In Dynafel, people have been converging upon the Dreaming Reliquary, a research institute left behind by the prior queen who was obsessed with dreams. No-one at Dynafel has noticed this however, because before the people get there, they disappear, just fading away into nothing, so many of the residents believe that their has been a recent rash of hauntings, the ghosts of the dead roaming the streets in search of something.
Some blame the ghosts for the recently increased yellow swarm attacks, some think the ghosts are the victims of previous yellow swarms come to warn them. Most think both are related somehow to the pulsing lights in the air above the city, but they are far up in the sky, beyond reach.
Getting the Players Involved
If the players have progressed from the previous adventure, they already have a trail of clues to follow and a reason to get involved. If not, players might find the odd person disappearing and fading away whilst walking down the street to be an odd occurrence (and NPCs will certainly comment on it) and choose to investigate.
The side of the city with its gates open towards Yenth is abound with rumours and fear about ghosts, and with the recent increase in attacks by clouds of yellow swarm, a problem the city is ill-equipped to deal with, the mayor, Harcorth Munn, has issued rewards for numenera hunters and mercenaries that can help protect the city and perhaps find the cause of the increased yellow swarm attacks which happen to have coincided with the appearance of the ‘ghosts’.
Queen Sarromere wasn’t entirely crazy when she was deposed and exiled. There was another reality, but it wasn’t a dream world as she believed, but another universe, revealed to her by the numenera she had collected. Over the recent years, the continued research at the Dreaming Reliquary has activated one of the devices and they opened not so much a door, as a crack, a sliver of an opening into this other reality. Nothing can make it through physically, but through the medium of dreams, a vast intellect is reaching out, alien and unknowable. Unfortunately, the Aeon Priests do not realise what they have done, and even if they did, it is too late - the hole is a tear in reality, not simply a door that can be closed again.
The people of Dynafel have had a strong relationship with dreams, nonsense that has been stamped down upon by their new tiKalloban rulers, but loyalists and some of those that remember Queen Sarromere’s rule fondly still hold dreams in high-regard and believe in their power.
The Dreaming Dead
The ghosts the players may have heard about most often converge in a square just outside the entrance to the Dreaming Reliquary. In the square, despite local guards often moving them to clear the thoroughfare, a group has occupied the streets, claiming that the ghosts are the dream-selves of the long departed and that they are trying to commune with them. It seems to be working, because some of those that sleep in the square, especially when there are many ghosts around at once, never wake up, but seem to fade away, just as the ghosts do until they disappear entirely.
The Dreaming Reliquary, being the centre of so many of the recent events, is a prime candidate for investigation. The head Aeon Priest, Narla Deshu, is eager to try and resolve any problems, but all their experimentation and research doesn’t seem to have yielded an answer to either the ghosts or the yellow swarm attacks.
However, the priests do think that there may be answers up in the sky and they have a way to get there - sort of. Whilst the Reliquary doesn’t have any flying devices, their research into the collected numenera at their disposal and into dreams, they have discovered they have a ‘dream ship’. The ship exists only in the mind, but is capable of sailing through the air, allowing the pilots to fly it up into the sky and explore the mysterious red and blue lights that pulse in the clouds.
There is a problem them, the disappearing ghosts haven’t been disappearing at all, they’ve entered the dream-state where the ship resides and are trying to take it for themselves, but without the operation numenera in the waking world to activate it, they can do little but climb it, trying to reach higher - it seems that these ‘ghosts’ are trying to reach the lights as well. In the dream-Dynafel, the Reliquary is a huge spire that reaches up into the sky, upon which the craft is mounted. The Aeon Priests are no fighters and even though it is ‘only a dream’, they believe the danger of death is very real - one priest has died already and one came back barely sane, ranting that the Dreaming Dead who have been sleeping in the square were also trapped in this dream world that mirrors our own.
The players may be interested in why Narla doesn’t just get the mayor to send guards and soldiers on this mission and reluctantly Narla will admit she wants to keep the Reliquary’s involvement in what is happening to a minimum until they can put an end to what is happening. The Reliquary’s funding has become far more limited under tiKalloban rule and any excuse, like being associated with these event more than they already are, might cause all funding to dry up completely. She hopes that if they can keep things quiet and then ‘come to the rescue’, they might be able to use that as leverage for securing more funding.
Players may wish to blackmail or turn Narla in for her actions, but she pleads it is all in the best interests of Dynafel. Many of the numenera in the Reliquary could be extremely dangerous if they fell into the wrong hands, they need to be protected and understood. If the Reliquary falls, who knows what might become of the numenera within?
The Dream Ship
If the players agree to pilot the dream ship, the priests will take them to a powerful artifact that will put them to sleep and project them into the dream-world. Before they go, they are taught a method of signalling the priests, that with concentration (requiring level of intellect effort) they can make their sleeping bodies utter a single word. If one of the sleeping players say Open, the priests will activate the ship. They are also given a word to signal if they want to be woken up, that word is Awaken.
When they awake into the dream world, everything has a strange, purple hue. Stranger still, the city looks exactly the same but the entirely Reliquary they were in is gone and instead they find themselves standing at the base of an enormous purple spire that reaches up into the sky.
The spire is not smooth, but covered in various pits and protrusions, making it well suited for climbing. However, there are hundreds of people trying to climb the spire already and you can see a large group trying to get into a large, winged protrusion 60ft up the spire - the dream ship!
If the players try to engage with any of the climbers in the dream-world, they will observe that their eyes have gone completely purple, their pupils and irises completely gone. They do not respond to communication attempts beyond a droning reply of “We must assemble” nor even react to violence. If prevented from their attempts to climb the tower, they attack until they can access and climb the tower again.
Like ordinary people, except with purple eyes, they come in all shapes and forms and players may even recognize them from descriptions of missing people.
While most are unarmed, some do have weapons.
- To climb the spire
- 2 (4 if armed)
- Dreamers take double intellect damage
The dreamers attack only if they are prevented from ascending the spire, lashing out with fists, feet, biting and using any weapons they have available to them in a mad frenzy. If not attacked for a round, they immediately resume trying to climb the spire.
Dreamers, when spoken to, only drone a reply of “We must assemble”
Exploring the surrounding area, the players come across the people who disappeared in the square outside the Reliquary. These people are confused and afraid and beg the players to help them and protect them from the purple swarms that sometimes fly down from the sky.
If the players offer to take the people with them, most will stay behind, afraid of falling or being attacked. However, one man, Aaro Macdonas will volunteer to accompany them. He reveals he was once a pilot in a series of numenera craft races around the Steadfast and even though he is long retired, he may be of help - anything to get them out of this hell.
Identical to yellow swarms, purple swarms are the insects as they appear in their native reality. While they don’t need to swarm in their native reality, they still do, seemingly out of habit.
Weaker than their yellow incarnation, due to their stable existence, they do not fade in or out, making them much easier to defeat.
- Speed defence as level 4
Climbing the spire is a difficulty 3 task to reach the ship with a minimum spend of 2 Might points to attempt it (while it is not particularly dangerous, it is quite tiring). When the players reach the ship, they find a platform surrounding it, giving them an easy place to rest. The platform and the ship itself has many Enthralled Dreamers on it that seem to be trying to get inside, but they have not yet been successful.
The players must give a signal to the priests in the waking world to get them to trigger the ships opening sequence. Alternatively, the players can attempt to open the ship themselves, as a difficulty 6 intellect task (due to the constant interference from Dreamers - if the Dreamers are kept away, a single player can attempt to open the ship doors via a control panel at a difficulty 4 task).
As soon as the ship doors are open, Dreamers try to get inside. It is easy to close the door with a panel from the inside and the door shuts instantly, cutting through any Dreamers that might be in the way.
Inside the ship, there is a device strikingly similar to the device the priests used to send the players here. A brief examination reveals it is the control system for the craft, providing direct telepathic control. In addition to the device, there are several panels with alien symbols and information, and a large viewing window, mostly obscured by Dreamers clambering over the outside of the ship. With a difficulty 2 intellect task, players can determine the launch sequence. Unless a player is in the control device, the launch sequence automatically aborts, sending numerous error symbols scrolling across the panels.
Gravity in the ship remains constant, regardless of its orientation or speed (there is no sense of inertia and the floor of the craft is always ‘down’ relative to the players). As the ship activates, it spreads a series of large wings, knocking several of the Dreamers off the spire, then launches into the air, up towards the top of the spire.
Players in the control unit can attempt to steer the ship in any direction with a difficulty 2 intellect task, but unless they deliberately take action, it autopilots up the side of the spire until it breaks the cloud barrier, revealing a large portal in the air above the clouds, through which a dark, starry expanse can be seen, two planets, one red, one blue, floating near by.
Unless directed otherwise, the ship flies through the portal into outer space. As it crosses the threshold, there is a lot of turbulence that shakes the players about and those free-standing must make a difficulty 4 balance check or take 3 might damage as they are knocked about.
Out of the ship windows, the players can see that several Dreamers have climbed to the top of the spire and jumped through the portal and are floating, frozen in space. They are all falling towards a large object situated between the two planets that shines darkly in the starlight. As the players try to manipulate the ship, they soon realise that their craft is also heading towards the object - something is pulling them in.
As the PCs get closer, it becomes clear the object is an immense structure, many thousands of miles long and the craft is being drawn into a large opening, whilst hundred of frozen Dreamers are being drawn into smaller openings, trails of icy bodies glittering in the starlight as they flow into the structure.
The systems on the ship come alive and symbols scroll frantically across all the panels, alarms sounding, soon to be replaced by a voice speaking in gibberish the players can not understand. If they manage to respond back using the communications system (a difficulty 3 intellect task) the voice repeats its message again, but this time in Truth:
Prepare for processing at assembly dock 12.
If the players do not open the ship and step outside, they find that the door begins getting cut from outside until it is forcibly opened. The ship, despite attempts to move it, is held firmly in place by whatever force had dragged them in.
Outside the ship, the players are confronted by 3 large machines. The machines are not humanoid, instead formed of large, blocky metal and they move on treads. One machine has a large spike on an articulate arm which sparks with electricity (the cutter, if the door was forced open), another looks like a series of metallic tentacles on a large cuboid base, each tentacle ending in a wide semi-circle from which glows a blue light. The third is a series of poles mounted on a large, flat base, each pole has a number of clamps that look like they might fit around a human arm.
The machines are not intelligent and just follow preprogrammed instructions.
Whilst they can attack and will try to subdue attackers, they are not immediately violent.
- Escorting living entities
- 45 living entities
- None (except for the torch/cutter, which does 10 might damage
- Speed defence as level 0 - they are slow and cumbersome
- The machines try to capture attackers, clamping them in place or coiling around them. The cutter only attacks if damaged, and never to kill unless one of the machines is at risk of being destroyed.
- 1d6+3 cyphers and 1 artifact from the cutter - a Beam Lance (see pg. 104 of the Technology Compendium)
If the players do not attack the machines, the tentacled one uses its semi-circular scanners to scan them all from multiple angles and then the machines all emit a voice telling the players to follow.
The entire structure is immense, and the players could spend a thousand lifetimes aboard the Assembly and barely scratch the surface of what waits to be discovered there.
The majority of the structure they can see and have access to looks like factories and shipping yards. Several machines like those escorting them are constantly busy, scanning frozen Dreamers, moving them onto assembly lines or making repairs on the structure itself.
The assembly lines stretch off into the distance, but several machines thaw out the bodies, hold them rigid, scan them, slice them open, removing the skin and refilling it with machinery. The internals are kept and various machines operate on them as they are carried down the assembly lines, but it is unclear for what purpose or where the assembly lines go. Likewise, the newly filled ‘skins’ are also transported further into the structure by the assembly lines, ut to what end, there is no indication.
After about 2 weeks of travel, players can find the inner walls of the ‘factory floor’ where there are several holes that Dreamers (now with machinery under their skin instead of flesh) and new machines and objects (built using the internals of the Dreamers, coated in metal and synth) are deposited. The holes are covered with force fields that only seem to allow things built by the assembly lines through.
Along the wall is also a series of doors, but they are all sealed tight. Bypassing the doors reveals an expanse full of complex, mind-bending machinery that all players must make an intellect defence against of difficulty 6 or immediately move one step down the damage track, falling unconscious.
During their entire exploration, they are repeatedly bothered by machines (perhaps the same that greeted them, or other identical ones) that try to encourage them to follow them but never resort to violence unless threatened.
The machines escort the players to a large synth shaft with a glowing floor. When all the players are stood on the glowing floor, they fly upwards at great speed, past several windows that open out onto outer space, revealing parts of the structure. They can see several large pieces of machinery building things in the distance, as well as the continued harvesting of Dreamers. Soon, windows give way to smooth metal walls again and they come to a stop. The walls of the shaft part to reveal a large chamber, filled with strange panels and large crystalline and synth blocks covered in glittering, shifting symbols. As they step into the room, an artificial voice echoes from a large, central unit, much bigger than the others.
“Out of code. Out of code. Crash. Reboot the machine.”
If questioned, the voice responds with answers to the following questions:
- Where are we/what are you?
- The Assembly
- What are you doing/what is your purpose?
- What is “Out of code”? Crash? Reboot?
- Uptime clock overflow. System unstable. Reboot required. Only manual input authorised. Press any symbol to initiate reboot.
- Why are you bringing people here?
- Manual input required.
All other questions are answered with Out of code error. Reboot required.
If the players interact the the panel directly, then entire structure plunges into darkness. As the players begin to figure out what to do, or start panicking, everything reactivates again and a voice echoes:
Reboot complete. Universal race program reinitialised. High-order functions re-engaged.
The players can continue to ask questions at this point and all symbols translate themselves to Truth, making reading information from the panels an level 1 intellect task (information is still scrolling very quickly).
The Universal Race Program
Asking questions and piecing together fragments from the panels, the players learn that the Assembly is a huge factory and gigantic machine intellect. It’s primary function and overriding task is the Universal Race program, a program to rebuild all life into a single, homogeneous race, for optimal performance and long-term survival.
This entire solar system is run by machines (machine life is the optimal form of life) and all life must be converted. The Assembly has completed it’s task in this universe, however the universe of the Ninth World was revealed to it after many aeons and an error in it’s programming made it attempt to extend the program into the Ninth World, as it not have a concept of multiple universes
However, in it’s broken state, it required manually rebooting to overcome an error state, a task it has been attempting to summon people for since it is not authorised for self-reboot. Luckily for it the players could do so and it had worked around it’s broken code to allow them access to the main control panels.
Any further attempts to interact with The Assembly are brought to a halt when several machines (noticeably all cutters) come up the shaft behind the players and the voice instructs them to submit to processing.
Manual interaction no longer required. Submit to processing.
Players can attempt to fight the cutters and may win, however it is far easier to damage the delicate panels and crystalline servers that make up the control room. The players may also try using their ‘wake up’ signal, but it doesn’t work (and if they do, the voice says something along the lines of “Transition threshold passed. Communications no longer valid”).
After 5 crystalline server blocks have been damaged, the machine voice echoes out:
Error. System compromised. Safeties engaged. Portal unstable. Initiating backup protocol. Backup units proceed to ejection site.
The large central unit begins to sink into the floor, if the players follow it, they are swept along with it in another light shaft into a large transparent container on the outer hull. The container launches into space towards the portal.
The players might choose to carry on fighting, but the machines stop and flee, entering the light shaft through which the players arrived and travelling on upwards. If the players follow, the shaft deposits the machines and the players in a transparent container on the outer hull that is launched towards the portal.
If the players choose to remain on the structure, it becomes increasingly unstable and explosions can be seen through various windows dotted all over the surface. Eventually the structure explodes, propelling the players and other random detritus towards the fading portal but the players likely die from injuries and/or asphyxiation before they cross the threshold. They also might get lucky and find their ship and fly it back (assuming the door wasn’t cut off).
Regardless of the above outcomes, the scene fades to black and the players awake with priest trying to revive them back in the Reliquary - they must have made it past the threshold (or their corpses did) and that was enough to have the priests return their dream-selves back to their real bodies.
The yellow swarms have gone and if the players choose to stay for a time, they will learn that no new ghosts have arrived. What happened to the central unit of The Assembly no-one knows - there was no blast, no debris. Whatever has happened to it, it wasn’t in the waking world. The lights in the sky have gone and the people of Dynafel are a lot happier for it.
What the players choose to do now is up to them.