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What I've been writing lately

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo, but this doesn't mean I've not been writing things of late.  There's a role playing campaign I'm involved in which is being carried on mostly by correspondence, punctuated by the occasional face to face session which promptly leads to more correspondence (half of us are in LA, half in San Francisco).  Anyway, the segment I just finished (subject to any more commentary by the others involved) is probably self-contained enough to be comprehensible to the uninvolved, so here it is.  My characters involved in this are Auren Technomancer and Sergeant Christiaan Ferret.  I don't think anything else really needs to be explained - if I'm wrong just ask and I will.  I used fara_shimbo's Kwakien font for internal links to the full recording of the trip which Auren would have (though I don't so they don't actually work).  If you don't have the font, they'll appear as an RD at the start of the report proper, and various stray Ks throughout the text.  You can get the font from her if you haven't got it already.

Auren Reports In: Part One

Auren Reports In

Behold the Council World of the Teklénan.. which to be honest looks like most other oxy-nitrogen worlds; a blue opal composed largely of water, streaked with the shimmer of pale clouds in the middle and orange ones about the edge, flickering at the poles with aurorae. The north-south oblong continent in mottled browns and greens whereupon may be found the meeting place of the Tekran and most of the delegates thereto, three smaller ones scattered about and a lot of islands most of which are hard to spot from the distance of even the closest of the three moons. Nearly two thousand kilometers in diameter, the middle moon is by far the largest and causes most of the tides, the outer moon is about one tenth that size but still notable. The third… ah yes, the third… At a distance, the inner moon shows as a featureless oblong, roughly 25 by 15 kilometers. Closer, you will see the shape is but the surface of a pulsating mist, and within the mist visions of which it is said no two sapients ever see quite the same. A deep ruby light pulses as you approach.. and if you are invited, a docking place for your ship appears. If you are not, you will be wise to turn away and go no further. For this is The Tower, the embassy of the Technomancers and the one place of their power that has ever been revealed to the outside.

If you want an invitation, send email.

On this day….

Inside the Tower, there was a room, and within that room a series of concentric circles inlaid with various metallic symbols. With the central circle as a base, a cone of constantly shifting light cast multicolored shadows over the rest of the room, accompanied by a faint, deep hum like a purring dragon. The walls of some pale color hard to identify against the colored shadows showed a continual cycle of slowly changing symbols, diligently traced in midair from well outside the outermost circle with a clear crystal wand held by a being like a small, golden-brown panther. As each symbol was finished, it floated over to its match on the wall and the two vanished with a brief flash. A shadow appeared in the depths of the cone, then stepped free, to reveal itself as a cloaked human form. The cone sank into the floor and vanished.

As the figure emerged from the gateway into The Tower, she flung back her hood, and dropped the shimmering veil with relief. Even the best filter can be pretty wearisome after awhile, let alone coupled with high gravity. The panther waved the wand and the sequence of symbols on the wall vanished. She looked up at the new arrival and bowed. "Master Auren."

"Master S'Mayra." She bowed in return.

Both giggled, spoiling the effect, then left the room together for a long, slightly downward slanting corridor floored in pale gold. As they walked, the walls slowly expanded until what they followed was more ramp than corridor. The walls pulsed in a rainbow of dark colors, occasionally streaked by flickering glitter, against a velvety background.

"How'd it go?" asked the Yelisi.

"Interesting. Found an ancient abandoned worldship, and a group of archaeologists studying it. One of whom shows promise - I left her an invitation to visit sometime."

"Not bad for your first time out," replied S'Mayra.

"That's nothing; it got kinda complicated - wait'll you see my report. I'll send you a copy."

"Oh," Auren paused, "and if your offer of training is still open I think I'll take you up on it after all. I keep forgetting there are some places where they're very nosy, but don't know anything about telepathy. And it woulda come in real handy a time or two."

S'Mayra chuckled/purred in reply. "See, told you! Trade me the fire fountain effect?"

"Sure. Talk to you after I check on the ship." She paused to confer with her shoulder dragon. "Woo hoo!" Auren suddenly abandoned all pretense of a stately progression and darted off down the ramp.

"I take it it's ready?" commented S'Mayra to her departing back, and chuckled again.

Auren sailed in through the airlock of her! ship, shedding her cloak to hang itself up. Taking out the small purple square of alien money, she tossed it up towards a shelf which neatly caught it, then wrapped itself up into a faintly lit display case; then she lay down on the pilot couch. Sprawled full length, hands behind her head, she gazed up at the ceiling display cheerfully and began to dictate her report.

RD I raised the Gate to pass to another line, somewhere in the family of Sol where Terra yet bears life, in a place I could walk about freely. Casting a full recording of my travels (see the button), I stepped through to seek the adventure I should find.

I found myself on a flat plane, in an enormous room, so large that there were buildings of multiple stories within it, with doors covered by multi-colored bead curtains. I felt heavy, and the lighting was painfully bright and blueshifted with a smell of thunder.K I might be in the family of Sol, but this was certainly not Terra! I invoked a filter mask and cast a handful of mapping spell in each of the six directions.

Everything was set in layers of decks; this was a ship. A huge ship for after twenty minutes my spell was still mapping with no sign of the hull. A ship with many people, but they all seemed to have left, and their possessions as well. Here is a typical room: K

The students of the worlds of the past may follow my tracks if they wish to learn of the empty spaces; I had no use for empty buildings so as soon as I had map enough to see, I climbed a few levels of stairs to where the map showed a long corridor, lined with large display windows and what looked like shops. K Mostly empty shops, to be sure. My spell had now covered a half a kilometer radius, and still found no hull. I abandoned the sphere and called in all of the spell save for the outer shell of an expanding circle on this level, centered the search on where I was now, and used the remainder to seek rooms on this floor containing objects..

Also to watch for movement, of course. But nothing was moving other than me, my pixie dust, and such real dust as floated in the air currents. Life support was still alive, for there was little enough of the last. At least it was now; I rechecked my veils to make sure they would close quickly should it suddenly stop working. Even with it working, it was not all that pleasant. I do not believe I care to visit where these people came from. And with that thought, my map spell found a cluttered room at last.

Cluttered mostly with shattered glass and other debris. A display cabinet beside the door had been smashed, and drag marks led across the floor (and some of the debris) through a door in the back of the room. The other contents of the room were also smashed as though by a vengeful whirlwind with some of the remains draped across the drag marks. I cast a detailed vision of the room to try and recreate the original scene later, then followed the drag marks into a back room.

On the floor lay a thing of spirals, loops and curves of gleaming metal, its beauty positively demanding it should be replaced on its base. With effort, for it was very heavy and also embedded in something on the floor, I pulled it up and found it taller than I am, swooping and swirling like joy itself. K I had not long to admire it, for I perforce had to look at the thing it was embedded in. K (Be warned - this link is not pretty.) It had fallen or been smashed into the person who was dragging it, who now lay in flattened, mummified state beneath it with a crushed skull. The body was bipedal, furred, probably tailed but otherwise unidentifiable. Stealing the object? Saving it? I would never know. All the same, I traced the sigil of the dead above the body.

I decided not to waste too much time trying to figure out more about the dead being, when I could be looking around instead. I was immediately proved right in my assessment; the very next shop had a large and beautiful oil painting of three silver-fox like bipeds dancing with multicolored veils. K At last, the outer ring of my map spell touched the hull, or at least a large inwardly curved area with airlocks, a full two kilometers or more from where I stood. I cancelled the outer ring of the map spell and recalled the components; by now it was far too sketchy to be of much use anyway. Consolidating all the pixie dust I had released, I invoked full sight over this level, one up, and one down as access permitted, again focusing on objects and movement. This body had been dead for a long time, but whether this held for the entire ship was another question. If anything was moving within half a kilometer, I wanted to know about it.

Something was. Nearby was another of the great cavern-like rooms, this one floored by an uneven maze of rock and metal, natural looking or carved, through which wove paths floored by pale colored flagstones in various colors. No path was such that you could see more than a few meters ahead of yourself, all joining and parting almost at random. A little way away from the center stood a cloven boulder from which water welled ceaselessly, flowing downward over and through a series of musical baffles and into a pool rimmed by multiply colored set stones in an almost but not quite circular pattern. K Affected by slight changes in flow, the water sang a melody never quite the same, never entirely different, like a mountain stream. I stood by the fountain and listened for awhile. Perhaps I might like to visit the world these people come from after all.

More movement! One floor up this time, and almost a kilometer away, four tailed bipeds, in environment suits, were conversing in what looked like a commercial sized fabrication facility. K The suits included helmets, hooked on but not worn, though the wearers were wearing filter masks. Two resembled foxes, though russet rather than the silver ones in the pictures and with four fingers, not three. So not the beings I'd seen thus far. One of the others had banded grey fur, streaked with brown and a dark "mask" about the eyes, who appeared to be taking notes on everything visible even while talking to the others. The last was a sharp-nosed brindle entity with bristly fur whose eyes looked nowhere and everywhere, and who moved like a soldier on reconnaissance. K Beyond them a chain of small robots stretched off into the distance, and I set some pixie dust to follow it. Explorers, presumably - three scientists and someone to keep them alive.

I set a language analysis spell going on their conversation as I started up the stairway, and it immediately started recognizing phonemes. I listened myself… Well now. Apparently the unknowns were speaking a variant of English, a language I had become quite familiar with on my last trip to Earth. Looks like I might be able to do more than make noises at them.

The entryway atop the stairs led me straight into a warren of scored and partially melted corridors and (fortunately still functional) blast doors. K Eventually I worked my way through to a corridor leading to the facility, where the party was still talking. I was about 100 meters away when the "soldier" put a helmet on and went down on one knee, rifle poised, a detector of some sort in the other hand. I chuckled to myself - finally noticed me, did you? I continued to approach at a steady pace, to give them time to compose themselves, until finally I was close enough to speak. K

Zen and the Art of First Contact

"Hello," I said in English, to break the ice. "I am Auren, of the Technomancer's Guild. I don't bite." Looking around. "I just got here. What happened?"

The banded grey individual waved at the soldier, who lowered his rifle. "A genocidal attack by one species on another," she replied.

Now that was REALLY interesting - the "foxes" actually smelled like Terrestrial red foxes, and chemical analysis backed up my nose. I decided I wanted to know a lot more about this group.

"How did you get here?" one of them asked.

"I walked."

The discussion went on like this for a while - as Master Evnard used to put it, being mildly annoying tends to take you out of the "terrifying unknown" category pretty rapidly. I did assure them I was merely seeking the adventure that would provide itself, as it would appear they were also doing.

"And what shall I call you?" I asked the apparent leader, one of the foxes.

"I'm Major George Cole Fox, and these are Major Jennifer Cleopatra Lotor, Major Liselle Francis Reynard, and Sergeant Christiaan Ferret."

He paused. "Doesn't the air bother you?" I answered him by making my facial screen briefly visible. Not used to Technomancers - but then even back home we are the unusual, after all. Wonder if there's even a Teklénan in this world line? Probably without humans if they've developed space flight and still not met them.

"Have you heard of Earth?"

I figured there were quite enough questions in play already, besides which my spells had discovered something very strange not too far away, so I responded "You might like to see something interesting I found not far from here in what looks like a medical facility."

I continued the conversation en route. "I'm from Tir Na N'og, myself." From the startled look on his face, the sergeant recognized the name. "No, not the Celtic afterworld; just a world named for it. It was settled from Terra Nova, and Terra Nova from Earth so yes, Major Fox, I've heard of Earth. Even been there a time or two, though it's going to be awhile before we risk open contact."

We came to a blast door. "Be careful here - I think the former inhabitants did some kind of military work."

"Thanks for the advice," said Major Lotor, looking around at the mess on the other side. "Looks like someone had a running gunfight through here with energy weapons."

The Wild Hunt has coursed through this entire ship, I thought. A long time past or not, I was careful to anticipate any surprises a closed door might contain.

A few more doors, and into what looked like a small medical facility. "Here it is!"

"It" was a rectangular canister, composition unknown about three meters long.K "It appears to be a stasis box. It's still operating."

"You mean someone might be inside?" asked Major Lotor.

"Quite likely."

Something on the box startled Major Fox. I looked closer, as did Major Lotor. "Hold up," he said. "I don't think we want to open this one." He indicated a yellow three fingered print on the side. "Whatever you do folks, don't touch this."

"Wasn't planning on it, actually." I said.

"One question?" asked Major Fox. "You said it was a 'stasis box'. I interpreted that as meaning that time inside is effectively negated, meaning that there's no rush in trying to open it. Is that a reasonable interpretation?"

"It is. I might consider opening it, but not here and now; too many risks, especially to the people around me and whoever's inside. We should let them emerge elsewhere, in a quiet spot."

"Fair enough," he replied, and instructed the rest to continue operations.

Major Lotor ran a scanner over the canister and frowned. "The scanner doesn't recognize the material."

"Best we should have it analyzed on the Ark Royal, I think, Jenny. Better and more equipment there." said Major Fox, who then turned to me and inquired. "How is it that you speak English?"

I chuckled. Certainly persistent; I could see why they chose him as team leader. "Because I know it. It's not that uncommon a language after all. I travel many places; there's no need for you to worry about such small matters. Besides there are more interesting immediate questions, such as the material of this canister." I bespoke my shoulder dragon, and invoked a view crystal.

I held the crystal over the material but might as well have been looking through a piece of glass. It was almost as though it wasn't entirely material at all. K

"You have remote sensing capability with… that?" asked Major Fox.

"Something like that," I replied. "Some of us call it pixie dust."

Major Lotor whispered something that sounded like "curiouser and curioser". However far this Earth may be from our line, it would appear that Alice is universal. Good. It should be.

Major Fox closed his helmet. Far too late if I'd meant you harm, I thought, but I do understand your reaction. I dismissed the crystal which flowed back into my store of pixie dust. Just as well I'd set it communicating with visible light; people are less unnerved by things they can see. [Yes, S'Mayra it's also prettier that way, of course.]

Major Fox instructed Major Reynard "If you could try a bit of your wizardry? Perhaps there is some information about .. this, in the local data store."

Major Reynard sat down next to a desk, set up a device which felt semi-organic, and plugged it into the computer access ports. Aha! Major Fox = Mission Commander, Major Lotor = Archaeologist, Sergeant Ferret = survival expert, and Major Reynard = computer expert. Hmm… I watched her .. this one has possibilities.

Something…darkened in the device, and Major Reynard disconnected with a jump. "It's too well guarded."

"Perhaps another team might investigate.." said Major Lotor.

"Agreed," said Major Fox firmly.

"But I'm leaving a recorder behind, just in case," Major Lotor added. The others agreed. I quietly invoked a leave-behind myself, set to last until I turned it off, or went completely out of range.

The canister was hooked up for transport back to the ship along the line of small robots, and we went on.

Next rest break came complete with a speech by the others' political leader. K To make the story short, which he didn't (I don't think there's a political speechwriter in existence who can resist using 20 words where one will do), some idiot has cursed their seas with a plague of sourdust. Their own seas on their one and only planet. Words fail me. The others seemed to find this believable, so it may be true. Or it could be a gambit in an ongoing coup attempt. Or both. I stayed out of the discussion.

End part one.

Part Two.

Whoops - sorry about that, anybody who read this before I made this update - forgot just how much garbage Word lards on if you let it try to translate anything into HTML, and posted directly from the file. I just went back and HTMLized it myself. MUCH smaller.