5658/Ghosts In The Machines

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Ghosts In The Machines
Date of Scene: 25 January 2018
Location: Lumiere
Synopsis: A scholar and an inventor have a chat.
Cast of Characters: 974, Staren

Carna (974) has posed:
    Enark invited Staren to come visit with him so that they can plan a way to investigate Escher. After discussing a promising method with Asterios, there are leads on how they can start working on this project in a safer manner than otherwise, and a need for the heavy use of scouting drones to further reduce their incurred risk. When Staren arrives in Enark's study, he should be able to see plainly more stuff has accumulated from when he first came here. There's more furniture, there's more modern conveniences, battery and generator-powered lighting, and many more books (though most are on tables and desks and such rather than on shelves due to the shelves already being packed with Enark's personal selection of texts).

    The mimic recliner is still chained to the floor, now with a wide white circle drawn on the floor around it to mark its attack range. There are a pair of metallic arms, a leg, and a torso lying half-complete on a table, and no sign of either Crow or Carna.

    Enark is seated behind his desk with a slinky and some graph paper.

    The Shrine of Light that allows transportation to here is still functioning and just inside a circular alcove within the entry way. The door on the other side of it leads out into the Library of Murdered Knowledge itself, and all the hazards therein.

Staren has posed:
    Staren steps out of the Shrine of Light armored, as usual. You just can't be too careful, here. Although he does take his helmet off inside the study. "Enark!" the catboy smiles. "Good to see you, how are things?" He glances around the room, noting the circle around the attack chair approvingly. "So... What's your plan so far?"

Carna (974) has posed:
    Enark looks up and smiles back. "Welcome, Staren. Thank you for coming. The plan so far is one that requires your particular talents to pull off successfully. Thus far, we have frequently had to run from fights due to lack of information. Fleeing from one area to another and hoping to find a waypoint we can use to escape. I have to admit, even for one such as I who is not a fighter, that has become a bit galling. I would like to gather information about the threats we face in advance, and have multiple safe locations to operate from."

    He gestures around. "Our selection of 'forward bases' and fall-back positions are minimal. The Church, Tacet Sanctos, and here, essentially. Considering the degree of exploration yet ahead of us, a means of quickly and efficiently scouting a territory, securing it, and establishing a base of operations to launch further missions from is a priority. To that end, I would like to devise both more advanced and more prolific scouting drones, and to employ them in the near future in conjunction with Asterios's ability to create mazes."

    Enark starts messing with the slinky. "Here, let me explain with 'Mr. Slinky'."

Staren has posed:
    Staren nods at the initial summary, and continues listening. "Generalized, autonomous scouting drones as opposed to remote-control ones. Hmmm... Making such that can deal with Lumiere's hazards no doubt includes unique challenges, but it sounds doable. One thing I'm unsure of, though... can constructs remotely activate shrines for us? Or would the plan be to locate them ahead of time and just make a beeline for them?"

Carna (974) has posed:
    Enark shrugs. "That is one of the things to look for. But we do not know when or if there will be more of them in any given location. So, at least in the case of Escher, there is far too much of it to fully explore in a single life time, or even thousands of life times, without some sort of accelerated transportation method. Our primary objective is securing Escher, however, so another challenge beyond the threat of monsters and what not is establishing safe areas. You recall that Asterios has the means to create a maze or labyrinth from his surroundings? My idea is this."

    He collapses the slinky on the graph paper at one point. "We are starting here. Let us say it is this very study. We would like to seal off access points and entry ways surrounding us to keep any unknown threats from sneaking up on us. However, getting there without having our return route cut off by things stalking us, or running into things at our destination both have a high likelihood of occurring. So what we do is this..." He marks a point on he graph paper with a pen. "Our starting point is Point A, and our destination is Point B." He stretches the slinky out so that one end remains at A and the other is at B.

    "Asterios rearranges the environment between here and there to be part of his maze. We may still face traps and monsters, but they will be much more manageable, and have much greater control over the environment we fight them in. That is where you come in. We all enter through Point A's end of the Slinky Tunnel, and you send your scouts ahead of us to identify threats. Between you, and Asterios's skills, we should be able to navigate to the other side, where your drones will see if the destination point is clear or not. When it is..."

    He collapses the slinky at Point B. "We exit, we seal all the access points, and establish a base camp of some kind, and then we Slinky Tunnel to Point C. Then we just repeat it until we've created a completely cordoned off area within Escher, where we can dispose of any threats at our leisure, and have ourselves a new area to launch further missions from. We do this on each floor, until we reach our next objective!" Enark leans back in his chair, very pleased with himself.

Staren has posed:
    Staren watches and listens attentively. When he gets it, there's a flicker of something across his face -- recognition of a really great idea, perhaps? "So we don't even need to have them explore and identify key positions, just scout threats ahead. Seems easy enough. I love it! We just fight the things directly in our way, instead of aggroing the whole area... hopefully. I suppose there's a chance some monsters might still ambush us through the maze from the sides, but like you said, we control the environment."

    He rubs his chin, looking at the slinky for a moment. "...But how do we know where to pick as Point B, exactly, without scouting it out in the first place?"

Carna (974) has posed:
    Enark says, "I do not have a complete answer to that. There are many factors, some of which will be burdens upon you. Our stealth experts, I believe, are Count Kord, Priscilla, and... Well, we also had Carna and Crow. But for various reasons they can not be relied upon for this task. I think that on-foot scouting, perhaps supported by your remote control drones, is important. But I also wonder if you have much in the way of sensor arrays and so on?" Enark gets up from his desk, leaving Mr. Slinky where he was last.

    "I have an intuitive navigation within the Library, which enables me to find the knowledge I am looking for. If we still had Crow with us, we could ask for a search of maps of the Library. Then we could use those to plan. So at least at first, we will need an armed expedition to locate said maps, with an eye towards stealth where possible, and overwhelming forced when necessary. As mentioned, Priscilla and Kord are our big go-to tickets for that one. But until we have those maps, and even once we do, putting down motion detectors, penetrating sensors that can read through walls, and anything that you can think of in a compact beacon that can be left behind to mark a safe path and alert us to incoming threats or other... Hostile actors." He gestures around vaguely.

    "I do not wish to get it into it right now, but we have already seen people not affiliated with us coming from outside of Lumiere for their own ends. There is the possibility they are engaging in their own exploration, and might not be working to the same goals as we are. I'd rather know they are there and what they are up to. Surveillance systems are things we have not set up much of so far here."

    He walks over to the table with the metal limbs and such and says, "But yes, avoiding threats for this first phase of obtaining up-to-date maps, both from texts stored here and from 'sensor pings' giving us an idea of the layout... Maybe the sort of thing they use to map underground passages? And if we encounter danger we should eliminate them as quickly and quietly as possible to avoid drawing anything else. You are fairly adept with laser weaponry, yes? Lasers are relatively silent weapons. While they also stand out in the dark, in a close-range ambush scenario, it is more important to take out the threats and move on. It could at least give us the time to retrace our steps using the beacons."

Staren has posed:
    "'Sensor arrays' is somewhat vague language." Staren points out before listening to further explanation.

    "Well." He starts pacing. "There's nothing like scrying. A passive sensor needs to have something to sense, like light shining on it from far away, possibly reflected off a distant object. An active sensor emits something that interacts with the world in an observable way... which can also be observed by anything capable of sensing it. If Lumiere's geography permitted, we could build a high tower somewhere with a powerful telescope on top to look around with... but there are so many areas enclosed or possibly even in other, only partially connected dimensions or something."

    "As for sensors that look through walls... the specifics depend on the wall and what you want to see through it, but constantly active sensing takes energy. Placing sensors around our path during a mission might work, but they wouldn't remain active indefinitely. And wouldn't the slinky tunnel strategy change their positioning once the tunnel collapses so Asterios can make the next one?"

    "Mapping the library using ground-penetrating radar or the like... I'm not sure how well it works with the materials the library's made of -- esoteric sensors aren't really my specialty, I know the most about combat robots, not mining. But I'll look into it."

    "As for lasers..." He shrugs. "While the laser itself is silent, putting that much energy into harming something probably isn't. The target may explode, or at least scream. It's like a silencer on a firearm -- it doesn't hide that a gunshot went off, but it does make it harder to pinpoint the shooter. There... may be something we can come up with for a more effective 'quiet weapon', but without some kind of supernatural silencing effect, you're going to have to deal with, one way or another, you're transferring a lot of energy, and that tends to make noise. And if you don't kill the target fast enough, it might make noise too. For things like non-supernaturally-tough fauna, it might take less power so you can kill them quietly, but most things that will be a danger to us are probably too tough for silent takedowns without Priscilla or Kord or something."

Carna (974) has posed:
    Enark listens closely, stroking his chin. "I see, I see. Yes, I sometimes forget the disparity in technology levels. A sensory array or a guidance buoy are relatively common technology in the era I lived in. Passive and active sensors were included in a compact bundle a bit like an antennae, which could be attached to various surfaces. I know hoe they work and how to use them, but would not be able to builld one myself. A bit like how most people know how to use a computer, perhaps even repair one, but very few people could turn all the raw materials into the components needed and then assemble them. The burden was taken over by automation at some point, leading to specialized, distributed mass production."

    He shakes his head. "Well, at least a trail of 'bread crumbs' in the form of beacons so that if something unusual happens, or the terrain shifts, or... Whatever, people can still navigate back even if they go in deeply, that would be something to consider. Your drones can function as surveillance systems, if I recall, so perhaps placing them so that once we've cordoned off the area we want to render safe, we have a record of anything that has entered or departed the area while we were closing the other access points?" He rubs his head.

    "I have spent so much time dealing in arcana that trying to devise scientific solutions again is making me feel like I am exercising parts of my brain left unused for too long. At any rate, the beacons would only be for the first phase: finding and returning with up-to-date records of the layout of Escher. Asterios seems to use some form of stealth as well when he makes his maps, so we might actually be able to save some time by just creating an elite stealth unit to go along with him. Then you and I and Kushiko, and some of our stronger fighters... Perhaps Tomoe, can look for the actual texts and documents we desire."

    He smiles hopefully. "Between the different detection abilities we three possess, and Tomoe's skill at protecting us while we do so, we should be able to get what we are after quickly and get back. We will have an immediate map of the surroundings thanks to Asterios and his team, and can plan for the future and the other floors we will eventually be going to with what we retrieve. It makes more sense than wandering about in an unwieldly group in confined spaces, or having one team sit out and do nothing while waiting for the other, at least. But if you have any improvements, I am open to them."

Staren has posed:
    Staren shrugs as Enark proposes using the beacons for monitoring. He's stopped pacing for the moment, looking at Enark. "Yeah, something like that. And of course, we could have drones place sensory arrays at distant sites of interest."

    Staren nods. "Yeah. The batteries last about four days on the sensors so we can just set them up wherever to watch. Can last even longer if instead of recording and transmitting constantly, they only start when detecting movement or something. Tradeoffs. Of course, in any sort of longer-term base, as long as we have a power source, we could have a drone go around replacing the batteries as needed."

    He starts pacing again. "Seismic sensing is loud and will probably wake up anything in the library. I'm not sure about radar, but if the reflection of air, floor, and bookshelves is different enough, we might be able to get some layout information. Won't be as precise as just sending drones with cameras to map it, but..." he shrugs.

Carna (974) has posed:
    Enark claps his hands together, grinning. "...But we will make do and we will figure it out. We have plenty of time to test and improve as well. Lumiere as been around for a very long time. It is not going to disappear tomorrow, or a week from now, or anything like that." He lets out a sigh as he looks up and around at these same walls he has stared at for far too long. Going over the same books until he couldn't stand the sight of them anymore, and had to find his escape in madness and the blank whiteness of Escher-space below them. "You know, I was a teacher in life. But I always wanted to be an astronaut. The space program was pretty much collapsed by the time I was born. Too much destruction from the apocalypse, and the need for resources in other areas. We needed to rebuild what we had in order to even think about finding somewhere better. But I always wanted to see the Earth from space. To walk on the Moon or another planet, and just... Explore. To go where no one had ever gone before."

    He looks at a worn tome about astronomy. "I actually found a view of the Underworld Moon from the Crimson King's palace in one of those doors in Escher-space. But what I really wanted to find was a view of Earth. I thought maybe if I just wandered long enough, eliminated doors and combinations of doors, I would eventually find it."

    He looks at Staren. "I suppose I have gotten to do some of that exploration now, at least. Thanks to the Multiverse, and thanks to you. Everyone who saved me, gave me this chance. And now, after all this time, we are making progress." He grins lopsidedly. "We can only go up from here. I get the feeling that, finally, things will turn out all right in the end."

Staren has posed:
    Staren listens, smiling upon hearing that Enark's gotten to live a dream held for... possibly billions of years, who knows? "Well, you're welcome to come look at other Earths any time. As for the doors... do we know why they appear where they do? If they had to be placed... then if noone's been to space to place them, there wouldn't be any."

    He scratches the back of his neck. "Man. I feel like statements like 'it's not like Lumiere is going to disappear tomorrow' and 'I get the feeling that things will turn out all right in the end' are going to jinx things, but you know, after someone points that out, they never turn out to be jinxed, so I guess we'll be alright." He smiles again.