SoSE – Drones! In! Spaaaaaaaace!

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ElseWhere · 580

a crash – the scream of a klaxon – a rushing sound of air like someone pulled the plug on the universe – head whiplashing in helmet – pain – void – pain – silence – silence –

Weethao's blurry vision cleared a moment later to find herself floating outside the ship. Before her, beneath her, above her slowly corkscrewing form she could see she was utterly surrounded by empty space.

This wasn't as scary for her as it might've been for others in the crew. Wini had always loved space. Space was beautiful, perfect, endless, both a genuinely infinite opportunity and a continual challenge. Its beauty was gated by constant danger, danger that demanded every second of an engineer's attention lest she and all her crew be lost to it.

Wini loved a good challenge, and she'd always wanted to be closer to space.

Somewhere in the back of her mind she registered that the static in her ear meant her comm was damaged, which meant the crew didn't know where she was and she couldn't call out to them. Somewhere else she recognized the large robotic cargo-loader floating off away from her, the same one that had smashed into the bulkhead and caused the explosive decompression that had sent them both careening into the void moments prior. Distantly she recalled that space was dangerous, and her EVA suit would eventually run out of oxygen or decay under solar radiation.

Still, she felt she could've stayed there forever, drifting through the solar system, watching the delicate traceries of the cosmos cast their nets of ephemeral fire across the empty blackness of infinity.

That was odd. Weethao wasn't really given to poetry–she preferred to work with her hands, to build machines whose meaning spoke for themselves. But something about the beautiful yellow patterns of space made her...artistically inspired.

So she drifted, and she waxed poetic in the recesses of her mind.

Suddenly, a jolt pulled her back to reality as C.H.E.P.I.'s magnetic grapples latched on to the back of her suit, and the little drone began straining its ion repulsor as hard as it could to drag the pair back towards the Tatterdemalion. Wini had built the little hovering bot out of spare parts and a dream, and it loved its creator and best friend with all that which passed for a machine's heart.

C.H.E.P.I. scanned for an entrance. The Cargo Bay would've been sealed off to prevent the rest of the ship experiencing explosive decompression; no good. An airlock, then. C.H.E.P.I. overrode the airlock controls and pushed its repulsor to the limit, and moments later it and Wini tumbled out of the bridge airlock and fetched up hard against a command interface.

Wini opened her suit vents and breathed heavily of the ship's recycled air. Slowly reason came back to her–she had almost died out there! Groaning, she turned her head to smile at C.H.E.P.I., which was hovering anxiously nearby. She raised one hand and the drone gave her a fist bump with one stabilizing arm.

"Saved my life again, little buddy. I'm beginning to lose count."

Somewhere, another explosion rocked the ship. Wini heaved to her feet and patched into the comm network using a nearby console. Minh was shouting orders–like always–and she could hear the familiar sound of the captain's knives and humming personal shield.

"Looks like we're back to fixing everything, my friend. Makes you miss good old Turtle Island." She grabbed the Virtual Access Key from its port nearby, pocketed it, and began running towards the rear of the ship, little C.H.E.P.I. humming right alongside.

She almost forgot about the strange patterns she had seen out there, mapped upon the yellow stars.

Hey folks! Welcome back to Secrets of Somewhere Else, and I'm here today to introduce to you U.C.S. Engineer Weethao "Wini" Habbamock and her personal assistant, C.H.E.P.I.! That's short for Computerized Hovering Engineering Protocol Intelligence, by the way. Wini is the engineer on board the Tatterdemalion, the spacecraft at the center of Axolotl's custom campaign Dark Matter, which transports the familiar horrors of Arkham onto the dramatic backdrop of outer space!

Wini serves as a dedicated fighter for the most part, making use of her quick wits and C.H.E.P.I.'s adaptive AI to dodge enemies and then light them up with her precision targeting and C.H.E.P.I.'s on-board weaponry. Against really tough enemies, she can line up a powerful ion discharge from C.H.E.P.I.'s power core–but there's always a risk of backfiring! Additionally, between her brilliant engineering mind and C.H.E.P.I.'s portable scanners, she's able to handle clue-gathering when necessary.

On board the Tatterdemalion, tinkering supplies are scarce. To keep her gadgets and jury-rigging supplied, and to keep C.H.E.P.I. continually upgraded, Wini is always in the market for spare parts. She's not above cannibalizing ship systems or snagging components from the mechanical enemies she and her best friend take out. Life in space is pretty brutal, and she relies on stimulants and patches to relax–for better or worse, odds are good the addiction won't kill her before cryofailure, explosive decompression, or malicious AI do.

Or something worse.

Wini's main playline is as a combat evader, knocking enemies down and putting the hurt on them with her Automatics, then leaving them helpless for the rest of her combat-oriented teammates to clean up after. Even without the help of her Pickpocketings and Lucky Cigarette Case she will draw rapidly through her deck, relying on her ability and basic draw skills to get a full setup into play and ready to go. She's also able to supplement her team's clue-gathering and generally round out whatever offensive and defensive roles her allies need her to perform–always with C.H.E.P.I.'s help, of course!

For particularly dramatic maneuvers, may I suggest grabbing ahold of C.H.E.P.I. and allowing the drone to carry you through the ship–or harvesting spare parts as they're blasted off your foes by your weaponized friend!

Good luck out there in the black, my friends. At least with a top-notch assistant, toolkit, and friend like Wini has, you might stand a chance of surviving the horrors of space...


Jun 13, 2021 ElseWhere · 580

Wini exhaled, trying hard to keep her panic under control. It was a simple task; prevent your conscious mind from rebelling against the sickening rules of unreality while employing your conscious mind in an effort to bend those rules further.

They didn't train you for this shit in wherever Wini had been trained. Or wherever the part of Wini that had been trained as an engineer had been trained. Other elements of her mind were bizarrely ok with this.

"Focus, Weethao." she intoned quietly. The slightly pixelated little girl by her side cocked her head and spoke up, still with that unsettlingly analytical tone.

"Aren't you going to move the door? Unlocking the simulation is predicated on perfect reproduction of the model memory-print."

Wini sighed, then narrowed her eyes as she concentrated. Gripping the air, she made a precise sliding motion with her fingers, and the door to the hallway at the corner of the room slid impossibly along the wall until it lined up with where they stood. Wini released her grip–motion was unnecessary, but the hand gestures helped her visualize the reprogramming her mind was doing–and began stretching the compacted opposite wall and ceiling until they fit with the schematic CHEPI was overlaying into her mental image. The drone's chassis was back in the real world–no practical way to transport him inside with them–but his OS was serving as a digital assistant here in the dreamscape belonging to the Tatterdemalion's computer systems.

"SIMULATION RECONSTRUCTION AT 72%," the drone's OS readout reported mechanically somewhere in the back of her "mind". The number continued to tick up as elsewhere throughout the school Kaiden, Minh, and Luke continued to reshape rooms and reconnect hallways.

Then she heard the noise. The scraping of metal on plaster, needles on tile and linoleum. Maja froze, clutching at Wini's simulated leg, as the abomination that plagued K2-PS187 bent at a tortured angle to step through the too-small doorway behind them.

"Hey, Maja? Let's play tag. He's it." The little girl looked up at her with very real terror, gulped, and nodded ever-so-slightly. Wini smiled, attempting a reassurance she hardly felt, and then spun and opened a hall door on the wall behind them.

"SIMULATION RECONSTRUCTION AT 68%." CHEPI reported, but Wini considered that acceptable losses. She and Maja ran through the halls as gravity shifted around them. When dead ends arrived Wini rewrote the simulation, moving rooms to meet them and closing off walls behind. Still the Boogeyman pursued them.

Wini rotated the corridor, sending the monster plummeting through a door below its feet, then folded open an impossible stairway up...

...emerging moments later with Maja back in the gymnasium where they had started. The little girl was breathing heavily, and Wini was struck again by how painfully real the simulated dreamscape was. You'd think whoever had the cruelty to imprison these poor children would've had the kindness to remove ailments of the flesh from their purgatory.

The sounds of the Boogeyman echoed up from the hall below and Wini quickly made a picture frame with her fingers before swiftly bringing her palms together. The monster's hand thrust up through the shrinking gap, struggling for purchase, before the floor tiles snapped shut and neatly severed it. There was a terrible howl that seemed to come from somewhere distant and above them, and the hand melted into useless code before vanishing.

Wini had no illusions about damaging the monster; the two clips of imaginary handgun rounds she had put into it when it first appeared taught her that lesson real fast. But she had bought them time.


The school intercom crackled on. "Wini! What the hell are you doing? CHEPI says the simulation has desynced by almost ten percent!"

Wini called up into the air, assuming correctly that Maja would handle the transfer of...was audio the right word? back to Minh.

"I had to protect Maja."

There was a brief silence.

"Good call. Get back to work."

Wini looked down at Maja and ruffled the child's hair. "You hear that, kiddo? You're softening her up. I think Hell might be freezing over."

Maja grinned widely, then cocked her head. "My friends do not have much time left. Please, complete the reconstruction."

Wini nodded and the duo walked down the halls, rotating lockers and doors back into position as they went. Maybe one piece of the mind that now called itself Weethao Habbamock had trained for this after all...