7 Landing, 6106 RTR (Feb 19, 2010) Now that the cavalry has arrived, the explorers press on in to the heart of the jungle.
(Legacy of the Fenris) (Layth) (Space) (Tasha)
Silent Town
The central causeway of the Silent-Ones section of the Orpheus is very wide and very tall, with and arched cathedral ceiling high above. The sensation of being in a cathedral persists throughout, as armored figures make up the base of the arches – but are clearly Titans in special alcoves. There are balcony levels at intervals along the walls, and hundreds of doors and side passages. A very ornate set of giant doors closes the far end of the avenue.

It takes some time to weld the smaller door back together using equipment from the truck, but at least it's a chance to learn how to use the welding tool. By the time the bio-dome is secured, it's time to open up the big doors since Fred arrives with the construction vehicle and its shovel-blade.

"They sure knew how to work with light," the powered armor controlled by Fred's PersoCom notes when the door begins to open. "These chambers are only about 500 meters across, but they make it look ten times as big. The central building should be far closer than it appears." There isn't any sign of the monster bird in the immediate area, either.

"It would be beautiful were not not for the constant feeling that death could come at any moment," Layth remarks quietly as he peers around the 'street'. "I also wonder if any other 'low stationed' Silent-Ones were left behind during evacuation."

Tasha looks between the two vehicles, brows raising, "Oi, which one do you want me to drive – I'm not the only one who can drive these, right?" She adjusts the Gauss rifle – monstrous Expedition-era weapon that it is – resting on her shoulder.

"You should bring the truck, Tasha," Fred suggests. "You haven't trained on the Caterpillar yet. And if any workers were left behind in suspension… well, I don't have high hopes of them still being alive, unless something weird happened like it did on Fenris."

"We should look, none the less. It would be remiss of us to not check for survivors," Layth comments. "Would others like me to scout ahead and look for danger? I believe I can move quiet enough as to be unnoticed."

"Truck it is." The ominous hum of the Gauss rifle quiets as Tasha switches the device off before opening the truck's door. After placing the weapon on the floor behind her seat, she begins securing herself with the belts her seat provides. "No dents, Fred," she points out once done, leaning her head out the window. "But I can't promise anything once we get in there, aye?"

"Just get in a vehicle, Layth. If you get in trouble we won't be reaching you in these things, not quickly. And, we're safest in here," the Vartan advises. She glances over the gauges, then flips some switches; the massive wheeled vehicle roars to life.

"I don't think it'll be necessary for this part, Layth," Fred says. "Once the temple is reached is another matter."

Layth shrugs slightly. "As you like," he says and climbs up onto the truck to ride along.

Tasha reaches back and pats Layth's knee. "You can fire the big gun, if you want," she promises. Then she grins and looks forward again, waiting. "You know what's bad? I'm ashamed of acting excited about shooting that thing – we're explorers, right? Or should be – will be. Afraid, excited, ashamed; lots of that with me, right?" She reaches up and scratches at her nose.

They don't exactly set any speed records. Fred uses the bulldozer blade to cut and push aside undergrowth, but still goes around any serious-looking tree trunks. The result is less of a road than a green tunnel. In the truck, Gabriel passes the time by playing a game of 'I spy' where most of the answers are vines and jungle. After two hours and a hundred meters, the bulldozer breaks through into a paved area free of foliage and turns aside so the truck can follow.

"A fire may have been faster than the machine," Layth finally remarks at the slow-going pace. He has spent his time keeping ears-alert to the surroundings and gun drawn in case he needed to scare off anything that got too curious.

For her part, Tasha keeps her eye on the road, her vehicle's gauges, and their surroundings. With her instructor right in front of her, and with danger lurking in all directions, she seems disinclined to talk much during the trip. When they break through, Tasha turns the truck and follows along. "Oi, something that isn't green or brown! I was beginning to think this jungle grew to the core of the planet," she remarks.

The paved area is still slightly overgrown, but nothing like the jungle. It forms an open area before the stone temple, which is covered in ancient scenes carved in relief depicting the ancient rites and myths of the Silent-Ones. The building is fashioned after a stepped pyramid, with each step depicting history in ascending order, until the very top represents the present at the time of the Expedition.

"I'd have expected this in the jungles of Sinai, not here," Tasha says, leaning forward to look up at the pyramid as her vehicle closes on it. "Look, it shows history – we should record this if it's not already in the data core." When the vehicle arrives at the entrance, Tasha begins turning the vehicle around so the bed faces the temple. "Easy to load, easy to run," she explains.

"They were an impressive race," Layth admits from where he sits and looks up the massive pyramid. "It is a shame that they also believed themselves so superior to all others. But, I suppose that is a trait many races share."

"Many people, too," the woman adds. She sets the break, then begins lowering the bed so it's more convenient to load later, looking back over her shoulder as the vehicle lowers. "Here we are," she says, distractedly. "Remember to tell Fred what a great driver I am – and don't get within five feet of the bed while it's in motion."

There's a break in the steps, where the main entrance of the temple rests. It does not share the stony, primitive look of the rest of the building though, matching more closely the doors they passed through to enter the bio-dome. A Doombeak cries out from nearby in the jungle.

"I won't tell him how you scratched the paint on the left door," Layth promises. Once the vehicle has settled, the buck clambers off the trunk and takes a few steps towards the door. The cry of the predator, though, causes him to hesitate and look back into the mass of green.

There's no visible sign of the monster, but the far walls of the chamber seem even more distant now. There is even an impression of clouds and sun in the false sky. Fred-bot exits the Caterpillar, and waves to the others. "Want me to stand watch out here?" he asks.

Tasha eyes Layth as he exits, but takes time to ensure everything is as it should be – break set, bed secured, power disengaged – before grabbing the Gauss rifle and hopping out. She pauses as the Doombeak cries, the door she was about to close waiting at half-opened. "Well, Fred can handle them if they come," she muses, then closes the door and heads for the temple door. "Ready the crystal."

"Keep the door covered, I will activate it," Layth says simply and nods. "Also be prepared for possible traps. I may need to run quickly." The buck then extracts the crystal and approaches the main door cautiously, looking for the crystalline access panel.

There is another crystal orb above the doors, rather than a panel. It exchanges flashes with the key, and then the smaller doors open with a click.

"Oh," Tasha adds, pausing and looking back, "If these murals aren't already recorded, can you get them down, Fred? We should probably be thinking on what historic things we can salvage too. It'll be important later." She smiles at the hardsuit, then points at him, "I want one of those later," she insists, then heads for the door again. "Traps, watch door. On it." The Gauss rifle makes it's eerie whine as its super-potent power cell begins feeding the weapon energy. As the door begins to open, Tasha kneels and scans the interior with the heavy weapon. "Mind your ears."

Taking up the rear, Gabriel has his machine pistol ready. Fred starts walking around the corner of the temple, his suit-head turned towards it all the time as if memorizing it.

Temple of the Silent-Ones
Unlike the deliberately primitive looking exterior, the inside of the temple is a much more familiar cathedral. Stained glass windows depict notable figures in Silent-Ones history, and a mostly black one over the entrance shows a great fleet of spaceships heading into a glowing circle. There is a pulpit and a circular crystal altar facing many rows of pews, and there are several archways leading to side rooms and deeper into the structure.

There isn't any motion within the cathedral – at least none that Layth or Tasha can detect between their ears and eyes.

"I must admit this place makes me feel as though my kind have accomplished little," Layth finally says once he is able to pulls his awestruck eyes away from the interior. Still worried about traps, though, he doesn't venture far into the temple quite yet. Instead he crouches down and peers at the floor itself, looking for signs of possible trip lines or pressure triggers.

Opening the door has stirred what little dust there was, and this reveals something: bright twinkles where the dust passes through beams that cross the floor at about a height of one inch.

Layth holds up his hand. "Tasha, your eyes are better than mine. I think I see some sort of lines of light on the floor. Can you verify?" the buck asks.

"No movement, no smiting – at least not yet," Tasha reports. She lowers the barrel and stands, preparing to move inside. "I'll take point again, keep to either side and behind me?" As she advances she nods a little to Layth. "It always seemed like Vartans never did much but carry things and work for other people," she agrees. Her eyes scan the walls, looking for the scanning equipment Silent-One technology has shown itself to use, and any weaponry. Then she pauses. "I see it too," she confirms. Kneeling, she takes a moment to examine the light contact.

"Captain," Layth calls back towards the Karnor. "We may need your knowledge here. There is something unusual on the floor. Tasha can explain better than I."

Gabriel comes up and kneels down. "Light triggers, probably," he suggests. "But look at the walls," he says, pointing to the far walls. There are decorative elements where the beams must be coming from. "Doesn't look like something they just threw together to guard the place while they were gone, but something built in from the start."

"Gabriel knows more than I," Tasha says, standing. "It's light, alright, and I can see it all across the room – but I didn't know what it was. We should avoid them?" She glances where Gabriel points, and nods. "They always seemed secretive and non-trusting, but I don't know if that means they just want their sacred site left alone, or of they're hiding something."

"What do they do?" Layth asks. "Should we use something to block the beam and see what happens?

"Not sure they can be avoided without flying," Gabriel mutters. "Layth has the notion, I think. We can back off and roll something across them."

"I'm edgy about trying things to see what they do before I know what they do – you've SEEN how that goes with me. But if you agree, Captain … " The woman inclines her head, then shoulders the weapon and steps back. "I can also fly over them, if you see somewhere to turn it all off."

"Anyone have a melon?" Layth actually asks. "Except for Tasha, I suppose. We cannot use her melons… "

Blinking, Tasha starts looking for something to turn it all off – after all, she has the best sight. "Ha," she laughs at Layth's joke. "My melons would destroy this Temple; Silent Spotties can't handle so much 'sin'.'"

There aren't any crystal panels in the church to be seen, unless hidden, and nothing near the entry that could be a control other than a few of the beacon-style interface crystals on the pillars for the ceiling vaults. As for things that roll… Layth does have an apple meant for his lunch.

"Everyone back up. My lunch will sacrifice itself for the greater good," Layth claims as he starts backing up. "But I expect to be repaid in kind. Perhaps a massage later. Hm."

"I'll ask Fred to give you a massage," Tasha promises, stepping back with her weapon pulled up and out of the way.

"Alas, you may sacrifice your skin and perhaps your very core for us, but it shall not be in vain. A millenia from now, perhaps your seeds will foster a new harvest upon the jungle beyond. Or … you may just make a terrible mess and someone will slip on it later," Layth laments as he pets his helpless apple. The buck then grins, shrugs, and sends the apple rolling into the room.

"Emirate people are so dramatic," Tasha mumbles.

Once the fruit breaks the mesh of light, then entire cathedral seems to come alive. Every seam and carving and groove glows with warm golden light – the same color as a Silent-One's fur. Even the spaces between the tiles of the floor glow. Water begins to pour from spouts in the wall to fill bowls along the walls, which overflow and cascade into larger bowls below. The flowing water also seems to produce music – a soft melody that might aid in meditation.

Layth's brow arches a bit. "You know, I was expecting something to explode. Spinning blades, or some sort of killer robot," the buck admits. "Not … a concert."

Tasha begins lowering her weapon as the cathedral comes to life, but slows … then stops as her eyes widen in wonder. "Look at that," she breathes, pushing her helmet up a little so she can take it all in. "A warm welcome, and it's pretty too. This can't be right." She glances at Layth, and nods. "Well it knows we're here now, so be ready. Nice it may be, but … " the woman shakes her head darkly, then lowers her weapon fully. "Should we proceed, Captain?

"I don't see why not," Gabriel says, smiling. "It's very peaceful in here. Even the Silent-Ones have a pleasant side it seems."

"And some plants appear beautiful to lure bugs into devour," Layth points out. Still, the buck slowly walks into the chamber.

Tasha keeps her weapon down, anyway. "We'll see," she offers, grinning a little. Heading in, she turns as she walks, sweeping the room as she goes. A good few steps in, she pauses and points at the image of space ships heading for a hole, "I recognize the ships, but what's that circle, Gabriel?"

"The Gate," Gabriel says. "Our means of getting to the Primus system in the first place."

"So that's the Gate?" Tasha stops, taking a moment to get a better look. "The … 'Jump Gate?' The thing the Titanians supposedly destroyed?" Her eyes scan the details; she seems quite intent on remembering such an important structure. "It looks like a Gateway Tower door, just … floating by itself."

Layth, meanwhile, is walking along and looking for anything that may have been left behind.

"Well, it just stopped working when space went back to its less cooperative aspect before anyone thought it would," Gabriel notes.

"In other words, it was a trap and you flew into it?" Layth calls back.

"Oh," Tasha says, in that way that suggests she doesn't follow at all. She just shakes her head and turns from the sight, proceeding towards the pulpit to examine that.

The pews are empty of any ancient hymnals or other relics, and the strange circular altar is also bare. The empty pulpit, however, has the smooth black surface of a control panel.

Stopping at the pulpit, Tasha begins looking over the device, brushing a hand across it before making the Sign for 'Activate.' "Come look at this you two," she bids, "It's some kind of control; might need the crystal. And what Layth says reminds of something I was thinking about – if all these species, these peoples, came to the Primus System … where did they go?"

"Not knowing the minds of the Sifras, if they were even paying attention at the time, I couldn't say," Gabriel tells Layth. "It may have just been bad timing. Something shutting down for whatever reason, or cosmic interference patterns… nobody really knows. There were only legends that other, older races had managed to penetrate through the barrier to this system at one time or another."

"The whole thing seems too convenient. It sounds as if it were a trap to me," Layth remarks as he heads towards the pulpit with the crystal.

The panel flares to life, revealing symbols for 'Music' and 'Lesson'.

"I got it working," Tasha announces. "Music or lessons? Hm." She lifts her hand again and Signs, 'Lessons.'

"Ah, they would be the First Ones in your mythology," Gabriel tells Tasha. "Races from earlier cycles of civilization within the galaxy, before ours made it into space."

As she Signs, Tasha nods. "Nora told me about the First Ones; I just wonder where they went – why aren't they here now? Why aren't any of them here? Or anywhere?"

The Lesson sign brings up another selection, which is a list of titles and symbols. Obedience, Compassion, Patience, Fortitude, Sword and others.

"They went extinct," Gabriel suggests. "Civilizations don't last forever."

"There were even a few crackpot theories that claimed they went extinct because they came to the Primus system," the Karnor adds.

"I would not know," Layth remarks and shrugs, "I am a simple and practical Lapi. Legends of ancient people hold little importance to the day to day."

"Obedience, Compassion … Patience … Fortitude … ," Tasha reads off the selections, pausing just to nod to Gabriel and say, "I guess so," before continuing – or at least attempting to. She pauses at Gabriel's second theory, eyes widening. "Well, maybe it's not so strange? Just look how powerful the Sifrans are. Even the First Ones, who were greater than even the Expedition Fleet, didn't stick around – but I guess neither did the Sifrans. I've never heard of anyone meeting them, either." She shakes her head, then Signs, 'Compassion.'

The altar lights up, and a glowing figure appears above it. The Silent-One is wearing ornate robes, and is unmasked. Even though only a projection, it has a certain presence, and this comes through in its hand signs. "Do not pity the lesser races or those who are poor of wealth or spirit, but act to bring them to the Light… " the figure signs.

"The Archon," Gabriel says, pointing to the projection. "Their leader."

"Do not pity the lesser races or … ," Tasha recites, translating the Sign as the figure – the Archon – gestures it. She glances at Gabriel and nods to him, brows furrowing as she looks back. "It's all about giving the light but not otherwise being compassionate, it sounds like what I'd expect," she summarizes. "Is this useful to us?"

"It does not sound very compassionate," Layth remarks after Tasha translates the sign.

"Old sermons? I don't know that the Silent-Ones today would be interested. They have their own, I imagine," Gabriel notes.

"I don't think I want to be the Herald of the Light, telling Silent-Ones to be even less compassionate, so … Layth! Wave the crystal at the pulpit, I'm going to Sign some things." The Vartan turns from the Archon and waits for Layth to engage the crystal, then begins Signing things in succession until something works or she runs out, 'Technology,' 'Secret,' 'Interior,' 'Security,' 'Inner Temple,' 'Basement.'

Layth has this amazingly bored look on his face as he waves the crystal back and forth over the pulpit. "I feel stupid," he remarks in deadpan. "And that I should be chanting some gibberish like mages do." "You can help by feeding me words to Sign at it; if there's more here, then we need to find it," suggests Tasha.

While the panel and the key flash, nothing much seems to happen beyond the sermon stopping and the altar going dim. Eventually the exchange ends, and the panel returns to the previous Music and Lesson selection.

"No reason for a pulpit to have access to anything else, I suppose," Gabriel suggests.

"Ask it about the Sword. I am curious their opinion," Layth suggests. When the panel goes dim, Tasha frowns. "Well, that didn't work. We'll come back and work with this later – Layth, why don't you put your ear to the walls and see if one of them is really a door?" She then nods, and gestures 'Sword.' "Be ready."

The Sermon of the Sword begins. "Honor in Battle is honor to the Star. The Rules of War are our guide, and all who fight in our name must obey them. To crush an inferior enemy with overwhelming force is not the way, for the Star sees no bravery or devotion in it. If your enemy raises a sword, so too do you raise a sword. If your enemy raises a club, so to do you raise a club… "

"At least they believe in fighting equally," Layth remarks after Tasha translates again and goes off to check for any hidden doorways. "Nothing appears hidden," he says as he returns to the pulpit. The visible side passages do appear to be the only ones out of here."

"It talks about equality in battle – fairness in using the same weapon, not crushing your opponent with superior force, and so on," Tasha explains. She nods to Layth's reviews, then nods. "Let's head in, this all seems to be for the masses." And so, she begins in.

Taking one of the passages in the rear wall, the group triggers another light sensor that lights up the hall, albeit in a more mundane fashion than the cathedral. The first rooms they come across must have served some religious purpose, for they have amenities for ceremonial washing and alcoves that might have held icons. Beyond them is a small kitchen and eating area, with some utensils and serviceware left behind – although it all looks strictly utilitarian. The Silent-Ones priests seemed to live ascetically. There is a small cell-like room and a dormitory, and finally a locked door that looks far more technological than the rest of the place has so far.

"Fancy locked door – always a subtle way of saying, "I guard something important,"" Tasha observes as the group reaches the door. She eyes it a moment, then waves Layth forward. "Wave some crystal, Magic Bunny," she urges, then she kneels and readies the cannon-like weapon she carries.

"You do not desire me to wave my magic wand? No, of course not, you only wave Gabriel's magic wand now," Layth actually remarks and then sticks out his tongue at Tasha. "Still, stand back in case something dangerous decides to come and kill me," he does add as he produces the crystal and waves it in front of the door.

"Beside me?" the woman prompts, mock-glaring at Layth as she scoots back. She grins, then readies her weapon again. "Gabriel, that reminds me – we need to find a larger bed."

There is a flash from a beacon crystal, and then the door unbolts loudly and grinds as it rolls aside, revealing darkness beyond.

"Look! Darkness," Layth drolls. "Does anyone have a torch?"

"Layth also reminds me the rifle needs to be modified to shoot non-humanoids," Tasha adds as the door slowly opens. A pinpoint red dot slides off the nearby wall and into the darkness. "Use my flashlight if you left yours behind." The woman fishes her light out, and offers it to Layth. "I guess we won't find the Light in there," the woman jokes a second later. "You'll have to get it from me."

Layth takes the flashlight and pushes the button to activate it. He shines it into the dark passageway, sweeping the beam to check the floor, walls, then ceiling. "True, you are often light-headed," the buck quips back.

"I can still shoot the roof and make it collapse on your head," the Vartan points out, grinning a little more. "See anything? This thing's heavy enough where I'll be beating mum in arm wrestling when I get back to Rephidim."

The pinpoint of the laser reflects off crystal and metal as it pans, but doesn't illuminate much. Layth's flashlight, however, reveals a rectangular chamber of brass-like metal, with crystal strips only an inch wide and perhaps six long spaced at even intervals to form a dense lattice across ever surface.

"Is that a … optical computer array?" Tasha stands, keeping the rifle pointed into the room as she advances. "But the metal is odd. What do you think, Gabriel?"

"It… maybe?" the Karnor says. "It could be an older model, instead of a MOTHER type system."

"GRANDMOTHER?" Tasha chuckles at her own joke, continuing in. "Well, I'm the present MOTHER-specialist. If it kills me, no one record how ironic that would be." Her face ticks, ears splaying. "Also ask my sister why she knew so many words."

"Well, should we try to turn it on?" Layth inquires as he takes a few steps into the darkened room. "How do we turn it on?"

"The usual way is … ," Tasha lowers the barrel of her rifle so eh can free a hand, then Signs, 'Activate' above her head. "Activate. You can also use similar Signs, they're pretty smart. At least, MOTHER 2 is."

Gabriel steps inside last, and looks at the… walls. "Maybe it has to be turned on by something else," he suggests.

Layth tries waving the crystal he has been carrying around.

"Well, start trying things, that was my big guess," Tasha admits. She walks over towards a wall and starts touching them, panel and crystal both.

A few of the wall crystals begin to glow and respond. Then more of them, flashing different colors and at greater frequency, until the trio are standing the middle of a flashing storm of light. Something about the patterns and rhythm starts to make them dizzy, and the light is bright enough to even shine through closed eyelids!

"Argh!" goes Layth and he puts his hands over his eyes to try and block out the light. "I'm getting a headache!" he complains as he tries to 'back out' of the room blindly.

"AHH," the red woman wails, being especially susceptible to shiny things as well as possessing acute vision. She drops to her knees as the light becomes unbearable, the rifle clattering to the floor as one hand tries desperately to cover her eyes while the other paws at her helmet to try and pull down its visor.

All at once, the blinding flashes stop. The small room is gone, replaced by a vast… library? There are racks of books going off in every direction, and bright beams of sunlight shining through skylights. A wooden desk is at the center of it all, with an elder Silent-Ones woman, looking up from it in surprise. "Hello?" she signs. "Can I help you find a book?"


GMed by BoingDragon

Previous Log: Silent Town, Pt. 2Next Log: Silent Town, Pt. 4
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Today is 7 days before Reckoning Day, Year 27 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6126)