It was supposed to be a simple walk through the woods to investigate a gate. Supposed to be. As we were walking towards the gate, I felt a sudden surge of mental focus towards our group from a plethora of minds around us. Minds bent on grim duty. I was able to shout a warning just as the blaster bolts began to fly. Our attackers wore some kind of stealth suit that produced a cloaking effect similar to the stealth generator featured in the Predator movies. Unfortunately, they also provided some type of metal defense as well, and I couldn’t get anything from them beyond their focus on us, which also disrupted some of my defensive abilities. I drew my sword but they were content to snipe at us with blaster pistols from range, and I was having too much trouble tracking in on them to close myself. Bobby Fea seemed to be able to sense them somehow, and she caused the forest to attack and entangle them. They were strong enough that it didn’t slow them down all that much, but it sure made them easier to track in on for the rest of us. I drew my pistol, but never got a shot off. Zarrura managed to snag one, and ripped off its facemask. Apparently, she thought she knew the man, until his identical called down to her from on top of a tree where he was standing next to Rook. I theorized that with the mask off, whatever was giving them a metal defensive boost was breached, so I used a bit of telekinesis to wrench his head around and force eye contact. My theory was correct. I was able to pull the information I wanted out of his head, although his mind was strong enough to make me work for it.
Apparently, our attackers were a bunch of clones, and one of them seemed to have broken away from whatever organization they served and become Zarrura’s friend. This organization was called the Maelstrom Empire, and it seemed to be an interplanetary star empire based somewhere in the 1000 worlds. Their empress has an advisor known only as the Prophet of Divided Purpose. According to this clones mind, said prophet issued a prophecy that Zarrura was going to revive an ancient evil that had destroyed/enslaved whole universes. All he knew about this evil being was that he was called The Talisman. Since it was prophesied that she could not be persuaded to halt her course, the clone’s strike force had been sent on a preemptory strike to eliminate her before she could succeed. When I shouted this information to Zarrura, the clone jerked his head and fell dead. I guess he realized what I was doing, and was willing to die to prevent me from gaining more information. It was a futile jester, since I had already gotten all of the pertinent information out of him, but nonetheless it certainly demonstrated his resolve in a most spectacular manner.
The friendly clone somehow produced a Robotech Valkyrie out of thin air, and began blasting our now puny attackers. Between that, and the combat skills of Rook, Tiberius, and the others our attackers were quickly defeated. Dantalion used a novel, yet highly effective, technique. He let them hit him, and used his influence with karma to cause them to suffer significantly more than they dealt out. Based off of the principles of karma I have learned, what wounds they inflicted were returned to them times three. Most of the clones somehow escaped once they realized they were going to lose; they just ‘popped’ out of existence. Some type of trans-dimensional teleportation I think. One was prevented from escaping this way, and he made for the gate. The mech and Zarrura’s dragon stopped him, but not, as I was to find out later, before he tried to use the gate and Tiberius somehow stopped him and stole his destination coordinates.
Counting the guy the mech caught, there were three survivors from the enemy force variously wounded. Bobby and Red preformed triage, and attended to the wounded, theirs and ours. Somehow Bobby got two of them to talk to her fairly freely. I could feel her doing something, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Rook got a hold of the other one. He some type of mental ‘discussion’ with him, which ended in Rook breaking the clones hand because he had “lied to him.” Apparently the dutiful samurai has yet heard that it is a prisoner’s obligation to resist his captors. He then proceeded to order us that his hand should remain broken for at least a week. Red was incensed by this. She took custody of the injured party and proceeded to administer medical treatment. Rook complained about this, but faced with Red’s vehemence, decided that he would ‘permit’ the healing, but would re-break the hand afterwards. Red told him in no uncertain terms that she would kick his ass if he tried. I think I like Red.
What gets me is that no one seemed to be interested in the equipment left behind by our vanquished foes. Very potent blaster pistols and stealth suits of that caliber, plus psychic dampening and no one even gave them a first look much less a second. Well, except for Rook. He held one out at arms length to look at it like it was a rancid piece of moldy bread. Then he made some disparaging comment about ninjas. Damned arrogant samurai. Samurai are so inflexible… It’s not that they stick to a code of honor that bothers me; it’s that they think the whole world, multiverse in Rook’s case, works according to those principles, and that any that don’t are evil aberrations. It’s not that their trying to do the right thing either. They got a set of rules that they stick to, even when it’s impractical, or will result in great harm to their cause or other things they profess to care about. They’re just so damn inflexible it drives me crazy. I guess that’s why there are still a few ninja clans around, even if most of them have given up their more traditional employment options, and there are no samurai orders. Oh sure, enthusiasts and historians keep their martial art form and bushido code around, but there are no formal organizations that consist of actual samurai. I’d point this out to Rook, but he would just dismiss it out of hand. He’s a samurai, therefore it must be the right and only correct path because he says so. End of story. I can’t remember why I was actually bothering to talk to him, but at some point we were having a conversation where he told me that he was a god, and didn’t need my, or anyone else’s, permission to do anything he so chose to do. I responded that depending on where he was, he might very well need my permission. It was an elliptical response to the authorities of pantheons over their personal territories. A samurai of the eastern traditions should have easily picked up the elliptical meaning, and acknowledged the sovereign authority of other ‘shoguns.’ Instead, he reasserted his divine authority to do what he pleased, when he pleased, wherever he pleased. He doesn’t seem to get the idea, that we are all of us here deities of some form or another, and that we may have influences and authorities of our own that may from time to time trump his. One of these days that asshole’s arrogance is going to get him into real trouble. I’m not sure if I want to be around to see it or not, as it’s possible that trouble could splash over to any around him. I don’t think I like Rook.
Anyway, I collected some samples to check out later, and while I was trying not to let the idiot samurai drive me mad, Tiberius had taken Zarrura to speak with her. He informed her that he had retrieved the last fellow’s destination coordinates while blocking his attempt at using the gate, and offered to take Zarrura there. It seems that, until this point, Zarrura had not realized that Tiberius was a cyborg. I have noticed that at least one of his implants has some special properties, but I thought that the fact he was a cyborg was fairly obvious. Apparently not. Anyway, Zarrura decided to stay the course and look for the heretics these wererats mentioned. I used The Myst to snag us some warm weather gear, and off we went through the gate. As it turned out, my supposition was correct, and we did end up in the Shifters’ capital city on Grey. After a brief debate, it was decided to go to the city library to look for Zarrura and Alana’s answers.
Since I wasn’t sure what they were looking for, and I have yet to find the proper phrasings for my own questions, I was about useless here. The only research project I might have been able to lend a hand on was on this Talisman bit, but the others had that well in hand, to the point of monopolizing most of the books on that subject, and many of the librarians. I was all set for a long and boring wait, when I felt some type of mental contact. The mind was familiar, but I couldn’t really get a sense of who it was without opening up to it. I was a little nervous about doing so, and before I could make up my mind the contact ended. However, the sender did manage to push through the idea that I should “open a door.” I figured, what the hay, so I did. On the other side was my Aunt Claire. She indicated a pressing need to talk to Zarrura, and asked me to bring her to her office back in Vegas for a talk. Incidentally, she declined to explain just how she managed to contact me. She said it had something to do with someone called “The Laughing Man.” Claire said it was urgent, so I found Zarrura among the stacks and informed her of my aunt’s request. She agreed to come, but decided to leave her sister and most of the others here to continue their research, some of which seemed to be paying off. The two sisters had managed to tentatively identify their Uncle Lenard as one of the original people to deal with this Talisman fellow. I recognized him as Moradin.
Zarrura decided to bring Adam and his wife with us, and we found them necking in some of the more remote stacks. I guess they were a little bored with the research too. I them all back through the portal back to Blue so I could call The Myst to take us to Aunt Claire’s office. Along the way, I discovered that Tiberius had decided to tag a long in his cricket form. Zarrura and I informed him that next time he should just ask. When we arrived at Aunt Claire’s, we spoke briefly about the Laughing Man. We didn’t seem to get anywhere. All Aunt Claire knew was that her Family’s computer system had red flagged this, and indicated that Zarrura was somehow associated with it, or it was somehow associated with her. The name meant nothing to any of the rest of us. Tiberius just skulked, and Adam and Red sat in the back whispering constantly to each other. I felt that Adam was slightly concerned about something, but I can’t read Red at all. Considering their temperaments and behavior together, for all I know they were arguing over whether or not it was a good idea to start making out in the occupied office of a mob boss.
We did, however, manage to make some progress with the Maelstrom Empire and The Talisman. Aunt Claire had some familiarity with them, and knew a little bit of information on the prophet and the empress. It was enough for Zarrura to identify the prophet as someone named Brand, who is apparently a pattern-wielding psychopath who wants to destroy reality itself so he can recreate the entire multiverse according to his own whims. He also happens to be Arden Black’s (that’s the clone) father and grandfather. Thank you Tom Arnold. The Empress is also his daughter, which explains why she is so beholden to him. She is also Arden’s aunt and sister. This is a very…compact family tree. We couldn’t decide if Brand was trying to get us to bring about the Talisman’s revival, or if he saw him as a dangerous rival, and genuinely feared what we might accidentally stumble upon. Of course, he might have just been being an asshole and come up with the whole idea as an excuse to sick the Maelstrom Empire on us. Aunt Claire had a little bit of information on the Talisman, mostly though it was on one of his minions called The Anointed. The Anointed was a demon possessed S.O.B. who went around lit on fire and causing nasty problems. It was also rumored that he had a child. When we delved into it, it seemed very likely that that child was Tiberius’ father, Frank. Claire had no desire to see the Talisman reborn, and apparently The Family had been having problems with the Maelstrom Empire for some time, so was willing to offer us what assistance she could against them and The Talisman problem.
Next, Zarrura decided to pick up the others so we could all go visit her Uncle Lenard in Chicago. Because of the different temporal flow between earth and the 12 spheres, I asked Aunt Claire to help us collect our friends. She obliged us, and used her fragment of the Key of Light to open a door back to the Library. The Key was able to equalize the time difference to about six to eight hours as opposed to two or three months. Once we had collected everyone, I took them all to Uncle Lenard’s custom car auto shop where we ran into the rest of Zarrura’s siblings, Alana’s twin brother Nox, and their elder sister Shilo. Rook’s girlfriend, Eureka was also there. She was…lively. Once everyone was inside, except Arden who went to buy a comic book, we compared notes. I must admit, it was odd to see the Dwarven All Father as a six-foot plus blond. Dantalion asked about the monks of Shangri-La, and for a moment I thought he was actually beginning to take our studies seriously. No such luck, apparently he and Rook had found references that said the founder of Shangri-La was one of those who had originally fought The Talisman, and they hoped to go there in search for clues.
We listened to Uncle Lenard/ Moradin’s tale of the defeat of the Talisman. It was long, although definitely interesting, but the part that seemed to be most relevant to our current situation was that he got his power by trapping the souls of all those who died in the Burl, and that there had been these places, called Black Spirals, that had been constructed to hold them, and could even be used to recreate a body to put one in. The group that Lenard/ Moradin was part of had done its level best to destroy them all, but he admitted that it might be possible one had survived in secret, lost and forgotten. This was disturbing news, as it was the first indication that the resurrection of the Talisman was even possible. He didn’t know anything about Brand or the Maelstrom Empire.
Just as we were wrapping things up, Arden came back and informed us he had made contact with one Capt. Sparrow, who commanded a starship, and that we should wait here for her, as she might be a valuable contact for information about the Maelstrom Empire. When she arrived, I recognized her as the Goddess Avandra. She was apparently reluctant to help us at first, owning to all the responsibilities and problems she herself had to deal with you see… Zarrura recognized the whining as the deal opener it was, and ended up agreeing to take on the task of…ending Rahn the Remorseless. He is pretty much a murderous rat bastard responsible for genocide and suffering across multiple planes of reality, and, as it happens, somehow related to one or more of our party members (I forget which, these genealogies are getting to complicated for me, even if they don’t seem to branch out all that much. This S*@#% makes my head hurt.) Rahn, it seems, is truly unique, and as such cannot be killed. Nature abhors a vacuum, and any attempt to outright destroy him would be blocked by the universe. But ending him didn’t necessarily mean destroying him as both Rook and Dantalion pointed out. In fact, Dantalion sensed a karmic imbalance, and was quick to volunteer to help, or was quick to have his aid volunteered as he would probably put it. At least he didn’t blame me this time. After agreeing to assist us in exchange for this, and offering her rather sincere, certainly as far as I could tell, regrets to Arden that she didn’t have the time to bead him, Capt. Sparrow took her leave of us.
Somewhere in here, when discussing Brand, a fairy was mentioned that had once betrayed all of my new companions to Brand. Apparently, as part of the initial deception, this fairy lured them to her nightclub, which is not too far from Lenard/ Moradin’s shop here in Chicago. There was some debate as to whether we should next go pay this fairy a visit and ask her some questions about Brand, or if we should instead just go straight to Shangri-La to continue our investigation of The Talisman. Zarrura’s older sister Shilo offered to take us back to her hotel suite for the night so we could sleep on it. Zarrura was all for this idea, she was especially keen on getting an actual honest to god shower and sleeping in a decent bed. No one had any objection to this, so we piled into the limo and headed off to the penthouse suite.
Showers are nice. Hot baths with scented oils and the comforts afforded a deific residence are better. So after everyone else had retired for the night, I called The Myst, and slipped off to visit my mother back on Atlantis. Besides the comforts of home, I really wanted to check in with her since the time differential between earth and Blue meant that I had been gone over a year from her perspective, and I wanted her to know I was all right. I also needed someone to talk to. All of these people who share the bloodline that has this Pattern ability seem to be really screwed up. All of the Pattern wielders I have met or heard of are either universe destroying assholes (such as Brand and this talisman), are related to said assholes and have suspect sanity because of it (Arden & Tiberius, and no, it’s not me that’s questioning their sanity, it’s everyone else who is looking over their shoulders at them), or are just plain assholes (such as Rook). Zarrura and Alana are the most normal ones I’ve met so far, and even their simple quest to find out where their father came from has unleashed multiple dire prophesies of the universe ending magnitude. As she herself has noted, it’s enough to drive her crazy. All this makes me wonder, since my birth mother clearly comes from this bloodline as well, if I keep looking into this am I going to get screwed up as well. Does Pattern drive everyone insane? The deadpan “Yes,” Shion responded with so did not help me feel any better. Still, once I calmed down after that little revelation, she told me that there were a few exceptions, and she gave me a few names I could contact if (probably more like when with this group) I leave the Burl. Oddly enough, Rook’s parents are on that list.
Mother was also nice enough to listen to me vent about Rook and his audacious behavior for a while. I also told her about all that stuff with the Talisman, the Maelstrom Empire, etc… She wasn’t all that worried about Zarrura bringing back the Talisman (we both figure she would turn away from any course once it was proven to lead to that end) like Aunt Claire was, but she was rather concerned with Tiberius possibly being the descendant of the Anointed. It was she herself, back before she split into the Council of the Moon, who defeated him after the demon had been pulled from him and dealt with separately. Before I left, she offered me a contingency incase Tiberius or his dad became a problem.
I also took the time to examine the stealth suite and the blaster I acquired. The suite is a more advanced version of some new polymer technology that is currently in development by the scientific community. Its light bending properties are inherent, and require no power source. The blaster uses internal power cells of some type rather than E-clips, and for the most part is beyond me. These will be useful tools, but for now I’ll leave them here along with my sword since we might be going to a Chicago nightclub tomorrow. Since I do have a conceal and carry permit, I’m definitely brining my 9 mm to said Chicago club. I can always summon the other stuff through The Myst if I need them. If we leave earth or Blue, I may reevaluate my equipment load, but for now this will do. On the way back, I pulled some of the leftover stealth material from our battleground on blue through The Myst, and dropped it off at the R&D section of my company. Since were already onto it, I have little compunction about giving my scientists a little boost. The blaster is far enough advanced that I think introducing it to this world would be a bad thing. At least for now. I spent a full day on Atlantis, but I doubt anyone will notice I was gone since that translates to about only 20 seconds back on earth.
All that’s left for now is to see what tomorrow holds…