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The Liquor Cabinet => Forum Roleplaying => Beyond the Stellar Sphere => Topic started by: Zach on September 24, 2016, 10:55:29 AM

Title: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on September 24, 2016, 10:55:29 AM
I had a good feeling about this one too.

Boots echoing on the steel floors, Zen stalked the hallways of the abandoned mining facility.  The previous owners had left life support intact--a good sign that they intended to return in the future.  Which could mean treasure, legendary or not.  There was certainly plenty to find out here in the belt.  But he was seeing no sign of anything here but mining equipment that was more expensive to transport than just make another of.  He'd settle for something he could repurpose for himself, his ship, or his partner.

Speaking of...  "Have you found a map of this place yet?"
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on September 24, 2016, 11:45:30 AM
With that, the small screen on Zen's wristpiece lit up: a three-dimensional map of the facility, holographic and projectable from the device. The map was certainly weird, though. Too small, at least by the looks of the place from the outside, wide and dug into the asteroid its crew was to be mining.

"I don't like it, Zen," said the man's partner, co-pilot, and apprentice, Qara Agilos, "The only map I can find ignores the asteroid's surface. The place is dug in deep, and that can't all just be foundation."

Back on the ship, the scrawny girl floated in her cabin, red holograms surrounding her. She had the station's map laid out and zoomed in, something she could use to be in Zen's position, to see what he should be seeing (according to the data she'd taken from the station), and help him navigate as needed. The artificial gravity was shut down on the ship at the time. Fuel was . . . costly. Something worth saving by shutting down unnecessary systems when they were docked like this.

"Are you sure this place isn't manned right now?"
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on September 24, 2016, 12:24:02 PM
"Didn't see any other ships here, did you?"  He examined the map, turning at different angles to confirm his suspicions.  "Are you sure you got the right map?  There should be a mining tunnel right about here, and I'm not seeing it on this thing.  Unless..."

He made his way down the hall on the outer edge of the facility, the magnets in his feet letting him walk almost as though there was gravity.  Almost.  He entered one a room filled with lockers--for mining gear no doubt, and if it was like the last few he checked they'd all be empty.  This time he set his sights on the airlock across from it.  "What do you suppose the chances are that if you open this, there's nothing but unmined rock on the other side?"

He was beginning to have a hunch about this place.  One that meant something very good could be here.  Either that, or something very, very bad.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on September 24, 2016, 12:57:07 PM
"The graphic invention of Zen-bits, the hottest new breakfast food this side of the asteroid belt, yes," Qara remarked, "Unmined rocks, no."

Because that airlock wasn't on any maps of the place. As soon as Zen noted seeing something she wasn't, she hijacked his camera, blew up the image, and floated it by her right. This airlock was new, newer than this station. And it was hardwired, the best way to keep a Wyrd out of your system. She did a quick scan of what Zen could see.

"Hardwired and, by the looks of it, rigged to blow. See that orange card stuck over the console?" Qara uploaded a zoomed in shot of it to Zen's wristpiece, "Whatever's past this, it's more important to them destroyed than in someone else's hands. You need to figure out a way to disable that card and get me inside that console."
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on September 26, 2016, 08:15:54 AM
"Disable the card?  Easy."

Zen extended his arm towards the orange card; it shouldn't be too much trouble, in plain sight as it was, but he bumped the settings in his arm up just to be sure.  When he was fairly certain it was enough to pass through any shielding the card could have at that size, he fired.  An intense amount of magnetism was released from his limb, having two effects: one, the card popped and fried before it had the chance to send a detonation signal.

Two, it sent him tumbling backwards, breaking the magnetic lock his feet had on the floor and bouncing his lightweight frame off of the walls a few times before his momentum slowed to a more controllable level.  "...Right, just as I planned."
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on September 26, 2016, 09:27:39 AM
"Good job, Zen," Qara began, "You disabled the explosive. You also destroyed the console beneath it. Now I absolutely can't open the airlock, jacked in or not. You're going to have to find another way."

Hardwired systems were always a pain. A Wyrd can't get in conventionally. No wireless communication happens with them at all. Back on Old Earth, they called them closed networks. The system hadn't fundamentally changed in the past five centuries, only new modifiers here and there. A Wyrd could only get in with a direct connection of some kind; a chip or adapter applied to the system, something the Wyrd could speak to, would give them full access to the closed network.

This console wasn't going to do it, though. Not anymore. Over half a millennia, and computers and magnets still didn't get along.

"You know, if you need me to be the competent one out there, we can switch places anytime."
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on September 28, 2016, 06:55:02 AM
"Sure Qara, next time I find a bomb you can come on down and plug right into it."

She likely just being her usual sarcastic self, since doing any kind of hacking on a bomb could backfire spectacularly; anything remotely computerized would have some kind of defense against being tampered with.  And while Qara was good, Zen wasn't sure she was ready for a task where she either succeeded or exploded.  Especially with her sometimes spotty focus.

"Wanted to find another entrance anyway; this was one was too easy to get to, and that probably wasn't the only trap that way either."

Whatever was going on here, if they left the station mostly intact they were planning on returning at some point, which meant there was likely a less dangerous entrance.  Something better hidden. 

"Can you ping my location on that map you sent?  I want to see just how wrong it is."
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on September 28, 2016, 03:12:44 PM
Qara lit up a point on the map projected from Zen's wrist: a little dot just barely outside of the station. By the looks of it, he should have been standing out in open void, and also very dead. But only barely. And only when he stood near the airlock. In addition, she blew up a picture of what Zen could see, set it as an overlay atop the official map she had blown up and surrounding her, and updated Zen's map with it. That way, he could look through all he'd seen previously, possibly note any clues or off details that he might've passed over, rather than backtracking. It was a neat trick she'd thought up awhile ago, a way to simulate a Wyrd's augmented memory for someone without such an augment.

She also set a ping down the hall a ways, gave it a label: Airlock C3. Beyond it, there was nothing. Just the rocky environment of the asteroid.

"Just in case you're out of bright ideas, I've marked another airlock on your map. You should find exosuits hanging nearby. If all else fails, you can go for a space walk."
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on September 28, 2016, 06:31:15 PM
"Oh, I have plenty of ideas.  First and foremost, finding a door without a bomb."

The other airlock was an option, but one he preferred to leave for later; chances are if the one he was at was trapped that one would be as well, at least if it led anywhere interesting.  Space walking was another option, but one he wasn't a fan of either; he'd be in even more danger if he hit any traps while relying on an exosuit.  No, his preference was to find whatever entrance was actually meant for use.

To that end, after remagnetizing himself to the floor, he left the airlock and started making his way along the outer hall of the facility, peering at the map and periodically rapping his synthetic knuckles on the wall.  He might not find anything, but then again you never knew when you were discover a hollow wall.

"Ugh, the resolution on this thing was not meant for detailed maps.  Qara, I'm looking for a room on the outer edge of this fake or out-of-date map that's claims it's something so mundane or dangerous that no wanderer would even want to look into it.  Garbage disposal, or hazardous waste storage, something along those lines.  That'll be where our entrance is, I bet.  Well, the one that isn't rigged to explode."
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on September 28, 2016, 06:58:06 PM
"Waste disposal it is," she said flatly, "Should be right up your alley."

She made note of a room on Zen's map. It was right behind the men and women's washrooms, going up as far as to intersect with the backside of the mess hall. It was a long room, mostly filled with pipes, each about large enough for a human to shimmy through, from which funneled all manners of waste, all to be ejected out into space from the northernmost part of the room. That was maintained via a simple airlock; when open, all manner of waste coming from the washrooms and mess hall would be violently thrown into space. When closed, which it currently was, waste collected into the main pipe, awaiting ejection.

If nothing else, the company could be blackmailed for egregious failures to adhere to stellar waste disposal laws. But that wasn't the prize either Zen or Qara were looking for, here.

Paradoxically, a pipe led into the room that wasn't on the map. One that went through an eastern wall, out the same way as the previously encountered booby-trapped airlock, where nothing was supposed to exist, according to the maps. There was an access port that could be opened nearby, and crawling through the waste disposal pipe seemed the only way to continue following it into the unmarked side of the station.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on September 29, 2016, 07:03:08 PM
"On my way," Zen replied, choosing to ignore the comment.  He was too excited to care about Qara's barbs at the moment; he was close to finding whatever was here, whether it was something lucrative, dangerous, or both.  A quick trip through waste disposal and he'd be able to see just what.  Though  it was a good thing that he'd already confirmed that there was more facility than met the eye; he wouldn't put it past Qara to try and trick him into jettisoning himself into space for a laugh.

Waste disposal was an ill-maintained mess, and he suspected this was the case even before the facility was abandoned.  It led credence to the idea that the mining facility was meant to be a front, not a real functioning platform.  Though it was also possible that they just had poor maintenance standards.  You could never tell with some of these start-up mining ventures.  Thankfully, at least the abandonment meant any human waste was long gone; all that was left was garbage and rust.  He considered turning the filters on in his helmet, but he wasn't about to waste air over terrible smells.

Smells that only got worse when he pried open the waste pipe.  "Let it never be said this job is always glamorous," he said as he ducked into the pipe and began crawling through to the unmapped sector.

Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on September 30, 2016, 01:34:06 AM
"I rescind my offer to replace you, by the way," she noted, "I like this dress; I'd rather not to have to burn it."

Darks and warms were Qara's preferred colors, and the everyday dress she liked--the one she'd bought last week, borrowing money from Zen that she claimed was going towards some kind of necessity--fit the combination exactly. More specifically, it was dark grey and orange. Matched her hair, was just colorful enough that it didn't hit on that black-and-red taboo.

Forty feet and smells Zen might have to burn away later, there finally came a hatch that opened out into the unmapped portion of the station. This room was quite small, just an access chamber to the sanitation line, but past one of the doors out, it was easy to find the other side of the airlock that previously vexed Zen. Unlike the mapped side of the station, which remained in low power, this unmapped side was almost completely shut down. Not even the glowing red emergency lights flared. An icon on Zen's wrist computer lit up, indicating low oxygen. There was some, but not enough for sustained life support. And it certainly wasn't filtered.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on October 03, 2016, 08:04:17 AM
"We might have to if we run out of fuel because of you," Zen grumbled.  For the time being, all necessary purchases were being made by him, and would last at least until Qara stopped being smug about using their money on a dress instead of supplies.

His decision to save his oxygen proved to be wise when he finally found a hatch and climbed out into the mysterious sector, discovering there was no air filtering through the place; he was forced to start using his helmet's internal supply, which was limited.  He could go quite a bit longer without air than a normal human, but not "explore an abandoned complex" long.

With the power almost completed gone, and the only illumination came from from the light on his helmet.  He hoped there was at least enough running to open the doors, or exploring this part of the facility was going to get tiring fast.  Fortunately, it opened with minimal coaxing, and he found himself on the other side of the airlock.  He started to consider what he'd encountered so far;  an airlock with an explosive...a sector not on the map, completely shut down...it was exciting, but...

It told a story.  Ultimately, that's what treasure hunting was about: stories.  No one went to great lengths to hide anything without an interesting reason behind it.  Illegal activities, secret treasure, abandoned complexes and ruins...the key to figuring out what you were encountering wasn't being a tech genius, or an unmatched pilot, or a skilled marksman or fighter--though those certainly helped.  But no, ultimately the key was to pick up the clues to the story you were following and let that inform you of where to go, what to do...

...and what precautions to take.  "Qara, get the ship warmed up, we may need to make a quick exit.  And turn the local scanners on; if you see anything approach from in here that isn't me, either lock everything down or take off, whatever you think is safer."

Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on October 03, 2016, 08:42:07 AM
That gave Qara pause. She made sure all of Zen's readings were set up in front of her. The oxygen content (or lack thereof), geiger counter, all of it. Without a thought, she did as he asked: powered on local scanners and made sure all engines were running and ready for a swift takeoff. It was as mindless to her as lifting a finger. Zen's ship may as well have been an extra limb. Something had to be wrong for him to take such a precaution. Take off without him, if all went wrong. That she might have to was worrying.

". . . Are you sure we should still be here, Zen?" she asked with a hesitant breath, "If it might be too dangerous . . ."

There was no point in him risking his life. If he found something worth money, then they'd stay afloat for longer, but if he got himself killed, then that was it. She had nowhere else to go.

The unmarked side of the station lacked much for directions. A room to access to waste management, the airlock entrance, a bathroom, and a very long hallway that connected them all. There were no signs indicating which room was which, as if the only people with access to this place were intimately familiar with it. No visitors, no guests. A corridor that connected to this hallway lead to a set of stairs, one that went straight down to somewhere beneath the surface of the asteroid. It was still vacuum sealed, but about halfway down, metal ended and rock began. Lights were dug into the ceiling of the tunnel, each one connected by loose and dangling wires, though they were currently inactive. At the bottom of the rock tunnel, some twenty meters down, was another airlock. This one, however, didn't seem to be armed to explode.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on October 03, 2016, 09:05:43 AM
"Don't know if it's dangerous yet, but..."

With everything unmarked, he was forced to check the rooms one at a time.  Not that he would've have checked them if they were marked, but he tended to be a little less careful if he was walking into a restroom as opposed to a factory floor.  His searches didn't turn up anything interesting on this floor, for better or worse.

"Why change the map when it's obviously not right?  Why leave that section on almost no power when the rest of the building gets emergency lighting?  Because you're not trying hide it; you're not intending to come back to it, so you treat it like it doesn't exist."

As he descended the stairs, the facility more or less ended and tunnels began.  This where they were working, where they were digging before everything was abandoned.  They'd wired everything up for excavation, lighting, doors, but now it was all disabled; except, maybe, for the airlock door at the end of the tunnel.

"If you're going to trap a door, why do you place the trap on the outside of it, where anyone who comes across it can find it?"

Before he continued, he investigated the tunnel carefully, making sure there were no side tunnels that would be easily missed with the only light coming from his helmet.  When he was satisfied that the only ways into or out of the tunnel were back the way he came and the airlock before him, he checked his gear--mostly simple tools, useful for tinkering with equipment or making simple repairs.  No real weapons to speak of--he was weapon enough for most opponents, if it came to that, and not carrying a weapon helped avoid fights with the paranoid.  Deciding he was as prepared as he was going to get, he approached the airlock.

"The answer is, because you're not trying to keep people out." 

He couldn't help but grin; this was the feeling he was hooked on.  Standing on the threshold, that moment of discovery.  He might end up rich.  He might up dead.  He was likely to end up running for his life.  But there was only one way to find out.

"You're trying to keep something in."

He pressed the button to open the airlock.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on October 03, 2016, 09:34:23 AM
Qara increased the range bands of local scanners and filtered for carbon in the area. Life. Machinals, Wyrds, Specialis, all these offshoots of humanity, some biologically enhanced, some mechanically enhanced, but all contained a significant amount of carbon. Even droids burned carbon. She shut her eyes and forgot herself, focused everything in her being into the search. She couldn't take the chance. If Zen wasn't alone down there, she needed to know. He needed to know.

She hadn't yet told him what that meant, that it might seem like she's gone, that he was in the dark with no support, or that she was still there in spirit. There was a lot about Wyrds like her--full Wyrds--that Zen didn't know, and that she'd yet to divulge.

The first thing to greet Zen was the stench. A human stench. Every human stench. The second thing to greet him was the room, built within a massive chamber carved out from within the asteroid. It was a wide corridor-like room, circular and connected, wrapping around a central chamber. There were two airlocks into the central chamber, one from the front and one from behind, and both seemed to be locked. Within the circular room were a myriad of windows, all looking into the central chamber, but were all fogged up. All that could be seen from them was the red glow beyond. This observation room seemed to be running on some measure of emergency power, with computers lining almost every free space. There was obviously one main terminal, given the size of it and how it faced the largest observational window to the central chamber.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on October 03, 2016, 01:13:10 PM
The dead air hit him like a wave, causing Zen to briefly recoil.  The stench permeated even through his (currently sealed) helmet, far stronger than anything that had been in the waste disposal.  Blood, decay, waste--in short, the stench of death.  People had died in here, though he didn't immediately see any corpses.  Were they hidden?  In the chamber?  Or had this place been without airflow for so long that even with the sources long removed the smell remained, stuck to every surface?

"They have power here," he murmured.  That was strange; the power seemed shut off leading up to this place, all the wiring inactive.  There must have been a generator down here somewhere; either that, or there was some other connection the main facility that was running power to here.  Emergency lighting lit the room, along with the red glow of whatever it was observing.

Zen took a quick stroll around the room, confirming its circular nature and that there were to entrances to the center--both locked.  He couldn't see inside, and unless he was lucky enough that one of the consoles had a still-working camera he likely wasn't going to unless he found a way to open the doors and ventured inside himself.  He double-checked that his helmet's sensor were detecting radiation of any kind; if whatever was in there wasn't machinery, it at least wasn't radioactive enough to affect the observation room.

What it was, though, was still a good question.  One he hoped the main console could answer for him, along with why this facility was abandoned and why it smelled like an entire research team had died in here.

Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on October 03, 2016, 01:57:46 PM
The console lit up at Zen's touch, now filling the room with a dim glow. While the station was reportedly owned and operated by Corban Resource Solutions, this console seemed to indicate something else. No name, just a symbol: a hollow diamond with a razor blade cut through it. The main terminal connected to all terminals in the room, each marked as observation terminal A through G. The main terminal seemed accessible by administrator only, a Dr. V, and though it should have been locked, it wasn't. Almost like Dr. V never bothered to lock the terminal before . . . whatever happened here.

There were a number of researched documents there, but a laboratory study was immediately available. A program, still active, with options to observe the experiment in process within the chamber. The elapsed time for the experiment thus far was three years, four months, and twenty-six days. Notes on the experiment in progress were accessible from the program, as well as camera feeds of the experiment, though none of them were open at the moment.

"Carbon -- decayed, passed, immobile, death -- within, beyond, a sphere? a sphere, something there, pulling? pulling at me? carbon but not: surrounded by dead," came Qara's voice in an ethereal monotone, "wants me? needs me? let it in?"

Qara, unable to speak in such a trance-like state, offered a feedback of thoughts through Zen's headset, communicating directly from her mind to his earpiece, the stream of (disjointed) consciousness and the monotonous rattle all indicative that something was preventing her from the sort of cognisance to speak consciously.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on October 04, 2016, 10:57:21 AM
"Do not let it in!" Zen commanded, the authority in his voice undercut by the lump rising in his throat.  Damn stupid girl!  If he had even considered that she could Wyrd nonsense this far into the facility then he'd have ordered her to shut her damn brain off!  "This is some kind crazy, evil experiment that's killed people, you don't want it in your brain.  Until we know exactly what this is, back off, and don't even think about trying to tell me that you'll find out by linking your mind to it, or I will burn every last dress you own and you'll be wearing plain white jumpsuits for rest of your goddamned life."

Exactly how Qara, back in the ship, could project her consciousness all the way down here when every other Wyrd he'd known had to be pretty damn close (or risk bouncing their mind off a bunch of relays or something, an experience they definitely didn't like) was a question he didn't have time to consider.  Bracing himself for the worst, he attempted to get the camera feeds on the auxiliary terminals while he pulled up the notes on the main one; just because he wasn't a Wyrd didn't mean he couldn't multitask like a normal person.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on October 04, 2016, 11:54:46 AM
What followed was the sound of Qara gasping, coughing, fighting the urge to vomit, and the slightest sounds of sobbing between. Zen's shouting, commanding, drew her out of it. Made her remember herself. Coerced her to not let it in. There were tears running down her face, something she hadn't realized until she'd finally fought back to last of her nausea. She didn't have the time to warn Zen of what he'd see, of what she speculated was in there, or what she realized was trying to claw its way into her brain. By the time she got a hold of herself and her reality, he'd already checked the camera feed.

Bodies. An entire research team dead, all surrounding a small machine, long desiccated. Each body seemed in a wildly different state--and cause--of death. A death orgy surrounding the machine, bodies locked together in a bizarre intercourse, three bodies across from the others having beaten each other to death (before the "winner" beat his head against a wall until death), researchers huddled together in remorse, bodies still arched as they sobbed themselves 'til the end. All manners of emotion and human drives were on display, each somehow contributing to the team's demise.

In the middle of it all, as if on an alter, a small machine. It was roughly the size of a human finger, wired as if it connected to the nervous system.

The experiment notes, as written by Dr. V, were simple: testing the affect of the device on a Wyrd mind. Everything seemed to be going perfectly fine; they were able to subtly influence the emotional state of Dr. A, the volunteer. Dr. M decided it might be best to go against the original intentions of the experiment, and try for a stronger range of emotional influence: not just irritation or discomfort, but rage and remorse. They succeeded. The rest of the team took umbrage with M's interference, and the crew began to argue.

No other research notes followed, only automated warnings about both airlocks opening while the experiment was in progress. There were contamination warnings . . . and then, nothing. The experiment was never aborted, the device never shut down, even long after it drove them all to death.

And that is the point that Zen would feel something deep inside of him, a tickling against his back, where nothing should have been felt. Where the spine connected to the body, the replacement for a spine, that wormed its way up into the only original meat in Zen's body . . .
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on October 04, 2016, 06:12:58 PM
So that's how it was.  The experiment triggered a contamination warning, which in turn triggered a lockdown of the facility; his guess was those working in the main area never even knew what was down here, just that if something were to go wrong that they were to evacuate and not look back.  The map was probably altered in order to convince anyone looking around that the airlocks were just that: passageways onto the asteroid's surface.  And the bomb...he guessed someone's last ditch idea of extra insurance, given the way it slapped on the outside of the airlock rather than integrated with it.

But...something was wrong.  There was no way anyone would staff a research time entirely with Wyrds to test a device that was mentally affecting Wyrds; that would've been a special brand of stupid.  Which meant...

"Aww hell," he muttered as he felt a twinge in his spine.  He turned around, his first instinct being to assume it was...well, instinct, but the room around him was as lifeless as before.  And the feeling only continued to grow.

"I am not going out like this.  Okay, keep talking out loud, hearing my thoughts lets me control them, or so I'm going to hope.  Can I run?  How far does it reach?  Probably to around where the airlock was upstairs if that's where the locked everything off and shut everything down, so, pretty far.  Can I make it in time?  Not worth the risk, especially as if I'm already insane when I get out I'm just putting Qara in danger.  Okay, Plan B then--get in there and wreck it before it wrecks me.  That's the kind of plan I can work with.  Airlocks are locked, but I bet the main console opens them, just got to find the command."

A grin crept onto his face, and his voice started to crack with laughter.  "I'll be the joke of Machinals everywhere if go down to anti-Wyrd weapon."
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on October 05, 2016, 03:45:13 PM
"Zen," Qara gasped, her voice still choked with sobs, "If-- if you can sh-shut it down . . . without destroying it . . ."

It'd be worth something, right? No matter how much it had hurt and tried to invade her brain, Qara knew that this was the sort of thing Zen did this for. Treasure. Not all treasure was going to be harmless, but it was still treasure, right?

But ultimately, it was up to Zen.

The airlocks were unlocked. Must've been unlocked when experiment went awry. The device in the center of the room, upon any closer inspection (though that was going to be more difficult, as a haze of emotions was starting crawling across Zen's flesh: the rage, regret, lust, instinct, all of it starting to rake its claws through his mind), it seemed to be a prosthetic finger. A ring finger, left hand. The cords coming from it would have it wired into a hand, either directly linking with the nervous system, or linking up with a prosthetic hand that was already attached to nerves. Clearly it was something that could've been--was supposed to be--controlled by a singular holder, some weapon to directly influence the minds of Wyrds, but--

Machinals, too. Unintended, perhaps? The connections to the spinal cord gave it access, a slow, but inevitable crawl up the spine and into the brain. Indirect, perhaps, but Zen was experiencing it now.

What kept it active was a false nervous system, a series of wires winding up from the base of the "alter" on which it sat, directly linking with the device. Keeping it powered. It was fragile, but so were the wires keeping it active.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on October 05, 2016, 06:38:55 PM
"Shut it down...yeah...hahahaha..."

He stalked towards the airlock, laughing all the while.  How much would someone pay for this?  Enough that could he buy any ship on the market (and many off-market as well) and still have enough to live on for years.  He knew of nothing like this in the system; even the strongest Wyrd implant couldn't influence another Wyrd like this, let alone creep into Machinals as well.  Would it effect even an unmodified human?  A full droid?

No, he realized--that wasn't the way.  However much he could make by selling it paled in comparison to what he could do if he kept it.  He charm and trick his way into anywhere.  No vault was unassailable.  No person beyond his influence.  He'd be in legends for generations to come.

He could even accomplish what no amount of money could buy.  He could walk into the most fanatical Machinal stronghold and have them tear each other apart.  He could march into any corporation in the system and have corrupt executives feel the weight of every life they ruined, until they all took swan dives off the roof.  Any Martian that looked at him like he was trash would be crushed by the hollowness of their own existence.

Every act against him would be retaliated.  Every wrong he'd committed could be made right.  A manic sob escaped him.  Everything that went wrong in his life, everything that went wrong with him could be fixed.  All he needed to do was disconnect it.  Power it down, and it could all be his.

He stood before the pedestal, like a priest before an altar.  Heat radiated from his spine, a fire spread, a desire like nothing he'd ever felt before.  Oh, he hadn't even thought of the possibilities for his love life.  If no one could resist his charms he'd never need to lay alone in bed again.  Even on his ship, he had the intelligent, beautiful Qara...

Qara, whose sobs still echoes out of his earpiece.

The heat began to fuel rage.  Rage at himself, for now knowing that part of him wanted to be everything he hated most, and all it took was a mental push from a mechanical finger.  At the device before him, the evil emitted, and most of all at whatever twisted mind conceived of it in the first place.

"I...will not...BE CONTROLLED!" he screamed and, overriding every safety in his arm, blasted out enough magnetism to fry a small starfighters hull at the mechanical abomination in front of him.

And then Zenniker Kylos crumpled to the ground, like a puppet with its strings suddenly cut.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on October 05, 2016, 07:19:39 PM
By the time her choking, gagging, and coughing came to a stop, Qara heard Zen's desperate roar. There was a long silence, filled only with the pounding of her heart. No sound from Zen. She had to strain to even hear breathing.

"Zen?" she whispered.


"Zen? Zen, you . . . you have to answer me," she called out again, again with no response. Her feelings were still so raw. She felt her throat close up and body tense up, ready to start crying again.

But she forced through it. With all the willpower she had left, Qara made for absolute certain that she would not succumb to this feeling. This hopelessness. The emptiness that followed the device's invasion. She pushed off from the wall of her cabin, grabbed at the handholds along the walls of Zen's ship, and clambered her way to the airlock, where he'd docked with the station. Once in the station proper, she used a memory, one of the room in which the miners kept all their gear, to locate one of their autodrillers. She activated it remotely, the small drone soon floating in the weightlessness of the station. As Qara reached the airlock to the unmapped corridors of the mining station, she compelled the autodriller to her.

It was a simple device, a small drone about the size of a human head, with a set of four "arms" and a pneumatic drill in the center. It could extend those arms, latch onto a surface, and drill into spots that their human handlers might have difficulty reaching. She squinted at it, forcing its actions with her augmented mind, made it grab hold of the airlock near the bolts holding it in, and gnashed the drill harshly into them. One by one, she broke the bolts holding the airlock's door closed, and when it was done, compelled the drone to drill at the center of the doors until they broke open and floated away from her, giving her access to the unmapped space.

Beyond and beneath, deep within the tunnels these people drilled away for secrecy, she found Zen. Collapsed, unconscious, and laying upon the floor, the barest hint of gravity having eventually drawn him to the floor, just as it had the scientists years ago. The room was now different. Unlit. Every computer fried, monitors shut off for good. The device in the center seemed unchanged, but was inactive. Judging by the deadened lights and destroyed computers, she could only guess that Zen had obliterated the insides of every electrical device this side of the station.

Biting her lip and fighting the bile trying to rise to her throat once more, Qara lifted Zen into her arms, and began her ascent back to his ship.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on October 06, 2016, 07:07:24 PM
Zen was breathing, if lightly, his peaceful slumber in stark contrast to the manic emotional discharge he'd displayed before.  But he wasn't waking up.

Given the state of the room, it wouldn't be difficult to guess the problem: something in his mechanical body broke or shorted out from the massive magnetic discharge he'd unleashed on the area.  No doubt, even built for magnetic use and insulated as it was, there was a limit to what he could wield before it affected himself as well.  Chances were an attack of that magnitude hadn't been necessary to destroy the device, but then again he obviously wasn't in his right mind at the time.  In any case body was most likely running on minimal power, perhaps even emergency power only--just enough to keep him alive (if unconscious).

Fortunately, Zen was nothing if not prepared.  He kept all the tools necessary for maintenance of his frame on his ship, and even spare parts that he could reasonably store.  If the damage was completed devastating, it would be possible to repair him enough to at least wake him up, if Qara had the know-how for it.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on October 07, 2016, 09:35:13 AM
Qara didn't like what came next, but she'd been briefed on it, just in case. Zen's body was mostly machine, characteristic of the usual Machinal. Like other Machinals, he valued the sanctity of his brain. Though Qara had yet to ever hear him say it, it was telling that he was so willing to trade in everything else but the original pieces of his head. The only meat left on the man's body was that his of head and his neck. Below this, the machine bits replaced the bottom half of his spinal cord, and all bodily functions were otherwise rendered more efficient. Qara was one of the few who knew that Zen wore synthetic flesh over every inch of his body, and only because they lived on the same starship.

Once she'd gotten him back onto the ship, she had to take him into the medical bay, and go about the unnerving process of peeling away the false flesh around his upper chest and shoulders. There were a few bits that were EMP shielded, small life support modifications stuck close to the flesh. Emergency oxygen supply, nutritional sustenance, and blood circulation for the little meat that remained. EMP shielding was big and bulky, though. If Zen had pitched extra money to shield his whole body, he'd have doubled his size, and would absolutely be heavier than he preferred. The emergency life support bits, they were just enough so that if his body were hit with a powerful enough EMP, he'd only been reduced to unconsciousness, not killed from the sudden loss of a mechanized heart and lungs.

"Unconscious" might have been too light of a word. "Coma," perhaps, would be more appropriate.

Once the synthetic flesh was gone, Qara had to manually disengage Zen's shoulders from his torso. It had to be done from the front and back simultaneously, from the center of the chest and between the shoulderblades, using two small levers, each of them just a little too tight for the task to be easy. Starting at the base of his neck, Zen's detached head began to drift from his body. Qara caught it before it drifted too far, pulled herself closer to the Machinal life support section of the medbay, and hooked Zen into the external life support module. Nutrients, blood circulation, all of the necessities to keep Zen alive, even draw him out of unconsciousness after a certain point.

That was the easy part. The hard part came next: taking apart the rest of Zen's body, identifying everything he fried with that massive EMP, and manually replacing it all with the spare parts he had lying around the ship.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on October 09, 2016, 07:51:37 AM
Fortunately for Qara, Zen kept a set of instructions on repairing various parts of his body on the ship's computer with fairly detailed diagrams on how everything worked--the last he thing he wanted, he'd noted before, was to have something break down in space and not be able to repair it or get himself to someone who could.  Which begged the question on how he got by before Qara came along, but it was a question he'd been reluctant to give a straight answer to.

Eventually, as Qara repaired and replaced, she'd hear a raspy voice from nearby: "Well...isn't this pleasant."
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on October 10, 2016, 08:23:00 AM
"That's what happens when you fry out everything," Qara replied flatly.

She had a flashlight hovering next to her for the extra illumination, shining down on Zen's open chest cavity. She was in the process of replacing his heart when he came to. It was a delicate procedure; the mechanical piece had to circulate and infuse nutrients throughout the little blood that was necessary to keep his remaining organs healthy and living. She'd already taken care of the dialysis machine directly below it; the "heart" was all that was left before Zen's circulatory system was all repaired.

"Don't you think you went a little overboard?" she asked, "Not only did you wreck your body, you destroyed every one of the computers in that lab. All their research, blueprints, probably even records of who they were doing it for."

Gently, Qara set the new heart into place and took a pair of small welding pens to it.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on October 10, 2016, 10:01:26 AM
"I did?"  Zen frowned, trying to recall exactly what happened.  "Huh; it was more powerful than I thought.  Damn, somebody probably would have paid good money for those records.  Not that there was a lot too them; no indication of who was really running it or the true purpose behind it.   Just a symbol and some basic notes."

The symbol was certainly intriguing.  A conspiracy?  Some corporation's black ops unit?  A secret governmental agency?  Whoever it was clearly hadn't wanted to broadcast who they were and what they were doing, in any case.

"Might be for the best I fried everything; selling even the info could attract the wrong kind of attention, though I'd sure be interested in who would bite..."  If he was alone he'd consider shaking things up a bit and seeing that fell out, but he was reluctant to drag Qara into that kind of risk.

"So, we can both see pretty clearly how I'm doing, how about you?"  She may have only been influenced by that device for a few scant seconds but it was made to affect Wyrds; he'd had the benefit of a slow creep in emotional distress and even he'd succumbed to it in just a few minutes.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on October 10, 2016, 10:38:57 AM
At that question, Qara sucked in a breath. How to explain it? The feeling of a pull, subtle at first, but then quickly grabbing you by each and everything thought at once? Dragging you down into some abyss, some hellish feeling of everythingness, whilst thrumming at the locked doors of your mind, calling and cooing to let it in. It was suffocating. Nauseating. Excruciating. And yet, at the same time, it had an allure. Letting it in was giving up, giving in, letting your mind do as it was programmed to. Always meant to do. Every instinct and base emotion all exploding at once.

It was hard to get that out of her head.

"I'm . . . fine," she said with a shake of her head, "Whatever it was, I didn't let it in."

What Qara didn't admit was that she'd really wanted to. More than anything in the world. Because when the device started to affect her, in spite of the creeping madness, it made some modicum of sense. Ugh. Qara's stomach churned just sifting through all those thoughts again.

"I don't think I'd be able to rebuild it," Qara said, secretly thankful for that fact, "But I think I have a good idea how it worked, and what it was meant to do."
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on October 10, 2016, 05:41:46 PM
"I have an idea how it worked," Zen replied, "I could feel it start to affect me through my spine...my guess is the research team thought it could only affect Wyrds; they didn't realize that, to a lesser extent, it could affect anything with a partly mechanical nervous system."

Which was definitely a vulnerability he hadn't considered; hell, as far as he was aware that should be impossible with current technology.  Most Machinals were all too aware how vulnerable being mostly machine made them--which was why just about all artificial bodies did not have any kind of external network connected to their mechanical body's functions; even though Zen had some gadgets in him that operated on a network, like his communicator, they weren't connected with anything that came even close to running his body.  Anything that managed to take it over was basically taking over his watch and phone--potentially annoying but likely not dangerous.

This was different, though; somehow simply having a mechanical spine had given it an "in" to his brain, which was, if he was honest, completely terrifying.

"What do you think it was meant to do?  Other than make people go crazy, I assume."
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on October 11, 2016, 12:50:06 PM
"Crazy? No, no I don't think that was the original goal," Qara replied.

It was about the size of a finger, which suggested to her that it was meant to look and function like any other prosthetic, only with more utility than the average mechanical finger. Qara hadn't brought it aboard the ship for further study, though. Even though Zen's wrath destroyed anything worthwhile in the thing, she suspected he still wouldn't be all right with that on board his ship.

"I was recording your visuals," she paused to hold out one hand, a console close to Zen's head lighting up, then returned to work, "I'd say fortunately, but . . . I'm scrubbing most of it from my memory. Some of the things . . ."

She shuddered to think about them. If there was one thing, one thing at all, that she regretted about her augmented mind, it was how vividly everything could be recalled and processed at once. The image of those twisted up bodies existed in unison with those of friendly faces at her erstwhile Titan home. Fortunately, she could just scrub those away.

Nonetheless, she'd pulled up Zen's near-POV footage on the console. Near-POV, because his eyes weren't special. She couldn't record directly from them; she had to pull images from sensors in his body, reconstructing it something visible and concrete. Though she was nonchalant about it, this was actually the first time Zen saw this. She'd told him as much on several occasions that she could perceive what he did, but she'd never shown him how. It was never necessary, or even all that important. Zen didn't have any recording devices on him, after all. No cameras, no lenses, unless he brought something special with him. Qara, however, had reconstructed everything his suit could read: all prosthetics, after all, had sensors to detect specific details, and their proximities, in their environment. Qara had taken all of them at once, focused them together for a three-dimensional layout of everything surrounding Zen, and recorded it to her own mind.

The logistics of what she'd done aside, what Qara put up on the console was what she recorded when Zen was reading research logs.

"One of the researchers went against commands and changed the nature of the experiment. He amplified the device well beyond any prior experiments, and it drove all of them insane," Qara recounted, "But if you consider the original experiment . . . Have you ever seen that old movie with the mind trick? This is a prosthetic finger, completely innocuous; it'd pass through any contraband scans at any port. But with it, you could sway the emotions of any Wyrd . . . and Machinals, too. If a bit more subtle. This is less of a weapon and more of a tool. Someone else on the research team, though--Dr. M--had other ideas."
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on October 15, 2016, 09:33:44 AM
He was pretty impressed she could get all that using only the basic sensors in his body.  "Remind me to get those video-feed goggles fixed next time we're in port," Zen said was he watched Qara put together a pretty representation of what he'd seen.  He rejected the idea of having a camera installed in him on principle but something he could wear was another story.

As far as the notes were concerned, his memory of the last few minutes before passing out was a little fuzzy, but it started to come back to him as Qara talked.  "Right.  Though, I wonder; given how secure that place was, someone higher up the food chain must've at least theorized it could be used on a larger scale.  Maybe Dr. M acted on his own ideas; maybe his bosses figured he was the guy to talk to if they wanted to try something even shadier.  Even if not...that's still a pretty invasive tool they were testing there.  Not to mention super illegal."

The more he thought about the situation, there was a conclusion that made sense:  "Here's the thing: why make it in the shape of a finger if you're not going to attach to someone to test?  I don't think they made that thing; I think they were testing something they found, something that probably used to be part of a machinal's body.  Which begs the question, where did they find it?"
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on October 18, 2016, 01:39:55 PM
Well that was an interesting conclusion. Qara hadn't considered that possibility. It brought her pause, made her consider the implications. If this wasn't something unique, something built here for this experiment, then there could be more instances of it elsewhere. Machinals wearing it like a fashion trend, controlling the mind of every Wyrd they meet, without the poor Wyrd ever knowing it.

She shuddered visibly at the thought.

Qara flicked her wrist to wipe away the contents of the screen in front of them, then tapped on what Zen might think an invisible keyboard. To her, though, it was quite visible, all part of her augmented reality. A lot of Wyrds relied on it to make sense of the things their brain was doing; a holographic keyboard, console, or controls to a ship, all visual representations of the things they were doing without wires or real console controls. Qara didn't actually need it. A lot of it was just habit. Things she picked up over the years because it made the Machinal colonists she lived with feel more at ease.

The console opens up a map of the Sol System, highlighting several worlds. Titan, Ganymede, Io, and three larger bodies in the asteroid belt: 951 Gaspra, 1467 Nelles, and 4570 Anjes. While were no permanent settlements on any asteroids, only temporary mining colonies, one name was interesting (at least to Qara, anyhow): Ganymede. Jupiter's largest moon--the largest moon in the entire Sol System, even--was one of the most attractive worlds for future terraforming projects, though the world's tremendous size and the manic nature of its topography made the prospect as difficult as working with Ceres.

Even still, a very small number of air-tight facilities existed on Ganymede. No widespread colonization plans (to anyone's knowledge, anyhow), but a few big name companies had set up shop there.

Alongside this information were a list of companies and corporations, all focused on the research and development of Machinalis upgrades. Zen's body had parts from at least half of them. Each one of them had an R&D facility on the locations she'd mapped out for Zen.

"All places of interest on known networks," she remarked, ". . . Unless you want to spend the next year running scans for secret facilities in Saturn's rings." She made no effort to hide how much she disliked that idea.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on October 19, 2016, 05:45:51 AM
"Hmm...if you got visuals from my body, any way of estimating how old it is?"

In a way, he knew he was distracting Qara from fixing his body by continuing this train of thought, but he couldn't help himself; he had to this to its conclusion.  It would make it easier if he could pull up information and visuals on his own, though.

"See, the way I figure there are two possibilities for how they got this thing: the first is that the owner died recently, or at least lost a hand, and was either knowledgeable enough to make it himself or wealthy enough to have it privately commissioned by an individual or small group.  This wasn't something made by a group capable of mass production; that's why the corporation that got a hold of it was so careful--they probably had an idea what it did, knew it was highly illegal, but not what it was fully capable of.  You don't test something on a secret facility on a random asteroid if you've got a handle on what it is already, and if it was produced by any major company--even as a private commission--they've been able to find someone who knew what it did.  My first thought was it probably belonged to a machinal zealot, but no zealot would have tolerated it if it could affect other machinals.  So if this first scenario is the case, my best guess?  Martian, one with mechanical augments--maybe even ones no one knew about."

It was surprisingly irksome not to be able to do any of his usual critical thinking habits; he wanted to tap on desks, pull up displays, pace using his magnetic feet, any number of things that helped him focus.

"The second possibility is that this isn't something built recently; rather, it was built some time ago, maybe before there were a lot of regulations on Wyrd tech and interactions with it.  Something found in some old vault, or on a recently discovered corpse, or something of that kind.  It would explain the precautions--technical analysis would give an idea what it did but not the full scope, and you wouldn't want to risk testing something highly illegal and dangerous and with unknown quantities in your expensive, state of the art main facilities.  No, you pick the most out of the way location you can for testing, a place that you can seal off forever and write out of the books if something goes wrong."
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on October 19, 2016, 03:34:28 PM
Qara wiped the screen away. From Zen's vision, at least. From her perspective, she just moved that process so that it floated in empty air. She could drag it back onto the screen at any time. It was times like this that she wished Zen could see her augmented reality. She could've just put together a 3D model of the prosthetic he'd found, floating it around in front of them. Well. She did do that, but only she could see it. With a flick of the wrist, it was on the console, and zoomed in to focus on all the grooves and little designs on the object.

It was ornate: a metal finger with intricate designs across it, all resembling a sun flare. Qara ran a scan on the designs, testing them against all accessible databases, but ultimately discovered no notable origin. No one with matching tattoos, no publicly posted photographs with such a design. Figures.

What was telling about it, though, was the design of the plates between the finger's joints. More contemporary prosthesis used flexible materials to permit a natural clench of the fingers, while still looking human. This one, however, used an older style of design: full metal frame with harshly rounded edges along the underside, letting it clench shut without resistance. This made the underside eerily thin compared to the rest of the finger, a common complaint about the design. It went out of circulation roughly fifty-six years ago. Qara made sure to scroll all of this information up the console, next to points of the finger she'd marked as important.
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on October 19, 2016, 07:49:20 PM
"So...a more than fifty year old finger with an intricate design that doesn't match anything on public records.  The mystery deepens."

He was starting to get a bit excited again; sure, fifty years wasn't too long ago, but it was old enough that it had to be something rediscovered, not developed.  After all, the lab records were only three years old.

"Guessing searching that diamond symbol is going to turn up empty as well--or set off a ton of flags on the system.  If you look it up, be careful; I don't want some shady group tracing a search back here.  In any case, we might be hitting the limit on what we can research; let's get my body fixed so we can do some legwork."
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Nayt on October 20, 2016, 08:13:48 AM
There came a sound of the airlock disengaging, followed by the familiar feeling of the ship lifting from the ground. Qara shut her eyes and focused for a moment, feeling out the sensors and charting a course. Away from asteroids, but somewhere close. Empty space. A perfect spot to situate the ship and begin the long haul to their next destination. Once they were on their way, and micro-impacts of pebble-sized debris were the only objects between them and empty space, Qara opened her eyes and issued a relieved sigh.

That done, she grabbed the tool she left floating in the air, and began opening up another section of Zen's body. Wherever they were going, they were looking at a week of travelling. Minimum. Longer if they were off towards a world currently on the opposite side of the solar system.

"Where should I set a course?"
Title: Re: [BtSS] Treasure Hunting (Closed, for now)
Post by: Zach on November 01, 2016, 10:45:24 AM

Zen took a minute to consider his options.  As much as they needed information, they also needed to find paying work, since they excursion hadn't turned out to be immediately profitable.  Maintenance was kind of tricky on a ship that had as much modified and replaced as The Thesius; he couldn't exactly take it into a standard repair pad, so he had to make sure he had the supplies he needed to do it himself.

"Take us to the Gate.  Err, that'd be Mars Halo," he added, unsure if Qara would be familiar with the nickname.

Mars was a planet only the wealthiest and/or best connected could afford to live on, so naturally they turned their nose up at the idea of letting just anyone land on their planet and, heaven forbid, walk within sight of someone who didn't want to see them.  So Mars Halo was constructed to serve as a buffer between the planet and the rest of the system, a waypoint into the giant gated community that was Mars.