Science Fiction The Oracle
#31
Episode 18: Divinty

Ardelle ducked her head as she followed the others into a bright cavernous area deep within the wrecked remains of the mammoth ship. 

"Whoah..." Elliot breathed and stopped causing Ardelle to bump into him. She stopped hand on a worn and rust-caked metal door frame and blinked. 

"Yeah..." She agreed.

She shielded her eyes, and looked up at what once must've been a huge buckled rip in the roof of the ship. now, Much of the bulkhead above had been removed somehow and trimmed down into a huge circular, rough-hewn hole that allowed sunlight and water to cascade down. Bright sunlight shimmered reflecting from a crystalline waterfalls that plunged from the roof of the ship and fed a myriad of meticulously-cared-for plants and pools and rock gardens arrayed before them. 

They had walked perhaps a half hour through the shattered bowels of the massive ruined ship. In most of the corridors and rooms, metal plating drooped and rusted like scales from a dying fish. Large hills of earth had plunged up where the impact of the ship had once upon a time smashed into the ground.

This place was certainly different from the usual shattered interiors of the ship they'd passed so far as they moved further deeper into the shattered wreck. In the center of this outdoor garden of Eden, a painstakingly manicured and carefully-set pool glimmered with reflected water. It was in a perfect circle. In the center of the pool a large obelisk of stone with ancient rune-like carvings jutted halfway up to the roof. The upper most part of the plinth caught the afternoon sun and the symbols that caught the light seemed to glow with an otherworldly light. 

"What is this place?" Private Chubbs asked.

"I could spend my next month leave here, and not want to leave," Private Claxton said, his mouth open in a wide gape as he took in a large breath of oxygen-rich air that smelled of green and water and sunlight.

"Whatever it is it, it must be important to them," Ardelle said. "Look at that obelisk. Look familiar?"

"The...symbols. They look similar to the underwater ruins, don't they?" Elliot said.

Ardelle nodded. "I was thinking the same thing. I wonder what they say..." 

The path their feet now trod upon was set with smooth, bright, clean, metallic plates. There was no dirt or mold or rust or other detritus. The plates must've been made from some non-rusted interior deck plating, Ardelle reasoned. Perhaps they were to lacquered against the weather to maintain that sheen. The path spiraled inward leading to the obelisk. Then the path continued around the obelisk and spiraled out to an exit on the far side of this large garden.

Their hosts motioned them forward and they followed the path in hushed whispers.

Along the path were arrayed larger-than-life stone statues. Their carvings were blocky, rudimentary even. But their implacable angular faces stared down as if trying to communicate some dark portent. Right hands were outstretched palms forward and slightly slanted down. In warning? In a blessing? It was hard tell with those implacable faces. In each right palm was embedded a large white circular stone. In left hands were held aloft some sconces and they could see large torches in place for night-time use.

They followed the pathway, and began to walk by the obelisk. A carved set of stairs broke off and up to a narrow bridge that ran above the pool. The path above the pool opened up into a circular, marble-like dais that went around the entire base of the plinth. Above one side of the dais, hung two large curved swords. They crossed each other in perfect symmetry. What was more, they appeared to be held aloft by magic... or, Ardelle reasoned, perhaps it was just a creative use of anti-gravity pods that still had some life in them? As they passed by, the pommels of the swords began to glow slightly and then dimmed as they moved beyond the obelisk.

They were led out of the large exterior garden and back into more ruined interior corridors for perhaps another fifteen minutes, then into another circular room with cushioned seats. They were invited to sit. Torches were on the rust-covered walls and burned sending smoky tendrils up into the darkness. Vines and creepers crept down from some upper levels of beams of missing plating lost in darkness. 

Sevshyyn went to the wall and blew on a huge curved horn that was attached to a podium in the center. A thrumming rumble of sound vibrated under their feet from the long blast. Echoes of the blast called back to them.

As they waited, other members of the Chameleon race appeared. These were all older men, most with gray in their hair. Some were thinner than others, and carried a more scholarly mien. They were surrounded by an impressive-looking group of large men, some with wicked-looking melee weapons, and wore some sort of heavy scale armor.

"Corporal... we could use some of them in the marines, don't ya think?" Claxton asked. "Looks like some of them might even be bigger than Chubbs. Who are these guys."

"Look like some kinda honor guard," Chubbs murmured sizing them up. "They don't look so tough."

"Yeah right, those weapons they have look like they could cleave through even your thick head."

Chubbs grunted but kept a firm grip on his weapon.

They newcomers chittered amongst themselves in their odd languages of pops and clicks and whispered scrapes. They were led by an older man, his back bowed considerably with age and he moved with the aid of a polished wooden cane that tapped on the plating underfoot. Long strands of braided silver hair hung about him. A circular amulet with twin curved blades hung about his neck. Dark intelligent eyes passed over their group then doubled-back in surprise as they passed over Lt. Morgan and Ardelle. Then slowly back to Private Chubbs.

He slowly approached and lowered his head in deference, and stopped in front of Private Chubbs. Then the old man, with some difficulty, lowered himself to his knees, took off his amulet and held it up above his head, presenting it to the large armored man.

In a ripple of movement and murmured whispering, the entire assembly was soon bowing before them.

"Uh... what's happening," Chubbs asked his eyes widening.

"Don't let it go to your head, Private," Corporal Whately said with a rueful grin and a shake of his head, "But it looks like you just got promoted."

"I did? By who? And to what rank? And am I supposed to take this thing?" he waved a hand at the amulet that glinted in the torch light.

"By them," Lt Morgan smiled. "And yes, I think he's offering it to you."

"Hah! Don't tell me he just made you a Chief, Chubbs. Chief Chubbs.... You like that? Am I supposed to call you that now? How about Chubby Chief... Or Chief Chubbster?"

Private Chubbs ignored him and stared down at the man who was prostrate before him, forehead to the ground.

"Can you make him stop doing this bowing thing, Corporal?" Chubbs asked.

"I am powerless before your might, oh Great One," Coropral Whately said with mock sincerity.

"Not you too..." Chubbs groaned.

"Hey take that necklace thing already," Claxton encouraged a smile creeping up his face. "All hail Chief Chubbs!" Claxton barked a laugh rich with mirth.

"Shut up, Claxton! Before I bust your chops!" Chubbs shot daggers at Private Claxton and his face grew red from all the attention. But he eventually gingerly took the amulet from the old man's wrinkled hands and gave a nervous smile of gratitude. The elderly man quickly lowered his eyes to the floor again but remained prostrate.

"You need to raise your vision of potential of your fellow soldier, Private Claxton," Lt. Morgan smiled. "If I'm not mistaken, he ranks higher than even a Chief now."

"Higher than Chief?" Claxton asked. "What is he then, some kind of Seargent." 

"Private Chubbs, may I present my congratulations...and be the first to welcome you to the pantheon of the gods."

"Whaaa---?" Chubbs faltered and his face blanched.

Claxton nodded with a sigh. "Like I figured, a Seargent after all. They're the only gods we've ever known, right Chubbs?"

Eventually, after some difficulty, Chubbs with the help of the others managed to get the elderly man and the others of his retinue in the room to rise to their feet. Introductions were made. The elderly man announced himself as something that sounded like Khuxtoxlrinzgsk, but with considerably more scraping and popping sounds. 

Ardelle abbreviated his name to Khux.

Time passed. 

The sun dropped below the horizon and darkness fell on the company. Rooms were provided for their use and rest. 

Later, they regathered in the large room and food was brought in on heaping platters made from deck plating with polished wooden handles. Chunks of steaming red meat basted in a spicy yellow sauce and green tubers and bright purple tangy fruit made up the main course. Other lesser meats and roasted vegetables on skewers also followed. These were served by smaller figures of the Chameleon race, young women, Ardelle thought. These were in white robes and they cautiously approached Private Chubbs on their knees, holding the platters of food aloft with trembling arms. The other men among the humans were also reverenced as possible divines. Chubbs, flanked by his two fellow warriors ate like kings. Or like gods, Ardelle amended.

This day had grown stranger and stranger, she decided.

Other women passed among the caste of leaders, serving them. The honor guard kept the growing crowd of people at bay. 

"You've noticed it right? They're strict patriarchal society?" Lt. Morgan murmured as she watched the various social interactions between the genders.

"What does that make us?" Ardelle sniffed. "We mere women who travel the stars in the presence of our 'manly' gods?"

"Hmmm. I'd guess they consider us as consorts to our divine Private Chubbs," Lt. Morgan said.

"Consorts. I'll pass," Ardelle frowned.

"What? Had enough of men?" Lt. Morgan allowed another rare smile to grace her lined face and she took a sip of a woody flavored drink. It had a heady taste.

She ignored the small jab and speared a peace of steaming red meat, and after a tentative sniff that made her nostrils twitch from the spices, plopped it into her mouth. Hot juices and flavor exploded along with a spicy warmth. The food was exotic and different and yet somewhat reminiscent of a creamy yellow curry she loved to eat on earth. 

Strange... here she was so far a way on an alien planet, eating alien food, yet one bite awakened memories of her fiance Justin Stevens and dates she'd gone on with him to an expensive Thai restaurant. She wondered what he was up to. What would he think of this place? As time passed families began to gather on the outskirts of the room and in the corridors, as word of their arrival spread and soon, judging from the torches, Ardelle guessed there were probably hundreds of people present, maybe even thousands, and many of them probably waiting for a their first look at...gods from the stars.

"Ma'am, excuse me, but you might want to take a look at this." Elliot had sidled up to them. He scratched his nose and after a moment, then presented the amulet Chubbs had taken from the man to Lt. Morgan. It gleamed in the nearby torchlight, the twin carved swords with crossed points.

"What's this? The amulet Private Chubbs was gifted?" Lt. Morgan asked.

"Yes Ma'am. I noticed something interesting. These, um... these look like terminal points. There and there. See? I think... well, I think more than just a necklace. I took some readings with some of my tools and found something."

"Readings?"

"I think these points," he touched some fine metal ends on one side of the inner device, "are input output terminal points."

"You mean for a computer?"

"Yes, ma'am like a data coin," He said.

Lt. Morgan leaned forward, her eyes boring into Elliot's "So you're saying the amulet contains data coins..."

"Well, some sort of data storage, yes. At least, I think so. I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I'm fairly certain."

"What in the stars is this primitive race doing with that!" Lt. Morgan asked holding it to the light.

"Ma'am it looks like the inside of it--not the outer decorative layer of the amulet, but a protected interior--it looks like it's made from the same material as this colony ship."

She turned the amulet over in her hands, rubbing her hands across the carved swords. "Can we interface with it? Find out more?"

"We can try."

"Good. Do it. Ens. Leath, you and Crewman Elliot go back to the shuttle. Run some tests on that amulet, and let me know what you find out. I'll keep my comms on and monitor things here.

Elliot nodded and slipped the amulet it into his pocket as Ardelle stood to join him.

"Also, make communications with the Oracle and know we aren't going to make rendezvous tonight. I'm sure Captain Alestranda will make an exception given the importance of what we've discovered."

"Yes ma'am." Ardelle saluted. With Elliot in tow, him bearing the strange amulet in his pocket, they passed through the honor guard and exited the hall.

--- GM Questions ---

Where does the Chameleon race take them?
Neatly / Extravagent

In the ship?
(50/50 | 6[d10]) Yes, but...

But it's combined with nature... cool.

Must be a pretty important place they're taking them to. Is it some kind of shrine?
(Likely | 9[d10]) Yes

What's in this shrine?
Carefully / Tranquil

It's peaceful... what else is there? I'll ask the MAG.

Pages of info, twin swords in an arc, arrow touching water, firey claw, fiery man, blade or obelisk with runes, flower, vine, trap.... cool. That gives me some ideas.


Hmmm. 


Are the humans reverenced as gods?

(Somewhat Likely | 7[d10]) Yes


Are the Chameleons a patriarch society?


(50/50 | 8[d10]) Yes
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