Starhaven Pt 1

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In between one breath and the next

for me, in this land beyond,

was yet a year passed back home

unknown

My family grew, laughed, and cried

Certain I had died

But I dined and danced beyond the veil

In what seemed 

but a single passing night

Valhalla, Avalon, the Blessed Isles, Paradise, Heaven, the Courts of Faerie.  The dimensional construct now known as Starhaven has been featured in many mythologies, tales thrown down around a campfire, of experiences in a place no mortal could quite comprehend.

Time stands still in a static universe.  Starhaven is a construct so large that no valid estimates of its size actually exist.  Attempts to circumnavigate the colossal structure in spacecraft have come to naught.  Those who have attempted it just loose their way and end up back where they started.  Even computers and mapping devices come up short.

Starhaven is broken up into several sections, each accessible to the others via teleporter pads in each region.  There is no other known way to get from one section to another otherwise.

The regions now seem well designed to serve the function impressed upon them by the Interworld Agencies as a clearing house for equipment, agents, and other resources, as well as several common areas for entertainment and housing.

The Starhaven Bazaar itself takes up one whole section and is, in general, a mercantile free-for all.  If it exists, you’ll likely find it somewhere at the Bazaar.  The Bazaar itself is run by a merchant’s guild, who is in turn represented on the Immortal High Court.

Violence is frowned upon, but generally tolerated as long as intentions don’t run toward the deadly.  These days the law, such as it is, will be enforced by the Phoenix Squad, 50 of the fiercest mortal fighters on Starhaven, backed up by the Immortal Dedra Phoenix.

In case of an outside attack they can shut down the worldgates and remain unmolested for as long as they leave them down.  There is only one rift between Starhaven and the outside universes, and thus that single rift can be taken down.

(This is not strictly true, however certain the Starhaven Agency Manuals might say otherwise.  On more than one occasion an externally activated rift and gate was able to breach the outer defenses.  Each time the interlopers were driven off).

The Sections of Starhaven are as follows:

Agency:  The offices and classrooms of the primary Interworld Agencies, including a good portion of their internal R&D operations.

Housing: Divided by agency.  Family, individual, and co-hab units.

Bazaar.

Entertainment:  Cinemas, concert halls,  Practice yards and shooting ranges.  Swimming pools, museums, virtual zoo, 

Magitech Commercial:  Magitech Bank, the original Magitech Lounge, The Magitech Outlet, Havoc’s Ye Old and New Weapon Shoppe.

Magitech Private:  Housing for members of Magitech and Mirage.  Artificer’s labs.

Medical Section.  Helix Headquarters plus R&D and medical facilities.

High Court:  ArchAngel’s apartments, Phoenix team barracks.  High Court Chambers.  Other immortal apartments/suites.

Worldgate:  The only way on and off Starhaven.

(Note:  Kids are generally raised off Starhaven, at least a good part of the time.  They do not age if they remain within the dimensional rift where Starhaven exists.  It is not unusual for way stations on backwater Earths to be staffed by a whole family.  It provides early training for the young and allows them a chance to actually grow older).

Equipment Continued: The Personal Communication Device.

PCD   First invented in the early 21st Century, they most resemble our own smartphones—except PCDs are wearable.  People of Earth Prime just preferred to wear a large bracer on one arm (or, in some cases, on both).  Early users needed either a wireless headset or a draw cable headset.

 These PCDs were used for navigation, communication, record keeping, and reading their version of the internet.

23rd Century PCDs, on the other hand, are so much more.  It is said that it takes moments to learn how to use one, but a lifetime to master.  It has the communication function, enabled instantaneous multi-reality connections between agents in the field and home base, as well as filtered channels for other agencies as well.  Transmissions are tracked and backup can be alerted instantly.

 

Scanner function enables a 300 meter area in which the device can read life signs from everything in the area.  Temperature, pulse-rate, rate of movement, size, mass, and, often, potential threat levels.

 

Databases extend through the operational Starhaven archives, with the knowledge of five worlds within easy access.  Look up any piece of information necessary to do one’s job within minutes.

 

Panic in the Disco Ball:  If the panic function is activated, the wearer and anyone s/he’s touching is surrounded by a force bubble of immense strength, which can last between ten minutes to an hour depending on how much of a beating it’s taking.  At the same time it shoots out scintillating bolts of light, including infrared and ultraviolet.  It is said to be particularly dangerous for a vampire on the outside of one.

 

This also calls for backup.  A second squad will be dispatched to the wearer’s location within 10 minutes.  Arrival times are not guaranteed.

 

The last function, the least used, is the dreaded Gate Home.  It’s… humiliating.  But every agent who’ve ever needed to has used it.  It usually doesn’t help your next promotion come any faster, as it happens.

 PCDs are durable enough to be used as a shield, if necessary.  More than one agent has owed their life to the agency leash strapped around their wrists.

Equipment Part 1: The Symsuit. The Interworld Agent’s Best Friend

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Ah, the Symsuit.  Let me come right out and say that I got the initial idea for the sym from a certain web-based character’s ebon and white symbiotic accessory.  Living armor, created for the express purpose of keeping its host alive.  Fiendish survival instincts, with preternatural and reality-bending gifts.  Syms are of mysterious origin, said to have been the creation of some hive mind entity in repayment for a favor done by someone in the distant past.  They will give no other details.

Besides protecting the wearer from kinetic energy like armor, symsuits confer regenerative abilities and resistances to electricity, poison, radiation, and, in a pinch, even in toxic atmospheres and space itself.  Though even a sym would be unable to maintain itself in space for more than a few hours.  If its powers were insufficient to rescue them, they would both die.

Vampires cannot wear syms.  As a general rule.  There is one exception, and that’s because the vampire Rio, herself a brilliant biochemist and virologist found a way to gain vampiric abilities without actually being dead.

Syms come with paranormal or magical abilities, though technically they’re actually higher on the power scale than magic, nearly on a par with vampiric powers.  In a head to head battle, it might be more the individual than the strength of the power should they come into conflict.

Examples of symsuit powers include stretching, invisibility, teleportation, force webs, flights, shapeshifting (with conservation of mass requirements—though it’s known for some to draw and shed mass from nearby structures or even the earth itself.  Biomass dumps are… disgusting.

The largest transfer of mass ever witnessed is that performed by dragons and dragonfriends wearing their particular brand of symsuit.  Some dragon armors can allow transformation into any dragon.  Others are far more limited.  All of them give some measure of draconic powers.

Artificer of Magitech can now grow symsuits, but that requires that a person be able to access Starhaven and the shops therein.

It doesn’t make the average agent the equal of an immortal being, but it gives a team of them a fighting chance against one.  And that can make all the difference in the world.

Infinity Bible Part IV-Immortals

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Some 25,000 years ago, the Cen released a bioweapon on a civilization some may know as Atlantea.  The death toll was devastating.  Some 99 percent of the planet’s human population was wiped out virtually overnight.  The 1 percent who survived, however, were forever changed.

An immortal is who they down their very DNA.  If one cell survives destruction, an immortal can regenerate from that little bit.  Generally the way they accomplish this is particular to each immortal, but it’s something of which one might want to be aware.

The only thing known that can kill an immortal is the dreaded living crystal weapons.  But for a few notable exceptions, a death-stroke delivered with one of these artifacts disrupts the cell memory and can inhibit or even deny growth.  Immortals have been killed this way.

Fleeing the destruction of Atlantea, some 200 immortals arrived on what we know as Earth Prime.  We sometimes like to think of it as one step sideways from OUR Earth.  They split up almost immediately, the stress of losing their world and so many loved ones added to that of many manifesting preternatural abilities on top of it.  A lot of immortals just wanted to be alone.

A few took off together, however, and began dealing with the humans from their adopted world.  It became comfortable for some to be seen as gods.  Why not?  Compared to these creatures they were gods.  Advised against it by the gateship Captain, the one who’d brought them here, these little godlings donned the aspect of deities and invented pantheons around themselves.  Powers they had were attributed to the gods they became, and thus mankind was turned away from pure nature worship into something else.

Grand civilizations were born in the centuries immediately following the crash.  Their gods walked among them, and the miracles performed were beyond counting.  They discovered that belief conveyed a kind of energy, and when one had accumulated enough believers, the immortal began to develop ‘god’ powers.  It generally involved the spontaneous invocation of mundane items, simple transmutation, that sort of thing.  Control over the natural world was not uncommon, including the four elements (or five, depending on who you ask).

Among the most powerful immortals in those old days were Zeus, Hermes, Thanatos, Athena, Artemis, Hades, Hecate, Lilith, Thor, Odin, Sif, Morrigan, Lugh, , and Ares, as well as Isis, Osiris, and Thoth.  Other gods were wiped from the face of the Earth in the First Wars.  Wars so devastating and brutal that the surviving gods wiped any evidence they had ever happened out of existence.  As far as anyone could tell, civilization started somewhere between 8 and 10,000 years ago.  And that’s how the immortals like it.

Over the centuries others have fallen away, been lost somewhere in the web of worlds.  Whole civilizations were born and died before recorded history began.  Some left, many died in the war.  And if anyone knows with, they’re not telling.

And the memories of those beings were where the legends of the various gods came from.  And not even mankind remembers.

Loki missed it when the Cen seeded Earth with the magic stealing virus.  He’d long since lost all his equipment and had been waiting for science to catch up.  The war had caused a great deal of trouble and they’d had to tolerate eons of barbarism between the fall of the old and the rise of the new.

He’d expected it much earlier, having feared from the beginning that the Cen had somehow followed them, and had grown lax.  Tens of thousands of years in between… he thought maybe they’d followed some other probability line and were harassing someone else’s Earth.

Until the magic all went away.  The Ghost Dance was about magic’s last gasp, and it failed.  The viruses carried by the settlers had wiped out whole populations, but they had also done their secret work… stolen magic from damn near the last people in the world who still carried it.

A few mage lines existed, but they stayed way underground, treating with other worlds and some of Faerie, but even most of those lines had died out by the time the 21st Century had rolled around.

Loki planned to fix that.  He’d actually been trying to recreate whatever had happened to them to save his future bride, Renee had been dying of a blood disorder.  He’d been working on a formula.  The two things met and did something… unexpected.

One last thing about immortals that might be of particular use is this:  There is a great deal of variation in the powers of immortals.  Some few retain a little god power, and others are simply powerful to begin with.  Powers rarely repeat, though they may overlap.  Different immortals may use similar powers differently, as is found with vampires.  Not all immortals have powers, however.  Some are little more than super-enhanced parahumans with ultimate regeneration.  Others can be quite spectacular.

An immortals power is generally considered to be superior to all other powers.

Similar powers may override each other in this order.

God Powers

Immortal/Draconic Powers

Vampiric Powers

Symsuit Powers

Magic

Thus a symsuit with power over fire would lose in a battle of control with a vampire or immortal with similar abilities.  This doesn’t mean, however, that they would lose.  Powers are only one aspect of any entity’s arsenal.

Infinity Bible Part III-Magic

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Magic is temporal energy unfulfilled.  While the web of worlds exists because of the chain of possibility, there are those events that build energy but do not create another universe.  The threshold of probability is not reached.  This energy is scattered across the globe, visible to anyone with the talent for it.  The innate gift of magic, humanity’s birthright, had been stolen from us by the Cen.  The arcane virus, legacy of Loki’s Sin, returned that old gift to mankind.  And now magic was visible again.  Threads could be woven into seals and sigils.

Each strange, each loop of a sigil, represents an intention.  This fragment of energy will do… this.  (Imitate a kind of energy or element, like fire, electricity, cold, etc…)  It may also grab something up to a mile away, or transport the mage across those distances with a single step.

One end of a strand can be tied off, the other opened, thus creating a dimension pocket.  Any mage may have a dimension pocket sewn into any piece of clothing, or inside of a standard belt purse common on low tech worlds.  Some carry weapons in dimensional scabbards.

Magic is complicated to explain, but let’s give it a go.

You have different kinds of magic.  Offensive, defensive, affective, reflective, and creative.  What determines the type of spell is the mage’s intent.  Knowledge informs intent.  You have to know what you want the magic to do.

Offensive is pretty self-explanatory.  Every strand of many put into damaging an opponent does so much physical damage.  In game terms we used a specific amount, of course, but let’s say one strand isn’t usually lethal unless it’s somehow boosted.  (Lightning into water comes to mind).

Defensive can absorb as much damage as a single offensive thread can do.  They cancel each other.

Affective magic induces change.  One thread is equivalent to fifty lbs of mass.  To change a large human man to something else of the same weight would take roughly four threads.  It is presumed that some of the effects of lycanthropic and other shapeshifting draws upon magic, though it’s never actually been proven.  If it does, it’s entirely outside the purview of the shifter.  It is for were-creatures, anyway.  We’re not making any bets about dragons.

Conservation of mass generally applies, but it is possible for a creative mage to get around this problem.  Creativity and knowledge, remember?

Reflective magic is designed specifically to counter offensive and affective magics.  It doesn’t simply reflect.  It combines and increases the power of the attacking spell and hurls it back at the assailant.

Creative magic is the most difficult, and the most misunderstood.  Creative magics are those the at which the legendary Jasmine Tashae excels.  She created the imp Quickfingers, after all.  He is, if anything, a construct of magic somehow given life.  No one else has ever succeeded in this venture, though it’s not impossible that someone else might eventually do so.

Infinity Bible Part II

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Settings

Infinity: Earth

This particular setting has a lot going for it.  You can go all the way back to the beginning, in the first few years when mortals didn’t really known anything, or work forward from there.  As long as you don’t write anything that impacts the main storyline (avoid killing immortals, or inconveniencing them, and this takes care of itself).

Infinity: Earth  (The Cen War).

I’m not good at war stories.  Imagine what it would be like to have an army of human animal hybrids, as well as gengineered insects and spider troops, up against a coalition of humans, superhumans, vampires, were-folk, and mages.  If you have inclination to write in this era, drop me a message and I’ll give you a rundown on what I have for the war already.

Infinity: Earth (Aftermath and the Reunification Wars).  The age of new colonialism.  But now the competing groups aren’t different human phenotypes, but humans, preternaturals, and alien creatures struggling for some kind of elbow room together.  The former United States is broken up into several different regions (still drawing the boundaries) ranging from the highly religious, very insular Republic of Texas and its closest neighbors.  The Northeast coast is gone, devastated by the nuclear attacks the Cen attackers launched.  Mages on the west coast had defended their territory, but scared politicians had chased them all away from DC… so no one was there to repel the bombs.

The same is true for the Southeast as far as South Carolina.  People are starting to return to the areas to the north, but slowly.  No one is sure how long the radiation will last in isolated pockets.  Sales of Geiger counters are hot.

I have included no real details about any other area on the planet.  It’s an open field.  I write about areas with which I’m familiar.  I ask that other people do the same.

Infinity: Prime:  This is the hardest to explain.  Let’s try this.  Our earth is only one of an infinite variety of worlds… some barely a step away, others with countless variations.  The base of operations for the various interworld agencies is Starhaven, a massive construct that counts as a small universe of its own.  No one knows how large it is, nor how long it has existed.  There are new areas discovered all the time.

The web of worlds, different aspect Earths that are each different from another, created by some historical turning point that pivoted the direction history took.  A world in which the Roman Republican never became an empire.  A Rome that never fell.  Aztec conqueror invading Europe.  A Celtic empire that spans the globe.  Where the French colonized N. America, where the American Revolution failed, etc.. etc.. and it can go back eons.  Epochs, even.  In fact, there are universes that birthed other intelligent creatures than man.  Procyon Lotor Sapiens, for example.  Ursine Erectus.

The different agencies on Starhaven, each run by a member of the Immortal High Court, operate in a kind of demi-feudal arrangement.  Each agency polices one particular obsession, or, as some have been known to put it, each agency specializes in meddling in different places—all of in which they don’t belong.

Tau, having begun to police time travel, needed a reason to continue once the primary time travel threat had been eliminated.  They picked technology being carried into places that weren’t prepared for it.  A noble goal.  It is under the authority of the immortal Athena.

The Crimson Sash is a worm can of a different shade, however.  They police magic.  Or, at least, they attempt to.  There are so many ways to abuse magic, or abuse people with magic.  The Crimson Sash and its rag-tag army of Mage-Engineers, Mage-Physicians, and Warrior Mages, Spiritwranglers and dabblers, attempt to keep some serious heavies at bay.  That’s always been Sash’s job.

Of course, Sash can’t do it alone.

When it comes to worming itself into the heart of the enemy, nothing beats the Triwar Guild.  This mercantile outfit smuggles and sells everywhere, in nearly open defiance of Tau’s mandates.  If you want a heavy weapon smuggled into a backwater, talk to the Guild.  If you want some great magical artifact stolen and smuggled out?  Talk to the Guild.

Then there’s the Knights of Anarchy.  Ruthless buggers.  They’re the ones you bring in to foment rebellion.  Very handy for leading the charge against wizard-kings.  Spies and assassins.  Their symbol is an eight pointed throwing star.  Their sign is a knifing in the night.

Havoc.  The big boys with the big guns.  You need a solid military outfit, designed for whatever tech level you’re looking at?  Grab a few boys and/or girls from Havoc.  Parahumans, Lycanthropes, and Hybrids wielding the most destructive technologies to be found anywhere.  Level a city in minutes.  Lay waste a planet in hours.  “Havoc:  We ARE the Dogs of War.”

Helix is the agency populated by Mage-Physicians and does its best to keep agents in fighting shape.

And what can you really say about Magitech?  Purveyors of the finest magical and technological gadgets in the known metaverse.  Artificer, the first and greatest of the Mage-Engineers.  Gwen Pas-Aym, the albino steward with the powerful psychic gifts owed to her exposure to Loki’s meta virus.  The sentient raccoon Chikitar.

Can’t say much to introduce the next act.  Mirage.  Jasmine Tashae.  Nyx Deathweb.  Orcus the lycanthropic killer whale, and Cecil the were-otter.  And the imp.  Quickfingers.

Together these different agencies, and their immortal patrons, try to keep the lid on a recipe for disaster of epic proportions.  So many societies, so many different powers, swirling together in a wild web of probability.  And they know it.

Agents attract trouble.  It’s their job.  This does not stop when they are on vacation.  Vacation is a curse word.  They never go well.

And, last but not least, the final milieu.  Infinity: Empire.  It’s the original Earth’s (the immortals’ Earth) mid 23rd Century civilization, protected by sentient, magic-using mageships and their pilots.  Centers around the Magitech Lounge, a kind of meeting hall for the most powerful freaks in the Confederation of Worlds.  Just a bar where the really weird folks get together to shoot the shit.  And stand by each other.  The bar is run by Jack, a retired time traveler.  Notables include a repentant Hades, Stormchild, the living vampire Rio, Several demonic looking “Abyssians,” and the djinn Dylan.

Part 3, Magic, coming up Next.