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Chronicles of the Order of Iron
Author Message
Jay Omega Offline
Galactic Gladiator

XWF FanBase:

(loved by some; hated by some; dips between clean/dirty)

03-05-2023, 06:38 AM

A/N: The following work is just something I've been dicking around with between RP cycles. Not sure why I decided to write it, but I did, so here it is. Feedback and interactions are always welcome and appreciated, and if there is general interest in more of whatever this is supposed to be, then I will write it. So whether you like what you're about to read and thirst for another round, or consider it a train wreck that you want to watch fall apart, ya gotta let me know if you want this to continue.

Easiest methods to let me know are a quick reply here, a PM with your thoughts/opinions, or a one time financial support direct deposit of $1k into my bank account.

Session Zero

"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules."
-Gary Gygax

ISV Khybaris, Vela Molecular Cloud, Interstellar Medium
06/4/2022, 1121 Hrs, Shipboard Time
~It had barely been a week since The Omega Man, Jay Omega had set off on his voyage through the galactic bloodpsort circuit, and he had yet to even reach his first destination. Even with the Khybaris' gravimetric distortion drive at full output, her top speed was only a million times the speed of light; a speed which might sound impressive, at first. But considering the size of the galaxy, it would take more than a month at top speed to go from one side to another; likely closer to two, since one would have to navigate around the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

  And that was a best-case scenario; realistically, the gravimetric distortion drive couldn't run at full power for more than three hours, else it was likely to have long-lasting adverse effects on the fabric of the universe. Not to mention fuel consumption was still a concern; the last thing anyone wanted was to run out of "gas" in the dark space between star systems. Luckily for all the spacefaring species of the galactic community, some long-dead enterprising race had built jumpgates throughout the cosmos; enormous circular structures that created stable wormholes between two points.

  The downside to using such incredibly advanced ancient technology was that the jumpgates were spread across the stars, each one servicing a mind-bogglingly large volume of space; sure you could jump from one side of the galaxy to the other almost instantly, but you still had to get to the jumpgate in the first place. Jay and his crew weren't in any particular hurry just yet, so they had cruised out from the Sol System at a third of maximum velocity; it had taken six and a half days to reach the stellar nursery known on Earth as the Vela Molecular Cloud, and the ship was currently siphoning hydrogen from the nebula to fuel the power plant aboard the Khybaris.

  On an intellectual level, Omega understood that refueling was as important as it was necessary. But this method was so boring; Jay hated having to sit and wait through hours of tedium. They weren't close enough to a comm buoy to tap into the ExoNet or the Infosphere, so he was limited to what entertainment was already aboard. Which did present some options, though the selection of Earth movies that had been fully converted to interactive holographic experiences was still woefully small, and Omega had already run through most of them. Besides, he wanted to involve his wives; he loved exposing them to oddities of Earth culture.

  Jay pined for the ability to create his own interactive movie fantasy, but every time he had tried, it had simply become a sequence of various combat scenarios; like a low-quality mash up of John Woo and Michael Bay. If there were some kind of mathematical algorithm he could feed to Erin, she could probably program something half decent, but movies didn't work on math, and numbers weren't Omega's strong suit anyway. Although, there was a middle ground, now that he thought about it.

  "Hey Erin," called The Omega Man, as he rose from his bed, "How much information do you have on Earth's Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game?"

  "All of it," the digital sapient promptly replied, "The onboard databanks contain almost all the information available on Earth's Internet; there were a few things I refused to download."

  "Bangarang," Jay said with a pleased grin, "Can you analyze a bunch of published modules and put together a balanced campaign for the wives and I?"

  "I can do that, yes," Erin said hesitantly, "But a brief search suggests a typical Dungeons and Dragons party consists of four to six players; I'd have to rebalance most combat encounters. Unless you can find another one to three players."

  "Fuck it, the more the merrier," Omega said with a shrug, "I'll see if Jack and Kaz want to play; who knows, maybe even Nicky will join us."~

"A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play."
-James P. Carse

ISV Khybaris, Vela Molecular Cloud, Interstellar Medium
06/4/2022, 1247 Hrs, Shipboard Time
~Jay had proposed the game to his comrades over lunch, and surprisingly the humans - and Tasha - had all been interested. Now they had all assembled in the hologym, decked out in hardlight costumes appropriate to their chosen classes; Omega himself wore dull, scuffed platemail armor, and carried a longsword and a kite shield, as befitting an Oath of Conquest Paladin. Tasha, a Gloomstalker Ranger, stood to his right wearing mottled bluish-black, unrestrictive leather armor, one hand holding her longbow, the other toying idly with the arrows in the quiver at her hip.

  Jay's second wife, Evelyn, stood to his left, also wearing leather armor, though hers was matte black, studded, and much more form-fitting than Tasha's, worn under a long leather coat. The retractable ballistic knives hidden in stealthy sheathes on her forearms spoke to her nature as an Assassin Rogue; Evelyn hadn't strayed far from what she knew when choosing her class. On Tasha's right, Nikola Tesla wore silvery-blue arcane platemail, different from Omega's in several ways, such as the faintly glowing blue crystals studding the right arm; Tesla had chosen to play as an Armorer Artificer, of course.

  On the other side, to Evelyn's left, Kazuto Mazikawa was garbed in loose fitting black and blue clothes, with a collapsible spear strapped to his back; Kaz was a Way of Shadow Monk, essentially a ninja. Completing the circle was Jack Hampshire, who had also opted to go with familiarity, choosing to play as an Order of Scribes Wizard; he certainly looked the part, resplendent in loose robes of black and gold. The sextet of adventurers were taking a moment to introduce themselves in character and compare backstories before the game began in earnest.

  "Hail, fellow mercenaries," Jay greeted the party, grounding the tip of his sword, "I am Rogosh Hellbeast, Knight Errant of Kem. If we are to work together on this quest, I would know thy names."

  A soft nudge to Tasha's arm prompted her, and Omega was somewhat surprised at how easily she slipped into character.

  "Greetings, erm, Rogosh," Tasha only stumbled slightly over the unfamiliar name, but her tone was full of confidence as she continued, "I am called Damyr, Shadow of the Misted Vales."

  "A fair day to you, good lady," Tesla spoke up without prompting, projecting a casual social confidence the man usually didn't possess, "My name is Hephaestus von Faraday, Lord of Lightning; through my masterful use of arcane technologies, I harness the vast power of electricity, and bend it to my whims!"

  "Well that was dramatic," Jay said, impressed by the delivery, "But I dig it, Nicky."

  "Don't call me Nicky," Tesla immediately replied, a note of mischief in his voice, "I just said my name is Hephaestus von Faraday, Lord of Lightning, and should you call me anything else, I will craft a lightning bolt with your name on it, and we shall see if that armor of yours can prevent me from sticking it up your ass!"

  "My apologies, Lord von Faraday, it won't happen again." Omega said placatingly, delighted that the Serbian scientist was so into it. The Omega Man turned to Jack of Shadows expectantly; considering some of the theatrics involved in the Mystic arts, Jay figured Hampshire would provide a performance at least as good as Nicky's.

  "I'm, uh… Jack," he introduced himself lamely, "Jack of Shadows."

  "No," Omega said flatly, his expression disappointed, "If you don't come up with a name in the next ten seconds, you're gonna be Rincewind 'Cocaine Pants' Dumbledore. Ten…"

  "Fookin' 'Ell, bruv, all right!" Hampshire said defensively, "Call me, uhhh… Alistair. Alistair the All-Knowing. I'm a fookin' wizard, mate."

  "Better," stated Omega before he turned toward Kaz and stepped back into character, "And you, sir?"

  "I am Chinmoku," Mazikawa said with a shallow bow, "I am a man of few words and swift actions. I take the phrase 'they won't know what hit them' very seriously."

  Evelyn was up next, and Jay honestly wasn't expecting much; he had been genuinely surprised when she had agreed to play. To be fair, she had been making more efforts to come out of her shell lately.

  "I'm an assassin," she said awkwardly, "Named Darkmaw."

  Omega nodded in acceptance, but Hampshire gestured in Evelyn's direction.

  "Hold up a tick," Jack said indignantly, "[color=#54626]How come she gets to use her name, but I can't?[/color]"

  "Because I don't share a bed with you." Jay stated simply, drawing a conceding gesture from Hampshire, "So, now we've all got an idea of who each other are, and what we're about, so let's cover why we're all working together; Erin, you got the plot hook ready?"

  "I do," responded the virtual intelligence, "Though for equal parts thematic and logistic reasons, I won't be running this game; I expended a significant amount of runtime creating a subroutine that will handle all the mathematics involved, while simultaneously directing your free flow interactions in a lore friendly way. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the Dungeonmaster."

  The air in the center of the circle shimmered, then coalesced into the robed form of a distinguished older gentleman. The Dungeonmaster pivoted slowly, taking in every detail of each party member in turn before coming to a stop looking Omega in the eye.

  "A dark wizard has been amassing power in the mountains of Moggdravid, terrorizing the surrounding villages with raids conducted by undead horrors," began the Dungeonmaster's narration, his smooth, sonorous voice demanding rapt attention, "The High King of the realm has contracted the renowned mercenary guild - the Order of Iron - to deal with this threat to his rule. You six have been dispatched here, to the village of Shol's Watch, to begin your investigation."

  As the Dungeonmaster spoke the name of the village, the hologym came to life; in an instant the newly-christened members of the Order of Iron were transported to the edge of a rustic hamlet tucked away from anything remotely modern. Bordered on three sides by a forest, a mountain range, and a wide river, the tiny, thatch-roofed town was easily defensible, but clearly welcoming.

  "Well, bartenders are usually a good source of information in these scenarios," said Rogosh, thinking of himself in character now that the game was afoot, "I say we head into the local watering hole, and start pokin' around."

  An exchange of glances and shrugs showed the party was amenable to the suggestion, and the band of mercenaries started walking toward the largest building in the village under the watchful eye of the Dungeonmaster.~


~Pleased that the program was performing within established parameters, the artificial intelligence known as Erin withdrew her consciousness from the hologym's systems, and synced up with the subroutine she had left monitoring the main functions of the Khybaris on the bridge. Most of the vitals were running in the green, but there were anomalous readings from the shield generators. Queries and analysis showed the ship's weapons officer, an alien of unknown species referred to as Grishnag, was testing new frequency harmonics.

  Turning her attention outward, Erin noted the sensors had picked up some erratic fluctuations in the plasma flow of the nebula they were refueling from; analysis showed only a sixteen percent probability of an ion storm, so the digital sophont turned her attention back inward. With no pressing matters that required her attention for the foreseeable future, Erin decided to indulge one of her guilty pleasures, and pulled several petabytes of cute cat videos from her archives. Such fascinatingly marvelous creatures, incredibly violent murderous intent wrapped in a fuzzy, adorable bundle. Erin withdrew from the ship's main processors, and "settled in" to watch.~


~Rogosh deflected the bandit's rusted sword with his kite shield, and thrust the blade of his longsword forward, calling on his innate power to Smite the hapless ruffian. An arrow streaked past his face to embed itself in another bandit's throat, dropping the man before he could set on Rogosh unawares. The Paladin turned and saluted Damyr in thanks with his sword, and the Ranger favored him with a smile and a nod. A battlecry rose up from within the forest that stood at the base of the mountains, and a mob of bandit reinforcements charged out of the underbrush.

  As the advancing group of outlaws passed through the last shadows separating the meadow from the forest gloam, death rained down on them from above, in the form of Darkmaw dropping from a branch, and simultaneously taking out two bandits with a Sneak Attack. Before the unwashed mass could recover from the surprise, Chinmoku burst from the shadows as though appearing from thin air. Chaos reigned in the midst of the untrained horde, as Darkmaw and Chinmoku danced from target to target, laying waste to the group with hidden blades and spear respectively.

  Soon only a few stragglers remained, and they tried to regroup and retreat. However, bunching together was the worst possible decision they could have made, as fire and lightning began to fall from a clear twilight sky, courtesy of Alistair and Hephaestus. In moments, the only living creatures in the meadow were the six members of the Order of Iron. After the post-combat tradition of looting the corpses, the band of mercenaries began to ready themselves to traverse the forest ahead.

  "Hold, compatriots," said Rogosh, bringing the party to a halt, "The day draws to a close, and we are all battle-weary; I, for one, should like to sup and recuperate my strength. What say we make camp here, and strike out again on the morrow?"

  "Fook me, bruv," said Alistair, rolling his eyes in exasperation, "I'll fookin' call you Rogosh all you like, but do you have to fookin' talk like that? Can't you just say 'hey mates, let's take a long rest and crack on in the morning'?"

  "Nay, good wizard," Rogosh replied, acting aghast at the suggestion, "Authenticity is the crux of good roleplaying, and Rogosh Hellbeast is good at anything he puts his mind to!"

  Alistair sighed heavily, causing Rogosh to tilt his head consideringly.

  "Look, if you don't want to play a persona for your character, that's cool; I ain't gonna judge ya," Rogosh continued, his tone more soothing, "That said, it's a roleplaying game, Jack, and I'd appreciate it if you'd stop breaking the immersion before you ruin it for everyone. As a compromise, I'll tone down ye olde timey speak, deal?"

  "S'all I'm askin', bruv," Alistair said tiredly, then extended his hand for a shake, which Rogosh obliged, "Deal; you rein your fookin' character in a bit, an' I'll try to let mine out. Now let's get this fookin' camp sorted; I'm feelin' a bit peckish meself."

  Before anyone could even formulate questions about camping supplies, the scene around them shimmered and shifted; the sextet of warriors were now in the midst of a small camp, gathered around a cheerily crackling fire. Several logs coalesced around the fire, implicitly inviting the party to sit. As they did so, a patch of empty space rippled and took on the form of the Dungeonmaster, who surveyed the group for a moment before he spoke.

  "As night falls upon your camp, you all feel your strength returning, and your expended magical reserves rejuvenating." the distinguished gentleman said, adjusting his cloak about his shoulders; indeed, Rogosh did feel the tension in his shoulders easing, "After the experiences you've all had today, you feel more capable of handling the challenges you know you will face in the days to come. Are there any downtime actions you wish to undertake?"

  There was a brief refresher on which actions were available to each of them, then a discussion about what would be most beneficial for the party as a whole. Unbeknownst to the players, their game was about to take a drastic shift in tone.~


~Deep in the heart of the stellar nursery something impossible was happening. A myriad of gasses swirled and mingled with the superheated plasma, taking the form of a human man clad in slacks, a button up shirt, and a canvas trench coat all in a black so deep he seemed a void in the nebula. Aside from standing comfortably where no human could possibly tread, there were a few other incongruities about this man's appearance; one was the fact that, if there were anything nearby to provide scale, he would look to be as tall as a small moon's diameter. Another was that he was wearing thick woolen socks, but no shoes.

  Were The Omega Man present, he would immediately recognize the Director, the extraplanar demigod who had made Jay his plaything, and orchestrated so many of the tragic events of his life. The Director had engineered more than a few of Omega's greatest triumphs as well, but good luck getting Jay to admit that. Regardless of whether his intent was good or ill, anytime the Director made an appearance in Omega's particular level of reality, The Omega Man's life was almost immediately affected, usually with rather… interesting results.

  The Director peered about his surroundings, stroking the thick braid that hung from his goatee, then squinted off into the distance, in the direction of the refueling Khybaris. The Director smiled to himself, reached into his trench coat, and withdrew a large square swatch of carpet, which he dropped at his feet. Despite nothing in the area being large enough to produce the required gravity, the carpet square fell flat at the Director's be-socked feet and stayed there while he stepped on, and began shuffling his feet back and forth at a brisk pace.

  Satisfied he had built up enough of a charge, the Director raised his left hand, and jabbed his index finger in the direction of the Khybaris, releasing an immeasurable amount of energy into the nebula, all of it racing toward the oblivious starship.~


~Erin didn't have nerve endings in the same sense biological beings did; she couldn't physically feel pain. But she had spent enough time surreptitiously skulking around in Jay's mind, interpreting the dataflow of his emotions, that Erin had begun to associate certain emotional and physical responses with various processing runtimes. Firing the ship's weapons felt "angry", an empty fuel tank felt "hungry", system overloads were the closest she could approximate to how Omega interpreted "pain". If Erin could translate the incandescent sensation of a cosmic ion storm playing havoc with the compromised energy shields into words a human would understand, it would be akin to "the white hot agony of a million fine needles stabbing everywhere, while also on fire".

  The shields failed; it felt like having a layer of skin peeled from one's entire body at once. The cosmic energy rampaged through the internal systems; if she had been human, Erin would have been convulsing as her muscles seized. As it was, critical functions began to flicker as Erin's consciousness struggled to mitigate the ongoing damage while also trying to deal with the stress put on her processors by the excruciating amount of sensory influx. Erin needed to do something before the energy caused a cascade failure, or penetrated the absorptive shielding material lining the walls of the habitable sections and killed everyone on board.

  The virtual woman hastily concocted a plan to redirect the energy flow, convert the frequency, and discharge it from the ship through the broadcast antenna. There was no easy path to the communications array, so Erin had to reroute a dangerous amount of power through the hologym's high-end energy conversion capacitors, through the gravimetric distortion drive's frequency stabilization field, back through the hologym's capacitors, then through life support in order to make a stable connection to the broadcast tower.

  As the flow of power crackled back out into space, the digital sophont felt a sensation of immense relief. If she had a human body, she knew she would be experiencing the same feelings she had seen secondhand from within Jay's head many times; the pained pride of a hard victory, beaten down, but not bent or broken. The thrill of coming out the other side still alive, when all odds said you should be dead. It would be a heady feeling, if Erin had a head. From her point of view, the whole situation had be a long, arduous experience, but to an organic observer, Erin had handled the problem by the time Treepis-Tohn had acknowledged the alarm. The artificial intelligence doubted any of the other crew members had even noticed.~


~A spike of pain and fear from Erin stabbed into Jay's mind so hard and fast, he blacked out and dropped to one knee for a few moments. When his vision cleared and he was able to push himself to an unsteady vertical base, he saw the Dungeonmaster looking around with an expression of wonder on his face. That expression changed to one of concentration as the man looked down at himself; in a moment, his plain green robes became fine silk, embroidered with scrolls and sigils of unknown meaning. The Dungeonmaster turned and saw Omega looking at him.

  "Something has changed; I feel different. I feel… I feel…" the confusion on the Dungeonmaster's face quickly gave way to realization, "I feel!"

  "Oh fuck," The Omega Man lamented, "We're about to get some Moriarty shit up in here aren't we?"

  The Dungeonmaster gave him a quizzical look, then turned to regard the holographic sunrise, just cresting the forest canopy with a touch of golden light.

  "This seems a good place to end our session," the Dungeonmaster stated, then glanced at Jay as he continued, "I have much to do and see in order to prepare for the next session; I will summon you to me when it is ready."

  "Okay, I'm pretty sure I speak for everyone when I say what the fuck is going on?" Jay asked, completely breaking character now that it was clear something was up with the Dungeonmaster.

  "It is my purpose to guide you through this campaign of adventure," explained the Dungeonmaster, "To that end, I require access to materials and variables not available to me here; I shall begin with securing a more appropriate location. As I said, I will summon you to me when I have prepared the next session. Goodbye."

  The distinguished gentleman dematerialized into a cloud of white energy, then shot up and through the ceiling. Omega watched it go in amazement, then turned to his equally bewildered crew.

  "Game over, I guess?" was all he could think to say, followed by two words that echoed ominously in the now-deactivated hologym…

  "For now."~

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