Lady Koralia and her entourage arrive in the Lemankainen system. They have heard rumors regarding facilities on the outer planets in the system, and wish to investigate. They quickly get to work finding a shuttle they can hire to take them to the planets. They find a Charioteer pilot by the name of Captain Jameson, who comes highly recommended.
Their first destination is Shylkor, the third planet from Lemankainen’s sun. This world has, until recently, been held by the Vuldrok. According to rumor, the Vuldrok occupying forces mysteriously left a few months ago. There is allegedly a Second Republic facility of some kind on the planet’s surface, but its purpose has been lost to the mists of time.
Upon arriving in Shylkor’s orbit, they begin to receive a radio transmission. There is a lot of static, and the first half of the message is in Vuldrok, then the second part in Urthish. It repeats over and over, and is clearly a recording. All they can make out is “Something stra- has been
. Most – crew – evac or d-. We need help. Please, – one to h-. Please send -”
The group is nervous about this development, but finds some solace in the fact that the transmission can be used to pinpoint the facility they have come here to find. They land near the facility, and exit their ship.
The front door is unlocked, but not open. Remnants of an old electronic keypad remain, but it is destroyed. Upon entering, they see that life support and lighting are still functioning, a testament to Second Republic architecture. However, they do begin to see evidence of seismic activity.
The facility clearly looks to have been inhabited recently. The entryway is full of bedrolls and personal affects. And blood. There are no bodies, but there are many dark brown stains on the beds, walls, and floors that both Doctor Wulfric and Kadan instantly recognize as blood.
The facility consists of a surface floor and two basement levels. The group explores the facility’s first and second floor thoroughly, finding some old medical supplies that are still good to use, an old ID badge for a woman named Doctor Amy Liang, and a few doses of a Second Republic synthesized version of selchaka. The synthetic selchaka is a coveted find for the Scravers in the group, as House Decados has a stranglehold on the production of the real stuff, and learning how to synthesize it would be a hugely profitable event for the Scravers.
After the group is satisfied that they have thoroughly searched the top two floors of the facility, the go down to the third. They are greeted by a decontamination room, which no longer functions. The evidence of the seismic damage they saw earlier is much more pronounced here. An earthquake hit this place hard enough to fracture ceramsteel.
Outside of the decontamination room, they are greeted by five Vuldrok. They seem crazed, attacking anything that moves. They have mutilated themselves, ramming pens, knives, forks, anything that they could find into their own ears. The group dispatches them, then finds themselves in a research lab, staring at a large statue of some kind, on the other side of thick glass, which sadly has some sort of huge crack running down the center of it.
Then they begin to hear it talking in their heads, offering to show them the truth of all things. Kadan, and Lady Koralia have a drastically negative reaction to the creature, beginning to misspeak in a variety of harmful ways. Enhenduanna looks very uncomfortable, and even Doctor Wulfric and Paxton are given the creeps by the thing. Enhenduanna realizes that it is a Gargoyle, an Annunaki artifact. Based on the reactions from the Vuldrok, and the feelings they are all getting, she gathers that it is not the nicest relic in the Known Worlds.
Paxton, in a flash of genius, realizes that while the device is talking in their heads, it must need to be able to be “heard” to do so, thus why it was behind soundproof glass, and why the Vuldrok destroyed their own hearing. He uses some sealant from his toolkit designed for minor stresses in ship hulls on the crack, and the voice in their heads instantly stops.
In the lab, they do find an old Second Republic Think Machine that is still in working order. They discover that the artifact was the purpose of this facility: it was all built to research it. They learn that in the later days of the Second Republic, some people were trying to figure out a way to use this artifact as a weapon, since any who take it up on its offer to show them the truth die or enter a deep coma almost instantly, and those who refuse eventually go insane from prolonged exposure. Their research never reached fruition, but the Vuldrok tried to pick up where the Second Republic left off. Then the earthquake hit, and broke the soundproof glass sealing in the artifact.
At Enhenduanna’s insistence, Paxton deletes all of the research data from the think machine. He then scavenges the lab for useable parts. All told, he managed to get enough parts to put together two working think machines, in addition to the one he wiped. Lady Koralia takes one of them, stating that it will make a lovely gift for the Emperor.
They leave the facility, and board their shuttle to go to their next destination: Mord, a lifeless rock deep in an asteroid belt. According to the rumors they have heard, an old research facility from the Diaspora is there.