Sunday 28 December 2014

Merry Midwinter!

Every family has their own Christmas traditions.

As children, Dad would read “The Night Before Christmas” (with me irritatingly quoting it alongside him, knowing it by heart) to us, curled up in front of the open fire in his study – a room we were only allowed into by invitation. Then, we would all go to bed as early as possible, to make Christmas come quicker. We would share a room and fall asleep listening to Christmas songs on cassette. At some point during the night, Dad would sneak in with our stockings and we would wake up to magic.

The stockings would be opened with great delight and proved a cunning way for Dad (and in my earliest memories Mum and Dad) to get a chance at a lie-in. I vividly remember the year we each got a tin of something we particularly liked – I believe one sibling had spaghetti hoops and mine was Campbell’s chicken soup – only on closer inspection, the tins had been opened and carefully resealed: they were now full of sweets! And every stocking had a satsuma in the toe and an apple in the heel.

We would then be allowed to open one tree present before breakfast and the rest throughout the day. I would usually get Sylvanians, Lego and books and that would be enough to keep me quiet throughout the day. The afternoon walk would include a trip to the park and then visiting friends to exchange presents. And there would be lots of chocolate.

These days, we don’t share a room but do still meet up at Dad’s on Christmas Eve. There are far fewer tree presents: we do a lucky dip/secret santa so each of us gets and gives one present. We still all have stockings: Little Sister and I now tend to be in charge of filling these, but everyone puts a few things in everyone else’s. Stockings are then handed to those who haven’t gone to bed, and left outside the doors of those who have. We’re also all less likely to be up at 5am to open them…

Dad cooks the turkey – I can’t remember when it changed to turkey; it was always chicken when I was little – and we usually congregate around the tree for presents once everyone’s digested. Then Husbit and I head over to his Mum’s for more presents (again, a stocking and a lucky dip/secret santa tree present); Boxing Day is spent back with his family eating too much and playing board games.

This year, I got the board game Pandemic twice (well, I got it once and Husbit got it once), so we’re trading one copy in for one of the Arkham Horror expansions we’re missing. I also got some clothes from 3rd Rock Clothing to use when climbing or for circus (I tried the top on for the first time this morning and it’s so comfy I’m refusing to take it off). Husbit’s chipped in to the Paranoia kickstarter for me and I got him a digital piano (with the help of our musical GM) – we’ve both been enjoying that.

Other friends have also received new games, so it looks like a games night may be in order…

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Aberrant - Vienna Aftermath (On the Moon)

When we left the Nova Initiative, Vienna had just been destroyed and Chrissie was in a very bad way. I'm very late posting this. Sorry.

I came to in the forest. The machines that should have been monitoring my condition were silent, unlit. Some of the administrative staff from Project Utopia were staring in horror and, to be honest, with the pain I was in I wasn’t surprised. A quick check revealed I was missing a lot of flesh – hand to my face told me I was lucky to have vision in both eyes, because I don’t think my right eye should have survived.

The members of Team Tomorrow who’d come through Mark’s portal with us gradually led away the civvies – I think mostly or exclusively their staff – until it was just Adam, Mark and I remaining in the glen. I was trying very hard not to cry with the pain and focused on worrying where Stef was. Adam reassured me she was safe – Benedict had said so – so Mark took us back to the Hub. Straight to the medi-bay for me, and we were told Stef was safe.

I fell gratefully unconscious again. Adam watched over me for a while, then thought back to Benedict’s final instructions to him, “There’s a package on my desk. I forgot to give it to Jen. Make sure she gets it.

“I need you to look after the Nova Initiative now.”

Adam went to Benedict’s office. It felt strange without Benedict – an expectant emptiness. The room was immaculate: the package stood in the centre of the desk, with three letters, one for each of Adam, Jen and I. He brought them back to my bedside, where Jen joined us shortly.

I imagine the other two letters were much like mine: very personal, fondly written, offering congratulations on achievements and guidance to help build on these. It wasn’t the pain that brought tears to my eyes. But alongside the powerful sorrow and pride was an excitement: within the letter was encoded my own access to Benedict’s personal lab, allowing me to use it whenever I wanted.

The package was a thick book, densely filled with Benedict’s tiny writing. Jen exclaimed as she looked through it, amazed at what Benedict had foreseen. She went quiet, after a while, and a few days later the book vanished and was never mentioned again. Adam and I didn’t ask.

The world had fallen apart when Vienna burned. Jen arranged for those we cared about – our friends and family – to be taken to safe houses whilst London rioted. Whilst I lay on my bed rebuilding my body, other novas (my team and Team Tomorrow amongst them) worked to quell the worldwide violence and rebuild fractured society.

We quickly learnt we couldn’t run at quite full power. Adam and I found our normally over-active mental link was cut completely dead – as dead as most communication networks. Even once I was mended and back in the air, even once London had calmed again, there was a lot to do.

We did as much as we could. Adam and I ran replacement cables under the oceans as St John Enterprises attempted to reconstruct the internet. Jean and I travelled around the world revisiting our pre-nova lives as doctor and nurse. Adam ran messages.

We went back to what was left of Vienna. To look. There was hope that maybe, somehow, we’d find Benedict. The crater was slowly healing and filling with water, but under that I could see the flows and falls of quantum that drenched this place. No doubt this was what was causing the difficulties in accessing our powers – and in the world at large.

Eventually, we started looking skyward. We needed to gather information from the Nova Initiative satellites, and get them working again. I flew Adam and Stef up there to fiddle. Stef, at our suggestion, also bugged the Project Utopia communication satellites whilst fixing them up. We also gathered the various other satellites floating uselessly about, downloaded any data they were still holding – and destroyed them. We felt that too much information about what had happened – about Vienna – getting out would be dangerous.

Whilst floating about, I spotted the moon didn’t look quite its normal self: it seemed the blast that took out Vienna had carried on out of the atmosphere and clipped the moon. A quick calculation suggested we could fly there in about 20 hours, so we set off (bribing Stef with how cool it would be to be on the moon).

The stars and stripes left by the US astronauts all those years ago was faded beyond recognition. I took my shoes off and ran to leave naked footprints across the surface of the moon. Adam sketched a beautiful piece of art as a signature. We took a quick photo of the three of us with the detritus left by the Apollo crew.

The crater left by the blast was perfectly circular and passed straight through the moon. I’m sure I’ve heard it said a stone with a hole in it is lucky: we were standing on the largest bit of luck I’ve ever seen.

We travelled through the tunnel, and as we neared the centre I heard a strange voice speaking in an almost-language, like no language I’d ever heard. The others couldn’t hear this, but like me did spot the metal girders floating…

There was a room, or half a room. It had evidently been clipped by the blast, but had previously been deep within the moon. There was a flickering light, tiled floor and walls, and a large metal door – too heavy even for me to force open. Stef, after a bit of fiddling, found a panel beneath a floor tile and used this to open the door. Heading in, we realised we were now in an airlock and the previous room had been a sort of waiting room. It led on to one of the strangest experiences of my life so far: a da Vinci’s workshop, of sorts; a room overwhelmed by complicated contraptions made of a marvellous mixture of modern and ancient materials and technology, warm and well lit and dominated by a giant portrait of Jennifer St John.

Once we’d recovered from the shock, we went back to exploring. The gramophone in the corner was playing no record, but seemed to be the source of the voice I’d heard. Closer, the others still couldn’t hear it but I recognised the voice as Benedict’s.

My mind flashed: was he here, somewhere? Could he have been thrown here in the blast and been unable to return but set this up? He’d had several months, but it seemed unlikely: where would he have got the materials from?

Had he been thrown back in time and created this as his sanctuary? This felt even more likely when we found the room filled with paintings of Jenny – some drawn lovingly, some with such a ferociousness of need and loss that they almost hurt to look at. Some of her younger than now, some older. And in the centre, a portrait of Benedict, but his bright blue eyes were stormy grey. But if this was his timeless sanctuary, where was he? We could find nobody, no signs of recent habitation, although the library revealed copies of things written in the last 100 years. And diaries, but we didn’t feel comfortable reading those.

Adam found another workshop with a sheet of material on the bench. He touched it, curious, and it clung to him – glided over his skin and settled there as though part of him. He called Stef and I over: we found several more sheets and again each, on touching one, found it attached itself to us. There were enough sheets for each member of our team and two over. We leapt to the assumption Jen and Alastair. We also discovered we couldn’t even touch a sheet intended for someone else: they backed away.

We flew back as fast as we safely could. The other members of the Nova Initiative were pleased to see us: our detour to the moon meant we’d been gone several days longer than expected and, whilst the satellites we’d fixed were up and running, they’d had no way to contact us. The scientists had developed short-range sub-vocal communicators that were working, though, so we each took one and the material that had collected to us (I’m refraining from calling them ‘suits’ because Adam has been ranting about how they’re superhero suits since we found them) absorbed the mic and retained its function. This is clever stuff that I need to explore more.

We grabbed Jean, Robert, Rachel, Mark and, of course, Jen; found somewhere private and explained we needed to go to the moon. They looked at us like we were crazy but eventually agreed – although Jen refused to take Alastair. We suited her up – the rest of us able to survive in a vacuum – and used the photos we’d taken for Mark to warp us there.

They were amazed by the airlock – we’d cleared away the manmade debris to try and hide the entrance should anyone else come up here, so it came as even more of a surprise to them. We led them in and Jen was stricken.

She’s a very brave woman.

Everyone was quickly suited up in the fibre Benedict seemed to have left us – we had been right in assuming one was for Jen. With the rest of the team around, Stef found another panel from that second workshop that led us deeper into the moon and deeper into the mystery.

A ship, like something out of Adam’s comics, dominated the hangar we found ourselves in. A bit more exploring and we found a room of computers from ancient stone to things that wouldn’t look out of place in the Hub. Stef said the room gave her fizzy knickers so we left her there whilst we carried on. There was a habitation ring of sorts, and it felt like Benedict had built this place with us in mind.

I wondered again if he’d been thrown back through time, but Mark thought it more likely Benedict was older than we knew and had foreseen everything. I don’t know – Jen remembers him as a child; they grew up together. And I’ve met his parents. Or people who believe they’re his parents… Mark’s theory on the portraits is that Benedict had precognition and fell in love with Jen before she was ever born. But I don’t think we’ll know the truth unless we find Benedict again – or if Jen finds something in one of his books that’s she’s prepared to share with us.

The ship in the hangar let us in. Benedict’s face appeared, talking in that strange not-language of the gramophone. With the password of ‘Alastair’ being given, the ship revealed its cockpit: the whole ship had seemed empty at first, but seats and panels appeared as we needed them.

With imperceptible motion, the ship flew through a forcefield appearing like a wall and flew us back to Earth: through the Antarctic, through the Earth and back to a level of the Hub deeper than we’d known existed.

Thursday 4 December 2014

Dropping to Success

I've managed to get very behind - I have two sessions worth of Aberrant to write and post, and a Pathfinder session that I'll be writing from Jvala's journal, as the last few, but also as a separate Svetlana fanfic. I also want to write up some of the other board games I've been playing (most notably Arkham Horror, which I was amazed to realise I hadn't raved over already). I've made a start on some of this but, as I said, am hideously behind.

There are a few reasons for this - my first OU assignment was due in and I spent more time on it than I'd hoped (I'm really out of practice when it comes to essay writing!); I've been pretty tired because it's become very stressful at work - and it's stressful at work because there's a degree of panic because I've given my notice to start a new job in January! I'm very excited about this - it's a job that I think will suit me much better than the one I'm in, as well as coming with more benefits. So a brilliant opportunity for me and I'm thrilled.

Whilst I try and get the various roleplay and board game posts sorted, here's a video of me doing my very first drop on silks - another thing I'm excited about!