Alone in an icebound world...

Alone in an icebound world…

GM Note: I may be running a short mini-campaign in the world of the Flood, probably only three sessions long, which I have tentatively named Vladimir Putin’s Last Voyage. It’s a direct follow-on from the last adventure (described here, here and here in order). This post is background material I am sharing with my players, to make it easier to set the scene for the mini-campaign.

After Captain Dilver found and captured the Ziggurat he named Mount Arashi there was a frenzy of investigation in the labs and computers of the Ziggurat. The sole surviving member of the pirate crew, the scientist who had discovered the trick of drinking human blood to develop immunity to jellyfish, was questioned extensively before his eventual painful demise. These investigations revealed a startling fact: Mount Arashi was one of a pair of Ziggurats, the larger of which might still exist …

The two ziggurats, which Dilver called Mount Arashi and Ziggurat 2, were conceived in the last years of the Flood, when the industry of whole nations had been committed to building floating structures that could survive the Flood. A whole host were launched by many nations, and these two ziggurats were just two of many. They were conceived as a pair, with Mount Arashi established as the living quarters and Ziggurat 2, the larger of the two, used for storage, farming and factories. Small boats ferried people between them, an ill-conceived idea with no respect for the vagaries of ocean life. But this was the first and last time anyone had to build such things, so who can blame them for their mistakes? The two ziggurats were what they were, and once they had been floated on the growing ocean no one could do anything about it.

At first they drifted together on a slow eastward current, heading towards the oceans south of what would one day become the Gyre, but they were soon to be separated by fate. After some years of slow drifting, moving at a crawl across the oceans, they ran into one of the first world storms. With no means of propulsion and no experience of the new world, these two ziggurats floated helplessly, unprepared for what was coming. Fortunately for both of them, however, they were large enough and well-enough built that they survived the storm. Most of the other structures thrown out on the ocean with them at that time – floating oil rigs, packed rafts of ocean liners, smaller islands of wood – were consumed whole, but Mount Arashi and Ziggurat 2 made it through with their population alive, though not unscathed.

Unfortunately, they were cast apart by the storm. Mount Arashi spun through the storm vortex and fell into the current that would eventually drag it into the Gyre, but Ziggurat 2, being larger and heavier, was not thrown out of the storm, instead drifting with it until it dissipated. When the storm raged itself out, the two ziggurats were separated by several hundred kilometres of ocean, and Ziggurat 2 was trapped in a northerly current.

This is where Mount Arashi’s tale of cannibalism and piracy began. For many years the ziggurat drifted untroubled, though the loss of its supply-and-factory-oriented sister ship necessitated a change in way of life, and the community had to learn to adapt fully to the post-flood world. At first they managed, though they had their challenges; but then, after a few generations, they ran into the miasma. Stranded in a vast soup of jellyfish, they soon began to run low on food. A small gang of the most vicious members launched a mutiny, and with their thuggish fellowers they imprisoned the community and began slowly eating them, in a desperate bid to preserve their food. One of their number, the scientist, studied ways to control the jellyfish and eventually found a way to kill them or control them with electrical power. Some of the mutineers then suggested freeing the remaining prisoners, killing the jellyfish and returning to past life, and there was another mutiny in which the scientist’s gang prevailed. They chose to keep the jellyfish close, and use them for piracy and locomotion. The remaining captives were handed over to the scientist for experimentation, and over the next 10 years they prowled the seas near the Gyre, threatening small communities and extorting food and women. Then they drifted into the Gyre, and their evil actions became a matter of history.

Things went very differently for Ziggurat 2. They drifted slowly north, too far away from their sister ziggurat to continue trading and swapping resources because the only ships that remained functioning after the world storm were those that were small enough to be dragged inside the ziggurats for protection. As they drifted they remained in contact with Mount Arashi by satellite and carrier pigeon, but this contact too slowly dwindled. Nonetheless, it was apparent that Ziggurat 2 was also doing well, partly because Ziggurat 2 had been the one initially stocked with all the communities’ supplies and partly because they had drifted into rich fishing grounds and temperate weather. But they continued drifting north, and soon things became harsher. As they entered the far north, the few communiques reaching Mount Arashi spoke of hard times, food rationing, and strict and authoritarian rulership. Then communication ceased, but everyone assumed the same thing: that Ziggurat 2 had drifted helplessly into the arctic, become trapped fast in sea ice, and was lost to the world. Perhaps its residents had lived on their stores of food, but eventually – within a few years probably – these must have run out in such a harsh environment, and then they would have fallen to eating each other. By now the ziggurat would be an empty shell, drifting at the whim of the seasonal ice, undefended.

Captain Dilver, of course, settled on that word: undefended. He had uncovered the cargo manifest of Ziggurat 2 when it was launched:

  • 100,000 tons of steel
  • 10,000 tons of copper, nickel, tin and other valuable metals
  • 30,000 tons of soil
  • 10,000 tons of wood
  • 1,000 tons of fissile uranium
  • 10,000 tons of rubber
  • One nuclear plant, whose waste could be used as fuel by the Ark’s reactor
  • Three water purification systems
  • A small factory and workyard
  • A seedbank with 1000 species of plant
  • A small flock of goats, and preserved semen and ovaries for maintenance of the flock
  • A large plastic extrusion plant

All he needed was a freighter capable of carrying a couple of hundred thousands tons of cargo, and a small crew of enterprising adventurers to accompany him. How fortunate, then, that our little group of PCs should return to his attention just as Captain Mithrades came into port on the nuclear-powered ice freighter the Vladimir Putin, telling a story of desperation and willing to offer almost anything in exchange for the right to settle in the Gyre …

A lesser figure than Captain Dilver might have offered Mithrades, captain of a ship with a storied history of adventure, shelter out of mere magnanimity, but Dilver was no lesser man. He paid attention to sailors’ stories filtering back from the bars where Mithrades crew were on shore leave, and he soon learnt the truth: a tragic accident in the nuclear engineering section of the Vladimir Putin had exposed Mithrades’ long-term engineer and both of his apprentices to lethal doses of radiation. The engineer was dead of cancer one year now, and for his apprentices it was just a matter of time. Very few communities of the Flood had nuclear engineers, and none were willing to release such valuable people to the high seas, so Mithrades was now looking for somewhere to settle. He had tried the Himalayan Archipelago but their conditions were harsh; instead he approached the Gyre, believing them more compassionate. Unfortunately he docked at the Hulks and met Dilver before he could stumble on a person of compassion. And so the deal was soon struck: a trip north, and then he could settle.

Ziggurat 2 was abandoned and held fast in ice, but the summer was approaching, when the ice would melt. Dilver’s eyes turned north to that vast treasure floating in the arctic ocean, and then to the heroes who had captured Mount Arashi. They had captured one temple … now they would loot another, or die trying.