I Built Umak-Tek
These words are excerpts from a journal of a character in
These words have become so closely associated with me among versers as to be a second name. I am known as the Architect, the Alchemist. The Dar Koni of NagaWorld call me Dad, and some of the Wizards in at least one world call me Merlin. But my mother named me Bryant Andrew Stevens.
Multiverser, a role playing game from Valdron Inc.
If you enjoy good adventures in different settings, you may enjoy the stories created by this game.
It began in September of 1993. I was making dinner for my kids. This time something went wrong. I saw something leak out of the switch panel of the new microwave, a gold liquid similar to mercury. As it touched my fingers, I felt the electrical current. Of course, I screamed and jumped back--and at that moment, the microwave exploded. I saw the flash, I felt the blast, I blacked out.
It was painful beyond belief; but if you've never been caught in an explosion, there's no way I can describe it. I once spilled flaming oil on my hand, but this was far more intense than that. It was brief, and then it was over. I never even felt myself fall. But I wasn't dead.
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I can't explain what happened, but I realized that I was waking up, a bit sore and a bit stiff. I remembered that when my little brother almost died in a traffic accident, he was unconscious for about five months while they rebuilt several major bones and blood vessels, and assumed that something similar must have happened to me. I guessed I was in a hospital. But as my senses began to clear, I knew this was no hospital bed. The air was cool, probably in the mid-sixties. In my time as a radio announcer, I'd learned to recognize the temperature fairly well. Wherever I was it was dark, but it had an open feeling. Also, I was lying on a flat surface which was not itself soft, but was covered with something like a synthetic lush pile carpet. Also, there was a citrus smell like tangerines in the air.
Lying on my back, I opened my eyes. It was dark, but not totally. I was looking up at a night sky. I immediately noticed the moon, totally unlike Luna which lights the earth. It was the right size, but had eight flattened edges and no surface distortions, no man-in-the-moon shadows. I looked around at the stars. There were none of the familiar constellations I had studied as a scout. I was not on earth.
I sat up, and looked around. I was on a grassy plain, but the grass was a light color, as if it had all burned dry under the hot sun. In the distance I saw several things in different directions. Ahead of me there appeared a vast industrial complex, like a city of machines. Flashes of light alternately illuminated and silhouetted the forms of derricks, cranes, scaffolding, all on a huge scale. It covered the horizon in that direction from end to end. I turned to my right, and saw rising above the plains a city of glass--smaller than the industrial complex, but perhaps not as far away--gleaming in the moonlight, like a vast fantasy castle. To my right there was a much smaller object, but a familiar one: although it was about ten miles away, it had the distinct shape of an eighteen-wheeler.
Closer to me there was more to see. Directly behind me, the plain gave way to some low rolling hills. All around me, scattered on the ground, were many of my personal things--my small computer, several of my Bibles, my tools, a guitar and a tin whistle, clothes, quite a bit more. And just ahead of me not more than about fifteen feet was a break in the surface of the plain. I stood up for a better look, and could see that it was a hole in the ground. I walked over and looked at it first. It looked very artificial: three sides cut straight down about eight feet; the fourth sloped at a comfortable angle. At the bottom, the sky was reflected; on one wall was the opening to a tunnel. Satisfied for the moment that this was no immediate danger, I turned away to climb the nearest hill for a better view.
The hill afforded little information to me. All that I saw before I saw now; all I learned was that the hills which began here extended as far as I could see in this light, and, although the line marking their edge was not at all straight, they filled all of the visible land in that direction, as far as I could see under the moonlight to my left and right. I turned my attention to gathering my things.
I have no guess as to how these things happened to be there. They were all mine, including the two bottles of soda I had bought for myself the week before, my bedroom slippers, my old scout backpack, and the dufflebag I had used on recent trips. Even my pillow came. I gathered everything up, packing it all as well as I could in the backpack and the dufflebag, except for the toolbox and the guitar case, which I resolved to carry in my hands whenever I decided where to go. But for now I would have to give some thought to where I was, and where there might be to go. Since there were several flashlights of different sizes among my things, I decided to check the tunnel in the hole. I shoved a small penlight in my pocket, and picked up the large multi-celled metal club flashlight, both because it would give me the most light and because it was heavy, and would afford me some protection if I needed it. Thus prepared, I returned to the hole.
Before entering the passage, I decided to examine the liquid outside of it. I performed several brief experiments which I will not here detail to prove to myself that it was most likely water, and began a twenty-four-hour test to decide whether it might be potable or poisonous--not a perfect test, but the best I had. I believed it was pure water, but I was not going to commit my stomach to that belief just yet.
Turning my attention to the tunnel, I saw that the otherwise smooth walls were disturbed on the far side just beyond the entrance by the imprint of a human hand and the words, written in English as by the tip of a finger in the clay wall, "Go Tell Sparta". The reference, although not entirely clear, was not lost on me. This place had been used by humans from my own world (or one very like mine). I was not the first to be here. I crawled into the three-foot diameter tunnel, shining the flashlight ahead into what seemed a larger space. In a moment, I came into a room carved out of the clay. The details of its design are recorded elsewhere; suffice it that it appeared that five people had lived here. They had beds carved into the walls, their names written in the clay along with dates in the fall of 1985, and a fireplace whose flue must come up under the grass above. A piece of paper by the fireplace had a note on it from someone named Peter Adams, repeating the words "Go Tell Sparta", but it told me nothing about who he or his companions were, where they might be, where I was, or even how they survived. I assumed that they had, as there was every indication that they had moved on. A few bits of trash had been left behind, but the place was empty. I determined to move in for the present, so that I could get some sleep before moving on. However, before proceeding to move in, I decided to enjoy the wonderful night air. I noticed that the moon had moved; it had been directly overhead, but was now passing beyond the glass city. That roughly defined east and west for me. But there was something else odd
: it appeared that the stars had not moved. I examined these more closely, and invented several constellations from the patterns, fixing these as well as I could against the horizons and landmarks. It would take some time to prove what I suspected, so I took out my guitar, and started to play one of my favorite songs.
As I played, I heard a very strange noise in the darkness--it startled me, and I stopped playing. It also stopped, but it clearly had been there. It sounded something like the noise a video game might make when an imaginary ball bounces off an electronic wall: "boop"; and it repeated itself several times, the pitch varying some, always in the middle range of an alto voice. It came from close by, but seemed to move. I peered through the darkness, and played a few more notes. I heard it again. Then I saw it. It looked like a ball of foam rubber, slightly larger than a softball, maybe half the diameter of a soccer ball. It had a pair of large eyes which looked almost painted on its surface, and it would open itself up to release a noise in response to my guitar, almost as if opening a mouth. I stopped and talked to it, much as one would talk to a rabbit or a cat one encounters when alone in the park. It remained quiet. As I resumed playing, it began to boop again, almost like singing, like a hound dog howls along with its master's songs, more musical, but not related to my key, melody, tempo, or meter in any way which I could discern. Still, it seemed harmless, and it was interesting to hear it, so I continued to play.
Within ten minutes, more of these balls--I would learn later that others had called them "nagas"--started showing up. In half an hour, I was surrounded by these dark spheres, all booping in entirely unrelated ways as I played. It was funny to hear, but at some level I (ever a fan of the composers of the mid-twentieth century) enjoyed it.
Although as a rule they had no sense of music which I could perceive, there was one not far from me that seemed to have picked up my key. When I had played enough, I lifted it carefully (although it did not appear to have teeth, I could not guess what defenses so alien a creature might have) and, as the others dispersed slowly, set it down near the water hole. It was terrified of the hole; but it was not afraid of me, and allowed me to carry down it into the hole and into the tunnel. Thus I brought it inside with me, as well as all of my gear.
I checked my watch. I had glanced at it earlier, as I was getting up--I lost only about fifteen minutes due to the accident, as far as it was concerned. Now I had been here about five hours, and the moon had only moved across a quarter of the visible sky. As I had suspected, the stars had not changed position at all. I began to formulate theories--perhaps the planet did not turn, but the moon circled it at an incredible rate; perhaps the stars were not stars, but some type of atmospheric or ionospheric disturbance; perhaps I was inside a vast structure designed to appear as the surface of a planet. The possibility occurred to me that the planet itself might be stationary, the center of its universe, and the moon--and likely the sun which must support the growth of the pale grass around me--went around it. This seemed the most likely explanation--and long before Sherlock Holmes had issued the contrary maxim, the greater sage Aristotle had recommended that thinkers should prefer the probable impossible over the possible improbable. It would require more evidence, but my belief at this point was that I had left not merely earth, but the universe I knew. Still, life continued. I would not be able to answer all of my questions tonight, so I crawled into the underground room, unrolled my sleeping bag, and settled in for a night's rest...
My first encounter with a coral bush had given me the wisdom to travel this planet at night. The creature, if that's what this mobile mass of black rock-like branches is, seems to focus sunlight into a rather potent heat ray--it burned a hole in my shirt before I managed to return to the safety of the hole. It moved on once I had disappeared, but I don't relish the thought of another encounter, so I have stayed in all day. Day is twenty hours long, and night another twenty; and the water outside my temporary home is safe to drink, or as safe as I can know. Having taken a day to prove this, I was getting a bit hungry--and neither the coral bush nor the naga seemed a likely source for food. I had seen what looked like a mussel or a clam the size of a station wagon, but the thickness of the shell alone made the idea of killing it with my equipment ludicrous. In addition to the large flashlight and a kitchen knife, I had a steel kau sin ke--an oriental whipping chain given to me by a player in an old role playing game because my character used such a thing to great effect. Apart from the fact that my own skill with it was limited--I had experimented some, but had no training in it or in oriental combat techniques--I could not see a blunt flex weapon having any significant impact on a six inch thick shell. I had very little food--a couple cans of tuna and some soup, and a can of coffee--so I was determined to make it last as long as I could. I ate some of the tuna to take the edge off my hunger, washing it down with water from the waterhole (with which I also filled a half gallon juice bottle I had), and decided to walk to the landmark which was both the closest and the most familiar in sight: the truck.
With my pack on my back and my duffle over my shoulder, I picked up the toolbox with one hand and the guitar case with the other; my pet Naga I had secured to the long end of the guitar case. Thus burdened, I walked in the direction I had called "east", toward the moonrise, the sunrise, and, of greatest import, the truck. I'm a fast walker, but it had been a long time since I'd done any serious hiking. It took me over three hours of solid walking (during which time I passed several of the dreaded coral bushes, all immobile on the grass), and I was quite tired when I approached; but while I was still some distance away, I recognized that two figures were standing near the truck, watching my approach, and that from my distance they looked quite human. Were they? Were they friendly? At this point, my options were limited--I would not be much of a fighter after my hike (indeed, I have not been much of a fighter ever), and I would be much better off if they gave me food, and so much the worse if I failed to ask for it. Besides, they were here. If they had nothing else, they would have information. Perhaps they would know where I was, or how I got here. The risk was slight, compared to the alternatives.
I was greeted momentarily by a friendly if somber voice, calling hello to me. Stopping where I was, I (gathering a breath first) responded the same, and asked whether he (it was a man's voice) spoke English. He did, and introduced himself as Paul, and his companion as Annie. "Welcome to NagaWorld" he said, and I accepted his offers of food, water, and a place to sleep. Answers would wait.
All of this comes from a great game called Multiverser.
It's worth a look.