Proxima: Reflections





The standard complement of Safety Ethics Assurance, along with a number of Knowledge Corps stand beside your small but authoritative team of Archeo-Teleo-Linguists as the Sieve powers up, and, as its grid of white beams begin to turn the rich, living brown tones that indicate interface with Proxima, you feel the typical lurch that goes along with Sieversal travel, then shake your head clear to discover you are... right in the middle of a jungle.

After everyone has taken a moment to acclimate to the extremely green and extremely humid environment, it takes the Corps very little time at all to detect the direction of the ping that the Array suggested may imply the existence of natural nano-organisms. Such a discovery could provide a source of renewable power, as well as scientific data. As you head toward the place their scanners indicate, you are thankful for the presence of the Safety team as they clear a direct path through the foliage toward the source of the signal.

“Coming up soon, just over this next rise,” says a young Knowledge officer, eyes on their Portarray. “The source appears to be relatively small in size, but it’s a strong chirp, and consistent.”

As you crest the ridge, the source of the ping becomes obvious. A pair of tall, wide golden flowers that are clearly out of phase with the rest of this Proximan landscape shimmer beckoningly. They appear both pixelated and crisp, the only possible focal point in your field of view. However, they never appear to be truly at home within the water-laden air, thick vines, and deep garnet petals of the indigenous flora. It seems unlikely that they are the naturally evolved nanobots that you had come in search of, but they are certainly unusual enough to justify their detection by the Parafocal Array.

Looks of disbelief pass through the expedition, baffled by the chimeric blossoms. Then, the even more unbelievable happens! A figure, bearded, robed in blue, casually walks into your sight upon a well-worn path that must lie only paces away on the other side of the vexing blooms. As he registers your presence, a look of surprise coupled with relief comes across his face, and he begins to speak in a language that sounds, even through your Archeo-Teleophonic Translator, primitive yet full of decorum.

“Oh, my, sers! Come to rescue me? These innumerable fortnights since the wreck of that ship betrothed me to this isle I have endured! By that grace alone possessed of He Over Us you must have come! What schooners, what clippers, what armada must you possess, to find me here, to take me away home at long last!”

Stepping forward, confident that your ability to treat with such a strange persona is the very reason for your inclusion in the Initiative, you say, “Well met, good ser; many leagues we have traveled and have happened upon this place, in search of fabled [gold], one could say. Who are you, ser, and more important, why would you need rescue?”

“Gold, ser? No gold on this isle that old Fishhooks has ever seen,” says the castaway, unconsciously affecting a less formal tone, as he points a thumb toward his own chest. “That’s me, Fishhooks, ser. Jayson Junction is my name, or was my name, who knows how many days or years ago it was. A miracle of Him Over Us that I remember it still. I took a mind to go to sea, as many young lads do, what if their life at home is less than exciting, or less than kind. I might have been destined to it, with my nickname and all. Fishhooks, they called me, and they often said it were because of the shape of my name, and because I would amount to little but bait. Bait, it seems, would have been a kindness, compared to what really happened, and as for the shape of my name, I know no more than to make this sign.”

Jayson appears to furtively glance through you toward the unstable blossoms as he marks an X in the soil with his walking stick. “Junction, you see, ser,” he says, pointing to the place where the lines cross. “And many a moon’s junction I’ve waited rescue. But, before you take me home, I could show you what I’ve built here, alone, and treat your company to the fruits of my long labor; garden, farm, and net. I wouldn’t look unkindly on a chance to see myself away from this place having shared the happy and good.”

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

The choice stands before you, will you:

A: Ignore Jayson entirely and focus on the interphasic flowers? After all, the mission was to investigate a strange piece of flux, not treat with a castaway farmer.

B: Follow Jayson to his residence and participate in his going-away party? The Initiative insists that interaction with other cultures and beings be positive!

C: Use the power of the Sieve resonant in your away-team equipment to quickly and easily teleport Jayson to his rightful place in this realm, then return to study the flowers? Two birds with a simple stone.

D: Use authority of numbers, considering that Jayson’s relationship with the vexing flowers might play a greater role in his survival than he’s letting on? He’s a victim, but he’s not telling us the whole truth

(If you’d like to vote on our stories, influence Verses lore, what happens next, game mechanics, and even future cards. Then join our Discord at

[Strange Flowers Mission Report: the Initiative strongly considered participating in a celebration at Jayson’s residence with 6 votes, but eventually decided to leverage the fact that the group was not as easy to fool as an individual might be with 8 votes. Transporting the castaway to his home immediately, and ignoring him completely in favor of gathering data on the unusual blooms did not receive significant consideration.]

As you look around, the majority of the group seem to be feeling the same way that you do: as though Jayson knows more than he’s letting on about the anomaly. Further, it’s extremely unlikely that your paths crossed on this moderately sized island by happenstance, and far more probable that he was on his way here specifically. Best to press gently and see what you might discover.

“Fishhooks, my unlucky friend,” you begin, and pause to wait for his response.

“Yes, ser, unlucky indeed, that’s me.”

“Listen. We’re a good sized group, as you can see.”

“Indeed, that you are,” he says, starting to seem a little nervous.

“Well, we’ve come here, as we told you, in search of some special resources, and I think you and I both know that we’ve found them. If I had met you alone, there’s a good chance your charm and admittedly intriguing history would have diverted my attention from this unusual flora, but there’s no way that we would have missed them with this large a crew, so… Maybe take this opportunity to consider telling us what you know, unless you want us to just do as we wish with the…”

“No, no, you cannah do that, ser! Please! I’ll tell you what I’ve come to find out, little as it may be. The story of how I came to be here, ‘tis true. Cast away from an unhappy berth on an unhappy ship, and washed up here half-drowned and half-dying of thirst. Struggled greatly, I did, to stake my purchase here, but fresh water and a bit of game was to be found, and so I survived.

“After some time, when I had built my little shelter, and woven my fishing nets, and it was no longer hard scrabble just for daily food and drink, I set my mind to exploring my island in full, and to make a map of it as best I could.”

You raise a quizzical eyebrow at that. “A map? You’ve told me that you can’t read or write. Was that untrue?”

“No, ser, not in so many ways untrue. Letters are beyond my grasp, but any man with eyes can read a picture, and what’s a map but a picture with a sense of direction?”

“Indeed. Go on, then,” you prompt.

“During my forays, I happened across these,” he says, finally acknowledging the bright and obviously atypical flowers. “I thought they were special, as you did, on sight, strange as they are to the eye. Stranger still, that the insects and the creatures are right scared of them, or maybe more as if they are blind to them. Most just avoid them all together, but the stray bee that do fly near, he flies a path as though they weren’t there at all. A rare occasion for one to fly into them, but those that do don’t fly back out. I’ve crept close enough to look in, and his body isn’t inside the bloom, nor dead on the ground nearby, just… gone. Nor have they grown an inch in the thousand or more days I’ve lived in this wilderness, nor dropped a single petal to the ground as all the other plants do. So I beseech you, sers, to know that these plants are a danger and keep your fair distance. For that reason I’d hoped you’d look past them and would come to join me at my home.”

“It’s kind of you to have thought of our safety,” you say, “but investigating these sort of unusual findings is exactly the business that brings us here. And I wish you had simply been forthcoming with us about it, rather than risk us mistrusting you by using guile or subterfuge.” You motion to the KC officers to move forward and begin their scans, and take a few steps in their direction to have a closer look yourself.

As you do, a tiny golden insect comes buzzing out of the center of the larger blossom. It wobbles a bit as it exits into the heavy humid air, then struggles harder and harder, buzzing with an almost mechanical sound as it arcs to the ground in a losing battle with gravity and lands with a plunk. You move to it quickly and realize that it is indeed a bee, but not like one you’ve ever seen before. Its yellow color is brilliant, shiny and metallic, and it dawns on you– the bee is, in fact, made of gold. No wonder it is struggling to stay aloft in normal Class-1 planet gravity.

And no wonder that Fishhooks was trying to divert your attention! In the time he has been stranded here, he must have amassed quite a collection of this valuable conductor in the form of paranormally transported and transformed creatures.

You pick up the tiny auric insect and turn to confront him, but he is nowhere to be found.

“Finish the readings,” you say, “and let’s get moving. This is too important a find to waste time in reporting it.”

“What about the castaway?” asks one of the Safety Ethics patrol.

“No time to worry about him, either, unfortunately,” you sigh. “What he plans to do with all this material, we may never know, but he’s definitely not soldering it into circuits with this world’s level of tech. Too bad we can’t take any back with us; I know our friends at Phoenix Core would love some of this to boost the conductile alloy mix. Let’s move, people!”

It’s not until a few cycles after debrief when you are doing a little light research into the Proximan period in which you found the vexing flowers that you realize– a map, a pile of gold, Fishhooks’ curious signature… and an old saying, “X marks the spot.”

[SHK-E Assessment: You were not taken in by the dissembling of a potential bad actor, and demonstrated your awareness and capability to preserve the Initiative’s SAFETY. Your discovery and investigation of the strange blooms have increased the Initiative’s overall KNOWLEDGE. Not using Initiative tech to help a being in an unfortunate situation did not demonstrate HEART. The size of the mission, which proved to be a lynchpin in its overall success, cost an acceptable amount of ENERGY. Other Para Initiative agents learn from and emulate the strategies of this mission.

SAFETY: Very Poor
HEART: Very Good

Para Initiative Inventory:
Oystersand’s Illustrated Arcana
Gloomspark Portarray]


Tales from the Food Cart #1: Maia



Maia growled with frustration as she watched the human load *her* bighorn on the back of a mule.  It wasn’t fair.  After all, she’d found the dead sheep first and she hadn’t had but a few nips before the man had shown up with his mules and his opposable thumbs and his gun.  If it weren’t for the gun she’d have argued with him, or at least tried to come to some agreement that fell in her favor, but he was armed and he didn’t look as foolish as most of his kind.  So, she watched in her frustration and she followed.

It wasn’t long before the man stopped at a tree, growing just to the side of the crumbling roadway, and began butchering the carcass.  Maia crept closer to the oblivious human, her coat blending perfectly with the desert landscape.  She drooled with excitement as the man skillfully removed the internal organs and bled the big ram.  

Maia slunk into position to make a dash for the heart, or maybe the liver, but despite her vigilance, she was never given the opportunity for her snatch and grab.  In short order the sheep was dressed and everything, including the liver, heart, hide and horns, packed up for transport.

Just as he was about to leave, the man turned, gave a little smile, and tossed the package of intestines to land just in front of the brush where Maia lay concealed.  She gave a start and a small disconcerted yip as he chuckled and urged his team back into motion.  Embarrassed but intrigued, Maia gorged herself on the delicious entrails and resumed her pursuit, following the man into the rising sun.  

After several miles her nose detected the unmistakable odors of a human settlement and she became more cautious, dropping back to give her quarry a substantial lead.  As she peered over the crest of a small rise she was relieved to see that the man had stopped at the outskirts of the town and was guiding his mules into a pen with a trough of water and a few shade trees.  

After unloading and caring for his animals, the man proceeded to shoulder *her* sheep and carry it over to a long, wheeled box.  It looked like it had once been part of some sort of large cargo hauler, similar to those she’d occasionally seen barrelling along in well guarded convoys on the human road.  This one had been heavily modified and no longer appeared suited to high speed transit over post apocalyptic asphalt.  

Still curious, Maia crept closer, careful to remain upwind of the mules with their keen noses.  She dashed from cover to cover until she was concealed in a large patch of brittlebush just at the edge of a cleared area ringed with palo verde and mesquite trees.  They provided shade for a number of tables and there was a cloth awning strung between a series of poles to protect those lacking the benefit of a tree.

Maia lost sight of the sheep thief during her approach, but she could hear him moving around inside the wheeled box, and she listened intently to try to catch what he was doing with her meal.  A loud, hydraulic shriek nearly startled her into flight as the side of the trailer split horizontally and began to open.  

When it had finished unfolding, the side facing the circle of trees was transformed, the bottom section had become a long, raised platform with over a dozen stools.  A railing ran around the outside to keep clumsy humans from falling the nearly two meters to the ground, while the top section extended over it to offer shade.  The stools provided seating for a counter that ran the length of the trailer.  The opposite side of the structure opened to the breeze. 

The last three meters or so of the trailer remained sealed and appeared to be quite secure.  Maia observed the man carry her sheep within, soon reemerging with several boxes.  Her nose twitched, and she began to salivate as the man removed various foodstuffs from the boxes, quickly processing the contents which soon sizzled on a hot grill.  She slipped from the brittlebush to the dubious concealment provided by a table as the smell of sausage, onion and chile pepper overrode her natural caution. 

Before Maia could finalize a plan revolving around scattered boxes, recklessly opened beer taps, and stolen sausage, two more humans appeared to take seats at the counter.  Both seemed to be male and were dressed in the sturdy clothing she associated with salvagers.  Maia listened with half an ear to their ongoing conversation as she reevaluated her culinary options.

“Well I don’t know Henry.  Chicken ranching is a tough business around here.  Take it from me, predators, disease, water shortages, feed shortages, they’re your constant companions in poultry in these parts,” the taller, light haired man was saying.

“I hear what yer sayin’ Frank, I do.  But’cha gotta admit, ya can’t s’pply even half the orders ya git fer chicken.  I’m just thinkin’ there’s gotta be ‘n opp’rtun’ty there and this feller from Bakers’ Feel is offer’n ta trade a whole mess a fert’lized eggs fer one a them two incabators I found on muh trip out west,” the  other man, apparently Henry, replied.     

At the mention of her favorite food, that most delectable of earthly delights, the chicken, Maia crept unconsciously forward.  The slight movement caught Frank’s eye and he casually picked up a pepper shaker from the counter top.

“See what I mean Henry, damn coyotes are everywhere!” and with that, Frank spun and pitched the shaker with unerring accuracy at Maia’s exposed flank.  

With an indignant yelp, she fled into the desert, her mind filled with plans of purloined poultry.   


Tales From the Food Cart #2: Henry



“Hey Ed, I gotta ‘pologize ‘bout the chickens,” Henry mumbled shamefacedly as he took a seat at the counter.  “I had some trouble with a coyote.”

Ed gave Henry a long stare as he loaded a tray with the drinks he’d just poured.  

He had a good face for staring, ice blue eyes set in a visage that was seamed and weathered by the Zone’s punishing sun.  At first glance one might take Ed for a man in his declining years.  A moment's observation would tell a different story as he ran the grill, poured drinks and served his customers with a cheerful energy.  His horseshoe mustache and the hair that peeked out from under his battered straw hat were an inky black without a hint of gray.

After tending to his customers, Ed gave Henry another long look and then finally replied, “Well, I made it work.  Becky went out and bagged me a couple of javelina.  They smoked up real nice, but I can’t say the bride’s family was too pleased.  Her father really shelled out for that chicken, they wanted to impress the new in-laws and show those folk from Sands of Dieggo how civilized Bright Lights is.  Musk hog didn’t exactly paint the picture he was looking for, even if everyone said it was delicious.”

“Yeah, I know,” Henry responded sadly.  “Like I said, I came t’ ‘pologize.”

“What the hell Henry?  I paid you good money for those mother cluckers!  This was supposed to be a sweet deal, pay for another beer tap and maybe get the second grill fixed.  Instead I had to do nearly a full refund and I’ve probably lost a good customer!” Ed exclaimed in frustration.

“I had ‘em chickens all ready to slaughter,  but then there was this coyote, see–” Henry began.  

“After all the bragging about your new coop?” Ed interjected.

“Well, this wasn’t no ord’nry coyote, see,” Henry explained.  “She must‘a been some kinda mutant!  Or maybe a spirit, or a skinwalker even!”

“Henry, I’m pretty sure that between the two of us we don’t know enough to say a single intelligent thing about a coyote spirit, and that goes double for skinwalkers,” Ed argued.  “Mutants I’ve had a little experience with, but what makes you think this coyote was all that unusual?”

“Well, she could talk fer one thing!” Henry replied defensively.  “And she ran off with almost all my chick’ns in a truck.  No way a normal, everyday coyote coulda’ done that!”

“How’d she do it then?” Ed asked skeptically as he loaded up the grill with mystery meat for three orders of D-Road Surprise.  The smell of chili, garlic and spices rose in a thick cloud of choking vapors that sent a pair of out of towners running for the farthest table, coughing and wheezing.  Jeers and laughter from the regulars followed in their wake.

“I can’t really say.  See, she came up t’ me, all brazen like, when I was out watering my chilis.  She said t’ me, well didn’t exactly *say*, more I heard her thoughts in my head, but she told me I had quite the chicken setup, but not good ‘nough t’ stop a coyote.” 

“Voices in your head, huh?  How long had you been out in that sun?” queried Ed, while dishing up refried beans and boiled nopales for the D-Road plates.

“It wer’n’t like that, Ed!  I was stone sober and well hydrated to boot.  I thought we’d already ‘greed that she was some kinda mutant?” Henry protested.  “Do ya want t’ hear ‘bout the coyote or not?” 

“Well, I don’t know about mutants, but I do want to find out what happened to the chickens I was promised,” Ed replied while sliding plates and cold glasses of beer down the counter to waiting customers with practiced ease.

“OK, so she *told* me if I’d pay her a haf dozen eggs she’d ‘nspect the coop n’ give me a full report ‘bout how to upgrade it n’ make’t coyote proof,” Henry said.

“Ever heard the expression about foxes and hen houses?  Didn’t you think for a moment that might go at least double for coyotes!?” 

“I had my shotgun. I was goin’ to keep ‘n eye on ‘er the whole time–” Henry began.

Ed broke in, “‘*Were going to*’, I take it that something more important came up?”

“Well, yeah, Ed, I’d opened the coop and she’d jus’ start’d her ‘nspection when the sheriff pulled up!” Henry said in exasperation.  “I’m not ‘n idiot!  I woudn’t a just left her in there if ida had a choice!”

“Mmhmm…. What’d the sheriff want?” Ed asked skeptically, as he started plating the next order.

“Appar’ntly, Frank accused me a stealin’ a mess a his chickens!  The sheriff wanted to check my coop to see if’n I had any Reds, cause eryone knows I raise Orpies.  But it took a long time on ‘ccount a my shotgun.  It made the sheriff right nervous an’ he had me down on the ground ‘n cuffed while we sorted things out.”

“So then what?” Ed asked over his shoulder as he worked the grill.

“By the time I was able t’ get up and show ‘m my coop, it were all but empty!  We followed the chick’n ‘n coyote tracks up over the back hill.  They end’d right where some tire tracks b’gan!  That’s why I fig’r’d she was a skinwalker see?  No coyote, not even a mutant, could’a driven a truck!”  Henry exclaimed.

“Well, we agree on that at least.  Frank said you stole his chickens, eh?”

“Yep, same mode us opera andy the sheriff said!  Coyote ‘n chink’n tracks ‘n then the same type a tire tracks!  Just like me!” Ed replied. After a pause, “‘Cept he didn’t see the coyote or anyone take his chick’ns, just found the coop empty!”

“Hmm... I’m going to have to ask Frank about this,”  Ed said thoughtfully.