Episode 7

Episode 7: Awakening

Tuona and Roth awaken to the familiar sound of swaying boughs. The two of them find themselves in a Chirotrani treehouse, back in Moon Mirror Village in the valley.

Puzzled and confused, they carefully exit the building and begin to explore. Things seem to be as they always were, but there is an uneasy feeling about the village as they walk through it. Those that they knew before seem different somehow, and everyone seems completely unaware of the events that took place several months ago.

In fact, it seems none even remember the coming of the off-worlders at all. Roth decides it would be wise to seek out Mauta. No sooner do they begin searching do they find the sorcerer at the edge of the village, completely unaware of the events of the past. Within minutes of making contact, however, the former Cat God’s mind returns to its normal clarity.

They visit the elder of the village, who greets them warmly. He tells them that the coming of the Cat God bodes much joy for them, which causes Roth and Tuona to become incredibly suspicious. Never would the elder they knew say such a thing. They begin to press him for information, but he ignores them and tells them they must do all they can to escort the Cat God to a place known only as Sorcerer Castle.

None of the Arkovans had ever heard of such a place, but sure enough, a large palatial structure could be seen in the distance, jutting out of the forest canopy in the direction of Mauta’s old atelier.

When asked why it was so important, the elder stated that the world can only be restored if the Cat God and his companions sit on the thrones at the top of Sorcerer Castle. Tuona asks what has happened to the world that would cause it to need restoration, but the elder merely responds to the inquiry with momentary confusion and a rehashed insistence that the three of them travel to the castle.

They refuse, and Roth attempts to combat the elder, convinced he is some sort of sorcerous ruse. However, before he can, the village shudders, as if the space around them had suddenly shifted. The three of them find themselves lurched through space, and wind up back in the same hovel in which they had first returned to consciousness.

Again and again, they found themselves cycling through a sequence of eerily unsettling reappearances, continually seeking out members of the community in an attempt to find more information, being begged to travel to the castle, and being shoved through time and space back into the hovel to repeat it once they refused. After several times, Roth began to notice odd inconsistencies- such as the village washer woman. Each excursion back into the village merited an encounter with this woman, who would always gruffly command them to “stop lollygagging and get to their business.” The first few times, it seemed perfectly legitimate, but then she began to appear before them at seemingly inappropriate times and places- such as in the depths of the Haarg Wood where they had first encountered the vanished beasts. Furthermore, her facial features seemed to vary- the position of her eyes changing from appearance to appearance.

Mauta and Tuona came to the conclusion they were caught in some sort of illusion, and worked together to dispel it, to no avail. That is when the mysterious woman appeared- a striking red headed woman who walked through the walls of the elder’s tree and then crept into the shadows when spotted. Mauta speculated that this woman, most likely a sorceress, was responsible for the illusion, so they sought her out.

As they attempted to find her, the villagers became more and more insistent, even desperate in their pleas. Additionally, the spatial shifts became more and more violent, causing the threesome to feel fatigued and sick with each reset. Finally, they cornered the woman, who instructed them to remain silent. She told them her name was Rachael, and she was an operative sent to retrieve them.

She informed them that they were actually comatose, and their minds were displaced by a machine that allowed a skilled telepathic operator to gain access to their subconscious minds and construct a synthetic internal reality in which he could then suspend their awareness and harvest as much information as he liked while keeping them sedated and confined.

Outraged, the three Arkovans sought out to free themselves, but Rachael informed them that they would not be able to do so as easily as they would like. While connected to the device, the operator could gain access to their every thoughts if need be, making in nearly impossible to preempt his actions actively. She herself was capable of operating in stealth by hacking into the primary system and projecting her mind clandestinely into the synthetic reality. She would attempt to find some structural weak points to attack, but in the mean time, it would be up to them to keep the operator off his guard by challenging his authority within their subconsciousness- in other words, they would need to oust him from their dream states by entering a state of lucid dreaming. This action could be quite traumatic, however, so it would be important to attempt to synchronize their efforts.

Rachael vanished, attempting to take down the system, while the three individuals continued to challenge the artificial world- pointing out inconsistencies, defying the preset events planned by the operator, and by bluffing the operator into believing some of their memories may not be accurate in the first place. The result was a Moon’s Mirror turned upside down, with hideous creatures and disjointed events simultaneously disrupting his attempt to create an idyllic Arkova to contain them. After some time, Rachael reappeared, and stated that the operator himself had an avatar within the false world- and if they could find it and identify it, it would weaken his hold over their minds so significantly that the false reality would recede and the system would restore consciousness to them.

They investigated the nightmare valley, going over what they knew of the truth of their world and the evidence presented by Rachael, until they discovered the avatar- the washer woman. They found her, and she shoved them through a spatial rift that caused them to traverse through a twisting landscape of pirated thoughts and memories, wandering through the lives of past victims of the system, until they finally arrested control of their own minds, and reappeared in the memory of Moon’s Mirror. Rachael then returned, and struck the washer woman with a massive assault, causing her to drop her disguise and show her true form- that of a squat, chubby Rovarri male. The illusion dissolved, and the threesome came to consciousness, naked and strapped to tables, with a variety of tubes and sensors attached to them. A mysterious woman with blond hair and a friendly smile released them. She told them she was a friend of Rachael’s, and she was there to get them out of there. She introduced herself as Kolibri Daeva, an operative of Mendel Race sent to recover the native Arkovans from the Coalition military and return them to safety.

Kolibri gave them some clothing, and returned their gear to them, which she had pilfered from a storage facility within the building. She guided them out, carefully, and they met up with a woman who looked remarkably like Rachael, only covered in cybernetic implants. Kolibri explained that Rachael was a cyborg as well as a Mendel, but commonly went about in her idealized form while navigating computer networks. Rachael disabled the security devices, and escorted the Arkovans to her ship. However, before they could enter, they were stopped by a barrage of gunfire and a shrill shriek.

They turned to find the same chubby Rovarri from the false world, clad in a Coalition uniform, and several Coalition soldiers. He told them he would sooner kill the native Arkovans than allow them to fall into terrorist hands. Kolibri and Rachael attacked him, but the Rovarri was deceptively capable. He introduced himself as Raaza Ma-r, an individual that Rachael identified as “Bubble”, named so for his ability to cloister away the minds of Coalition war prisoners in a false world, or bubble, where he would then leisurely pick apart their psyches while searching for valuable information.

Raaza seemed pleased he was recognized, and then tossed the two Mendels and the Arkovans about with his potent telekinetic powers. Just then, a handsome blond man with bare arms and a towering figure burst onto the scene, and struck Raaza so hard he lost concentration and released his victims from his grasp. The man made no introduction, but proceeded to fight off the soldiers with his bare hands, and helped the group escape to Rachael’s vessel, the Disa.

Once on board, he introduced himself as ASURA model, unit 04. All of them were a little surprised that he was an android, as he looked so realistic. Furthermore, why had he aided them? He told them he was to return a favor for one who had saved him, and he needed their assistance.

Rachael was puzzled that an android would be able to seek them out, particularly of its own volition. The fact that he was an android of such experimental qualities- a wetware android, composed of a synthetic flesh that passed for living tissue on all but a molecular level- made it even stranger.

Meanwhile, the Arkovans had plenty of questions of their own. Kolibri explained that the planet Arkova IV had been destroyed entirely. It seems a massive alchemical recalibration occurred, causing a large mass of lure to become destabilized. This mass apparently ran into the mantle of the planet itself, causing a massive dimensional flux that engulfed the world itself.

Later, it was discovered that a team of Coalition operatives was blamed for this. It appears that Councilman Hesse of Lacryma had reported monitoring the planet moments before it was swallowed, and they reported detecting the signals emitted by the ID chips implanted in the cybernetics of Lt. Arro Ceid, of the Coalition.

Arro and his company were pinned with the responsibility for the loss of Arkova IV, as well as for multiple violations o the PTEA. However, they were presumed dead, until several days later, when a distress call from Tesla Soldat was detected on Votum II. The Coalition arrived and arrested the guilty party, but were shocked to find native Arkovans that had been taken off the planet before the crisis. They were then put into Coalition custody, where they were to be completely analyzed. They were kept sedated and locked away in a research lab deep within the first moon of Rovano VI, far from the prying eyes of the media.

The three Arkovans were horrified to learn this. Kolibri went on to explain that a little over three months had passed since that time. During this time, the Mendel activist group Mendel Race had uncovered information from within the Arzin Intergalactic Containment Facility that both Janet Blackchurch and Arro Ceid were detained there, and both reported a disturbingly different account of what happened on Arkova IV. Mendel Race, who had long been suspicious of Lacryma’s ambitions, found it a necessity to recover the native Arkovans and the two captives, and piece together the true story of what happened on that fateful day.

Rachael explained that Arro and Janet were scheduled to be executed within the week. They had to save them before this could happen, but first they intended to free them and seek their aid in the recovery of their companions. The three Arkovans gladly agreed. Meanwhile, ASURA-04 continued to request Rachael’s aid in the recovery of someone he deemed to be a vitally important individual.

He directed them to a space station en route to Arzin. It was a B-class station responsible for the production of a variety of robotics. The station itself was owned by a subsidiary of House Axolotl, the famed genetics firm, but it had been occupied by Coalition forces for the past 3 months. Curious as to who exactly was contained in this facility, and why they would warrant a government presence, Rachael agreed to a quick layover.

In the station, ASURA-04, Kolibri, and Tuona crept through the halls with great success. Kolibri revealed she was an incredibly skilled shapeshifter, and her talents allowed her to seamlessly immerse herself in the station’s activities and find the location of the shadowy VIP.

They determined that a wing in sector C was being used to contain a certain individual under government authority. They snuck into Sector C, where they were ambushed by a curious sequence of traps and sarcastic and derisive commments over the computer’s vocalizer. Finally, they came across a locked chamber. ASURA-04, in a display of amazing strength, punched the door in. Upon entering, the party was met with a barrage of micro-rockets and a firm if not somewhat familiar scream commanding them to leave. Imagine Tuona’s shock to find Tesla, clad in a set of pajamas and bunny slippers, eating potato chips while aiming a rocket launcher at the door of the cell.

After some explanation (and a bit of baffled wonderment), they found that Tesla had avoided arrest due to her father’s diplomatic immunity, but could not avoid being placed in confinement. She was put on the station and forced to work on a series of androids commissioned by the government. At this point, she recognized ASURA-04 as one of these androids. Kolibri assumed she had sent the android out as a way to gain help, but she explained she didn’t actually work on that unit specifically- she merely provided the coding for the basic operations system. The unit apparently sought her out of its own volition, although she was not certain why. The ASURA merely explained he had been done a favor by Tesla, and he sought to repay it. Before anyone could make sense of the cryptic statement, an alarm went off, as the Disa’s presence was discovered by security. They raced out to the hangar, only to be ambushed by a cadre of soldiers and another ASURA unit. The ASURA unit identified ASURA-04 as a defective unit, and assaulted it, but it fought it off while the others made their way to the ship. Tesla re-emerged on the battlefield, and strafed the soldiers with rocket fire. Kolibri, also hungry for battle, burst onto the scene, taking on a grand form composed of many parts, and flew into battle. The three of them beat back the soldiers, and secured a clean escape.

Once on board, Tesla was relieved to see her Arkovan friends intact, and was distressed to hear the fate of Janet and Arro. She and Rachael also tried to make sense of the ASURA.

That evening, the Disa docked in the hangar of the ship, Carnivale. Tesla was puzzled by this- the Carnivale was a ship registered to the Horan pop star, Cialla “Chesed” Dhozra. Rachael explained that as a horan, Chesed bore a deep psychic connection to the plight of the horan people, whose culture and society was destroyed during the Great Horan War. He had hoped to use his fame and influence to help rebuild the Horan homeworlds, but found their plight barred by those among the Coalition unwilling to accept the guilt of their ancestors. So, Chesed instead found sympathy among Mendel Race, who could identify with the horans’ feelings of disenfranchisement. They would secretly provide financial and technological aid to the various horan colonies, which were notoriously under-equipped and badly maintained. In return, Chesed would return the favor by aiding the group in the future- and his time had come.

It was all very confusing- how could a popular musician and celebrity ever hope to help an alleged terrorist group and a handful of outcast adventurers break their friends out of a military prison?

Episode 7

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