Fallout: Eberron: Mad Edition
FOUND IN GOLEM GUILD HQ IN XANDRAR
The memory swirls into a washed-out scene of an office trailer, all corrugated metal walls and cardboard boxes stacked high with loosely-piled paperwork. A brown goblin with wrinkled ear-tips stoops over a ledger and muddles over scratch paper. Outside, in the harsh glare of the sunlight, construction is ongoing on what looks to be a manufactory; the clues to what the product will be are the GolemGuild logo on a vinyl banner, and a box lying open inside the office, next to the window, with a half-disassembled titanium skeleton of a humanoid golem.
Through the door to the trailer steps a human woman, her dark hair bearing a single lavender highlight, clad in a theoretically smart but mostly rumpled pants suit. She steps further in, pensively clutching her brown satchel. “Good afternoon, Mr. Scratch.”
The goblin, who had looked up at the intrusion, sets down his pen. “Ilshana d’Orien. Or should I call you Minister, now? Congratulations on the new agency.”
She waves it off. “I’m just doing what I always do, I’ve just got a much higher budget now,” she laughs. “How’s the expansion coming?”
The wrinkled ear-tips tremble as Scratch waves irritably at the window. “These sods wouldn’t know quality construction if it bit their balustrades,” he grouses. “AND we’re behind schedule. It’ll get done, though. The golems will be rolling out to help with the war effort soon enough.”
“I’m sure Audra will be delighted to hear that,” Ilshana replies. “That’s not why I’m here, though.”
“Let me guess. You want to commission something special for your research?”
“Not exactly.” She lays down the satchel and pulls out a box, flipping it open. “More like we came up with something, but we don’t know what to do with it.” She gestures at the box’s contents: A vaguely oblong object festooned with gold filigree, feathered flanges, and clear pockets of liquid.
“And what would I want with a dead warforged’s brain?” Scratch says, dubiously, offering the oblong only a glance.
“For one thing,” the Minister of Arcane Sciences drops into lecture mode, “This brain is not dead. It hasn’t even been put into an assembly, yet. For another… take a closer look.”
Scratch spreads his hands and gives a sigh, wondering, “What am I looking for?” In the absence of a reply, he gazes dutifully. After a moment, his eyes widen. “Wait, is this plastic? This is a ferrofluid reservoir…” He looks up at her, eyes narrowing. “These materials… you’re making Warforged again, aren’t you? You know what the Treaty of Thronehold has to say about that.”
“Relax, Scratch,” Ilshana holds up her hands placatingly. “We’re not trying to steal your business model. Besides, I know the ethical ramifications of making sapient beings for the purpose of fighting and dying in our place.”
“Then why are you showing me a brand-new ‘forged brain?”
“Well, you know the original design for Warforged was invented in the Age of Giants. The Warforged of the Last War were just adjustments to that original template. Our side-project was to recreate that process from first principles.” She grins proudly. “Manufacted sapience.”
“By that, I presume you were successful,” he gestures toward the box. “By the look of it, this is in suspension, ready to come alive when given a magitech chassis.”
“Got it in one,” Ilshana nods, grinning. “I’ll leave it in your hands. It was a proof of concept more than anything. You might be interested to know that we managed to prove the Manus-Gwyn Hypothesis.”
Scratch raises an eyebrow. “You mean this,” he taps a clawed finger on the manufacted braincase, “came with a personality and memories?”
“His name is Eglath. He claims to be the Emperor of the Nine Realms; of course, my research team didn’t find any corollary for any such region, even in the planes. Delusional or not, though, he had knowledge of a meeting between dragons discussing some very interesting matters.” Ilshana smirks. “Black ops resources were later able to confirm that meeting and some of its contents. Which means,” she wiggles one corner of the box, “the knowledge and traits were summoned into the substrate at the moment of first charge. Whole or amalgamated, we don’t yet know.”
“Still too many variables for second-order Manus-Gwyn,” Scratch muses, scratching his cheek. “Could be akashic memory coagulant, could be dreamscape siphoning, nonlocal telepathic resonance—“
“Maybe,” Ilshana admits, interrupting. “I’ll leave you the card for the intern I put on the problem. Just be sure to put some suppressors on the eventual chassis,” she advises. “We were only able to speak with ‘Eglath’ for a few minutes, but he’s a real megalomaniac. Might be best not to reinitiate his higher reasoning right away.”
Scratch grimaces. “Fine, fine. Thanks, at least; it should make for some interesting experiments.”
Ilshana nods and starts to leave.
“You put an intern on the problem? An intern? The source of Warforged personality traits has been an open question for a hundred years.”
“We aren’t interested in that.” Ilshana glances over her shoulder. “We were just interested in the substrate.” She starts to leave again.
Scratch thinks for a moment, then gasps. He leaps for a primitive-looking control console, typing furiously.
By the time Ilshana opens the door, a hulking security golem peers eyelessly down at her from just beyond it.
As she patiently shuts the door and turns to him expectantly, Scratch scowls and demands, “What’s your real game, here?”
She smiles thinly. “What do you mean?”
“You’re speaking to me about your attempts to create a Warforged mind. That in itself has to be at least Blue clearance, probably higher, given that it’s against the Treaty of Thronehold.”
She waits patiently.
“Now, yes, I have Blue clearance, but intsec discourages you being so free with the information, especially in this sort of place,” he gestures to the trailer. “Now you’re hinting that the goal of your research is the brain itself. You know better than to be that loose-lipped.”
“Which means…” the Minister prompts.
“A deliberate leak means you want that information to make its way back to the dragons. Which means you think it has a legit pathway through me. Which, in turn, means that you think I’m a spy.”
“Or,” she counters, “I think a spy has your office bugged. I would, given your newfound contracts with the Ministry of Wartime Tech.”
Scratch grits his teeth. He looks around the office with sudden suspicion. He catches himself a moment later, reciting thoughtfully, “I have the fullest confidence in the discretion of my staff.” He types a few things at the console again.
Ilshana smiles as she hears the security golem step aside, just outside the door.
“You’re playing a dangerous game, Miss d’Orien, trying to leak what has to be at least Blue clearance intel.”
Scratch’s face could be a decent imitation of a stone monument.
“You know the context, Mr. Scratch. I’m sure you suspect what we’re working on. Considering that this exact matter is why, I suspect, the dragons declared war in the first place, this leak only confirms ‘who’ and ‘what’, for them.”
“You’re painting a target on your back,” he says, less accusation and more deadly certainty.
“Exactly. The more they’re focused on me and my research, the less havoc they’re causing to Trolanport, and Q’barra, and the Mror Holds, or poking around elsewhere.”
“You’re very confident about hiding from millennia-old wyrms.”
She smirks. “Mr. Scratch, I’ve been preparing for this since I was a child. I have and will continue to stake my life in any contest pitting mortal ingenuity and rationality against ‘ancient wisdom’,” her tone leaving no doubt as to the depths of her respect for the latter term.
“I wish you the best of luck, Minister.”
“You too, C.E.O.”
The memory fades.
Back to Pensieve Orbs