Hello And Welcome To Jackass

Day 22, Noon

Sameera's last semi-conscious decision before Arianhod shoved her into the Healing Vat aboard the GEV and engaged the child-proof lock on the door was to upload the XP recordings from her suit and implants for the rest of the team to view, thus sparing them from actually having to talk to the Jovians on board during the trip. There isn't particularly anything new in the recording that she hadn't already told them about, but getting to see her triple cartwheel through the air followed by a fifty-meter slide along the dry "canal" from a first-person perspective is pretty impressive. It also gives them some more up-close recordings of the crab bots.

Their geologist is still asleep, with the healing vat's machinery buffering her brain and fixing the microscopic damage done to it, the next morning. They don't come into view of their base camp until just before noon, however, as yet another episode of windy weather is in store for them, heavily reducing visibility as the GEV is pelted with sand. Something's clearly up, though, as a couple of Jovians are fully suited up and waiting for them as they arrive, looking armed and twitchy-looking. They almost get themselves run over by the GEV trying to flag it down.

It takes a couple of repeats and for Rostislav to tell them to settle down before they properly relate what's got them so rattled, but apparently one of the Scum has gone missing, a member of the Dunk My Junk crew. The last time anyone saw him was just shortly after the GEV left the day before. The Jovians suspect he may have slipped past them and wandered into the ruins, but since they were told not to enter the ruins themselves, they haven't organized any sort of search yet, besides confirming that he isn't smoking weed behind one of Liz's servers or has gotten stuffed in a sock drawer in the Scumhaus.

Among the Scum, there's somewhat less worry, mostly a general conviction that he's just gone off to get high in private, and shouldn't be bothered.

At the moment there's no sign of Lime or Kinkulon, but there's a confirmed trace on their suit and morph respectively out in the water, somewhere around where the coastal shallows become proper deeps.

Lahmia's scout swarm has also managed to penetrate the "oil silo" that almost poisoned the ruins when they breached it. It appears to be filled up to about twice Arianhod's head height with the thick, tar-like substance they encountered previously, but isn't otherwise as empty internally as an oil silo would be expected to be. There are internal subdivisions, floors, laid out in the same open plan most of the rest of the building is, and signs of furniture buried under the sulphurous mess. The upper floors appear to have suffered from it less. It's still hard to tell what the equipment there was for under all the sludge, however.


Sighing as she steps off the GEV and gets the lowdown on the situation, Arianhod goes to check on the status of the clinic Urist were supposed to build and setup earlier, while she does this she talks over with the others. «Where was their last mesh ping? Liz, can you help me out? Between your server, the 2nd GEV, and the aerostat, we should be able to triangulate the last time and physical location they interacted with the mesh.»


This is going to be the first real test of the construction nanobots (and other stuff, too!). Knowing there is a metric fuckton (or fucktonne) or oil down there is some real news. Lahmia deletes her old notification system and replaces it with a bulletin board labeled "Boring Industry Stuff and other lame colony business" where she dumps all the info about the lower levels full of- what exactly is it? Crude? Refined? Too old to tell anymore? The plan is to construct a below-ground storage container here on the surface and, one way or another, siphon it out so we can see what was down there and maybe use the oil for our own purposes.

Urist is the first to get a command ("Dig a hole to these specifications, minion"), then she starts browsing through the blueprints catalog for- oh who are we kidding, Lahmia unpackages her muse's files onto the server, which takes the form of a fat imp with no head and a big eyeball in its bellybutton, to find a blueprint for a suitable storage container. While it does its magic, Lahmia herself gets to programming a new trick for tracking scum going where they shouldn't into the general nanobot hive.


While Lahmia was being industrious, Liz turned her attention to Arianhod's request. She quickly scoured the local mesh, having already registered everyone's Mesh ID over the past several days. The alphanumeric string was fortunately not hashed into some vile obscenity, so tracking it to a specific point of access and then checking sensor logs was easy.

(OOC: Rolled Research at TN50, got -17; success!)

Day 22, Afternoon

It takes Liz a bit more effort than she expects to track the missing film crew member. The storm moved in about ten hours ago, and apparently it's been making the mesh outside of the Scumhaus and prefabs somewhat fuzzy. Radio signals tend to get lost in it, too. It seems worse than normal just for inclement weather, Liz notes. Her Scum target keeps popping in and out in the logs, like he's teleporting, stuttering in and out of reality. First he leaves the Scumhaus, shortly before the storm starts up, presumably just to check out the surface level of the ruins or just to stretch his legs. Then the storm starts picking up, and it's clear by his movements that he's heading for the nearest shelter. The last mesh ping has him just outside of the harbor depot building.

Meanwhile Rostislav asks Arianhod whether he should get his men to start searching the facility in twos and threes.

Urist grudgingly proceeds with Lahmia's instructions, transmitting cybernetic complaints every time the wind picks up and shoves a large amount of sand into the hole he's digging. It just seems to make him more set on digging his hole, however. Meanwhile, it takes Lahmia's muse a while to find what she's looking for, apparently fossil fuel storage containers aren't a data subject that gets pinged often, but it does eventually provide her with the blueprints for a container that can handle multiple different viscosities and all but the most corrosive of fuels.

Using the mesh, both Liz and Lahmia also notice that the local cybernetic environment has been colonized by their new tenants. The Scum have made a sprawling, labyrinthine wiki interspersed with *chan-like comment sections, the Jovians have an old-school BBS with named and registered accounts, and Kinkulon and Lime have both established private data partitions.


"Affirmative, Lev. please see the map for the tunnel complex. We'll take the area near the toxin storage, and the uh, mothballed mothship, partition up your men and start searching the rest of the explored areas before we start poking elsewhere, don't open any doors I've marked as dangerous unless there's nowhere left to go. Use hardsuits where you can, we only found one source of toxin so far but it was virulent.» Arianhod drives the GEV over to the clinic before carefully transferring Sameera to one of the beds with orders to not leave until she's been cleared. Arianhod pops on her vacsuit's helmet.

«@Colony, get Urist over to the ruins, just in case we need an emergency excavation again. Lahmia, bring your hive» Arianhod drives the GEV over to the ruins in case they need something from it immediately before rounding up the original entry team to go poke at the hangar and the ruins near the oil silo.


Trusting Arianhod to handle the logistics of search and rescue (making a point to contribute her Gnat to the efforts), Liz turned her attention back to her ware development progress. To Thanat, Lahmia and Arianhod, she linked them to a partition of her home server where she stored copies of all the wares she had made so far, and noted progress on ware and blueprints for future projects.

Complete as of Day 22 Description/Function
Security ALI Designed by Liz, currently residing in local Mesh. Tentative names include 'Hydra' or 'Hekatonchires'. Intending to make more/improve codebase with enhanced traits.
Persistence This meshware uses rootkit techniques to keep the digital mind active despite attempts to crash it. Increase the infomorph’s Durability by 10 and Wound Threshold by 2.
Fault Tolerance This module provides redundancy and loadsharing functions. You receive AV 5 against mesh attacks.
Sniffer Sniffer apps collect all of the traffic passing between or through targeted systems (Sniffing ▶245).
Starting Crack as of Day 22 Description/Function Time to Completion Liz Team
Enhanced Security –10 Infosec to hack, –30 in defensive mode but no Insight pool and –3 INIT. Mod/2; 16 weeks 1/12
Multitasking Focus on 2 things at once. +1 Insight Mod/2; 16 weeks 2/12
Code Starting as of Day 22 Description/Function Time to Completion Liz Team
Neuromodulation This nanoware system enables you to influence your brain’s neurotransmitters. This gives you rough control over your emotional states (much like endocrine control), though to a lesser degree. Increase your Moxie pool by 1. Mod/2 Meshware, 32 weeks 3/12
Energy Efficiency The bioware version of this ware boosts your metabolism. The hardware version optimizes your shell’s energy usage. The meshware version optimizes code. This gives you 1 extra short recharge per day. Mod/2, Meshware, 32 Weeks 4/12
Mind Amp Mind amp alters your neural architecture and augments neuronal functions. This accelerates your mental faculties and ability to receive and process sensory information. Time subjectively slows down for you, allowing you to discern things happening too quickly for others to perceive, such as the individual frames of an old analog film or an accelerated audio recording. Mind amp increases your Insight pool by 2. Maj/3, Meshware, 96 Weeks 5/12
Endocrine Control This modifies the morph’s endocrine system (or the software sim of it), giving you a measure of control over your hormones. You can influence your appetite, thirst and remain awake for 48 hours without penalty. You also have fine control over your emotional states, and can “gland” happiness, sadness, aggression, arousal, trust, suspicion, and so on. Increase your Moxie pool by 2. Maj/3, Meshware, 96 Weeks 6/12
Stress Control Your morph’s endocrine system (or its software simulation) has been modified to give you greater control over cortisol and similar hormones. This enables you to manage your stress levels and responses. Apply a +10 modifier to WIL Checks against stress or triggered disorders and raise your Trauma Threshold by 1. This does not impact your Lucidity or Insanity Rating. Mod/2, Meshware, 32 Weeks 7/12
Crypto This app generates key pairs, encrypts messages using public keys, and decrypts with secret keys (Encryption ▶247) Min/1, Meshware, 16 weeks 8/12
Tracker This app traces people’s connections online to their origin (Tracking ▶256). (Encryption ▶247). Min/1, Meshware, 16 weeks 9/12


"Well, it was nice while it was quiet," she queues up a few more blueprints for her muse, Vassago, to find, including an umbrella and assortment of hats to go with her smart clothes. Lahmia gets suited up; this is serious time, which means vac suit time. The nanobot hive and Raum get loaded up onto the robomule (she's tempted to set it's name to 'Behemoth') and Urist is ordered to leave the mud pit, as fun as it may be.

As soon as Lahmia opens the door, she remembers it's storming like fuck outside. She shuts the door, tarps up the robomule, clips her safety line to it, and tries again. She eventually meets up with Arianhod.


While all these exciting things are going on, Thanat too is busy. Inside the Scumhaus, he's attempting to print the most-Earth like dirt to fill the central room planters with, and later he'll print seeds. Ever since he promised to leave at least a fifth of the planters to drugs, and another fifth to drug plants that can look good like opium poppy, some other Scum have been helping.

Day 22, Afternoon

Lev gives Arianhod a nod, seeming to stop just short of a salute, and has most of his men suited up and ready by the harbor depot in short order. By the time Arianhod is done transferring Sameera to the clinic and shows up at the depot with Lahmia, Lev and his troops have already headed inside and started descending to the underground sections. A couple of Jovians still at ground level indicate the one thing they've found so far: a half-smoked joint carelessly dropped on the ground.

The storm is also growing in intensity, it's beige-out(like a white out, but with sand instead of snow. So less cold, but more likely to sandblast your skin off.) conditions outside and the electrical charge in the air is growing by the second. Thunder is regularly booming in the distance, and sparks are occasionally earthing themselves off the hull of the parked GEV's, as well as anything even remotely ferrous. Urist is stoically sporting a hazy aura of St. Elmo's Fire which at least makes him easy to find. Even inside the harbor depot, sparks occasionally leap from surface to surface, and wireless mesh connectivity is poor. In the intermittent clear moments, Arianhod and Lahmia can track that the Jovians have split into three teams of three in the tunnels below.

"Is the weather always this sort of shit?" One of the Scum inside asks Thanat, while helping him plant opium poppies, "It didn't look anywhere near this bad in your XP's. We should've sleeved into synths if we knew it was gonna suck this hard. I thought we were going to get to hang out on a cool alien beach half the time."


"Well you should have regardless, new planet, gatecrashing, yadda yadda. We haven't been here long enough to figure out climate and weather patterns. Shit we still need an astronomer or something, maybe that Jovian scientist will do. There's some shadow that keeps passing in front of the sun, like some sort of eclipse."

"With the minifac up and running though, we'll print synths if needed. As soon as Sameera comes out her vat and points where to drop the automines, that is."


If these kind of storms are going to be a thing with any regularity, Arianhod decides there need to be heavier restrictions on wandering off on your own. «@Liz, if these kind of conditions are going to be a thing in the future, we might need to consider adding radio boosters to meshinserts and running fiberoptic landlines between buildings.» She acknowledges the Jovians findings before moving to the hangar along with Buer, at the very leads, she has it/him repeatedly t-ray ping the area so she can scan it with both of their vision.


« I have no objections to this in terms of infrastructural building.» Liz notes. «But as our local mesh grows, I expect us to develop proper infosec including airgapped security partitions and the like. That is a future concern however. »

She queried their various fabbers, discerning if any of the local blueprint libraries had what Arianhod requested; fiberoptic cables, radio boosters and similar.

Day 22, Afternoon

It doesn't take long for Liz to find what Arianhod requests. Quite a few locations have hostile electromagnetic environments, or requirements for data security, so physical data cabling is still a thing. Radio boosters, likewise, aren't a problem, being present in a variety of different sizes, from ones meant to be mounted on buildings to smaller ones intended for suits and synthmorphs.

[OOC: Fiber-optic cables for the base don't cost anything. Building a base-sized radio booster will cost 2 GP, adding radio boosters to a morph, vehicle or suit costs 1 GP and will allow it to cut through all but the worst of interference.]

The Scum worker raises an eyebrow at Thanat, "Probably you guys just have a moon in an appropriate orbit. We should fake a landing on it, just like they did with Luna in the pre-Fall, really fuck with people."

The storm drops to a dull roar outside as Arianhod and Lahmia move into the harbor depot. Echoing up from the central shaft, she can hear the Jovians' suit-amplified voices calling out for the missing Scum, though the mixing, echoing voices combined with the roar of the storm gives it all sort of an unholy, haunted ambience. The intermittent lightning from leaping sparks, and flashing low-powered internal lighting systems, jumping on and off as the atmospheric charge energizes them, doesn't help either.

The team receives a fuzzy mesh signal from the tunnels below, one of the Jovians transmitting a video signal from their suit. "-u guys getting this?" It's scratchy and keeps dropping out, but it's clearly a team of Jovians near the gate to the alien IT center, the transmitting is crouching down and focusing on something on the ground in front of the gates. It's a pair of boots, still standing on the ground, next to each other, like their owner was just yanked straight out of them, "Unless - - -as down here last time you were here, I think we found a clue." The Jovian pokes at the boots with his rifle, not provoking a hostile response.

Rostislav, who's still near Lahmia and Arianhod got the transmisson as well, "Hm. For whatever reason he must have tried to find shelter inside that building, or just been curious. Do we have permission to open the gate and go check for him?"


Tired of Arianhod's signal blinking in and out due to the storm, Thanat eventually blocks her connection's notifications, though he'll still receive messages.
"No way, we'd see it at other times, not just when it's front of the sun. And if it was a small asteroid, it'd be too small for eclipses. I think. Unless it'd be in real low orbit, but then it wouldn't be stable and would flash past much faster, making the sun blink rather than go dark for a moment."
He ponders a moment the scum's idea. "Maybe. I remember finding the ruins on Mars where they faked the Moon missions, because of the course, the Moon at the time was made of cheese so you couldn't land on it, so they went to Mars instead."
"Though hum. Maybe if we showed the railgun robots some fake footage of us in space or on other bodies, they'd lift their interdiction on us going into orbit, seeing it as pointless."


«Got it, standby until we get there, then we'll enter together» Arianhod moves toward the gate, and when she gets there, plans to have Buer t-ray ping the room before going inside.

Day 22, Afternoon

The Jovians assemble by the doors while Arianhod and Lahmia check Buer's T-ray scans, nervously fingering and preparing their weapons. To Buer's scans, nothing looks obviously out of place, but after a few moments, Lahmia notices something. There's a patch of furniture near the center of the ground floor that's been moved around, maybe some pieces outright missing.

"Could be they're open to negotiation," the Scum Thanat is talking to diplomatically sidesteps his grandpa robot bullshit, "Maybe all they really want is some sweet narcalgorithms and they'll chill with us." He finishes the last of the work on hooking up the opium hydroponics bed that he and Thanat are working on, "Or maybe they're some sort of hive-mind, and if you captured one, you could hack it, upload a virus through it to all the rest, take them all out in one go. I saw it in a movie once."


After informing the rest of the team of this, she tells them to stand back instead of getting ready to breach. "The toxin storage is on the far side of this room, we almost uh, accidentally breached it, so if I open the door and black ichor seems from the door, run."

Arianhod inserts the COT back into the lock, steps back, and orders it to open the door, slowly.


"Strange, did he move the furniture?" Lahmia walks over to where there used to be… a couple chairs, pretty sure. She adjusts her specs to remind herself (and the narrator) she has them, looking for clues without necessarily pulling away Buer from important t-ray pinging. "I think some furniture is missing, I hope he's not trying to claim this as his personal 'fuck pad' or whatever."


"Maybe," answers Thanat, showing off his great intelligence. After a short silence and shifting to take care of the plants that won't be drugs but just pretty, he finally adds: "Lots of things to try. They didn't seem as advanced as our ALIs to me. We'll see though, we just arrived. We've got forever to figure things out."

Day 22, Afternoon

As soon as the door starts to grind open, greenish, flickering light spills out beneath it and some pressure mis-match with the area beyond the door, makes a spooky wind hiss past, whirling up light detritus and ruffling any exposed hair or equipment.

The IT center, or command center, is different from their last visit. The screens and equipment which were all formerly in stand-by mode are now flickering, seemingly at random between displaying holographic garbage(or perhaps something that would make sense to an alien), their former stand-by states and totally off, as the local EM-environment goes haywire. One holographic interface intensifies to an eye-hurting glow and then explodes, scattering plastic debris and black smoke over the nearby area. Occasionally the screens display something that almost makes sense, like geometric shapes, something that might have been a brief glimpse of a molecular structure or a blue-and-green wireframe display of terrain features, even something tantalizingly close to a recognizable face pops up for a split second.

As Buer's scan indicated, a section almost at the middle of the room immediately on the other side of the door almost looks like something's taken a bite out of it. Several workstations and their associated furniture are gone. It's like some arbitrary volume of space has just been removed, a still-standing piece of furniture that was apparently too close has even had a corner go missing in a neat, geometric line. There's no sign of their missing Scum, either.

A few moments after the team's opened the door, the local air pressure almost audibly starts returning to normal. Liz and Thanat, nearer to topside, confirm that the storm seems to be abruptly slackening in intensity, and even the local Mesh starts normalizing even though it's likely that minor hiccups will persist for a while. The strange electric displays also begin to fade almost as quickly as they began.


Things were getting complicated quickly. Missing section of equipment, missing scum, electrical storm. All three occurred at the same time. "Someone with a better understanding of physics please tell me what the fuck is happening here."


"Um. I think something happened here. I don't know if our guy still lives, but… I have a feeling he's not here now." Lahmia sets up the nanobot hive and attempts to reconnect to any nanites still in the area, hopefully someone remembers SOMETHING but with the electrical storm she doesn't have high hopes. Failing that (or succeeding, really), she does a thorough scan of where the scum presumably disappeared. The sheared corner of the table is of special interest, since it could provide better clues to how he disappeared.

"There wasn't a pressure difference the first time we opened that door, was there?"

Day 22, Evening

The Jovians shift and fidget after Arianhod's demand for clarification, clearly directing their attention to one of them who has more authority on the subject than the rest. "Well, ma'am," he steps forward and examines the anomaly with Lahmia, "Assuming something that fits our understanding of physics… I'd assume some high-energy event that vaporized him and a neat section of space near him. And if we're not going with physics we understand-" he makes a dismissive puffing noise, "-read the sci-fi of your choice. He could've been disintegrated, teleported, transformed into a chair, sent to another dimension, warped out of phase with conventional reality. Take your pick of technobabble. I'd say, most likely the aberrant EM environment interacted with some of this-" he gestures to the room, "-alien machinery to cause an unfamiliar destructive event. Probably every surface nearby is covered with a molecule-thick layer of him and his equipment as well as any missing objects from the room."

Lahmia's nanobots have scrambled recordings of the preceding time ever since the start of the storm. Most of the time they've been recording nothing, but during the periods where they've been active and able to collect data, they've been flooded with piles of junk Mesh data, so it's hard to tell what actually happened around them and what didn't. Their recordings of the actual room contain a single blurred frame where a humanoid shape is mid-air near the missing furniture, surrounded by a halo of light, and recordings immediately before and after insist on the presence of foreign nano-active machinery in the room. They also have several minutes of recordings of the room in both its current and former state, with the storm's electric charge wreaking havoc in much the same way it did when the team entered.

They sheared corner is possibly the most precise cut that Lahmia's ever seen. There's no fraying of the edges, no signs of any burns or abrasions whatever, it's like the missing corner has simply ceased to exist. Her local nanoswarm informs her that it's not just the limits of her vision, but that the furniture really has no sign whatsoever of physical violence removing part of it, right down to the molecular level.

Around them, the storm continues to settle down, and only a few minutes after their arrival, it's settled down to just the occasional spark settling off a surface.


"Great. So possibly our first fatality. Lahm, can you have the bots scour the walls and surfaces and see if there is in fact a layer of organic material there that wasn't when we first came in?" «@Colony, but especially Liz and weather nerds, we need to pick through both GEV's sensor data and figure what, exactly, was going on atmospheric wise as that storm happened so we can either remodel our colony to resist it, or decide if we should move. Look at the dwarf bot's readings too, since Urist resisted it.»


« Nothing relevant on my examination.» Liz declares. «I have recorded all relevant sensory information for later review, however.»


«Add the balloon's sensors to that, I want to know what the atmophere looked like in totality…Idea. Everyone, sensor ping, I want to know if any of our devices, you, or your muses, notice a terminal and a piece of furniture that….» Arianhod pulls up buer's images of the before room, and then the after room, and highlights the the piece that is now missing. Lahm, bots in the air, as high as they can go, Liz, if you or someone else could jam the aerostat and look around. If it somehow moved nearby, I want to know.»

(Hopefully someone here has meteorology, and otherwise we can hopefully just brute force using everyone's sensors now that Liz has set up her thing and can assemble information.)


"It's like he just vanished into thin air," the hive beeps in compliance and the swarms search of signs of organic residue, "or rather, I think whatever 'took' him took the air itself with him."

She walks around the alleged scene and measures angles, particularly where the desk corner sheared off and tries to visualize what the affected zone is. Then, she compares it to nearby terminals and assorted alien appliances. If nothing looks like the culprit, and this isn't the designated 'zapping zone', then we might have to consider that we're not alone in here.

Day 22, Evening

It takes Lahmia, her nanites and her bots about an hour to go over the whole of the alien command center. At the end of it, they find no sign of any extra organic material, though she does find something that feels out of place, blown into distant corners by the wind: fine-grained, almost perfectly white sand. So smooth it's almost liquid. Once she's given her drones and nanomachines their orders, she assesses the "missing" volume, eventually approximating it to a chubby cylinder slightly wider at the equator than the ends, about three meters in height. Perhaps even a sphere with the poles flattened out.

Looking over the meteorological data, Liz fails to make any connections that suggest anything's out of the ordinary. It looks like the storm blew in very quickly, quicker than a storm would on Earth(at least before the Fall, after the Fall there are no guarantees on Terran meteorology) and with little warning. She also has some trouble getting the data from Urist as the Dwarf bot's buffer and memory seem to be full of junk data. Given another day(of real-time, not sim-time) or so to look it over, she might be able to brute force her way to an answer, if anything's actually unusual.

Lacking any orders to the contrary, the Jovians quietly file away from the entry point and start investigating the command center on their own.

While Liz is looking over the mesh info, she also notices that Kinkulon and Lime are almost back to shore, apparently done with their research at sea for now.

Back at the Scumhaus, most of the Scum have retired for the night, now that they're actually in an ostensibly safe location.


While most Scum are asleep, and the Jovians either busy or asleep, Thanat and the other synth Scum log into the local World of Realms of Lands of Dominions of Territories of Fighting shard. With the Jovians also playing, the servers has to run on x1 speed to accommodate them playing via ecto and VR goggles instead of implants, which rather bothers the Scum. So they raid the Jovians' virtual fort and steal most of their virtual stuff (still leaving enough they can rebound, though) and deface it with a giant painting that's a black T-rex skeleton inside a yellow disk with a red border, with the words "Sic Semper Tyrannosaurus" written in white all around.
Once done, the Scum disband their temporary raid alliance, and dissolve back into four dozens guilds (a normal amount when two dozens Scum are involved). They then start killing, looting and stealing off each others. Poems are written, compromising screenshots are taken, and many are teabagged throughout the night.


"Okay, so, white sand. is that similar to what's outside, or have we passed anything like it?" Arianhod is frustrated. "Let's bar the door to the place. Seal it, actually, until we know what's going on. Leave enough space for the scout nanites to send us notice if anything changes." Arianhod decides to clear her mind by going and seeing what the biologists have found. Also while technically communal property she gets antsy about people touching the lab equipment without her knowledge

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