Federation-Apocalypse Session 26: Aftermath

   Drifting above the ruins of an exploded building, there was a brief discussion. They’d have to inform the military guys, check on Arxus and the Thralls, and then have lunch. Marty wanted something heavy: they were all starving. It wasn’t like there were going to be any clues left at the site of a big bomb trap. Jarvian said that military was beginning to make real gains. The hordes of constructs were dwindling, and the General was very pleased with their work.

   They said he was welcome.

   Unfortunately, Crystal Palace turned out to be a wreck: there were obvious signs of heavy fighting, a barrier which had kept the Thralls from calling for help, the bodies of the Thralls – and no sign of Arxus. The Thralls souls were still around at least, if somewhat apologetic for their failure. Kevin reassured them and found out what had happened. Apparently, as they were mopping up the remains of the constructs, they were assaulted by more praetorian-creatures. Arxus tried to hold them off but was overwhelmed. With something blocking them from calling for help (Kevin made a note to do something to strengthen those links later), and a very well-prepared enemy to deal with, they hadn’t been strong enough. Kevin petted the Thralls spirits and assured them that he’d get them back into bodies shortly.

   Well, Arxus couldn’t exactly “die”, so maybe they could pull the traces back together if there were any. Looking for clues, it looked like he’d gotten two guards in heavy fighting – striking hard enough to split blocks of stone, gouge trenches in the ground, and break various weapons. There was quite a bit of cable spooled in a pile in one of the clearings centered around the heaviest damaged zone – but it was crumbling into black dust as they inspected it. Smoke thought it was magically conjured, but unstable in the local reality for some reason. They didn’t exactly have normal matter around here; possibly a high-tech or super-fiber containment cable to hold Arxus?

   Kevin went off and found a quiet, and reasonably secure room to ward and re-embody his Thralls in. He wanted to give them some positive reinforcement for loyally doing their best anyway. They might not really have any choice about devoted loyalty and obedience – but being willing and happy with it all the way down made it a happier arrangement all around.

   Smoke and Marty went to find a golem and see if the Sunwell was still powered up. They found one partially buried under a collapsed building and spent some time digging it out with some local help. It was heavily damaged, but operational. Either the Sunwell was inactive, nearly drained, or the link was broken – although that seemed unlikely unless there was a general barrier up. There were so many golems

   It was running on 3% power – but the Sunwell was still active and stable, just nearly drained. The golem was willing to do what it could to help out, but suggested general repairs and checking the Sunwell immediately. It had limited autonomy based on what it judged best for the people of the realm.

   Kevin and the Thralls got back about them. Sadly, the Thralls didn’t know exactly what had happened to Arxus: they’d gone down before him despite his valiant efforts to protect them. They had managed to inflict about 30% casualties though. The enemy had been hampered by their (apparent) efforts to capture Arxus rather than killing him.

   That was weird. If they’d wanted Arxus, why was he running loose on the streets to start with? They might not have known who the focus would end up being, but they could have manipulated it. Of course, the group knew that most of their opponents were quite crazy.

   Kevin poured some power into the Golem, but told it to try and conserve it. It needed the local special blend or Mana, and – while Mana was expensive – he didn’t have the local magic.

   They went to check the Sunwell. It looked like tracking down Arxus was going to be a long-term project – but reaching the Sunwell didn’t involve much more than descending into a really deep pit. Marty and Smoke leapt in their own fashions (Smoke wanted to learn Marty’s – especially since Kevin said it was possible), Kevin and company settled for a more sedate levitation.

   The Sunwell was mostly drained – although Merlin had left a sign on it: “For sale: former lakefront property. CHEAP!!! (Smiley face included on sign) Make best offer 1-900-BITE_ME1”. Either Merlin or Snyder had a really cheap sense of humor.

   Still, the “Water” level was rising slowly. There was still incoming power, and it looked like it was stable and useful even without the input from distilling down children. It looked like the well would be back to normal in about three months.

   The group set the available golems to running tests and checking all stabilization and other systems. It looked like Merlin had wanted a really big, if presumably temporary, charge of magical energy for some reason. It was sort of odd really. Why go to all this trouble? The Manifold was FULL of energy. Maybe Merlin couldn’t naturally tap into it, wanted to be able to, and was trying to find a magical method of doing it?

   Right. Now they’d missed Breakfast AND Lunch. Time for a really big afternoon tea… Jarvian was about done with the attack too, so he could come as well. Fortunately, the city was still mostly intact.

   Kevin had the Thralls – both his usual set and the local ones – collect hungry local kids on the way: they might be hiding, but the Thralls were telepathic enough to find them easily. Sadly, the local food supplies were being rationed by large thugs – so (while Jarvian refueled and resupplied the Mirage) Kevin looked at the gathered local youngsters, took over a large vacant lot, and started transmuting to provide tables, chairs, and food. It was less fun doing it himself – if only because it always tasted a bit bland and average instead of being actually cooked – but the locals needed some extra supplies. This brought in more people, so they spread the word that the Mages Guild and Ministry of Magic were out of action – and free food was on the menu for the next few hours. If they had any friends they should bring them along.

   Smoke provided ice cream, and there was a small stampede of kids from out of alleyways and buildings. They had to set up some lines and delegate some Thralls and locals to keep things under control, but that wasn’t a big problem. They had plenty of cash.

   Jarvian came in for lunch as well via telekinetic transport (courtesy of Jaiden); it seemed like he was getting used to magic.

   It turned into quite a party. Kevin recruited, Marty got plastered (and put to bed), Jarvian finally realized that Jaiden was a girl and plotted a takeover of the Battletech universe, and Smoke discussed methods of organizing parties across dimensions.

   Unfortunately, due to Hurricane Ike, the GM went offline at this point – all right, but no power – and the session wound down after some in-character discussion. 1 CP apiece.

Session 48, Interlude: The Cyborg and the Fox

   Meanwhile, over in China, Kristin was waking up – and wasn’t happy. Strapped down, most systems deactivated or on standby, back in China and trapped in an eerily familiar lab.

   Outside Beijing, a small, very upset, Kitsune had followed the military convoy to the city – and was intent on finding some food, spreading some mischief, and otherwise making some trouble (at least if he could do it without much risk or fuss) for those miserable military people who’d burned down his den and stolen his girls. He hadn’t been hurting ANYONE, and he’d even rescued the girls before seducing them instead of just tricking and seducing them, so why try to blow him (and them) up? Maybe they had some brain sickness.

   In the lab, Kristin was being examined by some of the scientists who’d originally created her. They were pretty curious about the system upgrades, but seemed to regard her as a historical footnote of sorts: even with Monopole’s tinkering. Evidently they had much more sophisticated technology to test at the moment.

   Fortunately for Kristin, they hadn’t found all of Monopole’s upgrades. They never checked the hidden override chips – and those systems included an emergency override. It didn’t take long after that to find here weapons and go into full rampage mode.

   Meanwhile, Kitsune Shan had obtained a nice breakfast with a few transformed leaves for currency, gotten directions to an orphanage where the military had taken some strange girl, and provoked a small riot at the quarters for some Olympic athletes. Weird. Most of the villagers had seemed to realize what he was in short order. Didn’t these city-dwellers know how to recognize a kitsune? Well, his gain, their loss.

   The orphanage he wanted was currently being surrounded by the military. Shan transmuted most of their ammunition into jello and headed on in. Weird place. Why so much security at a home for kids? Were they stockpiling cute young girls for him? Well, probably not, but you never knew… 

   In the secret labs below the orphanage, Kristin had found out what was going on. This was the Chinese on-the-cheap version of a super-soldier program: enhancing and/or cyborging disposable kids. Their casualty rate was actually pretty low – but they were really heavily into brainwashing and – hmm – installing the cyberware with magic and enchanting it to adapt to the kids as they grew. Clever, and way cheaper than the American methods. There might be something to this mixing classical and modern techniques thing the Chinese were so big on. Still, it also said a lot about her own origins. HEY! No wonder this place was vaguely familiar and they wanted her back! Her records were here too! Orphaned in a fire and her injuries rebuilt with Cyberware… OK, in a way that had been a favor, but she could have done without the deep programming. Despite that – or perhaps because of it – it looked like quite a few of their agents eventually went rogue.

   Still, at the moment, they’d shifted focus to some sort of nanite-enhancement which they were trying to enhance with magic so it could self-install instead of needing expensive (and very, very, advanced) computer guidance.

   At about that point Shan – who’d been fooling around upstairs, shifting identities, causing confusion, and provoking the military while he hunted for where they might have stashed his girls – found the subbasements and came on down. They were not initially friendly, and in the ensuing argument Shan got throughly doused with war-wiring nanites – and his own innate magic provided more than enough power for the spell on them to get to work.

   Shan made his escape with a random selection of kids he’d more-or-less felt sorry for (what with the military being willing to shoot at them) while Kristin confronted the Dragon Warriors (China’s official hero team) and called for the Chauffeur to pick her up.

   After some debriefing they went looking for Shan: they might not know who he was, but they know that he was up to something.

   Shan, meanwhile, had dumped the boys he’d picked up on some local farmers – but found that they were less enthused about taking on girls. That old preference-for-boys thing again. For some reason he concluded that it would be best to flee the country, used his magic to forge both papers and money, and took a couple of flights – first to India, then to Taiwan, where he confused the customs inspectors and fled again. His nerves were not so good anymore.

   In pursuit, Kristin and the Chauffeur quickly decided that they were not in pursuit of a villain, an alien, or even a human – and whatever it was had to be both pretty young and inexperienced with human society. Not a menace, but certainly something that needed some supervision.

   The picked up the girls, but they didn’t know much – and locating Shan left them confronted with an “Undead President Nixon as an Elvis Impersonator”, his “Secret Service Bodyguards” and their “Pistols” with the flags that said “Bang”, all acting more-or-less independently. Darkness-illusion obviously enough, but what were the electronic traces and who would think that this made sense even as a diversion?

   Kristin deduced “Kitsune” soon enough, but the electronics were war-wiring. Where and how… OH. She’d accidently infected the creature with the stuff herself. Great. Yet another empowered youngster the Mandate was responsible for.

Sessions 45, 46, and 47: Gates of Darkness, Unquiet Realm, The Akhasic Plane

   With everyone AT LAST ready to go, Yuki, Zachary, Kimai, 200 Racaf Janissaries, the supervillain Ionstorm, Stranglevine, and ten Celestial Dragons / walking magical fusion bombs headed off into the Ru’Kahl hell-dimension.

   Not surprisingly, they arrived hundreds of miles away from where they needed to be, with a horde of hideous monsters, a variety of deadly environments, and a selection of other obstacles between them and the cavernous crypts and imprisoned souls of the Ru’Kahl stronghold proper.

   Oddly enough, this turned out to be somewhat fortunate; the initial battles and obstacles let them get the Racaf and some transportation arrangements (a boat made of ice) organized.

   With that done, their first major battle was at an island in the sea of darkness where the Ru’Kahl were working on opening a major portal to let their legions of monsters, as well as the Harvesters, directly into New York City. After that, they’d be re-adjusting to hit other cities. The ensuing massive battle involved thousands of opponents, fortified positions, and dozens of enemy psionics and magicians – but the Mandate actually managed to get the most compatible pairs of dragons to start working together. Sadly, the battle also led to a number of deaths among the Racaf: they simply weren’t anywhere near as durable as Ionstorm, Stranglevine or the Dragons (who also took some fairly heavy hits) – and they were on the front lines rather than working as support staff like Yuki, Zachary, and Kimai. Yuki and Kimai had nearly died anyway – there were just too many nygothean chthonic crawlers, psionic horrors, toxic living clouds, and skeletal legions. If they hadn’t started using some of the Ru’kahl Harvesters own black necromantic talismans against them, they probably would have lost – and they weren’t even anywhere near the main Ru’Kahl base yet. They couldn’t keep on doing that: the things were incredibly corruptive and addictive. Yuki had barely been able to stop after the first time or two.

   Two things then. First, try and get those bloody dragons to actually COOPERATE. Hopefully as a unified group, rather than in pairs trying to impress each other. The creatures had plenty of raw power if they’d just use it effectively.

   Secondarily, Yuki went to work on trying to unlock the sealed settings on the Racaf’s nanite-based portable weapons-constructors. Hacking an alien computer security system built around a technology many millennia older than earth’s wasn’t exactly easy – but Yuki’s remarkable skills and intuition, backed by Zachary’s chaos-magic enhancements (and a lot of luck), proved just barely equal to the task. She got program access, unlocked the weapons-of-mass-destruction settings, and got the fusion self-destruct program to abor, moments before the countdown on the fusion reactor which powered the system would have reached zero.

   That gave them access to tactical fusion warheads, nanite plagues, bioweapons, major toxins, death field projectors, gravitational nullifiers, gamma-ray flash systems, and a wide variety of other hideous weapons. Considering that the same aliens were offering their “friendship” to everyone back on earth, that wasn’t entirely a comforting thought – but they could certainly use some of those weapons now.

   Yuki opted for the fusion warheads. With the dragons to hold things steady and shield their ice-ship, a “sunwall” tactic of continuously bombarding the assault area with a steady stream of nuclear weapons seemed likely to be pretty helpful. By the time they reached the Ru’Kahl stronghold they should be able to have several hundred warheads ready to go.

   Back on Earth, the White Necromancer and his apprentices, the Chauffeur, Vasilko, Ranko, and the rest of the Mandate had pretty much fortified everything they could. They’d been able to sense Chi’an throwing high-powered spells around for awhile – evidently drawing on the massed power of his dragon-slaves – but none of it really seemed to be likely to do much more than delay the Bane Mummies a bit. He might be able to establish some enclaves, but that was just stalling. Maybe he’d realized it too: he’d quit a few hours ago.

   Then again, knowing Chi’an… He was the one who’d thrown a retroactive spell that affected his own past. Maybe they ought to check and see what harebrained scheme he’d embarked on this time.

   That turned out to be unnecessary: Kossitsika – one of Chi’ans two free girlfriends (lucky bastard, no wonder there was so much competition to be “flight leader” if the position came with that kind of perk) – dropped by with an urgent request for assistance. Chi’an had decided to singlehandedly defeat the Bane Mummies by going into the human racemind and purging the hundred-thousand-year-old trauma which lay at the base of their ability to keep coming back, and she hadn’t been sure that was a good idea even before the fireworks started.

   OK, that wasn’t necessarily a bad idea – but it was a job for a human telepath, or at least a subtle human mage with mental talents, not for a walking fusion bomb spewing dragonfire and blasting away with elemental magic! Who needed something like that in their head?

   No wonder he’d refused to come along into the dark dimensions. He’d wanted to be a solo hero and save the day on his own… Well, with the help of his slaves to provide extra power. In dragon terms they probably didn’t count as assistants though, just as tools.

   The White Necromancer droppped everything, took Jason – no help for that, he was linked into his mind – Foxfire, and the other Werechild (also linked to him), went astral, and started trying to get into the Akhasic – the realm of the racemind – from there.

   Chi’an’s trail was clear enough. He was simply chasing down associated chains of major traumas, slapping “happy-ending” fantasies/memory patches over them with gouts of raw power, and trying to fix things – apparently on the theory that if he fixed everything he ran across, eventually he’d hit the last trauma.

   Either that or he’d gotten so caught up in the experiences that he’d forgotten that – fundamentally – they weren’t real.

   The White Necromancer had the same problem. He accidently spun a dream of zombie hordes rising from the trenches of WWI, did battle in WWII in the role of the original White Necromancer, intervened in the plague, fought a fire, and helped villagers escape the flooding of the Mediterranean basin with barriers of bone – which was where he finally caught up with Chi’an, who’d simply spread a mass-merman transformation. With a chain of other dragons pouring power into him, Chi’an’s raw power was immense – but he wasn’t nearly as well-attuned to the human racemind, or as good at navigating the astral plane, as the White Necromancer.

   They regrouped at a concentration-camp memory of world war two. That was a reliable landmark – and there ought to be a link between it and the first White Necromancer. Then all they’d have to do would be jump back to the early days of the White Necromancer, and trace back the Bane Mummies from there…

   The Chauffeur had taken Vasilko and headed for Alaska. He’d better find out what was going on there before he tried anything else.

   It wasn’t good: Something was obviously pushing Chi’an off course and there was a powerstorm of dark energies pouring back into his physical body. Fortunately for Chi’an, he could handle that. The Chauffeur had Vasilko try to hold things stable while he did a little research – and attended a quick emergency meeting about preventing the spread of the alien war-wiring technology. Fortunately he’d fitted his vehicles with time-travel systems long ago, so it didn’t actually waste any of his time.

   Meanwhile, back in the dark realms, the Sunwall attack was underway. A steady stream of fusion warhead clusters was more than enough to keep most of the smaller creatures off their backs – but wasn’t enough to penetrate the deepest levels of the caverns of the Ru’Kahl. Some of them were so far down, and so reinforced by darkness, that material started sliding into the crater as fast as they could blow it out.

   They also hadn’t really counted on attempts to possess the Racaf and have them start firing nuclear warheads at each other at point-blank range (fortunately those aliens weren’t too dumb: their weapons had computerized safety interlocks), or the Harvester attack which left them all falling into the sea of magma they’d created, or nearly losing Yuki and Zachary to the corrupting addiction of the Ru’Kahl black necromantic talismans.

   Drat it, they kept forgetting that the enemy would be making plans too. It probably came with being teenagers. Yuki and Zachary were no more immune to overconfidence than the dragons were. On the other hand, faced with all their allies being in severe danger of being killed, and under mass attack, most of the dragons finally started listening to Yuki and began working as a group, with at least some consideration for what everyone else was doing and a certain amount of tactical sense.

   Unfortunately, in the deep crypts, the master of the Ru’Kahl cult was at the very center of it’s power, surrounded by fear and darkness made solid, by the tortured souls of the dead which powered black necromancy, and protected by a hundreds of mighty spells. Even Yuki, now channeling the full power of the last Ice Age, a reasonably cooperative group of celestial dragons, Ionstorm, and the rest were barely holding their own.

   There was still one more trick to try. If Chi’an could focus the power of his slaves through himself, couldn’t a group of free dragons do the same?

   Kanmari immediately volunteered to act as the “lens” – he was a dedicated show-off – and the chain of power formed while Yuki locked the Lich-Lord of the Ru’Kahl in a block of ice with herself. She could not hold him long- he was draining her life with terrible speed – but it was long enough. The dimension of darkness dissolved around them as the radiance of creation engulfed its heart – while Yuki and the Lich were blasted beyond the material realms into the higher Sephiroth, where Yuki cast him into the quilopothic abyss.

   Believing Yuki dead, the heroes, villains, dragons, and surviving mercenaries returned to Earth – there to confront Ranko, who was aware that something had happened to her sister.

Session 44: The Raving Maniacs

   Sadly for the Mandate, except for Kadath and Baen – both of whom were, as slaves, magically bound to obey their masters – the rest of the dragons who were willing too come along all seemed to be completely unable to stand each other. They acted like a bunch of squabbling, jealous, and demanding children. Of course, they were children by immortal dragon standards, but they were still all at least seven or eight hundred years old. They should know better by NOW.

   Anyway, Chi’an had said that he was too busy working on the magical second line of defense, and had refused to send any of his bonded subordinates other than Baen – but Ilarian Drake, Lohikaarme (F), Zheng Yi Sao (F), Kanmari, Jamathial (F), Apheriol, Xaliotl, and Wyvern (F) had all shown up. Roughly evenly divided between boys and girls. Even closer to even if you remembered that Baen had been neutered – and exactly even if you discounted Kadath. Dammit! Were they treating this as a SOCIAL EVENT!?! OK, so the Bane Mummies were only after human beings, but you’d think that they’d recognize the scale of the menace!

   Oh. They were adolescents. They thought they were more-or-less invincible. At least they had more grounds for that belief than most human adolescents did.

   Sadly, actually getting the expedition organized took hour upon hour upon hour. Ionstorm didn’t get along with half the dragons, the dragons were virtually all either showing off, pointedly ignoring each other, making snide remarks, hitting on each other, or otherwise being troublesome (it would have been outright war if both Ionstorm and the Dragons didn’t all treat blasting each other with vast bolts of raw cosmic power as the equivalent of a pie fight). The kids and werewolves kept getting involved (or at least wanting to be), the White Necromancer had to imbue all the hero’s and the Racaf’s weapons, armor, and gear with life energy to protect it all against the Ru’Kahl’s entropic spells, there were other protections to raise, supplies to lay in, people to say goodbye to, special awards to discuss with the Racaf, teary scenes of “sending our boys off to war”, having to recover Zachary (who’d obeyed the prompting of chaos and run off to enchant the farm animals downstate in weird and wonderful ways; bringing him back did not help with the ongoing arguments however), debates over the lunch menu, a debate over whether it was RIGHT to involve the Racaf, and plenty of sheer random chaos. If it wasn’t for the fact that it would be virtually impossible to handle matters without nonhuman assistance, most of the heroes would have voted for just throwing them all out.

   At least Stranglevine was quiet. Of course, the fact that it was a plant and had no known modes of communication might have something to do with that.

   Eventually the Mandate managed to get them all pointed in the same direction and headed into the gate, but it took a RIDICULOUS amount of work to pull it off.