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Chapter One

First Steps
The Skyless World

The stars shone bright on that fateful night, more than lights above us, our only refuge from the innate dark-
four thousand years ago. Under the midnight sky, the ness of this weird world. Every conception of nature,
Mesopotamian winds carried away the scents of in- changed. Every known aspect of our world, warped.
cense, the echoes of laughter, music and joyous celebra-
tion. The temple’s construction was over. What would we dream of? What would we be afraid
of? What would we fight for?
After weeks of festivities, prompted by the Third King’s
return, the city fell asleep. In their dreams, they saw the These are your first steps into the strange world of Nib-
holy debts repaid—their souls lifted gracefully to the iru. You count yourself among the many inhabitants of
stars. this space station, a monstrous machine designed to
do who-knows-what. Will your purpose be to find the
But suddenly, something happened. An instant of day- answer to that question? Will it be to survive the dark-
light tore the mantle of night apart, its shine blinding ness and carve out a life for yourself and your loved
those below. The most deafening noise ever experienced ones? Will it be to delve deep into the farthest lands
by humanity accompanied the light—so loud, as if of this skyless world, desperate to know what’s behind
the cosmos itself let out a desperate cry. Petrified, they the curtain? Whatever will be the path you choose, re-
gazed at the sky above. Then they saw it—their dream, member: The choices you make will have consequenc-
realized—for the one and only time. es—for you and the ones who will join you.

Nibiru, their second home, passed by. Nibiru is a Science Fiction Role Playing Game of Lost
Memories. A role playing game is a game in which the
players take on the roles of other people, immersing
themselves in a fictional world through the characters
they choose to portray.
Second Home
What would life be like in a skyless world? What would Remember when you used to play pretend with your
it be like to be born, live and die in a place where grass friends, impersonating villains and heroes during play-
doesn’t grow, where the wind doesn’t blow and with no ground hours? Nibiru is very much like those school
horizon to set your sight upon? yard games you used to play. The difference is that, in
this case, there is a set of rules—some unspoken, some
Let’s imagine that, one day, humanity found itself living duly written—in order for the narrative to remain con-
inside of a massive space station. The consequences to sistent, for the story to flow coherently, and for the peo-
this are more important than the reasons: The water ple involved to enjoy the experience to the fullest!
we drink supplied via giant pipes. The air we breath In each adventure you embark on, you and your friends
pumped through kilometers-long shafts. The flickering

8 First Steps
will step into the shoes of characters (also known as
PCs, or player-characters) for whose portrayal, ac-
tions and choices you will be responsible. One of the The Story Structure
players will be the Narrator who, instead of playing as A single Session is akin to a TV series episode, some-
another character, will describe the world as it is ex- times serving as a staging point for events to come,
perienced by the PCs, narrating the consequences of sometimes ending in a cliffhanger, sometimes self-con-
their actions, impersonating the people they encoun- tained, but always pushing the story forward. A Story
ter, serving as a mediator, and helping the story unfold. or Arc comprises anything between one and many
episodes, with a beginning and an end, and with a
Once the group is set, you will all need a place where plot that revolves around certain themes, locales and
you can get together (we suggest a comfortable, quiet characters defined by the Narrator. A Series or Chron-
location) and a reasonable amount of time so you can icle covers several arcs, with the constant being the
all get ready and play for as long as you wish. Nibi- PCs involved. You could commit to a slowly developing
ru episodes usually last for 3 to 5 hours, though your series, with secrets that reveal at the close of every story,
group will soon find out what is best for you! It is al- or maybe create an anthology of loosely connected tales
ways important to agree on the type of game you want revolving around a specific theme.
to play; will it be more of a political game, trying to
uncover the schemes of Nibiru’s rulers? Will it focus
on the horrors of the station, or maybe pan out as a
fully-fledged epic centered around exploration? It should be in everyone’s interest for each and every
player to have fun. If this seems not to be the case at
Reaching a consensus on the type of story you will tell any point, speak up! Mind that some people might have
is crucial to achieve a good gaming experience. Like- a hard time expressing discomfort. All players should
wise, if you are going to touch upon sensitive subjects, have the other in mind when partaking in this experi-
it is important for everyone to agree to it to be on the ence, which makes for one of the most important set of
same page. rules we could convey to you. This set of arrangements,
which should happen before the game starts, is the so-
cial contract. After that’s set, you will only need to get
some pencils, erasers, paper, a bunch of four-sided dice
and you will be set to craft an unforgettable story!.

First Steps 9
A Science Fiction Game
Nibiru’s history exists to evoke wonder, provoke ception, and we have designed it as weird, but relatable.
thought, and exercise your imagination. Although the Your characters might be special in some regards but,
questions previously introduced in this chapter will outside of their strange condition, they bleed and suf-
hopefully find their answers in your adventures, there fer—they love and hate and laugh as anyone does. This
are other things you might think of when faced with doesn’t mean that extraordinary stuff does not happen;
the idea of human life on Nibiru. Many works of sci- it abounds in a place as alien as the station! We have,
ence fiction have tried to envision our species living in however, chosen to give some humane grounding to
unnatural conditions, with varying degrees of metic- the world so that no matter how strange Nibiru might
ulousness, through concepts like the O’Neill cylinder seem, humanity’s touch will always remain familiar.
and the Stanford torus. In Nibiru, we’ve tried to paint
a consistent, somewhat scientifically accurate pic- Speaking about humanity, let us establish that its rela-
ture, while at the same time taking some liberties for tionship with the station is conflicted. On the one hand,
the sake of fiction, and to delve into the philosophic some regions seem to be tailor-made for us: providing
themes that the genre has always excelled at exploring. fresh air, water, food and pleasant temperatures on a
silver plate. On the other hand, once you stray off the
Many works of fiction and art inspired Nibiru. Here are beaten path (and you will, given how curious human
a few of those sources: beings can get), you’ll encounter the cold entrails of
• 2001: A Space Odyssey, based on the novel by Ar- a world that bears no resemblance to humanity’s true
thur C. Clarke. birthplace. This machine, as happens with any other
• Ridley Scott’s Alien. tool, has an unknown purpose—inevitably bringing to
• The Martian, based on the novel by Andy Weir. mind questions about it, and about our role within it.
• Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and A
Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick.
• Tsutomu Nihei’s manga series Blame!. How to Use This Book
• Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination. The Nibiru Corebook is divided into several chapters
• Larry Niven’s Ringworld. that unveil different aspects of the game, be it the
• The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey world, the rules, advice on how to tell stories, etc. In
• Various works from Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. addition, you will find helpful advice for narration at
Clarke. These have been a great source of inspira- the turn of every page! We have included story hooks
tion, and we highly recommend diving into them and inspirational ideas in almost every section, under
if you enjoy your journey across the station! the Story Sparks headers, so that you know how to im-
plement Nibiru’s lore into your adventures.

of Lost Memories First Steps will introduce you to Nibiru and the history
The people that you will portray are not like the rest. of humans in the station; it explores the basic struc-
Your kind has one very important thing in common; ture that makes up the station, and retells the major
they awoke in the cold of Nibiru without most of their events that marked humanity’s journey across the sky-
memories. These are the Vagabonds, and theirs is the less world.
struggle of remembrance. Their old lives are broken;
their new lives will see them struggling to pick up the From the Core We Hail is a chapter dedicated to the
pieces. All of this, while wandering in a world they can- peoples and locales of the Core Sectors; where life
not comprehend. thrives, where civilizations rise and fall and where the
legacy of humanity is most present.
The Vagabond condition results in memory being a
core theme to the Nibiru experience: the rules allow Halls of Penumbra explores the vast territories of the
for storytelling to happen not only “forwards” (living Outer Reaches; a sparsely populated territory that
through the adventure and getting to determine the showcases the untamed face of Nibiru, and how soci-
fate of your characters) but also “backwards”, as the un- ety shapes up to be when the world around them falls
veiling of each new remembrance reveals the tales and apart.
tribulations that comprised your characters’ past lives.
Light’s End collects tales and rumours about the Um-
bra, beyond the Outer Reaches. The most inhospitable
Mood place in Nibiru holds many secrets, and strange things
Role playing games generally have a set mood; an at-
we’re yet to discover call it home.
mosphere they try to convey via their rules, their set-
ting’s premise and their presentation. Nibiru is no ex-

10 First Steps
Storytelling Engines contains the rules of the game— Barge: Some of the latest wind-riding technology al-
the mechanics that allow for the plot to flow, to bring lowed for the production of barges—ships that travel
your memories and your character’s story into motion, along the Torus (mostly for trade purposes).
as well as advice on how to utilize the rules to suit your
gaming table’s tastes. Bioelectric: Almost the entirety of Nibiru’s fauna is of
bioelectric nature—organisms that developed special
The Vagabonds focuses on the protagonists of this adaptations to utilize Nibiru’s power as their form of
game; who are they, the nature of their condition, what nourishment.
they want and how to portray them in a way that is
engaging and rewarding. BrightTown: One of the Habitats of Nibiru, A small,
countryside village surrounded by a black abyss.
Of Cracking Skin and Shimmering Steel introduces
the many life forms that inhabit Nibiru, as well as Arti- Core Sectors, The: The place where the first human
ficial Intelligences, their origins and their relationship settlements developed, and where gravity is closer to
with humanity. Earth’s. Most of Nibiru’s population lives here.

By the Lamplight is a chapter written to provide guid- Core, The: The nucleus of the station, producing the
ance to Narrators, from basic planning of your sessions energy consumed by humanity and the station itself.
to theme and mood-focused storytelling; all to ensure The world’s beating heart.
the best experience possible!
Cycle: The standard, medium-long term measurement
The Long Way Home is a story you can play with your for time, based on the energy bursts that supply the city
group as an introduction to the setting, focusing in a of Ashur. It equals three of Earth’s months.
troupe of Vagabonds that, after parting ways with their
saviour, face the first challenges posed by the station. Darkness, The: Everything past the habitable zones of
Nibiru belongs to the Darkness.
Annex 1: The Science of Nibiru sheds light on the na-
ture of life in the station, the inner workings of the Deathspitter: The default weapon of the peoples of
Skyless World, and the world building efforts that went Nibiru—shooting splinters at terrifying speeds over
into conceiving it. short distances.

Epilogue: Krajj presents a short tale, designed to give a Dreadlands, The: One of the Habitats of Nibiru. A
glimpse of the world of Nibiru, from the perspective of prison for the senses; a collection of tragedies designed
a group of travellers running against the clock to save to breed and nurture Nightmares.
their lives.
Dreamlands, The: One of the Habitats of Nibiru. It ex-
ists as a collective remembrance that connects different
Lexicon individuals that live in the station.
The following is a list of commonly used terminology
that is relevant to the setting...
Enki’s Covenant: A secret organisation, hell-bent on
acquiring knowledge to gain power. They have a wide-
AI: Artificial Intelligence. When re purposed by hu-
spread network of informants and act as bogeymen to
manity to serve a specific purpose, an AI is referred to
Vagabonds—the memories of whom they covet.
as an automaton.
Enēšu, The: The humans of Penumbra, shorter than av-
AI Core: The brains of an AI, a non-renewable resource
erage due to the higher artificial gravity.
that is fiercely sought for.
Fungi: Fungal life forms are commonly found through-
Antumbra: Common name for the Core Sectors.
out Nibiru, and are key to the sustainment of human
life (given that most of human nourishment stems
Arku, The: The first humans, the Arku, tall and fragile
from fungi-based cooking).
due to low G — these are the inhabitants of the Core
Sectors.
G-LOC: Loss of consciousness due to excessive g-force
that drain blood away from the brain, it mostly af-
Ascendant: An electromagnet-powered machine that
fects Core Sector travellers that venture into the far-
travels across vertical tunnels, connecting the Core
thest reaches of Penumbra and Umbra without proper
Sectors with the Outer Reaches.
preparation.

First Steps 11
Harbingers: Ancient AIs, one of which is said to have Rogue AIs: Automatons that have been consumed by
taught humans everything they needed to survive. the Rogue Affliction, to the point in which they cannot
perform the duties they were created for anymore.
Isimud, The: The Wandering Necropolis of Enki’s Cov-
enant—a town that travels across the Torus. Rust Hunters: A profession based on capturing and de-
commissioning rogue AIs, sometimes extracting their
Kabādu: The World’s Punishment, gravity has a great core for re purposing.
significance for those who suffer because of it—with
cults forming around the idea of it being a punishment Scavengers: Derogatory name for the tribes that in-
the world doles to those who dare leave Antumbra habit the dark corners of Penumbra. Their societies are
built on pillage, illicit activities and conquest.
Krajj: A greyish paste manufactured from fungi. It is
smoked in long pipes—is quite addictive and causes Second Ring, The: Unknown to humanity, the Second
your metabolism to quickly adapt to your current en- Ring is the place in the Darkness where most Habitats
vironment’s artificial gravity. are located, past the 1.6G line.

Leviathan, The: The mother of all beasts. An entity Service AIs: The largest population of AIs in Nibiru is
that roams the Darkness and reigns supreme over most classified as Service AIs—any kind of automaton made
life forms in Nibiru. to serve humanity.

Machine, The: One of the Habitats of Nibiru. It is the Torus Corridor, The: The largest concentration of in-
source of the Rogue Affliction — a computer virus that habited vaults in Penumbra is located along the Torus’
triggers an awakening of consciousness in Nibiru’s AIs, periphery—a region the bears the name of the Torus
which some Vagabonds used to inhabit. Corridor.

Memotech: A specific branch of technological devices Torus, The: A gigantic, torus-shaped tunnel that goes
utilized by Enki’s Covenant to scour through people’s from the Core Sectors to the Outer Reaches and then
remembrances. back, it has a specific metal plating that allows for barg-
es to be built based on electromagnets, enabling travel
Nibiru: The star of Nineveh, the diamond amidst a through it.
pebble-parade — where all the action happens.
Vagabonds: The peoples that come from afar. They
Nightmare: A strange entity that feeds off of electric hold no memories of the times before their awakening.
pulses within a host’s amygdala. They are original from
the habitat known as the Dreadlands. Whisperers, The: An ancient group of gifted individu-
als. They have long since disappeared from the world.
Outer Reaches, The: The outermost part of Nibiru’s They were said to be the ones that led the oldest human
habitable zone. The higher gravity pull of this region tribes into a golden age of progress and invention.
results in their peoples having a different physical com-
plexion than their closer-to-the-Core cousins. Wild, The: One of the Habitats of Nibiru. The vastness
of the station seen through feral eyes.
Penumbra: Common name for the Outer Reaches.

People’s Shepherd, The: The One Harbinger, founding


father of Ashur. It is said that it taught humanity how to
survive—an idea that is now widely rejected.

Pilgrims: The main religious organization of Nibiru,


they believe the Core is a divine machine and that it
is humanity’s destiny to eventually become part of it.

Ring, The: The periphery of the Core, with the least


gravity in the whole station and practically unlivable
due to the high temperatures and massive heat ex-
hausts found therein.

12 First Steps
First Steps 13
House in the Stars

The skyless world is a machine of nigh-inconceivable Past the Core Sectors, the Outer Reaches (often re-
complexity, fuelled by a seemingly endless stream of ferred to as “the Reaches” or “Penumbra”) are located.
power flowing from its center towards millions of ter- It is the largest populated sector of the station, sparse-
minations, built to last for millennia and to preserve ly dotted by small settlements and colonies, where
the precious life found therein. Although its design re- hard-working industrialist and fortune seekers live.
mains a mystery, the most important components of
what make Nibiru are, conceptually, easy to observe The Umbra, which lies beyond, is a place of non-life
and comprehend. The station is a disc-shaped struc- where no one dares venture forth. The world itself
ture, roughly measuring 3600 kilometres in diameter. crushes anyone who treads there, choking the life out
Its rotation generates artificial gravity in such a way and breaking the bodies of those stupid enough to
that approximately 20% of its total surface can be in- brave the dark.
habited. Human societies have traversed much of Nib-
iru for thousands of cycles, and yet, they still have the The grand majority of Nibiru’s space is a sea of tunnels
grand majority of it to discover. and hallways, serving as arteries to connect the vaults
that keep life intact. Great expanses serve as nexi to
At the centre of Nibiru lies the Core, the giver of all which many of these tunnels converge, as well as hub
light. The Core hides all manner of strange mecha- from where important aspects of the station’s functions
nisms designed to bring the world to life. The nature can be monitored. A small percentage of the structures
of the Core is shrouded in mystery, and it has been re- found in the station are structural in nature: they are
garded as a deity and a living thing by many belief sys- there to make sure that the mechanisms of the world
tems across the station. A ring of colossal facilities sur- work as intended.
rounds it, thundering pillars that rise as far as the eye
can see, and labyrinthine complexes—all bursting with
raw power. These are the locales of the Ring; the bulk of Vaults
the station’s power-generating machines, as well as the Vaults are the sphere-shaped structures wherein settle-
birth-point of Nibiru’s power lines. ments are built. These structures range from a couple
hundred meters to several kilometers in diameter, and
The first inhabited area of the skyless world is that of are connected to massive lifelines, accessible via service
the Core Sectors, the first of the Umbras (also referred tunnels located below the surface of the vault. Lifelines
to as “Antumbra”). The cradle of civilization is today keep the life support systems of the station running,
a massive sprawl of overgrown city-states, where 95% ensuring that vaults are supplied with clean air, water,
of Nibiru’s peoples live. With over 60 populated vaults, and providing exhausts through which resources can
and spanning great expanses and long hallways, the be recycled.
main turning points of human history happen within
the Core Sectors’ confines.

14 First Steps
Storytelling Lessons Strange Worlds
Steel Playgrounds Many of the vaults found in the far reaches of Nibiru
bear the scars of their history; sites where violent events
Knowing how to introduce and depict the locations took place, were entire peoples met their doom, or where
you will visit in Nibiru is essential to accomplish an strange occurrences happened without anyone noticing.
immersive experience. Although most of the times Vaults are in an of themselves a puzzle, and explora-
these locales will be easy to picture and to evoke (such tion-centered adventures can gain a lot from creative
as the lush forests of a fantasy world, or dark cities usage of these structures, and the secrets they keep.
here on earth), the skyless world can sometimes be
very strange—as any alien superstructure should be.

This is not necessarily bad though; although some


of the most iconic landscapes of Nibiru will be
Networks
The veins and arteries of Nibiru are akin to the great
represented here, the fact of the matter is that swathes of land that separate the towns and cities of
(in a big part) you are free to toy around with the our world; an incommensurable network that extends
station. The strangeness of it should enable you throughout the whole station. Although the grand
to come up with interesting ideas, to make Nib- majority of these is comprised of processing lines, air
iru fit your story (and not the other way around). supply tunnels and service shafts (which remain largely
unexplored), the hallways used everyday by humans to
travel throughout Nibiru stand as the most iconic, and
There are several types of vaults in the station, like are home to a big part of Nibiru’s strange fauna as well
water-filled reservoirs and fuel depositories, as well as some small human communities.
as massive hub vaults and common trade centers. Ex-
plorers and settlers have long ago designed a categori- From the triangle-shaped hallways of Gate’s Shadow,
zation system that groups habitational vaults in three passing through the colossal expanse of the Torus to
classes (A, B and C). Class A vaults are those that are the circular tunnels of Umbra and the Outer Reaches;
fully supplied with water and power, most often found the networks that run across Nibiru dictate not just the
in the Gate’s Shadow region of the Core Sectors. Class way in which societies grow and work, but they also
B vaults are vaults that have no access to either power mark the rhythm of your stories, with challenges await-
or water, which doesn’t mean that they aren’t livable ing at every turn, and at the end of every corridor.
(given that many settlements were founded in Class
B vaults, provided they could get their hands on the As civilizations rose and fell, societies learned to use
missing resources). They are mostly found in the Out- the space delineated by the hallway networks to their
er Reaches. Class C vaults, often referred to as “dead advantage (growing food, setting up watch-posts and
vaults”, are under no condition to be lived in, either due tolling stations, etc.). The dynamics of inter-state re-
to deadly malfunctions and or a complete lack of re- lationships are deeply dependent on how each ruler
sources necessary for living (neither inside nor in their manages the networks within their domains, including
immediacies). They are generally found in the Umbra. those of trade and warfare.

Aside from the complex systems that make for each Facilities
vault’s inner workings, the largest, most central vaults Central facilities comprise all of the space dedicated to
generally have two types of sub-structures called de- the functioning of Nibiru. From complex mechanisms
tachments and dependencies. Detachments are small- that serve to transform materials, to gigantic reactors
er zones, accessed from within the vault, that serve as and power processors in the innermost parts of the
expansions for the vault’s main living area. Some of skyless world, Nibiru is an intricate machine that hous-
the largest vaults in the Core Sectors feature dozens of es a plethora of mysterious mechanisms, all designed
detachments, which are usually dedicated to specific to fuel the station’s hidden purpose.
purposes (such as special industrial areas, residential
zones, prisons, etc. Dependencies are smaller vaults lo- Among the many facilities in the station, one of the
cated outside of the main structure, in its immediacies. most important ones are the strange places called
They are not considered vaults in their own regard due Habitats. These facilities vary in nature; some might
to the fact that their life support systems are dependant be more “conceptual” than concrete, but what they do
on those of the main vault. have in common is that they exist and are revealed in
the game via the memories written by the players.

First Steps 15
The Core What Lies Beyond
Purveyor of Nibiru’s lifeforce and heart of the skyless As you wander off the beaten path, into hidden tun-
world, the Core is the basement upon which everything nels, monstrously cold facilities and into lands of sol-
in Nibiru is built: a nigh-inconceivable machine that itude and silence, the world’s rules bend against you.
works over thousands of years to power the colossal More than ten hundred kilometers away from the
station and all its facilities. Each of its eight thundering Core, the pressure from the artificial spin gravity be-
power generators work in a constant cycle, consuming comes so oppressive that your heart has problems get-
iridium radioisotopes to produce massive amounts of ting blood to your brain. Hallucinations, loss of con-
electricity, which is then distributed across the station sciousness (which is generally deadly at this point) and
following that same cycle. The Ring is the name given the push exerted on your body make traversing the
to the immediacies of the Core, where its main mecha- regions known as Umbra a nigh impossible task. How-
nisms for distribution are housed. High temperatures, ever, there are a few bold individuals who dare venture
low-to-no artificial gravity and exposure to hazardous here, lured by the promise of forbidden lands, as well as
materials make these areas unfit for living, thus the answers about the nature of the skyless world.
reason why the entry points into these regions are ex-
tremely hard to find. The Umbras are akin to the deep oceans of Earth; vastly
unexplored, standing in the way of knowing about the
The peoples of Nibiru have based their time measure- universe outside—like a massive black wall covering
ment systems around the cycles of the Core, another the entrance to Plato’s cave. Even with the cutting-edge
of the reasons why it holds quasi-mythic status among technologies of the current era, the immense pressure
them. These are the most used units of time... that results from Nibiru’s artificial gravity makes it im-
possible to traverse past the borders of Penumbra. This
A Flicker is a period of time, of unknown duration, is the reason why, when treading the expanse of 1.6G,
that begins with the initial startup of the Core’s func- only the best equipped, the boldest and the most am-
tions, and ends with its dimming and, ultimately, its bitious survive (and even then, no one manages to go
shutdown. Flickers are cycles in themselves—they are, much further than the oppressive 2G where many of
in essence, the time period between resets. Its actual Nibiru’s lost facilities lie.
existence is a matter of debate among the peoples of
Nibiru.

An Assyrian Cycle measures the period between ener- Lore Bites


gy bursts experienced at the vault of Ashur, and was es- The Lanterns at 2.3
tablished during the Assyrian Supremacy. It’s the most
widely used time unit for long periods, and it equates Under the bone crushing, mind numbing pres-
to three Earth months. sure of the 2.3G line, pale orange lamps light up
the all-engorging darkness of Umbra. The source
A True Cycle is a locale-based time unit that is used of this light is unknown; no charted power lines
mostly in the far reaches of Penumbra and Umbra, due run this far (at least not carrying any electrici-
to the fact that the energy takes longer to reach these ty) and the images captured at the 2.3 line show
locations after their corresponding power generator the outline of an ominous structure, moving at a
emits its burst. The further away you are from the Core, fast speed, with no radiation readings of any kind.
the more people use True Cycles instead of the Assyr-
ian Cycle, with the former generally used only when Even though super-resistant drones have been able to
speaking to foreigners and when referencing historic reach this point, humans would never survive the ar-
dates. While a True Cycle in Ashur lasts three Earth tificial gravity of this region—their fragile organs and
months, a True Cycle in the Umbraic settlements of soft skin tearing apart under their own weight. The
Black Sea Flood lasts close to seven Earth months. fact begs the question of; how do Vagabonds escape it?

Finally, Lapses are akin to Earth days, though they ref-


erence the sleep cycles of the peoples of Nibiru. They
last for 22 Earth hours, and are fractioned in hours and
seconds, just as in our world.

16 First Steps
Flickerburst

The Age of Silence


Marked by the rhythm of Nibiru’s pulsating heart,
humanity’s history in the station revolves around the
dynamic of the Core’s behaviour—its light bursting The People’s Shepherd
through endless corridors, only to dim itself over the The first recounts of humans settling the Core Sectors
course of thousands of cycles. Each of these millen- are usually sprinkled with fantastic recounts, references
nia-long beats is known as a Flicker, and the stories and to the occult and the “strange forces at work” in the
legends you will experience with will be set in the third station. Though most of these are seen in the present as
of these periods—briefly retold in this section. innocuous legends and tales, the mention of a grand,
paternal figure known as the People’s Shepherd appears
As the pulse of the Core’s rebirth reverberated across consistently in scriptures, mainly those of Assyrian
thousands of kilometers, hallways and vaults lit up. authorship. The People’s Shepherd is today revered as
In the midst of this primordial yawn, following on the founding father of Ashur; an ominous presence that
the footsteps of long forgotten entities, small human guided their people to the vault and taught them how to
groups found their way into the great unknown. These establish the foundations of their culture.
were the Arku; the inhabitants of the Core Sectors.
Within the vaults of the Antumbra, they found warmth
and water, as well as fields of ripe fungi to harvested. abled this way of life—with new cultural adoptions
The plentiful bounties of Antumbra signified easy liv- surfacing to justify the power held by those at the top.
ing; a perfect environment to grow technologically and Furthermore, when humanity’s boundless curiosity led
culturally. With time, four settlements surfaced to har- the Arku to meet each other under the yellowish lights
bour the grand majority of human life in the station: of Nibiru’s hallways, these differences in belief led to
the city-states of Ashur, Charchemish, Ur and Ankuwa. small-scale clashes. Conflict and struggle became an-
other contributing factor for the growing isolationism
Each of the city-states developed its own set of laws and of the city-states; each people found strength in their
edicts, largely promulgated by elder councils, priest- state-fed convictions, reinforcing the ideas that had
hoods and monarchies. The cults that formed at the driven them to conflict in the first place.
dawn of time revered all that amazed and enthralled
the Arku; the lights that shone overhead, the strange Fortunately, not everyone saw these encounter as
life forms that ran wild, and the mysterious relics left a chance to sharpen their ideological knives: those
behind during previous Flickers. that took the opportunity to exchange ideas found
themselves enlightened by radically different ways of
This state of abundance in which the Arku lived was, thought. With that, the first trade agreements were
however, a double-edged sword. As generations came established under the shadow of the Pond—a massive
and passed, the city-states and their ruling councils reservoir; containing the region’s entire water supply.
pushed the idea that it was their set of values that en-

First Steps 17
As cooperation grew between the cities, and with the
exchange of customs in full motion, the peoples of Nib-
iru acted swiftly on their adventurous spirit. They ven-
tured into the unknown hallways beyond—forging the
first tales of exploration and treasure hunting.

The end of the Age of Silence came along with a group


of nomads of unknown origin who arrived at the gates
of Antumbra to push civilization into a new era.

The Age of Whispers


In audience with the rulers of the four city-states,
the fifty-or-so newcomers introduced themselves by
putting a show that was beyond the world’s wildest
dreams. They Whispered to the station, and the station
replied: Vaults’ floor plaques rose with a single word,
water rained down from the ceilings, and lights danced
to the rhythm of their hum. To the Arku, it was clear;
the real gods of Nibiru made their appearance.

The Whisperers did more than just flaunt their won-


drous speech skills. They taught the Arku how to ob-
serve, understand and utilize the Nibiru’s technological
marvels. Leading the people into strange, otherworldly
structures, they adjusted the world’s temperature to
make it more pleasant, they optimized air circulation
across tunnels to favour the growth of fungi planta-
tions, and they opened the waterways—from massive
reservoirs into new, unsettled vaults. The Whisperers
paved the way for people to colonize the whole region,
and along this trail of new found glory the Arku cele-
brated. Everyone, bar the ones who ran the show.

In short time, the Whisperers faced the wrath of the


Antumbran aristocracy, who spread rumours about
the Whisperers and their practices. From the high ech-
elons of Assyrian society to the small hamlets at the
edge of Antumbra, the cautionary tales spread like
wildfire. A wave of violence followed, as inquisitors
faced off against the Whisperers and their followers.
The city of Ur was sacked of its precious works of art,
and the Dials—the wide hallways that connected most
of the region—were painted red in the wake of the An-
tumbran conflict. After the smoke cleared, the last re-
maining Whisperers fled back into the shadows of the
world, leaving the Antumbran realms behind.

Among the remnants of the Core Sectors’ societies, the


city-state of Ashur remained untouched. While the rest
of Antumbra struggled to rebuild their lives, the lead-
ers of the Assyrian city-state seized control of many
territories, and the ultimately tragic Age of Whispers
made way to the Assyrian Supremacy.

18 First Steps
The Age of Strife
From the balconies of the Ochre Palace, the Primarch EUROPA seemed to, strangely enough, exert rule over
of Ashur found herself reigning over the devastated the people of Nineveh. As soon as the Primarch’s en-
peoples of Antumbra. The Assyrian citadel, which had voys approached the city, the AI established contact. In
grown in a state of constant war against its dependen- the meantime, in the immediacies of Nineveh, secret
cies, sent summons to the far corners of the Supremacy gatherings bloomed; whispered pledges of allegiance
(the name they had given to their domains), calling for in defiance of the Primarchy. An army of EUROPA’s
the ruling councils to gather at the Four Dials. There, surrogates marched alongside a rebel force—fighting
they swore fealty to the Primarch, and acknowledged the Assyrian military for control of the Dials and the
her as ruler of all. subject vaults of the Supremacy. When the revolution-
ary forces reached the first dial, the Ashur Dependen-
The peace that came afterwards allowed the civiliza- cies turned against the Ochre Palace, and demanded
tions of Antumbra to rise from the ashes, undoubtedly the Primarch’s surrender. The Supremacy was no more.
changed by the conflict. Diversity, brought by the as-
similation of new cultures, brought revolutionary ide-
as—which culminated in an industrialization boom.
The Age of Discovery
With a pact struck, Ashur gave up its claim for domi-
Factories were erected, powering an industrial com-
nance. In a few cycles the oppressed identities of many
plex that operated with ruthless efficiency. On the one
city-states in the Core Sectors experienced a rebirth,
hand, it enabled massive technological leaps: In just
and the leaders of this new age set their course to new
over five hundred cycles, science went through a series
beginnings. Innovation sparked, fuelled by new dis-
of revolutions that would take thousands of years to
coveries in science and technology. Nineveh opened
develop on Earth. On the other hand, however, the in-
itself to the world, and with time the rest of humanity
dustrial complex left hundreds of miles of service and
started producing their own automatons.
supply tunnels unusable, tearing at the fabric of Nibiru
to fuel the development of the Antumbran peoples.
It was when humanity thought it had reached a dead
end that they found a series of massive vertical shafts,
Hundreds of cycles passed, and rumours circulated
hidden beneath the vaults of Antumbra. They went on
about a newly founded settlement in the locked-out
for hundreds of miles, into places unknown, where the
vault of Nineveh. This vault had remained inaccessible
world itself stepped on the curious and the bold. This
since times immemorial, which made it so that the ru-
horrific curse was named Kabādu, the World’s Punish-
mours were met with the Primarchy’s disbelief. In the
ment, and it spared no one. The cursed place was bap-
vault’s interior, a nomadic people (which had escaped
tized as Penumbra—the Outer Reaches—and soon saw
the conflict of the Age of Whispers) managed to set-
the arrival of courageous expeditionaries, who built
tle in, carrying with them a piece of technology that
roaring elevators known as Ascendants.
would change everything: an AI known as EUROPA.
The colonization of Penumbra infused the Arku with
great determination; strange findings, unknown flora
and fauna and the possibilities for new beginnings saw
The Dead Vaults of Erra the city-states tangled in an arms race to spread out
The ravaging of the Antumbran North lead to the loss of into the untamed lands. Life there was not easy though;
almost all access to life support systems in the area. The high pressure and the vaults’ poor conditions caused
North was literally shredded, reprocessed in the frantic the settlers a lot of suffering. In those forsaken depths,
search for more construction materials. Today, the humanity stopped living in order to survive.
whole region undergoes a slow but steady repair process
(which is intermittently halted by lack of resources). The Cycles passed, and the frontiers of Penumbra expand-
surrounding populations have experienced toxic floods, ed, as well as the cultural gap between the Arku and
oxygen leaks, structural collapse and a myriad of dif- the Enēšu—the inhabitants of Penumbra. Radically dif-
ferent inherited disasters. The Dead Vaults of Erra were ferent worldviews sparked countercultures, as the col-
hit particularly hard, left entirely in the dark and with onies—largely controlled by Antumbra—felt increas-
no oxygen whatsoever. Today, they are widely known ingly dissociated from the values of their motherlands.
as a common destination for research parties, which
take advantage of the area’s decaying state to study the As the settlements of Penumbra come together, and
station’s inner systems. with the slowing down of the expeditionary efforts, the
present day finds the Age of Discovery fading.
Who knows what will take its place?

First Steps 19