Eclipse Phase Character Jam: Parvati

Well, I never did plan to repeat this exercise, but I had fun with the first one. Once again we have a randomly generated character, just like Vik was a week ago, and I’ve often enjoyed the strange stories that are created when you’re relying on the often contradictory outcomes of dice rolls (digital ones in this case). In this case, we got a fairly unified if nomadic character.

So here’s Parvati Gairola; militant async, once dead and heavily edited, and continuing to hunt an enemy that seems to have left humanity behind.

And to make it all just that little bit more complicated, she’s getting married.

So like the last post, I’ve written you some fiction. Crunch pages connect at the bottom.

“Are you alright Vati?”

She snapped back to alertness, but caught the cold mug of tea before it fell from the camp bench.

“I’m awake, Shadow.”

Her muse swelled in her AR feed, a reflection of her own face made clear and hollow and filled with an unknown starscape.

“This is the alarm you requested Vati. The fabber has completed your order.”

“Thank you Shadow. That’s all for now.”

Parvati took one forlorn glance at the tea, and threw it out against the dusty wall of the dugout. The mining lights strung along the supports registered her activity, flaring into illumination. She reflexively connected to the nanodetector above her and the Guardian nanites swarming around her feet. No intrusions registered. She took the Hive from its place under her camp bed and dropped it in the pocket of her cargo pants, ordering the swarm to return home.

She glanced at the fabber, the four hand sized blocks of plastic explosives, the little tag of a remote detonator sitting beside them, cooked up and ready to go. She hefted one of the blocks, her memories resurfacing in the perfectly orderly fashion they always did.

Breach!

The flare of the explosives, the almost impossibly slow caving in of the hatch. The guns, both sides, flaring to life. The TITAN worshippers were panicked, and she locked onto their fevered brains and squeezed until they collapsed, clutching their misshapen skulls, and still she fired.

The riot-shot that hit her full in the chest and carried her out the window in the pale Lunar gravity.

“Are you alright Vati?”

She was still cackling down the comm when the evac hit.

She sat down on the camp bed and began to strip and clean the battered sub-machine gun in its chrome case.

“Shadow?”

“Yes Vati?”

“Re-establish the connection to the transceiver. Download and parse anything its picked up, then seal us off again.”

“Of course.”

The muse faded momentarily, and Parvati locked the clip back into place, dragging the hammer back and setting the gun across her lap. She reached across and opened up the red leather case, spinning up the ancient turntable and letting the strains of Nat King Cole hum through her subterranean world.

Shadow reappeared in a burst of starfire.

“You have received several important messages, Vati.

“Prioritise as normal.”

“There as been an additional request from Miss Queen.”

“Yeah?”

“She has requested that once the target point has been secured, that we attempt to salvage a sample of the device.”

Parvati glanced up at the ephemeral form of her muse.

“What?”

“She has requested that you secure a sample of the target.”

“That wasn’t part of the deal.”

“Miss Queen acknowledges this, and has agreed to provide additional payment or rep boosts by negotiation once the sample is delivered.”

“We’ve been on this rock for three Martian months, and she only thinks to tell us now? Does she know how dangerous these things can be?”

“Judging from the text mode, Vati, Miss Queen does not appear to be attempting to deceive us. On the balance of probabilities I would say our benefactor has suffered an unexpected turn of events.”

“Alright. Anything else?”

“Marco has sent another message.”

Parvati sighed and ran a hand through the stubble of her raven hair.

“He knows when I’ll be back, why does he keep trying to find me?”

“He appears to have sent a selection of colour swatches.”

“Cache it for now. We’ll respond once we’ve handled our objectives.”

“He’s requested a response as soon as possible.”

“Dammit Shadow, he has a date, what is he worried about?”

“Are you alright, Vati?”

“What?”

“Your endocrine levels have spiked. Do you want a dose of Komfurt?”

The memory resurfaces in its neat little box, empty blackness on either side. The frazzled artist took a knee and proposed in a storm of petals, hanging dreamily in their languid Titanian fall.

“Will you be wearing a dress?”

“I’m sorry, Shadow?”

“Marco has asked if you intend to wear a dress for the ceremony.”

“Save the message. We have work to do. The mission comes first.”

She knew this was important, but couldn’t place why.

“Can’t let my groom marry a pauper, now can we?”

“As you wish, Vati. I will inform Miss Queen that we have received her request and then sever the connection.”

Thank you Shadow. She wasn’t sure if she’d said it or just thought it.

She placed the explosives in a case, and stripped out of the light coat she’d been wearing. She took a moment to run her eyes over the coffee coloured warzone of her skin, the scars she had kept against all advice. She opened the box of memories that each was connected to. These bones, these muscles, the skin and all the machinery. These were hers.

A little girl feels her head snap backwards, feels her limbs tumble away beneath her. Feels the smothering weight on her chest, crushing out her breath and forcing the darkness into her heart.

“My God, are you alright Vati?”

She flexed her shoulders, and pulled on her combat webbing. The armour twitched, and cinched itself in around her, its weight familiar and comforting. She keyed her ecto into the jury rigged network they had installed through the weeks of digging.

“Morgan? Skald? You still with me?”

“Ready and waiting, fearless leader.” Came Skald’s rapid fire reply. He slept even less than Vati did, but in his case it was a voluntary condition.

“You got eyes on Morgan?”

“I got eye’s everywhere, boss. She checked out for some private time. You don’t want to hear what I do…”

“Get her prepped. Its time. Be at the B Point in 10.”

“At long last. See you there…”

Parvati hefted her gun, packed down the listlessly spinning record player, and stepped out into the tunnel.

*****

The dreadlocked, muscular Fury morph shimmied down a narrow section of tunnel, pulling up her industrial mask as she spotted Parvati. She stowed the heavy rifle, and crouched beside her hunched leader as Parvati strung together the packages of plastique. Morgan’s font flared across her AR feed.

“Time to take out the trash?”

Parvati kept her focus on the explosives, and twitched back a text response.

“Same plan as ever.”

Breach.

Deploy flashbangs.

Eliminate hostiles.

“You just be ready to drop those flashers.” Parvati continued, “I’ll take point.”

“You get all the fun.” Morgan texted back, and casually prepped a grenade. Parvati stood up, shooed the mining bot down the hall ahead of her. Skald slid into sight from the shadows, winked, and did a last prep on his observation drones and pistol. Parvati nodded back.

“Are you alright Vati?” murmured the tattooed journalist.

“Never better.”

She sent a note to her squad: “Ready. Breach in 3. 2. 1.”

Breach.

The rock wall gave way in a burst of heat and shock, and Parvati felt the surge of enhanced adrenalin and the hammering of her heart.

The way is open.

She saw the flashbangs register and flare on her Tacnet, and sprinted through the opening.

She let herself sink into the dark part of her mind, the place she had sunk to as a child and had returned when the TITAN’s had tried to take Luna from her. The dark place that the doctors had called The Virus, but she recognized as Death.

She sensed six targets, their mind scrambled by their exhuman sensed, and her body began to ride ahead of her mind, her thinking mind sitting back and letting the scene unfold. A multi-limbed sentry tried to raise a rifle, but fell to the ground screaming as the dark place reached out. She let herself be born away with the inexorable slowness of her clip draining to nothing, the sprays of blood and shattered bodies collapsing into scrap meat. She felt the pin click, and dropped the gun, her claws already sliding into place.

Her mind started to come back as she was pitched headlong into a bank of machinery that looked like it had grown from the surrounding bedrock. She tried to roll, but heard a rib crack, managing to turn before the crawling, insectoid combat morph leaped towards her. She tried to get hold of its mind, to crack it open to madness the way she had been taught, but the inner dark slid from its mind as, moments later, her claws glanced off its bio-mechanical carapace.

The sound of a heavy machine gun had never been so welcome.

The thing collapsed on top of her, and she felt the activity of its brain twitch off. The chitinous arms twitched frantically, and she hauled her claws up in a boxing guard, letting the dying limbs scrabble against her vambraces. She heard a couple of cursory guarantee shots before the massive Fury hauled the serpentine corpse off her.

“You alright Vati?”

The little Splicer retracted her claws, and winced at the pain in her chest as she tried to drag herself to her feet.

“Final sweep Morgan, keep an eye out for any synths. I think we got ’em though. You got your footage Skald?” she shouted across the cavern.

The little man, his drones hovering like vultures over one of the corpses, gave her a thumbs up sign. She called the mining bot to her, and when the spider legged thing arrived she popped its stack; Celia was reliable as AI went. She then keyed a timer on the incendiary charges built into the robots body.

A few more shots rang out. She couldn’t tell if Morgan had found new targets or had just gotten bored. The timer began to tick down.

“Time to bug out everybody!”

She saw her team pack up and begin to make for the tunnel by which they had entered. She took one more glance around the immense chamber, seeing the marks of the TITAN’s on every face; the inexplicable machines, the insane nanoforged sculptures, the maddening scale. The exhumans hadn’t built this, and she wondered what it was they were looking for.

She drew a sample bag off her belt, and extended her claws again. With three hard strikes, she took the insectoid creatures head from its neck, and shoved it into the bag before running for the exit.

*****

“Are you alright, Vati?”

“Fine Shadow. Just sore. How long to evac arrives?”

“The shuttle is due to land in twenty three minutes.”

“Good. I’d…”

She looked up at the cold stars above her.

“I’d like to talk to Marco now.”

“Of course…” the muse paused a moment, “Though I’m afraid I can’t reach the system Mesh at the moment Vati. There appears to be some signals interference, I’ll let you know once we’re back online.”

Of course. Alone. The cold dark above, and the cold dark within, alone with the Virus and a body that isn’t mine, it isn’t mine, it isn’t mine, why the hell am I still here?

The little girl’s neck snaps backwards, and the darkness smothers her.

“Are you alright Vati?”

Tears and heavy breath began to mist the inside of her mask.

“No Shadow, I’m not…” She whispered, looking again into the void above her, “I’m getting married.”

Fin.

So that was that. Once again, we had a fairly interesting turnout from random generation, and I didn’t have to replace a single result. I think the life path really gives a good jumping off point for playing around with some fiction, and I’ve enjoyed it so far, but I think if I were to do it again I’d use something a little less in-depth than Eclipse Phase…

Anyway, as promised, the nuts and bolts.

Parvati Gairola has led a thoroughly fractured life.

She was born to a small commune in Northern India’s agricultural belt, and lived there until she was seven years old, a happy if rustic childhood. It was a quiet place; there were days when not a single car passed through town. It was a terrible twist of fate that the car that did come through on that day in her seventh summer was the one that killed her.

Her parents and community were naturally distraught. Before the funeral was held, however, the local doctor presented her parents with the little girl’s cortical stack. He said that here, at least was a silver lining; their daughter was not truly dead, just waiting for her chance at rebirth in a new morph, or even as a datalife angel in new, networked communities. But the Gairolas were a poor family in a poor community, and could not afford server space, let alone a new body. The cortical stack itself had been contentious, only installed in the end due to the large government subsidies attached. But Parvati’s mother, Gaya, decided to take a chance that her daughter’s soul might still be linked to the little gem, and arranged for the stack to be sent up the beanstalk, to the glittering Lunar colonies, and a wealthy uncle she had known when she was small.

Uncle Rajesh received the package, and the old man had his grandniece reinstated as quickly as the process would allow. Parvati awoke, naturally shocked; she was in a new body, a new place, with an unknown relative and the memories of her own death lingering still far too close. She was in a state of near panic for weeks, but slowly began to acclimatise. Rajesh arranged for her education, which was idiosyncratic to say the least. Having observed a number of curious warrior traditions in his long life, he had come to the conclusion that war was the natural human state and thus his granddaughters, and his newly adopted grandniece, should be the best at it to ensure his family’s survival. Most twelve year olds don’t receive smartgun systems for their birthdays, but Rajesh had grown to trust that Parvati would make good use of it.

As she reached her majority, Parvati had volunteered for testing of new psychosurgical methods, and found that her mind reacted well to the editing. Some parts she had removed wholesale, freeing up capacity for her to focus on what she felt was most important, but she insisted that she keep the memories of her last day on Earth. For her, death had become a strange portal, a conundrum in itself, and she knew if she lost that referent she may be cast adrift entirely.

It was something to be treasured, and it proved to be the last time she would see her home planet after all.

The TITANs launched their horrifying assault when she was 25. The flood of terrified refugees into the lunar colony brought with it stories of monstrous, indestructible machines, but their eccentric ancestor had taught them that any obstacle can be overcome with determination and the right tools. Signing on with local militia with her cousins, they met the waves of kill drones and exsurgent freaks head on. After a furious firefight that left them adrift in a partially destroyed tin-can station, however, Parvati found herself losing time, and on her return was diagnosed with a strain of the exsurgent virus. She waited weeks, but the expected madness and mutation did not come. She found her senses acting in strange ways, finding information and locating people they had no right to be able to. When a woman wearing a Lunar Defense Force uniform arrived and offered to teach her how to use what she had become, she agreed, and bore out the Fall taking the fight to the TITANs, her mutant psyche wreaking havoc on enemy biomorphs.

And then, it ended, and she was cast adrift after all. Trained and conditioned for a war that ended without explanation, she has drifted, using her skills to eliminate any TITAN remnants or exsurgent threats she finds. She has been contracted repeatedly by Firewall proxies, but has yet to understand that her various employers are linked by the same conspiracy. She fell in with the Autonomists through her nomadic lifestyle rather than through fervent belief, but they have proven good friends. She stayed on TITAN, for a time, and there met Marco, the man who asked her to marry him.

But the Hunt goes on, and she doesn’t know if she’ll stay. In her mind, the war never ended, it just changed its face.

Like I said… fractured, but hey, it makes a decent story. For those of you who care, yes, the rulebook also told me she was getting married, which was a nice story point. PDF character sheet is attached below.

Parvati

Anyway, hope you all have a great week imaginary folks. I promise I’ll talk about something that isn’t rpgs soon.

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Photo “Tunnel Vision”, courtesy of Eli Bishop aka wiretapstudios on Flickr

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Eclipse Phase Character Jam: Vik

I’ve been reading up on my Eclipse Phase lately. As its all Creative Commons (something my regular imaginary readers will no doubt realize I make extensive use of) it makes a good way to smash your brain open and fly onto a new creative horizon when on a budget. Which I am. So I’ve smashed through character creation… which I’m going to come out and  and say was pretty painful and drawn out, even with the handy module system in Transhuman.

But I came out with Vik Archaki, a bedevilled interplanetary historian and robot enthusiast. As its taken a few hours, I’m gonna reward myself by writing some fiction for y’all. The crunch junkies can get their nuts and bolts further down.

One more piece, and it would be perfect.

The metal guts came in to sharp focus in an instant, a nest of scavenged junk remade into something beautiful. Over that was a skin painted and finished so that it was just the way he remembered. Down to the finest micro-shade, it was perfect. Not even the mouthiest Neo-Raven could dispute him on it. Not this time.

His hand did not shake as the final element moved across the gulf of the valley, inexorably drawn to its rightful nest.

There was a sound like a shuttle ramming the door, and Vik clutched his ear, screeching as the metal fiber slipped away from his snatching fingers and tumbling away to the other side of the room.

Exhaling deeply, he unhooked  his harness and let the microgravity buoy him, his little family moving off the tabletop and clambering onto his sleeves as he pushed off. The hammering continued. He punched the door control, felt the restabilization of atmosphere fumbling over his skin as the hatch slid open and his bots shimmied to his shoulders, forming a strange halo of antenna and gun barrels.

“What… do you want?” Vik stage whispered.

He took a momentary double take. He had been looking at the Gargoyle morph’s spindly, gunmetal torso. He looked up at the holographic face. Vik blinked, and the face changed, cycling as they spoke.

“Shop talk, Vik.” The elongated figure warbled, its voice shifting with its face. “You got time for a little chit chat, don’t you?”

Vik sniffed. Talbot. Had to be Talbot. She was the only one who thought that premium double-refined protective oil made any difference. Well, so did Jonah, but he wasn’t the door knocking type…

“No.”

“Of course you do.” The Gargoyle clambered forward along the railings like a fluid stop-motion nightmare.

“Tchtchtchtchtch- Talbot… what’s it about?”

“Cool stuff.” The synth voice replied.

“Oh. Good.” Vik replied, and let her pass.

“What’s the project?”

“Just… just a memory. You know.”

“The gravity doesn’t make that tricky?”

“Oh it does.”

“I bet.” There was a moment of silence. Talbot’s holographic face shifted again. Vik struggled to reconcile her as a middle aged Javanese man with poor image quality, but before he could worry it changed again.

“How’s the new digs running?”

“Not the best,” Talbot replied, leaning casually against a work rig like a pile of brooms in a corner, “Had a burnout in the fabber on third deck, and a micro-meteor shanked our quarter a few days back. So byee to the atmosphere. Not such a problem for yours truly, but… its made things difficult for some of my pals.”

“Oh, it was a meteor?”

The synthmorph cocked a holographic eyebrow which changed from brown to grey. “You felt that on this side of the barge?”

“Maybe. 19ish ship time, two cycles back? Thought I heard a pop.” Talbot chuckled like broken glass in a blender.

“But we haven’t the spares to patch up that sector right now, so… I’m bunking with Teal until we make port. Which I think is why Indigo’s looking for you. She wants eyes on a piece of scrap, think it’ll have some resale.”

“I thought you hated Teal. He’s a dick.”

“I’m mostly bunking with Teal’s fabber. Gotta keep patched. I’m glad this place never sleeps, or I would get so bored… besides, he’s no more insufferable than you.”

“What?… You have eyes. Fancy ones. Why doesn’t Indigo want your eyes?”

“Because I’m just a sweet little spy,” Talbot lilted, “And of all things, right now Indigo wants…” She gave the best synthesised sigh she could muster, “… a historian, for reasons her own.”

There was a brief silence as Vik sucked the corner of his mustache.

“Cool stuff you say?”

“The fucking dickens.”

“Great.” The goatee’d Observer clambered through the hatch and hurled himself along the corridor outside, leaving his spindly compatriot to ponder where he had scrounged all that modelling clay.

*****

“What do you care where I got it? And keep your hands where I can see them, Vik, you’re a shite thief.”

“Sorry, I just wanted a closer look.”

“Then ask…”

“O… kay. Can I handle the thing?”

“Why of course Vik, you may handle the thing. See? Politeness works wonders.”

The crewcutted Fury passed him the padded wooden box, open at the top. There was a cylinder… a cylinder? A tiny replica of a monolith perhaps… Vik knew that it was almost… no. Exactly the length of his forearm, elbow to the little burn mark on his wrist from when his engine blew out over an unnamed ocean. His Speck bots crawled out onto his hands to inspect the strange object.

It was black, carved with swirling glyphs that seemed to leave the stone it was carved from unblemished. He ran his fingers along it. Too smooth for granite, too rough for any kind of volcanic glass. Like stone that he’d only ever touched once before. His eyes picked up unusual wave activity around the stone, like it was trying to drink in the light around it.

Just like in the ruins.

“It’s a hoax.” He looked up at Indigo reclining on the other side of the low glass table. It was odd to be in centrifugal gravity again. Everything always seemed more… left than it should.

“A hoax?” The towering woman cocked a flared eyebrow, the wing of purple tattoo following it.

“Where did you pick this up, Indigo? Some Souk back on goddamned Olympus? I could have made you a better one.”

“Great to have a volunteer Vik. Glad your willing to do a solid for the swarm and make us a better one, so we can, you know… patch the holes in the goddamned ship.”

“What?”

“How do you know its a hoax, little man?”

“Oh, er…” he scrambled for a convincing lie, “The glyphs, they don’t make sense… its like someone was working from a good copy, but didn’t understand what they were making. A very good copy, don’t get me wrong. But still… hell, I’ll make your copy. Then we can see how much we can scam for it. Do you mind if I hang onto this… just for a little while?”

“As long as you don’t hawk it for yourself Vik.”

“No, its fine, I don’t need the money.”

Indigo looked at him sideways again, before snorting.

“You know, if you weren’t so weird that could be taken as an invitation to rob you.”

“Yeah… maybe. So where’d you get it?”

“I have a feeling we’ll be hauling that particular merchant in for a chat fairly soon. You can talk to him once I’m done. Now you make us a good replica of this, and we’ll be in the money. Just don’t drop it out the hole, there’s a good boy.”

The amazon clapped him on the shoulder, then pushed him back off her gravity.

*****

Vik put it where it belonged.

The monolith sat in pride of place on top of the hill, over the minute replica of the city that he had been rebuilding from memory, a block and a street at a time.

It was perfect, this ruined city, and it was still waiting on the other side of the Pandora Gate.

You can’t dodge the hairy hand of Fate, his old man had once told him, on an orbital that had gone down with their lives during the Fall. And Fate’s fingerprints were all over this, and it was then that Vik knew that somehow he would make it back.

The city waited, and soon it would be peopled again.

So on that ominous twinge of obsessive weirdness (Author’s Rebellious Id: Ooh, do you mean the character or the one who wrote about him? Teeheehee!) that’s the end of my short fiction. If you wanna hear more from Vik, you just say so in the comments, otherwise he probably won’t appear again.

As for the nuts and bolts, Vik was created using the random lifepath tables from Transhuman almost entirely. The only thing I retconned was illiteracy… which given his origin didn’t really make sense. So here’s the fiction that ever entertaining random generation has gifted us with.

Victor Archaki was born in orbit over the Earth, his family the inheritors of an immense aerospace company that had left their native Poland for space when encroaching climate change made it unlivable. He was born and raised in the spotlight, and as he grew to maturity his expensive education focused on the best use of that. He achieved a level of fame as a director and practical special effects designer pre-Fall, though the glitterati he filmed drew most of the spotlight. This ended when the Earth did, as a swarm of TITAN attack drones tore open the habitat and left the inhabitants to the freezing void, returning occasionally for the memories in their Cortical Stacks.

It was a few years later that Vik was reinstated from backup by the Cognite hypercorp, looking to put his expensive education to use as a lab indenture. A few years after reawakening in his new Hibernoid body, Vik was able to reconnect with his family accounts, paid off his morph and hitched a ride as a techie on the next Scum swarm to pass. It was with the trailing space nomads that he remained, continuing his study and tinkering on board, until one of his many manic schemes came to fruition.

The lottery was taken, and Vik found himself on an exploratory mission to an extrasolar planet through the Pandora Gate wormhole. He doesn’t often talk of what he saw, but the cyclopean ruins of some dead species have left him thirsty for more.

And so that’s where we would probably start a roleplaying game with that character. Probably won’t though, as I said, the character creation system was a bit of a pain (maybe I’ve just spent too much of my recent life Powered by the Apocalypse), but we got some nuance. Here’s his character sheet for the curious, though I was tired enough by the end to not bother filling in weapons, armour or defaulted skills.

Vik

Tired, like I said, but I think Eclipse Phase works a lot like Call of Cthulhu in this respect, in that its extremely front loaded. Character Creation is a lot of work, after which the system gets out of the way with a level of elegance. And hey, from me trying to learn something you all got a nice piece of fiction, so that’s nice.

Have a good one folks.

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Photo “Watching You Watching Me” courtesy of Todd Huffman on Flickr (Creative Commons Attribution License)