Thursday, June 20, 2024

WoAF - Game Session 64

Mutagenic Entity
The Shadow Hawk heroes sat in the Medical Bay, under the protection of Ling's Mind Shield, telepathically debating what to do about the terrible Mutagenic Entity lurking in the ruins of Eisenhelm. They reviewed the situation again.  As far as they knew, there was one and only one Shard remaining, and it was imprisoned inside the Hermit Jar on Shadow Hawk.  A far more dangerous Entity existed, or perhaps many, prowling the ruins of the the once-mighty Eisenhelm.  Jacob had learned that the Entity had been created with a genetic cocktail derived from the DNA of invulnerable tardigrades, and an assortment of other creatures, such as octopi, crocodiles, chimpanzees, cobras, fire ants, giant wasps, king crabs, snails, slugs, tarantulas, and certain plants such as Joshua tree, hawthorn, and kudzu vines.  The samples for these they "liberated" from Earth over time using their UFOs in stealth-mode.  Hanna, in fact, had been an avid participant in those stealthy operations. The scientists' choices were based on the creature's survival, combat, and intellectual capabilities. They bombarded the DNA cocktail with low-level gamma radiation, and gave it a hyper-growth mutagenic compound which they had invented for the purpose of creating "the ultimate life form". This resulted in the Mutagenic Entity, which escaped from Science Center 7 during the Nazi Civil War, and immediately began its campaign of terror and conquest of Eisenhelm.  Upon escape it fused itself with at least three humans, the chief Scientist who created the creature, whose name can and will be stricken from the record, and two unfortunate lead technicians Hans and Nick whose curiosity got the better of them, and became their doom.  

The Mutagenic Entity has a single goal: like all insane megalomaniacs, it desired to conquer and subject all things to its will.  Soon it had spread to other helpless victims via thorny darts which it hurled into its prey using its tentacles.  Jacob had deduced that the Entity itself must have an array of psychic powers, such as Telepathy, Telekinesis, Insidious Persuasion, Compulsion, and Psychic Shock, which Vallnam had found extremely painful. That incident was the clue Jacob needed to surmise the creature's true nature. 

What to do?

"We need to make the destruction of the Entity our top priority," said Jacob.  He was lying on the infirmary bed, with his hands behind his head looking up at the scorched ceiling, communicating to Ling and Vallnam telepathically.  They were under Ling's Mind Shield at this point, so they could speak freely, and make their plans without fear of being overheard by the Entity or the Shard, or anything else for that matter.

"Let's go over the problem again," said Ling. "There is the main Entity on the moon.  There's a Shard in the Hermit Jar on our ship. The other Shard we vaporized earlier with the plasma beam.  As far as we know there are no other Shards, or Shadow Hawk would have detected them by now.  However, there is at least one technician that the Entity has some sort of psychic influence over, we think.  So, we need to separate the three groups to prevent the Entity from communicating at all while we make our move.  Otherwise, if tipped off, it could decide to use whichever technician is in its thrall to trigger the detonation of the missing nuclear device outside our spaceships.  And that would be the end of that."

She paused.  There was a lot to consider.  Their plan had to be meticulous and timed perfectly, or they would not only all wind up dead, but they would likely doom the Earth to one of two hells; either a radioactive extinction level event of the course of a few years, or an alien invasion by the Mutagenic Entity, whose primary objective appeared to be to reach Earth and spread its dominion.  If the Entity could not achieve its goal, then it would destroy the world in revenge. Truly the Entity was a creature after The Furor's own heart.  Evil to the core of its being.

"The only way I can see us doing this," Ling continued, "is by effectively and precisely overlapping our Mind Shields.  We need Shadow Hawk to use her Mind Shield, which has a radius of a thousand feet, to separate both Shadow Hawk and the UFOs from the Entity on the moon.  Vallnam needs to use his personal Mind Shield with it's radius of 21 feet to envelope Shard in the Hermit Jar so that it is disconnected from the Technicians on the UFOs."

She paused in thought.

"Then the last piece," she went on, "is to protect Vallnam from the Shard inside the Jar, which can be done if am within Vallnam's Mind Shield and then project my own Mind Shield around the two of us with a narrow enough diameter to block the two of us from the Shard.  This way all of the Entity's forces will be disconnected from each another."  

"That sounds solid," said Jacob as he sat up, "and while you're blocking them from communicating, that should give me the time I need to haul the Cobalt Bomb to the moon using my Shadow Hawk Armor.  Since the suits glide on the magnetic waves of the solar system and can obtain near light speed, I can get to to Eisenhelm with the bomb in tow, I'm estimating, in perhaps ten to twenty seconds given that I'll need to overcome the bomb's inertia to pick up speed.  But I don't think the bomb's mass will present any significant problem as the bomb's casing is made of steel.  Heck, I could probably haul the entire Giant Nuclear Missile Robot if necessary and it wouldn't take more than a second or two longer.  It's the magnetic fields that will be doing the work, not me.  In any case, we still need to get to the bomb itself. I'm sure Shadow Hawk can locate the missing bomb by its radiation signature and teleport me to it.  It should stand out to her like a sore thumb. My guess is that it's still inside one of the robots," he said as he cracked his knuckles, "or we would have already seen it as a stray.  You two have been keeping a careful eye on things, so I don't think it's likely they would have chosen to simply push it off into space hoping nobody would notice."  

Ling and Vallnam nodded in agreement.

"Assuming the Entity is at least as smart as we are," Jacob went on, "I'm guessing the technician under their influence is probably holding a failsafe switch of some kind.  Probably a detonator, just in case their plans should go awry.  I think we can count on the Entity to be as evil as possible.  Silencing all their lines of communications in the same instant is going to leave them blind and it will take time for them to even begin wondering if anything unusual is happening.  After all, they'd have to already be in Telepathic rapport with someone here to notice that the line had been cut.  And I doubt they're keeping a constant connection open. It seems to me their modus operendi is one of stealthy infiltration, and they'd not likely want to take on the risk that we'd detect a Telepathic Link in progress.  So I think that all buys us a little time.  Hopefully enough for me to get to the moon and detonate the Cobalt Bomb on top of their heads and eradicate them completely."

"And what about Hanna?" asked Vallnam, wondering if Jacob could possibly nuke his girlfriend, despite their estrangement.

"I'm gong to set a timer on the bomb for five minutes, and go down into Eisenhelm to find her.  I feel like I have to try.  I owe it to her," he said as he thrummed his fingers on his arm.  This was not an easy decision for Jacob to make.  He was risking everything on a romantic gamble.

"I don't know what you see in her," said Ling.  "Clearly she was fully on board with the Nazis.  And only when the command structure was destroyed did she show any sign of deviating from her routine behavior.  Once you rescue her, she might just go back to her old ways."

"Eh, it's definitely possible.  I know this is going to sound corny, and maybe I'm just being affected by the fact that she's such a damn beautiful woman, and the fact that she did seem to kind of almost actually 'like' me for a few minutes there... I think she really did like me for a few minutes... but it isn't that.  Actually, it's the fact that she was going through all of that extra effort and risk to bring that prisoner along. That really made me think there must be something more to Hanna than meets the eye."

He gazed at Ling, but he could see she was unconvinced. 

"Okay, well think about it," he went on. "She risked her life to go to the military outpost to rescue the old guy, when we knew at that point that the Entity from the science center had already blown out windows and was escaping into the cavern, and she makes sure he's safe.  Then when all hell is breaking loose, she takes him with us.  I mean look, Eisenhelm was in total chaos, and the place was being melted down and destroyed by the Obliterators, while the Civil War was raging all around us.  And what does she do?  She rescues a prisoner, and constantly looks out for him to ensure he's safe.  And who does it turn out the prisoner is?  We don't know, but the last we saw of her, she was with him, and I know it's going to sound nuts but I honestly thought I caught a flash of golden light radiating from his eyes at one point. I'm positive he had some form of mystical power.  And being a prisoner of the Nazis, well, come on, seriously -- he was a good guy.  And there she was, rescuing him, of all people.  The Nazi prisoner.  Why?  So taking those two things together... one, that I think she actually, um, liked me for a few minutes, and two, that she's risking her life to rescue the Good Guy... makes me believe that deep down inside, Hanna is not a bad person. Maybe she was just born into a bad situation with a bunch of ruthless evil Nazi bastards, and so of course she had learned to be ruthless to stay alive in that environment.  But really, she could have left the prisoner behind without batting an eye.  After all, Eisenhelm command structure was obliterated.  Why should she care if some military prisoner dies in the conflict?  But no, she wanted to save that guy?  I think it's because she's a good person."

"Maybe," suggested Vallnam, "or maybe he had information in his head that she still needed?"

"Maybe," replied Jacob, "maybe that's true. Who knows?  But the fact is, this is a gamble. I'm gambling on a hunch.  I admit it. Maybe I'm just being affected by how beautiful she is, and all that.  But I feel like, you know, there's something about her... I think deep down.  Way, way, way, way deep down, I feel she's a good person at heart."

Ling chuckled at this.  Who knew Jacob was such a romantic?

"And then, also," Jacob went on, "to your earlier point, Vallnam, it feels kind of like flying back to Eisenhelm and blowing her to kingdom come without even trying to see if I'm right... well, it just feels raw, and brutal, and wrong.  Of course, it's going to be horrible if there's survivors down there, because they're all going to fry, and I'm equipped to only rescue one person, if I can even do that.  So this isn't like it's going to absolve me of all of that, but, I don't think there's any choice. So, anyway, that's how I feel about it.  Five minutes should give me enough time to swoop in, find her, get close enough to form a Telepathic Link with her on the inside of my Mind Shield, so sixty feet, and find out if she's possessed by the Entity, and if not, rescue her if I can.  There's just something about Hanna that makes me believe she's worth rescuing.  So five minutes.  No more.  No less.  No matter what happens you're going to see a huge white flash of light on the top of the moon, and if I don't come back, you'll know the rescue didn't work out."  

"Alright," murmured Vallnam, blown away by Jacob's resolve to save Hanna, or die trying.

"Well, Jacob," said Ling, deeply impressed by his romantic impulse, "God's speed to you."

"Thank you," he replied quietly.  He knew this was probably a suicide mission, but he had to try.  And no matter what, the Entity had to be destroyed, and the 500 megaton Cobalt Bomb was the only way to be absolutely sure.

"Shadow Hawk," said Jacob as he sealed his Armor, "locate the missing bomb by its radiation signature and teleport me to it!"

With that Jacob donned his Mind Shield, shimmered in a cloud of scintillating orange-yellow light and vanished.  

"Shadow Hawk," said Ling, "please teleport me and Vallnam to the chamber where the Hermit Jar is.  As soon as we appear, initiate your maximum range Mind Shield to encompass the two UFOs, and do so at the same moment that Vallnam initiates his Mind Shield around the Shard.  You need to time this perfectly, as we can't allow any telepathic communications between the Shard and the technicians."

Shadow Hawk teleported them to a spot within twenty feet of the Hermit Jar, and initiated her Mind Shield with a radius of one thousand feet, enveloping both UFOs inside its shell just as Vallnam initiated his to surround the Shard.  As this happened Ling hugged Vallnam tightly and initiated her own Mind Shield around herself and Vallnam, keeping the diameter of hers at ten feet.  This put the Shard between Vallnam's outer shell, and her inner shell, so it was blocked from committing any psychic operations against them, try as it might.  

And it most certainly did try.  As soon as it realized that the humans had launched an attack the vile Shard lanced out with psychic probes to see what the two were up to, but they bounced off Ling's Mind Shield.  It then attempted to fry the two of them to cinders with a massive blast of Scarlet Lightning, but this too blazed uselessly against her shell.  Locked in a psychic prison, It raged in derision, unable to do anything against them.  It launched a telepathic emergency alert to the Entity on the moon, but that too bounced.  How furious it was, its tendrils lashing on the inside of the jar frantically! In a last desperate attempt, it sought to transmit a single final telepathic command to Johan, bidding him depress the small blue button on the object in his pocket. Doing so would have activated the immensely powerful nuclear weapon floating nearby, and instantly incinerated him and all within its blast radius. This would have triggered a reaction propagating along the lengthy chain of similar doomsday devices, resulting in a series of colossal explosions from which would have loosed a radioactive cloud so gigantic and lethal that, drawn by the force of gravity, it soon would have descending into Earth's atmosphere and destroyed all signs of life on the surface of the world. Unable to issue this final command, the Shard throbbed and convulsed violently within the unbreakable Hermit Jar, overwhelmed by insane hatred and impotence at its failure.

None of the technicians inside the UFOs were any the wiser, as at that moment there was no direct telepathic link being sustained by the Shard, or the Entity on the moon, with any of them.  As Jacob had guessed, their methods were based on insidious infiltration, and so they had influenced only Johan with subtle post-hypnotic suggestions via Telepathy as few times and as sparingly as possible in order to reduce the risk that the heroes and their mysterious ship might inadvertently detect their communications. It was a covert operation, and one that had stood a very good chance of success once the Entity had tricked the heroes into allowing Dietrich to contact Johan via radio. This single communication provided the Entity with the bridge it had needed to establish Telepathic contact with Johan. From that moment on, the Entity's plans were set in motion.  And yet, despite all it's cunning plans, Johan was busily working on a routine electrical task under the UFO's navigation console, and had no inkling that a massive Mind Shield had gone up around them all, nor did the Entity on the moon sense that anything unusual had happened.  After all, it only connected to Johan in his sleep, and then for only a few precious moments at a time.

Ling and Vallnam peered through the green-tinted diamond-glass of the Hermit Jar.  Inside they saw the Shard had grown from a tiny thorn they could barely see into a monstrous network of tendrils, branches, roots and glinting red thorns, taking up almost the entire two feet of the jar's interior, and it was lashing its tendrils with fury, unable to escape.  A transparent green eye appeared within the tangled mass, malevolent as it was harmless. They shuddered and hugged each other tighter.  

After vanishing from the medical bay, Jacob appeared in a shimmering cloud near one of the Giant Nuclear Missile Robots.  He scanned it with his vizor's radiation sensor.  Sure enough, the telltale glow outlined in orange on the screen indicated that the bomb was indeed inside the robot as he expected.  Perhaps he had dreamt it was there in one of the nightmares he had suffered over the past few days. He had no time to waste, so he flew in a graceful arc over to the robot and tethered a cable from his suit to a thick metal bar on its right shoulder.  The robot was thirty feet tall, well over five times Jacob's height, but he had no concern about hauling the entire mass.  Not a problem.  The magnetic fields that the suit used would glide him and his lethal cargo swiftly across the intervening space between his position near Earth to the moon at nearly the same near-light speed whether he towed the bomb alone, or carried it within the giant robot.  It was only a few seconds slower, but would save him from having spend the time to extricate the bomb from the interior of the robot. Gripping the metal behemoth by a bar on the other side of its neck, he activated the Helio-Drive.  At first progress felt very slow, and he began to worry that he had calculated incorrectly.  But within a few seconds the robot's inertia was being overcome and it began to glide smoothly and swiftly towards the moon.  He had a bit of difficulty navigating the magnetic fields with such a heavy load, but got the hang of it quickly.  They began to accelerate at an exponential rate. The journey normally would only take him a second or two at most, since the suit could move at near light speed anywhere within the solar system, but with the robot in tow it took him a full twenty seconds.  He wasn't worried. With his Mind Shield up, and no chance that the Entity had any idea of what the Shadow Hawk Heroes' plans were, he expected to guide the bomb along the exact trajectory necessary to land the colossal weapon directly on top of the secret Nazi fortress.  Shadow Hawk's vizor screen was showing him the calibrations and path-lines required, and he glided along effortlessly towards his target.

Jacob had learned a trick or two from the Modroni, though he no longer remembered how or where he had picked these things up.  But the power he used was called Blending, and was one of the most effective camouflage capabilities in the galaxy.  Without the slightest hesitation he positioned the robot so that no reflective surfaces directed light towards Eisenhelm, and he chose a spot in the sky along which no stars might be occulted by his sudden appearance.  He cast the robot into a vibrational pattern that would delicately disrupt any form of radar, or in fact any known detection system.  Once that was done, he maneuvered himself along the robot's outer hull, and making his way to the back of the upper torso, he opened the exterior hatch.  Stepping inside, he walked along the corridor that led to the bomb bay.  There he found the bomb, silently awaiting its destiny.  It was still encased in its heavy duty nuclear bomb rack, all indicator lights blinking green.  

Jacob was a technician by trade.  During the Ultra-War he had been a bomber pilot, and knew the mechanics involved as well as anyone.  He also knew that the bomb itself could be set with a timer, as he had spent his time while they waited for the technicians to complete their work doing research on such matters. He didn't bother releasing the bomb from the rack.  No need.  At the current distance, and trajectory, the robot itself would land on top of Eisenhelm in seven minutes and thirteen seconds.  He set the bomb's timer, giving himself five minutes before the explosion.  While there was no reason to believe the Entity, or Entities more likely, would detect his presence, or spot the incoming projectile of doom, he was certain that there was nevertheless a slim statistical chance that detection could occur simply out of blind bad luck. Therefore he wanted to keep the risk window as narrow as possible.  Five minutes should do.  He flipped the switch and the clock began its diabolical countdown. Three hundred seconds and counting.

Jacob opened the outer bay doors and flew out into space.  Within his Mind Shield he had no concern that his thoughts could possibly betray him.  And so he flitted down to the lunar surface at near light speed, directly towards Mare Frigoris, and then into the shadows of the crater that concealed the now devastated moon-fortress.

Above him the Giant Nuclear Missile Robot's trajectory was making its descent onto that exact spot.

Four minutes, fifty-three seconds. 

He entered in through the eviscerated doors of Hanger A. The giant Nazi Eagle emblem had been all but melted into slag by the Obliterator Robot they had encountered during their initial assault on the base. The eagle's metallic left wing was poking out of the ground at an angle, the door having melted all around it.  

"Shit," said Jacob to himself, "I forgot something."  

He suddenly realized that he needed to take a single, gigantic risk.  For one moment he needed to turn his Mind Shield off, and activate his Clairvoyance power so that he could locate Hanna, and see if she was actually alive.  Why hadn't he thought of this before?  Ah well, it wouldn't have mattered. It had been five days since they'd abandoned Hanna to her fate in Eisenhelm.  In fact, the odds that she survived were slim at best.  But he had to check. He had to know for sure.  And so he dropped his Mind Shield.

Fortunately for him, as it happened, nothing happened.  He was not suddenly bombarded by psychic blasts, insidious commands, or anything of the kind. It was more than probable, in fact, that the Entity was occupied with other matters, and not in any way attuned to the unexpected visitor from space.  And it was also likely that no telepathic bridge had ever been formed between himself and the Entity on the moon, though of that he was less certain.  But even if it were, the Entity would have to be actively reaching out to him to form a telepathic link, or attack.  The simple act of lowering his Mind Shield would not necessarily trigger any kind of alert or reaction. And besides, it was only going to be for one moment.

He emanated Clairvoyance towards Hanna, the woman whom he refused to admit he loved.  Wherever in the universe she was, he would find her.  And lo!  Her beautiful face, icy blue eyes, and golden locks of hair came into view!  He knew her exact location.  Up went the Mind Shield!

"Shadow Hawk," he said, "here's her coordinates.  You're familiar with Eisenhelm's architectural layout.  Can you map me a path to get me through the ruins to her position?"

Four minutes, thirty-seven seconds.

The map schema appeared on his inner vizor screen.  In an instant he was through the melted hanger doors, across the devastated UFO bay, through a set of unhinged metal doors, down a flight of stairs, out into a cavern filled with the bodies of dead Nazi soldiers, down a smoking tunnel covered with debris and fallen rocks, past an immobilized Obliterator Robot, up a metal ladder, and into Hertling's Robot Command Center, now utterly destroyed.  Something was moving but he ignored it and flitted past, through a barracks in which clumps of flesh were fibrillating on a medical table, several were in the act of falling to the glassy floor, stained with blood, also ignored, and down a long dark corridor.  He flew past Gortaurus at a speed the Centurion could not possibly react to, and came to an area of shattered corridors and a warren of interconnected chambers.  His map showed an unobstructed path to a spot within thirty feet of where she was. 

Three minutes, eleven seconds.

As soon as he got within thirty feet of her, on the other side of a wall, she came within the radius of his Mind Shield.  He activated Mind Reading, and was lucky enough to tune into her perfectly.  He was comfortably listening to every thought without hindrance.  He instantly knew that she was not under the thrall of the Entity, but hell-bent on fighting against it.  He also immediately discovered the reason for her protection of the prisoner.  

As it turned out, Hanna had come to the laboratory of Karl Capek with the prisoner, and together they barricaded themselves inside a set of workshops and rooms that had been built within a large hollow metal ball known to Karl as "The Duridium Shell".  The roboticist was the person who created the Giant Nuclear Missile Robot force known as The Phalanx. It was he who designed the 500 megaton Cobalt Bombs.  He knew perfectly well how much of a danger they posed.  He was a man of deep insight, and he had prepared for many decades for many possible contingencies.  The shell, he had told Hanna, was the only place in Eisenhelm where it would be possible to ward off the Entities that had been spreading their thorn-zombies throughout the ranks of the Nazis throughout the fortress.  Her prisoner was, as Jacob suspected, held tremendous mystic power, and was filled with radiant light, and it was he who had been defending their enclave from the Entities' psychic onslaught for the past five days.  He was nearly exhausted of all his energy, barely able to move.  And yet, his counter attacks went on, silently, invisibly, and the Entity and its forces were held at bay in the last of the outer corridors.  Most of the Nazis in the base had already been turned, but within Capek's fortified lab there were thirty stalwarts holding out for dear life.  The best and the brightest of Eisenhelm prepared to make their last stand.

As it turned out, Hanna loved the prisoner.  He had been mentoring her for most of her young life, and was like a father to her.  He was good, and kind, and a veritable genius who had architected the vast majority of Eisenhelm, as well as many of its most advanced systems of operation.  The metallic tape computers were of his design, for example, as well as the design of the Red-Mercury Plasma Vortex Engines that powered the UFO Fleet. A true genius, he had nurtured in Hanna a love of learning, technology, and especially space flight.  Under his tutelage she had become the premier space pilot of Eisenhelm's UFO fleet.  She was in fact a better pilot than Melitta had been, by far, though Ludendorf refused to acknowledge it.  In an instant Jacob learned that the prisoner had originally been at the top of the Eisenhelm hierarchy, just below Ludendorf himself, but he despised the ruthless Nazi command, was an insubordinate subordinate, crafty and cagey.  Then, one day when Shadow Hawk had been discovered by a crew of tunnel miners, he outright refused to infiltrate its computer systems, or help them to learn anything about it.  They had immediately decided to use the astounding spaceship to conquer Earth, and with it gain control of the Galaxy, the pathetic fools.  Therefore, on the advice of Karl Capek, his archrival, Ludendorf and Hertling imprisoned him, and had been attempting to punish him into submission. 

Two minutes, forty-six seconds.

"Hanna," said Jacob as he bridged the Telepathic link to her mind. "This is Jacob.  I've come to rescue you."

"Who?" asked Hanna in her mind, "How'd you---?  I thought you ran away," she responded curtly.

"Well there's not a lot of time to talk about this," said Jacob, "I'm about to drop a nuclear bomb on Eisenhlem, and I've come to rescue you before it goes off.  Do you want to come with me?"

"You have a way out of here?" she asked, incredulous.

"I do. For you. I can get us out of here."

One minute, fifty-seven seconds.

"What are you waiting for?" she asked.

"Ok, great!" he shouted, and using Shadow Hawk Amor's short range Teleporter he beamed into the chamber where she was standing.

"You still have your Duridium suit, I see," said Jacob.  "Good.  You'll need it."

"Yes," she said.

"But this is not about me," she replied, "We need to get him out of here," she said, pointing to the prisoner who had been leaning against a cabinet, but now struggled to stand up.  She went to his side and helped him by the arm.

"That's a spacesuit he's wearing, right?  I remember when we left the Military Prison through the tunnels. He can go into space with it, right?"

"Yes," she replied, "Let me help him put on his helmet," she said as she took the yellow helmet and lowered it over the old man's head.

"What about Karl?" asked the prisoner as she sealed his helmet and set the suit's oxygen level.

"Karl?" asked Jacob, "what about Karl?"

Karl was standing at a large console turning dials, and setting switches, seemingly oblivious to Jacob's appearance, or the conversation.  Beyond him Jacob could see a line of robotic forms assembling in a line.  Among them was a small crowd of people, men and women, who were adjusting the robots, and handling equipment, and gearing up for war.  On went the helmets, the metal vests, brandishing their Nazi regalia proudly one last time. 

Hanna looked at them.  They were the last survivors of Eisenhelm. Those who had managed to make it to Capek's Robotics Complex and hold out against all odds for five long tortuous days.  Only thirty remained alive.  The rest of the thousands of Nazis of Eisenhelm had either perished in the beams of the Obliterators, died battling one another in the Civil War, or had been converted into thralls of The Entity.  These last few survivors were gearing up with guns, grenades, hatchets, pick axes, and anything else they could lay their hands on that might serve as weapons.

"As we stand here," said the prisoner, "they are preparing a last stand against the Entity, who is boring its way through the sealed entrance now, attempting to breach the complex and complete its conquest. This is the last redoubt."

"All spaceships were destroyed," said Hanna, "except for a handful of derelict UFOs in Hanger D.  How much time do we have?"

"Forty-seven seconds," said Jacob.

"Not enough time to even send the survivors there," she said biting her lip.  Jacob took her by the shoulders and looked into her piercing blue eyes.

"Jacob, I can't run away and leave my people to die alone," said Hanna.  

Jacob was confused.  What did she mean?  He didn't understand her words.  He could only see her face, her sweet dear lips moving, her blue eyes melting his heart.

"You need to save him," she said, pointing to the prisoner.  "I care about one person.  Him.  If you can't save us all, then you must save him, and go."

"Oh man," said Jacob. "What?"

"My name is Nikola," said the prisoner.

"Hanna, you have to come with me," said Jacob frantically.  "You can't save everybody.  It's impossible.  Please, Hanna, come with me.  I came here to rescue you.  I can't leave without you!"

She looked Jacob in his eyes, deeply and sincerely.  She looked at the thirty men and women prepared to make their last stand and die together as proudly as they had lived.  She looked back at Jacob and touched his face with her hand.

"I can't come.  I can't leave my people to face the terror alone.  I am their leader," she said.  "Take him and go."

"I can't leave you, Hanna.  I can't do it.  I left you once, and I'm never going to leave you again.  Come with me, or we all die together."

"You came here to save me," she said in a tone both compassionate and determined, "and the only way to save me, is to save him.  That is where my heart is.  If you want to do something for me, save Nikola.  Please."

And with this, she used one of her few mystic skills, Hypnotic Suggestion Major.  She was fast and focused, and beat Jacob to the punch, just a fraction of second before he could apply his own mystic power "Indominable Will" to overcome her and save her life.  In a flash he found himself unable to resist her command.  He had lost, and she had won.

"Grab him," commanded Hanna with an intonation so persuasive it was utterly impossible to resist, "and take him as far away from this place as you can.  Don't look back."

Seven seconds.

Jacob, unable to do otherwise, took Nikola by the arm and teleported one thousand feet above the moon's surface with him.  The glinting hull of the Giant Nuclear Missile Robot could be seen descending at high speed from above directly towards Eisenhelm.  

Three seconds.

Now in space, Jacob ordered his Shadow Hawk Armor to flit away at Near-Light-Speed towards Earth, hovering above the moon's horizon like a blue and white marble.  His eyes were streaming with tears. 

Behind him there was an enormous flash of blue-white light.  He was flying at 99.97% the speed of light, yet the suit's Modroni Stasis Field covering both himself and his passenger so that they felt nothing unusual at all.  The problem of accelerating matter to relativistic speeds had been solved ages ago by Modroni scientists on a distant world.  And so Jacob and Nikola were not destroyed by the speed of their flight, nor was anything around them so much as disturbed. They moved within a small temporal bubble, inside of which everything felt quite normal.  Around the bubble space-time bent, and curved, swallowing time into the fifth dimension, allowing the magnetic lines of force in the solar system to accelerate them to near light speed.  They sped away from the unbearably brilliant blast of the 500 megaton Cobalt Bomb.  The glow lasted for a long time.  On the surface of the moon where Eisenhelm once stood, there was a radioactive crater of magma so brilliant it was impossible to look into, about ten miles in diameter.  Slowly the crater cooled into giant lake of molten radioactive slag, yellow, then orange, then red. At the bottom was a single lump of rock, the final remains of Eisenhelm, and all else was frothing magma, broiling and bubbling for the span of several hours, and nothing more.  And so ended the existence of the once great and mighty Eisenhelm.  The secret Nazi fortress had been utterly obliterated by its own weapon.

Ling and Vallnam watched Shadow Hawk's vizi-screen, holding on to each other as they waited for a sign that Jacob's mission had been completed.  They watched the moon pensively.  A several minutes had gone by.  Then the three hundredth second came, and suddenly, at the moon's north pole, a brilliant blue-white light, like an exploding star, blazed forth and caused the entire screen to go white.  At that moment Jacob came flying into view, holding a figure in a bright yellow spacesuit by the shoulder.  Ling and Vallnam believed it was Hanna.  Jacob stopped some ten miles away from Shadow Hawk. They could barely see them against the white glow of the background radiation, but it was clear enough that two had returned from the moon.  He established a Telepathic link between himself, and the others, including Nikola.  And so the elder genius revealed his story as the white glow of the moon slowly dimmed behind them.

As it turned out, the prisoner was "the father of Alternating Current, Electrical Engineering, Radio, and modern physics."  In 1943, Nikola Tesla supposedly died alone and impoverished in NYC, but in fact, the Nazis in 1941 had made him an offer he couldn't refuse.  He was to become the Chief Science Officer of the future Eisenhelm Moon-Fleet under Admiral Ludendorf.  He protested, and refused, of course, but it was to no avail.  The Nazis in 1941 were not taking "no" for an answer.  Having been wrecked financially by the conniving tactics of Edison and JP Morgan, and under dreadful duress, and with offers of resources he could never obtain on Earth, he had capitulated.  He began work on the Red-Mercury Plasma Vortex Engine in 1941, created Die Gloke as a first experimental model, and finally in 1943, they whisked him away to the moon, where he remained, helping to establish Eisenhelm and bring it to life.

Early on in his career on the moon, however, seeing the raw and visceral malice and stupidity that truly characterized the Nazi regime, Nikola converted to Christianity.  When Shadow Hawk had been discovered, instead of helping with the analysis as ordered, as a act of defiance against their evil ways, he spent his time secretly building an eighteen-foot-tall Crucifix, replete with a statue of hanging Jesus on it, outside in the shadows beneath Hanger B.  It was at that point that Ludendorf and Hertling had had enough, and upon discovering the crucifix, they imprisoned him in the Wolf Brigade Military Prison where the treated him quite poorly.  He was unphased by this, and no amount of privation or torture would dissuade him from refusing to aid the Nazis ever again.  As it happened, Hanna, he explained, had secretly also converted to Christianity, along with Lieutenant Wagner, and the two of them had sworn to protect him as best they could.  She was his disciple, and she prevented the Nazi's from killing him.  Lieutenant Wagner, unfortunately, had been shot by Melitta in a fit of spite on her way to escape Eisenhelm with General Hertling and Admiral Ludendorf, before Vallnam and Jacob had inadvertently killed all three.

And now, after all these years, Nikola Tesla was finally returning to Earth.  He was elated with anticipation. 

"Elon Musk," said Vallnam upon hearing his story, "is going to be very nervous."

"That's an interesting point," commented Jacob dryly.

"So, your mission was successful, Jacob," said Ling, looking out at the glow at the top of the moon.

"No," he replied gravely. "Well, yes.  But no."

"What happened?" she asked.

"It's unbelievable," he replied. "I will never be able to explain it.  Hanna remained behind to stay with her people.  She refused to abandon them."

"Oh my god," said Ling. 

"There's nothing to say," he replied.  "We are here, and now we need to finish this."

"Right," she replied. "Well, you better not stay out there all day.  Why don't you teleport into one of the UFOs?"

"Good idea," replied Jacob, as they did not wish to reveal Shadow Hawk to their guest, given that their mandate was to keep Shadow Hawk a perpetual secret.

As soon as they materialized inside the lead UFO, Jacob stepped briskly past the surprised technicians and took a position at the weapons console.  Nikola stood nearby in silence, keenly observing Jacob's actions.  

"Ok, let's finish this," said Jacob to Ling.

"Yes, let's do that that," she replied firmly. "Shadow Hawk, teleport the Shard from the Hermit Jar into space one mile in the direction of an empty region."

The Shard, the last of its kind, shimmered briefly, and vanished from the Hermit Jar.  One mile away, it materialized in empty space, crinkled into a frozen mass of twigs, roots and thorns, and died outwardly. Inwardly, however, the tardigrade DNA kicked into activity, and with its genes at the ready, it congealed into a mass of hibernating wood-like tendrils.  It would float that way indefinitely until it came into contact with a favorable environment, and then revive.

Jacob spotted it immediately on the UFO's sensor screen as a small red blip, set the targeting controls, and pressed the Plasma Cannon trigger button.  A crimson-orange beam that lanced across space and vaporized the Shard.  And that was the end of the Entity that the Nazi scientists had made.  

"Do we teleport all of the technicians out into space now?" asked Vallnam.

"What?" asked Ling, raising an eyebrow.

"Then Jacob can blast them with the Plasma Cannon.  It'll be quick and painless," finished Vallnam.

"So you're thinking we should annihilate them all, the guilty and the innocent together, is that it?" Ling inquired.

"Well, let's face it," he replied coolly, "they'd all band together against us if push came to shove.  I mean they were all really on board with the Entity slipping a nuke past us, weren't they?  I don't think we can trust them."

"Well, no," said Ling.  "I'm not okay with us just killing them all outright! After all, it has become apparent that whomever was responsible among them was probably under a Compulsion from the Entity.  We can't just execute them for something that was outside their control, especially those who were completely innocent."

"Okay," replied Vallnam. "So now that we've killed the Entity, and the Shard, they should no longer be under control.  Right?"

"Correct," replied Ling.

"Good," said Vallnam, "then we can Mind Read them, and find out what they're thinking now.  If they were under Mind Control before, then they should have nice, happy, clean, pro-Earth thoughts now.  And if we find any that are thinking that when they get to Earth they can take over the world, or reprogram the robots to listen to them only, anything of the kind, now would be the best time to, um, handle it... send them out into space, and obliterate them. You know, as an example to the others.  We can tell them, 'You're either happy on Earth, or you die.'  How's that?"

There was a pause as Ling and Jacob tried to digest this idea.  It sounded odd, coming from Vallnam.  This was the kind of thinking Ling might have expected from Jacob, but for Vallnam to say it came as a shock.  Jacob, for his part, found himself largely in agreement with Vallnam's point, and was nodding affirmatively.

"You've become very brutal," said Ling. "What happened to our kindhearted hero?"

"I've gotten to the point," he replied, "where I find myself a little angry with everything that's happened.  The Nazis, and the deceit, and the insidious Mind invasions... some people are just not able to be saved, I guess.  We need to protect the Earth.  And what are we going to do if they turn out to be just another problem we bring down to Earth? Federation has enough trouble on its hands without us dragging in another boatload, don't you think?"

"Yep," said Jacob.  "Don't take the chance. That sounds about right."

"Wait," said Ling, aghast.  "Didn't you just try to rescue one of them, Jacob, and now you showed up with another one who you just brought on board?"

"Who, Nikola?  Nah, he's not one of them," replied Jacob.  "He's one of the good guys.  I have it on good authority."

"And what good authority would that be?" asked Ling.

"Well," replied Jacob, "I know this is probably going to sound a bit corny again, but... Hanna told me he's a good guy.  And I believe her."

"I see," said Ling and decided to leave it there.  She could tell that Jacob was holding back a lot of emotion at the moment.  "Ok well," she said, "I can agree that we Mind Read the lot of them, but I think we can neutralize any of them who are no good without killing them."

"I could turn them into vegetables," offered Vallnam.

They stared at him.  

"They'd still be alive, technically," said Vallnam.  "I could give them basically a lobotomy with my psychic powers.  I could do it so that they can feed themselves, do basic stuff, and even enjoy themselves, but they'd simply have no higher mental function.  Would keep them out of trouble, so to say."

They decided to wait on a decision until after the reading of the minds.  To his credit, Vallnam did wish to be fair about it, but he also wanted to make dead sure that none of them wanted to do anything nefarious.  If they wanted to live peaceably on Earth and join the Federation and help Earth, then he was perfectly ok with letting them do so.  But any who had a mindset otherwise, he felt should be immediately destroyed.

"Okay Vallnam," said Ling, "why don't you read each of their minds and let us know what they're thinking?"

And so he did.  He lowered his Mind Shield and activated his Level 10 "Mind Reading Major" ability and had at it.

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to any of them, there was a cloud of black vapors in the shape of a sphinx floating not terribly far off.  It's plans had been utterly ruined and it was positively fuming with hatred for Vallnam and his friends.  All of the Entities, and Eisenhelm itself, had been vaporized. While it did offer up an rather delightful feast of souls, decades of careful planning and insidious infiltrations had been completely wrecked by the trio of heroes.  Worst of all, they'd freed Nikola Tesla from captivity on the moon and were about to return him to Earth!  This was utterly outrageous!  The Being of the Void was beside itself with consternation.  It focused its livid attention on Vallnam's mental vibration.

[Gamemaster's note:  this was all rolled as per usual, and Charles, Vallnam's player, fumbled, and so the Dark-Sphinx was determined to be the surreptitious cause.]

One by one Vallnam read every mind on each of the UFOs.  All eighteen men had thoughts as pure as the driven snow.  They wanted nothing more than to land on Earth and run through meadows with flowers in their hair, sipping lemonade, watching clouds float by, and all the things that most of them had never had the slightest chance of doing on the moon, but had grown up hearing all about life on Earth as fairytale stories in their youth.  Not a single one among them had the slightest negative thought at all.  

Outside in the depths of blackest space, the creature of the Void smirked ruthlessly. The humans were such simple-minded creatures!  So easy to deceive!  So easy to manipulate!  If the creature could have drooled with delight, it would have, lusting after Vallnam's demise as it did.

"Okay," said Vallnam once he had completed Mind Reading of the technicians.  "They're all clean and good to go to Earth and pursue their happy lives.  Glad to see it, to be honest."

"That's a relief," replied Ling, much appreciating the fact that they didn't need to deliberate any further about what to do with any of the technicians who might have turned out less than pristine.  She smiled, and patted Vallnam on the back.  "Good job," she chirped happily.

"My only regret," said Vallnam, "is that we didn't get the Duridium suit from Hanna."

"Maybe she's still alive," offered Ling.

They gazed out the window at the moon. The north pole was glowing a fierce red color, and a gigantic plume of massively radioactive dirt was spreading out across the lunar surface in a gigantic series of concentric rings.

"Nahhh," they said in unison.

And that is where we left it that evening.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

WoAF - Game Session 63

A second chrome-trimmed blue and white Mech had punched through Earth's upper atmosphere a few minutes ago. It was moving at twenty-five thousand miles per hour, making a graceful arc in the direction of the first Mech which had emerged from the cloud cover an hour or so earlier. 

Ling and Vallnam were observing from Shadow Hawk's cockpit through the forward green-tinted diamond-glass window.  They watched the trailing Mech's futile effort to close the gap separating it from its twin as they blazed their way toward deep space.  The trajectory of the two ships would bring them within a few hundred miles of Shadow Hawk, and the two UFOs attending her.  But they had no fear that their presence would be known by the Mechs. Shadow Hawk was in Modroni Stealth Mode, making it virtually invisible to anything in the galaxy, while two UFOs had also activated their own, primitive yet effective, stealth modes at Jacob's command.  Ling and Vallnam felt confident that there was little to no chance their ensemble would be detected by the Mechs.  Of course, the string of highly radioactive five-hundred megaton Cobalt bombs floating nearby could easily draw their attention, if they happen to be scanning for unexpected radiation sources.  But, frankly, why would they be?  Probably not.  They figured it was likely the two might pass by and never notice them.  Meanwhile, Jacob snored, and turned over in his flight chair, apparently in the throes of a fitful dream.

Ling sat quietly contemplating.  She still partially remembered her experiences on the moon, but those memories had largely dissipated, though some would fade in for a few moments, and then fade out again.  She knew that this was an effect of the Modroni, whose overriding objective was to remain as secret a species within the Galaxy as possible, unknown by anyone, yet knowing a great deal about everything.  That was their goal and they'd taken great pains over the eons to ensure that their presence remained undiscovered.  Thus far, it had been a successful endeavor.  Ling remembered these facts vaguely as if they came to her from within a dream, and in fact she often thought she had dreamed the entire affair.  She was mystified by this, and yet at the same time understood completely.  It was a particularly strange sensation. 

At the moment she was trying to resolve where her duty lay, and to whom exactly she ought to be most loyal.  The Modroni, or Federation Command?  She was not sure she knew the answer.  After all, she had been a Federation Command Captain, and leading Space Pilot in Special Force.  On the other hand she had also become the leader of the Modroni while she and Vallnam had been marooned in the Aristarchus Crater after the Silver Eye I expedition suffered a fatal accident.  The Modroni had rescued the astronauts, and offered them sanctuary, and a lifetime's worth of education, on the condition they agree to never seek to return to Earth.  Later, when the Modroni leader perished in a deep space accident, the Modroni scientists elected Ling as Moon Princess, at her suggestion, since the Modroni are fabulous scientists, but without a member of the Leader Caste to ensure they stayed on track, they tended to wander, lose focus, and eventually die of confusion, essentially.  And so she felt a loyalty to both.  It was difficult to tweeze out what her role should be now.

Shadow Hawk, as we know, was a Modroni vessel, discovered by a team of Nazis Miners adjacent to Eisenhelm's Level C3, enclosed in a secret hanger that opened onto the rim of an unremarkable crater on the edge of Mare Frigoris. Ling considered the fact that the Nazis had seen Shadow Hawk, and had spent at least a month or two since its discovery attempting to learn how to pilot it.  Hanna Schiller, the high ranking Nazi Captain who was one of Eisenhelm's best space pilots, and her rival Melitta Reischt, the highest decorated space pilot in Admiral Ludendorf's UFO fleet, had made some progress in the effort, perhaps enough to launch this ship, but they'd never dared actually attempt it.  They'd planned on studying the vessel for quite a long time before making any attempt to activate it.  Hanna in particular had become afraid of the ship for reasons she never expressed or understood, though Ling understood it quite well.  The Modroni had spent considerable time and effort ensuring that the Nazis remained isolated and afraid of anything that might extend their reach further across the moon's surface.  They insinuated their ideas into the Nazi's dreams with terrifying impressions of an unseen and inimical alien race, and even drove several high ranking Nazis insane with the terror of it over the years.  

But Ling's question regarded the secrecy of Shadow Hawk.  After all, if the Nazis had discovered the ship, then that suggested that the vessel was, from the Modroni point of view, perhaps, no longer truly secret.  Or was that not the case?  She was unsure, and trying to assess just how secret they really needed to keep Shadow Hawk.  After all, if the Nazis new about it, then how secret did it really need to be?

Jacab woke up and rolled out of his chair.  "Agggehhh.  What the hell is going on?"

"Oh good, you're up, finally," said Ling.  "There's two vessels that have just punched up through Earth atmosphere into space.  If you look there you can see their plasma trails," she said pointing at the Vizi-Screen.  Jacob took note.

"We've picked up their radio transmissions," she went on. "In the lead vessel is apparently an Android by the name of Lexi.  Following him are Federation Command personnel.  A certain Captain Samwise has been attempting to hail the lead ship, and is demanding that it stop and return to Earth.  Apparently, Lexi has gone AWOL, for a reason that sounds somewhat spurious to me."

"Hmm... for some spurious reason, eh?" asked Jacob groggily.

"Well, it seems Lexi is claiming that he must go investigate a phenomenon in space that could be a threat to Earth.  He says the solar system is moving into a Molecular Cloud.  He appears to be intent on studying the cloud to see what level of threat it poses.  It could, he claims, drastically impact Earth's climate."

Ling was hoping her memory would resolve whether or not the Modroni had ever mentioned a Molecular Cloud in the Solar System's vicinity, but her recollection turned out to be too ethereal and she couldn't decide if she had been made aware of this or not.  She let it go.

"Lexi is going AWOL," said Vallnam, "over a matter that Federation Command had never been concerned about.  Therefore we are thinking about stepping in and detaining Lexi.  After all, we are still Federation Command, and we just heard that a vessel has been commandeered by a renegade Android, against direct orders from a commanding officer."

"And yet," Ling interjected, "I feel it is essential we keep Shadow Hawk a secret, no matter what.  It must always be kept a secret.  And so I am unresolved as to what to do.  And what is puzzling me is how secret Shadow Hawk can really be, given that the Nazi Command had discovered the ship, not to mention the technicians with us now."

"Well, your concern that Shadow Hawk had already been discovered by the Moon Nazis," said Jacob, "and that the technicians with us have all seen it, too is understandable.  However, the fact is, only a few Nazis in Eisenhelm ever knew of its existence, and all but one of them are dead, as far as we know.  As for the technicians, in fact, they don't know about Shadow Hawk, actually.  We left the moon before they did, and from the secret hanger bay that was part of the white tunnel system. I doubt any of them ever even heard of it, let alone saw it.  Note that Shadow Hawk by design is almost invisible in space, and additionally we've been in Stealth Mode.  I don't think any of the technicians know how we are getting around, exactly, except via our space suits, which is the only thing they've actually seen.  Except for poor Dietrich, who was blasted into atoms.  Granted our suits are amazing, but they wouldn't have any clue as to their nature or origins.  To them, they're simply sleek, jet-black space suits that allow us to glide through space unencumbered.  And while they can infer that we have a vessel, they have no idea what it looks like, or anything about it at all, actually.  So as far as I can see, none of the technicians know about Shadow Hawk."

Seeing Ling's furrowed eyebrows, Jacob continued, "From my conversation with Hanna, I found out the only people in Eisenhelm who knew about the ship were Hanna, Melitta, Admiral Ludendorf, and General Hertling. And the fact is, Melitta, Ludendorf and Hertling are all dead.  Vallnam and I took care of that early on, although we didn't realize what we had done at the time.  It was a chance encounter as they tried to make it to Shadow Hawk in which they planned to escape Eisenhelm before it was destroyed by the Obliterator Robots.  And if anyone of lesser rank knew of the ship, which I doubt, there is a good chance they had no idea what it was. Hanna told me the Nazi leaders mistook it for a product of Japanese ingenuity, having concluded that it must have been created by a secret force that had also been embedded on the moon during World War II, just like they were.  It was the Japanese, they believed, who must have built the white tunnel system, and the ship, and they had simply stumbled into it by chance during a routine excavation. That was best they could surmise, and I'm sure that's what Hanna believed. There's extremely little chance that anyone except the three of us know Shadow Hawk's origin, or even of its existence."

Finally, Ling was convinced that she need not worry that Shadow Hawk had already been revealed to the outer world.  If anything, the Modroni themselves would ensure that any loose ends would be tied up, and so any sort of leak would be extremely unlikely.  She relaxed on this point.  And this affirmed in her mind that, yes, they still needed to keep Shadow Hawk an absolute secret.

"I still think we should assist Captain Samwise one way or the other," she said, "Let's think about what we could do to stop the Android, while not revealing ourselves."

"Wait, wait.  We gotta talk about this," said Jacob.  "When we took control of Shadow Hawk, and put on these suits, we went a level above.  We're in possession of technology that utterly dwarfs Federation Command, and frankly, I don't know how else to put this, but, we've ascended."

Ling bit her lip, as Vallnam folded his arms and thought deeply about what Jacob had said.

"We've got a ship that can move at the speed of light, and faster than that outside the solar system.  We have a teleporter, a shrink ray, we can slip through worm holes, and we don't know what else may be laying dormant within. And to boot, Shadow Hawk, if I understand correctly, is the single stealthiest ship in the galaxy.  So, sorry, but we are so far beyond Federation Command right now, we should not, and cannot consider ourselves subject to Federation Command any longer.  For example, what if Lt. Brisbane orders us to tell him about Shadow Hawk because he wants to incorporate it into Federation Command?  Seriously, he's going to have all kinds of questions.  We cannot answer any of those questions."

Ling begrudgingly agreed.  At first she didn't like Jacob's argument, and found it too arrogant.  But his final points were well taken.  They couldn't answer any questions about Shadow Hawk or their experiences with the Modroni.  Vallnam followed her lead and nodded his agreement.

"Yes, I can agree that Shadow Hawk gives us such powers that are far beyond anything Federation Command has available, or will have available in the foreseeable future," said Ling.  "This is true.  But still, our purpose has not become to be Super Beings galivanting around at our own discretion.  Our duty remains to safeguard the people on Earth."

"I think that was our original mission," broke in Vallnam, "but what has been done to us by our elevation to this level gives us powers far beyond what the military of Earth should have.  Power corrupts."

"I don't disagree," said Ling, "but I think Jacob's point is corruption too, just on the other side. What he was getting at is that we're superior to the people of Earth now, and so we're absolved of any duty or constraints."

"Well," retorted Vallnam, "that's just Jacob.  You know how he gets.  I think, anyway, that's what he was getting at."

"No, no," cut in Jacob. "That is not what I was getting at."

Ling smirked.

"I think we have been given a new mission.  Shadow Hawk has given us a new mission. That mission is to explore the galaxy!  That's something no one on Earth can do, except the three of us.  And we can and must do so in absolute secret."

"But how would that benefit Earth?" asked Vallnam.

"It wouldn't," answered Ling.  "This gift for Earth would be used for ourselves."

"Yeah," said Vallnam.  "I don't agree with that."

"Well, no.  That's not what I'm saying," replied Jacob, standing up to gaze out the porthole into space.  "What I mean is that now is our chance to go and explore the galaxy to find out what's actually out there and around us, so that once we find out we can inform Earth of any dangers, or point humanity in the direction of good prospects."

"Ah," replied Vallnam, "So we would explore the galaxy and then come back and let Earth know what we found.  I getch'ya now."

"I'm sorry guys," said Ling, "while the possibility of using Shadow Hawk for galactic exploration is great, I admit, but not while we are witnessing all of the calamities on Earth.  We have the ability to help balance things here.  We know there's terrible powers rampaging across the western half of America, and no idea what's going on elsewhere, like in Europe, South America, Asia or Africa.  We can't just take the ship to go fly around the galaxy to explore.  Not until things on Earth have been settled.  We have to help with that."

"Look," said Jacob, "we will never, ever, ever solve all the problems on Earth.  There's just not enough lifetimes for that.  The people of Earth are going to have to solve these problems as they go."

"Yes, but we can help a lot in the meantime," answered Ling. 

"Okay," replied Jacob, "but remember, Shadow Hawk is not a weapon.  All it can do, at best, is mess with the psyches of crew members in another space ship, put them to sleep, or shoot off a EMP Ray to disable the controls of other space ships, when necessary.  And those, I might add, are to be used as sparingly as possible so that we don't accidently reveal Shadow Hawk's existence."

"Well, ok," put in Vallnam, "but we could use Shadow Hawk to slip around Earth and find out what's going on everywhere that we don't know about, right?"

"Ah, well, yeah," admitted Jacob. "That's true.  And I'm not saying we need to dash off into space immediately.  All I'm saying is that we should not, and cannot be under Federation Command.  We may want to help the Federation, sure.  We may want to give advice, or information about the Earth or the moon, or whatever, but ultimately, the Shadow Hawk mission is to explore the galaxy.  That's what I'm saying."

"So I think we're agreed then," offered Vallnam, "that we no longer fit under Federation Command, but we also don't want to just leave Earth in the lurch.  We want to help out before we do anything else, right?"

"Yes," said Jacob, "but I want to point out that we need to be very careful how we deal with Earth.  It's a somewhat delicate matter, departing from Federation Command without getting court martialed, or causing all kinds of problems. And besides, we still have the situation up here in space that needs to be handled.  For example, there's a string of incredibly dangerous five hundred megaton Cobalt bombs floating around up here.  We need to take care of that immediately."

"And the molecular cloud," added Ling.

"Right," agreed Jacob.  "That's the kind of thing that makes Shadow Hawk of real value to Earth."

"Okay," interrupted Vallnam, "but that doesn't answer the question of what do we do about Lexi and Captain Samwise?"

There was a pause as they turned their attention back to the subject at hand.

"I suggest," went on Vallnam, "that we teleport Lexi into Samwise's ship.  No one will be the wiser, and then we can skedaddle off and do the next thing."

"I'm not sure about that idea," said Ling.  "Teleporting a powerful Android into Captain Samwise's ship might cause chaos there.  I mean, as an Android he's going to at the least be very physically strong."

"Yeah, but Androids are programmed not to hurt humans.  He won't do anything to jeopardize anyone's life."

"That's probably true," replied Ling, "but then again, he's already gone AWOL, hasn't he?  Even if he is not willing to hurt Sam, he might not go peacefully."

"Okay, why don't we use the EMP to put him to sleep first, and then teleport him over?" asked Vallnam.

They thought this over.  While an EMP would disable the Mech, it could also potentially destroy Lexi.  In the end Ling was not willing to take that risk.  It would be completely counter productive to destroy Lexi in an effort to help Samwise return him to Earth.  Presumably, Samwise would not be satisfied with that conclusion at all.

Yet, Ling still wanted to stop Lexi.  Jacob was ambivalent about it. 

"After all," he said, "Lexi wants to go find out if the Molecular Cloud is a danger to Earth.  Why not let him go?  I mean, what's he doing on Earth that's so great right now?  I don't know.  Maybe his trip to the Molecular Cloud would be of real help to the planet in the long run, as he claims."

"Well," replied Ling, "it's the way he is doing it that troubles me.  I mean, did he really need to go AWOL for this?  Doesn't quite make sense."

"Yeah, ok, that seems a little suspicious," said Jacob. "I buy that.  You think there's more to the picture than meets the eye."

"Yeah, it feels suspicious," replied Ling.  

However, in the end, she realized that she really didn't know enough about Lexi to make a determination as to the validity of his behavior, and her concern was that teleporting Lexi could potentially reveal Shadow Hawk's existence, if not directly, then perhaps by inference, and also risk destroying Lexi.  She also felt that Jacob had a pretty good point regarding his mission to the Molecular Cloud.  What if it would actually help the planet in the event the cloud is an imminent threat?

She also began thinking about the other point Jacob made regarding exploring the other planets in the solar system for alien species, and perhaps the local star systems, too.  After all, there could be Galactic Empires out there that Earth should definitely know about.  

"I think we're going to find amazing things out there," Jacob was saying.  "I think it's going to be awesome.  And besides," he added, "you realize that we have Telepathy, and Telepathy has no range limit whatsoever.  We can be exploring another star system 50 light years away, and communicate what we are seeing in real time with Telepathic contacts back on Earth."

"Oh, that's right!" said Ling, suddenly realizing what an incredible advantage that was.  "I could set up a Telepathic Link to Linda, and no matter how far we go, we can stay in contact.  The mission to gather intel about what's going on in the galaxy would actually really be worthwhile in that case.  That's great."

"As far as Lexi is concerned," said Vallnam, "I'm ok with leaving him to go out there.  Maybe Jacob could tag along with Lexi and see what he gets up to?  In the meantime, Ling and I can take care of the bombs.  That situation is extremely precarious, and I agree we need to deal with it sooner rather than later."

"Yeah, we got bigger fish to fry," said Jacob. "I don't know, but I've been having some seriously bad dreams.  Somehow I keep dreaming bizarre evil disgusting entities from the moon land up on Earth and wrecking havoc everywhere.  It's like an ongoing nightmare.  I dream they're on Shadow Hawk, they take over the technicians, and they make their way down to Earth, and then all hell breaks loose.  Kinda weird. And I don't like it."

"Yes, that sounds horrible," said Ling, concerned.

"Hey, you guys," said Jacob, "let's go to the medical bay.  We should take a look and start thinking about how to clean up all that fire damage.  Let's take a look together, okay?  Like right now. Okay?"

And so they took a walk down to the medical bay, and stepped inside.  When they did Jacob explained.

"Okay, I put up a Mind Shield around us and we're far enough from the Hermit Jar so that it's on the outside.  We can talk, and think, freely now."

Jacob had been using a special Mentarian Power known as Compartmentalization which allowed him to keep separate parts of his mind in different places, and the part that he wanted to talk about now was regarding the Shards.  He set up a Telepathic Link between the three of them, inside the Mind Shield, and so their conversation was completely protected.

"The Shard that is in the Hermit Jar cannot hear us, now.  And to be honest, I'm worried.  That thing in the Jar... do you remember Vallnam when you were attacked, and you got that sharp pain in your arm?"

"Vaguely," replied Vallnam.  "Yeah, I tried to pick the new Shard up off the floor and it shocked me."

"Yeah, except it couldn't shock you. You were in your Shadow Hawk Armor at the time, right?  And you realized that had to have been a psychic attack, remember?"

"Uh huh," replied Vallnam.

"Yeah, these things are psychic," said Jacob.

"Yes," agreed Ling, "that makes sense."

"So, I realized something.  If those things have psychic powers, then it's likely they have Telepathy.  Which means they can communicate with each other.  Which means that they could also be in contact with the Entity back on the moon.  If so, this is really bad.  We need to take care of this situation."

"Hmm..." said Ling and Vallnam in unison.

"Well," said Vallnam, "We are going to tug those bombs outside the solar system.  Why don't we take the Shard and leave it out there?"

"uhhh," said Jacob.

"No," interjected Ling, "he wants to blow up the moon."

"Well, we can't just blow up the moon," replied Vallnam.  "But we can leave the shards out in deep space."

"No, you don't understand," said Ling, "he means the major threat is on the moon.  The Shards are just like seeds or something.  I agree this entity is too powerful.  Even a tiny thorn had the ability to shock Vallnam, and regrow itself, and it was able to reactivate inside the Cryo-Pod.  I agree this is an extremely dangerous entity.  And maybe we should not keep the Shard.  Too dangerous."

"Right," agreed Jacob. "But think about it.  If the Shard thawed out in the Cryo-Pod, wouldn't that mean that while we were talking to Dietrich as he was dying with the Shard in him, that the damn thing could have been controlling him?"

"It's a possibility," admitted Ling.

"So if it was controlling him, and let's assume it was, what was it trying to accomplish?"

"The fact that it was making him very ill wasn't very good," offered Vallnam hesitantly.

"Wait," said Ling, "Jacob are you saying it wanted us to get it out of the spaceship and destroy it, along with Dietrich?"

"No, that wouldn't make sense.  Why would it want us to destroy it?  That's not it," answered Jacob impatiently.  "I think that was a byproduct of their plan. It was a sacrifice the entity made to accomplish its goal."

"Ohh," replied Ling and Vallnam at the same time.

"If they have Telepathy, then maybe," Jacob went on, "just maybe, they are in a kind of hive-mind, and they don't care if one or two die, so long as the greater entity achieves its goal.  I think this may have been what happened.  It made a sacrifice play.  It accomplished something.  But what? Why?  What was the objective?"

"That we ignored the rest of it?" suggested Ling.  "That we lowered our guard after that?"

"That could be, and I'd say if that was it, then it worked.  But, let's think about what happened, exactly," pushed Jacob.

"Hmm... well, Dietrich talked to the other technicians on the UFOs," answered Ling. 

"That's right," said Jacob emphatically.

"So, Jacob, you want to incinerate all the technicians now, eh?" asked Vallnam.  "You think we should kill them all?"

"I'm not saying what we should do," answered Jacob.  "I'm saying we need to think about what happened, and figure out what's going on.  And then decide what to do. Here's another fact.  We had two Shards.  If there were other Shards, I'm pretty sure Shadow Hawk would alert us.  So we are dealing with two Shards.  One was in Dietrich, and it's been obliterated.  The other is in the Hermit Jar.  It's still there.  When Dietrich spoke to Johann... well, we know how Telepathy works... you need a bridge to establish the link.  What if the Shard in Dietrich's neck used the radio connection, the hearing of Johan's voice, to create the bridge?  At that moment, the Shard could have established a Telepathic Link to Johann, without the technician even knowing it.  Then, as we were preparing to send poor Dietrich to his doom, the Shard transferred the link to the other Shard in the Hermit Jar before I blasted Dietrich with the Plasma Cannon!  That would leave the Shard in the jar with a telepathic link to Johann, right?  It could have done that.  Right?  Now they have Johan in their orbit."

"Oh wow," replied Ling and Vallnam.

"There's one more thing I want draw to your attention," went on Jacob.  "In my dream this came up several times. Take a look out the porthole.  You see that string of bombs out there?  Gustov, who is my real concern, said that all of the bombs have been removed, remember?  That was this morning.  I happen to overhear him tell you that."

"Yes," replied Ling, "that's what he said.  'The work is completed,' he said."  

"Okay, well, look out the window.  How many bombs do you see?"

Ling and Vallnam counted the long string of bombs floating like tiny glinting diamonds out in the darkness of space.  

"Forty-nine," said Ling.

"Forty-nine," said Vallnam.

"Right.  Where's the damn fiftieth bomb?" asked Jacob pointedly.  There was a pause as each of them thought about the sequence of events that lead up to the current situation.  It was dire.

"Anyway, I'm exhausted," said Jacob finally.  "I really can't stay awake any longer.  It took all my will power just to get this out, really.  So, I'm going to lay down over here to take a nap, and hope I don't have more freaky dreams.  I have to leave this to you guys to figure out from here."  And with that Jacob dusted off the black soot from one of the infirmary beds with a half scorched towel, laid down and closed his eyes.  "There's not a lot of time," he said as he drifted off to sleep.  As his Mind Shield began to dissipate, Ling brought up one of her own.

Vallnam looked at Ling, and said, "If we get together with the technicians and put up a mind shield around the UFOs, would that cut off any Telepathic Links?"

"Yes, it should," replied Ling, as she also began working out what they could do. "No Mind-Waves can pass through a Mind Shield."

"And then we could Mind Read the technicians and find out who, if any, have been in contact with the Entity."

"Yes," replied Ling. "Shadow Hawk herself has powers, as well, right?"

"I do believe so," replied Vallnam, "but they're not exactly like ours.  I sensed earlier there was some unique powers within her, but whatever they are, we must first discover them, and then activate via commands.  Shadow Hawk won't do anything on her own.  We have to provide her instructions."

They started thinking about what powers they could bring to bear.  Mind Shields seemed like they would be very useful in this scenario.  They reviewed how Mind Shields work.  A Mentarian can activate a Mind Shield at a certain radius around themselves.  It acts like a shell, and within the shell, minds can communicate, but nothing can penetrate the shell's surface, going in, or going out.  It contains Mind-Waves and shields against them, both.  Now, interestingly, Mind Shields can intersect each other, and overlap, without being disrupted.  This means that two Mentarians can be at sixty feet distance from each other, and each activate a 40' Mind Shield.  There would be an overlapping area between the two of them at the center point for twenty feet that would be covered by both, into which no mental phenomenon could penetrate, or escape.

"The thing is," said Ling, "once a Telepathic Bridge is created, it can be re-established once the Mind Shield goes down.  So if we isolate the technicians, as soon as the Mind Shield comes down, they'd be exposed again."

"Right," agreed Vallnam.  "after a bridge to a subject has been established, from that point on, you can always recreated the link.  The thing we can't do with Telepathy is to establish bridges to unknown subjects.  Which would explain why, even if there are Telepathic races all over the Galaxy, links aren't being formed between them spontaneously.  You must have a bridge first."

"True," said Ling thoughtfully, "So we can definitely break contact between any affected technicians, and the Entity, using Mind Shields.  We can put one around the Hermit Jar to break that connection.  Second, we Mind Read through the technicians to uncover which of them have been linked to by the Shard, if any.  Now Vallnam, you mentioned you infiltrated Gustov and his team's dreams to dissuade them from rebellion a few days ago, yes?"

"Indeed, I used Psychic Persuasion to do so.  Through their dreams I was able to convince Gustov and the other three in league with him to abandon any idea of rebelling against Federation.  As afterwards the technicians continued to work to complete the dismantling of the bombs and reprogramming the robots, and did so on schedule, I take it that the persuasion was successful."

"Yes," said Ling, "and a few days later, during the work, that's when Dietrich began to thaw out, and that's when the Telepathic Link could have been made.  So halfway through the work, the Shard may have been influencing one or more of the technicians, and most likely Johann, who was the one technician Dietrich actually spoke to."

"We also need to find out where the other bomb is," said Vallnam.  "But what's next?"

"Well, actually," said Ling, "we need to answer three questions.  Who took the bomb?  Where did they put it?  How do we secure it?  I want to find that out before doing anything else."

"Sure," said Vallnam, "but after that?  What do we do?  The problem is not finding the bomb.  Shadow Hawk can detect the radiation of the the bomb, wherever it is.   It is probably hidden in one of the Giant Nuclear Missile Robots out there."

"Good point. That's probably the best hiding place for it... they simply didn't remove it.  But the immediate concern is finding and securing the bomb.  After all, it could detonate any moment, and that would be the end right there.  After that, we can deal with the Entity."

"Yeah, that's right.  We don't want to tip them off before we can secure the bomb, or the Entity might cause its man to blow the bomb, and that, by the way, would probably detonate all of the bombs. And now that we're this close to Earth, the effect of that would be utterly catastrophic.  Total extinction within a year."

"The point is," said Jacob, still with one eyelid half open, "what are we going to do about the Entity that I believe is trying invade Earth, however it can.  That's a major threat.  What are we going to do about that?"

"Yes, that's probably the primary threat," agreed Ling.  "I think Jacob is right. We could use one of the bombs to destroy the Entity on the moon."

"You literally want to blow up the moon?" asked Vallnam.

"Well, the bombs wouldn't likely blow up the moon," responded Ling.

"Think about it," retorted Vallnam. "The Obliterator Robots were using plasma cannons to bore into the moon and create giant lava pools.  After all that, could a five hundred megaton bomb... crack the moon open?"

"I doubt it," said Ling.  "The lava pools were relatively shallow, maybe at most a dozen meters thick.  It wouldn't have disturbed the integrity of the lunar crust to such a degree as that."

"I was under the impression the Obliterators were trying to destroy the moon," said Vallnam.  

"No, I don't think they could do that," said Jacob, rousing himself temporarily.  "At the very worst, the Obliterators could have bored a couple of hundred meters, given enough time and energy.  But their goal was to destroy Eisenhelm, not the entire moon.  I'm pretty sure that even if they had that in mind, the Obliterators wouldn't have had the ability to do anything close to that.  From what I understood, their goal was to melt the lunar rock beneath Eisenhelm's foundations enough to cause it to sink into the lava.  But destroy the moon itself?  I don't think even the Nazis could have been that ambitious."

"Ah, well, in that case, I guess the Cobalt bombs wouldn't destroy the moon," concluded Vallnam.  "I thought they had been boring into the core of the moon."

"Right," said Jacob as he drifted back toward sleep.

"The threat the Entity poses is extraordinary," said Vallnam.  "I mean what if it got its hooks into Brain V?"

"That's a nasty thought," replied Ling. "But chances are, there is no way for the Entity to attack Brain V, or anyone else other than us, at least thus far.  We're the only target of opportunity it has at this point.  Remember, it has to have a bridge to link to others.  It can't just reach out and find random targets."

"We could take the Shard outside the solar system and send it off into space," suggested Vallnam again.  "That would protect our little corner of the universe."

"Why not just destroy the Shard, and the Entity, and eliminate the entire threat at once?" asked Ling, curious why Vallnam seemed to have forgotten that they'd already refuted his suggestion the first time.

"To be honest, I'm wary of going back to the moon.  Something just doesn't seem right about it, you know?" answered Vallnam sheepishly.  Something about the idea of returning to the moon had deeply disturbed him, but he didn't know why.

"The main threat is the Entity on the moon," repeated Ling.  "The Shard is like just a tiny piece of the thing.  The real threat is crawling around in the ruins of Eisenhelm.  That's the real threat.  Even if we get rid of the Shard, sending it off into space, to whatever destiny it has out there, the Entity on the moon would still be trying to find ways to get to Earth, right?  Don't we have to deal with that?"

"I guess.  But isn't it beyond us?" asked Vallnam.  "I mean what about all of our exploring the galaxy and stuff?  Doesn't that make the issue with the Entity a bit trivial by comparison?"

"I don't see how," rasped Jacob, roused again with great effort.  "If the Entity does find its way to Earth, the results will not be trivial at all.  I can guarantee that."

"Are we sure a bomb would incinerate the Entity?" asked Vallnam. 

Jacob replied with difficulty. "You remember that movie Aliens?  Remember when she said 'I say we nuke the site from orbit.  It's the only way to be sure.'?  Well, now's our chance to make good on that point.  This creature is too dangerous to leave alive."

"Ok, if everyone else wants to blow up the moon," Vallnam replied at last, "I'm ok with it.  But I'm not sure this would destroy it.  What if it blows shards of it out into space and it survives, and winds up raining thousands of tiny Entities down onto the Earth?"

"I'll tell you my opinion." said Jacob, "A five hundred megaton bomb over Eisenhelm would melt the entire site down to slag, and no matter how resilient the Entity is, it will be completely incinerated.  Nothing will be left of it but a few ashes submerged in radioactive lava.  I think it's the only way to ensure this thing doesn't escape.  I say use the bomb.  Use all the bombs."

"Well," replied Vallnam, "that may be true, but it would also mean killing your girlfriend, Hanna, and other survivors there."

"Ah, yeah," said Jacob as he faded back toward sleep, "that's the hard part for me.  I actually admired Hanna, a lot, and for a moment, well... ah, damn.  Never mind that.  But yes, maybe, we could rescue her first, and then nuke the site."

"For all we know, she's already defeated the damn thing," replied Vallnam.

"Hard to imagine," whispered Jacob as his eyes closed.

"Well, with all those killer robots, and everything, who knows?" asked Vallnam rhetorically.  "She does have that Duridium suit.  Maybe we should reach out to her first.  But once we go down that rabbit hole, well, that's a hell of a rabbit hole, isn't it?"

"Yeah," sighed Ling. "Is it better to nuke them all, and eliminate the risk, or try to rescue a handful of enemies first, and then risk that somehow the Entity winds up escaping before we can destroy it?  And don't forget, they still may have some UFOs remaining in Eisenhelm.  Oh god."

"That's a good point," said Jacob with a shudder.  "It's is a tough moral dilemma.  I'm sure that we could nuke the site, and eliminate the threat of the Entity once and for all.  But at the cost of murdering Hanna, and whomever else may have survived the destruction of Eisenhelm?  I'm too tired to think any more about it.  I really can't decide anything.  That's why I'm leaving it to you guys.  I'm going to sleep."

And with that Jacob closed his eyes and slipped back into dreamland...

And that is where we left things that evening.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The True Nature of Ungoliant

In the beginning, long before Arda was created, there was only the Void - the great and terrible Nothingness that existed before good and evil manifested in the world. Within this Void, a being arose, or perhaps was the embodiment of the void itself, a darkness infinite and unfathomable, who would in time come to be known as Ungoliant. She was the embodiment of that which first stirred in the blackness that was the primordial state of unlight, and unbeing.  Her eyes beheld the Void in the glory of its infinitude, and all else was an unwanted invasion of noise and light amid the absolute darkness and silence from which she spawned in ages far beyond reckoning, long before time began.

When Melkor, mightiest of the Valar, wandered alone and in secret through the vast emptiness of the Void in his search for the Imperishable Flame of Arnor, long before the creation of Arda, it may be that he encountered Ungoliant in that fathomless eternity of darkness. And in that fateful, unrecorded meeting, a shard of her malevolence became lodged in Melkor's soul, cracking his mind and driving him to the all-consuming obsession with the destruction of all that was good in Ilúvatar's creation, and his ultimate doom. 

Ages later, the Silmarils became the obsession of Melkor's twisted desire - for they were vessels of the pure light and represented the Divine Will of Iluvitar, and were the first half of what Ungoliant hungered to devour.  Yet, Melkor could not see that the other half of her desire was to devour the rest of all creation, and so deceived was he that he was caught by surprise when Ungoliant not only sought to devour the Silmarils he craved, but Melkor himself.  And this was because her hunger was unlimited, and she desired to swallow and destroy the whole of Iluvitar's creation.  And so, it was Iluvitar who allowed the Balrogs to save Melkor in the fateful battle for the Silmarils.  After all it was He who told Melkor in the beginning that even his own evil deeds were a part of The Great Plan of Creation, which he would one day come to understand.  And so it was Iluvitar who saved Melkor from Ungoliants all-devouring maw in so far as He allowed the Balrogs to frighten Ungoliant away.  Otherwise she would have devoured the Silmarils, and then Melkor, and then the creation of all that is in the universe... the whole of Arda would have dissolved back into the nothingness of the Void.  

And so, before Arda was created, the stage was set for the great and terrible conflicts that would shake the foundations of Middle-Earth for ages to come. Melkor, driven by the maddening taint of Ungoliant's essence, sought to destroy all that was good in Arda, and claim the Silmarils in order to rule over their radiance, while the Elves and other Free Peoples fought to preserve that which gave the world light, hope and beauty. Yet while we followed the tales of this great conflict, in the shadows, Ungoliant lurked, her endless hunger unsatiated, desiring above all to consume existence itself.

When battling the Balrog of Moria, Mithrandir became aware of the presence of unnamed, unfathomable horrors gnawing at the roots of the world - entities that had slipped into Arda from the Void at the beginning, along with Ungoliant. These colossal terrors, hidden from the eyes of Elves and Men, represented an even greater threat to Arda than Melkor, for they sought not just the destruction of all that was good, but the utter annihilation of everything, and the return of all into the emptiness of the Void itself.  Ultimately, it was Ungoliant, and the nameless things, not Melkor or Sauron, who were the true enemies of Iluvitar, and they were the true threat to Iluvitar's Divine Plan.  Iluvitar said that Melkor fit into the Divine Plan in his own unwitting way.  But Ungoliant and the nameless horrors from the Void?  No, the ultimate threat to Creation is Un-Creation, not evil.  For evil can be bourn for an age, and overcome, because it is not ultimate, and it's balance is goodness.  These rival forces can rise and fall, and eventually goodness can prevail in the end.  But Ungoliant and her siblings of the Void were a threat so vast and so powerful, Gandalf refused to discuss anything about them. The "nameless things" refered to ancient, primordial entities that he did not wish to engage with or reveal the full nature of, as they were part of the deepest, darkest mysteries underlying the created world of Arda.  They gnaw at the roots of the world, working to undermine its foundations, and overthrow the whole of creation.  And not even Gandalf could confront such beings.  The Balrog, he could defeat.  The nameless things, he could not. 

And so as the conflict raged across the history of Middle-Earth, with the forces of light and goodness battling against the destroying malice of Melkor, and the wickedness of Sauron, we ought to be ever mindful that true foe of Light and Hope was not the Lords of Evil, but instead, the primal, voracious hunger of the Void itself, manifested in Ungoliant and her voracious kin, ever gnawing at the roots of the world, threatening all of existence. For in the end, the Creation itself hung in the balance, threatened by a malevolence so great and so terrible that it sought to undo ALL that Ilúvatar had wrought, and with that, end all possibility of light, hope, or beauty for all eternity.

And Iluvitar, in His wisdom, foresaw this, knew the nature his enemy, and His own Power of Creation, the Imperishable Secret Flame of Arnor, and through it all, with this power sustained Arda, and brought the world through the perils into each new age, and will continue to do so for as long as Arda shall last.