Last time, you will recall, agents of the rebellion had fomented revolt on Xaq, a desolate and barbaric planet that served as recruiting grounds for cruel queen Anathraxa’s ruthless armies. Labouring under the belief that he was to become king of kings of all the brutals, a petty chief had united the tribes and was attacking the queen’s troops because he thought them to be her enemies. Anatraxa, aroused by this story of masculine aggression and blind devotion, and uncaring of the lives of her own troops so far lost, decided to visit Xaq and feast on the new tribes’ life forces.
Now read on.
Decision points described in square brackets [like this].
Paranssos and Danton, agents in the service of the rebellion, but ignorant of the ultimate leadership of the cause, were sent to Charadon. [Does the adventure continue on Xaq? Slim-chance: no, but. There are important influences nearby. Where? From locations deck: Charadon.]
The leader of the Sharkmen of Charadon was Ovark Carcaria, a self-styled priest attempting to export his religion. He was also a known critic of Anathraxa, but since Charadon had nothing worth exploiting the planet had been untouched. [Has the religion been successfully spread through the galaxy? 50/50: no, but. Not the religion itself but it has been used as a front to spread the rebellion. Does this involve the fake personality of Dr Baffle? 50/50: no, but. What is the overall relationship of Ovark Carcaria to the rebellion? From the Answer Deck: The Stranger, Patience. Much discussion ensued. We raked over the detail of the three preceding episodes and looked at the clues till we arrived at the following.]
Ovark Carcaria was none other than the single mastermind of the rebellion. Hidden in plain sight as an enemy, but appearing to be a powerless one, he had laid his plans. But Ovark was not all he seemed. He was a sharkman in body, but he had been occupied by a Stygian – the last surviving Stygian after Anathaxa exterminated the race decades, or centuries ago. The six Stygian Elders that were encountered in episode 2 were incorporeal projections. Perhaps they were generated by long forgotten equipment buried deep in Stygia. Perhaps they were vestigial energy of the extinct psychic race. Perhaps they were ghosts. Perhaps they were projections of Ovark himself. What had happened to the personality of the original sharkman? No one knew. However, he had taken control of the body of Ovark, and had orchestrated plans that had their origins far in the past and were only now coming to a head.
The ship carrying Parnassos and Danton dropped through the heavy air of Charadon and plunged into the tropical sea. It sank through the darkness till an enormous domed city came into sight. Giant airlocks cycled in the secret citadel and the pirate agents were escorted into the laboratory palace of the rebellion’s mastermind. There, the entire history of the rebellion was explained, and the agents were instructed on the final act that they must perform in order to finally topple Anathraxa.
The play that had been performed throughout the galaxy [described in episodes 2 and 3] had a psychic brainwashing component. When a certain sequence of numbers was heard, the programmed subject would act out the instructions contained in the play: engaging in sabotage, rioting and general civil disobedience against Anathraxa’s forces. This sequence of numbers would be broadcast as part of a great celebratory lottery being held on Levitos. [How do we deliver the psychic trigger? From Answer Deck: Greed, Good Fortune].
Levitos, you will recall, was the high tech floating city of The Greys that had been starved of fuel by the queen. In secret, a shipment of dark matter had been supplied and now the full range of powers was available to the inhabitants. The technology now available to the rebellion was greater than that possessed by Anathraxa. The queen had failed to take action against Levitos because she had been successfully deceived into attacking Mechanos and now was too busy lustfully engaged on Xaq. [Is Levitos now fully functional? Odds on: Yes, and. Is Anathraxa feeding on Zaq at this moment? Safe bet: Yes.]
The prize of this lottery (broadcast system wide because we have ancible, or at least such time dilation or broadcast ranges are irrelevant to the story) was a lifetime luxury apartment aboard the mighty city with panoramic views of the rainbow flowing slipstream
[At this point we felt we could see the broad sweep of the conspiracy, but had no idea what to do next: how could we play it out? We drew from Brewer’s and received Pyrrhic Victory. At the time it meant nothing so we parked it. It was not until very close to the end that we saw how this described both the entire story arc and the detail of this episode.]
Parnassos and Danton, using false identification papers provided by Sinon of Barter, were posing as Imperial Gaming Auditors. We were in disguise as Psiclopians, with synthetic skin covering our eyes and a semi-functional single eye placed on our foreheads. The real auditors were held up out near Psiclops due to the space battle developing around Mechanos between Anathraxa’s fleet and the now infuriated Robotmen.
We arrived at Levitos on schedule and were escorted to the Commander’s office. Levitos was a gigantic space-going domed city of the Close Encounters kind. The passage through the black hole to Slipstream had wrecked most of its superior technology and it was only able to hold station over the Slipstream flow. This filled the skies with beautiful rainbow displays, much like a continuous Aurora Borealis. The architecture of Levitos was grand, reminiscent of the most opulent old Earth casinos, and in fact that is what Levitos had largely become. The rich and famous liked to be seen there. Now, unknown to most, the great city was coming to life and machines of monstrous power were humming and sparking back into operation.
The lottery was conducted using a gigantic chocolate wheel apparatus with strong echoes of Metropolis in its design. Lights and swinging arms spun around, settling on one of 20 numbers. Every five numbers the spin would halt and the presenter would look into the broadcast cameras and ask the audience to phone in if they were still in the running. The whole event was attended by this glitzy showmanship and direct audience participation.
Behind the semi-transparent lottery wheel face, inside the overheated, valve and clicking relay random number generating machine, we plugged in our ‘audit’ box. Naturally the box had overrides and inserted new code. The result was that when an audience member called in to confirm that they were still eligible to win, a coded tone was played to them, triggering the subliminal programming placed there earlier.
As the numbers ticked over, more and more people called in. In fact, we calculated that a significant portion of the entire population of Slipstream received the signal at least once. [For the record, the winning numbers were: 14, 9, 13, 18, 18, 17, 1, 11, 7, 9, 9, 7, 19, 17, 13, 9, 10, 1, 3, 8.]
A feeling of goodwill swept the oppressed populations of the Slipstream system. Where Anathraxa had set race against race and conditioned feelings of mistrust and antagonism, there arose instead an understanding that the enemies were not neighbours near or far. There was only one enemy: it was Ananthraxa herself, represented by her brutal, cruel, ruthless (and sometimes sexy) forces.
Levitos started its mighty engines and powered towards Xaq. The surviving forces of Mechanos, decimated nine times over yet victorious, descended on Xaq and engaged the fleet protecting the queen. The queen was unaware of this and was powerless to intervene as she gorged herself on the males of the tribe: they all died with smiles on their faces.
Even the crew of Anathraxa’s warships were not immune from the effects of the lottery. They were fatally unprepared as the vengeful killbots carved through them. Soon the skies were clear except for Levitos. Hovering over the desolate planet, while the queen could only impotently shake her fist as the sky, the Levitosians extended a force shield around Xaq, sealing her within.
And so it seemed that the evil reign of Anathraxa had been brought to a close. She was a prisoner, marooned on a planet that she had made barren, with no hope of external aid penetrating the Levitosian shield, and no technology or industry on the planet’s surface with which to engineer a breakout. In the final cruel irony, she was the Supreme Being on the world, master of all, top predator, and ultimate punishers of all males. But increasingly she would be dressed in rags, and no one could offer any solace.
[And now to tie up the loose ends and explain the Pyrrhic Victory finding.]
The military victory of the Robotmen over the Imperial fleet was complete but costly. It was a dark day for robot kind but, as Bendar of Futurama would observe, ‘We can always build more killbots’.
It was a Pyrrhic victory for the winner of the lottery, for there was one, as the view of the slimstream was now forever replaced by the ice filled clouds above Xaq.
Perhaps the greatest Pyrrhic Victory occured for the Levitosians who had worked hard to restore their technology. Witht his technology they could have once again roamed the skies and perhaps even left the galaxy all togetehr. however, they were now eternally locked in orbit around Xaq maintaining the shield around Anathraxa’s prison. They had even lost the view of the slipstream, instead becoming becalmed in a misty sea, dusted and buffeted by ghostly images in a half light.
It was, in a way, even a bittersweet victory for the sexbot turned galactic war criminal. She had everything she could want: devotion, freedom, and an endless food supply. It was only for want of the finer things in life that she would suffer.
But, a disquieting thought: who is this Ovark, the psychic Stygian mastermind that somehow transferred his consciousness into another body in order to fulfil his vendetta against Anathraxa? Who is to say that he could not himself be immortal, transferring his essence endlessly through a series of bodies whose minds had been murdered? Could it be possible that he could turn out to be just as injurious to freedom as his predecessor? And ultimately, how many of the malign tales told of Anathraxa were actually true? After all, who alive today can say they ever actually met in her the flesh…
And so the curtains go down on Slipstream, a story-telling adventure in four parts, told using tools developed by Greg Hallam and Andrew Boswell.
Watch out for new stories coming to a cinema near you.