There's a corpse in a bubble at the bottom of a holeA hole with a corpse down belowThere's a wound in the corpse at the bottom of a holeA wound in the corpse in the bubbleThere's a man in the bubble at the bottom of the holeA man come to look at the woundThere's a wound in the corpse at the bottom of a holeAnd the man's found the shape of the knife
WHEN THE MAN COMES AROUND
The history of the human expansion sphere has seen so many conspiracies, secret police forces, surveillance states and military-industrial oedipal complexes that when someone asks "hey, have you heard of the men in black?" the answer can only be "yeah, which one?"
All good for a scary story and a laugh over drinks. They're a persistent boogeyman for good reason, and have come and gone in a thousand different masks and names, and many of them were even real.
These ones are very real, and they do not have a name. For convenience's sake here I will be calling them the Office of Anomalous Intelligence, but no one in the expansion sphere would ever call them that - the people who would bother don't know they exist, and the people who know they exist wouldn't bother.
It is a fossil from the last dying breaths of anthropocene Earth. Like dead virii in primate DNA, so here there remain the prehistoric traces of MKULTRA and COINTELPRO. It is the final form of the American experiment.
The following statements are true, or as true as information can be regarding this subject.
- The OAI is active throughout the expansion sphere, and has influence in most major polities.They tend to favor authoritarian governments, and will encourage the development of such when it suits them.
- The bulk of the OAI's membership have no idea that they are participating in it, and will do so only temporarily according to directives given from above.
- BLACKSITE ALPHA is one of their many installations
- They have neither proper leadership nor headquarters.
- The true members of the OAI are immortal posthumans, though they do not look it (at least, when they might be seen). They are inculcated with absolute adherence to the Guiding Principles, to an extent that it might be classified as a form of zoanthropy (that is, surgical removal of the volitional will)
- They seek to create the perfect orderly system out of the cosmos, self-replicating, stable, and unchanging.
(Please see Mon's Modern Instrumentality Bureau for another take on this sort of thing, likely far better than mine)
THE OUTER DARKNESS
RK-435 is a black hole of 7 solar masses, with a Schwarzchild Radius of 20.68 km. It possesses no orbiting bodies nor accretion disk, rendering it essentially undetectable to most outside observation.
The three nearest stars are all red dwarves of no particular consequence. The nearest officially plotted hyperspace route is a rarely-used branch some 30 light years away.
THE BLACK BUBBLE
A stable bubble of ordinary time-space about 500 km across, existing within the singularity of RK-435 and sustained through means unknown. It is accessible only through a narrow bandwidth hyperspace route accessible from close orbit around black hole.
Making the jump (termed NEEDLE GATE) is impossible without the precise jump calculations (stolen or recovered with great difficulty and luck from agents of the OAI) or the aid of a Navigator (who are almost as difficult to find, unless, perchance you have a FRIEND...)
A dead Celestial; a moon brain cracked open like an egg. A leftover from the war that established the dominance of the High Houses. The smartmatter shell would be about 400 km in diameter when whole; it has lost over 70% of its total mass and the remainder has broken into three large chunks and smaller clouds of assorted rubble. The outer shell is opalescent, almost black, glossy and reflective. The innards are oceans of rippled silver folds, like damascene brain tissue.
A barebones modular station, containing only what is necessary for its function and permitting nothing else. its primary components are as follows.
The Anchor - An elevator that connects the station to the CORPSE. On the corpseside end there is a small automated facility for mining and processing smartmatter, inhabited by a hive of menial crab-bots.
SMARTMATTER - Programmable matter is not new to human science, but the corpse-stuff of the dead Celestial is of higher quality than what can be manufactured, and it has already been formatted for an information-processing substrate. An entire android logic core could be stored on a marble of it the size of a fingernail.
Docking Port - There is never more than one ship at a time, and rarely does the same ship visit twice. Many times they do not have any true members of the OAI on board
LIBERTY WORM - Android logic virus used by the Office of Anomalous Intelligence. An android infected with LIBERTY WORM, upon linking itself to the ship's navigation computer, will direct the ship to jump towards RK-435 instead of its intended destination, and from there to BLACKSITE ALPHA. Vectors will be unloaded or onloaded as the Office sees fit, and the ship will depart for its original destination. During this stage, LIBERTY WORM will overwrite the ship's navigation logs, manifests, and the infected android's memory before self-deleting. When the ship arrives months or years late to its destination, those aboard will write it off as just a bad jump.
The Lower Ring - A spoked wheel of cramped habitation modules and the necessary components to keep the inhabitants alive. At the central hub, one may go down to corpseside or up to the containment sphere.
LABOR DESIGNATE CLONE WORKER - A hairless, flash-cloned baboon. Heavily cyborged. Modifications to the brain for tractability and task-implantation are not so extensive to risk development of thalience, which claimed prior android labor pools.
The Upper Ring - A second spoked wheel, with the KNIFE chamber in the central hub. Storage modules for anomalies deemed useful or worthy of study are kept on the ring, along with various laboratories.
AGAMEMNON HIERARCH - The OAI does not trust in AI, nor in leaving behind hard records. But, records still need to be kept all the same. This secure mainframe contains experiment logs, intake and processing reports for anomalies, and encrypted messages to operatives on the outside.
The Containment Sphere - Built to house and study ANOMALY PRIME. Now that the KNIFE has been built, the observation decks are rarely used and the equipment is run only for caution's sake.
DENIAL - A shaped antimatter charge is located at the base of the Containment Sphere, which will destroy the rest of BLACKSITE ALPHA should it be infiltrated by another power. The OAI is more than willing to rebuild the station, and even the KNIFE, if need be.
A hyperspatial wound on the universe, the lingering scar of whatever weapon was used to lobotomize this celestial.
Directly looking at the Anomaly is a Sanity Save, naturally. Do not describe it at all - skip ahead to when the character is no longer looking at it - the experience cannot be processed by the hardware and software of the human brain.
Using the specialized observation equipment in BLACKSITE ALPHA, one can see a faint, constantly-shifting distortion that marks the edges of the anomaly - it is almost, but not entirely, unlike the space where a distended prickly shape writhes and foams.
(Should intrepid players somehow, after blood, sweat, tears and fallen comrades, reach BLACKSITE ALPHA and then go on to directly interact with ANOMALY PRIME, describe a flash to nothing, like a TV turning off. Pack away your materials, and end the session early.)
(The next week, pull out premade character sheets of those same characters for a completely different game.)
A device reverse-engineered from observations of ANOMALY PRIME and built using smartmatter components of THE CORPSE applied to a hyperspace interface. Its inner workings are predictably well beyond human understanding, but despite this complexity it is not particularly large: it could easily be carried in a standard shipping container
The KNIFE is able to cut and reshape reality, though the hand
wielding it remains unsteady. The results are only partially consistent with what the OAI desires. Useful anomalies will be shipped out to their other operations in the expansion sphere. Interesting ones will be studied here. The rest are launched into RK-435 for disposal.
Usage of the KNIFE is having cascading effects elsewhere in the universe, generating new and unintended anomalies. The OAI is of course very interested in these, and has both established additional hidden stations devoted to their study (large corporations are a convenient front) and taken advantage of the vast and desperate ecosystem of gig workers to collect them on their behalf. LIBERTY WORM is not required for these jobs.
Were the KNIFE to be detected outside the BUBBLE, the High Houses would spare no time nor effort in destroying it. This would stop most individuals from ever considering it, but it will not stop some fucking moron assured in their belief that this time they in particular, will get away with it.
USING THIS ARTICLE
This post is mostly an excuse for why there is inexplicable weird shit in your setting, not a means of dictating what that weird shit is (especially because everyone's Mothership home games have varying levels of weird shit)
I would recommend, in addition to whatever horrors you are already using.
- Your favorite SCP articles
- My Lighthouse Field Guide series
- Delta Green shotgun scenarios
- The Magnus Archives
- Material pulled from other games and modules entirely
- A gateway to the Gardens of Ynn or the Stygian Library
- Artifacts from the Ultraviolet Grasslands
- Basilisk hacks etc. from Eclipse Phase
- The Lamb from Lair of the Lamb
- Obscure monsters from your favorite bestiaries
- Even more horrific forms of the Gaunt
Avoid things your players will recognize, of course, unless you are aiming for an "oh shit! moment of realization. Use descriptions, not proper names.
It's immensely unlikely that players will reach BLACKSITE ALPHA...unless, of course, LIBERTY WORM is involved. Otherwise, they'll be interacting with the OAI from the other side - caught in the middle of an event, unknowingly pressed into service, or simply stumbling across something before the OAI finds it.
I had for a time thought that the opening ditty was of my own invention, but was reminded by Sigmacastell in the discord that it is actually a variant of a line from the absolutely fantastic SCP-1782 ("Tabula Rasa"), which had stuck itself in my head even though I had forgotten the article itself.ReplyDelete
Have you checked out A Nocturne? It's a hack of Blades in the Dark that, thematically, seems like it fits right in with your interests.ReplyDelete
I'll vouch for the Lamb in MoSh; have used it to great effect in a one-shot.ReplyDelete
Also, you've set me on a "weird conspiracies that survived the destruction of Earth" kick. We'll see how that goes -- you've already made me do patches, trinkets, and MoSh magic.
"They seek to create the perfect orderly system out of the cosmos, self-replicating, stable, and unchanging."ReplyDelete
Whenever you mention a self-replicating, stable and unchanging system, I cannot help but think of Red Law, which this group certainly seems to advocate for (willingly or not.)
Then again, I wonder how Red Law would interact with the Celestial Bureaucracy. On the one hand, this post implies that the methods Red Law would seize (and would need to seize by it's very nature) would make an enemy of the Celestials. On the other, it's unlikely they would care what hell humanity makes of itself, so long as they don't interfere in their business.
While the Red Law doesn't technically exist in my Mothership stuff, the two settings do rhyme. The Celestials would almost sit in the same position as the Folk of MSF - aware of the Red Law but outside of it, until it oversteps its boundaries (which it inevitably will)Delete