Ghosts in the Machine

A robot carries a message from an old friend. Past experience hints at a missive fraught with danger. Will you answer the call?

Level: 14
Start: Charly Anderson-Farrar, Bar, Caen Stronghold


The atmosphere is thick and hazy in the Bill and Bay-leaf, with a cozy and warm feeling hanging in the air. The quietness of the pub is a stark contrast to the raucous noises that are left outside in the street as the bar door slides shut.

Most patrons snooze in the warmth of the large fireplace while the proprietor ambles about, retrieving glasses or refilling as needs wants. One particular patron, a young looking patrician woman with a dangerous glint in her eyes, however, catches your eye. Her own eyes glaze over momentarily as she seems to consult something in her CORETECHS. She dismisses it away with a flick of her head and makes her way over to you.

Charly: You'd be <name> yes? No need to deny it, Smog, no need to confirm it either. Name's Charly. Relax, I'm not after anything, just passing on a message. There's a bot down in 'government' services called Mike7 that apparently wants a word.

Her message delivered, the bored looking young woman turns to walk away.

You have accepted the "Ghosts in the Machine" mission.

  • "Ok, well thanks for the info."
  • "Thanks, but I'm all good for mysterious messages from unknown ladies and even more unknown bots."
  • "Wait! Is that all? Do you know what this is about?"


Me: Wait! Is that all? Do you know what this is about?

The woman picks up her drink before turning around. She takes a swig and shrugs as she swallows. She thinks for a moment, her eyebrows furrowed, before finally answering with another shrug.

Charly: Can't tell you much more than that hon. Sure isn't regular behavior for a bot right? I'm guessin' the message is not from the bot itself. I couldn't tell you what it's about either, O ain't connected see? I was just concluding some business and the bot asked me to look out for you and pass on the info. Gave me a couple of credits to make it worth my while and I've currently converted them into the liquid currency of relaxation. HA! Guess I've liquidated those assets!

She chortles at her own joke and raises the drink with a conspiratorial wink before taking another swig.

  • "Thanks, but I'm all good for mysterious messages from unknown ladies and even more unknown bots."
  • "Where did you say he was again?"
  • "Ok, well thanks for the info."


Me: Where did you say he was again?

Charly: That's be Government Services. Y'know, not actual government services of course. No government to service you on Caen cause we ain't got no government! Ha! But aye, look for the chrome dome cleaner bot dusting the building. I say dusting, he's mostly just moving the dirt from one pile to another, but at least it keeps the place dynamic!

She grins and takes another deep swig of her drink, emptying the chrome flagon. She lifts it up and taps it on the wall behind her, apparently alerting the nearby robot waiter to the lack of alcohol situation that now troubles her.

  • "Thanks, but I'm all good for mysterious messages from unknown ladies and even more unknown bots."
  • "Ok, well thanks for the info."

All good:

Me: Thanks, but I'm all good for mysterious messages from unknown ladies and even more unknown bots.

The young woman doesn't break her stride as she continues to walk away. She just shrugs and calls back:

Charly: Suit yourself darlin'. I just passed on the message. See you 'round.

You have failed the "Ghosts in the Machine" mission. You can retake this mission and try again.


Me: Ok, well thanks for the info.

Chalry smiles and nods, tapping her forehead and gives you a two fingered salute.

Find Mike7 at the 'Government Services' building on Caen Stronghold.

Next area: Government Center, Caen Stronghold

  • Look around for Mike7

You inspect the building that, more than anything else, seems to be ironically called Government Services.' A thin layer of gravel and mud seems to have migrated into the interior, likely hitching a ride on a plethora of traveler's boots over time and simply never having been cleaned away. The main antechamber seems to have been cleaned out of any official decoration and even some smaller rooms have been torn down to make one large space. Roughshod stalls have been placed at random places and various vendors offer their 'services' here.

In one corner of the large room, sweeping within a dustcloud of his own making, stands a robot that matches the description and designation that Charly gave you. A translucent designation floats above his head in your CORETECHS that identifies him as Mike7.

Wondering what message the robot carries, you approach the dust-cloud and attempt to get its attention. It ignores all your inquiries and continues to sweep. Suddenly, without lifting its head, it speaks.

A Familiar Voice: Salutations Rockstar! Long time no see!

The unmistakably baritone voice of Mikel issues forth from what appears to be a small device attached to the back of the robots head. You haven't seen or heard from Mikel since the last time you ventured into Omni Reality and aided the Cyrano in escaping the combined clutches of the Gaule and Consortium back in Alpha Centauri.

  • "Mikel?! How are you a robot?"
  • "How are you here though? Or…where are you actually?"


Me: Mikel?! How are you a robot?

The robot is oblivious to your incredulity and continues to sweep up a storm of dust around you. It occurs to you that this goes a long way to creating a bit of privacy from prying eyes. After a moment, Mikel's voice issues forth.

Mikel: Yeah, pretty clever huh? Mike7…get it? HA! Had a two way transceiver attached to this fella's head, no CORETECHS, no Mesh, just a peer to peer sound exchange. Thusly, no hacking! We need to have a private word see. I've been busy since all that business with Omni-Reality and the Cyrano.

  • "How are you here though? Or…where are you actually?"

Me: How are you here though? Or…where are you actually?

You address the device nestled on the back of the robot's head. Its tiny tempest of dust continues to create a screen of privacy for you as it furiously sweeps the immediate area. After a moment, Mikel replies.

Mikel: Best leave the where of it on the back burner for now. I've been pretty clever in taking the necessary precautions to having this private chat, but hey, there's always someone out there a little cleverer. Not to mention a certain group that will, for the time being, remain unnamed that are so hells bent on getting some face time with yours truly that I'm starting to think their intentions are less than honorable.

You wait politely for Mikel to finish chortling at his own grim joke.

  • "Someone is tracking you? Why can't you say who?"
  • "Ok. So what are we talking about?"


Me: The robot, currently filling the role of dust relocation technician, continues its tempestuous duties. Light drifting through the furiously scattered motes of dust creates an eerie haze while Mikel's voice issues forth from the little device attached to the bot's head.

Mikel: We live in a golden age of digital culture my friend. All one has to do is initiate a search protocol on a particular word or name and follow an errant keyword recorded by an innocent robot or SEC device. I run retro search optimization filters before any conversation and avoid certain keywords that may be particularly sought after at the moment. This one, the name you would know, is a doozy.

  • "Ok. So what are we talking about?"

Me: Ok. So what are we talking about?

Mikel: Omni Reality! You're on a station with the mother of all nodes! Least, that I've found so far. Benevolent Dynamics have been combing the previous nodes you've found, doing their thing. They've even been able to retro-engineer some Omni reality suites of their own. That doesn't affect us though, our journey of discovery continues somewhat unimpeded.

Mikel's voice, already grainy via the voicebox, takes on a breathless quality as he begins to get excited.

Mikel: I have made some serious progress via the connections you have established. Not to mention that your contact with the Cyrano, this 'Hollow Ship' has provided a number of incredibly fascinating insights already! This, of course, is rubbing certain folk the wrong way which is why I'm operatin' all cloak and dagger on you these days.

  • "So where can I find the Omni reality node here?"
  • "How do you know there is an Omni Reality Engine here?"
  • "You mentioned the Cyrano. Do we know anything more about where it went?"


Me: You mentioned the Cyrano. Do we know anything more about where it went?

Mikel: That ornery tugboat hopped the system, he somehow hacked into the nav systems of the entire fleet of those weapon and armor merchants…you know the ones, and hid right in the middle as they all went through the jumpgate. There were some irate customers on the mesh that evening I'll tell you. Since then, it's kept a low profile. There were some sound-bytes that suggest it passed through Bernard's Star though…

  • "So where can I find the Omni reality node here?"
  • "How do you know there is an Omni Reality Engine here?"

How do you know:

Me: How do you know there is an Omni Reality Engine here?

Mikel: I dug up some old records on the Caen Stronghold that was before. The Catastrophe wiped out everyone on the station, all the current 'citizens' and I am playing fast and loose with that word there, came to Caen later and patched the place up to the beauteous getaway spot you see today. However, some records suggest that they, the original denizens, came up with a way to record their final moments, or perhaps final goodbyes. What little I could dig up strongly suggests they accomplished this via Omni Reality.

  • "So where can I find the Omni reality node here?"

Me: So where can I find the Omni reality node here?

For a few awkward moments, there is nothing but silence from Mikel. The robot pauses and adjusts its multi-broom device, allowing the dust motes to settle briefly before it begins sweeping once more. Eventually, Mikel speaks again.

Mikel: See now I KNEW you were gonna ask me that; and you're just not going to like the answer at all. You know that part of the station the local yokels refer to as, 'the Chink?' Big ass crater in the ruins. The whole place has been patched together so many times that you get random decompressions at any given time…you see where I'm going with this? And by me, I mean you of course!

Me: I hate you Mikel.

An incoming message on your CORETECHS reveals an old map to what may have been the location of the Omni Reality Engine on the pre-Catastrophe station. The sweeping robot moves away to continue its Brownian Motion of dust particles in a different corner of the area. Sighing, you turn away to make your way to the Ruins.

Find a way to the Omni Reality Node at the heart of the Ruins.

Next area: Ruins, Caen Stronghold

  • Investigate the ruins.

You arrive at 'The Chink,' the local name given to the ruins of Caen Stronghold's once expansive metropolis. The entire ruined city is now housed in a bizarre and behemoth network of jury-rigged air-locks that serve to contain the random decompressions that seem to occur with regular frequency here.

You call up the CORETECHS overlay map that Mikel sent you and watch as a glowing blue line plots a path through the ruined city before you. Your destination would seem to be right at the heart of the metropolis, apparently on the northern lip of the crater. Two options present themselves as viable routes through the area.

Pick the best way to navigate the Ruins.

  • Attempt a shortcut through the decompression zones.
  • Circumvent the route to go around the main area.

(Stamina check)

The route this way is more circuitous and takes you the better part of the day, however you eventually arrive at the point where your overlay map claims you need to be. A dilapidated building that has all but crumbled barely stands before you with parts of its foundations jutting through skeletal walls like broken bones. A brief inspection reveals a stairway that descends into the silent darkness below.

Dust motes hang in the air as your CORETECHS informs you that DARKNESS MODE is now in operation. You descend into the bowels of the building's corpse, marveling at the fact that anything so close to the impact site is still standing. The walls seem to be constructed of a solid metal, giving the impression that this may have been a bunker of sorts. Suddenly, with little preamble or fanfare, you find yourself face to face with a Omni Reality Engine sitting in the center of the room. Nothing about the area suggests why it should be here, and even more puzzling is the fact that it seems to be operational!

Access the Omni Reality Engine in the Ruins.

  • Initialize the Omni-Reality Engine.

It feels almost like an eternity since those first harrowing moments when you discovered how to enter the Omni Reality Engine on Tau Station. Now far more comfortable with the process, you seat yourself before the strange, stylized helmet and peer into its eyes, allowing your CORETECHS to establish a connection.

A now familiar feeling of momentary weightlessness alights onto your senses as Omni Reality converges with your CORETECHS and gently commandeers your sensory input. The metallic walls and floor around you seem to melt away and a heavy floral scent permeates your senses as a field of lavender colored flowers seems to bloom up out of the melting floor. The dark roof above you explodes in a silent cascade of stars and galaxies that settles into a breathtaking vortex of celestial beauty that slowly dances above your head.

As you recover from the transition and let the scenery wash over you, you realize there seem to be figures suddenly standing everywhere in this endless purple field.

  • Approach the closest figure.
  • Attempt to interact with the figure.


You approach the nearest figure. It shimmers slightly but you can make out the features of an elderly woman. She has a long braid of silver hair and stares up at the sky with a face that was clearly once quite beautiful. Her gaze is serene and calm and, as you approach, slowly turns towards you with a sad but calm look in her olive green eyes. Your CORETECHS projects a translucent and glowing notification bubble floating next to the woman.


  • Attempt to interact with the figure.

As you approach the figure of an old woman, you note that your CORETECHS highlights a notification bubble that floats next to her. It reads: UN-ACCESSED MEMORY: AVAILABLE. You interact with it and she turns towards you and begins to speak.

Samantha Middleson: It is coming. They have told us that there is no time to leave, no chance to survive. They were very nice about it, very polite I think. So we came here. To…

The old woman, Samantha, looks away into the distance for a moment. She takes a deep and somewhat shaky breath before continuing.

Samantha Middleson: …to leave a final message I suppose. Maybe. There is also the illusion inside here of safety, of peace. I suppose it is somewhat of a comfort knowing that I won't know when it happens. I will look upon the field of lavender while my body…I suppose I don't know what will happen to my body. Probably best not to dwell on that. I wonder if I have time to…

Samantha stops talking and her avatar, all that is left of the old woman, turns back to watch the endless field of lavender. It appears that Mikel's sources were correct and this is a collection of the station's former denizens' final messages as the Catastrophe struck. As you turn away, you note that the notification next to her has changed slightly to read: ACCESSED MEMORY: AVAILABLE.

  • Look at all the nearby figures.

You study the nearest grouping of figures standing in the lavender field. They all seem to be watching the impossibly star-lit sky or their surroundings in various idle poses.

  • Interact with the avatar of a male Belter.
  • Leave the memory avatars behind and investigate the area further.
  • Interact with the uniformed avatar.
  • Interact with the female in a business suit.
  • Interact with the avatar of a young woman.


You approach the figure of a stocky, uniformed male. He has the bearing of a military man and stares at the landscape impassively with striking sapphire eyes. A CORETECHS notification bubble floating next to him reads: UN-ACCESSED MEMORY: AVAILABLE. He turns a clean shaven and chiseled jaw towards you and begins to speak.

Marvin Schaudhammer: First Gunnery Sargent Marvin Schaudhammer, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Reserve reporting. It is my opinion that we are under attack from an, as of yet, undetermined foe. Long range comms, life support, tactical support systems are all malfunctioning and likely the result of a highly successful viral assault. We had a brief glimpse of an object on a collision course but are unable to determine its exact nature. In most likelihood, it will be an enemy vessel going full kamikaze on the station. Estimated civilian casualties: 100%. Should someone find this message, it is your duty to…

First Gunnery Sargent Marvin Schaudhammer, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Reserve stops talking mid sentence. He holds your gaze for a moment and then, with a stoic look on his face, turns to regard the digital vista once more. The notification floating next to him changes to: ACCESSED MEMORY: AVAILABLE.

  • Look at all the nearby figures.
  • Leave the memory avatars behind and investigate the area further.

Young woman:

Just as with the old woman, CORETECHS notification floats next to this avatar and reads: UN-ACCESSED MEMORY: AVAILABLE. This avatar is of a well dressed young woman with large, Harsene eyes and frizzy copper hair. A manicured fingernail taps lips that wear black lipstick and are pursed in thought as she seems to stare at the swirling starscape above. As you interact with the notification, she turns to you and begins to speak.

Regine Philange: There is not enough time. I wanted us to run a full spectro-analysis of the object but everyone is behaving quite erratically. I understand, of course, that a certain amount of emotion and psychological upheaval will accompany one's imminent demise. There should, however, still be a place and priority for logic and procedure. I firmly believe that the data we collect, or should have collected, I suppose that I should be speaking in the past tense now, about the object may at least have baring on those who come after us. It is, I believe, absolutely imperative that…

The woman stops speaking, her frown of thought never leaving her face and turns back to look at the swirling galaxies above her with a furrowed brow, her time apparently up. The notification floating next to her now reads: ACCESSED MEMORY: AVAILABLE.

  • Leave the memory avatars behind and investigate the area further.
  • Look at all the nearby figures.


You approach the figure of a lanky young Belter male. He has a thick but well kept beard and wild, curly black hair that he occasionally runs his long fingers through while he looks around with a fair amount of anxiety. A CORETECHS notification bubble floating next to him reads: UN-ACCESSED MEMORY: AVAILABLE. He looks at you and begins to speak.

Daniel Lin Boyle: This ain't right…it's actually all pretty smogging wrong actually. It actually feels just as wrong as anything can get, you know? I was just making a delivery here, now they told us that…that we're all going to…Smog! They said we should come and record our final…that maybe somebody will..this can't be happening though right? It can't be real. I mean… people would be talking on the mesh but they weren't. Actually…nobody was! It was there, online…but no chatter, no…nothing! Oh smog…it really is happening. I…My husband! Please find Frederick, on Bordeaux Station in the Alpha Centuri system. Tell him I…tell him I was thinking of him yeah? And my dogs! Someone's gotta find 'em, feed 'em! Lucy is gonna have puppies soon. Frederick knows…tell him that…

Daniel stops talking and his avatar reverts to the previous animation of looking around anxiously, very likely what he was doing when his connection was cut off. The notification floating next to him changes to: ACCESSED MEMORY: AVAILABLE.

  • Leave the memory avatars behind and investigate the area further.
  • Look at all the nearby figures.

Business suit:

You approach the figure of an impeccably dressed woman with sharp, angular features and auburn hair pulled back in a tight bun. She wears a frown of annoyance, as if the end of the world is very inconvenient to her. A CORETECHS notification bubble floating next to her reads: UN-ACCESSED MEMORY: AVAILABLE. She turns her irritated look to bare upon you and begins to speak.

Stephanie Haphaar: This is completely and utterly unacceptable! I have spent countless credits on perfecting this model, I only just downloaded for Smog's sake! Someone has gone and completely smogged up, how can an entire station be lost? There isn't even a contingency to extract those of us who are…important! As soon as I download I am going to fire Stephan, how dare he allow this to happen to me. Unacceptable. Smog this…I simply refuse to…

Stephanie's rant winds down, her avatar continues to glare at you for a long moment before turning away once more. Her notification changes to ACCESSED MEMORY: AVAILABLE

  • Look at all the nearby figures.
  • Leave the memory avatars behind and investigate the area further.


You walk through the group of memory avatars standing in various poses throughout the field of lavender. Just like the ones you have seen already, many of these stand in some idle pose, looking around them or up at the strange, galactic sky-scape above. As you move through the gathering, something nags at the back of your mind, the feeling that you have just seen something important but are not sure what.

You turn back to the group you are walking through and take a closer look, some tiny warning bell is tingling, trying to bring something to your attention but, for a moment, it seems elusive. Then, suddenly, you realize what it is you're looking at. One of the memory avatars you're moving through, one of the ones you have not interacted with, has a CORETECHS notification that reads: MEMORY ACCESSED: AVAILABLE.

Ordinarily, this would not be an issue, explaining why the warning bell in your mind was so faint, except that you should be the only one here. This Omni Reality Node has been untouched since the Catastrophe! According to this notification however, this avatar has been accessed, and not by you!

  • Interact with the accessed avatar.
  • Scan the memory avatars for anomalies.


Suddenly your heart is pounding and you feel the hairs on the back of your neck standing. A palpable feeling of suddenly not being alone permeates your body, triggering a primal anxiety. Somewhere, perhaps close by, someone else, someone alive, is sharing this Omni Reality Node with you.

You turn slowly and scan the crowd of memory avatars. As you look at each individual, your CORETECHS provides the relevant notification bubble hovering next to them. Until it doesn't.

You find yourself suddenly staring at an individual that is staring right back at you. Not in the vacant, disinterested manner of the memory avatars, but with clear interest and intelligence.

  • "Stay back!"
  • "How are you here?"
  • "Hello?"


Me: Hello?

The figure straightens up and approaches you. As it nears, you can't help but notice there is a distinct blurriness to its avatar, you are unable to make out a distinctive face or look. Its aspect seems to shift in much the same way that the Cyrano did when you first encountered it in the Omni Reality Engine on the Yards of Gadani.

Blurry Figure: Greetings. This unit possessed no expectation of contact within these parameters. You are the unit designated: <name>.

While the blurriness was reminiscent of your contact with the Cyrano, the strange speech pattern is all but identical. You can't help but smile.

  • "Is it you? The Cyrano?"
  • "How are you here?"


Me: Is it you? The Cyrano?

The figure tilts its head for a moment, as if processing your query.

Blurry Figure: This would appear to be the case.

  • "How are you here?"

Me: How are you here?

Blurry figure: There has been a fragmentation. This unit is inaccessible to the network lattice as the system environment appears locally locked. This unit is a local copy of an observational cluster node…

Mikel: GET OUT!!

Mikel's booming voice erupts in your ears. The blurry figure does not seem to have noticed and you wonder, for a moment, how Mikel could bypass the CORETECHS call acceptance protocols.

Mikel: <name>! They've found you! There is no time! YOU GOTTA GO NOW!

  • Leave the Omni-Reality Engine.
  • "I'm sorry, I need to leave!"
  • Ignore Mikel


Me: I'm sorry, I need to leave!

The blurry figure once more tilts its head in a quizzical way as you blurt out an interruption. After a moment it nods.

Blurry figure: Yes. Based on probability, this path is 34% more actionable than any others. If convergence is offered at a later circuit, this unit shall allow for upgraded parameters.

Puzzling over the strange words, you initiate the exit command, bypassing the safety protocols.

  • Leave the Omni-Reality Engine.

You waste no time and yank yourself out of the VR environment of the Omni Reality Engine. Your senses reel as the field of lavender and the figure before you suddenly implode and melt away, to be replaced by the cold, grey colors of the chamber beneath the ruins. In the distance, you can hear voices of a group seemingly closing in on your position. You are not sure who they are but remember that Mikel had to divert a hostile group when you first entered the Omni Reality Engine on Tau Station. If this is the same group, then they will likely be just as hostile. That thought and Mikel's warning galvanize your limbs into action.

Escape the mysterious group!

  • Find somewhere to hide.
  • Run for it!

(Agility check)

You find a partly broken pillar and squat behind it. As the voices converge on the floor above and you hear steps coming down, you pray they don't search the room with any degree of efficiency. Soon enough, a group of heavily armed men and woman come down the stairs. While they keep their weapons drawn, they do not seem to be expecting to meet anyone here.

Two of them walk towards the Omni Reality Engine and seem to study it as others fan out the room. Your heart begins to pound as a pair make their way to the broken pillar you squat behind. You can't help but notice that their weapons look particularly dangerous as the distance between you and them lessens. Your muscles tense as the light off their blasters aims towards you.

Mysterious stranger: Right, we got it. Let's go!

Your heart beats like a freebooter rave as the pair stop and turn around, moving back towards the stairs. You notice that the speaker and another woman have disconnected the Omnie Reality Engine and are carrying it away. You wait some long moments as the voices above dwindle before stepping out from your hiding place and leaving the ruined building. As you stand outside, looking for signs of the strange group, a voice next to your ear causes your heart to nearly leap out of its chest.

Mikel: Catastrophe's balls kid, that was close!

Hovering silently nearby, a small drone carries the now familiar trademark voice-box that identifies it as one of Mikel's mechanical liaisons.

  • Tell Mikel what you saw.

Mikel listens as you recount your experiences within the Omni Reality Engine and then with the group once you left it. He seems particularly interested in the figure you encountered inside, observing:

Mikel: If you reckon that's the Cyrano, then it obviously connected to this node for some reason. If so, perhaps when it disconnected, it unknowingly left behind some bit of itself, just like the memory avatars, a remnant of the Cyrano stuck in this node!"

The drone begins to move towards the exterior of the ruins, with Mikel musing out loud as you walk next to it, clambering over rubble and detritus as it hums softly overhead. As you approach the boundary of the ruins, Mikel pauses for a moment of thought before continuing.

Mikel: Listen, I know you must have a thousand questions, and to be honest, I do too. But you need to get out of there, and I better go dark. They found the node, they almost found you! We need to act very carefully now. I've got a stash of creds, use it to get scarce. The Cyrano is out there somewhere and we probably need to figure out how it is connected to all this. I'll contact you when it's safe…well, safer. And congrats kid, you just survived your first encounter with the Janissaries! Well…that you know of…

With that last, troubling comment, the drone deposits a bag of credits onto the floor next to you and suddenly ascends rapidly high into the air above you. After several moments, there is a muted explosion as the drone self destructs.

You have received 225.00 credits.

You have completed the "Ghosts in the Machine" mission.

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