my waist despite not really seeing one. Everything seemed to be drained of color leaving only shades of gray. The faintly audible and somewhat familiar voice whispering my name into my ear sent a chill up my spine.

A number of ghostly individuals not unlike the Force Ghosts I had seen in so many holos appeared as well, and looked to be chattering with each other. One of them noted I was able to see them and the general babble quickly settled down. Since they seemed to be waiting on me, I elected to ask the first question.

(Vanatica) Can you tell me what happened here and why? We recovered the woman with the Masque of Wrath and were able to remove it from her. But thus far explanations have not been forthcoming while she is in treatment.

(Ghost) We know that Rithana had been worrying a lot about the stories of all-conquering wooden constructs/vehicles/wood giants from the North – and had been getting increasingly paranoid and secretive. None of us thought that she’d be silly enough to try an Urge Masque though! And… she was evidently onto something. Wrath constructs usually don’t last very long; how she made them stick around all day is a bit of a mystery to us. Normally there would be a lot of smashing for a few minutes, and then things would run down, and you’ve soon exhausted the user and could get the (untranslatable) Masque off them!

(Vanatica) We found her in a shed of the Ithil wood, which presumably had some effect. We also found the interior to be a pocket dimension made to resemble the frozen glacier-like terrain where the fighting was taking place along with a stylized representation of the village as a castle being assaulted by the wooden constructs.

(Second Ghost) We would have thought that Ithil wood would neutralize things…. Maybe it filled up and turned into a sort of pressure tank?

(Vanatica) Perhaps a combination of the Ithil wood and maintaining the pocket dimension took most of the power.

The ghosts were a bit miffed at having been killed. Not at all like the holos and stories I hear from the others regarding Force Ghosts who seem to possess a supernatural calm about them. Even the Sith Force Ghosts seeking to terrorize the living. Also odd was the bit about them waiting for their ride to get here: The Dark Ship.

(Vanatica) The Dark Ship?

(Third Ghost) To take us onwards! Most of us subscribed to the belief that Mantho-Ithar, Pilot of the Dead, would be along to pick us up, and prepaid of course. Now with the Wrath-constructs gone, he should be by shortly.

Alright, there was a lot to unpack in that. There was at least some circumstantial evidence here of an actual afterlife besides becoming “One with the Force”. Someone was at the very least acting as the “maintenance staff” of said afterlife and it was implied that there was more than one afterlife and which one you went to was dependent on what you chose to believe. Even more astonishing was that this process could be interrupted by the efforts of the living even if indirectly. This made any claims regarding priests and religion suddenly a LOT more credible.

Well, provided that this wasn’t all an elaborate illusion the Obol was giving me instead. One way to test such an assertion I suppose.

(Vanatica) Any messages you wished delivered to the living before you depart?

There were a number of those to deliver. Thankfully, I was able to have THELOS take notes even if he couldn’t see the ghosts himself. One pair asked if I would promise to purchase the freedom of their children in exchange for telling me where their secret stash of money was. After quickly verifying the probable costs involved (not that I would have refused if it didn’t turn a profit, but my access to local currency to cover any deficits was severely lacking), I promised to help them.

The cache of currency they directed me to poked another hole in the theory that this was just an elaborate illusion. I suppose the illusion theory was still possible, but the sheer scale of it was getting too complex to take seriously. At this point it had to be faking all of my interactions with THELOS and the others to keep this working. If it could do that, it isn’t an illusion anymore and just a separate reality.

Still, that produced another twenty two Obols as a tidy profit after purchasing the three youngsters. Only thing left to do was wait for the heavy haulers to arrive in a few days. To that end, I started investigating some of the items we recovered from the ruins of the village and seeing what they did.

The first one was a bar of metal that seemed like it was made of iron. What was unusual about it was that it changed shaped depending on what I was visualizing while holding it. It could become a hammer, a crowbar, a screwdriver, or any other solid tool I could think of with roughly similar mass. Probably not as durable as my multi-tool, but then I multi-tool had limits as to how many tools it could fit into a single item. Every once in a while one just needs a properly sized wrench or a long hook to grab something just out of reach. Definitely worth keeping then. Especially since I have my doubts as to the standardization of the engineering specifications in this place.

Second one I looked at seemed to be a lapel pin of some sort. That one took a good deal of experimenting to learn that it mended and cleaned clothing and even kept me clean as well. Probably not anti-septic though, but still worth keeping as even the best tailors in the galaxies can’t make cloth immune to dust and smudges. There was probably an upper limit to how much it could mend my clothes since I doubt it could repair the color changing circuitry or the complex shield projection system built into the underlying armor. Simple enough to just tuck it into one of the myriad pockets I have.

Third one was a wooden box of labelled glass vials containing fluids of various colors. The instructions on the lid seemed to indicate that it was a “makeover” kit. Apparently I could apply a few drops from one of the vials to get a particular effect applied to myself. Seeing that one was labelled “hair growth” and remembering all those damned commercials promising miraculous results if you bought their product, I elected to apply a few drops to the top of my head. Within a few moments my world seemingly exploded with hair. Untangling myself from the mess took an embarrassing couple of minutes, but eventually I managed to get all the hair hanging down my back instead of all directions.

It now hung down to my knees. Just like Mother keeps hers all the damned time. It itched and the weight of it all was a strain on my neck. Using my knife to Cut it simply resulted in it regrowing back to knee length again moments later. Using the lightsaber to cut it resulted in the same damned thing happening. How does she deal with this much damned hair?! Probably being a Hybrid and using her powers to “manage” things. I tried to “style” it for about an hour before Vanessa showed up with some ribbons and did it for me. Now when I look in the mirror all I see is Mother.

Ughh.

Resisting the urge to vaporize the wooden box for such a sin, I placed it aside for now. Looking at the final item that hadn’t been claimed by someone already, I found it to be a pendant with a single violet colored amethyst gemstone dangling from it. Putting it on over my head, I was examining the gemstone to discern its purpose when suddenly my surroundings shifted from the palisade camp to one of an island in the center of a circular lake. Surrounding the lake on all sides was a sheer cliff wall that rose high in the sky and was dotted with numerous waterfalls that filled the lake. Amidst the mists that shrouded the island I was standing on, numerous stone ruins were apparent around me on the island and apparent in the surrounding cliff walls.

Attempting to radio the others or the ships in orbit quickly got me nowhere when it became apparent that my equipment was non-functional. Not finding anything wrong with the equipment beyond the non-functionality, I wandered around the island trying to find anything informative as to my current plight. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was in the middle of the remains of an ancient library filled with endless shelves filled with books. Despite the state of ruin and overgrown plants present throughout the library’s structure, the books themselves seemed to be oddly intact. That seemed oddly out of place given the plants and sheer amount of moisture present. I grabbed a book at random and started leafing through the incomprehensible writing and diagrams when I suddenly heard a voice behind me.

(Voice) Personally, I would recommend starting with some of the more basic materials first. Vassan’s work, while quite competent, isn’t exactly what I would start beginners on.

Turning around, a saw a light blue skinned humanoid with glowing blue eyes and pointy ears that reached well past the top of her head. The hair was purple and the ends of it glowed with a white light that seemed to smoke slightly. She was leaning against one of the bookshelves in a relaxed manner that betrayed no apparent hostility. The clothing she wore highly resembled the robes a fantasy style wizard would wear in the holos. Not wanting to betray any concern with her sudden appearance, I casually placed the book I was glancing through back on the shelf before facing her.

(Vanatica) Who are you? And are you who brought me here?

(Lindral) My name is Lindral, or at least it was long ago. As for your presence here, yes and no.

(Vanatica) I have a policy of charging money when people start speaking to me in riddles.

(Lindral) Fair enough I suppose. As for this place, you have not actually travelled anywhere at all. You are still sitting in the midst of that little fort of yours staring into that pendant you found. The process of activating it brought your conscious mind here.

(Vanatica) So this is a mental illusion or a dream then.

(Lindral) In a way, yes. The proper term would be to call it a Dream Anchor. Here, the user can manipulate the reality of this place with mere whim. Many users find the experience of being able to create their own personal fantasy rather intoxicating to say the least and frequently die of hunger, thirst, or lack of sleep. To say nothing of what such things do to your social life. But you seem like the strong-willed type to me. Perhaps you can handle it.

(Vanatica) If this is all true, why is there anything here at all? I didn’t dream all this up and I certainly didn’t dream you up.

(Lindral) Well, this particular one has been passed around a lot in the millennia since I created it. I used it as a repository for all the knowledge I accumulated in my studies as a sort of really elaborate mnemonic or memory palace. Some added to it, others hardly ever used it. I believe the last owner used it mainly to look up some basic spells to help with his farming and not much beyond that.  Not much for vision that one.

(Vanatica) That doesn’t explain what you are.

She tapped her chin thoughtfully. I was getting the impression she was doing that to subtly mock me for failing to see the obvious and thus was looking for a way to explain it to me without appearing too condescending. I was also idly wondering how a species could see anything with their eyes glowing like that.

(Lindral) Hmm, it might be hard to explain given your background, but I am the “Companion” of the original mage who made this talisman. Other terms you might be familiar with include familiar, fetch, totem, or spirit animal. I can help you master the knowledge stored in here, but I will ask that you assist me in return.

Now I was definitely wary. Here was an entity none of the others seemingly were able to interact with, I had no way of verifying on of its claims, and already it was promising me power in exchange for “favors”. My wariness must have shown on my face.

(Lindral) No need to worry. I simply wish to ask that you collect the other pieces of “myself” that are out there. There will be a benefit to you as well: the more pieces you collect, the more this library and its contents are restored. What you see before you is roughly an eighth of the original’s content. I can imagine that must seem like a tantalizing offer. That could all be yours if you merely help me acquire the other pieces.

It was a tempting offer. Not only the sheer amount of information being offered, but the training to actually use it was hard to resist. For the time being I saw no immediate reason to refuse the request. I gave my conditional assent.

(Lindral) Good, let’s start with the most basic level: learning to tap into arcane energies to perform a simple light spell. Here are some mental exercises and visualizations critical to this. You can practice these in your free time and we can do some practice here for one or two hours every night. Best not to try and push too hard to fast though.

Shortly thereafter I was back in the real world. No one seemed to have noticed my “absence”. I tucked the pendant under my suit where it could be out of the way. I tried one of the exercises I had been shown, but had no more luck than I had in the Library. Resolving myself to keep practicing, I scheduled some off time from managing things to sit around the cooking fire some of the others had set up to continue performing the exercises in hopes of getting some results.

When the heavy haulers finally arrived I saw a couple of four-armed ursine types accompanied by a pair of humanoid equines and two quite ridiculously large lizards with towing harnesses. While I had no doubt such creatures could tow a ludicrous amount of stuff, I had my doubts regarding something as large as the Dawnstar without even wheels and a road.

(Ursine) What’s being moved?

Gesturing for them to follow, I led them to the Dawnstar within the palisade.

(Ursine) Hrm! Where to?

I was shocked that he didn’t even so much as bat an eye at the challenge before him. To me that suggested a plan to evaluate the weight and size, draw up plans for constructing a sled or carriage, and then summoning from back home the appropriate amount of assistance to pull it along. Probably another two or three weeks before we could get underway then.

(Vanatica) Feylens looks to be as good a spot as any. What happens after that is an open question.

Not that I had any sort of real plan as to what to do once I got there, but I figured a city was a better chance at supplies, information, technical assistance, and work at least. From there I would just have to play it by ear and improvise.

(Ursine) Looks smooth enough underneath…. can it take being dragged or will it need a sledge?

The paint job was a lost cause at this point given the rough landing, but the monopolium coated hull should be able to handle anything short of mystical super-rocks or trees. I just had no idea how common those might be around here.

(Vanatica) The hull should be able to handle normal rocks and plants without a scratch. Some of the more exotic things around here may pose a problem though.

(Ursine) Well, so long as it can slide over things, it shouldn’t be a problem! So….. you’re wanting about three thousand miles or so. Ave you got a few Gythara birthrights along? The boys here (pointing at Equine people) have one, but this is a pretty big crowd for just them!

Jacob knew what the hell a mile was and was helpful enough to tell me that translated to approximately forty-eight hundred kilometers. How Jacob knew what a kilometer was, or why we have a measurement system in common was a question for another day. Asking around, we were able to locate another three individuals with the appropriate talents that were willing to help out in exchange for pay. Once we got sufficient “support”, we were told we could manage about two hundred and forty kilometers a day and so could deliver us to Feylens in about three weeks. The price of that came out to forty-two Obols in total. If the tow crew had to assist in any fighting that would be extra unless they got a cut of the loot.

Sadly, that was a price I couldn’t match without the assistance of the others. Zim, Jacob, and Felix were all in on continuing to work together. Allandras and Calla were a bit more reluctant, but eventually decided to join us too. That meant they were all willing to chip in on paying for moving the Dawnstar. And meant we still had a collective fifty-one Obols in our stash. Probably as good a time as any to finish gathering samples of the exotic plants and animals for later cultivation or cloning.

I was quite confused when I found the haulers were already hitching up the lizards to the Dawnstar. That simply wasn’t enough muscle power to move a ship even a tenth the size of the Dawnstar. A tow ship would have to be of the same rough mass to stand a chance and even then it wasn’t going to be elegant. And that wasn’t getting into the issues with how much more powerful machines are than muscles.

And then the whole damned ship lifted a meter off the ground and they began to casually stroll off with it. I was fairly certain that Mother couldn’t have done that and then be ready to drag with thousands of kilometers with her own powers and yet these seemed to be “common” laborers. If that implied that even high end Hybrids were relatively minor in the local scheme of things, then where the hell did I even rank? Not satisfied with the swears in my native tongue, I resorted to some choice ones the Rakata had taught me when I was young to annoy my parents.

(Jacob) Wow that is impressive… What is he made of to be able to do that… or is he making it lighter…

(Felix) What’s wrong with you guys? Nothing strange about that.

(Jacob) Nothing strange?! One person lifting a 400 ton ship? That is normal where you are from?

(Felix) Usually use mechs, but…. eh.

It’s like everyone around me is set up to spout utter nonsense about one topic each, and I have to figure out who is full of it on what topic and keep track of what information I am being fed by whom in real time just so I have a chance at keeping track at what’s real and what wasn’t. Sort of like those puzzles “One guard always lies and the other always tells the truth”, except this was far more insane.

Thankfully, nothing wanted to assault our procession. Zim figured it was do to how numerous we were acting as a deterrent. I wondered how effective that would end up being given that a small farming village could probably present an even match right now. My small horde of soldiers and droids was looking a lot less impressive in my eyes every day that passed. Once I got some serious currency in my possession, I was going to have to start procuring some upgrades for everyone just to keep the street urchins at bay.

It looked like we were sticking mainly to the roads and towns along them. That had potential good and bad to it, but at least that was some of the easiest terrain for my people in orbit to map out ahead of us. Plus it made it easier to try and find the occasional bit of work to earn more money. On the other hand it meant more chances for locals to try and fleece us in exchange for supplies. On the other, other hand, it made an easier set of targets for more supply drops from orbit.

Sigh, I could argue myself in circles over this. All of my prior experience means little here. Since it looked like we were going to hit the first town around nightfall, I figured I might as well get some sleep during the journey so I can be fresh to deal with whatever the next insanity ends up being. But first another session in the Library seemed prudent, I set my wrist computer to vibrate in two hours so I didn’t lose track of time and then pulled out the pendant.

Mother had hauled me along to the bridge for some reason and wasn’t allowing me to play with my toys because it annoyed the adults. I was supposedly to sit quietly and not touch anything while Mother talked to the captain. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be back in our quarters where I could watch the holos. I tried to keep myself entertained by counting the number of glowing buttons on the console next to me.

I had gotten up to forty-eight blinking lights when suddenly Mother ran across the room faster than I could see and forced a necklace over my head. She was also shouting something at the others, but I couldn’t understand half of what she was saying.

(Mother) DON’T REMOVE THIS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES VANATICA! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!

(Vanatica) Y-yes….

I was terrified, something was wrong and Mother knew it. I was about to ask what was wrong when suddenly there was a bright blue flash and everything got hot. Sparks exploded from the walls, floor, and ceiling. Red lights started flashing and sirens went off. Moments later the entire room shook as if an earthquake was moving the whole ship. I would have fallen out of the chair and hit the console next to me if Mother hadn’t been holding me in place. By the time the shaking stopped, everyone was shouting.

(Officer) Looks like an indirect hit from a Starbreaker hidden amongst the ring system! Engines are offline and I am not sure if they even exist any more!

(Captain) How’d they miss so badly at this range?!

(Mother) Because they weren’t aiming at us! They were aiming for the star!

Everyone got a horrified look on their faces. I was unsure why breaking a star was so scary. I mean, shouldn’t we be able to fix it? No explanations came though as the adults all continued to shout at each other. They all were also beginning to show signs of being badly burned as their skin started turning red. Even Mother was looking sick as she was panting and sweating.

(Officer) Got confirmation of a supernova in progress! I am also getting reports that we have boarders!

(Captain) Praetor Soung, I must ask that you take your daughter and escape. We’ll hold the line and keep them from following you.

(Mother) No, they’ve got two objectives: killing me and capturing Vanatica, and to steal as much of our technology as possible. If I escape that makes it easier for them to steal something really dangerous. We need to….

She was cut off by the sound of several bangs. The source of those appeared to be a trio of soldiers covered from head to toe in some sort of cybernetic armor. Immediately everyone began shooting at them only to shoot right through them. It was then that I understood that these were Faded. One saw me and came running at me like a fiery monster with arms outstretched towards me.

I was trying to terrifiedly crawl further back in my chair when Mother flashed brightly for a moment and the Faded was gone. She then reached to the floor, tore off a panel, and shoved me into the crawlspace.

(Mother) Keep moving and don’t let anyone get near you! Try to stay out of sight!

Her voice carried a tone that wouldn’t tolerate questions or disobedience. Blinking away the tears, I began crawling amidst the cables and pipes to get as far away as possible as sounds of explosions echoed above me. I tried to be as quiet as I could, but the constant shaking of the ship made it impossible to not make noise as I banged into pipes and panels. Soon I found a ladder leading down and not knowing what else to do, I starting descending it. Behind me in the shaft I was in I could see immense lightning bolts arc through a giant glass tube. About thirty meters down I could hear shouting coming from somewhere on the other side of a panel.

(Voice #1) How could you lose a little girl?! She doesn’t have any powers!

(Voice #2) The bitch stuffed the brat into a crawlspace and we lost sight of her! Now the bitch is all over the place and the brat is nowhere to be found!

(Voice #1) Keep looking! If we can get the brat alive, then we have them! They wouldn’t dare refuse our demands while we have their precious daughter as a hostage!

It was then that my foot slipped and knocked loose a piece of machinery which loudly began to tumble down the shaft I was in. I held my breath hoping that doing so would mean they couldn’t hear the loud banging that continued, but was horrified to see a masked face stick through the wall and stare right at me. Hands soon appeared through the wall as well as they attempted to grab at me. I held onto the ladder as hard as I could and kept kicking at the hands that reached for me hoping that by kicking they couldn’t turn solid. I was screaming in sheer terror at this point.

One of them managed to grab my foot and was pulling me away from the ladder and towards the wall and I wasn’t strong enough to hold onto the ladder against such a grip. Just as my hands were about to lose their grip a massive fist smashed through the wall and grabbed the head of the one that held my foot like the helmet was simply a small ball. That Faded immediately clutched at his head and began screaming as he was pulled through the wall in a manner that left it dripping dripping red with blood. The other hand that were grabbing at me stopped and pulled back through where I heard a lot of sounds of smashing and screaming taking place. Moments later it all went silent.

That same massive fist then gripped the hole in the wall it had made earlier and simply tore it larger. A familiar bearded face then poked through to look at me with a grin.

(Uncle Chan) Ah, there you are little one! Come with me and I will take you to your parents!

I let him grab and pull me into the corridor where he held me in his arms. I tried to look around, but he shielded my eyes from whatever mess lay in the corridor.

(Vanatica) Mommy’s in trouble! She was looking sick and then the Faded began to attack us!

(Uncle Chan) Worry not little one! You mother may not be nearly as strong as I am, but she is still one of the fiercest warriors alive! It will take more than a little radiation and some Faded to kill her!

He carried me through the corridors, pausing every so often to crack a knuckle at some soldier that tried to attack us and knock them unconscious. We eventually ended up in a room with dozens of our soldiers and crew stood with blasters at the ready. I also heard Mother talking to Father.

(Mother) I can’t believe you did an unguided teleport here! Don’t you remember how dangerous that was the last time you pulled that stunt?!

(Father) I’m better on my feet than you are right now! And by my count, I’ve killed roughly double the Faded you have so far! And where is Vanatica?!

(Chan) I’ve got her right here, safe and sound.

Mother looked at me and then at Uncle Chan, made a sigh of exasperation and relief before she took me into her arms. Uncle Chan then said he was going to go find more Faded to fight and promptly left.

(Mother) I can’t believe you brought Chan with you. As if this wasn’t enough of a mess.

(Father) He was right there with me when I felt you were in trouble. Once I told him I was teleporting here to protect you and Vanatica, he insisted on coming along. You know how hard it is trying to tell him no.

(Mother) What’s done is done I suppose. We still have more Faded to worry about and that supernova shockwave will be arriving in about ten minutes.

(Father) Then we grab everyone and escape to the Codifier Galaxy.

(Mother) We can’t leave the ship here though. There’s too much dangerous technology we can’t risk them getting their hands on.

It was at this point that Mother put me down on the floor as a doctor started poking at me. I tried to ignore him as I attempted to listen to my parents argue about the situation, but was quickly unable to keep up as they started talking about engines, hyperdrive coils, and shields. I didn’t understand what happened next, but apparently the danger passed. Eventually another ship arrived to tow us to a nearby planet for repairs and medical treatment. Once there, nearly everyone required extensive hospital time except for Uncle Chan and me for some reason. Aunt Virstris was the first one of the family to get to the hospital and she took me back to the family residence on Ascensa and told me that Mother and Father would be receiving treatment for a couple weeks. We visited them frequently, along with my little sister Vatasha and the rest of the family. I was glad to see them when we visited, but I didn’t understand why it looked like my Mother had been crying despite the smiling face she showed when I came.

It was only years later that I had found out that the intense radiation blast had badly hurt the unborn twins Mother was carrying and one of them didn’t make it. Or to be more precise, the genetic and cellular damage was such that one of them absorbed or merged with the other to cope with the damage. The resulting fused baby was my little sister Namyn Tosalyn.

Anomaly Mission Logs by Vanatica Soung – Session V

photo of mountain with ice covered with black and gray cloud

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

What little information we were able to get combined with orbital imagery indicated that the destruction wrought by the constructs was roughly circular and centered on what looked to have once been a farm. From the orbital scans it seemed that a single shed of that Ithil wood material still remained standing while everything else had been thoroughly smashed into the dirt. The locals didn’t really seem to have a whole lot of information on the farm or its inhabitants despite it being the next farm over as best as I could tell.

Oh well, I prepared myself for the coming battle as best I could with the materials available. Since the constructs were made of psychic energy and the Ithil wood proved to be effective in the past, I had some shields and spears made of from the stuff. I could probably come up with something more elaborate given time and some creativity, but it was hard to go wrong with planks and pointy sticks given this was wood I was working with. Anything too elaborate was going to require quite a bit more metal and other components to really be effective.

Others made preparations of their own. Allandras had a number of pieces of junk he called charms and talismans that he was trying to sell to everyone. Looked to me like the fetishes some Force Users like to play with as a means to better focus their own powers. Probably utterly useless to anyone but the person who made them. Still, he handed me one that he claimed would act as a shield against psychic detections. Not really sure I trusted the effectiveness, despite his demonstrations, I pocketed the amulet. Allandras ultimately struck me as about as trustworthy as one of those used speeder salesmen in the commercials back home. They’d promise the galaxy to a potential customer and then hide all the protections from liability behind a smile and kilometers of fine print you’d need a intergalactic class telescope to read.

Nonetheless, once the assault began, the locals managed to lure away the constructs quite readily. Thus the way to the farm was open for a brief period of time. Once we arrived it was clear to see that the orbital scans didn’t quite do the damage justice. The whole place was quite thoroughly churned up and not a thing was left intact beyond the one shed. Jacob quickly confirmed that the Ithil wood making up the shed was carrying a massive charge.

(Jacob) I am scanning for life forms!

(Vanatica) It’s a farm in the midst of a damned forest. Yes, there are life forms!

(Jacob) I meant humanoid life signs!

Whatever, I should just give up on trying to understand how he simply grabs information out of the seeming ether with that device of his. He did inform us there was a lot of “static”, but he was detecting a low-level dimensional barrier on the shed based on the leakage. He figured the Ithil wood had reached its maximum charge – but was still inhibiting the energy flow. That weakened the construct but kept them around longer. Not too surprising there. What was surprising was his insistence that the inside of the shed was now halfway into another dimension.

How in the infinite….

(Vanatica) A pocket dimension to WHERE?

(Allandras) Most likely? I would say either Hyperborea or whatever the realm of the Urge Masque is.

(Vanatica) Well, if it isn’t a portal to Hell or something, it might be useful as nigh invulnerable cover.

(Jacob) Looks like a compromise reality. Primarily an ice world, but some sort of battle going on from the Wrath aspect as focused through the user’s mind. Evidently whoever was worried about something rather like Felix?

Great, that meant the path forward was into the tiny shed leading to who knows where instead of here out in the open where I at least had some knowledge of the terrain. Even worse, I was just dreaming about being on a massive glacier last night too.

The door was locked or otherwise barred. I was readying my lightsaber to simply try and cut through the locking mechanism, but Allandras pulled out one of his trinkets, tapped it on the door, and suddenly the door opened. As the door swung open, a blazing wall of energy erupted from the inside of the shed and first thing that struck me is that it has gotten a LOT colder, dimmer, and redder.

(THELOS) One moment, my lady, I am bringing the suit heater systems online. I fear there will be a few moments of discomfort before we return to steady state once again.

The cutting wind accented the twisted landscape of ice and snow. Massive constructs rather resembling Felix’s mech save for being constructed of wood were advancing on a fortress of ice. They were firing massive wooden spears, gouts of flame, and stones launched from steam cannons. Definitely related in basic form and function to general attack walkers.

(Allandras) Hey, made to order firewood. Excellent idea. Fuel delivery, I can make a lot on that.

I was really tempted to behead his greedy little ass right there and then. But it was as I was scanning the horizon in an effort to distract myself from such impulses that I saw a ghostly echo of what looked to be myself, great-grandfather, and someone I had never seen before drudging through the wind and snow.

(Vanatica will have a semi-vacant look on her face.) It was a landscape much like this. Someone else was here, instructing me in something. Guiding me to a spot. Whereupon I pulled out my lightsaber and stabbed into the ground, shattering the glacier for hundreds of meters in all directions. Something then erupted from the ice….

(Allandras) Attack the walkers? Are you sure they aren’t on our side? Are they piloted, or golems?

His question snapped me out of the vision right as the image of Great Grandfather turned to look at me (and not the image of me) and nodded before the whole vision vanished.

(Vanatica) Probably piloted attack walkers meant for assault as opposed to transport. They seem to resemble the reports of the constructs that were attacking cities to the “north”. If they were derived from the mind of the wearer of the Masque, the fact that they’re attacking a stronghold of sorts may be relevant. Zin felt this was a dying world with only geothermal activity keeping it going at all. He was of the opinion that if this was an accurate reflection of Hyperborea, any creatures here would also be looking for escape.

More pertinent to our situation though, the rasping sounds and noise of breaking ice indicated something was heading our way fast. Even worse, the horizon was also heading towards us indicating that this pocket realm may well be shrinking fast.

(Vanatica) Just great….

Which started a debate as to whether we tried to enter the fortress or work with the walkers assaulting it. I honestly had no clue what the correct course of action was and was beginning to suspect this whole place was more metaphorical than “real” anyway. Unfortunately, with no clue who was behind this or why, that limited the my ability to try and reason through the metaphors. A quick check of the radio confirmed that we hadn’t teleported to the region to the “North” this place seemed to be based on as I should still be able to contact the command ship if that was the case.

The group quickly decided on trying to enter the fortress through less than solid means of deduction and we were soon making a run across the icy battlefield. Cover was far too limited at times unfortunately and the walkers soon noticed our presence and took to making pot shots at us when line of sight permitted it.

This was something Mother and Father excelled at and I had no real method of duplicating their talents. Dodging was a lot easier when you could become intangible, move more than fifty times the speed of sound, could leap hundreds of meters in a single bound, and possessed precognitive knowledge of what to do when. And that wasn’t even getting into the stealthy assassin training. I had to settle for running as fast as muscles would carry me, the best armor and shielding money could buy, and trying to time my runs between bits of cover as best as I could to match the reloaded time of the walkers.

Even so, I was caught out in the open twice at precisely the wrong moment and could see the cannonballs heading for me. Luckily, Zin was far better at anticipating such things than I was as he easily knocked aside the cannonballs that would likely have ruined my day had they connected. My opinion of Zin definitely went up significantly as a result of those demonstrations. After what felt like an eternity of running and dodging though, we finally made it to the base of the walls of the fortress.

Here our possible paths forward took a number of routes: one drainage or sewer tunnel, two narrow stairs upwards, one apparently natural cave, and some doors that were being bombarded. Not really sure I had an opinion of which path was best, I left it to the others to decide which way to go. The vote came up for using the stairs, although that still left out us in the open where we were immensely vulnerable to weapons fire. I set the color-changing and holographic options on my suit to generate active camouflage, but knew the thing was limited in how well it would work against active scans or if I moved too quickly.

Allandras managed to actually help the situation by pulling out a bag of dust and basically puffed a “hologram” of an empty staircase into being over a considerable area. With that in place, the climb to the top of the walls of the fortress was fairly straightforward. Interestingly enough, the fortress itself from this vantage point was oddly reminiscent of the general layout of the destroyed village. The few people about were gaunthounds. The walls themselves were being defended by several dozen mostly-invisible psychic constructs. Although these were a lot smaller and less powerful than the full-scale ones outside. Probably far less destructive too. Only thing that seemed seriously out of place was the large central tower.

Since the parallels seemed obvious to me, I figured I’d broach the subject with the others for their thoughts.

(Vanatica) So is this a metaphorical reality with the fortress being the mind of the owner of the masque and the walkers being the constructs assaulting his sanity? Because this area doesn’t seem to be part of the reality that makes up the Anomaly since I can’t reach the command ship.

(Allandras) I’m thinking the tower is sticking out like a sore thumb, should probably check out the big obvious thing in the middle of the town.

(Jacob) The attackers are Constructs, but they are based on rumors of a conquering horde from the north. The entire pocket is mostly a construct, loosely based on the realm of Hyperborea (that the masques are associated with and presumably the user’s birthright) and the village. It looks like the defenders are more or less what the user wanted to summon: far weaker, but controllable. Unfortunately, whatever he/she was attempting to maintain control apparently overloaded, leading to this mess.

(Vanatica) I am torn. If this is all a psychic projection, then I could argue the way out of this is defeating the hostile attacking force. But then I could also argue that finding the one projecting it and making him end the projection is another possible route.

(Jacob) I think it might be best to find the one trying it and see if he/she has the Masque on here and try removing it. It might work from in here since it is a telepathic construct.

(Vanatica) Then I am with Allandras, let’s check the conspicuous tower.

While the walls defending the fortress was handling most of the minor missile fire from the walkers readily enough, our path was quickly halted by the presence of guards blocking the way forward. Looked to be more constructs and probably as formidable as the rest.

(Jacob) They are supposed to be controllable…. Take me to your leader?!

(Guards) The general is occupied!

Time for a more direct approach to dealing with low level flunkies. I simply started striding forth like I owned the place and loudly declared the usual line.

(Vanatica) If you are the new gardeners, then I suggest you quit leaning on those things AND GET TO WORK!

Before I managed to get past them though, the pair of guards barred my way with a crossing of spears.

(Guards) No one sees the general!

(Vanatica) Blast that frequently works.

Indeed, it was fun making storm troopers, diplomatic aides, droids, and receptionists start scrambling to do whatever task I started barking at them and neglecting their duties to keep me from moving forward. It was to the point where both the Republic and the Protectorate were instituting anti-“Vanatica Fire Drill” training measures simply to stop me from doing that. I suspect it was that incident with the Republic’s Supreme Chancellor that started that trend.

Oh well, I have other ways of dealing with obstinate psychic constructs.

(Vanatica) Right then…. hold still a moment. I have a message I wish to give.

I proceeded to poke them both with a pair of Ithil Wood spears that caused them to dissipate quite nicely. Annoyingly it looked like I had to keep the spears in them to keep them from reforming, but it was for situations like this that I brought several with me. Unfortunately, this did wind up attracting the rest of the constructs to us. I left Zin and Jacob to bar the way following us with a pair of spears and a shield while I lead the way up the tower.

At the top there is a situation map – although the little constructs on it keep trying to escape and attack the larger ones which are offering “advice”. The “General” herself is currently dumping more defending constructs onto the map – but seems to be bleeding from the eyes, ears, mouth, and nose, slowly but steadily. They are wearing the Masque, but you all get the impression that something is very backwards about that statement.

At the top there was a situation map – although the little constructs on it kept trying to escape and attack the larger ones which were offering “advice”. The “General” herself was currently dumping more defending constructs onto the map – but seemed to be bleeding from the eyes, ears, mouth, and nose, slowly but steadily. She was wearing the Masque, but I got the impression that something was very backwards about that statement. Since I was at the lead of the group, she turned to me first, reached forward, and telekinetically dragged me to stare into her eyes. Given that her eyes were totally dilated, that was more than a bit creepy.

(General) What news do you bring?

Alright, time to improvise on the fly then.

(Vanatica) The battle draws near its end. The front moves elsewhere and the need to defend this position is ending. Reinforcements have arrived to relieve the defenders and inform you of a job well done.

I was annoyed to see that Allandras was taking the moment as an opportunity to loot everything not nailed down. Jacob at least was running scans with that tricorder of his. Unfortunately, he was narrating everything he found out loud for everyone to hear.

(Jacob) It looks like this is her actual body. Blood pressure through the roof, minor physical breakdowns, adrenal exhaustion, thirst, lack of food. Really should be deeply unconscious, possibly dying, but it looks like the flood of power pouring through her is keeping her up. Mental readings are pretty well obscured by that same flood – but the pupil dilation alone says that something is very wrong.

For a few moments it looked like I might have been getting through to something, but then I was telekinetically shoved with considerable force off the tower like some sort of projectile weapon. Tumbling end over end, it took me several seconds to regain control of my spinning and then halt my descent. It definitely looked like simply trying to play along with the delusion (or metaphor, or whatever) was getting us nowhere. Time to take a more direct approach then. I pulled out another Ithil wood spear and shield and flew back into the top of the tower. Already I could see that Zin was working on trying to pin her down with another shield. Joining Zin in pinning the woman to the wall, I chose to express my opinion of her and the situation she had gotten herself into.

(Vanatica) Who is in control here? You, or that masque you created? Power comes not from great cosmic abilities, but from the power to control oneself and say NO MORE! My people know all about the power of anger and rage, but we also know all too well the danger such emotions can bring to not only others, but also to oneself and everything you care about! That village is GONE! The only survivors were a badly wounded woman and a bunch of children whimpering in a cave! I am Vanatica Nyla Soung, Firstborn of the Praetorian Soung Dynasty. I have undergone the Varen Sith trials and I would not allow myself to be controlled by such a tiny thing. So, are you weaker than I am?!

Based on the glow from the shields, it looked like they reached their storage capacity in mere seconds, but that did drain the power keeping her standing long enough to let her lose consciousness. For a moment it felt like every nerve in my body was firing at once – pain, pleasure, heat, cold, all at once – as the entire fortress and the territory outside collapsed through us – leaving us in a modest shed full of farming tools, with a deeply unconscious middle-aged woman and a wooden mask falling to the floor.

(Vanatica) Pathetic…. she didn’t even attempt to remove it in the last moments of awareness. Oh well, lets open the door and get out of this cramped shed.

(Jacob) To be fair, my scans showed she was suffering from several strokes.

Allandras took a pair of tongs and put the masque into a specially prepared box for containment. I administered several of those healing berries to her as well, but Jacob said his scans indicated she’d need more intensive treatment to make a full recovery. Not wanting to take any chances though, I pulled out a spare stasis belt, placed it on her, and activated it. I was rather annoyed to find out that the blasted thing needed me to maintain contact in order for it to work though.

Oh well, that should be easy enough to do for the few kilometer hike back to town. The locals should also be pleased with the relative ease we managed to pull off this victory as well. Jacob was already excitedly scanning the stasis belt and muttering to himself regarding the implications. I briefly pondered informing him that a larger version of my stasis belt and the blaster rifle I had was sufficient to destroy stars if you knew what you were doing, but decided against it. It was time to head back and hand in our prisoner to what counted as the local authorities anyway. Plus, I could use a nap from all this running around.

It was yet another charity party my cousin Katlyn had organized on behalf of refugees from former RDF territory. Katlyn was the center of attention giving speeches to an enthusiastic crowd of donors that had gathered around her. My sister Vatasha meanwhile was working over the more reluctant attendees to “encourage” them to donate. I was mainly here to lend further support through my own attendance. For some reason it seemed like having three of us present at these kinds of things was more successful than one or two.

At the moment I was listening to a businessman regaling me with his new startup to take one of the barren water worlds and construct massive hydroponics and aquaculture farms for export to rich clientel who have gotten onto that stupid “organic food” craze from the Codifier Galaxy. I had dim views of those who bought into that whole stupid fad, but I also recognized the opportunity in fleecing fools of their cash. Some mental calculations suggested that with a gate, the whole enterprise could actually turn a handsome profit in short order and be readily scaled up from there. I quickly concluded a deal to enter in as a secret partner as I made arrangements to double his starting capital and initiate construction of a gate.

Katlyn would probably be annoyed that I was spending money on catering to rich customers at a charity event, but the way I saw it the more money flowing into our coffers the more money we can spend on charity and public works. It wasn’t like I was planning to waste inordinate amounts of money eating the stuff myself. Plus it finally found a use for those giant water ball planets.

With the deal concluded I was attempting to show some level of interest in the zero-g water “art sculpture” that was timed to music when I heard a familiar voice amongst the crowd.

(Voice) My, my, Katlyn, you do throw some of the most dull parties!

I was already pushing my way through the crowd to get closer to the speaker, but Katlyn confirmed my suspicions before I got line of sight.

(Katlyn) Seras?! What are you doing here?!

(Seras) Oh me? I’m merely here to liven things up a bit and leave my mark on your little gathering!

Already the crowd was parting to give a clear area between Katlyn, Seras, and I. Her appearance had significantly changed since last time. Black tattoo lines criss-crossed her exposed face and upper arms. She wore a black leotard with a red silk scarf or ribbon wrapped around her torso and lower arms somewhat reminiscent of a shawl. She seemed to be wearing leggings and shoes with straps that came up to well past her knees. Incredibly gaudy white metallic jewelry dangled from her neck, ears, wrists, and fingers. Most disturbing of all was the black sclera of her eyes and how it contrasted with her snowy white irises and hair.

Vatasha quickly pushed her way to the front of the crowd as well and exchanged glances with me when she caught sight of Seras. Immediately THELOS opened up a party chat line between Katlyn, Vatasha and myself where we could discreetly send text to other.

[Vatasha] Katlyn, keep her talking. We need to clear this room before things get hostile and that would be a lot easier if we aren’t in the midst of a firefight.

[Katlyn] Understood, but how are we going to clear out this many people?

[Vanatica] I’ve got an idea.

I walked into the middle of the room where the various onlookers could get a good line of sight of me and spoke loudly so that everyone could hear me as I flung my arms up in the air and prominently displayed my champaigne glass.

(Vanatica) Our surprise guest is quite right! Perhaps it is time to liven things up a bit! Food and drinks are on me! So I say it is time we give the chefs and bartenders a workout! Everyone to Conference Room #3!

Free food and booze always seem to readily motivate people and I suspect my tab was going to be the least of my concerns in mere minutes. As people shuffled off, Seras glanced at the three of us with a bemused expression on her face that reeked of confidence.

[Vanatica] THELOS, once everyone is in Conference Room #3 I want you to trigger a fire alarm for the building. Do whatever you have to to get everyone out of the building.

[THELOS] Understood. Grenkay Corps and SHIELD units have been notified and are working to secure the area.

I briefly considered making a note to berate whoever let Seras past security later, but realized asking anyone to keep a Hybrid out was asking a bit much. Once the last person left Seras turned to look at me.

(Seras) Don’t want an audience for this little family reunion?

(Vanatica) I was trying to save you some public embarassment.

(Seras) I doubt that, but don’t worry; I brought some guests of my own to this party!

With that she suddenly started making some hand gestures and speaking words from a language I couldn’t recognize. Moments later what appeared to be four coffins erupted from the tile flooring around us. The lids promptly fell off to reveal a crystalline skeleton in each of them. They looked to be dressed in badly decayed Sith armor.

(Vatasha) I must say, Seras, that the dead are not particularly well known for their liveliness.

(Seras) True, but I think you might find my friends here rather exceptional in that regard! Have at them boys!

Immediately the skeletons burst into motion by leaping out of the coffins with lightsabers drawn. I caught a brief glimpse of the blue fire in the eye sockets of the first one’s skull as he swung a lightsaber at me. The shields in my suit instantly kicked up to lightsaber level to block that attack, but they were unable to stop the sheer force of momentum behind it as I was flung backwards with considerable power. When the time the shields dropped back to normal I could see that I had been flung through a table, a wall, and dug a smoldering trench in the floor. My attacker seemed to be at least mildly surprised that I was undamaged though.

(Seras) Oh and before you begin worrying about your soldiers getting bored, I left them some party favors as well!

Already two of the skeletons were charging me again. Having regained a crouching position, I engaged the flight systems and enabled the projectors in my wrists to generate kite shaped fields on each arm. Meeting the charge head on, I crossed the kite shields in front of me as I simply attempted to plow through the pair of them. Both saw my tactic in time to leap over me, but one failed to leap enough to the side to avoid me when I simply spun in the air with my arms outwards. The neatly sliced that one into a number of pieces that fell to the floor in a pile. The second one, probably recognizing the futility of engaging me in melee tried to telekinetically ram me into a stone column. All that ended up doing was simply pushing me through the column when the shields engaged again.

Despite the lack of a face, it was clear this one was getting quite frustrated. Disengaging one of the kite shields, I pulled out my own lightsaber and was quite delighted to see the look of pure shock it displayed. I wanted to simply pull out a Mark II rifle and it futilely dodge the blasts, but that was not so smart an idea in the midst of a city. Not that I was allowed to carry those into a city anyways.

Next came the attempt at using Force Lightning which harmlessly grounded out on the lightsaber grade shields. Not content to simply let the undead Sith (or whatever the hell this thing was) experiment until it found a weakness, I readied my lightsaber and shield and charged it. Clashing my shield against its lightsaber, I used the shield blocking line of sight to stab my lightsaber at it unseen. Precognition must have tipped it off as it started to do one of those annoyingly dramatic leans/falls backwards to avoid the blade. Unfortunately for it, this drove it horribly off-balance and a swift kick to the left foot sent it spinning to the ground. A simply slash of the lightsaber finished that one off.

Glancing around, it appeared that both Vatasha and Katlyn had each managed to “kill” their opponents without serious injuries. I was scanning the room to try and figure out where Seras went when a sudden explosion of blue-violet fire arced across the entire room and swept across the three of us. Or at least it would have had it not conspicuously ceased to exist when it came within a meter of any of us. Unfortunately, this still caused massive structural damage to much of the building around us. Much of the southern half the building behind us promptly collapsed as all structural supports were cut in two. The rest of the building wasn’t doing much better.

Katlyn was already bounding across debris in Hypertime with that extensible staff of hers while Vatasha and I were using flight systems to move to the top of collapsed piles as opposed to being under potentially collapsing material. We got together on top of what presumably used to be the auditorium in a position of mutual support.

(Seras) Damn it! How the hell does a gamma ray laser incinerate everything but you three?!

At a guess, I would wager it was those mystical Force talisman amulets my parents handed out to the entire family that supposedly protected us from radiation. Didn’t really care about how those worked other than being glad we had them. More concerning in my mind is where in the hell Seras got her hands on a functional gamma ray laser of that power output.

(Katlyn) You aren’t the only one with nifty tricks, Seras!

(Vatasha) Maybe you missed!

(Seras) How did I miss?!

(Vatasha) I don’t know. How did you?

At a guess, Vatasha was trying to provoke a holosith style tantrum and was seemingly succeeding. Can’t say it was a bad plan given that even Hybrids are prone to making mistakes when enraged, but I questioned the wisdom of doing so without some heavier weaponry on our side. Given the damage done to our surroundings so far, a Mark II rifle really couldn’t make the situation any worse.

(Seras) Well since I seem to be having difficulties hitting you, how about I increase my odds a bit?!

Again came the weird gestures and a word I couldn’t understand. When she was finished she slammed her hands against the ground and a series of five circular diagrams seemed to just suddenly appear around her before being engulfed in smoke. As the smoke dissipated, I saw five bipedal saurian creatures with long claws on the hands and feet and a mouth full of unwelcoming teeth. Definitely not herbivores in my opinion.

Before I had a chance to react, Seras had already crossed the fifty meters of distance and was swinging a lightsaber into the ground where Katlyn had been standing. Katlyn was no longer there and the next indication I got of something happening was when her extensible staff swung at Seras from behind. Seras leapt forward just barely out of the way between Vatasha and myself faster than either of us could react.

(Katlyn) I’m faster than you are Seras! You can’t win at this game!

This wasn’t a wise strategy to be playing here. Seras could still potentially overpower us with her powerset if she was motivated enough to stop toying with us. I could think of a number of ways to bypass our defenses if I wanted to given her powers and I suspect it wouldn’t take her long to work out those methods too. More thunderclaps of superheated air and smashing concrete shook around us. Neither Vatasha or I could follow what was going on so we simply stood back to back to properly cover each other as necessary as the five saurians began to circle us.

(Vatasha) I think they’re simple Force illusions since I can’t feel any resistance to my powers. In fact I can’t feel anything with these things. It’s like they’re not even there.

(THELOS) Lady Vatasha, I must inform you that they do in fact so up on my sensors. Although I must admit the readings are odd.

(Vanatica) Save the analysis for later unless you find a vulnerability.

(THELOS) Understood, I shall continue my efforts without bothering you.

One of the creatures leaped to attack Vatasha and was swiftly speared with her subspace lance. It then collided with the ground, shattered, and then evaporated like so much liquid nitrogen hitting the carpet. Not a trace of a corpse remained.

(Vatasha) That has to be an illusion! Nothing else does that!

(Vanatica) Illusions don’t show up on sensors! Maybe its a nanite cloud or something similar!

The four remaining creatures leapt at us in unison from all around us. One I hit with a plasma grenade and went up in a puff of smoke. Vatasha killed another one with the freezing lance and was keeping another at bay by waving the end of the lance at it. I unfortunately didn’t see that one had leapt over us to get me from an unexpected angle until its jaws grabbed onto my left arm and began wildly swinging around. I felt intense pain in my arm and being jerked around by a creature three times my mass wasn’t helping matters. Angling my feet away from the creature, I engaged the flight systems and prayed the armor held. My new vector flipped both myself and the creature over onto the ground where it landed on top of me. My left arm was in agony, but I powered through and shoved my fist into the mouth of the damned lizard whereupon I detonated another plasma grenade. Its head exploded and the body collapsed before evaporating. Looking at Vatasha, I saw she had finished off the last one and was now surveying the battlefield looking for Seras and Katlyn.

The sounds of thunderclaps indicating sonic booms going off kept increasing in frequency and seemed to be coming from all around us. Further adding to the mess was the fact that the ruins of the building had been smoldering and now were quite thoroughly on fire underneath the rubble. All of that smoke wasn’t helping to try and keep line of sight on anything. Finally, a particularly loud thunderclap shook the rubble pile we were standing on and I saw Katlyn take a sliding tumble before colliding with the remains of a column.

(Vatasha) KATLYN!

(Katlyn) Damn it! I can’t keep up with her teleporting like that!

Seras couldn’t possibly be repeatedly teleporting. Everything we knew said doing that more than once in rapid succession would result in a random multiversal jump. Even my parents didn’t dare try to do that except in extreme emergencies. I kept scanning the battlefield for signs of Seras, only to recoil in horror as her hand rammed through my chest from behind.

(Seras) Careful, one wrong move and I’ll materialize my hand inside your heart. I don’t think you’ll find that at all survivable.

(Vanatica) I might find it a fair trade for your hand.

(Seras) Poor Vanatica, no powers, nothing except some toys and sheer bravado. I’ll tell Mom and Dad you went down as a warrior at least. Might as well give them a little something to finally be proud about you for. I’ll let them know right before I use Victoria Soung’s legacy and take the Protectorate for myself.

Katlyn and Vatasha were already rushing forward, but weren’t going to make it in time. Still, I had a plan. A desperate plan, but as Father says, desperate times call for reckless tactics. I activated the lightsaber shielding effect with an eye-blink. There was a momentary tightness in my chest, but then the hand extended through me fell out of me and fell through the ground as it phased out of existence. Rapidly spinning in place, I saw Seras missing her right arm about halfway past the elbow. Katlyn’s foot then collided with Seras’s head at hypersonic speeds with a crack that I swore broke structural concrete.

(Katlyn) ARE YOU OK?!

Already THELOS was flashing up my vitals on the HUD and giving a prognosis.

(Vanatica) Yeah, it looks like my heart missed a couple beats, but otherwise I’m fine.

(Vatasha) Well, it looks like someone else had a bad day.

Glancing in the direction she was pointing, I saw Seras. Or at least what had once been acting as Seras. It looked like an ice statue made to look like her had collided with the wall and then promptly shattered into a number of pieces.

(Katlyn) I didn’t think I kicked her that hard. Besides don’t you need to be in Hypertime in order to freeze like that when you fall unconscious?

(Vatasha) Frozen corpses don’t just shatter, too much fibrous tissue simply makes it act like reinforced concrete. This is something different.

Kneeling over the remains, a quick test showed them to be simple water ice. The skeletal remains from the undead Sith were also simply a calcium-carbon crystalline mockup of bones.

(Katlyn) So what? Droids? Telekinetic puppets?

(Vatasha) No, whatever those skeletons were, they had minds. They seemed to be impossibly bound to her command though. I couldn’t manage to manipulate their hatred of Seras against her at all. But the dinosaurs were blatant illusions.

I held up my bitten forearm to display the still bleeding teeth marks.

(Vanatica) Illusions don’t actually bite though.

(Vatasha) Ok, that blows my theory out of the water then.

(Katlyn) So they’re real. How’d she plant the coffins here ahead of time and how’d she make the corpses of the dinosaurs evaporate? And spam that teleport technique! It took everything I had just to keep from getting stabbed in the back. She must have done it at least three dozen times when I fought her.

Digging through the remains of that ice statue, I found that the lightsabers were real and so was the gamma ray rifle that seemed to be functionally inert despite amply demonstrated that it had worked earlier. As was a camera that looked like it was implanted behind the right eye of the statue. So the whole thing was probably a test of some kind to see how the duplicate performed.

(Vatasha) I don’t get it. I thought Hybrids weren’t supposed to go insane like Sith or Faded.

(Katlyn) There is nothing that prevents them from suffering normal mental illnesses, just power induced ones. And even then, Aunt Valerie had fallen to the Dark Side at one point before getting better.

I suspected there was more to it than that. The reference to Victoria Soung was troubling given the less savory aspects of that legacy. And if Seras really was creating and/or controlling undead, who was to say that she didn’t have Victoria waiting somewhere to unleash upon us?

(Vanatica) I think the even more concerning realization of today is that there may well be more of these copies of her out there. All with these weird powers that don’t line up with anything we know the Force and Codex can do.

After collecting what evidence we could before the flames consumed everything, we all flew into the air to where the soldiers were trying to secure what remained of the building. We found out the soldiers had been busy dealing with non-euclidean geometries and a small horde of skeleton soldiers. That meant I didn’t have to start yelling at the commanders for sheer incompetence at least. One of the medics began treating my arm while technicians started repairs the armor.

(Katlyn) So is that the new fourth generation armor?

(Vanatica) Yeah, still experimental at this stage.

(Katlyn) The lightsaber level shielding is amazing.

(Vanatica) Unfortunately, the power demands are absurd for such a small form factor. Still have to have a star destroyer broadcasting ridiculous amounts of power to make it work effectively.

(Katlyn) Well, put me in for one of those when you get the bugs worked out.

(Vanatica) That was the plan.

One lesson from today: we couldn’t take Seras for granted. If we were to keep on top of things, we were going to have to go out there after her. That was the best option available to be able to leverage our immense resource advantage against her. Letting her pick the time and the place would only maximize her advantages against us.

Anomaly Mission Logs by Vanatica Soung – Session IV

scenic view of snow covered landscape against sky

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

With the success of the scouting mission, the locals were quite willing to pay us a fee. In the end we got food, supplies, lodgings (with meals and minor luxuries) for 140 days, and 40 Obols. By my understanding those 40 Obols amounted to 31 of Death, 5 of Life, 2 or Order, and 2 of Chaos. Jacob immediately began analyzing them with that tricorder thing of his. I gave up on doing my own analysis since it was obvious the things were immaterial and thus rendered all of the best sensor equipment I had available irrelevant. The closest analogy I had for the things was that they were limited themed wishes that warped reality along the lines of a Codex user warping probability.

It was still going to be some time before the heavy haulers arrived to help relocate the Dawnstar. That meant we had time to look into other matters if for no other reason than to keep busy. What we had already gathered about the Masque of Wrath indicated that it was a potentially immense threat to my operations down here even with the firepower at our disposal. The locals were beginning to make plans on how to deal with that, but I didn’t feel the need to intrude on that for now.

I toyed with the idea of experimenting with using one of the Obols, but ultimately decided that was probably unwise at this time. Better to let someone do something potentially stupid first and learn from their mistakes instead. Still, why would this Starfleet not issue uniforms with pockets? I didn’t possess a proper coin pouch for storing the Obols (or any coinage for that matter), but then I still had pockets for generic purposes. Oh well, this Federation sounds more insane the more I hear about it.

I did want to learn more about how the Obols were made though. A few inquiries led me to one Rhindath, the local death-priest and one of the Gathri elders. When I finally tracked him down, I found him holding a brief funeral service for the two Gaunthounds who had died during our scouting mission. It seemed to be a fairly simple memorial meeting, as well as a time to drink a lot. The drinks didn’t seem to be affecting them much, but they enjoyed it anyway. I elected to wait patiently out of the way in a respectful manner. Afterwards he was quite willing to talk to me.

(Vanatica) I have heard you are one capable of making these things (as I pulled out an Obol as an example). What can you tell me about the process?

(Rhindath) Well… the process itself is simple enough; if you have the faith and self-discipline to touch the realm of one of the great powers of the universe, you may – with the favor of that power – draw on some of that realms power – and the disciplines and ceremonies you perform as a priest bind it to your reality as an Obol of that power. As an example… I have just presided over two funerals in service to the powers of death, yesterday I worked on treating some patients, and a few days before I turned the power of the Smiling Death against a maldont in defense of the village – slaying it. So it should be about time… (And he fished around the altar before coming up with a Black Obol). Ah, it as.

Blast…. I wasn’t so egotistical as to think myself capable of being properly reverent to a higher power. So much of my upbringing was spent learning (and watching) how the Force and Codex could corrupt and destroy a person who let themselves get too in touch with the powers provided. Could higher powers be used for one’s own ends? Almost certainly, but caution and a strong will where required to maintain control as I was repeatedly taught over and over again. Joining a priesthood was thus not a career choice I would excel at.

(Vanatica) Hmm, a very manual process that isn’t readily automated then. I can’t imagine I possess the “reverence” necessary for such a task either. I wonder if I can program a droid to possess faith….

(Rhindath) There are some other ways of course, but being a priest is generally easiest!

(Vanatica) Ah, can you perhaps point me in the right direction to pursue such an investigation into other methods?

That got me pointed back to Allandras. He was of the opinion that the things can be made fairly readily, but it was likely to be fairly draining until one mastered some advanced disciplines. In particular the binding required a certain amount of “vital force”; that can be replaced, but if you don’t have an external source spending too much of it can be crippling.

No idea what “vital force” he was talking about since it didn’t sound like the Force itself per se. At which point Jacob did more of his infuriatingly useful scanning. He proceeded to declare it “Evolutionary Energy”: a transformational force used to ascend to higher states of being if you can get enough. He then went off on a tangent about Organians.

(Vanatica) Wait…. WHAT?!

At which point he pointed the tricorder at me. He said I used it for personal growth and had the potential for imbuing it into items to enhance them. Now that was something I was aware of. It was most spectacular with the Artificer Sith, but even Mother and Father had such enhanced equipment in their possession and it seemed half the scientists and inventors I could find where cheating their way to new “discoveries” via such impossible to replicate methods.

(Jacob) It will also tend to push you towards breaking through into new ability sets if you get enough.

Now that gave me pause. Was the whole issue behind who developed Force or Codex ability just a matter of accumulated enough unused “vital force” until a breakthrough occurred? Did that mean I wasn’t generating enough of this to build up such a reserve? Or perhaps the amount I did generate was being tapped for other purposes already? Blast, if I could get Jacob and his tricorder back to my galaxy I could potentially resolve so many mysteries in an afternoon of testing. Not that I had the power to do so.

Oh well, best to ask about other topics more relevant to the current situation. I asked Rhindath if he could tell me more about these Masques I keep hearing about and the Masque of Wrath in particular. It may become important later if we had to deal with the wearer of the Masque in the near future.

(Rhindath) Well… most Masques are straightforward enough; I use several myself – the Smiling Death being one. I prefer to stick with the ones that do not drive you crazy however! In any case, the use of Masques is part of the Hyperborean Birthright – although others can learn to do so, it’s just that Hyperborea makes it so easy that it’s practically innate. Fortunately, very few are crazy enough to try to use the Urge Masques.

The Urge Masques as described reminded me of the Dark Side and how so few could actually control the mental patterns burned into their own minds. Thinking back onto my own Varen Sith heritage and how we focused on iron will self control, I decided to pursue the line of thought with some questions.

(Vanatica) Any legends of someone actually being able to control themselves while using the Urge Masques? Or is that something that ONLY seems to drive people insane?

(Rhindath) Yes, a very few have taken up an Urge Masque to sue against some overwhelming threat and have maintained some level of control – but unless that are very lucky, and some powerful ally intervenes to get it off, the best result is usually “they destroy the threat at the cost of their own lives”.

Rhindath was kind enough to demonstrate a normal Masque for us. This one he called the Judge’s Masque and supposedly it was fairly useful with children. It was made of some sort of silk, no apparently eyeholes, embroidered eyes, a mount with twists up on one side and down on the other, and otherwise featureless except for an image of scales on one cheek. When he donned it, it drastically changed his body language and the impression he gave off. I got the distinct feeling that I was in the presence of a stern teacher with the authority to put me into detention for a month or worse. The eyes glowed blue, and while remaining cloth, focused on me and seemed to see right through me.

Ugh, it felt like dealing with Mother on one of those days I did something that really annoyed her.

Jacob proceeded to begin scanning it with that tricorder again. Once again I had nothing particularly useful to add to the investigation given the limitations of my sensors. Jacob’s analysis suggested that Rhindath was hosting a fragment of some much larger entity which was actively defeating his attempts at analyzing. What the fragment apparently did, however, was give Rhindath detect most deceptions, use minor divinations, resist mental influences, and let him produce a fairly formidable weapon if necessary. Potentially useful, but nowhere near the power level of the Masque of Wrath. On the other hand, it didn’t seem to be destroying his mind. Something to keep in the back of my mind going forward at least.

(Vanatica) One final question: do you know anyone who can… how to put this… target a portal across realities?

(Rhindath) Portals across realities… well you could probably target a new portal or retarget an old one with some Destiny/Chaos Obols – or you could ask Intimoda. She could probably do it.

Follow the directions given, we finally found Intimoda at work on a forge. She appeared to be making something resembling a oversized belt-fed shotgun with bloated shells full of wooden darts. Probably Ithil wood darts I imagine.

(Intimoda) Well there! You seem to have recovered pretty promptly… That’s quite impressive!

(Vanatica) Calla’s berries seem to be rather miraculous even in comparison to the best technology of my people.

(Intimoda) I’ve never seen her type before… obviously herb-witches though! With any luck she’ll stick around for a bit.

(Vanatica) Yeah, I hope to see if her herbs and such can be cultivated back home. A veritable fortune to be made there if that stuff works even a tenth as well.

It seemed that the vast majority of the treasures I’ve found so far are various plants that might conceivably be cultivated back home for their unusual properties. What worried me though was the possibility that the fields for cultivation might need the appropriate dimensional overlay to grow properly. Since I had no clue how to generate such an overlay, I may well be limited to only what I can harvest or purchase from the locals here. Setting up regional overlays on Itaint or one of the other worlds in the system would be ideal if I could figure out how.

(Intimoda) Well, some of the gardeners want to work with her to try here! That kind of power is hard to find so cheaply!

(Vanatica) I was informed to speak with you about methods of aiming a gateway across realities. You see, my people possess the methods to readily create and maintain such gateways easily, but the means to aim them properly on even the most basic level eludes our techniques.

The targeting issue had been one of the most vexing ones to date. We knew a purely technological solution to arbitrarily targeting trans-temporal hypertunnels existed based on the observations of the Final Empire. However, our efforts along those lines were dead ends so far. The best we had managed so far had been to build gates as linked pairs and then move the individual ends to their final locations afterwards with ships and Force users. The silting problems were finally solved when we managed to combine the hypertunnel hyperspace field with the hyperspace shield technology. Still, it was a time consuming and expensive process. Coupled with the low transit fees required to still be cheaper than a standard ship traveling via hyperdrive, and the returns were slow to pay for the setup. The whole project was still in the black and expanding, but not as quickly as I might have hoped.

And that didn’t even get to the issues with the subspace tunnels. Even with Force and Codex abilities, the steering on those things seemed absolutely random. I wrote the entire project off as unworkable years ago and simply allowed the scientists to continue tinkering in case they managed to pull off some major breakthrough. Now I find myself possibly in a situation where I might be able to use magic to brute force the required breakthroughs.

(Intimoda) Hm… I have sent a few people to other realities – but I’ve never gone myself, since it would be hard to know if I could return! Targeting a tunnel… I suppose it would depend on how the tunnel was made, but if it worked there would be a reliable method of return.

(Jacob) Oh, interesting. Controlled wormholes are one of the great lost technologies of the Iconians.

I did wonder how many mythical empires and legendary individuals arose because of their access to the Anomaly and its resources. And then how many collapsed when the Anomaly shifted out of alignment with the universe. Probably worthwhile to dig through the archives looking for anomalies that make more sense in the context this place provides.

(Vanatica) My people know of two types of gates and have been able to mass produce and utilize one type to connect many disparate areas together into a network for trade and communication. That type of gate only really works well to connect areas in the same reality or across timelines though. The second type works across different realities, but we have no method of controlling where the other end appears. If someone could prove to possess the talent necessary for such a task, I could promise a life of luxury few could imagine.

The amount of Sith Marks I could earn simply setting up a trade route here would justify paying Intimoda enouh to buy her own planet if she wanted. If she could train others to do the same then I could simply buy the Republic outright with the inevitable proceeds that would bring in.

(Intimoda) Well, I could certainly give it a try! I can’t guarantee that it will work, but it certainly sounds like it is worth a try!

(Vanatica) Would we need to set up something on this end like an iris or is there some sort of ritual that needs to be accomplished? I can get in touch with my people on the other end and see about get their equipment set up for a test.

(Jacob) Now that sounds facinating. I would love to get some good scans of such a device operating.

(Vanatica) I could hand over blueprints, but I doubt it would do you much good.

(Intimoda) Well… my body is filled with the energies that control Time, Space, and Dimensions, so I can tap into my reserves to manipulate such things – although there are limits to how much I can do without harming myself. Most of the others here have much more common affinities though!

(Vanatica) Since our realities seem to operate very differently. Still, it shouldn’t take my people long to get a subspace tunnel system set up since the parts are common enough.

We knew from Wizard Ben (not that Mother ever wanted to discuss him), that he carried a reality bubble with him into our reality. So the powers would work off the Anomaly just going by that example alone. The weird abilities Seras has demonstrated elsewhere further cemented that line of thinking. Still, it was hard to shake the feeling that I wasn’t being told everything Mother and Father knew.

(Jacob) So what do you need to get this working? Only two operating Cconian gateways were ever discovered and both destroyed before serious scanning could occur. Plans for your version would also be handy… alien tech always takes a while to understand even with blueprints, but we usually manage it.

(Vanatica) Well, I can radio to the Command Ship in “orbit” and ask them to set up a subspace tunneling system and activated it when Intimoda is ready on this end. Since I don’t think we can get sufficient equipment working on this end to tunnel up to the Command Ship.

Not without cannabalizing a lot of parts from the Dawnchaser, which I was loathe to do so long as I held out hope of the thing becoming functional again. Unfortunately, having the command ship open a portal and letting Intimoda try to snag the destination end of the tunnel to our location quickly demonstrated itself to be a lost cause. Jacob’s scans suggested that the issue was too much interference from trying to cross too many overlapping dimensional overlays rendering even magical anchoring worthless. Jacob’s suggestion was to try the setup in reverse since in his opinion targeting out should be easier than targeting in.

We ended up pulling parts from the backup hyperdrive in addition to various spares to construct the necessary setup. Unfortunately, this led to the problem I initially feared that since none of the equipment worked locally, the setup had to be “fed” an appropriate reality by one of us and the setup was too large for any one person to do that for long. Still, by rotating through the crew for assistance we were able to get it up and running long enough to run some tests.

And testing revealed that we seemed to be hitting the right universe (and possibly the right timeline if the “checksum validator” probe was reporting correctly. Unfortunately, all indications were inconclusive as to whether we hit the correct Hubble Volume of my home universe since it was obvious that the nearby galaxies on the far end of the tunnel were not broadcasting on codes I recognized. And that wasn’t going into the tunnel’s nasty habit of opening to a section of Anomaly that happened to have a matching overlay.

After days of repeated failures to hit anywhere remotely usable, I slammed the access panel shut in frustration. I would say that forgetting all this nonsense and having the command ship lower a monopolium cable down to simply pull the Dawnchaser up, but I would bet that reality would conspire against me to snap the cable. Intimoda made some overtures that she lacked the necessary power to target the tunnels more accurately for now, but I found myself remembering all the scientists who made similar promises only to waste small fortunes pursuing half-assed solutions to their equations. Oh well, best to keep her employment going for now since she was doing a better job than anything my people had come up with so far.

I did find her suggestion that finding a suitable anchor for the far end of the tunnel highly frustrating though. If I could anchor the far end of the tunnel with any sort of reliability, then I wouldn’t NEED magic for targeting. I could just simply use that and call it a day. Perhaps studying one of the Iconian gateways might prove illuminating to the problem, but based on everything Jacob said about them, finding one of their gateways would be a small miracle in and of itself.

I was beginning to suspect this was Seras’s trap all along: to lure me here knowing I would take the bait and trap myself on this weird reality bubble. And like an idiot, I did exactly that. Seras could probably just use her Force and Codex powers to fly out of here whereas I had no such options since the repulsor pack had a hard ceiling it could reach. Such a wonderful way to prove myself to the family by trapping myself down here like an amateur.

At this point the locals were finally getting organized to deal with the Masque of Wrath. It looked like their approach was to simply use the bulk of their forces on distracting attacks to lure the constructs away from the area they believe the wielder of the Masque resides. A strike team would then assault that location and attempt to kill the target. As far as plans went, it wasn’t bad and given the lack of heavier weaponry, armor or droids, I couldn’t suggest a better one for now. I volunteered my services for the assault on the main target since I had to prove to everyone and myself that we could not only survive on this weird rock, but also overcome the challenges presented. There were some noises from the Praetorian Guard about playing it safe, but I quickly shot them down with the assertion that letting those blasted constructs run loose was far more dangerous than actually dealing with the problem. The assault was to begin at dawn.

That night as I laid down to sleep:

The sky was a dark and cloudy bluish-gray that blotted out that moon and stars. The landscape was that of a windswept glacier with clouds of snow blowing through the dips between the hills of ice. Despite the heaters and insulation of my suit maintaining a toasty temperature, I could still feel the bite of the cold air against me. Bronze gears littered the landscape, a testament to a great battle that had once taken place here long ago. A battle for a prize few even realized existed. We were getting close to the spot. Even I could sense the power that lay dormant here waiting to be tapped.

(Voice) You can sense it now, can’t you?

(Vanatica) Yes, it feels like a distant hum that reverberates through the ice and snow.

(Voice) Good, follow your instincts, find the center of the disturbance.

We continued on for several more kilometers. It was clear to see that the gears and other clockwork mechanisms strewn about were covered with indecipherable runes that at times seem to glow just out of the corner of my eye. The howling wind was picking up and it became difficult to walk straight so I adjusted my shields to act as a windscreen. I could hear a quiet snort of derision behind me for the effort, but chose to ignore it.

At last we came to a plain where the glacial ice formed a flat expanse for many kilometers. The ice was a deep blue color signifying that it was harder than any steel and very old. Attempts to peer through the ice more than a few centimeters was fruitless though given the overall darkness. Despite the icy terrain, my boots had no issues maintaining traction on what should have been a slippery surface. After a few more kilometers of trekking, I finally came to a spot where it felt like the humming was coming more from below me than from any other direction. Kneeling down to wipe away the thin dusting of snow on top of the ice, I confirmed it.

(Voice) Well done. Now, remember your training and do what comes next in the process. I shall stand by and watch in case there are problems, but I highly doubt it will be necessary.

With a wave of my hand, I swept the ice of snow for a hundred meters in all directions. Removing my pack, I then removed several bags of dust, seven censors, and a flask of oil as the small swarm of droids quickly picked up the items and awaited my command. Finally removing a datapad from my bag, I marked an X on the surface of the ice with my finger for all the droids to note and then began to draw a circle on the datapad. As I drew, the floating droids quickly went to work carving out the design I drew on the datapad into the ice with their tools. Others placed the censers and filled them in accordance to the symbols I laid out on the diagram. As they worked and I continued drawing, I could hear the hum beneath me shift in tone as the forces became synchronized. Finally completing the drawing of the circle, I then marked a spot along the edge that I wished to write text and then began writing the words as I had been taught to do.

(Voice) There are two forms of science in this multiverse we live in: the science of math, and the science of words. You have been taught since you were a little girl the power of numbers and equations and thus have gained the ability to split the atom, construct servants of metal and wire, and cross the vast reaches of space. Now you have learned the power of words and sentences and will gain the power to command the elements, harness the energies of creation and destruction, and even perhaps raise the dead. Remember all that I taught you and make it your own.

Having completed the inscription I desired and letting the droids finish carving it into the ice, I directed them to light the censers. Suddenly the carvings in the ice burst forth with a blood red light than seemingly lit the region for kilometers around me. The wind seemingly doubled in intensity during that very moment, but I held myself steady. Pulling out my lightsaber and powering it on, I held the red blade out in front of me and I felt the hair on my skin begin to stand on end. Crackling arcs of electricity started dancing from the carvings around me. Moments later they all began to arc towards the lightsaber bounced along the length of the blade. Once the lightsaber had accumulated enough energy, I thrust it into the ground beneath my feet.

Immediately, the glacier seemed to crack and then shatter like a windshield in all directions. A tremor came from deep beneath me and I saw rotating gears pierce through the broken terrain and begin to interlock together. The ground a meter ahead of me split in two to reveal a deep chasm whose depths vanished into an inky blackness after a hundred meters. Along the sides I could see more glowing runes and clockwork mechanisms working to their own purposes, now fully reactivated by my efforts.

(Voice) Now, go forth Vanatica Soung, Firstborn of the Second Sith Protectorate, your destiny awaits you.

Stepping towards the edge, I activated the flight systems in my suit. Satisfied that everything was in working order, I leapt of the edge into the depths below.

Anomaly Mission Logs by Vanatica Soung – Session III

black hanging bridge surrounded by green forest trees

Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

And for now a brief flashback to a conversation that happened during the hike to the destroyed village.


I sighed again as my latest attempt at projecting the map seen from space onto a reasonable hyperspatial object went down a rabbit hole of incongruities. I must have been mumbling out loud my frustrations with my mapping attempts.

(Larvell) Wha wrong wit maps?

(Vanatica) The maps I have and the tracking my people do indicate we are bouncing around without traversing the distance in-between locations at times.

(Larvell) Ah! Tis nothin! I jus guide ye gonna butter paths!

(Vanatica) Non-contiguous ones?

(Larvell) Nonwhatsis?

If I take this place over, grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation classes are going to be mandatory….

(Vanatica) Not a line that is a single piece. It starts, stops, and starts again in different places.

(Larvell) Ah! Yessir! Skip borin bits!

I made a quick check against my wrist computer display to see that both ship time and surface time were running roughly in sync with each other. It wasn’t like the stories of “Earth” Mother told me were time was skipping forward past boring bits at least, which to me suggested that this effect was more spatial than temporal.

(Larvell) Tis Birthright!

And there was that term again. And he didn’t seem to be using it in the same context I would if I was talking about my birthright as the Firstborn.

(Jacob) What is a Birthright?

(Merka, peering questioningly at us) Er… whater realm be ascendin when yer born sticks wit ye, so’s ye kin use a bit a its powr. Whas else it be?

(Vanatica) Where we come from, all people are born with the same abilities more or less. A rare few have some talents the others don’t but otherwise everyone has the same tricks. At least in my home universe. My parents are both doubly rare people who both possess the two known rare talents. Me, not so much. My siblings and cousins however all possess either those full talents or limited renditions of them.

Chirhi started to rub against me like a dog that was trying to be sympathetic.

(Märka) Betcher jus us’ed to em!

(Larvell) Outsidrs allas get her ome Birthright!

(Jacob) What are these rare talents?

(Vanatica) One is the Force: a mystical energy that binds all life, matter, and energy together. It can be manipulated to give precognition, telepathy, inner control, telekinesis, and such. The other is the Codex: it severs the bindings that holds things together: it allows one to manipulate one’s time rate independent of the rest of the universe, phase through other objects, use the multiverse to assess the odds of different events, and other abilities.

(Jacob) Interesting… sounds like the stuff used by the inhabitants of trebius 4. Do you need a special chemical to use that?

(Vanatica) About one in 100,000,000 or so is born with the ability to use one or the other. An extremely rare few are born with the ability to use both. A genetic component is apparent, but genetics alone do not determine everything for unknown reasons. Both of my parents are those doubly rare individuals for example. I obviously possess all the required genetic components, but have not shown even the limited versions of the abilities known to occur beyond the ones everyone is born with.

I didn’t feel at all like going into the comprehensive genetic analyses of myself, my family, and most everyone else I get get data on to see what, if anything, I was missing genetically. That had been a frustrating mess showing only weak correlations at best despite strong evidence that talent ran in families. There was apparently something beyond genetics I was missing and I had no clear indication what that was.

(Jacob) Interesting…. we humans do not have such strange abilities.

(Felix) Pfft! A bunch simple tricks and nonsense. Ancient nonsense and hokey religion won’t match a good revolver at your side.

(Vanatica) You try to snatch a cookie before dinner when dealing with precognitive probability assessing parents.

Mother had been furious the time I suggested she was just as bad about assuming everyone knew what she had learned with her powers as Grandmother Lessa. Father and Grandfather Pel had thought it a funny observation, but also thought it amusing when Tosa made a similar observation about Mother and myself. I had been decidedly less amused at the joke though.

What little I could gather from my discussions about the history of this place were not particularly illuminating. Whatever origin stories the people knew seemed to be pretty clearly myths. There were bits of history going back for many thousands of years, but nothing about the place being built. Definitely stories of when one or two species moved in though. Part of me wondered if a large city with a much larger library and history of scholarship might have more information.


And now a return to the present, where the party found themselves stuck in a cave with a number of psychic constructs outside waiting to kill them.

Taking stock of the situation, I found myself left with the conclusion that things were going poorly. This cave we were situated in was looked like it was probably a former volcanic lava pocket that had since drained. How exactly that worked with the arcane construction of this place was an open question. Although I did wonder what would happen if I tunneled deep enough on this seemingly infinite plane if I would find a molten layer or even another side to this place. Meanwhile we had my “traveling companions”, six gaunthounds sent to assist us, another six kids, and one wounded adult female. We also had several weeks worth of cheese, root vegetables, and wine for supplies. On the not so helpful side of things, we had six of the energy constructs at the entrance of the cave seeking to rip us to pieces.

Cowering in here until help arrived was surrendering the initiative and embarrassing. Ergo, we needed to find a way out of here ourselves. But our firepower was barely enough to deal with one of these things, not six. We needed an edge, but in order to get an edge, we really needed to know what these things were. I was also curious as to why the blue sheds had been left alone while everything else had been smashed.

Calla was able to more readily treat the injuries of the adult female than I was able to. But then again, what she was doing was blatantly magical compared to even the best Arethi healing techniques I’ve witnessed. Still, that gave us someone to interrogate for information. The female quickly confirmed that these things were psychic projections of a wielder of a Masque of Wrath. Not that this told me much. On the hand, the sheds were built using Ithil Wood, and Ithil Wood drained psychic energies in order to repair itself. The raw trees (a silvery-blue weeping willow like tree) possessed this same property if not as potent. To really activate it in the trees, you’d have to badly damage them. The locals didn’t see much point since many of them were drained by the stuff, and their normal methods of enhanced harvesting failed completely when pitted against Ithil trees.

I didn’t face such limitations and there was a handy set of groves less than a couple of kilometers away.

It was also clear that the constructs were not intelligent in the classic sense. Maybe they qualified as rudimentary expert systems, but I saw no evidence of tactical or strategic thinking in their behaviors so far. So I figured there was a high probability that the things would chase the first available target. With the flight systems, I was certainly the most maneuverable and possibly even the fastest amongst us over uneven terrain. As such, a plan was formulated to use our combined firepower to force the constructs back from the entrance of the cavern whereupon I would flight through at full speed and attempt to lead the constructs on a wild Kira chase towards the grove of Ithil trees. Meanwhile the others would take the opportunity given to take the civilians and flee towards the camp around the shuttle.

Everyone quickly agreed to the plan.

It took a distressing amount of firepower to actually drive the things back from the cavern entrance. Still, we were able to force them back out of our line of fire eventually. Taking the opportunity, I got a running start and then kicked in the flight systems for a rapid and flat flight profile as I zoomed through the entrance. THELOS was able to get quick snapshots of each of the constructs (or at least their outlines) as we zoomed past. At a rough count, we had a dragon, a gargoyle, another ape, two sharks with legs, and a blob. Was the blob the still animated remains of the one we defeated in the village? No idea, but only the ones that decided to pursue me were the dragon and the gargoyle.

I also could feel the rush of air as the constructs took a swipe at me and missed. Not wanting to give them another chance to maul me. As such, I took to the skies above the tree-line while relying on the mapping software to keep me properly oriented towards the grove. Unfortunately, my pursuers were attempting to coordinate and catch me in a pincer attack between them. Fortunately, their lack of true intelligence meant I had a fairly straightforward time of anticipating and countering their maneuvers well before they were able to strike home.

At least that was the case until a damnable duck decided to take off in my face.

That was all the distraction the constructs needed to catch me. I was able to twirl my leg out of the grasp of the gargoyle, but in doing so lined myself up for a swipe from the dragon. While that wasn’t a bite or grab, it still knocked me out of the air and down into the trees hard. Not able to fully regain control my flight profile, I impacted one of those ironwood trees hard on my side with a sickening crunch as the armor failed to completely hold. I was still spinning out of control through the forest at high speeds, my left arm was near useless, and breathing was becoming very difficult. The pain wasn’t pleasant either. At least I hadn’t been knocked unconscious and thereby left to the whims of the constructs and my stasis belt.

(THELOS) Lady Vanatica, I am detecting numerous fractures to your left arm, left shoulder, six ribs, and hairline fractures to three vertebrate. I am also reading signs of blunt impact trauma and internal bleeding.

(Vanatica) Handle it, I am a little busy right now. And don’t give me a general anaesthetic, I need to be conscious and with as much motor control as possible.

(THELOS) Understood, but there is little I can do regarding skeletal fractures and overall pain in that case.

Well, that was what cunning and willpower are all about, was’t it?

It was immediately obvious that continuing to try to fly above the trees in my current state was suicidal. I needed to keep below the tree-line where the trees and terrain can act as cover. And given I was a much smaller flyer than either of the constructs, I should have a much higher maneuverability advantage through a forest. And there were other ways to tilt the battlefield in my favor.

I pulled out my lightsaber with my good arm and activated the bright red blade. I then began taking swings at the various trees and larger branches available to generate falling obstacles for the constructs to either plow through or dodge. My intent wasn’t to lose them, only to slow them down enough to allow me to regain a safe lead on them as I continued towards the grove of Ithil trees.

One of the more annoying things about the people here is how unimpressed everyone is about the fact that they were witnessing a non-force-sensitive using a lightsaber without any of the burnout issues. While it was admittedly quite reasonable why that was, I had gotten used to the how everyone back home treated it like the minor miracle it truly was. I am definitely going to have to adjust how I present myself to the locals if I was going to appear as someone to be respected.

My new strategy was working much better as I easily regained a significant lead on my pursuers. A few minutes later I got to the grove and the constructs followed me right into the trap. Now flying around in circles through the grove, I began slicing the Ithil trees with my lightsaber repeatedly to generate as much “exposed” surface as possible. Within moments I saw results as the constructs visibly began to dissipate until they finally collapsed. Definitely a victory for me today. Not sure how the others were doing though.

I landed next to one of the trees and leaned against it for a few minutes as I tried to regain my breath despite the broken ribs. Unfortunately there was only so much that bacta could do for injuries and it did absolutely nothing for broken bones. I wasn’t looking forward to the pins and glue Ve Ke would be implanting to hold things together until the bones healed. Until then my fighting ability was next to zero. I had considered cutting a few spears from the ithil wood to throw at the remaining constructs, but decided against it. I just didn’t have the stamina and strength to throw much of anything right now. The others will just have to make due with me taking sniping shots from the air as support I guess. Working up the willpower to keep moving despite my entire body being against the idea, I took off towards the tracking device I left with the others.

I caught up to find the Zim and two of the gaunthounds making a stand to give the others a chance to flee. Unfortunately, four constructs were rapidly overpowering the defenders and my efforts at saturating the area with grenades was not nearly as productive as anyone might have hoped. Eventually the gaunthounds buried Zim in a hole in the ground that they just magicked into existence and then filled again. That left the two gaunthounds to be killed with not much I could do about it.

Oh well, such is the nature of war.

We might have had a better chance playing defense in the cave or trying to escape through a back tunnel, but that was a surrender of the initiative that all to frequently dooms those that fall into it. I had THELOS mark the spot on the map where Zim was buried so the others could dig him out. Best to head back to camp where there were soldiers and doctors to deal with things. I was at least pleased to see that they had erected a basic palisade while we were gone. There was even some beginnings of some buildings in the process of construction. Landing in the center of the palisade, Ve Ke was already approaching to scold me about getting injured.

(Ve ke) Uh, you are never going to live long enough to succeed your parents if you keep this up! The things I have to put up with in order to keep you alive!

(Vanatica) You can skip the lecture and just move straight on to the splints and bandaging. I don’t expect a tent to be the most appropriate place for surgery even with your skills.

(Ve Ke) Oh ye of little faith. Open up, chew this, and then swallow.

I took the proffered little red sphere and did as instructed. Almost instantly after swallowing the sweet I felt a disconcerting sensation of the bones in my shoulder and arm shifting and then suddenly feeling a lot better. I gently tested my broken arm and shoulder and found it to be a bit sore still, but I had the full range of motion despite the broken bones. Ve Ke caught my puzzlement.

(Ve Ke) One of the many useful benefits of this place is access to magical healing. The berry I just gave you came from Calla. They’re perfectly safe I assure you. Do you require further treatment?

I had long ago learned not to bother feigning being fine around Ve Ke as I nodded my assent. I was given a few more berries to eat and within moments found myself back to full strength. Alright, if those were at all functional back home, then this whole expedition just made enough potential profit to enable the Protectorate to simply buy the Republic outright. What other seemingly minor bits might we find that could alter everything we understood back home? Still, it was annoying that a lone plant person was managing to outperform some of the best experts and equipment from back home without much of any effort.

It was then that I thought back to the Ithil trees. Jacob seemed to believe that Force and Codex abilities could be classified as psychic given the local “rules” on such things. If so, then Ithil wood may well be at least somewhat effective against Force and Codex users. Now that wasn’t something I needed the enemies of Mother and Father to become aware of, but when dealing with Seras it opened up a number of possibilities. Perhaps it wasn’t a bad idea to get a saw mill going and making a few spears. Might need to look into ways to shield the effect though to keep from annoying the locals and to not give too much warning to my opponents as to potential contingencies I’d be setting up.

The people of Vitromasse overall saw our trip as fairly successful. We lost a pair of gaunthounds (whom the locals found to be disposable), but also picked up another pair. Two of the kids we rescued had relatives amongst the clan here, and so we got offers to buy them off us. After quickly confirming that this wasn’t a slave trade arrangement (that naturally looks bad), I quickly gave my assent to the exchange. The remaining children, since they had no surviving familial ties left, were considered to be our property now.

Right, standard procedure for such things is to free them and then start paying them a salary or otherwise assume legal guardianship for the time being. I’ll have to arrange medical checkups, get some sort of an education program going, and get them some decent shelter, equipment, and meals. The woman was also going to have to be taken in as well for the time being. So add her to the roster of civilian dependents. If they have talents that are valuable down the road, so much the better. Felix started accusing me of being a villain since I didn’t turn down the reward for “rescuing” the civilians and for taking those with no family ties into my care.

Whatever, it wasn’t like this was the first time I’ve heard such accusations given that Mother was a notorious assassin and Father had been a wanted criminal in much of the galaxy at various points in their respective careers. I had an expedition to fund. And I was not about to give a shred of dignity to his assertion that I was going to do a moral about face when faced with a “ruggedly handsome rogue”. That was something Mother did, not me.

At least we confirmed for the locals that a Masque of Wrath was in play now. Not that the locals were being all that descriptive of what the hell that exactly meant. What little I was able to gather seemed to suggest that it was an external focus for something akin to the Dark Side that then gave the bearer immense psychic powers at the cost of rationality. Part of me wondered if my Varen Sith heritage and (admittedly limited) training might do better than these people, but figured that was the sort of thinking that got idiots into trouble.

Anyway, the locals were planning on using stealth or between summonings of the constructs with something between a posse and a militia with some mercenaries as a professional core. Given what I had seen thus far, that’d probably work with rather atrocious casualties if they weren’t careful. They didn’t have any suspects for who might be behind this or why they might have attempted to make a Masque of Wrath in the first place beyond the obvious suggestions of revenge and/or idiocy. Maybe I will assist them. I could stand to get more of that curious local currency and the goodwill fostered by assisting with the defense could prove useful. On the other hand, I did not look forward to take more hits like that single swipe that nearly killed me earlier. Probably need to work with Ve Ke to set up tests and verify that the stasis belts actually still work for us from the Protectorate.

And meanwhile I need to keep my ear to the ground to learn more about those obols, how magic works, and for any other finds that might be useful to export back home. Perhaps there is a way to manufacture a continual clash of reality bubbles to mass produce those obols. From what little I’ve been able to gather about how they work, I suspect I could bleed the region dry of those coins for tens of thousands of kilometers in all directions and still not have enough for some of my more ambitious flights of fancy. Surely there is a way to utilize the immense amount of industrial infrastructure at my disposal in combination with the magicks here beyond mass producing goods for barter. Oh well, there is still time to figure something out and already this trip is likely to turn an immense profit.

Anomaly Campaign Setting Index (The Dawnchasers)

brown spiral staircase

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And here we have a preliminary index for the Anomaly Campaign Setting.  This is a semi-experimental campaign attempting to merge characters from very different settings together while still allowing each to access the physical laws of their home realms.

  • Background Information
  • Character Creation Rules
  • The Characters
    • Calla is an Entwife and healer from the Lord of the Rings setting on a quest to spread life and to find the missing Ents
    • Allandras – Full name is Allandras Rasil de-Radoen Van Des-Prosium de-Taliaemente’ ip Carthoran, a unscrupulous traveling merchant and minor mage
    • Lieutenant Jacob Hatfield of the Federation Starship Promethius – A Star Trek engineer from the TNG/DS9/VOY era
    • Zin – A magical golem from the World of Warcraft Ethereal homeworld of K’aresh in search of a new homeland for his creators
    • Felix Solar – Mech Pilot and upcoming legendary outlaw from the Battletech universe
    • Vanatica Nyla Soung – Firstborn of Kira and Valerie Soung from the Star Wars Twilight Seeker Campaign
  • The Campaign Logs
    • As a general note: these are all written from Vanatica’s perspective and have been condensed or stylized at numerous points.
    • Session I – Arrival of Anomaly and the gathering of the party
    • Session II – Establishing goals and exploring the ruined village
    • Session III – Escaping the Masque of Wrath constructs
    • Session IV – Learning about Obols and Subspace Tunnel tests
    • Session V – Assaulting a Metaphorical Winter Fortress
    • Session VI – Begin Hauling the Dawnchaser
    • Session VII – Fighting a blob monster and visiting a harvest festival
  • Twilight Seekers Campaign Interconnections

Anomaly Mission Logs by Vanatica Soung – Session II

Since it didn’t look like we were going anywhere with the Dawnchaser under its own power for the time being, the decision was made to at least set up camp here for the night and then see what the morning brought. By this point Jacob had arrived at a similar conclusion that I had regarding the potential for a hot air balloon to move the Dawnchaser. Unfortunately, while it looked like the ironwood trees had sufficient energy density to enable the generation of enough lift, we were woefully short on supplies for making the balloon itself and the means to secure it to the shuttle. Still, the ships in orbit (is that even the correct term to be using?) should be able to manufacture and deliver the necessary supplies given time. It shouldn’t be that difficult for them to put any supplies into crates and parachute them down to our general location.

By this point the attendants had finished setting up camp. We had attracted some visitors or scouts from one of the nearby villages that were interested in learning more about us. One group was vaguely reptilian like more scaly Kreedath from back home and the others were more human-like (I wasn’t about to say they were completely human given Jacob’s weird abilities). The reptilians were interested in trade, technology, and information mostly while the human-like ones were generally suspicious of us. Still, as skeptical as they were of our accidental arrival, they were generally willing to sell supplies. Not that I had any of whatever the local currency was and I had doubts that they’d take Sith Marks or Republic Credits without question. Oh well, time to add shiny bits of metal and pretty gemstones to the list of supplies to be dropped with the next shipment I guess.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the black golden coins the locals seemed to highly prize and be in fear of. Like everyone else, I felt an urge to find the things intensely valuable, but that was also alarming in some respects. Maybe it was all the tales I’d heard regarding holocrons and their whispered temptations, but the idea of an object that could manipulate the emotions of those nearby was more than enough to make me wary.

Jacob insisted his scans revealed the things were not made of matter at all, but instead where the given to tokens of gratitude or promissory notes from the underworld. As such they supposedly could be used to purchase a little more time for the dying, healing a minor wound, have a short conversation with the newly dead, have a message carried by the dead, generate an aura of fear around a place for a day or so, and so on. In addition, carrying a large number of them was in theory hazardous as it presumably drew the underworld closer. Apparently it was because of this that pretty much all sapient creatures found the things valuable.

Still sounded to me like a variation of the concept of a holocron made into currency given the seemingly treacherous nature of interacting with the dead. Not that the things ever had much of an effect on me given my lack of powers. I had still heard enough horror stories about the damned things to be wary of them. I even treated Mother and Father’s holocrons with a healthy deal of respect because of that and those didn’t house their ghosts.

At first I was about to call bullshit on the whole story, but then I recalled I was dealing with Tier IV Multiverses here and as such things like all matter being made of the elements Socks, Sundaes, SuperSouth, and Sarcasm was not out of the question anymore. I was still clinging to the hope though that for life reasonably similar to humans to exist locally meant that at least most of the base physics of reality had to be roughly similar. Still, it was fairly clear that things like subspace and hyperspace didn’t work here or didn’t work like I normally understood them to work at least. Hopefully things like gravity, atoms, and electromagnetism still held sway.

Conversing with the locals did reveal that things like chemistry still worked at least within a thirty thousand kilometer radius. Although even then the chemistry was doing exceptionally weird things – like distilling alcohol to a proof higher than 200 and the stored chemical to prove it. Still, that enabled things like crude explosives, flintlock firearms, steam engines, and such. Not necessarily enough to rig up a launch system for the Dawnchaser though unless I got really creative. On the other hand, chemical rocketry was sounding better and better presuming I didn’t set the whole forest afire even attempting it.

Also found to work inside that same radius was things like simple ceremonial magic, charms and talismans, plants and animals with exotic properties and abilities, mid-range social constructs which apparently meant city-states and animal domestication (what the HELL have I gotten myself into?), low-grade religious powers, most racial powers, low-grade psychic abilities (presumably this was things like the Force and Codex), low grade occult abilities, and Birthrights. I had no clue what many of those really meant beyond some hope that they correlated to certain elements of fantasy fiction back home. By the Force, this meant that time travel might actually be feasible here with all the attendant headaches that includes.

The locals also informed me that if I wanted something REALLY large moved, the best thing was to call in some heavy haulers from Rilantha. It’d be mildly expensive, but they could at least drag a LOT of stuff about. For faster travel, I’d want to talk to someone with the right Birthright (there’s that contextless tidbit again) unless there were only a few of us at which point we could talk Intimoda into teleporting us. From what I recalled of earlier conversation, the people of Rilantha were barbarians utilizing massive beasts of burden. They were willing to send a messenger to Rilantha on my behalf at least, thus saving me from having to make the trip myself.

No one had any real information on the history of this place and who/what might have constructed it. I was definitely getting the impression that the builders went feral an unknown thousands or millions of years in the past and that random people across the multiverse have been colonizing ever since. Still, the whole mess hadn’t imploded on itself, so presumably there was some sort of mechanism at work providing maintenance and directing the dimensional shifts. That weird castle the locals seemed wary of sounded like a prime candidate for investigation of that thread at least, but I wanted a lot more information before I simply attempted to enter the place. From what the locals had said, an incredibly large number of adventurers never came back from the place.

Calla was getting upset when we learned that the Gaunthounds were somehow made from enslaved locals. Admittedly, the process sounded like it was rife with abuse and the economic distortions such systems tend to revolve around. I saw no reason to get upset about it though given the inherent difficulties with trying to ban such practices. My parents were still trying to stamp out the practice in the Second Sith Protectorate, but to affect that kind of change required addressing the underlying social and economic forces that drove the practice to start with. Otherwise all you do is shift around where the suppliers are hiding and where they acquire their “merchandise”. None of us had that level of influence locally, so getting upset about it was pointless.

For now at least.

Which made me realize how weird the local economy seemed to be. Despite the seemingly primitive nature of the local technology, the locals seemed to be in possession of a standard of living that wouldn’t have been too out of place in a droid economy. A few questions in that direction revealed that the locals were using “magic” to automate a large part of the labor involved with basic tasks, not unlike how computers and droids were used back home. Although admittedly, the magic stuff seemed to be a much lower resource investment compared to the mining, smelting, and fabrication of the whole supply chain needed for computers and droids. Part of me wondered about the potential for combining the two approaches, but then I remembered that any such plans would likely require a large amount of labor from here of people with the appropriate laws of physics bubble to make that work. Which kinda limited the utility from my standpoint on a number of levels.

It was obvious to me that there was some sort of technological method of generating reality bubbles as evidenced by the fact that what maps we had already pieced together indicated that the terrain was divided into hexagons each roughly 6,890 kilometers across. Given the regularity of that and the distinct irregularity of the distribution of the people within those regions, it stood to reason that something other than the inhabitants had to be generating that effect. Unless the whole place was vampirically siphoning off physics from the inhabitants somehow. That would be frustrating to learn.

It was also quite clear that Seras had managed to acquire abilities from here based on the techniques we’ve observed her using that were neither Force nor Codex talents as far as we could tell. That meant it was possible to acquire talents that weren’t possible back home and at least use part of the power back in our universe too. Unless Seras somehow managed to win the powers lottery a third time and happened to be capable of acquiring a third set of abilities while I still lacked the necessary talent to acquire any of them. That would be irritating to say the least.

Although it did lead to an interesting train of thought: it was fairly certain that Force and Codex abilities were due to living things interfacing with and manipulating Hyperspace somehow. Subspace on the other hand wasn’t known to be tied to anything except the subspace radiator effect the Arboreals possessed. Which always struck me as a bit odd. Father claimed it was because there weren’t any interesting tricks to be done with a timeless layer of reality except to radiate heat instantly.

On the other hand, it was known that access to Tier IV Multiverse realities required the use of two subspace drives resonating with each other to form a tunnel between the two realities. This had never been investigated in any more depth because no one had found a way to reliably steer to a particular destination. On the other hand, if the use of talents not originating from my home universe required one to interface with subspace to form a reality bubble from another universe to access those abilities, then that suggested a number of avenues of research. And a possible technology that could apply towards making reality bubbles around the Dawnchaser and other pieces of technology.

Unfortunately, it looked like the Dawnchaser was going to be stuck here for a while. Not keen on just abandoning that much of an investment, it seemed prudent to set up camp and some defensive fortifications around it. Although given the resources available, that meant setting up a embarrassingly crude stockade. Of course that also meant investigating Elkdunar since anything that could wipe out a village stood a decent chance of breaking through our stockade. Still, it may help funnel attacks or at least slow them down a bit.

Part of me was also beginning to ponder where to relocate the Dawnchaser once we possessed the means to do so. Since it sounded like there weren’t any reality bubbles compatible with our technology within a radius of thousands of kilometers, that did make me wonder if the process was moot until a means of generating reality bubbles of our own became available. On the other hand, setting up shop here seemed like a problem if the largest social structure supported was the city-state level (still not quite sure how that worked). Oh well, best to keep an ear open for possible locations to relocate to and postpone a decision until later.

Even more so, a lot of decisions and actions could wait until morning. Not that I was entirely clear what distinguished day versus night in this place. At the very least there wasn’t a star that this thing seemed to be orbiting that we could see back in our universe. So that light was coming in from another universe, was being generated locally somehow, or was a really elaborate illusion. Nonetheless, as night fell, the majority of us went to the tents already set up while the soldiers set up a watch duty. Despite all the things that had gone wrong so far today, I found it relatively easy to fall asleep.


There were twelve of them gathered in a circle chanting: elaborately dressed and subtly inhuman skeletons each bathed in a blue flame that seemed to draw in all heat from the room. Arranged in a series of pews behind them were dozens of humanoids in ceremonial outfits all kneeling in prayer. The only light same from the chilling blue flames in sconces along the walls and from the skeletons at the head of the hall. After several minutes, the skeletons fell apart as their bones were drawn to the center of the circle and merged together to form a single eldritch abomination of an floating undead skeleton with six arms and bone wings.

(Skeleton) Come forth, Seras….

From the opposite end of the room she strode forth, her gait betraying the confidence of a fully trained Hybrid. Glowing fluorescent tattoos covered her arms, back, and face and the sclera of her eyes were as black as obsidian. As she passed the pews, all whispers from the crowd silenced as they all watched her with a mixture of fear and respect. Once she was three meters from the skeleton, she stopped and glanced up at the thing with smirk of self-assuredness.

(Skeleton) You have sought to master our techniques and mastered them with an aptitude and speed few have ever matched. Now the time of your ascension has arrived. Are you ready for the gift you have so richly earned?

(Seras, that smirk never leaving her face) Oh yes, I am ready for my reward….

The skeleton abomination held out a hand and a massive tome materialized in the palm of its boney fingers. The tome opened of its own accord and pages flipped rapidly to reveal a page of inscrutable text with a line at the bottom. A feather then appeared and hovered over the open page.

(Skeleton) Then sign the contract and gain all that I have promised you.

Seras reached out a hand as if to take the feather but stopped mere centimeters from taking it into her grasp. Getting a coy look on her face, Seras withdrew her hand and playfully tapped her chin and snickered as if debating something amusing. As the skeletal abomination grew increasingly impatient, Seras suddenly lashed out far faster than anyone could react and sliced the book in half with a flick of a lightsaber.

(Skeleton) IMPUDENCE!!! Slay her!

Before the worshippers had a chance to respond, Seras waved her hand at the pews and a blast of telekinetic force flung all of them and the pews against the back wall with the sound of splintering wood and breaking bones. She turned to face the skeletal abomination that was now holding ghastly flames in each hand and then threw them all at Seras in rapid succession. The first simply passed right through her without any effect, while the second veered off course and hit the ceiling for no explicable reason. The next two she simply batted aside with her free hand and the fifth fell apart when sliced with a lightsaber. The final one hit her and exploded to seemingly no effect.

(Seras) Impudence? My, my, a mighty tall accusation for an imbecile who thought to enslave my will in exchange for a paltry “gift” like undeath.

(Skeleton) How did you….

(Seras) Did you really think it intelligent to betray someone with the talent of Recursion? I even warned you about the difficulties in successfully betraying me at the very beginning and yet you didn’t listen.

(Skeleton) And you should know how foolhardy it is to challenge me! This form is but a projection of my true self! You cannot possibly destroy me!

(Seras) Ah yes, that would be an issue wouldn’t it? At least it would be if I didn’t possess this little trinket.

Suddenly she opened her empty hand and a necklace with a black diamond dangled from it. Despite the lack of a emotive face, the skeleton was noticeably stricken with panic and fear.

(Skeleton) But that is supposed to be hidden where none shall ever find it!

(Seras) Hmm, yes, I can see why you might think that, but then again I did warn you about how talented I am. You see, I had acquired this little bauble prior to my first meeting with you. After all, I knew you were going to betray me anyways.

(Skeleton) If you knew I was going to betray you, then why bother seeking me out?

(Seras) Oh, for access to your laboratory, your library, and most of all: your army. You see, my ambitions far exceed any of your plans for a tiny feudal fiefdom. But don’t you worry, I’ll make sure your donations to my cause are not wasted.

(Skeleton) No! Please! I’ll do anything you augggghhhhhhh…..

It screamed a nightmarish cry as Seras crushed the diamond with her bare hand. The blue flames emanating from the bones flickered and died as the bones fell to the ground in a broken pile. Seras stepped forward and kicked a femur bone as if she was prodding a dog to move.

(Seras) Ah well, it was amusing and informative while it lasted. A pity he couldn’t be trusted to work for me. The peasants on the other hand should prove more reliable at least.

Already a number of the worshippers were recovering and gathering in a rough semi-circle. None wanted to be the first to volunteer to be the next victim however.

(Seras) I will give each of you a choice. You may take this opportunity to leave now and no harm will come to you. This I promise you. Should you decide to stay, then I offer a chance at becoming more than fodder for a small-minded lich’s petty ambitions. I shall take you to the stars and the worlds circling them. I will show you wonders you have never contemplated in your wildest dreams. I will provide you riches that makes kings look like paupers in comparison. No particular rush, I am a patient woman and I wouldn’t want you to make rash decisions you might regret. Just know this: I will not tolerate disloyalty.

One by one, the worshippers all knelt down in deference to Seras.

(Seras) Ah, excellent. I do enjoy enthusiasm in my followers. It saves me the effort of trying to enforce a properly motivated work ethic. Now, here are your instructions, for we have much to do to expand our footprint.

With that she paused her explanation and screwed up her face in one of mild confusion and then realization. Her face turned to glance at nothing apparent in the room, but it was a glare that seemingly looked into my very soul.

(Seras) Sorry, hold up a minute, it appears my dear sister is spying on us right now. We can’t have her learning all of my plans at this stage of the game now, can we?

Out came the pair of lightsabers as she swung them both in a crossing strike right at me.


Waking up with a bit of a start, I found it was already light out. I hated these kind of nights. I never had any idea whether these dreams were the products of my own anxieties, premonitions of events that have/are/will be happening, and what if anything I was supposed to be doing about it. Grandmother Lessa spent much of her time obsessing over these visions all Soungs possessed and kept inventing insane conspiracy theories trying to make sense of it all. That fact that she frequently was right for all the wrong reasons didn’t seem to do anything to dissuade her from that obsession and it didn’t help matters that her latest book of prophecies was yet another major bestseller across the galaxies.  I tried my damnedest not to worry about them, but reality hardly seemed willing to comply with me half the time.

I really needed a distraction before this truly fouled my mood for the rest of the day. Vanessa Soung, either via good timing or a keen sense of such things, came into my tent as I had just finished getting dressed.

(Vanatica) Anything to report?

(Vanessa) Soldiers report all was quiet throughout the night, although the Vailo unit commander has some improvements to the defenses he wants to pursue. Ve Ke has reported that he is giving his approval for the use of the local biomass in the food synthesizers. The first supply drop should be arriving in the next few hours I am told. Meanwhile Cuzao is constructing something I don’t understand and when I ask him to explain all he can say is that “it’s complicated”. I didn’t feel like pressing the issue. Mila already has something she’s calling breakfast over the fire and says it’ll be ready shortly.

(Vanatica) Probably best to leave him be. If he asks for something, provide it. In the meantime start stashing away supplies once you’ve processed them in the food synthesizer. While there is plenty of food locally right now, we don’t know if that is always going to be the case.

(Vanessa) Understood.

Whatever Mila was cooking definitely didn’t smell like rations. She probably was using some of that local food she had gotten her hands on. While Ve Ke may have given his approval, what I could get of the smell left me ambivalent. The taste was also uninspiring, but Mila insisted she knew how to fix it better next time around. I wasn’t probably going to get a decent meal using ingredients from back home for quite some time it seemed.

At least the other “arrivals” had arrived at the consensus that we needed to investigate that destroyed village if for no other reason than the presumed threat it implied to our operations here. The Vailo unit commander wanted to send some of the soldiers with me as bodyguards, but I pointed out that right now it was important to guard our means of (eventual) escape and that I was equipped well enough to deal with or flee most threats whereas more bodies would just slow me down. He did insist that I took several droids with me and he also mad me promise to radio for help if things got out of hand.

I debated taking the repulsor bike, but given how iffy the larger bits of technology were behaving, I felt it was not prudent to find myself in a situation where I might have to rely on it working. Besides, most of the rest were going to be walking anyway, and trying to creep along beside them was not my idea of dignified. At least one of the Gaunthounds had volunteered to guide our way to the village. As such, I walked alongside them as I tried to make sense of what my wrist computer was telling me regarding the orbital monitoring data on our trek.

For one thing, the orbital monitoring showed us skipping parts of the landscape entirely with no immediately apparent explanation. Meanwhile the distance to the destination did not seem to be anywhere near as far as the orbital data showed either. Personally, I suspect that not only was the surface covered in various pocket realities, but that the surface was also a three (or four if I counted time?) projection of a hyperdimensional object. Kinda like how a growing and shrinking circle could be described as a two dimensional projection of a three dimensional sphere. While that helped make sense of the roads we had seen that seemed to go nowhere, it increased the difficulty in mapping this place by several orders of magnitude.

(Vanatica) Great, now I need to add ground mapping droids for trying to figure out what sort of hyperdimensional sphere this place is to the list of projects to pursue.

(Allandras) What, it’s not that complicated. You follow the road. When you get where you’re going, there you are.

While that was a practical point of view, I tend to despise those that refuse to bother to ask why things are the way they are. Had my parents done that, I might not have been born and they certainly would not have ended up as Praetors. Knowledge and the control that knowledge offered was the truest form of power there was. After all, look at the stunts stasis fields and antimatter crystals allowed. To some, those things seemed semi-miraculous. To me, they are just tools to be exploited.

When we eventually arrived, the village itself had been set on an outcropping of rock overlooking a bend in the river. It was not quite as well defended as Vitromasse, but the approaches would still have been difficult. From my point of view… it looked rather like a bunch of explosions went off, flattening buildings. Some of the surrounding farm buildings were similarly flattened, but a few smaller sheds had escaped damage. Quite a few bodies were immediately evident and most of them were badly smashed with a couple ripped apart.

Hmm, no signs of fire damage beyond the incidental stuff. If anything I would have to say that the place was smashed as opposed to exploded. The numerous tracks of very large clawed feet provided hints as to a possible suspect at least. Meanwhile, Jacob was finding no hints of explosives with that weirdly insightful scanner of his thus reinforcing the theory that something large and strong did this. Calla noted that the local wildlife had vacated the area around the former village as well. And Felix was mentioning something about odd infrared reading from a nearby cave.

I was pondering flying upwards to see if I could note anything else of importance when I saw motion out of the corner of my eye. Swiftly looking in that direction, I saw a series of huge footprints appear in the ground and heading in my direction at considerable speed. Not taking the time to think about it, I flew straight up into the air hoping that whatever was bearing down on me had limited reach and couldn’t fly itself. Already the THELOS module loaded into my suit immediately activated the retractible hood of my armor designed to look like a stylized arctic wolf’s head. Within moments the sensory HUD came online.

(Vanatica) THELOS, are you seeing this?

(THELOS) My apologies, my lady, but whatever this is, it is not showing up on visual frequencies beyond the footprint trails I am detecting.

That ruled out Force illusions at least since droids were not affected by those. It also didn’t line up with any known cloaking technology I was aware of either. Even the best ones left a telltale shimmering effect or black globe. I suppose some weird Codex effect might do it, but even then I’d expect to still see eyes or whatever sensory organs it was using to detect us.

(Vanatica) Anything showing up on other frequencies?

(THELOS) I am getting a silhoette on infrared, but fine details are proving elusive.

(Vanatica) Then give me a projection.

Immediately the lenses in my hood shifted as new visual data was projected into my field of view. I could see an outline of a creature that was over six meters in height, possessed four arms, two legs, massive projections that probably were talons, and a body layout somewhat similar to a great ape. The form was too indistinct though to attempt to sever the spinal cord unfortunately which left less elegant methods of dealing with issues. Pulling out the blaster rifle with built-in grenade launcher, I verified the status of the ammo level and prepared to fire.

Already it looked like Zin had managed to acquire and hold the things attention while Calla seemed to be doing something that resulted in the creature in a tangle of vines. That wasn’t going to hold it in place for long, but then I probably didn’t need too long for this. Aiming for what I could only presume was the creature’s back, I proceeded to liberally apply the contents of my grenade clip against the creature. Soon enough the others all were contributing attacks of our own and the thing was swiftly defeated as it gave a final bellowing howl.

Whereupon it disintegrated like a Obi-Wan Kenobi. I’d never seen anything actually do THAT before. Not even those rogue Sith back home did that. They usually left smoking corpses instead. I guess I can’t be sure that Jedi don’t actually do that, but there are usually much fewer reasons to kill Jedi anyway. Animals shouldn’t be able to do that either from what I understood. Plus there was the suicidal level of aggression. What was that thing then?

Jacob said his scans told him it was a mindless energy construct. I was about to exclaim that “energy” didn’t work that way when I recalled where the hell I was. If that was a construct then that meant someone made it, and if they made this one then it stood to reason that they could make more. It was at that point all of us heard the sound of many more of the things bellowing from a number of directions and heading this way. At a minimum guess, I would wager that we now had four to six of the things incoming.

This was bad. With better defenses we could presumably deal with them as chokepoints forced them to come one at a time, but the defenses on this village were obviously not up to par with holding the things off as demonstrated by the smashed buildings around us. And if these were constructs like Jacob said, then it was also possible that whoever made them could make new ones faster than we could eliminate them.

It was at this point that Felix felt like volunteering that the cave he mentioned earlier was now clear of that anomalous heat signature. In fact he was of the opinion that the heat signature was the creature that came to attack us. If that was the case, that suggested there was something in the cave the creature was after and that the creature couldn’t readily force entry into the cave either. That implied something potentially valuable and a better defensive position than this village had a hope of providing. Since I didn’t look forward to the idea of a running firefight trying to flee these things, any defensive advantage I could get seemed prudent to acquire.

The others quickly agreed with the assessment. At the cave, we found it to be a relatively deep limestone cave that had been dug out and expanded for the use of aging cheeses, storing some sort of alcoholic drink, and the caching of what I guessed to be root vegetables. There were also a number of what I presumed to be survivors from the destroyed village: six children, two gaunthounds, and one injured adult woman. From what I could see, they had hidden themselves at the very back of the cave and were attempting to dig themselves further and up with a surprising amount of success. Probably more of that magic at work again I imagine. I directed Jacob to try and determine the best locations at the mine entrance to collapse and thereby shrink the entrance without collapsing the whole cavern on top of us. Meanwhile I pulled out the medkit I had with me to begin treating the injured woman while trying to figure out what the survivors know about what is going on.

Although I had to fire off a warning to Allandras when he starting making motions to loot the food supply that I wasn’t about to tolerate his greed in this situation. I was fully willing to shoot him if that was what it took to secure rations for everyone.