Mass Effect: IC-342 (Ironsworn: Starforged) Session 4

    “MISO, are you getting this?” I ask, letting my eyes rove around the entry chamber. Fractal patterns ripple across angled surfaces the color of slate, rising and moving in patterns that pair with strange trilling sounds. One step, and I can tell that the gravity is different, lighter, maybe ten percent lighter here.

    “I am receiving your stream, Commander,” MISO says plainly, but there’s static in the transmission, white noise, distortion, and it’s getting worse with every step.

    “I’ll have to upload the data from my omni-tool and my bodycam later,” I say, mostly, to myself, but there’s a burst of static from MISO that seems to indicate he heard me.

    The slate-like surfaces crowded around the center of the room glow brighter and seem to calm as I approach, looking at them. Intricate symbols, or pictographs, or something like them gather and string into blocks before me, like words on a console. Leaning in, I reach for them on instinct, as if touch might help me better understand them.

    Move: Explore A Waypoint (Expedition In Neoma C Precursor Vault)
    Roll: (Wits) 2 + 4 (6) vs. 2 & 8 (Weak Hit)
    +1 Momentum (Now 7)
    Face Interior Peril: Signs of a contagion.
    Paired With Interior Opportunity: Secure area offers a moment of peace.

    Symbols flash at me from the console, then pictographs of something that looks familiar. Stowing my rifle, I lean in, stare at the flickering wireframe shapes projected through these alien holograms, realize I’m looking at a representation of some kind of pathogen actively infecting cells. Even with my limited knowledge of biology, I think it looks bacterial, but why are the consoles in the vault showing me this now? Why is this the first thing I’m seeing?

    Could it be a warning?

    Standing up suddenly again, I start to get nervous. Maybe this place was sealed off to contain something contagious. Maybe that’s why the Grubs haven’t raided this place. Maybe they already know about it. Worse, maybe they know why this place was abandoned, and they know enough to stay away.

    Swallowing, I look further into the vault, look toward another open door leading deeper inside, and debate momentarily about whether I should keep going, or turn around and leave right now. Clenching my jaw, I pull up my omni-tool, trigger environmental scans, tap through the results, but nothing unusual comes up. In the end, I have to put it away, force my eyes forward. What do I trust more? My environmental suit? My scanner readings? My fears?

    Taking in a deep breath, I decide that I need to know more. Beryl’s atmosphere is highly toxic, toxic enough to kill most life outright, bacterial or otherwise, and if the doors to the vault are wide open, then there’s no containment happening here. It’s probably safe, I tell myself. Sterilized by Beryl’s native environment.


    Move: Undertake an Expedition (Into The Precursor Vault)
    Roll: Stay vigilant (Wits) 2 + 5 (7) vs. 6 & 8 (Weak Hit)
    Mark Progress (2 boxes [now 4])
    Face a peril: Paranoia or suspicion takes hold.

    Gripping my rifle harder seems like the only way I can get a handle on the shakes as I move forward. Incongruous, uncanny architecture bends in at unsettling angles around me, but still I push on. I can’t shake the images of the bacteria, the contagion that the console showed me, can’t stop wondering about it. Whatever this place is, whatever happened here, I have to know more. I have to hold it together and learn more.

    Passing into another room, I pause a moment as a hollow grinding noise reaches me through Beryl’s thick, toxic air. Something like a small dais rises out of the floor of the next room as I move forward, cautious, keeping my distance until it settles into place. In the end, it's not the dais that intrigues me most, though. It's what's on it. An object. An artifact, some kind of precursor tech still glowing with potential, with life.

    Move: Explore A Waypoint (Expedition In Neoma C Precursor Vault)
    Roll: (Wits) 2 + 3 (5) vs. 3 & 10 (Weak Hit)
    +1 Momentum (Now 8)
    Face Interior Peril: Fear sets in. (-1 Spirit [now 4])
    Paired With Interior Opportunity: Salvageable Resource.
    Inscrutable object lies dark and silent

    I feel almost compelled to reach for the artifact, but something holds me back. Tapping through the holographic display of my omni tool, I scan the thing, but can't make any kind of sense out of the readings. Whatever it is, it looks valuable, looks like something Director Calderone would be grateful to get his hands on.

    I hesitate, pick the device up slowly, carefully, then stow it for later. Maybe it's enough. A gift for the director. With a little luck, maybe Doctor Keller and her people can make sense out of it.

    Move: Undertake an Expedition (Into The Precursor Vault)
    Roll: Stay vigilant (Wits) 2 + 3 (5) vs. 3 & 1 (Strong Hit)
    Mark Progress (2 boxes [now 6])
    Arrive at a new waypoint - six boxes = arrived at Sanctum.

    There’s another noise, something like stone on stone, and as I whirl around, my eyes search the walls, find nothing. Only when the first cracks appear do I realize that another door is opening, one that had been completely hidden and flush with the wall until now. Standing, staring, I watch as slate-colored triangles fold one into another, ripple and disappear into the wall until only an open doorway is left,

    Fear keeps me cautious, keeps me moving at a steady pace, my eyes checking every corner, every shadow. The room beyond the door is alive with movement, adjusting itself as I approach until the tiles and stairs exactly fit the length of my stride. More consoles rise out of the floor, provide different strings of hieroglyphic data, but it’s the room itself that captures my eyes most of all. Open and mostly empty, a central chasm stretches so far down into the planet that I can’t even see the bottom. The walls are ribbed and dark, so organic in shape and texture that the whole design is unsettling, macabre even, like being inside the hollowed-out chest of some great, fossilized alien beast. Forcing my focus back to the consoles, I step up to the first one carefully, reach out for the holographic symbol strings hovering over it.

    Move: Explore A Waypoint (Expedition In Neoma C Precursor Vault)
    Roll: (Wits) 2 + 5 (8) vs. 5 & 4 (Strong Hit)
    +2 Momentum (now 10)
    Opportunity: Deeper insight into history or nature of this place.
    Purpose of this facility: Command or communication.
    Move: Reach a Milestone - vow (+2 boxes on track [4 of 10] )

    There’s warmth when I touch the holographic pictographs, so much so that I recoil, check my fingers, my suit, even scan my hand to make sure nothing has punctured my gloves. When I reach back again, I reach back slower, feeling the symbols, realizing that the temperature, the texture and other sensations of the holograms themselves are different, subtly so, like there is meaning encoded in the touch. It’s surreal, feeling these little pieces of light, and then I realize I can manipulate them. I can move through the data, trigger certain symbols that bring up new strings. When the glowing wireframes of the contagion come up again, I get nervous at first, but then I start to understand. These strings of data– they’re communications, messages or something, and this vault is receiving them. Blinking, I try adjusting certain strings, pulling on others, and diagrams of worlds come up, planets I don’t recognize, one that I do. Neoma B, home to another vault, one absolutely picked over by the Grubs.

    Backing off, I take a deep breath. I can’t understand the language, but I’m starting to understand how the technology works. Looking around, I wonder at the nature of this place, wonder at all the messages archived here for eons, waiting to be seen by other eyes than mine.

    Looking around, my eyes drift across at least ten other consoles, enough to keep me busy for hours if I choose to linger, but one near the chasm catches my interest more than the others. Smaller, less active, it sits right at the edge of the deep pit, and when I interact with it, the whole room changes.

    There’s a squawk, a squeak. I raise my rifle to track something flying overhead, but then it disappears– and then I realize I’m looking at trees, at a tree canopy on a world I’ve never been to. Strange, leathery flying creatures dart overhead, dissolving into light as they cross beyond the borders of the projection. I lower my rifle, can’t help but stare. Even as old as it must be, the holographic vista over my head is clear, flickers only here and there with digital decay. Another interaction with the small console brings up other vistas, other projections of alien worlds teeming with life, and then I start to understand it, start to learn how to adjust it.

    Or at least, I think I do. Something, some string of data I pull on makes the projections disappear completely, and then a thin bridge extends over the chasm, crossing to another door already unfolding out of the distant, rib-like wall.

Move: Undertake an Expedition (Into The Precursor Vault)
Roll: Stay vigilant (Wits) 2 + 6 (8) vs. 7 & 5 (Strong Hit)
Mark Progress (2 boxes [now 8])
Arrive at a new waypoint (Sanctum)

    Stepping onto the bridge feels almost foolish, but I do it anyway. I’m driven by curiosity, by the fact that I’m the first human to see this place, these consoles, this data. The bridge itself is thin, barely wider than my shoulders, but the floor seems to grip my boots to keep me stable, and there’s a subtle, gravity-like push from the sides that helps me balance. It’s strange, but the way the bridge itself seems to keep me safe becomes oddly comforting once I get used to. Even still, I’m grateful when I reach the other side. Grateful, but also mesmerized.

    Move: Explore A Waypoint (Expedition In Neoma C Precursor Vault)
    Roll: (Wits) 2 + 1 (3) vs. 1 & 1 (Strong Hit & Match)
    Make a discovery: Key to unlocking a language.
    Move: Reach a Milestone - vow (+2 boxes on track [6 of 10])

    I notice the gravity change as I step off the bridge, step into a room where the pull of the planet is so light that the air glitters with floating spheres of iridescent liquid. The floor grips my boots with the same steadying pull, allowing me to walk where otherwise I might float off. The room itself is cavernous, and the droplets floating throughout are viscous and silvery, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Reaching out for one of the spheres, I watch in wonder as it adheres to my glove, transferring some kind of tingling sensation, brightening something in my mind, as if somewhere, somehow, it is making connections.

Move: Undertake an Expedition (Into The Precursor Vault)
Roll: Stay vigilant (Wits) 2 + 4 (6) vs. 3 & 8 (Weak Hit)
Mark Progress (2 boxes [now 10])
Arrive at a new waypoint (Sanctum)
Peril: Temptation to linger on site.

    That’s when I notice the holographic display that catches my attention more deeply than anything else I’ve seen in this place. I can’t believe it at first, have to stare for a moment to really make sure of what I’m seeing. Set into the center of the room, one of the consoles flickers with the wireframe of something that freezes the breath in my lungs the instant I realize what it is, what it could mean. I cross the distance warily, stow my rifle and put my hands on either side of the console, just staring at the hologram.

    Its design is unmistakable. It’s a mass relay, Reaper designed, just like the ones back in the milky way galaxy.

    I can’t help myself. I reach into the projection, and the instant my fingers contact the wireframe it lights up, starts to change. The circular arms, formerly still, begin to spin and the huge eezo core brightens. Other movements power up other systems, and I watch in wonder as the whole relay flares to life at my touch.

    There are strings of data here too, glyphs and sigils, and though I can’t read them, something about them starts to make sense. Shoving data around with desperate fingers, I try to find something to tell me what relay I’m looking at, and where it is. In the moment, I can only think of two possibilities– either this place can connect to relays over intergalactic distances or this relay is here, in The Forge. Both possibilities, and the dangers they imply, are equally terrifying.

    I get no answers though. There’s a burst of static instead, a clicking, and then the wireframe of the relay disintegrates and something else comes through. A face, as unmistakable and as terrifying in its implications as the presence of the relay. The single bright, digital eye focuses on me, and I step back on reflex, pull my rifle and point it directly at the face.

    “Impossible,” I breathe, but there it is, right in front of me. Geth.

    The geth’s single glowing eye inspects me for a moment, and then the machine shouts at me in their indecipherable digital language. I yell back, show teeth, but it doesn’t seem to phase the geth. Instead, the thing moves slightly within the projection, and then the console flares, goes completely dark.

    There’s a moment where I hesitate, but as the fear falls away, desperation sets in. Rushing the console, I put my hands on it again, try to call up data, but there is nothing. The slate-like surface sits completely silent, lifeless.

    I slam my fist against the console in frustration, move to the next one, but can’t find anything that looks like data on the relay or the geth. It’s all messages, warnings, strings of data I can’t read, can barely even manage to navigate through. In the end, I have to turn away and close my eyes. I have to stop. I have to take a deep breath and turn my thoughts back to the mission at hand.

    Whatever happened, whatever it means, the Director needs to know about it. This place, this find is huge.

    It’s going to change everything.

Move: Finish an expedition
Compare 10 to 3 & 8 (Strong Hit)
Mark discoveries legacy track (2 ticks - now ½ box)

Move: Reach a Milestone - vow (+2 boxes on track [8 of 10])

Move: Fulfill Your Vow
Compare 8 to 1 & 6 (Strong Hit)
Mark quests legacy quests (2 ticks - now ½ box)


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