For those interested in character sheets and other meta goodies in future, this story is also over on Spacebattles.
Also, check out both Worm, if you somehow haven't, and Stars Without Number, which recently released a second edition with a more freeform, modern system, and which offers both editions of the game for free! This story is based off the first edition of the game, which is closer to Traveler or DnD in terms of its leveling and systems.
Finally, This story will see some basic 4th-wall breaks, but the SI isn't aware of the outside world or stuff like dice roll results. Mostly, he's just talking to himself, occasionally with an audience in mind, while hoping he's not crazy already. Hopefully you will give that style a chance, but I understand if it's too much for some readers.
With all that said, on with the fic!
I woke up in a strange place.
Not strange because it was weird, or horrific, or anything. No, it was just a basement. I'd been sleeping on the floor in a basement. The problem was, I had no idea how I'd gotten here. Last thing I remembered, I'd been going to sleep, in my own bed, at my own home. I didn't even recognize this as one of my friend's basements. It was just a musty place with a lot of stacked boxes and a concrete floor.
It didn't make sense. If I'd been kidnapped, there was no money for the ransom, and I wasn't sore or tied up. I almost never get drunk or high, and never without friends around, so that would make even less sense explaining my current situation.
"What the hell…" I muttered to myself, getting off the floor. I put a hand to my head to shake off my familiar waking headache. I froze as I looked at my wrist.
There was something strapped to the underside of my right forearm.
I cautiously looked it over, rotating my arm to check it out. The machine consisted of a long, matte black panel with some buttons, a few seams, and a closed slot on the hand end. It didn't look like a cuff or anything. it even had a pretty simple latch on the strap.
"No, seriously, what the hell?" I said, a little more exasperated. Was I in some Saw fanatic's basement? Was that a tracker or shock collar or something? I patted myself down, and more surprises followed.
So, first off, my clothing was just weird. All crafted out of an unfamiliar material that was simultaneously reminiscent of silk and expensive moisture-wicking fabric, mostly black with grey accents, with enough zippered pockets spread across the set to make a steampunk cosplayer blush. The cuts were tailor-grade, with long sleeves and pants that were the perfect lengths for their respective limbs, and a quick check of underwear and socks found them to be of similar quality. I had only the vaguest sense of how expensive they would be, and that sense was yelling 'a lot' at the top of its lungs. To top it off, I had a very expensive-looking backpack, the kind that manages to carry a whole bunch of stuff without getting in your way. A backpack that flawlessly matched my clothing in style and materials.
I ended up laying stuff out on a nearby box lid, occasionally glancing around to make sure nothing was creeping up on me. Not too helpful when half the basement was hidden behind towers of totes, but still.
Inside the pack, there were several cloth kits simply labeled "Survival" and "Medical", a random, really odd-looking battery thing, and one really big sealed packet, like the kind gauze came in, which was unlabeled. Also, my waist had a sheath on it, containing a ten-inch, carbon-black kukri/bowie hybrid, and my pocket had a very strange-looking phone. All angular, and it had no screen edges, ports, or any visible camera; the thing looked like a polished slab of hematite. Only reason I knew what it was? The screen turned on when I pulled it out. But even then, the interface was unfamiliar and complex, more like an old computer's bare-bones UI than anything.
So, I was in a basement with basic survival gear, a weird forearm-thing I didn't dare mess with, and a phone I couldn't understand how to use. Sighing, I put the stuff away. No more wasting time, I needed to leave.
I made my way around the tower of storage, and came to another stop.
That's a bomb.
Point towards being kidnapped by a fan of horror.
I mean, it's possible it wasn't a bomb. Perfectly reasonable for a small, football-sized device to have a digital timer.
Okay, serious time. The clock is ticking, in the most literal way possible. I ran for the staircase, started banging on the door. "Hello? Help, help, HELP! OPEN THE DOOR GODAMMIT!" Nothing. I tried smashing down the door as best I could, but it wasn't happening. "Seriously, who has a fucking solid wood door on their basement! Let me out of here!"
I gave up, and made my way back to the bomb. If I was gonna die anyway, at least I'd die trying to figure out how to stop it from happening.
The apparatus was encased in a translucent blue shell, with a small hatch door near the timer. Through the shell I could dimly make out wires and circuitry. According to the timer, I had fifteen minutes to live.
Tech/Pretech Check (Int): Rolled 10+1 vs. difficulty 11. Pass.
I sat down next to it, and got my third surprise of the evening. I knew exactly what to do, and I also knew what was going on here.
This was a matter transmutation bomb, Tech Level 5. It would turn a city block into glass, and it was a prototype. I had to defuse nine trigger mechanisms, including a trigger that went off if the others were disabled and one that set the bomb off 1 minute before the timer if the case was open. My 'metatool' should have the tools I needed to disable it, but the bomb won't be functional afterward.
I was a fucking Stars Without Number character. And this was Bakuda's work.
I got to work. Leaning over, I pressed a button on my metatool, and a miniature arc welder extended into my hand. I cut open the latch, and swapped it for a more mundane pair of wire clippers. Letting myself go on autopilot, I thought about my situation.
Okay, I'm in the Wormverse. No biggie, right? Just another cape. I was me, so that means one of two things. I talked aloud as I worked, to keep my thoughts straight.
"Hypothesis 1: Random Omnipotent Beings exist. I doubt it, but it could be the case, I guess. I'd like to think God didn't screw with people like that, though." I snipped a wire, and swapped tools to a pair of needlenose pliers, the wire clippers retracting back into the casing of the metatool.
"Hypothesis 2: My memories are false. That would be a feat almost beyond belief, unless I've been matrix'd or the laws of physics are a lie, so I'm gonna keep assuming that they are indeed real." Two triggers down. The third was easier. "Counterpoint: Crainial exists, if this is the Wormverse. Counter-counterpoint, my memories would have no reason to be accurate in that regard." I stopped the train of thought, focusing on a particularly difficult bit of trigger mechanism. That path led to madness anyway.
"Hypothesis 3: I am being inserted into Worm via fanfiction. This is… probably the best one yet, unfortunately." I thought about that a little while, unscrewing a panel as I did so. "What class am I?" I realized I still had a headache, and it clicked. "…I'm probably a psychic. So, this isn't one of my friends writing me, because I'm the only one who ever bothers playing them. Which means… real me is a fucking cocksucker who wants me to go insane."
I sighed, and went back to work. This was gonna be tiring.
As I snipped the final deadman switch, I realized something else.
"I could have picked the lock this whole time." I facepalmed. The bomb would have still gone off, but… my train of thought trailed off. But what? I'd save myself? There was no way I could've convinced people to evacuate in time.
"I hate you, me."
I picked the lock. Opening the door, I found myself in a pub. It must be that magical time when nobody was here, I guess. So, if that was a Bakuda bomb, then I was in Brockton Bay, and her bombing spree was probably about to happen, if it wasn't ongoing. So, this was likely a Nazi bar. That made me feel much better about breaking the front door when I failed to pick it correctly.
Encounter cleared. 700 xp.
Now on the street, I set about finding a map, or bus, or something. I needed to get a handle on my location, and to form a game plan. The good news was, I was definitely downtown, and I could get glimpses of the infamous Protectorate HQ. The bad news was that I didn't dare join the Protectorate, because lie detectors, background checks, etc.
I pulled out my commpad- the phone thing- and messed around in the settings. If I remembered the rules right- yeah, I could connect to cell tower networks pretty easily. Yay, piracy! Thirty minutes in this dimension and I'm already a criminal on multiple counts!
I dialed 411. Not the most useful thing, but it would hopefully help.
"Welcome to the Brockton Bay Information Hotline. Due to unexpected traffic, there are no available live assistants at this time. Please hold."
Or not, I thought as I hung up. That answered one question, though. Today was likely the first or second day of the bombing spree, before they had enough operators for the disaster call load. I mentally shrugged, and headed in the direction of the sea. If anywhere would have a bus route, it would be the Boardwalk. Plus, good reference point for stuff in Brockton Bay.
One thing I realized as I walked; if real me is writing a fanfiction, then I have readers to entertain. Avoid certain activities, don't use my real information, spout exposition mentally. It was a really weird thought, and an uncomfortable one. But hey, they probably already noticed that I talk to myself, so…
"Hey," I said, since nobody was around, "So, you're probably wondering why I was so pissed off earlier. I just kind of get the implications, but SWN is not nearly as popular as DnD, so…" I crossed the street. "Stars Without Number is this Sci-fi Sandbox RPG. Great world, cool mechanics, awesome technology, the works. It has three classes: Warriors, who are great combatants and have shitloads of health; Experts, who are basically Uber or Victor, but useful; and Psychics, who are about as close to parahumans as you can get.
"Psychics have a cool backstory too, but I won't bore you with that right now. They also have major downsides, and that's my issue. They have really shit hit points, for one; they only learn a few select skills quickly, and the rest cost a ton; and they have cool psychic powers, but those have some major fine print attached." I felt really silly talking to myself, but I was on a roll now. I stroked my goatee while I thought about how to continue.
"So… basically, think of psychics as magic users from your favorite game. Any magic user has MP or PP or something, a way to track how many spells you can cast, how much they cost, stuff like that. I do too, but the fun part," I said with false cheer, "comes when I run out. You see, most magic users become useless when they have no MP, but I get another option; I can Torch." I crossed another street, nodding to a guy on a scooter as he waited for the light. Once I was alone, I continued.
"Psychic powers are channeled through the brain, and we're talking major energy levels here. If I run out of PP, that means I've exhausted my brains' trained channels, and cannot safely use my powers. At that point, if I want, I can force my powers to burn through the channels anyway, aka Torching. When I do, I get to use any power for free; but the real me rolls a dice, and unless I get lucky, I lose a point of either Constitution or Wisdom, permanently. Con loss means I get more weak and sickly, Wis loss means I make worse decisions, both affect my skill rolls, and if one of them hits 3, I'll be lucky if I die. The other option is permanent, incurable, homicidal insanity, with a side of unlimited cosmic power."
I kicked a bit of gravel, shoving my hands in my pockets. "The real kicker is that I'm in the Wormverse. All I need to deplete my reserves is one bad fight, and that's almost guaranteed. So, I can choose to either die when that happens, or choose permanent physical or mental injury. And with Golden Morning coming up, the only way I avoid that is to ramp my way to immortality. Mr. Space Whale is gonna blow up the multiverse in two years, and that's not enough time to escalate sufficiently. Which means that I have to kill Jack Slash, so he doesn't set it off too soon."
I paused, finally coming to the shoreline. Before me stretched the Bay, with the massive monolith of Tinkertech that the fandom called the Rig outlined in dark relief against the morning sun.
"Which means I have less than a month to figure out how the hell I survive Leviathan."