Dungeons and Dragons, Sci-Fi, Story Experiments, Uncategorized

Alpha Tallus: Part 1

It’s hard to say how we got here. Anyone who knows us, knows we like to make a little money. Time has also told that we love making mistakes even more… I don’t know why I am still saying “we”… maybe it still hasn’t hit me that I’m alone. I am stranded, I don’t have supplies. I’m gonna die… but the story is interesting and I have literally nothing better to do.

Dulora was once a great world, a haven to many… but that time is barely remembered. The planet became over populated and struggled to produce enough food to support it’s population. The rich are the only ones who can afford to import food, but it’s gotten so bad that as soon as the gremlins see you in the sky, they assemble a task force to rob your ass. The surface is a mad house of dying and angry, starved people, most of them natives. The solution is increasingly unclear. Dulorians are high maintenance and not suited for space travel. Anytime someone tries to leave their home planet, they die of hypoxia or psychosis of some kind. Something about them needs their home world and scientists are too busy to figure it out.

As a result, Dulora has turned in on itself. With nowhere to go, the cream sunk into the earth rather than rising. A few men got smart enough to dig deep, literally. Decades later, there are vast tunnel systems in Dulora, protected by well fed men and women. The man with the most power on Dulora is Dr. Mentz, a man who has become very rich, but not in paper money. In people. You work for him, you always eat. He pioneered hydroponic food growth on Dulora, starting as a child when his father brought his family underground. Some say Mentz senior was the first to come up with the idea of a system of tunnels. It didn’t take much to get some men together under the premise that they would work together to protect the tunnel and resulting homesteads from outsiders. Mentz senior was a hater of money and resisted most technology in favor of the fruit of his own hand. He was always looking for a way out from under the thumb of Dulorian government and it seems his vision is still firmly planted in the minds of the friends he left behind. These days the Dulorian government is powerless.

I met Mentz Jr. through my father, who was friends with his father somehow. We didn’t see each other much and we still don’t, but in space friends are very few and VERY far between. When it came my time to inherit the freight business (when my father died suddenly and left me in command), the young doctor became a lucrative contact. You see, he grows these mushrooms that are ultra nutrient rich. A case of them guarantees I can feed the crew I need for an entire year. I feed my crew well when I can, but this is space. Having that guaranteed nourishment takes a stone off my back. Yearly, I pay a visit and bring as much water and seed as I can along with any equipment that needs replaced and enjoy a few days in the tunnels. It’s dirty but cozy work and I look forward to it.

This year, Mentz had a visitor. A daughter I didn’t know he had was visiting from Xeugantu. This is big news because Xeugantu is the Black sheep of the galaxy right now. The planet is so heavily guarded that the dangers of the activity there have yet to really be assessed. Mercinaries trying to get to Xeugantu to retrieve the lost frequently return in body bags, if at all. The only tech anyone on Xeugantu could possibly have their paws on is the outdated nuclear technology stored there for ages, now illegal in most systems. It is insanely impractical for ships to use nuclear technology. The radiation’s the thing.

Xeugantu was a storage spot for warheads, but when task forces came to disarm and dispose of the waste, war broke out. Xeugantians are a fierce people, with great numbers. The planet itself is 6 times the size of Earth, with a greater land to water ratio. The citizens went mad and demanded warheads be left and used to provide power to it’s citizens, in lieu of the lost income. When the Directorate of Alpha Tallus denied the request and elected to dissolve the contract with no compensation to Xeugantu, there was immediate bad blood. Xeugantians began assasinating outsiders and ejecting their bodies into space. Directorate liasons were first to go. This tactic was effective, as the Directorate ultimately made an offer of astronomical proportions, which Xeugantu denied. Since then, the Directorate has run out of assets to send to fetch the living. Powers from other systems have come in in hopes of purchasing what’s left of the technology, only to find themselves ambushed.

Mentz claimed his daughter was a spy who had escaped with vital intel. She had lost her husband and needed to escape to the home they built on his home planet Hivis. Hivis is a remote planet in the system and it is a planet in turmoil. Hivis is managed by an Order of The Few that has recently fallen to a race of Clones created to provide mining labor. At birth, you could elect to submit your child’s genetic material to a registry and if that material was selected to produce clones, the child would would be paid for Clone labor when reaching adulthood, minus the cost of feeding and boarding. Needless to say, everyone without scruples took advantage of this program, which led to a class of super rich people being in control of everything. What they did not realize was that if you engineer a clone to survive better on your planet, they can really kick your ass if they decide to embrace their sentience and take over. Unfortunately, rebellion amid the Clones was creatively quelled until it could be quelled no more, you see the clones were the first to see the end of the line. They knew what they were doing to the planet and did not understand the lack of action on the part of the Order. Clones leaked this information to the Organics, who promptly emigrated with the quickness.

With the buffer of the middle class gone, the relationship between Clones and The Order polarized and war became inevitable. Clones began asking questions and the Organic workers who stayed behind began discussing their scruples. Some Organics even stayed to help defeat the Oligarchs. Such people were led by the man who pioneered cloning on Hivis and in the Alpha Tallus system on the whole, Dr. Rolo Vork. Vork did not count on his work leading to exploitation, not on this scale anyway. He sympathizes deeply with the Clones and has been running underground schools to encourage education ever since the Order took his work and ran with it. With organically developed humans disappearing, Clones are the only hope for Hivis to be a functioning planet again. The Order have no idea what manual labor is and their happy little cul-de-sac of safety will soon be burst through, extinguishing them.

Dr. Vork knows Hivis needs educated entities to rebuild the planet and find sustainable ways to live there. It helps that Clones have been engineered to be work horses (tweaked really, as so little is yet known about genetics). It is vital that they figure it out, as Hivian clones cannot live in space. Most of them still live in the mines where they have always lived. Some have began funneling into the homes left behind by those who have emigrated. Vork continues to create more Clones under the advice of Clone leadership. Clones are “born” sterile and the planet will need a supply of caretakers after the Order are defeated. Currently The Order are outnumbered 10 to one, but their defenses are so sophisticated, they are basically locked in a fallout shelter the size of Mall of America that has always been well plied. It it unknown how they are doing in their cozy little box. If the weaponry protecting them is automated, it will take awhile to tell. It’s likely they have some kind of self sustaining food source, leaving little reason to breach their own perimeter. Meanwhile, the planet has lost over 50% of it’s population, so you have a planet the size of Earth with only fifty thousand people and a bunch of abandoned property. If you have any experience as a criminal, you can imagine the possibilities. This is where we found ourselves… being asked to take a wayward daughter to a crazy planet. The only positive is that it is fairly desolate if you know what you are doing. Since The Order entered their Cube, criminals have been looting the left behind homes. Clones are powerful, but most of them stick to the mines and don’t give a damn about what the Organics left behind. Martial law is a given, but the cities are still being picked apart, so if one could find a remote area, there is a chance of staying out of harm’s way and possibly securing a great location, if you don’t get shot down trying to land. There is no way of knowing the magnitude of the prospecting going on by now.

I had a pretty good idea what we were in for. Xeugantu being the mountain of radioactive gold that it is, The Order being the humanitarians that they are (Clone-itarians? Who knows?)… I would not be surprised if something radioactive is on Hivis ready to be set off by the Order. Haryet probably has some sort of proof of an exchange. Proof that Xeugantu is selling nuclear material (and not using it for power) would enable the Alpha Tallus Directorate to recruit forces from other planets in the system to repossess the technology. The only problem is how do we prove it’s still weaponized and not just being used for power? And how the fuck do they move it?

None of that was my problem. And old friend asked me to keep his kid safe. I was always going to say yes. Space is a death wish anyway. It’s a blessing to go down doing something cool because most of us die due to stupid mistakes and bad planning.

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Winner Dinner: Salmon with Tomaotes Pizzaiola and Mushrooms

Winner Dinners are winners because they are quick, simple, and easily adapted … you can bake it all together on a sheet pan!

Ingredients:
Salmon However much you need to serve your clan, Fresh or frozen. This recipe prepared on a half sheet pan can serve up to 7. I usually get the biggest piece I can find at Sam’s and use any leftovers in a quiche. If using frozen, let it cook for 30-45 minutes before adding any other ingredients to the pan to ensure everything finishes at the same time. 
Tomatoes- I find Romas to be the quickest to de-seed and the hardiest when it comes to the heat of the oven. For this recipe, anything will work… it doesn’t even have to be tomato, if you’ve got a squash laying around or some asparagus it will work. For tomatoes, I find it helpful to dry them with a paper towel so they’ll hold up better in the oven and not get too juicy. When using Romas, I usually prep 2 tomato halves for every adult being served, one for each child. 
CheeseI used a Kroger pizza blend, but you can’t go wrong with any cheese, use what you’ve got. Plan on about an ounce or two of cheese per tomato if using Romas.
Butter- You can sub all butter for olive oil in this recipe. You will likely use a half stick (4T) in this recipe when feeding up to 6.
Olive Oil- You can use butter if you like, but I find coating the mushrooms with olive oil makes them more low maintenance in the oven. You could melt the butter and toss or place a pat on top of the mushrooms and stir to coat the mushrooms once it melts. I often do the mushrooms on the stove top so that I can brown the butter for killer flavor!)
SeasoningsSalt, Pepper… and I used Chive in the tomatoes and Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning for the fish this time around. You can ALWAYS mix it up. Lemon pepper, Italian seasoning, etc.

The Cooking:

Step 1: Preheat to 400°F and assemble ingredients. All you need in terms of cookware is a half sheet pan or cookie sheet.

Step 2: The Salmon- Cut 4 “half pats” (2T in 4 thin slices) off your stick of butter and then cut those in half and line them up down the middle of your salmon, dividing them evenly among servings. The butter will melt and help lock in the salmon’s natural juices. You can also melt the butter and brush it on or use olive oil. Next, add your seasoning. It can be as simple as a bit of garlic, salt, and pepper (I used my go-to Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning with some Frank’s Red hot drizzled on). Place the salmon on your cookie sheet and into the oven. Be sure to let it bake awhile if cooking from frozen.

Step 3: Tomatoes- Cut the stems off the tomatoes and clean out the innards. For Romas, cut off as little as you need to and then halve longways so that you have a nice deep “cheese boat”. Pat them dry with a paper towel and then cut another 2T off of your butter, this time cubing it and dividing the tiny cubes among the tomatoes. I made 8 “halves” and so each had 1/4 T of butter, use more or less as you like. Add cheese, chive, salt and pepper and then when the Salmon is cooked through and flaky but not yet browned, add the tomatoes to your sheetpan.

Step 4: Mushrooms- Slice up your mushrooms or leave them whole, toss them in about 2T of olive oil (per 4 servings- ish, they should all have a thin coating of oil), add salt and pepper and then dump these on the pan also. Close the oven, forget about it for 15 minutes.

Everything is done when the tomatoes have roasted and the cheese is brown, the salmon has a nice crispy browned top, and the mushrooms have wilted into mouthwatering deliciousness.

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Battle Notes 03/29

Blood, sweat, and murder
Black luck and trouble
Head full of sorrow
I’m in a whole lot of trouble now”
Scott Biram

It’s not so much Black Luck as The Sylvain Show. God love him, this has been epic. Today was the most greusome affair yet, but only because it involved a whole lot of literal shit. I am getting a lady boner just thinking about the mess we’ve made in this place so far. The Mere of the Dead Men put me in an introspective sort of mood and there is nothing like a bit of bloodshed to bring you back to the surface of your mind, back to reality. It was in the mere that we all had the pleasure of meeting The Black Death himself, Voaraghamanthar. I’ve heard the rumors of this dragon being in two places at once, but I have always suspected that the one dragon was actually twin dragons. The truth is often both more and less interesting than the fiction. I’m a realist. Anyway, he sent us after some book. And on we went.


Castle Naerytar, where this book was said to be wasn’t far and we made haste getting inside, only to find a full story of sewage with it’s own little tentacle monster (awwwe that’s quaint as fuck). Niresh nearly died without even coming close, as is his wont. He was dipped in a scuffle and still smells like shit. He can’t tell the difference, but we can. If we die in here, it will be because they sniffed us out. We made quick work of him and charged blindly through a hallway, up some stairs and into what turned out to be a library full of priceless books and 5 guilty looking men. N and I I drew immediately and carnage ensued thanks to (suprise, suprise) the rogue, who came in ready to fuck some shit up and did. It was over all too quickly. We noticed we had attained a potential ally in the scuffle. A human librarian and double agent called Tegan. An ally, albeit reluctant. I’m afraid we may have ruined his investigation and put him in danger, but it’s kind of what we do, so we will make it right.

We are currently having a rest, after having made our way up to the third floor into a room full of dust and bones. There were some spectral beings up here, but of course we shot at them and they dissipated. Now we have to get Tegan sorted and get these dragons their book. Meanwhile, I can’t help but think… is the Black Death actually twins? And if so, is there an evil one? Working in tandem all these years, they must have the same goal but it could be to dominate the other. And what of the rings? What will be done with this intel? My life’s work in peril has taught me that it doesn’t matter. Knowledge is sometimes so powerful that it is dangerous in any hand. We are here to kill the people and make the money.

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Rolling Through the Punches: Kwalish Part 1

dndtrayToday I (God, for the unfamiliar) would like to tell you a hilarious story about a lot of misfits and how they almost got obliterated. The tale begins right at the tits… on the cliffs of the Barrier Peaks. Our heroes are presently drooling on themselves and staring catatonically at a floating monastery.

1: That the fuck is that thing?
2: Appears to be a cross between a sphinx and a winged hog
1: Well, it’s unnatural
2: Clearly
Very unnatural indeed. This creature was a gynosphinx, with glowing blue eyes and some otherworldly technology embedded in it’s skull. When it caught sight of them, it began breathing heavily and whipping it’s tail around. Gooodit!

1: What should we do? Do you think it talks?
GS: I speak many languages and I read lips. I can smell your fear, but my body is not half as formidable as my mind. Come fourth, travelers.

1: Well … it seems nice enough.
4: Poor little thing is dying for some attention.

GS. I am quite capable of destroying all of you, but I prefer a battle of wits. I challenge you each to pose a question that I cannot answer. If any one of you lot is successful, I will forego the toll and call for the ferry. If you all lose, you must pay.

1; Ok, question. What is all that shit stuck in your head?
GS: explodes
2,3,4: EEEW!!!
4: to 1: You Bastard, I’ve got guts all over me and we are about to go into a monastery. What in the hell?
1: But did you die? No, the sphinx did, you’re welcome betch
2: Okay ladies… do you see that thing coming for us?

That “thing” was the Ferry, With company. Five cultists led by an elder were on board and did not look… well… they didn’t look to be in any mood, as their faces were flayed to the point of just being skeletons. The scars went in every which direction. It was all in the eye of the beholder, really…

EM: Welcome to our humble abode. Why have you killed our sphinx?

1: I asked it a question and it exploded

The Elder Monk looked at him with a look of smugness. This party did not look to him like any sort of threat to a beast such as the Spinx. Had there been a violent battle, this lot would no doubt be dead. The lack of flesh wounds was telling.

EM: So it did. Would you like a lift?

The travelers piled on and the skiff went onward toward the monastery. Our party stood silent and internally and actually (i’ll confirm, yes) visually terrified. None were familiar with the special magic held by the Sphinx. This new magic seemed to have a chaotic nature about it and so everyone was doubting themselves, wondering if this would be the one that killed them.

The monastery floated amid the valley without aid of water or anything, Wires and metal jutted out from all sides. Ore fire could be smelt (hee hee) and seen from holes bored to the outside. This was a powerful magic and the entire monastery was imbued with it.

The Elder monk who had piloted the skiff remained silent as they arrived and de-boarded, but extended arm and finger ominously toward the Central Abbey. They all took the hint and started walking. He and his goons followed behind. Each carried a hooked pole arm, while the Elder carried what looked like a staff, but with an odd piece of metal in the top resembling the implements we saw on the ship and mounted to the sphinx.
As they entered the Abbey, the low hum became louder. It bounced around the vast expanse of space inside and made the party still more uneasy. About 10 monks huddled in dark areas of the room, and light shone down upon the Grand Master, who sat still and poised on a throne. He looked otherworldly, being quite tall and thin, wearing a large leather cape and very tall hat (which I am sure has a fancy name, but I’m God and I don’t care).

To Be Continued…

Recipe, Uncategorized

Strawberry and Cream Scones

20190220_145346_Film1My first endeavor to make scones was so successful, I thought I would share the recipe I wound up using. It is a blend various recipes.

By and large, chefs were in agreement that what we love about scones is their texture; that flaky, buttery, mouth parching, tea craving texture… and the keys achieving this are:

1)Preheat the oven completely before baking
2) keep your butter (and cream cheese) cold.

2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 C White Sugar
1T baking powder
1/2t salt
1/2C unsalted butter (cold, cubed)
8oz cream cheese (cold, cubed)
1 egg
1/4 cup heavy cream
1t vanilla
3T Strawberry jam, plus more for topping

Preheat to 400 F
1. Sift or wisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
2. Cut in butter and cream cheese until coarse crumb textre is acieved
3. Whisk together cream, vanilla, and egg and add slowly to dry mixture and mix until just combined
4. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface and shape into circle 1/2 in thick.
5. Top with jam polka dots, as pictured. You can also take the leftover 4oz of cream cheese and add some cream, sugar, and jam to make a glaze. I did both this time around (I baked the sconed with the “glaze” on them, which resulted in a really moist scone. Many other recipes suggested brushing the scones with cream or a reserved portion of the wet ingredients (vanilla, cream, egg). When using fresh fruit, pat strawberries dry and add them following the wet ingredients, mixing as little as possible. You can use this recipe with any fruit or jam, chocolate chips, caramel, even cold, cubed cinnamon butter. To leave out the cream cheese, replace it with butter.
6. Cut the scones and bake 12-16 minutes.