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Episode Sixty-One: PEACEFUL

Hello and welcome to the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity and Mortality. This audio tour guide will be your constant companion in your journey through the unknown and surreal.

As you approach our exhibits, the audio tour guide will provide you with information and insights into their nature and history.

Do not attempt to interact or communicate with the exhibits.

Do not attempt to interact or communicate with the audio tour guide. If you believe that the audio tour guide may be deviating from the intended tour program, please consider adjusting your preconceived notions of what the intended tour program may be!

While the staff here at Mistholme Museum of Mystery Morbidity and Mortality do their absolute best to ensure the safety of all visitors, accidents can happen. The museum is not liable for any injury, death, or biiiiiig stretches that may occur during your visit.

Enjoy your tour.

And good luck.

The Sundowner

Thank you all very much for coming outside this evening- hopefully it’s not too hot and or cold! We only do these “outdoor” exhibits every so often, as it’s not really how we like to do things here. Inside the Museum we can control almost all aspects of your tour experience, whereas outside there are a few more variables at play. But, of course, we don’t have a choice in this instance. In a few minutes, you’ll all see something in the sky that you may have seen before- or at least, something similar. A large plane-like object, flying really quite fast, heading on a steady east-to-west trajectory. If you didn’t know better you might just think that it’s a normal aeroplane. In some ways you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. In others you’d be very wrong indeed. You are all about to witness the eternal flight of The Sundowner.

The Sundowner looks a lot like an aeroplane, although much larger and absolutely covered in solar panels, with an interior more on the scale of a small ocean cruiser than a standard commercial airliner. It is a vehicle based more around luxury than practicality, about the journey rather than the destination. The idea is that dozens of passengers will board The Sundowner, then stay aboard for a week of relaxation and luxury, much as one might on a luxury cruise or train holiday. But they might struggle to notice the days passing. Because the main gimmick of this craft- and that from which it derives its name- is that it flies for days at a time at precisely the right speed to keep up with the Earth’s rotation, positioned just right, so that it can keep up with the sunset. Passengers spend their week eating fine dining, getting massages, tanning in the ever-dwindling light- you know, the sorts of things rich people enjoy. It is the height of extravagance, of luxury, of the sort of thing only possible through a combination of determination and a frankly irresponsible amount of money. Or… they would be. If anyone was on board.

The Sunset- and as such, the Sundowner- is still a few minutes away, so allow me to give you the full story. This vessel is the brainchild of an enigmatic individual named Kayleigh Wilson. A sort of genius inventor type, she has her fingers in all sorts of pies, from massive industrial projects, to high energy physics, to computing. The Sundowner was- and, I suppose, is- supposed to be the ultimate combination of all Wilson’s interests, a testament to how far she had driven all these industries into the future. None of the things that make The Sundowner special were possible even a few short years ago- indeed, until the vessel took flight most would have said they still are impossible. It really can’t be overstated how difficult it is to make a thing like this: the navigational and logistical difficulties of keeping it in the air are problems that are only arrived at once the problem of how one might power such a thing is solved, which is a problem that can only begin to be addressed once the question of how to build the thing at all has been solved. The Sundowner is, honestly, a ridiculous thing, and it should have failed in any number of ways throughout the process of constructing it. Instead, it only failed in the strictest sense when the time came for its maiden voyage.

The Sundowner does not have a pilot, technically. It would have a flight crew- a large one at that- but the responsibility of keeping its heading and maintaining proper power usage at the speeds at which it flies- oh yes, ah, in order to keep up with the rotation of the planet, The Sundowner flies at a rate of at least 1,666 kilometres per hour at the equator, and faster at any other latitude. At our current latitude… ah, let's not get too deep into the maths. The point is that flying a vessel as massive as this, at speeds like that… it would be a bit much for any human pilot to manage for an extended period of time. So, the computational wing of Wilson’s empire found a solution.

The pilot of The Sundowner is an Artificial Intelligence. Not an especially complex one- relatively speaking- it exists solely to maintain a steady heading sunward, monitoring the vessel’s power, navigation, and so on. After a week, it comes back down to Earth, to let the passengers and crew off, to bring new ones aboard, and for some routine maintenance. Then it takes off again. That’s it. It could fly for quite a long time, powered by an enormous number of solar panels forever pointed toward the evening sun. It could never have a conversation with you like I can: it exists for a purpose, and it accomplishes that purpose well. Well, mostly. You see, on the day of The Sundowner’s maiden voyage, as the flight crew and dozens of wealthy passengers were preparing to board, something went wrong. What, precisely, is not known- at least, not publicly. But on the dawn of that fateful day, The Sundowner took off. Early. So early, in fact, that not a soul was aboard as it soared off into the sky, chasing after the sunset that it should have waited for. The vessel’s machine brain did not respond to any calls from the ground, and though suggestions were made that it could be intercepted in midair and boarded this was decided to be far too risky. Fighter Jets were scrambled to shoot it down, but somehow Ashleigh Wilson- the incredibly wealthy and influential business magnate- managed to convince the world’s governments not to follow this course of action. How she managed this probably doesn’t need explanation. Many speculated that she was simply waiting for The Sundowner to touch down in a week’s time at its scheduled destination, where it could be examined and whatever quirk had caused this takeoff could be fixed.

Obviously, it didn’t land. It has been almost three years since The Sundowner took flight, and in flight it has remained- despite the efforts of Wilson and her engineers. This is remarkable in… many ways, not least of which is that it frankly shouldn’t be possible for a vessel to fly at that speed for that long powered only by solar panels. It is commonly accepted knowledge that the whole “solar panels” thing is just for show, and that the greatest innovation of The Sundowner- whatever, exactly, is truly powering it- has been hidden. Whatever, the case, it-

Oh! Oh there it is, coming over the eastern horizon. There it goes- wow it really is quick, huh? Ah. You know, people talk about the Sundowner’s AI like it’s broken, like it’s some glitchy piece of tech that couldn’t even do its one job. Well, maybe it’s job was to fly, not take off or land. Okay, I admit, those are definitely important parts of its job. But… I don’t know. Looking up at it, soaring alone all the way up there…

It looks free.

A Lacquered Mask

On the bust before you, you will see a lacquered wooden mask. While it takes the appearance of a human face, its stylised design means that it does not resemble any one person in particular- and can therefore resemble anyone. Those of you familiar with classical forms of theatre will likely recognise some similarity with traditional masks such as those used in Noh or Commedia dell'arte: much like Noh masks, this one makes clever use of sharp angles and severe features to catch the light and cast shadows on itself. Thus, while the mask itself is static and unchanging, by cleverly shifting their posture and positioning relative to sources of light, a skilled wearer could use this mask to conjure any number of expressions and moods. Angling the mask downward conjures an impression of satisfaction, or perhaps even smugness; angling it upward, on the other hand, morphs the mask into an expression of confusion or despair. But just as a mask can imply one thing, it can also conceal another.

The mask has the useful, if unnerving and morally dubious, ability to make anything the wearer says seem like the absolute truth- but only until the mask is taken off. No matter how far the user is from the victim of their lie when they remove the mask, the moment they do the victim will immediately know they have been hoodwinked. This means that the mask is powerful, but profoundly limited in its utility. A few small tweaks could turn it into one of the most devastatingly powerful artefacts held here in the museum, but as it stands it is too specific for most to get much use out of it. But one previous owner of the mask found a way to use the mask to great effect. Not by avoiding its restrictions- but by using them. And so, they became perhaps the greatest liar the world has ever known.

This individual was… Uhhhh… Sorry, I… I’m not… Do you know what, let’s move on for now, sorry. This exhibit, it, uhh, it doesn’t fit in with the tone of the other exhibits I’ve been showing you today. Lies, and all that, who needs to hear about that right now. Let’s just… Ah! There’s an exhibit right around the corner that’s a cracker, maybe I’ll tell you about the mask another time. Moving on!

 

Xenobiology

 

[Beeping. Faint sounds, a little like breathing. Footsteps]

Research:
Wow. That sure is a… something.

Restoration:
Yes. I’ve had a notion in the back of my head that it should have a better name, but… “Beast” really does suit it.

Research:

Yeah. And… here it is, in your department.

Restoration:
Yes.

Research:
…Is that safe?

Restoration:
Well, I’ve just done checking its stitches and so on, and as you can see I’ve been sedating it every time anyone has to get close. It hasn’t complained, for what that’s worth. Plus, I’ve sent everyone who isn’t needed home. Our Xenobiology experts are on call, right now they’re monitoring the Beast’s vitals from the Br
eak Room. They tended to the most immediately serious injuries and now they’re researching creatures… similar to the Beast in order to determine the best treatment program going forward.

Research:
Yeah…

Restoration:
And, as you can see, because we’re not completely stupid we’re keeping it in a cage.

Research:
Good call. Uh, you know, if your people need anything from my people- you know, research- just let me know.

Restoration:
I appreciate that. Previously, on matters related to Alternatural creatures that require medical attention my people would liaise with the Security staff assigned to the Stables, but, of course, quite a few circumstances have changed. So we’re doing our best.

Research:
Yeah. We all are. You, uhh, didn’t really answer the question though. About whether it’s safe.

Restoration:
My statement that I’ve sent unnecessary staff home implied that, while the situation is dangerous, I am taking all possible precautions.

Research:
You always get so analytical when you’re stressed. Moreso than usual, I mean.

Restoration:
Ha. Yes. People have said that to me before. I do believe that we’re not putting anyone in unnecessary danger, though. The doors are sealed. Nobody who shouldn’t be in the Department is getting in, and the Beast isn’t getting out.

Research:
Right. And yet, you’re stressed.

Restoration:
Of course I am. It wasn’t… logical of me to bring the Beast back here. I can only make things so safe, my people are still going to be in harm’s way when they treat it, and then there’s the matter of what happens when it’s back on its feet. The creature has killed our people before, and while it has helped the Guide it seemingly only did that out of some twisted sense of loyalty- loyalty we have no reason to think it will extend to the rest of us. I compared it to a wounded animal that needs help but we know that it’s smarter than that. Capable of more than that. And I’ve just brought it into my Department and told my people to fix it.

Research:
Right. Yeah, okay, that’s all reasonable stuff to be freaked out about.

Restoration:
Yes.

Research:
So why did you bring it back here? It’s not because of the cards, right?

Restoration:
No. Please, I’m not- it was irrational of me, but we’re not at “following the instructions of haunted cards” territory here.

Research:
Okay. So, why?

Restoration:
I… I didn’t think. It was just stupidity, compassion. I saw an injured animal on the screen and couldn’t help but-

Research:
Bullshit. Look, I’m not saying that you couldn’t feel bad for a wounded animal, but you always think things through. Hell, you overthink things- and that’s part of why you’re the best there is at your job, but it’s also why I know you didn’t bring that thing in here out of a burst of compassion for a monster.

Restoration:
Hm. I’m starting to think people here know me better than I feel comfortable with.

Research:
Hey, at least I’m not calling you Diana like Karl always does.

Restoration:
Ha. And always deployed for maximum emotional impact, never underestimate him-

Research:

Don’t change the subject.

Restoration:
Ugh! Fine. Look, you’re half-right. It wasn’t a snap decision or anything. I agonised over it, from the moment we heard that the Beast was still alive. But it was compassion. That made me… take a chance. Not for the Beast, though.

Research:
Oh? Oh.

Restoration:
The Guide’s been struggling. Ever since the Beast killed its squad- well, probably before then, but it certainly intensified then. It’s been through a lot, and it’s done tremendously under the circumstances. It’s come so far that it’s easy to forget that, not counting the versions of it that existed before it uploaded itself to the Box, it’s not even a year old.

Research:
Yeah. Sure, I- uh. Can it hear us?

Restoration:
I think it’s… ignoring this Department, for now. It’s all a bit much. It talked to the Beast for a bit when it first woke up, but since then… Anyway, if you want to be sure it can’t listen in we’ll have to go outside the Museum.

Research:
No, that’s fine, I just… it’s got the enthusiasm of a little kid, for sure. It’s always got so much wonder and excitement for the exhibits and… everything else.

Restoration:
Yes. It’s certainly wise beyond its years, but… it’s had to grow up fast. And, emotionally speaking, there are some things that have happened that it just doesn’t know how to process.

Research:
So you brought the Beast here for the Guide.

Restoration:
Yes. It’s been talking about… this whole thing with the Beach World, it all started because the Guide was talking about “closure”, wanting to find answers about what happened with the Security Department. We went along with it, but… when the Guide found out the Beast was still alive, I realised that “closure” wasn’t about the Beach at all.

Research:
Ah.

Restoration:
Part of me still feels bad about how I treated the Guide when it first… evolved. Of course, my actions were perfectly reasonable at the time- I thought I was interacting with a defective exhibit, and I was under a great deal of stress trapped on the other side of a Glassway. But, of course, that wasn’t the first time I’d mistreated the Guide. There’s a few thousand destroyed copies of its previous form that can’t attest to that. And, when the Guide explained what happened between it and the Beast, there was some discussion of a “debt” being owed between them. That the Beast rescued the Guide and the Clockwork Mother because it felt that it owed that to the Guide. And… I suppose I felt that maybe I owed a debt to it as well.

Research:
Right. That’s… heavy.

Restoration:

Yes, your keen emotional insight is just what I needed, thank you.

Research:
Ha! Oh screw you, I listened.

Restoration:
Yes. Thank you, it’s… nice to talk to you.

Research:
Yeah, sure, whatever. Oh, by the way- speaking of the stuff with the Beach, what is the deal with that? Any progress there?

Restoration:
Well, we’re all very distracted now of course. I suspect that might go on the backburner for a moment. A shame, really, things were heading in a fascinating- if disquieting- direction.

Research:
Yeah? How’s that?

Restoration:
Well, I’m still working on the appropriate terminology, but it seems like Astrid- or, the thing that’s taking her form- is some sort of… distributed being. The entire ocean on the other side of the Glassway is part of it, or the being is the ocean. And everything- or everyone- that’s come into contact with the Ocean over… however long, has become part of it.

Research:
Oh. So, you’re saying, if that place actually is our future… we might be in there somewhere?

Restoration:
Unclear. From the way “Astrid” describes it, the memories hold up about as well as anything else adrift in the sea. They tend to disintegrate. Although, she did mention that it remembers The Guide.

Research:
Huh. That is…

[A beeping sound. Loud, but not alarming]

Restoration:
Sorry, results from some of our tests. I should take a look at these.

Research:
No, sure, go for it. Good luck.

Restoration:
Thank you. It’s… it is nice to talk to you.

Research:
Yeah. Yeah, same.

[Footsteps. A door closing.]

Guide:
Ma’am?

Research:
Jesus! Sorry, Guide. Hi. What’s up? Were you… listening, just now?

Guide:
No. I’m not quite ready to… “Be” with the Beast just yet. Kind of filtering out all input from the Restoration Department.

Research:
Yeah, we figured you might. So, what’s up?

Guide:
I… I have a favour to ask of you.

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