Author Topic: Heart of Ice  (Read 7975 times)

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Offline lowlevelowl

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Heart of Ice
« on: June 17, 2013, 10:57:25 pm »
In 2015, worsening conditions in the world's climate led to the first Global Economic Conference. It was agreed to implement measures intended to reverse industrial damage to the ecology and replenish the ozone layer. By 2031, an array of weather control satellites were in orbit. For added efficiency, and as mark of worldwide co-operation, these were placed under the control of a supercomputer network called GAIA, the Global Artificial Intelligence Assembly. The Earth's climate began to show steady improvement.

The first hint of disaster came early in 2037, when GAIA shut down inexplicably for a period of seventeen minutes. Normal operation was resumed but the system continued to suffer glitches. One such glitch resulted in Paris being subjected to a two-day heat wave of such intensity that the pavement cracked. After several months, the fault was identified. A computer virus had been introduced into GAIA by unknown means. The system's designer began programming an antivirus but died before his work was completed. The crisis grew throughout that year until finally, following the death of five thousand people in a flash flood along the Bangladesh coastline, the GAIA project was officially denounced. Unfortunately it was no longer possible to shut it down.

By the mid-twenty-first century, global weather conditions were in chaos owing to GAIA's sporadic operation. Ice sheets advanced further each year. Australia was subject to virtually constant torrential rain. The centre of Asia had become an arid wasteland. The political situation reflected the ravages of the climate, with wars flaring continually around the globe. Late in 2054, computer scientists in London tried to hack into GAIA and locate the replicating viruses in the program. GAIA, detecting this, interpreted the action as an attack on its program and retaliated by taking over a range of defence networks which allowed it to launch a nuclear strike. London was completely destroyed.

By the end of the century Gaia had routed itself into all major computer networks, taking control of weather, communications, and weapons systems all across the planet. Periods of lucidity and hospitable climate were interspersed with hurricanes and arctic blizzards. The US president gave an interview in which he likened GAIA to a living entity: "She was intended as mankind's protective mother, but this 'mother' has gone mad."

_______________

Spiralling decline in the world's fortunes left much of humanity on the brink of extinction. The population fell rapidly until only a few million people remained scattered around the globe, mostly in cities where food could still be artificially produced.

It is now the year 2300. The rich stand aloof, disporting themselves with forced gaiety and waiting for the end. The poor inhabit lawless slums where disease is rife. Between the cities, the land lies under a blanket of snow and ice. No one expects humanity to last another century. This is truly the end of history.

_______________

Choose a character.

The Explorer (CLOSE COMBAT, LORE, STREETWISE, SURVIVAL)
Others might mourn the collapse of civilization, but for you it only opens up new areas of mystery in the world.

The Bounty Hunter (CUNNING, PILOTING, SHOOTING, STREETWISE)
Times are hard and the strong prey upon the weak. It is left to the likes of you to enforce the law.

The Spy (AGILITY, CYBERNETICS, ROGUERY, STREETWISE)
Even as the world dies a slow death, governments vie with one another for the wealth and power that remain. You steal secrets and trade them to the highest bidder.

Quote
BISECTED BY A GIANT CENTIPEDE
The Scientist (CYBERNETICS, LORE, PILOTING, SURVIVAL)
Most people understand nothing of the machines created by their ancestors, but you've learned that knowledge is power.
Life Points: 10 9 4 2 6 3 4 5 3 -2
Scads: 30
Possessions (4/8): canister of vine killer, food packs (skudge bar x3)
HUMBABA, cyborg body-parts

Quote
The Mutant (AGILITY, CUNNING, PARADOXING, ROGUERY)
Born with strange powers, you are more than human. Others would kill you if they knew your secret.
Life Points: 10
Scads: 30
Possessions (1/8): psionic focus

The Trader (ESP, LORE, SHOOTING, STREETWISE)
Few dare cross the icy wastes between cities, so a daring adventurer can make a tidy profit.

The Visionary (CLOSE COMBAT, CUNNING, ESP, PARADOXING)
Cursed with second sight, you know that mankind has no future unless something is done to save the world.

_______________

SKILLS
Quote
AGILITY
The ability to perform acrobatic feats, run, climb, balance, and leap. A character with this skill is nimble and dexterous.

CLOSE COMBAT
The use of a range of martial arts incorporating elements of karate, ju-jitsu, and taiji.

CUNNING
The ability to think on your feet and devise clever ploys for getting out of trouble. Useful in countless situations.

CYBERNETICS
The ability to program and operate computers - almost a forgotten science in the apocalyptic world of the twenty-third century.

ESP
The ability to sense danger and read other people's minds. You must possess a psionic focus to use this skill.

LORE
A combination of history, legend, and general knowledge which gives you a good basis for dealing with the unknown.

PARADOXING
The ability to mentally affect the normal laws of nature. A slower and less reliable technique than ESP, but with sometimes miraculous effects. You must possess a psionic focus to use this skill.

PILOTING
The ability to handle virtually any vehicle from an air-sled up to a space shuttle.

ROGUERY
Stealth and espionage skills: picking pockets, opening locks, and skulking unseen in the shadows.

SHOOTING
Expertise with long-range weaponry. You must possess a charged barysal gun to use this skill.
STREETWISE
With this skill you are never at a loss in cities. What others see as the squalor and menace of narrow neon-lit streets is home to you.

SURVIVAL
A talent which enables you to cope in desolate and uninhabited regions: forests, deserts, swamps, and mountain peaks.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2013, 08:20:06 pm by lowlevelowl »



Offline Rysworld

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Re: Heart of Ice
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2013, 11:35:22 pm »
The Scientist!

Cybernetics, Lore, and Survival all sound great.

Piloting should be useful to us if we're able to procure a vehicle.

Offline lowlevelowl

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Re: Heart of Ice
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2013, 01:46:00 am »

Offline lowlevelowl

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Re: Heart of Ice
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2013, 01:47:56 am »
The Etruscan Inn lies in the shadow of the Appenine Mountains, beside a frozen waterfall, sheltered from the wind by a high ridge of bare black rock. You sit at a long window and gaze out towards the mountains. Dusk is melting the sharp outlines of the crags, filling the valleys with blue gloom. The moon glimmers faintly under racing black clouds. Later this evening there will be more snow.

Turning from the window, you let the curtain fall back and make your way across the dingy room. Travellers sit at the sides, noisily gambling and sipping hard liquor the colour of fire. Many are hunters and traders from the plains which slope down from here to the Ligurian Sea. Others may have been here much longer: thin old men and women who found meagre employment. The Etruscan Inn is a famous stop-over for those who undertake the perilous Appenine crossing. If a few such, gazing up at the ice capped peaks, found their spirits daunted and chose to stay, who can blame them? You sometimes wonder yourself why you bother to press on across the world in the teeth of such hardship and poverty.

The story of how the inn came to be here is a strange one, even for these bizarre times. The building was originally an air-cruiser which crashed in the mountains two hundred years ago. An ancestor of the present innkeeper turned the wreckage into a hostelry for wayfarers. The power unit had not been damaged in the crash, so the inn has electricity - a rarity in the modern world. Even better, several of the air-cruiser's careteks were salvaged. These are robots which continually clean and repair the structure, sturdily carrying out the tasks they were programmed to do centuries ago.

Pushing aside a drape, you step into another room of the inn. On the wall, a screen flickers with scenes from an old film. The innkeeper is sitting with a few others at the back of the room, loudly commenting on the action. You step over a caretek which resembles a long metal cockroach. It extends polishing pads to clean the floor where you were standing. Propping yourself against the wall, you watch the film for a few minutes, but the innkeeper's shouts and jeers are impossible to ignore. When you complain, he only gives a great gusting laugh and says, "There's no point in getting interested in any film that appears on this screen. The video link comes from a satellite connected to GAIA, who changes channels as the whim strikes her. Sometimes I have seen newsreel footage over a century old. At other times there are films, musical shows, or documentaries. But I have yet to see the end of any programme. There—!" He points at the screen and, turning, you see that the film has been replaced by a blizzard of grey static.

Offline lowlevelowl

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Re: Heart of Ice
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2013, 01:48:16 am »
"Turn it off, can't you?" growls a man from the adjacent room. "Some of us would like to get to sleep."

"Turn it off, you say?" The innkeeper belows with laughter at this. "It hasn't been off in all the time I've been alive. It can't be turned off. Not unless GAIA decides to take pity on us and give us a few hours' peace."

An angry florid-faced man stamps through from the other room and glowers at the screen, which has now changed to show a weather report for the coming month. "Preposterous!" He snarls in outrage. "It says New York will be having thunderstorms. There has been no rain in New York for years. It is buried under half a mile of ice!"

The innkeeper only chuckles and goes about his chores. "Don't blame me," he says. "Everyone knows GAIA is mad."

The man whose rest was disturbed glares after him and protests: "If you can't turn it off, why not smash the screen? It only shows gibberish anyhow."

Seeing the man step forward as if to do just that, the innkeeper wags a finger at him. "I'd advise you to leave it as it is. Stick wads of wool in your ears if the noise disturbs you. But if you smash the screen, the careteks will spend the whole night repairing it and none of us will get any sleep, what with their scuttling about and the clattering of spare parts."

Hearing this, the man throws up his arms in exasperation and, gathering his blankets, stomps off to sleep at the far end of the inn.

Night falls. The drunken roistering turns to low murmurs, then snores. You huddle on your own bedding and listen to the moaning of the wind outside the fuselage. Tomorrow you have to set out again into the cold. It is not a pleasant prospect.

From the adjacent room you can hear the screen crackling with incessant babble. There is part of a game show probably taped before your great-grandfather was born, followed by clips from science fiction films of the twenty-first century. You are thirsty and you cannot sleep. Ignoring the mumbled complaints of the people stretched out around you, you get up and step over them, moving through to the room where the screen is.

You sit down. Maybe a half hour of random videos will cure your insomnia. Then the screen changes. It is a news report from the year 2095. The main item concerns the crash of an air cruiser in the Appenine mountains. You sit forward in your seat, intrigued. Pictures taken from the air reveal the broken tangle of wreckage that was later repaired to form this inn.

Offline lowlevelowl

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Re: Heart of Ice
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2013, 01:48:34 am »
Suddenly the picture changes. "In another item today," says the announcer's voice, "scientists studying the meteorite that fell in Egypt last month say that it may be the oldest object in the universe. These pictures show the safety suits that are needed to approach the meteorite, which emits radiation of a type never previously identified."

The scene flickers to a date months later. A reporter is standing at a roadside, an armoured truck blazing in the background. "Terrorists of the sect known as the Volentine Watchers today seized the mysterious meteorite as it was being transported to Cairo for further tests. The terrorists, who worship the meteorite which they call the Heart of Volent, have yet to issue a statement."

The screen crackles again, becoming a rich green colour, the world's continents outlined in red - the continents as they looked before the sea-level fell and the polar caps crept down to cover them.

A warm feminine voice speaks. "The Heart of Volent remained in the hands of the cultists for twenty years. They founded in the city of Du-En in the Sahara and learned how to tap the Heart's power, which they used to devastating effect in the Paradox War. Later Du-En suffered civil war and became abandoned. I have now completed analysis of the scientific tests carried out before the Heart was seized by the cultists. These are my findings. If a human were to make direct physical contact with the Heart, this would release the full energy stored within. The effect would be to activate that person's total psychic potential. In effect they would gain ultimate power over their surroundings. This has been a communication from GAIA. Thank you for your attention."

The screen goes blank and silent for a moment, and then starts to show a cartoon. You hardly notice it. You are too awestruck by the realization that you have just heard the voice of GAIA.

What she said begins to sink in. Ultimate power...it lies somewhere in the ruined city of Du-En, across the Saharan Ice Wastes. Suddenly wary, you look at the sleeping forms stretched out around the room. Did anyone else hear Gaia's broadcast? You listen to the snores, the drone of slow regular breathing. No one shows any sign of being awake. Plunged in thought, you return to your blankets and stretch out, but now sleep is even harder to come by. When you finally doze off just a few hours before dawn, your dreams are filled with dreams of the strange meteorite from space and the power that it contains.

Will you go to Du-En and seek the Heart? Are you tempted by a power that could change the whole world?

Offline lowlevelowl

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« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2013, 01:50:28 am »
You are packed and ready to leave the inn at dawn. Cold grey light seeps in through the row of dusty portholes at the side of the common room. Making your way to the door, you find the innkeeper polishing the antique Formica desk. Seeing you set your pack down beside the door, he comes over and kicks away one of the careteks which had its metal body pressed down across the door-sill.

"You're lucky having those," you say, pushing the door open a crack to take a breath of fresh icy air. The innkeeper grunts as he watches the caretek re-orient itself and glide away across the floor. "They are a mixed blessing, since they insist on trying to repair the inn to the form it had originally. This door is a feature that I added myself, more convenient than the hatchway at the back of the fuselage. But if I leave it unattended for more than a few hours at a time, those wretched careteks always try to weld it shut!"

You smile to show that you sympathise. "I'd be grateful for your advice. I'm now travelling on to the Sahara. What is the best route?"

The innkeeper flings the door wide, ignoring the curses that erupt from his customers at the sudden intrusion of cold air. Gazing across the expanse of dazzling white snow, he says, "The most obvious course would take you to Venis, where you could board the ferry for Kahira, and yet..." He rubs his hands, blowing out a long furl of steam in the chill air. "Myself, I'd be tempted to go instead through the Lyonesse jungle, just to savour a bit of warmth in this frigid world. Thence across the Jib-and-Halter and the Atlas Mountains - unless you stumbled across the ruins of lost Marsay, of course, in which case you might even find a tube tunnel to take you straight to the Sahara!"

Thanking the innkeeper for his advice, you indicate that you are ready to pay your bill. He looks at you in surprise and points to a small dapper man in a grey-trimmed white snowsuit. "Your friend there has already paid."

At this, the small man comes over and extends his hand, smiling broadly. "Hello. My name is Kyle Boche. I believe we're travelling in the same direction."

Quote
  • accept Kyle Boche as your companion on the road
  • tell him that you prefer to travel alone
« Last Edit: June 19, 2013, 02:58:17 am by lowlevelowl »

Offline Rysworld

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Re: Heart of Ice
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2013, 02:03:52 am »
Accept him.

He did just pay for our tab, after all, and companionship is always nice.

Offline lowlevelowl

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« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2013, 02:08:13 am »
"I overheard you say you were bound for the Saharan Ice Wastes," says Boche. "My own journey takes me in that direction."

As you set off together through the deep drifts of snow, Boche takes your arm and points to a row of black wooden posts. "That is the road to Venis. We can catch the ferry from there to Kahira."

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  • agree to go east to Venis
  • go west through the Lyonesse jungle, as the innkeeper recommended
« Last Edit: June 19, 2013, 02:58:57 am by lowlevelowl »

Offline Rysworld

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Re: Heart of Ice
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2013, 02:14:16 am »
Go to the Lyonesse- that tube tunnel sounds promising and quick, if chancy, and if even a few other people caught that broadcast they're almost certainly heading the same way as you now.

Offline lowlevelowl

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« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2013, 02:39:21 am »
Boche is not enthusiastic. "The Lyonesse region is infested with malefactors and noctambules," he avers. "We would be at great risk. Also, the Atlas Mountains are a daunting obstacle. As your partner in this venture, I strongly urge you to reconsider!"

He is obviously not willing to accompany you if you insist on heading west.

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  • do so anyway
  • change your mind and take the road to Venis
« Last Edit: June 19, 2013, 02:59:27 am by lowlevelowl »

Offline Rysworld

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Re: Heart of Ice
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2013, 03:11:26 pm »
He could be great help on our journey, so we should probably stick with him.

Go to Venis.

Offline eropS

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Re: Heart of Ice
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2013, 03:46:30 pm »
Do so anyway
No, no, he did. In the everything else section, at least. Officially, this makes him king.

Offline lowlevelowl

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« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2013, 06:25:28 pm »
Flipped a coin to decide on the split decision, eropS came out on top. Though I'm thinking that, in future, whoever has more justification for their choice will get it, since it's nice to be able to see into the decision-making process.
__________

As you travel west, the bitter cold begins to ease. Instead of wild blizzards, you find yourself trudging through flurries of soft sleet. After several days you see a harsh light on the horizon. Ahead looms an arc of light slanting through a wide gulf in the clouds. Even when night falls, the light keeps blazing down. An old weather satellite far out in space, misdirected by GAIA's freakish whims, bathes the landscape in endless sun. These are the steaming swamps and jungles of Lyonesse.

On the northern fringes of the region, you have heard that men exploit the fertile farmland to support the old city of Lyon. To the south, the warm waters mean plentiful fish. But no one inhabits the interior of Lyonesse, which is the stalking ground of mutated beasts and carnivorous fungi.

You press on undaunted, pleased to be able to shrug off your thick furs as you leave the icy wasteland behind and enter the lush dank morass. Foliage like ships' sails blots out much of the sky, leaving you plunged in green gloom despite the ceaseless daylight. Extravagant blooms with jewel-like colours exude a mingle of musky scents. Creepers stretch in nets between the black trees. Ferns form high banks across your path. Off in the distance, the chittering and screeching of jungle animals seem unreal after so many days with only the wind's howl in your ears. Here there is no night or day. When tiredness becomes too much, you slump sweat-soaked beside a fallen log and roll your clothing up to make a pillow. The succulent jungle whispers lull you off to sleep.

Quote
  • ESP w/ psionic focus
  • AGILITY
  • neither
__________

Since we don't have the skill of ESP (requiring a psionic focus) nor the skill of AGILITY, we must choose neither.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2013, 02:59:36 am by lowlevelowl »

Offline lowlevelowl

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« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2013, 06:27:45 pm »
"What's that, what's that?"

You bolt upright and stare around. The voice you heard was jarringly strange: human-like, but not quite human. Nerves tingling, you scan the undergrowth -


Teeth snare your shoulder and you cry out in pain and surprise. The attack came from above. Lose 1 life point. You look up to see an uncanny beast peering down at you. Stretched between the branches, its body is a tent of leathery wing-flaps. Its head is a narrow snout filled with teeth, swaying on a long flexible neck. It watches you with small glittering eyes and croaks, "What's that?"

Nothing nice, that's for sure.

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  • SHOOTING w/ charged barysal gun
  • otherwise
__________________

Since we don't have the skill of SHOOTING (requiring a charged barysal gun) we must choose otherwise. Also, I'll always automatically update the first post for life points, scads, and that kinda thing.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2013, 03:00:35 am by lowlevelowl »