The next morning, the team gathered on the bridge of the Disa to quickly go over their plan of action. Rachael explained that she could probably get the Disa flight-capable within a few hours, with assistance. However, without access to some key resources, they may not be able to regain interplanetary capabilities, so it would be very important to make contact with the planet’s natives to establish some sort of trade relationship.
Chesed, although somewhat reluctant to do so, would be the face of the diplomatic party, because of his speaking skills and his telepathic abilities. Janet would accompany because her background would make her a nice contrast to Chesed and would allow the team to keep a more discerning eye open. ASURA-04 would be sent as a bodyguard.
As they planned, Arro showed up on the bridge, late. He was unshaved and more than a little surly, and after several minutes, he left the bridge in a sour mood and returned to his chambers. Tuona was concerned for him, stating she had never seen him act like that before. Janet advised everyone to leave him alone for a bit- the gravity of what had happened was probably going to make it difficult for him to quickly adapt to the changes, and with the current situation, he could afford the luxury of being depressed.
Just then, Number 3 detected something approaching the vessel. She could detect three signatures, all of which were highly unusual. Two were clearly intelligent, but not organic in the least. They didn’t register as being a synthetic lifeform, like a bioreplica or robot would, but showed clear life signs despite the lack of a identifiable physiology. The third presence was equally baffling- a warm-blooded, humanoid presence that appeared to be identical to the signature of a human. Number 3 felt this was most likely due to a registration error, as it was clearly implausible for humans to exist on a planet so isolated. However, the rest of the group was not so easy to write it off, after having witnessed the Arkovans.
Chesed told everyone the being from yesterday had stated it would return with reinforcements. Rachael suggested they meet the approaching party mid-way, and attempt to smooth over any difficulties. Chesed, Janet, and ASURA-04 left the ship, and encountered two beings who were apparently crafted from a glittering metal and cast in the form of human women. Neither being seemed to be truly mechanical, but rather like a humanoid being crafted from meticulously sculpted fibers and plates of metal and held together by some sort of psionic essence.
The “women”, both of whom were heavily armed, informed the party that they would be placed under arrest for violation of the laws of the “Holy Order”. When asked what the charges were, it was explained that they were guilty of practicing sorcery without proper license in a restricted area. Chesed attempted to explain that they were not from that region, and as such they were in ignorance of any laws, but they would be more than willing to abide by them if they could speak with someone who would explain them.
At this point, a third woman approached, this one clearly human. She was a tall figure, armed with twin archaic pistols, who informed the party that they would be taken into custody for violating the laws of the Holy Order. Further conversation continued, with Chesed attempting to explain the situation in such a way as to make their plight clear without revealing too much information. Ultimately, he and the human woman opened a telepathic bond, and he showed her images of Major Jack Jennison and the assault on Delmont City, as well as showing her the fate and current condition of Tesla. He explained that they had been forced into their current location because of this, and that their companion was in need of some sort of healer.
The woman became concerned at what she had been shown, and stated that while they were still in violation of the laws, the circumstances and intent would change the verdict considerably. She introduced herself as Grand Marshall Pistis, and explained that her companions were among the Dove Units, a series of special Order soldiers. Pistis then asked that they accompany her into the city of Rebus to speak with The Alma, the leader of her order. After conferring with the others, Chesed felt this would be the best action, diplomatically, and Janet agreed. They went with Pistis over a few dunes, where she showed them her sandcraft. They all climbed aboard the vessel, and began to trek across the vast deserts.
During the trip, Pistis answered many of their questions, although she had come to the conclusion that they had arrived from a far off land known as Lacamontane to the far north. She explained that the desert they were in was known as the Sorcery Wastes, and it was once a vast sea until the actions of reckless sorcerers caused it to become a wasteland devoid of life. She pointed out larges rifts of silver colored sand among the dunes, which she called areas of Dreadtouch, where no life or force of power could survive.
She also began to explain stories of how their world, called Maya, came to be. She cited that many years ago, great beings known as Scorn and Dread came from their sun and nearly destroyed the land, but their influence was severed when nine saints came to exemplify the teachings of the Alma and defeat the wicked beings. However, in order to do so, one of the saints had to fold their world into a veil of time and space, removing it forever from the reach of Scorn and Dread. Janet reasoned that must be how the system had been shifted inside the anomaly.
Chesed asked why they viewed alchemy, or sorcery, so unfavorably. Pistis explained that sorcery was a gift of Scorn and Dread, and that the use of it was what lead their world to be so badly scarred. Furthermore, since the world was now tucked away in the Veil, every use of sorcery depleted that much more of the world’s resources, which caused the great deserts to expand ever more, beyond the wastes and into the life-giving land.
The group speculated for a bit, and it seemed like a reasonable concern. They were all too familiar with the impact alchemy had created on their lives- and the avarice it created for vital alchemical resources. They could only imagine the potential for havoc it could cause on a world where the resource pool was limited to a sole planet and the very understanding of the process was shaky at best. Arkova had been different- it had large amounts of lure used to aid its sorcerers, and the use of sorcery was limited to some esoteric practices rather than the once ubiquitous phenomenon suggested by Pistis’ stories.
Just then, however, the Doves detected a strange disturbance in the desert- but before any more could be discovered, a massive sandworm burst forth from the sea of sand and attacked the ship. The Doves tried to maneuver the vessel safely away from the beast, but it was very persistent. Meanwhile, Pistis and Janet launched ranged attacks on the worm, but they were unable to slow it down. The creature bit through the hull of the vessel and destroyed the lift coil, causing the sandcraft to crash and everyone aboard to be tossed into the desert sands.
As they attempted to scramble out of the worm’s range, the creature turned its attention on the ship, under the assumption it was some sort of large, wounded creature. It engulfed the vessel, and caused the ground to yawn open as it pulled it underground. The team and the Order operatives were separated and disappeared beneath the swirling sands.
Several hours later, Janet woke up, parched and a little beaten up in the cavity created by the worm’s tunneling. Nearby, she found Chesed and ASURA-04, as well as the lifeless form of one of the Doves. Chesed panicked a bit, but Janet kept her cool.
Over the next few hours, Janet’s keen tracking skills and savvy wit helped to guide the party out of the tunnels and through the relentless desert. They encountered strange creatures, such as bloodsucking plants and enormous mutant locusts. It was a harsh trek, contending with poisonous creatures and cunning predators who had evolved in such an unforgiving environment. Janet lead the group along a path she believed belonged to Pistis, taking them from desert grotto to desert grotto. They found many strange things, including the rusted remains of other Doves, a mysterious axe, and a pair of crystal goggles at the bottom of a desert well.
Within a few hours, they had made their way into the outskirts of a massive city on the border of the desert. While seeking medical attention, they encountered Pistis, who was leading a party back into the desert to search for survivors. Relieved they had survived, she took them to the central city of Rebus, where they were to meet with the Alma. When asked if they would return to find the other Doves, Pistis explained that the Doves were no great concern- they were manufactured lifeforms created specifically to live and die for the Order, and would not be worth the effort and resources to recover. ASURA-04 seemed a little bothered by this, showing more emotion than he typically would.
They met with the Alma, a slender woman in opulent attire. She asked them how they managed to pierce the Veil, clearly able to tell they were not of her world. She explained that she had an ally who was able to see beyond the Veil, and that he had seen a disturbance shortly before their craft was discovered. She also explained much of the history of their world. Scorn and Dread were said to have been envoys from a great society far beyond the stars, and they were said to be missives of something known only as the Silver Beast. After the Silver Beast turned his back on the world of Maya several thousand years ago, Scorn and Dread began to behave in such a way as to earn their names, and the great conflicts that lead to the current state of Maya began.
Janet was intrigued- the stories of the Silver Beast bore remarkable similarities to those of the Silver Dragon of Arkova. Additionally, both planets were rich with natural alchemical activity and human life. Certainly, there could be no coincidence. Meanwhile, Chesed charmed the Alma, and gained her favor. She dismissed all charges against them, and awarded their group a special license to permit those in the group with alchemical talents to use their abilities judiciously. She also commissioned a psychic healer to attend to Tesla, and granted the crew a stipend of funds to acquire the necessary materials to repair their vessel. In exchange, the Alma asked that she be allowed to travel on the Disa at least once, and that if they could find a way to remove Maya from the Veil that they rescue the planet and restore it to its original location. Janet explained that they had hoped to do the same for another world (Arkova), so they would be more than willing to aid them.
Back on the ship, the team regrouped, and Rachael had restored the Disa to flight capability. She bright the vessel just outside of Rebus, and they allowed Pistis and the Order healer to enter. The healer explained that whoever had harmed Tesla had done in such a way that she could be restored at a later point- in order words, Jack had done this to Tesla not to destroy her, but to keep her subjugated for some purpose. The healer also detected some heavy scarring on Tesla’s psyche, but it was much older in origin than Jack’s assault. It appeared that long ago, someone had scarred her mind to hide something. He said that with a little concentration, he should be able to restore her to her old functionality without any great harm.
Meanwhile, as he worked his psionic powers on her, Tesla began to regain her awareness little by little. Deep within her subconscious, she became aware of another presence- a long forgotten part of herself that had only recently come out.
This other presence took the form of a young girl. The girl asked Tesla what she could remember of her mother, and Tesla was unable to produce much in terms of actual memories. The girl then took Tesla on a journey through her own past, exposing many long lost secrets.
Tesla’s actual parents were not her own parents. They adopted her from a woman known as Dr. Caroline Algladios, a notable engineer working for House Axolotl. Dr. Algladios had worked on the Milano Project, but she was most well known for her controversial work on the Weaver Project. As Tesla journeyed through all of this, she had to question the relevance of it.
She found that when she had visited Votum, she had done something highly unusual. While journeying through the ruins on Votum, she had been assaulted by a machine carrying the psionic essence of a Nashan. Ultimately, the Nashan’s essence tried to assume control of her weaponry and her robot Bonaparte, so she isolated the presence by converting the mental signature into a contained program.
Although she thought nothing of this, she was informed that no one had ever been able to do this- and that researchers attempting to create Hermits have been trying to do just that for years, with no success. How had Tesla gained the ability to do that, and why did she not realize that she could?
Furthermore, she came to find that this program was later incorporated into the body of an ASURA unit- ASURA-04 to be precise. The Adam had come to find her because it felt thankful for being restored to an actual body after years of inhabiting inanimate objects in the aftermath of the Nashan migration. However, once isolated in a new body, its awareness changed significantly.
Tesla had created the first actual Hermit, and it was a Hermit containing the mind of a race long since dead. But how did she come across this ability?
As she delved deeper, she came to find she had two siblings- an older brother named Michael Algladios, and an older sister named Crystal Algladios. Dr. Algladios had performed neurological augmentations on her three children in order to create humans with minds that could bridge the gap between data and the innate psionic essence.
This was the secret objective of the Weaver Project. Unfortunately, the children used in the Project fell to unfortunate circumstances. Michael, also called the Atropos, died after his mental functions ceased as a side effect of the augmentations. This happened in 920 PF, when he was only 6 years old. Several months later, Crystal Algladios, codenamed Clotho, went into a coma when her higher brain functions suddenly stopped as a result of the experimentation.
This left only one more child- Tesla Algladios, also called the Lachesis. At the age of 2, she was taken from her mother’s custody and adopted by the Soldats. Meanwhile, Dr. Algladios was tried for the death of Michael Gladios, and convicted for it. She was executed later that year, the galactic community branding her as a monster for butchering her own children in the name of science.
House Axolotl took custody of Crystal, but they allowed the since-neutered third Algladios child to be adopted, under one condition- they would retain the patent on the Lachesis functionality, and at any time, if they sought to make use of that patent, they could request Tesla’s aid and her parents could not interfere. It was by this clause that Tesla came to be part of the party sent to Arkova, despite her father’s wishes. House Axolotl had hoped to cultivate the Lachesis functionality by exposing the girl to extreme situations, but they had been reluctant to do so in an environment in which she might be acquired by those seeking to use the functionality for their own means. As such, their “experiment”, as it were, could only be executed in a location in which no one would ever be aware of the truth of the Weaver Project, and the mission to Arkova provided a perfect opportunity.
But, in light of the Lachesis awakening, why had Tesla not lost mental function like her siblings? Ultimately, she discovered that before Crystal went comatose, she used her abilities to seal away the Lachesis augmentations so that her sister may live.
However, when the great recalibration occurred on Arkova IV, Tesla and the others were quite literally removed from existence and recalibrated entirely upon Votum. When this happened, it restored part of her Lachesis functionality, and with it, her ability to convert mental essences into an isolated collection of data.
And in a strange twist of fate, Jack Jennison had saved her, but for all the wrong reasons. When he kidnapped her, he crushed her mind in order to quiet her and keep her from causing any trouble, but it actually prevented her Lachesis functionality from resurfacing entirely. If the Lachesis had come entirely to actualization, Tesla would have died much like her brother Michael. Now, however, that she had been treated by a talented psychic healer, though, she and her Lachesis functionality could co-exist and the neurological damages could be avoided.
The girl who guided her then introduced herself as Lachesis. She told Tesla she had a choice- embrace her and become Tesla the Lachesis, the one who could revolutionize the world and allow mankind to cheat death forever. Or, she could honor her sister’s wishes, and abandon Lachesis. Tesla embraced Lachesis, albeit reluctantly, and began to rise back to true consciousness. As the healer worked his art, she felt a warm pair of arms around her- but it was not those of the Lachesis, but rather those of her adoptive mother, Maria Soldat. She comforted Tesla, and told her to be brave in the face of this discovery.
Tesla came back to consciousness, still in a pair of warm arms. She looked up, not to find her mother, but ASURA-04 holding her. Gathered around her were Tuona, Chesed, Janet, Roth, and the healer. Everyone was happy to see her awake again, and very eager to talk to her, but Tesla was feeling somewhat disturbed in light of her new awareness. She asked to be alone for a bit.
A few days passed on Maya, and the team gathered resources and explored Rebus while waiting on Rachael’s repairs. Mauta even came to be friendly with the Alma, with the two of them bonding over several things- Mauta’s “godhood”, and the Alma’s perceived position of divinity.
Meanwhile, outside the anomaly, trouble brewed. Jack lead an assault on a Coalition archival facility, and gained access to restricted files on the Weaver Project. He then went to Ireland on Earth, to an isolated military hospital. He went in, killing as many people as he encountered, until he found a single comatose patient within a well guarded facility. He took the woman from her bed, and stormed out of the hospital with her in tow…