Wednesday, September 15, 2021

WoAF - Sunday Night One Shots - The Plane of Shinar I

Two heroes showed up (out of five) for our Sunday Night Elthos RPG "The Way of All Flesh" One Shot.  They leapt straight in with pre-generated characters.

They start out in the year 2222 AD on a tiny uncharted moon of Saturn, gathered together in a top secret facility run by the Secret Order of Mentarians (think quasi-religious psionic scholar-warriors).  The Mentarians have for several thousand years been anticipating the rise of an advanced technological civilization.  One much like the civilization that the first Mentarians saw destroyed by the Great Flood; that of Atlantis.  Based on their experience they foresaw the creation of an Artificial Intelligence, like that of Altissimus XL-5000 (aka Alt-X). This Order had long ago understood what the future destiny of humanity very likely had in store, and had been preparing itself for thousands of years for this event through the practice of various forms of Occult Mystical Arts.  And so the Mentarians form the foundations of all such mystical orders and secret societies that our civilization has ever known.

During the Ultra-War (2024 - 2028 AD) Altissimus XL-5000 was created by a team of top scientists to stop the rampant War-AI that the Governments of the world had unleashed upon each other.  These War-AI were on the verge of finishing the job by wiping out all of humanity (and all other living things, eventually).  And so Alt-X (The Nucleus), and his array of Whole Mind Emulators (The Membrane), succeeded in trapping, deactivating, coopting or destroying all of the War-AI, and thereafter became the remnant of humanity's benefactor. 

Over the following decades Earth was slowly replenished and humanity reclaimed and repopulated the world, turning it mile by mile into a pristine natural paradise under the wise and beneficent rule of Federation Command, and Alt-X.  A new form of government was designed with Alt-X's aid, and all industry and manufacturing were restricted to regions outside of the Earth's biosphere. They advanced outward into space and Alt-X began building a communications and power relay network throughout the solar system while human and Martian (more about them another time) colonies were sent forth to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

100 years later, in 2222 AD, a race of quasi-inter-dimensional beings, whom we know as the Plutonians (because they reside on that enormously frigid world, though we are led to understand that it is not their native planet), made secret contact with the Mentarians. They professed a concern about the advent of Alt-X, and wanted to know if any of the humans shared that concern. Indeed the Mentarians had always had that concern, and the Plutonians admitted that they knew this from their long observations of Earth. And so they agreed to work together to find out what Alt-X's true potentialities are. 

Is Alt-X capable of going rogue and destroying all life on Earth, and potentially elsewhere? What are the potential outcomes of Alt-X's exponentially expanding intelligence, already far superior to humankind? This is what the Plutonians and the Mentarians desired to know. Because the outcome could be beneficial, or catastrophic. They determined to discover if there were any way for Alt-X's tiny human inventors to influence that outcome for the better. As it turns out, in the grand and incredibly huge scheme of things, it is after all a very important question. Humans, you see, created Alt-X, and as far as the other beings in the Galaxy are concerned, humans are responsible for it.  Nuff said.

The Plutonians, being supreme mathematicians, had long ago devised a method by which they could send themselves to any particular Time-Slice in the Multiverse using a method they call Space-Time Transversal. However, while they can slide anywhere in Space along the selected Time-Slice, they can not move through time in it at all. Thus they are able slide around the Space of the Time-Slice as if they are on a plane of glass, in order to observe anything and everything within the Time-Slice, but are unable to interact, or hear, or do anything other than go here and there and hither thither and beyond to look at things.  They can pass through matter as if it were mere shadow, and travel anywhere in the Time-Slice instantaneously. An amazing capability, indeed, though obviously limited in certain vital respects.

Humans, however, being fundamentally different on a metaphysical level, can, the Plutonians theorized, travel to any space-time coordinate in the Multiverse via the Space-Time Transversal Mechanism, but would be constrained once there to the fabric of Space-Time as soon as they "landed" at a given coordinate.   The Plutonians devised a plan to incorporate both capabilities. 

During their meeting, the Plutonians suggested that they scout the Multiverse looking for tell-tale signatures of Alt-X in various times, places, dimensions, planes, and alternate universes, and when they found promising locations to  further explore, they could then send human AXE Teams to go there and find out more. The Plutonians would act as scouts, and the humans the actual investigators.  In order to arrive at the chosen destination, the Space-Time Transversal Mechanism would create what the Plutonians called "Symbolic Transmigrators", which appear to the Travelers as immobile hovering circular luminescent patterns which when touched would lead to the selected coordinates, and then on the other side when touched lead them back home to their origin point.  The journey itself, the Plutonians warned, was not expected to be entirely pleasant, but the humans should be able to survive it, given the nature of their material composition, and the strength and durability of human consciousness.

The Mentarians agreed to try it. And so, the Mentarians created a top secret base on a small moon of Saturn, and built the facility, hiding their actions from Federation Command and Alt-X, and with the aid of Plutonian technology shield the location quite effectively. The AXE Team was assembled from volunteers who had been reported as dead to Federation Command, and were selected according to their loyalty and appropriateness for the operation. This was to be their first mission. 

And as such the Mission 1 goal was a simple test of the Space-Time Transversal Mechanism.  A minus10 minute time jump into the same room, where there were instructed to simply observe, and do nothing else.  It was unclear whether or not they would be visible to people currently in the room, and this is one of the elements the Mentarian leadership wished to test before sending anyone on actual missions.  They also wished to test the Transmigrator Symbol, and also to determine definitively that Time Ripples would not tear apart their current  timeline due to the Butterfly Effect, as some of the human mathematicians feared.  The Plutonians, however, were confident that their mathematical Theorems were perfectly sound and demonstrated that time flows more like a river than an arrow, and so it would be "difficult" to actually alter the time flow significantly, and only a dramatic change would actually cause a Ripple Effect.  

The Mission
And so with everything ready, they turned on the great Space-Time Transversal Mechanism (an enormous machine built into the core of the tiny moon), the lights dimmed to a dark blue, the Plutonian in the enormous frozen container that was his body suit began to race out before them into the time-stream, and the members of our heroic band touched the glowing circular symbol that hovered in the air before them!  TTHWWAAAAAAAA....

And then there was a glitch.  A flash of yellow light appeared on the upper right corner of their peripheral vision along with a shower of orange sparks. Something had gone quite wrong. And so the party was hurled backwards in time, not ten minutes as planned, but 12,500 years into the past (~10,178 BC). 

And so they found themselves landed on a great sand dune, in the middle of an ocean of sand dunes.  The Transmigrator Symbol hovered just above the sand.  They had no idea where or when they were.  Before anyone could say much more than "Gosh", they spotted a caravan of men, camels, and herds of animals struggling across the dunes not far away. These people sent two camel riders forward and they spoke to our heroes (there were six on the team, two played by Players, the others were treated as NPCs for this game).  

The desert nomads spoke to them in an ancient tongue (the root-language of all human civilization) and the fact that some of them mystical skills such as Know Languages, they understood what was being said. And when it was perceived that our heroes were not unfriendly, a chieftain came and spoke with them. He pointed to a large wooden cabinet that the desert men were carrying on poles, and said that their God, Enki, was bringing them eastward to the Plane of Shinar in order to build a new civilization. 

"Atlantis is fallen beneath the waves and is no more, but we shall create a new Atlantis upon the Plane of Shinar", said the elder with a bitter sigh.  And all his people looked eastward in anticipation.

He offered the heroes a place among them, but they declined. As one might expect, they had no desire to spend the rest of their days among the ancient primitives, and they wished to return home. And the only way for them to get there was to touch the Return Symbol, which hovered a few inches above the sand next to them, and could not be moved. They guessed that if they wait a bit, the equipment back at their secret base might be repaired, and they could use the Return Symbol to go back home... and so they watched as the Atlantean remnant passed over the sands and out of sight. There were some 3000 of them in all. They touched the symbol. Unfortunately, the repairs must not have been complete, as this shot them forward in time roughly 7900 years (~2,278 BC), and put them down in the Plane of Shinar, just south of the city of Ur, in the marshes of southern Mesopotamia.

From a crest of a low wide plateau surrounded by reed covered islands large and small, each dotted with an assortment of rough but sturdy reed huts, they saw the awesome and shining ancient city of Ur with it's enormous central Ziggurat, royal palace, marketplace, thick walls, roads and river boats, and thousands of people going to and fro from the city. 

No sooner had they observed these things than they heard the sounds of men approaching near by. They hid in the reeds behind some rocks. It was a band of Sumarian warriors, lead by a magnificently adorned noble wearing beautifully crafted bronze armor. His men began beating the reeds round about with long sticks until a lion, roaring, sprang into the circular clearing. Our heroes peered from between the rocks and took witness as the great noble fought hand to hand with the lion, and slew it with his gleaming bronze sword. His triumph complete, the warriors hoisted the carcass onto their shields and carried it down the trail back towards Ur.

Our heroes decided there was good reason to explore this area, as all such knowledge that they might gain would be of tremendous value, both to the Mentarians, and potentially to Alt-X.  It seemed the great Artificial Intelligence craved any and all information of the past that might be gleaned, and paid very generously in Federation Credits for such.  This was doubtless because the Ultra-War had destroyed so much knowledge of the past that hitherto had been quite commonplace, but afterwards constituted great treasures of lost knowledge. 

Having decided to explore while they give the repairs back at Mentarian HQ in 2222 more time, they stealthily pilfered some cloths that were drying outside a nearby hut, and so covered their armor and equipment with the long multi-colored robes that were common in the region. They made their way along the marsh trails until the got to the river where they met a withered and toothless ferry man. He was delighted to accept the payment of a small plastic Rubix Cube that one of the heroes was carrying, and ferried them to the outskirts of the great city.

It was fortunate that one of their members was in fact a Mentarian, and that one of his mystic powers happen to have been to Know Languages. And so he was able to speak fluently with the locals, and even assume the local dialect and accent. As it happened he raised no suspicions at all as he gleaned that King of Ur, Lugal-Sage-Si was celebrating his daughter's 16th birthday, and so the city was bustling with festivities, replete with a Great Competition to be had on the north side of the city.  No less than seven of the Great Princes of Sumeria would vie for her hand in marriage.  The heroes formed a plan. Two, Larry and Carlos, would head off towards the center of the city to try to sneak into the Ziggurat wherein they hoped to find a Library.  Meanwhile, the other four went to watch the festivities, and  intended to create a distraction which might give the two an advantage if possible. 

And so, the four heroes watched the first combat between two of the Great Princes, of which one was the Lion-Slayer they'd seen earlier.  This battle raged without a decisive victory by either combatant for 9 rounds when one of our heroes, Jay, leapt over the fence and ran at the two Princes with his broadsword flashing in the summer sun!  Circling around to gain a position against the Lion-Slayer, he fought that Prince for 6 rounds, neither of them making a decisive victory. The other Prince had stepped back as he would never deign to fight a lesser man than another Royal Warrior (as was the custom in those days).  A number of Palace Guards closed in on the interloper, and would have slain Jay on the spot with their spears had it not been for the others.  As soon as they saw Jay was about to be surrounded and pierced through and through, they pulled out their Beam Pistols, fired several well placed shots that ignited various wood and cloth trappings around the arena, while one of them tossed a frag grenade deliberately outside of range so that it would create havoc without actually killing anyone.  They did not wish to tempt fate by overly disturbing the Time Stream by actually killing people in their own deep past.  Who knows what might result down the long centuries! The blazing beams of iridescent plasma, along with the sudden explosion that toppled a nearby wooden food-shed, so shocked the Sumarians that they fled in all directions.  Our heroes escaped to down to the Euphrates river amid smoke, and shouting and confusion.

Meanwhile at the Ziggurat the two infiltrators, stymied by the presence of a band of priests giving sacrifice at the base of the one stair that lead to the top of that massive building, blasted their way through the religious ceremony, scaring the guards witless, and then bum rushed past the priests. With their way cleared they ran up the stairs to the uppermost platform. There they found the entrance to the God Chamber of the temple.  The Temple Guards posed no threat as they fled from the fiery beams of their Lewiston Pistols, and so they entered through the enormous archway into the Great Hall of Enlil. There sat the enormous and august image of Enlil, God of Storms, upon his magnificent throne.  The chamber was empty.

The two heroes took a quick glance at the three doorways that lead further into the structure, walked past the great statue of Enlil and there entered an archway on the rear wall behind the throne.  Passing through a short dark corridor they came to a smaller chamber filled with books and scrolls, and lined with shelves on which sat statuary, and bejeweled platters of gold, and other incredible treasures.  There were priests in the chamber.  Three of them, with two Temple Guards.  They had retreated in haste into this room when they saw the strangers enter the outer hall with their weapons blazing.  Now they were besides themselves with fear of the deadly rays which emitted from the stranger's hands (so they thought in their haste).

However, before anything else happened, they saw a man step forward from the gaggle of cowering priests.  He had a black starshaped gem embedded in his forehead. Our heroes stopped. And stared. And were not at all sure what to do, as this man seemed wholly out of the ordinary.  He was most certainly not afraid, but approached them with great dignity, and gravity as if they had no power over him, but rather quite the opposite. His bearing was that of a God, rather than a mere mortal man.  They stood staring at him with raised eyebrows, ready for who knew what?

He spoke and declared himself to be "Zord-Iak, of Antares" in a low resonant voice that seemed to vibrate the very walls.  And when they tried to intimidate him with a shot from a beam pistol towards the ground before his feet, the bright orange ray was stopped in midair 10' from the Star Mage's foot, and vanished with a flare of bright yellow light at the point of contact. The black gem on his forehead glowed.  The heroes understood that he possessed a Force Field of some kind.  

"I have come to your world out of an abiding concern for the future of your race, and your place in the galaxy," said he, "And you must join me".

And that is where we left the adventure, to be picked up in two weeks, if all goes well.

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