Monday, May 27, 2013

Noxious Fumes

The year is 1925. In response to rumors that the United States and Europe were developing chemical weapons, the Imperial Japanese Army create a secret base on the island of Ōkunoshima. Here, they begin a special weapons program devoted to the production of chemical weapons like mustard gas, in spite the fact that Japan was one of the nations that signed the Geneva Protocol earlier that year, prohibiting the use of such weapons. This treaty did not forbid the production and storage of poison gas, but Imperial Japan worked in secret nonetheless.

Ōkunoshima was chosen for it's isolation, it being far enough away from population centers like Tokyo to limit the damage of a potential leak. Working from 1927 to 1929, the factory on the island produced over six kilotons of mustard gas and tear gas. Allegedly, working conditions on the island were harsh. Serious safety precautions were not taken which resulted in illness from toxic exposure.

After the war, all documents related to the facility were destroyed, and the stockpile of gas was disposed of by the Allies. Years later, the Japanese government provided financial aid to former workers suffering from the effects of toxic gas exposure. In 1988 the Ōkunoshima Poison Gas Museum was opened.

In the intervening years Ōkunoshima became part of the Inland Sea National Park system and can be reached by ferry from Tadanoumi. Today, the island is home to a hotel and six-hole golf course...


For whatever reason, the island is home to a huge rabbit population. The persistent rumor is that they're the descendents of test subjects for the gas production, a rumor the former director of the poison gas museum denies. No matter the reason, the rabbits on the island are very tame and will approach Humans completely fearlessly.

In fact, don't be surprised if they decide to pile on top of you and just steal any vegetables you might have if you ever visit.

No seriously, an island inhabited by nothing but fluffy bunnies.

 Words cannot express how badly I want to live here.

The biggest question is why. Why are there so many rabbits? And why must life be so cruel? Why must this wonderful place be on the other side of the planet?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Serious Robot Journalism

Bad news, remember when I said there was going to be a sequel to Diplomacy? Turns out it's right here. The good news is that it isn't a romantic comedy.

Aggressive Negotiation

By Tyler Baray

The following is everything we've received from Zor 30489 since the events earlier this quarter. The account seems incomplete, but we're hoping more will be transmitted soon. We've decided to reprint all available data, in the order we received it and with no editing on our part. Several terms are used in the text with no explanation to their meaning, which we hope will be cleared up soon.

Thank you for being patient with us in this time of crisis. I have known Zor personally for several years now, he is a professional and as an Animat, tireless. I realize that there's obvious gaps in this account, but we have to remember the circumstances surrounding it.

We're just as concerned for his safety as you are, especially given the political climate on Syphrean. We are doing everything in our power to get in communication with Zor again soon, hopefully to convince him to come back. Like now.

-Yolar Svent Editor in Chief, Pulsar Magazine

10.Q1.2204 10:02 AM

The sense of panic in the camp was palpable. "Something happened to one of the frontier stations." I kept hearing. Rumors of a fatal malfunction, something falling out of orbit. Immediate radiological containment.

Equipment was being shuffled around seemingly at random. No orders were being given, no one seemed to know what to do. Civilians were being evacuated from a vaguely described "hazard zone" and dropped off here. I arrived in the initial confusion, noting the sick look on the faces of the IASA officials as I rolled off the shuttle's landing ramp. There were plenty of other journalists there already, each as clueless as I was at to what happened.

I spent most of that morning trying to observe from a distance. Most of the IASA people were in a pod at the far end of the camp, which was guarded at all times. After several minutes, two officers appeared and gathered together all the evacuees. A screen was brought into the largest pod and we all sat down to see the hastily prepared presentation. Suddenly we were treated to images of a destroyed city, little more than a ring of demolished buildings surrounding an ashy crater.

"Around 3:45 this morning," A Representative Lerth said shakily. "There was a fatal accident on Frontier Station Five. An explosion in it's life support system."

It slowly started to dawn on me. I could see it on the other's faces, they recognized it too.

"The station fell out of orbit almost immediately and crashed in the Sha'leou area. The situation has been declared a level one ecological disaster by the administration and have ordered the immediate evacuation of all IASA affiliates." Lerth said.

There was a stunned silence as everyone stared at the image of the crash site.

"We are expecting a shuttle in the next three hours, which will be bound for Frontier Seven. We ask that you prepare whatever personal items you have and be ready for transport."

Slowly, questions were muttered from the crowd. People were worried about their affairs on Syphrean, or if any effort was being made to help the victims of the disaster. Did any of the crew escape in time?

"No statement has been made yet, so there's no way of knowing. But we've been asked to cease all activity on Syphrean, which includes civilians here on a visa."

"It was a formal request, on threat of military retaliation."

10.Q1.2204 10:45 AM

My head was spinning.

The shuttle was a smoking crater, people were running in every direction as Tanji jets swarmed overhead.

It had risen out of the ocean impassively, unflinchingly; heedless of the rays searing the air around it. The metal monument was floating towards us, toppling trees with it's immense anti-gravity. The Nightbringer hovered over the center of the island where the lagoon used to be, but had since boiled away. Four metal legs unfurled from the main body and stretched wide over the dried up lagoon. The mass came to rest on the soft sand, snorting as it expelled a spray of ocean mist.

"This is it," I heard an officer say. "We're already dead."

As if in response, the whole upper half of the machine blossomed outward. Two immense arms appeared; each holding a semi-circular metallic segment, creating a ring in the air. There was a low rumble as each segment started to spin independent of each other, like a giant gyroscope. It was gaining speed and glowing slightly, a faint blue. I watched as it continued it's mysterious operation, in mere seconds it had become a whirlwind of spinning metal, a bright blue light radiated from it's surface. The order to fire was given. A soldier appeared from behind a rock and unloaded a full clip at the machine. Not even a single bullet struck its surface.

More shots were fired. The island came alive with the crackle of gunfire. Suddenly the arms stopped rotating. Their ring sections slowed to a stop, folding back to their original position as the arms lowered back into the main body of the Nightbringer. All the while people from all over the island were shooting at it to no effect. Then someone came charging with a grenade.

They threw it at the base of the machine, only to watch dumbstruck as it flew upward, toward the empty space above where it floated for a second and exploded. The fireball erupted and was immediately sucked back in and disappeared. The wind started to pick up, blowing in the direction of the Nightbringer. Sand and loose equipment started to tumble towards it. The wind was blowing harder.

That's when I saw it: a pinpoint, a black dot had formed above the machine. The space around it rippled like heat rising off hot concrete. Dust and sand were being sucked in, like a hole in the Universe itself. The wind had become a roar of escaping air, picking up huge plumes of sand as it was pulled in. The makeshift camp toppled over with a resounding crash. Storage containers were sent careening across the ground like immense boulders before they were inevitably sucked into the growing whirlpool. The pinpoint had become a gaping hole in reality; an unfathomable, impenetrable blackness.

People started running, stumbling, clawing at the ground and holding onto trees for dear life. A Tanji jet flew over the island and threw itself into a banking turn along the bay. It slowed as it tried to rise higher, slowing more and more until it stopped in midair and came tumbling back down, falling into the growing void. The wings tore from it's frame and hurtled into the blackness, with the rest falling close behind, silently crumpling before disappearing in a cloud of sand and wreckage.

To my horror, I saw someone get sucked into the portal. I was forced to watch as they screamed and thrashed around in the air as they were drawn in. Another followed. The crunch and ripping of trees being uprooted filled the air, followed by horrified screams as more people were pulled in.

I planted myself behind a rock, digging in deep with my claws, helpless, unable to do anything but watch. I felt like I was in the center of an immense tornado. And yet, during this whole awful experience the Nightbringer was sitting serenely underneath the portal, even as it drew in the ground from underneath it. The portal had become a huge featureless sphere hanging over the island, which was rumbling and rolling underneath. I started to panic. If it got any bigger it would eat us whole. It might take the planet with it.

With a lurch, my rock started tumbling into the sky. I was sent flying, the last thing I remember seeing was blackness.

10.Q1.2204 11:05 AM

I was overwhelmed by a sense of dropping out of the sky, or being shot out of a cannon. It was cold on the other side, my sensors told me that much. There was a bright light in the distance, but no horizon. I was tumbling end over end, surrounded by floating pieces of wreckage as we spiraled outward from some invisible mass. I started to become dimly aware that I had lost all sense of down.

All around me was a nebular void, a swirling vortex of luminous purple gas. A cloud of sand was spiraling outward and in the distance were kolumnb trees drifting off into space. On all sides were the pulverized remains of whatever aircraft were sucked in. There were no planets here, no stars. Just a diffuse purple void. I realized I was on the other side of some kind of portal. The Nightbringer hadn't annihilated us, or compacted us all into a black hole. But we were transported to some alien dimension.

Desperately, I tried to grasp at whatever piece of flotsam I could. For that brief moment, I started to panic as I drifted further and further away. Images flashed through my mind; images of my lifeless body floating through space for the rest of time. Wild panic gripped me. I was suddenly overcome by the crazy idea that I could build a rocket or some kind of booster-plate and fly back out of the portal the way I came. Without even thinking I started gathering whatever was nearby.

A rocket? No I can't, there's no fuel. I can still make a small gravity engine. I did it in school, I can do it here. What has a super conductor in it? Would that computer over there have one? Oh god, I can't do it. No power. I need a grappling hook.

I considered overclocking my processor, frying my brain right then and there. Save myself from this. There had to be a way out.

A bright light blinded me. Once again I felt like I was falling.

10.Q1.2204 12:56 PM

One by one, my sensors came back online. Various warnings appeared at the corner of my heads up display, a border of blinking red along the edge of my vision. The control software started to reboot as my main visual sensor was reconnected. A grainy black and white image of sand came into view. The picture sharpened. I regained color. Suddenly I was back, lying on my side as an ocean wave appeared.

I started to test my actuators, working my way down my arms and legs until I was content they all still worked. In all this time the only sound was water rushing over my audio sensors. Slowly, I picked myself up to stand in the surf and surveyed the destruction.

The island had been devastated. All around me stretched a barren wasteland of twisted, smouldering wreckage. Every tree had been uprooted and strewn across the island, which had been rendered unrecognizable by blackened craters dotting it's surface. In the center were the smoking remains of the Nightbringer, split in half with what must have been an especially powerful laser. The cleanly symmetrical cut was still glowing slightly.

The portal must have collapsed after a vital component melted, sending me hurtling out as it became unstable. The Nightbringer was scuttled, surrounded by Tanji and IASA ships regurgitated out as the portal coalesced, cutting us off completely from that alien dimension.

Everyone else had either escaped, or was trapped on the other side. I was alone on the island. I considered staying. I hoped that I could wait out whatever catastrophe was unfolding on the mainland. But then I thought back to my editor. He was on Tamafrar, he would have no idea what's happened here until it was too late. This was my chance to break the story to him before the commercial rags got their hands on it.

I have to reveal the truth. I've saved images of it, of the Nightbringer, of the destruction in Sha'leou. Say what you will about the IASA, but they would never deliberately cause this. There was a conspiracy here, I knew it. Conflicting interests among the Tanji goverments? Likely. An engineered disaster to discredit the IASA was even more likely. My mind is swimming with possibilities, all I know is that there's a reason they want us off-world. If someone had to sabotage a space station to do it, all the more reason to investigate. Weaponized inter-dimensional gateways are just the cherry on top.

I am going to gather up everything I've recorded so far and get it on the next ultraviolet transmission I can find. Svent, if you're reading this: I'm staying on Syphrean. Don't come looking for me.

Whatever happened on Frontier Five, it was no accident.


Happy Mother's Day everybody!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bunny Money

It's that time of the week again.

Would you believe me if I said I found this picture while looking for concept art for the monster from Cloverfield?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Nobody Tosses A Dwarf

I feel like I've finally gotten to the point where I can say I'm accustomed to Dwarf Fortress and it's ridiculous interface. So much in fact that I've finally been able to build my magnum opus of architecture...


This has been my most successful, most well protected fortress yet. Although I've had fortresses with higher populations, only Beebattles has proven to be a true bastion of Dwarven civilization. The layout was based off a bedroom design I found on the wiki, and expanded outward from there, resulting in the plus-sign shape of the final product. Here, you can see the dining room, most of the stockpiles and workshops, arranged around the first eighty bedrooms like a ring.

Closer to the entrance we find the food stockpiles, including our supply of booze. As you know, the stereotypical fantasy dwarf loves alcohol. These dwarves take that one step further by being physically dependent on the stuff. If they aren't constantly drunk, dwarves will start to work more slowly, taking more breaks between jobs and generally just getting easier to get upset. Even babies who were just born yesterday will need a drink every now and then. In this same area you can see where I deviated from my original layout and started to build however it suited me. Those sprawling, tentacle-like tunnels lead to the beehives, housing our population of trained killer bumblebees who numbered in the hundreds of thousands by the time it was all said and done. The hives are protected with grates in the ceiling, allowing access to the surface without letting in any unwanted visitors.

That means anyone who wants in has to go through the trap-lined hallway. Only despair waits for them there.

Our defenses our two-fold; first are the weapon traps, symbolized by the red spikes, ^. Almost all of these are loaded with huge serrated saw blades, with at least three each, sometimes even more. Now guess what the result of a goblin stepping on that is. Did you guess a shower of blood? Because you would be right. During sieges, it's common to see arms and legs messily separated from their owners and thrown in every direction at high speed. It's a hassle to clean up afterwards but so satisfying to see the invaders burst like overripe melons.

The other set of defenses are the cage traps, symbolized by the green spikes, ^. These capture hostiles without actually harming them and you might notice, are deployed before the weapon traps, so casualties are minimized during sieges. I know I said earlier how satisfying it is to see goblins hacked apart by the saw blades. But the truth is I like to keep as many of them alive as possible... they can be taken to a special stockpile in the back of the fortress, stripped of their clothing, weapons and armor, beaten to a pulp, then either locked in the dungeon or thrown in the arena. The horrifying funny thing about this is that we've actually come to rely on the frequent sieges to supply our population with much needed supplies. Why forge your own weapons when the Goblins come to deliver theirs in person? Why make your own clothes when you can just wear what the Goblins came with? This is especially handy because clothes wear out over time. So unless you have an organized textile industry you'll have plenty of Dwarves grumbling about the tattered rags they're wearing. But not Beebattles, we're practically overflowing with troll fur robes and cloaks.

In general, I devote the layer immediately below the workshops and stockpile to housing. And these bedrooms are almost always arranged in a tessellated pattern, to extend the beehive analogy even further. Ordinarily nothing else it built on the bedroom level, but Beebattles in an exception. Every so often, we station our military in the aforementioned arena, visible at the top left of the screen. Then, one at a time, captured goblins are thrown in to be slaughtered. This has the duel purpose of getting rid of unwanted prisoners and increasing the soldier's skills in combat. The original plan was to have a huge monster living down there, like a minotaur. But no such creature ever came by.

It's a shame, no doubt about it. But remember: Goblins are dying horribly nonetheless. And at the end of the day that's what really matters.

On the same Z-level as the apartments are the farms. That's where the real party's at. Here is were we grow our precious plump helmets, a kind of small purple mushrooms. These can either be eaten raw, cooked (which we never do), or brewed into Dwarven Ale. Naturally, almost all of what we harvest is rendered into precious, life-giving alcohol to fuel the fortress. Although you might be wondering why it looks like half the farms were flooded at some point and abandoned.

Well that's because they were, but it wasn't my fault. Back in the original run of Beebattles, we didn't have the insane number of traps we do now. So if there was an especially large invasion the Goblins they could just throw huge numbers of soldiers into the blades until all the accumulated gore gummed up the mechanisms and rendered the traps inoperative. Then they could just climb over the bodies and ransack the place. This was how Beebattles was destroyed the first time around after all.

In any case, a couple trolls chased a cat into the farms and must have gotten lost down there. In their dim-witted rage, they smashed open a floodgate used to irrigate the land, immediately flooding the whole farm with water from the river. By the time I noticed what had happened, it was already too late to fix it. Sadly, I don't think the trolls drowned afterwards.

Meanwhile, the land outside has been transformed into a hellish wasteland. And I admit, it's partially my fault this time. Partially.

We tend to keep our livestock outside where they can graze. Yes, this usually means they're more vunerable to attack, but I neither have the space for them, nor do I particularly care about the well being of the animals migrants bring with them. But during the rare peaceful interludes without invasions, all the animals we've accumulated are busy eating the local flora, resulting in a lifeless, overworked layer of clay on the surface. Combine this with our ceaseless lumber operation and the result it a flat, barren field. Utterly featureless, if you ignore the huge mounds of dead bodies around the entrance.

It's not like I'm going to leave all those dead Goblins inside. Instead we dump them in not one, but three of our special refuse stockpiles where the birds can pick at them. So not only are there no plants to be found in this desert wasteland. But there's countless numbers of blanched bones strewn about, with buzzards flying overhead at all times, as if there weren't enough warnings about how unfriendly this place was already.

But that's not all. Later on, we breached the first cavern layer and got a visit from the most underwhelming Forgotten Beast in the world.

The Forgotten Beast Fimere Recicirono Tise Lafo has come! A gigantic blob composed of snow. It has a round shell and it undulates rhythmically.

Fortunately, the only way into the fortress from the cavern was a hole in the ceiling we used to dump trash in. Since it was too high up and our uninvited guest couldn't fly, he was basically stuck down there, brooding and shaking his frosty fist in impotent rage.

In any case you can see him at the bottom left side of the screen, he's the 'B' standing at the edge of the uncovered cavern.

Eventually I decided Beebattles was more or less complete. It was time to take what I learned there and apply it to even larger, even more deadly fortresses in the future. I retired as administrator there, with an ending population exceeding one hundred and fifty.

But in the meantime, I decided to take a look at some of the fan-made modifications to the game. These would typically be things like new weapons, or tweaks to the existing content. Some of the more ambitious projects add completely new creatures to the game. With that in mind, guess what's living in my game now?

Oh nothing...JUST DALEKS.

Say hello to Dale Hatespeech. His hobbies include quests, tomb raiding and genocide. As of this writing he's killed over three-hundred sentient beings and not once has he felt any remorse for his actions, not even for the time he exterminated an entire Kobold civilization over the course of a single night.

Is it wrong to introduce an advanced alien menace to a Medieval fantasy world? Absolutely, but I'm still gonna do it anyway.

Well that's all for now. But know this: I've only just begun to enact my evil schemes for this world I've generated. By the time I'm done I expect the whole planet to be engulfed in flame, inhabited by nothing but Daleks and Dwarves. Perhaps it's time to enact the next stage of this plan...something to the tune of Operation: Drain The Ocean.