Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Type: Terrestrial (Martian)
Primary Star: F5V (White Dwarf)
Gravity: .9 g
Diameter: 12,438 km
Atmospheric Pressure: .6 atm
Atmospheric Composition: 71% sulfur dioxide, 26% oxygen, 2% nitrogen, trace argon and other gases
Surface Temperature (Mean): 26 C
Day Length: 13 Hours
Orbital Period: 446 Days
Satellites: None
Gate Access: Pandora Gate
Notes: Frequent Sandstorms, Alien Artifacts
Apocalypto is a hot Martian-type world. It's atmosphere is thin and toxic, it has no surface water to speak of, it's star is bright and relatively close and puts out high volumes of solar radiation which would mean most un-adapted biomorphs find it unpleasant. The heat also agitates the atmosphere, causing frequent sandstorms to plague the surface, which is not helped by it's relatively rapid rotation. Yet, despite all of this, Apocalypto is swarming with Gatecrashers and Xenoarchaeologists. This is because while it's natural conditions are inhospitable or unremarkable, it is the artificial structures which pique the interest. Apocalypto is home to some of the largest scale (barring potential megastructures) construction believed to be alien in origin. Scattered across the planet are several massive complexes of spires, towers or pyramidal shapes at least on the scale of Earth's "ancient wonders", if not moreso. They appear to be mostly rock based, but with some core structures of metal composites. Their exterior structures are unnaturally smooth, and seem somewhat resistant to the planet's natural erosive forces, but are flecked and dotted with "artistic" flanges, spines, scales and ridges. Their stark level of preservation means that exact dating is hard, with a wide swing from several million to relatively recent at several thousand, though generally the extremes are the least likely. More telling is that the seamless, well ordered construction of these monolithic objects appears to indicate their builders had access to nano-scale manufacturing technology - yet chose to use mostly primitive materials, possibly because they were in situ. While devoid of surface decoration, the interiors of these structures appear to be subtly detailed and defined, so that under ultrasound or other similar scans they send back imagery which is vaguely pictographic. The interiors seem overwrought and grandiose, with vaulted ceilings, and highly arched doors that are several transhumans in height - more than practical for what seems like perhaps a bipedal species. More interesting is the environments inside these structures - which are unexpectedly cooler, and highly devoid of dust or sand. Leading experts believe smart materials in the structure may draw power either from deep geothermal wells, or via the solar radiation to power some kind of material element or environmental system which contains and preserves the interiors. However, archaeologists and preservationists have taken strong stances to prevent physical sampling of the structures to be done which might unravel their secrets.
The exact purpose for these structures is unknown, but can be theorized. There is no biosphere native to Apocalypto, and her native system has minimal planetary bodies, which are similarly or less hospitable than this one. It seems like a gatefaring race who has since moved on or gone extinct used the Apocalypto address as some kind of repository, monument or burial ground. Their interior structures have not been fully mapped, but in addition to vast galleries which may be some form of visual record in these structures, several of them contain sealed vaults or chambers which appear to be caches of valuables - particularly cut precious or semi precious stones, small stockpiles of rare or useful metals (which coincide with what transhumans normally view as precious). Others feature mysterious crystalline or ceramic constructs which may be alien objet d'art. Opening of these caches or vaults has been halted by two circumstances - the first that several art objects appeared in an auction out of Phelan's Recourse (where several Factor agents are believed to have bid on them) and the second is that the original vaults appear to be unsecured or low security - deeper in rooms are sealed through unknown or complex internal mechanisms unlikely to be defeated without years of study - or use of tools which would damage the structures. The fact that a majority of these structures have been hit with ground-penetrating sensors and indicate very deep subterranean components indicate complexity and security is likely to go up. The assumption is that after a certain point, passive countermeasures may become active ones, and thus the explorers are advised to take care. There is also the mystery of why no physical sign of the builders of these structures, usually referred to as "Vault Dwellers", "Pyramid Heads" or "Aad" (after a tribe of giants in the Quran), has yet been seen. If they buried themselves here, or otherwise left sign - must it be deeper in the complex tunnel systems below? Authorities through Gatekeeper are encouraging a slow and steady documentation of these phenomena.

[Sidebar] Crypts of Aad
From: Croft, Firewall Sentinel
I'm CCing this not only to our Proxies in charge of routing, but all our points of contact with BERSERKER VOID, CLOSE CONTACT, LONE WOLVES, NECRONOMICON, ICE NINE and YELLOW KING - anybody with codeword KING'S VALLEY clearance. This intel would probably be valuable to other servers and project teams, but spreading it around is outside of my pay scale. This is an initial report. My full mission XP, and interviewable beta forks of the active team members, myself included are also enclosed, but here is the short version.
By Firewall standards, all operations were a success. Indiana and Drake are in healing vats right now, but their reports should be accessible in days. Peabody and Williams KIA. Carter is technically MIA - but unless he was able to find some way to survive a 2,000+ meter plummet in the pitch dark unassisted, realistically KIA. Alexandria actually is MIA, and not in a good way - she bailed on the operation at the last minute. I suspect she's deep cover CID, and I know she's an async, please thank my Router for not making that more clear in the mish brief. Peabody and Williams' stacks were recovered, and will be sent back in a separate shipment for recovery, as per protocol. No physical samples recovered to send back (fucking Alexandria). All non mission-critical gear has been destroyed, sanitized or laundered. Our reputations with GateKeeper will take a hit but that's nothing a good Vector or Filter on the server can't fix. Also, as per the Alexandria comments above, I'm pretty sure my identity has been made by CID, who will have disseminated that to Fleet - I'll need a new cover if we have to go anywhere near Titan.
Initial intrusion was successful. Seven is a lot for a field operation, but it allowed us to avoid pubs or tagalongs and cover all bases of mission specialist. GateKeeper gave us a truck and we picked the contract to survey one of the most recently discovered complexes. Journey and initial scan was fine, a little tense fabbing our specialized tools in the back while cruising through some storms. Initial Sweep found site 22-A to be within standard deviation - and Peabody and Carter took some excited scans of the Aad's weird ultrasonic murals. Williams took a few core samples of the structure, which GateKeeper doesn't normally allow. We don't have the samples anymore, but his initial excitement seemed to be that past the "printed" rock and sediment shell there were some advanced nanomaterials inside, something related to energy transmission - possibly self repair. His best guess was we were looking at something between 800,000 and 600,000 years of entropy - depending on the exact sophistication of the Aad. But that doesn't account for how long it may have taken them to complete the project or if it needed "updating". No sign of active emissions from the structures, nanodetectors did not trigger. Entry-level vaults all either started empty, or had been cracked by previous "tourists".
First, we opened up six of the "low-security" rooms, to confirm this complex wasn't doing anything unusual. This was my first sign Alexandria wasn't right in the head, she had a knack for solving the mechanical interfaces with these doors and opening them. We found several stockpiles of rare materials, which appeared to be in whatever the Aad's standard mass measurement is - bricks of Iridium, Platinum, Gold, Silver, Palladium, rare Earth elements, etc. We saw no art objects, but did find small caches of cut gemstones in precious and semi-precious varieties, some set in what might have been jewelry. We also elected not to open two more vaults which our sophisticated equipment determined might be holding radioactives, which probably have some great half-lives. Indiana, Carter and I concurred the site was relatively standard, and after consulting with Drake about security, we decided to continue the operation to penetrate deep.
Mapping went for about a couple of hours of steady progression routinely cataloging the pyramid structure. We cleared most of what is the "low security" area, and basically did all the work GateKeeper was paying us for. We then began moving into levels with higher security, where other teams have been hitting passive traps. Several countermeasures were observed, a version of a Portal Denial System, a rapid depressurizing seal which would have killed us if we were just wearing breath masks, and some tricks with a false floor which is better than the TITANs - with sharp blades hiding underneath of course. All of these were pretty easy to bypass, but irritating enough we didn't stop to check anymore vaults. After a lot of enclosed halls and vaulted galleries, we went below the surface level. This became a large, square-screw space with a long ramp down and a lot of open void in the center. This level became devoid of natural light, and we were unable to find any artificial lights. Environmental conditions down here were unusual. Temperature was very cool except for some support columns running down the pit, which were emanating heat. Airflow was stagnant, but SO2 levels were actually dropping. This is where we lost Carter. He got excited and moved ahead. Next thing we know, a section of the wall pushed out and threw him out into the open pit. Then over about five minutes while we slapped our climbing gear on, it slowly slid back into place - no visible seam. We spend another 20 minutes slowly moving downward, while the ramp kept trying new shape-adjusting tricks to dump us into the void the spindle cable stopped. All of them executed pretty fast, but were slow to reset. We eventually found an exit, though the spiral kept going down. It was ringed with a couple of red lights which also seemed to be emitting very subtle infrasound. Rather than keep going down, the team concurred to scope out this new level first.
I'll spare a lot of the boring and technical details at this stage, you can see them in the XP, and my fork should have all my limited technical knowledge - though I remind the server Archaeology was just one of my many minors, and my primary role was field experience and legend. Indiana's fork is our actual Xenoarch, so he'll probably be more productive - as will Williams when you reinstantiate him, as he was materials. Carter was our astrosoc and linguistics, which probably didn't help us after he went down. But anyway, short version, we found some new vaults, and with some work Alexandria was able to crack them. Inside we found some fun stuff. Alien configurations of what looked like particle weapons. Stuff Alexandria and Williams said were alien-made fabricators, complete with feedstock now in common carbon, silicon, iron and some other elements. Alien storage drives which were completely inert, maybe even never used, some devices which may have been their equivalent of a utilitool nobody fucked with., and some portable power generation tools. All of this under that red artificial lighting. The stuff being stored suddenly went from looking like bank vaults to fallout shelters. Then shit starts to get really weird.
We went down a level to what I can only describe as a catacomb. Walls stacked floor to ceiling with niches in which was something I assume to be their equivalent of a morph storage pod. Thin printed rock facade, underneath was a tough nanomaterial composite. We cracked open a few, and found them filled with an inert clear gel. Quick analysis indicates some kind of active stasis gel - maybe with similar properties to a healing vat, but which had all gone inactive long ago. Trace organic elements, but if a body was stored in there, it had long since eroded away. This made us all on edge. Maybe we got sloppy. We upped the pace, moving down past another catacomb layer, I'd say several hundred of these inactive stasis sarcophagi. Then we found the active ones. They were through a big door, same tech as their old vault doors. These had bright blue lighting under them, subtle signs to electrical sense. We thought maybe they were still graves, but Peabody got into one with some of her sensors. She had enough time to tell us she thought there was a live specimen. Then her fucking torso got blown off.
3 contacts. Enemy description, approximately 2.75 meters tall. Broad shoulders, hunched backs. Their heads had a single large optic, with full articulation, but we think their primary sensory is actually ultrasound sonar backed with T-Rays - they output both. They had two sets of arms, one large set with huge clawed fingers, a smaller set with fine manipulator hands. I assume this isn't how the Aad are naturally, because they had different numbers of digits. Two of them had flat black shells, looked and acted like fullerened composites with radar deflecting properties, but one of them was adorned with some gemstones and odd patterns in precious metal, even had a weird headdress thing. Also, the eye doubled as some kind of exotic beam weapon. It was subluminal, but visible, and hit like a truck since it's what killed Peabody and destroyed most of her equipment. We went into combat stance. Drake and Indiana focused on the original active hostile, broke it down pretty hard. Williams got caught trying to draw his shard pistol, one of them closed the distance in a couple strides and gave a big two-handed clap which smashed his arms and upper torso pretty good - I'd estimate at least as physically strong as a Daitya. I gave it a couple of clean hits with my offhand pistol, but it swiped at me and kept going. Alexandria pulled me out of the way with inhuman reflexes, it only clipped my wrist and gun, and I got a fracture or something. Drake had to reload, which was bad for Indiana as apparently those claws are sharp - it got a hold of one of his legs and practically sheared it off - the gross damage took him out pretty quick. I used my plasma sword to bisect it as the waist, and Drake dumped his second mag into the bot. The exotic one was probably about to beam me a new asshole while my back was turned, but Alexandria just gave it the finger gun and said "bang", and it's insides just splattered out everywhere. Inside these things was some black goo, a semi-organic nanotech liner which apparently made them psi active - hence how Alexandria was able to win a fight with one in about five seconds. I took a sample off the stuff while Drake stabilized Indiana from his paramedic kit and Alexandria recovered from her psychic nosebleed.
Then it went real pear shaped. Alexandria slit Drake across the neck, ruptured his seal and some blood vessels - would have killed somebody without all his implants, but only made him pretty distracted. She grabbed what was left of Peabody and Williams' sample belts, and took off deeper inside. I chased after her, but she got me around a corner. I'm no amateur in a scrap, but that woman moved like a master-class fighter, had speed and precision I haven't seen outside of intel reports on Ultimates or Exhumans. Me with a bum wrist and a specimen container probably didn't help. Fight feels like it was over before it began, she put me on the ground, knocked the wind out of me, then grabbed my helmet in both hands and pulled us close - really close. I could see through her faceplate she mouthed something, but couldn't understand it. My head swam. I think she skimmed my mind for what data I had, but luckily compartmentalization means I didn't know any more than her, except maybe a couple of the server's codeword clearances. I thought I grabbed my plasma sword right after and tried to cut her, but she was gone. I stumbled after, and found only a passage deeper down. I stumbled back to Drake, who was missing a lot of blood, barely conscious. I pulled Williams and Peabody's stacks and Drake was able to help me toss their remains into the void after Carter.
It's funny, I don't remember how exactly I pulled Drake and Indiana back up to the truck, only us powering back to the Gate complex. Maybe the enhanced adrenaline winding down. What I do remember was Peabody's flashlight tumbling down that shaft. Past level after level of catacombs with blue lights. Six? Eight? A dozen? I'm not sure. Maybe the XP will play out. Could be hundreds or thousands of Aad sleeping under this world. Did they decide to wait out their own Fall? Is this like early 21st century cryogenics - waiting for a cure for some disease? Is their own personal messiah supposed to come and break open the underworld, wake the dead? If they're waiting for something in particular, I think they've probably missed the boat given how we've yet to encounter any signs of a civilization remotely like theirs through other Gate Addresses.  Especially since it seems like their plan for immortality failed a couple of the poor sods on the top rows. More worrisome is how they'll feel if Transhumans accidentally wake them up unexpectedly, while they're sitting on bunkers full of fabber-level tech and guns. More pressing, however, is what Titanian Intelligence is going to make of this situation when Alexandria gets back to them. I don't think they'll shell Apocalypto just to be safe, But CID aren't always upstanding guys. And they've got a sample of that weird goo inside those tomb guardians. Stuff was blacker than crude oil, no idea what it did for those bots.

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