[IG] Playtest - Through the Ansible

edited September 2007 in In-Game
Shann Vesper:

I've begun my studies here on the world of Delon, and I'm come at a fortuitous time: fifth carnival. I've never seen such a garish and beautiful public display in my life. The Delonites seem to spend lavishly on their frequent pageants and festivals, with the vivid reds and yellows acting almost in defiance of the stark landscape of this world. (Anthropologically, this is also interesting: the Delonites are almost always inclined to hoard their wealth and spend very cautiously, but their nature inverts nearly overnight to the most pure form of a gift economy that I've ever scene. However did this come about?)

I planned on merely taken notice of this from afar in my guest apartment, but my host Arran was quite insistent - she led me by the hand to the street level, and perhaps my observations are a bit less objective as a result, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. There are no words I can use to describe Delonian improvisational choir music, and its strands are still floating in my head.

The crescendo of fifth carnival is tomorrow, and Arran has invited me to the Stage for a competition they call the Looming. I wonder what we'll see there?


  • Dr Arot

    Looming is hard physical work, even for me. It requires many rarely used muscles to be tightened and relaxed in a precise rythm, with exacting accuracy. The other dancers work up a sheen of sweat on their strange red skins almost instantly, as they pass the bobbin between them, through the inticate weavings of the dance. It's quite hypnotic, in fact, and seems to be something of a primitive substitute for the kinds of physiological sciences practiced back home. The bobbin, the only thing on this world that seems to be made of bone, is never allowed to touch the ground. It's a strange superstition for people whose lives are so bound up in the earth, these farmers who bring their cloth to Delon for the Looming each year. While we practice the dance, my new hosts talk to each other about the city. I'm still getting used to the language. I studied on Hrow before arriving here, but it takes time to train the tongue to form the sounds of their language, and for the brain to begin accepting the sounds as meaningful words, rather than just chatter. I focus on acquiring the language like it's a new pattern in my meditation. Demanding at first, as the muscles work in new ways, but with each pass it becomes easier.

    They're talking about the festival, and whether the gifts will be sufficient for the winter this year. The Delonites don't give as generously as they used to, they say, and the weather men say it will be a harsh winter. I heard an argument last night, which was hard to follow. A farmer, I think, wanting to keep his cloth back, to trade it with some of the mountain folk. I don't know what happened, but he's still in the caravan today.

    I'm glad that I've been assigned to these farming folk, rather than the rich Delonites in the city. There's something honest about their hard work, and the graceful dancing. I think I'm going to like it here. I'm supposed to meet some of the other mobiles at the city. I hope they've found this world as welcoming as I have. I'm especially looking forward to meeting the old man, who's been here for decades, they say.
  • edited September 2007
    Elder Hamnan

    The climb was tough, but the rewards definitely seem worthwhile. As I reached the village, I was immediately met by a man who seemed to be their leader. He was a large, round, man with dark red skin. He called himself, Op-pan, which means "chief" or "leader" but also implies someone who no longer needs to work. He has taken an immediate shine to me and has set me up in a very spacious building next to his own.

    All of the dwellings in this village seem carved into the mountain stone, however I haven't seen the tools they use to work the stone. The quality of stone work is superior to any I have seen on my planet that did not use nano-technology. They are certainly not at that level here, so I am quite curious.

    The Op-pan has spent each day taking me to different places on the mountain. I have not been able to move quickly on the narrow mountain paths, but the Op-pan has been very patient and eager to please. My favorite place so far had been the the bean fields on the side of the mountain. We were walking on a sharply raising, curvy path when suddenly a large plateau spread out in front of me.

    I saw a thick, mountain stream falling down toward the field and irrigated evenly throughout. The Op-pan was very excited to to show we something but his excitement made it hard for me to understand him. He urged a farmer standing near a building (the first I have seen up here made of wood) and the farmer slipped inside. He emerged carrying a large wooden box and headed to the middle of the field.

    He opened the box and lovingly lifted out an enormous insect. The bug's abdomen was at least as large as my torso. The farmer laid it on the ground and began to stroke it gently on the abdomen in long, smooth strokes. Suddenly, the bug shuddered and from its end emerged thousands and thousands of tiny insects. They spread out all across the field, swarming up each bean stalk and back down, cleansing each stalk and the field of any imperfection. Any weed, any offending bug or insect was swept clean in perfect execution.

    I watched wide eyed as the bugs finished and headed back into the 'mother' insect. All the while the farmer continued stroking the insect like a lover, whispering into its ear. As all the insects went back inside, the farmer placed the insect back inside her box and carried her back to the building. I began to ask the Op-pan questions about the bugs, but he shushed me. "Mountain secret," he said.
  • Bob Miller

    This place is crazy. You guys told me it would be weird but no one said anything about them being crazy. Listen to this. I landed in the city of Sirquan and everything started OK. I was met by official representatives, their Op-pan and his staff and given the green rug treatment, everything ultra fine. At least it seemed that way from the way they presented it all to me. I'm still getting used to this red muck they call Besun that practically part of everything they eat. Anyway, they assign me a guide, Irrani, and after all the feast and toasts of interplanetary friendship she took me to the Ekumen Embassy, really just a large house with many rooms they put aside for our use.

    So while I don't care for the food, I did enjoy quite a bit of their beverages and was needing some relief. So I asked where I might find the facilities and inside found six separate plumbing fixtures and none of them looked even remotely like a Mark Six Standard Waste Removal Unit I can tell you. So I had to sheepishly go back and ask Irrani what was what. She got a bit of a grimace and began to explain but her words just were not making much sense and finally she had to come in with me and point out what was what. So she left and I took care of myself, and if I lose enough diginity I'll describe that experience later.

    The crazy began when I came back out and Irrani demanded that I pay her the social debt I owed her! Turns out they have a currency for just about everything around here: one for emotions, one for social obligation, one for labor and so many more that I lost count. Irrani was already being paid by the Op-pan for the 'many indignities' that being my guide would bring but the waste facility inicident was apparently not covered. Of course, I could go to the Op-pan and get them them to pay for it but then I'd have to explain why. She had me over a oil drum and she knew it.

    Next thing I know, I'm breaking up with her boyfriend for her. Dating is tricky business here because you can't break up unless you can compensate for the pain and anguish. So now I owe him a social debt for bearing the bad news but I got it discounted a lot for the social awkwardness of the black eye I'm sporting not to mention having him in a pain debt to me. I need to find a way to make some money soon or I'll never get out of this.
  • edited January 2008
    Elder Hamnan

    After several weeks on the mountain, I finally feel as though I am really understanding everything around me. My body has finally adjusted to the food, which is heavily based on root vegetables and the meat of their herd animal, the lent. It is very well suited to surviving the mountain, but seems very docile with the people, almost lining up to be killed for their tender meat. Although the people have more than enough agriculture to sustain them, gathering mountain vegetables seems to be a hobby of many of the people. Each has a secret place to gather 'the best' vegetables, usually passed down from generations.

    As soon as I was beginning to feel content, however, the Op-pan told me we would be going back down the mountain for a festival called fifth carnival. Nearly the entire village seems to be preparing to leave. The very old and very young are left behind, along with a contingent of mothers who seem to be in charge of everything while we are gone.

    When we began to leave the village, I realized we were heading the wrong direction, away from the city I had arrived in. The Op-pan told me were we instead heading to the river, which cut through the mountain, to load the boats. This was the first I had heard of these boats from anyone on the mountain and I was very surprised. When we reach a point when the path became narrow and difficult to travel down, I noticed many of the strong, young men attaching baskets to a large cable headed straight down the mountain. Then Op-pan told me it was too difficult to carry the packages down the steep, winding trail, so they sent them down the line. I watched as the villagers released basket after basket, zipping down into the mists.

    We continued down the path with many of the women and less-spry men. Winding back and forth we passed the line many times, seeing baskets whiz over our heads. Suddenly, I heard a long cry, getting closer and closer. I looked up and saw a young man, a look of maniacal glee on his face, flying down the line. I cried out in alarm and the Op-pan gave a great laugh while the women chuckled.

    "Don't worry, friend," he said to me. "We only lose one or two each year."

    When we reached the bottom, we found ourselves at the edge of a wide, slow river that headed straight into the mountain. The men from the lines had already loaded what appeared to be one, long boat. It was as though several smaller boats had been linked end to end but allowed to bend and the links, like the bones in my spine or a water serpent from my planet. It could easily have held a hundred more people than we had, but the Op-pan told me they only needed about twenty men to steer the entire thing. As we climbed on board and started floating into the mountain, I looked up and noticed millions of bugs attached to the tunnels walls, glowing like tiny suns; illuminating our path. We settled in and the villagers began to discuss the wonders of the fifth carnival. As I remember all I have seen on this planet so far, I can only begin to grasp what I will experience at the carnival.
  • Dr Arot

    There hasn't been an execution on this world in a hundred years, they tell me. Not since the Sirquan era, where such things were common, for those who reneged on social obligations, or so I'm told. There are many words in this language for different kinds of social obligation, which come from that era. That's how we came to talk about executions. There's still a lot of fear, even now, of those days, which goes a long way to explaining the prejudice against the mountain tribes, who are supposedly descended from Sirquan refugees who fled to the mountains after the uprising. There was a Mobile on this world back then, I hear, though if that's true there's no record of it with the Ekumen. I met some of the tribesmen in the city, after the Looming. Big people, with strong features and dark red skin. Their accents and manners seemed rough after the lilting syllables and gentle ways of the farmers, but I couldn't help but admire their strength. The mountains are as harsh and unforgiving as the plains. They seemed strong and healthy, despite the obviously poor soil of their homelands. The produce they brought to "gift" was weak and diseased looking.

    I met with the two other Mobiles in the area. The old man, Elder Haman, was especially interesting, and he told me a lot about his travels with the mountain tribes. It's good to be out of the city, though. I've already grown used to the vast horizons and empty sky of the plains, the topsy vines growing over the rocks untended. It's the only thing that grows wild in this bleak landscape. The farmers aren't as happy though. The gifts weren't as rich as they'd hoped, and the tinned goods they rely on for the winter were in scant supply. Some blame a poor harvest from the mountain fields, but most argue that the Delonites are just greedy, hoarding their wealth like they always do. Strangely, the farmer who was most angry before is quiet now, keeping to himself. There's a large carved wooden box lashed to his wagon that he checks on regularly. I wonder if he received some particularly generous gift?
  • Bob Miller

    Well things are looking up since my last report. Sorry its been so long but I've really been elbow deep in Sirquanian culture but certainly not in the way any of your textbooks said I would. I spent months doing my official visits and tours while the sun shone and then running about the city as an official bearer of bad news. Its actually not a bad way to make a living once you figure out the tricks. If you make them so mad that they attack you, then they have to pay you as well as your client. The other way to go is learning how to comfort your mark after you've laid the bad news on them. Less upset people means less you have to pay them.

    Still, I had yet to pay off all my social debts and it was really digging into my spare time. Then came the Fourth festival! Suddenly everything is thrown into reverse. Good feelings are showered on everyone and generous giving all over brought me out of debt and with a healthy credit in my account too. I asked Irrani how many more festivals there were this year and she gave that little sigh that usually would have meant the Op-pan would be paying overtime. Turns out there is only one festival a year. Being fourth means it was the fourth time the Festival was brought back into favor. No one really knows the how or why of the First Festival. Irrani told a legend of gods trying to outgive each other at the wedding feast for the First Family of Sirquan and the Delonites kept up the tradition on their anniversary. Still, no one really believes that's how it happened. The Second Festival was strictly a political move to keep the populace quiet whenever taxes got too high. It got wrapped up in astrology and grand conjunctions ordaining when the Festival should be held. This third Festival isn't much better really. It was introduced as a marketing gimmick to get people to shop more. Still, its done a lot of good. Quite a few in Sirquan would have gone bankrupt long ago if the Festival didn't bail them out.
  • Elder Hamnan

    The fourth carnival is in full bloom. As I watch from a hammock on the boat, I see bright fireworks streaking across the sky. Each day down here in the city has been a new adventure. Although the mountain people brought down many fine root vegetables, it seems their key trade item is stone carvings. These tiny, intricate works of art seem highly prized by many of the people in the city. Despite the apparent 'low' quality of the mountain people, many rich looking patrons come to their boats to 'trade gifts.' It seems that gift giving is the mood of the festival, but I believe some people take that to heart more than others.

    I have also met other mobiles in this city. The one who left the biggest impression on me was the tall, Erdish doctor, Arot. I don't believe I have ever met a more arrogant man in my life. He was constantly talking about the farming people, the Looming, and his personal conditioning; I could hardly get a word in edgewise. I believe many of the other tribe members felt the same as I, for when it came time to give him his gift, they gave him some of their poorest quality mountain vegetables.

    One evening as most of the tribesmen were lounging around the boats, I asked the Op-pan about the origins of the festival. Immediately, several of the younger members crowded around me, waiting to hear the story also. He told me the story of its beginnings were quite dull, but the story of its near destruction were the events of an epic tale. The young ones chittered excitedly and, I admit, I felt my interest rising also. He spoke to us in a slow, deep voice which I had a little trouble following, but the story was grand anyway.

    It seems nearly one hundred years ago, the city was riddled with debt and obligation. People were responsible to others for nearly every action. It seems to have been a difficult time for common people, always afraid of owing something to the more powerful citizens. The festival, however, acted as a social eraser, wiping clean the debts of everyone each year. However, one year before the festival, an outsider, a mobile, had racked up such an enourmous debt that many people were angry because the festival would clear his name. Instead of celebrations or choral music, all you could hear at night was the sound of people rioting, smashing doors, and burning houses. The carnage was terrible. When the city finally calmed, the government decided to completely lift all forms of social obligation. Those who refused left the city and headed to the mountains, to become the ancestors of the people on this boat. However, the Op-pan assured me, they do not practice social obligation these days.

    The year after the rioting, the festival resumed, more joyous than before. As for the mobile who was at the heart of the trouble, no one knows what became of him. After the story many of the tribesmen told me they had always heard he was kiled in the rioting. Others say he escaped the planet. One old woman told me the government had secreted him away and he still lives on this planet. I am just glad I will not have such an adverse effect on a peacful place like this.
  • Shann Vesper

    As it turns out: The Looming is the year's opening match in loomsport, the popular sport of the region. It's hard to explain, but it's roughly a rhythmic, ritualized dance/boxing, where the point is not to overwhelm your opponents but to shower them with an increasingly complex series of synchronized blows. Most of the players are from a different stock than the Delonite city dwellers - these are rough young girls and boys from the countryside, broad-shouldered and eager to earn glory in the greatest of games. It's an addictive sport to watch, and I've lately fallen in with a crew of other loomsport fanatics. (Go Reds!)

    They say, in the old days, the teams that finished last faced execution at the hands of the First Op-Pan (a mythical ruler/trickster/deathbringer loa in the religion), and a team from the lower leagues would be brought up to replace them. It was based around debt, they said: one team failed their fans, and owed them emotional recompense for their disappointment, while another team succeeded beyond expectations, and had earned an emotional surplus. In this fashion, one team would generously clear the debts of another, with the actual death of the participants being merely the "transactional fee" the First Op-Pan had asked for.

    I think they've evolved beyond such measures. (Though they still refer to the relegated team as "beheaded", which is a bit unsettling.)
  • Just got the news on the radio. Elder Haman is dead. Shot. They said something about a trial. Mountain justice. It's impossible to get information now. The winter storms wiped out the infrastructure here.

    The farmers are starving. I'm hungry too. The crops are gone, the whole new planting. There are insects everywhere.
  • Bob Miller

    Sorry its been so long since my last report but as you'll hear I've been pretty busy. Now history has never been my strong suit but I am pretty sure that this is first revolution that can be traced back to a clogged waste disposal unit. As you know I was a maintainence man by trade and so I've been trying to get a good look at this planet's plumbing and what not since I got here. I made the requests to the Op-pan but they kept bringing me to professors of advanced infrastructure and he'd mumble theories and formulas for hours without actually telling me anything useful.

    So one day I'm using the waste disposal unit when it starts leaking some kind of blue fluid and after substantial payment for my distress they send in a repair technician. Finally! Someone I can talk to! Well once I pay to cover his unease anyway. So he's complaining about this particular model of unit that's standard everywhere but keeps breaking and over some beer and Besun we work out a simple modification that not only fixes the problem but apparently makes it more aestheticly pleasing to them. So we go into business.

    Now business in Sirquan is a weird thing because making people want your product when they can't get your product can make you owe them money for the negative feelings. So the really slick ad campaigns cause people to feel they are doing you a favor by buying your product. So with a little clever market our modified disposal is installed in every building in Sirquan and I and my friend are two of the richest beings to ever walk the streets of the city. We live the high life for a while: fancy parties, credit grabbing ladies, the whole bit. Then festival time came up and I planned the biggest, most splendid act of generosity the city had ever seen. After all, I couldn't take the money with me off planet. How do you cash in 500 units of angst?

    Well, turns out I freed so many from wage slavery that half the work force quit their job. Its still not clear to me if all the workers started the riot or if the former rich started a coup but the city is burning and I am not very popular even by most of the people I'd freed. I'm hiding in a mountain cave right now while Irrani is arranging to smuggle me across them. Crazy. The whole planet. Crazy.
  • edited October 2007
    Shann Vesper

    It's the cold-dry season, meaning ration-lines for what foodstuffs remain. Omnivorous insects ravage the surrounding farmlands periodically, and it's a roll of the dice each season whether food will make it to the harvest. This year, the insects rolled lucky.

    It's strange to me that a society with so much wealth devoted to entertainment - like loomsport and the festivals - has such a weak, shallow infrastructure underneath it for distributing the essentials, like food and medical treatment too.

    My best guess is that, after the last civilization-crash, they rebuilt their society quickly, but thinly. It is almost as if their social conditioning is to expect crisis and social failure, and to accept it when it comes. I've seen that workers who experience several investment failures will stop trying to save; perhaps these people have collectively experienced enough social collapse that they no longer build deeply upon their society.
  • edited October 2007
    Dr Arot

    We held a ceremony to bury the bobbin. It's never been done before, so the older farmers got together to decide how it would be done. In the end it was a simple thing, carrying the long white bobbin through the village while we all stood and watched. There's not a lot of food to spare, and the farmers are already deep in debt to the Delonite lenders. There was a collective sigh as the bobbin touched the earth for the first time in its four-hundred year history. I wondered then about whose leg-bone this once was, what ancient ancestor lived on as the focus of this elaborate ritual, and was finally now coming to rest. There are no creatures on this planet big enough to produce such a large amount of material, save for humans.

    Now the villagers are drifting away. Years of biting hardship have driven us to starvation. The winter, not this one or the ones before it, doesn't kill the insects like we hoped it would. It seems they can digest even stone, and our houses are riddled with their holes, worked into bizarre shapes and patterns. Most of the young men, the Looming troupe, are headed for the city. I'm going with them. Young men have been making a living recently in private shows, dancing the Looming dance, but without the bobbin and coloured threads which give it its meaning. It's awful to watch the dance stripped of its beauty, though the rich Delonites who come to watch don't seem to notice. There's a mad air about some of the city dwellers now, like they know their world is crumbling. They seem to engage in any pleasure now without restraint, and yet hold the strings on their purses ever closer.

    Still, I must learn to like the city, for that's where I'm headed. A trader from the mountains put me in touch with a wealthy woman there, a government worker called Arran. It's a long walk, but my conditioning will sustain me. Hopefully there I can get some kind of employment.
  • edited October 2007
    Bob Miller

    Listen carefully out there because I don't have the energy to say this twice and may not live to transmit it again. I'm in a village just on the other side of the mountains. They don't really want me here or any of the other refugees of Sirquan but they have always claimed their generous hospitality made them superior to the city people and now they must live by those words.

    I still don't know if Irrani betrayed me or not. All I do know is that when she called for me to come out of the cave the Oppan and his personal police squad were there as well. His bully boys roughed me up and then threw me against a tree and held me there. The Oppan formally indicted me for inciting rebellion and treason and proclaimed a sentence of summary execution. Decided to pull the trigger himself which surprised me. With everyone focused on me, no one noticed the group of rebels coming on us. Bullets flew everywhere. There was a shattering pain in my hip. I think the Oppan got me as he went down and then it all went black.

    I woke up here minus my right leg. Aside from that I seem to be fine. Those shots you gave me must be working because what passes for a doctor's surgery out here made me glad to be unconscious for it. I've had few visitors. Mostly the doctor checking up on me. I did get an odd visit from some kind of official though. Religious type, I think, from the fancy robes and funny gestures. He asked what I wanted done with the leg and quite frankly that was the least of my concerns. I said he could do with it what he wanted and he looked very pleased. I didn't quite follow all of his speech but it seems a gift of flesh and bone is highest offering one can give. Can't imagine what they want with my leg bone but I certainly can't use it anymore. More power to them. Sleep now. Talk more in the morning. If I wake up.
  • edited January 2010
    Elder Hamnan

    I remember seeing the man who shot me. He was walking with an unbalanced stride, mumbling to himself. I was sitting at a cafe with several members of the mountain tribe including the Op-pan. Suddenly the flash, the bullet striking me in the shoulder and sending me backward over my chair. The last thing I saw was the Op-pan, his bulk moving incredibly quickly. He hurled the table across the room with a roar that shook the walls. I passed out.

    I woke up in a lavish bed in a spacious bedroom. I found it difficult to breathe, but I was curiously without pain. Seeing a button on the bedpost I pressed it and within seconds a small, elderly man was by my beside my bed inquiring after my health. I found I was unable to speak and he left me a notepad and pencil while he went to fetch his mistress. Arran, a woman of truly breathtaking beauty, arrived a few minutes later. Realizing I couldn't speak, she was a good sport and talked enough for both of us.

    She told me I had been asleep for nearly a week. The Op-pan had needed to return to the mountain but had left me in Arran's capable hands. SHe was apparently a government worker of considerable wealth and had the finest doctors in the city checking on me daily. I soon found myself unable to continue my limited part of the conversation and fell asleep. I was awake off and on through the next week and my voice gradually returned to me. I found myself engaging in wonderful conversations with Arran. Eventually working my way up to short walks around the house and gradens with her.

    Her garden's infrastructure was wonderful. The garden was watered by one, long irrigation channel that flowed throughout the entire grounds. It was truly a inspiration and I spent as much time as I could wandering through the plants and sitting on the enourmous toadstools. As my strength continued to return, I wondered if I should try to return to the mountain people I had spent so much time with. Arran told me I would not be able to climb the mountain for several months until the waether changed, so it seems I will stay here for the time being. Arran has just told me another alien will be coming to her house as well. I looking forward to meeting this being and hope they will enjoy Arran's hospitality as much as I have.
  • edited October 2007
    Shann Vesper

    A most peculiar change has happened as of late. Some farmers in the country side have discovered an old bone relic of a long-dead hero, a bobbin that was used in the archaic original forms of loomsport. Since then, a lot of the migrant underclass - those from the countryside who made their living in the city - have experienced a rebirth in their community spirit. New mutual credit, communal gifts, forgiveness of debt, even resuming the public display of the old-looming-dance. The dance especially is offputting to some of the city-dwellers - they see it as strange as backward - but Arran has the wisdom to see how this dance is a superior cultural norm than the modern loomsport that replaced it. The sport was a competitive, mercenary venture; the dance is focused in bringing and keeping a community together.

    I have hope for Delon, even as I see problems ahead - frictions between the city-dwellers and the migrants, old versus new again - this is the start of building that social infrastructure that the world so desperately needs. The roots are in the ground again.
  • Dr Arot

    Somewhere along the line I got old. I don't really remember it happening. There's a lot about the old days that I don't remember now. I'm worked hard here. Arran, still young by the standards here, is a rising star, with a lot to accomplish. Being the resident alien doesn't have the same glamour as it did in the village. Here, my work is translation, teaching, trying to bring the wealth that the Ekumen offers to Delon, but always through Arran. But that kind of politics just seems inevitable now, as inevitable as the change of the Looming from a dance to some kind of sport. Arran tells me that this new form is superior, more exciting, more in tune with the modern values of Delon. Maybe she's right. It's hard to see the value in the old dances now that the fields are stripped bare, the crops grown in walled enclosures built with Ekumen technology.

    Maybe it's because I'm old. I wish I still had energy for my meditation, but that also seemed pointless after the village was abandoned. I think I'm going to die here. My childhood teachers would tell me that this too is part of a natural rythm, the rythm of the body, growth, change, death. Can we ever stop those cycles? Should we? Can we ever learn from our mistakes, or must each generation fight its own revolution, go through its own growth, before it too dies?
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