It seems odd that I should have created a city, and that having done so I should not have named it for myself, or even in my own language. But there it is, rising above the planes of orange grass, a black frontier fort made of hardened polymers--and all due to the research and experimentation of one lost traveler, me,
Bryant Andrew Stevens.
These words are excerpts from a journal of a character in
Multiverser, a role playing game from Valdron Inc.
If you enjoy good adventures in different settings,
you may enjoy the stories created by this game.
Paul and Annie have been most hospitable; they have warned me about many dangers (too numerous to include here) which face the visitor to NagaWorld. They live together in the truck, a U.S. Army mobile communications center. It happens that Paul is an army radio technician, but that's just happy circumstance--he has no more idea of where the truck came from than I. But whenever people come through--and there have been quite a few, including several visits from the five whose names I saw back at that underground shelter--he and Annie provide a place to stay and food to eat. He tells me that although they have been here in "NagaWorld"--named for the purple ball creatures I encountered, although nobody is certain why Peter Adams chose to call them Nagas--I will probably be leaving them soon enough. Everyone does, and everyone comes back eventually.
As to food, I feel a bit silly: the mainstay of the diet is grass. It has the taste and texture of celery, combined with the flavor of tangerine--quite satisfying, actually. They also hunt the giant clams, shelled mollusks who graze the planes like elephants, except always alone, each the size of a station wagon. These have a slightly salty beef flavor to them. There is also something they call a creeper vine, which moves something like a grass snake but has appendages which resemble leaves. The creature has a lemon flavor, and they sometimes cook the clam with leaves from this (the stem, or body, or whatever it is, is rather woody in texture, but can be eaten raw if you have good teeth, or cooked like a root or tuber). So food is plentiful. And they drink water, which they draw from a six-foot deep hole in the ground.
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The truck never goes anywhere. In fact, there is only minimal equipment operational within it. Peter led an expedition to that area I've been calling the Industrial Complex to recover a few batteries to provide power for radar and basic communications, but cooking is done mostly by collecting grass and burning it for fire. There's no fuel for the truck's diesel engine, and no gasoline for the secondary motor which powers the auxiliary electrical systems.
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My idea about creating alcohol--as absurd as I thought it sounded the other day--seems to have worked, and to have led me into something else. The sugars here are quite similar to those of earth, and although there seems to be neither indigenous yeast nor local bacteria, I was able to adequately "contaminate" the mash I created so that it would ferment. The beer which resulted smells very strong (I'm not a beer drinker, and I'm not ready to risk a taste anyway), but it distills nicely, resulting in a very high proof alcohol adequate to run the truck engine. I know very little about internal combustion engines beyond the theoretical; but Paul was able to make the necessary adjustments for the fuel to work, and for the first time in quite a while there is complete power in the truck.
As to taking me in a new direction, I've discovered (eureka--quite by accident) how to make a polymer, black, malleable when freshly made, but drying over the course of several hours to a metallic hardness. I've begun to build a large fermentation and still tank from this stuff, so I can increase the alcohol output to keep the truck running.
Dylan arrived today; it was unexpected, and his mother must be heartsick. He tells me it's been about three weeks since I died--the microwave exploded, and there was nothing of me left (which the police found very difficult, but there were several witnesses to attest to seeing me caught in the explosion). He said he found some of that gold liquid metal in the debris, and was keeping it in a medicine bottle in his pocket. Yesterday he was mowing the lawn, and ran over the extension cord in the high grass. Today he walked to the truck, dragging his television and video games on top of the lawnmower.
The mower is going to help with the grass; Paul has already adjusted it to run on the alcohol fuel (not as easy as the truck, but he managed). I've got several alcohol systems up and running, and have just finished a large furnace to use as a pottery kiln. I'm also working on a water tower; I've got an idea on a passive system to move water from the wells to the tower without pumps, but we'll have to see what happens. Paul and Annie are experimenting with making tableware of the clay (there's a lot of it about, thanks to my enlarged water hole--and I'm glad I brought a shovel), and have tried a few approaches to color and glaze, but I've been focused on other matters.
I was badly burned by one of those coral bushes today; I was busy with the stills, and didn't see it coming. Although I rolled away and returned fire with one of the psionic weapons Paul taught me to use, I was hit several times before I finished the fight. I was also able to heal the damage by applying NagaJuice, being careful of the dose and the technique. But it got me thinking: there must be a way to keep these things away from the truck. I've got an idea, so I'm starting immediately.
The walls are going up; it was so simple, really--a barrier which they couldn't cross, at sufficient distance that they couldn't easily triangulate or attack. But I've advanced the design to raise the walls for more protection.
I've also begun work with fibers; I've got a spinning wheel to make thread, and I've used the thread to make a mesh on which to make paper. I'm twisting the thread into cord, have built equipment to twist rope from the cord, and am working on a loom for producing cloth. The different fibers I've collected make very different materials, but all have been useful. I also adapted the spinning wheel ratchet system to make a potter's wheel, on which Paul and Annie have begun making more elaborate and useful clay pots.
My experiments with the materials at hand have yielded a dried ration meat like salt jerky, a sugar syrup, a lemon extract, and a powerful acid. There's also a chemical which enhances psionic power greatly for a brief period, but it's not very safe--Dylan swallowed some, and aged about two years in about two minutes; it was very painful, and has left him dreadfully thin and too tall for his clothes. Annie has taken it upon herself to nurse him back to perhaps not health exactly, but full strength.
I've also been working on my acrobatics. After reviewing my tumbling, I got up the nerve to teach myself handsprings and flips, and moved from my childhood fencewalking to experiment on a tightrope. I've tried to incorporate the use of my kau sin ke and of the psionic weapons into tumbling maneuvers, so I can use them as an evasion/strike combination when faced with danger, such as the coral bushes.
We've got company. Four of the five people whose names were in Michael's Foxhole--the name I gave to the underground shelter I found on arrival--have come back. Dan says it's a "gather", and it happens once in a while. He's got someone with him called Dog, who isn't a dog, but apparently had ancestors who were. Also, someone called Whisp showed up; I don't fully understand him, because he doesn't seem at all human, but apparently he once was. He changes shape at will, and always has this copper coloring. Apparently there's a computer inside his brain, and he has a variety of weapons connected to it somehow.
Whisp has taught me telepathy; he picked it up somewhere, and he showed all of us how to do it. That got me thinking, and I've begun to experiment with doing things entirely with my mind. It was one thing to use the mind-controlled weapons from the city; it's quite a different thing to think of that power as coming from myself, not from the device. Anyway, I've begun to expand my understanding of what I can do, and it's exciting.
I took the bunch of them to the city, to pick up more devices. They told me that there were many different kinds of things there, more than they could identify, more than they had ever explored. On the other hand, they are afraid of those giant spiders. When I told them how to handle the spiders, they were surprised and, I think, somewhat impressed. (I'm told that several of them have been killed by these spiders, some of them more than once.) We spent several hours safely within the city, and brought back a wagon load (I built myself a wagon for my gear--more like a rickshaw, actually, because it was a simpler design) of different stuff. I spent several days experimenting with it all, and have a pretty good idea what it all does. But I'm much more interested in figuring out how it does it, how it was made.
The yellow nagas contain sulfur; this has bothered me for a while, because there has been no other evidence of sulfur anywhere, and I don't know whether the yellow nagas are a distinct species of naga (like a different butterfly), or a developmental form (like a caterpillar), or a diet-based variant (like poisonous and non-poisonous monarchs). Anyway, I'm trying to figure out where the sulfur comes from; that seems to be the starting point for a working theory of how it gets in the yellow nagas.
I have found something remarkable. It is not the sulfur; however, it is far more important. I have already determined that from this one substance I can extract a strong poison, a thick sterno-like substance from which I will be able to make diesel fuel, and a powder which is a psionically active material. I'm also convinced that this substance has something very basic to do with the creatures who built the city. Meanwhile, I'm trying to find a way to use the psionic material to make my own psionic devices. So far, no luck.
I built Umak Tek--I've scrawled these words on the brick of the alley in which I found myself. The kau sin ke I was making from the psionic glass--my third attempt, the first two completely inert--exploded. I didn't make it to the blast shield. I seem to be back in a world not unlike earth--although the people I've met have been a bit odd. I'm in a hotel, and I'm going to start a new book, as soon as I find out what's going on here.
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