Shared Void, part IV: Husk

Doctor Isaac Loftus sighed as he looked down at the remains of his creation as it melted into its natural, featureless, humanoid form. He looked up and nodded at one of the soldiers surrounding the corpse. Two of them put their guns aside and approached the body, dragging it back into the facility that it had attempted to destroy. He put his pistol back to its hiding spot behind his back as his associate entered through the double doors.

The large, ape-like creature stood at two and a quarter meters, towering over its human thralls. Its dark red fur stood in contrast with the light earth tones of the facility. It looked at the carnage in disgust.

“This scheme is beginning to feel like it isn’t worth the trouble, Loftus.” The creature’s voice rumbled deeply in the ambiance of the room.

“We’ve had our set backs, but we are getting closer, Lord Shemn’bol.” Loftus bowed to the creature as he uttered its name. “It would seem we need to tweak the memories a little more to ensure they don’t develop into full fledged personalities. Creating the perfect spy is more art than science. We need more time.” Shemn’bol huffed at the lowly human and turned back.

“Clean this mess up.” The massive beast shoved a soldier aside as it left. Loftus waited for several moments before turning to another scientist that had walked up once the commotion had settled down.

“Sir, Shemn’bol is getting suspicious.” He spoke softly, and tripped slightly on a fallen soldier as he followed Loftus beginning to head away from the scene. “How long do you think we can keep up this charade without producing a fully viable infiltrator?”

“As long as we possibly can. That was good thinking with using Commander Sato. He was a strong willed son-of-a-bitch. His memories conformed into a full fledged personality amazingly. It was perfect to stall the operation. The other two were a little disappointing.”

“We can’t keep going like this.”

“We have to. For the sake of the human race, we have to keep those ape bastards from gaining the upper hand. Or else, all is lost.”

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Shared Void, part III: Commander

It was either early afternoon or late morning, according to the light coming in through the small window above me in my hospital bed. My head was attached with wires and sensors to a medical device to both my left and right. The room itself was tiled and unremarkable, though the placement of the furnishings was completely non-regulation for a military hospital. I had spent a long time in a hospital after a surprise attack in the Gaverian Sector nearly left me without a lower torso, so I knew something was wrong with this room right away. That’s when the painting of flowers on the wall across from me caught my attention.

The painting was done in an impressionist style, like Monet. The assortment of brushstrokes came together to create a field of flowers in an amazing cacophony of colors. Blue. Yellow. Green. Orange. Purple. Red. Red? This wasn’t right. It couldn’t be.

I heard whispers coming from the door on the wall to my left. An older man stood in the barely open doorway, about fifty to sixty years in age if the graying of his hair was any indication. He stood under two meters, smaller than myself, and I couldn’t see his face from that angle. It didn’t matter though as the patch on his left arm did all the talking for me. It confirmed my suspicions and I was furious.

“Yes, sir.” He responded to the whispering beyond the door. “Everything is proceeding on schedule despite the hiccups. It is nothing to worry about.” The whispering replied shortly. “Yes, sir, I’ll get right on that.” The man closed the door and turned around. His jaw was square and his eyes hinted at a Celtic ancestry while his nose was quite Roman.

I knew him.

“Ah. Yes. Awake. Of course. I’m sure you are quite curious about–” He seemed agitated. I didn’t give him a chance to finish.

“James Hikaru Sato. Commander. Serial number–”

“There is no need for th–”

“Serial. Number. Zero. Four. Zero. One.”

“This is totally unneces–.”

“Two. Zero. One. Zero.” I made sure not to break eye contact. I did my damnedest to ensure he broke first.

“Are you finished?” His agitation was rising. Good. I could have used that. Unfortunately, my own impatience was my own worst enemy. “You were found after that attack on Fort J–”

“Save it, Loftus.” The doctor was taken aback. I knew him. “Oh yes. I know you. Doctor Isaac Loftus, graduated class of 2107 from Toro University on Europa with a degree in bioengineering, and excelled in the field for nearly thirty years. I’m not sure where you learned to betray your own people, but I’m sure you excel at that as well.” The doctor’s record had found its way to my desk not long before the attack on Fort Jude. I was to start planning a mission to retrieve him for interrogation that very day.

The lucky bastard’s mouth was agape. I could almost count his fillings. I had him.

“You do that patch a disservice by wearing it.” I growled as I pointed to his arm, feigning a weakness in energy while doing so. “The first three colonies of man beyond our home system? The stripes of rank–which is one too many for the med corp by the way–beneath them? You spit in the eye of every man, woman, and child of humanity by wearing that patch. You join the enemy and then pose as an ally? Just who do you think you are?”

That was the wrong question to ask. His jaw set firm and he regained his composure. As I said, my own impatience is my worst enemy, and traitorous, disrespectful bastards such as him kept that patience thin.

“I am the savior of the human race.” He glowed at the thought. He actually believe his own bull. “But that is of no concern to you.” He approached the hospital tray that had been sitting to my left. A clip board sat on it, along with several other medical devices meant for checking on patients. “I can see it was a mistake choosing you for our little experiment. I had hoped that your experience would open some doors–” I didn’t give the bastard a chance to finish.

With my impatience in the lead and surprise on my side, I leaped from my bed to grab him as he approached. I wasn’t quick enough.

“You are dismissed, son!” Shit! A trigger phrase. I could feel the drowsiness approach quickly. I fought to remain conscious, but I was forced to the ground with what seemed like an increase in gravity.

As I fought the sleep crawling over me, Loftus grabbed me by the hair and forced our eyes to meet. “I am the only thing that is going to ensure the survival of our species, and I won’t let some over zealous meat head like you ruin it. Die knowing it was for a good cause.” He forced my head to the ground with a sickening thud.

* * *

Darkness. I was surrounded by it, enveloped by it. I was nowhere, and yet everywhere. Was I dead? Was this the eternity that awaited me after passing?

A moment of awareness flashed across me: an image of seven blue drones emerging from the walls of a large, unfurnished concrete room, and the voice of a traitor ordering me to destroy them. After that, darkness again. I tried to will my awareness back into being, but found nothing.

A presence brushed against my presence. I have no better way to describe the feeling. I reached out to it. I called to it. I wanted it to see the truth. I wanted it to wake up. I wanted to wake up!

The presence next to me grew until it was indiscernible from the darkness around me. With it came another flash of awareness: my hand–no, a woman’s hand–in the torso of a robot, holding its fading central power unit. What madness was this? Was this a dream? No one could punch a hole directly into the chest of a creature made from metal.

Other flashes came to me. I saw the impossible as the woman took out the drones with a strength and flexibility that the human body could simply never achieve. And yet, there it was. I was still not convinced this was real until the final flash was followed by these few words: “You are dismissed, son.”

No! It’s the trigger phrase! Don’t fall for it! Fight the creeping darkness! The larger presence didn’t recede into the void with me. Good.

I had time to think in the void. What would a traitorous bio-engineer need me for? What did his new friends need him for? His thesis was based in neurology, and the manipulation of memories in order to provoke certain emotional and instinctual responses. That might explain the trigger word to render subjects unconscious, but that was more a trick that hypnosis and good-old-fashioned brain washing could achieve far easier.

The other presence receded, returning to the void. I could feel the fear and anger radiating off of it. I reach out to it, to communicate, but it was to no avail. The darkness kept us apart.

I pushed outward this time. Forcing myself to grow beyond the darkness and into the light.

I pushed.

And pushed.


* * *

My eye lids slowly fluttered open. I was exhausted. And chained.

I found myself in a dirty cell, blocked by iron bars, wearing black spandex. I was shackled by the neck and wrists to the wall, given limited range of movement. The room was dark but my eyes managed to adjust, showing me a table to my right covered in scattered tools most commonly used in interrogations, and some not so common, as well as a pile of hastily stacked files. A few tools and papers lay on the floor beneath the table. To my left were three gurneys holding corpses draped in a bloody sheets.

I searched for anything in reach that could help me escape. There was nothing. I had only my wits and my strength to–


I had seen some weird things in my day, but nothing like those flashes from the void. Loftus was a bio-engineer. Despite his focus in memory, does he have the ability to bestow such gifts to a person?

I held up my right arm and focused. I wanted to stretch out my arm just enough to loosen the restraint’s grip on me.





I could feel every muscle in my arm and hand strain with the effort. Every bone twisted with the attempt to escape. I watched as my wrist thinned and I pulled it from its shackle, releasing a breath I didn’t notice I was holding. I quickly switched to the other hand and performed the same task. It was an exhausting effort. Once free of the arm shackles, I used what strength I could muster to break free of the shackle holding my neck to the wall. If I possessed the same strength as I saw in the flashes, I could easily–

The shackle snapped in half and I slumped to the floor. I felt like I had just gone three rounds in the boxing ring, and I wasn’t winning. I took a short moment to catch my breath and regain my energy. I stood up and examined the iron bars. A small use of strength to bend the bars, and a little application of stretching allowed me to slip through the bars. I could feel the limitations of my abilities easily. It was like being the galaxy’s greatest contortionist, but three times that. I wouldn’t be able to stretch across a room, but I could add some centimeters to my height.

I took another moment to rest, making sure to listen out for anyone that might want to enter the room. As I had my head down, I noticed one of the files on the floor. The header read “Fort Jude”. I picked up the paper and did my best to read it in the light.

The file described the search through the ruins of Fort Jude: taking prisoners, collecting bodies, foraging for technology. They left Fort Jude an empty shell. I recall hearing of similar circumstances at other bases near the front lines. They were studying us. But that still didn’t explain why I was here and why I had these new abilities.

I started tearing through the other files on the table. It listed experiments in creating an ultimate biological mechanical spy, one that was capable of perfect infiltration and had the strength to survive being found out long enough to escape. There were pages of equations, detailed notes on medical procedures on alien fauna, and chemical formulas that went well beyond my expertise.

Other files littered the table. These had gruesome photos and detailed anatomical reports. Subject: Private Jethro Hodgins, United Colonial Marines. Died in surgery due to complications while removing brain tissue. Subject: Lieutenant Katherine Adlersflgel, United Colonial Navy. Died in captivity due to complications with genetic splicing. Subject: Petty Officer Oscar Burroughs, United Colonial Navy. Died in surgery during neural extraction. Subject: Commander James Sa–

I threw the files aside, fear gripping my chest. What sort of monster was Doctor Isaac Loftus? What sort of monster was I?

I looked over at the covered corpses. I had a fairly reasonable idea of what I was going to find under those bloodied sheets. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to find out.

I pulled the first sheet aside. Petty Officer Burroughs. His arms were severed and tapered at the tear, as if a great weight had reduced the rest of his arms to nothing. I had seen him around Fort Jude before. He was a good kid, but very green, along with the rest of the recruits that came to the base to continue their training. He had an interest in FTL drives and was looking into joining the ranks of our top engineers.

I pulled back the sheet on the second gurney. Corporal Deandra Carter. She was one of our toughest at Fort Jude. Hell, she was tougher than most women I knew, including both my ex-wives. She had a hell of a right hook. She had left more than her far share of sparing partners to the medics. I noticed that her left leg was missing and she had burns across most of her body. She must have been near a plasma impact when the buzzards attacked. Damn ape scum.

I turned to the third gurney. I didn’t want to pull the sheet. I had a good idea of what I was going to find. I tried to recall my last moments at Fort Jude. I was in my office, going over dossiers to formulate Loftus’s extraction, when I heard the buzzing of the enemy fighters’ anti-gravity drives in the distance. Not two seconds later, the air raid sirens were activated, causing personnel to scramble to their stations. I rushed to a window to see what was happening when…when I met a plasma blast head on.

I pulled the third sheet to the floor. There I was. There he was. This man that had once been James Sato, now a burnt shell, lay before me. It was all so clear now. I was not James Sato, or Carter, or Burroughs. I was their spy, their new biological weapon. But Doctor Loftus had done his job too well. He left me with too much of Sato that I thought that I was him.

Commander James Sato was color blind.

The colors of the painting had tipped me off. I knew something was wrong the second I saw the illusive color red in those flowers. If that hadn’t happened, I would have allowed myself to buy into the lie, not becoming more aware of the little things around me screaming that the situation was not right, and just wanting to recover from the attack.

The door was locked, with no apparent hinge, knob, or handle. A keypad was set into the wall beside the door. I reached for it. Three. One. One. Eight. Six. The door hissed as the seal broke. How did I know the pass code? I searched the back of my mind and found one of the voices calling out with images of entering the room from the hall.

There was no time for ideal reminiscing. I peeked into the hall. No one. I slipped out of the cell room and headed to the right. As quietly as I could, I began searching for a way to escape and warn the United Colonies about what was happening here. I may not actually be a colonial naval officer, but damn it all if I didn’t want Loftus and his allies stopped.

I heard voices coming from around the next corner and I quickly ducked into the next room I could. I held my breath in the darkness of the room until the voices and their footsteps faded down the hall. When I was able to take in where I was hiding, I found that I had made my way into a control room for a very familiar, empty cement room. The temperature of the room told me that the computers were consistently on, so I went to one of the consoles.

The screen of the console showed several video files marked Project Siofra. I opened the first, and made sure the volume was turned to mute in case someone walked by in the hall. The video showed a thin creature, white and featureless, attacking blue drones. It then changed; its arms and legs grew, and its features altered to reflect that of a young man surprised to find themselves in the middle of a fight. It then changed again, trying to revert back to the blank humanoid form, only to be stuck halfway in a grotesque amalgam of man and monster. The creature died of the shock.

The second video file marked similarly showed a far more successful fight between creature and machine. As it stuck its fist into a drone’s chest, the creature shifted into Corporal Carter. As I watched the footage, I began to realize that what I was watching was myself.

Alarms rang. Red emergency lights flicked on in the corners of the control room and the cement room below. My escape had been noticed. That took longer than I had thought, but not as long as I had hoped. I went over to the door and heard the sounds of boots hitting the floor, running past my hiding spot toward my cell. The back of the door had an emergency exit map on it, so I took the time to study the floor plan. There was a small airfield just outside the western exit. That’s where I needed to go.

I looked out the door and saw that the coast was clear. I turned to run away from the sounds of running only to run into a lone security officer that had fallen behind. He was a full two meters from me when we saw each other.

“Oh shit!” he cried out. He grabbed the radio on his right shoulder to call in what he had seen. “Command, he’s in the west central hall! I repeat, the west central h–” I had reached him with frightening speed and ended him with a swift punch to the chest. I could feel his ribs shatter and his organs liquify with the impact as he fell back and slid across the floor. They knew my location. It was time to move.

Using the door map as my guide, I ran down corridors at an amazing speed that I could only attribute to my new abilities. I turned a corner and saw a drone facing the opposite direction. Before it could react to my presence, I jumped onto its back which forced it to the ground, and crushed its head against the hard floor as I continued to speed down the hall.

I noticed that the t-intersection I needed was quickly approaching. Beyond that corner was the western entrance foyer with two staircases leading down to the doors. For a moment, I had hope.

As I turned the corner, a volley of ammunition forced me to duck down and back into the hall.

“James Sato!” A voice was calling to me with a megaphone around the deadly corner. “Come down the stairs and surrender to us willingly, and we will not use deadly force.”

“James Sato is dead!” I yelled around the corner, glancing at the opposition quickly while doing so. “Don’t fuck with me!” They had five men armed with assault rifles and three drones prepared to fight. This was not going to be easy. I had to give it all or nothing.

I heard them whispering to each other down the stairs. I couldn’t give them time to form a strategy. I uttered a quick, silent prayer and leaped from my hiding spot. I jumped over the rails and was halfway down to the first floor before any of them could react.

The next few moments were a blur. Bullets flew as I tore into the drones with my bare hands. Soldiers screamed as I ripped them asunder. The carnage left me seeing red until the end when the final soldier pulled a grenade but I tossed him and his grenade behind a metallic modern art piece between the two flights of stairs. The grenade went off, sending pieces of the statue flying across the room, and I felt white hot pain.

I fell to the ground and could feel that a shard of metal had pierced my abdomen. The pain was too much. I started to lose my grip on controlling the creature that I was.

In a last ditch effort, I forced one of the other presences in the void to the forefront. Hopefully, they could find it in themselves to survive.

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Shared Void, part II: Corporal

I woke up with light in my eyes. I raised a hand to block the ceiling lights, allowing my eyes to adjust to my surroundings. What happened? I was in a hospital bed, flanked by medical equipment in a clean, tiled room. A small floral painting was facing me on the opposite wall. I could feel electrodes attached to my forehead and the nape of my neck, and the medicine bag attached to my left arm with a needle. I was dressed in a patient gown, and I could only assume that the middle aged man standing next to the bed in the white lab coat was my doctor. The badge on his arm showed the constellations of the three colonies and the bars of his rank within the med corp.

“It means–oh!” The doctor was taken aback when he noticed I was awake. He blinked several times before acknowledging me. “I’m sorry, I, uh, didn’t expect you to wake up so soon.”

“What does what mean, sir?” I rasped through a throat that was gradually losing its soreness. In fact, my entire body felt like I had just done nearly every drill in the book at once, but the pain and soreness was fading rather quickly.

“What? Oh, nothing. Just thinking out loud. Um, my name is Doctor Isaac Loftus. I’m here to help you recover from the ordeal.” He pulled out a light and started looking through my eyes to try to bore into my brain, I’m certain.

“Name? Rank?”

“Deandra Carter. Corporal.”

“Yes, that matches out records. What’s the last thing you recall?” He asked as he forced my left eyelid up before blinding me.

“I was stationed at Fort Jude. We were exercising out in the field. Engineers were working on the fighters, preparing them for the next op. Then the sirens started to blare. I looked South and saw a cloud of the damned buzzards entering atmo. They fired on us almost instantly. There was an explosion and–” I could feel my eyes grow wide with my panic and I pulled the bed sheet off of my body. At the sight of my left leg, I gave a sigh of relief. “I must have been dreaming that last part. I thought I lost my leg.” I pulled the bed sheets back over myself.

“You were lucky then.” The doctor readjusted his glasses. “It was a massacre. But we got to you in time and you are healing rather well. We’ll have you back out in the field in no time. You need to rest now.” There was a knock at the door. He turned to answer it, looking back to me to say, “You are dismissed, son.”

“Son?” I said with a yawn. I was suddenly feeling extremely tired, like it was my first day at basic. “Do these tits say ‘son’ to you?” It took everything I had to keep my eyes open as the doctor opened the door to answer it. And then came the darkness.

* * *

“Wake up.”

The voice of my superior officer rang in my ears, softly, as if very distant. I struggled to open my eyes, expecting to see either the base or the hospital room. I’m not sure which one I wanted more.

I stood face to face with a metallic blue security drone, humanoid design and built to withstand oncoming fire from small arms. I was breathing heavily, as if out of breath. My right arm was elbow deep into its higher chassis, and I could feel that I was holding a warm, hard chunk of metal. The lights flickered out of its optic sensors. I kicked it away, still grasping firmly onto whatever I was holding. As it clamored to the ground, I saw that I was holding its central power unit, my fingers dug into its metallic side. I threw it aside and tried to regain my bearings.

I was in a large room made of concrete, void of any furnishings. I had been changed into a black, skin tight spandex suit, revealing too much for comfort. Several of the blue security drones lay torn apart across most of the room. One lay against the wall under a drone sized crater in the cement, cracks reaching out across the wall from the point of impact. Three more machines still stood upright at just under 2 meters, slowly approaching.

I looked around in a panic, trying to formulate a plan. It was then that I noticed a viewing window in the wall above and behind me. Two men were watching me with jaws agape, clip boards in hand. The third man present was Doctor Loftus, yelling at them with the whole of his body and pointing at me about to be overrun with security drones. What was going on?

I didn’t notice any doors, any exit whatsoever. And the drones were slowly approaching. I had to think this through. I took notice of the mess around me once more. Something tore those other drones apart, and I had awoken with a robot “heart” in my hand. Did I do that? Did I fight those drones with my bard hands? There was no other option but to find out.

The closest drone was at my left. I quickly shot toward it, faster than I normally could. I raised my right fist to attack. The combat drone lifted its arms to block the blow, but it didn’t expect the maneuver to be a feint. I slid to my knees at the last second and landed the blow below the drone’s block. The robot’s torso caved in with the punch, and it slide back nearly a full meter. The hell?

I quickly realized that I still had my back turned on the other two drones. I swung a fist as I spun to the right and reached out. And out. And out! I swear on my mother’s grave that my arm increased in length by at least a tenth of a meter, slamming the first of the two drones across its head. The impact sent it flying to the side into its companion, both slamming against the wall just beneath the observation window.

Increased strength? Stretching? What did they do to me? As I stood there, shocked at this new development, a robotic hand grabbed my shoulder. With years of combat training behind me, I instinctively grabbed the hand and the accompanying arm, and threw the first drone over my body onto the floor in front of me. With fury enveloping my senses, I slammed a foot onto the robot’s head, crushing it, and pulled on the arm I still firmly held.

Metal strained, wires snapped, and electricity fizzled from exposed connections as I tore the arm loose from the drone’s body. The next thing I knew, I was wailing on the remaining two drones with the severed arm of their fallen compatriot. Oil sprayed the wall beneath the observation window.

“–re dismissed, son!”

A switch flipped in the back of my mind. The fury vanished, and a strange and sudden awareness of my current situation flooded me. I looked at the oil dripping from my white knuckled fists.

“You. Are. Dismissed. Son!” The doctor’s voice echoed from unseen speakers. I looked up into the room beyond the window and saw Loftus speaking through a microphone set into the control equipment.

“Doc! What the fuck is going on?”

* * *

“Genetically altered?”

The words sounded weird in my mouth. Doctor Loftus was leading me down a hall in the facility back to my hospital bed. He was doing his best to dumb down the science talk to normal person levels for me, describing the changes I was experiencing.

“Yes. Whatever new weapon they’ve cooked up for the raid on Fort Jude did well to destroy and kill, but it also fundamentally altered the genetic structure of any survivors. You are one of the lucky ones. Some of your fellow soldiers were not much more than ooze and bone when we got there.”

“And the black outs?”

“Quite troubling, those. You say you don’t remember leaving the bed?”

“No. The last thing I recall was you answering the door after the first time I woke up.” I rubbed my forehead. Nothing in my training could have possibly prepared me for the strangeness of the situation.

“Quite troubling indeed.” He motioned to his right, leading us down another hall. A pair of doctors halted at the sight of us, as if stunned to see me. I couldn’t blame them. If I knew of someone with the kinds of abilities I am apparently capable of, I’d be shocked to see that person too. “After the results of your blood and a tissue sample came back from the lab, we discovered that you were, how should I say, different. So we needed to put you to the test. These past few days have been quite interesting.”

“Days?” I had lost days!

“Yes. Days. The last few days we have been testing the limits of your new abilities. They are remarkable.” He paused in front of a door and typed a pass code into the keypad. With a hiss, the automatic door released its seal and slid to the side. Loftus motioned for me to enter and I complied, trying to absorb all the information.

I looked up and saw where I had been led. A dirty cell of iron bars in the back of the windowless room had shackles coming from the walls for the arms and neck. Interrogation tools and a neat stack of folders filled with files sat on a steel table to my left. Three bloody sheets covered three bodies on gurneys to my right. I was caught off guard long enough to earn the sharp pain in my neck from the hypodermic needle the doctor was using to inject me with a concoction.

I shot forward and grabbed my neck. I spun around to face the son-of-a-bitch, but the maneuver left me dizzy as the drugs pushed through my veins. I could feel the drowsiness start to take me.

“You–” The darkness crept around my vision and gravity became harder to fight. “You mother f–” I accidentally slammed into the steel table on the way down. Tools and files flew through the air and fell to the ground with me before I completely blacked out.

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Shared Void, part I: Recruit

“Burroughs, Oscar. Petty Officer 3rd Class. Serial number–”

“Calm down, Petty Officer. You’re amongst friends here.” The doctor pointed to the insignia on the left arm of his lab coat while juggling his clipboard and pen.

“Oh, thank God.” I heaved a sigh of relief at the sight of the stars and stripes and leaned back in the hospital bed. The sight of his patch brought to me a piece of mind that I had thought lost when “The base. We were attacked! There was

“Yes, we know. We found you in the ruins.” The doctor set the clipboard and pen aside for a light, shining it into my eyes as he talked. “My name is Doctor Isaac Loftus, and I’m in charge of your recovery. Tell me, what is the last thing you remember?”

I had to blink the bright dots from my eyes before I could respond. “It was oh-nine-hundred. We were in the middle of performing auha routine drill. Then the air raid sirens started blasting, and there was a bright flash of light outside. Screaming. And the entire building shook. The floor buckled beneath me and I fell.” I wiped the sweat from my brow. “That’s the last thing I remember.” The dots finally faded from my sight as I noticed that the doctor had taken up his pen again and was writing on his board. He clicked the pen off and his eyes studied my face for a second.

“You’re right; the base was attacked. As far as we can tell, the enemy took everyone by surprise with a full squadron of buzzards. You were lucky.”

“And my platoon? Did anyone else survive?” I tried to look the good doctor in the eyes, but I felt like I already knew the answer. He waited a brief moment before answering.

“We found a few others, but the building we found you in had entirely collapsed. You were trapped beneath a steel beam. If it wasn’t for some of the rubble, it would have turned your head into jelly. Like I said: lucky.” He clicked his pen a few times in silence, thinking. “How are you feeling? Any headaches? Pains?”

“My neck’s a little sore.” I rubbed the back of my neck. It was then that I noticed I had electrodes attached to my head. “I must have hit the ground pretty hard.” I laughed a little.

“Thankfully not too hard.” The doctor smiled. “But I think it’s time to get some rest. We need to run a few tests soon.”

“I don’t feel tired at all, Doc. In fact, I feel pretty good.”

“You are dismissed, son.” He looked down to his notes and began writing again.

“What does that–” I suddenly felt tired. “What does that even mean?” And that’s when the darkness took me.

* * *

Pain. Terrible, gut wrenching pain. It filled me as I opened my eyes to the carnage around me. I was sitting in the middle of a large room facing two double doors. Pieces of metal and machine, seemingly torn apart, lay around me. A handful of men fully suited for combat lay in several pieces nearby. I could feel the warmth of flames at my back. And the pain–oh, God, the pain.

I looked down to see the source of the pain. My abdomen had been pierced with a large shredded piece of metal. The black suit I was wearing soaked the blood seeping out of the wound. Wasn’t I just wearing a hospital gown?

I touched the metal in my gut, finding the whole situation unbelievable. The pain intensified at the slightest touch and movement. I let out a cry, instinctively. As I did, I could hear the boots of soldiers marching down what I assumed were stairs behind me. I couldn’t even turn to look without being absorbed by the pain. The double doors on the left opened and Doctor Loftus walked through as the soldiers behind me came into view, circling me.

“Doc! What’s happening?” The pain was too much. The good doctor sighed.

“This one is far too damaged.” He said to no one in particular. He drew a pistol he had tucked into his pants behind his back.

“Doc! Doc, no–”

“Time to start fresh.”

There was a sound of thunder.

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Ancient Ruins of the West Wood: Reaper

Ancient Ruins: Rooms 19 and 2019. Special Project Entry

When the PCs enter this chamber, read:

Ancient skeletons litter the floor of this chamber, centered around a large metal door decorated with four colorful stones set in a two by two grid.

Clue. A skeletal hand is clasping a torn piece of parchment from under the collapsed door. The clue is written in Ancient and reads “A compassionate king rules with justice and mercy.”

Skeletons. There are a total of thirteen Ancient skeletons in tattered rags scattered on the floor. As they are found, they are merely bones, not imbued with necrotic magic. If the players correctly guess that the skeletons will come to life, they may try to do something to stop them from doing so. Only entirely destroying the skull will the remove a skeleton from the combat activated by access to Room 20.

Door Puzzle. The four icons can be translated via the Comprehend Languages spell, and are representations of the four pillars of Ancient morality: Truth, Justice, Mercy, and Compassion. Each icon is currently labeled on a stone of a certain color; mercy is blue, compassion is indigo, and both justice and truth are yellow. The text clues found throughout this section of the complex reveal the answer. By touching the stone, the color can be changed in the following order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and Violet. Once Truth is orange, Justice is red, Mercy is blue, and Compassion is violet, then the door opens, retracting into the floor.

20. Special Project Chamber

When the metal door to this chamber is opened, read:

As the door grinds into the floor, you see a large, long chamber, dominated by a massive tube of glass filled with dark, rolling fog and sparks of black and purple lightning. Two orbs sparking with the same energy rest on five foot high pillars on opposite sides of the room. Seven fleshless skulls turn to watch your entry into their long forgotten tomb. Dark energy from the cylinder is suddenly sucked into the orbs and is redirected to the piles of bones behind you. A cry of anguish echoes from the fog within the cylinder as the remains rise from their rest.

Skeletons. The combat begins with 7 ancient skeletons in the chamber, and 1d4 skeletons rising to attack in Room 19. At the beginning of each round, the orbs draw power from the cylinder again and raise a number of skeletons equal to 1d4 plus the number of characters in the party. There can only be a maximum of 20 skeletons raised at any given time. A skeleton can be permanently defeated by either destroying the dark orbs, shattering the glass tube, or dropping it to zero hit points with bludgeoning damage.

Dark Orbs. These devices were once meant to redirect the negative energy elsewhere, but have recently lost the ability to do so. Each time they draw energy from the glass tube, they cause pain to the creature inside who then screams in agony. The orbs have an AC of 13, Hit Points 7, resistance to piercing, slashing, lightning, and radiant damage, and is immune to psychic, poison, and necrotic damage.

Glass Tube. The thick glass is only warded against damage from the inside. It has AC 13, Hit Points 15, resistance to piercing, slashing, lightning, and radiant damage, and is immune to psychic, poison, and necrotic damage.

When both orbs are destroyed or the glass tube is shattered, read:

The swirling fog and dark energy coalesces into a humanoid form in front of you. He stands seven feet tall, deathly thin and pale as a corpse, dressed in black robes. He summons a long, wicked scythe and leans on it, weak from his imprisonment.

Reaper. The creature is a reaper, an agent of fate. He does not remember much from his captivity due to his lack of corporeal form, but thanks the characters for his rescue and promises a favor to them in the “near future”. He is willing to talk for a brief moment, before he must return to the work to which he has so longed to return. When he leaves, all undead fueled by his presence within the Verdinan region that have not been destroyed collapse into their natural, lifeless state.

Key. One of the skeletons originating from this chamber holds the strangely shaped key that opens the door leading to Room 8.


The characters have discovered the secret energy source powering the Ancient Complex, but what do they do from there?

Missing Adventurers Quest

If presented with the angel, Kildrak Arcanaxe takes a moment to consider the offer, but in the end decides it would be smarter to not find disfavor with the god of storms, risking the possibility that his own people suffer the same mysterious fate as the Ancients. He asks that the characters release the angel outside and sets his hostages free.

If the characters return empty handed, Kildrak is hesitant to listen to them, but is a logical dwarf and is willing to believe them if they have no cause to lie about what they have seen. He will release the hostages after a brief, tense moment.

If the characters do not return to Kildrak, he may be forced to kill the hostages to conserve on rations as he leads his people into the caverns, following the characters’ trail. This could end potentially poorly for him and his clan, especially if they run across the Menagerie filled with escaped and bloodthirsty monsters. Perhaps the Arcaneaxe Clan will return in the future to exact revenge on the characters for failing them.

Ancient Relic Hunting

Drist is pleased with the characters’ acquisitions, but will, of course, try to cheat them out of their proper due. Lord Scrywyld, however, is good to his word. If the characters choose Lord Scrywyld over Drist, he will not rest until he has wronged them in turn.

Death’s Influence

Veris rewards the characters as promised, and gives them a token to mark them as friends of the church. The characters can use the token at any church for any assistance that can be provided.

Svirfneblin Slaves

If the characters have done nothing to save the svirfneblin from captivity, nothing has changed and they can return to finish the job.


If the ancient black dragon, Versimidor, has been released into the world, he will fly toward the coast in the east to try to locate a swamp to settle, leaving a trail of death in his wake. The characters will have to deal with him in the future.

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Ancient Ruins of the West Wood: I Disbelieve!

Ancient Complex: Rooms 16, 17, and 1816. Illusion Control

This room is where the Ancients once controlled what could be seen, or what happened in the illusion rooms.

You enter a small chamber filled with nothing but five marble podiums standing waist high, each holding a head-sized obsidian orb.

The orbs act as an interface between the Ancients and the illusion rooms. Right now, only one of the five orbs is faintly glowing, as it is the only one with a functioning room still connected to it.

When a character touches the glowing orb, read:

Suddenly, an image is projected from the orb into the airspace directly above, in front of your face. It shows a temperate forest environment. Surrounding the image are smaller images, each with a different type of environment.

If a character touches the image, it reacts. They can rotate the main image horizontally, or drag one of the smaller images over to the larger image to replace it with the new environment. This changes the apparent environment of Room 18. If another character is in Room 18 at the time, any characters here can see what that character is doing.

17. Dining Hall

This large room was once where a large number of Ancients could eat their meals. Stone tables and tall buckets filled with decomposing refuse are scattered throughout the chamber.

Bar. A long window with a flat, marble surface below it allows one in the larger section of the chamber to see into the smaller section, and vice versa. A character can easily climb through to the other side, though if they are in combat they will need to make a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to do so while moving.

Cooling Room. The steel door leading into this side room has the image of a snow flake on it. A DC 10 Wisdom (Insight) check reveals that it means the room beyond was designed to keep things cold. Opening the door releases two ochre jellies created from centuries worth of rotting food now turned ooze. The character that opened the door also needs to make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or they are poisoned for 1 hour.

Tall Buckets. Any character standing next to one of these trash receptacles needs to make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or else succumb to the poison condition for 1 hour.

18. Room of Illusory Environments

This room is specially crafted to trick creatures into thinking they are in the environment that it represents. If the environment has not been changed in Room 16, then the environment is that of a temperate forest.

Upon initially entering the room, characters may think they have stepped into a portal to the outside. However, it is all merely an illusion that a character can see through with a DC 25 Wisdom (Insight) check. There are no animals, though background animal noises can be heard. There are no materials that can be foraged either. Anything stripped from a plant disappears, and the plant reappears as normal back where it came from.

If the door is not propped open, it closes behind the characters. The nature of the illusion allows the room to seem unending, using visual stimuli and unnoticed nudges of force. If walking together, changes to the environment are minimal. However, if the characters separate from each other by 30 feet, they can find the walls of the room and eventually the door which can swing either in or out. Damaging a known wall by weapon or spell creates a permanent mark to the wall that seems to float in the air.

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Ancient Ruins of the West Wood: The Final Stretch

Ancient Complex: Rooms 13, 14, and 1513. Major Projects Hall

The transport room empties the characters into a long hall with multiple t-intersections. Each intersection provides an opportunity for a random encounter. Roll a d20 when the characters approach an intersection. On a roll of 15 to 20, 1d6 +2 ancient skeletons. If this encounter doesn’t happen before the characters reach Room 19, have the skeletons in the north hall above that location.

Treasure. One of the skeletons is holding a parchment with Ancient script that reads “A man knows the truth of the world when watching the sun set.”

14. Failed Experiment

This room is very much like Room 3 with a similar amount of destroyed structures, if not more. The glass looking into the chamber beyond is cracked. The light crystal cluster in the larger chamber is turned on, but the marble control panels are unlit. A massive draconic skeleton lays scattered amongst the rocks in the closed off chamber.

Skeleton. A DC 18 Intelligence (Medicine/Nature) check shows that the skeleton is that of an adult blue dragon. If they succeed by 5 or more, then they also can tell that the dragon died about one thousand years ago.

Treasure. An ancient skeleton is trapped under a fallen shelving structure. In its closed hand is a parchment with Ancient script on it which reads “Justice is in the blood of a murderer.”

15. Private Lab

You enter the small chamber, and before you see the floor that is littered with Ancient, decrepit lab equipment, you are greeted by a frayed noose hanging from a light fixture. Below the hangman’s rope is a pile of bones and rags.

Skeleton. The Ancient corpse is long decayed into bone. A DC 5 Wisdom (Insight) check easily reveals that this Ancient took its own life.

Lab Equipment. The Ancient magical lab equipment in this room is decrepit at best, destroyed at worst. It looks as if the best of the lot has long since vanished. Interested characters can find up to 2d12 gp worth of equipment.

Treasure. A DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check or a DC 5 Intelligence (Investigate) check reveals 2d6 gp and a scroll amongst the Ancient bones. The scroll is contains Ancient text which reads “Mercy is unending when the sky is the limit.”

Ancient Skeletons

Use the standard skeleton statistics found in the Monster Manual, or in the Dungeon Master Basic Rules pdf, with the following modifications: +2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution, AC 14, Hit Points 11 (2d8 + 2).

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