Numenera: Vox Aevum

01. Atom Heart Mother

In which a man is saved and an infection revealed

>>The Engine ran probability vectors, trying to skirt around the ever present black hole in its analytical capabilities, trying to fix upon the whispering anomaly at least some trajectory, some intention. It ran its many eyes across the land where the anomaly had been spotted, it scoured the dusty war-torn land with its swarm of particulate feelers but the probability hole would not subside, would not give even an angstrom.

But the engine was, or at least had been, all knowing – godlike to all but the most enlightened lower beings – and it did not survive the rise and fall of empires, and mountains and star systems by being one-minded. It fractured slivers of itself into new, more functional subroutines and it set them at work analysing data. They looked at the climate, the still warm sun of autumn, the perpetual rains pouring on the anomaly-trod lands. They looked at the people, hardy, sapient yet as far removed from even the most basic of the Engine’s servitors as they themselves were from insect. They analysed the political situation: the endless war, the child-ruler, the bandit king then went further and looked at the rising power of a tekne worshipping religious caste, the real and imagined threats from the north, the still dormant machines from ages upon ages of progress and their socio-historical predicted impact. But the splinter-minds did not come up with anything and the anomaly soldiered on.

The luminous circuitry of the Probability Engine flared with envy and despair, or something that could pass for that, for its carbon and silica mindscape could not experience either. It folded its useless splinter selves back into the fray of its colossal intellect and began hatching a second plan, then a third. The Engine could not analyse its way out of this conundrum, it had to eschew its usual approach of subtle tweaks and manipulations, of applied chaos theory and manipulations in weather parameters. The anomaly was moving, spreading uncertainty, baleful chaos on a delicate quantic tapestry of carefully calculated quantum probability. If it was not stopped or controlled it risked rendering the Engine completely blind, unable to foresee, unable to prepare the optimum course of action.

No, for this one, the Engine needed boots on the ground. So it flashed into existence new servant-shards, put prisms and swarms and foundries under their control and instructed them to scour the land near the outskirts of the growing probability hole, to find it some suitable candidates. A list was drawn in femtoseconds, then shortened, then shortened again and again until the Engine could see it on just a few entangled electrons. The Engine made the call and the servant shards set to work tweaking probability areals, entangling electrons calculating quantum states. A change in weather patterns, a gust of wind or early bird migration, this the Engine knew how to do, this it could calculate even blind to the long term consequences. It could use unwitting entities, quantum entangled to observe the anomaly even as it could not foresee its actions. Sooner or later a pattern would emerge. A pattern always emerged. <<

Excerpt from Gorven’s Journal

It has been weeks since I left my home, the other presence in my head gently nudging me westwards. I felt its influence peak when I reached the Ausren Woods, but its ‘curiosity’ was eventually satisfied, with only a faint whisper remaining, urging me on my path. The journey across Cerdyn’s pass was mostly uneventful and I reached the Steadfast today.

It was when the Sun set, on the outskirts of a village named Dirus that I came across my current companions, Arianne and Baigon, and an enormous freakish creature, with the body of a large lizard and tentacles on its head, dead set on butchering a local goatherd.

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The creature was dispatched quickly, but its body blew up upon death. The grateful goatherd offered us a place to stay for the night, but we discovered he’d been wounded by the creature: a deadly poison that kills within minutes, destroying the flesh of those it touches. Were it not for Arianne’s ability to sever the man’s limb before the poison got inside the rest of him, he would not have had any chance to remain alive.

We learned that the creatures target specific people only, leaving the rest alone unless provoked – which would explain the relative ease of slaying one so far. The village’s resident hunter managed to kill one himself simply taking it by surprise. Its carcass remained intact, and coming upon it we discovered the Numenera that powers them.

We tracked a creature to what seemed the source of them – an ancient mother machine bent on eradicating an ‘infestation’ to which there is no known cure. It would appear that the targeted villagers became infected, though the creatures got to them before any symptoms would be noticeable. Whether the threat of the infestation is real or the machine is just malfunctioning, we do not know, and there isn’t a way to find out without putting many lives at risk. We prized a disc-shaped lens from the machine which supposedly can detect infected beings.

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We have decided to leave the machine alone for the time being and find an aeon priest who would know more. The starting point of our search will be the city of Stirthal. Arianne knows the city well, and knows of a trail we can follow to find the priest. I pray the powers above guide us well.

Tally:

Gorven: 3 Xp (2 +1 GMI)
Baigon: 2 Xp
Arianne: 2 Xp

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