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A Midnight Sun

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A Midnight Sun Empty A Midnight Sun

Post by elephantlord June 6th 2022, 5:16 pm

Paul Jablonski had begun to wonder if he dwelt in some form of Hell. The rolling hills outside the wide view port were verdant and lush, carpeted with an intense green. Birds frolicked in the temperate weather of an Alaskan summer, the cornflower sky bright and clear without nary a cloud to be seen.  And like some benevolent father, the sun shown benevolently down on it all, providing heat and life to the land.

Of course, the problem for Captain Paul Jablonski was that the arrogant little shit had been up there for 20 hours now.

People native to this part of Alaska called it the Midnight Sun.  It was a quirk of being north of the Artic Circle around this time of year.  The rotational tilt of the Earth made it that the vile daystar never really set, remaining in the sky or rimming the horizon while not fully setting. The scene was like something Monet might paint - and Paul wanted to take a flamethrower to it all.

It had been two days since Paul had been able to sleep.  Blackout curtains, soothing music, nothing had worked.  The base physician had even administered 25 MG of Ambien, which had allowed him a few hours of rest, followed by a few days of barely getting by.  Only a steady diet of coffee and caffeine pills was keeping him functional.  

"Captain," Watkins had called him.  Was it the third time?  Blearily, Jablonski set down the 'World's Best Husband' mug his ex-wife had given him and acknowledged the man with a grunt.  

"We have a bird coming in calling mayday.  Unregistered cargo flight out of Anchorage, requesting clearance to land."  

Paul Jablonski sighed and rubbed at the constant throb in his right temple.  "Unregistered?"

"They gave a code for our, uh, next door neighbors, sir."  Watkins said uneasily.  

"Then clear them.  Convey my complements and let them know where they can shove this cloak and dagger bullshit."  Jablonski growled, then went to look for a refill.

Watkins immediately turned to work, throwing a clipboard at a dozing Corporal, then telling him to move his ass and notify the ground crew.  On the tarmac, Jablonski could see the crew chief yelling at his boys to get them ready.

Captain Jablonski had time to take a single sip of his coffee before the unregistered Boeing 747-8 slammed into the runway at 150 miles an hour.  
---

Coldharbor, an Olympian containment facility, typically did not get much excitement.  It was a deep storage facility, meant as a secure location to store high security 'items of interest' that were either not needed or too dangerous to keep on hand.  It was a place where things were sent to be forgotten.  

The structure itself lay roughly 200 meters beneath the surface.  It was a nearly self-sufficient facility, able to remain operational without resupply for up to three years; longer yet if extreme measures were taken.  Shipments arrived every few months with items bound for long-term storage.

Coldharbor wasn't where you sent the truly dangerous or exotic stuff, of course.  Those went to a facility somewhere even more secure.  No, Coldharbor was meant for things the Scholarium deemed of little interest or value.  Failed horrors, harmless doomsday weapons and canceled Armageddons.    

In one cell there was a strain of Rabies so virulent that it could infect and kill every man, woman, and child on the planet within only a few months... if it had not developed an extreme intolerance for oxygen.  

In another, there were the seeds of a plant from some alternate dimension that could produce limitless magical energy... if some quirk of local physics did not kill the thing within seconds of sprouting.

It was also the place you sent spellbooks that no longer worked; alchemy formula written by crackpots addled by mercury poisoning.  Grimoire once feared for their ability to summon demons that had been slain or no longer held a scrap of power.

And it was here that the long dormant phylactery of Xin the Indelible, the Undying Lord of Steel, Master of Ten Thousand Souls lay forgotten on a dusty shelf.  Misfiled by an overworked clerk that had unwittingly saved the world.  Or at least, pushed doomsday back a couple of weeks.
---

The facility failed to respond to a scheduled radio check-in 7 hours after the crash of Unregistered Cargo Flight 'Epsilon'.  Contact was attempted again several hours later, though an abnormal weather event had begun to manifest over the site and communication became uncertain.  

One final message left Coldharbor an hour before a four-person team was dispatched to ascertain what had become of the outpost.

"--d are walking.  God, plea--"


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A Midnight Sun Empty Re: A Midnight Sun

Post by The Nekromonga June 9th 2022, 4:28 am

NIAO’S CRIB, A FEW HOURS AGO

It was night time at the Steel Sage’s abode. The staff had retired for the night, but the workshop wing beneath the manor was buzzing with progress, and mechanical cats of varying feline-like behavior. The workshop was organized chaos, for every section was filled with automaton parts and half-done animal and humanoid constructs, assembled in different stages.

A tall, slender, dark robed and raven-haired woman walked with a cool confident gait, admiring the handiwork. Tia Yueh found the clockwork constructs novel but passe, but admired the attention to detail and quality of the artist. Her attention was often caught by a glimpse of her reflection in some metal surface, so a full-length mirror stopped her in her tracks, as she admired herself and adjusted her hair ornaments.

Right then, Portcullis shot up from below, ‘trapping’ Tia. The development startled her a bit, as she looked around for an escape. Though, she relaxed when she saw her host had arrived. That was when Niao emerged from her inner chambers, hair slightly a mess, having binged work for the past several weeks. “Tia Yueh! Older Sister. You didn’t send write ahead.” Niao approached and offered a curt bow, seeing that the intruder was not hostile.

Even stuck in the cage, Tia scooped up Niao in a big embrace. “Oh Niao, No need to be so stiff! You are as cold as steel, as usual.” She put her much smaller sister down, then reached for a face of the clockwork human, internally impressed with the sheer quality of the metal, the precision of the proportions. “Automatons? Constructs? Why are you pursuing such a … droll project? It’s been done and done before.” She playfully put the metal face on, and the face began to display emotion.

Niao smiled at Tiah’s playfulness despite her age and status. Always the carefree one. She retrieves the mask and returns it to its owner, a construct that was only complete from waist to head, suspended by cables. “I am developing the means to mass produce them for someone. But please, enough of our idle gossip, tell me exactly why you are here.”

“Xin.” Tiah drops the banter and gets to the point, leaning against the cage.

“Xin? Xin?! He… He is secured in the Luminous Gallery. Isn’t he?” Niao’s steely expression changed. It changed only for a small handful of important matters, and her answer was devoid of confidence, seeing as her older sister was here to talk about it.

“We only recently spotted an incredibly concealed ruse. His phylactery was replaced that of a lesser revenant, disguised as him. When this one manifest himself, I’m to pry information out of him.” Tiah offered Niao a funerary urn in the shape of an ornately carved and engraved metal box. As Niao took it to observe how uncannily it resembled their brother’s own soul jar, Tiah’s curious hands reached another nearby trinket, a musical box that assembled a miniature dancer that danced to a familiar tune.

Niao looked up at Tiah, returning the lesser phylactery as well, though her eyes were on the musical box, the dancer having been modelled after one of them. “…And you are telling me why? Xin was your sibling adjacent, right after him and before… Ji-ji.”

“You were on good terms with everyone, Xin included. I brought you some things you’ll need.” Tia produced more items, producing them from a book of holding, where each page produced an object from a detailed sketch. “The Wudai compass, to guide your way. A ritual scroll that will make his phylactery transportable. And a pot of black lotus as a peace offering.”

“Not everyone.” Niao sighed, a rare sound, as her long memory brought back memories of the siblings, she did not quite see eye to eye with. She closed the music box of Jiji and collected the items she’d need for the journey, scrutinizing and meticulously understanding each one. “Peace offering. I highly doubt Xin would be in the mood for flower keeping.”

ALASKA, PRESENT TIME

Niao found herself shunted through a portal into the bitterly cold Alaskan wilderness, the terrain requiring a dog sled assembled hastily, and a mechanical beast to act as locomotion. Thankfully, being an automaton instead of flesh and fluff, the clockwork hound, Da Guo maintained a respectable cruising speed across the ice, snow, rocks and sparse woods. Niao had just enough sun to navigate with the arcane compass, though when it started to bend and twist in different directions, she had to resort to intuition and her own eyes.

Slowing her sled, the weather had abruptly changed around her, unnatural for this part of the world. She had arrived at the outskirts of a lonesome town, and so she slowed her sled and hound to surveil the location with a telescope. While it was an understandably isolated place, it was far too empty, the streets absolutely empty. Niao leaves the overlooking wood she arrived at, and slowly makes her way there.

She leaves her sled and transmutes the handles into a spear, letting Da Guo pull the sled and her items. Once she had a chance to investigate, she tensed, seeing the telltale signs of battle through the streets. Crashed cars, Bullet holes, blood stains, empty shells on the ground. But there were no bodies. A mechanical whine emerged from Da Guo, the hound avoiding blood stains, which surprised Niao enough that she gave her 500 pound metal hound a stern look. “Great. An automaton who feels fear.” Niao sighed, slightly regretting bringing this one. She’s waylaid by her creation’s quirk, trying to negotiate with it without just assuming direct control.




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