Tuesday Tales: The Machine

Long Night

CAST OF PLAYERS:

Debora Silkotch…………..Casey Gavin…………………………Human Psionic
Aron Head……………….Story/Setting/Everything Else…….Game Master
Jera Morrison……………….Alseyne Aulaudin…………………Sidhe Changeling

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Casey slipped through the heavy steel door into a massive space. A shaft.

She found herself on a catwalk that ran along the sides of the walls, some 120 feet above the lowest level. Immense black pipes were tendrils along the walls except where they crossed over and linked with a giant machine in the center.

The Machine was black and of titanic proportions, at least 300 feet tall — most of it well above her position. It filled the shaft as well as Casey’s field of vision. Her stomach clenched as she pulled the door shut behind her, eyes still fixed on the Machine.  It was so much bigger than she’d expected; destroying it was suddenly a daunting prospect. 

It had the look of cast iron with crude rivets. Gears turned slowly as steam rose from various ports. Across the skin of the Machine, green stones flickered with emerald light. More elementals?  Was the Machine powered by them as well? If push came to shove that might be one way to destroy it … and bring the place tumbling down around Mardmor’s ears just like she’d said she would.  Not much chance she’d survive that, but maybe she could get the others out first.  And even if she couldn’t, the Machine still had to be destroyed.  Yesterday in Falco’s mind she’d gotten a tiny glimpse of the future that Mardmor was working to bring about: a world of hopelessness, terror, oppression and darkness.  Their lives wouldn’t be worth much in a future like that anyway. And maybe Falco could generate a shield strong enough to protect them all as the elementals were released.  That was a hopeful thought.

She skulked up to the rail, peering up, and saw about 15 other levels above. Some seven levels below her, she saw Alseyne and a group of other changelings chained together. Along with them were a number of armed RedCaps and even some grease-stained dwarf looking men. A door was open to the machine before them. Emerald flames blazed within.

Casey was glad to see Alseyne still alive and apparently well, at least for the moment.  It was a sorry-looking bunch of Fae she was chained with; hopefully those were all the missing ones that they’d come looking for.

With utmost care, taking every possible precaution to “tight beam” the thought so that it couldn’t be picked up by any other psionics that might be in range, she touched the Sidhe’s mind … and found a maelstrom of chaos. Alseyne’s thoughts were spinning in fifteen different directions, most of them concerned with NOT thinking about Pip while trying to come up with some viable plan of action. The topmost image in Alseyne’s head was that of a tightrope stretching across a bottomless abyss with herself in her armor, other Changelings dangling from ropes that she was doing her best to hold on to, doing her best to struggle along on the impossibly thin line to reach a goal that was so far away as to be invisible. Beneath everything lurked the soul-blackening despair that she felt at the loss of her lover, and it was plainly taking all of her will-power to stave it off for the time being.

Casey clutched the rail in dismay as the black depths of Alseyne’s grief flooded through her mind, but her mental disciplines had toughened up enough in the past hour or two that the emotion didn’t overwhelm her. She rechanneled more power into her mind’s shielding, and deepened the mental contact. ** Alseyne, I’m here.  Don’t look around, don’t draw any attention to me. **  It was unlikely that the invisibility ruse was going to work on every kind of mind here; the last thing Casey needed was for Alseyne to jump up and start looking around.  ** Sweet mother, that’s one gigantic machine.  I don’t suppose you saw any nice handy self-destruct buttons on your way in? **

Upon hearing Casey’s voice in her head, it was all Alseyne could do not to scream. Her hands clenched at her sides as she struggled not to look around.

Casey’s mental tone softened. ** Alseyne, I heard about Pip.  I am so, so sorry. **

Alseyne couldn’t acknowledge this comment. If she did, she would completely break down. Instead she narrowed her focus, refusing to think about Pip for the time being. *** The necromancer said Claws was dead. ***

Casey grimaced.  She hadn’t really had a chance to get to know the taciturn Tiger the way she had Pip, but if there was ever a time they could have used Claws’ massive strength it was now.  ** We’ll make sure they didn’t die for a failed cause, ** she replied grimly.  ** When this war is won they’ll be celebrated as heroes. **

Alseyne struggled mentally to grasp all of her anger and despair and wall it away so she could concentrate on her task. No matter what happened to her or any of the others, Percyndi MUST survive this night; Alseyne refused to let her beloved Pip’s sacrifice be in vain. *** There’s a control level three levels up. Mardmor’s there along with six bodyguards and a few workers. I don’t know what you might be able to do from here but if there’s anything small that can stop this thing it is probably near there. Can you get a glimpse of it? ***

Casey’s gaze swept along the indicated area. Four levels down from her own position and across the chamber she sighted Mardmor. He was at what appeared to be a control station with levers and valve wheels. Several others were there with them including six heavily armed RedCaps, some more of those dwarf sorts, and the Spanish/middle-eastern guy with the staff.

The knot in Casey’s stomach tightened at the sight of the Goblin King and his staff-wielding henchman.  Every self-preservation instinct she possessed told her to stay far away from those two, but she knew they were going to have to be dealt with soon.  Besides, that control station just might have an off switch for the Machine.

She looked around for another, preferably unoccupied control station, but saw none. Crud.

Returning her attention to Alseyne, Casey tried not to sound as tense as she felt.  ** I see them.  I’m going to– **  A familiar presence unexpectedly touched her mind.

:: Master! ::

It was Pana.

**Pana?!**  Astonishment and delight momentarily chased the strain from her mind.  ** Where are you?? **

:: Below you. Under the contraption. Elijah and Korin are with me. Are you well? ::

Casey’s overtired mind began to wonder if she had unknowingly fallen asleep, and was actually dreaming in some empty corridor about a reunion with her lost companions. Falco, Alseyne, Pana, Korin, Elijah … Pip and Claws should be showing up any minute now.

** I’m fine. How did you end up with Elijah and Korin? **

:: Not really clear on that. I woke up with them … in a cave far below here. We climbed up through the tunnel that led to a concrete basin under this construct. :: There was a pause. :: I feared I had lost you. :: Casey felt deeply warm pulses of joy coming from the Malamute.

Day’s young yet, she thought with uncharacteristic fatalism. It’s too early to count any of us among the survivors.

She didn’t send that thought to Pana; instead she summoned as much bravado as she could muster. ** Apparently I’m harder to kill than we suspected. Looks like the same can be said for you three … I thought you were all dead. Can’t tell you how glad I am to be wrong about that. ** She paused. Then, ** Can you see any of the catwalks from where you are? **

:: Yes. A few. The Sidhe woman’s up above us. ::

** I see her.  She knows I’m here. **  Casey pondered for a moment.  **What kind of shape are you guys in?  Are any of you weak or injured?  If it comes to a brawl here, could all three of you fight? **

:: Yes, we are all fit for combat. In fact, Korin and Elijah are both chomping at the bit. ::

** Good! Tell them– ** A tired smile at her own mistake pulled at the dried blood on her mouth. ** No, I guess not. I’ll tell them. **

:: Master! :: Pana’s mental voice was urgent. :: There is something else you should know. The People are here. ::

Looking about, Casey saw guardsmen down on the lower levels, patrol with large war-dogs. And on the upper levels as well.

She frowned.  ** The People work for Mardmor? **  That was an unexpected twist.

:: No! We have infiltrated the Goblin King’s domain. Each that you see remains true to Lord Falco, and to you. We are yours to command. ::

Casey blinked.  It was manna from heaven — exactly what she needed to swing the odds in their favor.  ** This is … splendid news, Pana. Can you communicate with one another this way? **

:: Yes, it is one of Lord Falco’s gifts to us. ::

** Wonderful!  Then I need you to get a message out to them.  To all of them; tell them to spread it amongst themselves until all the People in this chamber hear it.  Tell them this: that the time has come for them to rise up against the evil here and put an end to Mardmor’s insane schemes.  Tell them that you, Pana, are my voice in this battle; I’ll communicate with you and you must lead them in turn. **

:: Yes, ma’am! ::

Casey scanned the catwalks, taking a rough headcount. ** The first thing we’ll need is a big, noisy diversion to derail their schedule.  On my signal to you, and yours to them, I want them all to turn on their handlers as loudly and viciously as they can.  I want every eye and every ear in this chamber to be focused on what’s happening down there.  If they kill their handlers let them find the nearest RedCap and kill him too.  I need complete and utter *chaos.*

:: Understood. ::

  ** But, ** she emphasized carefully, ** Make sure they know that Elijah and Korin are not to be harmed.  They’re going to be down there in the middle of the mess for the first few moments, and I don’t want them damaged by mistake. **

:: I have already marked them. The People will not attack Elijah and Korin. I have vouched for them. ::

Casey didn’t want to ask how Pana had “marked” them.  ** Good.  Tell them now … and get ready. **

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