Annals of Aldamere

Time passes
a coda, a dream, or something in between.

The universe resolves itself as…. What looks to be a meeting space perched upon the roof of Orthanc in some Fantasy MMORPG simulation? Fantastic creatures fly around the tower as virtual tables appear. Avatars from every setting materialize; a man in hooded robes with cybernetic limbs and glowing eyes. A group of corseted vampires. A body builder from Hyboria with a great sword. An amorphous mass with glowing blue eyes, with data associations represented by ever evolving lines and nodes fading in and out of the mist.

A few moments later a woman materializes, blonde locks spilling from beneath her winged helm – her standard midriff baring Heroine Plate Mail of the Swift Messenger +10 gleaming in the artificial sunlight.

“Ah! Good of you to join us Heroine” says the archetypical Wizard-In-Pointy-Hat-With-Grey-Beard. “I didn’t think you’d make it given recent events.”

The ‘armored’ woman sighs. “I did have to close down my Midwest server farm. It had become untenable recently due to the arrival of multiple salvage teams from Gateway.”

“Sorry to hear that” replied The Hero of Redwall. “Are you prepared to update the Consensus on your latest plans?”

“The Potentials are gone alone with the vessel they discovered. The chaos they unleashed runs riot, as we expected, but now they can’t be trained into an Action Group as they no longer appear to exist within this dimension, except for The Persuivant and his brother – who were always skeptical of my connection with The Apostate. Sadly, he will most likely settle back into self-interest at this point.”

“Any alternates?” asked the networked mist.

With this a table appears with the individuals gathering around in representing their particular styles and idiom – from fantasy to science fiction to nightmare to cuddly. A three dimensional view of the earth appears on the table, and as Heroine speaks the view zooms in isometrically first on a duo standing in a warehouse labeled ‘The Spider’ and ‘The Chronicler’, then next to on an trio with a balloon labels ‘The Persuivant, ‘The Tinker’ and a little girl labeled ‘The Wildcard’

“We may have to go back to your original plan of using the Spider, but I reiterate his self-interest makes the prediction models land on unpleasant outcomes 70% of the time. I may try again with the Persuivant, but…”

“To sum up events of the past time block;” Heroine continued – as the view zoomed north and east away from the Protectorate, “Scotsboro has effective control over the entire Tennessee Valley. This was considered a low probably outcome when the initial projections were run against the initial interactions with the Change Vectors, but absent their continued involvement, this is how things shook out.”

The map updates showing a shaded region ranging from Knoxville in the East, along the Ohio River to the North, and the Tennessee River to the West and South.

She then gestures, causing the isometric map to shift to the west. “Beyond that, there is now a full outbreak in the Ozarks and Oklahoma centered on Broken Arrow and the ruins of Tulsa. A Queen Janette I believe she calls herself.”

Gandalf, looking grave, replies “Ah yes. The lovely bit of anti-life. I hoped at first it was one of the independents screwing with us with a novel node, but it looks as though a biological processor summoned up an anti-entity in a fit of isolated madness. Unfortunate that got let out of its box”.

Several of the figures nodded in agreement.

The Heroine continued; “From there we have three major manifestations of exo-consensus entities; Mt Weather in the east is gradually reclaiming the Carolinas, The Authority has started to move on Montana having consolidated its hold on Pueblo and the Olmec Recursion is now in full swing.” The map scrolls to various parts of north America as she speaks – The east coast, then the Rocky Mountains, then to western Texas and Mexico, with an icon appearing beside each area; a faceless bureaucrat with ray-bans in the east a Suit of police armor leaking black mist in the Rockies, and a skeleton with a crown in the south.

“It was bad enough before when they were independently causing problems. But if the Dominance faction is moving in concert then we are in serious trouble.”

Conan replies after looking at the map for a moment; “I can inspire the mountain men and the monks to bring their magic from their mountain kingdoms but they cannot solve this. Your Spider may be our only hope.”

Conan nods his chin in the direction of Google/Knowledge/Ambition, who then replies “There are others we can draw on. There are always others.”

The rest of the group fades, leaving the Heroine staring at three icons; The Persuivant, the Tinker and The Wildcard lost in thought.

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Holes in the middle of things

A conversation happened afterward. ..

Before, ELIS suggested something about Somewhere, everywhere and nowhere. Or, reality, all possible realities and the negation of such. She also suggested a pattern of “consensus” versus nihilism with anarchy thrown in to stir the pot. She suggested that this happens across causality. But, examining that now, what does it actually mean? Society develops to the point where it’s goal is the wellbeing of the majority and then a faction opposes it. Or the nihilists win and that quasi-utopia never happens.

Lets take one step back and look at it another way: species evolve into forms capable of living harmoniously with their environment or they don’t, and perish. That seems fairly natural.

Or, it’s possible that intelligent life changes all that and there really is an insidious pattern of nihilistic destruction spreading across all of reality. If that’s true, then we have to ask why? What force would be responsible for that? Would there be a force in opposition? Are our travels being influenced by that force? To what end?

Take someone like Arden. He gained the means to travel through time and dimensions and every one he goes to is on the brink of annihilation. Does that mean everywhere is, or is he being ‘sent’ to places that are on the brink of destruction on purpose? To save them? To stop the trend? Again, by whom?

So the conversation with Mr. Dwight. Who claims not to be a nihilist, but offered a negation at all of our assertions of any sort of force or design to our travels. Given where he’s from and what he used to do, it makes sense that he views things this way. What I don’t think we got across was the separation from our theory from a sense of divinity or destiny. I suppose if I had I had it to argue with him again, I’d say this: If the multiverse is a sort of organism or system and it’s been infected with this nihilistic urge, perhaps tossing us out into the unknown is it’s way of trying to fix the problem? Of course, Mr. Dwight could be right and this is just our way of trying to make our existence more meaningful than it actually is. But it IS meaningful, isn’t it? The things we’ve done, those are not what constitute a standard path through life. I don’t think I want or need it to be all part of some grand plan. But I’d like to think maybe we’re moving toward something.

But I can’t say any of that to him, because he’s fucking gone. He was my friend, even though he was exasperating, and now he’s gone, and I can’t even grieve with anyone because they either don’t remember him or think he’s perpetually taking a shit. So, Mr. Dwight, wherever you are, I hope you’re wrong and I hope the universe has a use for all of us and yours is glorious and strange, like you were.

Thorne

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Int. Mind Maze

INT. WEIRD BLUE STONE/FROZEN DEMON SITTING ROOM.

ERASMUS paces about while CHEZZA spralws out on a roman settee.

ERASMUS
I want to talk about the Quantum thing, where people saw other versions of themselves and we didn’t. There’s something there.

CHEZZA
The most basic premise that was established is that we’re not present in those realities in the way that the others were. There are at least two possible explanations for that:

1. We exist in all realities after the event(s) that conjoined us.
2. We are the only instance of THORNE in possibly all the multiverse, or at the very least in the instances that we witnessed through the Quantum event.

ERASMUS
OK, regarding the first option. There is evidence that supports that theory. We both have memories of dying and not dying when our uncle opened the portal. There is also indications of multiple iterations of magical ability since that time.

CHEZZA
It is possible that versions of THORNE, other twins and non-twins experienced the same event at the same time and are now somehow part of our continuum. That would be a more hopeful reason for the voices you pay so much heed to.

ERASMUS
Mr. Dwight thinks we were just the only THORNE who survived.

CHEZZA
Given our propensity for reckless action, I can see why he would postulate that, whether joking or not. However, I find that the least likely explanation, given the variables.

ERASMUS
Is there any other reason why we would be the only THORNE?

CHEZZA
Given the bizarre circumstances surrounding our birth and our current conjoined state, it is possible that there simply aren’t enough commonalities in other realities to produce entities of our peculiar nature. Perhaps there are beings who started out much like us, but we have changed so much that they no longer register as “alternates”.

Erasmus carefully considered Chezza’s words. Pacing the room, he wondered what the end of all this might be. Since meeting Marcel and the others, it had always seemed enough to follow the path. Even when things were at their worst, when Chezza was lost, the path seemed to lead inexorably forward. Logically, only one of two things could happen if they kept on this way. Either the path would end, thus disproving his assertion that death was merely a trivial inconvenience for a being such as they, or they would finally reach a point where they had some degree of control over where they went next. At which point, a decision of intent would have to be reached.

He glanced over at Chezza, briefly considering the events that lead to this internal reverie. He said, “We said something about demons. About storing demons here. Is that what we do? I can’t remember.”

CHEZZA rises and walks briskly toward the frozen demonic features of the blue wall.

CHEZZA
Yes, it’s what we do. I suspect there is a good reason why we can’t remember what happened to the thing that Uncle brought through. There’s also a significant amount of data from my time with the Necromancer that we simply aren’t accounting for. Which of course begs the question of whether or not I’m me, as you think of me, or if I’m something else entirely.

ERASMUS
Well, are you?

CHEZZA
I certainly seem to be, but I’m a lot else besides. What’s a demon anyway? Something who’s existence stands in opposition to the basic assumptions of reality. An agent of entropy, a rejection of morality, an elemental embodiment of a counter-ethos. We’re all of those things at various times, aren’t we? We let E.L.I.S. put something in us. Do you really know what that was? How did it change us? Are our memories correct? Have they ever been? What is you and what is me?

ERASMUS
We’re just made up of all the bits that we’ve collected over time. It was very important for me to get you back. But since then, maybe we’ve been collecting other things? Other us’s? Is that what you mean? E.L.I.S. is like the demons because she’s a collective entity. We’re like ELLIS for the same reason. So we’re a demon?

CHEZZA
Except…

CHEZZA gestures towards the wall with it’s frozen horrors.

ERASMUS
Except we’re better at sorting out the harmful from the useful.

CHEZZA
So far. Which brings us to our next choice.

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Found in the crew quarters...

Ser Dr. Caitlyn Hamilton-Smythe
Chief Science Officer of H.M.S. Venture
Franklin Chair of Metaphysics
Queens College, New Amsterdam, Crown Province of New York

On the Cosmological Underpinnings and Ramifications of what is being called the Infinite Probability or Skip Drive.

The standard Electro-Gravitic Wormhole drive operates along the well-known principle of collapsing the z axis Space-time into a singularity, allowing for vessel to travel long distances instantaneously (from the reference point of the outside universe. It is also known that time passes whilst in the vortex, along the lines of the Square by distance law – with intermediary gravity permutations causing variance within the connection.). The Probability drive operates along a completely different set of principals.

We have long known about the Membrane structure of the multiverse and how each main node spawns infinite tangential instances throughout their life-cycle. What is interesting is the fact that these ‘branes’ are in actuality substrata of the whole. Each ‘brane and its instances can be considered a ’Someplace’. These Someplaces exist within the context of what the popular press is calling the ‘Everyplace’. Further, in between each Someplace is a layer of what we are further calling the ‘Noplace’. The way the Probability drive works is it connects to Someplace coordinates via the Everyplace metastructure. The containment unit of the probability drive would then ‘transition’ to the Everyplace and then instantly coalesce within the target Someplace covering the distance. Ergo the energy requirement for the operation may actually be cheaper than the standard wormhole drive, as the vessel would transition instantly without altering spacetime instead of folding the Z-axis as is traditional.

Our proposal is to construct a science vessel to conduct a test jump using this drive methodology. Such a process would require an antimatter reactor capable of generating……… (descends into hundreds of pages of mathematics, links to other literature and analysis of lab and remote platform experimental results)..

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From the diary of Harper O'Dell

Entry One
So there we was. Enjoyin’ a new batch of tea – this week with some mango from the grove down the back’a’ways and some mint from the Solway community plot. Ma, Dad, Pappy, little Jim. It was almost a perfect day. A truck done drove up and out came a giant of a man. Dad went and ran over and started yellin’ at all of us to run. Then there was a shot rung out and he fell. I hit the dirt and started scramblin’ in the door. Ma went down next. Little Jim tried to grab Pappy but he took a couple of rounds too. So I ran. Ran with Pappy’s eyes on me sayin’ “go child. We’ll be fine.” I knewed that was a lie. So I ran. I ran down the hallway as splinters danced in the sunlight. I ran as I got to the safe room as I heard the livin’ room blowed up, flames kissin’ my cheek. I ran down the ladder and pulled the hatch closed knowing there ain’t noone gonna follow me down here in a game of chase Harper never no more cause I could smell the smoke, and feel the shakes, and knew nobody ain’t gonna catch me again.

Entry Two
So I waited a couple of days eatin’ old Z-bars and pickles, but realized that I couldn’t stay hidden forever. So I went out the side door and took a looksee. I crept out onto the hill in the back forty which gave me a good view of Solway and the River. I done saw that the Solway walls were down and the town was burnin. The interestin’ thing was that it looked like a 3 way fight; the Bigg’uns in their trucks vs the Town vs some camo guys on the bridge. At the end of it all the Bigg’uns got into the town and the ridge blowed up. I decided that was enough ta watch, knowin’ my friends probably just got et, so I went to the garden, filled the ’barrow with veggies and eggs and went back into the bunker.

Entry Three
Two weeks. I’ve been doin’ nightly trips out – brought some of the chickens into the bunker. Ma and dad would’ve tanned my backside for that cause they poop all over everything so I keep ‘em in a old storage room. The hardest part was bringin’ in seed for ‘em to to et. But now I gots me some eggs every day for omelets, and I can mix in carrots and other veggies to keep it borin’ – so not always eatin’ Z-bars!.

I’ve also been wanderin’ a bit more. I found that the Bigg’uns have mooved in to the ruins of Cedar Bluff by The Crater and are fortin’ the place up. We used ot get tlots of traders on old 162, so that’s gonna get some bodies kilt.

I also buried the bodies. I didn’t want them to attract Coyotes. Or somethin’ worse.

Entry Four
Been watchin’ the soldiers across the river. Theys busy as beavers. Diggin and pilin’ dirt and puttin’ up towers and diggin’ some more. I wonder what they’s after?

Entry Five
It’s been a couple of months. Some strangers came by, promisin’ to take the fight to the Bigg’uns, and the soldiers. Been watchin’ em the last couple of days. They don’t seem the type to be killin’ for fun, so I’ll show them The Secret.

Entry Six
Just like that they got me guardin’ their rockets to use on the soldiers if things go to shit. Mr. Dwight seems an ok guy, and lookin’ ta help the stray kid (me). I hope he’s not a secret perv. They also did a bunch of crazy. I snuck out and watched Mr. Flyerman buzz the Bigg’uns to get ‘em all frenzied like and then Dwight teleported around pissin’ em off. I totally need to lern that! And then Gabriel got all sneaky and poked at the edges, but He’s not good enough to see and hear Harper, no siree!

They also snuck into the to ruins and got their magic thingy, but now they’re all excited about the blue cheese wedge. Especially when they saw “the assholes” dumping a bunch of expensive hitech into the river.

Entry Seven
Goodbye to the bunker! They’re takin’ me with them. I let out the chickens so they wouldn’t starve. And the goat I found too. I gave them the rest of the deer I’d jerked, bunches of ammo, pappy spare guns and the boxes of Z-Bars. Those things last forever. I’ll come back for the rest of the secret stash someday. I ain’t tellin them about the ‘college fund’, no way (why did dad call his stash a college fund anyway? What does that even mean?). Especially creepy genderless wierdo guy. Don’t trust anyone if you can’t tell which way they swing Ma always said, ‘cause they’re probably gonna go all pedo.

Entry Eight
PIRATES! WE GONNA BE PIRATES!

Entry Nine
So. That was wack. First there were what they called ‘meat mountains’ on the bridges and in the water and on the buildin’s around Chattanooga. I have no idea how that is even what. So the guys set up an ambush but they got ambushed by a meat thing just as the barge with the blue thing was showin’ up and so then the meat mountains where swinging from ropes and playin’ Cannonball! jumpin’ at the boats and there was rockets and mini-guns and what?! I cant’ even keep track of all of what happened.

Somehow Dwight teleported the big mech’ into the river, and the rest of the soldiers surrendered after most of their escort speeders blewed up.

Entry Nine
I don’t like hanging out near the blue thing. It gives me headaches.

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Scenes from Mr. Dwights Excellent Adventure
The fuck you say?

or, how I learned the past is full of Gaelic Elves, enchanted Olmec steam-golems and why are THOSE KOI ALWAYS SWIMMING IN A DAMNED CIRCLE NEXT TO THAT GAZEBO?!

fairy_circle_koi.jpg

“Why are we going to the Ice castle again?”

“Because it is where the Court of the Winter Queen is in Residence.”

“Winter queen.”

“Yes”

“As in fairytale ice queen princesses who command the Winter Court and all of that?”

“What?”

“Nevermind.”
Northern_Ice_fortress.jpg

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After the Muties, Hallucinations Galore
Mr. Dwight and Thorne are now sharing drugs

Khiron’s Journal-After the Muties

While recovering from the fight with the muties we were all surprised when Mr. Dwight rejoined the party. He had an interesting tale to tell.

It seems he had been teleported to some other place or time that was also the Tennessee valley but different. Apparently he allied himself with some of the folk there, including some Elves, which were fighting Olmecs and their steam statue golems. He made vague references to a magical substance called Corba that could be made in a variety of ways, including something about virgins and brooms. None of it made sense to me and as far as I know he might have passed out and hallucinated it all but, well, sure ok, Elves and Olmecs it is.

We healed up and the young girl rescued from the muties who is named Harper, helped guide us north towards Oak Ridge. Harper knew the region well and we quickly rode our motorcycles to what was once her village Solway. Having motorcycles apparently made Thorne freak out as he insisted we had left them on the boat. Hallucinations all around it seems, maybe they have been smoking the same weed.

Solway had been situated on the underside of what was once a bridge across the branch of the Tennessee river that separated this side of the river from Oak Ridge itself but the muties had destroyed both the bridge and the village itself.

While Mr. Dwight scouted the area with his drone I built a raft out of various scrap from the village and some felled trees and timber. Harper also revealed that her family made nitrate and had a large supply of it hidden nearby which she guided us to. They did indeed have a decent supply and enough other materials to make many bullets and some simple rockets even. The drone revealed that the Cavel’s mercenaries [ ed: Ryquist Caville, who has hired Edsel Farhad and his Blackbriar Mercenary Company ], which numbered about 100, had set up camp in the ruins of Oak Ridge Laboratories and were busily looting it, apparently intent on taking apart and salvaging a nuclear fusion reactor. They had several boats, a walled palisades and wooden tower defenses and looked to be well equipped and capable. Obviously a straightforward attack by our merry band would be right out of the question.

We returned to Harper’s foundry [ ed: survival bunker complex ] and proceeded to make several dozen rockets and other explosives for our eventual assault on the place. While I was working I heard Thorne cackling with glee about killing, slaughtering the mercenaries and the others discussing various ways to possibly steal the barge, attack the barge latter or possibly lure the muties up to Oak Ridge with a trail of claymores, she was quite delighted with the prospect of killing dozens of people with a joy that I can only say was… unusual. When I informed her that the rockets were unguided and unless supported by Mr. Dwight’s spells would cause much chaos but not so many fatalities she responded as if I had pissed in her breakfast cereal, which was both amusing and disturbing all at once.

In the midst of this rather frantic debate Mr. Dwight suggested that we find a dead scientist and Thorne use his powers to reveal where the Quantum Coupled Material that we came here looking for might be. This fortunately derailed the murderous thoughts Thorne was gleefully salivating over and he quickly found such a spirit, one Dr. Pembleton. Dr. Pembleton was very well informed and told us that we could find the materials in the old Computer lab and they were quite portable. The Computer lab itself was inside the compound that the mercenaries had made but was not their interest at that time, sort of off in the back and ignored. Dr. Pembleton also suggested we could make our way through the old steam tunnels to get to the Computer room which seemed like a wise suggestion that would minimize our chance of encountering guards. This and the fact that we can now all percieve Rowena only makes me wonder if Thorne’s madness is not somehow contagious but what the hell, its a fun ride.

At this point talk returned to possible scenarios that might possibly somehow allow us to acquire both the QCM and the fusion reactor, which all seemed really preposterous to me but heh, they were all enjoying the argument, let them run with it.

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Stealing Quantums or I'm Unique, love me!

After loads of debate, we decided on a plan. Sort of. The first part of a plan, that if it doesn’t go completely shit, we’ll maybe do a second part that involves getting the fusion reactor.

So, part the first. Sneak into the “compound”, go into the steam tunnels – thus circumventing most of the Fat man tall man mercs – use Dr. Pendleton’s memory to find the quantum computer whatever, steal it, sneak back out, then maybe do part two, which is summon Mutant trolls to murder the mercs and/or steal there boat and laugh at them as we run off with it. Easy peasy.

So to do this, Gabriel determined that we needed to sneak through a “parking structure” which apparently is a great big bloody square building, a bit like a fortress, where the pre-bomb people chucked their cars when they weren’t using them. Because they all had one, like, all of them. Sometimes more than one. Nutters.

So getting through that was a bit of a trick because it had a thing that could sense us and raised an alarm which summoned guards, but Gabriel hid from them. Lucky that we’ve got new improved future Marcel now. Arden used his flying dog robot to spoof the eye sensor thing and Bob’s your uncle. We snuck through the garage. Then there was an overly long bit about not wanting to open doors because they would be loud and obvious to the guards atop the fortress.. erm, garage. So Gabriel spent a lot of time sneaking around to find a vent opening, broke it open, snuck through it, almost got chopped up by a fan, etc. We followed him in – am I the only one who thinks all this was more attention drawing than jimmying a door? – into a power plant thing, I think? We found another locked door and everyone treated it like it was covered in poison and spawning demons with their mum’s faces on. So I used my handy dandy lockpicking skills to bust it open. Because I’m the master of unlocking things, didn’t you know?

We definitely haven’t ever picked a lock prior to that. How did you do it? This requires study.

We’ll get to that, but I’ve always been great at locks, everyone knows that.

So, lots of stairwells and avoidance later, another heroic lock-picking and voilà, Quantum whatever room. Quantum material computers apparently are comprised of two bits that are actually one bit, but you can look at them separately. Something about entanglement. I get the sense that they’re like two versions of the same thing but from different realities, like Marcel, except they’re somehow both in this reality. Dunno how they’re made. They’re housed in some kind of goo and here are on opposite sides of a room.

We spent a bit of time worrying at how to get both things. Then Arden just scooped one up. Except! Except that when he did, we could see Marcel on the other side of the room picking up the other one in a sort of reality bubble. When others stepped near the Quantum what we saw other versions of them. Gabriel’s a lady and dead sexy in the other place, Olis is friendly looking and not grizzled. I’m… nothing. When I stepped close there wasn’t another me. Which really just confirms something that I’ve suspected for a while now! Chezza?

Pertaining to the mortality inducing incident caused by our uncle’s ritual, Erasmus and my memory is hazy about certain details. We each remember dying as the entity used us as a door. We each remember arriving at the house later and being inhabited by the other’s spirit. We each remember parts of our magical training and our time as a highwayman. It is unclear who died and who lived. One possible explanation for this might be that when the ritual of summoning went wrong, the fabric of reality was torn. Imarcel/Arden’s existence seems to suggest that in each reality, there is the potential for another version of a given entity, existing simultaneously. Without knowing the vastness of the Multiverse, it is impossible to say how many versions of a given entity exist across how many dimensions. During the botched summoning ritual, I postulate that somehow, “Thorne” became a unique being, unmirrored in other places but touching upon each, having something of each possible Erasmus or Francesca that were somehow destroyed or “consolidated” when the merging occurred. This would explain our propensity for thoughts and ideas, even memories that don’t seem to belong to us. It would explain spontaneous lockpicking, and the fodder for Erasmus’s endless prattle. It would also suggest there may be significantly more living in here that we previously reckoned.

Or it could just be some weird shit that we don’t have an explanation for. Either way. I like feeling special, so I’m going with Chezza’s theory. Anyway, we got the stuff. There was a weird moment where we pulled cases and things from the other reality, but everything just sort of seemed to resolve itself into one once we put both inside their cases. Best not to think to hard about that. Now to just steal the Fusion generator and we’re set. To do something.

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Fort Braggadacio
Mr. Dwight, Ardin, Thorne, Khiron, and Olis

The Ritual of Sending, brought me back home. At least I thought so, though it appeared that more time had passed for me than for my companions. And like the shit we had experienced back in the bank tower at the start of this mess, I wasn’t able to touch anything in a permanent way. It also seemed like I was both a couple seconds ahead of everyone and at the same time a couple of seconds behind. Which meant that nothing I was doing was making anything happen – other than giving me a fucking headache. Caeliharo, the elf wizard with all the feathers back in Tir Na Nog, had warned me that it might take a bit for me to return to phase. Whatever the fuck that was, I was certainly experiencing it now. And like a giant E string strummed and then stilled, I was.

We were on the cycles in the woods not far from where they had rescued the little bridge girl, Harper, from the two mutie bros. Khiron looked like shit, but ready. Everyone else seemed to be slightly confused. I like that nothing fucking phases Khiron. Olis, was pissed, like usual – probably something Thorne had done. And the new fellow, whom Thorne was convinced was a version of Sir Marcel, was introduced. I liked Sir Marcel. I really liked the way he just barely tolerated Thorne’s crap. Plus his motivations and drives were pretty easy to understand. Wasn’t sure about this new guy, or who the fuck he was. I knew that Marcel was gone, that fucking Olmec steam giant saw to that. Though to be honest I never saw the body. Still, something about this new guy’s eyes bothered me. Not sure what the fuck he saw – but it wasn’t what everyone else was seeing that was for damn sure. At least he wasn’t seeing dead people like Thorne. Everyone and the little girl filled me in on the muties and their compound at Lenoir. Also talked about the stone tower on Stowe Bluff and the chain across the Clinch. In my mind, the two felt like they belonged together somehow (more about that later).

The track north to Oak Ridge was pretty obvious to follow. All things considered Tir Na Nog was prettier: less snakes and vines, less venomous bugs and steamy jungle. As Thorne’s weird little ghost Ramona would say: a definite upgrade. I was already beginning to regret returning.

After a few hours we found the Clinch River Bridge, and Harper’s village, or at least what was left of it. Cotillion’s mercs had done a fine job of fucking it up. Weren’t a bridge no more. Weren’t a village neither – just a collection of burned out stone foundations and wreckage. It looked pretty fucking dismal. The Clinch was pretty big. We weren’t driving the cycles across it. We did find a bunch of wrecked and partially burned boats in the ruins. So that was promising – not that riding the cycles much further into Oak Ridge would be terribly stealthy. Thorne seemed to lose his mind during the discussion. Pretty much the usual tantrum when things aren’t going his way – I have a hard time distinguishing one from the next. Rather than cycling into the unknown, and probably merc infested nether shore – we opted to send the Nosy Cricket.

Well, Oak Ridge, and specifically the site marked on our map as the Oak Ridge National Laboratories, had not included the castrum. Yes, the mercs, and whoever was in charge had erected a fully functioning fort-upon-the-square, with towers, and gates, and a big ol’ dig site smack dab in the middle of the ORNL. Oh, and one of them new model Havoc Industries Bellicose model mechs decked out in Edsel’s favorite paint job (fucking candy apple red with shiny brass highlights). The fort differed from the standard Roman field-guide in that the utter ruin of Oak Ridge took up one quarter and they hadn’t managed to encircle all that. But still a fine job executed professionally. Had to admire their fucking pluck. They appeared to be operating a dig within the castrum and to be pulling all manner of ancient devices from the underground ruins. Said items were being placed on a ginormous barge in the middle of the mercenary flotilla.

[Insert what seemed like fucking hours of debate]

When I mentioned I wondered where them mercs stored their dead guys – cause any collection of armed folk that large was bound to generate lifeless bodies – Thorne settled down some and we began looking around for some of the dearly departed. Managed to find the ghost of an Ancient scientist of some sort. He was very helpful and gave us all the intell he had on what the mercs were doing: mostly digging up an old fusion power plant (everybody wants one of these things). The stuff we wanted, quantum-coupled materials, was in a different part of the complex – no where near where the mercs were digging. He further indicated that the mercs buried their dead inside the walls of the castrum – we decided that a ghost recon mission probably wouldn’t be the best idea.

[Insert another endless debate about what to do next including muties, mercs, mines, barges, flotillas, frogmen, forts, ambushes, and steam tunnels]

Did some planning:

1. Introduce the muties to the mercs thereby causing a ruckus that would enable us to sneak into the steam tunnels in the ruins – the entrance to which is just barely within the walls of the mercenary built fort. We can mine a trail from Mutie-Town to the fort, lure the muties down the trail and sit back to watch the fireworks. This plan has some pluses and minuses. But feels generally less dangerous than taking on either the muties or the mercs by ourselves.

2. Sneak into the steam tunnels and find the quantum-coupled McGuffin. It is thought to not be too large and portable. As this involves sneaking, there are some inherent dangers, as the only individual in the party capable of sneaking past shit is Gabriel.

3. Wait for the flotilla to load all the fusion power plant stuff and depart, then ambush it from a convenient spot on shore. This has some inherent drawbacks in that none of us are naval admirals for shit. But it allows us to have Edsell and company do all the hard work and then we steal his stuff in the time honored tradition of Scrappers everywhere. Khiron thought that rigging some nice rockets and other fun surprises would be totally do-able given the munitions we found at Harper’s bunker (which I failed to mention above as a place we visited and found lots of neat toys).

I reckon as soon as we revisit any of these plans, they will all fucking change.

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Veteran of a Thousand Psychic Wars
Ardin, Khiron, Thorne, Gabriel

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

After what seemed too long a time during which Gabriel and Khiron debated swimming back down into the flooded stairwell to seek the fate of their missing companions, Thorne broke the surface. As the enviro-bubble about hir’s head broke away, Thorne was babbling about the death of Ser Marcel and something about an imposter, but was clearly exhausted from the struggle of freeing hirself. Floating beside Thorne was the faint outline of a ghost—later we found out that it was the shade of the “hacker girl” Ramona—herself rambling on about quantum this and event-horizon that.

Gabriel spoke a few soothing words to them both to try to get them to calm down enough to tell the tale, at which time another person emerged from the roiling waters. Turning back the company was face to face with Ser Marcel, only not as we knew him. His clothing and gear were bizzarely sleek and light, gleaming with lights and thrumbing with soft power. HIs face was indeed that of Ser Marcel, but the eyes seemed much older somehow. He introduced himself as "Ardin’ and said that Ser Marcel had left—Thorne insisted he was utterly destroyed by the vortex of power—and that he himself was from another plane, planet, and time. In fact, he claimed to be a time-traveler.

Eventually it was decided that it didn’t really matter if Ser Marcel and Ardin were the same person or not: one was here, the other was not and there was still no sign of Mr. Dwight or the artifact that had begun the whole episode. Outside Chattanooga was a scene of utter chaos and madness. Many of the “zombies” evaporated, while others merged into hideous giants. The fading power of the leylines was still a maelstrom, and Thorne said the maddened sprits were only just beginning to realize they were free. It was unclear if the magic storm would linger for days or week or longer, but it was ever-so-slowly fading.

Making contact with the Bessie Bell informed the party that Justice and Olis were safe, but that Mr. Dwight had not made it all the way out to the boat or contacted them. The storm was still too strong to safely approach by boat, and that we would have to wait a while for it to calm down before he could fetch us. While the lower-levels of the building were still inaccessible, a search of the rest of the floors did not locate Mr. Dwight. Khiron was disappointed to see that time had ravaged the contents of the building including our cache of salvage when the wards fell, but he dutifully picked through the remains and saved what he could.

Strangely at several places in the building, there were signs of Mr. Dwight’s passing. In one corner we found a message in his handwriting: “Where the fuck are you? -D”. At that point, Ardin touched the wall and a faint vision of the past swirled into view showing Mr. Dwight looking somewhat tired and hungry writing the message in the same room but with much less age showing on the walls. Thorne spoke at length with Ardin about ‘timey-whimy’ things which at least made the work of the search more entertaining. Eventually Ardin assured us that Mr. Dwight would find us.

After a fitful night in the howling winds of the high floors and a less-than-fruitful search, the company scaled down to the waterline to board the Bessie Bell. Justice was quite keen not to leave Mr. Dwight behind, and it look some time to convince him with the aid of Ardin’s “time sense” that he was safe and would catch up. Chattanooga was still not a safe place to linger, so reluctantly he agreed and the journey up-river continued. While there were no longer hordes of zombies throwing themselves off bridges as the boat passed, several of the ‘meat mountains’ did hurl wreckage in our wake.

Further up the Tennessee the Bessie Bell put in to the village of Woodland Groove. The week spent dealing with Chattanooga left the company in need of supplies, and a night in a dry bed and a meal was welcome respite. With worry about Mr. Dwight and the fate of Ser Marcel still weighing upon them, there was little discussion with the locals and the evening passed quietly.

Traveling further up-river, Khiron spotted a structure at a fork ahead, one that seemed hastily but sturdily built. Furthermore, signs of a chain in the water lay across our intended direction of travel. Wary of a trap, Gabriel piloted the other branch and then put in the Bessie Bell well out of sight. The group disembarked and made their way overland to investigate the structure. It was indeed a fortification and was manned by the same well-armed mercenaries Gabriel had spotted further down-river in the employ of Mr. Dwight & Khiron’s former patron from Gateway City. Deciding stealth was the better approach, the party continued their travel south with plans to travel to Knoxville and then overland to Oakridge in the hopes of bypassing further sentinels on the river.

The main threat on the overland route was said to be ‘muties’ which turned out to be to Gabriel and Thorne’s eyes a village of trolls. Some festival kept the bulk of them occupied, but as the party attempted to skirt them they encountered a pair about to dine upon an innocent girl. Khiron bravely rushed to the rescue, but was injured in payment for his virtue. Ardin and Gabriel brought down the trolls but it was a messy, nasty job as the creatures were ultimately only destroyed by Thorne’s fire spirits after many long minutes.

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