1200, Mol, 16 Jo, 4E1
Lt. Diplo Norixius, Illyia Baham and Karraway stood just inside the door to the massive room while the rest of the Heroes 4 Hire waited in the hall just outside the other side of the magma chamber. Diplo and Illyia removed their helmets, now they were out of the heat, and the three slowly explored the strange machinery filling this giant room labelled, “Main Engineering.” Illyia tapped several glass panels attached to the various machines present, and used the Crystal Monocle to read the resulting displays: “Flux Capacitor”, “IDIC Motivator”, “Interdimensional Drive Core”, “Electroplasma Rectifier”, to name a few. After several minutes perusal, the three decided to head down the southeastern corridor stuffed with conduits pulsating with the same blue light as the column inside the magma chamber. While the corridor would easily be twice as wide, the conduits and pipes narrowed the passage down to single file, and ended in a door nearly 30’ down. As they approached the door and touched the panel, two more of the floating, egg-shaped constructs approached from behind and immediately sprayed them with the white gas cloud. Diplo immediately fell unconscious, but Illyia managed to stay awake, and Karraway was unaffected inside the suit of alien ‘armor’.
Illyia quickly scrambled to put his helmet back on, and then knelt beside the unconscious Diplo and grabbed him. Then with a flash he used Dimension Door to teleport him and Diplo all the way back to the hallway on the other side of the magma chamber where the rest of the party was waiting. Karraway now found himself alone facing two of these constructs, and began to turn to attempt to flee through the yet-unopened door behind him, when the constructs retracted their weaponry and floated away, ignoring him inside his suit. He stood there puzzling at the possibilities, and then suddenly remembered the Earrings of Communication and told the rest of the team what he just observed. He then followed the retreating constructs at a comfortable distance as they picked their way through the massive machinery, and eventually returned to a pair of strange pieces of equipment, roughly the same size as the constructs themselves, but shaped in the opposite contours. The constructs turned around in front of them and then backed in, and they fit perfectly within the recessed portion of the equipment. Then, the blue pulsating light sweeping back and forth in the small, long rectangular window near the top of the face went dark and the constructs seem to go completely dormant.
Once Karraway relayed the rest of this new development, Illyia returned in his suit while the rest of the party kept watch over the unconscious Diplo, and helped Karraway explore the rest of this section of the complex. They returned to the previous door, opened it after reading the “Port Engine Core” label, and beyond found it emptied out onto a platform suspended over a great chamber almost completely filled with a large machine being fed by the blue pulsations coming from the conduits from the other, “Main Engineering” room. Illyia fiddled with the giant, glass console at the end of the platform facing the machinery, but found it was secured by some sort of code. They then retreated and pressed up the identical corridor exiting “Main Engineering” to the northeast, only to find an identical set up labelled, “Starboard Engine Core”.
Illyia and Karraway returned to the hallway outside the magma chamber and their waiting party, and discussed what to do next while Diplo regained consciousness. They decided to retrace their steps all the way back to the large interior dock facility, and test their new discovery of the suits with the construct that attacked them there. The Heroes set up an ambush in the long hallway just outside the dock room, just in case, and the three with the suits entered and proceeded to the northern control room like they had done previously. Once inside, nothing seemed to happen, so they continued into the alcove in the back of the control room and found the construct, dormant, in an identical piece of equipment as the two they observed in the ‘Engineering’ room. Diplo was struck with an idea, and with his friends’ help he opened up his Portable Hole and slid it over the construct, docking equipment and all, and then cinched the Portable Hole closed and stored it safely away. They then continued south along the long hallway and explored the several doors at the far end, finding mostly large store rooms full of long-since rotted crates and stores, and another exit that led to another set of rough hewn stone docks inside a cave on the opposite side of the island as the original Temple they entered. They then doubled back to that very same Temple, barricaded themselves in, set a watch and retired for the night.
0700, Zol, 17 Jo, 4E1
The Heroes 4 Hire awoke the next morning, ate breakfast, broke camp, un-barricaded the door and return to their exploration of the alien complex. Illyia used his Wand of Opening alongside his personal spellcasting abilities to Knock the rest of the doors open in the initial hallway they first entered. Within they found various chambers filled with all sorts of strange alien accoutrements, in what they could only assume were sets on laboratories. One such room appeared to be a botany lab, because it was filled with potted samples of plants they had seen all over the island and a few they hadn’t. However, some samples were dead, while others had thrived and overgrown their containers… even somewhat the room itself. Overall, the room at first glance looked like an overgrown jungle when the door first opened.
Among the various labs they uncovered what appeared to be a set of offices for researchers of some type… the room subdivided into half-high cubicles, each appointed with desks, chairs and some sort of glass workstation similar to the consoles they had observed elsewhere in the complex. In yet another room, they found the room filled with large, rectangular machines, lots of the colored strings arranged in very tidy bundles running from one to the next, and when Illyia read one of the glass panels he read a title of “Library Computer Core”.
They continued back to the hallway where they had found the guest quarters and Knocked open the other, locked door. Beyond it, the portal had also been barricaded by literally every piece of furniture in the room, and once they had cleared a way inside the Heroes found the long decayed corpse of a human, assumed to be a Mantru villager, who showed no obvious signs of trauma, seemingly having eventually succumbed to starvation. The party discussed the scene they were now observing, speculating at what could have so frightened a man he would barricade himself in his room until he starved to death. And, barricaded the door against an attack that never came.
The team discussed the situation at length, desperate for more information on this complex and what had occured. They decided Illyia should use the Crystal Monacle and start reading through whatever he could find in those glass workstations they had come to see all over the complex. If these were indeed laboratories of some kind, there should be notes.. journals… logs… data… something.
They returned to the cubicles and Illyia sat down in one, tapped the glass workstation and it sprang to life. The Crystal Monocle allowed him to read the alien script easily, but much of what he was looking at he had no context. There were words he could read but did not understand what they meant, units of measures that were foreign to him, and sometimes secured records that queried him for some sort of code that he did not have. He spent the rest of the day reading and searching through what records he was able to access, while the rest of the team rested nearby and maintained a watch in the hallway to ensure they were not disturbed by anything ‘wandering’. Illyia read throughout the rest of the day and well into the night, but when he considered himself finished he returned to his friends with following story:
“We’re aboard some sort of ship… apparently named the ‘Heavy Weight Research Vessel Xinced’. This vessel is apparently capable of flying through the stars, and visiting other worlds, at great distances and unfathomable speeds. The owners and operators of this vessel are an alien race known as the ‘Illith’, and I found pictures. They are basically humanoid, gaunt, gray skinned… silver eyes, large, bulbous cranium, and four, small tendril like appendages around their mouth. These tendrils tend to lay flat, giving the impression of a mustache or goatee.”
“So, this vessel is capable of traversing such great distances by use of something called an ‘Interdimensional Drive’. As I understand it, it works something like Dimension Door, traversing the distance by dropping into another dimensional space, and then reentering the Prime Material plane at the other location. However, for some reason I could not find in the records I could access, the ship crashed here. It was severely damaged, but whether it was the crash that was responsible for the damage or if the damage occurred before the crash, maybe even causing it… I couldn’t tell. Either way, they were stuck here until they could repair the ship, and to them, they figured they were not where they could be rescued by their kin.”
“The damage was causing their power systems to fail, and they were going to need a LOT of power to fix their ship AND THEN power this ‘Interdimensional Drive’. The situation grew pretty desperate over time, until they discovered this island was the new cinder cone of a dormant, but viable, volcano. They excavated down the throat of the caldera to the top of the magma pocket, and then constructed a ‘Geothermal Power Takeoff Core’ to convert the heat energy from the magma into power for the ship. It worked, and the ship had an endless source of power.”
“The ship was a mess, and they continued to affect repairs as quickly as they could with the limited material resources they had onboard. When they first crashed, the Mantru eventually overcame their initial fears and came out to investigate, but the Illith used their fear to keep them away from the ship, and the island altogether. They apparently didn’t hold any animosity toward the Mantru, but simply wanted to keep them away from the vessel, and considering how primitive the Mantru were by comparison to such a technologically advanced species as the Illith, they figured that was the best way to keep them out… keep them ‘scared of the monsters’. Best not to let the primitives get curious with the potentially dangerous technology.”
“Well, their idea only partially worked. After a short time, the Illith noticed the Mantru were worshiping them from afar as if they were gods. The Illith thought that would work in their favor for keeping them at bay and out of their business while they affected repairs. However, they were soon running out of spare parts and raw materials to make said repairs. So, they changed their tack slightly with the Mantru, and encouraged the worship… subtly at first, with a few wondrous works and godly feats within eyeball distance of the village… and then more directly as time went on, with such measures as the ‘Stone Chief’ giving the Talking Chief direction from the gods. All in all, it was originally benevolent, them giving the Mantru godly advice appropriate to their primitive developmental level… how to increase their harvests, how to nurse fish in a fishery… that sort of thing… and in return they only requested the Mantru bring them certain raw materials easily obtained for the Mantru but potentially hazardous for the Illith to collect, who were unaccustomed to the physical characteristics of this world, its flora and fauna. The relationship proved quite beneficial for both for a long time… by my best guess, millennia.”
“These Illith must be exceptionally long lived, if not outright immortal. They perpetrated this deception for centuries upon centuries. Their vessel’s physical damage was mostly repaired over time, but this ‘Interdimensional Drive’ -thing was giving them fits. They couldn’t seem to find the issue why it wouldn’t… um… ‘Dimension Jump’?… them out of here. They searched for problems in things they called, ‘algorithms’ and ‘subroutines’ and ‘diagnostics’. Ever time they’d think they had the problem solved, they would activate this thing and something would go wrong, and they would still be here. The captain’s journal is replete with frustrations.”
“Over time, things got worse. The Illith started noticing changes in themselves. Their tendrils around their mouths started lengthening and became articulated… they could move them around like an appendage. Their gray skin started taking a slightly purple-ish hue. Desperate that this world might be causing some sort of slow-acting aberration in their physical bodies… something they termed a ‘mutation’… they used their godly standing with the Mantru to ‘award’ a few worthy worshipers to come live on the island with them. This was a ruse to cover the Illith commencing experiments and research on the Mantru, in an effort to ascertain what was happening to themselves. They were careful to keep their demands to the absolute minimum, but as you can guess, this was where the logs and journal I have been wading through started turning very, very dark.”
"In fact, over time this effort turned downright sinister, as far as I can tell. They started with research into the flora and fauna, then the villagers themselves. But over time, the research turned into experiments, and the experiments turned away from discovering… uh, ‘radiation’, ‘genetics and mutations’, ‘biological agents’, ‘neurochemical pathologies’… and other things I didn’t quite get, and more into seemingly morbid and pointless attempts to see if they could manipulate the “test subject’s”… villager’s, in other words… something called ‘genetic engrams’."
“Their record keeping was regular and methodical to the point of being almost a religion. However, over the centuries and centuries… I’m making some assumptions here, because I’m not really sure what those particular measurement units mean, other than in context I could tell they were a measurement of time, and a lot of it… centuries perhaps even millennia…anyway, over the centuries as their purpose and experimentation turned more sinister, their record-keeping discipline trailed off over time until they stopped recording their activities all together.”
"In the last groups of their records before they stopped altogether, these Illith were obsessed with finding a way to reproduce themselves, and were focusing on something they called, “Parasitic Genetic Resequencing”. That’s what that dead thing was inside the glass jar… one of these parasite things they had made. They called in a, “Cephalomorphic Tadpole”, and… they… put it… IN… you. They had moving pictures of their experiments with it… similar to an Arcane Eye or a Scry… it was terrifying. The villagers they tested it on all died screaming."
“And the Illith weren’t wrong, either. They had changed over the eon, and pretty drastically, too. Their mouth-tendrils were full tentacles now, articulated and strong. Their skin was gray with a touch of purple, and they were physically brawnier than original. And, they were clothed now, whereas they were originally nude. High collared robes and capes, dark colors… blacks and purples with a lot of adornment… particularly, a really creepy fascination with human skulls. And, they stopped referring to themselves as ‘Illith’, and began calling themselves ‘Illithid’.”
“After that, the records just… stop.”
A long, terrifying silence descended on the Heroes 4 Hire once Illyia finished recounting his discoveries. They looked at each other for long moments, each face betraying the same horrific thoughts. And then they returned to the stone temple where they had made camp the nights previously, barricaded the door, set a watch and turned in for a sleepless night’s rest.
2359, Zol, 17 Jo, 4E1
Where are these “Illithid”? Why have they seemingly abandoned their amazing vessel and all its wonders? Could this “Interdimensional Drive” be connected to the mysterious behavior of the Dread Isle?
Find out next time, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!”