Thursday, July 14, 2022

6 Oddities of the Techworld

Art by Yun Ling

1 - Reflexive Water

It is perfectly normal for water to be reflective. However, reflexive water is more eccentric. Due to heavy pollution with heavy metals, aldehydes and self-assembling latex polymers, many still bodies of water in the Techworld have surface tension like a rubber sheet, and can be stood upon by an average human. A cupful of reflexive water has the physics of a water balloon.

Reflexive water is also highly toxic, carcinogenic and acts as a potent preservative. When looking into reflexive water lakes and pools, it is easy to spot a plethora of dead fish, crustaceans, and rubbish preserved perfectly inside. 

That's why it's a perfect tool of postmodern geology. In fact, the remaining human groups that still concern themselves with the luxury of science come around to put long sensor poles into the stuff, which stick out of pools like giant metal hairs. It tells them things about the last, oh, hundred years or so. Atmospheric conditions, saline contents, pollution levels...animal mutations, of a pole goes straight through a fish by accident.

Sometimes, a leak happens, or the wind blows very hard, and then balls of reflexive water roll out into the concrete and dry grass waste fields, like strange tumbleweeds that give you cancer if you put your bare skin into them.

Art by Yun Ling

2 - The Handshake

In the Flooded City that surrounds the radioactive Forest of Glass, grafitti of a white and black hand shaking litters the remaining concrete surfaces. A collapsed office block has it painted across a whole side of the building. Car wrecks are dwarfed even by the fingers. Scavengers take it for a kind of "peace among tribes" symbol that locals came up with. Its true meaning is a little different.

During the last war, FUNO (Force Unifié Occidentale) and the Sovereign Revolt Party both developed city-sized silicon hive computers that they hoped would win them the conflict. Resting steadily on the graveyards of the labour forces that built them, these glass and plastic palaces came online within 0.2 seconds of each other, being allowed total strategic control over their respective militaries.

In the three seconds that followed, 721 out of 723 FUNO brass and all 614 SRP high commanders were killed by controlled explosions, and both computers destroyed themselves using the hydrogen weaponry at their disposal.

Soldiers on the ship Princeton Diamond later all claimed that they witnessed the materialisation of two figures made of bright light in the air above their vessel, shaking hands and disappearing. The Princeton Diamond's location at the time was near the middle of the shortest-distance line between both computers. Time of observation is congruent with the machines' brief operation time.

The Forest of Glass, a radiation-flooded thicket of molten glass shapes, converges in a large round crater resembling an icy lake - it's covered by a layer of the glassy substance that makes up the forest. On scavenger maps, the Forest is marked as pointless wasteland. The whole forest is rumored to exist simultaneously in two places at once, and people walking in one would appear in the other as ghostly shadows which age anyone who passes through them, at incredible speed.

Art by Zdzisław Beksiński
3 - Ghasts

They lurk in corners of derelict houses, crawl over life support pods in meltdown, haunt the fossils of offices. Despite their intimidating appearance, the creatures known as Ghasts are not malevolent. It's not at all in their nature to attack or even harrass humans. Ghasts are semi-corporeal beings that, as far as they let on, come from deep underground. They always come in groups and fluctuate in and out of shape. That shape is a lanky, bony humanoid with open or skin-covered eye sockets, and an oversized elongated head.

They can speak all languages, but none very well. They can't understand each other through speech but seem to have no need. They have a writing system of symbols, where it appears that all messages can be conveyed through one or two symbols: no examples of Ghast writing longer than two symbols exists, but the symbol variety seems infinite.

When asked what they want, they answer: "Urkie." Ghasts are the only kind of creature that seems to somehow subsist on the ORKUS. They seek it out (it is plentiful in the Techworld's derelict ruins), pick it out of crags with their long fingers, and slurp it up. Whether eating the ORKUS has caused their strange form, or whether they were already so when they came to be, is a mystery. Of the higher sphere phenomena, Ghasts are one of the least understood.

They are not at all numerous enough to stop the spread of the ORKUS. In time it will consume them too, and destroy them. But it's nice to know that for a while, they existed, in spite of all the reasons that they shouldn't.

Art by Moebius

4 - Megacrabs

You didn't really think there wouldn't be humongous apocalypse arthropods trying to separate your guts from your skeleton and slurp you like a Starbucks Viscera Latté, did you?

This one is exactly what it says on the tin.

What made them? Honestly, it's a spin on the wheel of fortune. You'd be better off asking what didn't make them.

Art by Artem Cheboka

5 - Red

It was gone for a while. Pulled from the world during the last war. People say this conflict was so bloody that the colour red was drawn out of the world to fill in all the carnage. Truth is, there have been plenty of wars that spilled more blood. Red didn't leave: it temporarily ceased to exist.

Now, in the Techworld, red is back. The tear in the electromagnetic spectrum is beginning to heal. We know however, that no wound heals without scabbing or scarring. With red, it's no different.

Sometimes red turns white. Then it bubbles up like frying oil, but it's not hot. It solidifies into a salmon-coloured foam. It hardens, then it's marbled, like malachite, and diluted into fatty, greasy shades of orange and pink. If you suck this marbled stuff it'll turn purple, like a jawbreaker candy melting into its next layer of sugary ecdysis. It's quite addictive, but you can survive off it if you have nothing else.

Distilled red, which you can make from the foam before it hardens, is bright like a can of coke, and has the properties of a strong acid. It'll mess up the colour of anything it touches. Everything you need for a workable distillery is under a car's hood. Putting a drop of distilled red in your eye will let you see the colours of the world as they once were. Vibrant. Full of the Bomb's auburn glow.


Art by Natalie Hall

6 - Harrow Power

Humanity has few bastions left in the Techworld. Those that remain are holed up in Geofronts and black pyramids, stricken with all sorts of mad ideas to overcome what has essentially been the verdict that no familiar life may thrive anymore on earth - a signal of doom, and radical change, unknowable save for the bizarre and uncorrelatable phenomena it causes.

One of these mad ideas is Harrow Power. It is the generation of electromagnetic energy by sending angels through Hell.

An "angel" is a highly energetic particle emitted upon dark matter fission. It appears to the eye as a white ball of light the size of a marble, due to its intense brightness contained in the light-bending Aquino Field it generates. At quantum level, its identity is simultaneous with a field resembling wing-like shapes, and a waveform melodious to the human ear.

Hell, then. A reverse Aquino field enhanced with powerful atomic radiation and electromagnetic disturbance. Human flesh burns to powder in point 23 seconds in Hell.

The basic premise of a Harrow Reactor is similar to a particle collider tube. However, inside, Hell is generated over its length and then an angel is shot through it. Angels do not want to exist in Hell, as a matter of physics. Thus, the angel generates, for lack of a better word, friction, in the form of tremendous energy and heat release far, far greater than the power required to create it and maintain Hell.

At the end of the reactor tube, the angel is shot out into a superdeep borehole and causes a radioactive explosion a good twenty kilometers underground.

Allegedly, the inventor of the first Harrow reactor had said:

"God stays in heaven, because he is afraid of what he has created."