The Imagiverse » Arcs » The Imagiverse: The Edge Odyssey

Home to the strangest sights in the Imagiverse, the Edge is the most dangerous span of space known to all. Many have ventured into the Edge and never returned, but John Skelecoot is attempting his own foray into the unknown, along with the Chosen Few and a couple of others. What will they find? And will they return to tell the tale?

68 pieces and 8 characters involved, written by 3 different authors.

4 places involved

As written by: Adam Skelecoot, MartinVole, DragonDunc

So begins...

The Imagiverse: The Edge Odyssey

The TeslatoriumSetting: The Teslatorium

Space. A very broad term, either a synonym for volume or capacity, or the vast blackness outside the atmosphere, or equivalent thereof. The latter is considered infinite, or at least, infinite from the perspective of a sapient being. The Creators may think otherwise, but they're not in a position or inclination to educate their creations. The Centre itself, the area in which the known worlds of the Imagiverse reside, spans mere light years, but there is a frontier beyond that, a deeper, more ancient blackness that more loosely follows the logic of reality than the Centre itself; a deeper space known as the Edge. It is in this intergalactic gulf, which surrounds the Centre as the abyssal sea surrounds a desert island, that the most potent mysteries of the Imagiverse itself are buried, waiting for the strong-willed and foolish to uncover, the most interesting relating to the Creator of the Imagiverse, the Maker, who has been slumbering for aeons, brought to a coma by the equally omnipotent but malignant Maelstrom that haunts the Creator's End, it's galactic prison, and is said to be at least vaguely responsible for all universal evil. This, along with the Maker's fitful dreams that pervade the Imagiverse but are more potent in the Edge, makes the subconscious gulfs a dreadfully dangerous place. Only a knowledge-hungry or suicidal person would dare traverse it.
One is planning to do so now.

The Teslatorium, located in the heart of the industrial district of Old Albion, timeless home of the Victorian undead Skeletorians, was undergoing the most activity it has seen in years. Tinkerers, engineers, apprentices working under the engineers, are rushing around the spacious hangar like ants in a hill, tweaking gadgets, soldering bits onto others, ensuring the stability of complex mechanisms that the living world has long abandoned for being too redundantly difficult to maintain. For the apprentices, it is an honour to work within the private workshop of Jonathan Skelecoot, Governor of Old Albion, and more specifically, under, or rather over, the supervision of the dwarven skeleton engineer Giles Mackle, Head of Engineering in the whole city. Moving through the throes like a small, muttering comet, Giles bellowed instructions to the masses of workers, the majority working on the centrepiece of the operation.
The space-bullet, Giles' peculiar term for the brass spacecraft, sits square in the middle of the hangar, and is being tended to by only the most senior engineers; the others are polishing the hull until it gleams. It spans the same size as a galleon, a proud mechanical wonder capable of travelling countless lightyears a minute, thanks to it's engine. The engine is powered by Innovatium, the mystical compound common in Skeletorian technology, considered to be the material anima mundi of the Imagiverse. Possibly no other machine uses the amount of Innovatium as the S.S Victoria - as the space-bullet is titled, after the deceased monarch - which was possibly why the interior was much larger than the exterior, a nasty shock for the engineers at first, but they adapt at a speed that makes learning A.I look like slugs.
The Governor had the audacity to put out an advert in the Imagiverse Hub, asking for only the bravest and strong-willed to join his latest voyage; a brief sail across the Edge. Giles was not going to question his superior's wishes, but he silently wondered what had sparked this latest lapse of madness in John, who was well-known to be several wires short of a circuit-breaker at the best of times. He was currently going with his brother, Adam Skelecoot, and the Chosen Few, who were all acquaintances to the skeletal brothers and therefore close friends. The band of heroes were known to be impervious to all sorts of trauma, so there's nearly no risk of welcoming back a bunch of vegetables, if they ever came back, that is. The head engineer was only worrying about whatever new recruit the advert was going to attract, and how many will actually reach the Teslatorium.
"Uh... e-excuse me, is this where..." a sweet English voice called out, however, it was clearly artificial, with electronic cracks here and there and a strange tone it conveyed. The skeletal population didn't heed it much mind, as it was barely audible over the announcements being made. That is, until... "Where's the bleedin' Teslatorium ya bloomin' hollow skulls!?" They were taken aback for a moment, looking around now for the source of the voice, until looking down at a little creature standing there, looking up and giving them the stink eye. A small raccoon stood there, well, for a raccoon she was pretty big at three feet, with a red handkerchief around her mouth and wearing some kind of computerized collar device with a speaker in front, most striking was that she had an extra set of forelimbs. In her upper right hand she held a hand fan, fanning herself, trying to appear sophisticated.

Looking at this absurd creature amused some of them to laughter, which only increased Skitters's ire. With swift motion, the creature snapped the fan and thwacked one of their kneecaps, toppling them down to her level, and she, placing the closed fan under the chin of this poor recipient of the critter's wrath, she leaned in close. The laughter stopped. "Look, I get it, ya blighters are all already pushed up daisies, what is there lest to make ya quake yer boots..? Lemme tell you a secret, I've come from the Edge, and there are ways to make even the undead cry... now... where's the bleedin'..!" Before she could finish, the skeletal citizen pointed up.

Looking up over the man she saw a sign pointing the way. "Oh... um..." Her face turning slightly red, she had not considered the solution to be above her visual height, a curse of being confined to such a diminutive height. Letting the citizen go and slipping by quietly, she proceeded towards the Teslatorium. Maybe an apology letter too... for whoever she harassed... eh, maybe later.
It did not take long before news of a strange creature had spread across the undead city, asking for directions to the Governor's Teslatorium. An upstanding citizen even made it past the Governor's guard, who were in theory guarding the bunker's entrance whilst having a fag, and informed Giles of the approaching thing. Handing the citizen a few Skulls (the currency of the Underworld) in compensation, the dwarven head engineer ordered a few apprentices to send word to the coppers outside to keep a keener eyehole out for anything suspicious coming their way. Jonathan, to his knowledge, was waiting for men (or women, though it was seldom he heard of any worthwhile heroines in his time), not some gods-forsaken hellbeast from the Edge.

Somewhere, within the unmapped confines of the S.S Victoria, Jonathan was conversing with his current accomplices - the Chosen Few, pre-determined defenders of the Imagiverse, and the closest he has to friends, tragically. They all sat in the Cafetorium, consisting of several tables and seats fit for an entire crew, and a strange contraption occupying an entire wall at the end, seemingly a cross between a coffee machine and a nuclear reactor. It was currently being operated by a cuboid figure, heavily-built and flesh yellow in skin tone, glaring into an optic scanner. A few seconds of odd mechanical noises later, the machine produced a cup of coffee. In theory, the machine, dubbed the Cornucopia by Jonathan, who invented it, could produce any foodstuff the user could imagine, so this probably wasn't the most demonstrative use of it's functions.
The figure, Max the Robloxian, would make his way back to the occupied table. "This' gotta be the most insane idea you've had, John. No-one's gone to the Edge and survived, at least, not with their heads screwed the right way 'round. What makes you think we'll pull through with this?"
Jonathan, 7 foot in stature, like a four-legged spider, and dressed in an attire that speaks both practicality and the highest Skeletorian fashion, was eating roast beef with a knife and fork (not that he needed to eat anymore, now that his physical stomach had passed on, but more out of an unshakable habit). "We have the blessings of the Creators, haven't we?" he spoke evenly.
"Even the Creators avoid the Edge!" snapped Max. "They know No Man's Land when they see it!"
John shrugged. "Well, consider this as the ultimate test, Max. We either return home, having proven that we can stand it, or not at all."
Max slumped on his chair, next to Jack Quackers, a sea-green Toon duck whose only combative skills are tossing custard pies at the enemy's face. "I hafta agree with Macth, John," said Jack, his speech hindered by his beak. "We've handled the Darknethh, ancient beathth from the dawna time, but they were local. The Edge'th Maelthrom territory. We'll only come home in bagth."
John had to agree. Somewhere, on the very rim of the Imagiverse, was Creator's End, and the Maelstrom. It likely has more influence out there than in the Centre. He wasn't certain that it would tolerate heroes in it's zone.
"Well," he conceded. "Let's see how it goes. I've sent out for anyone foolish enough for the journey, just for the extra help. From what I gather, we're gonna need it."
"Pfft, yeah," said Max. "Like we need more people to drag into certain death. Who's seriously gonna believe that bullcrap about training and honour that you put on those posters?"
On the other side of the table, a four-foot stick figure, proof that one can exist as both a two and third-dimensional entity, stared gloomily over his ice cream cone. "Even I don't believe all that," muttered Fancy.
There was one other hero on the table, not unlike Jonathan in build and vitality - or lack thereof- except he was almost completely naked except for a moss-green loincloth, all the rage in the barbarian hero fashion industry, and a red bandana. He wasn't engaged with the conversation, but was looking around the room with childlike intrigue, as if he wasn't already accustomed to his new surroundings.
Skitters found herself scurrying about to an uncertain destination, eventually leading herself to a large brass dome. She stood upon her hing legs, looking up as much as she could, and then more than that, tipping herself over backwards with a small thud. As she laid on her back, she heard heavy footsteps approaching, her eyes wandering behind her, and upside-down she saw two massive shoes attached to massive legs, and a shadow over her was cast. She could hear, somewhere above these legs, a loud hiss of air, then quietly, this figure bent over, reaching down with massive hands and pinching her handkerchief, the figure lifted her back onto her feet, then pats her softly on the head, dusting her off a bit, before walking over her. The little critter could only utter a small whimper, eyes large, watching the figure in a fine suit stomp past.

"A-ah... ah... h-hey, wait!" she yelps, her voice radio cracking as she chases after the figure.

Coming to the entrance the giant figure stood there, adjusting his tie and looking down to see whoever stood there.

"Excuse me," the figure spoke, his voice deep, reverberating, yet somehow soothing and cordial. The face of the being was obscured by a skull-like mask, a cigar in its teeth, eyes like red burning coals, steam shooting out his neck. "I am here to volunteer my services."

Skitters ran up beside the large man, being a bit timid of the giant.

"H-hey... I'm 'ere t-too!"
One of the entrance guards, a corporal who had heeded the head engineer's instructions with less than enthusiasm, almost swallowed his cigar when the tall, masked figure approached them. The other, who was a sergeant and therefore the other guard's superior, merely replaced his cigar onto a mechanical ear strapped to the right side of his skull, it's purpose only to support the dog-end in a traditional manner, and straightened up, but even then he had to tilt his head slightly backwards to address the figure.
"You here for the Governor's voyage advert, then? I'm sure John'll appreciate another volunteer. Open the door, Crispin," he would instruct the choking corporal. "Right y'are, sir," he croaked, turning to a panel set by the brass doors. Muttering, he would press several keys on a keypad below a speaker, and the door would open. It was a smooth movement, and sadly didn't involve any grinding or creaking of any description, only an obnoxious buzz and a whoosh. Many a door connoisseur have been deeply disappointed by that door.
And thus, the figure would be allowed into the Teslatorium. As the guards were already pre-occupied by the strangeness of the figure, they wouldn't have noticed the racoon-like creature by their feet.

Having yelled himself hoarse within the crowded area around the spaceship, Giles had taken himself to the entrance area, a small lobby with several old sofas dotted around. Customer service certainly wasn't the main focus for this room, which opened up to the workshop on one side and housed the door to the cramped stairway, more of a diagonal corridor with steps, on the other. To enter the Teslatorium, the visitor will have to climb down the dimly-lit stairs and press the buzzer by the door at the end, which would attract a shifty-eyed guard who would examine the potential visitor, should they be the wrong person. Giles, who was becoming increasingly impatient, had decided to take the role of welcoming the volunteers, mainly because the dwarven engineer was getting fed up at having to push past apprentices two feet taller than he is.
A short spiky shape scurried through the city streets, hopping ever so slightly in excitement. Two large metal tools jostling on its back, it resembled a sort of disjointed porcupine. It certainly turned a few heads on its way, still being alive and all.

The dwarf soon slid to a halt in front of a large domed building. He looked around while he caught his breath, taking more time to the stock of the city. Peering up at the gleaming roof and adjusting the heavy goggles around his helmet, he grinned before darting to the entrance.

The sergeant of the two guarding the door would hear quick apprehensive footsteps, followed by a slightly more conspicuous clanging of metal and wood, and a “Hrmmm…”. If he were to look down to his side a couple of feet below his eye level he would see a very old, wizened dwarf not much taller than his own white beard, peering very intently at the Skeletorian’s mechanical ear through his dark glass goggles. He’d probably be prodding or prying at it with callipers of he was tall enough to reach

“Fascinating.” Came a low croaking voice “In all my life I’ve never seen such a thing. Does it help your hearing or is it cosmetic? Ah, or is it some sort of novelty cigar holder? Or-” he began to ramble on, bombarding the poor guard with irrelevant questions about his ear which, if he wasn’t stopped, would eventually digress to myriad other subjects that no-one here was likely to care for.
The sergeant would glance at Crispin, who was too busy staring at the dwarf with horrified fascination. He would clear his throat and interrupt the rambling newcomer. "Well, back when I was flesh, I always tucked my smoke behind my ear, so I went down to a local tinkerer to get a brass ear for old time's sakes. You here for the advert?" he would then add. "The Governor would certainly welcome another tinkerer to his ship. Funnily enough, this one flies, ain't that right Crispin?" He would address the corporal, who was opening the door again. "Whatever'll they think of next, eh?"
"If they decide to work on flying pigs, I'll eat my 'elmet," muttered the corporal. The door will open again, and the dwarf will be let in. After a few awkward seconds of silence, the sergeant, a 48-cum-152 year old Hales, would turn back to Crispin. "Funny people we're getting as volunteers, ain't they?"
"Person'lly, I wouldn't mind not seein' their faces again, if they make it to the Edge," grumbled the corporal.
"Thank you, good sirs," the fiery-eyed titan said, and with a bow of his head, he patted the corporal on the back, trying to restrain his strength, slipping a business card into his hand. On it was something about... Grimms Scientia Obscurum... information broker. "Keep up the good work." He walked through the door, unconcerned of the little hitchhiker he had picked up along the way. It was worse for a man his size, to squeeze through such a tight stairway, but his eyes actually helped to illuminate the way down. At the end he found himself facing another door.

"I see their security is not taken lightly, or... there was a sale on sliding doors," he muses to himself as Skitters grumbles to herself, squeezing past the titan's body and pushing the buzzer on the wall. Sliding open a little slot on the door that'd reveal two scrutinizing eyes. "Greetings, I am Sir Betelgeuse Grimms... entrepreneur... and to-be explorer. Off to rekindle my spirit of youth an-"

"What's with the fat squirrel?" the guard interrupts, looking over at Skitters.

"F...fat!? Squirrel!? Excuse you, ya rude git!" Skitters responds, face reddening from the sheer nerve! "First off, this is mostly fluff, secondly, I am of the order Procyon Supremus, not some stinkin' rodentia cur!"

"Ah, looks are deceiving, it seems! I believe this spirited young lady is a volunteer as well." Grimms says, rubbing his chin. "Perhaps a good match for my son..."

"Y-young... l-l... w-what was that about...?" she stumbles, becoming increasingly flustered, only amusing Grimms more. "Anyways, yes, YES, I am here as a volunteer as well! Skit- er... no, I mean, I am esteemed lady, the Duchess Basalah." She says, her voice gaining a pompous tone as she tilts her nose to the air and closing her eyes, fanning herself to try to look as (self) important as possible.

"Yeah, okay," the guard says, clearly becoming exhausted from this exchange. With another buzz, the door slides open, letting the two enter.

As Grimms walked through, he took a moment to straighten his suit and dust it off. He scrutinized the area with his blazing eyes. It wasn't exactly like a stylish resort, to say the least. He took a moment to test the amount of dust on one of the couches with one of his gloved hands, and, after looking at his finger, decided... it was best to remain standing.

"Quite the veritable genius's fortress," Grimms comments.
As the tall, devil-like figure scrutinised the furniture, the guard would approach Giles, who was standing only a few feet away. "Here are the volunteers, Mr Mackle; a Sir Grimms and er..." he would look back at the short creature that followed before continuing stoically, "... A Duchess Basalah."
Giles would glare at the soldier for a moment, whilst the soldier met his glare halfway. After a few seconds, the skeletal dwarf would nod and the soldier would salute, smartly making his way back to his post. Giles would waddle towards the volunteers, his hands gripping his suspender in a business-like manner. "Welcome to the Teslatorium, folks. Name of Giles Mackle, Head Engineer of Old Albion and the supervisor of this facility. If you could follow me, please, though I doubt you 'ave much choice in that regard." He would turn by means of leaning on a boot and using it as a pivot, before the guard would hurry back. "There's another one, sir. A dwarf."
Giles would mutter something under his breath before replying. "Let 'im in, then." When the guard had let in the dwarf, he would then lead the group into the heart of the Teslatorium.

As they made their way, climbing down floors which overlooked the S.S Victoria on ground level, the newcomers would note the tables scattered across the floors, supporting machinery that looked alien to this steam-powered city. Apprentices and technicians would examine eldritch devices, occasionally prodding them, jotting down notes on the strange noises they emitted when a button was pressed or a dial turned, and occasionally ducking when the occasional device emitted a loud, green beam which melted a patch of the wall opposite. It would be evident that this wasn't just a home for Skeletorian technology; it is also a research facility for foreign machinery, a by-product of the Governor's insatiable thirst for knowledge, mundane or otherwise, tucked away from the rest of the city.
At last, they made it to the main attraction, the spacecraft that will traverse the Edge and, hopefully, return in one piece, or two. On the stern-side of the ship, oddly-bent pipes trickled oddly-coloured smoke, which contorted strangely as it caught in the errant breeze of the workshop. Serious thought, and possibly the consumption of something illegal, had gone into the design of the ship, where the odd gear set in the hull turned sluggishly, the occasional pressure valve puffed the same bizarre vapour as the exhausts, and even weirder machinery whirred and clunked within the hull.
"Y'know, John designed most of this space-bullet 'imself," Giles stated casually. "Especially the engine that runs the whole fin'. He reckoned that usin' enough Innovatium - that's a special substance we use in most of our technology to you - would provide enough power for in'erstellar travel. Mind you, I've always found it best to ignore wotever strange fancies 'e spouts, but I reckon 'e's on ter a winner 'ere." As he climbed the ladder to the entrance hatch, he continued. "Though I'd 'ave ter warn you, Innovatium can distort reality in odd ways, if there's enough in one place. Wiv the amount John put in the engine, that'll be evident wen yer go in. It'll seem bigger on the inside than on the outside, but don't fret, that's my advice ter yer." He would open up the hatch and motion the volunteers inside.
“Thank you very much and a very good day to you!” Vragi told the guards, tipping his helmet as he entered the hall to meet the other volunteers and head engineer. The dwarf hurried through as fast as his short legs could carry him, and when he reached the others he was slightly out of breath from having hurried through the city to get here.

Vragi had never met a dwarf that was not still alive before, however he guessed from the last reaction he’d had that asking too many personal questions might just seem a bit rude, so he settled for “Sorry I’m late! Vragi Odd, at your service!”

Vragi’s eyes were glued to the experiments as he scuttled along the floors. The myriad alien technologies and their equally varied behaviours had him engrossed and he very nearly fell over, what with the tools on his back. Better stay focused, he thought, chuckling to himself. As they made their way toward the ship, he took the time to observe the two volunteers he was accompanying. One of them was only just shorter than himself, whereas the other towered over them both. A talking raccoon was something he hadn't seen either, but he'd have plenty of time to get to know these people once they were on-board and oriented. Soon enough they reached the vessel. The dwarf’s eyes lit up as he looked the huge construct up and down.

“Astounding!” he exclaimed at the engineer's explanation, without even having seen for himself, “I must give you all my utmost respect for such a technical marvel!” He nodded politely to the engineer as he was shown the way in, and stepped eagerly through the entrance.
Skitters stared at the strange eldritch machines in their possession as they passed by, a plotting glimmer in her eyes as she thought of the various possibilities. Grimms simply took to following, politely listening to Giles's riveting explanation, taking mental notes of his own as they proceeded towards the opening hatch of the vessel.

"They say madness and genius often run hand-in-hand," the fire-eyed giant commented, puffing out a plume of smoke. He chuckles lightly afterwards, taking out his cigar for a moment. "Seems I will be in good company."

"Ey, I dunno what yer' talkin' about, but I ain't got no bloomin' bats in my belfry," Skitters responds with a huff. Grimms simply chuckles again in response.

"Thank you kindly, monsieur Giles, you are certainly a boon to this establishment," Grimms says politely, bowing to the skeletal dwarf, before proceeding into the entrance of the vessel, Skitters still clung to his side.

Geez, what a ham, Skitters thinks to herself. She then looks back seeing another dwarf running up behind them, this one actually still has his skin on. "Ey, what's up?"
Giles would merely sniff at Grimm's first comment. "Yer know, John often sez the same fing, and 'e might be right. But 'e's still a madman, whatever 'e says," he would add severely as the giant climbed down the hatch into the spaceship. He would motion the other two wordlessly in, closing the hatch behind them as they enter.

The interior of the S.S Victoria had also been aesthetically considered in design, though pipes running along the ceiling and under the occasional grating underfoot also suggest that functionality was also a key point. The main corridor, lit by periodic gas lanterns, seemed to stretch a whole mile, from one end of the ship to the other. Giles was right; although it seemed big enough on the outside, it was like stepping through a portal into a cruiser. No doubt this brought the benefit of fitting in whatever specialised rooms were needed for an interstellar voyage, but the evident distortion of physical law was disconcerting.
As the volunteers made their way down the corridor, they would hear distant voices, not exactly raised in argument, but suggesting that this was an option. They would make their way in that direction as the voices argued.
"You didn't have to join, you know," snapped one voice, a higher-class English tone that could easily shift several social rungs down to Estuary when provoked. "When I put the advert up, I didn't necessarily put your names on it! Wise up, Max, the only thing that brought you here was your understandable thirst for something challenging, something more dangerous than the average local demon. And that goes to the rest of you!"
"Oh, come on John," complained another voice, still English but even further down the social ladder to Cockney. "I'd join yer even wivout the advert. Yor me bruvver, after all."
"Well yes, Adam," responded the first voice stonily. "I wouldn't expect you not to join. I'm referring to the others." Here, the tone changed, as if returning it attention to the 'others'. "You came aboard this spaceship because you knew that, for the first time in years, you could challenge yourself. Out there, where no-one except those who treasure their existence very little would dare venture, was the ultimate test of your abilities. So shut up about having to go, because you didn't."
"John, I hear footsteps," said another voice blankly. A few seconds of silence passed in what the group could make out to be an open, brightly-lit room, as if the voices had stopped to listen.
"Ah," the first voice spoke cheerfully. "That'll be the volunteers. Excuse me."
A skeletal head, dressed only in a purple bandana but with the expression of deep suspicion, would poke out of the doorway, looking one way before looking in their direction. His expression would then melt into a welcoming grin, although the effect was spoiled by his uneven teeth, as the rest of him poked out. He was easily seven foot, dressed in steel-capped boots, maroon trousers, brown trenchcoat over a purple waistcoat, and maroon gloves. The overall attire suggested a man who liked travelling in style. The dapper skeleton would straighten up, hands behind his back in an authoritative manner. "Ah, I take it you've come for the Edge voyage? Welcome to the S.S Victoria, volunteers. I am Jonathan C. Skelecoot, Governor of Old Albion and the captain of this vessel, but you can just call me John. Come with me to the Cafetorium to meet the others." He would beckon the others into the room, the Cafetorium as he refers to it.
Vragi bowed enthusiastically to skitters as she acknowledged him, introducing himself.

“Moths, I think.” he replied in a serious tone, after some thought. He suddenly realised he hadn’t properly greeted Mr. Grimms, and did so promptly.

Rather than discomfort, Vragi was buzzing with excitement as he took his first steps through the seemingly endless corridor before him, trying not to trip over his beard as he spun round, glancing here and there at each pipe, observing the reflections, the structures, and all the various pieces of machinery that were left visible. Occasionally one would hear him murmur “fascinating…” under his breath.

The dwarf slowed down as they reached a door from behind which they could hear voices. Although there was some tension in the conversation coming from the nearby room, this was lost on him and as far as he knew he could be listening to a casual afternoon chat.

When the door opened for them to be greeted by a skull staring them down, followed by the rest of the skeleton, and introduced himself as the Ship’s designer they’d just been told about, Vragi bowed so fast and so low that his beard (which was surprisingly springy) rebounded him back up, almost toppling him over backwards.
Cordial as always, the firey-eyed giant bowed to the presumed captain of this vessel. "Indeed. I am Sir Betelgeuse Grimms, but Mr. Grimms, or just Grimms will suffice... just don't confuse me with a certain crass and mischievous specter. There is absolutely no relation, I assure you," he says, chuckling slightly as he stands back up straight. "Either way, monsieur John, I must say, I find the prospects of this vessel of yours to be... rather intriguing, whatever made you think of such?"

Skitters narrowed her eyes at the Chosen Few and faked a cough... and when that didn't work, she coughed a bit louder. Rolling her eyes, she cranked up the volume on her communication box.

"AH-HEM!" She then proceeded to point at herself with one of her claws, raising her head and fanning herself. "Ey, ya blokes! Didja maybe forget 'bout something?"

Grimms ponders for a moment rubbing his chin, looking between Skitters and the chosen few.

"Oh? Have you already met before?"
The Chosen Few, who were busy eating their second course from the Cornucopia, would stare at Skitters with a rather troubled expression. Even Max, who was often the stoic of the group, looked rather concerned.
"Did we see that before?" pondered Adam.
"Nah, not in our life," said Max. "I don't remember comin' across an oversized rodent with a voice box."
"Funny fing," said Jack. "Cauth I get the feeling we've theen it before, back in Grand Gaia..."
"A spot of continuity deja vu, that's likely it," dismissed John. "I wouldn't be surprised if the engine was already affecting us from this distance. We're possibly remembering it from another timeline. But not to worry, if we did see it, it definitely didn't talk then." He would chuckle at this, and turn to Grimms. "On the prospects of this vessel, Grimms, I think the main reason I designed this ship, other than the potential ease of travel between other worlds, is for research. For a long time, the Edge has been no man's land, an uncharted, or rather unchartable, area of the Imagiverse that very few people have ventured into and returned from. I want to be the first man to complete a successful voyage into the Edge, to learn what I can from it. You may or may not have heard of the legends of the Imagiverse's beginning, but I believe that the Edge, being a much older part of the Imagiverse, could hold answers relating to said legends.
"For this purpose, I have designed this ship to be capable of withstanding any external threats and pressures that might occur during our voyage, as well as travel at sufficient speeds should we come across any turbulence. I know Giles disagrees with me on the engine, but Innovatium has such potential as a power source - I mean, look at what we have built around it! - why not use it to power a spacecraft?"
"Hold on, hold on," interrupted Max, standing up. "I remember you telling us something about- oh yeah. Because it's unpredictable, possibly sentient and distorts reality if there's enough of it around?"
John would glare at Max for a moment. "Yes, Max," he would snap. "That is the basis of our understanding, which is why heavy training is required to even handle the stuff. It seems to resonate with people's thoughts, if they're thought hard enough, so you have to be able to keep a rein on your thinking when dealing with it. However, I don't see why I, the man who brought Innovatium into the scientific field, shouldn't know how to use it."
His tone would soften, as his gaze unfocused, seeming instead to focus on somewhere beyond the window overlooking the Teslatorium, which he approached casually. "I've always wondered what had occurred, back when the Imagiverse was young, and the being known only as the Maker roamed this universe. It was the Maker that brought the Imagiverse to existence, but not many people know what had occurred back then, or even know he exists. All we have is old legends of his grand castle, where he first weaved the basic Ideas which brought order to the Imagiverse. They say he had one day had a nightmare which eventually became the Maelstrom, which terrorised his creations and sent him into a coma, but where's the evidence? Perhaps it's out there, where even the Creators wouldn't go."
An embarrassed silence passed between the others, who looked to the volunteers as if John was an old relative who had a tendency to drift away. As is often the case, Max would clear his throat, and John would wake up from his reverie, spinning back around to the newcomers, an anticipating grin on his skull.
"Well, it's a good thing you're here to learn then, eh? Together, we can piece together the puzzle concerning the Maker, and find out, once and for all, what had really happened to him. Now," he would turn to Skitters and Vragi. "I apologise for not asking for your names beforehand, although you (he'd direct this to Skitters) seem to think we know you already. What were your names again?"
Vragi looked between the crew members and Skitters in befuddlement. He wondered if some sort of joke was going over his head. The explanation that perhaps this innovatium material was interfering with their memories grabbed his attention though. Hearing that a material could even be sentient fascinated him, as he’d never encountered anything like it before. If that was the norm here, he could only imagine what mysteries might lie on their journey.

As John was explaining the nature and purpose of the oncoming voyage, he remembered he still had his helmet on. Thinking it more polite, he removed it, allowing a small but spiky shock of white hair to spring out. After some explanation, the mayor addressed the two who hadn’t introduced themselves to him yet.

“Vragi of Nidvell, at you service Mr. Skelecoot!” A pleasure to meet you all.” Said the dwarf courteously, “I must say, these legends make the edge sound a most intriguing place. It’s a real privilege to be allowed to join this expedition.”
Skitters's body tightened up, her four paws tighten into knuckles, she wrinkled her nose, and her face turned a light shade of red the very moment Max dropped the "R" word.

"Ehhh~! Rodent!? I'm not a damn rodent! I'm... Eh... ahem..." she coughed and regained her composure. She then crossed her arms and rubs her chin with one of her paws.

"Actually, technically I never gave my name... I-I couldn't... but, while my vessel is named Skitters, I fancy the name Basalah... it means bravery," she answers, looking rather proud. She then lifted her head and pecked the device on her neck with her nails. "As for this, I built it myself from scraps. Pretty spiffy, roight? Though the only bloomin' adult female voice modulator I could find has some weird bleedin' mock accent," she continued, her tone growing slightly irate. She sighed and rubbed her forehead, her face turning slightly red again. "As for why I'm here... well... look at me, I'm brilliant! But I'm also... stuck like... this. Unless I do something big, I'm just going to be some trash panda, or... r-rodent..."

Mr. Grimms stands by, rubbing his own chin with his massive hands.

"As for me, well, I must say, my business senses told me that opportunity was knocking," he says with a rumbling chuckle, clouds of steam billowing out from the teeth of his mask. "I used to be a bit of an adventurer in my younger days... plus, my little girl is getting tired of me skulking in my office all day, and has forcibly made me take a centuries overdue vacation."
John would nod as the two introduced themselves; a dwarf from somewhere called Nidvell, and a sentient... mammal with a female Cockney voice box. Well, at least they have another tinkerer on the ship, as well as a ship's mascot.
"Indeed," John would respond to Vragi. "You could call this a once-in-a-lifetime event." He would then turn to Skitters and listen to her introduction, his expression worryingly calculating, as if weighing her up. "Well, Skitters," John would say finally with a smirk. "Chances are, you'll probably get a free ascension while we're out there. But that's just fanciful thinking on my part."
He would turn to listen to Grimms' incentive. A presumably centuries-old businessman taking a vacation on the leave of his daughter. Well, he's definitely better-behaved than the other sorts of demons he had to deal with as the de facto leader of the Chosen Few.
"Well, if I've been working long enough for cities to crumble, I wouldn't mind a vacation myself," John joked. "Then again, with Old Albion, being the keg powder it is, I've technically been working all my afterlife. I suppose the usual gig with this lot (he would gesture to the Chosen Few, who had finished their supper) is a sort-of holiday. Certainly gets me away from all the paperwork, at least." He would clear his throat, or at least make the effort of doing so, and address the group. "Well, lads? What did I tell yer? There's always an adventurer looking for fun when you look. Now, if you all could follow me, I'll give you a vague tour of the vessel."
All oddities of the vessel were soon apparent as John led the group. As the length between the bridge and the engine was almost certainly half a mile, John would take the group through several doors, leading to another half-mile corridor which seemed to pass through all the other rooms on that wall. He would explain that he had discovered these "shortcuts" whilst wandering the ship, doors which lead to different points of the corridor, and had scratched some sort of code to each of the shortcuts. As the ship hadn't been fully mapped yet, this sufficed as the only means of figuring out where you are, apart from the main rooms - the Cafetorium, the Munitions quarters, the operations room where one could compile a map of whatever world they might stumble upon and generally keep an eye on whatever else that might be lurking in the Edge, the sickbay and others - which were properly signed. No forest was as unchartered as the S.S Victoria.
Eventually, he would lead the group to a set of doors, on the eastern corridor where the main one broke off into a four-way crossroad. Opening the doors revealed regular cabins, enough of which to accommodate a crew of fifty. Each cabin was of medium size, with two bunker beds, a bathroom branching off the eastern wall, regardless of the cabin adjacent, and several chests where one could put their belongings.
"If any of you have anything you don't mind keeping here, feel free to stick 'em in the chests there," John announced, and turned to the volunteers. "The passengers can have this room, and the band can have the room opposite."
"John," Max said finally. "You have enough room ta fit a cruiser crew. Isn't there anyone else on this ship besides us? I mean, whose maintaining the ship?"
"Oh, I have other crewmen on the ship," said John. "In fact... Oh bollocks!" John would scold to himself. "All that traversin', I forgot the engine room! Of course, it's not the sort of room fit for tourists, but err..." He would fall silent for a moment before finally deciding. "Alright, drop your belongings in the chests there, I'll take you to the engine. Just to warn you, most of this weirdness is being caused by the engine, so it might get... wyrd."
"Wyrd?" questioned Fancy.
"Oh you know, more than just normally weird," John explained. "If you could follow me, everyone."
Vragi gave an impressed nod as Skitters explained her speaking device. Having never seen a raccoon before, he thought the apparent duchess was some sort of weasel or badger, but seeing her reaction to having her species mistaken decided to keep his mouth shut. After the raccoon and Mr. Grimms had both introduced themselves, he followed the others through the ship.

Between gawping like a fish at the construction of the ship and the peculiar shortcuts they took while traversing it, he thought he should make conversation.

“So you built that yourself? From scraps no less!” he asked the raccoon as he scurried to keep up with the group. “Never seen anything like it before. Does it use that invisible lightning magic that everyone seems to be using?”

As skilled as Vragi might be, the poor fellow didn’t quite understand the idea of electricity. It was a new concept to him, and so shortly after setting off from home he’d quickly assumed that he had stumbled on some new type of magic he’d never seen before.

Once they’d been shown the cabins, he nodded to John in appreciation, depositing his equipment save his pickaxe (‘A dwarf should never be without an axe’, he’d always say), before they were ushered toward the engine room.
Skitters swelled a bit with pride when commented on her handiwork, eyes lighting up. "Uh-huh!" her voice squeaks, almost child-like in its delivery. "I converted it to use self-restoring power cells! So uh, it is like advanced lightning magic... contained in small cylinders!" She seemed to grin under her handkerchief mask.

As they were given the cabin tour, both Grimms and Skitter took note of the nature of the space within the vessel, noting how time and space seem not only expanded but... folded? It was clear that there was no underestimation on how space in here was warped! The thought it could get weirder gave Skitters some pause, her eyes darting over to John.

"Wouldn't this stuff be psycho-reactive?" she asks, with a look of wonder swelling in her eyes. "I wanna see!"

"Hah!" Grimms laughed. "She sounds a bit like my daughter! But yes, don't worry, weird is part of the business, so please, lead the way. You know, before the little one explodes from anticipation."

Skitters would huff from being called a little one.
Before long, after taking several shortcuts, the group will be escorted to the engine room. As they progressed, from about fifty yards from the engine, their surroundings became increasingly peculiar; The walls seemed to shift and shimmer, like stage curtains, with the doors swaying to a different rhythm; faint, otherworldly sounds could begin to be heard, like faint, cosmic bells that had been struck a while ago, and their vibrations were now bouncing off the shifting surfaces of space-time; near-transparent shapes curled in the air, smoky and vague, but with the odd impression of life hinted from their movements. Among all this, John would pass by, skimming past the shapes as if completely accustomed to their existence. The Chosen Few, however, were less so. What attracted their wary attention the most were the walls. And the doors. They knew, from years of traversing the unreal realms of the Imagiverse, that reality was thinning in the presence of Innovatium.
There were no doors to the engine room, only a doorway, even if it was in the danger of melting from intense vibration. It would be assumed that, with the disconcerting effects of Innovatium, the engine didn't need much more security.
The first thing to note was the engine itself. It was a gigantic, brass sphere set into the back of the room, pipes riddled on it's surface, coiling towards the walls like snakes (and even undulated in the same fashion). In the middle of the sphere, a fast-locked porthole window allowed view of the contents, an ethereal swirl of multiple colours, the main colour being a deep-sea blue, that gave out the most peculiar light, in that the technicoloured shafts curled away and mingled in the air, like ghostly serpents.
The second thing was everything else. All five senses were being given a buffet of sensations, except that the dishes had been mixed up, so that the group could smell greenish-purple, hear the taste of tin, see the sound of beating stars, and so on. The walls seemed only slightly more solid than the ghostly shafts, providing a view that forced the others to avert their gaze.
All this, however, didn't seem to affect John, who simply called out, "8-Bit? Come out, I've brought some visitors for ya!"
Somewhere, from the depths of the engine's machinery, slowly crawled out a shape. It was perhaps six foot tall and vaguely humanoid, though this first impression was lessened somewhat from the other details, like the two glowing orbs in place of it's eyes, set in a spherical metal head. As it got closer, the others could make out finer details, such as exhaust pipes extruding from the back of its ribcage, and wires. It wore suspenders and a buttoned-on shirt, it's pockets laden with tools that didn't otherwise fit in the construct's belt. When it finally spoke, it was in a peculiar series of beeps, nearly inaudible of the shifting humming of the engine, ".... . .-.. .-.. --- / .-- --- .-. .-.. -..?"
"Yes, it's me, 8-Bit," replied John. "We've got a few volunteers in, so we'll be departing shortly. How's the engine?"
The machine would shrug. ". -. --. .. -. . / -. --- -- .. -. .- .-.. .-.-.- / ... -.-. .... . -.. ..- .-.. . -.. / -- . -. - .- .-.. / .-. . --. ..- .-.. .- - .. --- -. / .--. .-. --- - --- -.-. --- .-.. / .. -. / - . -. / -- .. -. ..- - . ... .-.-.-"
"Capital." John would pause for a moment before turning to the group. "Oh yes. Lady and gentlemen, this is 8-Bit, our head engine-er, hah. His job is to make sure the engine is running smoothly and that it doesn't implode during our voyage. Any other questions you want to ask me or 8-Bit before we head off?"
“Haha! Brilliant.” Vragi chuckled in reply to Skitters as they continued toward the engine room. He seemed increasingly excited as the ship began to behave in strange ways, as he knew they must be getting nearer. The hair of his beard and on (well around the edge of) his head seemed to stand on end. Finally he took a deep breath as they entered into the actual room.

The dwarf was ecstatic at the sight of it, and couldn’t help but laugh. However it wasn’t long before the bewilderment seeping through his mind took hold. Vragi had to remove his helmet to scratch at his head. This was an old habit of his that showed not just curiosity but also fear. The other people on the ship might not recognize this, but they could see it in his eyes nonetheless. The childlike grin had vanished from his face and his brow was furrowed.

Vragi had so many questions that if he tried to ask them all he’d spend the entire voyage in the engine room instead of actually helping, so he restrained himself and made ready to head back with the others.
Grimms stood quietly as they were introduced to a strange mechanical being. He rubbed his chin, observing the area as best he could, apparent that nausea wasn't one thing he was susceptible to. Skitters on the other hand, well, she wasn't fairing near as well, as she swayed left and right on her tiny feet, feeling a bit motion sick from it all.

After hearing this being speaj, named 8-bit by John, the giant finally let out a guffaw. Raising his hand he pecked on the nearest wall with his index finger, making a metallic clank each time, pecking a bit heavier at times to give a longer sound. "-- --- .-. ... . / -.-. --- -.. . ..--.. / .... --- .-- / -. --- ... - .- .-.. --. .. -.-. -.-.--"

Skitters centered herself some, propping herself against a wall, only to find it feeling wobbly as everything else. "This body is so... ugh... feeble perception... constitution... making me look like a bleedin' lightweight," she mutters. She then looked around to everyone. "So um, this level of exposure, it is safe, right?"
8-Bit appeared to understand the message that Grimms had tapped onto the wall, responding in a longer series of beeps.
After a minute of the automaton speaking, John would translate. "8-Bit's one of those customised mechanic droids dotted around Old Albion. I suppose his creator wanted a helper who wouldn't natter at him during work-hours, so he built 8-Bit to only speak in morse code. Of course, he soon realised that he couldn't speak morse code himself, so he sold him to the Teslatorium's staff, where he was transferred to my supervision."
"How come you can understand what he's saying, then?" retorted Max. "I can't tell which sound's a dot or a dash from the speed he's talkin'."
"We've had several wars down in this cavern that is our world," John returned. "When your only means of communicating with distant soldiers is encrypted in beeps, you soon pick up the lingo." He would turn to Skitters, who was having considerable difficulty coping with Innovatium radiation. "I find it best to remember that nothing that you are currently seeing is real," John would advise, while Jack was leaning on the wall behind them, throwing up whatever Toons ate. "It may seem that the large amounts of Innovatium is distorting the physical dimensions of this room, but it's entirely in your mind."
"What about the ship?" asked Adam. "Are you saying those shortcut doors were a figment of our imagination?"
"Technically, yes," said John, a little uncertainly. "Innovatium responds strongly to one's imagination or thoughts, as well as distorts reality in order to accommodate those fantasies. Granted, this has side-effects, such as what you are currently experiencing, but it has its uses, apart from the, er, folds in space-time. I've heard there are artists and writers in Old Albion who use small amounts of Innovatium as psychedelics, likely to string whatever inspiration they can out of their physical hallucinations, even if it leaves them uncertain on what is and what... isn't.
"So no questions?" He would finish, looking to the newcomers.
"Why'th there a lady in the engine?"
As one body, the band's gaze dart to the Innovatium engine. It showed no signs of inhabiting a woman inside- wait, hold on, what's that in there? Is it... It sort of looks like...
Their eyes begin to water. The images within the window kept changing, but every so often there's a glimpse, not explicitly feminine, but somehow suggesting the idea. They would soon tear their eyes away from the engine; you can get a migraine in this room. John was the last person to avert his gaze, strangely attracted to whatever was inhabiting the power-source of the ship. Awkwardly, they would make their way outside, on their way to the X-junction of the ship.
The dwarf rubbed his head, which was beginning to schedule. Despite his enthusiasm, the effects of the radiation were beginning to take their toll.

“Now I’m feeling dizzy too.” He responded to Skitters, “Well, I imagine we’ll be putting ourselves in rather a lot of danger either way.”

As John offered his explanation, Vragi found it quite fascinating to think that all of these effects they were experiencing were entirely within their own minds, if a little confusing. It all seemed perfectly real to him, and the weirdness did nothing to change that.

Although you didn’t actually say exactly whether it was safe thought the dwarf, but he kept this to himself. It was more exciting, not knowing for sure. He looked ever so slightly maniacal as he grinned on the way out.
"You... you say what is and is not real, but manifestations of psychokinetic phenomena are as good as real within this space, best not to underestimate them," Skitters would say as she regained her footing... somewhat. She would cast another glance at the engine before following the others. Oddly this time she spoke, it lacked the funny accent altogether, it was clear, not even an electronic crackle, but actually eloquent. It came to her own surprise, now that she was far enough away to really process things clearly. She'd rub her chin with one of her paws. "Cor!"

The giant looks amused, if such emotions could be read from his eyes alone. He then cast an odd stare at those suffering from nausea from the Innovatium. He was feeling perfectly fine, as much as normal in any case. He followed along quietly, puffing out some small plumes of steam from his mask. "But it is a form of radiation... I suppose for one as I, it makes sense to not feel its effects so readily... but who is the most receptive is another matter altogether."
Jonathan would lead the group through a similarly winding route as the one to the engine, going through doorways that weren't in any way immaterial - strange as they were - and eventually reaching the cabins. When he next spoke, it was in the same tone as when he was explaining Innovatium's effects; the group would suspect that he was making up the explanation as he went along.
"Oh, I didn't mean that what you're seeing isn't..." John would hesitate, having realised he had talked himself into a corner. He would start again. "If you think about it, the Imagiverse isn't a particularly real world, if you could excuse the existential crisis of that statement. It has always been subject to change from powerful minds; just look at the Creators. It's just that Innovatium sort of... gives you the partial ability of the Creators, allowing you to achieve accomplishments deemed impossible by mundane science." Having found some easy ground, he'd continue more confidently, "That's part of Skeletorian technology, in fact! We're able to make machines that can produce foodstuffs out of nothing, like the Cornucopia in the Cafetorium; We've built airships that could travel the globe sixty times; we've even made musical robots that can generate a tune you can really hum. Of course, I don't believe that's the full extent of Innovatium; even after over a hundred years in studying it, we've only just scratched the surface of what is capable with it."
A moment of silence amongst the Chosen Few would pass.
"... So... Is any of what we saw at the engine real?" asked Adam.
"I think it's safe to say," John replied a touch sharply, "that the answer would be yes and no."
"Is it dangerous?" interrogated Max, asking the question John was attempting to wriggle away from.
"Potentially. When reality is being put through the wringer, all sorts of things can happen, not just the good things. There might be an invasion of things from the Dungeon Dimensions, but I've designed the engine to slim those chances to as close to null as possible. We'll just have to carry on and pray if needs be.
"Anyways, I'd love to stay and chat, but I need to start up the engines and begin our voyage. Make yourselves comfy; I've positioned the two groups so that your cabin is opposite the other, so if you want to cross to the other and mingle, feel free, although Max might object."
"Hey, I like talkin' as much as anyone else," objected Max, "As long as it isn't while I'm sleepin'."
"Right. Cheerio, then," John would make his way down to the helm as he called out. "I'll let you know through the gramo-com when we're about to take off!" He'd then take a door to his left, only to immediately come out a door further away, if anyone can see far enough.
"I've seen the gramo-com," Adam said absentmindedly. "It's like those intercoms up on the surface, but with pipes and stuff. Dunno how it can travel that far, though."
"Right." Max would open the door to their cabin, similarly decadent, similarly dimensionally warped. "Might as well make ourselves comfy. I take the bed by the left-side of the window." He would then be followed by the others, who briefly fight for their beds before closing the door behind them. The others would be left alone to enter their cabin.
“Yes and no, eh?” Vragi mused, “That’s an answer I can get behind.”

The dwarf bustled along the he corridor as they made their way back. He appeared quite content with John’s explanation, even if it seemed suspicious. On the other hand, the sheer length of the corridor was taking its toll on him. He was used to scrambling in the dark dank of mines and beating the anvil for extended periods of time, but not so much running.

As they reached the cabins, he caught up, wheezing slightly and whistled at seeing the interior, before seating himself on one of the bunks (he wouldn’t be picky).

“Well, this is rather exciting!” He said with a dangerous glint in his eye.
Skitters's wobbliness had finally subsided now that she was far enough away from the "ground zero" of Innovatium radiation. It still bothered her... that it bothered her that much. It might make keeping up this charade... if it could be called that. She watched the others enter their cabins, fighting like children over who gets which bed. Look at them, fighting over simple beds. She let out a mocking snort as she turned to the cabins assigned to them and stepped in. She looked it over and then jumped the one in the furthest corner of the room, taking the covers and sheets, swirling it around herself into a makeshift structure.

"Mine!" she yelled, holding a pillow over her head, glaring at the others, before plopping it down over her head to finish her mini-fort.

Grimms just walked in and chuckled to himself. "This should prove to be very interesting," he muttered, as he seated himself in a corner of the cabin, slipping out a book from one of his large coat pockets and began to just quietly read.
Innovatium's discovery is often rumoured to have occurred at the precise time that Peter Walter I discovered Blue Matter, theorised to be the glue that holds reality together. This is interesting to note, as Innovatium is said to do the opposite; acting upon the mutability of reality to provoke hyper-fantasy, a term used to describe phenomenon that is more unreal than what is usual in the Imagiverse. Hyper-fantasy occurrences include near-physical hallucinations, the bending of physical laws and the supposed communication with a distant being, first reported by Jonathan C. Skelecoot, then recently deceased, in 1899, when an accident during the early studies of Innovatium reportedly drove him insane, running out of his laboratory and informing his co-workers, in a loud voice, that their world, along with the countless others they had yet to discover, wasn't real, that it was merely the imaginings of an omnipotent being that wasn't God. The concerned scientists called for the police, and Jonathan, who had calmed down considerably, was escorted to New Bedlam, as it was later named, where he had plenty of time to ascertain what he had seen in the explosion.
When Adam visited John in the asylum, straitjacketed despite his apparent civility, he was the first to hear John's story.

Jonathan, when he was still a young and breathing man, had the ambition of becoming a politician, as any youth who believes he has a few bright ideas on how to better govern the world would. When he died, in a rather tragic family incident involving his other brother Nicholas and every other direct relative including John and Adam, John momentarily put his political aspirations on hold - as there was a period of parliamentary confusion as the deceased statesmen awoke from their lifelong delusions - to partake in some part-time research regarding the latest scientific discovery; a bizarre substance similar to the similarly recent Blue Matter, but much more unstable in it's effects. Jonathan wasn't the only person to have been sadly influenced by this strange material, and it was likely he wasn't going to be the last.
The accident occurred on his first day. The substance in question was sealed in a brass sphere fitted with a window - a container that would much later act as the prototype of commonplace Innovatium power cores - that did not entirely fulfil it's purpose to safely contain the technicoloured substance, as was evident when John peered into the window...
What followed next could not be ordered, as the sudden visions lasted the duration of a second. In that rather crowded second, John saw distant worlds that did not correlate with reasonable science, the beating minds of beings that might as well had been stars in humanoid form, and the terrifying revelation about his own existence, that he was merely a figment of Their imagination that could be as easy to render non-existent as a child's drawing against a pencil eraser.
In the midst of this revelation, he was almost sure there was something else, watching him from the furthest point in space, beckoning him to step off the planetary body and embrace the stars. At least, that was his first impression. Later on, he was almost certain it was a cry for help.
Vragi also giggled as the other two settled into the room. With some effort he hoisted himself onto his bed, perching on the edge of the mattress.

He looked around the room, nodding contentedly. He also seemed interested in the structure the raccoon had built for herself.

“Hmm…” he appeared deep in thought, as if posing himself some question. Abruptly he began to lift up the covers and sheets, inspecting them and measuring them in his head, before jumping down and addling over to the chest, taking some of his equipment and using it to make a tent-like structure. Evidently the question he’d had in mind was how impressive a fort could you make with bedsheets. He stood back and looked at his makeshift creation, with a quizzical expression.

He looked between the two structures, before saying, "I have more work to do." He then got to inspecting his fort, checking for ways to improve it.
"Heh, you take this stuff seriously, don't you?" Skitters said, in response to Vragi.

"So, as a connoisseur of knowledge, curiosity overtakes me," Grimms finally said, lowering his book to glance over the top of it. "How does a being such as yourself end up inside common vermin?" There was a moment of silence, followed by rustling in the bedding fort.

"Ay? And how does a git like you end up in a tin can?" Skitters responded, sounding a bit agitated.

"Touché, but I meant no disrespect," he responded, before he returned to his book.

"Yeah, well... I... ugh... if you really must know, I'm from the edge, or rather, I was born in some isolated bubble in it," she finally said after some stuttering. "And I outgrew that bubble."

"That... doesn't really explain a lot, does it?" he said.

"Okay, sure, fine! But I don't know all the exact bloody details, they get foggy when your brain is put through a ringer! So yeah, anyways, Basalah? Yeah, that is my real name, Lady Basalah I was. My people were mostly a bunch of timid little mice... not literally, mind you, but bright lights and loud noises causes them to scatter. I mean, sure, we lived in a land with only twilight and night, by your terms, but still... a little light ain't gonna kill ya! So yeah, I felt my growth was being bloody stifled! So maybe, I got a bit overly ambitious, sure! But I'm a bloody genius! I can't be satisfied with accepting things as-is. And I got treated as a deviant, insane! I mean, I was also taller than the average git, get on my bloody level! Was..." she paused there, to try to gather her thoughts. "So I came up with a theory, one they really didn't like. I devised a way to pierce the veil and bridge into a hypothetical other world, using a kind of primordial energy I had concentrated by siphoning off some spacial anomalies at the world's borders."

"Sounds eerily familiar, and what device did you use to pierce the veil?" he asked.

"Wait... device? No no, I drank it."

"You... drank it?" Grimms responded. "I'm lifting a brow, by the way."

"Yeah... ehhhh..." she answered, her voice cracking a bit. "So, maybe not my brightest moment in retrospect, but everyone was wanting to have me committed and I was gettin' flustered and may have gotten a little full of myself. I mean... I am amazing! But... well, I had a split second of regret, before my everything was being being stretched across several planes like taffy, through an inconceivable multiverse... then nothing. Don't know how long it had been, but the next time I'm conscious, my everything ached like hell, and I awoke inside this... dinky roadkill of a shell."


"Well, ugh, so it wasn't in the best condition when I first got into it, okay? Busted up all to hell, the animal was dead as it gets. B-but don't look at me like that, I ain't some bloody pet cemetery freak! I-I mean, I hope I'm not... that'd be utterly pear-shaped... But yeah, that is about everything, I ended up being experimented because I'm some kinda edge hybrid thing."

"I see," Grimms responds, yet his tone hinted he wasn't entirely convinced on that being the full story. "And... what are you seek-"

"W-well, enough! I answered your question, now mine!" she interrupted rather abruptly, popping up from her fort and pointing accusingly. He backs down, and rubbed his chin.

"Mine... I suppose is a bit more simple, I once looked human, a rather god-like one I might say. Strong and worshipped, I grew arrogant, thought nothing could stop me, that every obstacle I could overcome with sheer strength alone. I was almost right, but... well, a servant woman, sick of my garbage challenged me that the one thing I could never do is be humble... and I took the challenge. For the life of me, I couldn't do it, I thought too highly of myself, and I was, angry and defeated, left with the only option to admit that there are some things I wasn't good at... and shortly after we married. It was a learning experience for sure, and then we had two kids, a son and then later, a daughter. I was... happy? And yet I wasn't smashing things with my head and fists. But..." he pauses for a moment and lowers his head, placing his book in his lap. "I... should have known something was coming, glowing cracks had begun forming in my body. I told no one, especially not my beloved. And then, in my arms, that mortal shell ruptured, and the surge of raw energy from my body... and well... I suppose the one grace is there was likely no suffering involved. I tried to cry but my eyes were dry, I tried to drink it away, but the alcohol burnt away on my tongue... I couldn't even comfort my children, as I'd burn them too. This clumsy suit, a clunking wearable reactor shell, is the only way I can engage at all in the worlds, and it lacks any of the delicate qualities I once took for granted. My son turned from me, and my daughter... regressed. Perhaps out there is a means to once and for all shed this suit, and live... somewhat normally again. That and adventure... I've missed those."

"Geez, make me look like a selfish git, why dontcha? S-soo, you want your body back, huh?

"Essentially, yes, I suppose it is also closure, as well, with it. But I assume you want yours back too, right?" he asked, but Skitters simply paused, thinking on it for a bit.

""Y-yeah! Of course! It... uh... this body is total bollocks! W-well... I'm not sure, really... I mean, there's no way I can make this work as-is right? A lady as I, reduced to the body of a pathetic and graceless vermin! How am I to receive any envy like this? Pah!"

"Hah, you're a bit vain, aren't you?" he laughs, causing her to huff and plop back into hiding in her fort. Grimms then turns to Vragi. "And, where are my manners? We cannot forget you, friend, what is your story?"
Ever since that fateful incident, John had been gripped with a common infliction for those who had taken a brief glimpse of what they do not fully understand. When he was released from New Bedlam - on the grounds that, despite his initial outburst, he was evidently rational for his blood - and began a campaign which ended with the Parliament disbanded and him settled as Old Albion's first and only dictator, he had since devoted his life gathering esoteric knowledge, in a similar fashion to a magpie looting Midas' palace for shiny objects. He refocused the city's efforts from military reinforcements to scientific pursuits, which eventually provided the government (John) with mechanical soldiers superior to the Royal Army, who soon dwindled in numbers in the face of the city's gradual disregards for tradition and decent humanity. John would eventually develop his own personal guard, the Peacemakers, dreaded law-enforcing automatons only deployed in the most serious cases of unrest, but mainly to protect the Governor with threats of having them let loose on anyone who so much as lays a finger on him. Always fitted with technology unavailable anywhere else in the city, the Peacemakers became subject to rumour of impenetrable armour and inhumane weaponry, which did the rest of the work of keeping the masses subordinate to their leader.
However, even after over a hundred years of developing his own library of strange or even dangerous knowledge, John's thirst for more hasn't satiated. This particular thirst was similar to an addiction to nicotine, or to trying to hydrate oneself with dry water; it is an endless cycle of drinking, then feeling unsatisfied. It is widely agreed that it was this endless thirst for knowledge that crumbled the rest of John's mind, replacing it with the cold, calculating machine it is now; consistently guzzling more information, considering morality only as a point of reference, and regularly going cuckoo.
Vragi shrugged in agreement at Skitters' remark, before turning his attention back to his mini project. He was actually quite childish despite his apparent age.

He’d just begun scribbling down notes on a scrap of parchment when he found himself listening to his colleagues' histories, and with great interest. Tucking his writing equipment beneath the pillow he was sat on, he listened intently from inside what appeared to be a one-person bell tent.

Surprise flashed briefly across his face as he was asked his own story. He shifted a little. Usually being the one asking questions, he was unused to answering them.

“Well,” he began, “I felt stifled back home too, always wanted to see what was out there. We were quite isolated, see.” He took out the axe he had kept with him and pointed out the symbols etched into the blade.

“We use these magic runes to enchant and enhance the stuff we forge. Only a few years ago, longstanding contact was finally made with other worlds and we were trading in all kinds of strange things and materials we’d never laid eyes on. Anyway, naturally first thing we did was mess about with them. We started small, just put a simple resilience enchantment on a dagger, typical job. But instead it starts igniting everything it hits! We thought we might've botched the thing up so we did it again and the same thing happened. We soon found that our runes had completely different effects depending on what world the materials were from. It was like finding out there’s a whole bunch more alphabets in your language. And I had a good excuse to get out and explore other worlds. I’m searching for materials from as many different places as possible so we can discover how they react to runes. Just imagine what we might find out there!”
"What indeed, the possibilities are quite literally countless," Grimms comments with a short chortle. "Been ages since I've been at the edge of my seat with anticipation. It would appear we all share that in common, escaping our cooped up lives."

"Countless possibilities, discoveries, treasures, power, it is a bit exhilarating," she muttered, curling up with her pillow in a ball. "But in the end, I want to not be looked down on, called a bloody rodent. Or something like that, always felt like something in me was empty."

"Well, we're all trying to fill a void. Luck to us that we all find what we've been missing!"
A metallic, high-pitched whine would interrupt the volunteers. Upon closer inspection, they would discover that, unbeknownst to their initial inspection of the room - strangely enough - there was a strange, segmented funnel jutting out from the top of a wall, that was shuddering as the disembodied voice of Jonathan echoed from it.
"Helloooo, passengers! I've finally made it to the helm, and will be starting up the engine. During this, you might experience a bit of confusion as the Innovatium starts to pump through to the main thrusters and be ignited, theoretically resulting in a fair amount of residual radiation. But not to worry; this should not do you any harm. Starting the engine... Now!"
The cabin would begin to shudder, the ceiling lamp above waving erratically. A distant hum, once hidden in the background, was beginning to raise in volume and intensity, somewhere in the supposed direction of the Innovatium Engine. Outside the window, engineers and apprentices were backing away from the vessel, cheering and waving miniature flags. Somewhere in the distance, a band began to play a boisterous tune, likely the undead country's anthem, as the crowd would soon begin to sing along, words and phrases such as "God save the..." "Long to reign over us..." and so on drifting into the air as the hum indoors took a disconcerting tone.
"There we are," piped John from the gramophonic speaker. "Now, let the S.S Victoria begin its maiden voyage to the great beyond!"
The shuddering would make an abrupt stop as the skeletal crowd, who were now screaming in anticipation, began to drop from the window's view. Somewhere ahead of the ship, muffled by the hull and the humming, the passengers would hear the sound of something large and metallic begin to move, punctuated with occasional, thunderous clangs; discerning from how the noises seem to be emanating from just above the vessel, the Teslatorium must be opening up by quite a bit to allow the S.S Victoria to leave. After about 20 seconds, the ship would finally move forward, oddly flowing in its acceleration, like an iceberg with propellers in the back.
Soon, the vessel had left the hangar, the view replaced by an admittedly stunning panorama of the city below. Smokestacks towered over countless buildings, the sky being invaded by even more streams of smoke weaving into the clouds. As the ship spun, they would get a view of the sea, copper in colour and strangely silent, excusing the occasional steamer and other vague shapes along the horizon.
Eventually, John's voice would sound again. "Take a good look at the city. For over a hundred years, we've stuck to the machinations of the steam engine, hoping to perfect its use on every aspect of our technology. Now, with vast experience with Innovatium under our belt, we have achieved what was considered impossible back in the reign of our deceased majesty. The word has been spread, the town criers have brought the news, and millions of eyes are watching us at this very moment, most likely to see if I blow the damn thing up on the first jump, the bastards. Ahem, anyway, fasten yourselves on something, everyone! To the Edge!"
The background hum was now raising into a whine. Those who are on the ship will feel the uneasy sensation of moving at a fast speed while remaining in place, until the second part became irrelevant; S.S Victoria would achieve the unlikely of reaching the speed of light from a standing start.

The CentreSetting: The Centre

The Centre. Home of the known worlds of the Imagiverse. Although it can be considered small compared to the surrounding Edge, it is still bloody massive. One world, one of the many bubbles of space-time that were spawned by the Creators to house their Ideas, orbits around the very centre of the Imagiverse, which is unfortunately the location of a titanic mass of blackness, a large spot in space where there are no stars, no light. This is the Darkness, home to what has been referred to uncommonly as the Maelstrom's second army. The aforementioned world is the Imagiverse Hub, a universal crossroads for inhabitants of all the known worlds to meet, greet and visit other worlds. In that same bubble is the home of the Creators, separate to the mortal Hub. You may ask why they decided to put the universal crossroads so near to perhaps the most dangerous region of the Centre. Well, one may answer that it is to keep watch of the Darkness, acting as an orbiting satellite to observe it at every angle.
Somewhere in the expanse of space, the S.S Victoria bursts into existence with a brief flash of cosmic light. Slowly, it would turn, until it's main thrusters were facing the black blob in the very centre, and make it's way towards an ineffable point in space.
Within the ship, the gramocoms would ring again. "Everyone in one piece?" echoed the voice of Jonathan. "We'll be making our way to the Threshold, but that'll be a while. In the meantime, kick back and relax with one of the records I've packed for the journey!" A scratching would be heard before an aged, warbling tune starts to play from the gramocoms.
“Well,” Vragi remarked as they materialised, “That was something.” He felt quite shaken, having never travelled at such a speed until now, and the unconventional nature of their mode of transport probably didn’t do much to soften the experience.

The dwarf hopped doggedly onto the floor and shuffled to the window to gaze over the view as they passed through the space. His eyes widened as he stared outside, mulling over their conversation and the possibilities of what might be out there, waiting for them (and whether that ‘waiting' was just a figure of speech). It wasn’t long before he realised he’d begun humming along to the music.

“Interesting song, haven’t heard one like it before.” He piped up, unsure what people might or might not be interested in discussing.
Impressively, she was barely shaken from the warp itself but rather what came after caused her to stir. Wrapped in the bedding, she rolled and fell from her bed with a thud. Fighting her way free of the sheets, she peered out groggily around for the source of her disturbance, and narrowed her eyes. "Ey! What the bleedin' 'ell is that? "

Grimms would look up from his book, his eyes blinking out for a moment as he focuses on the music for a moment. "It is music, early 20th century I would assume," he responded, rather confident in his assessment. "I wouldn't know the title, however, but-"

"Music," she huffed. "I'd prefer somethin' with a... a beat, life, temp, y'know?" She then pantomimed playing a guitar to make her point, bobbing about to the beat in her head.
The S.S Victoria was already picking up considerable speed. It was speeding past the many space-time bubbles that orbited the centre of the Imagiverse, entire worlds of different textures and colours, each entirely different, or rather similar, to the other. Soon, the spaceship had left the inner circle of worlds and was venturing deeper into the less-spacious Outer Centre, where raw Imagination, filtering through space on cosmic currents, crystallised into strange entities. As Max the Robloxian, currently playing a card game with his comrades to pass the time, glanced away from his shoddy hand towards the window, he was greeted by a large eye, belonging to a lolligo caeleste, also known as a giant space squid, its star-flecked hide a glowing blue. He would stare out of the window for several seconds before Adam nudged him back to attention. Afterwards, he kept his gaze firmly away from the window.
To name a few other peculiar phenomenon, the volunteers in the other cabin might see, through their window, a bitten green apple the size of a moon, a titanic purple whale with a little top hat perched on what could be considered its head, and a snoozing giant formed out of sea-blue stardust. It has become apparent that they were approaching the threshold in space where what can't possibly be real turns out to be just that.
“Hmmm…It’s difficult to hear but I rather like it, myself.” Vragi replied, “Ah, not that there’s anything wrong with having a different preference!” he hastily added, not wanting to get into an argument. Getting on the duchess' nerves was something he thought best avoided

As the ship passed through space, the dwarf’s attention was drawn back to the environment outside which was becoming stranger by the minute.

“Now that’s…certainly a view.” He observed, gesturing toward the window. He wondered if looking at it all for a prolonged time was good for his health, but of course this didn't stop him gawking at it anyway.
Skitters looked at Vragi, raising a brow, then, with a mightly leap, and kicking her feet, she pulled herself up far enough to a porthole to peek out. "Cor..."

Grimms steps over to lean over and look out as well. After a moment he just gives a short chuckle.

"Whaaat? What's so funny?"

Grimms pointed at the massive apple. "Look there."

"Oh? What is it?" Looking out for a moment, the raccoon looked attentively, swaying her tail excitedly, shifting her focus on one and then the other. "Sure, it is odd, is there something I'm..."

"Suppose since Mr. Giant didn't want it, anyone hungry?"

She freezes for a moment, then her ears and tail drooped, turning to give Grimms a glare. At first she seems ready to lash out for the bad joke. "All yours, sparky, I ain't eatin' after a bloomin' giant, let alone anybody."

Grimms chuckled at her reaction. He then cleared his throat and straightened his suit. "Well, to be serious for a moment," he said in monotone. "Although they seem benign so far, we should perhaps be on our guard in case there are some that are not. Not to be ominous, of course."
The gramocon speakers would shudder and whine once again. John's disembodied voice spoke thusly, "While we are waiting to reach the Threshold (we are already halfway there, by the way!), I might as well educate you illiterate thugs, and the volunteers, on a piece of mythology unheard of anywhere except the Palm Grove, a rather select world inhabited by the isolated Hand Druids - that is, in fact, 8 foot tall hands that wear druidic robes, rather hospitable people, I find. Anyway, they are possibly the only species in the Imagiverse to even know about this story - except for myself, but only because I ventured there myself and read all their books - so listen well.
There are those who claim that the Imagiverse was created by a galactic detonation known as the Imagiversal Implosion, and I was once one of those who accepted the theory. However, the religious books of the Hands say that the Imagiverse was brought to existence by the Maker, Creator of Creators, a multiversal being who could create anything from nothing with only a thought. He lived in the very rim of the Imagiverse, within His dream castle, writing the rules that would govern the workings of His new universe, as well as forming creatures that would act as His caretakers, maintaining the castle He resided in. It was there that He also made the Creators, who you might consider to be His children, if the laws of reproduction apply to multidimensional gods of His level. According to the Hands, He intended to create a... playground for His children, a universe where they, and He as well, could shape the Imagiverse to their liking, free from the pressures of Reality.
Of course, things didn't go exactly to plan. You see, the Maker, after making the Creators and teaching them His abilities, he started having nightmares. Of what exactly, the books do not specify, but each nightmare brought forth increasingly dangerous creatures - a horde of black, tar-like demons that He imprisoned in a box, only to be released many years later as the Darkness - a towering mass of flesh and eyes, known nowadays as Argus, whose blood was later spilled onto Minecraftia and became the Flux Taint, and whose body broke apart into umpteen abominations - the list goes on to mention other demons with names I cannot pronunciation or recall at the moment. The final nightmare would be His worst yet, bringing to existence a malignant entity equal in power to His own; the Maelstrom, often referred to by the Hands as the Unmaker, the opposing bringer of Destruction to the Maker's Creation.
What followed was an intense battle between the two gods, until the Maker imprisoned the Maelstrom within the rim of the Imagiverse and sent the Creators towards the Centre of the Imagiverse, where they could create in peace. The effort in imprisoning the Maelstrom, as well as the resulting trauma, sent the Maker into an aeons-long slumber, and He hasn't woken up to this day.
His fitful dreams, as well as the Maelstrom's increasing influence over the aeons of wearing down it's chains, are likely the main reason the Edge is incredibly dangerous. The Threshold is the barrier between the Centre and the Edge, the froth of chaotic Creation that would tear any ill-equipped vessel to shreds. When we do get there, I would like it if you try and stay in your cabins, and don't, out of sheer curiosity, look towards the engine. We will experience what could be the highest level of hyper-fantasy that is possible in the Imagiverse. In short terms, well, try not to go mad from whatever you see, aight?"
Vragi had his own maelstrom of sorts swirling inside his head, as his ocean of questions swelled yet again and it was all the poor dwarf could do to keep his trap shut. He was already racking his brain to make sense of the whole thing.

“I think I prefer the first theory, if it’s all the same” he mused quietly. Despite his own curiosity and usual openness, he was quite sceptical and not a fan of legends and rumours. When asked why he would usually go off an a rant that incorporated various words long the lines of 'fanciful' and 'airy-fairy' as well as some probably made-up phrases. His own thoughts were cut short by a warning to stay away from the engine.

“Ah, he just had to go and tell us not to do it. Might as well throw me off the side o’ the ship, It’ll just as well be ten times harder now.” He lamented, scratching his nose.
Skitters's body slowly slid off from the porthole and dropped to the floor as she listened to the story. She was rather personally aware of a portion of this, being as she was, but it interested her in actuality on an outsider's position. While the thought of... talking hands was absurd even to her, seeing what she has been through thus far, it isn't hard to believe either. Her life thus far has lead her to accept the improbable, similar to Mr. Grimms, but with the added drive to... harness it, rather than simply observe and document.

The dwarf then said something quietly to himself, her keen ears picking it up rather clearly. To this she snorted, and from her jaws, rather than from the device that spoke for her, a shrill sound was uttered. "Kreehkehkehkehkeh..." It was laughter, or, at least the closest thing the vessel's vocals could muster. She held her sides, with all four of her forelimbs, and rolled on the ground. "Kreeeehkehekehkehkeh!" she cackled louder, the device now just sputtering in monotone: "ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha."

She stood back up to regain her composure, giving a short soft snort as she wiped a tear from her eye and spattering it against the wall beside her. What hit was rather not water, but something black that quickly dissolved into the shadows. "Well then, I know what I'm looking forward to," she muses in an almost childish singsong manner. Her tail flicked as the last words were spoken. "'Don't,' he says... oy, oy, he had to say 'don't'," she mused, slapping her upper forepaws against her cheeks, squirming anxiously. She was toying now, possibly teasing Vragi, if only for the reason to see the dwarf's views turned on its head, much like her's was when she stepped across the threshold. It wasn't exactly malicious, but rather curiosity on how another being handles the awakening process, a bit of scientific curiosity that made her almost gitty. Maybe then, finally, somebody would be able to understand her on her own level.

Grimms on the other hand stood silent, listening, until looking at the other two. He looked to the raccoon, who was rubbing her hands together, looking rather shifty, and the dwarf being compelled by his curiosity. "Okay, what are you up to?"

"Nuuthin'," she answered cutely, rolling her eyes to the side and shifting slightly, under her mask however, she cracked a smile.

It was clear to Grimms that she was up to something, what surprised him, however, was that she wasn't even trying to hide it. On one hand he was concerned what her scheme may be, but his profile of her, so far, was not one of a particularly sadistic nature. She's greedy, prideful perhaps, she was out to gain something, but what, well he didn't know that yet, but he had theories. "You know, that warning most likely comes from experience."

"Eh, he turned out alright, give or take," she responded with a coy little shrug. "I... would prefer to keep the insulation, however."
Soon, the Innovatium-powered space shuttle was within lightyears from the Threshold, the galactic barrier between fantasy and hyper-fantasy, between conscious Imagination and the more primeval, subconscious streams of Creation. This was not readily apparent to the crew, although outside the porthole, they could see a planet-sized turtle gliding through space, four elephants perched on it's star-flecked shell, which in turn supported what looked to be a flat world, complete with continents and a spire of ice protruding from the centre of the disc. "Great A'tuin," John would announce. "The star turtle, carrying the Discworld on it's shell. It's often theorised by the collective scientific minds of the Imagiverse that it can only exist in areas of very low reality levels, so we're close to the Threshold."
Time would pass before they were now relatively touching the barrier. From a spacious distance, it seemed as if there wasn't anything unusual, just the regular specks of stars sprinkled across the infinite horizon. This close, however, there was the unnerving impression that the stars were merely painted onto a vast dome, the stars overhead climbing over the spaceship.
When John next spoke, there was an odd undertone in his voice, almost imperceptible under the feedback of the gramocon. "In the next few min- next few moments, your ideas on the fundamental workings of the universe will be strained to their limits, changed either minutely or completely. I'm sure you have gotten the hint from what you have seen so far, but once we pass the Threshold, you will know for certainty what I have known for many years. If you are of faint heart, then close your eyes, although that alone may not shield your vision from the creative froth that is (From the opposite cabin, "John, for the love of Telamon, would you JUST STOP TALKING FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE AND GET ON WITH IT!") the Threshold."
Again, the increasing intensity of the engine's hum. The gradual vibration of the cabin. Then a great deal of distance, into the Threshold, in a matter of a second.
Vragi watched the Duchess’ apparent mirth in befuddlement, one bushy eyebrow twitching anxiously. He was mostly unsure what exactly was going through the raccoon’s head though he would have to guess that she was waiting for him to trip himself up in some way or other.

As the ship began to speed up, he glanced around. His eyes widened beneath his goggles, and the dwarf grabbed the end of his beard and, spiky as it was, pulled it back over his head, tying a knot just behind. The result was what looked like a tiny creature with a large white pom-pom for a head, one dagger-like nose protruding.

Whether it would shield him from whatever it was looking at the engine would do, he had no idea, but at least now he didn’t know how to look at it, so if he did try it, he at least had a reduced risk of succeeding. The smith braced himself as the ship began to cover the remaining distance to the threshold. During this time he appeared to lock up, not even a twitch of movement.

The ThresholdSetting: The Threshold

Grimms's body, or rather, his shell, braced him as they breached the Threshold barrier, a technicolor dreamscape suddenly searing into his eyes. For most this would be a moment of seizure inducing madness, but for him... a distant memory bubbling up from the depths of his soul. As space stretched before him, warping in every breadth and width, he almost felt something through his shell. Reaching out with his hand he truly felt... or believed he felt... as if he could feel the pulse of the cosmos. His mind flooded with a fullness, eyes bleeding of cognition, ears filled with the profound. No, this is nonsense, I must remain resolute. His thoughts, though of thought, spoken without breath, was yet heard as sound none the less, rippling through the fabric of hyper-Fantasy. Ah, fascinating, it would appear here the realms of the improbable, or rather, impossible, are the same as truths.

For the raccoon, however, she was not ready to embrace the collision against the Threshold, yet too proud and stubborn to look away. The impact was a rush of colors and sounds. Her voice box made a series of tones like a radio flipping through stations. Barely audible voices and shrieks could be heard from it, many of which not belonging to her. A shadow, or rather, a black image was cast behind her. It was a feminine silhouette, quite a bit taller than her, with unbridled waving hair. Its eyes opened, and three sets of arms stretched out over the cabin around the banded rascal.

"A̷̍͜s̷̡̈́ų̴̎r̵͈̐a̶̫͂.̵̳̄?" a voice beckoned to her.

"Wh-what did you say?" her voice cracking, startled further to actually hear her voice. It was not some cartoonish electronic fabrication of voice, nor the screech of an animal, but instead that of a woman, even if a bit coarse. She held a paw up to her throat, the disbelief wafting through her as she vocalized a bit. It was not exactly through her throat, exactly, but rather, the sounds she made, through her mind, were transformed into... her old voice. Profound. The last time such a phenomenon occured was when she was next to the Innovatium engine.

"C̴̟̿u̸̦͗r̴̡̒i̵̹̕o̴͍͘u̸͖̇s̸̳̈́e̸͖̒r̷̼̈́ ̶͔͂ȃ̶͖ṉ̶̂d̵̼́ ̷͎̕c̷͕͒ȕ̸̦ŕ̴̹i̵̡͘o̴̻̚ů̸͕ṣ̴̓e̷̲͆r̵͑͜...!" the voice returned, suddenly cackling with mad laughter. A third eye opens in the head of silhouette cast by Skitters, the third eye blue and having a club-shaped pupil. The figure begins to stretch out, forming a long grin, two large teeth up front and hints of jagged ones deep inside a dark maw. The other two eyes open, yellow, with horizontally slit pupils. Long ears became visible, along with the teeth, it appears to be some twisted rabbit-like creature. "G̴u̸e̵s̴s̷s̸s̶s̷s̸s̸S̸S̷S̴S̷s̴s̵s̴s̴t̸s̷!̴?̶ Guests for TEA!? Or are they... fools? T̶o̵ ̷b̸e̷ ̸t̸o̷r̴n̶ ̵a̴s̵u̷n̸d̵e̸r̴ ̸a̵n̸d̵ ̴c̵a̴s̸t̵ ̴t̷o̸ ̶t̸h̶e̶ ̷s̴e̵a̷!̶?̸"

Skitters turned and looked back to see half of the creature that had emerged from her shadow, now just loomed above her with a wide grin and big wild eyes. Of what could be seen, a long rabbit-like head with an expansive grin, sewn shut on the side, obscuring somewhat the jagged teeth within. Atop its head was a large top hat of eloquence only a true mad hatter could appreciate. Taken aback for only a moment, the tenacity of the raccoon won over her better judgement, and leered aggressively at the rabbit. The rabbit's jaw shut tight and expression blanked, ears drooping for a moment. Its nose wiggles for a moment, before it roars again with distorted maniacal laughter, it's immense jaws agape displaying a discolored maw.

"I see! I see! An ambition sparks within your soul... stoking the flames of a megalomaniacal heart! How frightening! How unsettling! How... fun! G̴y̷a̶h̴a̴h̶a̸h̸a̶h̷a̴!̷" the creature cackled once more. "We're all mad here! And here, the mad perseveres! And to the logistical? ...well... sucks to be them! But you, you... gyaha! Mad! Mad as a Mad Hare..! Caution to the wind, embracing the pandemonium! You will soon be shaped by it: mind, body, and soul!"

Grimms turned, shifting his attention to Skitters. From his perspective, he only saw her, standing there, spaced out, tensed up and confronting a blank wall. "What are you looking at, little one?"

She looked over at him, her glare perplexed by his lack of reaction to the thing behind her, but looking back, she saw nothing but a blank wall as well. She knew, however, that it was no figment... even now she could still feel the heat of its breath lingering in the air. She turns back, and after staring at Grimms for a moment, she finally spoke again. "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." she said softly, as one of her eyes twitches briefly.

No one would have believed that, since the first mortal of fantastic origin was brought existence by the young Creators, that sapient affairs were being watched from the timeless gulfs of space. Perhaps from those damn aliens from the red planet and neighbouring galaxies, yes, but the idea of an intelligence infinitely greater and nastier than man, woman or in between studying them with the utmost hatred was lost on the vast majority of all sentient life in the Imagiverse. Of course, the Hand Druids knew of said intelligence, as well as the blissful ignorance of the rest of the sentients, and kept it a closely-guarded secret, that is, until they were greeted by their first and, as of currently, only visitor, who was of less skin than any living thing should be...
And yet, across the infinite gulfs of deep space, a near-omnipotent being, chained to the rim of the universe like the beast it was, regarded all beings of Creation with immeasurable hatred. To attempt to fully understand the extent of it's rage, think of someone you really,
really hated, so much so that you would locate them on every piece of social media, every article, every scrap of conversation, and vent your utmost abhorrence in stunning length, send them messages filled with venom and vitriol, and never avert your attention from them. Can't think of anyone? Well, in which case, merely consider this scenario, then multiply it a thousand-fold. Then, you might have an inkling on how much the malignant being despises all that is formed of Fantasy, of the Maker's dreaming.
And slowly, and surely, the Maelstrom drew its plans against the Imagiverse, or, specifically, against the minuscule capsule, with a small crew of insignificant mortals, that was reaching it's realm of influence...

Stars. But not stars. A whirling sea of colours, some from the rainbow, but others that corresponded to no pigments of the mortal eye. A whirling sea of Creation, forming and unforming into ghastly creatures, faces howling in unnatural frequencies. There were no stars in this realm. Nothing but Creation, the burning waves of a mad god's restless dreaming.
Of course, the passengers could not properly see into the sea, as it burned to even glance outside. What they could see, however, was that the porthole was now a screaming mouth, contorting and shivering inhumanely. There were more coming out of the walls, the metal now slowly resembling flesh. Out in the corridor, voices whispered, forming a susurrus which haunted the ship.
From the gramocon, there was a brief noise, somewhere between a scream and a wild laugh, before it abruptly stopped. Jack was hiding under the covers of his bed. The others were staring at the walls. Max had attempted to fight back the faces, but stopped when one bit him.
None of them bothered to ask the most commonly-asked question in these situations, which was "what the hell is going on?", because they were already given the answer prior; the wild currents of an ancient Imagination was distorting the reality around them. There was an affliction associated with space travel, similar to cabin fever, referred to as space madness, in which long periods of travelling the empty, infinite planes eventually wear down a man's resolve and causes him to turn against his crewmates. This, however, was the term approached from another, terrible angle; it wasn't them that were going mad, it was time and space itself.
Vragi relaxed slowly, feeling (wrongly) that he had acclimatized to the threshold’s effects.

-Well, this isn’t so bad- he mouthed as he untied his makeshift blindfold. Unfortunately, rather than making any sound, the words appeared as glowing runes in the air just a few inches in front of him. He cleared his throat.

“Apologies, I meant to say, well this-” as he began repeating himself each rune changed from its pale silvery hue to a deep crimson as he spoke, “…isn’t so…bad.” The now ruddy symbols each disappeared with various sounds, one of which was something like a lost sock meowing.

He stared at one of the runes, which had stubbornly refused to give up its brief existence. The thing seemed to be staring him down. Reaching out a hand, the dwarf poked the glyph experimentally.

There was a rush of something around Vragi, as if the air were about to pounce on some unsuspecting prey, and his hair seemed to stand up on its own accord. With a bouquet of iridescent sparks, a wave of forceful energy scraped across his body and launched the poor dwarf across the room, slamming him into the wall. The rune, thankfully, did go away. From the look of it.

“OK, I take that back.” He muttered, as his goggles began to glitter merrily contorting and shifting into a quite unpleasant creature vaguely like a sea-cucumber which dropped to the floor and was promptly squashed by the startled smith.

“Those were my best pair…” he lamented, waddling to his pack which he rummaged through, to find a spare.

While he was doing this he was oblivious to the unsettling transfiguration of the ship’s fabric, so that when he re-emerged donning a pair of rather bright lime-green goggles (they’d all changed appearance under the threshold’s influence) He was immediately hit with the...scene.

He walked silently up to the wall, and poked it.

"Should I try feeding it the slug? Hm? Are you alright?" he asked the raccoon, apparently oblivious to whatever she'd encountered
"Uh..? Wh..." she mumbled, a bit confused as she shifted her gaze to the dwarf. There was a moment of silence from her until she let out a short laugh. "Am I alright? What? Do you think this little disturbance bothers me much?" she says, folding her two set of forelimbs. "So the very air around us is going mad, so what? To me this space, this subcon-manifestation anomaly of hyper-fantasy... it is to me a sign, an opportunity, my rapture, my-"

A horrific distorted laughing face on the hull interrupted her, getting up in her face with its warped voice passing all through the vocal spectrum... and beyond. With a swift motion she punches it across the cheek,distorting its features even more... and apparently dislodging a tooth from it.

"S-stop laughing!" she screamed, looking a bit manic. "They all laughed, I know they did, all with that 'oh that poor girl'! And then there's that performance arts... dancer girl, whatever... oh, how they all loved her! News flash! Everybody can dance! It isn't special!" she continued in a wild rant, grabbing the face by the ears and laughing back at it.

"Miss, please, control yourself, the Threshold is affecting you," Grimms chimed in, trying to calm her down.

"Oh? You think I'm mad? 'Oh poor thing, not right in her head,' is that it? Do you pity me!?" she said, as she released the... wall face... and looked to Grimms with crazed eyes, aglow with a misty green light as a few tendril reveal themselves from her back. With no hesitation she leapt from the ground onto Grimms, who stood perfectly still as the little mutant began to crawl and peck at his head. "So calm and confident!, always looking down! What makes you tick, hm!? Bet you're the most deranged of the lot! Who in their right mind wears such horrific things as this mask!? Does nothing hurt you!? Do you even feel anymore!?" she rants, taking shots at him making metal clunks with each strike, until reaching around for his mask. Inadvertently, in doing so, she singes her hands, causing her to yell and fall back, causing Grimms to try to grab her, but instead only grabs her bandana mask. Catching herself, she blew her hands a bit, shaking them, then glared up at Grimms, her lower jaw having what seems to be wire wrapped around it. A fissure ran down near center of her lower jaw, the wire seeming to be what is keeping it together, and there was a blackness to her mouth. Her eyes jittered a bit before resting eyes on Grimms's hand holding her handkerchief, her eyes widening in horror. She gasped, twitched nervously, and tried to cover her face.

"I'm sorry, I only meant to catch you so you wouldn't hurt yours-" Grimms began to say, cordial as usual, but she hissed and leapt up to snag the cloth back, hastily wrapping it over her face, avoiding eye contact from anybody, even the maddened aberrations littering the ship's interior. "Perhaps you should have that looked at," he said, but she was unresponsive, holding the cloth over her face. "And hm..? Weren't you shorter than Mr. Odd before?"
The volunteers would be interrupted by a blood-curdling cry, coming from the fourth bed. Once unoccupied, now it held the vague shape of some sort of humanoid being with fin-like ears and huge, bulging eyes, like that of a mutated goldfish, batting at invisible demons with one claw and clutching the bedsheet with the other. Continuously, it cried out in terror, "No! Get back! Get back! You can't take me! No no no- AAARGH," before it abruptly vanished, the bedsheet deflating into its original shape.
Perhaps unbeknownst to the volunteers, that was not the only phantom currently haunting the ship. The numerous, unoccupied cabins rang with the cries of dozens of different throats. Another phantom ran down the main corridor, which was now bending and swaying as if it were a snake in motion, towards the now incandescent technicoloured light of the engine, crying out, "Turn off the engine! Turn off-" before it too would vanish. As time knotted, and reality crumbled amidst the crashing waves of the Threshold, spacefaring souls that were imprisoned within the Edge, unable to find their way to the afterlife, were forced to relive their last moments within the twisting bulk of the S.S Victoria.

Meanwhile, within the bridge, Jonathan had now partially recovered his senses enough to determine the direction they needed to travel. This is proving to be difficult, as most of the dials and buttons have now crawled from the control panel, now dotted around the walls and the floor; he was now left with only the basic controls needed to sail the ship, but with impaired awareness of the ship's conditions in terms of valve pressure and gathered heat.
With a front-seat view of the prismatic hell of the Threshold, it would come to surprise to many, including himself, that he was still at least partially coherent in the face of maddening circumstances. Those who have known him long enough (this also included himself), however, would surmise that this was mainly because he had already passed the madness horizon long ago and had reached the opposite side of the spectrum from the wrong way; in short, he is now in possession of a very special type of sanity, one built out of the fragmented pieces of his broken mind, sane thoughts constructed out of insane components.
As the dislodged tooth arced through the twisting space of the room, Vragi made a dive and just caught the strange apparition. He proceeded to peer at the curiosity from different angles, tapping and shaking it questioningly. Perhaps he wasn’t entirely absorbed in his own world though, as he did at least glance at his fellow volunteers.

In fact, he did spin round when his full attention was won by Grimms’ accidentally revealing Skitters’ face, though a slight grave look passed over his own and he looked away, deciding not to pursue the subject.

Luckily for him, this threshold was by no means short of surprises as he was almost immediately greeted by their strange new guest. He rushed over to the phantom, the bubbling stew of questions within the dwarf’s head literally making his ears steam like a kettle. Unfortunately, any hope of interrogating the poor soul was cut short, so he shrugged and got back to examining the strange tooth. Well, assuming it hadn’t already either vanished or become some other oddity.
"Ah, these are... people? Our predecessors?" Mr. Grimms commented as he observed the phantasms as they all screamed and ran in distress, his tone being a bit more grim than usual. There was sympathy in the fiery giant's eyes an motions. "I cannot tell if they are alive or dead, if this is a mere recording of their final moments, or their personal essence is preserved? I wonder if they can be saved somehow."

"If they are alive, they are as good as dead, or maybe worse, constantly in a chronological flux, reliving the end on repeat. On the off-chance you could recover them they would never be the same again," Basalah muttered, still trying not to make eye-contact with anyone.

"I would've assumed you would be in favor of living in spite of conditions," Grimms retorted, causing the creatures hair to bristle.

"What does it matter, anyways? Better to look out for number one in these kind of situations, because I'm not going through that again for some randos. Besides, they knew what they were getting themselves into," she grumbled.

"Did you?" he asked bluntly.

The pompous raccoon wrinkled her nose, and tensed up her claws into fists, wanting to retort, to yell back, but the words failed her. He keeps reading me like one of his damn books! she thought, puffing up as her hair stands on ends. She wanted to tell him what for, put him in his place, tell him it was easy for him because he ended up strong because of it.

"Frankly, my dear, smart as you are, you're a real spitfire. You are far too vain, too jealous, and too angry," Grimms said. She turned and glared at him. "Honestly, if that weren't the case, you'd be quite charming with that energy and ingenuity of yours. You're not even that bad off, that jaw of yours can be treated."

She froze, confusion took its course, that giant again won a round of psychological chess with her. She couldn't say anything, not to him at least, and she couldn't remain angry at this point. In fact, somehow, she felt... rather sobered. She huffed and scurried over to the gramocon.

"Please tell me we're about clear of this madness, the apparitions are just getting worse... and I think my blanket is slithering up the wall... not really sure how to feel about that," she said rather calmly, a tone that was only half-serious. "Oh, and... I'm talking without the box now, surprise~!"
Something in the distance would catch Jonathan's eye. To a more unordered and easily-confused mind (that is, a living mind inhabiting a lump of wrinkly muscle), the faint twinkle in the searing abyss would have easily passed as part of the visual chaos. John, however, blessed as he was by peculiar foresight, took it as a metaphysical lighthouse, leading him into the clear and away from the jagged space-time rocks that awaited his precious vessel. Relieved, he resolved to reassure his crew on the awaiting closure of this moment of madness.

The gramocon curled like a waking snake. A metallic honk emitted from it's flared mouth before a distorted voice said, reassuringly, "wibble wibble sneep, snill fibble gibble zib snip snip. Gib gib flib flibble vip-" before the piping, hidden within the tormented hull of the ship, tied itself into a knot and prevented anything else to pass through. Just outside the cabin, a gibbering phantasm was scratching the walls, as if trying to peel away the hull in a desperate attempt to escape.
Meanwhile, in the opposite cabin, Max was standing on a struggling Jack's shoulders, yelling into the resisting gramocon. "John! I know you can hear me in there! How much longer have we got? I'm up to here with the f____ing wall-faces! You hear me?"
"Wibble wibble sneep, snill fib-"
"Don't you give me that shit, you good-for-nothing bonebag! I'm gonna keep screaming into this gods-damned trunk until you give me-"
The tone of the engine's moaning rose. Before he could react, the vessel accelerated rapidly, causing Max to fall off Jack's shoulders. And onto Fancy Pants.

The EdgeSetting: The Edge

The Imagiverse occupies one half of a spherical universe, as to make it easier for humans to comprehend it's structure. On one hemisphere, Reality operates like clockwork under laws of physics and logic, while on the other, Fantasy manifests all dreams and imaginings of the inhabitants of a blue planet. As you get closer to the equator, where the two hemispheres touch, the two dimensions begin to mix, adopting certain aspects from each other. For Reality, this means inexplainable phenomenon that does not correlate with the known physical laws. For Fantasy, this means that beings of a Fantastic nature are less able to survive, as they reach a no-man's land untouched by Creators and inhabited by unknown terrors. The equator, otherwise known as the Rim or Creator's End, is, theoretically, an area of spacetime where the ratio of Fantasy and Reality is equal, although it is uncertain what this means in practice. It is very likely this is in no way good.

Alone in the cold depths of deep space, a metallic shape glides, trailing a blue, shifting mist behind it. With the exception of the occasional nebula, the Edge is seemingly barren. Where the Outer Centre was rife with strange activity, the Edge was bleak and unpleasant. What was once nearly certain, is now rife with uncertainty.
Within the hull of the S.S Victoria, a warbling song plays through the multiple mouths of the gramocom, serving only to punctuate the uneasy quiet. This near-cessation of noise, save for the almost-oppressive hum of the engine, was initially taken as an improvement of the invasive smorgasbord of noises that filled the Threshold. Now, as the excitement dissipated, it only grew more profound.
The volunteers, once again, have a moment of peace before they reach a suitable world to explore. The present enigma stands; how will they spend this moment?
The silence pounding on Vragi's ears like a particularly uncomfortable cabin pressure was thankfully broken by song lilting through the speakers. Mind slightly more at ease, the dwarf took a moment to ponder all of... whatever they had just been through. Although thinking about it might not have been wise, his thoughts immediately turned to the mysterious phantoms. The chaos around them may have worn off for now but as usual a flock of questions raced around his head like seagulls caught in a storm that had just started raining chips.

“Whatever those spectral folk were,” he mused, “it’s a right shame they couldn’t have stayed longer. The knowledge I’ll bet they could tell. Oh, er, not that I would want them to keep suffering like that or anything.” He added hastily, “I meant more, it’s a shame they were in those circumstances, whatever exactly those were.”

He scratched his head in shame. He wasn’t lying, it was more a case of tactlessness.
The raccoon, or rather, what had taken the body of one, now spent time in a corner to herself, grooming herself to a small hand mirror, as best she could with a varmint's form. She wasn't prettying up, however, but studying the extent of her... transformation. The exposure had given back her voice, the box no longer necessary for communication, aside from that, she had become a little taller, and her coat now had a more silvery sheen to it. The tendrils on the back of her head, as well as down her back had become more visible, resembling black hair. No change can occur without adversity, she thought to herself. And that was quite adverse. She put down the mirror and hopped off from the bed, heading to the door.

"Strange... I have this strange feeling of déjà vu," Grimms said as he stood motionless in front of a porthole. He caught a glimpse of Basalah, as she preferred to be called, slinking out the door. He said nothing, as she exited, and simply turned back to look out the porthole again. "Getting a bit of cabin fever, I imagine," he said.

She had not turned to go to the engine, but rather, she was in search of the rest of the crew, in hopes that would give her something to do for the remainder until they hit some form of land, hoping that some even existed.
As Basalah left her cabin, she would be joined by the occupants of the opposite cabin. Their expressions wore varying degrees of apprehension (with the exception of Max, whose own uncomfort translated into a common emotion from his palette, which was irritation, which was amplified by the omnipresent music), equally unnerved by the near-silence of the Edge. They would not see Basalah until Adam almost trips over her, yelping as his stray foot made a pirouette and sent him staggering into a wall.
Max would turn back to Adam to chastise him, before noticing the rodent. "Having a good trip so far?" he asked, referring to their first, eventful encounter with hyper-fantasy. "Well, hopefully that'll be the worst part over with, before we find a new world to run through. We're just gonna head to the Cafetorium, get our heads together for the trip. You're free to come with us, as well as the others." On that note, he would motion Adam to follow them and head down the corridor. Adam's gait as he went down the corridor was much like a marionette with a few strings cut; his long limbs swung unsteadily, now cautious of hitting any more short creatures on his way.
Now having spent some time in the Edge, occasionally one's ears would pick up something from the almost-silent gulfs of space, a strange, almost musical noise ringing just outside the mortal range of hearing, but nevertheless inciting an unwelcome feeling of dread. Hidden sects of the Imagiverse tell of fundamental tunes and frequencies which correlate to a specific emotion, some of basic emotions like happiness and anger, others of more complex feelings, like the apprehension that an elderly person feels as they approach the end of their life. Said sects claim that the Maker incapsulated these emotions into these sounds, for reasons only known to the Maker.
This particular sound, heard almost only in the Edge, is said to invoke dread of the unknown, an emotion more related to the ancient beings that lurk between the stars and of the hidden horrors within the dark of space. To replicate it, one would need a theromin that exists in 5 dimensions at once. However, since text cannot make sounds, an attempt will be made on how it might sound in words:
WEEE-OOO, Weee-ooo, weee-ooooooo.......
“Wondering if you might’ve seen something alike to this before?” asked Vragi, glancing at Basalah’s exit as he stood not far from Grimms. His new goggles made him look something like an aged but rather flamboyant pop musician who’d just joined a LARP club.

Curious what exactly the full view was out there, the dwarf scuttled over to the chest to retrieve his pack, grabbed a couple of pillows off the beds, and stacked them haphazardly and scrambled onto the unstable construction, balancing precariously as he grasped the edge of the porthole with both hands and peered out.

As he leant forward to get a better view, he unfortunately lost his footing, toppling his support and sending him crashing (albeit softly) to the floor on a heap of bedding. Thinking better of making another attempt, he hastily gathered the mess up in a bundle and waddled away with it, acting as nonchalant as was doable.

“I think I might go join the others, see if I can get the run-down on what’s happening next.” He said, throwing the pillows roughly back into place. The dwarf pushed his way through the door, holding it open for a second to look back in case of any response from Grimms.
"Perhaps, out there, is the place of my genesis," Grimms said, still staring out. There was a somberness to his tone, or maybe just apprehension. "Would I even know it if I came to it, though? I've lived so long in another world that it may as well be my native... and yet..."

He glanced back for a moment and then turned, "bah... I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, I think I'd like to stretch my legs as well," he said, before also heading to the door.

Basalah covered her head as nearly a bag of bones, sans the bag, nearly came toppling down upon her. She let out a short grunt, still rather agitated, until seeing the clumsiness of her would-be accidental assailant perform a rather unfortunate ballet. It was small, but for once in a long time the aggressive creature let out a small laugh, unable to contain it further. She then noticed them heading off and scampered over to keep up.

"Hey, it wasn't anything too big, but I do wonder if it was some form of spectral imprint or truly cognitive reflections," she said, trying to spark conversation. "Also, notice anything different? Huh? Huuuh?" she asked, pointing to herself with all four of her claws. "Hearing anything different..?"
Max would pause on a door through which the rest had gone, emerging a fair distance away, and look back at Basalah. "Well, you're looking more like something we'd normally kill on sight," he said. "Those tentacles are always a dead giveaway for demons. No worries about that, though. Also, you're talkin' without that staticky stuff from that voicebox. Bet the Threshold broke it, 'ey?" Giving Basalah a grin, Max would walk through the door and join the rest of the Chosen Few, who were currently a long way away; if one didn't want to travel the whole mile distance from one end of the vessel to another, the doors served as excellent shortcuts, provided that you remember where each door lead.
Eventually, they would reach the Cafetorium, where the window which occupied almost all of the outside wall provided a view of the Edge. As was mentioned before, the Edge seems to hold much less activity than the Outer Centre, instead providing a haunting picture of a cosmos leaning closer to cold, logical Reality than the spontaneously vibrant Fantasy that the crew lived on. Here, it was uncertain that anything lived in these gulfs, save the currently thin tendrils of a psychopathic near-omnipotent being that desires nothing but the extinction of Fantasy.
Seemingly unaware of all this existential terror, Max and the others would wander to the Cornucopia machine, where they fabricated various drinks before sitting down on one of the long tables, their backs to the window-wall. "It'll be a while before we reach land," said Fancy amiably. "Might as well stretch our legs and kick back for a bit, get to know each other a bit more."
"Yeh," said Adam, cradling a glass of milk, a textbook beverage for the calcium-based undead.
"Feel free to get a drink or something from the thingy," said Fancy. "If it does what John says it does, it should give you any drink you want."
Vragi caught up with the others just as Basalah was inquiring about her new look. Under the goggles, he screwed up his tiny eyes in concentration and peered at the Duchess. He wracked his brains for a moment or so as if struggling to grasp exactly what had changed and what that meant.

“You’ve…aged!” he concluded triumphantly, probably misunderstanding the new colour her coat had taken on. He beamed at everyone, apparently not seeing anything rude about the statement he had just made.

Waddling into the cafetorium with the rest of the party, the dwarf caught sight of the huge window. A mature or sensible adult would certainly recognize at least a sense of cosmic horror in such a situation. While he was technically an adult, Vragi was, for better or worse, neither of these things and so giddily bounded over to the wall.

“Ah, finally a view I can see!” he whispered, staring hungrily out into the space as his eyes glazed over under their glassy shields. He appeared to be lost in thought and only vaguely picked up the gist of the conversation going on. Shortly after he ambled over to the strange machine that was procuring drinks from seemingly nowhere, joining the back of the queue so he could gawp at the thing without holding anyone up. He then ambled up to the table, holding a tankard of something that frothed fiercely like some poisonous dragon’s bile (although it emitted a rather pleasant sweet scent).

“How long did it take you to learn those shortcuts? In the corridor. If you don’t mind me asking.” The dwarf inquired, after having briefly introduced himself to the Chosen Few. He still appeared mildly out of breath from the ordeal, as he had taken the direct route. He didn't admit that this had been so he could try and count all the doors on the way.
"Hah! Broke it? More like it fixed me!" Basalah began before looking down at her claws. "Well... not quite... but a hypothesis has been proven probable, that endurance and will are factors of ascension. Admittedly for a vermin shell, it has become more manageable, a stature, while still short is no less bigger and more complex than its default state. Nowhere near what is necessary to trigger a cascade event."

Her somewhat thoughtful tranquility would be disrupted, however, by a voice from behind.


The raccoon's hairs bristled up her spine, her claws tightened into fists, and her entire body tensed up. "I'll have you know," she growled. "I'm neither a demon nor a hag!" There's a brief pause as her eyes shift around looking somewhat embarassed. "B-besides, I've grown fond of this vessel, and I won't have it b-be mocked."
Max would take a swig of his drink, a canned beverage labelled "Bloxy Cola", and swish it around his mouth as his considered the dwarf's question. Swallowing, he finally answered, "Well, we've been hanging around for a few days before the journey, to get the feel of the place. Apparently he didn't even bother to make a map for the ship, so we had to memorise each shortcut." He took another swig of his Cola. "Sometimes, you gotta learn quick to last as long as we have out there."
"The numberth on the doorth help too," contributed Jack, drinking a glass of water with an admirable attempt at preventing himself from spitting it out due to long-term gag training.
"Yeah, and that."
Despite their initial complaints, or at least the complaints of the Robloxian, the Few seemed quite at ease so far from home. Perhaps it was years of experience with the unknown, always on the move to worlds that had only few similar physical laws between them. They certainly had the air of people who have seen everything possible to be seen by mortal man and more.
"Tho, while we're waiting, wanna tell uth about where you guyth came from?" asked Jack. "Jutht to break the ithe a bit and get to know each other."
"Well yeah," said Fancy, a touch reproachfully. "That's pretty much the point of this chat, Jack. I already said. But yeah, where do you guys hail from?"
Vragi seemed to have offended Basalah - any reason that his comment could have been considered rude had clearly gone over his head before he had made the remark. “Ah...OK, noted!” he blurted, waving his hands, perhaps in apology or defense. What exactly this ‘ascension’ was that the raccoon was seeking he had no idea, but he thought he’d best avoid prying for now so as to not cause further insult.

He nodded as if making a mental note as the Robloxian answered his question. Learning the layout of the ship sounded a good challenge to him so he’d be sure to have a go when he got the chance. He was just taking a long, thoughtful swig of his beverage when one of the few inquired about the newcomers’ homes. Pushing his tankard to the side so it obscured only half of his face from everyone’s vision, he took it upon himself to go first.

“Oh, well my hometown Nidvell is very dark and stuffy and mostly underground. And there’s soot everywhere.” The dwarf said jovially. “We mostly trade in smithing, see, so it’s very much like one huge furnace. Most of the light comes from the lava streams and glowing algae in the water.”
Basalah rolled her eyes and decided to shrug off the dwarf's clear inability to catch on to social cues. Recent unpleasantness aside, she shouldn't let these matters bother her, she did after all recently reacquire the ability of speech, without a ridiculous voice synthesis device. Besides, something else had now taken precedence over a misstep with her pride, an inquiry: from where does she hail from?

As the dwarf finished, she supposed it was her turn to explain. It wasn't pleasant to recall things of her past, but there was no point to be so secretive now.

"Weeeeelllllll," she said with an odd fluctuation. She held her throat, looking a bit perplexed, coughing to clear it. "I come from the world of Tzel... ah, imagine a land blanketed in perpetual dusk, illuminated by the fauna and flora, and a gentle warmth that flows throughout. Now imagine the other side of this world, cold, desolate, and blanketed in darkness instead, where people who have descended from banished dissidents now live in perpetual turmoil. That is where I'm from. Believe it or not, I wasn't always like this, I was taller, eyes of jade, hair of emerald... a green torch in a dark world. I was... I waaaaasssss..." She began to trail off, looking at her clawed hands with a perplexed look. "Mother named me Basalah, courage, for nothing startled me... saaaaaid I held lots of promise for our people."

"As for me," Grimm's voice chimed in, as Basalah's eyes grew distant. Grimms walked in, adjusting his tie, apparently having had little trouble traversing the ship's oddly warped space. "From where I came originally? I really don't know, the world I grew up in was certainly not my native. The people that raised me, a nomadic lot, said I fell in from the sky, from 'Orion's armpit' they said, Betelgeuse, the red star. Betelgeuse Grimms, get it?" he continued, chuckling a bit as steam blasted out from the break in his armor around the neck. "I started young as an adventurer, a hero, though I admittedly did it for the thrill. You know, fighting monsters, averting disaster, smashing large stones with my head and flexing... lots of flexing... looking back on it, I was quite an.. hmmm... idiot. My wife found me incorrigible, until she tricked me into learning humility, getting me to admit that there were things I was just awful at. Like... almost everything involving not slaying monsters or smashing something... and er, reading. Anyways, I really don't know from where I originally came from, I've thankfully ruled out all sorts of aeons, daemons, angels, and gods. Closest I've come to in my hunt for knowledge is Fae, or something akin, but I am neither malign, nor pleasure in toying with the lives of others... at least, not usually."

"So, what, you think you'll find home out here somewhere in the tumor of the multiverse?" Basalah said, letting out a snicker.

"Well, that and when I fought a swamp witch, she said we both came from a place beyond the veil of stars, y'know, as she tried to gnaw off my head."

"Wh... what..? Basalah muttered, looking perplexed at the concept, imagining a green human hopelessly trying to chew through Grimm's hard shell.

"Er, she had absorbed many beasts and animals of the swamp, so she had amalgamated into a massive and horrible monstrous chimera... thing? Just to get an idea of what I was dealing with. Actually, maybe she wasn't that horrible... maybe it was the fact most of what I saw in the fight was endless rows of teeth. Anyways, she lost interest in our constant stalemate, thought I was the thing missing her being, found out she was my twin sister, er, liberal on the 'twin' part, and... and... well, here I am searching beyond the veil of stars."

"Your life is... weird, Basalah said.

"Yes... yes it is," he said, nodding in agreement.
Max regarded his Robloxian soda, turning the can this way and that, as he listened while the others listened more intently. While the dwarf's homeland was, typically, an underground smithy city, it was becoming more apparent about the oddity of the other two as they described their home; one split between light and dark, and the other... Well, it was unclear where Grimms hailed from, but the testimony of his twin sister certainly hinted towards someplace celestial, or, a favourite word between them when regarding anything beyond their worlds, eldritch.

Max would lean forward, resting his elbows on the table, as if to relay a riveting story. "Well, I come from this world that we call Robloxia. Mainly suburbs and cities, I don't think I've ever seen a blade of grass, considering there isn't any parks. Just miles and miles of tall, shiny buildings filled with Robloxians. To a man, we rarely leave our apartments; pretty much all the time, except for sleeping, we hook ourselves into these machines which connect to this big ol' server where you can create anything you want. "Powering Imagination", that's their motto. Of course, I don't use those machines as often, since I'm from a Builder caste; those are the guys who build those buildings. Dunno why, but I was made of much more stronger stuff than the others, could carry five I-beams without breaking a sweat. Nowadays, John would say it was probably the Creators leaving a mark on me as if to say 'this guy right here, he's gonna be the muscle of our little group when he's older', but I just think there was some sort of bug in wherever we were hatched or built that added too much muscle."

A few seconds of awkward silence would pass between the other Chosen Few before Max turned to his colleagues and rumbled, "Hey, don't get antsy or anything; I'm only stating it as it is. Anyone of you wanna talk about your homeworld next?"

Fancy would clear his throat. "Well, I dunno if I have that much to say about my world. I come from Squiggleville, just a regular place, although it doesn't have a third dimension as far as I remember. To be honest, it came as a shock when I was brought out of my world, seeing people going forwards and backwards as well as left and right and realising how shorthanded Squiggleville was in terms of spatial whatsits. It was all drawn as well, although not like pencil-and-paper drawn, I don't think, but... I dunno. I can't really describe it. It felt real to me, but when I saw the Imagiverse I realised that it was just... something out of some kid's sketchbook." His brow wrinkled, indeed like paper.

Glug-glug-glug. It was the sound of Jack pensively taking a swig of his water. Forcing himself to swallow, he said in that special bright tone one takes in an attempt to dispel awkwardness, "Well, I come from Toontown. It'th uthually a pretty happy plathe full of fun and practical joketh, eckthept when the Cogth are around. Their jutht thethe mechanical men in thuitth alwayth trying to thell you dethk toyth and thwindling you out of your jellybeanth. Bathically the only guyth that can put a Toon down, and I mean really down. They've got headquarterth in all four cornerth of Toontown which we regularly raid to try and thlow them down, but really, it'th what I've heard John call a "war of attrition". Other than that, it'th a nithe plathe."

The Chosen Few turned to Adam, who looked back with a momentarily blank expression. Then, finally realising what they were expecting, he said, "Oh, err. Well, me and John come from Earth- or, err, Anti-Earth, I fink it's called out in the Imagiverse. We lived in the 1890s and in a rich family. Our dad owned a bunch of factories and companies, and our mum... I guess, was just our mum. I remember her being very beautiful, although I can't remember the colour of her eyes for some reason; can't remember whether they were blue or green. Anyway, we also had another brother called Nick who was a bastard, according to John. Got into a lot of trouble when he was younger, and he did us even more trouble. Wrestling and slamming my head into the wall, for one thing. In the end, our dad sent us to New Orleans to find some girls to marry, cause that's what you do when you're old enough. Then Nick heard word about some fortune teller, brought John with him, next thing I knew, John was buried in a local graveyard and I got attacked by some shadowy figure in an alleyway that looked like Nick. Other than that, I don't know what to tell you."

This time, the silence was thick with terrible retrospection of Adam's summary. He was known to the group as being so emptyheaded that his mind was a vacuum, with only sparse sparks of thought flickering within. They had heard John's summary of their past, which was more filled with spit and venom when their third brother was mentioned, but Adam's blank and vague delivery seemed to make it much worse. As a man, they theorised if these beatings of Nick inflicted more than bruises.

As they stood silent, however, the volunteers may notice something outside the window. As they went deeper into the Edge, it seemed that the horizon held slightly more stars and nebulas and other cosmic constructs that mortals could not identify. It now seemed as if the stars were winking out, in a thick line, as if they were being obscured by something. Something vaguely serpentine but almost completely invisible, or rather, visible by the negative space it occupied. Somewhere at the end of this oblong blot in the sky, a red star flared.