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  1. Field Report A-4: The NSS Ragnarok, "Shade in the Sun" & the "Jack Lean Incident" The NSS Ragnarok is one of the oldest, still operating installations in NanoTrasen's roster, its inaugural shift occurring in 2298, and the facility itself undergoing extensive structural modifications, architectural redesigns, and even a full conversion to a Plasmaman-only atmosphere for the sake of a three year-long societal study, which ended in the deaths of 76 individuals and the still-active Hanson Edict, which forbids hiring any Plasmaman individuals for work aboard stations with a Security Clearance Level of Delta or above. Nonetheless, the Ragnarok remains as one of the crown jewels of the company's research stations, and continues to produce extremely valuable research data pertaining to Bluespace, theoretical mega engineering and experimental bio-augmentation technology (notably, the first instance of the "Hulk" gene being spliced into a sentient humanoid occurred on the Ragnarok... with disastrous results). It is, therefore, not surprising that Inquiry Team B-9, codenamed "Shade in the Sun", was based on the station, seeing as it was one of the few locations capable of producing Bluespace Interdiction Alloy. This Alloy's name is somewhat misleading, as it isn't, in itself, an alloy of multiple metals; instead, it is simply lead that is, and I'm reading off a company primer here, "infused with raw Bluespace energy via a proprietary, revolutionary smelting technique". What this actually means is entirely unknown, as the secret "recipe" behind the creation of BIA is known only to select few individuals within NanoTrasen's company structure and, to the best of our knowledge, no other entity has successfully reverse-engineered the process via material analysis. However, what is known is that every facility that produces BIA is also heavily involved in the study of Bluespace itself, which might indicate that the lead metals are, in fact, subjected to Bluespace "energies", whatever that might mean. Regardless, the end result is the same: a type of "metal" that can be used to stop the movement of creatures and sentients that utilize Bluespace shortcuts to travel long distances in Realspace. It is unknown to me how this process works, but it appears it can only serve as a cage in actual practice; a Bluespace-connected creature can easily move around it, but cannot leave its interior. This is the standard containment protocol for Xenos Sanguis ("Vampires"), Xenos Umbra and captured SWF personnel. The Ragnarok itself currently counts seventeen holding pens with as many Mark VIII BIA Containment Box units, twelve of them containing Xenos Sanguis specimens, and the remaining five holding Xenos Umbra specimens. It is here that NanoTrasen currently sends all known captured specimens of the latter species, with existing individuals in containment being terminated via an in-built mechanism that produces a bright flash of light, approximately 300,000 Lux in intensity, for a duration of ten seconds; this is enough to not only kill the specimen, but reduce the body to a harmless pile of ash with minimal distortion fields around it. Despite this, the facility has produced very little information regarding the creatures, as, unlike Xenos Sanguis specimens, Xenos Umbra individuals consistently display a complete refusal to cooperate (or, in fact, communicate at all in some cases), as well as a pronounced security risk due to the complicated methods required to keep them contained for experimentation (compare and contrast Xenos Sanguis specimens, who only require a sip of blessed water to be rendered mostly harmless). On multiple occasions, captured specimens simply refused to move or communicate for long periods of time, only to escape the moment a breach occurred in the Containment Box, regardless of how minor it was, suggesting not only a propensity for "playing the long game", but also a well-developed ability to serve as ambush predators, being capable of lying in wait for long periods of time before exploiting the flimsiest of opportunities to strike. This might offer some clues as to how infection occurs to begin with. Nonetheless, Inquiry Team B-9 "Shade in the Sun" began operating off the NSS Ragnarok shortly after the end of the New Langdon Infestation Event. Initially composed of only three Bluespace Xenobiology experts, the team quickly grew to acquire several more key company individuals, including the esteemed Dr. James Woolworth, Dr. Ruth Lancaster, and the ever-controversial SWF Liaison Kingsley Grizwold (whose presence was requested at the insistence of then-CEO Timothy Heeren, due to the SWF's deep involvement with Bluespace and their still-not-well-understood eagerness to cooperate with NanoTrasen in containing the Xenos Umbra threat). B-9's assigned task was to acquire as much information as possible about their subject matter: biology, behavioral habits, Bluespace-related abilities, sentient subversion process and, of course, methods to combat the creatures in practice that could be distributed and disseminated via Standard Security Training Programs (SSTPs), which had, up until that point, been lacking in terms of how to fight these creatures in the case of any surprise infestation. While the existence and expansion of "Shade in the Sun" marked the beginning of a shift in company attitude towards these creatures, the team's initial activities were still classified under Authorization Level Epsilon+, and even today I was not given access to them, even for the purposes of this field study. The only available records, themselves still classified under Authorization Level Delta, are those produced after Work Shift 462.87.4 in 2500, heretofore referred to as the "Jack Lean Incident", the incident itself classified under Authorization Level Epsilon, and having taken me several days to obtain clearance on. This odd name was assigned by then-on-site Chief of Security Jack D. Lean, who was awarded the NanoTrasen Medal for Distinguished Conduct and "Robust Security" Award, then offered the Captaincy of the Ragnarok for his role in saving the facility during what can only be described as a state of siege that erupted during the course of that shift, and lasted for an almost unbelievable seventeen days, involving five different Red-Level Emergency Response Teams, three different Gamma-Level Emergency Response Teams, and required the hitherto unheard of activation of Asset Protection Squad "Black Rose", the existence of which forced NanoTrasen to publicly disclose the existence of what were later decried by SolGov as "company deathsquads". The "Jack Lean Incident" itself was so immense in its scope that NanoTrasen feared it would leak out and potentially end up in headlines across the galaxy; it placed the company in an almost impossible position: either publicly admit that they were aware of the existence of Xenos Umbra specimens in a PR-friendly way and hope the backlash was manageable, or continue with information suppression and not only risk having it be leaked anyway, but also risk a repetition of the event at other locations. In missives exchanged between the surviving members of B-9 and then-CEO Daniel B. Simmons, the former advised the latter that full disclosure was preferable, as it would help prevent further disasters in the future. Simmons acquiesced, and NanoTrasen made the now-famous "Stanton Declaration" at the Galactic Forum (so named due to the choice of Forum Representative being John Stanton, a man famous for consistently being the company's bearer of bad news for the entire length of his career). The "Jack Lean Incident" involved not only the aforementioned facility and ERTs, but also direct fire support from the NDV Kraków Heavy Cruiser, the NDV Sinister and NDV Tomahawk Support Cruisers and legendary NDV "Hammer of God" Superheavy Battleship, logistics support from the NRV Phobos Transport Barge, medical support from the NRV Humilitas Hospital Ship , as well as several dozen smaller vessels providing food, medication and ammunition from the nearby NCS Providence, NSS Odin, NMB Stellar and NXS Amazon (whose particular brand of Bluespace-infused mutant tomatoes were noted as "supremely useful" by CoS Jack Lean). Due to the survival of the station, and the fastidious nature of the on-site Security Staff's record keeping, there is a surprising wealth of information on the full timeline. Work Shift 462.87.4 begins without any complications or staff complaints; simultaneously, Inquiry Team B-9 begin organizing their next General Meeting, whereby members of the team would exchange all information gathered since the last one (which, at this point, was non-existent, as it had been for several of the last cycles). One of the members, Dr. Curtis P. Pendleton, is noted as having arrived late and in a state of noticeable sleep deprivation, which they explained as being the result of a poor reaction to "shitty cantina burritos", which had resulted in prolonged bouts of vomiting and extreme gastrointestinal discomfort. Dr. Pendleton is advised to return to his assigned living quarters and seek medical attention, but refuses, stating they had already contacted on-site medical personnel and acquired some stimulants which would help them function properly until the shift was over. B-9 is reported as being highly suspicious of this, considering the shift had barely begun, and another one of its members, one Dr. Cassandra L. Wellington, suggests calling on-site Security forces due to suspicions of drug usage. Dr. Pendleton becomes agitated at this point, and requests Security staff not be called; this leads to a minor scuffle when Dr. Wellington attempts to activate the intercom, ending in them being knocked unconscious, three other individuals present being severely injured, and Dr. Pendleton running into the nearest maintenance tunnel. Due to the nature of B-9's studies, Chief of Security Jack Lean is immediately contacted. Code Red is declared approximately five minutes later, and CoS Lean convinces on-site Captain Horatio Smith to broadcast an alert to the station that "hostile xeno organisms" were on the loose. All maintenance tunnels are locked and bolted down, staff are ordered to remain within their departments and the on-site Armory is unlocked, its contents distributed to on-site Security staff. Immediately afterwards, the NAS Peabody (attendant administrative station to the Ragnarok) is alerted, and an Emergency Response Team is requested. CoS Lean leverages contacts in company structure to authorize the activation of ERT Hispania-9, a Red-Level Emergency Response Team specialized in combating Xenos Mutatio specimens (so chosen due to the very real threat of deadly melee combat). Hispania-9 arrives on station ten minutes later. Despite the extremely heavy-handed and lightning-fast response, as well as the genuinely astounding organizational and leadership skills displayed by Captain Smith and CoS Lean, Dr. Pendleton is never found before he "hatches" into a Xenos Umbra specimen. Unlike all other examples of infestations, the new specimen, heretofore referred to as U-P, was heavily talkative over the radio, condemning NanoTrasen's actions and promising anyone who would join them a "glorious rebirth" in "the Father's embrace". Despite the best efforts of the facility's AI Unit, the location of the radio signal is never positively triangulated for suppression, and, fearing what a telecommunications lockdown would do to Security staff cohesion, CoS Lean allows communications to remain active. This results in several incidents of personnel attempting, and often succeeding, in breaking into the maintenance tunnels, only to be immediately captured and subverted by U-P. What followed for the remainder of the standard shift's duration was what was described as a "game of cat and mouse" by on-site Warden Ruum-Voo Tuuurl, whereby Security staff, in coordination with Hispania-9, would organize a raid of the maintenance tunnels, apprehend several thralls, lead them to on-site medical personnel, remove their frontal lobe tumors, and then be saddled with further personnel who were either captured by U-P or deliberately sought it out. At the end of the standard work shift, Captain Smith and CoS Lean message the NAS Peabody and request a transfer shuttle not be sent until the on-site threat had been properly handled. The situation on the Ragnarok deteriorates over the next several hours, as attrition begins to take its toll on on-site Security forces and other personnel. The number of thralls begins to steadily increase as the facility's ability to respond to U-P begins to wear down and fail; eventually, Security staff transport the remaining contents of the on-site Armory to the Engineering Bay, setting up a field hospital and using the department's proximity to the Ragnarok's Medbay to quickly transport captured thralls for surgery. Despite still retaining the ability to strike out from these two departments for a few hours afterwards, non-thralled staff are eventually reduced to erecting improvised barricades and barriers, and fending off repeated assaults from thralled personnel; this included the usage of several high-powered floodlight units, and a complete barricading of the maintenance tunnels that linked Engineering to Medbay, which were a focal point for U-P's direct assaults, and served as the "field headquarters" for CoS Lean for the duration of his namesake event. Due to the dwindling number of active, loyal staff members, CoS Lean orders that all captured thralls be given a Mindshield Implant after surgery, in a desperate bid to stymie further subversion; records indicate that application of the implant, while useless at halting the thralling process itself, provided individuals with the ability to resist U-P's calls over the radio. Eventually, after 24 hours of active siege, CoS Lean and Captain Smith, together with Hispania-9, storm the Bridge, capture three thralls and severely injure U-P; however, the main purpose of the raid had been to reestablish communications with the NAS Peabody. Immediately after this is done, a short briefing is provided, and a request for emergency aid is sent. The NRV Humilitas is sent to tend to the wounded (thanks to its on-board teleportation suite), escorted by the NDV Sinister and NDV Tomahawk. Concurrently, Emergency Response Teams Scythia-1 and Britannia-15, two Red-Level ERTs, are activated, quickly followed by two more Red-Level Teams, Aegyptus-11 and Cartago-8, along with Gamma-Level ERTs Zeta-3, Beta-27 and Iota-50. At this moment, CEO Daniel Simmons declares the NSS Ragnarok "Priority Defense Epsilon", indicating it was to be defended at all costs, and only destroyed if all on-site personnel were dead and/or subverted. The siege had begun. Fighting continues aboard the Ragnarok over the course of the next two weeks, with the siege escalating until the remainder of the noted support vessels and associated facilities are involved. Improvised docking bays are constructed out of scaffolding and spare construction materials to allow smaller vessels to bypass the use of the standard docking bays, which had been lost to thralled personnel, and the field hospital constructed in Engineering is eventually expanded to include two relocated Surgical Operating Rooms in order to ensure the safety of valuable medical personnel. Simultaneously, several dozen shipments of Mindshield Implants are issued to the NSS Ragnarok, and CoS Lean issues a command for all dethralled personnel to be issued one after surgery is complete. Slowly, combined on-site and ERT forces begin to push back against U-P and subverted personnel, until the former is once again forced to retreat to the facility's maintenance tunnels, and NanoTrasen-loyal staff regain control of all vital areas of the station. Local command center is shifted to the Ragnarok's Bridge, and continuous communication is established with the NAS Peabody; due to the extended siege and amount of damage caused during it, as well as the extended duration of operations, Asset Protection Squad "Black Rose" is dispatched as an emergency measure. Approximately three hours after activation of "Black Rose", U-P is found, terminated, and its body cremated. The "Jack Lean" incident is unique in its scale, as it showed what even a single Xenos Umbra specimen was capable of; Dr. Pendleton was fully aware of not only the station's layout, but of all information gathered by NanoTrasen in their studies of the creatures, allowing them to act in hitherto unknown ways in order to confuse on-site Security forces, such as subtle brainwashing via radio, use of active siege warfare instead of quiet subversion, and somehow managing to avoid creating any of the electrical and power issues common in just about every other recorded instance of active infestations. This incident also cemented NanoTrasen's belief that Xenos Umbra specimens were parasitic lifeforms; Dr. Pendleton had been a respected NanoTrasen employee for close to thirty years before "Jack Lean", and never exhibited any traits associated with infection until the day of their transformation. Additionally, it conclusively proved that newly born specimens retained information known to their hosts, indicating a semi-symbiotic relationship between the two. It was also a turning point for company policy, not only in regards to information distribution, but also attitude towards the creatures: from that point forward, standing orders would be to fight off any infestation to the last possible moment, rather than eliminating infested locations preemptively before an Ascendance Event took place; which makes "Jack Lean" even more unique, as the Bluespace distortions recorded by long-range scanner arrays were on the level commonly associated with such Ascendance Events, and yet, no such one took place, seeming to indicate that Xenos Umbra specimens can voluntarily prevent such cataclysmic events from taking place; U-P appeared to want to break down the command structure via subverting the entire crew of the Ragnarok, and though Bluespace distortion levels were so high that at times they impeded long-range communication from even reaching the station, no such Ascendance happened, suggesting that, perhaps, the parasitic lifeforms are capable of independent, goal-directed behavior outside the standard observed path. This is extremely worrying, as U-P demonstrates that such specimens may very well eschew their Ascendance for the sake of psychological warfare on a grand scale. On a more positive note, "Jack Lean" also conclusively proved the effectiveness of Mindshield Implants at providing passive resistance to subtle, potentially Bluespace-influenced, brainwashing, though NanoTrasen has yet to develop a model that can resist the creation of the frontal lobe tumor associated with the process of "thralling". Further research is required. Signed, Quincy D. Huxley ENG LOG.
  2. Field Report A-3: The New Langdon Infestation Perhaps one of the most curious events related to the Xenos Umbra was the massive infestation that took place in the colony of New Langdon between the years of 2487 and 2489; these three years, while taking a severe toll on the population in terms of physical and mental exhaustion, allowed NanoTrasen researchers and security personnel to observe and register novel behavioral patterns, chart the progression of individual power of these creatures, and first begin true inquiry into the nature of the individuals subverted by the species, commonly called "thralls". The colony of New Langdon was officially founded in 2315, on a planet christened Nuova Roma, located in the Sigma-17 binary system, and funded almost entirely by NanoTrasen, with minor contributions from private investors securing transit in the colony ship. The entirety of the population was gathered from Mars, and the new colony was to serve as an innovative, long-term commercial venture by the since-defunct NanoTrasen New Worlds Project (initially established to fund and exploit colonial ventures, but shut down in late 2425 due to rampant corruption in the administrative staff and "gigantic monetary losses" in its operation). Its initial population amounted to 5000 individuals, with more being encouraged to migrate with financial incentives and company care packages; many were relocated from NanoTrasen housing facilities to planet-side domiciles, in order to boost the population numbers. Curiously, no Bluespace research, or indeed any company-related research, was ever conducted on New Langdon, making it puzzling as to why an infestation took place in this location. Colony development is uneventful and proceeds in accordance with expected models for most of its existence, until the year of 2487 rolls over and, over the course of the first few months, a familiar pattern emerges: increased failures in the electrical infrastructure, powergrid malfunctions coupled with higher-than-average occurrences of brownouts and blackouts, and a gradually increasing number of medical complaints related to insomnia, night terrors, vivid nightmares and heightened aggression. Seeing as NanoTrasen were, at this point, already aware of the existence of the Xenos Umbra, a team of specialists was dispatched, headed by one [REDACTED]. How unfortunate. The team is listed as having been composed of seventeen Xenobiologists, fifteen security personnel armed with a surprising amount of weaponry, and a company representative meant to serve as a liaison between the team, the local colony council and the NAS Sirius, the closest NanoTrasen administrative center. The team was officially designated "Jackal Sierra", and acted mostly independently from any other entity, under the leadership of Representative [REDACTED]. Over the rest of 2487, "Jackal Sierra" worked extensively in coordination with the colony council in the installation of a newer, more distributed energy grid, training of law enforcement personnel and distribution of select amounts of classified information meant to better prepare the population for what might possibly be a public calamity of unseen proportions; with no prior incidents of Xenos Umbra infestations in large population centers, it was impossible to know what the end result would be. While it had been hypothesized that a hard "cap" existed to the amount of power one specimen could accrue before an Ascendance Event took place, no experimentation had taken place to find a definitive answer; and regardless, an Ascendance Event taking place in such a location would be a catastrophic disaster, one that would not only force NanoTrasen to publicly acknowledge the existence of the species, but would also most likely bankrupt it with the sheer costs of repaying the investments made towards New Langdon and the life insurance payoffs towards the surviving family members of anyone on the planet at the time. However, such an hypothesis would be quickly put to the test when the first confirmed sighting of a Xenos Umbra specimen was confirmed in a sewer system in late 2487, with members of "Jackal Sierra" initiating pursuit but losing track of the creature and falling back to their field HQ. After this sighting, Representative [REDACTED] issues a single message to the NAS Sirius: The wording used seems to indicate that "Jackal Sierra's" objective was not so much to help contain the infestation, but to chart its progress for the sake of increasing the knowledge pool on this species of parasites, potentially at the expense of the local population. While I cannot tell for certain, it would be consistent with future decisions made by NanoTrasen, and the relative success of the New Langdon infestation study most likely contributed to increased risk-taking on the part of the company. But I digress. Over the course of the next few months, a curious phenomenon began to arise: the number of sightings of Xenos Umbra specimens began to rise more quickly than expected, far more than what would be possible with a singular entity infestation like NanoTrasen had seen before, until, in mid 2488, "Jackal Sierra" confirms the existence of a second entity, followed by a third one three weeks later, a fourth one two weeks after that, and twelve more over the week after that. The research team's records seem to indicate a heightened state of alarm, and the number of confirmed specimens was never revealed to the colony council, instead being reported directly to the NAS Sirius; in response, NanoTrasen authorizes the activation of ERT Lambda-7 (Code Name: Last Out), their finest Gamma-level Emergency Response Team, only used in extreme, company-threatening circumstances. Lambda-7 immediately scrambles to New Langdon a mere ten minutes after activation, and sets up a secondary field HQ next to the existing one manned by "Jackal Sierra". Here, the operation takes on different, and slightly bizarre contours, with "Jackal Sierra" and Lambda-7 apparently working both in tandem, and independently, with the former attempting to capture and study live thralls and Xenos Umbra specimens, and the latter overseeing police and military training, weapons distribution and powergrid reinforcement efforts, along with leading occasional raids into suspected thrall hideouts. It is also noteworthy that, despite the number of active specimens, and the population of the colony exceeding 50,000 individuals at the time of the infestation, no more than fifty simultaneously extant thralls were ever positively identified, and the amount of Bluespace distortions that could be verified by long-range scanners barely diverged from expected, background values. Despite this, "Jackal Sierra" acquired a number of thralled individuals for study (in fact, the very first recorded use of the word "thrall" dates back to this infestation, as a means of classifying general behavioral patterns), using them as test subjects in a myriad of ad hoc tests designed to testevaluate motor function, logical thinking and emotional intelligence; curiously, while the first two remained unaffected when in comparison with unaffected members of their species, individuals thralled by Xenos Umbra specimens exhibited traits commonly associated with sociopathic individuals. Additionally, while upper brain functions remained unaffected, thralled individuals were often spotted undergoing long periods of starvation and general deprivation in order to accomplish goals presumably set by their parasitic host, with seventeen recorded cases of death by starvation, and twelve recorded instances of death by dehydration. It is also here that NanoTrasen first becomes aware of what causes the process of thralling to begin with, with MRI scans of affected individuals revealing large, tumorous growths seemingly "attached" to their frontal lobes, presumably a means for the parasitic organism to enforce its influence onto the subject's conscious mind. Much like Xenos Umbra specimens, these tumors were highly sensitive to direct light, and would quickly shrivel and melt into undifferentiated cell matter upon being exposed to direct lighting for more than a few seconds. This is also when the first recorded instances of "de-thralling" took place, and the New Langdon infestation served as the field manual for emergency "de-thralling" surgery. Eventually, in late 2488 and early 2489, Representative [REDACTED] receives a series of orders from the NAS Sirius ordering the end of any field observations, and mandating the termination of all confirmed active specimens. Over the course of the following months, Lambda-7, in conjunction with local police and military forces, launch a series of strikes against known hotspots, culminating in the destruction or capture of all known Xenos Umbra specimens, all of them terminated and subjected to intense sunlight for a period of no less than three (3) hours. The surviving corpses were encased in concrete and shipped to the NAS Sirius, where the trail grows cold. All company operations related to the Xenos Umbra threat cease in mid 2489, with no further reported cases of Bluespace distortions or infestation from the colony. Lambda-7 is officially recalled, as is "Jackal Sierra", as New Langdon celebrates Victory of Light Day. The New Langdon infestation is curious, as it never quite progressed to any level close to an Ascendance Event, despite the number of active specimens and simultaneously extant thralls. This seems to indicate that the progression of power required for such a thing to occur is fluid, rather than static, and perhaps even linked to the population size of the infestation site, which opens up a series of interesting hypotheses. Nonetheless, the infestation also informs us on NanoTrasen's increased interest in the creatures, what lengths it would go to in order to prolong an infestation to study it, and what it would do with such information; emergency "de-thralling" procedures would, from that point forward, be included in a small package of classified information reserved for on-site Captains for NanoTrasen installations, to be used at their discretion, and a series of missives from company HQ in Sol indicate the establishment of a special sub-division of NanoTrasen's Xenobiological Research Division dedicated entirely to locating and studying Xenos Umbra specimens. This sub-division, aptly code-named "Shade in the Sun", was based on the NSS Ragnarok, and continues to operate mainly from there to this day. This is my next destination. Signed, Quincy D. Huxley END LOG.
  3. Field Report A-2: The NSS Discovery Incident The NanoTrasen Science Station Discovery remains as one of the company's darkest and most well-hidden mysteries, one that remains secured behind Authorization Level Epsilon to this day; I myself was only authorized to peruse through existing logs due to the nature of my investigation, and even then was forbidden from directly quoting any part of them, being forced to utilize indirect references and "close-enough" paraphrasing. With construction beginning in 2401 and ending in 2432, the NSS Discovery was the first in a new series of research station design iterations that would eventually culminate in the Cyberiad-Pattern Research Station design. The Discovery was set to become the very first NanoTrasen-owned installation dedicated entirely to Xenobiological studies. To that end, it was equipped with multiple decks of reinforced containment cells, several high-tech Hydroponics units and approximately three times more weaponry and riot control gear than most other research installations extant at the time of its inaugural shift. Its final location was chosen to be the Tau-56 system, located in the far reaches of the Tau Fringe, next to a star cluster notable for its high incidence of Earth-like planets inhabited by unique fauna and flora. It operated from 2432 to 2498, after which it was officially declared "Missing Under Suspicious Circumstances". The loss was designed as "Category C", ostensibly standing for "Catastrophic", considering the amount of resources and personnel invested into the facility. While officially NanoTrasen has never provided a reason for the Discovery's disappearance, the "unofficially accepted" explanation is that it was destroyed via unauthorized activation of the on-board Nuclear Failsafe Device, ostensibly installed in order to prevent hostile takeover by the part of any hostile entities, sentient or not. However, the few records that do exist in regards to the Discovery do not support this hypothesis, as no radiation bursts were detected from its last known location, and no debris belonging to the station was ever found. For all intents and purposes, the station disappeared, and was not simply destroyed. However, the last two shifts recorded as having taken place aboard the NSS Discovery shed a light on the most likely reason for the facility's vanishing: a successful Ascendance Event. Approximately sixteen hours before all communication with the Discovery ceases, the second-to-last ever shift begins with no incident. Research into captured Xenos specimens continues as programmed, with only a few minor scuffles reported by on-site Security staff, ostensibly over a "rigged" arcade machine that on-site Engineering staff had installed in the cantina. However, approximately eleven hours before communications cease, just beyond the halfway point of the shift, several abnormalities in the station's power grid are reported, with several departments issuing formal complaints with the on-site Chief Engineer, one James Blasky, over the constant brownouts experienced by the crew. No abnormalities with the Singularity Engine are reported, and Engineering officially explains the power grid failures as being the result of faulty wiring. Despite extensive repairs over the course of the rest of the shift, powergrid issues persist without being resolved, and Chief Engineer Blasky officially faxes the NAS Karakorum (attendant administrative center to the NSS Discovery) requesting the following shift be equipped for more in-depth repairs of the grid, including potential SMES unit replacements. The rest of the shift proceeds without other incidents. However, at the beginning of the following (and final) shift, the NAS Karakorum issues a notification to the NSS Discovery, warning on-site captain, Melinda Bernstein, that a crewmember from the previous shift, one John Berkeley, never reported at the end of their work period, and that a full search of the station was mandatory in order to ascertain their whereabouts. Captain Bernstein indeed orders on-site Security staff to search the station for Mr. Berkeley, to no avail. Powergrid issues persist, and in fact worsen throughout the first half of the shift, until an odd report on the part of the on-site Cook has Security staff investigate the walk-in freezer, where they find multiple slabs of meat missing, along with one of the back doors being hacked open. Security is unable to follow any trail, but comms chatter logs indicates that Security staff suspected it was the work of the missing crewmember. Approximately three hours before communications cease, all lights within the Medical Department simultaneously fail, plunging the area into darkness for approximately ten minutes before Engineering staff respond with enough replacements. All contact with medical personnel ceases past this point, and Medbay goes into lockdown. On-site Security staff respond by issuing an arrest order for the on-site Chief Medical Officer, one Andrew Adams, and issuing Riot Control gear to multiple officers. Approximately two hours before communications cease, the NSS Discovery's powergrid shuts down, plunging the station into complete darkness. On-site Engineering staff do not respond to this, claiming they were evacuating and citing multiple encounters with hostile entities in the maintenance tunnels around Medbay and within the department proper. Command-level comms chatter is rather confusing, and it seems that the administrative staff was never quite aware of what was happening, believing the situation to be some sort of mutiny, up until approximately one hour before communications cease, when Captain Bernstein issues a request for an Emergency Response Team, citing an infestation by unknown lifeforms that had, to their best of their knowledge, consumed most of the Medical and Engineering staff. The NAS Karakorum scrambles ERT Gallia-15, a Red-Level Emergency Response Team composed mostly of close combat specialists and accompanied by three medics. Upon boarding the NSS Discovery, approximately 15 minutes before communications cease, Gallia-15 reports that all on-site comms chatter has died down, and that none of the facility's electronics appeared to be functional, the team being forced to use emergency crowbars to force open depowered airlocks in order to progress. Gallia-15 reaches the Discovery's Bridge, only to find it empty, and the Captain's office ransacked. Gallia-15 reports this to the NAS Karakorum, presumably the reason why an unauthorized nuclear activation is believed to have been the cause for the disaster, the on-site Authentication Disk being missing. At this point, approximately 5 minutes before all communications cease, Gallia-15 reports a loud scream that seemed to be audible throughout the entire station. Following this message, Bluespace distortions severely compromise communications with Gallia-15, with the last few words audible in the logged recordings speaking of red eyes, Bluespace teleportation and large mobs of brainwashed crewmembers. Eventually, all communications with Gallia-15 cease, and no further messages are received from the NSS Discovery from that point forward. With no further information to work with, the NAS Karakorum authorizes activating ERT Mercury-3, a Gamma-Level Emergency Response Team. Mercury-3 would deploy to the last known location of the Discovery, only to find all traces of it had disappeared. Despite searching the Tau-56 system and surrounding star cluster, no signs of the station, or debris belonging to it, were ever found, and NanoTrasen officially files the "Missing Under Suspicious Circumstances" notice 3 standard days later, followed by classifying all information pertaining to it as Authorization Level Epsilon, despite the lack of any hard evidence concerning any tangible, known threats. However, NanoTrasen's actions betray an already budding interest in the Xenos Umbra threat, as the disappearance of the Discovery occurs several years after the company was made aware of the species' existence, and follows many of the patterns exhibited by known and recorded Ascendance Events, such as frequent powergrid issues, lighting system malfunctions and progressive subversion of the crew, in addition to frequent mentions of red eyes and brainwashing, not to forget the massive amounts of Bluespace distortions both reported by Gallia-15 and recorded on long-range scanner arrays. This seems to indicate that early action taken towards these creatures involved an attempted suppressing of information, rather than dissemination and study. To this end, I will need to attempt to identify similar attempts at censoring vital information, and seeing where they may lead me, then attempt to ascertain what caused a shift in attitude towards these creatures, seeing as modern NanoTrasen policy both acknowledges the existence of the creatures, and actively encourages its research divisions to acquire as much information as possible about them. Signed, Quincy D. Huxley END LOG.
  4. @FursamieI've actually done this very Umbra thing before, but ended up dropping it after it got too noodley for my taste. I've since decided to reboot it properly and use what experience I've gained in writing to make it a more streamlined and palatable narrative. And yes, the thought of similar reports on other creatures has went through my mind, potentially Changelings as a first experiment.
  5. Field Report A-1: Resource Acquisition Site Romeo-19 While the shuttle I've been assigned is anything but comfortable, it does the job it was designed to do. As I was informed, it possesses all the amenities required for a long-term field study, as well as the facilities necessary to keep me alive and well-fed for the foreseeable future. On a further positive note, a fully furnished and supplied Autolathe and Cyberiad-Pattern Protolathe have been installed on a last minute recommendation by the overseer assigned to pre-flight maintenance; this should mean that if I do not possess a tool for the job at hand, I can simply make one. This will most likely make things extremely simpler, as the stylish sunglasses I'm now wearing most definitely prove. Nevertheless, I digress. The first officially recorded contact with a Xenos Umbra specimen occurred in 2389, though previous, unrecorded encounters have not been ruled out at this moment (it being likely that, given the apparently supernatural abilities of these creatures, precious encounters may have been passed down through tales of "Shadow People" present in various cultures across the galaxy), in Resource Acquisition Site Romeo-19, my very first destination. It is currently a sprawling industrial complex built around a city-sized asteroid, and located within the asteroid belt surrounding CHA-12312B, the G-class star of the Lambda-15 system. Its current assigned goal is the exploitation and strip-mining of the asteroid belt, and it currently produces mostly Titanium and Plasteel for delivery to the Tau Fringe and the Omicron Core Worlds. However, at the time of First Contact, it was little more than a series of hastily-pressurized habitation blocks connected by umbilical tubes that were prone to failure and malfunction, something that cost the lives of 37 personnel during the initial construction period, which lasted from 2387 to 2391. Full mining operations only began in 2493, and expansion of the facility only began in earnest in 2446. The encounter with the specimen, heretofore referred to as U-1, is therefore poorly logged in company records, having occurred in a barely functional construction site staffed entirely by low-grade miners and only a half dozen trained engineers. For this reason, I have traveled to the complex myself, where I met with Chief Engineer Aaron Kemsley, current on-site Chief of Operations. Thankfully for my research, on-site records have been well kept in backup hard copies, and Dr. Kemsley permitted me access to the databanks for the duration of my stay. The findings, while minuscule in comparison with future ones, nonetheless shed a much-needed light on the early history of NanoTrasen's involvement with these creatures, and their methods (or lack thereof) to combat possible infestation. Anomalous reports first began appearing in early 2388, with the construction staff reporting multiple power outages, unusually frequent light fixture malfunctions and, eventually, high incidence of migraines, insomnia and nightmares in the staff. As the situation degraded, and multiple individuals began issuing formal complaints with the site's engineers, then-current Chief of Operations, one Michael Brattis, requests emergency medical aid from the NCS Venture, the nearest NanoTrasen installation, located in the Lambda-13 system. Due to the relative unimportance of the construction site at that time, along with the lack of trained medical personnel on-board the Venture, the request went unheeded for approximately 3 STT (Standard Terran Time) months, during which the medical condition of the construction staff deteriorated further. Eventually, as a team of emergency medical personnel arrived, the continued operations aboard Romeo-19 were deemed unfeasible; on-site Staff were evacuated and construction was halted until a replacement team was found. The original crew, which had been working on-site since the start of the construction process, made a full recovery, but refused to return, citing "horrible things" happening to them in their sleep, but refusing to elaborate further. The trail grows cold, as the records proceed to the next staff rotation. Is it notable that NanoTrasen does not seek to investigate these complications further, as no reports of further inquiries into these medical conditions are logged. The issues present with the first rotation carried on with the second one, with early 2388 logs reporting a much quicker-acting onset of nightmares and night terrors, along with several incidents of miners disappearing during work hours and reappearing several hours later with little to no memory of the time lost. One of the miners, one Robert Proudhon, would never return, though his corpse (or what became of it) would be found later (see below). This would carry on throughout the following standard weeks until, at a certain point, on-site Chief of Operations Sarah Carver sends the following message to the NCS Venture: The records show the reason for this message: earlier in the work shift, one of the mining teams reports spotting an "unidentified creature" in one of the deeper mining tunnels. One of the miners reports having spotted a "hole full of resin", which was quickly ordered to be torched. What happens afterwards is unknown, but the next communication arrives approximately 5 minutes later, with the mining team reporting having killed a "black humanoid thing", specimen U-1, which was quickly dumped into a deeper tunnel. After evacuating the mining site and sealing the entrance, construction is once again halted until reinforcements from the NCS Venture arrive. Further expeditions into the mining tunnels revealed that the resin was made of an hitherto unknown material, and that the corpse of U-1 was dressed in the tatters of a uniform reminiscent of the one used by on-site construction crew. An ID Card was never found, but odds are good that U-1 was, in fact, Proudhon, having transformed into a Xenos Umbra specimen. The Security team from the Venture is recorded as having safeguarded the corpse, which was brought off-site by a team of scientists from the NSS Shiva, the closest research installation with Xenobiological research facilities. The trail disappears after this point, but on-site medical complaints ceased following this incident, and RAS Romeo-19 proceeded with regular operations as scheduled, with Robert Proudhon still officially marked as "Missing" in company records. It is worth nothing that the dispatched team of Scientists recorded the corpse of U-1 as being covered in a "layer of light-reactive chitin", and possessing "remarkable regenerative qualities", though further inquiries into the possible origin of this creature were not performed. This incident provides some information on possible infestation methods, as it is clear that none of the members of the initial staff rotation were turned into a Xenos Umbra specimen, but suffered through the same symptoms as the second rotation, which produced U-1. This may indicate that whatever causes the transformation, be it a viral agent, bacterium or Bluespace anomaly, it is capable of affecting a geographical area independent of any host, with the actual infestation and transformation occurring afterwards, a pattern repeated throughout history in regards to these creatures. It is also an indicator of NanoTrasen's attitude towards them, as the corpse was immediately sent for further study. It is, however, impossible to follow the trail to the NSS Shiva, as it was decommissioned in 2485, and all on-site records erased from company databanks. The next step is still unknown to me. More research is required. Signed, Quincy D. Huxley END LOG.
  6. A Short Introduction Much has been said about the curious specimens colloquially known as "Shadowlings" by the doomed crew of many a research station and scientific outpost. Despite the numerous encounters with the creatures, as well as a multitude of detailed after-action reports from failed Ascendance Events, very little is known about them, be it their history, behavioral patterns outside known encounters and even biology, if such a thing even applies. While officially NanoTrasen defines Shadowlings as Xenos Umbra, following in the naming scheme utilized for other creatures such as the Xenos Mutatio ("changelings") and Xenos Venenum (genus utilized for a variety of giant spider species), recent findings (Bolton & Carter, 2512) have cast doubt on the notion that Shadowlings can even be classified under the same taxonomic rules as Realspace animals, considering their innate connection to Bluespace. Curiously, it appears that the creatures have an increased interest in NanoTrasen assets and activities when compared to other companies, sovereign governments or other smaller independent polities, most likely due to the former's heavy interest in Bluespace experimentation and various active Research&Development projects dedicated almost exclusively to the weaponization of this dimension of space, hinting at their true nature. However, despite this fact, and due to the disparate sources involved in collecting data about the creatures, a full picture of their species as a whole has never been painted before, something that presents itself as a clear and present security risk for the company, its employees and its shareholders, considering the disastrous effects of Ascendance Events and the amount of damage involved. Due to this lack of a complete picture, the NanoTrasen Board of Directors has empowered me, Senior Research Director Quincy D. Huxley, to seek out and compile any information available on the Xenos Umbra, with the ultimate goal of compiling a full compendium of the sum total of knowledge available at this point in time on the creatures themselves, starting with the first recorded encounters and ending in the current day and the verifiable increase in Ascendance Events. This will most likely require vast amounts of resources; therefore, full access to a special company wallet has been granted, and a personal shuttle provided for any transportation required; this shuttle will be equipped with a small library and research laboratory, as well as a Series-17 Bluespace Restrictor Cell, meant to house exactly one (1) Shadowling specimen, should one be acquired. This will most likely be a long-term endeavour, and I have therefore terminated my current contract for the sake of proceeding with this study. Provided enough space is available, I will inquire into the possibility of recruiting additional trusted researchers. For now, however, I must gather what little data I have available, and set course for my first chosen destination. Signed, Quincy D. Huxley References: Bolton, K. D., & Carter, L. L. (2512). Anomalous readings in post-experimentation toolsets: an investigative report on Xenos Umbra effects on laboratory equipment. NanoTrasen Science Report, 4685(15542), 425-498. END LOG.
  7. Saywat_the_15th has retired from their position as Game Administrator/Community Manager. Jayfeather has retired from their position as Game Administrator. Joonasm has retired from their position as Mentor.
  8. Codydozer has retired from their position as Mentor.
  9. StreakyHaddock, Ty Omaha, Saul Argon, MarcellusPye, Pazneria12, DaDman234 and Vargh have been promoted to full Game Administrators. Spartan has joined the team as a Trial Administrator.
  10. SigholtStarsong has been retired from their position of Mentor.
  11. Year 5 Report: Fortress of Ikengatrid, Subsidiary of the Familial Ceilings Due to continuing issues with a patient that may or may not have been placed in such an horrendously bad condition that the doctors have absolutely no idea what to do with them, the Spear Protocols were administered, and the patient in question interred after a quick and painless death after the first seventeen strikes of mechanized spears. At least we put Ubassoloz to good use this time around, even if it was for something as horrendous as lever-assisted euthanasia. Unfortunately, in times of dire need, unfortunate necessities arise, and breaking the doctors out of stupid is one such necessity. That is, of course, until control of the lever was taken away from me and the whole system was dismantled; something about "horrendous misuse of private property" and "blithe disregard for dwarven life". Lot of good that did the poor sod, considering the doctors refused to help them. 'Least I found some distraction organizing the new smelting area, and drawing plans for a potential geothermal heating operation. And ordering the making of some soap for medical use, maybe that'll fix things. Also, ALPACA BABIES! THIS IS OFFICIALLY THE BEST YEAR THIS FORTRESS HAS EVER HAD, LIVING DEAD SIEGE BE LITERALLY DAMNED! Lowering the drawbridge to try and lure the living dead onto our traps was met with mixed success. By which I mean, the corpses were smart enough not to rush blindly into our brand new entry, and instead decided to shamble about the surface, happy and content in their unholy servitude. Seeing as we STILL lacked anything resembling a proper military, we were now forced to wait out their assault. On the bright side, the masons have completed the work orders I gave them for room furnishings, which should be enough to start prettying up the place, along with the engravers being told to smooth out the stone all around. Probably not enough to stop all the complaining, but it's a good first step. Before: And after: Now I need only repeat this for the other three dormitories I had dug out, and we'll be set for a population of up to 200. Will possibly need to increase further, but oh well, we'll cross that bridge when we get there. For now, I'm interested in bloody soap. And getting the Mayor an adequate office to he stops complaining. Thankfully, it appears my idea for an alpaca farm is working in terms of milk and wool output, so I'm counting that as a victory for me as well. Now, all I need to do is figure out how to break through the siege and I'll be set fer life! If not, I still have delicious alpaca cheese. Tastes like a good idea that worked. Nothin' better. One of the metalsmiths was, you guessed it, possessed by something and compelled to work on whatever the spirit had its mind on. I swear to Armok above, this is getting patently absurd, especially when they start shrieking about metal bars and I've half a mind to just lob a chunk of cassiterite at them and tell them to figure it out. Problem is, the cunts just might, and then I'd look absurdly silly. Just like when it turns out our doctors would rather let this poor kin writhe in pain on a traction bench than do... well, anything to them. It was getting ridiculous, so we opted for the easy way out and merely walled them off to wait for their inevitable demise by starvation. Seemed easier and more humane than just having them helpless on a bed for the rest of their miserable existence. Roundabouts this time, the esteemed Mayor blamed a carpenter for the lack of gauntlets being made, sentenced them to 79 days in prison, then immediately demanded more short swords. Because that really worked fantastically in the past, so surely we should do it now, right? Bloody idiot... Meanwhile, the beasts down below keep making horrible, horrible noises, scaring off most of our kin working in the lower levels. It's been a nightmare dealing with that, and I'm beginning to think if it isn't worth opening up a tunnel and seeing what happens trying to kill the damned things.To this end, I've had the miners start to dig downwards at the start of Summer, hoping to find something, anything, resembling usable fuel and ores. I don't care if we have to dig up a bloody volcano, we need fuel for the furnaces! In the ensuing mining operations, we managed to find out a few things: Firstly, the source of the noises appears to be three gigantic, horridly deformed, mismatched creatures roaming the underground caverns. The miners didn't get a good look at the things before we plugged up the access shaft, but when someone starts talking about giant toads with feathers that spit webs, you close the door. No matter how much your insane butcher starts raving about the amount of meat they could get out of something like that. Secondly, we found a second layer of caverns, this one too with our access shaft ending up on a rock ceiling several dozen feet above what was now a deep, underground lake. We may just take advantage of this and use it as a fishing ground, but we'll have to conjure up a way to both get down safely AND protect the entire area against potential incursions. Possibly via a very high wall, maybe? At least there's plenty of marble to go around, which means easy access to flux for future steel production. Lastly, we hit what appeared to be some sort of molten stone, deep below the fortress and even far lower down under the caverns. Further exploratory mining revealed that the whole fortress has been built atop a gigantic magma lake this entire time, just like the one back home at the Ceiling. We'd been convinced such a bounty was unique to the Mountainhome, but it seems we've lucked out and found ourselves our fuel... at least, when we manage to bring it up to a more manageable level. Methinks we'll have to repurpose some of that extra mechanical power into magma pumps. Gonna need plenty of iron for that, though, which means breaking through the siege so the caravans can show up. Still, I'll get to work designing a pump system, and hopefully we'll get ourselves a working magma foundry within a year. Maybe. The project should be relatively simple, assuming we don't run into any unexplored sections of the caverns. Same logic as the millstones: run the axles down into the earth, and hope the river's strong enough to keep the damned machines runnin'! Sadly, one of the miners decided to take a quick lava bath. Much rejoicing was had when this ridiculous happenstance of idiocy took place, followed by strict lessons on magma mining safety protocols. We don't want our miners dying for no reason, after all. They're valuable, and the pickaxes are hard to make at this point, not to mention the extensive mining they'll have to do in order to get the basics up and running for the magma pumps. To make matters more complicated, we (of course) breached into an hitherto unknown section of the underground cavern system. We quickly went to work walling it off from the magma pump stack, because frankly, sod that nonsense. Nothing breached the safety of the inner halls, thankfully enough. To add to this year's compensation for the shambling dead's troubles, the metalsmith came out of his forge carrying a solid bronze crown, which he claims is "fit for a king, emperor, or a fanciful duke". Running it by the broker revealed it to be of great worth, possibly enough to draw the ire of the Mountain King himself. Having seen the Mountain Crown myself, I scoffed and told them to place the crown somewhere nice if they were so worried about it. Of course, this just means we've got even more trouble to contend with. Specifically, in the form of a soddin' hydra that just randomly showed up from nowhere out of the northeast. Drawbridge goes down, we go "SOD THAT", and return to walling off sections of the caverns below. At least the seven-headed idiot was too busy chasing down a giant porcupine to do anything to us, but then, right out of fucking nowhere, it squeezes into the small tunnel we built to go under the river and throws itself at the living dead, tearing a bloody path through the whole group! The fucking thing fought valiantly for hours on end... but it, too, like the Ettin, fell before the risen soldiers. Left a nice carcass behind, though it rotted away before we could do much with it. I mean really, if not for the fact that they scared off any business opportunity we may stumble onto, these things would make great guard dogs. To stave off the boredom, Urist and I played "Who'll be possessed next?!", a fantastic game of observation the esteemed Mayor had forced everyone to learn. This time, everyone lost, as the clothesmaker who ran into the workshop screaming bloody murder about logs and bones was most definitely acting of his own accord. Had to slaughter one of the baby alpacas to get them the bones they wanted, sadly enough. Autumn rolled around before they could finish their masterpiece: a face veil by the name of Egastamas. What in the name of Armok's right shin is wrong with these people?! Fuck it, at least the veil itself was a right proper piece of work: As Autumn rolled midway, the magma forges and smelters were complete and set in place. Now, all that was needed was iron, which we were sure would come (eventually) in next year's caravans. I'm quite proud of how quickly we got this done, especially considering the absolute ridiculousness of the millstone mechanisms. We'll have to expand on the existing water wheel station in order to secure enough power for the pumps, but that should easy enough now that we have some practical experience in the matter. Erecting the defenses will, I believe, be the worst part. In the final weeks, the esteemed Mayor once again sent someone to the cells because they wouldn't give him what he wanted, and then immediately asked for a pair of gauntlets, again, despite the last three requests going unheeded. What exactly does he expect us to smelt the metal with? Our beards?! Well, one thing's for certain, the alpacas have reached a considerable number, though we've had to cut down on the male population in order to curb further births. Still, their wool and milk will serve us well in the coming times. Winter rolls in, and with it, no contact from either the Mountainhome or the nearby humans. But hey, at least the living dead decided to sod off, so we could actually start work on the bloody water wheels, and get ourselves some more wood, seeing as our stockpiles of logs had all but been depleted. Unfortunately, this also meant one of our own was caught outside during a vapor storm. Nothing too major, just a small whiff... still more than enough to cause complete organ failure. And yet, the bastard kept on working, like a proper dwarf should! Even as his legs rotted away from coagulated blood! MOUNTAINOUS SPIRIT! And for the first time in Armok knows when, MIGRANTS! Fresh new faces to help and not be horridly nauseated by the sun! Helping hands before the next inevitable siege completely blocks us off from the outside world!!! Armok's beard, I could've kissed them all if I hadn't been stopped! Who I ended up kissing was one of the carpenters who, true to bloody tradition, got possessed by something! No clue what the tally's at. What does matter is that the glorious bastard spent a week picking and choosing from every stockpile we had, then came out a week later carrying the most valuable item currently inside this not-so-miserable piece of shit we call Cottonblossoms: a cave spider shirt, by the name of Delerunos Duthaltinoth! Weird, yes, but does its job properly! Speaking of which, we've managed to finish a project on time this year! The expansion to the water wheel station was complete just the old calendars were thrown out, more than tripling our power supply, and it wouldn't be a little cloud of gut-busting vapor that stopped us, oh no! Urist, as always, was kind enough to get shoved onto the wall to produce a drawing of the outside: And the inside, of course: Hopefully, this coming year, we'll be able to start defending ourselves properly. Next stop: magma pumps. Signed, Sakzul Kelstorlut, Lead Foreman of Ikengatrid
  12. Year 4 Report: (Besieged) Fortress of Ikengatrid, Subsidiary of the Familial Ceilings This year's Spring blessed us with a large wave of migrants from the Mountainhome, providing both manpower and more pets to feed. Damn the idiots who refuse to let me order the butcher to process the bunnies before they breed out of control, the idiots... Well, at least the bull upstairs has grown big enough that we can actually harvest something out of him. Regardless, I guess news of our successful settling has finally spread properly, and soon enough, we'll have enough people here to maintain a proper militia, rather than relying on time alone. Though it will require finding a source of fuel that doesn't literally grow on trees, and the complete lack of any coal or lignite is extremely worrying. Without any natural source of coke, we'll have to resort to buying it from caravans, leaving us dangerously dependent on the Mountainhome. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course! HAIL TO THE MOUNTAIN KING, YES! For whatever reason, it turns out someone, early in Spring, dragged two... honestly, I'm having a hard time figuring out what these things are. They look like the grizzly bears that occasionally show up to be disappointed by the lack of fish, but they walk on two legs and look oddly... like the humans that showed up at the Mountainhome for trading missions. Almost like one of them got extremely lonely out in the woods and settled for a bear. They seem to be somewhat intelligent, and Urist managed to get one to complete a basic mathematical operation (admittedly, it was adding 2 and 3, but still, impressive for what amounts to a two-legged grizzly bear with tits). They should fetch a nice price for the next trading caravan to show up; we can sell them as bearded women to whatever circus needs to hire more freak show attractions! Or something, I don't honestly know; the butcher refuses to use them for spare meat, kept complaining about "ethical implications of eating sapients" before I just had him thrown out the office. Bloody useless. At least it's better than the two-legged chipmunk people upstairs; those got caught in this year's early vapor storms and had their insides burst. Their rotting bodies made the best decorations. Just as Spring was rolling into Summer, preparations for the millstone's power supply were finished, and the milling itself could finally begin! Took us far too long, and hung up the miners with something that was far beyond their pay grade, but at the very least, we can now let the wind and water mill our plants, rather than forcing the threshers to spend hours manually processing the literal ton of plants we've harvested so far. Urist was helpful enough to get volunteered for a new drawing session. This ended up being the main joint gear area: We decided to construct a few more water wheels, and ended up with enough power to divert to future projects; thank Armok this river doesn't freeze over during Winter! On a sadder note, we lost a mother and her child in the construction of our internal water reservoir. The poor sod opened the wrong door and got swept down the current; we couldn't open the floodgates quickly enough, and they ended up drowning with their child in their arms. Unfortunately, they seem to have sunk to the bottom of the reservoir, so we just had our engravers make two slabs and we're now waiting for their bodies to rot away so we can clean the water properly. I swear, even in death... The miner, Lokum, finally emerged from his workshop, proudly carrying his finest creation, just before he collapsed after whatever took him over decided to vacate the premises of his empty head. Turns out, all the materials he hoarded together amounted to... a floodgate, named Kasbenkonad. Admittedly, one that looks fantastic and our appraiser told us was worth several year's wages worth of the poor sod's actual job, but a floodgate nonetheless. We can't really use it for decoration, so I guess we'll just shove it in the stockpiles and wait for a chance at putting it to good use. At the very least, the thing's made out of granite, so everyone who's seen it so far has become completely convinced that this fort will succeed in its nominal duty. I, for one, am not so certain of this, and will take steps towards curbing these silly superstitions before they turn into something more than just a minor annoyance. Meanwhile, that weird kid with the fixation on bones has been hard at work turning all the spare bones and hooves we had lying around into something worth exporting. I have to say, he still creeps me out every time I so much as give him a small glance, but his skill is absolutely undeniable, and he'll prove to be a valuable asset in the future if he keeps things up like this, especially if my long-term for an alpaca farm comes to fruition! Even better, as Summer rolled around, another of the miners (one Lolor) was struck with sudden inspiration and occupied another of the mason's workshops, providing a list of materials bigger than even Lokum had. Better yet, he didn't even force us to press gang one of the farmers into producing bad billon for the sake of satisfying their urges, and this one seems not to be possessed! So congratulations all across the board, really. Of course, in keeping with tradition, they've produced a bloody door, which they've taken to calling Tashemabir (the other miners relentlessly bullied such silly notions, for which they were compensated with an extra biscuit). The door itself will see itself put to use as our last line of defense, seeing as it looks all but indestructible; we'll place it in the entrance to the main fortress, and hope to Armok it'll actually work to stop incoming invaders. Pretty valuable by itself, as well! As was expected, none of the bloody knife-ears showed up this year. Probably too busy fuming over their inability to produce proper metal, conjuring up some pansy-arse forest spirits to spook us with. They'll face naught but cold steel by the point we allow them to face us in open combat. Simple cages will do for now, followed by re-sale into slavery indentured servitude forced labor (Armok's beard, do NOT let this go unredacted). To compensate, a nearby human settlement sent their own caravan to trade with us, as well as one of their merchant guildmasters to establish a trading deal with us! Unlike the bloody knife-ears, these ones actually carried some useful supplies we wanted to trade for. UNFORTUNATELY, one of their pack horses somehow got stuck in a tree, forcing us to go cut it down so the bloody thing could get to our depot. By the time that sorry excuse for an equine got to its proper place, the caravan was already overdue, and they absolutely REFUSED to trade with us until the horse got to the depot! Absolutely disgraceful! As if to make matters worse, the bear people escaped from their traps as we were transporting them, and had to be put down by the caravan guards; and the local Mayor decided we should produce short swords instead of worrying about more pressing concerns. Considering what I know of him, he probably just wants to "procure" them for his own office when no one's looking. Regardless, I had our metalsmiths work something out; can't have the "nobles" get all uppity, now can we? Before you know it, they'll be wondering why they're not actually in charge of anything. At the very least, the human guildmaster brought us news from the world at large: In addition, it seems that their settlement's connected to a larger kingdom, or... is one? Human language is still somewhat beyond us, so we may actually be trading with someone far larger and more powerful than we are, so there's that; at least we secured a trade agreement, where we'd export our local goods in exchange for hematite, limonite and charcoal, saving our own wood supplies. This should be useful when manufacturing steel, assuming we can get enough. And assuming their bloody horses can refrain from climbing up fucking trees. Of course, just as they left, the two uninvited guests down below were joined by a third one. They're having a nice screaming party, and we were forced to issue pig tail mufflers to the stoneworkers, just to stop them going crazy from the noise. I've heard it myself; not exactly conducive to having us strike the earth further below us, I'll say that much. There's going to be a lot of engineering going about if we want to properly dig down through these caverns, as we are NOT going to face off against whatever's making those unholy screeches. Speaking of, someone dragged in the decayed skeleton of a Weregila Monster? Where in Armok's saggy left tit did we find that?! It's just been sitting there, rotting away and spewing miasma everywhere! Speaking of which, one of our kin seems to have breathed in some of the bloody surface vapors, seeing as he's been shitting and vomiting out his insides for the past two days. At least the hospital's nearly built, we can quarantine them properly and see if we can't treat them and the myriad of minor injuries that have been cropping up here and there. Summer at least saw a fresh group of migrants show up, which were quickly put to work as soapers and lye makers; we've been stockpiling tallow for some time, and it's high time we clean up the dirt that's been accumulating on literally everything for the past 4 years. Next group to show up will probably have to be assigned as militia, despite the fact that we have absolutely no weaponry or armor to speak of. In the meantime, the surface hatches have been locked shut until such a point as they need to be opened again. Meanwhile, it looks like the infected one just needed a good scrubbing. Apparently you can live through severe, floor-staining bleeding as long as the doctors get to you with a wet towel fast enough, I guess? Of course, most of their body has rotted away, but at least they're ambulatory. Take the victories as they come, as me dad always said! Which reminds me, this year's harvest was large enough that the farmers have suggested we simply leave the fields alone the following year. We've got enough supplies to last us quite a while, and I'd rather we don't waste valuable space with food that won't get eaten for months. And speaking of wasting valuable space, our esteemed Mayor immediately mandated the construction of more short swords after the last two got forged. I'm not wasting resources in fulfilling their whims, so fuck that; if they want to order anyone's arrest, I'll just divert blame over to the metalsmiths and tell him it was absolutely them that didn't fulfill the production order. Last thing I need is bowing to the fickle desires of some popularity contest winner. I'll just mandate the construction of a pretty little set of cells and hope for the best. And obviously, this entire bollocks only got worse when Summer turned to Autumn and a group of human bandits showed up wanting to come lay siege to our site. "At least it isn't the living dead," we thought, convinced we'd be able to deal with this before the Mountainhome's caravan arrived. So we waited, ready to face down whatever group would be bearing down on us... and it turned out that the "scouting force" of one was the whole thing. One. Human. I'd be insulted if I wasn't so busy laughing at such a ridiculous attempt to intimidate us. All we had to do was open the doors and lower the drawbridge, at which point the bastard happily ignored us until we tried to lure him in, after which he successfully murdered one of our carpenters and, to make matters worse, killed one of our cats! At least they had the decency to go away before the Mountainhome caravan showed up; I wouldn't have been able to handle it otherwise. As with the humans, they too bring news from the outside: We've also secured a trade deal for hematite, limonite, charcoal and coal coke, which means we'll be capable of kickstarting steel production SOON. Only took us about five years to get the basics out, I'm calling this one a victory. And just as the caravan was done setting up for trading, one of the brewers rushed into a nearby workshop and starting yelling about rocks and hides. Almost enough to distract me from the fact that the caravan bloody well delivered on their promise and brought us four breeding pairs of alpacas. This is going to make my plans for an alpaca farm a lot easier! Not only that, but a full haul of foodstuffs for our stocks as well. A good year for trading, and I can only imagine what we could've done earlier had the humans' horse not gotten stuck on a bloody tree. We asked the local children to name the alpacas for us, and ended up with Simon, Fuzzball, Hopper and Sir Alpaca the Fourth, for the males, and Snowball, Cotton, Twinkle and Lady Alpaca the Sixteenth for the females. They've since been placed in the pasture, and the shearers and milkers put to good use doing what they do best. We also took the liberty of slaughtering and butchering three of the males, and left Fuzzball alone; we only really needed one stud, not four, and it's extra meat and tallow anyway. The celebrations were somewhat mitigated by the infected one eventually succumbing to his wounds, but oh well, it's not like everyone wasn't already expecting it. They were entombed by the front door, as is the tradition I want to start. After all, nothing's scarier than invading some place that proudly displays its dead. Speaking of terrifying things, the brewer finished his work as the caravan was leaving. A spear made from goat bone, given the, I have to admit, tremendously awe-inspiring name of Ubassoloz Shiginobur! And really, the artwork is impressive; I think we'll keep this one around and not use it as a trap. As the apprentice diagnostician wasted all of our time failing to realize his assigned patient had his wrist split open (bloody interns), a new wave of migrants showed up. We recovered from our losses taken during the bandit's "raid", and assigned the remaining individuals to furnace duty. We'll be digging a forge work area now, and hopefully we'll have weaponry ready by this time next year. Seeing as the elves already know where we are (and seem to be out for our blood), and now the humans do as well, it's only a matter of time before we attract more... unwanted attention. Speaking of, we've started construction of a temple, for all the gods-fearing kin out there needing a place to worship, as well as a potential site for a library in order to satisfy more... intellectual pursuits. Urist suggested a tavern, but we've more important things to worry about than getting even more drunk than usual. There's enough vomit around as it is. That said, the rest of Fall went by without any issues, the kitchen staff hard at work using the new millstone system to get through our supplies. We've ended up with enough food for about three years at this point, and enough drink to keep the whole fortress completely drunk for months on end. Life is good, except for the one thresher who's been stuck in the hospital for several months due to negligent medical care. The doctors assure me that he's merely healing from a fracture, but the constant screaming tells me otherwise. Well, no issues until a giant Ettin showed up at our doorstep. An Ettin. Fucking why. I swear to Armok, this place has it out for us. We've got nothing that can stop it, so the only thing we thought of doing was... well, raise the drawbridge and hope a vapor burst killed the damned thing. At the very least, we knew it would die to the organ bursting cloud banks. It was living, after all. Of course, it wasted no time breaking through our surface hatches and doors, then heading straight for the lifted drawbridge... then ran off to hunt a porcupine. Fuck if I know what's going on anymore. Woe to any migrants who show up while the Ettin's around, we are not lowering the bridge until it goes away, no matter what our precious Mayor says. At the very least, we got a good look at it: And, of course, because things couldn't get any worse, a wave of the living dead show up from the south just as Winter rolls around, because why the fuck not, am I right? The force is smaller than last time, but the necromancer seems to have shown up, along with two still-living bodyguards. Apparently we pissed him off enough that he wanted us dead, personally. And seeing as we were locked inside, we could little more than hope the Ettin turned on the walking dead. Which they eventually did, after a few days of wandering around, only to immediately be butchered mercilessly. Turns out the corpses are carrying armor and weapons, because Armok hates our guts, I guess. So, we're back at where we were back three years ago. Stuck waiting for the living dead to go away, to attend to their master's will elsewhere. At least until we manage to secure an adequate source of weapons-grade iron for us, which isn't likely to happen any time soon. Nor is the funeral for the poor bastard who ended up underneath the trash compactor when it came down on this year's supply of refuse. Not even a hat was left of him... In a similar vein, seems the Mayor opted to blame our one gem cutter for the failure to deliver his precious short swords, for whatever reason (and sentenced the poor bastard to a full 97 days in prison). And then immediately demanded a pair of gauntlets, which he also isn't getting. He'll learn to mitigate his demands, or he'll fuck off back to where he came from. There are no other choices. At the very least, the alpacas have been a valuable source of milk and wool, so if he demands something that can be woven or cheesed up, we'll be happy to deliver. As for in-house renovations, by the end of winter we had already put most of the haulers to work stockpiling the various ores lying about, and as a reward, we provided a basic "temple" in the shape of a large, dug-out room with a tarp covering the entrance. Apparently, that was enough to get people to drop to their knees and thank the gods for the bounties they had bestowed upon us, even as the shambling corpses upstairs keep trying to force their way in to eat us alive. Skewed priorities. At least one of the carpenters, Atis, started screaming about this new fantastic idea he had, and locked himself in his workshop with a bunch of logs and uncut gems. Ended up carving out a wood chest they called Nabreth Mubun (immediately sent to counselling). Name notwithstanding, it's actually a decent addition to the growing hoard. Could probably even use it to store gems in! And, Armok be praised, the treatment on the poor thresher was actually moved along. Winter may be coming to an end, but at the very least, one can hope the poor sod will recover soon. And so we sit here, as Spring rolls around and we have to make due with the living dead upstairs. At the very least, I can take solace in the fact that none of this has affected the general populace's mood in any way; still had six babies being successfully delivered this past year. Signed, Sakzul Kelstorlut, Lead Foreman of Ikengatrid
  13. Year 3 Report: Fortress of Ikengatrid, Subsidiary of the Familial Ceilings Well, all that time and work put into the entire trap corridor was completely pointless. As soon as Spring turned around, so did the living dead; bastards vanished faster than Urist does on cleaning day, the slimy cunt (where does he even get slime?!). Just as well they did, seeing as a caravan showed up roundabouts the second week of the season. Only this one was led by the knife-ears themselves, finally paying little old us a visit. Lot of good that did it. The bastards were barely clothed, wielding pretend wooden axes and selling absolutely nothing but useless shite. What use do we have for elven toys? Or socks? Or... whatever they call those almondy things. All they sold us was cheap clothing, while insisting it was made out of the "finest silks of the land", and so we should pay the exorbitant price they were demanding for the things. Would've tried selling them a wooden cage if I hadn't been stopped. Not that it mattered anyway. The cunts waited a few more days, left with a few friendly parting words, and not two days later we get an emissary announcing their intention of declaring war on us and the Familial Ceilings! SO I GUESS WE WON'T BE GETTING MORE TRADE WITH THE ELVES UNTIL THE DIPLOMATS BACK HOME FIX THIS, RIGHT NOW, HINT HINT HINT WE DON'T HAVE ANY WEAPONS HINT HINT. Armok's beard, diplomacy is beyond me. As are the bloody knife-ears. What, is not purchasing anything considered a sign of disres-wait, what am I saying? Of bloody course it must be. You'd be hard pressed to find something they don't find disrespectful. No more lowering the drawbridge for them, noted. Apart from that little diplomatic hiccup, we've been receiving plenty of migrants from the Mountainhome, who've been quickly put to work serving the outpost. The miners have finished digging out the work areas and final stockpile for processed goods, so they've been reassigned to mechanics operation (see below). As for everyone else, well, we have textiles, stone, wood, leathers and a whole assortment of materials we can finally start to process and sell to anyone wanting to trade them off for something valuable. The one child who had produced the bone mace grew up to have a scary affinity towards bonecarving, so the lark was put to work making something useful out of the piles of bones and hooves we had lying around. Got ourselves a couple of pack animals waiting for slaughter in the pasture, requested a breedin' pair of alpacas from the liaison, and even the vapor storms were quieter this year! Speaking of, we are officially designated as a Fortress now, and our expedition leader was promoted to Mayor. Good on him, the poor sod. Now he has to go entertain dignitaries in the chairless meeting hall while I get to lounge around doing sweet fuck all in my brand new office (which I had furnished myself. Being the Foreman comes with its own perks, after all). The supplies we traded with our kin's caravan were enough that, mixed with this year's bountiful harvest, our cooks, brewers, threshers and millers have been hard at work the entire Winter, and they are STILL not done going through our food supplies. This bodes well! Apparently, granite is an omen of good things to come. We even managed to bag ourselves someone with minimum skill at economic appraisal; turns out the bone mace was barely worth more than a regular steel one of equal quality, but the pine bracelet was worth a small fortune! Meanwhile, one of our fellow kin created what appears to be a cage built entirely out of billon. Forced us to improvise some fuel with charcoal to get him the metal he needed, but in the end, it turned out to be a rather... okay-ish decoration, we guess. We'll probably just end up using it in a trap, then hang it from the ceiling and call it modern art. No one will notice anyway, everyone's too drunk from all the strawberry wine to give a shit. Though that name, Nomal Uvash... it gives me ideas... Meanwhile, one of the miners, of all people, got possessed by something. Seriously, this is the THIRD one to have a spirit take them over, the entire place needs to burn in the Underhalls for how much bullshit it's doing to us! Anyway, the miner's still gathering materials (has been for a week now), and his list is already big enough that I can tell the end result will be something worth making a statue over. The querns have since been replaced with millstones, though sadly this Winter was not enough to fully build the power supply. We had to wall off a large section of the surface just to get the windmills and water wheels in place, and it took a lot of dwarfpower to get the basics dug out and then filled with axles and gears. By the time this is finished, however, we will have a fully functional set of six millstones, enough to put our prior output to shame! We had Urist climb the walls and give us a beautiful rendition of how it looked from the surface: And, of course, the first layer before the axle shaft: Of course, not everything is roses. The caverns below the fortress have been... loud. We have absolutely no idea what it is, but some sort of gigantic beast is now roaming the unexplored tunnels below us. It has, from the noises, murdered every other creature down there, and now continuously paces back and forth, restless and screeching like a demon. And, just five days ago... something else showed up. We dare not look, but the two are not fighting one another. In fact, they've tried hitting the walls to our stone stockpiles, to no avail. The workers are restless, telling me that we dug too far down. I may just agree with them. Signed, Sakzul Kelstorlut, Lead Foreman of Ikengatrid
  14. Year 2 Report: (Besieged) Outpost of Ikengatrid, Subsidiary of the Familial Ceilings The dead walk. In fact, they have been walking for the past year. Not a day after the courier was dispatched with the first report out of this miserable excuse for a shitehole, a force of about three dozen of the living dead shambled in from the south. Humans and elves, their rotting bodies spewing maggot and miasma as they traipsed their way towards the entrance we immediately shut close and isolated with the drawbridge pit. Urist was confident for the whole process, told us they'd get tired of waiting for us. The living dead. Tired. I'm aware that, as an Outpost, we cannot legally nominate anyone as an Hammerer. However, for this occasion, we've opted to ignore this and do so anyway just so we could deliver a swift beating to the idiot who proposed waiting out the risen dead until they grew "tired" and somehow decided to go away. Not even the necromancer responsible for these abominations bothered to show up, so any chance of a surprise cave-in was quickly discarded. As such, we drew the drawbridge, locked the doors, and waited. We've been waiting for a year. There has been no contact from the Mountainhome, no emissary, no scout, no caravan. Not one migrant has showed up, which makes me think you blokes are well aware of our plight, and are doing absolutely nothing to help us (thanks for that, by the way, really, we're just BLOODY PEACHY IN 'ERE!). The scout who led us to this accursed place two years ago had spoken of elven and human settlements, yet there has been no contact from any of them either. For all intents and purposes, we've been stuck in our hole for the past twelve months, and are just as close to breaking through the siege now as we were before. We've no competent smiths, and our forays down below have yielded no iron or coal (thanks for that, again. Smell of iron in the air me hairy arse), but at least a plentiful bounty of tetrahedrite and cassiterite; enough for several sets of bronze weaponry and armor, if only we weren't growing short on wood and had no way of replenishing it. Even the local geography is against us; we've settled atop caverns filled with giant mushrooms, but the rock ceiling ends some fifty feet above the ground! We can't even get down there! So we've stayed put, waiting out the time, slowly bringing our operations further down below as the miners cleared out living and work areas for us and any future potential daredevils wanting to risk life and limb for a paycheck at this slice of... whatever this is. We'd hoped the constant bursts of organ-bursting vapor would have helped us, but as it stands, the living dead can breathe the thing in and keep going like nothing had happened. Why did we even think anything else would've happened? Fuck me, the shambling horrors above seemed to have attracted even more of the fucking stuff; there's been an increase in the vapor bursts since they've been here. Of course, the wildlife's suffered even more, as even the giant bears upstairs are no match for the human and elven corpses walking about. We've since lost one of our farmers. Poor bastard was struck with inspiration and kept demanding we give him silk cloth. Silk cloth that we didn't have. The family was compensated with an extra ration of Lokum's strawberry jam surprise gumbo roast each, and their pet piglet given a friendly pat. Damned thing was just as bad as its owners. On the bright side, another of our kin has actually succeeded at producing something of worth. Of course, the name Fushurbumal aludes to their state of mind, so they were provided with three days off to get their minds off our impending doom. Sadly, and much like the other two masterpieces we have in our stores, we've no idea how much something like this would be worth; no one here has any sense of economic appraisal. Not that it would matter, obviously, since WE'RE STUCK IN HERE WITHOUT ANY WAY OF GETTING OUT!!! When Fall turned to Winter, we decided we've had enough, and began work on a desperate plan to end this state of siege: we're filling the entrance to the outpost's lower levels with traps of various shapes and sizes, then opening the doors, lowering the drawbridge and locking ourselves behind stone doors. Hopefully, this won't backfire, and I'll be able to send this bloody report back home. Signed, Sakzul Kelstorlut, Lead Foreman of Ikengatrid
  15. Year 1 Report: Outpost of Ikengatrid, Subsidiary of the Familial Ceilings Urist was kind enough to lend me his ledger forms, which I was kind enough to throw at the river after he suggested he was better at getting shite organized than me. Bastard thinks he can walk into my hole and speak ill of my ability to wrangle this doomed project into something somewhat resembling a working colony. He's lucky we don't lock him out during the vapor storms to melt like all the others. (Redact this when you give it to the Liaison, Uvash, thanks) Spring went by in a flash without much hassle. Basic accommodations were dug out, beds made from some of the several tons of wood the Mountainhome gave us, and some farming facilities tilled out. Urist had the (admittedly) bright idea of opening up some of the farms to the outside, seeing as the area around here does have plenty of plants that could go well as a side for Lokum's famous sweet pod soup, so we ended up being able to farm some of the native whip vines and strawberries. Should fetch a pretty price when the traders come knockin' 'round and we wave our dirty plates around since A CERTAIN SOMEONE decided to delay the reservoir project because he, and I quote, was "deathly afraid of all the horrible carp". So now, we have to work around a flooded cave-in, which is always fantastic. Speaking of cave-ins, the controlled collapse of our new pasture went off without a single hitch, one broken leg from falling off a tree notwithstanding. The opening is now the home for the two piglets the migrants brought with them. Pity they're both female, or we could get a good breedin' farm up and running as well. The collapse of the entrance pit, on the other hand, was... not so successful. The miners were wailing about Armok cursing the settlement after the support was collapsed and the giant slab of rock it was holding up kept floating without anything to support it. It was... unnerving, but mostly annoying; those were precious logs we used up, and the bloody thing refused to go down. So we just had it mined out. Worked like a charm. Two groups of migrants showed up this year, one in summer and one in autumn, the piglets comin' with the latter. Without any losses so far, we've got enough kin to help move our operations down to the lower levels the miners have been busy clearing out; we've arrived atop a thick layer of granite, which everyone has taken to thinking is a good omen for times to come. I personally would've preferred quartzite, but then again, I'm not a follower of Amos like the rest of these drunkards. But I digress. One of our farmers suffered an unfortunate possession by a hostile spirit, after which they locked themselves in one of the workshops and came out waving a pine bracelet he called Aralishol. I honestly did not want to know how his sex life was going, but alas, the bracelet's his, so he gets to name it however he wants, I guess? Even more worrying was when one of the children running around also suffered an unfortunate possession and came out of the workshop carrying a bone mace twice his size. Everyone just stared at him, until Lokum asked him, in a shaky voice, what he was going to call it. The little one replied: "Gatizzaneg". He's since been placed under the watchful eye of one of the farmers; hopefully, learning a trade will get his mind off such impure thoughts. Still a nice mace, though. The rolling clouds of vapor outside continue to lay waste to every bit of organic life above ground every few days. The plants seem to be immune, for some reason, but whenever the sun's blocked off and the gigantic cloud banks show up and roll over us, everything with a pulse falls over after screaming in pain for hours. Our butcher's since found out that they've all died by internal bleeding; their organs seem to bloat up and burst, and the poor beasts bleed to death. This only made this year's caravan from the Mountainhome more terrifying than I ever thought it could be. I had convinced myself I was going to deck the Liaison in the face and tell them to bring that back to the Mountain King, when a rolling vapor cloud showed up over the horizon. It was a hard decision to make, but the safety of the outpost trumped the lives of our kin outside... and we lifted the drawbridge leading to the stairs outside. The caravan and its members were caught in the cloud, and were surely dead... until the Liaison starts yellin' at us from across the drawbridge pit that the caravan wanted to come in and we were holding them up, To whoever reads this letter: please make sure the vapor clouds didn't actually turn the Liaison and caravan drivers into some new, unknown sort of living dead that can somehow pass for regular kin. Because those bastards were completely fine, despite being caught in the middle of the bloody organ-bursting vapors straight from the Underhalls. No one dared talk to them the whole time they were here, and the drawbridge was immediately raised after they left. Hopefully they'll change up next year's riders. Seeing as I've been doing a great job so far, I've been permanently assigned as our lead foreman until such a point as I either wish to retire, or suffer an accident damaging enough to knock me out of commission. In addition, the role of fortress bookkeeper has more or less been foisted onto me, which I don't particularly mind. The lack of competent doctors does worry me, though. Hopefully this next year can go as smoothly as the past one. Signed, Sakzul Kelstorlut, Lead Foreman of Ikengatrid