The Myst Sector was once ruled by the magocracy Vincerium before a group of people developed anti-supernatural methods and rose up against the Vincerium as witch-wardens. Since that time the Myst Sector has held an anti-supernatural bias. The witch-wardens became relied on throughout the sector and founded Circles throughout the region. Their main headquarters is the Teknis Circle. A shuttle with General Thrass and Templar Yurk aboard is headed for the most secured witch-warden location in the Teknis Circle; The Loft. General Thrass is a drow who has served the witch-wardens for several lifetimes, while Yurk is a Lorek with acute senses. They pass through heavy security aboard The Loft so that they could reach the Grand Lord Inquisitor. The Grand Lord Inquisitor, otherwise known as Inquisitor Alpha, is a Jovian who is imprisoned and yet works for the witch-wardens. Thrass considers him to be extremely dangerous as he is immune to many anti-supernatural technologies that the witch-wardens possess. As many of the witch-wardens protective measures do not work on him, Inquisitor Alpha is implanted with a chip that forces him to begin rapping if he uses supernatural abilities. He is also kept in a temporal suppression field so that he can remain alive so long as he is within the prison - but should he step beyond he would become subject to all the aeons of time he should have experienced. Thrass gives Inquistor Alpha scans for anti-deific wards they the witch-wardens had obtained, as suggested in Pan Post 141. Alerts then sound and General Magog requires Thrass to return to his station as Greys, as the Greyarchy, have invaded.
The Witch-Wardens of Myst Sector
There are billions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy. A certain cluster, containing mere thousands of said solar bodies, is called the Myst Sector, and is steeped in millions of years of civilized history, much of which is shrouded in legend and folklore. Today, however, the Myst Sector is divided, as it has been for untold ages, into dozens of governing bodies.
Although there are several particularly large governments that dominate the rest, all of these interstellar nations are independent of each other. They share many common facets of culture, however, and reap the benefits of a free trade alliance and open borders with each other.
Certainly there are feuds between these realms. But most who live here consider themselves "Mysters" first, before their interstellar nationality. And should anyone attempt to conquer the entire sector - as has happened a fair number of times throughout remembered history - all Mysters rise up together to defend themselves - which they have always done successfully.
According to legend, there is only one time during which the Myst Sector was unified under a single banner: during the terrible reign of the Vincerium, a magocratic empire millions of years ago. Supernatural entities, or those with supernatural abilities - be they demons, demigods, psionics, wizards, dragons, or something else - held absolute power and authority over mundane folk, and abused their powers. Even the best of these magocrats were whimsical, and the worst were cruel tyrants.
Rebellions were always quickly put down, with some ease. Until one group of guerillas began developing techniques to counter the supernatural abilities of their overlords. Their resources and numbers grew, and they became known as the witch-wardens, their anti-supernatural sciences gradually freeing planet after planet, until the Vincerium finally fell.
No one with supernatural abilities has ever held a position of power anywhere in the Myst Sector since then. On some planets, supernaturals are tolerated but still closely watched; on others, they are imprisoned, persecuted, or killed.
And the witch-wardens remain to this day, a heroic and highly respected order who can be relied upon to hunt down any supernatural they, their allies, or their clients require. They maintain outposts, called Circles, everywhere through the Myst Sector, and in many places throughout the galaxy, and even occasionally beyond it. For their home base however,, a single star system within the Myst Sector - the Teknis system - was long ago dedicated to the sole sovereignty of the witch-wardens, independent from any oversight or control.
The Teknis Circle, as this system is generally known, consists of several planets and hundreds of space stations orbiting a trinary star (composed of three suns). While most Circles are smaller - usually a compound aboard a planet or space station - the size of the star system means a great deal of extravagance is in place. Not luxurious extravagance - although the witch-wardens do live comfortably enough once they have passed their training - but extravagance of resources and arsenals.
For instance, the entire system is shrouded in an anti-super field; fueled by the nuclear energy of the three suns, it suppresses any sort of supernatural ability or manifestation (magic, psionic, or otherwise), save for select areas within the Teknis Circle determined by the witch-wardens. There is even an ethereal tasseotechnical dispersion aura as part of the field, which inhibits powerplaying abilitiies
In one very large section of the asteroid belt, massive force fields hem in dozens of captive dragons. These are the hunting grounds, in which trainees prove their capabilities against draconic foes; but they are also testing grounds for new and better weapons against dragons.
One planet is known only as the Forgeworld, and is entirely covered in metal, save for gaping holes of molten metal that flare up into the atmosphere. Here the witch-wardens construct their weapons, supplies, and ships.
A barren desert world, called the Hot Room, houses the primary prisons for the witch-wardens, where they incarcerate dangerous supernaturals, or experiment on them to better devise counters against their ilk.
One planet, called the Barn, is dedicated almost completely to the farms supplying the self-sufficient witch-wardens' dietary needs. The mountain ranges are where the trainees are housed and educated.
Still another planet is a toxic swamp referred to as the Kitchen Sink. The chemical-rich sludge serves as a rich incubator for the ingredients that make the witch-warden's alchemical (but nonmagical) potions (which they use for enhanced prowess in a number of areas).
There are myriad other installations and planets in the Teknis Circle star system, but you get the idea. Perhaps the most secure place in the entire area, however...is currently the destination of a witch-warden shuttle.
The general is sitting in the command chair behind the pilot's seat, as the three suns grow larger through the forward port. He is a drow who has spent nearly three dozen lifetimes in the service of the witch-wardens, and served as one of their top generals for the last four lifetimes. He is quite young, only a few years into adulthood, yet his eyes are old, for he has already awakened, and remembers all of his past lives.
Templar Yurk: The only thing I know for certain is that the most dangerous artifacts of the witch-wardens are kept there, and that is where the, ah, Grand Lord Inquisitor is...imprisoned. Everything else is only rumors I have heard, both before and after my training.
Yurk is a witch-warden, newly ascended to the rank of Templar after eight years of service since his training ended. He is nearly 8 feet tall, yet willowy thin, his slender frame belying the amount of lean muscle he sports. This body type is common among his race, the Lorekii, and his leathery skin - which is actually ultraviolet in hue - appears as a different color based on the perceptory capabilities of whoever is looking at him. While he has a mouth and nose and ears, he has no hair and no eyes. Lorekii have excellent senses of taste, hearing, and scent, and their tactile awareness is so great that they can be aware of virtually everything for half a mile around them, merely through subtle shifts in air, sound, and scent.
As a Lorek, Yurk's sense of touch is so acute that he can pilot the shuttle based on the radiation bands he feels on his skin, often with more precision than any witch-warden of a species with eyes.
The standard matte black uniform of the witch-wardens clads him - as one does Thrass, although the generals has several badges and insignias on his - and a variety of weapons are strapped to his bandoliers and holsters. Most of the weapons are of a ballistic variety, and fire silver projectiles, as the alchemically treated silver of the witch-wardens can pierce almost any supernatural entity. Though most witch-wardens wear a green scanner over one eye - which assists in detection and accuracy - the eyeless Yurk has a green plug in one nostril, which serves the same function.
General Thrass: Now that you're a Templar, you're privy to the knowledge of the Loft, and today is as good a time as any since I have to visit anyway. Keep your trap shut and your eyes - er, nostrils - open. And don't deviate from the flight protocols, or I'll be reincarnating many decades earlier than I'd like.
Templar Yurk: Yes, Sir.
Yurk pilots the shuttle carefully as directed between the three suns. The three suns are so close together that to pass between them is almost always fatally destructive. But there are certain 'paths' between them, known only to the senior witch-wardens, by which a small craft can thread safely through the deadly solar fire to the point directly in the center of all three suns.
Yurk is sweating as he forces his fingers not to grip the controls so tightly. Witch-wardens of Templar rank and above travel regularly to and from the Loft, but this is first time, and it's really hitting home that each and every journey to the heart of Teknis is a matter of life and death.
General Thrass: Not bad, Templar. Not bad at all. The starboard shield generator didn't even need to bleed off heat into more than one thermal dispersion sink.
Templar Yurk: I-- Thank you, sir.
The space station known as the Loft is directly ahead of them, spinning slowly around as tongues of star flame lick at it, warded off by potent force shields. The installation is the size of a small city, and Yurk lands the shuttle inside a hangar, breathing a sigh of relief as they touch down safely.
Templar Yurk: Awaiting orders, sir.
General Thrass: I already gave you one, and you're disobeying it. Keep. Your. Trap. Shut. Now code-lock the shuttle and follow me.
Yurk wonders why the shuttle needs to be code-locked instead of the normal locking protocols. Is the Grand Lord Inquisitor considered so dangerous, even while imprisoned? Nonetheless, he obeys, and disembarks the shuttle after his superior.
The hangar itself is nondescript, appearing virtually identical to any standard hangar bay that might be found throughout the Milky Way galaxy. But once they pass beyond the hangar - through a heavily armored door which Thrass opens with a combination of keycodes and retinal and fingerprint scans - the place becomes a fortress. Thick bulkheads made of rare and incredibly sturdy materials compose every surface. The arrangement of the station is into several levels, with crisscrossing hallways where every junction appears identical.
Thrass navigates effortlessly through the labyrinth, though Yurk is hopelessly lost. There are no signs or symbols of any kind. They pass many sealed doors - as heavily armored as the bulkhead surfaces - but no indication of any kind reveals what is behind each one, and they are all evenly spaced.
General Thrass: You will become familiar with the contents of each vault in time, and eventually the pathways will become instinct for you. Normally I would show a new Templar some of the artifacts which we keep safe here - those that we can't destroy, or that we study to devise counters against - but we've business.
Yurk almost asks, 'With the Grand Lord Inquisitor?' but remembers just in time to keep his trap shut. He merely nods, though the drow general can't see it, walking in front of him. They ascend several levels in a lift, and are discharged onto a level appearing identical to the previous one. More wanderings, more lifts. Endless identical hallways and doors.
Yurk is marveling at the sheer scope of this labyrinth, and he wonders why they couldn't have just taken a single lift to whatever level they're heading for. After some thought, he postulates that each lift accesses only a certain number of floors, so as to hamper any attempts at escape or infiltration. He makes a mental note to ask Thrass once he is given permission to speak again.
Finally, the general stops in front of a door that appears no different from any other. Yurk holds his breath in anticipation as the general opens several doors in a row, one behind another, each composed of a different material, each opened with a different means. Once the last of ten successive doors is opened - in classic "Get Smart"[Ext 1] style, Yurk peers in curiously.
He is somewhat disappointed. There is only an ordinary-looking computer panel. Thrass presses some keys, and a tone sounds.
Computerized Voice: Unlocked.
General Thrass: There are nine more chambers like this one, before we can access the Grand Lord Inquisitor's cell. Be patient, lad.
Yurk's eyes boggle. It had taken them half an hour of traveling through the labyrinth just to get to this vault, but that's only a tenth of the way through?
They walk out of the vault, the ten doors closing behind them and sealing once more, and Thrass takes the lead again.
General Thrass: Also, if a different tone had played when I keyed the unlock sequence, it would mean that we had been assessed as enemies and would be misdirected and possibly terminated. Never forget any unlock sequences you learn for the Vault, or you will hear that tone.
Yurk has seen enough action as a witch-warden not to pale, and nods grimly. How dangerous the Grand Lord Inquisitor must be, to merit this sort of security. He remembers some of the more imaginative rumors, and begins to wonder if some of them are true. It does seem unlikely that he's a giant space squid, however, as such a creature would have some difficulty fitting into a vault; on the other hand, the witch-wardens do possess tesseract technology.
Finally, after ten iterations of computerized voices saying 'Unlocked', they arrive at what Yurk presumes is the prison cell. He is unsurprised to find it behind a door identical to every other in these myriad hallways, and he watches the drow general open a sequence of not ten but thirty successive doors in a row, one behind the other, each opened by a means different from each other or the hundred doors of the "Unlocking" vaults.
???: Ah, a visitor.
Yurk's ears perk up as they walk into the inner vault. They are in a relatively narrow but long chamber, and a wall of diamond-laced transparisteel separates the chamber from the true cell: a cluster of expansive and luxurious chambers in a row. The outer chamber, separated from the luxurious multi-roomed cell, wraps all the way around the row of luxurious rooms, but Thrass and Yurk do not need to perambulate, for the prisoner is already in the room before them: a library of some sort, with shelves of books and a sophisticated computer terminal.
???: Thrass, my old friend. And a new protégé.
The prisoner appears as a human man with a bald hair and well trimmed silver beard, with piercing blue eyes. He wears a well-tailored leisure suit, but it is just tight enough to reveal the rippling of the man's musculature beneath it. He sets down a thick tome which he is reading to rest his eyes on the new Templar.
General Thrass: You may speak now, Templar. There is a filter in the transparisteel wall that prevents him from hearing us or reading our lips unless one of these panels is unlocked and held down.
He gestures to a panel behind them.
Templar Yurk: Yes, sir.
General Thrass: However, once I open communications with him, do not - I repeat, do NOT - say anything, or make any move, or so much as twitch a muscle, UNTIL the panel is locked again.
Templar Yurk: Yes, sir.
General Thrass: Now, for your questions. I'm sure you have some.
Templar Yurk: I-- Yes, sir. This is... the Grand Lord Inquisitor?
Inquisitors are the witch-wardens' scientists and sages, the problem solvers and thinkers and tinkerers. They specialize in creating solutions to employ against the supernatural. Yurk had once met Inquisitor Delta, who had invented the Nova Shroud project on behalf of the Void Rangers.
Templar Yurk: He, um... he's not a squid.
Thrass chuckles heartily.
General Thrass: No, indeed not. He's a Jovian. A shapeshifter. We don't know what his true form looks like, but he's taken a great many over the term of his imprisonment.
Templar Yurk: Why is he imprisoned?
General Thrass: Because he is possibly the most dangerous enemy the witch-wardens have ever faced.
The young Lorekii Templar blinks in surprise.
Templar Yurk: Then... why is he an inquisitor?
General Thrass: We need his brilliance. He is quite possibly the greatest anti-supernatural thinker in the multiverse. And while he doesn't exactly enjoy being imprisoned, we keep him comfortable and provide him with interesting enough conundrums to keep him...content.
Templar Yurk: Then why isn't he free? If he's an anti-supernaturalist like us.
General Thrass: Because he is unique, so far as our intelligence knows. He is an archmage and Class One psion.
It's all Templar Yurk can do not to jerk in surprise and draw his weapon. Only the sure knowledge of the anti-supernatural field blanketing the entire Teknis system stays his hand.
General Thrass: Well, at least he's classified as an archmage by Jovian, drow, and Borean standards. The Toiletium would classify him as apprentice-level, due to their odd requirements for plumbing knowledge. And the High Empire would have classified him as a master mage, one step below what they consider a true archmage.
Yurk says nothing, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
General Thrass: And...unlike anyone else we have ever heard of...he is immune to most anti-supernatural counters.
This time, only seeing the general's confident demeanor stays Yurk's hand. The Templar manages to keep his voice steady.
Templar Yurk: You mean that...the anti-magic and anti-psionic auras of the Teknis Circle...don't work against him.
General Thrass: That is correct.
Yurk could swear there is a smile dancing behind the general's eyes. The drow must enjoy every new Templar's reaction to this knowledge.
Templar Yurk: Then what is keeping him imprisoned?
General Thrass: It is true that supernatural suppression fields do not negate his abilities. It is true that our quicksilver bullets and missiles cannot pierce any supernatural shielding he might muster. However, once he was captured, he was surgically implanted with cognitive inhibitors. Any time he tries to do anything supernatural, he begins rapping uncontrollably.
Yurk looks incredulously at the drow general, and then at the prisoner expectantly. The Jovian meets his eyeless gaze, waiting patiently. Apparently he too is used to long conversations between the general and any new Templar he brings in to see him.
Templar Yurk: You cannot be serious.
General Thrass: I am dead serious.
Templar Yurk: But why...rapping?
General Thrass: I don't know the technicalities of it, but to my understanding it's something to do with the most feasible neurochemical redirection.
Templar Yurk: Alright. When's the last time he rapped?
General Thrass: Not since before I left Caledonia for the first time, many centuries ago. I can show you a recording before we leave, if you like.
Templar Yurk: I have to see this.
General Thrass: Not just yet. Any further questions?
Templar Yurk: If he is himself a powerful wizard and psion, why is also such an expert on countering supernaturals?
General Thrass: It was cunning on his part. His unique immunity to most anti-supernaturalism left him in the perfect position to exploit it. He taught himself such methods, and thereafter, whenever he fought against enemy supernaturals, he employed counters such as antimagic auras, which would render his foes powerless but not affect him in the slightest.
Yurk nods thoughtfully.
Templar Yurk: Is he... immortal? I didn't know Jovians had a longer-than-average lifespan.
General Thrass: Yes, and no. His supernatural abilities once made him immortal once upon a time.
Templar Yurk: But he's been cerebrally inhibited for...millions of years, if the rumors are true.
General Thrass: In that one case, they are. He has been a prisoner for almost as long as the witch-wardens have existed. He likely remembers things that our oldest historical databanks have forgotten.
Templar Yurk: Yet you say he's not immortal.
General Thrass: His prison is contained within a temporal suppression field. Time seems to pass normally within, except for the fact that his body does not age.
Templar Yurk: Suppression, you say. Not stasis.
General Thrass: Ah, you're a quick one. Yes. You know what that means.
Templar Yurk: If he ever steps out of his prison, his age will catch up to him in instants, killing him and inflicting eons of decomposition.
General Thrass: Correct. He would instantly become dust. Literally.
Grand Lord Inquisitor Alpha: Come, general. I presume you have something important for me.
The drow general ignores the prisoner, continuing to look at Yurk.
General Thrass: Anything else, Templar?
Templar Yurk: What is his name?
Thrass blinks, then he chuckles softly.
General Thrass: That is a question I have not heard a new Templar ask for at least three lifetimes. We don't know. The secret is so old that even our historical databanks don't record it. It's possible he himself has forgotten. He is just Inquisitor Alpha.
Templar Yurk: Thank you, sir. I have no further questions.
General Thrass: Very good. Now remember - keep your trap shut.
He depresses the panel on the wall behind them and address the prisoner.
General Thrass: We have a new object of study for you.
Inquisitor Alpha: I know you, Thrass. You seem unusually excited. Must be something juicy.
Templar Yurk refrains from raising an eyebrow. The drow general seems just as reserved as ever to him.
General Thrass: We have obtained an Anti-Deific Ward.
Both of Inquisitor Alpha's eyebrows raise.
Inquisitor Alpha: Astonishing. I suppose it's no use asking how you obtained one.
General Thrass makes no reply. The prisoner does not seem to expect one.
Inquisitor Alpha: Intriguing indeed. By all means, send me your scans. I shall take great delight in reverse-engineering it. The means to counter a deity's power...something you witch-wardens haven't always succeeded at, isn't it?
General Thrass locks the panel on the wall behind him, then presses some keys on his wrist console. The screen on the computer terminal in the prisoner's library lights up, presumably with the scans.
General Thrass: We will leave him to it. For now we should--
His wrist console beeps indignantly, flashing bright red. The drow flicks a switch on it.
General Thrass: What is it?
NovAI: General Thrass, there is a priority-two red alert.
General Thrass: Connect me to the war room!
He strides out of the vault, and Yurk hurries after him. The doors seal behind them, and Thrass navigates them quickly back through the labyrinth.
General Magog: Thrass, are you still in the Loft? Get back to command, pronto!
General Thrass: You know there's dozens of anti-teleportation fields on this station. I'm hurrying. Now what's the damn sitrep?
General Magog: Massive invasion force appeared on the edge of the Milky Way. Energy signatures consistent with millions of alien war vessels and high magical capabilities.
General Thrass: Who are they? Where are they from?
General Thrass: Greys?! Greys don't have powerful magicks and a galactic invasion fleet!
General Magog: Somehow they do, Thrass. Hurry back. The witch-wardens are going to be needed......