Wanderer's Station
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You boot up the ancient software, reverently following the stained instructions as if they were the key to a new world.

Loading…

Archivist Software [version 1.000…5]
(c) [ERROR: Time not marked] Wanderer’s Association. All rights reserved.


There it is. The interface to face it all. You search the directory list at the end of the instruction pamphlet and scan for an interesting entry. Your eyes stop at the innovative title, “Vultures of the Pharanax".

‘”Vultures of the Pharanax.txt”’ is not recognized as an internal or external command, an executable program, or a file.

Whoops. You look back at the directory and double-check the entry name. You realize that you had read it wrong: it was “Cultures of the Pharanax”, not "Vultures". After you spend a moment cursing your dyslexia, you take another shot at the computer.


A window opens up. Finally.


Opening. . . m7a audio file detected. . . Transcribing (English). . . Finished!

[START]

Hey there, everyone! Welcome back to Interstellar Radio Channel 5, or I-R-C-5 for short! Today, we'll be informing you on one of the more cultural and mysterious topics out there: the people of a whole 'nother galaxy. Specifically, we'll talk about the Pharanax Galaxy, which scientists discovered back in 3789, where they were greeted for the second time in the history by sentient life.

The Pharanax Galaxy is especially known for its inhabitants, most notably The Whoremongers of Misty Mountain. The planet that the Whoremongers reside on is called Cradus, located in the Lamex star system; oh, and by the way, the names regarding geographic locations throughout this recording will, for the most part, be phonetic translations, as per the Intergalactic Translation Code with the Pharanax and the Milky Way. Excepting, of course, the Misty Mountains—an extremely frigid mountain range, cold for even the natives, where the main interstellar government building is found.

Speaking of the Misty Mountains, it must be known that the mountain range remains one of the few spots on Cradus that are open to the intergalactic public, who have definitely taken notice. The mountain range features several resort spots packed with fully automated recreation and restaurants to appreciate the arctic wonder for what it is. Some of the more well-liked activities include Monger Skiing, which mainly focuses on sliding down snowy hills on all fours, and Ice Kick, a hardy but rewarding sport that involves kicking and breaking cubes of solid ice—and yes, there is still our favorite H-2-O there—into shards that are also brutally hit into opposing goals.

Delicacies include stir-fried engloar, a common farm animal that is reminiscent of cows, fresh korun, a minty legume packed with vitamins and protein, and, you’ve guessed it: a specially fermented drink known as freklin, a surprising party drink to some, as the impairment level of one serving of this tangy beverage is more than our average shot of hard liquor here on Earth.

Another main attraction of the Misty Mountains is the Interstellar Hall of Affairs and the nearby museums, the hub of most of the government work on Cradus. Certain hearings are occasionally open to tourists and even come with translator devices, although it is recommended to learn some Mongerian, the official language, before going. But the fancy affairs are not the only alluring appeal: even if you aren’t well-versed in the local language, one can still appreciate the pure architectural beauty of the blue-clad structure around them.

Stony swirls and smooth, flowing edges are characteristic of the Whoremongers’ building style, which can almost always be traced back to the architecture of the first empire on Cradus, which was even more so famed at the time because of the difficulty of producing such work with science lacking industry.

For more information on the history, architecture, and human interactions with the Whoremongers—and travel tickets if you’re interested—be sure to check out the official ambassador website, w-w-w-dot-pharanax-ambassadors-dot-gov! Now, at this point, most of you are definitely itching to hear more about the culture of this society, but before we get into their culture, let's take a brief second to describe this race from outer space for those listening who haven't seen photos from another world yet.

The biological, anatomical, and physical descriptions of the Whoremongers are just as elaborate as humans—very varied, that is, with many races and regional differences—and since this is just an overview of the inhabitants of the Pharanax, we won't cover it today, but definitely refer to w-w-w-dot-pharanax-ambassadors-dot-gov for more information!

All you need to know is that they are also humanoids, with bodies not too unlike humanity: They have the same 4 limbs we do in similar positions, and they also have sensory organs in similar spots, although the nose is much lower on the face and more in between the eyes than in humans. Their skin has a reddish tone to it, with some having a dark maroon, while others possess a bright red to rival our chili peppers here on Earth. They also have six fingers instead of five—a quirk of evolution that may be attributed to the sizes of trees and a need to use their branches as tool handles, according to "Evolution In Isolated Space", a university paper by a team of space-faring scientists, whose website with all of their public research can be found in the description of this recording.

Like us homo sapiens in the Milky Way, there are two biological sexes, which can be easily equated to the males and females in our world. We will talk more specifically about the cultural roles they each play in our society in a second, but the biological aspect on its own is a new shade of sky. Similar to humans, Whoremongers exhibit sexual dimorphism: the males develop faster physically, leading to an early buildup of muscle and types of motor control that would be useful in a hostile environment. The females, on the other hand, develop much faster mentally and reach a higher peak intelligence by the end of their development phase, a very useful asset in a hostile environment.

Moving on, the Whoremongers, as their name is roughly translated, are also known for their deep-rooted culture, which was so deep-rooted to the point where they had declared as "the official culture to be used on all-star systems bearing [their] claim" (“Ask the Universe Dad”, 3901). Despite this, religion is minimal, with the Whoremongers favoring a simple belief system revolving around one true God, a system that will serve as the foundation for one of our next recordings.

In essence, life for the Whoremongers is focused highly on unity, but also on rivalry and honor; even their translated name shows that: "Whoremongering", is stated to be "the traditional practice of acquiring several wives and forming unofficial ties with them, while the wives are unable to have more than typically one or a few ties and ties can be sold and traded for value purposes" (Intergalactic Code of Conduct Between the Milky Way and the Pharanax, 3000).

To attain such ties, men in Whoremonger societies typically challenge other men and place bets. However, despite the zero-sum nature of such conduct, a sense of sportsmanship is still somehow maintained, and men who often challenge each other are more friendly rivals than vicious enemies.

But at the end of the day, the ties you have, whatever your gender, is the main determiner in your place in their social society. Because of this, kidnapping and memory erasure is a high and serious crime throughout the Whoremonger’s colonies, and have raised a security concern regarding tourism, especially since some consider ties with other races to be exotic and usually consider other races as inferior.

However, that is not to say that they don’t have ambitions and goals besides having kids with as many wives and husbands as possible: education and exercise are viewed as necessary values in order to attain success and glory for both the family and the home race.

In terms of Sol years, young Whoremongers go through a phase commonly called Rising, in which basic motor and learning skills are developed, from birth to 2 years old. The next phase, known as Raising, is where the two sexes develop separately in terms of specific skills and attributes and last from age 2 to age 11.

During this time, Whoremongers are put through rigorous schooling that covers sports, general education topics, and social skills. Unlike the school systems on Earth in the last century—or, to some critics, in this century as well—schooling is well-funded, and all subjects are understood to be equally important, like the mastery of fine arts, history, and social sciences, as some sources say, although recent events that we won’t discuss today suggest otherwise.

Whatever the conditions, this is the equivalent of primary and secondary schooling on Earth. Next, Whoremongers enter Rating, where Whoremongers ages 12 all the way to 21 begin higher education and training in a field of their choice. This is roughly the equivalent of tertiary education on Earth, except almost all Mongers graduate with the skills necessary to contribute to society, a custom carried over from the very first empire. According to surveys done by local researchers, common fields include security, medicine, teaching, law, research and development, housing, and delivery—the latter two of which have become especially valued as interplanetary colonization increased.

After that…Congrats! If you’ve done exceptionally well in your learning, you may have already been recognized for your efforts and approached with a job offer. If not, you’ll still have plenty of spaces to look, because, with the size of the empire, workers are always in need. Alternatively, if you were one of the few that couldn’t keep in control their conduct behaviorally and academically…You still have one last shot at redemption through lesser tasks that are usually regarded as menial labor, and education is available after two years of such work.

Once the traditional education is finished, at around age 21, Whoremongers are thought to be in the final phase known as Raining and will continue to remain in this phase for the rest of their lives. This is where most of the rivalries and pleasantries happen in Whoremonger social life. At this stage, most are now considered adults in Monger society, and this is marked by greater independence, separate housing, the pursuit of improvement in other fields, and the procurement of ties.

Because of the huge expanse of the Whoremonger empire, most adults leave their home planet in search of new thrills, or simply move away to one of the spacious houses that can now be built and easily afforded on some of the newly colonized worlds. In short, life for young adult Whoremongers is a good one right now, with few wars on the horizon, drastic declines in crime, and an ever-growing increase in population—and spouses—compounded by the fact that the culture of the Whoremongers has effectively prevented the population from undergoing the fourth and most of the third stages of the demographic transition.

As for the art and sports of the Whoremonger culture, with all of the variations on Earth and a human civilization that merely spans around 10 star systems, you can expect that a civilization with near 200 star systems, most of which have customs that span at least a century, there will be an insane amount of differences from planet to planet. We’ll go over some of the more popular ones here:

  • Ice Kick, as mentioned before, is popular on worlds where snow and ice are abundant.
  • Air Brawling, where participants jump from high altitudes and fight for ties, is popular throughout the Whoremonger civilization. It doesn't have to be fought necessarily to the death, but around 22% of air brawlers die each year.
  • And finally, Spike Toss is played all over the Whoremonger territory as well. In this sport that takes its roots from pre-hunting exercises, players launch spears through hoops to hit a target on the other side. This remains one of the most competitive sports in the Pharanax and is part of physical education curriculums for all Whoremongers.

As a side note, although the translations make it seem that the Whoremongers are also deeply aware of the intricacies of the English language and other human languages, it must be known that the well-done translations are a culmination of many, many intermediary translators, whose work makes it possible for people like us to create recordings like this—and for people in the Pharanax as well. Translation efforts for those interesting podcasts are ongoing, but you can keep your curious minds of yours calm knowing that translators are hard at work in more than 300 human and Whoremonger languages, and even more so now that college and high school classes are already planned to educate others on the Pharanax.

But obviously, there's much more hype over the Pharanax Galaxy besides just one sentient race: in total, there are two sentient populations, and a few that lived in the past; Recent findings actually indicate that there were three, or even four or five sentient and developed races at one point in the Pharanax, but the reps we've talked to so far have not divulged anything regarding existence—or extinction.

The other confirmed race is known as the Garioms, who are famed for their focus on research and inquiry and are much more hostile to researchers and diplomats from the Milky Way; however, this initial distrust is slowly thawing with the relentless peace efforts on part of activists from both sides—a complete story on its own.

For tonight however, it seems like we've made enough commentary for a whole evening and more. If you liked today's broadcast about the Whoremongers, leave your thoughts and heart this video and we might consider doing another about the other current sentient analogues in the Pharanax, and another about the ones from the past. For now, however, enjoy your weekend and remember to tune in every Thursday from 7-8 PM to hear the latest updates on the situation in another galaxy from our own intergalactic correspondent Solène Yurt.

I am your host, Rogers Brown, signing off. Goodnight!

[END]

Your exhaling condensates on the monitor's screen. That was certainly educational. Leaning back in your chair you can feel the stiffness of the spine setting in. With a stimulated brain, perhaps now was time to see about rotting it to compensate. Fumbling around below the desk, you find an old plastic tray. Blowing the dust off the cracked plastic, you thumb through the cartridges until one catches your eye. A grey piece of plastic with a tape label. "Starsmine".

The cartridge resists slightly as you plug into the port.


Loading. . . redirecting sprite traffic. . . demonitizing the bushnell. . . Prepared!

starsmine.png

------
Welcome to Starsmine! A product of Sierra Outer-Space Inc.
------


You are standing on an empty corridor west of a white chamber door. There is a small bouquet in your hand.

> Look around

Your hands are moist. There are no other beings in the corridor to notice. You can hear something hissing in the vents.

> West


Standing in front of the chamber door you can hear nothing but the hum of the station and the hissing vents.

> West

Raising your hand to the metal door, you rap on it twice. A few moments later, a large figure in a monolithic white space-suit topped off by a large, cylindrical helmet takes up your entire field of vision. It looks like her father is still home.

> Inventory

You currently possess three flowers, wrapped in the finest of plastics. In your pocket, there are two mint Jupitons wrapped in foil. Shoes are on your feet. Father is looking at you. At least, you think so. It's hard to tell through the opaque helmet.

> Offer flowers

Father is not moved by the flowers. There is a large figure in a white spacesuit blocking your way.

> offer Jupiton

You can tell Father is not pleased by your offerings. Perhaps Father is on a diet.

> East

In the corridor East of Father. The vents are hissing here

> Check vent

For a moment after flipping the vent cover, you feel frozen by shock. There is a husky Purple One-Eyed Space Snake staring at you. Among the most venomous and poisonous of all creatures, it lurks in ventilation shafts, plumbing, and the space between walls waiting for an unsuspecting rube to make their last mistake. But it has dead eyes. It's only a snakeskin, whistling as the filtered air is pumped past it.

> Take Space Snake Skin

In hand. In the corridor East of Father. The vents are no longer hissing here

> Offer SpaceSnakeSkin to Father

Finally, your way is cleared as Father stands aside to appreciate the offering. There is an airlock West of you.

> West

Standing at the other of the airlock decontamination chamber is Yei-He, your date. Purple skinned and radiant, with a fully scrubbed hazardous environment outer-space suit covering most of her body. Through the helmet, her eyes smile at you. There is a table, two chairs, and a novelty plaque reading "World's Shittiest Goblin" hanging from the wall.

> Take her hand

Hand in hand, she leads you past the cold aura of Father and into the corridor. You both walk together, enjoying the company of another living being even if they are behind ten layers of protective garments. Soon you two are at the Wanderers Station Junior High. Inside you can hear the sounds of the Quasi-Seasonal Prom.

There is a door North of you. It's atop a short flight of metallic stairs. There is a wastebin here, and loiterers milling about pantomiming smoking.

> Search wastebin

Digging through the trash, empty protein nutrient bottles, soiled sanitary wipes… Aha! There is a multi-tool in here! It is missing all the components but the screwdriver. You take it. Yei-He is staring at you by the door.

> Check loiterers.

They're only here to add to the atmosphere and don't acknowledge your existence. Yei-He enters the Prom without you.

> North

You are standing in front of the double doors leading to the prom. Through the transparent plastic screen masquerading as a window, you can see Yei-He walking away from you towards the dance floor.

> Open door

You enter the Prom. There is a multitude of young people here slowly bumping into one another in their bulky space suits. At the far end of the room, there are folding chairs filled with those who did not bring dates. They are stoic, unmoving in their proximity to the punch bowl. To the East there is a panel screwed to a wall, guarded by a Chaperone.

> Look at Yei-He

You cannot see your date in the crowd. She must have wandered onto the dance floor by herself. Several of the dancers also appear to be single, bumping and grinding upon one another with reckless abandon.

> East

The Chaperone frowns loudly as you approach. Pointing to the dance floor, the Chaperone indicates where you ought to be right now. There is a panel screwed into the wall behind reading "PHYSICAL CONTROLS PANEL

> Point to Bumping and Grinding

You can imagine the Chaperone's eyes narrowing, if they have eyes, as the orientation of their helmet aligns with the location of the lewd dancers. A finger gestures towards the ground, in a 'stay-put' motion and storms off towards the dance floor. There is a panel screwed into the wall here.

> Unscrew panel

With more than a little bit of effort, you remove all of the panels holding this panel's faceplate to the wall. The Chaperone is stirring up a commotion on the dance floor behind you.

> Remove faceplate

There is a panel of glowing and blinking buttons and dials here. There are buttons for the air pumps, the orientation of this space station section, and artificial gravity. There are numerous other controls but none of them have labels.

> Turn off gravity

Shutting down the artificial gravity, everyone begins floating in the air. Dancers grab hold of their sweethearts as they drift aimlessly through the cavernous cafeteria. For a few moments, they're locked in a beautiful dance, graceful in its own way as they twirl around each other and briefly block out the artificial lights above. It makes them twinkle almost as though real starlight was coming through to shine upon them. For a split second, you can finally see Yei-He separated from the other dancer and floating alone at the center of their midst. Then, the lack of artificial gravity causes the oxygen to be suddenly and violently expelled from the room. Luckily, everyone only suffers for a few moments before they die.

> They say that in those awkward teen years, there are moments that make you feel as though the air got sucked out of the room. But it wasn't a literal suggestion. You have died. Play again? Y/N

> N/Log Off

Thank you for playing StarMine!

> Et comedi non estis in tenebris, ut verisimile_

[END]

You take a deep breath. Once you finally distance yourself mentally from the wonders of the computer, a figurative alarm rings in your head—a reminder that you have to be home in time for dinner. You look around and try to push yourself up. Before you can even move away from the machine, however, the brown walls that were indistinct before began to shimmer.

Welcome, welcome. You seem to have been taking care of yourself, my friend. It's been too long. Please, come in, we've got everything ready in the sitting room. Don't take off your shoes, I don't mind the dirt. Makes it feel a bit more like home, where we come from…Oh, wait a minute…You're not her…But you're not him either…Who are you, then?

The walls stay still as they wait for your response. You have none to give. After a few seconds, the walls start in a vaguely male voice again out of impatience:

I see. You're leaving, aren't you? You must be tired and anxious to leave: Your heart's racing, your feet are shaking…Even your breath is unsteady! Hmmm…You don't see walls talk often either, do you? You must be a little scared too.

You look for the nearest exit. There was none. You turn around three times just to make sure, but it was clear from the start; the door you had entered earlier is gone.

What's wrong, kid? Don't look so surprised at everything! I'm the very walls and floors themselves! And I know exactly who you are, wanderer. I was unsure at first, but I'm dead-certain now. The way you stand and look around, the way your joints move and how you shift your weight…You're the real deal. But don't think I'll just let you go now; don't think you can relax with me! I'm not lame sauce like the Publishers or some lowly misfit from the Zoo Champs…You're gone, kid!

The walls start to close in on you. You pull out a cylinder from your bag and rear your arm back. All of a sudden, the floor sinks under you, but you manage to hold your ground. But the walls are far from finished, a fact compounded by the screeching of the walls as they bend into spikes. The floor bends into a wave, and this time you trip. As the bronze floor approaches your face, you already know you've lost.

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