Eclipse Phase - Cycles

Chapter 1: Descent

Mystery, Clementi, Madness, Jupiter, Pandora Gate

Some notes:

Omer “Omega” is a corporate enforcer for Olympus Infrastructure Authority (OIA), the hypercorp that runs the space elevator from the top of Mons Olympus all the way up to Deimos. Omer’s main job lies in the habitat of Olympus, working either as a rented cop or occasionally acting as an investigator or peacekeeper in the smaller tin can habitats surrounding the main city. He works in tandem with his Smart-dog partner, Maria, with the pair forming a dedicated K9 unit that are inseparable. These habitats are economically depressed given the entire area was designed for a population of 6 million – but is only home to 1 now as people migrated out to more habitable and terraformed areas.

Omer’s immediate superior is a corporate officer known as Takashai, who summoned him for an important assignment. Omer’s orders were to head down to Clementi habitat, near the base of the mountain and report to Dr. Samuel, who ran the observatory there that kept an eye on the Titan Quarantine zone. He added on a second objective as there were reports of the mayor (named Sheila) being distant the last two weeks – a complete 180 to her usual demeanor given she’s fairly outgoing, competent and outspoken too. Mining production too has gone down. It was Omer’s job to investigate and provide assistance if needed. He was issued a standard issue heavy kinetic pistol, with reactive rounds, regular rounds and plastic (non-lethal) rounds. In addition he was issued light body armor and a vac-suit to help with the transition down from the top of Olympus Mons down to the base, while also protecting him from the elements.

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Clementi habitat, a small rustic locale around a 40-story deep mine. The red circle is the pit mine, with an elevator in the center. The buildings surrounding it are various vehicle storage and maintenance houses. The green pentagon structure is a greenhouse, covered up and sealed to protect it from the Martian atmosphere. The blue structure next to it is a large storage warehouse to hold ores and other goods. The small brown structures are all residential apartments. The white structure is a research outpost with the observatory built in. The two structures by the road are watchtowers.

He arrived at the town at the gate where he was stopped for inspection. He used the chance to ask for directions from the Ruster morph manning the watchtower. The ruster had never seen a dog before, so was a bit dumbfounded and staring at Maria. After a humorous exchange, Omer found here that there are two captains keeping watch. The day captain was Fazad while the night captain was Telia, who was on duty. Things went well and he went in, immediately making his way to the Mayor’s office to speak to her first. He found the door to be unfortunately closed and the office sealed shut.

Omer then moved to speak to captain Telia, who was a bit irate at the sudden arrival of a person from Olympus Infrastructure Authority. Things settled down though and questions were asked about the Mayor and what was going on in town. It was here that Omer learnt that the Mayor had been acting strange for the last two weeks after a visitor came to town. A strange man who claimed to be from the city of Noctis, who spoke to the mayor, her secretary and then left. Since then both the mayor and her secretary have been in the town hall and have avoided outside contact. Mining productivity has plummeted since then. The fact that the mayor’s office was locked and sealed was a surprise though – at the very least the Secretary should have been there manning the desk.

Telia and Omer headed back together to the Mayor’s office to investigate – heading in they found the place deserted. Except that is for the mayor’s office itself, where Mayor Sheila was found to be sleeping. After startling her awake and introductions, Omer found out several facts – mostly that the Mayor had been stalked for the last 2 weeks. At first she thought she was hallucinating or just been drinking too heavily – but in the last two days even her secretary reporting seeing a strange snake morph that seemed to be stalking them frequently The mayor then reported this to Fazad, but the report had gone no further than that – Telia was unaware of it. In fact, she said that Fazad had applied for leave two days ago and would be leaving soon.

Further investigation revealed that Fazad had actually left the Town earlier that day with no notice, deepening the conspiracy. Omer tried to report this to Takashai but ended up getting another director at Olympus Infrastructure Agency – Kane. Kane immediately advised him to seek out further information as necessary, especially on this person of interest and Fazad – but also to ensure the mayor and all site staff were taken care of. Telia was ordered to take care of the Mayor while Omer investigated what happened to the secretary.

He went to the house next door where the secretary lived. Maria lead the trail, using her nose to follow the Secretary’s scent. Eventually the pair came to her room. Omer breached it carefully – only to see that he had arrived a bit too late, perhaps. The secretary was found on the table, head on it, a gun in her hand and a bullet hole through her cortical stack. Omer immediately summoned the mayor and Telia, the former of whom was inconsolable at the loss. He got Telia to keep the Mayor protected and to run a forensics exam. Maria meanwhile, picked up an unusual scent from the kitchen table and sofa, while Omer’s muse managed to pick up trace nanites there – like what one would see from a freshly made item from a Cornucopia machine (coincidentally, there was one on the kitchen table used to create food).

With this likely turning from a suicide to a murder, Omer decided to immediately meet up with the doctor and continue his primary mission, leaving the situation in the capable hands of captain Telia. The pair moved onwards to the observatory where they met up with a pair of security guards in Olympus morphs that were on watch. Appointed by OIA, they were to guard the observatory and were separate from the town’s watch guard. They let him in after he gave his credentials, letting him meet with Dr. Samuel.

Samuel is an older ego, an original space colonist turned scientist, he is known for his front-line research and in particular his penchant for gate crashing and research on exo-planets. The doctor is currently on contract with OIA to study the Titan Quarantine Zone however. In addition, he offers field education services to several research interns. Currently most are on leave, with only three on base.

The meeting with Samuel was a lengthy one, inclusive of a conversation with Takashai to update him on matters. The doctor mentioned part of why he requested someone armed to come down was because of the mayor’s remoteness – but more pressingly, sensors near the Titan quarantine zone were going on and off, suggesting possible interference. He tasked Omer to go down and investigate a dozen of these with one of his interns, Terrance.

Omer did a side conversation to Telia after this to investigate what happened to the secretary. As it turns out, it was definitely murder. Someone or something had used the cornucopia machine to either create a drone or body that was used to kill the secretary. Clearly some extremely advanced hacks were used given that normally the machines have heavily coded limits by the manufacturer to prevent such things. Either way, the secretary did not have a backup available so is permanently dead. Investigation are underway to determine who or what did it.

Once the conversation was over, Omer left with Terrance – a synthmorph – to the TITAN Quarantine zone. The sensors were located around a kilometer from the edge of the zone, but given the nature of the plains they were will within sight of the zone itself. As they approached, Terrance indicated for Omer to slow down, given there were warbots on the horizon going on regular patrols. They never strayed beyond the boundary, but their weapons could effectively reach all the way if needed. They approached the first sensor pod cautiously, but were unnoticed. As they touched down they went out to examine the sensors – Terrance running diagnostics while Omer kept watch. Omer noticed that there was a small panel that had been knocked loose at the base of the sensor pod and pointed this out. Terrance immediately pride it open to see what was inside.

And then his head exploded. Someone had planted a bomb in the paneling that literally blew Terrance’s head off and nearly wounded Omer. Though it destroyed Terrance’s cortical stack, what was worse was the fact that the explosion had caught the attention of the robots within the Quarantine zone. Omer managed to do a death-defying escape, running to the buggy and then dodging artillery shells. After an explosion riddled-escape, Omer makes contact with Samuel, Takashai and Telia again to report what happened. Fortunately Terrance had a backup, so hasn’t lost too many memories and will be restored from it given confirmation of physical death.

Takashai meanwhile reports that this case of sabotage suggests a deep seated criminal ring, along with possible infosecurity warfare on an unprecedented level. They will likely bring in a contractor to examine the settlement’s computers. For now his orders are to continue examining the situation on the ground, especially finding out more clues on Fazad and this mysterious stranger that came in. As well, Takashai has ordered him to find out what happened to the mineral shipments, as the mayor reported everything was going on time – in fact, the mine was working at higher capacity than usual for the past two weeks.

Omer immediately returned back and spoke to Telia about Fazad. As it turns out, the captain had transferred in two months ago to replace the previous day watch commander, Captain Jason. Captain Jason had been a good friend and favorite. It seems Jason had found a position higher up in OIA and had transferred out, with Fazad being appointed to come in his place. Fazad, though efficient and competent, was fairly withdrawn and rarely socialized. He spent most of his time at the nearby bar or in private.

Omer reported this to Kane (Takashai was unavailable), who reported that there were no orders for Fazad to come in. In fact, there was no Captain Fazad at all in the systems and the OIA databases were still showing Jason as being on patrol. With the conspiracy deepening further, Omer decided to go and investigate the bar. Located in the corner of town next to the garden, figuring on getting a drink and a place to rest. It was called unashamedly the “Ye old Ruster’s Inne”. Omer spoke to the bartender, a rather rusted looking synthmorph. After buying a room for the night he asked if there was anything unusual going on. The synthmorph offered little new information save that the town was quiet busy in the mines and it’s been kind of quiet since the stranger came in two weeks ago. Rather than press on this, Omer decided to take a brief break to sleep and gather his thoughts. He took a bottle of whiskey and went to rest for two hours.

Though he woke up refreshed, he was greeted by a rather nasty surprise in the form of a snake morph staring at him through the window. The morph was on a hill just outside of town, but simply unmistakable. A large synthmorph with a snake-like body, it matched the description and visual that the mayor provided earlier. Omer immediately signaled Telia and requested her to check. Unfortunately there were no cameras facing that way and when they did switch over, the morph was gone, slithering out of view. Disturbed by this, Omer contacted Takashai, who suggested he may be victim of the same mind-hack that the mayor and secretary were possibly suffering. Takashai recommended extreme caution as the snake morph could be the hacker that killed the secretary. If needed, he could come back to OIA to have a full neural scan done.

Omer decided to remain there for the moment, electing to continue the investigation. He headed down to speak to the bartender again and do a more thorough questioning. The first thing to discuss was the transition from Jason to Fazad. As it turns out, Jason had been looking to transfer out to higher positions for a long time, so when the OIA offer came down the grapevine, he snapped it up. Fazad had been put in his place by OIA two months ago – but there was a stark difference in the status quo. Where Jason was generally outgoing and friendly with the people in the town, Fazad was by contrast very secretive and private. The bartender commented that he was ‘quite shifty’, with the demeanor more akin to someone with a lot to hide.

The topic meandered to the mayor – and then the topic of the stranger that had come into town two weeks ago. As it turns out, the stranger had come into the bar as well for many a drink – sometimes with the mayor, sometimes with the secretary. The stranger’s name was Jack and he was a Slyph morph – but the bartender commented that hew as ‘too perfect’, even for a Slyph. He was charming the pants off of the mayor and secretary and even occasionally spoke to Fazad. More curiously, the stranger had taken an interest in the mining operations here and had gone down to the mines with the foreman. There was something incredibly wrong about him though – but the bartender couldn’t place what. All he knew was that only trouble has followed in his wake. First the mayor getting withdrawn, then the orders coming in to increase mining productivity. Most important of all though, Omer got a name – the man had called himself Jack.

He relayed this information to Takashai, then decided to go to the observatory once more to check in on Dr. Samuel. A brief conversation saw them exchange some information and a few more promising leads – including potentially checking up on the mining itself. If people were working overtime, then the shipments should have gone through, suggesting it may either be sabotage or something else is going on. Another lead was possibly the guards themselves in the day watchtower; they had worked with Fazad for two months now and would know the most. Dr Samuel also mentioned Terrance was alright. Confirmation of his body death allowed his backup to be restored.

Following his leads, Omer first went to meet up with the day-watchtower guards. The current person filling in for Fazad was a Jesse, who was getting ready to take over shift. Omer and Jesse went to explore Fazad’s office, which offered few clues if any sadly. Omer asked if Fazad had any official transfer documents and papers. Jesse nodded and sent the digital copies of the files – all of which had the appropriate signatures that were verified by OIA. Unfortunately, upon checking with OIA itself, Omer found out they had no database record whatsoever of the transfer or even issuing these documents. The fact that they were showing up as valid despite that suggested an incredibly deep level of forgery. Worse still, they had no request for transfer for Captain Jason – who as far as their systems were concerned was still working there.

With the conspiracy deepening, Omer asked Jesse to join him as he would go to speak to the Mining foreman, John Hadine. The day shift for the mine was about to start, with several morphs already waiting for the gates to open to the mines. Jesse and Omer went on in and found the foreman near the mine shaft. Initially the interview went well, asking a few specific questions about productivity, John revealed that they had been extracting ore, loading it up onto transports and sending it off. Productivity had been as requested – but the fact that ore was not getting to OIA was not his problem – that was entirely the transport drivers and logistics side of things. This helped to narrow down the investigation a bit further for Takashai.

A few more queries went back and forth regarding the nature of the mine itself. It was 40 floors deep and ran at full production capacity. John himself had been here for much of it’s expansion from the first few stories to the 41st one, which had been the last expansion that had been closed and sealed off. When asked why, John replied that the 41st floor down was ordered sealed by OIA as expansion plans had been cancelled. Omer called in to Takashai to confirm this and ask why. Takashai kept him on hold for a moment and then confirmed it was ordered sealed – but the orders themselves were classified above his clearance level, which itself was fairly high.

With the mystery deepening, Omer then confronted John with the question of if he met a man named Jack two weeks ago. John denied this, saying he had seen the man around but hadn’t met him. Sensing a lie, Omer ordered Maria to tackle john to the down. The rust morph went down screaming, demanding to know why he was being attacked. Omer merely unsheathed his weapon – to the horror of Jesse and everyone else around and pointed it at John, asking him to tell the truth. John stood his ground, insisting he remembered nothing of that, despite repeated threats from Omer. Finally frustrated with getting nowhere and with the situation potentially escalating with Jesse, Omer let John get up and ordered him to take them down the mine shaft.

Their journey down was slow, with the eventual goal of getting to first the 33rd floor -w hich was where the most activity was. After a cursory inspect of equipment here and a few more question, Omer ordered john to go down and show him the sealed entrance to the 41st floor. As they descended, Maria started to get increasingly agitated, especially as they approached the 35th floor. This panic only started to grow as they went tot eh 38th floor, before she was utterly paralyzed by fear and distressed as they reached the 40th level. At this time Omer decided to step off the platform despite a distinct feeling of unease, asking for John to lead the way.

They eventually reached the sealed tunnel way, which had been closed down with a super-concrete equivalent. It seemed completely solid – but following a hunch, Omer smashed his fist into the wall – which pierced right through as if it were simple gypsum. This caught John almost entirely off-guard. He exclaimed that he had overseen the sealing up himself – personally no less! There could be no way this was so weak. Omer though had bigger problems as through the hole he ahd punched he could see a familiar snake morph, staring back at him in the darkness. It slowly began to back away behind the curve – while Omer himself backed off slowly. Ordering John to move to the elevator, he pulled out his gun and followed closely behind, clearly unnerved by the presence of the snake morph there.

What was now a mine was now looking to be a tunnel straight into the Titan quarantine zone given the sheer amount of strangeness and the fact that the snake morph was there. It only got worse though as the elevator was starting to go up as they approached it – leaving the pair of them behind. Immediately alert to the possibility of an ambush, Omer and John moved to an emergency personnel elevator. However, it did not respond. Though John did not see anything, Omer’s HUD was showing a different set of letters on the elevator screen – “NO ESCAPE”. Glancing behind him revealed that in the tunnel opposite theirs, the snake morph was watching curiously. Realizing the full extent of the hack, Omer and John tried a last ditch attempt to escape by using the ladder.

While JOhn was able to escape, Omer was trapped – his somantics had been sabotaged, preventing his body from recognizing any mental command to go up the ladder. He ordered John to go up, while he turned to face the threat. Though the snake morph had gone, Omer knew what he needed to do. Turning back down the tunnel, he used his reactive rounds to blow through the wall, letting it crumble as he went on through. The tunnel was long and winded about – but eventually he reached a fork in the tunnel. One seemed freshly drilled, likely with a large laser, while the other was old. Initially Omer went down the older tunnel – at least that is till he spotted the snake morph again around a bend, immediately pausing.

There was a tense moment of silence – but no aggressive moves. Despite attempting to get some words or reactions from it by making lewd gestures or funny faces, the snake morph simply head tilted – then waved to the other path. It repeated this motion several times before backing away. Omer got the message though and took it, moving along the other path. It is here that he finally got his first combat encounter of the mission – a Titan Headhunter was patrolling the tunnel – armed with a heavy kinetic pistol, a buzz saw and blades, the dragonfly-like robot did not detect Omer come in at first, allowing him to get the first shot.

An intense battle followed, where Omer’s vac suit was breached, exposing him completely to the elements. Fortunately, the Olympian morph was built for the mars atmosphere and the location of the tunnel meant he would be able to go for a couple of hours, easily. Continuing onwards, he eventually arrived at a large cave full of stalagmites, stalactites and a flowing stream. This was significant, because Mars has not had flowing water quiet long enough for the formation of such geological oddities. The stream itself seemed murky, likely full of minerals. On the other side though, he once more saw the snake morph, beckoning him on. Omer gave it the finger, though and waved to the breach in his suit. Still, the synth-snake beckoned, moving onwards.

With a sigh, he jumped across the stream – easy enough given the Olympian morph and the low martial gravity. The cave itself was lit with bioluminescent fungi – another oddity – so he was able to find his way through as it got bigger and bigger. Eventually though, he came across a very unusual scene. A giant robot, one arm ripped off and staring at an unusual structure in front of it.

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The robot was not moving and at first did not acknowledge Omer’s presence even as he approached. As Omer greeted it though, it looked up to him finally and replied “Hello”

Omer asked if the robot had a name. The robot didn’t rely. He then asked how long the robot had been here. It replied it had been there 624 years. Omer then asked what it was doing. The robot looked down to the machine and replied, simply “Watching”. He asked what it was watching. The robot waved to the machine and invited Omer to take a look. Wary of what was in it, Omer asked if it would drive him insane. The robot replied simply “If it would have, it would have done so already.”

Comforted by this fact, Omer gradually began to approach the machine and in particular the portal to look through. At 10 meters, he immediately began to suffer a sense of dread in the pit of his stomach. His muse failed and went completely offline, leaving him truly alone. A severe wrongness emanating from the machine – but more importantly a surge in desire to see what was inside. This only grew as he stepped closer and closer.

The first vision hit him at 5 meters. Omer’s vision blacked out, replaced by the vision of the sun. At first nothing was happening as the red ball glowed as normal. Then it suddenly grew outwards – and then shrunk. Slowly growing and shrinking with the rythm of a dying heart. Each pulse sent a shock of pain through his mind as the sun began to turn black, the darkness growing out from it’s center. Each sultry beat sapped his sanity as the star continued to grow outwards, black tendrils reaching out towards him – nearly catching him before he snapped out of the vision.

He immediately tried to stagger back, but found a corporeal hand holding him in place, supporting him up. Glancing back revealed the snake morph was behind him again, blocking his path back. It encouraged him on with a push of the hand. The robot in front merely watched now as he took the next few steps forward. At 4 meters his head was buzzing, alight with pain. At 3, it felt like it was being crushed under the pressure of a thousand oceans. At two, he could finally look into the machine. The last meter was done without taking a single step as he was drawn into another vision.

Dragged by fingers in his eyes, Omer was pulled from Mars, rising up into the atmosphere, into space – and then beyond into the solar system. Pulled across in sheer agony all the way to Jupiter, he passed the Jovian junta’s stations to dive right into the roiling atmosphere of the Gas Giant. His mind immediately began to get crushed – not by the pressure of the atmosphere, but rather by the whispers, the sheer presence around him. Damning and incomprehensible insanities that pushed into his mind from all directions; the pressure increasing the deeper he went down – well past anywhere human beings could go. It almost seemed too much – came to a point where he was nearly lost, nearly insane – when it suddenly ceased.

The reason was clear, as they came to a particularly calm spot in the storms. Here, a cylinder was floating. 500 meters long, 100 wide and with thrusters on each end, it was covered in a black, writhing mass that seemed to keep it steadily rotating in place. Whatever brought him here pulled him onto it though, dragging him through the mass to finally enter the center of the cylinder. Here he was in a large room – in the middle of a which was a Pandora gate. Omer did not know how, but he immediately recognized that it was moving – slowly and gently ticking each coordinate into place. It had been doing this for centuries. Millennia. Maybe even long before the solar system formed.

And it was now ticking down to the last symbol, one which was almost in place. It was close, so very close. And then it would open. And then – he was kicked back. Suddenly he found himself flat on his back, 10 meters away from the machine, back in the cave, his mind awash with the pain and agony of every second he had just experienced. The robot studied him curiously, speaking simply. “Did you see it?”

Omer replied yes as he stood up unsteadily, still in shock. He asked what was it.

“I don’t know, but it is coming.” the robot replied. Then fell silent.

Rather than risk any further loss of his already fragile sanity Omer decided to retreat, staggering his way back. The snake morph was nowhere to be seen as he made his way up the cave, collapsing briefly in the stream to rest. Eventually he made it up to the entrance to the 40th floor, which had been sealed shut. On the other side he could hear Jesse and Maria calling out to him. After calling back to them, he collapsed in front of the entrance – and this is where the session ended last time.

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